How to Make Your Look More In-Law Friendly

Because the line between being yourself and making a good first impression can be very wide indeed.


The holidays are here, and that means anyone who has a new partner should prepare to meet their future in-laws — ideally from a safe distance over video chat — and hopefully earn their approval. Preparing for such a delicate occasion can be daunting, no doubt, and even more so when you suspect that these people might not appreciate your bushy quarantine beard/tattoos/piercings/whatever else about your 2020 look they may deem too “out there” (let’s face it, in some cases, that might just mean the fact you haven’t been able to visit the barber much this year). Perhaps your significant other — who likes the way you normally look — has even suggested toning things down for “the call,” in which case, you may well want to go along to get along.

But before diving into any transformative advice, you should remember that being yourself is important, especially if you expect this relationship to endure. That means that your in-laws are eventually going to have to accept you no matter how you look. But, you can certainly ease them into it with an appearance that reassures them you’re treating the occasion with the respect it deserves, and not just sticking to your quarantine routine of rolling out of bed and putting your head in the sink.

As for how to do this, Trent Hamilton, a man with tattoos that extend onto his hands and neck, believes that the best you can do is present a tailored version of yourself, tattoos and all. “I’d dress nice,” he says. “Sitting around  with gloves on would probably look worse than my tattooed hands. Besides, anyone with me has likely already disappointed her parents a lot, anyway.”

For more practical advice, Sean Ryan, Hound & Hammer boots founder and Rag & Bone sales associate, has some tips. “Tattoos and piercings are an expression of your personality and who you are, so to some extent, you don’t want to hide too much,” he says. “That being said, I think wearing a sweater or a nice long-sleeve shirt is a good way to cover some skin, because people make assumptions about you based on the first ten seconds of what they see. Over the course of time, you can roll up your sleeves to reveal some work. That way, you can ease them in.”

As for a family-friendly outfit that might help you cover some of those tattoos while also looking decent, Ryan suggests, “a sweater over a collared shirt, weather providing, with a pair of nice jeans or chinos. I’d go with some decent desert boots or chukkas — just not those Vans that you went to a concert in.” (Though, you may be able to get away with a relaxed lower half if you’re just doing a video call.) Likewise, be sure to give your clothes a good wash and iron before meeting your in-laws. Remember, the idea here is to put forth a polished version of your true self.

For piercings, Ryan says, unless you feel brave enough to keep them in for your in-law interrogation, your only real option is to take them out for the time being. “There’s not much you can do if you have a ton of modifications,” he says. “But if you can opt to wear less than normal, it couldn’t hurt.” If your piercings are still healing and would be ruined by taking the jewelry out, you can have a piercer swap out your current jewelry for a clear piercing retainer, which will keep the piercing intact in a discreet way.

Besides tattoos, piercings and clothes, the one other big thing to consider is the hair on your head and face. When it comes to facial hair, while you can keep that massive beard you spent quarantine growing, you should definitely trim around your cheeks and neck, as well as any stray hairs that might be protruding from the rest of your beard (if you need reinforcements, hey, we have a shave set packed with everything you need for facial hair maintenance — just sayin’). All in all, just clean the whole thing up, and consider giving your eyebrows, nose hairs and ear hairs a quick cleanup, too.

If you’ve recently been experimenting with a new style, however, like a mustache or something similar, you should probably play it safe and give yourself a nice, clean shave. With anything recent, you can always start growing it back after you’ve left a good, hairless impression.

When dealing with the hair on your head, meanwhile, your best bet is to style it however you normally would for a nice event, no matter how eccentric your hair may be. Changing your hairstyle entirely just to meet your in-laws is frankly doing a little too much, especially when you have the excuse of being in quarantine, so just give it a good styling and show them who you really are.

If you make an effort and they’re still horrified by you, well, that’s going to have to be a conversation for you and your partner. But if you’ve acted decently and they still refuse to look past your appearance, that says a lot more about them than it does about you.