I found myself reading Hardy Amies’ ABCs of Fashion for the umpteenth time yesterday, and remembering what a wonderful book it is. Hardy Amies, as you may know, was a British fashion designer who started in haute couture before he made his mark in menswear. More importantly for us, he knew the history of English dress incredibly well, and had an opinion about nearly every facet of it. In ABCs of Fashion, he espouses some of these opinions:
- Balance: Balance is the ultimate test of a finished coat. It is really the hang, the look, and the feel of the thing all combined in the one quality that make it a success or failure—good balance. It should sit easily on the shoulders, hang evenly at front and back, look as though it belongs to you without fitting too closely.
- Belts: You should always try and buy, or get given, the most expensive belt possible.
- Brown: It is a colour in which there is a great difference between the good and the bad. Bad browns have a red cast; good browns have a green. Happily good browns, although dark, look cool, soothing and expensive as distinct from bad browns which look hot and cheap.
- Cuffs (on trousers): You can’t have any. (note: Isn’t Amies wearing cuffs in a few of these photos?)
- Holidays: Always wear a collar and tie in a town, even if it’s by the sea, after six o’clock. Never wear shorts except actually on the beach or on a walking tour. […] All short sleeves look ghastly. If you feel hot, then roll up your sleeves but never above the elbow. […] Sandals are hell, except on the beach where you want to take them off, or on a boat. And worn with socks, they are super-hell.
- Pattern: If you can imagine yourself as a picture presented to the world, you will perhaps agree that there is enough pattern (and colour) in your face without introducing any more into your costume. Many women and nearly all men forget how complicated a piece of design is a face.
- Quality: Quality in clothes is not only a matter of good looks, but also in most cases one of long life. You cannot substitute economy for quality, because they are synonymous. If you always pay a bit more than you can afford, you will be better off in the long run.
- Scarf: The young can wear long woollen scarves with great effect. A short woollen scarf is as nasty as a small whisky.
- Socks: The colour of your socks should match the colour of your suit or trousers. If the cloth contains a mixture of colours you may find a sock with the same mixture of colours if you seek wool. Otherwise choose the darkest predominating color. […] It is permissible to wear socks of entirely different colour from the rest of the costume, provided the rest of the costume is of one series of colours. The matching of socks to the tie I find affected.
- Style: To attain style in dress, you must look perfectly happy and relaxed in your clothes which must appear part of you rather than a wardrobe you have just donned.
- Tie Clip: On reflection, too, such a clip is really rather ‘prissy’.
Many of may seem like rather rigid opinions, and you may feel like you can ignore them. Until you realize how well dressed Amies was. As they say, the proof is in the pudding.