The Dignity of Proper Dress

J. Press survives the current menswear mayhem as an island of good taste. Let’s play make believe allowing my old role as prelapsarian (look it up) advisor on the sales floor when customers asked my advice what to wear and how to wear it.

Certain public events require sartorial dignity. Imagine Justice Roberts with a hoodie and Grandpa jeans peeking out beneath his judicial robe. It will be interesting to see if victory elevates Pennsylvania candidate John Fetterman out of cargo shorts and into a suit and tie on the senate floor. Dare we forget Congressman Gym Jordan habitually disemboweling his suit jacket. If Jack and Jackie were still around, I doubt if their Newport wedding attire would be Bermudas.

A couple of years ago I spoke before Prof. Jay Gitlin’s history course Yale and America. My ticket was J. Press’ contribution to Yale and Ivy League culture. One of the students queried me, “Mr. Press, when I graduate in a couple of months and go for a job interview, I expect to wear a suit. I’ve never owned one and have no idea how to dress it up. What do I do?”

Needless to say, I directed him to J. Squeeze and offer the following git-go to negligent Millennials, Gen Zs or Boomers.

Get thee a dark grey mid-weight worsted suit. My personal preference is a muted pin or chalk stripe. Button the three-button natural shoulder jacket over a white Oxford button-down shirt paired with an Irish Poplin dark blue regimental stripe tie, lace-up cordovan shoes and a matching plain leather belt. Ought to work for most occasions whereas a blue suit requires black shoes and belt are outré for daytime wear.

Never, I repeat never ever, wear a suit without a necktie. You can never be too rich, too thin, or too well dressed. No tie, you ain’t turned out According to Hoyle.

Following the Yale class lecture that evening the erudite and well-attired Professor Gitlin introduced me to a booze-filled spiel at the elegant Elizabethan Club before a very tweedy J. Press crowd.

A good time was had by all with no torn jeans in the room.

 

RICHARD PRESS

34 comments

I’ve worn grey slacks, blue oxford and camel hair sport coat with light brown/tan shoes for years.

Acceptable?

Fred August 01, 2022

Thank you Mr Press for the great story. Its nice to see more man are starting to dress up again. I personally never stop and always enjoy wearing a jacket or suit and a tie of course.
As far as shoes ,Alden are my all time favorite last forever.
I’m one of the guys who wears brown cap toes
( polish )with gray slacks with a blue blazer or suits.
Please don’t change anything your doing!

Samuel Bacco July 30, 2022

While I readily join the many ardent trumpeters for The Dignity of Proper Dress, as with all kudos there are caveats as well.
In that vein, it would be amiss not to lament the relentless elimination of many former details once considered de riguer in tailoring proper gentlemems’ wear. The passing of true narrow jacket lapels rolled gently ABOVE the top button, the disappearance of lap seams on jacket sleeves (and yes, on vertical trouser seams), the departure of full weight fabric from now meekly constructed cavalry twill trousers, the amputation of ticket pockets and necktie retainer loops and the generous use of hopsack fabrics when appropriate – all these once considered totally appropriate in constructing gentlemens’ attire, but now discarded. Add to these departures the reqirement of trouser cuffs appropriately dimensioned.
In a lighter context, the pairing of well worn white bucks, plain front khaki trousers and one’s deep charcoal suit jacket was once considered proper dress for informal wear.
The Good Old Days?
Stanley Pilshaw

Stan Pilshaw August 01, 2022

I was at my local cobbler recently for a re-heeling and he showed me a pair of $800 sneakers that a customer brought in for repair.

mhj August 01, 2022

In every room, someone will be the best dressed. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be you…

Hans von Suess August 01, 2022

Really a nice piece, Mr. Press. . As my dad taught me, " Here come the boys from the midwest with their brown shoes and blue suits." I was astonished to watch an NBC reporter interview the President of Ukrane’s wife while wearing a blue suit and—wait for it—shabby, unpolished brown shoes. I guess NBC news doesn’t ask
about sartorial taste when they interview on air talent.

Dave Coffman July 26, 2022

Excellent guidance. Where in the proper attire queue would you place the navy blazer worn with cuffed charcoal gray worsted wool slacks with a white button-down and a regimental striped tie?

Milton Thomas Cole July 26, 2022

I’ve worn burgundy cordovan shoes with a navy suit for years and always thought it worked and looked great. If anything I’d think that black would be better with dark gray.

John July 26, 2022

Is cordovan a color or a kind of leather in this context? There seems to be a lot of differing opinions even among conservative dressers about what color and style of shoe goes with what suit and for what occasion. For many years I was led to believe that I should not pair blue and black. Instead I understood that color in the brown/red range, that kind of burgundy color #8 or whatever you want to call it, paired best with a blue suit. Then very light brown shoes became very fashionable with blue suits, not necessarily the darkest navy though. I had never until now been told that black shoes were outré for daywear. It seems that a dark navy suit and black cap toe oxfords are the most conservative of business formal combinations. A brown shoe with a gray suit seems wrong to me, but many men wear it well I admit. I have a very dark brown pair of wing tips I wear with charcoal trousers and a blazer now that I’m middle aged and I am kind digging it. But so many opinions on shoes. Never wear loafers with a tie. Can’t wear gunboats with a suit, except in Chicago.

SCOTT SCHMIDT July 26, 2022

My father—God rest his soul—had his suits tailor made at Harry Oliver in Indianapolis. I still remember the shop with bolts of cloth in the window. J. Press continues that sartorial elegance of yesteryear, and I am proud to be a customer.

Robert W. Emmaus July 26, 2022

Excellent article, as always! Reference was made to current Lt. Governor and U.S. Senate wannabe, John Fetterman. As a resident of Pennsylvania, I can state that his attire is scandalous to the residents of our state and casts serious doubt on his governing abilities. If you dress too casually for your position, your work will most likely be sloppy. Not everyone should be wearing a suit to work - in many jobs it would be entirely inappropriate - but when one wants to conduct business, attend church, or attend a wedding or funeral, a suit conveys a sense of decorum and dignity. And the right tie paired with that suit makes the outfit.

Ross Ellison July 26, 2022

So pleased to see there are still some civilized gentlemen around. It’s becoming increasingly rare.

StephenJ. o’Rourke July 25, 2022

When I finished graduate school at Penn in 1965 my parents bought me for a graduation job-hunting gift 3 suits from BB. Here’s the fun part—-they all had, as standard issue, vests!!! Yipes. At least there have been some changes for the good.

JP – hold the fort.

Howard Burkat July 25, 2022

Excellent article, as always Mr. Press.
I don’t think students appreciate what a privilege it is to attend a university and get a good education nowadays. I was a working man, driving a forklift and unloading trucks before I was fortunate to go back to school and eventually earn my BA and MA. But even when I was a warehouse worker, I read classic novels, and I invested in my first 3 button sack suit from Brooks. I was so proud of that suit!
Good clothes are important in life. A suit or blazer, properly taken care of, will give many wonderful years of service. If you have the good fortune to attain an education, have the dignity to dress well, not flashy, but tasteful. Perhaps, the reason classic American style has endured is not just because it always looks good, but because there is a lovely erudite humility about it. As such, clothiers like JPress will continue to live on.

Don Quixote July 25, 2022

Excellent article, Mr. Press !!!

D K July 25, 2022

I’ve worn J Press suits for 40 years, always pairing cordovan shoes with blue suits and black shoes with my gray suits, alternating cap toes with wing tips. (see Malloy, “Dress for Success.”)
I miss the Harvard Square store helmed by the incomparable Dennis Black.
Keep up the classic correspondence, Richard

Bren Sullivan July 25, 2022

Please, no brown shoes with a navy or charcoal gray suit. Brown shoes pair better with tan or forest green trousers. Also, why are so many men not shaving? They all look like bums that spent the night under a bridge. A nice close cropped beard is presentable, but stubble?? I would add to the above, for a new grad to buy a pin striped, or plain, navy suit.

John Gilliland July 25, 2022

I grew up in the 60’s when Ivy League was the style in high school. We all shopped at an outlet named Eljo’s.
It became the look at the Universit of Richmond and the University of Virginia. I was so glad to discover JPress in order to still find traditional clothing. Even Brooks Brothers has lost a step.
William at 75yrs.

William Moorefield July 25, 2022

Two comments:

Amen.

Yascher koach which means “well done, Sir!”

Mark E Seitelman July 25, 2022

Thank you, as usual, for providing some much needed direction for those “up and comers”. I have recently wondered if a certain age group is “bereft of mirrors”?

Dante J Natale July 25, 2022

Mr Press, thank you for another gem.
Forty years ago, I was teaching at a prep school. Informal dress was already making its way among teaching staff. One day, a visitor asked the headmaster if he required male staff to wear a tie. The headmaster replied, “No, but the real ones do”.

Virgil Evans July 25, 2022

I just LOVE you Mr. Press! I continue to learn so much from you. Your advice and expertise always hits the mark. Spot On!

Kirsten Howard July 25, 2022

No. 1 pet peeve in the entire universe: suit without a tie. I’ve always felt this way, and it seems I’m not growing out of it. The transgression is getting worse. No. 2 would be 3-6 days of beard stubble.

John July 25, 2022

Excellent observations and advice! I am stunned by the number of CEOs of major businesses who appear on CNBC for interviews, not wearing ties. They look like they just came from watching their sons play a Little League baseball game on a Saturday afternoon.

Rod July 25, 2022

Little known Jay Gitlin trivia: As a teenager he played drums in the Lester Lanin Orchestra.

Tom Conroy July 25, 2022

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