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Attire: Belts or Suspenders

After a brief pause in writing, due to midterms, we’re back!

So, you’re suited up, looking sharp for a day at work, or a night on the town: but how to keep those pants up? A belt or suspenders? Good question, and the answer depends on a variety of factors, such as the event type, time, attire, and  your general style.

First a few quick notes:

  1. A belt and suspenders should never be worn at the same time. There’s an old saying: “he’s a belt and suspenders kind of guy.”  Meaning, a man is so paranoid that his belt will fail, that he wears suspenders, just in case. It speaks of a man who refuses to take risks, for fear of embarrassment or exposure. It’s not a flattering metaphor, and an image you want to avoid.
  2. A lawyer once told me that if you’re going to wear suspenders, don’t do so with pants that have belt loops. The loops draw an observer’s eye, and it is more obvious that you’re not wearing a belt. So, if you’re going to do suspenders, have a tailor remove the belt loops. This isn’t true at all times: for instance, if you’re not going to take off your jacket, no one will see belt loops. However, if you’re going to make suspenders a regular part of your suit, you may want to remove those loops.
  3. No matter which you choose, belt or suspenders, make sure they match. Make sure your belt matches your shoes. With suspenders, make sure the leather ends (where they attach to your pants), match your shoes. Also, with suspenders, make sure the color matches your tie, shirt, or other color you’re wearing.

Now, which to wear? Generally for professional events (work, interview, career-related cocktail party or networking function), I would suggest a belt. Unless you’re over 40 years old, suspenders may look out of place. The belt is more appropriate for these types of events. That being said, if you’ve got the suit for it, and the sense of style – do it! I’m all for bringing back suspenders.

But suspenders can be worn in other places. When attending events where you can play with fashion, rock those suspenders, if you so wish: weddings, formal or semi-formal social events. Not only that, as you can see in some of these photos, suspenders can be worn in casual attire as well, for the truly dapper look (or Larry King – if that’s you’re style).

There are two types of suspenders: formal and working. Formal suspenders have button holes and attach to buttons inside your pants. Formal suspenders will need pants with suspender buttons (which can be sewn in by a tailor). These suspenders are appropriate for formal or professional wear. The ends of formal suspenders are shaped like a “Y” and made of leather (that should match your shoes, as previously mentioned). Working suspenders have clips (or alligator claws), which can be attached to the waistband of your pants. Working suspenders are appropriate for semi-formal or casual wear.

No matter how you decide to wear them, I say wear them with pride! Suspenders are a dapper, fashion forward accessory that I wish were more common. Help me out guys, and bring them back!

Considerations for Transmen

One downside for transmen with suspenders: if you haven’t had top surgery, suspenders may accentuate your chest. If that is a concern for you, I suggest sticking to belts for now. Also, suspenders come in a variety of colors and patterns. If you don’t want to accentuate your chest, stick to solid colors; patterns will draw attention and highlight any swell in your chest. Lastly, if you’re not very broad in the shoulders, make sure to get thinner suspenders, as opposed to the thicker width.

Thanks for reading everyone! Now that midterms are over, I’ll be posting more often. And please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Cheers – Mason

Attire: Business Casual

What is business casual? This always is what people are supposed to wear when I go anywhere to give a speech, and I am always overdressed when my gay friend pulls me aside and fixes my outfit. (Thank the lord for him.) But one day I hope to graduate to dressing myself for events where I am to wear business casual things.  I would love to just be able to have one outfit and stick with that, but I am soon going to be speaking two, three times a week, and I don’t think one outfit will cut it. So anything you’ve got on business casual would be much appreciated!

Ah, the mysteries of business casual. Unfortunately, this question can only be answered with an unsatisfying “it depends.” But not all hope is lost, I do have some guidance for you!

Generally, business casual is code for “not a suit, but still look professional.” This can apply to a myriad of situations: professional settings, academic events, social gatherings, etc. How you approach business casual will depend on the situation, as well as your personal knowledge of the people involved.

Professional Business Casual

If it is a professional function (interview, career fair, first day on the job, etc) and I am told to dress business casual, I typically go for the basics: nicely ironed slacks (make sure to get the crease in those), button up shirt (also ironed), tie, and dressier, business-like shoes, with a belt to match. Try not to go too flashy with the tie or shoe selection: the point is not to make a fashion statement, but to be comfortable as well as professional. Depending on your own knowledge of the situation, you can opt to lose the tie. Frequently, if it’s appropriate, I will wear a tie my first day, but, if it looks like no one else does, I will ditch it after the first day or week. Remember: for professional situations, it’s better to be a little over dressed than a little under-dressed.

A helpful tip for a new job: if you have an interview first (typically NOT business casual), take a look around during your interview. Are the other employees wearing a slacks and ties, or going with a more casual polo? Make a note of this during your interview, that way, when you get the job (not if, but when), you can pattern your attire according to what you saw, and not feel more nervous than necessary on your first day. Of course this doesn’t work for every situation, but it can be helpful.

There is an even more casual version of “business casual:” personally, I call it “polo casual.” I had a job several years ago, that fell into this category. The basics for this type of attire are slacks with a tucked in polo shirt, and some kind of leather shoe (avoid sneakers or sandals). I would never assume this kind of attire was appropriate, unless I saw other employees wearing it first. However, I did want to make note of it, in case you’re in this kind of situation.

Academic and Social Business Casual 

For the non-professional, but still important, academic or social events, it can be a mixed bag. As a frequent guest lecturer for college classes, I opt for a bit more laid back business casual. Typically, I wear slacks, dress shoes and belt with a button up shirt (top button unbuttoned), and no tie. If it’s cold out, I grab a sports coat on my way out (or tweed jacket, for the real academic look). However, there are some instances where this would be entirely too formal, even for the professor. In those cases, I go with nice jeans, dress shoes, belt and a button up. Not exactly business casual, but more of, what I call, “academic casual.” Gauge whether to go academic casual or business casual on the person hosting the academic event (professor, administrator, moderator, etc). If you know them personally, you may want to ask or send an email saying “what would be appropriate for me to wear?” It’s a pretty common question, so you’re not totally out of line.

For social events (dinners, cocktail mixers, that sort of thing), you can go for a bit more personalized business casual. In these situations I would opt for slacks, dress shoes, belt to match, button up and tie with a sports coat. Unlike the professional business casual, you can chose a more stylized tie: something still tasteful (so no Garfield or other cartoon character tie), with a bit more color, texture or style.

Considerations for Transmen

Depending on where we are in our transitions, the slacks with a tucked in shirt can make us look pretty “hippy” (not from the 60’s, I’m talking about accentuating the hips). If you’re buying slacks for the first time, wear a button up shirt to the store, so you can see how it looks. You don’t want to go too straight leg on the slacks, because that will over accentuate your hips. Go for something more baggy, but still appropriate for business casual, to stay away from the hippy look.

As for button up shirts, if you haven’t had top surgery yet, and you’re bigger in the chest area, button up shirts can be a problem in the chest, with some bulging in the buttons. Try to find a shirt that fits well in the chest, and, if it’s too big everywhere else, take it to a tailor to have it sized to your body. I’m be doing a post a little later about finding a good tailor.

Also, specifically to my dear Anon: keep your fashion forward gay male friends around. If you have the time and money, and they’re Trans-friendly, take them shopping with you! Their advice can be extremely helpful.

Well, Anon, I hope this helps! Good luck!

Cheers – Mason

Attire: Weddings

I’m going to two weddings in September. I haven’t been to a wedding since I was 12. What are you even supposed to wear? I mean, I have shirts and trousers and ties, but am I going to look like a barbarian if I don’t tuck in my shirt, or if i roll up my sleeves, or wear my Converse?

I’ve encountered this problem many times myself, so I wanted to take a quick moment to address it.

There are different types of weddings: summer, winter, afternoon, evening, indoor, outdoor, etc. What you wear will depend on the type of wedding you are attending. Look at the invitation: some invitations will tell you what to wear (“formal attire,” “coat and tie,” etc.). If there is nothing on the invitation, then consider the location, time of day, season, etc.

For an daytime, formal wedding, a suit and tie is best. Go with a suit in a neutral color (black, blue, grey or brown).

For a daytime, informal wedding, a collared shirt, tie and slacks are best. I would definitely tuck the shirt in and keep the sleeves rolled down (unless its unbearably hot and outdoors, in which case, roll them up). If it may be cold, consider adding a sports coat.

For an evening formal wedding (and the invitation would say formal for this), you should either wear a suit or tux. This is pretty rare these days, but not unheard of.

And lastly, the evening informal wedding, go with the same rules for the daytime formal wedding: suit in a neutral color.

A few other notes: if you’re totally lost, consider calling the Maid of Honor, Mother of the Bride, Best Man or someone else in the wedding party for some guidance. Also, ask other people going to the wedding if they are dressing formally or informally. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions.

Take your cues from other people at the wedding: if other guys at the wedding are rolling up their sleeves, it may be OK for you to do the same. If other guys aren’t wearing sports coats, ditch your own. Also, take your cues from knowing the bride or groom: would they be the type to be OK with you wearing Converse? Are they laid back, formal, or somewhere in-between. Generally, I would advise to leave the Converse in the car (grab them later for dancing maybe), in favor of some more formal shoes. But, if the bride and groom seem like the type to be good with the Converse, than why not? Again, you may want to ask someone in the wedding party or another guest attending the wedding, before making this decision.

Here is a quick guide on general wedding etiquette as well, in case you need more information: http://styledforsuccess.com/2008/05/wedding-etiquette-tips/

Considerations for Transmen

Well, of course this all depends on where you are at in your journey. If you’re just starting your transition, chances are you don’t own a suit. If you haven’t started T, but plan to, chances are you’re going to grow, and anything you buy now won’t fit later on. If you’re further along in your transition, maybe you do own a suit. Nevertheless, here are a few tips and considerations:

  • Thrift Stores: If you’re looking for a quick blazer, try looking at your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other thrift stores. Sure, it won’t be the most fashionable, and maybe not a perfect fit, but it’s better than nothing. Also, if you haven’t started T, but plan to, it’s better to save money now, and get things cheap, knowing you will likely grow out of them once you start T.
  • Friends: Do you have any guy friends that you can borrow a jacket from? Try to think of a guy that is a little bigger than you, because it’s better to have something a little to big than too small.
  • Family: If you’re out to your family (and not all of us are) think about asking them for some hand-me-downs or borrowing. A brother or father may have something helpful.

The point is, you don’t have to break the bank to have something to wear to a wedding. I’ll be posting later on suits and tailors, so stay turned for that.

Best of Luck!

Cheers – Mason

Attire: Argyle

I’m not ashamed to say it: I love argyle. Socks, sweaters, sweater vests, and any other form I can get it in. I’ve even considered getting an argyle tattoo on my leg. Yes, my love runs that deep.

There is something so masculine, classic and classy about argyle. Sure, some may call it “geeky,” or even “outdated.” With all due respect, I scoff in the face of these comments. It’s not geeky; argyle is “geek chic.” And “outdated?” Please – argyle is timeless.

A Brief History of Argyle

With such a love, I couldn’t resist looking into the history of argyle. As I knew, argyle came from the Argyll region of Scotland (located in western Scotland). The pattern was derived from the tartan of Clan Campbell, who lived in the Argyll region. But how did they come up with the pattern? There are many theories. One of these theories is that the clan would cut portions of their tartans to make leg coverings, and these cuts would create a diamond pattern, which translated into the argyle we know and love today. (Side note: I will be doing a future post on kilts, and traditional Scottish attire, so stay tuned for that). Argyle first came into fashion when Sir Walter Scott, author and poet, wrote about the region and the pattern in many of his works.

Wearing Argyle

As much as it pains me to write this…everything in moderation, including argyle. Sporting argyle socks, with plaid shorts, and an argyle sweater vest? Probably not the best fashion decision. Personally, my favorite use or argyle is in sweaters and sweater vests. But, if you’re sporting the vest, leave the socks in the drawer. But, if you’re wearing a suit, you can add some argyle socks to the ensemble.

Classy, classic, and oh so good. Of course, argyle isn’t only for the gentleman. This classic pattern is popping up in women’s fashion as well. And count on Rachel from Glee is bring this up:

Considerations for Transmen

Because of the geometric pattern that is argyle, you do need to be careful wearing it on a shirt. If you haven’t had top surgery, and even the faint hint of breasts makes you feel embarrassed, beware: argyle can accentuate small bumps on your chest. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of geometric designs. Also, if the shirt is an all over argyle design, it can make you seem even more curvy in the hip area.

That being said, give argyle a chance! Start small, maybe with some classic argyle socks. From there, work up to the sweaters, vests, and other forms!

Good luck and enjoy!

Cheers – Mason

Attire: Cufflinks

I do enjoy masculine accessories. And there is nothing more versatile in the arsenal of men’s accessories than the cufflink. You can go fun and funky, chic and stylish, classic and conservative, and so much more. So, a few things I’ve learned about cufflinks…

  •  Choose the right link: It’s probably not a good idea to wear your 1950’s pinup girl cufflinks to an interview. Of course, for a more relaxed event, go with something fun. Not sure what “fun” cufflinks are? Here are some great examples:
  • Wear them properly: I’ve seen some of my colleagues wearing their cufflinks in the wrong direction. Cufflinks are meant to be seen! They should face up and out, like so:
  • Express yourself: There are some great cufflinks out there that are more conservative (interview or court appropriate) but still show some flare: school mascots, silver Darth Vader heads, etc. Cufflinks are fun conversation starters, so take a risk every now and then!
  • Match your links: If your belt has a silver buckle, make sure you’re wearing silver links. It may seem small, but it makes a difference.

Considerations for Transmen

Some cufflinks are rather bulky, and can make your hands seem smaller. This is true for all men. However, you want to make sure that your cufflinks are not so oversized that it makes you seem smaller than you are.

Also, cufflinks are heavier than average buttons. I know I, and other transmen I’ve spoken to, have trouble finding shirts with appropriately sized sleeves. Often, if the shirt fits me well in the chest and hips, the sleeves tend to me too long. On average shirts, that’s fine, I can just push the sleeves up with no problems. However, with heavy cufflinks, your sleeves will be pulled down to their full length, which may be too long. Lesson: make sure your shirts are well tailored and fit properly (particularly in the sleeves) before you sport the ‘links.

Good luck and enjoy!

Cheers – Mason

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