Givenchy – Men’s Paris Fall/Winter 2014/15 Review

You see the inspiration behind the design front and center. The pink international basketball court inside a round fence. So the first thought is where is the ball? Then the models start walking out about a minute after the music starts and you find the basketball which you were searching for. It isn’t rolling around, or tucked away in some corner, it’s everywhere. The Givenchy designs are about basketball. From the fabrics used to the colors and patterns of the clothing, basketball is on his mind and now on everyone else’s. There aren’t any skinny pants here. Everything is loose fitted and relaxed. The materials are more sports related and are high quality sports attire. Loose fitted trousers with over-sized color blocked pocket appliques was what was noticeable right away and throughout the show. The colors fabrics and designs were all basketball related in some way. Even on a black leather pants and jacket combination the pants had brown basketball colored leather color blocked pocket appliques. Sticking with those colors there were numerous single rugby stripe appliques both to the biceps of shirts, sweaters and on the backs of various coats ranging from pea coats to puffer jackets. However bringing the true inspiration of basketball to the collection was that numerous pants, shirts and jackets had actual basketball prints on the sides and front and center. There were also abstract colors and design prints throughout the collection and they still reverted back to the basketball theme because either the colors were or it was an item like an abstract print tank top.

Givenchy also used fur in various ways throughout the collection and of course the fur was of brown and orange shades which by now we know reminds us of basketball. The fur pieces were used in various ways also including being wrapped around the neck resembling a towel, and a grey fur tank top with an orange, white and black outline. Everything here reminds us of basketball and that it is an international game. Nothing says that more than being an inspiration to a seasonal collection. This was best shown with a basketball print polo shirt with a mesh sweater made out of basketball netting nylon. That’s wearing what you love, and the love of basketball was the inspiration from the beginning.

Philipp Plein – Milan Men’s FW Fall/Winter 2014-15

Ladies your stallions are waiting and strutting their stuff in the Philipp Plein collection in Milan. The show starts off with two cowboys on horses involved in a gunfight. Then the show’s ponies start walking down the runway wearing everyday cowboy attire that includes leather pants, jackets and the Stetson hat which itself is a cowboy staple. Each model had some form of leather by wearing leather pants or jacket and if neither of those occurred then they were holding a leather saddle. Most of the collection was black with varied fabrics and designs. A major staple in the styles was crocodile and snake skin leathers where they were used in variations of black motorcycle jackets with the suede version having an asymmetrical zipper, and the black leather version having four crocodile zippered utility patch pocket sections stitched onto the jacket. Showing that even when using the same color you can have contrast with materials and designs.

Another variation of the western cowboy look was the black quilted leather overcoat with a red plaid inner collar and a fur outer collar. A cowboy isn’t a cowboy though without a pair of jeans. Distressed, torn, or faded, the jeans are what made the collection work as well. Imagine a cowboy with sweatpants, there isn’t one around because they all are wearing either jeans or leather pants. Finally adding some style and flare to the western cowboy theme and look we saw a collection of single button blazers with besom pockets and contrasting lapels. One was a satin lapel, while another pair of lapels had a reptilian skin design. However the most noticeable piece was a black blazer with satin besom pockets with the entire blazer having an onyx gem contrasting outline. If that isn’t enough, the stitched skull and crossbones logo under the right pocket tells everyone that it’s a wild west out there. That was also very evident by the duel to close out the show.

Room for Debate: Pleated Pants

Fashion, for all that it looks toward the future, is a reactive industry.  New trends are born from a rejection of current trends, then as those new trends mature and become ubiquitous, they inspire resulting new trends that reject the new standard.  The recent history of pleats in trousers is a textbook example of this tendency.  In the 1990’s, pleated pants filled store shelves and appeared on gentlemen of all ages and professions.  Perhaps the worst offenders were the pleated chinos, double and sometimes even triple-pleated across the crotch, creating a baggy mess that only contributed to the voluminous nature of the pants.  The fashion world rejected this strongly around the beginning of the 00’s, turning out slim-fitting pants with flat fronts inspired by the 1960’s.  The pleated pants from the 90’s continued to be sold, but they were looked upon with scorn, branded a fashion pariah.  Now, almost ten years after the flat front rebellion, pleats are gradually creeping back into the pants from the leading manufacturers.

A pleat is a fold in cloth created by doubling fabric back over itself and then stitching it in place.  They began appearing on trousers in the 19th century, where they were seen as a feature of sporting gear.  The utility of pleats is that they create additional room in the front of pants, allowing some leeway around the waist, particularly when sitting.  They were especially useful on older pants, which fastened up at the natural waist as opposed to at the hips as modern pants do.  As often happens, what was a casual style element was gentrified by dandies in the upper classes, and pleats became associated with fancier clothes.  They also continued to provide benefit to older gentlemen who were more portly in their golden years than they had been in their youth.

There is a golden mean between the billowing pleats of the 90’s and the uncompromising flat fronts of the 00’s.  Pleats are not a cardinal sin in pants; as mentioned above, they have their uses.  However, they should not be an excuse to neglect fit in a pair of trousers.  You should aim for a pair that is still fitted, though perhaps not as slim as flat-front pants.  Pleated pants need to be slightly more substantial.  Also, to avoid the still-looming specter of the 90’s, we might suggest looking for pants with a single pleat on each side, as opposed to double pleats.  Triple pleats, it goes without saying, are right out.

Wild Style: Plaid Dress Shirts

Plaid, the family of patterns that Scotland invented and America fell in love with, has had a swell of popularity in the past decade.  It has ridden the workwear trend to new heights of ubiquity, and one can scarcely walk down the street of a major city without seeing men wearing coats in buffalo plaid, sport coats in Prince of Wales plaid, flannel shirts in traditional highland tartans.  At this point, you probably have at least one casual shirt in plaid, perhaps several.  There is a frontier that is not always explored in the world of plaid, however, one that still intimidates the average office worker: the plaid dress shirt.

It is not so wild an idea, if you think about it: plaid is a pattern, fundamentally no different than stripes or gingham- technically, gingham is a plaid.  A plaid can be imposed on any article of clothing you desire, including dress shirts.  A plaid dress shirt is a great way to add a note of adventure into your office attire.  It can enliven your presence at meetings, make you stand out among your peers, highlight you at job interviews.  Moreover, plaid can allow you to match colors in ways previously unheard of.  A color that appears in a few thin lines of your plaid dress shirt can be picked up by your tie to harmonize your work wardrobe.  You could even match a color in your shirt to your socks, if you’re feeling particularly bold.

The important thing is not to juggle too many patterns at once.  If you are wearing a plaid dress shirt, keep your suit plain, in a neutral color like gray or navy; the purple and blue plaid shirt from Barney’s shown here could also look nice with a brown suit.  A darker shirt, like the black plaid from Burberry, demands a contrasting lightness of color, a blue or even, in the summer, a white.  On the other hand, a dark plaid can work with a dark suit and dark tie, the pattern keeping the outfit from looking like a blackout.  A word of caution: when you wear a plaid dress shirt, you must be on top of your game.  With a look this daring, you’re sure to get attention.

VERTU REVOLUTION CONSTELLATION LAUNCH

The Vertu brand is widely known around luxury circles because of its exclusivity. Like any Ferrari or an Audemars Piguet time piece, the finer the build quality and reputation the more expensive and in demand it is. Hermes, Gucci, Bottega Veneta and others are some of the designers that jumped aboard the IPad case bandwagon with their additions. Electronics and other on the go gadgets are no different. Vertu is the gold standard of the luxury phone world and with their new Constellation model they are soaring sky high. The luxury touches are all around the phone from front to back and all around even in places you don’t see. Starting with the fact that each phone is handmade in England, has a calf leather rear panel that can be accessorized with an alligator, ostrich, or a karung slip case of various colors. The front of the phone includes a forged titanium case and a 4.3 inch crystal sapphire screen. The best parts however are what is not visible to the naked eye. They are the inner functions of the phone itself. Features that include Vertu Life, Concierge and Certainty. Vertu life provides the owner access to invitation only events, private clubs, cultural experiences like Cannes Film festival and sporting events that otherwise are almost inaccessible like the Formula 1 events and the World Cup.

Vertu Concierge provides 24-hour worldwide assistance, recommendations, and priority benefits. It’s like having your own worldwide personal assistant with you all the time. You make the request, and they make it happen. Vertu Certainty is a security feature for their phones that enables the owner to have remote access for troubleshooting and the ability to encrypt their information for security reasons. Having a Vertu phone does two main things for an individual. The first is that it shows status to anyone who looks at it. As with any uber-luxury item, the people that know about it, know all about it. The second and the more important function that is does is make calls. It is a phone after all, no matter what options and features it has, it still needs to function like a phone at the end of the day. The enjoyment comes in knowing what kind of phone is being used.


TOM REBL – Milan Men’s FW Fall/Winter 2014-15

Showing what can be done with animal skins, prints, colors and fabrics is exactly what Tom Rebl showed us in Milan. He started off with white designs purifying the audience with god like perspective designs then transitioned into dark colors and fabrics before lighting up the runway again in a transitional black to white suit and going back to the dark colors and a warrior mentality. Nothing starts off a great show like snakeskin leather with a fur collar. A white and gray snakeskin leather moto jacket with an extra-long white to gray fur collar with an asymmetrical zipper design that is. Showing how combining various fabrics and animal skins can work wonders together. That was then followed by a white asymmetrical mock neck blazer with an asymmetrical vent on the back. His use of other snakeskin prints for his bronze two piece suit made from leather is just as unique. Even though bronze is considered a thirds place color, the longer you look at it, the more it feels like gold. Transitioning from leather to fur then back to leather and then to a green stitched and patterned hunter green cotton turtleneck crochet sweater with four different rugby style patterns and two horizontal stripes of metal loops on the chest is was the next look right before an actual transition suit. The transitional suit started with a shawl collared blazer with black shoulders and faded out to an off white waist and then faded back to black below the knees of the pants. It had a spray painted design feel to it which made it very urban chic.

Some blazers even had vent appliques which were a different approach to the modern blazer, but the most unique aspect of the show was the warrior section at the end. A satchel style pair of chain links held a black heart shaped canteen and a black vest made up of about one hundred individual pieces of leather all connected and held together by same chain link piercings resembling stitches and portraying a medieval knight’s armor with modern style. King Arthur’s round table would not dream of this style during their celebrations but if King Arthur tried it Queen Guinevere would have approved.

 

The Rugby Shirt: Sporting Style

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peterhahn

Taking a look at weekend style, this weather makes casual dress slightly more complicated.  We can no longer simply throw on a t-shirt or a polo shirt to survive the day at home or the trip to the shopping mall; the cooler temperatures outside demand long sleeves.  We might also want to use the season to wear something more visually interesting, something that will keep up with the shift toward patterned sweaters and textured pants.  A longstanding answer to this sartorial challenge is the rugby shirt, a casual classic in the colder months that continues to be a smart choice for your relaxing weekend.

The rugby shirt’s origins are straightforward enough.  It began as and continues to be based on the shirts worn by rugby players as part of their team uniforms.  Traditionally, it has been brightly and boldly striped with a stiff polo collar of a contrasting color, typically white.  The buttons are made of rubber; this is so that during rugby games, the buttons will come undone when pulled rather than pop off.  Though the shirts worn by modern rugby players are frequently made of synthetic fibers, the rugby shirt as a style item is almost always made of thick cotton.  Sometimes the cuffs are also a contrasting color, though this is not common.  Beyond striping, rugbies can be solid colors or even have color blocking across the body of the shirt.

The rugby shirt should be seen as the Fall and Winter equivalent of the polo shirt, given that they have the same collar.  Actually, a rugby shirt is slightly more casual than a polo shirt, its thick cotton being inherently more rugged, less formal than a polo shirt’s mesh.  The rugby is therefore a good match with blue jeans on a weekend or a day off; it can also be worn with chinos.  Give one a try, and don’t be surprised if you feel like hitting the pitch when you slip it on.

The Peak Lapel: A Study in Strengths

The whole point of wearing clothes, beyond the obvious protection from the elements, is to look good.  We wear what we wear because we believe it flatters our bodies, and we change what we change because we believe the new will make us look better than the old.  Menswear, no less than womenswear, is about achieving a Platonic ideal, a triumph of form whereby our clothes suggest that Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man lies just beneath the cloth.

To further this goal, we suggest a transformation of your next sport coat or suit jacket.  Rather than purchase something with the typical notch lapels, take the time and spend the money to find a suit or sport coat with peak lapels.  A jacket’s lapel occurs where the front edges of the jacket fold over and rise until they meet the jacket’s collar, at which point collar and edges are sewn together.  Most jackets will have the edges and the collar gap apart at the seam, forming a notch, hence the term ‘notch lapel.’  In a peak lapel, the jacket’s edges continue up beyond and past the seam at an angle, where they finally form a point.

The peak lapel is a marker of taste for more reasons than one.  It flatters a V-shaped torso, emphasizing strong shoulders and suggesting a broad, powerful chest.  The lapel draws attention to the gorge of the jacket, the triangular gap where the shirt is displayed, making it an ideal window through which to show off fine shirting.  Moreover, it is a sign of fine tailoring: on a single-breasted jacket, cutting a peak lapel is a challenge even for a skilled artisan, making a fine peak lapel the mark of a master tailor.  This extra work translates to a higher price, but that is not a matter of inflation.  You get what you pay for.

The difficulty in cutting a peak lapel means it is rarer on jackets than the notch lapel- in addition to being more expensive.  The benefits are more than worth the cost.  Make a statement and declare your independence from the ordinary.

Fun Pants

At this point, just about everyone has heard of Nantucket Reds, the famous symbols of Eastern privilege now a key element of preppy, Ivy League style across the country.  What is perhaps still unknown is just why Nantucket Reds, and their brightly colored fellows, have gained the status they enjoy.  Why do pants in faded pink command the discerning eye of old money?  The answer, at least in part, is that bright colors and outrageous patterns signify the dress of someone who doesn’t need to be sober in their tastes.  It’s a bit like Mark Zuckerberg coming to work in his sweat pants, though far more stylish.  Those who live solely on inherited wealth can afford to flaunt traditional standards of business dress or casual attire, as they will not be penalized for it the way lesser men would.

One way to take this devil-may-care aesthetic to the next level is to wear fun pants, available all year round in various colors and fabrics.  Fun pants are usually, though not always brightly colored; they can be chinos, corduroys, sometimes a more exotic fabric such as moleskin.  What distinguishes them is their embroidery: they are festooned with small prints stitched into the exterior of the pants.  These are called ‘critters’ traditionally, and they can take a variety of forms.  There are pants with ducks, anchors, turtles, lobsters, golf clubs, candy canes- the possibilities are endless, especially in the modern times.  You can find them in colors ranging from navy blue to bottle green, from nantucket red to sunflower yellow, so you’re sure to find a shade appropriate for your circumstances and the spirit of the season.

Fun pants are advanced style- this should be obvious.  Like the Eastern elites who initiated them, they should only be attempted if you have reached an unimpeachable point in your personal style.  The way you dress should be beyond reproach, and you must have the confidence to carry them off.  Keep your upper body simpler: opt for a solid shirt and either a navy blazer or a roughly textured sport coat, perhaps something in tweed.  You can be a bit more creative with your tie.  Again, confidence is key.  If you are going to echo the style of the Roosevelts and the Vanderbilts, you must have some of their swagger.

The Coat

There are certain elements of a gentleman’s style that so perfectly harmonize form and function that they become an unquestionably essential part of his wardrobe, no matter his own peculiar circumstances.  Every gentleman, for example, needs a navy blazer.  Every gentleman needs a pair of gray woolen pants.  Every gentleman needs at least one polo shirt.  And every gentleman, no matter where he lives or what he does, should at some point invest in a coat- a proper coat.  Even if you live in a typically warm climate, even if your job does not involve you spending much time outside, there is going to come a point in your life when you will need the practical and sartorial advantages a greatcoat provides.

The greatcoat, also sometimes referred to as a topcoat, is typically made of wool, cashmere, or some blend of the two, though it can also be made of cotton, alpaca, camelhair, or in some luxurious cases, vicuña.  It typically stretches from the shoulders down to the middle of the thigh, though some older, larger models will be found that hit at the knee or even lower.  It can be single or double-breasted, and it can have collars that range from shawls to notch lapels to peak lapels to even the rare Tautz lapel (someday we shall explain the Tautz lapel).  It ranges in color from charcoal gray to black to navy to camel.  It can be close-fitting, though it is typically sized to fit under a suit jacket or a sport coat.

The great benefit of a coat is that it does its job perfectly while making a FashionMR look impeccable.  It is heavy, long, and thick, so it keeps you warm even in the coldest of conditions.  At the same time, it generates a remarkable silhouette that flatters nearly every shape.  It emphasizes your shoulders and makes your torso a pair of long straight lines that stretch perpendicular to the ground; the angular shape that results is unshakably masculine.  Since its invention, the greatcoat has been worn by every stylish man at one point or another; it reached its zenith in the 1930’s, when royalty like the Prince of Wales and celebrities like Cary Grant sported it to great effect.  Yet the coat never went away- it remains useful, and stylish, now and always, a true menswear classic.

The First Suit: Basic Business Dress

We live, undoubtedly, in an age of relaxed business dress.  Casual Fridays have turned into Casual Weeks, and working men are encouraged to value comfort above all other considerations.  We certainly would not want you to be uncomfortable in your job; after all, comfort can be helpful to improve performance.  However, too much comfort can actually impede performance.  It can cause us to grow slothful and careless in our work.  We would therefore encourage every man who works in an office setting to avail himself at least part of the week of traditional business dress, and that means a lounge suit.  Think of this as our guide to the first step in that progression.

If you are buying a business suit for the first time, it’s best to search for something simple and versatile.  A two-piece suit, consisting of trousers and a jacket, will be fine for almost any office, respectfully formal without being too showy.  Look for a suit whose waist is not too low and whose armholes are not too low; going higher in both of these will aide your freedom of movement.  The lapels of your jacket can be thinner or thicker; the recent trend has been towards skinny lapels, though that is beginning to reverse.  It’s generally best to keep everything in proportion to your body, so if you are a larger man, opt for thicker lapels, while thinner lapels look best on smaller men.  Similarly, your own size will be a consideration when deciding what cut your jacket employs.  If you are a barrel-chested man, it is unwise to try and squeeze yourself into a slim-fit suit.

For your first suit, we suggest either a dark gray color or a navy color.  Both of these are extremely versatile, able to be matched with many combinations of shirt and tie; moreover, both of these colors can take either black or brown dress shoes, meaning they can transfer from a more casual daytime environment to a formal event in the evening with some modification of their accoutrements.  They are acceptable at weddings and funerals, at work meetings and job interviews.  They are the suits of a man who knows what he wants from the world and how to get it.  Yes, that man is you.

The Odd Vest

Men in the ‘golden age’ of dressing- the 1920’s to the 1960’s- were not averse to displaying color.  Particularly in the Roaring Twenties, men found the display of bright colors and bold pattens a way to distinguish themselves, to display their wealth and good taste.  Though this was achieved in no small part through suits, overcoats, and ties, one method of adding interest to the wardrobe has not gotten the attention it deserves: the odd vest.  ‘Odd’ in this case means ‘mismatching,’ and it distinguishes the vest as a separate piece from vests that are part of three-piece suits.  In the interest of reviving good ideas, we would like to suggest the odd vest as your solution to the question of how to distinguish yourself from the men around you.

The odd vest fell out of favor along with vests in general during the 1950’s and 60’s, though it was dealt its harshest blow during World War II and the fabric rationing that resulted.  As such, it can be difficult to find in modern days, though it has begun to make a comeback with some stylish retail destinations, and among some of the more traditional tailoring houses, it never went away.  The early part of the 20th Century is filled with examples of vibrantly colored vests- or ‘waistcoats’ as they are also known- peeking out from under sport coats and suit jackets.  The recent HBO series Boardwalk Empire, set in Atlantic City in the 1920’s, provides many wonderful examples of the odd vest and its ability to enliven an ensemble.

If you’re just beginning to explore this style choice of yesteryear, we might suggest a cautious start.  It can be difficult to match a completely distinct piece with the rest of your wardrobe.  Many of the odd vests currently sold are offered around Christmastime in festive red and green plaids.  Try one with charcoal gray pants, a navy blazer, a white shirt, and a tie that picks up one of the vest’s colors.  As Winter becomes Spring, you can begin to look for a vest to celebrate Easter, something in a soft shade like pink or yellow.  Search the online stores of some of the British clothiers, as the odd vest retains more popularity on the other side of the Atlantic.  Do not hesitate, in this instance, to be bold: this is advanced style, so confidence is essential.

The Secret World of Japanese Menswear

What places on Earth come to mind when you think of fine men’s clothing?  New York City, London, Milan, Naples all come to mind.  The world of menswear is dominated by an ever-shifting contemplation of American, British, and Italian aesthetics.

What if I told you that one of the great menswear cities of the world was Tokyo? The Secret World of Japanese Menswear

American audiences will perhaps be surprised by this assertion, but it’s true.  Japan, in fact, is one of the leading countries of men’s fashion, though it is not always the most publicized of locations.  It lacks the sartorial heritage of England and Italy, and it has not been the forceful presence of the United States on the world scene.  Yet Japan has its own sense of style, and its own great designers, waiting for the adventurous sartorialist.

Japan is not a great secret for everyone.  Italian and British tailoring houses have long known the Japanese man’s penchant for fine clothing, and his interest in pursuing fashion-forward dress.  When major continental brands look to expand their market, it is to Japan, not the United States, that they first travel.  This was true of Savile Row tailors in the aftermath of World War II, and it continues to be the case today.

As you might guess, the Japanese man’s sense of style is somewhat Italian in character, with a preference for soft tailoring, bright patterns, and luxurious fabrics.  Japanese menswear is not wholly dependant upon European sensibilities, however; they are not bound by the tradition and the legacy of centuries of style.  There is a freedom and a creativity in Japanese clothing not often found in the West, a sense of style bordering on the eclectic.  The Japanese are not afraid of innovation, and they are not afraid to be bold.  If you ever find yourself in Tokyo or Kyoto, peek into some of the shops.  You may be amazed by what you see.

The Turtleneck Makes a Comeback

If you were walking and talking in the 1970’s, you probably have some recollection of the turtleneck’s heyday.  The heppest of cats would strut down the streets of America, their high-collared sweaters rolled around their necks, set amid their wide lapels, just below their U-bar mustaches.  If you can remember that, you probably remember the horrific aftermath of it, when those hep cats grew dingy, and so did their turtlenecks.

For those who can remember, and those who can’t, we say look alive: the turtleneck sweater is back.  It emerged on the runways of most major labels in recent seasons, and the man on the street finds himself with the option of wearing a turtleneck seriously for the first time in decades.  If you weren’t around in the 70’s, the turtleneck can evoke bad memories of elementary school in the 90’s, but we advise you not to fear.  Let’s lay down some ground rules.  First, the turtleneck’s natural state is as a sweater- avoid the turtleneck shirts.  Avoid the mocknecks too: half the point of wearing a genuine turtleneck is that you can roll the neck down until it hits its sweet spot, coming right up to your jaw.  If you’re going out for the evening, consider a turtleneck in a neutral shade under a darker sportcoat; it’s a great alternative to a shirt and tie.  When wearing a turtleneck alone, it’s better to go for a thicker knit, and taking on a bold pattern can help the sweater stand for itself.  Finally, don’t be afraid to go luxe when buying.  Nothing will put the nylon and polyester nightmares of the 80’s further in the grave than a turtleneck in birdseye lambswool or rich cashmere.

A final word of caution: the turtleneck is not the most forgiving of garments.  It flatters a leaner, toner torso.  We won’t say you can’t wear it if your waistline is broader than your shoulders, but you might think twice about it.

Also: you need swagger.

Lanvin shows fall/winter 2014 Collection

There aren’t enough words to describe this collection by Lanvin. It’s really numerous collections in one season. It starts off with long wool coats with jigger snap buttons, and small but intense details like a zip off neck collar. You have the same style navy coat with a faux fur hood. A lot of items even meshed together especially the navy and light blue mesh sweater, with a green two piece two snap button suit with narrow notch lapels. Instead of the belt, there was a tightly wrapped piece of loose fabric in its place. If you don’t have to be professional this could definitely work for casual Fridays, and definitely for happy hour. The collection then shifts to a more striped feel. Suits with blue, and pink chalk stripes. Paired with contrasting navy blue and pink tops. The final part of the collection is what I call the museum phase. It uses simple grays and blacks, but inside all those colors are prints from different fabrics like leather and satin. Taking a gray short sleeve snap button up shirt and applying a satin gray sideways facing mask by stitching it onto the shirt and double stitching the sleeve. Having that attention to details and varying fabrics. In the end it’s all about color blocking. Pairing pink with navy, hunter green with browns, and light greens and grays. Colors and collars are two words that I kept coming to mind over and over again.

 

Color Guides: Red

There are at least ten colors a man must learn how to master if he is going to succeed as a sharp dresser, and here we begin a sequence that teaches you the steps to mastering each of them.  We will begin at the broad end of the visible spectrum with the warmest and broadest of the colors: red.  Red is not the first color that comes to mind when a man gets dressed- it’s too bold, too angry, too exciting and energetic.  Red is not the color you want to wear in a suit to an interview, for example.  However, precisely because red is so bold, it has its place in a wardrobe as a statement piece.

Limit your use of red to a single item of clothing that you want to really pop, the element of your wardrobe that you want people to see coming from a hundred yards off.  In the Summer, or even the Fall, try it in a pair of pants sitting below a navy blazer and a white shirt; you might even try the famous salmon-pink-red known as Nantucket Red.

You might also try some red up top, in the form of a sweater under a navy blazer or a gray tweed sport coat; this is the pop of color we alluded to before, the burst of bold styling in an otherwise inconspicuous wardrobe that will announce you to the world as a man of taste and sophistication.  As was the case with red pants, keep the rest of your outfit subdued: a simple blazer or sport coat, pants in khaki or brown or gray, a white shirt, and a sober tie.  Think of it as an exercise in precision, your demonstration that you can express yourself without losing control of your appearance.

You might wish to limit your use of red to a single necktie in your suit or smart casual ensemble.  Red neckties have long been associated with politicians, somewhat negatively at that, but this should not deter you from tying one on when wearing a gray or a brown suit.  If the thought of simple red in a necktie is too garish for you, we recommend a more subdued shade, like crimson or burgundy, perhaps with a pattern or a stripe, or used with a fabric other than silk, wool or cashmere coming to mind.  Use your reds with care, and they’ll take care of you.

Advice: Jeans for Evening

You may have noticed, in the past few years, a tendency by the leading celebrities and fashion designers to expand the wearing of jeans beyond their classic provenance as workwear and casual bottoms.  In fact, denim has grown to almost become acceptable in formal situations.  We say ‘almost’ because there is still a line that separates business and formal attire from more casual attire, and however much jeans have risen from their lowly origins, they simply are not meant to be worn as truly refined attire.  Denim is too rugged and rough a fabric to pass muster in the unavoidably genteel setting of a formal dinner party or dress affair.  However, the formalization of jeans does mean they have become an excellent option for evening occasions that are less dressy- occasions such as a first date, a house party, or parents’ night at your child’s school.

If you’re going to wear jeans as part of an evening ensemble, the first rule is to keep your jeans dark.  Jeans in a dark blue wash, or even jeans colored black, are the best option after sunset, as their coloring fits the night well.  Additionally, you should look for jeans in a close, but not skinny, fit.  You will want a pair of jeans that flatters your legs without squeezing them, and below the knee they should either gently taper or fall straight to the hem.  You may wish to invest in high-quality denim as well, something from one of the ancient selvedge mills in Japan or the United States.  Not only will the denim hold its color longer, it will be easier to the touch, more fitting a dressed-up setting.

Wearing high-quality jeans in the evening should be an occasion for carefully calculated ‘smart casual’ dressing.  You can get away with a sport coat in a dark color, perhaps also in a large pattern like windowpane plaid; failing that, a navy blazer works just as well.  You might wear a necktie, though it may make your other pieces clash too much with your jeans.  Opt for a shirt with a button-down collar, such as an oxford, perhaps in a solid color such as white or light blue.  On your feet, dressing up jeans is the perfect occasion to wear monkstrap shoes, as they too straddle the line between casual and formal attire.  Dressing up jeans in the evening is a matter of control- you want to go far, but not too far, in appearing elegant.

The Unstructured Jacket

The intersection between dress and casual can be so fragile and delicate as to give the modern man fits.  We live, without doubt, in a casual age, but a man never wants to appear sloppy.  The Italians have been living lives of relaxed elegance for centuries; it stands to reason, therefore, that they would grant the rest of the world a solution to the problem of looking one’s best while still appearing informal.  Allow us to suggest the unstructured jacket, pioneered by the Italians and conquering the world of menswear since  and before Spring/Summer 2010.

As its name suggests, an unstructured sport coat comes without the darts, ribbing, padding, or any other element that might give the jacket a defined shape, and that might, in turn, attempt to shape the torso of its wearer.  Its construction is more akin to a shirt than a typical sport coat, lending it a loose and casual air perfect for situations when too much formality would be paradoxically informal.  The unstructured jacket is most in its element during the warmer months, especially because most unstructured jackets are unlined, making them thin layers of formality that do not cause their wearers to roast in the hot summer sun.

In spite of this, the sophisticated gentleman can enjoy the casual elegance of an unstructured jacket all year round if he so chooses; their lightness makes them an ideal layer between a sweater and a coat when the weather turns cold.  The great triumph of the unstructured sport coat is that, for all its comfort and looseness, it is still a sport coat, a jacket that lends at least a hint of formality to whatever attire it accompanies.  It can take a man from sloth to luxury in the simplest of gestures, all without the hint of sartorial exertion.

The Quilted Vest: A Cold Weather Warrior

It grows colder and colder, at least in some parts of the country.  For those of you beginning to feel the first hints of Winter, it may be time to upgrade your daily wear to something more suitable to the coming season.  A greatcoat is fine for more formal occasions, but what if you’re wearing jeans and a crewneck sweater?  Moreover, what if it’s not so cold outside as to require a heavy coat?  Stepping into this space between spaces is the quilted vest, a more modern piece of cold weather outerwear that will keep you warm, but not hot, in the twilight zone between Fall and Winter.

As their appearance might suggest, quilted vests originated as mountaineering clothing and skier’s wear.  The idea of a quilted vest goes back even further, to Medieval Europe when the padded vest known as the gambeson was worn under chainmail to prevent chafing.  In the 20th Century, the vest, also called a puffer vest, was popularized on snowy mountains for its ability to keep climbers and skiers warm while not restricting movement as much as a full coat.  The puffy squares of the quilted vest were often filled with downy feathers from geese, lending the garment its third popular name- the down vest.  Today, the quilted vest has crept into street style, appearing at every conceivable price in stores from coast to coast.

The quilted vest is a decidedly casual piece of outerwear, so we don’t recommend wearing it with your suit unless you wish to make a statement.  It makes a great addition to a wardrobe for a weekend outdoors, however, lending a layer of protection while not encumbering your arms as a coat would.  Quilted vests frequently come in bright colors, so you might wish to pair it with a neutral sweater or trousers in an earth tone.  If you want to complete the urban adventurer look, perhaps some fingerless gloves and a watch cap.  You’ll be all set for a hike in the woods, or at least for a walk around the block.

Knit Ties

The tension generated by modern standards of dress is nowhere more severe than when it comes to adorning one’s neck.  The necktie was of old a casual element of dress, but as the lounge suit found its place in the business world, the necktie became an element of more formal dress.  Now, with the workplace growing increasingly casual, the tie finds itself in an awkward position.  There are certain situations which seem to demand the formality of a tie, and there are certain ensembles which seem incomplete without a tie.  How to unite a casual world with a formal accoutrement?  There is an answer, more simple than you might think.  If you feel compelled to knot up, but don’t wish to seem too formal, don’t abandon the necktie; rather, reach for a necktie that manages to be casual.  We refer you to the knit tie.

Knit ties, as their name suggests, are neckties made from material that has been knitted together, rather than woven.  The knitting process results in a rough, open texture, leaving many gaps in the tie’s construction; knit ties are often squared off at both ends to finish the sewing.  The coarse and visible knitting helps defang the usual seriousness that accompanies a necktie.  A knit tie looks almost like something your grandmother made for you; it has a relaxed and decidedly casual elegance, while still invoking the appearance of control that is always gained when a man knots up.

A knit tie merges the professional and the casual so well that we eagerly recommend it in casual settings, even settings that might not seem to call for a necktie.  In navy silk, pair it with a white or light blue shirt and a brown sport coat, along with light gray pants- you will have an ideal first date outfit.  Weekend office workshops are the perfect environment for the knit tie- try a brightly colored one with an oxford shirt and a cardigan.  Whenever you feel ready to wear a necktie, but then have second thoughts, that is precisely the moment when you should tie on a knit tie.  It is a tie for a world gone tieless.

The Power Suit

The old axiom is, “Dress for the job you want.”  If you’re committed to this idea- if you see yourself as Chairman of the Board, Head of Accounts, Dean- you’ll need at least one suit in your rotation that knocks everyone who sees it off their feet.  This is the ancient and mighty art of power dressing, and it’s been practiced at least since Louis XIV wore high-heeled shoes to make himself taller.  You need to convince everyone who sees you in the office, on campus, at the site, that you are in charge, even if you’re not at the top.  You want to be at the top.  You want people to think you’re at the top.  That’s how you should dress.

Your typical lounge suit (as business suits are classically called) is, in 2014, a two-piece number in some shade of gray or blue with notch lapels and pants that may or may not have pleats.  This leads to the first rule of power dressing: the more fabric in your suit, the more power it has.  Go beyond two pieces and reach for the additional fabric of business’ other suit styles.  The three-piece suit has an air of formality granted by its vest, which also means you stay suited up even when your jacket is off.  It commands respect.  Even higher in might is the double-breasted suit, which swaths you in an enveloping jacket that strengthens your torso and broadens your shoulders with its peak lapels.  There’s a good reason your boss’ boss probably has at least one double-breasted suit: it is the prototypical dress of the Masters of the Universe.

When you’ve picked out a suit, you can’t stop- consider your shirt and tie next.  Go for a striking shirt in a bright color, a bold stripe, a large gingham.  Your suit should be a neutral shade already, giving you a backdrop from which to experiment with shirt and tie combinations.  Be bold, again, but don’t scream.  Coordinate your colors, and take care when mixing patterns, contrasting a strong pattern in your shirt with a subtle pattern or texture in your tie.  A key element of power dressing is elegance.  You want everyone to notice you, but you don’t want to be seen as a buffoon.  After all, power properly exercised is a matter of control.  You must display your power without unleashing it, except at the right moment- then you’ll win your audience’s awe.

Valentino – Men’s Paris Fall/Winter 2014/15

This is what the gentleman wears. Their interpretation of formal and professional attire is outlined in this season’s collection. Taking otherwise basic clothing and designing various patterns and prints to form a more casual look is what formal is becoming nowadays. Take a two piece suit, use the jacket to pair with jeans and you have a casual night time look. In Valentino’s case, take a cream colored pea coat and remove the buttons to get their new casual pea coat. Works the same way for warmth on a non-windy day but now it just looks and feels more relaxed and casual. The same goes for their navy and gray rugby striped design. It’s almost like an accessory to your everyday clothes. Providing the look of a pea coat, half the functionality and double the casualness. The sense of color is never lost even on a gentleman.

Wearing a wool burgundy two piece suit is always as classy in a professional setting as it is relaxed away from the cubicle. A little more risqué is their two piece camouflage herringbone wool suit, whereas as original as it is there has to be no fine line for a dress code to be able to pull this off. But once it’s on the cameras will not only find you but you will be looking for them as well. Herringbone patterns were a staple in this collection. Used in everything from suits to coats and even as partial designs in combinations on various pea coats. Going from relaxed to formal and back to relaxed was the route of this collection with basic duffle coats in cream and blue colors. Gray and cream pea coats that had owl and hawk prints starting with the wings on the sides and the body of the bird stretching to the back of the coat and if there was no design print then the there was a varied type of vent on the jackets back ranging in size from waist high to a full shoulder height vent that almost separated the coat and made it a formal cape. Valentino is all about the luxury materials and designs and nothing says that more than the use of purple leather in a double breasted pea coat. With shoulder epaulets, a button appliqued chest flap, belt buckle wrist epaulets and to finish off the look gray wool lapels with the purple leather collar and a rear horizontal shoulder vent. The most formal and yet casual collection comes from one of the top designers. If casual Couture is the new “it” then “it” is already here.

Style Bonus: Colorful Dress Socks

Once you’ve mastered the rules, you can break them.  This is as true in men’s style as in many other fields, and the ability to violate the rules with aplomb can set the FashionMR apart from the crowd of unassuming men that surround him.  One of the cardinal rules of good style is that you should match your socks to your pants.  It’s a good rule, generally speaking: it lengthens your legs visually, makes you appear taller, and is a safe union of color between the pants and the shoes.  But like all rules, it can be broken, and if you break it with style, you can have a flash of bold dress that declares your sartorial independence from the ordinary.

First, some grounding rules- yes, there are rules for breaking the rules.  The whole point of bold dress socks is that they contrast the sober surroundings of your pants and shoes.  Therefore, if either of those happen to already be colorful, opt for normal, staid dress socks.  You wouldn’t wear red dress socks with blue suede shoes, for example- unless you seriously wanted attention.  Additionally, you should match patterns with solids and solids with patterns- if both your socks and your pants have a pattern, the effect will be too busy.

That said, use your dress socks for a flash of color in a normally sober outfit, like a colorful dress shirt.  In fact, if you choose, you can match your socks with your dress shirt- consider wearing pink socks with a charcoal gray suit and a pink Bengal stripe dress shirt underneath.  Play with complimentary colors, if you can: if you’re wearing a navy suit, try some orange socks.  Of course, if it’s summer and you’re wearing a white or khaki suit, all bets are off- be as colorful as you like.  Use your socks as a palette no less than the rest of your wardrobe, because every part of your body can act as a tool of expression.  You should be an individual from head to toe.

Plaid: Royal Stewart Tartan

Plaid seems to become an especially appropriate pattern, not just for the holidays.  Albeit, something about the mix of colors crossing over a dominant background seems particularly festive.  Tartans came into being as the descendants of regional patterns marking out the various locales of ancient Scotland.  Over time, they grew associated with the Scottish clans, to the point that most of the major clans had one or several tartans to its name.  The Royal Stewart Tartan, as its name suggests, was the tartan of the House of Stewart, and reached significant heights as a symbol of power in unison with its famous bearers.

The House of Stewart rose to prominence at the end of the 13th Century, when it secured peace with England through a marriage union with the House of Tudor, thus claiming an inheritance with the English throne.  The line produced a number of kings, many that ruled both England and Scotland; however, the Stewarts also presided over the famous interruption in the English monarchy, when the Republicans under Oliver Cromwell tried and beheaded King Charles I.  The House became extinct in 1807, but it left its legacy upon Great Britain- and ensured the popularity of its personal tartan.

The Royal Stewart tartan is extremely popular, especially around Christmastime, and it’s not hard to see why.  With a red background overlaid by wefts and warps of black, white, blue, and dark green, it has the colors of the Christmas season, from red bows to dark trees to twinkling blue lights. Nonetheless,  there are few bold and confident fashionmisters who are not afraid to wear them any time of the year.  It can work as both an accessory and a main piece, as a scarf or a pair of pants or sometimes even a sport coat.  As it is a very bold pattern, its companion pieces should be paired down, so look for pants in brown or gray, shirts in white or light blue, coats in gray or black.  This royal regalia speaks loudly enough on its own- it doesn’t need to be amplified.

The pocket square: A significant piece for every man.

How can this little piece of fabric shoved into a pocket be one of the hottest trends for the FashionMR today?  Men have discovered that monotony is over. The proof is the numbers… According to the latest addition of WWD Men’s Week that came out on February 13th of this year, “Men are investing in themselves and their personal style more than ever, and are focused on how they are expressing themselves” (Brown p.1). Juxtaposing women’s and men’s apparel sales, The NPD Group Inc. claims though still a smaller slice of the industry men’s picked up steam and jumped 5.3% or $59.5 billion in sales last year.

The pocket square is a significant piece going into the everyday wardrobe. Just like socks, it can add a little flair, a little playfulness and attitude to a solid basic suit. GQ has said, “The littlest things make the biggest difference” (2013 p. 1). I get asked a lot how do I wear a pocket square, how can I match it to what I’m wearing? My rule of thumb and what I tell everyone that asks is that there is no correct way. For example if you’re wearing a solid colored dress shirt with a striped tie… it may be nice to offset it with a floral or paisley pocket square.  If the tie has blue and grey in it, choose a pocket square that draws out one of those two colors.  The possible combinations are endless and that’s what makes fashion so enjoyable; one day something is relevant and the next day it gets modified to something bigger and better.

 

Photo Credit: GQ.com

Photo Credit: GQ.com

Brown, Rachel. (Febraury 13th 2014).Print. Men’s Week.  WWD.

GQ.. (May 2013). GQ Style.  http://www.gq.com/style/wear-it-now/201305/the-gq-guide-to-pocket-squares#slide=6

 

Dyed Denim: Beyond Blue Jeans

The designer denim craze that has so gripped the world of fashion has transformed the way we think of jeans.  What used to be workwear has been dressed up, shaped up, prettied up, and thrust into the spotlight as a wardrobe staple on par with the navy blazer- indeed, jeans and a blazer are now recognized as an excellent evening staple, a state that used to be considered heresy.  In the rush to upscale blue jeans, however, there is one option that is sometimes overlooked: who said jeans have to be blue?

Denim can take on many garment dyes; indeed, as cotton, it is highly suitable to a broad range of colors.  We therefore recommend that you go beyond blue.  An easy way to start is with a pair of white jeans, a great substitute for white chinos in the Spring and Summer.  If you don’t want stark white, consider an off-white pair like the ‘wheat’ color sold by J. Crew.

There’s more to dyed denim than white, however.  Denim most enjoys dyes of bold, dark colors, such as black, gray, and even burgundy.  At the same time, it can take the lighter shades, such as the aforementioned white and even khaki or stone.  If you have the resources, don’t hesitate to experiment with different colors of denim.  Treat these jeans like a pair of colored chinos or corduroys, but with the added edge of their rough exterior.  Pair them with a scratchy tweed sport coat, a marled sweater, and some desert boots, and you have the perfect outfit to spend a night out on the town with.  Or you can go hiking, if you feel so inclined.  You are wearing jeans.

Fair Isle Sweaters

Certain items of clothing rise imperceptibly through the public consciousness, taking hold of our sartorial awareness so subtly that we do not notice them until they are suddenly everywhere.  Then there are pieces whose popularity can be traced to a single moment in time, to a place and a person that defined the item and bestowed it upon the rest of us prepackaged.  The Fair Isle sweater is undeniably the latter.  Its place in the menswear canon is due almost wholly to its popularity with one of history’s most famous clotheshorses: King Edward VIII of England, who has gone down in history as the Prince of Wales.  All through his life, the Prince was a stylistic adventurer, eschewing the staid conventions of the upper class and embracing a wardrobe built around comfort, boldness, and sporting character.

The Prince made a sensation out of the Fair Isle sweater, whose name comes from its origin on  Fair Isle, one of the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland.  The people of Fair Isle have long sense perfected a knitting technique in which different colors of wool are woven together to form rows of patterns, with no more than two colors per row, and no more than five colors in the entire garment.  Technically, a Fair Isle sweater employs only the traditional patterns of knitting from Fair Isle itself.  However, the great popularity of the Fair Isle style of knitting has made a trademark of the name, and today sweaters from all over the world of menswear are dubbed ‘Fair Isle,’ whatever their origins or design.

If you wish to have the genuine article, however, you must seek out a sweater with the brilliant colors and wild patterns of traditional Fair Isle knitting.  If you can find one from Fair Isle itself, so much the better.  For a more fashion-forward look, seek out a sweater in unorthodox patterns and colors, and pair it with a ground of gray pants and a tweed sport coat.  The Prince would applaud your daring.

The Desert Boot are ankle-high boots, allowing greater freedom of motion for the foot…

Shoes that have utility are always prized in menswear over shoes that do not.  Most recently the trend has been toward work boots, even in situations that call for more formal shoes.  We like our footwear to have a sense of purpose; however, we also like to show off when we get the chance.  A popular combination of these two impulses over the past few years has been the desert boot, which is still riding high as a shoe of choice for the  many stylish gentlemen, the fashionmister.  The reason it endures is that it serves a purpose while still looking distinctive.  It is utilitarian while still possessing dramatic flare.

Desert boots are ankle-high boots, allowing greater freedom of motion for the foot than would be had in a calf-high boot.  They also offer less protection than a calf-high boot, which is understandable given their origins.  Clark, the American shoe company, first introduced the desert boot to the public in 1950, and as their name suggests they were inspired by the boots worn by British soldiers in the Egyptian desert during World War II.  They are distinguished by their suede leather exterior, as well as their soles: they have soles of rubber that are mostly flat, but are wrinkled and rumpled along their expanse, and so they are called crepe soles.  Classically, desert boots come in light tan, to better blend with the sand, but these days they can be found in almost every color: brown, black, navy, white, sometimes even red or yellow.

We recommend that the desert boots you wear be in a classic color, at least so long as they are your first pair.  Experimentation can come later; what a FashionMR should be focused on initially is quality and classic styling.  As they are the shoe’s inventor, Clark is still the go-to company for desert boots, such desert boots are sometimes called ‘Clarks.’  However, you can find other models from esteemed companies, such as Mark McNairy New Amsterdam, Opening Ceremony, and Grenson.  Find a pair in classic tan and wear them casually, with blue jeans or chinos and a crewneck sweater on top.  They make good accompaniments to a leather jacket and even a more woodsy sport coat, something in tweed.  This is one trend you should have no fear of joining.

Style Experiment: the Double-Breasted Cardigan

When the world becomes too predictable, when your options become too easy, it’s time to crank up the Difficulty setting.  FashionMisters shouldn’t be cautious if they’ve built their wardrobe well- if you have the basics down pat, if you’re doing well with your color mixing and your pattern matching, you shouldn’t be afraid to throw something into the mix that makes people stop and look.  Enter the double-breasted cardigan, a stylish exclamation point to a winter wardrobe.

Simple enough: the double-breasted cardigan is a sweater that fastens across the middle like a double-breasted jacket or coat.  Like a double-breasted sport coat, it buttons at one side as one breast folds over another, and two sets of buttons run down the front.  Unlike a typical double-breasted blazer, double-breasted cardigans are often capable of buttoning all the way up, their buttons functional and able to lock in the warmth generated by their cozy knitting.  They’ve been seen with a variety of collars, from a polo collar to a shawl collar to a simple flat collar.  It is a newer item, gradually emerging in the past few years, but of course drawing inspiration from the rise of double-breasted suits on the runways.  It has grown into a luxury item, and as such, it is made of high-quality fabrics like merino wool, cashmere, and lambswool.

As mentioned before, the double-breasted cardigan is a statement piece.  It is still fairly uncommon, so if you wear it, prepare to be noticed.  That said, don’t go overboard.  Treat it like a normal cardigan and wear it as part of a smart casual ensemble.  A pair of corduroy pants wouldn’t be out of place, though the greater formality brought on by double breasts means you could wear wool pants as well.  We would recommend some kind of collared shirt underneath, whether this is a true dress shirt or a flannel shirt for extra warmth.  It’s a perfect solution to the question of home entertainment wear, and if you’re lucky enough to snag one this holiday season, we suggest you not be shy.

The Cutaway Collar

The clothing tastes of the American man have gradually drifted toward more Continental sensibilities, with a European focus on more adventurous color and styling.  Tailoring has also shifted, with a greater emphasis on close fits and flattering cuts.  In these two respects, American tastes in dress shirt collars have multiplied beyond the simple button-down collar, and a greater variety is now available.  We would encourage the FashionMR to take advantage of this new opportunity; in particular, one experiment worth conducting is to wear a shirt with a cutaway collar.  Once almost unseen on our side of the Atlantic, the cutaway collar has gradually crept into some of the more fashion-forward clothing labels currently available, and if you are feeling daring, we certainly encourage you to take a shot at it.

A cutaway collar, as its name implies, sweeps away from the center of the shirt in dramatic fashion.  It is even more spread than a spread collar, so drastically pulled away that it actually bends backwards, exposing a great deal of the neck to public view.  Its daring nature lends it best to power dressing, so cutaway collars are often found on dress shirts of considerable quality in fabric and construction.  A cutaway collar may be some extra insurance that the shirt you are purchasing is of fine quality, though of course you should do your research first.  A FashionMR should start pushing the boundaries of dress with caution, especially if he is new to this realm of style.  Paul Stuart sells several cutaway collar shirts through their youthful Phineas Cole label; that is the ideal place to start.

Two things should be noted about the cutaway collar.  First, the amount of space it leaves exposed at the neck means it takes a substantial tie knot.  We recommend a half-Windsor or even a full Windsor knot to give your tie the appropriate heft.  Finally, though you should certainly experiment with cutaway collars, know that you may not like it, at least not at first.  Shirt collars have classically been matched to the size of the wearer’s face, to best achieve the appearance of a squared and powerful jaw.  The general rule has long been that the narrower a man’s face, the wider his collar should spread.  If you have a broad jawline already, a cutaway collar may exaggerate it in ways you will not like.  Therefore, a FashionMR should, as we said, proceed cautiously.  There’s no need to get in a rush.