At this merry time of year, it is custom to reflect on the past 12 months. Men huddle together in jolly groups and share stories, jokes and memories, comforted by spiced wine and the universality of aging. It’s an informal review; usually rose-tinted ruminations full of good humour and innocent machismo; “A toast to women!” or perhaps “May our poor cricketers rot in hell!” In fact it is these rather polar assessments that characterise our seasonal commentary, and as I sat in contemplation of my experiences over the past year, I discovered I too had a tendency to review the state of the world in this monochrome way; good and evil, the adversaries of yore, thrash it out in my mind’s eye like tireless samurai warriors. And so, in this tide of Yule, I feel it is appropriate to share with you some of my musings. More particularly, my sartorial pet peeves and personal partialities.
Rucksacks with suits
The rucksack, or knapsack, is a very useful item of luggage. It’s practical for when you wish to transport things from one place to another without the need of inconveniencing the poor old hands. For climbing, the rucksack is indispensable. Ditto cycling. However, I grumble audibly when I see suited chaps wandering down Regent Street, crushing their Super 100’s covered shoulders with a distinctly ugly and unfitting poly-something creation with an appropriately European sounding manufacturer such as Berghaus or The North Face. It’s not only cycling commuters who do this. Plenty of moderately well-dressed men climb on and off public transport with these nylon cysts on their backs.
This ‘uglification’ of the City gent is a sad sight indeed and I wish, with all my heart, that it would dashed well desist.
The schoolboy’s tie
Relieved as I may be to see more and more people embracing the necktie, it’s a crying shame that such embracement is often completed with a glance at some obscure imaginary manual, doubtless entitled ‘The Footballers Way to Tie a Tie’. Short and fat are ugly words, and appropriately they connote something ugly indeed, so it is incredible how, when given a stretch of fine silk, some people produce a cumbrous creation that has the look of an overfed sea bass. With a shapeless and flat knot, the ‘schoolboy attempt’ at a tie is often seen on older men who should know better. Keep the length sensible and the knot a discernible shape and voila, you’ll look thirteen no longer!
The Metropolitan mountain ranger
As with the rucksack, something I cannot abide is the practice of wearing an outdoor activity jacket over a suit. I would never contemplate wearing a covert coat in the Himalayas, so I cannot fathom how someone can conscience wearing a ski-jacket in London. It may be warm, but so are plenty of smart overcoats on offer at countless stores all over the city. The shape, if it has one, is grossly unflattering for the purposes of the metropolis and despite its useful number of pockets and zip-up practicality, it is a quite terrible thing to be seen in when strolling into a restaurant for a business lunch meeting.
Co-ordinating pocket squares
The pocket square, though it is experiencing a revival, is still rarely seen. The glorious silk versions, never used for their intended purpose, look fabulous when worn with complementary-coloured shirts and ties. I saw an elegant gentleman wearing a green paisley pocket square with a green tie and a violet and white striped shirt; a wonderfully rich combination that also complemented his midnight blue pinstriped double-breasted suit. Co-ordinating can go too far but generally, ‘supporting’ colours have a smartening effect and make the gentleman look organised and interesting.
I adore very smart and graceful shoes. Punch-cap Oxfords, patent shoes; there’s nothing that lifts a dull outfit more than a pair of fabulous kickers. Tasselled loafers are a personal partiality of mine. They are individual and natty and the gaiety of the tassel is appropriate for formal and casual wear; jeans with chestnut tasselled loafers look quite brilliant.
May the Gods of decorum strike me down, for I heartily approve of wearing richly coloured socks even with formal suits. Reds are a favourite, and bright blues are certainly arresting. The childlike optimism of colouring the ankles is what I find most appealing. Though it is de rigueur to match sock with pant, a stunning contrast marks out the man as an individual.
Arguably the new modern classic cut of clothing is the slim-fit. It’s not so much an invention but a renaissance. Slim cuts of trouser, jacket and shirt have been very popular fashion styles of the past, but the fashion-trend of the Noughties seems to have created a lifestyle choice for the future. ‘Full’ clothing does not seem as appealing as it once was; I tried a classic cut jumper on in GAP only to recoil in horror. I looked immature and amateurish, whereas a slim-fitting version flattered me greatly. Of course, it helps that I am naturally emaciated, but there is no doubt, should it come to dilapidation of my metabolism, that I will endeavour to remain in slim-cut threads.