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Every January, many of us make the same resolutions: read a heavier stack of books, entertain more at home, narrow the waistband an inch or two. Yes, those are familiar — perhaps too familiar. So why don’t we make some sartorial resolutions while we’re at it? You don’t want to shudder with discomfort when you find a photo of yourself underdressed at a family wedding or catch sight of toes striding onto a plane in flip-flops (or anywhere for that matter). Let’s get into the spirit of renewal and look forward to a year of dressing well.

Illustration by Hilbrand Bos

Clarify the Closet

When you open your closet door, you should be greeted with a serene setting, like a monk entering his cloister. Don’t confront the chaos of a college dorm room and be forced to reckon with stacks of unwanted sweaters, billowing trousers and, have mercy, the dreaded square-toed shoes. It’s time for wooden hangers for your suits and shoe trees for your best brogues. Only when everything is where it belongs can you dress with the peace of mind you deserve.

Take an Honest Inventory

While arranging your closet, assess what you own and edit aggressively. We’d all like to get back to our college weight. But if we’re being realistic, when something doesn’t fit, have it altered or give it away. There’s no third option. Everything you own should be ready to go. If shoes need to be resoled, jackets repaired, sweaters darned or stains removed, get that process started. If you haven’t worn something in ages, you’re not going to start wearing it now. Make a stack of the greatest hits of yesteryear and donate them to charity.

Aim Higher

This year, let’s all embrace a sense of easygoing formality. When called upon, we can don a tuxedo or a devastatingly dapper suit. That means getting your formal house in order. Make sure you have a dress shirt that you like and that fits well. Do you have dress shoes? Well, you should. Don’t let the side down with shoes that aren’t up to the occasion. Remember: When dressing up, you don’t need endless options — just a few stalwarts that you’re ready to do sartorial battle in.

Elevate Everyday Options

Many of us work more from home than in the office. So let’s focus on where we spend the most time and make that equation a winning one. No default jeans, baggy shirts or destroyed sneakers. And nobody from your professional sphere should ever see you in sweatpants. Invest in good oxford-cloth shirts, well-tailored chinos and some nice suede loafers. Add an unstructured sport coat for when you get on Zoom, and you’ll be well put together.

Address the Budget

Make a ballpark estimate of what you’ll spend on clothes this year. This isn’t romantic, but it is helpful. You’ll make better decisions than if you lurch from sale to sale, impulsively buying what’s on deep discount. This is not a judgment; sales can be great. Almost everything I rarely wear came from a sale. It’s hard to stay sane when you see something is 50% off. Be strategic. Get an overcoat you love and pay full price for it. But forgo things in between.

Befriend a Tailor

This is both a rewarding and important exercise. A tailor doesn’t just make the suit; he appreciates context. He’s a professional craftsman and an amateur psychologist who understands the path you’re trying to cut in the world. This doesn’t always happen right away. If you’re looking for a suit and the associates are not on your wavelength or don’t make you feel welcome, then that may not be the right place. Find somebody who dresses in a way you like, sees who you are and wants to help you get to the next level of style on your own terms.

Narrow Your Options

At some point, you realize that you love tweed, corduroy or the color blue. This is not limiting; this is self-knowledge. There’s something liberating about giving yourself fewer options. So go with it. Find a winning tweed jacket, a flattering corduroy suit, a lovely blue sweater. Many well-dressed men have a wardrobe of very fine distinctions. Open their closets and you’ll encounter rows of jackets that, to the outsider, are not stylistically far apart. If you find yourself closer to a uniform, embrace it. Discover a favorite dress shirt and buy a stack of them. It’s one less thing to worry about, and you’ll look forward to getting dressed each day. A sense of self and peacefulness — that’s something we can all aspire to in the New Year.

A Minnesotan turned New Yorker, David Coggins is the author of the New York Times bestseller Men and Style and writes a column for Artful Living.

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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