You have the basics down. You know what to look for in a suit and what to have a tailor possibly do to it. You know you don’t have to dress like a slob in your downtime. You know the difference between a sportcoat and a suit jacket, and an oxford and a derby. But what about that last… little bit, that can help you stand apart from the rest of the well dressed fellas out there? Y’know, without overdoing it. Here’s a dozen things that could help you do just that.
A sliver of a pocket square when in a suit/sportcoat
- The Tie Bar White Linen – $10
- The Tie Bar, White Linen with Navy Border – $11.99
- J. Crew English Wool Pocket Square in Stripe – $17.99 FINAL w/ GETSHOPPING
Not a big poofy thing (if you choose to poof, poof with restraint). Nothing crazy loud (but good on you if you can pull off loud). Just a sliver of contrast. Maybe a little bit of color or a small pattern. Squares with a tipped edge are perfect for this. And a tip, never have it match your necktie exactly (y’know, like those sets you see on news anchors with helmet hair).
Socks that match/blend with your trousers instead of your shoes
Most guys default to matching their socks to their shoes, instead of their pants. Meanwhile, the bold, “fun” socks thing is fine and all, but wearing socks that are in the same color family as your trousers helps to a) make your legs look longer (and therefor you look taller), and b) lets your shoes get some good attention. For example, see above. Imagine some “fun/zany” striped socks with that pair of AE Fairfax. Sure, some guys don’t like that shoe as is, but if you’ve got some well detailed shoes, a relatively blank sock canvas can really make ’em jump, visually.
Good grooming that doesn’t get to the obsessive level
Face it. Us dudes have it super easy. Grooming for men is kinda like makeup for women. A little can look great, but too much and you can instigate flabbergasted side-eyes. Your sideburns shouldn’t look like they were shaped by lasers, and OPEC shouldn’t have to ramp up production to feed your hair product habit. You don’t want to be a slob, but you don’t want to spend eons in front of the mirror either. Get clean, get together, and get going.
Ability to responsibly handle (or abstain from) alcohol
There’s no such thing as an attractive drunk. There’s not. Sorry. And while many websites, magazines, television shows, and movies seem to think “just add booze to increase coolness!” (including, admittedly, this one, sorry, it’s absolutely a crutch) it can quickly go wrong. So better be smart, or, better not.
A good piece (or two) of outerwear
- Banana Republic Classic Trench – $250
- Charles Tyrwhitt Navy Epsom Overcoat – $400 (above)
- Best Looking Outerwear Fall/Winter 2016
A good topcoat for fall/winter… a good trench/mac for spring and summer (if it’s cool and wet in the summer where you live). It should be fitted, but it has to get over your suit jackets/sportcoats/blazers/heavy sweaters with EASE. You shouldn’t struggle to get your coat on. It’s these mid-thigh to knee length coats that can really help a guy look like he just stepped out of a movie. So feel free to invest, and wear the hell out of it.
Tipping smart, and tipping well
Experiences > Stuff. So, if you’re out having an experience, and someone increases your enjoyment of that experience, show them you appreciate their talents. Don’t go broke in the process, but put yourself in their shoes (maybe you ARE in their shoes). Could you/would you do the same job they’re doing at the same level that they’re doing it? If you shake your head in a bit of amazement at the patience, charm, and intelligence that’s being shown, then make it QUIETLY known with a solid tip. Everybody wins. Ebeneezer Scrooge had to kick down far too many doors. Live the other way and sometimes those doors open up for you.
A suit of a (slightly) different color
- J. Crew Factory Thompson Fit Worsted Wool Suit in Marina Blue – $299
- Spier & Mackay Steel Blue Sharkskin in Slim or Contemporary Fit – $340ish USD (above)
- Suitsupply Havana Grey Plain – $599
Pale/dove grey. Marine or Steel blue. Take one of the two main suit colors (dark navy and charcoal) and lighten it up, or, lighten it up and tweak it a bit with a very subtle pattern. Sometimes it feels like we’re living in Golconda (meanwhile, I can’t help but think of this every time I see that painting). Throw a well-hued wrench into that mix. Just make sure it’s not some iridescent thing. Lighten up, but de-saturate the color.
Being in Shape
Things have changed, a lot, in the last century. We’ve gone from a species hell-bent on busting our ass in farm fields and factories (yes, many still do) to the point where we’d eat anything and everything just to fuel the reserves and stay upright. Fat was probably a status symbol. Now? We’ve never been more sedentary, and we PAY to lift things up and put them down. We purchase intricate machines, unimaginable for the vast majority of our existence, with the sole purpose of allowing us to run or walk without actually getting anywhere. WHAT IS THE POINT OF ALL OF THIS? Why are muscles and a lack of body fat seen as attractive when our lives are no longer determined by how well we can fight and hunt and push and pull? I don’t have the answers. But I do know that being in shape, while also being well dressed, is an immense, unfair advantage. You can wrap a dumpster in Degas, yet at the end of the day it’s still a dumpster.
Owning & wearing a versatile, well cut, navy/blue sportcoat or blazer
- J. Crew Ludlow or Crosby Fit Italian Cotton Sportcoat – $228 (above)
- Suitsupply Havana Wool – $399
- Banana Republic Unlined Wool/Linen Slim Sportcoat – $250
I hear you my college-aged dudes. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable going to class in a sportcoat. No chance. But… one day you’ll want to wear a jacket casually. Or maybe a little more formally. And you’ll want to be comfortable in it. So whether you’re 22 or 42, at least understanding that men look immeasurably better in a jacket when compared to their shirt and tie or shirt and sweater brethren, is a big step. The next step is finding one that works for you, you love wearing, and then actually getting some practice wearing it. And there are many, many reasons to do so.
Paying in cash
Every time this is suggested, there’s wharrgarbl levels of pushback. And I don’t quite understand why there’s such a visceral response to questioning the use of plastic/apps. You wanna be 100% plastic? Fine! Do it! But systems go down. Internet connections are lost. And sometimes you just. want. to. leave. So drop some cash in the pleather bill holder thingy and be on your way. It’s also sure-as-hell hard to slip a favorite barista or host/hostess an extra few bucks as a thank-you when you have to wait for their “square” to start working. Cards and apps, while mind-blowingly impressive, are yet to be universal. So… carry some cash. (shown above: Brass Money Clip by Maxx&Unicorn)
Editor’s Note: As of early 2020 this “cash” suggestion may have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although, the ability to transmit disease (especially COVID-19) might be exaggerated. Maybe. Just keep washing your hands please.
A good collar
Whether in a tie or without, a collar can be the anchor for your entire look. Why? We all strive to make eye contact, but too much eye contact can be creepy. So, the eyeballs drift a bit lower. And if anyone is gonna notice anything, it’s gonna be a wonky collar. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It can pancake or curl or droop a little. But it just can’t be… awful. So use alloy collar stays when tieless and put a little bend in em’. Find polos with points that button, or, at least cooperate. Find some balance when matching a tie-knot to the spread of a collar. (Wider spread? Thicken that knot a bit.) And while a little collar gap is fine (see people on TV when wearing an IFB), you don’t want to look like you’ve got a blasted toilet seat around your neck. You’ll know it when you see it. (Shown above: Ledbury’s Fine Twill w/ their lowered 2nd button stance. A splurge, but worth it.)
Dressing with purpose yet carrying yourself in a way that doesn’t ask for or expect a compliment.
Yay. You got dressed. Don’t get a big head and expect people to shower you with praise. Go make something of yourself. Prove your doubters wrong.