The Rules

Have you just been apprehended by the fashion police? Richard H is the man to get you off the hook.

The RulesRules, to paraphrase Mary Poppins, are like piecrust – made to be broken. For every perceived notion of how things should be there is a young revolutionary keen to sweep the old ways away with flourish and panache.

But if that young rebel should be sporting trousers that stop short of his ankles – well then, I’m afraid you can start the revolution without me.

So with this great caveat, let us consider those eternal and elemental truths on which men’s style is based. Following these rules will not make you well-dressed of course – but ignoring them might lead to a blush or two.

Trouser length
I start with trouser length because it is such a simple rule, and so easy to break. There may be moments and reasons for this – perhaps you have a sporty pair of socks, or are expecting a flood – but generally, the rule is this: trousers should just touch the top of your shoe when standing. Classicists suggest that the trouser-leg ideally bends slightly as cloth connects with leather – but then you want to watch those classicists.

Let us take a broad view of fit – because after all, when it comes to gentleman’s clothing, the broads always know best. Perhaps you favour skin-tight trousers. Does your bum agree with this choice? High collar shirts may work for your friend with the angular Adam’s apple – but if you were last in the queue when necks were being handed out, perhaps a spread-collar would work to your advantage?

Dress to suit your tastes, by all means, but always consider first how to best flatter your natural gifts and best conceal your flaws (not that I’m suggesting you have any, of course.)

Shirt cuffs, that is. There are rules, and there are exceptions. Sammy Davis Jr’s uncle always insisted on showing at least an inch of linen at the wrist. He, of course, was an entertainer – so perhaps you might err towards the half-inch? A matter for your conscience, as long as you stop short before two inches. If sir is concerned about cufflink visibility, might I suggest that he purchase a Turnbull and Asser – their “turnback” French cuffs position the link at the end rather than the middle of the cuff.

Keep It Simple, Stupid. If you are experiencing trouble matching patterned trousers with shirt with tie with socks – perhaps one or more of them needs to go. The power of a stylish flourish, such as a jazzy neckerchief, is diminished by forcing it into competition with other accessories. Give it a simple platform on which to parade it’s gaudy glory.
I can’t recall who it was that suggested that on your way out the door you always remove one item from your outfit. Take a tip from me though and keep hold of your trousers. Society isn’t ready.

It’s an old axiom, but a useful one. Always buy the best you can afford. Better to have two merino wool tops than five bri-nylon. Buying clothes that work in combination multiplies your choices immeasurably. Look at Michael Caine’s clothing rail in Alfie. Couple of suits, couple of sports coats, a few different pairs of trousers. Affordable, but nothing cheap about it.

Oil and Water
The following do not mix, except under exceptional circumstances (such as an earthquake, or that flood which your trousers have been expecting.)
· Checks and stripes
· White and cream
· Suit and trainers
· Men and handbags
· Black belt and brown shoes
· White socks and humanity
· Over 30’s and lycra

Just Don’t
The following no-no-nos have been compiled with the help of the Uppers folk. Feel free to dispute, or add your own below.

· Trousers whose waistband connects with your ribcage. Or your plumber’s crack.
· White shoes, generally, and buckled shoes particularly.
· Jumpers tucked in.
· Belt and suspenders (“never trust a man who doesn’t trust his trousers.”)
· Comedy tie/slippers/socks.
· Clothing featuring words or slogans
· Ironic reviving of clothing you actually wore the first time round

© Richard Hutt 2001 - 2015
[Published 22 February 2001]
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About the author

Richard likes all the same crap as everyone else. In all things he emulates the man on the "Mastermind" box.

He greatly admires Eugene Balk, and has a napkin signed by Terence Stamp.

Richard's book "The Much Calmer Sutra" was published in 2005 by New Holland Publishers (UK). Get your copy of The Much Calmer Sutra hereclick here

More info and other articles by this authorMore about this author

Charles Mingusjul 15 2003 12:34AM
You have to have something to improvise *on* though.
John Coltranejul 15 2003 12:34AM
Damn the rules. It's the feeling that counts. You play all twelve notes in your solo anyway.
Mike Strychninejun 27 2003 1:13PM
Nonsense about white shoes! Their beauty is in their versatility. They can go with almost any color, although wearing white shoes with a white suit would make you a little too Jesusesque. I personally like the Bolan by Merc. Although, the point I cannot stress enough is the actual style of shoe. There should be a constitutional amendment banning K-Swiss.
Helenjul 9 2002 6:08AM
Well, I hate to be the one to disagree, but according to her biography Audrey wanted to wear black socks for that scene, but the director insisted she wore white ones so that her feet would show up when she was dancing (Michael Jackson-style, perhaps?).
Thaddeusnov 24 2001 9:42PM
Nice, Nice. Except about the white socks. See Audry Hepburn in "Funny Face". Ok, so it was a mockery of the French cafe style and she WAS a gal... There's just something about Audry; Anything she does is canon by me.
Pete Baileynov 10 2001 4:16AM
Good article Mod is all about quality and style, and personel taste its a shame so many miss the point.
Jakeokt 9 2001 5:56PM
Wes, I think you deserve a proper beating. (see below) I also think these rules ought to be law, for the benefit of our less discerning mates. (also see below) :)
The Cavemanaug 27 2001 2:17AM
....fuck this stupid rules guys!!!!! DOIN'THE MOD!!!!!!!
carroaug 13 2001 12:33PM
because of all don´t do this and don´t do that, you will look boring! is that the point? just have what you think looks good, why all the rules?
Wesjun 27 2001 11:06PM
I love white socks. I buy the all-cotton, medium-weight kind from Gold Toe. This past weekend I paired them with cream-colored pants, a Claiborne for Men all-black short-sleeve shirt, and very shiny Ecco City Walkers. (It's important to have a reasonable amount of gel in your hair also.)

The white socks can be a fashion "surprise" paired with black shoes.

Upper's people - ever think of monogramming anything?

I thought that if I monogrammed or had my first name sewn into a short sleeve shirt it might look cool (bowling shirt effect?)

pmaj 10 2001 9:39AM
no white shoes? Paul Weller?
Boytronmar 20 2001 4:35PM
Of course no comedy ties.. But off-white/ beige is the basiscolour in my opinion, and matches every sane colour. A pair of white Superstars are nice too (Stan Smiths I find to shouty, though). And don't try to persuade me from strolling about with my navy coloured beauty of a handbag (more bowling- than ladylike of course...)
Jules Olivierfeb 26 2001 12:20PM
Oh, I´ll second that Richard.
Or maybe a morsel of humour served at room temperature?
Or might I perhaps be so bold as to recommend a soupcon of irony?
It does wonders for the digestion.
Your humble waiter
Richard Hfeb 26 2001 11:42AM
Thanks for the comments. May I strongly suggest that the article be complemented by a little pinch of salt? It will go down much easier that way.

Richard Karströmfeb 24 2001 3:19PM
Sara> Thanks for your comments. We will consider your thoughts. More pictures are coming up, and if you have some nice pics yourself, don't hesitate to contact us at info@uppers.org. We welcome all contributions.

Btw, we have a new section called Debate, which is rather suitable for leaving comments that regards the whole of the site, and not just one specific article. Thanks.
Sarafeb 24 2001 11:47AM
You uppers -people are good peolpe that I am sure of, but why not have more fashion articals wich are for both male and females? And it would be more fun to visit your page if you could have some more pictuers from avent, I know that things happen...
Brian Poustfeb 24 2001 3:19AM
Judge, you sho is funky!
Peterfeb 23 2001 6:23PM
Grow up, uppers people.
Timifeb 23 2001 5:23PM
You Uppers people are funny cause you must have written this to make people laugh ( in a nice way). It brought up a lot of memories of insecure teenage years.
joelfeb 23 2001 3:11PM
Er, look aren't we taking this all a bit TOO seriously? These articles are written in order to discuss style. Sure there are undeniably serious fashion blunders......(check out some shots of The Chasers and The Beazers...hideous!!)
but I agree with Pete, you have to rely on your own sense of style. Modernism is about individuality. Oh its all so complicated! This is all very reminicent of the "sunglasses" at night discussion.......ah well, once more unto the breach dear friends!! (or something like that)
Peter Wfeb 23 2001 1:49PM
Confidence, I believe, is rudimentary when dealing with style. Still it would be hard for any Narcissist to not slip in said department if your surroundings confidence in you was nil and nothing. Some rules are made to be broken, but others have been around since the turn of the century... chalk it up to trial and error my dear Emilia.
Emiliafeb 23 2001 1:23PM
Talk to the hand!

Isn't it all about selfconfidence?
Wear whatever aslong as it's you.

Nothing is quite as offensive as someone
who follows rules made by someone else.
Paul Secularfeb 23 2001 11:32AM
I think this article is ridiculous!!
I completely disagree with the following points:

· Trouser length.
* Ankle swingers are best (as long as the trouser bottom is no wider than approx. 16" max.

· Checks and stripes
* Can be pulled off. I've seen a mod looking good in pinstripe suit with gingham shirt.

· White and cream
* Are you mad!!? I frequently wear my off-white suit with ice-white shirt and black knitted tie. Very James Bond methinks!

· Men and handbags
* I carry a handbag. Most mods carry bags of one sort or another - usually a bowling bag (which I consider too casual to complement a suit)

· White socks and humanity
* White socks can look good in the right context - they are the only option with white summer sportswear.

· White shoes, generally
* Nonsense!!!

My advice to everyone out there is to ignore articles like this and make up your own mind!!!

joelfeb 23 2001 11:04AM
Being part of the fashion team, I feel it is my duty to admit to past fashion blunders that I have made. Yes, the combination of check and stripe is indeed a bad one. And yes, people laugh.........how they laugh. I think bags and men can go together though......but it is a case (no pun intended) of selecting the right one. Nice article by the way, Mr. H.
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