Saturday, 15 April 2017

Style & Fashion Rules and How to Break Them

Style or fashion rules are everywhere. Weekly we read what we can and can't wear and, while much of it is sensible, some is just repeated received wisdom with very little basis in either sense or aesthetics. Examples are 'No brown in town', 'blue and green should never be seen', 'older men shouldn't wear jeans/t-shirts' etc etc.

I try to avoid telling people what not to wear, but I have been guilty of passing on nuggets of wisdom. One example was the 'rule' that trousers worn with formal wear; morning suits or evening wear, should not have turn-ups (cuffs) as they are found only on less formal wear. With this in mind, I was interested to find this image of Cecil Beaton wearing morning dress with beautifully cut trousers with turn-ups.

They work; giving, in my view, balance to the whole look. It's noteworthy also how the cropped double-breasted waistcoat elegantly lengthens his legs, adding to the success of the turn-ups, which can make legs look shorter. The lesson is to trust your own judgement in these matters, or discuss your thoughts with a tailor, stylist, blogger or friend whose taste you respect.

Having said that there are some rules I would never break myself. Wearing a tie with the shirt's top button undone is one. Do you have any examples of non-rules or rules which really can never be broken?


Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Hmmm. . . Wearing a suit without a necktie. It looks damn silly and like a man is a) either trying too hard to looked nonchalant, or b)he has somehow reached adulthood without either ever purchasing, and/or learning to tie a necktie. A less formal sports jacket-odd pants combination might be a better choice if a guy can't stomach the thought of wearing a tie.

Best Regards,

Heinz-Ulrich von B.

Danny Berryhill said...

I always leave the bottom button on a vest (waistcoat)unbuttoned. And I can't leave the house without a dimple in my tie.

Prem Amrito said...

never go without anything on.... 🙈🙈

Dauvit Alexander said...

I would never wear brown shoes with a grey, black or blue suit.

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Something else occurs to me this morning. Part of breaking style "rules", or more correctly "playing" with them should come from developing enough knowledge about dressing oneself in a classic sense, so that one eventually becomes confident enough in oneself and one's wardrobe to play around a bit with the smaller details. What I mean is that a a man can push the rules envelope just a bit to develop some personality and uniqueness in his attire. And no, I do not mean showing up for a wedding in ratty cargo pants or actually leaving the house wearing a Tweety Bird necktie. I think it is this knowledge and quiet self-confidence that so many men apparently lack these days whatever they might insist to the contrary.

On a totally different note, I stumbled across your interview with Sven Rafael Schneider from a few years ago on YouTube last night. Loved it! Very interesting discussion, and I also enjoyed perusing your bookshelf as I listened. Keep up the great work!

Best Regards,

Heinz-Ulrich von B.

Grey Fox said...

Many thanks Heinz-Ulrich - fascinating comments as ever. I've never worn a suit without a tie but it is happening more and more and I think I could get used to the idea. Thanks for enjoying the interview from last year with Sven!

Thanks Dauvit. I wouldn't have worn brown shoes with a blue suit either until I tried it recently and quite liked it - these things are worth a try sometimes!

Thanks Danny - I agree.

And Prem!


LAStyleGuy said...

A few of my "never" rules? (I've limited myself to only seven, so I don't reveal how completely sartorially dogmatic I am.) Never wear...

1. A suit without socks.

2. Contrasting thread around a suit's button holes or lapel hole.

3. Any tie but a bow tie with a tuxedo.

4. A suit without a tie.

5. A suit with anything but dress shoes.

6. A dress shirt that's darker than one's tie.

7. A black suit other than a tuxedo.

Grey Fox said...

Many thanks LAStyleGuy - interesting rules which I have to say I'd stick to simply because the looks you're avoiding don't look aesthetically pleasing. That should be the basis for style rules, which shouldn't be arbitrary. The problem with this, of course, is that such rules ultimately depend on personal taste - many men consider it looks good to wear trainers with a suit, or a suit without a tie and I struggle slightly to see why their choice is any less valid than mine.


John G said...

Excellent question!

For me, personally, there is really only one style rule: never wear anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.

I think this rule covers three areas:

1. Never wear anything that causes physical pain. Shoes either fit or they don't.

2. Wear what the situation requires: There's a correct time and place for almost everything. The "no suit without a tie/socks" may work consistently in northern climates. But in tropical climates? A nice linen suit, a pressed shirt with no tie and a pair of loafers without socks (or no-shows) can go a long way and definitely does not look underdressed in many social contexts. Meanwhile, a gentleman that turned up dressed according to "northern" style rules would be perspiring heavily and look extremely uncomfortable.

3. Your clothes should make you feel confident, not self-conscious: If I'm worried that other people think what I'm wearing makes me look silly, then I've made a mistake. Is there anything less stylish than a nervous preoccupation with one's clothes? With style, I think confidence and character are just as important as cut or pattern. Being inspired by others is fine. But always be true to yourself.

I think one of the great gifts growing older gives us is a better understanding of who we are. And we are all different. So the idea that there is one set of RULES that should govern every man's personal style in every situation seems, to me, just as illogical as advising someone to copy another man's style because "he's famous". I believe the man who is comfortable in his clothes (no matter what Rules they may break) and radiates confidence will always be more stylish than the hardliner who has dressed in exact accordance with some "Universal Code" or the Peacock who is eager to show off his latest pocket square.

Just my two cents on the topic!

George Heidekat said...

Tony Lupton said...

Sprezzatura - going out without a dimple in your tie, to differentiate yourself from all those sporting a dimple 😋.

Suits without ties are quite common in Australia in those workplaces that sit between business casual and business formal. For me personally, it does feel a little like something is missing.

mentaldental said...

"Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men"

Of course it is also necessary to know and understand the rule before breaking it intelligently.

J Russell said...

Thank you for this post and for your sartorial guidance on this blog. I have appreciated seeing how Grey Fox puts together a tasteful ensemble. In many ways I don't know if it constitutes "breaking" a rule or not--it's just good advice. I previously stuck rigidly to the very basics in my wardrobe, and it was that lack of personal creativity that drove me to the blog and Instagram feed. Keep up the solid advice and photographs.

Grey Fox said...

Thank you, George - the link is to the cuff scene from "Swing Time", with Fred Astaire and Victor Moore.

Thank you to everyone else - I'm learning a lot from your comments and am also very grateful for the kind comments.


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