Men’s fashion explained #2: Art of Dressing

In ‘Men’s fashion explained’ I will take one item from the classic ‘ABC of Men’s Fashion’ by Edwin Hardie Amies to discuss here on the blog. We still can learn from Sir Hardy Amies, the late dresser of the Queen. In the second part I’ll explain more about the Art of Dressing and the subtleness of combinations. The first part in the series was about Care of Clothes.

The ABC of Men’s Fashion

Recently, I ran into a little gem in quite a quite gentleman-ish refined book store in the Dutch city of Arnhem, Het Colofon. At its second-hand section I found an book called “ABC of Men’s Fashion” by sir Edwin Hardy Amies, which was published by the Victoria & Albert Museum. The book – for all men – is an alphabetical guide for a (gentle)man’s appearance. Although first published in the 1960s – the 1970s still had to come – Hardy Amies denounces the decay in the appearance of men. For us beyond the 1970s this book should be a guide to rediscover that fashion is masculine too. Every extra attention by a man to his appearance should be encouraged.

Art of Dressing

The art of dressing

“A man should look as if he had bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care and then forgotten all about them”. This shows a man is confident about his appearance, but he should not continuesly emphasize what he is wearing. This is what our author calls the art of dressing. People – woman and man – in their appearance pay each other the compliments and show their effort of looking good for the other. Not for one-selves.

The essence is how to combine. Combination serves three purposes: 1. tranquility, 2. nonchalance, and 3. self-confidence. An outfit  must “not give a big punch”. The trick is to dress with a set of clothes in a series of tones of the same colour. This is the base and this creates the tranquility. The big punch comes when the base consist of contrasting colours.
To achieve nonchalance (“which is absolutely necessary for a man”) one items should not match. Wear for example contrasting socks, a different styled pocket square or tie, or a chino in a different colour. Personally I believe the contrast in one item should be as big as possible, and additionally a second may also be contrasting, but just an accessoire and less than the first item.

This enhances your self-confidence. Self-confidence comes when you agree with your outfit. Even for people with a bad taste, as you know a bad taste is better of having no taste at all. But if you show you did your best to look good and well-thought off, you’ll you are certain of who you want to be.


All this should be considered in the light of harmony: “each item in your costume should have a certain degree of sympathy with the others. This is not a matter of matching colours or patterns. Contrasting colours can harmonize much more effectively than matching ones by setting each other off”. If somethings doesn’t harmonize, it conflicts. And conflicts should be avoided at all times.

So, items which contrast are sometimes better to wear than items with same tones of colours. How? This seems to contradict, Mr. Amies! How do we match? And what matches? Confusing.
Myself, I think this is a matter of perspective. With that I mean that you have to find out what fits and what you like to wear without making a fault pas. It comes to practice, but the three purposes for combinations should never be forgotten.

But hey, it’s not without reason the “art of dressing”.

Art of Dressing

Me wearing contrasting light and dark items

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