The Style Glossary

A comprehensive glossary of key men's fashion and style terminology. Updated weekly, check back regularly to continue your education...

Accessories

An interchangeable term for additional ornamentation. Accessories often contribute to creating a more fashionable or dimensional look.

Often used to describe everything from belts, scarves and socks to sunglasses, jewellery, watches etc.

Anorak

The distinction between anorak and parka is, strictly speaking, still maintained.

Invented by the Caribou Inuit, the anorak is a waterproof, hooded jacket with drawstrings at the waist and cuff.

The parka is a longer, knee-length jacket suitable for cold weather. While the hood is fur lined, the jacket itself is stuffed with down feathers or a very warm synthetic fibre.

Aviators

Men's Aviator Frame Sunglasses

A sunglasses silhouette originally developed for military pilots, hence the name.

Worn slavishly since the 1960s, the classic teardrop shaped frames have seen their popularity soar due to continued celebrity use and films such as Top Gun.

Essential Read: Sunglasses & Face Shapes Guide

Balance

Often the scale on which the success of a finished coat is measured. The length at the front and the back of the jacket should be parallel.

This balance is very much dependent on the shoulders fitting you properly.

Bespoke

Bespoke Tailoring

A term often applied in variety, bespoke tailoring is distinct from 'ready-to-wear' or 'off-the-peg' suits.

Cut from an individual paper pattern, suits are crafted by hand (and often entirely from the same cloth) with the customer's specific requirements and customisations in mind.

Although many now apply the term 'bespoke' to other items, such as computer software, cars and even holidays nowadays, it was originally exclusively used in relation to men's tailoring, footwear and apparel, implying that you were measured and fitted for each unique piece.

The Savile Row Bespoke Association establish twenty-one points addressing the particulars of a bespoke suit, imposing a level of detail in order for a garment to be allowed to use its trademark.

Black Tie

Men's Black Tie Dress Code

Etiquette believes 'dinner jacket' to be formally correct over 'tuxedo', although the terms are often interchanged by the unaware. Defined by satin facings on the lapels, mirrored on the outer seams of the dinner suit trousers, rather than by any standardised cut - doubled-breasted is as welcome as single (particularly to create a strong 'V' silhouette where a cummerbund or waistcoat has been omitted) and a notch lapel isn't entirely out of place among a room of peaks.

Consistency is found knotted at the neck in the form of a bow tie. Hollywood black tie is the term for those who cannot master the bow and thus opt for a neck tie.

Optional extra: Whilst a man's suit is his costume, black tie accruements were little about creating a facade of formality and more about practicality. Black is worn (and later, midnight blue) because it views well under low lighting, particularly against a white stiff or pleated-front shirt. As ever, shoes are as polished as the expected behavior.

See dress codes.

Boat Shoes

Traditionally constructed with a canvas or leather upper, boat shoes feature rubber soles with a siping pattern cut into them, which enhances grip on a wet boat deck. Other defining features include a lace-up fastening and lace detailing threaded around the side of the shoe.

Also known as deck shoes

Essential Read: Ways To Wear Boat Shoes

Bootcut

A by-product of the acid house rise, shapely denim cut loosely at the hem to accommodate a boot.

The style is flared/loose all the way down, unlike women's jeans, which are often tapered at the knee.

Bow Tie

The modern bow tie is most commonly - and rightly so - associated with dinner suits.

Originating from the use of knotted scarfs by mercenaries during the Prussian wars - and leading the way for cravats and Ascot ties - the style comprises of fabric tied in a shoelace knot around the collar to create symmetrical loops at the two opposite ends.

Outside accomplished menswear circles, the traditional self-tie variation is rarely mastered. Today, ready bow ties are in regular use; but unless made-to-measure, some form of adjustable strap is usually required.

Clip on ties, which omit the need of a band altogether, are also available although are viewed as far less rakish.

Boxer Briefs

Boxer BriefsA hybrid of the boxer short and brief. Long in the leg but tight in fit.

See boxer shorts, briefs.

Boxer Shorts

Men's BoxersThe loosest undergarment a man can choose. Characterised by an elastic waist similar to those seen on the trunks of boxing athletes.

It is often found that teenagers will switch from briefs to boxer shorts or boxer briefs.

See briefs.

Brogue

A hardy, low-heeled shoe or boot characterised by decorative punching (or 'brogueing') of the leather and uppers.

The shoe's resiliency is an upshot of its highland heritage, where the now ornamental perforations were used to let water escape.

Found most popularly in tan leather and worn with dark denim, brogues sport either a decorative (wingtip) or plain toe. The not-for-night-time style (especially where black tie is concerned) can come in either an Oxford or Derby silhouette.

Briefs

Men's BriefsRegularly referred to as Y-Fronts, even when the Y shaped fly is not used.

Styles akin to those used in jeans (high rise, mid rise & low rise) are often used when referring to briefs.

Button-down Collar

Button-down CollarThe shirt's points are fastened down with small non-decorative buttons on the front of the shirt.

Despite considered in some menswear circles as a sporting style, it is rarely worn with a suit.

See collars.

Cable Knit

Refers to a pattern commonly used in men's jumpers and knitted accessories in which raised 'cables' appear to twist around one another.

Fishermen are found at the root of this utilitarian style; the permuting stitches are considered to produce a far more durable and insulating garment.

The method lends itself to creating textured, layered looks popular in the autumn/winter seasons. Currently trending: cable knits on chunky roll necks.

Cardigan

A front fastening (with ties, buttons or zips), machine or hand knitted sweater, which has an open front.

Not to be confused with the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, a breed of dog. Or pullover sweater for that matter.

Chalk Stripe

Vertical lines on a suit fabric, designed to look like the colour of tailor's chalk. The lines are subtle and hazy compared to the crisp, distinct lines of pinstripe.

Chelsea Boot

Men's Chelsea BootsA short, tight fitting boot identifiable by the elastic siding that covers the ankle.

Originally designed as a riding boot (known as jodhpur or paddock boots), the silhouette was a hallmark of the 1960s mod and continues to have rock 'n' roll connotations today.

Read More: Chelsea Boot Footwear Guide.

Chino (Cloth)

A twill fabric generally made of cotton or a cotton blend.

Most commonly used to construct trousers, which are widely known as 'chinos' (can also be called 'khakis').

Chinos gained popularity as a summer uniform de rigueur of the armed forces and have since gone on to become civilian wear.

The trousers have become a staple within men's fashion and should be considered an essential part of a modern capsule wardrobe.

They come available in a wide variety of neutral and bold colours, as well as statement prints and patterns.

Chukka Boot

Ankle boots with two or three high lacings to hold them together.

Customarily made from suede or calfskin, the chukka boot has also been found in adaptations from dressier black leather to exotic crocodile skin.

See desert boot.

Collars

Unlike lapels or revers, shirt collars are constructed from a separate fabric.

The spread of the collar refers to the distance between the two points of a shirt collar.

The stand is the band, often on the widest part, that supports the collar.

The corners of the collar are known as the points. This is where the most variation applies.

Collar stiffeners, also known as bones, are rigid strips inserted to the underside of the collar to prevent the points from curling up.

Read More: A Guide To: Men's Formal/Dress Shirts.

Also see: button-down collar, round collar, spread collar and straight collar.

Corduroy

A cotton fabric composed of twisted fibers that, when woven, lie parallel to each other. This helps to form the fabric's distinct 'cord' pattern, which runs either horizontally or vertically.

The width of the cord is known as the size of the 'wale'. A low count (5 or 6-wale) means the individual cords are much thicker, and this type of corduroy is more often used for upholstery.

High wale corduroy (16+), often referred to as 'needlecord', is the opposite and often used for clothing, such as men's trousers, shirts and jackets. The individual cords are much finer and this helps to produce a more velvety appearance, with a similar soft feel.

Read More: Autumn/Winter Essential Fabrics: Corduroy.

Crew Neck

Men's Crew Neck

A foremost garment of function, the rounded, no collar, neckline was adopted on t-shirts as an undergarment or 'gob shirt' by the U.S Navy to absorb sweat. Today the crew neck has more desirable connotations (and name) along with several modern adaptations.

A close-fitting, hemmed neckline, which sits symmetrically at the base of the neck, is the generic posture. However, scooped, raw and boat neck cuts all derive from the original mould.

What sits above the stitch, notably your neck and face shape, will determine whether a crew or v-neck cut is best for you. The question of wanting to show a chest forest or not follows shortly after.

Cummerbund

A component of black tie dress. The cummerbund is a broad, pleated waistband worn with single-breasted dinner jackets.

The word cummerbund comes from the Persian kamar (waist) + band (band).

See black tie.

Daks Strap / Side Adjuster

Adjustable straps on the side of trousers used to tighten or loosen the fit; predominantly found on trousers without belt loops.

Denim

The André family began producing a rugged cotton twill textile in Nîmes, France, in the late 18th century. Originally addressed 'Serge de Nîmes', the name was soon shortened to denim.

Denim fabric dyeing is divided into two categories: indigo dyeing and sulphur dyeing. Denim is traditionally coloured blue with indigo dye to make 'blue jeans' - a staple of traditional American work wear that rose to become a capsule wardrobe necessity due to brands such as Levi's.

See jeans, raw denim.

Desert Boots

Similar to a chukka boot but looser at the ankle with a crepe sole.

See chukka boot.

Dinner Jacket

Etiquette believes 'dinner jacket' to be formally correct over 'tuxedo', although the terms are often interchanged by the unaware.

Defined by the satin facings on the lapels mirrored on the outer seams of the dinner suit trousers.

See black tie.

Double-breasted

Double-Breasted Tailoring

A suit or blazer jacket with wide, overlapping front flaps and two parallel columns of buttons.

More often than not, the first column is for ornamentation, the second is for fastening the jacket. The hidden buttons are known as jiggers.

The fastening method is acknowledged using a number-on-number terminology. The first number is the total number of front buttons; the second is the number of fastening buttons below the lapels. Popular double-breasted variations are 6-on-2 and 6-on-1.

Read More: How To Wear: A Double-Breasted Blazer.

Dress Codes

Dress codes are reassuringly unfussy. The promise that if you follow what is embossed on the invitation (even if it says 'optional' - it's not) you're certain not to offend eyes is encouraging, even if a little straitlaced.

It's a sartorial expectancy to get it right; and it's a sartorial necessity to get it right first time.

See black tie, white tie, morning dress

Drop Crotch

A marmite mini-trend, largely popular several seasons ago.

An exaggerated low rise applied to jeans to alter the silhouette of a look. Arguably a by-product of designers looking to focus on a relaxed hang to contrast against the commonplace skinny fits. Best worn on a young frame. Or not at all.

Dry denim

See raw denim.

Duffle coat

A hooded, knee-length coat made from duffle; a coarse, thick woollen material.

Although many variations have appeared, the British have held on to the defining feature, idiosyncratic of four front wooden or horn toggle fastenings known as 'walrus teeth'.

Read More: The Duffle Coat: A Menswear Classic.

Espadrille

Casual, canvas or cotton fabric shoes with a flexible sole made of jute rope.

The term espadrille derives from the Catalan name for the shoes, 'espardenya', which routes itself back to 'esparto': a tough, wiry Mediterranean grass used in making rope.

Fair Isle

Fair Isle Pattern

Intricate, highly coloured knits, often stitched in bands, seen on jumpers, cardigans and more recently, accessories.

The design takes its name from the Fair Isle, a tiny island in the north of Scotland where the practice originated.

The term has since been employed to reference loosely any stranded colour knitting which often has no relation to the knitting of the Fair Isle.

Fedora

See trilby.

Gingham Check

Plain-woven fabric featuring alternating checks, typically white and coloured. Most commonly found on men's shirts.

Germany, French and America all claim the fabric to have originated on their soil. As ever, it's a look in fittingly high demand, one that looks fantastic set against a knitted tie.

Synonymous with fans of indie and mod music since the 1960s.

Herringbone

A chevron pattern often found in a wool twill fabric. The pattern is created by the way the fabric is woven.

Tweed cloth is usually woven with a herringbone pattern.

Houndstooth

Distinctive broken checks - often in black and white - resembling a dog's incisor.

Also known as 'dogstooth'.

Jeans

Jeans are casual trousers made from denim: a rugged cotton twill.

The term 'jeans' comes from the French 'Bleu de Gênes' - meaning blue of Genoa - originating from the port in which Italian sailors wore them in the 19th century.

Terms you'll encounter when shopping for jeans include those relating to the cut (straight, skinny, slim, boot), the fabric (dry, raw, selvedge) and more recently the rise.

See denim.

Lace-ups

A men's shoe fastened with laces, obviously.

Lapel

Most commonly found on formal clothing. Lapels describe the folded flaps of cloth on the front of a jacket or coat.

The cloth is an extension of the collar and folds back against the breast and cut to create a step (notch), peak or shawl finish. Double-breasted jackets always have peak or shawl lapels.

Men's Lapels

Linen

A textile made from the fibres of the flax plant.

Stronger and sturdier than cotton but does not hold dye well. Linen has a very low elasticity, the fabric will eventually break if it is folded and ironed at the same place repeatedly.

Linen is often found in white or cream summer suits. When woven in to garments, it is valued for its exceptional coolness and freshness in hot weather. Characterised by its natural wrinkles that can add a natural charm to any look.

Read More: Spring/Summer Essential Fabrics: Linen.

Loafer

Any true man of style will own at least one pair; the Holy Grail being a Gucci, patent horsebit loafers.

The slip-on shoe, distinguishable from the moccasins by a wide heel, has its provenance in Norway - a happenstance that would lead G.H. Bass to begin producing loafers under the appellation 'Weejuns' in 1934.

Despite once being labelled casual-only, styles can now be found up and down the formality spectrum - from tasseled to penny and driving, in leather, suede and nubuck; all perpetually laceless and eternally rakish.

The Iconic Bass Weejuns Loafer

Mac

The Mackintosh (or Macintosh), in its unabbreviated form, is a form of waterproof raincoat made out of rubberised fabric. Named after inventor Charles Macintosh, who patented his waterproof cloth in 1823. The first Mackintosh coats were made in his family's factory.

Now a fully fledged wardrobe staple and, perhaps, the perfect transitional piece of outerwear.

Madras

Vibrant plain-weave fabric. The lightweight plaid was originally hand woven but with modern techniques the pattern tends to bleed into one another.

Typically used for men's blazers, shirts and shorts.

Read More: Spring/Summer Essential Fabrics: Madras.

Metrosexual

A combination of the words metropolitan and heterosexual; the generally uninspiring term, intended as a sarcastic label for the overly preened, quickly became a societal buzzword for men addled by appearance-related behaviour.

The phrase, along with colloquial spinoffs such as 'mansome', was applied to this new sub-culture of men who illustrated traditional 'female' characteristics, such as a penchant for shopping and a focus on personal grooming.

A growing emphasis on narcissism, subsidised by a slew of male grooming products - reflected in a male market of 'bloke beauty' worth an estimated £1.2billion a year - led writers, editors and gender analysts to engage with the notion of metrosexuality; as observed by British journalist Mark Simpson:

"The typical metrosexual is a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis - because that's where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are."
(Simpson, 1994)

Morning Dress

Men's Traditional Morning Dress

An endangered daytime ensemble (particularly in the winter when light hours are few and far), found chiefly at weddings (known as morning grey) and the races (a whole different stable of horses).

The checklist for morning dress fluctuates based on location and occasion. However, at every encounter expect to observe full formalities - top hat included:

  • Black or grey morning coat.
  • Waistcoat often in the same colour.
  • Striped trousers (braces optional).
  • White turndown collar shirt.
  • Plain or patterned silk handkerchief, worn only ever as a sobering fold.
  • Well-polished shoes (though reserve patent for eveningwear).
  • And the infamous top to the tails, a hat. Similar to carpets and curtains, they should always match.

Few will castigate you for stopping there, short of gloves in kid leather or buckskin, spats, a cane, pocket watch and boutonnière, although all are welcome in the Royal enclosure at Ascot. If you do wear the latter, ensure you can pronounce it. Never call it your flower if you wish to be taken seriously.

See dress codes.

Nap

The raised surfaces found projecting from a fabric; produced intentionally (by brushing) or naturally (during weaving).

Fabrics such as flannel and saxony wool are often napped. The soft piles are created to provide extra warmth and comfort in the garment.

See suede.

Notch Lapel

The sartorial compass points in the direction of a notch lapel more often than not, particularly on two-button jackets.

The 'everyday lapel', distinguishable by a triangle cut where it meets the collar, is poised to carry you from the office to the bar to that restaurant you like, but never to the door of a black tie event. We often say if you only own one suit... buy another. If that fails, make it a notch lapel.

See lapel.

Parka

See anorak.

Patent

Black leather finished to a hard glossy surface. Used chiefly for shoes and clothing accessories.

The leather got its name from the U.S. Patent Office, as the leather's finish was once protected by patent.

Peak Lapel

A tailor's Achilles heel (in terms of skill and expense), frequenting nearly all formal coats.

The peak lapel creates an aggressive - yet rakish - upward point towards the shoulder; emphasising the already dramatic 'V' silhouette (especially when used on double-breasted cuts) and helping elongating the wearer's frame.

See lapel.

Pinstripe

Narrow, crisp lines running in parallel, found in cloth often used for suiting.

Originally called a coach line, the pattern is evenly woven into fabric generally spaced one half to one inch apart.

Read More: Men's Pinstripe Suits.

Raw Denim

Essentially unwashed and untreated after the dyeing process. Dry denim is at its very best in a raw state.

Due to its unfinished condition, over time knees, thighs, ankles and crotch will develop organic distress and fading.

To facilitate natural abrasion, many wearers often abstain from washing their jeans for more than six months:

Raw Denim Will Develop Its Own Unique Character and Distressing After Extended Wear Without Washing

Raw Edge

This describes the unsewn edge of a piece of fabric. Commonly seen on t-shirts at the neck, arms and hem. The technique produces a raw, rolled effect, finishing with an unstructured look.

Rise

The distance from the crotch to the top of the waistband in jeans and trousers. Common options include high, medium and low rise.

Round Collar

Round CollarAlso known as the penny or club collar, the origins of this style can be found in the dress code of Eton College throughout the 1800s.

The rotund points create a contrast with the sharp lines but are still looked upon unfavourably in a formal setting. It's generally held that a man should avoid wearing a collar too similar to his face shape (clearly they saw Boris Johnson coming.)

See collars.

Seersucker

A mid to lightweight fabric, often striped, used to make clothing for spring and summer wear.

A puckered or crinkled effect is created by releasing the tension at intervals during weaving.

This permanent effect holds the cloth away from the skin and makes it cool to wear.

Read More: Spring/Summer Essential Fabrics: Seersucker.

Selvedge (Denim)

Selvedge Denim Finish

Reinforced fabric weave, typically found in unwashed or raw denim, to form a clean natural edge that does not unravel. Traditionally finished with a contrast weft, which is most commonly red.

Many people confuse selvedge denim with raw denim. Raw denim characterises the wash while selvedge refers to the outside edge of the fabric.

Selvedge denim carries a self-edge that will never fray and is therefore usually higher in quality and more expensive than other denims.

Shawl Lapel

The shawl variation, arguably, encompasses more of the lapel's true definition as an 'extension of the collar' than any other.

The cut runs continuously from the back of the neck down to the buttons on the front of the torso without breaks or points. Think black tie; think smoking jackets; think your essential shawl neck cardigan - although never at the same event.

See lapel.

Shirt Cuffs

Cuffs (like collars) are often a separate piece of material, except in the case of turn backs (double or French).

Dress shirts start at one button, two buttons, mitered, French and barrel, but always end in confusion when they concern etiquette.

To avoid causing aforementioned offence to your host, if your shirt fastens with cuff links or silk knots you are attending a formal event. If they don't, you're not attending.

Read More: A Guide To: Men's Formal/Dress Shirts.

Shearling

A desired pelt for winter coats, hats and gloves. Sheep or lambskin tanned with the wool attached.

The wool lined hide offers a rugged appeal and ultimate warmth.

Commonly associated with the shearling collar, which is often found on leather jackets.

Single-Breasted

In contrast to double-breasted, this cut is characterised a narrow overlap fastened with a single row of buttons; always left over right. The narrow line is accentuated by the use of one to four buttons (although a number in-between is far more common).

The fastening of all buttons available (on anything above a one button coat, jacket or similar garment) is given a wide berth. To avoid misbuttoning, follow this concise guide:

  • On a two-button jacket, make use only of the top.
  • Where three are on display, use either the middle (only) or top two.
  • In the unlikely case you're faced with four, leave just the bottom undone.
Spread Collar

Spread CollarThis style gives prominence to the tie knot.

Dictated by the distance between each point (often between 3 and 6 inches). The larger spreads are often referred to as a Windsor collar, named after the Duke of Windsor.

See collars.

Straight Collar

Straight CollarThe generic collar, measuring 2 to 3 inches between the points. Where the collar is tabbed or requires a barbell, the points often measure as a straight collar.

See collars.

Suede

Although used in generality to describe any fabric with a velvet-like finish, suede refers to the inside or flesh side of leather, which is brushed to produce a nap.

The short nap and sheared moleskin is often mistaken for suede.

Tab Collar

Tab CollarBefore the everyday anatomy of shirts lengthened itself to incorporate stiffeners, many (Edward VIII included) sought a collar that provided an all the more put together look.

Electing for a tab collar ensures the shirt's points are held together by a strip of fabric that sits under the knot of a tie. Tom Ford nodded to the revival of this style when dressing Daniel Craig for SkyFall. If it's good enough for Bond...

See collars.

Tie Pin

An ornamental pin designed to hold the position of a necktie or cravat. Became popular at the beginning of the 19th century with wealthy English gentlemen who wanted to secure their cravats. Would look rather out of place if the rest of the outfit weren't as straitlaced.

Trilby

A classically timeless hat made of soft felt that is creased lengthwise down the crown and pinched in at the front.

The trilby has a shorter brim that is angled down at the front and slightly turned up at the back, alternating itself from the American, wide-brimmed fedora.

Underwear

"Should be as brief as wit and as clean as fun." Hardy Amies, 1964.

See briefs, boxer briefs, and boxer shorts.

Vent

A vent is a cut/slit in the bottom (tail) of a coat, allowing the material to move more easily when being worn.

A centre vent is one common option whilst ventless (an associate of Italian tailoring), side or double-vented are others.

Vents are found on most modern variants, although dinner coats traditionally have no vents.

White Tie

Men's White Tie Dress Code

Even more so than other dress codes, you'll know when you've got this one wrong - especially if you interpret it as everything from black tie, just in white. Arguably the most formal of all - a fact pointed out when the invitation is delivered in French as 'cravate blanche' - white tie whittles down to tails.

That damming misinterpretation discussed earlier arrives if you leave the house looking like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

White tie is, in fact, not all white at all. It comprises of a black, single-breasted tailcoat and black trousers; both with silk grosgrain or satin facings (two, running parallel on the trousers as opposed to one in black tie), a white pique waistcoat, white stiff-front shirt, white bow tie (if it is pre-tied ensure it has an adjuster of some kind) and black patent shoes worn with black silk socks (over the calf is always advised).

Unless you're a regular attendee of state dinners, hunt balls or the International Standard and American Smooth ballroom dance competitions, this code will only be faced a handful of times.

See dress codes.