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The Ultimate Formal Style Guide For Men

A comprehensive list of rules and tips for dressing better. Plus much more.

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Sure, you can dress yourself, but here is everything you need to know about making sure your clothes actually fit you properly. Let's get started with the suit basics:

SHIRT SLEEVE: The end of the sleeve should fall in the space between the base of your wrist (or that bone that sticks out) and the bottom knuckle of your thumb.

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Stop lifting your arms up when trying on shirts. You're just going to convince yourself that every shirt is too small and then get frustrated.

What you need to do is drop your arms to your side and relax. With your arms in this position, the sleeve should fall into that sweet spot without draping over your thumb. If it does, it's too big. And if it doesn't cover your wrist, it's too small.

SHOULDERS: The shoulder seams of the shirt should line up with the ends of your shoulders -- where the horizontal plane of your shoulder meets your bicep.

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If you can't tell if the seam lines up with the end of your shoulder, ask someone. If there's no one to ask, stand up straight with your shoulder against a wall. If the seam is hidden, it's probably too big. If there's a decent space between the seam and the wall, it's too small. (It'll make sense when you do it).

This is the same for the jacket shoulder. Your jacket can go a little beyond your shoulder, but really try to line it up.

TORSO: Aside from the eye test ("Does this look too big/small?"), the best way to see if a shirt fits your torso is to hug someone (or act out the motion).

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The eye test will give you a sense of whether the shirt is too big and the hug test will let you know if the shirt is too small. If you go for a hug and feel like Bruce Banner transforming into the Hulk, the shirt is too tight.

The hug test should also be used when trying on jackets.

BONUS: Now is the time to lift up your arms! Tuck your shirt into your pants, lift your arms above your head, and see if your shirt stays tucked.

COLLAR: The shirt collar should be snug around your neck (no gaps) without feeling constricted.

When in doubt, apply the two-finger test: You should be able to fit two fingers between the fastened collar and your neck. If you have some wiggle room, it's probably too big. If you can't get two fingers in there, it's too tight.

If you're unsure, err on the side of too big. You don't want to feel like you're being choked all night long.

PANTS: When it comes to finding the right pair of pants, you're looking for a straight back with a small "break" (crease) in the front.

Again, the best way to tell if you have the wrong size is to look in the mirror. To ensure proper sizing, you should ALWAYS try pants on with your dress shoes.

Do NOT underestimate the importance of a proper-fitting pair of trousers! Nothing says "I don't know how to dress" quite like an ill-fitting pair of pants.

JACKET SLEEVE: The general rule here is that you want to show a bit of the shirt cuff, but not too much.

You want to tease your dress shirt, basically. "Oh, I like that cuff. I wonder what the rest of his shirt looks like," they'll all say, probably. Not really. Nobody says that. They'll only talk behind your back if it's too short or too long. Don't let them do that!

JACKET LENGTH: The bottom of the jacket should end right around the natural cup of your hand (the inner curve of your fingers).

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This is more of a guideline than a hard-pressed rule. As GQ points out, since we all have torsos, arms, and legs of different lengths, a good suit jacket should simply "cover your ass."

JACKET STYLE: Buttons and Body Type

Tall and Thin: Congratulations! You have the freedom to wear pretty much whatever style you'd like: two-, three-, or four-button jackets.

Tall and Muscular/Husky: For the most part, you'll want to go for the classic two-button style, but for a thinner waistline you can opt for a one-button jacket. And please, please, please don't go baggy. Get a suit that fits!

Short and Thin: You'll want to elongate your body with a low button stance (the opening "V" of the jacket should be lower on your torso). Avoid double-breasted jackets along with three- and four-button jackets. Look at Apolo Anton Ohno (the man above) to get a sense of what we're talking about here.

Short and Muscular/Husky: To create a thinning effect and elongate your body, get a jacket with a low button stance (the opening "V" of the jacket should be lower on your torso). You should also avoid double-breasted jackets along with three- and four-button jackets. Seriously, don't do it. You'll look silly.

PICKING A TIE: Match Your Date or Your Outfit

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The tie is an accessory that should match your date (if you have one) or complement your shirt/suit/tuxedo. It is also a great opportunity to add a little character or color to your wardrobe. And when I say "character," I don't literally mean characters. I don't care if you like Marvin the Martian, he doesn't belong on your tie. Grow up, Peter Pan!

Necktie: There are many different ways to tie a necktie and plenty of tutorials online about it (thanks, YouTube!), but THIS ONE is pretty thorough.

Bow Tie: If you're a little younger, save yourself the trouble of tying the perfect knot and go with an adjustable bow tie. Whaaa?!! Yes, it's true. Unlike clip-on neckties, bow ties that fasten in the back are remarkably convincing. With that being said, if you'd like to go for it, THIS VIDEO is a good guide for tying the perfect bow tie.

THE POCKET SQUARE: Friend or Foe? (Hint: Friend)

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I know, pocket squares are scary because they're made of all sorts of different kinds of fabric and they fall down sometimes. However, adding a pocket square is a nice touch to any suit. It's another opportunity to add color and it can break up the monotony of a suit.

Plus, if you're a heavier man, a pocket square will draw people's eyes to your chest, rather than your gut. Hey, thanks, pocket square!

To find out the different ways to fold a pocket square, CLICK HERE.

RENTING A TUXEDO: Coordinate Colors

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If you have a date, it's sort of an unwritten rule that your tuxedo vest/tie should match the color your date is wearing. So you can either match that color or go for something neutral, like gray, black, or even a dark blue.

If you're going solo, there are many options to choose from, but try to keep the jacket and pants a neutral color. And please don't be that guy who wears a Dumb & Dumber-style tuxedo. If you want to add a little flair to your outfit, use the tie or switch out the traditional black socks for something with more color. Just don't go too outrageous with it.

Almost all menswear shops will give you a free fitting, so do a quick search on Google for "tuxedo rental" and compare prices before heading out. Take your time and find something that works AND fits you.

The Jacket Button Rule:

Via artofmanliness.com

Your jacket should be unbuttoned when sitting, and buttoned up when you stand. However, the bottom button should always be undone, even when standing. Why? I don't know. There's probably some good reason for it, but it's the code, so act like you know it.

How to Properly Iron Your Dress Shirt

BEFORE:

Sprinkle the shirt with water. If your iron doesn't have this option, use a spray bottle. If you don't have a spray bottle, use your fingers. If you don't have fingers, you shouldn't be ironing.

As a note, both Men's Fitness and Martha Stewart recommend putting down a thick towel as a pad for the shirt.

THE PROPER ORDER:

Collar - Pop it and start on the back side, ironing from one end to the other. Flip it over and iron the other side.

Cuffs - Unbutton the cuffs and lay them out flat. Iron the inside of the cuff first, then the outside.

Front - Flip the shirt inside out and start by ironing the strips of fabric down the opening of the shirt (the buttons should be facedown on the towel). Then work from the top of the shoulder downward. Repeat this process on the front side. DO NOT IRON THE BUTTONS!

Back - Open the shirt and start ironing from the top of the inside shoulder (the part that rests against your back), working your way down. Do this to the other side (left or right) and then flip it over and iron the back of the shirt in the same process.

Sleeves - Flatten out the sleeve and start ironing at the wider end, working your way to the cuff. Turn the sleeve over and iron the back. Do this for both sleeves.

Don't forget to hang your shirt when finished.

Instead of scrunching the sleeves up to your elbow when you get hot, use this rolling technique for a more stylish approach:

And finally, yes, there is a proper way to spray cologne.

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So many rules, I know. But this is the last one. There are four "hot spots" to choose when applying your fragrance:

Wrists
Base of the throat/neck
Behind the ears
Chest/between the breasts

Select two to three of these spots and spray from several inches away. You want to mist these areas. Any closer or any more spraying can result in an overpowering scent and NOBODY LIKES THAT!

Reminder: These are simply guidelines and common rules to avoid fashion faux pas. Feel free to express yourself in different ways to find your individual look.

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