Thumbs up for Esquire’s new ‘Handbook of Style’
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Before I left for Milan to cover the Fall/Winter 2009-10 men’s collections, a compact, cloth-bound book crossed my desk. The stitched-on purple label identified it as ‘The Handbook of Style: A Man’s Guide to Looking Good,’ from the editors of Esquire magazine. I almost shelved it with my ever-growing collection of men’s ‘how not to dress like you need a book to tell you how to dress’ manuals without even giving it a thought.
But when I saw that the first two sentences in the entire book were: ‘We hate to be told what to do. It’s part of being a man.’ I was hooked. And besides, I’d be spending the better part of the next week sitting on folding chairs all over Europe next to one of the authors -- Esquire’s fashion director Nick Sullivan -- so a little conversation starter couldn’t hurt.
It does cover a lot of the same ground as every other man’s manual on the market, things like how to tie a bow tie (page 150), the four essential suits every man needs (page 22) and the only five terms to use with your barber (page 174). But two things set this cheeky tome apart from other guys’ guides: First, it includes history, context and terminology, not just explaining the difference between fused and canvased suit jackets but why it matters, defining things like ‘boiled-wool mittens’ and deciphering hieroglyphic laundry care labels.
Second, it commits to print many of the incredibly helpful ‘why didn’t I think of that’ flashes of genius that make our lives easier. One that
caught my eye in particular was using an old Dopp kit as a travel bag for assorted electronic gear.
‘I discovered that because I was sick and tired of losing things in the bottom of suitcases,’ Sullivan told me by phone shortly before I left Los Angeles. ‘I’ve left cords and adapters all over the world. One trip I threw them all in a spare Dopp kit and found it was a great way to keep them in one place.’
Since I was starting to pack that same evening, I took Sullivan’s advice and dumped my adapter, my Flip Mino video recorder, Olympus Digital Voice Recorder, BlackBerry charger, camera, iPod adapter and international cellphone into the well-loved but recently outgrown black leather Bosca Utilikit I’d found a few years back at Alpha Gear for Gents in West Hollywood.
The great thing is, not only did my precious tech-geek gadgets come through safe, sound and in one place, they are all now imbued with the subtle scent of leather and high-end shaving cream. Of course, when I plop down in my seat next to Sullivan at the shows tomorrow, I’m prepared for that awkward moment when he leans over and says: ‘Gee, your camera smells familiar.’
-- Adam Tschorn
The Handbook of Style: A Man’s Guide to Looking Good (Hearst Books, January 2009, $14.95)