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Women are attracted to a man in a suit. Whether it is because it reminds us of our Father or even our first prom, there is something innately appealing for women when it comes to men in suits. It is attractive and it is a polished look that makes you stop and take notice. If you don’t believe it, watch it the facial expressions of women when a well-dressed man comes into the room wearing a nice suit.
And most women don’t want their guy showing up in a concert t-shirt that hasn’t fit him since college. Those cringe-worthy moments are memorable in all the wrong ways. But communicating the right style or the need to change his clothing style can be difficult, particularly if they do not see a problem with the clothing they wear.
Many women keep tabs on fashion trends and seasonal styles, and let’s be honest, some men do too. But if you love the aesthetic of a well-dressed man and you are in a relationship with one who looks like the next contestant on “What Not to Wear” providing assistance in the fashion department is less about being nice and more about helping him cultivate a look that is comfortable, professional and attractive.
Any attempt to inform someone that they need some help cultivating their wardrobe and personal style is potentially perilous. We’ve broken it down into five male friendly steps.
Step One: Admitting There Is a Problem
Find the kindest but most direct way of explaining why he needs help with his wardrobe. Find pictures where he was dressed in an outfit that was fitted and stylish. Show your guy examples of when he had put together a look that got him compliments.
Skip over the part where you are tempted to show him pictures of his fashion faux pas; defensiveness is counterproductive to your mission. Remember to provide encouragement and reassurance that he can make a few small and virtually painless changes to look great, and feel great too. This is the part where you might also remind your significant other how attractive you think they are, and how excited you are about helping them to look their best, whether it is in a fitted men’s suit, sports jacket or dress shirt.
Step Two: Ground Zero: The Closet Combat
This essential step in the process is perhaps the most dangerous to any friendship or relationship. Entering into a man’s closet with the intention of critiquing clothing, shoes and accessories is likely to trigger a “fight or flight” response for the average male.
In most cases, anticipate a fight because like women, men are attached to those old, beat up bar t-shirts and ragged jeans, the beach flip-flops and Hawaiian party shirt. Even the collection of worn, frayed and bent baseball hats. Each piece of wardrobe has a historical significance and is therefore emotionally meaningful.
Rather than attempting to eliminate all garments that you consider ‘expired’ from a style perspective, set a goal to donate or discard 50% of his wardrobe together. It will make room for new purchases and help reduce the probability of future fashion offenses.
Step Three: Budgeting a New Wardrobe
If your guy is being told that he needs to purchase a new wardrobe, his first instinct will be to go purchase everything at once in one big, binge shopping trip. This strategy to “get it over with” is a time saving move and blatant attempt to make you happy, but overall it is counter intuitive. Buying clothing in bulk will not help him develop an appreciation for different looks, new colors or outfits or teach him how to enjoy selecting unique additions to his wardrobe.
The best budget friendly and affordable approach is to agree to purchase one quality piece every pay period if possible. Alternate between slacks and dress pants and shirts, sports jackets and accessories. For the first few months, offer to be a “shopping buddy” and help him pick out flattering cuts, styles and colors to give him examples of outfits that bring out his best physical qualities.
Remember when shopping that you literally are combining two of the worst possible experiences for the average man: a) shopping and b) criticism. Be positive in your suggestions and respectful if he dislikes something you have chosen. It is an intervention but not a dictatorship and the process should be friendly and not traumatising.
Step Four: Positive Reinforcement and Feedback
It is important to let your guy know when he has “nailed it” with a look that is trendy and fashionable. When the new clothing starts to emerge as business attire, or at social events be complimentary in your comments. Do not single him out or make him feel embarrassed, but rather share your appreciation for how good he looks. If confidence is an issue, recruit other family and friends quietly to provide the same feedback to bolster his mood and reward his style efforts.
One word of warning when providing positive encouragement. Do not take credit for his style, or make it appear as though you “dressed him”. It is emasculating to men and you can quickly find yourself back in the land of frayed chino’s and flip-flops. If he is making a change, chances are he is doing it to make you happy. For best results (and a happy partner) be his personal stylist on the down-low. No one else really needs to know.
Step Five: Make Room for Compromise
Now that your significant other has edited his look, and taken some guidance on personal style, remember that compromise is essential to long term success. Backyard barbeques, sporting events or “guys-night” wardrobe selections are off limits to critique. When the fashion look matters less than the smile on his face when he is wearing the beat up ball cap, remember that every guy needs the occasional designated “t-shirt” day to relax and just be himself.
For long term support and maintenance of your style intervention, consider subscribing him to one or more men’s magazines. Between advertisements and articles, he will continue to receive positive (if not subliminal) style tips for professional and weekend attire. With any luck, the compliments he will receive on outfit choices will motivate him to continue to explore great new looks