A balanced, relaxed, healthy look at traditional men’s clothing by a long-time writer on the subject.
Only shallow people don’t judge by appearances.
Clothes speak, and they lie less than words do.
Rational elegance: innovation, tradition, and individual taste.
Well-dressed men are well dressed not because they follow every little rule about clothing, but because they have good taste, individuality, style, and a sense of history.
The most nattily attired gentlemen have explored pattern, texture, and color combinations in ways that promote a sense of personality, while still being mindful of tradition.
Understand the rules of dressing without getting caught up in the myths.
If you like it, wear it.
Just as there are levels of speech, there are levels of dress.
The dandy was a painter whose canvas was himself.
Peer pressure can be greater than vanity.
The desire to be included, rather than to stand out - thus leading to a downward spiral, to refrain from rising above in order to fit in below.
Call it what you will - ascot, cravat, stock - the scarf at the throat is the tested and true answer to the naked neck.
A mannerly fold of fine silk or lightweight cashmere with an open collar.
Use either a square scarf of about thirty-two inches or a long band of about six inches wide and a yard long.
The scarf should be folded cornerwise to form a triangle and then rolled apex toward the base until a long band results.
In the other case, the band is simply folded until an appropriate width is formed.
Simplicity is the greatest of virtues.
Modern fashion has a tendency to rise from the bottom to the top.
How can we be distinguishingly individual when we’re all wearing the same sweatshirt, jeans, and running shoes?
When clothes talk about us, they identify us as a member of this or that group.
The language they speak is the language of the group.
Of which group or groups do we wish to be seen as a member?
Within groups, there are always rules, the point of which is to let everyone know who’s a member and who’s not.
Appropriate dress frees us from the anxieties and liabilities of sending negative and confusing messages.
If a man is dressed effectively, confidently, and comfortably, he’ll be judged on other criteria - talent, productivity, merit, skill.
There is no rest for the fashionable.
Simplicity is generally a virtue.
Your clothes should not be more memorable than you are.
They should complement you, not compete with you.
Avoid trends, fads, flash, and gimmicks, all of which draw attention to themselves and away from you.
Good shoes last longer than cheap ones and look better when they’re old than cheap ones do when they’re new.
To save money, buy quality.
If you’re uncomfortable in your clothes, you’ll make others feel uncomfortable.
Never wear anything cheap, fancy, shiny, or synthetic.
Don't be too studied.
Everything all matched up makes the uniform obvious, overly fastidious, and blatantly narcissistic.
Individuality should be in evidence, quietly.
Don't wear too many accessories. It signals insecurity.
The key to style is refusal.
Too understated? Blandness outside indicates blandness inside.
Combine the sleek and modern with great vintage pieces.
Show that you take a certain pride in Old World craftsmanship, in objects that have stood the test of time, in style rather than momentary fashion trends.
Don’t imitate the past; just show that you value it.
Great dressers like to play genres off against each other,
The “uniform” - the old business outfit of dark suit, white shirt, nondescript tie, and black wingtips - is worn by choice rather than obligation.
I made these shirts for him ages ago, and every few years he sends them to me to replace the frayed collars and cuffs with new ones.
It’s a good idea because the bodies of the shirts are like new.
He really gets his money out of his clothes.
A compliment to a man who understood quality.
Anything can be made a little worse and sold a little cheaper.
The people who consider price only are that seller’s lawful prey.
“Blue collar” means: cheap cotton dyed blue, as opposed to fine white cotton and linen.
The tried and true English country house look:
Strata of taste have been laid down over the years by successive owners and that its crowded incongruities are the result of a collective history.
The British aristocracy preferred to stay on their country estates and came up to London when it was necessary.
Country houses meant country clothes - hunting and riding clothes made of sturdy fabrics, not the silks and satins surrounding royalty.
An inherent underlying stability that one finds in long-established homes. They’re decorated to look as if they’ve never been decorated.
Shabbiness is preferred to newness.
New is vulgar.
The mildly tatty is preferable to the new and shiny.
A faded, slightly patinated atmosphere is ideal in achieving a timeless, understated look that bespeaks craftsmanship and the right proportions.
The renowned tailoring firms of Savile Row feel that they’ve failed a customer somehow if he gets complimented for wearing a new suit.
Clothes aren’t supposed to be worn as though they were objects in themselves; they’re the extensions of the individual body and the mind.
The crumble-down approach: nothing is ever really in or out of fashion.
New clothes may have beauty, but they have no sentiment or real pedigree. New clothes only have labels.
Cultivate the impression of never having prepared.
Obvious coordination is to be avoided at all costs.
Ties, socks, and pocket squares should slightly clash at the very least.
Wearing clothes from different genres - or different periods or occasions - is helpful.
Untidiness is better than symmetry and organization.
This is really the oldest form of the too-cool-to-care pose, the hautest form of reverse snobbery.
Precisely because men don’t have to wear a suit or tuxedo, they may want to wear an outfit like that. It’s now become a very individual kind of expression.
Clothing is a bit like architecture in that it tries to solve problems of living, and those attempts that don’t work are eventually discarded.
The tuxedo has worked for a very long time. It has a durable track record.
Since the tux is used sparingly, the impression is rather like watching a long series of color films and then seeing something in black and white: startlingly elegant.
The outfit has been historically seen as a completely dignified foil to the more colorful dress worn by women.
The real trick to wearing clothes is to wear them as if you mean it, while at the same time giving the impression that it’s a natural grace.
Elegant ease and natural assurance.
The main purpose of dress is to make people concentrate on you, rather than on what you’re wearing.
From weakest to strongest, scents are labeled aftershave, cologne, toilet water, and perfume.
A man should smell merely clean and fresh, not like a brothel in Marrakesh.
Splash a drop or two on the inside of your wrist, rub your wrists together, and smell.
Wait a few minutes, and smell again.
If you still like the scent the second time around - or in fact if the scent even remains around for the second sniff - it’s safe enough to buy.
Don’t immediately try another scent. Wash your hands and wrists thoroughly, and wait a half hour before repeating this test with a new cologne.
The Englishman says his home is his castle, and he has his private clubs for social life.
But the Italian lives in the piazza, spending more time in public places, which explains the great beauty of the town square in Italy.
Italians consider black shoes both funereal and uninteresting.
Black shoes are merely black, while brown can run an almost infinite range of shades.
Rotate garments to allow them to rest between wearings.
Clean and air them after wearing, which means brushing fabrics with a soft brush to remove dust and wiping shoes to remove dirt, and then leaving them in a space open enough for air to circulate (to evaporate perspiration) for at least twenty-four hours.
Store them properly.
Knitted garments should never be hung; they should be folded.
Brush your clothes after wearing to remove dust (an abrasive that wears at the fibers).
Hang the garments somewhere to ventilate and naturally evaporate any odors that might cling to the fabric.
Knitwear should never be hung (because that causes stretching), but rather folded and kept on a shelf or in a drawer.
Luxury knits such as cashmere may be wrapped in acid-free tissue paper to prevent wrinkles and pilling.
Remove stains and spots as quickly as possible.
Rinse fabric with cold water and then gently blot with a clean cloth to remove a stain, if attended to immediately.
Iron and press clothes as little as possible.
If you must iron, use a slightly damp and clean cotton or linen cloth (a handkerchief or tea towel will do nicely) between the garment and the iron, always start with low heat.
Leather shoes should be rotated, given a day off between each day’s wearing.
They should be rested in shoe trees that will stretch out the shoes and absorb perspiration; the preference is for cedar wood trees.
If the shoes are wet from rain or snow, let them dry at room temperature after removing them.
Once the shoes have completely dried, wipe off any dirt with a damp cloth.
The style of studied nonchalance is the psychological triumph of grace over order.
It’s much easier to get what you want if you’re dressed for it.
The guise of nonchalance is intended to imply a strength held in reserve.
Dabblers in fashion are the most manipulated of people.
Stay away from large patches of bright color.
The chest area is what most people’s eyes are drawn to after the face.
Bright tie? Everyone will notice the tie and not you.
Highlighting one particular aspect of the wardrobe tends not to so much solve a problem as to create one: it tends to remove the wearer from his clothes.
Prevent any one garment from hogging the spotlight.
Solids often serve to set off patterns too much, making the edges too sharply defined and staccato, like a cutout silhouette.
Laying pattern against pattern softens the edges, blurs them just enough, increases the harmony, and prevents us from focusing on one item.
Different patterns used subtly can serve us well.
Fashion is echo, but style is voice.
Accessories that are perfectly matched up tend to leave either a distinctly contrived, studied impression or the complete opposite: the feeling that the man was dressed by a salesman.
We sense vanity and wasted time before the mirror.
It’s the striving that we see.
The overly fussy concern that reveals social anxiety, a lack of self-assurance, not knowing who we are or what role we intend to play.
These are psychologically deep waters.
True art is what does not appear to be art.
The most important thing is to conceal it.
Accessories should make a subtle rather than a studied statement.
A gentleman should wear a pocket square.
If it’s not there, when people look at the photo, they’ll tell you there’s something missing even if they can’t put their finger on what it is.
The important differences between each type of collar can be broken into three categories:
(1) the actual size of the collar in terms of point length and spread, nape and throat height
(2) the amount of space the collar leaves for a tie
(3) firmness of construction.
The smaller the man, the smaller the collar.
The longer the neck, the higher the collar may be.
Tie space, for its part, is determined by preferred size of tie knot: the larger the knot, the more tie space necessary.
A point collar becomes a spread collar when the angle of the points spreads more than midway between the sternum and collarbone.
The spread collar is the formal business collar.
There are actually two distinct spread collars: the moderate spread and the “cutaway” spread, in which the points are horizontally parallel across the neck.
The cutaway speaks to a laser-like crispness and rigorous precision of almost ceremonial mood and occasion.
The length of the shirt sleeve should be measured so that the lower edge of the cuff falls just below the wrist bone.
If the coat sleeves are cut to fall just above the wrist bone, as they should be, there will be about one half inch of shirt sleeve showing. Just the right amount.
The collar-tie-pocket-square nexus is one of the two principal areas in which a man can go badly astray in his wardrobe - one of two dangerous reefs on which a man’s ship of style can be scuttled.
(The foot area, which includes the shoe, hosiery, and trouser, is the other.)
The great pitfall is to have too much going on.
Pay attention to the varying scale of patterns.
Patterns work better when they can be individually absorbed by the eye, and when the various items in the outfit can be comfortably delineated.
Otherwise we tend to feel as though we’re sitting in an optometrist’s examination room. Or at the circus.
The tie and pocket square should echo each other in terms of color, rather than coordinate.
Use the tie and handkerchief to reflect a subtle color in the jacket or shirt.
High contrast should be avoided, and colors should blend rather than pop.
There’s no need to make our vanity the message of our lives.
For those who consider the foot to be an extension of the leg, black shoes are a necessity.
The drawback is it’s merely boring for both the wearer and the viewers.
A black shoe is a symbol and artifact of pristine simplicity.
Nothing looks smarter than a pair of top-quality, perfectly polished black shoes, but that’s the catch, isn’t it - there’s nothing more to be said?
The old rule was that the shoe should be just a shade darker than the trouser, and this continues to make sense.
Brown shoes do tend to break the sight lines, but that can be a good thing, both because it provides more variety and also because it gives the eye another point of focus.
Brown shoes also open the door to brighter hosiery.
Do not inquire too deeply into the truth of other people’s appearance.
Life is more sociable if one takes people as they are and not as they probably are.
Civility rests on the little lie, the sin of omission, the harmless compliment, the overlooked slight, the tiny fabrication, the artful ability to conceal effort and inappropriate passions.
Practice in all things a certain nonchalance [sprezzatura] which conceals all artistry and makes whatever one says or does seem uncontrived and effortless.
A man who performs well with so much facility must possess even greater skill than he does, and that if he took greater pains and effort he would perform even better.
Sprezzatura is the conscious attempt to appear natural, the affectation that seems uncontrived, the studied casualness and feigned indifference that is intended to indicate a greater worth than one actually sees.
It is the ability to conceal effort.
The opposite is affectation, which exposes itself.
A humorous book on the subject: The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship or The Art of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating.
Potter referred to contrived nonchalance as “gamesmanship”.
The great virtue of sprezzatura is that it implies a greatness unseen, a potential implicit in its very subtleties and flaws, a strength held in reserve.
An artful blend of the blandly correct with the colorfully casual.
Art is to conceal art.
Prefer the mildly rumpled over the new and shiny.
A few good wrinkles always separate the men from the boys, because invariably the novice tries to appear flawless and correct - and that’s his great mistake.
Sprezzatura is a matter of reaching for perfection, while cultivating the impression of never having given it a thought.
It’s the sense of ease, the air of never having prepared, that wins the day.
Showing complete ignorance about the obvious, not knowing one’s size, or of what material one’s jacket is made is always a good idea.
“Haven’t bought clothes in years” is an almost unbeatable ploy, since any reply would seem rather arriviste and petty at the same time.
The purposefully incongruent finesse of mixed genres.
The inspired oversight of an undone cuff button or that slightly tousled pocket handkerchief.
The appropriate subtext that one has responded to the chaos and darkness of the universe with elegant disdain.
Keep the viewer guessing.
Cultivate the impression of never having prepared.
The suit is done evolving.
Linen’s rumpled elegance is even more charming in today’s age of indestructible synthetic fibers.
Linen is nonchalance, that insouciant sangfroid that says you’re too cool to care.
“Seersucker” is a Hindi corruption of a Persian phrase shir shaker, which translates as “milk and sugar.”
Turtleneck sweaters are - or at least should be - a default item with tailored clothing in cooler weather.
A turtleneck sweater with a suit? Why not? Purposeful nonchalance.
(called a “roll neck” by many Brits)
The baggy and oversized turtleneck became a symbol of the young intellectual.