So you've started a new job as a Realtor, sales associate, or some other customer facing role. You know you need to dress a bit nicer, but where to start? You see other men in your office that look like they jumped out of a fashion catalog and you smartly try to imitate their attire...with mixed success. Don't worry, many guys have been there - mens' fashion can be a lot more nuanced than you might have been led to believe. Check out our five men's fashion tips below to get started on your journey to looking sharper in a suit.
1. Fit is the most important thing.
You've probably been told this before or read it on a blog somewhere. Don't ignore this rule! Believe it or not, a cheap suit that fits well will often look better than an expensive suit that fits poorly. This is especially important if you're taller or shorter than average, or if you weigh more or less than is average for your height.
To get a better idea of what a good fit looks like, take a look at this article.
To get a well-fitted suit, you'll need to visit a tailor. Check here for a quick look at how much you should expect to pay. Obviously these prices will vary from tailor to tailor, but you're probably looking at $10 to $100 depending on how much work needs to be done.
If you're buying your first suits, dress shirts, dress pants, or even business casual wear, I would highly recommend not buying off the rack without professional assistance. When you walk into your clothier of choice, a sales associate should ask you if you need help -- take them up on that offer. They'll walk you through different fits, fabrics, colors, patterns, etc. and point out what goes with what.
A side note: sometimes the sales associates at clothiers can be a bit aggressive. Keep an open mind and listen to their advice, but don't be pressured into buying something you're unsure of. If you're on the fence, the best thing you can do is take a few days to consider your options.
2. Make sure your pant legs don't break too much.
This point naturally arises from the issue of fit. Pants usually crumple a bit toward the end of your leg -- this is known as a break. This is acceptable (and even desirable) for certain types of casual wear like jeans, but not so much for business attire. Dress pants that are too long will break too much, giving the impression that a man is swimming in his suit.
A slight break at the end of your pant leg is normal. However, your pants will start to sag throughout the day and the break may become worse. If you're wearing a suit all day, make sure to pull your pants back into position! The alternative is to wear suspenders, which isn't everyone's cup of tea.
Shorter men should be especially aware of how their pants break, since any buckling in the trouser legs is accentuated on smaller frames. On the other hand, taller men may actually benefit from a more pronounced break, since this helps their bodies look less "stretched out".
If you think your pants aren't fitting as well as they could, you should visit a tailor to have them hemmed. This cheap investment will make your suit as a whole look much neater.
3. Don't wear your suit jacket as a blazer or sportcoat.
Very rarely is a suit jacket a good substitute for a blazer or sportcoat. If you're attending a clearly business casual event or you're concerned that you'll be overdressed in a full suit, do yourself a favor: wear a blazer or sport coat instead. Navy sportcoats in particular are highly versatile and can help you dress-up or dress-down a bunch of different outfits.
Why not just wear a suit jacket? Traditionally, suit jackets are more formal. They are stiffer and have more padding around the shoulders. They're also intended to be worn with a matching pair of trousers; it's important not to wear the suit jacket more than the pants, since this will cause uneven fading between the two pieces of clothing.
We talk more about the differences between suit jackets and blazers/sportcoats in a separate article.
4. Wear a spread collar shirt for business casual occasions.
Although point collar shirts work great for business and formal occassions, spread collar shirts can look equally as good and have the added benefit that they can be worn without a tie. If you're attending a business casual event where you won't be wearing a tie, opt for a spread collar over a point collar shirt. This way, you won't have to worry about the inevitable collar droop encountered with point collars and you'll look neat and sharp all night.
If you want to learn more about the different collar types and when to wear them, check out our other article "What is the difference between a point collar and a spread collar shirt?".
5. Make sure your tie knot fits the size of your collar.
Don't wear a plump windsor knot with a narrow point collar; don't wear a narrow four-in-hand with a wide spread collar. In other words, make sure that your tie knot is proportional to your collar type.
This can be a bit vexing for men that have not learned how to tie multiple types of tie knots. If you don't want to learn about any other types of knots, your best bet is to learn how to tie just two: the four-in-hand and the half-windsor. Use a four-in-hand with point collar shirts and a half-windsor with spread collar shirts; if you feel like the half-windsor is too wide on your shirt, go with the four in hand.
While the four-in-hand and half-windsor are classics and fit a wide range of occassions, there's a whole slew of other ways to tie a tie. Knowing different types of tie knots helps you find the best fit for your collar, which can really elevate how your suit looks on you. We talk more about the different types of tie knots in a separate article, "How to wear a tie".
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