This Manfashion Interlude is in response to several reader requests for general style advice for men. Husband Mike, resident stylish man, graciously agreed to give his two cents.
Ryan Gosling and Steve Carrell in “Crazy, Stupid, Love”
Most men don’t put a lot of thought into their clothes. So what? It’s their clothes, their body, their social interactions. I would guess that large segment of the male population just accepts that what they are wearing is good enough since looking any better would certainly require significant additional effort. This is not necessarily true. I’m going to point out a few easy ways that a man can step up his game, fashion-wise, without too much trouble.
Step One: Wear clothes that fit correctly
For a guy, getting dressed up will probably mean wearing a button-down shirt. White or blue. Most button-down shirts are made either hipster slim or beer-belly boxy (at least in the USA). This means that most men will default to a shirt that is too roomy and this translates into sloppy. Even though I do not have an athletic bod personally, I will always seek out athletic fit button down shirts. These are the only ones that seem to fit me correctly when I have my shirt tucked in. Once you find a brand that you like, buy multiples and you will be all set. This means that the salad dressing stain than never came out will not result in you having to shop for another perfect shirt. Take the identical unworn shirt out of the back of the closet and you are ready to go for the next wedding/funeral/holiday party.
Keep in mind two things when buying a dress shirt:
- The top button needs to button so you can wear a tie. If your weight fluctuates, get the same shirt in two different neck sizes, just in case.
- If your shirt gives you a spare tire when you tuck it in, this shirt does not fit you. Find a different size or even a different brand. If you have a belly and/or otherwise find it impossible to find a shirt that fits you correctly, get as close as you can and focus your efforts elsewhere–a cool tie, a tailored jacket, for instance.
Next up, pants. Yours pants are too short and a bit out of date. I’m basically talking to myself here. I recently donated 12 pairs of jeans after cleaning out my closet and realizing that my pants were either too short or a bit dated. When buying pants, always try them on while wearing shoes. They must crease a bit at the top of the shoe and touch the top of the heel, more or less, but not drag on the ground. If you can see your shins when sitting down, your pants are too short. This is the most common fit problem I see from the average guy.
Remember that scene in “Crazy, Stupid, Love” when the Ryan Gosling character tells the Steve Carrell character to be “better than the Gap”? You don’t need to be better then the Gap, in my opinion, but if you have not bought jeans in a number of years, try opting for a slimmer fit and a darker wash. This is a relatively easy way to step up your game without too much work.
Khakis. If you don’t wear suits, there is a good chance you wear khakis. You may even just call them, “Dockers.” I got no problem with Dockers. They have served me well in a number of situations in which I needed to look nice, but not going-to-a-wedding nice. Dockers, a button-down shirt that fits well, an interesting tie, and I fit in just fine. Step up your game by choosing flat front over pleated pants. Flat front khakis say you are at least trying to be in style rather that just phoning it in. If you are going to a family function, this may be the one thing that sets you apart from your less-cool Dad. I stopped wearing tan khakis the day both my father and I showed up at a thing wearing the exact same shirt and pants. Black Dockers? He’ll never wear those. Flat front? He’s never heard of such a thing so I’m good with either one. And this is a good place to remind you again: Don’t let your pants be too short or too baggy. If you wash them and they shrink up an inch too much, never wear them again. They will do you no favors.
Step Two: Shoes
If a woman has never complimented you on your shoes you are wearing the wrong shoes. Most women will notice your shoes so this is probably the easiest way to step up your game. The first thing I look for when evaluating shoes is whether or not the soles are sewn on or molded to the shoe. When the soles are sewn on, this is an indicator of a high quality. A good shoe should at least have the option of being re-soled, which you cannot do when the soles have been molded on. Also shoes with molded soles often trap pockets of air between the layers which leads to squeaks and shoe farts.
Realize that a decent pair of shoes may cost you over $100. Trust me that once you get a good pair of shoes you will not regret getting rid of the shiny $45 shoes you have been wearing so far. Look for shoes that have some interesting styling to them -leather soles, a toe that is a little pointy or a little square, some unique stitching, leather that is really soft. My favorite and most comfortable shoes are John Fluevog, John Varvatos, and Cydwoq. Figure out what your European sizing is and start looking online for the deal. A lot of the really cool shoes are going to be European. Size 11 US is about a 45 in European sizing.
Some people will never be the sort to wear a pair of dress shoes. How can a guy step up his game when it comes to athletic shoes? One rule of thumb could be that if you would ever wear a particular shoe to play a particular sport, you should probably not wear that shoe if you are trying to step up your game. Like when picking out a dressier shoe, choose a style that has some interesting element – a cool futuristic sole, an interesting fabric, a lower profile. I don’t wear a lot of tennis shoes, but I have found a couple pairs from Tsubo and Simple that are pretty cool. It’s hard to go wrong with your Converse All-Stars or your Jack Purcells, but the New Balance with the grass stains? Leave them on the back porch.
Step Three: Accessories
Are you wearing a watch? Ask yourself if there is anything distinctive about it. If there isn’t, this is an area where you can step up your game. I get a ton on compliments on a black Mossimo watch from Target. It cost me $20, but it has an oversized face and is really shiny. There are four dials on it and only one of them moves. It doesn’t matter. The large face makes it unusual and stand out. I try to make my watch match what I am wearing. More casual clothes get the leather band (even the rubber band). Outfits where I am dressed a bit sharper get the watch with the metal band and the bright blue face. I’ve got an oversized square face watch with an unusual dial that I wear to arty events. I’ll even match my watch to my glasses. Watches don’t need to be expensive to make an impression, but if you are actually making an impression with your watch, you have stepped up your game.
Do you wear glasses? Do you have more than one pair? Once I figured out what frame size fits my head, I started buying glasses online at places like 39dollarglasses.com. Since I can get glasses and lenses for less than $100 a pair, I have been more risky with my eyewear choices. Again, when I chose frames that are distinctive in some way, I have just set myself apart from the majority of the guys out there who have held onto their frames for too long. I have some frames where the bows look like they are made from bobby pins. Awesome! I may have frames with a yellow accent which would look great with the watch with the black and yellow face. Coordinating these two things are ways to step up your game.
Do you have any rings? A cool belt buckle? How about a classy winter coat? If your only winter coat has a sports team logo on the back, you have just identified an area where you can step up your game. An easy place to start is an overcoat that goes past your butt. You’ll need something like this if you are wearing a sport coat to a wedding or something. Check out Marshall’s or TJMaxx and you are sure to find something. I have a brown overcoat that is more or less nondescript but there is a flap of fabric over the buttons so you can’t see them which makes it pretty sleek looking.
Take strides towards improving your wardrobe in any of these ways and people are sure to remark upon the changes, which means you will have stepped up your game. Congratulations!
And for your enjoyment, here is David Mitchell from “That Mitchell and Webb Look” to give his opinions on dressing unusually smart: