The Shopper: Accessories Make the Gentleman

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's easy to just toss on whatever black-and-white get-up the tux rental salesman offers, but why be one more identical penguin in a rookery of thousands? It may be a fancy affair, but you can have a little fun, too.

"The rules have softened," says tailor Matt Landsberg of the District's Eric Finn Custom Clothiers. "A lot of tuxedos are not as formal as they once were."

Take your first step by ID'ing your style persona. If you're the Cary Grant type, abandon staid skinny ties and try the traditional ascot, as spotted recently on soccer star David Beckham and "Gossip Girl" style ace Chuck Bass. This sophisticated and classic look can read stuffy, so keep it modern by selecting a crisp, fresh pattern, such as a purple-dotted black silk version. Prefer the Humphrey Bogart-approved black bow tie? Add some old-school panache with a smart formal scarf, such as Carrot and Gibbs's handmade, reversible black-and-white silk style.

If your taste leans more toward the funky, eclectic fashions of Will.I.Am, introduce interesting details, such as Band of Outsider's retro bow ties, in offbeat mustard velvet or a subdued print. Or give a (subtle) nod to our fair capital's history with shiny cuff links fashioned from 1960s trolley tokens.

Whether you're channeling a silver-screen icon or a modern-day trendsetter, don't forget the cardinal rule: "Some guys try to overdo it," Landsberg says. "Keep it simple, and stick to the accent pieces."

Because no man wants to be the lone peacock among penguins.

-- Michelle Thomas

Getting the Look

Local stores are at the ready with men's inaugural style guidance:

· Today from 7 to 9 p.m., Lost Boys hosts a Band of Outsiders trunk show, showcasing the label's tuxedo shirts and bow ties, while owner Kelly Muccio offers private style consultations. 1033 31st St. NW, 202-333-0093.

· On Tuesday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., two Nordstrom locations will offer free curbside services: bow-tying and last-minute style tips for men heading to inaugural balls, and cosmetics touch-ups and emergency accessories purchases for women. 8075 Tysons Corner Center, McLean, 703-761-1121; 1400 S. Hayes St., Arlington, 703-415-1121.

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