10 Style Tips for Your High School Formal

You don’t want to be looking back on the photos of you high school formal in ten years time and wonder to yourself, ‘what the hell was I thinking?’, do you? Fortunately, if you follow these 10 style tips, you’ll probably think to yourself, ‘damn, I looked good’, and wonder if you can find the names of some of the girls that were hanging around you all night.

1. Think formal, not fancy dress – I cannot stress this enough, you don’t want to be the guy who shows up to the formal in a top hat and a bright red suit. Pastel colours have their place, but not in a formal suit. Think black tie, or a three-piece suit and tie; if you aren’t sure what is appropriate, ask one of the event organisers.

2. Get a haircut at 1 week before – This is good advice for any event; getting your haircut the week before gives you time to get used to it, and that means you will be less likely to mess it up on the big night. As for hair product: less is more.

3. Don’t be matchy-matchy with your date – don’t try to match the colours of your outfit with those of your date; instead, wear a pocket square or boutonniere that compliments her colours.

4. Shine your shoes – Sometimes the simplest things can have the biggest impact; it is not possible to overstate the value of a pair of well shined shoes.

5. Tie your own damn tie – Oscar Wilde once wrote “A well-tied tie is the first serious step in life”. Clip on ties are for children and waiters, you are neither; and don’t even think of asking you mother to tie it for you.

6. Steam and press your clothes – just like shining your shoes, having clean and crisp clothes is one of those little things that makes a massive difference, especially with formal wear.

7. Don’t rent – the option to rent your formal wear can be tempting, but I urge you to reconsider. Rented suits will never fit as well as as an off the rack suit tailored to you, and may even cost you more. At around $150 – $200 to rent a suit for the evening, you are better off heading in to Target and buying a suit (~$150 for a wool/poly blend charcoal suit); at least then you will have a suit when you need it (until you grow out of it).

8. Tailor your suit – It’s well worth paying a little extra to have your suit tailored; it will look exponentially better. The three main alterations are the sleeves (showing about 1/4 – 1/2 inch of shirt cuff), the waist (slimmed, but not tight and pulling), and the trouser length (covering the shoe, but not bunching). It will probably cost between $40-$80 to get it done (depending on who you ask), but it is worth it.

9.Don’t use body spray – this is one of the ones that applies to life in general; body spray in general is overpowering, and most of it smells awful. Instead, go with a roll-on antiperspirant, and a spritz of cologne. If you need help choosing a fragrance (and you probably will), go to a store that specialises in fragrances (or a department store with a fragrance section), and ask for help; the people who have to stand next to you will thank you.

10. Have fun – this night is meant to be fun, so enjoy it. It is one of the rare occasions that you will be able to socialise with all your classmates (and some of your teachers) outside of a school environment, so make the most of it, and enjoy yourself; and make sure to get lots of photos.


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