Simple Informality: CC’s Ten Style Commandments

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Recently I was asked to participate in a new side project from Christian Barker, my former editor at The Rake. Barker founded a site called Men’s Top Tens, part of which consists of style commandments from his colleagues in the menswear, media and luxury goods industries.

The piece gives me an opportunity to talk about style from a theoretical point of view, which, as I’ve mentioned before, interests me a lot more than tailoring minutiae. I explain my preferences for simplicity (my version of simplicity) and informality (relatively speaking). Take commandment #3, for example:

3. “One of the chief virtues of the Ivy/preppy/WASPy approach to dressing is the notion of being relatively dressed up for casual settings and relatively dressed down for formal ones. When wearing shorts, for example, the trad guy has on one of his buttondown-collar dress shirts, sleeves rolled up, and dress loafers, no socks — not a t-shirt and flip flops. Then when everyone’s dolled up in black tie, he’s got a pink buttondown under his dinner jacket, or something like that. I think it’s a solid approach to dressing regardless of whether or not you have a trust fund or Roman numeral after your name.”

The piece also required a fresh photo shoot. In this outfit I’m wearing my “Continental” jacket by Polo RL (natural shouldered 2-button in silk, with shortened double vents), club collar oxford shirt from Ratio, no-name brown club tie (swords piercing hearts), white handkerchief with gray trim from Paul Stuart, charcoal gabardines from O’Connell’s, alligator belt on engine-turned buckle from Brooks Brothers, brown and gray nailhead socks from Brooks Brothers, and brown bit loafers from Cole Haan. Hair and grooming from the Kon Tiki Expedition.

Head over here to check out the piece. — CC

Photo by Yoshio Itagaki.

23 Comments on "Simple Informality: CC’s Ten Style Commandments"

  1. Who the hell would wear a pink shirt to a black tie event??

  2. Paul Winston of Chipp.

  3. Mitchell S. | August 18, 2016 at 11:28 am |

    Paul Winston was a manager at J. Press before he opened Chipp. He co-founded the brand with an associate who was a salesman at J. Press.

    Great article, Mr. C! I have a suggestion for you…Write a piece called “Seven Deadly Sins of Menswear.”

    1. Sloth: Thou shalt not wear sneakers with a suit. Mixing workout clothes with work clothes is an abomination.

  4. Re: “I take as much pleasure in purging as I do in purchasing.”
    I would add: “sometimes even more pleasure”.

  5. G. Bruce Boyer | August 18, 2016 at 11:34 am |

    I read your “Men’s Top Tens” list, and when I say that I wish I had written it myself, I don’t see that I can say more in it’s favor.

  6. Mitchell S. | August 18, 2016 at 11:54 am |

    Correction: Sidney Winston is the founder of Chipp. His son is Paul Winston.

  7. A Bridge Too Far | August 18, 2016 at 12:15 pm |

    “Sloth: Thou shalt not wear sneakers with a suit. Mixing workout clothes with work clothes is an abomination.”

    This comment made me chuckle. In a formal meeting with community leaders, city officials and businessmen, I once saw a VP of Yale University wear a lovely pin striped suit with pocket square, blue shirt with white collar and foulard tie with running shoes. Sloth was not a word one would have used in describing this man.

  8. A Bridge Too Far | August 18, 2016 at 12:16 pm |

    I forgot to add that picture is terrific, but would have liked to see you standing.

  9. University Stripe | August 18, 2016 at 12:32 pm |

    “It’s easy for a clotheshorse to get distracted by things that look good on others or are prized by the cognoscenti. But if you don’t feel 100 percent fantastic when wearing something, get rid of it.”

    Good advice. The difference between merely passing the class and mastering it.

  10. Marc Chevalier | August 18, 2016 at 2:00 pm |

    The most eloquent style article in that blog. Well done!

  11. Chewco L.P. (Offshore) | August 18, 2016 at 2:12 pm |

    When it comes to clothing, and giving general guidelines, it is easier (and more prudent) to prescribe rather than to proscribe. If I saw a man impeccably put together in every way except for the fact that he had on a pair of running shoes… that would ADD to his aura rather than detract from it. Perhaps purely for the sartorial iconoclasm. Bravo, I say!

    I started wearing espadrilles with jackets and slacks after noticing old shots of people doing the same. And espadrilles are very casual.

    See this for example: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/ea/1e/70/ea1e704deaa81402d538fca976d12c74.jpg

  12. Well stated, CC.

    Most people are forgettable and will be, postmortem, quickly forgotten. They blend in easily and sadly with the great mass of humanity.

    It has been suggested that there are three simply ways to “live on”: Look great, smell great, and, when speaking, sound great. It’s all about the senses–this is what people take with them. What I do I remember about friends, colleagues, and neighbors who now reside among the saints? How they looked and sounded. The impression they made on the senses.

    A lot of people slouch, slump, stammer, and sloth their way through life. Forgettable people. Somebody declared America to be a nation of “obese managers.” (well, yes).

    How to go about looking great daily? Casual elegance. It’s so time-tested and tried-and-true that no apologetic is needed.

    Your commandments rule. And they serve as testimony as to why, over the long term, some version of what we here call “Ivy” will survive.

  13. Hmmmm, there is a Southwick jacket in my size on ebay exactly the one CC is wearing the photo….may have to really consider it now. Looks good with a white shirt.

  14. Mitchell S. | August 18, 2016 at 2:41 pm |

    @Chewco: Espadrilles with a suit or tuxedo in the summer is very chic. I agree with you that there are no laws written in stone and the Miami Vice look from the 80’s is classic.

    Certain actions violate the rules of menswear decorum, however, and someone in authority needs to tell offenders “Please….stop it.”

    One look I can never forgive is the “Wall Street options trader look” worn by Lehman Brothers yuppies in the 80’s: Custom-made pinstripe suit worn with monogrammed French-cuff shirt, Cartier jewelry…and white, New Balance sneakers ($35).

    Of course detractors will argue that trading pit workers do a lot of walking all day, but if there are any readers who argue that dark, expensive suits worn with cheap, scuffed white sneakers are an example of good style, please enlighten me.

  15. Chewco L.P. (Offshore) | August 18, 2016 at 3:27 pm |

    @Mitchell S.: let’s just say the culture at Lehman was pretty “unique” (from what I’m told). It wasn’t an accident that they somehow managed to lever their balance sheet by about x40 and make “Texas hedges” in the mortgage markets.

    Ever hear of the infamous “Lehman handshake?” It’s where you greet your colleague by promptly checking the label on the back of his tie. *That* was the culture there. Pinstripe suits with New Balance sneakers don’t surprise me.

    However, I can give you some inside info as to why traders wore sneakers (and other odd things) on the floor. It was because these were lucky items. If you made a lot of money wearing a particular pair of shoes, socks, even underwear(!), you would continue to wear said item of clothing on high risk days or until the luck “wore out.” And, yes, washing them meant washing the luck off so God forbid!

    Paul Tudor Jones famously had a pair of high-top sneakers once owned by Bruce Willis that he would wear occasionally. Those were his lucky pair. And he wore them with suits. BTW, he later became a billionaire.

    Photo: http://pixel.nymag.com/imgs/daily/intel/2012/08/28/28-paul-jones-documentary.w710.h473.2x.jpg

  16. Charlottesville | August 18, 2016 at 4:19 pm |

    Great look, Christian, and great article. I did smile, though, that the man pictured wearing a brown club tie wrote, “I’m at my severest when it comes to neckties. Only dark blues, greys and blacks with simple motifs, or else solid.” Perhaps the 11th rule is “Once you internalize the rules, feel free to break them appropriately and intelligently.” By coincidence, today I am wearing a brown wool/linen/silk Prince of Wales 3/2 sack sport coat from Brooks with a pinned club collar shirt from Ratio. My tie is also brown, but in a rep stripe with navy and light blue. Loafers too, but sans bits. Cuffed khakis and argyles complete my kit, so we’re not an exact match. I look forward to more posts on what it means to be traditional in contemporary America. Natural shoulders and natural fabrics; comfortable and relaxed, but still tailored; reflecting classic forms, but not hidebound; well-made but simple. A preference for the 3/2 sack or a darted 2 button are matters on which reasonable men can differ.

  17. @Charlotte

    Yeah leave it to someone to point out the contradiction. I think that’s my only brown tie, and I had to have it because of the swords (en garde!) Went searching eBay for sword tie.

    Coincidentally I’m finishing up a short story that involves a duel and a pierced heart (symbolizing love, as in “the way to a man’s heart is through his chest with a rapier”).

    I had a brown grenadine from Paul Winston but purged it. Just didn’t feel right in it compared to the navy version.

  18. Charlottesville | August 18, 2016 at 5:02 pm |

    CC — Contradictions can provide extra interest to the rulebook. Please feel free to send any future purges of grenadine ties my way. My only grenadine is black and it is a much worn favorite.

  19. NaturalShoulder | August 19, 2016 at 12:06 am |

    Much sage wisdom in those Ten Commandments with a great looking jacket.

  20. Bags' Groove | August 19, 2016 at 2:21 am |

    @CC
    Dare I ask if I could possibly have had anything to do with the choice of image above? I can’t help but notice that you’re sitting, and may I say looking rather splendid, amongst my preferred primal greys and browns.

  21. This is just another reason why this site is the best thing going on the web. Great stuff. Comments from readers are icing on the cake. Well put S.E.

  22. “I wear whatever I damn well please!” – Plato

    It’s so difficult for men to step out of the box with fashion. Labels, opprobrium, acceptance; all sniping Dutch Uncles that keep us from being true to ourselves. While I like looking to the monuments of those who came before, I enjoy being me even better. If that means wearing Gucci horsebits, when no one else in my family would ever be caught dead in them, then so be it. I’m stopping overnight in Charleston next weekend and will be in M. Dumas & Sons and GE & Co. looking for something unique yet classic.

  23. WFB, thank you and Plato for the wrist slap as I was amid sniff over CC’s trad treasonous split vents. Good, ok. And since you’ll already be on King St., you might enjoy a stroll through Ben Silver.

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