How to Improve His Wardrobe: Meeting the Parents

Publish date:
Meet the Parents

(Photo Credit: Universal Pictures, "Meet the Parents")

In my preparations to go abroad, I have been trying to think of situations more stressful than packing for a four month stay in a foreign country. Admittedly, I haven't written much down. Sure, meeting your freshman roommate is nerve racking. And, there is no feeling worse than realizing the iPhone you just bought is already out-of-date. But, for most guys, nothing comes close to the stress of journeying into the depths of a closet.

Except, of course, for one monumental situation that every human of the male genus dreads from the moment he hits puberty: meeting his significant other's parents and/or family.

Stress City. Population: Your Parents

My girlfriend's parents are sweet, down-to-earth people. They always make me feel welcome in their home and, subsequently, we get along well. But, even though there is a nice level of comfort between us, I always make the effort to look presentable before I walk into their house. For me, it is a matter of respect: I dress tastefully because I want them to want me to date their daughter. I want them to approve of me.

Now, I am not saying that every guy should show up to his significant other's house in a three-piece suit (even though that would be kind of funny). What I am saying is that meeting your significant other's parents, or just spending time with them in general, is a chance to dress to impress. And to truly impress them, it is pivotal that you capture the essence of your style and transform it into something that is both fashionable and tasteful.

The main point of today's article is that you don't have to sacrifice your individuality to impress you girlfriend or boyfriend's parents. It's easy to look tasteful and still look like yourself. So, pass these tips along and help a brotha out. Trust me, no matter how much we deny it, we are terrified to meet the parents.

Look 1: Grab and Go

Grab and Go

Products: Jeans - Gap, Belt - Zumiez, Shoes - Bass, Sweater - American Apparel, Socks - J.Crew

As a participant in American dorm life, I realize that picking up your significant other from their parent’s house is not always standard procedure. In fact, most people try to avoid it… But, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be prepared, just in case.

Personally, I find picking out an outfit for the “grab and go” situation especially challenging. You want to be put-together, but you don’t want to look like you're trying. And, to make things more difficult, you need to look good for your date. Therefore, you need to strive for a healthy balance of class and style.

Fortunately, it is not hard to find this balance. You just have to KISS, or Keep It Simple, Silly.

I know what you are thinking…“Didn’t my eighth grade English teacher tell me this?” Yeah, probably, but it doesn’t matter: KISS is an acronym that is applicable to just about anything life throws at you, especially fashion dilemmas.

In the outfit above, there aren’t many bells and whistles. No collars. No ties. Nothing to suggest that you are trying too hard. But, the subtleties of the outfit evoke an air of refinement. Simple, classic jeans suggest an acquaintance with the traditional; they lack manufactured wear, artificial fading, or jewels on the back pockets. Those amenities attract negative attention. The basic, non-v-neck sweater is slightly more than casual, but, because of its trimmer fit, still fashionable.

The gray suede bucks, however, are the center of the outfit. Your shoes say a lot about you, and when you replace sneakers with a more formal shoe, you exude sophistication. The shoes I chose aren't dress shoes, though. No tassels, no polished leather, nothing that your dad would wear to the office. They are classy, but not over-the-top.

After all, when you enter the thunder dome that is your significant other’s home, "classy, but not over-the-top" is exactly what you want to shoot for in your outfit. Show that you are serious, but let them know that you are human. Most importantly, remember that your clothes don’t define you, they accentuate your features.

Look 2: Napkins, and Menus, and Waiters! Oh My!


Products: Shirt - J.Crew, Khakis - Dockers, Cardigan - Gap, Shoes - Bass, Belt - Old Navy

So you made it past the first meeting - congrats! Now it's time for the fun part!

The family dinner is an important event in any relationship. You and your significant other may dread it, but you both know it is going to happen. So, go into it with a level head and remember this tip: Make sure your clothes fit, in the literal and figurative sense.

Let’s face it: most parents want to know EVERYTHING about the guy their child is dating. Thus, when the family dinner rolls around, a boyfriend becomes a prisoner of war facing stringent interrogation. So, for this event, choose comfort over fashion. Wear clothes that you could spend three hours sitting in, because you probably will.

However, although comfort is important, your clothes should also fit the setting. Though I would normally suggest a v-neck underneath the shirt above, at the dinner table there is no reason to show unnecessary chest. Rock a crew neck, and you'll be golden. Also, it's important to choose colors that fit the setting. The light gray/dark blue combination above isn’t very “edgy,” but you are not trying to be “edgy” or “trendy.” You are trying to look like an adult.

Finally, you should address the formality of the setting, but not go overboard. A cardigan replaces a blazer perfectly at the dinner table (and if the restaurant or the guests (grandparents etc.) call for it, a cardigan can definitely be worn with a tie). I admit, I have never worn penny loafers, but a friend of mine swears by them, and I can see why: A well-polished, deep brown loafer catches eyes. Loafers imply that you work hard with their classic collegiate quality, but when worn without socks, they can be playful.

Look 3: Where the Party At?


Products: Blazer - American Living, Shirt - Banana Republic, Tie - J.Crew, Khakis - Dockers, Belt - Gap, Socks - J.Crew, Shoes - Zappos

So, you aced the grab and go and survived dinner… Now what? Dinner party, you say? Or was that a Christmas party? Frankly, it doesn’t matter. Formal wear is simple to execute if you are well-informed. And lucky for you all, it is my favorite segment of men’s fashion.

Here is my best tip when it comes to formal wear: there is no such thing as being overdressed. The beauty of men’s formal wear is that it is all about layering. Therefore, if you enter a party and find your self overdressed, start stripping. Take your jacket off, lose the tie, unbutton one or two from your collar, and boom - you just went from formal to semi-formal.

So, the next time you are going to a formal event with your significant other's family, pick up a navy jacket (it is really the only blazer you need to own), rock a pair of khakis, and make sure to tie your own tie. You will get compliments on your outfit the entire night.

What do you think?

Any funny stories from when you first met your significant other's family? Any suggestions for future posts? I write for you, so let me know what you think!

Related Stories