Whether you live in a big city, the suburbs, a small town or out in the country, chances are you see poorly dressed people every day. These lost souls stomp around in public looking like they shun the very concept of mirrors. Five dollar shoes, dirty sweatpants and tacky t-shirts are just the beginning of the problem. This guide is by no means definitive and was not written by a high end fashion designer—but it should give you something to consider if you’re afraid that you might be “one of them.”

Work
If your place of employment has a strict dress code then this isn’t something you need to worry about, but many office and labor jobs are shying away from that practice. Where do you work? Consider carefully. Unless you’re an attorney for Whitesnake or Saxon it’s probably a safe bet that wearing a denim jacket to work at the law firm is a bad idea. Similarly, wearing a double breasted suit to the construction site might both raise some eyebrows and hamper your ability to work. Just think about it logically—if you work in a casual environment, don’t dress up like you’re going to the opera. Make sure your clothes fit well, are stain free and have been recently washed. Who’s the most uptight person in your office? If your choice in clothing causes them to break out in hives, consider dialing it down a notch. If it only causes the office prude to wrinkle their nose a little bit then you’re doing it right. Use some common sense and look at the people around you and you’re sure to be taken seriously by your employer and coworkers. If you work for Whitesnake or Saxon, though—go crazy!

Wedding
If you’re attending a friend’s wedding, don’t think about their style or standards. Think about their parents’ style and standards, because chances are that they’re the ones shelling out the money for that magical day. If you wear a short sleeve shirt, make sure it’s nicely pressed, clean and wrinkle-free. Only wear a tie with long sleeve shirts. If you wear jeans make sure that they’re free of holes and stains. No matter what your hairline looks like it’s best to abandon your baseball cap at home. Just keep thinking “Will the bride or groom’s parents be ashamed to look at me in the wedding photos?” If the answer is no, then chances are you’re doing just fine. In the event of a theme wedding, all of these rules are rendered null and void. Go big or go home.

Concert
If you’re planning a nice evening with the Baroque orchestra or a string quartet, go ahead with the suit and tie. Otherwise, prepare to look casual and fun-loving while avoiding the time tested “what is that guy even doing here?” look. A t-shirt, jeans and sneakers are the way to go in most cases. Unless you’re at a heavy metal show there’s no reason to ever wear a shirt that bears the name of the band you’re going to see. Flannel, plaid and casual button-up shirts are just fine, but avoid dress shirts and suit jackets unless you’re a dedicated part of the mod scene. Then please, go right ahead. If you can pull off a good leather jacket then any show is the right show to wear it to. Avoid wearing any jewelry you’re not okay with losing—things can get pretty rowdy at any concert that’s worth remembering.

Drinks
Are you going out for drinks with a girlfriend, wife or other potential partner? Dress in a way that makes them comfortable. If you ask them for advice they will be happy to give it to you. If you’re going out for drinks with friends, keep some of what was mentioned in the previous section in mind. Getting that “what are you doing here, buddy?” look is always unpleasant and that’s a fact. Keep this general rule in mind—you might see your ex at any bar or club you go to. If you look good enough to make that specific person miss you then you’re doing it the right way. Have fun, but don’t embarrass yourself—don’t let your clothes be your source of embarrassment, at the very least.

It should be apparent after reading this that common sense is your best friend. Some clothes are more comfortable than others, but the cost/benefit equation just doesn’t work out with some clothes in some situations. Remember that you’re going out in public and other people have to see you. Set a good example and the rest of the poorly-dressed world might soon follow in your footsteps.

Adam Farwell is an online publisher for BlueCotton.com, where you can design your own T shirt. He blogs about design, fashion, marketing and branding for small businesses.