Help me be low maintenance, without looking low maintenance. For men.
April 4, 2014 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Help with clothing grooming etc. for men?

I really like penny pipers question:


I ask the same question for men. It may seem simpler for men but I doubt it. I have been a kind of a slob personal appearance wise forever...with the excuse that I was a guy!...but that isn't holding up for me anymore. What can I do about clothing grooming shoes hair, everything actually, and still feel unrestricted and comfortable?

A tidbit example taken from the womens thread...I have recently started having my eyebrows threaded when I get my haircut and it is miraculous. It occurs to me that age may be a question I get. I am 63 and still haven't figured this out!

I hope men and women will both respond to this question.
posted by snowjoe to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
Use some damned hand lotion. I don't care how cool a guy looks or how sharp he's dressed, if I go to hold/shake/look at his hands and they're cracked and scaly and full of sharp picked skin bits I'm like ew. Especially folks who have indoor desk jobs--NO EXCUSE. Lotion is not a girl thing. It's a human thing. You got skin? Put lotion on it.
posted by phunniemee at 9:00 AM on April 4, 2014 [11 favorites]

Shave in the shower.

Get a mirror and put it on the shower wall. Leave a razor in there, and shave at the end of your shower. You don't need shaving cream, as long as the water is hot enough.

I find I can shave in well under a minute this way, so you can do it without wasting too much water, but if you need to, turn off the water.

This is, hands down, the lowest maintenance way to shave. I wish I'd figured it out when I was 14, not when I was 40 and had tried every other shaving method known to man.
posted by mikeand1 at 9:08 AM on April 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Vigorous annihilation of unpleasant odours (all the more important as one ages).

Quality fabrics, clothes that fit, modern silhouettes. Need not be cutting-edge fashion, just up-to-date and not disposable or ill-fitting. That will sort out a great deal of sloppiness. Polish the shoes!

Along with lotion: lip balm, also not just for ladies. And neatly trimmed nails.
posted by kmennie at 9:09 AM on April 4, 2014

-For clothes which you wear in public: replace anything threadbare, stained, ripped, faded, etc. that can't be easily fixed. Any clothes you buy from hereon out should be good, lasting material. Don't cheap out because that just means you'll end up either spending more replacing the clothes when they wear out, or just back to wearing threadbare clothes.

-If you wear pants, get them hemmed by a tailor. It's cheap, you only need to do it once per pair of pants and properly-hemmed pants make you look much more put-together.

-Own more clothes and wash them less often. If you have fourteen shirts and wash them once every two weeks, you will have nicer looking clothes than if you have seven shirts you wash once a week. Same thing with shoes: have more shoes and alternate them, rather than just a pair you always wear.

-Any new clothes you buy should fit you. Dudes are lucky in that most of our clothes are pretty uncomplicated and figuring out if something "fits" is usually easy, but also totally dependent on your body type. Ask the people at the clothing store to help.

-Figure something out about your facial hair if you haven't. If you prefer to be cleanshaven, pick a tool that makes it easiest for you to be cleanshaven. Eliminate barriers between you and a shaved face. If you prefer to have facial hair, that's sort of falling away from "low maintenance" but still: get the tools you need to get the job done the fastest.

-If you can, get a haircut that doesn't require product to look sharp.

-Definitely use lotion on your face and hands.
posted by griphus at 9:12 AM on April 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

Spend enough time (and money, if possible) buying clothes. Clothing that fits well and is in good condition is a HUGE part of looking put together, and if you have the right clothing, it's super low maintenance.

You don't need expensive clothing (though that's fine if you want it), just good quality clothing in good condition that fits.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:13 AM on April 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is what my husband does, and he is a very "put together" low effort kind of guy.

Nose hair and ear hair need to be kept in check. Nose hair in particular.

Make sure your hair is tidy. It doesn't have to be a big effort. The difference between my husband looking put together vs. looking like a raggamuffin is 15 seconds of wetting his hair and putting in a bit of gel or mouse and just smoothing it out. Voila! It takes no time but makes a difference. My husband also has hair cuts exactly 4 weeks apart. After he gets his hair cut he schedules the next one. This makes sure his hair doesn't get scruffy.

Wear a nice belt.

Sneakers are for the gym or for running, not work.

He wears button up dress shirts every day but never irons. He just immediately takes them out of the dryer when it is done and hangs them up. No iron required.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:14 AM on April 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ironing isn't necessary as long as you take your clothes out of the dryer and hang them up as soon as the cycle finishes.
I think a good rule of thumb is to take some time and look at how you present yourself and think "Could this be improved?" Everything will reveal itself to you this way. Is your hair combed neatly or all over the place? Are your nails clean and trimmed or ragged and dirty? Are your clothes rumpled and smelly? Are your shoes dirty? Do your socks match? The answers to these questions are pretty simple; the only thing you have to do is identify the question.
posted by bleep at 9:15 AM on April 4, 2014


Bathe/shower daily. Wear deodorant. Brush your teeth twice a day. Make a commitment to facial hair grooming, whether it's shaving daily or maintaining a beard appropriately. Lotion/moisturizer and sunscreen are your friend. Keep your nails clean and trimmed.


Casual does not mean ratty. Get rid of any clothes you own that aren't in good shape or don't fit properly, period. This includes shoes. Replace with nice high quality casual stuff. Doesn't need to be designer or anything, but it should look good on you and fit properly. Something vaguely on trend is also great, but honestly if you're replacing things as they get ratty and choosing clothes that fit, unless you have uniquely awful taste, you'll probably nail "vaguely on trend" just fine. Get rid of any graphic tees you own that have swear words on them.


Get a haircut once every six weeks to two months, if you have a short men's hairstyle. Since you mention being 63 -- if you are going grey or thinning, just own it. Don't color your hair or think you're fooling anyone with any sort of strategic hair styling. Don't use too much hair product (regardless of age).
posted by Sara C. at 9:21 AM on April 4, 2014

Here ya go.
  • Hair: #2 on the top, #1 on the sides. Eyebrows trimmed or whatever if you need it. If you can see nose or ear hair when you look in the mirror, take care of that yourself with a trimmer.
  • Face: Shave every day. Electric razor's good enough if you are lazy.
  • Clothes: Fit well, clean, no repairs needed. Jeans and khakis are fine. Polos and OCBDs are fine. Socks darker than pants, shoes darker than socks. If you're overweight, don't wear baggy clothes! It's not fooling anyone and it looks awful. No jorts, no fedoras, no sandals with socks, no slogan t-shirts. Fold or hang laundry immediately after washing and drying. Throw out or give away anything you haven't worn in a year.
  • Hygiene: Shower every day. Wash every part of yourself with soap every day, including places like behind the ears and beneath the yambag. Wash your hair at least every couple days and rinse it out every day. Cut your nails, don't bite them. Brush teeth at least twice a day, floss at least once a day. Lick your wrist, wait a moment, then smell it: that's your breath. Chew gum if it smells like the south end of a north bound dog. Wear deodorant or antiperspirant.
  • Smile. Use people's names when you talk to them. Make eye contact. Walk with your head up looking forward. Shoulders back. Handshakes firm.

posted by Sternmeyer at 9:24 AM on April 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

When I started my latest office job, I wore a tie every day for maybe six months. This isn't a requirement for our dress code, but it really helped me recalibrate myself. Now I wear a nice button down tucked into slacks every day and I feel as comfortable as I used to when wearing flannels and hoodies over holey jeans.

You want to look nice, but also want to feel low maintenance. The problem is looking good requires maintenance. So try getting used to a pretty high-level routine for a solid stretch of time, then dial it back a few notches. Try lots of the suggestions above and get to the point where you can make informed decisions about what you want to keep doing and where you can slack off a bit.
posted by cubby at 9:27 AM on April 4, 2014

Buying a garment steamer was the thing that made me feel most like an adult. It's the upright, extendable kind with a built-in hanger. It's waaaaaay easier than ironing and can make a crinkly, worn shirt look nice in 5 minutes. It cost $59 at CostCo.
posted by MonsieurBon at 9:39 AM on April 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think ironing is necessary (or the steamer, not seen these in the UK), it depends what kind of shirt you are obliged/prefer to wear. I suggest getting into a routine where you pop the ironing board up while you would otherwise be watching tv and do your shirts for a week in one go, while still watching tv.
posted by biffa at 9:53 AM on April 4, 2014

(Woman here, on a 6 month project to style her partner out of cargo pants on weekdays before he turns 40 this year. With his consent.)

Expanding on bleep above, once you get your nice basic wardrobe together, clothing storage can be just as important as quality.

I'm not sure about your weather, but I'm going to assume you're doing some amount of sweaters/layers. Wool sweaters can take some "abusive" folding, but cotton sweaters, which look nice layered over tee shirts or button downs, tend to wrinkle like crazy. I Gap fold mine and am serious about stacking/storing them carefully. I bring them out as I am getting ready and hang them on a chair to let remaining wrinkles fall out they come out okay. This applies to all clothing items. Belt hangers, trouser hangers, etc can get you out the door quickly and looking fine.

Consider a sportcoat to spruce yourself up if you're going out to dinner or just want to look pulled together. They make them with softer seams and more flex now than ye olde ones, so you can look more casual, yet put together and contemporary.

I like color but I want my mornings to be fast and easy, so I generally focus on one area for color. I have a lot of neutral bottoms (skirts, pants) in greys and blacks and then my color comes in with my sweaters or blouses. You can do a "pop" of color in a bright tee or button down under a sweater that makes you look sharper and like you're thinking about what you're wearing.

Complementary and analogous colors--I follow this a lot. You don't have to go crazy and dress like The Joker (unless that's how you roll...I kind of do). But you can look more put together if you do this with your outfits. You can tweak and soften the basic color wheel. You could do a wine colored sweater with a light green button down, for example, and also pair that shirt with a navy sweater. People notice this sort of thing, either consciously or not, because it is visually pleasing.

If you can go into a big department store like Nordstrom or Macy's, look how the mannequins are styled in the men's section, like how ties are matched with shirts and so forth. A lot of these looks will be extreme/trendy/peacocky but the point is to see color combos in action. Nordstrom helped my partner a lot when he wanted to lay in 3 nice shirt/tie combos to wear to the symphony and fancy dinner with me. This is what those people do very well for a living and they were not pushy or upsales-y.

Finally, I am not sure what your color sense is, but do be honest with yourself if you have any colorblindness (I have no idea, and no judging). It can really make a difference and there's no shame in asking for a second opinion. My partner struggles with this a bit and there is a fine line between looking contemporary or like a goofball. :) He always says "Are these black or navy? ARRGH!"

Good luck!!!
posted by Lardmitten at 9:53 AM on April 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Banning cotton from my wardrobe had an immediate positive effect.

Running shoes, off piste, are for kids and students. There is a world of comfortable shoes out there.

For shirts either chose no-iron (and straight out of the dryer) or untreated and go to the dry-cleaner. Pants are the same. No-iron is really good these days, but I still prefer a pressed shirt with a suit.

Find a set of colours you like and stick to it. That way, clothes, belts, shoes should pretty much all match regardless of what you pick. Makes mornings a lot easier; whatever you grab will work.

Yes to shaving in the shower. I've been doing it for two decades. Just a good soap lather is all I need. It's pretty easy to learn how to do a clean-face shave without a mirror.

For miscellaneous stray hairs in odd places, that's what a barber is for.
posted by bonehead at 10:10 AM on April 4, 2014

Match your socks to either your pants or your shoes.
  • Wearing jeans? Navy socks or match the shoes. They're a nice brown or such leather, right?
  • Wearing jeans and sneakers? Um, white socks, I guess? Cause your shoes are likely white? But really don't wear sneakers unless you are working out or mowing the lawn.
  • Wearing jeans and black sneakers? NOOOOOOOO....

posted by travertina at 10:16 AM on April 4, 2014

Polish your shoes and make sure the heels are not run down. Consult your dentist about teeth whitening. Get a manicure to really get the yucky skin around your nails outta there. Buffed nails look really nice.

Go to Amazon or a used-book venue and get a copy of Color for Men. You will find the clothing and hair styles dated, probably, but that's not what the book is really for.

If you wear one of your best colors near your face, you look more rested, you skin looks smoother, and your eyes look brighter. If I put on a bright green top in my palette, then I've just made myself look great in a very low-maintenance way. And, as said upthread, people notice coordination and color fit, even if they don't realize they do.
posted by jgirl at 10:45 AM on April 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Men have a hard time changing from 'crappy sneakers' to dress shoes or a nice pair of casual loafers; they think the dress shoes are too slippery or not 'my style.' Thats crap. You're just not used to it.

Look around Zappos for a pair of italian-style loafers, specifically bicycle toe. Like this.

They look good with everything, even ratty jeans. They really kick things up a notch.

You can also try Steve Madden.'re welcome.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:56 AM on April 4, 2014

It takes work at the front end but shop/try on/order clothes from a variety of stores and identify which ones you like best and always look there first. For instance, my guy knows which Levi fit (for him its 514) are the best for him, then he can seek that fit in a variety of different denims and twill/khaki pants. You want a darker straight leg denim with no weird fading for casual wear. He also knows which cut/size/line of button up shirt he likes best so he can keep an eye out for sales at Macy's (in his case, "Lauren" slim fits).

In general, if you find a shirt/jacket/pant that really works for you don't be afraid to by two or three (or more) versions of the same thing (especially shirts) or even two identical. They will stay in better shape longer and less shopping/thinking for you in the future.

Move away from tshirts except for the most casual times or outdoorsy/exercise activities, or invest in better fitting slim ones in solid colors. Even the Merona men's undershirts from Target in black or dark grey can look pulled together in a casual situation, especially layered under something (try a vneck).
posted by dahliachewswell at 11:26 AM on April 4, 2014

Hygiene: Make sure your fingernails are short and clean. Prune visible orifice hair. If you decide to not shave your whole face, always make sure you shave your neck - it makes the unshaven face look intentional and signals that you're not a slob. Trim up back of the neck hair between haircuts. Lotion up and apply lip balm before bed to make sure your skin stays nice.

Do not wear lots of cologne. Only someone hugging you should catch a whiff. Nothing is worse that having to walk in a cloud of someone else'e smell.

Clothing: Find a clothing uniform that works well on you and stick to it. You don't want to wear the exact same thing in the exact same color every day, but it's fine to wear the same style of clothing day in and day out. Plus, you'll have far fewer bad outfit days. No pleated pants and no dad jeans in light washes. Polish your shoes. Don't stuff a million things in your wallet so that it becomes an unsightly lump.

Drink lots of water. Really, it makes you look so much brighter and healthier. Example.
posted by quince at 11:48 AM on April 4, 2014

Re socks, nobody should ever be seeing them.

Also, stop buying white athletic socks.
posted by Sara C. at 11:57 AM on April 4, 2014

Buy clothes that actually fit you, even if that means getting it tailored or trying on a zillion pairs. Most American men wear clothes (especially pants) that are way too big for them. It's more flattering if your clothes actually fit your form even if some men seem to think that if they wear big clothes they'll look "bigger" (but they just look slobbier).

Also, don't wear cheap "dress clothes". Either wear casual clothing or non-cheap dress clothes.

I find even slightly long or dirty nails on a guy disgusting so always keep on top of your nails, file them, apply moisturizer.

This is a smell thing but don't wear smelly "cologne" like scented deodorant, aftershave, lotion, etc. Men's scented products tend to smell really cheap and horrible.

Unless you're significantly balding grow your hair out a few inches. Having a bit of length, rather than military short, is much more flattering to a man's face.

Oh, and big, bulky, flashy gym shoes are so ugly. Don't wear them.

Don't ever, ever, grow a goatee.
posted by Blitz at 2:26 PM on April 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

These are great answers above; I would add that a nice watch can add interest and personality to your outfit, and make you look more polished.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 2:37 PM on April 4, 2014

Short hair. It always looks snappy.

Have your clothes laundered.

Boom. Done.
posted by jpe at 3:55 PM on April 4, 2014

Maybe try out Trunk Club. It seems like just what you are looking for, although you don't specify what your budget constraints allow. I am new to the service, but so far it seems that it might fill in the gaps handily with personalized selections with low risk. If saving time and feeling confident in your selections is worth some additional dollars, you might find it a worthy addition to your personal style toolkit. (Disclaimer: I am a new customer of theirs and have no vested interest.)
posted by bmosher at 11:20 PM on April 4, 2014

Also, thanks for asking this question. I am feeling vaguely reassured with the answers here, as I seem to have mostly assimilated the overall concepts somewhere on my journey from sloppy teenage miscreant to 40-something office dweller. I have to admit that I still don't fully get the "Don't wear brown with grey" rule that my wife helpfully points out to me from time to time. Must be my partial color-blindedness or that pesky Y chromosome obscuring the obvious.
posted by bmosher at 11:39 PM on April 4, 2014

Your clothes *fit*, they don't show signs of excessive wear, and they don't have words on them (or logos) that are inappropriate for the image you want to portray. The safest choice of words and/or logos is none at all. Neither you nor your clothes smell. Your hair is trimmed in a way that makes it look intentional.

But most importantly, your clothes fit well for your body size and type. Have someone who can critique them critique you trying them on before you buy them. I've found to be great for pants in odd sizes, and T-shirts don't have to be gigantic to be comfortable.
posted by talldean at 11:18 PM on April 14, 2014

The greatest time-saving shortcut for looking good I've heard is to take a razor used for buzzcuts, put the longest (#5?) razor guard on it, then drag it on your eyebrows. Once every few months it takes me about 20 seconds to perfectly cut my eyebrow hairs to a manageable level. Looks sharp, takes only seconds.
posted by mathowie at 2:03 PM on May 13, 2014

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