A standard way to improve sartorial practice is to read what others have to say about the subject, the opportunities for which overflow from the bookshelves and the magazine racks. The contents of the latter deliver-up as Revealed Truth whatever currently features in fashionable shop windows, most of which is better left on display. Books tend to be more impartial, but the general rule still applies, that the quality of the advice is inversely related to the number of admonishments to buy things, including bald statements that: ‘Every man needs at least five dress shirts, four suits, two pairs of shoes, and polished brass fittings on his mahogany shoe trees.’
Having made something of a study of these books, the advice from In the Closet is to begin and end with The Modern Gentleman: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy & Vice. Anything written by two chaps named Phineas Mollod and Jason Tesauro must be fabulous, and it is. Be not alarmed, but comforted, that the title makes no reference to ‘style’, ‘dress’ or ‘fashion’, for while these matters are dealt with in due course, the book’s main achievement is to imbue readers with that particular lightness of being that derives from confidence, or at least capability, in all types of social intercourse. People in this state of mind naturally make better selections from their own closet, and regardless, seem to be appreciated as having done so by those whom they encounter in their jocund run of life.
The worst of the lot, or at least representative of this, is called Mr Jones’ Rules for the Modern Man. It is by Dylan Jones, presently the editor of the magazine GQ UK, a kind of soft core sartorial pornography. The book amounts to a pallid extension of this, a series of poorly-aimed thrusts plainly designed to stoke the consumptive impulse. Hence, aphorisms like ‘a gentleman never wears brown shoes at night’ masquerade as ‘practical advice’, next to instructions on how to read a newspaper without actually reading a newspaper. Thankfully, the latter works for magazines, too.