I haven’t worn every possible accessory available to the male gender. I’ve never rocked a cane, I’ve never braved a tie chain, my psychic connection with my ties prevents me from harming them with a tie tac. The list doesn’t stop there.
Why I Wear Accessories
And despite the list of things I haven’t worn I still know the value of accessories. You do too.
I was at a coffee shop today working on a few things and I noticed this woman walk in with her mother. She was in good fitting jeans and plain blue sleeveless top. They sat down at a table and starting a conversation in what I think was some Slavic language. She was gorgeous and I’d take an occasional break from work to look at her but my eyes would go to the same spot over and over again. This beaded blue and brown necklace that she wore. This very simple very cheap accessory blended well with her otherwise basic outfit and it held my attention for her entire visit.
Every man out there has had that experience. Maybe it’s her earrings. Maybe a bracelet or something she’s wearing in her hair. But we notice the little extras more than we notice anything else about the outfit. Those are the things we fixate on and remember long after those beautiful women and their mothers leave the coffee shop.
My Rules to Accessories
So what about us men? What can we do?
First, we have to recognize that the rules for female accessories differ a bit from ours. Their accessories are very very noticeable. Not that they don’t blend. The woman in the blue top had a perfect necklace that stood out against her bare skin but its colors matched well with her outfit. They fit while at the same time demanding to be seen. We can’t pull off big bracelets, hair clips, flowers in our hair or necklaces.
Second, we have to make the conscious decision to be the kind of person who takes the extra step when getting dressed that morning. What that means is you won’t be leaving the house in pajamas. You won’t be walking around in a t-shirt and jeans. You’ll be doing more than just a polo at work today. I usually decide my outfit the night before. I don’t feel rushed that way. I get to take the time I need to put thought into an outfit. And when you really like what you wear it leads into the final point about accessories…
People will look at you, so you need to be ready to deal with that. Some people don’t do well with attention. I get that. Those people may not be comfortable wearing accessories. Nothing wrong with that. If you wear a pocket square, a tie bar, a savvy hat of some kind be prepared to get attention. Be prepared to talk about it with people who ask.
Finally, with us guys, less tends to me more. That phrase gets thrown around a lot but what it means is this; keep it simple. If you come out wearing a hat, cuff links, tie, tie bar, watch, pocket square and some jewelry you may cause a seizure in everyone that looks at you. You only want one thing, maybe two at the most, to be the center of attention. Not everything.
Pocket Square- Now I wear a lot of suits. Not because I work in an office where it’s required but because I’m most comfortable in them. My workplace is Office Casual, that odd murky territory where no one is really sure what that actually means. Women get away with pretty much whatever they want as long as it’s not jeans and men are trapping themselves in polo shirts.
The pocket square lives in a blazer or suit jacket. So you need to be wearing a jacket of some kind to do a pocket square. Most of the ones I’ve come across are silk. They are either solid or patterned. Sometimes shiny and sometimes dull. THIS IS NOT A HANDKERCHIEF! You do not blow your nose with these. You don’t wipe up a mess with these. If you happen to have a woman crying near you and she needs something to wipe up with… really search your pockets first before handing this over. But always help out a girl if she’s crying. They smile when you hand it over. That smile is worth a square of silk.
Pocket squares follow similar rules to ties. You wear one that works with what you have on. Look at the colors you have showing on your outfit and find something of a similar shade. As a personal rule I try not to have a pocket square that matches the exact same color or pattern as my tie. If you do this you look like you were factory made and packaged for mass appeal. Some ties come with pocket squares. Keep the tie, ditch the pocket square it comes with. They’re usually cheap and not worth using with other outfits.
I have about fifteen. White, silver, orange, rust, lavender, dark purple, azure, royal blue, yellow, black and on and on… I have them because I have shirts and ties that work with these. I like to match the Pocket Square to some color in my tie but not necessarily with my shirt. That way I have colors all coming together and working. Matching it to my shirt feels like too much of one thing. Also, white goes with everything and black is really hard to use. So keep that in mind.
Now that you’ve selected your Pocket Square how do you wear it? I’ve done every fold possible but the ones i gravitate toward are the Puff, the Rolled Puff or the Presidential (the flat fold). It’s a style thing. All of them are fine and there isn’t one better than the other. Here’s a Link that does a better job than I ever could on teaching you the ways to rock a your Pocket Square. http://www.samhober.com/howtofoldpocketsquares/pocketsquarefolds.htm
Here’s what I have:
Something will be around your neck all day. But it doesn’t have to strangle you. I’m not uncomfortable in my ties. Believe it or not I’m always comfortable in my clothes even though i prefer a suit when I don’t have to be in one. Ties are no exception.
I’m going to go into depth in the future about my approach to choosing and tying ties but the basics of it are simple. They’re pretty similar to pocket squares with regards to how you wear them except you want their to be more synergy with your shirt. That means picking ties that contain some of the colors of your shirt or jacket if you’re wearing a jacket. If you’re wearing a white shirt with your tie go crazy. Anything works but a solid white tie. Black ties work with almost everything but other black shirts (and a few other really really dark shades too in my opinion). That one’s a bit controversial. You see it a lot, the black tie with black shirt. I’ll explain my feelings when i talk about ties in depth but in short, if you can’t tell where one clothing item ends and another begins you may want to reconsider the outfit.
Ties can be casual and ties can be comfortable. There’s a show called Private Practice on ABC. Several of the doctors wear ties and they do it with amazing variety in approach. I mention this because one of the actors, Brian Benben, would never describe the way he wears his ties as uncomfortable. His tie is always loosened and his top button is rarely fastened. This is the reason a lot of men avoid ties. Buttoning all the way up and straightening that tight knot are a nightmare to many. You don’t need to button all the way up. You don’t need those strangle knots. You can look amazingly casual yet still well put together. Try it.
Want to see an example of a casual outfit that does well with a tie? Here’s one:
Its seasonal, its colors all work nicely together and the tie fits. It’s not one hundred percent required but it works and in doing so it demonstrates how you can put things together that you may not have thought about.
The Tie Bar
There are lots of rather arcane devices that exist out in the world for holding onto your tie. This is the only one I look at and don’t immediately shoot a sideways glance at. Why, because it’s muted. It fits without demanding someone’s eyes. It doesn’t ruin my ties. And I can put it on without needing an engineering degree.
A bit of semantic here first. Tie Bar and Tie Clip are technically speaking two different things. A Tie Bar is merely a metal piece with a slide on the back. Picture a pen with the slide that would hold it in your pocket. A Tie Clip has a clip on the back. In reality you’ll see them used interchangeably. When I ask a Men’s Department employee to show me their tie bars i’m being shown bars, clips, chains and just about anything that holds a tie. I use tie bar to refer to bars and clips.
What is a tie bar? Just a simple little piece of metal with a clip in the back that holds your tie in place and can be used to give some lift to the tie too. Simple right? But what does it actually do? Well you know how I’ve been talking about the ties and pocket squares blending with the rest of the outfit? Here’s where you add a little bit of break. Here’s the thing that people’s eyes will hook on when they look at you. That metal shine will draw the eyes to your tie and the tie is the heart of your perfectly blended out fit.
I like silver. Silver works with more than gold will. Trust me, I’ve tried. Gold can function with black, maybe some dark rich colors but silver works there too. I like ubiquitous things. Things that work with as much as possible. Silver does. Gold gives me problems. I don’t like problems.
Now here’s where you find your own approach to tie bars. The placement. Too high and it just draws the eye to your throat and knot. Too low and it either vanishes into your jacket or its dangling too close to your belt. I do mine somewhere around heart level to just below my chest. If i button my jacket i like for it to be barely seen. You can also add a little bit of bend to it if you like or you can push it up a bit to give a little lift to your tie.
That’s where i’m going to stop for now. Next time I’ll talk about how i approach cuff links, hats and belts. Till then I hope this helps and I definitely want to hear how you do accessories.