New Books on Men’s Style for the New Year

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I love books. If my wife would let me line each room of the house them, I would. In my study, I have a wall of bookshelves stuffed with volumes ranging from physics to interior design, presidential biographies to etiquette guides, and poetry to world history. In this New Year, I have added a few titles to my menswear and clothing section so I have a few books to recommend.

Personally, I think every guy should have a few books that can help him get dressed for the day. As an information junky and writer, I have amassed a fairly large collection on menswear including books, guides, magazines and clippings. In fact, I just did a quick count and discovered that I have 37 menswear-specific books.

It’s not a collection just for the sake of having one. To me, each one of those books is a source of inspiration not a rulebook – though some authors seem to think theirs is the only way to dress. Don’t hold fast to any one recommendation or opinion. Take it all in, decide what you like and leave the rest.

With that disclaimer in place, here are some suggestions for your reading pleasure:

Men’s Style: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Dress
This has replaced G. Bruce Boyer’s “Elegance – A Guide to Quality in Menswear” as my hands down favorite menswear book. I never thought the day would come.

Russell Smith is perhaps one of the best menswear writers out there. If you only read the introduction, titled “why bother?” it is worth the purchase price. He succinctly and with great wit explains why you should want to dress well. If you read on, it only gets better.

Smith’s sense of style is classic and his opinions pointed – like how he eviscerated any thoughts I had of ever wearing a white suit a la Tom Wolfe. Oh well – I still have the white bucks.

Overall, it is an excellent book for someone who already has a pretty good handle on his own sense of style and is now ready for the advanced class. Not a lot of images, but the excellent writing takes care of that.

Details Men’s Style Manual: The Ultimate Guide for Making Your Clothes Work for You
One of the best all around resource books I’ve seen in a long time. If you need to figure out where to start – start here. This book is a production of the crew at Details Magazine and they’ve done a fine job. Lots of pictures and sidebars add to the constant flow of sartorial information.

This is good book when you are looking for an all-in-one resource. From suits to jeans, sweaters to formalwear, most every angle is touched on. Several chapter topics are paired with a celebrity style guru offering their personal “Rules of Style.”

Esquire’s Big Black Book
OK, so it’s not really a book, but it’s not really a magazine either. This is the second year that Esquire has produced this style guide and though much of the content is “of the moment” it is a wonderful look book from which to get ideas. It covers all aspects of men’s products and luxuries, from watches to suits, to snazzy hunting duds and essays like the making of cashmere.

Mark your calendar to pick up next year’s copy; it should hit the shelves sometime in early December.

Ralph Lauren
If you are a fan of Mr. Lauren you should get this book if for no other reason than its value as a novelty. It is massive. I am contemplating getting an iron frame stand made for it so that this volume can double as a coffee table.

OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but it is an awfully large and expensive book. It’s all for good though, because it literally contains the entire visual history of Ralph Lauren the company. If you can think of a favorite advertising campaign, it’s in there.

I recommend this as style inspiration/resource guide because Lauren is a genius when it comes to tapping the emotional core of style and design. Just leafing through a few pages will give you style ideas to last a month.


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Chris Hogan, an association executive based in Washington, D.C., blogs at OffTheCuffDC.com. A lifelong interest in style and clothing led to sales and management positions at several Ralph Lauren stores and an active wardrobe consulting practice