What is Trad and How to Wear It

Defining Trad Style

Two men wearing SAINT CROIX blazers and dress shirts converse over a bottle of wine while seated in an elegant wine cellar.

There are several ways to define men’s Trad style. A recent primer by Gentleman’s Gazette calls it “a more sensible approach to classic menswear” directly influenced by preppies of the 50s and 60s, while way back in 2009, an Observer style columnist succinctly characterized the aesthetic as “ a safe haven for sartorially selective gentlemen” in contrast to the chaos of big-box stores and inaccessible runways. It’s also been described as “a modern take on the roaring 20s.”

With roots in the elite academic and individualistic male student bodies of early 20th century Ivy League schools, Trad style is recognizable for its subtle yet personable pieces, such as blazers, traditional button-down shirts, classy sweaters, professional-to-formal trousers, and elegant accessories.

Brief historical overview

Trad style is an offshoot of Ivy League style, a now-eternal philosophy of fashion which began more than a century ago.

The original Ivy League gentlemen needed a wardrobe that could compete in the privileged echelons of high society while also translating to outdoor recreational activities, such as golf and polo. (Compare this to the needs of today’s well-dressed man, who may seek ensembles that translate from the office to lunch meetings to evenings out.) While the exact starting date of Ivy League looks isn’t universally agreed upon, there’s a consensus that it was born of prep school boys (“preps”) with a long-time familiarity with suit-and-tie uniforms. 

Aiming to maintain the stylistic essence of the Princeton and Yale legacies that came before them, while paying tribute to the modernity of nearby cities and the rural comforts of the country, the Ivy League look combined all to create an instantly iconic form of dress that oozes confidence and composure as much as effortlessness and comfort.

Ivy Style vs. Trad

Style: What’s the Difference?


What sets Trad style apart from Ivy is its effort to meet modernity without completely closing the door on – as the name suggests – tradition. Where an Ivy League look might consist of a tailored blazer, white dress shirt, tie, and crest pin, a Trad outfit may retain the blazer, ditch the tie and pin and feature a more individualized patterned or bold-solid shirt. In essence, Trad style aims to capture the esteem of the original preppies without letting itself get too haughty or high-brow.

For the modern man who wishes to look put together, wealthy, educated, and stylish, and to maintain the appearance across various areas of life, from sales meetings to soirees, Trad may be the best fit for his style needs.

Trad Style Staples

Consider incorporating one or all of these menswear pieces to start your Trad style wardrobe.

Man wearing SAINT CROIX floral shirt with navy blue blazer checks his reflection in the mirror of an elegant room.
Traditional two-button wool knit blazer


The blazer has been a classic menswear piece for generations, and for good reason. From athletic fields to yacht marinas, the two-button staple accommodates casual, professional, and formal needs without fail. Today, there are more options than ever for different kinds of blazers, though the tried-and-true Wool Knit blazer remains a universal favorite.

Modern, cardigan-style take on the blazer

Pair with a solid or striped button-down, dress belt, and dress pants for a business formal look, or layer over a polo or crewneck sweater and jeans for something more casual.

Cardigan Sweater

Classic 100% Merino Wool Button Cardigan

A cardigan sweater is another great all-purpose Trad style piece. Worn buttoned all the way up for a workplace-friendly look or left open for easy-breezy wear, the cardigan sweater can be layered over virtually any shirt or sweater of your choosing and it will still elevate the look.

Sweater Vest

Men's Classic All Wool Vest

Once undeservedly decried as the garb of nerds and grandpas, the popularity of the sweater vest is having the resurgence it deserves. Worn with a tee and jeans for everyday style, layered over a button-down for a nice dinner, or topped off with a blazer, this Trad style staple leaves plenty of room for versatility and self-expression.

Textured Knit

Never underestimate the power of a statement piece. 

While chunky sweaters have been trending for several years on and off the runway, a Trad style equivalent materializes in the form of a textured knit. Not exactly bulky, but not flat either, look for intricate knitted designs with a bit of weight to them. Think fisherman’s cable, classic Aran stitches, woven turtlenecks. Opting for a textured knit rather than a full chunky piece achieves the Trad style effect of making others look at you even though your whole allure is how seemingly un-flashy you’re dressed.

Button-down shirt

An example of a quality solid blue button-down shirt

If you don’t have one already, you’ll need at least one solid blue or white button-down to supplement your Trad style clothing collection. Not only does it succeed as a standalone piece, but it can be beautifully mixed and matched with every item on this list. To add variety from solids, add a striped button-down in a classic color (blue, gray, black) and a patterned option that speaks to you, such as paisley, herringbone, or micro neat. 

Dress Pants

Wool blend everyday "dress" pants

It may not be necessary for every occasion, but a good pair of dress pants is still a necessity to have to complete a true Trad style look. Important business meetings, nice dinners, and weddings will certainly call for the apparel. If you invest in a well-made pair of dress pants, you may find that the combined comfort and flattery of the piece has you wearing them on a regular basis, even when the event doesn’t call for it. 

Dress Belts

Classic black leather dress belt made from burnished calfskin

Whether you’re wearing jeans, dress pants, or something else, a quality dress belt is sure to complete the look and tie everything together with the right amount of understated flair. Traditional leather works, but embossed belts or those made from exotic materials (alligator is underrated) are also more than suitable. Remember that Trad style is not a set of limitations – it’s sophisticated dress adapted to you and the current times.


Ready to create your Trad style wardrobe? Explore blazers, button-downs, sweaters, and more of what you need in SAINT CROIX’s American luxury menswear collection.

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