The point of a New Year’s resolution, for most people, is to improve yourself in some meaningful way. You might want to start getting back in shape, aspire to pick up a cool new hobby, or make a plan to read more books in the coming year: every person will have a unique idea of what a more awesome version of themselves might look like. The most common thread in all these goals, however, is the desire to like ourselves more, to become that version that makes us feel confident in our accomplishments and our appearance.
For the tomboys, masculine of center dressers, and androgynously-inclined folks out there who work in professional environments as teachers, sales people, managers and more, the thought of fashion goals as part of their New Year’s resolution might initially seem a little shallow and irrelevant in the face of the many things going on in their lives. But wait – take the time to stop and consider your professional wardrobe for just a moment.
- When was the last time I invested in upgrading my professional wardrobe?
- How confident am I that my wardrobe is making me look like the professional I want to be seen as?
- Do I feel good in the morning when I get dressed to face the day?
- Could tweaking some things about my office outfits give me the extra confidence I wish I had going into the new year?
Business attire is already a fraught subject for someone who doesn’t necessarily dress according to the gendered set of assumptions that much of the old-school office world has about who should wear what. It can feel easiest to just dress conservatively, avoid making any statements, and hope that your work speaks for itself. And yes, your work should speak for itself – but are you losing out on an extra jolt of mojo that you could give yourself each morning if you had access to professional-looking fashion that really, truly reflects that “more awesome version of yourself” we all fantasize about at this time of year?
At Tomboy Toes, we firmly believe that access to a wardrobe that truly makes you feel good about yourself is a vital component for giving dapper professionals the confidence they need to take ownership of a sales meeting, command the attention of a class, or pitch their brilliant ideas to a quietly impressed investor. So in order to help you do that, we’ve compiled these ten new year’s resolutions for a masculine of center professional: they’ll give you some tangible fashion goals that will help you start the year off on the right foot. It’s time to tell the world that you’re smart, you’re serious, and you’re capable as a professional.
#1: Stop trying to compromise with imaginary critics
The world of fashion is one that splits itself down the middle on imaginary lines of gender. If you’ve grown up your entire life hearing parents and friends and sales people suggest you wear something “a little more feminine” or tell you not to buy something because it’s “a little masculine”, your brain has absorbed those messages and created a looming figure inside your own mind that repeats those phrases into your ear even when nobody is actually saying them. You may find yourself pre-emptively imagining that your peers, managers or customers will be the ones making those judgements, and trying to offer a compromise in anticipation of a criticism that doesn’t actually exist.
You might pick up a dress shirt and frown to see the ruffles along the front, and begrudgingly buy it, thinking that wearing a dress shirt and pants is masculine enough, so you’d better not push your luck. We’re here to free you from that imaginary critic – stop buying things you don’t enjoy wearing because you think it will protect you from people’s judgement.
If you’re not truly happy in your clothes, why would you spend money on them? Why are you trying to appease the kind of people who would find fault with a sharp professional outfit because it doesn’t fit their idea of gender roles? It could be that nobody in your office actually cares if your dress shirts are from the men’s section, and the only people saying those cruel things about you are the ones in your imagination.
This year could be the year you stop trying to meet that theoretical critic in the middle. Don’t buy clothes that are only kind of what you want – spend your hard-earned money on clothes that fill you with joy and confidence.
#2: Go out and get a piece of clothing tailored
You probably know, objectively, that the best looking clothes look that way because they’ve been custom tailored. You’ve probably been putting it off because you’ve never done it before and the idea scares you, or because it seems like an awful lot of money to spend. This year, take the tailor for a trial run. You likely have something in your closet that is just a tiny bit too big – a dress shirt with shoulders that are too broad, or a jacket with arms that are too long, or a pair of pants that bunch up at your ankles. Start with just one – the one that you like the most, and know you’d wear more often if it only fit a little better – and go take it to a tailor.
You can get a quote and then change your mind if the price is too steep, but for a simple alteration it likely won’t be as much as you’re expecting. Remember to give yourself time for a proper alteration, too: even if their sign says “pants hemmed while you shop, ready in two hours”, there’s no way of knowing how busy they are or whether the specialist they need is working that day, so don’t bring in a garment to be altered if you need to have it for an important meeting the very next day. The tailor will do a better job if they aren’t rushed – and it avoids any potential rush fees, too.
If you start with just one or two small alterations per year, you effectively add an unwearable item back into your wardrobe as a potential outfit component, and you dip your toes somewhat inexpensively into the world of tailoring. When you reach a point of financial stability where you can justify doing it more often, you’ll have some experience with what the process is like, and have some rapport with the local tailor.
#3: Follow some masculine of center fashion influencers
It can be easy to feel uninspired by the same old collection of shirts and jackets you stare at every Monday morning in your skivvies trying to figure out what the heck to wear. That’s why one of our suggested resolutions is to add some fashion influencers into your social media intake, to put some new and interesting outfits into your consciousness! Pick some influencers who dress the way you wish you dressed, who have that certain aura that you long to cultivate, and throw a follow in their direction on Instagram or on Twitter.
You’re not likely to go out and imitate their outfits exactly, but just seeing what combinations of colors, patterns and accessories someone who genuinely loves masculine of center fashion will put together can be a good source of inspiration for new ways to combine the existing items in your wardrobe. Not sure where to start? Try scrolling through a website like DapperQ and checking out the various fashion influencers featured there, and then follow the folks whose style most appeals to you. It’ll keep new ideas coming across your social media on a regular basis, and help you to avoid stagnating.
#4: Invest in at least one pair of dress shoes that aren’t black or brown
Every good professional wardrobe has at absolute minimum one pair of brown dress shoes, one pair of black dress shoes, and a pair of dress boots in either black or brown. The odds are good that you already own these absolutely essential foundation pieces (and if you don’t, your first order of business should be to correct that).
Assuming that you do own these three foundation pieces for your professional footwear collection, this year we challenge you to go outside your comfort zone. Get yourself a pair of interesting statement shoes, like a pair in blue or in gray, and whenever you decide to wear them you’ll be stepping into work with just that extra little bit of pizzazz. Unique colored dress shoes can bring an outfit to life while keeping it workplace appropriate, declaring to your colleagues that you’re a unique individual with a fun but refined sense of taste.
#5: Donate the items of clothing you’re hanging onto out of guilt
We’ve written before about how valuable a good wardrobe purge can be. There’s no better time to do it than at the start of a new year, when you’re looking for ways to really embody “out with the old and in with the new”.
Most people have a surprising number of garments that they’re holding onto that they seldom wear – the kind of garment that makes you feel a flood of guilt whenever you set your eyes on it at the back of your closet. Maybe it was a well-intentioned gift in a style that you find uncomfortable – or maybe it’s an item you loved once that was given to you by a person no longer in your life, like an ex partner. Maybe it’s something like the aforementioned frilly dress shirt, bought out of a sense of obligation and then rarely worn because – surprise – it isn’t really your style at all.
It’s time to get out a big garbage bag and fill it up with the clothes you don’t wear. Even the process of bringing them to the nearest clothing donation will make you feel good, knowing that somebody else can get some good use out of them and enjoy them in a way that you just don’t anymore.
#6: Dare to talk to sales people when shopping for yourself
If you manage to empty half your closet getting rid of all the things you don’t actually wear anymore, you’re going to have to go shopping. For some, shopping is a pleasure – for others, it can be a nightmare. Although we want to be careful not to be flippant about the many complex reasons people may be reluctant to approach sales people for help, this year one of your resolutions should be to start fighting your shyness and start asking for help.
Will there be salespeople who have no idea how to cater to you, who are baffled by your sense of style? Sure, it’s certainly possible! But we want you to give it a try anyways, and hold on to the idea of “returning awkwardness to sender” – if the sales person at the suit store is acting confused that you want to buy a “men’s” suit and you don’t fit their description of the correct kind of customer, that’s on the sales person for making it weird, not you.
Their job is to help you find what you’re looking for, and to earn money for their employer in doing so – you aren’t asking them for any service that they weren’t expected to provide already. So square those shoulders, and work on saying “yes, actually” when somebody appears at your elbow and asks if you’re in need of any help.
#7: Try cool things on even if you’re scared they won’t look good on you
Have you ever seen a really awesome outfit on a mannequin, thought to yourself, “Oh, I love that look,” and then walked away without even considering buying the pieces that you liked so much? True, you’re not a perfectly designed piece of smoothly humanoid plastic – you’re better. Instead of thinking you can’t wear it as well as the mannequin does, think instead that no mannequin can wear an outfit as well as you, because you’re alive and moving and talking and charismatic in a way no dummy will ever be.
Steel your resolve in the new year to ignore that voice of doubt: if you like the look of an outfit or a piece of clothing, try it on. The worst thing that will happen is you decide not to buy it.
#8: Stop wearing denim to the office, even if your boss shows up in jeans every day
So many workplaces are going the “business casual but mostly casual” route these days that you can be forgiven for losing sight of the importance of dressing to impress on a day to day basis. In our humble opinion, just because your boss or the other people in your workplace think of themselves as an off-the-beaten-track genius and show up in jeans, graphic tees and tennis shoes doesn’t mean you have to emulate their misplaced fashion sense.
Even if you want to take advantage of the lax dress code, swap the jeans out for some chinos and the t-shirts for some button ups with fun micro-prints. This serves two purposes. First, it acts as a clear mental delineation for “I’m going to work now”, and that clear compartmentalization between work time and non-work time is important for having a healthy relationship with your job. Secondly, dressing nicely makes you feel good about yourself, and when you feel good about yourself you produce better work, have better interactions with coworkers, and are in a stronger position to negotiate for raises and promotions.
#9: Buy the coveted suit and wear it purely to make yourself feel powerful
You may feel like you need a special occasion to justify buying a suit: an important meeting, a high-stakes presentation, or even a significant wedding. You’ll actually do yourself a favor by buying a suit just because you want to own one (or own a new one) – because you haven’t tied the suit to a specific event, you’ve freed yourself to wear it for whenever it’s appropriate.
Sometimes the act of putting on a suit serves as a mental invigoration while getting ready in the morning – the ritualistic layering, the tug of the sleeves and the settling of the weight on your shoulders can be like a medieval knight donning their armor for battle. There are some days where you may want to put your full suit on for no reason other than having that extra sense of purpose, presence, and power – and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
#10: Treat yourself to some small things that up your dapper aura
It’s the little touches that can make an impression: a nice watch, a tie bar, a fountain pen, a leather document holder. Surrounding yourself with these small but elegant little touches can remind you whenever you take notes, check the time, or gather your items for a meeting that you are a serious professional. It gives you the opportunity to personalize your personal space, if you will, with accessories and additions that will draw the eye of your colleagues.
A nice fountain pen can run you as little as $5 for a beautiful, weighty pen from a lesser known brand like Jinhao, and they’re not that hard to learn to use – but your presence in a meeting will immediately command more respect just from this small upgrade from the dime-a-dozen ballpoint pens that everybody around you likely uses.