Rod’s Rules

For anyone embarking on a sartorial journey, it’s only a matter of time before one is likely to encounter ‘The Rules’. Ah yes, that nefarious, nebulous, mysterious collection of stylistic knowledge and wisdom. A set of simple, clear and widely-accepted commandments to guide us on our journey, the adhesion to which is certain to imbue any outfit with stellar sartorial success.

Back here in the real world, no such rules exist. In reality there is a whole host of received knowledge, (much of it not without contention), little if any universal truths, and the whole picture is made even less clear by the reverence toward those who, having acquired mastery of the rules, then choose to willfully break them, and in doing so often receive high praise. Perhaps the most prominent example is the late Fiat supremo Gianni Agnelli, who famously wore button down shirts with collar buttons unfastened (why?), along with fastening his watch over his shirt sleeve, and combining bespoke suits with clumpy hiking boots!

The analogy I have most commonly observed is to that of music. It seems that aside from the most talented and instinctive musicians, most people have to learn a modicum of musical theory before they can then break the rules and branch out into more experimental composition, and it’s fair to say that the same holds true for those who desire to dress well.  After acquiring some knowledge of the basics it then becomes possible to put a personal spin on what has been learned through observation, trial and error.

Adhesion to rules can be both prescriptive and restrictive, but over time it’s natural to develop certain individual features and components which you believe work best for you, the choices available to you, your budget and your personal preferences, and thus help provide some structure when assembling an outfit. I prefer to call them ‘conventions’ as the term seems to allow for a little more flexibility for occasional experimentation than slavic dedication to ‘rules’. Here are some of the conventions which I tend to follow:

Solid jacket/suit, patterned/striped shirt, solid (grenadine) tie.
Patterned jacket/suit, solid shirt, patterned (neat, striped, spotted) tie.
Solid odd jacket, patterned or textured trousers (glen check, POW, nailhead, mini check, houndstooth, flannel).
Patterned / textured jacket (houndstooth, herringbone, donegal, slubby linen), solid trousers.
Derbys with suits, brogues with odd jackets (I do wear suede brogues with suits).
Always a pocket square in a suit or odd jacket.
Cuff links with suits, barrel button cuffs with odd jackets.
Always a tie slide (for function more than display, often not visible as worn below the buttoning point).
Hats and sunglasses off indoors. This IS a rule! How sad that this even needs to be mentioned!
Don’t get ‘creative’ with Black Tie. Its existence is in peril and should be treated as critically endangered (at least in my own social circles).
White socks only with trainers.
No socks with driving shoes.
No empty belt loops – ALL my trousers have belt loops so I always wear a belt.
Shirts usually tucked (unless on holiday!), polos usually untucked.
No double denim.
Same fabric for odd jackets and trousers, i.e. Wool jacket, wool trousers. Cotton jacket, cotton trousers. linen jacket, linen trousers
And finally one rule that is inviolate – from the top down, the buttoning convention on a three-button jacket is ‘sometimes, always, never!’

As for my one personal prejudices … being a Mod can be a part of a big tent, as it’s a broad definition (if it can be defined at all – see ‘What?’ page). Some lean towards the peacock end of the spectrum, with paisley shirts, Brian Jones bowl haircuts and high buttoning double breasted jackets.

I’m most interested in the look of the early sixties underground face end of the continuum, before things got diluted (exceptions to this which I like include casual threads and trainers) but even within that oeuvre there are clothing items traditionally associated that I don’t buy into, mostly purely from personal preference, not from any reasoned and articulated rationale. Also I don’t subscribe to the ‘if it aint from the sixties it aint getting worn’ view either. Like it or not, fifty years on we have to incorporate some amount of contemporary styling into our wardrobe, otherwise we’d all be sad throwbacks dressing up in costumes like the Teds. My aim is to be influenced by the Mod look, but not imprisoned by it.

Things I am regularly seen in:

Jackets always three button, slim to medium lapels, no vents.
Trousers all narrow bottomed, flat front, belt loops and always with a belt.
Shirts for business mostly in blue and white combinations – solids, stripes, gingham checks, moderate spread collars.
Jeans worn rarely (too boring and common).
Dark blue Levi’s 501 selvedge with narrow roll-ups,or more frequently, Levi’s white jeans.
Ties solid grenadines, repp stripes, dots, neat patterns.
Pocket squares (never matching ties exactly).
Sunglasses either on my face or in my breast pocket behind my pocket square (never with an arm hanging out of the pocket).
Derby / blucher shoes only – captoes and punch caps with suits, wing tips with odd jackets.
Lacoste and Fred Perry polo shirts.
Ray Ban / Randolph Engineering sunglasses.
Adidas Originals like Gazelles and Stan Smiths.

Things you will rarely or never see me wearing:

Jacket with vents (look awful when gaping due to not being fitted well).
Any non three button jackets.
Button down shirts (blasphemy)!
Shirts with club collar, long point collar, contrast collar, beagle collar, cutaway collar.
Knitted ties (I own two, very rarely worn).
Slip on shoes (the exception being driving mocs).
Collar bars / pins.
Brash patterned ties, paisleys, madders, shiny satin solids.
Paisley / polka dot / loud patterned shirts.
Open necked shirts (very rarely do this).
Any kind of ‘Sprezzatura’ gimmickry (see blog post).
Ticket pockets on jackets (not fond of slanted hacking pockets either).
Turn ups (cuffs) on trousers (except for jeans and summer weight chinos).
Oxford / balmoral shoes.
Most knitwear – all cardigans, tanktops / sweater vests, fair isle knits, half zips.
V-necks underneath suits or jackets – the Cyril Figgis look from ‘Archer’!
Bow ties unless with dinner suit.

So with all that said, keep checking on the ‘Home’ page to see what I wore lately.

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November 7th, 2014


Joseph Abboud dark olive blazer
Ralph Lauren gingham shirt
Chipps navy garza fina grenadine tie
No name pocket square
Banana Republic gray micro check trousers
Pantharella socks
Ralph Lauren snuff suede punch cap shoes

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November 6th, 2014


Navy pinstripe suit
Tyrwhitt twill shirt
Conrad Wu raw silk grenadine tie
No name silk paisley square
Uniqlo socks
Allen Edmonds burgundy shell plain toed derbies

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Halloween (October 31st, 2014):



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October 30th, 2014:


Dark silver sharkskin suit
Ralph Lauren shirt
College Tie
No name square
Parnis watch
Uniqlo Socks
Allen Edmonds shoes

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October 29th, 2014:


Royal blue suit
Tyrwhitt shirt
Chipps tie
Kent Wang linen square

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2 thoughts on “Rod’s Rules

  1. Hi , nice blog saw something here that I would like to own (but cannot re find !)
    A new to me Polo shirt brand …I seem to think it had a french sounding name (St. M… ?) ring any bells as I would be interested in sourcing said item . Ta


    • Hello and thanks for looking in.
      Maybe you are referring to Lacoste? It’s a French brand, allegedly the first name brand of what we now call ‘polo shirts’ but were originally tennis shirts, designed by Rene Lacoste, a French tennis player of yesteryear. His nickname was “le Crocodile’ so that was the emblem he used. They are my favourite polo shirt, overpriced at retail of course like so many name brands, but better than Fred Perry and worth it if you get them at a discount or in their twice yearly sales (August and January) as they move out older colours and bring in new ones. Beware of fakes on ebay.


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