Guys like George Clooney and Daniel Craig might be able to pull it off, but for most of the rest of us, wearing a suit without a necktie just looks, well, doofusy.
A male student showed up to one of my classes earlier today in a mid-charcoal gray suit, presumably for one of the many slightly more formal campus events that occur the last few weeks of the spring semester. He looked reasonably good. The pants had a slight break, and he wore them at his waist with a belt that matched his shoes. The jacket sleeves allowed a bit of cuff to show when his arms hung at his sides, and his shirt was even pressed. It was nice to see his effort when so many young men -- not all -- on college and university campuses in the United States show up to class looking like pigs regardless of the season or temperature, and they labor under the delusion that it is somehow permissible to do so.
But as the young man in question sat in class, participating in the day's discussion, several things became apparent that spoiled the overall effect. This is something I notice often on campus each fall and spring semester when, for various reasons, young men are asked to wear suits. Most of them, while they look ok, never manage to nail it squarely on the head though. As a result, they end up looking not only stiff and uncomfortable but also not quite pulled together. To my mind, that is the very antithesis of what wearing a suit is all about, or should be. You should look not only comfortable with yourself but also polished and well-groomed. In all senses.
Hence today's post, which might be considered part of a discussion from earlier in the week on suits and dressing well. So, for any average guys out there, who want to kick up their everyday style several notches and dare to wear a suit now and then, keep the following pointers in mind.
1) Wear a necktie!
You succeed only in looking incomplete without it. Someone, please inform the current crop of male film stars and professional sports types who do so routinely. Even guys like George Clooney veer dangerously close to clueless doofus-land when they wear a suit sans tie. If you don't want to wear a necktie, fine, but then perhaps it's just best to forgo a suit all together and opt for a more casual sports jacket-odd pants combo.
2) Fix your collar!
Make sure that your shirt collar is not rumpled beneath the jacket lapels. Again, a mistake like this when attempting to wear a suit puts a guy firmly in doofus territory. But the antidote is simple. Ready? Here it is. Check yourself in the mirror before leaving home and when you visit the men's room throughout the day, evening, or event to which you've worn your suit. Details are important, guys.
3) Shine your shoes!
People notice your shoes even if they aren't really sure what they are looking at. You know what it signals to the world when you wear beaten up, sloppy dress shoes? That you can't be bothered to take care of even fairly simple things. Maintaining your shoes is not hard and needn't take hours if you don't want it to. Come on! If you can't be bothered to shine your shoes with actual polish once in a while, then at least use occasional moisturizer on your shoes and give them the once over with a horsehair brush each time you put them on, to remove any dust from the leather or welts before you leave the house.
4) Dress the edges of your soles and heels!
Apply an appropriate color of sole dressing, usually brown or black, as needed to the edges of your shoe soles and heels. When it comes to your footwear, fewer things look worse than faded, dried out, cracked, gray sole edges whatever state the shoe leather might be in, and however much the shoes cost. It's another seemingly inconsequential detail that will help you look much more polished and pulled together than the guys who fail to take care of their shoes.
5) Wear knee-length dress socks!
Whether you choose wild colors and patterns, or more conservative dark dress socks, make sure they come to your knees. It just looks goofy when a guy sits down, and his hairy, pale calves and shins are exposed. It's the stuff of which nightmares are made. Ick!
6) Loosen up!
As many others in the men's style blogosphere have written, "Wear the suit. Don't let it wear you." You've got to feel comfortable with the idea of wearing a suit, or you look stiff and ill-at-ease, and most people can spot that from 100 yards away. Instead, you've got to own the role of wearing a suit. And the best way to develop that level of confidence and comfort is simply to wear your suit. Put it on and forget about it. Think of it like this.
Remember Sean Connery (an average guy if ever there was one) in all of those early Bond films? The man/actor/character looked impeccable whatever he wore. He wasn't fiddling constantly with his cuffs, necktie, or linen pocket handkerchief. He wasn't poking or clawing at his collar because his tie was cinched too tightly around is neck. Neither did he stand there like a scarecrow with a broomstick for a spine while sweet-talking Miss Moneypenny, Domino, or Pussy Galore. Heck, Connery's Bond even reclined on M's couch a few times, and all while wearing a suit. That's the self-assured nonchalance we're aiming for here. Project a similar quiet confidence, polish, and sophistication yourself while wearing a suit, and you're well on your way to looking and feeling totally at ease. Who knows? You might even start to enjoy yourself.
Connery's Bond woos the fetching Miss Moneypenny (the late Lois Maxwell) with his usual pre-mission badinage.
There! That wasn't so bad, as it? Ignore these tips at your sartorial peril. Be sure to have your suit properly altered to fit your specific measurements, observe the tips above, and you'll look better and more stylish than 95% of the other men you'll encounter on your daily rounds.