Dressing A Gentleman: Shirts, Suits, and Ties — by Guest Mom Lindsey Johnson

March 23, 2007

Every man should have his own style, but within that, there are certain pieces of clothing that each man should own.

• 2 high-quality white shirts, one could have French cuffs for dressier occasions

1 nice blue shirt

1 dark, year round suit, preferably navy blue

• 3 or 4 (or more) silk ties — one or two solids, and a few classic stripes and conservative prints

High-quality shirts will have the following:

Split yoke. In the back, coming down from the middle of the collar, most high-quality shirts will have two pieces sewn together. Less expensive shirts tend to have one piece which don’t drape as well

Removable collar stays, also known as collar bones or collar stiffeners, found on shirts that do not have button down collars, and are made of plastic or metal. Less expensive shirts will have collar stays that are sewn inside of the collar.

• Shirt bottom will be longer. They look better when tucked in.

Gussets, sometimes in a contrasting color than the shirt fabric. A gusset is a piece of reinforcement on the bottom of the shirt where the shirt front meets the shirt back.

Nicer buttons, sometimes mother-of-pearl

Thicker, better quality fabric

Most likely cost more than $60 for a good, white shirt. White shirts are the most popular kind of shirt, so they are hardly ever on sale. For other colors and patterns, watch for sales. Some retailers like T.M. Lewin, Brooks Brothers and Charles Tyrwhitt, offer fabulous sales on shirts if you buy them in threes or fours. You can get 3 or 4 shirts for around $150. That’s a steal for good shirts.

Other things to think about. . .
Take good care of them. Launder and iron regularly. Shirts that are handled with care will last longer and be worth the investment.

Try buying non-iron shirts. Typical non-iron shirts can be washed, hung to dry, and worn with just a little bit of touching up from a hot iron. Brooks Brothers and Charles Tyrwhitt both carry good, non-iron shirts. These shirts are great for dads.

If a shirt and suit both fit well together, ¼-1/2″ of the shirt cuff will show beneath the jacket.

Repeat this with me ten times: I will not ever, under any circumstance, EVER let my son, husband, brother, uncle, grandfather, neighbor, postmaster or clergy member wear a short sleeve shirt with a jacket. And if I do, may I have bad luck for 10 years. Got it?

Also, help your man by adhering to this advice regarding suits:

Tall, thin men look better in a slim-fit shirt and a three-button suit

Shorter, portly men should wear regular shirts with a two button suit, which he will find is more flattering. (See? And we thought we were the only ones.)

Tell him to ask for a professional fitting, or have his shirts and suits hand-tailored for an even better fit. Suits off the rack should always be fitted by a knowledgeable sales clerk or tailor to ensure proper sizing.

Personalizing and Creating Your Own Style

Ties are an area where a man can really personalize his wardrobe. Beyond the suggested must-own ties, I suggest buying a few tie
s each year that can be worn seasonally. Wool, tweed ties for fall and winter, fun floral patterns and bold stripes for spring and summer, etc. I love seersucker and oxford ties.

A tutorial on classic tie knots can be found here on the Brooks Brothers website.

Bold checks in fun colors are another way for a man to express himself. Real men should not be afraid to wear pink and lavender! Some of my most favorite shirts that my husband owns are pink and lavender checks.

Cuff knots come in every shade of the rainbow and are a relatively inexpensive way to vary a wardrobe for men who wear shirts with French cuffs.

It’s our duty to make sure our men look good! Some of us are lucky to find a man who knows how to dress. Other men need a little prodding. Keep your eye out for good sales; you’ll always be able to find one. I suggest keeping a card in your wallet with your man’s sizes for easy reference.

Nothing is sexier than a well-dressed man. (If you ask me.)

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kristi Brooke March 23, 2007 at 8:24 pm

well written.
The day my husband started buying Brooks Brother’s non ironed shirts was truly a great day!


2 Bek March 23, 2007 at 8:41 pm

I agree w/ Kristi. I am married to a Wall Street guy and he has to dress up all the time…. we swear by the no iron Brooks Brothers shirts (and dry cleaners… he he) and the basic Norstrom suits (w/ the tailoring free and done very well). It is amazing how a great shirt and tie can turn my husband, who looks like he is 16 when he has on a tshirt and ball cap, into WALL STREET MAN!!!!!!

Great post and very great advice…


3 Ben and Laura March 23, 2007 at 11:06 pm

Great advice Lindsey! We love Brooks Brothers everything in our house. The tie sales are always a big hit!


4 anniepall March 24, 2007 at 5:35 am

thanks for the tips lindsey! and beautiful pictures! (i seem to always be saying that, huh?)


5 Jenni March 24, 2007 at 6:33 am

there’s nothing i love more than a man in a nice suit, well put lindsey.


6 Andrea March 24, 2007 at 11:41 am

what a fun post. Your husband is very blessed to have a wife who dresses him–and so well, I might add!!


7 michelle j March 24, 2007 at 1:20 pm

This was helpful for me–I’ve been wanting to do some shopping for my husband, and I am clueless about everything.


8 Hailey March 24, 2007 at 2:10 pm

Cheers to well dressed men! Which is one more reason to love the band OK GO; smart, handsome, dancing, singing, eclectic, Grammy winning, well dressed men. Yes, yes. Maybe Brooks Brothers could consult with them? Add some color to the Wall Street guys!


9 adriana.whatsfordinner March 24, 2007 at 3:30 pm

Impressive summary! I need to bookmark this. Of course, Lane has minimal use for dress shirts since his work uniform consists of paint-splattered jeans and worn out t-shirts. But even he needs a few good shirts.

Since he is NOT wall street man he gets to splurge a little on his dress shirts — at Pink. Love it! Also like Paul Smith.


10 Jessica March 24, 2007 at 11:30 pm

I got my husband the last tie pictured, blue w/ dots, to wear to my sister’s wedding earlier this month. Love it! This is great advice, especially since more often than not we have to help them make their fashion choices. :)


11 janeannechovy March 25, 2007 at 1:58 am

Along with no short-sleeved dress shirts, ever, EVER, don’t forget the rule about no button-down collars with suits. Ever.

My husband’s work-wear is only slightly more dressed-up than Lane’s, but he also cleans up well. Our choices are limited for shirts, though–16.5/37 is a harder-to-come-by size.


12 goat March 25, 2007 at 5:50 am

Totally disagree with the above comment. And so would Brooks Brothers.

It depends on the occasion, but a button-down pinpoint is very appropriate with a suit coat. It is a reliable (and time-tested) New England/prep school/work-a-day look.


13 Sara March 25, 2007 at 9:53 am

I just went through my husband’s extensive closet (most of which came from Brooks Brothers, Nordstrom and Tommy Bahama). There is NOT one shirt with a spilt yoke. Where does one buy such a shirt?


14 Lindsey March 25, 2007 at 5:08 pm

Some of the nicer shirts–like Brooks Brothers do not have the split yoke. It doesn’t mean they are bad shirts. I don’t have much experience with Nordstrom or Tommy Bahama shirts.

The shirt we buy are usually from England–T.M. Lewin, Pink’s, Charles Tyrwhitt, and the like.


15 Lei March 25, 2007 at 10:06 pm

I love dressing my man. Shopping for him is (almost) as much fun as shopping for myself. I said almost!!!


16 love.boxes March 26, 2007 at 10:15 am

I loved this post Linds. And as for the button down shirt w/ suit argument I asked my Nordstrom guy and he said a button down is ok with a two button suit or a blazer, but never with a 3 button. I am following that advice because I don’t know where to get better.

I love that french cuffs and cufflinks have made a big comeback, they look really nice. And, those colorful french knots you posted are lovely.


17 Abbynormal March 26, 2007 at 2:15 pm

DANG good post! I need to be finding my man’s sizes out. I would love to dress him. He already dresses really well. Just fomr reading this post I’ve noticed the good things he already does. I think you’d be impressed.


18 janeannechovy March 26, 2007 at 11:12 pm

Sorry if that wasn’t clear–button-down shirts are fine with sport coats (a la the classic prep uniform of khakis, navy blazer, button-down oxford and repp tie).

I’ve never heard the two- vs. three-button distinction, but I had heard a distinction between “city” (dark colors, formal fabrics, cap-toe oxfords) and “country” (tweeds, brogues, especially wingtips with lots of perforations). This distinction has largely gone by the by as far as Americans and the way they dress. But I do what I can to help preserve the “no button-down collars with suits” part of the rule.


19 Anonymous October 15, 2007 at 3:46 pm

I work in a very formal office enviroment and wear a 3 piece suit everyday. I wear french cuff dress shirts and ties all of which are chosen by my wife. In the evening she prefers I stay dressed this way unless I am going to my gym or have some work in my garage to do.
I dress up Sundays for church and again as per her wishes I stay suited the entire day until dinner then I wear black tie. Saturdays I am allowed to wear a sport coat and dress pants with either a tie or an ascot or bowtie the black tie again for dinner. It is not the end of the world to dress this way but I would prefer to be a little more casual. Do you think I should go along to make her happy? I value the opinion of other wives.
Thanks Always Suited


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