Men's Fashion: Help Me with Style Advice for Dudes!

Reader John asked me a while back about what I think he should wear when he hits the “‘parties with women in little black dresses’ scene,” and I am here to help! And you guys may need to help, too, since I fear my “help” will prove woefully inadequate. As in, “I think pants are a good idea.”

First, though, let me tell you what the guys who attended the prom were wearing: crap! That is what they were wearing! Total crap! One guy showed up in cargo shorts; a couple of them had on jeans. To a prom! The unmitigated audacity!

It wasn’t all bad, though: the best-dressed guy there was wearing a somewhat nautical tux jacket (white lapel piping on basic black) with the appropriate shirt, bowtie, and cummerbund, but he had on a pair of shorts with lobsters emblazoned all over them. It sounds horrible, but it completely fit the kitsch “Rock Lobster” theme, and he won many cool points and looked cute, too. The second-best-dressed guy had on khakis and a light blue dress shirt. It totally went downhill from there, what with the bare calves and the unholy amount of plaid.

Here are my thoughts on that, though: I think men in general tend to be suspicious of events where they may have to dress up, especially if said events are organized by ladies, involve dancing, and especially if they include the word “prom.” Thus, I theorize, they tend to dress down with the idea of preserving their tenuous masculinity in front of their male peers.

Well, I’m sure that all the unshaven, jeans-clad boys at the prom party thought they were just as manly as ever, but they did not succeed in impressing any ladies, that is for sure. (We forgave them, of course, since it is all in fun, and the drunker we all got the less appalling it all seemed.)

So what would impress the ladies? Real big-boy trousers, for starters. That means no jeans, no shorts, and nothing with cargo pockets. If ladies are in LBDs and heels and Real Jewelry, there is just no place for jeans. It is time to put away childish things, guys! For the fit, I am a big fan of the flat front. Pleats flatter no one, let’s face it. I think pleated men’s trousers might actually be illegal in France anyway, and for that I commend the French.

Moving on! Dress shirts that fit well and are crisply ironed (& stain-free! — I only add this because I know too many people who need to be reminded of it, not because I assume John has stains in his shirts or something) always look sexy, in my opinion. Depending on the fanciness factor, a tie is optional. (But if the invitation says something like “black tie optional,” a tie is in fact NOT optional. In that case the “option” is a choice between a regular suit and a tuxedo.) If it’s not that fancy, I kind of like the less dressy look of an open-collared shirt and a sport jacket. If no one else is wearing a jacket, you can take it off, but it elevates the outfit over the boring khakis/dress-shirt combo that is seen in office cubicles worldwide.

Generally, clothes that fit well and are crisp will always look nice. I also think something more interesting than the boring office color palette of khaki/grey/white/light blue would be a good idea. Guys sometimes seem suspicious of color, which I don’t get. Wear something that complements your skin tone or eye color and that won’t fade into the background.

As for hair, I don’t know. I have no idea how to start describing men’s hair! I personally like short hair that’s a little messy or spiky on top à la Jamie Bamber, which a lot of guys in Zembla wear (excepting the hippies and their stinky dreads, of course), but the style that seems most popular here in New Wye is a bit longer on the top with messy bangs. A little bit Beatles bowl-cut and a little bit Zac Ephron. As to what may be fashionable in France, I have no idea.

Wait, since when have I ever just stopped when I didn’t know something? The magic of will resolve this issue! And here we go. What a fabulous website. It promises hair that is “bluffant et agréable à la fois.” Fabulueux. Take their advice at your own risk, however. (Um, actually, that disclaimer applies to my advice, too.)

If I look at that French men’s hair website any longer I am going to fall into some kind of internet fashion abyss, so I had better wrap this up. Here are my basic rules of fashion:

1. Clothes should fit well. (No baggy trousers or saggy knees or highwaters.)

2. Clothes should be classic but not boring.

3. You shouldn’t have to think about your clothes all night — instead, think about your awesome dance moves!

OK, readers, male or female, please join in and advise! (Suomichris, I am looking at you! You are a guy and are fashionable!) I seriously know nothing much about men’s fashion. I was just pretending here! Help John go win the heart of a foxy French lady!

16 thoughts on “Men's Fashion: Help Me with Style Advice for Dudes!

  1. HA HA HA May 30, 2008 / 9:03 pm

    With that little black dress shit, wear a suit with a white shirt. A good suit, which in your case is a boring suit.

    “Not boring” is good only if you don’t fuck it up, but if you haven’t spent your life thinking about clothes you will fuck it up and you’ll look like a clown, so don’t risk it. Go somewhere stiflingly respectable, where they have stuff on racks but there’s a tailor to make things actually fit. Don’t wear a clever tie. She’ll think you’re a pediatrician or a unicyclist, or worse. I think with a suit the shoes have to be black. In any case, leather, shiny, with leather soles. It’s a horrible waste of money, but women (except my girlfriend, who’s (not coincidentally) weird) seem to pay close attention to men’s shoes. I think that’s because they’re crazy.

    I never heard of men knowing what colors suit their complexion. What the hell kind of foolishness is that? Jesus!

    Key point: If you dress like a Real Adult, women will often mistake you for one. Past about age 27, and sometimes even earlier, they start to think that’s hot.

    Note: The above misconceptions about women may not hold true for the French. But don’t risk it.

  2. Alfina the Vague May 30, 2008 / 9:47 pm

    OK, fine, maybe men don’t know what colors suit their complexions, but it’s a valid point! You can always ask a friend or a sales person about color choices. Anyway, there are some basic things – if you are pale and have blonde hair, yellow is not a great idea (too washed-out looking). On the other hand if you are more olivey, medium greys or grey-greens might not be great (but you could wear more saturated colors, or lighter colors, or warmer colors). I myself wear green all the time because it matches my eye color. It’s not too delicate a science. Whatever, just ask someone! Or go with neutrals! No one will think neutrals are a bad choice.

    HA HA HA has a good point about the clever ties (avoid!) and the shoes. We do notice that — and occasionally other guys will, too. A (straight, not that it matters) male colleague of mine told me he was shocked at a fellow male colleague’s choice of shoe at a recent conference.

    And, I’m pretty sure those do hold true in France, possibly moreso.

  3. Silliyak May 30, 2008 / 10:01 pm

    Don’t be or become retarded. The language police will haul your ass off. Gotta go, there’s a knock at the door…

  4. Alfina the Vague May 30, 2008 / 10:03 pm

    ALSO! OMG, that French hair website is so freaking great! There’s an article about haircare that advises guys to wash their hair everyday because it is good for one’s “well-being,” and to make it “agreeable to touch on any/all occasions.” For the seduction! OMG.

  5. Timothy May 31, 2008 / 12:50 am

    Suits – Remember they are just clothes. Clothes you probably don’t want to spill things on, but just clothes at the end of the day. This is the key to looking hawt: because it keeps you relaxed about the business, and that is better.

    One of my favorite outfits is pretty simple: medium grey suit, black shirt, tie. A nice tie, maybe a blue/grey that goes with the rest to add a touch of color but not a huge neon sign. Wingtips are a must with this, good wing tips. More modern styles of men’s dress shoes look, well, retarded. Like floppy clown pilgrim shoes, and nobody wants that. Go with the classics.

    On a narrow frame, like mine, I think single breasted is the only way to go. And learn to tie a goddamn full Windsor already. The half looks sloppy, the four-in-hand can be pulled off if you’re a TV anchor, shell can bite me. Also, bowties are for weddings and Tucker Carlson, so skip that noise. French cuffs and cuff links can up the class factor, but I think studs are overdoing it unless you’re at a wedding.

  6. Sho May 31, 2008 / 5:34 pm

    I really don’t have any experience in this category of fashion as I have yet to purchase a suit of my own. (This is probably something I should remedy before I complete my master’s degree. Currently scouring for advice and contemplating trip to Men’s Wearhouse. Also, considering the use of financial aid for fashion needs.)

    However, this guy’s advice seems useful and practical.

  7. Alfina the Vague June 1, 2008 / 3:01 am

    Timothy – I think that is really good advice re the suit being just clothes. Honestly, whatever anyone wears to a party or interview or anything else: it should feel comfortable. Otherwise, you’ll be pulling at the clothes all night. Trust me, I have been in a fantastic dress and spent all night messing with the neckline wondering if my girls were going to pop out and say hello. It distracts a person from having fun if the clothes aren’t comfy.

    Also! Great example with the black shirt! See, that’s still neutral and thus mostly unimpeachable, but a black shirt is still a little unexpected and thus a little fun and different and not boring. Nice!
    I like the concept!

    Sho – Good resource! I think I agree with the guy who wrote in there. He’s Asian (-American?) and mentioned black as a go-to color. I love it when people with dark hair wear black. It looks super slick, I always think. I’m always wishing for dark hair to wear with my many black things. Blonde hair always shows up on your shoulder if you drop a stand or two. Also, it’s just not as glam as black hair + black clothes. I bet you could rock a black suit. RocK on, dude!


    Are you looking for suit advice, for your general suit-wearing life events? Or are you looking for how to take pieces of your already-existing professional wardrobe and wear them on a night out? I was thinking the latter…but the guys here have some great tips if you’re looking for suit advice. I think I was already assuming you had a suit and similar dressy pieces to work with.

    Anyway, because I feel I need to defend my call for color, I looked at the Banana Republic site, (BR is always fashionable, but they may be either very much more than your price range, or very much less. Depends on where you are in life. Anyway, their basic philosophy of how things look is one I embrace. Their men’s monogram collection illustrates all the principles I endorse: good fit, crisp, good use of color. Check it out here. That grey jacket and orange sweater pretty much makes my day.)

  8. Alexis June 1, 2008 / 3:04 pm

    I personally see no point in cross-dressing if it doesn’t involve a cravat and cufflinks.

  9. suomichris June 1, 2008 / 9:18 pm

    Oh god, here I go saying some ideas about fashion…

    First, I think the suit is less important. Buy a suit. A nice one. Some pin strips might be good. It should fit, and be easily neutral (“easily neutral” is French for “black”). You truly own an outfit by (gasp!) accessories (if you are not French, you can use the word “hardware” here to preserve your masculinity).

    I say this because men’s dress-up is much more constrained than women’s (we don’t get prints, or different cuts of dresses, etc.). Most men use this as an excuse to do as little as possible. Throw on a suit, shirt, tie, and you are good to go! This is a lie. You are not good to go. You only have a few things to work with, so they must WORK, people. Here is my list, in order of importance (I exclude suit because it is a given if the event is dressy, and you can’t really do much with that).

    Face: Surprise, the first thing isn’t even a clothing! Men can be very remiss in their skin care. Do not do this. All of your work wearing nice clothes and not getting too drunk will be completely foiled by the dandruff flaking from the end of your nose.

    You should shave or trim facial hair before the event. If you have facial hair, this means shaving the parts that do not have full coverage, and blending face to side burns to head. Seriously. It is more work to have facial hair, I have discovered.

    You should moisturize your face. Every day. Probably more. But, at the very least, moisturize before an event. You might use a post-shave cream and a moisturizer. There are now men’s skin care lines, so you can buy very masculine products (all monochrome, with features clearly detailed in a bulleted list) without even looking at something that has a flower on it.

    Shirt: The center of your outfit (think ‘fulcrum’ or ‘keystone’ if you must). As Vague says, your shirt should compliment you: skin tone, eyes, hair color, etc. A quick trip to a nice department store (say, Saks) and you should be able to find an employee who can help you figure out a couple of colors that would work for you. Then, buy shirts of that color (but go to Macy’s first). Stay simple: solid colors, basic patterns, none of those asymmetrical “OOPS I dropped this shirt on the freeway” numbers.

    Shoes: Black. Do not wear brown dress shoes with a black suit, unless the brown is very dark and you have been practicing fashion for at least 6 months. Athletic shoes are not okay. They should be made from leather, and should probably hurt your feet. Remember this mantra: if they do not hurt, they are not cute enough.

    Belt: You must wear one. At all times. There is no exception. It should match your shoes in that it should be: a) the same color, and b) also made from a dead animal.

    Hair: Your should have at least three ways of styling your hair: an everyday, a formal, and a “night out.” I agree with Vague that short and neat is best. The “night out” should be a little wild, up and messy. “Everyday” should be not quite as messy, but still casual. “Formal” should be relatively neat: use product on the sides to stick it down, make it look like you took your time. BUT, and this is the key, DO NOT do your hair like you are going to have fourth-grade pictures taken. Your “formal” should still have a hint of fun, a little messy, but restricted to the top (and mostly to the front). You do not want your hair to be so controlled that you look like Trump.

    For advanced fashion users: Everything should match. You are like a well-designed product line, where everything goes together. This means you should have a wallet and a watch to match each possible color of shoes that you have.

    Okay, I think I have to stop now or the gay mafia will come and beat me up for sharing Family secrets.

  10. Alfina the Vague June 2, 2008 / 12:31 am

    Alexis – Oh, sounds dapper. You’ll need a pocket square and possibly some spats!

    Suomichris – I knew you’d have great advice! I should have just recruited you for a guest post! I love your philosophy of 3 hairdos. (Incidentally, that’s also a philosophy embraced by that French site, so we know you are correct!)

  11. suomichris June 2, 2008 / 12:36 pm

    Oh man, and I didn’t even look at that French site. I am that gay!

    Also, one important addition…

    Socks: You must wear them, and they must match your shoes and completely cover your ankle.

  12. Sho June 2, 2008 / 3:01 pm

    Vague: Thanks for the vote of confidence on my wearing of a suit! I actually saw some decent-looking black suits on the Banana Republic website that were quite affordable. If I do purchase something off the rack, though, I would make sure to take it to a tailor so that it can be better fitted.

    Suomichris: Dang but that is a lot of good advice. I don’t think I can style my hair three kinds of ways (unless you count “bedhead,” “normal,” and “helmet” as styles), but I will try and experiment. Asian hair can be very stubborn and inflexible, it seems.

    The one piece of general fashion advice that I just started following recently is to wear t-shirts that fit well. T-shirts that hang off your body don’t look as flattering as ones that are a little more snug and show off your body shape. I used to wear a large and now I wear mediums and it makes a lot of difference. I also pay a lot more attention to my posture and stand straighter as a result. (Sadly, all my Achewood shirts are large, but I still wear them on occasion.)

  13. Alfina the Vague June 2, 2008 / 5:55 pm

    Suomichris – good call on the socks, dude.

    Sho – yeah, it is relatively easy to have things fitted that you buy off the rack. Since I am apparently 1-2 inches too short to have a butt of this size, I know all about having my pants hemmed. Sigh.

  14. John June 4, 2008 / 6:20 am

    It seems I am arriving a little late! (In my defense, I was at a conference in the European countryside). Looks like there are some great comments here. I am also please to see I am not completely out of touch with the fashion world. Phew!

    The advice I was looking for was in regards to a less-professional setting. More “night out” than work-related. I have the black silk shirt with burgundy tie, but unfortunately my pants are pleated. It appears that this can be categorized as “fashion disaster”. I will need to rectify. Pants cuffs: yay or nay? Shoes – they are classic shoes (wingtips), shiny jet-black if a little old.

    I always have a belt, so I’m covered there. Socks – socks are generally argyle print (owing to my Orcadian heritage). Is argyle uncool?

    Accessories (watch, bracelet) are silver. Gold does not suit my pale skin colour and blue eyes. Stature – oh God, this sounds like a dating ad – 6’1″, 180 lbs. I would be considered slim. Does this allow me to get away with pleats?

    Thinking this over, perhaps the black shirt is not quite right – my hair is kind of strawberry-blonde and straight. Pin-straight. It has been know to be described as “spaghetti-straight”. (Perhaps this does not go well with black?) This also makes it extremely difficult to have 3 hair-styles. Putting “product” in my hair makes it look greasy and stuck together in clumps. This is the curse of straight hair. As a result I keep my hair longer. Shorter cuts cause me to resemble a porcupine and/or electrocution victim.

    I am still processing all the advice – more questions/comments could be forthcoming.

    Thanks to all!

  15. Alfina the Vague June 5, 2008 / 8:46 pm

    I think argyle is cool — it may not technically be in fashion, but ladies who appreciate a bit of quirkiness will probably agree with me. Just don’t go overboard on quirk, you know?

    Anyway, I would get some flat-front pants. I mean, you’re tall/slim enough that pleated pants aren’t going to be a disaster, or anything — they’re probably fine — but I think flat-front is always better. Sleeker, more modern, more stylish, etc.

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