“Why are you so dressed up?” “Why do you dress the way you do?” “Why can’t you just dress like everybody else?”
I dress the way I do because I like the way I dress. I also like the compliments I get and the attention. Yep. Face it, you will get judged by how you look. Whether that is right or wrong, how you look is going to influence how people treat you.
At Real Men, Real Style, this recent post was talking about what a woman looks for in a man’s appearance. First, I commend unto you the entirety of that post. I’m inspired by it, go give their page the meager views it will get from you dedicated readers. The RMRS post got me thinking.
I wanted to know what women here looked for or noticed, for good or ill in a man’s attire. I enlisted several of my female friends, who shall remain anonymous, and posed a few questions. I sent them the same link you saw above so they could know what else was out there and to think about the answers. These are intelligent, stylish, successful, and attractive women – the kind of women whose attention you want to attract.
They generally agreed with the RMRS guest post, but had some of the following words of wisdom to add:
- “While clothes don’t make the man, they can break the man.”
- “Great style can make a man who possibly isn’t the most attractive seem very alluring.”
- “Gentleman looking to give out the “I’ve got it together” whether looking for a one night
- fling or a relationship should actually be put together.”
- “Someone dressed nicely will stand out among throngs of slobs at Walmart.”
With that in mind, what do they see here? How can men improve? The most consistent answer: fit!
- “If only more men would alter their clothes, they would instantly look more stylish. Some women may like the “sloppy” look, but it just doesn’t cut it when trying to make a first impression.”
- “For me, a big part of dressing well for a man is fit. A man could be wearing jeans and a t-shirt, but if the fit (and this goes without saying, the cut of the garment) is right, he can look very nice.”
They don’t want us to look sloppy. As one of the ladies described, the shoulders of your shirt should fit your shoulders and the seat of your pants should fit your butt. Another common denominator from the responses was to actually take care of your clothes. This especially came up in the context of whether outfits were properly pressed or ironed!
- “I don’t like to iron, so I don’t buy garments requiring ironing but I’ll notice if a man is wearing something wrinkled.”
- “This means to leave the party t-shirts, flip flops, visors, and wrinkled things at home.”
The two common and most important things – fit and upkeep. Getting better fitting clothes and taking care of them is pretty easy. We can do better.
What else was mentioned?
- “Shoes are another big thing. Big, clunky, dirty clod hoppers are not attractive! If you are going to spend a little extra money on an outfit, let it be on shoes.”
- “Have 2 nice pairs of shoes. I’d rather a man have 2 nice ones than 10 cheap looking ones that don’t wear well.”
- “Men shouldn’t be afraid to wear color – step away from the standard hues and go with a nice solid. Add a pattern as one gentleman did with a handkerchief if you are man enough.”
- “Grammar. You saw something, you didn’t seen it. I’m looking for a guy I can take to a black tie event [. . .] if needed and not worry that they will embarrass me with their poor grammar.”
- “Every man should invest in a nice watch, a nice sports coat, dark jeans with a modern cut, and shirts tailored to fit their waistline.”
- “Also, instant style points for a man who wears a scarf.”
- “Last, but not least, grooming. Long hair, short hair, beard, no beard – no matter! Comb it, trim it, put some effort into it. The “just rolled out of bed” look works for very few people.”
How can we use this to our advantage or at least to inform our decisions?
Step 1: We will focus on style, not fashion.
Trying to draw a line between style & fashion is difficult. Grant from Image Granted has a good talk about style being something internal and growing outward from a sense of self at Essential Style. On a less prosaic note, fashion is usually ephemeral and penumbral. Style is more constant. Suits have been a mainstay of menswear for a reason – they are designed to make men look good. While fashion, and the everchanging look of what is in and what is out will inform some decisions – such as the rebirth of skinnier ties and pocket squares – there is something to be said for having go-to looks and being confident that what you are wearing is going to look good. When a style reflects who you are, you will feel good in what you wear.
Step 2: We start with the basics
It is important to know what is considered timeless style and to also know what traditionally goes together. Aside from providing you with a framework to build your style, you also need to know the rules before you can truly break the rules. Sometimes deviations from the expected or the orthodox are what sets an outfit apart. Only when you know what it is supposed to be can you avoid that to great effect. Otherwise, you may stumble onto something that looks good or you may just look like you got dressed entirely at random.
I’ll keep working on a series of posts as we go through the staples and standards of menswear. I will through my ideas for what to look for and what to avoid but Step 3, below, is going to be the important thing to remember.
Step 3: Make it personal
The idea behind this is for you to dress well. It isn’t about a single arbitrary image or look everyone should have. Odds are you will disagree with me on some things. That’s fine. I disagree with a lot of menswear bloggers, style icons, and designers too. You have to find your own personal sense of style. As described by Valet magazine recently – give yourself a personal uniform . As you find not only what looks good on you, but what you like, it will keep getting easier. Confidence is the key.
Step 4: Start branching out
If you have a good handle on the basics and a solid sense of your personal style, it gets pretty easy to make little changes or look at the little details that will set you apart. Developing your personal style is a marathon, not a sprint. You will have to work at it over time and incorporate ideas piece by piece.
My personal tastes? I trend towards more formal with suits being worn more often than “required” and a dash of dandy thrown in. I am fortunate because my work easily accommodates wearing suits more often than not, but perhaps yours isn’t the kind of job you can wear a suit very often, or maybe you just don’t like them. If the latter, I will try to change your mind in the upcoming months. I like to have something that doesn’t quite seem right about the outfit – contrast the formal with the less formal, contrast expected fabrics, give it a little pop of something that shows I purposefully deviated from the cookie cutter suit & tie (Remember how I mentioned the idea of sprezzatura in the Bow Tie post?) . I’ll try to keep my natural tendencies towards dandy in check, but sometimes you’ll have to bear with me.
So let’s step up our game, gentlemen; the women in town deserve better. For too long, the style sheets our local publications put out have the same basic outfit for men year after year (distressed blue jeans, a fashion print tee, etc.) – we can shake it up. This isn’t just about trying to look better for women, it is also for ourselves. We owe it to ourselves to look good and feel good. Finally, we do owe it to the stunning and wonderful women in this town to step up our game.