My Style: Darrell Hartman

Portrait of fashion and travel writer Darrell Hartman

Photo: Joe Schildhorn/ — Courtesy of Darrell Hartman

The most stylish person you have ever seen...

Maybe Tom Ford — I interviewed him at last year’s Met Gala. He’s almost too much. But he’s undoubtedly a style Superman, especially when you catch him in black tie.

Please describe your style in three words.

Improving with age.

What is the biggest mistake one can make when getting dressed?

Stressing out. Also, assuming you’re getting dressed for anything remotely serious, making any sartorial choice that people are likely to remember more vividly than they remember you.

Do you believe in role models?

Definitely. But I think it’s better to look at a mix of inspiring people than to put all your faith, admiration, etc. into one.

What are your favourite fabrics?

Flannel, denim, wool, once in a while cashmere. I’m a cold-weather guy.

Are there any style combinations that you object to?

Like a tight shirt and a gut? Another combination that comes to mind, and that I see often, is a pinstripe suit with a shirt (or a tie) with stripes of similar proportion. It confuses the eye.

Which city has the best-dressed men?

I haven’t been keeping tabs on this in enough cities to know for sure, but I think we’re doing pretty well in New York. I was in Copenhagen last summer and thought the street style there was fantastic.

Would you say that you are conservative or bold?


What are the rules, if any, in the way you dress?

Never show up with your necktie loosened; only wear white socks with white sneakers; don’t even think about a Windsor knot unless it’s going with a spread collar.

Celebrities and style...

…are too often discussed together.

One garment/accessory that you can never have enough of?

Back-pocket cotton handkerchief.

A man should always look like...

He’s got more important things on his mind than how he looks.

Who taught you what you know about style?

I learned the rules from my dad and the fun stuff from classic movies, mostly European ones: Truffaut and Fellini films, Purple Noon. In recent years, it’s been more from going out and seeing how people dress in New York.

How do you select your clothing every morning?

I’m a freelance writer and my daily schedule is always different, so the first consideration is where I’m going. I have a cardigan I always write in when I’m home. If I’m going uptown for a meeting, it’s a totally different thing. First thing I do is decide whether I need a jacket. Then I pick a shirt and go from there. I only ever put out clothes the night before if I’m catching an early flight.

Your biggest regret is...

Trusting the department store salesman to tell you when the suit fits. I did that when I was younger—rookie mistake!

The three essential things a man should know about style are...

It’s fun. It matters. It isn’t everything.

Do you have any shopping rituals?

I shop alone and only just after I get a paycheque.

We will never see you wearing...

Anything floral or metallic.

What is the first thing you notice on a man?

First the face, and then there’s a hard-to-describe something that comes before the clothing; whatever that thing is, the clothes should be in harmony with it.

The one image that defined your approach to style...

Probably comes from an old L.L. Bean catalogue. It’s a combination of where I’m from (Maine) and what I consider stylish now. And as much as I like dressing up, I feel most myself, to the point where I don’t even think about it, in plaids and wool sweaters.

The only article of clothing that a man needs to pay close attention to is...

It’s never about just one piece of clothing. That said, give me a pair of pants that fit just right and the rest starts to matter less.

Is comfort an enemy of style?

I think it depends on how you define “comfort.” It doesn’t just mean having extra space to move around in your clothes, and it certainly doesn’t mean an elastic waistband. Guys get into trouble when they bring this idea of off-hours, “watch-the-game-on-the-couch” comfort with them when they’re buying serious clothes. True comfort — with who you are, with everything around you — is part of style, insofar as one of the goals of dressing up should be to to come across as completely yourself and at ease in your clothes.

The best word of advice you have ever heard?

It has nothing to do with fashion. It’s from a Rilke poem that my mother always kept in the kitchen that begins, “If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it, blame yourself.”

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