Following the style guide of my internal dress code, I can think of only two occasions that call for the wearing of white pants: Spackling the interior walls of an entire house, or stepping out for an early bird dinner while retired in Boca Raton.
Still, a recent issue of Esquire presented an instructive pictorial under the title, “How to Wear White Without Looking Like Colonel Sanders.” The article profiles several of “Manhattan’s most distinguished professionals” who have been outfitted in variations on a white suit.
What seems to distinguish most of these professionals is the cheerless look on their faces as they pose in clothes an indistinguishable man from the Midwest would never wear. As I look over the fashion options, I’m feeling duped by the claim in the article’s title. In fact, most of the outfits look like they were coordinated while under the influence of 11 secret herbs and spices.
By the time I get to the goateed actor/writer/theater producer sporting the two-button white cotton jacket ($1,750) and cotton trousers ($875), I have a sudden hankering for an Original Recipe 2-piece combo and a side of slaw ($3.99).
Clearly, I’m a man who has much to learn about wearing white. Here’s what Esquire advises:
“The texture of the pants and jacket can be different – feels less formal that way.”
Formality doesn’t seem to be much of an issue here. This directive is demonstrated by a man wearing a white suit and tie, but no socks. Even Gus, my childhood Good Humor man who dressed likewise, knew enough to wear socks. Without summer woolies, his ankles would go numb while foraging for fudgsicles in the back of the truck. We once found him unconscious in a playground after getting stuck to a frozen novelty. He wore socks ever since.
“Complement an all-white suit with a bold but dashing print shirt.”
In the photo accompanying this advisory, a guy who co-owns a tearoom is modeling the bold but dashing print shirt. The shirt has a pattern strikingly similar to flocked wallpaper Carmela Soprano might select for a dining room makeover. Back in the ‘70s, I had a closet crammed with bold but dashing print shirts, many featuring the same design subtleties as a Twister game. Since then, I’ve learned it’s never a good idea to wear a shirt that’s bolder than your chosen career.
“The golden rule of stripes: Never more than two at a time.”
Not to worry. The only way I’m going to be wearing multiple stripes on a white suit is if I’m cast in a community theater production of “The Music Man.” This is not likely to happen since my last musical public appearance ended in tragedy at a 5th grade piano recital when I massacred dramatic solo arrangements of “Mame” and “The Shadow of Your Smile.”
“A dark vest adds formality to a white suit.”
I suppose the dark vest does deflect the Colonel Sanders stigma. But if I attempted this look I would resemble a confused Tennessee Williams character. Possibly Big Daddy if he were a 38 Regular. Which would make me Medium Daddy. This could be dangerous. If I start dressing like a Southern gentleman, I might be compelled to call on fragile, fading Southern belles with tortured pasts. On the plus side, I won’t have to change my pants if we step out for an early bird fried chicken dinner.