One of the very peculiar things about being dressed well is that you can present yourself impeccably from head to toe, with clothes that fit properly, everything coordinating, while you radiate a mood of cool and yet still appear to be somehow unfinished in your appearance. In this regard dressing well is similar to a sentence that does not contain a period or a painting that has yet to be colored in; a man who neglects his accessories can seem like a work in progress. It is no exaggeration to say that accessories can bring vitality to an otherwise pedestrian ensemble. Take a banker for instance, a reputable one hopefully, he operates in a world that promotes bland conformity in its customary uniform of a plain dark suit and tie. If a banker was to add a handkerchief, pocket watch or boutonniere he could still be respectful of the professional world he abides in while still displaying his own individuality, swagger and a finely finished product. With the most subtle things he is essentially breaking free from the rest of the herd and leading the charge. Accessories can make all of the difference in the world in tipping the scales from falling in line with other abandoned works of art or standing out. We could speak on everything from flask, pocket watches, belts and so on, in so far as how they can accentuate your appearance, but for today’s purposes we limit our focus to the often overlooked handkerchief and wrist wear, specifically the watch and cufflinks.
As an accessory the handkerchief acts as the Viagra to a man’s wardrobe, a little item that has a very profound effect. It can appropriately go with any dress and casual dress top, including a suit jacket, sports coat, blazer or vest. It adds a level of class and completeness to an ensemble. It can also lend credence to the most inexpensive and “frugally” constructed clothing. It cannot however do miracles of resurrection, so any polyester powder blue collections should stay buried in your closet no matter how fine the handkerchief. The main purpose it serves is not a functional one, as you are to keep a handkerchief in your back pocket for the purposes of sneezing and counseling sobbing damsels. Its main purpose is to simply be shown off. It is the one article of clothing that should harmonize with your clothes, taking hints from the color and pattern of your shirt and tie, as opposed to coordinating directly with them. It acts as a cousin of the family as opposed to a brother. The other thing about a handkerchief is that it should never appear that you spent more time intricately folding it than scientists took in mapping the human genome. It should never appear studied as there is no absolute right way to wear it, from the poofed handkerchief of Fred Astaire to the simple square fold of Frank Sinatra, they should be worn in a way that is signature to you.
As far as the accessories for the wrist go, the wrist watch and cuff links are certainly two that garner a good deal of attention. This could be due in large part to the value we can so readily attribute to them. It is also probably why our current culture has the habit of mistaking how ostentatious a watch and cufflinks are for how tastefully appropriate they are. Simply because a watch is comprised of more diamonds than the total found in the Sierra Leone does not mean that it communicates an air of class. In contrast it can give off a vibe of obnoxiousness and much like the compulsive purchase of a sports car by a balding male in middle age, could come across as someone trying to overcompensate for something. In terms of dressing well, the thinner the watch is the more elegant. It may of course display decoration but that decoration should never distract from the body of the watch. It would be as if you purchased a fine meal and then buried it in a mountain of salt. What would be the point of having even ordered the meal? When it comes to cufflinks the most dressy and refined among them usually have a design on both sides. They are also increasingly difficult to find unless you go to a specialty shop. That leaves the one sided variety for most of us, which is just fine as long as you stay within some simple boundaries. Your cufflinks should pick up there tone first from your tie, and if you are not wearing one, then your shirt. You should also keep the flashier cuffs that contain gems like sapphire, emerald and rubies for your after work hours and confine your boardroom links to the more conservative, limited ornament variety. All in all it is important to recognize that the smallest things can make the biggest differences to your wardrobe. They are what allow you to make the transition between simply fitting in and standing out. As you should know by now, no gentleman simply fits in.
Marcus Green is the author of A Year Without April, and lives in Seattle,WA. His motto is that “90% of life is simply showing up…dressed well.”