The rugged look is a great aesthetic on the right guy. To pull this look off, you must be physically masculine, adventurous, intentional, and bold. A rugged man’s clothing prioritizes function over form. It taps into a man’s natural masculinity and is unapologetic about it. Add to that a healthy respect for the blue-collar worker and you’ve nailed the look.
Start building your wardrobe with pieces inspired by traditional workwear, such as flannel shirts, denim, leather boots, and wool or tweed coats. Rugged clothes often have a “well-worn” or “well-used” feel. Therefore you should wear with pride clothing items with holes, wrinkles, frays, or minor damage, without looking like you’re trying too hard.
Key to the look is picking the right pants. Rugged pants are first and foremost about utility. They should neither be overly tight or oversized; “relaxed fit” and “straight-cut” tend to work well. Canvas work-pants look great with rugged styles, since they give off the impression that you’re ready for a hard day’s work. Search for colors like tan, dark green, or navy. Buy a few pairs of good khakis - they really tend to complement rugged styles. Look for khakis in comfortable fits and natural fabrics.
Denim is a cornerstone of rugged looks. Look for denim in a dark or medium wash that have plenty of room around the ankles and inseam. Sometimes “vintage” brands or cuts will offer the right fits. Make sure you try on the jeans in various sizes to ensure they fit comfortably, because sizing isn’t always consistent with denim. You can also look for distressed jeans with holes, but make sure not to go overboard, because looking fashionable is not the goal of rugged dressing. See our post “how to wear jeans” for more guidance on this topic.
While pants are the foundation for a rugged look, shirts are also important. Shirts should be comfortable and functional, and not overly tight. They can be heritage, vintage, or workwear, as long as they come in traditional fabrics and neutral colors. Flannel shirts are iconic for building a rugged look, and they mix well with other rugged pieces in your wardrobe.
In addition to the flannel shirt, there are many other types of shirts that will create a rugged look. T-shirts are a basic component of rugged wardrobes. Plain v-neck or crew-neck shirts in white, black, navy and earth tones create a good base layer for your look. Many retailers sell plain t-shirts cheaply, and you might get a discount for buying in bulk. Top your look off with a sweater in the winter months. Look for chunky knits in neutral colors like brown or grey that are minimal and masculine. If your sweater gets damaged, patch over it or repair it rather than replacing the garment.
For rugged footwear, leather boots are the essential piece, and they come in a variety of styles. Stick with black or brown leather in earthy tones. A popular style is lace-up boots which come in either low or high-rise. Moccasins and chukka boots also work well, as long as they don’t have any decoration or fringe. Choose a few pairs of shoes in different styles to mix and match. For dressier occasions, you can try a nice pair of derbys, oxfords or brogues.
Outerwear is one of the most important elements to tie your rugged look together. Vests, blazers and coats can elevate the look of utility and finish an outfit off nicely. Look for outerwear in canvas, leather, or wool. As with all your rugged clothing, stick with neutral or earth tones in solid colors. Consider military jackets, trench coats, shearling jackets, and other pieces that are tough and functional. Similar to military clothing, hunting clothing is a good choice. They tend to have functional details such as extra reinforcement in seams, many pockets, and thicker materials. Some more traditional outerwear like pea coats, canvas hooded parkas, or leather jackets can also be good options.
An important part of building a rugged look is learning how to layer. Though most rugged clothing goes together without much effort, mixing and matching different pieces can be an art. A a few understated accessories can help enhance your look. Watches are a great choice, and come in a variety of great rugged styles. Look for watches with leather bands. Plain leather belts are also great. Look for a belt that matches your shoes or boots - brown works well and is easy to coordinate. Socks can also help build a rugged style. Thick wool socks in neutral colors pair well with brown boots. You can usually find wool socks at an outdoor store. Finally, you can round out your look with a few leather or woven bracelets if you wish.
A rugged look transcends clothes. Hair and grooming are also important parts of the style. Hair can be long or short, but not too “clean” looking. Here is where a little bit of pomade can help. A beard can really elevate your rugged vibe. Make sure to keep it trim; it should look lived-in but not unkempt. Your appearance will be more rugged if you have some wrinkles in your face. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have some muscle. For inspiration, take a look at photos of men from earlier eras who look like they could easily hunt, build, and live off the grid.
Rugged fashion borrows from classic pieces, so don’t wear it ironically or go overboard. Avoid bright colors, loud graphics, trendy washes, embellishments, or large logos - they will simply distract from your rugged vibe. Durability and functionality are the name of the game. You can, however, opt for fabrics and patterns from workwear or sporting contexts, such as plaid or camo. Just be sure to coordinate each item of clothing with other items in your outfit.
To start building your rugged wardrobe, try thrift stores, which often have a great selection of this type of clothing. Or check out garage sales where you can often find rugged clothing for cheap. For new items, you can check out outdoor stores like LL Bean, Sierra Trading Post, Duluth Trading Co, and White Mountaineering. If you’re looking for something more high-end, try brands like Gant Rugger, Ralph Lauren, J Crew, Barbour, Filson and Belstaff. For denim, you can’t go wrong with brands like Levi’s and Edwin. Wherever you shop, remember to inject some personality and make it your own.