On The HuffPo: The 10,000 Hours It Takes To Become Well Dressed

Despite the assertion that college men are the best dressed in America — a statement made by Apparel Arts or some such in the 1930s — in general men dress better as they age. Their tastes refine, they’ve got more money to spend, and most of all they’ve put in practice — about 10,000 hours of it.

This post is a recycling of my latest Huffington Post column, which is in turn a recycling of an essay in the latest issue of The Rake. I combined some of Malcolm Gladwell’s ideas from his book “Outliers” and used them to support George Frazier’s argument, from his 1960 essay “The Art of Wearing Clothes,” that the best-dressed men are all over the age of 40.

Here’s a snippet:

Certain men may be born with the kind of physique and charisma for which great clothes make the perfect pedestal. But they still have to practice dressing. They have to develop the faculty for what looks good on them, or rather what feels good since a stylish man can pull off anything provided he feels at ease in it. Even the naturally gifted have to fine-tune an intuitive barometer and reject temptation at a haberdashery, refusing a seductive novelty because, in the end, “It’s really not me.” And each morning they have to pick out a shirt, trouser and jacket, select a couple of neckwear candidates, and then choose the one that somehow reconciles the contradictory qualities of being utterly capricious and yet completely logical.

Head over to HuffPo for the full story. — CC

29 Comments on "On The HuffPo: The 10,000 Hours It Takes To Become Well Dressed"

  1. Sad thing is, that even today, with my personal guidance, my son unfortunately has no clue on how to put an outfit together.
    I thank God for attending Catholic schools, as we had to dress up every day and I don’t mean khakis and sneakers.

  2. Great post.

  3. I began figuring it out around the age of 20, sadly where i live, north east PA most people take me for being gay and find it weird that I do not own a single pair of jeans.

  4. I believe one thing should be clear, having attended prep school is the only way someone can be “preppy.” You can dress preppy or act preppy, but none of those will ever substitute for having attended a prepatory institution.

  5. @LG,

    As an alumnus of Phillips Academy from the days before it became coeducational, I feel I can claim some expertise as to what constituted purist “preppy” before it became the label for Adolesecent Ivy. When I was at Andover, we emulated Ivy League (i.e. university) style. That meant a very limited palette as far as OCBD shirts were concerned (usually limited to blue, but also including white, and blue-white candy stripe), khaki trousers (chinos), weejuns , navy blazers and herringbone tweed jackets, and not much more. We wanted to look like adults, which at the time meant college students. What distinguished us was a “noblesse oblige” attitude which was instilled in us from our first day at school. If we ourselves ever used the term “preppy” it was in self-mockery, as we were trying to dress and behave like adults rather than teenagers. We certainly never used the term to distinguish ourselves positively from students at non-prep schools. I would argue, unlike you, that “preppy” is actually only a label for a way of dressing and acting(“Adolescent Ivy”) that reflects what some people imagine to be traditional prep school dress and behavior. It should not be used to apply to students/alumni of prep schools.

  6. LG, is attending a “prepatory (sic) institution” similar to attending a preparatory school?

  7. First time I ever heard a blue and white university striped oxford BD referred to as “candy stripe”, sounds a like a sixteen year old volunteer female nurse.

    “Noblesse Oblige”, isn’t that what got that lord’s throat cut in “Braveheart”? 😉

  8. @MAC:

    I can assure you that “candy stripe” is the term we used for what you call “university stripe”:

    http://heavytweed.blogspot.jp/2012/11/the-most-imitated-shirt-in-world-brooks.html

  9. @MAC
    @Basic Ivy

    Gentlemen:

    Today, Brooks Brothers calls it neither the University Stripe, nor the Candy Stripe, but the Oxford Stripe:

    http://www.brooksbrothers.com/Classic-All-Cotton-Traditional-Fit-Oxford-Stripe-Dress-Shirt/002E,default,pd.html?dwvar_002E_Color=BL&contentpos=2&cgid=0203

  10. @Logophile
    @Basic Ivy

    First, I don’t mean to be offensive, but I have no idea who “Heavytweed” is or if he has more experience than I or if ‘candy stripe” is a parochial term. I will say he has a good blog, very enjoyable.

    Brooks now calling a university stripe oxford a “striped oxford” says more about BBs dissolution of ivy, their ownership and catalog editors. I would defer to J. Press at present or “ivy shops” allover this country in the past. Striped or candy striped oxford can mean anything, it usually tells me the clothing salesman I’m dealing with knows less than I or lacks imagination. 😉

  11. @ MAC

    BB doesn’t call it a “striped Oxford”, they call it the Oxford Stripe.

    If you Google “candy strıpe oxford” and “university stripe oxford”, you’ll see that there’s nothing at all parochial about the former term.

    I have always heard and used “candy stripe” in Philadelphia and Boston, and only heard “university stripe” from clothing salesmen, though I just discovered that LL Bean uses the term.

  12. Minimalist Trad | December 14, 2012 at 9:58 pm |

    @ MAC

    Sir:

    J. Press also called them “Candy Stripes”, but apparently you know better:

    http://www.styleforum.net/t/58701/j-press-discontinuing-candystripe-ocbds

  13. @Jeffory

    Re: “…sadly where i live, north east PA most people take me for being gay…”

    I’m afraid that this is true for most parts of the U.S.

    Years ago, I used to be taken for a straight-arrow Presbyterian minister or jr. high school principal when I wore a blazer, a striped tie, and gray flannel trousers; now people assume I’m gay because I’m not dressing like a slob.

  14. Minimalist Trad

    Yes, I do know better, at least better than some guy on styleforum. Go to J. Press, what do they call them?

  15. @MAC

    Please take a moment and go here:

    http://www.jpressonline.com/dress_shirts_striped.php?page=all

    You’ll immediately see that J. Press does indeed call them “Candy Stripes”.

  16. Minimalist Trad

    I must apologize for not including a “smiley face” icon on the last post. I know the icon is cornball, but it helps readers understand that my sarcasm is to be taken as humor.

    FYI, Mercer & Son calls all their’s “university stripe” with a note on the blue and white oxford swatch that some may refer to this as “candy stripe”. I just believe “candy stripe” is too genetic, it’s like calling gingham or tattersail,”checked”.

  17. @ MAC

    I assume that by “genetic, you meant generic , just as some salesmen mean candy stripe when they use the pedestrian term university stripe: “Hey boychik wanna look like ah college man. I got just the thing for ya: ah yooniversitee stripe shoyt”.

  18. Wingtips

    You’re much better than my auto-correct and obviously pay more attention to my writing than I, thank you. “Genetic” might be more appropriate for the “university stripe” OCBD, since it’s linage does pass through the Ivy League that are ,well, universities.

  19. Ms. Birnbach refers to the shirt as a candy stripe on p. 141.

  20. Old School Tie | January 17, 2021 at 4:39 pm |

    Are stripes not defined by their width, number of threads or ticking? University stripe (sometimes synonymous with candy, sometimes not) is a 1/8 of an inch stripe as opposed to the 1/4 inch Bengal stripe. Both have even spacing. Pinstripe is usually a single thread and well spaced out. Some pundits have candy stripes at 1/2 an inch whilst others require them to be of fairly bright colours. In the 1980s the Bengal stripe or wider were frequently referred to as Eurobond stripes. I am personally a great fan of striped shirts, of all varieties.

  21. Just now watching “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” on TCM. Walter Matthau in 3 button, light brown, looks to be herringbone, with center hook vent. Yellow tie and plaid shirt is not the best combination, but overall, pretty nice. Sorry to interrupt.

  22. Re: The very first comment: Jim in December, 2012:

    Khakis and sneakers would be far more “dressed up” than what most young men wear today.

  23. “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” is a film based on a completely inane book, with a completely preposterous plot. It is, however, a truly classic film because of its all-character-actor cast and amazing soundtrack, and because it allows the early 70s New York City locations to steal every scene they can.

    Whoever gave the green light for the remake should be lined up against the proverbial wall and perforated

  24. Yep; it’s definitely “candy stripe”.

    Nice article, too.

  25. Besides developing “the facility” over time of dressing well, it helps to have fathers and grandfathers, or other close male relatives, who demonstrate how it is done five days a week, or six if we take church (at one time) or temple attendance into consideration. Very few boys and young men are so lucky in the 21st century when it comes to acceptable sartorial example and precedent set by male family members. A pilled fleece with the company logo on the chest ain’t quite the same thing.

  26. Vern Trotter | January 18, 2021 at 1:32 pm |

    Brooks stripe was originally called “candy stripe” by the salesmen on the floor and the shirt buyer; it may have been identified as “university stripe” in newspaper ads and catalogue however.

    cameron:
    Careful in today’s climate how you make comments in jest. AOC might include you in her new deradicalization program for which she seeks funding.

  27. john carlos | January 18, 2021 at 2:58 pm |

    Heinz-Ulrich, I completely agree with you regarding male examples when it comes to clothing. As a sophomore in high school in 1966, I admired a group of upper classmen who wore trad to the max. I remember seeing them in church in their navy blazers, tweed sport coats, grey trousers, repp and club ties and cordovan shoes and the later on at school in OCBD’s, khakis, and penny loafers. That’s when I decided I wanted to look like them. And 55 years later, I do.

  28. After about five solid years of focus, I’ve finally perfected my Ivy style. I started with a wardrobe that was pretty far along, but required many tweaks. Mind you, I’m not trying to look like I’m from 1965. I’m trying to look Ivy in 2021 – which I believe is best represented by JPress, Brooks Brothers, Drakes, Alden and others. This blog has been very helpful. The next step is to get everything well tailored so it fits properly once I get vaccinated.

  29. Charlottesville | January 25, 2021 at 10:49 am |

    James – Congratulations! It sounds like you are putting together a closet full of great traditional clothing. I would tend to agree that J. Press, Alden and a few others deliver the classics, without making one look like a costumed extra from a 60s period film.

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