This thread was partly inspired by repeatedly seeing the claim that white linen pocket squares are "formal" and other various claims that make no sense. I will be going over several un-truths that I routinely see within these forums and attempt to provide some common-sense reasons why you should dis-believe them immediately. Discussion is welcome as well as debate if you disagree with my claims.
The white linen pocket square: Frequently seen on SF is the claim that white linen pocket squares are "too formal" for casual sport jackets or blazers. The picture dense book 100 Years of Menswear, by Cally Blackman, is a wonderful source for debunking this myth. Sticking to the early years of formal and informal menswear, starting around 1900, pictures abound of men in formal day and evening wear with no pocket squares at all. Although wearing no pocket square was much more common, the white linen square does appear regularly on formalwear as well. The white linen square, as well as its patterned counterparts, appear much more commonly on suits and casual garments such as Plus Fours, however. Period photographs and illustrations suggest strongly that the white linen square was, and is, appropriate for both formal, informal, and casual wear.
The photos that follow are from the above mentioned book and show the white linen square used in all formality levels, and attempts to illustrate that dinner jackets (today's formal evening wear, though perhaps not so in the past) were common worn without a visible square at all.
Black shoes are more formal than brown shoes: This isn't repeated quite so often as the claim on white squares, however it is seen often enough to merit inclusion. In this case it is certainly true that all formal shoes are black, however, not all black shoes are formal nor even more formal than some brown shoes. It is perhaps understandable to make this mistake, as black is associated by many with formal evening wear or conservative business dress, which is often mistaken for having some true formality. Antongiavanni (@Manton) rightly points out that black captoes are an essential business shoe, however he erroneously claims that they are the most "formal" business shoe, when the suit is correctly referred to as informal, or lounge, wear (The Suit, p. 93-94). Earlier in the book he claims that black shoes are appropriate for "grave" occasions (p. 89) and I think this term better describes the black captoes than does the term "formal". But can black shoes be informal, or even casual? Black loafers (whatever one might individually feel about them) enjoy a long history and must be viewed as a casual shoe. The quintessential casual shoe, the plain toe blucher, also commonly comes in black and is wholly inappropriate for wear with a suit of any kind, to say nothing about formalwear, whereas a dark brown captoe oxford may be worn with most common business suits.
Not grave enough for a suit:
Grave enough for a suit:
A triple patch pocket jacket is more casual than a jacket with only two patch pockets: This one is a fairly obvious case of bad thinking. Generally accepted is the notion that a jacket with patch pockets is a casual garment because of its historical utility in hunting. A common misapprehension is to assume that if two patch pockets makes a jacket casual, then three must make it super casual. There is no historical basis for this assumption that I know of. Just as there is no such thing as a more or less casual shotgun, so either a jacket echoes the casual practicality of outdoors gear or it does not. Adding a third (breast) patch pocket affects casualness not at all. More important in this regard is a concern over fabric which can impart casualness on a jacket even without patch pockets.
All these jackets are equally casual:
That's all for now. I might have some more later, as there is a lot of material to draw from.