5 Tips for Young Guys Who Want to Dress Better

(this blog post is one in a series of posts contributed by students in my graduate family therapy course at Virginia Tech. Please take a moment to comment)

Erica’s posts can be found on her site: E in flats

I typically use this blog as an indulgence for my own fashion preferences, but for this post, I am going to do something a bit different.  I am going to talk about fashion and the young guy. Below are five very basic rules that will help any guy look better. I know that fashion is not everybody’s cup of tea, but  appearing as if you made an effort to pull your look together can put you leaps and bounds ahead of the other guy, whether for getting a date, gaining the respect of others, or, well, pretty much anything really. You’d be surprised how much looking presentable can dramatically improve your life.  : )  Anyway, now that I’ve blabbered on, here are five simple tips to help improve your closet.

This guy manages to violate tips 1 and 2. At least he’s overachiever.

Fit is King. The number one rule of fashion, whether you are a 15 year old guy, a 28 year old woman, or even a 7 year old cat–is that your clothes should fit.  You wear your clothes, not the other way around. When I see a slender guy drowning in a big tee and baggy bottoms–I want to offer him a hug and a fitted cardigan. The same goes for when I see a heavier guy who wears too-tight clothes. For starters, ask someone to take your measurements–this way, no matter where you shop, you can check the store’s size chart to find the size that works for you. Do not be surprised if you don’t wear the same size in every store–sizes often vary by retailer.  Also, try on your clothes before you buy them–do not assume that an item of clothing will fit simply because it is in your usual size. Even if the item technically does fit, it does not mean it looks good on you.  Never buy something that makes you feel uncomfortable–you either won’t wear it or you’ll squirm when you’re in it, so it will be a waste of money. Seriously.  My closet is littered with the dead items that I thought I could make work, if I just pulled here, and tucked there, and… no.  Reddit’s Male Fashion Advice has great tips on getting the right fit.

The Dapper Dapper Lou Himself

Athletic tees, workout shorts and sneakers are for the gym.  They should stay there. I know what you’re saying–they’re comfortable.  A baggy tee and gym shorts is very comfortable, I get that.  I run a blog dedicated to the fact that I’m mostly too lazyto wear heels–I know all about wanting to be comfortable.  But there isn’t anything attractive about gym clothes, unfortunately. If you want an outfit that instantly pegs you as a boy who is not to be taken seriously, a big tee, sweat pants, and gym sneakers are the way to go.  If, however, you want to look like a guy who commands respect–get rid of the athletic gear.  Actually, keep it, but only wear it to the gym.

The K.I.S.S. Rule: Keep it Simple Stupid.  The beauty of men’s clothing is that it really does not take much effort to look put together. Check out the guy in the jeans. There is nothing fancy about his look, just a few basic pieces that fit well.  Having a few staple items (see recommended list below) to mix and match will take you a long way.

But…the devil is in the details: What I think is great about men’s fashion is how much you can play around with various small touches to make your clothing stand out. See the guy in the leather jacket below?  Notice how the polka dot collar peeks out of the sweater.  Wearing polka dots all over would probably be too much for most guys, but having that peek of pattern makes a big impact.  Details elevate an ensemble from perfectly presentable to something a little more awesome.  Details can be patterns that on collars and socks, they can be jewelery, or even embellishments on clothing and shoes (see the brown loafers below). Keep the details in moderation, but a little touch here and there will make it look as if you put a bit of extra thought to your outfit.

Steal.  Yes, steal.  In other words, don’t feel like you have to invent some epic new style of clothes-wearing.  Pay attention to magazines, celebrities, bloggers, even people you see on the street who project the look that you want, and re-create it for yourself.  Sites such as Lookbook can be great sources of inspiration.

With the shirts especially, you want to buy as many in quantity and variety as you can afford:So, those are five simple rules on how not to look like a disaster.  If folks show further interest in this topic, then I’d love to do more posts with specific suggestions.  Hopefully this is helpful to those getting their wardrobes started. Finally if you remember nothing else, remember this: gray goes with everything.  : )

Recommended staple items

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