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5 Tips to Wearing Retro Style with a Modern Twist

There's a fine line between fashionably inspired retro style and looking like you just got a costume at the second-hand store.

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For guys who like retro styling but still want to come across as modern and elegant, we asked three-time CFDA winning designer Billy Reid for tips on how to pull off both, effortlessly.

 Tips to Wearing Retro Style

1. Don't imitate the look exactly. 

Put your own sense on it, think original.

Billy Reid Short Sleeve Tuscumbia Shirt Sea Blue

Don't fall for the temptation of finding an old vintage photograph and trying to recreate the look exactly. That will end up looking like a costume - instead find a few pieces to use with your existing wardrobe.

That will make you less self-conscious, especially if you're not used to wearing vintage clothing. Pictured: Billy Reid Men's Standard Fit Short Sleeve Button Down Tuscumbia Shirt

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 Tips to Wearing Retro Style

2. Try to avoid approaching vintage retro style like a costume.  

You actually want to feel confident and look like yourself unless it's Halloween

 Tips to Wearing Retro Style

If you're having problems feeling comfortable with your vintage clothing, pick out classic styles with subtle retro accents. This will give you a taste for how to wear vintage clothes without feeling overdone. Less really is sometimes more. Pictured: Billy Reid Men's Distressed Denim Brass Snap Work Shirt

 Tips to Wearing Retro Style

3. Mix and match the vintage inspired pieces with something new. 

For instance, try wearing a Henley with the suit instead of a dress shirt. Maybe layer a fresh nylon parka over it with boots.

Men's Lightweight Nylon Quilted Leroy Jacket

Mixing formal and casual wear is quintessentially modern. This will give your wardrobe a more intentional and up-to-date look and help you avoid appearing like a retro menswear ad. Pictured: Billy Reid Men's Lightweight Nylon Quilted Leroy Jacket

 Tips to Wearing Retro Style

4. When looking for usable and wearable vintage pieces, pay attention to details. 

Some garments are really period specific due to collar sizes, etc.  Sometimes you can tailor them to be more current.

Billy Reid Lancaster Coat

Many vintage clothes were designed in the days when every man had his tailor and nearly all clothing was custom tailored to fit.

Don't be afraid to make alterations - however if the fabric itself is starting to fall apart (a common issue with old synthetics) you might not be able to save it. Pictured: Billy Reid Men's Lancaster Coat

 Tips to Wearing Retro Style

5.  Be yourself and get things that fit you well and pieces you can use. 

Choose quality over quantity. 

 Tips to Wearing Retro Style

Many vintage pieces are actually better made than contemporary clothing. Instead of fast-fashion, men bought clothing that was made to last.

However, just as with modern clothing just because you fall in love with a piece doesn't mean it fits you well or looks good on you.

Be realistic on what flatters you, your comfort and if you'll actually wear it. Pictured: Billy Reid Men's Long Sleeve Brushed Rib Heavyweight Henley.


Born and raised in Austin, David is a dedicated writer and avid fragrance lover. When he's not trying out perfumes, he enjoys traveling and exploring new restaurants.