What are a man's options for a signature flourish?
September 29, 2012 6:30 PM   Subscribe

I'm a man who wears boring business clothes and I'd like my look more memorable. What's a good signature flourish or another way to make it easier for people who meet me to remember me at a glance?

Simon Doonan talks about the idea of a signature flourish (his is floral shirts) as a way to help people remember you. I like the idea in the abstract, but I can't come up with an idea that I feel comfortable implementing.

I currently wear fairly boring business attire, suits in typical colors, cuts and designs, white or pastel shirts, and typical ties. I don't want to go crazy, I just want to find a tweak I can make so that its' easier for people who only meet me occasionally to remember and recognize me.
posted by grudgebgon to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (42 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Pocket squares in fun colors/patterns.
posted by mollymayhem at 6:32 PM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Do you wear glasses? Interesting glasses.

How about distinctive pocket squares? Bow ties instead of neckties? Grow a mustache? Neck tattoo?

(Kidding about at least two of those.)
posted by supercres at 6:33 PM on September 29, 2012

Fabulous funky glasses.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:33 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Always a tie in your favourite colour? Distinctive (non-overpowering) fragrance? Something witty with socks?
posted by thylacinthine at 6:38 PM on September 29, 2012

Have you seen that rad Tim Gunn thread in MeTa?

If you don't want to surf throught all the sock talk, apparently interesting colored socks are the thing.

Also smelling really amazing, but in a restrained, non-AXE sort of way.

Things I envy about menswear:

The ability to wear a vest without resembling Paula Poundstone.



Great fucking shirts, if you can afford them. I don't really know how to explain, but oy, there are shirts, that, well... *swoon*
posted by Sara C. at 6:38 PM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Elbow patches?
posted by smirkyfodder at 6:45 PM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Having well-tailored clothing in general can make you stand out, especially in middle America. Not everyone can pull off slim fit, but having off-the-rack suits altered so they fit you well is a good step. Find a tailor that will go beyond just shortening sleeves and trouser legs.

Seconding great shirts. I agree with Sara C. that a really nice shirt is one of those things that people notice but can't really put their finger on. I like colored shirts but even a high end white shirt is a thing of beauty.

A great haircut might be good.
posted by cabingirl at 6:46 PM on September 29, 2012 [9 favorites]

Fun socks, but not so far as to be clownish, even better if the patterns don't match.

Classy but a bit different ties, Jerry Garcia makes some nice ones.
posted by wwax at 6:58 PM on September 29, 2012

Really great/interesting socks and shoes. You can be in a fairly standard suit and still have killer shoes. Being able to combine colors well, and choosing great patterns for suits (they can be subtle, but distinctive). Speaking of Tim Gunn, have you seen him? He's one example of what I mean--he's basically just wearing suits all the time, and not particularly crazy ones, but he's' quite stylish and it stands out.

I agree that even just great tailoring will make you stand out almost anywhere. Even if you're not buying bespoke, have things taken in to fit you better.
posted by asciident at 7:02 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know a lawyer who always wears bow ties. He's a skate punk at heart, and that is his way of standing out.

Also, suspenders are wonderful, and if it's getting cold where you are, men in suits and scarves are wonderful...get a good scarf.
posted by Grandysaur at 7:06 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could have a stylin' hat--I always admire a stylin' hat--but some people have Issues with it. I have issues with Wacky Sock Dudes, but most people seem to like them. To each their own, I guess.

I would suggest a vest. Not too many people wear them, and they always look posh. If you're not normally a wacky tie or pocket square dude, a vest will make you distinctive without getting too "wild."
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:11 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nice shoes.
posted by susanvance at 7:17 PM on September 29, 2012

Combining colors in a slightly edgy way can be very interesting. Such as dark blue shirt with a tie that incorporates both the same blue .. and a bright orange.
posted by bunderful at 7:22 PM on September 29, 2012

Bold Ties
Double Breasted Suits
Pocket Squares
Suit Color
Mixing and matching Jackets and Pants
Elbow Pads
No one wears vests anymore [unfortunately]
You'll notice that all of those outfits stood out for other reasons than mentioned. Fabric choice in a suit is almost as important as color.
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:28 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

French cuff shirts. And classy but distinctive cuff links.
posted by atomicstone at 7:37 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think that it depends very much on what impression you aim to give. Do you want to look traditional yet memorable? Do you want to look like new money? Do you want to look like you follow the couture? Do you want to look like you wish it was 1940? Do you want to look like once a year you shuck off those lawyerly suits and go to Burning Man?

I'm a bit less on the 'novel and exuberant' side when considering men's clothing. (I'm a butch queer person with a desk job.)

I dress up by using color and texture and by having very nice yet rigidly conventional shoes - no Fluevogs, funny colors or plastic soles. So I try to combine different fabrics - corduroys, wools in different textures, knits of different materials and fineness, wovens of different weights. I also have a pretty restricted color palette, sort of - lots and lots of different blues, lots and lots of different greys, a few reds.

What I might do if I wore men's suits every day and already had a lot of suits:

1. Make sure they all fit fairly well - do the pants break more or less correctly? Does the collar sit well? Contrary to most men's style blog advice, I think "good enough" fit is good enough, but many people don't have that.
2. Take stock of my color palette and figure out what colors suit me. Plan some future suit purchases in better colors - note that black suits don't suit people with pinkish complexions and medium coloring; note that greys come in many colors; consider a navy suit or a suit in a less blah fabric.
3. Consider ties - now, I personally dislike, as I say, exuberance in ties. Wacky ties, psychedelic ties, forties ties, ties with little quasi-professional emblems - those are all things to eschew (although that kind of tie that looks like a dead fish, I like that tie. Also the Brooks Brothers one with the tiny Euro-pineapples). But! You can have beautiful and exciting ties in all kinds of wonderful textures - knit cotton, wool or silk; tweed; cashmere; all kinds of silks. And you can buy an amazing assortment of really nice used ties on eBay - that's where I get many of my ties.
4. Consider nice shirts in beautiful fabrics, not in funny colors - the best-dressed man of my acquaintance wears pretty much no colors but blues and pinks, grey suits and a camel topcoat, but all are in really lovely, lush fabrics.
5. Upgrade your shoes and get some nice laces - there's where color can come in. Get some nice Allen Edmonds lace-ups - the Park Avenue comes in grey now, but I like a lot of the others with little punched-leather details like the Strand. And a little bit of googling will lead you to blue, grey, pink and violet laces, or to silk ribbon laces in sober colors. These really dress up an outfit.
6. Nice socks are also nice - I hear very good things about US-made Dapper Classics, which are supposed to be as good as Pantherellas but US-made and cheaper.
7. Get a nice winter coat and a nice winter scarf - something with a sense of lavishness about it. Again, eBay and consignment are your friends.
8. And a nice belt! Don't forget a nice belt!
posted by Frowner at 7:46 PM on September 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

Two people mentioned glasses: any examples? I hate my current glasses to the point that I'm considering LASIK.

Pocket squares: a definite possibility, but how do you choose a color/pattern? Does it match something? Contrast?

Great Tailoring: Amen. Already sold.

Socks: feels too trendy to me to really be unique.

Vest: very interesting thought. I love the uniqueness, but I'm not sure how I'll look in them... one way to find out.

Shirts: I've been considering trying out J Hilburn to get custom shirts made which would create some options, but I found the number of options intimidating and I don't trust my stereotypically male sense of style to make wise decisions.
posted by grudgebgon at 7:47 PM on September 29, 2012

All of this is rather difficult to figure since we don't really know what your style is. Glasses-wise, I wear Shurons or Anglo-Americans, which are nice without being especially memorable. But if you're looking for unusual frames...well, I'd really suggest taking a trip to the nearest big city and visiting several fashionable glasses-type shops to get a sense of what's out there. L A Eyeworks makes high-quality, moderately expensive and quite distinctive frames. I have had the Von Kersting - a little heavy for my face, but a very, very nice frame. Moscot is fashionable right now, but they seem to make a nice, high-quality product.

Vis-a-vis socks: nice socks needn't be trendy/wacky. I mean, maybe you work in men's fashion central and everyone has baseline attractive socks, but in general, over-the-calf socks in, say, a deep navy with a grey pin-dot are going to be very classic but will look really nice. You don't need peppy pink stripes to have unusually nice socks. Also, nice shoes and socks feel better on the feet - you don't realize until you switch.

I guess I'm kind of in favor of ties as a signature look. Really nice ties are attractive and unusual but comparatively timeless - you can be breaking out the silk grenadine five years from now without a sense of "2012 called and wants its tie back". Obviously, tie widths shift over time, but if you avoid the extremes you can pretty much build up a lifetime collection. Also, ties can flatter your coloring and you can loosen them slightly when working late or being serious, a very attractive look in a forties movie kind of way.
posted by Frowner at 8:01 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Take a look at the Financial Times' Power Dressing column. These men all look amazing, while wearing suits.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:05 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you want to look traditional yet memorable? Do you want to look like new money? Do you want to look like you follow the couture? Do you want to look like you wish it was 1940? Do you want to look like once a year you shuck off those lawyerly suits and go to Burning Man?

I want an up-to-date formal professional look but with a touch of flair.

I definitely don't want to look like new money, or like I follow the couture. I prefer whispering to shouting, but I still want to be heard.

I love 2012, but I'm also glad my employer doesn't have casual Friday. I feel more at home in a suit and tie than I do in a t-shirt and jeans.
posted by grudgebgon at 8:08 PM on September 29, 2012

Two people mentioned glasses: any examples? I hate my current glasses to the point that I'm considering LASIK.

I don't know where you life, but on the off chance you're either in New York or L. A., you should go somewhere that people can give you advice and recommend frames you wouldn't normally have considered:

Fabulous Fanny's, in New York's East Village.

Also, I was doing some other research on Yelp today and came across Gentlemen's Breakfast Eyewear, which seems much the same as Fabulous Fanny's. Haven't been there personally (yet?), but sounds amazing.

These folks will not steer you wrong. (Well, probably not, in the case of Gentlemen's Breakfast which I haven't actually been to.)
posted by Sara C. at 8:11 PM on September 29, 2012

That should be "I don't know where you live". Typo city for me on metafilter today.
posted by Sara C. at 8:13 PM on September 29, 2012

Maybe it's time for the pocket watch to make a comeback. Just make sure to use a very classy chain so people don't think it's a biker's wallet.
posted by The Deej at 8:43 PM on September 29, 2012

Matching your pocket square to your tie is cheesy, but matching it to a patterned shirt is an unusual touch. I have the guy who makes my shirts make a matching pocket square for each.
posted by nicwolff at 8:55 PM on September 29, 2012

It's not really fashion, but: hair. A memorable/classy/polished/generally awesome haircut will make you very memorable. You don't want to be NASA Mohawk Guy, but getting (and maintaining) great hair goes a long way.
posted by Xany at 8:59 PM on September 29, 2012

I knew a guy whose signature style was jeans and a collared shirt of some deep, rich color, like emerald green or maroon, but so dark that from a distance or in poor light you might think he was in black. It gave a really subdued, but striking presentation. Strangers would routinely refer to him as "that guy with the really blue shirt, what's his name?"
posted by d. z. wang at 9:11 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know male lawyers, in a conservative dark-suit town, all different guys, who:

*Wear big honking belt buckles. I have not examined them particularly closely but they seem rodeo-ish.

*Wear boots instead of shoes.

*Wear shoes with holes in them. (Opposing counsel demanded the judge make holey-shoe guy get new shoes because holey-shoe guy was making him crazy with his, "I'm just a small town lawyer, not a slick big-city fellow like this here guy ...")

*Wear pocket squares. You want them to pick up another color you're wearing, but matching is for prom. So if you had a french blue shirt on, you could find a blue paisley pocket square, rather than getting a matching same-color french blue pocket square. They can also pick up a color in your tie. I think they're surprisingly hard to pull off, though.

*Wear bow ties. But you have to be an old dude to do this.

*Wear brightly-colored ties. Not crazy patterns. Not hot pink. But ties are sadly tied into a drab and dark color scheme, and if you get a little kelly green in there on the pattern, or a bright robin's egg blue, it can be a totally traditional tie that people will notice, like, and compliment you on constantly. (European ties are, as a rule, more brightly-colored than their American counterparts at the same price point.)

*My husband has several ties from a place that hand silk-screens cool patterns on ties for punk bands and similar. He doesn't go for the ones with actual skulls on them, but has several in unusual patterns and color schemes. The woman who does them loves it when we order because she mostly serves west coast musicians wearing ironic ties and he's her one midwestern attorney. (I've had several pre-ordering discussions with her about how a particular tie would work under a suit.) People go crazy for them when he wears them. He wore one with poppies in gold on black to a black-tie event, rather than a bow-tie, and he had 80-year-old retired judges stopping him to say how sharp he looked. (Memail me for the shop if you like.)

I don't think it really helps people remember you, but it does give you a "thing" ... "oh, yeah, Bob with his bowties."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:16 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

A lapel pin, maybe? Like how Presidents often wear little American flag pins. (Except yours would probably be more low-key; no color, just matte metallic.) I think this was more common when many men belonged to the Kiwanis, etc.; but you could wear something denoting your profession, ancestry, or hometown and I think it would still be appropriate.
posted by lakeroon at 10:26 PM on September 29, 2012

I work in a bank in a financial district and I always remember the names of the men who wear bowties.

A gentleman in his early sixties/late fifties in a black suit and silver hair wore a straw boater with a striped silk ribbon, like a bandstand leader would wear on the fourth of july, and it was the most delightful thing any of us saw all day. That one requires a certain amount of age or queer dapperness to pull off, though.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:43 PM on September 29, 2012

Specific glasses recommendation. Check out all the colors. If you "like" Coastal Contacts on Facebook, they have regular coupon codes for new customers for "free" glasses that will end up costing you about $20 for basic prescription lenses and shipping.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:50 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

My father and I have long collected Hermes ties in unique patterns. For instance, in the current line, this windmill tie, Crazy Penguin, weight lifting monkies, and my most recent favorite, snails, which I sent my father for his birthday because and told him he's slowing down as he ages.

The ties make a great conversation piece, and I've literally had people interrupt a conversation, squint, look closely, and possibly even grab my tie for a closer look.

Admittedly, this is quite within the scope of the things i find humorous about daily life -- the things we see that are hidden in patterns that are unique and hilarious. Being able to "fit in" with the rest of the corporate drones but be wearing a tie that none of them would risk wearing is how I roll.

Unfortunately, I rarely wear suits anymore (in fact, don't even own one that fits at the moment), so the ties I do have are usually second or third-hand. There is an excellent secondhand market on eBay. When my dad cleans out his closet and disposes of the ties he has tired of, that's where he sells them.
posted by SpecialK at 10:52 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was recently on a training course where the person leading consistently wore matching tie and socks. A colleague had told me previously to look out for it as he had been trained by the same man a year previously. It was impressive how thorough he was - you'd notice he had an unusually patterned tie and wonder what the socks looked like - but he always got close enough with colour and style that it worked. Slightly silly but fairly subtle and certainly memorable.
posted by Captain Najork at 1:15 AM on September 30, 2012

I know it's already been said, but yeah, properly, personally tailored suits and shirts. I've been wearing business suits for nigh on 20 years, and I am quite astounded at how many compliments on my attire I have received in the last 6 months or so, since I went to Thailand and got suits and shirts tailored for me. They're just standard (for my city) dark greys and blues, but apparently it's all about the fit. Whoulda thunk it?

PS - Personally, I think bow ties scream insecurity. I always remember people who wear them too, but it's not necessarily in a good way. But ... each to their own.
posted by Diag at 2:26 AM on September 30, 2012

Please don't do this. I beg of you. Nothing good can come from wanting to create some artificial signature flourish. I suspect the few people that have a legitimate signature item (and it a) looks generally good and b) is not tacky and awful) have come about it accidentally and over time.

I couldn't imagine you'd attract anything other than the wrong sort of attention if all of a sudden you came to work with a pocket square everyday or a monocle or bow tie or something similar. It's almost costume dressing, in a way.

I very rarely remember someone because of how they're dressed but rather how're they act. And while I might remember some guy who wore a vest everyday, it would only be in the sense of "perhaps I ought to avoid him."

That said, there's a blog with a guy who used to wear these little japanese felt flowers on his lapels. I think however he inspired a wave of copycats and eventually stopped wearing it.
posted by oxford blue at 4:21 AM on September 30, 2012

This post from the aforementioned sock talk sums up what I was trying to say in a much more concise way. Be memorable by being memorable, not by costuming.
posted by oxford blue at 4:23 AM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Actually, you're probably already doing this, but if you're not: read a bunch of men's style blogs over a few months. I'm in a rush so I won't link, but I like Down East And Out (reblogs a lot of great images); An Affordable Wardrobe (thrifted traddy East Coast); This Fits Me (reblogs images); Most Excerent (Dude who is I think originally from HK - name is a play on stereotype - who is very, very sharply turned out); and the rarely updated Heavy Tweed Jacket (browse the archives!) I also read Dapper Kid - totally different, arty, black clothes in odd shapes, follows couture - has a great, great eye for color and fabric. If you're looking for 'signature' style things, A Suitable Wardrobe tends in that direction - the rare, the recherche...and the heart-stoppingly expensive, so one might think of it as inspiration. He also sells Saphir shoe polish, which is WEP and bought by me even though I buy very few fancy things actually new or at full price.

I think you're right not to want to be trendy.

I also think it's best to accept that if you care about style your style will alter over time, even if very slightly. Men's style often likes to call itself traditional and eternal (as a sexist way of distinguishing itself from women's, which is painted as frivolous and ephemeral). It's true that if you dress very, very trad and you really like that style for itself, you can dress that way your whole life. But most people think they like something for eternity and it's really for a couple of years.

But you might consider what through-lines there are in your own style - what kind of thing have you always been drawn to? I've dressed pretty differently over the years, but scarves, sturdy shoes, bags with pockets, cardigans and a subfusc color palette with minimal patterns have always been constants - you could have looked at me in 1995 and I would have dressed with those elements. Mainly, scarves are my thing. I've been collecting them since the mid-nineties and I have everything from men's styleblogger-esque voluminous swathings to scottish cashmere mufflers to fringed silk opera scarves. It's possible that if scarves went totally, totally out of fashion I would tire of them but they've been pretty much a constant for a while now and I think they're unlikely to disappear from fashion enough to be an embarrassment. I keep an eye out for scarves that I like in general, but also when there's a trend that I like I pick up an example to keep current - so my scarf wardrobe is a little archive of scarf fashions from 1995 onward.

So think about something you've always liked and build on that. Do you like loafers better than lace-ups? Start buying nicer ones with an unusual detail. Do you tend to like blue shirts best? Accumulate blue shirts in unusual stripes or patterns - different shades, bengal stripes, pinstripes, oxford cloth, broadcloth, tiny dots, big and small checks, seersucker, perhaps a floral, etc.
posted by Frowner at 5:00 AM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I wear button-down collars, it makes me look like I've got a kielbasa around my neck, so I avoid those. I try to find shirts that have hidden collar buttons, or use collar stays. It's surprising what a difference that one little detail often makes.

I've been considering trying out J Hilburn to get custom shirts made which would create some options, but I found the number of options intimidating and I don't trust my stereotypically male sense of style to make wise decisions.

Their customer service personnel are incredible. Tell them exactly that when you call, that's what they're there for. Try and call on a boring afternoon about 3:30.

You could also try the personal shopper at Nordstrom's or Neiman-Marcus. Wear your normal business attire, and let them take it from there. You can start the conversation with, "I'm looking for two perfect shirts to update/work with this look." And no, they do not intend to try to sell you $5000 worth, or make you buy purple. Two shirts is a nice sale. If you like what you get, keep their business card for next time.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 7:08 AM on September 30, 2012

Get your mother (or partner) to take you shopping for clothes. Reject only those items that expose your navel pin or nipple rings.
posted by mule98J at 11:00 AM on September 30, 2012

I'd second Fabulous Fanny's for glasses if you're in New York City. I'd also recommend Warby Parker. They're affordable ($95, lenses included) and send free try ons.
posted by catwash at 11:28 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I came in to mention french cuffs with cufflinks. They don't look affected (as a bold tie or socks might) and they don't look more formal (as a vest or a pocket square does) but they do look nice and very few people bother to wear them, at least in America. They're also hard to screw up unless you go really crazy with the cufflinks. The downside is that you'd need to buy new shirts, but there's no reason you couldn't just phase them in.

Whatever you do though, try to only pick one "flourish" per outfit, maybe two if they're both rather understated. More than that and you'll start looking like a dandy, which isn't really the impression you want to make in a business setting, although it can be a lot of fun outside of work.
posted by Scientist at 3:57 PM on September 30, 2012

I read the question and was ready to suggest all sorts of things, but it seems that just about everything has been covered... Except!

Tie bar. Get one that doesn't have teeth on it, but rather slides on kind of like a paperclip. You don't want to damage your ties. Match your tie bar to your belt buckle.

Pocket watch. Especially classy with a vest, but maybe a bit much for some. Vest or no vest, the pocket watch is an excellent item to carry. There are all sorts of designs and sizes. My friend has one that is a tiny clock within a glass globe on a swivel. It's basically the coolest item ever.

Also seconding bow ties, for the record. Beau Ties Ltd. makes some excellent ones; you pick your type and pattern, they make it by hand and mail it to you. Anything from the conservative to the psychedelic and everything in between.
posted by Urban Winter at 9:20 AM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Tim Gunn on pocket squares.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:14 PM on October 3, 2012

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