Every relationship has its series of firsts: first date, first kiss, and first fight, to name a few. But perhaps the most intimidating first is meeting your significant other’s parents. Sure, they’ll probably like you because you make their little girl or boy happy; however, the first meeting tends to feel more like an interrogation than a couple rounds of drinks. And all the while your head is filled with a flood of questions: Are my jokes parent-appropriate? Is my significant other’s dad judging me for ordering a glass of wine instead of a masculine beer or scotch? Do I have a silly look on my face?
We can’t coach you through the whole encounter, but allow us to assist you with one crucial factor: your outfit. While your girlfriend or boyfriend may not care about your daily outfits, what you wear to this event will say a lot about yourself. Behold: five style tips you need to know before meeting the parents.
1. Nix the casual shoes
Unless your first meet-up is taking place at your local rock climbing gym or the beach, sporting your sneakers or sandals is a major faux pas. For starters, your comfy kicks will make you look like a little boy versus the man who’s dating their child. And let’s not forget they’re distracting. Whose parents are going to pay attention to your story about your recent business trip when they’re too busy staring at your muddy gym shoes or debating whether you need a pedicure. Gross. Instead, pull out your conservative closed-toe brogues. If meeting the parents is more of a casual affair, opt for a pair of easy loafers.
2. Eliminate crinkles
Nothing says “don’t take me seriously” like wrinkled clothing. While everyone’s perfectly pressed dress shirt will encounter a crinkle here and there over the course of the day, a top that looks like it was dug out from the bottom of your laundry hamper is a clear sign that you have poor time management skills and questionable hygiene. Above all, it tells your special someone’s parents that you’re not taking this meeting seriously. “Do they take our daughter (or son) seriously?” they’ll ask themselves after the first round of drinks.
Fixing this fashion faux pas is as easy as pressing your shirt with an iron or steamer — head to your local pharmacy to pick up an affordable one. For you pressing virgins, simply fold the garment along the seam and glide the iron or steamer over the wrinkles. Don’t have time to straighten out the kinks? Wear a lightweight sweater instead: polished, fuss-free, and it won’t show wrinkles as easily.
3. Show off your signature pieces
The most successful meet-the-parents outfits consist of a ho-hum button down and trousers, right? Not always. While this isn’t the best time to debut those printed pants you found at your nearby vintage store, feel free to show off your style with subtly stylish pieces like that cool bomber jacket. If you’re not sure where to draw the sartorial line, start with a basic ensemble and add on your coveted accessories.
Do you have a penchant for slick hats? Pick out your finest topper for the occasion. Or perhaps you have an impressive watch collection. In that case, sport an interesting timepiece — we’re sure you’ll make your partner’s dad jealous. But what’s a guy to do if he doesn’t have an armoire full of accessories? Go ahead and pick out a nice tie from your selection or add a pair of cufflinks to your ensemble. Not only will these pieces show the parents that you took the time to put together a stylish outfit, but your accessories can double as an ice breaker for when there’s a lull in the conversation.
4. Dress for the occasion
It’s no secret that it’s usually better to dress up for an event versus sporting some super casual threads; however, it’s important to keep the occasion in mind. Sure, you’ll look dapper in a full suit at a baseball game, but will you even be comfortable? Just as important, dressing up too much is a telltale sign that you’re nervous to meet the parents. And you know that your potential father-in-law will poke fun at how you were too formal the first time he met you at that family barbecue. Cue the eye roll. While a dress shirt, slacks, and a blazer are ideal for a formal dinner or drinks at an upscale bar, a neat polo and khakis will work just as well for a low-key happening.
5. Groom to perfection
Consider unruly scruff the grooming equivalent to the wrinkled shirt. While a full beard tends to be part of a guy’s identity, forgetting to shave the morning of the big meet gives off the impression that you’re not too concerned with whether your significant other’s parents like you. And no parent will appreciate that nonchalant attitude. Maybe your special someone adores your scruff, but taking the time to perfect your grooming will speak volumes. As for those gents who pride themselves on their facial hair? You can keep the beard, but create a polished look by trimming off the straggly ends and adding some leave-in conditioner.
Follow Kelsey on Twitter @KMulvs