Many menswear writers like the overload the simple topic of how men should dress with an unnecessary amount of complications. There are rules and theories for everything, and a background of esoteric terms for fabric types and clothing details that you have to memorize in order to understand those rules. On some level, I think men largely benefit from understanding these things. We at Put This On, obviously, try to present some of them to our readers. At the same time, one shouldn’t let these theories muddle the simple pleasure of getting dressed. The act of waking up, pawing through your closet, and then slipping into the clothes you’ve selected for yourself can be a very enjoyable part of one’s day.
In a recent documentary, Tom Ford explained this scene from A Single Man, where his distraught protagonist George drags himself out of bed in order to get dressed. The scene wasn’t in the original book Ford based his movie on, but he put it in because it related to him. When he’s in a deep and dark depression, one of the things he enjoys doing is putting on a suit. “It might be false,” he said in the documentary, “but I feel like if I shine my shoes, put on a tie, and make myself look as good as I can possibly look, I feel better. That somehow it’s armor; it’s a ritual that I go through.”
And isn’t that what’s enjoyable about clothes? Aside from making us look better at job interviews and first dates, nice clothes are enjoyable simply in and of themselves. I enjoy putting on a pair of wool trousers, a perfectly fitting dress shirt, and my favorite sweater even if I’m planning to stay home.
Apart from dampening our love for dressing, I worry that a hyper-rational, over-thought approach to dressing can needlessly confuse men. Perhaps they’ll fumble their way through their closet and ignore their own intuitions (or worse still, fail to develop one). Or they fall back into a kind of unimaginative “paint by numbers” approach to dressing. The latter seems particularly joyless to me.
So, by all means, take what you can get from books and websites about classic men’s style. I think many of them are helpful. But at the same time, learn to train your own eye for what looks good. I still think one of the best ways is by observing others. Develop a sensitivity for the nuances of how and why certain things work, and apply it to your own sense of style. Most importantly, even more than learning about whether black or brown shoes go best with fawn gabardine trousers, learn how to enjoy wearing clothes. There’s a lot of pleasure in it.