Take off your hat indoors, lose the goatee, shine your shoes

If men learn what not to do, they have a fighting chance at being fashionable

November 02, 2003|By Rene A. Guzman | Rene A. Guzman,New York Times News Service

Blame Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and the media obsession with metrosexuals for the average man's lack of style sense.

Truth is, the fashion finger-pointing starts with the man in the mirror. But we're all in the same style-starved boat here. So rather another must-have laundry list, let's learn what NOT to wear.

"Most men can grasp onto, 'Don't do this,' " says Kenneth Karpinski, author of Mistakes Men Make That Women Hate: 101 Style Tips for Men (Capital Books, $9.95). "If they recognize those don'ts and make that change, then they will have done an incremental improvement of how they look immediately. It can be one small thing at a time, and they can see a noticeable difference."

We quizzed Karpinski and other men's fashion experts on how to help everyday guys downsize dour wardrobes in the hopes that pointing out the negative will accentuate the positive. To make things simple, we tackled the task from head to toe.

Follow this process of elimination, and you'll look better for it.

What Not to Wear on Your Head ...

Hats indoors. A gentleman removes his hat indoors. Period. Especially at the dinner table. While you're at it, take off the sunglasses inside, too.

Stefano Tonchi, Esquire magazine's fashion / creative director, says baseball caps are totally acceptable outside, but fedoras or straw hats are unacceptable anywhere (at least on the East Coast, where this dictum comes from). Oh, and when you wear that baseball cap, the bill faces front.

Comb-overs. You are not Charlie Brown, so don't be a blockhead. "The seven hairs across the top has sort of been selected as the egregious thing," Karpinski says. He suggests you shorten the hair that's still growing so it's consistent with what's not growing on top. Consider a short cut a la the actor Patrick Stewart. If you're bold, go bald.

Zany sideburns or facial hair. Unless you're in a boy band. "All those goatees are a little tired, passe," Tonchi says.

What not to wear on your chest ...

The wrong jacket. Tonchi says if you're boxy, don't wear a three-button suit jacket. If you're short, don't wear a double-breast. And wide patterns are not for wide people. "Pinstripes are always good," he says, "because they make people slim."

The wrong tie. "A necktie is sort of like a bumper sticker for your body," Karpinski says. "The tie you wear is sending a message, intentionally or unintentionally. Choose your tie to express the mood or your personality."

A short-sleeve shirt with a tie. Life is not NYPD Blue and you are not Andy Sipowicz. Or for that matter, a 1960s NASA employee. "It's OK if you're 18," Tonchi says, "and you want to be ironic."

Wrinkles. Even if you own heaps of polyester / cotton blend shirts, crank out the iron.

What not to wear on your legs ...

Low pants or baggy pants. Too short (think Urkel) or too long (think Popeye) is too bad. When standing, "your pants should rest on your shoe tops with just a slight break," Karpinski says.

Clunky wallets. Don't carry a brick in your back pocket. It's bad for your pants and your back. Same goes for chain wallets. Again, unless you're in a boy band, or have a vocation that involves janitorial services or night security.

What not to wear on your feet ...

Tacky (or toeless) socks. Socks that match your shoes? Bad. Socks with holes in the heel or toe? Very bad. Socks with sandals? Very, very bad. Black socks with shorts? Colossal bad.

Scuffed shoes. They say clothes make the man. Shoes make him more of a man. They say more about you than you know. Great shoes turn heads. So do gross shoes, but for all the wrong reasons.

"We men have a tendency to treat our shoes like old friends and never dispose of them," Karpinski says. "But there comes a time."

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