Flash vs fuddy

Friday, June 18th 2021
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Here's an idea.

I reckon men face two, polarised dangers in their style that we haven't discussed before, or at least not formalised.

One is being too flash or showy; the other is appearing too old-fashioned - a ‘fuddy duddy’. 

When guys wear shoes that are too pointy, trousers that are too tight, or shirts unbuttoned just a bit too far, they risk looking flash. 

But equally when they favour high-waisted trousers, fedoras and braces, they can risk looking too ‘fuddy’. (It’s a word now - I like the alliteration too much.)

In many ways these are two extremes of a spectrum. Like formal vs informal, or urban vs rural. 

This crystallised for me recently in a conversation about loafers. 

My interlocutor expressed a dislike of my Belgravia tassel loafers because they were a little ‘flash’. Tassels, for them, were associated with toffs and playboys. 

However, they also weren’t a fan of my Alden LHS loafers. For them, the Alden loafer was too wide, too chunky, too reminiscent of an old man’s slipper. 

The perfect loafer for them - we discovered, after a bit of internet show-and-tell - was the Edward Green Piccadilly. All the slimness of the Belgravia, but without the tassels. The perfect mid-point between flash and fuddy. 

(Below, top to bottom: Belgravia, Piccadily, Alden LHS)

Of course the two extremes have their attractions as well. That’s why men tend towards them. 

The ‘flash’ end of the spectrum feels like it has more obvious style. It’s sexy, out there, saying something. It’s an easier look to sell, not least because it always looks good on a model, even if not on everyone else.

It feels young - and indeed to some extent this spectrum could be seen as between perceptions of young and old. 

The ‘fuddy’ end is more classic and elegant. It’s traditional, and so often seen as more authentic. Its charms are also often subtler, and therefore it can be seen as more sophisticated and intelligent. 

PS readers will tend towards this end of the spectrum. But our familiarity with it also means we know it can go too far. Whether it’s the classic menswear of pinstriped suits and tie pins, or the vintage dressing of flight jackets and cargo pants, it always has the potential to become period.

So how do you avoid getting too close to either extreme?

Mostly, by choosing moderate versions of a style, by not pushing anything too far. Wear higher waisted trousers, but not up under the ribs and not with braces. Wear tasselled loafers, but not too pointy or flimsy, and perhaps in brown suede rather than alligator. 

In fact that last example is a useful one to illustrate this balance. 

Brown suede is a pretty dowdy, dull material. There’s nothing shiny or exotic about it. In a double-soled derby, it can look pretty stodgy. Which makes it the ideal material to make some tassel loafers look less Eurotrash. 

This balance comes up a lot in PS articles, such as our recent one on white jeans. There I suggested as white jeans can risk looking flash, it’s good to have a slightly looser leg, a higher rise, and always a slightly off-white colour. 

Clothing also looks less extreme when it’s clearly practical. Unbuttoning another button of your shirt looks much less flashy when it’s actually hot. If the weather justifies it. Same goes for shoes without socks. 

One reason I think Western style has a perennial popularity - and is particularly strong at the moment - is that it’s a more rugged version of the ‘flash’ look. 

Boots are often pointy and jeans are often tight. There is a sexiness about it, but in a rugged, authentic way. At its root, it feels more masculine than the playboy equivalent. 

And at the other end of the spectrum, I think Ivy has a particular appeal because it is classic and traditional, but also sporty. 

The ethos of Ivy is casual and experimental, playfully mixing styles while understanding craft and traditions. And adding some actual sport, some genuine masculine athleticism, always helps.

I feel like this article might be most useful in the future. As a reference point, to link back to in upcoming discussions. 

Cultural associations are inescapable, and come up in almost every debate we have about style. I think flash v fuddy (do shout if you can think of a better name) will be useful in positioning those associations. 

And please don’t think any of this means you can’t wear what you want. Rock alligator tassel loafers if you can. Just do so with taste, intelligence, and a healthy amount of self-awareness. 

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limekiln

Some interesting nuggets there. I find loafers to be amazingly complicated to get “just right”. Slightly too wide, slightly too flexible, “beef roll” or not, stitching up high on the vamp vs mocassin-style (making the sides quite vertical)….all really impactful on the overall look. And that’s before you even get to leather, colour, horsebit/tassle/penny keep etc.
That photo of two student in Princeton hits the mark perfectly on just how good/relaxed Ivy can look. Yet few on campus have looked like that in many years – I happen to live nearby. Still, myth can be important.

P.A.

Hi Simon,

Very nice article, especially for newcomers to classic menswear such as myself.
I feel those extremes (flash or fuddy) are the biggest the trap to avoid when starting this journey, and I feel like PS is fondamental in the help it provides.

P.A.

Mike

Hi Simon

Certainly a worthwhile topic to consider.

I took an eternity to decide on whether tassels were a bit racy for me but in context with my more conservative clothes, I absolutely love them and they work very well.

I have always thought a submariner looks flash on a flashy guy but classic on someone like me whose appearance and dare I say personality is the opposite of flashy

Morten

I think wearing a recognisable and expensive watch will always be flashy, regardless of your style. Take Cristiano Ronaldo vs Giovanni Agnelli: different style, but equally interested in flashing their ultra expensive watches. The key here is in my opinion the facility with which other people can recognise the (large) amount you’ve spent on an object. You can wear very expensive and well made (but subtle) clothing, and few people will be aware of its worth. With a Rolex or Patek however (or branded fashion articles or expensive cars) a majority on the street, including your local gangster, will know the approximate amount paid or at least its current value. This flashing of wealth is not in the same category as the flashiness discussed in this article though, as a flashy style can be quite inexpensive, where a Rolex can not. You can therefore in my opinion dress conservatively but still have a somewhat flashy personality with the urge to display your wealth by wearing famously expensive watches.

Alex

What is going on with the hem of Ronaldo’s jeans?

Tommy Mack

Age is a big factor too. When we’re younger, clothes are often more costumey as we figure out our own style and jostle for a position in the world. I wore all sorts of flashy attention grabbing clothes when I was younger: an electric blue three-piece 70s Burton suit with pointy alligator loafers, ripped jeans with powder blue penny loafers, women’s T-shirts in tiny sizes and at the other end of the spectrum, baggy combat trousers, hoodies and skate shoes and even a brief dalliance with a boots&braces skinhead look. Much of it makes me wince and obviously I’d never wear it now, at 40 years old but I don’t regret any of it.

Now, I want to look elegant and understated and appropriate to surroundings and occasion. But that’s a destination I’ve arrived at after going through the extremes.

Propriety, as you’re always saying, is the key: I was a stage performer, singer and stand-up comic in my younger days, so attention-grabbing flash wasn’t entirely inappropriate. Going back younger, the skatewear I wore mostly for actually skating in so again although I don’t like the look now, it was well-suited at the time. The only thing I really regret was the #2 skinhead cropped hair: not a hit with the ladies to say the least! (And let me add, I abhor the reactionary politics sometimes associated with the skinhead scene)

Andrew Hughes

Hi Simon,
Great article as always and made me look at my own journey with clothing and style. I’m 56 years old and I became interested in clothing when I was 14 and started experimenting with my own version of the punk look. I couldn’t afford to buy bondage trousers or zip t-shirts and went to jumble sales and charity shops. At that time a lot of the vintage clothes were from the 60s and further back and were very well made. I was fortunate as my mother worked in the rag trade and would alter clothing to fit me. Looking back it was a rebellion against flares and shirts with large collars. I wore 50s style tapered trousers, waistcoats, trilby hats, collarless shirts, tuxedo and drape jackets, winkle pickers and crepe shoes. It was a mixture of styles and eras.
Personally, I can’t do flashy or fuddy and prefer an understated look. My look is Ivy and workwear influenced. OBCD shirts, Levis 501 1947 & 1966, chinos, sweatshirts, desert boots, Trickers logger boots, Quoddy boat shoes, M65 jacket, Baracuta harrington, peacoat, etc. Classic wear that speaks for itself.
Regards,
Andrew

Il Pennacchio

The danger is reduced, but still present.

Cultural associations are inescapable

To the American eye, the formal end of Ivy’s formal/casual spectrum can look as “fuddy” as cords, tweed, and tattersall do to the English one. (Perhaps because it might well involve cords, tweed and, quite possibly, tattersall.)

SH

Skin Heads Against Racial Prejudice

Tommy Mack

Yes, I’ve heard of SHARP. I’m certainly not saying all skinheads are racists. In the UK at least though, the look carries the association of the dark days of the National Front (ironically since the subculture was born out of a love of Jamaican music and style)

Andrew

As someone who has just commissioned some mid-grey flannels, high rise, for use with braces only, I find myself feeling slightly defensive! But I think my choice makes sense. High rise suits me because I am fairly short, and my legs are short in relation to my torso. So it helps with the proportions. And I find that braces are the only reliable way to keep my trousers up, and by far the most comfortable.

I think one of the reasons the guy on the right in the top picture is not really doing himself justice is that his shirt doesn’t fit him, especially in the sleeves. And it would be much better with a proper collar. And the buttoning style is a bit odd too. If those things were different his outfit would look very elegant I think.

But you are right of course with your basic point. There is a danger of being too fuddy. Those great looks of the 20s, 30s etc can be too tempting.

M L S

“ (B)races are the only reliable way to keep my trousers up, and by far the most comfortable.” Absolutely correct!
Your trousers hang correctly and there’s no need to constantly pull up your trousers like when you were a belt.

Philip

Simon, that’s a convincing point about the current appeal of the western style. It might extend to the more refined versions of workwear that use fine materials and design (true not flash, but far from fuddy), while retaining the masculinity of their ancestors. I came back to the thought about Black Bear Brand I mentioned in an earlier comment, as “a blend of western and workwear” might be the closest I can think of as a definition for their style.

Peter Hall

I think flash and fuddy both lose the elegance of the natural shape. When added to fabrics which are too shiny, or too tight, it’s a disaster.
I see your fuddy and raise with a fuddy duddy.

Fred

Very Interesting article – thanks. Reminds me of Ethan Wong’s idea of “slouchy” vs “stuffy” – another spectrum to understand that underpins exceptional style.
It seems to me that the best dressed understand how to navigate these ideas while also adding a spot tension and intrigue.
Most menswear entusiasts will admit to experiments in braces, collar pins, tassels, and anachronistic cuts, only to gradually tone these things down as their understanding of style matures. However, I often find that working out how to subtely incorporate one unusual piece into an otherwise straightforward outfit is what sets the most stylish apart.

Pyc

Though wearing trousers that are high-waisted enough may guard againt unbuttoning one’s shirt too low.

SH

Jenius

StuartR

Thoughtful article. Do you think that the “window” at which flashy is at one end, fuddy at the other, shifts according to location/ season. Say Florence in August vs err Slough in March?
What do you think CR7’s thought process was for his outfit by the way and is it flashy or fuddy??

Stephen

I always enjoy these types of articles. Interesting whilst not being patronising.
On the point of self image: My favourite winter coat especially for walks is my Gloverall duffel coat. In my mind I’m standing next to Jack Hawkins and Donald Sinden’ in ‘The cruel sea’. My wife thought I was going to a protest March in the 60s!
The learning for me really is don’t take ‘your look’ too seriously as others (unless you’re in a pretentious group) will see you differently, keep experimenting and enjoy!

Karol

This is some serious telepathy. Yesterday, I had the exact same problem trying to make and old yellow short sleeve-shirt work. Denim is an obvious choice, but it was far too hot for that. Grey high twists would work, but I don’t have any. High waisted cream linens are great, but a full pale linen look might be too much for me. And chinos just look ivy, and not in a good way. In the end, I decided the best way to make it work seems to be untucked with shorts. Maybe it’s very casual, but I’d rather look like I got lost on my way to the beach than like Harvard student during the heat wave. Too fuddy, in your own words.

Shoddy

Fogey and Fusty both capture aspects of the point addressed by “fuddy”. I note that you have over the years used the term “old-mannish” (a search for which yielded 1175 results) to cover something very like “fuddy”. This suggests that opposite error includes mutton-dressed-as-lamb as well as flashy. But I think the association is less strogn than with fuddy/old-man
It seems to me that there is a potential mix in each of
1) too conspicuous
2) too young/old
3) trying too hard
4) extreme and unflattering fit.
Fuddy and flashy may both be examples of 1) 3) and 4) . You can probably end up old mannish/Fuddy without either 1) or 3) or 4) although it’s really bad when 1) and 3) come in (eg fob watches) or 4) (trousers up to armpits). Flashy is sually 1) and 3), but again really dreadful when combined with 4). 2) optional.
Did Michael Douglas manage to achieve both in Wall St?
Aside from that, I can’t help feeling that loafers are always problematic.Very very difficult to get right. Especially if you are English.

J

Hi Simon, a great article and prompt to discussion with the idea of a spectrum of men’s style, or lack of at the extremes! My only nitpick in your writing is the term ‘sexy’ – have noticed a couple of PS articles lately with this – for which I really never see that as something I’m aiming for in dress sense, nor is it something I reckon applies to others I think dress well. It may be an effect of dressing well seen for others as an attraction, but that’s not something I feel ‘comfortable’ with for every day life, especially in a work sense

SH

The word ‘sexy’ may be off putting for some as it perhaps indicates something more overtly sexual or seedy. However, I totally think its relevant and feeds into what i wear on a daily basis. I aim for cuts that flatter and highlight my more masculine elements in a way that i think could definitely be described as sexy. In fact i get allot of empowerment and pleasure from feeling i have achieved this in an outfit. I have been married for several years so i am not trying to attract a new mate but i like my wife and other women to think i look good.
Im certainly not on the flash end though except perhaps for a watch or decent pair of shoes [if that can be considered flash]. I’m more of a Monty Don type – perhaps some may consider this ‘fuddy’ but on me, i feel it is ‘sexy’.

J

Thanks for the reply. I understand what you mean there, and yes there are some cultural influences at play that I think have shaped general menswear styling to be enhancing aspects of a mans physique, such as a strong chest, or hiding / disguising other areas like a big belly – things you speak about often as a point of tailoring. It extends to a lot of things, like your recent article on fragrances and whether we choose something smoky and rich versus fresh…And the impression we are trying to create. Probably me just shying away from the word ‘sexy’ when I had been more taken to your term ‘elegant’ as a guiding word!

GS

Loooove the green shirt look. more of that please!

Lewis

Interesting and useful, Simon, though I think the word is “fusty” rather than “fuddy”.
I think it’s also useful to keep in mind that the point between these two extremes is often seen as “boring” and would include staple pieces such as plain OCBDs and blue jeans. The more timid among us might get stuck here (I would include my younger self here – judging by the comments, I was not as experimental as other readers). But combining these staples with one flashier or more traditional item can work well. So you can wear a plain OCBD and blue jeans with a sharper, brighter suede flight jacket without looking too flashy, or with a gun club check tweed blazer without looking too stuffy.
And it’s important not to take derisory comments to heart – I received several for wearing Alden LHS loafers with no socks to my casual office this week even though no one bats an eyelid when colleagues wear Birkenstocks with white sports socks. Either can look good if the wearer is confident in his choice and it’s more interesting if people push the boundaries in different ways, provided that the clothes fit and are made with quality fabric. To me, the extreme “flash” look is defined by poor fit and low-quality fabric.

Peter Hall

Do you not think style will always be towards the middle of the spectrum,Simon? And the aspiration of many is precisely that…to be well dressed in that area?

Peter Hall

Haha. I’m sat reading this wearing white jeans, navy shirt and navy loafers….No tassels.

Peter Hall

It was 31 degrees in Rotterdam. I played the hot weather exemption card.

Jeldrik

Hey Simon, thanks for the article (I guess sometimes it’s good to slow yourself down).
One question: How would you classify the style of Adret/ Adam Rogers or Ethan Newton in this? The question is not about whether it looks good or not, but rather a descriptive assessment of where on the Flash-Fuddy continuum you think they are. Of course, I completely understand if you want to hold back on your opinion of other people’s style.

Jeldrik

Great! Thanks for this perspective as I admire both of their styles – but I always have some concern to look a bit too ostentatious this way.

KCV

Enjoyable read and i feel that these two descriptions are relevant. I know i sometime query if i am the wrong side of both of these. However, i do feel that there is a slight risk of dressing by numbers or reaching a mundane middle ground by trying to hard to avoid extremes. I so often think the best way to dress is with instinct and certainly the best dressed men i know clearly have this ability.

Neil

Hi Simon,
A lot more going on here than just flash or fuddy. Some of it comes down to why one is dressing. E.g. disco-jacket is designed to get you notice and hopefully laid. A business suit is to give impression of competence and possibly authority.
What you wear is obviously context specific which you have drawn on many times.
Can we assume we are talking about being attractive to a potential or current partner?
Starting with our bodies I would suggest that flash, tight-fitting revealing clothing are designed to show off your body as it is presumably in relatively good condition.
So if you are not blessed with an athletic body it might not be advisable to wear tighter clothes as they will expose the opposite of what you are trying to express e.g. high body fat percentage, or unattractive body shape.
If through modesty or desire to hide, what are the alternatives. Fuddy or Cuddly, (my interpretation would suggest sexy vs cuddly rather than flash vs fuddy).
However, talking about loafers and tassels, raises points for me that are different to the sexy vs cuddly. Which is heritage, being brought up in the Midlands in the seventies, loafers in themselves would put you in the attention seeking jet set lifestyle, especially with Gucci horsebit loafers.
Plus parental guidance has had an influence on me, with my father coming from just pre-war and so had elements of practicality thrown in with good style. So Churchs Grafton, Black for business, Brown for everything else. Possibly some good chelsea boots if being very rakish. Well-made, fit for purpose and as elegant as possible without losing the first two points. Transcending this rule would mean you entered the world of the foppish.
Being shoe specific, there is also something about size, being slightly bigger and I walk a lot, sturdy has to be a consideration, I have found single soled shoes disintegrate in relatively short order. They also look too thin on bigger men, anyone else agree?
I think most of us here on PS would agree that we are looking have a level of style that is thoughtful but not fussy. In my opinion the majority of what we wear needs to be the canvas for the few highlights in our dress, which hopefully are not too incongruous with the canvas.
For me tassels are an adornment that do not add to the elegance of a shoe and serve no purpose. By not adding to the elegance is the crime here, but that could be forgiven if they had a real purpose.

Darryl

Too true Neil but I ‘d also suggest a whole heap of other cultural/political/class asociations with the flash/fuddy interplay – fuddy tending towards liberal left, vegetarian, middle class background, – flash tending towards conservative voting, working class background, or overly monied! Ok so (just to be clear) i’m NOT being entirely serious here, but I do think these types of association also effect our impressions of these ‘looks’. Incidently whilst i would favour the middle ground i think the extremes can look sensational in the right time at the right place.

Martin

And then there is the third category: contemporary tastelessness. In Austria (and I think in Germany too) it is almost a uniform: A suit jacket with arms too long and otherwise too short (proofing wrong the old maxim “free your ass and your mind will follow”), a white dress shirt with dark buttons (in extreme cases untucked), jeans, the chunkiest belt available and black seamfront shoes. A hopeless combination of cheap, low quality items worn blithely by men who will inevitably drive the most expensive BMW or city Jeep they can afford.

DA

I think one of the hidden subtexts in this distinction, touched on by both you Simon and another commenter, is the issue of sexuality. It’s not everything, of course, but it is something. In this context, flash = advertising oneself as being sexually available or at least aware of and comfortable with one’s sexuality and fuddy = downplaying one’s sexuality and/or sexual availability in the public domain. I could do a long essay on this, but I’ll just throw this small bit out there to hopefully get a discussion going.

Michael

I find this a fascinating topic, thank you for raising it. For me it comes back to something I recall you writing once about clothes that still work at the bus stop. In the past I have bought some nice pieces which in the end felt over-dressed (too flashy mainly) for everyday life. I was either too self-conscious or worried they would get damaged (commuting, stuffing into a bag while cycling etc) that in the end I have had to learn to dial things back.

Anonymous

I️ think frumpy is a good alternative to fuddy-duddy.

Scott

A big help for me in avoiding this problem is doing business with companies that have a long history of making high quality clothing along with classic design that fits well. So companies like Sunspel and Private White do this extremely well. If you buy a Sunspel Riviera polo or a PW Harrington jacket the garment will fit well and you’ll look great. Stay with quality of make and design in all areas of the wardrobe and the results will be fantastic.

Scott

Excellent point! Of course there is some good judgment and guidance that is required. For example, I learned about Private White from one of your articles several years ago and now PW is my favorite outerwear by far!

Marcus

I read most articles posted on Permanent Style. This one might be one of my favorites, simply for how British it is. I’m Canadian and there were several words that are not part of the typical lexicon over here: fuddy, interlocutor, stodgy, dowdy. This article reads as one I would only typically read in print that I would come across when travelling the UK. Not one I would find on internationally (albeit Euro-centric) directed audience… As I read what I’ve just written I feel I should clarify that I write this not as a criticism, but as a compliment. Good stuff.

Hywel Jones

This article is incredibly useful in conceptualising both context of where you are living (country vs urban) and the spectrum of one’s age. I notice that quite a lot of Italian brands are doing Italian smooth interpretations of country wear like very soft napped moleskins, gilets etc. I like this approach and have adopted it to a certain extent.

Simon – are you planning to do an in depth guide to Italian smooth like you’ve done with Ivy and French Ivy?

Hywel Jones

Thanks Simon

That late 70s/early 80s Italian/European look with lots of creams, yellows, browns is something I do lean towards. One of my favourite dramas is Capo Dei Capi which is about the Corleonese Cosa Nostra. It’s a great watch for period specific clothing!

With best wishes

Hywel

Jamie Berry

It seems to me that a lot about fuddy or flash can also depend on the age of the wearer and, to a lesser extent perhaps, his figure. A trim 60 year old can probably get away with things that a less, ahem, trim man of the same age might find difficult. Is there a cut off point age-wise for certain clothes? Can men still wear jeans (not ripped!) at age 65 if he has a decent figure? I do hope so!

Matt

I’m a bit surprised at how you called fuddy “Classic and Elegant”. Surely it can’t be. You’ve described it as something that isn’t timeless and so can’t be classic. It is hard to see the elegance and authenticity in something that’s half-way towards being a costume to a fancy-dress party.

Daniel

Thanks for this, Simon.

I wonder if I could pick your brain about something which occurred to me while reading this. It seems to me there is a third ‘danger’ in menswear which I don’t think really falls on the flash-fuddy spectrum, but probably intersects somewhere with the golden mean between the two, and which, to my sensibility, might be the worst of the lot. Namely, I mean the fact that there is often a very fine line between an understated, thoughtfully put-together casual outfit (say, chinos, derbies, oxford or polo shirt) that comes across as classically, unobtrusively elegant, and one which comes across as ‘business casual,’ with all of the bland, unappealing stylelessness, dullness and complete lack of aesthetic sensibility and joie de vivre that implies. To put it another, slightly convoluted way – there’s a danger that caring too much about following the rules to avoid seeming to care too much, simply comes across as not caring at all – not in a perversely appealing sprezzatura manner, but in an “I’ve given up on having a personality and taking any joy in life” kind of way.

Do you have any thoughts on how to avoid that ‘business casual’ pitfall?

Peter

I have enjoyed your posts over the years, and your reviews, but this one has got too personal. Yes, I get the point that you are making, but unless someone asks personally for advice, posting pics of random men and making comments on their style has crossed the line IMHO. The very reason I say this – lets put it in reverse. Ask any of the two guys about your style, and imagine what they would say – think about it! Everyones style is very personal, and has the influence of so many factors, many of which are outside their control. Sure, you can give views on how to moderate the different influences, but you have to realize that your own style (and here I use the word nit directed towards you personally) is pretty influenced by various factors too – social, economic, physical etc.

Julius

It seems like there is a fine line between demonstrating broad stylistic points and personal attacks. I myself was unsure about the pictures in this article given that they seem to call out individual people on style mistakes, yet at the same time I agree with Simon on the need to point mistakes out. Perhaps a solution could be to show the same or similar images but without the faces? This might take away the feeling of calling out people while maintaining the way you can demonstrate your points.

Alex

I think there’s only one acceptable solution; Simon – you’ll have to procure and model some unflattering clothing. All for the greater good, of course!

Noel

Context is also key. In an environment where everyone is wearing trainers, the most dull dark brown suede penny loafers can be seen as flashy (rather than fuddy because they’re unusual and so noticed immediately). Another example: I’ve had comments about my regular, slightly tapers jeans (very standard) when everybody wears very slim (usually with some synthetic) tight versions in ultra casual environments.

Edric

Hi Simon,
Do correct me if I’m wrong, but in its simplest sense, this article is trying to warn “menswear enthusiasts” a.k.a the average PS reader, the dangers of the extremes of the spectrum, of how classic menswear can fall into being too old fashioned or too showy. As such, I do believe that you selected the wrong photos to illustrate said point, as the people shown are obviously not the target audience of this article. Even the most novice menswear enthusiast would not wear cropped skinny jeans or an ill-fitting shirt with a band collar. I think it would have served as a better example if you showed (or demonstrated) how wearing quality classic menswear, can either fall into being either too flash or too fuddy, either in the manner it is worn, or the combination of the outfit taken as a whole.

For example, if I wore a bespoke DB chalk stripe suit, a fedora, a trench coat, and I had with me an umbrella, I’d look like I came out of a 1940’s themed mob movie. Even if all the individual items fit properly and are of the highest quality. That would be too fuddy. Equally so, If I were to wear a polo shirt with a sweater over my back wrapped around my neck/chest, white jeans, and tassel loafers, all with a tote bag in hand, I would look like a country club caricature. It would be too flash.
But then again, context and associations are also factors, perhaps the first outfit I described wouldn’t look too out of place if I were middle-aged working in a very conservative office, while the second outfit will be fine in an actual country club.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks.

Edric

What do you mean by a bit much? Too flash/fuddy? Or do you think my examples dont even touch on being flash/fuddy?
In all honesty, I would wear my example outfits and I would actually consider myself well dressed, but it would stand out too much in the wrong ways for everyone else. I wouldnt pass what you call the “bus stop test” (I hope I remembered that phrasing correctly) haha

Richard

This was a really helpful comment! I struggled to resolve the dissonance between the depiction of fuddy-duddy in the opening photo and Simon’s description, since I see nothing elegant or sophisticated in the photo (or in chunky, square loafers, IMHO). The characters in the photo appear to me to lie instead at the extremes of caring too much and caring too little about their appearance (or attractiveness, if that’s not the same thing?). Or maybe, as PB suggests below, they’re just two fellas clumsily executing an idea of who they are, though that doesn’t help me avoid making the same mistake.
What Edric helps clarify for me is that I should avoid affected dressing; outfits that are not true to who I am or where I am. And this message is consistent with the lesson I’ve learnt from Simon’s writings over the years: that I should dress elegantly and attractively, but keeping in mind the people I will interact with during the day and how my appearance will make them feel.

JJ Katz

“Fuddy” all the way!!! 🙂

“Flash” is just desperate….

Rich

Thanks for your thoughts on this. I spend an awful lot of time trying to make it look how I’ve spent no time thinking about an outfit. The “4 lads in jeans” of about a year ago is definitely a look I avoid.

JUAN MANUEL GONZALES

2010’s Depeche Mode Vs early Mumford And Sons? None of them. I try to avoid extrems because dressing up can look as cosplay.

Ajay

Simon, The dichotomy between risky extremes here is very similar to a dichotomy you have discussed before but using different terms – namely that between disposable fashion and ridiculous anachronism. On that point, I’d like to reiterate my interest in seeing a revisiting of the concept of “permanent style” sometime soon.

Ajay

Thanks, Simon. I completely agree with you. I think flash and fuddy are broader categories than those I mentioned. It does strike me though that among the extreme varieties of flash is disposable fashion and among the extreme varieties of fuddy is the anachronistic. As you said about fuddy, for example, “whether it’s the classic menswear of pinstriped suits and tie pins, or the vintage dressing of flight jackets and cargo pants, it always has the potential to become period.” And the photo of Ronaldo speaks for itself.

Anyway, I really do enjoy this kind of piece as it really provides a nice conceptual backdrop against which to orient and reorient oneself.

Laurent

Thank you Simon, this is a great analysis!

PB

I find it interesting to think about what these extremes say about what the people who veer toward them think of themselves. It may or may not be a “mistake” in the sense that they were shooting for something and executed it unskilfully. But in any case, they’re trying to express something about their outlook on or station in life. One commenter said something about sexuality: I’m off the market / I’m on the market. Or I’m a “power player” or a studious observer/intellectual. Hipster? Conservative? There might also be some kind of search for meaning or authenticity that brought these unskillful dressers to this place. That’s part of what makes seeing them a bit embarrassing (or “cringe” as the kids say these days): We’re watching someone clumsily work out who they are. And I’ve been there!

Tom Higgins

Personally, that last photo has convinced me to go out and buy the Cristiano Ronaldo look. I’m a bit beyond the recommended age limit for that outfit, but what the heck?

Paul

Hi, definitely one that had everyone interested in what they wear kill some brain cells. Women will mostly prefer flashy to fuddy, unless they are really cool or go to medieval festivals. Men will hopefully avoid flashy because to be honest it’s douchy most of the time – yes that tuxedo is a little guido. Obviously this isn’t true for celebreties as everything works for them(which makes stardom a hack to meanswear). With flashy being out of the question and fuddy being absolutely non-sexy where to go? For me it’s the mix of both in trying to get smart casual right. I try my best to wear worn in suede loafers, tailored pants(linen helps and heavy chinos in winter) and tailored sports coats, preferably linen also, italian I guess. For me the worn in part makes it work. Another one I try hard to avoid – right in there with flashy and fuddy – is trying to look rich. Here in Berlin, someone who wears a blazer is either loaded or tries to appear so, or has to for work(and the “has to” is written all over their face). Nice shoes, nice sport coats, nice things, loose their flash with patina. Wrinkles and spots are your friends.

Tamaki

Just to add, this is a pretty similar situation in Brazil (at least, São Paulo) where I’m from. Just the slightest hint of a colar already makes a man stand out and if one uses a shirt (a not flashy black or similar shirt) then the immediate impression is that the person has come from work.
For example, just using your merino polo with khakis and a white sneaker, already made the impression that I was trying too hard. Even more with a simple roll neck. The bad thing is that it is often frowned upon, as if you were making an effort to show you are more fortunate then most people (which is the case, but people using a BMW or expensive car would be trying much harder but wouldn’t be frowned on)

Steve

Flash is tasteless whilst ruddy is unimaginative, subtlety & creativity is somewhere in between.

Rob

Hi Simon!
Who made the light green jacket the gentleman is wearing? What do you think of the the maker?
Thank you

Jefferson

I am relatively new to this sight but have thoroughly enjoyed the reads. I think a little flash can be a good balancer for fogey clothes and like wise for a little fogey to the flash. As pointed out several times it is often a matter of personal taste. As for trying to be sexy, no matter what I wear I want my wife to think “ummm humm. That’s all mine” when she sees me. Besides myself, she is really the only other person I dress to impress. Maybe a bit egocentric, but we still have a pretty dynamic love life after 30+ years so I must be doing something right.

Jack Williams

I enjoy the blogs, guides and reviews of Permanentstyle. This one, flash vs fuddy, brought up several issues that made me wish you would address clothes for the older man. By older, I don’t mean 50 or 60, but also into the 70’s or even 80’s. Just because we grow old, we need not “wear the bottom of my trousers rolled.”
As we age, our bodies change shape, no matter how active or how much time we spend at the gym. Our waist loosens, our chest barrels, and our skin sags. Our clothes fit more freely to hide rather than accentuate our physique. To that end, braces with high waisted pants are more flattering. (Especially for those with no waist!) Fuller fitting shirts work better when the line from shoulder to hips is straight. Why struggle with fitted when we no longer taper. The open necked shirt, while wonderful with today’s casual styles, in an older man only exposes wrinkled skin. Ties and scarves are far more helpful. (Look at photographs of President Reagan.) What may appear “fuddy” on a younger man becomes necessary – and perhaps elegant – on an older man.
As we age, our hair thins, so hats become necessary. This includes fedoras and Panamas, It turns out, fedoras are very warm worn over a bald head.
I have several tweed suits and jackets made in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s by Joseph Calautti of Rizzo Custom Tailors, Church Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts, (now sadly closed) that, with a little letting out, still fit. Thankfully they are of a “classical” cut and fabric so I can still wear them. They do look “from the past” – yet are of elegant and heavy, beautiful cloth. As my grand daughter tells me, “Keep you tweeds, grandpa, every 30 years you will be in style.” But these jackets are not “fuddy,” rather, I would hope, timeless or “vintage.” Bruce Boyer, is I believe, 80 this year and he certainly does not look “fuddy” in his jackets, pants and braces.
This does not mean we should all retire to velcro shoes and drawstring pants, but recognition of artful aging would make an informative thread for this site, as I assume your readership includes men of all ages. Hopefully this comment will resonate with your followers and will generate thoughts about a neglected group of devotees of dressing well. You too will be joining us all too soon!

Peter Hall

I echo what Jack says. In fact, the total inability of retail in the uk to support over 50s was my driver to look at MTM and bespoke . With the honourable exception of RL, high street shirting simply does not fit.
It would be informative if you discussed suiting the larger man with your regular tailors and see if there are any common themes.

Alison Cloonan

Very interesting, Shoes with no socks looks trendy very very uncomfortable. Loathers with socks is my vote

ANM

Simon,
I believe one major factor comes into play here – the person wearing the clothes.
Someone who is fit, and angular, won’t look as “fuddy”, as someone who is perhaps a bit rounder, and of course, no matter how sharp the clothes, a person who is not in good physical condition will present well….This is evidenced by some of your example pictures…

Zeke

Wonderful thread. With apologies for bringing up a sensitive topic, I wonder what are your thoughts on the Italian men’s team seersucker jacket and black trousers combo at the Euros which seems very out of the box but still pretty clean.