Style Advice for Men

Ricar­do Mon­tal­bán is unim­pressed with your efforts.

At risk of sound­ing like a pompous ass, I have style. I believe this because I get a lot of com­pli­ments on my choic­es in dress. Walk­ing down the street I get asked for my advice a lot, or asked where I buy things, and do I always look this way? I’ve been caught on the street a hand­ful of times by Asheville Street Style, inter­viewed by the Urban News, and reg­u­lar­ly advise my friends on what to wear to meet For­tune 500 exec­u­tives in Chi­na or on a first date. Fine, I sur­ren­der already — I have style.

And I’m into that, I’m into what is styl­ish. But — I’m not into fash­ion. I don’t have a well thumbed copy of the Sep­tem­ber Vogue on my night stand, and though I sub­scribe to the Sun­day edi­tion of the New York times, I don’t lurid­ly gaze at the lat­est offer­ings of the major design­ers in the Style Mag­a­zine. I don’t care what’s in or what’s out, if it’s past Labor Day or if it was recent­ly seen being worn by Lady Gaga at Occu­py Wall Street. Those are use­less ways to think about what will make you look awe­some.

What’s the dif­fer­ence between style and fash­ion? Style is for­ev­er, fash­ion is for today. Style is acces­si­ble for every­one, fash­ion is passé by the time every­one iden­ti­fies it. Style belongs to you, fash­ion belongs to wealthy hair­less eccentrics in Milan that feed caviar to tiny inbred dogs.

I’m not a racist or a sex­ist, but I do believe in judg­ing peo­ple by their appear­ance because I expect to be judged on mine. And by appear­ance, I mean the things peo­ple have a choice about, name­ly one’s choic­es in cloth­ing and groom­ing. So I’ve writ­ten up five things to help you make choic­es in your cloth­ing that will bet­ter rep­re­sent you the per­son, rather than you the guy who hates doing laun­dry and ends up look­ing like laun­dry. Why five things? Because it’s my favorite num­ber.

  1. It should fit you. It should fit you almost per­fect­ly. If it does­n’t fit you per­fect­ly, it should be damn close. If the sleeves aren’t the right length on a shirt, roll them up. If the pants are a lit­tle too short, get a tai­lor to let them out. If you haven’t used a tai­lor or seam­stress before, it’s not that expen­sive. If you got a good deal on some­thing that almost fit you, it’s prob­a­bly worth anoth­er $10 to take it from “meh” to “oh meh god.” Seri­ous­ly, you can see some ridicu­lous shirt, all sorts of weird col­ors, pat­terns, stains and tears but if it fits you like it was made exact­ly your size by some strange­ly psy­chic exploit­ed Indone­sian child, wear it.
  2. Brand means noth­ing. Brand is some­thing invent­ed by peo­ple who pro­duce gar­ments to make their prod­uct more valu­able. You don’t need to show­case the brand you’re wear­ing. You’re not a Hol­lis­ter bill­board. You’re a per­son with style that’s adver­tis­ing your­self, not the Gap. Peo­ple with logos on their shirts are Nascar dri­vers. Bot­tom line is if it looks good and it’s well made from qual­i­ty mate­r­i­al it’s a nice gar­ment. How­ev­er, some brands are usu­al­ly well made. Lev­i’s, for instance, is almost always a safe bet. And I’ve got some pants from Express that are near­ly bul­let­proof after years of abuse. Any­thing that’s mil­i­tary issue will also stand up over time, and usu­al­ly has a very hand­some mas­cu­line cut that will bring out your inner Ram­bo. Or at least your inner Bradley Man­ning.
  3. Don’t demand to be com­fort­able. Shorts are for the beach, the gym and the ten­nis court. If you’re not at the Y sweat­ing away the carbs you just crammed into your body at your fifth vis­it to Mamac­i­ta’s this week, wear long pants, jeans or trousers. And flip flops are right out. Your feet are hideous five head­ed crea­tures that smell like some­thing a dog wants to roll in. Any­body who dis­agrees is a fetishist. Wear shoes or boots unless you’re at the beach. At least in the Asheville cli­mate. When you’re sip­ping piña coladas in Havana and it’s 110 in the shade, there are oth­er rules which don’t apply here. May we all be so lucky to explore what’s stylin’ in Havana, but so far that’s beyond the scope of my expe­ri­ence. Ask Ricar­do Mon­tal­bán. He’s still alive, right? Oh, Wikipedia says no. Womp womp.
  4. A good out­fit makes you more con­fi­dent. If you get ready and look in the mir­ror and you say DAAMN I’d ask for my num­ber, then you’re doing it right. Even if you’re mis-match­ing pat­terns and col­ors, if you do it with pur­pose and like you mean and it makes you feel like a rock­star, then you’re doing it right. You should feel like the clothes are wear­ing you, like the whole pur­pose of this shirt was to find you and be worn and thus ful­fill it’s des­tiny.
  5. Over­dress­ing is ok; under­dress­ing is not. Always err on the side of over­dress­ing. As Mark Twain said, “Clothes make the man. Naked peo­ple have lit­tle or no influ­ence on soci­ety.” The oth­er adage to keep in mind is “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” It’s true. Trust me. Not that I have a job or any­thing.

So please fel­las, dress nice. It mat­ters to those who mat­ter, like your­self, your boss, and that cute girl over there. Or dude. If that’s what you’re into. But if you’re gay you already knew all of this any­way, so what are you doing, get off the inter­net and go be fab­u­lous.


  1. Great post! I echo the sen­ti­ments regard­ing fit and brands. Hell, you can get a but­ton down white oxford shirt from Old Navy for $15, take it to a tai­lor and have it tak­en in around the waist for ten bucks, and the shirt will look down­right ele­gant. Seri­ous­ly, tai­lors are the mag­ic elix­er.

    I also like the rule of over­dress­ing vs under­dress­ing. I can’t tell you how many times I have sim­ply thrown on a tie and maybe a sweater vest or some­thing and some nice shoes when going over to some friends for din­ner, and the host­ess absolute­ly loves that I took their din­ner invi­ta­tion so seri­ous­ly and dressed for the occa­sion. It took an extra 5 min­utes but they appre­ci­ate it.

    Men’s fash­ion is dif­fer­ent than wom­en’s (gen­er­al­ly). The frayed col­lar on a well-fit­ting shirt or small hole in your favorite tweed blaz­er gives the item char­ac­ter and usu­al­ly has a sto­ry attached to it. The his­to­ry of gar­ments for men is what make’s menswear inter­est­ing. In most instances, wom­en’s wear seems to be mix­ing and match­ing lots of dif­fer­ent cheap items — where menswear that I like tends to focus on time­less­ness (sic). (There are plen­ty of excep­tions of course — I’m speak­ing in broad terms)

  2. Naked peo­ple have lit­tle or no influ­ence on soci­ety.”

    And I would counter that soci­ety has lit­tle or no influ­ence on naked peo­ple. Which par­ty is the bet­ter for this set of cir­cum­stances is legit­i­mate­ly debat­able.

  3. I make one com­ment about soci­ety and that’s the one Josh picks up on. Keepin’ it real. But you’re prob­a­bly right.

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