A Matter of Taste

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?

* * *

“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

“I find saddle shoes highly repugnant on any male over the age of five. Does anyone wear them today? Shockingly, yes. And most of them can be found among the ranks of preps and Ivy stylists. When the time comes to gather items for the next bonfire night, your saddle shoes will be at the top of my list.” — Laguna Beach Trad, blogger, Admiral Cod

“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

30 Comments on "A Matter of Taste"

  1. Wholeheartedly agree with Sartre: Wingtips are ugly.

    I’ve recently become hip to knit ties, though I’ve always admired that slouchy shot of Tyrone Power wearing one in Flusser’s “Dressing the Man.”

    The TV fold is probably not a good choice if you’re old and square. If you’re a jazz musician or a cast member of “Mad Men,” it looks more hip.

    Disagree with OldSchool: It’s the quirkiness and rarity of the 3/2 that makes it cool.

    Neutral on most of the others.

    Oh, and bourbon and Beatles for me.

  2. EffortlesslyTrad (FT) | January 2, 2009 at 6:50 pm |

    Man, there are some saddle haters out there 😉

    I don’t have much truck with leather saddles, but I will fess up to purchasing a pair of dirty buck saddles, which are for casual wear only. Ditto my brown brogues, though you couldn’t get me in a pair of black brogues if my life depended on it. Black Oxfords, plain cap, boring to point of Trad Zen.

    The knit tie is also a bit tricky. I think the square bottomed one’s are horrible, but I own three traditional knit ties. Again, the monochrome forces you to be interesting with the other parts of the ensemble. I also like the texture because it’s not silky (Not a fan of silk)

    What’s the saying about some trads becoming hard of hearing upon spying the wrong kind of shoe?

    Scotch and the Stones

  3. Sua cuique voluptas. (Every man to his taste). (Chacun a son gout).

    Thanks for introducing me to Valetmag.com

  4. I knew this list was going to be fun when I got the email to contribute. Good job, friend.

    -Maybe I’m a dork or something, but as an architecture student i ferequently find my shirt pocket full of pens. Its a pretty handy thing.

    -Sneakers should be made of cloth.

    -I love saddle shoes, but admit they are best used sparingly.

    -I’m all about the loud pants in summer, especially patch madras.

    -Argyle sweaters are gross.

    -Heavy Tweed Jacket, you nailed it. “prone from too many beers…etc.”

    -I’m very pro 3/2, but it has to roll softly.

    -Toad, that was great.

  5. Interesting sociological phenomenon. On the surface, the group is one; trad. But under the surface unique likes and dislikes emerge. Ultimately I suppose we become specific preference groups of one. Well, viva la difference. Good post.

  6. I agree, I am not a fan of popped collars. I’m still in college, and I see a lot of people doing this. In my humble opinion there is only one reason to have a collar popped; if you are a sailing instuctor in the middle of a harbor with no wind and no sun block. When you get back to shore, the collar comes down with the sails.

    I am personally a fan of nantucket reds, but under limited circumstances…ie. summer BBQ at the yacht club.

  7. My first submission was respectfully rejected so I’ll submit a snippet here.

    In 2/3 of the US it is not uncommon to find BB’s best customers shod in cowboy boots, and/or big hat Stetsons. They may be a fitting regional variation, but still I can’t abide it.

    A happy New Year to you all.

    Great post C.


  8. I’m one of the invited commentators who falls into the “other” category of style colleagues. (That’s me throwing darts at those horrible navy sport coats.)

    I must diplomatically disagree with my fellow D.net columnist Michael on the appropriateness of knit ties. Despite (or because of) the fact that they were part of my grammar school uniform, I have lately found myself reaching for a knit tie more often. A silk knit can add notes of both textural richness and informality to a suit, and a patterned wool knit pairs nicely with a button-down denim shirt.

    I look at trad dressing as one of several options in my wardrobe, so I can’t speak with the full authority of others here, and I confess that I am a relatively recent convert to Nantucket Reds. But they’re amazingly comfortable, and in the right settings, as noted in another comment, they’re just the ticket. Wearing them, say, with a pair of Stubbs and Wooten slippers in Palm Beach may be a near-cliché, but for me it’s fun alternative to my usual style.

    Christian, I’ve thought of another item to add to the List of the Dammned:
    those snap-brim caps made of patches of tweeds or plaids. Ugly as hell and flattering to no one.

    And, if anyone cares to know, make mine a single malt and Bobby Short.

  9. EffortlesslyTrad (FT) | January 3, 2009 at 10:54 pm |


    Totally agree with you about navy sports coats as well as patched snap brims, but add trousers made of those damn patches. Trads should not endeavor to look like the king of the hobos.

    Love Bobby Short, but I’ve come to believe that the epitome of Trad music is Fred Astaire’s 1952 collaboration with Oscar Peterson and a quintet of other jazz musicians. Astaire didn’t have much of a voice, but he knew how to sing. I can bring a smile to the Mrs.’s face by singing “I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket” thanks to that album.

  10. Maybe this is silly, but I really wish Lacoste would make their current polo shirts about two inches longer. I hang them in my closet next to similar sizes from Polo and Fred Perry, and the Lacoste shirts are noticeably shorter and I can definitely tell the difference when I wear them. When wearing them in a casual, un-tucked circumstances with jeans, I’d prefer they didn’t reveal my boxers if I have to reach down to my feet.

    I’ve begun to seek out the more vintage cuts Lacoste sold for a while at Urban Outfitters, of all places. It’s a three button look as opposed to two, but they are slightly narrower and longer.

  11. You really hate my site, don’t you? Ha!

    –Richard, WASP 101

  12. Somehow, in some terrible moment, someone decided that it was alright for a suit jacket to double as a sport coat or blazer. I wince whenever I see this. Not only does it look silly, it can prematurely age the jacket relative to the suit trousers, if the jacket is bearing worn more often than the trousers.

  13. The only shoes a man should be wearing without socks are top-siders.

  14. ErrortlesslyTrad sent me to YouTube, and here are Fred and Ginger doing “I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket”:

  15. How can anyone hate the TV fold and knit ties? Madness.

  16. I’m not a fan of knit ties, but I do like grenadine ties. It mixes the best of both worlds for me with the texture of the knit, but – importantly – with a tighter weave, and a pointed finish.

  17. I like saddle shoes. And knit ties look like they’re made of chain mail.

  18. If’n you can find it: Jazz Time, Fred Astaire, Double CD. 39 Tracks recorded in 1952. Relatively recently issued by Proper Records (UK) but now discontinued. Originally about $12.

  19. In regards to shirt monograms, the particular grievance of Toad:

    Visible monograms smack of nouveau riche. For literary reference, see Gatsby, with his monogrammed silk shirts. Tom Buchanan, although a terrible brute, correctly pins him as fraud for his pink shirts.

    Let us also remember Julius Beaufort from ‘Age of Innocence’, another new money man of ‘dubious origins’, who stamps his initials everywhere, including his silk opera hat.

    This comment comes over a year belated, but I’ve only just been trawling the archives.

  20. Lots of differing opinions out there. I cant imagine why a dress shirt with a chest pocket is not stylish. Rarely seen them without a pocket except for Ralph Lauren shirts. I find the polo player logo kind of pretentious though.

  21. Saddle shoes are only for the gutsy. And I consider myself one of the more testosterone addled men I know.

  22. I really enjoyed this article and I enjoyed comments in the comment section. Thanks for putting this together.

    I am surprised to see that sweater vests did not make the list!

    There is just too much functionality in the chest pocket of a dress shirt to give it two thumbs down.

  23. I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing: knit ties, longwings, madras patterns or anything red.

  24. I have since done a total 180 in terms of my stance on GTH pants. That quote is old. As Bob Dylan said, “i was so much older then. I am younger than that now.”

  25. Some great points and some others I don’t totally agree with, but no pockets on dress shirts? Madness!

    I have a mix of both with-pocket and without-pocket dress shirts, but with-pocket seems to be the standard almost everywhere.

  26. Ryan Biggs | May 21, 2012 at 9:55 am |

    Leave it to Will Boehlke to be bothered by something that never even occurred to me. Wonderful, another detail to obsess about…

  27. Ryan Biggs | May 21, 2012 at 10:35 am |

    OK, I know there will be few who agree with this one…but I can’t stand that old classic, gray pants with a blue blazer. Probably because it is such a standby, gray pants/blue blazer was the official uniform of my school choir in high school, and the unofficial uniform in Sunday school. When school kids get dressed up, their mothers put them in gray pants and blue blazer. Need proof? Go to your local thrift store and note the rack full of boys-sized blue blazers covered in bubble gum and chocolate milk stains. The look is ruined for me.

  28. The trick is not to obsess about anything, but find your own style. If you like ivy style clothing find your own personal style within that parameter.

  29. Ryan
    That’s funny, but I’ll give you something to obsess about, is grey a darker shade of white or a lighter shade of black?

  30. It’s personal preference, guys. Lemme put it to you this way: do you drink your coffee black, with cream, with sugar, or with cream and sugar? Do you drink tea, or a soft drink, or water, instead? As long as it satisfies you, it’s OK. Just don’t slurp, burp, or otherwise offend while you’re drinking it (isn’t that the essence of being a gentleman?).

    Having said that, it’s more about how you do it. Will doesn’t like pockets on shirts because they mess up the clean lines (I think). But can someone wear shirts with pockets and still look good? Yes. The same goes, mutatis mutandis, for the rest of the stuff.

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