Men on the street: Sharp dressers

When Esquire magazine launched an exhaustive search for Britain's best-dressed 'real' man, the editor Jeremy Langmead found some very sharp dressers

Look through the best-dressed lists that many magazines publish and it's always the same people lauded.

Some quite deservedly – George Lamb or Prince Michael of Kent, for example – others a little more controversially, such as Elton John and David Cameron, who are always surprisingly high up on GQ's annual list.

So we thought it time someone got off their London-based behind and launched a serious nationwide search for the country's best-dressed real man.

For the last four months, Esquire's fashion team, with a photographer in tow, has trawled around Britain – 11 cities from Glasgow to London via Bristol and Oxford – seeking out the most stylish, creative and smartly attired men in the country. We also launched an online competition where guys could put themselves, or be put, forward for consideration by a panel of judges that included dashing actor Vincent Kartheiser (he plays Pete Campbell in Mad Men), leading Savile Row tailor Richard James, designer Roland Mouret, Jason Broderick, head of menswear at Harrods, and the beautiful T4 presenter Jameela Jamil.

The search was fascinating: although styles varied enormously from city to city (well done Liverpool, Manchester and London! Smarten up please Cardiff and Birmingham), ultimately we concluded that men today are not only looking pretty sharp, but are also extremely aware of what's in fashion or not (influenced more by the street than by the catwalk collections), and very confident in putting an outfit together and making it their own.

The tailored jacket was the most popular item around the country – whether modelled by a sexagenarian in Edinburgh or a teenager in Liverpool. Either worn conventionally as part of a suit, with dashing accessories such as a bow tie or traditional brolly, or teamed with a pair of skinny jeans and hightops, a fitted jacket really does work for today's man – whether he's working in an office in the City or hanging out in a Wi-Fi-friendly cafe populated by students.

It was the number of eccentric touches men like bringing to an outfit today that also made our sartorial road trip interesting: not only the increasingly popular skinny tie/small-collared shirt combo, or the summer-friendly, rolled-up-to-the-ankle trouser leg (all over the catwalks for next summer's collections, too), but the return to prominence of the pocket square and bow tie, or the prevalence of teaming traditional shoes with brightly coloured shoelaces and a flash of neon red or canary yellow sock.

The biggest disappointment of the search was the footwear: it all too often let the outfit down. It seems we are not yet a nation of male Imelda Marcoses.

Gareth, our fashion editor, was very upset by the number of "rubber-soled black slip-ons and pointy, thin-soled shoes" put forward (and, in case you're wondering, Gareth is straight). Looking through the pictures after hearing his bleats of distress, I had to admit that he had a point.

And there's no excuse: we have an increasingly wide choice of good men's shoes available in this country (whether it's at Kurt Geiger, Church's, or a bespoke pair from John Lobb).

This coming Wednesday we announce the winner of our search for Britain's Best-Dressed Real Man. He will be awarded £30,000-worth of clothes from Harrods, a Longines watch, a custom-built Esquire drinks bar, and will appear on a special limited-edition cover of the magazine.

It's going to be hard handing that prize over. But the winner represents all that's good about the way many British men dress today: smart and stylish, with a dash of invention and a heavy dose of confidence. The boys have done well.

Find out who is crowned Britain's Best-Dressed Real Man 2010 in the October issue of Esquire, on sale Monday 6 September. See the ones that got away at Esquire.co.uk

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