De gustibus non disputatum est. In English we know this apothegm as “There’s no accounting for taste.”
Much of what is discussed on menswear forums and blogs comes down to personal taste. To illustrate the point, we asked a number of style writers, bloggers and forum posters to name their sartorial pet peeve.
One man prefers the Beatles and bourbon, while another the Stones and scotch. In the end, who cares? In the meantime, it makes for piquant reading.
Some of the participants are hip to Ivy style, others are more like your fashion-conscious or British-bespoke colleagues who give you funny looks each morning. All have a sharp eye for style.
Some respondents had such a lengthy list of peeves they couldn’t stop once they got started. We judiciously edited their response down to the item lambasted with the most colorful invective. Bruce Boyer has such profound contempt for the item he chose he completely ignored the fact we asked for an item from a traditional wardrobe.
It’s interesting to note what the pet peeve says about the man who has it. Some dislike an item for reasons of cut and proportion, others its aesthetic qualities, and still others what they believe the item says about its wearer.
Not surprising, Michael Anton had the longest and one might say most technical response. We commence alphabetically with him.
When finished, use the leave-comment feature to agree or disagree with our participants. And why not contribute a pet peeve of your own?
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“No ‘classic’ is more poorly adapted to the male form than the true three-button coat, the kind with short, stubby lapels that buttons up to the chin. This cut shortens the short, widens the wide, elongates the tall, and makes all manner of men look indiscriminately wrapped in a bolt of cloth. A true hacking coat, actually worn on horseback and buttoned to the top, can keep out the chill without making the rider look foolish. But the instant he dismounts, he should take it off. Give me the Italian 3-roll-2.5 or the Boston trad 3-roll-2 any day.” — Michael Anton (manton), author, “The Suit”
“A breast pocket on a man’s dress shirt demonstrates the same taste as the bare calf showing above his sock.” — Will Boehlke, blogger, A Suitable Wardrobe
“I suppose my noirest of betes would be those ubiquitous, hyper-designed athletic shoes. These shoes — with their cartoonish patchwork of spandex lightening bolts, studded leather, rubber bumper-guards, and velcro fasteners — are the most unattractive and silliest footwear since the sequined, flatform pimp shoes of the ’70s. Surely both comfort and utility can be found in a more attractive package.” — G. Bruce Boyer, author and style savant
“Saddle shoes are the white flag of dignity. You might as well be wearing a clip-on bow tie and squirting carnation. Saddle shoes are for bowling alleys, Shirley Temple, and WASP 101. I’d rather wear flip-flops.” — Christian Chensvold, editor, Ivy-Style.com
“Embroidered cords, Nantucket Reds, and other such GTH trousers. They strike me as completely tasteless items sought after by those who have only a desire to make a statement but know so little about clothing that their only recourse is to find the loudest thing they see. Also, Vineyard Vines neckties: wide, pastel panels littered with cartoon seafood. There are some tasteless millionaires out there.” — Zachary DeLuca, contributing writer, Ivy-Style.com
“There are many parts of a trad wardrobe that work as accessories but should not be used as a focal point. Case in point: argyle sweaters. What is a charming bit of whimsy when worn discretely around the ankle turns into a self-conscious attempt to assert one’s style when worn around the torso. The fact that many of these items appear in color combinations bright enough to leave a retinal impression similar to a flash bulb only adds to the error.” — Effortlessly Trad, forum poster and comment leaver
“I can’t stand turned-up collars on polo shirts, paired with a sweater tied around the neck. In the ’80s this may have been relevant, but few things from the eighties are still relevant. It looks like ‘The Official Preppy Handbook’ turned into a Halloween costume.” — Giuseppe, blogger, An Affordable Wardrobe
“Some things just should never have been made, like rugby shirts with an elastic rib-knit bottom hem. Brooks Brothers offered these years ago, and they looked like leisure wear for the trad couch potato. Rugby shirts should be the real deal with rubber buttons: preferably your old school colors, or better yet, your old team uniform, so that even if you are prone on the couch from too many beers, you will look as if you might just surge out into the yard for a scrum with family and friends.” — HTJ, blogger, Heavy Tweed Jacket
“There are many items within the Ivy canon that I don’t wear, but there are none that bug me quite like the Albert Slipper. Perhaps it’s due to a deficient sense of humor on my part, but frankly I find them appalling. I don’t actually know anyone who wears Albert Slippers, but if I did I could easily find something about them to dislike.” — Longwing, blogger, The Long-Suffering Trad
“I’ve never understood knit neckties. A necktie should be sleek and silky and offer colors, patterns and textures unrealized in your other garments. Besides, they remind me of the members of the Students for America club at my high school, who wore them with plaid button-down shirts. There’s a difference between Tradsville and Squaresville.” — Michael Mattis, columnist, Dandyism.net
“I can’t stand the TV fold, white pocket handkerchief because it is a stiff, contrived look. The ‘puff’ fold is more casually elegant.” — Richard Meyer, forum poster and comment leaver
“I don’t usually speak disparagingly about a man’s personal style choices, but what’s with the Bass Weejun? I’m all for other classics like bucks or wingtips, but Weejuns are just too old-man looking, and not in the good way.” — Cory Ohlendorf, editor-in-chief, Valetmag.com
“At the risk of being stricken forever from the rolls of Ivy, the 3/2 roll jacket is on my list of unwearables. I find the unused reverse buttonhole unsightly. It can’t have been an intentional style feature, and must have started out when someone pressed the lapels of a three-button jacket to show a bit more necktie.” — OldSchool, forum poster and comment leaver
“The plain navy sportcoat, that underachieving cousin of the classic blazer, deserves banishment from any wardrobe. Neutral to the point of invisibility, it’s the uniform of a man who has settled into sartorial resignation, who can imagine the dazzle of brass buttons but only respond with an apologetic ‘Nope, not for me.'” — Robert Sacheli, columnist, Dandyism.net
“I hate wingtips. For 30 years this has been an unquestioned article of my religion: There shall be no broguing. There shall be no broad, running-board soles. I can’t understand how this item has found its way into the wardrobe of otherwise well dressed trads, unless it is a result of excessive fealty to the ’50s as a style benchmark.” — Sartre, blogger, Advice To My Sons
“Shoes made of shell cordovan. Reputed to be durable, it can develop unsightly welts at the slightest hint of moisture; these don’t always fade away. Reputed to be beautiful, it often takes on a hard, unsightly plastic appearance even when kept out of rough weather. Spare me the drama: I prefer plain old calfskin.” — Taliesin, contributing writer, Ivy-Style.com
“I despise visible shirt monograms. I’d rather a man wore a name tag. The monograms constant reminder is that I am dealing with a man of no significance.” — Toad, blogger, To The Manner Born
“I hate the sack-suit shape on 98% of men. It flat out doesn’t look good on most. The other thing I do not like are traditionalists that are unwilling to mix and match. If all you wear is super trad stuff, you end up looking too much like a character, like someone from central casting. Look at Glen O’Brien: He loves trad stuff, but it isn’t all he wears.” — Michael Williams, blogger, A Continuous Lean
This post originally ran in January 2009.