The guys' guide to prom: Tips on style, social graces


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Prepping for prom often revolves around the girl — and the gown.

But what about the guys? The prom also is a chance for young men to look and feel their best.

If dressing up in tie and tails for a night on the town isn’t intuitive, there are ways guys can brush up on what to wear and how to be a polite, memorable date.

For instance, Allegheny County’s Project Prom initiative on Thursday is holding a free catered dinner for about 100 local high school students at the Herberman Conference Center at UPMC Shadyside. The all-male guests will review tie tying and social graces and receive a voucher for a free tuxedo rental. (The event is at capacity.)

For the rest of the prom-bound fellows out there, here are some quick tips for how to make sure the dance is a fun experience for you and your friends.

How to be a standout date

• Be clear with your prom invite. Leave out phrases such as “do you sort of want …” or “would you maybe want …” that can send mixed signals.

• Ask a potential date in person or over the phone. Don’t have a text message or email do it for you.

• Be clear and up-front about budgets. Typically the person who extends the invitation pays for the event and other activities such as dinner. (But girls, it’s polite to offer to help cover some of the costs.)

• Clarify the style of flower arrangement she wants — a wristlet, pin-on corsage or small bouquet. She may have a preference based on what she’s wearing (or might want to pick it out and/or buy it herself).

• If you’re going with a group, designate from the start how the cost for such things as a limousine, dinner, etc., will be divided, who’s collecting the money and by when.

• At the dance, strike a balance between spending time with your date and with your friends (or other members of your party if attending as a group). If you see other people you’d like to visit, ask your date if it’d be OK for you to take a few minutes to mingle (and make sure she has someone else to hang out with in the meantime. Don’t just abandon her).

• Chivalry is charming but not welcomed by all. Ask your date: May I take your coat? May I get the door for you? May I help you with your chair? If she declines, at least you offered.

• Do what feels comfortable. If slow dances aren’t your thing, use that time to grab a drink or a snack with your date or just talk. On the other hand, don’t go overboard with PDA on the dance floor.

• Limit cell phone use. If you have to make a call or respond to texts, let your date know so she doesn’t feel like her company isn’t enough to keep you entertained. Also, limit social media use until a break in festivities or after the dance, and ask your date or other group members if they’re OK with you sharing photos and comments of your night with them on social media sites.

• Make sure your date or group is home by curfew. No need to ruin an otherwise good time by getting back late and stirring trouble.

Sources: Lizzie Post, co-author of “Emily Post’s Etiquette,” 18th edition, and “The Art of Manliness” (www.artofmanliness.com).

What to wear

• If you desire a tux, opt to rent. Chances are you won’t get much wear out of one (or will grow out of it by the time you need it again) if you buy one. Men’s Wearhouse, Tuxedo Junction (www.tuxedojunction.com) and Valotta’s Tuxedo (valottastuxedo.com) are a few choices in the region. Tuxedo rentals at Men’s Wearhouse start at about $60, but most rentals easily can run into the $150 range or higher, depending upon the designer and the accessories selected.

• Visit MensWearhouse.com. The site offers several resources for helping guys pinpoint their style and get discounts on rentals. There’s even an interactive where young men can pick a model with comparable features and dress him in different tux and suit looks with the click of a mouse.

PG graphic: How to tie a bow tie
(Click image for larger version)

• Have an older brother? A father with a similar physique? Don’t be afraid to ask if you can borrow something to wear. If they don’t want it anymore, have it tailored and — voila! — you’re the proud owner of a customized-to-fit suit or tuxedo.

• Opt for thrifting. Secondhand stores can be treasure troves for designer finds. Just be sure to start early — it might take a few tries.

• Check out discount websites such as CheapTux.com or Overstock.com. They carry designer attire for prom at severely slashed prices (and you can use the extra money to have a piece altered if the fit is off).

• Think beyond the tux. A suit in black, navy or charcoal styled with a skinny tie, bow tie or vest is another option. Plus, if you buy it, it’s a better investment than renting or purchasing a tuxedo. Leave behind the bow tie and vest, and the suit can be worn later for a job interview, family wedding, school awards banquet or another formal function.

• Focus on fit, particularly for arm holes of jackets. If you can jump up and complete a couple pull-ups in the jacket, then you’ve found an ideal fit.

• Don’t count out box stores and retail chains. Macy’s, H&M, Brooks Brothers and JoS. A. Bank are a few places to find more affordable formal wear. Many of these retailers also often have coupons and sales, so keep an eye out for those and shop when you can snag the best deal.

• Wear what suits you. Don’t feel like you have to sport the same thing as everyone else. Dabble in color, skinny ties, checkered prints, etc.

• Don’t feel the need to dress too over-the-top (think top hat, cane, patent leather shoes — although there is nothing wrong with these accessories if that’s your style). A suit or tux in a traditional color with a good fit will turn just as many heads as a brightly colored vest or unusual sport coat — or maybe more!

Sources: Antonio Centeno, founder of www.RealMenRealStyle.com.


Sara Bauknecht: sbauknecht@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @SaraB_PG.

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