So I was at a residential meeting in London over the last 24 hours attended, as it happens, primarily by men. Always a good opportunity to observe the level of sartorial commitment among my peers.
Initially, it was, as I have come to expect, not an especially good showing. Men, particular serious men, are not especially engaged with matters sartorial. They have more serious matters to which their attention needs be directed. And yet there were a few rays of light.
There was the colleague rocking a pair of salmon chinos with a navy blazer, light blue Bengal stripe shirt, and tan brogues. I must say that I approve of salmon chinos even though I lack the self-confidence to wear them myself.
There was the older gent who was wearing a rather sober plain black suit but worn with a purple/berry gingham check shirt with blue tie and plain gold cufflinks. It was far more attractive than it sounds. What struck me was the fact that most shirts with cufflinks are double cuff. This shirt in contrast was the comparatively rare single cuff.
There was the ex-military chap, with ramrod posture and low cut hair in an open necked plain pink shirt, sharp cut navy suit, with black brogued shoes. The quality and shine of the shoes broadcast his army background to anyone who didn’t already know it.
And then there was the senior statesman in the very traditional navy blazer complete with gold buttons, paired with dark grey trousers and blue shirt. So far, so trad. However, as I sat next to him I couldn’t help but notice a few important details. His black, subtly brogued shoes had a sheen to them that only comes from repeated polishing. The seams in his trousers were razor sharp as though they had been in a trouser press. Oh and he was wearing grey pin striped socks. How cool is that? And where does one go to find such things?
Presumably, like the rest of us the clothes he was wearing had been brought in the overnight bag with which he arrived. Unlike the rest of us, however, whose shirts had the tell-tale crease marks of a shirt that had been folded, his shirt looked professionally ironed and starched. It was all I could do to resist asking him how he had pulled of that particular trick (and where he got his socks!). My guess is he borrowed (or perhaps brought along) an iron. And speaking of his shirt, it was blue with pink/purple highlights which perfectly picked up the colours of his tie and was topped off with St George cufflinks. This was a man who knew what he was doing.
As for me I was still partly in summer mode and primarily interested in comfort for the long train journey awaiting me at the end of the meeting. I opted for a navy blazer and grey trousers both in linen. The shirt was a pink mini gingham check button down collar shirt with the all-important breast pocket for easy access to train tickets. The look was completed with dark brown slip on shoes and a deep burgundy spotted silk pocket square.
It occurred to me that I wasn’t the smartest dressed man in the room today. That is, unfortunately, an unusual experience for me, not so much because I am always wonderfully attired but rather because too few men can be bothered about matters sartorial.
So i am pleased that today’s best-dressed man I suggest was our elder statesman, with the emphasis not so much on the ‘elder’ as the ‘statesman.’ And yet at a casual glance one might only have seen a man in a fairly traditional navy blazer/grey trouser combo. However, as stylish men know, the devil is in the detail. It is quite an achievement to look great without broadcasting it.