Look nice, but don’t overdo it

Look nice, but don’t overdo it

Q. My husband and I read your column regularly, and nearly every week, you help him add another element to the thought process in his morning’s clothing selections. But I’m feeling he might look too planned or too coordinated with too many special touches. We both like to be well-dressed, but can you explain to him what is too much?

A. As much as I feel it’s important that men pay attention and show care in what they wear, there are those few men who do try too hard. Recently, at a commuter train platform I noticed a man with a handsome shock of silver hair; I noticed the dash with which he wore his gray felt fedora. Like most women who love to see a man in a hat, I thought, “Now there’s a man with style.” He carried a raincoat in the identical shade as his hat. But then he draped the coat over his shoulders in a magazine–model pose and glanced – a little too lovingly – at his reflection in a nearby window. A real turn-off! Although women, by their own admission, admire a man who knows a thing of two about style, there is the risk of looking over detailed.

Some men avoid dapper dressing like the plague. As an example, the Old School, Eastern Establishment type cares about his appearance and is always well-tailored and well-groomed. Yet, anything verging on dandyism is anathema. He doesn’t need and doesn’t want his clothes to stand out, to make a statement, or to call attention to him. But other men have strong anti-clone attitudes and are always on the lookout for something a shade special to set them apart. Plenty of small points of differences present themselves as options.

To avoid looking “too perfect,” I tell men to focus on the main elements and then be a bit more casual about the extras – the accessories. Specifically, get a really good quality suit, tie (if you wear one), and shoes, and then ease up a bit with the rest – the shirt, the belt, the pocket handkerchief, the socks.

The shirt should be fine quality, but it doesn’t need to be a dressy French cuff style, especially for work. Forget fancy belt buckles. Socks should be the right color and length (long enough for no skin to show when you are seated with your legs crossed), but don’t go overboard with material or matching colors precisely. Avoid adding too many of the fine points, such as a silk pocket square, a vest, a well-knotted tie, tie clasp, cuff links, perhaps a pair of subtly-patterned socks; too many of these can make you appear far too self-involved. This is not to say that you can’t and shouldn’t have some nice quality elements in your combination, but most of your concern should be with the big purchases, with much less emphasis on the “extras.” Unfortunately, “looking too good” is not a terribly wide-spread problem..

Here is a helpful formula to follow:

  1. choose quality clothing, especially for your major items;
  2. all of the fine-grooming elements should be followed, including a good haircut (regularly maintained), fastidiously-groomed hands with neat, short fingernails (without even a hint of polish), and
  3. adopt only a few special touches. Don’t overdo.
  4. Since it can be a turn-off to have everything spotless and new, you might insert a bit of a break in perfection by, say, carrying a not-so-new briefcase or wearing a favorite, old scarf. Maybe the best advice is not to try too hard!

Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions and comments to MALE CALL: Lois.Fenton@prodigy.net

Categories: Male Call