Two Questions of Balance


Two recent questions from blog readers, though touching on entirely different wardrobe items, nevertheless inspired similar thinking.

‘I have a snazzy pair of spectator shoes but I haven’t worn them yet because they don’t go with my suits. What can I wear them with?’

Spectator shoes (or ‘co-respondent’ shoes) are increasingly popular, and the credit for their renaissance should be given to the brave souls who sport them as part of their everyday wear, but opinion is divided as to their suitability for the workplace. Wearing a sober, blue or grey wool suit with dual-toned shoes, outside of the fashion industry, is often perceived to be costumey and brash; the dark silhouette is abruptly ended with a pair of incongruous dazzlers which will draw all the attention.

The most ideal outfits with which to sport spectator shoes are ‘combination’ outfits; a jacket of one colour, trousers of another. A blue blazer, grey trousers and brown and white spectators draws attention to the whole ensemble because of the colour/material contrasting. The shoes will certainly draw more attention than a pair of plain black Oxfords, but they won’t stick out like a sore thumb. Similarly, instead of wearing a pair of black and white spectators – the trickiest combination shoes to pull off, in my opinion – with a grey or blue suit and suffering the endless gangster innuendos and the uncomfortable feelings of being too theatrical, some dark blue trousers and a light grey jacket, perhaps a houndstooth, will offset the drama of your footwear neatly.

‘I have started to wear bowties to work recently but I think it’s a bit much to add a pocket square. Do you have any tips on whether to wear both or one or the other?’

It’s fantastic that men are now sufficiently confident to don a bow tie for a day at the office; it wasn’t so long ago, in the darkness of the dress-down nineties, that getting them to adorn themselves with any necktie on was a challenge of Herculean proportions. The bow is very different to the tie. It has a more conspicuous, floral aesthetic and, because of this, a particularly puffy, patterned pocket square can sometimes look a little over the top.

One option is to go without a square. Clothing is about balance and if something feels a little excessive, it probably is. However, some gentlemen do not feel comfortable without a square in their breast pocket; the nakedness of it is disturbing and inconsistent with their habit and character. Not to include a square is almost more contrived than selecting one that complements sufficiently. I myself advocate the bow-and-square look, but for work I balance it with a plain white, folded square instead of a patterned, colourful silk puff; one extravagance, for the office, is quite enough.