Civil Discourse: Style Forum’s Proper Kit Trunk Show


This story was filed to the New York Observer for its website but was inexplicably “killed,” as they say in the newspaper business. My editor liked it, but apparently someone upstairs didn’t find it very compelling. There’s not much of a trad angle for you guys, save for the inclusion of G. Bruce Boyer and recent Ivy Style contributor Al Castiel III, who provided engaging, multi-generational conversation throughout the event.

I’m pictured afterwards winding down with cocktails and music-making. Imagination and personal mischief are part of the fun in dressing, and in my mind I was dressed in a sort of ’30s Anglo-Ivy. The jacket is a fitted windowpane in camel hair by RL, two-button with a high gorge and wider-than-usual lapel for me, which reminds me of ads for Brooks two-buttons from the ’30s and ’40s. I paired it with a navy dotted grenadine tie, white linen square with navy trim, white oxford from Kamakura, charcoal worsteds from O’Connell’s, light gray cashmere argyles, and — the hottest thing in 1936 — Norwegian peasant moccasins.

Castiel was dressed in a custom Andover Shop jacket and Alden tassel loafers, while Boyer had on tweed jacket, grey flannels and cashmere sweater vest.

The rejected post follows; the point about the web versus real life I think is worth reiterating. Oh, and a gold star if you can guess the preppy who wore boat shoes with his tuxedo. — CC

* * *

Ten years ago the online menswear space, like much of the Internet, was still a Wild West, full of venemous trolls and anonymous vitriol. On Style, one of the pioneering message boards for men obsessed with bespoke suits, seven-fold ties and benchmade shoes, members in crush-the-enemy fields such as law and finance would clash in online cage matches over sartorial trivialities.  “For them,” the renowned menswear author G. Bruce Boyer has said, “style is a blood sport.”

You’d never guess it from the bonhommie on Saturday at Gary’s Place, an event space in Midtown, where Style Forum and A&H Magazine hosted a trunk show called The Proper Kit, drawing hundreds of fastidious clotheshorses. IRL — or in real life — there were no fisticuffs over pocket-square folds or purposely unbuttoned buttondown collars. The closest thing to bodily harm was the poor fellow who fell down the staircase, one of the risks of wearing double-monk straps. For Style Forum editor-in-chief Jasper Lipton, the trunk show clearly exposes the duality of real life and the Internet. At gatherings such as this, men celebrate each other’s individual flourishes rather than criticize them, and clothing is revealed as a three-dimensional thing, animated by a living person who walks and talks and breathes life into his garments. “A man’s style cannot be appreciated through a photo posted online,” said Lipton.

Today Style Forum boasts 185,000 registered members, daily content, and a slew of business alliances. Stephanie Coleman, of San Francisco-based Wikia Lifestyle Properties, is a Style Forum partner. One of the few women in attendance, Coleman said she found the roomful of discerning gentlemen refreshing when compared to the celebrity and PR-driven world of women’s fashion. “These men are passionate connoisseurs who care about craftsmanship, attention to detail, and brand backstories,” she said.

The exhibitor roster included such esoterica as Bianca Mosca, a London-based brand that was touting its new custom alligator accessories program, with items ranging from $375-$2,500, while working the room was Bram Frankel, founder of William Abraham, which offers socks made from the down fiber of cervelt, a rare species of New Zealand deer, price $1,200 per pair (think of it as $600 per sock and it doesn’t sting so much).

G. Bruce Boyer was the event’s guest of honor, manning a table where he signed copies of his latest book, “True Style: The History And Principles Of Classic Menswear.” He regaled fans with tales from his vast arsenal of sartorial anecdote, including the one about the preppy from North Carolina who wore boat shoes with everything, even his tuxedo, and the time a London haberdasher refused to sell Boyer a regimental necktie unless he could prove he had actually served in the regiment.

Considering that clothes-loving men can’t always shoot the breeze and chew the fat like their fantasy-football coworkers, swapping stories of sartorial audacity and folly was something to savor. Boyer certainly felt more comfortable fielding awkward questions from book-buyers than reading anonymous comments on the web. “If this were the Internet,” said the septuagenarian, “I’d be hiding under the table.”




57 Comments on "Civil Discourse: Style Forum’s Proper Kit Trunk Show"

  1. No pic of the moccasins? I feel gypped!

    And if you wear double monk straps (with at least one strap undone, no doubt), you can’t be surprised when karma throws you down the staircase. The universe is trying to tell you something.

  2. Kamakura….what is the sleeve length on their shirts like? Anyone know?

  3. …”and the time a London haberdasher refused to sell Boyer a regimental necktie unless he could prove he had actually served in the regiment.”

    Probably the greatest thing i’ve read in a while.

  4. Agree with AEV completely on faux nonchalance…dressing down with no tie when the woman your with looks like a million, beard stubble, open collar shirts with suits all make us look like sheep being led in the wrong direction. IT IS LAME, STOP IT!

  5. Now isn’t that interesting, AEV, because I’ve always felt, right back to when I was in short trousers, that sticking the thin bit of your tie through that little loop on the back of the fat bit was far too prissy for real, couldn’t give a damn, men. As for not buttoning down your collar, that’s fine by me if the alternative is an exaggerated roll, especially when that roll is accompanied by a whopping Windsor knot. Buttoning down your collar when not wearing a tie is perfectly acceptable, of course. Lastly, would you please desist from criticising the Master. He has forgotten more about dress sense than you or I will ever know.

  6. Do please note the theme of the post: in person, you may respond differently than when you’re at home sitting at the computer frustratingly waiting for the coffee and bran muffin to start working.

  7. William Richardson | November 10, 2015 at 11:14 am |


    I respectfully suggest losing the beard and getting a crew cut. You would look squared away and bad ass.


  8. Thank god this is a 99% free-speech zone. If you said that on campus, it would be considered elder abuse.

    And to once again return to the theme of the article, that’s why the Internet makes Boyer want to hide under the table.

  9. William Richardson | November 10, 2015 at 11:33 am |


    Bravo, strictly business.


    I hope Mr. Boyer doesn’t take the sprezzatura too far like wearing the shirts with the patterned contrasting cuffs, or the multiple charm bracelets, high water skinny pants et al. These looks should be avoided by all but especially gentlemen of a certain age.


  10. @William
    Now you’re just being a silly Billy. The Master is the embodiment of style, which never encompasses such fripperies, as you well know.

  11. Bags' Groove | November 10, 2015 at 1:30 pm |

    I’ve just realised that your reminder about the theme of the post was probably directed at me. If so, you’ve taken me too seriously. I was being my usual waggish self. If it read otherwise, I can only humbly beg your and AEV’s forgiveness.

  12. Nah, it was for everyone in the online menswear world.

  13. East Coast Liberal Elitist | November 10, 2015 at 2:06 pm |

    Big fan of the greyscale look, Christian. It’s doesn’t get a lot of love around these parts of the internet, but I think it’s sharp. What shoes are you wearing with that?

  14. Yes I’ve definitely returned to that bold simplicity with a lot of gray (though today I’m wearing a green shirt with collar pin and black knit tie). Here’s a post I did earlier in the year:

    The “Norwegian peasant slippers” as Esquire called them in 1936, are Weejuns.

    Oh, and no one has a guess on the prep who wore sockless boat shoes with everything, including his tuxedo? Big hint that he’s from North Carolina.

  15. East Coast Liberal Elitist | November 10, 2015 at 2:30 pm |

    Black or Burgundy?

    Bryan Holloway resurfaced?!

  16. G. Bruce BOyer | November 10, 2015 at 3:02 pm |

    I usually don’t respond to comments about me, but I think there is a legitimate misunderstanding of how I dress among some of Ivy Style’s correspondents. For better, and probably worse, I haven’t changed my style in the past forty years. The type of clothes I wear and the way I wear them can be seen in photos taken of me 40 years ago. So when someone who really doesn’t know me at all says “So now even Mr. Boyer displays …”, the “now” part is said in ignorance. Specifically the writer is referring to the fact that I don’t always button my button down collar points.I have been leaving them unbuttoned for the past four decades now, and will probably continue to do so long after the fashion has passed. I don’t mind being called a slob, but I resent being tarred a mindless follower of fashion. Particularly by someone who doesn’t know me at all.

  17. @AEV

    I don’t think you’re getting the point. Instead of grilling Mr. Boyer like a lawyer in a courtroom, perhaps take a chance to sit back and appreciate the clothing itself instead of fussing with rules. The whole point is that it’s affected. Yes, that is understood. It’s about having fun with your clothes, that’s all.

    The affectation represents a deviation from rigidity and mindless rule-following in dressing. He leaves his collars unbuttoned, I leave my surgeon’s cuffs unbuttoned, frankly who cares? We do it because WE enjoy doing it, not for anyone else. One man’s sartorial quirk is another man’s affectation, and vice versa. Just live and let live.

  18. Bags' Groove | November 10, 2015 at 5:39 pm |

    I don’t think our friend AEV is someone who likes to be contradicted, or in my case ever so mildly lampooned. But frankly the stuff he was coming out with at the top deserved far more lampooning than that which I offered him, kind, gentle soul that I am. As for this “grilling” of poor Bruce, I’m at a loss to know what to say. Rather shabby is the only thing that comes to mind.

  19. A.E.W. Mason | November 10, 2015 at 8:07 pm |

    This post is entitled “Civil Discourse.” Hmm. While I think AEV’s tone could have been tempered, I think the substance of his arguments is correct.

  20. William Richardson | November 10, 2015 at 8:25 pm |

    @Mr. Boyer

    The thin bit on my rep tie became undone just today. I don’t know if it happened at 10:00 in the morning or 3:00 in the afternoon. I dress carefully enough in the morning and then forget about it. There may have been a couple of days during which I forgot to button my OCBD, but not today. Frankly, who cares? There are worse things than not buttoning your OCBD. I wore RL espadrilles and a rep tie as a belt in the early 80’s for God’s sake!

    With those two exceptions, thankfully, I have dressed the same for the last thirty years and see no reason to change.


  21. You wore espadrilles with a tie and you told ME to get a shave and haircut?

  22. William Richardson | November 10, 2015 at 8:48 pm |


    A tie as a belt to be exact. It was the early 80’s. I smoked a Porsche Design pipe as well. What a sight I must have been. The girls didn’t seem to mind though.


  23. William Richardson | November 10, 2015 at 8:50 pm |


    I would like to hear Fred Castleberry’s views on Mr. Boyer’s sprezzatura.


  24. Beards and longer hair are a seasonal thing for me. ‘Tis the season!

  25. Oh, I didn’t catch that it was espadrilles with tie as belt. In that case, kudos for your ’30s tribute!

  26. Speaking of Style Forum. They have a part of the site called the Style Forum Market. The Madras shirts we wrote about
    are being offered there. I will post the link under that story.

  27. Not a personal affront to Mr. Boyer, but my guess is that I could not make it to lunch without 3-4 people telling me that my collar buttons were undone. That alone is reason enough for me to button my collar down. Perhaps this is one of the many differences between working in an office setting and working in fashion.

  28. It was nice meeting you folks.

    I would suggest that any difficulties in navigating the stairs were at least partially due to the *large* alcohol supply. I didn’t think much of the beer selection — too many IPAs — but I liked all of the bourbons I tried, and the Glenmorangie 18….

    (For the record: Hart Schaffner Marx navy blazer, Brooks OCBD, black grenadine tie, plain white pocket square, department-store khakis, Allen Edmonds tassels.)

  29. Well stated, Mr. Boyer.

    Affectation is contextual, after all.

  30. The thing that struck me most about the photo of Mr. Boyer above was how relaxed and happy he looks. Perhaps wearing his collar unbuttoned has something to do with it?

  31. @Christian
    I think this has gone too far. I, for one, am feeling very uncomfortable for Mr. Boyer.

  32. AEV has certainly hammered home that he’s a complete jerk.

  33. “Again and again, the cicada’s untiring cry pierced the sultry summer air, like a needle at work on thick cotton cloth.” Yukio Mishima…

  34. Anyone particularly fond of keeping the guy around? Anyone have strong feelings on kicking him out?

  35. @Christian,

    In the immortal words of Blossom Dearie: “I’m hip, but not weird. Like you’ve noticed, I don’t wear a beard.”

    Anyway, in an “objective “sense, being too buttoned down, IMHO, is also an affectation, and not too “relaxing” either. Anyone thinking that someone is overthinking, is… probably overthinking themselves, and, is ultimately a boring person.

    I can say once, late for an interview, I neglected to re-button my button-down shirt (the only shirt I had packed), and wore it unbuttoned with my tie. The interviewer didn’t hold it against me, since I got the offer eventually.

    In college, I never used an iron, or wear socks. I wore boat shoes, sock-less, to formals too. We all did. In HS, I extemporaneously adopted (what I eventually learned was) a “four-in-hand,” because a windsor seemed to daunting to do repeatedly. My friends got around this by never (ever) untying their ties once removed. This is all, admittedly, done out of laziness. But some third parties might perceive such solecism(s) as obnoxious/pretentious. Whatever.

    I also do concede that some things are overly affected too. But since when did “sprezzatura” become such a polemical matter? This is all very silly. And deserves a Bronx Cheer.

  36. Kick him out? Oh no! political correctness has befallen ivy-style as well! Or is this a joke re: what is happening at Yale at the moment?

    If so, very funny!

  37. Anglophile Trad | November 11, 2015 at 12:26 pm |

    Far be it from me to criticize Mr. Boyer for leaving his collar points unbuttoned. However, as I cannot imagine anyone generally being better-dressed than Mr. Boyer I was surprised by his most recent photo, and hoped that the unbuttoned collar points did not reflect a sudden change in his style. Having said that, Mr. Boyer does indeed look relaxed and happy in that photo, and I am happy for him.

  38. @Anglophile Trad et al.
    A cursory look at photos of Mr. Boyer , thanks to Google, revealed that 99% of the time he favors a spread collar. In fact, in the only other photo of him wearing a buttondown collar, you will notice that the collar points are, indeed, unbuttoned:

  39. Charlottesville | November 11, 2015 at 1:04 pm |

    Hear, hear, Chewco! Considering some of the spats, tiffs and huffs we have seen on this website, thanks to the longsuffering Christian’s good graces, it would seem silly to toss someone out simply for appearing to be a thin-skinned pedant. As you suggest, it sounds more like a tongue-in-cheek comment on the Yale intolerance flap and style commentary as blood sport. We all have our sartorial tastes, whims, affections and affectations or we wouldn’t spend time in the comments section of a style website, even such a fine one as this. Some are simply more civil about it than others. As for unbuttoned collars, I can only say that the photo of Mr. Boyer linked to by Athlone makes it look most dapper. And note the terrific 3/2 lapel and high-waisted trousers.

  40. C-ville,
    Then I have embarrassed only myself in falling for that joke.

    I don’t agree with AEV, but will defend to death the right for him to blah blah blah, you know the rest.

    I don’t at all mean to gainsay Mr. Boyer. Certainly the man has become some sort of an icon… But, in my experience, when someone says “I’ve been doing this (or that) incessantly for years,” I begin to doubt.

    He says >> “I don’t always button my button down collar points.” This I believe, especially if its really nonchalant.

    But then he says >> “I have been leaving them unbuttoned for the past four decades now.” This I DON’T believe, if taken literally.

    If I’m wrong, perhaps someone could explain this tergiversation of style:

    Exhibit A: a buttoned button-down.

    The gravamen of the indictments against Mr. Boyer consider the fact that he is instructing/inspiring others, in some way, to follow HIS particular quirks of style, If this is happening, even unintentionally, then I see where AEV is coming from, unfortunately.

    Again, pure nonchalance means not following any rules, right? It’s just… what side of the bed you woke up on.

  41. For years AEV will pop up and rant about something in a very tedious way. When he does, I get emails about him. I’ve had personal email exchanges with him that aren’t pleasant. He’s one small step from being a troll.

  42. In keeping with the current fashions of the Ivy League, especially J. Press’s home turf, Yale University, I wish this site would become more of a safe space. Instigating debate about the merits of Mr. Boyer’s collar button choices should stop. It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! Do you understand that? It’s about creating a home here. You are not doing that! You should not sleep at night!

  43. By the way, I like the nonchalant collar. Ezra Pound did it best, in my opinion. Affected or not, I don’t care.

  44. For those who aren’t following Taliesin’s comical comment, cf.

    Taliesin, was that you in the video?

    @Christian, I have the same opinion of trolls that Sen. Joe McCarthy had of communists. Better to be overcautious in some matters.

  45. AEV views the comment section as a bloodsport. Whatever valid points he may make are over shadowed IMHO, by his lack of civility, and his pseudo-psych 101 personal attacks that coincides his sartorial remarks. It’s not enough to say “Hey, a button down collar should be buttoned” or whatever… it’s his personal digs that follow his remarks (i.e. “you must be a shallow, deceptive, ignorant SOB for not buttoning your collar, or using your tie loop”). That’s AEV’s problem. He just can’t express his opinion with being a dick.

  46. @Christian

    AEV is that one guy who is never invited to the party but always shows up. No one tells him to leave because they fear what he might do if left alone. All we can do is pray (to a God he’d ridicule us for believing in) that he finds peace.

  47. Oh but AEV, its painfully ironic that you too prove JDD’s point… very conversely, in fact .

    Whether it is your intention or not, by definition, via the reputable Urban Dictionary, you are a troll. Yes, trolls are in a sense contrarian too(!), but “contrarian” is also a swear word in mixed company.

    The best thing to do is to follow advice of a 1920’s general practitioner recommending a cure for syphilis: “if you ignore it, it will eventually go away.”

  48. For what it’s worth, as someone short in the tooth who has never posted (favoring instead “lurking,”) I am glad to hear AEV’s take on these things. I think in matters like these the content matters far more, as I hope, a gathering of grown men won’t have their feathers too ruffled by the tone of an online poster.

  49. I can think of no other individual whose sense of style I have admired so much over the years. I wish I could dress as well as Mr. Boyer, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only reader of this blog who feels exactly this way. I myself would feel quite uncomfortable with my buttondown collar unbuttoned, and though Mr. Boyer does indeed look happy, in my opinion he doesn’t look good. Even Homer sometimes nods. Perhaps we have come to expect so much perfection from him that some commenters have overreacted. More civility is called for.

  50. For those who insist on believing that Mr. Boyer has not previously worn unbuttoned collars and un-anchored neckties:×700.jpg

  51. Henry Contestwinner | November 12, 2015 at 3:26 pm |

    AEV banned? Perish the thought!

    Or not.

    “Free speech”? This is not a public commons; it is private property. Christian is not a representative of the government; he is running a business. If it makes good business sense for him to ban AEV, who, although intelligent and perceptive, has a strong tendency to rub people the wrong way not for what he says but for how he says it, then CC definitely should.

    Even though I would miss AEV’s skewering of FEC (perhaps his greatest contribution to this site).

  52. Taliesin is a cry baby | November 12, 2015 at 3:35 pm |

    You know who else is running a business? Private colleges.

  53. Henry Contestwinner | November 12, 2015 at 3:54 pm |

    BG, William Richardson,

    Some people consider ADG of Maximinimus fame to be a master of style, albeit an entirely different style than Mr. Boyer’s. Part of his personal look is multiple bracelets, but he makes it work in an organic way that would not work for most people. Part of it is that he is comfortable in his style because it is not an affectation: he is his style.

    I think that same degree of comfort in his own skin, and style, is part of the appeal of Mr. Boyer.

  54. OCBD gets it right, I think. If I left my collars unbuttoned, I’d suffer God-knows-how-many “Uh, you forgot to button your collars” from clients and colleagues. There’s simply no getting around the fact that it’s affectation that goes well beyond, say, a colorful pocket square. There’s nonchalance and then there are signs of forgetfulness.

    I’ve been known to “forget” to tuck the necktie tail into the keeper loop. And I’m fine with a wrinkled oxford. And unpolished loafers.

    I can hear the critics: “What’s next? Leaving shoelaces untied? When does ‘sprez’ reach its limits?” That said, in the world of upwardly mobile style, the worst sin is looking bland or boring. So, finding that unique something that sets one apart is par for the course.

  55. Charlottesville | November 13, 2015 at 10:14 am |

    S.E. – Well said. I have actually seen hipper-than-thou types going about with “accidentally” untied shoes. However, while the minutiae we debate here is good fun, and ivy/trad dress is an enjoyable part of my life, in most places these days, simply combing one’s hair and shaving sets one apart. I think others have remarked here on the frequent date-night phenomenon of the lovely young girl in a dress, make-up and heels accompanied by an unshaven slob in an untucked bowling shirt and sandals. Even in my fairly tradly town, that is the case more often than not among those under 30. Our internet friend Billax has recently posted photos showing the decline in dress for air travel over the past 50 years. . The current pix are not for the faint of heart. So, puff your hankie or wear a TV fold, tuck in your tie blade or not as you see fit, and by all means let’s continue to debate the merits of the 3 3/8 inch unlined BD collar vs. the 3.25 inch version. At least we know the difference between a restaurant and a gym. And put me down as a definite yes for the pinned club collar, which I am wearing today.

  56. Very informative post! Men shouldn’t have to stay baggy look. you can be in simple yet amazing fashion.

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