Over the weekend, I was enjoying a couple of bottles of lunch with an old friend when into the restaurant sauntered a well-nourished gentleman in his middle age. The chap caught the eye, I can tell you! He sported a faded turquoise fleece, zipped to half-mast, wrinkled off-white shirt, a tie whose pattern and size would have been better suited to a carpet, mid-brown cargo trousers of indeterminate size and fit, and Velcro-fastened rubber-soled ‘shoes’. The man could not have been more conspicuous if he had thrown a soft-boiled egg at an electric fan.
I ought to have taken a photograph to show you, dear reader, but at the time I assumed this gargoyle was involved in a guerilla marketing campaign for the visually impaired.
Admittedly, this episode took place not in the City during the week but in Surrey over a lazy Saturday afternoon and so it is perfectly acceptable for chaps to dress with a degree of comfort over formality. This fellow, however, took the proverbial. It was as though he was trying to convey the message, “Style? I have never met Style, never heard of Style, never seen Style. I don’t know what Style is. Style means literally nothing in my life.” A message that was expertly and indelibly put across; straight into the viewer’s eyeball.
I cannot say that I understand the mind responsible for putting together such an ensemble. Perhaps that’s my failing but I think it no coincidence that as the hero of our story took a seat at the bar, a child burst into tears.
Not everyone is interested in the finer sartorial details of fabric, palette or cut, and I accept that entirely. But what leaves me fairly on the nonplussed side is the chap who thinks of clothing only as a way of not being cold. Surely there is some trembling particle of shame tucked away somewhere urging a minimum standard of appearance?
Let us not pretend this is hard to do. The range of sizes and cuts available even at modest price levels is overwhelming. How is it that chaps cannot find navy cotton chinos that fit them (and for virtually pennies from the likes of H&M and Uniqlo) and an unstructured wool (or even wool-blend) blazer? At what point do mid-brown cargo trousers and turquoise fleece become the preferred option?
More often than not, being well-dressed is about simple things. For Smart Office Dress, there is no better role model than Cary Grant. Mr. Grant was most often dressed in a dark – either grey or navy – suit, white or pale blue shirt and a dark tie. Pair that with over-the-calf socks to match the trousers, and clean cap-toe oxfords. An incredibly simple outfit and one that can serve as a ‘uniform’ to those not too interested in ‘mixing it up’.
For Casual Office Dress, think of Ayn Rand’s character John Galt. Again, grey or navy with white: Flannel trousers, white shirt, brown or black loafers.
At the weekend, what would Steve McQueen wear? Perhaps jeans (or sand chinos in the summer) and a t-shirt or polo shirt without logo or picture. Nothing special, except that they must fit properly and the t-shirt is better if quite thick. Paired with chukka boots or classic Jack Purcell / Superga style trainers, this is a great outfit.
Picking some standard bits of upholstery is not a tricky pursuit, and certainly no secret. There are a gazillion websites covering this exact topic so why is this advice so often, and violently, ignored – particularly by our Velcro shod chum?