Shopping for affordable and stylish men’s clothing can be a real challenge for most guys. So here is a handy guide – by a real live girl who has helped real men shop – for how to pick out clothes that won’t make you look like a “doofus,” and keep you looking sharp so you can dress well with high quality clothing on a budget.
Women are generally better at this sort of thing anyway, so guys, listen up! Here are 10 indispensable clothes shopping and wardrobe fashion tips for men:
1. Take a Page from Catalogs
The very first step, if you are unskilled at putting outfits together, is to subscribe to or otherwise obtain several men’s clothing catalogs. This is the best way to study what clothes go together and what clothes look silly. Sign up for LL Bean, Land’s End, Eddie Bauer, J. Crew, and any other catalog that sells clothes you like. Look at the outfits in the catalog and if you see a look you like, rip that page out. If you don’t want to purchase the clothing from that store, simply take the page to a store you do shop at and try to find something similar. It will help the store associates find you something you like if you have a picture of what you’re after.
2. Shop Wisely
If you find something you like and it fits perfectly, buy a couple, perhaps in different colors (online shopping sites for deals and coupons can come in handy here to save money). If you find that you like the clothes in a particular store or catalog, sign up for their email list, since that is where most sales get announced. Solid-colored clothes are generally a safer bet than prints and will go further in your wardrobe; prints on pants are pretty much never a good idea and nearly impossible to match. Don’t take the tags off as soon as you get home and keep the receipt until you are sure you want the item. Finally, even though great clothes can be found from time to time on clearance racks, remember that stuff ends up on their for a reason.
3. Buy Clothes That Fit
You can probably figure out when clothes are too tight. But it takes a little more finesse to figure out if the clothes are too big. The crucial thing to remember is that you will look as big as your clothes. If your clothes are two sizes too big, you’ll actually appear to be two sizes fatter. No one wants that. Everyone, even big guys, look a hundred times better with properly fitted plus-size clothing. Shirts should skim the body without being any baggier in one location than another, and should fit properly around the shoulders most of all. And unless you are built and have no choice, short sleeves should be loose enough around your arms that you can get a finger or two under the cuff. Long sleeves should not cover your hands. Pants should not bunch up around the crotch, and should not touch the soles of your shoes when you are standing up. No one looks good in pleated pants, some people just look “less bad.” Buy flat-front pants. And please, for the love of Pete, your underwear should not be showing. Pants that are too big look good on no one and look even worse when they inevitably fall down.
4. Remember to Hem
So many men do not get their pants hemmed properly, if at all, and it is really such a simple step. It is inexpensive to have done, but it makes your pants look a hundred times better and keeps them from getting frayed at the bottom, which looks terrible. If you find pants that fit but are just a mite too long, that is always preferable to pants that are a mite too short, since you can just get that extra mite hemmed off. Find a local tailor – check Yelp or Angie’s List for recommended local services and professionals, or ask the ladies in your office – and try on your pants for the tailor. He or she will measure and pin them, and you can pick up your perfect-length pants in a couple days. This usually is less than $10 for an uncomplicated job, and will save you money in the long run. Tailors are not just for hemming pants, though – sleeves that are too long, especially on jackets, should also be shortened, and they can take in the sides of a shirt if it is too baggy.
5. Choose Colors You Like
Don’t stress about whether or not a color looks good on you. Most colors look fine on anyone as long as the color itself is not sickly. (Do not buy puce or chartreuse – or anything else the color of throw-up.) Don’t buy pink or purple if you will feel self-conscious – they’re fine color-wise, but an uncomfortable, ill-at-ease man is always out of fashion. For ease of matching, if you are truly terrible at it, just pick a couple of colors and buy all your items in those colors. I had a friend in high school who was colorblind and so every shirt he owned was green, blue, or white and he only owned khakis and jeans. It worked great!
6. Never Wear All Black
It is not slimming. It merely makes you look as if you have no other clothes. If you are wearing a black shirt, you should not be wearing black pants. If you think you look better this way, you are mistaken. In fact, do not wear any matching top and bottom at any time. This makes you look like you bought your wardrobe from Gymboree. The only exception is if you are wearing a suit or a tuxedo.
7. Don’t Forget the Belts and Shoes
Do not wear a brown belt with black shoes, or vice versa. Men don’t get to wear lots of accessories, so make sure the ones you do wear look good. (And yes, a belt is an accessory, even if it has a function.) Every man should own a nice flat black leather belt (a continuous, single piece of leather, with no braiding or stamps or any other decoration) and a pair of nice black leather shoes. And learn to polish them! Wearing these with dark-wash jeans and a button-down is a great date look and will make you look like you know what you’re doing!
8. No Short Shorts
Please do not wear jean shorts to do anything more formal than changing your oil or unclogging a toilet. You should wear khaki shorts or cargo shorts for casual days, and you are prohibited from wearing shorts to work or anywhere else remotely non-casual, unless you work on a boat or in an ice cream shop. Your shorts should hit somewhere around the knee – if the hems are in your thigh area, they look silly, and you can probably see up the legs when you sit. No one wants that. Shorts can be baggy in the legs, but not the waist or butt. If you are appropriately jaunty, you may wear a polo shirt with your khaki shorts on summer weekends.
9. I See Paris, I See France…
No one cares what brand you wear, so buy whatever is comfortable and fits well and doesn’t stick out the top of your pants. The advantage to “tighty whiteys” or boxer briefs are that they don’t clump up inside your pants and show through. You should have white socks for your sneakers and black socks for your dress shoes. If you wish to purchase dress socks for your dress shoes, that’s entirely up to you, since no one will see them unless you are sitting down. You should always wear a white T-shirt under a white button-down; if you wear a printed shirt under it, we can tell.
10. A Guy’s Basic Wardrobe
Finally, here’s a handy summary of everything you need to dress well for any occasion, and not overspend on extraneous clothing:
- Jeans – preferably medium or dark wash, no rips or bleach please! Not too baggy and no unnecessary pockets.
- Khakis – flat front, any tint is fine.
- Khaki or cargo shorts for casual days.
- Button-down shirts – A white one is essential, and dark red, any blue, or a medium-to-dark green can dress up with khakis or dress down with jeans.
- Short-sleeved polos or heavyweight T-shirts for casual days or weekends – those white undershirts are not outerwear!
- Black leather belt and black leather shoes – You can get more mileage out of your casual clothes by dressing them up a little with these.
The Essentials of Clothing Maintenance
There’s no point in spending money on snazzy clothing if you are just going to let it wrinkle and shrink and get discolored. Your clothes will last longer if you wash and dry them quickly, without leaving them in the washer for a day. In fact, not only is a dryer an unnecessary appliance, but it will also drastically reduce the lifetime of your clothes; hang dry your clothes instead. Also, your mom was right: Never leave your dirty clothes on the floor. This will not only make your room smell, but you are likely to damage the clothes by stepping on them, and then you have to buy more, which isn’t very frugal at all.
Finally, here are some things you should always have on hand:
- A stain remover like Shout – If you spill something on yourself, put some stain remover on it right after you undress so you remember where the spot is. (Do not wait until you do the laundry or you’ll forget or never find it again. Plus, the stain will set.) Tip: To save money, one of the best baking soda uses is a stain remover.
- A darks detergent like Woolite or Cheer – If you like to wear dark clothes, you need to buy some detergent specifically for these clothes. It won’t cost much extra since you will only use it on dark loads, but it will keep colors rich much longer and save you from either having to replace them or looking like a goth that was left out in the sun. For your light clothes, save money by learning how to make your own homemade laundry detergent recipes.
- An iron and ironing board – If you don’t intend to iron any of your nice shirts, then only buy no-iron shirts. Don’t buy nice shirts and then leave them all wrinkly. This gets you no fashion points! And no ironing on the dining table unless you have an ironing pad; this will ruin both the table and your shirt and possibly the iron, too. If you can’t figure out how to iron, look it up on YouTube.
- Hangers – Hanging your shirts right after they come out of the dryer will keep them looking great without having to iron them. Obtain shirt hangers and pants hangers – they are different! Pants hangers have two clips so that you can hang them only from the waistband. Do not hang your pants over the bottom bar of a regular hanger unless you have no other choice as this will lead to major wrinkles. Jeans can be neatly folded and do not have to be hung.
Men, I hope you found these tips helpful! Women (and fashionable men out there), do you have any other shopping or wardrobe tips for men? I’d love to hear some other ideas!
(photo credit: Shutterstock)