Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Penny-Farthing for a 3-Piece

An entirely great pocket square found its way to my wardrobe recently.  A giant high-wheel, with spokes bedecked in similar vehicles is bordered by an armada of Victorian-bustled ladies and variously-trousered and hatted fops.

They are all beautifully dressed for the period, and they race around the silk, happily mounted on their inner-thigh-abrasion-inducing velocipedes.

A penny farthing deserved a bit more than a regular office suit, so a flannel green three-piece with subtle blue stripes was called up.  Purple gingham-checked (TM Lewin) shirt and a multi-spotted tie (Lands End), and some striped socks ($1.75) just to belabor the point.

The three-piece suit has fallen largely out of use, even in the conservatively-clothed worlds of banking, curating, and lawyerin'.  I think that many are actually scared of it, because it adds a literal and figurative layer of formality.  They were once a stated requirement, and meant that you were a young executive ready to "yes" your way to the top in exchange for never seeing your wife and children.

Now, they are statistically rare, and largely out of fashion.  Most are allergic to appearing as one who thinks about these sorts of things.  It is never pretentious, but it does now possess strange power that can cause the timid and the moderate to defer to you for decision.  When you pair it with striped socks, the gravitas is redirected, and appropriate for when you get roped into academic boards full of social climbers salivating over the title of "chair" or if you get hoodwinked into museum governance.  The policy stiffs who call breakfast roundtables at six o'clock in the morning (and thankfully never read blogs) will feign scandal, and then with a straight face tell you that a muffin and a glass of orange juice is an acceptable and adequate breakfast.  I love three-pieces, but they assume a bit of expertise or seriousness, so wield them appropriately or you could be asked to weigh in on matters for which you are laughably unqualified.

Less serious for sure, but don't start in with green flannel being "for the country only".  That rule is functionally dead, and volubly harped upon only in blog comment sections.

Freshly polished shoes scuffed with Boston cobblestones


  1. There is nothing here with which I do not wholeheartedly agree and that is a delightful, a charming, a gem of a pocket square.

    I second your balancing of formal with whimsical (or even only slightly self-deprecating) accents. I rarely have the chance to dress down a full suit, but I employ the principle often -- often headed in both directions: dressing up casual clothing with fine shoes; dressing down formal clothing with a v-neck or colorful socks.

    It's a "business casual" world that I inhabit, and people need something to cling to lest they feel you've reached above them, or disrespected the work. But I enjoy making them take the time to work it out.

  2. As much as i love the design, i dare say it might be too big actually...especially in the first pic you can see how the breast pocket turns outwards and stands away from the chest.

    Apart from that: very nice!

  3. Hey! I want the same pocket square !

  4. Love the pocket square and, indeed, the entire ensemble!

    Best Regards,

    Ulrich von B.


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