Style for Men
January 14, 2005 10:44 AM   Subscribe

I’d like to dress better. Clothing advice for a slim 20 year old male with a budget a bit smaller than the target audience of most fashion mags, please? And while we’re at it, how about some general clothing/grooming advice for the guys? [more inside]

Ladies or gents, what do you think looks most attractive on men? What should one avoid? Where do you go online? In your area? I live just outside the SF Bay Area, if you know of some cool shops. How about bargains? A brick and mortar Bluefly would be nice, or something more like CoolHunting and Threadless, since I’m not quite at the point where suit and ties are mandatory. Is there a canonical style guide in a bookstore somewhere that could be used when a female/fashionable friend is not available?

AskMe has addressed facets of this question from time to time, but it’s a bit scattered and I can’t track down a general thread. Here are the relevant threads on shaving and skin, shoes, and suits.
posted by rfordh to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (61 answers total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
Please be clean and put together. If you have facial hair (and please only grow it if you can grow it evenly across your face- patches are not cute), keep it neatly trimmed. Same with the hair on your head. Same with the hair in your nose and ears (they make little power tools to trim it!). Cologne is nice, but not necessary- not smelling dirty is necessary. Consult the skin thread for great advice on skin care- Kiehls, Kiehls, Kiehls. Beyond that, any skin problem can be taken care of, either with OTC stuff or by a dermatologist. Stubbornly refusing to take care of any grooming issue that needs help (acne, unibrow, overly hairy body) is not sexy.

There are plenty of places nice clothes can be bought inexpensively- even Target has nice stuff. Make sure you're buying the right size- a lot of my guy friends will buy the XL when they really need the M. Buy a nice manbag to carry your stuff around in. Don't wear a watch you have to tape together. Don't wear old man shoes.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:58 AM on January 14, 2005 [2 favorites]

The best way to dress well, and this is not dependent on style, is to combine a thrift store wardrobe with a couple of nice pieces bought elsewhere. Decide how you want to dress (personally I recommend button down shirts and pants that are not jeans or chinos), get one or two relatively expensive items in that style, and then spend some time fleshing it out from thrift stores.

The key here is getting good at thrift store shopping, which basically means having an idea of how you want to look (since no mannequins will be there to guide you), finding some decent stores, and then going there regularly for a while until you pick up enough of the clothes you need. You will not find something good on every trip, you will probably make mistakes in purchasing (but the clothes are cheap enough that you can eat this), you do have to spend time looking over the clothes so that you do not buy stained ratty wear. With a bit of time and some luck you can have a very nice wardrobe for very cheap. I regularly wear $100-150 pants to work that I paid five dollars for, not to mention $50 dollar shirts. I must have 20 work shirts, all 100% cotton by good designers, that I bought at thrift stores. Don't be afraid to get pants hemmed, at $5 for the pants and $7 for the hem, it's still a $12 pair of pants.
posted by OmieWise at 11:03 AM on January 14, 2005

Well, if you're into hip-hop...

Just look around at what the people you think are cool are wearing. This could be people at work, concerts, bars, etc. Also look at magazines, TV shows, specialty clothing stores. Avoid department stores unless you want to look like a clone.
posted by driveler at 11:04 AM on January 14, 2005

If I had to give one piece of advice: Please stay away from pleated pants. No no no pleated pants. They generally make guys look like they used to be fat, and haven't learned how to dress properly now that they've lost weight.

More generally, Banana Republic often has very nice, classic stuff, and I've met very few guys who outright dislike it. If you hit their sales, you can often find very good deals.

I would also say (on preview, echoing driveler), find people (either in magazines or on the street) whose look you like, and try to break it down into bits you can copy. Pay attention to how fitted/loose the clothing is, what kind of shoes he's wearing with it, whether the shirt's tucked in or not, what colors he's combining, etc. Then just copy it, or copy the parts you like, until you get a sense yourself for how to put an outfit together.
posted by occhiblu at 11:06 AM on January 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

Simple is always best. I have two friends, friend 'a' tries desperately to be the bestest metrosexual around, shops at Diesel, Urban Outfitters, Penguin, Antique Boutique, Salvation Army, skateboard shops and generally looks like a fucking idiot who is trying to hard. Friend 'b' spends $20 at Old Navy on a pair of cargos and a solid blue v-neck T and effortlessly pulls of casual cool.

* A Nice Dark Sportcoat Pulls Everything Together * go to H&M/Banana/ and get one for $100.
posted by remlapm at 11:10 AM on January 14, 2005

firstly, i'd like to refer you to this guide on how to create proper html links.

my suggestion is to shop at thriftstores. with the money you saved, you can splurge for stuff at the coolest shop
posted by lotsofno at 11:10 AM on January 14, 2005

As a general suggestion, it's better to have a few really nice clothes than many notnice ones. And very trendy clothes become very untrendy clothes very quickly. Think longer term.
posted by TimeFactor at 11:22 AM on January 14, 2005

My wife is really good with men's fashion. Now she's done a makeover on me (I'm not rich), she's dying to get her hands on someone else. If you'd like to correspond with her, drop me a line (email in my profile). She helped me transform myself from a geek into a well-dressed geek.
posted by grumblebee at 11:26 AM on January 14, 2005

I assume that you actually want to dress well, not dress cool or dress cheap. That might not be true, but if it is:

First, read the Men's Fashion Guide at The Morning News.

My advice is--and it depends on your budget--don't go out and buy a ton of clothes all at once. Obviously you are already clothed, so there's no rush.

Instead, make a list of what you need to be well-dressed. This might mean, for example:

- two pairs dress shoes: one black, one brown.
- one pair black wool pants
- one pair jeans
- 4 or 5 good shirts
- one blazer or jacket
- one great sweater

When you flesh out this list, it will be really small. Having just moved into a super small apt. and given away most of my clothes, I can say that it really is true that most people wear 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time. You don't need that many clothes.

Once you've done this, plan on acquiring the items on your short list very slowly and carefully. Buy nice clothes that are perfect. Don't go out in one day and stock up like a madman. If you can afford it, go to good stores. I am a kind of preppy guy, so I end up at J. Crew or Brooks Brothers. If you can afford to wait, you can get very nice designer clothes after Chrsitmas or at the semi-annual sales. Aim to buy a small number of really great items that you are completely happy with.

Following this method I've slowly gotten my wardrobe transformed into a small, very managable, very high quality collection of clothes I like--instead of what it was before, a big mess o' mediocre junk. For what it's worth, I think everyone looks better when they dress better. Unless you're Brad Pitt or something, you always benefit from nicer fabrics (like wool or linen) over synthetics and cotton.
posted by josh at 11:29 AM on January 14, 2005

wear what makes you feel comfortable. If you you feel like yourself in what your wearing, it'll give you the security to look good, no matter what it is. The reverse is true, too, if you feel uncomfortable or silly in an outfit, it's gonna show. So just go with what you know.
posted by jonmc at 11:37 AM on January 14, 2005

And very trendy clothes become very untrendy clothes very quickly. Think longer term.

I'll echo that. I was recently standing at a CalTrain stop and three guys were standing next to me, all wearing the same black frame hipster glasses, the same brand messenger bags and with little white headphones coming out of their ears. I dont think they realized they looked like part of a clone army.

The trick is to be "classic" yet also have your own sense of style about things. To that end, I echo occhiblu that you should get most of your "basics" from places like Banana Republic but then get a few items that are uniquely yours from a Thrift store or something (if you have more money, also from a local designer vs. a mass-market shop)

The thing about thrift stores is not just the lower price but also that you can find things that you can be sure the whole rest of the world is not wearing. A unique jacket I think is really key.

Also, yes, don't wear pleated pants, ever. Don't wear anything with a visible label on it. Unless you're really confident of what you're doing, go for solid colored items vs. anything with a pattern or design on it.

This may just be my personal taste, but most of the shirts on Threadless look like they will become dated very quickly.
posted by vacapinta at 11:38 AM on January 14, 2005

All of this is good advice. Buy something that looks niceish for cheap; if it doesn't fit, have someone else make it fit for you; don't forget to wash behind your ears.

Anyway, your links, good sir:
bluefly , coolhunting, threadless, skin, shoes, suit.

Oh, and read the MorningNewsMensGuide - but don't buy yourself their $150 shirt. Please.
posted by metaculpa at 11:40 AM on January 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

Even the best clothes can be lost in the details. Advice I've gathered in my life that have truly made the difference.

-Iron clothes that should be ironed. A dryer is not an iron.
-Quality shoes last a lifetime and should always be recently shined or brushed depending on type.
-Fingernails should be short, clean, and neatly trimmed.
-A neatly trimmed haircut at whatever length you choose can really frame your face and set your "style".
-Trends are transitory, spend good money on the basics and you'll never be out of style.
-Clothes that are cut trim to your body style are usually best. Oversized just looks sloppy.
-Take a female friend who you trust to be honest shopping with you. Let her decide what looks best on you.
-Wearing something that is trendy but you are dodgy about, will never look as good as clothes you are comfortable in.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 11:40 AM on January 14, 2005

Yet again on Mefi I recommend Dressing the Man.

A few random ideas: Marshalls and TJMax for some basics. Not all are created equal though. Where I live, there's only one TJMax of the dozens around that has suits. I bet you have the Nordstrom's outlet there. Outlets in general are great if you find the right ones ... when I lived in Boston the Wrentham outlets ruled.

Make friends with a tailor. When you buy suits at an outlet or TJ Max sort of place, you'll need to factor in another $20 (at least) to make it fit. This is fine, just accept it.

On the other side of the financial spectrum, the Brooks Brothers non-iron dress shirts are amazing. Otherwise, you must iron your shirts. If you're lazy like me, you do dry cleaning. Most dry cleaners are happy to give you a couple laundry bags and pickup from and deliver to the workplace.

Buy (at least) one suit every year. Make an effort to choose a 'timeless' style (ie, don't get a plaid four-button sidepleat Nautica suit that'll look silly in 6 months) and just let it sit in your closet and compound interest. When you suddenly have a job where you have to wear a suit every day for a week, you'll be thankful.

Buy this one suit at the Nordstom's semi-anual men's sale. Go the day after Christmas. Everything good sells on the first day.
posted by sohcahtoa at 11:43 AM on January 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

As a general suggestion, it's better to have a few really nice clothes than many notnice ones. And very trendy clothes become very untrendy clothes very quickly. Think longer term.

Here, here. Buy clothes that last.

The problem with places like Target and BR isn't so much the styles, but the shoddy workmanship (except BR t-shirts, which rock). Their clothes are designed to look good on mannequins and the rack, not you.

I used to be flabberghasted that people would pay a hundred bucks for a pair of jeans. Then I bought a pair of Diesels. They fit better, and they've lasted at least twice as long as any pair of Gap or Levi's I've ever owned.
posted by mkultra at 11:46 AM on January 14, 2005

Incidentally, I realized last night (I turn thirty shortly) that I'm really losing the ability to dress casually. I was trying to pack for a trip to Florida and was having a hard time putting a pair of jeans in my bag when black dress slacks take up half the space and are more versatile. Likewise, I feel naked in just a t-shirt now if I'm anywhere that's not the gym.

Part of that's just the winter getting to me however, in August a pair of shorts and linen short sleeve shirt will be attractive again.
posted by sohcahtoa at 11:47 AM on January 14, 2005

If you're on a budget, I second the thrift store suggestion. The best way is if there is a wealthy, old area of town (I have no idea about SF)--thrifts in such areas will often have lots of nice suits, jackets and ties. In NY, there is a treasure trove of such stores on the Upper East Side.

I was able to get an extremely nice tuxedo, worn maybe twice, from such a store for $100 (I would estimate the original price at about $2000).

You might also consider discount places like Filene's basement. You can occasionally find very nice stuff for a very reasonable price. I would prefer this route for shirts--my personal experience is that good cotton thrift store shirts, having already been worn a lot, wear out too quickly.

I also agree that you'll want to get quality basics--better than Banana and its ilk--first. I've always found that those places sell poorly-constructed things that fall apart quickly (and I've got several hem repairs to prove it). If you invest some time, you can find better clothes for a similar price.
posted by lackutrol at 11:48 AM on January 14, 2005

I've never had any problem with quality at Banana Republic, but a lot of men here seem to have had -- I wonder if there's a big difference between their men and women's lines?

Benneton occasionally has big sales that can be a good thing, if you stay away from their uber-trendy stuff (which I often like, theoretically, but seems hard to wear in real life).
posted by occhiblu at 12:02 PM on January 14, 2005

Could someone explain the pleated pant hate?
posted by smackfu at 12:05 PM on January 14, 2005

Pleated pants are bad, bad, bad on women and men. They give you that fabulous "front-butt" look, even if you're not fat. Go flat-front. Do it for the children.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:09 PM on January 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

They look very 80s to me, with the wide-hip / narrow-waist suggestion of their cut, I don't think they flatter anyone, and like I said before, they seem to be worn by fashion-awkward guys who don't know how to dress now that they've slimmed down. Those guys wear them so often that that's the first mental image I get when I see pleated pants, and so I counsel anyone who doesn't want to fall into that category to stay away from them.

Or, ask says, "flat-front pants ... can be slimming for relatively larger men whereas pleats tend to add unnecessary bulk to the waistline."
posted by occhiblu at 12:13 PM on January 14, 2005

Carson Kressley (Queer Eye)'s book is actually pretty good, even though he himself dresses like a psychotic poodle. He sticks to the basics and echoes the "create a classic look with basic pieces and jazz it up with individualistic touches" advice.

The BBC America version of "What Not To Wear" has done a couple of shows on men, even though their victims are more frequently women. As an aging hipster-nerd girl, I try to live by their advice.
posted by matildaben at 12:43 PM on January 14, 2005

Clothing advice for a slim 20 year old male with a budget a bit smaller than the target audience of most fashion mags

If you are indeed slim (I'm thinking waist less than 34), then IMHO you should do anything you can to avoid American manufacturers and retail outlets, and go for European/Canadian brands like Zara, French Connection, and Club Monaco. You are much more likely to find cuts that suit slim men there than at American outlets, which tend to (correctly) assume that the bulk of their customers have an, um, unathletic build.

Yes, they can be more expensive, and yes, they do tend towards a slicker eurotrashy style. But if you want basics like some black slacks or single-color shirts and sweaters, theirs are much more stylish and flattering than banana republic or the gap.

And they have lots of sales, too.
posted by googly at 12:59 PM on January 14, 2005 [4 favorites]

-Quality shoes last a lifetime and should always be recently shined or brushed depending on type.
When buying clothes I’ll spend the money in my shoes. As shoes can add some class to a cheap out fit. You can find famous brand names shoes for cheap att out-lit store. I’m currently wearing a pair of $135.00 shoes that I paid $60 for that can still be found at major clothing department stores.

The secret to buying cheap is to window shop and purshase when it's a good buy. This can be hard for some guys as we shop when we only need it. Which will result in was as you will never wear it again creating closet space.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:11 PM on January 14, 2005

Color will not kill you. Try to think outside the box of gray, black, and other neutrals. If you can't pick out color well, take someone with you who can. I get so incredibly tired of men who seem to think that white shirts with black pants are some kind of holy grail of a wardrobe.
posted by Medieval Maven at 1:15 PM on January 14, 2005

thomcatspike makes a good point. I notice that people who hang out in shops even when they're not on a "need to buy" mission tend to have a better idea of what's in, what's well priced, what styles seem to be lasting, etc.

And if you're really committed: I often try on a bunch of styles, especially if they're new cuts or colors or things I haven't worn before, just to see what they look like on me. That way I have some mental image of what a piece of clothing will look like on me, and I can more or less avoid the unflattering things when I'm actually looking to buy something.

This might be a good project if you can coerce a female friend along for a day. It would probably be more interesting to her to make you try a bunch of stuff without worrying about whether you can afford it / want it / will harass her about it, and then she can give you feedback on the various styles.
posted by occhiblu at 1:22 PM on January 14, 2005

i'll second Express men (it used to be Structure), and also throw in three gigantic cheers for Zara--european (more narrow) cuts, and good quality for not much money at all. I'd avoid Polo and Calvin--very wide cuts in pants and shirts and not good quality for the money--i swim in their clothes.

And watch out for dress shirts that are too wide and baggy--it pays to have them narrowed by a tailor if you don't get slim/athletic fit.
posted by amberglow at 1:25 PM on January 14, 2005

I would just like to add that the "Dressing the Man" suggestion is a good one. Alan Flusser, the author, is a designer himself and makes very good, classic (and quite expensive) clothes, with an understated but interesting style about them.

I can't really speak to the Carson Kressley book, but some of those "wear this tuxedo shirt with cargo pants" or "wear French cuffs without cufflinks!"-type suggestions on the show really rub me the wrong way. Oh, and men don't wear "couture." That's for girls.

Sorry. I like the food guy on that show, though.
posted by lackutrol at 1:31 PM on January 14, 2005

I've not seen anyone mention this, and it may apply more to the wider spectrum of clothes available for women, but don't forget EBay for name-brand goodness. I know I wear certain specific sizes in Talbots clothing, and have picked up scads of clothes for a fraction of what I would have spent in the store. Ethical dilemmas aside (am I supporting a shoplifting ring?), I seem to have a lot more patience to sift through EBay listings than I would tromping through dozens of stores.
posted by deliriouscool at 1:32 PM on January 14, 2005

As a woman, I have to echo some of the things said before. I live with 2 men, both 25, both skinny as a rail and both badly dressed. I finally convinced them to each spend a day shopping with me for new clothes.

Button downs, pants with flat fronts, 2 GOOD pairs of shoes, and above all, learn that close to the body is not bad on a man.

The BF looks hotter then ever, and the roomate has been asked out more times since the new wardrobe (6 months) than he did in the 3 years prior.

Thrift stores, Target, Express Men... all a good start.
posted by Nenna at 1:38 PM on January 14, 2005

find a good friend whose taste you trust to help you out. you really need consistent advice from one person, in my opinion. also, if you're anything like me, relax a little and enjoy looking good - i actually used to worry i would look too fancy/pretentious. i'm english from the generation before metrosexuals, so was completely hopeless - the advice of my "latin lover" has helped enormously.

there's a whole range of styles and ways of dressing. i don't think there's any simple fix apart from learning a little and thinking carefully about what you want to do. look at other people, see what you like and what you don't. look at magazines and at clothes in shops. look in shops that maybe make you feel uncomfortable. ignore the trendy assistants! i think a lot of the process is just coming to terms with the idea that you are going to be thinking about clothes a bit, rather than wearing the same old same old. or maybe i'm just illustrating more of my own hangups.

remember that you need a whole wardrobe that's consistent. that means you need a certain personal style. at first it's not going to be clear what that is, so take things easy. there's an iterative, learning process.

it's quite interesting because there's obviously a certain amount of politics/sociology behind dressing. people spend money on clothes because of a whole range of reasons - particularly because they want to signal certain things. that's what you're doing too. think about what you see people wearing and what you think it signals. and what you imagine yourself wearing and what that might signal. it's not always a comfortable process, especially if you have strong political views. but the aim is to find a style that you feel comfortable with, that's consistent, and that looks good. i suspect looking good comes largely from being consistent and comfortable (both physically and with the message you're sending via you clothes). and when it comes together, it's not as fake as it sounds, because the message you're trying to send, if it makes you comfortable, is your message.

maybe that seems like complete crap. i dunno. i've only worried about things like this since moving to a country where people are more preoccupied by these things, and where people also stare at me a lot. so it started in self defense, but it's become quite a pleasurable thing.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:39 PM on January 14, 2005

Response by poster: Ugh. I'm sorry about the links. I pasted over the question from Word, and it looks like the quotes got messed up. Knowing how to make links, I didn't think to check it. (Thanks, metaculpa, btw.)

Also, I should mention I've been turning this around in my head for a while. I don't exactly dress like a hobo right now, but like I said, the AskMe soil of wisdom on this topic was looking mighty unplowed. As usual, I'm finding a ton of useful advice.

I made that connection about buying nice clothes rarely vs. trendy, mediocre crap, too. "Slim" means I have a hell of a time finding things that fit at places like Express, Banana Republic, Gap, etc. It would seem the best bet is to find a good thrift store in the city, somewhere. When I finally found a few places that stock items for the thinner folk, like American Apparel (via Mefi, I should add) for shirts, and Lucky Brand Dungarees for jeans, I jumped on it despite being pricier than most things I had bought before I started paying attention to fit. Finding a tailor couldn't hurt, either, I would imagine.

A few people mentioned shoes as really crucial. How do you decide what shoes to wear with what? I've moved up to three whole pairs of sneakers, at this point, and I'm keeping my eyes open for a dressier pair. Can I only wear lighter jeans with black shoes? It hasn't really looked right, otherwise. Is there somewhere this is all broken down? (I'll check out Dressing The Man at my first opportunity, but the amazon reviews say the color section was kind of weak, and that's one of the big things I was wondering about...)

Again, thanks squared, AskMefites.
posted by rfordh at 1:56 PM on January 14, 2005

also, don't think you have to change hugely. it might just be details. maybe you're still wearing jeans trainers + t-shirt, but they're a bit more [insert whatever adjective is appropriate here for you].

i've been reading other answers and a bunch really annoy me. it's like they want you to look like a certain person. that's not what looking good is about. it's not strict rules. it's more like a conversation.

do you read books or look at art? books and art (and, i guess computer games and a pile of otehr stuff) exist in a context. what you think about one book/painting/game depends on what others you know about. clothes are like that too. the context is called "fashion" and it changes as people play with the ideas in new ways. you don't have to be on the vanguard of fashion to be aware of this, any more than you need to be a conoisseur of great art when you decorate your house, but things are connected in the same way. people are giving you fishes rather than teaching you how to fish, and the fishes will go bad in time...

[on preview: ok, black shoes. what kind of shoes? look at the kinds of shoes people wear with jeans. black shiny shoes are pretty formal. jeans are pretty informal. so what does putting them together mean? maybe it's right for someone who feel s that jeans are already pretty far down the slippery slope to being a smelly hippy. so those black shoes help correct that impression. if that's what you want to be saying too, wear those shoes with jeans. on the colour issue just look at something things that look good, what colours do they use together? looking around, i see black used with pretty much anything, so there's no obvious problem there, but look at how it balances. it's kind of heavy and, well, dark. so unless you want to look all dark (and maybe you do - think intellectutal black everything for example) you might want to wear dark with light to get balance. but then you don't want dark one end and light the other, probably, because that would be unbalanced again, so if it's dark shoes and lighter trouser maybe you go back to dark at the top. just think about these things. it gets easier quickly with practice.]
posted by andrew cooke at 2:10 PM on January 14, 2005

I don't think anyone has mentioned it, so I'll add....

boxer briefs = good.
posted by Jonasio at 2:11 PM on January 14, 2005

it's just struck me that maybe in america "looking good" is somehow a synonym with "dressing more formally". i can see why (because you tend to dress badly and in a casual way, and dressing formally has more rules so automatically forces you to look better), but you might want to at least think about other options.
posted by andrew cooke at 2:12 PM on January 14, 2005

Please stay away from pleated pants. No no no pleated pants. They generally make guys look like they used to be fat, and haven't learned how to dress properly now that they've lost weight.

Every time my wife makes me watch Fashion Emergency or Queer Eye, this is what I hear. Am I the only guy in America who looks good in pleated pants? Where is the love for a properly pressed pair of pleated pants? I like cuffs, too, so I guess I'm hopelessly out of style.
posted by fixedgear at 2:18 PM on January 14, 2005

I have heard, repeatedly, that brown leather shoes go better with jeans than black leather shoes. Thus far, I have not heeded that advice myself. Just sayin', though.
posted by safetyfork at 2:18 PM on January 14, 2005

andrew cooke, I don't think that's necessarily true -- the Bay Area is pretty good at the pulled-together casual look. I think that's mostly the look people are pushing here.

And rfordh specifically asked about "what do you find attractive," not just "How do I develop a personal style?"
posted by occhiblu at 2:24 PM on January 14, 2005

For the love of all that is holy: navy blue and black do not go together. I don't care how many people pretend that they do. And unless you are going for that English teacher look, dress shoes don't go with jeans.
posted by dame at 2:54 PM on January 14, 2005

In the pants vein, I'd like to add that tapered pants are horrible. They make you look middle-aged. Here's a test: lay the pants flat, and fold the leg up so that the ankle lines up over the theigh area. If there is more than an inch or two difference in the width of the theigh over the width of the ankle, the pants taper! Do not buy them.

A lot of the advice here will have you looking like a yuppy. Banana Republic, J. Crew, Express - these can be nice for formal occassions but too much and you look like a square. Not that that is always bad, but I find a slightly more laid-back, nonconformist look more appealing/attractive.

I second the advice to mix things up by checking out thrift stores. For example, jeans and a tee-shirt can be made date-appropriate by just adding a funky/nice jacket. The key to avoiding hipster overkill, in my opinion, is to keep a comfortable, casual vibe. The most attractive boy is one that looks relaxed and comfortable but also not boring and with some sense of style. The other key is to be able to dress appropriately for the occassion (i.e. decent shoes, a decent coat when it is called for).
posted by mai at 3:02 PM on January 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

I don't have time to read the whole thread right now, but clothing for men is very, very simple:

Abercrombie & Fitch for the more casual stuff
Club Monaco for dressier
Tristan & America, likewise
A good suit or two.

NO white socks.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:11 PM on January 14, 2005

RULE #1: "Good" clothing is all about fit. The closer it fits your body without being tight, the better.

RULE #2: It is always better to be overdressed than underdressed.

RULE #3: Do not be afraid of color, but use it sparingly. Buy a pink shirt. Everyone looks surprisingly good in pink.

RULE #4: Do not wear wrinkled or soiled clothes.

PANTS: Flat front pants only. No tapered pant legs under any circumstances. Make sure you buy a pair of dark brown lightweight wool blend pants. Get a pair in charcoal. Your pants should break slightly where they meet your shoes. Get pants hemmed if they seem too long or too short.

JEANS: Buy slim cut jeans with a straight leg or a very slight flare at the ankle. No tapered pant legs under any circumstances. No fake-creased or "distressed" jeans; get thrift store jeans if you want the worn-in look. Do not cut or fray the bottom of your jeans. Do not cuff your jeans.

DRESS SHIRTS: Do not buy baggy shirts. Long sleeves should end between your hand and your wristbone. For a button-down shirt, tuck it in and roll up the sleeves to your elbow. Avoid the trendy multi-color stripe shirt that is in every store right now. Instead, go to a thrift store and buy a few solid, brightly-colored dress shirts from the 60s or 70s (but make sure the collar is not too big). Now go to Banana Republic or Kenneth Cole and buy one or two slim-fitting white dress shirts and a black dress shirt.

CASUAL SHIRTS: Do not buy baggy shirts. Short sleeves should not reach your elbow. A casual shirt should end at your hips. Get a couple of solid color polo-style shirts from Ben Sherman or Penguin or Izod. Get a black guyabera shirt at the thrift store. Buy a cheap, plain ringer t-shirt at Old Navy. Get a couple of Threadless-style t-shirts (or even better, if you are artistically inclined, make your own t-shirts with iron-on transfers and letters and fabric paints). Avoid "ironic" t-shirts and clever slogan t-shirts unless you are in high school. Avoid henley style shirts, band-collar shirts, and mock turtlenecks at all costs.

SWEATERS: Avoid bulky sweaters. Avoid sweaters with fitted waistbands and wristbands. Avoid sweaters with loud designs or patterns. Buy a couple of thin, crew-neck merino wool sweaters that you can layer over your dress shirts. Get a thicker cotton or wool sweater in black or gray that zips in front and has a collar.

SUITS/BLAZERS: Get a slim-fit corduroy or velvet blazer at the thrift store. Wear it over a dress shirt or a nice t-shirt. Go to a department store, spend $300+, and buy one very nice suit that fits you well and will last for 20 years. Black or charcoal, with or without pinstripes, is most versatile. A three-button jacket and flat front pants are best; pant cuffs optional.

DRESS SHOES: Spend at least $75 and buy a nice pair of black leather lace-up dress shoes. They should have no embellishments (stitches, flaps, buckles, complicated designs, etc) and they should narrow slightly toward the toe (not boxy or clunky and not trendishly, freakishly pointy-toed). Later, buy a similar pair in brown. Now keep them shined and scuff-free. Wear them with any pants you own, not just dress pants. Replace the laces each year.

CASUAL SHOES: Do not wear jogging/athletic shoes unless you are jogging or being athletic. Avoid trendy shoes that look space-agey. Instead, get a pair of black or brown low-top Chuck Taylors and a pair of brightly-colored retro Nikes or Pumas. Do not be afraid to wear your casual shoes with dress pants in a casual setting. Avoid wearing sandals; no one wants to see a man's feet.

OUTERWEAR: Go to the thrift store and buy a lightweight wool overcoat that goes to your mid-thigh, a cool leather jacket, and a James Dean-style short-waisted windbreaker. Avoid giant overstuffed winter coats; go for warm layers instead. Do not get matching hat, gloves, and scarf.

ACCESSORIES: Don't wear trucker caps or wristbands. In fact, avoid baseball caps altogether unless you are playing baseball. Buy a cheap pair of aviator sunglasses at the drugstore. Get a couple of nice, simple, not-too-thick leather belts (one black, one brown) with simple-looking silver buckles. Buy a studded rock-n-roll belt for fun. Avoid jewelry. If you have to buy jewelry (wedding band, cufflinks, etc), buy silver, platinum, or white gold.

In general, thrift stores are the best places to buy clothes. Unique. Cheap. Slimmer fitting. Thrifting does, however, require frequent visits and patience to find quality stuff. Make the time. Say hello to the cute hipster girl shopping next to you. Ask her for advice. Buy her a beer while wearing your new clothes.
posted by conquistador at 3:19 PM on January 14, 2005 [27 favorites]


(1) Either buy a quality pair of clippers and shave your head yourself, or go to a salon every 4-6 weeks, spend $25, and get a proper haircut. Stop going to SuperCuts or whatever.

(2) Buy quality grooming supplies (Aveda, Kiehl's, Origins, Crew, etc). Pricey, but they smell better and work better. Stop buying $1 shampoo by the gallon.

(3) Use a light hair cream and use it sparingly. No mousse, spray, or gel.

(4) Don't use deodorants with aluminum. Rumored to stain your undershirts and cause tumors.

(5) No cologne.

(6) Shave your face s l o w l y.

(7) Moisturize your face with lotion each morning after you shower and shave.

(8) Trim your nails and nose hairs every week or two.

(9) Brush and floss daily.
posted by conquistador at 3:32 PM on January 14, 2005 [9 favorites]

If you have a car, Gilroy has a huge shopping outlet mall; and there's a (IIRC, much) smaller one up in Solano County, just north of Vallejo.
posted by goofyfoot at 3:49 PM on January 14, 2005

If you are slim, you should go out of your way to find shirts that fit your shoulders. Thin guys look great in layers. A nice vintagge blazer looks good with jeans., so do sweaters. A few really nice colored teashirts for layering can add variety to your wardrobe.

When you buy pants, pay careful attention to how they fit your leg. Most men look best in pants that are a bit lose around the waist. Tight pants are generally a no-no-- they make you look like a growing kid. And always, always wear a belt.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 3:57 PM on January 14, 2005

In NY, there is a treasure trove of such stores on the Upper East Side.

Is that the secret to thrift clothing in NYC? Because every place I go seems picked over or has modeled itself as having "antique" clothing, which means "expensive," but it never occurred to me that Fratboyland and Wannaberichville even had thrift stores. Another prejudice overturned!
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:00 PM on January 14, 2005


Uh, more like ActuallyBeRichVille (says the woman that helps tutor their children).

Lots of good advice in this thread, especially the no baseball hat rule (I haaaaaate them, especially when guys wear them all the time), and getting rid of clothes that make you look dumb. You won't stop wearing the dumb stuff if you still own it, especially since it seems a lot of my guy friends only have 4 or 5 shirts. If you own more clothes, you'll have more of a wardrobe variety, and you'll be able to go longer without doing laundry.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:32 PM on January 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

23skidoo: I have to respectfully disagree. The best black/navy gets is "not awful." I've seen people who thought they were "getting away." They weren't.

And dress shoes with casual pants is just so very wrong. It makes you look like a square. And not a cool square.

Finally, do not wear outdoor wear (fleece, anything that "wicks") in a city. They can be ugly when they're being functional because when you are on a mountain, no one cares what you are wearing.

Overall, I would say, pick a general style (hispter or yuppie), look at people on the street, then do it well. As you get used to it, get daring and make some stuff up.
posted by dame at 5:07 PM on January 14, 2005

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! Too many suggestions! Head going to explode!
posted by grouse at 5:17 PM on January 14, 2005

Well then, read my advice first because it's location-specific:

Buffalo Trading Co. and Crossroads are the two best, most dependable Bay Area thrift stores. Thriftown requires a whole lotta sorting, because there's lotsa crap mixed in, but you'll find plenty of cheap gems. Occasional corner consignment stores have great finds too.

And fear not--the mighty H&M will be opening in Union Square soon. The trendy clothing there sometimes look good and sometimes look bad, but it's always cheap (in both quality and purchase price).
posted by equipoise at 5:34 PM on January 14, 2005

(Just want to throw in a "Bravo!" for conquistador. All great advice, given well.)
posted by occhiblu at 6:14 PM on January 14, 2005

Thank you andrew cooke for bringing some persepctive into this thread.

I'm also wary of a lot of the advice here as it implies that there's a particular good style to be had. I have friends who are compltely chic and it fits them and some who dress in stained jeans and white t-shirts on a regular basis and it fits them. I get made fun of for buying cheap/"ugly" clothing but I think it says something about my personality.

My advice would be to take great stock in your sense of individualism, as that's quickly getting lost in America I think (my transition from a fancypants liberal arts college where everyone is a pastel-hued popped-collar clone to the slightly more expressive city of Paris has confirmed this for me).

The other option is to completely reject fashion, as it's sorta a pain in the ass if you're not really into the message your sending to people.
posted by themadjuggler at 6:27 PM on January 14, 2005

Here's a little advice on dress shirts. Check out Jantzen Tailor

custom made shirts from Hong Kong for 38 bucks plus 5-10 bucks shipping. if you know exactly what you want, they will make it for you. They have a ridiculous array of fabrics.
posted by freq at 9:45 PM on January 14, 2005

I can speak from experience that Amercian Apparel t-shirts look pretty good, even if you have a bit of a gut (and no biceps).

Also, I've found anti-perspirant makes me sweat more than regular deodarant (plust leaves the afore-mentioned pit stains).

I also like hoodies.
posted by dirigibleman at 1:50 AM on January 15, 2005

Lots of great advice here, so not much more to add than tweaks and here-heres:

Love American Apparel. I'm blessed with three retail locations here in L.A., and the people who work there are as great as the clothes. And the clothes are really what it's about -- the softest tees, with a "close" but not overly tight fit; great polos as well.

Although conquistador offers excellent advice, if you're 20 and making your first trip to the Kiehl's counter, you may walk away with sticker shock. Additionally, I'm a product addict and have never been impressed with their stuff -- but there's no product that's perfect for everyone. Don't buy into the marketing of skincare. Many products are essentially the same under the packaging, and what you're really paying for are the enormous marketing budgets. What you want in a moisturizer is a minimum 15 SPF, water-binding agents, antioxidants. Oprah's had this woman, Paula Begoun - "The Cosmetics Cop" - on several times. She now has an extensive line of skincare that's affordable and effective. You might want to try it. You can order online, and if it doesn't suit you, you're not out $40 for an ounce of stuff.

Most importantly: wash your face (and not with bar soap). Get a gentle cleanser meant for the face and wash in the morning and before you go to bed. Rinse thoroughly.

If you've never had a professional manicure, treat yourself. A manicurist can do things like trim your cuticles and clean up the general appearance of your hands. There's no need for the clear polish or even the buff if you don't feel comfortable with it -- but your hands will look better, and you can be responsible for upkeep from there or revisit as you feel comfortable.

Invest in the best you can afford for staples like black and brown dress shoes, navy blazer, black turtleneck (if you like them -- I detest them, but a classic's a classic), and a trim black suit. You will keep high-quality stuff for a very long time, and you'll replace cheap stuff every year. Poor quality will cost you more in the end.

One final word of contrary advice: if you're not much of a style maven, and it doesn't sound like you are (yet), stay outta thrift stores. There are great finds to be had in them, yes, but you need an eye for it. Otherwise, looking for great stuff that's appropriate for today as well as well-made and maintained is going to be like finding a needle in a haystack. Once you have experience with what quality clothing looks and feels like, you can venture there -- otherwise, you're likely to make some mistakes (albeit not costly ones). The good news: when trim and 20, you can pull off about anything.

Good luck!
posted by mrkinla at 8:32 AM on January 15, 2005

Go get some of that deodorant that comes in a crystal (it's near the bottom of the deodorant shelf at your local drugstore; alternatively, it's the whole deodorant shelf at your local organic market). It makes you not smell like B.O. and not smell like anything else, which comes in handy if you're cultivating a fragrance (or cultivating a strict lack of fragrance). The last thing you want is your SpeedStick conflicting with a pricey cologne. Also, it doesn't stain the pits of your shirts. But most importantly, it lasts; the B.O. protection is good for up to a day and a half (priceless in unexpected-sleepover type situations).
posted by willpie at 8:44 AM on January 15, 2005

look at the people here. not a blazer or dress shirt in sight. just stylish individuals who look damn good.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:53 AM on January 15, 2005

I once had a Russian friend tell me that Americans dressed so badly because our architecture was so ugly. If you're walking past concrete monstrosities all day, why not wear sweatshirts?

Andrew Cooke and themadjuggler, I totally agree with what you're saying, but "just express yourself through your clothes" kind of only works (or at least only works well) if you've put some thought into what those clothes mean, if you're somewhat conversant in the aesthetic language of clothing, whether that's t-shirts or tuxes. Places outside the US tend to encourage that exploration more in fashion, in art, in any aesthetic endeavor -- here, especially for guys, any indication that you're interested in fashion means that you're not intellectually serious, and probably gay to boot.

So it is very easy to find individual style in Paris, because you're surrounded by people who dress interestingly and aren't embarrassed by it. I found the same to be true of cooking in Italy -- men there *love* to talk about recipes, and it's considered an artform there, and so everyone cooks pretty well. But that doesn't mean that if someone in the US who had never really been much of a cook were to ask "What should I do to improve my cooking skills?" that an answer of "You know, just express yourself!" would be a helpful place to start. It's a great third step, but you have to educate yourself in some basic techniques first.

So, my overall point for rfordh would be to revisit this thread as your "fashion education" progresses, and take whatever advice is helpful to you at the time but don't feel you need to do everything here all at once. Baby steps are fine, and it's OK to dress like a bit of clone for a while until you get confident enough to develop more of your own style. It's like a baby learning to talk -- you imitate other people's syllables for a while until you learn how to put them all together yourself into your own brilliant unique sentences.
posted by occhiblu at 11:36 AM on January 15, 2005

Russians criticizing the way Americans dress? And American architecture? They may be the only people on earth who dress worse and have uglier buildings than Americans.
posted by TimeFactor at 11:53 AM on January 15, 2005

(Hee. This guy actually dressed amazingly well, both stylishly and individualistically, so.... He had lived outside Russia for almost 20 years at that point, mostly in Europe, so maybe that was it.)
posted by occhiblu at 11:56 AM on January 15, 2005

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