6 Genius Old School Style and Grooming Secrets You’re Not Using

Some of the best style solutions have been here for 50+ years.
5 genius old school style and grooming secrets you're not using

Thanks to KK&Jay for partnering with us on this post to give Primer readers 20% off their order of shirttail garters or suspenders with code PRIMER

There's a lot about men's styling and fashion that are, well – old-fashioned. And that's a good thing. Because sometimes, the old ways really are the best ways.

Here are 5 time-tested fashion and grooming secrets that generations of gentlemen have relied on to stay dapper:

1. Shirttail Garters

I can think of no bigger pet peeve in men's fashion than the difficulty of keeping your shirt tucked in.

No matter how put together you are when you leave your house, it all seems to gets ruined as soon as you step out of your car. Or lift your arm to shake hands. Or…breathe. And I know I'm not alone on this – nobody likes a shirt billowing out from the waist. This is especially frustrating when we're taking so much care to look trim and sharp in today's more fit-conscious world.

billowy shirt tuck

The solution, you may be surprised to hear, is a secret that's been around for long time. It's called a shirttail garter, otherwise known as a shirt stay, which are basically a pair of straps worn under the pants that firmly hold your shirt in place by attaching the ends of your shirt to your socks or a strap below your knee.

For those who might be skeptical about wearing something like this, rest assured that dapper gentlemen have relied on shirttail garters for decades; a long-standing secret that has also been helping military and law enforcement professionals maintain their neat appearance. And they're every bit as functional and sensible as a belt – except instead of helping keep your pants up, shirttail garters keep your shirt tucked in.

You've likely seen them on guys in older movies and had no idea what those things attached to his socks were. 

how shirt garters work

Ever wonder how some gentlemen always have the perfect tuck, no matter how much they move? KK&Jay shirttail garters in Washington Navy.

KK & Jay Supply makes shirttail garters from a plush cotton blend that doesn't irritate the skin like the cheap poly elastic material that generic shirt stays are made from. Even the fabric tabs are designed with comfort in mind and are more secure than other brands without pinching the skin.

These also feature a leather stabilizer that not only looks good, but prevents the straps from uncomfortably twisting and turning. KK & Jay also offers a wide selection of gentlemanly patterns that you can be proud to show off to that special someone who gets to see you without your britches on. They're hand made in the USA and shipped within 24 hours with $5 flat shipping. Free, no-hassle returns within 30 days. Use code PRIMER for a special Primer 20% off discount offer.

Click here to check them out!

2. Hair Tonic

Why is it that your best hair moments seem to happen right before it's time for your next shower? One word: oil.

Specifically, I'm talking about the oils produced through your scalp, which are necessary to keep your hair naturally conditioned, soft and healthy. The problem is, we're stripping our hair of these oils everyday in the shower.

Sure, there are all sorts of hair gels, sprays, creams, and other such styling products out there to help you manage your coiffe, but many of them contain unnatural ingredients and neglect to nourish your hair. We also happen to be living in very pro-beard times, so you may have noticed a lot of beard oils hitting the market recently meant to soften and add natural shine and texture back to the hair.  Why shouldn't the hair on our heads deserve the same care and attention? Natural hair oil products have been used by generations of men as a way to rescue dry, brittle locks, to tame unruliness and frizz, all while giving you back that healthy sheen.

You know how if you shower and don't put anything in your hair, by the end of the day your hair gains a thickness and shine that allows you to style it without products? That's what hair tonic simulates. Best of all, tonics don't add all the weight heavy pomades and gels add.

One of the oldest of the old school is Vitalis, shown above. Clubman, the French brand that's been making barbering and grooming products forever also has an option.

John Masters Organics Dry Hair Nourishment & Defrizzer

Heals damaged hair and controls frizz with squalene (extracted from olives) as well as Helio-carrot extract which contains essential fatty acids, beta carotene, and restorative vitamins A, C, and E. Jojoba and Evening Primrose oils moisturize your hair, giving it that natural shine.

Pick up a bottle of Vitalis on Amazon

3. Dry Shampoo

What do you do if your hair is TOO oily? A little sheen is good, but I'm talking about when it gets so greasy that it becomes heavy, lifeless, and kind of gross – maybe even smelly. If you're rushing out the door and don't have time for a shower, dry shampoo is the answer.

The starches in dry shampoo – which you'll usually find as a powder or spray – soak up the excess grease in your hair, leaving it fresher and more matte, while restoring volume and life to your hair.

Check out Dry Hair Shampoo for Men by the Well Groomed Guy:

This is a well-reviewed natural dry scalp shampoo made from kaolin clay, rice powder, horsetail powder and even includes eucalyptus essential oil, which adds a nice subtle scent. Apply just a small amount to your palms and gently work into the roots of your hair. Finish by combing or brushing, which will also get rid of any excess powder. Boom – a clean, freshly showered look (and smell), sans shower.

4. Styptic Pen

Ever nick yourself shaving? Isn't it crazy how it takes forever to stop bleeding? Stop tearing off tiny bits of toilet paper for your face. There's a better way – the styptic pen.

A styptic pen (or pencil) is a medicated stick that seals small cuts in the skin. Back in the day, before modern safety razors, styptic pens came standard in shaving kits. The “pen” is simply an applicator, while the active ingredient is a styptic, also known as a local antihemorrhagic agent, often made from aluminum sulfate which acts as an astringent that constricts blood flow at the site of the nick.

You may have seen your grandfather use an “alum” bar, which is solid block of the aluminum sulfate – but he wasn't the first. Potassium alum was used 4,000 years ago by the ancient Egyptians and is still used in barber shops today.

I keep this styptic pen from Clubman Pinaud in my medicine cabinet and I love it. Just moisten the tip and dab it onto the affected area – it stops the bleeding almost immediately, and helps prevent infection.

Order a Clubman Styptic pencil from Amazon

5. Overshoes

Imagine it's winter. Snow. Sleet. Slush. But you're heading somewhere in dress shoes – either because that's what you have to wear to the office, or because an event like a wedding demands it.

So how do you A) Not risk killing yourself from slipping in your zero traction, leather-bottomed Allen Edmonds, and B) Not risk killing your Allen Edmonds from trudging through all the precipitation?

The answer dates back generations: Overshoes. I bet you'll remember your dad or grandfather wearing them. Usually made from black rubber or PVC fabric, overshoes snugly slip onto the shoe you're already wearing, maintaining its dressy silhouette while protecting your finest oxfords from rain, mud, snow, and salt.

Overshoes also have the added benefit of providing increased traction. If you're worried about looks, a good sleek pair of overshoes can be surprisingly inconspicuous, especially if you're wearing black shoes. Try keeping a pair of these handy rather than hauling your clunky weather boots to the office (which, let's face it, will undo everything you're trying to say with your suit).

Overshoe etiquette is similar to an umbrella: You use them to keep you dry while you're en route to where you're going, and then you stash them at the door once you arrive.

Tingley overshoes are made from a high-stretch natural rubber, easy to put on and take off. The treads on the bottom are designed for traction on slippery surfaces, while giving you 100% waterproof protection.

saphir renovateur

Watch Primer's guide to restoring a pair of Wolverine 1000 Mile Boots with Saphir Renovateur

6. Shoe Cream

Alright, what if you have a nice pair of leather shoes that have already been exposed to the elements? (So you were a little too late to the overshoes party – that's ok.)

Shoe creams have been a time-tested way to revive old, damaged leather – or to break in stiff, tougher leathers. We talked about the importance of keeping your hair conditioned – well, your quality calfskin boots should be no different! A good shoe cream will not only soften and condition, it can also remove light scratch marks, restore color, add shine, and protect the shoe from further water and salt damage.


Check out this video in which Primer founder Andrew shows us his step-by-step process of reconditioning his old pair of Wolverine 1000 Mile boots using the popular and effective French leather “Renovateur” by Saphir.

This best-selling pigment-free leather moisturizer is made from mink oil, famous for its leather rejuvenating properties. Use it by itself, or work it in as a base for any polishing regime you already have for all your prized leathers.

Thanks to KK&Jay for partnering with us and giving Primer readers 20% off their order of shirttail garters or suspenders, all of which are made in New York! Use code PRIMER at checkout.

Do you have an old school product you love or remember? Share it in the comments!

In addition to being an avid Primer reader, Pyung Kim is a Los-Angeles based writer / filmmaker who firmly believes that clothes and fit make the man.

  • Zac Silk

    Great article Pyung, It’s great to see some little used style techniques being bought to the fore.

    I normally extend this to style as well. Case in point my new leather jacket. As most people would go for black, navy automatically makes it stand out. I’m always on the hunt for clothes that are classic but people may not be wearing as much. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b677553ed0a0f2459e97217a062bf6da0227f5335ad46c6f49dce3b0e2834de2.jpg

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      Looks badass!!!

      • Zac Silk

        Thanks Andrew! Should do me for a decade or so 😉

  • Toro

    Holy crap, how am I just learning of shirt garters *now*?

    dress shirts coming undone has been the bane of my existence

    • rogun

      I’m 50 and learned most of what I know from my father, who was ex-military and a very dapper dresser. Still, I’d never heard of shirt tail garters until just a few years ago. I’m sure I saw some when I was younger and just thought it was something old men wore.

  • Ben

    Excellent advice on all fronts. I have tried shirt stays and just don’t like the feel of them running up my legs BUT I am a convert to sock garters and haven’t looked back. I no longer have “slouchy socks” bunching above my shoes and it’s wonderful.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      Have you tried the garters that attach to the top of your socks? Double win!

      • Ben

        Andrew, I’m so glad that you asked! That’s the only kind that I have ever tried and the one day that I wore them to work I went to sit down for an important meeting with the CEO of our company and “SNAP!”, up my leg one flew. It connected a little too close to the goods for my liking and I gave them up the next day hahahaha.

        • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

          haha! Then you might like the ones that I’m wearing in the photos in the article, which are the sockless garters.

          • Baron Kanter

            3 questions: first, do you prefer the sockless variety?
            Second, do the garters have any stretch to them so that you don’t feel like you are being strangled when you sit down.
            Third: Have you worn these with your Mizzen and Main shirts? Thank you

  • TJ

    I’ve also seen magnetic shirt stays that are supposed to be good but maybe I’ll try the old school ones. My girlfriend likes it when I “dress up” (i.e dress shirts and and trousers) for work every day as opposed to what I use to wear (chinos and casual button downs). I think she would like these too.

    Styptic pencils are the best. I use one whenever I cut myself shaving and it works wonders. Be warned, it does sting a bit.

    • Noah C.

      The sting lets you know it’s working!

      • TJ

        Agreed!

  • Eric L.

    Shirt garters!! Must have!!

    Also, I can personally vouch for the septic pencil/bar. My neck seems to always get nicks and bleeds, the septic bar works awesome.

  • SuperG

    A timely article – same as Toro above…trying to solve the issue of the shirt becoming untucked while at work.

    Also, those are some awesome blue dress pants. Any tips on where to find a similar pair (not to copy per se, but they are indeed very cool 😉 )?

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      I love them! They’re a part of my suit from SuitSupply, the blue havana check.

      • SuperG

        Thanks so much for the quick reply! SuitSupply has some great looking options.

  • Alton Smith

    Great post! One old school tradition I wish would be revived is wearing of neckties.