nicole black's guide to style

Nicole Black’s Guide to the 5 Wardrobe Staples Every Guy Needs

When you think of Seattle, you probably think of rain, coffee and—of course—flannel. Lots and lots of flannel.

That rugged, ripped-jeans-and-a-tee aesthetic serves outdoorsy types just fine, but until recently, there weren’t many options for guys who wanted something more refined.

But all that changed in 2004, with the opening of Blackbird. Boutique owner Nicole Black’s expertly curated assortment of tailored menswear quickly became a must-visit destination for the artists, architects, designers, web moguls and creative types who call the city home.

Nicole started her career as a department store buyer, and running e-commerce at Nordstrom. At Blackbird, she scouts looks for a fashion-forward customer whom she likes to think of as “James Bond’s evil twin brother.”

“It’s all about the details,” says Nicole. “A guy’s personality can come out in the stitching, or the buttons, or a pocket of a shirt.”

As now, as one of Target’s guest editors for July, she’s helping guys across the country get that same sleek, classic style.

“For guys, clothes are not about a season,” Nicole says. “A guy’s wardrobe is year-round.”

Although Black herself scours runways in New York and Paris to look for inspiration, any guy—whether he lives in Seattle or San Diego—only needs a few versatile pieces in his closet that can work anywhere, anytime.

1. A Great Suit
Or at the very least, a dressy blazer. “Ladies love a suit,” says Nicole. “And it helps you stand out in the workplace.” When wearing a suit, the tip of the sleeve should hit right at the wrist; if it doesn’t, fold it up a little bit. A suit can be dressed-down too, with small, relaxed touches like an opened collar or undone cuff buttons.

2. Non-Denim Pants
Shorts, khakis, chinos, cargos—there are plenty of options for everyday pants, and guys tend to overlook them. In the summer, roll up the cuff to keep pants casual. “A little bit of ankle has a little bit of sex appeal,” says Nicole.

3. A Few Work Shirts
“I love a classic oxford,” she says. “Right now, chambray is another big—and expensive-looking—trend.”

4. A Basic White Tee
“It should be incredibly soft and hit right at mid-bicep.”

5. A Proper Shoe Wardrobe

Guys may not need shoes in every color, but they do need a shoe wardrobe that’s diverse and versatile. Nicole recommends that every guy should have black dress shoes in a modern silhouette (no tasseled loafers!), two pairs of boots (one rugged and one dressy), a pair of black and white Chuck Taylors, and one fun shoe like a boat shoe. To help all those shoes stay in good shape, invest in a little care. “Look at your shoes and give them a polish,” Nicole says. “It will give them new life.”

Leather Lace Up OxfordConverse One Star OxfordMerona Erwin Boat ShoeSwiss Gear Jackson Hiker

The best-dressed guy has a style that’s eclectic and authentic. “The way a guy dresses should be about his perspective,” she says. “You can be who you are.”

Check out Nicole’s classic Seattle looks in On the Dot.

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