Style and Fashion

Mind the details: pocket Square

A few of my pocket squares: Paul Smith, Reiss, TM Lewin, Tie Rack and Marks and Spencer

I’m starting a series on men’s accessories called ‘Mind The Details.’ ‘Mind The Details’ will explore men’s accessories and how they add value to your look. The purpose is to identify certain pieces that will take your dress game to the next level with little effort. To kick this off, lets start with my favourite piece of accessory, the pocket square.

If you have being reading my blog then you would know that whenever I talk about a fashion piece, I like to give a brief background or history to get things into perspective. I would’ve loved to do the same for the pocket square but I am not even going to try.

Simple reason being the origin of this piece of accessory is so unclear that different writers attribute it to different “inventors” from varying civilization. Because I like to talk in absolutes and facts except when I am expressing my views and opinions (which I usually make clear), I will leave the origins of this beautiful piece to the historians.

Packet square with a double breasted blazer

I have no intentions of digging up the remains of King Richard 11 of England (1367 – 1400) to ask him whether he had a hand in creating the pocket square. And just in case you are indeed interested in finding out the origins, please come back and share with us. Word of caution though, history favors the views of the writer regardless of facts.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s have a quick look at how the pocket square was used hundreds of years ago and try to relate it to present day use.

Before it became a fashion accessory, the pocket square was primarily used for health and hygiene purposes such as wiping hands and face, blowing nose or covering it to block out bad odors. It was also used by ancient Greeks to cover their heads. As time moved on, it became necessary to distinguish this small piece of cloth based on it uses, known at the time only as Kerchief. For the piece used primarily by the hand, word hand was added to kerchief (hence handkerchief) to differentiate it from the one used to cover the head.

Like the necktie, this was used by the upper class in different societies. Due to the stench from the streets and the odor of the working class men, nobles and upper class people would add perfume to the hanky to hold it close to their noses to disguise the smell.

Even though this piece of cloth is still referred to as the handkerchief by many, it is more commonly known as the pocket square in fashion circles. The difference lies in its function. The pocket square is strictly for fashion purposes and belongs in your suit or blazer or outer top garment’s pocket, whiles the handkerchief is for blowing the nose and wiping sweat and this belongs in your trouser pocket or the inside of your top garment.

Now that we have a bit of background to the original functions and how the name has evolved, let us now focus on the fashion and modern day use of this cloth known as the pocket square.

Some writers and commentators say that matching your pocket square to your tie is a fashion faux pas. All I can say to that is, its subjective.  I have matched my pocket square exactly to my tie and I personally think it’s a great look. Whether you want to match your pocket square to your tie or not, there are a few things you must consider. Does your entire look already have a lot going on? If so, then it may be wise to play safe and not try to introduce a completely different pattern or colour to the mix.

I personally think that the right pocket square can transform an everyday look into a more sophisticated one. The pocket square, just like the necktie, allows the user to instantly switch between levels of presentation. In a society where wearing a suit and tie is not only common but expected, the pocket square is the deal breaker to separate the men from the boys.

Pocket square with a denim jacket

Oh and do not for one minute think you can only wear a pocket square if you have a suit on. I have personally won a pocket square over a denim jacket to give the look a bit of a twist. So go ahead and experiment with your packet square.

I will be doing a blog post on the different kinds of folds you can use for a pocket square

I’ll be continuing with the theme of pocket squares. Next time i’ll be looking at the different folds such as the one point, two points, three points etc.

Please follow me on instagram at @cutsforhim for daily updates

Make a statement with colour

Colours! What is it about coloured garments (suits to be precise) that make most men panic? Is it the fact that we are never too sure how to pair colours when we choose to mix them, or is it the prospect of standing out in the crowd? Ok before I go any further, let me just qualify the word colour just in case some of you are wondering what I’m on about. My use of the term colour refers to anything outside of the neutral range such as black, white, grey, and sometimes brown and beige. These colours are neutral as they do not show or appear on the colour wheel. In essence they are “safe” hues. Fully saturated bold hues such as red or burgundy, green, aqua, pink, royal purple and more to the point, yellow are my idea of colours.

These colours are far less likely to be worn by men in comparison to the wardrobe staples such as navy, black, and grey. I mean don’t get me wrong these are appropriately named wardrobe staples for a good reason but you are not going to get very far if you truly want to make a statement where colour is concerned. Black, white, grey do a great job at pairing either with each other or anything on the colour wheel, but that’s about it.

Ok let me take a step back a little bit. The truth is wearing a full suit in any of the bold colours mentioned above is tricky and I get it. Imagine wrapping yourself in a badly cut coloured suit like royal purple on any given day. That will get you attention alright but for all the wrong reasons. Get it right and I guarantee you will turn heads, literally. I mean you only have to look back to Autumn/winter 2014 run way were many models donned the elegant burgundy. Burgundy was like an instant hit that continued it reign to date. Nothing better than a well-tailored burgundy suit for spring/summer 2015 season and I think Ozwald Boateng epitomizes this look perfectly. This have statement piece written all over it.

However, I understand that wearing a bold coloured suit is a bit too much for some especially those who are not used to colours. May be you want to break into this sphere of fashion and style gradually? Well I have good news for you. Your statement piece does not always have to be a full suit. I recon a well cut blazer can equally do the job with half the risk. To demonstrate this, I used my statement piece for spring/summer 2015 which is a yellow/mustard coloured blazer from suitsupply. I fell for this piece the minute I walked into the store. In fact, I went in for something completely different but left with a big smile on my face knowing that I have made a good purchase.

I do not need to wear matching yellow trouser with this piece as I recon I risk looking like a clown or worst a walking banana. The idea was to pair my yellow blazer (which is a warm colour) with a navy trouser (cool colour) to get perfectly balanced mix.

thumb_thumb_IMG_4512_1024_1024

I had the option of wearing either a blue or white shirt but went with the neutral option which is white. I added a pair of brown tasselled loafers from Paul smith, and brown belt from banana republic to match the brown buttons on the blazer. To top it all off, I also added a light blue pocket square (cool colour) to break the yellow a little bit. I made sure that nothing competed with the yellow blazer in the form of patterns or other warm colours. It was all about the blazer.

Pairing can be a daunting task for some, but I recon learning a thing or two about colours will go a long way to help. What better way to learn about colour pairing than the colour wheel eh. So yeah, get acquainted with the colour wheel and see how you get on. Understanding the position of each colour (all twelve) is important and will determine the difficulty or ease of pairing, or whether they can be paired at all.

Paddington, London

Here are three things to consider when looking at the colour wheel:

  1. Similar colours – these are next to each other and are generally easy to coordinate
  2. Complementary colours – Complementary colours are opposite each other on the wheel and are quite difficult to pair in comparison to similar colours. Try not to wear them in their full strength together as they may be too much for the eyes.
  3. Contrasting colours – these have three colours between them on the wheel and can be troublesome for the eyes if used with their full strength. A good way to pair them is to use a darker tone with one of them just so they do not compete with each other.

So brighten up your wardrobe by investing in a bold statement blazer. Come back and share how you intend to pair it up. Feel free to add your comments and tips below as I am sure other readers would appreciate it.

The makings of a ‘Rudeboy’ – Ska, Porkpie hats and fashion

Return of the rudeboy exhibition – Covent Garden

When a good friend Cano told me about the exhibition and launch of a book called Return of the Rudeboy, curated by Dean Chalkley and Harris Elliott, I immediately sprang into action by first entering the dates into my diary, and then proceeded to doing a bit of online research on the origins of the concept. I was quite keen to check out the exhibits this time round as I missed their very first London exhibition at somerset house in 2014.  I have heard and seen Dean and Harris’s body of works before and even follow their Instagram page but did not really know much about the history of Rudeboy and wanted to have a deeper understanding of its roots. What better way to do so than speaking to the two men who made it all possible, so off I went to the hospital club in Covent Garden.

‘Rudeboy’, no I am not referring to Rihanna’s  2010 hit song.  Just in case this is your first time hearing about “Rudeboy” in this context let me try to give you a quick background to it Jamaican origins from the 1960s to its present day use here in England.

Harris Elliott, creative director of return of the Rudeboy and I

What is a Rudeboy and how is the style relevant today?

Rudeboy is said to be the first youth subculture of Jamaica after the country gained independence from Britain in the 60s. This subculture was necessitated by poor living conditions in the shanty towns of West Kingston were an underground economy grew and young people had to find ways to survive by any means necessary. The youth quickly became disenfranchised and violence ensued, even leading to curfews being put into place to curb such violence. With these struggles by marginalised citizens came the need to form informal and sometimes illegal groups and gangs to protect and fend for friends and families. The original Rudeboys was formed. The rudeboy wore sharp suit and pork pie hats to create their own personal style. Some say they did so to mimic the lifestyle of the upper class adding sunglasses to the look which they wore at all hours of the day. Living in the slums of West Kingston but wearing sharp suits and ties makes the rudeboy identifiable by their neighbours in the slums and suspicious to the upper class of Kingston. They literally stood out and with time,  Ska music was associated with the Rudeboys.

Looking back in history, it may seem like Ska music and the Rudeboy subculture have enjoyed a close relationship from the start. However, Ska music came before the Rudeboy image was recognised as a subculture in the mid to late 60s.

Ska itself is a music genre with elements of mento, calypso, American Jazz and rhythm and blues and in the late 50s Jamaica and a predecessor of genres such as Rocksteady and Reggae.

Mind the details

Apart from dressing well and being huge fans of Ska music, the Rudeboy subculture helped spread the music to the working class which later became known as 2 Tone Ska upon it revival in England in the 70s. Subsequently, Rudi and Rudies (Rudeboy and Rudegirl) became terms used to describe fans of 2 Tone Ska as they enjoyed a strong presence within the genre.

British youths in the 70s, both black and white wore sharp suits, with slim ties, pork pie hats and shoes to match to identify with the movement’s Jamaican roots. As with its earlier days, the Rudeboy movement divided opinions and Ska artists of the 70s were no exceptions as some see the subculture as a menace whiles some celebrated it.

Part of the Rudeboy collection

Fast forward to present day “Return of the Rudeboy”, fashion photographer Dean Chalkley and creative director Harris Elliott curated various pieces of sharply dress individuals who show the essence and spirit of a Rudie through what turned out to be successful exhibitions both in London and in Tokyo. Speaking to Dean himself on the last day of the London, Covent Garden exhibition, it became apparent that all the Rudies photographed had their unique styles through which their individual personalities shown but collectively embodied the essence of the Rudeboy look. Dean made sure to point out that none of the photographed Rudies were styled by himself or Harris.

As Harris Elliott himself put it, ‘Rudeboy image is not down to the clothes but the wearer of the clothes. The spirit and attitude the wearer channels through their personalities’. It is easy to see this as I admired the printed exhibits.

Exhibits

The looks of a Rudeboy back in the 60s is a far cry from what we identify today as Rudeboy in the inner cities of London. Rudeboys or Rudegirls these days are more likely to be wearing sportswear showing their bottoms than a well-tailored suit. In fact the youth that refer to each other as ‘Rude’ today deliberately wear hoodies as a way of differentiating themselves from the suit and tie, which is seen as conforming to the status quo.

The re-emergence of original Rudeboy dress code highlights how inner city subculture usually associated with disenfranchised youth has evolved over time.

From the dance moves of the Ska music, to the way Rudies wear their hats and ties means that the Rudeboy movement is not limited to what you wear but the attitude and spirit the wearer gives off defines one as a Rudie.

A copy of the signed book

Just before leaving, I asked Dean when we should be expecting another exhibition. He simply smiled and said we shall see. So until then I recommend you get the book here.

Bow tie for no reason

Before delving into the details about this piece of accessory, let’s have a crash course on the history, just to put things into perspective.

Origins

It is believed what we know today as the bow tie can be traced back to the 17th century, worn by the Croatian army in what was known as the thirty years’ war between 1618 and1648. The purpose of this neckwear was functional which was meant to keep the collars of their shirts together. At the end of the war, the French army turned this otherwise functional piece of neckwear into a fashionable accessory and called it a cravat. At the time, the cravat was only worn by the upper class and was seen as a sign of opulence and grandeur.  With time, wearers of the bow tie diversified with university professors, lawyers, architects, and sometimes politicians all wearing it and making it a staple piece of accessory.

My favourite bow tie with a biker jacket!

The bow tie has never really been out of fashion but has seen a huge increase in use in recent years as the fashion world has infused its use into the everyday look. It is now more popular than ever which means you do not have to be heading to a formal dinner party or indeed a specific occasion to wear one. Traditional or stereotypical use has been dwarfed by an ever-increasing trendy demand.

Well know men who have been seen consistently wearing a bow tie includes Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Frank Sinatra and Fred Astaire.

If you intend to wear one, here is what you need to know to help you not only have fun with it but also appear stylish.

Types

I have classified types of bow ties into three categories:

Clip-on – The clip-on is my least favourite even though it can be used with minimum effort. It is literally a pre-made bow attached to a clip, which is in turn attached to the front of your shirt. Unless you intend to wear one for novelty purposes, do not bother.

Pre-tie – A pre-tie bow tie has already been structured and made with specific measurements and style. This is similar to the clip-on but the bow is usually attached to an adjustable neck strap for ease and comfort. This type is the most popular as it is much easier to put on than the self-tie and not as cheap looking as the clip-on. You can literally have it on in less than a minute.

thumb_IMG_4936_1024
Pre-tie bow tie

Self-tie – This is also known as the freestyle bow tie and is much more organic than the two above. As the name implies, wearers need to knot this type of bow tie, which in itself is a show of commitment to this piece of accessory. This is by far my favourite. The self-tie looks slightly different every time you knot it and may also look asymmetrical which gives it character and a bit of quirkiness.

thumb_IMG_4930_1024
self-tie bow ties

Shapes

Since its popularisation, it has seen changes in function and looks diversifying its shapes accordingly. The butterfly, the big butterfly, the batwing, the diamond point and the rounded club are all shapes the bow tie come in these days.

Look

The diehard everyday devotees aim for the eccentricity it brings to their look, which can be seen as an extension of their personalities. The question is; what’s your look?

So break the mould, present a contrarian point of view in fashion this season and don a bow tie for no reason.

Thank me later!