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Accessories: no decent outfit is complete without them. They are what béarnaise sauce is to steak, butter to bread, an olive to a martini. You get the idea. But sometimes it can be difficult to know just how good an investment any of these stylistic accoutrements might turn out to be (we’re looking at you, piano key tie and bottle opener belt buckle). Fortunately, history has taken some of the trial and error out of the process; because if it looked good 50 years ago, and it looks good now, chances are it’ll look good for 50 more. These are the men’s accessories that will never go out of style.
Few things do a man more favours than a pair of sunglasses. Flattering, practical, and a dab hand at hiding dark circles when needed; glasses conjure up images of golden-age movie stars like Steve McQueen at the flick of a hinge. It’s telling that the most popular styles have changed little over the decades. Aviators, Wayfarers and Clubmasters are all time-honoured staples that suit different face shapes. While twists on these stalwarts are more than welcome, the overwhelming sentiment is that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Seeing as a decent pair of sunglasses will stick around for life, don’t be afraid to make them an investment piece. Just be sure to maximise longevity by keeping everything classic and understated with either black or tortoiseshell frames and brown, black, or dark green lenses.
A Leather Billfold Wallet
Paying for a pint is now as easy as the swipe of a smartwatch. So it says something about the billfold wallet that it remains a stylish accessory even today. Practical, moulded to the contours of its contents and aged to perfection over time, a leather wallet is an accomplice that will do the business long after the business has stopped accepting cash. It’s for this reason that many men choose to have their note carriers embossed with their initials; a move that sets out intentions to keep it for life, even if what’s inside doesn’t make it to the end of the month.
Stainless Steel Watch
The understated, no-nonsense cousin of the gold watch, a stainless steel timepiece has the ability not only to last one lifetime but several if handed down through successive generations. The material that has its roots in gun making is as flattering as it is durable. It’s also equally at home with a suit and tie as it is a T-shirt and chinos combination. Even half a century from now, when there’s a clock face embedded into contact lenses and a calendar built into most retinas, truly stylish men will still look to their steeled wrist when someone asks for the time.
A good belt does more than simply hold your trousers up – it also holds a look together. Whether a much-needed divide for tall men between the top and bottom halves on an outfit or a subtle compliment to leather Derbies, a decent cowhide belt will endure long after other accessories have gone out of style. Choose brown, black or (better yet) one of each, and always opt for the best you can afford. This thing will be holstering your trousers for many years to come, and you wouldn’t want to be unseated by a crumbling imitation number. Subtle, classic buckles in unprocessed metallic tones will also stand you in good stead.
White Pocket Square
Any formal ensemble can be lifted by the accessory that has served the suited since around the 1920s. From Frank Sinatra and Humphrey Bogart to Tom Ford and Daniel Craig, the white pocket square is an accessory for the ages (and all ages). Whatever mood or message you wish to convey, there’s likely to be a pattern or print to do so. However, what an unfussy white version delivers is a quiet confidence that speaks volumes at any event, from black tie dos to weddings.
Is there any name in the world of fashion more winning than ‘the weekender?’ A bag reserved for the best time of the week, a friendly porter for an adventure, and the container of the wardrobe’s greatest hits. The weekend bag – or leather holdall – is an enduring favourite of the menswear arsenal. As with most leather accessories, favour simple black or brown (or, in defiance of the rules, a mixture of the two), or a faded olive shade for a more contemporary take. As well as colourways, look to experiment with texture. Supple, smooth calfskin is a sleek choice, while a fuller, more tactile pebble grain lends a rugged feel to jetting off for two days on the Amalfi Coast.
Bespoke suit, check. Egyptian cotton shirt, check. Lucky tie and sturdy English brogues, double check. Why then would you spoil it all by finishing things off with a pair of cheap knots given away for free in the suit shop? A minor detail, yes, but all the most important ones are. Get it right every time with a pair of well-made, understated silver cufflinks. Silver is an astute choice for every hue of shirt, and for any occasion. Better yet, silver cufflinks don’t distract from a watch or razor-sharp cuff line in a way that gold or bejewelled versions might.
Is there an item that signals ‘man at leisure’ better than the baseball cap? We’re not talking about the flat-peaked, oversized, gold-studded sort; but the soft, round-brimmed, sporty staples that have invaded even the most conservative of wardrobes in recent years. Picture John F. Kennedy on a yacht, or Paul Newman sliding off a race track. The specifics here are up to the individual wearer. Bright colours – especially once sun faded – can look just as pleasing as muted tones, and a bit of subtle embroidery or branding is just as winning as a pared-back, no-logo design.
In many ways, scarves are the perfect accessory. In the depths of winter, they can be used to fend off piercing winds, while in the milder months they can add a hint of colour — not to mention show you know how to layer — to any lapel or neckline. Few patterns do more for the male wardrobe than sparingly-used (outside of Scotland, anyway) tartan. The marriage of multiple colours in a single weave allows the check to complement and contrast with different elements of a wider outfit. The sheer variety of checks available means a tartan neck piece can also be all things to all men: stark red and black for a modish, striking look; deep greens and blues for a classic, preppy feel.
Leather’s supple, skin-like properties make it the perfect material in which to wrap your hands. A far cry from clumsy woollen mittens of childhood years, leather gloves offer dexterity and durability alongside warmth and comfort – particularly when lined with cashmere. Leather gloves also represent a more elegant option that can work alongside formalwear as well as chunkier winter-battling outfits, while their subtly sporting roots (think driving gloves) give them a sleeker, more debonair feel than their woollen counterparts.