One thing I cannot, quite literally, stomach is mixing my food. Munching on a spicy chicken wing after a chocolate sponge pudding makes the tummy turn. I can’t abide boiling hot drinks on a summer’s day, heavy reds with fish or any other contradictory companionship as far as foodstuffs is concerned. I like order with comestibles; steak with béarnaise sauce, fish and chips, bacon and eggs.
However, my taste for order and being bound by accepted principles does not extend to clothing. It’s true that I like tradition, and I applaud perfectly sympathetic combinations, but I have a curious appreciation for mixing clothing styles. It’s tricky making such a statement as a reader may very well believe I am an admirer of extremism in this regard; hard-hats and steel-toe boots with crisp pinstripes and wot-not. This sort of experiment just leaves me cold.
What I do like, and find pleasure in seeing, is the clever, and often unintentional, mixture of clothing of different eras. Imagine if you will a gentleman dressed in a 1930s double breasted suit with a 1960s multicolour Missoni jumper and scarf. The staid suit may belong with a cream flannel shirt and knitted tie, but it’s perfectly happy with the psychedelic knitwear. It’s like an energetic remix of a big-band number or another of those twists on the martini: the original is irreplaceable but open to experimentation.
Not all experimentation works. And throwing ‘conservative’ and ‘wacky’ together doesn’t always produce the ‘accidental-genius’ effect. However, I think it’s brave to try as the look, when refined, can be marvellous. The reason for this? The glorious pleasure of the unexpected. People expect bow-ties with tweed, waistcoats and punch-caps not with skinny denim, track jackets and boots. Some may be offended by the mixture; however, combining traditional and contemporary keeps the classics looking fresh and ever appealing.
One of the key things to concentrate on when mixing is balance. As with the Missoni jumper, choosing a classic fabric for the suit rather than an unusual one will set the knitwear off wonderfully. Likewise with footwear, be cautious. Boots have to be artfully worn with smart suits to not appear ridiculous, so it is better choosing retro plimsolls and classic tennis shoes. A further piece of advice on balance is not to overdo it. One or two ‘clashes’ are sufficient.
Another good tip is to mix clothes of contrasting formality. An old grey flannel two-button jacket is a great companion to a classic white shirt, but for spring and summer, switch this to a slim-fit polo shirt for a great contrast. Likewise, when the cold wind blows in winter, smart scarves look swell with your pinstripes there’s no doubt, however, throwing in a long, untidy woven scarf keeps your look youthful and playful. Silk scarves can be used with more casual outfits such as plimsolls and denim. The Kaiser Chiefs are famous for this look; the dishevelled-but-rather- aristocratic-looking rocker.
In my opinion, it’s all fair game and you’re far better off mixing things up and reinventing your own style. If you feel timid, comfort yourself with the thought that thousands upon thousands of boring and unfortunate people buy and wear what they’re told to, when they’re told to. Live autonomously and make jazz of your wardrobe.