For decades clotheshorses have signaled their custom suits to the cognoscenti by leaving one button on their sleeves undone. This subtle practice eventually served as fodder for budding literary dandy Tom Wolfe in his 1965 essay “The Secret Vice.”
But today, thanks to the Internet, the style conscious are ceaselessly bombarded with photos of rakish gents — chiefly Italian — and their arsenal of sprezzatura parlor tricks. The result is an endless jousting contest as to who can be the most nonchalant. Soon buttondown collars were left unbuttoned, socks were forgone even in winter, and those eager to make their point with a bullhorn wore cardigans without a shirt.
Back in 2011, Ties.com pushed the trend of forced neglect via the untied bow tie “worn as a scarf,” writing:
Bow ties are a hot trend and now there’s a new way to wear them: open-faced. This style is worn more like a scarf and lends an air of elegance and class to your ensemble. John Legend is a big fan of the style, seen here sporting it at the Grammy Awards.
Anything you can think of doing style-wise — like wearing a collar pin with an unbuttoned buttondown — has probably already been done in a Ralph Lauren ad. To wit, the image at left. But this is a fashion advertisement: not reality, but simulated reality. In the ad’s unspoken narrative, the gent with the “open bow” no doubt untied his tie due to an unseasonably warm afternoon (as of this moment in New York City, incidentally, the Dow and the mercury have risen in tandem).
From our post on the yellow oxford, here’s Fred Astaire with unkempt tie during a furious skin-beating session:
But John Legend, on the other hand, apparently left his home not only without tying his tie, but without even the intention of eventually tying his tie at some later point, such as during the limo ride. This is unaffectedness at its most affected.
Sartorial nonchalance: Apply sparingly. — CC