A certain gesture we choose to perform, like straightening a necktie or adjusting the shirt sleeve to show underneath the jacket sleeve, can be viewed as being ‘absurd’ as much as it can be viewed as being ‘meaningful’. This dichotomy of seeing something as being absurd while at the same time being meaningful is the very nature of what can be described as a ritual.
Angela Carter, in the short story entitled Burning Your Boats, made the point well in terms of describing the paradox that the word ‘ritual’ represents:
“[Humans] live only in a world of icons and there they participate in rituals which transmute life itself to a series of grand gestures, as moving as they are absurd.”
Many of us are attracted to the idea of a ritual (or ceremony with a number of actions in a prescribed order), which can lend a sense of stability and comfort while conveying a feeling of a secret rite of passageway towards a quest.
Whatever your view on the meaningfulness of the ritual, a ritual can also be functional and useful to accomplish small goals or big objectives in an efficient way.
Here, we examine the usefulness of a one-minute ritual for those who enjoy dressing up and like the emotion of refinement that dressing well can create.
Consider a photograph that captures one adjusting a pocket square or gently tugging at the fastening-button on a suit coat. Such a photo can be more captivating than a picture of someone in a suit standing alone doing nothing but attempting a good facial expression.
While these motions described above make for nice pictures, a series of sensible checkpoints strung together to form a ritual can help eliminate worries during the day such as ‘whether your tie is correct’ or ‘whether your shoes are scuffed’ or ‘whether your pocket square has disappeared inside your chest pocket’.
To reduce the impulse of adjusting your look throughout the day, consider the following one-minute ritual as a way to quickly double-check a few nuances of good suiting. With this one-minute ritual, you will not only reduce the amount of energy it takes to checkover your ensemble throughout the day, but also will build your knowledge of what makes a good shirt and a good suit–which can translate into better buying decisions in the future.
Here’s an example of how one may check the details of a suit ensemble in about one minute.
1. Shirt collar rests under suit coat lapel.
2. Tie strap around the neck is well-tucked under shirt collar.
3. Necktie dimple-split-tuck is in place.
4. Pocket square is pulled up and slightly exaggerated to allow for sinking into pocket.
5. A suit brush or lint roller “spot cleans” to remove lint or stray hairs.
6. Two swipes each on front and back of each shoe with a shoe-brush for a quick buff.
7. Shirt is tucked around perimeter of waist.
8. If there is a collar gap on suit coat, adjust throughout the day by tugging down on the front of the suit coat to close the empty space between the shirt collar and suit collar. (Try to get rid of such problematic jackets or have them altered for correction).
9. Final motion: shirt sleeves are pulled down and exposed past the suit coat sleeves.
To recap, we elaborate below for those who are interested in more details.
NECK AND CHEST AREA (15 seconds)
1. No Fly-Away Shirt Collar
For the sake of proportions and to preserve a clean flow of your ensemble, make sure your shirt collar rests underneath the lapels of your suit coat.
However, if the outline of the shirt collar is exposed, simply make sure the collar is pressed firmly against the shirt with a collar pin, a tab collar, or with the nice feature of a hidden button underneath the collar which fastens the collar to the shirt.
Push your tie or bowtie strap underneath your shirt collar so that no tie material is exposed. The exception, of course, is if your shirt collar is designed to show the tie strap on purpose.
Do you prefer no dimple, a single or double dimple on your tie knot? Do you like your tie blade to show or not? Do you tuck your tie into your trousers or not? Quickly scan for your personal detail preferences.
4. Prevent the Pocket Square Slump
Slightly exaggerate your pocket square by pulling it up high enough to allow it to gradually sink-down into your breast pocket during the day (without disappearing altogether).
BODY CHECK AND SHOE SWIPE (30 seconds)
5. De-lint yourself
Spot de-lint your suit with a suit brush or lint roller from head to toe to remove stray hairs, lint and debris.
6. Buff Shoes
Grab a shoe brush and swipe each shoe (front and back) a few times for a fast touch up.
SHIRT TUCK — COLLAR GAP CHECK — EXTEND SHIRT SLEEVES (15 seconds)
7. Shirt Tuck
Do a 360° re-tuck of your shirt to smooth surfaces around your waist and beneath your trousers.
8. No Collar Gap !
no collar gap
If you have collar gap behind the neck (between your shirt collar and suit coat) and you choose not to change your suit, there are still a few actions you can take to improve the situation:
– Grasp the bottom of your suit coat and pull the front of the coat forward to close the collar gap. This may be an annoying practice, but is a gesture which is easy enough to do when meeting someone for the first time or just prior to being photographed.
– Wear a wider-spread shirt collar to lessen the appearance of the gap.
– Wear a scarf over your shirt / under your suit coat to cover the gap.
Once you become aware of the collar gap problem, you can avoid buying or commissioning suits with this issue.
The man in the photo is raising his arms. In this instance, the appearance of the collar gap could have been minimized if the arm holes on the suit were cut smaller and the arm holes were positioned higher on the coat. A smaller armhole and higher-placed armcyse (armhole) allows the suit-wearer to move around freely, while the suit “stays in place”. You can experiment with your own suits to demonstrate the point. Push the fabric on your suit coat “up” under your arms and notice how much easier it is to move around without your suit shifting in position.
Unfortunately, the collar gap occurs on many coats even without the arms raised. Once you know to look for the issue, you can make better buying decisions by avoiding suits with collar gaps.
9. Extend Shirt Sleeves
Reach under your suit sleeves and pull your shirt sleeves down to show around one inch or so of the shirt sleeve (your suit coat sleeve should be cut at or around the wrist bone). Pulling the shirt sleeve down past your suit coat sleeve can be a pleasurable motion to signal that your ritual is complete and you are ready-to-go.
FINAL NOTE ON POSING FOR PHOTOGRAPHS
Instead of just “standing there” each time you are photographed, why not have a little fun by performing some of the above described gestures while you are photographed, like:
– adjusting your pocket square,
– straightening your tie,
– buttoning the waist-button of your suit coat,
– pulling one of your shirt sleeves out so the sleeve will be exposed beneath your suit coat sleeve.