Style is a lot like grammar. The advantages of being familiar with this stuff quickly becomes negated when someone loudly expresses their “extensive” knowledge in a sad attempt to feel superior to others. Also like grammar, sometimes you gotta break the rules for effect. Here are ten so called “rules” that can easily be broken and/or manipulated.
#1. Everything has to fit perfectly
Online fit critique by the #menswear community has become so picky, that an impossible expectation has been set for how clothes should look when worn. The microscopic drill down that some of these guys take pleasure in is maddening. A slight shoulder divot here, or a pant leg riding up there? It happens. A good fit is great. Great is rare. But chasing perfect, especially when judged by the menswear obsessed on the internet, is a fool’s errand. Nobody notices in real life anyway.
#2. Automatic watches are better than Quartz Watches
A lot of us prefer mechanical or automatic movements to quartz. But it’s hard to figure out why, since quartz watches are more accurate. The love of automatic movements is similar to the romantic feelings some drivers have for manual transmissions. Yes, it’s antiquated, but the weight, guts, and often finish of automatics and mechanicals can strike a chord with some. But that’s no excuse to disparage quartz watches and those who prefer them. One is not better than the other. It simply comes down to preference.
Left: an $80 quartz. Right: neither $80 nor quartz. Both keep solid time.
#3. Tie Width, Lapel Width, Collar Spread & Knot Size Must all Match
Slim lapels call for slim ties. Wide lapels call for wider ties. Yes, it looks balanced to follow these parameters. But that doesn’t mean you can’t break away every so often. Got a suit with 3.5″ lapels? Wear the 2″ or 2.5″ wide tie. Y’know who’s gonna care? Nobody you should concern yourself with.
#4. You must show 1/4″ – 1/2″ of shirt cuff when wearing a jacket
Yes, a bit of shirt cuff peeking out from a suit jacket’s sleeve looks great. But moving your arms around (some of us do that) can cause the jacket to ride up. Tailor your jacket sleeves too short, and you risk showing a huge chunk of shirt sleeve the next time you shake someone’s hand. Err on the side of seeing just a sliver of shirt with your arms at your sides. Not half the cuff.
#5. Avoid the “Northern Lights”
Some old, crusty, style-dinosaurs believe that when wearing a sportcoat or blazer, your pants (south) should never be darker than your jacket (north). Hence, “Northern Lights”. The amount of good looking, dark pants/light jacket combinations are so utterly numerous that I’m not even going to bother digging around to find out how this rule came to be.
“Northern Lights” Works both in winter, summer, and in-between.
#6. “Buy Nice or Buy Twice”
Quality is obviously a characteristic worth valuing. But not everyone needs a $1500 suit. Or hell, a $500 suit. And if you’re just starting to get into style, experimenting with different, lower quality looks can be beneficial. Getting “married” to an expensive garment or pair of shoes you end up not liking later on is a mistake many of us have made.
#7. Cordovan Leather is Superior to Calfskin
In terms of durability, sure. But for looks? Many covet the gleaming, pratically non-porous sheen of Cordovan. This might be blasphemous, but there are some of us out there who think cordovan looks a little too perfect.
#8. Chisel Toes = Square Toes
If a shoe’s last has even the slightest bit of chisel to the toe, some guys will vomit in their mouths and claim they’re no different than the Frankenstein-y square toe shoes from decades past (and plenty of well meaning dudes still wear today). Not every shoe has to be as conservative as a Park Ave. It’s all about subtlety. The Cornwallis (shown below left) and Warwick both look terrific. Both are built on a last with a chisel toe. If you don’t like it? Fine. But the geometry is anything but identical.
Not really similar. At all.
#9. Don’t wear socks in summer
A trend that’s run wild. Sockless can look great. But some thin, wool (yes, wool… it breathes and wicks better than cotton ever could) socks can save your skin and insoles.
#10. Navy and Black don’t go together
If that’s the case, then why has the navy tux or navy dinner jacket with black tux pants become the hot blacktie look? A navy suit with a black knit tie was also one of James Bond’s preferred outfits. See the top of the post. It works.
BONUS: #11. Never… buy clothing for a woman
This is lazy, stereotypical, bull-feathers. If you’re unsure, then of course don’t do it. If you’re “sure,” then know that it’s still a risk. But if you want to see her in it? Well then what the hell. Give it a shot.