Iconic Men's Accessories
by Josh Sims
Review by David Newton
Josh Sims has been a busy guy. Last year we reviewed his book on street fashion and how it has affected the mainstream and now we have the opportunity to enjoy his latest tome: The Details: Iconic Men's Accessories (published by Laurence King).
Sims is the kind of fashion writer we like: thorough, detailed and deeply aware of how clothing fits into history. In this age when anyone who vaguely likes fashion can appoint themselves a style "expert" and set up a blog, without bothering to study the long and fascinating history of clothing, Sims shows how it's done. His many books reveal an inquiring mind that delves way beyond the surface and examines in detail what all these bits and pieces that make up men's clothing actually are, where they came from, and why they exist.
The book is divided up into ten convenient chapters: Boots, Shoes, Formal Headwear, Casual Headwear, Underwear, Watches & Jewellery, Bags, Grooming, Accessories and Tools. And each of these categories has its own sub-sections that highlight the best and most relevant examples of the type. For instance (because it's included in the title of the book) Accessories encompasses Braces, Ties, Pocket Squares, Gloves, Belts and Wallets. As will be obvious from this small list alone, several categories throughout the book detail clothing and accessories that are disappearing from the wardrobes of modern males. Pocket squares, braces, vests and formal hats are not considered everyday wear now, and only really appear on chaps who are "dressing up" and consciously evoking a bygone era.
However, much of the fascination in this book comes from the realisation that males today are still wearing clothing items from the past century that have hardly changed in their form and function. We still wear brogues, T-shirts, boxer shorts, jeans and ties that look just as they did decades ago. How many women can say they have items in their wardrobe that look completely modern, and yet could have been made in the 1950's, for instance?
Of course the main reason for this is that men's fashion is far more restricted that women's: males are simply not "allowed" as much range to express themselves with their appearance. (Strange, as the male of most species is by far the more ornate, compared to the female). Therefore guys have to stick with the tried and tested, they have "perfected" certain basics over many years, that lie outside of the whims of fashion, and, as Sims astutely observes, this leaves them the scope to play with the details of their dress in an almost anal way that you just do not see in the female world. We've all encountered (and hopefully not been!) the guy who obsesses over his trainers, his cufflinks, the selvedge on his jeans, or his watch. Sexist generalisation alert: women simply do not tend to get so blinkered about a detail; because round the corner may be coming the opportunity to radically alter their entire silhouette.
Filled with great illustrations, The Details is a lot of fun to dip in and out of. And there are many curveballs: who would expect the main, full-page image to illustrate satchels would be a picture of... Chewbacca from Star Wars?! The unexpected is what keeps this book feeling fresh and new...so my only slight niggle is the cover image...bloody Paul Newman...again! Time to establish some new male style icons if you want to appeal to the under-40's, I think!
The Details: Iconic Men's Accessories by Josh Sims features 250 illustrations on 176 pages
Paperback, published by Laurence King
ISBN 978 1 78067 609 8