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Article from The Rake: how to break the rules

TRINI

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Great read from Simon Crompton:

How to break the rules

Think of rules as repositories of knowledge. Certain forms of behaviour were discovered to be so practical over time that they were formalised by society. They were codified into a set of simple rules in order to be dispensed quickly and remembered easily.

Some rules were imposed from above rather than created by consensus - like the rationing during World War II that led to a ban on turn-ups. But they are all eminently practical. Rules are not fashions. They endure because, once followed, they are found to be useful.

This does not mean that breaking them cannot be fun. The extravagance of the zoot suit in the 1940s was in part a celebration of the end of wartime restrictions: a revelling in cloth. But the stylish understand the rules and the knowledge they contain. Only a pubescent breaks rules for the sake of it.

Let me explain why some rules exist, and demonstrate how this helps you break them effectively.

First, an American classic, because they do love their rules. In fact, let's quote an American that commented on my website, Permanent Style, to show how much they care: "White should never be worn between Labor Day and Easter. It is good manners. Only the ignorant of decorum would say...oh, it doesn't matter. It shows how much education and attention to propriety a person has. Only break the rule if you want people to think you do not know any better." So if you wear white before Easter next year you will be rude, lazy and ill-educated. Pretty damning.

But why should you only wear white in the summer? Because it's more likely to be sunny; because white reflects light; and so because white looks best on those bright summer days. It's a very rough way of telling you to wear white in the sun that has become divorced from reality by unimaginative respectability. Sometimes rules go adrift.

I won't wear white ducks and a banana-yellow jacket on a cloudy August afternoon. But I will wear white jeans with a four-ply shawl-collar cardigan on a clear December morning. Indeed, I have a bright green tweed jacket from Ralph Lauren that was part of a series for Autumn/Winter 2008. All bright, all heavy, hand-loomed tweed; too thick for summer and too intense for overcast conditions. It could only be worn on sunny winter days. Ralph clearly understood the rules.

Let's take a slightly more complicated example. It is said that only slim men should wear double-breasted suits. If you think about it, this is because several elements create horizontal lines where there would be vertical ones on a single-breasted suit. There are rows of buttons; the lapels point across the chest; even the peaks, unless very pointed, suggest width.

But thinking through these elements also tells us how to minimise the effect. Lowering the buttoning point straightens the lapels, as does moving the buttons closer together. Both also reduce the amount of overlapping cloth and increase the size of the shirt opening. Reducing the number of buttons mitigates the boxy effect - some fashion-forward jackets go as far as to employ only two. Lapels can be thinner, peaks can point higher. Playing with all these factors can make a large man appear more athletic, not fatter, in a DB. He will break the rule.

Why did men used to be told "˜don't wear brown in town'? Because brown was, and still is, less formal than blue or grey. But when most of your colleagues wear polo shirts and chinos to the office, a brown suit is pretty formal. Wear it with a smart shirt and tie, and perhaps switch to navy when you're meeting a client, but feel free to wear that brown in town.

Why does black tie always involve covering your waist - with a waistcoat, cummerbund or DB jacket? Because the waist is untidy, the meeting point of seams and puffy shirt. Because it elongates your body. Because it makes the outfit sharp and elegant, and that is the point of black tie. So if you're going to break this rule, at least have high-waisted trousers that reach the buttoning point of your jacket. And don't wear a shirt with an oval, Marcella front. It's designed for a waistcoat.

Why are trousers usually cut to fall with no break at the back and just a single one at the front? Because it is the best balance between elegant, unbroken lines and trousers that don't flap when you walk. So bear that in mind if you want shorter trousers - have them cut narrower and perhaps with turn-ups, at least taping, to minimise ungainly flapping. The Italians with their narrow jeans and flannels understand this very well.

Rules are there for a reason. They are practical and intended to make you look good. But once you understand why men went to the bother of formalising them, you'll know how to break them effectively.
 

aj_del

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Originally Posted by TRINI
...

Why does black tie always involve covering your waist - with a waistcoat, cummerbund or DB jacket? Because the waist is untidy, the meeting point of seams and puffy shirt. Because it elongates your body. Because it makes the outfit sharp and elegant, and that is the point of black tie. So if you're going to break this rule, at least have high-waisted trousers that reach the buttoning point of your jacket. And don't wear a shirt with an oval, Marcella front. It's designed for a waistcoat.
...


??? , it will mean a trouser with a 15" rise in my case
 

cptjeff

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Originally Posted by aj_del
??? , it will mean a trouser with a 15" rise in my case

Than wear a wastcoat. Trousers used to go to the waist as defined by the point where your body is narrowest. Which is where the jacket should be narrowest, and with the modern buttoning setup (laying aside pre fatso button everything convention), where the button will be located.

Also, somewhat minor point, but he's wrong on one thing- zoot suits were in the 30's and 40's, first as something similar to modern 'gagsta' clothing, and then as a protest among that same set against wartime restrictions. The bit in the late 40's to celebrate the end of the restrictons was known as "The bold look". DB, broad structured shoulders that went out past the natural shoulder with lots of drape with fairly well cut trousers. Yes, the point was to show off the excessive amounts of fabric. But they did not use NEARLY as much fabric as a true zoot suit. they did not have nipple high pants, did not have the ultra long jackets, did not use an entire yard of fabric for a pant leg...

This is a zoot suit:


This is the bold look that developed separately in celebration of the end of rationing:



Not the same thing.
 

Nicola

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Originally Posted by TRINI
: "White should never be worn between Labor Day and Easter.

Memorial day isn't it?
 

BillyMaysHere!

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Is it just me, or is the outdated, anachronistic iGent (the sort who bangs on about "decorum", "propriety" and old money, and who looks at old esquire images as his primary inspiration) forming a larger and more catered-to segment of his readership with each passing year?
 

aj_del

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Originally Posted by cptjeff
Than wear a wastcoat. Trousers used to go to the waist as defined by the point where your body is narrowest. Which is where the jacket should be narrowest, and with the modern buttoning setup (laying aside pre fatso button everything convention), where the button will be located.

Leaving aside balck tie and the need to cover ones waist, who wears trousers today which have a rise which goes upto the buttoning point of a jacket. If possible post a pic ...

i dont wear low rise trousers but with 11-11.5 inch rise the top of my trousers is around the lowest button of my jacket.
 

Nicola

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Originally Posted by aj_del

i dont wear low rise trousers but with 11-11.5 inch rise the top of my trousers is around the lowest button of my jacket.


Anything below your waist is low rise. It's not an absolute number. For me 11.5 inch rise would be around my waist. It sounds like it's below your waist.
 

aj_del

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^^ Waist being the narrowest part ?
 

Nicola

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Waist being the point just above your hip bones. Which for most people will end up being the narrowest part.
 

aj_del

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^^ Really, then the waist will be lower than the navel ? In this pic, the buckle of the belt can be seen around the lowest button. So either the trouser rise is short by 3-4 inches or the buttoning point needs to be lowered by the same amount ? Seriously ?
 

dasai

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Originally Posted by Nicola
Waist being the point just above your hip bones. Which for most people will end up being the narrowest part.
That would be what we call the "hips", and it really ought not to be the narrowest point; if it is, then you are probably morbidly obese. If the waist were located there, the ideal measurements of a nicely curvy lady would be 36/36/36... which is straight all the way down. While the rise traditionally comes to the natural waist, most modern trousers do not come up this high. This is not really a problem as long as they aren't super-low and the jacket is cut with quarters closed enough to avoid exposing the dreaded Turkey Triangle.
 

amplifiedheat

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Originally Posted by Nicola
Anything below your waist is low rise. It's not an absolute number. For me 11.5 inch rise would be around my waist. It sounds like it's below your waist.
+1.
In this pic, the buckle of the belt can be seen around the lowest button. So either the trouser rise is short by 3-4 inches or the buttoning point needs to be lowered by the same amount ? Seriously ?
The former. Trousers these days are overwhelmingly sold with seriously inadequate rises, although it's possible those have slipped down an inch or two. (And perhaps the jacket is a little high. It's hard to tell without knowing where your waist is.) As for the waist, it is the narrowest part of the torso on a normally proportioned person. The navel is unrelated. The hips are unrelated.
 

Pantisocrat

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I agree wholeheartedly. Especially, I lament the au courant jacket length which is too short. This design makes tall guys look feminine and short guys look boyish. This trend is an intersection of broken streetlights, where the first to go and the last to yield must understand the original rule of menswear, that is to look good. You won't die breaking it but you will suffer.
 

cptjeff

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Originally Posted by aj_del
Leaving aside balck tie and the need to cover ones waist, who wears trousers today which have a rise which goes upto the buttoning point of a jacket. If possible post a pic ...

i dont wear low rise trousers but with 11-11.5 inch rise the top of my trousers is around the lowest button of my jacket.


Nobody wears 'em today, that's part of the point. And why the no waist covering trend for tuxedos can look really silly with modern cuts, because you get white showing below the waist- giving the turkey triangle effect mentioned. It kills the line and the crispness of the look, and a properly cut one button tux will have pretty open quarters, making that very hard to avoid if there's not something there to cover the shirt.

This is how high they used to cut 'em (hollywood waist optional though):

 

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