Too many eye-catching extras results in poor taste

Too many eye-catching extras results in poor taste

Q. While there are  many men dressing “down” these days, some of us still wear suits and enjoy doing so. That said, I think a suit should be subtle while my colleague disagrees. He has some pretty outlandish flourishes that I think are “too much.” He points to examples in the media to support his preferences, and the examples are out there. But I still think with too many eye-catching extras, the result is no longer anything I would call good taste. Do you agree? 

A. Yes, I absolutely do.  While watching newscasters, sportscasters, and some politicians on TV, I’ve noticed a lack of tasteful restraint. Here are a few of the most outlandish examples I’ve seen. 

A well-respected morning-show newscaster wore: a vested dark blue suit that was a few shades brighter than navy blue. With it, he wore a rather bold-patterned necktie, a patterned silk pocket square, a boutonnaire, a pocket watch with a chain that draped across the suit’s vest, and then, as if that were not enough, he had added a pair of noticeably bright-colored (clashing) argyle socks. His mistakes were:

  1. A rather-bright dark suit is an element of men’s dressing that calls attention to itself as a fashion note. It sets the tone for an outfit that should not add much additional embellishment.  
  2. The vest in a three-piece suit adds another item that is eye-catching.
  3. Wearing a nicely-coordinated necktie and pocket square is fine, but then adding a boutonnaire becomes a bit much.
  4. Adding a pocket watch with its accompanying chain is a step towards dandyism.
  5. The further addition of argyle socks approached a foolish look. Even if they had been nicely color-coordinated with the other elements, they would have been too casual to go with his dressy outfit; but, in clearly wrong bold colors, they became clown-like. 

A high-ranking elected political official wore: a navy blue pinstriped suit, a French-cuff blue shirt with a white contrast-collar, a boldly-patterned silk tie with an exactly-matching silk pocket square, a small flag lapel pin, a large wrist watch, and an oversized ring. His mistakes were:

  1. The colored-body-and-white-contrast-collar-shirt style is a bit dated these days, but it is not exactly wrong. It is, however, a noticeable look that calls for a bit of restraint when adding other attention-grabbing elements to the combination. 
  2. An exactly-matched tie-and-pocket-square-set is a major no-no in men’s dressing. It looks like the wearer was dressed out of a kit, and implies that he lacks sartorial sophistication. When wearing a tie and a pocket square, the two items should be handsomely coordinated, but should never match exactly.
  3. I am not a fan of men wearing lapel pins, but they are not exactly wrong and appear to be a given in today’s politics.
  4. Cuff links, a large watch, and a big ring add up to way too much jewelry, and bring to mind the image of a gangster. I keep looking for his little finger up in the air while drinking tea!    

A politically well-connected attorney wore: a dressy, dark pinstriped suit with no tie. His traditional white shirt was buttoned up to, and including, the top button.  His mistakes were:

  1. As I recently wrote, a dark striped suit is a very dressy look. It calls for a necktie. 
  2. Anytime a man decides to wear a suit, a blazer, or sport jacket without a tie, the shirt should be worn open-at-the-neck with one or two buttons unbuttoned. (This look correctly goes with a more casual suit than a dark pinstripe.) Wearing a buttoned-all-the-way-up-to-the-neck dress shirt without a tie is a nerdy look, reminiscent of the old TV show, “Monk.” And it looks even more ridiculous with a dressy suit. 

Years ago, the legendary Editor of Vogue Magazine, Diana Vreeland, gave this advice, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one piece of jewelry.” I would say this is even more true for men than women.    

As you can see, there is more to dressing well than just choosing handsome, quality clothes. It is also important to know which items go well together, and when to say, “enough!”  

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