As a child you probably played games like cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers as well as sports that groomed you for your future. In those days you got down and dirty, and nobody much cared if you had mud on your face, grass in your hair or a little blood trickling from your nose. Meanwhile, the girls across the street were playing a different game’dress-up. They begged their mothers for access to fancy clothes and cosmetics and tried them all on. In return they got a head start in the appearance game. Today, as you play the adult games of career and romance, where good clothes are required, a woman will most likely have you beat.
But it’s never too late to learn how to enhance your appearance (and also your social life) with the right wardrobe.
Clean Out Your Closet
Make way for the new by discarding anything you haven’t worn in a year’or six months in temperate climates. Most people wear only about 10 percent of their wardrobe 95 percent of the time anyway, so get aggressive with the reduction strategy.
Consider everything you own, including hats, coats, shoes, belts and jewelry. If a garment’s damaged and you aren’t motivated to repair it, or it doesn’t make you feel good anymore when you wear it, toss it out. Ditto for discolored socks and briefs and jeans with holes in the crotch. Might as well delete those T-shirts with the offensive stains on the front too. And, honestly, are you really going to wear that burgundy jacket, or are you keeping it because you paid old man Armani too much for it? The rule of thumb is, When in doubt, toss it out. Fill a few boxes with your unused items and donate them to a local charity. Spend the resulting tax refund on some exciting new duds.
While you’re at it, fill another box with clothes that need cleaning, mending or ironing. Then take them immediately to a cleaner that offers those services.
Study Men’s Fashion Magazines
An occasional copy of GQ should do the trick. Search for models with similar hair, skin and eye color to yours in order to determine your color complements. Make a note of them. Look for a body type that resembles yours and study that person’s clothing style. Would you look better in a baggy shirt and fitted pants or vice versa? When you find a look you want to emulate, tear out the page and start a fashion file. Bring that file with you when you go shopping to show salespeople what you’re looking for.
Shop With an Honest Friend
Ask a fashion-savvy friend to help you shop for clothes, and be sure to reward him or her with a restaurant meal for those services. Try on lots and lots of clothes, but select only the ones that fit you perfectly and flatter your features. If a garment doesn’t perform both of those tasks, return it to the rack. No ifs, ands or buts allowed here. If it’s too tight across the shoulders or too large around the waist, you’ll lose points if you ever wear it. If you never looked good in that shade of green or in cuffed pants, don’t even bother trying it on. Here are two things to remember: 1) The clothes that most attract us often don’t look good on us, and 2) the clothes you choose to wear identify who you are in the world, so be thoughtful with your choices.
Build on Classics
If you stick with classic clothes’traditionally cut blazers and trousers in black, navy, gray or khaki, made of wool, cotton or silk’you cannot fail. Statistics show that well-dressed women are most attracted to men who wear classically tailored’not trendy’clothes, like khaki pants paired with a polo shirt. ‘There’s nothing worse than seeing a handsome guy in Z Cavaricci clown pants and a loud shirt,’ says model Amber Lockwood. Shoes should match belts, and socks should be worn with shoes, sandals being the exception, she adds.
After you’ve finished dressing, look in the mirror and step back about 10 feet. Does anything jump out at you, stealing attention away from your face? If so, put on something else. The goal is to draw the attention to your face, especially your eyes. After all, you want people to pay attention to you’ not your clothes.
Where to Start
Look for big-and-tall stores. If you’re not really tall, you can always adjust the sleeves and cuffs. Arnold Schwarzenegger likes L.L. Bean. Wherever he goes, his favorite blue blazer is usually with him. Other clothing sources to consider are Timberland, Sears and outdoorsman shops. There’s a catalog company called Sierra Trading Post that has lots of sporty outdoorsy closeouts, often in very large sizes and at surprisingly low prices. The firm has stores in Reno and Wyoming, and you can reach it via the Internet.
Editor’s note: Teagan invites you to write to her at [email protected] IM