We all want to look our best, but sometimes we overlook some of the most basic tenets of fashion and style. While wearing a blazer and pullover V-neck sweater might signal sophistication and poise, a tweed blazer with elbow patches signals old-school Oxford University professor. No disrespect to Oxford professors, but with today’s styles elbow patches signal datedness and a lack of effort. This post will highlight five fashion and style tips that anyone can use to elevate their style and make that perfect impression. What are they? Let’s find out.
Pairing the Right Leathers, Metals, and Fabrics
The first tip on this tip list addresses the professional attire. While some men accidentally pair the right belt with the right suit and shoes, most have no clue about the right pairings. Any person can look up “How to pair black shoes with a navy suit” or “What color tie goes best with sand”, but that strategy overlooks the person’s individual style. We have a lawyer friend who prioritizes style with each outfit he wears. Whether it is courtroom attire (which is suit in all courtrooms) or business casual, the right pairings matter.
Starting with the full suit attire, always match the leathers. As cliche as it is to hear, you never wear a pair of brown shoes with a black belt, it is quite true. For a black patent leather shoe, always pair it with a black leather belt. This classic pairing not only shows style, it also shows sophistication. The same logic follows for brown shoes and brown belts. But browns offer a unique problem. Some brown leather shoes are darker than others. Same with belts. To address this dilemma, compare the colors and try to get one matching as close as possible to the other. This pairing matters because it shows wherewithal regarding leathers. Burgundy, or oxblood, leather might seem like a toss-up, but a solid black belt will always look good. Here are some examples of leather pairings:
Pairing leathers is only the tip of the iceberg. Those leathers must also work well with the fabric. In most closets, there are four primary suit colors: black, charcoal, navy, and grey. Each color has its default leather matches: black suit with black shoes and belts; navy blue with burgundy shoes and a black or burgundy belt. But immediate colors allow for some fun combinations that, if not carefully considered, could go awry. For example, a medium blue suit (a good cocktail hour color) allows for several shoe color options. Black shoes for a more formal impression. Brown shoes for a more casual laidback impression. Burgundy shoes for a more stylish impression. Either of these three options works as long as the right sock color goes with it. Black socks might look good with a blue suit only if the shoes are black. A medium brown shoe may look debonair with a navy suit, only if the socks are grey, brown, or navy themselves. For those preferring a more whimsical sock, a grey, brown, or navy base will work as a good reminder.
Once we have the suit, shoe, and belt colors down, we can accessorize with various watches, rings, tie clips, etc. The best way to look the most stylish? Look at the color of the belt buckle. A silver buckle signals a complementary silver accessory like a silver tie clip and watch. If the watch has a leather band, make sure to pair with the leathers already selected, i.e., black leather band for black leather shoes. Luckily, the watchband pairings get easier when the entire casing and band are all one color. A gold watch with a gold band would look excellent with a black suit and belt with a gold buckle.
Finally, we can consider tie colors (for men). If we need a tie, the best way to find the right pairing is to look at what impression we want to make. If we have a black suit with a black shoe and belt, and silver accessories, the any color but brown will work to complete the look. The same goes for charcoal or any immediate shade of grey. The neutral colors will allow a purple or a blue tie to really cut through the monotony. For navy and blue suits, the tie options are not as wide-open, but they are there. A navy suit with a light blue shirt and burgundy shoes will work perfectly with a solid blue or a pattern with some blue. A silver- or white-based tie would also work. Note that these are only tips, and thus suggestions. Most occasions do not require a tie to make an impression.
Dress Your Body Type
Whether you are a man with broad shoulders and a small waist or a woman with a pear shape, how you dress that body type matters. Since this writer is a man, we stick with dressing male body types (but we encounter someone collaborate with us on a guest post for dressing female body types). Most images we see in magazines, on television, or on Instagram are men with broad shoulders, muscular torsos, and slim waists. But not all men, or male-identifying people, have that body type. Thus, most of us have to see what the off-the-rack products look like on us before going for the purchase. This tip addresses that disconnect.
Regardless of body type, we all can dress the best to make it work. We will first start with the pant. Most pants off-the-rack will have generic measurements like 30×32, 50×34, or 34×30. These waist-by-length measurements help in determining the size of pant, but they do not discern the correct size. For those who do not know what an inseam is, an inseam is the length between the crotch and the bottom of the leg. Having the correct measurement here will help us determine which length to go with. But the best fit comes from seeing how bunched up you feel in the crotch area. A perfectly fitting pant will be snug but not too big. Here’s an example:
A good-fitting pant leaves only a little bit of room to allow movement. But note how there is no bunching. Movement and no bunching are hallmarks of a good-fitting pant. For those with good legs, a slim or skinny fit pant would work perfectly.
Now that we have addressed that pant, let’s go to the upper body. The best-fitting shirts and jackets hug the shoulders and cinch around the waist. For men wearing a V-neck, the V should contour the upper body. Avoid having a lose-fit that makes the V look like a U. For crewcut shirts, make sure that the collar fits just above the collarbone and has little movement. While the best fits come from tailoring clothing, we can achieve the best fit for our body types by looking at where the clothing sits on our shoulders and how far they fall near our waists. While every body type is different, the fits on our shoulders, chest, and waist are great barometers in determining whether a particular piece of clothing fits. A perfectly fitting piece of clothing signals a good sense of style.
Do Not Over-Accessorize
For those of you who do not know, Coco Chanel said that you should remove one accessory of clothing before leaving fort the day. This adage protects against over-accessorizing. For men, over-accessorizing might be wearing a necklace, rings, a watch, a suit, and a Fedora. Without removing one piece of clothing, the person dressed exactly like that might look like a pimp or Gianni Versace. But we do not need to go that flamboyant. Style comes from an eye for editing. To have a good-to-go look, remove the necklace. While what is left might still look like a prince in Monaco, the look will be more polished. The more polished we look, the better of an impression we will make.
Invest in a Signature Pair of Sunglasses
We once read that a good pair of sunglasses can shroud us in mystery. As crazy as that may sound, a good pair of sunglasses also completes any outfit. For those of you who have not seen the effect of a good pair of sunglasses, look no further than the Inventing Anna Netflix series focusing on Anna Sorokin’s exploits in Manhattan. Sorokin’s signature pair of black sunglasses gave her a celebrity, important-person vibe despite her humble German/Russian background. The sunglasses made her look like she belonged in Manhattan among its elite.
For more about the impression a signature pair of sunglasses can have, consider Jack Nicholson’s comment about his sunglasses. “Without my sunglasses, I am just fat and in my sixties.” A good pair of sunglasses goes a long way in showing how we handle ourselves. Combined that with the benefits of eye protection, sunglasses are a hallmark of style and control over our individual lives.
Karl Lagerfeld said it best: “Trendy is the step before tacky.” Style trends might make sense during certain time periods. For example, dark-colored fringe dresses and headpieces for women were big in the 1920s, skinny ties for men were big in the 1960s and ’70s, and shoulder pads in blazers for both men and women were big in the 1980s. But most trends are just that, trends. Bell-bottoms in the 1970s, parachute pants in the 1990s, and big hair and neon prints in the 1980s came and went faster than the Concorde plane.
When considering a particular style choice, we should acknowledge the trends, but we need not adopt them and incorporate them into our wardrobes. The now-cancelled TLC show, What Not to Wear, transformed several people’s styles and fashion. Most of those makeovers included casting aside the mom jean, sweater, and shoulder pad looks from the 1980s, acknowledging that trends gone out of style look tacky and dated next to the more timeless pieces.
Coco Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, and even Tom Ford acknowledge the versatility, timelessness, and chic-ness of the color black. While different types of prints, silhouettes, and accessories come and go, the Swiss Army knife that the color black is will always last. A keen trend observer knows this and incorporates several black pieces in their wardrobe to remain timeless. We have several pieces of black clothing in our wardrobe, including black shirts, suits, and coats. Even with the saying that black is a slimming color, a black shirt, khaki pant, and a signature pair of sunglasses will always leave quite the impression. Trends come and go, but timeless outfits always impress.
What style tips did we leave out? Let us know in the comments.
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