Getting to grips with looking your best can be a challenge. From finding the perfect-fitting suit to ensuring all accessories are on-point, we would be lying if we said we didn’t slip up now and again.
With so much to consider when crafting an outfit, effortless is often anything but, and occasionally details get overlooked. With this in mind, we’ve identified the most common oversights that could be holding back your look and show how to go about setting things right.
Though they serve a purpose as convenient carriers for life’s little essentials, overstuffing the pockets of your jeans or chinos can quickly destroy a look. At best, this sin can undo the sharpness of a silhouette you’ve worked hard to perfect, at worst, it can get mistaken for a bizarre physical abnormality.
The quick fix for pocket bulk is to simply not carry anything in them and put everything in a weekender. Hardly practical. Plus, we don’t always want, or need, to carry a bag, do we?
One easy change that can be made is to slim down on wallet size, which is mercifully far easier than shifting your own excess. Ditch old receipts, bin expired gift cards and reduce the amount of change you carry. Better yet, swap the whole wallet out for a slimmer, more stylish leather card holder.
It’s often said that one of the first things other people notice about a man’s appearance is his shoes – and that, unsurprisingly, includes shoelaces. While it may sound like nitpicking, it’s this level of attention to detail that wins serious style kudos.
Much like underwear, laces should be replaced at regular intervals – especially when they appear worn, are dirty or have lost their anglet (the metal or plastic casing at the end of the lace). This advice doesn’t just apply to formal shoes, either. One of the easiest ways to make a pair of white sneakers appear cleaner is to wash or replace the laces with a fresh white pair.
If you don’t trust yourself to stay on top of your strings, opt for laceless footwear like monkstraps or loafers for smarter occasions, on slip-on sneakers on dress down days.
Shirt Cuff Cut-Off
Purists would argue that no man is remotely well-dressed in a suit unless half an inch of shirt cuff is peeking out from his jacket arm. While we’re not usually ones to endorse such extremist statements, cuff cut-off really does sort the sartorial men from the boys.
Of course, how much shirt should be on show varies person to person, because it is influenced by your body type. To get it right, first make sure the jacket finishes at your wrist bone. From there, taller men who wish to appear more in proportion should show minimal cuff, while shorter men looking for the illusion of height should show slightly more. For anyone in-between, the average is around half an inch to three-quarters.
Bear this in mind when putting together any formal look and you’ll be that much closer to achieving impeccable style. You could even consider doing the same thing within casual looks when layering jumpers and jackets to add extra detail.
Forgetting To Check The Weather Forecast
Outfits can be planned down to the very last detail before hitting the hay, but if you wake to pouring rain and thunderstorms that suede jacket shouldn’t be making it out the door.
Try to avoid setting outfits in stone. One of the benefits of building a solid capsule wardrobe based around pieces that all work together is that options can be kept open right up until a final scan of a weather app.
During months where the weather is known to be particularly unpredictable, it never hurts to carry an umbrella, light/heavy scarf (depending on the season) and a pair of classic sunglasses to make sure you’re ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at you.
Poor Sock Choice
Underwear, more specifically, socks, divides men into three distinct camps: those that ‘get it’ (i.e. consider socks an integral part of an overall look), those that consider them an afterthought (i.e. a mere layer of – possibly holey – fabric between feet and footwear), and lastly those that go without altogether (i.e. the mankle lot).
Speaking specifically to the middle group, there’s no excuse for assuming no one will see your socks. If your trousers fit correctly; any time you cross your legs or take the stairs, they will be on show. And therefore, treat them with as much severity as your winter coat.
The key is to stick to neutral colours for the most part, tonally matching your socks to your trousers rather than footwear or another element of an outfit such as a tie or scarf. Of course, brightly coloured or contrasting (but never novelty) socks can be worn, but make sure this is communicated as a conscious decision. Finally, treat socks as seasonal pieces. Wear thicker, textured styles in winter when warmth is needed, and opt for lightweight cotton or invisible versions that allow feet to breathe during warmer months.
Not Making Time For Your Tie
If there’s one wardrobe guarantee, it’s the tie. At some point, every man will choose/be forced to wear one – whether it’s to a wedding, job interview or funeral. And a well-knotted necktie can shift a look from average to executive level in an instant.
Few men’s tie games are top tier, so it pays to set aside time for getting this one right. The most important things to remember are to match your tie’s knot – which affects both size and how it sits – to the collar style, before adding a good dimple.
Tie Knot Guidelines
Unsure how to tie a tie that matches your shirt? Follow these general guidelines:
- Classic Point Collar: A narrow collar spread is great for elongating round faces. Keep the tie in proportion with a sleek four-in-hand knot.
- Semi-Cutaway Collar: The standard collar on most shirts. Keep it classic with a half-Windsor knot.
- Penny Collar: The less common rounded collar doesn’t give much space so opt for a slim four-in-hand.
- Spread Collar Shirt: A full Windsor, no question. Forget images of professional footballers and ‘power dressers’, the chunkiest and widest of knots is needed to fill the void when sporting a spread collar shirt.
A dimple is created as one of the final steps of tying a tie. Fold a crease in the centre of the tie at the knot just before it’s tightened. Be sure to hold the crease while tightening the knot to ensure it stays in place and remains centred.
Any man serious about style is likely to have spent a tidy sum of money on clothes, shoes and the rest over the years – so it’s only economical to look after it all.
Start by upgrading hangers. Cheap, wire versions that bend rather than support the garment won’t do investment pieces any favours. Swap them for sturdier plastic or, even better, wooden ones to help clothes keep their shape. Remember only to hang T-shirts, shirts, outerwear and trousers; hanging knitted jumpers or cardigans leads to warping.
A wardrobe shouldn’t be overly full either. Not only do garments need room to breathe, cramming too many into one space leads to creasing and also prevents you from clearly seeing the weapons at your disposal when putting together a look. Pack away out-of-season pieces, or invest in an additional rail to make the best use of any space available.
Footwear also requires a little TLC. Take the time to clean and polish them regularly, and pop a shoe tree into your best shoes after each wear to help soak up moisture and retain the leather’s shape, thereby increasing their lifespan.
Deodorant/Sweat Marks On Your Shirts
Keeping your cool is a bit of a catch-22. Deodorant marks are the enemy, but who wants sweat patches? Learning how to stay on top of both pays dividends all year round.
Granted, they’re not the most embarrassing stain of all, but streaky deodorant marks are no less unsightly, and largely unavoidable if you’re in a rush and wearing dark clothes. To get rid, some advise rubbing the mark gently with a pair of women’s tights, as the static will help loosen the residue. Chances are you don’t have a pair of these in your work bag, though, so using a damp towel is the next best option until you get home.
As for sweat patches, prevention is better than cure. If a deodorant (which masks underarm smells, but doesn’t turn off the tap) isn’t doing it for you, upgrade to an antiperspirant, which actually prevents the flow. Beyond that, put down the coffee mug and spicy lunch, as both of these send sweats glands into overdrive.
Not Ironing Your Clothes Properly
No matter how much money or time is spent on an outfit, unwanted creases will give the impression you just don’t care.
Shirts are often the crux of the problem, especially for ironing newbies. Start by ironing the collar, first on the underside, then on top. Move on to the cuffs, which should be crisply folded. Then the front two halves – first, go in between the buttons, before smoothing out the rest. Once this is done, flip it over and iron the back, starting at the top section (known as the yoke) and going around a box pleat if there is one.
Ironing the sleeves should be done last, as these are the trickiest to get right. Unlike other areas, here you are ironing two layers at once, so the key is to ensure the fabric is completely flat and smoothed down before the iron touches it. Formal dress shirts should have a crease down the sleeve, so find the existing crease starting at the shoulder and work down. For more casual shirts that don’t require a crease, try rolling up a towel and putting it inside the sleeve – you’ll be able to iron properly without the tell-tale line.
Of course, the lazy/smart (depending on how you look at it) man’s option is to buy a steamer, which works to alleviate creases by relying on heat to relax the garment fibres.
Wearing Your Tie Clip Wrong
Tie bars have been making a slow and steady comeback for a few years now, but getting them right can be more difficult than you’d expect.
The width of the tie bar, for example, is dictated by the width of the tie, and should cover about three quarters (but never hang over the edge.) As for the metal, silver is a perennial favourite as it sits well with most suit and tie combinations. For seriously formal occasions, a tie bar should be in the same metal as your watch, wedding ring and whatever other metallic accessories you are wearing.
The right length and colour can still come undone if the bar is placed incorrectly. There are dozens of wholly unnecessary mathematical formulas out there to help find the precise measurement of where a tie bar should sit. A much simpler method we prefer is to place it between the third and fourth button of the shirt.
Finally, and easier most crucially, a tie bar is not just for decoration. Its whole purpose is to prevent the tie from flapping in the wind. Be sure to clip not only both ends of the tie together but also secure it to the shirt’s placket. Once clipped on, give the tie a little pull above the clip to allow some extra slack for movement. It’s hard to look stylish when your neck is firmly pulled into place all day.