Photo by Muffy Aldrich
The Modern Guide to The Thing Before Preppy

Sunday, August 16, 2020

A Reader Question for the Community: Core Wardrobe for Retiree?

A Reader Question for the Community:
I noted in a quick search of the term "wardrobe" one for entering into midlife, but I did not quickly find anything addressing retirement, specifically retirement wardrobes geared to men.  I have a closet full of suits and ties that need to be donated to someone who might use them.  
I find that other than things like outerwear and formal wear, all I really need or want is:
  • a dark suit (I opt for charcoal), 
  • a handful of OCBDs and one French cuff point collar or spread collar shirt, 
  • a handful of polos, 
  • a few pairs of shorts, 
  • a couple of khakis and a couple of corduroys, 
  • a blazer and grey worsted trousers, 
  • a tweed jacket, 
  • a couple of sweaters including the mandatory navy Shetland, and
  • various things like belts, ties, boxers, and hankies. 
Any more would be wasteful.  Even this much might be wasteful, but it seems to cover the bases, including things like attending weddings and funerals.  As for shoes, I find that:
  • cordovan tassels, 
  • Gucci bits, 
  • suede LHS, and
  • Maliseets are more than enough. 
Frankly the bit loafers gather dust.  
Any thoughts, especially from other retired men, including those who used to have large wardrobes but now find them getting far less use? 


  1. An excellent list!

  2. This describes my father's wardrobe to a T. He passed away this spring at the age of 86 and was known as one of the best-dressed men in his circle of friends. Here in the Midwest, a sweater vest came in handy for those transitional days when a shirt wasn't enough but a sweater was too much bulk and warmth.

  3. The first thought that occurred to me in reading this is what will you be doing with yourself and your time in retirement? Gardening, boating, sports, etc? All require certain degree of “roll up your sleeves and get dirty” types of clothing to provide the appropriate level of attention. My only advice is think long term before donating too much. You are retiring from a job, but not life. Cheers!

  4. What you have listed is about all I had when I was still working in an office. But we were in the distant suburbs, out near the airport and dress was more casual than not. My boss wore a dark suit and tie everyday, so I at least wore a tie. Now that I am retired, though, I have a surplus of dress shirts and ties. Because of the current medical emergency, I don't get out so much anymore, so my daily outfits are more chore oriented. I rarely wear shorts.

  5. I agree with RCJH in that it depends on what the retired life looks like to each person. Muffy, as a woman I wonder if you would consider re-posting an older entry you did “
    Dressing the Older Prep” I remember it was a capsule wardrobe based on your mother’s favorites at that time.

  6. Be sure to keep your grubbiest old shorts and/or khakis and some of those Tee shirts from fun runs and such for working in the garden, painting, etc.!

  7. Definitely a few Shawl Collared Cardigans and Sleeveless Cardigans. They are comfortable and leave no question whether you qualify for Senior shopping hour at Whole Foods.

    David J Cooper

  8. I would also like to see, if convenient, a re-posting of "Dressing the Older Prep". Thank You.

  9. This is a really, really terrific list.

  10. I'm retired with pretty much the same wardrobe. I still like wearing boat shoes and desert boots. For more formal occasions (blazer and trousers), penny loafers are my go to shoes. I dressed this way as a young man and, by God, will continue to dress this way for the rest of my years.

  11. Count me in too - us older preps can always use a refresher!

  12. I would love to see the re-posting of "Dressing the Older Prep". Cheers.

  13. Agree with the aforementioned list. However, would add a caveat...never wear a tee shirt, I stopped when I was a teenager. Be a grownup or a he man.

  14. Also, a list for the ladies please.

  15. Yours looks like a very good list. I retired at the end of 2019 and although I still visit the various men's clothing websites I have to tell myself even though it's on sale and I think I would wear it well...take your hand away from the mouse...I don't need it!

    1. I retired at the end of 2018 and feel much the same. However, there are practical needs and emotional needs. I live in a hot clime now in a city that is extremely casual. I could be fine with the clothing your teenagers wore when they headed off to college, but I enjoy dressing up a bit, and a pretty madder or challis tie as fall approaches feels reassuring, even though it will hang on its peg until we are in a post pandemic world.

  16. I, too, think your list is excellent. But having moved south of the Mason-Dixon line I would also add a seersucker suit or a tan poplin suit with a few neckties. The seersucker jacket doubles nicely as a sport coat. Also 2 or 3 pair of swim trunks important as well.

    1. Those are great points. I, too, am far south. While my seersucker suit gets more compliments, I find the olive poplin the more versatile option, working from early spring through what the calendar calls autumn. Also, to Ken's nod to black oxfords, below, I am of that cohort that prefers Alden tassels with suits, my last salute to the big law firm uniform.

    2. That's an interesting point on the Alden tassels. Such a look was also popular, with pinstriped suits, in the City of London when I worked there during the 80s and 90s. A friend says that it's almost a uniform in the big auction houses. Crockett & Jones has a great selection - the Cavendish and Studridge (from Anglo Italian) for those who are interested.

    3. The C & J are quite nice, but I am hooked on Alden. So far I have 31 years on my oldest pair (with periodic resoling locally). That is remarkable value.

    4. Haspel olive & oyster suits , B2 Seersucker Suits are Standard BDU for the South. You can hand wash the Haspel's in the sink. Shoes are a horse of a different color. For Alden, you got to be a bit of a wizard to get the right fit. It boils down to the last, width , & length. Once you have cracked the code, never deviate from the last. After numerous conversations with Alden in San Francisco & Washington D.C., I was sufficiently educated. For the Haspels, Alden Oxblood Cordovan Tassels or Monkstrap, Alden Tan Burnished Bluchers, NST, & Longwings. For the Seersucker Alden Cordovan Tassels, Alden Cordovan NST, Alden Cordovan Monkstrap or Church's Oxblood Cap Toe. Not adverse to wearing dark brown Gucci's with the Haspel's. Do not own a pair of black shoes, makes me look like a funeral home director or an Exxon executive....hence Cordovan pulls off the move & indeed more flexible. Oh yes, once you make VP at Exxon you can start monogramming your shirt cuffs. Enuff said.

    5. In London, black shoes are standard wear in the finance and legal professions. I've seen senior executives who wore brown shoes with a suit ridiculed mercilessly by their colleagues.

    6. Indeed you are correct, sir. That's why my family left England in the 1600's to come over here. Enuff said.

    7. Indeed you are correct, sir. On the other hand, a person would be drawn, quartered, salted, & put away for wearing black shoes with a Haspel Olive/Oyster suit in the South. Enuff said

    8. No brown shoes with black, grey, or blue suits. Ever.

    9. RCJH, your edict against brown shoes with blue suits makes sense, especially if it is navy blue. As to black suits, for a true prep there is no black suit other than a dinner suit. For a grey suit, the true prep will naturally gravitate to Alden color no. 8 or, for a lighter grey, a walnut or the like.

    10. Was thinking of black for a funeral. I still wear suits to funerals. I usually am one of the few.

    11. That is a lovely tradition. I like seeing such things kept going.

  17. Hot climate here. A fellow might consider getting Brooks Brothers' linen button-downs for any of the occasions we'd usually wear an OCBD during the cooler season.

  18. It's a good list but not complete. My wardrobe is very similar but also has the following –

    Irish linen (Italian is too crumply) jacket and suit for the summer.
    Lightweight, open weave wool suits for summer weddings and social occasions.
    Broadcloth and tattersall shirts.
    Cotton jumpers.
    Moleskin jeans that are machine washable.
    Heavy flannel and cavalry twill trousers for very cold days.
    Brown and tan penny loafers.
    Black Oxford shoes to wear with the suit and blazers.
    Dark brown country shoes with rubber sole to wear with tweed jackets.
    Cashmere and silk scarves

    My taste has not changed since my late 20s and the rule is keep it simple. Now semi-retired, for most of the year, I wear polo and broadcloth shirts with chinos/canvas jeans/shorts and loafers. My winter "uniform" is a tattersall or Oxford cloth shirt, shetland jumper, moleskin jeans with country brogues (aka wing-tips) or boots. The flannels and cavalry twills are for unusually cold days.

  19. Outerwear was not included in the main list but it is a key part of any wardrobe. My choices, with suppliers in brackets, are listed below –

    Navy Harrington (Grenfell of London)
    Waxed cotton jacket (Barbour)
    Paddock jacket (Cordings)
    Raincoat (Aquascutum)
    Tweed shooting jacket (Barbour)
    Covert coat (Cordings)

    I will probably add a Gloverall duffle coat and/or a peacoat this year. My other brand recommendations are Chrysalis and Hancock of Scotland who also supply Cordings.

    Europeans often choose an Austrian loden coat (e.g. Schneider's of Salzburg) rather than a covert coat. Americans may prefer a polo coat. O'Connell's have a good selection of both and their own brand coats are excellent. They stock Chrysalis and Macintosh too. Hope this helps.

    1. @Ken -- funny, my list is almost exactly the same. I also have a Barbour waxed cotton jacket, a Cordings paddock jacket, and a Cordings covert coat. My raincoat is Grenfell and my shooting jacket is Chrysalis. I also have a single-breasted camel's hair polo coat. I don't personally care much for the Harrington/Baracuta jackets but often wear a Barbour Liddesdale which is of comparable weight.

  20. Excellent list, and I don't think anyone has ever made a loafer to top the Brooks Brothers and Alden tassel models. I'm not far from retirement, and I foresee an everyday wardrobe similar to what I now wear on vacation. I'll keep enough dressier clothing and shoes to cover certain types of jacket-and-tie functions, but with less variety and duplication because such occasions will be fewer and farther apart. I feel foolish for having as much clothing as I have, but I've done a LOT of hoarding as retailers have lowered their standards and good clothing has become more difficult to obtain/replace.

  21. For shoes and leather belts, check out Martin Dingham -on line and in better mens stores.

  22. "I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled."

    --The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot

  23. This is terrific feedback, and I love T. S. Eliot. Over the past half year I have lost most of the excess weight one gets at a desk, eating too many subs for lunch, and with the loss of weight (192 to 155) has come enough loss of girth (38" waist to 34") to need to revisit pretty much my whole wardrobe. The comments have prompted me to put a poplin suit In the plans for spring, probably olive. If anyone is interested in changing the way they eat, exercising more, and better managing their general state of being, I highly recommend Noom.

    One of the tricky things about weight loss is that your too big trousers can be altered only so much, but they can be cinched with a belt. Moving down the belt sizes is made easier with D ring belts, and you can restock your rainbow of surcingles once you hit your goal. An extra inch or so of neck space on an OCBD is manageable, but much over that means the shirt is consigned to open collar use.

    As for outer wear, for once there may be a benefit to living in a southern climate. My Beaufort is adequate. My topcoat, in which I could now swim, does not need to be replaced. Going to church last year on our coldest morning was fine with a Shetland sweater under a tweed jacket.

    1. Several years ago the writer Bruce Boyer outlined the basic wardrobe of his college years. I think it would be perfect for a retiree (or almost anyone else):

      "The basic items were the oxford cloth buttondown shirt and cotton twill khaki trousers. Six shirts, three white and three blue, and two or three pair of khakis would do the job. In cooler weather, a Shetland crewneck sweater in any color was added. A pair of brown penny loafers and white tennis sneakers (possibly a pair of white or tan buckskin oxfords) constituted the acceptable range of footwear.

      "For outerwear, a cotton gabardine balmacaan raincoat (always tan), and a stout duffel coat (in tan or navy) were all that were needed, although many men also had a cotton gab golf jacket, also in tan. Mountain climbing parkas, safari jackets, trout fishing coats, barn coats, and equestrian slickers were all thought of as exotic sportswear.

      "Everyone had a tweed sports jacket (Harris or Shetland) and/or a navy single-breasted blazer for semi-dress, and a gray flannel suit for dress. Summer semi-formality was assured with a seersucker or tan poplin suit; some had madras sports jackets; for the more formal occasions a dark Grey or navy tropical worsted suit. A half-dozen ties (regimentals, foulards, or dots), and the necessary complement of underwear, socks, pajamas, and handkerchiefs filled out the basics."

    2. That still works very well for a retiree!

  24. No one has mentioned hats--not baseball caps or the like--real hats like a panama hat, a boater, newsboy cap, or a fedora. I recently decided I am a hat guy and I'm going with it.

    1. My son in law has a couple of Stetson Open Roads. I really admire them. When I wore suits to work everyday I often wore a Panama with my seersucker suits, but I never felt the same comfort with something like a Homburg. Now it's just a Tilley or, on a cold day, a watch cap or a gimme cap. You may have inspired me to track down an Open Road!

  25. I too would be grateful for a second iteration of "Dressing the Older Prep".


  26. Great fun here with this exercise.

    • Ultimate Khakis (khaki and field khaki)
    - These make great work pants when the fraying starts.
    • Stretch Supercords
    • Stretch Moleskins
    • Signature Chino Shorts
    • Signature Polos (Short and long sleeve)
    - These make great work shirts when old and faded.
    • Northport shirts
    • Cashmere Watch Caps
    • Outback Oil Skins hats
    • Pursell rain jacket
    • Weatherbreaker jacket (faux Baracuta)
    • Invincible Socks (Oct - Apr)
    • Various belts
    • Shetland’s
    • V-necks
    • Wool Blazer
    Tommy Bahama
    • Boracay pants
    • Boracay shorts
    • Boracay sport jacket
    (Yeah, I know. I discovered the Boracay style this spring. They’re a combo of cotton, Tencel and Spandex. Chuckle all you want but they are my first grabs. The bit of stretch helps with the additional COVID weight gain. Great colors too!)
    • Linen shirts
    Brooks Brothers
    • OCBD (RiP)
    • Worsteds
    • Tweed Sport coats
    • Ties
    • Bow Ties (For whenever I feel like it. Love ‘em)
    • Shetland’s
    • V-necks, sleeveless
    • Cords
    • Border
    • Synchilla Marsupials
    • Synchilla Snap Fronts
    - Synchilla’s also double as layers under the Border.
    • Various colored web belts
    Rancourt and Company
    • Camden Derby
    • Beefroll Pennies
    • 1000 Mile Boots
    • Trac II Lows
    • Targee II’s
    • Regatta’s
    Samuel Hubbard
    • Camplights
    • Croc’s

    Plus an accumulated array of waterproof shoulder season as well as winter coats and jackets.

    I’ve done my time with suits. Funerals and wakes now get the Blazer and worsteds with the Wolverines. With COVID there has been no need to look fine going out. Whole Foods doesn’t care.

    Semi-retired now. When I do work it’s the Sam Hubbards with khakis, a button down, tie and jacket.


Comments are moderated.