New York Men Shine in the Sun

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New York puts London in the shade. The hot weather (it’s been above 30 Celsius all this week) brings out the city’s hidden peacocks.

Walking down Fifth Avenue this morning, almost every block presented a summer delight. Several seersucker suits, a plethora of summer hats, sockless suits with loafers, white linen and white bucks.

You just don’t see that in London. Granted, the consistency of the weather here makes summer clothing a better investment – a sunny day is actually sunny all day, rather than being half cloud in the morning, patchy at midday and just overcast in the afternoon. But I would bet good money that these impeccable gentlemen own four or five summer suits, and their peers in the UK own none. Such a shame.

Some would say that the Americans are not dressed well, in one regard. No matter how well tailored the outfit, or daring the cloth, every one of those summer suits had pleated trousers and no jacket waist to speak of. So while they were striking, I would argue they weren’t very flattering.

The trousers also had cuffs (or turn-ups) which, while I know many people are a fan of, create a very cluttered picture in my eyes. Given that the gentlemen I saw were wearing trousers that were wide, decorated with pleats, worn with a belt, and few of them wear slim, the last thing they needed was another bit of texture to break up the line of the outfit. All the slimming, heightening effects of the suit were removed. (I know cuffs are also meant to help pleats stay straight, but doesn’t tape add just as much weight?)

So the cut was not to my taste. This is the difference between silhouette and fit – something I stressed in a previous posting. The fit was immaculate, but the way they had chosen it to fit (the silhouette, the proportions) were, in my eyes, questionable.

But this is obviously a personal choice. I have to admit that what they did, they did well. In fact, I think many Americans get a bad press in the UK. Too many of them wear chinos that are too wide. Almost a third of them seem to be wearing the same outfit, which pairs these chinos with a shirt (or polo) and deck shoes. [I had the surreal experience yesterday of being in a list with four Goldman Sachs employees, who were all wearing blue button-down shirts, brown belts, chinos and brown deck shoes. It was freaky.] Finally, some Americans wear their chinos with trainers, which is just ugly.

Yet there are none of the classic English howlers – no suit jackets with t-shirts, no shiny tracksuits, no voluminous untucked dress shirts. The rules seem to have stronger roots in New York. Yes, the outfits can be boring (if a third were wearing the deck shoes outfit, about a quarter were wearing blue blazers) but the belts generally matched the shoes, the shirts were generally tucked in, and no one had a matching tie and pocket handkerchief.

So here’s to New York men, for their peacocks and their consistency. Without them English style wouldn’t have got far.


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Simon Crompton is a journalist and a style enthusiast living in London, who blogs at permanentstyle.blogspot.com. He has too many suits.

Comments

  1. Alex says:

    Much of the world is dressing casual nowadays thanks to American sportswear dominance and the youth of today. Moscow, Dubai and China are really dressing well lately. I live in Monte Carlo and see to many hiphop fashion for my taste.

  2. Interesting article Simon. I agree in some respects, but I do feel that it must be mentioned that the de rigeur thing for American dandies is actually to dress in a very English style; the eccentricity, the character. I often see very individual and fascinating characters on the Sartorialist website, and when visiting I did see a few extremely well dressed men (particularly on the Upper East side) – one man was wearing a burgundy cardigan, white shirt, bottle green cravat, purple cords, black velvet slippers, a nautical blazer with brass buttons draped over his shoulders, accessorising with a homburg and an ivory topped cane. I thought he was magnificent and a clear example of the confidence and invention they are capable of. And while it is true that these men do it very well, without the raw materials; the English man’s wardrobe, they wouldn’t be anywhere themselves.

    I salute the fact that they don’t make some of the terrible mistakes the common Englishman makes – there is a lot they can teach the average Englishman, but I do know many Englishmen who dress as well as this, who do possess summer suits and who can represent themselves consistently beautiful in attire. London can be a mite disappointing for those expecting wonderfully dressed men, but they are around. I saw hundreds of them yesterday bravely attempting the Duke of York steps, advancing towards their clubs along Pall Mall in resplendent top hats, fantastically tailored tails and beautiful double breasted linen waistcoats; several were carrying canes. Albeit, this was the Trooping of the Colour, a special occasion, but their glory attracted many a flashing camera from passing tourists. Including American gentlemen. So while yes, I agree to an extent that American gentlemen can dress very well, better than many in the world, the heritage of their sartorial whimsy is undeniable.

  3. Jenna says:

    American men dressed better than most in the world. LOL. Mr. Chesterfield your so funny.

  4. Nicola Linza says:

    Myself being an American I find Mr. Chesterfield’s commentary concise, and to the point. Let us make clear that Winston stated the following, “So while yes, I agree to an extent that American gentlemen can dress very well, better than many in the world, the heritage of their sartorial whimsy is undeniable.” That is the direct quote. In proper context, anyone who has travelled knows that he is correct. One should also note that he is also speaking of gentlemen, which do not include all men.
    Regards,
    Nicola

  5. Simon Crompton says:

    Winston,
    Thank you for your comments, which as per usual are insightful and on the money.
    Despite Americans’ heritage, and the willingness of the English to dress up for special occasions, it is staggering how many more gentlemen in New York live up to these traditions. This is what I meant by my concluding lines – without this faithful following in the US (and, as a result, a lucrative market for clothing suppliers) these traditions might have declined far faster.
    Simon

  6. Steph says:

    Americans and English are obviously commenting on this site. I’m going to have to find another European one.

  7. Turling says:

    Steph-

    Simon and Winston live in London and Chris lives in Washington DC. You’re insight into Americans and English commenting on this site, I must say, is staggering. I cannot fathom how long it took you to reach that conclusion. But, thank you for sharing that you will no longer be joining us.

  8. Jenna says:

    I think that Americans as a nation are not well dressed at all. I agree with Steph. New York, LA, Miami is a bit different, yes, but really. If you travel the world you would know of such things and thus can come to clear and consise answer. It has been known for years who in the world dresses well and who doesn’t. Anyone at Vogue could tell you that, any real professionals here or what.