If there’s anyone who knows men’s style — i.e., why a man wears what he does and how he can do it better — it’s G. Bruce Boyer. In his new book True Style, Boyer covers the gamut of modern menswear with an inimitable blend of historical acumen, practical guidance and delightful commentary.
Informative, sure. But don’t mistake this tome for a self-help book. Boyer is a wordsmith, capable of imparting a topic that — for many — makes the eyes glaze over with an acid tongue and brilliant insight.
Below, five things we learned on what makes great style, and how to achieve it.
1. Appearances are a language. “When clothes talk about us,” writes Boyer, “they identify us as a member of this or that group, and the language they speak is the language of the group.” So the question is: Which group do you wish to associate with? And to anyone who scoffs at that idea, we present a Boyer maxim: “To consciously avoid fashion is itself a committed fashion.”
2. Always buy the best you can afford. Boyer spends a good amount of white space harping on the rational importance of quality. “In order to save money, invest in quality.” What he’s getting at: durable goods may cost you in the short-term, but over time they pay for themselves.
3. Maintenance will become more important. Boyer predicts prices of quality clothing will only continue to escalate, and for that reason, maintenance will become more important than ever. There’s a whole chapter devoted to practical maintenance tips, from rotating garments to give them rest to the importance of professional dry cleaning to educating yourself on the fiber contents of your threads.
4. Fit is the most important criterion of dress. Consider your body, man. Have you developed a clear sense of what works for you, physically? The aesthetic rule on collar size, for example: “The smaller the man, the smaller the collar; the longer the neck, the higher the collar may be.”
5. Never be too studied. One thing menswear blogs and fashion magazines do: offer up rigid, often arbitary rules that too many men follow. “Everything all matched up,” Boyer says, “makes the uniform obvious, overly fastidious and blatantly narcissistic.” Good point. Boyer is a big fan of subtle effort, having also penned a whole chapter on sprezzatura, the Italian word for studied carelessness. Which, one can argue, is True Style in a nutshell.