The modern man and the modern gentleman are unquestionably opposed at times where an effortless wardrobe displaces the disciplines of classical dressing. However, this season tailoring is battling its way through the ‘lazier’ trends to victory, breathing old life into the high street.
The invasion of the gentleman – once feared lost to experimental decades of hippies and acid-house ravers – is alien to those who have never before felt the need to present themselves with powerful, commanding; elegance, etiquette and intelligence.
On the Runway
At the core of this courteous bug lies this season’s collections from Lanvin and Yves Saint Laurent. Their unquestioned classicism and references to a more refined past – with silhouette-emphasising suits and aristocratic twists on outback hats – have re-birthed the gentleman.
Lanvin followed a three-layer theme throughout the collection; thankfully acknowledging the necessity to keep warm during this progressively bitter season. The colours of the jumpers and the patterns on the suit jackets are identical to the coats worn on top, giving an indistinguishable layer and keeping to the basic disciplines of gentlemanly dressing.
Yves Saint Laurent opted for bandage tight suits, buttoned mid-chest to further highlight the silhouette of the wearer. The lapels and pockets of the jackets are made prominent with use of darker tones to highlight the characteristics of the suit, and also the quality of the tailoring – both sometimes overlooked.
Video: Lanvin Fall 2011 Backstage
The Gentleman’s Wardrobe
If you like the idea of directly combining the modern man with that of the gentleman, see how far you can take the looks by experimenting and contrasting the two. Achieve an old traditional/new casual dynamic with a combination of slim fit tartan trousers, Chelsea boots and a loose white tee under a three-button blazer. Marrying the modern man with the gentleman gives personality, even a cheekiness that translates a humorous, old school eccentricity.
Suit sleeves are on the rise, certifying the return of visible cuffs. Keep your cuffs on your wrist (not above or below) and allocate 3-4cm of exposure. As sleeves have rose, trousers have also begun to follow suit (pun intended). The only advice to give is to simply wear plain socks that match the colour of your accessories when wearing trousers that don’t fall to the shoe.
The basic ethos of dressing well still leaves room for individuality. It hands men the freedom to not only express another persona, but also challenge how tradition now stands both with and against present culture.
You can (and should with patterned suits) keep your accessories to one colour to prevent them from looking messy when combined. A black bow tie, black umbrella and black watch will unify the three together and form a set, with which you can accessorise as many other outfits as you wish.
Another accessory with formal associations is the little silk scarf. Leave the top button of your shirt open (this is the only instance where slightly sluggish is allowed) and just tuck the scarf into your shirt. You simultaneously keep your neck concealed from any sharp winter chills while adding a sartorial nonchalance.
You have free reign on the print, as long as the colours match your other accessories. However, I would recommend a white shirt to act as a blank canvas for the silk scarf to add a splash of colour. If accessorising heavily with patterned items, remember to keep your primary outfit free of such pattern, however similar.
The thought of matching colours perished on the arrival of effortless dressing, so the key to mastering your gentlemanly attire is a three-colour limitation. This secures a focus and correlation between the clothes and patterns you wish to collaborate.
As long as the cuts are kept simple, you can clash patterns as much as the maths teacher within you desires. A clever pattern clash could be a horizontally striped shirt, with a vertically striped tie in the same colour to give an interesting optical illusion effect.
Floral patterns can displace the expected masculinity of ‘the gentleman’ with its feminine associations so stick to more distinct, repetitive patterns like stripes, check or polka dots.
Geometric prints give a bold, graphic edge that can often incorporate vivid colour to imply retro aspects. A geometric print is something all men can pull off whatever your body shape because they come in such a varying degree of busyness! If you’re slim go for circular shaped patterns, if you’re a little wider simply opt for vertically striped patterns, making sure the stripes are either evenly spaced or that the thinnest stripe is the lighter tone.
Inspired by the colour blocking and checked tailoring of Philip Lim, many high street retailers have incorporated checks into the off-the-peg suits along with elbow pad details in other products to further play with the idea of ‘the professional’ and his expectation to dress respectfully.
When looking for formal outfits this season, always buy a piece with at least two colours on first. For instance, if the first thing you buy is a shirt with a brown and white pattern, you will then look for other products (to complete your outfit) in brown and white to secure a definitive match. By doing this, you will have the direction to shop decisively and will only consider items that follow your chosen colour palette.
To remain the traditional gentleman without the risk of looking washed out, try adding hints of colour. Instead of buying a luminous shirt to wear underneath a black jacket, opt for shoes with a stand out sole if that’s the kind of striking colour you wish to combine. The exampled colourful sole still gives the same energy; however it does the job subtly to balance a bold choice of colour with the understated elegance on which tailoring bases itself.
How to Style A Gentleman
- Keep your outfit parallel. I’m not suggesting you wear a watch on each wrist, just make sure your shoe laces are tied with the same sized loops and your jacket lapels are the same colour on each side. For those of you who are useless before your first coffee (I hold my hands up) check and check again that your socks are the same colour. A sleepy eyed error made by myself all too often on winter mornings devoid of natural light.
- If you happen to be carrying a few extra pounds or know you’re likely to be, following the impossible to resist mind-set of Christmas, keep to colourful and patterned shirts rather than busy outerwear. When wearing a darker blazer or coat unbuttoned, the eye will be drawn to the flash of colour or pattern in the centre. This thin reveal of colour will give your frame a thinner illusion.
- To keep things as minimal and simplistic as you can, steer away from clothes with visible logos and graphic images. Although Pamela Anderson plastered across a t-shirt is unarguably a symbol of the modern man’s questionable fantasy, a gentleman wouldn’t be so forthcoming with his admiration towards a lady.
- Fasten your top button when wearing a shirt if you can last without irritation or strangulation. Fasten all of the buttons on your jackets to emphasise your smartness.
- No more buying the next size up for comfort, keep things clinging to your silhouette. Still, even with the possible restrictions, we should consider ourselves lucky. I doubt this trend would have returned if men, like women way back when, had to be synched into rib crushing corsets to tap into these 19th century looks.
- Give yourself time to iron your clothes properly. A shirt, although smart in theory, will make you look more idle than noble if worn with creases!
The Gentleman’s Look Book
Inspired by Yves Saint Laurent, a tweed blazer against a crisp white shirt is a look that defines the essence of classic tailoring.
Notice everything is angular, from the hazardous point of the Chelsea boot down to the umbrella. All apart from just one thing – the bow. Unusually and ironically, the least structured item in this outfit is relied upon to exude the formality of a gentleman.
The tan buttons on the blazer compliment the tan bag; an essentially good size for the working man which, along with the umbrella, gives the accessories for this outfit a feeling of necessity for both lifestyle and time of year.
This look shows how to play with pattern in a way that clashes, without leaving a headache. The line is so fine, its instability is deemed too unsafe by many fashion critics. However, I think the combination of different patterns can work as long as kept to three colours.
Remembering the three-colour limitation is central to achieving this kind of style. The outfit still follows the same disciplines of tailored dressing, yet challenges it by applying more modern patterns such as the squares on the bow tie. Pattern can lighten the trend and reflect perhaps a peculiarity when relying on one item to symbolise both formality and light heartedness.
The structure of the coat is reminiscent of those by Lanvin, with the fastening components along the side of the piece rather than the centre. The angle of the cut literally gives the coat a twist, yet remains smart with its immaculate rounding at the bottom.
What I love about this outfit is the sheer simplicity of it. It oozes quirky Englishman; proud of his country and the customary eccentricity his nationality has given him.
The soles of the shoes and the buttons on the shirt were consciously chosen for being so similar to the tone of the suit. Both the shoes and the bag have vintage significance while the iconic Union Jack, pays a clear homage to the birth place of the gentleman. I’d also suggest a maroon or navy pocket square to complete this retro take on gentlemanly dressing.
Trends are here to inspire, yet aren’t obligatory. So why should we choose the upcoming season of dark mornings, bitter afternoons and damp nights to experiment with our looks? The answer couldn’t be simpler; in fact it lies purely with simplicity itself.
So stand up straight, keep to three colours, comb your eyebrows, scrape the mud of your brogues, offer your seat to a lady on the bus and let your polished gentlemanly self go about business with alluring decorum this season.