In a crowd of around a dozen people wearing off the peg or custom suits trying to look their best, there is always one man who looks better than everyone else. He stands apart from the rest, and one can’t really put their finger on the reason why that is the case. The reason is not that he was naturally born to look sublime or just put on a tailored suit but because he has mastered the art of dressing in a manner that what he wears merely becomes a part of himself and an extension of his personality. However, complicated or unattainable this may sound; it is actually just a simple and careful study. We have sought guidance from Ashish Ishwar, and Pawan Ishwar of bespoke suit tailoring house Knights & Lords in Dubai who have broken the steps down into 10 Do’s and Don’ts of dressing etiquettes for the modern gentleman. If followed correctly, it would ensure that it propels you to look your sartorial best every day.
Whenever the opportunity presents itself, wear a bespoke suit
Reason: It is no secret that a man looks his best in a suit. Back in the days, men always wore suits as if it was their second skin because it made them look sublime. If the occasion is not as formal, wear a light patterned or checkered blazer with a pair of jeans or cotton chinos to look smart casual. You could even wear a t-shirt underneath if you don’t want to look too formal but never miss the opportunity to wear a suit or a blazer-trouser combination.
Overdress for the occasion
Reason: It is never good to look like a misfit. Understand the purpose of the occasion and dress accordingly. If it is a very formal occasion like a wedding or a black tie-event, wear a tuxedo with a bow-tie or a three-piece suit. Two-piece suits should be reserved for a business meeting or your workplace. If it is an informal gathering or an evening out, wear something smart casual like a checkered or houndstooth blazer with jeans or chinos. Dressing right for the occasion tells the others that you are not screaming for attention which helps in being noticed for the right reasons.
Create your own signature style in the way you dress
Reason: Focus on doing some small details which you can do differently from others in the way you dress. This could by having the first button hole on your jacket sleeve in a different color or having your lapel hole in a different color rather than the same color as the suit fabric. You could turn up the bottoms of your jeans or chinos slightly when you go for a smart casual look. You could do one small detail differently from the rest to ensure that it gets noticed by others in a way that they remember you by it, and eventually it becomes your signature element and a part of your identity as people will always expect to see you doing that little detail differently from others.
Cross the line of dressing etiquettes
Reason: A man of high sartorial taste always follows the rules of dressing the way it was traditionally done. It shows that you are well-read and learned in the art of dressing. This means in a two-button suit you always fasten the top button and leave the bottom button undone. This has been a rule since the time of King Edward the VII as he was a person of rotund physique and was unable to fasten his lower button. Everyone else out of respect did the same in his presence and ever since it has become an unsaid rule. Other rules such as the length of your tie should be just kissing the top of your belt and your shirt sleeves should always show about one centimeter from the jacket sleeves should be strictly followed as they are the pillars of traditional suit wearing etiquette giving the desired look with your tailored suit.
Accessorizing is a way to give others a glimpse of your inner personality. Wear cufflinks that relate to your hobby or passion. If you are wearing a tie, wear a tie pin along with it that complements your cufflinks. Make sure you always wear a pocket square that is a reflection of your personality. If you are a flamboyant person wear a bright and playful color if you are a subtle person wear a dark color. When wearing a blazer with jeans or chinos, try topping it off with a Panama hat with a color that complements your blazer or the checkered pattern within your blazer. Accessorizing is a way to tell people who you are without having to use words.
Ever make the obvious choice
Reason: Making the most obvious choice tells the observer that you have not given enough thought to the way you are dressing. This means that your tie and pocket square should never match but complement each other by being in the same family of colors but a different shade. Your socks shouldn’t match your trousers but be a shade lighter or darker or even be a complementary shade to your tie. Try matching the color of your shoe laces to the color of your suit rather than it being the same color as your shoes. You could also go for a subtly different color of buttons on your suit jacket rather than matching it to the fabric. Striking the right balance between not going with the obvious choice of matching but at the same time being different in a subtle manner is what gets noticed by the others in a way that sub-consciously keeps their mind trying to guess why you stand apart from all the rest of the people in the room. The reason is that everyone else has made the obvious choice of matching everything up and you haven’t.
Wear clothes that fit well
Reason: Whatever you wear, you need to ensure that it fits well. Regardless of how much thought goes into the way you dress if your clothing doesn’t fit well it will look shabby and will be very easily forgotten. You need to understand your body shape and dress in a manner that accentuates your physique while hiding your flaws. If you have a slim frame, then wear clothes that give your chest and shoulders more volume. If you have a slightly large belly, then wear clothes that drape from the sides giving you a slim silhouette. If possible go for clothing that is tailored to you. You may at least wear made-to-measure but preferably bespoke suits and bespoke shirts because nothing would fit like it as it isn’t for thousands of others.
Wear clothes that are tight and uncomfortable
Reason: It is a huge misconception that a slim fit is always better. No human being is born perfect, and if a slim fit ends up becoming tight or restrictive, it will only highlight the flaws in your physique. Anything which is tight will also be uncomfortable to the extent that you cannot look, feel or act natural making your general actions and mannerisms slightly odd as to try to deal with the uncomfortable feeling of tight clothes. Wear clothes that do not compromise on comfort as only when you are comfortable will you be able to let your inner personality take centre stage with your clothes being and extension and a reflection of the sartorial gentleman that you truly are.
Wear brown shoes more than black
Reason: Gone are the days when the only color that existed in a man’s shoe wardrobe was black. Wearing brown shoes with your suits shows a matured understanding of using contrasting colors in a way that looks fresh and appealing. You can wear dark brown shoes with navy-blue or charcoal grey suits and wear light tan brown shoes with light blue and mid-grey suits. Use your black shoes only for extremely formal occasions and black-tie events, not for every-day wear.
Wear shoes that do not have leather sole
Reason: In the world of the sartorially enlightened, wearing anything other than a leather sole is the equivalent of wearing a card board pocket square on your jacket or a bow-tie that is a pre-made clip-on and not a self-tied one. Showing an understanding and appreciation of artisanal craftsmanship is important if you want to show that you have an understanding of the art of dressing. A synthetic material which is glued on to make the bottom of your shoe is no way a showcase of being appreciative of craftsmanship. A genuine leather sole which has been hand-cut, polished and then hand-stitched to the make your shoe bottom is as sartorially correct to wear as a silk pocket square which you have folded yourself or a self-tied bow-tie.
Use a collar stay with your shirt
Reason: When everything is well-coordinated and perfectly well thought, you do not want your shirt collar to be looking bent and tired. Collar stays to ensure that your shirt collar remains straight and stiff at all times. When a person looks at you, they first notice the upper part of your body and your shirt collar is one of the first things that catch the eye. Making sure they are stiff and perfect will also enhance the way your suit collar sits on your neck and will help in ensuring the tie remains in its position at all times. It is a small detail that can elevate your look by bringing attention upwards to a perfectly sitting stiff collar for your shirt alongside a suit collar that hangs perfectly at the back of your neck.
Use a plastic collar stay
Reason: While a collar stay can easily elevate your whole look, a plastic collar stay if bent can easily destroy the entire look as it is next to impossible to straighten a bent plastic collar stay. Use a metallic collar stay which can’t be bent and make it a practice to insert it in your collar slits every morning before you wear your shirt. Apart from keeping your collar stiff at all times, the ritual of putting it in every morning will sub-consciously give your mind the message that your shirt collar is perfect and you will naturally look and feel at your sartorial best.
Methods other than a belt to keep your trousers well placed.
Reason: It is always advised to wear well-fitted trousers especially on the waist. Trousers that constantly shift downwards and people trying to readjust it by pulling it up too often is not a pleasant sight. Well fitted bespoke trousers can be worn without the need of a belt with the only button or buckle fasteners on the side. They do give you the comfort of minimally tightening or loosening the waist as per ones preference and bars you from having to otherwise match your belt with your shoes. What another sartorially preferred option of ensuring your trousers remain on your waistline is to wear them with braces. The braces hold your trousers leveraging its support on your shoulders ensuring your trousers are well placed throughout the day. It also shows that your sartorial sense is more enlightened by not going for the otherwise obvious choice of wearing a belt.
Wear a belt with your trousers without knowing its true purpose
Reason: It is quite common to see people wearing a belt with their trousers. Not a lot of them know the purpose of wearing one and consider that it needs to be worn just as an accessory to feel more complete. The belt is supposed to ensure that your trousers are placed at the same position throughout the day as when you had left the house. Unnecessarily tightening the belt more than it should be and not having the right sized trousers on the waist will create a bunching effect on the fabric around the belt loops which is not a pleasant sight. Also, the color of the belt is always supposed to somewhat match in tone to the color of your shoes and may be a task selecting the right one for those hurried early mornings of going to work.
Men often discount grooming themselves, and some even have this misconception that the entire idea is quite feminine. Maintaining a clean body and appearance is equally as important as wearing the right thing for the right occasion. Taking personal care is a matter of self-respect, and people further respect you for that. If possible maintaining a well-groomed beard or a mustache and regularly going for a decent haircut should be part of a gentleman’s rituals. Additionally going on an exploratory journey giving sensible thought of your style of haircut or facial hair matched with your face cut could make you look a notch better than others. Having an unkempt beard and unruly hair is quite a put-off and a gentleman may consider going just clean shaven instead. Investing in a good beard oil or mustache wax to maintain your facial hair is also suggested to use for grooming and styling it.
Purchase unnecessary grooming products
There are a lot of companies selling a lot of over the counter stuff that is quite unnecessary. Don’t go on a rampage buying just about every cream and off the shelf product labeled for ‘Gentlemen.’
A gentleman never does thoughtless buying dictated by pushy salespeople. He gathers all the information, does his fair bit of research and considers every purchase as an investment. Something worthy of you is only so if it is needed for its purpose and not just to land on your shelf never to be used. Always gather the facts about what you intend to use with it suiting your needs before making a purchase.
Customize as per your preferences
One of the indulgences a gentleman should incorporate as part of his style is the ability to add or change something in his clothing to suit his lifestyle preferences.
An addition of a pocket in your trousers for small change or a specialized pocket for your vintage pocket watch that has been part of family heirloom in your wedding waistcoat adds a bit of purposeful options while giving you an extra stylish flair which most others don’t have. Also having simple things like a pen pocket inside your jacket or a pocket for your lighter inside your jacket makes your actions smooth and suave when you are reaching out for your frequently used essentials in public. Moreover, others observing this notice how much thought has been given to customizing clothing and appreciate the smoothness in your mannerisms as it is something they have never thought about and may wan to consider doing themselves. This immediately makes others look at you as a gentleman of fine taste and high sartorial understanding.
Ever stuff your trouser pockets with heavy items
Reason: Bulging pockets on your back or side of your trousers is certainly not going to visually enhance the well fitted and well-thought clothing you are wearing, in fact much the opposite. It is best to have customized pockets inside your jacket to accommodate all the fairly large and heavy objects you would otherwise put in your trouser pockets. This includes your wallet, card holder, smart phone and any other such essential items that tend to be bulky and hamper the look of your sleek and slim fitting trouser. The smaller items such may still go into your trouser pockets as long as they don’t hamper the look and the fall of your trousers.
Learn and practice the qualities of being a Gentleman
Reason: Having Gentlemanly attributes as part of your style adds a certain grace and elegance in your actions and mannerisms. The four pillars of being a Gentleman are Gracefulness, Dignity, Respect and Chivalry. Gracefulness includes subtleties such as always having a warm smile accompanying a firm handshake and adopting a posture that is alert yet relaxed in any social setting. Conduct yourself with dignity means having qualities like not interrupting others when they are speaking, not laughing at your own jokes and generally displaying poise, wit and confidence in your actions. Respect, is self explanatory, which is having utmost respect for others and have that reflect in your actions such as staying at a dinner table until others have finished eating and treating all people in different financial or social status as equals. Lastly, chivalry which is the most important pillar of being a Gentleman means that it is absolutely necessary to open the door for a lady, to stand up when a lady has entered the room or to give up your seat for a lady in any social setting. Treating women with polite manners is an embellishment to your own personal charm as being a Gentleman never goes out of style.
Consider yourself superior to others
Reason: Being a true Gentleman means striving to become superior to your former self. The day you consider yourself superior to others, there will be a certain pride and ego in all your actions and will take away from your charm. On the other hand being humble after being well-informed and having knowledge will make others respect you more and will motivate you to always continuously improve yourself and put a better version of yourself out there every single time. This quality of striving for continuous improvement will ensure that you don’t fade away with time but instead develop a permanent style of your own which will always be recognized, loved and remembered by everyone around you.