Getting back to basics.
My love of brashly using color and patterns is fairly well known. However, once and a while I’m struck by the urge to just bring it back to square one. Here we have gray trousers and a navy blazer, a navy tie with just enough gingham and blue in the pocket square to give the outfit some personality, my personality.
Because the basics are my bane in #menswear. And as always I think common wisdom is the enemy.
It’s true that neutral, well fitting items will look good in nearly any configuration. I could have swapped out any single item for almost anything you can imagine and the outfit would have held together (any color shirt, any color pants, any color any non-gray jacket, etc… would look good with this). ”The basics” are great for being well dressed because they’re easy. They look “right” in almost any scenario, you don’t need to “worry” about what to wear, and you’ll always be well dressed.
But, and this is a huge but(… wait… nope, nothing wrong with that sentence), being well dressed and being stylish are not synonymous.
The typical arguments for well-fitting basics as style in their own right are about blunt force, about containing onto something as nebulous as “style” into a rigid, rules-based structure that can be critiqued “objectively”.
How many times have you seen, “it isn’t hard to be well-dressed/stylish, just wear gray pants, a navy blazer, a blue shirt and a navy tie!” or
Choosing a shirt, jacket and necktie from each color and limiting the combination to no more than two patterns produces consistently excellent looks with a minimum of fuss while spreading wear across the entire rotation.”
Does that sound stylish? Because to me it sounds at best like cold, bloodless analysis of how everyone should build their wardrobe and at worst, like the advice of someone who thinks everyone should dress exactly like his model of a “stylish” man.
Or perhaps this gem from the original Coherent Combinations for Beginners thread on SF (ed. note: you might not believe it, but I think this is worth reading end to end, no matter your placement on the stylishness pyramid)
You are approaching this like a hobbyist. You needn’t. Ask Anna Matuozzo for a dozen identical white shirts and get six navy hopsack suits from Rubinacci. Keep your cream pocket squares and your repp ties. You will be done shopping or thinking about clothes, other than for black tie, for the rest of your life, and you will be as elegant as anyone on this board can hope to be.
Via dopey (ed note: that’s the users name, not commentary on his position)
I would argue he’s approaching this from the angle of a man who just doesn’t want to deal with his clothes. He needn’t. There’s more out there than just hopsack suits and white shirts, and simple/easy combinations can still be found outside of “navy suit/repp tie”. The more troubling part is that anyone who wants to dress differently is “a hobbyist” or “inelegant”.
Is a painter a hobbyist because he doesn’t simply want to paint landscapes with watercolor? Is a sculptor a hobbyist because he doesn’t want to simply chisel in marble? Then why is an (ostensibly stylish) man a “hobbyist” because he wants to wear something other than a navy hopsack suit, white shirt and repp tie?
Why is it that a typical argument references “never thinking about it”? Why is it such a vice in style to think about it? Would you trust an author who said “just learn proper punctuation, proper grammar and never worry about what you’re writing ever again.” Why then, would you trust someone who tells you that style is about buying whatever it is they think you should buy, and then never thinking about it again. Does “elegance” grow from indifference? Because I think that’s bullshit.
“Style” is not a bloodless recounting of tailoring details, it’s ephemeral and nearly impossible to put into words. If “style” were simply “the basics” then why even bother with a blog? or a forum? If it’s SO OBVIOUS, then why is there disagreement?
Because (and I swear to god I can hardly believe I’m typing this without a hint of irony) just because someone says something doesn’t make it true. Even if that someone is stylish, or an exquisite tailor, or a #menswear icon, doesn’t mean they’re the last word. Even if that quote makes the rounds on Tumblr, doesn’t make it so. I remember watching a video a while back (help me if you remember it) where a perfectly turned out Italian gentleman was saying something to the effect of
“Tailoring has been perfected! The art of tailoring cannot be improved! It was perfected in the 60’s/70’s and will never be improved upon!”
How can you perfect art?
My point is that the basics are great. If you don’t want to move beyond them, that’s fine. If you choose to adopt them as a uniform, that’s fucking great because it means you took the time to think about it. If you think long and hard and say “blue blazer and navy tie speaks to me, it speaks of me, and I choose to wear it all the time” then you have mastered the basics and are probably quite stylish to boot.
If you say “stylish men dress in navy and gray, some bloggers and style forum told me so!” You’ve missed the point entirely.
Navy Blazer by Stanley Blacker - $4
Tie by Tattersal - $2
PS - $1.50
Shell Cordovan Wingtips by Bostonian - $8
Oatmeal Scarf - $2
Gingham Shirt - Gift
Hat - Gift
Banana Republic Pants - Bought at Renys (a Maine adventure) - $20
22 Notes/ Hide
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- edwinzee said: I love the second picture and that pocket square is pretty dope. Nice post overall.
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