Summer is…

Summer is…Light

While we all love jewel tones and dark neutrals, something about summer demands lighter colors (and lighter weights). This is when you pull out the classic white tees and henleys, the linen button-ups, and the paler shorts and trousers.

Easy Breezy.

summertime lightness

Summer is…Cool Button-ups

When you need to be a little more professional or dressed up in the warmer months, nothing beats an open-collared button up. Checks and light solids are perfect for summer get-togethers, and even dressing up a casual pair of shorts.

While wearing tanks and tees around the house or pool is perfect, this is summer’s answer to business casual.


Summer is…fun

Take a risk, even if it is just throwing on a subtle print instead of a solid shirt. Try shorts that are a little shorter, or more colorful, or have a pattern. Hawaiian prints and florals are huge this year and can be manly and modern.

Not ready for a full commitment? Try taking your risk with swim trunks or sunglasses.

summertime fun

Summertime…the living is supposed to be easy, don’t make your clothes complicated.


The Best Part of Holiday Dinners is the Dressing

It’s that time of year where no matter where you are or what religion you do or do not observe, you will probably be participating in some sort of holiday dinner or celebration. If you are in the US, you’ve already had one this season.

Now, I’ll admit, my family is pretty casual when it comes to our holiday outfits, but it is always nice to dress up a little bit. Here are a few options for your holiday fest.

If you are a formal crew, or your mom makes you wear a jacket to family events, you can still mix it up. Different colors or patterns on your jacket make it a little more personal. You can switch out a tie for a pocket square, which keeps it formal, but not formal. Just make sure your shirt is crisp and everything is clean.

A Dressed Up Holiday

If you still want to look nice, but don’t want to go full suit, there are three basic go to’s: The Cardigan, The Blazer over a T-Shirt, and the Sweater.

A cardigan or blazer instantly dresses up a t-shirt, but are still comfortable. Also you probably already have one in your closet. A sweater is cozy and grown up and totally no fuss.

A Comfy Holiday

But, let’s be honest, there is one choice that stands above the rest. It walks the line of cozy and formal and it is hard to mess up.

What is this unicorn? It’s a button-down shirt under a sweater.

The Perfect Holiday

(Normally I crop pictures, but there was no way I was getting rid of those animal balloons)

If you don’t believe me, that this look is great for almost anyone, check out this testimonial:

Thoughts on Sweaters and shirts

Happy Holidays, whichever one you celebrate!

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.

Hello, Professor

While we don’t condone any inappropriate behavior, I think we can all admit that there is something sexy about the professorial look. You can psychoanalyze that all you want, but we think it’s the clothes.

The academic look is basically composed of layers. This makes it great for creating a wardrobe because you can mix and match and even choose how formal you want the outfit to be.

Here are your puzzle parts and pieces:

A variety of button-ups in various shades and patterns. The most classic professorial looks are white, oxford blue, and thin blues and white stripes. Must be slim cut.

The Professor

A few basic cardigans in neutral colors. While I’m all for a variety of cardigans, all you really need are a black, grey, and maybe taupe. These are great toppers for button ups, and can even be layered under other jackets.

Slim-cut pullover sweaters for the same type of layering as cardigans. These are also great in rich jewel tones like hunter green, maroon, and navy. For more info see WAMSW’s Sweaters.

A waistcoat or two that look like they belong to three-piece suits. Waistcoats need to fit properly (aka close to the body) and can easily veer into cheap and sketchy if you aren’t careful. If it comes with a suit, or looks like it does, it won’t be a shiny, tacky mess.

Textured blazers. We’ve already written about tweed, a classic professor look, but any noticeable texture looks like old world money and knowledge. These are great over any combination of the previous tops.

Academia looks good

Every neutral shade of slacks available. Personally, I prefer flat-front, as pleated can easily go 90s, but you should figure out what you like best. Flat-front might be more likely to suit slim men. You can also mix in some dark-wash jeans and still keep it pretty academic.

Be sure to have a selection of ties, pocket squares, and leather accessories on hand to top off your outfit. Also consider scarves and maybe suspenders. Thick rimmed, curved bottom glasses are like icing on the cake for a professorial look. 

Create any combo with these and top it off with a little scruff and you are ready to bestow wisdom from your leather armchair in the library.


Statement Pieces

Statement pieces are something you hear a lot about in women’s fashion, but not so much in men’s. A statement piece is something you pair with your classic basics to pump up the volume. They are, essentially, what sets you apart from the crowd.

That said, a statement piece can be anything: something brightly colored, an unconventional pattern, a different cut on a traditional piece, a fun accessory, even just your favorite funky socks.

Since these are a section of your wardrobe where you can really express yourself, I’m not going to give you rules, but just show some pieces I really love.

One huge trend right now is pairing a wild print shirt with a suit and I absolutely love it. It is a great way to add a pop of excitement without worrying about going over the top. This is also a great way to punch up work or formal wear.

The Exciting Undershirt

The next on my list comes from a similar vein: the unconventional casual shirt. A lot of times we will tell you to add interest to a shirt by pairing it with a jacket or eye-catching pants, but these shirts need no additions.

I’m a big fan of the “animal” print shown here, especially because it is paired with a dusty teal color that isn’t common in menswear. But I am totally in love with the Renaissance ceiling t-shirt. I think I’ve actually been to the church that this is based on, but the overall print and muted colors make this piece one of a kind.

Statement Casual ShirtsThere are so many exciting, unique pieces out there, but I’m only going to cover one more genre for now. A bright jacket is a welcome surprise amid all of the neutrals. You may not want to wear this every day or with every outfit, but that’s how a statement piece should be.

This patterned turquoise blue blazer is a fantastic piece and looks amazing with an undershirt with similar colors in it.

Bright JacketsOther things great in unexpected colors: pants, socks, ties, even shoes. Find something out there that really speaks to your personal style and that you can put with at least two different outfits.


The Lightness of Spring

I’m calling it. Spring is almost here. Maybe it is the unseasonably sunny days we’ve been having or the fact that I’m avoiding finals, but I think it’s time to embrace the coming spring.

Spring weather is different everywhere, but where I’m from it definitely still requires a jacket. The sun is out, but it isn’t necessarily warm, which is why I’ve talked about spring layers before. So this time I think I’ll focus on the colors and textures that are just right for when the weather is starting to warm up out of the winter darks.

Most often spring colors tend to be what we often call Easter colors, or those light pastels. Now these often aren’t considered the most manly colors, but that is a horrible rumor that we should just end. I would bet that most working men already own a light blue button up or two because they are so ubiquitous.

Spring colors

Find the pastels that work best for your skin tone. My dad is blonde and fair-skinned, so he rarely wears yellow, but he looks good in almost any shade of blue because it matches his eyes. If you’ve got reddish undertones, maybe steer away from pinks. And men with darker skin look good in almost any light color.

These colors are gentle, but bright, and their fabric should match. Spring is the perfect time for fabrics like linen, lighter knits, and, as always, cotton. Suits don’t need to be as heavy, so go for a slimmer approach. If you are layering, look to trench coats and denim jackets. Chunky sweaters are more of a winter look, so maybe start to ease them out (unless you are going on a chilly spring beach adventure, of course).

Most of all dress to the weather. Don’t forgo a warm coat if it is still freezing where you live, but also don’t add unnecessary layers if it is a beautiful day. I wish you wonderful sunny days ahead.


If you are really curious about your undertones and what colors look best on you:

  • Cool undertones are often found in those with  blue, gray, or green eyes paired with blond, brown, or black hair with hints of blue, silver, violet, or ash.
  • Warm undertones often have brown, amber, or hazel eyes with strawberry blond, red, brown, or black hair with undertones of gold, red, orange, or yellow

This is not a foolproof way of determining skin tone. I used information from a Stylecaster article aimed at women, but colors don’t know gender. They list some other ways of determining your colors in the link above.



Aran Jumpers / Fisherman Sweaters

Depending where you are in the world, the seasons may be starting to change. Where I am, the weather has decided to fluctuate between terribly cold and surprisingly pleasant. It is really quite disorienting. But cooler weather does mean the reemergence of sweaters! A year ago (wow) Miss Rachel did a lovely post on sweaters and provided some wonderful basics, so I’ll focus on a specific type this time.

The Aran jumper, or more colloquially known as a fisherman sweater, hails from the Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland, hence the name. It is known for distinctive chunky knitting and patterns in the texture. Although traditionally made from untreated wool (aka not the comfiest) nowadays I’m sure you can pick up cozy ones from a lot of shops.

Aran jumpersThey are also traditionally a creamy beige, like the ones above, but can also be found in some great colors.

These sweaters are rugged; more working on the docks than fine cashmere, but can and should be worn everywhere. They are perfect for casual lounging and more dressy occasions. They can be cardigans or pull-overs and both are totally acceptable to us at WAMSW. Personally I prefer the ones with more of a cowl neck or shawl lapels because they look even cozier and more interesting than most sweaters.

There are tons of variations that may not fit the technical definition, but still have the feel of a fisherman sweater. And they are all great for layering or not. They are really a no-lose item of clothing.

Less traditional Aran sweaters

*Apparently particularly popular amongst British actors between the ages of 27 and 31.

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.

Gingham Style

Yeah, I just groaned at that title too.


But honestly, I am a fan of gingham. The latest insurgence of these checkered shirts have brought new life to the button-up. I’d venture to say that a large section of the employed, male population has to spend a majority of their week in some sort of button-up shirt. We talked last time about mixing up this routine with layers, but here is another easy divergence from your striped blue and white (am I right?).

So, I've noticed that you guys like Eddie...

I believe that this pattern first caught my eye on Jesse Spencer on an episode of House (always a good example of well-fitting clothes). The pattern and skinny tie were perfect for his young, successful character, and the bright blue really made his eyes stand out. From that point on I was sold on the style. It is a great way to wear a bright color without overwhelming yourself and usually looks nothing like a picnic blanket. In fact this style, to me, screams spring and summer because it pairs so naturally with these colors.

The pattern also comes in a range of sizes that also allow you to be as subtle as you want. When the pattern is tight and small it just makes your shirt look like it has a little extra texture. More medium-sized checks are the trendiest. (I would suggest avoiding the really big ones, to avoid that picnic blanket thing).

Really my only other advice for this look are the rules that we’ve set down for you time and time again: fit, fit, fit. And confidence. This is an easy look to pull off at any age or size or event. So go forth and bring spring with your shirt.

ginghamAuthors’ note: We apologize if in this next month or two, we don’t post as often as we usually do. With both of us in school and finals rapidly approaching, it can be difficult to keep up with WAMSW, but you can bet we will try our best. Also we apologize that you’ve been hearing from Amy so much…   -Amy and Rachel

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