Erik Mannby’s 10 Rules of Style

Erik is one of Styleforum’s best-known and best-dressed members, and you may recognize him from our Pitti Uomo coverage. Here, he breaks down his top ten sartorial rules.



  1. Always use the four in hand knot.

    I’ve noticed that the false notion of the Windsor knot being more formal still lives on in some lines of business. Here in Sweden it’s especially favored by real estate brokers for some reason. I guess the idea that it’s named after royalty and the fact of its symmetry fool some people. The four in hand is the only knot you ever need to learn. If you need a bigger knot, you can easily just wrap it into a double four in hand. The slight asymmetry is what gives it personality. Also, don’t forget the dimple underneath the knot. Fact is that the duke of Windsor, who the Windsor knot is named after, only used the four in hand knot, but with a thicker lining, thus making it appear slightly more bulky.
  2. Be comfortable.This is the key to looking good. Make sure your clothes fit you well enough to give you freedom of movement. For me this means that I wear trousers with a higher waist. The comfort level this grants has made me completely forgo all dress trousers that don’t reach my natural waist. Also, I wear all my garments cut generously enough to never restrict me. For me, a suit should always be comfortable enough to not be noticed when worn.
  3. Invest in good hats & caps.Relating back to the last point, this is about comfort to me. In the summer time a Panama hat is excellent protection against the sun, and in winter a hat or cap will keep your head warmer. Also, a proper hat generally looks better with tailored clothing than a regular beanie.
  4. Know yourself.This is more important than getting to know any “menswear rules”. This will also relate back to the point about being comfortable. This is what makes you LOOK comfortable. Your way of dressing usually looks its best when it reflects who you are. I see a lot of people wearing what they’ve seen influential or famous people wearing, and it just looks off. Are you a casual or formal person? Do you love colours or different shades of grey? Do you like vintage wear or sprezz, or both? Do you wear suits for work or for your own pleasure? You make up the questions that are relevant to your idea of style. What I’m trying to say is: “You do you”.
  5. Know the history of your garments.Once again, these are MY rules. I generally like to know what the history is behind a certain garment or design trait. I can then chose to wear it with what it was originally meant to be worn with, or if I feel it’s too anachronistic or pointless, completely discard the original rules of wearing it and choose a way that seems more reasonable.

  6. Get to know your colours.Colours can be tricky. There is plenty written on this subject, so I’d suggest you Google this if you want to learn everything about colour wheels – or read Peter’s article on color. I usually visualize colour combinations that I think would be interesting and then try them out in actual outfits. Now, since I am my own boss, I don’t need to care for dress codes, which obviously gives me a greater freedom of messing about with this. If you want some good tips, I’d suggest also looking at old apparel art, as there are usually some really interesting colour combinations to be found.
  7. Contrasts, high or low – do it consistently.Some people prefer high contrast outfits, while other like medium- to low contrast. Personally I love the whole spectrum. A good idea is to do it consistently, though. If you have a low contrast between trousers and jacket, it can look off beat to throw in a pair of shoes in a completely different shade.
  8. Mix your patterns according to size.I make exceptions to almost all of my “rules”, but this is a constant. It just never looks good wearing several garments/accessories that are in close proximity to each other, in a pattern that’s roughly the same size. It creates a disharmony in the total composition that isn’t very appealing. You can stay safe by only wearing one patterned garment, or let the patterns be big/small enough not to get confused with each other. Again, Peter has written a good primer on this subject.
  9. Vintage, budget, premium? Who cares? Aesthetic is king.To me, the end result trumps whatever brand/maker you’re wearing. Of course, crap quality clothes should always be shunned. Today, you can find some of the finest quality clothes available in vintage stores, and a lot of brands offer a great quality/price ratio. I mix and match personally. One of my favorite jackets is a vintage M51 field jacket, I’ll wear it with premium priced clothes, but it still works in my opinion, just because I have a consistent idea of what aesthetics I strive for.
  10. Learn the fundamentals, then wear it as you like.Read Flusser, Roetzel, and other menswear writers. Their books will give you a good idea about some of the conventions that influence how menswear is conceived and worn today. At the same time, be aware that they are just that: conventions. There really are very few “rules” to menswear. Look at it historically and you will see that these ideas change drastically over time. The modern suit is quite young, and when introduced to the masses were considered unorthodox and therefore free to experiment with as on chooses. Now, of course, conventions have set in, and people love to beat each other over the head with this set of conventions that they believe are actual rules. Know what’s what and you’ll be more free to wear it as you see fit.

Erik is co-founder of EFV Clothing. You can find him on Instagram at @ErikMannby.

Member Focus: Techwear with Rais

@Rais is a well-known streetwear poster for a reason. He’s the resident master of futuristic techwear; taking inspiration from speculative fiction, film, and his own environment. The subject of many admiring Blade Runner jokes, Rais excels at styling avant-garde designers with readily-available brands, and putting his own out-of-time stamp on the results. Here, he talks about what directs his buying and styling.

I enjoy challenges, and one interest that I’ve always had in terms of clothing, even before I took a more dedicated approach to “fashion” was in creating comfortable, disposable and practical looks from inexpensive and readily-available pieces. These looks are not particularly interesting to look at and are definitely not fashion forward for the style-conscious. Nor are the pieces themselves particularly remarkable to be of interest to those who collect clothing for their novelty. Yet these are the clothing I find myself wearing most days. The versatility of being able to work out in the gym with clothing that I can still wear into a bar to meet new friends or that wouldn’t look out of place in a Chinese tea house as I work on my laptop; that I could be comfortable resting in on an airplane and that I could replace at the ready, and rather inexpensively, if my outfit was damaged while being out or my luggage lost on a trip, is all very attractive to me.

It is easy to achieve those aims with a variety of approaches; techwear, one of my hobby styles that I experiment in, is typically robust, allows for extreme activity both in- and outdoors, and has a good degree more modesty than a tank top and gym shorts for casual contexts. But techwear is not particularly socially-inviting, it is actually quite anti-social due to its reliance on the colour black, and it stands out in a crowd communicating to others that you are different, in a way that you want to be left alone. I also find it affected in that on the days when I need to drive, stepping out of my air-conditioned vehicle with its plush leather seats and cruise control while dressed in preparation for the apocalypse seems a bit disingenuous.

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Rais in a go-to techwear outfit

This is one of my favourite tech looks. It is high performance, water-resistant, extremely lightweight, comfortable and, outside, at night it blends in well with its surroundings. I take a more activewear approach to this style compared to the typical streetwear aesthetic that many other techwear enthusiasts gravitate towards. Everything here is from Nike, save the pants.

On the other side of the spectrum, my more fashionable, designer looks from Lanvin, Gaultier or Dior can be very attractive in various social engagements but obviously lack the comfort or the durability that I’d want for going to work in each day, particularly if I wished to walk or cycle on my commute, and obviously they aren’t suitable for any kind of physical exercise while wearing them. Thus, these fashionable looks require a sacrifice in comfort and practicality; necessitate that I drive when I go out and also that I pack a second set of gym clothing for exercise in a dedicated duffle bag. I am not sure that I am comfortable with that kind of investment in time each day for looks that I am not overly drawn to.

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Rais in Lanvin, Yves Saint Laurent, Prada, and Gaultier

This look is comprised of a Lanvin linen jacket, Yves Saint Laurent cotton shirt, Prada silk tie and Jean Paul Gaultier polyester-blend trousers.

I took a photo today for this article to illustrate the kind of versatile, casual clothing and look that I find myself wearing regularly. It is disposable, relaxed in fit, and stylistically I’ve tried to find a middle ground between contemporary ideals of men’s fashion and the minimal, athletic futurism I enjoy in my tech looks.

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Rais in readily-available fast-fashion brands

The polyamide bomber from H&M was RIT dyed and the collar and cuffs were cut off and left raw. The light olive tee is from Cotton-On in their “Other Crew” cut and the jogger pants were bought in Namdaemun market in South Korea. The slip-on sneakers are from Muji.

I remember reading a chapter from Gibson’s Virtual Light, where the protagonist, Rydell, went on a shopping trip to a large mall/port called Container City where large freighters from around the world docked to unload inexpensive merchandise stored in shipping containers to a swarming hive of consumers. Rydell purchased a new outfit of cheap basics; I believe it was a burgundy bomber jacket and a few black tees and a pair of jeans. That imagery appealed to me somehow, and even though I was attempting similar looks years prior to reading that book, I still remember and feel influenced by that particular passage with its apt representation of the modern man’s relationship with his clothing and how it has manifested into a practical uniform for the 21st century.

Mastering Complex Patterns

“Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can play weird– that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple complicated is commonplace–making the complicated simple, awesomely simple–that’s creativity.”  – Charles Mingus

In today’s post-slacker world, just wearing coat and tie is enough to turn heads in many environments.  Sadly, in response to the incessant thundering appeal to “stand out,” men are blindly throwing together so many unrelated #menswear trends and patterns under the misguided siren call to “be original” that the resulting stew of glen plaids, gingham checks, candy stripes, and polka dots would make even Andrea Bocelli vomit. 

If that’s what you’re shooting for, more power to you; but do not delude yourself into thinking a random salmagundi of patterns is an expression of your creativity.   Many confuse “individuality” with “creativity”, but there is a difference: the aim of individuality is to be “different” by bucking convention.  The genius of creativity is taking something complex and making it appear simple. 

Charles Mingus released one of his best-known albums, Ah Um, the same year that Miles Davis released Kind of Blue.  Both, now over 50 years old, are premier examples of how complexity can be done well.  Indeed, despite the fact that up to six instruments played a part in each song, note the recurring concept that keeps appearing in critics’ reviews:

“Simplicity – the reason Kind of Blue has remained so successful for so long.”

“…one of the many amazing things about Mingus Ah Um is that he took this incredibly challenging jazz, in perhaps its creative heyday, and made it as easy as pop music.” – Bob Lange

“All of the contributions…only served to illuminate Miles’ zen-like approach on this record that relied on simplicity.” –

This concept was by no means new.  Over 100 years earlier, none other than Chopin himself opined: “Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”

Can this concept be applied to #menswear?  Yes, it can, in two ways:  One instrument at a time; or if many, they must harmonize.

One pattern

One pattern is easy – choose one and keep the rest solid. Non si può sbagliare. 

If more than one pattern, the scale of each must harmonize via contrast.  Think of it this way:  The items that are closest to each other should be dissimilar in scale; your ensemble should not look too busy.  If your jacket has a large pattern, the shirt’s pattern should be smaller.  If the shirt’s pattern is small, the tie’s pattern should be large.  If you decide to wear a pocket square, its scale should differ from the jacket.

Two patterns

In the first example, Mark Cho wears a suit with a large pattern, while his tie has a small pattern. Same with the second picture – large windowpane suit, small scale “neat” tie. The third example showcases the reverse: small scale gunclub jacket paired with a tie that has stripes spaced far apart. 

Three Patterns

Three patterns can be done relatively easily: anchor your ensemble with a solid suit, make the shirt and tie in differing scales, and throw in a patterned pocket square. The first two pictures demonstrate this well. 

Once you throw in a patterned jacket things can get tricky, but the following photos demonstrate how it can be done. In the first, Ethan is wearing a gunclub jacket (small repeated scale), a neat tie (in a slightly larger scale with more space in between the print), and a square with a large scale, dissimilar to the jacket. The next picture has Jake in a pinstripe jacket with quite a bit of space, a tie with less space, and a shirt with closely spaced stripes. 

Four Patterns

Not impossible, but the risks of appearing fastidiously studied or a chaotic cacophony should give one pause. Simply changing the scale can have too many lines crossing every which way in a dizzying mess.  To limit this effect, try introducing shapes and prints into your accessories, such as a medallion tie or paisley square.


Note that in all cases, the colors are not garish.  If one pattern stands out more than the other, it is not so disparate as to look either out of place or forced. Whether simple or complex, everything should just…flow easily.  Stephen Thomas Erlewine of sums it up by saying:  “Kind of Blue works on many different levels. It can be played as background music, yet it amply rewards close listening. It is advanced music that is extraordinarily enjoyable.”

Standing out is easy; just wear red shoelaces.  Don’t just be different.  Be creative by making the complicated simple.  Make Mingus proud.

Photos courtesy of Alan See, the Armoury LightboxEthan Newton, and No Man Walks Alone

Accessorizing with Dogs: A How-To

There has long existed an association between tiny, handbag-friendly dogs and the fashion elite, but there is more to the art of accessorizing with dogs than a chihuahua in a purse.  For everyone who shares a home – even briefly – with a four-legged companion, the question has always been: how can I maximize my dog-outfit synergy?

The first consideration is, of course, the breed. Dogs such as border collies naturally pair well with workaday or outdoor clothing: consider Engineered Garments, Battenwear, or Nigel Cabourn, as all of these brands perform admirably even when covered with hair. A bulldog can complement both vaguely-sleezy 70’s inspired menswear as well as 3-piece suits of heavy tweed , whereas a Borzoi may lend itself best to a fan of the Antwerp Six. Devotees to the house of Marc Jacobs will, of course, love bull terriers, whereas advocates of quirky menswear will be quick to point to Menswear Dog  as an example of why Shiba Inus make the perfect stylistic companion. Some dogs are as versatile as a navy blazer – Welsh Corgis, for example, go with just about anything.

Don’t be too concerned, however, as any dog can be the perfect match for their wearer’s peculiar clothing choices, and mixes often show the most aesthetic versatility. Take, for example, my good friend @konorobu‘s predilection for combining Rick Owens and Carol Christian Poell with his small and adorable adopted friend. This, of course, is additionally powerful due to the inherent gap-moe of the combination; or the charm of contradictory habits or personality traits. If you’re a man in a power suit, consider a Pomeranian. If you’re wearing head-to-toe Acronym, a Lhasa Apso will provide a well-groomed counterpoint to your edgy, apocalypse-ready exterior. There is no reason to feel pigeonholed in your wardrobe choices when accessorizing with dogs – experiment with outfits to see what works best with your companion. I favor a pair of adopted Shiba Inus, as I find the coloration and temperament lends itself nicely to indigo-dyed streetwear and the occasional jacket and trousers.

The second consideration is fur type and coloration. When accessorizing with dogs, it’s important to take note of ideal color combinations. Keep in mind that black-and-white is not the be-all, end-all of a fashionable companion. High-fashion aficionados will find that the black-and-tan of a Bernese Mountain Dog will go nicely with a monochrome look, and the subtle tones of a Blue Heeler will bring out the best in any colorful outfit. Texture is a secondary aspect; brushed tweeds go equally well with shaggy or shiny coats, and light linens and cottons are a perfect match for both high-fuzz-factor dogs as well as adorably soft and tiny companions.

Ultimately, there is no end to the number of ways you can accessorize with dogs. The fashionable options are limitless, especially when the personality of the dog in question is taken into consideration. Beyond the purely aesthetic advantages that dogs confer, there are innumerable health benefits that come from living with them. Ten out of ten doctors now recognize that accessorizing with dogs results in lower blood pressure, more Instagram likes, a higher sex drive, and funnier jokes1. This should not be taken lightly – for any of you who are struggling with wardrobe direction or how to maximize your swag levels, a dog can provide the boost you need to hone in on your style.

There are now multiple apps that allow users to rent dogs. Dogs of all shapes and sizes, from the tiny and yappy to the huge and drooling. Some of these apps are geared towards people who want to test the waters before adopting their own new best friend; others are designed as social meet-up or even dating tools. And ever better, your local Humane Society will have all kinds of dogs for you to meet, love, and even take home with you. Just make sure that you’re doing your homework before you take the plunge, because there’s nothing more un-chic than being a bad dog owner. If you’re diligent in your search, I’m sure you’ll find a companion, and I’m sure you won’t regret it – because all along, the best accessory to a happy life and a happy wardrobe is a doggy friendship.

  1. This is completely fabricated.
  2. Cover photo credit: Arianna Reggio

Member Focus: Claghorn

Claghorn is another Styleforum member who plies his trade in the Classic Menswear “What Are You Wearing” thread. He’s known for pleasing combinations of solid colors that are sober without being boring. Add to that some very solid selfie skills, and you have a recipe for a much-beloved poster.

I joined Styleforum in the fall of 2012. I was 26 and had just left a very conservative office job in Seoul, South Korea. There I had to stick with a pretty strict uniform: gray, blue, or black suit, white shirt, and a necktie. I don’t think my wardrobe was particularly interesting: the suits were all Hugo Boss or brands along that line. I did have a number of ties, mostly from Thomas Pink, that I really liked, and after moving to a job that didn’t require a suit, I wanted to learn how to wear a tie with odd jackets. I really didn’t have a clue where to begin, so I registered on Styleforum.

Though my colleagues and friends were fluent in English, I was feeling out of touch with my language and my culture. As (questionably) useful as the information on SF was, I think what really drew me to the forum was the opportunity to interact with Westerners more regularly, even if it was through a virtual medium. Nevertheless, it was also through Styleforum that my sense of style developed. Where else but the internet would this occur? I didn’t want to dress like a Korean salaryman anymore, and “My dad taught me everything I knew about clothing” wasn’t going to work for me: he’s a solar physicist and dresses as I suspect most people imagine solar physicists dress.

For the first few months, I sort of blindly fumbled around, trying to figure out what spoke to me. At one point, I thought I liked loud jackets. I didn’t. I wasted a lot of money. It took probably a year for me to really figure out what I wanted to look like in terms of what I wore. The result is one that I am happy with, but I have also seen it called boring a derivative. I own a lot of blue jackets of varying colors, textures, and fabrics, because I like blue jackets. I own a lot of brown ties because I like brown ties. I am happiest in a blue jacket, a brown tie, and gray wool pants. There was once a “Dress like Claghorn” Friday challenge [Editor’s note: Claghorn did not win the Claghorn challenge], and I think that most, if not all, the participants played on some variation of that theme. My Instagram handle is @bluebrownandgrey.

Of course I don’t only wear blue jackets. Or brown ties. Just over half my wardrobe is made up of jackets and suits that aren’t blue, and though I probably wear brown ties more often than any other color, I wear green and blue ties pretty regularly. But I am pleased to be associated with that combination. It is simple and pleasing. When I go back and look at many of the images I saved as exemplars in my early days on Styleforum, they are just that: simple and pleasing.





Primer: Neapolitan Jacket Shoulder Style

In both bespoke men’s tailoring as well as prêt-à-porter, jacket shoulder and sleeve style have now become details of greater importance thanks to a worldwide increase in both knowledge and interest in menswear. A connoisseur of sartorial matters always focuses the eye (primarily) on the jacket shoulder, and will notice if it “sits” (and takes the right forms) optimally.

These days, there are various models of jacket shoulder and sleeve styles for men’s jackets, and each one of them inhabits a particular niche. When you are shopping for a suit, be sure to note the shoulder and sleeve style, and don’t be shy to ask the tailor or sales associate to describe to you the construction process – as well as why the jacket in questions sports a particular style. This is not a comprehensive review of all styles and the construction methods that create those styles, but it should serve as a quick primer and conversation starter for any man interested in shoulder style and in Neapolitan tailoring

Keep in mind that most tailoring traditions favor a particular jacket shoulder and sleeve construction, which is accompanied by details that further define that stylistic tradition. For example, the below are all Italian, and in particular Neapolitan jackets, regardless of the jacket shoulder style, and are not necessarily representative of geographic tradition. In the future, we’ll cover tailoring traditions in depth, but here are three common Neapolitan shoulder styles to get you started on your journey to Neapolitan style. 

Natural shoulder (without padding) & sleeve con rollino:

The sleeve is raised above the jacket shoulder, and possesses a sense of fullness and roundness. The effect is created by pressing the allowances in the sleevehead towards the seam, and there is sometimes wadding placed into the sleevehead to create further fullness. In my opinion, this style is ideal for a wool blazer.

For more information about the tailoring construction, and what exactly “con rollino” means, I will refer you to custom tailor and Styleforum member @Jefferyd’s incredibly informative blog, Tutto Fatto a Mano.

Neapolitan shoulder style

Neapolitan shoulder (without padding) & manica a camicia (tribute to Neapolitan tailoring):

Otherwise known as spalla camicia, or shirt-sleeve construction, in this case the sleeve is gathered in a fashion that generates a harmonious effect, and gives an interesting detail to the jacket.  Neapolitan tailoring emphasizes movement and ease, and this construction imitates that of a shirt sleeve head. The result is a jacket shoulder that is comfortable and allows for a good deal of movement. The effect is created by pressing the allowances in the sleevehead towards the body of the jacket and gathering the fabric beneath the shoulder seam.

Neapolitan shoulder style

Padded shoulder & sleeve con rollino:

This is a tribute to English tailoring. You’ll notice that it results in the most built-up shoulders and rigid shape, and is designed to be reminiscent of antique military uniforms. In my opinion it is ideal for the most formal or elegant suits, such as this pinstripe one. In most cases, especially when buying in England, the English style will be accompanied by a built-up chest and nipped waist that creates a sharp V-shaped silhouette on the wearer for a slimming, rigid, and often slightly severe effect.

Neapolitan shoulder style

Neapolitan shoulder style

You can find more of Nicola’s thoughts and writing at, where he discusses his youthful take on Neapolitan style. Nicola’s ties are available at Spacca Neapolis

Member Focus: An Acute Style

In this new series, we ask Styleforum members to tell us what sparked their interest in fashion, and how they found their way to Styleforum. An Acute Style is a regular fixture in Classic Menswear’s “What Are You Wearing” and “Casual Style” threads. He’s known for his unique, sometimes experimental take on Ivy and Prep style, and excels at injecting color, pattern, and texture into everyday outfits. 

Four major events have moved me along the sartorial journey.  First, I started teaching high school right out of undergraduate.  I was 22 and my students were 18.  I wanted to do something to differentiate myself from them so I grew a mustache and started wearing a tie to work.  On the occasions I didn’t wear a tie, the security guards would summarily mistake me for a student, requesting that I present ID to gain entrance to my job.  I made the shirt and tie a standard to cut down on the embarrassment.    

Next, my girlfriend (later wife) at the time recommended I look into British shirting, a tip from one of her coworkers.  TM Lewin changed the game for me.  Well priced, slim fit shirts with great collars and patterns at affordable prices.  Sign me up.

Then, my wife start a personal style blog.  As I helped her with her site, my style began to develop as well.  I started my own blog on Tumblr soon after.  Through Tumblr, I was first introduced to the #menswear community.  I slowly took my place in it, adding new brands, sport coats, and pocket squares to my mix.  I was also introduced to the world of thrifting.  I still wasn’t earning bespoke money, so looking fly on a dime was important to me.

Lastly, my blog was growing in popularity, but I wasn’t getting much feedback on how to improve my style.  I heard a few people mention this thing called Style Forum so I figured I should check it out.  I’m so glad I did.  The WAYWRN thread is one of the few places I’ve found on the internet to get honest and constructive feedback about classic men’s clothing.  I’ve seen so many people come through the thread and make huge progress after just a few months.  People pay good money for the service that the WAYRWRN thread provides for free.

It’s been a pleasure being a part of the SF community.  I try to help out and give advice in the same way that I was helped when I first joined.  I hope one day, a former student of mine will stumble on to SF and I can help him prepare for his new job.  That would bring things full circle.

an acute styleStandard work attire circa 2010.  Bright colors, pattern mixing and no sport coat.    

an acute style

an acute style

an acute style

an acute style

an acute style

My first post on SF May 20, 2013.  I tried to keep it tame for my first showing.  


an acute style

October 5, 2015.  A more recent outfit after getting lots of feedback on SF. 

Building a Wardrobe: The Brown Blazer

The brown blazer is one of the most simultaneously well-known and unknown wardrobe foundations. Well-known amongst those who know, and unknown amongst those who don’t. As you start putting together a tailored wardrobe, you’ll read thousands of articles and have hordes of people telling you that the one thing you must buy, the one thing without which no man’s life is complete, is a navy blazer. I disagree. Unless you are intent on cultivating an Ivy wardrobe, a navy blazer is no more a “necessity” than a pair of penny loafers. Allow me to suggest a brown blazer instead. Here’s why:

Although the above gallery illustrates my points for me, I will write them out here for the sake of completion. Fundamentally, while a navy blazer is undeniably a wardrobe staple, the brown blazer shines in all the same ways a navy blazer does, but has the edge in a few areas:

  1. A brown blazer can be worn with navy trousers. Seriously, this is so important. Navy is a fantastic color for trousers, and if you’re stuck with a closet full of navy blazers you might be straight SOL. But navy trousers open up a world of fantastic possibility, and in my opinion a navy trouser with a brown jacket on top looks far superior to a brown trouser with a navy jacket on top.
  2. A brown blazer often looks better with jeans than a navy blazer. While not always true, this is worth considering. Especially since, if you are really building a wardrobe, you probably want a jacket that you can wear with denim. After all, you already have a suit for interviews – right?
  3. A brown blazer looks better with grey trousers than a navy blazer. Well, that’s certainly subjective, and you’re free to disagree. However, I do think that a blue blazer and grey trousers can make the wearer look a bit like a security guard, and a brown blazer certainly doesn’t have this connotation. In any case, it will look just as good as a navy blazer.
  4. Finally, a brown blazer will make you look like you know what you’re doing. Any high schooler can put on a navy blazer for “special occasions,” but graduating to a brown variant suggests that you’ve put thought into your wardrobe choices – and putting thought into your wardrobe is the foundation of personal style, regardless of the direction you take. You’ll stand out, in a good way.

See where I’m going with this? A brown blazer fulfills all the necessary duties of its navy sibling, but does even more for the wearer. If I haven’t been able to convince you, take a look at this thread, or this one, both full of some of Styleforum’s best-dressed members, and count the number of brown blazers you see.

This is by no means to suggest that a navy blazer is a bad choice or poor investment – quite the contrary. However, if you are just starting out on your clothing journey, a brown blazer may well give you more versatility than a navy blazer. And if you’re a seasoned Classic Menswear veteran who’s looking to branch out – well, at the very least a brown blazer will keep you from winding up with a closet filled entirely with navy jackets.

Five Aging Menswear Trends That Need to Die

Although all of us at Styleforum are as pleased as punch with the explosion of interest in men’s clothing and fashion that has accompanied the new millennium, there have been a few aging menswear trends that made our teeth hurt when they were new and aren’t treating us any better now. Some of them are still clinging to life, and that needs to stop. The usual Styleforum disclaimers apply: it is, of course, possible to embrace the entire list below and look great. Theoretically. In a parallel universe, maybe. If you’re still hanging on to all of these, I’m sorry. For you.

  1. Wooden Bead BraceletsYou know what we’re talking about. For a good five years, iGents the world over had these bracelets stacked halfway up one or both arms (and, we assume, sock-less legs as well). As an idea, we fully support men’s jewelry – and even the odd bead. But they have become the grown man’s elastic band bracelet; the ideal way to show how cultured and worldly you are, collected without thought or intention. Thankfully, this trend has almost killed itself off, but to everyone still in denial: please. Let it die.

  2. “Fun” SocksThey don’t make you more interesting. They don’t show your personality. If you honest-to-god love your bright pink argyle, fish scale, or curled-mustache socks, we can’t stop you. But no one’s going to find you more daring, more exciting, or any bolder than you would be if you were sporting a sock that didn’t suggest you also sleep in a race car bed (Disclaimer: if you sleep in a race car bed, that’s awesome and please send us photos).

  3. Contrast ButtonholesWe’re not sure who thought this up or why. Perhaps men were having trouble finding their buttonholes, hence reduced to running around in a state of unbuttoned panic. Perhaps internet MTM companies needed a thousandth feature to grant a $1 upcharge. Or perhaps, in an era of endless customization, men in search of ways to make themselves stand out thought that red thread around a white buttonhole was the best way to show off their sartorial chops. The absolute worst offenders are contrasting buttonholes combined with busily-patterned shirts, most of which have extra-tall power collars and contrasting cuffs. Most egregiously, these made their way onto the cuffs and lapels of sport coats, which…sorry, I was too busy retching to finish that sentence. Just Say No.

  4. Contrasting Cuff Dress Shirts

    I’m not sure how to feel about these. On the face of it, a shirt (or jacket) that hides a special fabric reserved only for the wearer is perhaps the most Styleforumish of affectations, and one that I cannot ideologically oppose. However, when contrast cuffs are combined with the in-your-face stripes and collars (also contrasting on the underside) of Jermyn-inspired clubwear, men the world over are done a disservice. This is the ultimate boss form of the “going-out shirt,” and should be avoided at all costs. There’s no better way to say “Hi! I’m probably an asshole.”

    Addendum: Contrast Anything, Come to Think of It

    Yellow shoelaces? No. Purple collar tips? Please.  If it seems like a gimmick, it probably is – and a gimmick does not a well-dressed man make.

  5. Teensy-tiny ties with tie clipsI blame Mad Men, and by extension, JCrew. For a couple of years there, every other man on the street had declared himself dapper, a man’s man, by virtue of jacket lapels skinny as a pinky finger, a tie as narrow as a pencil, and to top it off – a tie clip (need we mention the ubiquitous gingham shirt?). Okay, I may be conflating a few different trends there, but they definitely went hand-in-hand, and were usually found beneath thick-framed retro spectacles.  It’s one thing to bring the 60’s back, it’s another to use your lemming powers for the sake of looking like an anonymous office drone. It’s not minimalism, people. It’s just bad.

    There’s a lot to be said for a tie that doesn’t make you look like you’re performing at a high school rock show, but to be fair, this has deep, deep roots. It reappeared in the mainstream alongside the the geek-chic look of the early 2000’s (we’ve talked about this before), but it’s not Joe Craft-Sixpack who’s to blame for the resurgence of the skinny-tie-and-bar. After all, who doesn’t want to look like Mick Jagger in his younger days? Sadly, at this point, the romance has become mundane. We must insist that your ties – and your lapels – increase to a respectable width. And please – leave the tie clip at home.

    There you have it: five of the most egregious aging menswear trends that really, desperately need to be buried. Does this list mean you’re not allowed to embrace color or personality? Of course not. It means that even when you’re dressing with the times, good taste should govern your stylistic decisions. Because “more, more, more” has never been a particularly effective guiding philosophy, and that extends to clothing.

Why Bespoke Clothing?

bespoke suit example

An example of a successful bespoke endeavor.

Bespoke what? The word itself has undergone changes since its first use in the 1500’s. Back then, “bespoke” was what you called your outfit.  Your one outfit, the one that smelled of Western European colonization.

“Why yes, the codpiece was bespoke. No, I don’t know why it’s so small. But the godless heathens should be impressed.”

The idea of having something made for you was nothing strange in those days, but as mass-produced items became commonplace, something made to your particular specifications (such as your particular body) became scarce.  Most ready-to-wear suits may not fit you perfectly, but a few may. Most are also made from ugly fabrics, but a handful are tastefully classic. The price range is anywhere from $300 to upwards of $3000 and higher. Something, somewhere, will fit your body, budget, and discriminating bias. So, why bespoke?

bespoke suit styleforum guidelines

All smiles throughout the process.

Indeed, in order to get something bespoke one has to do quite a bit of research, as few companies even offer such services. Fewer still are the tailoring houses that take your measurements, have various high quality fabrics to choose from, and provide fittings for adjustments. Most have to travel great distances to tailoring houses, across state lines, time zones, and oceans.  Others hope traveling tailors visit their city (or a nearby one), but such merchants visit once or perhaps twice a year, which means you may not receive the finished product for one or even two birthdays.  In contrast, off-the-rack suits can be found in any department store, ready for you to take home.  So again: why bespoke?

One word: romance.  Interestingly, a recent article from The New York Times quotes Georgetown linguistics professor Deborah Tannen, saying “bespoke” appeals to our individualism.  Which is partially true: more often than not, those who venture into bespoke have a very specific idea of how they want to appear.  What better way to materialize your distinct sense of identity by dictating your projected image?  Self-love and self-expression often go hand in hand

perfect bespoke suit

The Finished Product

But it’s more than that.  It’s the enchantment with bespoke itself – a medium which takes far more time than the alternative but, to those who appreciate it, returns far more reward.  Even if you never thread the needle, the process of discussing what environment you’ll wear the suit and how you wish to be presented, deciding which fabric you like versus how it will perform examining various technical styles, all contribute to the creation of a unique idea (yours).  You’re excited because you get to dictate the particulars.  But the courtship continues, because it’s during the fitting when you begin to see your idea turn into something tangible.  Sure, maybe a few tweaks need to be made, the tailor makes a note of it, you go out for some coffee, maybe dinner and a drink, shoot the breeze, exchange salutations, make another appointment, and part ways smiling with eager prospects of the next encounter.  Finally you see the finished product – the completed suit – and that’s it.  You try it on, and you’re smitten.  

That’s romance, and that’s the why of bespoke.  Sure, that suit makes you look great, but the process, eliciting feelings of creativity, anticipation and discovery, is the reason to choose bespoke.  Because you can’t find that in any department store.