Friday, September 7, 2007

Just Dandy: Accents Better Placed


After a surfeit of runway fashion, it is refreshing indeed to return to the hallowed precincts of enduring, classic male style. Not for me, though, the Beau Brummells, the Robert de Montesquious, the Gilbert Osmonds and the more tarnished of dandydom; rather, the quiet, studied elegance – the painterly placement of the most appropriate detail – of a Jamesian hero: Hyacinth Robinson from The Princess Casamassima or Spencer Brydon from "The Jolly Corner." Or, for those of you allergic to Henry James, the Prince of Salina from Lampedusa's Il Gattopardo. Nevertheless, I am trying to explore the personal style of such a man. Everything about him is tailored, but with a nonchalance which makes him immune to mere vanity. The tone of his casual and formal dress is timeless, undiverted by the currents of trend. He is not a spendthrift. He looks and smells good. His hair is coiffed. His beard is trimmed. His shoes, while not of a military-grade shine, are cared-for. His suit fits. He sees no advantage in claiming membership in that band of men who deem personal style as prissy or unmanly. Short of those trifling excesses which come of a cultivated connoisseurship, he does not shoot his wad on designer fragrances and bags. He is not a label-whore. (Perhaps "label-rake" is more apt.) He uses common sense. He is not a braggart. He knows how to have a good time. En fin, he knows that there are superlative values in his being a man, in practicing the economies of masculinity.

On a practical note, he prizes the right accents for daily wear:
  • A well-knotted tie. Silk, cotton or wool, and of a good hand
  • A tailored vest, to keep the look sharp even when the jacket is off
  • A good watch, nothing too big or ostentatious; preferably with a leather or exotic-skin strap
  • A slender leather or ribbon belt
  • Socks that show his sense of whimsy
  • A citrus or floral scent, such as a néroli, bergamot or rose blend
  • A book or magazine. (Newspapers should remain in the office.)
  • An unrushed demeanor
  • A well-directed smile. (Sometimes nothing is manlier.)
Image credit: Alvin Langdon Coburn, Henry James (in the garden at Lamb House, Rye). Courtesy of George Eastman House Still Photograph Archive.

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