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Rule Reversal


Remember the casual abandon you displayed with your clothing back in your teen-age years? Chances are you didn't own an overcoat yet, so you probably slipped your trusty ski parka over your suit or sport coat and then, when you got to your destination, quickly took it off and stashed it away before anyone could notice. And don't forget those lug-soled shoes you wore with everything, including dress pants.

Today, with the sporty look acceptable for even dressy occasions, you can take a certain comfort in the fact that what may have seemed inappropriate in your youthful years has become downright fashionable today.

In a scramble for newness, designers have added a subtle twist to menswear this fall by combining unexpected elements in a more casual mode. The stodgy sameness of menswear past has loosened its grip. Traditional fabrics in softer weights and more relaxed tailored shapes have given men's clothing a less molded effect.

A basic suit suddenly loses its stuffiness and takes on modern simplicity when teamed with a lightweight mock turtleneck. The look also brings a welcome change from the perennial stuffy white shirt and binding tie. Even dressier suitings take on a rugged outerwear appearance when balanced by a denim work shirt and hiking boots. The harmony of texture and pattern is combined for a modern twist on the classics.

Check your boring basics at the door and opt instead for bold mixes of stripes and plaids or checks and dots. If you're really daring, you may even want to throw on an animal print accessory like a scarf or vest. How about a simple polo shirt -- but quilted? Or a conventional football jacket with attached leather collar and sleeves? The return of the knit tie, reincarnated with a new look in snappy patterns with pointed edges, certainly epitomizes the new mentality. After all, it can just be rolled up and thrown in the drawer.

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