Good books have the power to transform you—and that’s as true for fiction and history as it is for books about style. While there’s no shortage of powerful tomes on the subject, the best of them have the tendency to do double duty as coffee-table-worthy decorations and didactic guides on looking your best. A few also offer up compelling etymologies on specific style movements (here’s looking at you, punks and preppies) and items made famous by the best-dressed men in the world.
Below, a handful of must-have tomes for the well-heeled gentleman.
The Sartorialist: Man
Scott Schuman has been photographing some of the world’s most stylish people on a regular basis for over 15 years, ever since he started his much-beloved street style blog, The Sartorialist. He’s released five books since then, but The Sartorialist: Man is his first dedicated to men. Its pages offer a thoughtful visual masterclass on everything from making a double-breasted blazer to how to pull off white jeans—at any time of year.
Menswear historian G. Bruce Boyer delves into the etymology of classic men’s style in his fifth tome, exploring the provenance of everything from denim to neckties and explaining how to pick the right pair of socks. In his hands, the backstories of the most essential menswear pieces become indispensable considerations for their present-day use cases. Put another way: read this book and you might think twice before wearing a turtleneck to a cocktail party.
The Finest Menswear in the World
If you’ve ever wanted to look under the hood and understand just how your best clothing is made, this tome by Robb Report contributor Simon Crompton has all of the answers from the Panama hat to the Milanese buttonhole.
This photo-driven book wasn’t intended to scale the ranks of must-have menswear books, but the collection of images snapped at a handful of Ivy League campuses in the early 1960s are so often referenced that owning a copy is a must for anyone interested in the origins of off-duty dressing.
Cool: Style, Sound, and Subversion
The idea of the “cool kids” has always been hard to pin down, but Cool: Style, Sound, and Subversion does a great job of capturing how that x factor has changed from the 1930s to today.
Icons of Men’s Style
This is where one might turn to for daily ensemble inspiration, brought to you from true icons like Steve McQueen, Cary Grant, and of course, Sean Connery in the role of James Bond.
A Man & His Watch
Heavyweights like Sylvester Stallone, Nasir Jones and Ralph Lauren, among others, told writer Matt Hranek the stories of the watches they wear every day. Together, they make this beautiful coffee table book something worth of leaving on display.
Men and Style
Although Men and Style is chock full of sage style advice from a variety of stylish guys, it’s more an arsenal of life lessons for the self-respecting gentleman. Coggins illustrates this perfectly, offering everything from tips on buying custom tailoring to invaluable gems like: “It only takes one time for you to realize that you wear a sport coat to the 21 Club, bring cash to Peter Luger, and never order a pink cocktail.”
The Laws of Style
Known to many as “The Fashion Lawyer,” Douglas Hand spends his days representing designers when it comes to trademarks and the like. His first book, The Laws of Style, breaks down the cornerstones of professional dressing, which makes this the ideal gift for a recent grad.
100 Years of Menswear
With examples of how men have been dressing from 1900 to the present day, this whopping 320-page tome is meant for the stylish history buff who wants to know why we dress the way we do.
The Italian Gentleman
Consider this your tour guide through the Italian tailoring scene. Written by fashionable Frenchman Hugo Jacomet, the tome offers a first timer’s guide to the world of sprezzatura, and points you in the direction of shops and tailors where you can get a taste of it for yourself.
For the hypebeast in all of us, Sneakers gives readers an inside look at the birth of the now-booming industry—and how it continues to evolve. Plus, it’s all paired alongside artfully snapped portraits of the sneakers from Nike, Adidas, Reebok next to the people who designed them.
Dressing The Man
Penned by master tailor Alan Flusser, who has been the longstanding source for expertly cut suiting for over three decades, Dressing the Man is a definitive encyclopedia of menswear knowledge and style directives straight from the man who helped cement them into the playbook.