eminently suitable

Bruce Boyer’s New Book, True Style

It’s been almost thirty years since Bruce Boyer published Elegance and Eminently Suitable. For a lot guys, including me, these are some of the best books on the topic of classic tailored clothing. Eminently Suitable covers the history of men’s dress and how to put on a coat and tie; Elegance is a collection of essays (mostly from Bruce’s time as the men’s fashion editor at Town & Country). 

Bruce’s new book, True Style, is also a collection of essays, although this time taken from the hodgepodge of places he’s written for since he originally penned Elegance in 1985. Each chapter is dedicated to a topic – boots, denim, dressing gowns, suits, Italian style, sprezzatura, etc. There’s even a chapter on something Bruce calls “the shoe-hosiery-trouser nexus.” If that chapter is still up-to-date, we learn here that Bruce almost only wears brown suede shoes (he doesn’t own any black footwear, except for a pair of black velvet Albert slippers that he wears with dinner jackets. For him, black is too puritanical). 

The book isn’t about Bruce’s clothing preferences, however, nor is it necessarily a guide on how to put on a coat and tie. Although, when reading through, you’ll pick up things here and there. In his chapter on business attire, he notes that he’s not interested in giving fashion advice about whether you should match your belt buckle to your cuff links (something he thinks falls into “technical advice”), but has found some broader lessons to be true. Under the section titled “Big Mistakes,” he writes:

1. Being too studied: everything all matched up makes the uniform obvious, overly fastidious, and blatantly narcissistic. Individuality should be in evidence, quietly. 

2. Wearing too many accessories: like putting all the china on the table at the same time, it’s too busy and signals insecurity. Diana Vreeland wisely said that the key to style is refusal. This is particularly true today, when there is such a plethora of wares before our eyes. 

3. Using too many patterns: like an overloaded electrical circuit, the outfit quickly burns out and calls attention to itself. This is not unlike camouflage, in which lines of objects are blurred in order to mislead our eyes away from distinctions we should be making. 

4. Being too understated: blandness without indicated blandness within. Unless you’re incredibly handsome – as was Cary Grant, who made the low-keyed monochromatic approach to dress his signature – make a subtle, distinguishing gesture in your attire. 

Granted, not ground-breaking information, but whereas other advice sometimes keeps guys looking too stiff and rule-bound, the above are general axioms always worth remembering. 

Most of the book, however, is about Bruce’s observations on social history and clothing, how trends intersect with movies and popular culture, and how what we wear has evolved. In his chapter on boots, Bruce connects styles such as the engineer and work boot to the rise of working-class, rebel icons, such as Brando in The Wild One and Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. Another chapter on the “English Country House Look” nicely encapsulates a certain, well-worn, Old Money style that we’ve all admired. The idea, he writes, is to “give the impression that strata of taste have been laid down over years by successive owners and its crowded incongruities are the result of collective history.” That means always favoring the old over the new, and never looking too prepared. “Obvious coordination is to be avoided at all cost,” he writes. “Ties, socks, and pocket squares should slightly clash at the very least. Wearing clothes from different genes – or different periods or occasions – is helpful. Town and country often meet in the truly assured.”

There are dozens of new titles every year on men’s clothing. About half of them are just rehashed press releases; the others give the kind of tips-and-tricks you see everywhere online and in magazines. Bruce’s work has always been worth reading because he’s one of the few authors who deal with genuinely classic style, but in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s just about rules. True Style is a great read for guys who find joy in clothing, but aren’t necessarily looking for an instruction manual on how to dress. 

when in rome: part 2

[by popular demand, does anyone have ideas for a better title?]

[part one]


In the days that followed, Emma did her best to prove to her parents that they had nothing to fear. She knew she had overstepped her bounds by insisting that her father purchase the slaves’ freedom, and yet all the while as she watched the spectacular conclusion to the gladiatorial games, the victors laureled and adored and the losers dragged out while boys in bronze collars shoveled sand over the bloodstains, all she could think of was how good that it wasn’t them. At the feast afterward in their villa on Palatine Hill, as garum and olive oil and salt and wine and fine white loaves and nuts and cheeses were passed among the couches and torches flickered in the warm summer night, the wind blowing away the stench of the insulae, the commoners’ apartments, crowded in the city center. Despite herself, she couldn’t help but wonder where the slaves were boarded, and how they bided. Her mother had refused to have them in the house, but nor could they be left to their own devices among the others. I have put them in an impossible situation. Deprived the emperor of his carefully crafted revenge, possibly drawn unwanted attention to her and her family’s loyalty among the bitterly competitive and cutthroat world of the Forum, and with no good reason to think she’d saved the men’s lives for anything more than a few days. I should have just let them die. They are nothing to me. Or perhaps –

“Emma?” Her father’s voice interrupted her grim preoccupations, and the sweet music of the cithara. “Emma, there’s… there’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

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the lightbearers :::: epilogue

summary: Steampunk AU. When bounty hunter Emma Swan is commissioned by Robert Gold, powerful and mysterious president of the Royal Society of English Magicians, to take down notorious airship pirate Captain Killian Jones, it lands them in a web of political and magical intrigue, dark secrets, and the dangerous London underworld - as well as their unwanted attraction to each other. Multi-chapter, slow burn.
rating: M
status: COMPLETE
available: FF.net and AO3
previous: chapter 33

Emma woke beneath the sharp-slanted eaves of the majestic, sprawling attic bedchamber, the rich red curtains lashed to the posts and weak sunlight laying tracks across the magnificent Persian carpet. The logs in the hearth were still burning low, then and odd flaring an ember; they had not gotten to sleep until very late, nearly dawn, due to the racket of fireworks set off to herald the turn of the century, Anno Domini 1900. Emma remembered reaching it once before, in another reality. One where the curtains were black, the floor was bare, where she slept alone and had for decades, where she was Jafar’s remorseless assassin and Henry and Killian were nothing more than long-dead ghosts. She had wondered what would happen as this real moment approached. Almost dreaded that this had just been a dream the entire time, another false reality that Jafar had crafted and sprung on her somehow, and that now it would have to end. It had on this same day before, after all. But when she had voiced her fear last night, feeling faintly ridiculous for doing so, Killian had pulled her into his side and nuzzled her hair. “It’s no dream, love,” he said. “This is our life. It’s real.”

Emma had smiled, kissed him on the cheek, and told him that in which case, they could merely consider the fireworks a special anniversary celebration. As of today, they had been wed for forty-eight years; they were married on New Year’s 1852, twelve days after she had saved him, in a small and private ceremony at Applewood Hall. Forty-eight eventful, exciting, not always easy, but on the whole deeply wonderful years, helping to rebuild the Night Market, continuing to resist the Royal Society, slowly repairing relations with her family, and starting their own. Their five children were in London for the holidays: Henry, their sons Charles and William, and their daughters Eva and Elizabeth. Each of the Swan-Jones offspring had pursued an adventurous career, some on righter sides of the law than others (then again, Killian had remarked, it would be a shame if at least one son of his didn’t end up a pirate). In this ambition Charles had deeply gratified him, while to the communal befuddlement William became an investment banker, a choice which would have been deplored by one of his namesakes, a young thief, but much approved by the other, a Royal Navy captain. Eva had decided to travel the world in her own airship and had flown in from Zanzibar or some other far-off place, while Elizabeth had moved to America and joined the suffragettes. As for Henry, he and his wife Violet lived in Applewood Hall, where he wrote books of fairytales.

Emma smiled at the thought of the children and grandchildren arriving later today for tea, doubtless full of stories of all the excitement in the streets, everything there was to be seen, everything that seemed so hopeful in a shining new twentieth century. She hoped, however, that her grandsons would get far away from Europe, and soon. She knew there was a great war coming in fourteen years, what would happen to all the young men then, and sometimes despaired of how on earth humanity could make it through to the future that she and Killian had visited, the modern mechanical one. Sometimes she hoped that it could still be changed, that it might not come to pass entirely as it was. That there would be, even then, a drop of magic yet remaining in the world.

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