Looking your best isn’t wholly determined by what you can see in the mirror on the way out the door. Often it’s the unseen things that play a major role. And ignoring or discounting the importance of the following can undo a lot of spent time and energy. The below are limited to the tangible. So for example, “confidence,” as important as it is, won’t be found here. Not this time at least.
Good Collar Stays: 36 Alloy Collar Stays – $11.95
Hugely important. Limp, in many cases, isn’t good. And a limp collar isn’t gonna help frame your face or stand up to a jacket. So consider investing in some metal collar stays, or at least hang onto a good, solid pair of plastic stays that should come with higher quality shirts (and use them in your cheaper shirts). And a tip with the metal alloy stays: try putting a slight bend in the top (not the tip) 1/4 of each stay. That should help your collar stay at attention when tieless, instead of going spread eagle. And of course, there’s always magnets.
A Decent Quality Iron: Rowenta Pro Master DW8080 – $86.22
Ironing is like running. Most people hate it. And ironing with a crummy iron is like going for a 5 mile run in penny loafers. It’s a painful, awful experience. $80 – $100 seems like a crap-ton for a friggin’ iron, but it can make a huge difference in how quickly you can get this chore done, and how good your clothes look on the other end of the process. Cheap irons collect deposits and can often spit those all out over your clothes. More expensive irons don’t clog nearly as easily, don’t need to be cleaned that often, and distribute the steam and heat more effectively. You might just get good at ironing. Good enough that you barely have to look at the shirt or pair of pants you’re working on, and therefor, can keep one eye on a movie or a game while you banish wrinkles from your clothing.
A Great, Friendly Tailor: Priceless
A person, not an item. But still. The #1 pro any well dressed guy has to have in his corner. They are the key to taking affordable clothes (or even expensive clothes for that matter), and making them look like they were made specifically for you. They are the masters of the slight tweak here, the small alteration there, that makes an article of clothing truly yours.
Hair Product (try L’Oreal’s Homme Mat)
Yes. Unseen. Mostly. Product is good. Control & some texture is good. Turning your dome into a helmet of rigid paste doesn’t look real great. Point is, hair product is a tool that shouldn’t be overly noticeable once it’s in. (And boy, Axe is having it both ways, being that they made the above commercial, yet this commercial too.)
Forget the styling aspect for a second. If you hate boxers because there’s no control, then don’t feel like you have to learn to like them. If you can’t stand boxer briefs because the legs ride up, then skip em’ and stick with briefs. If you hate briefs because they cut into your groin, then go with boxers. Point is: Style has to be second here. Because even if your underwear looks good, if your junk is unhappy, then the rest of you will be unhappy.
Proper Hangers (and knowing what to fold instead of hang)
Having a closet full of great clothes is useless if they’re put through a medieval torture routine every time you put them away. Suits, blazers, and sportcoats need wide shouldered hangers. Thin hangers will cut into and break down the shoulder pads over time. Knits like sweaters? Fold em’. Gravity is hell on knits. More on what hangers to get and what to avoid over here.
A Good, Consistent Barber/Stylist
Because they’re the one weilding the tools and shaping something you wear every day. Your hair. (If you’re lucky enough to have hair.) It took more than a few of us years, if not decades, to figure out the formula for getting a great haircut. Either find one specific person that you’ll see every time (three weeks is ideal), or, find a place that is hugely consistent with the kinds of cuts that they give. Walking into a cheap hair-cut chain only to get a different cut from a different person each and every time despite saying the exact same thing to them is just asking for a disaster. Find a barber or a hair-stylist. Cheap or pricey. Whatever. If you like them, and they like you, and they do good work? Then keep em’. Tip them. And thank them. If you’re looking for someone new? Here’s how to communicate with them on your first few visits. (Photo: M. Morris)
Good Quality, Mid/Lightweight, Wool Socks: Nord. Over the Calf – $14.50
So, technically they aren’t unseen. Especially if you’re into the loud-socks-thing. But they’re more hidden than not, unless you’re wearing your pants at high-water level. Trust wool over cotton, and trust over the calf socks over everything else. Cotton just soaks up and holds onto sweat. And if you’ve got sweaty damp feet, the rest of you will be unhappy. Wool breathes, dries, and that helps prevent hot spots and blisters. Over the calf means they’ll stay up, all day.
A very subtle use of, or total lack of cologne
If you walk by someone and they’ve got some rank B.O. going on, it’s hard not to feel a little bad for them. Maybe they’ve got some kind of health condition. Maybe they just don’t know. If you walk by someone and you’re cold-cocked by a haboob of cologne, then it’s hard not to actively dislike that person. My right to swing my fist ends at the tip of your nose… right? Sure, smell isn’t the same as a nasty right cross, but someone who wear’s a heavy amount of cologne is still projecting their presence in a way that is un-ignorable. Even if everyone in the room actually likes the smell, why should they have to smell it? Especially if they’re sitting across the conference table from the wearer, or hell, can smell the individual before even walking into the shared room? Make it subtle, or skip the cologne all together. We got enough scented stuff in our lives.