Friday, 12 April 2013

Four current trends you should try

This blog is, emphatically, not about current trends. The fads that come and go from catwalks and the pages of GQ are of little interest to really stylish men. All the same, fashion is cyclical and so its inevitable that, sometimes, things that we consider 'stylish' and 'classic' will, almost by accident, end up also being fashionable. When that happens, you can take a quiet pleasure in being as stylish as always, but with the added joy of being just very slightly 'on-trend' as well. Here are my top four trends that are worth trying this year:

Pins, bars and clips
I don't know whether it's the Mad Men effect, the hipster love of vintage, or just retailers delight in being able to sell more pricey accessories, but men's style magazines are absolutely in love with tie bars and collar pins at the moment. Don't overdo them (and don't wear both at once) but a simple tie bar does look smashing, and collar pins are awesome with a reasonably slim tie. Although any shirt can be pinned if you're happy to stick holes in it, shirts with reinforced holes designed in to them are mostly only available in white, or at least white collars. I suppose that makes sense since it nods to the fact that last time collar pins were in fashion collars were probably all detachable.

While the collar can't be very cutaway, avoid those shirts with collar points that come almost straight down, or with very high collars. In fact, slightly rounded collars are a classic look that can look great with a pin. As far as the pin itself goes, specifically designed double-pointed rods with screw on ends are easily available, but a large safety pin does the job and has a nicely laid-back look.

Elbow Patches
I've been asked about elbow patches a few times, and I get more and more searches related to them. Over the last year or so they seem to have really taken off, particularly in the sort of Americo-British public-school/preppy world. Hackett, Ralph Lauren, Massimo Dutti, and even New and Lingwood offer both jackets and knitwear with elbow patches on. Hackett is even doing shirts with them.

Although not to be overdone, I do like their slightly louche, battered look. In Winter they seem particularly appropriate on the sort of heavy tweed jackets that look as if they've been worn and repaired for decades (when in fact they were bought yesterday on Jermyn street), while in the Summer, in a light-coloured suede, they're a nice addition to linen or cotton jackets or lightweight knitwear.

Bow Ties
I think it was 'shortlist' magazine that, this week, did a little feature on top bow ties to wear. In one paragraph it suggested that you could show how on-trend you are this summer by wearing one with a short-sleeved shirt and tailored shorts.

Don't do that.

Do, however, consider wearing them with a suit. Bow ties have always been awesome, but always tough to pull off, especially for younger men. This year, at least, you can take advantage of the fact that you might not actually be the only person in your tube carriage wearing one. You probably will, however, be the only person wearing a properly tied, elegant silk one with a beautiful tailored suit.
Best of both worlds.

Three-piece suits
James Bond wears them, Roger Sterling wears them, Harvey Specter wears them. Is it surprising, then, that everyone from Topman to Ralph Lauren is churning out three-piece suits at a rate of knots? Nope. Of course, as a well-dressed man you've probably been wearing waistcoats for years but, if not, take a few bits of advice that most people don't understand:
  • Your trousers need to be higher-waisted than you'd usually like. I'm sorry, I know high-waists aren't cool, but noone will know when you're wearing a waistcoat and it's far better than worrying about the fact that a bit of shirt keeps appearing in the gap between your waistcoat and your waistband.
  • You almost certainly need to wear braces. Sure, it's possible to wear a belt with a waistcoat (I think Mr Sterling does it) but it tends to either be visible between the waistcoat the trousers, or create a bulge underneath the waistcoat. I'm not sure which is worse. Far better to go for braces which will keep your trousers at just the right level all day.
  • Don't do up the bottom button. There's no good reason for this beyond a bit of fashion that's stuck around. It's just one of those things you need to do. It also makes the first point particularly important.

If you're especially stylish, you can improve the standard three-piece suit by either adding a lapel to the waistcoat, or making it double-breasted. Both are fantastic traditional looks which some of the big brands are catching on to, and which are easier to find off-the-peg than they would have been even a couple of years ago. At the cheaper end, Charles Tyrwhitt (pictured above) is doing very well at taking the lead in this sort of thing. Otherwise, Hackett is always a good bet.


  1. Not sure if its appropriate - but might you do a feature on today's funeral. Some real contrasts between those who made an effort (Hague & IDS both wore morning dress, IDS with a slipped DB waistcoat) and those who didn't (Ken Clarke, Douglas Hurd, Conrad Black). Also funny who did and didn't wear morning dress (i.e. Simon Heffer did, Henry Kissinger didn't!). We will never go back to the time where all MPs wore morning coats or strollers, but events like this give an idea of the simple elegance some formalwear.

    1. Anon - I considered it, but it didn't feel quite appropriate to me, and also I'm not sure it would differ all that much from my previous commentary on how people dressed at the Royal Wedding except, I suppose, with more black ties and waistcoats.


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