How to Dress Simply


Coco-Chanel-Simon-Crompton-we-are-the-market(Photo from Tumblr, home page photo from

Written by Simon Crompton

Coco Chanel had a line: Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off. I find it hard to imagine any man actually doing this. Imagine the pile of criminally discarded handkerchiefs and boutonnieres by the door. But the principle is a good one. When a man tries to dress up, he often wears too much: too much colour, too much pattern.

Readers of Permanent Style often ask me questions by email. This is nice, as I know that at least one post will definitely be interesting. To at least one person.

Whenever the question refers to a particular outfit, it goes something like this: Im going to a summer party tomorrow. Im going to wear a navy checked suit, a blue striped shirt, a yellow spotted tie, a cornflower boutonniere, a plain white handkerchief and brown monk-front shoes. What colour should my socks be?

The answer is they should have no colour. They should match the trousers and recede into the background: the outfit is far too busy. The reader should reconsider one other item he is wearing (perhaps in a mirror, by the door). He could wear a navy tie instead of the yellow spot, or a plain suit instead of the check. The lovely-sounding boutonniere would gain tremendously.

Men look stylish, look elegant, when they do not appear to be trying too hard. Elegance suggests simplicity, dignity and taste. Chanel said elegance did not consist simply in putting on a new dress. She had some good lines; or a good biographer.


Simon Crompton is London based, freelance menswear journalist. His personal blog, Permanent Style, can be found here.