Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

If You Can’t Stand the Heat…

(Organic chicken, just before popping it into a 375ºF oven for 2 hours.)

Preparing for a mid summer dinner party can be brutal here at the Easy and Elegant Life Manse. The children go to bed between 6:30 and 7:00 PM and that gives me roughly half an hour to put the finishing touches on the food, decor, what have you. Frequently that half hour involves a very quick freshening up — fast shower, shave and change of clothes. Especially if I’ve been cooking. Through some builder’s quirk, the kitchen is the hottest room downstairs. During the dog days, I try to grill out more often than not. But last night I decided to roast a chicken…and roasted myself in the process.

Changing after a quick shower I decided to wear a polo neck shirt with my linen trousers — I wanted to be cool as I finished off the sauce, salad, etc. whilst our guests enjoyed their cocktails. But I always feel a bit underdressed when I wear a knit shirt, especially without a sportcoat. WWCGD? Add a neckerchief, of course.

(From “Men in Style: The Golden Age of Fashion from Esquire”)

The question is: can a man pull off this look in 2009? The short answer is an unequivocal “maybe.”

A recent emailed conversation with friend AM revealed that he won’t wear a neckerchief as he feels that it calls attention to his 16″ neck. Cary Grant also had a muscular neck and he wore the neckerchief to disguise it. I have a 15 1/4″ neck and I’m “neck forward” as the tailors say. I like a neckerchief to add a little bulk to my neckline.

(Wearing the famous neckerchief from “To Catch a Thief.” Image: “Cary Grant: A Celebration of Style“)

Wearing a neckerchief in public in 2009 will call attention to the wearer. So, as the saying goes, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. But at home … it’s your castle.
(mid cooking….)

23 thoughts on “If You Can’t Stand the Heat…

  1. How can one go wrong in emulating Mr. Grant’s style? Sadly, my wife has told me that she would never be seen with me in public were I wearing a neckerchief such as yours. She often laments that my ‘overly formal’ attire (i.e. linen trousers, light blue OCBD, loafers) has forced to be better dressed herself (which was a welcome side benefit until she discovered Lilly Pulitzer with my charge plate). Ah well. I was wondering if you could provide some assistance to us novices where neckerchief/cravats are concerned. Is there a suitable source for these articles such that the novice won’t have sticker shock from something which may never be worn again?
    Many thanks.

  2. I occassionally wear a neckerchief or ascot, but usually only at home when entertaining or at my club. I probably should wear one in public more often. Unfortunately most guys are so underdressed in public (e.g. no jacket) that even a neckerchief/ascot looks out of place. Nevertheless, we should always lead by example. Speaking of CG and WWCGD, there was a great spread on CG in today’s NY Times. I wish I could attend the film festival in Brooklyn. At least the article reminded me to go back and read Pauline Kael’s excellent article from the 70’s, which can be found at carygrant.net.

  3. Well done Trey! And thanks, I’ll head for the NYT article. I have found that if I tie a four-in-hand knot, or even leave a longer scarf untied but still visible under the collar, I get fewer stares.

    CKDH, I usually use a pocket square, rolled and tied. But I have a very thin neck. I’m always pleasantly surprised by the offerings at the museum stores (particularly The Met and the MOMA collections. Sure they’re sold as women’s scarves, but the designs are often unisex. Vintage stores sometimes carry them as well. You may also buy a square of silk at a fabric store and have a seamstress (most laundries have one) put a simple rolled edge onto your new neckerchief.

  4. Good God, man, how do you manage to get the children to bed at 6:30??? You should write a book with magical abilities like those.

  5. The neckerchief looks good! May I ask if it is it silk or cotton?

    Sometimes I use a simple blue bandana to wrap around my neck. It just smartens a shirt up a bit, but I like the fact that when the heat is up it keeps the sweat from dripping down my back. In other words, it is really practical. Most of the farmers around here wear a simple handkerchief the same way.

  6. I like to wear neckerchief whenever Im out in the country fly fishing(usually a red bandana). I think it looks cool with waders and a light poplin BD.

    BTW You are spot on with regards to “Healthy Sleep Habits…” My kids(six and three) are are so much more pleasant after a long restful night.

  7. My favorite dish in any season – elegant and absurdly fast and easy.

    I love the attire here but I am not really sure about the neckerchief, honestly, I like it to be a bit larger so as not to show skin into the collar/placket if it has to be worn at all, casually, that is.

  8. I think the neckerchief is a perfect solution to dressing up the polo, or even a t-shirt. If some readers feel self conscious or over-dressed, I would suggest wearing the same colour ‘kerchief as shirt for a very understated, yet dressed look. I do agree that this ‘kerchief looks skimpy and should be larger and with more material. Bandanna size seems to be about right. I think this look is terrific…simple, elegant, and charming. Like a man’s shave, a woman’s lipstick, or the dot on the letter “i,” it is the small detail that speaks volumes. Disregard the slobs and maintain your standards!

  9. Cary Grant is one of the most stylish men of all time. You can definitely not go wrong by emulating his classic style. Great photos. Hope you’ve had a nice weekend.

  10. I happen to like this look, and I think it looks very coordinated and yet not prissy the way you are wearing it here, but it has presented a quandary; I happened to be checking your blog when a group of friends dropped by before an evening out. I showed them the post and expressed an interest in trying out “the look”, and was emphatically shot down. They unanimously pronounced it “SOOOOO gay”. I certainly appreciate the desire to hold oneself to a higher sartorial standard, but at some point intentional disregard of public opinion is detrimental to the ol’ image, the positive presentation is one of the reasons we consciously dress well. I’m not suggesting we cave in to poor taste because it is popular, but where does one draw the line between standing up for style and choosing not to look costumed (or “eccentric”)? I would appreciate your (and the other readers’) input on a “bright-line rule” for determining when one has taken a sartorial step too far.

    a) The friends mentioned were 5 women and 2 other men, and are all considered well dressed (stylish as opposed to fashionable)

    b) I am aware that the success of a challenging outfit often depends on the attitude of the wearer, and therefore one should perhaps not ask the opinions of others. I suspect, however, that CG cared very much whether observers approved of his fashion choices.

    c) I wholeheartedly agree that in your own home you may and indeed should dress to your own ideal; my question is more directly aimed at clothing worn “out”.

  11. The beauty of attaining a certain age is the total disregard one can have for popular opinion.

  12. Although I have taken to wearing ascots, I cannot do the neckerchief. Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but I find that an ascot hiding under the collar of a shirt and covering all skin that might be exposed is much easier to pull off than a neckerchief which may stick out and which may leave skin exposed.

    Which is not to denigrate The Elegantologist’s look in any way–he pulls it off in a way I find I cannot–or cannot be comfortable with, at the very least.

    Capt. Mike:
    Get comfortable wearing it at home, then in the yard, then for walks around the neighborhood (starting at night, perhaps), and, before you know it, you’ll feel comfortable wearing whatever it was you were once bashful about wearing.

  13. Cap’n, I’ve got a lot of gay friends and acquaintances. And I can categorically state that not one of them would be caught dead in what I wear on a daily basis. But I gather I am viewed as somewhat of an eccentric. Or simpleton. “Keep a weather eye” is one way to look at it. I’ve been dressing as I wished for so long that my friends don’t think twice and those who don’t know me… well… let’s say that a couple of heavily inked and pierced people moved out of the neighbourhood when we moved in. Apparently I was ruining their street cred. Yup, dress “up” and there goes the neighbourhood.

  14. Bob, fresh tarragon, rosemary, thyme, paprika, garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaves, olive oil. If you search the blog, you should find a great recipe based on the one in “Joie de Vivre.”

  15. E- “LOL” is overused to the point of meaninglessness, but I did in fact laugh out loud at your response. I think your comfort in your own skin speaks very highly of you, and I genuinely appreciate your having the huevos not only to wear what you do, put to post pictures so we can get an idea of what (we think) works and doesn’t.

    David V – I’m doing what I can there… In the current economic climate I am making great strides, sometimes aging several years a week 🙂

    Brent- I think that is a terrific suggestion, and if not already a part of the “art of dressing well” vernacular, certainly ought to be. Advice on what to wear is common – advice on how to wear it well is harder to come by.


  16. Looks delicious. Do you cook the veggies for 2 hrs. also? Seems like they would shrivel up to nothing?

  17. You look absolutely dashing! I wish that more men took the time and care to look elegant.

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