Andre 3000 and Fonzworth Bentley, the gradual disappearance of casual Fridays, the spate of new men’s magazines, dandyism.net, a “Seersucker Day” in the U.S. Senate — signs point to a revival in the “art of permanent fashion” among the male species. The trend was recently given a conservative twist when Mark Gauvreau Judge came out as a “conservative metrosexual” in the pages of the American Spectator. But despite the interest in Men’s fashion there is little evidence of good execution. Where can one go to find guidance?
The short answer is nowhere. Two years ago I ventured to buy wool charcoal colored flat front trousers to wear for a holiday dinner. The store clerk on whom I depended instead convinced me to buy a chocolate colored tweed thing with far too many pleats and a leg so short and wide the garment looked like the love child of old school knickerbockers and “Hammer” pants. The young man who aspires to dress well must turn to books, but the revival in fashion has produced no Summa Fashionistica for men.
First the don’ts. Do not be tempted by the Metrosexual Guide to Style by Michael Flocker. It contains bizarre instructions about what drinks to order and the vaguely traitorous advice to watch soccer on television. Do not pick up guides based on television personalities. Carson from Queer Eye offers Off the Cuff, which is of entirely uneven quality. One timeless piece of advice here, and then a suggestion to try drawstring pants at an advanced level. Stacy and Clinton from What Not to Wear are on the cover of Dress Your Best, but like the show it is mostly geared to women.
For those just starting, Men’s Style: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Dress by Russell Smith may prove helpful. It ably puts to rest the eternal debate, Fashion vs. Style. Some say that whereas necklines and tailoring techniques change from season to season in women’s fashion, men have an enduring style, the principles of which are rational and eternally practicable. Nonsense says Smith:
Fashion is what is out there for you to choose from; style is what you choose. You do have to follow fashion, or at least be aware of what is in and out, to be stylish. The line between them is a blurry one at best. There is no such thing as timeless fashion — if there were, we would still be wearing togas. Those who claim to avoid fashion are usually simply in the grip of an older fashion.
But Smith seems to urge on us a few dubious trends involving clogs and ascots. (Don’t ask.) A few years older is Lloyd Boston’s Make Over Your Man written for an audience of desperate housewives who cannot get their men out of sports jerseys. Benson divides the guide into chapters based on articles of clothing. Boston’s work is useful but does not discuss color in any detail and it falls prey to minimalism in men’s dress — recommending as rules the sensible “TV fold” for pocket squares, and simple knots for cuff links. It does provide a wonderful list of stores and, unlike most style guides, it provides excellent grooming advice — marred slightly by a photograph of Star Jones grooming a male harem.
For men who need as much theory as they do pictures for sartorial inspiration there is the closest thing to a classic still in print on the subject, Alan Flusser’s Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion. Flusser has extensive discussions on the history of men’s clothing as well as the theories behind dressing well — color and pattern mixing as well as proportionality. Flusser’s main weakness is in understanding the recent history of clothing. He acknowledges the debt men owe to the 1930′s icons of style, Fred Astaire, Clark Gable and the Duke of Windsor. But then he gives a rather sloppy account of the transformation of men’s fashion from the Gray Flannel Suit of the 1950s organization man to the more experimental and revolutionary designers that followed the social upheaval of the 1960′s. He quotes approvingly of couturier Yves St. Laurent. “Down with the Ritz, up with the street.” Can’t Flusser bring himself to say that a corporate managerial ethos constrained men’s fashion in the 1950′s and 60′s but that the revolution in attire inverted the paradigm of the working class imitating the upper classes. Fifty years ago your Ohio businessman went to Sears and Roebuck to buy a suit and attempt to look like Gene Kelly. Now the sons of privilege starve themselves and buy $300 jeans from Juicy couture — at once aping and feminizing the workwear of the old proletariat.
For those truly ambitious men, the most important instruction comes from photographs of the great style icons. Fashion and art publisher Assouline has been releasing books perfect for those who wish to hone their fashion intuition. Fred Astaire Style treats us to just a few dozen photographs of that master of style. Accompanied by a G. Bruce Boyer essay that is equally insightful and repetitive. Astaire gave style to democracy by displacing the aristocratic values of discipline, legitimacy and rigid form with grace, natural talent and nonchalance. The entire thesis is perfectly encapsulated in one picture, “A still pose from A Damsel in Distress (1937).”
But all along you have been asking yourselves: What does Michael Brendan Dougherty think? The best advice for those aspiring to dress well is moderation and patience. The temptation, especially for conservatives, is anachronism and resentful affectation. If the great unwashed forgo three piece suits I’ll wear them even to pickup basketball games! Bowties? All the time!
Start wearing jackets and blazers whenever you go out. Make sure they fit well. Nothing looks worse than a man uncomfortable in his own clothes. Begin replacing all but two pairs of jeans with wool, gabardine, tweed, corduroy and, if you are built for them, moleskin and linen pants. Wear collared shirts. And eventually find a tailor who understands what an athletic cut on a suit is. Once you master the basics then look for some trademark look — a certain type of belt, or a way of wearing pocket squares, matching socks to your shirt or tie. And never draw attention to the way you dress in conversation or by your gestures. The stylish man is one who once he commits to his attire never again checks his appearance in a mirror. Leave that to metrosexuals.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Emma Elliott Freire