One of the world’s leading classic menswear pundits, Christian Chensvold is regularly called upon for commentary on matters of a sartorial nature by such august organs as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and is a contributor to numerous respected publications, including Esquire, l’Uomo Vogue, The Rake, and RalphLauren.com — as well as his very own trad-men’s platform, Ivy-Style.com
A master of decorous dandyism, a swordsman, a golfer, a gentleman and a scholar, here Chensvold holds forth on the edicts of dress, taste and behaviour that guide him each day.
10. “Brummellian simplicity has always been in my genes, and when I deviate from it too far I just don’t feel like myself. If I have to squint at a man’s necktie to understand it, or spend a full second trying to visually digest his outfit, then to me it’s a failure. ‘Simplicity,’ as Baudelaire wrote, ‘is the best way of being distinguished.’”
9. “I’m at my severest when it comes to neckties. Only dark blues, greys and blacks with simple motifs, or else solid. Restraint in neckwear is a hallmark of high style, which is why so few men exhibit it.”
Boldini's 1897 portrait of Baudelarian dandy Count Robert de Montesquiou (sporting suitably sober neckwear).
8. “Never underestimate the power of small details in an outfit otherwise comprised of archetypal classics. Socks, belts, watchbands, pocket squares, pens, pipes, rings, sunglasses, and so forth bring fun and variety and play against the things in my wardrobe that are more formula-driven and fixed.”
7. “I love the little phrase ‘my kinda clothes,’ coined to me by the legendary Charlie Davidson of The Andover Shop in Harvard Square. My kinda outfit consists of a Prince of Wales jacket; white, pinned club-collar shirt; striped, club or solid tie; charcoal trousers, flat front with cuffs; argyle socks and black tassel loafers.”
Ninety-year-old trad clothier Charlie Davidson photographed by Ivy-Style.com at The Andover Shop.
6. “The hardest thing to develop in the golf swing and tennis serve is blocking out the technical clutter and feeling what you’re actually doing, not what think you should be doing. It’s a kind of kinetic sensitivity, and I recommend developing a sartorial version of it. It’s easy for a clotheshorse to get distracted by things that look good on others or are prized by the cognoscenti. But if you don’t feel 100 percent fantastic when wearing something, get rid of it.”
5. “Which leads me to this: I think it’s better to aspire to being the editor of your wardrobe rather than a compulsive acquirer. I’m amazed at the size of some men’s wardrobes. How can you cherish something you only wear once a year? My tastes are always refining, and so I take as much pleasure in purging as I do in purchasing.”
A classic Apparel Arts golfing garb illustration by the great Laurence Fellowes.
4. “Since we’re not fortunate enough to live in a world bordered by the front and back covers of a 1936 issue of Apparel Arts, things like spectator shoes and ascots should be played down rather than up. The once or twice a year I wear an ascot, it’s with a frayed oxford shirt and a crewneck sweater. If I wear spectators it’s on the golf course, and with nondescript basics like gray pants and a tan cashmere v-neck.”
3. “One of the chief virtues of the Ivy/preppy/WASPy approach to dressing is the notion of being relatively dressed up for casual settings and relatively dressed down for formal ones. When wearing shorts, for example, the trad guy has on one of his buttondown-collar dress shirts, sleeves rolled up, and dress loafers, no socks — not a t-shirt and flip flops. Then when everyone’s dolled up in black tie, he’s got a pink buttondown under his dinner jacket, or something like that. I think it’s a solid approach to dressing regardless of whether or not you have a trust fund or Roman numeral after your name.”
Christian Chensvold in repose.
2. “Which leads me to the arrow concept. When putting together an outfit that either points up towards dressiness or down towards the casual, I prefer the arrow always be pointing down. Sportcoat instead of suit, slip-on instead of lace-up, Fred Astaire rather than Adolf Menjou, Brummell rather than d’Orsay. Who was it that said the greatest challenge in dressing is being elegant while casual? Rise to this challenge.”
1. “There was a woman who used to walk her dog past my home and she was just the chicest thing you’ve ever seen. She was in her fifties, tall, rail thin and blonde. She only wore the colors black and white, classic A-line dresses or capri pants, simple flat shoes, her hair pulled up and cinched with a bow or something, simple pearl necklace and sunglasses. She looked like a Hitchcock heroine, or that legendary socialite CZ Guest. I don’t know what the male equivalent is of that casually chic way of dressing is, but I’m still searching for it.”