The State of Menswear According to Alan Flusser

February 16th, 2015

Alan Flusser wrote the rulebook of classic menswear. Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion has sold more than 190,000 copies and has been one of the most influential texts in men’s fashion. It’s a must-read for anyone looking to learn the foundations of traditional menswear.

In addition to being a best-selling author, Alan has been a custom clothier in New York City for more the 25 years, working with some of the world’s most discerning clientele, as well as creating wardrobes for iconic film characters like Gordon Gekko in Wall Street.

We recently had the honor to spend an afternoon with Alan at his midtown manhattan store, talking shop and getting to know the man behind the book.
As you might expect from a man who wrote a rulebook on dressing and has spent his time with the world’s dandiest dressers, Alan describes his style as “somewhat snobbish and self-absorbed.” Nevertheless, his breadth of knowledge and candor offer useful insights for anybody interested in personal style. Alan was good enough to share with us his uncensored thoughts on the current state of the menswear industry, the rise of the fashion blogger, and how to become a better dresser.

On the State of Men’s Style

mensstylealanflusser (5 of 27)

“If I had to grade the menswear industry based on the number of well-dressed men they turned out every year, it would be hard to give them anything other than an F. Considering, if you will, all the menswear industries in each country around the world, all the men’s specialty and department stores, wholesale businesses, designer fashions, fashion schools, men on the street, etc…and all Vanity Fair (or any other like organization or authority compiling a yearly best dressed list) can unearth (after you subtract those men proposed because of their celebrity) is maybe three or four legitimate candidates each year. Someone has to explain this to me.

Unless you want to absolve the menswear industry from any responsibility in the matter, by any standard or measure, this has to be considered somewhere between highly curious and a disastrous state of affairs.”

mensstylealanflusser (21 of 27)

“The place to see men dressing with some real panache is mostly on the street. There are those men around the world who do dress stylishly, however the majority are not famous nor in the public’s eye. How they managed to forge a genuine sense of personal style is beyond me because to do so nowadays requires considerable determination and resourcefulness. The sheer volume of poor advice on the subject of dressing now virtually overwhelms that of a more informed nature…  Although the interest quotient in men’s fashion as never been higher, so is the ignorance quotient.”

mensstylealanflusser (6 of 27)

“I used to advise young men interested in learning how to dress well to find someone selling clothes who dressed like he wanted to and ask him to recommend a few things to wear, even if they were too expensive. Then he could go elsewhere and try to find something similar at a more affordable price. However the number of capably dressed salespeople at retail has steadily decreased over time.

There is no apprentice-like system to train and educate sales people in what they need to know in order to sell clothing intelligently, not to mention how to help dress other men.”

mensstylealanflusser (7 of 27)

“I think the emergence of the fashion blogger has, on balance, been of enormous value. There are now a number of self-educated, intelligent, well-informed voices now putting out some well-considered, dependable advice as it pertains to timeless style and heritaged menswear taste. Most of these bloggers are men who have developed a serious personal interest in the subject and now feel encouraged to share their insights and experiences with others. For me, this is one of the most encouraging developments in my time.”

mensstylealanflusser (8 of 27)

On His Personal Style

mensstylealanflusser (24 of 27)

“My dressing style is one of some contradiction, while I have never let classical boundaries or traditional high-class guidelines dictate my own taste in clothes, they play a very large role in how I think about the overall subject. And in lock-step with other self-proclaimed sartorial masters of the universe, I have always dressed only for myself. 

As you’ve photographed me in my office, I’m pretty dressed-up; ties, pocket squares, colors, patterns and stuff. It all pretty fanciful. Actually, I spend more time in more simple casual clothes these days because one, they are very comfortable and two, because I’m working three days a week on my new book at my house in South Hampton where such clothes are the preferred mode of choice.”

mensstylealanflusser (25 of 27)

“Starting in the late 1970s, there was a hard-core group of like-obsessed sartorialists who wore only their own custom made clothes. Writer Tom Wolfe, pianist/singer Bobby Short, artist and dandy Richard Merkin and myself made up its epicenter around which people like lawyer Eddie Hayes, Paris’s Michel Barnes, and socialite Ed Ullman would drift in and out. We all loved clothes, thought the fashions of the day a frivolous and a sorry distraction. Ours was a focus on supposed sartorial erudition as whether so and so was still the best shirt maker in Paris or who in London had the best selection of to-attach stiff shirt collars, etc. It was elitist and snobbish and you had to know your stuff. We all had so much fun, teasing each other about their obvious lack of good taste.”

mensstylealanflusser (22 of 27)

“Mine is a mélange of idiosyncratic frivolity tempered by hopefully, high-brow taste. What a mouthful, that has to sound somewhat snobbish and self-absorbed, and I must admit, many times it is. However, since a young man, I’ve never shied away from wearing clothes that others didn’t understand or appreciate. Even then I was arrogant enough to believe I knew more than my critics.

My personal style spans from head-to-foot, one-of-a-kind bespoke clothes where the suit fabric, necktie, shirt fabric, sock, and shoe can be of my own design (what you see here) – to Adidas soccer pants, Puma sneakers, Rolling Stones tee shirt, and bespoke sport jacket with an Hermes silk/cashmere neckerscarf… Other than Ralph Lauren who will wear his own brand of informed eccentricity, I don’t know anybody who mixes as many different dressing genres as much as I.  An example –  London bespoke square-toe silver thread embroidered velvet slippers with Puma Dri- Fit running bottoms and a custom made cashmere sport jacket.”

mensstylealanflusser (27 of 27)mensstylealanflusser (30 of 1)

On Becoming a Better Dresser

mensstylealanflusser (1 of 27)

“It has never been harder for a man to learn how to dress well. Because so much of the early learning process depends on the correct information, this is a gigantic stumbling block which is not getting any smaller.

Here are some starting points for someone looking to becoming a better dresser:

1.    Take total personal responsibility for the buying of your clothes and the development of your style-learning curve.

2.    Read every Apparel Arts, pre-1945 Esquire Magazine, and 1930’s, 40s, and 50s Adam Magazine that you can get your hands on.

3.    Do not buy anything that you cannot envision yourself wearing in ten years.”

mensstylealanflusser (2 of 27)

4.    Learn what proportion of clothes fits your body and why; what colors flatter your individual complexion and why. Did I mention why – that’s the essential part of the equation. As an example, which collar shape most flatters your face and why? What’s the ideal jacket length for your body and why, and so on.

5.    Fashion means those clothes that are deemed important and stylish at a particular moment in time. As time changes, so does fashion. You must learn to separate fashion from style, the first is tied to time, and the latter is not. Whether a particular look is right for you, for your complexion or for your build is not a question of fashion, but of anchoring long term style based on its two benchmarks – your personal architecture and complexion. They should drive each and every fashion or style decision.   

6.    Dressing well is much less complicated and difficult than generally thought to be, the challenge is getting the right information for you and you alone.”

mensstylealanflusser (3 of 27)

7.  Learning how to dress well is an art form, okay a minor one. Before you can bend or even break the rules, you need to know what they are and how they relate to your own physique and complexion. These rules speak to how’s and why’s of sartorial correctness. After getting to know them better, then, and only then, should you try pushing against them to begin building an enduring, long term, and personalized dressing style – the ultimate goal. There are no shortcuts here. Should anyone doubt the value of knowing about sartorial correctness relative to holding fashion’s excesses at bay, a quick look at any Oscar Awards from the past thirty years will confirm just how far afield the uninitiated lad can be led. Armed with the new-age encyclical of “doing your own thing,” tradition-emancipated men wander about looking like victims of some failed fashion Ponzi scheme.

8.  And lastly, anyone who pays someone else to pick out his clothes will never learn how to dress well. Look at Hollywood with its bevy of red carpet stylists, not a male film star who knows the first thing about how to dress stylishly or himself.  “

mensstylealanflusser (4 of 27)

Thanks, as always, for reading and special thanks to Mr. Flusser for participating!

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier

Shop Custom Menswear Made in America


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  • Wjr.

    love the advice on dressing well and individual style , a true Icon in world of Menswear.

  • Pankaj Dwivedi


  • Tyler

    When enjoying profiles on these subjects I find that the comments validate the concept of “personal style” and it’s subjective nature. I am sure all of you dress well, are pleased with your appearance and receive positive as well as negative reviews of your own personal style. The fact that so many disagree is what makes it so wonderful. What a shame if we all walked out tomorrow morning dressed the same. I gentlemen, am a peacock. I also have been fortunate enough to have been educated and had clothes made by Mr. Flusser and his talented staff. As for his style, I believe “Elegant, Fuck You” is appropriate. Next time you are in NYC, you should stop by for a visit. You will never be greeted by an arrogant, snobbish man. Rather a gracious warm fellow interested in you.

  • Vic

    While I don’t have anything against his personal style and I think he gives some really good advice I feel there is a glaring flaw here. He totally fails to take into account culture, nationality and the pop culture. If I look in a pre 1945 fashion mag there will probably be no other culture represented except the white middle/upper class. There will be no rock and roll, no hip hop and no articles of other cultures and their traditions. There will be lots of suits, shirts and ties and I love a good suit and tie but I realize that’s very western-centric and I really appreciate other cultures fashion sense and love seeing it integrated in menswear.

  • Tony Eugene Parham Jr.

    a true dandy. we are fathers of new menswear creations. we push boundaries. we are the fearless.

  • AdamE

    This is a great piece. I’ll give the haters that he’s certainly dressed flamboyantly, and in a way that not many can pull off, and several won’t understand…. That said, I agree with virtually every word he said in the profile. Especially the advice section on dressing better. I would say a little less arrogantly about the plethora of misinformation out there, but I agree, that there’s lots of advice out there, and some of it guides towards trendiness rather than timelessness, but ultimately what most of the advice on the internet can’t tell you is the foundation of personal style, the fits, colours and fabrics that are best for your body and complexion… That you can only learn by trying stuff on and perhaps the input from someone you trust… Once you have that down, then you’re armed to synthesize the plethora of information out there and filter what makes sense for you.

  • Das Chaussures

    Best article ever on this site.

  • MN

    I don’t understand why people keep trying to make “style” or “fashion” into more than it is.

    We are just a bunch of hobbyists indulging in something we happen to like for the sake of impressing other people.

    There is no “timeless” style. It changes all the time. That’s why its interesting.

    These guys trying to put their style on a pedestal and elevate the whole thing to something more than it is come off as silly in my opinion.

    • Juan Zara

      Suit, shirt, tie, shoes. It’s been worn for over a hundred years, how is it not timeless?

      • Vic

        In the west maybe but a lot of things have been around for hundreds of years in other places that I’d never wear since it’s not part of my cultural context. You can’t just disregard cultural heritage when talking about style and fashion and hence style and fashion will always be fluid and personal.

        • Juan Zara

          Style is personal, nobody is debating that. And I agree I would feel awkward and uncomfortable wearing a kurta.

          But in the West, as you call it (although the ensemble I was referring to is common all around the world, even places where “cultural heritage” is very important,) style has evolved through the centuries and varied greatly, until in the early 1900s, a convenient “uniform” that highlighted men’s assets and hid their flaws was found. A shorter jacket that hit just below the seat, a pair of long pantaloons, low-quartered shoes, and a long tie around the neck.

          The combination of clothes was so popular indeed that people all around the world adopted it. People who previously wore kurtas, boubous and changshans. And that’s simply because a kurta, a boubou or a changshan don’t look as good as a suit and tie, proportion-wise.

          The “lounge suit” was studied so as to make one look taller (long trousers that sit at the natural waist, but don’t extend past the top of the shoe to give the impression of long legs, as opposed to the tight breeches that noblemen wore and wide pantaloons that peasants wore in the 1700s-early 1800s; long tie so as to lengthen the torso as opposed to bows), wider in the shoulders and slimmer in the waist.

          It’s a combination that looks good on 99.9999% of men, because the proportions flatter the male body. And style is about proportion. There’s a reason the lounge suit has stuck for going on a hundred years, while every other “fashion” has died within a shorter period of time.

  • Ilya

    His style is definitely too flashy for most people.

  • MS

    Jesus goddamn it is refreshing to hear an intelligent person discuss clothing.

    “Should anyone doubt the value of knowing about sartorial correctness relative to holding fashion’s excesses at bay, a quick look at any Oscar Awards from the past thirty years will confirm just how far afield the uninitiated lad can be led. Armed with the new-age encyclical of “doing your own thing,” tradition-emancipated men wander about looking like victims of some failed fashion Ponzi scheme.”

    This sums up in totality almost perfectly how I feel about A LOT of the other profiles on this blog as of late.

  • Caboom

    I respect what this man has to say. Some may argue that his style is too-classic/old-school…I choose to appreciate the personality of his clothes!

    • ABC

      Who in the literal hell would argue that his style–full of every color imaginable and peak lapels–is too classic? He purposefully attempts to break a rule or two with every outfit, beginning with how damned long his trousers are.

      • Caboom

        haha gotta agree with you. Don’t even know what ‘too-classic’ means when I think about it. What I was trying to say is I’m not a big fan how his personal style, but I respect his wealth of experience in the industry.

      • gib9230 .

        Ahh, you like those high-water pants circa 1917 that might be in vogue for another few years before it’s dated, again, as it should be. Good for you…maybe.

  • Bren

    Because of Dressing the Man, I know what colors and contrast an outfit should have. He also goes over proportion in the book and as well as in some online videos. I would take his sartorial advice over anyone else.

  • Juan Zara

    After reading this, I feel obliged to say thank you to Dan, Alex, Wes and the rest of the AoS crew for the great amount of exceptional profiles as of late. Wanny Di Filippo, Leonard Logsdail, and now Alan Flusser. And those are just off the top of my head. Thank you guys for such incredible content.

    I knew this editorial was coming, and was eagerly waiting to read it as I knew it was going to be a memorable article, but, as usual when reading Alan Flusser’s words, I found myself smiling and grinning at just how true everything he said is.
    I never fully agree with anyone when it comes to pretty much everything, especially clothes. But I tend to wholeheartedly agree with pretty much everything this man has wrote on the subject, especially (and I know it’s been said millions of time but people still don’t quite prioritize this!) the bits about timelessness, proportions and complexion.

    You’d be amazed at how great of an impact dressing in a harmonious kind of way can have. As Mr. Flusser wrote on “Dressing the Man”, one’s attire should only escort the beholder’s attention to one’s face, in the smoothest way possible, and that would be impossible to pull off wearing clothes that don’t fit, flatter and compliment oneself in both shape and color.

    So many people forget all about this (and I’m talking about the so-called “savvy” guys here, not the clueless idiots from Hollywood) and think that because something works so great for someone, it will work just as well for them. This is bullshit, and 99% of the time what works for somebody won’t work for you. I like the 7-button waistcoats Dan wears, but I’m not 6’2″; I know it just won’t work for me and I’ve made my peace with it.

    Mr. Flusser is right: today’s interest in men’s fashion is unmatched, but the ignorance on the subject is also as high as it’s ever been. And, again, I’m speaking about the so-called savvy guys who drool over hand-cut frog-mouth lapels and “antiqued” patinas on shoes here, I’m not even considering “fashion experts” from Mr. Porter and the like. These are the guys that misinform men (including Hollywood men, who in turn misinform more men, on a wider scale), and that is why, as someone who works in retail, I can say the shopping experience is every bit as unsatisfying from the sales assistant’s point of view. It’s sad having to argue with rich, middle-aged men who think they are “in” and style-conscious because they read GQ, about whether dark chocolate shoes go with charcoal and navy blue suits.

    I know the bit about the vintage AA/Esquire magazines comes off as pretentious and snobbish, but I feel it’s hard to find a modern publication that highlights all of the above as well as they do. I have learned more about color combination, complexion and clothes in general from Laurence Fellows’s, Robert Goodman’s and Leslie Saalburg’s illustrations of exceptionally well-dressed men from the 30s than from anywhere else.
    Read these magazines and inspect the illustrations and you’ll find the same five-stripe windowpane (is that a glenplaid with a shepherd’s check instead of a houndstooth in the first look?) and shadow-check patterns Mr. Flusser is wearing here. You’ll then realize how exclusive, tasteful and rare to find these fabrics are today, and how stupid you sound when you say he’s not well-dressed.

    Sorry for the endless comment, I just felt this gentleman deserved to know about my infinite admiration of him (although I doubt he will read this). Thank you again for such a great article!

  • Miguel

    I know some might say he’s not dressed nice but he said it from the beginning, he’s self center in his outfits but one thing is for sure, what he said is the truth, just watch the Oscars and Grammy and you’ll a lot of men with no idea of what they’re wearing.

    Another truth he said, model yourself from someone else, ask questions and try to come close to their clothing based on your budget, body and find a good (friend) tailor.

  • Designstudent

    No one outside of Styleforum or Ask Andy would ever consider Flusser an expert. There are more tailors, with more experience who create better clothes. In school we don’t even consider Flusser when we talk about Classic men’s tailors.

    • cam

      i don’t believe he is a tailor or claims to be one. he teaches men how to dress and is an author.

      • LCP

        The intro describes him as a “clothier” and he’s standing over a bunch of bolts of fabric so he kinda looks like a tailor.

        • LCP

          hey my reply reads kinda snarkey, didn’t mean it that way!

        • cam

          i hope when im standing in a garage, i dont ‘kinda’ look like a car

        • Papi Moscow

          custom clothier isn’t the same thing as a tailor. But I think most guys aren’t aware of this because so many custom clothiers try to pass themselves off as Bespoke tailors. But this isn’t what Flusser is doing.

    • Guest

      You are confusing a stylist with a tailor.

  • cam

    so much truth from mr flusser that i dont even know where to begin. im glad that someone has the gall to call out people such as celebs and the ilk that others praise for great style. well done

  • Dan

    He is not even well dressed!

    • cam

      can i down vote this comment?

    • Papi Moscow

      lol. For a guy his age & body type, he looks pretty well dressed imo. It can’t all be skin tight cuts & razor thin lapels with ridiculous amounts of accessories all the time.

      • tommyjohn_45

        I think the fact that he comes across as an arrogant prick, and wears a style that like he says, most won’t appreciate, is the issue here. There are too many assholes in fashion, which has created a community that often attacks each other, rather than appreciating people’s choice for what it is. If I were walking down the street and passed Alan, i would appreciate his bold approach. However, after reading this, all I want to do is find reasons to dislike it.

        Sure, there are a ton of celebrities/public figures who represent what’s considered “fashionable”, yet don’t have a clue about style, but you can’t really blame them. Like it’s said on AOS so often, developing style can take years and years of studying and figuring out what works for you. Some people just don’t have that time or desire. Should we frown upon them for seeking professional assistance?

    • AFH

      Late to the party. His style is definitely busy. He’s wearing the slipper mostly because he’s ‘home’ presumably; stick him in a pair of shoes and the socks are less obvious which will bring a few of the looks down. The best look, I think, is the one where he wears the plain trousers and shirt.

    • c.Washington

      Alan flusser is very well dressed . The pictures comes across not so good on his clothing. The fabrics in the suits the he’s wearing really have to be seen in reality or in person if you will. You have to get up close on the fabrics because from a photography distance it does not come off well. This man is a master designer and men’s style master. His style is that of prince Charles or any sartorial dressed guy. He brings forth patterns of contradictions within a sartorial capsule of style. I’ve met met in new York and I’ve seen him dressed in conservative patterns for years. In this article I see him in bold plaid patterns but the photography is throwing it off a bit because you have to see the patterns up close. Alan flusser has been around for years and one the best designers from the 70s up to perhaps the 2000s in the ready to wear market. I remember a GQ ad for neiman Marcus featuring a wool flannel separated paisley shirt suspenders connected to trousers tabs viewing from the back and flannel English side tap trousers….powerful!…I was about 20 years of age and I saved my dollars to get that shirt and.the trousers…we are talking mid to early eighties…I was a flusser fan ever since.

  • James Wong

    Great article! Nice change from usual posts and it’s good to get into the mind of someone who’s been in the game this long.

    I couldn’t help but read it in a posh, pretentious British accent though, even if Alan is American!

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