“One of the principles that I teach is that clothes should lead the eye of the viewer to the face of the person wearing the clothes. That’s particularly important in the legal profession, where you do a lot of communicating.” Hardly had I started my conversation with Alan Flusser, who is one of the premier custom tailors on this side of the Atlantic, when I was the recipient of such good advice. I had come to Mr. Flusser’s shop, in midtown Manhattan, with a three-button jacket he had made for me so long ago that I had missed a fitting on the morning of 9/11 (for quite obvious reasons). Although it had been worn often, Mr. Flusser and his team had just returned the altered piece to me looking as if it had left the workroom for the first time. Not only had it been recut for my late-blooming athletic physique (I had at long last learned to sit less and to pump more iron), but shorter and now boasting a pinched-in waist, it was also quite au courant. A hidden benefit of quality custom-tailoring is economy: every off-the-rack garment I owned back then has long ago been sent away.
With that good start behind me, I joined Mr. Flusser in the office of his shop. Mr. Flusser sat in one of his guest chairs, appearing at ease in an open-collared shirt, unbuttoned jacket and casual shoes minus socks. With my notes spread in front of me, I probably looked to him like a defense lawyer trying to impress a trial judge. He continued: “What is closest to the face is the dress shirt collar. You should look at it as a painting and a frame—your head is the painting and you are trying to give it a frame that complements your face but doesn’t distract from it. The criteria for making the decisions about that—the size of your chin and the shape of your head, for example—are not changeable or subject to fashion. So if you discover what kind of dress shirt collar best presents your face, and build on that, what you figure out will stay with you for the rest of your life.”
When I asked what was the most common collar mistake, his answer was immediate: “Most men wear dress shirt collars that are too small for their faces. If you are 5’10” or above, the likelihood is that you will be wearing a dress shirt that does not sit tall enough on your neck. Instead, the dress shirt decorates the bottom half of your neck, and if you add a necktie, it will look like a dead fish hanging around your neck. That has nothing to do with fashion. It only has to do with your own physiology. And it’s not about knowing how much you should pay for something. It costs no more to wear a shirt with a collar that is appropriate for you than not. If you don’t wish to spend a lot of money, but you understand what works for you, it will look just fine. All of this is just about knowledge.”
Feeling my moment of reckoning had come, I noted the obvious: that I have a large head and a wrestler’s neck. My shirt collar was tall enough, it turned out—but that was just the start of the conversation. Before I knew it, Mr. Flusser had unfastened my tie in order to relieve it of the Windsor knot I have been using since I was a first-year associate and retied it with a more rakish four in hand. “Much better,” he said, and then he replaced my machine-finished pocket square with a proper French-made, hand-rolled model. It all came together just so. And that is what style is really about: helping you look your best, not the best of someone seen in a magazine or on a social media page.
Credit: Alan Behr
Alan Flusser maintains his custom atelier at 3 East 48th Street in New York City. He is the author of “Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion” and other works about men’s style. (www.alanflusser.com)
Last summer, we were treated to a new take on the skinny pants trend for men. In this go-around, it was sans socks, and the trousers were either hemmed several inches above the ankle or simply rolled up to resemble a pair of clam-diggers that had spent too much quality time in the clothes dryer. In the late Victorian era, you might have heard that an attractive woman had a “well-turned ankle”—because that was about the only part of her below the neck that cleared most of the enveloping layers in between. As anyone has recently offered such praise for women’s ankles?
We invite readers to share with us whether, at any point in the history of humankind, in any culture or territory, anyone has had anything exceptional to say about the allure of men’s ankles.
I have a photograph of my father at about the age of twelve, standing beside his nanny and his horse. He was wearing plus-fours, and as was correct for the period, he also wore socks that disappeared into the breeches. You see, guys: sometimes the old ways are the best ways. As the summer season unfolds, let us all sit back and take heed of the advice of a wise friend who has often reminded me, “Socks are important.”
Credit: Alan Behr
The one time I visited Israel, I quickly adapted to the headwear requirements of three separate faiths by the use of a simple mantra: synagogue, hats on; church, hats off; mosque, hats optional. I enjoy hats and wear them in all seasons. I think they look fantastic on men and women. When a woman wears a hat, whether it is a large bonnet to the “Hat Luncheon” (given annually by the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy) or a mannish fedora to a downtown club, it makes a statement. When a man walks inside wearing his hat, however appropriate it might be outdoors, I can only conclude that he is ill-mannered. Which leads to my meditation of the day: why is it that so many men think that wearing a porkpie hat while cruising through a museum, honing pickup moves at a bar or taking a prospective parents’ tour of an elite private school (which I witnessed) is in good taste?
Guys: sun, snow, rain or just for the joy of it—definitely consider headgear. Inside, unless covering the head for religious reasons, hats off, please.
Credit: Alan Behr