As fashion editors, we get the opportunity to see new collections, styles and trends before anyone else - we feel safe in the knowledge that we are ahead of the game, confident enough to pass judgement on a new season and that we know the tricks needed to pull off a great shoot. But I am always thrown a little off-kilter when I have to deal with menswear.
Menswear has always bothered me. It's hard to get right. It is far more restrictive than womenswear in terms of fabric, shape, structure and form, all key components that make for an exciting fashion shoot. The problem is that what we see in the menswear shows are mostly suits, shirts, jackets and coats - more so than not in varying shades of grey. Not to mention the dress rules that need following. Black tie, white tie, morning suits, dinner suits, dressy casual, casual and business casual: it's exhausting.
There are rules to follow to get the most out of menswear, though. In terms of fabric, take the time to understand quality. Squeeze the fabric; if it bounces back into shape without wrinkling you know you are on the right track. For hot weather, linen, cotton and silk are the best options, but when you can stick to wool or a wool-cashmere mix, do so.
It sounds obvious but always get fitted - your jacket's shoulder pads are supposed to square with your shoulders, and the sleeves shouldn't fall lower than the base of the thumb. When it comes to shirts let's stay away from the scissors, shall we? Short-sleeved shirts are rather iffy.
Always match your belt with your shoes. This is a good rule to follow and it keeps things simple. It's best to stay with traditional colours such a black, dark brown or a rich tan.
Most of the serious rules apply when it comes to black tie - which rather confusingly means the opposite - meaning wearing a tuxedo. Make sure to wear a specialised tuxedo shirt with vertical pleats and French cuffs. And stick to black for a cummerbund - anything else and you're into comedy dress territory. The same goes for cufflinks - keep them simple and subtle.
When it comes to shoes spend as much as you can afford. Good shoes last longer. Invest in a fitted cedar shoe tree that will give your shoes up to three years longer life. Never go for a square toe - opt for a classic round toe. A brown leather brogue will go with most of your wardrobe, and black-leather lace-ups worn with dark grey socks will work for nearly all of your formal occasions.
It's the little details that matter - a brown satchel, an interesting shirt collar, a knitted tie. What men really want is for clothes to big them up, to be on their side: something that is flattering, non-abrasive but (crucially) can still make you look dapper and cool. Sounds ever so simple, doesn't it?