Among my guy friends I would rather be known for surviving a bear attack, or bears attack (hey, there were two of them) than being known for my design projects. Despite this, it feels like my buddy's wives and girlfriends are always asking me for tips to help their guys look more presentable (i.e. dress better). To me, it's pretty simple - men don't follow trends, they follow their hearts. Frank Sinatra's effortless style is the quintessential example. When you're trying to take a family portrait and notice your disheveled husband looks like he's dressed to paint the garage I'm sure it's frustrating but getting angry isn't the answer. You get more bees with honey than vinegar, so please, don't just make us over...make us believe! I say this because a lot of time it feels like the women in our lives are trying to "help" us in roughly the same way that the Romans would lay siege to a city.
The Scene: woman is pointing to a sport coat another guy is wearing: "Honey, that would look cute on you." What her man thinks: Why is she checking out that dude? This quickly becomes: I wonder what that guy benches. I bet I can lift more than him. Probably am faster too. I'll race him right now. How crazy will I look if I walk over to the linens department and challenge him to a foot race right now? Scanning the aisles and noting the nearest exits I don't see much security in this Bed Bath and Beyond, if this escalates I can probably escape before the cops arrive...and...I can get out of shopping....
There is a specific way to talk to guys when trying to foster an interest in dressing better and referencing other men (or worse using adjectives like "cute") is definitely not the way to go. The simple truth is that men want to feel strong and manly even if it so happens that they are ... getting a pedicure. Be cunning like a serpent. Hide your style suggestions in a Trojan horse of masculinity.
Back in the day when men were men and we didn't have Ipods in our pockets, GPS in our cars and the big health scare wasn't carpel tunnel but the black lung, guys had a ritual when it came to looking good that helped us unwind and relax. Dressing well was just something you did everyday - like shaving. Sadly, unless you live abroad or are cast in a Tom Ford movie, those days are long gone. Today, most men have an irrational fear of going shopping for clothing. Buried deep in our primitive brains, filed just after the fear of being eaten by a great white shark, is the dread of clothing racks and full length mirrors. Here are some tips to get you pointed in the right direction. Oh...I may not have been entirely forthcoming about bear attack, but this other stuff is mostly true.
Shopping doesn't need to be a makeover from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Carrot and the stick ladies. To be honest, men really don't want to go shopping and they really don't want to be made over. Build in some perks for your man; let him shoot some pool and watch a game with his buddy after he attends to the business of looking good. Everyone wins.
Compliment your man. Guys, you may have noticed, like to be told they look good. Boost his interest in fashion by telling him how amazing he looks in his new clothes. The theory is the same as training animals - positive reinforcement is the best way to encourage behavior so give him a treat when he does well.
X out the XL. Something in the male psyche whispers that bigger is better. It's a simple fact that many guys tend to wear clothing that is too big on them. Baggy clothes tend to make people look sloppy and heavier than they are. Not a great look. If your man is walking around with his shirt imitating a wind sail, he needs to get a slimmer fit.
Find a good wardrobe wingman. Men are inherently pack animals and gravitate toward the safety of the herd, particularly in unfamiliar and daunting environments like a menswear department. Conspire with the ladies and round up your respective men for a shopping excursion - having a buddy to go shopping with will make your man much more open to the whole experience. A word of caution here - you will definitely need to chaperone them or risk the guys returning with football jerseys and possibly intoxicated.
Return on Investment. If there's one thing that guys care about, it's value. A sharp suit can be worn several days a week, and even better, he can pair the jacket with jeans or slacks to give him more mileage (mustard stains permitting). Also encourage him to invest in things he uses everyday like shoes or a briefcase. The best part of this strategy? If he is saving money on his wardrobe, he can help you splurge on yours.
Go Hollywood. For men, it all comes back to movies. Surely you have noticed the strange language known as "man-speak" that is comprised of movie quotes repeated incessantly. Find out what his favorite films are and you will get a window into his mind and sense of style. Pray for American Gigolo or James Bond because Braveheart will be problematic. Once he's settled on a suitably dapper leading man all you have to do is get him into character by dressing the part.
Maintenance. How is it that a guy will spend hours maintaining a motorcycle or a lawn yet walks around in clothing that looks like he fished out of a dumpster? Put it in terms he can understand and help him see that just like a car, his wardrobe needs to be maintained or replaced. Clothes decorated with stains and pockmarked with holes need to be relocated to the trash.
Grooming. Most men can be clueless when it comes to their hairstyle or facial hair. For some, it's an inability to let go of their college days, or worse, Saturday Night Fever. Whatever the reason, you are the only reality check he will get. Help him see the light and make sure he gets his rear-end planted in the barber's chair.
Be careful what you wish for. You may want to foster your man's sense of style but be careful you don't create a monster. By this point in his life, his guy friends have hopefully hazed the metro-sexual out of him so that shouldn't be too big a concern. Instead, be careful of the dangerous influence in his life: ESPN. The last thing you want to do is to roll up to your best friend's wedding with your man sporting the eight-button, canary yellow suit he saw on Sportscenter. It's important for guys to remember that judges aren't handing out "degree of difficulty" points. So just because he's learned a thing or two about style, here is my final word of advice: don't get cocky.