It can be tough to develop your personal style as a young man.
Most clothing options at this stage of life are either too mature or blatantly juvenile.
Your life may be advancing faster than your wardrobe and it can be a challenge to keep up.
This in-between stage can lead to some less than savory style choices.
I made every error possible as a young man and am happy to share my experience and advice.
Top 10 Style Mistakes Young Men Make
As a reader of Real Men Real Style, I think I can safely conclude that your clothes are reasonably fitted, have been ironed, and aren’t stained.
With the basics out of the way, I’d like to address some of the more subtle style mistakes I see young men making on a consistent basis.
I should point out that a lot of these errors are the result of experimentation and evolving your style.
So if these sound familiar, you’re on the right track!
1. Severely Over or Under Dressing
One of the more common style mistakes I see from young men is completely missing the formality mark. For many, young adulthood is the first time we’re exposed to situations that widely vary in their level of formality.
Without past experience, it can be really difficult to judge each scenario for the appropriate level of dress.
This lack of experience may cause someone to wear an “interview suit” out to a laid-back dinner when trousers and a dress shirt would’ve been perfectly appropriate. It can also mean showing up to a straight-laced networking event in chinos and your best flannel shirt.
Solution – Learn to love the v-neck sweater over a button down. This is my go-to look when I’m not 100% certain of the dress code.
I wear it with jeans and casual leather shoes if I estimate the event to be more casual and with wool trousers and dress shoes if the event will likely be more formal. Either way, I’m always well within the ballpark of what’s appropriate.
2. Following Trends Too Closely
It’s expected of young men to dress with the times, but consider aiming for a more timeless style than timely when you’re transitioning your wardrobe from teenager to young adult.
While you may think a nice jacket and tie will always be appropriate, nothing calls attention to style immaturity like super slim lapels and a dainty 1” tie.
This can also apply to fit. Just because celebrities are dressing a certain way, doesn’t mean it looks good on everybody. You need to be considerate of your body shape, locale, and climate.
Solution – Purchase your staple pieces like
– Dress shoes
Focus in on classic colors, materials, and designs. This will project maturity as well as save you a lot of money in the long run. After you have a strong foundation of basics, feel free to experiment with trends by way of accessories, t-shirts, sneakers, and other inexpensive pieces.
3. Sharp Dress Shoes and Casual Denim
Dress shoes can definitely be worn with denim – there’s just a balance that needs to be present to pull it off. You are combining a quintessential blue collar fabric with a menswear staple.
Where this look typically falls short is when young men wear their destroyed, light wash, loose fitting denim with very sleek dress shoes.
Solution – For this pairing to be successful, opt for slim dark denim paired with chunkier dress shoes. Medium to dark brown wingtips are the easiest to pull off.
4. Untucked “Dress” Shirts
Wearing a button front shirt untucked in a casual setting is a great way to walk the line between laid back and dressed up.
But as with dress shoes and denim, you need to find the right balance of casual and formal.
Avoid wearing true “dress” shirts which were never intended to be worn untucked as demonstrated by the longer shirt tails. Also, some of the style details such as shinier fabric and highly structured collars and cuffs can overpower the intended casual look.
Solution – For a casual untucked look, buy shirts with button down collars, unstructured cuffs, shorter tails, and less formal fabrics and reserve the true dress shirts for more formal scenarios.
5. Buying Outfits vs. Building a Wardrobe
Usually prompted by a formal event such as a wedding, the first step most young men take is to go out and buy a shirt and tie for the occasion -this is how I got my start in the world of men’s style.
I would buy a shirt that went perfectly with a specific pair of trousers and bought a tie that matched the two exactly. But the problem was that nothing was interchangeable.
I had 5 shirts, 5 pairs of pants, and 5 ties, but still only 5 dress outfits. None of which were capable of contributing to my casual wardrobe. I wasn’t thinking about how each would fit into my wardrobe as a whole or whether I was creating a versatile wardrobe.
Solution – Think in terms of building a solid foundation before venturing into more specialized pieces. Start building your wardrobe with neutral and universally flattering colors, subtle patterns and textures, pieces of similar formality, and items that bridge the gap between casual and dressy. For example, flannel shirts wouldn’t work very well with a closet full of silk sweaters and black trousers.
6. Buying Too Much
I absolutely get it – not many young men are rolling in disposable income. Maybe you have student loans to repay, are starting a family, and took that entry-level job that doesn’t pay half as much as you’d hoped.
So you shop at fast-fashion stores and impulsively purchase that less-than-perfect piece just because it was cheap.
What you’re left with is a closet bursting at the seams without anything you actually enjoy wearing. So you continue to buy more and more – expanding your wardrobe without actually improving it (while losing track of the few pieces you actually do like in an overstuffed closet).
Solution – Even though you may be eager to quickly gather as many options as possible, try to practice restraint while building your wardrobe. Skip the faux leather jackets, polyester suits, and glued together shoes.
Spend some time learning about what makes quality clothing and then search for deals at resale shops and major markdowns on quality brands.
7. Being Too Matchy-Matchy
Expertly blending patterns, fabrics, and various clothing styles into a cohesive outfit isn’t something that’s learned overnight. This initial hurdle often leads many young men to matching different elements exactly.
Putting some thought into how the components of your outfit complement each other is one thing. But that doesn’t mean that your tie, pocket square and socks have to be the exact same color or pattern. Especially if your shirt also happens to share the very same color as your accessories.
This kind of extreme matching is prominent at formal events like weddings. While such a look may be acceptable, it doesn’t exactly project mastery in the art of dressing.
Solution – Keep your outfits simple while you’re learning the art of matching. By choosing mostly neutrals as your base, you can add some color here and there without having to worry about ruining the whole look. When blending multiple elements, think in terms of “complementary” colors and patterns rather than exact matching.
8. Wearing Dark Dress Shirts
There’s nothing inherently wrong with darker colored dress shirts, but they do take more skill to pull off.
They don’t flatter every complexion, can be hard to match to certain suits, and are generally considered more casual than lighter dress shirts.
But where things go really awry is when your tie is lighter than your shirt. This look can be pulled off, but should be left to the more seasoned style vets.
Solution – When in doubt, choose lighter dress shirts. They’re universally flattering, appropriate in nearly all settings, and when worn with a jacket, help draw the eye up to there wearer’s face.
There’s nothing wrong with having a wardrobe of white or very light-colored dress shirts with small patterns and stripes for a little color.
9. Not Dressing For The Season
No, you don’t have to have a pastel wardrobe to rival Jay Gatsby when the mercury rises.
But having some lighter weight fabrics for the warmer months and heavy cotton and wool for the rest of the year will put you well ahead of your peers.
Have you ever seen someone wearing a black wool suit with shiny tuxedo shoe at an outdoor summer wedding? It looks completely unnatural and wildly uncomfortable. Regardless of the level of formality, dressing for the season and weather will catapult your image forward.
Solution – To greatly enhance appearance and comfort, look for linen and lightweight cotton in lighter colors for summer. Also, pick up heavy cotton or wool trousers, warm wool seaters, and thick flannel suiting for the colder months.
And to avoid looking like an out-of-towner who didn’t check the weather report before heading outside, also be considerate of your outerwear. Coats, hats, duck boots, sunglasses, light jackets, or an umbrella can go a long way in helping you look functionally stylish.
10. Over Accessorizing
As we learn more about men’s style, we absorb the information like a sponge. Armed with this new knowledge and eager to put it to good use, guys end up wearing a dress watch, bracelet, pocket square, lapel pin, tie bar, collar pin, suspenders, belt, and anything else that catches their attention – all at once.
This is what I like to call the “Christmas tree look”. Real style isn’t about including an arbitrary number of accessories into an outfit but rather blending them seamlessly so that no single element dominates.
Solution – When it comes to style, less is often more. Pick one or two accessories and make it your signature look. If you love french cuff shirts, rock the cufflinks but skip the lapel flower and tie bar. If you find yourself becoming a watch aficionado, you can probably stand to skip the bracelets and rings.
So as you can see, none of most common mistakes young men make are insurmountable, they simply require a bit of finesse to correct and revise the course.
Following my solution for each mistake should provide a solid workaround for each.
All the best,
Read next: style myths proved wrong.