Okay, I might be barking up the wrong tree, but hear me out on this. Black shoes with khakis: is it inherently wrong, or is it just distasteful because it's a cliche of business-casual guys with black Kenneth Cole Reactions and relaxed-fit Dockers? I ask because I thrifted a sweet pair of Florsheim longwings, in black pebble grain, but I generally wear khaki pants. I tend to prefer warmer British Tans, and the black looks fine with them, to my eye. Your thoughts, as a guy whose style I admire?

- Asked by horizontal-justice

Here’s my reasoning on why you shouldn’t mix black and brown:

Black is a very formal color. It’s footwear meant to associate with business suits and the evening. It’s a strong message to send when you wear black. 

Brown, however, is less formal and almost inherently casual (although, when it comes to footwear, brown’s gone from country shoe to being acceptable “in town” with suits in navy, grey and even charcoal). If you think of any brown suits, especially in materials such as chino cotton, tweed, corduroy, linen, etc., they are almost usually less-formal counterparts to the standard worsted-wool suit. 

Chinos are firmly planted in business casual. I’d almost universally place black lace-ups in formal business wear. I just don’t think they match formality at all. 

Now, that’s my take. I actually took some time to research this a bit to see what others say and read through Alan Flusser’s “Dressing the Man” where he has this to say on the matter:

"The exception to this prescription would be those men trying to affect a more downtown demeanor. Although black belts and shoes would not be the classicist’s choice to appoint his chinos, should the fashion acolyte be swathed in lower-rise, flat-fronted khakis, black leather resonates a more modernist mantra than brown."

Make of that what you will (the copyright of the book is 2002). It seems to me those same fashion acolytes are responsible for the square-toed, bicycle-shoed monstrosities that still exist today in business casual workplaces alongside pleated khakis. 

I still wouldn’t do it. I’d wear them instead with grey trousers, suits or even dark denim. Maybe navy chinos. But khaki chinos? Enter that realm at your own risk.


I've been having trouble determining my proper jacket size. I fall somewhere between a 38R and 40R, and have trouble automatically trusting somebody who's trying to sell me a suit...

- Asked by Anonymous

Visit a tailor and have them measure you. You can actually measure yourself. Just get a tailor’s tape and wrap it around your chest, under your armpits and see what the measurement is. That’s your chest size! 

Jackets will be cut 2”-4” larger than that chest measurement and still be your “size”. For instance, I have several 38R jackets that have pit-to-pit measurements of 21”=42” chest size. This is to allow for movement around your actual 38” chest. 

The more important thing to look for is how your jacket fits in the shoulders. It shouldn’t hang off, nor be too tight. The seam should rest on top of them perfectly. Your size jacket could actually vary from manufacturer to manufacturer in some cases. 


Geezer Style: There are no slobs in France

I just want to point everyone toward geezerstyle, who doesn’t blog often, but when he does it’s well-written and quite a gem. His latest post on his trip to France is short, but I think gives anyone a great point to reflect on in this simple phrase:

driving up our level of care

I think that’s really tough to do. If you’ve spent a lot of your life just simply not caring about something, then it’s tough to flip a bit and start caring. 

The only way you ever improve at anything is if you care. It’s quite elemental. No one can force you to care but you. 


College student living on campus. What type of style do you recommend under these circumstances? Any wardrobe tips for it? It's sometimes hard to dress up everyday with having 8 am classes and all.

- Asked by Anonymous

Obviously, you skip class.

But, if for some reason you actually want to attend those lectures, then I suggest doing something simple: dark denim selvedge jeans, a selection of OCBDs and some quality knit sweaters you can put on in a hurry. Add some nice shoes to the mix (topsiders, penny loafers, chukka boots) that don’t require much lacing and you should be set.

Also: don’t drink so much and play so many damned video games the night before. (Kinda joking, kinda not). 

Final parting shot toward college kids: Don’t be afraid to change majors. Don’t think that your major will define what you’ll do for the rest of your life. Don’t feel that failing a class — or in my case three of ‘em, during summer school and getting put on academic probation — is the end of the world. Don’t feel like you have to suck up and say “yes” to everyone. Don’t feel like you have to be perfect. Don’t feel like you have to graduate if there’s a better opportunity or path for you. Don’t think that a graduate degree is worth more than actual experience working. Don’t be unable to take criticism or be wrong. Somehow, things will work out if you follow your passions, work hard at the things you love and are nice to every new person you meet.


What is the difference between a blazer, sport coat, and suit jacket? I've been getting really confused about this lately... - Shoe

- Asked by bigfatshoe

Well, let’s start with the easy one: the suit jacket. A suit jacket is usually paired with trousers of a matching material. The cut is typically a bit more conservative and formal. It’s made for business and work, traditionally.

The tricky part is the difference between blazers and sport coats. Sport coats have their origin in “sport”. Typically, they’d be used in hunting or horseback sports and have associated details. Such details would be a center vent so the jacket falls over both sides of a horse’s back while riding. Pockets typically have flaps so rain is kept out of them and the objects inside are kept more securely inside while moving about.

Other details you might see on traditional sport coats would be such things as shooting patches on the shoulder made of suede or leather, throat latches so the jacket can be fully closed for warmth, and slanted “hacking” pockets to make it easier to reach your hands inside while riding a horse.

Fabric and patterns used are typically of those for country, out-of-town wear. These would include bright checks herringbone patterns and more earthtones. Typically, while you could wear a full suit in these patterns, it’d be a bit much to wear a suit of these patterns in the city on business. Often, these jackets would be “odd jackets” meant to be paired with a different pair of trousers.

As for blazers, they have a different origin. The double-breasted version comes from a military background, whereas the single-breasted version is derived from club blazers of rowing clubs. Most nowadays are in navy blue, although you will see some in other colors on occasion, like in black or perhaps green (Brooks Brothers).

Blazer buttons are metal and originally would have insignia of the associated club. Granted, most of us who wear them now aren’t a member of a club and not lucky enough to have such meaningful buttons, so more generic insignia (often of the manufacturer) are used.

It’s hard to tell the difference between a blazer and a sport coat and sometimes brands and copywriting tend to screw it up, too. I’d tend to say that sport coats look a bit less formal and blazers look a bit more formal.

Hope this helps!


I've read that the shoulder seam on a jacket should fall right around where my shoulder ends. My shoulder falls in a gentle slope away from my neck, then hits an abrupt point at the end of my (shoulder?) bone, then curves out. Does my shoulder end where the bone ends, or at the outermost part of the curve just below? (Does that make sense?) Second, when my jacket is buttoned, what's the ballpark range of distance I should be going for between the button and my stomach? Great blog, by the way.

- Asked by Anonymous

I would say where your bone ends. The curve, if I’m understanding correctly, would be a bit too far out, and if you have a padded, constructed shoulder with it terminating at that point, it’d probably look slightly too big.

As for button stance, I sort of addressed this earlier, but you probably want the button somewhat near your navel. Now, if you’re talking about the distance between your stomach and the fabric of the jacket itself (ie: parallel planes of the jacket and stomach), I’d says around 1” or so? It really just depends how much you like the waist suppressed on your jacket. I prefer it to be moderately trim, however, I like to make sure I can still move around and that the fabric isn’t “pinching” at the waist and stretched to the point it causes ripples.

This should help.


Hey Silentist. If you had time can you discuss porportions for proper fit of a jacket? I just thrifted a couple jackets to start messing around with tailoring. To be specific I purchased 5 camel hair sports coats (for 25 bucks!) The top botton (once buttoned) have different place points. Some closer to my belly button some a bit higher. Any advice would really help. - Thanks for the help. Drew

- Asked by Anonymous

Hi Drew!

Probably the most important thing to determine a jacket’s fit is the shoulder width. If the shoulders don’t fit, then you might as well return (or donate) the jacket.

Then you have overall jacket length. Basic rules will state that your jacket should cover your rear and roughly the length of the coat should be such to divide your body in half.

In terms of sleeve length and how much cuff you want to show, ideally you would show around 0.5” of cuff. I prefer to show 1” or more at times.

The waist should be tapered to your torso. This will probably be one of the more common alterations.

Finally, button stance. Modern jackets tend to put the button stance higher up on the torso, but traditionally it should be around your natural waist. Obviously, different brands and designers have played with this idea. If you’re wearing something a bit more traditional and conservative, then I’d follow the conventional wisdom. If you want to push toward something more trendy, then perhaps you could find yourself with a shorter jacket and higher stance. Personally, I have jackets that run the gamut.


I noticed you suggested in an earlier post that an about to be grad student should start wearing ties. I know you later suggest wearing a jacket, but what are your thoughts on shirt, tie, without the jacket? At Put This On it's one of the 25 rules you don't break. However I (also a student) have been recently prone to wearing well-fitted shirts with skinny ties, and was wondering how big a blunder this has been. Thanks, and great blog!

- Asked by Anonymous

Yeah, I get why people dig the skinny ties without jackets thing, but I also understand that basic rule.

In general, I think it’s a good rule for a majority of people to follow — especially those new to style. The reason being that most people aren’t buying shirts that are fitted to them and the blousing you get around the waistline doesn’t look good. Add to that a moderately sized width necktie and you get the cubicle farmer look of an office drone who was forced by the company’s dress code to wear a tie and put on a dress shirt.

And that’s a really sloppy look. I see it all the time and most guys if they’re putting on the tie should be wearing a jacket, just to be a slight bit more put together. If they didn’t want to wear a jacket and be more “dressed down”, then they should forgo the tie — at least then you’re comfortably in the “business casual” mold.

Let’s go back to your personal preference of wearing a slimmer tie, fitted shirts, etc. I think that’s a pretty decent look. A lot of people can pull that off. And as with all things style if you’ve got proper fit, then you’re really just doing better than 90% of guys around you.

But my thought is this: You’ve gone through the trouble of getting your stuff to fit right and putting on a necktie — why not go all the way and wear a jacket, too? You’ll be completing the look, you’ll look even better, and your silhouette will be flattered.

I suppose this is my way of saying, "No half measures."


Incredibly entry level question for you. Where should trousers/suit pants hit around the ankle? I always feel like mine are a little too long or a little too short. Where's the happy medium?

- Asked by Anonymous

Depends on your personal tastes. For more casual and warm-weather trousers (chinos, especially) I tend to go short to no-break, since I prefer to usually go sockless.

On more conservative and cold-weather stuff, I go with a medium break, especially if it’ll be used over a boot (and I’ll likely do a cuff as well).

Worth giving a read at Put This On and Brooks Brothers.


HELP I just bought the j crew ludlow suit in charcoal, can I wear OCBD shirt with knit tie, also need recommendation on shoes to go along with for a wedding tomorrow, please help...

- Asked by Anonymous

I’d recommend plain black captoes (like the Allen Edmonds Park Avenues), but you could also probably go with burgundy or brown captoes. Less formal would be brogues and wingtips. Tough to really give a concrete answer without knowing your budget or if you live in a location where you can snatch something up quickly.

Whatever you do, avoid wearing loafers with a suit.

ADDING from Anon:

"White OCBD with knit tie go well with the JCrew Ludlow suit?"

Some people don’t like button-down collars with suits, but it works if it’s casual.


re: tux post. Do you neccessarily need to wear a tux to a black tie event? What about sporting a black suit with a black tie? I could be way off base but had to ask.

- Asked by Anonymous

I’d read over this black tie guide. Make of it what you will. I tend to agree with the article’s analysis of deciphering the invitation.

Generally speaking, if I were invited to a black tie event, then I would wear a tuxedo regardless if the invite said “requested”, “recommended”, etc. Ultimately, it’s going to be your call to make.

In regards to black suits, I tend to think they fall short of black tie in many ways. They lack the grosgrain lapels, often have notched lapels, and two button fronts. It strikes me as funeral attire — or like you’re in a Tarantino film. Perhaps it’d be passable in a pinch, however, it won’t have the elegance of a tuxedo for the situation.


Hi, silly question time. Where do you measure the width of a tie? At it's widest point? And do you think a 4" tie at it's widest point is too wide to wear with 3" lapels? Thanks.

- Asked by Anonymous

I’ve always measured a tie at its widest point. A 4” tie is really, really wide in my opinion. I have a few and don’t wear them unless I’ve got some massive lapels on my jacket. I think 3.75” is kind of the upper limit, but even that’s kind of pushing it.

As for wearing a wider tie with a slimmer lapel, I think you can do it — but it’s a matter of degrees of difference. A 1” difference is going to look perhaps a bit out of place, but probably not as bad as a 3” tie on a 4” lapel.


In your opinion which knot works better with knit ties and spread collars? Four in Hand or Half Windsor?

- Asked by enriquedlcm

I think the four-in-hand knot works best for all knit ties, no matter the collar. I tried tying a half-Windsor knot with a knit tie once and it looked pretty ridiculous.

About The Silentist

A menswear blog on finding your personal style, written by Kiyoshi Martinez.

I work at Khaki's of Carmel and live in the Monterey Bay area. Formerly from Chicago.

E-mail me, I'm fairly nice: thesilentist@gmail.com

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