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How to Dress: Rules-of-Thumb for the Stylish Man

Aug 17, 2007
Fashion is a tricky thing for many men. I often receive inquiries from readers wondering how to approach style, and why "style" even matters. I argue that presentation matters, regardless if it's a business plan or a business suit. For men, that means it's important to take the time to dress contemporarily; there's no need to be cutting edge, but up-to-date is a definite must.

Fortunately, it is not as difficult as many men think. Unless you have a taste for extraordinarily unusual styles, there shouldn't be much problem coordinating appropriate outfits. Particularly if you break it down to a couple simple rules.

To dress great, it's helpful to have a couple of basic rules-of-thumb to keep in mind. Fashion evolves constantly, but even so, these rules can help you look your best in almost any situation.

First of all, season should never determine color. While some colors may feel more "comfortable" in specific seasons, don't limit your choice of colors based entirely on the time of year. For example, while fall might seem like the perfect time for grays, browns, and blacks, don't forget that contrasting colours, white for example, can provide a stand-out look that'll get you noticed. It's more important to follow guidelines regarding patterns than sticking to specific color "rules".

For most men, understated colors tend to be the most appropriate. In addition, solid colors are a classic look that never go out of style, and are appropriate for almost any situation. If you are struggling to put together an outfit or wardrobe, it's always a great idea to start with a solid colored shirt. You won't go wrong.

While we're talking about color, did you know that your shoe color does not necessarily need to match your belt color?

It's a very common misconception that "different" somehow means "clashing". It's simply not the case. Ideally, colors or tones should be "related". And this goes for everything you're wearing, not just your shoes and belt. The key is to pick similar shades that fit into a certain "class" that go well together. So, keep in mind: don't match colors, pair.

Pairing is another interesting topic, particularly when talking about patterns. Most men think it's a faux-pas to pair patterns, but again, this is more of a suggestion than a hard and fast rule. While I'm willing to grant that purple stripes definitely don't go well with orange bubble print, pairing patterns can have a powerful effect on an ensemble. The key to remember is that paired patterns should be in a similar shade, with one pattern more subtle than the other.

As for pants, what's the best? Well, again, it always comes down to personal taste. But if you want to ensure you are up to date, there are two things to avoid: pleats and cuffs. Current styles in men's pants involve straight, clean lines. Pleats just add padding, which looks messy, and cuff belong on only the most formal of pants.

One last thing: make sure your pants are hemmed to the correct length. If you get your pants hemmed too short, it'll look like you've suffered an unexpected growth spurt. Just remember: no one wants to see your socks!

All in all, there are very few "rules" to men's fashion. There is room to express individuality while presenting an elegant appearance.
About the Author
Michael Lee-Smith has strong opinions about fashion. Learn more about fashion trends at his fashion trends site.
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