I think of this frequently when I look around the internet at the men's clothing scene, particularly among devotees of the traditional American look. So many of them adhere so strictly to a set of rules as thought they were carved in stone and handed down from on high. No where is this truer than with the so called "Ivy" or "Trad" crowd. These are the guys who take style to be an exact replication of what an archetypal college man might have worn in 1962-67. Coats are three button and un-darted, with two button cuffs, trousers have flat fronts, and shirts have button down collars. All details must be in place at all times, and no one detail may be combined with details form any other school of style. While I do in fact enjoy that style myself and draw from its influence frequently, I find it highly limiting and anything but stylish to dismiss all else out of hand. I used to encounter this same strictness among the Rockabilly scene in the old days, guys who would measure the roll of your jeans cuff and chemically test the make up of your pomade for correctness. It's the difference between wearing cool old stuff and dressing in what amounts to a Halloween costume.
In the photo above, I've combined a continental style blazer with roped shoulders, darts, side vents and a ticket pocket with forward pleated side tab trousers and a button shirt and rep tie, both from Brooks Brothers. The coat, though made in New York, is European in style. The trousers, from the Andover Shop, are replete with British details, and the shirt and tie are as American as it gets. And yet I see no reason why these things can't all work together, In fact, by mixing them, the severity of any of them is diminished and a more interesting whole is created.
One of the hallmarks o what we call American style always was the combination of sporting and formal elements in this way. As I recall, it's actually as traditional to do this, if not more so, than to adhere strictly to a self imposed set of Ivy League standards. Charlie Davidson has been dressing this way for half his long life. My old boss Harold Simon was notorious for wearing 6x2 double breasted suits with forward pleats with a button down collar, repp tie and tassel loafers. The High Holy Fred was doing it in the 1930s, and he's one of the big shots.
This isn't to say that this is the only way either. My point is there is no "only way" and that "correctness" will only take you so far. Finding personal style lies in learning all this and then making bits and pieces of all of it your own. Putting it all together is where we find individuality while basically wearing the same thing. Use your freedom of choice.
For the strict types out there, Devo said it best:
Freedom of choice
is what you got
Freedom from choice
is what you want
Addendum: I wrote this in the morning using a photo from a week before. The very same day this was written, I wore this:
Kelly green 3/2 sack blazer by Brooks Brothers, with military khakis, ribbon belt and striped button down, both Brooks Brothers, and a plain navy tie, Andover Shop. I dig this too, I just see no reason to be one dimensional. Right?