Dressing the hill

Thursday, October 25, 2012
I'm not always a fan of GQ - their content, contributors and clothing style irks me enough that I rarely buy the magazine. That said, this online article really appealed:
http://www.gq.com/style/wear-it-now/201211/project-upgrade-washington-dc-capitol-hill

It exposes what I would describe as the 'everyday bad dress' of most men (not just political wonks either - you'd spot all of these problems in a single tube carriage during rush hour in London). What I mean by 'everyday bad dress' is not dressing terribly badly, but simply dressing without either thought or understanding. It's wearing a suit that's one size too big, because you lack the confidence or knowledge to get it really fitting. It's wearing boring shiny ties because they're what you've worn every day for the last ten years. It's wearing clunky shoes because they're a bit cheaper and you assume noone notices and, deep down, you're worried there's something a bit feminine about a neat pair of leather-soled brogues.

So, men everywhere could read this and learn something from it. My five key 'take-outs' (if you'll let me slip into management-speak for a moment) would be:

  • Fit. I cannot emphasise this enough! All of the men featured have enough material pooling around their ankles to make another suit out of. You don't need to know much about clothes to know that's just not right. Getting a jacket to fit may be harder, but have the confidence to ask a salesperson for advice, and if they can't give it to you then shop somewhere they can. Fit matters so much more than anything else (cloth, manufacturer and style included), that it just can't be ignored. 
  • Shoes. So easy to ignore, and so often the one thing that ruins an outfit. More than half the men in the article are wearing shapeless shoes made from cheap leather that won't age well or take a decent polish. Despite the current fashion, I'm a big fan of slim, round-toed shoes and I loathe the random seams running along the top and sides of shoes that seem to be in fashion at the moment.
  • Textures. Many of the men benefited from swapping shiny, plain grey or black suits (or suit trousers) for something with a bit of texture. For day-to-day work wear, plain worsted suits are always going to be useful, but some kind of colour, texture or pattern can really lift it out of the mundane. The 3rd man in this article is a particularly good example of that.
  • Ties. In almost all cases, then men in this article looked a million times better wearing ties with smaller knots, fewer colours, and less shine. GQ is also a big fan of slimmer ties, which isn't necessarily something I'd always advocate, but there's definitely a balance to be struck, and overly-wide ties are both a bad look and also currently very unfashionable.
  • Accessories. GQ just loves tie clips and pocket squares and, as you'll know from my previous post, I'm not a big believer in jamming every possible accessory on to your outfit for the sake of it. It's possible to be very well dressed with just a good suit and tie, and very badly dressed with a pocket square and tie clip. That said, a well-chosen and discreet pocket square can make a good outfit great, and a tie clip both looks pleasing in its own right and, if position correctly, can add form and shape to the tie.