The excuses are not convincing. Take Peter, a 24-year-old New York banker who declined to give his real name. Peter wears blazers with the collar inexplicably flipped up in the back like Alfalfa’s cowlick—while his lapels miraculously remain flat. He insists this half-flip was born of time constraints. “It happens when you’re really late for work and you have to sling the jacket around yourself as you run for the train,” he says. “And I’m too lazy to put the collar down if it somehow ends up sticking up.”
When pressed about how short on time he really is, the banker finally comes clean. “It’s also a preppy thing. The white man’s version of bling.”
Simple rule: If you have to resort to bling comparisons to explain something you’re wearing, pull the rip cord—that plane is going down. At least Peter fessed up. Most partial flippers won’t admit the look is intentional. The stylized collar is an effort to convey a cool indifference to fashion mores. I so don’t care about how I look, I didn’t even check to see that my clothes were arranged properly before I left the house this morning.
Unfortunately, the partial flip looks about as devil-may-care as hair plugs. Unless you’ve just walked 10 blocks in a nor’easter, there’s no reason your collar should be raised. (Overcoats, it should be noted, are exempt.) And if you have been battling the elements, return the collar to its original, recumbent position upon arrival indoors. Otherwise you demonstrate not that you’re careless but that you care too much.
“It’s contrived,” says Calvin Klein menswear designer Italo Zucchelli . “If you have style, you don’t try to make it look like an accident.”
Unless you’re still waiting for your voice to change. The partial flip originated as a nose-thumbing gesture employed by uniformed adolescents. It inevitably makes you look like you had a fight with your mom before you left the house. She wanted it down, you wanted it up. So you semi-flipped her off. (The full flip, by the way, is forgivable. You have it all the way up and you’re proud of it.)
Michael Macko, men’s fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, takes some of the blame for the partial flip. “The colored melton has become very popular,” he says, referring to the strip of fabric stitched into the back of a jacket collar. “We’ll display some of those jackets with the collars up.” That’s no excuse for treating your collar like a flower arrangement—or for dressing like a mannequin.
Responsible though he may feel, Macko doesn’t condone the practice. “It’s very studied. I have a friend who does it, and when I try to fix it, he slaps my hand away and says, ‘That’s my affectation.’”
But broadcasting your taste via a look that is meant to appear inadvertent is contradictory. “There are more creative ways to assert your personal style,” says Zucchelli. Contrary to the partial flipper’s delusion, the wishy-washy arrangement has all the nonchalant creativity of an air kiss. If you really didn’t care, you wouldn’t be wearing a blazer in the first place. You’d be wearing a barn jacket.