In this column I always try to discuss style in dress as well as smoking and the overlap of the two as they concern today’s gentlemen and ladies.
As the title suggests, it is the subtle finishing touches of wardrobe and style in general that really create a fully realized whole regarding one’s style and approach to things sartorial, smoking, or otherwise.
I had originally planned to cover several different items and subjects that cluster under the umbrella of "accessories". As I began to wade into those waters it soon became apparent that I would be in over my head in short order, and, as this column is tardy already, I had better narrow the focus considerably. Therefore I have chosen one wardrobe and one smoking accessory. I am pleased that I did because it enabled me to focus on an aspect that often is overlooked in regard to these two items. I shall discuss cufflinks and lighters.
Since hunting season is upon us now it might be fun to look at some hunting gear. I chose the hunting jacket, pipes and a special watch to limit what could become volumes of material. My father was an avid hunter, pipe smoker and a watch aficionado, so I was introduced to these subjects quite young. Now my Dad, Harry, God rest him, loved to hunt fowl. Mallard, canvasbacks, doves, grouse, quail and crow were his usual quarry. He did not hunt larger game animals. Shooting fowl on the wing meant he was a shotgunner. He did hunt deer once with solid slug loads, but decided he disliked sitting in a blind for long periods having to be silent and motionless, mostly.
My friend and colleague Brian Levine, host of The Pipes Magazine Radio Show, recently suggested I write a column about choosing a hat type or style that works for a man’s face. Brian pointed out that he definitely had a face for radio and as I agree it seems his best choice would be a full-face balaclava that matches his sport coat or suit.
Putting collegial joshing aside, he did have a sincere and timely suggestion. Fall weather will be upon us soon and as it cools down this may well be the first time out for men thinking of experimenting with a new style of headgear.
Both the ladies and gentleman should find application in this month’s column. I rue the day Rupert Murdoch got control of the Wall Street Journal. Over the twelve years I spent working in journalism, the WSJ was always respected and considered pretty reliable when it came to the ideals of journalistic integrity. Since the name Murdoch and the word integrity go together like oil and water, or hacking and privacy, I am surprised to find inspiration for this column among the pages of the Journal. The style and travel section to be precise. I doubt Mr. Murdoch spends much time trying to influence style and fashion, so I imagine the Personal Journal section is fairly uncorrupted.
The subject of wristwatches has been on my mind of late and I thought it might be of interest to examine this small corner of the vast horological world.
Subset of a Subset: Though aviator watches and military type watches are a subset of the larger subset of sports watches, they have fairly recently gained much wider popularity.
I suppose if future 007’s continue the timepiece migration that began with the Rolex Submariner and moved to the Omega Seamaster to say, the Omega "Dark Side of the Moon" Speedmaster, we’ll know that the pilot/aviator watch phase has passed permanently into an established icon and style cue. (The Omega Speedmaster line is the famous "moon watch" – the first wristwatch on the moon.)
There are three main elements that warrant close consideration in a gentleman’s or lady’s sartorial choices.
These are fit, fabric and style. Fit is overwhelmingly the most important. It actually deserves more attention than the other two combined. This is because fit has the most profound effect on our visual impression and our physical (and psychological) comfort.
Proper fit makes the most of a garment’s potential to feel good on, move well with us, draw a flattering line and enhance all other elements of a garment and an outfit.
As I have often said; there are clothes and there is style and I wish to address the nexus of the two now as the weather warms. I find the toughest challenge in looking good is hot weather. I detest being uncomfortably hot. But, I just cannot be out and about in a T-shirt, cutoffs and flip flops. No one has ever looked good in such an outfit. Imagine your favorite actress or actor in a graphic tee, cut off jeans and flip flops. It’s sexy perhaps on a woman, but sloppy on a guy and just generally unfortunate on both.
So what do I do, or rather, wear? The first consideration for garments is the fabric. Like a good cigar or well made pipe, free airflow is critical.
Linen, light cottons, seersucker, and a new fabric called Fresco are all good and attractive choices.
In my opinion, the garment that most immediately and dramatically upgrades one’s look is a sport coat, or blazer. Slip one on and you look more put together, more elegant and generally people see you as just a bit classier looking than the other guys in just their shirt sleeves. And that is even if you are wearing just a tee under it, though I would generally avoid that choice unless you can really pull it off. Don Johnson not withstanding, unless you are blessed with incredible Italianesque sartorial charisma, a collared shirt is a must under a coat for most men.
As the weather stubbornly remains cold and inclement for the most of us in the northern hemisphere, a column on hats, gloves and umbrellas, as well as smoking al fresco seems timely. Naturally, as a gentleman smoker, you will want to observe the etiquette and some traditions associated with those accoutrement. Many of these practices, as with most gentlemanly conduct, are holdovers from the 19th century. That it was a time of broad observance of a “proper” public demeanor is well known. The passing out of style and habit of so many polite gestures and displays of respect was the result of the late 20th century’s headlong pursuit of egalitarianism.
This column is about Gentleman’s Style and it’s various forms of expression as they intersect the experiences of pipe smokers and all lovers of fine tobaccos.
Why a style column?
There is currently a resurgence of interest in men’s fashion.
You can find variations of this statement more and more frequently these days across the media spectrum. You may have also noticed the increasing attention the media is focusing on the apparent growing popularity of the pipe hobby among young adults. Though possibly coincidental, I believe there is a subtle, if tenuous, relationship between the two.