With the new year comes the chance to break free of old habits and be a better man. From BE’s perspective, we want to help you be the best dressed guy around. This may require you to ditch some old shirts and suits whose glory days were sometime during the mid 90’s. But this year can (and will!) be different. We have distilled our style advice down to (4) key tricks that will have you turning heads in no time. In fact, adopting just one of these principles will be enough to convince you that it’s easier than you think to dress like a man.
1. Wear a pocket square
It’s time to cowboy up and wear pocket squares. Ask yourself this simple question: Do you have a chest pocket on your blazer, sportcoat or suit jacket? Yes? Of course you do. So put a pocket square in it!
Linen handkerchiefs have been around, in some form or another, since ancient Egypt. Fast forward a few centuries and the handkerchief made inroads throughout Europe – English kings, French nobles and Turkish elite would wear these pieces of fabric as symbols of their wealth and power. Then around 1830, they became square in shape.
In the 1900s no fashionable man left home without a pocket square in his chest pocket. Today, although firmly in style, you’ll be hard pressed to find a man in Denver or Boulder sporting one. But this rather depressing truism is a blessing in disguise – it will make it far easier for you to stand out from the crowd.
For arguments sake, let’s say that you haven’t worn a pocket square since your cousin’s wedding three years ago; even then it was a part of the rented tux. If this sounds like you, our advice is to start conservative. Try wearing a white, pressed cotton pocket square next time you wear a white shirt and dark jacket. It’s pure James Bond. A white handkerchief creates a great framing effect on your complete look. Think about it, you have a white shirt with just a little bit of white cuff peaking out from under the jacket sleeves. The collar of your shirt frames your face and now a sliver of white shows from your chest pocket. Plus, white cotton handkerchiefs are dirt cheap. Iron at home to make it nice and crisp and you’re all set. Consider this your go-to look for formal events or a conservative office.
How about going out to a nice dinner? I’m assuming that because you are reading this blog that you consider yourself a gentleman. Ergo, you will surely do the right thing and throw on a nice sportcoat or blazer when you go for a nice evening out. This gives you a chance to wear a fun pocket square. Color is key. Reference your shirt, tie, or even socks! Just remember, don’t fidget and wear it like a man.
Regardless of the setting, a pocket square is an easy addition to any man’s wardrobe and one that will set you apart from the crowd in a jiffy.
Bottom line: Pocket squares will instantly boost your style points and keep her attention on the most important guy in the room – you.
2. Invest in just one article of clothing
Dressing well may sometimes seem that it’s just too expensive. To read popular magazines it becomes easy to think that looking great means you need to go out and buy the whole outfit. However, let’s scale this down. Here’s an example, try investing in just one nice dress shirt this year. Choose a fabric and pattern that you’ll wear to the office. Now you have a great looking shirt you can wear to work. Bonus points if it’s one of the three essential shirts I discussed in an earlier post. Pick one of the aforementioned styles and you’ll have a versatile shirt that you can match with a handful of different ties.
Now, think about how you can dress this new shirt of yours down. Try choosing a contrast collar that no one will see while you’re at the office wearing a tie, but if you want to go out, you can take off the tie and unbutton the collar to show a cool contrast in color. Now you have a great shirt to wear out to Oak in Boulder.
Consider another example: Invest in a great sportcoat. Maybe you don’t wear a suit to the office everyday. For you, a sportcoat may be a great alternative. Especially in the fall because the name of the game is layering. The same concept behind selecting a great looking shirt is applicable here. Choose something that you can dress up when needed and down when you don’t. For instance, dress it up with a tie and oxford lace up shoes during the workweek and dress it down with a fun pocket square and matching shoe laces! Too much effort? Here’s an alternative, swap out the fine wool pants that you would wear during the workweek for a more textured jean or corduroy pant when you’re feeling a little more casual.
Regardless of what article of clothing you may be lacking, the concept of investing in one item and leveraging its versatility is key.
Bottom line: Style doesn’t need to be expensive. Be smart and invest in one item at a time.
3. Wear a tie
Don’t let anyone tell you that a man’s neck tie is merely a noose in reverse. Nor is it a symbolic chain around the neck for the modern office worker. A tie is a chance to promote your personal brand, pure and simple.
There’s more than one way to tie a tie and certainly more than one way to wear a tie. Just make sure the width of your tie at its largest point matches your jacket lapel and if you’re young enough to remember life without the Internet, you better be wearing a narrow tie (3 inches or less in width). Skinny ties (think: 1 inch in width) are just fine so long as your’re in a punk rock band or carry some serious fashion swagger.
As far as the pattern is concerned, wear some color! It can be business as usual or a little more fun. Similar to pocket squares, the possibilities are near endless.
Many guys have a problem with their collar being too tight and the knot choking them, hence a common excuse for not wearing a tie. Well, perhaps the shirt doesn’t fit in the first place, hmmm?
The single biggest reason a tie is a way for you to dress your best in 2014 is purely that it’s a confidence booster. When you wear a tie that you know looks great you’ll feel certain in your abilities and you may be pleasantly surprised at the respect you’ll receive.
Bottom line: A tie doesn’t mean you’re a corporate slave, that’s a mindset. A tie is just a great way to promote your personal brand.
4. Understand the importance of fit
The single most important point that this blog argues over and over again is that fit is absolutely key. You are not a size small, medium, or large – you are you. And here’s a great example of how this concept rings true: Let’s say you’re an athletic fellow: 40″ chest and 31″ waist. Are you going to fit in off-the-rack clothes? Of course not. If you try fitting your shoulders to a shirt, for instance, the waist will be so large it’ll look like you’re going for a swim in your shirt. Probably not the intended effect of all your time in the gym. On the other hand, what if you fit a shirt such that it fits your waist? Well now you probably can’t even fit in the shoulders much less move around.
Not everyone will notice that you’re swimming around inside your dress shirt, but they certainly will take notice the day you wear a fitted shirt that emphasizes the V-shaped torso you worked so hard to create with all those barbell rows. Extend this concept to suits, vests, and trousers and you’ll start to understand just how important a good fit can be.
So there you have it. Four simple tricks to start dressing better in 2014. Adopt just one of them and you’re on your way to having more respect, more confidence and the realization that understanding the simple tricks of dressing well is just part of being a man.
By Ryan Wagner