The Dishevelled Touch


Tom Ford once said that a man should never appear completely perfect. There should always be, he contends, something slightly out of kilter, something vaguely inconsistent about him. Ford’s trademark stubble is testament to this; though immaculately attired his personal grooming, while not excessively untidy, is certainly imperfect. Ford considers that this adds a good deal of welcome sexuality to ensembles that would otherwise be considered, objectively, a trifle musty.

Consider this; velvet bow ties are normally the domain of lecherous sexagenarians. That association needs to be expunged successfully. Clean shaven models looking wanly into the distance, tight lipped and utterly rigid may look like living Adoni but they do little to brush off the image of the bum-squeezing Negroni-drinking elderly bachelor. Their placidity is instantly forgettable. What you need to do is to introduce a new sexuality to the image; cue a high-cheekboned, stubble faced Lothario with a beer bottle and cigar in hand, a nude woman puffing from a cigarette by his side, a pocket square carelessly stuffed in his top pocket: a cocktail of masculinity in a single shot.

Being subtly dishevelled is not a matter of being unkempt. Untucking shirts, wearing trousers in a slovenly manner or intentionally scuffing shoes is brazenly untidy. The key is to use small touches to convey a breezy loucheness; the hastily turned up trouser, the overflowing pocket square, the wonky tie-clip. Importantly, one has to adopt the correct frame of mind – a fake is so easy to spot as, floppy as their manufactured sartorial nonchalance might be, their mannerisms remain starched. The art is not to take oneself so seriously; avoid straightening things too much, create habit but do not perfect.

Eventually, the clockwork of dressing leads to a sense of being underawed by what is seen in the mirror. The Italians call this sort of thing sprezzatura which some say is merely a talent. I happen to think it is a result of custom; do something regularly enough and you perform it well, but languorously. The nudity of a top pocket is too startling but the concern about how big it is, what shape it is, even where it is loses its appeal; the pocket is stuffed carelessly, the gentleman takes one look in the mirror before he goes and, crucially, touches nothing at all. There is no shortcut. Like all good things, it takes time.


  1. Jesse said:

    I agree with this completely. A perfect appearance and posture present an untouchable and snobbish plateau that although may look fantastic it lacks the character and attitude a sexy, confident gentleman exudes.

    July 2, 2010
  2. Sirian said:

    Agreed – this is traditionally why bow ties must be self tie and not the naff “pre-tied” stuff you find in big department stores. The slightly imperfect appearance gives a more human aspect to an otherwise immaculate attire. The same goes for a pocket square.

    I must say that undone cuff buttons (such as the left picture of the man in the dark blazer) are a no-no for me. It really is sartorial boasting and should not be done.

    July 2, 2010
  3. Rip said:

    An important article and, for me, timely. I was looking at the FCUK ad with the bearded man wearing a sharp suit. The man, whose beard would rival any salty sea captain, was not an obvious match with the suit, and yet…for reasons I couldn’t figure out, it WORKED.

    July 2, 2010
  4. Patrick said:

    sartorial boasting to undo button cuffs? ridiculous. There might have been a moment in the past when only custom made suits had functional button cuffs that they were undone for the specific purpose of showing off, but now it’s just another are of buttons. All sorts of off the rack brands of all price ranges use feature functional button cuffs. sartorial boasting sounds like an oxymoron. Maybe if you’re talking about logo patterned clothing or intentionally folding one’s shirt cuff over to make sure they’re giant gaudy watch is exposed at all times. But using the functional buttons of a piece of clothing? I’m sure the Amish think zippers are sartorial boasting. LOL.

    July 2, 2010
  5. Sirian said:

    Patrick – the reason why most (though not all) men would display undone cuff buttons would purely be for the sole purpose of showing off how expensive the garment is. That is why it is sartorial boasting. One of the reasons for functional cuff buttons on suits was because they were known as “surgeon’s cuff”. Doctors (when they were allowed to wear a full three piece suit before all this NHS health and safety nonsense) would regularly undo them when examining a patient, thus preventing them from having to incessantly take their jacket on and off.

    And I can’t think of many “off the rack” retailers that even make use of functional cuff buttons – I can only think of three that come to mind and two of them are situated exclusively in London.

    July 4, 2010
  6. Patrick said:

    Maybe they’re just more prevalent in the States, but a couple of my cheap Zara blazers have functional button cuffs, as do my Jcrew and Club Monaco blazers. I’ve also seen them at Reiss, as well. Anyway, I just like them because I don’t like the idea of non-functional buttons, just like I wouldn’t like a non-functional pocket.

    July 5, 2010

Comments are closed.