Life is full of rules – even, it seems, about how to dress properly. Don’t do this… Never do that… Get out of there, it’s the women’s section… Dig a little deeper, and some of the supposedly unbreakable rules for dressing aren’t very smart at all. Or, in any case, should have been in the dustbin of history long ago.
For example, why can’t you wear tan in the city, as an old-fashioned style rule says? There’s no good reason – that’s why the line is fading, leaving those who still judge a man by this statement stuck in the past.
We’re not saying that these rules, if followed, won’t afford a stable, somewhat sober, medium-weight, anonymous form of dressing that would do you good – especially if you don’t have the imagination of your own. But relax. Let’s not forget that the golden rule above all golden rules is that, given complete freedom, dressing is all about self-expression.
After all, some of the most stylish men in history are considered that way because they don’t care about the rules: hiking boots with my suit? bill. Wear my watch over the cuff of my shirt? Hell yes. Wearing that button-down shirt collar unbuttoned? You are. Raise the collar of my shirt? Okay, let’s talk about that.
Therefore, every style rule needs a periodic reassessment. Does it still help, or is it just limiting? You decide.
Never wear brown in the city
One of the oldest style rules in menswear – so old, in fact, that it dates back to when men wore bowler hats to work in London’s financial district – is that you should never wear brown shoes in an urban environment. Remarkably, some city institutions still hold this belief, even at the cost of the shattered hopes of the sartorial quirky applicants. Brown, they say, is just for your weekends in the countryside.
First, how many of us really have lives split over time in our city? pied a terre and that on our nationwide pile? Second, have you ever tried wearing black shoes with anything other than a black, very dark navy blue or gray suit? Looks like you forgot to put on the rest of your school uniform.
We say embrace the brown, or the brown, or the light orangy. See also the American concept of No White After Labor Day. Also junk.
button up jacket
The rule says that you should only do the middle of the three buttons on your suit (or the top one on a two-button suit). Why? No one knows, but maybe, just maybe, with perfectly cut tailoring, it can actually enhance the waistline. But if the other buttons were never formatted, then why at all?
Which buttons to tie up has long been a matter of fashionable discussion: Italians in the 1990s loved to tie up only the top button of the three; there was a phase – see David Byrne c.’Stop Making Sense’ – to fix all three. The same goes for always buttoning a double breasted suit.
Novelty is a no-no
It’s easy to conclude that Mickey Mouse socks, Transformers underwear, and a tie printed to look like a big fish are pushing the boundaries of good taste. But good taste is actually a kind of received wisdom, a collective understanding of entry-level sophistication. It is also a product of time, place and culture.
What the ban on novelty is really all about is the fear of boyish playfulness that persists into serious adulthood. Well, screw them. Playful design can now be found everywhere, from streetwear to once sober sartorial labels. Life’s too short to skip anything that makes you smile, even (or especially) when you’re smiling alone.
Don’t wear jeans with a blazer
This is an example of how style rules, once so hard and fast, actually mutate and evolve. Long derided as the uniform of the middle-aged man who, you know, wanted to look a little cool (hello, Jeremy Clarkson), this mixing and matching of the essentially formal with the essentially informal was considered desperate. attempt.
But then look what happened: mixing and matching the essentially formal with the essentially informal became the dominant mindset of menswear. Customization became softer. Denim became sharper. Worlds blurred and merged. And the right jeans with the right blazer looked – and still look – great, thank you very much.
To give the look a retro-modern twist on ’80s sartorial art, team light-washed jeans with a boxy or oversized jacket.
Your belt and shoes must be the same color
Style rule makers have something of an obsession with matchiness – this has to go with it, or else… Well? Or else what? Wearing a belt the same color as shoes can create a sense of completion in your attire, but it is also a rather pedestrian way of dressing.
How about, instead, a more tonal approach, where the shade of one is complementary to the other, but not necessarily the same. After all, it is such points of difference that make every outfit interesting. It’s not without reason that style icon Fred Astaire used a tie as a belt. This definitely didn’t match his shoes. Did he look like Cole Porter had it, the top? Absolute.
Always wear a tie with a suit
You’re doing this because, well, your father did. And his father before him. The tie was as much a part of the formal uniform as polished shoes and an ironed shirt. Thanks to Croatian mercenaries who wore the proto tie centuries ago, the tie is comfortably older than the modern suit, so perhaps we should say “always wear a suit with a tie.”
But the only argument for wearing a tie with a suit, as is typically put forward by sartorialists, is that it “completes” the look, whether it fills the eye-catching gap between the jacket’s lapels. It is not a hugely convincing position, nor a particularly contemporary one.
Wear your suit with a knitted polo, or turtleneck, or a crew-neck T-shirt, or with the shirt up to the neck. You really don’t have to wear a tie.