A reader asks Russell Smith: What are the most common mistakes you see Canadian guys making when they dress?
The unironed dress shirt
It’s kind of endearing, actually, to see the sort of guy who wears a tee every day pull out his one grown-up shirt with buttons (usually at his girlfriend’s insistence) for a funeral or a dinner party – it means he wants to show respect. But the curled, misshapen collar undermines the intended formality. If you wear a good shirt, it has to be crisp. If your collar is curling even after you iron it, try collar stays.
It’s hard to get used to the new narrow pants, I know: If you attempt to create an old-fashioned break in the front, you’re going to end up with a pile of fabric ruffled over your shoe. Too much wool down there – or worse, hems touching the ground – makes you look as if you’re wearing someone else’s suit.
I mean those Oakley-style frameless athletic ones, glasses that try too hard to suggest that you’ve just been windsurfing. They come in funny colours and tints. They’re even worse when worn on top of or at the back of the head. (Upside down at the back of the head is a capital sin.)
The hanging dress shirt is the mark of the superconservative guy’s guy. It screams barbecue, brewskis and blonde jokes. Elegant men tuck their shirt in, and wear a nice belt, too.
A sandal that doubles as a running shoe; a hiking shoe that doubles as a “dress” shoe; a rubber bootie that pretends to be anything other than what it is. You’re not fooling anyone. Special-purpose shoes should be reserved for their special purposes.
Wing collars worn with black tie
This Edwardian affectation can work, as long as you don’t sport an average black bow tie – that is, one with a slider to adjust its length. The slider, like garters or braces, is not meant to be seen. If you are the kind of guy who has a custom-sized bow tie with no slider, then you are in the Advanced Class and I trust you to wear any collar you choose.
Ed Hardy anything
Novelist Russell Smith’s memoir, Blindsided, is available as a Kobo e-book. Have a style question? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.