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Q&A: How can I show I've put a bit of effort into my outfit?

Q&A: How can I show I've put a bit of effort into my outfit?

This question came from a Thread user who said he was interested in showing he'd put some thought into what he was wearing—but not so much that he'd get slagged off by his friends for being over the top. And the trick to getting the balance right, according to Thread stylist Millie Rich, is going for one or two small details rather than anything too overt.

"The easiest way to show you've made an effort is by paying attention to details—like the hole punches in brogues or an interesting hem on a shirt," she says. "Stick to the clothes you always wear, but just get a really good version, or augment them a bit—that's how to do this right."

Here, Millie shares five tips on how to show you've made just the right amount of effort. 

How to show you've made an effort 1. Wear a patterned shirt

Why this works: "It's a really easy one to wear. While a white shirt will never fail, a shirt with a subtle pattern updates your usual outfits without looking jarring. The same goes for textured shirts, like chambray or flannel."

Look for: "A subtle check or narrow vertical stripe is a good bet. If you want to go subtle, a pale check is a good pattern because it's familiar, uniform and clean. If you want to make more of a statement, just go for a bolder print."

Avoid: "Mixing patterns isn't the easiest look to pull off. Wearing a striped shirt with tweed or check trousers, for instance, is quite daring, and can easily go awry."

Trick to wearing it well: "The shirt should be the one thing in your outfit that sets it apart, so don't wear it with other clothes that will compete. Structured basics like trench coats, bomber jackets, plain jumpers and dark denim jeans look great with patterned shirts."

How to show you've made an effort 2. Get good denim (and show it off)

Why this works: "Trousers made from raw, selvedge denim are in a different league from other jeans. Selvedge means the jeans have stitching on the inside, which you can (subtly) show off by turning up the ends of your trousers. Raw jeans are untreated and aren't prewashed, meaning they develop fade marks and even a shape that's entirely unique to you—so they look more and more 'yours' the longer you wear them."

Look for: "Selvedge jeans are usually more expensive than others, partially because most of them are made on 19th-century-era mills in two places: North Carolina in the USA and, oddly, Japan. Look for a pair made in one of those locations and you can be sure they're proper selvedge.

"I recommend buying raw selvedge jeans from a specialist denim brand, like Edwin or Nudie. You wouldn't believe how much effort they put into researching fabrics and fits, and offering slightly different versions of jeans so you can find a pair that's just right for you. Getting jeans that really suit you will make more of a difference than any other detail." 

Avoid: "If you're a fan of skinny jeans, you won't find raw selvedge denim to your liking; these jeans are usually slim, straight or regular fit." 

Trick to wearing it well: "It's nice to turn up the cuff to show off the selvedge detailing. Just make sure the turn-up doesn't make the jeans too short: they shouldn't be any shorter than the top of your foot."

Photographed: Paul Smith selvedge jeans (£78)

How to show you've made an effort 3. Invest in at least two good pairs of shoes

Photographed: Oliver Sweeney white trainers (£279), Jigsaw white shirt (£69), Marks & Spencers navy blazer (£119), Whistles grey wool trousers (£95)

Why this works: "It's really simple: More than any other item of clothing, shoes have the power to make or break an outfit." 

Look for: "I think every guy should own at least one pair of nice leather shoes he can wear smartly or casually, like brogues or Derbies. And when you're buying a pair, details make a surprisingly big difference—especially welted soles or punctilious brogue punching. Minimal leather trainers are another great wardrobe staple that look exponentially better than anything clunky." 

Avoid: "Bright colours. You want to be able to wear the shoes with lots of outfits, and bold shades will limit your options."

Trick to wearing it well: "One thing that separates style-conscious guys from everyone else is their ability to wear casual and smart clothes together. Shoes are a good way of experimenting with this. You could try wearing minimal trainers with smarter clothes, for instance, or just wearing brogues with slim or straight indigo jeans."

How to show you've made an effort 4. Pick pieces with hidden details

Photographed: YMC cotton shirt (£95), YMC sweatshirt (£80)

Why this works: "Sometimes the smallest details can have the most impact."

Look for: "Keep to details that aren't immediately noticeable, such as a flash of colour on the inside of a shirt's cuffs, a chest pocket in a shade that's slightly different from the rest of the shirt, or an interesting hem at the end of a shirt or coat." 

Avoid: "Subtlety is key. Wearing a shirt with a loud floral print on the collar and cuffs, for instance, is like hitting people over the head with your effort rather than showing thoughtful attention to detail."

Trick to wearing it well: "The extra detail doesn't have to be on display the whole time. If you have a blue shirt with white lining on the inside of the cuffs, for example, don't automatically roll up the sleeves; it makes more of an impression if you do so only when it's needed."