Tell me about this outfit.
The shoes are fake crocodile, and older than any of my students – I’ve forgotten the maker, but I think I’ll be buried in them one day. The khakis are plain-front, standard- issue Gap. This pair has finally reached that sweet spot between “I-can-still-wear-them-to-work” and “I-should-only-use-them-for-painting.” From the waist up, everything is from Brooks Brothers, with the exception of a vintage/monogrammed handkerchief (my grandfather’s).
How would you describe your style?
Unreconstructed prep. My older sister introduced me to all-natural fibers in 1980 (harder to find than you’d think, following the ‘70s) and I’ve never looked back; Lisa Birnbach’s Preppy Handbook came out the same year, and it became my bible. As I’ve gotten older I’ve had less qualms about putting unexpected elements together, but I still follow some rules (no white bucks before Memorial Day, no man jewelry before anything). Because I don’t have to wear a suit to work, I have more freedom – not to dress down, but to dress up more creatively.
What advice can you give to someone who isn’t confident mixing patterns?
There are very few patterns that you can’t put together... a gingham shirt can be great with a strongly patterned tie and a seersucker jacket. The key is to make sure the colors get along, or it’ll look like you got dressed in the dark. Putting identical colors next to each other can look too matchy, and slightly different shades of the same color usually clash. I like to combine complementary colors (blue and orange, pink and green) or darker/neutral colors (brown, navy, dark grey) with pastels.
What’s a good way to work in bold patterns?
Start with a plain white shirt, navy blazer and a tie with a strong color and/or print. Striped, gingham or tattersall shirts can come next. Patterned jackets and pants (never together) are harder to come by, but if you keep your eyes open, they often show up on sales racks in stores that would otherwise be out of reach.
Your outfit is so effortlessly chic. What do you look for when putting together pieces in your wardrobe?
Thank you! Because I wear things forever, I look for clothes that are well made – whether they’re from a thrift store or a men’s shop – and that play well with the clothes I already own. A conservative/plain cut, a tactile sense of material and great color are all important to me.
It’s a Saturday night. What are you wearing?
A wedding ring and a jacket – then jeans or khakis, a tie or not, depending on where we’re headed. Polyester, for shirts, is no longer off the list... but only if it’s unapologetically artificial.