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Masculine chic

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By Sarika Jagtiani
Sunday, Aug. 20, 2006
 

When Leah Watts and Tim Winski moved in together, she knew she would have to get used to -- or get rid of -- his grungy sweatpants and tank tops.

That's when his old standbys started disappearing.

"I love him, but it doesn't mean I love his clothes," says Watts, of Shadyside.

Watts helped her perfect man become perfectly dressed by buying him suspiciously fashionable "gifts" and hiding the rest.

Now he has traded in his old sneakers for Pumas and asks how he looks before they hit the town.

Watts' mission is accomplished: She has helped Winski master the art of effortless style.

Somewhere between the "Dirty Dozen" and the "Queer Eye" guys are the men who embody masculine chic.

They're multi-taskers. They drool over Steelers box seats and Fathead burgers while sporting a Windsor knot or Hudson jeans. They know how to tap a keg, and know better than to wear black shoes with a brown belt. They look good and make it look easy.

"First rule is you don't want to make it look like you're trying too hard," says Tyler Thoreson, executive editor of men.style.com, GQ's and Details' online home.

He says most guys are afraid of looking like they put too much thought into their look. Or that they have a "look" at all.

But masculinity and fashion can go hand in calloused hand.

Witness Matt Burello.

Leaning on the bar at Downtown's Bossa Nova, frosty beer in hand, Burello looks surprisingly cool on a day that has lesser men wilting in the oppressive humidity.

Burello, who works at PNC Bank, looks like the Downtown dweller he is in a sleek black suit and grey shirt, with classic tie shoes and brushed-metal belt buckle completing the look. He says he doesn't get teased for his attention to detail. Unless, that is, the other guy's jealous.

"If you're out with a beautiful girl and you dress nice, guys in jeans and a T-shirt might be hating on you a little bit," he says, grinning mischievously.

Thoreson says the key to looking good, but not like you're trying, is finding clothes that fit well.

"Quality fabric and all that is something that you will pay for, and that's important," he says. "But there's no excuse to have clothes that don't fit properly."

He advises men to go one size up from something that's too small. Clothes that fit accentuate the overall presence but don't draw attention to themselves, he says.

"It makes your body look so much better," says Jennifer Colosimo, owner of Castle Shannon's Denim Heaven.

About half of her male customers come in alone, but don't know what they're looking for, she says. So she serves as a consultant.

With her husband, Jamie, she was more direct.

"I just said, 'Here, try these on. They're going to look a hell of a lot better than the Levi's and Gap jeans that you're wearing.'"

Now, her meat-and-potatoes man -- she says he works out every day and worships at the altar of the Steelers -- has a collection of designer denim.

Sometimes a stylish purchase is just a nudge away.

Cotton Inc.'s Lifestyle Monitor tracking research says 54 percent of men feel better when they get a second opinion on their wardrobe.

Kevin Miscik, owner of Greensburg's Lapels, A Fine Men's Clothier, echoes this idea.

"When they come into a store like mine and see people who are actually in the fashion business, what works is that reinforcement," Miscik says.

When men shop alone, they often find that reinforcement by asking female shoppers or store employees for their opinions, he says.

Men aren't as shy anymore about being interested in fashion, he says. If they see a newscaster or local sports celebrity in stylish gear, men don't hesitate to ask about tailoring the look to their lifestyle. They're even embracing color, something Miscik didn't see when he opened the store in 2002.

Kaiser, who studies the connection between style and identity, says an interest in style has become more acceptable for today's man.

She says that while giving a man a new look is a fun project for women, it also helps the man embrace his stylish side without losing points for manliness.

He can just blame it on his girlfriend, wife or whoever got him to trade in his stretched-out sweaters for slim-cut jackets.

But don't push him too far past his comfort zone, Kaiser warns.

"Figure out what he likes to wear, and then figure out some way to push that in another direction. Gingerly," she says.

Fran Harbaugh, of Latrobe, looked no farther than the runway when looking for a store to send her husband to.

After seeing styles from Lapels at at a spring fashion show, Harbaugh directed husband Dan to the store, which is now a favorite of his. Along with a group of other men whose wives saw the show.

Harbaugh says she loves the styles and Dan was happy to find classic, stylish clothes without straying too far from home.

Fashionable clothes are everywhere, even at chain retailers, Thoreson says. And they don't have to be flashy or girly.

Men can lone-wolf it if they keep these fashion tips in mind from Daniel Billett, men's fashion expert for About.com

  • Leave the college look behind when you leave college. That means no wrinkled shirts or fraternity tees if you can no longer pass for a student.

  • Pick up a magazine you like to read for wardrobe ideas. Even FHM, Men's Health and Stuff have style sections.

  • Go somewhere with knowledgeable salespeople to try on clothes and get an educated second opinion on what suits you.

  • If you're going to invest in a few key, expensive pieces, look for leather goods or a quality coat that will last for years. Shoes, belts, coats and well-tailored three-button suits are best bets.

  • Look for a stylish duffle or messenger bag for your workout gear, especially if you're going straight from work. Ditch the grocery bags and duffle from your year on JV football.

  • Socks and sandals are never a good idea. Never.

  • Men don't have to frequent high-end boutiques and stores to look great. Stores such as J. Crew have stylish and classic pieces suitable for the biggest fashionphobe.


Tips for saving the fashionless

  • It's fine to replace worn-out duds with new ones, but men tend to get more attached to certain articles of clothing than women do. If he has a party shirt, lucky Steelers tee or something he can't seem to part with, don't push it.

  • When helping someone update his wardrobe, it can be easier to ask what he doesn't like, and rule that out, rather than what he does like.

  • 73 percent of men ages 16-70 say they get clothes ideas from what they already own and like, so keep that in mind when shopping for them. Try not to change his basic style, but get updated pieces of what he already likes.

  • A lot of men like to get a woman's opinion about their wardrobe, but don't push things that just aren't him and lose his trust.

  • If he's trying on clothes, put coordinating things in the dressing room for him so he can see how the whole look will come together.

Sources: Susan Kaiser, author of "Social Psychology of Clothing: Symbolic Contexts in Clothing"; Cotton Inc.'s Lifestyle Monitor tracking research

 

 
 


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