The Way, Not The What

Words by: Stephen Pulvirent

carygrant-wayThe internet is full of product guides; some are great, and some not so much. But, while one group of editors may tell you to pull up your trousers and throw on a blue blazer and another group to tuck those trousers into your boots or grab some fingerless gloves, some things remain the same whichever style you choose. There are the “whats” of dressing – jacket, trouser, shoe, accessory choices, &c. – and then there are the “hows” of dressing – drape, harmony, &c.

The whats change year to year, mood to mood, and day to day. And I’m not just talking fashion cycles, but even what you feel like throwing on each morning. Today might just feel like chinos and a washed-finish OCBD, and tomorrow flannels and a sportcoat, but regardless of what I cover myself with I think of the same things. I already mentioned a few of them above, but for me the most important concepts, although I hate to use that word here, are cut, drape, impression, and harmony.

To start with cut, since that is where it all starts, one should be aware of the shape of one’s clothes. Again, don’t worry about whether you like jeans or worsteds – it matters either way. The shape of the garments themselves should be pleasing. The way they sit on your body even more so. Proportion and comfort should work hand in hand, and the little secrets that make the thing what it is should be your little secret. This can be the subtle pleating in the sleeve-head of a jacket, allowing it to move more freely, or the way in which a waistband is gently curved to keep the rise of your trousers sitting perfectly. The insole of a pair of great shoes feels nothing like that of a cheap pair, but no one but you is the wiser.

Drape on the other hand is the more visible aspect of cut. Something poorly cut will never drape nicely. This again though is still anything but glaring. It is clear when the chest of your coat falls perfectly even when you sip your coffee, shake a hand, or turn around to see who called your name, but it’s not clear why. A crisply-hanging trouser crease is a beauty to behold, but it’s usually not the first thing you notice.

This brings us to impression. There is that old adage, supposedly uttered by the Beau about John Bull and noticing you are well dressed. Which in fact meant you were not. But, as long as you look beautifully dressed and not simply dressed in beautiful things, I don’t see a problem here. The key is not to draw attention to any specific aspect, but rather to have them work together to form a single unified vision. No one wants to be the guy with the garish coat or glitzy tie.

And finally, we have harmony. Impression is created by harmony, drape, and cut. Things should work together, but not be too precise. You know, sprezzatura, and all that, but don’t get too hung up on looking too contrived or too nonchalant. What is really important is that when you look in the mirror, nothing looks out of place or too precisely placed. And, as with most things, enjoy dressing or its all a waste.