Top 5 accessories you (may) need to own

Saturday, September 22, 2012
Many thanks to one of my readers for suggesting this post. I hope it is somewhat useful.

Listing the top five accessories you 'need' is somewhat harder than my previous post. Most of the ones I can think of you could easily get through life without, and none are quite as broadly useful as a blue blazer, for example. All the same, I would suggest that any man who wants to at least have the capacity to be seriously well-dressed needs to own most of these.

Cufflinks
Sure, you don't have to wear cufflinks and, if you never wear a suit, then you can probably get away with only ever wearing button-cuff shirts. Indeed, I am not personally a fan of wearing double-cuffed shirts with casual jackets, but that may just be me. All the same, it's generally considered smarter to wear cufflinks with a suit and, more importantly, it is one of the very few opportunities men have to wear a bit of jewellery.

The options are limitless - gold ovals are classic, perhaps engraved with your initials or a club or family emblem. I personally prefer the type with a front and back linked by a chain, as it looks far smarter, although I'll admit that the 'bar and swivel' type are easier to put on.

Other cufflinks with jewels, coloured enamel or other decoration are also options depending on your taste. Having something a bit showy is fine, but simpler is generally better.

Aside from that, simple silk knots are a cheap option available in an almost infinite variety of colours. They have the advantage of hardly being cufflinks at all, which may appeal to men who wear a suit all the time for work and prefer to avoid the added formality of metal cufflinks on a daily basis.


Braces
Or suspenders, for my American readers. Fewer and fewer men seem to wear braces, but I consider them almost vital for wearing suit trousers properly. I personally think that belts are pretty much unacceptable with a suit, despite their ubiquity these days, and it really requires braces to get suit trousers hanging comfortable at the right height without being uncomfortably cinched around the waist.

I favour the heavy boxcloth braces with leather attachments from Albert Thurston, but colourful silk ones are also an option and, since they should rarely be visible, you can feel free to go fairly wild.

Watch
I wasn't completely sure about including a watch on this list. If you like wearing watches then, no doubt, you already own one. If you don't like wearing watches then I wouldn't suggest that you rush out and buy one simply on the basis of this post. All the same, I love watches for all sorts of reasons, not least their ability to simultaneously enhance an outfit and enable a man to tell the time without fishing in a pocket for his smart phone. These alone make wearing a watch something a stylish man ought to seriously consider.

As to the type, I wouldn't presume to dictate to you on something so personal. My own preference is for watches that are as simple as possible, with the minimum of additional dials and buttons, and I slightly favour leather straps. You don't have to share my taste, but I would recommend avoiding overly 'sporty' or chunky watches with a suit. You may think they hint at a secret life of extreme sports, but I would suggest they hint at having never grown up. Unnecessarily fully-featured watches are equally problematic - the manufacturer may imagine it's a positive that their watch is designed to help solo pilots circumnavigate the globe but, unless you actually own an aircraft, such a watch is more likely to make you look deluded while also failing to fit properly under your shirt cuff.

Ok, so I would presume to dictate to you on something so personal. Sorry.

Belt(s)
Yes, I think you should wear braces with your suits, and yes a belt does very little for trousers worn at the natural waist, but the time has long since passed where odd trousers were made with side adjusters or worn very far above the hip, so a belt is both a necessary and potentially very attractive part of the wardrobe.

Every man really needs a good, solid, brown leather belt. Avoid the hell out of fancy buckles, particularly anything with logos or images. A belt like this will go well with brown shoes to wear with chinos or other odd trousers. You may also want a black belt, although I would suggest that the occasions when you will wear black shoes with odd trousers are probably fewer. 

Aside from that, a couple of more casual belts can also be worthwhile, particularly to wear with tailored shorts or just to make a change in more relaxed outfits. I'm a big fan of stripy canvas belts, which generally end with leather attachments and a brass buckle. Smart Turnout do this sort of thing in school and regimental colours which is fun, though probably not strictly necessary.

Pocket Squares
Pocket squares, which for a long time seemed to be seen as the preserve of slightly 'dandified' men, are making a pleasing resurgence. It might be the Mad Men effect, or just a general enthusiasm for (albeit generally rather distorted) formal style. 

I love them for the opportunity to add another bit of colour to an outfit, and because of the small amount of additional care they show that you've taken. If appropriately selected with a careful eye, to compliment or contrast with the ensemble of shirt, tie and jacket, they complete an outfit in a way that makes their absence start to seem almost striking.

I personally favour an carelessly style with a mere half-inch showing in unstudied peaks or waves, but a neater line or triangle fold can look extremely smart, particularly with a plain white pocket square. The secret is to show neither too much or too little, and certainly to avoid great mounds of silk flowing from your top pocket. A variety of colours, patterns and materials are available, and if you start to build up a collection you'll always have the right thing for the occasion, whether it's a dark green paisley cotton square to wear with a tweed jacket, or a spotted silk one to tuck into your most sober business suit.