On our first date, my girlfriend and I went to PDT (above), a really cool speakeasy bar here in NYC  hidden behind a phone booth in a hot dog shop. They’re known for their amazing cocktails, which we gladly put to the test.

If you asked my girlfriend about our first date, she couldn’t tell you much, except for one thing — the shirt I was wearing. A striped tabbed collar dress shirt from Robert Geller.

“It’s my favorite shirt on you.” She says.

It made such an impression on her that it has survived a good 5 closet purges.

You’ve probably heard the saying “It only takes 7 seconds to make a first impression”.

What if I told you you actually had less time than that?

According to a study done by Princeton, it actually only takes the brain 1/10th of a second to make a snap judgment of someone.

So what does this mean for you my single, dating friend?

It means that before you’ve even opened your mouth, she’s already sized you up. So it’s in your best interest to use the only tool you got in that brief, 1/10th of a second: your style.


Whenever I’m at a party and I tell people that I’m a personal stylist for men, I get one of three reactions:

(This is the #1 response from women.)

2. “Oh man. How’s my outfit?”
(This is where I try to decide whether to give the polite answer or the real answer.)

3. “Cool man. I don’t focus so much on superficial stuff like that.”

Yes, someone said this to me at a party recently.

Here’s how it went down:

“Interesting. What do you mean by that?” I asked him.

“Oh, no offense,” he said.

(I love when people say “no offense”, or “not to sound racist”. It’s usually followed up by something offensive or racist.)

“I want people to like me for who I am, not whether I’m wearing a nice suit or whatever.”

“Totally. Hey, it was great to meet you.”

And then I walked away to pour myself a much-needed drink.

(Conversation tip: Sticking out your hand and saying “Hey, it was great to meet you.” is the best way to leave a conversation you don’t want to be in.)

You’d be surprised how often I get this kind of reaction, especially when I bring up that one of the best “dating hacks” is to improve your style.

“She should like me for who I am!” Guys say in response.

“Ok.” I’d say. “Describe to me your perfect girl.”

What do you think their answer always is?

Their perfect girl is always HOT.

"She should like me for who I am! Meanwhile, I want to date girls that look like this!"
“She should like me for who I am! Meanwhile, I want to date girls that look like this!”

Yeah, shocker, right?

This is what I call “The Perfect Girl Hypocrisy”. People think they’re exceptions. They want everyone else to change their standards instead of raising theirs for themselves.

Obese people want to change health and beauty standards instead of shedding the excess weight. Unqualified job hunters want companies to lower their requirements instead of getting more experience. Guys want hot girls but don’t want to work on and be judged by their looks.

Sorry, my friends, it isn’t happening. That’s not how the world works.


Here’s the uncomfortable truth about humans: We judge each other by how we look.

Yes, it’s superficial. Is it bad? Maybe.

The thing is, we’re superficial about almost everything.


You’re less likely to eat sad looking food in disposable tins because we associate sad looking food with unhealthy. Judging by its looks, It’s probably not as nutritious and is most likely going to make us sick. (Even though this might not be true.)

Vibrant, colorful food on clean white plates symbolize to us freshness, cleanliness, and that it’s healthy to eat.

This is called Thin slicing — it’s making snap judgments on something based on the information you have at hand. When you don’t know a lot about someone, all you can judge them on is what you see. Presentation matters, whether it’s a plate of pasta, or what you wear on a date.

It’s the reason why when surveyed, 76% of patients found doctors who wore white lab coats more trustworthy.

If your doctor came in wearing an oversized shirt, messy hair, sweatpants and dirty shoes, would you want him looking at your kid? NOPE.


Before you curse the world, let’s take something else into account. Your style is one of the easiest things you can improve when it comes to dating.

If you’re an introvert, it’s going to take a lot of practice to improve your conversation skills.

Unsure of your career and life path? Good luck changing that in a week.

Bad style? No problem. You can head to a menswear shop and do a complete 180 in 15 minutes.

Of course, you’ll need to know what to get. Luckily, I got your back.

I spent the last 5 months asking women around the world a question: What should a guy wear on the first date?

In total, I gathered 101 responses from women of all backgrounds, jobs, ages, and locations. Women from as close as New York City, to as far away as Tokyo, Sydney, and Tehran.

Here’s a brief overview of the women I spoke with:

Average Age: 28
Single: 42%
Relationship (Less than 3 years) 29%
Married: 29%

And here’s what they said:


Does it matter if you’re wearing expensive designer clothes on a first date? No. In fact, of the 101 women surveyed, not one mentioned designer clothes.

However, the most common theme in the written portion of the survey? Above all else, effort (e.g. trying to look nice) was the most important quality of a man’s style on a first date.

Our style is a symbol of who and what we are. It represents choices that we’ve made in life.

Getting dressed is an action. And, as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

Does it matter what kind of car a father drives to pick up his kids? Of course not. What’s more important is that he shows up. It symbolizes that he’s responsible and cares for his kids.

“As a woman, I will make an effort to look nice and pretty for my date because I want to respect his company and effort for asking me out — and I would like the person to feel proud to be with me. When a guy dresses like a teenage boy and it looks like he didn’t care at all, it is distracting and really kills the first impression.” – Morganna, 27

WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY: If you’re new to improving your style, check out my post “A Beginner’s Guide: 16 Essential Style Tips For Guys Who Want to Dress Better”




Any clothing that doesn’t fit well is an instant put off. – Jennifer, 27

I’ve preached many times that getting clothes that fit will solve 90% of your style problems.

In my experience, men often wear clothes that are too big for them because:

  1. They grew up (like me) in a time where wearing baggy clothes was cool and never learned any better.
  2. They feel that it’s more comfortable.

Ill-fitting clothes wrecks havoc on your attractiveness. It makes you look fatter, shorter, and sloppy. Wearing clothes that fit properly not only makes you look better, it allows you to look good even when you’re dressed in something as simple as a t-shirt and jeans. (See: Ryan Gosling, above left)

If that doesn’t persuade you to wear clothes that fit properly, maybe this will:

Loose fitting [pants] remind me of my dad. – R, 24

There’s nothing that’s going to kill sexual attraction faster than that.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY: Download my free “Style Starter Triple Pack”. It’s a combination of my 3 best guides, including my “How clothes should fit” cheat sheets that’ll help you master fit in 10 minutes.


tshirt to button shirt

60.2% of the women surveyed loved to see their date show up in a button-up collared shirt, while just 14.8% of women said they wouldn’t mind seeing their date in a t-shirt.

T-shirts are often associated with “casual” dressing. Swapping in a collared shirt signals that you’re putting an effort to go beyond “casual”.

Instant upgrade.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TODAY: Not sure what kind of button-up shirt to get? Read my post on my favorite button-up shirt of all time “Essentails: The Chambray Shirt


Thursday Boots Brown

This part of the survey surprised me the most, as I’ve heard time and time again that women will judge you based on your shoes.

Yet, when I asked women what kind of shoes they loved to see their date wear, the results were all pretty even.

A nice pair of boots won overall, but just barely, gaining 34% of the votes. The rest was split evenly between clean white sneakers, dress shoes, and “Other”, with the write-in answers consisting mostly of “it doesn’t matter”.

My recommendation? It’s hard to beat a solid pair of boots, as they can work with jeans or dress pants. My current favorite boots are from Thursday Boot Company, shown above.

And whatever you do, just don’t show up to your date wearing Vibram five finger shoes.

On behalf of all men, I apologize to these poor women.



When asked what single piece of clothing would a woman love seeing her date wear, the clear winner was a perfectly fitted leather jacket.

A perfectly fitted leather jacket (50% of votes) beat a tailored suit (24.3%) by a little more than double, and completely crushed hoodies (2.8% of the votes, sorry readers in Silicon Valley).

If this doesn’t convince you to get yourself that perfect leather jacket, I don’t know what will.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY: For those looking to add this essential into their wardrobe, check out my Ultimate Guide to Buying A Leather Jacket here.



While many women agreed that you don’t need alcohol to have a great first date (a few even said bar dates were uncreative and cliché) the data still showed they all wanted the option to drink. (Relax the first date nerves, perhaps?)

When asked what was their favorite place for a first date was, 65.8% of the votes went to places that had alcohol.

A nice cocktail bar received 27.8% of votes, a great dinner captured 25% of the votes, and a fun dive bar got 13% of the votes.

The remaining votes were split between coffee (19.4%), and “Other” (14.8%), which included write-in answers ranging from “it depends on the guy”, “a nice walk in the park”, and “a museum”.


Not sure what to do with this advice yet? Not to worry.

To help you out, I’m sharing with you some date and outfit idea combos based on this data to get your first date off to a great start.



Museum Date Look for Men

Eyeglasses: Watts Eyeglasses by Warby Parker – $95, Wool Scarf: Acne Studios – $180, Blue Suede Bomber Jacket: Valstar – $1,135, Mandarin Collared Strip Shirt: FOLK – $185, Slim Fit Stretch Chinos: NN07 – $160, Socks: The Workers Club – $40, Boots: Thursday Boot Co. – $199

The Date: Museum dates are a great way to break up the monotony of meeting up a bar, but it requires a bit of strategy.

The biggest mistake you can make on a museum date? Spending a lot of time looking at the art and reading the text! I know, it doesn’t make sense, but hear me out. First dates are all about getting to know each other. When you’re examining the art and reading at a museum, you have a tendency to be quiet. The real focus of your date isn’t the art, it’s your company. Think of the museum like a beautiful backdrop, just the same as if you were strolling through a park.

Here’s a better strategy, thanks to my friend Nick Gray, founder and CEO of Museum Hack:

  1. Grab a map for you and your date.
  2. Next, walk and talk, glance at the art, but don’t stop, especially to read the text. That takes away from precious time to get to know each other.
  3. After the initial walk through, take a break at the museum café, order some food, talk some more, then pick parts of the museum you want to have a second look at together on the map.
  4. Go back to the spots you chose and enjoy the art.
  5. Don’t forget to stop at the gift shop and pick up something nice. (Like the wallet from the MoMA above.)

The Outfit: The key items in this look are the collared shirt and boots. Wearing a suit on a first date, especially something like a museum, can feel like overkill. You want to communicate that you’re putting a little effort into it, and this is why instead of a t-shirt and sneakers we swap in a button-up shirt and boots. Blues and browns are a great color combination that help you stand out, especially if you’re visiting a museum in NYC where everyone loves to wear black. Give it a pop of color with a bordeaux colored scarf.


Cocktail Bar Date Look for Men

Leather Jacket: Hugo Boss – $745, Grosgrain-trim collared polo: Lanvin – $375, Wool dress pants: Suit Supply – $189, Socks: FALKE – $28, Suede slip-on sneakers: Common Projects – $420

The Date: I love a date at a cool speakeasy, but securing a spot at one can be stressful, especially on a first date. There are plenty of cocktail places with great stories that don’t require you to search for a hidden, unmarked door – like Bar Goto, a Japanese bar opened by ex-Pegu club alum Kenta Goto. Order his signature Sakura martini – a blend of gin, sake, maraschino liqueur finished with a beautiful sakura blossom. (Photo above)

The Outfit: The polo is the happy medium between a t-shirt and button-up shirt. The key to not looking like your dad is picking one that’s slimmer cut in a non-traditional color, like this sleek Lanvin number. Slip on sneakers can sound like an odd choice at first, but like the polo, we’ve elevated it. This suede model from Common Projects isn’t your 16-year-old brother’s Vans, and gives a nice casual contrast to the formal dress pants. Bordeaux and charcoal gray is my all time favorite color combination. It’s warm and romantic, paired with a sleek black leather racer jacket, you’ll be hard to forget.


Dinner date look for men

Cashmere Coat: Suit Supply – $699, Brushed twill shirt: J.crew – $39, Watch: IWC – $3,950, Wool Drawstring Pants: Acne Studios – $350, Embroidered wool scarf: Paul Smith – $225, Socks: FALKE – $28, Derbys: A.P.C. – $455

The Date: Dinner on a first date can sometimes feel like a trap. What if you realize you two aren’t really into each other and your entrees just came? Instead of a proper dinner for a first date, I recommend getting some wine and tapas.

Tapas are small plates of appetizers and snacks that you share over drinks. I love it because the tapas themselves become a conversation point. Decide on ordering things you’d never normally try, get adventurous. Start with a few plates and see how things go. If it’s going well, you two can order more and keep the date going. Not feeling it? No worries, you share a few bites and don’t have to commit to a conversation over an entire entree. Grab the check and part ways.

Some recommendations for you first-time tapas eaters: Dátiles con beicon (dates stuffed with almonds and cheese, wrapped in bacon) and patatas bravas (crispy potatoes with an aioli) are easy crowd pleasers. My all time favorite: Jamon Iberico, slices of ham from pigs fed acorns then aged for 36 months. Fatty, nutty, and worth the (very expensive) price.

The Outfit: Suits on first dates is a little too much. Subtle style substitute – wear a tailored topcoat. It gives the same feeling that you  “dressed up” without going full blown suit.

When I think tapas, I think sharing food, drinking wine, having an amazing conversation. So take off your coat and relax a little bit.  You’re going to be moving plates around and passing food to her, so don’t be afraid to unbutton and partially roll up your sleeves. This is a great opportunity to show off a nice watch. My pick: IWC’s refined entry Mark XVIII. It’s a watch that says “I have really good taste and I don’t need to be flashy”.


First dates are like movie trailers, a preview to get her interested and excited and make her want to see more.

While I’ve armed you with some style tips to make sure you look your best, remember that clothes don’t make the man, they just enhance him.

To make sure you kill it on your first date and get her asking when can she see you again, I’ve put together a free bonus guide with some of the best first date tips. 

⬇ Just enter your name and email below to get instant access to the bonus guide ⬇


Hi, I'm Peter. I spent 11 years as a menswear designer here in NYC. Now, I help some of the most successful men look really good as a Private Personal Stylist and writer of The Essential Man. You can learn more about what I do by clicking here

  • Eric Conley

    This quote from Morganna really spoke to me

    “As a woman, I will make an effort to look nice and pretty for my date because I want to respect his company and effort for asking me out — and I would like the person to feel proud to be with me. When a guy dresses like a teenage boy and it looks like he didn’t care at all, it is distracting and really kills the first impression.”

    I’ve been married for almost a year, and my wife still takes the time/effort to dress up for me — and I love it. It’s a reminder that I need to do the same for her.

    • Peter Nguyen

      Yes! Totally. I think it’s even MORE important when you’ve been in a LTR. I’ve been making more of an effort lately especially since I work from home so much.

      • Nathan Scripps

        Totally agreed – Have you written about couples coordination guidelines?

        My wife and I occasionally get cheesy by wearing blackwatch pants or bean boots or something super matchy on the same day when we aren’t going to be together all the time… but at events or more formal settings we shoot for coordinating palettes or complementary accents. Like my pocket square and cuff links will match her dress or something. One of us tends to take the pattern lead so we don’t look like a jumble of shapes and colors in photos because I’m in a plaid suit and she’s in a multi-color dress. If one of you has mad patterns, the other should be sedate – or at least it’s worked for us.

        • Peter Nguyen

          My gf and I match by accident sometimes. To be honest I haven’t really considered writing about it. When it comes to formal events, I’m a bit more traditional. She can get creative, you gotta go classic (e.g. black tux, black bow tie, white pocket square)

  • Tam Pham

    Writing and advice is GOLD as always 🙂

    • Peter Nguyen

      Thanks Tam!

  • Robert Riker

    Surprised about the shoes part, but totally agree with the shirt hack. Great post Peter.

    • Peter Nguyen

      I know right? I guess as long as you don’t show up in toe shoes or flip flops, you’re golden.

      • It was a tough realization that my beloved toe shoes really needed to be relegated to my sports and outdoor activities wardrobe.

        • Peter Nguyen

          haha. You can always get an active girl and go outdoors on a first date. Just don’t show up to a nice restaurant wearing them along with a college sweater (which is what happened to one of the 9 women that answered!)

      • yayotg

        but I love my gucci mules !

  • Johny Varsami

    All of this really looks good and the advices are very useful! BUT: A polo shirt for $375? A scarf for $225? This is insane! Most of Western clothing is produced in countries where the sewers get unhuman wages for producing overpriced products, where most of the profit is going to the brand. I know that customers often don’t have the choice, because almost everything is produced in poor countries, but by buying cheaper clothes you can be at least sure that the companies’ profit is getting smaller – the sewers wage will anyway hardly change.

    • Peter Nguyen

      Hi Johny, it’s actually quite the opposite.

      I’ve spent 11 years as a menswear designer and worked with many factories around the world. Generally, when clothes are produced to hit lower retail prices, corners need to be cut, and the first place that they’re cut are usually wages of the factory workers.

      Lanvin and many other high end designers own and run their own factories and pay well. Of course, those higher wages get passed on to the consumer, which results in higher retail costs.

      Take a look at a Louis Vuitton factory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfyOpfSRLdE
      Vs a Factory that produces cheap goods for companies like H&M and ‘cheaper clothes’ you mentioned: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtLrdfiHdQA

      If you want to learn more, this is a great article on sweatshops and cheap labor. Note that all the brands they mentioned are cheap, fast fashion companies: http://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/the-myth-of-the-ethical-shopper/

      • Johny Varsami

        Sorry, but this is a myth. Just google for luxury brands and working conditions – Hugo Boss is a very famous example for this (And by the way cheap brands are more often active in ethical initiatives and organisations than luxury brands. Also luxury brands produce a lot in Eastern Europe/Turkey but regardless pay worse wages than in Asia, if you compare with the neccessary costs of living). Often high prices just mean more profit for the companies and not better wages in producing countries. This doesn’t only apply for the apparel industry – or does the overpriced iPhone improve the working conditions at Foxconn? So, if I have the choice between an expensive and a cheap product I’ll take the cheaper one, because it has no effect on the workers but at least gives less profit to the brand.
        What the Huff article outlines correctly is that customer pressure is not the only way to go and that politics have to take action too.

        • Peter Nguyen

          Hey Johny, you just discredited an entire investigation on factories that cheap brands use as a myth, and you’re trying to explain to me an industry I have 11 years of experience in.

          This conversation is starting to get off topic for what I want to focus on for The Essential Man.

          Take care.

    • Nathan Scripps

      I second Peter’s comment – some high end brands have high end prices because they pay high end salaries to high end craftspeople. One of my favorite examples is Brunello Cucinelli – google him and read the business articles, not the fashion articles, to see what I mean.

      If you are looking for American made suiting at a fair price, I founded Tailored Forward to fill that need for myself and others. Shirts, suits, down outerwear – basically what I wanted to rebuild my closet. Short version of the story – I wanted to buy American made, most companies use that as a marketing premium to raise price, so I made a company with near zero overhead to keep my margins low and pass through value to the buyer. No spendy site, no fancy gimmicks, no staff, and both me and my co-founder have full time day jobs.

  • Great article, thanks for writing it and sharing it in the IWT community!

    • Thanks for reading Prescott!

    • Peter Nguyen

      Thanks Prescott!

  • Momo

    I don’t see why we can’t adjust health and beauty standards especially when those standards are based on faulty ideas in the first place. For instance the BMI which is so often used to measure health was created by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and is very arbitrary and doesn’t take multiple factors of health into account. We want to judge people based on junk science? Really? Also, beauty standards really need changing because anorexia became really big once Twiggy was on the rise. You can’t possibly say that our modern beauty standards are in any way healthy. Most of the time a beauty standard either makes someone a lot of money or feeds a man’s fantasy of how he thinks things should be (but they aren’t and he can’t deal with that.) If men had their way, beauty would involve women with 3 ton breasts that would kill their backs and make center of gravity cry. But you’re going to actually talk about how it’s “obese people” who want to update our standards so they don’t have to lose weight? Losing weight doesn’t even guarantee you will fit the current standards, anyway. A person could be obese at 250 lbs, lose 100 of that and still be considered “fat”. Also your frame has something to do with your weight (150 lbs on a tiny framed person is different than on a large framed person). Genetics and predispositions to thyroid problems, sleep apnea and other factors can affect metabolic rates. A lot of people don’t even know they have sleep apnea and that it is making it harder to lose weight. Folks don’t know they have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis because the TSH isn’t going to show it, you need the specific antibody test for that and who will go to the doctor and say “Gee, I can’t seem to lose weight, could it be Hashimoto’s? Could you please check my free T3 and T4?” On the other hand, my husband is a tall and thin guy who can and who does eat fast food regularly, tons of pasta, sodas, fried foods, no veggies, no fish, lots of cookies and whole Dutch Apple pies, tons of Reeses cups and cookies and so on and never ever works out, not even for a NY minute but he can’t gain weight. He’s not a young guy, either. Still, he’s very healthy looking so no one would ever judge him regarding his horrible diet and lack of exercise. Meanwhile I’m the fat and lazy pig eating salmon and Brussels Sprouts and doing low carb etc. That’s why we can never win. ANd people don’t care about HEALTH. That’s a huge joke and such a crock. People don’t care if you’re healthy. They say oh, we should shame fat people to make them get healthy! It’s about HEALTH!” Those same folks eat crap (like my hubby) and don’t think twice about what they’re doing to themselves. They also look at other thin people and assume they’re all eating organic sprouts once a day and fasting the rest while working out 6 hours a day. They ASSUME that just because a person is thin. My sister is rail thin and her hair and teeth are falling out. Her skin is like paper. She is absolutely unhealthy but people would say oh, at least she’s thin so that’s OK, she must be healthy. And they will never say a word to her. It’s just the fat people and you know why? Because men pretend they don’t want to have sex with fat women, and when a fat woman is “unattractive” they deserve to be dead because they’re not fulfilling their purpose in life which is to give men boners 24/7. ANd men will have sex with patio tables, cars, dead people, farm animals and pork chops but whine about fat women. It’s ridiculous. (And they’re really fat fetishists anyway because what do you think is in a breast, anyway? FAT. Muscle don’t jiggle, son. Fat provides lots of boners. Legit fact.) No one cares about anyone else’s health and well being. Let’s stop lying about that.