Q. What makes a jacket modern? I guess what I want to now is what makes one man look up-to-date and another look dated?
A: What makes a jacket modern is the silhouette. To a large extent, comfort dictates today's silhouette. Just try a jacket on. The feeling should be easy. The shoulders must be relaxed. Elegance means ease.
At one time several years ago, Johnny Carson was the perfect example of the well-dressed man. Today, Americans want a less up-tight, less restricted look.
In the eyes of the knowledgeable dresser, Mr. Carson's clothes are a bit too fitted, with too sharply defined shoulders; the trousers seem a shade too short, without enough softness or drape. The changing of styles is epitomized by the imminent changing of the guard -- from Johnny to Jay Leno (and Arsenio Hall, too).
Not every American chooses Armani-inspired clothes. But the relaxed air of his styling has influenced how men dress. The cut has a hint of a dropped shoulder; it's a bit loose, not snug. Fabrics can still be conservative, but lightweight with an ease of construction.
You will find this influence in all better men's clothes these days, even those sold in the more conservative bastions of Ivy League taste.
The man who knows next to nothing about clothes (and shows it by the way he dresses) projects an air not of authority, but of disregard, to the world.
Another mistake many men make is wearing their pants too low. Marco Wachter, president and designer of Mondo Inc., recommends the following:
"Wear the pants up. No matter how big the stomach is, if the pants are worn above the belly button, not below [especially with pleated pants], then the man is three-quarters on his way to elegance. The other quarter is the way he carries himself. If he walks with certainty, erect, as if he has esteem for himself, he projects an air of confidence."
Q: I would like to know a good way for a young man to get into modeling, but without having to pay a lot of money for a picture portfolio. I'm interested in stores like J. C. Penney, Hecht, Macy's, etc.
A: If you feel you have the potential to get into modeling, you must bite the bullet and pay to have photos taken.
Everything in this world, and particularly in business, has certain basic professional requirements. Most men who look like Danny DeVito do not make it in the modeling business.
Still, it takes more than merely being handsome and built to wear clothes well. A model must also photograph well. If wanting were all that was needed to be a model, then fashion runways would need air traffic controllers.
Some preparation -- and some expense -- is required for almost every job, and certainly for such desirable fields as modeling.
How will the agencies know you are out there, if they don't see your pictures? It's not necessary to use the best known, most highly touted photographer for a portfolio. But a better photographer (and a fine-quality series of photos) will show you to your best advantage. This does not seem to be the place to economize.
You might call each of the stores you are interested in and ask which modeling agencies they use. As an example, J. C. Penney's gets so many requests that it has a recording to answer questions about modeling. For information, call (214) 591-3737 or write for their Men's List of Modeling Agencies to: Catalog Models 1006, P.0. Box 659000, Dallas, Texas 75265.
Then call each agency and ask which photographers they recommend plus any other questions you think might be helpful.
Take notes. Over the years, I have discovered you can learn a lot from a few judiciously placed phone calls and a lot of questions. They make an effective first step toward achieving any goal.
Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, The Evening 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.