Accessorizing the Suit: Finishing Touches

In some earlier posts we have addressed the fundamentals of accessorizing a suit to make the most professional impression possible while spending as little as possible.  Remember, the point of these pieces of advice is to step up the appearance of a basic suit by the addition of critical pieces, most of which can be acquired for a very reasonable investment.  This particular post will deal with what I call finishing touches, or “costume jewelry” for the man of today.

In a woman’s wardrobe, costume jewelry is just that, costume.  It is inexpensive and designed to produce a certain look, dressing up an outfit that might otherwise be somewhat plain in appearance.  For the gentleman and the suit, the same thing can be accomplished with a few critical items.  All of them can be obtained rather inexpensively to start.

Pocket Square

A critical piece of the bespoke man’s wardrobe is the pocket square.  In many circles, pocket squares have begun making something of a resurgence, while in others they have remained ever present.  Worn in the outside chest pocket of the suit with just a small amount of fabric showing, it is a symbol of taste and sophistication.

The pocket square can be worn either pressed flat with an iron, so that a slim line of fabric is visible just above the pocket, or in a more roguish manner, “thrown” into the pocket with the four corners being visible.  Also, the color of choice for high style is always white, although a choice of color that matches the tie being worn is also appropriate.

Lapel Pin

The lapel pin is a hold over from the days when honor societies and fraternal orders were commonplace, and the pin worn on a lapel was as much a key for entry into exclusive clubs as it was a mark of deeds accomplished.  Today, they are not quite so commonplace, and conversely, they are everywhere one looks.

If you are fortunate enough to have attended a school where you distinguished yourself in academics, sports, or some other aspect of college life, it is likely to believe that there is a lapel pin that reflects the accomplishment.  Volunteer organizations often also give Ribbons showing support for various causes have been made into finely crafted pins.  Find one for a cause that you believe in, and wear it with pride.  Finally, if you can think of nothing else, a flag showing either a country of heritage or the country of your citizenship can be a fine finishing touch.

Cufflinks

If you have made the investment in some french cuff shirts, cufflinks are a must.  More than simply holding your cuffs together, they can be a statement of various kinds.  Do you have a particular interest or hobby?  There is likely a pair of cufflinks for that.  Is there a movie franchise that you think is worth talking about?  Again, cufflinks that are connected to this are likely somewhat easy to find.  Want to find something unique?  Cufflinks are an easy bet.  I have even made several pairs of cufflinks, and the ones I have made continue to be not only the least expensive ones that I own, but also the best conversation starters.

With these three items in mind, along with the other suggestions that have been made during these posts, you are well on your way to being recognized as a man who can not just wear a suit, but wear it well.

What other items or tidbits of advice have served you well in connection with your efforts to dress up your suit?  Leave a comment with them for the benefit of others.

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An Open Letter to my Sons

Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of being a father is figuring out how to connect to my sons, to pass on to them the things that I have learned, especially when that learning came at a high cost.  We want to give them enough information to allow them o be successful in life while minimizing unnecessary pain.  We want them to know we love them and that we are always available to them.  But finding the time to say it, particularly when caught up in the daily process of making a life and living can be exceptionally difficult.

Sometimes the best way to do it is through a letter,  So today, I am going to take a few moments to pass on some of that information to my sons, and I’m going to let all of you in on the info.

My son,

As you continue to grow, you are going to be confronted by opportunities that will challenge your character.  You will see friends give in to the temptations of immediate gratification of appetite and pride, and you will wonder how much little infractions of a moral code really impact your life.  You may wonder what character is all about, and with good reason.

Allow me, for just a few moments, to explain what I think character is and to build a case for living a life committed to maintaining your character.

Character is one of those words that we use, and that we think everyone understands, but sometimes we don’t share the same meaning.  While there are many aspects to the definition, the one I wish to focus on for just a few moments is described by Dictionary.com as “qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity.”  Honesty, courage and integrity.  these three principles might be called the pillars of character.

In today’s society, some will contend that maintaining these standards is too hard, that they are fine ideals to talk about and to use to inspire the lives of children, but that in the lives of adults they are just too lofty to achieve.  That may be true.  Every man that I have known has had times when maintaining these virtues was nearly impossible, and many of us, if not all, have been imperfect at maintaining them in our lives.  But I contend that the struggle is all the more important because it is so hard.

Consider the politician or activist who spends a lifetime building communities and giving service who is discovered later in his life to have been involved in dishonest business practices, falsifying simple documents to get ahead in life or committing similar lapses in honesty.  All the good that might have been connected with the individual, both past and future, can be destroyed in a few moments.

Or imagine the plight of the man who shies away from difficult things, the risks that are necessary to make changes for the better in his life?  How does such a man encourage his sons or others who might be looking to him for inspiration and encouragement when he takes himself out of the fight?  Such a man will have a difficult time rallying others to fight, especially when the fight is most needed.

Finally, think about situations that you have seen, perhaps in the lives of friends or family or played out in the media, where an individual is shown to be hiding a lie.  Think on the pain that is caused in the lives of family and friends when the deviation is revealed.  A simple lapse in integrity may not result in the crumbling of western civilization, but the trust of family and friends may take significant time to earn back, and may not be earned back fully ever again.

Please understand, son, I’m not saying that if you fall short you are not a man.  I am urging you to never excuse yourself from the fight!  I am lodging an impassioned plea for you to spend every ounce of strength you have in maintaining these pillars.  Strive to be honest, and you will never worry about what others say about you.  Work to be courageous, and when you are weak you will find yourself surrounded by those who will gladly help you.  Live every day with an eye to integrity and you will find yourself at peace in spite of difficulty in every aspect of you life.

Son, I love you.  And I promise you, out of both my own experience and the experiences of the other men of substance in your life, these principles will help you live with success and peace.  And an absence of them will bring nothing but sadness, misery and anguish.  And I love you too much to let that happen to you.

And remember, when you struggle, and when you fall short, you can always start again at any moment, and try one more time to be a man of character.  And I will be right by your side, any time, and will fight with everything I have to help you.

Now go forth into the world, and be a man.

I love you,

Dad