9 Menswear Myths Debunked

9 Menswear Myths Debunked
Like old wive's tales, these menswear myths have been passed down with good intentions, but we need to set the record straight.

Some traditional style rules exist for a reason. For instance: good fit is essential, and the worlds of suits and ties should rarely intersect with t-shirts and sneakers beyond the domain of Miami Vice.

Unfortunately, many menswear rules have been dictated and enforced by an arbitrary sense of formality rooted in the individuality-crushing business world of the 1950s that sought uniformity rather than creativity.

Thus, it’s important to explore and reevaluate these style norms and bust some of the stuffier rules that have no business informing men’s style in 2018.

Myth: Only skinny guys can wear a double-breasted suit.

Colin Firth wearing a flannel double breasted suit

Busted: The double-breasted suit has been creeping back into fashion this decade, accelerated by the agents of Kingsman: The Secret Service. The full wrap of the double-breasted cut just means that the jacket should be well-tailored to prevent a larger-framed man from looking like the Hulk (or Chris Farley) … but you wouldn’t wear anything that wasn’t well-tailored anyway, right?

Myth: Button-down collars are too informal to wear with a suit and tie.

cary grant button down collar

Busted: You should determine what shirt collar is most flattering and comfortable for you. Cary Grant, certainly no style slouch, had a habit of wearing shirts that sported the incongruous combination of button-down collars and French cuffs, but Grant knew what worked for his physique and his preferences, and who are we to argue with Cary Grant?

This anti-button-down collar sentiment likely stems from the mid-century backlash against the increasing influence of American Ivy League fashions like button-down collared shirts and slip-on loafers in business wear.

Myth: Boots are not professional to wear with a suit and tie.

Image of Daniel Craig on a motorcycle

Busted: You probably shouldn’t be breaking out your Red Wings to wear with a business suit, but if you have a pair of leather chukka boots or Chelsea boots, feel free! These dressier boots have a timeless and traditional pedigree that dates back to the early 20th century before the lower lace-up oxfords and derby shoes became standard business footwear. After all, where do you think the phrase “suited and booted” originated?

Myth: Tie width should be relative to a man’s frame.

James Corden in a suit and tie - big guy tie width

Busted: Super wide ties make men of any size look more like clowns than anything. We recommend a 2.5″ tie for most, up to a max of 3″. The narrower width can make the surrounding torso look bigger by comparison, but a larger framed man need only to search for a slim tie with some degree of shape rather than a super-skinny straight column-like tie.

Read more about the 8 essential ties for any (and all) occasions.

Myth: You should not wear jeans with a tie.

tie with jeans

Photo by Stay Classic

Busted: If you’re not in a professional business environment, there’s no reason not to explore with balancing class and comfort for a first date, coffee with an old friend, or a spruced-up approach to casual Friday in your creative office. The trick to not looking like you stepped off the set of a ‘90s sitcom is to incorporate elements that work together, dressing down the tie with casual knit neckwear and dressing up the jeans by wearing a slim, dark pair.

Myth: Dive watches are too sporty to be worn with a suit.

Image of Pierce Brosnan

Busted: Two words: James Bond. (Not that 007 is an infallible source of sartorial wisdom.) While the sporty and functional origins of dive watches may send purists into a tizzy, the classic aesthetic of a timepiece like the Rolex Submariner, Omega Seamaster, or their more affordable cousins from Invicta, Orient, and Seiko can’t be denied.

Myth: Your socks must match your trousers.

men dress socks colorful with suitBusted: Like the concept of matching your belt to your shoes, it’s well-intentioned because it’s safe, but it’s hardly a necessary rule. After all, argyle socks are a great way to add a pop of fun into your suit… but a matching pair of argyle pants would get you laughed out of most settings outside of John Daly’s golf foursome. Black socks are also safe… but boring. Find a color present on your shirt or tie and incorporate it into your socks for an interesting and well-coordinated look.

Myth: You must own a pair of black shoes.

Image of Idris Elba

Busted: Black shoes certainly come in handy, but aside from tuxedoes (infrequently worn) or black suits (which really shouldn’t be worn), there’s little that black shoes can do that a more interesting pair of brown shoes can’t do better.

Myth: You really don’t need to own a black suit.

Bust- actually, never mind, we’re still pretty sure about this rule.

What are outdated menswear “rules” that you like to break? Or… what are some rules that still should never be broken?

Nick Guzan is a public relations consultant and writer living in Pittsburgh. He blogs about men's style in movies and TV at BAMFStyle.com. His interests include old movies, muscle cars, maritime disasters, fast food, and single malt Scotch.

  • rogun

    It’s gotten to where almost anything is acceptable today… at least for a few weeks and then everything changes again. I was quite a rebel when I was younger, so I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I’m glad to see some of the old rules die. On the other hand, I think this is partially due to a loss of knowledge over recent decades, as men have continuously dressed more and more casual. It’s almost like we don’t know how to dress anymore and now just make up rules as we go.

    I would argue that the rift with button-down collars began in the 80’s, when men began wearing them more often with suits (especially young men wearing a suit for the first time). Many considered them too casual for suits and I include myself in that faction. They’re fine with a blazer, but if you do wear one with a suit, then at least make sure the collar is as nice as Cary Grant’s.

    A few other things I disagree about. Socks should match your trousers for formal wear and more dressy suit attires. You could throw black shoes in with that, too. These were rules when people dressed more formal, more often than we do today, but we really don’t even know what “formal” means anymore, because it’s been dressed down, too. Also, wide ties are out of style, but will be back one day soon.

    Finally, I’m glad you mentioned that anyone can wear a double-breasted suit, because men have created many silly, new “rules” in recent times. I could list others, but I’ll save them for another day.

  • Zac Silk

    For me no brown in town is one I love to
    break. I routinely wear brown suede chukkas with denim as well as chinos.

    I normally carry this into my formal wear, having bought my first suit, which I am getting round to be tailored. I see myself wearing a lot of brown brogues, Chelsea boots or even brogue boots with it in the future. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5f9c13ee970170ddb3993c759141c301e2176b2c7adcbbc2d23eb614930eb52d.jpg

  • Vince

    For tie width, when wearing a suit, the width of the tie should be relative to the width of the suit’s lapel (narrow lapel, slim tie). If you start to pay attention to this in men’s fashion, it’s almost always true.

  • Joseph Padilla

    Whomever said mixing leathers is a faux-pas must not have seen how wonderful and rich either a chestnut backpack or some tan boots looked when paired with a black leather jacket.

  • TJ

    I actually do think a super wide tie can work, if it’s a solid tie or very simple pattern and paired with equally wide lapels to match. It also has to be made of a nice material and drape well.

    I wear a dive watch almost every day at work with a button down and dress trousers.

  • Martin

    The company I work for only allows black suits. Any suggestions on how I can make it work and it doesn’t feel like a funeral as much.

  • J.Fauc

    I disagree with wearing a dive watch with a suit. To me, there’s an incongruity with function. Are you diving? No. So there’s a kind of falseness/fakeness involved, and it just ends up looking wrong to me. (Bond, on the other hand, could find himself unexpectedly in the ocean at any moment.)

    Of course there are, admittedly, logical inconsistencies with my opinion, probably many more than I can even think of at the moment (brogue shoes – are you out in a Scottish field? no). So maybe I’ll come around at some point, lol. But right now, to me, it just doesn’t look right.

  • The Wellsy Show

    I was all into it until you said not to wear black suits. Hello? The versatility of a black suit makes it a must for the closet. Good enough for “Blues Brothers”/”Reservoir Dogs”… I am tentatively trying to break MY rule of conflicting patterns and colours. I’ve been trying the waters, taking a page out of Bing Crosby’s book. Bing was colour blind, which explains a lot of his choices. Live outside the box, boys, and be yourselves.