How to Dress Like A Grownup, Part 3: It’s In The Details

Have you ever been watching a movie and been completely distracted by one little detail, so much that it pulled you out of the story for a minute? “Wait a minute, he wasn’t wearing a tie when he jumped off that building! Why was he wearing one when he hit the ground?” There are fashion choices that can do that, too. Getting the details right will make all the difference in the world. Here are some minor-seeming items that can make or break your look.

1. Make sure the fabric on your clothes looks like it’s supposed to. Not just holes or stains, but if it wrinkles, make sure it’s ironed. If you have pets, make sure to hit it with a lint roller to get any stray pet hair off. (This is one I have to be really careful of, having two cats.)

2. If you have hair, make sure it’s neatly trimmed, even if you’re in the process of growing it out. (And if you don’t, don’t stress it. One of the most attractive men I’ve ever met had alopecia and was bald from head to toe. It’s all in how you rock it.) You don’t have to have it cut all the way back to the length you’re trying to grow out from, just enough to get any split ends and damage off, and to give it a cohesive shape. That goes for beards, too–even the Duck Dynasty guys didn’t look that raggedy until they were getting paid a lot of money to do so. You don’t have to be clean-shaven, but please, trim it up. If you dye your hair, make sure your roots are touched up. Nothing says “my hair color is fake” more strongly than having your natural color showing through at the roots, particularly if your natural color is much darker or lighter than the one you’re currently wearing.

3. Make sure your shoes don’t look dingy and that you’re not wearing inappropriate socks with them. White socks only go with sneakers. Sandals don’t get socks at all, EVER. Different types of shoes take different types of cleaning products, so read the labels. Also, if your shoes have laces, make sure the laces aren’t dirty. New shoelaces aren’t that expensive, and that’s the best route to go with leather or suede laces, but if you want to get any other shoelaces clean, soaking them in a solution of water and oxygen detergent (Oxiclean or one of its equivalents) works well.

4. Clean up your eyebrows. (Yes, I mean everybody. This isn’t just a woman thing.) You don’t have to go old-Hollywood drawn-on thin, but the Frida Kahlo look doesn’t look good on anyone. If it’s not something you’re accustomed to doing, it might not be a bad idea to get it professionally done the first time, and then just pluck the strays as they come up. You may find, as I have, that since having them professionally waxed is so much faster and easier, you prefer to go to someone to have them done. Just make sure you keep them maintained, even if all you do is keep them divided into two where they’re inclined to run together.

5. Take care of your skin. Use a cleanser and moisturizer that are appropriate to your skin type. If you wear makeup, it’s important not to sleep in it, because it blocks your pores. If you want to wear makeup but have mildly sensitive skin, you can get a quality foundation that won’t irritate from Clinique (in a department store) or Almay (in a drug store). If your skin is more sensitive than that, you should probably consult a dermatologist before wearing foundation, to rule out any skin condition causing the sensitivity. Also, make sure you’re replacing your makeup regularly. I talked about it here, but it’s important enough to be worth saying again. Use an eye cream, even if your skin isn’t that dry, because it’s the first place that wrinkles, and I know people whose eyelid lifts have been medically necessary, because the degree of wrinkling and sagging actually affected their vision. But if you do nothing else for your skin, wear sunscreen. Always. Sunscreen is non-negotiable, because aside from the wrinkling and discolorations that sun damage causes, skin cancer is no joke. Telling yourself that you don’t need sunscreen because you’re too dark to burn easily is dangerous, because so was Bob Marley, and melanoma (a form of skin cancer linked to sun exposure) is what killed him.

6. Keep a detergent pen in your bag, your pocket, or your car. (Spot remover, not bleach!) Accidents happen, and the last thing you want is to be walking into an important meeting with a Taco Bell drip on your tie.

7. Watch how you smell. You don’t have to wear fragrance, but make sure that your breath is fresh and that you’re wearing deodorant. Also, if you do wear fragrance, be very careful of how much you wear. A person who’s not close enough to touch you shouldn’t be able to smell you. For most scents on most skin, 2-3 sprays is plenty. If you find it’s wearing off before the end of the day, reapply, wear it over an unscented lotion, or wear it on your clothes rather than your skin. Don’t put on more in the morning thinking it’ll make it last longer. It won’t, and you’ll risk bothering those around you, particularly if you’re around people with asthma or allergies.

8. Labels are OK; big logos are bad. I can’t stress this enough. Companies pay good money for advertising. You shouldn’t pay them for the privilege of advertising their product. Part of pulling off the “I’m successful enough to afford expensive things” is “I’m successful enough to afford quality and confident enough in myself that I don’t have to shout it to everyone.” Conspicuous logos make it look like you’re trying too hard. Don’t be a billboard.

These little things make a world of difference in how you’re perceived. No matter how well you dress, it’s all in the details.


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