Breaking Rules

by Chikashi

There are rules for just about everything.  People break rules for one of three reasons:  1) ignorance, 2) carelessness or 3) naughtiness.  Sartorial rules are no exceptions; they are subject to all three types of breaches.  Unlike some rules that have grave consequences, sartorial rules are more like informal conventions that keep evolving slowly over time; if one is in breach, then one does not get tossed in gaol for even the most serious offence (although some offenders probably should be imprisoned at a maximum security facility).

There is nothing fun or cool about breaking rules because of ignorance.  However, it can be fun to break them knowingly.  There are plenty of occasions where this is the case with sartorial rules.  (But, of course, the fundamental premise is that one knows the rules and that one is in breach.)  It is even more fun when the rules are of one’s own making.

At l’Eroica, Simon was wearing aviator sunglasses after having written this piece.

200 l'eroica 2011 gaiole start

Whereas my eyewear the day before in Gaiole was in compliance with his ‘exception’.

I spotted his violation straightaway and, under normal circumstances, would have given him a good ribbing.  However, there were two things working in his favour.  The first was that he was wearing a pair of Randolph Engineering aviator sunglasses, the real deal instead of that other stuff.  The only pair of aviator shades that I have is a Randolph as well, so I was rather more forgiving.  The second was that we had amongst us an egregious sinner who turned up in Gaiole (and managed to slip through the event officials) with a carbon frame bike and therefore deserved to have all of our collective ribbing to be focussed exclusively on him.

And, of course, I have to give credit to someone that publishes his rules and then says, ‘sod ’em,’ with 4,000 cyclists around him.

Although Nicholas would not approve, I routinely wear brown in town.  Even when I worked for a rather conservative company in Manhattan, I wore brown in town.  However, I actually do have a particular restriction on brown.

Having lived on the Continent for a few years, I have become accustomed to seeing many men who wear brown shoes with a blue suit.  More recently, I see more of them wearing tan shoes with a blue suit; it seems to be something of a trend.  I am now used to seeing them on other men but have not reached a point where I have adopted their custom.  I do not wear tan shoes with a blue suit.  I just don’t.

I have a very simple method when dressing in the morning.  It requires very little thought.  The choice of suit is simply the one that is next in rotation.  I grab either the shirt that is hanging all the way to the right or all the way to the left.  I select the tie that catches my eyes first.  I take a pocket square from the bottom of the pile unless it clashes violently with everything else, in which case I take the next one up.  I choose my shoes in the same way I select my tie.  The only real decision I make is on the choice of socks:  pink or purple today?  (Actually, this got a bit more complicated recently, since I now have a pair of red ones, with ‘ER II’, no less, embroidered in yellow, making my legs look like a pair of postboxes.  Sexy hexy, eh?)

One day last week, I put on a petrol blue bird’s eye suit.  On the way back from lunch, I saw a reflection of myself in a shop window and realised that I was also wearing a pair of tan oxfords.  I almost jumped.  I broke my own rule because of carelessness.

I tried to tell myself, ‘It’s OK.  When in Rome, do as the Romans do and all that.’  However, after walking another block, I realised that I am not yet ready to go native and headed home to change my shoes before returning to the office.

Breaking rules because of carelessness lacks the bliss that accompanies ignorance and the cheap thrill that can be derived from naughtiness.  Amongst the three reasons, it is probably the worst way to break a rule.  Perhaps I should actually put some thought into dressing from now on.