Classic look: Jacket, gray slacks, oxford-cloth shirt


About odd jackets, gray flannel slacks, and button-down oxford-cloth shirts worn without a tie -- is this still a preferred mode of dress? I've always thought it is a classic.

A: I agree. The combination you described is a widely accepted way of dressing; it is one outfit every man looks good in. For casual occasions that do not require a tie, this weekend wardrobe staple is almost never wrong. Yet, even within these limits, a great many variations present themselves as options.

Jacket possibilities include: a single-breasted blue blazer or a more formal double-breasted navy wool; a camel's hair jacket; a gray houndstooth or tan tweed sports coat; a beige raw silk; a white wool-and-linen blend resort look; one of the fashion-forward draped rayon-and-wool jackets for spring; summer pastel cotton or linen blazers; narrow-striped seersuckers.

These all qualify as casual jackets and are welcome additions to a too-staid wardrobe. Any one of them is suitable to wear with or without a necktie.

Though gray flannel slacks are the most common duo with a blazer, there are plenty of alternatives starting with tan gabardines or cotton khakis. A favorite of mine is olive or khaki-colored wool cavalry twill. An elegant Palm Beach look pairs winter white wool flannel trousers (or heavy white cotton ducks) with a navy blazer. In spring and summer, additional choices crop up from awning-striped blue and white cottons through narrow ticking stripes, to easily wrinkled and stylish linens and the new, quiet, windowpane plaids. Colors range from black pants under white jackets to dark jackets over white pants, plus the many tones in between.

An oxford-cloth button-down shirt worn unbuttoned at the neck is part of this Establishment Sunday afternoon "uniform." It need not be white or blue.

Q: When I'm looking for a new suit, I never know whether to buy

one that needs alterations. Is the salesman pushing something on me that is not for me? How much is too much?

A: The main problem men have with tailoring is that they don't realize it is a requirement of quality dressing. Most men find a suit at a price they are willing to pay and shrink at the thought of paying 5 to 10 percent more to make it fit. It's a similar feeling to buying a car and realizing that basics like air conditioning and automatic transmission cost extra.

Men -- and in particular those who have specific clothing requirements -- must get over the notion that they ought to be able to buy clothes that will automatically fit perfectly. Even though a cursory glance in the mirror is enough to reveal that a man does not have a perfect model's body, still he wants to buy a suit and do nothing more than shorten the sleeves and cuffs.

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