Where Men Can Become Better Gentlemen

Clothing 101

A man and his clothes are important and this broad overview looks at Buying; Care; Color Co-ordination; Color & Patterns; Comfort; Fashion; Fit; Logo Wear; Occasion; Proportion; Suits & Separates; Thought & Effort; Uniform; and Work Clothes.

Buying Clothes

Not all inexpensive clothing is poor quality and not all expensive clothing is good quality – but these are the exceptions. Learn to identify quality materials and clothes, and be prepared to pay for them (sales are great to watch for). Once you have reached your full adult size (your late teens/early 20’s) quality attire will pay for itself and save you time in the long term.

Take your time with regard to your purchases: scrutinize the quality, build, size, color pattern, and style (fashion). Will it stand up to the test of time - will I still be able to wear this in 20+ years time? What about it’s fit – are you comfortable - is it tight, restrictive, loose, baggy, too big, too small. Perhaps the best indicators are: Is it perfect? Would James Bond wear this? If the answers are yes, go buy – if not, if there is any level of doubt, don’t buy it!

Expect to build a quality wardrobe over decades! Build it with one or two key items at a time: re-purpose from existing items or thrift shops and buy new (find and use manufacturers that you like who have quality at good prices).

Clothing Care

Take care of your clothes. Hang them up or fold them when not in use. Carry out repairs as necessary and dispose of (give to charity or recycling center) when they become irreparable or threadbare. Your best friend, with regard to clothing, is the iron. Use it to make your garments look fresh and sharp, do not go for the “I fell asleep in my clothes” look.

Color Co-ordination

Learn to color co-ordinate according to you skin coloring and to the garments you have chosen. This means not dressing from top-to-toe in the same color. Use different colors and/or hues to provide contrast. Wearing a black shirt, black pants and black shoes may result in you fading into the background (especially at night!). Consider wearing a classic white shirt or, if your skin coloring permits, a shirt in a darker or bolder color may be employed (e.g. scarlet, crimson, emerald, orange, pink etc.); Rather than wear navy blue trousers, navy jacket and shirt (because you believe they match), try a lighter blue shirt instead and a chocolate/caramel jacket.

Colors & Patterns

The color and pattern of our attire is a powerful tool to use. Some are outlandish and arrest people’s attention, in a negative manner. Others highlight and compliment our natural tones so it is important for a gentleman to identify which work best and which do not. Unless you wish to look like a clown, never use bold colors and patterns for your shirts, jackets and trousers. You may just be able to “pull it off” if one of these items of clothing have these attributes (e.g. tartan/plaid trousers or jacket), but be wary!

Comfort

Most men dress for comfort and may be found in tracksuit pants/shorts and t-shirts. This is fine if pursuing a sport or some such physical activity. It may even just be passable for lounging around at home (when no one else is around) but at other times/places? Let me ask you when the last time was, when you heard someone compliment you on “how comfortable you looked”? Is the answer: “Never”? The focus then is to dress for success, not comfort. The key to this is to look in the mirror and ask yourself if the clothes you are wearing distinguish you. Tip: the answer you should always be able to get back from yourself is “Yes”. If “No”, go and change!

If you do not feel comfortable in a certain type of attire, but it is good classic style it can be because the clothes do not fit you correctly (see “Fit” below); or you are not familiar with wearing those garments. In this latter case the simple solution is to wear it more frequently so you do become familiar with it. Someone who is not used to wearing a certain type of clothing looks slightly agitated and restless; they can be seen frequently adjusting their clothes. A typical example is the tie and collar - many people find them too restrictive, with a feeling of being choked. Assuming you have the right size collar, this feeling can simply be your familiarity of wearing open necked clothing. The solution: wear a shirt and tie on a frequent basis (even when home alone) to get used to it. You get to a stage where it becomes second nature and you do forget about it. Many men have to wear a tie and collar to work and manage successfully without dying of asphyxiation. Your clothing should feel like a second skin and this is projected in how confident and at ease you are.

Clothes & Fashion

Do not buy clothes to be fashionable, buy them to look stylish and elegant. Just because a current celebrity is wearing a particular style of clothing does not mean you should go out and emulate their style. Certainly imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but: the style may not suit your body shape or skin tone; it is likely to go out of fashion in a few years time; and often these people have more money than good taste!

Fit

Buy clothes that fit you and flatter your shape. Shirts and jackets can do a lot to hide a bit of spread around your stomach, but if they are too small (with the buttons straining); they only manage to accentuate what you wish to camouflage! You not only look good but you’ll feel good and comfortable if your clothes fit correctly. It doesn’t matter how much or how little money you spend on your clothes – if they do not fit, they will never look good.

If you are not sure of your correct size, or you may have added/lost a few pounds, ask in the shop for an assistant to measure you – most will be able to do this. Alternatively have someone measure you before you go shopping. Carry your measurements around with you on a card in your wallet. You never know when you might see a bargain and it’s frustrating if you cannot remember your measurements. Also, for travelers, make sure you know your measurements for any destination countries you travel to.

Do not buy clothes to meet your idealized measurements but your actual measurements, as they are. Do not succumb to the idea of buy smaller, especially in the waist, in the belief you will lose some weight and thus fit into them. Most garments will still fit you even if you lose a few pounds and larger losses of weight, can be rectified by having your clothes altered. After puberty, the days of buying clothes that you will “grow into” is well past.

Remember: When you buy items “off the peg” in shops they are cut to fit as many people as possible (which is usually on the larger side), within that measurement range. Changeable fashions also determine how baggy or tight clothing is going to be in any given season. We are all unique and thus it is easy to understand why so many people wear ill-fitting clothes. You may be fortunate and have an average body size which matches with the average cut of retail clothes, but still, not everything will fit you correctly. The solution: have your clothes altered to fit you.

Find a good local tailor and form a close relationship with them. They can do remarkable things to “off the peg” clothes. For instance: Trousers can be: shortened, waists taken in, flares tapered, turn-ups (or cuffs) put in or let down. Small alterations, such as these, can cost around $15. Greater alterations will be more expensive so expect to pay $55. As a guide, budget for an additional 20-30% of the price you pay for (new) garments, to be made available for alterations.

Alternatively, the shop you purchase your garments from might offer a free alteration service (how many of us shop at a specific retailer because they have an excellent alteration service?); you may wish to undertake these alterations yourself; or you may have a friend/relative who can do this for you. In my personal experience though, it is hard to match the level of a skilled tailor. Also tailors are not usually swayed by the current fashion and are not salesmen (in the ugliest sense). You can openly discuss what you are trying to achieve (even if you do not know the technical parlance) and they will oblige – just using words like “traditional” and “classic” will often suffice. Tailors are usually very good at discussing the options available and can be invaluable in helping you define your own “personal style”.

Best of all is to have custom made tailored clothing. This is not as price restrictive as it once was and this can be achieved for less than most “designer” clothes. Once your tailor knows your dimensions, it is simple to acquire professional, formal, and casual clothes which fit just right, and you will look like a million dollars (and we don’t mean a million dollars in loose change).

Top Tip: standard sized clothes fit better if you are in good physical shape! The way clothes hang and drape are so much better when your own body meets ideal proportions and sizes. Yet another reason to keep fit.

Logo Wear

Logo-wear garments have sports team, product names, company emblems, and phrases on. The simple rule here is never wear logo-wear on the street as they are inelegant; they show no individual style or imagination. If you are serious about refining your outward image you know what to do. Logo athletic/sports/designer wear are for keeping fit, wearing at the gym or playing sports – perhaps even undertaking DIY work around the home. If you must show a logo at all, make sure it is small, discreet, subtle and/or invisible.

Clothes for the Occasion

Dress appropriately for the occasion; it is a matter of respect and therefore good manners. If you are uncertain what is appropriate for a gathering, ask the host/hostess. If still not certain: overdress. You can always remove a tie; leave a jacket in the car etc.

Your Proportion & Clothes

As discussed in “Fit” above, retail clothes bought “off the rack” are only available in standard sizes, and are constructed according to current fashion. It's true that with alterations a reasonable fit can be achieved. However, there are so many missed opportunities for improved customization, by comparison with tailor made clothing. For example with a jacket (separate or suit) details like gorge height and closure; lapel width; and button stance can be made to suit the proportions of your body.

Having your clothes made with the right cuts according to your body’s proportions will greatly enhance your appearance. All the best elegant dressers know this and wear clothing which highlights and accentuates their body's natural features and strengths. Whilst certain body types can clash with certain articles of clothing this does not mean being confined to a particular style. A key aspect of dressing well is to identify the clothing proportions that work for your body (an excellent tailor will prove invaluable in helping you with this identification); and ensuring you only ever purchase garments with these proportions.

Suits & Separates

A suit is a suit; the pants and jacket are meant to be worn together. So do not wear them separately. Doing so results in uneven wear between the two items and may require one of them to be cleaned more frequently than the other. Across time this will result in one of them becoming lighter in color and thus no longer a “suit”.

A jacket and pants of the same color, bought at different times/places, does not constitute a suit when combined together. Do not wear them together as closer inspection (something women tend to notice more than men) will show even subtle differences in tone and material types; they are called separates because they are meant to be worn separately, thus the jacket and pants should contrast with each other.

Thought & Effort

You should look as if you have put some thought into your attire but it should not look as if you have studied your clothing in minute detail (e.g. your tie and pocket square should not match.). The key is “simple elegance” – you look and feel at your best when you have put some effort into your ensemble. As a guide, you should not be surprised to discover yourself spending 10-15 minutes each time you choose your ensemble for the forthcoming day/night ahead.

Uniform

Work out your own signature pieces of uniform – standard items of clothing you wear (will wear) for specific functions. For example a typical casual uniform is sneakers, jeans and a T-shirt. Your uniform might upgrade this by dispensing with the T-shirt and replacing it with a polo shirt; the jeans might be replaced with moleskin pants or cords; the sneakers with suede shoes etc. The world is you oyster…pick or check your unifom and upgrade as you can – in the future your polo shirt might become a shirt!

"Work" Clothes

Ensure you know the original uses of your clothing and wear traditional “work” clothes sparingly. Such attire includes: Denim, T-shirts, Cowboy paraphernalia (i.e. hats, boots, belts) etc. Obviously, if you are going to wear these clothes, use them in their correct setting. For example, cowboy attire worn if you live and work in a USA state such as Texas and/or on an American livestock ranch!



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