Hello everyone, and welcome to The Rakish Man. My name is Léon Philippe and I am here with all the right responses to your sartorial queries. I’ve poured my first glass of Grand Marnier, so let’s get started.
I am delighted to report that I will soon be ordering my first batch of custom made shirts. I’m starting simple, with a couple of white shirts and a couple of blue ones, both spread collar with barrel cuffs. But one detail I have yet to decide on is whether or not to get a monogram, and if I opt for one, where to put it. I wouldn’t want anything too gaudy, but at the same time, given the simple design of these shirts, I thought the monogram might be an opportunity to show my personality. What are your thoughts on this matter?
Thank you for your query. First of all, never suggest that your clothing “shows your personality.” Tsk, tsk, indeed! A personality is, one hopes, too richly textured to be mirrored in any garment, even if it be a smoking jacket made on Savile Row using fabric that one sourced oneself from Italy, of a design all of one’s own making, and a very unique one at that, I might add. Even then, the garment, though it may have no like in all the world, does not “show one’s personality.” And that is an entire garment - so much the less might a monogram show a personality. Unless perhaps your initials are ASS. In which case, I recommend you put the monogram on the back of the shirt, with an arrow pointing downward.
But back to your query. There is nothing inherently gaudy about a monogram. Many of the best-dressed men throughout history wore monogrammed shirts. Of course, the custom initially began so that bodies could be identified following duels. Thus could the victor prove that he had slain the man who wronged him, waving the bloody shirt with the villain’s own initials. However, this lead to some confusion over the years. You might have a Lord George John Smith shot in place of a Lord George James Stanton, for instance. For this reason the practice of dueling was discontinued.
But monograms proliferate still today, although often merely as a signifier of custom make for novice bespeakers such as yourself. My own preference is to put the monogram on the front shirt tail. This way, I don’t advertise the whole world that, yes, my shirts are custom made - the monogram is just a little secret I keep near and dear to my…heart. It is seen only by dry cleaner and other women handling precious goods.
Welcome to the tight and bejeweled circle of bespoke clients, TSK. This is an important step in your sartorial journey. I find myself treading more slowly and more purposefully these days, weighed down by the hopes and expectations of dandies of generations past. I suppose we all have our own crutch to bear.
Ed. note: If you have a query for The Rakish Man, please send an email to david at nomanwalksalone dot com and I will make sure he sees it.
Quality content, like quality clothing, ages well. This article first appeared on the No Man blog in July 2016.