I love suits so much that I have five suit sets and over twelve blazers — but I rarely wear them.
They only ever see the light of day during weddings or funerals, which are (thankfully, re: weddings) few and far between. But when I wear a suit on an average weekday, I'm compelled to take it off and swap outfits because:
1. I feel like a total douche-canoe wearing a suit to work.
They say to dress for the job you want, not the job you have, but America is increasingly being run in jeans and Patagonia fleece. The same goes for when you work at BuzzFeed dot com the website and all its commonwealth realms of distributed #content, where comfort — often in the form of a sensible jort — reigns supreme.
Despite that, suits are welcome, certainly! But when your CEO is deciding the fate of the company in a tasteful branded hoodie, it feels pompous and precocious for me to wear a suit as a 23-year-old in an entry-level job.
So, more often than not, I look like this.
2. Besides, putting together a suit outfit can be really intimidating and scary.
Whenever I look through the pages of GQ or give Pinterest a quick "menswear" search, I can't fathom how any man without a team of stylists can appropriately pair this shirt with this tie and these shoes and know that it's all exactly right. There are so many things to think about, I wouldn't know where to start: Colors! Sizes! Fabrics??? POCKET SQUARES?!?!
I do not have that kind of sartorial knowledge, let alone self-assurance. As someone constantly plagued by self-doubt, it's par for the course on a suit day for me to look in the mirror and suddenly realize that blue with white is an atrocious color combination and that I should have never left the house.
3. And it's currently summer in New York.
Couple the 98-degree heat with the sweltering subway, crowded trains, and steaming asphalt everywhere, a crisp white shirt will turn yellow at the pits as you cook in a suit that feels more like sausage casing. Really, I don't wanna be these guys.
My issue: I've bought so many clothes only to hide them in my wardrobe. As someone who knows what it's like to spend significant time in a closet, I didn't want my suits going through the same. 💅
Enter the BuzzFeed Suit Week Challenge:
Why not? I thought to myself, constantly refreshing my Dark Sky app and willing the weather gods to cooperate for at least a week. And really, I had all the equipment, so I had nothing to lose.
Also because I love the USA network series Suits and I'll take any opportunity I can to even slightly resemble Gabriel Macht.
I woke up at 7:00 a.m. because I had to put together my outfit of the day, allowing myself at least two hours to strategize before going into sartorial battle. In bed, I studied the menswear internet and this BuzzFeed post for style tips.
But all the rules on ~proportions~ were too intimidating and all the pictures of beautiful men were too aggravatingly perfect. Rather than continue my passive-aggressive lover's quarrel with Pinterest ("Well, I WOULD wear that if I LOOKED like that, but I DON'T, SO..."), I decided to follow only one rule: my mother's when she started letting me dress myself, which was "Wear whatever you want — just match your belt to your shoes."
In the end, I was a fan of my outfit. I wore the all-purpose navy suit I bought when I worked at a glossy magazine and paired it with a pink tie, floral shirt, and cognac oxfords to brighten the look. It was definitely a departure from the usual, as I was serving executive-gay-Andrew-Rannells-on-The New Normal realness. But it meant I was ready to take on a busy Monday.
At work, all the comments about my outfit were really positive — overwhelmingly so.
One friend said, "You look radiant," another said, "I audibly gasped in awe when I saw you," and someone said, "You pretty much fell out of a J.Crew catalog. Like, in a good way." While I consider the song "Stand Out" from 1995's A Goofy Movie iconic and a personal anthem, I initially balked at the attention. Standing out, by definition, means you're different from everyone else; growing up Filipino and gay in a majority-white community in Las Vegas, all I wanted was to fit in.
But all the compliments reminded me that standing out can be a good thing. In this case, I stood out because people thought I looked polished and ready for business. While I most certainly didn't wake up like this — I spent an hour and a half changing out of at least four shirts and two ties — I looked good. I just had the rest of the week to see if a suit every day was worth it.
I got out of bed early again, but this time because I was super excited about what I was planning to wear. I got this suit for a wedding, but I dressed it down by ditching the tie. Wearing a fabric belt with sneakers and a chambray shirt felt very hip and effortless and dude-friendly, like if a suit could be "masc4masc" on Grindr.
Less masc was I, however, when strutting down the sidewalk in my sunglasses listening to my VOGUE playlist, checking myself out in every reflection, and imagining myself in the makeover montage from The Devil Wears Prada wearing various perfectly tailored menswear ~lewks~. In short: I was feeling my style fantasy.
Artistic (and generous) renderings of what I felt I looked like that morning:
My fantasy faltered when the AC in the office broke down because we get the office we think we deserve.
I was warm in my suit — not quite boiling, but rather a barely there simmer on a pot of al dente pasta. Still, despite the delicate dew on my forehead, co-workers commended me on #BFSuitWeek. One of my editors even gave me a thumbs-up and mentioned giving it a shot. So comfortable was this outfit and newfound attitude that I realized I didn't have to be making $200 million business deals to wear a suit. I felt great in my own skin, not precocious or pretentious. With this suit mastered, I was even more stoked for the rest of the week.
I bought this olive-green suit to emulate this majestic Ryan Gosling look for my college senior formal, and it's only been deployed for a holiday party since then. The color is unconventional on any day, so I went for the gold with a printed shirt and these dandyish blue suede shoes because why the fuck not?
The outfit was so eye-catching (loud? flamboyant? peacock?) that I saw some people outright staring at me in the subway. I didn't know if my fellow straphangers were impressed with my viridian garments, or if they thought I was being extra. Actually, they probably just thought I was costumed-up and would begin singing for their money or yell, "SHOWTIME!" at the drop of a feathered hat.
Me, on the left; the rest of the F train, on the right.
Then I went to an H&M after work to buy a tank top because I'd forgotten to pack a shirt for ballet class.
As the cashier rang me up, he said, "Bruh, you look fly as fuck." We high-fived because, well, I actually believed him! Three days of standing out taught me how to take a compliment. A self-deprecating person by nature, I found myself absorbing people's comments to bolster my own self-confidence. Yes, I know, it's like, "Who cares what other people think?!" But still, it was nice to have my positive vibes reflected back at me.
After a fantastic ballet class that had me sweating out the half-bottle of rosé I had the night before, I was feeling on top of the world. Then I realized I had to go home. This meant either A) changing back into my suit for the walk to my apartment, or B) stuffing my suit, shirt, and suede shoes into my gym bag. I went with B. Creases can be ironed out; rosé sweat is forever. Or at least a trip to the dry cleaner's.
This suit is brighter blue and feels more casual than my navy one, so I wanted to dress it up. After all, my computer woke me up by playing Justin Timberlake's "Suit & Tie" and I took it as a sign to go all out with my look. I chose a knit tie, a pink shirt, and pocket square, and oxblood shoes (which I bought because the guy I was dating at the time had oxblood shoes ¯\_(ツ)_/¯).
But while I was setting up food for a lunch meeting, I began to feel overdressed. What had happened? I'd been feeling myself all week, especially on Tuesday, but then, arranging sandwiches for senior management while in a suit and tie made me feel like an extra on Mad Men.
This sartorial-existential crisis was short-lived, however, when my friend Krutika told me, "Yo, live your dapper ho life!" In a place like the BuzzFeed offices, where pretty much anything goes, I had the luxury of dressing not for the work I was doing, but more for my personal style. As was everyone!
Our Thursday looks, Beyoncé-approved.
"As long as you do your job well," said Krutika, "who the fuck cares?"
Sure, my outfit power-clashed with the sandwich platter I was carrying, but it wasn't as though my clothes and I were trying to usurp every top-level editor who was wearing shorts or jeans. She reminded me that if people were impressed with me, then that's great; if people were threatened, then that's their problem. "You're staying in your lane," said Krutika, "but your lane is a runway for Calvin Klein fall/winter 2015." Then, to ensure a good day, a bunch of us went to happy hour because our Thursday looks were too good to waste.
My happy-hour hubris got the best of me when I woke up late for work. So I grabbed my glasses, threw on a suit and the first shirt I found, and put on some leather Chucks for good measure. That was when I discovered a new life hack: Wear a suit on a Friday so no one will suspect you of having gone out for Thirsty Thursday. Go for a hangover cover-up, but make it ~FASHION~.
And while some of my suits constricted my motion a tad — on Monday I dropped a book and had to bend and twist at the knees to pick it up — this one had a more relaxed fit to it, which was the sole reason I bought it. It was a slow Friday, so once my head stopped throbbing at the slightest sound, I tested the limits of my suit à la New York City Ballet meets Times Style section.
This suit became my MVP after I discovered how easy it was to wear.
This suit felt like a pair of professional pajamas. It was my easy-breezy-beautiful look that I knew I'd feel awesome in, plus I didn't even have to think about it in the morning! I ended the workweek feeling inspired with a new sense of confidence in my style and appearance — and I didn't spill anything on myself! I was so revved up that I planned on a weekend suit look for brunch the next day.
When I met up with some BuzzFeeders for brunch, they were surprised to still see me in a suit. One of them asked if I'd made it home last night. To answer that, YES, MATTHIAS, I DID, because I took Thursday's suit and dressed it down with sneakers and a tee for the weekend.
We got reservations at Beauty & Essex, which is swankier than your usual brunch place — they serve red 👏 velvet 👏 waffles 👏 — so I felt right at home in my blue suit. While a lot of other patrons were happily dining in shorts and sandals, it felt fabulous to get complimented by the hostess and a cute guy at the bar.
I did have to take off my suit jacket, though, when the afternoon began to warm up.
I felt appropriately summery in only my white tee and trousers, suit jacket thrown over my shoulder. My official challenge was over (so I didn't break rule #3!), but here I was feeling like a caj rock star, or at the very least a very pinnable image on Pinterest.
I didn't have much else to do for the rest of the day, so I walked around Manhattan and did some shopping, feeling like I'd had some kind of personal epiphanies, which are as follows:
1. Dressing for the summer will always be the worst.
I'm totally cool with living in shorts and a shirt for the summer. Hell, I'm wearing those preppy Nantucket red shorts and a navy polo as I write this. But if you have An Outfit planned, you'd better make sure it's summer-friendly so you won't sweat through all of your cuteness and subsequently melt on a subway platform.
2. I need to trust my gut and make sure I feel comfortable with what I'm wearing.
After this week, my style game has definitely leveled up and I've shaken off some sartorial self-doubt about the way I dress. But no matter what, even if everyone (or no one) loves how I look, the only thing that matters is how my outfit makes me feel.
I'm allowed to stay in my lane and walk it like it's a runway, but I need to love the look from head to toe. And just as my mother had taught me her belt-and-shoes rule, my new personal mantra is this: "If you feel like a douche-canoe, adjust accordingly."
The caveat is that I won't always look like all the gorgeous men on Pinterest. But maybe if I dress for myself and get spiffy from time to time when I feel like it, I'll have the confidence of and feel like a gorgeous man on Pinterest anyway.
3. Dressing up — in this case, with a suit — can make you feel like you can take on the world.
My style was always my way of giving myself a morale boost, but never did I feel it more potently than during #BFSuitWeek. Now that I know what my favorite looks from the week were, I can learn from them and dress in way that'll make me feel incredible when I want to.
If I've learned one thing this week, it's that I've discovered new life hacks I can do on my own to make me feel like My Most Amazing Self.*
*My Most Amazing Sweaty Self, when the mercury goes above 85 degrees.
In short: Never be afraid to feel your fly-as-fuck fantasy. Go forth, brilliant humans, and — like these men — live your Dapper Ho lives.
And since you might be wondering, here's where I got my outfits from.
Monday: Suit, H&M; shirt and pocket square, Banana Republic; tie, Topman; belt, Polo Ralph Lauren; shoes, Aldo.
Tuesday: Suit and pocket square, H&M; shirt, J.Crew; belt, Tommy Hilfiger; sneakers, Nike for J.Crew.
Wednesday: Suit and pocket square, H&M; shirt, J.Crew; belt, Calvin Klein; shoes, Ted Baker.
Thursday: Suit, H&M; shirt, DKNY; pocket square, The Tie Bar; tie and shoes, Aldo; belt, J.Crew.
Friday: Suit and tee, H&M; belt, J.Crew; sneakers, Converse; eyeglasses, Warby Parker.
Saturday: Suit and tee, H&M; belt, J.Crew; sneakers, Nike for J.Crew; sunglasses, Ray-Ban.
I wore no-show socks all week, gang! Would never subject my shoes to bare feet. Thanks to all the commenters who were concerned with my kicks. I gotchu.