Stuck in the Middle

Honestly, I had plans for a couple more Hunger Games posts (a Sam Claflin Spotlight has been in the hopper as long as the Josh Hutcherson one, it will happen one day), but I’ll probably just redistribute at this point.

On one of my other recent posts, I got a question about growing hair out, but maybe not committing to man-bun length locks. Growing hair out can be tricky for anyone- there are always awkward stages along the way – but mid-length hair can also be some of the best.

So I picked a couple stages in the middle, starting with…

mid-length.jpgThe Shaggy Stage

Now, fair warning, I was in middle school in the mid-2000s, so I’ll always have a soft spot for that surfer boy vibe (I was over it by Bieber, but it is back in a big way with men like Bob Morley).

The main rule of shaggy hair is that it has to stay out of your eyes, and not because you’ve developed a hair-flip-twitch, like so many of my middle school classmates. If you plan to keep it shaggy, consider cutting it so it stays at your eyebrows or a tiny bit lower.

If you are in the process of growing it out, comb it or style it in a way that sweeps it out of your eyes.

If you are working a combo style, like an exaggerated quiff, either style it to be pushed back or be prepared to have your hands in your hair a lot, which might not be a bad thing.

Having naturally textured hair helps this look a lot. If you’ve never grown your hair out before, you may be surprised at the texture that presents itself, and that it will vary continually based on the length and day. If your hair is smooth and straight, you can try to add some texture with product or – and I hesitate to say this, although its what I do – you can try not combing your hair. My hair goes straight if I comb it, but has a wave/curl if I don’t, so after a morning shower, I just let it be. Do not do this if your hair tangles easily, it will just look unkempt and dirty. If you do try it, you have to wash your hair, often.


A Little Bit Longer

So, some of these guys could probably go with a man-bun at the length their hair is, but these show ways to wear it down.

Again, texture and body go a long way with longer hair, but basic rules still apply. Keep it clean, out of your face, and never ever go the mullet route.

If you’re looking to add some body to your hair, consider adding layers. This will lessen the weight and allow any natural texture and lift to flourish. Eoin Macken is a perfect example of this. His hair is relatively smooth, but it has a lot of movement because of its layers. (I have a post saved in my drafts from like three years ago that is about Eoin Macken’s hair…I might need to dig that back up, I’m not sure why I never published it).

I’m terrible at getting my hair trimmed regularly, and that is a huge understatement, but my rule is that when my hair starts to bother me, becomes unmanageable, or I’m constantly trying to get it off my neck and shoulders, then it is time for a haircut. You don’t have to cut it all off when you get to this point, but you at least need a trim or a new style.


Your Go-To Guy: Gaspard Ulliel

This French actor has had some variation of shaggy or mid-length hair for the past decade. He uses it to change his looks from boyish to manly to mildly terrifying. Most of the time he keeps it solidly away from smarmy and creepy – the exceptions being for roles (like a young Hannibal Lecter), this is done primarily by keeping it clean – even when it has product in it, you can tell the difference between that and just dirty – and keeping it out of his face without being totally slicked back.

If you are pushing your hair back off your face, please, please, do not make it slick and hard with product. Movement and some lift are key.

Good luck!



Take a Day Off

We are always telling you that even casual wear can look nice and fairly sophisticated, but today we’re talking a whole new level of casual. This is for your day off – off work, off the town, off duty. We’re talking sweats, sweaters, glasses, and tees.

This is the one time on this blog where we will say comfort is the most important thing.

Sure your clothes should always be comfy, but that is almost never a good reason to buy clothes (every single episode of What Not to Wear dealt with this clarification). Even your comfiest clothes can still be nice.

day off

Throw on a sweater and leave your hair a mess. Still take a shower, but go ahead and trade your contacts for glasses.

Keep your sweater a little looser, but don’t let it drown you. Find a hoodie that is thinner and a little boxier than the traditional college hoodie. This will actually be more comfortable (no waistband) and looks a little more grown-up. Also if you can find one without a front pouch, that is definitely good too.

Now is where the advice gets a little confusing/contradictory.

Holes in your sweats are bad, but might be good/hot on a t-shirt (only if they are very small and near the collar or bottom hem). If no one else is going to see you all day, who cares? But if you are around extended family, in-laws, friends, anyone, keep the holes off your sweats.

day off1

If you do venture out of the house throw on some comfy slim jeans, a cardigan, or an over-shirt.

Everyone deserves a day off. Let the scruff grow, wear the comfiest old clothes, and slouch around a bit. Just make sure you and the clothes are clean.

Preppy, not Fratty

This post is partially inspired by those delightful pastel suits we found for Easter, but also by the fact that it has been almost hot the last couple of days, meaning everyone’s wardrobe has changed. Around here that means a lot of bro-tanks and open shirts. I’m not a fan. I am, however, all for the preppy brights and youthful summer-wear, but make it look like you are taking the day off from your crew team, not your keg stands.

Community goes preppy

The three basic components of preppy are: color, plaid, and shorts.

You don’t have to do all of them at once, but we’ll break down the pros and cons of different combos.

Brights and plaids actually go great together because plaids are usually a combination of opposing colors and they are often bright. If you want to add another non-neutral article of clothing to your outfit, pick one that matches a color in the plaid. Also keep the plaid localized to one piece of clothing.

Preppy plaid Now shorts are something else we’ve talked about before because it can be really tricky to get the right length. The goal is to hit right above the kneecap. A little shorter is actually preppier, but if you’re above by more than an inch or two, you’re in risky territory. Cuffs are also extra preppy and would allow you to switch up the length depending on your comfort and style.

Colored or plaid shorts are another quintessential preppy look, but again, be careful what you pair it with, so you don’t overwhelm your body. Muted colors, especially blue, and neutrals like khaki and olive are all good options. Jean shorts are questionable at best; see what else you can find.

Preppy shortsWarm weather really opens the door for more adventurous clothing, including classic preppy looks. Bonus preppy points for no socks. Negative points (although it is preppy/fratty) for popped collars. Now go forth and enjoy your yachting, or croquet game, or whatever preppy thing you have planned.

Oh, and if you are looking for a little extra Theo James, check out this video of him singing.

The Witching Hour: Real Men Wear Halloween Costumes

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, but one that never seems to quite live up to the hype (like New Years Eve). But I love it all the same because I get to dress up and those that don’t automatically lose some respect points. You are no less of a man for donning short shorts or make-up on this day/weekend, either.

There are different levels of costumes and I get that. We can’t all go overboard every year, but choose a costume that represents something you are interested in. Sure classics like vampires and ghosts are fun, but Tobias Fünke or the Headless Horseman are way more interesting.

Here are some fairly simple getups that range from a pass to being the coolest guy at the party:

Easy to make and wear costumes

  • Superman is an obvious classic, for nerds and manly-men alike. This one is fun, and even easier to put together, because is Clark Kent and Superman. All you need are large glasses, a Superman Tee, and a basic white shirt and tie combo.
  • The Pharaoh might seem a little more complicated, but you’re likely to find most of what you need at a local costume shop. Similar to a Greek/toga costume, you really just need some well draped fabric and thick gold jewelry. The headdress is a helpful identifier and you could through in some fake hieroglyphic tattoos if you feel so inclined.
  • This middle one is probably the simplest, but it is so flawlessly done here. In case you couldn’t tell, he is dressed as BBC’s Sherlock (played by internet darling Benedict Cumberbatch). While you may have most of this stuff in your closet, you really have to pay attention to detail so that people know you are wearing a costume. Purple shirts, scarves, and long coats are recommended. Also acceptable is any other form of Sherlock Holmes (and there are plenty to choose from: Classic, Robert Downey Jr., Elementary, House, etc.)
  • For the more adventurous at heart is the drag route. This can be fun and over the top; a chance to wear something you never would normally. Even more creative than regular drag is choosing a specific woman. One of my friends dressed up as the Queen last year, priceless.
  • This last one is so clever and so simple. It’s the Swedish Chef, for those of you unfamiliar with Muppet lore (you should be ashamed) and all it requires is a chef hat, white shirt, black pants/apron, red bow tie, and copious amount of hair over your face.

Alright now for a few that might be a little harder to put together:

Ambitious and Creative Costumes

  • This first guy really went above and beyond; he could have just worn the yellow shirt, apron, and “Mr. Manager” name tag and had a great costume. But instead he built a wearable banana stand! His Khakied legs stick out at the bottom so he can still walk and dance with the best of them and the stand itself appears to be made out of a light material, so it won’t weigh him down.
  • Next is Darren Criss in a classic boy scout uniform, which might be simple enough if you can find one that fits, but he added an extra level by adding the fur cap and glasses to make him Sam from Moonrise Kingdom. This is great because even if someone didn’t get the reference, it is still a legitimate costume.
  • The Joker may seem like a fairly basic costume, but the make-up on George Craig (singer for One Night Only and sometimes Burberry model) makes him unrecognizable. Because his hair and face are so perfect, he can go pretty light on the rest of the outfit.
  • Mugatu is another costume that will get a lot of appreciative looks. The shirt will probably take some piecing together (he has some other outfits, but this is the most iconic, for obvious reasons) and the hair and goatee are absolutely essential.
  • Lastly is Danny O’Donoghue from The Script dressed as Edward Scissorhands. This is another example of make-up and hair really making the costume. I don’t know what his scissors are made from, but I would suggest something lightweight. Also you probably won’t be eating or drinking much in this costume.

Get creative with whatever you wear and you will have more fun if it is something you really enjoy. Now go forth and show off your costumes at as many Halloween parties as possible.

Wrapped in Paisley and Polka-Dots

We all know the value of a good stripe, plaid, or gingham shirt and the way they can liven up any outfit, but generally speaking they aren’t particularly daring patterns. If you’re looking to take it a step further, we are delving into the wild world of paisley, polka-dots, tribal, geometric, and other less common prints.

patternsPattern Myth 1: Polka-dots are for 50s housewives. Just not true. Polka-dots are having a huge comeback right now in both mens and women’s clothing. It is a basic geometric pattern like a stripe or a plaid, that looks polished and isn’t too distracting. There is something a little whimsical about dots, which makes them perfect for pairing with more traditional or plain suits or slacks. Still worried they are too girly? Try darker base colors or a tighter pattern.

Myth 2: Paisley is too psychedelic or flamboyant. It’s true that paisley is one of the louder patterns out there because it often incorporates a lot of colors and various shapes, but it is also a classic. You can find monochromatic or duo-chromatic versions that are subtler and, like dots, when paired with traditional menswear items, it becomes a unique statement piece.

Zac, Ewan, MattMyth 3: Geometric patterns (besides stripes) are too busy. Geometric patterns are what I am calling repeated patterns of basic shapes, so basically all of the patterns that don’t have a name and aren’t a single picture. Like paisley, these can be loud because they really don’t have any rules. But they won’t overwhelm you because the pattern repeats, which keeps them from being distracting. Have you noticed how many times I’ve repeated that these patterns repeat? That’s because repetition is to patterns what neutrals are to colors; they go with anything. Okay so maybe really loud ones won’t pair with everything, particularly other patterns, but the idea works.

Myth 4: Tribal is for hipsters. Okay, so tribal is a little bit for hipsters, but that is just because it has a distinct feel. Tribal isn’t something you’d wear to the office, but it has an unmistakable summery feel. You’d wear this to a concert or the beach, probably on a t-shirt or flannel. This is another pattern that can handle bright colors, but doesn’t have to, it can be as muted as you like. (I’m also going to lump south-west patterns in this myth).

bright patternsMyth 5: Animal prints are for girls. I’m calling that a myth because in my book animal prints are always a bad idea. In general they tend to look trashy and cheap. You could maybe get away with a really subtle, dark, monochromatic one, but in general I say no.

And now a piece of  pattern advice: keep it localized. WAMSW is thrilled if you’ve taken to the idea of patterns, but please do not go so far as to completely cover your body in it. Stick to one article of clothing in one pattern (Pattern mixing is a topic for another day. It can work, but it is risky territory). Just please don’t follow the example of one of the group below:

Please don't.You don’t want people singing the Star-Spangled Banner to your backs. To the kid saluting the couple, we at WAMSW salute you.

If the thought of patterns still scares you, try it on a tie or some socks as a way to add individuality without wearing it all over. The feel of a pattern can be completely changed by the colors and what it is paired with, so maybe before making an out of character purchase have a plan of what you will pair. If you buy with a plan, it won’t end up in the back of your closet as a regretted purchase.

The ABC’s of Tees

Here at WAMSW we are always encouraging  you to put on ties, suspenders, jackets, and all manner of “extra” articles of clothing. But believe us, we understand the urge as the weather gets warmer/ as finals approach / on a quiet weekend to pull on a t-shirt and call it good. And that’s okay. (I may or may not be sitting around my house in a t-shirt and shorts as I attempt to write an essay).


And although they are the ultimate lazy clothing (I refuse to accept sweats as an entity), that doesn’t mean t-shirts need to be shulmpy. As with everything, fit is essential. Baggy shirts are the easiest way to hide your body, and that is not a good thing. I don’t mean hide flaws, I mean hide the fact that you have a body. If you’re a slim guy an overly loose shirt can make you look scrawny. If you’re a bigger guy it can add the appearance of extra weight. Pretty much a baggy shirt does no one any good. Don’t believe me? In Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods, they purposefully dressed Fran Kranz (Marty) in baggy clothes because he was noticeably

“in as good if not better shape than the other male students. In the commentary for the film, the writers joke that he was “ripped like muscular Jesus” and assert that if Marty were shown being that fit it would ruin the character”. (From IMDb trivia page for the film. Do not read this section unless you’ve seen the film).

So now that we’ve fully explored the woes of baggy t-shirts, we have to say that too tight can be just as bad. Unless you have a character-destroying body, a skin-tight tee is just going to reveal any and all flaws. My friend and I were actually distracted by a guy in the pub the other night who had either out-grown his shirt or unfortunately thought it looked good. It didn’t, trust us.

What you do want is a shirt that follows the line of your body, but with some built-in breathing room. Sleeves should end at your mid-to-upper bicep, the elbow or below, or commit to being a long sleeve. If your regular short sleeves are ending near your elbow, you need to rethink your size or style. (The hem hitting your mid-to upper bicep keeps your arms from looking scrawny).

various basic tees

I’m always a fan of plain and neutral when it comes to t-shirts, but an overall pattern, like a stripe, with a pop of bright color can be refreshingly summer-y. Another way to mix up the basic is with a nice baseball tee (those ones with the different colored sleeves). V-necks are never a bad thing, but gage the depth appropriately, very few guys can pull off a super deep-v and even fewer that aren’t musicians (don’t ask why, I can’t explain, but it’s true).

If you’re looking for more examples of how to really wear a t-shirt, check out Adam Levine. His shirts always fit perfectly; he’s a skinny guy and is never overwhelmed. Also, although personally I’m not really a fan of tattoos, his add enough other interest that a plain tee is never boring.

Black Tie Done Right

Black Tie Done Right

Whether you find it unfortunate or not, the average modern man has very few excuses to don formal wear. However, outside wedding or prom season, awards season seemed like the most appropriate time to discuss tuxes and formal suits. Here at What a Man Should Wear we love a good suit, but this special occasion wear. Now I’ll admit I’m no expert on the exact tailoring and terminology of tuxes (or dinner jackets), but with a little research I think I can give you a layman’s guide.

Now I bet some of you think that all tuxedos are the same; wouldn’t that make your life easy. While the men who walk the red carpet this award season all look more or less the same, especially when compared to their female counterparts, there are tons of thoughtful decisions in each penguin suit.

First off: color. While traditionally black, the color of one’s tux or formal suit (a tux is technically defined by the presence of satin or another material on the lapels, buttons, and down the side of the trousers; some of what we are discussing don’t fit this description) is not set in stone and depends on the event you are attending. Personally for weddings, I love to see a groom and/or his men in grey. I’m also personally a fan of grey paired with a deep purple like in the picture, or navy blue like the groomsmen at my best friends wedding. Also any dark jewel tone adds some interest, the bolder the color for the bolder the man. And the truly daring (or more casual, still formal wedding goer) might even try a white or khaki. (However, Esquire does suggest darker and simpler for bigger men, perhaps with stripes).

A tux of a different color

Now we are going to get a little more technical: Jacket lapels. There are basically three different types of lapels notched, peaked, and shawl, here demonstrated for us by the dashing men of BBC’s Merlin (RIP). Starting on the left we’ve got Tom Hopper with a notched lapel. Now I can’t tell if his lapel is unusually thin or if it just looks that way because he is possibly the largest man in existence (probably the latter). Next is Adetomiwa Edun in a peaked lapel. Then Eoin Macken in a much more casual look (forgiven considering most of his day jobs don’t involve any shirt at all). And finally on the right, Rupert Young in a traditional shawl collar. Honestly I don’t particularly have a preference between these, but now you know what you are asking for.

The Knights of Camelot at the 2012 NTAs

Lastly: the details. Pocket squares, cuff links, ties, the amount of buttons. Okay that last one isn’t so much a detail as an integral part of the suit, but you get the point. When doing a traditional single-brested suit, the number of buttons should depend mostly on the style of the jacket and the length of your torso. Longer body means more buttons (see above). This works for the double-breasted jacket as well, best attempted on tall men. Personally I think a look this formal demands French cuffed sleeves with cuff links (see image below for an example of a French cuff). The links don’t need to be anything too fancy, just nice and a little personal. Pocket squares. Do it, add some color or pattern, this is where you get to add more personality.

And ties. Bow tie is traditional and making a comeback in a big way, even in more casual wear. But I’m also a huge fan of the skinny tie. This is another personal choice, just one rule, no clip ons.

More help from Merlin

For a little extra help check out these posts:

The GQ Wedding Primer Starring Darren Criss

Esquire’s Tuxedo Suggestions for Emmy Night

Esquire’s Behind the Scenes Tuxedo Lessons with Roo Panes