Guide to Semi-Formal

I think we’ve all received an invitation that included a dress code and we honestly didn’t know what it meant. The rules for these seem so fluid, but at times they really aren’t, which makes the whole issue more stressful. Some are easy – the ultra formal white tie and formal black tie  have pretty clear rules – but the more common ones are generally more confusing.

This post is inspired by an event I’ve been planning for work that is “semi-formal,” which in my area could mean really anything. The western US is, generally speaking, a pretty casual place, so I did some research.

Searching for semi-formal menswear is basically like typing “clothes” into google. And all of the more specific rules I did find varied from site to site, so here is my synthesis of what you should wear to a semi-formal event.

Evening Events (after 6 pm)

evening semi formal

Do not wear a tux – that is black tie or formal – but you should wear a dark jacket. I would also lean toward dark slacks or a full suit. A tie is probably advisable, although it can be colorful or patterned. Shirts can also maybe be colored, but I would avoid anything too wild.

Be sure to take into account the type of event. Weddings should probably be more formal, whereas cocktail parties allow for a little more play.

Day Events (before 6 pm)

day semi formal

Day events have the same basic rules, although suits do not need to be dark. In fact, it is probably more appropriate to go with khaki/tan or grey (even navy is better than black for a day event). By their nature, day events tend to be a little more casual, so you could forgo the tie or play with colors, but again read the event.

An outdoor wedding is going to be more casual than an indoor, especially during the day. A garden party is usually more casual than a cocktail party (unless the former is with the queen).

In more casual places, like my hometown, you could probably really tone it down and no one would bat an eye, but here I defer to Oscar Wilde’s immortal words “You can never be overdressed or over-educated.”

Oscar Wilde on fashion

And if you are going to trust any author about fashion, let it be Mr. Wilde.


Date Night: How to Dress to Impress

There are two places you really want to make a good first impression: a job interview and a first date. But while most job interviews have a similar dress code, dates area totally different ballgame.

There are all sorts of factors, like how well you already know your date, what you are planning on doing, where you are going, etc., and we will try to account for all these variables as well as we can.

However, it isn’t always a first date that requires impressing, especially since a certain holiday is fast approaching. Here are style tips for whatever your dating needs.

Let’s start on the more formal end:

a more formal date night

This date is to a nice restaurant or maybe a play or some other type of performance. You still want to look nice and dressed up, even though you aren’t at a black tie event (if you are check out Black Tie Done Right). Even the examples I’ve shown vary in formality, but notice they all have ties. Sweaters and leather jackets are a bit more casual than a suit jacket or blazer would be. Lighter colors also ten to be less formal. If you want to go the vest route, bring a jacket; you can take it off once you’re seated, but the look is incomplete without it on a nice date.

Moving on to a more mid-range formality:

semi-formal date nightThis date is a dinner party or a nice, but not hoity-toity restaurant. This look is a step above the norm, showing your date that you care enough to put in some effort. It mixes and matches formal pieces: slacks, jackets, button-ups, and sweaters, but doesn’t go for the whole ensemble. Your button up is still tucked in at this level though. Khakis and colored pants are more casual, as are non-button shirts.

And finally casual without being sloppy:

casual date nightThis date is a regular old dinner and a movie. It’s a corn maze, a night with friends, or a night around town. But this is still a date, so your casual is not sweats or shorts or sandals (notable exception being a beach date, but is it really the season for that?). Layers are your friends because than you are free to adjust as the night continues. Nothing on your body should have holes or stains or pronounced fading. Pick simple classics that fit, so that your date isn’t distracted by your outfit (whether too formal or just bad).

Whether you are taking your spouse or long-time significant other out for Valentines or on a blind date or somewhere in between, dress to impress, but make sure to let a bit of your natural style shine through, after all dates are about getting to know people.

Mixing up the Patterns

Full disclosure: I’m walking on risky territory with this post. Pattern mixing is an element of my own wardrobe that I rarely risk and when I do, I doubt myself the entire time. So we are taking this trip together.

If we are being honest, pattern mixing is an element of fashion that men actually probably have an advantage in. With the popularity of gingham and  the reemergence of patterned suits and jackets, all paired with usually patterned ties, you guys are basically old hat at this now.

One basic rule I’ve heard is that if at a distance your pattern looks like a solid, then it acts like a solid. In the pictures below, at least one, if not more, of the patterns are faint or easily appear as a solid. This makes them easy to pair with anything you would usually put with the predominant color. Often these will be monochromatic patterns, using slightly different shade of the same color to make the pattern. These are also the types of patterns most commonly found in suits, so that they can be paired with basically anything. The other type of solid appearing pattern is featuring a really small design, like in Michael B. Jordan’s shirt and tie.

Patterns as solidsAnother method of pattern mixing is picking a uniting color. This is where I struggle because I actually get uncomfortable if I’m matching. Neutrals work as an easy uniting hue without feeling too matchy. Coordinating colors work too. A basic way to tell if colors go is if they are on opposite sides of the color wheel, like orange and blue (shown both above and below). Here too though you need to be aware of color saturation. If your blues are too royal and your oranges too basketball-y, you are going to end up looking like a very dedicated Boise State fan. Tones with more grey will likely look more masculine and grown up.

One area where I would say you can definitely take a risk is outerwear. I have a navy plaid coat that I absolutely adore and for years I wore it with absolutely everything. Particularly with winter coats that you will ditch once you’re inside, have fun with it. The same goes for sweaters, where you will see just a bit of the shirt beneath, just make sure the colors go.

Pattern MixingAlso a safe zone is when your patterns a separated by a significant amount of unpatterned space. Just buy those polka dot socks, you will not regret them and they will not clash with your shirt or tie.

When mixing patterns also try to use different sized patterns. This will either make one seems like a solid from afar or at least provide enough solid space to not become an optical illusion/headache inducer.

Pattern mixing is definitely adventurous, but it doesn’t have to be. Just make sure you feel comfortable, check yourself out in the mirror and maybe get a second party’s approval. Baby steps are still steps. We don’t expect you to layer three different patterns well on the first try.

Maybe too ambitious for first timers

Caring for What You’re Wearing

It seems obvious that here at WAMSW we would talk a lot about clothes that suit your style and your body, but we don’t really talk about what to do with the clothes when they aren’t on your body. I’ve had a lot of different roommates/flatmates during my time at university and it turns out that a lot of people are hopeless when it comes to storing their clothing, men and women alike. Especially in a transitory state of life, like college, part of this might come from a lack of space or proper organization materials, so here is how to make the most of that.

First off, how to fold a t-shirt. Seems simple enough, and I’m sure anyone that has worked retail does it much better than I do, but this is how I fold my shirts to fit more in my fairly small drawers. 1) Fold the shirt in half length-wise. Make sure the edges are all lined up and there aren’t any wrinkles. 2) Fold the sleeves in, so that the shirt is pretty close to rectangular. 3) Fold in half, the other direction this time. I’m going to guess that this is where most people stop, or they might skip step 2 as well. 4) Fold it in half again.

Folding T's*Here demonstrated on a men’s small V-neck.

Okay, so are you wondering about step 4; it seems totally unnecessary, but this is actually the step that will help you save space. The trick is to not lay your shirts flat in the drawer. It is a little difficult to put into words, but by standing the shirts up you fit more in each drawer and can now see all of them, not just whichever shirt was on top (most recently worn).

Drawer View

Here is an awkward shot of the inside of one of my drawers. I realize that it doesn’t look as sharp or photo ready as it maybe should, but that’s because this is functional use, that has improved my wardrobe storage by tenfold.

The disclaimer that goes with this sort of folded storage is that it really only works for t-shirts (long or short-sleeved). Sweaters are too bulky and should lay flat. Button-ups should hang, especially if they are dress shirts that require ironing. Things like flannels can be hung or folded, but are also bulky and should probably lay flat. Here is a demonstration on how to fold a button-up, but the same theory applies to all types of sweaters and cardigans.

Folding Button-ups and Sweaters*Here demonstrated on a men’s extra-small flannel button-up

1) On button-ups and cardigans, do up the top and bottom buttons, along with at least one in the middle. This prevents the shirt from sliding around too much. There is no need to do all the buttons unless you want getting ready to take twice as long. 2) Take one side of the shirt and fold it to the center, lay the sleeve flat over the folded part. If the sleeve is longer than the body of the shirt you can fold it up now. Repeat this on the second side. 3) Fold in half to get a shirt the looks almost as well folded as the ones at the store.

Hopefully this helps keep you organized and your clothes off the floor. Let us know if you’ve come up with a good or innovative way to store your clothes.

What a man should…do? Herbert Pocket/Harry Lloyd

We at WAMSW love a well dressed man. If you hadn’t noticed. But as much as we love our well dressed men we also just really like good guys. Well dressed or not. So today’s blog post is going to be a little different than normal, but bear with us.

I recently watched Great Expectations. I had been reading the book but the movie caught my eye the other day as we were browsing through Netflix. It’s a book that I’ve heard quoted by great men that I admire and I’ve always had a desire to read more Dickens. But since the movie caught my attention faster than I could read the book I now have to wait a little while before returning to the book.

But alas, as I was watching the movie I couldn’t help but falling for the supporting character of Herbert Pocket, Pip’s good friend with a jovial nature and large heart.

So without further ado, here are the reasons why men should be a little more like Herbert Pocket. Or Harry Lloyd. I’m not picky.

tumblr_m362r8qmZa1qfrs9eo1_500– He admitted he was wrong and mended his ways.

– He left wealth and family to pursue the middle class woman that he loved.

– He genuinely wants to work hard and honestly to support his family

– He helped out an escaped convict in order to both help his friend and the escaped convict.

– He forgave Pip for hitting him.

– He’s a total goof ball

– He’s not classically beautiful and maybe even a little stringy

– His last name is Pocket

-The actor, Harry Lloyd is actually a descendant of the great Charles Dickens and has been in two movie adaptations of two Dickens novels (Great Expectations, duh, and David Copperfield)

– Harry Lloyd studied English at Oxford University

I think that about sums it up. Half of the attributes I just listed you would only understand if you read the book or watched the movie. Homework assignment!

The Eyebrows Have It

The eyes may be the window to the soul, but the eyebrows express a whole lot of their own emotion.  Even if you haven’t noticed, eyebrows are one of the key ways humans express and detect feelings, whether they be raised, furrowed, or doing the wave. So we should really take better care of them. Besides wouldn’t you want a nice frame for those windows?

Now I know that “metrosexual”, “plucking”, and “sculpted brows” maybe dirty words in the macho man world, but stick with me and I’ll show you the brighter side of fixing those brows.

Your number one, capital A, red-alert problem  is unibrows. Now we laugh and picture Groucho Marx, Frida Kahlo, or any number of cartoon characters, but this is a more realistic problem than you think. Just take a gander at this selection from Buzzfeed’s investigation of celebrity unibrows.

The Gallery of Unibrows

See what I mean? Not all of them are as drastic as Groucho or the member of R.E.M. with the large red arrow, but even young Brad Pitt has a weird little hair bridge above his nose. And trust me, that would never be allowed to happen to him nowadays. So you don’t want a girly grooming routine, that’s fair, but if you don’t take care of this, your girlfriend/wife/mother/considerate sister will shave it in your sleep.

The next huge, although less common problem is the over-tweezed brows. Girls seem to do this all the time and I just don’t understand how. It is not that difficult to stop while you’re ahead (I mean, full eyebrows are in right now). Look at this guide, demonstrated on a woman’s face, for your ideal eyebrow length range. Following that will help you avoid looking like the guy from the UK Apprentice that freaked my friends out so much we called him “The Eyebrow Guy”. Eyebrows should probably not be your defining feature. Also avoid going too thin while shaping, like Joey, by only plucking strays and/or only the lower side of the brow.

The Eyebrow Guy

Other than that, it’s pretty simple. Your brows should have some sort of angle or curve. They should be thick without being caterpillars (glasses can help break up overly heavy brows as well). Here are some nice examples (Dave Franco’s might be a little too heavy, but it is a distinctive look).

The Good Guys

Hey! Let us know what you would like to see more of on our blog. More spotlights? More casual clothes? More grooming? We’d love to know what you want to see!


How to clean Sperry Top-siders

I love my sperrys. I mean really, I have worn them almost everyday for the past two years through Eugene rainstorms, woodland wanderings, 14-hour drives. And, as I should, I go sock-less. But all of this love results in discolored, dirty, and frankly smelly sperrys. So I began to search the internet for a way to clean them–sperrys pose an interesting dilemma, they are both leather and made to handle water, they are boat shoes–there had to be a way. Luckily my first link toted an unorthodox but effective method.

You can do this in thirty minutes and with ingridients you have in your house (or your girlfriend’s). All you need is:

  • A rag or two
  • Dish soap
  • Nail polish remover
  • Cotton balls
  • An old pillowcase
  • Washing machine

Like I said, it sounds a little weird, but I’ve done it a couple times and it really helps.

First, wet your shoes inside and out. Then dampen and pour a healthy amount of dish soap on your rag (the site suggest a tablespoon, but I used an amount that I felt was appropriate, which was probably less. Now scrub, rinse, and continue to scrub. Make sure to get the inside of the shoe because that is where the smell lives. If your insole is removable take it out and wash seperately.

Once you are satisfied with step one–it won’t get rid of everything–and rinsed, then put some nail polish remover on a cotton ball and use this to spot clean. I used it particularly on the distinct water lines that too many rainy days have left on my toes. I’ll warn you now that you will see color/dirt come off onto the cotton ball and be prepared with a few for each shoe. This especially helps fade dark spots.

Now put your shoes in an old pillowcase and tie it shut. Throw it in a cold wash cycle. Hint: add some other heavy laundry, like towels, to balance out the machine; trust me on this one. You can spot clean again if you feel the need (I did spot cleaning last, my first time around). And leave them in a warm place to dry, preferably outside on a lovely day.

Sperrys take awhile to dry, as you know if you have warn them through a rainstorm as well. Shoe repair shops can also touch up some faded spots; I’m taking mine there this time to sew where the sole is pulling away. When you’re done you will have clean, but still rugged and worn boat shoes, with at least less smell. Happy Sperry-ing.

*I would be cautious about using this process for other leather shoes, after all they are boat shoes and made for water exposure.

How to Pack

I am pretty good at packing, and when I say that I mean I am really awesome. I’m never missing something and I never have more than I need and I guarantee my bag for any trip is smaller than any other woman’s would be (and most men’s). Also I’m fast. A weekend trip, give me five minutes. A week-long vacation, maybe allow me twenty.  But lately I faced a packing challenge that made even me pause. I am moving to England for 9 months to a year. The good news: I will now get the chance to update you on all of the wonderful styles across the pond. The slightly sticky news: I have to fit everything I am taking into a checked bag, a carry on, and a personal bag. It’s like the olympics of packing. But for you, who are most likely taking shorter, more frequent ventures, here are some tips from an expert:

1) Never check a bag. Like ever. It’s a rule I live by, passed down from my frequent-flyer father. There are only two reasons you need a bag that large: a) you’re moving or b) you are headed out for three weeks and need a different suit for everyday. Trust me, I’ll show you how.

2) Pack for the weather, not every weather. In the summer throw in one sweater for cooler nights; you don’t need wool socks or even a different sweater for every outfit. Also, chances are you don’t need a rain jacket or umbrella (unless you are headed to Eugene) and if you are in a place that experiences downpour, most likely there is a cheap umbrella store around the corner. Also, if you’re on a business trip, think about your suit’s weight and maybe don’t pack your stylish tweed blazer for summer in Rio.

3) Pack for the occasion. Business trip: you probably won’t need shorts or your man tank, so leave them at home. Vacation: maybe allow a nice outfit for a fancy-ish dinner, but keep it simple. This seems obvious, but one of the main causes of over-packing is the “what if” brain. “What if the company takes us on a surprise snorkel excursion?” They won’t. They would either tell you about it or you can get supplies there. Just be reasonable.

4) Only pack as many shoes as are absolutely necessary. Now, you know I love shoes, but when it comes to packing they are the biggest, most awkward item. So unless it is a really long trip, try to avoid packing a suit that requires brown shoes and one that requires black; one or the other if possible.

5) Pack a swimsuit. Now for someone telling you to pack less, this seems weird, but go with it. Unless you absolutely know you will not have the time or option of taking a dip (and how could you know that) throw it in. Swimsuits are small and thin and if nothing else you could hit the hotel pool for some exercise or the hot tub to relax. You won’t regret it.

6) Re-fold your clothes. Even if they look okay coming out of the drawer, you will fit more in your bag if you re-fold and try to fold all your articles into a similar shape and size.

7) Go minimal with grooming products. This is one area where you have an advantage on all women, including yours truly. Your bathroom bag should fit into the crevice of your suitcase, not take up a quarter of it like mine does. (This is one of the few times you will hear me not encourage some metrosexuality).

8) Rearrange. You can fit it. Try again.

9) Now for the mysterious “personal bag”. If necessary it can serve as a place to stuff whatever didn’t fit in your main bag, but if not, here is what it should have. Two books. Yes two, at least, because especially on long flights one might not be enough or hold your attention. An Ipod, phone, wallet, and other “pocket basics”. Laptop, now this one can go in your PB or your carry on, but never ever check your laptop (the state of many bags on the carousel should tell you why). And anything else you might want to entertain yourself: puzzles, a notebook, etc.

10) And the true key? Have an airport outfit. I’m not kidding, I have one that I wear almost every time. Wear your bulkiest shoes–better to take an extra minute to pull them on after security than find room in your bag. Wear long pants, probably jeans. Like shoes these take up space. Plus planes tend to be cold. And then personally I like a light, loose sweater for my top. If it is cold either in departure, destination, or both, wear whatever coat you are taking. Remove it when you get on the plane and now you have a pillow and personal climate control.

Good luck and happy traveling.


Words of advice from someone famous

Mindy Kaling

I recently read Mindy Kaling’s (you know, zany and hilarious Kelly Kapoor from The Office) book (Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)) and I had to share the best pieces of manly advice I’ve ever heard. I wish I could claim them as my own, but then again I wish I could claim the whole book as my own, it’s that good. These are my personal favorites:

3. Own several pairs of dark wash straight-leg jeans. Don’t get bootcut, don’t get skinny, just a nice pair of levis without any embellishments on the pockets. No embellishments anywhere. At all. Nothing.

Levis work

4. Wait until all the women have gotten on or off an elevator before you get on or off. Look, I’m not some chivalry nut or anything, but this small act of politeness is very visual and memorable.

5. When you think a girl looks pretty, say it, but don’t reference the thing that might reveal you are aware of the backstage process. e.g., say, “You look gorgeous tonight,” not “I like how you did your makeup tonight.” Also, a compliment means less if you compliment the thing and not the way the girl is carrying it off. so, say, “You look so sexy in those boots,” rather than “Those boots are really cool.” I didn’t make the boots! I don’t care if you like the boots’ design! We are magic to you: You have no idea how we got to look as good as we do.

6. Avoid asking if someone needs help in a kitchen or at a party, just start helping. Same goes with dishes. (Actually, if you don’t want to help, you should ask them if they need help. No self respecting host or hostess will say yes to this question.)

7. Have one great cologne that’s not from the drugstore. Just one. Wear very little of it, all the time. I cannot tell you how sexy it is to be enveloped in a hug by a man whose smell you remember. Then anytime I smell that cologne, I think of you. Way to invade my psyche, guy! Shivers-down-spine central!

9. Kiehl’s for your skin, Bumble and Bumble for your hair. Maybe a comb. That is all you need. and when girls look in your medicine cabinet (which they will obviously do within the first five minutes of them coming to your place), you look all classily self restrained because you only have two beauty products. You’re basically a cowboy.

10. I really think guys only need two pairs of shoes. a nice pair of black shoes and a pair of Chuck Taylors. The key, of course, is that you need to replace your Chuck Taylors every single year. You cannot be lax about this. Those shoes start to stink. They cost $40. You can afford a new pair every year.

12. Get a little jealous now and again, even if you’re not, strictly, a jealous guy. Too much and it’s creepy and horrible, but a possessive hand on her back at a party when your girlfriend looks super hot is awesome.

Obviously I endorse her book and it’s basically the most honest piece of literature (?) I’ve ever read that I can totally relate to. This isn’t going to be a normal occurrence, this whole book recommend thing, but if you actually want to understand what normal, intelligent, naturally beautiful women actually think like, pick up this book. And laugh. For me.

But seriously, her manly advice is spot on.

– Rachel