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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.