Top 10 Classic Menswear Myths, Debunked (The HONEST Truth!) | Gentleman’s Gazette

Like any subculture, classic menswear has its fair share of myths. Unfortunately, though, some of these myths perpetuate negative assumptions and stereotypes about men who dress classically and might, in turn, discourage newcomers from getting more into the hobby. Suffice it to say these myths have got me miffed. So, today, we’re going to unravel ten of the worst of them!

Myth #1: Classic Style Doesn’t Have a Place in the 21st Century.

A common critique of classic style is that it’s outdated or old-fashioned. We’ve touched upon this idea previously in our examination of whether or not the suit is dying. But, in short, the myth goes that as social norms and office cultures are both becoming more accepting of casual clothing, it makes no sense to perpetuate the older, more formal styles.

To refute this though, we are simply going to note that classic style was by its very nature built with an emphasis on timeless versatility. There’s a reason that contemporary classic style icons like Daniel Craig, Benedict Cumberbatch, or John Legend are well known for their more classically-influenced style of dressing. And there’s a reason that Hollywood as a whole remains enamored with the aesthetics of the Golden Age of menswear. Because, frankly, if you’re wearing it well, you’re going to look good no matter what era the photo was taken.

To this day, there’s still a lot to love about classic style and that’s probably why it’s experienced a renaissance of sorts on social media. We often get excited to find new content creators who are posting their own dapper ensembles that are both drawing from and adding to the story of classic style.

And, of course, we’re well aware of another pool of people very interested in classic menswear, our readers, who continue to support us and also show off their great outfits from time to time. In other words, then, you can rest assured that classic style definitely has a place in the 21st century because we’re fans of classic style and we’re here in the 21st century. And, of course,  we’re not going anywhere.

Myth #2: Classic Style is Only for Snobs.  

There are many personal assumptions that people make about classic style as well; one of the most prevalent is that anyone who wears it has to be a snob. In a separate article, we delve into why snobbery is unbecoming of a gentleman.

However, it is easy to see where this myth could have started. After all, many privileged and wealthy individuals in both pop culture and real life have the means to continually dress well, and it’s only natural that some of these individuals have been snobs. The unfortunate assumption then is that everyone who dresses in this similar way must also be a snob by extension.

What It Means To Be A Gentleman Today

The fact of the matter is that classic style is just a way of dressing and it belongs to no one race, nation, creed, or attitude. It shouldn’t be assumed, therefore, that suits equal snobs. As it is, gentlemen from all walks of life have attired themselves classically; be it students getting ready for class, two older gentlemen chatting together, and from Harlem, New York to Tokyo, Japan.

To be sure, there are and have been snobs who dress in the classic style. But, for every snob with his nose in the air, there are an untold number more regular guys, who just enjoy looking good.

An example would be us here at the Gentleman’s Gazette. Raphael, of course, enjoys fine clothes and he’s also a big fan of Brazilian football. Kyle effortlessly blends the classic and the modern and also enjoys a Ted Decker novel. Nathan loves fine timepieces and he’s also a big baseball fan. And while I’m obviously the more formally dressed of all of us, I’m also a huge comic book nerd.

So, there’s nothing intrinsically snobby about classic style. It can work well for anyone who’s interested in it and it can also be done on a budget. We’ll touch more on that last little point in a moment.

Myth #3: Classic Style is Designed to Make Others Look Bad.

So, while we hope we’ve disproved the charge of snobbery, there is still the assumption by some that those who are dressing in the classic style are only doing so because they look down on those who don’t.

This myth probably has several sources. On the one hand, gentlemen who have mastered the art of classic style are often quite proud of the ensembles they’ve put together and want to talk about them as well as talking about the ensembles of others. However, this sharing of opinions can sometimes come off as critical of anyone who doesn’t dress in the classic style. And, of course, there are also classic style aficionados who misuse their superpowers for evil, actively belittling anyone who doesn’t dress in a classic way, and even other classic style fans who don’t meet their own high personal standards.

This trope is common in popular culture. But, it does exist in real life too and, frankly, all of these bullies give classic menswear a bad name. Of course, it can be fun to discuss and even debate the minutiae of classic style rules, but this should never be used to belittle others or drive them away.

That’s why we’re devoted to making the Gentleman’s Gazette a welcoming and inviting place, where classic style experts and novices alike can share their opinions in an open way. We’re not attempting to insult anyone or drive off newcomers and we’re certainly not going to call people “peasants.”

Myth #4: Classic Style is Only for Special Occasions.

As everyday wear has increasingly become more casual, classic style and, in particular, suits have become more associated with formal settings like business meetings, parties, or other such events. But, classic style doesn’t exclusively mean “wear a suit,” and even those who love classic style aren’t going to spend every waking moment in formal attire. In fact, classic style has always encompassed a wide range of ensembles for different sorts of situations.

Just take a look at these classic fashion illustrations for relaxing poolside or enjoying a cookout. Of course, historically, those who dressed in classic style did tend to dress more formally more often. And even today, many gentlemen of style, including myself, do have a certain baseline of formality for their everyday attire.

Vintage illustrations of gentlemen wearing classic outfits in their leisure time
Vintage illustrations of gentlemen wearing classic outfits in their leisure time

But, there are just as many stylish gentlemen who have adopted a more casual but no less elegant mode of dressing. That’s why we’ve written many guides on how to dress in classic style for many different kinds of occasions, because a three-piece suit isn’t a good idea to wear to the beach and just because they’re called board shorts doesn’t mean they should be worn at a board meeting.

Myth #5: Classic Style is Only for White-Collar Workers.

As we just touched on, as society has become more casual, more formal attire has become more closely associated with office environments as these white-collar institutions have tended to keep their dress codes a bit more formal than regular everyday attire.

In the last few decades though, the casual approach of the tech industry, in particular, has hastened a casualization of many other industries as well. Instead of viewing this as a bad thing though, we prefer to think of it as a liberating experience. After all, we would rather that people get interested in classic style because they want to and not because they were forced into it. And, by the same token, you shouldn’t think that classic menswear can’t be for you just because you might not work in a traditional office.

We’ll note as well that, in the past, it was still common for many workers of multiple stations to don more casual but still classic attire for a fun night on the town. Stated another way then, your profession shouldn’t define your personal style and classic style can be for anyone – white-collar, blue-collar, or no-collar at all.

Myth #6: Classic Style is Too Expensive.

Perhaps because of its alleged associations with elitism and snobbery, classic style is sometimes assumed to be restricted to the wealthy only and for no one else.

Meanwhile, sticker shock at the high prices of some quality menswear items convinces some folks that they’re better off with cheaper alternatives. But, the fact of the matter is that, in many aspects of life, you do simply get what you pay for and this is quite often true in the world of quality classic menswear.

A bespoke shoe made with high quality craftsmanship
A bespoke shoe made with high quality craftsmanship

Artisanal sustainable craftsmanship does come with a cost, but this pays dividends in a harder-wearing, longer-lasting, more versatile garment. We’re referring here to a concept of cost per wear. Essentially, paying more money for an item upfront that is going to last you longer will be more economical in the long run than shelling out money for a cheaper item that is going to need to be frequently replaced. In this sense then, “expensive” actually is a relative term.

As an example, a $750 pair of dress shoes from Alden may seem eye-poppingly expensive compared to a  $150 model from DSW or the like. But, consider that those well-made Alden shoes (with proper care from you as the wearer) can literally last you a lifetime. Likewise, one pair of well-made, timelessly designed, and versatile cufflinks will provide more utility in your wardrobe than an entire box full of cheaply-made quotidian cufflinks.

Well-made cufflinks will have more use in your wardrobe than plenty of cheaply made ones (Pictured: Eagle Claw Cufflinks with Tiger's Eye Balls from Fort Belvedere)
Well-made cufflinks will have more use in your wardrobe than plenty of cheaply made ones (Pictured: Eagle Claw Cufflinks with Tiger’s Eye Balls from Fort Belvedere)

Helping you to navigate how to spend your money wisely is one of the many reasons that we put so much effort into our Is It Worth It? and Myth or Magic series in particular.

And trust us, we sympathize fully with those who might not have a robust budget at this point in time. At one point in his past, Raphael was flat broke. So, we’ve also created content geared around thrifting and second-hand shopping, which is a great way to acquire classic menswear items on a tight budget.

Vintage Menswear: 25 Tips & Tricks for Thrift Store Shopping

Myth #7: Classic Style is Inherently Uncomfortable.

This myth has several potential origins as well, and chief among them is the substandard manufacturing quality or, indeed, raw materials of many ready-to-wear garments that you’ll find today. Building upon the previous myth that classic menswear is supposedly too expensive, many men will often look to cut corners; buying cheaper garments.

But, unfortunately, these garments are often made with sub-optimal materials and with substandard practices. So, the result is going to be poorly fitting, uncomfortable, cheap, stiff, and stuffy garments. Thus, becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. And the other earlier myth that classic style is hardly ever worn these days disincentivizes men from investing in their clothing to get things made from quality materials or to get them fitted properly.

Quality materials are essential to comfortable garments
Quality materials are essential to comfortable garments

Both of these scenarios then create a vicious cycle. Refusing to invest in menswear because of poor experiences with inferior menswear that make quality menswear seem like a poor investment by extension. Let’s break this cycle with a simple mantra: “Classic clothes aren’t uncomfortable. Uncomfortable clothes are uncomfortable.”

Of course, it can be difficult for some classic style pieces to compete in the comfort game with modern athleisure that can, in some senses, be seen as akin to pajamas. This isn’t anything against streetwear or athleisure, of course. We simply mean to say that they can often be quite soft and comfortable to wear. But, if you like the look of the put-together refinement of classic style, don’t let concerns about comfort dissuade you.

Seersucker is a breathable suit material in the warmer days
Seersucker is a breathable suit material ideal for warmer weather.

Depending on the materials and construction techniques used, a suit can be just as breathable as a T-shirt and a pair of dress shoes can be just as comfortable as a pair of sneakers. All it takes is knowing your proper fit, the occasional slight break-in period, and getting alterations when and where you need to.

So, while it does require an initial investment, comfortable classic clothing can indeed be yours. 

Myth #8: Classic Style is Boring.

Perhaps due to its associations with corporate culture, it’s often assumed that classic menswear is nothing more than a cookie-cutter procession of unlimited black and charcoal suits. As we discussed before, the conventions of professional wear are intended to create a more refined work environment. But, this doesn’t have to mean boring.

It’s entirely possible to craft an engaging, visually-exciting ensemble that is firmly within the conventions of business wear. And, outside of the office, you’ll find yourself with an almost unlimited array of options to create different outfits in a rainbow of colors and patterns.

A pop of color in your accessories will elevate a rather muted business attire. (Pictured: Shadow Stripe Ribbed Socks Dark Navy Blue and Royal Blue from Fort Belvedere)
A pop of color in your accessories will elevate a rather muted business attire. (Pictured: Shadow Stripe Ribbed Socks Dark Navy Blue and Royal Blue from Fort Belvedere)

For proof, you need to look no further than our collection of fashion illustrations from the 20s, 30s, 40s, and onwards. And when you think of gentlemen of style like Fred Astaire, Sammy Davis Jr., or Alain Delon, you can see how their style definitely isn’t boring.

Indeed, we feel that classic style offers a template for truly exciting outfits, so just take a look to see what appeals to you and then do some experimentation on your own.

Myth #9: Classic Style is Difficult to Maintain.

The assumption here is that, as a classic style wearer, you’re going to need an entire closet full of cleaners, washers, tools, and implements just to be able to continue to wear your clothes.

It is true that classic style pieces are going to require a bit of TLC to look their best, but this minor, regular upkeep will provide major rewards in terms of longevity. Fundamentally then, you only need a few things to care well for your classic clothes, and a good place to start is our guide on 10 Wardrobe Maintenance Essentials.

Classic menswear pieces can be kept in good condition for a long time if they are properly cared for.
Classic menswear pieces can be kept in good condition for a long time if they are properly cared for.

You can then branch out to the rest of our garment care series, which covers everything from keeping your hats looking their best to washing your suits at home. Yes, you heard that right. And even the often maligned task of ironing becomes much easier once you learn the secrets we’ll teach you; one of those secrets is not to set your trousers on fire.

Of course, once you’ve built up and invested in a classic wardrobe, you might be a bit nervous to wear it for fear that you might get something dirty. But, first of all, trust us when we say that that sport jacket looks much better on you than it does just sitting on the hanger, and second, you need to have no fear because we’ve also got a guide on removing stains.

Myth #10: Classic Style is Inaccessible.

When faced with the long and storied history of classic menswear, you might feel a little daunted at first, like there are simply too many rules to learn. The fact of the matter is: yes, there are a plethora of written and unwritten rules about classic style, but we believe that most of these are really more like guidelines than hard rules. Even so, the myth here is that one must know everything about classic style before one can start dressing in classic style.

As the saying goes though, “the wise man knows he knows nothing.” Phrased another way, both for the novice and the expert in classic style, there’s always something new to learn. And we hope that this won’t scare you but, rather, excite you. It certainly excites us and, indeed, a desire to both share and learn more about classic style is one of the big reasons why Raphael started the Gentleman’s Gazette, and it’s also a big part of what drew Nathan, Kyle, myself, and the other members of our team to this organization. 

There's always something new to learn about classic style.
There’s always something new to learn about classic style.

So, remember, all that you need to do to get started on your classic menswear journey is to get started. And, of course, you don’t have to worry that you’ll be alone because, here at the Gentleman’s Gazette, we’ve got a plethora of guides on all different aspects and topics in classic menswear.

Once you just take that first step, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your views on certain aspects of style might change. Indeed, we’ve previously made a post on 101 Things That Change When You Start Dressing Up.

So, whether you’ve just begun to dress in classic style or consider yourself a style master, there’s something for everyone here at the Gentleman’s Gazette and we do mean everyone, which brings us on to an 11th bonus myth for today.

Bonus Myth: Classic Style Implicitly Means Supporting Antiquated Values or Beliefs.

Despite the fact that we’ve included it as a bonus here, we think it’s no less important to cover: the myth that classic style implicitly means supporting antiquated values or beliefs.

An increasingly common assumption today is that anyone who dresses in an old-fashioned style must also have an old-fashioned way of looking at the world. After all, even a hundred years ago, a “gentleman” could only be a white, land-owning man with no profession and a formal title in order to use the term.

Not all men who wear classic clothing have traditional ideals. (Pictured: Light Blue Linen Pocket Square with Blue Handrolled Cross X Stitch from Fort Belvedere)
Not all men who wear classic clothing have traditional ideals. (Pictured: Light Blue Linen Pocket Square with Blue Handrolled Cross X Stitch from Fort Belvedere)

Comparatively few men who fit all of these definitions still exist today, of course. But, many more men who dress in those older styles definitely do. So, some today assume that any man who is dressing in a classic style must subtly be broadcasting his support for the antiquated ideas that were more common among this subset of the population in previous periods. These people shouldn’t and don’t define what classic style means to the gentlemen of every race, religion, nationality, and sexual orientation, who have adopted classic style as their own mode of dressing.

Classic dress belongs to no one group and, after all, everyone wants to and should be able to look their best. So, at the Gentleman’s Gazette, we firmly espouse the model: “vintage style, not vintage values.” And for more on this topic, you can check out the YouTube channel of our friend, Dandy Wellington.

Everyone should be able to look their best!
Everyone should be able to look their best!

In simplest terms then, classic style is for everyone who wants to be a part of it and, if that includes you, then we’re very happy to have you here.

If there are any other myths that you think we’ve missed, be sure to let us know in the comments below!

Outfit Rundown

Today, I’m wearing a somewhat bold and colorful outfit meant to illustrate that classic menswear doesn’t have to be boring. The central element, of course, is my light blue, double-breasted jacket, which features a checked pattern.

I’m wearing it over a light blue and white-striped Winchester shirt with contrasting white collar and cuffs. While both the shirt and the jacket have relatively bold patterns, they’re at different scales, so don’t conflict with each other. Also, the colors are harmonious as well.

And to ground the outfit and prevent it from looking too bold, I’ve chosen to wear plain brown trousers that do have a bit of a reddish undertone.

My shoes are woven style, wing-tipped derbies that also have an orange cast to them, which goes well with the oranges and browns elsewhere in my outfit. My socks, which are from Fort Belvedere, are shadow-striped models in brown and light blue to go with the trousers, shoes, shirt, and jacket.

Shadow Stripe Ribbed Socks Light Brown and Blue from Fort Belvedere
Shadow Stripe Ribbed Socks Light Brown and Blue from Fort Belvedere

My pocket square is a vintage orange model in silk, which features a small floral pattern in blue and white. These colors are, again, all harmonious within the outfit. My remaining accessories today are also from Fort Belvedere and these would include my mottled silk knit tie in orange tones, my orange exotic Caribbean boutonniere, and my monkey’s fist cufflinks, which are sterling silver and plated in rose gold, which also has a warm cast that harmonizes well with the oranges and browns in my outfit.

For all of the Fort Belvedere accessories I’m wearing today, as well as a wide array of others, be sure to take a look at the Fort Belvedere shop.

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