monkThe concept of rules, which we’ve been exploring lately, is related to other approaches to dressing that certain men gravitate to.

Some become obsessed with formulas for how items are coordinated. These formulas could be timeless or  they could be trendy.

Last month Alexander Aciman wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal called “Succumbing To The Tyranny Of #Menswear.” I’ve only just gotten around to reading it, and since some of you might not have seen it, here are some excerpts.

Aciman makes many of the same points recently offered by comment-leaver AEV, who said that fashion-statement clichés disseminated on the Internet are a far cry from true individual style.

Aciman writes:

One of the greatest culprits is the fetishization of what the online world calls “individual style”: the purposeful unbuckling of monkstrap shoes, mismatched cufflinks, button-down shirts with only one collar point fastened and, perhaps most absurd, the unbuttoning of jacket cuff buttons (a practice intended only for showing off one’s functioning cuff buttons). These idiosyncrasies are so wildly circulated that they’ve become standard issue: No cuff button is left fastened, no monkstrap is buckled. Individuality has become a uniform.

He continues:

The second force behind the flattening of men’s style is the notion of “style rules.” Magazines command that a man’s shirt cuff must not extend more than a quarter-inch from his jacket, so I regularly see New Yorkers on crowded trains reach into the sweaty armpits of their blazers to pull their sleeves back—never mind that every James Bond from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig managed not to fret over an inch or more of visible shirt cuff. Men are told to cuff their selvedge jeans to show off the hemmed internal fabric, as though, like some freemason clan, having the right jeans will get you into a secret men’s club.

There are so many photos of men saddling one arm of their sunglasses over the breast pocket of their blazers that Ray-Bans seem as common an ornament as pocket squares.

And perhaps the most laughable of these style rules is the notion that men must match the color of their belts to that of their shoes to Pantone precision. Men seem to equate going out without matching belt and shoes to leaving the house without underwear.

The hunger for belt-matching and the pandemic of cuff-unbuttoning has not only left every man in New York City looking like a salesperson at J. Crew, but it has also prevented men from knowing or learning what they actually want. The “well-dressed” urban man does not have desires or tastes. He rolls up his jeans without knowing why. He does not belong to a club, and yet he wears club ties with fake crests.

The unimaginative paint-by-numbers formula follower and fashion-trend lemming are equally guilty of lacking the individuality that has always marked history’s most stylish dressers. — CC