How To Accessorize Your Suit

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By now, we should all know that the suit undoubtedly makes the man.  But have you ever wondered what makes the suit?  Sure, granted your suit should be tailored and crisp, but a blazer and a pair of pants aren’t really going to make you stand out in a crowd all by itself.  It’s the accessories that will not only personalize your look, but further your suit’s dapperness.  Ever see a sharply dressed man and wonder if he used his Black Card or his Platinum Visa…but only to find out that he paid peanuts for his suit?  Well, ask any fashion-savvy individual, and they will tell you that one of the secrets in the fashion world is: a poorly put together outfit can make even the most expensive suit look terrible.  But, a person can take a suit that cost them next to nothing and make it look like a million dollars.  And that’s not only for suits, it’s the mantra in fashion.  Period.

So, we will guide you through the most common men’s accessories so that the next time you wear your suit, you’ll look like you spent a person’s lifetime savings on your outfit…when you really didn’t.

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neckwear

This should really be a no-brainer for most as neckwear is synonymous with suits.  Despite the significance that neckwear plays in suits, many men loathe the fact that it exists in menswear.  That shouldn’t be the case.  Neckwear not only compliments your outfit, but it adds a whole lot of panache to your look and personality.  Now depending on the type of neckwear, it could either convey an aura of classicism or of casual elegance.  See, that’s the beauty with neckwear, that one piece of material around your neck…determines the mood you are in.  So experiment with your neckwear, and don’t just limit it to suits…wear them casually as well!

Tie:

3sixteen-tiesThe most common and classic route to take with neckwear.  The tie can be traced back to the time of the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) when Croatian mercenaries from the Military Frontier in French service, wearing their traditional small, knotted neckerchiefs, aroused the interest of the Parisians.  The new article of clothing started a fashion craze in Europe where both men and women wore pieces of fabric around their necks.  Today, it is a sign of a chic and mature gentleman.  Always buy silk ties, anything else will look cheap.  When choosing a tie, make sure that you have a particular suit and shirt in mind to match.  If you are wearing a black (or navy) suit with a white dress shirt and attending functions that are more conservative, then a solid black tie is always the number one choice.  Fun dinners and parties leave more room for coloured and patterned ties.  Consider dots, stripes, or other bold patterns.  Bright stripes in mixes of red, blue, and green, are in at the moment.  But keep in mind, when venturing out to patterns and vibrant colours, always ensure that it is not pulling away from both the suit and shirt, it should in fact enhance them both.

Whatever you do, make sure to tie your ties correctly.  A badly-tied ties are as distracting and unrefined as socks bunched around your ankles or pants that are too short.  A crooked tie can absolutely ruin an otherwise perfect outfit.  It’s right below your face, so everyone will notice it, for better or for worse.

Perfect black suit white shirt skinny tieFinally, skinny ties have been on the scene for some time, and they will be sticking around for quite a bit longer.  They may be challenging to wear, but they have a distinctive look that makes them a favourite.  A tiny bit geek, a tiny bit chic, skinny ties have an attitude that’s all their own.  Wear your skinny ties with an equally modern suit.  Your look won’t be the same if you’ve got a big, boxy suit from past seasons.  Wear a suit with a newer updated shape to show off your skinny tie to its fullest.

Bowtie:

For a long time, those who wore bowties were depicted as milquetoasts or mamma’s boys.  This situation has slowly changed and bowties have begun to re-emerge as symbols of intellectual rakishness and individual dressers.  Sure, they are not overly common for day wear, but when worn in public they do carry a certain intellectual air.  Sill, apart from being paired with a dinner jacket, many men are still afraid to tie one on.

BowTies-leadFor more formal occasions, a solid and rich looking bowtie is a must.  Black, navy blue, and if you want to be more adventurous, a dark purple or burgundy bowtie will do the trick.  Silk or velvet are the only choices!  Now, for daytime wear, the rule is that it must be patterned.  Always shop for dots, stripes or paisley.  Colours should be sober and darker in tone; forest green rather than apple green and claret rather than blood red.  The reason for this is to turn the bowtie into something which is not screaming for attention, but rather standing silently still.  The idea of this simple revolution is to remove the comical bowtie from the limelight of the Big Top and to forge a new association with the stylish gentlemen of the day.

090309-these-boots-paris-rue-saint-honore-1Bowties look youthful when worn properly and they can brighten up almost any outfit.  Wear a bowtie with a sharp, slim-fit suit for an on-trend cut with an eccentric dash.  Or wear a bowtie with a casual collar and a cable crew neck for a ‘relaxed academic’ look.  Bowties can also prep-up plain spring outfits of short sleeved shirts, tailored shorts and blazers.  The key is to avoid overdoing a look with a bowtie; keep pocket squares to a visual minimum and try not to colour match too much.

Ascot:

Always indicative of sartorial splendor, the Ascot began 300 years ago at the famed Ascot Heath horse race (hence, the name) held every April since 1771.  Symbolizing the glory days of earlier decades, the Ascot is now geared toward the younger man who wants a chance to express himself elegantly for the 21st century.  Ascots tie have a comfortable yet polished look, and are a lightly inventive and rather unusual way to accessorize.

ascot2To tie an ascot, pull the ascot around the back of your neck as you would a tie.  Allow the left end to hang a little more than two inches longer than the right.  Wrap the left end one and a half times over the right.  Continue around, as if you were going to complete a second turn, but push the left end up, through the neck loop, so it emerges over the top.  Make the top flap the only visible portion of the ascot, and spread this cascade out a bit at the sides. There should be small creases in the ascot.  Undo the top button of your shirt and tuck the ends of the ascot into the opened front of your shirt and centre it.  For the finishing touch, you can secure your ascot with a stick pin.

Ascots can be worn with most formal wear, including tuxedos, button-down shirts, and blazers.  Contrasting looks are very flattering, so try a darker coloured ascot with a lighter coloured shirt or vice versa.  But, be careful when wearing your ascot, it’s a great and unusual look, but it won’t go with everything.  Avoid ascots with crewnecks and heavy or bulky sweaters.

footwear

BGN0CYD_mnMost men treat footwear as an afterthought, which naturally risks derailing even the most carefully considered outfit.  Before even thinking about a tie and shirt combination, a man should take stock of what is going on his feet.  Footwear will elevate your look from plain-looking to spectacular.  Nothing works in more situations and paired with more outfits than black leather, whether lace-up or slip-on.  Black footwear can go with virtually any colour suit you have.  The other colour that most suits will also accept is brown/burgundy, with the exception of a black suit.  The darker the shade the more formal the shoe.  Now, for more formal occasions, black patent lace-ups are the way to go.  They add a little oomph to your tux/suit; and you can wear these patent lace-ups for less formal occasions also!  For the slimmer fit suit, ensure that your footwear is slim as well.  When a man is in a slim-fit suit, and his shoes are wide and chunky, it throws off the entire look.

Shoe Styles:

Brogues – A brogue is a pattern created by punching holes into the shoe. Brogues can be half brogue, full brogue, or medallion brogue.  The first two are self explanatory and the last is when the brogue pattern is all around the toe of the shoe.

Buck Oxfords – A buck oxford is a more casual shoe which is not made from the traditional leather.  Wear this on casual Friday or to a dress down occasion.

Cap-Toe Oxfords – Cap-toe Oxfords are dress shoes with a toe that is sectioned off with a separate leather portion.  These shoes are dressy enough for the office but not for a formal occasion.

Chukkas – Chukkas are dress boots used in both formal and informal situations.

Penny Loafers – Penny loafers are slip on shoes that can be worn casually and possibly to the office.  The defining attribute on these shoes is the slit at the instep.

Plain Loafers – Plain loafers are another for of slip on shoe with no defining features whatsoever.  The leather will dictate how formal this shoe is.

Side Gusset – The side gusset is a slip on shoe with elastic sides for a nice snug fit.  These shoes can be worn to any occasion.

Split-Toe Oxfords – Split-toe Oxfords are a bulky shoe with stitching at the centre.  These are nice shoes for office wear.

Tassel Loafers – Tassel loafers are slip on loafers with dangling leather florets.

Wing Tips – Wing tips are men’s dress shoes with a brogue wing patters on the toe.  These shoes are great for casual wear and business wear.  Do not wear these in strict formal occasions.

socks

Such a simple detail, hidden under slacks or jeans, you might think that socks have nothing to do with a stylish look.  While it is unlikely they will be the key to a winning an outfit, the wrong socks for men can go a very long way at wrecking an otherwise smashing ensemble.  An outfit is only as nice as its weakest accessory, they say, and a nice pair of socks can add another subtle touch to refine and distinguish your look.

socks-sartorialColour:

While white are fine for the gym, they never work for dressy occasions with dark pants and shoes.  For these situations, choose dark socks that match your pants. For the office, brown or beige work under khakis.  The men’s socks should blend harmoniously into the visual line created by the pants leg.  If you are wearing a grey suit and black shoes, go with dark gray instead of black.  Brightly coloured are best reserved for sports attire or casual situations.  Argyle and other patterns are generally not considered to be elegant or modern, but on the right guy and with the right outfit, they can be unique, sexy, and attention getting.  A slight glimpse of something out-of-the-ordinary under a pants cuff can be alluring.  Patterns can go very well with tweed or houndstooth coats.  Stripes or dots can offset similar elements in the shirt or tie.  Beyond this, reserve patterned socks for plain suits.  Likewise, avoid pairing patterned socks with a patterned suit.  This will create a busy, complicated, unflattering look.  One must always create contrast between the suit and accessories.

Fit:

When selecting socks for a formal occasion, make sure you pick a pair that stay up.  Socks that bunch around your ankles and require you to fiddle with and tug at them definitely ruin a look of refinement and grace.  Cotton and nylon or lycra blend socks have a good amount of stretch and memory and will stay put around your calves.   Wearing over-the-calf socks with formal dress will ensure that they do not slump and bunch.

Texture:

Subtle ribbing or stitching detail can add exactly the touch of class and elegance you want.  While the detailing of the men’s socks should not compete with the texture of the suit, pants, or shoes, a light touch can do wonders.  Silk socks with a slight luster complement tuxedos and other fine formal wear.  With a heavier wool winter suit, thicker wool socks are appropriate.  In general, the thinner the sock, the more formal it is.  For instance, thick cabled or ribbed should be worn with more relaxed outfits.

cuff links

mcl906sgo_a_pMens cuff links are some of the most underrated pieces of men’s fashion on the market today.  A small piece of metal connecting the end of the sleeve together might not seem like much but it really makes a difference.  The cuff link is like the dot on the top of the i, just one of those details that should not be overlooked.  They are a great way to show some character and to convey your personality.  Look for a color that matches your skin colour and your shirt.  Your options for colour are limited to silver and gold so it shouldn’t be too hard for you.  Experiment with cuff links as they are really up to you and your tastes.  But, be careful though.  By all means have fun, express yourself, but don’t go overboard.  The fine line between creative and tacky is too easily crossed.  Tiffany & Co., has sterling silver links that can be hand engraved with your initials; perfect for any occasion and wonderfully personal. Sometimes, however, the best choice is often a pair of simple silk knots.

belts

skinny-dress-belt-2Men’s belts are such simple accessories; you wouldn’t think choosing them would require much thought.  It doesn’t have to, but since the little details have a lot to do with the impact of your overall look, going beyond the basics can help you distinguish yourself style-wise and avoid common mistakes that dull otherwise good looks.  Now, one thing that needs to be stated.  Big buckles do nothing to the outfit.  In fact, they ruin the look of it, especially on a slim fitted suit.  They don’t look good with a suit, nor casually.  Simplicity is key to menswear.

For summer, light-coloured suits or a combination of blazer and pants, one dark and one light, works well.  Try a sand-coloured suit with brown belt and shoes (just as your socks should always match your pants, your belt should always match your shoes).  For a more pulled-together look, go with black pants, a colourful striped shirt, light grey blazer, and black belt and shoes. Dressier belts are pretty much always brown or black, ranging from smooth to braided, woven, or embossed.  A bit of texture can complement an outfit without much pattern.  When wearing busier shirts, though, choose a belt with little to no texture.  A brown/black reversible belt is a cost-effective and perfectly acceptable choice for your wardrobe.  A belt of high quality should last you a lifetime.

For dressy occasions, black belt and shoes are the way to go.  To increase panache, focus colour and attention-drawing details in the tie, handkerchief, or jewelry.  You want to keep a more formal look crisp and modern, so be sure to reflect this with your choice of belt.  In general, avoid textured or decorated belts for formal occasions.

the pocket square

classic_pocket_square_thumbThe pocket square is a pocket handkerchief used for purely decorative purposes.  It began life as a small square of material used for wiping one’s nose, probably during the middle ages in England.  The material from which they are made could vary according to their powers of absorption and the wealth of the owner, the more prosperous using silk.

When utilized for decorative purposes there are various ways of folding a handkerchief to place in the breast pocket of men’s suits.  Each method produces a different effect which can be chosen to match the occasion.  Folds are given flamboyant names such as the presidential, the one, two, three or four point folds and the puff.  Each are designed to look different when placed in the top pocket.

0715squares.2Adding colour or merely texture to the top pocket is a splendid way to smarten and sophisticate the ever-so-common two or three button jacket.  At first, you will sneer into the mirror, perhaps expelling a guffaw or two, at how ridiculous you look but this is, but it is merely a temporary feeling of awkwardness.  Over time you will come to appreciate how well a pocket square finishes a look and how, possibly, it has changed your perspective on complementation, coordination and polish.

It is very rare to wear a square in a business environment, due to the fact that it creates an informal impression.  It is certainly the case that they are more often displayed at social events.  However if worn to a board meeting, the more subtle and discreet square would be appropriate.

money clip

tiffany-money-clip-Q008Keeping your suit pants thin with a wallet, cell phone, and set of keys can be difficult.  This bright invention is compact, lightweight, and will take some of the burden off removing keys from your keyring.  This little invention is spring loaded and can hold up to thirty bills and five credit cards.

There are as many different kinds of money clips as there are people needing to bind their money together, and all are highly popular.  You really can’t go wrong with your choice in the money clip area.  Money clips handed down from grandfather to son are the best, but there are very popular money clips on the market now which are made in the likeness from everything from monopoly money to gold engraved bar clips.  Titanium and sterling silver, rather than gold, are more popular today, and titanium over all.

Also popular is the rubber band style of money clip, which stretches to hold several credit cards and bills.  They have a flat surface across the front, which can have an emblem or an engraving on it.  Engraving, by the way, is making a comeback.  Masculine money clips with monogrammed initials are also making a comeback, whether in silver or gold.

related links

How To Adhere To Dress Code

How To Find The Perfect Suit

How to Maintain Your Dress Shoes

How to Shave Properly (and avoid those annoying bumps!)

How to Rock a Bowtie.

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Grown Man Shoes

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The “Toronto” Sartorialist

Micro Pattern Shirts

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Spring-Summer 2009 Trends Guide