If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Probably not so much. With style, as in most things in life, change is inevitable. To borrow from author Tom Collins in his concisely poignant business book, The Language of Excellence, “If it ain’t broke, it’s in the process of breaking.”
While many men were taught certain fashion “rules” while coming of age, many of those guidelines have become a little dated. These days, it’s perfectly fine—in fact, it’s encouraged—to advance beyond them. Read on as we dispel some common fashion myths.
You can’t wear brown shoes with blue or gray suits.
For years, conventional wisdom (and even psychological research) held that you should only wear black shoes with blue or gray suits for business. But in recent years, in part due to public distrust of the corporate power look following the 2008 financial crisis and the evolution of the creative professional look, brown shoes with blue and gray suits or trousers have actually become more associated with authenticity and approachability.
Don’t write black shoes off entirely, though. They still have their place, but are more effectively paired with medium to lighter grays.
Men can’t wear pink (or lavender).
Today, plenty of men embrace pink for a variety of reasons. First off, the color works for just about every skin tone, with fair-skinned guys looking good in paler pinks and dark-skinned guys able to wear bolder shades. And pink pairs nicely with lots of colors: brown, khaki, grey, blue, white, black—even green if you’re feeling preppy.
Not convinced? Pink may make you more successful, too: A study by Cotton USA showed that men who wear pink earned more each year than men who don’t. And lastly, women love pink. Experts trace it back to hunter-gatherer days when women searched for red berries among the green foliage.
Your tuxedo must be black.
Yes, in recent decades dinner suits have traditionally been black. But a true (almost black) midnight blue tuxedo is actually a traditionally acceptable color for formal attire.
We’ve spotted more celebrities in blue tuxedoes on the red carpet than we can shake a stick at lately. And, though the higher shades of blue worn in La La Land are not what you would want to wear to your future father-in-law’s favorite charity gala, we’re betting this blue trend is here to stay.
However, beware the grey tuxedo and dinner jackets in various jewel tones. You don’t want to look like you scored a 1950s doo-wop outfit from a thrift shop.
You should never wear denim with denim.
Throw this rule out the window. You can absolutely wear a denim shirt or jean jacket with jeans, as long as the two pieces are different shades. Now’s the time to break out your black or grey jeans with a blue denim or chambray shirt, or just wear a light wash piece with another in a dark hue.
Your socks must be the same color as your pants.
You should still match your socks to your pants when dressing for business so as not to attract attention to yourself (or give the impression that you’re frivolous or not serious about your business). But you can relax this rule for social occasions and match them to your tie, your shirt, your pocket square or nothing at all. Fun, colorful socks are a way to add some personality and flair in a casual or social setting.
You should never wear sneakers with dress pants or a suit.
The lines between dressy and casual have been blurring for some time. It’s fine (and hip) to wear sneakers with more tailored clothing in the right setting. Just remember, if you’re not in the world of the creative arts, entertainment or technology, you might be shooting yourself in the foot (pun intended) if you show up in dressletic footwear to the presentation meeting.
In any case, the key is to choose the right sneaker when you decide to wear one. Whatever you do, don’t wear your beat-up running shoes. Instead, look for a streamlined sneaker in a luxe material like buttery soft calfskin leather or suede. Those with white or very light soles are best paired with chinos, 5 pockets and jeans. When wearing a suit or trousers, it’s best to stick to more tonal colored soles.
Your tie and pocket square have to match.
By all means, NO! In fact, they should never match exactly, in spite of all the horrendous examples to the contrary we see week in and week out from news anchors and sportscasters. The colors should complement but never compete with each other.
“Dressing for your age” means sticking with the same things you’ve always worn.
The two things a guy over 50 who wants to remain relevant doesn’t want to do are give the impression that he’s going through an identity crisis, or that he’s not paying attention.
Adopting certain style evolutions in moderation shows that you’re aware and open minded without being tossed about by every wind that blows your way. Focus on having an evolved and aware sense of personal style, not on what’s “in,” and, therefore, forever changing.
You can pull off trends and wear casual separates like men in their 20s, 30s and 40s, but you still want to look like the guy in charge. The key is to buy clothing that is more elevated in workmanship, design or materials and make sure it fits well without being too tight. If items in your wardrobe are baggy and loose fitting, let them go. Wearing clothes that actually fit you will make you look slimmer, younger and way more relevant.
Next time you’re adding something to your wardrobe, try a slightly shorter soft coat (but always cover your seat), or try some narrower-cut trousers. Don’t get stuck in a rut, and you’ll never look like you’re ready to be put out to pasture.