Attractive people are typically perceived to be more friendly, intelligent, dominant and “sexually warm” than unattractive people, say Yale University researchers. In other words, how you look matters and improving your appearance, with the right clothes and grooming, is only going to help you get the girl.
But what exactly should you wear to push her buttons? For an insight into the strange labyrinth of the female mind, we invited three leading style experts to decipher how women would really like us to dress. This is the insider's guide to looking your best, from a woman's point of view.
In your 20s
Make your mark
“Your 20s are your transition years,” says Celebrity stylist and Fashion TV presenter Amber Renae. “This is when you develop your own sense of style, rather than just wearing what your mum or your friends think you should.” How you present yourself, says Amber, is increasingly important, because this is the period when you’re starting to establish your professional networks and need to market yourself in a credible way. “Remember: you are your own billboard for your personal brand.”
Back to basics
Good basics are the cornerstones of a sharp wardrobe. “The first thing you need is a great pair of jeans,” says Amber. “Go to a specialist jeans shop to make sure you get a really good fit.” Bewildered by the gazillion brands on offer? Amber recommends trying out two Swedish labels: Nudie or, for a more budget option, Cheap Monday.
“A lot of guys in their teens tend to wear baggier T-shirts,” says Amber. “But when you hit your 20s it’s time to abandon the surf brands with their heavily printed graphics and designs.” Instead, look to stockpile plain, fitted T-shirts with no overt logos or branding. “Try on a few brands because again, it really is all about the fit,” she says. “All guys look great in a white V-neck, T-shirt and a good pair of jeans.”
When buying collared shirts make sure they fit you cleanly through the shoulders and have a slim fit through the torso. “A blazer is another versatile staple,” says Amber. “You can dress it up with a shirt and jeans or down with a T-shirt and pair of shorts.”
No mean feet
“It may be a cliché, but it’s true that your shoes are the first thing that a woman looks at - so they’d better be good,” she says. “For winter, I recommend a good pair of boots in tan or charcoal.” She recommends checking out the range at Aquila, but whatever you opt for, make sure they’re leather – even if it means spending a little bit more. “Alternatively, ditch the sandshoes for a pair of loafers. Whether you’re wearing them with jeans or shorts in summer, you’ll always look really dapper.”
“This is the age when you need to start developing your skincare routine so that your skin still looks good in your 30s and 40s,” advises Amber. “At the very minimum you need a face wash and moisturiser with SPF protection.” When it comes to brands, she recommends Biotherm Homme and Milk. But don’t be afraid to go to the skincare counter and ask for some expert advice. “If you feel uncomfortable doing that you can always buy products online.”
A signature scent is another must-have. “Believe me, women notice how you smell,” says Amber. “I can still remember the scents of long-term boyfriends to this day.” The best way to choose is trial and error, as a fragrance reacts slightly differently to the individual chemistry of each person’s skin. “But if you need some suggestions to get started, try Gaultier Le Male, Armani Code, Acqua di Gio or Issey Miyake,” says Amber. “I guarantee they’ll all help get you laid.”
“In terms of brands, Jack London does great tailoring and is also really affordable. Saxony is good, too, and has an edgier feel.” If you want to simplify the process even further, shop online. “Have a look at ASOS and TopMan – they’re both on-trend, affordable and have a good returns policy. Online shopping makes it really easy.”
In your 30s
“By the time you’ve hit your 30s, you’ll have the confidence to know what works for you,” says fashion editor Kate Harrowsmith. This greater self-assurance means you’re less bothered about slavishly following the latest trends. “You start to dress with more maturity, but that doesn’t mean your clothes have to be boring. It’s important to still have a bit of fun.”
Keep it simple
“A fail-safe method to manage your wardrobe is to keep it simple,” recommends Harrowsmith. “If you’re not sure about an embellished collar, say, or an applique detail then err on the side of caution and avoid.” The bottom line is that if you don’t feel comfortable in what you’re wearing, you’ll end up visually projecting that insecurity.
She also recommends avoiding more fashion-forward pieces unless you’re absolutely certain you can make them work. “Take fedoras, for example, they’re very hard to pull off,” she says. “The same is true for pointy shoes and really tight jeans. Your look should seem easy, relaxed and effortless.”
“Layering is a great way to add a bit of interest to your look,” says Harrowsmith. “Instead of simply wearing a shirt and pants, layering helps you introduce a bit more colour and texture.”
A well-layered outfit should maintain the overall line and silhouette of your outfit without compromising on warmth. Think of your clothes as building blocks and experiment with different combinations. To avoid colour clashes, keep one or two of your layers in neutral tones. Aim to incorporate contrasting textures and fabrics, but start with lighter-weight pieces and keep the chunkier items on the outside.
Examples? You might try a plaid shirt and shawl-collar cardigan with a tweed jacket; a retro sweatshirt with a button-down collar shirt; or a striped T-shirt with a denim jacket under a coat. “Layering can be as simple as wearing a cardigan and scarf under a coat. The trick is to mix things up in a way that doesn’t look too fussy.”
“In terms of colour, be a bit adventurous,” advises Harrowsmith. “Be prepared to go beyond grey, navy and black, and embrace reds, greens, blues – even pinks.”
If you’re uneasy about being mistaken for an off-duty rainbow, she suggests playing with tones of blue. “Wearing colour doesn’t have to be completely crazy. Just mix denim and navy with a more vibrant hue – it can really help lift your outfit. The only thing you should avoid with bright colours is going head-to-toe.”
Investing in a few well-chosen pieces can take your style to another level. “Try wearing a wool blend knitted tie or a nice pair of brogues worn with a casual trouser rolled up,” Harrowsmith suggests. A cashmere jumper is another top buy. “It’s worth investing a little more for items that will last. With cashmere you can instantly feel the quality and although it used to be really expensive, nowadays you can find cashmere blends for a reasonable price.”
Brands to watch
“One of my favourite designers for men is the local label Vanishing Elephant,” she says. “I like how they use prints and they’ve got a nice aesthetic.” Another key piece that every man should have is a good cotton shirt. “Jac & Jack do some nice ones.”
In your 40s
Taking a less-is-more approach to your appearance at 18 can project an image of carefree exuberance. Do the same when you’re 45 and the results will be less “rough diamond” and more, grungy old dude who’s euphemistically regarded as having “let himself go”.
Fashion designer Collette Dinnigan compares managing your appearance with looking after your health. “As men get older, you actually need to take care of yourselves more and more, the same as women do,” she insists.
Make it look effortless
Paradoxically, while you still need to make an effort, try and keep it all under the radar. “Never look like you're trying too hard,” she warns. “Men should look well-groomed but not overly preened. You don't ever want to look like you've walked straight out of the barber. Having a couple of day's growth is fine.”
When it comes to your clothes, the good news is that as you clock up the years, you’ll probably have a bigger budget to play with. This allows you to invest in quality items that will endure – a classic trench coat, say, or a great pair of leather boots.
Dinnigan points out that your wardrobe should also start becoming a “little less casual”, which makes this a great time to consider tailoring services. “It's far better to have one jacket or suit that fits well than 10 that fit badly. The single most important thing to remember is that your clothes should fit you properly,” she insists.
“With shoes, you can’t go wrong with a good, classic, leather lace-up. But make sure they're always polished and not overworn. It doesn’t doesn't matter how casual your shoes are, make sure they look good.”
Guys who wear suits during the week often struggle with their weekend wardrobe. Dinnigan’s tip is to dress your age and warns against going overboard with too many younger trends or excessive colour. “There's nothing wrong with a great cotton shirt, well-fitting jeans and loafers – even Converse or espadrilles, to make it more casual,” she says.
When it comes to brands to look out for, Dinnigan reels off the usual high-end suspects of Prada, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. But she points out that you don’t have to spend a fortune. “MJ Bale do a great job; they use quality fabric and have a good handle on finish and cut while providing reasonable value, too.”
Your beloved chronograph may have a tachymeter and be waterproof to 300 metres, but its bells and whistles are unlikely to be the way to her heart. “Watches are something that guys notice but girls don’t,” says Collette. “Keep it simple.”
In fact, when it comes to accessories your motto should be less is more. “With jewellery, I hate necklaces, but cufflinks or a wedding band can be nice. I'm also definitely not a fan of comedy ties or tricky logos. Understated ties and simple leather belts are the way to go.”
That same sentiment should extend to your choice of fragrance. “Avoid anything fruity or sweet and go for something a bit more discreet - woody and lemony scents can be good,” she recommends. “But never put it on to disguise the fact that you’re hot and sweaty. Wearing scent is not an alternative to having a shower.”