Men's Style: The Thinking Man's Guide to Dress

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9781250041869: Men's Style: The Thinking Man's Guide to Dress
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Guys don't wear wolf pelts anymore, but not much else has changed in the world of men's clothes: the right suit, or tie, or shirt, or shoes still projects mystery, erotic potential, and power. And to negotiate these hurdles with style and confidence, Men's Style is indispensable---a valuable source of practical advice for how to dress in a world of conflicting fashion imperatives, and a witty guide to the history, trends, codes, and conventions of men's attire.

In chapters and amusing sidebars on shoes, suits, shirts and ties, formal and casual wear, underwear and swimsuits, cufflinks and watches, coats, hats, and scarves, Russell Smith steers a confident course between the twin hazards of blandness and vulgarity to articulate a philosophy of dress that can take you anywhere.

Here you'll find the rules for looking the part at the office, a formal function, or the hippest party---and learn when you can toss those rules aside. And you'll find level answers to all of your questions. What color suit should a man buy first? Should socks match the belt, pants, or shoes? What tuxedos are always in, and which aren't ever? And what's required of ambiguous social situations like "dress casual" and "black-tie optional"? The answers are here, in a book that's full of trivia, history, and guidance---finally, the perfect guide for brothers, fathers, sons, and selves.

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About the Author:

Russell Smith writes weekly columns on both fashion and the media in Toronto's Globe and Mail. He has written for publications including the New York Review of Books, Details, and Travel and Leisure.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

SUITS
All the world is not, of course, a stage, but the crucial ways in which it ­isn’t are not easy to specify.
ERVING GOFFMAN

You need one. I ­don’t care if you work in your basement. I ­don’t care if you’re an artist. A grown-­up man needs at least one suit for special events. And once you have one, a good one which fits you and ­doesn’t make you feel constricted and displayed like a prize cake, you will wonder why all your clothes ­aren’t suits. You will want to buy three more. The standard men’s uniform of loose but sober jacket and trousers is a remarkable con­fidence-­giving garment: people will treat you differently when you are in a suit; they will look at you differently, they will ask your opinion, they will expect you to take care of trouble.

Women like men in suits. They may tell you other­wise — particularly if they are associated with a university in some way, or artists. Academics and students in, say, English, or philosophy, may squeal with disgust at the idea of a “dressed-­up man”; artists will giggle, as if the idea is just embarrassing. This is because in these circles to admit attraction to a man in a suit is to betray the solidarity of one’s working-­class comrades and to delay the inevitable revolution. “Suit” is synonymous with “fascist baby-­eater,” or at the very least “insensitive boor” or “uptight suburbanite.”

Obviously the honest expression of aesthetic response and/or sexual desire in these circles is not going to be exactly unfettered. In other words, ­don’t believe a word of it.

I have found that there is almost no woman, no matter how many pairs of Birkenstocks she owns, no matter how devoted to her organic garden, who does not react with some slight tremor of the heart, some mild increase in blood pressure and dilation of the pupils, on seeing a man — particularly her own man — emerging from a cocoon of olive cotton and stepping forward in the sober costume of authority, his shoulders squared, his posture righted, with crisp collar and cuffs.

Part of the bad rap of suits, among bohemian men and women alike, is that our ostensible nonconformists never seem to picture good suits. They always imagine bad ones: the ones their dad or their first husband wore to tense family events; they picture green double-­breasted ones, or pale grey pinstripes with a waistcoat and slightly flared trousers, all of them hot and stiff and shiny and looking like faded posters for movies set in Atlantic City in the eighties.

I have often taken men, highly resistant men, shopping for their first grown-­up suit. They have tended to be artistic types, writers usually, who have managed to make it well into their thirties without leaving their teenage uniform of jeans and running shoes, and who on occasion have never even learned to tie a tie. Each required a new suit for a special occasion (a wedding, an interview, a book tour), but I think each had also come to a stage in his career that made the suit symbolic of a decision to embrace a new kind of life, a life of success that would have a public component. In short, adulthood.

The procedure was for them fraught with misgivings both ideological and aesthetic. Several of them had old suits hanging in their closets, suits which they had been forced to buy by parents or bosses in previous lives (double-­breasted and green) and which they felt they had to wear, like a kind of absurd, lit-­up party hat, as one of the penances of certain excruciating obligatory events, such as weddings or graduations or Easter church services. They thought — consciously or not — that suits had to be rather tight and hot and itchy and that they had to be unfashionable and, bafflingly, that they had to be in pale colours. The first-­time suit buyer nervously gravitates for some reason toward dove grey and beige. I suspect that this comes out of a fear of formality. My guys felt, instinctively, that a lighter-­coloured suit was a kind of compromise, and that it was more youthful. Charcoal and navy, they thought, were “bankers’ colours,” colours that a young man ­doesn’t feel he can carry off without being rich and grey-­haired.

They could not have been more wrong, of course. If you are buying only one suit, that suit must be versatile, and a pale suit is only wearable in summer, which is not a long season in most of the G8 nations. You can, on the other hand, buy an extremely lightweight navy suit that is wearable year-­round, and you can haul it out for cocktail parties and funerals alike. My friends tended to think that navy was somehow square — until they saw themselves in navy by Boss or Armani or Paul Smith or John Varvatos or the more forward lines of Canali or Zegna. All that defiant contrariness goes away when they come out of the change ­room wearing both jacket and trousers (this is important — you have to see the whole thing) of a soft, lightweight, dark-­coloured new suit of elegant cut, with proper shoes, a white shirt, and a silver tie. They see this in the mirror and they are amazed. Their first expression is always one of surprise verging on shock; this quickly changes to a wide smile. They realize that a new part of themselves has been discovered. They look manly but not old; confident but not conservative.

If the new suit fits you properly, you will not feel “dressed up.” It will not be constrictive or feel unnatural; it ­shouldn’t make you feel self-­conscious or delicate about how you stand or sit. You ­shouldn’t notice it. And neither should other people: they should notice you, how strong and fit and clever you’re looking.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780312361655: Men's Style: The Thinking Man's Guide to Dress

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ISBN 10:  0312361653 ISBN 13:  9780312361655
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books, 2007
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9780771081255: Men's Style: The Thinking Man's Guide to Dress

McClel..., 2005
Hardcover

9780771081262: Men's Style: The Thinking Man's Guide to Dress

McClel..., 2007
Softcover

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