Archives for May 2008

Odd Colour Combinations

There are a good few ways to stand out in a suit, almost as many as the chapters of a style book: cloth, cut, pattern, accessories etc. But one of the most rewarding and hardest to master is colour. It is so easy to get wrong – everyone can summon some lurid combination from his or her memory. I saw someone in a suit recently that had bulbous red chalk stripes on a grey/green ground. It was hideous.

Colour is also relatively easy to get right – blue suit, white shirt, blue tie; grey suit, pink shirt, black tie; grey suit, white shirt, almost any tie. What is genuinely difficult is a colour combination that is right but unusual. Something that stands out because it is not safe, and therefore is rarely worn; but that works.

Combining colours does not come naturally to many men. It is an artistic talent at heart, and one that few have pursued or developed. Most would ideally have a colour combination chart to refer to, but disliking such artifice, choose to re-wear the same few combinations.

I cycle to work most days, and keep a few suits and pairs of shoes in the office. So every morning I have to pack a shirt and tie, trying to picture how they will go with the suits, shoes and other accessories I have at work. It makes picking combinations even harder.

There are three combinations that I like particularly because they are different, and that I think stand out because they work. They are pink and green, purple and yellow, and blue and brown.

Pink and green works best as a shirt/tie combination: pale pink shirt, bright green tie. The tie I have is a sharp green polo tie, complete with small red insignia. I’m sure the red helps a little to harmonise with the shirt, but the pink and green themselves work wonderfully. Unusual, yes; but it works. I also have a dark green handkerchief with brown detailing that works just as well to complement an open-necked pink shirt. Red and green are of course contrasting colours, but they are too strong on their own to pair off well. With the red diluted into pink, it works.

Which segues nicely into purple and yellow, as they are also contrasting colours (for those who can’t remember art class, a primary colour’s contrasting colour is the result of mixing the other two primaries). Now purple and yellow are hard to match in a shirt and tie. I have one very pale yellow shirt that does work with a dark purple tie, but I think the two are best put together in bright but separated combinations – shirt and pocket handkerchief or socks and tie/handkerchief/shirt. Mostly I think yellow works best as the first of these pairings. Try a purple paisley handkerchief with your yellow shirt; or bright yellow socks with an otherwise sober purple tie.

My last combination is less unusual, but it is a perennial favourite. All too often I feel men reach for a drab or washed-out tie to go with their blue shirt – grey, black or a pale version of one of the colours above. Instead, try a brown tie, perhaps with a white stripe. The richness of the colour is unusual and draws the eye; the same works with a brown handkerchief (perhaps yellow/orange pattern) to an open-necked blue shirt. The same rule applies to brown shoes with a blue shirt, as is often said. The Italians like brown shoes they hardly wear anything else. Black is reserved for formal wear. Get a nice pair of chocolate Oxfords and you may find yourself doing the same.

Environmentally Conscious Timekeeping

I am a watch guy; not dedicated to one particular style or maker, my tastes run the gamut. Vintage, brand new, elegant complications or chunky dive watches; I like them all. I have become a bit of an evangelist about one thing though – I think people should wear mechanical watches or watches that don’t need traditional batteries, if any.

With all the talk about going green, we should each take along hard look at ourselves; at our wrists, specifically. Are you still wearing one of those battery powered timekeepers? Well, shame on you. Just think about what it takes to manufacture, ship, store, replace and throw out millions of those little batteries each year. It’s enough to make a Swiss master watchmaker cry.

These days we have some great high-tech and low-tech options for marking time in an environmentally friendly fashion. Mechanical watches in particular have made a big comeback in recent years and they are the perfect investment if you’re looking for something to pass down to your kids. You can find quality mechanical timepieces in a range of prices, from $500 to $50,000.

Leaving aside the $25,000.00 Patek Philippe that most of us will not be acquiring in the near future, there are many affordable mechanical watches that will last a lifetime and remain stylish through most any trend.

The Rolex Submariner is a classic sports watch and at around $5,500.00, while not exactly cheap, it is a possible choice for many professionals. If you are looking for one “good” watch, you can’t go wrong with at Submariner. A very affordable alternative is the $375.00 Seiko “Orange Monster.” Yes, I said Seiko; watch aficionados know that they make some of the most reliable mechanical movements in the dive industry and the Orange Monster has its own cult following.

Want microsecond accuracy without having to shake your wrist? Citizen’s Eco-Drive technology transforms your watch into a big solar collector. The watch’s face and crystal absorb all types of light and convert it into the energy that runs your watch indefinitely. One of the most popular is the Citizen Skyhawk Black Eagle which lists around $475.00. It’s tough enough that no one will make fun of your social consciousness.

If you’re a fan of the unstoppable Jack Bauer from the TV action drama “24”, check out a favorite of mine, the Blackhawk by MTM. This is the very one Jack wears and it has a cool illumination feature that can be used to signal commandos, blind an assailant or just track down your car keys. The company’s revolutionary rechargeable lithium ion battery is good for 10 years and the watch needs only an overnight recharge every three months or so to keep it running strong. And don’t worry; the Secret Service and Delta Force have already tested it for you, so it’ll survive a rough afternoon on the back nine.

These are just a few of the hundreds of watches that can help you look sharp, telegraph your values and interests, and take a small but important step to reducing you personal carbon footprint. They also give you an excuse to add to your own collection.

Style Icon: Marcello Mastroianni

La Dolce Vita
was on this morning. It has been an absolute age since I have seen it and I had rather forgotten what a strange but fabulously enjoyable film it is. As I have grown, I feel I have wearied of excessive emphasis on plot; Fellini’s collection of vignettes is a wonderful antidote because, as a movie, it allows your mind to wander as your eyes indulge. And indulge they do. From the earth-shatteringly famous scene by the Trevi fountain to the tender and sweet scene of the melancholy clown, La Dolce Vita is a film of some style.

And what style! It has one of the most beautiful sets in the world in the city of Rome, appealing photography and some lovely costumes. And then there’s Marcello Mastroianni. As I was watching him in the film, it struck me how slight his natural manner could be; how his status as a style icon has a lot more to do with subtlety than beefy bravado. His entrances were not glories of beauty and costume; there was no grandstanding, no self-satisfaction. Mastroianni seemed to float gently through Rome, quietly tipping his sunglasses. He was not costumed extravagantly or outrageously but something in his carriage, the way he wore his clothes – his ‘flair’ if you will – was remarkable. Some might credit Fellini, or the excellent wardrobe department, but I think Mastroianni was a natural.

I compared his talent for wearing simple clothes extremely well to the awkwardness of Gregory Peck. Whilst Peck was a talented actor, he didn’t have the louche coolness of Mastroianni. His shoulders, though magnificent, rather got in the way of channelling any kind of chic and there was something a little too earnest in his manner. Mastroianni meanwhile could act and brood aloofly at the same time. In some people, complexity of cloth is required to make up for, or conceal, the frank but ordinary man within. Mastroianni wore lovely clothes, but they were not dandified; they didn’t need to be. There were quirks, and little touches, but largely his personal costume as well as his on-screen wardrobe never needed theatrics.

As far as style icons go, Mastroianni is one of the most genuine and also the most difficult to mock. Genuine because he possessed something worthy of iconolatry; a complete style: the smile, the look, the sweep of the hand and the crossing of the legs were all a part of it. And it is these innate qualities that make Mastroianni so difficult to replicate. It is comparatively easy to dress like him. It is next to impossible to dress as him. This point was demonstrated in the wonderful Peroni Nastro Azzuro advert. It was an elegant homage to the Fellini film but the model playing the role of Mastroianni, though clothed and styled in much the same way, didn’t have that magical Marcello sprezzatura.

Avoid the Herding Instinct

I like to read my fellow MensFlair columnists articles when I get the chance. Managing my own blog as well as drafting regular columns for arguably one of the best menswear sites on of the Web can be a bit challenging at times. As we all search for new, thoughtful, educational or just plain interesting columns in which to espouse our views on any given subject, we sometimes find ourselves in the role of oracle.

This is a tricky thing. While it is, in my service-oriented opinion, a social obligation for someone with an expertise in a given discipline to render assistance when needed, it is easy for those on the receiving end to accept that advice as sartorial law. Luckily, most of you are not shy about telling us when our arguments are flawed and where our viewpoints are just plan off. And that’s the way it should be.

I say all this without any disrespect to my fellow authors, of course. I think they are some of the best style bloggers out there. We all have our particular angles when it comes to menswear. Yet we also know that our particular proclivities are just those – a personal inclination unique to each of us when it comes to dressing. We write about that we know and what we like.

If you don’t already, take some time and think about your own stylistic likes and dislikes before you start looking to us for any guidance. Do you like pleated pants even though we almost uniformly tell you not to? Are you an ardent fan of patent leather white shoes? Do you prefer baggy deconstructed suits with padded shoulders to tailored, elegant models?

While I may disagree with almost all those choices, if they’re what you happen to like, who I am I to dictate otherwise? I will tell you this however; make your clothing choices relevant to today.

Too often I see men who are stuck in a particular time period or fashion cycle where they happen feel most comfortable. While this in and of itself is not a crime, not adapting those styles to the modern world is, to me, a serious crime because you typically look silly where you could have looked distinctive.

I once worked with a political consultant who had some remarkable suits that were without a doubt made in the late 1970s. They were custom jobs that he had handmade in London and was still clearly fond of each and every one. The problem was that he wore entire outfits that belonged in the 1970s. From shoes to ties, shirts to belts, he looked laughable but just couldn’t see it. It was his comfort zone and that was that.

The suits, with their pronounced patterns, wide lapels, wide bottomed trousers and overall exaggerated cut could easily have been tweaked into a stylish, slightly retro look. By updating his shirt and tie, investing in new oxfords and trying out new belts or braces, this very intelligent guy could pull together a hip and unique style all his own that still belongs in the modern world.

Be your own man and establish a personal style that is right for you. Take the advice and expertise that sites like MensFlair have to offer but filter it though your own likes and dislikes. And if you totally disagree with one of our pronouncements, that’s great news because it tells me that you still have your own style goals.