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.
Considering their purpose as convenient carriers for everything from phones to keys and wallets, overstuffed pockets can quickly destroy a look. At best, this sin can undo the sharpness of a silhouette you’ve worked hard to perfect, and at worst 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 bag. 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 Christmas 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 card holder.
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 the 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 body type. To get it right, first make sure any 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.
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). Feel free to get creative, too. Think of shoelaces as a subtle way of customising an outfit; much like a pocket square or cufflinks. Try new colours, patterns or even fabrics to achieve an individual look.
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.
Poor Sock Choice
Socks divide 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 coat.
The key is to stick to neutral colours for the most part, tonally matching your socks to your trousers rather than footwear or directly to another element of an outfit such as a tie or scarf.
Of course, brightly coloured and contrasting socks can be worn, but make sure this is communicated as a conscious decision, rather than a regrettable mistake. Similarly, feel free to throw in the occasional low-key print for interest, but steer well clear of anything novelty.
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.
Forgetting To Check The Weather Forecast
Outfits can be planned down to the very last detail before hitting the sack, but if you wake to pouring rain and thunderstorms that suede jacket shouldn’t be making it out the door. No matter how brilliantly executed a look is, if it isn’t weather-appropriate, it will fall flat.
Try to avoid setting outfits in stone. One of the benefits of building a solid capsule wardrobe based around varying 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 sunglasses to make sure you’re ready for whatever Mother Nature throws.
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 neck tie can shift a look from average to executive level in an instant.
Few men’s tie games are top tier, so it pays to make the effort to set aside time in the mornings specifically 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 what tie knot you should be opting for? 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 to only hang T-shirts, shirts, outerwear and trousers; hanging knit jumpers or cardigans leads to warping, which will affect how they both look and fit.
A wardrobe shouldn’t be overly full either. If you’re currently squashing all of your clothes together, consider alternative storage solutions. 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. Consider sifting through to see if there’s anything not pulling its weight that can go to the charity shop. Pack away out-of-season pieces, or invest in an additional rail to make the best use of any space available.
Shoes also need 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 – not just during the summer months.
Granted, they’re not the most embarrassing stain of all, but deodorant marks are no less unsightly and largely unavoidable if you’re in a rush and wearing dark clothes. To get rid, experts 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, as there’s no quick fix that will get rid of those tide marks on a white shirt. Forgot to apply deodorant this morning (don’t worry, we’ve all done it – right)? Put down the coffee mug and spicy lunch, as caffeine sends sweats glands into overdrive, and try to keep your pits covered until you get home. Before washing, apply a spot of vinegar to the underarm of the shirt for a stain-removal boost. Once clean, hang on the line to let the sun’s natural UV rays bleach the remaining blemish away.
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. In this case, always read the care label to decide which heat setting to use – a silk or wool blend shirt, for example, requires a much lower heat than one cut from pure cotton or polyester. Equally, shirts should be ironed while slightly damp, so make use of the iron’s water spray feature.
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 is dictated by the width of the tie. This sounds simple enough, but getting it spot on will make all the difference. Wearing a narrow tie? Go for a short, half-inch bar. Opted for a standard tie? The half-inch will still work, but push it up a size for a more impactful look. As a non-negotiable rule, don’t let the tie clip go over three-quarters of the tie’s width; or worse, hang over the edge.
When it comes to 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.