I just reread your post “Top 10 Men’s fashion rules” and it has much more meaning to me now that I am a bit older and more ‘professional’ than I was when you first wrote it. Anyways, I did have some serious questions that I need to get to the bottom of, perhaps you can help out?
1. When is a logo acceptable? Is a Ralph Lauren polo unacceptable because it has a logo? What about a parka with it’s brand on the sleeve?
2. If you work in an office, and your co-workers wear jeans and t shirts to work, is it acceptable to wear a suit and clearly stick out?
3. Are monograms in any location acceptable?
4. Under what circumstances could an evening cloak be worn? This is essentially a cape worn over a tuxedo, also known as an opera cloak.
1. Logos should only be worn at sponsored events in which you are taking part. Your company has a picnic and gives out t-shirts, for instance (take the t-shirt off after leaving and never wear it in public). Or at the ballpark (go Tigers!). Never wear logos elsewhere. Why would you want to become a walking advertisement? You’ll be like those women who buy the most outrageous bags with enormous lettering on them, carried only for the purpose of status signalling. Awful.
The no-logo restriction makes it difficult to find clothing at times, because companies have figured out citizens do like status signalling. Nevertheless, don’t fall for it.
2. Absolutely. Wear a suit, or wear a jacket and tie matched with anything but jeans or khakis. Well, I take the khakis back, only because it is possible—but barely—to some that look good. Don’t worry about being stared at. After a week or two your office mates will have forgotten about your eccentricity and you will appear normal. And sometime soon after that, many of them will secretly feel shabby when you pass by.
It’s a fiction that you can’t dress nicer than your boss. Simply putting on a collared shirt would be dressing better than the slobby billionaire Mark Zuckerberg. If you follow the absurd rule of dressing worse than your boss, at Facebook you’d have to sport nothing but a ragged diaper.
3. Monograms are acceptable, as long as they are subtle. For instance, on a tie clip or the tail end of a tie. Many men have their shirt fronts monogrammed, which should be avoided. Too ostentatious. Feel free to put a monogram on the inside of the shirt by the neck. Helps the dry cleaner. Special event clothing, like navy blue blazers worn at a club can have monograms; but this is like the restrictions on logos. Only wear them while at the place or function for which they are intended.
4. The cloak can be worn when it matches the clothes underneath. Not in color or material per se, but in dressiness. Believe it or not, a regular reader of this blog wears a cape when he is in black tie. He pulls it off magnificently. But he does so because he remembers not only the rule just given, but also the mandate that men must wear dress hats outdoors. The hat this gentleman sports is a not a fedora, which would not look well with a cape. Instead, wear a bowler or, even better, a homburg. The bowler should look as much as possible as a homburg, incidentally.
I suppose you could wear an opera hat. I’ve only seen this done once at a now defunct coffee shop on the Upper East Side. If you’re going to wear a cape, or opera hat, you have to have the courage of your convictions. Slouch or show awareness in the goofy looks you’ll get and the game is up. Be bold.