Instantly Class Up Your Style With These 5 Accessories
“Beware of the man who won't be bothered with details,” once warned William Feather in his book, ‘Good Advice’, and he need not make an argument. It is, after all, the finer points that build up to make monumental ones. This could be said about laws and the constitution, numbers and economics, philosophies and society, and sartorially, it is what separates the rake from the run-off-the-mill.
So, be it in creating a lasting impression or suitable self-expression, consider being more mindful about the minute details in your wardrobe. It may not be as readily noticeable as your polished pair of shoes, your well-tailored suit, or flashy new watch, but each venerable item on this list adds that substantial ounce of manners and distinction in a sea of mediocrity. The only key is to wear them appropriately.
The history of the silk square dates as far back as 500 BC, when the Ancient Greek would hold fragrant squares of fabric to literally carry an air of nobility. Neo-classical French and Englishmen followed suit, using ornately embroidered and heavily-perfumed handkerchiefs to mask the stench of urban excess and industrial success. And by the turn of the 20th century, no well-attired gentleman left the house without a hanky in his suit pocket.
Now, deeply overlooked, the pocket square is perhaps the simplest way to make a colorful statement when donning a muted, minimalist suit. There is only one subtle rule to pulling it off: make sure it complements the color of your tie. If your tie is printed, choose a dominant color and use it as the main palette for your choice of pocket square, preferably of a contrasting print. Matching a pocket square too closely with the color or print of your tie may have a boring effect.
How to fold a pocket square
When folding, opt for one of the three most effortless folds: the Straight Fold, which means folding your square flat into thirds for a subtle, calculated peak; the Corner Fold, which means folding your square into a triangle with straightened sides (as how a picket fence looks like); or the Puff Fold, which means pinching and gathering your square into a refined puff. The key here, like in the Japanese art of origami, is exacting finesse.
However expensive and well-knotted a tie is, when worn with a soft, unruly collar flap, it just looks downright sloppy, and this is where collar stays rise up to the occasion. While most off-the-rack dress shirts come with built-in collar stays in cheap plastic, bespoke dress shirts, as well as luxury, ready-to-wear ones, instead, come with a slot for your choice of stiffeners.
As early as the 1800s, collar stays were made from metals, wood, ivory, or whale bone, and while having a floppy collar is now frowned upon, even more so is the use of plastic stays, undermining environmental considerations. So, your best bet is a collar stay fashioned out of solid silver, which can last you long (if not eternally) while adding a bit of distinguished weight on your scrag.
People usually tend to reserve the boutonniere for special occasions, but you can call most guys these days lucky to ever wear one on their wedding day. Maybe it is because it is deemed superfluous, or worse, effeminate. The truth, however, is far from perception. Scholars believe that the boutonniere first came about in the battlefields of the English Civil War, where each side wore a particular color or type of flower to distinguish friends from enemies–the bloody start of a ‘girly’ tradition.
Yet wearing one is not as simple as sticking a flower stem in your buttonhole. A boutonniere, in fact, can be the barometer of a well-constructed jacket. A good suit jacket should have a sturdy 1 to 1 ½ inch buttonhole in the left lapel that can support the weight of the flower. It should also have a latch to keep the stems in place. Anything less is considered below high-end tailoring standards.
Other things to consider are the unwritten etiquettes for wearing one. At a wedding, the groom should have a different boutonniere from his male entourage. It is also wise to be well-versed in the meanings of certain flowers, like white carnations for good luck, pink for admiration, and dark red for deep affection. Also, be conscious about scale and proportion, as a shorter build would look better with a sprig of baby’s breath, as would a lean, tall frame with an orchid. And finally, the only mindset that comes with wearing a boutonniere is the desire to stand out, so, wearing one to a funeral or job interview would not be a good idea.
Should you find these pointers perplexing, a tad too traditional, or, despite all, a bit feminine, you can opt for elegant lapel pins, instead.
The stick pin was first donned by 19th century Englishmen to add a bit of bling and control to their cravats. In the 1920s, when straight silk ties were the rage, it was replaced by the tie bar or clip which we know of today. The function is still the same, however, which is to keep the tie straight and in place, while adding a glint of solid personality.
So while there are countless of materials and makes to choose from, wearing a tie bar only subscribes to three golden rules: 1. It goes between the third and fourth buttons of your dress shirt, 2. It should not only secure the front end of your tie with the back end, it should also be able to fasten both ends to the placket of your shirt, and 3. A tie bar should never be wider than your necktie.
While cufflinks were believed to have been around since the 1600s, they didn’t gain popularity until the latter part of the 18th century, when the practice of wearing well-tailored shirts with stiffened cuffs—unable to be secured by simple buttons—became widespread. While our buttons are made much more able by now, there is no turning back for having cufflinks as the ultimate white-tie accessory.
Cufflinks have since been developed into different types, with the toggle closure, chain links, studs, and silk knots as the most popular. While most men opt to wear their links with double-back or French cuffs, in a process called ‘kissing’, cufflinks can also be worn with straightforward, single cuffs as would a button, with a bit more shine.
While cufflinks may come in a wide variety of materials—precious metals, stones, mother of pearl, or silk—it is wise to use a sense of level-headed appropriateness on certain occasions. Perhaps, something a bit more sparkly for milestones, or something solid and sober for business transactions, or something simple, like a multi-colored silk-knot for everyday. That being said, no man should ever mind the extra work of slipping on a cufflink in his daily wear, as it just adds that right amount of respect and pride to a well-made shirt.