I am aware that as my interest in fine men’s clothes progresses, and my education improves, the subjects on which I write can become more esoteric, even academic. Witness recent posts on the Blake construction of shoes and the minutiae of darts in trousers.
Wonderful as these facets of knowledge are, they make less and less difference to how good a man looks – and how long his clothes last. Having a hand-lasted shoe is great, but the difference between that and normal benchmade shoes is smaller than the difference between benchmade and cheap, glued products.
You don’t have to buy bespoke shoes or bespoke suits to look great. And the improvements you make on basic off-the-peg will make the biggest change to how you look.
So here are my tips for the man that wants to take it up a notch:
– Switch to made-to-measure suits. Save bespoke for when you make partner. Just find a great made-to-measure suit maker (A Suit That Fits, say, Suit Supply, or one of the many such tailors that wander around city offices offering their services.) The improvement on ready-to-wear is marked.
– Look after that suit. Hang it up at the end of the day, wear it no more than twice a week, brush it down occasionally and only dry clean it twice a year. Steam press it in between if it gets wrinkled.
– Buy benchmade shoes. As much as they may be disparaged on this and other style sites, good benchmade shoes from Loake, Cheaney or Grenson are a big jump up from the basic, glued, curly-toed, slip-on ones you bought in Shelly’s.
– Look after those shoes. Put shoe trees in after you’ve worn them, brush them down at the end of every day and don’t wear them two days in a row. They’ll look good and last three times as long.
– Buy expensive ties in conservative patterns and colours. In my opinion, expense shows off best in ties and in shoes. So spend more than you think you should on ties from the great tie makers. Not Armani, not Prada; but Hermes, Charvet, Bulgari. Wait until the end of the Ralph Lauren sale, when all the ties are reduced to £25, and pick on a Purple Label one reduced from £95. They just hang better.
– If you wear a pocket handkerchief, don’t scrimp there either. Wearing one is a signal that you think about your clothes and are willing to be noticed for it. Buy good quality white linen to start with. Then some dark colours – burgundy, forest green – and a pale blue, all in conservative patterns.
– Finally, match your socks to your trousers. Buy grey socks and blue socks. Not black. And make sure they are full-calf length.
Follow all of these rules and you will not extend your budget or your wardrobe dramatically. But you will be a hell of a lot better dressed.