When you think of "classic style," the images that come to mind likely involve boating shoes nowhere near boats, salmon-colored shorts, and an unsavory amount of argyle. But in reality, creating your own definition of "classic style" is the key to figuring out how to look your best every day—and stylist creative director Kate Schelter proves how.
'Finding your own classic style is about figuring out what you use every day, what looks great on you, and what helps you celebrate yourself.' — Kate Schelter
In her new book, Classic Style, Schelter highlights items of clothing that have held up in the face of ever-changing trends—but don't mistake these style choices as preppy. "In the Venn diagram between classic style and preppy style, there's some overlap, but classic style is much more personal and enduring," Shelter explains. "There can be a classic goth girl. There can be a classic headmaster of a school. Finding your own classic style is about figuring out what you use everyday, what looks great on you, and what helps you celebrate yourself."
The realm of personal style is expansive, but there are a few key items that are flexible enough to fit into anyone's classic style and provide a baseline for building a wardrobe that feels true to you. "Classic style is really about editing your wardrobe and simplifying things, so that special pieces can stand out even more," Schelter says.
Below, check out Schelter's favorite classic style must-haves, and innovative ways you can work these staples into your own wardrobe.
"What's the perfect sneaker for everyone? You could say a Stan Smith or white Converse All Stars—but I don't want everyone to look like classic style robots. I think those shoes are definitely a good palette you can start with, but you really need to tune in to your own gut about what really works for you."
Esplar Velcro Leather Sneakers by Veja, $130, eastdane.com.
Basket Platform Core Sneakers by Puma, $100, shopbop.com.
2750 Cotu Classic Patch by Superga, $85, shopspring.com.
Small Rimless Aviator Sunglasses, $35, topshop.com.
Flat Lens Aviator in Blue by Quay x Desi High Key, $64, asos.com.
Charlotte Sunglasses, $375, dereklam.com.
"Aviators are a classic staple. They were worn by actual aviators in the military. Military garb has really made a huge influence on classic style, more than probably any other thing—and not just the American military, but military throughout the world."
Grand Canvas Bag by Atsuyo Et Akiko, $56, shopspring.com.
Boat Tote Bag, $290, slowandsteadywinstherace.com.
Downtown Bag, $101, kasiadietz.com.
"A great tote bag, nothing luxury, nothing logo label, is a real staple. They come in every size, they cost practically nothing, and they last. I've bought some vintage boat and tote bags that are 60, 70 years old! You can lug firewood in them—or they can be handbags, and are great for packing for a weekend getaway."
Striped Shirting Top by Tibi, $242, needsupply.com.
Embroidered Striped Tee, $19, joefresh.com.
Printed Tunic, $70, zara.com.
"Striped shirts can work in all different colors. I think they're so simple, it's almost not a pattern. Striped shirts also come from the military, from naval uniforms."
La Bohème Gold White/Pink by Cluse, $70, needsupply.com.
Rossofino, $60, shop.swatch.com.
MJ1501 Metallic Blue Leather Watch by Marc Jacobs, $184, asos.com.
"There are cults formed around different years and models, different color faces. You can customize fancier watches by putting on grosgrain watch bands, but I also love a simple watch with a pop of color. They're easy, and they're not expensive."
Classic Style: Hand It Down, Dress It Up, Wear It Out by Kate Schelter (Grand Central Life & Style), $22, thriftbooks.com.