• The Saints and Sinners of the Red Carpet

    I now know why there is a red carpet at supposedly glittering affairs for the great and the good.

    The tradition must hark back to the days when soldiers wore red coats so as not to show their wounds, which would devastate morale and demonstrate weakness to the enemy. Much blood is spilt these days when it involves sporting stars, popular music ‘personalities’ or the B and C-listers of the entertainment industry.

    To be fair, some men and women do a superb job and do our trade proud, but unfortunately, not very often in Australia. A client recently recounted to me some advice he bequeathed to his young nephew who was lucking out with the ladies: “When in doubt do what Cary Grant would do.”

    This was sound advice until the youngster countered: “Who is Cary Grant?”

    Cary Grant

    So let’s be fair and not live in the dark ages, pining for the romance of a bygone age. There are modern substitutes, like Daniel Craig, David Beckham, Tom Hardy, Prince William, Harry and the rest of the young Euro Royals. And many young gents in their early twenties who want to cultivate a unique style of their own, without looking like they have raided their father’s wardrobes, with elements from the classics.

    Peaky Blinders, Boardwalk Empire, Suits and The Night Manager have all inspired a new generation to change their hairstyle, grow a well-tamed moustache and embrace hat wearing.

    I do not advocate slavishly copying any one particular look or style but suggest that you choose elements that you like and wear them, not let them wear you. It’s much like walking into a room that has been decorated with taste and style and reflects the inhabitants without being contrived and overworked.

    Unfortunately, last night I turned on the television and decided to watch 10 minutes of horror. There was more blood spilt on the Australian Rules Football's Brownlow Medal red carpet than there was in the entire Boer War.

    There seems to be a secret society (akin to Ian Fleming’s Spectre) that is controlled worldwide by people who call their game football. The UK press admonish on a weekly basis the crimes against good taste committed by Premier League players and their ‘WAGS’; America has its gridiron players, say no more; and Australasia has its various football codes.

    Just because a human has a God-given skill in one vocation, like sport, acting, science, arts or politics, does not usually make them equally proficient in other aspects of their lives. Actors should be kept away from politics, politicians make very poor thespians and all of the above should stay right away from the fashion game.

    There are many sporting greats that have tried to become fashion designers, but I cannot think of one fashion designer with any sporting prowess. Hubert de Givenchy as a rugby player? Valentino Garavani as a soccer legend? Or Giorgio Armani playing Davis Cup for Italy? I think not.

    I have written before about the rules pertaining to dress codes on invitations and so will not cover old ground. There is nothing wrong with putting your own stamp on a look and adding a tasteful twist to an outfit, but please, a few pointers: if you are the partner of the guest of honour then it’s bad form to overshadow them with a garish display. After all, the celebration is about the player, actor, Nobel Laureate and their team, not you.

    Brownlow Medal

    A man and woman should dress to be equal without outlandish displays of flesh or ostentatious accessorising. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, even with her eye-popping suite of Bulgari diamonds, were able to carry it off because they were both giants of their trade and Richard, always a handsome man with a commanding presence, was no shrinking violet.

    This is what I see as wrong with what I saw on the TV and the subsequent media coverage: the event is biased towards the fashion on the field, not the heroics of the men who put their all on the line, like modern gladiators, for their teammates and fans. I do not see how sleeping with a sportsman instantly turns one into a fashionista and commentator on style and taste. These women are defining themselves as paragons when they have done nothing on their own account to qualify them.

    On a positive note, Gillon McLachlan and Mike Fitzpatrick were immaculately turned out in proper dinner suits, well cut and the right length for them (being very tall, one should take extra care).

    These two well turned-out gents can teach us some further lessons.

    Firstly, a proper dress shirt should be worn, preferably with a generous turn down collar. Button-studs that match your cufflinks may be worn, or perhaps your shirt has a placket hiding the buttons all together. Both are acceptable. And a hand-tied bow tie is a must. Pre-tied examples are a sign of low breading and should be avoided at all costs. 

    The dinner suit’s facing should be grosgrain, but this material is very expensive and hard to procure so satin is a good substitute. Do not have any pick stitching on the outside edge when using satin. All coat buttons should be covered using the same fabric as the lapels and gallon stripe (from the French military), which runs down the outside trouser legs.

    Daniel Craig

    Wearing a belt with a dinner suit is an unforgivable fashion crime without equal, as any proper dinner suit has no belt loops.

    What is especially disappointing is that everyone who works in menswear should know these rules. They are not interesting twists or embellishments, just plain wrong. It is unforgivable that people who should know better routinely embarrass their clients by letting them look less than ideal.

    There is nothing wrong with having a very fitted suit (or dress), providing the wearer has the physique to carry it off. Many sportsmen have broad shoulders and so two things are common problems when fitting them: the shoulders on a slim fit suit (if off the peg) are too narrow, causing the sleeve head to ‘crown’, or the coat parts from the neck. This also can throw out the balance of the coat and the chest will gape and not sit flat.

    Finally, trousers should be well fitted over the shoe. This is not a sock show. If the trouser bottoms are too narrow the cuff will not sit plumb on the shoe. Shoes, of course, must be patent leather and in very good condition.

    Tally ho,


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