Lost in translation: What menswear phrases really mean

Wednesday, December 27th 2023
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By Manish Puri

Powering up one’s menswear game isn’t merely about honing the perfect silhouette or mastering colour combinations. It also means becoming fluent in a whole new language. 

That will, of course, initially mean becoming familiar with the jargon: a key building block of any sub-culture. But to elevate your status, you must learn that those building blocks make structures and structures conceal as much as they reveal. Within menswear, the aficionado understands that a great many truths hide in plain sight.

In the pursuit of those truths, I’d like to offer myself up as a latter-day St Jerome (or at least José Mourinho) by providing translations of common menswear assertions. Below you’ll find a list of things that have been said by me or to me - doubtless you will have uttered or heard similar things. Alongside these statements I present their true meaning, naked and unadorned.

That’s the context for unpacking the subtext. But what’s the pretext? Well, it’s Christmas (translation: ‘tis the season to be jolly).

What I said What I meant
I favour a more relaxed silhouette these days I ate too much cheese at Christmas
I think gentlemen should start wearing ties and pocket squares again I bought too many ties and pocket squares at the last Drake’s sample sale
It’s a unique piece I have no idea what to pair it with
I think it will last forever Because I’m never ever going to wear it
Wow, I’ve been looking for something similar for ages You stole my look!
I don’t like to overthink my clothes I do like to overthink my clothes. I just don’t have an answer for that specific question 
It’s important to think in terms of cost-per-wear I overpaid
How do you keep finding so many great items for so cheap on eBay? I hate your guts
The Neapolitan look is over My Neapolitan tailoring doesn’t fit me anymore
Just look at how badly kids dress today It must be nice to have the energy for lots of casual sex
I’m thinking I should maybe have gone a shade darker with the cloth Oh my god!! What have I done?!


(Real things) people said to me What they meant
How many fittings did you have for your suit? The fit is terrible
Our house likes a longer coat, Sir You can get fucked if you think I’m shortening this jacket
It’s a classic look You look like your Dad
He’s a bit fashion forward  He scares me
Take your time. We don’t do a hard sell here.  Please don’t buy this
You're looking very distinguished Is that more tweed?
I’m thinking of switching tailors My tailor has put their prices up
I love the hunt for vintage My bank has put my mortgage up
I like to play with the conventions of black tie and make it ‘alternative’ I don’t know how to tie a bow tie
My preferred knot is a four-in-hand I didn’t even know there were other tie knots
I’m transitioning to a capsule wardrobe My wife said she’s going to leave me
Alright Chef, got your mise en place ready? I really do like your striped seersucker trousers, mate. I’m just masking it by making a world-class burn.


What my partner said to me What they meant
Don’t you look dapper? Why are you so overdressed?
What are you wearing tonight, darling? Please tell me I can wear jeans and a t-shirt
I'm so happy that your clothes make you so happy I prefer you in jeans and a t-shirt
How much did that really cost? I’ll take whatever figure you give me and know it was double
Ooh, that’s a nice jumper darling, be careful not to shrink it  Watch me “accidentally” put it on a hot wash so that I can have it
I think you can pull it off I don’t think you can pull it off

Manish is @the_daily_mirror on Instagram

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Merry Christmas, Manish! Loved the piece, particularly the ones from your partner. Those first two really resonate with me


Thank you so much, Tamaki! Merry Christmas to you too.


Same here!!!
Those two and the “cost per wear”…


Lovely Manish!

This was hilarious (and obviously not at all because I can relate in any sort of way… ahem…)


Hii Manish,
Thanks for this. Really amusing especially on a grey 27th December morning in London
A couple from me:
That’s an eclectic look – did you get dressed in the dark?
That’s a fun look – nothing even remotely goes together?
Derived from my wife explaining (patiently) to me that the words eclectic and fun, do not belong in a sentence about clothing or interior design
All the best for the New Year


Hi Stephen

I’m so pleased you enjoyed it and even happier you added yours.

Best wishes for 2024 to you and your wife.




Haha! This is brilliant!


I’ve barely read this and I’m laughing out loud in the coffee shop !!!

I’ll have more to add once I compose myself and read all of it .

Peter Hall

‘You are very fashionable’ (sadly that fashion is for a 20 year ).

‘Workwear is so you’ ( you don’t know how to use a screwdriver).

The 70s look suits you ( why have you come dressed as a member of Village People)


Had a good chuckle. Cheers!


The sweater problem is easily solved by eating too much chease, outgrowing all your knits and giving them to your partner. Then you can buy new ones. 3 in 1 solution!


Hahahahaha it was a funny one!
There is one that is a little bit like the first one:
“I like the relaxed look of an open jacket” —–> “I ate too much and can’t close it”


This is so great, absolutely true for all of them, hilarious !


I read these out aloud to my wife; we were both rolling around on the bed cackling (she loves nice clothing as much as the next PS regular)


“The coat is scratching its balls” = The sleeves are pitched too far forward.
“The coat is scratching its a*se” = The sleeves are pitched too far back.

Jasper Smit

Hahaha, great..

Simon G.

Manish, thank you for the wonderful article. Great piece for the holiday season!


You’re so welcome, Simon. Enjoy the rest of the holiday season.


Great fun. Thanks!


Manish, this was really great and utterly accurate. Great way to end the year. Have a great 2024 guys!,


Thanks ever so much, Zeke. Have a great 2024 too!


Great little read! Thank you and have a good festive break all.


The dress code is smart casual – we know if we ask for smart we will get a load of navy suits, however, we also can’t risk flip flops and shorts.

Aaron L

Just wanted to share my appreciation for this bit of penmanship “But to elevate your status, you must learn that those building blocks make structures and structures conceal as much as they reveal.” I read that sentence and loved how well written it was.


Thank you so much Aaron!

Happy NY

Hilarious, because it’s true.


So good Manish! 😂


Ha! 100% on the partners comments about jeans and a t shirt!

Really lovely piece Manish


What better time of the year to come out with your polyamory than Christmas (“What they said”). Thumbs up!

Jack Linney

Too funny. About five years ago, my wife threatened me with a full house renovation “because our closet is too small.” Wasn’t hard to do that math. Last January, she said, “you can start buying clothes again… just not many.”

Brett P.

Thank you Manish for the many chuckles and smiles.


Thank you so much, Brett!


Very funny Manish, so ‘on point’!
Just to add:
What I say (usually to my wife): “I had it for quite a while, just haven’t had a chance to wear it regularly” – What I mean: “I was hoping you wouldn’t notice that I spent money on another item of clothing again last week”.


“Do you still like/are you still happy with this item?” (I actively resent you for spending what you spent on this item)

Juan Manuel Gonzales

Hahahahah, you make my day! Have a wonderful new year!


A wonderful new year to you too 😊


Thanks Manish, all too (uncomfortably) true! I’ll add another to the mix if I may:
“Black Tie optional” means “We really, really want everyone attending to dress up, but need to make allowances for those who don’t read Permanent Style”.
Happy New Year everyone!


Manish, it’s so comforting to have you alleviate my guilt about my obsession with clothes! When they force us into therapy we can sit in the last row and bust on the therapist’s terrible choices! Great , Man! Merry Christmas!


Haha! Sounds like a great idea, Buck, and we might get a group discount on the therapy.

Merry Christmas!

Nick G

This is spectacular and much needed!


I like to play with the conventions of black tie and make it ‘alternative’. I don’t know how to tie a bow tie. My preferred knot is a four-in-hand. I didn’t even know there were other tie knots.
Very accurate. Thanks Manish, this put a smile on my face.


Haha! Loved it.

Stewart Stirling

Outstanding! Your comments resonate across many contexts. In a different scenario, they call to mind my recent experience flying back business class from Auckland to Perth, Western Australia on Air New Zealand. I was wearing a Scotland rugby shirt and on seeing this on boarding the chief steward remarked: Oh, did sir buy that in a sale? This caused a degree of hilarity amongst the other passengers behind me…