A couple weekends ago, my wife and I went to a wedding. One of the interesting things to do at an event like this is to look around and see what other people are wearing. It is especially interesting to me to see how the men have decided to present themselves.
Southern California in 2017 has a hyper-casual society. One of the consequences of our slavish devotion to ease and comfort in dress seems to be that many men are actually unprepared when that rare occasion does come up that still, at least in principle, demands some level of formality. A wedding seems to be such an occasion, at least for the present. The result is a lot of men making a lot of simple mistakes that prevent their outfit from coming together nicely. I decided I list the four most common garb gaffes I saw.
- Clothes don’t fit. Plain and simple. And ninety percent of the time, that means too big. A lot of men wear shirts that are just too big, sometimes much too big. This looks awfully unflattering, and it’s such an easy thing to fix. Often, I’ll see men’s sleeves beginning down their arms. When sizing a shirt, the best rule of thumb is to make sure the seam that attaches the sleeve to the shoulder is right at the top of your shoulder. It shouldn’t be slinking down your upper arm. On the other hand, if the seam is up on your collarbone, try the next size up. Formal pants should break at the ankle (or higher if you’re feeling bold) and not bunch up like an accordion around your shoe. If you’re sitting or crossing your legs, you should be flashing some sock. Honestly, simply wearing clothing that fits would make a big difference. And since I’m at it, this goes for causal clothing too. I constantly see men wearing t-shirts and polo shirts about two sizes too large. It’s like an epidemic! Hint: if your short sleeve shirt goes to your elbow, try something smaller.
- Bad shoes. We’ve all seen it: guys trying to get away with wearing black work boots or, worse, black tennis shoes in otherwise business casual or semi-formal wear. This does NOT work. If you don’t have any, go ahead and buy a pair of true dress shoes—yes, even if you think you’ll only need them this once. It’s worth it. In fact, the dress shoes will look better on you even when you’re strolling along in blue jeans. Get the shoes. Don’t quibble. Get them. I’ll wait. (And please don’t be the bro wearing Converse with a suit if you’re over 17. It’s not cute past that age).
- The wrong trousers. I think the reason men wear bad pants to a semi-formal occasion is because they don’t even own the right kind. That’s a problem in itself. But if you ever are in possession of a wedding invitation but not in possession of any dress pants, head to your local department store. Do not attempt, under any circumstances, to try to “dress up” dark work pants, like Dickies, or black jeans. Do not wear cargo pants to the event. (Actually, just don’t wear cargo pants ever.) Khaki and chino pants can be fine in a semi-casual atmosphere, but know what you’re doing. The safest bet is dress pants … that fit.
- The fourth trouble area I will call “accents”. I mostly mean belt and socks. This isn’t hard, but you’ll often see slight blunders here that throw off a man’s look. First, match your belt and your shoes (are they brown or black?). Your socks should approximately match the color of your pants. Never wear white socks (unless wearing a white suit, but if you are, then this blog isn’t for you—you’re already dressing on a higher level entirely). If wearing dress pants, wear a narrower leather dress belt. (Not any black leather belt is dressy enough to work.) If wearing khakis or chinos, a wider leather belt can look nice—just know what you’re after.
Knocking out a good getup is easy. And if all the men did it, it wouldn’t mean they they’d all look the same; they’d just all look good. There is plenty of room for variety. The main obstacle is simply that many men either don’t care enough (and this includes the unwillingness to spend the money) or just don’t know how to build an outfit. This isn’t entirely their fault, since we are a generation or two into a very casual society. But c’mon, guys. Wedding receptions can look better than this!