Six No-no’s for a Suited Man

You're finally at a place in life where you need to wear a suit somewhere other than a relative's wedding, so wear it right and avoid these six fashion faux pas that turn you from stylish to childish.

Okay, gents, I'll make this quick. Here are six things that men should not be doing while wearing a suit. I see these violations WAY too often as I walk the streets of this city. I'm going to identify these things, as well as some alternatives in an attempt to save these men from themselves.

1. White athletic socks with dress shoes

This is a no-brainer. It may have been acceptable when you were five years old going to a Sunday morning church service, but even that was pushing it. Figure out if you're a solid or a stripe/pattern type guy, buy a couple decent pairs of dress socks, and call it a day.

2. White T-shirts or A-shirts (“wife beaters”) under light-colored dress shirts

Let's assume you're a sweaty dude who wears undershirts because you worry about sweating through your button-up. Your best bet is a heather gray v-neck shirt. A close runner-up would be a heather gray a-shirt. Why? Both options are closer to your natural skin tone, and won't show as clearly through a white or light-colored dress shirt… Basically, gray blends better with your skin, whereas white stands out, even underneath.

V-necks are better than the standard crewneck in case you plan on loosening your tie and unbuttoning that top button. You don't want the ribbed collar of your crewneck poking through; that just screams “sloppy”.

Make sure to buy undershirts that are fitted and form to your body so you don't have excess fabric bunching and billowing when you tuck in your dress shirt.

3. Silver-tipped, western-themed belts

Do I even have to explain why this is a no no? Unless you're in a rodeo runway show on a cattle ranch in Montana (…what?), stick with a simple, unadorned belt with a basic buckle for suiting and trousers. Keep it classic and you won't run the risk of looking hokey, costumey, or dated.

4. Sporty sunglasses

Stop it! Oakley and Arnette sunglasses are designed for participation in an active sport, not for going to work. Sticking with aviators or a pair of Wayfarers are your best choices. You may have to try on a couple pairs to find the best fit for your face, and if you're absolutely lost, ask for assistance from a (knowledgeable) salesperson to find out which frame fits your face.

Alternatively, read up and figure it out yourself.

5. Backpacks

Gents, I understand you have things to carry during your daily commute. Do yourself a favor and rethink what you use to tote your stuff. Nothing looks sillier than a man in a suit schlepping around a Jansport with 12 pockets. You're not a schoolboy, nor are you on a weekend hike.

If you must sling something over your shoulders, at least get a decent messenger bag. It's more professional, with the same amount of functionality as your old backpack. Many models have multiple compartments to store your laptop, notebooks, pens, and everything else you'll need… but unlike a backpack, a leather messenger does so in a grown-up way.

6. Riding a Razor

It is NOT okay to be “commuting” on your Razor scooters. I don't care if the bus stop is twelve blocks away from your office. You are an adult, and you look like you just conned a 5-year-old at the local playground. WALK.

Gents, please do everything you can to avoid the aforementioned violations, and instead, explore the more adult alternatives I've suggested. Attention to detail matters, and staying away from these no-no's is a step in the right direction.


Barron Cuadro runs The Effortless Gent, a site dedicated to better equipping the everyday man by helping him find his own personal style. You can find him on Twitter @effortlessgent, Facebook, and at He lives in San Francisco.


  • […] We’ve been absent for a while (on vacation in Oahu) but we’re back! And today our new article came out in Primer Magazine, titled Six No-No’s for a Suited Man. […]

  • Reply May 17, 2010


    Re: white tshirts. Agreed, but your advice across the site is inconsistent:

  • Reply May 17, 2010


    Hi Jeff, today we’re talking specifically about under light colored dress shirts. As in the other article you linked to, there is nothing wrong with white crew shirts or A shirts as long as you’re not wearing a dress shirt light enough that you can see them.

  • Reply May 17, 2010


    Hi Jeff,

    Like Andrew said, nothing wrong with white crew necks, I just meant to stay away from them underneath a dress shirt, in case you want to loosen that tie and unbutton that top button… not to mention it looks tacky when clearly visible underneath.

    Thanks for your comment.
    .-= Barron´s last blog ..New on Primer: Six No-No’s for a Suited Man =-.

  • Reply May 21, 2010

    Les Bryant

    I do not agree with the white crew neck advice. I am black, I work out and have a 44′ chest and I do glissen (like a whore in church). I’ve tried the grey undershirts and I just do not like the look. Going without is out of the question for me and should be for everyone I believe. No one needs to see your nips when you remove your jacket.
    Also, I don’t get your rationale. If you are in a suit and it is appropriate for where you are and what you are doing, why are you getting undressed enough for anyone to see the top of your crew neck? We can agree to disagree but, I dont believe it looks tacky to see a crewneck undershirt underneath and as well, a v-neck is not for a dress shirt. I believe it tacky to see your bare skin or a v-neck through your shirt. -especially if the shirt is buttoned up and you can see the v-neck. Also, undershirts serve and important role in protecting your shirts. Deodorants and antiperspirants do not care if you are wearing a $20.00 shirt or a $120.00 shirt, they will ruin them.

  • Reply May 21, 2010


    Hey Les,

    Thanks for the comment. We’re not saying “don’t wear a crew neck tshirt.” The point is to not wear a WHITE crew neck tshirt under light colored dress shirts. You want to minimize the ability to see the undershirt through the light colored dress shirt. As Barron suggests, wearing gray lessens the ability to see the tshirt lines.

    If you know you’re going to be somewhere with your collar open that’s when you should opt for the v neck. V necks are absolutely for dress shirts, the v exists so no undershirt is seen if a gent unbuttons his top button.

    Perhaps it’s to taste like you say.
    .-= Andrew´s last blog ..5 Easy Time Management Tips to Help College Grads Transition to the Work Force =-.

  • Reply May 23, 2010



    The white crew neck underneath the button-up reminds me of post-college frat boys dressing for their first real jobs and never learned how to properly put an outfit together.

    Undershirts are meant to be unseen, and naturally, if it gets hot, or if your tie is too tight and you want to loosen it up and unbutton that top button, your crew neck pops out. Thus I suggested the v-neck. If you’re not a v-neck man, no worries. Ultimately, personal style (and choice of underwear) is really up to oneself, and these are just suggestions to point people in the right direction.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.
    .-= Barron´s last blog ..New on Primer: Six No-No’s for a Suited Man =-.

  • Reply May 24, 2010


    Hey Barron,

    I often hit the gym after work and that necessitates me carrying my work out clothes/shoes to and from work. I usually stuff it all in my backpack and I realize it makes me look like a college freshman but do you have any recommendations for other bags I could use instead? Thx!

  • Reply May 25, 2010



    Hey buddy. You gave me a great idea for another article :]
    .-= Barron´s last blog ..The Endorsement: Light-colored Chinos =-.

  • Reply June 2, 2010


    I completely agree that a “wife beater” looks absolutely horrible under a white dress shirt, it simply screams white trash.

    However, I disagree that a white undershirt/t-shirt doesnt work with a white dress shirt, in fact, I believe that its an absolute necessity for anyone working in a professional environment.

    No one wants to see your nipples when the AC is blasting, no one wants to see your armpit sweat rings or the yellow stains they leave behind, and no one wants to see your tattoos.

    In addition, the problem with wearing a “v-neck” under shirt is that unless you shave your chest (I realize many guys do these days, but once you reach like 40 it becomes kind of lame to do), when you loosen your tie your chest hair will pop out, whereas a crew neck keeps those straggles down.

    Now, I know I many will disagree, but there is nothing worse than a colored dress shirt (except for very light blue, or a white dress shirt with fine pin stripes, or very light blue with fine pin stripes). Nothing says inexperienced, clueless, douchebag like the guy wearing a grey suit with black dress shirt, or a brown suit with dark blue dress shirt.

    Eventually, we all go back to white dress shirts and Navy suits in the end. They are really the only truly timeless armor.

  • Reply June 3, 2010


    Hey Bob, Certainly valid concerns. The idea isn’t to not wear ANY undershirt with a white dress shirt, it’s to wear a gray or similarly muted color to lessen the ability to see it. I agree we should all do our best to refrain from showing off our nipples to everyone. 🙂

    For the v-neck / chest hair issue, I would recommend keeping it kempt over all-out shaving or ‘manscaping’. Just like no one wants to see nose hair hanging out everywhere, it’s gentlemanly to keep chest hair in check.

    Thanks for reading and the comment!

  • […] auszustrahlen – schließlich machen Kleider bekanntlich Leute. Das Primermagazin stellt 6 Regeln auf, die Anzugträger beachten sollten, damit sich das Ziel nicht ins Gegenteil […]

  • Reply June 25, 2010

    M.T. Amerson

    I don’t wear undershirts. I find that I get too hot if I wear them, and my dress shirts are not so thin that my nipples will show. I have never had the problem of pit stains on my dress shirts.
    .-= M.T. Amerson´s last blog ..Review: Travie McCoy – Billionaire ft. Bruno Mars =-.

  • Reply June 26, 2010


    Hi M.T.,

    I, too, don’t wear undershirts for the same exact reasons.

    I know that many guys DO wear undershirts, however, and if one does, I just hope they follow these tips. I think the overall message I was trying to put through was undershirts are meant to be unseen, therefore, wearing a grey-toned v-neck keeps visibility as minimal as possible, whether you’re tucked in or out, or buttoned all the way up with a tie, or loosened a bit.

    Thanks for your comment!
    .-= Barron´s last blog ..Maintenance 101- Part I- Skin Care =-.

  • Reply July 23, 2010

    Tim Lewallen

    One thing I can add is a tip from a mentor of mine – There is no such thing as a short sleeve dress shirt. Just don’t do it. With a tie and short sleeves you end up looking like a manager for McDonald’s.

  • Reply July 23, 2010


    Great tip, Tim. I completely agree.

    Thanks for your comment!
    .-= Barron´s last blog ..My take on the Fake Bake Fever by Bonobos =-.

  • Reply July 31, 2010


    I agree wholeheartedly Tim!

    I think that there’s potential for a short sleeve dress shirt to look great, but only in a casual situation, never in a corporate environment!

    Undershirts can be useful depending on the scenario. I think more importantly than whether or not you choose to wear one is the quality of the garment. You need good undergarments if they’re going to survive the rigours of everyday activity.
    .-= Johnathan´s last blog ..A Girl’s Perspective on Not Dressing Like A Clown =-.

  • Reply August 6, 2010


    Another tip: Never, I mean NEVER, do anything you see pictured or discussed at this board:

    No hats. No collar pins. No tie bars. No hankeys in pockets. No vests. No high waists or 10″ cuffs. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER.

    • Reply December 1, 2014


      Tie bars and pocket squares are ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL. What on earth do you think that chest pocket is for??

  • Reply August 20, 2010


    TOTALLY disagree on the undershirt advice — gray is WORSE than white under a light colored shirt! And an undershirt is much better than a v-neck or, even worse, NOTHING but chest hair, when loosened.

    And FNARK, are you an idiot, or what? Your “advice” was just rambling stupidity; what, are you 12? Nothing wrong with hats, a true gentleman ALWAYS carries a handkerchief, nice waistcoats/vests are just fine, and you should even add a silk handkerchief to your jacket pocket.

    A gentleman with a nice hat (outdoors, of course) is just fine. Grow up, idiot!

  • Reply August 22, 2010


    Hi James,

    This advice is interpreted very differently by many different people, and the discussion and opinions seem so strong, surprisingly. I’ve come to believe that “to each his own” is very fitting in these cases.

    By definition the undershirt is “underwear” which is meant to be unseen. Therefore I suggested heather gray since it is closer to the skintone, and doesn’t show up as much as a pure white shirt does. A v-neck is practically unseen when you unbutton the top button of a dress shirt.

    These two qualities are why I decided the grey v-neck is best, purely because it is MOST INVISIBLE under a dress shirt, since I want my underwear to be invisible. I agree an A-shirt (what I assume you mean by “undershirt” in your above comment) works well too. Grey for me, of course. But hey, to each his own. 🙂

    Thanks for your comment!
    .-= Barron´s last blog ..The Endorsement- The inexpensive- no-frills timepiece =-.

  • Reply September 11, 2010


    I am a white collar professional who has been wearing A-shirts with my business suits for over 20 years. It has never been a problem for me or hindered my career. Wear what you like and what you are comfortable in. There is no way that I would ever wear a crew or v neck t-shirt as I dislike the look and the feel.

  • Reply September 12, 2010


    Hey Thomas,

    Appreciate your input. Nothing wrong with A-shirts. I simply suggested the heather gray versions when wearing a plain white button-up, because it tends to show up less when standing in direct sunlight.

    Might be a personal preference… I just don’t like my underwear to show, and figured men might want that tip I stumbled upon one day.
    .-= Barron´s last blog ..The Endorsement- The Casual Button Up =-.

  • Reply September 19, 2010


    Disagreed on V-neck especially if you are hairy. It always looks a bit too showy, kind of like you are trying to show off you chest hair.

  • Reply September 26, 2010



    I disagree with your disagreement, only because chest hair is actually pretty manly, haha. I’d rather see some chest hair than a white tee under your dress shirt. To each his own, however, and these are merely suggestions to keep your underwear as invisible as possible, to achieve that clean, put-together look.

  • Reply December 6, 2010


    Backpacks, if worn properly, are better for your back than a carrying case that hangs off one shoulder (having the strap across your chest still counts as having it on one shoulder). I appreciate most of the advice here but health and practicality need to come first. Let’s push for backpacks being considered trendy and professional — an easier change than hoping your body will be OK with uneven load.

    *** I just realized you could switch up what shoulder you carry the case on each day, but I’m betting a doctor will still recommend a backpack.

  • Reply December 11, 2010


    I agree that if you’re carrying a ton of stuff for long distances, a backpack may be easier on your body. But it’s not super common for most dudes to be carrying back-breaking amounts of paper to and from work every day.

    I stand by the messenger bag suggestions I endorse, but if shoulder pain does bother some readers, I’d go with a briefcase style bag (that has handles), which seem to be more and more available these days.

  • Reply January 10, 2011



  • Reply January 10, 2011


    Hello Baron,

    Can I wear black shoes with a blue suit? What color socks should I wear? What if the suit is striped? Can I wear striped socks? What about sear sucker? What kind of shirt goes with sear sucker? can I wear an ascot with that? is there a time of year not to wear white suits? What about Camel colored jackets? Elbow patches or no? My father has a tweed jacket and I want to wear it, but, it has green elbow patches and I can’t decide if that is cool or not? Is that cool? Where do you buy shoes? How did you get into fashion? Are you a model?

  • Reply January 11, 2011


    Hello Bob / Ballagh,
    Ascots, bro.

    Hello Deaner / Tierney,
    Yes. Black. You can. Plenty o’ shirts; start with white. You can, but ascots are usually more formal. Probably after August, unless you live in LA. Camel’s great year-round. So are elbow patches. Could be cool, depending on the color of the tweed. Online. It came naturally. No, but sometimes.

  • Reply February 10, 2011


    A man should never cultivate style as personal expression. It is manly only if it accentuates his role in the world.

    The Fedora Lounge people are attempting to live sartorially in the 1930s-40s-50s, supposedly because they like it there.

    In reality, that’s a big Fnark You to the rest of us real world folks and it ought to be called out for the rude and childish behavior it is.

  • Reply February 14, 2011


    @Barron: a briefcase is no different from a messenger bag in terms of health benefits. The issue stems from carrying a load on one side of the body instead of evenly distributing it. As such, a backpack is preferable if you carry a lot of things with you.

  • Reply February 14, 2011


    Denis, That may be the case medically speaking. From a style perspective maybe we should be carrying less around with us. 🙂

  • […] A suit means business. It’s rare that anyone actually looks bad in a suit, unless it’s ill-fitting or something too colorful (i.e., what Lloyd or Harry wore to the owl benefit in Dumb and Dumber). If you don’t wear a suit, the employer might not take you seriously. Brush up on the six no-no’s of a suited man. […]

  • […] but stylistically unacceptable A-frame tank top on the other. And as we mentioned in our list of Six No-no’s for a Suited Man, you shouldn’t be wearing white undershirts and “beaters” with light colored […]

  • Reply December 30, 2011


    @BOB :

    Do not confuse “traditional” with “white trash”. Now the trend is to get rid of what is traditional, because we’re told to do so by advertising. Not being as cool as the guy you saw in the D&G commercial does not mean that you’re a white trash. It only means that you’re not influenced by advertising and fashion trends. Wearing a wife beater is completely acceptable, and many people who belong to the highest social class wear them, while it’s clear that the middle-class teenager won’t understand that, because he thinks in terms of “coolness” and “uncoolness”, which is the language of advertising.

    Obama is neither white, nor trash, and he wears “wife beaters”. See this picture:

  • […] obsessed.”  (Also, note the specificity of this love.  I agree that the visible white tee is a no-no under a long-sleeved […]

  • Reply February 20, 2012


    I have a very hairy chest. When I don’t wear a tie i prefer to not have my sprouts popping out of the top of my shirt. How does this fare with your advice? I think it’s more professional to not have hair popping out all over the place. Shaving is out of the question as well…can’t upset the wife.

  • Reply February 20, 2012


    @DAN: What’s wrong with a little (or a lot of) chest hair? It’s not like you’re walking around with 5 buttons unbuttoned like you’re in the disco era. It’s just one extra button unbuttoned, and a v-neck (t-shirts just look sloppy, there’s no denying it… and yes, sloppier than chest hair sprouting).

    I say be proud of that hair. You’re a man, man!

  • Reply January 15, 2013


    I have worn white t-shirts under white dress shirts for years. Of course my white dress shirts are heavy 100% cotton and not see through like the picture which leaves little to the imagination. Nor do my shirts fit that poorly (could that shirt get an tighter without ripping in two?), nor would I ever wear a white dress shirt without a tie, nor would I ever wear a shirt that was clearly too small in the neck so as to expose the t shirt. I find a great deal wrong with that picture but the t shirt isn’t one of them.
    And well, I wear t shirts when I’m not at work so according to this guy I’m walking around in my underwear…SWEET!

  • Reply October 22, 2013


    Ohhh ooohhhhh, curious what they’ll say about commuting by bicycle while trying to look “professional”…..

    What about black undershirts?

  • […] obsessed.”  (Also, note the specificity of this love.  I agree that the visible white tee is a no-no under a long-sleeved […]

  • Reply July 3, 2014


    Nice article, some good tips.
    Re: socks. No white socks is indeed a no-brainer. However, the argyle style socks you suggest in the right photo are equally out of place. They are way too casual for today’s suit. Opt for finely knit wool (or silk) in solid or a very sublte pattern. Make sure the socks’ color matches your pants, not your shoes (e.g. wear dark blue socks with a navy suit, even though your shoes might be black oxfords). Make sure the socks are at least as dark as the pants, preferably darker. Last but definitely not least: always wear longer/knee length socks with your suit. Never ever under any circumstance should even the slightest glimpse of your hairy white leg be visible to anyone.

  • […] a Primer man, you should already know how to dress yourself for success. From socks and shoes to suits and sunglasses, we’ve given you more than enough advice on how to be more […]

  • Reply February 24, 2015

    Ted Stevens, Esq

    I can’t believe this kind of things pops up in a google search. Off to a good start with #1 (nice!) then you just completely derail by #6 (really?). Not that the last three are not good tips, but if you don’t know already, I don’t know what to tell you…

  • Reply June 1, 2016

    Chase Miller

    V neck seems to be better than crew neck always. Not only do crew necks seem strange as another piece of clothing coming up from the main shirt and rubbing against your neck, but they look visually jarring adding collar lines directly under another collar

  • Reply May 1, 2017

    Iam Dsaabs

    What if you’re wearing a shirt that has a different gig color under a red and black suit does that mean any error

  • Reply May 1, 2017

    Iam Dsaabs

  • Reply October 12, 2018

    Alan Thiske

    A-shirts (“wifebeaters”) are perfectly acceptable. Many men–including myself–in the office wear them under their dress shirts, I agree, a gray undershirt with a white button-front office shirt is generally better for the visible hem-lines, but there is nothing inherently wrong with white-under-white. Now, if you tuck that A-shirt into comically floppy, hearts-printed boxer shorts and make a point to stand around like that, then you’re inviting bad impressions, but as just an undershirt, no problems there. I almost feel just about ANY style-choice is going to walk that line between obvious posturing and genuine bearing. It’s all just non-verbal communication, so the sender with his visible undershirt has to be taken on a par with the receiver of that look–“trying” is pretty easy to see, but simply “wearing a shirt” isn’t damnable. .

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