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Posted at 10:35 AM ET, 07/15/2011

A guy’s guide to haberdashery

The other day it occurred to me there needs to be a set of formal rules and regulations for guys to follow when shopping for clothes. (Such a guide might be helpful to women, too, so they know what’s going through a guy’s brain, whichever organ may be processing his particular thought patterns at that moment.) John Molloy’s old classic Dress for Success had a lot to recommend it, but John left a few things out.

 Herewith, then, an updated and more inclusive Guy’s Guide to Clothes Shopping:

1) Shop in stores that have masculine, guy-sounding names, such as Sears, Brooks Brothers, Eddie Bauer, Larry’s Haberdashery, the Big-and-Tall Shop, the Short-and-Squat Spot (where I do most of my shopping), and places like that. Be wary of places with names such as “Banana Republic” and “Britches” unless you are a confirmed metrosexual, and any other place with a cutsey pun in the name (“Shirts Happen,” “Ascots for Glasshats,” etc.). Unless you have two first names like Joe Bob, Billy Tom, Bobby Joe, Jimmy Jack, Joe Don, Don Joe, etc., NEVER shop in any store that has “-Mart” as part of its name.

Stores with names containing things like “Ralph,” “Tommy,” “Giorgio,” are trickier. Some are okay in a pinch, some are not (“Yves” is a no-no, as are any other French names). First, have lots of money. Second, if any of the clothes shown in the window are pastels or have shades with names like “periwinkle,” “fuscia,” “taupe,” etc., stay away. If the window mannequins show male models with long scarves draped around their necks, run like a bandit.

2) Colors. For some men, colors can be tricky and a source of fashion error, but there is no reason for this to be so difficult. Consult any color wheel and make note of the primary and secondary colors. If the color doesn’t fall on this color wheel, or can’t be found in a box of no more than 16 Milton Bradley crayons, forget it; it is a high-risk color, and probably requires that the item be “matched” (technical jargon phrase “color-coordinated”) with some other item. This is nothing but a source of vexation, and so best avoided. (White, black, tan and brown aren’t on the wheel, but are also okay colors. Camouflage is not a color.)

 (There is a rumor to the effect that some colors on the color wheel are said to “clash” with the colors directly opposite them on the wheel. I don’t know what this means; you can safely ignore such a silly theory. There is nothing wrong with orange socks and a purple shirt, so far as I’m aware.)

 Black dress shirts are fine if you are Italian, a member of the Russian Mob, or going to a reunion of your old World War II S.S. battalion. Black dress shirts are always worn with a necktie of a solid color, which can include black and also black. (However, blood-red neckties can be useful for hiding stains, if you know what I mean.)

3) If you live west of the San Andreas Fault or south of the Miami Causeway, it is okay to wear an Armani suit over a T-shirt and/or to roll up the sleeves of said Armani suit. If you live anywhere else, it is not even permissible to own an Armani suit, much less roll the sleeves up. (Actually, it IS permissible to own an Armani suit; however, anyone who would do so isn’t likely to be reading this kit anyhow, so the point is moot.)

 4) Belts: Belts come in a wide variety of colors and materials: brown, black, and leather. Anything else is a fashion faux pas.

(Can somebody explain to me why the championship belt awarded to the winner of the World Wrestling Federation looks like something Liberace designed for Elton John? I could never quite figure that one out. But I digress.)

5) Suspenders: Mork from Ork and topless dancers at the Choo-Choo Lounge can wear them; you can’t. (Major exception: weddings.) Deal with it.

6) Bow ties: See No. 5, above.

7) Shoes: Shoes (ordinary everyday shoes, anyway) come in a wide variety of colors and materials: brown, black, and leather. They come in two styles: with laces, and without. Anything else is a fashion faux pas. Running shoes (formerly known as “sneakers”) come in a wide variety of colors and materials: white, with white laces. They used to come in two colors, black (high-tops) and white (high-tops and low-tops), but not any more. Now they come in a zillion patterns and styles, and some even light up when you bounce on them. If you pay more than $30 for a pair at any place except Pick-and-Pay, you are an idiot. If your running shoes have little pinky slots for each toe, why then you are just adorable. Only you can decide exactly how adorable you wish to be. Personally, I am already way too adorable for my own good, and don’t need individual pinky sneakers to enhance my natural adorabullishness. Your mileage may vary (though I doubt it).

If you live west of the Mississippi and east of the San Andreas Fault you can wear cowboy boots, unless you are less than eight years old or you are a topless dancer at the Choo-Choo Lounge.

 8) Socks: Socks come in a wide variety of colors: black, and also white. Black socks go with shoes. White socks go with sneakers. Anything else is a fashion faux pas. See, wasn’t that easy?

If you live within 20 miles of a major body of water (i.e., has salt in it or is freshwater but has the word “Great” as part of its category) you may wear boat shows WITHOUT socks. In fact, if you wear boat shoes at any time, you may dispense with socks at any time, even in the dead of winter in ice-bound Point Barrow.

 (If you are in the boating industry, then you already know there is one, and only one, acceptable uniform: Topsiders; no socks; chinos; white, short-sleeve, button-down Oxford shirt, blue hopsack blazer, optional “rep” tie. When I was a yacht broker and sold the Mayflower to the Pilgrims I was wearing Topsiders, no socks, chinos, a blue blazer, and a powdered wig.)

9) T-Shirts: T-shirts come in two kinds: white, and any possible flaming combination of psychedelic colors as long as it features the name and logo of a major rock band’s tour. (The older the tour, the better, as long as you don’t go further back than Rosemary Clooney. A more recent, contemporaneous tour is acceptable, but Justin Bieber is off limits.)

Hope this helps some of you guys who are a bit sartorially challenged.

By Curmudgeon  |  10:35 AM ET, 07/15/2011

 
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