Very good-looking husband: The "I did it for the money" t-shirt has to go.
September 7, 2010 12:48 PM   Subscribe

[LookingRespectableFilter]: Style basics for dummies. Help us get a clue!

The metalhead:

32in waist
lean but muscular
long hair (non-negotiable)
Has 20 pairs of Levi's 505s, Doc Martens, a gazillion black band t-shirts and a couple of black jackets
28 yo

The slacker wife:

180 pounds and losing
Wears whatever fits (sweatpants)
Is 26yo and looking quite lackluster

The questions:

What basics should we own? We are concerned more about quality and style than brand or trendines. Low-profile but awesome manufacturers would be appreciated. Would probably save up for worthy causes (like a pair of Bontonis)

What general advice can our fellow grown-ups provide when it comes to grooming? Haircuts how often? flossing?? ironing??!
posted by Tarumba to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
One of the best things you can do is buy clothes that fit. Never, ever buy something that "kinda" fits or might fit if you grew 3 inches or lost 10 pounds. Some stuff can be tailored but everyone looks bad in clothes that don't fit.
posted by ShadePlant at 12:52 PM on September 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

I agree with ShadePlant.

One of the other 'best' things you can do is to buy good quality clothes in styles that aren't dependent on the fashion of the moment.

This Real Simple page has some good ideas where to start (for the wife.) Don't buy clothes hoping to lose the weight to fit into them. Buy good quality that can be taken in by a tailor as the weight comes off. Tailors are an inexpensive way to look really good.
posted by TooFewShoes at 1:08 PM on September 7, 2010

For you, Put This On. There's videos. And despite the fact that I wish there were more of them, it doesn't get much better than information presented with audio and visual back up.
posted by theichibun at 1:23 PM on September 7, 2010

Consignment stores are great places to get gently used clothing for a lot less than you'd pay for retail. (Actual thrift shops tend to be very picked over and mostly have casual clothing - at least this has been my experience - YMMV). People donate expensive and well-made clothing all the time.

Think neutrals when it comes to "good" pieces meant to last - black, brown, gray, navy, beige. The sturdy expensive stuff like suits, jackets, work pants, etc. is where you should spend more money AND stick with classic styles in neutral colors. For women's clothing, blouses and casual clothing are where you can go with the bright colors and trendy styles.

Nthing making sure the clothing fits. You may want to have the tailor do some tweaking (I'm short, so I buy pants that fit through the hips, waist and legs and then get them hemmed up) but if the piece requires major redoing in order to have it fit you, give it a pass.

I try to find clothes that don't need any ironing, but for some things - linen, good work shirts - you need to have them ironed. I just send them out to the cleaners for pressing.

Shoes: Zappo's and DSW, hands (feet?) down. They have hard-to-find sizes and widths. Again, for good shoes get neutral colors like black and beige. Save the trendy styles and bright colors for summer flip-flops and dressy shoes. Spend on good work shoes; party shoes and flip-flops you don't want to pay big bucks for. Clarks, LifeStride, Sofft, are all good brands of shoes that are stylish yet comfortable so you don't kick them off right away at work.

Haircuts - how often depends on the hairstyle and your hair. In general, the more layers your haircut has and the shorter it is , the more often it must be maintained. YMMV, but in my experience, when my hair was pixie cut I had to go in about every eight weeks or so. Now that I'm growing it out, it's a chin-length blunt cut and it is much lower maintenance.

Brush three times a day (morning, noon, night) and floss every day. You can take a mini toothbrush and tube of toothpaste to work and brush in the bathroom and it is socially acceptable - but for the luvva God, rinse out the sink afterwards! (I wish I didn't have to say this)

Change your undies every day, and rotate your shoes so they air out between wearings. I wash shirts and blouses every time I wear them, but outer clothes and bottoms can go for several wearings. Of course you do want to clean them before they start smelling stale. Spot treat any horrid stain involving tomato sauce or red wine right when it happens.

Unless you are working in a really image-conscious industry, you don't need designer clothes or shoes. Neat, clean and appropriate for the occasion is what counts.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:29 PM on September 7, 2010

Aside from buying clothes that fit, I think layering looks really smart. I'm a big fan of fitted jackets because they add shape and texture, are functional, and can instantly make you look put together.

You should floss every. single. day. Really. You might think, "pshh, no one actually flosses every day," but that is both untrue and irrelevant. (Want proof? If you haven't flossed in a while, go floss right now and then smell the floss.) Daily flossing makes dental checkups much, much less traumatizing.

I only iron things if they look really rumpled. (Hanging things up immediately out of the dryer really decreases the need for ironing.)
posted by phunniemee at 1:34 PM on September 7, 2010

Best answer: I'm going to mostly give advice to the wife, because I was in a similar situation a couple years ago (losing a lot of weight and trying to dress like a grown-up at the same time).

When I was losing weight (don't know how much your wife wants to lose, but I lost about 55 pounds), I didn't even try to buy durable, long-lasting, quality-made pieces to build a grownup's wardrobe. This is because good-quality clothes are usually expensive, and if you're planning on losing more than 10 or 15 pounds, you can't just keep having things taken in as the weight comes off. I went from a size 16 to a size 4-6; any nice garment that I bought as a size 14 or 16 would have needed to be totally reconstructed at least twice. Plus, if you lose weight, sometimes the overall shape of your body changes and styles that were flattering before look terrible now (and vice versa). Example: I can now wear some styles that I never could have pulled off previously, like straight-cut pants; conversely, some styles which look best on curvy ladies no longer work for me. Depending on what your wife's goals are, she might want to put off buying a lot of really nice clothes until she reaches her goal. (And if she's like me, she should then buy some very nice clothes as a sort of weight-maintenance incentive...)

A weight-losing lady who wants to shine up a lackluster self-presentation should size up her general body shape (hourglass? pear? rectangle? apple?) every time she notices her pants getting unacceptably loose in the waist. Since women tend to store and burn off fat differently, her general shape might change as she gets smaller, and different body shapes look best in different styles (lots of info is all over the internet about which styles are best for which body type). Until she's done losing weight, she might want to save money by maintaining the smallest possible wardrobe. If you go this road, I recommend having 2 pairs of work-appropriate pants, 1-2 work-appropriate skirts (or just 2 suits if you have a fancier job than mine), 1-2 pairs of jeans, a fitted jacket in black or gray, and a few work-appropriate shirts. Maybe a couple of cardigans since we're going into the winter months. It's kind of boring, I know, but you can punch it up a little bit with more-unique shoes and accessories which you can keep no matter what clothing size you are. I would hunt around the clearance racks of higher-end department stores, as well as stores like Marshall's and TJ Maxx. I usually could get a season's worth of presentable-looking clothing for about $250. By the time that the weather had gotten inappropriate for my clothes, they were all too big anyway.

After a while of this, you hopefully will reach a healthy and sustainable size that you're happy with, and then you can take Rosie M. Banks's excellent advice and buy high-quality, classic suiting in neutral colors with all the fun and crazy blouses and casual pieces you like. (I like J. Crew's suiting, work pants, and jackets -- it's relatively affordable, jackets tend to have nice details (stitched linings rather than cheap glued, and the buttons are all functional), and they tend to use real wool unlike many other manufacturers.)
posted by kataclysm at 2:44 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Dealing with the gentleman:

I'm going to cheat a bit, and pretend that he doesn't own any clothes. I don't care about his height or waist, and will assume he's you're average guy.

Let's build a wardrobe!

1. Underwear.

Boxer briefs. You want to make sure that the elastic isn't too tight, and that they cover a satisfactory amount of leg - there's nothing worse than having them ride up into your crotch area, where they get all sweaty, and you have to keep on grabbing the hem through the pocket in your trousers to do a weird "pulling my boxer legs down" dance that makes you look like some genital-grabbing nutjob. I would say that black and grey are the best colours, purely because...well, if you drink a ton of Vitamin C and don't shake enough, it'll show and probably not come out in the wash if you only have white. Plus skidmarks if you don't wipe properly. A nice light grey is probably ideal. Go for your standard 'name' brands - Calvin Klein, Armani, whatever - even Abercrombie do decent ones. Sure, you could buy Old Navy or Uniqlo, but branded ones just seem better. And there's something weird about budget underwear.

2. Socks

Two schools of thought:
- Buy a ton of black socks from the same place. Never get odd socks again
- Buy mostly black, with some other colors to mix it up. A nice pair of socks can really liven up a suit, but bear in mind a friend's thoughts about red socks: "it shows that the blood has gone from their brain to their feet". Light blue, perhaps some kind of dotted or striped pattern. Feel free to go nuts.

3. Shoes

I'm going to assume that this person works in an office, and chills out on weekends.

For the office, a pair of black leather lace up shoes. Slip ons are for teenagers. Lace ups show that you're a real man. Oxfords or Brogues are the way forward.

For general footwear, I'm currently into Jodhpur boots/Chelsea boots - in brown. Goes well with jeans, and suit both smart and casual occasions. Also, always have some loafers or deck shoes - my advice on which can be found here.

A decent pair of sandals are handy in summer - I'm partial to the Birkenstock Arizonas. You can easily get away with flip flops though, for which Havaianas are decent.

Finally, because no one wears leather shoes all the time - some random shoes. Converse, whatever's comfy. You know the styles you like - I've had various Puma shoes, but to each their own.

4. Suit

Don't get a three piece suit. Just don't. Double breasted also suggests that you're seventy. Single breasted, notch lapel (conversely, black tie shouldn't be notch). I like double-vented, but that's me. Your suit should fit. You need to pay particular attention to the sleeve length and the shoulders. I'm going to snap out of imaginary land and see that the gentleman is tall and thin. This would suggest narrow shoulders with long arms, so pay double attention to sleeves and shoulders!

If you're only getting one suit, don't get a blue suit, and I would recommend against light grey. Dark charcoal or pinstripe is the way forward (paradoxically, having a dark blue suit with pinstripe is acceptable as your only suit). Pay careful attention to things like the pockets - the fashion nowadays is to have slanted pockets (makes you seem thinner, y'see), but check to see if you like it. I've owned a few Ted Baker suits - they hit a decent price point and are generally of good quality, plus you can get them altered when you buy (i.e. they'll take off the peg, measure you up and send it away). Fit is very important, so spend some time getting their advice. As for trousers - go in with the shoes you'll be wearing the suit with. I would suggest that the hem be level just touching the top of the shoe or slightly lower. If you go for the fashionable low hem and change your shoes to ones with a different size heel/sole thickness, the trousers will start to resemble flares (I speak from bitter experience).

5. Shirts

White, pink, white/blue (either striped or tightly hatched). Done. Get French cuffs, and never get the shiny "easy-iron" mix. Cotton all the way. Again, get nicely fitting ones. Don't get ones where you button the collar - they look idiotic. Don't get blue shirts with white collars - ditto, you're not in Wall Street. Don't get red braces/suspenders.

You can also get some linen shirts for use as summer casual wear. Also, polo shirts are good - but try and avoid Ralph Lauren, it looks too studied. If you can get a polo with minimal logo, it'll look better than one with a huge horse/moose/eagle. Don't get "worn" clothes, they look silly once that fad has passed.

As for t-shirts, get a few white and black ones. Vary round and v-neck. They shouldn't be too baggy, but they also shouldn't be skin-tight. Uniqlo is perfectly acceptable here.

6. Jumpers/Sweaters

Thick chunky knitwear with a round collar, thin cashmere v-necks. For the v-necks, they should be single color - blue, brown and grey are nice, but you can mix it up with green. For the knitwear, dark blues and blue/white combos are good.

7. Trousers/shorts

Chinos, some jeans. Whatever, pretty basic. Darker jeans are better than lighter ones in my opinion, but it all depends on what else you wear with them.

8. Accessories

Keep them simple. Plain leather belts, discreet cufflinks (please, no themed cufflinks - plain silver or gold colour, maybe with something small set in them).

9. Coats

Clean lines, simple colours. Stick with the classics, because this will have to last you. I'd suggest Duffle, Pea or Trench, or something along the lines to what Wikipedia tells me is a Chesterfield.

As for general care:
- Polish your shoes
- Keep your clothes clean
- Iron
- Wash your hair
- Brush and floss
- Moisturise
- Keep your hair neat
- Any facial hair should be neat
- Clip your nails

For clothes, as has been said, the thing is fit. If it fits well, you'll look good. Ironing shirts goes along with that. Also, the classics are called classics for a reason. Don't follow trends or fads too much - the core of your wardrobe should never go out of style. Basic colors are good - you can accessorise them with other things. And honestly - get a feel for your own style, don't listen too much to bores like me.
posted by djgh at 2:45 PM on September 7, 2010 [8 favorites]

Argh, your average. Stupid spelling.
posted by djgh at 2:46 PM on September 7, 2010

My husband is from Europe and has taught me a lot about clothing (and I thought I was doing pretty well before meeting him!):

1. Only buy well made clothes that you really love and that fit well. It's okay to have fewer, better clothes.

2. Hang up your clothes when you get home. Never throw them in the floor.

3. Send your shirts out to be cleaned/ironed.

4. Don't wear anything with holes/stains. This includes shoes.

5. Invest in stylish glasses, if you wear them. They're on your face everyday, so pick something really great.

6. We both get our hair cut about every 6 weeks - you can go longer, but my husband starts to look shaggy if he goes much longer. I can definitely go longer, but to be honest, my hair looks much better when I get it cut this often.

7. I always have nice feet/toes. I generally do them myself to save money, but I'll pay for a pedicure every couple of months.
posted by jrichards at 2:58 PM on September 7, 2010

Best answer: And another thing - to add on to what DJGH said - white is a TERRIBLE and the WORST color for underwear, both men's and womens. It looks cheap. No matter how meticulous your personal hygiene, it stains, and body fluids are one of the toughest stains to remove. White dulls quickly and turns a dingy "tattletale gray." And finally, white shows through clothes - this especially for women's bras.

For men, gray is a great neutral color for underpants. For women, underpants can pretty much run the gamut of pastels through black - just remember to wear dark pants under dark clothing bottoms and vice versa. Bras that go under light-colored clothes should be beige or brown depending on your coloring - a skin-toned bra (or at least in the same range) will not be obtrusive under a lightweight top. A white bra will show through and look cheap and tacky. Black bras are fine with dark-colored tops. "Fun" bras like leopard print are fine, but only on the weekends or at parties, not at work - you really do not want your bra to be the first thing people notice about your outfit.

Again, thumbs down on white underwear. White underwear is cheap, cheap, cheap, and tacky, tacky, a thousand times tacky.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:16 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm no expert and don't have much to add in the way of clothing...but I did notice that no one has addressed the long hair issue for the guy yet. My advice, based on having a boyfriend who once had long hair, and also being friends with a well-groomed, attractive, long-haired man is this:

- brush your hair every morning - if it's long, you've gotta do it, doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman.

- when you need to look presentable, pull your hair back and secure it with an elastic band at the nape of your neck. Or you could go David Beckham with it, if that's your thing. Do not just let it fly all over the place if you are trying to look nice!

- pair your long hair with well-groomed, or no facial hair. Nothing says "caveman" like long, wild hair and crazy, unshaven whiskers/goatee.

good luck!
posted by angab at 7:43 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

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