Fashion The subtle style codes every man needs to look...

The subtle style codes every man needs to look good


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Certain choice nuggets from the tome include always wearing a collar and tie in town “even if by the sea, after 6pm”, never be seen in shorts and sandals unless on the beach and the insistence that “all short sleeve shirts look ghastly”. Ouch. Amies wouldn’t approve of my latest Dries Van Noten purchase.

In a social media age, the quagmire of what’s “right” and “wrong” is all the more pronounced; time was when a young man would learn the style mores of what was appropriate and right from his father, but in today’s “anything goes” landscape the waters are somewhat muddied. There are countless menswear “influencers” who focus on “fit”, with tedious hashtags devoted to #winterfits etc. The X (formerly Twitter) menswear authority Derek Guy recently broadcast his thoughts to his 700,000 followers around the correct protocol for fit and colour with regards to tailoring; a jacket must be roomy enough to allow stretching arms without pulling, while apparently one other preppy golden rule is to wear a dark jacket with light trousers.

I’m not entirely convinced on some of them, but it’s clearly a topic that excites debate; the Royal Fashion Police Instagram account highlights certain Euro royals who misstep every so often, while our own venerable readers recently let their thoughts known in the comments section about the fact that Daniel Craig as Bond wore ill-fitting suits.

Telegraph readers recently accused Daniel Craig's suits in the James Bond franchise as 'ill-fitting'

In the accompanying piece, Tom Chamberlin, editor-in-chief of The Rake magazine and one of the most smartly-dressed men I know, advised against the “triangle of death”, the slither of shirt revealed beneath the jacket button which is caused when the jacket is too tight.

What other rules should a chap watch out for?

It’s all in the fit

“There are certain matters related to fit, and that’s an entirely different matter to etiquette,” says Chamberlin. Much has been made of Rishi Sunak’s shrunken suit proportions, particularly his shortened trousers; Chamberlin clarifies the right stance. “There’s a lot of debate on the break of a trouser, which is where it should end. A trouser cuff should hit the shoe just slightly, whereas our Prime Minister prefers them not touching at all.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's shortened trousers have sparked much debate

Jackets are, unsurprisingly, subject to the most degree of scrutiny. One important element when sizing it up is, according to Chamberlin, “whether the jacket collar sits away from the shirt collar. If it does, the balance is all off.”

Similarly, purists decree that a centre vent on a suit jacket isn’t the done thing for the city; “these were made for horse riding, so they’re traditionally worn in the country. A double vent is more appropriate in the city.”

Get your buttoning right

Oliver Spencer, the London-based menswear designer who runs both his namesake label and the gentlemanly formalwear special Favourbrook, agrees that getting the details of the jacket finessed is the first step to looking considered. “Get your jacket buttoning right, that’s the first step,” says Spencer. “A three-button jacket should only have the middle button done up, on a two-button jacket you must only do the top button up. And the absolute worst thing is doing the bottom button up on a jacket; it should remain unbuttoned,” says Spencer on the rigours that govern proper tailoring.

'A three-button jacket should only have the middle button done up': Tom Chamberlin at an event for African conservation charity, Tusk, London 2023

Working cuffs on a jacket sleeve – that is, buttons on a cuff that actually function as buttons as opposed to being merely decorative – should have the first button undone, he says, to demonstrate a certain ease and deftness.

The issue of jacket fit is paramount in terms of correctness. “A shirt waistband seen beneath the jacket isn’t traditionally thought of as right,” says Spencer rather democratically. “And a shirt poking out beneath a waistcoat is a bad look”; waistcoats should, he says, carry past the waistband of trousers by an inch to negate such things. The bottom right-hand button on a double-breasted waistcoat – the kind worn with a morning suit – should always be left unbuttoned, a custom that evolved in the 18th century that allows for a certain ease and is less restrictive.

The politics of ties

The etiquette around tie knots we will have to leave for another column entirely – the minutiae of tie tying is so thorny that Favourbrook offer masterclasses – but Spencer’s rule is to go with a classic half Windsor which is smaller and easier to tie than the full Windsor, and to always ensure that the thick end is longer than the narrow end, and that the tip of the tie should hit the waistband of the trouser and no more.

Sope Dirisu and Damson Idris attend Royal Ascot in June, 2021

Chamberlin has further advice on the customs around ties. “In Britain, the received wisdom is that regimental ties should have stripes that go left to right, as it signals from heart to sword, and you should only wear a regimental tie if you’re a member of that club or regiment.”

The final details

In terms of accessories, a pocket square “should be square in shape, and worn with black tie and formalwear. Otherwise, the casually tucked in variety is a handkerchief square and should be worn with lounge suits.” His other tip includes forgoing classic silver collar stays in favour of plastic, because all too often you’ll forget about them and they’ll end up in the washing machine. And the sacrosanct rule: “Never wear tan shoes with a blue suit.”

Our pick


Wool morning coat, £720,Favourbrook


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