In The Magazine

Sartorial savvy

Tuesday, March 1, 2016
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Q: Dear Mr. Manners,

My wife—bless her couture soul—every so often (make that every so minute) gives me unsolicited commentary on what I am wearing. (“Darling, darling, darling, you must be joking. Not the pastel plaid? You look like Johnny Carson circa 1970.”) Even my red and green Loro Piana sweater gets the loving touch. (“Christmas at Kohl’s, my dear?”) Each jab floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee, but I invariably follow “suit” and change. Who needs a round of verbal fisticuffs when halfway out the door? Considering her monthly clothing allowance of $50,000, I figure she must know better.

Yet whenever she asks me how she looks just before a dinner party, she takes it so personally that her silicone lips start to undulate. “Hon’, I don’t know if that dress quite shows off your smashing figure” prompts “You think I’m fat?!” and hysterical shrieks, cries and pirouettes in front of her imported three-way mirror. A flurry of Diors and Chanels fly by while she takes umbrage at my “complete lack of sensitivity.”

Hey, I’m all for women’s rights (or “suffragettes” as we say at the Racquet Club). But, Jeez, what’s a husband to do?

In-The-Closet, Fifth Avenue, New York City

Mr Manners - Wrong answer final #2

A: Dear Bedraggled One,

As the Good Book says, husband and wife were not created equal when it comes to the primal importance of one’s appearance (see the Harvard Business School anthropological case study titled “The Aesthetics of Self-Identity in Homo Sapiens.” Or, even better, the recent Planet of the Apes film).

Enough pontificating. I am sorry to say, my good man, it is far wiser to quash honesty when replying to a rhetorical question from your wife. Love means never having to say you’re ugly. Button up thy Tanqueray-drenched lips. Thy woman is a frail thing. Especially when it comes to her walk-in closet. Hop on the bandwagon. Play along. Or else you’ll soon be ringing Mr. Manners for Eddie Hayes’ private
number. And that, sir, will claim an even bigger bite from your billfold than her monthly clothing stipend. As all know, men are infinitely more vain than women.

Q: Dear Mr. Manners,

Whatever happened to the custom of people removing their hats indoors? Or am I just some fossil who’s watched one too many black-and-white movies?

All these wretched young men wearing a wool beanie or some baseball cap with a brim twice the size of their face (wool hats in summer? Give me a break). I admire a fine hat on the right man or woman, but not when it’s egregiously flaunted in my face.

A Mad Hatter, “Cap”- d’Antibes, France

A: Dear Bare-Headed,

Hats off to you. How true: Hats indoors are taboo. There has indeed been a hat comeback among men (thank you, Don Draper). The sort of rakish renasence that Mr. Manners applauds: the return of the fedora, porkpie or trilby—the latter a favorite of Lord Grantham. But not everyone has a Carson watching his every move. Of course, His Lordship knows what to do hat-wise when staying at the Reform Club in London.

Mr. Manners, great optimist that he is, would like to chalk up the lack of decorum of late to ignorance. Particularly among street-style urchins who crowd the L train each morning with their studiously unkempt facial hair. But, alas, impropriety doesn’t account for being uninformed about Bogie.

Today’s men are obsessed with avoiding “hat hair.” The thought of hair frizz is anathema (picture sticking your damp nose into a light socket). They’re too lazy to tuck away a tin of pomade, a tube of gel or (God forbid!) a baby bottle of hair spray into their WANT Les Essentiels backpack to revive their flying locks. Gentlemen: There is no shame in reframing your mane.

Let it be said, here and now, Mr. Manners endorses ladies and their millinery with a caveat: Remove thy hat when at the theatre or cinema. Ascot it is not. You are no fair lady by not shedding
your Eliza Doolittle–like hat. A hat should be a welcome addition, not some blockade the size of the Spanish Armada. Audrey Hepburn would know better. And so should you.

Q: Dear Mr. Manners

I am 25-year-old man who would like to know what’s what when it comes to the art of the gift. Specifically, the re-gift. This past Christmas, I gave my mother the penultimate package for under the tree: the enviable orange box. By hauling myself to Hermès, I broke the bank. She seemed overwhelmed by the light gray leather desk diary inside (“You shouldn’t have! J’adore!”). Considering she is hapless with the computer (or anything electronic; she actually pays to watch movies on TV, provided she can operate the universal remote), I thought some paper calendar was pretty rad on my part.

About a week ago, she asked me to put something up for sale on eBay. Lo and behold, there was my Hermès diary. My own mom making some nice coin off my Christmas gift. WTF?! Come next Christmas I’ll def hit up the Papyrus sale in February.

The Gift-ed One, Fort Greene, Brooklyn

A: My Dear Lad,

The act of re-gifting is a Trojan horse in heat. It is as obnoxious as conversing with someone who speaks while also masticating mouthfuls of a wide cow (or sirloin). That said, it is as rampant these days as not knowing how to hold one’s fork and knife.

Beware of fashionistas bearing gifts. Fashion editors and stylists are notorious for pawning off the odd party gift or graft to their girlfriends. They don’t even bother to wrap it. Society (or what’s left of it) ladies who munch at the Colony Club or Doubles readily pawn off the hideous item from a black tie goodie bag from the night before to the housekeeper. They would never deign to re-wrap.

Consider yourself in good company. Those who know better often cannot resist the re-gift. One must have the gift of not being nabbed. Do not leave your coat check from the party you attended inside the bag. Do not make the mistake of the poor sap who gave his wife an interior designer’s coffee table tome from a Berfgdorf book party. The bad news: The decorator had inscribed it to him. The good news: There were no allusions to their afternoon tête-à-têtes at the Carlyle (room 414).

You did the right thing by not calling out your mum. Mr. Manners knows of many marriages that have fizzled because of the re-gift. Such mischief is always best to avoid. Remember: Re-gifting is a mixed bag. Not unlike, say, infidelity. Who hasn’t thought of it? Or wanted to try their hand at it? At the end of the day, just don’t get caught.
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