Sunday Book Review: The Handbook of Style

As a rule, I don’t recommend books that are mere compilations of magazine articles.  They are usually poorly edited, and tend to appeal mainly to the audience that already subscribes to the print publication.  Those readers are in on all of the disjointed editorial jokes, and the collected features might provide a nostalgic chuckle, or two, before the book gets lost beneath a thick layer of dust.  The book probably came as a sweetener to a subscription renewal anyway, so no big loss.   The Handbook of Style published by the folks at Esquire is an exception.  Yes, the book was first published back in 2009, but it is still a useful resource for the man who is shaping his own style in the ever-swirling world of men’s fashion.  A good book on men’s style, and there are a few, doesn’t depend on what struts down a seasonal runway.  The editors have kept it simple, walking the reader through all aspects of wardrobe, from suiting to accessories.  Each section is introduced by an essay that weaves the subsequent content together and even gives historical context to the development of each aspect of style.  The articles and illustrations themselves offer useful tidbits like how many buttons your suits should have to best fit your body type and different ways to knot your ties to match the collars of your dress shirt.  These pearls of wisdom might not only change how the world views you, but how you view yourself.  That anxiety you once had because you weren’t sure how to wear the folds of a cummerbund will vanish.  Your confidence will grow and you will be tempted to experiment with how you style yourself — do so.  I dare you to match the style of Fiat heir Gianni Agnelli and wear a watch outside your tightly buttoned cuff.  Pictures, pithy quotes from style notables, and drawings demonstrating concepts are legion.  Each section is concluded by an overview of a few companies offering items or services like those described in the text.  Yes, you might know all about Dunhill, but how much do you know about Valextra?  Use this book as a browsing resource and you can spend an evening looking through websites full of beautifully crafted wares — even if you don’t have the luxury to walk into an Hermes or Tod’s boutique.  This book is a great introduction and guide to what a man should know about styling himself and the tools he has at his disposal.

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