Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fashion tips for the major genders

Seeing as how I'm bleeding style from my tear ducts over here, I figured it was about time I share some of this endless wisdom with y'all. I can't use it all myself. If you have any fashion questions, leave 'em in the comments and I will happily address your concerns, advice column style.

For the gents

Stop wearing t-shirts under your open-collar shirts. This is my #1 tip for looking more like a grownup and less like a d-bag. Are you ashamed of the little notch of skin at the base of your neck? The whole point of a collared shirt without a tie is to show a bit of skin, which looks relaxed and therefore sexy. By covering that skin up with a t-shirt, you're basically saying, "No thanks, I don't care for sex." Sometimes the t-shirt thing can look OK in a hipster kind of way, like if it's a bright red tee under a western shirt or something, but even then it would probably look better without.

Don't wear socks with shorts. I think shorts can look pretty sharp on a man if you have a reasonable physique, but for Christ's sake don't ruin it by wearing them with socks and sneaks. If it's hot enough for shorts, it's hot enough for flip-flops (or some sort of slip-on).

When it comes to layering shirts under sweaters: A shawl-collar sweater looks infinitely better with a dress shirt than a crewneck. A crewneck sweater on the other hand looks better with a crewneck underneath. Like likes like, except with a v-neck sweater you can go either way.

For the ladies

Try wearing a shirt over a maxi dress. The point is not to make it look like you got a new skirt, so it works best if the shirt and the dress have different necklines. For example you could wear a scoopneck top over a halter dress or a tank top over a racerback dress, etc. This is one of my favorite tricks lately, especially for work and travel because a) long skirts are hell of comfortable, b) it looks summery but is not too cold in air conditioned conditions and c) is a little more covered up around the torso, so I don't have to worry about slouching wrong and giving someone a sideshow.

Buy an LBD (little black dress) in a jersey fabric, preferably with some kind of embellishment like ruffles or an asymmetrical neckline. It will be comfortable and easy to throw on when you don't feel like trying too hard, but looks fancier than it is, and can be dressed up or down easily. It's also all-season: wear it with tights and a cardigan in winter, with sandals and a denim jacket in summer.

Buy some cropped pants. They take 10 pounds off (or something, I don't know, this isn't an exact science like gluten-free baking). Cropped pants make you look skinnier because they show off the thinnest part of your leg. If you hate your ankles, obviously, ignore this one.

Unisex

If you're not all that adventurous, just buy distinctive, colorful accessories (glasses, hats, scarves, shoes), wear them with your regular clothes and everyone will think you are adorable.

Colors can be neutrals. Which is to say, don't automatically buy everything in black or brown because you think it goes with everything. Deep red or navy goes with almost everything, especially if everything else you own isn't brown or black. Charcoal gray and olive green are other good neutrals. I'm thinking especially of coats, shoes and bags but also belts and even pants which you want to be able to wear with lots of different shirts.

Don't buy the same item in multiple colors/patterns. This may go against popular opinion, but I maintain: a) You'll end up loving one more anyway, and b) you're not fooling anyone. Instead figure out what you like about the thing (the cut? the fabric?) and look for similar but not identical items.

Do my stylish readers have any additional tips/brilliant ideas to share?

38 comments:

  1. The gents/t-shirts/open-collar thing is spot on. A particularly bad manifestation of this is the white tee under a polo-style sportshirt. To me that is totally Dbag central and looks flippin hot and uncomfortable too.

    Speaking as a dude however an issue worth mentioning is that without an undershirt your button-up shirt will get dirtier faster. One option is the v-neck undershirt but even with that I've found the outer shirt usually doesn't look (and definitely doesn't feel) as good.

    I'm also totally on board with the don't buy the same thing twice, life's too short to repeat etc.

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  2. I almost said "especially don't wear a t-shirt under a polo shirt." That just sucks.

    Yeah I sympathize but I think at some point you just have to grow up and do more laundry?

    On the other hand I'm an advocate of almost never washing your jeans.

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  3. I don't think I can see myself not wearing a t-shirt under my collared shirts. Wouldn't that look kind of sleazy for a workplace? I don't think I want a 60-year old corporate attorney knowing that "I like sex." Plus there are the issues of nipple irritation and, with light-colored shirts, nipple visibility. Besides, it's only like a half-inch wide triangle sliver of t-shirt that's visible. I really don't think this is a big deal. I mean I've always assumed, without even thinking about it, that guys in collared shirts are always wearing t-shirts, in the same way I assume (and hope!) they're wearing underwear (though perhaps even that is a mistake). Because after all a t-shirt is underwear for the chest.

    (The only reason I don't wear a tie is because I would look overdressed for my position. Of course, my ideal job wouldn't require me to wear collared shirts at all.)

    I don't really wear shorts anymore, but when I did I would wear them with my black Chuck Taylors and black socks pulled up. Might be too old for that now though. In any case, to me there's nothing more douchey than a guy in flipflops, unless he's literally standing on a beach or beach-adjacent boardwalk.

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  4. But hey, I don't mean to just shoot down the idea. I could try it. Actually I can put this comment stream to practical use: if you have any thoughts on my shirt/collar situation (or anything else) in these photos, let me know. Be as harsh as you need to be. http://www.okcupid.com/profile/mynameisaknot/pictures#0

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  5. I agree - past a certain age, a man needs an undershirt under his button down. Trust me on this - I've worked around a lot of over forty men with hair and the issues mentioned above.
    AND I think a guy can look hot in shorts and a hiking boot/sock combo - I don't know, there are a lot of hikers out here, it's definitely not the worst fashion offense I've seen. In fact, I'm mostly happy if the men around me 1. cover their feet 2. don't wear sandals with socks and 3. don't wear overalls with no shirt underneath. Yup, in the Pacific Northwest, we relax our fashion rules.
    Hmm, the more I write, the more I realize this does not sound like an attractive picture of men in my area. There are good ones, too, I swear. But they still don't know how to dress.

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  6. I don't imagine anyone cares about my sartorial habits, but I feel like writing this. I don't wear underwear; I like the feeling of extra lebensraum down there. But in public I don't wear paints on which pee stains might show. I wear ties a lot at work(teaching). A vintage scarlet Yves Saint Laurent occasions the widest comment. I often wear a t-shirt under an unbuttoned plaid flannel shirt for a retro grunge/slacker look, and I've always liked v-neck sweaters and tweed jackets over t-shirts. I don't wear t-shirts under anything else. I almost never wear t-shirts with writing or pictures on them--or legible clothing of any kind. I don't use a t-shirt to inform all and sundry that I've been to a Sonic Youth concert. I like a layered look--shirt, tie, sweater, jacket--partly because it looks British/preppie (I'm kind of anglophiliac), partly because I'm skinny.

    Word verif.: musho

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  7. Matt: Sleazy? No, wearing a dress shirt without a t-shirt does not look sleazy. If you're highly concerned about nipple issues, invest in a three-pack of wife beaters. Problem solved! Another option is to follow David's advice below and wear a jacket over a t-shirt -- this hits the right level of "business casual" with no visible chestage. Also, it reminds me of House and I find it utterly adorable.

    J, I concede that hiking boots look good with shorts, but only if you're doing outdoor activities. (And yes, ha, you made it sound pretty nappy up there.)

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  8. A jacket would also be overdressed for me--I'm a guy who pushes a cart around the office and picks up files, basically the same level as a mailroom person.

    Anyway, I guess my objection isn't so much to the idea that you shouldn't go t-shirtless--if you have the kind of shirt where you're not showing too much skin, you can get away with it--but to the idea that wearing a t-shirt is absolutely wrong. I saw at least a dozen respectable-looking guys on the train this morning with t-shirts under open-collared shirts and polo shirts, and it looked completely normal. I saw just as many guys without t-shirts, and it looked okay with some, but I just don't think it's for me, at least not for work. I tried it last night and just felt like a Miami nightclub manager or something.

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    1. Matt, Elisa isn't going to listen as she thinks she knows fashion. Just ignore her and go for what you are comfortable with and in.

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    2. Actually, I haven't worn a t-shirt under a collared shirt in over a year. What can I say--turns out she was right. My comments in this thread are only embarrassing to me now.

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  9. Going to have to say I'm not sold on the Tee-shirt-less button down. Have you SEEN how much hair I have (and no, I'm not going to remove, and yes, I do trim, but STILL)? Is wearing a sweater under an open collared shirt stylish? No? Well, I'm going with a Tee then.

    I will also say I wear shorts with socks and running shoes A LOT. In the running industry this is kind of expected/required. I don't want to buy my running shoes from some dude who looks like they should be on the beach or sucking down Starbux iced mochas on Newbury Street (granted, I also don't want to buy running shoes from some sweaty dude in split shorts and a singlet).
    Of course I wear low cut running socks that are below the ankle.
    However, this bleeds into my non-work related habits. I wear shorts with running shoes, socks, and a Tee shirt. I am un-apologetic.

    You are spot on with sweater advice, though. An important fashion weapon to have in New England.

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  10. Of course everybody does it. Most men just wear what everyone else is wearing and that is their measure of what looks good. Take a stand, people! That does not look good. It looks like you just got out of college.

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  11. Jeremiah, you are a prime candidate for rocking the t-shirt with a jacket look.

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  12. Elisa: I agree, which is why my closet has 16 suit jackets/sport coats and I have 3 times as many Tees. I think T+Jacket is my go to for sure.
    My other bad habit is sweat shirts in public. Got to get over that.

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  13. "Most men just wear what everyone else is wearing and that is their measure of what looks good."

    Good enough for me! I don't require that I "look good" by someone else's standard, only that I fit in with a sizable portion of the (respectable) population.

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  14. Elisa, you must know the saying:
    "A man's not the clothes he's displaying."
    Stick to blogs on perfumes.
    Drop my Fruit-of-the Looms.
    Really, shirt overlaying's that dismaying?

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  15. "Lighten up, it's just fashion." - Santino Rice

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  16. Man, good thing I didn't post the sestina I was working on then.

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  17. Much less the crown of sonnets.

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  18. Seriously, though, what self-respecting male would admit that he even knows what a "shawl collar" is? And "slip ons"? Might as well be wearing a skort.

    Say you were walking with a couple of guys, took a wrong turn down a dead-end alley and when you turned around, you were confronted with an angry horde of vampire ninjas? Who would you find more attractive then? Slip-on shawl-collar boy or the guy with the shorts/socks/sneaker combo and concealed thorax?

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  19. See, I don't subscribe to this tenet that to be a real man you must plead ignorance to fashion. I think it's really attractive when a man dresses well and pays attention to detail -- one of the main things this broadcasts is confidence because it says "I'm not so insecure in my masculinity that I believe wearing a pretty shirt will make everyone think I'm gay." The insecure man seems not to realize that gay men are doing it right.

    BTW, I really don't think shorts with socks looks "tough."

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  20. I agree with your first statement. I mean, I know what a skort is so I'm not completely ignorant of fashion (not that I find skorts particularly "fashionable"). However, a guy who deliberately chooses to wear a shirt because he thinks it's "pretty" is probably not concerned about people thinking he's gay because he probably already is. Most men, "real" or not, choose their clothing based on function, not form. Shorts with socks may not look particularly tough or sexy but they are practical in that they provide maximum skin exposure on hot days and absorption of unwanted foot moisture. Color and style of men's clothing is of lesser concern.

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  21. False gender divide. Some women don't care about fashion either. Some straight men do. Some gay men don't.

    If there are tendencies, it's because men's status is less tied to appearance than women's. Nonetheless, by improving your appearance (as a man), your status will inevitably go up.

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  22. Advice taken. I am removing my t-shirt and socks anon and will report on any change in my status with the ladies (the fashion-conscious ones, of course).

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  23. OK I actually just looked up "shawl collar sweater." I think I've seen these things around occasionally, they are thoroughly vile and I cannot imagine myself wearing one in any circumstances. Ugh!

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  24. I am a perpetrator of the purchasing the same item in different colors. And I admit it, you're right, EG. I always like one better and feel embarrassed that I have two of the same dress, shirt, etc. after the initial first-love swoon wears off. Also, Gabbs, please come to NYC and shop with me. That is all.

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  25. First weekend of July! That is my plan. xo

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  26. Skorts! I think sexy men would look sensational in skirts which don't fall wayyyyyyy above the knee (the Samoan lavalava for example, which is like a sarong sorta; or Scottish studs in kilts: mmmm): sorry to be gender-biased but micro-minis strike me as best worn by females. I love super-sequined glittery super short dresses! Versace's cello-strap dress which I think it's Linda Evangelista wears on the front or back cover of one of his coffee-table books.

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  27. I think kilts are pretty sexy myself.

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  28. I am real late to this party but a) Matt you are a charming looker, do whatever you want regarding shirts, b) Elisa please come to Chicago and be my personal shopper.

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  29. Why thank you, r. in Chicago:)

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  30. I'm quite glad I'm old enough to have avoided these "fashion" ideas for guys in the first place. I've been vastly amused that younger guys have been dressing like my dad for the past few years....

    Okay, I've been laughing my ass off at them...

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    1. I wish more young guys would dress like MY dad. He wears suspenders.

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    2. I wish young hipster guys would stop wearing those junk-squashing jeans that widen their asses and narrow their calves until they look like girls. I find that obscurely irritating.

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    3. I don't find the super narrow-calved pants very flattering on men either, I'm afraid. Unless they're straight-up tights and you're a ballet dancer.

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  31. I agree with Matt about nipples and professionalism. There are also sweat issues for some people, which an undershirt helps absorb, which may be why in my observation undershirts are more prevalent in the South.

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    1. But you can wear an undershirt ... the problem is thick, crewneck t-shirts that are visible above the collar. They make really thin undershirts that have just a wee bit of a v-neck so they don't show -- assuming your shirt fits properly. But don't you wear a tie to work anyway? I was talking about people who wear their collars open.

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  32. I'm perfectly ok with the idea of us men showing more skin, in a stylish way, it's about time, I mean :). Didn't know some women actually favour this aesthetic rather than the usual covered up one. A few button down without shirts can be fine.
    Ditching pants, shoes and socks for some nice shorts and sandals or slipons feels unusual, because it's much different from the outfits I'm used to, but seems like it looks better. I'm only not comfortable with flip flops because I don't like anything between toes, but other sandals or slip ons are ok.
    Feet and nails must be cured but that's not even a problem for me. I know it sounds gay, to some men here, but that's completely addressed by the authors post, also, I mainly do all this for myself, only secondly and eventually, for women, as knowing some like this style is welcome, but not men :).
    Which sandals would you suggest, Birkenstocks come to mind, but I found some other models I liked, what's important is them being not bulky. I know they can go slip on as well as with the back straps, for that matter.

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