Business casual has emasculated men by weakening a critical aspect of their day-to-day existence: their outward appearance. As Justin Shubow wrote in his astute review of The Suit (a parody of Machiavelli's The Prince) by Nicholas Antongiavanni:
The chief effect of business casual has been to strip men of the most aggressively masculine item in the Western wardrobe: the necktie.
Shubow's review inspired me to read The Suit. Although I quickly grew tired of the parodic Machiavelli-esque prose and don't necessarily recommend it, the book is peppered with surprisingly useful wardrobe advice. It refers to classic books by reputable masters of men's style such as Alan Flusser and Bruce Boyer. Flusser's first book on the basic principles of men's style, Clothes and the Man, was published in 1985 and can be read online for free here. In 2002 Flusser then published Dressing the Man, an attractive coffee table book filled with photographs that expands and elaborates on the basic principles outlined in Clothes and the Man.
I bought Dressing the Man and have started reading it, and although I'm only on the third chapter (out of 13), I can safely say I enjoy it so far. It is packed full of principles of menswear and tidbits of information to which I had never been exposed. There is a whole world of men's style out there -- not flash-in-the-pan fashion, but rather classic, enduring style -- that I'm sure most men have not discovered.
Far from being a skill that is only appropriate for gays and metrosexuals, classic men's style was widespread among Western -- especially American -- men in the 1930s, even among the middle class during the Great Depression. Its more advanced and subtle concepts were exemplified by the best-dressed royalty and celebrities in Western culture such as the Duke of Windsor, Fred Astaire, and Cary Grant. In those days, exquisite style in men's clothing was considered a hallmark of masculinity.
Cleanliness and classically stylish clothing should not be mistaken as pretension. If the man exemplifies manners, class, confidence, and self-control, his clean and stylish clothing should be seen for what it is: an outward reflection of his inner self. And if his inner self happens to need a bit of scrubbing and polishing, improving his outward appearance is likely to provide him with even more motivation to do so. As Jeff Tucker of the Mises Institute points out in this article:
Elevated dressing causes people to behave better. Crime might fall. Manners would begin to come back. People might clean up their language. They might listen to better music and read better books. Something resembling civilization might return.
Our rude, uncivilized, inconsistent society is practically crying out for the return of the classic Gentleman. If Cary Grant were alive today, he would be wearing a suit, tie, and pocket handkerchief.