I recently read a New York Times article about how consumers have started to buy more and more accessories now that the worst part of the recession is over. (You can take a look at it here.) The surprising thing about this article is that it doesn’t focus on female shoppers. Instead, it’s about men!
As an image consultant who has worked with numerous male clients, I found myself nodding as I read about how men are using various accessories to distinguish and pull together their outfits. When I’m working with men, I always stress that the little details have a huge impact on how you look and how you are perceived.
With that in mind, here are some accessories I recommend all men pay careful attention to:
Ties. Ties are an accessory that many men love to hate. But even if you’re one of those guys who wear ties only when it’s absolutely necessary, you should still put some thought into what looks nice. Avoid safe, boring, or dated ties—I call them “nothing” ties because they bring nothing exciting to your outfit and say nothing about you. It’s fine to choose bold or rich colors, especially since they can set you apart and function as a tasteful statement piece. If you’re looking for inspiration, Brian Williams on the NBC Nightly News is a good example of a man who gets it right. He consistently succeeds in wearing interesting ties that match his suits well and are still appropriate in a conservative setting. When making your own choices, take a page from his book and always make sure that your tie blends with your shirt and suit color! If you’re unsure as to what might coordinate with your suit while flattering you in particular, ask a friend, salesperson, or image consultant for advice.
Glasses. If you have less-than-perfect vision and haven’t opted for contact lenses, chances are you wear your glasses every single day. And since they’re one of your most-used accessories, it’s worth your time and money to invest in a pair that looks good on you. When I’m working with clients, I recommend plastic or metal frames because they give the wearer a much more modern look than a wireless rim would. Plus, a more substantial frame gives definition to your face. Once you have found a pair of flattering frames and have become comfortable wearing them, consider adding a second pair to your collection for a little more variety! And, as you would with any other piece of clothing, work with the sales consultant to make sure that the color and shape of the frames flatter your coloring and the shape of your face.
Cuff links. Cuff links are one of those suit elements that fall into the “optional” category. If you already wear cuff links or like the way they look and want to incorporate them into your wardrobe in the near future, one of my cardinal rules of accessorizing definitely applies: Make sure that what you are wearing coordinates with the rest of your outfit! Gold or silver cuff links are a classic choice, but it’s also fine to add a little personality to your look with color or fun shapes.
Shoes. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your shoes are less important than the rest of your clothing! If your footwear is noticeably old, worn, or scuffed, it can cancel out the effects of an otherwise put-together outfit. Like women, men have an ever-increasing amount of styles to choose from. I suggest investing in a medium-to-light brown pair of loafers for casual wear, and either brown or black dress shoes to wear with your suit. Depending on your career, you might also consider a pair of leather lace-ups so that you can alternate your look!
Socks. The same principle applies to socks as shoes: Don’t assume that they don’t matter! Especially in more formal situations, be sure to wear a sock that is either the same color as your suit or the color of the shoe you are wearing. Also, do a “test-sit” before you leave the house to make sure that your sock is the right height. Your leg should not be exposed when you sit, even if you cross your legs.
Belts. Even if you don’t habitually wear suits, you should still own at least one nice belt in the best-quality leather you can afford. A classy belt is definitely an investment piece! Choose from crocodile, black leather, and/or brown leather. I advise my male clients that a wider belt (a minimum of 1.25 inches) will give you a modern, stylish look regardless of your size or height.
Scarves. Some men see scarves as a true accessory: something with which to embellish their outfits. Others see scarves as something that’s purely functional: something to keep their necks warm when it’s cold outside. Whichever group you fall into, remember that scarves are an important element of your overall look. Make sure that yours coordinates properly with the raincoat or overcoat you’re wearing!
The Things You Carry. Most accessories are things you wear, but men should put some thought into what they carry, too, since these things still contribute to their overall images. First, if you need to carry more than can comfortably fit in your pocket, invest in a nice leather briefcase or messenger bag. Unless you are a student, it’s time to leave canvas backpacks behind. Also pay attention to the umbrella you’re carrying when it rains. You don’t want to walk into a meeting with a brightly colored umbrella or one that is ratty and on the verge of falling apart at the next gust of wind. Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable umbrella options in classic colors.
In fashion, as in most areas of life, “the devil is in the details,” as the old saying goes. When you pay attention to the accessories you’re buying and wearing, all of these seemingly small things will add up to a solid, put-together image and a great first impression!