Your most pressing style questions answered
I see ties offered in a variety of widths. What is best?
Wide ties look old-fashioned at the moment, and are out of kilter with the current tight suit shapes. The most contemporary ties are very narrow, say 5cm, but these look oddly skinny. For a contemporary look,we would suggest 7cm. Bear in mind that the thinner the tie the less formal it looks.
How long should my tie be?
The front blade shouldn't fall lower than the top of the trousers and, if you are wearing a casual outfit, it should be a few inches shorter than that. It might prompt a few funny looks but a knitted tie looks really good when the front blade is a bit shorter than the rear blade. Don't worry how long the rear blade is - you can always tuck it into your trousers.
How do I match my tie knot to my shirt collar?
It is said there are 85 different ways to knot a tie but, apart from bow ties, there are only three ways anyone needs to know about: the windsor, the half-windsor, and the four-in-hand. The windsor is the big fat one (rendered unacceptable by gaudy soccer players); a half-windsor is as big a knot as most men need, and suits a spread shirt collar; and the four-in-hand remains the default choice and is almost always correct.
Now that hipsters are wearing bow ties, can I wear one with my work suit?
Only if you own the company. Otherwise you may find your authority rather undermined by your new, eccentric appearance. Keep the bow tie for when you're off duty.
What is the etiquette on tie clips? When do you wear one? And how low on the tie do you place it?
Blame Mad Men, or possibly Dunhill, but tie clips are back. Assuming you like this ultra-neat look, the placing of the tie clip is an uncertain business: level with the solar plexus is a good place to start, then you can adjust according to taste, and how conspicuous you want the clip to be when your jacket is done up.
How do I choose a colour for a pocket square?
There's nothing wrong with white, which goes with everything. Beyond that, things are tricky, because the pocket square should not match anything else you are wearing, yet the contrast has got to be happy. That presents a challenge if your jacket, shirt and tie are already contrasting. Judging how to bring a fourth colour into the mix is only for the true dandy.
Do I need to match my belt with my shoes?
Basically no but, actually, it would be an unhappy ensemble that saw a black leather belt paired with brown leather shoes. Contrasting shades of brown, however, are fine. And canvas belts, which obviously won't match your shoes, work really well with casual trousers.
What are the right underpants for grown-up men? Boxer shorts seem to spoil the line of my trousers.
Is there a more personal decision in menswear than this? Boxer shorts come in many guises, and a neat pair shouldn't cause a problem worn under anything but the tightest trousers. However, if you are squeezing into a pair of Dior Homme jeans then classic Y-fronts are probably the best option. The ideal look is snug but not tight.
How do you coordinate socks with trousers?
If you match your socks with your trousers, rather than your shoes, then (and especially if your trousers finish on the ankle) your legs will look longer. Alternatively you could go for a good contrast - such as pale yellow socks worn with navy trousers and brown loafers.
Is there anything wrong with having a sock drawer full of identical short black socks?
What could be more boring? Yes, it would be quicker and more efficient in terms of both laundry and dressing, but that logic would see you wear a black polyester suit, white polycotton shirt and black nylon tie every day. It's much better to have a selection of socks that add a layer of interest to your outfit every day.
Picking sunglasses: where do I start?
With a colour that doesn't contrast too much with your skin. Pale faces are not flattered by black plastic or silver metal frames; brown or tortoiseshell is better. Then it's a matter of finding the shape and size that suit you. It is tempting to indulge one's inner rock star when buying shades, but what works on a beach holiday is not necessarily right for town. And one more thing: even if we're now programmed to wear sunglasses in the winter, wearing them when it is not sunny remains the preserve of rock stars.