Ask Dr Fashion: Should I Throw Away My Jeans?

Do you really want to end up like this?
Do you really want to end up like this?
A reader writes:


I’ve just read “Top 10 Men’s Fashion Rules” and you’re really against to jeans. My question is, i’m a college student and 23 years old and i like to dress “more formal” than the all t-shirt and sneakers wearers around me. And i always wear dark unwashed jeans with a dress shirt, a jacket and if it’s really cold a overcoat. And generally long wingtip bluchers for shoes. So i’m almost %90 more decent dressed every single guy around me and it really helps me to get chicks and be respected anywhere. But should i throw my jeans, is it the time ? Or should i wait until i get a decent job ? I mean am i overdressing for my age and position or am i actually wrong to try and bring it down a little with jeans ? What do you say ?

My dear young man, congratulations. You have taken your first step into a land which frightens your confréres; indeed, it is a place that scares the willies out of a growing number of people. This the Adulthood.

Americans now clutch to youth long past the point of seemliness, as if nobody notices their sagging or surgically stretched skin. Those inflicted labor under the delusion that if only they dressed like post-pubescent teens, people will find them youthful.

They particularly fear that if they dressed like adults, they would have to think and act like them, too. In this they are correct, if only because those around a suit-wearer treat him differently. Someone dressing as an adult is called “Sir” instead of “Hey you.” And there is absolutely no question that women far prefer a well dressed man to a stock (“ironic”) t-shirt-and-jeans-wearing lemming.

An adult realizes that he is not only dressing for himself, but for those around him. Everybody has to look at you. Why cause people pain? Dressing well is a duty, another characteristic of Adulthood.

Now as to you. Your choice of shoes is excellent. There are two spending rules for mens clothes: never skimp in shoes or hats. Everybody instantly notices inferior quality. And nothing ruins an outfit faster than subpar foot- and head-wear (no hipster hats). Sneakers, or what we called tennis shoes, are forbidden except when running after a ball. Just don’t wear them. They are always ugly, and because of the use of neon pipping, growing more hideous each year.

Also correct are the wearing of a jacket and adult shirt. T-shirts are forbidden except as undergarments or when playing sports.

The lesson here is that much less can be spent on shirts than on anything else. Thrift stores are good hunting grounds. The jacket covers most of the shirt, a tie hides even more. Therefore a shirt’s fit isn’t as crucial. Just try to ensure the neck closes around your gullet and the sleeves come to the meat of your thumb.

To answer your main question, yes: throw away your jeans. Yours Truly does not even own a pair, but then he lives in a city. If you are in the country, again I say, throw them away. My grandfather used to show me pictures of his father and uncle fishing in the Detroit River wearing three-piece suits. It’s what people did. (This was in the late 1800s, early 1900s.)

Ever notice any of those PBS “costume” dramas? The lords and ladies out for a hunt, that sort of thing? All in suits and frocks. Looks classy, no? Jeans aren’t necessary, except if you are earnestly laboring in the field, then they are just the ticket. Otherwise, no.

You said you wear “dark unwashed jeans.” Ah, yes. A common approach, especially in the aged. An attempt to disguise jeans as something other than jeans. These jeans are often expensive because it takes many steps to create pants that aren’t pants but look like them if you’re not looking closely. You would pay less for a pair of real trousers.

You don’t have to jump right into a suit. Jacket and tie and mismatched trousers are fine, even preferred in many instances. Don’t forget the pocket square.

There will be a price to pay in teasing and odd looks from your immediate friends. But this lasts only days or weeks. You will soon discover that you are the one these fellows come to for dressing tips. And you will instantly be aware of the greater attention from ladies and increased respect of strangers.

P.S. I’d correct your grammar, but I don’t want to be accused of micro-aggression.


  1. Sheri

    Two points:
    1. Should you throw out your jeans? If you have something to replace them with, sure. 🙂

    2. Dressing like an adult is not necessarily going to happen if “adults” wear trousers and children don’t. Since we dropped the “short trousers” for boys, pants are pants. The major reason why is people today think of their children as small adults (more convenient–you can pretend they are your friends and you don’t have to be a disciplinarian). If adults take to wearing trousers and ties and suit coats, tiny versions of said garments will hit the shelves in 6 months or less and your favorite toddler will dashing in his top coat, trousers, shoes and hat. Sadly, we cannot force people be adults and distinguish themselves from children. Close one avenue for denial and another will open.

  2. Jim Fedako

    You colonizer! You philistine excrescence of a statistician. Your even mention of the bourgeoisie concept of grammar shows you still seek to dehumanize those whose minds your class colonized eons ago. You are hereby sentenced to reading Paulo Feire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed out loud before the masses at noon each day.

  3. An Engineer

    Jim – I hope you are being satyrical, else you might be affected by a bad case of philistinism. All things about United States society have degenerated to a point where manners, civility, and virtue are all most extinguished. Dr. Briggs is trying to re-kindle responsibility, civility, virtue and manners. Interestingly, the reading assignment you gave Dr. Briggs was published in 1968, about the time society values took a tumble. I also note Feire’s tome became universally accepted by education scholars shortly after publishing. It advocated the so called “banking model” for educators leading to the idea that a student arrived for education with significant deposits in the brain and teachers need only guide students to master creative thinking presuming knowledge of fundamentals. The result – dramatic drops in language, reading and mathematics competency. I experienced society in the 50s, 60s and 70s and see it now. So sir, I assign to you Morris Berman’s “The Twilight of American Culture”.

  4. Jim Fedako

    An Engineer,

    My apologies, I assumed my comment was sufficiently over-the-top. So, of course I was being satirical, with my comment aimed at those claiming “micro aggression,” whatever that may be.

  5. Tom

    My dear young man, dress to impress women and always have [materials] handy.

    “For men, every bit of attractiveness has to come from the inside,” said my wife.


  6. Bruce Foutch

    Don’t dress to your station in life, dress to the station you aspire to.

  7. Sheri

    @Tom: Gentlemen keep their pants on, whatever the type they are wearing.

  8. andyd

    Te suit is the uniform of the class enemy.

  9. DAV

    I think the link to “micro-aggression” is more interesting than the topic of flaunting evil jeans. But then, the prevalence of grammatical errors is the result of the offending group’s jeans. It is in my case.

    Wearing a coat is perhaps the least chilling alternative. Even the thought of tie-ing one on makes me hot under the collar.

    Speaking of evil jeans, my favorite Junior Brown song:


    How odd. Keeping the pants on can be uncomfortable for the wearer and a close neighbor in certain situations. The zippers can be sharp. I would think a gentleman would be aware of this and remove his trousers. It’s the civil thing to do,

  10. Jerry

    This is certainly good advice. When I started my first engineering job, an older religious, gentlemanly colleague, told me to “Always dress at least one level higher that your boss.” He did, and he was always perceived as a manager.

    It worked for me, too, kind-of. The problem was that I just couldn’t solve any math problems or write good code while dressed in a suit. I do my best thinking in casual, comfortable dress. My work suffered, but I looked great in my suit.

    Eventually, we went to “casual Fridays” where anything goes on a Friday. Amazingly, the older executive management types were dumbfounded, unable to dress themselves, or select casual clothing. Thirty-plus years of wearing a three-piece suit will do that. I and my younger colleagues immediately started wearing jeans on Fridays. Everyone instantly became happier, more relaxed, and a lot more work got done. Everyone loved Fridays and looked forward to them. Over the following months, the older manger-types who had good wives started sporting casual khakis and shirts, dressing “smart casual”. It was a slow process, but they figured it out. The unmarried and divorced ones were the last to catch on.

    Eventually we went to casual every day. What an enormous difference in attitude and productivity it made! By that time everyone knew how to dress “smart casual” so most wore khakis but a few wore jeans.

    Thankfully, my new job is all casual all the time. jeans are the norm. I just can’t work any other way.

  11. Briggs

    Sorry, Jerry, but I’m not buying one word of this.

    Mankind went to the moon, invented the computer and computer programming, discovered quantum mechanics and DNA, and on and on and on, all in suits.

    Plus, if your theory is correct, and that uglier and more vulgar clothing were more productive, then you ought to start sporting a loin cloth made from scraps recycled from the garbage. Boy! Won’t you push the frontiers of engineering ahead then!

  12. DAV

    Well now that you mention it, from NASA video footage one can clearly see the astronauts wore suits to the moon.

  13. Sheri

    Briggs–loin cloth made from scraps sounds like the perfect way to be asked to work at home. I’m not seeing the down side.

  14. Tom

    How has dressing well improved your professional career?

  15. Scotian

    Although I don’t wear suits and I can’t stand restrictions around my neck I always dress smart-casual. There is no distinction from one day to another. No sweat clothes, no T-shirts with inane phases printed on them, no jeans, no sneakers but black walking shoes for comfort and subdued colours. But somewhat in line with Briggs I can not work at home until I have showered, shaved, and gotten dressed. Loincloth might work if you are planning to go hunting with a grass rope and your father’s hunting knife.

    I’m not buying the more work got done either. It sounds suspiciously like claiming that the best ideas come when you are drunk. That being said we may not dress that differently. I think that the real point is that when you get used to dressing a certain way nothing else seems comfortable until you get used to the transition. Also Briggs, Jerry didn’t say that he dressed in an ugly and vulgar manner.

    I’m also not sure about dressing one level higher than your boss. I suppose it depends on the boss but this strategy could easily backfire. I have better advice and that is to remember that when other people give you advice it is often one of three things. It is given for their own and not your benefit, it is seriously out of date, or it is the ramblings of a blowhard. Each generation has to find its own way.

  16. Jerry

    Mr. Briggs, your point is well taken. My father was one of the engineers who helped us get to the moon. He wore a suit every day of his life, even on Saturdays (no vest or tie on Saturdays, just wool pants and jacket). I once watched him try to wear jeans on a Saturday. He put them on for a few hours, became uncomfortable, and switched to a suit.

    I would like to point out that “casual and comfortable” does not mean “uglier and more vulgar.” Business casual, “smart casual” look very respectable and you can still be productive, provided that you loosen your necktie sufficiently so as to increase blood flow to the brain.

    I still wear a suit when needed to meet with a client, or when working in a client’s office. Everyone tells me how good I look, but I find it extremely unproductive. I do my best thinking and problem solving when I am comfortable, casual, and in a beautiful place.

    Part of it is my generation: a friend of mine, also an engineer, in his mid-30s, has never owned a suit. Never even wore one. He’s very good a business-casual, though, and successful in his career. Interestingly, he recently bought a full tux, and wears it proudly for Knights of Columbus functions.

  17. DAV

    The real purpose behind the style of dress is to impress and influence others. It’s a display and statement. When no one else is about (like when working alone) what is the purpose? Assuming, of course, what you are wearing is not functionally required by the task, e.g., a spacesuit when walking the moon.

    I get it. There are people who compartmentalize to the extent that they can’t function unless wearing a costume they deem appropriate to the task. Almost literally changing hats when the task changes.

    But I’ve never understood why. I can understand the need to impress others but why would anyone need to impress themselves? Perhaps someone can explain.

    For the costumers, what is appropriate for playing Monopoly? Should I dress as J. P. Morgan or should I dress like Donald Trump because the game involves real estate transactions? Why not dress as Julius Caesar who was also into land grabbing?

  18. DAV

    My guess: Donald Trump who already owns a chunk of the actual Atlantic City, NJ which is the basis for the game.

  19. DAV

    But what then if I were playing the British version which doesn’t resemble Atlantic City at all?

    It’s all so complicated just like the rules for what shape and color tie is appropriate when hunting fox.

  20. revGDright

    We didn’t quite make it to the moon but I was one of the engineers that at least helped the shuttle get to low earth orbit. The worst dressers were the civil servants (short-sleeve shirts!) but Fridays were Hawaiian shirt day in several of the shops. Business casual got dumpier and dumpier over the years as the cubicles got smaller and smaller. I think jackets went out around the time the safety office made them take the coat hooks out of the cubicles because they could put someone’s eye out.

  21. Mike B.

    I always enjoy it when Matt finds a new way to rant about his distain for “adults dressing like children”. Matt, when you blog, do you wear a suit? Or does what you wear only matter in the image you project to co-workers and clients? What if your co-workers and clients never see you?

    And with regard to “sending a man to the moon in suits”, what I saw was a bunch of nerds with short sleeve white shirts and ties, quite standard warm climate (Houston, South Florida) attire in the ’60’s.

    And with regard to an earlier post from Mr. Fouch, I aspire to be retired, and dress accordingly. 😉

  22. Briggs

    Mike B,

    “when you blog, do you wear a suit?” That, or a mismatched jacket and tie. I often take the jacket off and put it on my chair. My bathrobe has a pocket square (looks good, too). In the fall (well, from 35-55 degrees) I often use my leather jacket, but still a shirt and tie. Several readers of the blog met or know me and can verify this.

    “Or does what you wear only matter in the image you project to co-workers and clients?” The image you present to everybody, including yourself.

    “What if your co-workers and clients never see you?” I’d still see me, and so would members of my community. Remember: dressing well is a duty.

    Well, white tie and shirts certainly counts. People knew when to put the jackets back on.

  23. Katie

    The cost of “casual” clothes today, such as jeans and sneakers, show that they are no great bargain. People clad thusly are likely adding up the dollar amount of their vestments, and think that their outfit cost such-and-such–and the expenditure is what counts and not how it looks.

    As for “dressing for other people”–if my brethren evidently don’t care how they look, why would they care how I look?

  24. alexis

    There is nothing wrong with that photo. It takes a real man to walk a cat on a leash, and real cat to allow it to happen. Just ask my husband and my cat Fearless. Offering thanks today for both husband and cat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *