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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!