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Generations: Dressing well instinctively

31 December 2008

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. Mine, spent in Dorset with my extended family, had one sartorial highpoint – the instinctively stylish dressing of my grandparents.

On Christmas Day, they were the best-dressed people there (by my traditional and subjective values). And that includes me.

Before you splutter with surprise and indignation into your coffee, I had tried – but I wasn’t sure about the lime-green pocket square and my jeans really need taking in. Jackie and Pops (as my grandparents are known to the family), on the other hand, were well-brushed harmonious poise.

Pops wore green wide-wale corduroy trousers, matching green socks and rubber-soled Derbys with just a hint of red in their brown leather – perfect to offset the green of the corduroy. On top, a biscuit-coloured cardigan over a Tattersall shirt (with one of Tattersall stripes also being biscuit). The finishing touch was a navy Ascot with small geometric pattern, hidden away a little under the shirt and as casual as could be. In this way an Ascot is more like a scarf than a tie – it need not be plumped and perfect.

The colours worked together beautifully, all Autumn and deep forest colours. The patterns and textures equally, heavy trousers matched with thick-soled shoes and pattern density considered in the Ascot and shirt.

Except that considered is the wrong word, because this was done largely sub-consciously. The outfit was not put together with the obsessive attention that many interested in traditional menswear today use when deciding what to wear. It was done simply, by picking out items that had been worn together before and felt right to be worn together. That’s all.

Jackie wore brown slacks in a Glenurquhart check, paired with darker brown polka-dotted socks from Pringle and leather Oxfords. On top, a brown polo-neck sweater worn underneath a cream, checked cardigan. The checks on cardigan and trousers did not clash, their relative difference in density of pattern (and, indeed, density of weave) making sure they complimented each other.

Again, when I remarked how well the colours and patterns went together, Jackie was flattered but a little surprised. While some thought had been put into what would look good, there was no theorising or overt study involved.

It must be wonderful to have grown up in an age when everyone took these things as standard. Here’s hoping I dress with as much ease and grace in a few decades’ time.