The Hard Part of Soft Dressing

Is being taken seriously. Even in a tie. Dressing entirely in soft clothing and accessories lends a decidedly casual air.

I was communicating with a friend in Madrid, when he posed the question about silk squares. A well known blogger has established his ground rules for dressing the pocket correctly. He avows that the silk square is used only for rougher fabrics, pairing them with tweeds and other odd jackets. He reserves silk/cotton, cotton and linen or wool/silk blends for harder fabrics like the worsted wool used for suits.

Alan Flusser, on the other hand, espouses the theory that a matte tie calls for the luster of a silk square and a silken tie the matte effect of a linen, cotton or wool.

That got me thinking and today’s weather did the rest.

You see, it is a bit chilly here in Richmond VA today. We had a light dusting of scenic snow and the temperatures won’t climb out of the mid-30’s (ºF). That’s just above freezing and I felt it when I climbed out of the shower.

I keep the house cool, with the thermostat set at 65ºF most days when it’s just me here. Heating costs can really cut into your clothing budget, especially with 11′ ceilings. So, I tend to dress in warm fabrics like cashmere, moleskin, corduroy, velvet, flannel… Under the rig above I’m wearing a long sleeve silk undershirt… to keep comfortable. Today I have a couple of things to do, one of which involves visiting the bank. So I like to be dressed marginally professionally, but still warm enough to be comfortable.

We’re all about comfort in the winter, aren’t we? Take the suit, that’s the flannel Barbera number I’ve written about before. It’s a subtle windowpane over a equally subtle grey-blue herringbone flannel. With it I’ve paired brown suede lug soled brogues, a charcoal merino wool v-neck jumper, a navy and royal blue cashmere tie and, because the whole thing reminded me of a photo of Gianni Agnelli I’d seen, an unbuttoned blue OCBD shirt by B-Squared. Not that I could get away with wearing my tie over my sweater as he did. Not for a number of years at any rate.

(Photo: Grazie Neri, Italy as seen in Alan Flusser’s “Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Style”, Harper Collins, 2002, p 155)

But I might be able to get away with something more like this:

The pocket square I’ve chosen is a navy blue linen with a cream edge.

Just for argument’s sake, compare that kit with the one I threw together for an homage to the Duke of Windsor.

Here you see the difference that the silk tie and cotton pocket square bring to the matte flannel. A bit more formal (despite the pattern mixing, etc.) and would be even more so with a more sober shirt and discreet tie.

Which do you prefer?

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