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Pulling together a casual style ain't all that difficult.

Yours truly and Onyx the Cat (by my right foot), enjoying the Sunday New York Times magazine section.  The duds shown here are all by Land's End and L.L. Bean.  The shirt was a birthday gift several years ago, the tan cords were purchased on sale in the fall of 2009, and the footwear came from an After Christmas sale in December 2012.

Let's dispense with all of the talk about neckties, tweed jackets, wool flannel dress pants, and silk pocket squares for a moment and get comfortable.  It's still the weekend after all.  But hold it!  We're still talking pulled together and acceptable.  So don't reach for your sweatpants, the over-sized t-shirt with salsa and beer stains down the front, or that ratty baseball cap from your college daysStop!  There's an easy way to look nicer, more presentable, and like you give a damn while retaining a comfortable and relaxed feel to things.  Here's how.

Land's End, L.L. Bean, J. Crew, and Eddie Bauer.  The profusion of clothing catalogs that has arrived in the mail from them since just after Christmas has been astounding.  After-Christmas sales.  Mid-Winter sales.  Valentine's Day sales.  End of Season sales.  And so on, and so forth.  Ad infinitum.  It dawned on me a few days ago, while looking at the latest offering from Land's End, that, even for those more style-challenged guys among us -- and there are MANY -- it's entirely possible to assemble a coherent, presentable, casual wardrobe without too much difficulty and without dropping a bundle.

For starters, examine the various photographs of the male models in these catalogs for ideas.  Oh, sure, the poses and environs, along with the "Hey, look at me!  I'm having a blast at this mountain resort in the company of these ski bunnies at the chairlift" smiles are contrived, to be sure.  But you can get a really solid idea of how to combine different garments that will far surpass rumpled pajama pants and stretched out sweat pants.  Any day.  Any time.  

Typically, most colors of shirts and sweaters, for example, will complement most of the pants shown in any given catalog regardless of the season.  Yes, you need to exercise a bit of care here and avoid going too hog wild with crazy patterns, but, by and large, it's an easy way for guys without a clue to start assembling a casual wardrobe of various items that can be mixed and matched without too much thought.  

As far as cost goes, that's easy.  Keep an eye out for overstocks, sales, and end-of-season close-outs both in the print catalogs that clog our mailboxes and via company websites.  I actually just stumbled onto a pair of five-pocket corduroy jeans from Land's End for less than five bucks, thanks to reduced prices on old stock, a sales promotion, free shipping, and an extremely helpful sales associate on the phone.  You might also drop big hints for upcoming birthdays and gift-giving holidays.  The point is, if you are careful and keep your eyes open, you can easily pick up several new casual pieces each season that will serve you well for years to come.  In other words, you can look fantastic and keep it casual at the same time.  Bye-bye sweatpants and over-sized t-shirts!

Strangely, lots of people out there sneer at Land's End, L.L. Bean, J. Crew, and Eddie Bauer.  And, I must admit, why they might do so escapes me.  If you belong to that camp, so be it.  But, for decent looking casual clothes that will elevate you well above the lowest common sartorial denominator -- Slob Post-Post-Modern -- that has become the norm in our society over the last couple of decades, you can't go wrong with clothing purchased from these companies.  And remember, when you look better, you feel better about yourself, which directly affects so many other areas of your life.  So, don't you owe it to yourself and those closest to you to kick even your casual evening and weekend style up a notch or three? I know I do.

This afternoon, while visiting the "new" Goodwill store here in town I found an Italian-made Giorgio Armani Collezioni summer weight (VERY light, loose weave and only quarter lined) in a linen-wool blend.  The color is a lovely dark tan-khaki--taupe combo.  More nondescript than it sounds.  It fits well in the chest and shoulders, and, with a few minor alterations to the sleeves and dry-cleaning, it will be ready to go this summer when things turn hot and nasty here in the American Midwest.  Bring on the wrinkles!  Oh, and the price?  Less than US$20.


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