A Reactionary’s Guide To Dressing Well (and Properly)

Editor’s Note: It’s not all curmudgeonly doom and gloom here at The Traditionalist Mind. Sometimes we actually like to enjoy ourselves whilst decrying the dangers of Leftism and lamenting the collapse of Western Civilization. To that end, here’s a somewhat light-hearted post about gentlemen’s dress. 

In these dark times, dressing well and properly is in and of itself a small but noble act of revolt against the Modern world.

Those of a traditionalist or reactionary bent will surely have noticed that as our culture’s foundational moral codes have been eroded by Modernism, so too have our society’s traditional dress codes. Indeed, up until the cultural calamities unleashed in the 1960s, a man still left the house wearing jackets and ties and hats — which he tipped dutifully to any woman passing by.

In the Modern age, however, countless numbers of grown men feel perfectly comfortable leaving the house dressed like children. T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers are the rule of the day.

But just because one recognizes this and makes the decision to dress as a gentleman should, it does not necessarily mean that one can. Most men today, regardless of a desire to dress properly, don’t actually know how to do so. And indeed why would they, given that we have been awash in a sea of skin and denim since the 1960s.

But fear not! This oh-so humble author has put together a rough guide to traditional rules of dress to set any young reactionary man on a straight sartorial path. Taken with the invaluable work The Gentlemen’s Art of Dressing, with Economy (1870), a man who follows this guide will leave no doubt in others’ minds that he is doing his utmost to ignore the Modern cesspit in which he finds himself, and aspires to higher ideals. Enjoy.

  • It is better to be undressed than dressed poorly. The tailor is your friend and an ill-fitting suit or jacket is unforgivable.
  • Know your terms. A suit is not ‘formal’ attire. Formal refers to white tie and tails. Semi-formal refers to black tie, or evening wear [it should be noted that black tie is an early 20th century development]. Business attire refers to dark, plain suits. Lounge dress is, like business, suits and ties, but permits a wider range of patterns, colours, and fabrics. And finally casual is trousers, jacket, and tie. What Moderns think of as casual — t-shirt and jeans etc — is in fact a state of undress in the classic understanding. A self-respecting man should never leave his house without a collar, tie, and jacket.
  • Evening wear, as the name suggests, is for the evening. A tuxedo should always be worn after 5pm and never before. Americans have a habit of wearing tuxedos at daytime weddings. This is awful and wrong.
  • Pocket squares are your friend. Indeed, if a man leaves his home without a pocket square, his outfit is not complete and he is in a technical state of undress. The pocket square should be a different shade or hue of a colour found in one’s tie. There is a trend today of having one’s pocket square be the exact same fabric as one’s tie. This is tacky. Don’t do it.
  • Speaking of the fabric of one’s tie, it should be darker than color of one’s shirt.
  • Speaking of one’s shirt, only white shirts should be worn in settings requiring business dress or an increased level of formality. The Traditionalist Mind has noticed a lot of young political activists and aspiring white collar professionals wearing black shirts with black suits. Stop it. For the love of God, stop it. Black shirts — dark shirts of any kind really — are for waiters and Eastern European gangsters (that goes for shiny ties, too).
  • Different occasions call for different collars. If one goes out of the house wearing a button-down shirt with a business suit, one may as well have left the house in rags. French-cuffed shirts with spread collars should be worn with suits. Also remember, formality increases along with the width of a collar’s spread. Collar stays are a must.
  • A massive double-windsor knot does not make one look sartorially elegant, it makes one look garish and nouveau. Or, if you prefer the parlance of today, like a tool. There is a saying this writer learned whilst at university — ‘the smaller the knot, the larger the land’.
  • Accessories matter. Why would one go to the effort of dressing well only to ruin the aesthetic by carrying a backpack or wearing a bright plastic watch or a beaten, rough pair of shoes?
  • Speaking of shoes, if you’re going to shell out a lot of money on anything, it should be shoes. A $200 suit and a trip to the tailor can have you looking like a million bucks, but try finding a proper pair of dress shoes for under $200 that will last you more than a year. Hint: you can’t. You can fake expensive clothing, but it’s much much more difficult to fake expensive, well-made shoes.
  • The belt is a modern invention. Braces (suspenders) are more traditional and far more comfortable. They should also play off of the colours found in the tie/pocket square.
  • A suit without a waistcoat is nary a suit at all
  • Under no circumstances whatsoever should a grown man wear shorts. Shorts are the preserve of little boys, scouts, Hitlerjugend, and the British 8th Army whilst fighting in North Africa. God gave us linen and seersucker for a reason.

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