Mens and womens fashion trends – jewelry, clothing and accessories – are a reflection of the times – economics, sexuality, lifestyle rolls— and right now there is uncertainty in the air. Should men be tough macho types or should they let their feminine side show? Should they wear linen suits and silk ties or tatty jeans and sleeveless tees? Should they stick to navy and black and grey ties or go with pink and turquoise and orange? But…long before we can talk about men’s ties, or jewelry, or any kind of accessories for men, or check what’s hot and what’s not this year, we must take a step back – back to mens fashion basics.
When it comes to men’s fashion, there are four types of men:
- Those who innately have fashion sense – These are the guys who can pull of wearing Spanish designer David Delfin’s 2010 collection of turquoise or aqua colored ensembles or Duckie Brown’s plaids and stripes or Michael Kors’ black and white madras plaid pants or Paul Smith cufflinks with an orange shirt and pair it with tuxedo jacket and bow ties. They can also wear skinny jeans with men’s tees and add a cashmere lozenge mens scarf (or pashmina scarf) and casually sling tote bags over their shoulders. They also know how to select jewelry, one large piece of turquoise or a simple titanium ring – not too much bling, but just enough vavoom. And not all these exquisitely attired men are gay!
- Those who don’t have it and seek help – These men have good taste for buying mens clothes and accessories but blend too many styles, mismatching black leather belts with brown suede Italian shoes, pairing pink ties with perfectly matching pink pocket squares or handkerchiefs, and although they avidly read GQ and Mens Style magazines still manage to NOT know how to wear a scarf or how to go about tying a tie. These men are frequently conservative with jewelry, and tend to seek female advice or stick to classic gold rings and tie pins given as gifts.
- Those who have no clue but think they do – These are the fellows who wear white socks with sandals all year, pair brown corduroy with short sleeved floral silk shirts and paisley twill ties, think a tie clip should match their diamond stud earring and somehow believe that white high top Nikes look good with pinstripe trousers. And in the jewelry department they may overdue it mixing sterling silver jewelry with gold and a few too many chains or oversized ruby and cz rings.
- Those who don’t care (and probably aren’t reading this article) – These adorable men don’t deliberately pair slogan laden tees with khaki (pseudo) dress pants that are a tad above the ankle; it’s just what happens to be clean that day. They can’t be blamed for the red and blue stripped men’s necktie they were given last Christmas which is now paired with a double breasted three piece suit in tweed with elbow patches. It’s just what’s hanging in their closet. And jewelry doesn’t exist. A wedding ring is as large an accessory collection as it gets.
There’s also a fifth category: Men who let whatever woman is in their life dress them in HER taste.
Men’s clothing, and having a sense of style, is not really as complicated as it might seem. For men to have a good wardrobe and express style that’s appropriate for most occasions, it’s not essential for them to be fashion gurus or to religiously follow men’s styles trends. There are a few simple tricks to looking classically great no matter what men’s wear fads come and go.
If you’re not an artist, an actor, a designer, a film director or a choreographer with eccentric personal fashion flare, then the first thing to do is to set up your wardrobe with ONLY THE BASIC men’s clothes. Remember if your closet doesn’t have a mishmash of colors and styles and items in poor taste, or isn’t laden with Christmas and birthday gifts that go with nothing except themselves, it will be difficult to leave the house poorly dressed. So step one:
Guys…Clean out your closets and get rid of everything but the basics.
But what are the fashion basics for a well rounded mens wardrobe?
Fashion Basics for Men
Aside from pajamas, a few pairs of comfy or tatty jeans, the usual sportswear and outdoor attire, every man should have a dozen classic men’s shirts (preferably men’s dress shirts) in white or neutral tones like soft green, pale blue or very pale yellow and half a dozen men’s polos, several plain short sleeved tees and a few pairs of boxer shorts for summer.
A men’s shirt can have a standard collar for wearing with ties or can be a mandarin collar or a collarless style. For the office, and pairing with silk ties, some form of fold-down collar is best. Select classic solid colors (with minimal or no logos or advertising slogans) that can be mixed and matched – black, white, off-white, navy blue, khaki or even forest green.
Next, choose at least 5 pairs of good quality tailored men’s pants (or men’s slacks) especially a black pair and/or standard navy blue, and for the basic wardrobe choose solid color fabrics, not pin stripes or corduroy, just the best possible fluid trouser in wool or linen or a wrinkle-free fiber blend. (You can branch out into madras plaid pants later – let’s just get the basics down.
Mens Jackets, Pants and Suits
Every man, no matter what his profession, should have at least 2 finely tailored men’s jackets (men’s blazers don’t count) that match the dress pants, and 2 custom tailored or designer men’s suits that have been sized to fit (with pant length measured to grace the top of a pair of men’s shoes). A men’s jacket should not tug at the shoulders or across the chest. Have it made to fit YOU not a model or mannequin. A men’s vest may come with a three piece suit, but is not necessary. Keep it simple. Vests can be added as accessories later, along with men’s ties and scarves and other niceties. But we’re not quite there, yet.
Men’s suit options are: single breasted or double breasted, and the best option is a single breasted suit with two buttons. Men’s designer jackets have remained single breasted even for the spring 2010 collections and men’s Armani suits are a good choice, especially Armani Collezioni wool crepe suits with a simple two button closure. Men’s tuxedos are not part of a basic man’s wardrobe unless you conduct a symphony or play the violin.
The last essential item will be a men’s coat for winter. This will be a once or twice in a lifetime purchase so make it a classic tailored coat – preferably long and fluid made from warm virgin wool. That’s it.
Finish off the basics by selecting a dozen pairs of black men’s socks, preferably dress socks, 6 pairs of navy socks and only match light colored socks with light colored sneakers when wearing jeans or workout wear – NEVER with black leather shoes and dress pants.
Now it’s time for some fun.
Admittedly, the final touches are the most difficult, but the most pleasurable. These are the items that give individual style but can make or break your look. It may seem as if there are less accessories for men than there are for ladies, but this isn’t quite true.
Aside from shoes and belts, men also have pocket squares, handkerchiefs, men’s scarves such as: cotton losanges, cashmere losanges, cashmere scarves, silk scarf, matching scarf & hat sets and zillions of styles in soft cashmere mufflers for winter.
Then there are men’s ties: silk ties, funky bow ties for men, traditional men’s neckties, woven, patterned or plain twill ties, diamond or gold tie pins, simple silver or gold tie clips, an array of simple or elaborate cufflinks and perhaps even some silver monogrammed cigarette cases and/or a silver pocket watch.
There is plenty of help for men who are about to be married and need to select their wedding attire. There are companies that will dress you perfectly from head to toe, even selecting your ideal wedding cufflinks, and folding and pinning or tying your silken ascot tie. The problem for most men is the day to day.
Where to buy your own cufflinks before needing them at a cocktail party with the boss and his wife? How to wear a scarf in the winter so you’re warm and stylish but not girlish? How to go about tying a tie to be presentable every day at work, or for a job interview or simply after you buy a new tie that’s not tied? How to select men’s silk ties in colors and patterns that won’t distract from what you’re saying during a presentation or a speech?
Are there really such things as power ties and power colors? How to know when a men’s bow tie is appropriate and when it makes you look like the nutty professor? How to know when men’s neckwear is essential and when to go tieless? These are things men need to know and often don’t want to ask.
How to Wear a Scarf
No matter what kind of man you are or what style you choose, if you live in a climate where there’s a winter season you’ll almost certainly wear a scarf, be it a flowing silk scarf or a simple knitted wool scarf from your grandmother. Men’s scarves these days have become very long and thin and therefore there is much more fabric to work with and many great looks that can be achieved. There are a few very easy techniques any man can use to give a little extra zazzz to scarfy neckwear.
- For light scarves, such as silk or a lightweight Hermes wool muffler, it can be tied in a casual cravat or ascot style. Just drape the scarf around your neck leaving the right side longer than the other. Take the longer right end and pass it over the left and then bring it under. You should have the long side in your right hand and the short in your left. Now bring the right side (long section) back across the shorter one and press it into the loop that will have been formed. This is similar to how a tie is tied. You can adjust it by pulling on the shorter section of the scarf and making it a little puffier in the center, or allowing it to crease. You can leave your jacket slightly open at the top and the scarf will look similar to a tie. It may even be held in place with a pin.
- For really chilly days when you’re going to be walking outdoors, muffle the wind with a muffler scarf and tie it in a ruggedly outdoorsy yet chic knot. A muffler should be quite long so you can drape the fabric around your neck and leave the ends uneven by at least a foot or more. The long piece will then be wrapped around your neck until it is once again in the frontal position, if very long, do this twice, and now there will be two short ends in the front. These ends can be tucked under or tied together or both.
- For more formal scarf wearing, especially with a jacket or mens winter coat, the scarf, be it silk or wool, should be neatly draped around the neck but mostly left inside the coat, only leaving a couple centimeters (or about an inch) of scarf on either side of the necktie which should be in the center. This creates a chic second collar between your overcoat and suite jacket that just peeks out of your winter coat. This is the traditional way men’s scarves are to be worn if you are a gentleman. The scarf can be a brighter color or pattern than other scarves because it will be removed with your overcoat.
- The least amount of fuss for scarf wearing is the style (or lack thereof) that is simply draped around the neck (either under or over the collar of a jacket or coat) with ends left loose. This may be simple, but really does no good to keep you warm and doesn’t offer much of a fashion statement either. This winter 2009/2010 most mens scarves are being tied or wrapped or at least tossed over a shoulder. Wrapping, tying and knotting scarves may be a metrosexual thing in the US, but most European men agree (even those who are on their way to a bullfight) that it’s very masculine to wrap a muffler under their chin or knot a long wool scarf through a loop.
- In Europe, especially in Mediterranean countries, most men’s scarves are tied in a simple yet elegant knot. Just take the scarf and fold it in half. Now drape the doubled scarf around your neck. Holding the loose ends on the right, open the other end that is now an eyelet and pass the two loose ends through the eyelet and pull. The loose ends can be left in front, swiveled to the back or tucked one on either side. This technique works great with a sweater, a leather jacket, an aviator jacket or with almost any casual attire. It can be used with very long and thin wool scarves or silk scarves or medium long wool mufflers.
- White silk scarves are for matching with tuxedos, for formal cocktail parties, attending the opera or the theatre or for a wedding. Most other uses of white silk will look odd and out of place. The casual version of a white silk scarf that can be worn less melodramatically for almost any casual occasion would be a raw silk Indian or Tibetan scarf, or a natural cotton or bamboo fiber scarf.
Cuff links are a piece of mens jewelry that almost every man has and yet are seldom worn for everyday. Part of the reason is that classic men’s dress shirts are designed with a hole and a button and therefore there is no need for cuff-links. In order to be able to wear these lovely men’s accessories, you must have a shirt with French cuffs that are usually longer than normal and fold back and have two holes instead of one and no buttons at all.
There are a few ways to wear cufflinks. If the two ends are facing outward and the cufflinks are passed through, this is called kissing. If the two sides of the cuff are overlapping this is called barrel-style.
The oldest forms of these items are cuff strings which, as the name suggests, are ribbons or ties to join the two cuffs together. It is still a lovely option for men. Just make sure the strings are nicely finished, perhaps with small balls on the ends of each string or ribbon. The upscale version of a cuff string would be a silk knot, formed with a wider piece of silk fabric that passes through the holes and is then tied. This cuff-link style was once called monkey’s fists or a turk’s head.
Modern men’s cuff-links can be very simple like a button or large and sparkling or even monogrammed with initials or a family crest or heraldic insignia. They come in gold, sterling silver, platinum and most precious metals and often have gemstones or cubic zirconia or diamonds. Glass buttons on a chain were the original cufflinks of the late 1600’s and many vintage jewelry shops still carry these antique cuff-link designs.
Men’s cufflinks need not be worn only for special occasions. There are styles that are simple and can dress up a white shirt even when paired with jeans. There are some very hip and modern English cuff-link designers with some of best styles on the market available online. Cufflinks UK have everything: personalized ones, designer cufflinks made by Tateossian London, Simon Carter, Fred Bennett and others. They also have wedding cufflinks, gold plated cufflinks and crazy funky men’s jewellery in a variety of novelty cartoon characters, flags and sports logos. The least expensive versions are gold plated or silver rhodium plated that are even good for very young men and boys. On the higher end are beautiful crystal cufflinks with Swarovski crystal and murano glass which are dressy for special occasions.
For something different, try Mackintosh and Celtic cufflinks like the Kit Heath Silver Celtic Four Point Cufflinks for about $36 or Kit Heath Mackintosh Square cuff-links for about $40. There are also vintage inspired silver and amber chainlinks for about $37.
Paul Smith cufflinks are some of the funkiest modern designs you’ll find. For example there’s the Paul Smith oblong sterling silver cufflinks with multi stripe crystals or the Art Deco Stone Cufflinks, both for around $70. (The cufflinks have a small Paul Smith signature logo embossed on the bottom.) Mont Blanc cufflinks on the other hand are classic designs for gentlemen, mostly in gold, silver, platinum with black onyx inlays, and they’re not cheap at $300 to $1,300.
Ties for Men
Men ties are perhaps the accessory most bought for men as gifts. Perhaps they are default gifts because men neck ties are not too personal to give even if you don’t know the man well, and if you do, it can be a way to give something useful.
The problem with men receiving a tie is that those who select them from men’s necktie racks don’t know what’s in the man’s wardrobe and since ties are colorful or come with patterns, men often end up with a variety of silk ties for men that are perfect for OTHER men but not for them. Mens ties should be bought by the man who is going to wear the tie. That is, by YOU! They should match your shirts and suits and your profession. And YES, there are power ties and power colors and no I can’t tell you what they are because that will depend on you and how you feel when you dress in certain colors. However, here is quick guide to suit and tie color coordination:
Ties to Match Navy and Dark Color Suits
If you mostly wear navy blue suits the best silk ties will be in wine colors or reddish-purples, even red, but go for the deeper maroon tones instead of the orange reds or cadmium red ties, and be careful if you wear a blue suit and a white shirt with a red tie that you don’t end up looking like a flag.
Try pairing a blue suit with a soft yellow or light blue shirt and canary yellow and deep gold ties. Blues and yellows are very elegant combinations. Also a dark blue suit works well with a soft green shirt – olive green perhaps and dark green or forest color silk ties. You can wear blue with blue but don’t use the exact same color for shirts, ties and suits.
Purple and pink men’s tie selections are difficult to match, but they can, if done right, be stunning with a blue suit. That said, yellow and deep maroon color ties would be the top power tie color choices on this list to match with dark navy blue suits.
Ties to Match Light Color Suits
Light color suits and linens look best with yellows, soft oranges and olive green ties. Stay away from dark reds, black ties, rich purples or royal blues. The contrast is too much. A white or cream colored suit is already an attention grabber, the tie can be subtle – a herringbone peach tone or an abstract paisley in auburn, toffee, or chocolate is good, but stripes and polka dots are always a bad choice.
Ties to Match Black Suits
Black Suits and bright silk ties for men can work if you’re the boss or if you have a flamboyant personality, if not pair a black suit with a gold silk tie or a herringbone tie in hip aqua or tiffany blue – still powerful but not overpowering. For young executives who have a little fashion-ability, the madras plaid design in lime can be a great choice with a black suite and light green shirt. It’s funky but serious enough to be respected.
For something different try vintage ties. Some of the best vintage ties, which you can order online, are at American Vintage Classics where you can select from men’s unusual ties from the 20’s to the 60’s.
Tying a Tie
I won’t bore you describing how to go about tying a tie using words because there are about a million tying a tie videos and how to tie a tie instructions with diagrams already online. I just offer you the names so you can find the video or website you need.
- A simple knot
- Pratt Tie Knot
- Small Tie Knot
- Onassis Tie Knot
- Italian Tie Knot
- Double Tie Knot
- Windsor Tie Knot
- Half Windsor Tie Knot
- Atlantic Tie Knot
- Don’t throw ties in a heap at night –silk ties wrinkle easily and lose their shape
- Don’t press your silk ties because they will loose their rounded edges and become stiff and flat
- Do Hang your ties if possible or fold in 4 parts and store in a hat box or drawer
- Do Roll your ties for travel or safekeeping
- Do Steam your ties, or at least hang them in the shower to get a little steam
- Don’t dry clean unless the drycleaner specializes in ties and will not iron or press the tie -ask for your silk ties to be steamed not pressed if you must use a cleaning service
- Don’t try to spot clean light colored ties if the stain is wine, coffee, tomato sauce or ink – throw it away
- Don’t rub stains – just dab with cub soda – if spots or stains are at all visible – throw the tie away
- Don’t use tie tacks or tie pins that leave large holes in silk ties – use a clip, or pin the tie in the same place each time, or insert the tie tack or pin through the label and not the silk
- Do Untie the knots if not being worn frequently – always store ties untied