You see this most often at weddings, funerals, and graduation parties. Many men attempt to dress up in a suit and tie, perhaps following the latest trend toward upgrading in general.

However, they look affected, haughty, and horribly uncomfortable. You can be sure they are not wearing their real-life clothes.

Men act as if someone poured them into a suit of armor and is making them march around like the Tin Man.

This is a casualty of our age. With fewer men needing to wear suits, they don’t know how to wear them. They don’t know how to act, how to move, how to behave, or even how to think while wearing a suit. They treat a suit as a wearable prison and act as if they can’t wait to get out of it. It appears to be some kind of costume.

I’ve also seen this happen to men even when not part of a special occasion. I’ve had friends come to a new conviction that they need to look better. They realize their jeans and T-shirts will only get them so much respect, and they are looking to formalize their lives in some way.

These are meritorious impulses. But once they start wearing a suit, their entire demeanor changes. They walk around stiffly. They get serious looks on their faces. (Must … be … serious!) They walk with a new kind of arrogance, all of it put on, but not actual confidence. Even their selfies look awful, as if they are too much aware of what they are wearing.

These painful moments in the life of men are a reminder of a central truth: What men look best in is confidence. The clothing itself is actually secondary to that. Clothes do not automatically make the man. A man who is sure, pleasant, and confident is the minimum requirement to make clothing look right.

That said, I’m a strong believer in suits for men. They demonstrate respect for oneself and others. I’m hardly in public without a suit, or, at least, a sport coat, trousers, and tie. It’s how I live and I love it. But if these clothes made me feel and look as if I was being slightly tortured, I would not be doing myself or others any favors.

The solution, however, is not to embrace your inner slob and dress that way. The solution is to work on looking normal, comfortable, and confident in a suit and tie.

How do you do this? Here are five ways.

Prepare, in Advance

Before any occasion in which you have to wear a suit, and feel awkward about it, put it on the day before. Make it a Saturday if you don’t want to go to work that way. Go about your daily tasks. Drive, shop, lounge on the sofa, do whatever you do (except change the oil on the car).

Try sitting as you normally do. Fling your leg over the arm of the chair. Curl up your legs. Do your usual manspread wherever you happen to be. Whatever you would do in jeans, however you would move and act and speak in jeans, do the same in a suit.

Length Matters

For some weird reason, pants on men’s suits tend to be vastly too long. It could be bad tailoring. It could be just a mistake made by Aunt Sally when she sewed this. But when pants bunch up around the shoe, there is a problem. There should be no break or only a slight break between the end of the pant (cuffed or not) and the shoe. When this is right, you will feel far more comfortable.

Tight and Right

A similar problem afflicts the shirt: It’s either too loose or too tight. You should be able to put one or two fingers between your neck and the collar, not none and not a whole hand. It will certainly feel different from a T-shirt or neck shirt, but it shouldn’t disable you or look sloppy. Wear it for a day and resist the temptation to loosen it.

Extra: A saggy tie is the worst. It should be tight, right against the button of the shirt. And please: no full Windsors.

Hit the Right Buttons

A common mistake is to see all these buttons on the coat and think: Oh, for a big dressed up man, all these must be buttoned. This is completely wrong. When standing, the bottom button of the jacket should always and everywhere be unbuttoned, no exceptions, ever.

If a two button coat, button just the top. If a three-button coat, the middle or middle and top can be buttoned. If double-breasted, the top and middle button should be buttoned. But when standing it should never be the case that no button is buttoned.

Sock It with Confidence

A suit requires special socks. There should never, ever, be an occasion when your leg is showing. A hint of skin on a leg completely ruins the look. You need socks that come up high and stay up so that you are not pulling on them all the time. It’s amazing what a tall and secure sock can do for your sense of confidence.

Through doing these things, you can come to the realization that a suit is not a “get up” but rather, actual clothes — clothes to live in. This helps you integrate these clothes into a sense of who you are and what you do. This is what makes all the difference. Ideally, a man in a suit would be just as comfortable as he would be in jeans or sweats.

A man should not betray a sense of consciousness of how dressed up he is. He should be just as charming and wonderful whether in shorts or black-tie dinner wear. This is what makes the difference. There is no need to be stuffy or frozen or behave in a put-on faux sophisticated manner.

Finally, one point of advice for men in suits. Never take off your coat in public. Just don’t do it. It is part of your clothes, just like your pants.

Remember that suits are not formal wear. They are working clothes, and they should be worn as if they are for real life, for real men.



Fred Astaire still sets the standard for elegance, in everything he wore. He made the white tie what it is. Notice that he is always perfectly comfortable and never stuffy or stiff.

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Roger Sterling is the most perfectly dressed gentlemen in media culture today — hands down, no question. He is without flaw in every scene for all seven seasons. It’s awesome to behold. We need a coffee table book about his look.


Gordon Gekko remains a fashion icon because of his daring and brassy look of wealth — new wealth but with a nod to deep tradition. Notice how he puts on the special touches: the contrasting collar, the braces, the dashing colors of ties. He looks like success.

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Cary Grant can wear the most over-the-top clothing and still manage not to look arrogant about it. His winning smile and ease of social engagement are the way he complements his impeccable dress.

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George Clooney’s main gift in his effortless confidence. The way he moves, manages the space, and carries himself so well in whatever he is wearing, this is the real secret to his astonishing appeal.


This article ran on LifeZette