The hallmark of a true gentleman is a neat well-manicured personage in impeccable, well-tailored, preferably bespoke clothes that fit perfectly and appear to be worn effortlessly. He will always wear faultless, well-cut couturier clothes which make an impression yet don’t set out to attract attention. In his wardrobe there will be a strong sense of ‘mix and match’, many items being years old but so rich in quality that their age is undetectable, as old favourites are given a new lease of life with a glamorous silk evening scarf or a fresh jacket lining.

Although for decades men’s dress remained relatively static and was slow to evolve into more modern styles, times have now changed radically since the pre-war days and even the early seventies. Men in general are dressing more to please themselves than to fit in with their appropriate group, especially as society as a whole is more cosmopolitan. Long haul travel, the media and different standards in the workplace have taken their toll on rigid convention.

This said however, there are still certain criteria that need to be met by any man who wishes to enjoy the ‘feel good factor’. To feel right a gentleman needs to look right, therefore he follows the basic rules of discreet good taste and dresses accordingly, but often with a flamboyant touch of his own here and there.

SUITS
This garment is the mainstay of every gentleman’s wardrobe and whilst many of the younger generation are beginning to buy off-the-peg suits from reputable fashion houses the old stagers, and those who have a true eye for class, will always make an annual visit to their tailor in Savile Row.

A good bespoke suit is a mark of distinction. It should be made from the highest quality cloth, fit well around the shoulders and still look good in twenty years’ time. Many men buy two new suits a year to add to their wardrobe: one formal town and one country tweed. This way they can rotate all their suits and give them the necessary chance to hang out properly. With very expensive suits it is often customary to order a spare pair of trousers in the same cloth since these often wear out well before the jacket.

The joy of a bespoke suit from a reputable Savile Row tailor, is that it will be cut to fit exactly, taking in any irregularities. This inevitably ensures that it will hang well from the body without pulling in the wrong places.

Also, because of a much wider range of cloth, lining materials and accessories it can be designed to include individual touches which sets it far apart from the more ordinary ready-made suit.

Current trends and personal build will dictate whether a suit is single or double-breasted or consists of two or three pieces; the fuller figure is quite frankly much more flattered by wearing a double-breasted suit.

When sitting down it is correct to unfasten the lower jacket button; this is to avoid unsightly wrinkling of the fabric. When getting up the jacket should be re-buttoned and on no occasion should more than two buttons be fastened, as the top pair is purely decorative. On a single-breasted suit, only one button on the jacket, the middle one, is fastened.

Ideally town suits should be made of all-wool worsted cloth of variable weight, depending on its intended season. Colours chosen should be subdued, usually grey or navy, either plain or with a discreet design such as a fine pinstripe.

Likewise country suits are normally made in quiet greens or browns and designs would be restricted to a sober check or fleck. It is quite normal for these more tweedy suits to be worn with a checked shirt in Viyella or heavy coloured cotton.

Suit trousers should break just over the shoe and jackets must be long enough to cover the seat of the trousers, while sleeves should reach the base of the hand and never hang down too long, as far as the fingers. Shirt cuffs should show about half an inch below the sleeve and cuff buttons on the jacket should unbutton so that sleeve cuffs can be turned back to wash hands.

If a waistcoat is worn the lowest button is usually left undone and it is not acceptable to put things in the top outside jacket pocket, especially pens, which smacks of sales-rep behaviour. These along with wallet and notebook, go in the inside pocket, but never to the point where they bulge.

Evening wear (except on rare, ‘white tie’ occasions, when a full evening black tail coat is worn) usually consists of a tail-less black dinner jacket with trousers to match, referred to on invitations as ‘black tie’. The trousers normally have one row of black braid down the outside leg.

This ensemble should be worn with a soft white pique or pleated fronted shirt, black shoes and socks, and a black silk or velvet bow tie. If a waistcoat is worn it is generally black; the alternative is a black silk cummerbund. On hot summer nights a white dinner jacket is often worn, with black trousers and cummerbund.

Morning suits are worn only for society weddings, very formal occasions such as investitures or the state openings of Parliament and for Derby Day at Epsom, and Royal Ascot in the Royal enclosure. The traditional form of morning dress consists of a black morning coat with tails and striped trousers. This is worn with a black top hat, plain coloured doeskin waistcoat, black patent leather shoes and a white shirt with a stiff collar. An alternative to black is the grey three-piece morning suit, worn with a grey or black top hat.

SHIRTS & TIES
Shirts and ties are the one area of dress that seems to encourage individuality. Although a sober tie with a shirt in white, pastel stripe, or understated check, is considered correct for the well-dressed man-about-town, many a bold trendsetter has broken the mould and gone for bright patterned shirts with a coloured bow tie.

Naturally it is largely a matter of personal taste, but nothing else ever looks quite as smart as conservative dress. A word about regimental and old school ties – never wear one unless you have the right; to do so otherwise is considered to be the height of bad form.

Some of the best shirts and ties in England come from Jermyn Street in London, where there is shop after shop offering ready-made or bespoke shirts in the most wonderful array of cottons and silks you could wish to see. It is here you will spot the rich and famous from all over the world, restocking their wardrobe or being re-measured for an annual order which is then posted to them after about six weeks. There is something about a Jermyn Street shirt that is instantly recognisable, giving any man an air of understated elegance. It is worth noting that many of the shirt shops will also make bespoke silk ties in the colour of your choice, which can greatly enhance individual style.

SHOES
In town Oxford brogues are appropriate for wearing with a dark suit although soft slip-on shoes are also acceptable so long as these aren’t over-adorned with fussy buckles and decoration. Black shoes are correct with navy or grey suits, whereas brown shoes are normally worn with tweeds and brown suits.

A gentleman always has well-polished shoes which are generally hand-made and last a lifetime. Handmade shoes would need to be ordered well in advance as the first pair of shoes, from somewhere like Lobb’s in St James’s, can take six months to make. A good compromise for the more impecunious gentleman would be to buy quality ready-made shoes from shops such as Church’s or Tricker’s.

HATS
Hats are not worn nearly so much in town as they used to be; even the traditional bowler is disappearing except for officials at point-to-points and important agricultural shows. In the country however flat tweed caps and trilbies are still very popular or straw hats and Panamas in summer. The most prestigious British hatters are Lock & Co. of St James’s and Herbet Johnson of New Bond Street. Under no circumstances does a gentleman ever wear a hat indoors and he should always raise his hat to a lady.

OVER THE TOP
In town a navy blue or dark grey overcoat is considered smart; a velvet collar is optional. Camel coats in the city are viewed with suspicion in certain quarters as they used to be associated with car dealers and ad-men. In wet weather a classic-style pale fawn classic style  mackintosh is often worn.

Out in the countryside, where it is usually colder and a lot muddier, a gentleman will wear a covert coat for more formal events, such as racing or a grand shoot lunch but for everyday wear he will normally throw a waxed jacket over everything – this should incidentally never look too new; it is considered nouveau riche. Some desperate souls, terrified of looking out of place, have even been known to drive a tractor backwards and forwards over their newly purchased jacket!

If you want to learn the art of understated, country dressing-down, then watch out for what the Royal Family wear each year at Badminton Horse Trials.

CASUAL CLOTHES
Where a suit is not required but smart turnout is, a navy blue blazer with a sober shirt and tie, and grey flannel trousers is a very acceptable alternative; but never with a decorative gold badge adorning the top pocket of the blazer.

For country outings, including lunch with friends on a country estate, a tweed jacket with a heavy cotton or Viyella shirt and cavalry twill or corduroy trousers is normal.

At home most country dwellers live in green Wellingtons, jeans and practical old clothes. Even the Lord of the Manor is likely to be spotted in a tweed sports jacket with leather patches or an open-necked shirt under a pullover that has a hole in the front. English gentlemen have the knack of dressing badly at home but pulling out all the stops on formal occasions.

SPORTSWEAR
Modern sportswear is almost always universally the same and it would be safe to say that for any active ball game, from golf to polo, the English gentleman would be togged-up exactly like any other player. British country field sports, however, represent an area that is steeped in pitfalls for the unversed participant. For in this rich social arena, probably more than anywhere else, the English are still aware of their class system. Things have to be done correctly, in the time-honoured way, and this starts with wearing the appropriate clothes.

Perhaps to an outsider all these unspoken rules sound petty and unnecessarily snobbish; to a degree they are, but two factors must be considered very carefully. First of all, the clothing devised was done so for a reason. Take the sport of foxhunting for example. The heavy leather top-boots were designed to protect the rider’s legs from thorns and support a snapped ankle in the event of a fall. Rubber boots now favoured by so many just don’t offer the same degree of protection. Likewise, a proper hunting ‘stock’ can guard against a broken neck or be used as a tourniquet on an injured horse. If that sounds over-dramatic, be assured that these sort of accidents do happen regularly in open country, often away from immediate medical help.

The second point which is very important to the country sports lover is tradition. In a world that is so obviously changing this is one part of the British way of life that is moving extremely slowly with the times. Tradition represents a degree of security and familiarity in a technical environment that a lot of country people find threatening and overwhelming. To follow the same rules and dress much the same as their grandparents did, is not only safe but reassuring.

A word to the wise: it is not sensible to spend vast amounts of money buying the correct and very expensive sporting attire if you are only going to have the odd day of shooting or fishing, etc. Most country people are kind and helpful and, to allow you the chance of having a taste of their favourite sport, will either lend you some ‘gear’ or overlook your casual turnout.

ACCESSORIES
A gentleman carries the minimum of accessories. Not for him the extravagant gold lighter and cigarette case; he is much more likely to invent a windproof gadget that enables him to light up on a windswept grouse moor. Anything that is not strictly practical or handed down is regarded as superfluous to requirements. The upper classes have no real use for ornamental ‘knick-knacks’ and rarely give them as presents. It is rumoured that even the more senior members of the Royal Family are very mean at Christmas time, giving each other only useful, cheap presents; parsimony runs through the veins of every blue-blooded Englishman.

[wdndadsense]left:300:250[/wdndadsense]His main adornment is usually a pair of discreet cuff links and on the right occasion, an ornate tie pin. His watch must keep accurate time but does not need to be endowed with underwater or designer qualities. In fact he may well use the same watch as his grandfather. One source of great pride however, may well be a beautiful fountain pen which is usually kept well hidden in his inside breast pocket.

A gentleman always carries his handkerchief tucked in his sleeve (never in his top pocket) – a tricky skill that has to be learned at Nanny’s knee. Most men have a plentiful store of white linen handkerchiefs courtesy of generous, if unimaginative, maiden aunts.

However, in certain circles it is not unknown for a bright spotted square to be pulled out with great aplomb to accompany much loud and unseemly blowing. One can only assume that these reckless social freaks have been severely deprived of caring relatives!

In town a gentleman will carry a black rolled-up umbrella that he rarely opens, even when it rains, although he may be persuaded to open it for a lady in distress. In the country he will substitute his umbrella for a walking stick, but not one with a carved animal’s head. Over the years he will harbour a collection of these sticks which live in an untidy pile along with walking boots, dog leads, shooting sticks and old tweed hats.

The older (less progressive) gentleman wouldn’t be seen dead holding a man’s handbag, no matter how convenient and practical. In his view it is an item only flaunted by ‘damn foreigners’. He carries any bits and pieces in a plain black brief-case or at best in a large paper carrier. If he is a globe-trotter he will have good quality leather luggage that is often rather old-fashioned and uncoordinated. Nevertheless, like its owner, it will have distinction and possibly a lot of labels, a hangover from the old steamship days.