Although our “PG essentials” series is primarily focused on beginners, the content can also be a great refreshment for the more seasoned gentleman.
On the menu today : socks, handkerchiefs and hats.
No matter the type of classic ensemble you choose, fabric accessories such as socks, pocket squares and hats can have two distinct roles depending on the context :
(1) To temper a strong ensemble : In the case of a visually striking outfit (e.g., large windowpane suit coat or jacket fabric, or large stripes), the right accessory will act as a softening element to balance a more daring look.
(2) To embolden a bland ensemble : In the case of a discreet outfit (navy blue suit, plain tie) the accessory will act as a small piece of extravagance, lending personality to an otherwise boring outfit.
A pair of socks are no longer an overlooked element in a man’s wardrobe.
A beautiful pair of knee-length socks on a gentleman is a discreet element, but one that make a definite impression. This is especially true when socks are used to accentuate an outfit according to its colors and motifs.
You should chose your socks based on two criteria : the color of your pants and the color of your shoes.
As far as socks are concerned, there are no absolute rules (except perhaps avoiding white socks (other than for sports), but choosing socks to complement your look offers an opportunity either to enhance or to soften your outfit.
While it was the general consensus a few years back that only dark socks (black or grey, burgundy for the boldest) were acceptable with a suit, the proverbial shackles on the stylistic possibilities offered by this simple accessory has been shattered. Socks with motifs and daring colors continue to be on the rise.
There are no rules set in stone for socks, as the combinations seem near-infinite, but bear in mind :
– A gentleman should always wear his socks knee-length. In some countries, men wear socks that stop just below the knee–sometimes making a cuff (as in Japan). whereas in other countries (like the US), socks are commonly worn only slightly above the calf.
– Socks should be harmoniously coordinated with both shoes AND pants. Don’t hesitate to take your time and try several combinations. As a rule of thumb, you should avoid brightly colored socks with formal black shoes.
– If you use socks to add a dash of color to brighten your outfit (like a nice burgundy sock on a brown shoe with blue pants), then favor solid colored socks without extravagant motifs.
– Or if you want to play with motifs, then do not forget to chose the scale of the motifs accordingly : for instance, trousers with windowpane checks will go well with socks sporting a similar check design in a smaller size (scale).
To read more on the subject, see the article The Ankle Question, Sock it to me.
THE HANDKERCHIEF (POCKET SQUARE)
The Handkerchief (or pocket square) is an accessory whose primary function is to provide a visual counterpoint.
A pocket square should never be too coordinated with the suit or tie – don’t be afraid of spending some time in front of the mirror trying out different combinations, as the possibilities are almost limitless.
Some tips :
– A burgundy handkerchief ( especially with madder motifs) will always go well with a blue suit.
– A white handkerchief is a must-have for formal events and ceremonies.
– A rust-colored handkerchief will work with almost everything (my personal favorite).
– Try to use the handkerchief to reference a minor color on your outfit – think of a color of a stripe on your shirt, or of the color of a detail on your tie.
Square-shaped and made from silk, cotton or linen, this little piece of fabric is referred to as handkerchief in its larger format (42 or 48 cm) or pocket square (30 cm) in its smaller version.
Tradition suggests that a gentleman possess two handkerchiefs :
– One in the breast pocket to serve a purely stylistic purpose.
– The other, well folded (and even lightly perfumed) in the side coat pocket, to serve a functional purpose.
Be prepared to present a nicely folded and lightly perfumed handkerchief to a lady letting go of a tear, or sneezing during an embarrassing situation – or to a friend needing to wipe his forehead. A simple gesture that everyone can do, but that can change the course of a meal, an evening, a day or a life (as we oft forget the potential of the most subtle gesture) .
There are no rules for your handkerchief choice, but try not to over-coordinate it with the rest of your outfit. A man should never put the emphasis on the effort he made preparing himself, but rather on developing talent and the pursuit of natural charm…
The handkerchief is a very delicate item, making for a perfect finishing touch to any outfit, even in the thick of summer.
To know more on the subject, see Dirnelli’s Ten Commandments of the Pocket Square.
Very popular up until the sixties, the hat soon after, fell out of favor, although it continues to attempt a timid comeback.
This classic element of men’s style was one used to communicate one’s position and status in society (bowler hats for instance were only worn by eminent members of the British society in the 20th century).
Nowadays, wearing a hat is anything but an inconspicuous choice. It requires assurance, working knowledge of the numerous codes and signs, as well as mastery of good manners.
Customs and good manners :
When entering a privately-owned space : Remove your hat upon entrance, whether the owner is there or not.
Greeting : It is mandatory to remove one’s hat when greeting a lady in a formal situation. Also remember to lift your hat slightly when saluting someone in the street. The latter rule is less important, but is a tell-tale show of respect and education.
In public spaces : In places you are only passing through (airports, hotels, train station…), it is not required to remove your hat. However, it is very elegant to remove one’s hat in an elevator, in a waiting room, or in a restaurant (where you may entrust your hat to the dressing room at the entrance).
In religious places : It depends on the faith — you should bare your head in a Christian church, whereas you should cover your head in a mosque or a synagogue. For funerals, the same rules tend to apply depending on your religion.
To read more on the subject, see the article The Way you wear your Hat.