This post is an interview transcript. Click here to watch Thomas Frank's video interview featuring Antonio Centeno.
Thomas: Hey! What's up, everybody, and welcome to the College Info Geek Podcast. My name is Thomas Frank and this is a show that helps you become a more effective student, and in this particular episode, a better dressed one as well because today we're talking about how to upgrade your wardrobe. My guest on the show is my friend, Antonio Centeno, who runs realmenrealstyle.com which is a site that comes up almost every time I Google a question about style, which I have started doing more frequently as I've tried to upgrade my own wardrobe and start dressing better.
I started doing this because when I was a younger entrepreneur just out of college, I had that rogue entrepreneurial idea that I can wear whatever I want because my business was my business and it doesn't matter what I wear, but I've come to realize that what I wear actually affects my attitude and the seriousness with which I approach my work, but it also affects the impression that I make on other people and it really does have a big effect, so I started thinking a little bit harder about that now.
And to be honest, I did notice even when I was a student that there was a difference in how I perceived people who dressed well versus people who just dressed to the bare minimum requirements of whatever they're doing be it entrepreneurial events, be it internships, or be it just going to class. So in this episode, Antonio is going to answer a lot of the different questions that I have gotten from other people and questions that I've had myself and hopefully you're going to find them really, really useful.
Now, Antonio has a ton of information out there on how to dress better. It's mainly for men, but in this episode, we do talk about things for girls, too, so it's not a just for guys episode, but if you want to dig into his content further, he has a YouTube channel and a website, both are Real Men Real Style, and he also has a podcast, which is called The Personal Image System Podcast and all of these things are going to be linked up in the show notes, which you can find over at cigpodcast.com/128.
One final thing before we get into this interview, because we're talking about how to dress better, I can't help but mention that there is a College Info Geek t-shirt that you can buy if you want to upgrade your casual style and potentially gain superpowers as well. So if you want to get that, you can go over to collegeinfogeek.com/shirt and that will take you over to dftba.com where the shirt is for sale and you can get one if you want. So with that being said, let's get into this interview.
Antonio, welcome to the show, man.
Antonio: Hey! Thank you. Thanks for having me on, Thomas.
Thomas: No problem, man. I want to have you on the show because I get questions about how people should dress mainly for career fairs, mainly for interview, stuff like that all the time, but every time I have Googled how to dress myself, your site always comes up as the first result, which is a huge achievement. Congratulations!
Antonio: Thanks! SEO has worked out well for us and I think we just put out useful information. I've checked out your YouTube channel. I've checked out your podcast and I know that you target young people. You've got students and I don't mean that — I'm an old guy. I'm 40 now, but I was a student not too long ago. I got my MBA at the University of Texas, so I went back at the age of 29, 30, and 31 and studied there. I get it. Career fairs, it makes a lot of sense that you need to dress up, but the way I look at it is every single day, we're wearing clothing and it is having an effect on the way people perceive us. I think if your audience can get that point, that they can really understand that — how would you perform on a test if you walked in naked?
Thomas: Yeah. Well, I don't know, maybe awesome.
Antonio: Maybe awesome. Most likely though you'd be really self-conscious and you would be kind of embarrassed. You wouldn't even be able to focus on the test. You'd just be covering your private areas and just waiting for that to end, but the thing is — that's an extreme example and I get it, but let's look at uniforms. I went to the University of Texas and I could tell you, when those football players go out on the football field, if they're not wearing anything — when they're wearing their full pads and their uniforms and their actual uniform for the game, they're prepped. They're motivated. They're excited. Now, if that same player went out wearing a soccer uniform or a ballerina's tutu, it's the wrong uniform and it would have a negative effect. You walk in and you talk to a doctor. What do you expect him to look like?
Thomas: White lab coat.
Thomas: And the thing on the forehead.
Antonio: Exactly. Do not betray my expectations because if I walk in and I see a doctor and he's got a tie dye shirt on, dirty shorts and flip-flops and he's just, “Hey man, what's up?” do you think I'm going to trust — unless he's maybe in alternative medicine, there's just an expectation that I have. Even then I've got an expectation of what this guy is going to do and I trust him with a decision that could affect my life. That's what I try to get across to people.
Think about that. If you're in the school of engineering, well, if your professor is trying to make decisions about who he's going to recommend for that amazing internship at Google or maybe Lockheed, Boeing or whatever it may be, know that he's making decisions about you every time he sees you.
Wouldn't it be great if you could send that signal of, “Hey, this guy, no matter what — both of these guys get great grades, but one of them I've got to make a decision. Well, this guy has always looked great, so I know he's not going to embarrass me when I send him to go meet with one of the representatives.”
Thomas: Yeah. That's actually a good thing because I know somebody who does not dress well, does not care, and I have been in a situation where I had a choice to recommend them for a job or not. I did recommend them because I know about their skills, but there was a little bit of that, “Is he going to go to the interview wearing that kind of stuff?” because it's my reputation on the line a little bit giving that recommendation.
Antonio: Yeah, and to an extent, they do — he showers, right?
Thomas: Yeah, he does.
Antonio: So he's got what I call — and most people have this — defensive style. He realizes that odor matters. He wears probably deodorant, he showers, but yet he doesn't understand that — and there are two parts. I love the football analogy, so I'm going to stick with this, but there are two parts to it. You've got the offense as well and that's where you score points. You understand that you can actually wear fragrances that instill trust, that increase your alertness, that literally when you spray yourself with it, you've conditioned yourself like one of Pavlov's dogs to be more on focus.
And literally, you set yourself up to be more — and there's a whole series of field of research called cognitive — I'm losing my train of thought here — coming out of Northwestern University, but what they've studied is the effect that clothing has not only on others, but also on yourself. You probably may have heard the study about the painter's smocks versus the doctor jackets.
Antonio: So what they did is they had this open population and they said okay, come in, gave them a jacket. Half the group, they said this is a doctor's jacket. The other half, they said this is just a painter's smock. They had them take an exam. The guys and the gals wearing the painter's jackets did not perform any higher, had no effect, but those that were wearing what they thought to be doctor jackets performed statistically higher on that exam and what happened is they figured out that they were just more in tune and they just felt that they had to be more attentive and pay more attention to detail.
Now, think about that. The way that you dress can actually increase your score. Now, I'm not going to say that if you don't study, it's not going to save you. Don't think about that. All things being the same, why wouldn't you try to always in a sense put yourself in the best situation?
I had a female friend at the University of Texas. She was getting her MBA. I remember she was dressed up really nice one time and I asked her — because I have a number of sisters, I knew this — I'm like, “Hey, are you feeling okay today? You must be sick.” She's like, “Yeah. How'd you know?” Well, my sisters have told me they dress really nice on days they're sick because they get compliments all day and it makes them feel better and makes that miserable day a little bit better. Now, think about that, the psychology of getting compliments to make you feel better, but why wouldn't you use that on a daily basis?
Thomas: Yeah. That's actually really interesting. I usually picture people who are sick dressing in just sweatpants and sitting in the back trying to hide.
Antonio: Yeah, and that's the way of wallowing —
Thomas: That's a type of strategy there.
Antonio: Yeah, exactly. When you realize the power of clothing — because not everyone does this and a lot of people do wear their pajamas to school. I'm not calling anyone out and I get it. It's comfortable, but a lot of people have this mistake and belief that somehow dress clothing or a suit or a really nice dress is somehow not comfortable. That's not true. It's just unfamiliar.
Uncomfortable and unfamiliar are not the same thing. It's unfamiliar because you're not used to wearing this, but if you actually like the weight and your suit fits you great, you get compliments on it throughout the day. I'm not saying you need to wear a suit to class, but you definitely could start to wear casual clothing that has style, that fits you well, that actually sends the message that you want to go off and you want to get that great job with Google or maybe it's with Goldman Sachs. Well, guess what? If that's where you want to go, then how about you start dressing like that person? You know who you want to be today because it takes time to become that person. You go to four years of college. Think of it also as a time to experiment and to actually look at the way people react to you when you dress in a certain way.
Thomas: Yeah. I've come to see things that way recently where dressing better is just a way of me stepping into the role that I want to fully embody, and in the past — I've been an entrepreneur for six years, maybe a student entrepreneur, a grey area between the transition, but for the first few years, I was very Mark Zuckerberg-est where it's like I run my own business. I can wear hoodies all I want. I can wear jeans and tennis shoes.
Antonio: Yeah. It changes the same way when you take a shower and you actually comb your hair and you're fully shaved or maybe groomed properly after you go into a barber. You've made an interesting point. You've mentioned Mark over at Facebook. Mark, I'm actually going to talk about him in one of my upcoming videos. Do you ever see him wearing a pink shirt?
Thomas: No. I don't see much of Mark, but I only ever see him wearing hoodies that I think of.
Antonio: Hoodies and grey shirts. Earlier this year, he published a picture of his wardrobe and he's like, “Decisions, decisions. What should I wear?” and there was a picture of ten grey shirts, all the same; ten hoodies all the same. So one of the things I talk about is actually Mark does manage his image. He sends the message he wants to send, the same way with Steve Jobs. When you think about late Steve Jobs, what is he wearing?
Thomas: Black turtleneck, light jeans, white sneakers.
Exactly. Now, he wore the same thing every day, I mean, the same exact thing.
Thomas: Same thing on all the keynotes that I can think of.
Antonio: Pretty much, but it wasn't the same — he actually just had a wardrobe and that's all it was in the wardrobe. It wasn't like he wore the same shirt or the same turtleneck every single day. He had multiple variations, but he had a uniform and I advocate that men and women have a uniform, have a default, because you don't want to spend a lot of time and energy — and that's what a lot of these guys say — actually making that decision. As you know, you've only got so much — it's like a glass of water, only so many drinks you can take from that decision-making ability per day. So why would you wake up in the morning and run around and spend 30 minutes frustrated not being able to figure out what to wear?
Instead, you know what message you want to send. If you're a student in the drama department, maybe you want to send a message because you really want to go work for a certain company that you're creative. And so, you've got everything laid out, various glasses that you like to wear that actually sends a signal. You don't just wear glasses. You own your glasses. And you realize that this is a very subtle way for me to wear these yellow glasses, these red glasses, these blue glasses and send that signal that I'm not a corporate drone. I'm someone that thinks creatively, but it's all planned out.
And so, Mark does pay attention, Steve Jobs paid attention, Carl Lingerfelt pays attention, and these are from fashion to computer science majors. It's about controlling that message.
Thomas: I've also read that Obama does the same thing where he just has somebody pick out his outfits every day, so it's no decision on his part.
Antonio: Yeah. He's got enough decisions —
Thomas: Just to save all that mental energy.
Thomas: I remember I was reading about something where he and some other person in his Cabinet have a joke where once they are going to be done with the presidency, they're going to go open a t-shirt stand in Hawaii where they only sell white t-shirts in medium size because they're so tired of making so many decisions.
Antonio: Yeah. I think that students have a lot of decisions that they have to make. Why not, in a sense, just have that system that you've got of what you're wearing and I'm not going to tell you — again, I don't know what message every student wants to send, but I would say that I would challenge you to figure out what that message is because if you're a t-shirt and jeans and running shoes kind of person, look around because that's what everyone else is wearing. You're just following a fashion trend whether you know it or not.
When I was at the University of Texas, it was a fashion trend I know for women to wear these athletic shorts with Texas sweatshirts and flip-flops. I look around and all the ladies — it wasn't that it was comfortable. Maybe it was, but that's just what everyone wore, and like lemmings, they were all wearing the same thing. It's the same for men as well. When you realize that, you realize that most people have never even stopped to think about the message and then figure out how to control it.
Thomas: Yeah. One thing that I wanted to bring up here — and maybe this could be the launching off point for a more tactical discussion about specific things to buy and what to look for — I had one corporate internship during my college career, the only time I ever worked in a big office, and I noticed they had a dress code, so everyone was wearing nice pants, slacks or khakis — I almost forgot the name because I haven't worn them in that many years — and either polos or button-down shirts.
But I noticed that a lot of them didn't look good because either their shoes looked bad or the most common thing is their shirt is bellowing out from their pants and just hanging down. I kept thinking to myself I can look better than this wearing a t-shirt and jeans. Why is this dress code even in place when these people don't look good wearing the clothes they're wearing? I guess what I want to do is help people who may be going into their first internships or going to interviews and career fairs avoid some of those mistakes since I saw it so often in other interns.
Antonio: Yeah. Those guys were just clothing themselves and that's simply covering yourself with cloth. There was no thought process that probably went into it. They were just doing it because they had to. They looked around and they put in the minimum effort. That's the secret to success, is to realize most people for some reason just think that the minimum effort is fine, but if you really want to succeed, just go that extra mile. There's no traffic on the extra mile, and just by looking at okay, let's figure out what the dress code actually is — because I don't advocate that you take — in that environment, you don't want to wear a suit. You don't want to stand out and be like wow, this guy really doesn't get the — he can't even pay attention to the signals.
But what you could identify is you need to wear nice slacks or nice chinos or nice pants. Well, first off, let's get this to fit me, so you could take it to a tailor. If you're a thin guy, you could have it adjusted so you don't have what they call khaki diaper butt where it looks like literally you could be wearing a diaper under that thing. You actually wear the clothing that fits your body, the same with the shirts. Simply take them to a tailor. Get them adjusted or brought in. You could look at something like shirt stays that actually keep them tucked in all day.
Your shoes, look at something that actually — you may have to spend a little bit more money, but they're going to last you longer. That's what you pay usually for a little bit higher quality. The difference between a $50 and a $200 pair of shoes oftentimes is very significant. The $50 pair of shoes, you're going to never really look good and maybe they're going to be too clunky. You can still find some amazing shoes for 50 bucks, but you're going to have to look. What you're looking for is something that is built and is stitched together, not glued together, and is using quality materials.
If you go to companies — I've got tons of amount here – Allen Edmonds, JL Rocha, some of these ones out there and you look at the way that the shoe is built, you can find one that actually is comfortable, is stylish. In that environment, maybe you wouldn't be able to pull off a laced up dress boots. Maybe that would be too casual, although I would argue that if you were able to piece it together, you could still meet the dress code, but you would definitely — and this is where it takes a little bit of courage because you're going to look good even though you're almost wearing the same thing.
We saw this when I was in the Marine Corps. I would see this. You could tell a Marine that was wearing his uniform versus a Marine that his uniform was wearing him, and that was simply he put it on — we called him — I'm not going to say —
Thomas: You called him something mean.
Antonio: Yeah. Basically, we knew that this person didn't care and that was a big indicator because if you don't care about your appearance then you probably don't care about the details and many other things. That I think is another thing, is you look around and you've got a lot of people that you want to show — it's an outward sign that you pay attention. You dot the end of the sentence. You cross your T's. You pay attention to all of those small details. And when you do that, when you send that signal, other people at higher levels do notice. They say, “That guy, Thomas, I've noticed that one, he's not going to embarrass us if we put him in front of one of our banking clients because he looks like he actually could carry himself well, and the other thing is definitely he's at the same level as those three other guys we hired,” but again, it comes down to can you do the next level, and having that right appearance gives you that hidden leg up.
Thomas: Yeah, definitely. I'd like to get into some specific recommendations you might have and maybe we can just hone it in on business casual, the kind of stuff you're going to wear to an interview because I know at the very least, people are going to know who you are and they'll be able to go to your site after this interview and there's a ton there.
First question is how much do you know about women's clothing? Because the one thing I've been asking myself going into this is do I need to do another interview for the girls since you do Real Men Real Style and it's mostly for the guys?
Antonio: I know quite a bit. It's something I stay away from because I just stay focused, but I would say with women as a whole, they have grown up in a world which is much more — they understand the power of visuals whether they've had a positive experience or a negative experience.
They realize that they are oftentimes judged and many times based off of if you've got a pretty face, if you've got longer hair, instantly you're going to be viewed as a lot of men are going to start talking with you, are going to start engaging with you. You can wear a certain clothing, which is going to draw compliments, draw stares.
In an business environment, if you're going in to interviews and you're a woman, it's about trying to keep the focus in on your face and eliminating anything that can be perceived as — and I know that it's not your fault the way others perceive you and it should be on them, but you want to try to find out as much research and look at what other professionals in your industry are wearing.
So if you're going to be going into the tech industry, if you're going to be going in engineering, if you're going to be going in the pharmaceutical sales, whatever it may be, find out and go talk with other women that are in this sphere and find out how are you presenting yourself, what's acceptable at this company, so doing your homework, and this applies to both men and women. It's the first thing I recommend with an interview.
If you're going to be interviewing with McKinsey & Company, the way you dress there could be a little bit different. You have probably a little bit more leeway than if you're interviewing over with Google. They're just going to give a bit more freedom and they expect and hopefully encourage that type of creativity, maybe not so much at McKinsey where they're going to want you to be able to eventually sell multimillion-dollar consulting deals, so that's the first thing.
But I would say with women, the big advantage is that they probably had to be a lot more in tune to this for a longer period of time. I would say that you don't have to go all out. You can definitely pull off flats, heels or something. It depends on what country you're in. My wife is Ukrainian and heels are huge over there. I know in the United States, flats are going to be great. You want to pay attention to the shape of the toe. Keep the colors dark. Keep it conservative. Be very careful with fragrance, and this applies to men as well. Your fragrance, if you wear it, should be discovered, not announced. You don't want to go in and overwhelm a person. I would keep the makeup and hair to a minimum in terms of just keeping it back, out of the face.
The goal is you want when you're in an interview for them to look you in the eyes and look at you in the face. If you've got an open — and most women know this, about not having anything open cut in the front especially if it's a male interviewer. You don't want his eyes wandering.
Now, you have to understand that these people that you're interviewing with, hopefully they're professionals as well and they should keep a lot of this stuff in track, but I would say for women more than men, they have to worry about — and if they're interviewing with another woman, oftentimes there's an advantage there, but if you're a man interviewing with a woman — and I do this actually whenever I'm traveling through countries — I always look at if someone's doing passports to go with the opposite sex because there is always a bit of sexual tension between people. It just always exists. And so, if it's a female, I will go right to her and I will smile and it's just a natural thing right there. There are advantages to both. I would say the more research you can do before you go in, the better.
Thomas: Okay. Do you ever get emails from girls asking for resource? Are there resources you send them to?
Antonio: Yeah. Nina Garcia, her Essential 100. There's Bradley. Bradley Bayou's The Science of Sexy, he talks about different body types and how to dress for that. Don't be turned off by the title. It's actually really good and has some great stuff in it.
But I find that my focus is on not what's politically correct, but what is — I look at the science and the research and the data. And as much as I want to tell somebody your interviewer should be professional, there's no such thing as an objective person. We are all tattooed by our tribe, where we come up and how we grow up, and it's your job to go in there to minimize distractions and to get them focused in on how you're going to provide value to their company.
Thomas: Awesome! So for the guys, I would love to start with shoes because I am wearing — I have one nice pair of shoes. They are a pair of brown dress boots and I think they're pretty rare because they are — I believe the term is closed design like oxfords and they have — if not full broguing, partial broguing. The only reason I own these and did not have horrible paralysis trying to find shoes was because there's a person out there named Colin Wright who I have looked up to since I was in college who has them. I met him and I said, “Those shoes are amazing! Where did you get them?” and he told me that they were Cole Haan's and then I searched the internet for hours trying to find a place to buy them.
If I had not known about his shoes, I would have no idea what type of shoes I should buy for slacks, for jeans, that kind of stuff. So if a guy is trying to go out and upgrade his wardrobe with shoes, what are the first things you should buy and what are the considerations you should think about?
Antonio: Well, if it's going to be — and we're talking about interviews or a young man just starting off, you want to make sure you have your suit put together. You want to have either a navy or a charcoal grey, dark-colored suit that fits you great. Now, you want to find a great shop in your area that's going to make it so much easier. When you have a trusted professional that you can go to who can give you a second opinion, who can help you choose things, I always think — I mean, how much did it cost to go to Iowa State? What's the tuition a year?
Thomas: When I was there, I think it was $7000 a year if you're in state, quite a bit more if you're out of state.
Antonio: Let's say you've got it for seven grand, and that's what, four years? Actually, it's Iowa State. Five years is the average. No, I'm joking.
Thomas: Four for me.
Antonio: Four for you. So the average person gets through four — we're talking almost $30,000 that you just spent on your education. Why would you not spend at least $500 to $1000 on a great presentation? Because think about it, when you walk into that interview, are you holding your diploma? No. You're holding yourself up and you're showing your suit.
You just spent 30,000 bucks on your education. At least spend a percentage of that on the way that you present yourself for those interviews or for those first times at work and those presentations because you need to have that. Now, I do recommend — and you're in Des Moines. There's a great shop, Badowers. Have you ever been?
Thomas: No. I solely shop at Express and I should probably branch out a little bit.
Antonio: Yeah. Just pop over at Badowers. There are great people. You're going to pay a little bit of a premium, but you're paying for the advice. You're paying for the engagement. I know last time I walked in there, they handed me a beer, so maybe you're paying for that kind of service.
The thing is you don't have to own a lot. That's another — so I'm talking about having your core suit down. They're going to be navy, charcoal grey. Have a white, maybe a light blue shirt. Keep it simple, solid. Have a conservative, simple, multi-repeating tie in maybe a blue, a green, a reddish color. Red oftentimes symbolizes trust. You can go with a square fold, white pocket square. Keep it very simple. And then your shoes, we look down and the shoes complete it because you could have a great-looking suit and ensemble, but if you're wearing flip-flops with that, what do you think?
Thomas: I think it's a character I made in a Tony Hawk game, a video game character or something.
Antonio: Yeah. This is not a message — so shoes do matter. Think of it like a chain. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so if you've got an outfit together, if you've got one piece on there, which is incredibly weak, screws it up, it defeats the whole — it weakens the entire outfit.
So you want to look at a pair of classic oxford that's going to have close lacing. There is a difference. If you don't know what those are, just type in “classic men's oxford shoes”. For women, you can find a number of flats. I think it's going to be the color and the shape of the shoe. You don't want to be exposing your toes or anything like that. That's a no go. That's a non-formal shoe, but right there for men — and for women, there are a number of suits. You can go with either a skirt. You can go with a pantsuit. There are many options out there, but this is where I do think that you want to spend a bit more.
Let's say you're a little bit harder to fit. I had a custom clothier that I had as a friend and he actually sold a number of skirts to women who actually had really wide hips, maybe a larger backside. That was just the way their body was shaped and I do think it's worth actually paying a bit more, which for a lot of women who are used to getting amazing deals because they do go in and they shop — they go in there and find maybe some skirts for 20 or 30 bucks or maybe go into Anne Taylor and they can find something that's expensive for 70 bucks. To spend $250 to $300 for a custom-made skirt may seem outrageous until you get something that fits you beautifully and you're like, wow! This does make a difference because then you realize that this is what you wear to nice events and you wear it to interviews because when you go into an interview, Thomas, do you want to look good or do you want to look like a million bucks or do you want to look like a hundred bucks?
Thomas: I want to look like how I feel, which is the person that will get the job.
Antonio: Yeah. We want to look like that. We want to embody that person. And if you're wearing something that you just don't really feel confident in, again, your confidence is going to go down. You're going to wonder, “Are they noticing the fact that I've got a bulge right here on the side of my arms and it makes it look like I'm hiding a weapon in here?” You're thinking about that versus paying attention to that question, which is how many golf balls are going to fit into a 747. Do they still ask that on interviews?
Thomas: Hopefully not. I did have an interview once where they asked, “Give me five uses for this rubber band.” It's those creativity questions. I think they have their uses, but they can backfire because I think they failed to account for people who are maybe not so good at thinking on the spot, but who are very creative if you give them a lot of time.
Antonio: And that's the thing, is why take away any of your mental energy? The idea of multitasking, it came out of computers because computers have the perception that they can multitask, that they are doing multiple things, but they're not. They're just doing it so fast that it appears to be multitasking. The same thing with human beings, you can't be thinking about “Am I looking okay?” and really paying attention to what that person is saying and to be able to give them a really good response, so don't sabotage yourself.
That leads me to another point I will say about this. Practice wearing this clothing. Find an occasion. You practice wearing it and you get used to wearing it. What do you wear on October 31st, Thomas?
Thomas: A skeleton suit.
Antonio: A costume, exactly. In the United States, Halloween is big. Now, why is it called a costume?
Thomas: I don't know.
Antonio: Because you don't wear it every day.
Thomas: Oh, gotcha.
Antonio: So if you wear a suit only for interviews, what is it? It's a costume. Don't let it be a costume. Again, one of the reasons I focus on men is because women, they do — and again, I'm making big generalizations here, but I will say that in general, my wife puts on makeup daily, not too much. I tell her she doesn't need it. She pays attention to those things, appearances. She's more probably well-rounded. I don't have the brows — I'm a focused hunter. I focus in on my one thing here, but she's more in tune to people's feelings, emotions. She notices when my kids get upset about something that I maybe don't notice all the time.
But men especially, we've got this issue that we think we can just put something on and go out there. No. In football, going back to that analogy, on Fridays, we used to have walkthroughs. That's when you do. You put on all your uniforms and you actually make sure it fits you and you walk through. Have a walkthrough on that clothing before you go into the interview.
Thomas: We had that for wrestling, too. I think it was the day before where we practice in singlets.
Antonio: Yeah. Imagine going out there and you put on — first match of the year and you put on your outfit and it's like, “This is too tight. I'm about to lose circulation down here.” That's not a good thing. You want it form-fitting, but you don't want it so tight that that's what you're thinking about and then someone comes in and gives you a fishhook.
Thomas: Yeah. I will say — and I don't know if you did these, but one occasion where I was able to practice wearing my suit which does not fit well and I have not worn in years because of that, was practice interviews, which Iowa State does and I think a lot of campuses do these. Interviewers will come to the campus and let you sign up to basically just do a mock interview with them and that's a great opportunity to do, to wear your clothes as a practice round.
Antonio: Maybe just take your smart camera. Put it out there and record yourself and actually wear it, and then you can look at the recording and you can see am I doing something unconscious like reaching in here and grabbing at the neck? It's little things like that. You get to spot that and you can improve it because you don't want to be known as, when the interviewer writes the notes down, the guy that seemed like his tie was choking him because he kept grabbing it and trying to loosen it throughout the interview.
Thomas: Right. So with the oxford shoes — because you mentioned those as the go-to classic, first purchase — what are the color considerations people should be thinking about? Does brown match with navy or that kind of thing? What should they get?
Antonio: It depends. Starting off, you can keep it simple. I like for someone to keep their leathers. Either go with dark brown or go with black. If you're going to go with a grey suit — grey is a non-color, a mix of black with a little bit of white in it, so what we have there is you would go with the black shoes in that case. If you're going to go with navy, you could still go with black, but you can also go with dark brown. You could even bring in oxblood, but the great thing about going to a good menswear store is that they've already curated what you're going to see and what you have in front of you. If you go into a questionable menswear store, it's kind of like buying something really cheap at a — you just don't know about the quality. You could find some great deals, but you've got to know what you're looking for.
That's what's great about some box stores, is you can go to TJ Maxx and there are some great deals there, but there are also some really bad deals. Again, that's why I like to gear people towards going to a better quality store because they're going to pay a little bit more, but they're going to reduce the risk of going down the wrong path.
Thomas: And that totally makes sense to me. I've gotten to the point where now I can afford to put a little money forward, to have somebody else who is an expert guide me through these purchasing decisions, but I know personally maybe when I was a sophomore in college, all that money I'm spending on my education is tied up in debt and I literally don't have the money to put into a $500 suit or a $300 pair of shoes. I've got to make do with TJ Maxx or —
Antonio: Yeah, then look around. Look at men or women around you that are dressing great and ask them for help. Swallow your ego. Reach out to somebody and say, “Hey!” Maybe go out there. There are tons of great YouTube channels. I know of a few, and if you don't like my channel, check out the guys at Teaching Men's Fashion, Aaron Marino over at Alpha M, Barron at The Effortless Gent.
I think at the end of the day, you've got to make it a priority. And once you learn this stuff, it's not like you unlearn it. It may change. Fashions will change a bit, but if you learn timeless style, it's really something you can just spend a little bit of time on and then you can move on to something else. And like mathematics, you use it every day and you don't even notice it because you get dressed. You do match things together. You do see somebody and you can start to identify other people who actually pay attention to these things and you can start to give compliments that actually mean something.
Thomas: Cool! So you mentioned that it's better to have interchangeable wardrobe pieces than full outfits. I think I just watched a video of yours before we got on the mike here and you said it in that video as well. So obviously, your suit is basically an outfit because you buy the jacket with the pants.
Antonio: Yes. A suit by definition is jacket and trousers made from the same fabric.
Thomas: Right, so the additional pieces of your wardrobe, that's where we start getting to the interchangeable stuff. I guess what are your base recommendations for the dress shirts and then the non-suit pants and choose to go with those?
Antonio: Again, you've got to look at what your needs are going to be if you are going into the banking field versus going into outdoor management at parks. You're going to have very different needs of your wardrobe, so if you want to be a park ranger or you're going to go into the oil field, you're going to be heading out to Houston, but maybe going out to a rig. In that case, I would definitely gravitate towards casual.
Banking field, you can go off and maybe buy a couple of other suits. You can maybe look at getting a sports jacket, some odd trousers, which are simply just pants that don't have a matching jacket, but let's go back to that guy that's going into a casual field. Well, at this point, you want to start looking at casual button-downs. You want to keep it simple. Avoid anything that's got a lot of embroidery on it, a lot of colors, logos. Try to keep it simple.
There are classic pieces out there from polos to button-downs. Most men are going to be perfectly fine if they stick with variations of blues or anything that's in the pastels. Those are going to be fine. And then with your pants, grey, one thing I love about grey is it's a non-color, so it's pretty much going to match anything, so you go with greys. You can look at dark blues. You can go with tans. Again, you're focused on the fit here as well, so anything that you buy, it can oftentimes be — if you're buying it off-the-rack, you can take it to a tailor. You should know your tailor's name and take it to them and then get it adjusted to fit you properly. Then maybe look at one or two pair of shoes that are going to work with that. Notice all the trousers were brown. I would say the browns, you can go with three variations from tan to brown to a khaki, which is a slight variation there. And then you've got maybe a few greys in there.
You want to avoid the really harsh colors like blacks. Black is going to be too formal. Black comes out normally in black tie. I know a lot of guys with maybe the whole black look. It definitely has a bit of a morbid — maybe if you're going to be going into the music industry and you're going to be going into Goth culture, maybe then it works for you, but for most people, it's probably a little bit too harsh. I'm not saying you can't have your casual wardrobe, but if you're going to be going into a work environment, look at what works there. But the way you can easily distinguish yourself is focusing in on the fit of that clothing.
Thomas: Gotcha! Cool! I guess I was going to ask you, checkered shirts — I'm wearing one right now and I can probably put a picture in the show notes so people can see because they can't see now, but is this too much for a casual work environment?
Antonio: It's very casual because of the size of the pattern. That's a little bit more advanced and this is again is why — so what you've got there is a very casual shirt. Now, it does have a collar. It is a button-down and it does look like it fits you well in the chest area. So you could wear that — let's say you're working at a startup there in Des Moines. Well, you could wear that and that would look great and that's going to I think look a lot better than a t-shirt and jeans. You're not going to throw anything off like people aren't going to think you're dressed up when you're going to an interview. It shows just a little bit of style and I think that that's great.
Now, you could go with something that has a pattern that's maybe one-tenth the size of that pattern I see there and that's going to be a bit dressier because it's going to get closer to a solid. You could wear that same exact shirt that maybe would be that dark — so I'm looking and you've got a very dark blue in the pattern of that shirt.
Thomas: Yeah, it's pretty dark blue.
Antonio: Yeah, so if you went with that entire shirt with that dark blue, that would be a little bit dressier than what you're wearing now, and if you went with a lighter blue, you went with a white, that would almost be in the realm or it may even be in the realm of a dress shirt.
Thomas: Okay, so the lighter, solid colors are the more dressier. And then as you move down the spectrum into darker colors and bigger checkered patterns, you're getting more casual. Is that a good rule of thumb?
Antonio: In general, yes, but I do feel that some men can bend it and they can break those rules. I like to wear a dark-colored navy blue suit or shirt with a suit sometimes. I think it looks great for me. I'll throw in a pocket square, maybe occasionally pull it off with a tie, and that's a way for me to stand out, but I think for most guys at this point, it's about mastering the basic concepts.
Thomas: Yeah. I totally get what you're saying because I see some men who basically flaunt a lot of the rules of dressing nicely as they're put out stereotypically. I don't know if you know Pat Flynn, but every time I run into him at a conference or event, he's wearing usually a pink or red dress shirt and he has a grey vest over it that would go with the suit.
Antonio: You know about our story, right?
Thomas: No, I don't.
Antonio: He was going to go do his first speaking gig at FinCon and I remember — I've been following Pat for like a year and a half, maybe two years, and I saw what he was going to wear. He was going to wear a t-shirt and I emailed him a video. Pat wasn't super big at the time. I didn't expect anything of it, but he ended up writing me back and it's like a 15-minute consultation on, “Hey man, the thing is nobody in this finance industry knows you. You're making first impressions. You can't wear that t-shirt out there. Everyone else is going to be dressed in the least collared shirts.
The example that I think really resonated is I knew he was in the Berkeley marching band. I said, “When you walked on that football field in your uniform, did anyone question you? Did anyone say you're not supposed to be here? No. You walked out. You were confident. You knew what you were going to do. That uniform sent the signal that you belonged, that you were trusted and you're here to do your job. Now, think about that. That's what the right outfit does for a person. It sends all that without them saying a word.”
He took that and then he ended up using — I think it was Trunk Club. He ended up hiring a consultant. It's funny. John Dumas did the same thing, but I've known John for a while. I was talking to John right before he went on stage at InfusionCon one time and I'm looking at him and he didn't have pocket square, so I took mine out and I stuck it right in there. And I swear, for like a year, I kept seeing — I've got to send him some more pocket squares because he was wearing the same pocket square again and again and again. I think he eventually just lost it. I'm like, man, you need to spruce this up.
Thomas: What's the point of a pocket square?
Antonio: It has a historical perspective. It used to actually be something that was functional, that you could pull off and you could actually use to wipe yourself. Handkerchief is where it came from. Nowadays, they're kept in the back pocket, most people's handkerchiefs. But before that, men didn't have back pockets or it wasn't easily accessible when you're riding a horse, but if you're riding up on a horse, you need something to be able to wipe the mud off your face, the sweat, anything like that. That's where it comes from.
Nowadays, it's just a decorative piece and that's why you see them made from silk, made from really high-end luxury fabrics. I think it's a great way — if you look around — to separate yourself easily from most men around you because they don't wear a pocket square, but why else would that pocket be there? If there's a pocket there, stuff it. That's my thoughts on it.
Thomas: Okay, so it's just a way to stand out a bit.
Antonio: Nowadays, it is.
Thomas: Interesting. I guess the thing I was going to say about Pat is he wears the dress shirt with a vest, but then he wears jeans, which I have seen online people say don't do that, a vest doesn’t go with jeans, but I think it looks awesome when he dresses that way.
Antonio: I think it's funny that people are talking about his clothing. If it doesn't matter, why do people talk about it so much?
Thomas: Yeah. I guess it's true. Speaking of jeans, that is what I exclusively wear, so one question that I have heard from people that I've been asked a couple of times is if I'm going to wear a button-down shirt like this with jeans, do I still tuck it in or not?
Antonio: It depends. Is the shirt made to be tucked in? I think it also depends on your proportions. If you have really long legs and a short torso, I think untucking your stuff may actually look better on that build, but untucking your shirt is always going to be more casual.
There are exceptions to that rule. The guayabera is seen in Central America, down in Mexico, over in various parts of the world. Down in South America, it's actually very formal, just as formal as a suit, and it's an untucked shirt technically.
I would say for you, really look at yourself in the mirror and — a lot of guys just aren't used to — they're used to wearing t-shirts and they're not used to tucking something in, so that's why it feels a bit odd. I think most men look best though when they tuck in the shirt because most shirts are made to be tucked in. They're going to be a little bit too long or it's in my opinion just going to look better, and then you get to show off your belt.
When it comes to jeans — I know you're alluding to it — really look at something — look at dark, washed down. It's in style right now. It's become a lot easier to find. Focus in on the fit of your jeans. Go out there and find various brands. Many guys stick with, let's say, Levi's, but maybe they've never tried other brands. Look at some of those luxury brands. Don't fall into it. Just because a pair of jeans cost more, it doesn't mean it's better.
You want to find the right fit for you, but don't be afraid to experiment with that fit. Try maybe something that's a little bit closer that you're not used to wearing because what happens with jeans is as you wear them over the period of a few hours, they actually expand out a bit. So what initially you buy is a tad, tad tight within in an hour or two would actually fit really good. If you're a relatively young, single guy and you've got a nice backside, the ladies notice.
Thomas: Speaking of the backside, one thing I noticed — and on the note of jeans, I've noticed that the jeans I buy — I get them from Express. I get everything from Express. They have 1% spandex and what that does is over time they become less tight just permanently, so I find that they don't fit me quite as amazingly as the day I bought them, but the ones they make without spandex don't tend to fit me as well, so I guess where do you get your jeans? So I have a place to go check.
Antonio: I get my jeans — I've worked with Lee, so I still have a lot of them. Mott & Bow is great. You can find them online. I own Levi's like probably most men out there. It's just something I guess growing up. Wrangler, I occasionally will wear something that they have. Who else? Let me see. I'd have to go with AG. They make some great ones. There's Agave that makes some great jeans as well, so those are the brands I'll throw out.
Thomas: Cool! One of the things I notice when I tuck my shirt into jeans or any pants for that matter is in the back, it's all rumpled up and it just looks bad. Is there a way I can tuck my shirt in to not make that happen?
Antonio: Probably you could try a military tuck, which is tucking it in, flipping it over on the side. You could also look to use shirt stays, which I've mentioned a little bit earlier. This actually connects the bottom of your shirt to your socks and keeps the shirt tucked in, but I'm not going to — I know a lot of guys who are like, whoa, that's a little bit too much. What I would recommend is maybe looking to get your shirts adjusted to fit you better because if there isn't that excess material in and around your waist area then it's not going to be sticking out.
Thomas: Okay, so maybe I should still go to the tailor then.
Antonio: Everything should be — what is your tailor's name?
Thomas: I don't have one.
Antonio: Fail! Oh my gosh!
Thomas: Okay, good question.
Antonio: That's one of the things I tell people all the time, is, “What's the name of your tailor?” because if you don't know the name of your tailor, you're not going to them enough.
Thomas: Interesting. Okay. I should probably get a tailor. I don't even have a barber. I cut my own hair.
Antonio: There you go.
Thomas: I have thought about maybe growing it out. I'm trying out some different styles, but it's always looked terrible and we've always gone to cheap haircut places when I was growing up, so probably ten years ago I just decided to buy a pair of buzzers and started doing it myself.
Antonio: The president of France, Francois Hollande, he keeps a stylist on call, only $11,000 a month is what he spends.
Thomas: That's a bargain.
Antonio: Yeah, exactly. It's like $10,000 Euros. Derek Halpern, he actually talked about this. He went in and got a $350 haircut and he talks about it. There was another person that wrote up — I think it was just in the Esquire the other day about a — was it a $1000 cut?
Now, I'm not going to say that you should do something like that, but I would say maybe you should go try — just try it. Go try a stylist. See if there is a difference because the whole reason — I drove a Ferrari the other day. I would normally never do anything like this, but I went to a men's weekend and they had the Ferraris and I'm like, let's go drive a Ferrari. You drive it and you're like, wow, I can see why people really like it.
Now, I used to like motorcycles more. I'm not going to give up my minivan because it's functional. My minivan gets my four kids around, but you get to see the allure and you understand why a Ferrari draws people.
Thomas: Yeah, exactly. So when I go into my tailor — and I know we're wrapping up here, so this is probably my last question for you — I know with certain people you go into, you want to have some questions prepared. You want to have a little bit of knowledge. Is it like that with a tailor or can I just go in and say, “Hey, I'm wearing these things. Make them fit better.” Is it their job to basically get it to one specific state of betterness?
Antonio: It is their job, but that's like going into a bank and just saying, “Just take care of me.” Well, you can go compare banks and they could take care of you, but they're going to give you maybe not the best interest rate or they're going to not have — it's just going to be maybe the wrong bank for you and your needs, so I do recommend that you actually take a little bit of time to figure out which tailor is right for you because you're probably going to stick with this person or this company for a while.
It's like finding an accountant or finding any other type of professional. You want to run them through a little bit of an interview process. I always think response time and being able to — can they actually — and depending on what your needs are, I like a place that actually has time for me. Some seamstresses, they're going to need two weeks. Other ones can get it done for you in less than 24 hours, so which one is going to be better? It's up to you because you look at the prices.
Also, communication, a lot of tailors and seamstresses are not originally from the United States. “I don't speak very good English. Is that going to be okay?” because you may have a communication breakdown, so those are the things you want to be looking for. Do they have a website? Does that matter to you? What are their hours? Can they actually work on a jacket which is much more complicated than a shirt? And so, I always do recommend only taking one thing, one thing that you don't mind losing.
And if you have nothing in your wardrobe that you can lose to getting destroyed by this tailor then go to a thrift shop. Try something and then get it adjusted. You spend a dollar on that shirt and you ask her to adjust it to make it fit better. If it comes back horrible-looking, well, it cost you a dollar and a little bit of time.
Thomas: How much do you usually pay for a tailor to adjust maybe a shirt for you?
Antonio: It depends on where you're at. In New York City, you're going to pay three times what you're going to pay in my neck of the woods.
Thomas: Yeah, and you're out in Wisconsin where you usually —
Antonio: I am. Oh, I haven't been for a long time. My wife actually does a lot of our adjusting now, and that's another thing. If you can't even afford a tailor, then ask around. A lot of poor students, I get it, so maybe ask someone in your family. Maybe you say, “Mom, I'm coming home. I'm going to clean out the basement you've been asking me for five years to do this. I'm going to do it if you can please adjust these five shirts,” or you go maybe visit friends in the costume department. You're still there at the university. Guess what? Those people are amazing in the costume department of what they can do and they may be willing to — you give them an extra 20 or 30 bucks or you go buy pizza and beer, boom, even trade.
Thomas: Perfect! I know you have a lot more information like days and days worth. Where's the place that people should start if they want to start learning more?
Antonio: I always advocate going to Google. Just type in Real Men Real Style and you can find all my channels, but I think the question was, where do they start? Thomas, I want to hit on — honestly, they've got to give a damn. They've got to care. So really ask yourself — you've got to buy into this. Figure out what's your why and how is this going to help me get there.
Honestly, I don't really care that much about clothing. I care about the people that are able to use this clothing to get what they want, to nail that interview, to be able to feel great when they go on that date, to be able to get compliments that makes them feel better about themselves on a tough day. I think if you realize it, clothing — you're probably familiar with the law of diminishing returns, right?
Antonio: There's only so much you can add to your education and we fall into this trap that another degree is going to help us, another extra couple of classes. Take a step back and say instead of me taking that extra class, how about I just invest more in my presentation skills? I've gone in Toastmasters, which is a great example of a place where you could start to dress better. People encourage you and you start to really focus in on getting rid of that stutter, which is possible. Improve the way that you can tell stories, which is very doable.
There are tons of computer programmers out there that are good, but how many computer programmers out there are great at presenting, getting the point across, telling stories and are just lively people that people love to be around? Very few, and that's a great way to set yourself apart and really to be able to put your career on the trajectory path that you want to be on.
Thomas: So really just look at your goals, start challenging yourself to branch out a little bit, and then as you fill yourself into these new roles, then maybe buy the clothes to match.
Antonio: Yeah. Have fun with it and experiment. You may find that the direction you start to go is not the right one. Just figure out which type of style is going to be for you, but actually take the time to figure it out versus falling into the fashion of the day.
Thomas: Gotcha. Awesome! Well, Antonio, thank you so much for coming to the show.
Antonio: Hey, you're welcome, Thomas.
Thomas: If people want to follow you on Twitter — do you have Twitter?
Antonio: I do. I do. Just type in Real Men Real Style and you'll find our website and we've got everything on there, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube. We still got RSS Feeds. We've got a podcast, all that fun stuff.
Thomas: Awesome! Well, I'll have all those links in the show notes.
Antonio: Sounds good, man! I appreciate it.
Thomas: Yeah. All right, guys! Well, thank you so much for listening to the end of this interview. Hopefully you found it useful. Hopefully you find that the information here will help you upgrade your own wardrobe if that's something you're wanting to do.
Once again, if you want to find the show notes with everything we've mentioned in the episode, you can go over to cigpodcast.com/128 and click on all those links. Also, over the show notes, you'll find ways to rate and review the podcast on iTunes, and if you want to support the show and help it grow in the future, that is one of the best ways that you can do that, so thank you if you do. Thanks again for listening and I will see you in next week's episode.
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