Basic black lessons from a fashion guru for men

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

Rare is the man who didn't wonder if his attire suited an occasion. But don't expect him to admit that.

The GQ man finds his style proudly, remotely, and rightfully so. With grand respect for the aficionado who caters to his appearance, I tip my column to them and their oh-so fabulous mode of apparel.

My Gucci-chic sister from New York City visited San Francisco last week, an occasion as rare as wearing white shoes after Labor Day. The culture shock was evident seconds after she deplaned; we didn't greet Candace as fast as she expected and were accused of being slow like the West Coast. Lovely.

Later in the trip, we met up in San Francisco and visited the Diesel store in the Castro. Within seconds, I watched Candace take control. She had a salesman fill a dressing room with Diesel attire inside of two minutes flat.

Sidebar: I was very impressed by the service and quality of Diesel. Two pairs of jeans and three black sweaters later, we collaborated with our Versace-chap confidant, Marc (a fashion guru for men), at a local restaurant and discussed what's hot. The sweater choice was prescient. Black is where it's at.

One of the beauties of black is that you can never go wrong with it. And although technically black is not a color, the shade represents an infusion of class and style. This season, the classic black tuxedo is mixed with a contemporary sensibility.

For example, a modern look by Helmut Lang consists of a white cashmere melton coat worn over black twill tuxedo pants and a black cotton shirt. Accent this with a white cotton or silk scarf to create an elegant expression.

A classy look doesn't always require a tuxedo. For that special occasion that occurs in a lax atmosphere, black in other forms still works wonders.

"Black denim pants with a white shirt and a black jacket is a handsome look," Marc said of the style. "Or a black-striped suit with a white shirt and red tie is elegant for the holidays."

I mentioned how a fashion magazine for men suggested wearing cardigans in lieu of sports jackets. I should have eaten my salad instead.

"Are you kidding? I don't think so! It's a Mr. Rogers look and he is not coming back," Candace bellowed in distaste while sipping her Cosmopolitan.

After the restaurant patrons returned to their own conversations - sorry for the noise everyone! - we discussed other trends in fashion for men.

Everything is basic: black slacks and jackets worn with a v-neck/crew neck minus the tie are popular. Scarves are also hot right now and provide a clean look to the outfit. Velvet and corduroy are fabrics to look for as well as suede.

"Yellow pants are also fashionable," Marc said hesitantly, "but I don't think that works in Solano." Of course not. Yellow pants went out with golfer Jack Nicklaus.

Candace's tolerance for the leisurely pace of the West Coast was growing thin. Perhaps the drumming of her fingers or the constant sigh of disgust was a sign. Whatever it was, I knew we were just minutes away from detonation. More on that later.

One fashion item that should be in every man's wardrobe this season is a vest. This versatile garment can create a formal or informal appearance, depending on the mood. For instance, wear it with a long-sleeved cotton shirt and jeans to create a relaxed yet sexy look. Or pair it with a suit for an expression more prim.

Textured or patterned sweaters also figure prominently this season. They're simple, classic and oh-so enduring (and enticing!). Look for turtleneck sweaters in browns and camels or sweaters accented with suede or leather.

If you think shearling coats or satchels are only for fashionistas, fast forward to the present. Shearling car coats and jackets are in style for the aficionado along with stylish leather bags in brown, black, fringed or in corduroy.

"That's it! I gotta go home. I feel like I'm in la-la land here in San Francisco," Candace finally spouted. "The scene here is like the 'Stepford Wives' revisited (a '70s flick that exaggerated

a suburban lifestyle)."

Appropriately - perhaps predictably - Candace hurried out to catch the red-eye flight back to New York in time to be at work Monday morning. Ciao fashionista, visit again soon.