Analyzing Menswear Styles
Giving In-Depth Style Tips with Authentic Photographs
It can be a struggle to remember all the rules regarding men's styling and finding a thorough and cohesive guide never comes easily. Many style guides only cover the basic rules of styling, fall short of explaining why they exist, and often write their own rules for styling, making it extremely hard to distinguish traditional rules from personal opinion.
This article will look at authentic photographs of people's clothing styles and note the stylistic achievements and mistakes of each.
The Color Wheel
The basic functionality of the color wheel should be covered before anything else.
The color wheel is like the Period Table of the Elements in science, but for art. Each color is strategically placed to relate to every other color in some way or form. There are some basic color theory terms that should be understood when styling.
Primary Colors (red, yellow, blue) and Secondary Colors (green, orange, purple) are triadic schemes composed of colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. Complementary Colors are colors that are positioned opposite each other on the wheel. Analogous Colors are colors that are positioned adjacent to each other on the color wheel.
There are, of course, more intricate schemes for color coordination, but mastering them comes with time.
This is a good example of impeccable color coordination. Sarah Ann Murray maintains a dominantly blue ensemble but includes red and gold to complete the triadic color scheme on the color wheel.
She does a beautiful job blending casual jeans with a formal shirt, waistcoat, jacket, and tie to create a fresh personal style that falls between the lines of style. She also opts for a slim-fit jacket to exhibit her natural feminine silhouette.
Murray also adheres to the traditional rules of men's suit styling quite well. Her jacket lapels are well-proportioned to her frame, and her choice of peak lapels matches the dandification of her ensemble. Her tie width matches that of the lapels, and the tie knot fits correctly with the type of collar she is wearing. A more nuanced rule in traditional men's styling concerns her tie bar.
It is correctly fitted to her tie in the sense that it falls slightly short of matching the width of her tie and is angled downward to avoid creating an abrupt horizontal line on her upper-body. The patterned shirt and tie give her ensemble a dandified style but are well-balanced by the solid jacket, trousers, and hat. The Winchester shirt (contrast collar and cuff) adds flair to her ensemble, and the white boutonnière and pocket square complement the white of this shirt.
There are only a few issues with this ensemble, one of them being that the waistcoat is either not long enough, or her trousers are not high enough. The purpose of a waistcoat is to cover the midsection of a person's body. Any part of the shirt at the midsection and trouser waistband should never be seen.
The buttons on her jacket and waistcoat appear to be black, and if I am correct in this assumption, her belt and shoes must be of this same color. Ideally, since this is a daytime ensemble, it would be best to exchange the jacket and waistcoat buttons for brown or navy buttons. Brown buttons, however, would limit her to only wearing these pieces during the day and with brown shoes, while navy buttons would allow her to wear them at any time of day with brown or black shoes.
The level of detail and sophistication with this ensemble override the two mistakes of this piece which would usually go unnoticed by the untrained eye anyway.
I should start by praising certain aspects of Tom Holland's tuxedo that are in good taste. His jacket follows the conventional rule by taking straight slit pockets (also called besom, pipped, or jetted), and molds exceptionally well to his body.
My critique concerns the new style for the double-breasted suit jacket button stance. The main issue with this style is its impairment of the natural male physique. The naturally preferred silhouette of a man is that of an inverted triangle. It is called the mesomorph body type; broad shoulders, a large chest, and smaller waist biologically symbolize strength and athletic ability.
The button stance of this new style pushes the waist buttons out and the chest buttons in resulting in the creation of two parallel lines traveling straight down from the shoulders to the waistline. This hides the broad structure of the shoulders and blends the midsection and chest to appear to be the same size. This makes the upper half of the body look boxy and stiff.
The Martini jacket (worn by Tom Hiddleston) is the traditional and better-looking version of the double-breasted jacket. This jacket's wider chest buttons and closer waist buttons align with the broadness of the chest and slim nature of the waist helping emphasize the mesomorph structure.
I would also like to point out that Tom Holland is not wearing a pocket square, and jackets, especially tuxedos, should always have a pocket square. A white pocket square in a presidential fold is the most neutral and classic option.
I appreciate and respect the designer for experimenting with a new style modification, but only a few ever work well.
This, I believe, is a brilliant twist on the conventional tuxedo. It keeps to the traditional form and styling rules of a tuxedo but experiments with fabric.
Keeping to the traditional silhouette and structure of a tuxedo, Jacob's jacket has well-proportioned satin shawl lapels. His shirt fits well, and the widespread collar matches the wide-angle of the black satin bowtie. The hidden shirt placket and low-opening waistcoat elevate the formality of the tuxedo.
The blue and green of the plaid fabric pair nicely due to the fact that they are cool analogous colors on the color wheel.
He adds satin on the sleeve cuff of the jacket and uses a bold fabric for a more dandified ensemble.
Another beautiful photo of Tom Hiddleston implementing color, pattern, and texture theory.
This color palette consists of brown, grey, black, and white, creating a neutral tone. The patterns on each clothing article share the same theme of a straight line expressed in different forms: chalk-stripe, gingham, and large plaid.
The tie, suit, and pocket square are made of worsted wool making for a nice winter suit.
The tie bar is correctly fitted to his tie falling about half an inch short of matching the width of the tie.
Along the lines of fit, Hiddleston's choice of a slim fit suit conforms to the contour of his body and exhibits his mesomorph build.
At first glance, this tuxedo may appear to be correct in style; there is a presence of satin, it is well-fitted, and the shirt is fastened by studs.
This garment, however, fails to earn my recognition as a tuxedo for a very serious reason: the lapels. The notch lapel is the most casual and common lapel for suits and should never be seen on formalwear. Tuxedos should have either peak or shawl lapels.
Stanley Tucci plays with the pattern and formality of his suit for a refreshing ensemble.
The two patterns being utilized (gingham and check) have a recurring square motif but are employed in a different size and structure.
The double-breasted shawl lapel waistcoat, solid silk tie, and jacket ticket pocket add a level of formality to this look, but a casual tone is introduced with the notch lapels and bold suit and shirt pattern, effectively creating a dandified day suit.
Unfortunately, this photograph falls as an example of a poorly styled suit. I mean no offense to the man wearing this suit, but there are multiple issues here.
Firstly, the lapels are far too small for Graf. Well-proportioned lapels extend at their widest point about halfway across the chest but may miss or exceed this mark slightly to add character. Lapels, in no case, should ever be extremely slim or extremely wide.
The tie does not match the size of the lapels. The tie knot is too large for the collar being worn and is not pulled tight enough. This bulky knot dominates the neck area bringing attention away from his face and making the lapels appear even smaller.
The tie bar is too big for the tie and is too high. The purpose of a tie bar is to hold the tie close to the body and keep it from getting in the way. When worn too high, the bar's original function is obstructed, and it becomes a useless ornament. Tie bars should be a quarter or half the width of the tie and never match the tie width exactly.
Another issue worth mentioning is the fact that the buttons of the jacket are black and his shoes and belt aren't. I will give Graf credit for matching his shoes and belt, one rule many fail to follow, but matching button color is just as important. It appears that this premiere is taking place in the evening which fuels the argument that he shouldn't be wearing brown shoes at all, not even mentioning the fact that they don't fit the formality of his ensemble. But now moving to formality, everyone should realize that shoes are crucial to elevating or depleting the formality of an ensemble and that they should always be chosen with intention.
There are no words for this masterful photograph. The color, pattern, and fabric texture coordination is impeccable.
There are no serious issues with this photos, but I would like to make a note on the proper buttoning of jackets, waistcoats, and overcoats. One of the most basic rules in suiting is to never button the bottom button of any single-breasted garment, regardless of how many buttons it has.
There is, however, more controversy surrounding the rule of buttoning double-breasted garments. It goes more unnoticed when people button all the buttons on their double-breasted articles, but I believe that all garments should follow this general rule. Leaving the last button (the lowest button closest to the jacket edge) unbuttoned also gives the wearer more mobility, something especially helpful in a garment that naturally restricts movement.
A perfect pairing of earth tones in varied shades only uses three different colors: green, red, and brown. In relation to the color wheel, red and green are complementary color schemes and create brown when mixed together.
The bold check of the suit takes center stage as the main pattern but is complemented well by the small polka dot tie.
This photograph serves as a good styling example as well as a platform to mention the way in which suspender should be employed.
Blue and red are part of the triadic scheme of primary colors, and the grey trousers provide for a neutral addition to the ensemble.
The collar bar adds a nice touch to the overall look, and the tie rests perfectly in line with his frame with the blade lightly kissing the top of his waistband.
I would like to note that proper suspenders should never be clipped but rather buttoned to the inside of the trouser waistband. Suspenders were designed solely for the purpose of holding the wearer's trousers up and eliminating the bulk that would be caused by the presence of a belt. This means that the wearer's trousers should fit somewhat loosely, have a longer rise, and be worn up at the natural waist, not the hips.
It is becoming increasingly easier to distinguish suspenders being worn out of necessity or as a fashion statement, and it is important to understand what makes each style different so you can embrace or avoid unwanted trendiness accordingly.
Tom Payne masters the art of experimenting with tints, hues, and shades. The pink overcoat and rust suit jacket pair well because their pure forms (orange and red) are warm analogous colors on the wheel. Mastering the pure colors on the color wheel is the first step in styling. Tints, hues, and shades expand the wheel immensely providing different variations across the different color forms.
The neutral black and white patterned shirt avoids altering the color scheme but effectively adds character to the ensemble. The red and black boutonnière borrows from the already established color palette adding a nice touch.
I hope this article helped better your understanding of how and why such styling rules exist. Some of the analysis is, of course, more opinion-based than others, and you are entitled to your own opinion.
(Please do not be offended if I used your photo or a photo that you are particularly fond of to critique. All of these photos were used with the intention of serving as a teaching and learning experience.)