Category Archive 'Men’s Attire'

27 Nov 2022

Letting Down the Side

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Alec Marsh describes just how far the rot has set in in today’s Britain.

[In] Sebastian Payne[‘s] forthcoming book about the last days of Boris Johnson’s government…. [h]e tells the story of [Dominic] Raab arriving to counsel the Prime Minister during his last hours in Downing Street, dressed in white tie. ‘Raab awkwardly told Number 10 staffers he had to attend a white-tie dinner at the Mansion House in the City of London that evening, but required assistance with the outfit. An attendant was found with the skills to fix his bow tie.’

An attendant was found with the skills to fix his bow tie. Have standards of British public life ever been quite so damned in just 12 words?

Dominic Raab can’t do up a bow tie. And nor, it seems, could the coterie of those around Boris – or perhaps they didn’t want to get too close to him to do it? Either way, it looks bad.

Because to my mind, a Tory grandee who can’t tie a bow tie is like a Labour bigwig who doesn’t know the words to ‘The Red Flag’. They’re a bungee short of the full roof rack. And that’s because, if nothing else, the Tory party is still a very black-tie party – you know it, don’t you? The men at least. These are people who love nothing more than squeezing into a 35-year-old cummerbund and listening to an after-dinner speech having drizzled three courses down their dress shirts.

Raab stands for the party of Winston Churchill – he is a lineal political descendent of the man who, don’t forget, didn’t just wear a bow tie more or less daily but also masterminded the defeat of the world’s most fearsome war machine as well as the world’s most odious regime while doing so. It’s not going too far to say that Churchill saved the world while wearing a bow tie.

Eight decades on and of course things have changed, but not that much.


Not every man can carry off a bow tie in ordinary dress. But it is impossible to move in upper adult circles without finding oneself present from time to time at occasions requiring wearing semi-formal (black tie) and formal (white tie) attire. Few men today can afford valets, and wearing pre-tied ties is profoundly infra dig. Therefore, knowing how to tie (and adjust) a bow tie is an essential adult male skill.

17 May 2020

Mama Said

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“Once I said to my mother: ‘You would be happy if I just kept well-dressed and had good manners’ and she said: ‘What else is there?’”

— Cy Twombly

14 Apr 2018

Zuckerberg’s Suit-and-Tie

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Ann Althouse snarkily quotes Robin Givan of NPR on Mark Zuckerberg’s choice of attire for testifying before Congress.

This was sort of a grudging suit and tie. The tie wasn’t really knotted very well. It kind of hung loosely from his neck.

“His shirt looked like it was a bit too big. The suit kind of looked like, OK, here’s the most basic suit I can find…. and that’s not to say that the suit wasn’t expensive. It simply wasn’t tailored…. This was a moment when this 33-year-old sort of disruptor really had to come face to face with the fact that he was no longer disrupting. He was in a position in which he had to fix things. And the suit really just underscored very visually that [Zuckerberg] was crossing from being an outsider into now being an insider…. He has, one, used fashion as a way to distinguish himself and to send a message about what it is that he believes he’s doing and where his company is situated in the broader cultural context. But I also think it matters because one of the reasons these hearings are in fact televised is because they are political theater. Part of theater is the costuming, and that helps us understand who the players are, what their goals are and what the messaging is.”

Then, in characteristic Althouse fashion, herself delivers the coup de grace:

I agree that it’s theater. But:

1. All clothing is theater (the RuPaul adage is “We’re all born naked the rest is drag”), and…

2. We need to ask what theater he provided, and I disagree that the bad suit and tie showed that he had crossed over to insiderdom. It would have been perfectly easy for the billionaire Zuckerberg to call in people to dress him in a perfectly fitting suit, a suit that would read to the theater audience as saying that he had arrived in the halls of power ready to assume what he acknowledges are the serious responsibilities that have arisen around him. By wearing a visibly bad suit, he sent the message that he is still the disruptive kid. The authorities got him into this suit, and he chose to look like the kid whose mom dressed him to go a funeral or whatever. He’s the guy who did what he had to and adopted the outward trimmings, but only and always with the look of intended to get back into his T-shirt and jeans.


Left coast billionaires wear hoodies and short pants as a badge of honor. Their ability to not wear a suit-and-tie, in their minds, proves that they’ve really made it, escaping the conventional servitude of the adult business world.

I blame my own generation.

When my graduating class arrived at Yale, you were required to wear a jacket-and-tie to dining hall meals. Yalies customarily consequently went around every day in sportcoats. Rebellious free spirits might remove their neckties, and fold them and put them in their pocket between meals.

Well. along came my own Yale class. It was very early in the semester that this troublemaker or that would show up for breakfast in pajamas sport coat & tie, which was soon inevitably followed by swimsuit jacket-and-tie, and finally nudity jacket-and-tie.

It really did not take very long before the Administration caved. After which… la Deluge.

There are geezers today, running around in t shirts and short pants, who still take pride in overturning the jacket-and-tie rule in Yale Dining Halls.

26 Apr 2017

Not For Republicans

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Heat Street:

Ever feel like your job in Hollywood or your large trust fund has left you out of touch with the working class in America? Well, now there’s a new way to reconnect with the hoi polloi: Buy a pair of $425 jeans that promise to show “you’re not afraid to get down and dirty.”

Luxury fashion retailer Nordstrom was previously best known for dropping Ivanka Trump’s brand back in February—unofficially out of political spite, officially because of declining sales.

The company is now desperate to ruin its own brand further by selling a pair of working class-inspired pants, so that people with $425 to spare can feel part of the masses. Per the item’s description on the website:

    Heavily distressed medium-blue denim jeans in a comfortable straight-leg fit embody rugged, Americana workwear that’s seen some hard-working action with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating that shows you’re not afraid to get down and dirty.


06 Dec 2016

Making Over The Donald

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While he was still running for president in October of 1860, Abraham Lincoln received a letter from eleven-year-old Grace Bedell advising him to improve his appearance by growing a beard. Lincoln took the little girl’s advice and won the presidency.

It seems a pity that Grace Bedell wasn’t around this year to tell Donald Trump to get rid of the groundhog, quit dyeing his remaining hair yellow, and stop using the tanning makeup. But Gerard Van der Leun stepped up in her absence, and has offered a Photoshop makeover of The Donald, demonstrating that he could look pretty respectable.

Trump should hire Gerard to supervise his personal grooming.



It would also help the President-Elect look better and more presidential to get better suits from a better tailor, to wear grey flannel, pin-stripe, and occasionally glen plaid and not only always the same Navy Blue.

Someone needs to explain to Mr. Trump that a gentleman looks best wearing his suit coat buttoned (one button only) when standing up.

An older, gravitationally-challenged fellow might also look better wearing a vested suit.

Mr. Trump really needs a letter from Grace Bedell pointing out to him that he ties his neckties too long. One’s necktie ought to end in the middle of one’s beltline. Mr. Trump’s ties are invariably tied with the front dangling down far too long. The above photo demonstrates that Trump ties his neckties so long in front that the rear portion of the tie is too short to be reliably contained by the loop. Poor Donald has reduced himself to having to scotchtape his tie together in back. Jesus wept!

Scotchtaped Tie Revealed!

15 Oct 2014

The Men’s Suit: Greatest British Invention Ever?

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Cary Grant’s North By Northwest suit, described by one critic as “by far the best suit in the movie, in the movies, perhaps the whole world.”

A.A. Gill, in the New Statesman, argues that the suit is Britain’s greatest invention of all time. It is certainly a British invention with an extraordinarily durable world-wide range of influence.

The suit is the polite taming, the socialising, the neutering, of riding and military kit. Those pointless buttons on the cuff were moved from lateral to vertical. You used to be able to fold the end of your sleeve over and forward and button it like a mitten, for riding in the cold. Incidentally, the buttons on the cuff should correspond to the number of buttons on the front, not for any practical reason, but just because that’s what they should do. The vents at the back are made for sitting on a horse. The slanting pockets are for easy access when mounted. The suit that we wear was, in essence, invented by Beau Brummell – an obsessive, highly strung, socially insecure, thin-skinned aesthete, snob and genius. And, of course, an Etonian. He wanted to simplify the extraordinarily otiose decorative court dress to give men an elegant line. When the bailiffs finally broke into his rooms, they found only a simple deal table with a note that said, archly, “Starch is everything.” Beau escaped to France, where people said he looked like an Englishman and he died in an asylum.

We have to thank the members of the Romantic movement for the sober colours of suits. It was their love of the Gothic that put us in grey and black but the suit stuck. It said something and it meant something to men around the world; it said and meant so much that they would discard their local dress, the costumes of millennia, their culture and their link to their ancestors, to dress up like English insurance brokers. There is not a corner of the world where the suit is not the default clobber of power, authority, knowledge, judgement, trust and, most importantly, continuity. The curtained changing rooms of Savile Row welcome the naked knees of the most despotic and murderous, immoral and venal dictators and kleptocrats, who are turned out looking benignly conservative, their sins carefully and expertly hidden, like the little hangman’s loops under their lapels.

Radicals have always had a problem with the suit, always underestimated it. They tried to co-opt it as the Sunday best of Methodism, the Saturday night of working-class lads released from overalls, muck and sweat. They wanted the suit to signify the working-class respect for achievement, the rite of passage to grammar and university, wedding and funeral. But the suit is not simply an empty sack, not just a few yards of worsted with some silly buttons. It has an innate opinion. It comes with the power.

Read the whole thing.

05 Sep 2014

When Are Shorts Appropriate Male Apparel?



From, a key guide:


30 Aug 2014

Obama’s Tan Suit

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The big news item yesterday was the storm of astonishment and reaction, when Barack Obama, a professional politician, dared to appear in public in a non-blue, tan suit.

I thought myself that the suit was perfectly appropriate for before Labor Day (though one could easily see that it was off-the-rack from its less-than-perfect fit). But, I wondered myself, what was with that sub-fusc grey tie?

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