How to Look Your Best: The Basics

Tips, secrets, and common sense to teach you how to put together a clothing ensemble that will make you look great, feel better, and win more respect, and how to look your best.

Dangerfield! Look at yourself! Speaking of respect, a man who doesn’t know how to dress like a grown-up gets what he deserves — little respect.

mens style fashion
“I don’t get no respect.” –Rodney Dangerfield

Why? Because clothes are more important than you might think in making that first impression.

Depending on the season, as much as 90% of our body is covered in fabric. What you’re wearing says much more about you than you might realize.

That’s what this Guide is all about.

In situations such as job interviews, court appearances, sales presentations and first dates it is important to make a not just good, but a great first impression for maximum credibility and authority.

Will Rogers: You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Behavioral scientists tell us that the effect of a first impression is a strong one. The process of sizing you up is something that goes on almost subconsciously. Your evaluation by a stranger takes 30 seconds or less, and can be so strong that it could take as long as five years to erase.

Why not take advantage of the research on human nature and use that knowledge to enhance and control how you are seen by others? Since about 90 percent of you is covered by what you’re wearing, the clothing you choose makes a significant statement.

The Basic Basics

Here’s the handful of things to keep in mind:

Yipes! Stripes!

One bad choice can be a whole pattern of misbehavior.

Most of us know that wide horizontal stripes make the eye move left to right thus creating a broadening effect, and vertical stripes coax the eyes up and down helping to establish a thinner look.

Maybe that’s why the necktie, that glorious vertical stripe of fabric hangs (pun!) in there!

Large designs like plaids, focus on girth not length, whereas small patterns or no patterns underscore thinness.

A super models tip: Walk like a man. Stand like a supermodel 

Next time you’re the subject of a photo op, pretend there is a clock at your feet. Right foot goes at twelve and left foot at ten, then angle your body to the left to give the person you’re talking to (or the paparazzi) a better, slimmer view.

It also makes for a better photo if you push your shoulders back, keep your eyes wide open (smiling tends to close your eyes), and lower your chin (unless you have a double chin, then raise it slightly)!

Speak Body Language.

Your mom was right! One of the most memorable things she ever said: “Stand up straight, young man.” Why did she say that? Because she knew that good posture will take five or 10 pounds off you with no sweat.

So chest out, stomach in, posture straight, walk into that job interview, sales presentation or singles bar with confidence — and walk tall!

Don’t Be a Slouch

Whether you are standing or sitting, slouching can suggest that you are intimidated, that you lack confidence or that you’re uninterested in what others have to say. Swaying or bouncing your foot says that you are nervous.

Keep Your Head Up

If you walk with your head down it lets other people be more important than you. Look at where you’re going. Make eye contact.  

Don’t stare, but look the other person (persons) in the eye 40 to 60% of the time, otherwise you’ll be perceived as having something to hide.

When you are in a meeting, it’s okay to look laterally side to side, which appears intellectual or powerful, but don’t look up or down. It makes you look as if you’ve lost your confidence.


Smile, but “over smiling” gives the impression of weakness. A good smile says you are confident, authoritative and friendly.

A real smile lasts three or four seconds; anything longer appears frozen or phony. Smile, but “over smiling” gives the impression of weakness. A good smile says you are confident, authoritative and friendly.

A real smile lasts three or four seconds; anything longer appears frozen or phony.


The first place nervous energy shows is in your hands. Don’t jingle your change, play with your ring or fiddle with your tie.

Hands clasped in front of you, below your waist gives the impression of insecurity and looks like you don’t know what to do with your hands. Just let them hang at your sides, naturally and casually.

To put your hands by your side and do nothing with your hands is powerful body language. Don’t hold one arm with the other, don’t clasp your hands in front or in back, and don’t stick your hands in your pockets (it makes your hind end look twice as wide.)

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

People are most comfortable with people who are “like” themselves (in dress, mannerisms, thoughts, etc.).

Mirror: Try to “mirror” the other person’s body position and mannerisms such as speech speed, (to a certain degree).

Voice Pitch

Keep your pitch low. There are more men on radio, because people respond better to lower pitched voices.

Don’t end a sentence with a high note, in the interrogative question tone. Instead phrase questions assertively; for example say “I’d like to know when I can meet with you,” as opposed to “when can I meet with you?”

On The Phone

On the phone. Look into a mirror when you are talking on the phone. Ask yourself, would you want to talk to the person you see in the mirror? A smile can be heard over the phone, for example.

Don’t start by apologizing. Some people start to speak by apologizing, or preface a statement with, “forgive me for saying this”. Many of us do it because we learned it from our mothers, and think it’s polite.

A note about FABRIC WEIGHT:

Heavier fabrics give the impression of a heavier body. (Tweed, flannel, bulky sweaters).

Light to medium weight fabrics visually remove pounds. (cotton, twill, linen).

A Quick Application of our new Basic Knowledge:

Most of this is also covered under what to wear for specific body types.

To Look Taller and Thinner:

  • Wear clothes that fit well (too tight or too loose clothes add pounds).
  • Wear solid colors, preferably in the same color range, from head to toe.
  • Avoid stiff fabrics and nubby textures.
  • Wear darker tones in smooth fabrics with flat finishes.
  • Limit stripes to very fine, subdued, and close-together versions.
  • Wear trousers at the natural waist (never below).
  • Wear suspenders with button loops, never clips.
  • Avoid too many accessories.
  • Be sure your tie touches the waistband and that it is medium in width.
  • Avoid busy patterns.
  • Wear vertical stripes.
  • Avoid elastic bottoms on sweaters, and jackets, which can cause the material to bunch up at the waist and make you look heavier.

To Look Shorter and/or Heavier

  • Wear contrasting colors in mix-and-match separates.
  • Wear bolder colors as accents.
  • Wear patch pockets or styling details.
  • Wear layers.
  • Elastic bottoms on sweaters, and jackets can cause the material to bunch up at the waist and make you look heavier.
  • Wear spread-color shirts and slightly wider ties, with Windsor knots.
  • Wear thin-soled, trim-looking shoes.
  • Select a top coat in a huskier fabric. It can be full or belted and should fall below the knee.
  • Wear trousers with deep pleats, cuffs, and full legs.
  • Limit using the same color from head to toe.
  • Limit the use of narrow vertical stripes, very narrow ties, and pointed lapels.

This article is part of our “How to Look Your Best” series. This series is dedicated to helping people learn how to project their best image.