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(Great website and forums! For a couple of weeks now, I have enjoyed reading the thoughts of so many of my fellow gentlemen who are in open rebellion against the current tide of slobification! So, I decided to join and post a question of my own. [8)])

It is often said that part of being stylish and elegant consists in following certain rules. However, it is also often said that the most stylish individuals sometimes bend (or break) those rules. So, there presumably must be both a stylish and unstylish way to break the rules. What are "the rules" for that? In other words, how does one break the rules stylishly? (Use examples to support your suggestions, if possible...Gosh...sorry if that looks like an essay question from an examination. [}:)] I am a philosophy professor, so it is hard for me to avoid phrasing things that way. :D)

Two things that I have seen in various books and articles on style:

1. To break the rules stylishly, you must know that you are breaking the rules.
2. To break the rules stylishly, you must do so confidently.

To these I propose a third:

3. To break the rules stylishly, you must respect the more fundamental principle from which the rule emanates.

For example, two sartorial rules are that 'Double breasted suits should never be worn without a tie' and 'Cutaway collar shirts should never be worn without a tie'. Now, I break both of these rules almost every day. (My "standard outfit" for work is a DB, tapered waist, side vent, ticket pocket, suit with a cutaway collar shirt and no tie and top two buttons of the shirt undone.) But, I (perhaps falsely?) regard this to be ok because, in part I try to follow the more fundamental principles from which these rules come, namely: 'DB suits are more formal than single breasted suits' and 'Cutaway collared shirts are more formal than other collars (except wing, of course)'. It seems to me that the previous rules are simply applications of these two more fundamental principles. As a result, since it is less formal not to wear a tie, to stylishly wear a DB suit without a tie, I have to do something else to respect the formality of the DB suit. In the same way, to stylishly wear a cutaway collar shirt without a tie, I have to do something else to respect the formality of the cutaway collar. My solution is to wear them together. That is, to make the tieless DB outfit more formal, I wear a more formal shirt (and vice versa). In addition, I always wear a handkerchief in the more formal "4-points fold" also to increase the formality of the look. So, while I am violating the rules by wearing a DB suit and a cutaway collar shirt without a tie, I am still respecting the more fundamental principles that these are more formal items by wearing them together and with handkerchief in the more formal "4-points fold" . I think that a tieless DB suit outfit with a button-down collar shirt and no handkerchief would not work as well. That would be not to respect the more fundamental principle that DB suits are more formal. For it to work, there has to be some "sign" that one has recognized the more formal nature of the DB suit. Now, apart from the propriety of my example, what do you think of my rule 3?

Also, even if rule 3 works, there are presumably many rules about "how to break the rules stylishly". Thoughts about the rest?[?]
 

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You realise you're responding to a six year old thread, right?

... oh wait.
 

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I agree with the principle of respecting the rule which you are bending (and bending is often better than breaking), and with having confidence doing so. If I transgress a fashion rule (which I do perhaps twice a week - working in menswear requires some conservatism), that transgression should be:
a)obvious (i.e., not an accidental oversight, but rather a grace note of individual style),
b) relatively small in scale (I don't generally consider loud gestures under that 'grace note' category; bright yellow socks with a dark suit can be charming and eccentric; a bright red vest with a dinner jacket is flashy and obnoxious),
and, c) limited to no more than two or three individual elements.

On Tuesday, I tried a new one, which was received quite positively by my much more stolidly conservative coworkers; namely, I left my shirt sleeves unbuttoned, and flipped half the shirt cuff up over the outside of the jacket sleeve. That maneuver seemed to work the right kind of magic - it was insouciant, it was nondeclarative (the full shirt cuff would probably have been a bit flashy), and it smacked of a sort of elegant relaxation.
I'm also contemplating Signor Agnelli's move from images in Dressing the Man, in which he casually wears his wristwatch over his shirt sleeve.

Not all experiments have ended so happily, of course. I simply can't seem to execute some of the tie "errors" at which certain gentlemen seem to excel (back blade longer, blades side by side, or tucking the back blade into the shirt).

Most important of all, to my mind, is maintaining a sense of sprezzatura about any rule-breaking. It can be very easy to look overstudied, as if you're forcing a comment from onlookers.

I'd be interested to see a photo of the OP's work ensemble; I've tried DB suits sans necktie, and hated it immensely. It would be lovely to see it work on someone.

EDIT: Of course, I just now noticed that the thread has been resuscitated from a long-quiet grave.
 

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Your third rule is hardly new, however your example of a DB suit, , no tie, and cutaway collar shirt with 2 open buttons violates your third rule because you show no respect toward fundamental principles. It is fundamental that shirts are worn with suits, they are fully buttoned, and worn with a tie. One would expect only a student out clubbing would ditch the tie and unbutton his shirt.

Stylish men, to use your term, do not "break" rules in such a crude manner, rather they bend them incrementally, and only one at a time.

As an example, the gradual development of what today is black tie began with white tie in which a wing collar is worn with a white vest along with pumps. Following WWI for semi-formal evening wear black dinner jackets with black ties were worn with wing collar , white vest and pumps. One evening a "stylish" man decided to exchange a turn down collar in place of his wing collar. This was the only variation, he retained the white vest and pumps. This caught on, although many continued to wear their wing collar. Another man, at another event, wore a black vest instead of his white. This caught on, although many continued to wear their white vest. Another man at another event wore patent leather plain toe bals instead of his pumps. This caught on. Thus the modern form of black tie developed gradually and incrementally and each innovation went in the direction from white tie formality toward a more relaxed "semi-formal" ensemble.



Had a man show up to such an event with no tie and his shirt unbuttoned he either would have been laughed at, or it would have been assumed that he had just been mugged.

For a second example, only black shoes were worn in town until one day a man wore standard country brown suede shoes in town. Significantly, his ensemble was otherwise absolutely conventional. Had he worn mountain climbing boots, or removed his shoelaces, or dyed his suede shoes blue he would have been laughed at.

I dare say your attempt at stylish innovation is analogous to a freshman attempting to write a book on metaphysics.

In short, to answer one of your essay questions, your third rule, even if not formerly expressly articulated, has always been followed by those, who by their example created the Anglo-American tradition in men's wear.

EDIT At least I'm not the only fool to fall into this 6 year old trap.
 

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Goodness gracious, gentlemen, read the date the thread was posted first! Especially if you find it as a related thread at the bottom of a newer one.

Once again, the irony of adding to a six year old thread while teasing others about it is not lost on me. :p
 

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Once again, the irony of adding to a six year old thread while teasing others about it is not lost on me. :p
Than at least the efforts of those of us too stupid to look at the date were not entirely in vain.
 

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Stupid? Don't be so hard on yourself, Kirsh. I'd say you're just "blissfully ignorant". ;)
 

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No, not a bad thread topic. Unfortunately he isn't around anymore.
 

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^^
LOL. Well I guess that substantially lowers the probability of getting any argument from the OP, when a present day poster offers a dissenting opinion. ;) Though I've got to admit, this makes it difficult to know where the conversation is intended to take us? However, in response to Haffman's inquiry in post #10, the Sartorial Objectivist himself, provides perhaps the most informative response; "Gosh...sorry if this looks like an essay question from an examination. You see I am a Philosophy professor..." He only offered four posts... all wordy, requiring some additional degree of effort to interpret...and apparently was not well received. He left!
 

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I am still trying to get over DB SUIT,open collar (six years or at any time!). Kind of shatters rules ,no? Done with thought aren't "rules" more like "guidelines":icon_smile_big:
The 'what does the word "rule" really mean" question has been discussed ad nauseam. If I may take the liberty of giving a simplistic synopsis, the word "rules", used in the context of men's dress, are descriptions of the way the titled and wealthy men, ( old money) of the UK, and the wealthy, ( old money) men of the eastern US, dressed in the period between the world wars.
 

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I am not an expert at DB suits, in any decade, but I don't think the OP's outfit is particularly good: it seems to shout "calculatedly insouciant college professor!" That, or "I lost my tie on the way here in an odd accident."

The OP's premises, however, were not bad, even if his conclusion was a non sequitur. I think Kirshner's take on the subject (by example of the development of black tie) is quite cogent.

Of course, there also seems to be a corollary to the third principle:
3.a. Rules reflecting visual principles of color, texture, and pattern cannot stylishly be broken.

A pink shirt and nantucket reds does not equal sprezzatura.
 

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Well, one rule bender who did it stylishly was Cary Grant. The infamous dinner suit worn with penny loafers. He obviously respects the rule that formal pumps are acceptable footwear for black tie. However, he substituted an equally sleek penny loafer for the task which was black and lacked beef rolls. Of course, wearing socks with them probably didn't hurt either. You should always wear socks with anything above chinos.
 

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One fashion that is nice (at last for me, and I actually use) is to combine sport jackets with polo shirts (totally buttoned or with an inner silk scarf), for very, very informal situation, Saturday morning walks, etc. I saw it in old photos and it looks refreshing. I am not sure if it will be equally nice to wear a suit in the same way and purpose... but I also seen it in many old photos from the 30´s and 40´s
 

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Thanks for editing my post so that sentence will be taken out of context.

You realise you're responding to a six year old thread, right?

... oh wait.
 
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