Man up: We love men's style
Pay attention, gents: We care about what you wear.
by : Flannery Dean- Apr 8th, 2010
I’m no expert when it comes to the science of attraction. I can’t tell the difference between a pheromone and Drakkar Noir. But here’s what I can say with certainty: What a man wears is important. Whether he’s aware of it or not, a man’s clothing tells a story, and most women are avid readers. You might even say that we’re hyper-literate when it comes to summarizing a man’s style at a glance. Take tabloid star Jon Gosselin, for example. I know all I need to know about the Octo-Papa from his Ed Hardy tees, baggy mom jeans and diamond studs. Put the pieces together and what do you get? Creepy single dad on the prowl. To most women, his sartorial sense speaks volumes about who he is or, at the very least, who he wants to be.
Clothes don’t just make the man; they make or break first dates. A bad outfit will put the kibosh on budding chemistry as effectively as burping at the table. Of the species known as “badly dressed man,” there are two main types: clueless guy and careless guy (that is, the guy who doesn’t know anything about style and the guy who just doesn’t care). My last date fell into the first cat egory. He picked me up (late!) wearing a suit jacket, Dockers and a well-worn golf shirt. While I wasn’t wild about the combination, I blamed the haphazard look on good-natured obliviousness. Then he took off the jacket. The embroidery on his golf shirt—a silhouette of a nude woman with her panties around her ankles!—revealed a serious lack of taste, not to mention a vast discrepancy in our world views. (Had I really borrowed my sister’s Gucci wedges for
But a clueless man in a cringe-worthy ensemble is infinitely preferable to a careless one. You can work with a clueless man: Take him shopping, tell him what clothes look good on him, buy him things. A lack of self-consciousness can even be endearing. But someone who couldn’t care less about how he looks is a different kind of project altogether. He considers his tearaway Adidas pants as distinctly personal as his DNA. “This is me,” he declares. “Take it or leave it.” When faced with such a character, 33-year-old Amelia* chose to leave it. Her date (an Internet set-up) “showed up in what appeared to be an outfit he got for free,” she says. “He worked for the U.S. Navy and was wearing basketball shorts with U.S. Navy on them, a T-shirt with Ministry of something or other on it and black running shoes with white socks.” Dressed to impress, Amelia read utter indifference in her date’s ensemble (“He looked like he was going to clean the garage”) and immediately counted him out as a potential suitor—a decision that was bolstered by a complete lack of chemistry. “I don’t think I’m alone in judging a guy’s level of interest by the effort he puts into his out- fit,” she explains. “He could have at least worn a pair of pants!”
Lack of sartorial panache is a persistent theme in many long-term relationships too. (One friend told me that she’s just happy if her husband’s shirts aren’t dotted with food stains.) Christina McDowell, an image consultant and a national spokesperson for Holt Renfrew in Toronto, gets her fair share of desperate housewives sending their significant others for wardrobe updates. “We dress these women to the nines,” she says. “They are wearing the latest and greatest fashion and want their partners to walk alongside them looking styled, not like they just rolled out of bed.” McDowell says that often a little personal attention in a private suite is all it takes for these seemingly fashion-averse blokes to start asking to see the latest from Paul Smith, Etro and John Varvatos. “I remember a client who reluctantly came in because his wife referred him to me,” says McDowell. “He was vying for a promotion and was up against some serious competition. His wife knew he had what it took, but he was missing an important element: His wardrobe was dated and lacked impact. After we gave him a mini-makeover, he [came back and] told me he’d gotten the job. He said he not only looked better but also felt more confident during the interview.”
That kind of personal attention may be necessary for a lot of men who, unlike women, aren’t used to hitting the mall on their lunch breaks or window-shopping with friends, says Jeff Farbstein, vice-president of merchandise for Harry Rosen. “Browsing is also shopping, and that’s part of the fun that women have,” he says. “Men are starting to have that kind of fun too.”
And while not every man needs a makeover, McDowell and Farbstein agree that too many fail to keep abreast of changing styles. “They think of clothing as a uniform, so they tend to wear things that are older and won’t re-accessorize themselves,” says Farbstein. “They let themselves look a bit dated.” To avoid closet malaise, McDowell advises that men look at their wardrobes practically and invest accordingly, choosing pieces with style and longevity: “Have a few power suits and some relaxed-but-modern weekend wear in your wardrobe. And make sure that the cuts are current, especially in denim and suits.”
One woman has found a way to weed out the most embarrassing pieces from her boyfriend’s closet. Stephanie*, a freelance stylist based in Toronto, uses positive reinforcement. “Instead of telling him what I don’t like—his denim-covered running shoes, for instance—I tell him what I
do like, what looks good on him,” she says. Sounds like a smart approach. What a pity Kate Gosselin didn’t think of that.
ELLE’s top five style sets for men.
1. The Cary Grant tribe
A Single Man, Scotch on the rocks
Current chairman George Clooney
Go-to designer Ermenegildo Zegna
Key pieces (as recommended by Jeff Farbstein, vice-president of merchandise for Harry Rosen, here and below)
• A light grey or tan suit
• A French-cuffed shirt worn without a tie
• Light-brown (whiskey or cognac) shoes with a belt in a similar shade
2. The Johnny Depp tribe
Think Gram Parsons B-sides, three-day stubble
Current chairman Robert Pattinson
Go-to designer William Rast
• Skinny jeans
• A shorter, trimmer hybrid jacket
• Distressed, washed sports shirts
• A leather motorcycle jacket
3. The Eminem tribe
Think Bling, a pocket rhyming dictionary
Current chairman Drake
Go-to designer Jean Paul Gaultier
• A slim-fitting evening jacket in a luxe fabric (like silk)
• Flashy sneakers or running shoes
4. The Oscar Wilde tribe
Think Bons mots, Château Pétrus 1982
Current chairman Jason Schwartzman
Go-to designer Etro
• Pattern-on-pattern shirts with contrasting collar and cuffs
• Exaggerated pocket squares
• A slim-fitting check suit
• Brightly patterned socks
5. Steff from the Pretty in Pink tribe
Think The Preppy Handbook, a J.Crew catalogue subscription
Current chairman Tom Brady
Go-to designer Bottega Veneta
• The updated baseball jacket for spring 2010 • A madras shirt or shorts
• Straight-leg dark-wash jeans
*Name has been changed.
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