Fashion is always changing, or so they say. But it’s nice to know there are a few things you can still count on - J Crew sending you a new coupon code, the forums telling you, in minute detail, what’s is wrong with your fit pics and menswear types often reminding you that ‘it’s all about the details’.
Style is all about details. You hear it over and over. Sometimes it’s used earnestly, if a bit gullibly, under a photo of an old Italian dude with a cigarette in his hand and a stack of bracelets on his wrist. Sometimes it’s used more cynically, or at least commercially, under a photo of shrunken blazer with exaggerated pick stitching on the website of a cut rate MTM operation. It’s chanted like a mantra and passes for advice in any season. It’s also mostly wrong.
Not entirely wrong - dressing well definitely takes care or at least a bit of attention. But the details people tend to focus on aren’t details at all, they’re distractions. David Isle catalogued a few of the worst examples of what he calls flair. The problem with flair is two-fold. If someone is trying to sell you contrast buttonholes and a fuchsia lining it that’s usually instead of rather than with a well-tailored suit. Even if that weren’t the case, it’s hard to hear good tailoring with the flair over there shouting.
The details that make a guy well dressed are the sorts of things that you don’t notice right away. They create a general impression but don’t stand out individually. And they are also surprisingly hard to do well. It seems simple enough that a pair of trousers should hang cleanly from the waist to the cuff but getting the back balance right is fiendishly difficult. And even then, you have to remember to iron out the wrinkles behind the knees after you wear them. There isn’t much to the construction of a shirt so even small changes in measurements have an outsize effect. An extra half an inch in the sleeve or shoulders can make the difference between smart and a little sloppy. A lot more goes into a jacket but little things tend to be the mark of great tailoring: the gentle shaping of the chest and how the collar hugs the neck. It’s the same story with accessories. It’s surprising how many tries it takes to show just the perfect glimpse of white linen above the jacket pocket.
Taking an interest in clothes generally requires something of an artistic temperament or at least inclination. But a lot of dressing well comes down to the prosaic details of fit and construction and the sometimes tedious work of maintenance. It’s all about the details - just don’t forget which details.
Thanks to bespokewrinkles.com for the use of the photos and for his dedication to the subtleties of fit.