True Style by G. Bruce Boyer: Entertainment, Persuasion, and making Style a Fine Art

I taught guitar for years.  When I did, I started everyone out with a classical, nylon string guitar, no more than $100.  In the beginning neither you or your hands know anything, and you must learn and practice the fundamentals.   I used to say to people who brought me guitars they were thinking about buying:   You have no idea what to do with it, and you can’t learn on it.   For six months, classical guitar.   After that, you can pick your own genre and have at it all you want.  But you must learn the fundamentals on a classical guitar, and after that everything will come much easier.

I know people, and so do you, who have a $20,000 wardrobe they have no idea what to do with, and they can’t learn on it.  Fundamentals.

G. Bruce Boyer is not particularly Ivy.  He gets that rap in some circles because he looks great in, and wears often enough, ties and sportcoats.   He has forgotten more Ivy than I know, but he is not restricted to Ivy.  By any means.  And he is far and away the best dressed man I know of, because of his mastery of the fundamentals.  And his eye for pallette, which I don’t think you can teach but maybe you can.

True Style (you can buy it here and you should)  has a copyright date of 2015, so it is not the oldest book in the Ivy Library we are going to build.  It is not the least expensive.  There is not a single photograph in it, there are sketches but even they are not in color.  But if you want to learn your wardrobe, there is no other place to start.

The art of dressing is a visual art.  Like all arts, there are two choices, you can either have a knack for it (in this case a great eye) or you can work until that knack happens anyway.  And like all arts, it is fairly exclusive to itself.  The arts do not like cross pollination.  It is why you don’t see many impressionist painters writing great novels.   Especially the visual arts.  They like their practitioners unpolluted by other talents.

And yet.  G. Bruce Boyer writes as well as he dresses.

That is the first note about the book.  It is well written.   Boyer is conversational and one gets the feel that the sound of reading the book aloud would be very much akin to the sound of Boyer’s thoughts, were they audible.  He’s also funny.  That is rare in our little world.  The notion with most fashion writers I have encountered is that they take their clothes as seriously as they take everything else, and they take everything else too seriously.  Boyer is confident, and that affords him room to joke.  He uses the room.

The introduction does a great job of letting you know what you are in store for.   It reads like the introduction to an excellent book, not the prototypical list of tips that fashion defaults to.  Here is Sherlock Holmes.  HMS Pinafore, and the word “synecdoche.”  This is not “when mixing strips with patterns blah blah blah.”

Here.  This is what I mean.  Here is Boyer’s call to you, to practice a little style.

“What’s a man to do?  Go on wearing drab suits for the rest of his life, drowning the very soul of individuality within him in a sea of sludge-colored sack cloth, or slouch about in a hoodie and trainers?”

I love that he calls them trainers.  And I told you, this is no “Try not to shave against the grain” 500 words to satisfy a razor company.

Chapter 1 is Ascots.  Yep.  I don’t think he means Thurston Howell, but he does advocate, well, “Call it what you will – ascot, cravat, stock – the scarfat the throat is the tested and true answer to the naked neck.”   Mr. Boyer and I part company here a little – I simply cannot pull it off.  And I write an Ivy Style blog with an earring.

But buckle up buttercup, because the rest of the book is nothing short of a mandatory primer.  I won’t walk you through it all, I couldn’t even if I wanted to, but for us in the Ivy end of things, the book raised an interesting question to me.

I know why I dress Ivy.  I do it for two reasons.  First, of all the styles I have been exposed to, it looks the least embarrassing on me.  But second, and probably more important, is that I align with the values.  The message.  But once I made that choice, why do I pick out what I pick out?  How do I know what to put together?  How far to push?

I have walked amongst the Ivy purist for a few years now, and here is what my take away is.  Most of the time, if you are a guy, it falls into two camps.  Either your father wore it, or they wore it at your school.  But that doesn’t teach you style, any more than karaoke teaches you to sing.  It teaches you mimicry, maybe a what-to-wear-where rule, but it doesn’t teach you STYLE.

Which begged for me another question.   Can you have style in Ivy Style?  I mean, are the rules so strict that there are only stickers of footprints on a wooden floor and no freestyling?   And the answer is an unfortunate yes, unless you learn style.

And to learn style, you must start with True Style.  The book walks you through every piece, its history, what you can do with it, and how to incorporate it into a classic wardrobe.  It is not an Ivy manual.  Thank god.  It is the classical guitar of Ivy – you must learn on it first, and then figure out your own jam.

But you will be very happy you did.  It is a reader’s book, not a text book.  It is as much story as it is instruction, and much personality as it is history.  Ever been to a concert or a show, forgotten how long you were in there because you were so entertained, and it wasn’t until you were halfway home that you realized how much you learned?

That’s True Style by G. Bruce Boyer.

 

 

32 Comments on "True Style by G. Bruce Boyer: Entertainment, Persuasion, and making Style a Fine Art"

  1. RIchard E. Press | March 21, 2022 at 10:07 am | Reply

    Bravo!

    Thank you Richard! When is your interview coming? Love – JB

  2. Frederick J Johnson | March 21, 2022 at 10:49 am | Reply

    Read it when first released, loved it; even learned a few things.

    I know, right? I mean, I learned more than a few things. And please tell me you too had to look up “synecdoche.” – JB

  3. Thank you, JB, for your excellent review of a menswear classic. As Alan Flusser said, you must master the basics before you create your own personal style. He said that like golf, sadly, most players haven’t even mastered how to swing a golf club correctly.

    One point that I must argue with is when you write that men’s style is a “visual art.” Not true. My two favorite designers, Joseph Abboud and Billy Reid have different approaches.

    Mr. Reid plays guitar and he likened designed menswear to making music.

    Joseph Abboud studied literature at the Sorbonne and gets his inspiration from literature, Paris, and classic Hollywood, the leading man and classics like “The Great Gatsby”.

    The visual presentation is like a painting: beneath the surface lies sketches, revisions, and the initial inspiration. Degas is regarded as the best painter of all time, but to appreciate a Degas painting you must know about the artist, his upbringing and influences.

    Hi Mitchell! I cannot wait until the site is redesigned so we can actually chat. Anyway, for now. I’m not getting what you are saying, but that is probably me. I think there is a difference between where one draws inspiration from, or one’s avocations, and the category of one’s day job. Yes? I mean, you can study literature, but you still have to draw a suit. And you will be judged on what the suit looks like, first and foremost. So it is a visual art. Am I missing something? I have a head full of allergies today so apologies if I am – JB

  4. Three comments:

    1. “First, of all the styles I have been exposed to, it [Ivy] looks the least embarrassing on me.”
    These words, “exposed” and “embarrassing”.
    The original purpose for clothing is to cover one’s shame (it’s just about clothes).
    Why the decades long fashion campaign to look the most embarrassing? Because it’s not just about clothes.
    Ivy is the least embarrassing on everybody. I’m with you, brother.

    2. The other day someone was asking about the necktie on the books cover. It is a trad fundamental, an archetype. Anyone know who made it? Just a wild guess on my part, but RL? I need one. Everybody needs one.

    3. Do classical guitarists prefer “Pima” cotton OCBDs?

    1. I have 3/4’s of an essay sitting here titled, “I have never thought I looked good.” I am a guy who sometimes posts pictures of himself online for money. But I am trying to think of the times I thought I looked good, and they are few and far between. It’s not a self-esteem thing. I like some things about me. But I just never have been satisfied in that regard, and find that Ivy is like good sex in a bad marriage – it makes up for an awful lot. 2. I dunno. The book doesn’t say, either. 3. Okay, REALLY GOOD ONE. – JB

  5. Hi John! Yes, I agree with you and I apologize for causing confusion, so I will explain…

    In psychology there is a term called synesthesia:
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synesthesia

    Basically, it means that the senses are cross-pollinated. In other words, men’s style is not a strictly visual representation for some people. In my case, I experience auditory sensations (music and literary passages that I recall) when I see fashion designs.

    For example, I have a faded Billy Reid denim shirt that I experience as a Kings of Leon song and a passage from “All the King’s Men” by Robert Penn Warren. Other people may see a light blue faded denim shirt but that is not what goes through my mind.

    So, to address someone without synesthesia, my point is that men’s style has many levels of perception and interpretation the way an onion has layers of meaning.

    AH! I get it. Ok, definitely for those, absolutely. I know a little about synesthesia from people who see colors during music. Totally get it now. THANKS – JB

  6. Old Bostonian | March 21, 2022 at 1:32 pm | Reply

    Re: Synecdoche: Union College, one of the “Little Ivies” is located in Synecdoche. In the fall of 1972, director Sydney Pollack filmed for 2 weeks on the Union College campus for the flashback sequences of the movie “The Way We Were,” starring Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand.

  7. Every once in awhile someone asks me about the tie on the book’s jacket cover. The tie is mine, and I think it’s pattern is that of the Royal Scots Regiment. I bought it years ago from the Ben Silver Shop.

  8. Thank you, Mr. Boyer and Taliesin,

    As photographed on the book’s cover, the tie appears to be composed of those most traditional British colors, navy blue, oxblood, and hunter green. I just looked it up on the Ben Silver catalogue where it appears to be navy, red, and olive “(Oxford, cardinal, jungle)”. This is perhaps even more versatile, but not what I thought it was.
    As I’ve never served with The Royal Scots Regiment, I am not authorized to wear the tie, but I have enjoyed looking at all of the fascinating ties on the site over the years.

  9. G. Bruce Boyer is the man! The Ben Silver site has six essays that Bruce Almighty! shared with curious readers:

    https://www.bensilver.com/GBruceBoyer.dlp

  10. Thanks for the reading recommendation. I’m surprised I haven’t yet picked up a copy of this one — From the looks of it, and by all accounts, it’s right up there with Flusser’s Dressing The Man as one of those tomes everyone who cares about men’s style should own.

  11. As recently as 2007 there were copies of Dress for Success laying around certain work places. I gave it a read. Navy blue “interview” suit. Icky. I have one. It fits.

    Now we’re seeing a lot of guys wearing neon-blue skinny suits with british tan shoes and glued on white rubber soles. Even more icky.

    Vive le True Style.

  12. Firstly I have to state that this book was persuasive and sparkling entertainment for me, I would recommend to anyone exploring the timelessness and non-fashionable style to dress age-appropriate as a male individual. For me Ivy Style is the most down to the ground approach assembling many things that meet my taste and make me feel dressed well, with quality fabrics, heritage and a mindset of decency.

    I dislike to correct fellow forists and even the author of this tome. However, I was also intrigued by the balanced colours of the tie shown on the dustjacket.

    This tie is indeed of a Scottish regiment, however it does not belong to the Royal Scots but the Black Watch Regiment. The difference between the both is the colour scheme: please note the dark blue stripe being broader then the green and red ones. You will find an example here: https://www.regimentalshop.com/products/black-watch-regimental-tie-2

  13. Here is the link. http://www.ivy-style.com/a-model-gentleman.html. Are we sure we’re talking about the same tie? The tie Mr. Boyer is wearing in the bottom photo is a grenadine. A beautiful grenadine.

  14. @ Hardbopper: now I got confused. The tie worn by Mr Boyer on the pictures under the link you posted is for a fact the Royal Scots regimental tie.

    I was referring to the slightly different dessin of the tie shown on the dust jacket of True Style: https://www.ivy-style.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/51BvJZvC4WL-331×437.jpg – this is the Black Watch regimental tie.

  15. G. Ellery Cobbold | March 21, 2022 at 5:59 pm | Reply

    In re: the strictness of Ivy’s rules, check out the six pictures posted by Tailor Caid on December 16, 2021. https://www.instagram.com/p/CXikNo7ptI1/.
    Is the second pic less Ivy than the sixth?

    I’d love to read a second IS interview with Tailor Caid, though the first wasn’t posted too long ago (http://www.ivy-style.com/tailor-caid-japans-jazz-ivy-mad-man.html).

  16. The tie is the Black Watch regimental stripe repp tie, available quite a few places, mine is from Ben Silver.

  17. @ G. Ellery Cobbold This is Tailor Caid’s 20th anniversary after all!

  18. A terrific book penned by THE arbiter-and-adjudicator of sartorial excellence. Boyer RULES.

  19. NaturalShoulder | March 21, 2022 at 11:00 pm | Reply

    I picked up True Style when it came out and do reread sections from time to time. True Style is just below Dressing and the Man by Flusser in terms of my library favorites. The only person or persons who rival Mr.Boyer today are the Churchwell brothers.

    I love the quote regarding grab suits and keep in the back of my mind when getting dressed.

  20. Jonathan Mitchell | March 22, 2022 at 12:22 am | Reply

    Mr. Boyer is certainly the best-dressed man I know of, and he always looks comfortable in whatever he’s wearing. I’ve been on the road to progressing from textbook Ivy style to something approaching Boyer style for some time. This definitely doesn’t mean imitating him–for one thing, I dislike browns and greens, but stick to shades of grey and navy, and I do prefer button-down collars. Come to think about it, I’ve never seen a photo of the Master in an OCBD. Like Boston Bean on 19 March, I have switched to two-button jackets and blazers. My trousers are un-cuffed; perhaps the next step will be pleats. My shirts, ties, and shoes are orthodox Ivy, and I feel no urge to stray from the fold as far as they are concerned. Every photo of Mr. Boyer, and everything he has ever written testify to the fact that one can tweak Ivy style within limits as long as one has absorbed the fundamentals, and that developing a personal style can be a rewarding experience.

  21. G. Ellery Cobbold | March 22, 2022 at 2:50 am | Reply

    @DCG That’s terrific. Thanks for telling me. Long may Tailor Caid wield his tape, chalk, and scissors. The anorak and parka he made last year for The Armoury NYC are so charming.

  22. Jonathan Mitchell,
    I assume that you’re not a member of the Ivy Style Facebook group. If you were, you’d find yourself being reprimanded by members who don’t tolerate even the slightest deviation from the rigid prescriptions of canonical Ivy style. I’d hate to think what they’d say about the admirable style of Mr. Boyer.

  23. Old Bostonian | March 22, 2022 at 4:32 am | Reply

    I hope I’ll be forgiven for lifting this line from another review of the book:
    “True Style is like a fireside conversation with an immensely knowledgeable and charming old friend, who also brought the brandy.”

  24. Dutch Uncle,

    I was in the Facebook Ivy Style group for years until one day somebody asked if pyjamas were Ivy? and that was the straw that broke the camels back.. When you come to a point why you obsess about every single item of clothing being 100% correct and approved by the Ivy Style Central Committee ..then dressing up stops being fun and become a chore.

    And Btw, great book I have had a copy for years , fun, incentive and essential reading for any menswear enthusiast. I also have the tie on the cover, my came from Benson&Clegg.

    I remember that post, they were asking if THOSE pajamas were ivy. 8,500 vetted members, the largest group of its kind in social media, targeted, curated every day. Not every single post is gonna resonate with every single member. On the other hand, I am proud that the space is one where someone feels free to ask questions. The only thing worse than being too exacting about your wardrobe is having people walk away when you are asking a sincere question. – JB

  25. Dutch Uncle,

    As a whole, I personally loathe Facebook. Had MySpace when it was new and that was not something I felt would be something for me long-term.

    Maybe the example you brought is another argument to stay away from it. At least for my personal taste. Here, in the middle of Europe, with not the best dressed male population around me, Ivy Style is a pragmatic orientation for timelessness. Not only would it be very difficult to follow Ivy Style “orthodody” here due to the lack of the garments themselves. I ordered from J. Press recently, and believe me: airfreight, customs, duties, do not make it a comfortable shopping experience if your wardrobe had to rely on imported supplies. Also American vintage is not as easy to get than elsewhere, with expections like Ralph Lauren or some Brooks Brothers items.

    What is available locally or from European neighbour countries/the UK is English clothing, and this where I ended up for myself – please, I will never compare to Mr Boyer – a combination of English and German (thankfully we do have a small but significant niche of anglophiles) garments with an Ivy Style allover approach and appearance. Hope that makes sense. It feels comfortable and, being brutally honest, self assuring, offering dignity to myself and courtesy to others.

    That is not to literally follow a text book and condemn heretics not wearing the exact angle or cut or length, not to say donning the correct brand. Believe me, I own some vintage sport coats from former German makers, they look definetely more Ivy than some Brooks Brothers and other US outputs these day…

  26. The better (best?) source for the necktie in question:

    https://bensonandclegg.com/products/blackwatchroyalhighlandregiment

    Benson & Clegg use their own in-house tailors — and they use silk woven by both Stephen Walters and Vanners.

    Mr. Boyer will be sorry to learn that the owners of Atkinsons have moved to printing on a wool-silk greige, as opposed to weaving (colored) yarns. Reason for lament. (sigh).

  27. Do please note that this necktie is $85.00. Yes, I know–the shipping costs. But compare/contrast with other (American) stores who insist on selling silk repp striped neckwear for– {gulp and sigh} $130. I mean, well,
    c’mon. As always, buyers beware.

  28. JB,
    There is a glaring difference between the friendly, informative atmosphere on this site and the weird, narcissistic atmosphere on the Facebook group. That’s why I am grateful for this site and look forward to every post here, and am leaving the Facebook group.

  29. S.E. Thanks for the intro to B&C. I notice they have some nice blazer buttons, which I might need if I wind up buying a BB blazer. Advertising on a polo shirt is one thing, but on a blazer is ridiculous!

  30. I also avoid the FB group, despite having a FB account for over 10 years.

    I come here to get away from the stress of the real world, a FB group with over 8K people would only add to my stress. (Although JB I wish you well with it since I know this is your business)

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