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Men's fashion tips

Summer’s end is upon us, and by Tuesday morning you will have put away the seersucker, the white slacks, the straw hat. This seasonal transition is as good a time as any to review a few basics about men’s dress. The trick is all in knowing what not to do.

The cap

The purpose of the bill is to keep the sun out of your eyes; the purpose is therefore met when the cap is worn with the bill forward. If you think that wearing the cap with the bill to one side, or backward with the one-size-fits-all tab in the middle of your forehead, displays individuality, you have been badly advised.

Men’s caps and hats are removed * at table, in houses of worship, in courts of law, in schools and libraries, at the theater or opera, in elevators when ladies are present.

The jeans

Fashions vary — tight pipestems, bell-bottoms, wide and baggy — but if you have to use one hand to hold your pants up, you have compromised the benefits of bipedalism. Buy a belt and keep your hands free.


Once you’ve decided that the tie with the Looney Tunes characters is fine for the office, you’re on a slippery slope that leads to the novelty tie market. Beware.

The pus-yellow necktie worn with a white shirt and blue suit will irresistibly remind people of the 1980s and the tyranny of John T. Molloy.

Do not let your lack of knowledge about how to tie a bow tie inhibit you.


Urban trends notwithstanding, neither boxers nor briefs are appropriate for public display.


Never mind David Letterman’s example; do not wear white socks with a dark suit.

Plaid pants

On a golf course, only other golfers have to look at you.

Grown-up clothes

You’re free to go about in public in a T-shirt, shorts and bulky athletic shoes without socks. No doubt you will feel more comfortable. You will also look like an alarmingly tall toddler that has grown a paunch.

Fanny packs

It is not advantageous for most Americans to draw attention to their hips.

Manufacturers’ and designers’ logos

Merchants pay to have their wares advertised on billboards. Why are you making yourself a billboard for free?


* Unless one is Jewish and Orthodox.



Posted by John McIntyre at 11:43 PM | | Comments (21)


Ties are the embodiment of evil. No man (or woman) should ever - EVER - be forced to wear a tie, be pressured to wear a tie, or otherwise be made to feel as if a tie is expected, required, or wise.

Ties are the embodiment of evil.

Sounds like someone never learned to buy shirts with the correct neck size.

What about shoes? I'd add the dreaded Crocs to your entry for "grown-up clothes."

Mr. McIntyre,

I've been lurking around here for some time, trying to figure out what, exactly, you are. I finally got it with this blog post.

You are a gentleman, in the traditional sense of the word.

I'm not. But I admire that you are.

Bless your heart, everyone else just says that I'm a twit.

Its a great blog..i m impressed by your writing style..keep the good working.

"* Unless one is Jewish and Orthodox. "

Or, ahem, from the Eastern Shore, where some of the occasions you advocate don't apply.

Also, please note, bill-sideways is a correct means for blocking inconveniently low sun coming through the driver's-side car window.

Cap-forward upon exiting the vehicle, please.

Just so you know, Jewish men (observant and otherwise) may indeed remove their hats. In fact, most do. Unless the baseball cap is the only thing covering their heads. But even then, it's a matter of preference.

The question is whether they remove their rugs! Is a rug a hat?

She's Bald? SHE'S BALD!

So, last evening I got involved in a discussion--debate, actually--about men's fashion. (Or is it mens' fashion? God, I hate writing comments here...I get so paranoid about things like apostrophes.)

Anyway, after about 20 minutes and another scotch, we both agreed that you, Mr. McIntyre, are the singular person who we jointly trust to settle the issue; we have both agreed to abide by your decision. (Oh, and no pressure, but there is also a bottle of Macallan 18 riding on your answer.)

The question before you: reversible belts. Acceptable or not?

I've never been called on to rule on this issue before, and neither had I formed any firm opinion.

What I can say is that I do not own a reversible belt myself, and I have passed up buying any because I haven't seen one that I cared for.

Split the scotch. It's more agreeable to drink in company anyhow.

That you don't own a reversible belt provides the answer. Thank you.

(And, geeze...I just re-read my question and I'm about 90% sure that it should have been "whom we trust." Right? It is so intimidating writing on this blog. I keep wondering if I'm being graded on the curve.)

No need to be apprehensive about errors, potential or real, in comments here; I don't edit unless I'm paid to do so.

JMc - Inquiring minds want to know about your sleeping tie. Please report to EL's blog.

p.s. I admire your taste too. Cheers!

Very interesting post. I will keep reading.

Please i really do need basic tips on dressing. I wear a lot of oversized cloth and do not understand color combination. Help please!!!

Re: color combinations

Make sure everything you buy goes with a blue blazer. That way you can get dressed in the dark and it all still coordinates.

Excellent post, JM! Wish I had seen it sooner.

lol, instead of the phany pack you were talking about. it would me more advantageous to get a man-bag. but, fantastic post! has some really great Dress Socks if you are in need for an interview, to wear with a suit, etc. My wife got me some from that site and I love them.

Great comments on the some horrid male fashion of today. I love the one about jeans, really this goes for any kind of pant, shorts included!

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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