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Severna Park native David Hart breaks the rules with tips on dressing the modern man

A modern men's guide to dressing.

Fashion designer David Hart has sent models down the runway with holes in their hats and with bare chests beneath their blazers.

He's endorsed wearing flip-flops and suit jackets with shorts.

The Severna Park native's bold vision is beloved by celebrities and celebrated by the fashion industry. And as the first-ever New York Fashion Week for men's clothing gets underway this week in New York City, it's clear Hart is a leader in men's designs.

"I think it's a really exciting time for menswear in New York," the 33-year-old said in a phone interview from his Fort Greene, N.Y., apartment, which also serves as his work space. "Now that we have a dedicated men's week, we won't be overshadowed with the women's shows."

Hart is putting the finishing touches on his spring/summer collection, which he said is inspired by Bauhaus, a German art and design movement from the first part of the 20th century. "There'll be bold graphic prints, lightweight merino wools, primary colors and pastels," he said.

In addition to dressing TV actor and Broadway star Alan Cumming, who wore a number of the designer's creations while hosting this year's Tony Awards, Hart has also worked with singer Leon Bridges, whom he describes as a young Sam Cooke.

"I'm obsessed with his music, his style and aesthetic," Hart said. "It's unreal."

Hart also admires the looks of celebrities like Eddie Redmayne, Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper. "Those guys always get it right," he said.

Hart advises ditching some of the old rules of men's fashion and instead choosing contemporary alternatives. Here are some of his new rules on dressing the modern man.

Replace argyle with stripes

The once go-to pattern for menswear has become stodgy and stagnant, so Hart favors stripes and vintage atomic-like patterns.

"They are always a good go-to," he said about stripes. "If you are doing argyle, it has to be a placed print — or properly incorporated into an outfit."

Hart also likes a great pattern such as a pineapple or banana leaf print. He peppered his spring 2015 collection with a lot of patterns.

"We did a great dessert foliage print," he said. "It featured yucca plants. We also showed argyle, but it was specifically placed. I like the juxtaposition of pairing the old with the new."

Sneakers not oxfords

Saddle shoes and oxfords have been the standard in men's wear for decades. Hart thinks there's another way.

In 2014, he collaborated with the shoemaker Walk-Over to unveil a new line of patent leather wingtips in black, cream and burgundy red.

Now Hart favors a "great white sneaker" to complete an ensemble — even with a suit. Hart recommends sneakers by Common Projects. He calls them "easy, lifestyle" sneakers.

"I think they are great to pair with suits," he said. "My guy [customer] is running around a lot. He's a creative intellectual. He's about pushing his style. Pairing a suit with a clean white sneaker is helpful for him."

Pair black with blue

Hart doesn't follow traditional color combination rules — especially when it comes to keeping black and blue separate.

"I've never followed that rule, especially in black-tie dressing," he said. "We are seeing a lot of midnight blue jackets with black slacks."

Hart thinks color rules are for less-adventurous novices. "I think of these rules as guideline for guys who haven't experimented with their own personal style. If you feel great, you are doing it right."

Don't match belt, shoes

Placing an emphasis on matching makes you stand out. And not in a good way. Hart said that adding an unexpected pop of color to your ensemble is key.

"Color is really important with accessories," he said. "But you don't want to tie [your belt] with your shoes."

For the record, Hart's customers aren't even wearing belts.

"It goes back to lifestyle," he said. "Our guys are really active. These men are into fitness and cooking. Putting on a belt to keep their pants up is the last thing they are thinking about."

Hats can stay on indoors

Hart consistently peppers his collections with an assortment of men's hats and is all for wearing them in certain social settings — even indoors.

"[For] the older generation, it was customary to remove hats," Hart said. "Now, it's perfectly acceptable in bars and at parties."

However, Hart warns about wearing hats at work. "It may not be as appropriate," he said.

And not all hats will do.

"Keep athletic apparel on the field," he said.

Upgrade to boxer-briefs

It's an age-old debate: boxers or briefs? No need to choose, since Hart thinks that combination boxer-briefs are a safe bet for men.

"It's good for support and it's slimming," he said. "Ultimately, it depends on the guy. It all depends on their taste and what their significant other likes as well. That's the most important thing."

White in winter

Just as in women's clothing, the old rule of not wearing white after Labor Day has become antiquated in menswear.

"We have winter whites for a reason," Hart said. "I love it."

Hart thinks a "great white sweater is amazing in the winter." He adds that a white parka is equally as amazing during the winter months.

Stylish young men are less apt to follow the outdated color code, according to Hart.

"With the younger generation, they are more interested in expressing personal style," Hart said. "It's perfectly acceptable [to wear white in the winter]. That's why designers have been offering more and more of those items."

Skip navy, go for color suits

Navy suits have always been a staple in menswear — especially for office attire. But Hart has been known for filling his collections with suits in hues of cobalt blue, olive and burgundy.

"Navy is done," Hart said. "I wish I would never have to see another one again. It's ingrained in men. That is the uniform."

Instead, Hart suggests different hues of blue, such as electric blue and cobalt. If you're more adventurous, he recommends wearing well-tailored suits in other colors such as greens, reds and purples.

"I love color," Hart said. "It's perfectly acceptable. An emerald green jacket or a deep, deep purple is amazing."

If you must wear the navy suit, Hart suggests livening it up with colorful accessories such as ties, pocket squares and socks.

johnjwilliams@baltsun.com

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