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The Fashion Rules To Break

Posted by Rishi Chullani on

Ryan MacMorris

In the world of fashion, and especially in menswear, you quickly learn that there are a whole lot of fashion rules. Later on however, you learn that those rules that you have been attempting to abide by are actually broken all the time by some of the most stylish people you see on tv and in magazines. It could be said that knowing the rules of fashion in menswear is the first step to dressing better and minimizing the risk of making fashion faux pas’ or becoming a monotonous dresser. The second step is knowing the fashion rules to break and when to break them, making you a stylish, adventurous and “expert” dresser. Breaking rules while still appearing to be formally dressed is one of the harder things to do in menswear so below we will look at some of the easiest rules of fashion to break in order to step up your fashion game. Knowing the fashion rules to break is a great way to spruce up an outfit in an otherwise dull setting, however it is important to make sure that you only break one fashion rule at a time in order to still appear fashionably educated.

One of the best places to break or bend the rules of fashion is down low. When looking at a formal outfit you usually look from top to bottom. A well placed tie and pocket square with all of the right accoutrements will give you room to be a bit crazy when the eye finally drifts to the bottom of an outfit. If you have talked to older generations or read up a bit on the rules of fashion then you have most likely heard that your socks should be similar to your pants or something like black, grey or navy in color. However, in recent years this has become one of the fashion rules to break.

The first way to go against convention with your socks is to wear socks that are loud, but coincide with the rest of your outfit. Match an otherwise boring tie with socks of the same color and you can still appear formal while expressing some of your personality. A great way to do this is to use argyle socks with the same colors as a plaid tie to tie them together. Matching your socks and ties the slightest bit will help your bold sock choices to work with the rest of your outfit in a formal setting, instead of seeming jarringly out of place.

Argyle Socks

Argyle socks that match or resemble a plaid tie are a great way for a gentleman to break out of the traditional fashion mould.  Courtesy of

Yet another way to use your feet to add some style to a formal outfit is to not wear any socks at all. Socklessness has become one of the most classically accepted forms of “fashionable rebellion” as men all over the globe have started showing some of their ankles in the warmer months. A well-fitted suit and a some nice loafers let you break some of fashion’s traditions with an otherwise classic look; going sockless in loafers is the safest option on this list for those who are looking to break the rules, but don’t want to raise too many eyebrows.

Sockless Suits

A Suit without socks is the modern gentleman's way of showing style whilst being somewhat nonchalant.  Courtesy of

Another way to attract some attention by going against the normal fashion rules is to do so with your tie. There are really a few ways to break tradition with your tie while still look put together and fashionably knowledgeable. The best ways to do so are to use a tie that just generally stands out, or to wear a patterned tie with a patterned shirt. In men’s formal fashion you will continually be told that your tie should never be lighter than your shirt, but if done tastefully this is fashion rule that can make you look more daring and stylish. Pairing a patterned tie with a patterned shirt is another rule that requires a bit of fashion savvy to break well. Check out the tie pairing guide to see the number of different ways to pair different patters to make you stand out while you fit in.

Patterned Tie with a Patterned Shirt

Pairing a patterned tie with a patterned shirt goes against many conventions of wearing a patterned tie against a solid shirt or vice versa.  If pulled off correctly, two patterns will definitely make heads turn!  Courtesy of

In formal menswear there are only a few suit colors that are truly “allowed”. Black, gray, brown, and navy are the colors that are often cited as official colors suited for the workplace. However, if you are looking to stand out without coming off as too fashionable to be formal, you can opt for a dark colored suit that doesn’t belong to these colors. A dark red suit can still come off as formal and even dark green suits can be pulled off if done correctly. One of the safest ways to go is to expand your definition of navy and opt for non-traditional blues for your suit. Blue is one of the most classic colors in menswear and so can come off as formal while still being fashionable very easily.

Men’s fashion is all about the details. Small details like the dimple in a tie, the width of a lapel and the amount of cuff showing are all thoughtful decisions for each man to make when getting dressed. A great way to think of fashion is to take what Hardy Amies once said to heart, “A man should look as if he has bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care and then forgotten all about them”. Your wardrobe and outfit should be chosen carefully, but after that no amount of worrying will help things look right, confidence can sometimes be the style accessory that pulls the whole outfit together.

Knowing the fashion rules to break is a tough thing to grasp and truly changes with what you are wearing and where you will be wearing it. Breaking the rules of fashion while still appearing formally dressed is something that has been done for many years by stylish gentleman. The Italian word of ‘sprezzatura’ perfectly defines the art of purposefully breaking fashion’s rules while maintaining a sense of formality. Sprezzatura is an often talked about phenomenon of ironically purposeful fashion faux pas’. Things like a perfectly fitted suit with too much cuff showing in order to emphasize the cufflinks you are wearing is just one example of sprezzatura in action. If you aren’t ready for the sartorial precision that sprezzatura demands some of the fashion rules laid out above are the perfect place to start.

What are your favorite ways of breaking conventional fashion rules?  We'd love to hear your comments below!


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