Friday, November 04, 2005

Dressing a Middle-Aged Man

Mike wrote in and asked us to help with his dilemma, and of course we're glad to shed some light on the subject. "How a mid 40's guy can dress his age and still look cool without going bankrupt?" When I read the first part of the sentence I immediately thought this would be an easy one, but when you add the second part, it gets significantly harder. When I think of dressing a man to look modern but respectful of his age, I think of Ralph Lauren. Of course, Ralph is terribly expensive, so we need a way to cop the look without breaking the bank.

A lot of older men tuck their shirts in all the time, and I think this is a big mistake. The older you get, the more you sag, so tucking will only accentuate that. It's okay to do so when you have to, such as a dressier situation, but for corporate casual or anything less, just let it hang out. The other piece of clothing that ages men is those navy blue blazers with the three brass buttons on each sleeve. Just like women, men are getting lots of choices of blazers, so pick a nice one and use it to dress up jeans or cords, like in the outfit at left. Fabrics that flatter include tweeds and corduroy - suit materials should be left for the suit. The earth tones help to keep the outfit from looking too young, but the collared sweater with zipper make this otherwise avuncular look more modern. Footwear is also an important choice to make, and if you happen to own shoes with tassles on them, get rid of them immediately! Yuppie-wear is strictly prohibited in the 21st century, so instead go for a casual oxford with a squared toe. You'll look appropriate but also hip.

Let's say you're going on a date, and corporate casual makes it seem like you just wore your work clothes out. The two wardrobes should be different! In most cases, as you age, stick with the classics - pieces that stand the test of time - with a modern touch. A black blazer with a button down, like in the outfit at right, is youthful but flattering, and the khakis make sure the outfit isn't too casual for a nicer restaurant. The scarf is up to you, but I think it goes overboard. That's where I think youthful takes a wrong turn into midlife crisis, so I'd recommend just the tried-and-true outfit underneath. Of course, the thing you must keep in mind at all times is how comfortable you feel in an outfit. If you think you look like a fool in an outfit, you most likely will - confidence is what you'll need to really pull any outfit off. I know, it sounds like girl advice, but it's guy advice, too. Remember - you're at the age where you've moved beyond having something to prove into living well as the best revenge.

Let's say you're hosting game day at your house and you want an outfit to chill with the guys in. Jeans are an indispensable staple, but I recommend you go with classic fits and washes rather than some of the trendier sorts. I also suggest darker washes to flatter the figure more. The outfit at left is a great choice, and also illustrates the excellent technique of layering. Pairing an earthtone with a brighter color, like in this case, is a great way to experiment with bolder looks. Again, the sweaters are also more modern than your typical sweatshirt. The word on the street is individualism, so embrace it wholeheartedly and pick all kinds of different things. Now, the real beauty of the three outfits is that they didn't come from expensive department stores - they all came from Old Navy. That's right, folks, everything was inexpensive, but at least you'll get a pretty decent quality for your money. Hope that helped, Mike!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

When to be a tightwad: Saving your beauty bucks for the purchases that really matter

There are some things on which most of us shouldn't have to drop a bundle. If money is no object, then by all means indulge your champagne taste. The following, however, is a list for the rest of us:

1. Lip Pencil Seriously. I have one lip pencil that I paid $0.99 for and it works great. Don't bother with the expensive stuff. All you need is something to define your lips. Keep in mind that makeup counters are out to sell as much as they can, and a $14 lip pencil is a great way to boost their sales.

2. Mascara I realize that all makeup companies claim that their mascara has some brand new amazing technology that will make your lashes a mile long, but really, the drugstore variety words just fine. The question to ask is how much of a difference does it really make to your overall look? Answer: not much.

Salon Shampoo I've sampled a few of these, and I'll admit they feel luxurious. But I just can't bring myself to spend $18 on something that I have to buy so frequently. Conditioner is another matter, though. While I won't buy salon conditioner, I've been know to drop extra cash for a conditioner that suits my hair. Conditioner is a picky matter since every persons' hair type is so different.

4. Click-style lip gloss I bought one of these from Stila, and while I like it, I'm now painfully aware of the fact that I could have gotten basically the same thing for much much less. Case in point: Stila's version is $20; drugstore varieties run somewhere between $4.00 and $12.00. Some lip glosses might be worth the extra money. Again, use your own discretion. Anything that compliments your coloring and wears well is probably worth it.

5. Blush and Powder Again, some will disagree with me on this. However, if you're on a budget, buying drugstore blush and powder is a good way to save money for more important purchases, like good foundation. (Note: if you do want to splurge on powder, try Benefit's Gorgeous Georgia, about $30 with tax. It smells good and adds a hint of color to your face.)

6. Chapstick and lip balm
I don't think this needs explaining. Burt's Bees has minty lip balm for under $2 at drugstores worth their salt. Save your pennies, gals! Your kissers can't tell the difference anyway.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

When to be a big spender: Beauty Splurges that are worth it

I spent years buying the cheapest beauty supplies I could find, but once I graduated from college, I discovered the wonder that is high-end cosmentics. The age-old adage that you get what you pay for seldom rings more true than in the world of beauty supplies. But which items should you buy? The following list is based on my experiences. Ever wondered if that nice blush was worth the $20 you were contemplating paying? Yeah, me too.

1. F.Y...Eye Eyeshadow base
I've promoted this product before, but it deserves a second plug. It's the best ever.

2. Good lipstick There really is a difference between more expensive lipstick and the drugstore variety. I recommend buying at least one nice shade of lipstick. You won't regret the purchase.

3. Eyeshadow that wears well Drugstore eyshadows tend to feather and wear off quickly, but I've never tried them with an eyeshadow base. Use your discretion. If you fall in love with an expensive eyeshadow, stick with it. If you're sold on the drugstore variety, then stick with that. But get a base--it'll save you time with reapplication. EXCEPTION: I've found that Almay eyeshadows are the best for understated, everday wear. They last a bit longer than most drugstore brands and are hypoallergenic.

4. Foundation This goes without saying, girls. A good foundation-one that adequately matches your skin tones-is very hard to come by. It's worth the addtional expense. Foundation will stay on your pretty face for the majority of the day. It protects your face from sun, dirt, and other impurities. If your skin doesn't react well to the foundation you choose then you're sure to have a breakout.

5. A good color job If you're going to color, see a professional. The purpose of any hair color is to enhance your natural beauty. I was at a restaurant once and saw a woman who was trying to be blonde. The reason why I say 'trying' was because her hair was THREE different shades of blonde, getting progressively lighter as you went up from her neck. Yikes! A good stylist is worth every penny.

Get Your Coat and Get Your Hat

Las F regular Snorman posed the following question: "Do you have any thoughts on wearing hats? What hats are in this season? And, most importantly, which hats are OUT!"

Hats are a big, definite yes, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, you lose 30% of your body heat out of your head, so mom was right when she told you to put on the hat or you might catch cold. Secondly, the hat is what takes outerwear from "I'm staying warm in winter" to "I'm staying hot in winter." Like the perfect shoes, a hat can take a simple coat and scarf into another world of fashion goodness. It brings your entire ensemble together. And to think, so many people don't even take advantage of the opportunity! Fortunately for you, this season is filled with a selection of hats for you to try, and the choices are broader than ever before. Thanks to the resurgence of fashions from yesteryear, you can pick up distinctive pieces that will really make you one of a kind. Don't be afraid to try a newsboy, as we mentioned in a previous article, for a universally flattering hat. There are also bucket hats in new patterns and fabrics to try. And, of course, if you're going to be out in the snow, take a walk on your child side and go for a crochet hat with earflaps or other cute embellishments. These come in just about any color, shape or design you want, so feel free to get an offbeat hat for your boring old winter jacket, like the one at left.

Men, unfortunately your options for hats are somewhat limited. I suppose you can blame that on women's lib. But really, do you want to be all that experimental with your head? Most likely, no. You can wear a baseball cap, a skullcap or something your grandfather once wore, and considering winter is coming, the baseball cap is out. There are a few other options, for example, this beanie with visor is just a little twist on your average skullcap, and would go great with casual outerwear. Otherwise, I'd say find a nice skullcap - and I do mean nice. No sports logos, no alcohol logos, just a nice, patterned skullcap. I'm also a fan of a man in a boyish winter hat, like the girl's hat above, but of course in manlier colors. Seeing a guy in a youthful hat gives him something of an impish, adorable vibe. That may just be me. Of course, if you're the sort of guy who likes retro clothes, then feel free to try on a fedora or similar hat with some of your nicer outfits. As long as you keep the color subdued, you won't go down in flames.

Now, what hats are out? I'm sick and tired of those ridiculous trucker hats, and fortunately I think they are starting to take a backseat. You know a fashion has gone bad when you see thirteen-year-olds wearing them so they can look cool. Anything with a huge flower is a definite no-no; instead accessorize your hat with a tasteful brooch or pin. You don't want anything that will cause a person to say, "Whoa, check out that hat" instead of, "Whoa, check out that hottie." Also, steer clear of berets unless you are very sure you can pull it off. I have not seen many berets that I've loved. That goes double for stetsons and other cowboy hats, especially the one on the left. While I give credit to men and women who can pull this off and look legitimate, few among us can. Give it deep consideration before you try it out.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Sins of the Fabric

Kirsten wrote us and asked if we could write about fashions that look bad on anyone, regardless of weight, height, age, etc. I'd be delighted to, and in fact the ideas below (mostly) go for men and women, so don't let yourself drift into fashion hell!

1. Stripper shoes. There is no reason that any self-respecting woman should be caught dead in these shoes. It's not just the boots, either. Any heel that has an unrealistic platform, laces up to the knee or is shiny patent leather, stay away. The only reason I could fathom a woman would wear these is if she was a) a stripper, or b) in a Halloween costume, and even in that situation, it's not something that either party would wear on a date, to a club or walking around the mall. Just don't do it.

2. Anything of this genre. You know the shirts I'm talking about. They have the eagles, the coyotes, the lightning, the inspirational and patriotic sayings, etc. It's not even so much that the shirts themselves are bad (although, believe me, they are), it's the people wearing them that give them a truly bad name. They're mostly a staple of trailer-dwellers, rednecks and other various and sundry unsavory types, and you don't want to be associated with them, do you? No, there are much better shirts out there. Unless you're going to a back-woods bar, in which case you'll fit right in.

3. Plaid flannel. I know, Al Borland is hot - look how he can pull off that tool belt. But he's probably the only one I know who can pull this look off. Unless you're a lumberjack, a carpenter, or just trying to stay warm in the confines of your own home, give this article a pass. Men are not the only breakers of this rule, by the way. I've seen women wearing these at times, usually with a mullet and acid-wash jeans in their local Wal-Mart. It's just so unflattering - it does nothing for the figure, and you automatically look like a woodsman. There's no reason to subject yourself to this kind of fashion torture. Pajamas are a different story, but button-downs are a classic that are meant to be a light, breathable cotton.

4. Knit sweaters with cutesy designs on them. My friend and I used to call these "teacher sweaters" because they're the kind that your third-grade teacher usually paired with a turtleneck to wear to school. Sweaters are best worn fitted (not skin-tight), and/or layered with a button-down shirt. Furthermore, the button-down does not just look good in white anymore. Be adventurous and pair your sweater with a complimentarily-colored button-down, instead. Other offenders to watch out for - apple sweaters, teddy bear sweaters and cat sweaters.

5. This. I don't really have a name for this phenomenon, but there are three things wrong with this. Firstly, jeans that go up to the waist make your rear-end look even bigger than it is, and not in a flattering way, for those of you who may want a bigger behind. Secondly, highwaters are for nerds - you should not expose any sock unless you sit down. Thirdly, untuck your shirt and take off those ridiculous loafers! The person pictured at left has resigned themselves to soccer mom jeans. As a reader astutely pointed out, Old Navy is a great place for jeans. They have four different rises and three different lengths, so you can try them and find out what combination works best for you. It's the only place I ever buy jeans. Additionally, for those of you who have never heard of the company, Apple Bottoms is a line of clothing designed by Nelly for well-endowed women. I can't believe it took a man to come up with the idea, but at least we can enjoy the fruit of his great (albeit somewhat expensive) idea.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Guy Summer Footwear

Daniel wrote in to us: "RE: Tevas. Okay, okay, I get the point!...But this begs the question: What else is a guy supposed to wear with shorts?"

Daniel, you made me smile. It looks like we've had a breakthrough. Give yourself a pat on the back, and hunker down for the shoe lesson. Summer may be over for us in the Northern Hemi, but down South the summer is just beginning, so half of you can figure out what to wear right now, the other half can think about this for next summer. Below I've listed a few options, but they're not the only ones. It is difficult, though, to write an article like this. I think most women will agree it's a lot easier to say what's wrong with men's footwear than what's right. But, I'll make an attempt.

There are a lot of alternatives for guys to wear with shorts, and my personal favorite is tiny socks with some kind of sneaker. This, once again, does not mean tennis shoes, although a break of this rule by a guy is not nearly as bad as when a girl does it. I'm thinking in particular about our skater friends - they have a style all their own. And while you may not skate, there's nothing saying you can't gank their style. A nice pair of Vans, old-school Chuck Taylors or Pumas, such as the pair at left. The hip-hop community also introduced us to the beauty of Adidas and K-Swiss, so feel free to rock a pair of those. Whatever you do, don't get a sock that goes any higher than your Achilles tendon. Your socks should be so low that it almost looks like you're not wearing any - that's how the style goes nowadays. You can get a ton of these pretty cheap at any athletic store. However, stay far, far away from moccasins or those hideous canvas slip-ons. You don't want to look like a sixty year-old man if you're not one. Besides, with shoes like these you can usually get away with tying them once in a while and just slipping them on most of the time.

So let's say, as Daniel so astutely pointed out, that it's just too hot for socks. Flip flops have now become a much more viable option for men now that shoe companies have learned that men don't just want to wear bigger versions of what women are wearing. There are a lot manlier flip flops in the world, such as the pair at right, by DC Shoe Co. Guys may be shy about trying the thong, especially if they've never worn such a thing. The part between the toes can be a bit uncomfortable for the first-time wearer, but I urge you to 1) give the shoes a good test drive at the shoe store, and 2) give them a chance. They are comfortable and still manly, as our surfer friends have demonstrated to us. These are especially great for a day down the shore. My boyfriend still wears sneakers. We haven't reached this level of lessons yet. He'll learn when his feet get sweaty.

If the flip flop just doesn't do it for you, a thongless version is another option. You may remember that Adidas introduced the slip-on sandal with the pegs in it. I personally found that once you've been wearing the peg shoes for a couple of days you don't even notice them, but they can be a little painful at first. Other companies have really capitalized on the slip-on fad and have made pegless versions, like the pair of Etnies at left. These shoes could not be more comfortable, but what may not make you comfortable is exposing your toes. If you have hairy hobbit feet, fear not. Most men do. Besides, hair is masculine. If you had perfectly smooth, hairless feet, I'd worry. As for the toenails, I can't express how important this is. Make sure they are respectably short, even and neat. I'm not saying you have to go for the full pedicure - but huge kudos to you if you do. The bottom line for summer has to be manly comfort, but remember - we are always watching you.