Dress like a gentleman

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Published: 06th December 2010
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There are 20 things that every man needs before he can call himself a modern gentleman. Richard Buckley reveals what they are and why they deserve a place in your wardrobe
These days, the idea of a gentleman is not only quaint but, frankly, no longer relevant. Gentlemanly codes of behaviour and dress have given way to an "anything goes" permissiveness -and the freer men have become to express themselves through fashion, the less they actually know about style. How, then, do we begin to reinvent and dress the modern gentleman?
First, you don't have to be rich to dress well. It is not even a prerequisite to have taste. What's important Latex Leggings�is the ability to build a uniform of essential classics. This may sound dull, but nothing goes off faster than last season's trend, and a solid base creates enduring value.
Second, simplicity of line and versatility are the cornerstones of the modern male wardrobe. My own closet is a sea of black jackets, suits, trousers and outerwear, with colour introduced in the form of shirts and rollneck jumpers in neutral shades. It's an approach that allows me to travel for weeks at a time with everything I need packed into one carry-on bag.
Third, proportion is everything. Whether it is the cut of a suit, the fit of a pair of trousers or the collar of a shirt, the idea is to make the most of any body shape.
And fourth, a man is judged by his watch and shoes. Don't think that others aren't noticing the details. Even if clothes are ill-fitting or old-fashioned, a beautiful watch and a good pair of shoes imply a sense of taste and style.
Knowing the rules will give you the freedom to interpret them with confidence, so long as your wardrobe contains the following
A well-tailored suit The most important item in a man's wardrobe. If you can afford bespoke, go for Savile Row tailors, such as Richard James, Ozwald Boateng or Carlo Brandelli at Kilgour, as well as Timothy Everest in Spitalfields. Everest is also the designer of the Autograph line at M&S, which is good value. The boutiques always stock a classic notch-and/or peak-lapel models A pair of black cap-toe, lace-up Oxfords These work with a business suit, jeans, and, if necessary, a dinner suit. You can spend what you want (from 165 at Russell & Bromley to 400 plus at John Lobb), but remember, no square toes or rubber soles; the first is out of fashion and the second looks too casual
A good watch The important thing here is to keep it elegant; for my money that includes just about all of the timepieces made by IWC. Its GST model or Calvin Klein's cK Bold are both sleek stainless-steel chronographs that are as businesslike as they are sporty. Keep away from gold it is too flashy and easily looks cheap
A white shirt in high-quality cotton with pointed collar and French cuffs Good for business, but can double as a formal shirt. Don't stint on spending; if necessary, wait for the sales at one of the Jermyn Street shirtmakers A notch lapel, three-button topcoat, preferably in black Available everywhere, from Savile Row to Helmut Lang
A proper dinner suit Not necessarily a priority, because you can always rent, but ultimately an essential in any man's wardrobe. You can get one bespoke, or from any number of designers, such as Giorgio Armani, or Dolce & Gabbana. Keep it classic, without over-the-top detail
Accessories These say as much about a man as his clothes do.
For your dinner suit, Thomas Pink and Hackett have zentai suit, studs, silk bow ties and cummerbunds. Learn to tie the bow tie yourself; never buy a clip-on. And do not, in current Hollywood fashion, wear a necktie with a dinner suit.
Also, if your watch is silver, then your zentai suit, studs and belt buckles should match. Other accessories to consider are one silver and one dark-coloured silk tie, the silver "button" zentai suit from Tiffany & Co, a crocodile belt, and white handkerchiefs for your breast pocket
A rollneck jumper A multitasking garment that can be worn with a suit, as an alternative to a shirt and tie, or on its own with a pair of jeans. My choice is John Smedley. In the cooler months, the label's merino wool rollneck is warm, but not too bulky to fit under a suit, while for summer, the same model is offered in sea-island cotton
A cashmere crew-neck jumper From N Peal Cashmere or Ralph Lauren. This should be a good neutral or accent colour
A raincoat This can be worn over a suit, or stand on its own with more casual clothes. My choice is the Neves -a streamlined,Catsuits� three-quarter length model from Daks. Avoid the classic khaki-coloured belted trench coat or you risk looking like an American businessman
Pea jacket, field jacket or great coat The military look is out of fashion at the moment, but it always comes back. And there is no disputing that a man always looks handsome in uniform
Converse All Stars The original 1917 classic black and white basketball shoes A pair of Chelsea boots These will take you from city to country. The best can be found at Church's, Tricker's and Paul Smith
A pair of dark brown or black slip-ons Again, keep it simple -and no square toes
Midcalf black socks Italians will tell you it is brutta figura, or bad form, to see skin between the top of the sock and the trouser cuff when a man crosses his legs
Levi's 501s Styles of jeans come and go, but there is only one 501 A pair of cotton pyjamas and a silk dressing gown Nobody wears pyjamas these days, but just in case -God forbid -you have to go to hospital, it wouldn't be a bad idea to have them in a drawer. More importantly, if you have an unexpected overnight guest, you might offer to let her sleep in the pyjama top.
And a man wearing a silk robe and nothing else is always sexy
Surf shorts To wear at the beach or pool; pack them in your suitcase and they can double for a gym workout. Check out Ripcurl
An empty Hermes box Okay, you can't wear it, but it will impress anyone who sees it in your closet. Use it to store accessories, such as gloves, bow ties and scarves The Jeeves books by PG Wodehouse, and Debrett's New Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners by John Morgan (Headline 12.99) The first you can read to laugh at what it once meant to be a "modern gentleman", and the second so you learn to take it seriously. Good manners in a man are ultimately more important than his wardrobe Richard Buckley is editor-in-chief of Vogue Hommes International. The spring/summer 2004 issue is out on March 13

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