By David Baldwin Barnes - Inside the GAIT - July 11, 2011
As I walk down the corridors of U Street to K, around fluorescent lit federal offices, and through the grandiose halls of Congress, I am forced to witness a numerous fashion faux pas on display by the suit wearing men of this city. I will implore the gentlemen of our nation’s capital to steer clear of these 8 peeves of a well-dressed man.
Peeve 1 – Drooping Shirt Collars
I’ve previously stated the cringe in my stomach when I see a gentleman’s shirt collar that does not fit, but I’ll reiterate— collars are designed for necks and not collar bones. When buttoned, your collar should be directly below your Adam’s apple. A couple things take place when your collar is too big. One, It just looks bad. Two, you will never be able to get a good knot in your tie without the support of your neck backing your collar.
Peeve 2 – Improperly Tied Ties
The end of your tie should stop at the top of your belt buckle. It should be no longer than that. Also, when your tie is too long, you’re left with a tiny knot from the lack of width that’s further down the tie (skinny ties get a pass for the small knot).
The type of knot should correspond with the collar you’re wearing. The “four-in-hand” can go with almost any collar. Your “Windsor” and “Double-Windsor” should only be tied with a spread, cutaway or extreme cutaway collar (my favorite collar, which the CEO of CIA wears well). You can wear a bowtie with almost any collar.
If the top button of you shirt is in fact buttoned, your tie should be tightened all the way to the top of your collar. I’m not asking you to strangle yourself, but the top button ought to be invisible.
Peeve 3 – Baggy/Ill-fitting Suits
My uncle is a talented jazz pianist with a style that matches his creativity on the ivory keys. He’s one of my fashion heroes, but I do NOT wear his suits, nor my older brother’s or my cousins’… they don’t fit me. As tempted as I was to accept the hand me downs coming my way as I struggled with the measly budget of an entry-level employee, I made the decision to by a suit the fit me. I then applied the golden rule— alter, alter, alter every suit that you buy off the rack. If your suit has enough fabric to land you safely from a dive off a plane, your suit is too big.
Peeve 4 – Suits with 4+ buttons
There are certain fashion rules that I follow (the “golden one”), and others I throw out the window (“trends”). I am unaware of a rule banning the existence of a suit with 4 or more buttons, but I humbly request that Glenn O’Brien speak on this matter so I may have an authority to refer to in times of my vehement rebuttal of such sartorial malfeasance (I’m tempted to ban three buttons as well. Double breasted don’t apply).
The Kings of Comedy are comedians… they’re supposed to look funny.
Peeve 5 – The Renegade Collar
I spoke earlier of how the collar should fit around your neck; snugly but not suffocating. I now speak of the two flaps where the tips generally touch your collar bone. These two flaps belong there, not half way in the air. I have witnessed collars leaping from the shirt as if to proclaim treason on the state of shirt land. They look like the wings of eagles soaring, an Olympic ski jump, a tortilla chip curled from the heat of a good baking.
To remedy this conundrum the fashion gods invented what is called a collar stay. Many shirts come pre-loaded, and others have a special place for their insertion.
Go to a store that sells men’s suits and ask for some, I’m sure they’d be obliged to relieve you from this plight (some even give them for free with a purchase). Make sure you take them out when ironing or dry-cleaning.
If no there’s place for a collar stay, iron your collars until they’re as stiff as the wall stud you drilled into to mount your flat screen TV. I’m not a fan of a lot of starch, but drench those bad boys in starch and apply maximum heat to them without burning to make them immobile.
Other remedies are a button-down collar or a collar bar (worn frequently by the best dressed Member of Congress).
Peeve 6 – Black, red, neon, dark purple, dark blue shirts (any dark shirt)
I applaud you for using color to express yourself, but please limit these colors to ties, pocket squares and socks (although black ties do not belong in the office either).
Peeve 7 – White Socks
I don’t even wear white socks when I go to the gym (The Fab 5 were indeed style icons. Go Michigan!).
Peeve 8 - Short Sleeve Shirts
Your honor, I would like to submit this photo as evidence of the crime perpetrated.
I rest my case.