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The Must-Read Style Book of 2016

A conversation about how clothing shapes identity.

Sung Han

Much of the time, men’s style books assume a professorial tone, lecturing on the proper way to tie a tie, the best blazers to own and what shoes are worth investing in. Men and Style, by David Coggins, goes beyond this superficial view of men’s style, exploring how identity and experience is shaped through clothing. Coggins offers his own insight on everything from suits and white shoes to authenticity and manners. He interviewed 76 men and women (editors, designers, writers) for the book, which shares their anecdotes and memories relating to a number of men’s-fashion subjects. If you’re bored with vapid style writing, then this is the book for you. Insightful, nostalgic, humorous and romantic, Men and Style is the stand-out men’s-style book of 2016.

Editor’s Note: The following excerpt is from Men and Style by David Coggins (Abrams). Copyright 2016.

The case for the custom suit is well known and irrefutable: It’s the last frontier of superior craftsmanship, entirely built by hand. The word “bespoke” has been hijacked by marketers and nearly rendered meaningless, but the genuine article — a bench-made suit, cut specifically for you — has no substitute. The knowledge that goes into a Savile Row suit can rightly be deemed historic. Your cutter might have been taught by the man who cut suits for Winston Churchill. The sheer range of fabrics is astounding. You may think you know everything there is to know about tweed — think again. Some sheds in Scotland make only a handful of colts of fabric a year. One of those bolts should be yours.

Look through your closet and be reminded how little else you need; if you’re going to get something, it should matter. There’s not a well-dressed man I know who doesn’t advocate fewer, better options. There are exceptions, of course — a transformative overcoat, say, or a good pair of English brogues. But without the background noise you can focus on tailoring traditions that existed since before you were born and will continue after you’ve ascended to menswear heaven. So take the long view and ask: Could this piece of clothing have been worn ten years ago? If not, it will look dated in a few years, and you’ll be praying your photos from the defunct street-style blog won’t turn up when somebody Googles your name.

That doesn’t make it any easier when the reckoning comes: The price is going to be dear, but you’re going to take it like a man. You probably don’t want to disclose just how much it cost, the same way you don’t want to broadcast the rent of your West Village apartment. And if you live with somebody who knows your rent, well, she might still be so shocked that you don’t want to tell her either. Men who resort to stealth smuggle their suits, not their closets, under over of darkness. That’s not enough! You must also feign nonchalance when she notices your dashing suit and comments upon it. “What,” you say, as if you’re talking about the weather, “this gray flannel suit with a devastating rolled lapel? Had it forever. But feel the lightness of the fabric.” She’ll be on to you because she likely does the same thing, young that you can’t tell heel widths apart.

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