Thank you to all of you that took the time to respond to the question I posed in my last posting, on the best material for odd trousers – something between flannels and jeans. You’ll be pleased to hear that I found a good compromise in a pair of dark khaki cotton trousers from Zara. Not the most luxurious pair in the world, but then they are an experimentation still. The next pair may be made by Mr Tam in Hong Kong.
Cotton trousers are clean and crisp, yet light and casual enough to do without a crease, for example, and be more casual. This weekend, to use one commentator’s advice, they may find themselves paired with loafers. Perhaps even Converse, which are the only trainer slim and simple enough to work with trousers such as these.
The shoes and the accessories are as important as the clothes they complement. And given that my tastes are always screaming for an opportunity to wear a pocket handkerchief, everything else needs to run down the other end of the spectrum.
The responses to my question also highlighted a thought I often have – the surprising extent to which the people around us affect what we wear and what we think about what we wear.
This has several levels. First, working in an office will have its own dress code and expectations. In mine many people wear jeans. Senior management wear suits, but a t-shirt and jeans are perfectly acceptable in junior staff. I dress smarter than most, and give it more thought than most. But given the low average, the upper reaches of sartorial expression are probably inadvisable. I should have described these circumstances in detail in my question, as they affect the answers more than anything else.
Second, most people have insecurities and fears, no matter how small, about their clothes. Especially if they put a lot of thought into them. Every stylish man has moments he would rather forget in his past, and is a little afraid of it happening again. You check yourself in shop windows, tug at that handkerchief even though you know you shouldn’t, or straighten and tighten your tie. Confidence builds with age and experience. But it’s a long time to wait.
Third, other people affect you in subtle ways no matter how confident you are. Would you wear a handkerchief so often if everyone else did? Absolutely everyone else? You might like to think you’d feel gratified that everyone embraced a piece of clothing you love so much. But would it hold quite the same importance for you? And how about if no one else wore the same thing? Not in magazines, not across history – if it had no precedent, all of a sudden? Does it not almost entirely determine your impression of an item of clothing?
No matter how confident we are, what we see around us affects our more than we realise or would wish. The question I posed is one of personal taste, only to a certain extent. Fuddy-duddiness is a question of attitude, only to a certain extent. After all, we see what other people wear far more than we see our own outfits.