How to dress older than a college student?
December 3, 2012 5:31 PM   Subscribe

How can I dress older now that I'm 25?

I'm a 25 year old guy that would like to dress a little older.

What clothing items should I add to make myself appear older, a little more polished?

What changes did you make in your wardrobe after graduating from college besides retiring some t-shirts?

My job is a semi-professional job. No dress code, but I usually wear something with a collar or a casual button down shirt.
posted by mtphoto to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Wear clothes that fit, and by that I mean "fit the shape of your body," not "shirts and pants in your size that are made to look oversized."
posted by Rykey at 5:38 PM on December 3, 2012

Art of Manliness often runs articles about dressing nicely (and not too expensively). Most of what they write is geared to young men, say college through their thirty's.
posted by lharmon at 5:39 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Things I think make a dude look like a man:

Clothes that fucking fit.

Also, quality materials, and simple styles that aren't flashy. And in good repair, too.

Collared shirts are a good start, but it sounds like you're already doing that, so you're probably fine. I also feel like shoes are important, but I don't know enough about menswear to tell you exactly what you should get. Good quality, not flashy, probably a step more formal than sneakers (or really fucking great sneakers if you're going that route).

No sandals with jeans, ever. No jorts. None of those baggy military style cargo shorts that look like capri pants for men. No hoodie with your college or frat logo, and no sports logos. No douchey hats of any kind.
posted by Sara C. at 5:40 PM on December 3, 2012 [11 favorites]

If you would ask a question like this, you probably can't do much better. :)

Basically, "dress for the job you want, not the job you have".

If you work in the trenches and aspire to management, wear slacks and a dress-shirt (sometimes with tie). If you work in middle-management and aspire to upper, wear a suit.
posted by pla at 5:42 PM on December 3, 2012

>>>Basically, "dress for the job you want, not the job you have". If you work in the trenches and aspire to management, wear slacks and a dress-shirt (sometimes with tie). If you work in middle-management and aspire to upper, wear a suit.

I strongly disagree with that advice. In general, it's better to dress how others in your role are dressing. If no one your level is wearing a suit or tie, you shouldn't be either. It doesn't make you more grown up; rather, it shows you might not "get it".

Instead, take the advice of wearing clothes that fit you and you will look much better than your peers without looking like you're trying too hard.
posted by rastapasta at 5:52 PM on December 3, 2012 [9 favorites]

You should probably mention where you live. No one wears suits in silicon valley, for example, and wearing a suit in a tech company is going to make you look like the biggest social climbing asshole who ever climbed a social. I don't think there is a single person in my company who is currently wearing a tie.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 5:53 PM on December 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Buy clothes that fit, and take care of said clothes. Iron what needs to be ironed, dry clean when needed, and don't wear things with stains or holes unless you're doing yardwork.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 5:57 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Go to Nordstrom. Buy nice, stylish, well-made shoes. And a belt. And some solid-color shirts that fit you well. The end.
posted by zippy at 6:00 PM on December 3, 2012

Clothes that fit and better quality pieces. Whatever your style is, buy the best quality you can afford - just buying better quality button down shirts will make you instantly appear older and more polished.

Also nice shoes.
posted by fromageball at 6:06 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're willing to sort through piles of advice of mixed quality, Reddit's Male Fashion Advice subreddit is made of 178k other men approximately your age who are also trying to figure out the answer to this question. They have a detailed FAQ with lists of reliable options for shoes, shirts, etc. A lot of it may be weirder or more expensive than you're willing to try, but I know that a friend has enjoyed learning from the knowledge available there. He's now the go-to guy when other friends have questions about which brands to look into when buying new clothes and shoes.
posted by dreamyshade at 6:13 PM on December 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Previously, previously.
posted by John Cohen at 6:25 PM on December 3, 2012

I like the blog Dappered. It's a good balance of style on a sensible budget. They recently did a series of posts called The $1500 Wardrobe which I've to be a good starting point for my own clothes shopping.
posted by JDHarper at 6:48 PM on December 3, 2012

@It's Never Lurgi
I live in southwest micropolitan Montana. Most people here wear jeans unless they are lawyers or professional business people.

I've only ever dry cleaned a few suit pieces before. I probably need to do more ironing. The company I work for is a small retail business with only seven employees, so I won't ever need to come to work in a suit. I would look pretty damn pompous if I wore a tie.

Any specific types of shirts that you recommend for both quality and maturity?
posted by mtphoto at 6:50 PM on December 3, 2012

Ditch your jeans and get some Chinos and Corduroy pants. Get a good belt and good shoes that go with black socks. Find shirts that match the pants.

That's what I did, anyway. Ditching jeans was the cornerstone of my strategy.
posted by hellojed at 7:02 PM on December 3, 2012

Wear jeans that aren’t blue, and fit your body type. For me, that’s shrink-to-fit 501s. For others, that’s 511s. For others, that’s don’t-wear-fucking jeans.

Wear shirts that require ironing and have a place for collar stays. Get metal collar stays. Ensure that your clothes fit by asking a [trusted] tailor if they fit. My favorite shirt (and the shirt that fits me the best) is an XL J Crew shirt I found at a thrift shop for $4.00. I took it to a tailor, who took it in on the sides and in the back for $34.

Get your coats tailored for the winter and fall – that’s what most people will see you wearing during those months.

Wear non-atheletic socks.

Wear leather shoes. Wear a leather belt.

Wear natural fibers, always.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:14 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Excellent! These are exactly the kind of detailed suggestions I'm looking for.
posted by mtphoto at 7:30 PM on December 3, 2012

Your haircut and grooming also make a big difference. Get a good haircut and go in regularly to keep it looking good.
posted by dottiechang at 7:39 PM on December 3, 2012

As others have said, buy clothes that fit you, or at least as closely as possible. Then take them to a good tailor, since it's unlikely that standard sizes match you exactly.

How clothes should fit.

When shopping, look for good quality items on sale; you may pay more than the equivalent from h&m, but they will look better and last longer.

Where to find good deals.
posted by ikaruga at 7:43 PM on December 3, 2012

Getting your measurements costs like $5 and I would recommend that you do so before you start any online shopping. Also, when thinking about taking something to a tailor, remember that fabric can be removed, but not added.

Also, wool is the best ever. Let me dedicate this shout out to all the sheep out there.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:20 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Others have covered a lot of good specifics. What I would say generally is once you've got a good wardrobe rotation established (the baseball metaphor is intentional: You want a solid selection of every day clothes, then a nice set of specialty items, then a few killer pieces for special occasions), try to always be shopping rather than being in "OH GOD I NEED A SHIRT AND IT'S 5PM" panic mode, because that's how you wind up with bad clothes. I don't mean go to the store every week, but if you happen to be out and driving by it, you may as well swing in. Or you can sign up to some of the male fashion email newsletters (Frank and Oak, Everlane, Rue La La, etc.) and even if you don't buy things on the regular, you'll know what's in and you'll see a few pieces here and there that you like and can work them into your lineup.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:25 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Shoes are important. I can't believe how many men do not understand this.

Please do not think that wearing your 'good' (i.e. brightest, whitest, newest) athletic shoes means you have stepped it up a notch. It does not. You will not look 'smart casual'. You will look like a slob who needs to buy some leather shoes, stat. (Or, at the very least, some funky canvas sneakers).
posted by Salamander at 10:23 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Leather shoes are a must. I'm a lady and it makes me sad that I get compliments on my oxfords while I'm out and about, whereas the guys I'm with generally all just wear sneakers or converse. I KNOW sneakers are comfy, but it does not make guys look good.

If I want to feel super comfy but not wear sneakers, I usually just wear Chelsea boots. Why I have nicer shoes than the guys I know, I have no idea.

(PS, I don't talk about this in real life. But I do often look at male friends or strangers and go "Nice outfit, but I *really* wished that you had leather shoes...")
posted by Hawk V at 1:02 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Put This On is a great place to start
posted by u17tw at 3:56 AM on December 4, 2012

I've only ever dry cleaned a few suit pieces before. I probably need to do more ironing.

I disagree with the ironing part. Buy a bunch of well-fitting oxford shirts (personally, I only wear a white dress shirt when I'm wearing a suit, and only when I need a suit for a very formal event. Colors and patterns are your friends). When your shirts need to be washed, drop them off at the cleaners to have them laundered and pressed. Let them do the ironing for you.

For things like henley shirts, I've never run into a situation where I thought, "gee, I wish I had ironed this."
posted by deanc at 5:37 AM on December 4, 2012

Also, finding a good tailor is not as expensive one would think. They can coach you into what to buy and where, so that even if it isn't the right size, a good tailor can work some goddamn magic on near-fitting items.

For me, finding shirts that fit off the rack is impossible. Tailoring a shirt (especially if you take your tailor two or three) has run me as little as $10/shirt.

I have an excellent, wonderful tailor in Portland ore. If you need one there, me-mail me for her information.
posted by furnace.heart at 6:37 AM on December 4, 2012

Common fit problems that make a guy look younger than he is include:

1. Shirt collar too large. You should be able to get two fingers under your collar when it's buttoned up, but not more. Whenever I see a guy's neck swimming in a roomy collar, it looks like he just borrowed the shirt from his older brother for the middle school dance.

2. No collar stays. If you're wearing a point collar shirt, use stays. Plastic ones that come with the shirt are fine, and paper clips work in a pinch. Empty collar points bending skyward just look sloppy. You can avoid the whole problem by wearing button-down collars, which in America are acceptable for almost anything but formal business attire.

3. Trousers too long. They should break gently across the top of your shoes, and not puddle about your ankles. Your ankles will feel weirdly naked at first, but you will no longer look like your mom bought your pants four inches too long because she expects you to grow into them.

4. Sportcoat sleeves too long. Your sportcoat sleeves should be a quarter to a half inch shorter than your shirt sleeves. Like the trouser hem problem, a too-long sportcoat sleeve says that the wearer has no idea how clothes should fit.

5. Sportcoat chest/shoulders too large. So many guys think they look bigger when they wear larger-size clothing, but it just makes them look like they borrowed their big brother's cothing.

6. Heinous shoes. As stated above, wear real leather shoes. Assuming you work in a business casual environment, and aren't spending a huge amount of money on high-end clothing, then real shoes (like Allen-Edmonds or Alden) will likely be the single most expensive item in your wardrobe. If you're not at that level of formality or spending yet, you can start with something casual like Clark's desert boots.
posted by Mendl at 5:34 PM on December 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

Just a quick note: Dressing more polished or better doesn't mean you have to dress older. For example, whether you decide on slacks, corduroys, or chinos, be sure to get flat front pants. Pleats are more old fashioned and for those with wider mid sections.

Thirding (or fourthing) leather shoes. This means avoid synthetic or patent leather. Be sure to look for shoes that have FULL GRAIN leather. Alden, Allen-Edmond, A Testoni, and John Lobb are all great shoes, but they can run from $400+. Consider going to a thrift store to find those brands at a much better price. For casual shoes, in addition to Clark's, Red Wing Boots are also a good choice.
posted by FJT at 10:28 PM on December 4, 2012

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