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Reader question: How stylish am I?

12 December 2008

Matteo-Marzotto-CEO-Marzotto-Group


Rob, London: I’ve recently started reading your blog and am struck by the universe of style that I am totally oblivious to. On a scale of one to ten (one = no style, ten = very stylish), where do I rank and why?

I’ve known Rob and worked with him for a long time, so it’s simple to describe his general style. The task is also helped by the fact that Rob always wears the same thing.

Rob wears a navy suit, a blue shirt and a blue tie everyday. He wears black socks and black shoes. Sometimes the tie will be black, but it is certainly always dark. The shirt is occasionally white. A few years ago I remember one day he wore a pink shirt. It didn’t happen again.

Rob has a navy overcoat and a navy beanie for the winter. His scarf is grey.

Now there’s nothing wrong with dressing consistently, even to a point that to others might consider dull. Italian men famously wear consistent outfits like this in navy tones, often to provide a background for something more unusual, such as brightly coloured driving shoes or strongly patterned coat. (See my post on the Italian Background.)

But these tonally regular outfits are also used as a way to express the seriousness of business dress, with the focus being on fit and quality rather than colour or individuality. Observe Matteo Marzotto, CEO of Valentino, for example, who is pictured at the top of this post.  

He always appears stylish, is even considered an icon. Yet his dress is usually simple, unadventurous and classic. The key is fit and some slight variations in texture.

Rob has had a suit or two made for him in the past I believe, in Hong Kong. But most of his suits and shirts are off the peg. Equally, he has often invested in some good quality shoes, some made to order, but other accessories are not necessarily luxurious.

So a steady investment in fit and quality would make a big difference. Try and get back to Hong Kong for some suits, Rob, or read the posts here about getting suits altered when you buy them. The better fit will make a big difference. And given that your accessories are so consistent, it will be good value to invest in some nice ties. Perhaps one in dark blue silk, another in dark blue cashmere.

Which brings me to material. A little bit of variation here can make a big difference – exchanging the shine of silk for the matte of wool, or knitted silk, for instance. Perhaps getting a navy suit in flannel rather than worsted; or using the shine of a cream silk handkerchief or the matte of white linen. All these things are subtle ways to add style to a conservative outfit.

So are you stylish Rob? It would be hard to give you a big score based on present form, but there is obviously an instinctive sense of style there, and there is huge potential for improvement with a few small changes.

So perhaps four out of ten today, with the possibility of seven or eight if you take my advice.

And lose the beanie.