There are few things more satisfying than raising your arm to read the time, and being presented with a perfect triplet of complimentary colours: on your jacket sleeve, on the inch or so of cuff, and on the watch strap. Today that is tan (a houndstooth linen jacket), sky blue (a cotton shirt) and dark brown (leather watch strap). That triplet sums up my outfit for the day; it is its locus.
There are two other obvious loci on the body, which sum up an outfit. The first and most direct is that contained within the gorge of a jacket – the triplet of shirt, tie and lapel. This gets the greatest attention when dressing, and deservedly so. That combination of colours and textures is the first thing that hits people. To distort (and I suppose contradict) an old phrase, it walks into a room almost before the man wearing it.
It is worth spending the time getting that combination correct. But it is unfortunately the area of your outfit you are likely to see least. Unless you spend a large proportion of the day looking into mirrors and shop windows, you are unlikely to be struck pleasantly by how that combination works together.
As such, the wrist is a much more satisfying locus. It strikes you as you glance at the time, as you stretch for the computer keyboard, as you reach out to shake a colleague’s hand. It reminds you of how well your outfit goes together and, perhaps more importantly, of how well your clothes fit. The length of jacket and shirt sleeves have to be exact to get that pleasant combination in all its harmony.
The other, less direct but no less satisfying combination is the trouser/sock/shoe triplet. This mainly reveals itself when you cross your legs, and is therefore probably displayed less often than the wrist. But there is something very pleasing about seeing your grey flannel trousers complemented by dark brown leather brogues and pumpkin-coloured socks. And even without the flare of a tie, or cufflinks, its harmonies are both pleasing and reassuring, akin to catching a fleeting scent of your aftershave.
The last, possible locus is that containing belt, shirt, trousers and tip of tie. While this does sum up an outfit it its harmonious combination, it displays itself rarely to you (given location on the body) and almost as rarely to others (presuming your jacket is buttoned when standing). Plus, you won’t necessarily be wearing a belt everyday, certainly not with more formal outfits and suits.
The style loci have this to teach us: appreciate them, for they are your reward for an outfit well bought and well assembled. And if they do not work, let it irritate you to the point where you have your clothes altered or think more carefully about your combination the next time.