The Intelligent Consumer: Thou shalt not wear white socks

Style police: Nor do up all the buttons on thy jacket. And don't even think about a white suit. It's not that British men dress badly, they just need a little help
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Indy Lifestyle Online
THIS MONTH the British Clothing Industry Association launches "Dressing for Success", an initiative which will promote a best-dressed British man list and encourage the sartorially challenged to follow suit. Nominees for the list include Jack Dee, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Tony Blair. While applauding this mission to push white towelling socks and novelty ties back into the closet, we have our reservations. Style Police has the sneaking suspicion Peter Mandelson is behind this covert attempt to clone Tony.

Still, we agree that when it comes to dressing, British men could use a little help. It's just that some may need a little help. Style Police to the rescue.

Thou shalt not, ever, wear gold jewellery. Silver is more chic, cleaner and more subtle. More than one piece of jewellery is for used car salesmen and Peter Stringfellow alone. Ask Iain Garlant, head of Hardy Amies menswear and undoubtedly the best dressed man in London. "As a general rule, jewellery is risky. A leather thong around the neck with a pair of jeans is fun. A diamond encrusted Rolex with a suit is not."

To bastardise EM Forster, "always co-ordinate." Black and navy do work. Tone-on-tone navy suit, shirt and tie is as sharp as a dry Martini. Brown belt, black shoes, green watch strap, ghastly! If you follow bespoke couturier's Ozwald Boateng's advice, the colour for Autumn 98 will be midnight purple. Colour commandment numero uno is real men never wear red.

Don't live and die in a shirt and tie. Again, shirts and ties are tone- on-tone. If you don't feel comfortable in a tie, then buy a John Smedley crew neck and smile. Don't every be tempted by a white linen summer suit. Does the man from Del Monte mean anything to you?

Now for the great shirt debate; out or in? "Use you common sense," says Iain Garlant. "If a shirt is generously cut with deep armholes, then of course it can be worn outside the waistband. If the shirt is darted and shaped, then tuck it in. Look in the mirror."

Dress your age. This doesn't mean giving up trainers after 25 and retiring the combat pants. Why should you? But there comes a time in everyone's life when priorities shift, the tattoo starts to wrinkle and the leather thong gets lost in a double chin. It's time to move on.

Too groomed is wrong unless you happen to be standing in Cecil Gee's window. "Show some originality and never wear one designer head to toe," says Patrick Cox. A man with a manicure, quiff, too much scent and shiny shoes belongs in Madame Tussauds.

A word on buttons. We all know the one about the bottom button of a waistcoat. Who wears them anyway? But you should always button a suit jacket at the waist. "The basic rule, whether single or double breasted, is never do up all the buttons," says Garlant. "The button at your waist anchors the suit and you generally leave the buttons above and below undone. Your navel is the fulcrum of the torso. Everything hangs from the shoulders of a decent suit.".

Finally, women wax lyrical about the little black dress. Men have its equal in the little black suit. "You cannot have enough black suits," says House of Fraser chief executive John Coleman. "Invest in the best quality you can afford."

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