Not all of us are blessed with faces that could launch a range of Gillette razors.

Not all of us spend countless hours at the gym and then eating clean to look like Adonis-es.

In fact the biggest workout most of us get, is picking the bottle of whisky to pour a drink. Also our diet has tremendously calorie dense stuff like pooris. (Refined flour kneaded with milk and oil, and then, deep fried in oil. Usually eaten with halwa; let’s not even get into the ingredients and description of THAT.)

So, through reasons within and beyond our control, we end up looking like beta versions of human beings.

Almost there, but the UI is shit.


Now if you’re offended by all this, there’s two things I’d like to say.

  1. Either you’re offended because you think what I’ve said is untrue. In which case you don’t need to bother about the rant of an idiot, and should be on twitter finding something else to outrage about.
  2. You are offended cuz it read rude, but you know this is true. In which case taking offence is just stupid.

Instead of concentrating on butthurt you should be looking at ways through which this statement can be made not applicable to you.

And that is where this blog post will help.

One of the easiest ways to counter genetics and diet, without actively fighting them is by dressing well.

A not so good looking but well dressed man turns way more heads than a shabbily dressed decent looking one.

However, grooming lessons have hardly been a part of our learning curve while growing up, and we tend to falter frequently, and often disastrously.

Formal dressing – Going wrong

To right a wrong, we must first investigate the wrong in greater detail.

Figure out the potholes on our road to being well dressed, so we can avoid stepping into the murky water that collects in them.

Here are the biggest and commonest of them, listed:

Formal Dressing Foul – Going off the rack.

Buying clothes off the shelf of a store is convenient, fun and near therapeutic in some cases. What it’s not good for, is us looking great.

See, mass production is done keeping an average of multiple body types in place.

Pieces of clothing that will fit most bodies okay, but none perfect.

We’re somewhat like potatoes, all round-ish, but still wildly different upon closer inspection. So none of the clothes that you buy from a store will do your body justice.

And I am not talking just about people who’re not in decent shape either. Even people who are in shape won’t find a perfect fit.

For example I am in better-than-average shape. However  shirts from Zara or H&M (most well fitting of the branded shirts) will be tight around my chest and will have extra material bunching around my waist.

A friend of mine has it the other way around.

His paunch will cause him to buy bigger shirts that are too big from the chest and shoulders if they have to fit around his waist.

Worry not. Buying off the rack is good to go. However remedial measures I list later in this post should definitely be taken.

Formal Dressing Foul – Shining on.

Charisma not your strong point? Don’t make up for it by wearing shiny clothes.

Charisma your strong point? Then you don’t need to make up for it by wearing shiny clothes.

You are not a hero from a 90s Hindi movie. You are also not a hero from a current Bhojpuri movie.

Shimmers and sparkles look good only on car paint finishes and supermodel cleavages.

Shiny materials will make you stand out, but only as someone who has no idea about dressing well.

So if you’re guilty. Stop, and don’t ever do it again.

Formal Dressing Foul – Being two people at the same time.

We’re not all graphic designers and the concept of colour palettes is alien to most. However, very few of us are colour blind, and I think tone blindness could be even rarer. And even the visually impaired aren’t texture blind.

So what’s your excuse for looking like winter has arrived over your legs, but the upper body is firmly the tropical summer?

Why would you believe, even for a second that a rust coloured shirt will go with blue trousers? On second thoughts, why DO you even have a rust coloured shirt?

Also, a brown belt, white socks and black shoes? What are you protesting? Sight?

The only one thing that comes to mind when I see people dressed like that is this gem from Calvin and Hobbes.

Le Manual Colours in clothing
Image Via Universal Press Syndicate

Formal Dressing Foul – Knot knowing what to do.

The brits left occupation more than seven decades ago, but we’re still stuck with signs of bondage around our necks in this tropical weather.

Our collars might be bunched, our knots obscured by the double chins and our circulation in jeopardy, but we insist on wearing ties on every special occasion.

Not that I’ve not been there.

I hate wearing ties, and I am absolutely convinced that they are detrimental to our mental health. But if we must, the knots shouldn’t look like a deformed capsicum and the tie shouldn’t end like orgasms after a month long bonk-break.



Formal Dressing Foul – Being our colourful selves.

Already covered in #3 a bit. However, needs more attention. I know India is a colourful country, but could you please stop taking it so seriously?

Would it be so hard to leave some colours just for billboards and fireworks?

Did you know that acid green and burnt orange are also called that because when worn in formal attire, they have those effects on the retina?

Loud, celebratory and vivid colours are good to throw on casual accessories or on the walls of a club that plays psychedelic music. Not on your clothes. Definitely not on your formal clothes.

Formal Dressing Foul – Smelling compelling.

I seriously don’t know how to effectively express my anguish here. Please, for the sake of all that is holy to you (even if it being unholy), ASSUME that you smell terrible.

Thing about our noses is that they get used to regular odours. That’s why Bombay smells terrible when you visit, but once you’re living there, it’s all “I want a sea-facing house”. Your nose just ignores the smell that Mahim creek has been feeding the sea.

Same goes with our bodies and clothes. We don’t come to know that we’re reeking. Others do. And there is hardly a bigger turn off than someone who smells bad.

There is, but…

On the contrary, deodorant manufacturers have realised that our noses have become immune to subtle fragrances. So most of the stuff available on our shelves smells as potent as industrial grade cleaning products. And we have the tendency to slather ourselves in it.

There have been occasions where I could smell a person approaching (thought honestly it’s mostly been the case with women) and all I could concentrate on was the “fragrance”. So yeah, overkill on the other side of the fence is not great as well.

Formal Dressing Foul – Bad timing.

Simple. Gold watches.

The only thing better than gold watches is going watch less. But then why would you do that?

How do you know that it’s time to look good when you don’t have a watch. Okay. Terrible joke.

But honestly, being bare-wristed is a huge waste of opportunity to shine when it’s your time to.

Fine. No more shitty puns.

Formal Dressing Done Right – Remedial action.

So, having listed out a majority of the mistakes when it comes to formal dressing, here are ways you can go about fixing them.


India has some pretty reasonable prices when it comes to custom clothing. Hell, we were wearing mostly custom clothing till the markets opened up, and brands rushed in. A lot of that legacy still remains. Even thought some recent “tailoring” brands in fancy malls would like you to believe otherwise.

Even if you buy off the rack, please take the stuff to a tailor you trust and get it fitted before you wear it. Some common rules:

  • The shirts shouldn’t have excess material around the waist. Just enough for you to move around.
  • The shoulder seam of the garment shouldn’t fall past your shoulder end. Nor should it stop seriously short of it.
  • The cuff of your shirt shouldn’t climb up higher than your wrist bone when you stretch your arm straight. Nor should the material bunch up when you’re standing with arms by your side.
  • “Windows” shouldn’t appear between your front buttons. Not on the chest. Not on the belly. Even when you sit. If you have a paunch this point and the first one might clash. In which case, stop eating so much.
  • The jacket arm ends should stop 1/4th of an inch before your shirt cuff ends when you’re standing with your arms by your side.
    The jacket should have lapels on the thinner side of life.
  • A classic two buttoned jacket is the safest bet.
  • The jacket has the same rule for the shoulders as the shirt. Go for structured shoulders if your own aren’t up to the game.
  • It should be fitted from the waist and not extendable like a BASE jumper’s “wings”
  • The trousers should sit on the pelvic bones. Not on the chest and not saggin’ like hop-hop denims.
  • Similarly for the fit. Not too loose, not clinging to the legs. A tapered fit is great.
  • The crotch area should not look like it can accommodate Chuck Norris’s balls.
  • The pants should have only one “break” in them before they hit the shoes.


Matte finish for your clothing material please. I have seen people carry mild sheen off, but those people had a LOT else going for them. If you have even a teeny-weeny bit of doubt that you don’t, err on the side of caution. Non-reflective will put you in the best light.


Light materials belong with light materials. You cannot mix a linen shirt with corduroy pants (not that corduroy pants could classify anywhere as formal, but you get the drift).
Blues go with blues and greys.
Or blues go with shades of tan. Or white.
Blacks go with greys and blues.
I personally would stay away from browns, but whites and browns / tans go well.
Pinstripes only if they’re spelling your name out. NOT.
Socks the colour of your shoes ideally.
Colours of the belt and shoes need to match.
Belt buckles need to be conservative
KISS rule – Keep it simple stupid!


Ditch the tie. If absolutely required:

  • Slim ties over broad ones
  • A double windsor knot is classy AF
  • Tie tip ends where the belt buckle starts
  • Tie-pins are classy and go very well with suits that have deep lapels.


Black, grey, blue, and sometimes brown. No further experiments. Unless you’re KNOWN for your excellent style, err on the side of caution.


You HAVE to smell neutral or pleasant.

  • ALWAYS wear anti-perspirant. ALWAYS.
  • Again. ALWAYS wear anti-perspirant. ALWAYS.
  • Trim your underarm hair. It’ll help reduce odour.
  • Wear a deodorant or a perfume thats in sync with time of the day. Fresh or citrusy for the day and musky and dark for the evening.
  • Spray a new deodorant or perfume on your wrist the first time you’re using it and get a friend / partner to check if it’s still on and about in 3-4 hours. Then use basis the intensity.
  • Don’t drench yourself in perfume like you’re about to self-immolate. You’re not from Saudi Arabia.


Don’t buy a watch. Invest in one. i.e. Save money and get an expensive one that’ll last you many years.

  • Automatics are expensive, but classy
  • No one will take your Rolex seriously if you’re stepping out of a Suzuki. No need to go overboard.
  • Definitely don’t wear a replica. We all know that’s not a Jaeger-LeCoultre.
  • Chain or strap is your call, but the chain should be well fitted, and the colour of the strap matching your belt and shoes.
  • Gold watches are for rich, old stockbrokers.
  • Make sure the watch is set to the accurate time. Rookie mistake, that’s made far too often.
  • Watch should show (at least a portion of it) at all times.

So here we are, having covered most of the elements involved with formal dressing for men.

Have I left out any?