Fred Astaire’s rules of style, distilled from an August 1957 interview with GQ. Fashions may change, but this stuff doesn’t (or shouldn’t):
He always has suits custom-tailored… “I usually take my suits back to the shop at least half a dozen times—too much shoulder or too loose or too tight. What I dislike is wearing a lot of material.”
He believes that his measure of male dress is basically British. “You have to give them credit. They have been very stable in their designing and tailoring. They hardly ever change.”
“I can’t comprehend red evening ties or fluffy shirt fronts or that sort of thing.”
In suitings, he prefers the sober colors such as dark blue, dark gray, and dark brown—”the only light color I like is light gray.”
“The coat should be just long enough to cover the rear,” he states. “The way most of them are today, they nearly reach the knees.”
On tailoring, he feels that all coats should have the British side-vents—”quite deep, about seven inches.” He favors two-button jackets, although he used to be an addict of three-buttoners at the age of 20. “I only button one,” he says, “and I think it looks better that way.”
His trousers are cuffed and inclined to be a little shorter than most—”I don’t want them slopping over onto my shoes.”
Except for full dress, he likes a soft shirt front, and light colors in the pink, blue, and tan range. “Once in a long while I’ll buy a striped shirt,” he adds.
He prefers a well-made buttoned cuff to French cuffs. In fact he never uses cufflinks except for formal dress… His daily jewelry is severely limited to a single gold-seal ring and the simplest tie accessories.
He likes a full tie, not the narrow ones. “I always like to use the Windsor knot,” he says… He points out that thinness seems to destroy an essential quality of dress, its style, by misuse in ties or lapels.
As for the collars, he dislikes the tab and prefers the button-down and the wide-spread collar— braced by stays.
In his own ties, he prefers a dark color and a very small pattern. He has only a couple of striped ties, emblematic of the clubs to which he belongs.
In the shoe department, Astaire possesses… more than 20 pairs… “It’s really very economical to have that many,” he asserts. “I have shoes today that are as good as when I bought them 20 years ago—and I assure you I have worn them many times.” … All his shoes are custom-made in London.
As for style and color, he prefers suede as a material and the loafer design. Most of his shoes, exclusive of the formal ones, are dark brown.
[In hats,] he likes low crowns and fairly narrow brims (about 2 1/8 inches because “an eighth of an inch can make a lot of difference in a brim”). The hat band should be of normal width—”no wide ones, no high crowns, no wide brims.” He wears them with an ordinary crease and abhors such developments as porkpies.
Handkerchiefs should be flipped out and folded into the pocket with an appearance of casualness, Astaire thinks. He does not like the square or folded style, nor the puff type that he describes “like a range of the Andes.”
In his socks, Astaire allows himself a little leeway. He likes wool in preference to silk and cotton… He is not too taken with synthetic fabrics of any kind. He is fond of some sort of pattern on his socks, based on a subdued background.
He dislikes shorts of any kind in public.
He is very fond of cardigan sweaters of all types.
His own preference for wear would be the ageless, conservative suiting, fabric, and color, complemented with shirt and tie each in its own distinctive small pattern or low-keyed color. The Astaire creed of dress is: “Be yourself—but don’t be conspicuous.”
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