Until I married my wife, I had no idea how much hair my body grew in the wrong places – my neck, ears, and nose being the major offenders. I learned quickly how a shaggy neck and a too long delayed haircut will drop my look down a notch. She notices right away when I have pushed the limits of hair growth. With my newfound hair knowledge, I feel like I was a Neanderthal back then sporting wildebeest level fur in the worst places.
Step away from reading for a moment and gaze into a mirror. Take an honest look at your ears, nose and the back of your neck. Do your ears have visible hair? Long and wiry? Can you see any nose hair? Can you feel a fair amount of hair on the back of your neck? If you answered yes, then it’s time to focus some attention to personal grooming. A shaggy appearance can seriously detract from even the best well-tailored suit in your arsenal.
Keep your nose hairs well trimmed. Pluck your ear hairs. Get regular haircuts to keep your hair well styled and your neck clean. In addition, shave often to continually freshen your face. Breaking out the razor eliminates unnecessary shading that may cause your smile to look kind of chubby.
Be mindful of your eyebrows as well. Only Bert from Sesame Street gets to have a unibrow. I have never seen anyone pull it off successfully. So, separate them. Pluck or wax the bridge clean.
Last but not least, pay attention to your chest hair. If your hair forces its way up your neck and out of your shirt like a forcefully advancing rug, then your chest hair has taken over. Either you can shave below the line of your shirt or you can try laser hair removal. The second option gives you a more lasting result.
When in doubt, ask a woman. Or, imagine that you will conduct a television interview the next day. That might motivate you to find unwanted hair. Most importantly, avoid becoming the wolf man.
For more on shaving, read The case for a clean shaven face.
© Copyright 2013 Jeremy Gradney.
Frequently, I have conversations with people telling me about wonderful clothes they acquired. More often than not, they mention the brand as a descriptor. Why? What does the brand have to do with it? Is it a symbol of status? Has the brand gained much recognition and a “cool” image? Too many people get caught up in one brand or another – whether a polo shirt displays a polo player or an alligator. Status should not factor into your decision to choose a brand.
I am not saying brands hold no relevance. In fact, it may present you with the best clues as to quality, durability, and style. I like to think of it as a quality seal of sorts. I know when I see a particular brand on a shirt such as Hugo Boss, it will possess a superior construction and fabric. Further, I know a pair of Bruno Magli shoes will last longer and look better than shoes of lesser artisan appeal.
Truthfully, you can dress great with unknown brands as well. Who says you have to be tied down to a particular designer? The logo or name should not define you, label you, or fit you neatly into some “category.” So, free your mind of this restriction binding you to only a certain number of brands. Be free. Explore. Try new designers. When you do, make sure to keep the primary principles of fashion in mind. If you need a refresher, try reading my article Where do I start? Tips for launching your fashion journey.
So, I am sharing with you a simple top of mind list of five categories with five suggestions for each (in no particular order). I purposely limited myself to five as I did not want to overwhelm you. And, don’t let the expensive brands scare you off. With the right planning and bargain hunting skills, you can find their products at great prices too. So here you go:
Moderately priced clothes:
More expensive clothes:
Moderately priced shoes:
Polo Ralph Lauren
Sperry Top Sider
More expensive shoes:
To Boot New York
Stores I like:
Saks Fifth Avenue
Notice I did not include a “Cheap clothes” or “Cheap shoes” category. Stay away from those as they will not last as long and will look like they sound – Cheap! Look for great quality at great prices. Lastly, don’t get caught up in logos for status. Stick to the principles and look great no matter the brand. However, use the brands to establish those styles you prefer. And, employ them to mark the best sources of quality apparel. Now, get out there and go shopping!
For a list of articles about bargain hunting, click here.
For a list of articles to help you get started in your fashion journey, click here.
We all drive past the dry cleaners on the way to other places. Some use these cleaners a lot, while others not at all. It is important to understand how it can help you maintain the life of your good clothes. Recently, I had the opportunity to ask many questions of a 30+ year veteran of the dry cleaning industry. He opened my eyes to the world behind the window and lines of hanging shirts. I will attempt to convey the must know elements here today:
1. What is dry cleaning? Dry means no water (H20). However, the cleaners do fully submerse the clothes in a solvent in a large washing machine. The solvent is very expensive; therefore, they reuse it many times. To do this, the special washing machines fill up, agitate, and then drain saving 99% for later use. It also evaporates quickly making the clothes come out of the machine dry.
2. What do I look for in a dry cleaner? In order to reuse the solvent, it should be cleaned and purified regularly. If not, it leaves clothes with a slight dingy look. If you can catch a glimpse of the machine filling up, look at the color of the solvent. If brown, find another cleaner. Also, look for a bottle of bleach lying around as clothes can be ruined easily with a single drop. It may not be possible to spy out their quality if they drive the clothes to another facility for washing. You may need to ask around, research on the internet, and/or closely examine your clothes after a few washings.
3. When should I use a dry cleaner? Short answer – when the label says dry clean only. You may bring non-dry clean clothes to them for dry cleaning, but most likely they will closely follow the instructions on the tag. So if it says “machine wash warm,” then they will wash it with water and detergent the same way you would at home. On the other hand, if your garment absorbs a stain, they can help as long as you did not set it in place with heat. So, if you spill blood or oil or mustard or coffee or spaghetti on it, do not wash and throw it in your hot dryer. Get it to them to treat. They will know how to remove the various types of stains. Definitely use them to clean suits, sweaters, and wool pants. Wool in particular will not react well to a home washing.
4. What things present a restoration challenge? Furs, leathers, suedes, fancy dry cleanable clothing, rayon, molded items and shoes. Leather, for example, is a skin with a life before its transformation. So, scars, burns or nicks may show up after cleaning. Rayon can hold odors and loses half its strength when wet making it tough to clean.
5. Anything else to know? Yes. A select few “specialists” will have an Ozone Machine. It kills mold, mildew, and bacteria in clothes. It eliminates smells such as from smoke and mildew. It can break down the hydrocarbons into CO2 and moisture. With any of these special cases, get it to them quickly. Smoke can continue to burn. Mold can weave throughout the fibers making it very difficult to remove. The mold can be killed and smell removed, but still visible. Last thing to know: dry cleaning is not rough on clothes; it is the hot pressing that leaves wear and tear on collars and cuffs.
Overall, know that a shirt holds a life of about 52 washings. Most importantly, Take the time to find a dry cleaner of excellent quality and treat them as an ally in your battle against sloppy looking clothes.
I also recommend reading Yellow pits or bulls eye for a sloppy look.
© Copyright 2013 Jeremy Gradney.
Imagine a beautiful day. Your spirits almost carry you to work or play or whatever destination. You just can’t help but feel good for some reason. You stop into your favorite little bistro for a snack and spot a line. On any other day, you would hook a u-turn and head for a less crowded venue. But, not today. You feel great and don’t mind the wait. Until… You step into line right behind someone talking on a cell phone. For the next ten minutes, you bear through “You tell him I will … and … What?!!! I can’t believe he would say … When I get through with him, he is going to …” It does not matter if the person screams or whispers, it affects your mood and all those within earshot.
This illustrates the need for guidelines to cell phone use and interaction with others. I give you my own five don’ts:
1. Don’t mess with your phone during a face to face conversation. This includes texting, checking your email, and posting on Facebook or Twitter or WordPress. The day holds ample amounts of time to do these things. When you converse with someone, devote your attention to that person. Most people see or experience this kind of violation almost daily.
2. Don’t talk in public about private issues. The random strangers in the elevator with you do not need to hear the details of your upcoming surgery. Please, spare everyone the awkwardness – hang up and call back in a private place. This goes for the subway, waiting rooms, the library, lines, the gym, and heaven-forbid movie theatres. And if you have no choice but to take that call, lower the volume. Loud = Annoying.
3. Don’t hang up with someone to get another call. Devote your attention to the present conversation. The other person can wait. Let them leave a message and call back later.
4. Don’t take a call while talking with someone in person. Whether friend or acquaintance, your conversation partner did not sign up to idly watch you talk to another person. Don’t be rude. Show him some respect with your full attention. If you must take an urgent call, simply explain the nature of it to the person. 99% of people will understand.
5. Don’t interrupt someone in a phone conversation. In other words, don’t start to explain some task you need completed or the details of a dinner meeting. Wait till the person finishes the call. You can also write a short note and slip it to the person. Then, walk away. Tell the person you are available when he is ready.
I wrote this article as a follow-up to my most popular post, The 4 don’ts of cell phones. You can look great and avoid the worst fashion offenses with your phone, but if you look and sound like an idiot when you whip it out, fashion does not matter.
© Copyright 2013 Jeremy Gradney.
As part of this suit series and to promote my book, I felt this excerpt from my book Fashion for the average man was perfect for a post. From page 22:
You can find suits in the most unlikely places – like Target and the local Discount Suit Barn. That’s right; you can buy an entire suit for under $99 at these discount stores. But what do you get for that price? You end up with cheaper materials that do not have the desired affect or the stamina for regular wear. Most likely, that suit will be made of polyester and will look cheaper. It’s not worth it. It’s like drinking a fine Champaign in a paper cup. I once bought a suit from Target and found that it looked cheap. I wore it only once. Don’t get me wrong, I like Target and shop there for other things, just not suits.
Nothing presents a man better than a quality suit. You can find many areas to save money buying less expensive materials, but a suit should not be one of those areas. What makes a great suit great? First, the absolute best suits are made of 100% wool. It looks and feels luxurious while keeping wrinkles at bay. However, even wool fabrics come in varying levels of quality. Fabric makers grade wool threads by a number determined by the diameter of the threads. The higher quality threads hold a higher number (200 on the high end) and are created with a smaller diameter. When woven into a fabric, these smaller threads make for a finer suit. A higher count equals a higher price. So, choose appropriately. You should be good with a suit just above 100. In the summer, try suits made of cotton or linen. They feel light while keeping you dressed well.
Second, the best suits employ stitching before glue. Cheaper suits contain more glue and will not hold up in the long haul of life. The problem stems from these fused suits’ reaction to water: moisture, sweat, rain, etc. As it gets wet and stretched, a glued suit can begin to show some warping and buckling. A suit should drape naturally off your shoulders and look in good shape.
Lastly, handmade tailored suits rank at the top of suits you can purchase. The tailor constructs it to your measurements and then modifies it to fit you perfectly. Built with the best fabrics, you will be hard-pressed to find any better suit. As a custom suit requires a sizeable dent into your pocket book, you may want to save this option for the day after your big promotion. In the meantime, a quality off-the-rack suit works almost as well. Just, make sure to have a tailor fit it to you.
With your new suit, you will step closer to conquering the business world. So, make a statement every time you lead a presentation or attend an important meeting. Wow a potential employer in your interview. Do it all in a quality suit. And, don’t forget a quality undershirt purchased at Target.
Also, check out:
© Copyright 2013 Jeremy Gradney.
Last Easter, I celebrated Resurrection Sunday at church. Out of respect for Christ and His sacrifice, I chose to wear a suit as seen in the photo. When an occasion speaks of special significance, men wear suits. When men conduct serious business, they often wear suits. When they want to look their best, they wear suits. Really, anytime a man needs to tell the world he approaches his affairs the way he dresses, he wears a suit. Put more simply, Suit = Best foot forward.
A suit stands at the pinnacle of a man’s presentation of himself. Through the years, men put their best feet forward in the way they knew. In the 18th century, this took the form of a white linen shirt with a vest and a Justaucorp (a coat extending half way down the leg) – see the photo of George Washington.
Over the years, that coat would morph into a shorter version and men would embark on a trial and error journey through many variations of the suit. We have seen everything from the Sack suit to heavily padded shoulders to shirtless (do not attempt) to gray flannel to the dinner jacket.
As we have it now, the modern suit has landed in a good place. In fact, nowadays we have access to suits with excellent fabrics, quality construction, and affordable prices. So, if you do not have one, search out a good one soon. Here are 25 reasons why:
- Easter church service (Read Easter fashion)
- Wedding (tell the couple its an important moment)
- Job interview (Check out You’re hired! Wearing the right interview attire)
- Graduation ceremony
- Symphony (exception: concert on the park grass)
- Trial (especially if you have to testify)
- Mediation (wear a tie bar)
- Christmas church service
- Political debate
- Important business meeting
- Award ceremony
- Theatre / Play
- High level presentation
- Dinner at a high end restaurant
- Funeral (wear black)
- To preach a sermon
- School recital (i.e. dance / music)
- Television interview (depends on the subject / show)
- Political speech (whether on a local or national stage)
- Baby dedication at church
- Business party (depends on the occasion)
- Prom (for the younger readers)
- High level negotiation
- To teach a university class
A few years back, I was invited to a personally hosted ballroom dancing event. Dress code was listed as semi-formal. To eliminate any confusion, I asked the host what he meant for us to wear. He intended the men to attend in a suit. For the event, the group met at the community center of the host’s neighborhood. Interestingly, only the host and I even had on a jacket that night. Surprisingly, several men chose jeans for the evening. Wow, we have a lot of work to do out there.
The next time you receive an invite to a really special occasion, remember to don that suit. Presenting to a large business group? Tell the audience you know your stuff with an excellent speech and a great suit. It makes the difference. With a properly tailored quality suit, you will find it tough to look bad.
For more on suits, read Suits 101: Elements of a properly fitting suit.
© Copyright 2013 Jeremy Gradney.