The fashion forward men of this world know that trends are fickle and that to keep pace with them, one needs to be on a constant look out for new inspiration. With the world of men’s fashion moving in a new, more refined direction, many of us have been influenced by the popularity of shows such as Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire – complete with their wardrobes that are a throwback to gentlemanly, well dressed eras past.
In this new age of sartorialism, where the beauty of elegance and glamour has replaced the ‘sexiness’ of casual that was typified in the 90s, we are all admiring the clothes and (sometimes) the lifestyle choices of our heroes.
Two accessories that are growing in popularity, with this increased emphasis on being well dressed, are the collar bar and the lapel pin.
A choice for a true distinguished gentleman, the collar bar lets everyone around you know that you’re serious when it comes to all things tailored; you do not appreciate the use of the words ‘relaxed’ and ‘fashion’ in the same sentence. It is not often that you will find an accessory that sends such a strong message and is so instantly recognisable – especially in relation to its size. Often worn by our favourite Mad Men, this is a perfect choice for all of those who like to think that they have mastered the rules of tailoring, and are looking for new ways to add a bit of character to their formal look.
Although at first sight it might seem a very impracticable accessory, wearing a collar bar is not a time consuming or overly burdensome task in reality. You can buy into the trend by purchasing a shirt complete with a collar bar, which are slowly becoming available from the more premium of fashion houses, such as Tom Ford. Alternatively, you can opt for a more ‘DIY solution’ and buy a stand-alone item that can be used with any of your shirts.
As with any fashion accessory, it is important to see it as part of the overall appearance, rather than focus on the beauty of the item alone. Putting too much emphasis on the accessory and not what it should be worn with, can distract from your overall look and lead to fashion faux pas. You should attempt to compliment the strong character of this accessory by pairing it with items of simple colours and designs. Wild colour combinations and ties of unorthodox patterns should be strongly avoided.
However, remember that a collar bar/pin doesn’t just have to be used within formal attire. In the lookbook above, you will see that in one of our FashionBeans MAN photoshoots, our very own Ashley Cover styled the model with a gold safety pin across a simple AllSaints denim shirt. Such a small addition, but one I am sure not a lot of men would of even considered before. Why not try experimenting with similar styles within your casual looks?
If you are using a collar bar in a formal context then you should bear in mind that it makes the tie knot stand proudly apart from the neck – drawing a lot of attention to this part of the body. It is for this reason that we need to be extra careful how we wear our ties.
The simple four-in-hand knot has become increasingly popular with well dressed men the world over. Although this simple way of wearing a tie goes brilliantly with the current obsession with smart-casual – helping to dilute an otherwise starched appearance – I believe that a four-in-hand does not work as well with the collar bar. The collar bar is an accessory for a true “grown-up” man, who is not willing to compromise even a shade of their appearance. You should therefore consider the good old double Windsor. Apart from making the knot look slightly bigger, the double Windsor also produces a symmetrical appearance – something that is desired when worn with the collar bar.
Another great accessory for the upcoming fashion season will be the lapel pin. Many designers have incorporated pins into their collections – some more memorable than others. Certainly, Prada’s Fall 2012 has attracted a lot of attention. By including a variety of metal pins and badges into the outfits, it was a subtle addition that helped to reinforce the military feel of the entire collection. It just goes to show how the addition of something so small can totally transform a look or help to emphasise the image you wish to portray.
In contrast to the collar bar, a lapel pin is an accessory much more suitable for a casual occasion. Its effect is to draw attention to a particular part of your outfit. For example: using the pin to secure a wayward scarf to a jacket lapel. Equally the lapel pin can be worn just on its own, having the effect of adding depth and a subtle shot of personality (if you pick a badge or design that means something to you) to an otherwise rather neutral look:
Even though the lapel pin is only a small addition to your outfit, you should still consider the following:
Raiding secondhand shops can often help you find that truly unique example. These are items that will not cost the Earth, yet they can be just the delicate touch your outfit needs to take it from good to great. Make sure you try eBay for some of the best examples, and don’t be afraid to stock up on a few different types to suit both casual and formal looks:
Both the collar bar and lapel pin provide a great opportunity to stand out and achieve a look that is personal, fresh and completely original. Wearing them will be something of an occasion, an opportunity to make a fashion statement and subtly draw the attention of those with good taste and an eye for the details.
Let us know whether you are a fan of these increasingly popular accessories, and any unique ways you like to wear yours, in the comments below…
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