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The Complete Wardrobe

Getting Down to Basics for a High-Quality Wardrobe
G. Bruce Boyer
From the Print Edition:
James Woods, May/Jun 97

(continued from page 1)

The Dress Shirt

Business suits can accept a variety of collar styles, from button-down and tab to long point and rounded club. But surely the best looking is the spread collar: crisp and neat, flattering, adaptable, elegant. Popularized in the 1930s by the Prince of Wales and his brother the Duke of Kent, it's a collar for the man who is known to dress well.

Modeled on the English detachable cutaway collar with its Edwardian sense of propriety, the spread collar's angular, wider than normal point stance has an unmatched dressiness. As such, it is often worn with French cuffs, and accompanied by richly woven Macclesfield neckwear. Often seen in a variety of stripes and checks--sartorially sensitive dressers occasionally opt for horizontal stripes--the spread-collar shirt done in a pure white superior oxford cloth is foolproof and unbeatable. The Italian firm of Borrelli, shirtmakers since 1895, cuts and sews its shirts by hand with extra-thick pearl buttons; the spread collar is meticulously fashioned, the white royal oxford cloth a silky texture, the French cuffs pristine. ($275; Borrelli Shirtmakers, 212/702-0136)

The Summer Suit

A number of lightweight cloths have, over the years, vied for the natty warm-weather vote: linen and silk are elegant, tropical worsted serviceable, seersucker jaunty. But our vote goes to the supremely comfortable and friendly tan cotton suit. Always single-breasted and usually unlined, the cotton shows its sophistication in its simplicity. A poplin weave is often used, but the best cotton for suiting is gabardine, which has the fine twill ridges that make it light of weight and soft of touch, yet strong and durable.

The neutral color accepts any accessory, from oxford cloth button-down to piqué polo and minimalist T-shirt. Of course, it must be the right shade of tan. Not too pale, like what the fellow wore in John O'Hara's short story "The Gentleman in the Tan Suit." Khaki or British tan, with just that hint of dusty yellow, is what's wanted. Unlined for coolness, easily laundered and looking the better for a few wrinkles, the jacket and trousers can easily be "broken up" and worn with other jackets and trousers, making it a decidedly useful item for travel. ($2,950; Kiton, 212/702-0136)

The Blazer

There are four crucial points to consider about the blazer: color, cloth, cut and buttons. A real blazer is navy blue ("Bell-bottom trousers, coat of navy blue," as the Second World War song "Bell-bottom Trousers" goes). Green is perfectly appropriate if you win the Augusta Open, maroon, gold and light blue tend to indicate real estate agents. A single-breasted version is acceptable, but double-breasted is best. Although blazers have been made over the years in everything from stone-washed denim to Fiji silk, the proper alternatives are circumscribed: cashmere, flannel, Super worsted, twill, doeskin flannel, tropical worsted or hopsack. Pocket treatment can vary--flapped, open patch, patch-and-flap and besom are all acceptable--but no yokes, fancy stitching or bi-swing backs please. The blazer is pristine of cut and simplicity itself--except for the buttons.

Blazers are the only sports jackets that take metal buttons: generally gold, silver or brass. Blazer buttons can be intensely individualistic and idiosyncratic, but are usually grouped into four categories: fancy (gilded-and-enameled crests), standard design (a navy anchor or a simple
basket-weave pattern), initialed or plain (often chosen, but not highly recommended because they scratch easily). Ralph Lauren, who is rumored to know a thing or two about classic dress, has combined these elements brilliantly and faithfully in his Purple Label double-breasted blazer: Super 120s merino-and-cashmere fabric, six-button (two-to-button) closure, side vents and handsomely crested buttons, handmade in England. Goes perfectly with flannels, khakis or jeans. ($1,795; Polo/Ralph Lauren, 212/606-2100)

The Khakis


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