Traveling to visit friends is one of my greatest pleasures. Invariably I am introduced to new people along the way who naturally ask me, "So, what do you do?" Once I explain that I present etiquette seminars, I can see their lips begin to quiver with a burning desire to share with me some pet peeve they have about other people's habits. In discussing grooming for men here are a few simple guidelines and suggestions.
One refined gentleman recently asked me to write about his pet peeve, namely men's grooming habits, particularly facial hair. He expressed his concerns about the goal of some men to achieve the look of the perfect two-day growth of beard. I must admit that an explanation required some thought. What began as a Hollywood macho/casual look has taken the fashion world by storm and has become a contemporary statement of sorts for some men.
There is no question that this relatively new style has a certain appeal and charm for many people, but it is too casual for formal business no matter how neat and tidy. That said, I am not suggesting that judging a book by its cover is either smart or appropriate. For most men who grow beards or other facial hair, they do so to give themselves the look that provides them a feeling of confidence, style and distinction. I am a big fan of a neatly groomed beard in part because I can't grow a proper one myself. Maintaining a beard takes a lot of time and effort and is certainly not a sign of laziness. I think as time goes on and old school conventions become more flexible or disappear entirely, facial hair will not be an issue even in the most formal situations. Sloppiness will never be in style however; therefore if you choose to sport a beard or mustache, keep it neat.
In addition to paying careful attention to beards and such, the hair on your head should be kept neatly trimmed and clean. Combing or brushing is essential to keeping a neat and confident appearance. In my opinion, "comb-overs" look ridiculous and unfortunately do not retain a youthful image. If balding is undesirable, premature or otherwise, there are other ways to maintain a fuller head of hair. Dry scalp is another affliction which needs attention. Dandruff on a dark blue suit is very unattractive and indicative of poor grooming. There are plenty of products available to cure this condition. And vigorously and constantly scratching an itchy scalp is disgusting. It is also a sign of disrespect. Looking one's best shows respect for others and for one's self.
For those who have a tendency to sprout neck hair, shave it off as needed. Nothing shows sloppiness more clearly than any unwanted hair. Check yourself carefully in the mirror and if necessary have someone else shave areas which you cannot see. Remember that just because you can't see it, everyone else can and I have yet to find anywhere in history that neck hair was a fashion statement. That goes for nose and ear hairs. If you will be spending time shirtless, removing epaulets and back hair is considerate to those around you!
In this day and age one would expect bathing to be de rigeur, but sadly it isn't. For anyone given to heavy perspiration, taking special care to find an effective deodorant or antiperspirant is highly recommended. Some people need to bathe more frequently than others (just like some need to shave more or less often). It goes without saying that going out in public with body odor is offensive to all around you and is a sign of weakness and slovenliness. Likewise, masking natural body odors with colognes is offensive to most people and in fact can cause severe allergic reactions to a growing number of people. If one enjoys wearing a favorite scent, it should be applied so that only the person wearing it and someone very nearby can smell it. Otherwise it can be overbearing and inappropriate.
Finally, wearing clean clothes every day is the mark of a courteous and properly groomed man. In business and on social occasions being well groomed entails polished shoes, pressed trousers and shirts, and clean and trimmed finger nails. The color of your socks should match your trousers; and your belt and shoes should be the same color and material. If you're feeling especially adventurous, keep in mind that sporting one piece of untraditional or brightly colored clothing is acceptable at even the most formal occasions. More than that makes you look like a peacock. At informal and festive occasions, costumes are lots of fun, but be discerning. If you must stand out, do so with your wit, not your attire.