You’re busy at work. You live a hectic lifestyle. You fall into your comfort zone, where habits and patterns keep your anxiety down and make the daily grind a little easier.
However, if you’re snuggled too comfortably in your warm and fuzzy status quo for too long, blind spots may develop. And before you know it, you’re too set in your ways, reluctant to change even though you acknowledge that change is for the better.
So anytime (how about now?) is a fine time to take a good look at your style choices. What gaffes are you unknowingly making? Check out these nine style mistakes; if you’re committing these offences, rectify them before it’s too late.
1. CHOOSING UNSUITABLE COLOUR COMBINATIONS
When you’re younger, it’s all about trying out bolder sartorial choices to assert your individuality, isn’t it? The earlier you get the experimentation over and done with, the earlier you'll be equipped with knowledge on the best colour combinations that complement your skin tone and hair colour. (We have written an article on choosing the right suit colour that complements your skin tone and hair colour.)
2. WEARING TOO MANY ACCESSORIES
Accessories can be a fine line to tread. Pile on too many and you’re trying too hard; forego them and you could look a little drab. So take a leaf out of Goldilocks’s book: Accessorise just enough to complete your outfit. Your accessories should catch some attention, yet only complement – and not outshine – your outfit. Take your pick from a watch, tie clip, pocket square, bracelet, cufflinks and brooch. But remember, a safe guideline will be no more than five items at once.
3. MATCHING YOUR TIE EXACTLY TO YOUR POCKET SQUARE
Have you seen pocket squares and ties with similar prints and designs bundled as a set? Surely they are meant to be worn together? And what great deals – especially when it’s the festive sale period – right?
If you’re thinking of putting your hard-earned money down on them, don’t. Your tie and pocket square shouldn’t be exactly the same. We’re not saying that they shouldn’t match. What we’re saying is that they shouldn’t be identical, yet they should match and be complementary to each other.
Take a look at this example:
The pocket square in the above pictures subtly reflect the dominant colour of the corresponding tie. The burgundy trimming on the white pocket square is a match to the burgundy tie. That’s what we mean by complementary. (Of course, there are other ways to match your pocket squares with your ties.)
4. NOT TAKING CARE OF YOUR DRESS SHOES
(A pair of poorly maintained shoes ruins your entire outfit. Image source)
You can tell a man by his shoes, so goes the old saying. And now, research from the University of Kansas has suggested so too – you can judge a man with 90% accuracy just by looking at his shoes.
How does that work? We’ll break it down for you.
It takes at least an hour each time to go through the four essential steps of grooming your dress shoes. And you need to do this at least twice a month. Going the distance for your shoes takes discipline, patience and attention to details. No lazy guy is ever going to wear a pair of well-groomed shoes unless he sends them to a professional regularly.
(A good example of well-maintained shoes from Justin Patrick. Image by Common Suits)
A scruffy pair wrecks your ensemble – no matter how immaculate – almost instantaneously. If your shoes are well taken care of, they add that something special to your entire look and can even change the way people perceive you. (We know this for a fact, by the way, because we are sticklers for shoe-grooming. Our shoes look amazing and they get compliments all the time.) And by caring for your shoes, you’re really also building good habits that will make you a fine gentleman. So don’t underestimate the power of your shoes.
5. WEARING THE WRONG BELT
Belts are important accessories in a man’s wardrobe. Play it safe and avoid the following.
A) Wrong colour. The colour of your belt should either match that of your shoes, or at least closely match. For formal wear, it is not acceptable that the colours of your belt and shoes are merely complementary.
B) Wrong finish. If your belt and shoes have mismatched finishes, it would raise a few eyebrows, even if their colours match exactly or closely. Pairing shiny dark brown shoes with a matte dark brown belt is a definite no-no, for example.
C) Wrong width. If you’re not on the tall side, wide belts are out. A belt that’s more than 5 cm wide makes you look shorter.
Here’s a good example of what you should look out for:
(A good matching example of belt and shoes. Image source)
If you’re tailoring your pants, you can go for a beltless design, like this one below. You’ll look cleaner and neater, and you won’t have to fuss over what belt to wear.
(Image by Common Suits)
6. WEARING YOUR DRESS PANTS TOO LOW
We’ve heard compliments like “Wow, you’re tall!” That’s because the longer your legs appear visually, the more flattering is your overall body architecture . Wearing your pants too low shortens your leg line and distorts the proportion.
At Common Suits, we advocate a timeless ratio that helps visually lengthen your legs. The length of your dress pants should cover more than approximately 55% of your height with shoes worn. For most Asians, this means that the waistband should typically sit around two fingers below your belly button; for Caucasians, four fingers. However, there are exceptions to this rule, and every individual has different proportion, so it is best to seek advice from your tailor.
7. WEARING THE WRONG-COLOUR SHOES WITH YOUR DRESS PANTS
(A visual guide to matching suits and dress shoes. Image source)
One classic mistake that many men make is wearing light brown shoes with formal black pants. Black is traditionally a formal colour; matching your black pants with black shoes is the orthodox thing to do.
That said, some people do match black pants with shoes in other colours with finesse. We won’t say that we disagree with their choices, but we still recommend that you stick to tradition.
8. WEARING SKINNY TIES TO YOUR BUSINESS MEETINGS
(Image from Real Men Real Style)
It is time to rethink your skinny tie too. Skinny ties are faddish and associated with boy bands. If you wear a slim tie, say less than 2.5 inches (6.35 cm), to a business meeting, chances are it's difficult to take you seriously.
The key is proportion. If you’re wearing a suit, the width of your tie should be similar to that of the lapel of your jacket, with 0.5 inches (1 cm) as the maximum allowable difference.
If you’re wearing a shirt and tie (no jacket), go for a tie that is 3–3.5 inches (7.6–8.9 cm) wide at the widest part.
9. WEARING BULKY SPORTS SHOES WITH YOUR DRESS PANTS
Dressing sharp is about cutting a seamless silhouette from head to toe. If you’re wearing a pair of nicely tailored dress pants, don’t ruin the smooth lines with your bulky Nike dunks. Invest in a pair of oxfords or loafers instead. Save your sneakers for the gym or wear them with your joggers.