Some of you might remember an article I wrote a while back that considered a selection of key items that for many of you – including me – had become overloaded or over worn. Clothes that had lost their individuality, their sense of style, their uniqueness and viability; for want of a better phrase, they had become mainstream or easy fashion. If you haven’t read it, take a quick look – A Fashion Debate – Style Overload? – because this article will then make a great deal more sense.
Said article was also the basis for an interesting discussion with arguments being raised on both sides, and which also identified some other items that people considered as being overloaded. We here at FashionBeans whole heartedly agreed with many of the points raised, but never let it be said that we won’t vigorously defend the rights of clothes under persecution because we weren’t prepared to give up on these items without a fight. So here is Part 1 of the FashionBeans guide on how to wear those overloaded items.
One of the biggest things to come out of the discussion on that article was the importance of HOW you wore an item over WHAT you were actually wearing. The suggestion being that by altering the HOW you changed the WHAT; turning something that was previously common and over worn into something more individual, more stylish and more unique. This was of course something that we wanted to build upon, as the quintessential sartorial gent should avoid being quick to dismiss an item of clothing simply because it is worn by too many people or suffers from bad association or stereotyping.
Arguably, the majority of the items in the list that will be covered in this and rest of the series are still very much relevant, whether it is with regards to fashion OR style – to completely disregard such note worthy clothes could well be depriving both yourself and your wardrobe. What we hope to achieve with this article is changed perceptions; is there a way of wearing that checked shirt which makes it more appropriate to you? What can you do with your much loved boat shoes to ensure you stand out from the crowd?
Of course, we understand if your aversion extends to a dislike of the item as a whole, changing the way you wear it probably isn’t going to change your mind, but that does not mean that they should be forgotten totally. To ignore after all, is to lose.
I thought that we would begin this process with one of the most interesting items on our list; the check shirt. We all own at least one, all of our friends own at least one and nearly everyone you pass in the street will own at least one – it is undeniably very common. But this doesn’t mean that it is sartorially incorrect, a check shirt is simply an example of easy fashion; nothing too flashy or daring, smarter than a T-shirt, less formal than a more structured shirt.
Despite this lack of individuality they still have a big roll to play in present and future trends and styles. Their biggest problem is that everyone wears them in exactly the same way and we don’t want to follow the crowd, so how do we wear them?
Something that we would all do well to remember is that there is nothing wrong with simplicity (especially relevant with Jos’ excellent article on minimalism). A basic, casual weekend look that incorporates a check shirt can be just as elegant, comfortable and stylish as anything the more formal dresser might produce. When you take into account the fact that you have achieved this whilst playing the ‘Oh I just threw this on’ card, you are sure to find yourself strides ahead of the game.
Wearing your check shirt shouldn’t be difficult; remember I said it was easy fashion? This applies to both ends of the spectrum; as much to those who wish for something individual as to the person who wears it like everyone else e.g. Lads on the town. For this reason, there is no problem with wearing your checked shirt with a pair of jeans; it is everything else you wear that will make the difference.
The shirt itself is personal preference, although it is still worth setting yourself a few guidelines. Fit is key with this look, it needs to fit well but not be overly tight, it shouldn’t hang down by your knees, nor should it be pulling at the buttons or flying above the belt buckle. Feel free to mess around with colour, texture and shape – look for brushed cotton or flannel examples in slightly bolder shades, which will immediately pick your shirt out from the sea of conformists. I would however advise you to take note of the Tartan trend that is set to enter the fashion spheres this autumn/winter as well; early investment is always a good thing.
In terms of outerwear, a classic double breasted overcoat is not only on trend for 2011, but a classic and timeless item that will last you years. It has a clean and refined aesthetic, bringing this look up a notch and again separating you from the masses of quilted or denim jackets you probably now automatically associate with the check shirt.
Footwear is also very important in a look such as this and as usual the options are fairly wide ranging. Avoid the ubiquitous military boot and go for a worker style for the more rugged choice (jeans tucked or un-tucked) or take an easy fashion forward step with a crepe or vibram soled brogue/Derby. Sticking with our simple theme, accessories need not extend to more than a pair of classic sunglasses should the winter sun raise its head and a scarf left draped around the neck. If you have chosen a more subdued colour palette for the rest of your outfit feel free to add a bit of vibrancy with a shot of colour.
Of course, should you want to really step your check shirt up a notch, one of the easiest ways is to give it that smarter, more tailored and refined edge. Everyone can recognise the stereotype – jeans, pointy shoes and check shirt – so the further from this we get, the better off we will be. You might think this a bit of a contradiction with the last look, but remember that it was the other aspects of the outfit that gave it that individuality.
It would be perfectly acceptable for you to mix in a more casually designed check shirt into your suits, (investigate our series on how to dress down a suit – Part 1 & Part 2) but I know that for some you, that just won’t be enough – you want something really different before you consider those damned check shirts.
What we have above is an experiment in texture. I think we’ve made it perfectly clear by now that Heritage is going to be big this A/W season and this focus on traditional fabrics, cuts, items and styles gives us a huge pool of inspiration to draw on. We also know that a number of key textures will be very prevalent this season, and these will give us the perfect basis from which we can inject some individuality into our looks and give that checked shirt sulking at the back of your wardrobe a new lease of life.
As we are trying to mix heritage, texture and tailoring with this look, your choice of shirt will need to be a little more prescriptive than that of the previous outfit. A casual look can incorporate almost any style of checked shirt you may wish, whilst formal looks require a much more refined cut of shirt, the example above fits the bill perfectly; slim fit, unfussy, traditional pattern and bold but subdued colours.
By using a knitted tie you tap into a myriad of trends; preppy, heritage and texture. A tie will be another very easy way of identifying your check shirt from the rest circulating the high street and will immediately direct your look to a specific image. However, a tie can easily go from being a very good friend to a very bad enemy; avoid clashing patterns and ALWAYS wear a tie that is darker than the shirt itself. The method that will ensure perfect results every time is to pick out a colour from the shirt using your tie – in this instance, green.
Continuing the preppy/heritage theme, pair a tweed or herringbone blazer with a pair of cords or flannel trousers to create a kind of bohemian, lecturer look hybrid that resonates very well with the Ivy League crowd. Utilise neutral colours to keep the attention on your shirt and tie combination. A paisley pocket square will continue the bohemian vibe.
To cover your paws, try mixing in something a little different with vibram soled shoes (can you guess that I like them yet?) or stick to the more traditional Penny loafer and a pair of bright argyle print socks – its far too cold for ankle flashing now.
Of course, picking the correct type of check shirt for your wardrobe is another way to separate yourself from the crowd. After all, you are not forced to pick up the generic versions available in every high street store.
As mention above, why not look opt for brushed cotton or flannel material? Or pick rarer colours such as yellows, pinks or greens? Separation can also be obtained through detailing; your choice of check can be altered (a smarter gingham, larger block colours, or rare tartan) or statement features can be incorporated such as leather/cord patches, epaulettes or similar. You could even try modifying your shirt yourself by changing the buttons or adding your own external detailing.
Here are a selection of check shirts on the market right now that offer something slightly different for the wearer. A variety of materials, cuts and styles have been provided:
An item that definitely divides opinion wherever you go; the cuffed jean or chino is on one hand a sartorial faux pas and on the other a modern take on a classic style staple; a question of style of the few, fashion of the rest if there ever was one.
Whether we like them or not, there is no denying that they are hugely popular, particularly when teamed with many of our other style overloaded items. However, being open minded and persistent chaps it is always worth asking ourselves; is there a way to make these much maligned and despised (check out the clothes you would never be seen in thread on the forums should clarification be needed) jeans socially acceptable?
You might then wonder whether I have set myself a challenge too difficult in which I can adequately succeed; but I’ll still have a go.
Rugged simplicity is the name of the game here. Simple is a word that pops up an awful lot in fashion or considerations of style, and there can be only one reason – simplicity is best.
Beginning with the jeans (or chinos, this outfit works perfectly well with either), avoid the examples with twisted seams, pockets or ridiculous branding and keep the colours classic in a dark blue or indigo wash. To fit in with the rough and tumble image we want to create, go for worker or hiking boots. They will work much better than military boots; we are after all trying to avoid over worn items and we especially want to avoid wearing more than one over worn item in an outfit. Pair with some thick, chunky socks (jeans tucked in of course) for a practical, warm and sartorially relevant bottom half.
It would also be prudent to point out to those of you that own cuffed jeans, but don’t want to wear them out anymore, that by tucking your jeans into your socks you do in fact hide the elastic – a bit of fashion based trickery there. I would also point out that while it may seem as if I have copped out a bit here (only half true) by just hiding the cuffs, tucking in will in fact help to retain the clean lines of the jeans and avoid excess stacking at the ankle. Surely cuffed jeans are also made with this purpose in mind? As it is easier to tuck in a tight cuff than it is a normal open jean hem.
For your upper half, stick with the principles we have been championing in recent articles; chunky knitwear combined with classic outerwear. A cable knit is very on trend and can be worn over anything, so try a chambray shirt to add a bit of structure to your outfit. A classic peacoat will complete the top half but feel free to experiment with your textures; a shearling collar or even a shearling jacket will suit this look down to the ground. A simple canvas backpack will finish it off with aplomb; simple, practical and ever so stylish.
You could also try to dress them up a bit, to add a bit of structure and dignity to an otherwise informal and carefree item. But as we are trying to make cuffed jeans/chinos socially and morally acceptable, we should perhaps try to approach them with a more avant garde outfit in mind; think outside the box.
I believe I would be right in saying that the problem that most people have with cuffed trousers is the cuff itself but there is very little we can do to disguise it, therefore it must become something to work with rather than push against. With this in mind our choice of footwear is all the more important. The break between trouser and shoe is all the more pronounced with a cuff, meaning it will immediately draw the eye, so we should also choose something a little be different in the shoe department.
A vibram soled shoe will fit the bill perfectly as they are in keeping with the outfit as a whole, whilst adding a quirky edge and staying away from the usual choices (boat shoes, espadrilles, military boots, plimsolls etc). Stick to a more formal shoe, such as the loafers shown above or a pair of Derbies or Brogues but avoid trying to make the cuffed trousers something they clearly are not; smart. In terms of shoe colour, you should feel free to experiment as the outfit plays on traditional cuts and shapes naturally. Oxblood shoes are surprisingly versatile; filling a much need gap between black and brown offerings. Once again, it is far to cold to be going without socks so use them to make a bit more of a statement by sticking to bold colours or simple yet colourful patterns.
The upper half is where the tailoring aspect of this look really makes its mark. As always keep it simple; you are playing with accepted fashion and style ideas down below with cuffed jeans and vibram loafers (or otherwise) so you want to try and anchor them with something more sensible. In this instance you could do a lot worse than a simple, go with everything, white shirt under a blazer. I have suggested a bright, berry coloured example here for the bravest of you but more muted colours would work perfectly well.
Finish off with your choice of bag to keep those pockets free of shape ruining bulges – keep it canvas or leather for informal or formal respectively.
Note – Some of you might also be glad to hear that I struggled to find quite as many examples of cuffed jeans as before, which, unless I’m being a simpleton, means that they are now not so popular and are slowly disappearing from the shelves; despair or rejoice where ever applicable.
As I said at the start, what we hope to achieve with this series of articles is a rekindling of your interest in items that you might otherwise have ignored or dismissed as unworthy of your wardrobe, simply because other people have been wearing them too much. Of course, you are perfectly within your rights to not wear something because you don’t actually like it but this does not mean that they aren’t worth considering at all, the perfect gentleman should be prepared to consider everything.
However, even if you don’t actually decide to partake in any of the items covered then I hope you will all take away at least this – it is how wear, not what you wear.
Now, it’s time for that all important feedback; what do you think?
Let me know in the comments below.
Keep your eyes peeled for Parts 2 and 3, where we shall be tackling Boat Shoes, Quilted Jackets, Desert Boots, The Harrington Jacket and Scoop Neck T-Shirts.
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