There are a lot of style rules that make practical sense. For example: match the leather of your belt and shoes, wear complementary (but not matching) ties and pocket squares, mix fabric textures, dress to the occasion, and shell out for the highest quality clothing and accessories you can afford. Holding to those rules will land you in some of the sharpest outfits you’ve ever put together.
At the same time, there are some so-called rules put out by influencers, men’s magazines, and style experts that don’t make any sense whatsoever. Some seem more like arbitrary things that pretentious guys impose on their fellow man in an effort to feel superior. They’re rules that do more to restrict a person’s style than help them look their best. But the good news is that rules are meant to be broken — just browse through any of the top menswear newsletters for proof.
After scouring the men’s style rules put forward by some of the leading voices on the internet, these seven “rules” are particularly ripe for breaking. Obviously, if these are rules you already abide by thanks to your own sense of style, then by all means, abide away. Just don’t feel like you have to.
Never Wear Novelty Socks
This is one of those rules that reminds me of that XKCD comic where the stick woman fills her apartment with playpen balls. That’s impractical and we’re not advocating for a living room full of children’s toys, but the reasoning behind her choice reveals a much healthier mentality than blindly following the rules of our repressed ancestors. She says we get to decide what being an adult means, because we’re the adults now. The same thinking goes for what you put on your feet. Simply put, there’s no reason to stop yourself from wearing novelty socks. I’ve been wearing novelty socks to every wedding I’ve been to since I started going to weddings. Two of the wedding parties I was in had novelty socks as groomsman gifts. Why the hell stop yourself from having a little fun with arguably the least impactful piece of your outfit?
Square Toed Shoes are a No-Go
Both GQ and Esquire have railed against square toed shoes. And sure, maybe square toed shoes are a bit more of an old man’s affectation. But not like those enormously wide ties. These shoes still have a place on your shoe rack. Just follow the regular guidelines for shoes: Color coordinate, match the leather to your belt, and keep them in good condition. You’ll be fine.
A second reason I don’t like this rule is because it restricts potential sentimentality in your style. Take, for example, shows that your grandfather passed down. Go ahead and wear them. Don’t let some snobbish standard keep you from enjoying them.
Vests are not a Statement Piece
Another “unbreakable” rule that’s been propped up by the premiere men’s magazines that is, in fact, perfectly fine to break. Tweed, solid cotton colors, and even doubling down on disobeying the “no novelty” rule with a themed Christmas sweater — vests are great, no matter the design. They fit in at weddings, funerals, and seasonal professional parties. As long as the vest fits your body and the occasion, you’re by no means underdressed with just a vest.
Don’t Wash Your Jeans
There’s no bigger name in jeans than Levi’s. But even Levi’s gets it wrong on this one. While this rule is more of a clothing care rule than a straight-up style rule, following it will in fact lead to poor style. Not washing jeans feels like one of those things that works in a perfect world but doesn’t hold up at all to reality. Especially since jeans are often the pants men wear most, including when there’s a chance to get muddy, sweaty, and smelly. The company proclaims that spot cleaning is the way to go in all situations, which may handle some spilled ketchup after a baseball game but definitely won’t help any real issues.
Perhaps the most infuriating part about Levi’s no-washing rule is that the company suggests that using a washing machine for your jeans has a significant environmental impact. Our jeans going through routine cleanings isn’t going to bring about apocalyptic climate change or crater oceanic biodiversity. So we’ll worry less about laundry day and more about whether or not Levi’s actually hits its emissions goals.
Blue, Green, or Any Other Colored Shoes are Inappropriate
Breaking this rule doesn’t mean tossing every single pair of black and brown dress shoes you own. But you also don’t need to toss every pair of dress shoes you own that aren’t black or brown. Look, no one is saying to wear your colorful shoes to every single event. That said, can you really look at these shoes and tell us you can’t think of a single professional event that they’d be appropriate for? Or these? Or these? It’s more about outfit coordination and knowing the formality of the event than it is about color.