The late Cary Grant -- the master of understated elegance -- looking as calm, cool, and collected as ever in, of all things, a suit. Imagine that!
2017, you might recall, is The Year of Accessories here at Classic Style although you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise since I have not discussed them in some little while. So, it seems like high time to rectify that rather glaring omission on my part. Accessories can be tricky and even uncomfortable for a lot of guys just getting into kicking up their everyday style several notches. With that in mind, here are a few tips on navigating the sometimes murky world of menswear accessorizing.
1) Don't go overboard. Understated elegance is what you are after.
Too often, when I notice men wearing things like pocket squares, tie bars, etc., they overdo it. I actually spotted several 30-40 somethings in downtown Minneapolis, during my recent visit to the city, wearing suits with nice looking leather dress shoes (YES!). Unfortunately, their overall look was a bit busy because they had gone overboard with, you guessed it, too many small accessories. As Coco Channel once advised women, and I am paraphrasing badly here, take a quick look in the mirror before leaving the house and remove one item [maybe two]. Leave the wardrobe hyperbole for the Pitti Uomo dandies.
2) Less is more.
You can't go wrong with an understated wristwatch and either a wedding band or some other kind of (understated) man's signet ring. . . with possibly french cuffs and some subtle cufflinks for a special occasion. No more than that. Leave any other visible bling at home and for another time, ok Biggie G? Remember Coco Channel's advice to the ladies above.
3) What about pocket handkerchiefs?
Great! These are a fairly simple way of adding some panache to your wardrobe. But never, ever buy a matching necktie-pocket handkerchief set. Instead, pick out a pocket square that compliments your tie in some way. Maybe it has flecks of your main necktie color in it. Or some silvery gray that works with the white, gray, or silver repp stripes. Of course, if you're worried about getting it right and/or standing out too much, a white linen or cotton handkerchief folded carefully into your suit coat or sports jacket pocket always looks tastefully understated.
4) What about other men's jewelry?
Um, if you'll be wearing a suit or a sports jacket-odd pants combo with a necktie, I'd steer clear of any jewelry besides the wristwatch and one ring mentioned above in point two. Unless you want to grow a porno mustache, get a pair of aviator frame sunglasses, and pretend to yourself that you're the late John Holmes circa 1978. Remember. Less is more.
5) Should I wear colored shoe laces?
In theory, yes, but I'd be careful here. The more color, pattern, and textures you add to an ensemble, the less formal it becomes which is why traditional navy, charcoal, and gray suits, business formal attire in 2017 remember, are fairly plain garments. If you are wearing a pair of corduroy pants or jeans and a tweed jacket for a chilly Saturday afternoon in November, sure some red or green shoelaces might be kind of interesting to have in your tan wingtip brogues. That said, I would exercise caution here because it is all too easy to stray unwittingly into dandy clown territory. That is hardly the effect we want to convey, is it?
6) Look at photographs of "the greats" for accessory inspiration.
If your confidence still feels kind of shaky, do a Google image search for male style icons of the past like Cary Grant, Paul Newman, Young Sean Connery (as James Bond), David Niven, Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, et al. Study the multitudinous pictures you are bound to find and note what works (and possibly what doesn't) where the inclusion of accessory items is concerned. Grant, Newman, and Connery, in particular, provide the best examples of extremely well pulled together male figures where attire and attitude is concerned for my money. Do you even notice any "accessories" when looking at old photos of them? Probably not because they kept things very simple and did not go overboard with everything under the sun. Remember, guys, less is more. Resist the tendency to pull out all the stops with those recent accessory acquisitions.
Without doubt, there is much more to say on the subject of accessories for men, so this short tipsheet is in no way meant as the final word on the subject. Just remember, above all, to have fun with what you wear. Purchase, and enjoy a few well-chosen, tasteful (understated) accessories, and wear them with aplomb. Just not all at the same time, ok?
Think a little about what you are doing as you get dressed. That, of course, lies in the face of the coveted nonchalance that we read so much about, but a little bit of care will help prevent your feeling awkward later because you suddenly realize that you might be overdoing things just a bit with the oversized sports watch, half dozen rings, cubic zirconium cufflinks, colored shoelaces, and the tie tack you got in a Christmas cracker at that 2011 office holiday party back when you were that clueless intern, who had too much to drink and hit on your supervisor's wife before passing out in the mailroom.