In our last post we discussed Japan and the concept of menswear rules. Let’s pick up where we left off.

Now I may have been a bit quick on the draw in the previous post, going off on a tirade about close-minded clothes-minded guys obsessed with dressing according to rules and formulas. The concept of correctness is an integral part of the Ivy League Look, and part of what makes its history socially interesting. At the same time, there was constant innovation from its beginnings up until today, and the genre included much more than we commonly think of today. That is why the MFIT chose the term “Radical Conformists” as part of its book and exhibit on the Ivy League Look.

For myself, there are certain traditions I always follow, such as leaving the bottom button of a vest or cardigan undone. Less because it’s some sort of rule, but because I think it looks more relaxed. I also prefer to wear only single-vented jackets with buttondown-collared shirts, even though some menswear colleagues tell me that’s absurd — there’s no reason not to wear a buttondown oxford with a double-vented jacket. But since nearly all of my shirts are buttondowns anyway, it’s not an issue: I don’t currently own any double-vented jackets.

Now on to a specific example of whether or not a menswear rule applies.

The above illustration is taken from the latest issue of Free & Easy and presents (or juxtaposes, some would say) a three-piece suit with loafers. The question is whether or not there’s a sartorial rule being broken here. Some would say the formality of a three-piece suit demands a lace-up. These men would say that the loafers would look off even with a two-piece suit, not to mention a three.

Others would say it comes down to something more elusive, such as the outfit itself and the wearer’s flair for pulling it off. To hell with rules, the guy either looks good or he doesn’t. Also, there’s certainly something Ivy, or at least simply American, about this casual approach to matching shoes and suit.

So let’s see where you guys stand on the matter. — CC