1 Minute Tips in Etiquette: Menswear

A man is made by his suit, his professional attire.  Now this doesn't mean that you have to spend thousands to look good.  You have to consider  especially in an economy that is shifting and mercurial,. you need to be on your A game.  Every man should own two suits.  One black and one blue or dark grey.  If you have a Blackberry, an Iphone or a Wii and no suits, you're not ready for the social challenges of life that men, males who have graduated into manhood are prepared for.

Suit Times:

  • Job interviews
  • Dinner dates
  • Weddings
  • Funerals
  • College interviews
  • To make be a good impression (no one has ever been told they were too classy looking)

*Needs and Why?
It is better to show up overdressed and be able to take off your tie and fold it into a pocket square of color (a trick I use when I see I'm in a situation that doesn't call for absolute formality.)  I would submit that Black and Latino males, the horrible number of 70% to 80% of them being brought up by single parents, mothers, don't learn this.  Men teach boys (and other men) how to become men, even down to having half a dozen plain white or black t-shirts and drawers.  Now yes, some women are able to bring up their boys to do so but there is a point where men show each other that you should have 1 pair of plain black and brown shoes.  You need at least 5 dress shirts in white and blue.  After that you can go Jay-Z (notice he shows up differently in business and casual situations) hippity hoppity as you wanna be.  You can rock all kinds of sparkling drag and boho, hobo, hipster, emo style you want.  But like Superman you need a dark tie, a nice red and/or blue one.

*Cleverly, the bolded words above are your shopping list.

Money!  How Much to Spend?
This is what some males use as a a barrier to the truth that in the world you'll need to have this basic wardrobe section as a man.  You can pull it together for $100 or start with a Brioni suit at $10,000.  But a cell phone is about all your set up wardrobe should cost.

Low Budget:
  • 1-2 suits--You can get them at K&G, KMart, Men's Warehouse for $200 to $400.
  • 2 to 5 shirts (I suggest going cotton always) should cost you about $25 to $75 a piece.
  • 3 ties, you can get a basic tie for about $10 a piece.
  • A pack of t-shirts, drawers and three pack of black socks. $20 to $40 bucks.
  • Dress shoes can be $30 for basic black/brown Payless or up to $100 for sturdy get bys.
Medium Budget:
  • 1-2 suits--You can get them at K&G, KMart, Men's Warehouse for $400 to $1000.  Same stores, other racks.
  • 2 to 5 shirts (I suggest going cotton always) should cost you about $100 to $275 a piece.  Over $150 is generally tailor made shirts at stores like Pink or Brooks Brothers.  Quality costs more, but looks better and lasts longer when you take good care of it.
  • 3 ties, you can get a basic tie for about $50 a piece.
  • A pack of t-shirts, drawers and three pairs of black socks. $100 to $200 bucks.
  • Dress shoes can be $100 for basic black/brown up to $400 for well made, full leather good shoes.
Cute Budget (with Tips and Tricks):
  • 1-2 suits--$400.for an Emporio Armani off of EBay.  After undergrad that was how I bought my first Armani.  Saks Armanis start at about $2500 per suit  That's entrance price to Emporio (there are Armani levels).  A truly great Emporio will start at $10,000.  But with EBay and Alibaba, if you regularly scour, you can find several new ones at a half or a third of the retail price.
  • 2 to 5 shirts: $125 to $200 a piece; pay more for shirts and plan buying 1 or two every few months, soon you'll have a killer wardrobe.  Suggestion: buy white, blue and pink first; never go for trendy styles as your foundation---remember the bright neon dress shirts with striped colors and cuffs?  (I bought one on a dare.  I wear it to signal low flying airplanes.)
  • French cuff/Cufflinks.  Once you have your foundation, you can start to vary quality with french cuff shirts.  Then you get into cufflinks--I suggest a couple standard $20 ones simple metal squares or oblongs then start to play with it with gold, silver, platinum, school crests, Booker T. Washington faces.  But if you get fashion fun remember the rest of the jacket and outfit must be so tight that the joie de vive you're showing with Daffy Duck cufflinks is seen as clever and fun, not childish.
  • 3 ties can be as much as $100 a piece.  I have some nice Armani ones.  These are generally silk and then you might need a tie clip or tie pin---again follow cufflink rules (most places that sell one will sell the other that complements)
  • T-shirts, drawers and socks. $20 to $50 bucks for each.  A great suit can apply the wild cufflink rule to socks.
  • Dress shoes $300 for basic black/brown and you want to go classic wingtip or oxford and then get fun.  Same neon striped shirt applies to shoes---trendy huge foot, elongated toes, zippy and visible from two blocks away need to be counterbalanced powerfully by everything else.  Also with good shoes you want to have your backup mediums or even lows.  Sometimes, while teaching I spend a lot of time on my feet so there's less focus on me as being fashionable.  I wear slip ons of some medium shoes with a full suit.  My Ferragamos and Guccis at $400 and up a pair, I save for presentations, interviews, dinners, meeting new associations, etc..
Based on your budget you should have a 1 minute tip sheet to follow but the final addition to this is to get an atelier---it's French for a personal tailor.  When you buy, even off the rack, no size is perfect, therefore no item fits right.  If you spend another $20 taking it to your dry cleaner and investing some tailoring fixes, a suit you want to hold onto a decade or longer, will always fit you perfectly.  If you're just starting out get the jacket a little bigger, which might increase the slacks size, but think about if you'll wear a sweater, a vest or just gain weight as you age.  You can always take in and let out alterations.  Saks and Men's Warehouse have in-house ateliers who will measure you right there and help you out.
 Again, this should be your foundation as a man but it might take you a little time to pull it all together, a few years even based on your budget.  But you can get all the basics for $500.  Having interviewed and hired lots of people: teachers, business people, production assistants, program assistants---I often noticed who dressed well for an interview no matter how smart they were.  And I've had bosses who've tanked men before even talking to them based on their outfits.  Same thing goes for dates.

Most African American and Latino men are smart, capable and hardworking, and with a tweak or two, some training, and a chance, they can succeed but too many of them can't even get onto the field because they haven't been taught since middle school about etiquette and menswear.

Thank you for reading,
Kyle Phoenix
Email: kylephoenixshow@aol.com
Website: http://kylephoenixsite.com/
Blog: http://kylephoenixshow.blogspot.com/2012
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