Reclaiming Manhood: The Professional Appearance

To all men out there who bemoan the notion that women do not have (enough) respect for men and what it is to be a man, let me share something with you. The reason they don’t respect you is because you don’t act like a man. You don’t dress like a man. In fact, you’ve eschewed everything that it means to be a man.

Today, let’s talk about appearances. Professional appearances.

That’s right. I’m talking to you, guy wearing pajama pants in public. And you, Noncommissioned Officer I saw at the Exchange wearing an Army Service Uniform that looked like it came straight from the bottom of a duffel bag. And you, Commissioned Army Officer who looks like a stuffed sausage in your field uniform. And you, guy who buttons every button on his suit jacket. And especially you, guy wearing patent leather shoes and pre-tied ties.

Now, let’s get one thing straight. I’m not asking that you be Mr. GQ. I’m not asking that you have every teensie rule of fashion and etiquette memorized. Nope, this is simple stuff, folks–the same simple stuff whose neglect caused an erosion of manhood throughout our nation, and especially the legal profession. What I am about to direct does not require deep pockets or deep insight.

I say this after a particularly frustrating week of seeing various individuals who clearly did not take pride in their professional appearance–from service members to lawyers.

We’ll start at the top and work our way down.

Real men tie their own ties. They also know a variety of knots. At a minimum, you should know how to tie all varieties of Windsor, four-in-hand, small knot (for woven ties, and no, not the ones that look like they’ve been crocheted, the real woven ones you find at Brooks Brothers), and a bow. You should know how to tie these without the use of a mirror, wife, girlfriend, or prostitute.

Real men starch their shirts. No, I’m not talking about a light spritzing of starch. I’m talking about the kind of starch that allows the shirt to stand upright on the ground. It should crunch when you don it for the first time. It lasts one day. Then, you have it laundered and re-starched. Yes, I’m the guy who gets pissed-off at the dry cleaners when my shirt can’t walk out the door on its own. Dry cleaners who can properly starch a shirt are dwindling in numbers, but they are out there.

Real men know that you never button the bottom button on a jacket. My father was a laborer. His father was, too. They weren’t white-collar. They didn’t have college educations. Yet, they knew this rule. Why? They were men, and they were proud of that fact. At most, their jackets had 3 buttons. Anything more looked ostentatious, an adjective that, to them, was shameful for a man to accept.

Pleats are for sissies. Real men wear plain-front pants. Pleats are designed for men with gelatinous lower abdomens. I will say nothing more.

You will carry a handkerchief and pocketknife in your pants pocket. The handkerchief is not for show. It does not need your initials. It is for practical purposes only. The knife is a small 1 or 2 blade knife–preferably “Case” brand. Again, it is for practical purposes. Exceptions must be made to the knife rule when flying–because the TSA is scared of real men.

Real men give a damn about their shoes, and they work hard to maintain them. You will buy shoes that are meant to be shined. These shoes will have laces–small, black laces. You will shine them. They will not have tassels. You will not wear suede. You will not wear loafers because real men do not loaf. You will accept that the wearing patent leather on your feet is a sign of emasculation. You will not have a lot of shoes, just a few that you’ve maintained, lovingly, through the years. My favorite shoes are ones I bought in 1992. They are brogue style. They are shined before every use, and the perforations are cleaned of excess polish with the tip of a knife. The heels are replaced by a cobbler when they become worn. When not in use, the shoes are fitted with shoe-trees and placed carefully in a closet. Well-maintained leather shoes will last you forever, barring a natural disaster. You only replace shoes if said natural disaster occurs.

These rules aren’t hard, and they are not unreasonable. For years, men everywhere knew them–labors and managers, farmers and bankers, lawyers and physicians. It signified pride in appearance, and, most importantly, pride in being who and what they were.

It’s time we re-learned them, and internalized them.


23 thoughts on “Reclaiming Manhood: The Professional Appearance

  1. Well, I was unaware that men feel that women don’t respect them. As to the pocketknife, I’ve had several confiscated as I went through court house security. I always forget to retrieve them on my way out. So, good luck with that. But in general I applaud both sexes having enough self-respect to present a good, professional appearance. Grownups ought to look like grownups.

    • You didn’t know that some men feel that women don’t respect men? Seriously?

      OK, field trip time. Go to WalMart. Find a guy wearing pajama pants with snowman pattern. (He’s there. Every WalMart has one.) Approach him. Ask if he feels disrespected by women. He will reply “Yes.” Then, ask if he knows why. He will have no clue.

      Bingo! Now you know.

  2. Thank you for promoting the flat-front pant! No one looks better in pleats.

    You should add the rule that you should unbutton your jacket when you sit down, but upon standing, you must re-button it. It bugs me to see lawyers in court with unbuttoned jackets – men and women.

  3. Does a real man tie a tie correctly and then carefully take it off so that he doesn’t have to re-tie it, only tighten the knot?

    And does it count if he only wears said tie on Sundays?

    (I was going to add a real man rule for you. Real men wear jackets to church).

    • Question 1: Does a man tie a tie and then slip it off with knot intact, to be saved for another day?

      Short Answer: No.

      Long Answer: Hell no. Such action is a horrible abuse of a perfectly good tie. One may remove a tie with knot intact only if it is immediately placed over the head and around the neck of their <10-year-old son. Real men do not disgrace their ties by leaving the knot intact during storage.

      Question 2: Is there a Sunday exception.

      Answer: No.

      Comment: Jackets to church.

      My comment: I agree.

      An Aside: Many men seem to believe that adding a tie to a shirt increases the level of formality. I believe they should add a jacket before adding a tie.

  4. I appreciate your restatement of the basic code of manly dress, not only because of my renown for sartorial splendor but because I, like you, can’t bear watching men disgrace the gender.

    That said, I have a few points. First, shirts do not get dry cleaned. They must be laundered with extra starch. Dry cleaning is for suits, not shirt. And even with a properly starched shirt, you must still use collar stays so the ends of your collar do not turn up.

    Second, while pleats may not be appropriate for young men, for men of a certain age, they are not only appropriate but necessary. You’ll find out.

    Third, cuffs. You neglected to mention cuffs. Suit pants should have cuffs.

    Fourth, a wristwatch. Men wear wristwatches. They do not check their cell phone for the time.

    Fifth, if your suit is cleaned too often, it will get shiny. Shoes should be shiny. Suits should not, Throw it away. It cannot be worn anymore.

    Sixth, men do not wear “fashionable” shoes. Men do not wear shoes with squared off toes. They are for children.

    Seventh: Men do not use a gel to get a tuft of slightly longish hair to stand up in the front of their head.

    Eighth, aside from a watch, a wedding ring and a school ring, there is no other jewelry appropriate for a man.

    Ninth, men may shave their face. They do not shave any other part of their body. Ever.

    Tenth, hair and nails should be clean and properly groomed. Men do not wear nail polish, even if it’s clear.

    I may think of more, but that’s it for now.

    • Agreed.

      I said laundered. I just mentioned dry cleaners because they are typically the ones best equipped to provide the heavy starch. The spray can stuff just doesn’t do the trick, and the more traditional stuff is difficult for the average person. Plus, you can really screw it up if you don’t know what you’re doing.

      I did neglect cuffs. My bad.

      I object to gel, mousse, or their ilk. I think men should get haircuts that allow for an acceptable look after showering and brushing/combing.

      I forgot collar stays, too.

      Now, as far as shaving something aside from face… How are we to know during business situations?

      Oh, I forgot fragrances. I have no use for them. Usually, there is either too much, or such a modest amount that its effect on appearances are negligible. I say forget it. I put those body spray thingies in the same boat as gels and mousse.

      • I just threw in shaving because the metrosexual notion of men shaving their chests makes me shudder.

        As for fragrances, there is only one thing worth noting. On the back of Old Spice deodorant, it says, “If your grandfather didn’t use this, you wouldn’t exist.” Words to live by.

      • I live in Arizona. It’s hot here. I see plenty of men without their shirts on. Manscaping is mandatory below the neck.

        I have one friend who has Austin Powers caliber chest and back hair. He needs to keep it trimmed so it doesn’t peak out the top of his shirt.

    • I have mixed emotions about facial hair.

      One one hand, I like facial hair as an expression of “Hey, look at me, I gots testosterone, baby!”

      Some guys wear it well, while others…..well, not so well.

      My cousin has a really splotchy beard. He needs to maintain a clean-shaven face at all times to avoid giving a “dirty” appearance.

      I can’t wear a mustache worth a damn. At the same time, others would look strange without one. Normally, though, they are the guys who’ve worn mustaches all the time.

      Now, as to the “constant stubble” approach that you address. Again, some guys can pull it off. Others, not so much. My civics teacher in high school did this, groomed it regularly, and it matched his haircut. It worked for him. In a suit, he looked fine.

      Others try too hard to appear hip. Others don’t trim or maintain them. I can’t condone this, and most guys fall into one of these two pits.

      Now, when I first wrote this article, I was thinking about men in court–especially in front of a jury. In cases such as this, the purpose of the professional appearance is to not distract. So, conservative is always the best practice.

      Can you imagine losing a case because a jury was focused on the attorney’s handlebar mustache during critical parts of argument? Or, if they are thinking “What’s up with Mr. Miami Vice?”

      Personally, if I’m in a position to persuade, I always go with the clean-shaven approach.

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