Saturday, January 25, 2014

Four oft-repeated menswear myths that annoy me no end.

I have seen this same advice repeated over and over and over again as if it's fact by many people who should probably know better. I think a lot of is hogwash. Here's why.

"Short men should not wear cuffs on their trousers."

The people who purport this believe they break up one's legs visually. Not sure where this started or why, because it would take more than a bit of folded fabric in the same place as your shoes to do that. Not only is it a nice visual touch on trousers, it anchors down the legs slightly, improving drape on lightweight fabrics such as tropical wool, cotton, and linen. A side benefit with khakis is that, when the bottom of the cuff is worn and frayed, they can be turned inside to look newer and prolong their life in your wardrobe.

http://www.stylebistro.com/lookbook/Tom+Cruise/WrJUvDWF1CY/men
This is how NOT to wear trousers at 5'7. Go for little to no break.

Going back to the myth, part of the reason it's untrue is because cuffs (turn-ups in the UK) can be made proportionately smaller or wider according to your physique. The taller man can choose 1.75" or 2" cuffs. (I'd stay away from those fashionable 2.5" Thom Browne cuffs unless you're the rare height of 7' or more.) Shorter men can go with cuffs down to about 1.25". A good median that most clothiers go with by default is 1.5", so try that if you are unsure. If you don't want cuffs, that's fine, though a good tailor can make an inner cuff or add hem tape to help light weight fabrics drape nicer. This leads into my next one, also related to trousers...

"Pleats should always have cuffs, plain fronts should never have cuffs."

This one makes my eyes roll every time. It's dull and uncreative. Trousers for black tie are allowed to have pleats yet cannot have cuffs because the latter don't go well with the formality level. That is reasonable. Does that not look fine on all other trousers though? I should point out that the British don't cuff their trousers as much as Americans do, so it's also a rather USA-centric belief. Conversely, I rather like the look of plain front trousers with cuffs. It's something you don't see too often. (Except perhaps on the Ask Andy Trad Forum.)

Despite the fashionably slim cut of the suit, these plain front trousers benefit from a cuff.


"Only thin men six feet or taller should wear double breasteds."

I've seen too many guys wearing double breasteds that don't fit into this magical body standard and look just fine for this myth to hold true. Some men won't even wear pea coats because they're afraid it's suddenly going to make their 5'10 frame look like Danny DeVito. Gentlemen, this is silly beyond measure. The cut matters more than the style. Double breasted jackets with a smaller wrap or in a 4x2 style will look better on short or rotund men (there's also 4x1, but many sartorially-inclined men eschew this and 6x1 because of their '80s connotations). Admittedly, these are harder to find off the rack but a good MTM or bespoke tailor can make you one. A lot of women's double breasted clothing is designed with fewer buttons or a smaller because it don't visually broaden the torso as much. A slightly shorter than butt length jacket will also flatter the "vertically challenged" by making their legs look longer. This goes for any style jacket, though.

The long lapel line and shorter body on this 4x2 is flattering to the 5'4 Duke.

"Bluchers should never be worn with suits, only balmorals."

This "rule" seems to have only come about with the rise of the internet iGentry where it is repeated ad nauseum on just about every menswear forum. Yet plenty of men have and continue to wear bluchers with suits and look fine. In fact, none of the great sources of menswear advice (Flusser, Boyer, Gilchrist, etc.) have ever said that bluchers are inappropriate with suits. Period. The typical argument is that they are too casual. I can see how balmorals look more formal, but that shouldn't discount bluchers or the related derby for that matter entirely. Casual looking suits such as those made of linen and cut as three-roll-two sacks especially look at home with them. The latter are often worn with long wings (almost always bluchers) by the "Trad" following. It's all about the level of formality you wish to present. Even at most job interviews, they're not going to take off points because your conservative dress shoes are the wrong style of conservative. It's more important to make sure they're well polished.

Long wing bluchers and a pinstripe suit. Pretty classic if you ask me.

 

Take issue with my opinions? Have some others you think belong on this list? Please, share your thoughts in the comments.

8 comments:

  1. Last year I was reading a lot of 1920s-30s European history, and the pictures showed all sizes and shapes of men in DB suits. After awhile, the 2P SB looked like being partially dressed. DBs can look good on anyone if tailored to fit: think Sidney Greenstreet...or Peter Lorre

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  2. I'm of the 5' 7"gentry and I have to admit, getting your pants tailored with no break makes a HUGE difference in the fit and makes the whole suit proportionate to your body. You've expounded this countless times, fit is truly king.

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  3. NCJack: Exactly. Not all men were perfectly dressed and plenty of old photos (and even movies) will show it, but I think there was a little more emphasis on fit than there is now. What do you mean by 2P SB? I assume the latter means single breasted, but I want to make sure we're speaking the same language!

    Ruben: If there's one thing I'd change about the DoW's trousers, that would be it. However, most pictures of him come from a time where pleated, cuffed trousers with a full break were the fashion. (Though Cruise's trousers, like many celebrities today unfortunately, are simply puddling over the shoe.) Even at 6'1, I prefer little to no break but with 1.75-2" cuffs to balance out my body proportions.

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  4. In my research I have found that closed lace Oxfords are the only correct lace up accepted with formal wear - with did proponents of whole cuts, mostly, if not exclusively, concerning black tie. Perhaps this is the root of the misconception. Oxfords are more formal than bluchers, but a suit is not your top level of formality. I have heard, only recently, the rules about db jackets, and cuffs on short guys. I am 5'7", and I think I'll have to make a point of wearing my db navy blazer with cuffed grey flannels, just to blow some minds.

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  5. Duncan, traditionally so yes. There has been some recent inclination to bend this rule with black tie however. But as with anything, if you bend or break one rule you must take care to get other things correct. For instance, three eyelet derbies. But they must be plain toe, sleek, and well polished. President Truman was known to wear patent leather bluchers with black and white tie back in his day. I'm guessing no one ever told him he was wrong, given how much style he had as a former haberdasher.

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  6. Jovan, I'm a bit confused on why you chose Connery as an example, as in the picture he is neither short nor breaking the cuff with pleats "rule?"

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  7. Matthew, thanks for the feedback. Upon reflection, I'm not sure why I did. I had some reason that I can't remember now. What would you suggest instead? More appropriate would be any of the suits he wears in Goldfinger (which are forward pleated with plain hems to perhaps be more fashionable), but it's difficult to find a screencap that shows the entire length of the trouser.

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  8. Yeah, the Goldfinger suits make more sense. or Craig's suits from Quantum of Solace to illustrate flat fronts with cuffs.

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