Men’s Fashion Do’s and Don’ts

Monday, 16 February 2009 | Tags:

Suits, jeans, jackets, collared shirts...the staples of men's wardrobes may seem like a piece of cake to master, but we see enough of you doing it wrong that we've called on the experts. Be sure you're wearing your fashion staples the right way by following these guidelines.

We asked Ralph Taylor of Holt Renfrew to give us some tips.

Ralph says: Men make a lot of wardrobe mistakes and tend to neglect things in general. There are a lot of small improvements they make: just a little attention to detail can completely change their whole look.

The Leather Jacket

A symbol of rebellion and packed with sex appeal, a well-fitting leather jacket can help you tap into your inner “bad boy”. Here are tips for getting it right:

Ralph says the biggest mistake men make with leather jackets is that their too baggy and full; the sleeves are too long, and it’s not flattering. Instead, it should look crisp in the shoulder, have some ease underneath the arm but not too baggy, a band at the waist that sits up above the hip.

More tips: it’s all in the fit

The idea is to go for a snug fit in order to avoid looking like you’re drowning in leather, or like you’re trying to revive the 90s boy band baggy look.

  • For the most classic, timeless piece, pick a waist-length, bomber jacket or motorcycle style with a sleek silhouette. (Picture James Dean, of course.) Avoid anything with pleats, bulky pockets, or a style that extends more than a couple of inches below your pants waistline.

  • Choose the smallest size that fits you comfortably (think wetsuit snug) because it will stretch out over time.

  • Shoulder seams should be at the edge of your shoulder, not drooping down your arm. Droopy shoulders makes your frame appear droopy, while fitted shoulders create a broad shoulder line.

  • Make sure the arm holes are cut high. This means that the armpit seam is cut close rather than a few inches below your armpit, thus making the sleeve narrow. It may be awkward to put on at first, but it’s the best fit for mobility (when you lift your arms, your jacket will stay put) and for the optimal fitted style.

  • Zippers are best and provide a more snug, windproof fit. Buttons can gape over time and they tend to pull at the leather beneath if you’re trying to keep it snug.


  • You’re investing in a staple, so it’s good to pay for quality, but be sure to avoid any trendy detail like patches, extra zippers, excess buckles (two waistband tighteners are ok), racing stripes, logos and other things that quickly go out of style.


The workhorse of the casual wardrobe, jeans for men and women have evolved dramatically from their roots as a blue collar uniform. So how do you pick a style that will stand the test of time?

Ralph says that many men wear jeans too high-waisted and of the wrong colour. A medium-rise is best for comfort, and a dark wash is the best look.

More tips: Fit, again, is key

The classic straight-leg denim jean never seems to go out of style for men. (And boy are we glad those baggy crotch-draggers are finally out!)

  • Look for a mid-rise jean that sits just below your waist. The cut of the torso should lie flat against your hips (no bagging please).

  • The legs should follow the natural line of your own leg. If the fabric balloons out at your hips or thighs, they’re too big, or they’re an out-of-date style.

  • Check the label to make sure you’re picking straight-leg or boot-cut styles.

  • Colour wash these days has gone back toward a darker blue, deep indigo, or blue/black tones. These shades are also more versatile because you can dress them up or down.

  • The Skinny: the latest trend these days is the skin-tight skinny jean, which tend to look best on the under 35 crowd. They also tend to be low-waisted, so do a crouch test when you try them on to avoid unwanted butt crack exposure. If they’re too low, try a higher-waisted pair or a different brand. Still no luck? Then you’re not meant to be together. 


  • High-waisted jeans (e.g. the waistband at or above your belly button), which aren’t flattering. 

  • Styles with wide legs or tapered legs, neither of which are flattering on most men.

  • The skinny jean style if you’re looking for a long term investment piece.

Collared Shirts

Whether you’re wearing a dress shirt for work or a button-down for a casual event, there are right ways and wrong ways to wear a collared shirt.

Ralph says a common mistake is a shirt collar that is too flimsy and collapses in, which destroys the whole look of wearing it with a jacket. Look for a stiffer collar and removable collar stays (supports), which give you a crisp, stand-up collar under a blazer.

More tips: stay firm

  • For dress shirts, collars should be firm, never floppy. It should stand up straight on its own. If it slides down beneath your suit jacket collar or flattens out, don’t buy it.

  • After a few washes, your collar might droop or curl slightly. Slots for collar stays (like a short, thin popsicle stick) are common in good quality dress shirts. Most men’s suit stores sell them in plastic, wood, or metal (brass) to keep your collar rigid. Remember to remove the stays before you wash or iron your shirt.

  • Wearing a tie with a collared shirt helps give the collar structure.


  • Shirts with collars that are floppy or curved.


Whether you wear it with a suit or jeans, the belt is an important accessory for finishing off an outfit. And for keeping your pants up, of course! 

  • With a suit, choose a belt that is simple and non-embellished. A simple gold or silver buckle is as flashy as you should get.

  • A leather belt between 1-1 1/2 inches s best for suits. Think of it as an investment piece. It will get better with age.

  • When fitting a belt, go with your waist size. If you’re not sure or if it’s not marked, pick a belt that fits you on the middle hole (there are usually 5). That way you have room to move if your waist size changes.

  • For a more casual look, leather works too, or try canvas, material, or other fabric belts.

  • If you like wearing plain jeans and a simple t-shirt, try jazzing up your belt with a cool buckle or embellishments. Tooled leather (like engraving) also looks great for a casual belt. You can also try something wider (2 inches or more). Make sure to check that a wide belt fits in the loops of your jeans before you buy.


No matter what your job, every man should have at least one good suit in his wardrobe. If you’re a one-suit type of guy, it better be a good one in a classic style. Here are some tips for making sure you get a good suit for your investment.


  • Choose a slim fit, which is also considered a European style. Make sure the shoulder seams are at your shoulder, not drooping beyond at all, and that the chest is snug but roomy.

  • Again, look for high cut sleeves (as with the leather jacket) for a more tailored look. It also gives your arms increased mobility so when you raise them to point at your pie chart, your jacket doesn’t ride up your body.

  • Length of a jacket should be “regular” for most men, unless you are over 6’2″, which is when you want to try a “long”. Buying the right length will make sure your torso looks in proportion to your legs.

  • As a general rule, the hem of the jacket should hit at your first thumb knuckle (counting out from your palm) when your hands are resting at your sides.

  • Single-breasted jackets (2 or 3 buttons) work well on all body types. Look for one where the top button hits you right at your sternum.
  • Double-breasted jackets give you width and girth. They look best on tall, slim men. (Think Prince Charles.) Double-breasted jackets must always be worn done up because they hang oddly when undone. (You can unbutton if sitting, but not if standing.)


  • Jacket lengths that end at your sleeve cuff, unless you’re going for the schoolboy uniform look.

  • Jacket lengths that are longer than your finger tips, or you’ll look like you’re drowning in it.

  • Double-breasted jackets if you’re heavy-set or short.


  • The length of your pant is important. You want the hem to hit the top of your shoe and “break” shallowly once, or not at all. The “break” means where the fabric folds in slightly. If there’s a deep break and your pants fold back on themselves, they’re too long.

  • Skinny suit pants are in style right now, bringing back the 60s mod look of the classic James Bond style. Length is of utmost importance to pull these pants off.

  • When having pants hemmed, don’t be cautious and hem them too long. Instead, have them hemmed at the right length, but be sure to ask the tailor to leave a 2-3 inch cuff inside, just to allow for some adjustment. (Most tailors will do this anyway.)

  • If you can see your socks when you are standing or walking, they’re too short. It’s normal to see some sock when you’re sitting down. Make sure you co-ordinate your sock colour with either your shoe or your pant.


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