A man can't go wrong if he buys classic, conservative clothes that are easy to wear and long-lasting, says Gerrie Pinckney, a fashion consultant from Costa Mesa, Calif.
''Clothes make up an important part of a man's appearance,'' she says. ''They're the uniform by which you're judged. The image that a man maintains with an attractive wardrobe will have an influence on his success in both the business and social worlds. We find that a man's position and self-image improve as he goes through life. But he's often slow in upgrading his clothing.''
Mrs. Pinckney and her partner, Marge Swenson, both mothers of sons, have been color analysts and image builders for more than 20 years, teaching thousands of men how to coordinate appropriate wardrobes. Their advice is now available in a book, ''New Image for Men'' (Fashion Academy, Costa Mesa, Calif., $14.95), dealing with both wardrobe and color.
''The secret is to look one step better than the rest of the men - just one step, not two. You can do this by buying quality clothes,'' Mrs. Pinckney says.
''Next, check your shoes,'' she advises. ''There's nothing worse than run-down heels. Shoes can actually make or break the total fashion image. They tell a lot about the man wearing them. A man who buys fine leather shoes, and then takes care of them, shows that he respects quality.''
Shoes should harmonize with the clothes you're wearing, Mrs. Pinckney continues. They should be the same color as - or darker than - the pants. This is because the eye goes to the lightest part of the outfit. She suggests each man have at least two pairs of shoes - one for business and one for dress.
''Examine each tie for spots before you put it on,'' she says. ''Nothing will blow your image faster than a dirty tie. Have it dry cleaned or throw it out.''
''Get your hair cut on time and keep it neat,'' she adds. ''When hair is too long it makes you look unkempt, unsuccessful, and out of step with society. It must be cut regularly.''
Mrs. Pinckney warns that if you like to wear lots of jewelry, wear it on your own time: ''Conservative types are turned off by flashy jewelry - especially those big, ugly, calendar watches. They're OK for sport but not for work,'' she says. Silver-haired Mrs. Swenson likes to talk about the importance of color in fashion.
''Color is one part of the overall picture,'' she says. ''There are four factors involved in what a man wears. They are color, the style of the outfit, his personality, and his life style.
''But we've found that men have a difficult time with color. To help them with their color, we've divided things according to skin tone, eyes, and hair, and then placed this into what we call a season - winter, summer, spring, and autumn. Once the men have studied the colors of their particular season, they're on their way to wearing what's most becoming to them,'' Mrs. Swenson says.
''A man can wear any color and look OK. But why should he look just all right when he can look great?
''Color can be fun,'' she continues. ''We're not trying to change men into something they're not. We're just trying to lead them into looking their best.''