Tuesday, May 29, 2012


The first and most important item in achieving a classic appearance is proportion. That simply means that the elements of your outfit should complement each other in terms of their size and measurements. This would include items like jacket fit,  lapels, ties, shirt collars, etc. that can be variable, and the width and length of each element. If any one of them is out of harmony with the rest it can throw the whole outfit off. In much of what follows you are going to find me somewhat out of synch with what passes for cutting-edge fashion these days. My advice is to avoid it like the plague, but you should make an informed decision based upon what you read here and see elsewhere.
For example, nowadays there is an unfortunate trend towards overly skinny lapels, as though designers are channeling the Mad Men television series. The first problem is that look was peculiar to the era circa 1962 and does not translate well in today’s world. Keep in mind that following that extreme, fashion went to the other, with super-wide lapels and ties that look preposterous to us now. In the intervening years clothing has settled within some parameters that could also have applied to the years before these two anomalous periods, and which are reliably consistent over time. If men were to go the skinny lapel route they would basically have to trash all their other clothing, in which they probably have an enormous investment.  This is not likely to happen so this particular design choice is probably ephemeral. If you buy anything with lapels two inches or less in width I guarantee you they will out in your next garage sale. 
What’s even worse is that they have come up with this jacket design without any adjustment to ties, and especially shirt collars. As a result you get a downright silly look with shirt collars that are too big and ties that are too narrow even with slightly thinner ties. The shirt, tie, and jacket are totally out of proportion and look terrible. Clearly not a classic look. 
Another objectionable trend is towards impossibly short jackets that are almost vest-size and end somewhere above or at the butt, (and certain fashion magazines are even promoting this look). But to most people it simply looks like a jacket that doesn’t fit, and if you add some baggy pants to that you’ve got a look that makes Charlie Chaplin’s outfit seem sophisticated. Yet I’ve seen some young men in Manhattan walking around like this and again the overall impression is that the clothes don’t fit. If current designers want to keep raising jacket lengths why not dress like matadors then? If this trend were to stick you’d have to trash all your suits and jackets, which again is unlikely to happen. For a suit jacket or blazer to look right it should cover or nearly cover your butt; personally I prefer the longer variety. A suit jacket is not a sweater or vest and should be nowhere near as short. Consider how a vest is proportionate to a jacket in a three piece suit. That jacket is the proper length. Perhaps they’re trying to put this over to save on material costs, or simply to be “different,” but whatever it is, it is the opposite of the classic look we’re concerned with here. 
To save yourself subsequent buyer’s remorse, always avoid the latest fashion extremes. You won’t be sorry and your wardrobe will have a long and useful life. That is of course assuming you’ve stuck to some of the classic guidelines we’ll outline here. One of the first is to carefully select your clothing based on how you look, not on what it costs. A good classic wardrobe is going to cost your more than a haphazard combination of mediocre clothing will, but it is well worth the price difference. Mens fashion is not like womens. The changes are far fewer and less extreme, and the best clothing consequently costs more. Thus when shopping you should be thinking not just how this outfit is now, but how it will be, say, five years from now. You could do worse than look over the past several decades, going all the way back to the 1930s and average things out to get an idea of what is true and lasting. For as with anything you do seriously, the best advice is always to pursue moderation in all things. 
Thus the first clue as to a good classic design is proportionate components that complement each other. The combination should make sense in the simplest terms.This is not just a matter of opinion for there is a reason our instinctive reactions to visual elements so often coincide. Ultimately If things do not look or seem right they probably aren’t, and should be bypassed by the man with good taste. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


The classic look in fashion (as well as in anything else), is all about proportion and harmony. All components of an outfit should be synchronized in a way that makes pleasant sense to the eye. The cut and color of the shirt should integrate well with the cut and color of the suit. Both the tie and shoes should complement the outfit, that can be completed with details such as a pocket handkerchief and jewelry, i.e. a watch and cufflinks, which embellish the overall look. None of these elements should ever clash in ways that are out of synch with the rest of the outfit, but instead contribute to an overall appealing presence. 
The goal is to stand out subtly rather than with a shout, so that you do not stick out like a sore thumb, but instead produce a pleasant reaction in the beholder when you are noticed. This is in contrast to a strained effort to be noticed. That is easy enough to accomplish with overly flashy, loud or inappropriate dress if your goal is to amuse people or otherwise induce a negative response. The right way to be noticed comes from avoiding trying to be noticed. Ideally it results from something rare but attainable with experience, namely an effortless grace in comporting oneself. What I mean by effortless grace is what you see when Fred Astaire dances, hear when Heifetz plays the violin, or experience when an Olympic athlete excels beyond all expectations in a golden moment of flawless perfection. 
In keeping with the purpose of the site the surest way to achieve this kind of impression is through a classic look. Historically the classical ideal was expressed in an elegant symmetry of elements comprising the whole of an object. These were proportionately balanced and harmoniously integrated to produce exquisite form never surpassed, echoing down through the ages. Thus the classic look is also something that has stood the test of time. It is not something that will be fashionable today and out of style tomorrow, but will transcend the vicissitudes of taste (or lack of it). Obviously clothing is not in the same category as say architecture in substance or historical time, but can still have a long life cycle. So for our purposes here a classic is something that will last as long as the garment is wearable.
 A classic look is also the most time-tested way to appeal to the opposite sex, not on a visceral level so much as to enhance that by indicating that you are a man with some class. The guy with the flash or trendy outfit that conforms to what everyone else is wearing may think he’s appealing to women, but he's not. 
There's a reason a guy dressed like Clark Gable gets the girl, apart from his natural appeal. 


Thursday, May 17, 2012


The primary purpose of this site is to provide some basic style and fashion information to men based upon standards that have stood the test of time, while remaining free of any commercial biases or interests. This site came about accidentally, as a result of the response I received to a side comment on my main blog, mostly from young women distressed by the cluelessness of their male contemporaries. So the intent here is to lay down some basic principles about classic dress, rather than to go on indefinitely. It will probably make more sense to read this in the order written, which means going back to earlier entries if you come to this subsequently. Questions are always welcome. 
I am far from a fashion maven, and have little interest in ephemeral trendiness, relying rather upon decades of experience and observation of what constitutes a good look over time. At the outset this site will be decidedly simple and without any flash, although subsequently there may be some enhancements and pictures or illustrations to elucidate various points. All of this implies a certain formality, which may be true, but we will also touch on more informal appearance as well, in terms of a relaxed casual elegance instead of looking like a slob. 
We live in an age where it is no longer possible to tell the rich from the poor by the way they dress. This is a relatively new phenomenon historically, beginning only in the twentieth century. Prior to our own time, the class to which a person belonged was obvious by the way they dressed. From a socioeconomic standpoint this may not be such a bad thing to the extent that the miracles of markets and mass production have enabled billions to be adequately dressed. Nevertheless when you look at fashions over the ages, what you see is only the upper end; rarely do you see ragged people in hovels. Nowadays since it is common for young technology billionaires to dress down, there is no longer that much correspondence between appearance and wealth. But that also means you don’t need to be a millionaire to look good, without dressing down. Today it is not income but good taste that separates the class from the mass. Here we are focused on the former. 
From old photographs we can see how well people in crowds used to dress before going out in public well into the last century. Now we are in a decidedly informal age, and this is about standards and rules in a time without any. So why bother? The first answer is that when there is an overabundance of options there is effectively no real choice as things are too overwhelming. However, if you limit yourself to certain parameters, within those guides you can produce a fine, and still often original look, much in the way that many of the greatest symphonies were written within the constraints of the classical form. 
Second, the reality is that when you are well dressed people take you more seriously and treat you differently. I know this from first hand experience, time and again. To cite one example, I once got a ticket dismissed with a less than solid excuse when the judge clearly reacted to my appearance in room full of people otherwise for the most part poorly dressed. She paid more attention to me and treated me more politely mainly because  was wearing a three piece suit.  So putting yourself together with some thought can pay off. 
Finally, when you dress well you tend to feel better about yourself. Your appearance will often correspond to an uptick rather than a downer in your circumstances or life. I’ve also gone through indifferent, sloppy sweatsuit periods, It doesn’t take all that much time to put yourself together well once you’ve developed some awareness of how you look, and the extra mileage you get is well worth it. Just remember that whatever you are wearing is making a statement about you whether you like it or not, even to people not at all style conscious. Of course there are different looks at different times. A power suit has an impact on men, but most of the time how you’re dressed says something to women, and since most men are attuned to the opposite sex, how you’re dressed is going to govern the impression you make. These are general observations, but this site is concerned with a particular “classic” look, and that is what we will focus on now.