Last week while we were talking revamping your wardrobe, Dave popped up with with this:
Any insights for men? My wardrobe is starting to get worn, and I have neither fashion sense nor a wife to dress me.
Now, I know that the majority of Want Not readers are female, but we do have our loyal little contingent of men, and I think this is a fair question. I spend a lot of time discussing fashion for the ladies; what about the guys?
There is, as far as I’m concerned, one cardinal rule of fashion that goes for everyone (male or female), and the rest of the rules follow from the first. Listen up: Your clothes should fit.
It’s true; clothes that fit you well always look better than clothes that don’t. Duh. But this is an important rule to stress particularly for men, I find, because women tend to be far more critical of fit than men. I know plenty of men who will happily don anything handy, and then they are confused and affronted (“Dude, this is a designer shirt!”) when you point out that it’s ten sizes too big. So this should be your mantra, and following it will help you tremendously. What do I mean by clothing that fits, when we’re talking about men?
- Dress shirts should come in measurement sizes, not letters. I don’t want to see you dressed up in a shirt that’s size M or XL. Go someplace nice and get measured, if you need to.
- Shoulder seams on shirts should hit you at the shoulder. This is a classic guy blunder, shoulder seams that droop down the biceps. I see it most often with men who are tall, who’ve grown accustomed to buying a hugocious (totally a word) size to garner extra length. Gentlemen? Many fine retailers carry shirts in Tall. Learn to love them.
- Pants should come down to the tops of your shoe soles in the back. Any longer and those pants need to be tailored. Any shorter and you need to get rid of them.
- If you need a belt, wear a belt. If you are over the age of 14 I don’t want to see your pants sagging down. Pants should hit you at the top of your hips. Any lower and I’m seeing your underwear, and any higher and I may ask if you’re Fred Mertz.
- Grown ups do not wear elastic waist pants. If you tend towards pants with elastic, that means you’re not buying the right size. Figure out your size and then buy pants with a zipper and a fly like a big boy.
In addition to these basic fit tips, there are some “classic” style tips I’d suggest you adhere to:
- Buy jeans in a dark or medium wash, blue or black only. A light wash looks informal at best and dated at worst, and men should not wear colored jeans. Ever. (Side note: No one on this planet should ever wear white jeans. Amen.)
- Every man should have some khakis, and while the color khaki is your most neutral choice, keep in mind that any neutral is fine. Neutrals include: Grey, navy blue, black, brown, olive green, the entire family of tans. It is a very rare man who can get away with pants in a non-neutral color. Yes, they make red pants. No, you probably shouldn’t wear them.
- In addition to being the right fit (length and girth) pants should have a straight (not tapered) leg and ideally be a flat front (no pleats). My husband refuses to give up his pleated pants and I’ve all but given up this battle with him, but a flat front is more flattering, honestly. You can still get away with pleats if you are very slender through the hips, but in general, a well-fitting flat front is going to look nicest.
- Sneakers are for playing sports and mowing the lawn. If you wear sneakers as casual shoes, consider either a “fashion sneaker” (I know, it sounds girly, but I swear it’s not) or better yet, a casual loafer instead. You’d be amazed at how much more put together you’ll look—even if you’re wearing jeans—if you’re wearing real shoes. And no, men do not have to have eleventy pairs of shoes the way women do. Just a couple of nice pairs. (Here: Consider this Skechers loafer, or this Skechers oxford—both are currently half off at Endless, and will ship overnight for just $30 delivered. Either of those shoes will work with both jeans and khakis.)
- Another note on shoes: The most common transgression I see by men in the shoe department is not taking care of their shoes. If they’re scuffed, polish them! If they’re beyond making them look good again, toss them and buy a new pair.
- A shirt with a collar is fancier than one without. That said, you can dress down a collared shirt by wearing it with a t-shirt underneath or going without a tie. Even if you work somewhere “casual,” hopefully you’re not wearing a t-shirt every day.
- Colors and patterns are fine, but probably not together. That is, don’t be afraid to wear a bold color or a pattern, but choose wisely. Stripes are good. Bright colors are good. Bright stripes are not going to be good on most guys. Don’t know what colors to wear? Pay attention to what items you already own that people compliment you on. (My husband is still surprised every time he wears the royal blue shirt I bought him and he gets a billion compliments. And then I lovingly tell him, “That’s because your eyes are blue and that shirt brings them out. Dummy.”)
- Unless you are Mr. Rogers, you probably shouldn’t wear cardigans. Some men can pull off that look, but not many. Do wear crew- or v-neck sweaters in natural fibers (cotton or wool or cashmere, please—no acrylic! no polyester!) with a shirt underneath, though.
- I know Summer’s over, but men should never wear shorts to the office (I don’t care how casual it is. I DO NOT CARE. No shorts!) and the shorts you do wear should come to your knee or nearly so unless you are exercising. Pants rules apply—neutral colors, preferably flat front, proper fit.
One quick, very general, note: You can now buy really nice pants and shirts in “wrinkle-free” fabric nearly everywhere. Unless you are an ironer, look for the wrinkle-free stuff. It only costs a little more and it absolutely worth it to look classy instead of like you slept in your clothes. Nuff said.
Okay, got all that? Heh.
As for shopping, some of this is going to depend on your own personal style, of course. For classic, casual pieces my go-to sites (meaning, the places my husband and I both agree have the best options) are LL Bean (they are shipping for free automatically through December), Lands’ End (that link will give you free shipping), Eddie Bauer and—even better—Eddie Bauer Outlet, and Kohls. (Kohls carries a nice selection of Dockers stuff, which a lot of men like, as well as having a good variety of Tall sizes if you need those.)
For dressy items, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Jos. A. Bank. Their stuff is top-notch and they have sales all the time. I love them. And so does my husband.
I’m sure I’ve left some stuff out, but that should give you some ideas, anyway. Let me know if you have specific questions I didn’t cover and I’ll try to help. And then go buy yourself some new clothes, dude. You deserve it, too.