Dapper Days

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 September, 2008, 12:00am

he sophisticated French author Francois Sagan adored clothes, fast cars and sex. She loved to drive from Paris to Monte Carlo in an Aston Martin or Jaguar - she owned two of each - for a night of champagne, gambling and debauchery. She took lovers - male or female - whenever she felt like it and regarded monogamy as a bourgeois joke. With an almost insatiable appetite for pleasure Sagan knew a great deal about the power of physical attraction. She once said: 'A dress makes no sense unless it inspires men to want to take it off you.' Notice she said 'men' not 'a man'.

But what of guys - does the same apply? Can we say a suit makes no sense unless it inspires women to rip it from our backs? If that were true we'd have to say there are many senseless suits about.

A quick glance around any MTR carriage or bar in Lan Kwai Fong yields an eyeful of saggy, baggy, and just plain woeful clothing that should make any self-respecting gal take a vow of chastity. Although the sleek styling of the metrosexual has been around for a decade, most men ignore its rules.

What to do? Plenty. Men can look stylish and sexy enough for any Sagan who might be out there, by following a few simple rules.

It all starts with the body. There's no designer on earth who can do much for a bulging gut or poor posture. Clothes demand a good profile and a daily workout routine should precede any significant expenditure on a new wardrobe. This is mandatory. Treadmill and reps are more important than Dior or Gucci. Manners may maketh the man but when it comes to dressing well a low body fat index carries more weight.

Next up is the suits. Men who want to be regarded as elegant and fashionable need several well-tailored ones. Custom-made suits are the perfect solution but there are alternatives. Valentino, Zegna, Dior, Paul Smith and Ted Baker all use fine materials. It's best to buy the trousers a few sizes too large and have a tailor cut them to fit. That way you can get a custom look for a fraction of the price.

For the jacket, the top of the sleeve should fit the end of your shoulder, and the middle button be more or less level with your navel. Don't take shortcuts on styling. Single-breasted suits tend to look more elegant. A man needs to be very slim with well-formed shoulders to look good in a double-breasted suit. Don't weigh the pockets down with a BlackBerry or iPhone. Many truly stylish men prefer to carry a slim notebook and a silver pen or pencil. Get an assistant to carry your BlackBerry - that's much more stylish.

Good shoes are an essential component of elegance. A stylish man should have a selection of wing-tips, brogues, slipons and casuals. The more formal shoes should be kept impeccably polished - and don't worry about matching brown with a black or dark blue suit. The contrast can be very sophisticated so long as the shoes are sufficiently well made. A pair of brown Ferragamo brogues matched with a black pinstriped Ted Baker suit and a pink shirt is bound to please. Experimentation is fine - green Converse trainers with a slim-fit Louis Vuitton suit is fun, especially for dinner out with other guys.

As regards shirts, quality is so much more important than quantity. Apart from handmade shirts by Italian tailors on the Via Giulia, the best choice is pret-a-porter from Valentino or an English tailor such as Kent and Curwen. Do not buy shirts with breast pockets unless you want to be mistaken for a nerd. And buy pink - women love it and it works especially well with pale skin.

For the complete outfit lean to the formal over the casual. Wear suits before jeans and pocket handkerchiefs with ties rather than an open-necked shirt. Don't take my word for it - let's ask a woman instead.

'Something about a man in a suit has the ability to make the hairs on every inch of my body stand up straight,' writes the charming twentysomething author of the MissManhattan blog (missmanhattan.wordpress.com). 'What is it about the suit that can make even the scruffiest unattractive male specimen look like sex on a stick? Could it possibly be what the symbol of the suit embodies. Wealth. Power. High Class.'

Francois Sagan would be proud of her. Enough said.