Anything Goes... Except it Doesn't

A point was raised recently in a comment on my last article on why can't we just break the rules in the 21st century. Why stick to traditions?  The answer, in short, is not merely blind obedience to rules. It's because it they have proven to look good on so many people over time.

I've experimented with my clothing a bit over the years and found that while it's not good to look completely out of time -- I wear trim fitting clothing with medium rise trousers -- it's also not good to just follow fashions or pair everything with anything one feels like either.

An English bespoke suit from 2017 is still going to look different than an English bespoke suit from 1937. Contrary to what some would believe, most of those tailors have changed their platonic ideals over time to something that still remains classic but not dated, which is the important distinction. You'll note, for example, that Anthony Sinclair's house cut now has wider lapels than in the 1960s, when Sean Connery was the most prominent client. This is in spite of the fact that narrow lapels are also currently in fashion (though likely on the cusp of going out soon).

A Sinclair suit in 1965, worn by Sean Connery in "Thunderball".

... and one circa 2012. The house cut has changed a bit, but remains in good taste.

Narrowing or widening lapels, looser or closer fits, and various style details will go in and out of fashion. However, it is always best that none of it is done to excess and that the tenets of good fit and style are still followed. Even if one wears a close fitting suit, it should not bind or pull in all the wrong places. If it does, it is simply too small. Similarly, a looser fitting suit should not be droopy in the shoulders or otherwise have the wearer completely swimming in it.

On the same note, colours should be well chosen and compliment each other. Now obviously there are going to be people who want to wear brighter or altogether different colours than I would, either because it goes with their personality or works well with their colouration. Combining absolutely anything with everything, however, looks haphazard. Take for example Pharell. His necklaces and other personal touches could be fine were it not for the complete disregard he has for colours and styles that look good together. A perfect example is at the Academy Awards of this year, where he combined a tail coat (which had a superfluous hook-and-eye closure) with a black satin cummerbund and bow tie. The less said about his camouflage capri "tuxedo", the better. Nobody will look back on these outfits in a decade's time with fondness for how creative he was, they'll simply marvel at how clueless he appears. Compare with individuals like Mory Kaba who have a clear understanding of how everything should go together and it's clear the approach one should take to showing personality. There's a difference between being a dandy and looking like you don't know what you're doing.

Mory Kaba demonstrates an appreciation and respect for sartorial tradition while showing some personality in the warm colour scheme and slightly contrasting but not out of place pocket square.

In comparison, by showing a complete lack of respect for what's been done before, the results are less than spectacular. The best thing that can be said is that the shoes coordinate with the camouflage colour scheme.

From time to time I contrast my socks from my trousers with colours that coordinate with another part of the outfit, like tie or shirt. I also wear knit ties with city suits, something frowned upon in some sartorial circles. Sometimes I'll add a fabric lapel flower as well. I'm hardly alone in any of these things though. What dandy-ish touches do you like to apply to your tailored clothing? What do you feel is going too far?


  1. Mory Kaba is one of my style heroes! You showed one of his tamer outfits for sure. But I think he pulls off bright colors good as anyone can. Doesn't hurt that those with dark brown skin can work just about anything. Of course, so long as it coordinates well. You're absolutely right that Pharrell looks clueless when he dresses up for anything. And I hate to bring up age, but at 44 he really should dress his age and get some sartorial lessons from Mory! (Or you for that matter.)

    I really like bright socks and those "fake" lapel flowers too.

    1. Mory is definitely capable of being more conservative or more loud and pull off both naturally. Not sure if it's a matter of his mood or situation.

      Thank you, though I'm a long way from being a stylist to celebrities. I'd probably get frustrated with too many of them!

  2. Mory's jacket could fit better in the shoulders, but it's a nice outfit apart from that.

    1. I agree, some of his jackets are a bit tight there. I have few complaints about his style otherwise.


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