This originally appeared on my Tumblr in January of 2014. BuzzFeed has neither sued me nor hired me as a result of this article. BuzzFeed staff writer Peggy Wang did not respond to requests for comment because why would anyone respond to an angry diatribe about a list article?
A friend of mine sent me a link to a Buzz Feed “DIY” list article about menswear, presumably because she thought my blood pressure wasn’t high enough. I won’t link to this list article because by clicking on it I already helped perpetuate this plague of sloppy, half-assed writing.
The article is called “27 Unspoken Suit Rules Every Man Should Know.” It consists of twenty seven factoids, not ranked in any order of importance but rather haphazardly slapped into a list format for people to joylessly page through at lunch or perhaps when staring into their phones while ignoring their fellow humans around them who are living unique and interesting lives. Twenty seven is an arbitrary number that the poster — Peggy Wang, Buzz Feed Staff — came up with in the fifteen minutes it took to assemble this garbage.
I work for a trendy fashion retailer. I enjoy wearing a suit. Since I was in college I’ve perused menswear blogs and read menswear books to avoid looking like a goofus, as Jesse Thorn might put it. That’s why I was familiar with most of the guidelines Ms. Wang so confidently asserted were “unspoken.” Every tip in her list article certainly wasn’t unwritten, which she must know, having plagiarized the entire thing.
Oh, and I used to be a teacher, too. So as a person who cares about clothes and can be vicious with a red pen, I’m gonna grade this piece of BF BS.
1. ”The width of the tie should match the width of the lapel. It’s all about BALANCE.”
This is correct — the width of your lapels and tie are also determined by your body frame and your head size. So far so good, Peg.
2. In general, thin lapels are more modern. Wide lapels are more old-school, Mad Men style. So choose your look accordingly.
Well, skinnier and tighter suits are in now, that’s clear. That aesthetic has influenced shows like Mad Men. They look like they’re walking around in the 2009 Hugo Boss collection, not early 60s Brooks Brothers. You can see the characters’ lapels grow as the seasons have worn on and their sideburns have become more pronounced. But this is generally true, as she says, and the wide lapels of the 70s-90s have fallen out of favor. Look at Roger Moore’s suits when he was 007, or Christian Bale in American Psycho, or Rob Lowe in Wayne’s World.
3. A pocket square adds an extra level of polish, but make sure it doesn’t match your tie in either pattern or fabric choice. Before you go totally conservative, remember that the pocket square is where you get the most freedom and the place you get to add a little pizzazz to your suit.
There are plenty of ways to freely express yourself while wearing a suit. But the point here is that it’s tacky to match your pocket square to your tie. Almost as tacky as the word “pizzazz.”
If this were assembled in any conceivable order, this would be Rule #1. Basically anything can be altered on a suit except the shoulders. And though Peggy took this photograph from the Huffington Post, you have to think that anyone with a modicum of world knowledge and self-awareness would think twice about using John McCain as an example of shoulder fit. You know, because of that thing about the disfigurement of his rotator cuffs because he was tortured by the Viet Kong from 1967 to 1973.
This one is as important for fit at #4, complete with pictures lifted from Put This On, where I’m guessing the majority of this article was plagiarized from.
6. Opt for a charcoal or grey suit over black, unless you’re attending a funeral. Dark grey is more versatile and goes with more colors.
Many menswear writers say black suits make you look like a funeral guest or an undertaker, so I won’t speculate as to where this Buzz Feed staffer stole the idea. I will say however, that at my grandmother’s funeral in June of 2007, her brother-in-law wore a white linen suit and a palm fedora and looked the most respectable person in the bunch.
Russell Smith, in his book Men’s Style, The Thinking Man’s Guide to Dress, defends the idea of a black suit. I wear mine out at bars. I wore it as a substitute for a tuxedo this New Year’s Eve and last.
7. Your belt should be fairly thin and the same color as your shoes. [Company Name removed] makes really great belts in a variety of leather and metal finishes.
The picture of the belts is attributed to Buzz Feed, thus creating a kind of hacky ouroboros. There’s a weird plug for a belt company that I think might be a sponsor or a friend’s company. It may just be a favorite of Peggy Wang’s, because plugs for this company pop up in her other list articles. That’s why I’m not giving them any extra press here.
This was the best tip in the entire article because I found this chart pretty interesting and then remembered that I saw it before on Put This On. How ‘bout that.
9. Double vents in the back are more modern and fashionable. This look is also more flattering for larger figures, and it gives you enough room to do that effortlessly casual “hand in the pocket” thing.
That “hand in the pocket” thing is also known as “putting your hand in your pocket.” I don’t know what the basis of her definitions of “modern” and “fashionable” but I know historically vents were a marker of whether the suits were European/English or American and that the idea comes from when suits were sporting clothes and double vents were put in for ease in riding a horse on the hunt. (Modern…?) But to learn that would require research beyond Googling “menswear” and clicking through the first couple links.
10. For a more casual, trendy look, opt for a single-button peak-lapel jacket.
I’m sparing you the picture that followed Tip # 10 because it is awful. Casual peak lapels? One button suits? If you have such things in your wardrobe, I assume they got there by mistake — or were placed there by your enemies. Pictured is a doofus wearing this tragic jacket with slacks — so he’s not even wearing a suit.
11. If you’re going for more formal business attire, opt for a double-button, notched lapel.
Why two button and not a traditional three button suit? This example of “formal business attire” depicts a guy wearing a suit with lapels thinner than paper clips, breaking Rule #1. Standard operating procedure: three buttons on your suit, only button the middle one.
12. The Savile Row Fold keeps your dress from falling off the hanger.
Yeah, I guess, but what is happening in your closet that your pants are flying off the hangers? Wind tunnel? Black hole?
13. You should be able to slip your hand between your hand and your buttoned jacket such that it feels snug, but with room to move.
Correct advice, but the picture shows a model in a suffocatingly tight jacket (evidenced by the “X” shaped pull of fabric across his chest.) And the jacket is fastening somewhere near his sternum instead of the navel. He can’t fit his hand in there. I’m wondering if Buzz Feed staffers are in charge of selecting their own list article photos or if they only submit a handful of incomplete sentences and let the editors sort it out.
14. Always unbutton your suit before sitting down, or you risk ruining it.
Unless you’re wearing a double breasted suit, in which case never unbutton. Or if you’re a practitioner of the Anderson Cooper Method. (Both Anderson Cooper or Stephen Colbert, by the way, are exemplars of how to properly wear a suit.) And if your suit can be ruined by sitting down without undoing the button, it’s probably too tight.
15. The top button of a two-button (or the middle button of three-button) should fall at or above the navel.
This is correct. It contradicts the photo in Rule #13. Half credit.
There’s no need to ever tie anything around your neck other than the four-in-hand. The Windsor knot is the hilariously large football announcer tie that makes it look as if your head is about to pop off — or be swallowed by a swatch of colorful silk. Pictured here is the four-in-hand, which Peggy would have realized if she knew what she was talking about, cared what she was typing, or expended any energy in this article beyond the minimum necessary for a cynical cash-in.
She recommends you compare sizes with a male friend for the sake of objectivity. No comment.
17. If you’re wearing a vest, always keep the bottom button unbuttoned.
Correct. This contradicts the photos for Rules #11 and #18. She helpfully adds that “plenty of men break this rule and are still able to pull off the three-piece beautifully.” I can tell that she’s losing steam.
18. There are practical reasons for vests beyond just how they look.
Huh? Isn’t this true of every article of clothing? There are practical reasons for shoes beyond just how they look, for the same reasons she gives for vests: formality and warmth.There are practical reasons for wearing a barrel with suspenders (proletarian solidarity, leg room) beyond just how it looks. I can only assume that Peggy Wang had an idea for #18 but forgot it and wrote this down instead. This is the only item in the list that comes closest to being “unspoken” because no one would say this out loud. It would be too embarrassing. I’m giving her half credit here because I can only guess that she was high when she wrote it.
19. Sleeve cuffs should be exposed about half an inch. For a harmonious look, try to match the visible cuff length to the amount of collar that is visible at the back of the neck.
Correct. And “harmonious” is a good word.
20. When you get your suit home, you’ll need a seam ripper or a small, sharp pair of scissors. Unstitch the jacket’s pockets, remove the tack stitches from the jacket’s vents, and remove the little embroidered label from the jacket’s left sleeve. Do this very carefully to ensure you don’t actually rip the fabric or neighboring threads.
The rule here is phrased as “when you get your suit home” not “after you buy your suit” which makes me think she cribbed this from a suit buying guide. Come to think of it, maybe “harmonious” was too good…
21. Make sure your socks are long enough that there’s no exposed leg when sitting down. No one needs to see your hairy gams.
As someone who lived in a beautiful, warm country with a terraza and café culture, I have no qualms with flashing my beautiful, shapely, hairy ankles as soon as the temperature goes above 65 degrees. Even if it makes the Puritans cry.
22. Your tie should always be darker than your dress shirt.
Unless you’re Al Pacino in Heat.
23. The suit jacket should be just long enough to cover your pants zipper and butt.
24. Your tie should JUST reach the waistband of your trousers, or be slightly shorter.
“Trousers” sounds out of place here, too, and given that this is the only photo without attribution, I’m wondering if she lifted this sentence verbatim. The drab tie-shirt combination also contradicts the photo for Rule #22.
If “fashion-forward” means dress like a false dweeb on the Big Bang Theory. Or if you’re going for the “G.I. on vacation in 1950” look.
26. If you sweat a lot, wear an undershirt. Preferably one with a deep neck so it doesn’t peek through. Nothing will cheapen the appearance of a suit more than a glimpse of undershirt.
She presumably means if you’re not wearing a tie, otherwise I’d be impressed if your undershirt could “peek through” over your collar. Again, I delight in shocking the fuddy-duddies by eschewing tie and undershirt so my manly chest hair and tattoos are partly visible in the warmer months. But I’ve already expended ten times more thought in this several-glass-of-wine response than Peggy Wang did for her list article. I actually hate menswear advice and will only wear a barrel with suspenders from now on.
27. Finally, go for the dimple.
Which is almost impossible with the full Windsor knot she just recommended we wear. This depends a lot on the quality of tie you’re wearing, which Ms. Wang would have mentioned if she cared about any of this.
The bottle of wine is now empty. She got a 15/27 on this test which is a big fucking F, pretty bad considering she cheated. If you actually care about learning how to wear a suit, get a copy of Alan Flusser’s Dressing the Man or read Jesse Thorn’s blog Put This On. I’m sure Peggy Wang had nothing but the best intentions for this article and this was just a petty dalliance with that brain-dead format, the stultifying list article.
Enough, I’ve had enough.
This isn’t nearly all of them.