We hope that, by now, you’re au fait with which buttons on your suit to fasten (never the bottom, unless it’s a one-button). What shade a leather belt should be (the same as your shoes). And the best place to store slogan tees (a fireplace). But there’s some subtler slip-ups that even men with otherwise on-point style can overlook.
Think of these as the inner sanctum style rules. The kind of things that most guys won’t notice, but which those in the know can’t unsee. Let your initiation to fashion’s upper echelons begin.
Your Shoes Are Laced Like You Wore Them Out Of The Shop
Shoes come with zig-zag lacing by default because it looks tidy without a foot in. But whether you’re more partial to trainers or brogues, it’s a pattern that does your footwear a disservice; the off-centre lacing pulls the upper when you tighten up, warping it.
While we hope you’ve long since abandoned the notion that a bright pair of laces makes a pair of shoes pop, rocking an individual lacing pattern can protect and personalise. Since shoes come in such a glut of styles, how you fasten them should echo their aesthetic.
As a rule, the bulkier the shoe, the more creative you can get. Don’t make a pair of Common Projects or a Derby the canvas for your checkerboard lacing, but indulge your instincts if you’re rocking Red Wings (check out the incomprehensibly exhaustive guides at Fieggen.com for inspiration).
Final tip: keep your technique uniform. If you start crossing over-under, keep that pattern all the way up your shoe. Consistency counts.
Wearing A Pocket Square That Looks Like A Japanese Peace Offering
We’re not going to weigh into the whole should-you-shouldn’t-you pocket square debate here. But if you do fancy some silk in your top pocket, then at least stay your origami urges. Your guide here should be the Italian concept of sprezzatura – an aesthetic that looks almost accidental (patriots should refer instead to that Hardy Amies nugget of looking like you’ve chosen your clothes with care, then forgotten about them the minute you left the house).
It’s why Pitti’s streets are awash with men who seem to flaunt menswear’s most basic tenets: your tie’s wide blade should be longer than its thin one; your double-breasted jacket should have the top-button fastened; your clothes should match at least a tiny bit.
It speaks of nonchalance, of an understanding that appearance is interesting, but not worth obsessing about (even if attaining sprezz is acutely studied). A square of silk that resembles the napkin arrangements at a particularly pretentious restaurant only marks you out as a man of fuss. Just slot it in, then don’t touch it again for the rest of the day. The more it collapses, the more Italian insouciance you embody.
You’ve Confused Your Suit With A Boy Scout Uniform
For a while, tech companies had the right idea – shrink everything down until it’s unnoticeable. Then Kate Upton convinced a generation that they should spend their commute playing Dungeons and Dragons and our smartphones expanded back into portable TVs.
But when you stuff these phablets in your suit pockets, the sleek lines and streamlined silhouette you’ve tried so hard to create are instantly ruined by unsightly bulges.
Instead, decant everything, from phone to wallet – on which note, to any chaps still carrying a George Constanza stuffed with coins, receipts and membership cards to long-bankrupt video rental stores, it’s time to downsize – into a bag. If you’re travelling light, a portfolio. It’s fine to steal Dennis the Menace’s taste in sweaters. Less so his silhouette.
Keeping Your Trousers Way Too Secure
The English idiom ‘belt and braces’ defines a situation where an individual has gone some distance beyond expected to preclude anything negative occurring.
If you run a prison, say, then equipping your outer fence with razor wire, an electric current and concrete foundations to prevent tunnelling under, would be a belt and braces approach to keeping murderers where they belong. Equally, if you wear both a belt, and braces, this would be a belt and braces way to hold your trousers up.
Unless you’ve ignored our request to jettison all the loose change and RSI-inducing phones dragging your trousers down, then you’re erring a little on the cautious side (that dream where you’re giving a speech in your pants is just a dream). Pick one or the other. In fact, if you’re wearing a suit, pick neither. The beauty of a suit is the uniform fabric that drapes from shoulder to shoe. Breaking it with a leather band is considered sacrilege by many classicists.
Get your trousers tailored so they stay up, then get the belt loops removed (an empty loop just looks sad). If a penchant for cake and self-loathing means your weight oscillates, get your tailor to add side-fasteners instead. And put all that saved belt money towards a therapist.