Archives for November 2007

Using Colour in an Outfit

Adding that measure of poise to an outfit is the sine qua non for the elegant gentleman of today. Balance and harmony have become important once more to the modern man and this element of sartoria can take a number of forms. One of the most common methods of attaining this equilibrium is through the use of colour.

Colour matching and complementation is a universally adopted method of balancing and is used in not just fashion, but a variety of design fields where synchronization is desired. The question is how far to go with the matching and complementation; where does harmonious elegance end and heavy-handedness begin.

Though some might claim such balancing is a science that can be taught, experimentation is the most vital thing to remember when playing with colour. Rules, such as not wearing navy blue with black, are there to be broken; if you can pass off an unconventional match with aplomb then so much the better.

Feminine colours

Pinks, purples and even oranges and yellows are often considered feminine colours. Turquoise is regularly regarded to have that jewel-like brightness that only a woman can be seen in. However, using feminine colours in moderation alongside male classics such as school blazer grey, navy blue, black and racing green will dilute the acidic effect they can often have. Playing merry hell with such colours will lead to the ice-cream-Florida-retirement-home sartorial disaster; I learned my lesson long ago about being too ‘brave’ in this regard.

Using white and black

Use white and black to take the sickly-sweet out of overly colourful looks; this will add a calm to the mélange. The pictures below show how this technique works.


Good colour companions for pinks are black, light and dark greys, navy and mid blues, dark green and, for a summertime look, ivory and white. Pink is sophisticated and friendly and is appropriate for all seasons. However, be careful not to colour match too much; if wearing a pink shirt, match it with, at most, pink socks or a pink pocket square if the mood throws you. Companion colours for pink in terms of such accessories are spring greens, navy blues and browns.


Purple is a difficult colour to manage. It’s certainly striking and regal in appearance, but it needs to be worn with outfits of a sufficient sparkle. Charcoal greys and blacks are the best companions for purple; small accessorising colours able to stand up to its dominance are bright reds, rich greens and strong sky blues. It’s best to restrict colour matching when wearing purple. The true Imperial purple of Rome is a statement in itself and throwing arbitrary colours into the mix can look messy.

How far to go with accessorising

Colour matching and contrasting is a lot of fun and the effect can be truly magnificent. However, an unhealthy mix can draw unwanted attention. Pocket squares and socks are subtle ways to support or draw upon another colour that you are wearing. Adding colour matching belts and gloves can look excessive, especially if you are wearing several references to that colour already.

Instead of perpetually colour matching, colour styling is a good idea. This is a habit of wearing certain colours with certain styles of accessories and footwear; for example, the habit I have of wearing a brown belt with brown shoes or check shirts.

Style Icon: Noel Coward

The artistic polymath Noel Coward was also one of the most desired and admired men of his day. A playwright, award winning actor, composer and society wit, Coward was the living exemplar of a Hollywood super-character; suave, clever and wickedly talented.

He was also one of the leaders of fashion and his high position of influence meant that his particular interpretive chic was followed by many men who would, had he not been Noel Coward, probably not have allowed themselves to be persuaded so.
Coward was flamboyant, and his wardrobe was no exception to this. Not garish and gaudy like a Quentin Crisp, Coward’s style was sleeker and less baroque. He had idiosyncrasies to be sure; white shoes were a favourite of his, as were large almost clown-like bow ties but he was never inflexible.

His style changes throughout the decades of his life display his openness to fashion and new ideas. In photographs of Noel Coward, at the height of his powers in the 1930s or towards the end of his career, and his life, in the 1970s, you get a sense that Coward was enjoying himself all the way. At no point do you look at him and see a defeated man; an embittered oldie who has let the world go by. He looks thoroughly active; taking part, mixing in and providing creativity all the way.

In addition to his artistry of dress, Coward had a knack for posing. Never shy of the camera, some of his portraits are works of art; sitting or standing, Coward gestures and throws mordant smiles at the lens.

Coward is often credited with being a 20th century dandy. Alongside the other candidates however, Coward shines. He was never foppish nor brassy, and his jaunty style was always in good humour and was as much a part of him as the witty melodies running through his mind. Other modern dandies have tended to mock dandyism, taking the meaning of the word to a tasteless extreme. Coward’s part in fashion was rather like that of Brummell’s; a modernity that doesn’t look too modern, an elegance that doesn’t look like ornamentation. Coward couldn’t abide vulgarity and often spoke of his friend and contemporary rival Ivor Novello as a talented man, one capable of being “violently glamorous” but also a “little vulgar.”

Coward was all about discretion and taste; a thoroughly English gentleman who put his best foot forward. He is likely to be remembered, fortunately, for what he gave to the world. As long as his name is muttered approvingly by generation upon generation of devotees, the world will be exposed to the unique and entertaining personality he was; an icon in all the best denotations of the word.

My Style Influence

In a discussion not too long ago, someone asked me who has had the most significant style influence in my life. Though I assumed that an actor, designer or even a politician would be the winner, what almost immediately popped into my head was a little surprising. Since most people’s personality tends to be the sum of life events as well as genetics, I thought you might find a story that combines both a little interesting. If nothing else, I’d like to think of this as a brief testament to finding true class right at home.

Though not my initial thought, it quickly became obvious that the most powerful influence on my personal style has been my father. While I have had many influences over the years, from magazines and movies to working in a couple of Ralph Lauren stores; my core view of what defines “style” is firmly grounded in him.

As is often the case with children, I never really appreciated as a boy his wonderfully classic sense of taste and respect for quality. It only hit me after I had grown up and moved on with my life. Though he himself would eventually grow up to live a decidedly preppy handbook kind of life, he was by no means born to it. A keen application of hard work and long hours in the library eventually led to a New England prep school and then an Ivy League college. The result is a man who, though having very traditional taste and an appreciation for the classics, is without pretense. He has never forgotten his roots.

As to his personal style, my dad’s version of a sweatshirt and jeans are khakis and a corduroy sport coat. It is simply what he grew up with; as he once told me, “I’ve worn a jacket every day since grade school, I had to.” As a result, he has always managed to look completely comfortable in such attire without being the least bit stuffy or off-putting. This is a real accomplishment as, literally, he has never actually owned a pair of jeans. To the contrary, he has always been an approachable guy which is very important because he is also doctor.

One particular memory of my father will always stick with me because it showed how clothing can so define the inner qualities of a man. I was with a friend who worked at our local hospital and we stopped by the emergency room so he could drop something off. While I stood in a corner, watching the commotion and trying to stay out of the way, I saw my dad come around the corner. As it so happened, he looked great; seersucker suit and white bucks – downright natty, actually. He didn’t see me.

What happened next will forever stay in my heart and mind. He walked over to an elderly man lying on a gurney parked along the wall. Very gently, he leaned over and began to talk with the gentleman. Their heads close together, I could see the body of my father’s patient relax. At that moment, what he had on was irrelevant; he was there to comfort and help his patient. I then recalled something he had once said about always dressing well to make his rounds at the hospital: it wasn’t for his benefit; rather it was a sign of respect to his patients. He paid attention to how he dressed because his patients deserved at least that.

In that moment, the style on the outside very much matched the man on the inside. It’s easy to dress well, but that’s not the same thing as having class. More than any magazine or movie star, that image will always be my definition of true style.

Moleskine Notebooks

As someone who is constantly taking notes, sketching out ideas and regularly trying to sound witty and knowledgeable on such elusive topics as cashmere v. merino cardigans, I pay attention to notebooks. Like any other personal accessory, a notebook says as much about you as your shirt or watch. Do you grab an anonymous spiral bound book from the office supply cabinet, or do you spend weeks searching for just the right exotic handmade Florentine creation bound in leather with marbled pages? Me, I fall in between, and my personal favorite is Moleskine.

While I admit that I have a weak spot for nice blank books and handmade papers, I really love the elegant simplicity of Moleskine journals. These subversive little black books with the elastic band almost beg to be written in. While an admittedly elegant lambskin journal from Smythson will cost you $250, for under $20, you can get a large format Moleskine in your choice paper style (plain, lined or grid). There is even a handy expanding pocket in the back.

The pocket sized journals have become iconic and are instantly recognizable. Where some journals look like they belong in a museum, eliciting actual panic at the thought of actually writing down a mere “to do” list within those hand tooled covers, Moleksines encourage you to jot down your daily musings.

The Italian company that now owns Moleskine, Modo & Modo, recently expanded their product line to include a variety of elegantly simple diaries – one sits in front of me as I type. Thay also have a line of cahiers; thinner, lightweight versions of the traditional Moleskine journals that are perfect for slipping into a shirt pocket or leather folio on the way to a meeting.

The latest and most exciting edition to the lineup are the newly launched city journals. On the outside they have the traditional Moleskine black cover, but inside are filled with a combination of maps, city guides, and tabbed sections for listing such vitals as restaurants and stores, and room for travel notes. It is a great tool for travelers, perfect for keeping track of stores, restaurants and local events. City journals cover multiple locals including Paris, London, Seattle, Washington, D.C., New York and Rome. Each book has the city name discretely embossed on the spine.

Moleskine has an enormous cult following across the web and one of the best sites is the blog Also stop by, an amazing blog dedicated to travel and urban exploration in all its forms. Of course, make sure to check out, the official company website; it is a cool and informative resource for all things Moleskine.

Men’s Jewelry… Approach with Care

Men’s jewelry is a contentious topic for many. Some people feel very strongly that men’s bodies should remain strictly unadorned except of course for a watch, while others favor the increased self-expression that these items bring. Whatever the case, when investing in men’s jewelry, it’s best to leave the flashy items for FlavaFlav and aim for accessories with some dignity.


A bracelet should not be sexually ambiguous. It should be big and chunky so as to differentiate itself from more feminine styles. Unless you are Jay-Z, it is furthermore unacceptable to be dripping in diamonds and showing off your bling-bling. I think bracelets for men can work well when they are simple and sturdy. Your best bet is to go with a chain-link bracelet or something similar.

Pictured one from Dolce and Gabbana is undeniably masculine and stylish. I am not, however, a fan of leather wraparound bracelets, which are too S&M-inspired to be worn in most respectable locations.


A watch tells more about a man that any other article of clothing or set of accessories and neither a man’s wardrobe or identity are complete without one. If you are going to splurge on any item at all, it should be a watch as it both the item on which you will most likely be judged and is often (justly or unjustly) used as a marker for success. A high-quality watch is something that can be passed on from generation to generation as a family heirloom; as the slogan of Patek Phillipe goes, “You never really own a Patek Phillipe, you merely look after it for the next generation.”


Besides a wedding band, it is hard for a man to pull off wearing a ring without looking either like Phil Leotardo from the Sopranos or a car mechanic. At the same time, it is still not impossible.

Rings like pictured one from Gucci are simple and attractive while not overwhelming. Basic rules for making rings work is to not wear any diamonds in them and also to steer away from gold. One absolute is that your class ring should remain off your finger until a meeting with your alma mater’s dean to try to get your legacy child into the same prep school (when applicable).


Necklaces again are a tricky item to pull of and it can really only be done well by certain types of people. Long chain necklaces look good on thin, hipster types who have a tendency to wear low-cut V-neck as well as open collard shirts. Necklaces made of string, shells, hemp, or any combination are reserved for middle school children and surfer punks. Middle-aged men should stay away for fear of again looking like a Mafioso.