How Many Buttons Should Really Be Done Up?

4X_04500_0070Settle an argument, please. Are you supposed to do up all the buttons on your suit coat?

– C.C. & K.R.

No. Never ever. Both your coat and your vest are to be worn with the bottom button undone in any and all circumstances. As far as the rest of the buttons go, feel free to wear them either way when you are seated, but do them back up as soon as you leave your chair if you are wearing a suit or a sport coat. Casual or deconstructed blazers and jackets can, of course, remain unbuttoned 24-7. They’re easy that way.

What’s The Secret To Matching Your Tie To Your Shirt?

Screen Shot 2012-12-08 at 9.52.16 AMIs there a foolproof way to get your shirt and tie colours to really mesh? Do you just try and match one colour in the tie pattern with your shirt and hope for the best? Or just fall back on solid ties and “red with blue, black with grey, stripes with white, green no way”?

– T.C.

Dude. This is the twenty-first century. We live in an age fabulous and unthinkable wonders and we no longer dress ourselves according to rhymes, old wives’ tales, or Emily Post. These days there’s an app for that.

Search your app store of choice for one of the many colour-matching and palette-planning apps that are offered by virtually every paint company in business today. Sherwin-Williams, Benjamin Moore, CIL – they all have an app and they are all free. The one that I personally prefer for both colour accuracy and ease of use is Color Smart Mobile from Behr. Snap a picture of your shirt and you are handed a handy palette of accent and complimentary colours. Pick a tie that features one – or even better, two – of the colours and you are going to look like you were dressed by a high-powered team of wardrobe professionals. And for future reference you can take pictures of a decent cross-section of your wardrobe and save the colours as “favourites”. Now you’ve equipped yourself with a pocket catalogue of wardrobe reference samples. You can bust it out when shopping for new stuff and have some instant and very savvy colour suggestions.

This little trick works for pocket squares, too. Any mope can tuck in a pocket square that simply matches the colour of his shirt. But getting creative and adding a pocket square in a complimentary colour gives you both a finished look and and huge hit of runway style. And don’t be afraid to branch out from the traditional formal attire. If you are wearing an open-necked sport shirt with a suit or jacket for Casual Friday the addition of a perfectly contrasting pocket square will rocket you from ho-hum sameness to top-shelf flair.

How Long Should A Man’s Pants Be?

How long should a man’s pants be really? Where on the shoe should they hit? Just grazing the top of his shoe?

– Jenny

When you talk about the length of men’s pants, you are dealing with what we style gurus call the “break”. If you are an average-shaped guy wearing a traditionally tailored pant – and this includes slacks – the material should “break” on the top of the shoe, leaving a well-defined but shallow horizontal crease just above the ankle. The incredibly useful sketch just to the left is a perfect example. To get this look, mark the spot on the top of the shoe halfway up the laces. Then hem the pants so their length comes to a point between this spot and the top of the sole. Or just ask your tailor for a single break when you buy the pants.

There are a couple of ways you can work outside of this rule for some visual pop. If you are taller than average, you can go for a “double break” – your pants fall on the shoe with two horizontal creases, one just above the other. On shorter guys this just comes off looking like your pants are too long, so if you not over six feet in height you want to avoid this at the risk of appearing dumpy. But if you do have the height for this it is a dynamic and powerful look and it ensures that your pants are long enough to hang properly on your gangly legs when sitting down. To get a double break the hem of the pants should come all the way to the top of the sole … and if you are doing this with slacks, you also want a vented hem.

At the other end of the spectrum, if you have pants with a highly-tapered ultra-thin leg – and you are also appropriately thin – then you can go for no break at all. The hem of the pants should just barely brush the top of the laces. This gives you an edgy take-no-prisoners runway style kind of look, and if you can pull this one off then I tip my hat to you and your awesomeness. Be warned, though: If your waist is more than 32 inches this is not for you. Just back away.

Finally, you may remember that at the start of the summer a number of designers were taking their hems even higher, right up off the shoe. This had no redeeming value at all and it fortunately disappeared as quickly as it arrived. Hooray for small favours.

Slip-ons Or Lace-ups?

Loafers or shoes with laces?

– Mys

Dude. Can you say “insufficient data”? Loafers or shoes with laces … with what? A suit? Bermuda shorts? Jeans? A toga? Give me something to work with here.

In the complete absence of useful information, however, there are still a few guidelines that you may find useful. First and foremost, laces will always be more formal than slip-ons, period. You are never going to be overdressed with laces. But you could end up looking like a schmuck if you dress down with slip-ons. If you need a rule to give you an idea where the cut-off point is, try this: If you have lapels, whether on your jacket or your shirt, then go with laces. And if you have any doubts at all, leave the loafers at home. You are never overdressed with a proper shoe.

Oh – and if you are wondering, always lace-up white bucks with real Bermuda shorts. Otherwise, those shoes in the picture there? They go with damn near anything. Those shoes are hot.

How Can I Stay Cool In Long Pants?

I don’t want to look like a tool and wear shorts to a restaurant, but I don’t want to roast either. Where can I get pants that look cool and actually feel cool?

– Sweatpants

So I have to ask: Why didn’t you ask this at the start of the summer so that your fellow men might gain some useful knowledge when the weather would make said knowledge actually, you know, useful? You have got to work on your timing.

This one is easy. Get yourself to a store than caters to the skater crowd. Really. The absolute best choices in full-length summer-weight trousers come from the brands like Hurley, Quicksilver, and Billabong. Strange but true! You will find any number of pieces in lightweight fabrics and subtle patters that make a great foundation for anything you want to pair it with up top. Just remember to keep them pressed (it makes a huge difference to how finished you look in the summer) and stay away from big in-your-face layover graphics or embroidery. Subtle and neat are your watchwords here.

What’s With The Vests?

I’m seeing a lot of vests is stores this year. Are you supposed to wear them with a suit? A tie? Both or none? What’s the deal?

– Tommy Twopiece

Tommy Twopiece, eh? Clever.

Listen: If you buy a vest as a standalone item, it’s usually meant to – and excuse my restatement of the obvious here – stand alone. Don’t try and slot it in with a suit. If your suit didn’t come with a vest then it wasn’t meant to work with one. Wear your vest with jeans and a long-sleeve sport shirt, with slacks and an open-necked dress shirt, or under a casual jacket with a high-contrast pair of trousers. Ties are totally optional here, and if you do wear something around your neck this is one place that you can go with a loose knot and still look finished.

Make sure the vest you buy fits you properly, though. This can be a tricky thing – jackets and pants have some wiggle room, but a vest has to fit just right. If it is even a little bit loose you look like you just woke up in a dumpster, and if it is even a little bit tight you look like a sausage plumping up on the grill. Get it right, however, and you have an excellent investment in a single piece of attire that can add new looks to all sorts of things you already own. If you see one that catches your eye, grab it. It’s definitely going to be money well spent.

How Wide Should My Tie Really Be?

Mick Jagger in a stylishly wide tieHow wide should a tie really be? Last year ties were crazy wide, now they are not as wide, some guys wear skinny secret agent ties, is there a rule?

– Rocco

You want a rule? Try this one: Wear what you think looks great on you. Really. The real key to fashion is feeling like a million bucks. How you get there is your business.

With that out of the way, we can get down to some practical advice. There was a time when I would have passed along deathless wisdom about matching the blade of the tie to the drop of the collar and the waist of the lapel, but those days are long gone. Most men today dont even know what the blade of their tie is. Instead, remember this: The important thing isn’t the width of the tie, it’s the size of the knot. The knot should fill the space between the wings of your collar without looking crowded. If the knot pushes the wings of and off your chest then it is too big. If there is a gap between the top of the knot and the edges of the collar then it is too small.

The trick to making sure the knot fits just right is all in the knot you choose. Every guy should have two knots in tie toolkit: The half Windsor and the full. If you aren’t sure which is which or how to tie them, go talk to your tailor. He can not only show you these things but also give you a quick rundown on how they should fill your collar space and how to angle the sides of the knot. That leaves you ready to buy almost any tie that catches your eye and still wear it like a pro.

If you are still hung up on widths for some reason you can always go with this: Don’t wear a wide tie if you are a skinny guy. Don’t wear a skinny tie if you are a wide guy. And no matter what size you are, a tie that is 9 cm across at the widest part is going to look good. When push comes to shove you can always fall back on that.

What’s Up With The Untucked Dress Shirts?

On “casual Friday” in my office a lot of guys wear jeans with a dress shirt untucked. Now I even see the untucked shirt with dress pants on other days of the week. Should I follow along on this one?

– Tim

In a word, no. Really and truly no. There are very few places for a shirt with tails to be untucked, and none of them involve the office. Keep the tails in at the office. Period. If you really feel like you need to experiment with an untucked dress shirt, try this: Get yourself a suit with a really modern and semi-deconstructed cut and wear it after hours with the jacket open, the shirt untucked, and the cuffs undone. You have to have a tall and lean build for this but if you can pull it off you will have that long cool look that so many guys strive for and so few guys find. Talk to your tailor about it and try it out in the store before you buy. If it works for you then consider yourself one of the chosen few and wear the look with pride.

After hours.

Can I Wear Cufflinks Without A Suit?

There are a lot of cool cufflinks out there, but I don’t wear a suit often enough to make them worth my while. Can you wear a cuffed and linked shirt without a full suit?

– Itchy Wrists

You betcha. A double-cuffed shirt, tie, lightly-patterned trousers, and a pair of links is one of the great looks for this spring. You can even push the envelope and go without a tie if you frame the shirt with a vest. You are going to look like the cock of the walk whether you are out for dinner and drinks, visiting the in-laws on a weekend afternoon, or just rocking the office on casual Friday. Other mopes will tremble in your presence.

To make the look come across as confident and finished (and not just like you forgot your jacket somewhere) you want to give the cufflinks the “front and centre” treatment. Make them the star of the show. Go with a big hit of colour on the links – enamel on silver or steel really works for this – or a funky shape that reflects your life and personal style. These aren’t your father’s cufflinks … make a statement here, and make it big.

Oh – and go see a doctor about those wrists. That sounds nasty.

Men’s Summer Style, 2012: Flood Pants

I have noticed a slightly disturbing trend in men’s casual wear for the coming summer season. A number of otherwise decent designers are pushing lightweight pants with a shorter-than-normal hem – right at the ankle instead of breaking on the top of the shoe. The idea is to highlight a “proper casual shoe and no socks” look to give men the idea that summer casual doesn’t have to mean shorts and that you can wear a proper trouser and still exude summer cool. To try and head off any ideas that these are “flood pants” the hem is bought in tight to the ankle to emphasize the idea that it belongs right there, on the skinniest part of the leg, and is not just creeping up and looking stupid.

Now I am all for the idea of men dressing with some style and class when the weather gets hot – less with the shorts and more with the slacks is a good thing. But I can’t recommend this at all. Unless you are runway-model skinny, the natural cut of the thigh and knee combined with the super-tight hem is going to make you look like you are wearing parachute pants. And this is not going to age well at all. One of the reasons to stick with classic styles and cuts in the men’s wear arena is to make sure than when you invest in a piece this year you know you can wear it next summer, and the summer after that, and the summer after that. That replay value is not going to be happening here at all.

Verdict: Avoid.