x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

In fond remembrance of things past

Some things never go out of style but others that do should stay that way.

All men have weaknesses, just ask any woman. When it comes to fashion, however, most men hold out hope that their Achilles heel will someday be in vogue once again. I used to think the fedora could be resurrected. JFK might have sounded the death knell when he chose not to wear one while delivering his inauguration speech in January 1961, but it was on its way out for a reason: it highlighted the chasm between the proletariat and the ruling class.

Today, I recognise it should not be brought back, but not for the reason I mention, rather because some things are best laid to rest. Robert De Niro's Al Capone character in Brian De Palma's 1987 movie The Untouchables looked striking and made me think about how well men once dressed. But, as tough as he was, he also looked like a bit of a dandy in that hat. While the fedora should stay in the past, so too should spats, the walking cane, men's white gloves, sock suspenders and the one-piece swimming costume men wore in the 1920s. These all once served a purpose, but the truth is that today's man is more practical, more streamlined, more focused and the work required to maintain a look that incorporates these items is no longer realistic.

So, although I am willing to move forward and leave most fashion items in the past, I have a few weaknesses. Here, in reverse order, is my top 10 list of things that should be reclaimed from the dustbin of male fashion history. 10. Watches under cuffs Many of today's men - and I am as guilty of this as anyone - likes to wear a Cadillac on their wrists. But the correct way to wear a watch - especially the more expensive watches - is discreetly. Think of it this way: the more expensive the watch, the less prominently it should be worn. A wristwatch on a man should not be displayed. Women are allowed to flaunt their jewellery, men are not.

9. The undershirt The crew-neck undershirt, not the wifebeater (which, ironically, looks better on women). If you want to feel cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter and produce fewer pit stains, then the crew-neck undershirt, particularly when wearing a dress shirt, is essential. Smells will be reduced and your look and comfort will improve. 8. Pocket square With one small piece of fabric a well-dressed man raises his game. He can either go for the silk or linen handkerchief, nicely folded with a couple of centimetres peeking out of the jacket's breast pocket. It is like wearing a law-enforcement badge on October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, moments before the fight at the OK Corral. Riding to the rescue is the man who can deliver the goods. Wyatt Earp? No, just a man of the cloth.

7. Spectator shoes I understand most people will think this is too much, but with certain suits they only complement the look. Think Jay Gatsby at a backyard party and then imagine a well-dressed man in a white suit (or blue blazer and white slacks) at Emirates Palace. A look that can be pulled off by the discerning man. 6. Tie bar Tom Ford will occasionally wear one of these and perhaps that is how it should make a comeback - on occasion. The tie bar is a piece of jewellery and I do not care for such things, but it also adds elegance to a look that might otherwise be staid.

5. Tie clip A practical accoutrement that can add a bit of individuality to even the most traditional suits. 4. Pocket watch sans fob Could anything be more classic? A practical piece of handcrafted art that offers a man function, originality and beauty - all in the palm of his hand. The fob, however, must not be included. The chain is necessary but there must be no ornaments attached. 3. Cufflinks

I shall on occasion invoke the James Bond rule, which allows me to justify something only because James Bond wears it or does it. 2. The waistcoat I think this is probably the toughest item to reintroduce to widespread acceptability. Today it is more associated with tea boys and valets than the well-dressed man about town, but it adds more than just a layer of fabric - it gives another level of texture to a wardrobe. A good waistcoat takes an ordinary suit and makes it complex.

1. The work dress code You think that the guys paid homage to in the television drama Mad Men needed to be told to wear a suit to work? The business uniform made the man then and still helps to define a man today. Michael Jabri-Pickett is the foreign editor of The National. mjp@thenational.ae