super mario looking stylish

Respectable pro athletes wear nice suits. That’s because they know the value of dressing well and looking professional.

Look at guys like Marcel Kittel, Fabian Cancellara, and Pierre Rolland. Or the infamous Mario Cipollini. They actually put thought into their outfits.

Even if you’re just a beginner, if you want to be sponsored someday, you need to look the part right now. Going pro and getting sponsors is just as much about being an ambassador for the sport as it is about winning races.

Looking stylish and professional is not just a way to get sponsors, it’s a good way to live life!

Here’s how you can do it.

Suit Up!

As Neil Patrick Harris would say, “suit up.”

You’ll need to get a suit. It doesn’t have to be that expensive (with smart shopping, you can find a designer suit for $200 or even less,) but it does have to fit.

How a suit should fit.

You need to understand how a suit fits before you go shopping. Here are the basic guidelines.

Chest

The suit jacket will be sized based upon your chest measurement. If your chest measures 38″, start by looking at the size 38 jackets.

Shoulders

The shoulder seam (or shoulder pads) should end where your shoulders end.

Pay special attention here, because the most important thing when buying a suit is that it fits your shoulders! If the shoulders don’t fit, there’s nothing you can do about it.

Waist/Torso

A lot of suits are rather boxy in appearance, making them terrible choices for someone with an athletic physique.

Slim fit suits taper in at the waist to different degrees; these will generally be better options for cyclists.

You can get the waist of a jacket tailored so it fits closer to your body.

Collar

The collar of your suit jacket should sit flush with your shirt collar (which should be flush against your neck.)

Length of jacket

There are usually three options here – Short, Regular, and Long. So if you’re looking for 38″ suits, you’ll probably see 38S, 38R, and 38L.

The rule of thumb is that, with arms at your sides, the jacket ends around your knuckles.

Sleeve length

Virtually any suit you buy is going to require the sleeves to be shortened.

Suit jacket sleeves should come down to the top of your wrist bone. With proper length shirt sleeves, about 1/4″ of cuff shows.

It’s tricky, but vital to a good appearance. The men from Black Lapel explain as so:

Why is a “minor” detail like this so important? Showing no sleeve may have the visual effect of making your jacket sleeves look sloppily too long on you while showing too much cuff may have the visual effect your jacket sleeves are comically too short on you – both will betray the powerful effect of the superb fit you’re going for. A proper relationship between jacket sleeve length and shirt sleeve length suggests a man who is in control of his appearance and knows that a pleasing aesthetic is comprised of these “minor” details.

Pants

Pants are sized as you may expect, based on your waist circumference. You buy them in the correct waist size and get them tailored to the correct length.

The pants should sit at your waist and not slide down nor cut into your skin.

When you get them hemmed, you generally get them to where they end just above the floor (in bare feet.) This should provide around 1″ of “break” where the pants meet your shoe.

That’s most of it. For more details and illustrations, check out this visual guide to suit fit from The Art of Manliness.

Color

This is simple – start with a charcoal gray or navy blue suit. These are both all-season and all-purpose. You can’t go wrong!

Those two are probably all you need, but if you decide you want to wear suits all the time, there are plenty of other colors for your expanding wardrobe. You have black, khaki, charcoal gray with pinstripes, light gray, light blue, and a variety of patterns.

Buying a Suit

Here’s what you should know before you go shopping.

Proper fit is the most important thing.

A $200 suit you get tailored will appear better than a $2000 suit right off the rack.

Check the outlet stores.

Outlet stores are great for finding brand new dress clothes at rock bottom prices. And you’ll probably find at least 3-4 designers at any set of outlets, so you can try on many different brands in many different styles. It’s tricky because this stuff isn’t always as high quality as what you’d normally get from the brand, but it can be worth it.

Save even more at thrift stores and Goodwill.

These are excellent options, especially in the smaller cities. If you’re in Boston or Chicago, forget it, there are just too many people competing for the deals. But in smaller areas, you can find incredible deals.

Most of the dress clothes are gently used; it’s not like you’re buying used mountain bike parts that have taken a beating. And a lot of suits have timeless styles. And since you’d be getting any suit tailored to fit, you might not even spend extra on the tailoring.

Nothing local? Take a chance on the auctions at ShopGoodwill.com.

What about custom made?

In some cases, when you order a suit cut just for you, you’ll spend less and get better results.

One of the best examples of this is Black Lapel, who sells custom clothing online. This charcoal gray suit is $449.

It will fit perfectly upon arrival, saving you a trip to the tailor’s (plus the cost of tailoring.)

Just make sure you have the proper measurements.

Dress Shirts

To go with your suit, you need a dress shirt. The ones with buttons down the front and a collar.

And this also needs to fit correctly!

How a shirt should fit.

It’s slightly less complex than a suit jacket, but still takes thought (and tailoring.)

Neck

Most dress shirts are sized based upon your neck measurement. If your neck circumference is 15″, start by looking at the 15″ and 15.5″ shirts.

When buttoned, the collar should sit flush against the back of your neck, but not so tight as to cut off your circulation. You should be able to slide two fingers in there.

Sleeve length

The second measurement is the sleeve length, which is often 32-33″ or 34-35″.

A properly fitting shirt sleeve, with cuff unbuttoned, should end at that crease where the thumb meets the palm. With the cuff buttoned, the sleeve should end where your palm meets your wrist.

It’s especially important to get this right so that it matches up with your suit jacket sleeves.

Torso

Most dress shirts fit like a blouse. They fit people with narrow shoulders and a wide waist – in other words, not your typical cyclist.

You probably want to look for a “slim fit” or “athletic fit” shirt. Even then, you’ll still get it tailored, but at least it will be somewhat close to begin with.

Again, that’s just the basics. If you want to get into the nitty gritty details, see this guide in Primer Magazine for more details and illustrations.

Colors

Start with the basics, but you can really run wild here.

White and pale blue are staples – you have to have these two shirts.

After that, there are so many colors, patterns, and styles to choose from.

Great shirts

Here are some of the better options:

  • Nordstrom Very good quality shirts available in Trim Fit.
  • Banana Republic They offer both a Slim Fit and a Tailored Slim Fit. And shop their outlet stores.
  • H&M Stylish clothes at good prices, but don’t expect much quality or durability.
  • Express Nice looking, good fitting clothes at good sale prices, but don’t expect much durability.
  • Modern Tailor Custom tailored shirts ordered online for less than $50.

Nordstrom

Nordstrom gets my #1 recommendation for their blend of high quality, good fit, and reasonable price.

I can get their Trim Fit shirts in standard sizes like 15 – 34/35 to match my neck and long arms. Prices range from $55 to $69.50 per shirt, which certainly isn’t cheap, but it’s reasonable for the quality level.

A couple awesome shirts to look at are the SmartCare Twill Dress Shirt and the SmartCare Wrinkle-Free Pinpoint Dress Shirt.

Also check out Calibrate and 1901, which are both Nordstrom brands, but offer slightly trimmer fits and lower price points.

Express

Express does things a bit differently than most companies. The Express MX1 dress shirts come in sizes like Small, Medium, and Large, in combination with Modern, Fitted, and Extra Slim fits.

I believe the Express MX1 “Extra Slim” dress shirts are possibly the slimmest fit available among all dress shirts. The slimmest slim, you could say.

On top of that, the shirts are part spandex, so that makes them easier to fit. In many cases, you can wear these without getting them tailored!

The shirts can be found for about $36 each during their sales, and if you don’t need it tailored, that’s a pretty darn good deal these days! Especially if you have other Express coupons to use, or best of all, find something in the clearance section.

Pro tip: I’ve found Express shirts at a discount store called Gabriel Brothers for $12-17.

And they come in tons of different colors and styles.

Fit is a very individual thing, but I’ve had great luck with these. I need small, slim fitting shirts with long sleeves, and these work!

The spandex component is super useful in the neck; an Express 1MX in small, which is said to be a 14″ neck, has the same neck room as other shirts labeled 15″ neck. And the sleeve length would be like a 33/34, rather than the usual 32/33. Plus, spandex is great for cyclists since we feel out of place otherwise! πŸ˜‰

Unfortunately, you do have to spend some time trying on different sizes, and if you neglect them, they’ll wrinkle like crazy and start to fall apart.

Undershirts

While it might seem straightforward, this is also a complex issue!

You have to get the sizing right, choose the right color for your skin tone and shirt color, and go with the proper neck style.

Size and Fit

An undershirt should be pretty tight. “Snug” would be a good way to describe it. It can be skin tight, even.

The idea is that it should conform to your body so it doesn’t affect the appearance of your dress shirt.

Crew Neck vs V-Neck

This is simple.

Choose a crew neck for buttoned up dress shirts. Opt for a V-neck if you’ll skip the tie and unbutton the top button.

The point is, you don’t want anyone to see the undershirt!

Color

A white undershirt under a white dress shirt makes obvious lines, and that ruins your look. (Assuming you’ll be removing your suit jacket at some point.)

So get a heather gray or “natural” color undershirt, rather than white. The idea is that the shirt matches your skin tone and won’t stick out. It’s difficult to get it exact, but anything is better than white.

No undershirt?

You could skip the undershirt entirely. This avoids the lines and keeps you cool, too.

Potential problems… Pit stains on your dress shirt. Nothing to hide your chest hair and nipples when wearing a white dress shirt.

The best undershirts

Where do you find these thin, soft, snug, skin-tone undershirts? Here are some brands to look at.

Mossimo

The Mossimo t-shirts for $9.99 at Target are pretty nice. They are super super soft. The only problem is, I couldn’t find a light gray. So get some in V-neck for when you wear a colorful dress shirt unbuttoned with no tie.

Champion

Also at Target, check out the Champion C9 active performance t-shirts for $6.99. I found one that’s short sleeve, crew neck, and “sand” color. The fit is awesome, material is comfy, and it looks perfect under a white dress shirt. You can see the line of the sleeves, but it’s not nearly as bad as a white undershirt would be. And it matches my skin better than gray does.

Fruit of the Loom

Their newer Premium V-Necks are pretty good and easily found at JC Penny. Get a pack of them and it’s only about $6 per shirt. A great value! The downside is that they only come in white, and only V-neck.

Alternative Apparel

You can find these lightweight V-necks on Amazon.com for less than $10, and they come in gray and oatmeal colors.

H2H

This is a Korean brand that you can find on Amazon.com. Their lightweight, slim-fit V-necks are suitable for undershirts or casual wear and are typically under $15.

I’d prefer it taper in at the waist a bit more (it’s snug on my chest but loose on my waist,) and I’d like to get one in a light gray or beige color, but it’s a decent shirt. The V-neck is a very deep cut.

RibbedTee Retrofit

If you don’t mind paying $18 for an undershirt, this one is thin and lightweight, the perfect light gray, and comes in both crew neck and V-neck.

Belt, Ties, Vests, Pocket Squares

You are going to need accessories.

Belt

There’s one rule here – your belt should match your shoes.

Is a belt necessary? No. But usually it’s a nice touch.

Ties

A tie should complement your suit and shirt.

Ever hear the “two plain, one fancy” idea? It means that of your suit, shirt, and tie, two should be plain and one can be fancy. The tie is a perfect place to get fancy with some crazy patterns and styles!

Aside from that, there is one rule in regards to tie width: tie width must match suit jacket lapel width.

These days, ties and lapels are on the narrow side… which is ideal for cyclists who aren’t very wide themselves!

To tie your tie, use one of these knots.

To get it perfect, choose the right knot for your shirt collar.

Vest

A vest should fit snugly and cover your waist. (So it will be just a bit longer than your tie.)

You can wear a vest as part of a 3-piece suit (great for cold days,) or wear it instead of a suit jacket in the summer.

Pocket Squares

Pocket squares are a nice accent. I highly recommend including one, because this is the one spot where you can add some pizzazz to your look! Not just in color and style, but also in the multiple ways to fold one.

Just remember – it should NOT match your tie’s pattern or fabric.

Accessories

You can look even spiffier if you include accessories like cuff links, a tie bar, and a nice pen.

Shoes and Socks

Looking stylish is a head-to-toe affair, so let’s talk dress shoes and dress socks.

Both are important and both are expensive – much like cycling shoes and socks!

Dress shoe styles and colors

There are many styles of dress shoes today. If you’re only going to have one style, make it the oxford. That’s the most traditional and elegant.

You have three colors to choose from: black, brown, and oxblood.

Just make sure the color coordinates with your suit. Black shoes go best with black, charcoal, navy, and gray suits. Brown shoes go best with navy, brown, and light gray suits. Oxblood shoes work with charcoal, brown, and gray suits.

You can even get minimalist dress shoes now!

Check out the VIVOBAREFOOT Gobi II and Drake models. These shoes let you get dressed up without restricting your feet (like typical, stiff dress shoes do!)

For $150, you can get real leather!

Polish your shoes!

Of the utmost importance is to polish your shoes.

This is the proper technique.

At a bare minimum, get some good quality shoe cream polish like this one by Meltonian.

Dress socks are expensive.

But you can get expensive crap, so watch out.

I bought some $10 dress socks that were awful, which is why I was excited about Nice Laundry. You can get six pairs of good looking socks from them for $49.

You can still get compression socks!

Yeah, check out the argyle compression socks made by Rejuva Health. These are like a cross between Nice Laundry socks (style) and CEP compression socks (recovery and performance.)

For $29.99, they’re expensive dress socks, but average priced compression socks. Take a look.

See The Tailor

Getting clothes tailored is soooo important!

This is where you really stand out. It’s not about fancy designer labels, it’s about your clothes fitting you!

Seriously, properly tailored clothes command attention and make you look like a Hollywood celebrity walking the red carpet.

Why? Well, a picture is worth a thousand words. Just look at this before and after!

Before and After

In this article at Dappered, you can see the before and after shots from getting boxy off-the-rack dress shirts tailored to fit!

Finding a Tailor

From my experience, I would advise against the in-house tailoring from stores like Men’s Wearhouse. They aren’t necessarily expensive, but you could get better service for the same price elsewhere.

Then there are fancy tailoring places that do good work, but it will cost an arm and a leg!

You want to find a local tailor, preferably an independent shop; someone that works out of their home is ideal.

In cities, Yelp is a good resource. In small towns, ask around.

What’s it going to cost?

Expect something like this:

Taper suit jacket waist – $20
Shorten suit jacket length – $40
Take in suit jacket sleeves – $20
Shorten suit jacket sleeves – $12
Take in shirt – $15
Take in pant waist – $15
Hem pant legs – $10

Obviously this varies by location.

Taking care of your clothes.

You have your clothes and they’re properly tailored. All set, right?

Nope!

Dry cleaning

Find a local dry cleaner. (You can ask your tailor for recommendations.)

Steaming

You’ll save yourself a lot of money and hassle if you buy a steamer right away.

A good steamer will take wrinkles out of your clothes!

You can find a good one on Amazon.com for about $50. Check out the Steamfast SF-407 Fabric Steamer and the Conair Garment Steamer.

 

Now, go look good!

Photo credits: Graham Watson on TwitPic

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