If I were going to sit down and write a book about the history of men’s fashion, I wouldn’t put the chapters in alphabetical order. Because then I’d have to start with a chapter about ascots, which very few men actually wear today.
And yet that’s what True Style (Basic Books) does. Alphabetically ordered chapters, with ascot first and weather gear last. Call me crazy, but are ascots what men want to read about? I mean, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe men who read books about the history of men’s fashion want to read about ascots.
Okay, so forget ascots and focus on boots, bow ties, denim, fragrances, pocket squares, shirts, shorts, suits, and turtlenecks. Better, right? Maybe even interesting. And you know? It is. In prose that’s factual and fun to read, Boyer deconstructs what we wear into what he wants us to know about it. Where did denim come from? What are the different ways to tie a bow tie? How did men’s fragrances come to be?
But Boyer knows more than just history. More important for men who want to look their best, he’s also an expert in how-to. How to properly coordinate shirts and ties, for example, and how to properly fold a pocket square, indeed how to put together a wardrobe. He makes it easy to achieve the English country house look, if that’s your thing. He tells you how to dress for a formal evening. He’s got chapters about grooming, Ivy style, mixing patterns (stripes and polka dots, anyone?), and one about what he calls the “how-hosiery-trouser nexus,” where the styles of a man’s shoes, socks, and pants are in very close proximity.
As I read this book, I kept imagining a cocktail party. Half the men there were well-dressed, clear about what to wear, and when, and with what. The other half were raconteurs, overflowing with tales about how a gentleman’s wardrobe 100 years ago affects the wardrobe of men today. Both halves would find True Style invaluable. Ascot or no.