The art of manliness – formality on the go

February 20, 2016


The life of the modern planter is not just about wearing military fatigues and a straw hat all day long…nothing could be further from the truth. In reality on certain occasions, there is a need to attend board room meetings, formal functions like a garden luncheon and candlelight dinner, an evening at the opera and since the gentlemen is always considerate to regard the night as timelessly young – perhaps the illicit thrill at the roulette wheel as a night cap.

With that kind wide spectrum social and work demand. I find that a formal single color suit is just way too corseted and impractical….if you buy into that idea. You would probably end up doing really stupid things like learn how to dress and undress in the car park. In the age where every mobile phone comes de riguer with a high resolution camera these days, that has to be a very risky proposition….so you would probably end wasting a whole entire evening explaining why you’re semi naked in your car to a policeman with a big moustache…Dowan lah!

Besides in this modern age. The very idea of a single tone matching trousers and suit just looks way to formal, heavy, uniform like and one invariably comes across as trying to hard – hence, men’s fashion is fast giving way to a more relaxed and casual combination look – the general rule of thumb, dark jackets and light trousers are the easiest combination to work with.

Don’t go the other way round or the good stuff will never come around.

I find the best results comes from combining a tropical bluish black suit with grey bespoke slacks. Remember what I mentioned above. Never go the other way i.e light suit /dark slacks – otherwise you will just end up looking like a dentist or a technician.

Attention and diligence to detail is key here: suit should be summer wear preferably silk mixed with wool. You want it to come across as feather light that balances the tension between formality and sophisticated casualness. I recommend only Zegna high performance summer range – lining and padding is not recommended (except sparingly on the shoulders) as all that adds to heaviness and weight and subtracts from your muscular 5% only body fat profile – you want to keep it sharp like a matador…get the balance wrong and it’s no good. Remember you want versatility, but you also want to make a memorable impression…it’s got to be cool to the touch, feather light and yet serious enough to able to hold thru the evening. Silk being a natural fibre does crumple as the day goes by, but fortunately most well heeled ladies regard this as a very sexy wabi sabi trait of man who takes pride in his masculinity and ruggedness, that distinguishes men from boys…if you are going out with Sengkang Sally, then don’t bother with bespoke, just go for the off the rack buy one get one free G2000 lah – she wouldn’t notice the difference – but if it crumples…you’re mellowing and acquiring a very desirable manly sympatico patina…enjoy. As for belts, brown before 6 and after that black – I wear a reversible two tone belt like James Bond.


The goal in this set up is to keep that tension between formality and smart casual. A tie in my opinion ruins the whole theme of smart causal sophistication – if you want to add a dash of savoir faire, a cravat and pocket square or even a Montecristi is good to go…more than that and it gets too heavy risking a disconnected or disproportionate look.

A very dark jacket and a very light pair of trousers can make one look unreasonably top-heavy. A good way to fix this is by paying attention to the cut of the jacket – a shorter jacket with more open quarters will alleviate and modernise the look.

Shoes. I will be frank. I love brogues. Nothing would give me the keenest pleasure to wear them all the time. But it doesn’t nearly go as well with this set up – I recommend single buckle monk strap shoes in polished leather – J M Weston. I much prefer French and Italian to British as they are thinned soled and they make a very pleasant pattering sound against marble. With sturdy brogues when you’re dancing it sounds as it you’re knocking two coconut shells like crazy and that makes you come across like a demented donkey. Do that and the good stuff will again never come your way!

I cut to the chase….sometimes when you want to make a significant social connection…you only get one chance. So the gold standard is one shot, one kill…you don’t want to do stupid things like let’s play twenty questions while you suffer cancer of wallet for the next six million dates and still end up nowhere…it’s got to be shock and awe…veni, vedi, Vinci ….minimal down time…highly efficient like a commando mission….it’s in the NTUC bag in twenty seconds flat…that’s the gold standard – sweep her off her feet! This is where shoes are strategic!…only J M Weston can fulfill that operational criteria…nothing else comes close!

Chestnut or oxblood is good to go…stay well clear from black or people will think you just attended a funeral wake and have no sense of occasion – only insurance salesmen, funeral parlor workers, policeman, estate agents wear and very lowly educated folk black shoes.

Keep it very sharp inside and out and dress to kill! Remember you are on a mission…failure is not an option!

(The art of manliness series is sponsored by both the Interspacing Mercantile Guild and the Interspacing Metal Exchange Guild of the Brotherhood 2016)

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