If you think women’s style over 40 is complicated, take a look at recent changes in acceptable professional attire for your guy.  Chances are, your husband needs a little help navigating a more current look, although he probably won’t be asking for it anytime soon.

The subject of clothing has been a prickly one in our marriage.  Within our first year, I may or may not have thrown out 3 large trash bags of my husband’s clothing while he was gone on a business trip.  I’ve been working on recovering his trust ever since.

Starting a conversation about style updates with your guy can quickly lead to fighting words, so here’s a guide to help you navigate the turbulent waters ahead.  Learn from my mistakes and include him in the process.  Thank me later.

In a recent article titled “Wall Street’s new dress code raises question:  What to wear?” CNBC sited dress code changes in two of the most conservative financial firms, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase.  These companies are attempting to update their stodgy reputations in hopes of attracting younger employees and clients who find suit and tie restrictive and prefer to emulate the casual look of tech CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg.

If your husband is a bit flummoxed by all these changes, take a look at the categories listed below and approach the topic of an updated wardrobe from a new perspective.  He’s not pretending to be younger or more trendy, but simply aiming to look and feel his best.  Some basic wardrobe updates can result in improved confidence and even better performance in his chosen business and leisure pursuits.

Current Measurements

From my brief stint in the retail world, I learned that guys are characteristically optimistic about their current measurements.  If it’s been more than 6 months since your man has had measurements taken, see if he’ll buy into letting you measure him  at home or if he’s game to visit a good tailor.

Here are the measurements he’ll need:

  • Collar circumference
  • Cuff circumference
  • Chest
  • Waist/belt
  • Inseam

Unlike women’s fashions that are grouped by standard sizes, men’s clothing is based on the above number combinations.  There’s a pretty good chance his numbers have changed, either up or down, since his last shopping trip.

Work Wear

If your guy wears a uniform every day you can skip this step.  For the rest of our guys, this category is often the most challenging.  “Business Casual” is the norm, although the definition of that term varies widely by environment.

Most people agree that jacket and tie isn’t appropriate for business casual, but neither are jeans and sneakers.  The middle ground seems to be a solid or print button down collared shirt with slacks and loafers.  If he’s a dedicated fan of a certain brand, as many men are, encourage him to explore something other than khaki pants and golf shirts in the line he already likes.

Jeans day or casual day needs its own outfit as well.  Encourage jeans in a dark blue or black with as fitted a cut as flatters and is comfortable.  In other words, no stone washed bell-bottoms.

No matter what his profession, he’ll need two suits at a minimum.  There’s nothing worse than having an unexpected presentation or funeral and realizing he’s “grown out” of his trusty dress pants.  Encourage your guy to take advantage of the next suit sale and stock up on 2 suits that really flatter him, complete with 2-3 ties per suit. 

Leisure Wear

Although I’m a big Cary Grant fan, gone are the days when the average man wore a fedora and pocket kerchief to Sunday church.  But just because the standards for dress have become relaxed doesn’t mean your guy needs to look sloppy. 

Ask if he’ll reserve his holey t-shirts for watching his favorite game on the couch.   A mix of 5-7 golf shirts or t-shirts without advertisements should take him far and can mix and match with some flat-front khaki pants, shorts or jeans.

When it comes to foot ware for leisure, your guy has hit the jackpot.  There have never been more choices- from boat shoes to dressier athletic options.  These are not his lawn mowing or gym shoes, but something to wear for both comfort and style.

Dos and Don’ts

Part of writing this post was interviewing my authority for all things men’s fashion, my husband.  He quickly came up with some do’s and don’ts for men’s wear.

Do

  • Buy an undershirt long enough to tuck into your pants without fear of riding up under your shirt during the day.
  • Choose clothing that retains its form and color over time.
  • Eliminate any clothing with holes or stains.
  • Opt for a more fitted look and crisp colors (versus faded).
  • Invest in good collar stays to avoid curling in dress shirt collars.

Don’t

  • Purchase dress pants with elastic in the waist.
  • Buy pants with front pleats, ever.
  • Wear sweater vests.
  • Keep an undershirt that looks stretched or gray.
  • Wear short sleeves to a formal event.
  • Be seen any pants that give you “ab flaps” from a front, side or rear view.

Ultimately, we love our guys just as they are and the ball is in their court when it comes to refreshing their style.  But with just a little encouragement and direction, you can open up the conversation with your man and keep him from getting passed over in the fashion game.