updated 15 Dec 2011, 05:26
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Thu, Dec 15, 2011
Urban, The Straits Times
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Manly must-haves
by Ian Lee

1: The leather man bag

Bags for men used to be limited to backpacks, messenger bags and briefcases.

Thankfully, the 'man bag' - usually a tote bag, messenger bag or a men's clutch bag - has made the transition from high-fashion gimmick five years ago to accepted accessory.

American actor Kiefer Sutherland, star of high-octane American TV series 24, brought the item into the mainstream. His character, Jack Bauer, frequently carried a messenger bag in the show's fifth season in 2006.

Tip: Choose simple, structured styles in basic black or brown leather - calfskin and buffalo leather are usually more sturdy than goatskin or lambskin - and leave bags in sportswear fabrics such as nylon and canvas for casual use.

Buy: The Thompson slim leather tote in calfskin by American brand Coach is a good entry-level choice and, at $675, is about half the price of other luxe leather brands.

2: Lip balm

Yes, real men do protect their lips from the ravages of the sun and air-conditioning.

Tip: Lipcare for girls tends to result in glossy lips, so pick balms that give a matte finish.

Buy: English grooming brand Molton Brown's Protecting Vitamin Lip Saver for men, $32, is indeed a salve for parched lips - we speak from personal experience - thanks to its three protective agents: honey, beeswax and vitamin E.
3: The navy blue blazer

Forget the overrated black blazer. The navy blue blazer, as seen on the spring/summer 2010 runways of Gucci, Ralph Lauren and Alfred Dunhill, is the new classic choice and will take you from the boardroom to any soiree.

It works well with almost any shirt-and-tie combination and also with denim jeans, thanks to the similar colour tone.

Tip: For the best formal effect, pair a two-button navy blue blazer (considered the conventional formal choice) with a crisp white shirt, a dark solid-coloured tie and a pocket square.

For parties and casual affairs, opt for a one-button version which has been hugely trendy since fall/winter 2009 and continues to sweep the runways of labels like Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana.

Buy: D&G, Ermenegildo Zegna and Banana Republic all offer great versions but at $203, this Topman skinny blazer (above) works just as well and costs only a fraction of the others.

4: Quirky umbrella

With Singapore's weather combo of storms and heatwaves, it is essential to have a compact brolly that can be tucked into your (man) bag.

Tip: A sombre hue is always a sensible pick but it can be a tad boring. Simple geometric shapes or animal motifs add quirkiness to umbrella designs and give your fashion cred an effortless boost.

Buy: Agnes b. offers a foldable version adorned with star motifs for $45.
5: Aviator shades

Popularised by Italian brand Ray-Ban since the 1960s, these sunglasses, originally designed for fighter pilots during World War II, remain a classic.

They flatter all face shapes, especially square-faced guys as the tear-drop lenses soften the jawline and forehead.

The newer version that came along three years ago has a more angular shape which flatters round faces as the vertical lines of the squarish lenses create an illusion of length.

Tip: Go for tinted lenses with plastic rims for a younger take on the classic style or opt for old-school style with silver- or gold-rimmed shades.

Buy: Italian brand Carrera, which is available at Yes! Your Eyewear Specialists in Suntec City, offers great vintage-style versions with prices starting from $200.

6: The printed dress shirt

Make this the year you start experimenting with prints. After all, fashion stalwarts such as Gucci and Marc Jacobs have featured geometric pop art prints while Prada is doing monochromatic florals for spring/summer 2010.

At the recent men's fall/winter shows in Milan, Roberto Cavalli and Prada took to camouflage as the print du jour, while English designer Alexander McQueen's entire collection featured skull prints and paint splotches.

Tip: For beginners, skip bold prints and start with finer ones in sensible colours such as white, black and blue.

Avoid wide collars when it comes to printed shirts or you will end up looking as retro as Adrian Pang in the 1998 local movie, Forever Fever.

Buy: Labels like Paul Smith, Issey Miyake and Etro always feature quirky prints. This one from Etro is priced at $548.
7: Knitted necktie

Ditch those skinny ties and opt for the updated knitted necktie which has a square-shaped end instead.

Its fans include style icons David Beckham and Justin Timberlake.

Tip: This versatile number, usually made of wool or cotton, looks best with a gingham shirt that is rolled up at the sleeves.

It also goes well with casual outfits such as short-sleeved shirts or polo tees and jeans in a dark wash.

It works well for your day job too - pair it with solid oxfords and flat-front trousers in similar tones.

Buy: Local shirtmaker CYC The Custom Shop makes great knitted ties in summery pastel hues. Prices start from $109.
8: Novelty cufflinks

Even if your profession demands no-nonsense suits, quirky cufflinks can help lighten things up and are an easy way to crank up your style cred.

Tip: Make your marque with car-themed designs or score a point with sports-inspired graphics, for example.

Avoid overtly risque designs or those featuring poker cards or poker chips for work as these may send the wrong messages.

Buy: We recommend English shirtmaker T.M. Lewin's red double-decker bus cufflinks, $79, for its bright cherry red hue and iconic city motif, which lend a dash of colour and make a good ice-breaker too.
9: Chunky silver accessories

While precious stones might not look right on a man, jewellery is not reserved for only women.

Chunky silver rings and bracelets are a sensible, masculine way to dress up a formal or casual look.

Tip: Avoid piling them on unless you want to look more hooligan than hunk. Keep to one chunky piece per hand. Avoid chunky gold bling too as it can look old-fashioned.

Buy: Italian label Bottega Veneta's macho silver pieces feature the brand's signature weaves - an understated detail suitable for everyday wear. Prices range from $640 for a ring to $1,490 for a bracelet.
10: High-top sneakers

Pump up your street cred with a pair of cool high-top sneakers. The 1980s trend is bigger than ever this year with Gucci, Bally and Dior Homme sporting high-top styles for spring/summer 2010.

Tip: New styles that guys can look out for include multiple buckles and velcro straps for fastening instead of laces.

Buy: American fashion maverick Jeremy Scott has reworked Adidas Original's Attitude sneakers with white patent leather, gold accents and his signature removable wing-flaps.

The fancy footwear will be at Adidas Originals stores from Feb 15 for $299.

This article was first published in Urban, The Straits Times.

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