Q I enjoy your column and often wish I wasn't retired. There was a point in my career when I dressed as young doctors were supposed to. As I have now retired, I'm a little ashamed of my attire, but comfort has taken over and continues to win the battle. Age brought me wrinkles along with added weight and loss of style. I'm 6-foot-2, 240 pounds and ashamed of my belly. As I search for something comfortable to wear at home and to the hardware store on occasion, nothing seems right for me. Low-hanging pants may seem OK for high school, but they don't work for older men. How in the world did we get to the point where pants that are narrow and short at the ankle are in style? All of my career, ankles were covered with socks to be sure our hairy legs did not show. Jackets (blazers) always covered the butt. When I first started my career I came upon a book on conduct for a young doctor just beginning his practice. It addressed personal attire and hygiene. It even had a message advising young doctors to be sure the female patient observed you washing your hands. Times sure have changed -- but not always for the better.
Perhaps you can help me bridge the gap between outdated advice and current thinking.
A Your question tells me that you are not one of those men who just "don't care" what they wear and how they look. When I see a man dressed in too-large (or too-tight) pants and unmatched tops, with everything looking sloppy together, I find myself asking the question: "Doesn't he own a mirror?" You clearly do, and while there is not much to be done about age lines, there is plenty you can do that will make you happier with what you see in the mirror, and the image of you that the world sees.
For men who are overweight, pants are a good place to start. First and foremost, forget about what size you "used to be"; those numbers are irrelevant. Find out what size you are now. The best way to do this is to go into a fine men's clothing shop, and have their tailor measure you. You will probably find that your waist size and your hips/seat size do not exactly coincide with the ready-made pants the store has in stock. Not a problem. Choose ones where the seat fits you right, and then have the waist altered (taken in or let out) as well as the length. These are simple corrections that any good tailor can do.
Wear your pants at your waist instead of at your hips. This will help hide those love handles and will make you look slimmer overall. For a look that streamlines, choose lightweight, non-bulky fabrics, preferably in dark colors. Choose styles with a clean flat front (without pleats). Men believe pleated pants allow for and hide weight, but pleats are currently out of style and they do just the opposite -- creating the look of a closed sack. Avoid carrying chunky wallets and too many keys in your pockets.
Similar to the mistake with pleats, many men think an overhanging, untucked top hides weight and slims your silhouette. It does not. Wear your shirts neatly tucked in. If you wish a layer over your pants to provide a bit of smoothing, add a non-bulky sweater or return to the blazers you wore in the past. They will upgrade the elegance and complete the look, even in the most casual settings.
Keep in mind that different makers have their own way of cutting clothes. The fit from one maker will be different from another's. If you find a manufacturer/brand whose cut fits you well, keep that name in mind, and in the future shop in stores that stock that name. Check out some of the clothing brands that are made for larger guys.
When it comes to what length to choose, the delicate yet vital matter of break or no break in the trouser line has been with us for decades. Here, reflecting on this dilemma, are fashionable (fictional) young Bertie Wooster and his incomparable butler, Jeeves, as recorded by P.G. Wodehouse in the classic, comic novel "The Code of the Woosters."
Jeeves: The trousers perhaps a quarter of an inch higher, sir. One aims at the carelessly graceful break over the instep. It is a matter of the nicest adjustment.
Bertie Wooster: Like that?
Jeeves: Admirable, sir.
Wooster: (Sighing) There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, "Do trousers matter?"
Jeeves: The mood will pass, sir.
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