Five tips for guiding a man’s fashion sense

He’s a great guy, but his cologne reminds you of your grandfather, he dresses like a plumber and he selects hats based on the name of the sports team written on them.

You’re one of those couples. The ones where she’s wearing heels and a stylish top and carrying the latest Coach handbag, and he still dresses like he’s 17 years old. The couple that makes people wonder “what’s she doing with him?”

Yes, he’s completely clueless, and his fashion sense is, as my mamma used to say, “scarcer than hen’s teeth.” But he’s still somewhat adorable in his own way, so still worth the effort. No man wants to be transformed, but a few subtle adjustments never hurt, especially if you can make him think they are his own ideas.

He doesn’t need to look like the cover of GQ, and if you try to insist that he does, he may run the other way. That said though, it is possible to move the needle just a smidgen. Here are a few tips for subtle transformation:

  1. Cologne. Does he buy his cologne at the dollar store? There are some things in a man’s wardrobe where it’s okay to go with the cheap option, but cologne isn’t one of them. Some men have an unfortunate tendency to buy the bottle with the strongest, spiciest or muskiest scent, usually because it has a masculine name, like “Eau De Deer Hunting.” I think some guys would be perfectly happy with a cologne that smells like hot wings and beer. There’s nothing wrong with a more subtle aroma, and in fact it’s easier on the senses for us ladies. Calvin Klein’s colognes are great in this area, and achieve just the right balance with just a little bit of floral while still being masculine. Chances are, his favorite cologne will be whatever you buy for him.
  2. Buy that man a shirt with a collar and buttons. Having nothing but a closet full of grey tee-shirts may work if you’re Mark Zuckerberg, but most men need a little variety. Suggest a nice restaurant, and then follow up with “Honey, I think I’ll wear that cute dress you like. What are you going to wear?” That might give him a hint that he needs something other than a shirt with a picture of the Notre Dame leprechaun on it.
  3. Ease him into a sports coat. If he’s Mr. Jeans-and-tee-shirt, he may bristle at the idea of a full suit and tie, so don’t insist on that – but a basic sports coat with an open collar may just fit the bill, and can look great even with a pair of jeans. Look at some less formal ones, like the traditional corduroy tan jacket, which will seem a little more casual.
  4. Do his pants drag on the floor? Some guys are hopeless in finding pants that fit right, and their shopping habits tend to involve getting in and out of the store as fast as possible, without trying anything on first. It’s surprising how many men buy pants that are too long, so the legs bunch up over his shoes and end up frayed and covered with mud. If you’re handy with a tape measure, get him to stand up and measure him (and that might just lead to some extra fun). Once you’ve found out his inseam measurement, then the rest is easy.
  5. Buy him a purse. Just don’t call it a purse. It’s a great idea – but will you actually get away with it? Probably not, but worth a shot, and here’s why: When you’re out for a day trip, he will collect odds and ends over the course of the day. He either (1) gives you everything to put in your purse, or (2) stuffs it in his pockets to the point where he’s bulging and you’re tempted to nickname him “Lumpy.” A nice leather city bag is a good alternative, and if you squint a little, it just might look manly.

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