One of the things that makes style so much fun as a man is the level of detail.
Sure, a few basic outfit styles have been traditional for men for over a hundred years –
but the reason they've lasted?
A hundred points of connection to history in every outfit.
A thousand different looks from a few pieces.
A million little ways to signal quality.
Infinite opportunities for customization.
All you HAVE to do to reap the benefits of sharp dressing is dip your toes in…
but why not take the dive. Learn the tips only a style expert knows.
1. 6 Jacket Shoulder Types
Knowing these distinctions can help you choose the jacket that looks best on you.
Structured (English) shoulder – A heavily padded and canvassed shoulder, traditionally interlined with horsetail and reinforced with chest felt and tapes. The shoulder line is extended and roped. It has a very strong, authoritative feel.
Unstructured (Italian) shoulder – This shoulder fits like a shirt. It's constructed to drape naturally and not alter your shoulder line. The fit, the drape, the feel, and the small armhole are all meant to give you freedom of movement. Designed for lightweight fabrics in a Mediterranean environment, and works beautifully in that context.
Continental/Updated American shoulder – This popular design (used by designers like Tom Ford, Zegna, and Hugo Boss) is designed to be a blend of the British and Italian looks. It works for a wide range of body types.
Natural shoulder – Made popular by Brooks Brothers, this shoulder does have a bit of padding, but it's made for a loose “sack suit” fit. It will cause the jacket to sort of hang from your shoulders.
Neapolitan shoulder – Similar to the Italian style but with the sleeve attached by hand – the puckering details at the top give it away. The sleeve is slightly larger than the armhole.
Pagoda shoulder – No need to be a style expert to spot this one – the roping, just like the roof of a pagoda, goes up into points. This is a very formal shoulder style that goes in and out of fashion, so be sure to know your audience when you’re looking at a jacket that has this shoulder type.
2. Different Fragrance Types
When you see terms like perfume, toilette, or cologne, do you know what they mean – or do you just think you know?
It's a common misconception that women's fragrances are called perfume while men's are called cologne.
Actually, the different names for fragrance refer to the percentage of the spray that’s the essence of the perfume vs. how much is alcohol. The higher the percentage of perfume essence, the stronger the formula and the longer the fragrance is going to last.
Perfume (Parfum) is 15-30% pure perfume essence.
As we add more of the solution and less of the essence we dilute the fragrance – it becomes an eau de toilette (5-15% pure perfume essence).
A cologne is 2-4%, and lasts 2 hours on average.
A body spray clocks in at 1%, and will last 1 hour or less.
3. Mix And Match Three Or More Patterns
An unofficial way to spot a style expert is the ability to match three patterns. Today you're going to learn to match four.
When you buy good quality clothing from a manufacturer that knows what they’re doing, you'll see a level of consistency within the basic families of shirts, ties, pocket squares, and jackets – brands will stick to a particular type of pattern for each one.
So when it comes to dots and regimental stripes, you’ll see those pretty much only in neckties. That’s good because you won’t have to worry about the pattern popping up elsewhere.
The key when matching patterns is to avoid placing the same size or same type of pattern next to each other.
It looks offputting and can give the appearance of movement. However, different sizes of the same pattern (wide striped tie/narrow striped shirt) are fine.
On pocket squares you see a lot of paisleys and other complex patterns. Occasionally you’ll see this on a tie so be careful, but generally they’re easy to match.
Jackets are usually in solids, but you can go with small repeating patterns. These will work with everything else.
4. Understanding Suit Fabrics
You’ll see numbers like Super 110 and Super 120 on wool cloth used for suits. The dirty truth is that there's no set standard for these numbers.
What they say over at a great woolen mill like VBC won’t be the same as what Lessona or Zegna is doing. They’ve each got their own numbering system. According to them, a Super 110 should be finer, softer, and more expensive than a lower number, but does that mean it’s better? Not necessarily.
You may touch fabrics that have a 90 and are still amazing. They’re very good for workhorse suits that you’re going to wear again and again. And they look great after many wears, whereas a suit made of a 220 wool is going to wash and wear like a much more delicate fabric.
Touch the suits you're looking at and focus on how they feel – don’t fall into the numbers game.
A Super 130 with one company is not necessarily better or worse than a Super 110 with another.
Think of it a bit like megapixels. People are sold cameras that have way more capabilities than they actually need, and they would be perfectly fine at maybe 10 megapixels. They spend 2-3 times as much money on a camera with capabilities they don’t even use.
5. Understanding Shirt Fabrics
What goes into quality men's shirts is a bit easier to understand. First, what’s it made from? Is it 100% cotton? That's going to be higher quality than a blend.
Next, what's the type of cotton – is it super Pima, Egyptian, Sea Island? Those are all great indicators of quality, which mean they’ve used longer fibers to spin good, long, strong yarns that will enable really soft fabrics.
6. Style Expert Dress Codes
Formal – white tie. 99.9% of you are never going to wear this. If you’re in that .01%, go have fun.
Semi-formal is supposed to mean black tie, but often just means a dark-colored suit. So if you get an invite that says ‘semi-formal’ find out if they mean black tie or if they mean a suit.
Business Attire – means a dark solid suit – like navy, charcoal, or medium gray. Again, nothing outlandish – a white or light blue shirt with a conservative necktie.
Business Casual – covers a wide range of different outfits, hence why it can be so confusing.
I like a look that I feel good about and that I know sets me a step above what most people are going to be wearing. So I default to wearing a sports jacket with a pocket square, jeans, and a dress shirt without a necktie.
Because I get my shirts tailor-made, I'll use a contrast color on the inside of the placket instead of a tie to bring a little bit of attention to the neck. A casual necktie with this outfit would look equally great, or I could bring in a formal dress shirt and a nice necktie with a slightly more casual jacket.
Casual – kind of the Wild West of dress codes. Anything goes – but you can't wear ‘anything' if you want to come off as a style expert. So change it up – most guys are thinking t-shirts, cargo pants, runners.
Take it up another level. Casual does not mean sloppy.
I've got nothing against shorts, but go with a pair without the cargo pockets that fit you properly. Try a button-down instead of a t-shirt, a panama or sunglasses instead of a baseball cap, and espadrilles or boat shoes instead of running shoes in summer.
7. Jacket Construction
There are two main types of jacket construction – floating canvases and fused jackets. There are hybrids between them, and many different types of floating canvases, but the construction of every jacket comes down to these basic types.
If you start to understand this you are going to be able to really tell the difference between a great quality jacket, a good one, and one to avoid.
8. Different Tie Knots
Every style expert should know how to tie a tie knot at least five different ways. Most of us will default to one (I do the four-in-hand) but know how to tie the half Windsor.
And have some fun. Go out there and learn the Trinity knot. Don't be too quick to say no – how do you know if you like something if you’ve never tried it? And have you ever tried the Eldredge or Pratt knot?
9. Know How & When To Break Style Rules
This is imperative to understand if you want to reach style expert status. Know WHY the rule is there. I put out tons of guidelines for men just starting out, because they’re overwhelmed with the amount of information out there.
But as a style expert, you don’t have to stick to the rules.
When you understand the base of why this rule was created, who it applies to, and the logic that went into it, you can say, ‘I’m exempt from this. This doesn’t apply to me’. You can start to break these rules.
I love to see a man confident and strong enough in his own ability to make his own style decisions. I want you to be able to leverage clothing as a tool to get what you want out of life.
Want to know 500 terms EVERY style expert should understand? Click here to get my free style dictionary in audio and PDF.
Why did I create this? Because I want to give you the tools to go out there and be the man you know yourself to be. Click here to grab the RMRS style dictionary and learn all the terminology to come off as a style expert.