Top 10 Men’s fashion rules

It’s Spring, so it’s high time we talked about men’s fashion. Best Dressed Man

Update: George Will and Daniel Akst from the Wall Street Journal have weighed in.

We’ll do women at another time, but for those who can’t wait, here’s a teaser: no wide-rimmed dark sunglasses. Although they are very popular, they add at at least five years to your looks. Understand me, lady: you look old wearing these.

The following rules have been derived and investigated over the course of a rough and storied life. They are not my rules: they have been handed down through the ages. Complicated statistical models have been employed. Mathematics that rival the most perplexing string theory have been used. Experts have been consulted. Rigorous experiments have been carried out.

These basic rules are therefore infallible, inviolable, inarguable.

Rule 1 Dress for the job! All other rules flow from this one. It’s the most obvious, but also the most abused.

The corollaries—or practical implementations—to this rule are many and varied. We won’t, therefore, have time to cover more than the most common settings.

a. If you are mucking about in the sewers, the fields, or you are a plumber or carpenter, if you fix cars or you are a cog on an assembly line, jeans are just the thing. Canvas, or fire hose-style rough cotton pants are preferred substitutes. Khaki, dark blue, white, or black are de rigueur. Other colors, such as purple, orange, red—any primary color, really—are unacceptable. Jeans should be worn at the hip and not lower. Leave decorations on pants to the kids.

If you are not in a profession where you are required to bend, twist, drag, drop, or drudge, then you must not wear jeans!

If you work in any office, even one in which you are the manager of people who do honest labor, jeans are still forbidden.

No, no—I anticipate your complaints. “But I spent $300 on these jeans. They’re expensive!” Yes, I agree: they are expensive. They are also jeans. Jeans are wore by laborers—an honest and worthy band of men—but if you are not a laborer, you do not wear jeans.

b. There is no such thing as “Dress-down Friday.” Ignore this rule completely. It is a setup for suckers, a device to see who would slack if given the opportunity. The people who dress down are always the first to go—and rightly—when times get tough.

c. Another exception for jeans, and other rough clothing like shorts, is the company jamboree, church picnic, or similar outing. Acceptable clothing includes knit pullovers with the company or organization logo. Even t-shirts may be worn, provided that they are not in public view on the way to and from the place of activity.

Rule 2 Always wear t-shirts. Undershirts, that is. They soak up sweat and extend the life of your shirts.

With two exceptions, never wear a t-shirt as your outer garment.

This includes those t-shirts on which is printed an aphorism that you find hilarious, or that mention a destination at which you once appeared and are anxious to advertise. Wearing t-shirts as a primary garment make you look like somebody who cannot be trusted with responsibility. Furthermore, the kind of person who believes a philosophy can be succinctly splayed across their chest is not somebody decision makers want to associate with.

It is never so hot out that you can get away with a t-shirt. Wear a loose linen shirt in the heat.

The first exception to the rule is, of course, sports. If you are playing a sport, a t-shirt is fine, even necessary. But if you are only watching, it is not. The second is labor; but if you indulge, at least wear a pocket t-shirt, they are handy for your pencil.

Rule 3 Wear a suit most of the time.

If you do not regularly wear a suit, think of it this way. Each day you wear a pair of pants and a shirt, correct? A suit is just that: a pair of pants and a shirt, together with a jacket that you slip on. A jacket fills you out, corrects your proportions, and makes you appear dressed.

Nothing could be easier than wearing a suit. It is a uniform. No thinking has to be done in the morning deciding on what to wear: just put on the next suit in line. Over the internet, custom-made suits can be had for about two to three hundred bucks.

Do not try getting by with a pair of slacks and boldly colored shirt. If you do not wear a jacket, your shirt has to fit perfectly, or else you risk looking unkempt. Most men wear shirts that have too much room in the waist, the material billowing from the belt like a pot boiling over. Sleeves are too wide, especially near the underarm. The trend—due to the absence of a jacket—has been toward expensive cloth and excessive color and pattern. Put on a jacket and the shirt becomes a mere detail.

Suit colors in the fall and winter should be dark. In the spring and summer, they should be light. Too many men continue to wear navy blue all through the hottest months. An off-white suit looks spectacular in August, and it is cooler because it is made of lighter-weight material.

To head off the most common objection: Suits are too comfortable! If yours is not, it is because it is ill fitting. The problem is with what you bought, it is not because your garment is a suit.

Rule 5 Ties are not necessary. A tie, or cravat if you are elderly, adds the necessary balance to your neckline when your shirt is buttoned and you are wearing a jacket. If you leave your shirt unbuttoned (wearing a jacket), an acceptable stylistic choice, no tie is necessary. A tie without a jacket is incomplete.

Unless it is Halloween, under no circumstances should you wear a novelty tie. If you do tie one on, you may as well wear a lampshade for a hat, for you have crossed the line that separates civilized man from the barbarian.

Unless your fashion eye is fully developed, then opt for simple colors and patterns.

Rule 6 Shoes should have leather soles at work.

Tennis shoes, sneakers, and so forth, are acceptable only on the tennis or basketball court, etc. They should never be worn elsewhere. If you are a laborer, wear boots or heavy shoes. They are more manly.

Leather-soled shoes used to be more expensive than rubber-soled ones, but given the price of logo-encrusted “designer” tennis shoes, this is no longer the case. Properly cared for, leather shoes will last forever. Nothing is more disconcerting than seeing a man wearing a proper suit who is also wearing a pair of cheap, rubber-soled shoes. It ruins the entire outfit and makes the man appear clumsy and amateurish.

It is a lie that rubber-soled shoes are more comfortable. Do not scrimp on footwear: discount shoes are no bargain. Buy fewer pairs of leather shoes and take the time to care for them. This includes regular polishing, which must be done at least every third wearing.

Leather-soled shoes also lets your underlings hear your approaching footsteps. Creeping along with rubber soles breaks the tacit adversarial agreement bosses have with employees. If your employees don’t know where you are, they become skittish and unnecessarily furtive.

Rule 7 Try a hat.

Hats keep your head warm in the winter, cool in the summer; they shade your eyes, and keep the rain from your face. They give a sense of fuller proportionality when wearing a suit.

The more clothes you have on, the wider the brim of the hat. Wear a suit, then wear a fedora, or homburg, pork pie, or if you are feeling frisky, a boater. Men who wear hats deservedly get more respect than those without. Besides the obvious savior faire, hats indicate intelligence and fine temperament. Everybody wants to spend time with the man in the hat.

Hats also let you spend less time with your hair. One of the more depressing trends has been the increase in men “teasing” their hair with goo, attempting to make it look spiky, and tousled, like they don’t care. Men who do this are desirous of “sending a signal”, which they are. It is: I am vain.

Golf caps can be acceptable, obviously when you are engaged in sports, but keep their use to a minimum. Also see Rule 9.

Rule 8 Hair length should be proportional to the amount left.

In other words, if you are going bald, your hair must be kept short. Comb-overs never, not once in the history of the world, have fooled anybody. Sporting one suggests your furtiveness is habitual: you will not be trusted, nor should you be.

Never dye. Gray gracefully. Blow-dried helmet-hair, like that worn by newsreaders or politicians, makes those in your presence wary. People will instinctively check for their wallet after talking to you.

If your hair is recalcitrant, grease may be used to tame it, as long as the amount used cannot readily be discerned.

Unless you sport a beard or a moustache—which you should trim assiduously—shave! Stubble indicates laziness. It is not manly: you never saw John Wayne unshaven. Yes, he got away with a rug—you will not—because he was in the movies and you are not.

Rule 9 With very few exceptions, NEVER wear a visible logo.

The sole exceptions are the jamboree or picnic mentioned above. Sports logos can be done, but should be restricted to the ballpark.

Wearing a logo—e.g., a pocket crest, a jacket’s manufacturer, especially the “designer” of a shoe—indicates a certain femininity, and suggests you want too much to be liked. It tells the world you are easily led, that you prefer the commercials to the Super Bowl.

A visible mark from a manufacturer or “designer” is an attempt to fool people into thinking it’s wearer is fashionable. True fashion is anonymous, it speaks for itself.

Rule 10 If you are going to take your jacket off, wear a vest, or waistcoat. This minor tip is brilliant, because it allows your shirt or belt or suspenders to be of inferior quality. And when you take your jacket off, you still look dressed. You can skimp on the ironing because the wrinkles in your shirt won’t be as noticeable.

Vests also cover the bottom of ties, so that you can concentrate on the knot, the most important part. This is beneficial because older ties, antique ones, were not made as long as today’s ties—because men wore waistcoats. When you come across a beautiful old tie, you will now be able to buy it.


Naturally, I don’t claim to follow all the rules; they are ideals. For me, a good day is one where I remember to zip my fly, or to match my shoes.

Due to the sensitive nature of this subject, some will like to respond by email. Do so. All questions will be answered in subsequent posts.


  1. stan

    Never wear a suit without a tie. An open collar with a sports jacket and slacks is great when appropriate. But a suit without a tie always looks incomplete.

    Totally agree on a tie without a jacket. It makes the wearer look like he’s a schoolboy.

  2. My first question when I saw the title was, “sez who?” You gave a very well reasoned and detail explanation. I buy it.

  3. Briggs

    Like I said, Mr Trainer, they’re not my rules. I actually found them scrawled on a stall in Grand Central.

    Some people have a lot of time to waste waiting for trains.

  4. Bruce Foutch

    Hi Mr. Briggs,

    “True fashion is anonymous…” I remember something about how a man’s suit should never take attention away from the woman and her attire.

    It may have come from this book, which I believe supports most of your fashion rules:

    I will review it again when I get home and post later.

  5. Ari

    Great article, and I mostly agree. However, I have some minor points of disagreement. There is a fine line with wearing a suit every day. Assuming one works in an office that is more casual, one might stand out a bit if he wears a suit every single day. Dressing a pair of slacks with a nice single-button cuff shirt can look nice IF (caveat) the rest of the office is dressed down as well. Wearing a suit in a casual office can make you stand out in a bad way as well.

    A few things that I must add to the list:

    – French cuffs are acceptable ONLY with a suit. Never ever wear French cuffs without a suit. Ever. Also, if you aren’t good at making fashion choices, just use silk knots. They’re easy, classy, and relatively inexpensive.
    – Match leathers. Black shoes need a black belt, brown shoes need a brown belt. Not matching leathers makes you look sloppy.
    – White socks are never to be worn with anything but tennis shoes. Ever. White socks have no place outside of a gym outfit.
    – The suit with no tie look can look good, but just because you’re not wearing a tie doesn’t mean you get to not iron your shirt
    – Collar stays are your friend. Please use them.
    – “Italian” doesn’t mean “better.”
    – Never ever ever ever ever ever (I can go on a long time) button your bottom jacket button.
    – Not all expensive suits are “good” suits. A $1000 Boss suit often has poor quality construction and will not hold up to years of wear as well as the price suggests.

    Along those lines:

    Men, please educate yourselves about suit construction, fit, and styles. Just because you got it from a high-end department store and it has “Zegna” or “Canali” in the name doesn’t mean it’s the right suit for you. Many “high-end” suits, even though they are made from nicer wool than the suits at Sears, are of similar construction (read: glued canvas interlining.) If you are going to pay more than $750 for a suit, getting one with a glued interlining is like buying a BMW with a 1970 Honda Civic engine. As Matt mentions, there are a lot of places online that will make you a custom-fit suit in the sub-$1K range, and many of them do interlinings properly (read: sewn). Seriously, a man in a badly fitting off-the-rack suit that cost him a grand or more is just a sad thing.

  6. Wade Michaels

    From your mouth to God’s ears. I wept *again* for humanity when I attended the first-leg of my annual ChrEaster yesterday and saw khaki shorts and untucked polo shirts in the church. What ever happened to Sunday’s-best? It’s one thing if people work in a casual office (as I do) or only go to a weekday prayer session, but standing in a house of God in anything less than a suit should be embarassing.

  7. stan

    Just as “you sound like a broken record” has no meaning to someone who’s never listened to a record player, how many young readers will be confused by expressions “Sunday best” or “go to meeting clothes”?

  8. Ari


    Though I am a godless non-Synagogue attending type (last time I was at Temple was for a cousin’s bar mitzvah), I cannot help but share your sentiment. The same feeling applies to people at job interviews in anything less than a suit– I have seen this far too many times.


    Some of us seek to keep the old ways alive. I even have an analog clock!

  9. Where to begin? Thank you, Matt, for omitting criticizing my propensity to wear mis-matching socks. In truth if I were to get dressed with the light ON I would probably notice that my dear developmentally delayed sister, our household’s self-appointed laundry fairye, had once again taken pity on their “loneliness” and paired a single blue plaid with an orphaned solid red.

    As to logo’d clothing, for many years I sat on the board of a prominent logo’d organization, where paid staff and board members were furnished appropriately logo’d office apparel and expected to wear them during monthly meetings. For two years running the quality of the clothing and fit given board members was inferior, so after conversation and complaints failed to resolve the issue I took to wearing the correct attire but from a competing logo’d organization. For over a year no one said “boo”. But then new gear appeared, along with a logo revamp, and as if by magic the clothing line quality went from that of a Yugo to a BMW. Problem solved without additional conversation. Which I thought was hilarious.

    Wade MichaelsThough my soul cries out to confirm your final sentence, I have to say given the choice involved, I’d rather the “khaki shorts and untucked polo shirts” were in attendance in G-D’s house, than not, so I must overlook their sophisticate shortcomings and deal with more important – at the moment – needs. Only later, once I’ve earned the right to their friendship and acceptance am I able to mentor them to the point they want to dress more appropriately. And many, many churchs today are filled with awakening folk in various stages of receiving mentoring. Whether that’s good or bad, of course, depends on one’s point of view.

  10. Joy

    If any of you ever go to England, don’t say,
    “I’m wearing my suspenders and my vestover this shirt”
    Unless you are a fast runner or a good boxer, in which case, you will say what you like.

  11. Ari


    Can you please translate that line into British?


  12. Wade Michaels

    49er, I guess I should’ve qualified my statement to include the phrase “that you worship in”, for someone who worships not certainly doesn’t have the same dress-code, per se. I guess I just never understood the whole “this is my savior, I shall now dress for him as I would for viewing a saturday morning cartoon” thing. But I see your point about being there more important than not.

    I also have seen the dress-down routine at graduations, funerals, weddings, and lacrosse teams meeting the President 🙂

  13. Briggs


    White socks can be work with black, such as a tuxedo, but you have to be as graceful as Fred Astaire to pull it off. Certainly, they were not athletic, or sweat socks.

    French cuffs are an indulgence, and with them you have to be careful that your links aren’t gaudy. If your clothes fit and are well matched, no one will notice you sport barrel cuffs—which are easier to work in.

  14. JH

    “We’ll do women at another time,..” Hahaha. Anyway, I cannot wait to read what you (and male readers here) have to say about women’s fashion.

    Don’t know if I should comment on this post, but I do enjoy reading the comments. I think these two smart men are the two best dressed men. They both look fine to me.

    I had to wear a black suit, white shirt and black tie during my six years of high school. I didn’t like it, but it was a good thing that I didn’t have to worry about what to wear in the morning. Yes, I still remember how to tie a necktie.

  15. Joy

    I suppose you mean directly, it means:
    “I’m wearing my sexy lacy piece of lingerie that holds up my stockings and my Freddie Mercury type vest, over my shirt!”

    I’m wearing my braces and waistcoat over my shirt.”
    A more manly thing to say, but not as funny.

    I once knew someone who wore clothes like Billy Bunter, no exaggeration, including the boater. He was at the cashpoint machine and was asked by the person behind him,
    “Why are you wearing clothes like that? He replied, “why aren’t you wearing clothes like this?”
    Apparently men wearing dark coloured suits and tame colours dates back to Queen Victoria’s mourning period. All men wore black suits and the wrought iron street furniture was painted black. Before this time, men often wore grey pin-stripped trousers with a black Mourning jacket as opposed to the matching top and bottom colours worn and preferred today by most men.
    Someone who knew everything told me that, that’s how I know.

  16. Ari


    Point taken in regard to the white socks– I meant the kind of white cotton socks you buy at a big box store in a pack of 30.

    As for the French cuffs, I agree completly that they are an indulgence. However, if one is well-coordinated and wants to have a bit of fun– and I do mean that– with one’s wardrobe, then it is acceptable. Unfortunately, I see men sporting cufflinks that are as bad as novelty ties. Alas.

    I still believe, however, that silk knots are a good “simple” solution. Who can say no to silk knots that match one’s tie?


    Clearly the British speak an interesting language with multiple levels of meaning. I must study this strange and fascinating tongue further.

    Seriously though, I am in agreement of the use of both “braces” and “waistcoat.” Unfortunately, if I use those here in the US, I get looked at funny.

    By the way, I’m a big fan of the new beltless look in trousers, opting for side tabs instead of belt loops. Very clean look, and if one is not prone to weight gain or loss, can be more comfy than a belt. I see a lot of those coming out of Savile Row. Too bad it has been adopted only slowly in the US. Like double vents.

  17. Bruce Foutch

    Mr. Briggs,

    I am scanning through the book “Clothes and the Man, the Principles of Fine Men’s Dress” and see that it has much to support your 10 rules. I especially enjoyed this included quote from an advertisement by the clothing store, Paul Stuart, which states ” a proper function of the business suit is to offer a man a decent privacy so that irrelevant reactions are not called into play to prejudice what should be purely business transactions.”

    A caveat to rule 1 might be, for junior professional white collar at least, to dress for the job you want.

    About ties. Ties are also traditional when wearing your tweeds while upland hunting (side-by-side or over/under only, no auto-loaders please) or fly-fishing for trout (sight fishing with the dry fly, upstream of course) or salmon (Spey casting only) on any lands within the United Kingdom.

  18. Alan D. McIntire

    Hats were popular up until WWII. In my baby boomer youth I noticed that my WWII veteran father and his contemporaries never wore hats; my uncle, about 20 years older, always wore a fedora on formal or semi-formal occasions. I think the design of vehicles had a lot to do with this. After WWII, cars were designed with lower roofs to reduce the chance of a rollover, not leaving clearance for hats. Rather than putting on or taking off a hat when getting in or out of a car, it’s much more practical to go without. Baseball caps will fit in modern low roofed vehicles, but I don’t think the rule giver would approve of a suit and a baseball cap.

  19. ad

    The original sounds like it came out of American Psycho.

  20. Tom

    It’s too feminine of a man to worry more about their appearance. Be a man, stick to the classic and don’t ever worry about being trendy.

  21. bill r

    and what is rule 4? Never ask about Rule 4?

  22. Briggs


    Good grief, you’re right!

    Rule 4 has gone missing, it’s been stolen!

    Anybody have any idea what it might be?

  23. Briggs


    I can remember when the backs of pews at Sacred Heart in Dearborn had spring clips on them to hold mens hats during service. All gone now.

    I wear a fedora, but have to take it off in most cars (luckily, I drive very little).


    There’s a guy who sits by the zoo in Central Park in the summertime. Plays a banjo and wears a boater. Collects change from passersby.

  24. Rich

    You cannot wear anything (including nothing) that doesn’t make some statement or other. What is missing from these rules (whose utility easily equals their entertainment value) is the statement that the compliant male wishes to make. If it is, “I am a male person who is to be taken seriously” then ok, it’ll work. However, some of us (the “us” includes me but I know I am not alone) wish to say, “I am a technically-oriented person rather than politically. You will find the aphorism, “Like herding cats” applies to me and my ilk. You hate it but you can’t do without us.” The clothing style to match this message is one that contrives to suggest that the wearer is oblivious to, not only the effect he is having, but also to what he is actually wearing. Yes, it’s a lie but it’s a lie we all understand.


  25. Joy

    If I’m ever in NY I’ll look out for the man with the banjo and the boater and the fellow with the fedora.
    Robert debrus,
    Perhaps you’ve found rule number four.
    It’s no joke! No lady would ever push their sporran down when sitting. The description “how to sit like a lady” was nearly funnier than the video clip, which was shuddery.

    That’s where rule 1 comes in:
    It’s not wise to wear a kilt when blackberry picking;

    Or conspicuous camouflage combats when you’re not in the jungle;

    Or a tux when driving an amphibious vehicle, With one exception.

  26. Bruce Foutch


    The video is even funnier if you leave the sound off.

    Also, regarding “Or a tux when driving an amphibious vehicle, With one exception.” I suspect the exception is Bond, James Bond.

    For those of you wishing a bespoke suit (would you really own anything else?) here is some useful information to guide you along:

    And, for those who think all this suit talk is just the mutterings of a bunch of Savile Row dandies, try this:

  27. I wear jeans 365. Rubber boots in winter, sandals in summer, leather boots in the woods. A baseball cap. Longjohn tops in winter, Hawaiian shirts in summer. A jacket with a logo. Carhartt. I have one suit used only for weddings and funerals.

    This post is not for guys like me.

  28. Briggs


    Of course, you live and work on a nice spread in the country.

    But I remember my grandpa showing me a picture of his dad and uncle coming back from a fishing trip in the Detroit river. Both men wore three piece suits and had fedoras. Both were working men and the suits had a rough quality. My grandpa said, “That’s what everybody did. Nobody thought anything of it because that’s how every man dressed.”

  29. Ed Snack

    Ari, sorry, but shoes ARE black, brown shoes show a certain, shall we say, carelessness about dress. Matching the belt simply won’t do, wearing a brown belt should only occur in Karate.

    Rule 4, I thought that was “close air support covereth a multitude of sins”. Also note rule 30: “A little trust goes a long way. The less you use, the further you’ll go”.

  30. Briggs

    Oh my, Ed. Oh dear.

    Black shoes with a brown (in any shade) suit? An off white or white? And if you haven’t worn a brown suit, why not? R. Reagan often wore brown, let’s not forget.

    No, it’s brown all the way. Dark brown even looks better than black for some blue suits.

    And what about two-tone? I just picked up (at Daffy’s) a mixed cloth, suede off white and tan two-tone. Bought specifically for my linen suits.

  31. Ari


    I’m with Matt on this. Brown only? That’s just strange. Antique or dark brown moctoes go quite well with a navy or brown suit. While I am rather indifferent to Mr. Reagan’s example, I do think that calling brown “careless” is unfortunate. Black, especially with seersucker or other light fabrics, is just not a good call, IMO.


    I don’t understand many men’s distrust of suits that aren’t black or charcoal. Strange.

  32. Ari

    I meant to type, “Black only?” but tiredness and a lack of an edit button thwart me again!

  33. Hilfy

    This advice for office wear falls short if your office job is IT related. Computers are not impressed by snappy dressers.

  34. Briggs


    Computers aren’t impressed by anything. But your colleagues are.

  35. fred

    1) You don’t have to wear a suit in all jobs but if you do they must be dark grey, dark blue, or the above pinstriped. Never, never brown. Never black, unless temporarily in deep mourning. Never pale gray, never herringbone pattern, never light blue or beige. The styling should be totally conventional. Brooks Brothers is fine, nothing more stylish. Not double breasted. The season is irrelevant to the color, it should only influence the weight.

    2) Shirts should be white, or once a week may be pale blue, and must never be short sleeved.

    3) Ties should be small patterned, paisley is fine, small dots also, or diagonal stripes, never bow.

    4) Shoes must be black, leather soles, plain fronted, wingtip or toecap, and laceup. Loafers are not OK. Shoes worn with suits are never brown. If you have a suit which needs brown shoes, throw it out.

    5) In general, you must have two objectives when buying. The first is that you should be able to take any shirt, tie, suit, shoes out of the closet at random and know they all go together as well as any other set. The second is that when asked about your dress, secretaries in the office should say “Very good quality but a little dull!.

    6) If no-one in your line of work wears a suit, and programmers are an example, rule 2 from para 5 applies. Also, favor white or pale blue shirts, always with long sleeves, and well pressed slacks, not jeans. It is permissible to wear brown loafers with slacks, and slacks may be buff if absolutely necessary, and may also be cotton in warm climates. Underwear, such as t-shirts, must not be visible at the neck.

    7) If wearing an overcoat with a suit it must be either dark grey or dark blue, just below the knee, and not particularly tailored. Single breasted is best. If a raincoat, also single breasted, with a total absence of straps from which to hang grenades or insignias of rank, and also just below the knee.

    8) This has nothing whatever to do with self expression. This is uniform. Don’t try to do it on the cheap, either.

  36. Hilfy

    You’d impress the colleagues that were ignorant themselves of that line of work, yes.

    However, your appearance to other IT folk would say that you are one of the idiot stuffed shirts that ponce around the office pretending they know something about programming. Likely you would end up ostracized and ignored if you consistently dressed that way for a hands-on IT job.

    I’ve also found the scientists that I work with (myself included) to be similarly disposed. It might just be part of the prevailing attitudes at the Space Center. When you see someone dressed to the nines around here, they typically fall into two categories – upper management or secretary. All the people who do all the really cool jobs are all dressed casually even for jobs that take place entirely in offices.

    You have to make adjustments for geographical areas too. The suit you find comfortable in the Northeast would be sweltering in Florida much of the year.

    Snappy dressing does have its place though. It is to your advantage when you deal with the public. They don’t know you from Jack and would easily mistake spiffy clothes for job competency. You can’t hide like that though from the people you work with every day; they would soon discover the ruse.

    Thankfully this article is only on male clothes, please don’t get me started on female clothes which seem largely designed to make women enticing and vulnerable to men.

  37. Briggs


    I’m with you on women’s clothes.

    But I am a scientist, a computer geeky one too, and I don’t dress extravagantly or prettily. True, most of my colleagues don’t follow suit, but that’s their business.

    New York City is hot and humid in the summer, though not as sweltering as you have it. Plenty of materials for that weather. Linen is my favorite. Light, blocks the sun, but lets in the breeze. Orders of magnitude better than standard cotton, which traps heat. Lots of light-weight wool out there, too. 8 oz even 7.5 oz material is great for summer. And it should go without saying that a hat is a necessity.


    To say wear only dark suits is like saying drink only aged wines. Nothing like a twenty-year old beaujolais nouveaux, eh?

  38. Bruce Foutch

    “A man should look as if he had bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care, and then forgotten all about them. – Hardy Amies” From:

    Sorry to disagree Fred, but, as the first photo in the above article shows, Brown works!

    I have one Bespoke suit (hey, I’m poor) and there is nothing else like it. You can truly follow Mr. Amies’ advice and “forget all about them” once you have dressed. They are wonderfully comfortable. Remember, Fred Astaire danced in them. Of course, in deference to Joy, Ginger Rodgers danced every dance that Fred Astaire did, and she did them backwards!

    Mr. Briggs,

    Have we set a thread response record yet?

  39. Briggs


    Maybe not. Some of the global warming threads are hot.

    This post, so far, doesn’t even come close to the record number of views. The winner is “Zombie attacks to increase due to global warming.” Tens of thousands of hits, and still going up. People like zombies.

    And clothes talk, too. Maybe I should write a post about the best dressed zombies are wearing this fall.

  40. Or what they’re NOT wearing! Don’t nudie posts generate hits too?

  41. Doug M

    In California we ruined office dress. At one time it was a badge of honor to dress down. If you could pull of Birkenstocks and a tie die, you must be a genius. The better one dressed the less talented that person must be. The only guys in suits were salesmen.

    At the VC firms, sartorial chaos holds the day. A venture capitalist keeps 3 sets of clothes in his office, depending on whether he was meeting with bankers, management, or the technologists.

    It used to be much easier when we wore suits. When we had to compete with tech firms for talent, thought suits were a turn-off for the young and intelligent. Not sure if that is true, but that was the logic.

    The advice passed down in my family was: “Find out right away where your boss gets his suits made. Have two suits made, one blue one brown.” Rumor has it that it was passed form my great-great grandmother to succeeding generations. I am not sure to what degree this is still works, but you don’t want to be too divergent from the boss. Unless, of course, you’re boss is a schmuck.

    People with pale skin should avoid suits that are too light or too dark. People with very dark skin, should be careful of this as well.

    I don’t like the look of suit no tie. Sport coat and slacks, no tie is fine. When the jacket matches the pants, it looks wrong.

    The tie is not a throw-away accessory. If you wear a tie, is must be carefully chosen. Random selection of shirt suit and tie is not okay.

    The white shirt seems to be fading away outside of America. The folks from our international offices go for shirts with lots of pattern and ties with no pattern but with texture.

    Light colored suits must be worn with a blue shirt.

    I detest shoes with tassels, but the wealthier the man, the more likely it is that they sport tassels. I am not sure I can explain that one.

    Casual dress…My college room-mate gave me grief that jeans ($30 not $300) were too dressy for every day. His MO was sweat pants in the winter and shorts in the summer.

    I don’t understand the dress jean. But, my wife told me I had to have some, so I do. Rule zero – whatever you wear must meet the wife’s approval.

    T-shirts are fine for watching baseball. I have to disagree with that rule.

    It took me a long time to wean myself off of athletic shoes. It was a habit I picked up in elementary school. We were expected to have the right footgear to run and play. From 5-25 all I wore where sneakers when I wasn’t “dressed up.”

    Final rule — No one over the age of 10 is alowed to wear “crocks”

  42. Doug M is spot on about rule “0”. Over the years I’ve conducted about 500 promotional interviews and slightly more hiring evaluations, and can count on the fingers on one hand the number of applicants who dressed inappropriately AND got the position. Rule #16 Always dress up for advancement opportunities.

  43. TCO

    If you are in an office environment that has casual policy, try implementing “corporate Monday”. It’s kind of fun…to wear the sartorial armor.

  44. Joy

    Sounds like you’re trying to blend in, spy style.
    There’s nothing wrong with dark brown shoes. I’m with you on the pastel blue though, that colour’s too feminine, strictly for girls. Earthy or manly colours though, why not?

    If you want to blend in, wear a space suit.
    My nephew (7) said the other day,
    “I’ve got my new space pants on! Do you want to see them?” and of course in England pants go under trousers unless your name is superman.

    I got a grace top for Easter from Per Una but Sir won’t let us talk about girls clothes so I won’t.

    Anyone who’s not reading about Zombies:
    Surely It’s all about how you feel about what you’re wearing in terms of physical comfort and in concept. This will show in your posture and movement. Of course poor posture is covered by a suit and the typical office worker’s sway back is hidden.

    To me, there’s nothing more attractive than “black tie” dress, apart from a frock coat, darcey style, that’s really cute. Bring them back, that’s what I say. I might write to Prince Charles and suggest it.

    Would be good to hear from Bernie and Luis on this topic.

  45. TCO

    Hey. I thought I was perma-banned.

  46. Hilfy

    Briggs, I must admit to also being one of those rare beasties: scientist/computer nerd, so hale fellow well met! Come down to Florida sometime in August with that wool suit and see how you like it. Linen and cotton and rayon are the perpetual summer choices here. Personally summer is my hibernation time.

    Joy, Just so long as I don’t wear a blue jumpsuit (which would brand me as an astronaut, which I’m not.). Astronauts are an extremely casual and fun loving group.

  47. John

    I hate wearing a suit and leather soled shoes so unless I have to for work; you won’t catch me doing so.

  48. Briggs


    You’re on. But I will be donning a linen suit and straw fedora.


    There is always time to learn.

  49. There are actually employers who don’t care about what you wear, as long as you’re doing the job right. So whether or not to wear jeans for work is not a problem. Having be in uniform, of course, is a different story.

  50. Tim

    In case you ahven’t opened your eyes since the 50’s. Honest men don’t wear suits. Suits are the costume of used car salesmen, dishonest preachers, and financial vultures running of with honest men’s retirement savings. Honest men just don’t wear suits.

  51. Briggs

    You might be right. Just looked at our esteemed elected officials in Washington. All wear suits. Car salesman, too. Coincidence?

  52. Peter Lyell

    Men in business suits are ludicrously like Emperor Penguins — all wear the same uniform. Rupert Murdoch wears the same outfit as my local real estate guy. And the same as the Prime Ministers, Presidents, politicians and TV anchormen of 200 countries. When is somebody going to rebel? When is a designer going to come up with a new men’s business uniform (yes, nobody will be brave enough to wear a non-uniform) that actually observes the essentials of stylishness, comfort, versatility to allow personal expressions of individuality, and colours other than black and grey? Is there no substitute for a tie? Do shirts have to have cuffs? Why does a coat have to exactly match the pants? etc etc. I rest my case.

  53. Briggs


    There is no question that most suit-wearing men are unthinking about their daily raiment. They wear dark suits in the summertime, for example, because they suppose that is what is to be done. They neglect the pocket square, which as everybody knows, provides balance. Their ties are chosen wither randomly or for them by somebody else. Their jackets are boxy and without shape. Truly, as you observe, they give suits a bad name.

    But all it takes is just one man wearing one suit well to make you chance your mind. Where I live, in Manhattan, there are always many such examples. Many of these exemplars do as you say: they change the rules subtly and in such a way that makes sense. They do not just wear a pullover and, Lord helop us, khakis (or other kind of teacher pants). They do not always match the jacket to the pants.

  54. Dave

    Who makes up these ridiculous rules? Evidently you have never lived in a hot climate like Phoenix, Arizona where it is over 100 degrees for 6 months in the summer. Wear a suit? None of the 1500 people in my workplace wears a suit, not even the director. I wear sandals to work in the summer and a short-sleeved shirt like almost everyone else. 75% of my shirts are short-sleeved rayon Hawaiian type shirts. There is not a single long-sleeved white shirt in my closet. I have a couple of ties somewhere but have not worn one in years.

  55. Rick Siemers

    My occupation requires I wear suits daily to work. Is it “ok” to leave the suit jacket on say if I was running errands over my lunch hour? Or should the jacket stay off? Thx

  56. guest

    I know that Americans dislike the wearing of a tie without jacket, but to me that is fine so long as:
    (a) the shirt is long-sleeved
    (b) the trousers are belted and flat-fronted (no pleats).

  57. anon

    I am appalled that you say a suit can be worn without a tie.
    NEVER! The look is sloppy and unfinished and should not be entertained for a moment. And although the degree of formality may be different, the aesthetic effect of an open-necked shirt with a jacket is the same whether it’s a suit jacket, odd jacket or blazer; not a good look however ubiquitous it may be at present.

  58. Tony Parone

    What wasn’t addressed was the wearing of a felt hat and a vest during the period of May 30th through September 1st.

    This came about prior to air conditioning. The vest, obviously contributed to the heat and was not worn during the aforementioned dates.
    The felt hat was replaced by the straw version for body heat venting, since no man felt dressed if a hat wasn’t worn.

  59. Great article, and I mostly agree. Never wear a suit without a tie because suit without a tie always looks incomplete. 🙂 I wear always a tie with a suit so i look complete:)

  60. Laurie Swenson

    Wow. That sounds like half a life. It also sounds really archaic. If I was male and wore suits, I’d go for teal. And then I would change into jeans or shorts and a T-shirt, unless I was going to an art gallery, where I’d wear something fun and colorful. I don’t think I would like the guy who would follow these rules. 🙂

    Women don’t have to follow such cookie-cutter rules, but they’ve had their own “rules,” in terms of hemlines, hair, and wearing white after Labor Day. But IMO wearing a suit all the time and avoiding casual clothes completely is more soul-sucking. I would have to be a rebel if I had to do that. At the very least I’d wear crazy socks!

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