How to Dress Like a Gentleman - Pedro Mendes

In the latest of our How to Dress Like a Gentleman Series, we speak to the exceptionally well turned out Pedro Mendes, getting his thoughts on how he puts his clothing choices together. You can find Pedro on Instagram here: Pedro Mendes Instagram

How would you describe your own personal style?
As I get older and more experienced with building my wardrobe, I'm becoming more conservative. I am drawn, over and over, to the standards that have served many generations well. And have served me well. I have occasionally tried for something daring that breaks with tradition, only to find I rarely wear it.

On the other hand, I have also gone "full vintage" and found that some items or combinations are simply too mired in history. I realise, however, that there is a disparity between what I believe my style is and what others see. In my mind, I am striving for understated elegance. But my understated elegance is another man's flamboyant dandyism. Or to another, boring old man's clothes.

In truth, I am very much on a journey of self-discovery that I hope never ends. I hope I never cease to discover new items, new makers and the excitement and joy that comes with getting dressed.

Are there any brands you particularly think fit with your style?

While there are a number of brands and makers I regularly return to, the only brand that comes to mind as matching my fundamental approach to style – which is casual elegance – is the old Brooks Brothers. I say "old" because BB today is a hybrid of traditional Ivy Style and modern Italian fashion.

Their old classics, like chinos, button-down shirts, repp ties and soft-shouldered jackets, are core items in my wardrobe today – only from other makers. I do have some basics from BB today, but I would have been a kid in a candy store visiting them 50 years ago. 

When you choose your outfit for the day, what is the item that you choose first?

Years ago, I read an Andre 3000 interview where he said he chooses his trousers first and I've been following that advice ever since. Starting with trousers, I'm thinking about background textures and colours before I even consider the foreground. In a sense, preparing the canvas for the painting. Plus, if the trousers have a bit of colour or texture (for example brown corduroy instead of grey flannel) then I pick items that harmonise with them. Otherwise, I might only wear grey flannel, as it goes with almost any jacket/shirt/tie combo.  

Do you have any particular favourite patterns or colours?

A few years ago, I made a concerted effort to bring more brown into my wardrobe. It's a great alternative to grey as a base, but also works well as an accent colour, and mixes so well with blues and reds.

More recently, I've also introduced greens, especially darker, earthier greens. I can't see myself in a green suit just yet, but for cardigans, polos, ties and even trousers, it's a great alternative colour. I have to admit that when it comes to patterns, I'm a solids kind of guy. I have a few, very few, striped shirts, but always find myself going back to solids.

With ties, however, I break free, preferring either thick repp stripes or small medallion patterns. Combined with solid jackets, shirts and ties, that's just enough pattern for me. 

How do you then choose the accessories you wear?
I have implanted the idea of finding harmony in colour and texture deep enough that I don't think about it anymore. Instead, I focus on how an accessory makes me feel and if it expresses my mood on a given day.
For instance, I already know the impact of either a silk or wool pocket square on a given outfit and so I'll let myself be guided by my feelings: am I energised enough to wear bright colours, or do I need their lift? Or do I want something more sober, either for the event I'm attending or to match my mood?
What do you generally look for when choosing your pocket square?

I have become very picky about pocket squares, after years of wearing so many different kinds and sizes. First and foremost there is the body of the thing: is it either too flimsy and small and therefore won't puff up or might sink into my pocket? Or is it so large and thick, it's far too bulky and will bulge out of my pocket. The perfect square needs to sit right in the middle.

I then look at the craftsmanship: the quality of the silk or wool, the printing (vibrant, not dull) and if it has hand rolled edges (a sign that the maker cares – you wouldn't hand roll edges on a poor quality square).

Once I'm convinced about the actual physical square, then I look at design. And increasingly, I'm interested in simple and subtle designs. For instance, I prefer squares that add a subtle touch of colour or texture to an outfit, instead of a pop. And so I have to be mindful of the predominant colours in my wardrobe before making a selection. If most of my jackets are blue and brown, then squares in those tones will work well.

For your tie, do you like a particular width or length?

My tie preferences are dictated by the tailoring I wear. Most of my lapels are around 8.5cm wide, so that's the tie width I prefer. And since most of my trousers have either a medium or full rise, I'd prefer my ties not be so long, so that they hang only to my waist. I use a four-in-hand knot and since many of my shirt collars are button-down or semi-spread, the tie can't be too bulky or too lightweight, otherwise, I can't achieve the knot I like: neither too big nor too slim.

8cm wide red tie
With your socks, do you go for classic patterns and colours that blend with your shoes and trousers, or do you prefer more vibrant colours?

Most of the time, my socks are a sober backdrop to the rest of my wardrobe: navy blue. I have branched out a bit into dark burgundy, forest green and dark grey, but that's as far as I stray in the winter. In the summer, I love my oatmeal, red or green linen socks. I'm not a "fun socks" guy as I like my entire outfit to express how I feel, not just my ankles.

How much thought do you put into your shoe style and colour?
In a sense, I put very little thought into my shoes because I know so well what I like: classic styles in medium or dark brown. I have tried in the past experimenting with other colours and last shapes, but I end up not wearing the shoes. And so a slightly rounded last, neither pointy nor stubby, is my preference.

Beyond that, my shoe wardrobe is made up of classic oxfords, some brogued shoes, tassel loafers and boots. Keeping my shoes all in the same brown range also makes caring for them simpler: only one tin of shoe polish required.

Do you wear one watch or different watches? If so, what style of watch do you wear most often?
I have a few different watches I wear for specific occasions. My vintage 1950s Carlex dress watch only comes out when I'm off to a special event. My Seiko 007 diver is my rugged watch for casual outfits.

But the watch I wear most, that can be either dressy or casual, is my Seiko Alpinist SARB017. This now-discontinued modern classic, features a sunburst green dial, a polished and matte case, double crown and gold coloured hour markers and hands, which also feature a Mercedes hour hand. There is something just so pleasing about this watch, combining retro and sporty aspects so elegantly, that I find it on my wrist more than any other watch.