Sunday, March 15, 2009

Request: How Do I Spice Up My Man's Look for a Special Occasion?

From Alison:

I have a wedding to go to the end of May. My hubby, I'm having a hard time with.

You mentioned that you have been able to influence your hubby into the "Decadent Rock Star" look. My hubby is pretty pliable and will mostly let me dress him how ever I want, but I'd like to add a little edge to his dressed up look. I'm just at a loss. Have you seen the show Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe? He pretty much dresses like him. Dickie's carpenter jeans and t-shirts. Well, hello, Mike Rowe! Aren't you a handsome fellow? Even if you are a little dirty.

I've met guys who are very rigid in their "style" and it can be pretty scary. Alison, you're lucky that your man is flexible - that's going to make this a whole lot easier.

First, let me say that the most appropriate thing to wear to a wedding for a guy is a suit. Always. However, I realize that a lot of guys don't a) own a suit b) don't want to go to the expense of getting a suit that they aren't going to wear very often c) have a suit but it doesn't fit or d) just don't feel comfortable in a suit.

For me, the absolute best thing for my husband to wear is what he's most comfortable in, but is also something he looks good in. For a lot of guys, that's a hard thing to figure out. If you're stressing out about getting him to dress up, just stop. It will take baby steps, and you might only get him to wear one piece at a time until he gets used to it.

I have two Rock Star looks that I've managed to get my husband to wear regularly: one is casual and one is dressy. The dressy one will work for most weddings, unless they are super formal (i.e. big cathedral, a zillion bridesmaids)...and in that case, bite the bullet and rent a suit instead of buying. The bride will thank you.

L wears a suit every day to work, so he's got that look nailed, no problem. My problem was that his casual wear tended to be limited to sports teams, and his dressy look was ill-fitting jeans with a shirt and tie. I've been fortunate in that L will actually wear stuff that I buy him, and listen to me when I suggest outfits.

Casual Rock Star

The Jeans: I prefer a dark wash, either blue, black or brown. Same rules as for women's jeans: avoid the big fades and tapered legs. Keep it to a straight leg or a slim leg (guys who are on the slim side look awesome in skinny jeans).

The Shoes: He'll need a decent pair of shoes with a bit of personality. I look for something with colour or a stylish detail. You can go more sporty (Vans) or more rock, or even a Doc Martens shoe. NOT SNEAKERS.I found these Leather Island skull shoes on clearance for about $40 - the skulls are highlighted with mini studs. The orange and blue are Fluevogs (D.O.G. Disciples of God), from the sample sale last year.

The T-shirt: Most guys have a drawer full of band t-shirts or free t-shirts they've gotten from god knows where. Go through the drawer and look for tees with a design that is intricate or framed centrally on the chest. L now specifically looks for designs like this when he shops, to incorporate into future outfits.
The KISS Army shirt, Judas Priest tour shirt and Rush tour shirt. All of these particular designs were chosen as the most aesthetically pleasing.

MTV rock tee (bought by me in NYC), a Cardboard Robot t-shirt with Halfway House angels (used to be mine when I was heavy).

The Shirt: The man probably has a few button down shirts already. For casual, you want shirts with personality or flair to them. The bowling shirt or Hawaiian shirt style can work really well with the casual look.
L's short-sleeved shirts: black satin with red Chinese dragons, flaming skulls, red satin with skully and crossbones, Hawaiian shirt with Boston Bruins logos. The three on the left were all bought in those skateboard shops; the Boston shirt is from a sports clothing store.

Short sleeve shirts can work well in the summertime, with or without the jacket. The shirt is worn open over the t-shirt. This creates a long line visually (good if your man has a bit of a tummy that he might be self-conscious about).

The Jacket: The key look to finishing this outfit is the jacket. Look for something with texture: velvet, plaid or a pinstripe. NO DENIM.
A cotton plaid blazer I found for $19.99 on the left (I love the pink pajama lining, and the thin red stripe in the brown plaid). The chocolate brown velvet pinstripe blazer on the right is from Guess ($49.99 on the clearance rack).

Your man can take the jacket off if he gets warm, and the casual look will still work fine.

The Accessories: A lot of guys resist accessorizing as they think it makes them look less manly, but you can work around this. Buy steel or silver for jewelry pieces and keep them simple. If he won't go for a necklace, try a cuff-style bracelet or ID bracelet. A funky ring often will appeal (especially skulls or that tribal type of design). If your guy is daring, a hat (a porkpie or small-brimmed grandpa hat) looks very funky in the spring/summer.

But the best accessory for most guys is a belt. L has two leather belts with removeable buckles. Once you have a couple of good quality leather belts, new buckles make great gifts.
The skull belt is from Le Chateau ($19.99), the lady buckle is from Metro Wear in San Francisco.

Here's L doing casual for a day out shopping.
Sorry, it's dark (hotel room lighting). He's doing the Judas Priest t-shirt, with a long-sleeved burgundy textured dress shirt, with the brown velvet Guess blazer. The jeans are a dark brown wash.

Decadent Rock Star (aka the dressy look)

If your man's not too sure about this look, keep it really simple. L has had 13+ years of me working on him and filling out his wardrobe; he's also very open to being "out there" with his own look. Work within the comfort limits of your guy.

The Shoes: You really want to go to town on a cool pair of shoes. I personally prefer something with a fairly pointy toe for that old-school punk look. Look for details, like crackled leather, embroidery or elaborate stitching. Splurge and buy him a good quality shoe that is comfortable. Unlike women, guys will not wear a shoe that hurts or rubs, and since this will be his "go to" shoe for most special occasions, you may as well get him a nice pair. He deserves it.
On the left, Robert Wayne (from Town Shoes) copper with black crackle finish and embroidery. In the middle, Fluevog red "Iggy" (just purchased this weekend!), with very stylin' leatherwork and stitching. On the right, another pair of Robert Waynes (from DSW clearance rack), with funky teal leather and lime croc detailing.

The Fluevogs that L wore all weekend (you can see how much he loves these and wears them). Nice shape and contrast stitching in a classic black.

The Pants: The look needs dress pant with an edge, like a pinstripe pant, or a pant with some texture (like a tux pant or even a pair of cords, as long as they don't look too casual - think thin-wale, not wide-wale).
These are L's pinstripe velvet black cords. They work well with either casual or dressy.

The T-shirt: Don't do the t-shirt with this look, although if it's cold, he can wear the same t-shirt as with the casual look - except he will be the only one who knows he's got his favourite band on underneath...

The Shirt: Again, details are the key. Embroidery, trim, French cuffs, shiny texture, a gothy design: these are what you are looking for. If your man's a little more country than rock 'n' roll, those cowboy shirts with the snaps come in dressier designs, but keep in mind that you want more of a vintage vibe than an authentic Western look.
From left: Hart Schaffner Marx floral/striped shirt (vintage, $49, purchased this weekend), embroidered knight on pinstripe (English Laundry), black Western-style with pearl snaps and embroidery stripe (Le Chateau), Robert Graham floral shirt, shiny cerulean blue shirt with shiny stripes (Le Chateau).

The Jacket: Think Sinatra, think Mick Jagger in the 60s, think Dave Navarro (yummy), think cool, decadent and a little over the edge. Velvet, brocade or a jacket with details like studs or metal buttons. You can use the same jacket as with the casual look, but only if it is a good quality fabric (not a thin cotton jacket).
On the left, vintage Mexx ($55, bought this weekend), grey with tan pinstripe. On the right, English Laundry "Rock Star" jacket, chocolate brown with black suede trim and brass studs.

The Accessories: The same belt/buckle will work fine, but the accessories should be punched up a bit (go to 11!). If the shirt has French cuffs, look in vintage stores for some jewelled cufflinks. A pinky ring, a neck chain, even a pin on the lapel of the jacket; these will all give his outfit the pizzazz he needs to feel like he is on the red carpet.
Here, L's doing a ruffled vintage tux shirt (it has French cuffs, and he's wearing a rhinestone square cufflink), his patterned leather belt and celtic knot belt buckle.

My chainmail necklace (handmade), a steel and rhinestone dress ring, and of course, the wedding ring.

Here's the whole Decadent Rock Star look put together:
L's doing a striped dress pant with this - it is black with a light brown and tan irregular stripe (close up above in the shoe picture). He's wearing the same chocolate brown velvet Guess blazer as he did for the casual look.

To give you a shopping list of the basics, in order of things your man needs the most to pull off the Decadent Rock Star look for a wedding:

- a good quality pair of funky dressy shoes. Black is the best colour to start with.

- a good blazer in a nice texture/material. If his favourite colour is blue, look for blue.

- a leather belt with an interesting buckle. Go with black for the belt, and let him pick the buckle (even if you hate it, see above pink lady buckle).

- a button down shirt with a pattern or texture. Steer him away from suit-y type shirts and look for a colour he might not otherwise do, like teal or purple. Keep the colour dark - really bright colours will scare him.


- Compliment him. " look sexy in that jacket." or "Wow, those shoes totally rock!" or "Honey, you look like a rock star!" He will feel insecure about wearing things outside of his comfort zone, so you need to really let him know that he looks good in them. He also needs a couple of come-back lines in case his friends ask him. "This is my rock star look" is a good one.

- Put together outfits for him when you buy him a new piece. L didn't like the brown and red plaid jacket above until I showed him what to wear with it (eg. your Rush t-shirt, the knight shirt, your brown jeans, and your embroidered shoes).

- Ask him to trust you and just try it on. Many guys just can't picture how things will look together until they see them on. You need to point out things to him, like, "This jacket makes your shoulders look really broad. This shirt brings out the colour in your eyes. These pants make your butt look good." (heh, don't forget to give his tush a squeeze)

- Explain why certain things go together. We women tend to forget that we have all this background on texture, fabric and style accumulated from years of fashion magazines. Explain to him that these things all go together because all of these colours are in the shirt's pattern, or that you're using the texture (velvet, shiny, etc.) to make the outfit more visually interesting. L is a big-picture guy - he totally didn't clue into the details until I pointed them out.

Well, there you have it! I hope this was fun and helps you figure out how to get your husband to dress up for the wedding, Alison! Let me know how it goes!


  1. I bow in submission, Queen Sheila. I have been married 10 years and it took me 5 years to get my husband to wear something to work other than a white button down and light khaki dress slacks every day. I am not kidding. When we met, he had 6 white oxford shirts and 4 pair of very light stone slacks in his closet.

    The “great eyes/tush” comments do work. I got him in his first pair of flat front pants last year and he wears white shirts only when wearing a sport coat or suit.

    By the time we hit a retirement home, I may, just may, get him to buy more than 3 pair of shoes at a time.

  2. Thanks, Lain!

    I am very lucky in that L loves to dress up and play with colour and style. My ex would barely get out of jeans...very sad.

    Yup, the compliments do work! Keep it up!

  3. Oh Sheila, I love all this advice. You hubby looks great and fun. You've given me many ideas to spice up my hubby's look. Thank you so much L for helping Sheila with this post.

  4. Hey, Alison, I hope some of it is useful for you. Let me know how it goes!

  5. Compliments to your hubby for participating and to you for this informative post!

  6. Ok, I am so totally impressed I am utterly speechless. No really, I can't think of one damn thing to say. Men everywhere should be hiring you as their personal stylist!

  7. Thanks, Mervat! I'm hoping to convince L to be a special guest when he dresses up.

    Aw, thank you, Kayleigh!

  8. This post rules! So many guys have fashion vilified as something vain or feminine. Your husband looks sharp! I wish more men took their look seriously. You have proved it is pretty easy, actually.

  9. Hey, thanks, lorrwill! My husband's friends actually started copying his look (after a few years) when they dress up. I compliment them and always offer my shopping services.


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