Mr. Six: impeccably dressed, impressively erudite, and friendly to boot. Although many of us might claim to be all three, it’s perhaps rarer than we’d like to admit. This week, a star of the Classic Menswear WAYWT thread shares a bit about his ongoing sartorial journey.
I have a theory – probably wrong – that most families have a “thing.” Members of the family know about the thing, and it’s a regular topic of conversation, even if they aren’t all experts and aren’t quite sure how they gained the knowledge. In my family the thing is art. My father has an MFA. When I was a kid, he painted and made pottery, when he wasn’t teaching middle school or running long distances. My mother loves East Asian arts and crafts and collects what she can: vintage kimono, netsuke, paper. She loves textiles. For a while when I was a kid, she hand-dyed different kinds of yarns and had a small team of old ladies knitting custom pieces for her to sell. Color, texture, materials, composition, art history—these are things I know a little and think about, even if I can’t draw a line.
When I was a teenager, that thing was (perhaps unexpectedly) partly what attracted me to punk. A multi-faceted subculture; the use of attire as a means of expression appealed to me, among other things it had to offer. It provided a means for me to say outwardly, without speaking a word, what I felt inside. I don’t mean to insert a level of depth to my teenage beliefs that probably wasn’t there. But I wanted to say something, and the punk style of the 80’s was a way for me to do it.
Between those two influences, an interest in mens clothing was possibly overdetermined. Nevertheless, I spent a long time in my 20s and 30s not really being able to figure out what I was comfortable wearing and what fit me well. During that period, I also went to law school and found myself with an obligation to dress professionally, for which I was only minimally prepared. I did the best I could and considered myself well-dressed compared to those around me, even if I had no formal rubric for judgment or comparison.
As I made my way across the internet, I somehow landed at Styleforum and started reading. At first I didn’t think much about all there was to learn about classical mens clothing. But I didn’t turn away, either. Eventually I found that I was beginning to understand something about the history of these clothes that I had to wear for work, how they were supposed to fit, what was good and bad, and all the options available. Then I began to be able to discern what I liked and didn’t like. The end of the beginning was reaching that place where so many forum members find themselves: I looked in my closet and didn’t like anything I saw there. So, I started to rebuild.
At first, I added pieces from various affiliates and sources discussed on the forum that I thought I’d like and also wouldn’t cost too much, since I knew I was in a period of transition. Those additions provided a basis to begin to refine a sense of what I liked, to understand better how to combine pieces, and what would fit me well. I began to evaluate MTM options, mostly so that I could select exactly the fabrics that I wanted. I was fortunate that a few things happened around that time. Steed began offering MTM and traveling to the San Francisco, Greg opened No Man Walks Alone, and previously difficult to access makers like Vass and Cappelli became reachable by the web or email.
I should mention that the Good Taste Thread, Vox’s Coherent Combinations (even if he now occasionally mocks it on Twitter), the Unfunded Liabilities thread, the threads about bespoke adventures in Italy and bespeaking generally, and older discussions of cloth selection, levels of formality, the function of fabrics, combining pattern and texture, and history were all incredibly helpful. Greg’s curation didn’t hurt either. Through that knowledge and a lot of careful consideration, I completely rebuilt my dress wardrobe with a combination of British-influenced and Italian tailoring and now continue to refine it. At some point I felt I was doing well enough that I could share some pictures with the community, which it seemed like was the right thing to do in light of how much others’ had helped me.
Since I mostly only post pictures of jacket and tie or suits, it might surprise people to know that I actually have maybe 2.5 wardrobes. I wear suits and appropriate accompaniments for formal-ish, client-facing work. I wear sport coats with ties for less formal meetings with clients and without ties for days in the office, where our dress code is pretty casual (recently changing to Silicon Valley casual). And when I’m not at work, I wear streetwear, which is comfortable and fits well but never seems interesting enough to anyone else to bother posting pictures. I’ve also gained a lot from reading the SW&D forum.
I’m still learning and still enjoying seeing what others post, here and on IG. I’ve made a number of StyleFriends (to steal a jcmeyers-ism), some of whom I’ve never met in person but enjoy chatting with, even about things non-sartorial. I continue to fill in gaps in my wardrobe and realize that there are new things that I want. As deliberate as I’ve been about this hobby, I’m sure I’ll be surprised about the next stage. And I did recently commission my first fully bespoke suit.