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Required Reading

These Are The Men’s Style Rules You Can Break

February 2nd, 2021

7 Style Rules You Don’t Have To Follow

There are so many rules out there, it can be really confusing to try and figure out which ones you should be following. The last thing you want is to do something ‘wrong.’ But the thing with style rules is, once you know them, many can be broken. In my experience, there are seven outdated men’s style rules to ignore- but one you should always follow.

1. No Brown In Town


When men went to work in the city back in the day, they usually wore blue, grey, or black. Brown was reserved for countrywear or at home- hence the phrase “no brown in town.” This one never made sense to me. Brown, especially in darker shades, is perfectly acceptable for a modern business suit. It’s a great alternative to navy and is really easy to combine. So, feel free to break this one.

2. Matching Your Shoes And Belt


Guys get really hung up on this one. In theory, it’s a good style rule to follow because matching leathers create harmony and look aesthetically pleasing. In reality, though, it’s almost impossible to abide by all the time. You’ve got dress shoes in black, burgundy, and goodness knows how many shades of brown. What about white sneakers, though? That’s a lot of matching belts! And a lot of money.

My recommend here is to have a black belt for black shoes and a medium brown belt for everything else. If you want to throw in something like a fabric d-ring belt for casual looks, that’s a good option too.

3. Don’t Mix Navy And Black


I don’t quite know where this came from, but I get questions on it all the time in the comments section on the channel. If you’re wearing a dark suit for a dressier occasion, a pair of black shoes with a dark navy suit is completely fine-it matches the level of formality. And what if you’re wearing a midnight blue tux? Are you not supposed to wear black shoes with that? You are, and it’s what looks right.

The only instance where it might not work is wearing black dress shoes with dark blue jeans. The levels of formality don’t match up. But, for the most part, pairing black with navy within an outfit is totally acceptable.

4. Don’t Mix Brown And Black


Also not sure where this one came from, but it’s outdated men’s style rule you can break too. Personally, I really like the contrast of brown and black together- but you have to be careful about the shade of brown you choose. It can’t be too dark; what you’re really going for is contrast.

Let’s take this pair of black jeans, for example. Try a pair of chestnut Chelsea boots. Throw on a tan sweater and a light brown trucker jacket. Bingo. Plenty of contrasting tones, and you look like you mixed them on purpose.

5. Don’t Mix Metals


I suppose the thinking behind this ‘rule’ is, like the shoes and belt one, it looks more harmonious if all your metal jewelry is the same tone. This can get rigid really quick, though.

What if I want to wear a steel watch? Should I have an extra steel wedding band instead of a gold one? Does having a gold wedding band mean I can’t wear a steel watch? And, how about two-tone watches? (Sure, I’ll admit it’s little like cilantro or licorice-you love it or you hate it.) The only time I really think about this one, though, is when I’m wearing black tie. Day to day, it doesn’t really matter. Go ahead- mix your metals.

6. Double-breasted Suits Are For Slim Men Only


This outdated style rule is the sartorial equivalent of profiling. The reason this myth exists is because of the way a double-breasted jacket creates width. There is more fabric, yes, but the main thing is the horizontal lies that are produced. In a double-breasted jacket, the lapels go across the body rather than straight down. The peaks give the impression of a broader chest, and the button stance reinforces horizonal lines.

These things can be managed in a couple easy ways, though. The buttons can sit closer together. And, the lapels can slope farther down. So as far as double-breasted suits being for slim men only-that’s a totally outdated men’s style rule.

7. Always Button The Entire Double-breasted Jacket


This one is a little on the advanced side, I’ll admit. But, even if you’re getting there, different ways of button your DB jacket is something to consider.  Let’s talk about two scenarios.

First, doing-up all the buttons on the jacket. This is more old-school, more formal-and the way some think it should be done. But tailoring, even on a double-breasted jacket, doesn’t have to be formal. Unbuttoning the bottom button is one way you can give a double-breasted jacket a more casual feel. Another way is to leave the inside button undone, which doesn’t force the lapel to be super straight.

The second scenario we’re talking about is, again, a bit of a cilantro/licorice scenario, that’s leaving the entire jacket unbuttoned. The reason people say not to do this is because of the extra fabric flapping around. However, if you engage in some menswear mannerisms and put your hands in your pockets (I know, not for everyone) it could look okay.

The HSS Golden Rule of Men’s Style

There is one rule, however, I suggest you always follow. It’s one that I use to guide pretty much every style-related decision I make. There’s no formula. It’s not written in a book anywhere-that I know of. But it’s something I truly believe in.

If it looks right, it is right.

Intuition is a big part of developing your style. It may take a couple tries to get it the way you want, but you’ll know it when you get there. And when you do, you’ll walk a little taller and smile a little broader. It’s a good feeling.

What do you think? Are there rules you still follow? Or are they just guidelines?

Thanks for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

Brian Sacawa

Brian Sacawa is the Founder of He Spoke Style and one of the original men’s style influencers. Since 2013, his goal has remained the same: to provide men the advice and inspiration they need to dress well, develop their personal style, and gain more confidence. Brian’s interest and passion for men’s style and luxury watches has led to his writing for The Robb Report, The Rake, and Sotheby’s and he has been quoted on menswear in publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal,, Brides Magazine, and the Huffington Post. He lives in the woods north of Baltimore with his wife, Robin, kitties Nick and Nora, and German Shepherd/Collie mix Charlie.

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Videography by Rob McIver

Video Editing by Ian Johnston


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