As of late, I have been trying to carry myself better and improve my personal appearance. However, I have had a difficult time figuring out how to dress nicely. I'm doing alright when it comes to casual clothing (I mostly wear boat shoes, jeans, and a nice T shirt or polo, with an occasional sweater mixed in), but I have trouble with dressing up if I need to look professional or go to a formal event. I don't have any fashion savvy mentors/friends who understand male dress (so far, I've been relying on my mother to answer my fashion questions... and I'm a college freshman. Embarrassing, eh?), so I've been floundering on my own until now. I barely understand what color matches what, let alone how to throw a complicated outfit together.
Do any of you have any good tips or resources for a young man looking to learn more about the world of fashion?
Find a good tailor. It should be especially easy if you live near a military installation.
It's easy. Easier than you might think. You can look up rule books, style guides, and read about this stuff for days...but it boils down to this. Find someone you think looks well dressed/put together, and then pay attention to the details. What makes their look so much better than the next guy? I recommend classic movies/tv shows from the 1950s and 1960s, as the styles they wore tended to be very classic, and stood the test of time.
Rule one. Everything you see on anyone in college, whether they be a student or professor, is completely wrong. Don't copy *any* of their styles.
Rule two. Clothes should be simple, but impeccable. Shoes/boots should be polished. Clothes should be unwrinkled (buy an iron) and the colors should generally complement...don't try for matchy-matchy, or you'll end up looking like your mom dressed you. The idea is to *assemble* an outfit, not pick one up off the rack.
So, let's get down to the meat of the discussion. We'll start with the obvious. A suit is a staple of any man's wardrobe. 2 or 3 pieces...the third piece is a vest, which is currently out of fashion, but which does "dress up" a suit beyond what you would expect. The color of the suit should be something that looks kinda' classic, and if you squint it should look, basically, solid.
Choices would include black, gray (there are LOTS of colors of gray), brown, blue, and even tan if you have the right complexion. Some suits also come in patterns...that's where that "squint and it should look solid" rule comes in. Since you're just starting out, try to stick with a solid, and absolutely nothing more patterned than a subtle pinstripe. And unless it fits you perfectly (never gonna' happen) take it to a tailor, and have it altered to actually *fit* you properly.
Now, you certainly can't go out of the house in *just* a suit. You've got to wear a few other pieces of clothing WITH the suit.
We'll start with the obvious...the tie. It's likely that your tie will have a pattern. Find one that you like, and use the colors from it as a guide. Maybe the pattern will have a tiny thread detail in...pink. Well, you can pick up that pink, if you want to. Remember, we're talking about an accent color...think subtle.
So, let's move on to the shirt. Again, since you're just starting out, let's keep it simple. Solid, and plain. White or off-white looks good on everybody. Pale colors, like powder-blue, also tend to look good. When you go shopping, talk to one of the older salesmen about collar shape, etc...details can take it from plain, to spectacular.
Socks. Yep, they matter. As you walk, people will see a *flash* of color from your socks. They see even more when you sit down. You can match your pants, your shoes, OR your accent color. Bottom line, though, keep it SIMPLE.
Shoes. You're just starting out. It's very difficult to go wrong with a *nice* pair of black or brown dress shoes. Black goes with more colors, but can look common. Brown needs to be worn with warmer colors, generally, but tends to look more "put together" when done right. The style should be something that's not particularly stylish...think, again, classic. Needle-pointed toes, or wide square toes, etc are not classic.
You'll also need a belt. Leather. Thin. Plain. Simple. Assuming that the buckle is metal, make sure the color of the metal matches anything else you're wearing. Silver watch/ring/buckle...same goes for gold. Get the idea?
And, that brings us to the last point. Colors. Colors can be warm, neutral, or cold. Just look at them, and the differences should be fairly obvious...red is warm, blue is cold, etc. Brown is warm, gray is fairly neutral but can swerve slightly to either side, and blacks tend to be cold.
Do you have any idea what colors look good on you? Warm colors, cold colors, spring, summer, winter, whatever?
P.S. Accessories also matter, but are beyond the scope of this post. However, if you wear glasses, a subtle pair for dressing up might be a good investment. I can recommend, from personal experience, http://www.zennioptical.com as a place to get affordable eyewear. Under $10 per pair, in many cases, and they look amazingly GOOOD!
I can't agree more with finding someone who dresses like you would like to dress and using them to see how it's done. The only real way to see what actually works is to see it in practice.
calling me well dressed is a stretch, but a lot of other people learn a lot from www.styleforum.net
Also, madmen/don draper is directly to blame for my hair.
Casual I wouldn't worry too much about. You're in college, nobody expects you to dress that great and you'll eventually get a fashion savvy friend who can take you shopping. That's honestly the best way of going about it.
Professional, aside from the very very basics (match your shoes and belt, don't wear brown) the best way is to just hang out in your nearest cbd and look at what people are wearing. The problem with books is they tend to date very very quickly (eg- the vest a poster above mentioned) and a lot of the advice you'll get on the internet is... shall we say outdated at best (by 30 odd years). Also, professional wear varies suprisingly by city and location.
I don't know that one should be embarrassed, especially at your age, to ask your parents. After all, the examples of male fashion are few and far between in this day and age, unless you want to go for that "sports mimbo" look. As well, I grew up in a Methodist Congregation that was probably as "high church" as one could get in that denominations, so there were examples there. Further, speaking for myself, I try to adapt the styles of previous generations to modern sensibilities, and find examples of that, most frequently, on Turner Movie Classic, and old black & white DVDs.
Your at college- get yourself a couple of good female friends- and I mean friends. Not with benefits, not with any other idea other then hanging with friends.
I realized in middle school that girls can change their clothes, wear make-up , change a hairstyle etc etc. Men- well we put on a different shirt? grow a beard/tasche/goatee- we're more limited.
From an early age I decided I would take care of the small things I could to increase 'my appearance' to the fairer sex.
That means always getting a good haircut to suit you and not the latest fashion, paying attention to my clothes and shoes and showering- alot lol- it was highschool afterall!!
My wife now wont leave the house without asking me about her outfit- she has never bought me clothes- I do that myself and she will take me shopping for my opinion.
Now I am far from a "dandy' but I had many girl 'friends' through highschool and into adulthood. The advice a female will give you without actually knowing it- They comment on things all the time.
Basically I think this was a really long post when all I was saying was 'try getting an allie in the enemies camp'
Also there are so many media outlets now- find someone you admire or like how they dress or carry themselves. The idea is to follow their style but do it your own way. I.E dont read Esquire and go out a buy some $300 jacket because someone is shown wearing it. Take the idea of what details on the outfit you like and then incorporate them
Good luck on your journey- if all else fails go understated- will carry you further then any flash ever will.
I'm 24 (so I can relate to today's modern trends in college)
I work in a business casual environment and if you're looking for a nice tailored look that's modern and stylish to look professional, while also staying a slight cut above the rest of your peers I think I can help you out.
I get my shirts from 2 places
I get my pants from 1 place
I get the same set of loafers (I get them restored, or buy a new pair if I beat the crap out of them)
I don't want to post the websites for fear that it might get looked at as spam, but i'm also curious as to which occasions you're dressing for
I will message you with the brands and styles I get if you're interested.
It helped me, actually, i think this is how i ended up in AoM...
Observation, advice, experience. Read and look at pictures, see what well-dressed men are wearing (both those you encounter in your daily life and those you see on tv, in film, etc). Listen to the advice of those who know something about the subject, whether she's your mother or a clerk at a store (though of course not all clerks know what they're talking about). Finally, you're going to have to try things yourself and see how they look. You'll make mistakes, but it's better to make them at your age than in a few years when you have a big job interview, or are getting married and will be looking at the photos of what you chose to wear on your wedding day for the rest of your life.
This site has plenty of good advice in the dressing and grooming sections on the main site and here in the forums. Here area few other reading suggestions:
http://anaffordablewardrobe.blogspot.com/ A good blog about looking good on a tight budget.
http://asuitablewardrobe.dynend.com/ A blog about dressing with a nearly unlimited budget.
http://blog.brooksbrothers.com/ Brooks Brothers has a style site with some good suggestions.
http://www.blacktieguide.com/index.html The best guide to formal and semi-formal attire on the web.
That's a start, and you'll be able to link from those sites to others. There's no definitive guide, just the opinions and tastes of various folks. Some are better than others, but sorting through them will help sharpen your own sense of style.
Moleskin trousers are a great substitute for jeans.