This photo offers a nice comparison of two trouser silhouettes. Luciano Barbera on the right is wearing something a bit fuller with a less aggressive taper, while the gentleman on the left is wearing something slimmer with a narrower leg opening. Which you should wear is probably dependent on all sorts of things - the silhouette of your jacket, the shape of your shoes, your age, your build, and your own sense of personal style. As I get older, however, I find myself drifting much closer towards what Luciano Barbera is wearing: a higher rise, fuller leg, and less aggressive taper. It just looks more comfortable and elegant to my eye.
“A suit tells the world you are ready for business. A jacket tells the world you are open to fun. For me the ideal jacket should have soft and natural lines and balanced proportions. It should fit you but not constrict you. I do not believe in stiff shoulder pads. That is vanity, not style. Do not make it too tight. If it’s too tight, you will look like a matador. Any time I see a man playing golf or tennis in his jacket, I know he and I could be friends.”— Luciano Barbera (via voxsart)
“Alas, you can’t and you won’t. But wait, I have a solution. Knit ties. No, hear me out before you go to have ‘a little work done.’ Knit ties are imperfect by nature. The knot slips a bit. They fly in the wind. They pull over time. They have a variable shape. They are casual, playful, a kid dressed in his dad’s clothes. Do you have a bulldog? They are like a bulldog face. Imperfect, yet, beautiful. Forever young? No. But they ooze sprezzatura, spirit, elegance. And, oh, if you don’t have a dog, you might get one. I worry you are not getting out enough.”— Luciano Barbera, on how to stay young forever
Three Thoughts on Trousers
1. You need more than jeans. In an interview published earlier this month, Luciano Barbera said he objected to men wearing jeans for any occasion. That’s a stronger position than I would take, but I do think men (Americans especially) rely far too much on jeans. Don’t be afraid to wear other kinds of trousers.
For someone just starting to build a nice wardrobe, I recommend starting with a pair of khaki chinos and grey mid-weight wool flannels. After that, get some seasonal trousers. Brown corduroys and charcoal moleskins work well for fall/ winter. Grey tropical wool and tan linens work well for spring/ summer. You can wear any of these with your basic blue or white button up shirts, or their respective seasonal counterparts such as flannel plaids and madras.
2. Your pants should flatter you. Most men wear pants that are too big and too long. Your trousers shouldn’t be so large that extra cloth is folding around your pelvis when the waist is cinched. You should also take them to a tailor and ask for them to be hemmed with a slight break or no break at all, depending on your taste and how large your trousers’ leg openings are.
Other men wear their pants too tight. This is often a more fashionable look, but I think it lacks elegance. These trousers often have low rises and overly tapered, skinny legs. I prefer mine slightly higher waisted, a bit fuller in the leg, and go down with just a bit of taper, but not too much. I think this gives more appealing, classical proportions, as demonstrated here by Luciano Barbera.
3. Know what you can tailor. Make sure your trousers come up to where you like them to and fit your seat well. Most everything else can be altered. The waist can be let out if there is the fabric allowance, or taken in. The legs can also be tapered. You want to do this only to a degree, however. Reducing the waist more than two inches, for example, will cause the side seams to come too far back. These days, I personally just make sure pants fit in the seat, rise, and thighs well, and adjust everything no more than a half an inch (except the hemming, of course). If you need to alter a bit more, it’s probably not a problem.
Note that if you let out trousers on a fabric such as cotton, you may be able to see the holes from the previous seam. It’s a bit safer to do this with wool.
“What is my message? Simple … That style is not about what you have but what you do with what you have. When people ask me how they should dress, I tell them don’t worry. Take care of your life. Your clothes will follow.”— Luciano Barbera (via Sartorial Doctrine)
“The most forceful statement is understatement”— Luciano Barbera
Luciano Barbera is pictured here with a green tie and grey suit. As I’ve written before, this is a killer combination. Also, check the brown suede shoes. All together a very handsome fall look.
Put This On Episode 6: Clothing Credits
Blazer - Brooks Brothers (Vintage)
Pants - Ralph Lauren Purple Label (Vintage)
Shirt - Brooks Brothers Black Fleece
Tie - Saks Fifth Avenue
Vest - Brooks Brothers Black Fleece
Shoes - Florsheim (Vintage)
Shirt One - Lands’ End
Shirt Two - CEGO Custom Shirtmakers
Pants - Woolrich Woolen Mills
Tie - Vintage (Unlabeled)
Belt - Narragansett Leathers
At Alan Flusser Custom
Suit - Brooks Brothers
Shirt - Brooks Brothers Black Fleece
Tie - Carrol & Co. (Vintage)
Sweater - Shetland Hand Knits
At Pro Tailor
Blazer - Kiton (Vintage)
Pants - Brooks Brothers Black Fleece
Shirt - Corneliani
Tie - Luciano Barbera (Vintage)
Shoes - Brooks Brothers (Vintage)
I recently came across this article by Michael Drake, the founder of Drakes of London, where he details his sartorial philosophy. The whole thing is worth reading, but here are some highlights:
Start with the shirt. Keep it simple; blue is always a good colour, as is white, in solids, small stripes or checks. Avoid extremes; theatrical collar shapes are really dumb, as is edge stitching or fancy-coloured buttonholes. Go for softness and simplicity; allow the make to show through.
Avoid jacquard weaves, anything that looks shiny, and select twill weaves only if it’s a cotton flannel. Opt for two-ply, crisp cottons. If the fabric is too fine chest hair will show through and this is, let’s be delicate, not a good look. Best stick to 2x100s or 2x120s cotton broadcloth. Good buttons are mother-of-pearl, of course.
Next the tie. The tie is important not only because it’s so much the focus of attention, but because it’s more symbolic than utilitarian. The best ties are hand made, never stitched by machine. You have a suit made in the round, and so the tie should be three-dimensional as well.
Avoid extremes: no wider than nine centimetres and no narrower than seven. Eight will look right on any occasion.
The pattern should not be overly designed, with too many colours, or too shiny; although solid satin in navy, grey or purple is fine for the evening, for a more formal look. The time-honoured tradition of lighter coloured ties in the morning, a little darker in the afternoon and darker still in the evening is hard to beat.
Socks are another give away. Never wear short socks with a suit. Navy socks always work with brown shoes but black socks do not with brown. Personally I am inclined to wear purple socks with almost anything, and like to think of it merely as a signature eccentricity.
Avoid extremes in shoes: those that are too flamboyant, too pointy (or too square for that matter) or over designed. It’s too easy for shoes to call attention to themselves and spoil the overall effect.
The idea is to not look as if you have just arrived on the boat from Naples. The best-dressed Neapolitans aim for an understated English style.
There are a small number of things to quibble with in the article. For example, where Drake recommends the Half-Windsor, I would recommend the Pratt, as it’s less ostentatious. However, the whole of the article is excellent. Drake’s philosophy, combined with Luciano Barbera’s, will teach you the general practices of conservative European style, at least in the tailored menswear tradition. This isn’t to say that this is the only way to dress, but it’s an excellent and elegant ideal to shoot for if you’re just starting out.
Put This On Episode 4: Clothing Credits
At Larchmont Barbershop
Jacket - A. Di Nella & Son of Philadelphia (Vintage)
Shirt - Luciano Barbera
Tie - Courtesy of Berg & Berg
Pants - Brunello Cucinelli
Pocket Square - Etro
The Wet Shave
Pajamas - Brooks Brothers
Robe - Holliday & Brown for Prada
In the Closet
Blazer - Chester Barrie
Shirt - CEGO Custom Shirtmakers
Pants - Brunello Cucinelli
Shoes - Vintage Florsheim
Tie - Vintage Bullock & Jones
Pocket Square - Courtesy of Kent Wang