That first impression is a real doozy. You’ll definitely want to spruce yourself up for that, because, every so often, the whole kit and caboodle’s at stake. Those few seconds can turn your whole life around.

And, sometimes, looking your best is a day-to-day requirement. You actually have to dress like a grownup forty-plus hours a week. Shoes, shirts, jackets, ties and all the fixings—every little thing has to be pretty much impeccable virtually all the time.

This requires at least some know-how.


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ELEMENTARY SHOE SHINING

You can tell a lot about a person by the condition of their shoes, like, for instance, if they’ve ever been in the military, because those people know the drill. Their shoes are shiny.

Everyone has their own method. Here’s the one that works for us:

  1. Start by preparing the area you’ll be working in. Spread out an old towel or some newspaper — something disposable. Shoe polish has a knack for getting everywhere and indelibly befouling things, even when you’re being supremely careful.
  2. Assemble your materials: liquid or wax shoe polish, in a color that matches your shoes; a shoe polish brush for dipping and/or spreading polish; a large horsehair shine brush for initial cleaning and buffing; a damp rag for cleaning; and a two-foot length of clean, or same-color-polish-stained rag for final buffing.
  3. Remove the laces, and clean the dust and dirt off your shoes with your horsehair brush—get into the nooks and crannies. In extreme cases, use your damp rag, but, if you do, be sure to give your shoes a chance to dry before the next stage.
  4. Cover the surfaces of both shoes with a generous amount of polish. If it’s liquid, use the supplied applicator; if it’s wax, use your shoe polish brush. Spread it on as evenly as possible and be sure to work it into the seams. Give it fifteen or so minutes to dry.
  5. Use your horsehair brush to vigorously buff the surfaces. Basically, work off all the excess polish, leaving a glossy veneer.
  6. Fold your two-foot length of rag into a band a couple of inches wide. Use a brisk, back-and-forth motion to buff the toes and heels of your shoes to a proper shine. Use the horsehair brush to buff the sides. Keep at it until you’re happy with how everything looks. Add polish if necessary.
  7. Replace your laces, admire your now gleaming shoes and store your shoeshine stuff all in one container, so everything’s ready for the next time.


CONSIDERATE SHOE CARE

Start with a good quality pair, treat them with the kindness and respect they deserve, and your shoes will stick by you through thick and thin. They will last and last.

Here are some worthwhile things to do:

  • Polish a new pair before you wear them. It protects them from the elements and makes them easier to shine in the future.
  • Clean and buff your shoes regularly. They’ll endure so much better if you do.
  • Leave wooden (preferably cedar) shoetrees inside your shoes whenever you’re not wearing them. They’ll maintain the shape and draw out any potentially damaging moisture.
  • Never wear the same shoes two days in a row. They need a full day to rest, dry out and reshape after a day’s wear.
  • Use a shoehorn. It’ll keep the backs of your shoes from breaking down.
  • Use toe rubbers when it’s wet outside. They’ll protect the leather and seriously extend its life.

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IRONING A DRESS SHIRT

Plenty of grown men do not know how to properly iron a shirt. Growing up, mom did it. Later on, it was their partner or the people at the laundry, and that’s not good. An adult male shouldn’t have to rely on someone else’s good graces to face the world in an unwrinkled condition.

If you already have some facility with an iron, who knows, you might learn a thing or two. If you’re a total newbie and have none, here’s how to properly iron a dress shirt:

  1. Start with the right stuff.
    Invest in a good iron — something with a well-built sole plate, high heat capacity and an effective steam delivery system. The sole plate will deliver even heat and be easy to keep clean. High heat will cut your ironing time and do a much better job. Effective steam will smooth out even the toughest wrinkles with minimal effort.
    Your ironing board should be the right height and sturdy, with an easy-to-clean, padded, heatproof, working surface. Upgrading to a good quality cover and pad is an excellent idea.
    Whatever water you use should be pure, with no more than miniscule amounts of the trace elements that can foul up the guts of your iron over time. Generally speaking, if it’s good enough to drink, it’s good enough to iron with.
    You’ll need a light-colored, fresh-from-the-laundry towel to use as a general, all-purpose tool. You can use it to blot up excess water or spills, or as an oven mitt, or you can even roll it up and shove it inside your sleeve as a makeshift sleeve board.
    You’ll also need a spray bottle to spritz when necessary — as an adjunct to your iron’s steam. Find one that has never in its life contained anything other than clean water.
    And, finally, if you’re so inclined, you’ll need some spray starch. This, however, is entirely optional and it takes practice to use properly. Too much and your normally breathable polycotton shirt will feel like a plastic bag. Too hot and it’ll look like it’s flaking dandruff.
  2. Preparation.
    First thing — read your shirt’s label and laundry instructions. This is essential. How else are you going to know, for sure, what it’s made of, or how to iron it without ruining it?
    When in doubt, most shirts are cotton-polyester blends. If you’re reasonably sure that that’s the case, start in the vicinity of the polyester setting while erring on the cool side. With woolens, sometimes all you need is a thorough steam. Silk should not be machine-washed or ironed — never a good idea.
    Set your ironing board up so it’s close enough to your power outlet and within reasonably easy reach of your closet. Fill up your spray bottle and iron; plug it in, set it on its safe end and let it heat up to the lowest temperature you’ll need. You should be good to go in five minutes or so.
    Before you get into it, however, your shirt needs to be a wee bit damp. If it isn’t already so from the dryer, give it a good overall spritz.
  3. Iron your collar first.
    Pop it and start from the underside. Ensure that it’s thoroughly moist, then press the iron slowly from one point to the other. Work out the wrinkles, flip it over and do the same from the other side. Never iron over buttons unless you’ve padded them from underneath with something like your towel. It’ll leave marks.
  4. Next, iron your cuffs.
    Unbutton them and lay them out flat. Iron from the inside first, then from the outside. Again, go around the buttons, or pad them from beneath. French cuffs ought to be opened fully and ironed flat. Don’t press the fold. It makes them look wooden.
  5. Iron your shirtfront.
    Start with the button side. Smooth out the wrinkles from top to tail, carefully working the point of your iron around the buttons, all the way down. Then do the other side. Always iron pockets from bottom to top.
  6. Iron your shirt’s back.
    Lay it out on the square end of the board with one of the corners tucked into your shirt’s shoulder. This is the ideal position to iron one full half of your shirt’s back. Start with the yoke and work your way down to the tail. If you have a center box pleat, spread out the fabric and work the tip of the iron in. When the first side’s done, slide your shirt over to the other corner of the board, and do the other.
  7. Iron your sleeves.
    This can be the trickiest bit, mostly because you’ll be steaming through two layers of cloth. The trick is to flatten the fabric out before you apply the iron.
    Start with either sleeve. Lay it out on the ironing board and smooth it flat. If the creases from your previous ironing are still there, match them up. Start ironing from the shoulder and work your way down to the cuff, smoothing out the wrinkles. Turn it over and do it again. Repeat the process with the other sleeve.
    If you’d rather not have creases, roll up that nice, clean towel and shove it down your sleeve. With padding inside, you’ll be able to iron it smooth without leaving a mark.
    However, if you have a sleeve board, it’s all different. It slides down inside and makes the whole process easier.
  8. Inspect your shirt.
    Look for imperfections and spot-iron whatever patches you might’ve missed. Hang it up in your closet or put it on directly, still warm from the iron. Congratulate yourself on a job well done.

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SUITCASE STRATEGIES FOR BUSINESS TRAVELLERS

When you arrive at that meeting, in that distant place, you’ll want to be properly turned out, as if that night you spent in that alien bed, in that strange room, never happened — as if those untold hours you squandered five miles up, shoehorned into a pressurized cabin, were just a bad dream. 

Your shoes, shirt, jacket and tie, and all your fixings, should be valet-fresh. The time they’ve spent squinched into that rolling iron maiden you call a suitcase should have zero effect. 

With the right know-how, however, it’s not anywhere near as impossible as it sounds.

  1. Use the right-sized suitcase.
    A well-packed 24-inch (60 cm) suitcase weighs about 45 pounds or 20 kilograms. This is the weight limit for most international flights. If you need a bigger suitcase, it will probably cost you extra. However, cabin luggage only is the ideal. If you can fit everything into a small enough bag (check your particular airline’s specs), you can skip the baggage carousel and go straight to the front of the line.
  2. Bring a few tools.
    Take along a good quality travel iron. Make sure it’s empty and wrapped in something waterproof before you pack it. Also, get yourself an airtight laundry bag of some sort—a pristine, plastic, garbage bag will work just fine. And, take at least one good hanger.
  3. Clean your suitcase’s interior.
    Vacuum thoroughly and wipe the surfaces with a damp cloth. By the time you’re done, it should be clean enough for surgery.
  4. Start with everything in prime condition and prepped for packing.
    Make sure your business wear is properly pressed, shined and cleaned. Lay it all out — every article, and whatever else you plan to take. Store your miscellaneous gadgets in a stuff-sack of some sort. Put your jewelry in a ziplock bag and tuck it inside. This will protect them and keep them all in one place. Get travel-sized toothpaste, shampoo and such. Airline security allows nothing larger than 3.3 oz. (100 ml) containers. Store anything leakable in ziplock bags, and put them, along with your various medications and grooming tools, into a toiletry kit.
    Roll all the items that can be wrinkled with no harm done up into cigars — underwear, socks, t-shirts and suchlike. Make bundles — a stack of t-shirts in one, for instance, a couple of sweaters in another. Fold your dress shirts up in the same way they were folded when you bought them, with clean, un-inked paper inside. The paper will keep them from seriously wrinkling. Turn your suit jacket inside out and fold it in half lengthwise. Tuck one shoulder into the other. Roll up your belt and tie. Stow them away — one in each shoe — and put your shoes into shoe bags. If you don’t have shoe bags, use socks.
  5. Pack the heavy, awkward stuff first.
    Put your dress shoes and travel iron in first, along with anything else that’s particularly heavy. Stack it all up against the wheel-side in order of heaviness, so it’ll rest on the bottom when the suitcase is standing on its end. This way, nothing gets crushed.
  6. Pack solidly so stuff cannot shift around.
    Fill in the chinks amidst your heavy items with rolled up stuff. Tuck the cigars into the crevices, creating a solid, immovable bottom layer that’s as flat as possible. At this point, everything save for your dress clothes should be inside.
    It’s a good idea to fill the case right up. Leave just enough room for your suit — add a little something extra if you have to.
  7. Make a snug, pristine nest for your suit.
    Cover everything with your laundry bag. Put your dress shirt in, keeping it as flat as possible. Lay your jacket on top with the lower half hanging out, the collar up against the top edge and the shoulders fully inside. Fold your trousers in the standard way and lay them horizontally across the shoulders of your jacket. Align the waistband flush with the edge of the shoulder. Fold the jacket tail up over the trousers and the pant legs over the jacket. Your suit will stay virtually wrinkle-free because the jacket will cushion the pants and the pants will cushion the jacket.
  8. Close the lid and call a taxi. You’re good to go.
    When you arrive, however, and you’re in your hotel room, it’s a good idea to unpack immediately. Hang your jacket, trousers, shirt, tie and pocket square on the curtain rod in the bathroom and turn on the shower. Run hot water; the steam should ease out most of the wrinkles. If you need to touch up, use your travel iron. Spread a bath towel on the bed to use as an ironing board.

SUITCASE EYE-D

It’s not like an airline never lost a bag, or shipped one by mistake to Outer Rurutainia, from whence luggage never returns. A name-tag can help with this — a business card in a weatherproof sleeve, firmly affixed, can help even the lostest bag find its way home. You also might wish to consider an identifier of some sort — something unmistakable that you can spot from a distance to set your suitcase apart from all those other near-identical bags riding the carousel.


CABIN LUGGAGE

It’s best to keep everything you can’t live without close to hand — your wallet, phone and laptop; your glasses, toothbrush and prescription meds. If you’re extra paranoid, you might also want to hang onto a change of underwear and something to keep you warm in the dark of night when the hotel loses your reservation.