Back-to-School Questions for Grownups, Vol. 17, Issue 43

Etiquetteer found a couple questions in the mail bag than can loosely be filed together under "Back to School." Please contact Etiquetteer with your own back-to-school queries!

Dear Etiquetteer:

I recently got married, and have decided to hyphenate my last name (until my kids are 18 anyway.... easier to deal with if my last name matches the kiddos for school purposes). So, I am going to be (after I get my card) Ashton MacDonald Islesworth-Min. (It's a mouthful, isn't it?) My question is.... what are my initials? AMI? AMIM? AMI-M? How does one initial documents with a hyphenated last name?

Dear Monogrammed:

Congratulations on your recent marriage! Etiquettteer wishes you and your family long life and happiness.

These days monograms are very much a personal choice, so you can do almost anything you prefer. It's so rare for Etiquetteer to say anything like that that we should pause for a moment to take that in. Your initials may be whatever you choose.

With four initials, a block monogram - a simple row of all four initials from first to last names - seems to be the standard. But even before you, many ladies drop a name to keep their total initials down to three. For instance, you likely have a middle name, and dropped it when you married your first husband to keep your monogram to three: AMI. Of course with that MacDonald, could it also be AMacII?

You might now wish to drop your maiden name to keep your monogram to three: AIM. But if you keep all four, just keep it simple: AMIM.

When you initial your documents, no need to include the hyphen. When monogramming your lingerie, keep it small!

Dear Etiquetteer:

My son is looking to buy some new shoes. Most of his work dress is casual as with everyone else these days, but he does own two suits, one grey and one navy blue.  He's wondering if black shoes go with a navy blue suit? (I hope so, since that's what I always wore/wear.) Does brown go with either? And cordovan? We look forward to hearing what you think.

Dear Well Shod:

Etiquetteer's first reaction to your query was to remember Michael in The Boys in the Band complaining about "those ten pound cordovan loafers and those constipated Ivy League clothes," and then having to pause as he realizes that one of his guests, Hank, is wearing ten pound cordovan loafers with a classic Ivy League ensemble. You can never go wrong with a classic, but it's how you wear it that makes you stand out.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, Etiquetteer turned to Business Insider for a fairly comprehensive guide to pair suits and shoes. You'll see that they allow brown shoes with navy blue and medium or light gray, but they don't allow it with charcoal gray. Cordovan, it seems, goes with anything but black.

Etiquetteer would be rather more traditional (unsurprisingly) and prohibit brown shoes with navy blue. Indeed, once upon a time Etiquetteer vaguely remembers reading someone's memoir's story about Alfred Hitchcock advising Gregory Peck "No brown in town." Of course that might reflect the Sort of People Who Don't Weekend in Town . . .

In your son's case, investing in two pairs of good black shoes would be the conservative path, but he may want to shake up the mix with a pair of cordovan. It's interesting to note that only lace-up shoes were once thought proper in an office environment. Loafers and slip-ons were thought of as casual shoes, and of course sneakers, tennis shoes, and other athletic shoes were considered only for the activities for which they were designed and not everyday wear. But those footwear distinctions were eroded decades ago, first by airport security measures and then by St. Elsewhere.