As infuriatingly cliché as it seems, it is undeniably true; it’s all about the details. You can have the most wonderful ‘blank canvas’ of an ensemble – a beautifully made suit, hand-sewn shoes – but if the details are wrong, or not present at all, the outfit is merely a wasted opportunity. It is not an unexplained wonder. Simplicity is dull. Simplicity sells for a brief period as ‘fashion’ but has so little to offer, and so little to recommend it, that craftsmen inevitably return to what we love in nature, in architecture and in ourselves; details.
In gentlemen’s clothing, the opportunity to ‘detail’ has often been missed; modern men prefer practicality and simplicity above ornament. The mistake in this is thinking that all detail is necessarily superfluous. Is the light touch of violet in an orange flower merely superfluous? Or is it actually the vital element that makes the whole that more alluring?
The most interesting elements of my outfits, those that observers single out or comment on, are rarely the more obvious, substantial elements. The human eye looks and does not cease looking – it looks to detect the unusual, past the expected and into the realm of the rare. It also strikes me, as I react with greater pleasure in such situations, that the more complete visions incorporate greatly satisfying levels of detail.
A suit with no further element can certainly be beautiful, but it does not act as a complete and satisfying object for the eye until the details have been added. The shirt, the handkerchief poking from the breast pocket, the tie, the tie pin, the cuff link – details signify thought and consideration; qualities that in this age of brute selfishness are increasingly rare. The next stage of detailing is observing the details within the details – the pattern of the pocket square, the stripe of the shirt.
Even in outfits that do not rely on the anchor of a suit, details can be the difference between an undistinguished norm and a noticeable and appealing style. Even a simple shirt and trouser combination offers opportunity for detailing; adding a belt in sympathetic tone to the shoes, turning up the bottoms of the trousers or wearing a certain colour of sock will catch the eye of passers by.
One must be careful not to abuse the opportunity of detail by overdoing or ‘fussing’ too much with an outfit that, essentially, a man should feel comfortable in. The key to satisfaction with the level of detail lies with the eyes; adding details is experimental at first but, after a while, a gentleman will know what works.