Clothing At Man's Estate
( Originally Published 1924 )
A family man—an alert business man as well--was once asked, "What clothes do you think a man should have?"
His reply was: "It seems inevitably the case that when I feel I can have the clothes I want it is necessary to get screens for the house instead; or Mary needs an expensive orthodontist, or we all need a new car. But if ever I could have all the clothes at one time that I feel a gentleman should have, there would be first of all:
"Two business suits, each with extra trousers, both suits and trousers to be alternated in wearing; a first class navy-blue serge and two pairs of cream flannel trousers; an afternoon formal suit and all the accompanying gimcracks; an evening suit and an extra Tuxedo coat and vest which I could juggle around with the claw-hammer ; two pairs of knickers, one tweed, one linen, and a knitted coat for golf.
"Four overcoats—a gabardine, a tweed coat of light weight, an ulster, and a Chesterfield.
"Four hats—a straw, a felt, a cap, and a silk hat.
"Five pairs of shoes-two for business to be alternated, golf brogans, patent shoes with kid tops, and patent pumps.
"Five pairs of gloves—two tan capeskin, one Mocha, one gray suède, and one white kid.
"One dozen shirts—eight for business of English broadcloth or madras; four dress-shirts, two stiff bosom and two soft bosom.
"Two dozen collars—assorted styles.
"Two dozen handkerchiefs.
"One dozen athletic union suits.
"Two dozen pairs of socks—dark lisle for business, silk for dress, and wool-and-lisle for golf.
"A house coat and Opera slippers—wonderful help in saving the business suit.
"One bathrobe and a pair of soft slippers. "One half-dozen pairs of pajamas.
"I'd buy a new business suit in the fall, my dress clothes in the winter, my sport clothes in the spring. Once I got started, things would overlap and I'd find it not difficult to keep in trim."
Loud patterns should not be chosen; A suit with a mixture of color or design should appear plain a few feet away. Light blue, definite greens, huge plaids, are poor taste. For winter—navy-blue, dark gray, or dark brown; for summer—grays or tans; no cuffs on sleeves, no fancy pockets or faddish pleats and belts, no padded shoulders or peg-topped trousers.
The waistcoat should match the suit. If a waist-coat is not worn in the summer, one should take extra care to have his linen immaculate. Collars, soft or starched; shirts (no gentleman wears a silk shirt nowadays)—loud colors should be avoided; tie—a color which blends with the color of the suit is best, but if a contrasting color is chosen, the tie and suit should be of the same color value; shoes—oxfords, black or dark brown; hose—never white or tan lighter than the tone of the suit. Chains, fobs, scarf pins, lodge emblems, bright colored handkerchiefs, or any novelties are rarely seen on a gentle-man.
It is interesting to note that the clothes in which women are most nearly standardized, those for street, business, or shopping, are those in which men are least governed by set rules. Men's after-noon and evening clothes show little variation; while a man's business suit, altho never conspicuous, may be one of a variety of colors, cut in different ways, with ties, shirts, and other accessories individually chosen to express personality.
Evening clothes, because of their dark color, are suitable foils for the display of women's dresses but play no decided note in the color harmony. Details of these clothes meticulously follow a definite standard and according to their correctness is a man's dress taste determined.
The business or jacket coat—its length, shaping of front, lapels—may be dictated by the "latest style." However, the man's height and girth, the length of his neck and shape of his shoulders, deter-mine the cut of the coat. If a man is stout he has the front of his coat cut in angles, not rounded. The length of the coat is determined by the height and the proportions of the body. A man with very long legs and a short torso should never wear a short coat, nor should a man with short legs wear an especially long coat.
Long lapels increase the apparent length of neck and make a long face look cadaverous, but they are a help to the man with a thick neck and a moon-shaped face. They should never be extreme. Coat shoulders should not be padded but should be fitted carefully, because the "hang" of the coat depends on them. No gentleman has fancy cuffs or any other trimming on the sleeves of his business suit, nor should his trousers be pegged-top, altho they may have cuffs.
The color of the suit should never be noticeable. The same rules of suitability and becoming color which apply to women's street clothes may be applied to those of men, especially in the matter of neckties. The lightness and darkness of the color, as well as the hue of the suits should be considered. Unusual greens, bright blues, yellow browns are in poor taste. The necktie should never precede a man's hand in the greeting. If one notices a man's tie, it is probably wrong.
The short, stout man should not choose plaids, not even an "invisible" one, because the squares give breadth to the figure. Stripes help the man to appear taller. A very tall man can be made to look like a giraffe in a suit which has a decided stripe, but there are those who really gain distinction by emphasizing height; all depends on the symmetry of the figure.
The waistcoat of the business suit may match the jacket or be of different fabrics. Harmony of color should be watched, also combination of design; no stripes with a plaid or checked suit. A plain fabric is best with any suit that is not plain. The contrasting waistcoat may be bound with a color to match the suit. The most conservative man chooses his waistcoat to match the suit. The business suit should never simulate a costume for a fancy dress ball.
The trousers usually match the coat. The cut of the hips and the width of the leg is controlled some-what by fashion, but extremes of any kind are never in good taste.
The hat may be a soft felt or a straw. The color of the felt hat is important. It should blend with the suit rather than match it. A lighter value of the same hue of the suit may have a band of still another value of the same color. The shape and
height of the crown and the width of the brim should be considered with regard to the shape of the face. If the face is very long and narrow, a high crown will make it longer. If not carried to the point of caricature this increased length may give distinction, the only and the ultimate quality for which men should strive. If the face is very large and the neck broad, a too narrow brim will emphasize those qualities. Panama hats are especially kind to men who can no longer wear the youthful type of clothes. Bands on hats for business men should never be collegiate in tone.
The shirt may be plain with a plaited bosom, with single or double cuffs. The collar which is a double band starched, or the soft fold, or even the wing collar, is worn with the business suit. The cravat is a four-in-hand or a bow tie. The color may match the stripe of the suit or be in contrast, but the width of the knot or the ends of the bow tie is a matter for thought, because by this little touch is the shape of the face affected. The size of the tie should be in proportion to the figure. A little man can be obliterated by a broad, heavy, knitted, silk cravat; and contradictory as it may seem, a narrow string tie will help to diminish the apparent size of a stout man.
The correct gloves to wear with a business suit are tan capeskin, chamois, or buckskin. Shoes are laced calf, black or brown, high or low. Hose are silk, lisle, or fine wool—black is always a safe color; white or other light colors should never be worn with business clothes. Jewelry-cuff links may be jeweled or of enamel ; a very thin watch chain of platinum, white gold, or dull yellow gold, and a watch are worn. A scarf pin with a business suit has a bad psychological effect ; it may attract a client's attention and, subconsciously of course, de-tract from his concentration on business. If a ring is worn, it should be a signet or a plain gold band with or without a deep-set jewel; it should be worn on the little finger. Overcoat—Chesterfield or top-coat.