I wrote almost all of this sitting in the car in a queue for petrol at half five this morning. The wait wasn’t worth it because the petrol wasn’t there. But at least I got this done. Silver linings. Unless you think it’s crap. But then more fool you for reading it.
It feels like a smart day today. Not clever, smart. Snappy. Sharp. Well attired. Lockdowns and laziness have become the death knell for dressing well, and that is a great shame. Many office workers have said they will never go back in full time (unless they’re told to) and many of the rest are now happy to slum it either ends of the week and only make much of an effort in the middle. Personally I was very glad to get back to work and ditch the chav slacks (you can still say chav, I think: at least when you do everyone knows what you mean). There is something about wearing a nice suit and all the trimmings that adds spring to your step and rather than toning it down as the week goes on I have always been a keen advocate of toning it up instead – Friday is a day to be celebrated, so if you have the means you shouldn’t spend it in a shell suit. As an aside, buying suits is a big problem at the moment and combinations that fit me are tough to find – it is a national problem that needs urgent attention and I would like to blame it on many things including Covid, Brexit, the 1956 Clean Air Act, His Majesty’s Declaration of Abdication Act of 1936 and the Treason Act of 1351.
Wearing a suit is not something to do lightly. You can tell a cheap suit a mile off, but that doesn’t mean you need to break the bank either. Some people look awful in a suit, regardless of how many they try on. There are all kinds of things to avoid when dressing oneself for work, but the secret is to make sure the package is complete: for instance there is no point wearing a fancy three piece if you’ve got a cheap shirt underneath. Polycotton shirts are a sin for anyone past their mid-twenties. When you’re at school there is no point wearing anything other than polycotton because an average day will see it splattered with all shades of ink, dribble, snot, ketchup, blood, piss, gravy, mud and errant custard. Students are usually poor and so a polycotton shirt is still acceptable for an interview, but once you’re earning enough to afford it there is no excuse not to buy decent cotton shirts (silk shirts are for high class pimps, drug barons and Mick Jagger). And by that I don’t mean badly made cotton shirts from supermarkets or NEXT; instead buy them from companies whose primary trade is making shirts, not companies that make shirts to sell with a carton of grapefruit juice and a birthday card for your grandma. Note: you must look after your shirts – when you switch on the news next time observe closely the male MP being interviewed to see if the tips of his shirt collar are curled in and his tie knot badly fashioned and positioned – if so it is not a sign that he is a political genius who has more important things to think about, it is a sign that he is a lazy, scruffy cunt who can’t dress himself and has no respect for the people he represents; and therefore he does not deserve your vote.
And that tie is also a crucial part of the deal. Polyester ties should be harassed out of your wardrobe as soon as possible and replaced with silk for almost all occasions, though wool and cotton also work well, in winter and summer respectively, I would suggest. Once you have dabbled with the fairly limited range of traditional knots – the four in hand, full Windsor and half Windsor are the most common – you will inevitably find the one you are most comfortable doing and stick with it until you are lying in your coffin. The ideal size of a tie knot will vary with trends and the size and shape of your shirt collar but as a rule: too small looks wilfully silly and an overly big knot will just remind people of Michael Parkinson in the 1970’s or all footballers circa 2002. Incidentally, you should never, ever take your style tips from a footballer, or indeed pretty much any sportsperson, because why would you want to follow the sartorial suggestions of someone who wears a tracksuit or shorts for their day job? If they look good it is because someone else has dressed them. A bowtie is acceptable as an occasional change but there is a lingering and dim view of people who wear bowties as a matter of habit – sooner or later they are simply referred to as ‘that wanker who wears a bowtie all the time’ or ‘that person who is on the sex offenders register’.
A good shirt and tie do not necessarily need cufflinks, but they don’t hurt. Just as anyone wearing a novelty tie should be shot dead immediately, novelty or comedy cufflinks are also an absolute no-no. Even though most people most of the time won’t even see them there is some reassurance that if they did they would note they added at least a little something to the occasion. A well-presented handkerchief (or ‘pocket square’, as some arseholes call them) is also very acceptable, and occasionally magnificent, but not one that is sewn into the top pocket by the retailer or that has nothing whatsoever in common with at least one other item you are wearing, even if the connection is only slight. Never wear a cravat unless you are widely known to be the sort of person who wears a cravat, and be warned that once you start wearing a cravat and wish to be taken seriously you will then have to wear one for the rest of your life and also have to accept that certain simple-minded people will forever assume you are a flamboyant homosexual or a failed Shakespearean actor. Or both. There is never a good reason for wearing a monocle, and that includes only having one eye.
A belt looks better than no belt, in my opinion, and that belt should only be made of leather and should match the general colour of your shoes. The belt buckle should not be too large or demonstrative – you’re not on your way to a barn dance (and nor should you ever be, if you have any sense). Suit shoes should always have leather uppers and more expensive shoes will have leather soles too, and look fabulous for it, but they will eventually wear out and can also be lethal on slippery surfaces, hence it is acceptable to wear good looking shoes that have synthetic soles but beware: if they are too clunky or cheap looking they will look slightly like orthopaedic shoes and people will think you have an unfortunate problem; and that’s something which is best saved for when you really do have an unfortunate problem. Your laces should be in keeping with the shoe and any attempt to jazz things up will make you look like a member of Madness or a vegan (obviously if you are a vegan your shoes won’t be leather). A smart shoe with a non-leather upper is a crime that was thought up by the sorts of people who came up with onesies, and those sorts of people should be refused palliative care later in life. It is still good to wear a watch if you can but when wearing a suit you must avoid any kind of digital device, and that includes an Apple watch: there is a time and a place for your Apple crap, and this isn’t it.
You might think that’s it but one mustn’t forget your smalls. Because I am a rather pathetic individual I actually like to wear boxers (sports, not baggy) which complement the rest of the get up, if at all possible. That doesn’t mean I go out of my way to find particular colours but if a pair presents itself that would work perfectly in a combo then I cannot resist (since most of you will never see me in my boxers you are warmly invited to use your imagination and, potentially, hold back a mouthful of sick. There is never an excuse for boring socks: plain pastel colours are nothing to be afraid of and although Mr Tumble has rather ruined polka dots they still look nice when cheekily flashed through a cross of the legs. And an additional word on colour: never be afraid of lilac or pink (Paul Simonon of The Clash once said that pink is the only rock and roll colour, and I think he’s got a point) and remember that if in doubt you cannot go wrong with a plain, crisp white shirt, as it will serve as a loyal and reliable canvas for everything you throw at it. Floral patterns are fine as long as they don’t make you dizzy or ill but avoid exterior logos (Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger etc) if you can because they’re better off on other things, if you must. Also don’t ever get a personalised monogram as this is akin to tattooing your shirt and will also make you look like an unbearable narcissist. And a twat.
There, I think that is it. Your job is now to follow the above advise or at least spend some time watching men in suits and silently assessing whether they deserve to be in a suit in the first place. With regret I accept that out of a suit I’m not quite as sharp as I was in my thirties, so perhaps it’s time to address that as well. One must be consistent and ready for battle at all times. I would say what I do for a living but I genuinely haven’t got a clue. I’m just happy wearing a suit, and all the rest.
G B Hewitt. 01.10.2021.