Derrick Miller’s Menswear 10 Commandments
One of the sharpest characters in 21st century American menswear, Derrick Miller is the founder and creative director of Barker Black (British shoemaker Barker’s skull’n’bones-emblazoned premium spin-off) and alongside his brother Kirk, the co-founder of fine tailoring house, Miller’s Oath.
Miller got his start in the menswear game 15 years ago as a designer for Ralph Lauren. Did a little styling for GQ before that. The fella dresses goooood. Knows the rules. This is how he makes and breaks ’em.
10. “My father was an artist and from him I learned the art of self-expression with clothing. Mix and match patterns, use clothing like a palette of paints and challenge yourself every day to make a creative statement.”
9. “Real men polish their own shoes. Turn on a match, open a beer and spend some time taking care of your shoes. Shoes are like your finances, nobody cares about them more than you, and thus no one will do a better job looking after them than you.”
8. “Clothing is a way to differentiate yourself from the herd. Dressing has always been a very masculine endeavour steeped in tradition, militaria and self-challenge.”
7. “Put it together and wear it, don’t treat anything as too precious. Don’t continually primp and primp; create your look and don’t touch it again until you’re taking it off. There’s nothing less appealing that someone who keeps checking himself out or fussing with his outfit. If it is good, wear it confidently.”
6. “Sportcoat pockets are there to be used. My favorite jackets are the ones some farmer has used to death and done everything in so the pockets sag and the flaps are folded over and it looks well worn. If it fits well you should be able to do anything in it, if it breaks the line of the jacket so be it.”
5. “Look to history. You can learn a great deal from vintage. I learned a lot of what I know about the quality of menswear and tailoring at, of all places, the Salvation Army. They have a huge array of jackets and clothing from various time periods with amazing details. One of my favorite finds was a custom-made mid-century side vented suit jacket from Dunhill that has a satin strap across the back to keep the vents from blowing open.”
4. “Socks show personality. They are the cheapest way to make your look fresh and new, as are pocket squares and bowties.”
3. “Travelling, less is more. When I travel, I try to limit the number of jackets I bring and instead vary my assortment of pocket squares and ties. Changing a tie to a bow tie and swapping pocket squares makes a jacket look completely different.”
2. “Look for functional details. I was at my shirtmaker on Savile Row and saw a great shooting coat being created for a customer with lining in the back of the coat that laced like an old-fashioned football jersey; for shooting it gets loosened for comfort and then you cinch it in to be well fitted for dinner in the country.”
1. “Keep secrets. I always love to have a detail that only I know about, a formalwear shirt with a patchwork back, the pick axe motif on the gussets of all my Miller’s Oath shirts, the skull-and-bones punching of my opera pumps or hand-tacked on the sole of my Barker Black shoes. I have always liked these sort of internal secrets, they keep dressing fun and very personal. My father has a wing-collar shirt — the collar, cuffs and bib are white and every other piece of the pattern is a different colour stripe. In the tux he is perfectly acceptable, but take off the jacket…”
Shop Derrick Miller’s work for Barker Black at barkerblack.com, and peruse the Miller brothers’ custom and ready-to-wear tailored wares at millersoath.com
*Note: The makers of Barker shoes are entirely unrelated to the editor, Christian Barker. (How dare you suggest impropriety! I say good-day to you.)