Sunday, January 30, 2011

5 Rules for Shoes and Socks

Today, I am answering Anonymous, who has some questions about shoes and socks:

 I'd be interested in knowing when a gentleman should wear certain types of shoes. For instance, may a gentleman wear patent/suede cap toe shoes when the event is not formal? May loafers (tassel or non tassel) be worn without socks? Also, what does The Lifestyle Maven think of whimsical socks? Must brown socks always accompany brown shoes? What shades of brown shoes are appropriate with blue slacks and what should the sock color be?

So, first of all, I tend to shy away from 'rules', simply because I think there shouldn't be any. Guidelines, yes; rules - not so much. Fashion 'rules' were born in a specific milieu and context and cannot always be exported to other climates and cultures wholesale. But people like like to think in terms of rules, hence the title! This is by no means a complete overview of the issue of socks and shoes, but just a response to a reader's questions.

Patent/Suede shoes and formality.
A general guideline with men's shoes is that shinier shoes indicate greater formality, so patent leather shoes are better suited for formal occasions. Cap toe shoes also work better with suits since they are more traditional and, some would say, conservative. But you can never go wrong with them. Suede is a more casual material than patent leather, and so this combination blends formal and casual - essentially throwing out all the rules! I say feel free to wear them for your more formal special events and other dressier events that aren't necessarily very formal. If it feels special and you want to dress it up, wear them! Just don't wear them willy-nilly.....

Loafers with or without socks?

Generally speaking, loafers are your more casual slip-on kind of shoes. They come in all kinds of styles. When wearing shorts, loafers should rather be worn without socks. You'll look like a clown if you wear loafers with socks and shorts! It is very acceptable to wear loafers without socks when wearing them with khakis, or even jeans. If you opt to wear socks, choose muted tones. With or without socks, make sure your trousers (pants) are the right length - trousers that are too short don't make you look particularly fetching...

Whimsical socks?

Personally, I'm not a great fan of whimsical socks. Nothing wrong with them - just not my thing. Having said that, the rule is there are no rules; but I always get leery with the word 'whimsical' since it is open to a myriad interpretations.... As long as you don't wear something outlandish and you stick with the diamond/argyle and other 'mainstream' designs and they match what you're wearing, I daresay you should be fine. Think of your socks like you would a tie: an accessory to bring your entire outfit together. Just don't wear a Bugs Bunny pair of socks or one with dollar bills on it....Please.

Brown shoes, brown socks?
The rule of thumb has been to match the color of your socks to the color of your shoes. I personally think it's better to match them to the color of your pants for unity of flow. The color of your shoes should generally be darker than the color of your pants/trousers but the color of your socks should never be darker than your shoes. The color of your socks needn't be identical to that of your shoes - a rough closeness works just fine for formal attire. For casual shoes, please wear white socks. Dark socks and casuals don't go together. Oh - and with sandals, no socks at all; not white, not light or dark - that's just plain wrong!

Brown shoes, blue slacks?

Once upon a time, blue slacks with brown shoes was frowned upon, but not so today. I think the Italians have made blue suits and brown shoes fashionable. Your brown shoes will work with  lighter grays, browns, khakis and dark blue. They also work well with jeans. It's difficult to correctly match brown with black, anyway, so you can stay away from that. I happen to think that you could pull off blue with with brown shoes. Just remember to keep your shoes darker that your trousers. If in doubt, stick with black.

You'll find more information on socks here. I hope this helps. Have fun dressing up!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Albin Polasek Museum

Hidden in Winter Park, Florida is the gem of the Polasek Museum, which memorializes world renowned Czech- American sculptor and artist Albin Polasek. Over the course of his life, he created some 400 pieces of art, 200 of which are on display at the museum, which he started as a gallery in his retirement home in Winter Park. It is amazing to note that he sculpted many of his later works while he was paralyzed on one side with a stroke!

His sculptures of the human form are breathtaking in their attention to detail, making them very lifelike. Guests are welcomed by his sculpture called "The Sower", an imposing male nude. Throughout his life, he made various forms of his famous work "Man Carving His Own Destiny". It was a rather personal concept, where he was the rock brought in to the US from his home of Czechoslovakia, and he was carving out a life for himself here.
The Sower
Man Carving Out His Destiny
Man Carving Out His Destiny 
Polasek also created many religious pieces. Perhaps most imposing is his depiction of the Victorious Christ - a unique piece which shows the Christ looking up instead of down. His series of The Stations of the Cross is found in the tranquil garden which ends in Lake Osceola.

Victorious Christ

The garden is a perfect place to relax and reflect or even for an intimate picnic. It is set up for just that sort of think with benches and tables, hidden sitting areas, or you can just sit on the lawn by Lake Osceola and soak in some sun.

Special thanks to Todd Ruopp for this experience! 

I highly recommend the Polasek Museum if you're in the Orlando area!

The Polasek Museum is at
633 Osceola Avenue
Winter Park, FL 32792

Friday, January 14, 2011

What do you want from me?

I was just listening to Adam Lambert's Whataya Want From Me and the question in the refrain kept ringing in my head: "Whataya want from me?" As a lifestyle blogger, it helps to know what my readers really, really want to read about.

So, since you've read this (obviously), and probably have read (or will read) some of the other posts, I'd like to hear from you. My scope is entertaining, cooking, traveling, fine dining, beauty and grooming, fashion, decorating, style, etiquette, spirituality...really, anything that has to do with life and style.

Please take a moment to leave a comment; let me know what you'd like me to write about, what you don't want me to write about, and how I'm doing. All your ideas, suggestions, and critiques are welcome, uncensored - I believe the harder the critique, the bigger the love.

And if you like what you read, share the love.

Have a great day, and remember - It's a good life!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Knots and Crosses

For men, the tie is often a safe item where we can add a touch of color to what could otherwise be a boring and predictable outfit. But for some men, the thought of knotting a tie can be rather intimidating. Hopefully, we can demystify The Secret of the Tie.

There are many ways to knot a tie. Actually, Thomas Fink and Yong Mao listed 85 in their book The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie (1999). Some of the more popular are the Full Windsor, the Half Windsor and the Four in Hand. Let's go through them one at a time.

The Full Windsor:
Named after Edward VII, the Duke of Windsor, it is a more formal style of knotting a tie and produces a symmetrical triangular knot. It is particularly suited to spread or cutaway collars. Here's how to tie it:

The Half Windsor:
Similar to the Full Windsor knot, it produces a smaller knot and not quite as symmetrical because it is brought up around the loop on only one side:

The Four-In-Hand
Also called the 'schoolboy knot',  it is probably one of the most popular methods of knotting a tie because it it so simple. It produces a narrow, asymmetrical knot appropriate for general use:

Now some extra notes on wearing ties:
  • Keep the dimple of the tie centered so the knot doesn't look uneven.
  • Make sure the knot is tight enough. Too tight and you'll look like a sausage and too loose you could look unkempt.
  • The tip of the tie should end in the middle of your belt buckle
  • Don't wear a stained tie!
Happy knotting!