As we get older, it gets harder to rebel.
Spray painting anti-war slogans seems messy, you can’t really function without that morning cup of tax-dodging Starbucks and your place of work sadly doesn’t include mohawks in its acceptable uniform policy.
So what’s the grown-up way – short of becoming a scientologist – to fight the establishment? Breaking style rules, of course. Flouting those now mouldy pieces of age-old ‘wisdom’ on how men should dress, and looking all the more stylish for it. It feels good to be bad.
1. Never Layer Hoodies Under Tailoring
Once upon a time the only place you’d have worn a hoodie under a blazer was on your way to juvenile court. Now, though, hoodies and tailoring is a key high-low trend that combines all the comfort of the ultimate casual wardrobe hero with tailoring’s instant sprucing-up effect. It’s athleisure in its purest form.
We’re not, just to be clear, suggesting you throw on your adidas gym hoodie under your work suit – that’d get you lifted by the fashion police. But a minimal, fairly lightweight hoodie that’s free of brash branding and in a colour that reads more smart than slouchy will ensure your look comes off sports luxe. As opposed to, you know, just sports.
As for your tailoring, it’s got to be on the slimmer side. Given the look’s contemporary leanings, a roomy tweed suit simply won’t make the cut, so try slim to skinny cotton and wool tailoring in black, grey or lighter neutral hues.
2. Never Wear T-shirts With Suits
Like layering hoodies, breaking this rule only works with tailoring that leans casual, so please don’t try to pull a fast one by sliding a tee underneath a tux or velvet dinner suit. Because you’ll just look mental.
Less is more here: you’re already making a statement by not wearing a shirt, so there’s no need to shout by adding in loud prints or blinding hues. To wit, we’d suggest a classic cotton crew or boat neck tee in a tonal variant of the colour of your suit – e.g. stone if your suit’s charcoal, white if your suit’s stone.
If, however, the thought of a plain tee is enough to put you to sleep, why not add some interest in the form of a classic Breton stripe? Try it out one of those days you don’t have time to change your whole look before legging it from work to watering hole.
3. Never Wear Boots With A Suit
Disregarding this rule not only looks cool, but is also practical – after all, there’s only so much you can put a pair of brogues through. Boots, however – particularly Chelsea, brogue and Derby silhouettes – retain all the dressiness of smart shoes but double down on element-deflecting, meaning you dress the part without risking frostbite.
Try rugged leather work styles with a tweed suit when off-duty or swap out your office-ready Oxfords for a pair of black or brown Chelsea boots for a workwear change that won’t get your boss’ finger wagging.
River Island AW15
4. Don’t Wear White Socks Outside Of The Gym
One part 1980s teen movie underdog, one part skate brand-obsessed hypebeast, menswear’s current predilection for white sports socks is, we’d wager, a reaction against those ‘kooky’ coloured and patterned socks beloved of bankers intent on letting you know they’re about more than just business.
While they won’t pair well with every look (and definitely not your suit), white socks can make your casual get-ups pop. Try them with some Vans and a pair of cropped or pinrolled jeans for a mature take on skatewear, and avoid wearing them with shorts unless you’re actually 16 and working on landing your first kickflip.
Asos Denim 2016
5. Always Accessorise Modestly
Sometimes more is more. Equal parts bold and bohemian, heavily accessorised looks have recently been bowling their way through the runways of designers like Saint Laurent, where combinations of brash western-style belt buckles, fedoras, lightweight scarves and big sunglasses reverberate with rock ‘n’ roll spirit. And don’t let the fact that you can’t play an instrument put you off, most modern musicians can’t either.
If you only think of Mr. T when it comes to layering men’s jewellery (and we pity the fool that does), then rest assured there are ways of doing this to look more Johnny Depp summering in Marrakech than Miami disco bouncer.
Try combining brown and black leather cuffs and bracelets together, or pile on plain silver bands, signet rings and subtle chains. Don’t, however, mix your metals. Because you’re not a fortune teller.
6. Don’t Clash Patterns
The breakout success of brands like African prints-inspired Dent de Man puts this archaic rule to bed. A staple name in street style, the East London label’s no-holds-barred approach to pattern – splicing bright florals with paisley and camo – really shouldn’t work, but it does.
That’s at least in part due to the (razor sharp) cut of its wares. Cut is, if you’re going hell for leather on colour, the difference between looking kaleidoscopically cool and channelling bag ladies.
If punchy prints aren’t your thing, then perhaps it’s a simpler mix for you. Try teaming a gingham tie with a striped shirt, or a tie and blazer in different checks, for a subtler pattern clash.
7. Never Wear Navy And Black
Navy is great. Black is great. So it stands to reason that pairing the two is – haters take note – great. Like not wearing white after Labor Day, this is a rule that’s fast losing the relevance it once might have had.
That said, there is a best practice when bolting these two darker hues together: the trick is in choosing pieces that complement, rather than compete with, one another. So swerve a midnight blue suit jacket with (very similar) smart black trousers and try a black roll neck with a navy pair instead.
The beauty of navy and black is its versatility; although they’re both colours traditionally associated with (and work exceptionally well for) eveningwear, they’re just as easily thrown together for an off-duty weekend look – think a navy polo shirt with black jeans and white trainers.
River Island January 2016
8. A Tie Always Needs A Suit Jacket
Perhaps the main reason for this rule’s existence is everyone’s (understandable) abject fear of looking like Moss from The IT Crowd. But you only have to look at pretty much any J.Crew campaign shot ever to understand just how surprisingly sharp a shirt and tie can look without a two-piece.
The secret is a solid outer layer – whether that’s a simple Harrington, safari jacket or a sizeable shawl collar cardigan. Wear it closed over your shirt and tie and revel in the satisfaction of looking sharp without the stuffiness of a suit jacket.
Mango Man SS14
Are you breaking any of these rules? Or are there other style laws you’re bending?
Let us know below. (We won’t rat you out.)