Style ‘Rules’ You Can Put Right In The Bin

Search for some form of men’s style how-to on Google or YouTube and you’ll get at least a few results saying something like this:

Five Style Rules You MUST FOLLOW.
Men’s Style Mistakes You’re Making RIGHT NOW! (Don’t Do #3!!!).
Cardinal Sins of Men’s Style.

And so on, and so on, and so on.
The communities populating some of these sites and video comment sections are so mired in a prison of rules-based thinking when it comes to how you wear your clothing, it’s sometimes even more pitiable than having no clue at all.
I suppose it’s somewhat a pathological reaction; you realise you’ve been clueless about something for years, then when you finally see some of the light, you beat yourself up about your past and become a bit of a zealot in the process.
Many of these types will see another light at some point, and realise that it’s OK to have fun with your style, and that your style should be your own.
Many others will voluntarily stay in style rule prison.

I see the body as a canvas, with clothing being the brush you use to paint a unique picture on that canvas, every single day.
It’s part art, part science, and without one, the other can suffer.
Once you’ve got the science nailed, the art needs to be honed, otherwise things don’t progress past the stage of robotic and repetitive movements.
Go forth with only the art, however, and it becomes art for art’s sake.
Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however it is what constitutes modern art.
A field that sparks adoration from one, and pure disdain from the next.

Moving on, here are six style ‘rules’ that belong in the prison cell’s bins.

Don’t wear more than one collar

I’ve heard this one spouted a few times, and I’m tackling it because it seems to be one of the last entrenched bastions in the minds of people who have otherwise escaped from the pit.
Somewhere along the line, somebody said you can’t wear a collared sweater over a collared shirt.
Which would mean no rugby tops over shirts or ties.
Tell that to the prep/Ivy crowd and they’ll first laugh, and then show you how doing two collars can look fantastic.

On a technical level, I find this ‘rule’ to be strangely hypocritical.
It’s only ever directed at sweaters.
However, even hardened supporters of this rule tend to wear a shirt jacket over a casual shirt or polo for a clean casual outfit.
On the other side of the line, you have the men brave enough to wear a turtleneck over their collared shirt, with the shirt collar popped to show the tips poking through the neck.
I’ve not done it, but I admire how some gents make it look. I’ll give it a shot at some point.

Don’t tuck your polo shirts or tees in

Another strange one, and this one definitely has to have originated within the last two decades, because tucking all forms of shirting in has been the standard move for many decades before that.
It’s especially important to tuck your tees and polos when wearing them with tailored pants, or just if you have a higher rise trouser.

If you head to my Instagram profile and see my ‘following’ list, you’ll see a plethora of stylish men who tuck in their tees and polos.
The ‘rule’ against it, quite simply, is naff.

No ties with button down collars

Another bizarre one I’ve seen perpetuated lately.
American style has been characterised by the button down collar since its heyday, so there’s no way that ties and button down collars should be separated.
They’re a match made in heaven, especially if the collar is devoid of fusible, with little to no interlining and a generous length to facilitate a lovely collar roll.

Linen Jacket OCBD Knitted Tie Outfit Autumn Spring Style

A button down collar might look a little at odds with a particularly smart silk tie, like a wedding tie, but it’s a great match for knitted ties and repp stripes.
Something the Americans, and Ivy Style practitioners across the world have been doing since kingdom come.

Everything has to be form fitting, and jackets must be short

This one has sprung up through people following the trend of slim-fit suiting started by Thom Browne and other designers in 2010.
A few educators in this space have latched onto those designs and treated them as God, deriding anyone who chooses something more classic. Their disciples are often outspoken with matching opinions.
Thankfully, there are also educators and influential figures who combat this myth.
A good source of information on classical proportions and how to play with proportion in order to best flatter your body is Alan Flusser’s book Dressing The Man, which I’ve previously reviewed.

You must wear a pocket square with a tie

Though pocket squares as a current menswear trend are past their heyday, and I’ve certainly moved on from them for the most part, I often see the odd person in the comment section of any one of my friends on Insta questioning ‘no pocket square?’ like a mortal sin has been committed.
I personally dislike that pocket squares cause an asymmetrical bulge in my left lapel if I wear them, so I avoid it.
Other people have different reasons for not wearing one.
Many others have their own reasons for always wearing one.
Square or no square, is a matter of personal taste and choice.

Jeans must be worn with a belt

This goes for any pair of pants with belt loops, but I most often see it disputed with jeans.
Many are taught that simply because the space for a belt is there, that it must be filled.
I wear a belt in one of two circumstances:

a) I think it brings something to the outfit (often a Western style belt fits this bill).
b) my trouser waist isn’t correctly fitted and I need a belt to keep my pants from being around my ankles.

This look didn’t need a belt.

If I think a belt is going to ruin the flow of an outfit, the belt stays on the hanger. If that means I have to change my pants, then it’s time to take those pants to an alterationist anyway.

This outfit benefited from the presence of the belt.

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With content features ranging from appearances on popular menswear hubs (The Rake, StyleForum, Put This On) to French perfume newsletters and university course readings, Sam is a writer, designer and enthusiast in the fields of menswear and fragrance.

4 thoughts on “Style ‘Rules’ You Can Put Right In The Bin

  1. See how I do in braking the silly rules you mentioned.

    First, I agree two collars can look fantastic. My favorite type of shirt is an oxford cloth button down and, in fact, is only type of shirt I’ve ever worn under one of the popular low V-neck collard sweaters, popular right now with short zipper down to chest.

    Next, only when wearing shorts do I ever leave Polo and Tee Shirts untucked, with anything else they are tucked in!

    As said above, oxford cloth button downs are my favorite type of shirts: dressy enough they look both professional and classy with a tie and fashioned from a coarsely woven fabric they can serve equally well as a casual garment.

    Have a few “Slim-Fit Suits” that are certainly more form fitting than all the other “Traditional Cut” suits I’ve accumulated over the years. That said I’m not throwing any of those “Traditional Cut” suits out of my closet since the new “Slim-Fit” are definately the most uncomfortable ones. They are tailored for a snazzy look at social social events (i.e., art gallery reception), but designed for all day wear in a white collar professional office!

    I have gobs of ties and a fair number pocket squares too, but I don’t wear a pocket square everytime I wear a tie!

    Last, . . . Jeans must be worn with a belt?
    Guess back during middle school, in 7th and 8th grades, I still sporadically put on a belt, but by high school blue jeans sufficed as everyday wear and I ceased threading one in around them.

    Jeans, of course, are made from denim, a thick coarsely woven fabric, which I found scratchy and unpleasant to wear. When cinched by a belt the abrasive and grainy fabric only tightens, pulls, and puckers around waist and along legs only making them more uncomfortable. Certainally I wasn’t only one back in high school to find beltless jeans more appealing and a look back at old photos in our yearbooks several other guys in my classes also frequently left their jeans unbelted too.

    Probably should mention as well, that I’ve always tucked shirt with jeans, as back in 1970’s and 80’s guys regularly did so with Polo and even Tee shirts. Tucked in shirt, of course, leaves empty loops readily visable and sometimes prompted, “You forgot your belt,” type comments, so I always replied by flaunting, “Oh, these fit just fine!”

    Might note too back in late 1970’s and early 80’s most boys in high school and certainally by time they enrolled in college had a couple of suits along with sportcoat and some dress slacks for dress-up occasions. Suits I had in high school and first years of college were all the then popular 3 piece ones with trousers, vest, and jacket. Since vest covered waistband of pants never wore any belt with those suits.

    By latter college days, however, 3 piece suits with vests disappeared and stores stocked only 2 piece jacket and trouser suits. Remember when trying on new suit in men’s clothing store clerk whipped out a belt and explained, “No vest! Looks like, you’ll need one to wear now!”

    In professional job as a lawyer, a suit is required courtroom attire, so strictly complied with advice from men’s store sales clerk for next 20 years. However, after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on U.S.A. metal detectors quickly got installed in entrance ways of courthouses and all other government builings. After repeatedly setting alarm sirens off and getting detained by security guards, decided to intregrate suit trousers without a belt as business wear choice.

    Ironically, after adopting look myself back 10 or 15 years ago, men’s clothing companies made it quite popular now.

    At recent bankruptcy liquidation sale of men’s clothing store when again trying a suit on, this time clerk there commented, “If you can get away with it, not filling the loops gives a neat clean look and lets you appear taller!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rules are great for beginners, and their changing nature for sales. Beyond that, I’m fond of saying:

      Wear what you like, and wear it how you like!


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