A comprehensive glossary of key men’s fashion and style terminology. Updated weekly, check back regularly to continue your education…
A sunglasses silhouette originally developed for military pilots, hence the name.
Worn slavishly since the 1960s, the classic teardrop shaped frames have seen their popularity soar due to continued celebrity use and films such as Top Gun.
Essential Read: Sunglasses Face Shapes Guide
A term often applied in variety, bespoke tailoring is distinct from ‘ready-to-wear’ or ‘off-the-peg’ suits.
Cut from an individual paper pattern, suits are crafted by hand (and often entirely from the same cloth) with the customer’s specific requirements and customisations in mind.
Although many now apply the term ‘bespoke’ to other items, such as computer software, cars and even holidays nowadays, it was originally exclusively used in relation to men’s tailoring, footwear and apparel, implying that you were measured and fitted for each unique piece.
The Savile Row Bespoke Association establish twenty-one points addressing the particulars of a bespoke suit, imposing a level of detail in order for a garment to be allowed to use its trademark.
Etiquette believes ‘dinner jacket’ to be formally correct over ‘tuxedo’, although the terms are often interchanged by the unaware. Defined by satin facings on the lapels, mirrored on the outer seams of the dinner suit trousers, rather than by any standardised cut – doubled-breasted is as welcome as single (particularly to create a strong ‘V’ silhouette where a cummerbund or waistcoat has been omitted) and a notch lapel isn’t entirely out of place among a room of peaks.
Consistency is found knotted at the neck in the form of a bow tie. Hollywood black tie is the term for those who cannot master the bow and thus opt for a neck tie.
Optional extra: Whilst a man’s suit is his costume, black tie accruements were little about creating a facade of formality and more about practicality. Black is worn (and later, midnight blue) because it views well under low lighting, particularly against a white stiff or pleated-front shirt. As ever, shoes are as polished as the expected behavior.
See dress codes.
Traditionally constructed with a canvas or leather upper, boat shoes feature rubber soles with a siping pattern cut into them, which enhances grip on a wet boat deck. Other defining features include a lace-up fastening and lace detailing threaded around the side of the shoe.
Also known as deck shoes
Essential Read: Ways To Wear Boat Shoes
The modern bow tie is most commonly – and rightly so – associated with dinner suits.
Originating from the use of knotted scarfs by mercenaries during the Prussian wars – and leading the way for cravats and Ascot ties – the style comprises of fabric tied in a shoelace knot around the collar to create symmetrical loops at the two opposite ends.
Outside accomplished menswear circles, the traditional self-tie variation is rarely mastered. Today, ready bow ties are in regular use; but unless made-to-measure, some form of adjustable strap is usually required.
Clip on ties, which omit the need of a band altogether, are also available although are viewed as far less rakish.
A hybrid of the boxer short and brief. Long in the leg but tight in fit.
See boxer shorts, briefs.
The loosest undergarment a man can choose. Characterised by an elastic waist similar to those seen on the trunks of boxing athletes.
It is often found that teenagers will switch from briefs to boxer shorts or boxer briefs.
Regularly referred to as Y-Fronts, even when the Y shaped fly is not used.
Styles akin to those used in jeans (high rise, mid rise low rise) are often used when referring to briefs.
The shirt’s points are fastened down with small non-decorative buttons on the front of the shirt.
Despite considered in some menswear circles as a sporting style, it is rarely worn with a suit.
Vertical lines on a suit fabric, designed to look like the colour of tailor’s chalk. The lines are subtle and hazy compared to the crisp, distinct lines of pinstripe.
A short, tight fitting boot identifiable by the elastic siding that covers the ankle.
Originally designed as a riding boot (known as jodhpur or paddock boots), the silhouette was a hallmark of the 1960s mod and continues to have rock ‘n’ roll connotations today.
Read More: Chelsea Boot Footwear Guide.
A twill fabric generally made of cotton or a cotton blend.
Most commonly used to construct trousers, which are widely known as ‘chinos’ (can also be called ‘khakis’).
Chinos gained popularity as a summer uniform de rigueur of the armed forces and have since gone on to become civilian wear.
The trousers have become a staple within men’s fashion and should be considered an essential part of a modern capsule wardrobe.
They come available in a wide variety of neutral and bold colours, as well as statement prints and patterns.
Unlike lapels or revers, shirt collars are constructed from a separate fabric.
The spread of the collar refers to the distance between the two points of a shirt collar.
The stand is the band, often on the widest part, that supports the collar.
The corners of the collar are known as the points. This is where the most variation applies.
Collar stiffeners, also known as bones, are rigid strips inserted to the underside of the collar to prevent the points from curling up.
Read More: A Guide To: Men’s Formal/Dress Shirts.
Also see: button-down collar, round collar, spread collar and straight collar.
A foremost garment of function, the rounded, no collar, neckline was adopted on t-shirts as an undergarment or ‘gob shirt’ by the U.S Navy to absorb sweat. Today the crew neck has more desirable connotations (and name) along with several modern adaptations.
A close-fitting, hemmed neckline, which sits symmetrically at the base of the neck, is the generic posture. However, scooped, raw and boat neck cuts all derive from the original mould.
What sits above the stitch, notably your neck and face shape, will determine whether a crew or v-neck cut is best for you. The question of wanting to show a chest forest or not follows shortly after.
Daks Strap / Side Adjuster
Adjustable straps on the side of trousers used to tighten or loosen the fit; predominantly found on trousers without belt loops.
Similar to a chukka boot but looser at the ankle with a crepe sole.
See chukka boot.
A suit or blazer jacket with wide, overlapping front flaps and two parallel columns of buttons.
More often than not, the first column is for ornamentation, the second is for fastening the jacket. The hidden buttons are known as jiggers.
The fastening method is acknowledged using a number-on-number terminology. The first number is the total number of front buttons; the second is the number of fastening buttons below the lapels. Popular double-breasted variations are 6-on-2 and 6-on-1.
Read More: How To Wear: A Double-Breasted Blazer.
See raw denim.
A hooded, knee-length coat made from duffle; a coarse, thick woollen material.
Although many variations have appeared, the British have held on to the defining feature, idiosyncratic of four front wooden or horn toggle fastenings known as ‘walrus teeth’.
Read More: The Duffle Coat: A Menswear Classic.
Intricate, highly coloured knits, often stitched in bands, seen on jumpers, cardigans and more recently, accessories.
The design takes its name from the Fair Isle, a tiny island in the north of Scotland where the practice originated.
The term has since been employed to reference loosely any stranded colour knitting which often has no relation to the knitting of the Fair Isle.
Distinctive broken checks – often in black and white – resembling a dog’s incisor.
Also known as ‘dogstooth’.
Jeans are casual trousers made from denim: a rugged cotton twill.
The term ‘jeans’ comes from the French ‘Bleu de Gênes’ – meaning blue of Genoa – originating from the port in which Italian sailors wore them in the 19th century.
Terms you’ll encounter when shopping for jeans include those relating to the cut (straight, skinny, slim, boot), the fabric (dry, raw, selvedge) and more recently the rise.
A men’s shoe fastened with laces, obviously.
Most commonly found on formal clothing. Lapels describe the folded flaps of cloth on the front of a jacket or coat.
The cloth is an extension of the collar and folds back against the breast and cut to create a step (notch), peak or shawl finish. Double-breasted jackets always have peak or shawl lapels.
Any true man of style will own at least one pair; the Holy Grail being a Gucci, patent horsebit loafers.
The slip-on shoe, distinguishable from the moccasins by a wide heel, has its provenance in Norway – a happenstance that would lead G.H. Bass to begin producing loafers under the appellation ‘Weejuns’ in 1934.
Despite once being labelled casual-only, styles can now be found up and down the formality spectrum – from tasseled to penny and driving, in leather, suede and nubuck; all perpetually laceless and eternally rakish.
Vibrant plain-weave fabric. The lightweight plaid was originally hand woven but with modern techniques the pattern tends to bleed into one another.
Typically used for men’s blazers, shirts and shorts.
Read More: Spring/Summer Essential Fabrics: Madras.
A combination of the words metropolitan and heterosexual; the generally uninspiring term, intended as a sarcastic label for the overly preened, quickly became a societal buzzword for men addled by appearance-related behaviour.
The phrase, along with colloquial spinoffs such as ‘mansome’, was applied to this new sub-culture of men who illustrated traditional ‘female’ characteristics, such as a penchant for shopping and a focus on personal grooming.
A growing emphasis on narcissism, subsidised by a slew of male grooming products – reflected in a male market of ‘bloke beauty’ worth an estimated £1.2billion a year – led writers, editors and gender analysts to engage with the notion of metrosexuality; as observed by British journalist Mark Simpson:
“The typical metrosexual is a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis – because that’s where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are.”
- Black or grey morning coat.
- Waistcoat often in the same colour.
- Striped trousers (braces optional).
- White turndown collar shirt.
- Plain or patterned silk handkerchief, worn only ever as a sobering fold.
- Well-polished shoes (though reserve patent for eveningwear).
- And the infamous top to the tails, a hat. Similar to carpets and curtains, they should always match.
An endangered daytime ensemble (particularly in the winter when light hours are few and far), found chiefly at weddings (known as morning grey) and the races (a whole different stable of horses).
See dress codes.
The checklist for morning dress fluctuates based on location and occasion. However, at every encounter expect to observe full formalities – top hat included:
Few will castigate you for stopping there, short of gloves in kid leather or buckskin, spats, a cane, pocket watch and boutonnière, although all are welcome in the Royal enclosure at Ascot. If you do wear the latter, ensure you can pronounce it. Never call it your flower if you wish to be taken seriously.
Narrow, crisp lines running in parallel, found in cloth often used for suiting.
Originally called a coach line, the pattern is evenly woven into fabric generally spaced one half to one inch apart.
Read More: Men’s Pinstripe Suits.
Essentially unwashed and untreated after the dyeing process. Dry denim is at its very best in a raw state.
Due to its unfinished condition, over time knees, thighs, ankles and crotch will develop organic distress and fading.
To facilitate natural abrasion, many wearers often abstain from washing their jeans for more than six months:
This describes the unsewn edge of a piece of fabric. Commonly seen on t-shirts at the neck, arms and hem. The technique produces a raw, rolled effect, finishing with an unstructured look.
The distance from the crotch to the top of the waistband in jeans and trousers. Common options include high, medium and low rise.
Also known as the penny or club collar, the origins of this style can be found in the dress code of Eton College throughout the 1800s.
The rotund points create a contrast with the sharp lines but are still looked upon unfavourably in a formal setting. It’s generally held that a man should avoid wearing a collar too similar to his face shape (clearly they saw Boris Johnson coming.)
Reinforced fabric weave, typically found in unwashed or raw denim, to form a clean natural edge that does not unravel. Traditionally finished with a contrast weft, which is most commonly red.
Many people confuse selvedge denim with raw denim. Raw denim characterises the wash while selvedge refers to the outside edge of the fabric.
Selvedge denim carries a self-edge that will never fray and is therefore usually higher in quality and more expensive than other denims.
- On a two-button jacket, make use only of the top.
- Where three are on display, use either the middle (only) or top two.
- In the unlikely case you’re faced with four, leave just the bottom undone.
In contrast to double-breasted, this cut is characterised a narrow overlap fastened with a single row of buttons; always left over right. The narrow line is accentuated by the use of one to four buttons (although a number in-between is far more common).
The fastening of all buttons available (on anything above a one button coat, jacket or similar garment) is given a wide berth. To avoid misbuttoning, follow this concise guide:
This style gives prominence to the tie knot.
Dictated by the distance between each point (often between 3 and 6 inches). The larger spreads are often referred to as a Windsor collar, named after the Duke of Windsor.
The generic collar, measuring 2 to 3 inches between the points. Where the collar is tabbed or requires a barbell, the points often measure as a straight collar.
Before the everyday anatomy of shirts lengthened itself to incorporate stiffeners, many (Edward VIII included) sought a collar that provided an all the more put together look.
Electing for a tab collar ensures the shirt’s points are held together by a strip of fabric that sits under the knot of a tie. Tom Ford nodded to the revival of this style when dressing Daniel Craig for SkyFall. If it’s good enough for Bond…
An ornamental pin designed to hold the position of a necktie or cravat. Became popular at the beginning of the 19th century with wealthy English gentlemen who wanted to secure their cravats. Would look rather out of place if the rest of the outfit weren’t as straitlaced.
See briefs, boxer briefs, and boxer shorts.
“Should be as brief as wit and as clean as fun.” Hardy Amies, 1964.
Even more so than other dress codes, you’ll know when you’ve got this one wrong – especially if you interpret it as everything from black tie, just in white. Arguably the most formal of all – a fact pointed out when the invitation is delivered in French as ‘cravate blanche’ – white tie whittles down to tails.
That damming misinterpretation discussed earlier arrives if you leave the house looking like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.
See dress codes.
White tie is, in fact, not all white at all. It comprises of a black, single-breasted tailcoat and black trousers; both with silk grosgrain or satin facings (two, running parallel on the trousers as opposed to one in black tie), a white pique waistcoat, white stiff-front shirt, white bow tie (if it is pre-tied ensure it has an adjuster of some kind) and black patent shoes worn with black silk socks (over the calf is always advised).
Unless you’re a regular attendee of state dinners, hunt balls or the International Standard and American Smooth ballroom dance competitions, this code will only be faced a handful of times.
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