Remember being a young and naive enthusiast in the sartorial world? For me, it was after my 20th birthday when I took a decision to launch into the humble beginnings of a somewhat-terrifying personal style journey.
The first clothing choices I made were nothing short of disastrous and somewhat oblivious to the core elements of elegance. But amidst my fashion wreckage, a glimmer of hope appeared upon discovering PG — a booster I needed to see through the sartorial lens of the old bespoke master tailors and simple cobblers who found international acclaim, not to mention the writings of gentle gurus with suggestions not only for elegant dressing, but also for elegant thinking.
Yet despite all the sound advice, eccentric ideas kept coming to my head and I saw myself falling prey to some poor choices (sartorial sins) which seemed like a good idea at the time.
Here are a few of my own sartorial transgressions:
While taking my first sartorial steps I discovered the pleasure of selecting fabrics in a tailoring shop. As a first step, I was introduced to a beautiful object referred to as “a swatch book” (a small book of the fabrics sorted out according to colors, fabric types and seasonal wear).
I must warn the youngest of our readers that selecting a fabric for a commission can be an addictive experience. Carefully examining these little rectangles of cloth is a fascinating pleasure that offers the chance to imagine how the cloth will look when transformed into a suit or an overcoat.
The mistake I have made ? Choosing peculiar patterns or fabrics as a result of feeling fed up with dull colors and materials from ready-made brands. Overjoyed from the abundance of options (with each one seeming more seductive than the next), I forgot about the necessity of sobriety and versatility, which every beginner should bear in mind.
For example :
There is no proclaimed mistake here, as I am fond of the jackets made from these fabrics. I even have a sincere and amused tenderness towards them. But I realized my cloth choice would soon become a bother each time I tried to put together sartorial outfits. In fact, the color and pattern coordination posed an appalling experience, mainly because I had chosen only sport jackets, meaning the jackets stood-alone and were unpaired with trousers.
These two jackets were intended to prevent me from being mistaken with anyone else, in the pursuit of being unique. Having such an intention is not a problem in itself, but if I had to begin again, I would without a doubt choose less eccentric sport jackets in the name of versatility and ease-of-wear.
Beautiful shoes with a patina involve extra work by an artisan who paints the shoe leather the color of your choice. The result can look quite fancy and accomplished.
These are objects I have been eager to acquire, even before falling in love with the classical suit. My resolve to have shoes with an eccentric patina explains why I threw myself at the wonderful world of patinas without considering how I would pair the shoes with my outfits. It is a fact: wearing shoes with a distinctive patina became an arduous task in regard to finding their place within a wardrobe which is in its infancy.
Please note that I do not question the intrinsic beauty of the shoes : I carefully take care of these beloved objects, and I appreciate wearing them as frequently as I can. But I cannot help but suggest that you choose well thought-out patinas, or colors that are as versatile as possible. Shoes with brown patinas would be my recommendation to the newbie—they are a safer bet in case you too, are a lover of shoes with a strong personality.
A key evolution in anyone’s wardrobe is to find quality sartorial shirts. The aficionados of Parisian Gentleman know how frequently Hugo and Sonya have stressed the capital importance of the shirt in an outfit’s composition : a beautiful suit can indeed be jeopardized by a disastrous shirt.
How to choose a good shirt is surely a common conundrum. For me, I found myself captivated by the sartorial style of the Peaky Blinders cast, which directed me to some very specific types of collars (too specific, unfortunately) : tab-collars, pin-collars, or club-collars. Once again, I have acquiesced to eccentricity rather than versatility.
Another problem arose: I didn’t give a single thought about what type of collar best fits my morphology. I suggest you do not follow my example, and instead go read Sonya’s article on this very topic.
In sartorialism, being passionate often means passionately spending money. I can confess I was late to the game in my investigation into second-hand garments and accessories as a method of building my wardrobe without going broke.
However, being lucky enough to live in Paris, I have been able to visit abundantly furnished second-hand shops. In addition, Vinted has helped me find golden opportunities like beautiful jackets and ties for a minimal investment (remember I’m a university student).
One cannot deny that when you have a tight budget, second-hand clothing turns out to be a great solution to the problem. Suddenly I was able to try things I wouldn’t have imagined so early in the game, like for example, a corduroy jacket. “Why not ?” would be a perfect motto for such moments of uncertainty. As I spotted more original garments than I had imagined, I realized that one gets more precise in taste through experiencing clothing (a discovery which I hadn't considered until trying second-hand clothes).
Seeing something foreign to your own taste, and being willing to give it a try, is extremely precious to successful beginnings in the sartorial world. Experimentation enables one to learn more about not only fit and preferences but also allows an affordable alternative for dressing for a specific occasion. A delightful result has been that these most unlikely second-hand jackets and suits have been among the most complimented that I own!
Similar to the above, buying second-hand ties has been, for me, by far the best way to build an initial collection of neckwear. Like many others in my age group, I had underestimated the added value of a tie and wrongfully thought the shirt itself would be sufficient to reach the degree of elegance I had in mind. I had started out with just a few ties and couldn’t understand why I got so quickly bored with my outfits. Yet in the end, I discovered with more ties, that little changes of colors and patterns in an outfit is enough to give anyone the impression of donning an entirely new ensemble !
Further, wearing a tie and changing it everyday, gives one real pleasure. I can only suggest you start looking for second-hand ties, in order to get your own collection going strong.
If you are reading this article during a season of extreme heat or cold, I prefer to make things clear : anticipating and preparing for the upcoming seasons have been imperative for me. I recommend you start looking at the garments you are interested in a few months in advance of a new season so you won’t be caught off guard.
At the beginning of my sartorial quest, I made the terrible mistake of buying only fully-lined jackets and thick cotton shirts … which made my first “sartorial summer” insufferable. For summer, let me suggest that you try linen as soon as you can. Linen is an incredible fabric and its movement and breathability are fascinating. Also, linen can be less expensive than other options, such as seersucker or tropical wools.
Of course my guidelines are not set in stone but are meant to cast light upon the obstacles a beginner may encounter. Also, my words are not meant to prohibit anything to anyone; and, if you find some of these points questionable, I invite you to take the opportunity to start an interesting conversation here or on any of our social media platforms.
Translated by Agathe Vieillard-Baron and Sonya Glyn