Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Pillars of Style, Part I: Fit

Dressing well is not necessarily easy. There are many things that factor into whether or not you look good in your clothes, but I feel that there are three main aspects that transcend all others and form the basis for looking good in whatever you're wearing: fit, color coordination, and pattern coordination. Here are some thoughts on fit.

Guys, look at yourself in the mirror and repeat this aloud: "If my clothes don't fit well, I will look bad."

If you want proof, look at the two photos above. The name of the first picture is something like "Man in Suit is Depressed." This isn't surprising; he looks like shit because his suit looks like a burlap sack on him, and this is depressing. See how huge the body of the jacket is? Did you notice that his sleeves are far too long and billowy? He looks like a little kid wearing his dad's suit because he's drowning in a sea of excess material.

Contrast that with the picture of Jon Hamm, Mad Men's Don Draper. First, take note of the slight hourglass shape that his jacket affects. It's snug, but not tight; you can tell because the jacket's buttons aren't hanging on for dear life. Second, look at the sleeves. Notice that they're not baggy but hug his arms in the same way that his jacket hugs his torso. Also, see all that shirt cuff he's showing? It's more than normal due to his physical stance, but it's still intentional. Always show about a half-inch of shirt cuff. The proportions of the suit sync up perfectly with those of his body, and if there were a pocket square in that welt pocket, we'd have suiting perfection on our hands.

The rules of fit also apply to more casual clothes. Sleeves on any jacket shouldn't be so long as to touch your hands. Your jeans shouldn't bunch up around your ankles, and your polo shirts shouldn't be able to double as God-damn parachutes. Tailors exist to help you with this, so find find one. I use two in Center City: Master Tailors between 16th and 17th on Spruce and Richard Chae on 15th just above Walnut. I even boldfaced it for you, so now you have no excuse.

Finally, the way your clothes fit inevitably affects the way others perceive you. Sure, some people are colorblind and have trouble coordinating colors. Patterns can be a pain in the ass to mix and match, so many men either fail miserably or don't even try in the first place. There's no reason, however, for your clothes to fit poorly. If your stuff is too loose or too tight, there's no reason you won't be perceived as slovenly, unattractive, unsuitable for work, childish, or just too lazy to get your clothes tailored properly. On the other hand, a well-fitting wardrobe will help you be viewed as professional, adult, and in the eyes of many women, a handsome son of a bitch.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Myth About Black

I was out shopping a couple of days ago when I overheard this interaction:

Boyfriend (looking at a pair of brown shoes and black shoes to coordinate with an orange-red shirt): "I don't know which to get..."

Girlfriend: "Get the black. It goes with everything."

This is where I shook my head in surprise and disappointment, because the girlfriend was wrong. I was surprised because she herself was well-dressed, and disappointed because she passed on some bad information to her boyfriend.

Black does not, in fact, go with everything. A perfect example of this is wearing black shoes with very dark navy blue pants. This is acceptable in sartorially conservative fields such as politics and law, but that doesn't mean that it looks good. Brown shoes are a much better option.

The same logic applied to the boyfriend's shirt. Orange and red look too dramatic against black, and there's a distinct Halloween-ish feel to the color scheme that's inherently cheesy. An earth-toned shoe (brown) compliments this much better than a stark contrast with black, and to my eye, this statement also applies to nearly any color that exists in the world.

A tip for rookies: keep your black shoes to either formalwear (in which case black shoes are mandatory, as they're considered to be more formal) and black or grey pants or jeans, though grey pants and jeans both go quite well with brown shoes. Everything else-khakis, dress pants in blue, tan, olive, and brown-looks better with brown shoes, particularly my new jawns in the picture you see here.

Brown shoes, on the other hand, maintain much of the everyday, useful formality of black shoes (insofar as they're professionally approrpiate be worn to most workplaces), but take on other colors better than black. Higher-quality brown shoes, when properly cared for, acquire a patina and natural highs and lows in the hue over time, and thus gain more character. Black just tends to look worn.

Aspiring metrosexuals, start thinking about brown shoes. When you coordinate them well with an outfit, you'll look much smarter and much dandier than the guy who's dressed head-to-toe in black.