Getting started with anything is tough. Trying anything new is hard. There are so many style "rules" now, and it can be hard to decipher which ones you should focus on. This post is for the gentleman just beginning his journey.
For some of you, this might seem a little elementary. This is just the first part of a 3-part series, covering intermediate and advanced style tips at a later date. But read this if you feel like brushing up on the basics.
If you're ready to make sure you're covering the basics, let's dive in...
8 Beginner Style Mistakes
1. Mismatching your belt and shoes
This beginner style advice is the first fashion rule most men ever learn. If you're wearing a brown or black belt, your shoes should match. This is something that can easily be taken care of. To really simplify it, get a "brown set" and a"black set" of both a belt and shoes. this way you can just mix and match your outfit.
To break it down, even more, make sure that the colors of both your shoes and belt match exactly, or at least very close. Most guys understand that they shouldn't wear a black belt with brown shoes, but I cant tell you how many times I've seen guys wear something like a camel brown belt with cognac-colored shoes. While this isn't as bad as completely mismatching colors, it can certainly throw your appearance off.
2. Buttoning your suit jacket or vest all the way down
The last button on your jacket should always remain unfastened. Same goes for your waistcoat (vest) but fewer men know this rule.
It's counter-intuitive, but it's still an old style rule you need to abide by. Legend has it that this trend was started by King Edward VII because he grew so heavy in his mid-section, that he was unable to fasten the last button on his jacket. The trend grew from there.
3. Wearing clothing to big (or small) for you
Since I exclusively work with men, I run into a unique problem. instead of always wanting to look their best, many men will opt for comfort instead. This means baggier clothing that looks awful on them. Here's the kicker: Clothing that fits you well can be just as comfortable as the baggier items. I also think men have an aversion to change and it's not physical comfort that they're after, so much as it is a psychological comfort. If you fall into this camp, don't sweat it. After about a week of wearing a new style of clothing, you'll begin to feel comfortable. Seeing the positive reactions of those around you will help the transition as well.
Take a look at your shoulder seams, the hem of your pants, the sleeve length, the overall fit. Is there a lot of extra fabric around your waist area? Do you need to move down a suit size? Are the buttons on your jacket stretching? These are all questions to ask yourself and can all be fixed, usually inexpensively, by a good tailor.
4. Not having a congruent image
There's a guy you know at work. He always looks like he belongs in a catalog with the way he dresses. He's consistently polished and put together. Hair is in place, the tie is perfectly knotted, everything he wears just works for him and it's hard to even put your finger on why.
Then the company picnic comes around, and our usually dapper hero rolls up in cargo shorts, thong sandals, and an oversized t-shirt, sporting a mustard stain from last years picnic. In just an instant, his whole image falls apart. You'll think differently of him from now on, and so will everyone else. He has an incongruent image.
Many guys will invest time into their professional appearance, but when they're off the clock, everything changes. Why would you invest so much into your professional appearance without doing the same to your personal appearance? You should value your personal image just as much as your professional one.
5. Wearing randomly selected colors
I was very guilty of this when I was younger. You'll see something in the store that you like. Maybe the pattern sticks out to you, it's your favorite color, or you saw the color on someone else and it looked fantastic. So you buy it without putting too much thought into it and low and behold, it looks awful. The problem is that the colors that work well for someone else will probably not work as well for you. We all have individual characteristics like our skin color, eye color, hair color, etc. that play a factor in how any given color will look on you.
There are many ways to determine your best colors. It's part of every consultation I do for guys because it's so important. Without getting too in-depth, you need to determine if brighter colors or more muted colors will look better on you. I can't stress how much more in-depth this goes but to keep it simple, let's look at this quick example.
Here is an example of the color red. On the left, we have a muted red. On the right, we have a more bright red.
Take two pieces of the same colored clothing, one brightly colored and one more muted, and put them on or put them near your face. You want to see which color enhances your face, and which one detracts from it.
You're looking for:
Clarity to your skin
The skin to look vibrant and healthy
The eyes to have clarity and brightness
Another test you can do is put on a bright piece of clothing and turn away from the mirror. Stand facing away from the mirror for a few seconds and then quickly spin around. Where does your eye go? If you are quickly distracted by the color of your shirt, it's probably overpowering you.
If you want an even more basic answer, work with the staple colors for men: Black, white, charcoal, and navy. These colors are all safer options for men and pair really well with each other. A large part of your wardrobe should be made up of these colors.
Take inventory of your closet. Do your shelves look like a rainbow of clothing? If so, you have too many colors that probably aren't working for you.
6. Buying without trying
Shopping really isn't all that enjoyable of an experience. There are lines, crowds, and enough choices to make your head spin.
You just want to get in and out so you skip trying on some of your items and once you get home and give them a go, then just don't look good. This creates even more frustration and a deeper hatred for shopping.
Forgo a headache, Try everything on before you buy it. Everything. Nothing is created equal and you really need to see it on yourself before you commit to it. I've seen something on a model or in a magazine that I was sure would fit me great, but after trying it on, I realize it's hardly what my mind built it up to be.
To help with this, only buy one or two items at a time. Go in with exactly what you want in mind and try everything until you find the perfect item. Only shopping for one or two items per trip will help you focus on finding what's right, not just what will do.
If it's not equal to, or better than the best looking outfit you already own, do not buy it.
7. Mismatching your metals
If you have a gold shoe buckle, a silver watch band, and a gunmetal black belt buckle, you're doing it wrong. There are plenty of great ways to mix some of your metals, but for simplicity's sake, match all the metals you are wearing with one another. Each person usually has a metal color that looks best on them, which is part of what I cover in a color analysis and I'll write about that in one of the following posts, but for now, just focus on matching everything together.
This also goes for other accessories too. Let's say you have a silver band watch. Which of these two bracelets do you think would pair best with it?
If your metal color is "cool" (such as silver), use cool colored accessories. If your metal color is "warmer" (like gold), go for warmer colored accessories such as brown.
8. Keeping items you don't wear
Don't get into the trap of hanging on to clothing you no longer wear or keep around for sentimental reasons. If you haven't worn it in a year, get rid of it. See what items have been pushed to the back of your closet and pick out what you no longer need. Maybe you've outgrown things or some items just don't pair with anything else you own. Just save yourself a headache and get rid of them. It helps save space for better items and makes choosing an outfit a lot less of a struggle.
Bonus tip: If your items are in good condition and not too old, take them to a consignment store where you can get some cash or store credit and buy then buy something that will really work well for you.
That's all for now gents. Eight quick beginner tips to help you make the most of your image. If you want some more beginner tips, check out the Ten Must-Have Wardrobe Items I listed a while back.
P.S. If you want to get some more individualized attention, get yourself a complimentary image assessment to see where you can make some improvements.