I had a rare moment of fashion crisis this week. I was watching the television show Ugly Betty. I know, I know – kind of a girly show, but it’s one of those shows that so many people watch that it’s good to have a little knowledge about them. That way, if someone asks if Betty is dating Henry or Gio the Sandwich Guy or Matt the new guy from Y.E.T.I. is, I don’t say, why would any of them date her at all? She looks like someone’s bubbe. Saying this would make me politically incorrect. Saying Bubbe from Y.E.T.I. makes me look like a sweet guy with a wide cultural base.
So, yes – I was watching Ugly Betty. This episode, while I watched it this week, may have actually been from a few weeks ago. I like to store them on my DVR and wait until I can watch them all together. For those who don’t watch the show, it’s about Betty, who has been wearing braces for the past eighteen seasons and wears a lot of hideous prints all jumbled together with no concern about those prints which should be reserved for evening or for day, summer or winter, dress or sofa. She gets a job at Meade Publishing – which may or may not be the real name of the company – at their flagship magazine Mode. Mode is apparently like Vogue. There are lots of totally expected but still really fun characters, including Betty’s boss, Daniel Meade, a trust fund playboy who is slowly turning into a Real Human Being under Betty’s ethical and sprightly influence.
It was this Daniel fellow who gave me my crise de nerfs about fashion. You see, I am all about taking traditional menswear and giving it a modern edge and a bit of personalization. In other words, I keep up, or try to keep up, with those things going on in fashion today – except Aladdin pants, short jackets, Bermuda short suits, and other fashion unmentionables that are au courant.
In this episode, Daniel comes flying into the office in a tizzy – yes, a tizzy – because his shirt cuffs were peering out from his jacket sleeves. Apparently, he’d been at the Marc Jacobs preview and cuffs were peeking out. So Daniel came to the conclusion that his shirts were wildly out of style and that he needed to have 1/8 of an inch taken off all of them.
And this gave me pause. Because fashion is so arbitrary, after all, how does a guy keep up?
The traditional school of thought is that your cuffs should peek out of your jacket sleeves by about a half-inch. I would say, in Daniel Meade parlance, that this is the definition of peeking. This gives your arms some balance, but it also means that your shirt sleeves are long enough to comfortably bend your arm without them hiking up to your forearm. Bracelet-length sleeves are never good for a man!
Peeking gives you the opportunity to have your really fine timepiece (that means wristwatch) show when you shoot your cuffs (for more examples of this, please refer to Andrew Dice Clay in Pretty in Pink – this is not a great movie for art, but it does have excellent cuff-shooting examples). It also gives you the perfect canvas for a pair of very fine cufflinks.
When you think about it, there are not that many places that men can display fine jewelry unless you are New Jersey Italian or Ayatollah Iranian derivation. In that case, lots of thick chains and bulky pendants are de rigueur (I seem to be very Fronch today). For the run of the mill guy, you have a place for a class ring if you went to that sort of school (class rings should only be for college if you’re older than 20; if you have a class ring on post-20 and the initials H.S. come after the name of the school, put it in a box full of sentimental stuff and focus on new accomplishments). Or, perhaps you have a wedding ring or a covenant ring. Or even a signet ring.
Tie tacks are no longer in vogue. Period. If you are a minister and want to sport a cross, or eight years old and need to keep your clip-on from dripping into your soup, go for it. Otherwise, wearing a tie tack gives you a total Dilbert moment. Collar bars are just showing the world that you’ve been lying about your neck size lo these many years and can’t buy a shirt that fits.
Spats? Not jewelry. Belt buckles? Only in Texas.
So – the only place to look for shine and sparkle is cuff links! Pick some with enameled designs – so Faberge! Or simple monograms – very British Royal Family! Cufflinks will give you the little bit of beauty that you need to adorn your person – and if they’re discreet enough, you’ll get the chance to show off whether you’re peeking or peering.