“One should either be a work of art or wear a work of art,” said the playwright and self-described dandy Oscar Wilde. A philosophy to live by, but one that seems to have lost its way in this T-shirt-and-jeans culture of ours. Where are the Beau Brummells, Dukes of Windsor, and Hercule Poirots of today – that self-confident man who reflects astuteness in all matters of personal style? He’s out there, and the discreet, well-turned accessory may be the one true giveaway.
A descendant of the cravat worn in the late 19th century, this narrow silk neckband with wide pointed wings got its name from the hat-and-glove set at the Royal Ascot Race. But, the less formal day cravat, adopted by European aristocrats and old Hollywood royalty in the early 20th century remains the epitome of casual elegance.
How to Wear: First, let’s clarify: There are two basic ascot styles – the scarf, a square of silk worn loosely under a spread collar shirt; and the more formal pleated tie which can be placed over or under the collar and accessorized with a pin. To feign the insouciance of, say, Cary Grant or Tom Ford, the key is not to let the ascot wear you.
When to Wear: You don’t have to be from the yacht-club crowd to pull off the look. Tie one on for dinner and drinks uptown, or add flourish to a cozy sweater for some bonhomie around the holidays.
Where to Buy: Ascot Chang, Paul Stuart, Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss.
THE POCKET SQUARE
A handkerchief made of linen or silk and worn in the breast pocket of a sports coat or suit jacket. And, as any sophisticated and elegant man knows, a pocket square does not require a tie.
How to Wear: There are four basic folds: the Puff; the Square; the Triangle; and the Multi-point. If you need a quick tutorial, go to “How to Fold a Pocket Square” at www.brooksbrothers.com. We won’t tell.
When to Wear: A gentleman should never leave the house without two handkerchiefs – one in his breast pocket, should a lady require, and one in his back pocket for his less delicate senses.
Where to Buy: Brooks Brothers, Barneys, and Bergdorf.
THE WALKING STICK
Both functional and decorative, this accessoryreplaced the sword in the 17th century and became an essential part of a European gentleman’s wardrobe.
How to Wear: Why, with panache, dear sir!
When to Wear: If purely decorative and you’re not Fred Astaire in top hat and tails, sport it to your next black tie. Besides looking dapper, you can use it to poke and prod slowpokes. Plus, it can be quite the formidable weapon should you need to defend your honor.
Where to Buy: Handmade and custom is the way to go, in wood, ornate metal, and even bull organs.
Indiana Jones aside, the fedora got its start as a woman’s hat, the name coming from a play written for Sarah Bernhardt in 1882. It’s typically creased lengthwise down the crown and pinched at the front on both sides. The crème de la crème is made of 100 percent beaver fur felt.
How to Wear: Don’t squash, don’t perch, and for God’s sake, think Rat Pack not Mafia when sporting one around town. In other words, own it, and just wear the damn thing.
When to Wear: For business or evening pleasure wear the fedora straight up; angled if you’re going casual. Always don a collared shirt and keep in mind that the color should match perfectly or contrast to some degree.
Where to Buy: JJ Hat Center; Worth & Worth Hat Shop