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Matching shoes and belts

It’s one of the first things about dressing well that we learn as young men – a black belt is worn with black shoes and a brown one with brown shoes – always; but what about blue, beige, and the more unusual options that are becoming increasingly popular? Wearing a belt and shoes in matching colours is a basic rule of male elegance but with eye-catching colours, it doesn’t always work so well.

Unless the trousers are in the same colour and therefore, camouflaging the belt and shoes, the combination often results in a look that screams ‘put together with great care’. It’s like walking into a living room where the sofa (cushions included) and curtains are in the same floral fabric. Elegance must seem effortless and a matching belt and shoes, which aren’t black or brown are anything but that.

Another reason for doing away with the rule is that matching shoes and belts, effectively make a person look shorter. This is especially so, when the shoes and belt contrast in colour with the trousers’, as what you’ll end up with, are legs that only appear as long as the distance between the belt and the shoes.

DSCF4858.JPGRather than opting for identical colours, if your shoes are in an unusual colour, go for a belt in a colour that’s as close as possible to that of either the shirt or trousers – depending on whether you want to add or reduce visual height.

Taller men, whose legs tend to be considerably longer than their torso, will achieve a more balanced silhouette with a belt that mirrors the shirt’s colour, as this effectively visually elongates the torso. On the other hand, shorter men should aim for visually longer legs, making a belt in the same colour as the trousers’ the better option.

If it’s your belt that’s the fancy piece, go for shoes in a neutral colour, which blend in as much as possible with the trousers. Here, your outfit’s centrepiece should be your belt.

Final word

As is often the case, rules are never set in stone. With pieces in unusual colours – and in the case of shoes and belts, anything other than black or brown is considered ‘unusual’ – the safest approach is to make these the focal point of your outfit. Consequently, since there can only be one focal point, avoid having more than one piece in an unusual colour.

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Coordinating socks with shoes and trousers

Little thought tends to go into the choice of colour of one’s socks. Black socks with black shoes and brown ones with brown shoes, with a white pair to wear with sports shoes. Fairly simple, until you come across a pair of multi-toned shoes that you’d love to have, or one in an unusual colour. How do you coordinate the right pair of socks with it? Do black or brown socks go with any shoe colour?

Generally, the colour of one’s socks should be identical or very close to that of one’s trousers, rather than the shoes’. This avoids stopping the eye at the trouser-leg bottom, as opposed to the floor, where it should stop.

However, what if the trousers themselves are in an unusual colour? Would you wear mint socks with mint trousers? It might be a question of personal style but the combination looks a bit too coordinated. On the other hand, black or brown socks will contrast too much whilst also looking too wintry in comparison to the trousers.

Instead of socks that match your trousers, or the usual black/brown, go for colourful socks instead. Opt for a pair that includes a colour that’s identical or similar to the trousers’ and which ideally, also tie in with one of the colours in the shoes. If the trousers are bright, balance the intensity of the colour with socks in a mainly neutral palette or one that’s muted. Think of the socks as the link that leads to a gradual transition from trousers to shoes.

When wearing shorts, as one mostly does in summer, rather than focusing on the shorts’ colour, one’s socks (short socks, of course) should mainly tie in with the shoes’ colour scheme. On a pair of canvas lace-ups, rather than opting for white or black socks, go for a pair that’s contains a colour similar to that of the shoes. You probably wouldn’t want to coordinate your shoes with socks in a solid colour (unless the shoes are colourful or contain a pattern). When both socks and shoes are in a very similar colour, the combination will visually alter the shape of the shoe. By opting for colourful socks (not necessarily bright colours), it’ll be easier to distinguish socks from shoes.

Of course, there is always the option of no-show socks. This will make coordinating trousers/shorts and shoes much easier. However, socks can also serve as the style-piece that makes an outfit more interesting and reflective of personal style.

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How to coordinate braces with outfits

Braces do more than simply keep your trousers from sliding down. They are also a style-piece and for that reason, should be coordinated with the rest of your outfit. In this post, we’ll be looking at how to include braces in an outfit, giving particular consideration to colour and pattern.

Coordinating colours

An interesting outfit always includes one piece that stands out. It’s the centre-piece around which the rest of the outfit is built. Since braces aren’t everyone’s choice, they inevitably make a style-statement and will often end up being the centre-piece, regardless of how fancy or plain their design. That’s why it’s best to start with your braces and combine your other pieces with the pair you intend on wearing.

Serving as the background behind your braces, your shirt is the first element to coordinate with your braces. Neutral colours, white especially, are the easiest to pair with. Consider no other colours when putting together a formal outfit, opting for minimalist braces in black, white, or your suit’s colour.

However, for a more casual look, one could opt for an unusual shirt colour keeping the braces and trousers in a different colour for contrast, preferably a neutral colour. The same can apply if going for trousers that are either patterned or in an unusual colour. In that case, the shirt should ideally be in a neutral colour, acting as a buffer between the two interesting pieces of the outfit (braces and trousers).

men's braces white shirt

If the shirt is in a solid colour, contrast can also be achieved with patterned braces. In this case, choose one of the least dominant colours in the pattern and coordinate your shirt accordingly. Generally, braces and shirts in identical colours make a rather dull combination.

If your outfit also includes neckwear, braces in a solid colour can be combined with a tie or bow tie that are also in a solid colour, which is identical to the braces’. This is often the preferred combination for very formal outfits but will only work if worn on a white shirt. For a more interesting look, go for neckwear that is either in a shade similar but not identical to your braces’, or if in a different colour altogether, keep the braces in the same colour as your suit’s or trousers’ (if not wearing a suit).

When coordinating different pieces, it is generally best to stick to a maximum of four different colours, of which one can be a bright or unusual colour, the rest being classical/neutral. Also, if wearing leather braces, these should be in the same colour as your shoes – just like belts and shoes.

Coordinating patterns

Patterns add a playful tone to an outfit, making them more appropriate for smart casual or casual outfits, unless very subtle.

When wearing patterned braces on a patterned shirt, the only way to avoid a chaotic look is by aiming for contrast – just as with solid colours. Whilst the colours should always tie in, the patterns should vary considerably in intensity. If your shirt’s pattern is on the denser side, go for braces in a looser pattern, or the other way round. Again, to keep the two pieces visually distinct, opt for a shirt in a background colour that also features in the braces’ pattern but not prominently.

Braces

When coordinating patterned braces with patterned neckwear, going for the same pattern throughout will result in a too coordinated look, of the matching curtains and quilt kind. Ideally, opt for different patterns and again, in varying intensities. This will keep each piece visually distinct and balanced enough to keep the focus on only one piece.

Generally, unless it’s black or navy, going for neckwear and braces in different colours, even if just slightly will add texture and depth to an outfit, also making it visually more exciting.

Final Word

Of course these tips are not rules set in stone but are intended to make it easier to wear braces as a style-piece, as opposed to merely functional. That said, they should still serve their main purpose, that of keeping your trousers in place. Therefore, wearing braces and a belt together is the equivalent of wearing white socks on formal shoes.

Also, although the absence of belt loops makes a trouser waistband look neater (when worn without a belt), it is not unusual for men to wear braces on trousers with belt loops. On the other hand, if you only wear braces, it’s worth going for trousers that are intended to be worn with braces, as opposed to belts.

despite traditionalists wincing at the thought of wearing braces on trousers with belt loops, unless your aim is to impress one, no one will reproach you for doing so.

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A guide to men’s ties – Part II

Trump’s victory has left many bewildered. On Facebook and Twitter, personal analyses of what led to his victory are abundant but my guess is that many voters were won over by his power tie – what else? That iconic red tie was selected intentionally to portray him as a man of success and authority, because in the West, those are two qualities we associate with red. Of course, it’s not what really got him elected but because of its associations, colour is definitely an effective way of influencing people’s judgement.

In the second part of our guide to men’s ties, the focus will be on colour and pattern, specifically, what they are associated with, and which suit colours they can be best worn with.

Colour associations 

Against a light shirt and dark suit, which is the combination most men wear, the only distinctive element is the tie. It’s what sets a man apart from the rest and the first – if not the only – thing people will notice about his outfit. Since colour affects how people feel towards something, before even having really tried it or experienced it, a tie can influence people’s judgement about a person they do not really know. Therefore, it’s worth choosing a tie colour in a way that facilitates a favourable judgement, especially on occasions, such as job interviews, when such judgement could make a real difference.

Less aggressive than a red tie but one which also stands out and can represent vitality is green, such as bottle green. Like red, it’s a colour that tends to look too strong for a professional outfit – unless it’s a patterned tie. However, a grey or navy suit and light blue shirt will tone down the colour’s intensity for a more muted look. 

On the contrary, pastel colours are associated with tenderness and tend to have a calming effect. Consequently, a sky blue tie can give a man a softer look. Outside office politics, pastel ties are a great option for summer, especially on a light grey suit.

 Similarly, a yellow tie can make a man look more radiant and approachable. However, yellow is a colour that looks too dull on a white or light blue shirt, especially against a fair complexion, making it a better option as a background colour for a patterned tie, worn with a grey or blue suit. 

You might have noticed how most uniforms tend to include navy and/or burgundy. They’re two classical colours that tend to denote experience and therefore, reliability. Being easy to combine with grey, green, and blue suits, they are also the two most versatile tie colours a man could opt for. Burgundy is also one of the very few colours that pairs well with a black suit.

For the opposite effect, opt for a purple tie. However, it doesn’t mean it’ll make you come across as inexperienced. In terms of tie colours and menswear in general, purple is considered a modern colour and for that purpose, a rather bold option. Therefore, a purple tie can be associated with youth or a modern outlook. It’s a colour that is best worn with a navy, green or grey suit. 

In addition to black, silver and gold are other options to consider for evening events. Like anything that sparkles, they can be too dressy for the office.

Patterns

Like colours, patterns can also be associated with specific attributes and these can be further emphasised by one’s choice of tie colour. There are various patterns typically used in ties, each giving a different twist to an outfit.

Diagonal stripes are definitely a favourite. In addition to having a slimming effect, diagonal stripes can look both modern, interesting, and yet, still conservative enough to avoid an outfit from appearing too playful, something that’s not easily achieved with a tie in polka dots.

Paisley and plaid are two other options but which are not as popular as diagonal stripes, possibly because they can look too fancy or even slightly old-fashioned. However, that depends a lot on the colour scheme. A high contrast colour scheme can give a tie a more modern, bolder effect, whereas darker colours with minimal contrast can make it look like a more conservative option.

When combining colours, one should ideally limit himself to a maximum of three different colours (i.e. suit, shirt, and tie in a different colour). In the case of a patterned tie, that number can be exceeded. However, the tie’s colour scheme needs to tie in with the rest of the outfit. Therefore, one of the tie’s colours should be identical to that of the suit with the shirt acting as a buffer, usually in white or light blue but sometimes also pink.

Final note 

As mentioned earlier, the tie is often the first thing people notice about a man’s outfit. It’s very much the focal point. Consequently, it’s worth making the effort to not only make sure the size and length complement your frame but that the colour and pattern keep the outfit looking coherent, and if need be, enhance the message about yourself you are trying to get across.

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Pocket squares – all you need to know

 

A pocket square is personal. It’s one of those few elements in formal or semi-formal menswear, which offer a man the opportunity to express his unique style. Therefore, knowing the basics of how to wear a pocket square is critical, because at the end of the day, you want your choice of pocket square to reflect good taste and eye for detail. So here’s all you need to know about choosing a pocket square for an outfit. 

Fold 

A pocket square is intended to add a touch of nonchalance to an otherwise very structured outfit. Therefore, none of the points should look mathematically exact or flattened. What you want is a pocket square that seems to have been worn with minimal effort, yet of course, still looks neat.

Amongst the various folds available, the most common four are explained in the following video:

 

Personally, I find the more discreet ‘straight fold’ ideal for professional environments. The scallop-like shape is another daytime alternative – not so obviously dandy yet, doing away with the rigidity of the straight fold.

Regardless of the fold you opt for, your pocket square should be slightly angled toward the shoulder. This has the advantage of visually reinforcing the diagonal lines of the jacket’s lapel thus, enhancing the chest’s ‘V’ shape and also broadening the shoulders.

Size

How neatly a pocket square fits in the chest pocket will depend a lot on how well it fits. Pocket squares that are too large for your jacket’s chest pocket will result in an untidy bulge caused by the ‘extra’ fabric tucked in the pocket. On the other hand, a pocket square that’s too small, especially in a slippery fabric such as silk, is likely to keep sliding down the pocket, needing constant readjustment.

 If your jacket size is small, your ideal pocket square size is one of around 25cm.

 Fabric

Pocket squares are generally made from silk, linen, cotton, or synthetic fabrics, such as polyester. Whichever you choose should complement but not be identical to that of the tie/bow tie. If your tie is made from silk and has a shine, the pocket square should ideally have a matte effect. The difference in fabric gives the outfit more texture and balance, as opposed to making it look too coordinated.

Secondly, some fabrics lend themselves better to certain folds. Silk or polyester are softer thus, ideal for the ‘peaked’ or ‘pouffe’ folds. Stiffer fabrics, such as cotton and linen will give a better angular fold, such as the ‘straight fold’.

 Colour and pattern

 The worst one can do when matching a pocket square with a tie or bow tie is to go for an identical colour. As with your choice of fabric, the colour/s and pattern of your pocket square should complement those of your tie but never be identical. If the base colour of the tie is navy, that of the pocket square should be different but with hints of navy in the pattern. The link between the two should be there but it needs to be subtle.

Similarly, when combining a pocket square and suit, avoid identical colours and patterns.

Final word

Those are the basics of choosing a pocket square for an outfit. Now it’s up to you to adapt them to suit your personal style.

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Building a versatile wardrobe for the first year without a school uniform

What a relief it was to get rid of that dull, sad-looking school uniform. Those grey trousers, thick and heavy, you couldn’t wait to take off as soon as you got home and the blazer that was always too big at first and then too small but never quite your size. Having to no longer wear a uniform feels liberating. It’s something you’re quite excited about, though it does pose a few challenges at first.

To start with, you need more clothes than what you already have. Wearing the same pieces over and over again is not something you want to be known for. However, investing in a new wardrobe is always going to be quite an expense. That’s why you need to focus on getting versatile clothes that will enable you to combine multiple outfits, without anyone noticing they’re the same pieces you wore a few days earlier.

Before looking at the sections with the trendier pieces, get a few T-Shirts, shirts or polos in neutral colours, such as greys, navy, and black. You’ll also need a few shorts and chinos in the same colours – simple models in solid colours or at most, very subtle patterns. These are usually cheaper, meaning you’ll be able to get more of each. Their minimalist design and versatile colours make them easier to combine with other colours consequently, enabling you to create many more outfit combinations than is possible with pieces in trendier colours. Neutral colours also lend themselves well to different styles, meaning you can easily adapt an item to reflect your own personal style. 

The more particular an item’s colour, pattern, or style, the more restrictive it will be, in that it’s harder to be worn regularly without it being noticed by others. Only once you’ve got enough basics should you start adding pieces that are more unique 

 A good bag is also a worthwhile investment. Take it up a notch from the one you used for school by going for a stylish design, such as a minimalist model in faux leather or a synthetic material (depending on your budget), which is also light and comfortable. Backpacks are ideal for carrying heavy loads and are currently very trendy. Messenger bags are another popular alternative, as they can be spacious and contain a number of compartments.

Final word 

In addition to all the running around from one hall to another and getting lost in the maze of corridors, the first days at Sixth Form are about building a circle of friends. Therefore, making a positive first impression among other students is crucial and you know all too well how important your appearance will be in helping you do just that. Personal hygiene and a neat look will not only help you feel more confident but will also make it easier for others to see in you, someone they would like to have around. Remember, without the school uniform, you need to make a bit of extra effort, as your appearance is all about you.

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Combining coloured trousers with other colours

For so long, men’s trousers were only available in neutral colours with at most, a subtle pattern that distinguishes a trendy pair from a classical one. Nowadays, men have a much wider range of colours to choose from, some bright, some muted. However, neutral colours remain by far most men’s preferred choice, mainly because of the ease with which they can be combined with other colours. Trousers in non-traditional colours, such as red, yellow, green, and turquoise pose too much of a conundrum for those unsure of their colour-combination skills. Yet, such colours are actually very simple to combine. Here’s how.

Neutral colours

Combining neutral colours with your brighter trousers is always your safest bet. Going for another strong colour is almost certain to result in a clash of colour, that will make the outfit look disjointed. In case you’re not too sure if beige, grey, or navy will work well just go for white. That’s one colour that definitely blends well with any other. You needn’t stick to solid colours though. As long as the background is in a neutral colour, a patterned top will work just as well, especially if the pattern includes a hint of the trousers’ colour. It gives continuity to the outfit, without making it look too coordinated. This also applies to accessories e.g. pocket squares.

Contrast 

The monochrome look does not work well with trousers in brighter colours. They need tops in a lighter/darker colour to tone down the intensity of the colour. This is why neutral colours work so well with such trousers, as they keep the outfit looking balanced. However, other colours can also be combined, as long as there is some contrast between the lower and upper halves of the outfit.

Below are some colour options that I find work well with trousers in non-traditional colours. They are not the only combinations that work but are merely intended to illustrate the points above and help you get started. 

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Wearing colourful socks

 

Hats off to those men who dare be original in their choice of socks and do it with style. You rock! 

Most men, as did I till some time ago, consider socks as having a purely functional purpose – a necessity that nevertheless, should be barely noticeable. Hence, the norm to stick to conventional and neutral colours like black, brown, grey, and navy. Yet, hosiery is ultimately an accessory and like all other accessories can be used to give an outfit a bit of an edge and certainly, a personal touch. 

True, there is a very fine line between looking original in fancy socks and looking eccentric. The only way to incorporate funky socks successfully into an outfit, even a formal one, is to keep coherence between all the separate pieces. It needs to be clear that you put that pair on as a result of a style-decision and not because it’s your favourite cartoon character or even worse (or is it?), a random choice. 

Matching colours 

Your starting point should always be to match your socks’ dominant colour with that of your trousers and not the shoes. There might be exceptions to this, depending on the particular colour but generally, I recommend going with this rule. Socks in the same colour as the shoes combine to form a unitary block that stops the eye at the level of the trousers’ end, rather than drawing it further down to achieve that lengthening effect.

If wearing other accessories, such as a tie or pocket square, or even small detail on your shirt/top, I would go for socks in a colour scheme and pattern that echoes those of the other accessory/detail. What you should avoid at all cost, is having your socks looking disjointed from the rest of your outfit. That is where people will give you that ‘what on earth?’ look. 

As for how much colour to go for, well, that really depends on the outfit’s style. On a formal outfit you’d wear to the office, I would opt for a pair of socks in the same colour as the suit with subtle patterns and colour contrast. It’s not the place to make style statements – looking elegant and professional should be your aim here, keeping expressions of personal style minimal.

On the other hand, for something more casual, a colourful pair will not look out of place, of course as long as the colour scheme ties in with that of the outfit. Moreover, I would suggest to keep the main pieces (trousers and top) in a solid colour. This will maximise the impact of your socks, avoiding the separate pieces from clashing. You could still add a bit of colour/pattern through another accessory worn on your upper body e.g. a tie/scarf. In fact, this will keep you from only attracting attention to your feet.

Matching textures 

The second important element in hosiery is texture and combining this with that of your outfit gives a more unified look. Essentially, what this means is going for a pair of socks that are similar in thickness to that of the trousers, which itself should be chosen to complement that of the rest of the outfit. Therefore, if wearing trousers in a heavier wool, opt for socks that are not as fine as e.g. the silk pair you’d wear as part of a black tie outfit (whose silk echoes the silk on the jacket’s lapels and trouser sides). Apart from complementary texture, thick trousers (fabric) need bulkier socks to avoid the ankles looking too thin, just like thick socks will add too much bulk around the ankle when worn with trousers in a light and soft fabric.

Cannot not mention… 

I’m assuming if you continued reading till this point you already know this but no post on socks would be complete without mentioning that white socks are to be worn only for sports and open shoes, such as sandals are not to be worn with socks. If it’s hot enough for sandals, it’s too hot for socks.

Final word

So, those are the basics for combining socks with an outfit – matching the socks’ dominant colour with that of your trousers and the rest with any other accessories worn, and keeping the socks’ thickness similar to that of the outfit, especially the trousers.

Feeling confident enough to inject some happiness into your hosiery collection? Check out our range of hosiery in store.