Kindness, sexiness, materialism: Gauthier Borsarello

Monday, August 12th 2019
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Gauthier Borsarello is one of the most refreshing people in menswear today. I hope that came across in our recent piece on his shops and projects in Paris - including Holiday, Le Vif and L’Etiquette magazine. 

What we didn’t get a chance to go into there, however, was his opinions on the industry and how to dress. 

His view that the ‘macho’ image of menswear centring around cigars, whisky and cars is finally dying a death. That consumers are waking up to the lack of authenticity at designer brands. And perhaps most important of all, his aim to write for - and create clothes for - real people. 

Of course, these are things we’ve been banging on about for a long time. The idiocy of the ‘gentleman’ image; the lack of authenticity; the importance of materialism, not consumerism. All historic pieces - the latter actually ranted about in 2010, 2015, and now today. 

But Gauthier often puts many of things much better than me. 

In particular the last point - about clothing for real people.

In interview this week with Aleks Cvetkovic on Handcut Radio (embedded below), Gauthier talks about creating L’Etiquette magazine for the French guy in the small town, who wants to just dress simply but well. 

That guy isn’t obsessed by clothes - but he wants someone that is, to give him some simple advice. 

I feel the same way about many things. I don't know anything about food, or furniture, but I love having friends I can phone that do know something, and can give me good advice.

I can help in return on art, on literature, and certainly on clothes. And I always try to strike a balance on PS between advice for the experienced dresser (which will be too technical or idiosyncratic for some) and advice for the beginner (which the long-time reader will deride saying 'nothing new here’). 

Hence last week, one post measuring every aspect of a €6000 suit; one giving basic style advice on everything from holidays to building sites; and one video on the very practical, unglamorous world of repairing clothes. 

Gauthier presents all these views in the HandCut Radio podcast. I urge you to listen to it, and have embedded it here to make that easier. 

Below, I then take the liberty of picking up some of Gauthier’s points and giving my views. He’s a friend - I know he won’t mind. 

 

 

1. Don’t try too hard

A point I enthusiastically agree with, but have never written about specifically. Clothing is contextual, and looking like you’re trying too hard is a killer. As Gauthier says, don’t be the guy in the three-piece check suit at the water cooler. 

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new things. It will take years to circle around to what you really like. But don’t stress about it too much. It should be expressive and fun.

2. Showing off is not sexy

Perhaps sartorial man’s biggest concern. Do women (or one’s preferred sex) find any of this attractive? Would they just prefer me in a T-shirt and jeans? 

This is a red herring. The sexiest thing is not being fussy (see above) and being kind and confident. Don’t show off. A big watch, a gym-built body, shouty clothing - as Gauthier says none of these things are attractive to educated, intelligent women. Be polite, be considerate, be yourself. It makes much more of a difference. 

3. There are no menswear rules

I love this one, because it’s one I (at least partly) disagree with. 

Gauthier and I agree on most aspects. One, they’re not rules: just habits, the useful experiences of others. Two, there’s a huge danger in focusing on them and not just playing around: many in sartorial menswear do this particularly. And three, visual inspiration, just seeing and trying, is more important. 

But personally, I think knowing them can still be a useful shortcut. Men often only get into good clothes late in life; others have spent decades seeing, learning and consuming. Understanding habits and conventions can be useful in speeding things up - particularly in the narrower world of tailoring.

4. Steven McQueen is not a style icon

Again, a nice controversial one. Gauthier hates Steve McQueen because he was a drunk and abusive. It’s a regular topic in art - can you separate the art from the artist? Should the reputation of Picasso’s painting be affected by the fact he was a misogynist?

Personally, I think it’s about how you frame it. Don’t applaud Picasso, applaud the art. Don’t write books saying how great Steve McQueen was, talking about his films but not his relationships. But nothing wrong with saying you like the way a cardigan looks.

5. Help ordinary people dress well

I want to restate this again. Most readers I meet - at the pop-up, on the street, in consultancy sessions - are middle-aged, successful men who just want to dress well. 

They have other things in their lives - family, work, other very intensive hobbies - and don’t have time to follow dozens of Instagram accounts. They want shops they can trust, quality clothing, and pieces that can do a number of jobs. A good oxford shirt, a good pair of jeans, a good jacket. 

One of the advantages of running PS is the number of people I meet like that and the value I know they get out of it. It sounds like thousands of French men are responding in a similar way to L’Etiquette. It’s great to see. 

Now listen to the interview.

L'Etiquette magazine is available in London in specialist newsagents, though issue 2 is now a little old and not available everywhere. We're now waiting for issue 3.

Image Credits:

  • Yellow corduroy shirt: Sascha Heintze
  • Bucket hat and suit: Robert Spangle
  • Polaroid: Ezra Petronio 

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Ronald

Agree with the points but seems like a big ask to change the culture.
The likes of Alex Kraft & the Rake only seem interested in cars, cigars, cocktails and telling the world how stylish and wonderful they are. And they seem to have a huge audience which means people must like it and it is not dying off.

Ronald

Very much hope you’re right Simon, the world will be more pleasant if that peak becomes a trough.

What’s concerning is that someone like Mr Kraft has 160k Instagram followers & The Rake has many too which makes me think this way of seeing things hasn’t yet peaked.

Nothing wrong with taking an interest in menswear, a nice home, car etc. But there are many other things in life including culture, family & charity to name but three. Constantly showing off about being an ambassador for Cifonelli, owning yet another property/ car/ boat is depressing.

Dario

I honestly don’t see the problem with Kraft’s feed.
If anything, I find his content way more interesting than some other “menswear icons” whose feed has a photo of a watch with an eye watering price tag wrapped around their wrists (I mean, the photo is the wrist only) every other five photos.
But that may be that I really like cars and whisky, and don’t care about watches that much…

Bob

All of the menswear icons are, at the very least, comfortably well-off. That’s one factor that will never change, no matter how hard we try to dress it up in other terms.

David

Personally I don’t think that culture — “macho” or whatever you wish to name it — will go anytime soon, as it’s so fundamentally human (i.e., men at their most insecure). Frankly, I suspect a considerable number of readers are coming from there, and if anything, under the attacks of feminism, it will only get stronger. Anyhow, for what it’s worth, cigars and whisky really are beautiful products that should appeal to any self-respecting PS reader, and a car can be a thing of beauty, too. What’s annoying is the very vain and superficial way in which those people (like Kraft) seem to use those products…

PS: Oh and by the way, “educated, intelligent” women do like a gym-built body… Reminds me of that silly thing Proust said: “Leave the pretty women to men with no imagination.”

Sam Tucker

It’s one thing to enjoy some whisky and a cigar, it is quite another to be smoking a cigar and drinking whisky in order to be seen doing so.

Anonymous

On point 5, are you trying to say that you do help ordinary people or just the well heeled?

As mentioned previously, following your journey has been interesting but your days of recommending Uniqlo for items rather than almost exclusively €6,000 suites was more practical for the ordinary man. I don’t want to rehash the old arguments but it would be nice if there was a UK based blogger with your skills who did aim at those who’s budgets mean they generally have to knock a zero off the cost of your articles. I guess those kinds of stores dont pay the same level of advertisment fees (for margin ads, not influencing content)

Anonymous

Total budget certainly, but would of thought the price per impression or click would be higher for niche retailers and a corresponding niche blog; I wouldnt have thought Uniqlo would pay as much as Drakes for the same slot on a more mid range version of your own site.

Ordinary is relative terms naturally but with the average ordinary person taking home under £2k/month I dont think that “Whitcomb bespoke as a staple and occasionally higher” fits into many people’s definition of ordinary person’s clothes buying ability.

Gabriel

Finally someone that is not afraid to speak his mind. I think the part where he speaks about Pitti summarise the menswear industry nowadays, it became a sick competition and can mention few brands and people that truly are interested on the growth of the industry itself. It suddenly became too easy to open a shop, and say you offer bespoke and handmade products, the media plays a key role on manipulating the public towards this behaviour. This vain behaviour is making even harder for brands trying to do an honest work and offering true quality to stay on business.

Limekiln

I am a fan of Uniqlo for basic items…and funny enough Gauthier Borsarello even refers to it in a tone that is not at all derogatory.
He is an interesting guy but my God is he tiring to listen to. I often listen to podcasts at 1.25x or 1.5x speed, but here I actually had to stop the podcast (at normal speed) for a break from the torrent. It was extremely tiring and stressful to listen to.
Anyway, mostly good content.

jaycel adkins

I enjoyed this podcast very much, particularly Gauthier’s thoughts on style and elegance about 15 minutes into it. Afterwards I came across this sentence by Professor Karen Stohr talking about Chesterfield, “Good manners, like good lighting, make everything look better.” (On Manners, pg. 16) that dotted Mr. Gauthier’s “i” in this podcast.

Ben

“Don’t try too hard”

A trite and hypocritical thing to put in a style advice column. Practiced insouciance is (self) deception in all but name.

NHANS

Please let’s not put this guy on a pedestal.

Criticising Steve McQueen on the one hand on the grounds of his character/relationships and then holding up David Bowie on the other was laugh out loud funny.

John

He also loves Serge Gainsbourg, another angel lol

VSF

Interesting interview. His interest in androgyny is strange in my view. Personally I have no interest in adding a feminine component to how I dress in any way. I’m a man and enjoy very much dressing like one. Last time I checked,real women want men to dress like men as and have no interest whatsoever in beta males or feminized men. Say what you want about Steve McQueen, but that man had an Innate sense of style that was fantastic and women loved him for it. He was called the king of cool for a reason. Yes, he was a jerk at times, but women were crazy about him. So while Gauthier has some interesting points, I wasn’t particularly impressed. Let the French men wear tight clothes, flared pants, and silk shirts all they want while the rest of the real men, Permanent Style readers, will continue to enjoy dressing in an appropriate masculine manner. Gentlemen I can assure you that the women in your lives will appreciate it.

Sam Tucker

I agree completely. Men look best when they look like men. I’d sad so many men associate dressing well with effeminacy. Reinforcing that is the last thing I’d want to do.

As for Steve McQueen, I suppose you could use him to demonstrate the point about clothes and ‘gentlemen.’ He wasn’t a gentleman but he was an excellent dresser.

Scott

Absolutely right! Anything feminine in men’s dress should be avoided completely. The idea that adding some component of the feminine to the way men dress is patently absurd. Dressing in a masculine manner is a great thing and we need more of it. The recent guest post with Peter is a great example of how to dress like a man and look fantastic at the same time.

Scott

Simon, of course there will always be those who want to blur the lines between masculine and feminine concerning clothing in some way. Usually I find people that do that are mostly the fashion cognoscenti of which I’m obviously not one, nor are the vast majority of your readers. So, while I found the Borsarello interview interesting in some respects, I didn’t find it particularly useful as a way of thinking about clothing. From that prospective, Peter’s discussion about his approach to clothing was so much more useful and practical. I think it was Sam who said that men look best when they dress like men and that is my position as well. This interview was very useful to me in that it helped me clarify my thinking a bit more on how I should dress so, thank you for posting it.

Sam Tucker

There are some thing that are considered masculine or feminine for cultural reasons and some things that you might call ‘timelessly masculine.’ Wide shoulders, small hips, height, barrel chests and v-shaped torsos are masculine across all cultures. Clothes that emphasis these features will almost always be considered masculine, with exceptions, such as high heels.

Other clothes are considered either masculine or feminine purely for cultural reasons, and these are often quite arbitrary and can change. Flared trousers are considered feminine for entirely arbitrary reasons, despite having originated in men’s naval uniforms. Ties are considered masculine for equally arbitrary reasons.

I suppose you could consider pleated, high-rise trousers feminine, because they are more common in women’s clothing than men’s now-a-days, but wide-legged, high waisted, pleated trousers do wonders for men with large hips, like myself. They have an inherently masculine look on men like me because they conceal our large hips, giving us a masculine v-shape and making our shoulders look bigger.

Alex

Confession. I read Permanent Style and I’m not a real man. Nor do I seek to attract women.
I do like dressing well. Not sure if I look masculine. Hope not.

VSF

Well Alex, the vast majority of men do want to dress in a masculine fashion and they enjoy it. However, many of these men don’t know how to dress well and this is where Permanent Style can be, and is, so helpful. Also, the vast majority of men are interested in attracting women and recognize that the way they dress does have an impact on them, positively or negatively.

Alex

Speaking as an ‘unreal man’, I don’t know what the masculine fashion that ‘most’ men enjoy is.

Please define.

Another Alex

If these “manly men” are using Steve McQueen as their reference point, then it would appear to mean wearing a white tee covered in engine grease and adopting a mildly irritated air.

VSF

AA, watch the following Steve McQueen movies to get an idea of why he was such a style icon: The Great Escape, Bullitt, The Thomas Crown Affair. Here was a man who looked fantastic in whatever he wore. There’s a lot that can be learned from observing Steve McQueen, he wore his clothes like a second skin.

Another Alex

I have just seen your response to my post, VSF, so apologies for the rather late response. My original post was somewhat facetious, but thank you for the sincere response. I have seen all the movies you mentioned, multiple times. If anybody requires any further illustrations of my “bona fides”, here is a short list of the other Steve McQueen films I have seen: The Magnificent Seven, Papillon, The Getaway, Le Mans, and The Blob (nobody’s finest hour, but fun b-movie schlock). I’ve never been able to sit all the way through The Towering Inferno, nor have I seen some of his more obscure TV and film roles. McQueen was undoubtedly a captivating screen presence and elevated almost every movie in which he appeared. There’s a scene in Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, that rather effectively illustrates this point. I have no issue with McQueen’s iconic status as an actor – what I personally take exception to is the idea that this incredibly flawed human being (and any film or TV personality, really) should be viewed as a barometer for one’s lifestyle choices. The tedious listicles featured in the likes of Mr Porter, GQ and Esquire that regularly drag out the same images and personalities serve to reduce these individuals down to walking mannequins, waving away the troubling aspects of their lives all too easily – in some instances, they unwittingly celebrate that behaviour. You may look at an image of McQueen and see somebody who wore his outfits “like a second skin”, but when I look at him I see a deeply troubled man who channeled his anger and frustration into a number of avenues, some good (The Getaway is a fairly interesting exploration of a man tormented by his inner demons and struggling to contain them, unsuccessfully in some respects – It also features the great Slim Pickens in an all too brief cameo), some damaging to those around him.

Hopefully that doesn’t come across as an attack on those who do revere McQueen, and has clarified my position.

VSF

AA, I concur completely with your assessment that the lifestyle choices of actors, and entertainers in general, should not be celebrated or admired. In fact, I can’t think of a more narcissistic and shallow group of people, which includes musicians and athletes of course. Let’s be honest about Steve McQueen: he was a first class jerk and may well have ended up in prison if acting hadn’t come along. His character, or lack of, should not to be celebrated or emulated is something I think we can agree on. However, we can study how he wore his clothes and learn a lot from that. From that perspective only, Steve McQueen was unique and without peer, in that he looked fantastic and so natural in everything he wore from a t shirt and jeans to a suit. The only guy during his time that came close was Sean Connery and in modern times Daniel Craig, maybe. So I study McQueen, Connery, and Craig for how they wear and move in their clothes and hopefully I can learn something. Even though Steve McQueen has been dead for almost forty years he’s still the gold standard for men in how to dress in a masculine and natural way. And I’d suggest that his influence still extends not just to American men, but men all over the world. I’m always stunned when I hear Japanese men talking about Steve McQueen’s style for example. It’s unfortunate that such a style icon was not a better man and to some, perhaps you, that tarnishes his legacy.

VSF

Personally I think you know exactly what dressing in a masculine fashion or manner is as you’re a PS reader. Now you may not care to do so for your own reasons and that’s completely up to you. Masculine dressing means wearing clothing that fits well, are conservative in color scheme and design, and that are made to last. So, no fast fashion of too tight shirts, pants, or jackets or shiny fabrics; in short, permanent style. There are plenty of photos on the PS website that show what this looks like. The best compendium of pictures and commentary on your question is the recent guest post from Peter which you should refer to, as I do, often. He’s an excellent example of a man who dresses like a man in a masculine manner, enjoys it, and looks great. There’s not a hint of anything feminine in his dress, just simple, beautiful well fitted clothing that suit his lifestyle and body. Perfect!

Alex

VSF, your notion of masculinity and masculine dress is a social construct, particular to your milieu. I hate to break it to you, but I suspect a lot of men would find your approach to dressing ‘effeminate’.

But that doesn’t matter if you’re happy. We all need to enjoy what we’re wearing and not fret about what others chose to wear. In an ideal world would you really want all men to think and dress like you?

VSF

Social construct? Nonsense Alex. I dress the way I dress because I enjoy it. I recommended Peter’s article to you because basically that’s the way I dress, although he does it better than I do. So I suppose that you and the other mythical men you mention would consider that look effeminate? If so, then we have a decided difference of opinion which is perfectly fine.

J

I think we should also add that if you think that dressing in flannels, sports coats and general iGent go-tos etc, Permanent Style will make you more attractive to women, you are insane. Put David Gandy in almost anything and he’s going to pull. No so putting you in Gandy’s suits.

This website, and all of these menswear websites are about geeking out. And that (contrast with passion) is fundamentally unattractive. At best, a woman who is, we’ll assume, not a menswear geek (who shares your fashion sense – and may well not) may think “he dresses well” but that’s about the beginning and end of it. So many things matter more than dressing in classic masculine menswear (whatever that is / I guess Andreas Weinas’ or Alex Kraft’s Insta feed?) in being attractive that is inconsequential to mention.

Now it may be that one loves classic menswear (and I do – in particular AW’s insta, Steve McQueen and the rest), and that dressing that way gives you the confidence, self assuredness and ease of charm which others find attractive – but it won’t be the clothes themselves.

It’s like watch geeks (I am also one) other than denoting wealth if it is a particularly well known brand (only Rolex really, maybe Cartier) or being aesthetically pleasing (in which regard a £10,000 watch can be much like a £100 watch), I don’t think a woman (or man) who isn’t a watch geek will know or be influenced by your Royal Oak – definitely not your IWC. And if you try and explain that it’s a very expensive, a classic design of the post-quartz era etc… you will just sound like a desperate bore and fool. On the other hand, wearing the watch may well make you feel a million dollars – and that can be attractive.

The same would be true for clothes and their effect of the opposite sex. There are plenty of androgynous (or even cross-dressing) men who have bedded scores of women, to attest to that.

VSF

J, there has been no mention of using masculine dressing as a help in bedding women, none. Rather, the observation has been made that dressing in a masculine way is attractive to women, which it clearly is. The topic of women’s attraction to masculine, not macho, men versus androgynous ones has been studied carefully over decades, clearly showing women have a strong preference for masculine men. So, I seriously doubt your assertion concerning androgynous and/or cross dressing men and their success with women. Tell a woman that you’re a cross dressing man and she’ll most likely run for the hills!

Sam Tucker

I thought this quote was interesting. ‘Don’t be the guy in the three-piece check suit at the water cooler.’ Because to me, a large part of dressing well is pushing back against the increasing sloppiness of dress. My grandfather used to always wear a button-down shirt and slacks. When he worked he would always wear a suit or navy blazer and tie. People today dress so poorly, and I feel irked when I see someone I know has lots of money going around looking like they’re homeless.

I admire Reviewbrah. I’m not a huge fan of his over-the-top full cut 40s looking suits, though full cuts do flatter his body type. I admire the -way- he wears his suits. He’s not wealthy and doesn’t pretend to be. He eats at McDonalds and reviews fastfood rather than steak and caviar. He is in every way unpretentious other than dressing nicely all the time. And he dresses well not to be a showoff, but out of respect. He always wants to look presentable for his audience and anyone that sees him. Sometimes he looks absurd, but he never looks pretentious or inauthentic.

Sam Tucker

I think it’s important to find a kind of balance between what you’d like to wear and what your colleagues are wearing. If everyone else is wearing chinos and a shirt, would you consider it over-the-top to wear that but with a navy blazer and wool knit tie? Or if everyone else wears a sport coat but you’d rather wear a suit? Or how about a three-piece or double-breasted suit in a workplace where everyone else is wearing a two-piece suit?

Alex

Why does dressing well equate to dressing smartly?

I like to see people looking good in their clothes. You can do that in anything if you have the skill. Most people wearing a suit and tie look terrible. Most people in evening dress look really terrible. Bad evening dress is a lot uglier than jeans and a t-shirt from the supermarket.

Also, I don’t understand why you would wear a suit out of respect. Respect for what and for whom? Are people who don’t wear suits lacking respect?

Alex

Agreed. Clothing is about context. But surely, if one wants to say wearing a suit is about showing respect the argument can work both ways. That is to say wearing a suit can also be about showing contempt, whether inadvertently or on purpose. This is why seeking to attach associations to a blameless garment serve only to make them more difficult to wear in the wider world.

It should be the job of websites like this, and you actually do it very well, to celebrate the suit for what it is, and in so doing disassociate it from some of its historic baggage and those in the modern world who seek to use it as a crutch for insecure and dysfunctional personalities.

I wear suits every day. I do so, not because I have to, but because I love them for a variety of reasons. I don’t feel the need to justify them by claiming I’m showing more respect for those around me than less ‘smartly’ dressed people. These kind of weird antiquated associations will one day push a plain navy two piece suit into the realm of costume.

Suits are great, but any notion that wearing one makes you a better person is madness. Clothes have no morality. People do. Celebrate the suit. Not its baggage!

Sam Tucker

This is certainly true to an extent, but I when I see a Mark Zuckerberg giving a public presentation in jeans and a t-shirt, I think it’s disrespectful to his audience. If he would wear an open-necked shirt and navy blazer with his jeans, he would look a lot better and like he put in a bit of effort to dress up for the audience. (In all fairness, though slightly off-topic, Mark Zuckerberg has started dressing more appropriately for his public appearances, so I don’t want anyone to think I’m picking on him unfairly.)

Wearing a suit doesn’t make you a better person, and there are times overdressing is disrespectful, but there are times where dressing down is completely inappropriate.

VSF

Well said Simon, particularly the last sentence. Dressing well and appropriate to the situation is the hallmark of the well mannered and well bred adult. To show up in jeans and a tee shirt while everyone else is dressed in suits would certainly be considered rude, disrespectful and inconsiderate and properly so. The offender would not be well received, nor should he be.

Alex

VSF, you make my point very well.

Unfortunately, in my experience, if you wear a suit beyond the office, a lot of people make the assumption you do indeed subscribe to this sort of snobby guff. It makes wearing them more difficult in the modern world.

VSF

Alex, if I recall correctly, you said that you really enjoy wearing suits. So, as long as the situation is appropriate why wouldn’t you wear one? Now you’re right that a lot of people may think it odd, even snobbish, that you wear a suit, but so what. I’d suggest that the people who think that way are the problem, not you. They know that they should have dressed appropriately, but didn’t, indicating laziness, lack of good manners etc. You, on the other hand, show good taste, manners and respect by dressing well and it will be noticed in a good way. You’re not the problem, they are!

Alex

VSF, I genuinely don’t understand the insistence of some, such as yourself, in associating the suit with moral rectitude. I’m no longer trying to debate the point. I just really want to understand your thinking better.

Until not that long ago, all men wore suits, whether bishops, judges, criminals or drug addicts. Inevitably, this meant all manner of crimes and misdemeanours were committed by men in suits. Therefore, it surely can’t be from history that this association of the suit with morality comes.

In modern times, many of the most serious crimes in our society, such as fraud, corruption and genocide, are committed by men who are habitually seen wearing suits. So, once again I struggle to see where this oft repeated connection with morality originates.

In answer to the point you made, you’re absolutely right, I shouldn’t care what people think of me, but for better or worse, like most humans, I do. It is why I like the suit to be as free of unnecessary associations as possible. It makes wearing them easier more of the time. Which is why I don’t understand the desire of some to make them a symbol of a certain sort of virtue, for which, as far as I can see, there appears to be little justification.

I look forward to your response. I’ve enjoyed the back and forth.

VSF

Alex, no one in this discussion has said that wearing a suit was a sign of virtue and/or morality. Criminals used to commit crimes in suits and now they commit crimes in jeans and shorts. The points that I and others have tried to elucidate are as follows: people look better well dressed than poorly dressed; people respond better to well dressed people compared to poorly dressed ones; being well dressed shows a level of maturity and respect for the people around you; dressing poorly on purpose is a sign of immaturity and lack of respect for the situation and the people around you; dressing well and in a masculine way is very enjoyable and looks fantastic.
So I would encourage you to enjoy wearing a suit or a sport coat; it’s not a chore, but rather a pleasure. If you’ve taken Simon’s wise advice and focused on fit then, you know that wearing tailored clothing is very comfortable. I too have enjoyed the back and forth.

Joel

There’s one point that I find not many style content creators speak much about. What’s the influence of what you wear in how your environment perceives you. And when they do speak about it, it’s usually only in a warning way: “If you’re just the little accountant in a 3 pieces suit, she won’s think you’re sexy, rather that you’re weird”. Sure.
But what of dressing smartly, just a little bit above your coworkers? Is there a difference in perception if you add an odd jacket to a jean / shirt outfit, instead of some nice knitwear for instance? Should you pick one over the other? Yes, one is more formal, one is more casual; but how does this affect how others see you? Still in that optic, what’s the different to your neighbour’s eye between a perfectly fitted bespoke and an altered of the rack?
There’s already been some experiment, such as someone in rags falling in the middle of the street with close to no one helping him/her, whereas if you take the same person dressed smartly, they’ll get help really fast.
What’s your experience of it? Do you experience a switch in how you’ll be treated wherever you go with a 6000€ suit vs a 600€ one? Do you intentionally dress cheaper to go to a pub to avoid negative comments (or a spilled drink accident), or do you simply go to other establishment where smart dressing is the rule rather than the exception?
When do you intentionally overdress – dress slightly over – on paar – underdress in comparison to the environment you’ll be in, and why? Did you do some mistakes in that regard? How easy is it to miss-step?
I think it’d do for a nice and instructive article

Joel

Hi Simon,
A full piece would indeed be nice in my opinion. And your suggestion of asking some of your friend would make for a great addition, to have the experience and point of view from more people.

Anonymous

I do think that dressing down is a rather interesting point as well.
I am naturally more likely than my mates to be in a collar, I tend to be one up on the smartness level…

That being said I am also cursed with a pretty horrific case of RP, that is closer in line with Reese-Mogg than the BBC…

Due to this I do find myself in a position where I dress down, and would feel uncomfortable if that were not the case… There is a societal impression being formed and I want to appear casual to put myself, and others, at ease. I find that dress is the best medium to do this, rather than affecting a “Streetonian” patois which I believe to be belittling and rude.

Daniel

Hello Simon, Really enjoyed listening to this on the tube last evening. Completely agree with the comment about Steve McQueen. Being a real (gentle) man is so much more than what you wear. It is how you behave and how you treat others.. and is so important as we go through rather unsettling times on both sides of the pond.

Anonymous

Simon the art & literature commentator as well! What a refined young man 😉

Philip

There are a lot of old and not very attractive comments, in this page, about dressing to be attractive to women. How about men being attractive to men? I could only find one passing comment, by Simon, on this issue. If people are dressing to be attractive to others, we shouldn’t crowd out the gay population. When people write on here about ‘real men’, I begin to worry. Gay men are real men too.

Alex

Well said. Such absurd notions of ‘masculinity’ and ‘real men’ serve only to harm all men in numerous ways.

Let’s love clothes and forget all the other baggage that the world attempts to force on us.

J

Totally agree, and with Alex’s earlier comments. Anyone referring to “beta” males, per the earlier comments worryingly brings the world of Jordan Peterson et al into the world of men’s style. If that’s where this isn’t heading, leave me out.

VSF

J, the only person to bring Jordon Peterson into the conversation was you. The context of the discussion in this case was that women don’t care for beta males or effeminate men which is true, they don’t. Now you can disagree with that statement if you wish, but the facts are not on your side. Women, in general, like men who dress like men, that’s a fact. Once again you may disagree, but the research shows otherwise.

David

I find it a little bit sad that in a place that celebrates authenticity, to some extent tradition and even common sense, as opposed to the superficial, highly ideological world we live in, we still have to endure that kind of political correctness on account of a few people who, it seems, just crave to be the center of attention. It is only a fact of life that men in their essence want to be attractive to women: stating this is in no way “old” or demeaning to others who happen to have a different sexual orientation. Why do you people always have to hijack every goddamn conversation and try to take center stage? The pressure is such that even the author of all these very interesting articles, on his own website, has to cave in in a way and add “(or one’s preferred sex)” so as not to “offend” anybody.
Sorry, Simon, for bringing this up, I know this is not the place, but it bothers me and I’m sure I’m not the only one. And there have been similar comments before, I remember some in particular attacking Bruce Boyer, and I think we should be less tolerant of that sort of things.

Alex

The point is that we all ought to be able to enjoy clothes in any way we chose.

Choosing to narrow the sorts of clothes we can legitimately wear and who ought to wear them takes the fun out of it.

It’s an argument about clothes and in celebration of clothes.

David

I think if we’re reading this website, it’s precisely because we realize at some point that you can’t just wear anything and everything: there are rules, traditions, manners; there’s also taste, however difficult that is to define. Clothes have a very real impact on the way you bear yourself and the way you’re perceived by others.

Menswear like everything else today (arts in particular) reflects today’s society and one of its core conflicts, namely the problem of rules vs. personal expression — the Establishment vs. the Individual. Over the 20th century people, especially in the West, have come to equate rules with an old, backwards society: fascism, in short. They think being eccentric will make them look independent or even “subversive” or “disruptive”, which is ridiculous in my opinion. That’s what Bruce Boyer harps on and why he’s vilified by some (who then go on to claim that as a white, hetero male, his only aim is to support the patriarchy and whatnot). That “you can do whatever you want” mentality is a product of mass marketing, and in this day and age, becoming a discerning man, educating yourself and others just like Simon is doing, now that’s being independent and, in a way, disruptive. Of course it’s not going to be as readily noticeable by others as wearing eccentric clothes, and certainly too much effort for many people, but that’s the way to go, at least as far I’m concerned.
Again, apologies to Simon for insisting about that. I won’t comment further on this topic.

Alex

David, the ‘rules’ as framed by your original point haven’t been disposed of they’ve been changed, as has happened through out human history. I think this is a good thing, you may not. That is where the debate lies.

VSF

If I may disagree Alex:I don’t think the rules have changed, rather they’re being ignored. People instinctively know that good manners, dressing properly, and other rules, are necessary, but this takes effort. So in many cases these “old” rules are simply being ignored by certain parts of the population, for a number of different reasons, and the people who follow them vilified in some manner. David’s comments are very astute, accurate, and adult and are worth paying attention to.

David

Alex, everybody knows and accepts that things evolve over time, and it’s just silly to frame this as a pro- or against-change debate. Actually what you’re doing here is subtly trying to position yourself on the side of “Good and Progress” (which you would probably oppose to all those evil, old, white, hetero party poopers, clinging to their “white privilege”, whatever that is). Rules indeed have to be adapted constantly, otherwise they become irrelevant, and when they do, they are discarded, or at least should be: that’s what Simon says all the time about understanding where those rules came from in the first place. But anyway that’s not the point, because what I was talking about is all those people today who see themselves as a kind of millenarian prophets and who are not content with the natural evolution of things but rather try to force change upon the rest of the society, often against all common sense. Their idea of a better world, which of course they’re instrumental in bringing about, is just some kind of big shopping mall in which everything is monetized and hence interchangeable, and in which they can do whatever they please, with no consequences and without having to be held accountable. They’re nothing other than big children and that has been the driving force behind mass marketing for a long time. Anyhow, I know I talk too much but I will just add that when I go out to, say, a fancy bar or a nice restaurant with my girlfriend, it’s a special occasion for the two of us because we don’t have time or money to do that more often, and when people come in wearing flip-flops, distressed shorts and hoodies, it downgrades the experience for everybody else. It just kills the imagination, drags us back to our everyday, pedestrian world. Now you could say it’s their right and that I’m oversensitive. I’m not, but I wish people would care just a little bit more.

Alex

David, you’re arguing against a point I don’t think I made. The original commenter expressed irritation that others on the thread had talked about ‘real’ men in such narrow terms that it excluded gay men which by inference suggests they are not real men. I agreed with that point, whereas you, I don’t think, did.

I think it is perfectly understandable that many find such exclusionary sentiments upsetting. There has been a lot of talk in this thread about good manners. Surely, allowing everyone to be a part of the community that enjoys Simon’s website is simple, old fashioned, authentic, traditional good manners. Which in many ways is the true meaning of the tiring if popular cliche, ‘politically correct’.

I don’t in the least bit mind people expressing views I dislike but I do think it perfectly legitimate that I and others should seek to argue against them. Unfortunately, some commenters on this website seem to think it should be just for them and people exactly like them.

I prefer to believe we can all enjoy the pleasure of clothes together.

David

Alex, you keep doing the same thing, preaching open-mindedness, inclusiveness, and so on. Sorry, I’m not buying that. Nobody talked about gay men before that original commenter you refer to brought it up. He’s the one who framed his comments as coming from an “unreal” man. You remember what I said earlier about hijacking the conversation (in quite a narcissistic manner, I should add)? Well there it is. And for what it’s worth, you can be homosexual and still come across as masculine, and in fact many “manly” icons such as Steve McQueen, Marlon Brando or Paul Newman were notorious for going both ways.

Scott

Alex, what are you talking about? The original commentator made no mention of exclusion at all. He referred to real men as Permanent Style readers actually so how in the world do you consider that exclusionary? No mention was made,or implied, as far as I can tell of excluding homosexuals from enjoying discussing clothing until you and another reader brought it up and tried to hijack the conversation, as David astutely observed, for your own purposes. So, let’s all focus please on the subject near and dear to the heart of PS readers, fine clothing and the enjoyment of it and save the political agenda for a another more appropriate venue.

Scott

Bruce Boyer has forgotten more about quality clothing, style, and good taste then I know. That man is a treasure and someone who should be listened to and studied carefully. Another man that falls into this category is Luciano Barbara who has outstanding style and fantastic taste. Both of them are older men, but are excellent examples of getting better with age.

Scott

Thanks for bringing this up David, but try not to get too upset about it. In any social group there will always be someone who has an agenda, usually political. Fortunately most of the time the merry band of PS readers avoid that sort of thing and focus on the matter at hand: learning about, discussing, and enjoying quality clothing. In this particular instance we’ve had the element of political correctness introduced, as you point out, into the discussion unfortunately. However, the discussion has still been very worthwhile and beneficial, even with the pc agenda folks hijack attempts.

Chris

As someone without the financial resources of probably some of this blogs readers , i was quite inspired by this. One thing that struck me as interesting was combining some vintage pieces with new- accessories were an obvious one, but it got me wandering about the feasibility of getting a vintage suit or item altered to fit me if I found in high enough quality.
1. I am curious about the feasibility or this – has anyone ever tried? Would it essentially work the same as buying off the rack and getting alterations..?
2. Is it sacrilege to get something beautiful and storied altered?

Chris

Thanks Simon.
This makes sense – perhaps at the least vintage could be an interesting source for outerwear, odd trousers, and maybe a few pairs of fine shoes for me as I grow my collection- it’s broadened my mind a little to even see this as an option.

I’m really glad you posted this interview. Obviously some folks here found it a bit “fashion” which, I can see, but I always appreciate hearing new ideas as to how we can look at menswear, and how we contextualise ourselves and our clothes.

Sam Tucker

Ties are probably the best thing to buy vintage. I got a 50/50 claret mohair/wool knit tie from Land’s End (probably not quite the bespoke luxury you usually see on this blog but a quality tie nonetheless) at my local thrift store for CAD$3. I’ve bought about half a dozen other ties from the store, most of them around ten dollars, and mostly handmade in America, Britain, Italy or my own country. The nice thing about ties is that there isn’t really any issue with fit; unless you’re unusually short or tall or the tie is absurdly large or small, just about any tie will fit anyone.

Paul F

Chris, it is indeed very possible. If you are not experienced in it (as there is a steep learning curve in buying vintage/2nd hand tailoring), do try to go to shops to try clothes on rather than to order online. The online pool is obviously much larger in terms of choices and you’ll certainly find something for you but it is pretty difficult to get the sizing right. Even if you do know your measurements (or rather those of the jacket/suit that fits you the best), people might not be measuring exactly the same way and/or the tailor might have cut the suit differently.

All in all, it’s quite important to try on before you buy something vintage/second hand. I’ve done that quite a bit in the past, including some prime pieces by Claude Rousseau (former cutter at Camps and Cifonelli), Cifonelli, Smalto, Richard James Bespoke, Rubinacci bespoke, etc. The most knowledgeable man I know on the topic is Dirnelli on Instagram who’s bought 200+ suits online/in vintage/2nd hand shops.

Very briefly because it’s a vast subject, ensure the length and the shoulder width is fine for a jacket, sleeve lenght as well if possible. The rest can more or less be altered well. Don’t bother if any of the abovementioned parts is not fitting because it will be more than a headache to alter properly.

To sum it up:
– Take your best fitting suit/jacket
– Take precise measurements (check on websites such as Luxire if you’re unsure of how to measure)
– Compare online if that’s what you intend to do or rather go to shops
– Note the sizes you’re wearing with a certain maker and use that when you’re browsing through shops as it might help you save time
– Have a budget in mind and don’t go overboard. There are usually some really nice deals to be made in vintage. I remember buying a mint condition bespoke cream dinner jacket by Francesco Smalto for 500€ (the price would have been in excess of 6000€ originally). There are also people selling 2nd hand Liverano for 2000€, I wouldn’t buy that as you can afford entry-level bespoke or good level MTM for that price.

Hope that helps

Neil

Asserting that ‘intelligent women’ aren’t attracted to gym-built bodies’ seems peculiar. Sure, not many folks gravitate to hulking, competitive bodybuilder physiques (though, amusingly, a colleague teaching at Cambridge’s boyfriend is a fitness model), but plenty lean towards well-proportioned, fit builds – in part because they’re so much easier (and more affordable) to dress well, which I would think would appeal to many PS readers.

John

Gauthier offers such a refreshing voice and perspective. I love tailoring but I’m exhausted by the influencers who constantly post pictures in suits with cocktails and cigars, and other overtly masculine references. (I’ve noticed that almost all of the “manly” influencer style guys have high pitched effeminate voices but maybe I just made that up).

Anonymous

Key to Gauthier’s and reader’s comments seems to be the historic divide between continental and anglo-american cultures. Some readers wish to see this through the lens of identity politics (real men, beta males etc.) but I think this a mistake. For example there is a definitive difference in style between London and Paris: London is a little more street – edgy and a little grimier. Paris – more subtle, sleeker more fashion orientated (vs. trad style). This though, is really just slightly different versions of cultural expression. Historically, this differential runs back to the renaissance, reformation and counter-reformation. One only has to visit the churches of Northern and Southern Europe to ascertain the aesthetic differences. Austere in the North; decorated, detailed, colourful in the South. It is a subject that resonates throughout art history. Given the ‘Atlantic divide’ it is therefore not surprising that Gauthier takes a dislike to Steve McQueen – an American icon certainly – one which advertisers such as Belstaff and Ford continue to rely upon. McQueen’s appeal, as a dare-devil, racer, and ex marine formulated a persona of an anti-hero in an age of hedonistic counter-culture. To take his behaviour as unusual or wrong is to remove him from the 60’s environment of drug experimentation, sexual revolution and Vietnam war. His troubled, dyslexic, tough, abandoned, brought-up-in-care, criminal background speaks of a past that Gauthier has made little effort to understand and he therefore seems to preach from a pulpit of comfort. Arguments for and against rules, showing off etc. can be made but I think it better to leave others to set their own agenda – it’s their life. It’s always a little uncomfortable when those that claim liberal views deny others the right of their own (however misguided) behaviour. Lastly ‘helping others’: good when others seek or need help but self-congratulatory when one looks at others and assumes they need help because dressing well may not, evidently, be their priority. It assumes a superiority of aesthetic style or knowledge which, if steeped in bespoke may have a structural basis, but with regards to fashion will always be subjective.

Jan Willem

Ha! Brilliant

Paul F

Very well put

Jason

I find this absolutely hilarious.
Here we have an article and interview with a flaneur who likes to pretend that he’s not a flaneur but if he is, he’s a different and therefore better flaneur than the other flaneurs.
Other flaneurs then write in to criticise flaneurs that they don’t like because they smoke cigars, drink whisky and have nice cars. A flaneur named Mr.Kraft seemed particularly to get it in the neck as does the dear departed Steve McQueen.
Flaneurs, can we all get over ourselves, we are all flaneurs otherwise, we wouldn’t be here reading and writing about this stuff.
Being a flaneur doesn’t make you a narcissist but perhaps being a flaneur who pretends he is not one risks to make you the biggest narcissist of all.

Anonymous

Brilliant!

Stephen

I was interested to see the volume (is this a record Simon?) and range of comments. I think if nothing else the the post is worthwhile for engendering a diverse debate and something to be applauded. To paraphrase a quote ‘ I may not agree with what you say , but will fight to the death [all be it not literally ! ] for your right to say it’. Plus I learnt something new, the term , Flaneurs was new to me!
Simon, I have been meaning to thank you for the ideas/ suggestions from your pictures for putting outfits together. Specially around cost and brand. Something I try to do ( again where your posts are helpful) and my wife is brilliant at doing, is mixing up true investment pieces with something less expensive. An example from my wardrobe : a Merchant Fox jacket from their ‘pop up’ store, a drake’s shirt (from the sales) regular 501 Levi jeans, Uniqlo lambswool cardigan and Crockett & Jones shoes (sometimes Clarke’s desert boots). It can be done on a reasonable budget.
Otherwise as one of your commentators said, we sometimes need to get over ourselves. One final health warning ‘cigars and whiskey ‘ vs the gym body.

Joseph

In many respects different, but at the same time carrying a certain kinship with PS. This interview is very good food for thought.

Now that you mentioned it, Simon, PS has been very focused on advising men how to dress well. But do you have advice to spare for men who may be thinking of seriously pursuing a passion in menswear, whether through design, craft, journalism, or entrepreneurship? Perhaps, as a separate article?

Joseph

I (as well as a lot of readers, I believe) look forward to that piece. Cheers

Felix

Somewhat unrelated and maybe a little philosophical, but noticing people here arguing about how “real men” dress and drink whiskey made me think about this: Instagram’s AI has detected my interest in men’s style and now occasionally suggests sites like @mensfashionvids (or similar), which feature muscular men with super tight semi-classical clothes and extremely accurate beards and haircuts. This has a very Geordie Shore-like vibe that I can’t relate to, but then again – do you think there really is a categorical difference between what I guess is your target audience and these people, other than more or less subtle (and likely slightly classist) differences in taste, and the fact that people who afford bespoke usually don’t have the time for daily gym sessions? And if yes, how would you phrase it? I see all the minor aspects, the appreciation for craft and heritage, maybe the knowledge of cultural legacy – but in the end, what’s really the difference between being delighted by the reflection of your formidable suit or your huge pectorals in a shop window. I hope my point comes across. Thanks for your great work on this site!

Felix

Thanks for your quick reply – I see you do indeed work late!

Maybe one day you’ll find time to write a piece about how brands and producers (and consumers) deal with these issues of taste, which to me seem to be gradual rather than categorical. How do you remain relevant and on the height of taste without snobbery, how do you avoid being appropriated by a tasteless audience, how to balance mass appeal (for commercial success) and the pitfalls of vulgarity. How much longer will you wear your Belgian loafers now that they have become a favorite of the muscle bros 🙂 ?

Have a nice evening!

Anonymous

On your last point, I would point out based on observation that those interested in classic, subtle menswear care just as deeply about what others think — if not more.

Perhaps Simon you mean that those with flashy suits and muscles *look* as if they’re trying too hard to impress others? Both parties try hard, but with flashy people, it’s distastefully obvious to society?

Felix

What I would also find very interesting are your personal experiences with originally classical things falling out of good taste.

E.g., over the last years I had this with double monks, which at some point I wouldn’t want to wear any longer observing them to become a favorite of the flashy types described above, or with certain metal/horn panto glasses after they became a hipster barista cliche. I realize its snobbery, but is this something you can relate too?

Daniel

Hi Simon,
Forgive me if I have misinterpreted this but have listened a couple of times. Gauthier referred to “culture before money” which is a brilliant phrase and why I found his comments about going to Rolex and Cartier to burn money (his words) a little jarring.

Christopher

I followed your recommendation and listened to the podcast! Marvellous inspiring!

Alexander

It is surprising to me how emotionally Gauthier´s opinions were discussed here. As a regular reader I felt his opinions were agreeable and well put. They were familiar and refreshing at the same time. Always nice when you kind of always knew about something, but somebody more eloquent helps you putting your thought into words that stick.
The only thing I am highly sceptical about is calling luxury items like diamonds intrinsically valuable. My knowledge about diamonds goes as far as a DiCaprio hollywood-film but still I´d say this point is at least debateable. I am sure that there is a huge marketing strategy about the perceived value of diamonds (gold etc.). Although I totally agree with the idea about a well understood form of materialism, which is a different topic for me.