This section of the book is from the "Household Companion: The Home Book Of Etiquette" book.
Buffon has remarked that a man's clothes are a part of himself, and enter into our conception of his character. And certainly no man who is experienced in the ways of the world and has any regard for social opinion can consider the question of dress as unimportant. We may excuse a man who dresses very negligently, but we rarely hold him in any high regard. Our conception of the interior qualities of a person is influenced, more than we are ordinarily aware, by his exterior appearance.
Walpole truly says : "We must speak to the eyes, if we wish to affect the mind."
In paying a visit, or in mingling in good society, it is complimentary to our hosts to be well dressed, and shows disregard of their wishes to be slovenly in attire. Even in a casual meeting, or in cases where the costume is likely to be of minor consideration, neat and careful dressing is very likely to be of advantage. A negligent attire indicates that a man is heedless of the opinions of others, and indifferent to their good will or respect.
A careful and neat attire, on the contrary, indicates a man who has a regard for himself and for the sentiments of others, one who finds pleasure in social intercourse, and loves to mingle in the society of his fellows. It is a kind of general offer of acquaintance, and proves a willingness to be accosted. Dress is the livery of good society, and he who would advance in the profession of pleasing must pay due regard to his outward aspect.
Dress is also significant of inner feeling, and expresses qualities of mind which are likely to affect the outward conduct. That courtier was not far astray who dated the beginning of the French Revolution from the day when a nobleman appeared at Versailles without buckles on his shoes.
Fashion is called a despot; but if men are willing to be its slaves, we cannot, and ought not, to upbraid fashion. In truth, the man who rebels against fashion is often more open to the imputation of vanity than he who obeys it, because he makes himself conspicuous, and practically announces that he is wiser than his kind. Affectation is always the essence of vulgarity. Between the two it is left to the man of sense and modesty to follow fashion only so far as not to make himself peculiar by opposing it, and in whatever he does or whatever he wears to let good taste, common sense, and a proper regard for the opinion of his fellows be the guides of his conduct.
A prime requisite in dress is its simplicity, with which may be coupled harmony of color. This simplicity is the only distinction which a man of taste should aspire to in the matter of dress, for simplicity in appearance must proceed from a nicety in reality. One should not be simply ill-dressed, but simply well-dressed.
All extravagance, all over display, and all profusion must be avoided. The colors, in the first place, must harmonize both with our complexion and with one another; perhaps most of all with the color of our hair. All bright colors should be avoided, even in gloves and neck-ties. The deeper colors are, somehow or other, more manly, and are certainly less striking. The same simplicity should be studied in the avoidance of ornamentation.