Q: I just went to a men's summer sale and found some great clothes -- including a khaki suit -- at significantly lower prices. In my heart I know there must be something wrong with this good deal. What is it? Which summer sale clothes might go out of style?
A: Unless you bought this year's latest off-beat rage, such as a cotton-and-Lycra biker outfit, you can relax and be pleased with your bargains. One advantage men have over women in their clothing purchases is that khaki suit -- is useful throughout the summer and into early fall. And it will be ready to wear on the first warm days next April.
Here's the logic behind store sales. Even though men's styles don't change much, manufacturers make a 'new line' each year. Reputable stores cannot keep fashion items from one season to the next; they must clean out their stock. If a fashion-aware customer discovered something from last year's inventory on the shelf, the store would lose its credibility.
Admittedly, this may not be true in every clothing category. Ongoing classics such as Scottish cashmere sweaters, solid-color men's socks, and basic Oxford cloth button-down shirts can be stored in a back room and brought to the selling floor as the stock or season requires. But most styles must not reappear in a store the following season. Wild ties, three-piece suits, and other easily outdated items may have a shorter life when bought at the end of a season. But they can still be a good buy. A money-cruncher I know puts it this way: If a man's suit or a classic navy blazer is a lasting-enough style to stay appropriate for at least five years, and you buy it after the first year's season, you still have four-fifths of its value. Therefore, it should be on sale for 20 percent off. So, if it's 50 percent off, you're saving another 30 percent, a real bargain.
Q: How do I know which hair products to use? Which ones do I need? Which are just hype?
A: The array of styling products on the market can be confusing. You will see shampoos, conditioners, shine enhancers, glazes, gels, creams, mousses, sprays, lotions. Some perform different tasks; some are merely different consistencies or strengths. Many products are sold in drug and discount stores; others are only available in better hair salons.
A man should talk to his barber or hair stylist for advice about which products are best suited to his hair. Choices should be guided by the kind of hair you have, your cut, and your grooming habits. Buying products from a hair salon eliminates the guesswork and helps you purchase the most appropriate products. If you like the way your hair looks when you leave the salon, then by using the same products, you're on your way to the same look.
The simplest regimen consists of the right shampoo for your hair, usually a conditioner, and some sort of styling product.
Some shampoos attest to being right for dry hair and all wrong for oily hair. Men who shampoo every day may need different products from those who wash their hair less often. Your barber or hair stylist might recommend a good leave-in conditioner, such as Nexxus Humectress, Regis Pro-Fusion, or Lab Series Nutriplexx Energizing Scalp Treatment. Some products, such as the new Regis line, have packaging with trilingual directions in English, Spanish, and French.
About styling products: Allow the hair to partially dry before applying. Then apply a small amount -- starting at the roots of the hair and working through to the end. If you add too much or only to the ends of the hair, instead of giving lift and fullness, you can make the hair heavy and droopy, or worse, greasy.
Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, Today in Style, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Ms. Fenton welcomes questions about men's dress or grooming for use in this column but regrets she cannot answer mail personally.
Ms. Fenton, the author of "Dress for Excellence" (Rawson Associates, $19.95), conducts wardrobe seminars for Fortune 500 companies around the country.