A LESSON IN CONTRAST Men's white trousers look appealing with a toasty brown leather belt


Q: Since you are so obviously opposed to white belts, what do you suggest that I wear with white pants or a light tan suit?

A: While it is true that a white belt might seem the logical choice with white trousers and suits, this all-white image looks like a uniform and evokes memories of the Good Humor Man. Most white belts accompany leisure suits, bell-bottom trousers, or the plaid-shirt-over-plaid-pants horrors one sees from time to time.

It is interesting which solid-color rules seem to disturb people. Many men have difficulty not wearing white shoes and white belts with white pants, but no man would think he ought to wear a green belt and green shoes with his olive pants.

Contrast is an essential ingredient in dressing well. With a white suit, white pants, or khakis, the man-about-town wears a toasty brown (a slightly orangy-brown shade) leather belt. This color looks especially good in braided leather.

One new version of belt that is handsome with white casual pants combines white canvas and brown braided leather. The front section includes a leather buckle and several inches of brown leather on either side. This variation breaks up the all solid white look.

Some styles just don't look right -- they lack grace, class, and elegance -- no matter how sensible they may seem.

Q: I feel compelled to comment on your article in the St. Petersburg Times. You ridiculed the wearing of white shoes as a glaring mistake, (and, heaven forbid, white belts with them). A number of years ago, I attended a seminar conducted by a very prosperous firm. The speaker was a handsome man, beautifully dressed in solid color slacks, a summer sport jacket, white shirt, a good looking tie, and, of all things, white shoes and worse, a white belt. As "sinful" as his outfit was, I spent the entire time admiring his appearance, and vowing to get my husband a couple of sport jackets, some white shoes, and a white belt.

If looking clean, cool and crisp is in poor taste, then we're guilty, and proud of it.

A: Thank you for writing. Your letter reminds me again of regions where the climate directs fashion. In tropical climes, resort style dressing influences how men dress for business as well: They tend toward lighter colors and more casual attire.

There is a lot to be said for looking "clean, cool, and crisp." If dark suits are out of the question in your area, if sports jackets and light colors are accepted, that's fine. But generally in the corporate world, white shoes and white belts are not appropriate attire.

White shoes and belt draw attention to your feet and to your waist -- two areas that you don't want to emphasize. Instead, you want to pull the eye up. Dark suits, with their V-shaped lapel plus a light shirt and bright tie, are designed to draw attention to the face.

Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, Today in Style, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Ms. Fenton welcomes questions about men's dress or grooming for use in this column but regrets she cannot answer mail personally.

Ms. Fenton, the author of "Dress for Excellence" (Rawson Associates, $19.95), conducts wardrobe seminars for Fortune 500 companies around the country.

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