Today, we continue the discussion of the details that make a modern suit either a mark of distinction or an indication of ineptitude by turning our attention to leather. This will take in, briefly, a little time with shoes, but not a lot. We have already spent quite a bit of time talking about the importance of footwear in earlier posts. Today, however, the discussion will move up from simply addressing footwear to including those items that may also be made of leather, like the belt or watchband.
When addressing leather for the man of style and substance, there are three things to think about. They are color, weight and finish. Let’s look at each in turn.
When suiting up with a suit, you wouldn’t make the mistake of putting trousers from one suit with the coat of another (unless you were attempting to make a statement that Lady Gaga might appreciate). Instead, you take time to ensure that the suit is a matched set. The same should be true of the leather accessories, and that matching begins with color.
Typically, leathers will come in shades of brown, cordovan (a reddish maroon color) and black. Browns particularly may come in a variety of shades and hues, ranging from deep mahogany the sandy tan colors. Regardless of the color, a wise rule of thumb is to match them all. Not compliment, match. While modern fashion and style allow all types of adjustments in this matter when dealing with more casual attire, for the gentleman of style and substance, matching the colors is a detail which can set him apart from a sea filled with the unaware.
Shoes and belts are obvious for match, and care should be taken to ensure that one doesn’t change the color of one’s shoes by using too deep a color of polish when caring for them. This can cause a carefully selected belt to become just another leather strap only good for the weekend. Take care to keep belt and shoes properly cared for, allowing them to breathe togehter by alternating appropriately.
In today’s world, it is becoming more and more appropriate to mix and match different weights of leather in a single outfit. This may be entirely acceptable when dealing with casual and semi-formal attire, but in the matter of a suit, it is wise to ensure that the weight of the leathers match. If the shoes are substantial in appearance and construction, finding a belt that is equally sturdy is not just sensible approach, it is imperative. Likewise, if the shoes are somewhat light and cosmopolitan in finish and feel, the belt can likewise be something more flexible and lightweight.
What type of texturing do the shoes have? Are they grained, with a pebbled appearance? Then finding a belt of a similar finish is a fine touch, demonstrating awareness and taste. Are the shoes, instead, smooth and sparingly stitched? Find a belt that mirrors the appearance, and you complete a look without creating the type of fashion chatter that distracts on a subconscious level. Much like static on a radio or a blurry image in video transmission, leather unmatched can be just distracting enough to cause others to have to work at seeing you at your best. Remember, if you are wearing a suit, you have already committed yourself to the game of perception, agreeing for the sake of business or some other proposition that style and substance, in this situation and at this time, are perfectly balanced in fashion.
And I for one believe that if you are going to play the game, you ought to play it well.
Belt and shoes are obvious places for men to wear leather, but one more exists; the watch! If you have more than one watch, and if any of those watches have leather bands, be sure to extend the matching leather concept to this realm as well. If you don’t have multiple watches, I am not suggesting that you go out and buy more just so that you can have matching watchbands. I am simply suggesting that if the option is available, you would do well to keep it in mind.
You no doubt have noticed that everything revolved around the shoes. There are many reasons for this; I will mention only two. First, it is likely that the shoes will have cost more than the belt, sometimes by a factor of 10 or more. With that in mind, obtain the shoes, and then find the belt that best matches the leather in them. Second, while I am advocating that the match between leathers is important, it is more likely that the shoes will be noticed more quickly and with more critical eye than the belt. Hence, match everything around the shoes.
I mentioned in the title laces. some have asked me when it is appropriate to wear loafers versus lace ups. My answer is nearly always the same, ” what makes you most comfortable?” I wear both, and both feel fine on my feet. I allow weather and my plan for the day dictate my shoe choice. In colder and more blustery conditions, lace ups become the choice. If I am likely to be making presentations, I will select whichever I believe will leave me feeling the most comfortable.
What do you think of all this information?