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Breaking the Rules

To shake up your wardrobe we suggest bending some laws of fashion. Please do try this at home
Jack Bettridge
From the Print Edition:
Raquel Welch, Jul/Aug 01

"Wear a navy suit, a plain white shirt and a striped tie (mostly red please)\. Accessorize with black shoes, socks and belt."

Sometime early in life you probably received this simple, sage advice aimed at job interviewees and new entrants into the workforce. If someone had bothered to package it that way, it might have been the first and shortest of those ubiquitous guides for idiots that are somehow meant to make us feel better about ourselves. As far as it went, it was excellent counsel. Colors were sturdy, pants matched jackets and patterns were minimal. If followed to the letter, it virtually insured you against ludicrous wardrobe choices.

But then you got the job and found that unless you were in politics or an idiot (but I repeat myself), a blue suit did not a wardrobe make. Sooner or later you were going to have to step off base and try to match clothes on your own. But they don't give lessons for that in business school.

Furthermore, times changed and many men stopped wearing suits and ties to work altogether. In many offices, such an ensemble as the one described above was likely to elicit the question: "Do you have a job interview?" So many of us started to dress for work as if we were going to the golf course (or worse).

But now the economy is changing and the nose-thumbing insouciance of the dot-com crowd doesn't seem like such a great message for your attire to be making on the job. So you're faced with the question of how to engineer a return to office decorum without coming off like an entry-level schnook intent on dressing safely and nothing else. The answer is to learn to match elements of clothing in creative, yet elegant, ways.

The problem is that several factors dictate what looks good on us at any given time. The foremost of these is aesthetics, a quality that has eluded description by philosophers since the days of the ancient Greeks, but which nevertheless has certain precepts -- such as balance -- that seem to be timelessly recognizable. The problem is that attire can become so balanced that it edges on booooooooooorrrrrrrrrrredom.

That's why we also have fashion. In its best incarnation, fashion breathes fresh air into stale styles of dress. But fashion is also, by definition, defective. Inevitably, new fashion dooms old fashion to obsolescence, even absurdity. Our hunger for new looks creates such inexplicable fashions as bell-bottom trousers, which once seemed like such a sharp look only to appear ridiculous in the cold light of retrospect. That Aristotle, who wrote at length about aesthetics, never even tried to tackle fashion would seem to indicate how utterly elusive the concept is.

Ari left fashion to more capable arbiters, such as the editors of Women's Wear Daily, who have the ability and the inclination to make pronouncements about whether taffeta or chintz is in at any given time. But as it says in the Bible, which is the Women's Wear Daily of religious texts, "Pride goeth before a fall." And even learned professionals can find themselves fashion victims. Suffice it to say that you may know it when you see it, you may even worship it, but you should always be ready for fashion to turn on you.

So we give you Cigar Aficionado's first fashion primer: the finer points of matching clothing.


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