In our ongoing ruminations on black tie regalia during the lead-up to the Oscars, let us consider the little things that can make or break a tuxedo’s chances for best-dressed-list-ed glory...
As with everything menswear-related, attention to detail is paramount—we’ll spare you the lecture on how your tux should fit well (just make sure it does). We’d rather focus on the universally key factors like sizing up a lapel, the appropriateness of grosgrain and the employment of a pocket square.
As you may have noticed from the shuttered post offices, it’s Veterans Day. And while there’s plenty of somber contemplation to do, we’d like to highlight an English custom we’re hoping catches on in the States: the lapel poppy. It’s a bona fide tradition over there, and if you walked through London today, you probably wouldn’t see a lapel without one. All it takes is a good florist or a patch of felt—and a little transatlantic charm.
As we’ve said before, a few well-placed trinkets can be the best way to bring a suit down to earth. The trick is finding a trinket that’s every bit as handsome as your suit.
Well, we’ve found one. It’s a studio exclusive lapel pin from Occulter, made from gold and 80-year-old piano ivory. The key point: when you open it up, you’ll have room for a pair of scrimshawed initials and one of those locket photos you’ve see in movies. It’s gentlemanly style circa 1800, which isn’t something you come across every day.
And if you’ve incurred the wrath of your significant other recently—or plan on doing so in the near future—it’s not a bad peace offering.
Now that we’ve defended the ’70s with Mr. Garfunkel, it’s time to acknowledge the dark side of all that disco. Specifically, the bad suits, wide lapels and exaggerated swagger that give them such a bad name even 30 years after the fact.
Consider, for instance, Mr. Justin de Villeneuve.
He was a staple on the London scene as Twiggy’s Svengali-esque manager, notable for feathered hair and lapels that reached out to his shoulders. In short, everything that was wrong with the style of the day. And now that he’s made a recent comeback among the McMullan set, we couldn’t resist a quick tour of his notorious past. Thankfully, he’s improved a bit in the intervening decades, but he’s got plenty to live down.
One of the pleasant surprises of this round of Fashion Week shows was how many gents showed up with a little flash on their lapels. Of course, we’ve already sung the praises of the tie pin, but the lapel pin gives you a lot more room to work—and there’s a tribal element that never quite made its way to the tie pin. In days of yore, this was where you’d show your allegiance to the Kiwanis, Electricians Local 229 or the Cleveland Browns. Nowadays, all you’re likely to see is the cable-news-approved flag pin, which is the opposite of the personal touch you should be looking for.
The best pins hew closer to nostalgia than kitsch, like a vintage brass eagle or (if possible) your granddad’s local 229 pin. Something with a story behind it. Something personal. Throw enough of them together and you’ve got a fair portrait of where a man’s coming from. It’s a way to elevate your suit out of the sharp-but-forgettable limbo where most gentlemen find themselves. And if, along the way, you get the chance to rep the Kiwanis, all the better.
Of course, finding them is easier said than done—especially if you want something with a bit of history—but the first step is to start looking.
It’s not for everyone—Tom Ford is on record as hating the look—but Spencer knows how to pull it off better than anyone.
You’ll want a smaller collar than usual and a thin knot to keep everything roughly in proportion, but the real trick is leaving the top button unbuttoned. The jackets in question are usually three-buttons, and fastening the top one is every bit as bad as fastening the bottom.
And if you want to throw in a quick lapel trinket to show off how clever you’re being, we’d say you’ve earned it.
We’ve been shopping our musings on recession-chic around to a few other bloggers to see what ideas they came up with, and so far the response has been nothing short of intriguing. A Suitable Wardrobe has been one of our favorite trads since we started in the blogging game, so we thought we'd start things off with their response.
Speaking of male accessories, we’d like to point out one of our favorite benefits of wider lapels: space for a few adornments.
This gentleman from Seoul has the right idea, pinning an interesting trinket onto both lapels. Of course, the trad in us prefers the old Victorian buttonhole carnation—a trademark of British gents from Evelyn Waugh to John Steed—but we understand you’d prefer a more modern approach.
Just try not to poke too many holes in your jacket.