Dressing the Part

Since I had such a positive response to last week’s post on caring for dress clothes, and due to the amount of requests for such an article, I wanted to do a follow-up, going over the “accessories” of men’s dress clothes.

Before I begin, I want to reiterate something from my last post: The most important thing you can do to care for your clothing is to check the tag. Again, you can learn about all those funny labels here. Every article of clothing is very different, so what is correct for one suit, will ruin another. Also, be sure and read all of the directions on anything you may put on your dress clothes (stain remover, detergent, etc.) as some products will harm certain fabrics. The most important thing you can do is know your own clothing.

Ties: Bow and otherwise

This seemed to be a popular topic on Reddit; it seems that many young men do not know how to tie their own tie. This makes sense, as our society has evolved, we have drifted away from business suits for every man in the work force, instead, suits are for CEOs and important events. Lodge is an important event, it just happens every week, and clip-ons aren’t fooling anyone. If you’re looking for nice ties, check out the thrift stores, often times you can find nice silk ties for a dollar or less.

There’s a lot of ways to tie a tie. Perhaps the easiest is the four in hand knot, shown here:

In addition to this, other popular knots include the full and half Windsor, the Murrel, the Eldridge, the list goes on and on, and ranges from simple to very complex.

You can learn how to tie each one of these knots here.

Some men prefer bowties. Often, with a tux, the bowtie will be pre-tied, kind of the equivalent of a clip on tie, without any of the slack from your peers. However, these tend to only come in black. Besides, there’s something satisfying about tying your own bow tie. There’s no time to learn like the present.

Love The Art of Manliness by the way! Check them out here.

Learning how to tie a tie can be frustrating, and you will not get it on your first attempt. You may find that some tie knots are easier than others for you. If you ever need to tie someone elses tie, it is much easier to tie it on yourself, then loosen it, and put it on them. Keep at it, and soon it will be second nature, and you will be tying all of your Brother’s ties!

Studs, cufflinks, vents and cummerbunds. Oh my! The parts of a tux

Although much more work than jeans and a t-shirt, suits are relatively simple. There’s the pants, the shirt, tie, and jacket. Sometimes there is a vest, and this is what people are referring to when they say “two piece suit” (no vest) vs. “three piece suit” (with vest, usually the color of the jacket). Tuxes, on the other hand, have many more components. In addition to the usual pants, jacket, shirt and tie, there is always a vest or cummerbund , and actually has its own jewelry, called studs and cufflinks.

When you are buying or renting a tuxedo, you will usually have the option of vest or cummerbund , and this is usually included in the cost of the tux. Both have their pros and cons. Vests are usually easier to wear and show more color, but they can be hot and restrictive. Cummerbunds, on the other hand, are much cooler (temperature wise) and slimming, but they are much harder to get to “look right”. Either way, you will want them to match your tie, preferably of the exact same fabric. As you get more comfortable wearing your tux, you can play around with the different colors and patterns available. Fun fact- the cummerbund’s purpose is to cover up the “working parts” of the tux, that is the top of the pants and the bottom on the shirt where there are no studs, and originated in India for British military dining wear. Most often, you will see Masons wearing vests with their tuxes, but this is up to personal preference.

Studs and cufflinks, aka the “little baggie of goodies that you lose as soon as you take your tux out of the bag”. Studs are there to make your nice tux look nicer. They take the place of buttons, and slide into the hole just above where the button is sewn onto the tux shirt. You then button the shirt normally, using the studs as buttons. If you are wearing a vest and tie, you may not need them, unless you think either of these items might be coming off as the night progresses. Sometimes its better to be safe than sorry, however, and studs help keep you looking like one. (A stud that is!)

You may find, while putting on your tux shirt, that it does not have the buttons to close the cuffs of the shirt, like a normal dress shirt does. This is where cufflinks come in. Instead of the fabric of the sleeve overlapping, the button holes are lined up, and the closed cufflink is pushed through them, and then opened. For the visual learners:

There are a wide variety of Masonic related studs and cufflinks available. You can find some here, and they make great gifts!

Pocket squares- Not for noses!

So, you’re all ready to go to lodge, or your Masonic event, you’ve got on your suit or tuxedo, but, it’s missing…something. Enter the pocket square. Traditionally, a gentleman carried two pocket squares (or hankie, as your grandmother may call them), one for his lady, that helped make his suit pop, and one for himself. Usually these days, only one pocket square is worn, and usually only serves the purpose of making your nice clothes look nicer. Not many men choose to wear them (perhaps even less than the bow tie), so it can really help you stand out. White is traditional, although there are thousands of options here, it could be white or black, match your tie or not…a pocket square has all of the versatility of a tie, and can really help bring your outfit together. You can see some examples of how to wear pocket squares here, and get some ideas for different color combinations here. . Please note, however, that I have seen at Grand Lodge and other Masonic events, vendors selling, and mean wearing fake pocket squares. They look like this:

They are  usually black or OES colors. Please, do not wear this. They tend to look cheap, and are not built for the long haul. Pocket squares are also great things to ask for out of grandmas closet!

Pant holders and foot covers

Here’s a hard and fast rule that everyone will agree with. If you’re wearing pants with belt loops, you should be wearing a belt. After that, the jury is kind of out. There’s many discussions about if your belt and shoes should match (e.g. exact color of brown, please do not wear a brown belt with black shoes! However, a combo of say, tan and burgundy may be okay), or if your shoes should match your pants, or if your socks should match your shoes, or something else. This chart will give you an idea as to what is generally acceptable.

Invest in a nice belt, usually $15-20. I know, it sounds like a lot for a belt. However, barring any significant weight change, a nice belt should last you for the rest of your life.

Dress shoes on the other hand…not so much. While they will not wear out as fast as your every day tennis shoes, you will probably want to replace them every few years. I would own at least one pair of brown, and one pair of black, to be safe. If you rent a tuxedo, it should come with its own shoes, and you may want special shoes just to wear just for your tux if you own yours. Thrift stores are an excellent place to find cheap dress shoes.

Ways to cover your noggin

For the most part, it is generally considered poor form to wear a hat indoors, unless of course, one is the Worshipful Master and is conducting Lodge. Unless you are the WM, I would recommend against wearing hats with any ensemble to any Masonic event, as it can be seen as disrespectful. Occasionally, there are events that call for headgear, but otherwise, keep it at home.

If you are the WM, or even the Grand Worshipful Master (or will be shortly) however, I recommend purchasing your own hat. While the traditional top hat is always a classic look, usually the one worn by the WM is owned by the Lodge, and has generations of sweat, or worse, seeped into it. You may want to buy your own top hat, or something else. There is a wide variety of hats out there they come in all shapes and colors. Pick something that suits you, since you will be wearing it every time you open Lodge. A bonus of owning your own hat, is that you have it for the future, in many Lodges people will serve as WM multiple, though not necessarily consecutive years. The other bonus of buying your own, quality hat, is the ability to pass it on to the next generation of Masons, if you so choose.

Name tags and lapel pins

Most often seen at state-wide events, many Masons, officers of their Lodge or otherwise, choose to wear nametags and lapel pins to larger functions, some more than others.  The proper form  is name tag on the right, pin on the left. Any time you have the opportunity, you want to get a magnet back. Name tags and Masonic pins may look awesome, but they can take a toll on your dress clothes. You want to look closely at the fabric, and try to insert the pin into the square that all of the threads make, kind of in between the threads. This will make it so that when you pull the pin out, the threads will help “heal” the hole. Of course, repeated use in the same spot will create a visible hole. Your other option is to put the pin through the threads of your lapel hole. Yeah, you know that weird button-hole without a button on the breast of your suit jacket? That’s what that’s for (Okay, that and flowers.) As always, there is a ton of Masonic pins out there to buy, but its way more fun to buy them at an event you’re attending, instead of online!

If you have any questions about anything, do not hesitate to send me a message here, or email me at themasonslady@gmail.com .

As always, have a wonderful week!

4 thoughts on “Dressing the Part

  1. Nice overview. One thing you left out is how to wear a cummerbund. I asked this of a formal wear store many years ago. I asked if you wear it with the little flaps up, as if to catch some crumbs for a snack later in the evening after dinner, or do the flaps go down, thus leaving you hungry? The person who answered said that the flaps point upward, so you could easily stick your opera tickets in them for safekeeping before the show.

    It seemed a little more sophisticated than my suggestion, but at least I got the right answer. 🙂

  2. Pingback: A year with The Mason’s Lady | The Mason's Lady

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