Dressing up takes over as the new dressing down
I've always blamed the dotcom years for making casual dress acceptable not only in the workplace but also at fancy restaurants, opera gala nights and other black-tie affairs. Khakis and a golf shirt became the uniform of every Tom, Dick and Harry whether they were in on the internet boom or not. I find that Americans are so easy to spot no matter where they are in the world - just look for the loose khaki trousers that balloon in front, the polo shirt and the ill-fitting jacket. Hardly style icons.
Fortunately, in the past few seasons, something wonderful has been taking shape in men's fashion. Men have begun to reject the casual look for a style that is more grown up and pulled together. I credit Mad Men for reviving the look
of the well-dressed man complete with neckties, pocket squares, tie bars and the ascot.
Neckties are a pretty safe staple, provided you do not go for funky prints like Disney characters. Nor should they come in DayGlo colours. I used to wear striped ties because they remind me of prep school uniforms, but now I am embracing more patterns and prints - be they geometric designs such as the ones from Calvin Klein Collection (above) available at Harvey Nichols or paisley and floral prints like Canali's from Lane Crawford. Hermes makes exceptionally beautiful ties in all sorts of prints, which have become as covetable as the brand's scarves.
When it comes to pairing your shirt with a tie, don't be afraid to mix pattern on pattern within the same colour range. This is best exemplified by Dunhill's pairing of shirt with a mirror print in a light shade of grey with a dark-patterned tie. Wear the tie loosely around your neck for a less formal and younger aesthetic if you like. Or if you really can't pull away from the casual look, wear your plaid shirt and rolled jeans with one of those knitted ties that have become so popular of late. But you must avoid two trends that have outstayed their welcome: Regis' solid monochromatic shirt and tie combo and the super skinny tie of the past couple of seasons. If Dior Homme, which popularised the look, can move on from that style, so can you.
Add more punch to your necktie by wearing a tie clip or tie bar. In the movie An Education, male lead Peter Sarsgaard is often seen with a white shirt, black or navy tie and a silver tie bar. Although the film is set in the 1960s, a lot of younger men today are reintroducing the tie bar into their wardrobe, borrowing their father's old sterling silver clip from Tiffany & Co, or buying their own from Mouton Collet (below right). If you don't like the look of the tie bar, substitute it with a pocket square. In terms of colours, it's best to pick up on a hue that's also present in the tie. So a pink tie with pale blue print can be paired with a pale blue pocket square. Or you can do as Bally has done (below) - cut the pocket square from the same fabric as the necktie. This is the safest option, although less imaginative.
There are many ways to wear a pocket square: you can fold into four squares (a la Bally), fold it into a triangle then bring the two sides to the centre so you have three peaks showing, or - my favourite - lay it flat on a table, then pick it up from the centre and stuff it into your breast pocket for a more carefree approach. Corneliani's silk pocket squares, available at The Swank, are perfect for this approach.
The ascot (far left) is also making a comeback after being MIA from men's fashion since perhaps the Peacock Revolution. Last summer, I was at Moma in New York and I noticed a young man, probably in his late teens, confidently sporting a silk ascot. After that I found myself drawn to ascots and proceeded to buy one from Hermes. Corneliani also has tons of ascots. However, practise ascot-wearing with caution as you risk looking like you're trying too hard. If you want to wear an ascot but in a less stuffy way, follow Ermenegildo Zegna's example: wear it as one would wear a scarf, around your neck and untied but tucked inside the shirt. In Zegna's case, the ascot is paired with a worn-in T-shirt and a slouchy blazer. The overall effect is cool and modern.
Bally, Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2522 6123
Calvin Klein Collection and Mouton Collet, at Harvey Nichols, The Landmark, Central, tel: 3695 3888
Canali, available at Lane Crawford, IFC Mall, Central, tel: 2118 3388
Corneliani, at the Swank, Alexandra House, Central, tel: 2868 2017
Dunhill, Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2537 1009
Ermenegildo Zegna, Peking Road, TST, tel: 3417 3088.
Hermes, The Galleria, Central, tel: 2525 5900