The Adult Man is supported by readers. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

fashion faux pas e1591495582674 1
 /  Style /  Fashion Tips

Fashion Faux Pas: 13 Style Mistakes Young Men Make

Chris is a freelance writer, musician, and football enthusiast who is not getting any better at video games. Read full bio.

Last Updated: Feb 16, 2024
6 min read

Being a young man is pretty great.

You’ve got charm, you can disregard dieting (to an extent), and your hangovers last hours rather than days.

Combined with your first taste of independence and a carefree outlook on life, and it’s no wonder they say your 20’s are your golden years.

But to make the most of early adulthood, it’s essential to dress the part.

And hey, we get it. Most young men don’t have the disposable income to go donning Armani and Rolex. But the truth is, you don’t need a tremendous paycheck to look your best.

By avoiding these 13 common style mistakes, you’ll be well on the way to dressing like the sophisticated young adult male that you are.

Matching Colors Incorrectly

Being adventurous with the colors in your outfit is a tempting path to go down for the novice trendsetter.

But you run the risk of coming across forced, unnatural or like you’ve made a mistake.

Instead, keep your color combinations simple while you’re still learning the ropes. Focus on analogous or complementary shades rather than going for an exact or outlandish match.

Getting Fit Wrong

Nothing makes or breaks an outfit more than how well it fits.

You could have the most stylish threads in the world, but they won’t do you any favors if they don’t compliment your frame.

Ensure your garments aren’t too tight or loose. Moreover, check that jacket sleeves hang down at the wrists and that trouser legs finish at the ankle rather than puddling over the shoes.

Inappropriate Footwear in Summer

Socks and sandals are the hallmark of a year 10 maths teacher who has all but given up on life. Don’t be like him.

Likewise, hanging out by the beach in a pair of chunky trainers is a definite no-no as well.

Oliver Cabell Low 1 - White

The Low 1 is Oliver Cabell's most popular shoe, and once you have it in your hands you'll know why. Made in Italy from full grain calfskin Italian leather, it boasts a handsome low-profile silhouette and punches well above its weight for its price point.

Check Price

When the occasion warrants, opt for a pair of flip-flops such as Havaianas to show off your casual side. Sandals, boat shoes, and espadrilles are other great summertime footwear options.

Wearing Pleather

Budget-minded young males sometimes fall into the trap of thinking pleather is a reasonable substitute for leather.

It isn’t.

This cheap polyurethane material may be designed to look like leather, but that’s where the similarities end.

No one will be fooled into thinking you’re rocking a swish leather jacket. On the contrary, everyone will instantly realize its a cheap imitation knock off.

Either purchase the real thing or avoid the look entirely.


Inexperience can prompt a young male to overcompensate by dressing in an excessively formal manner.

If in doubt, ask the host what you’re expected to wear. Doing so might be a little awkward, but it’ll be less embarrassing than rolling up to a laidback event in a three-piece tux and bowtie.


The same applies in reverse.

Few fashion blunders are as severe as arriving at a significant social or business event in your everyday garb. It shows you don’t care about the host or the particular business matter at hand.

If you can’t seek out specific dress code advice, opt for the coveted “smart casual” look, which lies somewhere in between formal and casual attire.

The Untamed Dress Shirt

Dress shirts are made to be tucked in and, frankly, look sloppy when they’re not. Unless you’re at home eating Doritos in front of the T.V., ensure your dress shirt remains firmly under the belt.

There is one exception, however. Untucking a dress shirt is universally acceptable at a formal event once everyone has indulged in a generous amount of booze.

Some button-down shirts are designed not to be tucked in. These feature a shorter-tail and often have more elaborate patterns than your standard office long sleeve.

Wearing Shoes Incorrectly With Jeans

Jeans and dress shoes can go together, but you’ll need to follow these two crucial rules to pull off the look.

  1. Jeans must be a dark wash and slim fit.
  2. Shoes should be brown, preferably in the brogue style.

Imagine the opposite; shiny black dress shoes with baggy light washed jeans. It looks terrible, right?

Too Many Accessories

Accessories can be a great addition to your personal style. However, wearing too many will detract from rather than complement your look.

Rather than donning your cufflinks, watch, fancy belt buckle, bracelets and suspenders all at once, opt for your favorite single accessory to accentuate its design.

Otherwise, you run the risk of coming across like a walking trinket store.

The Wrong Socks With Dress Shoes

Although not quite as reputation destroying as the aforementioned socks and sandals, wearing any form of white socks under dress shoes is a fashion foul.

Ankle socks and bright colors are an obvious no-no as well. Instead, elect a shin-high pair of classic cotton socks in a darker shade.

Too Many Dark Dress Shirts

Dark dress shirts aren’t unfashionable per se. However, lighter shades are a safer option in most situations.

Dark dress shirts don’t compliment pale complexions, are difficult to match with jackets, and should only be worn with an equally dark tie.

Lighter shades, on the other hand, are suitable for most occasions and look great with some added color by way of pinstripes or patterns.

Wearing Ripped or Stained Clothes

Grunge fashion died back in the 90s. And much like Kurt Cobain, it isn’t coming back.

Regardless of what you might have seen on Zoolander, there is no advantage in dressing “derelicte” in this day and age.

Give those torn clothes a miss and opt for something a little more elegant instead.

Being Too Brand Focused

Few fashion faux-pas’ demonstrate immaturity more than adorning your entire body with an abundance of brand names, regardless of whether they’re original or fake.

The sophisticated dresser isn’t concerned with flashy brands, but rather colors and fabrics that complement their overarching style.

After all, you’re a grown up now. You’re no longer under pressure to show off your parent’s purchasing power to all your schoolyard chums.

Although far from an exhaustive list, avoiding these fashion indiscretions are a fundamental first step to becoming a snappy male dresser.

Keep these in mind as you prep for your next event to see how this advice affects your overall style.