Saturday, February 17, 2007

"Things a man should know about style"

I first read this several years ago and have since it reposted here and there. Some are good, others depend.

Sergio Valente put it best when he said, "How you look tells the world how you feel."

Some years ago, I walked into work with my dress shirt not quite tucked in, my hair not combed well and a bit of a haggard expression on my face. Someone later commented that I looked as if I'd been beaten up. No, I merely had had to hurry to work and felt really, well, rushed. It showed.

1. If you can slip two fingers between your neck and the buttoned collar of a new dress shirt, the shirt will fit comfortably after laundering.

Perry's comment: my Adam's apple is pretty large, and for comfort's sake, I get shirts a half-inch larger than my actual size. I can easily insert four fingers between my neck and the collar. While this makes the collar a little looser, I never do the top button and instead rely on my tie knot to pull the collar together. It's more comfortable, and I think neater, too, because you don't see the little bit of collar fabric above the knot.

2. The shirt placket, the belt buckle, and the trouser fly should all line up.

Perry's comment: I thought this went without saying.

3. Speaking of belt buckles, the point of your tie should never fall below it.

Perry's comment: conversely, don't leave a gap between your tie and buckle, will make you look like a small boy wearing a clip-on. Barely touching looks good for all torso lengths. But if your torso is very short compared to your legs, a tie tied slightly longer will help even your proportions -- keeping this rule in mind.

4. Rent no clothing.

Perry's comment: for the price of a few rentals, you can buy an inexpensive tuxedo and have it well-tailored. It will look better than a rented, expensive tux that doesn't drape quite right on you.

5. Ninety-dollar shoes last half as long as $180 shoes, but $360 shoes will last you your whole life.

I don't think I was ever so disappointed with a clothing purchase until I wore out the soles of $90 Rockports in only four months (wearing them perhaps twice or three times a week). Granted, I'm very hard on my shoes, but my first and only experience with those "EVA" soles was less than impressive.

Shoes, no matter how expensive, generally don't last me more than a couple of years. My second favorite brand is Allen-Edmonds, whose $300+ dress shoes are good values, since they'll easily last several years (the soles are very durable and can last a couple of years before wearing out, heels might need replacing once a year). However, the calfskin creases too much, and I have a near-fetish about shoes looking new. My favorite shoes are the Johnston & Murphy Melton Waverly, which are made of veal. That leather is a few weeks older than calfskin and not as supple, but it doesn't crease as much as calfskin.
6. Three-hundred-sixty-dollar shoes will not last your whole life if you break their backs by refusing to use a shoehorn.

7. Three-hundred-sixty-dollar shoes without a shine can look like $90 shoes.

Perry's comment: treat your shoes well. Using $20 red cedar shoe trees pays for itself many times over by absorbing moisture inside the shoe. They also maintain the shoes' shape so that they don't crease as much.

Unless you're in the military, use shoe cream, rather than wax. Kiwi and other inexpensive pastes will give a mirror-shine, but they're napthalene-based and will eventually dry out the leather. On the other hand, cream to leather is like hand lotion to your skin: its lanolin base keeps the leather supple, moisturized and newe. Bostonian makes my favorite cream, because it has extra dye that deepens the color. Some polishes, creams and waxes don't have much dye, so eventually a black shoe will look more like dark charcoal.

8. Women notice shoes.

Perry's comment: oh yeah. Someone recently mentioned that I wear nice shoes, made all the more important because I have such a crush on her. Was that a happy sigh I just made, or just a sigh?

9. They also notice nose hair; so should you.

Perry's comment: ditch the scissors and get a good trimmer.

10. Good shoes and a good haircut matter more than a great suit.

Perry's comment: good hair and good shoes can compensate for a mediocre suit, if the suit is decently tailored and is paired with a good shirt.

11. Neckties decorated with cartoon characters, golf tees, or the paintings of dead rock musicians coordinate with nothing.

Perry's comment: I have a Warner Brothers tie with Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam, Elmer Fudd, the Tasmanian Devil, Sylvester, Tweety and Daffy Duck. Can you guess how often I wear it to the office?

12. It is never acceptable to loosen your tie, except during the process of its removal.

Perry's comment: I suspect that whoever wrote this has never lived in a humid climate. If you're working retail, are meeting clients or are at an important event, keep your tie tied properly. But if you're at your desk and the air conditioning needs cranking up, loosening your tie an inch or two is perfectly acceptable.

13. You are in your car an hour each day; you are in your clothes from morning to night. Spend accordingly.

Perry's comment: which would people, at least those you want to make good impressions on (or impress), notice more often?

14. The seat-belt shoulder strap goes under your necktie.

Perry's comment: yes. Follow this because it's hard to remove creases from ties. Wrinkle-remover sprays can make delicate silk soggy, and irons can leave it "shiny." You'll have to use a steamer, which you probably don't keep at the office.

15. You can't wear a bow tie with anything other than a tuxedo if you're under forty-five or not a famous novelist or not a total geek, professor.

Perry's comment: right. Just before my high school graduation, the boys were told to wear neckties, not bow ties. One guy insisted on the latter, which looked too odd.

16. Very few people want to see you in compression shorts, and those who do might not be your target audience.

17. Likewise tight, black leather pants, Mr. Bon Jovi.

Perry's comment: completely right.

18. A $250 shirt will look like a $25 shirt if it is professionally laundered instead of hand-washed.

19. Still, you will be happiest if you regard dress shirts as disposable.

Perry's comment: I usually buy my shirts from the Men's Wearhouse. The non-iron, French-cuffed shirts stay virtually wrinkle-free during the day. At $55 or $60 each, I don't feel too bad if one gets a hole.

20. By the way, this blue-shirt craze is getting really tiresome.

Perry's comment: I love blue shirts and believe that a man can never have enough. Just rememember that if you wear blue shirts two days in a row, be certain they're of noticeably different shades so that even a casual observer won't think you're wearing the same dirty shirt.

21. Buy the lightest-weight tuxedo you can find, because dancing and drinking and scantily clad women cause formal affairs to become overheated.

Perry's comment: tropical wool.

22. One ring, maximum. On a finger. Not from college. Not from high school. Silver or platinum, not gold.

Perry's comment: applicable only to the unmarried man, obviously.

23. On airplane trips, briefs are more comfortable than boxers, as contents may shift during takeoff and landing.

Perry's comment: I prefer boxers for, well, the ventilation and comfort during the flight. Takeoffs and landings last only a few minutes each.

24. There are no bargains.

Perry's comment: a belief held only by those who think that spending more for the same item makes it better.

25. A man in a good suit and tie looks chic; a man in a good suit without a tie looks more chic.

Perry's comment: depending on the setting, a colored shirt with a good suit can look really chic. Don't try it with a white shirt, because then it looks like you forgot your tie.

26. A man who uses the word chic had better be kidding around.

Perry's comment: why?

27. A man in a suit without a tie can wear loafers; a man in a suit with a tie cannot.

Perry's comment: President Bush recently wore a suit and tie with loafers, proving once again that he's wrong about more than one thing.

Personally, I don't believe loafers can be worn with a suit, period. Dress pants and a coat, yes, but not a suit.

28. Ed Bradley doesn't look as good with that earring as he thinks he does.

Perry's comment: he didn't, no.

29. Jack Nicholson can wear two-tone spectator shoes only because he is Jack Nicholson.

Perry's comment: that's rather unfair to Jack, claiming that if he weren't Jack Nicholson, he wouldn't be cool enough to wear two-tone spectators!

Yes, I know what he's trying to say, but spectators like these can look great on most any guy with the right outfit:

30. It is far better to arrive at an event overdressed than underdressed: people will think you've got somewhere more important to go afterward.

Perry's comment: yes, if you dress only one level, maybe two, above the event. A dress shirt and pants will suit watching a sports event, for example, and a coordinating coat can also work.

However, no matter what, don't don a tux when you'll be the only one, even if all the other men will be wearing suits. There was an episode of "Coach" which started with Hayden getting measured for a new suit. He thought he'd win the top recognition at an awards dinner, and he then he decided to make it a tuxedo. He showed up, and even if he did get it, he looked like a yutz. You want to appear well-dressed and stand out if you happen to be noticed, not be noticed because you stand out.

31. Cheap cashmere is less soft and more fragile than expensive wool.

Perry's comment: yes, and "Seinfeld" aside, don't give cheap cashmere as a gift. Similarly, some less-expensive "calfskin" items are made of the calfskin that better shoemakers rejected as inferior.

32. A T-shirt that shows through a dress shirt is the male equivalent of visible panty lines.

Perry's comment: your white dress shirts should be thick enough that white T-shirts underneath won't be too obvious. For non-whites, try gray undershirts. The only part to be really concerned about is the hem of the sleeve, which might form an outline.

33. Do not wear button-down collars with double-breasted suits.

34. Do not unbutton double-breasted suits, Letterman notwithstanding.

Perry's comment: very true. I don't wear button-down collars at all, and when younger I had a couple of double-breasted suits, but I haven't worn any in years. They're just not as in fashion these days, no matter how tall a guy is.

35. The only thing worse than wearing socks that don't cover one's calves is wearing patterned socks that don't cover one's calves.

Perry's comment: if you like to cross your legs, over-the-calf socks are essential. For the rest of us, just make sure your pants are long enough.

36. If you lose one cuff link, remove the remaining orphan; this will make it look as if you have insouciant personal style and omitted them on purpose.

Perry's comment: a good idea, though if the cufflink is well-constructed (i.e. the lever isn't loose), I can't conceive how it can be lost.

37. Keep a lint roller in your office. And in your car.

Perry's comment: almost there. Use actual lint brushes, not the rollers with masking tape layers. There's a tremendous difference.

38. A good suit treated well shouldn't be dry-cleaned more than twice a season; a good tuxedo treated well should never be dry-cleaned.

Perry's comment: dry-cleaning weakens fabrics and can fade some colors, depending on the fabric and strength of the dye. Much also depends on the quality of the solvent, and how dirty it is. Ask different places how often they change their dry-cleaning fluid, and go with the one that changes it with greatest frequency. No doubt you'll pay more, but it'll be worth it in the long run.

39. Unless you're a quarterback, never wear anything with your name and/or number on it.

Perry's comment: who does that sort of thing, anyway? Besides quarterbacks.

40. Jeans should never meet an iron.

Perry's comment: until I read this some years ago, I never even dreamed that some people actually do that.

41. What you find at an outlet store is what other people refused to buy or what a company thinks you will buy because you're the kind of person who shops at an outlet store.

Perry's comment: not necessarily. Sometimes you can find nice things at outlet stores. It depends on chance, and especially your tolerance for high search costs.

42. Khakis religiously worn on Fridays are no less a uniform than a business suit worn the prior four days.

Perry's comment: true, only if you consider a business suit a "uniform" as opposed to an expression of one's personal tastes and style.

43. Nonetheless, you can never have too many khakis. Or white heavyweight-cotton T-shirts or canvas tennis shoes. For Saturday.

Perry's comment: I never understood the white T-shirt and khakis thing.

44. Numbers to remember: one half inch of shirt cuff; one and a half inches of trouser cuff; two inches more belt than inches on your waist.

Perry's comment: sleeve cuffs (I presume that's what the writer meant, not the collar cuff) should extend a quarter-inch past the coat sleeve. A half-inch is too much. French-cuffed shirts, which I love, can work with a half-inch, but I still have my coat sleeves cut long enough so only a quarter-inch shows.

45. Your belt and shoes should match in color, if not in material.

Perry's comment: and match your watch band, if possible. If it's non-metal, match it to your belt and shoes. If it's metal, match all your hardware: belt buckle, watch, cufflinks and tie chain too. For example, when I wear my diver's watch that's all stainless steel, it matches a stainless steel belt buckle, silver cufflinks and a silvertone tie chain. My gold dress watch with a black leather band matches black shoes, a black belt with goldtone buckle, gold cufflinks and a goldtone tie chain.

Some even say to match your wallet to your other leather items, but that's a bit much.

46. Speaking of color, there is little use for pink, peach, or teal.

Perry's comment: you'd be surprised. Guys with lighter complexions can wear appropriate shades of pink and peach shirts. Almost all guys can coordinate teal shirts with black and charcoal pants. Now, pink and peach ties are a different matter, but

47. It's not the name on the label or the numbers on the credit-card statement but how good you look in it.

Perry's comment: yes.

48. Even Al Gore shouldn't wear a watch with a built-in calculator.

Perry's comment: this last Christmas, I bought a dress watch for a friend who I hadn't seen in a few years. I was shocked to learn his only watch was a digital one.

49. Like cars and stereo equipment, clothes are not really 'investments,' because they cannot appreciate. They're clothes.

Perry's comment: "investment" is not just about money. It's about putting money in something that will give you a greater yield, and not necessarily in money. Cars and stereos are not "investments" (except for some cars that become more valuable over time), but spending money on clothes can certainly be an investment because of what you get in return. A good suit of clothes for an interview might make all the difference. Flowers for a date can be an investment, though they don't appreciate in monetary value.

50. It's more important in a man's daily life to have a good tailor than a good doctor.

Perry's comment: I hate doctors, and I like good tailors. I like competent clothing salesmen even more.

51. Clothing salesmen can change your life in a good way, but not many of them.

Perry's comment: if any of you ever go to the Men's Wearhouse at the Danbury Fair Mall, ask for Bill -- he's great, always friendly, and treats me like a best friend. On the other hand, I have found at least one reason to dislike every single one of the salesmen at the MW on Madison Avenue.

52. Two elements of style that will last longer than any man who is smart enough to own them: a sterling belt buckle from Tiffany and simple cuff links.

Perry's comment: those two may last longer than a lifetime, but I personally prefer my own variety of several belts and a continually expanding collection of cufflinks. No doubt my sons will have their own preferences.

53. A restaurant meal tastes better when you're wearing a suit coat.

Perry's comment: I find that a meal tastes better because of the company, not because of what I'm wearing.

54. Band-collar shirts make you look either stupid or like a priest or like a stupid priest.

Perry's comment: I used to wear them, and it depends. An all-white one is most certainly too clerical, but one with colors, or white with stripes, can be a nice look in spring or summer. Try it with light khakis and a navy blue blazer.

55. Whether a tie is too fat or too skinny should be decided by you, on a tie-by-tie basis.

Perry's comment: this goes to show that there are few hard and fast rules.

56. When in doubt, ask a woman.

Perry's comment: it's very rare that you'll regret it.

57. Know that she will often be wrong, too, and that ultimately a man is alone in a vast sea of indecision that he must ply.

Perry's comment: a woman wrong? Well even if she is, you might have a lot of fun getting and following her advice.

58. Never trust a fashion magazine. CelebrityTrendZ is not a fashion magazine. CelebrityTrendZ likes you very much and is only trying to help.

Perry's comment: trust your instincts, but fashion magazines can give you good ideas.

59. Cigars are never stylish in mixed company.

Perry's comment: I find cigars are stylish only if your name is Dennis Haysbert or Jimmy Smits, and you're featured on the "Cigar Aficionado" cover.

60. If you hang your jacket on a chair and then sit on the chair and lean back, your jacket will look as if you had hung it on a chair and then sat on the chair and leaned back.

Perry's comment: it seems obvious, but a lot of guys forget this. I'm guilty of it myself. When possible, use a coat hanger -- wooden, preferably cedar.

61. Drape your scarf on that chair and you're going to lose it, and we are not your mother.

Perry's comment: I fold mine up and stick a good part into the side pocket of my overcoat.

62. A black knit tie coordinates with jeans and a blazer as well as it does with a French-cuffed shirt and a custom-made suit.

Perry's comment: no ties with jeans. Ever.

63. Levi's.

Perry's comment: or whatever looks good. Some guys like designer jeans. I like my Calvin Kleins (the only jeans I own).

64. Deep in the heart of the Middle West, some people are actually wearing those baggy, printed workout pants again, and you owe God your deepest thanks that you have the presence of mind to not be among them.

Perry's comment: amen.

65. The most important thing about selecting a hotel is the ability of the staff to press a shirt instantly, anytime, day or night.

Perry's comment: I prefer to iron things myself, and I'm pleased that just about every hotel room contains an iron and ironing board.

66. First suit: navy solid. Second suit: gray solid. Third suit: navy pinstripe. Fourth suit: gray chalk stripe. Fifth suit: black. Sixth suit: You need no sixth suit.

Perry's comment: it all depends on personal preference...and what the security guards wear. I wear only black, gray and blue, in solid colors. No stripes. Some guards where I work wear charcoal suits, which puts a crimp on my available choices.

67. To have absolute style is to break absolute rules - sometimes even these.

Perry's comment: as I have demonstrated, a lot of these are questionable.

68. There is no foot pain so severe, no dress shoe so fragile, no commute so arduous, as to justify the sartorial holocaust that is wearing sneakers with a suit.

Perry's comment: this one is unquestionable. Dress pants and dress shirt, maybe. But a suit, let alone with a tie? At least wear semi-dress walkers and change at the office!

69. Unless you have a harelip or happen to be Wilford Brimley, you look exactly half as attractive with a mustache.

Perry's comment: Tom Selleck, anyone? Some guys can make mustaches look good.


Blogger kev859 said...

I will have to disagree with you on the whole bow tie thing, I am only 22 and I wear one almost everyday. I have heard this before but do not agree with it, I don't think it makes me look like a geek and have never been told so. There are some people that can pull it off and some who can't and maybe you are just one of those people who can't.

Saturday, May 05, 2007 5:00:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

To each his own, but you say "maybe you are just one of those people who can't" as if most men can. Most men can't, and bluntly, I have yet to meet any man under 45 (regardless of occupation) who looked non-geek in a bow tie.

Necktie, half-Windsor knot, tasteful diagonal stripes -- with one color that matches your suit, and a pocket handkerchief matching any of the other colors. Now that's a look for any man.

Sunday, May 06, 2007 1:37:00 PM  

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