Twenty-Five Pieces of Basic Sartorial Knowledge So You Don’t Look Dumb

When I’m interviewed about men’s style and Put This On, I’m almost invariably asked “what are the fashion mistakes you see men make every day?” or “what is the most basic style knowledge men often don’t have?”

That’s the kind of stuff I usually leave off this blog. After all: you’re discerning and tasteful! But every time I see some incredibly basic principle violated, I cringe. So: for the benefit of your slovenly coworker our your teenage cousin or your uncle who’s never had a job, I wrote this. Forward it to them. Anonymously, if you must.

Below are twenty-five pieces of vital information that every man over 14 in the Western world should know. Every man. No excuses. Seriously. Seriously.

  1. Unbutton the bottom button of your jacket. It’s not intended to be buttoned.
  2. Same goes for your vest.
  3. Remove the tags on the sleeves of your jacket before you wear it.
  4. Jackets sometimes come with white basting thread on their shoulders or holding closed their vents. Remove this thread before wearing the jacket.
  5. Jacket pockets are intended to be opened. Use a small scissor or seam ripper.
  6. More than three jacket buttons is never appropriate for anything.
  7. On a three-button coat, buttoning the top button is optional, and some lapels are rolled so as to make the top button ornamental. In other words: if buttoning the top button seems wrong, it is.
  8. Brown shoes, brown belt. Black shoes, black belt.
  9. Belt or suspenders. Never belt and suspenders.
  10. Your jacket sleeve should be short enough to show some shirt cuff - about half an inch. 
  11. Your pants should end at your shoes without puddling. A slight or half break means that there is one modest inflection point in the front crease. If your pants break both front and back or if they break on the sides, they’re too long.
  12. Your coat should follow and flatter the lines of your upper body, not pool around them. You should be able to slip a hand in to get to your inside breast pocket, but if the jacket’s closed and you can pound your heart with your fist, it’s too big.
  13. When you buy a suit or sportcoat, it should be altered to fit by a tailor. This will cost between $25 and $100.
  14. Your tie should reach your belt line - it shouldn’t end above your belt or below it.
  15. Your tie knot should have a dimple.
  16. Only wear a tie if you’re also wearing a suit or sportcoat (or, very casually, a sweater). Shirt, tie and no jacket is the wedding uniform of a nine-year-old.
  17. The only men who should wear black suits during the day are priests, undertakers, secret agents, funerals attendees and yokels.
  18. Cell phone holsters are horrible.
  19. So are square-toed shoes.
  20. Never wear visible socks with shorts.
  21. Or any socks with sandals.
  22. If your shirt is tucked in, you should be wearing a belt (or suspenders, if you’re wearing a jacket as well, or your trousers should have side adjusters and no belt loops).
  23. Flip flops are great for the pool and the beach and not great for anything else. (Some say this is a matter of taste. We agree. If you have any taste, you will only wear flip-flops at the beach or pool.)
  24. Long ties are not appropriate with a tuxedo.
  25. Never wear polyester outside of the gym or theme parties.

If you see someone violating one of these basic principles, feel free to send them our way. We’ll straighten them out.