A Classic Style Book: Eminently Suitable

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eminently-suitable-cover-coFor the modest sum of eight dollars, I recently snagged on Ebay a copy of G. Bruce Boyer’s classic style book Eminently Suitable: The Elements of Style in Business Attire. Boyer is a recognized expert on men’s style, having written on the subject since the early 1980s. He is formerly the fashion editor for GQ, Esquire, and Town & Country. Although published in 1990, Eminently Suitable still has relevance today. If you can find a copy, I would recommend adding it to your style library.

Boyer argues that to be successful in the business world, a man must look and dress his best. Eminently Suitable is a 206-page guide for those businessmen who wish to dress for success. The book includes eight chapters of history and advice on menswear, a glossary of style terminology, and a now somewhat outdated reference appendix on men’s clothing stores.

The first chapter is on Politics, Dress and Image. In this chapter Boyer discusses the history of dress in politics and the image that is portrayed through the attire of politicians. He provides some explanation for the bland American political uniform that I complained about in a recent post. It is through this discussion of political dress that he highlights and stresses the effect a man’s attire has on the image that he portrays.

The second chapter is on The Business Suit. In this chapter Boyer provides some history on suiting and dispenses advice on the appropriate types, colors and patterns of cloth for a proper business suit. In Chapter Three – Drape, Zoot, Drape – Boyer continues the discussion of the business suit by giving some background on the silhouette. The next chapter, Suiting the Man, covers the advantages and disadvantages of ready-to-wear, made-to-measure, and custom suits. In the fifth chapter, Fitting Everyman, Boyer discusses some of the problems associated with fitting clothes to a variety of body types.

In Chapter 6, The Art of Dressing, Boyer discusses the manner in which clothes should be worn. He argues that a man should strive to dress with sprezzatura, a purposeful nonchalance. To that end he advises that “there is no such thing as being ‘accidentally’ well dressed,” that “nonchalance most often depends upon the smaller touches” where subtlety is the key.

The next chapter, Contemporary Design and Designers, provides some interesting history on the development of mens clothing through the 20th Century; however, much of the chapter about designers from the early 1990s is a tad dated (though many of the names are still recognizable).

In the final chapter, Finishing Touches: Grooming for Business, Boyer provides some perfunctory advice on fragrance, shaving, and nail, skin and hair care.

As you may note from this review of the content of Eminently Suitable, the topics covered are ones that we still discuss today on Men’s Flair. The book may be twenty years old, but the content is still relevant. Is there better evidence that classic style is timeless?


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Andrew Hodges is a small-town Southern lawyer and author of a-southern-gentleman.blogspot.com, a blog about classic style and culture in the American South

Comments

  1. dave says:

    Classic style is not timeless. The only reason the book is still relevant is because it is describing business clothing. The more formal elements of clothing evolve at a slower pace than casual clothes.

    If he were writing about streetwear, his advice would be horribly dated.

    Things change. Even the most fundamental aspects of clothing such as proportion and silhouette a subject to the trends of the era.

    Advice on colour coordination, formalwear, details etc are all greatly appreciated but please do not spread the “classic style is timeless” myth.

  2. Kai says:

    Classic style IS timeless. Of course in a degree that anything being timeless is possible at all. If some aspects of classic style do change they are not the result of “the trends of the era” but rather the natural evolution. Trends are important only if you are interested in looking trendy. Not so if you are interested in looking elegant and aesthetically pleasing. Even casual or “streetwear” style has it’s classics that are timeless. Look for the old pictures of Steve Mcqueen or Paul Newman. Almost all books written in the last 50 years describing any aspect of the classic style have 90% of advice relevant today. For example Hardy Amies’ ABC of Mens Fashion is written in 1964. and has more solid advice then any fashion magazine today.

  3. dave says:

    At the time when Steve McQueen wore his desert boots or turtleneck, do you think he would’ve been described as having “classic style”? No, he would’ve been very fashion-forward and modern. It’s only post-humously that people have attributed classic style upon them. Same with Marlon Brando, did he realise that a t-shirt, jeans and a leather jacket would become “classic style” when he wore it? No.

    “trends of the era” influence natural evolution of style. Some things stay longer than others. 30 years ago sneakers were not considered even part of the repertoire, however pretty much everyone under the age of 35 has a pair of sneakers of varying stylishness.

  4. Kai says:

    Is Duke of Windsor’s style not classic as well, being considered ‘fashion-forward’ at his time? How far in the past should we go to consider it classic style? Believe it or not even the classic style items had to start somewhere. But isn’t classic style something that’s been worn more than 50 years ago and that is still worn today and not looking dated? Desert boots and turtlenecks are good example, as are many other casual classics, usually created for army or sports and finding their way to the street. Things become classic because of their proven worth by the long period of time. To say that classic style isn’t timeless is to negate the very definition of the word ‘classic’. Oh, and sneakers were there 30 years ago, I almost remember that time unfortunately.