April 15, 2014
How To Test a New Trend

Menswear folk preach timeless style all the time, and you’ll read on many blogs tons of advice and comments instructing you to avoid trends. In general, I tend to agree - to an extent. Yes, timeless pieces are just that - timeless - and as such, will probably be the more long-lasting versatile pieces in your wardrobe, and as such, are the ones worth investing in. However, trends shouldn’t be ruled out entirely. For one thing, some of those trends do end up graduating to timeless status. If we never tried anything new, we’d still be wearing togas, or caveman skins. Even classic style evolves, and that can’t happen without people trying new things. Also, timeless can get boring…sometimes you need to jump off a cliff and do something exciting, new, and fun.

So how do you go about testing a new trend? My recommendation is to dip your toes in the water before you dive in (although I did just make a reference to jumping off a cliff…). The trick is to find a way to try out a new style without investing yourself so heavily that if, as many trends do, yours falls to the wayside in a few months, you’re out a chunk of change and stuck with some expensive and now useless crap.

With that in mind, you’ll want to treat these trends exactly the opposite of how you treat timeless pieces. Instead of focusing on construction and quality, and saving your money to invest in a truly worthwhile piece, look instead for quick fixes - inexpensive options that embody the heart of the trend but don’t require you to hand over a month’s pay. Skip all the painstaking research, go with your gut, but go cheap.

For example, I’ve really been digging this microtrend lately of stark black and white outfits - especially in more casual terms. It’s definitely a more street-wear friendly look, which isn’t one I usually go for (tending instead to stick to a nice preppy/prepster balance). I’m thinking black jeans, some black leather trainers, a bright white tee, and a black bomber jacket. Something like one of these looks:

John Legend (photo via Créme de la Créme) | Anthony Urbano (photo via Closet Freaks)         

I’ve been so tempted to try it out, but I’m almost certain it’s not going to be a strong player in my ‘fit rotation, and might even just be relegated to a few wears. Therefore, I’m not even starting to look at premium denim, designer sneakers, or classic bomber jackets (I would spend some $$ on a tee, but only because everyone can use a white tee, and I’ll rock that part for as long as it lasts). 

Instead, I’m going as cheap as possible. I just grabbed a pair of lightly used Levi’s on eBay for around $12 (shipping included). If it weren’t for those, I’d pick up this pair from H&M (a store I usually skip). I found a bomber jacket at Forever 21 (where I also wouldn’t normally even consider shopping) in an especially fashion-forward mixed-media for only $30 . I actually already have a white tee that I copped from Bonobos, on sale for around $10, but you can score one for the same price at Uniqlo year-round. Even the trainers, I’m grabbing for just $45 at Vans. Voila, an entire (on trend) outfit for well under $100 (which wouldn’t even cover the shoes for a ‘timeless’ ensemble):

This way, no matter the outcome of my little experiment, I’m only out a small amount of money. If I like the look, I can take some more time and spend some more money to get pieces really worth being proud of, and swap them out for my cheapskate options over time. If I’m not so fond of the look, like I said, little skin off my back (way less than if I went high-end on everything right off the bat). 

April 14, 2014
Made-To-Measure Customizations ft. Proper Cloth

Ever since getting my first Made-To-Measure shirt last spring, I’ve been hooked. There’s just something about wearing a shirt that was made just for you that feels above and beyond even the nicest off-the-rack shirting (in my humble opinion), and with the surge in online MTM options, going custom isn’t quite the exclusive club it used to be.

That said, going the MTM route can be kind of intimidating, understandably. While most MTM clothiers offer pre-styled options, I personally think half the fun of ordering custom is getting to pick out all the little details. However, you really need to know where to start, and what each of those custom decisions is going to say. Made-to-measure clothier Proper Cloth has been kind enough to provide a shirt for a future review, and I’m going to walk you through my customizations (all screen shots are taken directly from the Proper Cloth website):

Fabrics:

First up is your choice of fabrics, and this will probably be the one you are already the most comfortable with, as you make similar decisions when you buy OTR. Some MTM brands offer a crazy number of fabrics (see Modern Tailor), others offer very few, and I think Proper Cloth falls pretty comfortably in the middle. As you’ll notice as we get farther along, the biggest difference your choices will make lie in the formality of your shirt - certain fabrics and patterns are inherently much more casual, while others are dressier. In general, heavier fabrics tend to be more casual, although there are some nice twills that dress up very well. For the most part, fabric and pattern will be based on personal taste, but I recommend focusing on finding a versatile option that you will be able to wear with everything - if this is your first venture into MTM shirting, I can safely bet that this will quickly become your favorite shirt and you’ll want to wear it as much as possible. 

Even for myself, after having a few custom shirts in my wardrobe, I’m choosing a solid oxford cloth, and the only limiting factor in it’s wearability is the fact that it’s a heavier fabric and might be warm in the summer. 

Collar Style:

Next up is collar style, and like I mentioned before, your choice here will say a lot about the formality of your shirt. Proper Cloth offers 23 collar options, many of which differ only very slightly, so it helps to know what you are looking for: 

Going for a casual shirt? Button-down collars are traditionally reserved for more casual shirts, like OCBD’s - some guys will even go as far as saying that a button-down collar should never be worn with a suit. I’m not that strict with my rules, but I agree with the general mentality. Within the button-down category are a few options, mostly different in collar height and width of spread. From proper cloth, their Colorado Button Down is probably the most modern with a wider spread and shorter height, but I’m partial to the coveted collar-roll of the Soft Ivy option. The longer the point and narrower the spread, the more conservative the look, and I think the Soft Ivy cuts a nice balance.

On the dressier side of things, you have your point and spread collars. Proper Cloth, like most MTM retailers, offers one standard point collar (which offers a more conservative, office-friendly style), but several spread collar options. For the most part, the spread collars will differ in the width of the spread and the height of the points, and the difference speaks largely to the modernity and ‘fashion-forward-ness’ (for lack of a real word) of the style. The wider the spread, the more flair - maybe not necessarily more dressy (a point collar with a narrow spread can be just as formal), but definitely bolder and more rakish. 

It’s not 100% personal taste, though, as your body type will dictate, to some extent, the proportions that will work for you (which is what custom is all about, anyway). A shorter collar will look proportionate on a smaller guy, whereas it might look childishly small on a tall or large man. Likewise, a very wide spread (which usually calls for a wider tie), can swallow a skinny guy’s neck. There’s definitely some room in either direction, but it’s something to be aware of. 

Beyond button-down, spread, and point collars, there are a few more unique collar choices: 

For example, do you like the functionality of a button-down, but want a dressier look? Try the hidden button-down, which is exactly what it sounds like. the button-holes don’t go the whole way through the collar, so they are invisible when fastened (but still hold the collar to your shirt).

Other options include the wingtip, which should be reserved for tuxedo shirts, the band collar, which is seeing some popularity as a casual, summery option, and the club collar which has a cool, rockabilly, 50’s vibe. These can make cool choices, but again, I recommend aiming for versatility, which these tend to lack.

Cuff Style:

After choosing your collar, you have a variety of cuff options to pick from as well. Again, your choice will mainly affect the formality of your shirt. French cuffs are the most formal option, and you should only wear these with a jacket (and remember that they will require cuff-links as well, if you don’t already own a pair). The convertible cuff is a nice in-between option that gives you the best of both worlds - links when you want em, buttons when you don’t. If you opt for buttoned (which I usually do, again for versatility), there are still a few options to pick from. I find the two-button cuffs to be more formal, with just a bit more structure - I actually caught on to Frank Underwood rocking the two-button cuff on House of Cards and think of his sleek, refined style whenever I see these. You’ll also be able to pick the finishing of the corners - mitered, rounded, square - which make pretty negligible differences in my eyes. For your most casual shirts, a soft cuff will give you the most laid-back, easy-going style. 

Pocket:

Pocket or no pocket? To some extent, like always, this is down to personal taste, but a pocket is traditionally seen as a more casual accouterments, and going pocket-less definitely lends to a sleeker, more formal profile. 

At this point, if you’re rocking Proper Cloth, click ‘more style options’ for, well, more style options:

Placket: 

I love that Proper Cloth is offering a popover option now, and I’m hoping to see that available at more and more retailers as the style gains popularity. That said, the popover style, as well as the tuxedo style, are pretty niche options, and you should know if that’s what you want. Between the rest, as usual, it comes down to formality. Basically, the more stitching you see, the more casual - which makes sense, as you tend to look for more streamlined looks when going more formal or dressy. That said, a standard front placket is widely versatile, and will only be too casual in the most formal of settings (I wouldn’t wear one with a tux or dinner jacket, per se). Other end of the spectrum, the hidden placket, is going to be far too formal for most occasions, unless you’re going for some serious sartorial flair. 

Yoke:

You will also see the option to pick a split yoke or solid yoke. Often, a split yoke comes at a higher price, because the two pieces across the shoulders (as opposed to one) require special attention in order to match patterns or textures. For the most part, a split yoke is preferred, as the construction method actually allows for a more freedom of movement and therefore a more comfortable wear. I would only avoid this option if I was not so confident in the skill of the people constructing the shirt.

Buttons:

A few other MTM retailers that I’ve used have offered a full range of button colors, but I think Proper Cloth offers all you need. For the most part, you just want to compliment the colors on your shirt - 9 times out of 10, Mother of Pearl is the way to go. I only opt for dark buttons with particularly dark shirts, as I don’t like a lot of contrast between the shirt and buttons (personal preference). For lighter colors, MOP is a bit heartier, and a bit classier. It’ll usually cost you a couple extra bucks, but I think it’s worth it. If you’re concerned about buttons breaking, or are picking a more casual shirt (like an OCBD), the tall mother of pearl option will be a bit more solid. I like that Proper Cloth includes a brown horn option, which I think would play very well with more patterned shirts (that aren’t strictly light or dark). 

Monogram:

Do it. Especially with Proper Cloth, who I don’t believe charge any extra. This is your custom shirt, and having that little touch that marks it as such just feels good, even if you get one that no one else will see. If you put your monogram in a visible position, pick a thread that closely matches your shirt color in order to create a more subtle effect. However, if you are placing the monogram somewhere hidden (like inside the collar), feel free to go bold and bright. Regardless, it’s something that should be there more for you than anyone else. I tend to opt for either a cuff, which looks very classy peeking out from a jacket sleeve, or the back of the collar if I want it to stay hidden.

And that pretty much wraps it up. There are a few minor adjustments you can still make, such as watch allowance, which will leave one sleeve slightly wider at the cuff to fit a timepiece underneath, pleats or darts which will affect the slimness of the shirt, and sometimes options as to the shape of the hemline (more curved to better stay tucked, or flatter to look better untucked).

If you’re still unsure (which hopefully you are, at least, less so after reading this), play around with designs for a while, design a few shirts, and see what you end up with. I do this for fun all the time, picking out all the details without actually committing to a purchase. It’s a good though exercise, to get you really thinking about the choices you make. It’s not so much about making right vs. wrong choices (although there are some rules to follow and some to break), but more-so about making deliberate decisions and understanding why you are making them. 

For kicks, I’m including my specs for my most recent order below: 

Fabric: Thomas Mason Light Pink Oxford

Collar Style: Soft Ivy Button Down

Cuff Style: Soft One Button

Pocket: One Chest Pocket

Placket: Soft Front Placket (although I’m very tempted to try out the popover)

Yoke: Split Yoke

Buttons: Tall Mother of Pearl

Monogram: Back of Collar in Burgundy

 

As this is my first purchase from Proper Cloth, I’ll be reviewing the shirt once it arrives, so keep your eyes open!

April 10, 2014
Deals and Steals for the Weekend - 4/11/2014

Before we get started, check this out: Cool Material has been one of my favorite sites since waaay before I could begin to call myself stylish. Most of the feed is just what sounds like, with featurettes on just cool stuff (just check it out, everything is awesome, and I want it). They also have an ongoing series called ‘Wear This,’ where menswear bloggers and industry insiders put together curated outfit recommendations. I had the pleasure of drafting up my own, and it was published today! Check it out here, and add Cool Material to your list.

OK, you know what’s coming next:

"Every weekend, check in on the blog for a collection of the best (read: my favorite) deals and steals on the interweb for some quality shopping over the weekend. Have any to add? Share them in the comments or shoot me an e-mail. Also, if you’re biting on any of these hooks, I’d love to hear about it!"

 

So, I don’t know how much you all liked last week’s list, which was focused pretty heavily on J.Crew, but I’m gonna do it again. Similarly to the J.Crew sale (still going on here), Club Monaco is offering an extra 50% off their sale items, and just like J.Crew, there was way too much inexpensive awesomeness to limit to the normal two picks. Thus, a Club Monaco focused list it is:

 

Extra 50% Off off Clearance (code SPRING50):

ALright, this sale might be even better than last week’s J.Crew one, because some of this stuff is unbelievably cheap. Proof: These classy khaki shorts, just $10 (originally $60):

10 1/2” Lemon Maddox Short | Club Monaco

With a 10 1/2” inseam, this will hit just an inch or two above the knee, which is just short enough to look grown-up without showing too much leg. Just like your chinos, a khaki color is about as versatile as it gets, making these a ridiculously good value.

 

Go up just a few bucks and you can score some lightweight slim chinos for just $15 (originally $70):

Lightweight Davis Chino | Club Monaco

Most of the other chinos in the sale section are in absurdly bright colors, but luckily these are much more neutral. I’m a big fan of this burgundy shade, which I picked out last year as a fall color, but will still serve you well through the year. The ‘Blue Moon’ color adds a bit more spring-timey brightness without going all dayglow on you.

 

There are a decent number of option for shirts as well, most hovering around the $30 mark (post-discount). The list includes some nice crew-necks and dressier button-ups, but this casual work shirt is what really caught my eye:

Slim-Fit Checked Workshirt | Club Monaco

I didn’t even think about it until I saw this, but I’ve found a bunch of options to brighten up my more formal dress shirts for the spring and summer, but I haven’t paid much attention to my casual button-ups. At just $20, knocked down from $90, this is a solid and cheap pick.

 

Don’t be afraid to look a little higher up the price line, too, as there are some blazers that are definitely worth checking out. There’s this jacket, in a brown and white stripe that’s neutral, and will match with almost anything, but is still definitely unique:

Grant Corded Stripe Jacket | Club Monaco

Originally not cheap at $330, the discount brings this down to a Uniqlo-cheap price of just $80. Hot damn. 

 

They’ve also got this option, which they’re calling a suit blazer. I’m not 100% sure what they mean by the ‘suit’ part…maybe there are matching pants? Regardless, it will make a fantastic summer sport coat on it’s own:

Grant Poplin Suit Blazer | Club Monaco

It’s made from a lightweight poplin and looks to only be partially lined, which will help you stay cool when the weather heats up this summer. It does cost a bit more than the previous pick, but it’s still very affordable at $115 (also originally $330).

 

I’ll leave it at that for CM, but definitely check out the rest of the selection, there’s a ton there.

 

On top of Club Monaco, I found two more deals that I gotta share:

 

Last Chance for Discounted Pre-Orders from Beckett Simonon:

Beckett Simonon has made the list before for their full-price shoes, which are unusually affordable for their high quality to begin with. This spring, they are releasing a new batch of styles, and for just a few more days (until April 15th, I believe), you can pre-order the new options at a discount (up to 30% off - plus get $25 credit with our referral link). There’s not a bad looking shoe in the batch, in my opinion, but I’m on the hunt for some warm-weather loafers, like these suede, tasseled bad boys:

Blake-Constructed Venza Slippers | Beckett Simonon

Love the rich chocolate suede, love the sleek, slipper-like silhouette, love the $114 price (originally $140).

 

The suede guys are admittedly a bit fashion forward, but Beckett Simonon also has these penny loafers in a more traditional style and color:

Goodyear-Welted Cohen Loafers | Beckett Simonon

I really like the shape on these. It’s sleek enough to be a summer shoe, but not pointy or ‘dainty.’ These also clock in at $115, down from $140. They’ve also got some nice-looking monkstraps and a couple of chunk-soled options worth checking out.

 

Early Access to the Bonobos Spring Sale:

I’m ending things with two pretty safe picks from the Bonobos sale (plus, get $25 off your first order with our referral link), . They always have some darn cheap chinos in their sale section, but the selection is often limited to some wilder colors, or unflattering cuts. I was pretty excited to see some more neutral, classic colors available in their stellar slim-straight cut:

Seanotes Slim Straight Chinos | Bonobos

This blue isn’t as dark as your go-to navy, but it’s very subdued, not in-your-face bright at all. I think it would make a great seasonal alternative to that navy, and at $48 (originally $88) it will barely set you back.

 

Also knocked down to an affordable $48, these brown chinos are actually something I’ve been looking for (on sale, of course), for a while now: 

Mochachinos in Slim Straight | Bonobos

These would have worked great all winter long, but they’ll still come in very handy through the summer, grounding bright gingham shirts with a foundation of earthy neutrality. 

 

That’s a wrap!

April 8, 2014
The Hunt Is On…

Took a few days offline for some R&R while we had friends in town, but I’m back at it.

It’s still  a bit too early for a ‘summer shopping list,’ or even a spring one, but it’s not too early to start hunting for some key pieces. A lot of spring/summer essentials are easy to find when it starts to warm up, but there are some that either remain frustratingly elusive in general, or that I’ve developed such critical tastes in that it takes me forever to find exactly what I want.

This year, there are three main items that I’ll be hunting:

The first is a lightweight blazer. This is a perfect example of that item that you can find everywhere, but that I can never find exactly what I want. I’ll be the first to admit that this is purely because I’m picky as hell, and know exactly what I want: An unlined blazer, made from cotton, linen, or a blend thereof, unstructured, with natural shoulders. I came really close with my Uniqlo blazer last summer, and I may very well end up with another from their line again this season, but I’m doing my damnedest to find something a bit less chopped, and with a slightly lower button stance.

This newly released option from J.Crew would probably be just about as perfect as it gets, but I’m not sure I can stomach the price quite yet:

Ludlow Unconstructed Sportcoat in Mini-Houndstooth Cotton | J.Crew - $188

Same goes for these options from Hugh & Crye (true, it’s in wool, but a loose hop-sack weave that should breathe well in the heat) and Bonobos…fingers crossed that something ends up on a sale rack!

(Editor’s Note: I didn’t realize until I was formatting this to publish that the J.Crew option is actually the cheapest of all of these…that’s going to be damn tempting if it’s ever eligible for even a small discount…I’ll be watching eagerly, for sure).

Next on my list is a new pair of Sperry Top-Siders. This is similar to the blazer in that, come summer, you can find Sperry’s EVERYWHERE. Even better, you can always find some that are being offered for a crazy discounted price, but you usually have to take what you can get, as far as colors and styles go. However, after realizing last year that every pair goes on sale at some point, my tactic this year is to keep my eyes open, stay patient, and wait until I see that exact pair drop down to like, half price.  Last year I scored a pair of boat shoes in a classic brown color. This year I’m going to step out of the box a bit, either in navy, suede, or a two-tone combination. No bright colors, though, and no crazy contrast soles. Right now, I’m watching these in navy like a hawk for a good discount to pop up:

Gold Cup Authentic Original 2-Eye Original Boat Shoe | Sperry - $150

Last is one I’ll be hunting for truly because I can’t find any (at least at a price I can handle). I desperately want a lightweight, breezylinen shirt - but I want it in a dress cut that I can wear with a tie to the office - spread collar, slim fit, a little less rumpled, a little more pressed and proper. These do pop up now and then, but more often from high end shirt makers, while the affordable options tend to remain much more casual, beach-y with that 90’s Miami vibe. Everlane has a line of slim linen shirts coming out later this summer that will probably fit the bill, but I don’t know if I can wait that long! 

Coming soon at Everlane….

Meanwhile, I’m taking a trip to SF this month, so I’m going to swing into the Uniqlo store and see if their linen options will work until then (however, they don’t offer a slim fit, so I have a feeling it’s going to be on the loose side):

Premium Linen Long-Sleeve Shirt | Uniqlo - $29.90

 I’ll keep y’all posted…

What are you hunting for this season? Share in the comments below:

April 3, 2014
Deals and Steals for the Weekend - 4/4/2014

"Every weekend, check in on the blog for a collection of the best (read: my favorite) deals and steals on the interweb for some quality shopping over the weekend. Have any to add? Share them in the comments or shoot me an e-mail. Also, if you’re biting on any of these hooks, I’d love to hear about it!"

Ok, so I was browsing around for deals, and got entirely immersed in the J.Crew sale selection. So much good stuff, such great prices, I couldn’t resist picking out way more than the standard two pieces. We’ll call it the J.Crew spotlight, plus some extra goodies at the end. Enjoy:

Extra 50% Off Final Sale Items at J.Crew:
Allllrighty so we’ll start things off with one foot still in cold weather. I’ve had my eye on this quilted shirt-jacket since I included it in a course I wrote for Cladright (check it out, I got another course coming up this spring). I might have even had it in a ‘Deals and Steals’ post already. Normally $170, this is pretty expensive at full retail price, but every so often it ends up at a crazy discount, and I always kick myself for not grabbing one. Maybe this time will be the clincher, as the extra % off has it down to only $60. 

Quilted Shirt-Jacket | J.Crew

Especially at such a steal, this is a ton of bang for the buck. It’s light enough to wear into spring, and slim enough to wear under a few layers when it gets all frigid again next winter. Also available in an olive color that hits the military trend spot-on.

Next on the long J.Crew list is this Ludlow dress shirt in a plaid Thomas Mason fabric. Thomas Mason fabrics are widely renowned and usually hella expensive (take a look at the starting price of $170). Already pretty heavily discounted, the extra markdown has this at a pretty unheard of price of just $50:

Ludlow Shirt in 1903 Tartan | Thomas Mason Archive for J.Crew

The pattern is fantastic too…there’s a lot of visual interest in the plaid, but the colors are muted enough to make this easy to pair. Spread collar, slim fit, all sizes available, it’s a knockout winner, and you won’t see a deal like this very often, for sure. 

There are actually a bunch of nice shirts in the sale section, but we just picked out one more. This floral patterned shirt is about as good as it will get for a guy looking to try out the trend, but hesitant to end up with anything too bold or, well, flowery:

Slim Indigo Shirt in Floral Print | J.Crew

First, it’s plenty affordable, down to $30 after the discount (originally $88), which means it’s not a huge risk either way. On top of that, the colors are all just a bit faded…the blue isn’t super saturated, and the flowers are almost barely there, rather than a bright contrasting white. It’s the kind of pattern that’s almost hard to notice from a distance, but has all the interesting ingredients once you get up close. It’s a great buy as we head into spring weather.

And to wrap up the J.Crew list this week, we’ve got our eyes on summer and hot days by the pool (or at the beach). I’m long overdue for a new pair of swim shorts, and these board shorts are definitely a contender.

7” Board Short in Oxford Cloth | J.Crew

I’ve never heard of an oxford cloth swim short before, and I’m not 100% sure how that would turn out, but I’m very tempted. Oxford shirts are one of my favorite things, so it would make sense that this would end up a winner in my book as well. The color is a just-right pale blue (have you notice that I like blue a lot?) that won’t make you look too pasty while you’re still working on your first tan, and the low price of $17.50 (down from $70), is - yup - a steal.

Check out the rest of the sale, there are ton of great finds in the 50% off section, and even more (not on final sale) at a 30% discount. Great chance to stock up as the seasons change.


Everyday Low Prices from Vans:
So, admittedly no discount here, but with the already low prices of Vans shoes, it’s still a great chance to grab some canvas kicks in time for summer. Two pairs in particular stood out to me. First are these in a faded green for $55:

Brushed Twill Authentic in Granite Green | Vans

I love the color (it fits in very well with the seasonal color-scheme I laid out last week)…just unusual enough to be unique, but subtle enough that they won’t be hard to match. For me, though, the real winning element is the leather laces. I wish you could opt for these as an option on all Vans, except I guess I’d have an even harder time narrowing down my choices.

For those of you looking for more of a classic, look no further than a pair of off-white Vans Authentic Originals:

Canvas Authentic in Off White | Vans

There are a few options very similar to this (brighter whites, contrast soles, etc.), but in the general white canvas category, these are my favorite. I think the off-white will wear in really well, and the blue trim breaks things up just enough that it’s not one solid white blob (although I think some leather laces would look fantastic here too). At just $45, these are a very affordable option for a summer sneaker.


Grayers via Huckberry:
Last but not least, we have a few selections from Grayers available on Huckberry. Huckberry is a flash sale site similar to Gilt or MYHABIT, but with more of an outdoorsy focus, a more tightly curated selection, and an emphasis on quality (although slightly leaner discounts). Use my link (here) for $5 credit when you sign up.

I don’t have personal experience with Grayers, but they have a solid rep, and I’ve been seeing them pop up in some very nice Instagram shots lately, so I was already interested when I saw them on Huckberry. The selection isn’t too wide, but I found a few pieces I really dig. First is this selvedge chambray shirt, marked down to $70 from $95.

Selvedge Chambray Shirt | Grayers via Huckberry

It’s not exactly cheap, but it’s probably one of the lowest prices you’ll see for a selvedge chambray shirt. It’s got a great balance of rugged and refined, fantastic for casual gear, but definitely polished enough to work into a more dressy look. And yeah, chambray just rocks.

Last, this sweatshirt really caught my eye. It’s got an awesome, throwback 70’s surfer vibe that just screams summer. The description lists it as super lightweight, which will make it a great layering piece for cool summer nights.

Onlan Crew Neck Pullover | Grayers via Huckberry

This one has a pretty nice discount, too, knocked down to under $60 from a starting price of around $80. And damn, it just looks so comfortable.

And there you have it, another week down!

April 1, 2014
Socks - How To Choose ‘Em

recently professed my love of socks, one of the things that I have a zillion of and can’t stop buying. Eventually, you get to a point where you have some in every color and pattern, and it can seem a little daunting to pick out a pair that doesn’t clash. Sure, they might be covered by your pants most of the day, but those times that they do flash, you want the proper effect.

And that’s really what it comes down to. What’s the effect that you want? You really have two choices. The first is definitely the most basic. You just want to match. You don’t want to stand out, you have no urges to inject your look with a pop of color, you want to be stylish but unobtrusive. If this is your motivator, simply pick socks to match your pants. A lot of people waiver between matching their pants or matching their shoes, and let’s end that hesitation here and now - always match your pants, never your shoes. By matching your pants, you make your legs look longer, which is a good thing for 90% of guys out there (that’s an exact statistic, by the way). Comparatively, if you match your shoes, your legs can look cut off at the ankle. Also, if you’re wearing some snazzy kicks, the lack of contrast between your footwear will make them far less likely to shine. 

Thompson Chino Suit Pant in Navy paired with Basic Crew Socks in Navy | J.Crew Factory

The second effect is to show a little pizazz around the ankle…whether it be that pop of color, a flashy pattern, or even some subtle texture. I’m sure there are tons of methods to doing this, but my personal method is to pick a part of your upper outfit (above the waist), and try to play off that piece. This may be your shirt, your tie, even something as small as a pocket square. This is a great way to really make your outfit a whole, with correlation between the top and bottom halves. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with it, but it’s very easy to have one outfit from the waist down, and another, not necessarily clashing, but unrelated outfit from the waist up. 

However, you do NOT want to match exactly - a faux pas almost as bad as wearing a matching tie and pocket square. Instead, compliment. An easy way to do this is to match solid with patterned, and vice versa. If you have a patterned tie (or pocket square, or shirt, or whatever you are trying to match), pick one color from that pattern, and match it with a solid sock. If you have a solid tie, go ahead and rock a patterned sock that shares one color with the tie. Once you are confident in your pattern matching, go ahead and mix things up, but be careful not to get too out of hand and risk looking clownish. This is your clothing, not a costume. 

Summer Plaid Tie (patterned) paired with Basic Crew Socks in Navy (solid) | J.Crew Factory

OR

Red Chambray Tie (solid) paired with Triple Stripe Socks (patterned) | J.Crew Factory

Bonus Tip: The scale of the pattern tends to be directly proportional to the casualness. Pin dot socks, or fine stripes, perfectly OK for business attire. Large polka dots, rugby stripes? Probably best kept to more casual occasions.

OK, after giving all that advice, I just gotta say, socks are a great place to stretch your sartorial wings, largely because they are so low-risk. They do stay hidden most of the day, so if you experiment a bit and it doesn’t work out, you’re not going to be running around looking like a fool all day. So have some fun! Try something new!

March 30, 2014
A Few Rainy Spring Essentials

We had a bright sunny 50 degree day here in Chicago over the weekend, so I think we can finally say that spring is starting to set in.  Unfortunately, the upcoming weather is likely to not be quite so pleasant. Hopefully it will stay warm, but I’m ready to bet on a lot of rain and overcast skies in the next few weeks. As we get through these transitional days, here are a few essentials to help you stay dry and stylish:

Rain Coat:

One of the first things you’re going to need in order to maintain a sharp appearance is a waterproof (or at least water resistant) coat. Nothing puts a damper on a great outfit like, well, dampness. Plus, if you let a blazer get soaked in the raid, it will often rumple and bubble as it dries, and will never look the same again. Trends these days have made it perfectly acceptable (encouraged, actually) to wear even a bright parka-style jacket over your sharpest suit. Suit Supply just released this awesome raincoat, and if you have the budget for it, I’d look no further:

Yellow Rain Coat | Suit Supply

Sure, the yellow is bold and will draw attention, but true to form, Suit Supply made a piece of outerwear worth drawing attention to. The silhouette is trim, but built to fit over a suit, and the bright color is tempered by classic details and no wacky bells or whistles.

Understandably, a $300 rain coat is a bit steep for most, but J.Crew offers a surprisingly affordable alternative by Penfield. Added bonus: if the yellow is a bit much for you as well, this guy comes in a more neutral navy blue:

Penfield Gibson Jacket | J.Crew

Rain Boots and ‘Drawer’ Shoes:

Same lesson goes for your dress shoes. A sure way to kill a nice shine is to step in a few muddy puddles on your morning commute. You can opt for overshoes from a company like SWIMS, but they tend to be as expensive as a pair of shoes on their own. Personally, I just go for another pair of shoes. These Bean boots have been my go-to in the winter snow, and I was smart enough to get the unlined, uninsulated version, so I just use lighter socks and they’re perfect for spring rain as well:

Men’s Bean Boots | L.L. Bean

I love the northeastern, rugged prep style of Bean boots, but some guys will find them a little too rustic and outdoorsy. Hunter, along with their classic ‘Wellies’, offers a biker-inspired rain boot that is much more city-oriented:

Men’s Shoreditch Moto Boot | Hunter

Of course, either of those options are fine for the commute, but you can’t be wearing them with your suit or trousers during a day in the office. That’s why I always keep a pair of shoes tucked in a desk drawer (hence, drawer shoes) to swap out after I get to work. The trick is to opt for something as versatile as possible. I usually stick with a pair of burgundy Weejuns loafers by G.H. Bass. They are dressy enough for dress trousers and chinos, but will still fit the bill with a pair of jeans on a casual friday:

Larson Weejuns | G.H. Bass

Even better, the reddish hue is one of the leathers that (in my opinion, at least), is ok to wear with both brown and black belts alike. Again, versatility is the name of the game, and these keep all my bases covered.

If you don’t have a shoe-shine in your office building, just bring these home over the weekends for a quick shine, and you’ll be good to go.

Something Bright!

I’m looking at the 10-day forecast for Chicago right now, and the cheeriest day in the lineup is a lonely ‘partly sunny’ a week away that will probably turn into rain before it even comes. It’s easy to get stuck in the greys of early spring, so I like to remind myself that all this rain is just a precursor to bright, sunny weather to come by rocking something bright every so often. If you’re feeling truly bold, a pair of go-to-hell pants is just the trick. Chinos from Bonobos can be a bit pricey, but there are always some brighter colors to be found at a great price in their sale section. Right now I found these in what they call a dark teal:

Everglade Chinos | Bonobos

Like I said, this is not the subtlest of moves, but you can temper the look by grounding it with neutral colors up top (like a white shirt and navy tie). 

One step down on the boldness-scale would be a brightly patterned shirt. I love this orange gingham from Banana Republic:

Tailored Slim-Fit Non-Iron Gingham Shirt | Banana Republic

Gingham is a great spring pattern to begin with, and I like it because the white checks kind of mute the bright orange, as opposed to something in solid orange. Again, you can tone down the boldness with some neutral slacks (grey or tan would work well), or covering up the color a bit with a blazer or cardigan.

Finally, for a much more subtle injection of color, rock a bright accessory, like some striped socks, a patterned pocket square, or a colorful tie. This time of year, you’ll be able to find these things at pretty much any menswear store. Personally, I’ve had my eye on the knit ties at the Knottery for some time now, and they have some great spring colors available:

Solid Silk Knit Tie | The Knottery

I’m a big navy blue guy, with most of my neckwear being somehow grounded in that color. This brighter blue will play just as nicely with most of my wardrobe, but will add some seasonal punch.

March 27, 2014
Deals and Steals for the Weekend - 3/28/2014

Quick note before we dive in, but can you believe it’s already almost April??? Shit’s cray.


"Every weekend, check in on the blog for a collection of the best (read: my favorite) deals and steals on the interweb for some quality shopping over the weekend. Have any to add? Share them in the comments or shoot me an e-mail. Also, if you’re biting on any of these hooks, I’d love to hear about it!"


Got a nice, well-rounded list this week…a healthy mix of things I’ve bough and loved, and ones I’m dying to try - all at great prices, of course:



30% Off at G.H. Bass (code FRIENDS30):

First up is a selection of penny loafers from the folks who started it all. The Bass Weejun is widely acknowleged as the creators of the original penny loafer, a style that has become synonymous with American prep and can be seen everywhere still today. They’re one of my favorite shoes, balancing dress and casual, adding a classic timelessness, and staying remarkably affordable, even at list price. Lucky for us, we don’t even have to pay that! This pair, in a tan nubuck, might just become my go-to spring shoe, if I get my hands on a pair:

Nubuck Weejuns in Tan | G.H. Bass

Starting at $128, the discount drops these to just under $90, which is a helluva good price for such a solid yet stylish option. I’d wear these with pretty much everything. Although the lighter suede leans a bit more casual, I still think these would look sharp paired with a light grey summer suit.


Next up is a bit more formal, polished option in ‘cherry’ (read: burgundy or oxblood):

Rencrist Weejuns in Cherry | G.H. Bass

These bad boys are already on sale, so the discount takes them all the way down to $63! I have a pair just like these (if not the same shoe), and they are a workhorse in the office. In fact, I kept a pair in my desk all winter long. Any day I’d wear my Bean Boots through the snow (more often than not), I’d swap them out as soon as I got into work, and voila, looking like a pro. Great color, great shine, all business when you need them to be, but pop them on with some chinos and no socks in the summer for a carefree - but still polished - vibe.



Promotional Pricing at UNIQLO:

How I wish there was a Uniqlo in Chicago. I have a few pieces from them and love every one of them, but ended up in a few different sizes. In general though, you can count on them for high quality while mega-affordable basics, and I also love their lightweight summer blazers (again, mega-affordable). Got a few different options this time around though. First up are two shirts:

White Oxford Slim Fit Long Sleeve Shirt 

Slim Fit Print Long Sleeve Shirt      


On the one hand, their OCBD’s can’t really be beat. And they are on sale for under $20. I have one, and need to get more. Badly. On the other hand, where a white OCBD was a safe choice, you can test the waters of the printed-shirt trend and a true steal of a price with this navy pin-dot shirt. So very ‘in’ and so very inexpensive at just $13.


Next, another double for you, this time with some uber-cheap neckwear:

Wool Blend Tie 

Knit Tie                  

Truth be told, these aren’t anything hugely special. The wool tie is a blend, with a decent percentage of acrylic, while the knit tie is 100% acrylic. However, I’ve seen these in stores, and they look much nicer than they sound. PLUS, holy hell they only cost $4 a piece. So. What do you have to lose? Four bucks I guess…



Bonobos Sale Section:

OK, so they had a code-sale going on Thursday that dropped these prices even farther, but they are still a great deal without the code. Just don’t kill me if they finagled with the pricing since I wrote this up! We’ve done tons of Bonobos before, but I’m shaking it up a bit this time with two adaptations of their classic chinos. First is this chino blazer - yup, same fabric, but in a jacket:

The Washed Chino Blazer | Bonobos

OCotton blazers are one of my favorite things about spring/summer. The one I have from Uniqlo gets worn way to often, so I’m on the hunt for a second one to add to the collection, and this might just fit the bill. It’s unlined, unconstructed, and only $78 (originally $198). OK, so they’re calling this one ‘denim,’ but it looks like that just refers to the color, as they list the fabric as indeed chino.


Next, they took their great fitting chinos and, boom. That’s right, they made jeans:

Bottle Rockets in Overdye Indigo Dark Wash | Bonobos

I haven’t tried a pair yet, but the reactions seem to be pretty darn good, plus you already know the fit will be perfect. One review says the weft and stitching are grey, and that it lends to a dressier look, so there’s that as well. Marked down to $58 from $145.



Hugh & Crye at Gilt.com:

Last up, some dapper duds from the Hugh & Crye folks, on sale at Gilt. I’ve been eyeing up Hugh & Crye for a long time, but haven’t been able to get myself to bite, usually because the prices were juuuust out of my reach. This sale brings them down to an attainable level, for sure. My first pick is one of their shirts, which are what they cut their teeth and built their name on:

Santorini Wine Region Dress Shirt | Hugh & Crye via Gilt

This one, down to $49 from $85, is in a light blue gingham, which is just about the most perfect shirt patter for spring. Gingham itself is always a good spring option, and opting for the lighter shade rather than the more common navy is a great seasonal choice. Use their alternative sizing method to find the perfect fit for an added bonus.


We’ll close it out with one of their wool blazers, which have been getting a lot of hot press as well:

Wool Sport Coat | Hugh & Crye via Gilt

Looks like this is one of their McComb blazers, which are fully lined, so it might not get a ton of use in the hotter months, but it will fit right in next fall (and you should be able to get some decent use in before it heats up). Original price is $245, knocked down to just $129. I dig the plaid, but if you want something a bit more tame, it looks like they have some solid options as well.

March 25, 2014
Spring Colors: My Picks

Back in the fall, I did a series of two posts (here and here) on fall colors - the industry ‘color of the season,’ was a forest or hunter green, while my own personal favorite was along the lines of a burgundy, maroon, or oxblood. I was hoping to do a similar set of articles for the spring season, and was brainstorming over the weekend when I realized just how similar my two favorite warm-weather colors this year are. In fact, you could even say that they are just a re-interpretation of those two fall colors, adapted and invigorated for the brighter, more livelier color-ways that tend to dominate in the spring and summer.

When it comes to the green, fall called for a dark, dark green, sometimes with touches of brown that lent it even an olive color. This worked perfectly for fall, as bright green leafy trees give way to darker evergreens with a healthy dose of bare branches (see? dark green, hints of brown…this is easier than you think). Now, those same colors are giving away to bright new buds and are being given a healthy dose of sunshine. Similarly, the greens in your wardrobe should see some new life. Instead of reaching for those dark greens, pick something lighter…now, I’m not talking bright, or even pastel. Last year I was all about mint, and those days may come later this summer, but for now, it’s just the emergence of color, so keep some air of subtlety. My favorite has been an almost sea-foam green, but not quite so light. Close to emerald, I guess, but a little more washed out. It’s the kind of color that is bright and bold on it’s own, but can easily be tempered by pairing it with a few neutrals. Here are some options to give it a try:

Frank and Oak has been killing this color already this season. I just grabbed a pair of green cords that are unfortunately no longer available, but they’ve still got this OCBD in a very subdued shade (BONUS: use this link for $25 off if this is your first purchase):

Jasper Oxford in Sea Green | Frank and Oak

The folks over at Dockers took this a bit more balls-to-the-wall. These chinos are definitely a bolder move, but like I mentioned, just adding a few neutral balances will keep everything in pretty safe territory (BONUS: These are currently ridiculously on sale):

Alpha Khaki in Water Wheel | Dockers

On the other hand, the fall took red and completely over-saturated it, again adding that touch of brown, for something dark, rich, almost heavy. The same logic applies, and as I write this, I think about how much out minds associate winter with death, or at least absence of life, as much in color as in nature. With spring comes new life, and therefore new color, and brightness. The burgundy and oxblood reflect, for lack of a better word, decay (while remaining handsomely attractive all along). Now that we are through the winter (kind of?), it’s time to brighten the shade. Burgundy takes red to the dark extremes, but the color this spring will take red in the opposite direction. Still a big fan of subtlety, I’ll avoid anything bright red, or even in your slightly-faded Nantucket red that is so inherent in prep style. Instead, I go for something that is, again, a little washed out. My favorite example here is a red chambray shirt. The white threads woven in with the red lighten the color, but not to a pink or orange. Instead, the color is just as red, but again the opposite of burgundy…undersaturated and kind of understated. I’ve been seeing the same thing lately in some chinos and canvas trousers, and every time I do, something else gets added to my wish-list. And again, it’s a color that seems bright on it’s own, but is easily muted by including balancing pieces in the rest of an outfit. Here are some items I found around the web:

This. Exactly what I’m talking about here, from GANT. Featured these in Deals and Steals a little while back, but had to pull them out again for this post:

Canvas Chino in Summer Coral | GANT

This pair of sneaks (by Vans, for J.Crew), is a bit deeper of a red, but that washed canvas is gonna fade and wear in beautifully:

Washed Canvas Authentic Sneaker | Vans for J.Crew

And yeah, I know the fashion-world is all about orange this spring, and I’ve seen it utilized in some pretty awesome ways, but it’s a damn tough color to use, and can just as easy bring to mind chintzy halloween decorations as it can vibrant spring hues. Instead, I’m taking my own route and picking these two. Come summer, I expect to continue to see and use these tones, only in paler and paler reincarnations (think mint linen shirts and pastel red OCBD’s). Until then, here you have it. I plan on following up in the next week or two with a post putting these colors in action, just like I did last year. 

Share your favorite seasonal colors in the comments!

March 24, 2014
Navigating End-Of-Season Sales

This week, I’m handing over the reins for a post from guest writer Matt Hanrahan. If all goes well, Matt will be doing some more writing for the blog in the upcoming months, so we hope you like his stuff! Here we go:

 

If you’ve been to a mall in the last few weeks, you’ve probably noticed the huge crowds and the great deals at most (if not all) of your favorite stores. Late season sales are probably one of the best times all year you can shop, and right now you have an excellent opportunity to upgrade and maintain a fashionable wardrobe. In this article we’ll discuss how you can pick up some great new pieces and avoid making some common mistakes when hitting the mall.

Benefits:

Let’s first talk about the obvious benefits. It’s so hard to pass over stores lowering prices by 30, 40, or even 50 percent, and this short period of the retail season is probably the best time to snag great deals on staple pieces you’ve been missing in your closet. 

Probably the best part of this season is full inventory sales. Even if you are fully prepared for anything fall and winter can bring, full inventory sales will let you take advantage of your favorite stores new lines without breaking the bank. 

This is especially the case with shoes; if your footwear is looking a little scuffed or muddy I recommend waiting for the nearest department store sale and stocking up (full disclosure, I’m a big shoe guy so take “stocking up” with a grain of salt”).

Last but not least is the time and efficiency benefit. If you’re a busy guy like me, even one that loves shopping, spring brings a lot of opportunities to get away from the bright lights of the retail environment and into the sunshine we almost forgot existed. With every store around dropping prices all at once, you don’t need to spend a lot of your precious time hunting for discounts because pretty much every place has them. 

What to avoid:

Now I know most people reading this are probably well aware of the deals and discounts at their favorite stores and I might go so far as to say you’ve already read this week’s Deals and Steals For The Weekend”. You probably also know that, when late season shopping, you run the risk of buying something that you hate in 6 months. 

That being said, the mistakes many people make are a little less obvious. The first thing you want to watch out for is smart marketing, and by that I mean the goal should be to avoid impulse buys. The reason most sales only last a few days is to get you to buy right then and there. Try to move yourself away from anything someone might consider trendy and definitely don’t buy anything you wouldn’t buy at full price. 

The next piece of advice to avoid is outerwear like coats, gloves and hats. A lot of people will tell you that this is the best time to buy these items but I completely disagree. You’re outerwear is one of the most worn items in the winter and you should love how it looks it and feels when it’s just a few degrees outside. If you buy a winter coat when it’s warm out you can’t comfortably test it, it might not fit in your wardrobe in a year and realistically you’re looking through what didn’t sell. (Editor’s Note: I agree with Matt here, but I will give a nod to scoring staple outerwear at the end of the season. In other words, I say go ahead and buy out-of-season, but only if it’s a timeless piece - no risk of it going out of style before you can wear it. Bonus if it’s something you’ve been on the hunt for all season but couldn’t find. Just my two cents!)  

Finally, if you are like 99% of everyone else, you are working with a limited budget. I am in full support of buying clothes well in advance of the season (as long as they are basic items you need) but if you spend most of your money on seasonal items, you won’t have enough to buy anything for the upcoming summer weather. (Editor’s Note: Amen.)

Tips for your next shopping trip:

To round out our discussion here are the tips take advantage of the benefits but avoid the pitfalls of end of season shopping:

  • Don’t use this time to buy anything particularly trendy. Only buy staple items for your wardrobe.
  • Try to identify any pieces you may be missing and focus on finding those items first. Think solid colored shirts, chinos, jeans, accessories, and formal wear.
  • Avoid very heavy fabrics. Clothing sold in the fall is meant to be worn in the winter when it’s cold, and that thickness is going to make you very hot in the summer doldrums. 
  • Try to identify full inventory sales and spend most of your time and money there. Not only can you pick up in season items on the cheap, you are supporting companies that give us this opportunity. 
  • Stay away from outerwear (we’ve discussed this above)
  • When online shopping, give yourself a few hours or even a day to make sure this isn’t an impulse buy. 
  • Finally the golden rule: If you wouldn’t buy the item at full price, don’t buy it on sale. 

What are you’re favorite tips for end of season shopping? What mistakes have you made? Let me know in the comments!

 

Matt hails from the suburbs of Minneapolis. His day-job is at an investment firm, but he also has a passion for clothing (or, more significantly, style in general). Check out his own blog on life after college at matthewhanrahan.com, or follow him on Twitter (@mhanrahan18).

Liked posts on Tumblr: More liked posts »