Summer dressing is a challenge but elegant solutions are readily available. Irish linen, or an open weave worsted, like the Brisa fabric, are to be preferred above all others. An unlined light gray or tan suit in either of these fabrics can be worn in almost all situations and the coat can be paired with khakis or jeans when the suit is not required.
In summer the trouser takes center stage. Often overlooked is the ideal trouser for summer heat, it should be cut full favoring comfort and maximum circulation of cooling air.
Linen trousers worn with side tabs or worn with a belt are staple items when combined with linen shirts. Canvas shoes or spectators work well in combination with these basics. Routinely commission a few pair of linen trousers every year for the summer season until your wardrobe includes a dozen or so pair.
If you can succeed in appearing at ease and elegant in the heat of summer, the other seasons of the year are a snap!
Commissioning any piece of work is very different from purchasing. Purchasing is an event.
Commissioning is a process. Purchasing requires a credit card. Commissioning requires understanding, imagining and creating in a co-operative venture with an artisan. In essence, it requires the luxury of embracing a specific culture and ethic.
The most gifted artist cannot possibly know what our vision is if we are incapable
of describing it clearly. And to describe it clearly, we must know it our self.
One who is not prepared to invest of himself to know himself would be better off purchasing. Though, it is rumored that some things cannot be purchased.
What is in a name?
What is in a label?
What Young Men Can Do to Improve Their Dress
It is often said that the first three things a woman looks at when she meets a man for the first time are his eyes, hands and shoes. If you happen to be lucky enough to pass this first level of inspection, you will surely be judged by your overall appearance and unless you are naked that means your dress. That is where an awful lot of young men miss the cut right out of the gates and this article is going to tell you why and suggest things you can do about it.
In reality, most ladies, potential business associates or bosses are not looking at your eyes, hands, or shoes for what they want or expect to see, but to make sure a deal breaker is not lingering there. They are checking for shifty eyes, bearish hands or last seasons must have fashion shoes, the ones that look like an imposing motor vehicle has made tracks over your feet.
If you have a set of bedroom blues you are in luck and if you don’t you can always wear sunglasses. You cannot do much about your hands except make sure they are properly groomed and lacking jewelry. Or you can keep your hands in your pockets at all times, though this strategy is inconvenient. So of the first three checkpoints, you can decide on and change only one: your shoes.
Shoes are to be heard but not seen. The crisp clack on the pavement when we walk indicates the presence of good leather and not something made of formaldehyde pate. If you try to make a big fashion statement with your shoes you can be assured to wind up with your foot in your mouth. So, choose something black or brown with a round toe from Northampton. Shoes that come to us from south of Southampton and resemble deflated Pirellis or the fuselage of F-16s will get you sent packing to the back of the line. Remember that at this stage in our sartorial development we are simply trying to get past the third hurdle and want our potential mistress to glance past our shoes and back onto the sheet where she will check the box that says “OK, not a complete buffoon.” From there her eyes will move up our figure towards our faces where things can get more complicated.
A simple rule of chic says that if no one is doing it then it must be a good thing to do; since no one is wearing ties anymore, it’s a good time to wrap one around your neck. The tie abolitionists come to us from the States while the highest per capita sales of silk neckties and scarves in the world are registered in Italy. And if there are many things about Yanks we might like to copy, fashion and foreign policy are dangerous ones. So do default to some sort of neckwear.
If you don’t believe this to be true and maintain that ties are expensive instruments of torture that strangle when they are not sopping up spaghetti sauce, try to find a picture of your father from the 1970s, the last anti-tie era. He will look very similar to what you see as fashionable today, the open shirt, décolleté with a heavy gold chain, shirt collar splayed out over the jacket deftly. The look has come full circle back into fashion. But if you show Dad his picture and suggest posting it on your favorite blog or family album on the net, don’t be surprised if the blackmail does not earn you enough money to buy a superb collection of silks. And if you want to avoid your son wreaking the same havoc in your life with your image some day, then wear a tie.
A well chosen tie can add color to your face and make the eyes you are stuck with sparkle so you don’t have to wear sunglasses all day. Prefer small patterns and muted colors made of good quality silk knotted with nonchalance and you will pass muster as long as you are wearing a proper collar on your shirt.
One of the reasons most of you want to toss the tie is that the silly thing never stays in place around your neck. And cinching it down with the not so stylish Saddam knot restricts the passage of air and reddens one’s complexion. “This”, you say, “simply will not do!” And you are right. But the fact that the tie does not stay in place has nothing to do with either tie or knot and has everything to do with your shirt’s collar.
Many of you who are fluent in nuclear physics, net present values of cash flows or geopolitics are, for some inexplicable reason, unable to calculate your shirt’s collar size. For this reason you have grown up with eyes bulging slightly from their sockets, thinking such a thing was normal and part of wearing a dress shirt. To escape this trap you are willing to jump on the Kansas City suburban train to dressing disaster wearing your shirt unbuttoned to the navel as a disproportionate reaction to all your previous years suffering.
The first step in life is to understand that shirt collars should simply rest around your neck so that a necktie can rest along with it. So measure your neck knowing that its size will likely expand after this weekends drinking binge while the cotton it is made of will be shrinking. So we have two opposite and contrary physical forces at play, the cotton is shrinking while we are expanding. Do the math and come up with the right size and half the battle is won.
Once the shirt collar fits with ease round the neck and in order to create a place for our silky treasure to drape we must fashion a thing called-you probably won’t believe this-“tie space.” You see, if the tie has a place to go and rest, you do not have to cinch it down as you would a sack of potatoes. Since breathing is an exceptionally pleasant thing to do, and is always “de bon ton”, you will be able to do more of it now.
Tie space is a ¾ inch space where the collar’s button is found. To find it put your city shirt aside for a moment and look at the collar of a button down as they all come equipped with tie space. Now duplicate this space on your next dress shirts and your tie will seed itself immediately, automatically and without stress to your vocal chords. Wearing a tie has never been so much fun, has it? Now we must do something about your suit’s fabric, sir!
Most fabrics used today leave men ill prepared for existence much less seduction or success. They are flimsy, light, wrinkle in a trifle and generally make one look sickly as in after a bad nights sleep in business class. To play the part of a relatively invincible masculine hero, you have to think twice before going out in urban pajamas. I suppose the day trend towards city pajama wear explains why many men consider the donning of track suits on the weekend to be a big step up in terms of formality and style.
Any temptress worth her weight in Chanel No. 5 seeing a sturdy fabric exterior will want to find the irresistible weak side someplace underneath that suit of clothes, its sort of like looking for Connolly in a Bentley. You have to offer her this opportunity or fail immediately. For if she sees flimsy, wrinkled, lightweight and lackluster on the outside, she will imagine and expect even worse inside.
So find or bespeak yourself a suit of clothes cut from weighty cloth that has character and depth. Fabrics that are flat, closely milled and shiny-the usual ones- make you look dull. Fabrics that have texture, a design and are matte make you look rich. The choice is yours. In the dull set of fabrics you will find thin worsteds, trendy super cloth and shiny mohair. In the rich set, choose between woolen flannels, tweeds or linen.
Once the best fabrics have been identified, the female object of your desire will be reassured to see them fit the muscle rippled body you spend so much time working on at the gym. Fit is the subject that is never spoken about in fashion and yet it is a fundamental of good dressing and comfortable dressing. Going out in clothes that hang from your body or those with buttons set to explode will lead most to think you are wearing hand me downs from your brother or roommate. The comfort concept is as follows: If you are not comfortable in your clothes, you will not look comfortable to others, and others will not feel comfortable around you. She wants to feel comfortable around you.
The clothes you need to purchase are not the ones that everyone else is wearing (review the fundamentals of chic above), nor are they the ones modeled by the best looking men, nor are the ones your sister assures you are part of a great outfit. The clothes you should purchase are clothes that fit you. Stop, that does not mean clothes that suit you or are smart on you, it means clothes that fit on your body well.
If you think bespoke clothing is for the grandfatherly and you want to be robbed in the very latest then invest the time required to visit every shop and try on each and every article of clothing until such time that you find garments that make you look less like your brother or roommate and more like you. To make your shopping experience as rapid and efficient as possible you will need to equip yourself with a small hand held mirror and a roll of electrician’s tape. The small mirror will be used in conjunction with the mirrors at the shop to check the fit of your clothes from every angle including angles shopkeepers do not want you to see. The electrician’s tape is used to bind and gag the annoying and intentionally misleading salespeople. Learn to use your own eyes.
Finally, compose your dress with humor. Slavish adherence to either fashion or company dress codes will earn you little respect. Punctuate your understated dress with some epigrammatic piece of self deprecating humor. You might try an extravagant piece of silk as a scarf, a waistcoat in buff linen or the jumper you have always craved in Hermes orange. So wear one. It’s better to mock yourself than have the world do it for you.
Well so much for faux Hamlets, the greatest of modern performances was delivered in London and New York by the American actor, John Barrymore who influenced a new generation of tragedians: Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and Orson Welles.
Orson Welles says of Barrymore’s Hamlet that, “He was tender and virile and witty and dangerous!” That is a very good description of what we refer to as Style. You will find an ample stock of each of these ingredients in yourself if you look for them. They come as standard equipment.
Take a minute and view some of youtube’s Barrymore clips. The silent films of the ‘20s are of particular interest. In this clip from “Arsene Lupin” (1932) you will find the four qualities of Style displayed effectively.
“To attain style in dress, you must look perfectly happy and relaxed in your clothes which must appear part of you rather than a wardrobe you have just donned.”
“ABC of Men’s Fashion” pg 108 by Hardy Amies
A few years ago I stumbled on a scrap of vintage cheviot tweed stuffed into a corner in the back room of a famous London cloth merchant, W. Bill. It seemed orphaned, lost. There was barely enough cloth to make a coat but the brown and blue grays in the glen check appealed to me so I took it home. Recently I had it made into a coat.
When you choose fabrics or clothes, trust your instincts. Let your imagination come to the fore.
There is something special about this tweed. It has a very “old world” aura, it whispers soothing, kind words. The lowly orphaned tweed turned out to be something of a prince after all thanks to the work of a great tailor.
Happy New Years to all those who read Dress With Style!
Many thanks to Michel Egly-Ouriet for one of the best champagnes made. And thanks to a great tailor for his work crafting a single breasted Chesterfield overcoat.
New Years’ Cheers!
Try wearing some brightly colored clothes from time to time. It might be a tweed coat with your jeans or flannels. It could be a happy colored sweater or scarf.
Wear these clothes with humor and a smile. And do not fall into the style trap of always playing it safe with your dress.
Fortune does smile on the bold and bright!