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Is there any elite style for men?

You will get the best results if you pursue this lifestyle not in order to "be elite", but simply because you enjoy this particular lifestyle and think it gives you a beautiful, interesting life.

Article contribution by Karol Gabriel Thornton-Remiszewski

Glen Powell/ Brioni

What I am going to talk about here is a Western look - so, American/European. In other cultural circles, there are different looks that qualify as elite. At any rate, my impression is that the general principle for the elite look for men is "the devil is in the details". You need to do a lot more than just wear the right clothes.

So... first of all, you need to be in good shape. Your body fat percentage should be below 15%, muscular development should be proportional. You need to work your legs as well as your upper body. The elite look is relatively slim: athletic, but not hulky.

It is not absolutely necessary to play sports, although it can be helpful in a number of ways - both physical and social. Popular sports in elite circles include golf, skiing, sailing, squash, tennis, horseback riding, polo.

As you get in shape, think about your posture. Getting your abs and lower back, your upper back and pecs in balance with each other at the gym will do much to give you the posture you need. It is very important to sit and stand straight.

When you walk, there should be no extraneous motion. It should all be efficient and balanced. If you can walk around comfortably with a book balanced on your head, you are probably doing OK. Taking dance lessons (for example, social dance) can be a good way to acquire the right type of posture and movement (EDIT: This is indeed something that people living this lifestyle often arrange for their kids ca. age 13-14).

Your hair should be short, especially in the back, and cut conservatively. You can wear a moustache, even a beard, but everything should be neatly trimmed. That said, many elite men favor a clean-shaven look.

Now you are ready to put on some clothes. First, some general rules. Keep it simple. Be selective in what you buy. Everything should fit perfectly. If you are an unusual size, have things custom made. Everything should be clean and in good repair. Everything should be of high quality. This may mean using designer or other quality brand-name clothing and shoes.

Your clothes should be worn in a tasteful manner. This means, among other things, that if there is a designer logo on your clothes, it should be very discreet. You can wear Levi's jeans, Polo or alligator shirts and not feel you have to remove the label or logo. But otherwise, better not to have any logos on your clothes at all - at most, a little tag in the neckline, not visible from the outside. T-shirts should be plain - they can be colored, even striped, but no writing on them.

It is safest to wear no jewelry except a wedding ring (thank you Jo Wi :) ), a watch or (if dressed very informally) perhaps a discreet chain with a religious emblem on it (so, a cross if you are Christian, a Star of David or chai sign if you are Jewish, etc.). The exception would be certain elements of more formal wear which will be discussed below. You can wear cologne, but don't overdo it. The scent should not linger after you leave the area.

Now for the details. For casual wear, you can choose jeans and a T-shirt, polo shirt or button-down, adding a sport jacket or using non-jean trousers depending on the occasion and weather. If it's warm out and you are going without a sport jacket, you can wear sneakers or sandals. If you're wearing a sport jacket, closed shoes are better.

Shirts should not be wrinkled, the same applies to any non-jean trousers you wear. It is unwise to press jeans or cords, as they should not have a crease in them. Non-jean trousers should have a crease - it is a good idea to have them professionally cleaned so that the crease will be done neatly.

You can wear your shirt either neatly tucked in, or hanging free (in which case the cut should be loose enough not to cling to your hips). If you are wearing a button-down shirt, for casual wear you do not have to wear a tie. You can even unbutton the collar button and one more button. Not more than that, or it will look tacky.

So much for casual wear. Much of the elite look actually depends on being able to wear non-casual clothes properly. So... for non-casual use - say, for work - you would most probably wear a dark suit: a button-down shirt, non-jean trousers and a matching jacket. Everything except shirts, socks and underwear will need to be professionally cleaned.

Your trousers should be cut loose enough to hang straight down in the back, without breaking at the hip, and long enough for there to be just a bit of a break at the ankle. If you are a non-standard size, have them custom made. The trousers should be belted. The belt should have a simple, discreet buckle. Your socks should be of a dark color. You can't go wrong with black, unless you are wearing a navy blue suit - in which case the socks should be navy.

Shoes should be closed, most probably laced. They should be a plain, dark color. Well-made, simple but elegant.

Your shirt should be white and paired with a tie. For work purposes, the tie should either be a plain color, or have a very discreet pattern. It should be relatively narrow. Make sure you know how to tie a tie properly. EDIT: I myself use a variation on the Pratt (a.k.a. Shelby) knot, which gives a neat, symmetrical appearance without being too bulky. You can also use a full or half Windsor knot, or a four-in-hand. The full Windsor is a symmetrical knot, bulkier than the Pratt; the half-Windsor and the four-in-hand are asymmetrical. /EDIT

At any rate, the key is for the tie to come down just to your belt buckle. There should be a bar of material sewn to the back of the broad portion of the tie. Run the narrow end through that after you have tied the tie to keep it from peeking out from behind the broad portion. Do not use tie bars. Tie tacks are OK, but make sure the tie lies flat and doesn't pucker.

Your jacket should be single-breasted and impeccably tailored. The closure will normally have two or three buttons. Either way, you will only button one of the buttons. If it is a two-button closure, you will button only the upper button. If it is a three-button closure - the middle button. It must fit well when buttoned - the fabric should not pull or pucker anywhere. If you are a non-standard size, have it custom-made.

For semi-formal occasions outside of work, you would wear a dark suit - black is the safest color. You can be a bit more colorful with the tie, but it should still be relatively narrow. Shirt should be white, shoes and socks should be black. Other details of fit, how to wear the jacket and trousers etc. as for work wear.

For formal occasions, you would wear a look that would be called a tuxedo in some quarters, a dinner jacket or just "black tie" in others. The shirt should be white, with a bib of small vertical pleats on the chest, a wing collar and French cuffs. The buttons will be concealed, and instead of buttons on the cuffs, you will use cuff-links. Simple and discreet - pearl is a fine option.

When using cuff-links, most people just pinch the two sides of the cuff together, run the cuff-link through all layers of the cuff, and and then flip the closure tab to keep the cuff-link in place. For me personally, that would only conceivably work in the case of double-sided cuff-links (i.e. without a closure tab). Otherwise, I prefer to lap the outside edge over the inside (the way a normal buttoned cuff has one edge lapped over the other), and then run the cuff-links through all of the layers and flip the closure tab. The advantage of this strategy is that then the closure tab will not be visible from the outside.

Instead of a belt, you will wear a black cummerbund. And instead of a long tie, a bow-tie. Black, as implied by the "black tie" designation. It must be the kind you tie yourself - not pre-tied. Pre-tied looks tacky. So you need to know how to tie a bow-tie neatly. Shoes and socks should also be black. You can get away with patent leather shoes here.

At the next level up, there are a couple of different looks - one for morning and afternoon occasions, one for evening. The daytime look will replace the dinner jacket from the black-tie look with a morning coat, and the black trousers with gray.

The most formal look is the white-tie. This is an evening look, similar to the black-tie look, but the dinner jacket is replaced with a tailcoat, and the bow-tie will be white instead of black.

Focus on these basics first. Once you have mastered them, you can take cognizance of the variants on them that are out there. You will become acquainted with them by observation, and see when you can depart from "the basics", and how much liberty you can take without crossing the line of good taste.

One would think that working into the elite look by starting casual and then moving up to the more formal looks would be a good way to start. However, if you want to look elite in casual wear, you do have to move in the other direction too. So there is something to be said for starting with the most formal look. Once you master that, then you can progress to less formal looks and eventually still be able to retain that essential elegance even in informal clothing.

But no, we are not done yet. Because much of the elite look also has nothing to do with appearance, and everything to do with precision and elegance in use of language and in manners. The more formal the look, the more important this becomes. But really, if you want to pass as elite in any kind of clothing, the proper speech and manners are essential.

Indeed, the look is just one facet of an entire lifestyle. It is desirable to have at least a bachelor's degree, preferably from a high-quality institution. If that hasn't happened for you, there are other ways to get the necessary education, although it will require quite a bit of work.

So, apart from acquiring the knowledge necessary to practice your profession, you need to acquaint yourself with all the various aspects of culture, especially "high culture" - so, classical music, art, dance etc. You need to acquaint yourself with other cultures as well. It is good to be able to speak other languages besides your own, to live abroad for a while, to travel. You should have a broad view of the basics, enough to have favorite composers, artists, dancers, countries, cuisines.

You should know enough about foreign cuisines to be able to tell whether a given dish served to you has been prepared authentically. You should know how to use tableware typical of these cuisines, how to eat the food on the table in an authentic manner. So, in addition to knowing how to do a basic elegant place setting for when you have company, you should know how to use chopsticks.

This is obviously a work in progress, as everyone is constantly learning for the entirety of their lifetime. The important thing is to continue to work on yourself. That way, if you make a mistake, people in your surroundings will be much more forgiving.

And most importantly, you will get the best results (i.e. avoid excesses of a type that could make you seem pretentious) if you pursue this lifestyle not in order to "be elite", but simply because you enjoy this particular lifestyle and think it gives you a beautiful, interesting life.


This article originally appeared on Quora.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of GC.

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