Joseph Abboud’s Guide to Men’s Style

Joseph Abboud, the creative director of both his eponymous line of menswear and Men’s Wearhouse, moves with a certain quiet swagger that behooves his unimpeachable authority. Or maybe it’s just the suit he’s wearing. Since launching Joseph Abboud in 1987, the Massachusetts native—and author of Threads: My Life Behind the Seams in the High-Stakes World of Fashion—has designed clothing that is current but never trendy. “Fashion is fleeting, but style is timeless,” explains the 68-year-old, married father of two. “In menswear there’s a great distinction.” Abboud’s aesthetic is classic and the impeccable construction of his designs, made in his New Bedford, Massachusetts factory, rival anything found in Prato or Paris. In the run-up to his recent show, during February’s Men’s Fashion Week, we sat down with Abboud for a master class in menswear.  

Style is Seasonal
“Most guys will look for season-less suits, saying, ‘I need a year-round.’ Well, I believe in ‘season-ability’; otherwise, life is boring. If you are fortunate to live in New York, Chicago, or Boston, go out and buy a flannel suit. Life is short. In the summer, try linen. Linen is ancient. It was the material of the Pharaohs.”

Fit Comes First
“Guys have to understand who they are. Not every mature man is a 42 Short and overweight and not every young man is 6’2” and 140 pounds. It starts with understanding the comfort level of the fit, which is distinct from the cut. A cut can be a modern silhouette or a slim silhouette. The cut is how a suit is styled; fit is how it works for you. The first thing I always look at when a client comes is his chest and shoulders. If you get that fit right, the rest follows.”

A Choice Cut
“Know what’s right for your body type—some suits are way too tight (for men). Separate what you think the trend is and how the trend looks on you.”

Dash and Elegance
“Have a broad range of things in your wardrobe. Have a little courage. Get a double-breasted suit. Get a gray flannel suit. Don’t look the same every day. A few suits for work; and others should be to step out. The suit isn’t just Monday-Friday, nine-to-five. Throw on a scarf—be Rex Harrison. Have a little dash in your life. This is how guys can be elegant.”

Now Is Suitable
“Men should have four to five suits that are current. Often, a guy doesn’t know how to give up an old suit. And although menswear does move glacially, if you wait for five, six or seven years, a suit will look like old news. I recommend buying two suits a season and cycling those into your rotation while retiring the oldest suits.”

Language of Ties
“There have been awful ties for the last 30 years. Ties should be an accessory, not the main focus. I’ve always thought that a tie is to a man what scarves are to women. They send a message: Striped means more sincere; solid means more introverted, and flashier ties reflect the personality. Ties should be interesting. They should not take over.”

A Man’s Sole
“Shoes represent integrity and character. You can have a very inexpensive suit and wear it with nice shoes. I think three pairs of dress shoes are the minimum. You should have a good brown, black and luggage or a saddle tone shoe, which is a finish that is burnished.”

The Belt Way
“If you’ve got belt loops on a trouser, wear a belt. Otherwise, it looks like you forgot. The only exception: jeans. Wear a fresh white shirt with a pair of jeans and loafers or driving moccasins. You will feel like Robert Redford.”