It’s a cliche, but rules, it must be said, are there to be broken. Style is personal and, above all, individual. Some men can pull things off and others can’t. Some men are innately more conservative than others. So far, so contractual rider. But this all acknowledged, there are nevertheless well-tested guidelines which, if respected, help ensure that any man is dressed as well as possible – regardless of his own unique pizzazz in the wardrobe department. Think of these 10 pointers below as being the foundation. You bring the bricks and mortar.
Get The Fit Right
There’s little point wearing good clothes if they don’t fit. Few things make a even a great garment look shabby than being too short or too long, too big or too small. So if something doesn’t fit – pay particular attention to across the shoulders and around the chest – don’t buy it. Or, as annoying as it is, don’t wear it anymore.
Of course, some dimensions on some items – suit sleeves and trousers, for example – can be altered. Find a good tailor and do just that.
Opt For Quality Over Quantity
With countless tonnes of clothing ending up in landfill each year, environmental awareness alone should be enough to convince you to buy less. But the incentive is doubled if you’re on any kind of budget or if you appreciate good value. Higher quality clothes not only tend to look better, they also wear better and therefore last longer. Add in the fact that cheaper garments can suggest all sorts of ethical problems in terms of worker conditions, and saving up might literally save a life.
Understand Clothing Craft
You can only choose quality clothing if you take the time to examine what you buy – and understand what you’re buying. Look for close, regular stitching; opt (in most cases) for natural fibres; check the standard of finishing; plump for traditional manufacturing techniques like Goodyear-welting; although supply chains are immensely complex, consider the country of origin.
The internet is your friend – do the manufacturer’s claims stand up to scrutiny or are you being sold to?
Care For Your Clothes
Much of what makes your style happens before you even get dressed. There’s the valuable thinking time put into what you’ll wear, of course. But there’s also the tending to the clothes you select. It’s tedious sometimes, but iron your dress shirts, dry clean your suits occasionally, polish your shoes, repair what needs repairing…
It’s not just because your clothes will last longer this way. You’ll look better. Think of all this preparation as being part of the same process as your general grooming.
Fashion changes – that’s its very reason to exist. If you don’t want to keep chasing trends, or want to rise above it, wear the classics. These are those largely unchanging garments that have formed the bedrock of men’s style for many decades – from button-down shirts to Oxford shoes, straight-fit jeans to two-button, single-breasted navy suits.
Classic does not necessarily mean boring – you still style them in your own way. However, it does mean you’ll look dependably good at any time.
Do Sweat The Details
Anyone can put on clothes. It’s the attention you pay to how you put them on that matters. Some style rules feel overly finicky/uncreative but they do help create an overall good appearance: matching your belt leather to your shoe leather; wearing dress socks with dress shoes; tying a knot that’s right for your collar; not thinking your underwear doesn’t matter because nobody will see it. And so on.
It Pays To Accessorise
Either out of choice or necessity, your clothing can be conservative, even pedestrian, if you accessorise well. It’s in the accessories that you can express your individuality to anyone who’s looking for it – if you’re into watches, invest in a good, versatile one; step up the quality with anything you wear a lot, like belts, shoes or spectacles; introduce flair with highlight touches of colour and pattern on scarves, pocket squares or jewellery. These tend to be the things people notice. You actual clothes are just backdrop.
Feel At Ease
Feel comfortable in your clothing – psychologically rather than physically (though, wisely, few men will suffer pain for fashion). Unless the occasion absolutely demands it – and sometimes it does – don’t wear anything that you don’t feel right in. It will show. This doesn’t mean your comfort zone should be limited to T-shirts and sweatpants. You have to push yourself to find a style that’s yours. But make sure it is yours – and not someone else’s.
If In Doubt, Dress Up
Wearing the right clothes for the right setting is both important and respectful but it can be a complicated business. Dress codes are in flux. Some invitations still insist on using contradictory terms the likes of “smart casual”. If in doubt, dress up. It’s the kind of advice your grandmother might give, but she’d be right: nobody ever felt out of place for being too smart. Not being smart enough, however, is painful.
Master Colour, Pattern & Proportion
Menswear has long been a terribly sober business, wrapped up in dated ideas of appropriateness and masculinity. But you don’t have to dress like an undertaker. Colour, pattern and proportion not only add interest to your clothing, they can help keep you interested in it too. Yes, they are tricky to master. You can expect to make some mistakes. But be bold and experiment occasionally.