Here at FashionBeans, we pride ourselves on giving the best style advice there is out there. But sometimes, you just can’t beat a woman’s touch. Or a hundred women’s touches, to be precise.
By spending the last few months in our stylish little lab asking women one of the universe’s oldest questions – ‘what do you want men to wear?’ – we’ve gathered some serious intel on the likes and dislikes of the fairer sex. So we can now reveal what you should be snapping up and what you should be steering clear of should you wish to turn on the charm, right down to your underwear. Which, if you follow this advice, they will almost definitely see.
Whoever said women are complicated probably never bothered to ask them what they want. In our everyday category, responses were overwhelmingly in favour of a solid series of menswear staples (we told ya).
“A man in a plain cashmere jumper always looks good – it gives off the impression he appreciates the finer things in life,” reasoned one of our respondents. “A round neck cashmere jumper makes it look like he’s got his stuff together,” added another.
As for the denim? “I don’t want skinny jeans, and definitely none of those carrot leg ones. Simple, dark denim goes with everything, so he won’t look like he’s dug around the bottom of the washing basket to find his outfit.”
(Related: How To Pick The Perfect Jeans For Your Body Type)
The key to a woman’s heart seems to be in sticking to the classics. A well-cut pea coat is a stylish yet ever-practical outerwear option, and it looks as though the ladies have been paying attention. “If he’s wearing a pea coat, he looks smart and cool at the same time,” said one. She’s not wrong, either. Ex-Gieves & Hawkes creative director and now Cerruti chief, Jason Basmajian believes “[the pea coat’s] heritage makes every man look slightly roguish but cool.”
The only area in which there was a close runner up was on the feet, with crisp white sneakers narrowly losing out to the desert boot. “They have a bit of edge to them without being ‘edgy’,” one fan argued. But with just two per cent in it, Team White Sneakers still had its supporters. So take your pick, it seems you’ll still have some admirers either way.
The term ‘smart-casual’ has many meanings and offers up a veritable platter of wardrobe options, which also means there’s a wide margin of error. However, we’ve whittled down our study to one go-to look that’s 100 per cent female approved. (Well, 72 per cent. We tried.)
Over two-thirds of our respondents opted for the same, or very similar, look. Starting at the top: the choice of a plain Oxford shirt won out almost every time, but there was a divide on which shade the piece looks best in. While some women prefer classic white, others favour a subtle pink.
Luckily there was sisterhood on one pertinent topic. “I hate it when men have a curled collar, or haven’t looked after their shirt properly,” said one wrinkle-hating reader. “It makes me think they can’t look after themselves and are going to want me to be their maid. And not in a sexy way.”
(Related: Common Men’s Style Oversights – And How To Fix Them)
On the legs, chinos trumped denim or tailored trousers as the best smart-casual option, but with some caveats. “Pleats always remind me of my dad, so please, no.” As with anything, it pays to shop around and find the perfect pair as settling for anything less will be noticed. “I hate it when a man has trousers that are too long or too short. Get them tailored if they don’t fit.”
Style writer Luke Leitch has some advice for picking out the perfect pair to pull, and for keeping them that way. “They should have nothing especially flashy about them, and the cut should be just slim enough in the leg to appear modern,” he says. “Wash them carefully to avoid post-machine crinkle and replace them when you start to get the dreaded ‘shiny seat’ on your backside.”
As for footwear, it turns out that ladies love loafers. “A man in a loafer looks like he cares about his appearance without being stuffy.”
Getting dressed on a Monday morning is enough to make even the most stylish man resort to throwing on the nearest thing they can find. But now there’s no excuse, as it turns out you don’t need to do anything flashy to nail deskside smart.
Investing in a cashmere jumper appears to be a shrewd move, as once again it rose to the top of the list, trumping blazers and waistcoats as the favoured top layer. “If there’s a bloke at work wearing decent cashmere, I’d probably think he knows what he’s doing,” said one respondent. Unlike the day-to-day attire, though, women rather it was layered over a crisp white shirt. “A peep of smart white collar ticks the formal box without having some gaudy tie on display,” said another.
Chinos lost out in this category to a pair of smart, tailored trousers, and not just for their perceived formality. “A pair of black tailored trousers makes any man look good – they seem to slimline their shape somehow,” identified one participant.
Stylist to the stars Samantha McMillen, who has dressed the likes of Johnny Depp, Ashton Kutcher and Jamie Foxx, backs up the findings. “Tailored trousers look great on everyone, providing they are, duh, tailored,” she says. “Men tend to buy tailoring off-the-peg one size bigger than they should, and then stick to that size when they buy another one. Instead, buy the right size for yourself at that moment and go and get it tailored. This will flatter your body shape and make you look slimmer.”
(Related: 9 Ways A Tailor Can Make You Look Better)
Oxford didn’t just top the shirt stakes, either. The preferred shoe shape was the cap-toed Oxford, as “it has detailing, so I think he’s interested in what he wears, but they’re not too garish for the office,” according to one stylish stickler for detail.
Nothing is more photographed or more scrutinised than a wedding outfit. While women can spend months picking a dress (even if they’re just an evening guest), men have a tendency to go on autopilot and side with a plain old lounge suit. Luckily, if this is you, you’re on the right track (kind of).
Brightly-coloured suits were deemed too informal for a wedding by our females. However, it does, of course, depend on the dress code and they did, in fact, receive some positive comments. “I love a man in a bright suit, it looks confident and smart. But for a wedding, it looks like they’re trying to outshine the wedding party,” said one.
The preferred hue was, perhaps unsurprisingly, navy, which beat black and grey tones to the top spot. “A navy suit looks so much better than a black one at a wedding […] a black one is way too funeral-like.”
(Related: What To Wear To A Summer Wedding)
Style writer Liza Corsillo agrees. “Nothing says sex appeal like a well-tailored, navy suit. Keep everything else classic, but throw in a bright white pocket square and a bright white smile and you’ve cinched it.” Our panel also want their men to go one step further with the accessorising, opting for a tie that complements their partner’s outfit. “I don’t want him to wear the same colour tie as my dress, but I don’t want it to clash in the pictures so he should at least consider it when picking out his tie.”
Call it the La La Land effect, but the overwhelming response to the footwear selection on this question was the full brogue or wingtip. “Wingtips look retro but still modern,” said one. They’re actually considered slightly less formal than the plain or perforated cap-toe shoe, but they do have a level of detailing that adds some jazz-hands magic to any look, whether you’ve got two left feet or not.
There’s a finite number of options available when it comes to underwear. Male opinions are strongly divided on which ones they think are the most attractive to the opposite sex. But a whopping 84 per cent of our respondents came through with the same answer for both underwear and bedtime attire: boxers.
“Briefs [are a bit] like being in bed with Magic Mike – which sounds great in my head, but in reality, I don’t want to see that much of your inner thigh thank you very much,” said one. That participant was backed up by another: “A well-cut boxer looks better on everyone. Please, no novelty pants, no weird shapes, no baggy ones.” It seems that all other varieties are seen as, well, a bit pants.
The Times fashion editor Laura Craik does have one caveat, though. “I dislike any pants that have a logo running around the elastic. It’s tragic, and a bit weird. Why would you advertise any brand via your boxers?” It’s time to swap brand loyalty for something more low-key.
(Related: Everything You Need To Know About Men’s Underwear)