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38 Lessons: The Ultimate Guide to Men’s Fashion From a Female Perspective

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Alice is a freelance editor and writer with an overused Netflix account and a full shopping cart. Read full bio.

Last Updated: Feb 16, 2024
21 min read
men's fashion from a female perspective

I am not an adult man. 

What I am is an adult female who’s been interested in style since her preschool years.

I’ll admit, women’s fashion is typically more in my purview.

However, thanks to a well-dressed dad and dapper older brother (if it helps to paint a picture, let me share that he almost always wears a suit to travel…that’s right, a suit on an airplane), I learned early on about fit, fabric, and dress code when it came to menswear.

I’ve also developed opinions of my own on this subject along the way.

Call them preferences or call them lessons, after taking a minute, or, honestly, a day, to pluck these thoughts from the recesses of my mind, I’ve found myself with a style guide of sorts to men’s fashion.

A list of the “what”, 38 to be exact, with some “whys”, for what women want men to wear.

Let me add a disclaimer to this before we get too far ahead. I realize that I don’t speak for all women. I am only one woman on a planet filled with them. 

My penchant for beards and V-neck t-shirts on men, for example, might seem completely unappealing to many (if not most) of my fellow sisters across the globe. But one woman is not an island.

The lion’s share of the below items come from conversations over the years with other ladies in my life—whether in high school hallways or at college parties, over meals, watching TV, or even for planning my wedding—so what you see here isn’t really the ranting and raving of just one broad, but my whole crew of females, past and present.



Mott and Bow Jay Black Denim Jeans with Milwaukee Boot Co

Most of us wear jeans more than any other piece of clothing in our closets. So this wardrobe workhorse ought to be good.

Ditch the dad jeans and find yourself some nice-fitting denim. A dark wash is the most versatile—you can easily dress it up or down and that deep indigo is awfully slimming.

Choose a pair that’s slim (not so tight they look like jeggings), and straight-legged. A cuff can look cool at the bottom but can also make you look shorter, so buyer beware.

If you’re interested in a recommendation, we’re big fans of Mott & Bow. They have a tight but tasteful range of washes and our editor won’t stop telling me how comfortable they are.

Mott & Bow

Just like a quality, well-constructed hoodie, standout jeans will also elevate the appearance of a watch. Mott & Bow makes denim with durable stitching, a lasting build, and fitted cuts that he can style down or up depending on the day.

Shop Mott & Bow Read Our Review

Shoes: Dress

Couple dress shoes and high heels man fashion

Though, admittedly, my husband breaks these fashion commandments from time to time (his “wallet” is a binder clip and many of his shirts have worn out into holes at the elbow), he is on top of his game when it comes to dress shoes.

And what I love most about his dress shoes are that they stay true to his style—you don’t have to speed right from college flip-flops to corporate lawyer/old man territory. He opts for suede dress boots—they look great and suit him well (and look just as good with jeans, if not better, than with dress pants).

MYRQVIST Skytteholm Chocolate Suede Oxford

The full leather and cork Goodyear welted construction ensures these will last a long time, and the dark brown suede from CF Stead tannery in England ensures they'll look good while doing it.

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Tip 1: Chestnut-colored leather looks awesome with a blue or navy suit (this was my husband’s wedding look—in my opinion, he looked better than I did that day).

Tip 2: Don’t go too pointy—I think the pointy dress shoe trend is unflattering and over-the-top.

Oh, and if you wear dress shoes for work and you’re on your feet a lot, do yourself a favor and pick up some insoles. We review our favorite ones for reducing heel pain (plantar fasciitis) here.

For more, be sure to check out our list of the 10 Types Of Shoes Every Man Should Own.

Shoes: Sneakers

Man sneakers balancing on rail

Sneakerheads, this one’s for you.

I think a cool, well-kept pair of sneakers can be super stylish and a nice leather pair can even sub for dress shoes frequently (dinners, work, dates, etc.).

Oliver Cabell Low 1

The Low 1 is Oliver Cabell's most popular shoe. It boasts a classic low-profile silhouette, with color options that are expressive, but not overly trendy or unprofessional.

Check Price Read Our Review
CLAE Malone

The Malone from L.A. eco-friendly sneakerheads, Clae, has been one of our sleeper hits of the year. With a stylish profile and super comfortable premium court sole and EVA footbed---you'll sleep easy at night if sustainability is important for you given the brand's focus on recycled materials. We dig.

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For street style, the ‘ugly sneaker’ has been majorly on trend this year. ‘Dad style’ warriors, your time is now.


Man running along the beach with umbrella and briefcase

OK. This isn’t exactly a fashion pick but a man with a classic, sturdy umbrella screams at all of my female biology that he has his act together. This man seems prepared for anything. Especially if he, you know—has it on him when we need it most.

These aren’t the types of umbrellas you buy during a rainstorm from the drugstore after you’ve already gotten soaked. These are think-ahead umbrellas. This type of forethought makes us feel like we are in good hands.

Arterton London Telescopic Umbrella

For when you want your umbrella to say "Darling---I'm a guy prepared for the rain, and more."

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Man wearing scarf and carrying weekend bag

Men, it’s okay to wear a scarf.

Actually, it’s more than OK—we really dig scarves.

This sentiment has been quicker to adapt elsewhere than in the United States. I think the consensus is that scarves are too feminine. They’re not. You look good and scarves help keep you warm when it’s cold. Frank Sinatra wore scarves. You’ll be fine.


The Steel Shop 12mm leather bracelet with engraving closeup

The whole wearing jewelry thing is tricky – I wear jewelry (although not a lot), so it’s hypocritical for me to say men shouldn’t.

But not every man can pull it off, just like I can’t pull off red hair or tube tops. Professional athletes or musicians look great in jewelry. Accountants might have a harder time making this work.

If you want to stay on the safe side, stick to bracelets and watches.

Oliver Cabell Michael Cable Bracelet

If you're a guy who's into jewelry but you prefer to keep it cool and understated, the OC line of bracelets may be up your alley. Crafted by expert silversmiths, the lightweight "Michael" cable bracelet has a high quality feel and will fit up to a 7.5 inch wrist.

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Citizen Watches promaster diver on model

Your watch shouldn’t be the size of your palm. This looks insane. Less is more. 

Wrap a tape measure around the part of your wrist where you wear your watch to find your wrist size. Then, when you’re shopping for a watch, pay attention to case diameter and lug to lug length.

If your wrist circumference is between 6 and 7 inches, stick to between 36 and 42mm case diameter and max 50mm lug to lug length. Beyond 7 inches you have a lot more flexibility, but to avoid the watch looking too small, stick to between 40mm and 46mm case diameter and over 48mm lug to lug length.

As a further general rule, the dressier the watch, the smaller it should be.

Baltic Aquascaphe

Measuring a highly versatile 39mm in width (47mm lug-to-lug), French microbrand Baltic bring to the conversation one of the finest sub-$1000 dive watches on the market with the Aquascaphe. We particularly love its clean design lines and symmetry, unique "grainy" dial finishing, and particularly the aesthetic of the black / cream variant.

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Plain Tees

man wearing white 32 Degrees tee on floor

There is nothing better than a man in a white t-shirt.

It’s such a clean, classic look. Throw on an old pair of jeans and some cool kicks and you are perfection.

My husband looks his best in a plain, white V-neck, some dark, button-fly jeans, and his aforementioned worn-in boots. It’s probably safe to say most of you look your best in some variation of that style, too.

The Form&Thread Raglans are a good grab for a crew neck:

Form&Thread Raglan T Shirt

If a luxury feel is your jam for your tees, then look no further than F&T's raglan. Made in Portugal from Italian farmed cotton, this baby feels oh-so-nice against the skin due to its subtle fleece construction. Available in a bunch of tasteful colors, you can't go wrong with this staple.

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The Cashmere Sweater

Gobi Cashmere basic crew neck sweater with white shirt and black pants

Wear a cashmere sweater and two things will happen: we will think you have a great taste and we’ll also start touching you more.

To explain the first part, cashmere is luxurious and if we see you wearing it we’ll think you have a respect for and understanding of quality. That bodes well for you (and us).

As for the second part, cashmere is super soft, so we’ll be getting very close to you when you’ve got that sweater on. That seems like a win-win, right?

Our pick:

Luca Faloni Camel Beige Pure Cashmere Zip-up

Perfect for business casual looks with chinos and a shirt, or for your free time paired with jeans. Given the insulating property of cashmere, you can wear it from autumn to spring.

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blenders eyewear review featured image model wearing whiskey shiner hexagram sunglasses against sunrise

While I understand the appeal of wraparound sunglasses in a sporting situation, they are a little too Guy Fieri for me otherwise.

Edison II by Selfmade Sunglasses

Like the rest of Selfmade’s frames, the construction and material on these glasses are top-notch. I was looking through some more expensive designer brands that cost three times as much and was seeing many of the same materials. 

Check Price Read Our Review

You can never go wrong, however, with Ray-Bans: the Wayfairer, the Clubmaster, the Aviator—these styles have been around forever and suit just about every face. They somehow manage to suit any situation, too: they look equally appropriate at a formal outdoor wedding or at a public pool.

You can buy whatever other brand you prefer, just keep these classic styles and shapes in mind.


green and gold lignes dor pair of thieves socks on model

This is similar to the underwear thing. Not always so exciting to shop for, but clean, matching socks send a nice message.

Slip on some fancy socks and you look like you have somewhere important to go. A nice pair of navy or black socks without holes gives you a little gravitas.

I also like it when you see a little color or pattern peeking out from in between the top of a man’s shoe and the hem of his pants. It shows character, attention to detail, and humor—some very appealing traits.

For socks, a subscription service can be a good idea, like Southern Scholar socks.

You’ll get a new pair on the monthly which means you can start throwing out those holey ones you’ve been clinging onto since Bush was in the White House. Senior that is.

The Weekender Bag

Bespoke Post Weekender Bag Outside Sitting At Feet of Model on Stairs Wearing Jeans and Boots Close Up

I remember one of my girlfriends telling me a story back in my 20s.

She was newly dating a guy and they were about to go away for their first weekend away. And the only reason this story still sticks with me is because of what she told me the guy had packed all of his clothes into for the trip.

If you guessed a couple of brown paper grocery bags, then you’re absolutely correct.

Guys, nothing screams “I’ve got my life together” like using an appropriate bag.

If you’re over 18 and you don’t have a weekender bag already, you really don’t have much of an excuse. You can get the one pictured above from Bespoke Post for under $45 (you get 15% off by following our links):

lundi Weekender

The lundi is pretty much the GOAT of weekenders. Beyond its beautiful full grain leather and sturdy metal buckle construction, this bad boy has a computer pocket, cable pocket, smartphone pocket, outside shoe pockets, and even a flat outside pocket for your passport or ID. We like. Lots.

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For the quality offered, it’s easily the best value for money weekender bag we’ve found.


Man with suit holding leather wallet

As I mentioned, my husband uses a binder clip in place of a wallet/money clip. Just pinched right from the supply closet at work. But it works for him.

Instead of repurposing office supplies, I’d suggest a simple leather wallet. Good leather is strong and sturdy and will improve with age, just like that nice briefcase you just bought.

Something like:

Roderer Italian Leather 4CC Card Holder

Slim, but with a wide opening for your poker winnings, this Italian handmade leather beauty is the kind of wallet that makes you feel like a total boss every time you whip it out.

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“Humor” T-Shirts

Girl with out t-shirt on holding hand up

Shirts with derogatory messages towards women are not okay to purchase (except if they say “FBI: Female Bikini Inspector.” That one’s just funny).


Different kinds of men's briefs and socks styles

Buying underwear is a drag.

Even though receiving it from our grandparents at Christmas was the biggest letdown of the year, it was kind of nice having someone just get that done. Now that we’re adults, we need to go buy our own. So go do that.

Clean, grownup underwear on a man is always a nice surprise to see, whether on someone you’re seeing scantily clad for the first time or on a significant other shuffling to the kitchen to make coffee on a weekday morning.

Personally, boxers or boxer briefs top my list—I think briefs give off too much of a little boy vibe (particularly if adorned with any type of superhero design).

MeUndies Boxer Brief

MeUndies makes some of the softest underwear and loungewear I’ve ever tried. While the MicroModal isn’t the greatest material for workouts, the comfort is outstanding.

Check Price Read Our Review

We’ve done a couple of underwear reviews you might like to check out:


Middle-aged hipster reading newspaper on leather sofa in barber shop

In my mind, a flannel shirt is masculinity in fabric form.

Maybe it’s growing up with all those Brawny paper towel commercials. Or maybe it’s because I hit my pre-teen years in the 1990s at the height of grunge. Either way, a man in a flannel shirt always looks good to me.

They’re also durable and warm, so flannel is a practical thing to purchase, my ‘90s adolescent fantasies aside.

And it’s hard to go past the classic red:

Last update on 2024-06-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Leather Jacket

Man leather jacket outside standing

While the whole James Dean/Marlon Brando/leather jacket is a cliché, it’s no accident that some combination of those three things has been cited again and again in anything having to do with men’s fashion.

Let Dean and Brando show you how reckless and sexy this can look if you need further convincing to bite the bullet on this one.

Our pick:

Henley Shirts

There’s something about a Henley shirt.

This probably dates back to the days when Jared Leto was Jordan Catalano in My So-Called Life (he could wear the hell out of a Henley).

These shirts have a ‘90s appeal—by the end of this list, my strong affinity for the era will be made abundantly clear—and recall the masculinity of the flannel shirt on this list. I think there is something sexy, too, about those few buttons left unbuttoned.

It’s not so much skin where it’s sleazy or feels clubby; just a glimpse.

The FCT Henley is our top value pick:

The Tuxedo

Attractive man in tuxedo sitting down

Ahh, the tuxedo. Wearing a tux is like being a granted a superpower.

It instantly makes you more than “Average Man”—you look wealthy, deadly, mysterious, powerful. A tuxedo is nothing short of transformative. Try to somehow find a reason to wear one at least every once in a while to experience its effect.

Just like accents, many of us females are suckers for a man in a tux.


Attractive man in suit sitting down in a nice room

The tailored suit made its way onto the list of 50 Things Every Man Should Own to Win at Life with good reason, and it bears repeating here.

Just like many women are weak-kneed in the presence of a tuxedoed man, a fella in a crisp suit deserves a wolf whistle. A nicely tailored suit projects confidence—it makes you look together, capable, and successful.

In a suit, you look clean and grown-up, like a man familiar with dry cleaning. All of that is attractive.

Brooks Brothers Milano Fit Combo Check 1818 Suit

I love the style of the 1818 Suit, and because of the weight and texture, it’s a great year-round piece. This specific blend is lightweight enough to rock in the hot months, but the wool addition also makes it at home in the colder months.

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The Camel Coat

Man in camel coat elegant looking at watch

A nice wool dress coat cleans up literally any outfit you have on underneath.

Ratty t-shirt, sweatpants, and old sneakers? Throw on a camel coat (or any nice wool coat) and you instantly look like a million bucks. It’s like a magic trick.

Like the tuxedo, this is another one of those transformative garments. Invest in a nice one and you’ll have it forever. It will never go out of style. If you don’t want to splurge, places like H&M, Zara, and Uniqlo usually have some good options.

The Cardigan

Man in glasses with cardigan and scarf outside

Speaking of sweaters, I like a man in a cardigan or shawl collar – if you raise an eyebrow to this, do an image search of Paul Newman or Steve McQueen cardigan, and you’ll see what I mean.

Hats: Don’ts

Man in winter hat making silly face

I take a hard line when it comes to hats.

Silly bike messenger-style hats with that teeny brim or any other goofy headgear – fedoras, Cat in the Hat-style hats…they just don’t do it for me. They seem like are just desperate cries for attention. It’s all too forced.

Hats: Dos

Stylish man with beard and beanie and denim jacket

That last one was kind of harsh. And maybe made me seem too anti-hat. I don’t hate all hats. I think a simple wool beanie or a snapback cap are both great options. Less is more.

The Dahlia is really well-reviewed:

Last update on 2024-06-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Shorts: Don’ts

Couple, man with capris long shorts at summer festival

Retire the cargo shorts – unless you’re fixing something and need all those pockets for tools, nails, etc.

Also, no man capris. Please.

Shorts: Dos

Man riding bike with brown shorts

By all means, wear shorts when it’s hot. Just keep it simple – classic, plain front; no pleats.


Man closeup with navy tie and navy suit with white shirt

Fabric matters.

Aim for silk, wool, or knit styles. Avoid polyester. Plain, striped, or dotted styles are usually the best bets, but just as with socks, a whimsical print can be a nice way of showing off your personality and good humor.

Just make sure the situation is appropriate and that that aforementioned humor is in good taste.


Man with red bow tie and suit outside with great view

This is a polarizing one.

Many women might find this a turnoff, but I think a man in a bow tie can look pretty darn sharp. I’d recommend keeping the rest of your look simple and slightly modern so the whole look doesn’t get too costume-y.

Thermal Wear

Man looking in distance with thermal shirt on and sunglasses

I’m doubling up on 1990s fashion here, between the Henley and waffle knit shirt.

Putting daydreams about musicians and actors of that decade to the side for a minute, I think the texture of these are really enticing. And wearing things that are touchable leads to getting touched, which, unless done by a stranger on the subway, is a good thing.

The Briefcase

Young business man running down the street with a briefcase

Let’s step away from grunge-era style for a moment and onto something more professional.

This entry on the list goes hand-in-hand with the well-tailored suit. Both immediately radiate success and style. And a buttery leather workbag only gets better with age: each scuff is like a ring found inside a tree, marking time and experience.

Like the camel dress coat, this is another investment piece. Waxed canvas styles are slightly more rugged and casual but still have work-appropriate polish.

Other Accessories

Man with pocket square and polka dot tie

Accessories can be great, but proceed with caution.

Just like the gargantuan watches mentioned above, beware of going overboard. A nice cotton or linen pocket square, simple tie clip, bracelet, or classic cufflinks will do. Remember this one word: understatement.

Oliver Cabell Michael Cable Bracelet

If you're a guy who's into jewelry but you prefer to keep it cool and understated, the OC line of bracelets may be up your alley. Crafted by expert silversmiths, the lightweight "Michael" cable bracelet has a high quality feel and will fit up to a 7.5 inch wrist.

Check Price

Facial Hair

Man with full beard looking into the distance

I love a beard.

Not all women will agree with this. But I think most of us would agree that if you’re going to go for the full beard, don’t live everyday like you’re in the World Beard and Mustache Championships. This falls into the same category as silly hats: it all seems a little insecure and desperate.

Further, if you’re in the bathroom waxing your mustache for the better part of an hour, well, that just seems like time we could’ve been spending catching up on TV or out getting food instead.

Hawaiian Shirts

Man wearing hawaiian shirt and ashamed

Unless you live in Honolulu or own a surf shack in some other tropical locale, Hawaiian shirts just don’t make sense. Or maybe I need to drink more margaritas.

Cut and Fit

Man getting suit tailored

Tailoring clothing to fit your body perfectly makes the whole look seem more expensive. If going to a tailor seems like a waste of time and money to you, when you’re out shopping, pay particular attention to the waist and general crotch area of whatever pants you try on, looking for a balance between a vise-like grip and droopy.

Length is also important: an ankle-length pant is experiencing some popularity now and can look sharp on the right guy (and is a great way to show off a colored or patterned sock), but a longer cut with a traditional full or medium break above the cuff is universally flattering—it makes you look taller.

Watch out, too, for sleeve length. Suit jackets/sport coats/blazers should reveal about an inch of your shirt’s cuff—if you go longer, your coat will look too large; any shorter, and can look like you pulled it from your nephew’s closet.


Man in swimming trunks with sunglasses

Unless you are Michael Phelps or have the physique of a professional athlete, I’d prefer you stick to swim trunks.


Man on couch in pajamas with coffee

While the style pictured here are not your classic PJs, you know how I feel about waffle knits (see #24)…

The Jean Jacket

Man near water with denim jacket looking away

If you sprinkle in a little bit of The Outsiders, some early Elvis, and James Dean (it all goes back to James Dean) you get the perennially cool jean jacket.

Throw on a plain white tee underneath and some jeans—with the right fit and right shades of denim, a Canadian tuxedo looks classic and cool.

The Trench Coat

Man with trench coat and sunglasses in park

The trench coat = tried and true.

While I prefer the trench in iconic tan cotton—think Bogart in Casablanca—navy or black also get the job done. Like the camel dress coat, this is another piece that cleans up any look, but make sure the fit is right: if it’s too big, you’re going to look like you’re playing dress-up.

This Hart Schaffner Marx is great for the price:

Last update on 2024-06-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Shiny Shirts / Suits

Man with shiny shirt and fedora pointing to himself and smiling

Last but certainly not least on the lesson spectrum. No shiny shirts. Or suits.

I can see you just fine without that extra coat of gloss and glitter.

So that’s the list, guys—everything that’s been swirling around in my mind when it comes to what you’re wearing.

Hopefully it’s shed a little light on why that girl gave you that look the last time you were wearing those dad jeans. And you know just the pair we’re talking about: those high-waist, shapeless offenders.

Sorry in advance, fedora wearers. It’s nothing personal.

For more tips, be sure to check out the 50 Things Every Man Should Own to Win at Life.

Over and out.