Ask Alan - Spring 2006

My suits are in conservative colors, mostly gray and navy. Can I wear brown shoes with any of them? Is there a rule here?

This question has been coming up for years. In fact, in my most recent book, Dressing the Man, I reprinted an editor’s response to a similar inquiry from a reader that appeared in a 1936 issue of Apparel Arts magazine. That was around the time the leather antiquing process was refined to the point that wearing dark-brown shoes with dressy worsted wear became accepted.  Today, pairing dark brown leather footwear, preferably antique polished , with navy or dark gray suitings is not only desirable among Boston’s Brahmins and today’s Milanese, it’s considered de rigueur. Just as any article placed on a polished mahogany tabletop immediately acquires an expensive aura, burnished brown footwear invests all fabrics with an intangible richness. Naturally, such footwear invites the donning of navy and brown furnishings, which, for the brown haired man’s complexion, promotes an unmatched elegance and individuality.

I’m thinking about trying a double-breasted suit, but I’m not sure if the look is right for me. Which physical types look best in a double-breasted jacket?

Because of its pointed diagonal lapels, the double-breasted suit flatters all body types. When cut with a lapel shaper that could roll through the waistline, its longer lapel line curries favor even with the short-and-stout set. The DB’s one drawback is that its overlapping fronts look tidier when squared up; to exploit its inherent swagger, the jacket needs to be worn buttoned. As for its style status, the double-breasted suit is to the single-breasted what the pleated pant is to the plain-front: incrementally more stylish.

I like my shirt cuffs to be exposed when I wear a tailored jacket, but it doesn’t always work out that way. What’s going on? Are my jacket sleeves too long or my shirtsleeves too short?

The band of linen between the jacket sleeve and hand is another stylistic gesture of the well-turned-out man. But most men wear their shirtsleeves too short and their jacket sleeves too long. Just as the jacket’s collar should reveal at least a half-inch of shirt collar, so should a half-inch of shirt cuff show below the jacket cuff. The jacket sleeve should extend to where the wrist breaks with the hand. If the sleeve length and cuff fit correctly, you should be able to extend your arm in any direction without the cuff pulling away from your wrist. Unfortunately, traditional ready-to-wear shirtsleeve cuffs are made to fit any size wrist and watch, so the only way to properly dress individual hands is to have shirts made to order.


–Taken from Menswear Magazine Spring 2006