Here's everything you need to know about the new men's fashions: collars, lapels, neckties and belts are all smaller, like they were 15 years ago.

The big new look is relaxed, or unstructured, or decontracte, which means that clothes are supposed to be baggy and sloppy, neckties pulled down, collars turned up, everything folding and drooping like the skin on a Chinese fighting dog. The big fall color is taupe, sort of a brownish gray.

Now you know. You won't pay any attention, but at least you know. This keeps you even with your wife or girlfriend, who'd love you to get into the new stuff, but she knows better. She has probably tried a couple of times, and you gave her this are-you-nuts glare and she wrote you off as the helpless drab peer-pressure patsy that you are. Women never understand. Or they always do. It's hard to tell.

Actually, men try to bust out every once in a while, which never works. In 1969, somebody started selling psychedelic neckties, and the streets were freckled with guys combining nice pinstripe suits with chrome-and-magenta Day-glo sunrises dripping all over their chests, like sucking chest wounds. It just didn't work.

Ordinarily, changes in men's fashions are so minuscule as to be invisible to all but, well, men. It's a very big deal when men take half an inch off their sideburns, or add a pair of pleats to the fronts of their trousers. This year a typical major development has been a decision to unbutton the second button as well as the first one on a sport shirt.

Consequently, the relaxed look will go nowhere. Narrow neckties will come in because, like it or not, men have to not only get new neckties at Christmas, but they have to wear them, too. The relaxed look will merely lurk as a concept, even a temptation.

Hence the value of a muffler. Say some Friday night you're out drinking, and you get a comfortable load on. You feel like going with the flow. You can pull your tie down, flip up the collar and - if you've had the foresight - yank your taupe cashmere four-foot muffler around your neck. Hey, you're a mess now! Beautiful! Your lady looks over at you. She knows not to scare you with any kind of extravagant compliment. So all she says is: "You look nice like that."