If you’re into menswear, you’ll have undoubtedly heard the name of Alan Flusser.
He’s a prominent figure who has authored several books on classic menswear, in addition to a career as a film stylist – he designed the wardrobes for Wall Street and American Psycho among others – and as a menswear designer with his own tailoring brand.
His book Dressing the Man – The Art of Permanent Fashion is often lauded in the sartorial community as a Bible of menswear, and is recommended by many people for reading regardless of how long you’ve been into menswear. Though, most people tend to have read it near the beginning of their journeys.
So, I thought I’d grab a copy and tell you all about it. Is it as essential as people say it is? Is the book worth buying in 2020?
The Format, and the Subject Matter
Dressing the Man is a reference book, set out like an encyclopaedia. However, unlike an encyclopaedia, the contents aren’t ordered in an A-Z fashion.
Rather, they are laid out into separate chapters, each covering a certain topic within classic menswear. For example, there are chapters comprehensively covering the cut of a suit and how it should fit, shirts, neckwear, footwear, how to dress for black tie and so on.
It’s quite a comprehensive reference, and reading it cover-to-cover would take some time. However, the reference book format makes it quite easy to just look up what you’re specifically searching for – say you want to learn about what fabrics to use in summer – and flip straight to that section, like you would in a textbook.
High Content Quality, But What About the Writing Style?
The first thing that jumps out – and perhaps the biggest negative, in my opinion – is shown in the very first chapter title and repeated in much of the writing; the tone is grandiose to the point of occasional pomposity. While I’m quite a literary person, some of the tone smacks of the kind of writing found in university essays when the argument has been completed a couple of hundred words under the required word count.
And just like the professors/lecturers who mark said essays, I don’t like that.
This being said, the tone being overbearing at times doesn’t discredit the information that Flusser lays out in the book. The quality of this information is excellent, with many pictures included for reference.
In that aspect, with the completeness of information regarding all of the basics and finer points of classic menswear – suiting and tailoring in particular – it’s easy to see why this book is regarded as a menswear Bible. It’s got so much information within its pages; you would have to search and scour a variety of online blogs and publications for many hours to find and collate all of this into one place if you just wanted to learn from the Internet.
How Much of the Information is Up to Date?
Given that Dressing the Man was published in 2002, and with the evolving nature of the clothing and fashion industry, concerns over the modern validity of books such of this is bound to be a factor in your purchase decision.
However I think that since classic menswear is based on just that – classic aesthetics – the majority of the content in Dressing the Man is just as viable today as it would have been for decades going back. Learning and understanding the ideal classic proportions for tailoring is something that many men don’t get armed with these days, and as a result many men walk around in jackets that are too short with unflattering button stances without knowing any better. And things like pattern matching are skills that haven’t changed, ever.
There are some parts of the book that are a little dated however (in my opinion), such as some – not all – of the writing in chapters such as Business Casual. Of course, this could just be my personal sense of style disagreeing with some of it. I would recommend you read and judge for yourself.
Given all of this, the book will have more or less value depending on where you’re at on your own style journey:
Concluding Thoughts: Is it Worth Buying This Book in 2020?
By and large, my answer is yes. It’s worth having a copy of this book.
However your benefit from reading it depends on where you’re at.
If you’re brand new to menswear and tailoring, I think the very first thing you should do is buy and read the majority of this book, in order. It’ll save you a lot of headaches and your learning curve will be lessened.
For everyone else, I think it’s handy to have a copy but not immediately necessary. It’s just a really useful reference book with so much information crammed between the covers. Sometimes when I’m not sure on something, I can grab my copy off the shelf and look it up.
At the end of the day, it’s worth having a copy on your shelf. Having all the information within one book to peruse at your leisure is really useful.
Hope you’ve enjoyed the read,