The first few steps into the world of men's style are often the most gratifying, and you might soon find yourself falling into a full-fledged addiction to the complex and fascinating quest for personal elegance.
If you are just starting to explore the subject, here are ten key points that you should be aware of.
Hopefully, these few pointers will allow you to avoid a few pitfalls, and save you a bit of money as well.
This advice might seem a bit out of place in these columns, but it is strictly common sense. If you feel the need or the want to start working on your personal style --- even if only so slightly , then be mindful of your silhouette and start working on improving it.
A few hours of physical activity each week, a bit of walking, (slightly) less alcohol, and (much) less excess at the dinner table will do more for your silhouette than what the best master tailor in the world could ever achieve (and for a much cheaper price too !). It is a personal investment to attend to oneself, and although it might take some real effort, it can yield incredible results.
What's more, I've noticed that gentlemen who started their sartorial revolution by a bit of work on their silhouette (which for some means weight loss, particularly around the belt area), usually continued to improve. Indeed, experiencing true personal elegance is such a life-changing experience that going back to one's old ways is not an option.
Before being demanding with your tailor or salesman, be demanding with yourself. Dura Lex, Sed Lex.
It is advisable to be mindful of any gross errors you might make before buying a suit or a pair of shoes. Knowing a few elementary rules will help you in that regard. Nothing complicated here : the rules that dictate what you should avoid wearing depending on your morphology are easy to memorize, and make for a great rules of thumb that you can almost always fall back on.
Here are a few : If you are stout : Avoid windowpane patterns, patterns that are on a large scale in general, and belts. Be careful with double-breasted suits too. Favor plain suits, small stripes and braces.
If you are slim : Avoid small stripes and slim lapels. Favor windowpane patterns, large stripes, and generous lapels. If you are short in stature : Avoid large checks, lapels that are positioned too low on the chest, and low cut pants.
If you are tall : Avoid high lapel notches, ridiculously slim lapels, and small stripes. Favor large patterns, heavy fabric, peak lapels, and patch pockets. This advice could easily have been entitled : "Read Dressing The Man" by Alan Flusser.
Notice that I didn't say "try to", but "force yourself to". Force yourself to buy jackets, suits and coats that fit you. Buying a piece of clothing to one's precise proportions has become particularly counter-intuitive dating back to the 1980's, with the erroneous and pervasive belief that loose-fitting clothing will be more comfortable than clothing that is properly fitted.
This, my friends, is heresy, dating from a time when street wear and XL clothes were almost considered the norm.
Any gentlemen who's had the pleasure of wearing a properly fitted suit with high armscyes will agree that the incredible comfort, the freedom of movement, and the overall visual impact is beyond comparison. Buying your first suit or jacket in your proper size is an extremely important step that we can't stress enough.
If you can't afford bespoke quality or made-to-measure, here are a few things to pay attention to :
- The shoulder line should look natural ; the jacket shoulder has to sit comfortably on your deltoid muscle's external half.
- The active button – the one used to button the jacket, should slightly tug at the fabric when closed.
- After closing the jacket, make sure there is no lapel gape (the unsightly gape between the lapel and the torso), nor any collar gape (the ungodly gape between the collar of your shirt and the collar of your jacket)
- While checking all of the above... stand upright !
You will need to have some adjustments done at one point or another during your journey, particularly if you can't afford bespoke or made-to-measure. A skilled alteration tailor can have a considerable impact on improving your suit cut, by adjusting the fit to work better with your morphology.
Though a fundamental part of the elegant life, it is often hard to find the right person for the task. Nevertheless, finding the right pair of hands is well worth the search, and should be considered a priority by any gentlemen serious about their style. The right person will incidentally become an invaluable companion for sound advice.
It is usually not advisable to leave any adjustments to be made at the same store where you bought your item, unless they employ an actual tailor. If that is not the case, then always favor your dedicated alteration tailor.
In the collective consciousness, a good white shirt is what sets apart the boys from the men. In more down-to-earth terms, a white shirt is always a good choice. Everyone looks great in a white shirt, provided it is properly fitted (and ironed).
There's simply no ways around it ; you have to own several white shirts. They will always be good companions, and won't ever go out of style.
A nice medium/dark blue suit should be in every man's wardrobe, for it is the most versatile suit you can ever own.
More charismatic than the grey suit, a beautiful blue suit is also very handy for formal occasions. Even though it will never replace a proper dinner suit for a black tie event, the blue suit remains a very acceptable alternative for most formal events. Be wary though : the darker the blue, the more formal the suit.
Be sure to select a tone that is reasonably deep for office wear. See the PG RTW Men's Suits Selection For 2014 for some recommendations.
A pair of shoes tells a lot about the man who wears them, perhaps more so than his suit. It is a commonly accepted fact (by women, in particular). And with good reasons.
A cheap chunk of fake leather will instantly ruin any outfit, no matter how luxurious the suit. Conversely, a pair of good shoes that are properly maintained can "salvage" even the most mediocre suit.
These days, the cost of owning a couple of pairs of quality shoes is no longer an inaccessible luxury, which is very fortunate, given how crucial a good pair of shoes is for the aspiring elegant man. See the Parisian Gentleman's shoe review 2015/2016 for some guidance and recommendations.
Ties, bow ties, handkerchieves, and even socks have become an integral part of men's style and today, more than ever, the market is flooded with accessories that can help tweak your outfits. Learn how to use accessories for a maximum advantage.
The tie and the pocket square should be your priority focus, especially as a beginner.
Owning five ties and five pocket squares / handkerchieves is not a costly investment, and it will open up possibilities to hundreds of variations, that will ensure you will never be caught completely off guard whatever the circumstances, even if you only own a couple of suits.
The current sartorial revolution has made it much easier to dress elegantly without having to spend a small fortune, especially as a beginner. The competition in the male elegance field is fierce, especially online, and more e-stores pop up by the day. There is also a global shift towards quality – a reaction to men being more educated about their purchases.
As a result, every gentleman is now entitled to elegance, whatever his financial means. Still, it is important to keep one golden rule in mind : buy less, but buy better.
All other considerations aside, a fully canvassed suit will always look, drape and feel better than any number of cheap and disposable fused suits. Be patient, and make sure you purchase quality items when you can afford them.
Between major purchases, buying accessories will help to suppress the urge to spend on big items before you're ready to do so.
Though it might be the vaguest advice on the list, it is also arguably the most important.
Always try to be mindful of your posture when you wear a nice suit. You shouldn't force yourself upright, nor should you puff your chest, but you should always be conscious, as much as possible, of your posture.
Even if you don't yet own a perfectly fitted suit, start paying attention to how your body interacts with your clothes. A great dose of elegance can be obtained through the right mindset and attitude. Posture is one of the least commented upon elements in the field of men's style.
Yet, the way you stand in your clothes is extremely important. We'll have the opportunity to expand on this subject another time.