x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Katie Trotter

On the elegant gent's dress code and the little things that separate a charmer from the crowd.

Tina Chang / The National
Tina Chang / The National

On the elegant gent's dress code and the little things that separate a charmer from the crowd. The stylish man cruises through life on magnetic charm, preened and polished with a rococo finish. He can work a room, hold the floor and end wars by wit alone. While no expert on the "art of smooth" myself, I have observed those who are and discerned a few hard and fast rules to follow. Let's start with first impressions. Those who have mastered a good firm handshake - and this does take practice - can do just about anything. On the other hand, a delicate whisper of a grip that tickles the palm like a limp squid will get you nowhere.

Winking is a high-risk strategy and sole preserve of those super-confident sultans of suave. Get it right and, well, you know you have. Get it wrong and it's rather disturbing - like playing a guitar solo at a funeral. Truth be told, when it comes to dressing, anything without a solid purpose on a man is pretty suspect. Take popping your collar, for example. Unless you are Usher or single-handedly sailing around the world and worried about sun damage, the turned-up collar is as pointless as cross-country skiing.

Avoid anything in the "Crazy with a K" camp: novelty ties, white suits (unless you're John Travolta), cowboy boots (unless you're a cowboy), or anything mesh (as appealing as a pickled egg). Stay miles away from the mullet - unless you live in Middle America or move in radical hipster circles. Wearing sunglasses after the sun goes down doesn't make you look cool, rich or mysterious. Speedos are only ever allowed on Olympic athletes. The same goes for football shirts on anyone over the age of five who is not a real footballer. Your belt is not a tool to separate your upper belly from your lower belly: it is there to hold your trousers up. And stacked heels won't make you the envy of smaller men; they'll just make the tall men laugh at you.

There is no substitute for the bespoke suit. Perfect tailoring gives you instant swagger. Make sure to get the right tie for your tux - a bow tie for a peak lapel tuxedo, and a straight tie with a notch lapel. Look at Cary Grant, George Clooney or Clark Gable - all sticklers for detail. A patterned pocket square, the odd cravat or an occasional fedora - they dare to break the rules without appearing flashy. You see, black dress shoes are sensible, but brown shoes get noticed.

Of course, you all know this already. I'm insulting you. It's not all about looking good, I hear you huff. That's for the vain and the vacuous. Isn't it? Indeed, when the charming man smiles, you know there is something there. He enjoys the rhythm of his voice, the melodic highs and lows of stimulating conversation. He comforts anxiety, feeds hunger and always looks like he "knows". But by far his most important quality is his ability to listen, his knack of sitting back while the rest of you hop about like a box of matches in a gas leak. A man like this could buckle Boudica. That's not to say he will. Simply, that he can.