What are you wearing right now?
Let me take a guess: some combination of a comfortable pair of jeans or khakis and either a t-shirt or a polo. Did I at least get close?
We’ll talk about your bottoms later. Right now let’s look at that thing up top, which you’ve probably had for years now, through fadingly sunny days and hundreds of washes (you love it precisely because you can stick it in the washer, move it to the dryer, and presto – wearable!). Or maybe it’s got the company logo on the pocket or a wacky saying like “my inner child can beat up your inner child” silkscreened on the front.
Now, I’m not about to tell you how to be comfortable in your own home. In fact, what I’m often wearing while writing this from home is a pair of pajama bottoms and a random band t-shirt from my collection. But once you hit the street, everything changes.
An aside here: as guys – hell, as humans – we like to fit in. We want to wear what our friends are wearing, whether it’s three-piece Brooks Brothers or Levi’s and a Hanes Beefy-T. But you know what? When you start dressing better, your friends are likely to start doing it too.
And there are a ton of ways to do it, top-wise, from layering a solid color t-shirt with a dress shirt or sweater for work and casual wear to finding a “party shirt” with interesting embroidery for nights on the town. Here are some things to look for:
- Length. For slimmer guys, shirts can be cut higher, ranging from the top of the pants to the top of your back pockets. If you’re heavier, you usually want more length – but not too much or your legs will look like stubs. Mid-pelvis is about right. When you layer with a sport coat, the coat should fall lower than your shirt, so if your shirt is long enough to cover your entire backside, either get it tailored or toss it.
- Cut. Slim is in right now, but be careful of wearing something that pinches your torso into fat rolls or overly accentuates a skinny frame. Larger guys will obviously have to go looser – a great top layer, like a sport coat or sweater, is your friend.
- Color. The hardest factor to determine for some guys, including myself, so I stick a lot to basic black and white, although I’ve come to learn that a deep red works well for me and that a lighter blue brings out my eyes. Find a female opinion on color – this is one thing a sales clerk won’t steer you wrong on. After all, a sale is a sale, whether it’s the green or the brown. And yes, black is slimming and white can help you look thicker.
- Pattern. Experiment, but be careful. Vertical stripes are slimming but a really big guy should stick to thin stripes in muted colors, or pinstripes. Horizontal stripes can help a beanpole look bigger. And Hawaiian shirts are for Hawaiian themed parties or, well, Hawaii.
The cardinal rule here is to spend time at a good clothing store, trying on shirts until you see the one that makes you go, “Wow.” Even if they’re too much for your budget, looking at well-made shirts can give you an idea what you’re looking for, then you can hit up the discount stores or thrift shops. (Big hint: if you have an H&M in your town, you’d be stupid not to check it out.)
Buy a few base layers – start with solid color t-shirts, maybe a v-neck and a crew neck, then expand into t-shirts you find with awesome designs. Get a couple of good dress shirts that fit you right, and a coat or sweater to top off the look. There are a number of sites you can go to for ideas, such as See Jack Shop and The Sartorialist.
So off you go. Feel free to share that one incredible shirt you found in the comments below.