Some aphorisms survive the test of time because their pithy wisdom is timeless. Practice what you preach, for example, is a good one, and haste makes waste. There’s one aphorism, however, that needs to be tossed for good: Clothes don’t make the man. In this era of men dressing like boys, clothes do make the man, or at least the impression of the man. Does your outfit tell others you’re an ambitious, successful, sophisticated adult in the Mad Men world of Don Draper? Or do your clothes look like Sheldon’s cast-offs from the set of Big Bang Theory? Clothes say a lot about the man wearing them.
If you’re wearing chunky running shoes or neon cross-trainers, unless you’re actually out running, you look like the guy with a freezer full of chicken potpies and a Members Only jacket in his closet. That guy can’t be bothered with details and tends to take the path of least resistance. He looks like Sheldon Cooper without the IQ.
When Don Draper wears jeans, he chooses well-worn loafers or a pair of supple driving mocs. If it’s cold, he has some trendy black ankle boots polished and ready to wear. You’ll never see white tube socks peeking out above his shoes; grown men pay attention to details and have a drawer full of classy argyle and solid colored socks. The man’s clothing combinations are impeccable.
Unless it’s game day, wearing a replica jersey in public tells women you’re immature, boring or insecure—probably all three. Those guys can’t be bothered finding a sense of style. If they ran the world, everyone would wear uniforms to work. They think fashion means wearing green running shoes with their Packers jersey, in the style of a 7th grade boy.
Don Draper has fitted oxford button-downs and sleek, body-skimming sweaters in his casual closet. He’s not afraid to wear pastels in the spring or rich, trendy colors in the fall. The Man Men of the world embrace stylish accents like scarves and hats to personalize their ensembles—and they know coordinating is not the same as matching.
The Big Bang gang doesn’t realize that women see men wearing cargo shorts as overgrown boys, especially if they’re wearing sloppy sandals and shapeless T-shirts, too. They also don’t realize athletic shorts belong in the gym, cut-off jean shorts belong in the trash and spandex biking shorts belong in the Tour de France.
When Don Draper wears shorts, he chooses a flat-front trouser style in fabrics that fit the occasion. His shorts are never shorter than 2-3″ above the knees—or so long they go below the knee. He never packs the pockets full of bulky keys and wallets. Mad Men wear shorts with boat shoes or bucks because they know sandals belong at the beach.
Fairly or not, most people do judge a book by its cover, to use another aphorism. After all, if the cover isn’t interesting, people aren’t inclined to pick it up to see what’s inside. And if it looks like a comic book, its appeal is limited to a very unserious few. Use your wardrobe as a way to express where you are in life and where you want to go.