I wanted to delve into the mind of one of Melbourne’s menswear lovers – somebody who works outside of the fashion scene, has no bias toward any brand, and has formed his own educated opinion on clothing. The other day I sat down with Gerry Nelson, the Melbourne man who has one of the most enviable sartorial wardrobes around. Gerry doesn’t spend big on “designer.” He knows what to buy, when to buy it, and how much to buy it for. I talked to him about how this expertise came to be, and how you are able to begin your journey down the same path of sartorial enlightenment.
Where/how did you first do your research into menswear, and how would you go about it now?
I first became acquainted with menswear while flicking through the pages of GQ and Giorgio Armani catalogues back in the ’90s, trying to mimic the styling on the models and not getting very far!. It wasn’t until I properly started researching menswear back in 2011 where websites such as Put This On and StyleForum introduced me to guidelines such as fit, fabric and colour combinations. I’ve formed many great friendships through Styleforum (especially via the Australian Members thread). These friends have influenced me strongly in the way I dress, and continue to be great sources of information when I want to find specific pieces.
If I was starting my journey again, there are a few articles and blogs I would find invaluable as sources of style inspiration:
Put This On’s The Essential Men’s Wardrobe would be my first port of call, which is a list that contains pretty much every basic piece a man needs for any occasion.
I would also be regularly checking out the eBay Round Up article in Put This On for the items I needed. They’ve done the work in finding some great stuff on eBay and save me a lot of time and money in the process.
Once I had the basics, i’d decide the direction in which I would want to point my style depending on my personal taste. For example, I would try to gauge whether the way I wanted to dress was more akin to “American Ivy,” “The British Gentleman,” “The Italian Industrialist,” or perhaps more along the lines of streetwear. After finding the style I enjoy most, I would look at lots of pictures (say on the What Are You Wearing Right Now thread on StyleForum, The Armoury blog, the Linen For Summer, Tweed For Winter blog and too many others to mention) and see what appealed to my sense of style – not just what looked great on the person in the picture but what I would feel comfortable wearing for whatever I do everyday.
The key is to be relaxed and comfortable in whatever you wear. If you are not comfortable wearing certain things, it will show and people around you will pick up on it.
I would also get to know the staff in my favourite menswear stores, once they know my style and size they will be able to inform me about the fit of the brands they stock and what might suit me each time I visit them. I would buy accessories (ties, pocket squares) and the best footwear my budget permits. I would also take my time – there’s no rush as these items will be quality, and i’d use them year after year.
What makes you deliberately seek out quality clothes, even though they might cost more?
I think that quality clothes look better as they age and feel better the more they are worn. If you are willing to wait for new season items to go on sale and occasionally buy secondhand, you don’t necessarily have to spend alot. Sometimes there are really great things to be had in thrift shops, but you really need to be able to recognise quality, know what you’re looking for, and disregard the labels.
Why do you spend more on a garment you feel is worth the money?
I tend to spend more on pieces that are hard to find and I will get alot of use out of. However sometimes it is purely because I give in to temptation!
What are your favourite pieces in your wardrobe and why?
My favourite pieces are versatile, and can be worn for many occasions and situations. I have a considerable amount of items I love in my wardrobe, but the following are my go-to pieces:
My navy “open weave” sportscoat works well with nearly all the trousers I own. When I can’t think of what to wear, I can throw it on together with a white shirt, brown tie, grey trousers, white linen pocket square and suede shoes and know that I look presentable in nearly any situation.
My dark brown suede chukka boots are comfortable and work well with jeans, chinos, grey wool or flannel trousers.
My navy field jacket is the more casual version of the open weave sportscoat. I’ll wear this with a white shirt, jeans/chinos and and a pair of suede chukka boots and away I go.
Any pieces that you dream of owning, but are just out of reach?
At this point, I don’t really have anything that I dream of that is out of reach. I’ve found that there are acceptable substitutes most of the time. However, this could easily change at anytime!
Any general advice for us average dudes wanting to step up our sartorial menswear game?
Get the basics first while focusing on fit and quality. Learn how to polish your shoes, iron your shirts and tie your tie with a four-in-hand knot. The time you put into learning these things will pay off.
Most of all, enjoy wearing your clothes!