I thought I landed my dream job when I got out of college. Always outgoing, I imagined a job in human resources would be a perfect fit for me. The fact that I would be working for a world-renowned cosmetic company made it even sweeter.
What I hadn’t anticipated was being buried in the benefits department under piles of health claims. The highlight of my day became spending every nickel I was earning at the “company store” where they provided a generous discount.
It was soon time for a Plan B. I decided to take a second job, working Saturdays in the men’s accessories department at Paul Stuart, the luxe emporium of traditional men’s and women’s clothing. At this time, Barney’s was downtown and Bergdorf’s men’s store had not even been conceived. Basically, Paul Stuart owned Madison Avenue and every day was a party. After one last visit to the “company store,” (where I stockpiled a year’s worth of cosmetics), I handed in my resignation and went to work for Paul Stuart full-time.
It was there that I learned about collar and tie widths, how to fold a pocket square, and the difference between an alligator and a crocodile belt. (Alligator tends to be thicker, softer and more symmetrical in pattern).
Years later, I work for Richards of Greenwich, another spectacular retailer, as their women’s personal shopper. Of course from time to time, I still dabble in men’s wear.
Interestingly, almost all the same finishing touches still apply:
• Shoes and belts need to align. What looks best is to wear them in similar colors and textures and preferably in the same material or skin.
• Quality is a wise investment. An expensive but well-crafted shoe can last for years with a little care and maintenance.
• Elegant accessories will notch everything else up. A classic off-the-rack suit will look instantly more expensive when paired with an Hermés tie and a toffee- colored Santoni cap-toe shoe.
• Socks matter. Most men prefer mid-calf socks. The best rule of thumb is to match the socks to the trousers, rather than the shoe, (though warm weather fashionistos may choose to go without).
• Ties are a great way for a man to express his individuality. Widths vary only by millimeters through fashion cycles. The current standard is 3 ½ inches. Rich-hued, silk knits are again having a moment.
• Pocket squares have spawned a hybrid, the pocket round. Either will add a pop of polish to a suit or sport coat. Simply lay it unfolded, pick it up from the center and stuff.
• A trend in custom shirting that is starting to translate over to traditional dress shirts is the convertible cuff that can button or be used with cufflinks. Beautiful antique or mother-of-pearl cufflinks are a timeless investment. (They also make for wonderful gifts.)
• Tie bars are having a renaissance on the strength of the influence of Don Draper, “Mad Men”’s fictional protagonist, who epitomizes ’60s chic.
Apparently, men’s fashion evolves in a slow circle, and if you make the right choices, they will hold you in good stead. My life is a bit like that, too. I still enjoy dressing my clients and as a beauty blogger, I get to sample, buy and try cosmetics nearly every day.
It’s all good.