Category Archives: Style

7 Hottest Men of the Oscars

The Academy Awards are widely known for the fashion, of the women that is. But let’s give it up for the sharply dressed men who made our jaws drop and made us fantasize. This is a list of just 7 men at the Oscars who made us remember, “It’s not the suit, but the man in it”.

Dressing For College

‘College style’ might seem like an oxymoron.  Go to any campus and watch the students walk to class.  T-shirts and jeans are the order of the day.  Some of them show up in their pajamas.  Your average college student takes their wardrobe as casually as they take their studies seriously.

To which we say: why be average?  College is your first taste of adulthood, the time to discover the man you want to be.  It’s also perhaps the first time you have the opportunity to make clothing purchases without your parents looking over your shoulder, so rather than lapse into lounge pants and sweatshirts, dress to the nines.  If it increases the workload on laundry day, so be it- it’s high time you learned to wash your own clothes, anyway.

The classic college dress code comes from the Ivy League universities, what we might today call ‘preppy’- but it was Ivy League before it was prep.  If you’re operating on a limited budget, focus on a few essential elements and combine them.  You need a pair of gray flannel pants to ground nearly everything else you wear.  You need a navy blazer, then another sportcoat, preferably tweed.  For colder climates you’ll want at least three sweaters in wool, and at least one should be a bright color that will make you stand out in a crowd.  A few Oxford cloth button-downs can be dressed up or down, even worn with a tie if the need emerges.  Speaking of ties, if your college has a crest, get a tie with that on it.  The original point of the necktie was to declare allegiance to a club or fraternal order; why stray from that?

For the summer, instead of a t-shirt, spring for a polo shirt, which you can wear under a blazer or on its own.  A pair of khaki pants are your casual style skeleton key.  Finally, spend some decent money on one good pair of shoes, preferably brown, preferably lace-ups.  They’ll last you from Welcome Week to graduation and carry you with aplomb.

If this seems like a short list, it is.  These are the essentials if you want to strut around like the big man on campus.  From here, shop carefully, and buy what you feel speaks to you.  As you advance in your studies, you’ll discover more about yourself, and this will shift your personal style.  You want to dress like you- not like someone else.

 

Men fashionable bags spotted on the runway during Milan fashion week fall/winter 2014 collection

Bags are necessary accessories to any man’s wardrobe.  These are some of the fashionable bags from the runway during Milan fashion week fall/winter 2014 collection.  Which one is your favorite?

I on Fashion: Elegance and the Sapeur

 Today I’m thinking about elegance—what it is, what it means, and what forms it can take.

    Much of our contemporary idea of elegance derives from the lifestyles and attire of the often frankly inelegant celebrities about whose lives we seem never to tire of hearing, and not only their fabulous vacations and torrid affairs but also the minutiae of their daily existence.

    Though the intensity of the modern West’s obsession with celebrity culture, and the massive cottage industry that has grown up around it, are wholly new, in matters of style the public has looked to distinguished individuals for guidance at least since the Duke of Windsor and Fred Astaire became synonymous with male elegance in the 1930s. And in this regard—elegance—it must be said that the paragons of yesteryear, whether heads of state or silver screen idols, outshone many of their latter-day counterparts.

    Michelle Obama wearing Junya Watanabe, adoring press notwithstanding, has style but lacks elegance. Carla Bruni, on the other hand, seems to have elegance in spades, as one might expect of a former model—yet she remains a model, wearing clothes well but without her own unifying aesthetic.

    What then is elegance? And what purpose does this palpable yet unquantifiable attribute serve, other than to aestheticize human existence and to draw the occasional admiring glance?

    These questions, never less than embers in my mind, were fanned into flame recently by my receipt of a rather astonishing photo book entitled Gentlemen of Bakongo: The Importance of Being Elegant. The subject of the book is sapeurs, the acolytes of a “religion of clothing” unique to the Congo, and the photographs depict real-life sapeurs in their native environment—the streets and open-air bars of Brazzaville and Kinshasa, the capital cities of the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, respectively, which lie in sight of one another on opposite sides of the Congo River.

    This book, as its title indicates, focuses exclusively on the sapeurs of the famous Bakongo neighborhood of Brazzaville. The photographer, Daniele Tamagni, has done an admirable job of capturing these rare birds in their often squalid environs. Indeed one might come away from her book with the impression that the streets of Congolese cities are positively crowded with peacocks young and old, nattily dressed in European finery.

    What youthful Japanese are often said to have removed from the Western styles of dress they’ve co-opted—namely, their emotional content—even while perfecting them to excess, these Congolese men have restored and heightened. Harajuku girls with more or less sunny dispositions may think nothing of draping themselves in black lace as Gothic lolitas, but for Congolese sapeurs elegance neither begins nor ends with colorful plumage.

    Tamagni writes, “Members [of SAPE] have their own code of honour, codes of professional conduct and strict notions of morality. It is a world within a world within a city. Respected and admired in their communities, today’s sapeurs see themselves as artists.” They are gentlemen, and although many younger sapeurs, unlike their forefathers, have organized themselves into competing gangs, they rarely brawl but instead engage in sartorial stand-offs, using their Sunday best as weapons.

    And yet many of these young men are unemployed or make pitifully small wages. Some must save up for months to buy a single designer ensemble. Many is the girlfriend and mother, one can imagine, who wishes that her lover or son would put his money toward more practical goals—like buying a house. Foolish as their indulgence in clothing they can scarcely afford may seem (and in fact is), it’s clear that sapeurs have found a way to transcend their filthy surroundings. That fashion is the vehicle for this transcendence does not invalidate either the goal or the achievement.

    It is easy sometimes for us to forget that money has no intrinsic value, and is useful only insofar as it can obtain for us goods and services that we need and desire. These things which money can buy, whether tangible possessions or intangible attainments such as an advanced education, do have value, either as means to an end or as ends in themselves. So although there is a sense in which the sapeurs, especially those in the younger generation—some of whom seem to compete with one another for gaudiest attire—dress to the nines for the sake of elegance alone, and although there is wisdom in urging them to use their incomes to better themselves, rather than merely their wardrobes, there is also much to be admired in the way they have forged, against the grain of their milieu, confident and unique self-identities.

    Forced to confront daily a world that offers them little encouragement or opportunity, the sapeurs don their elegant suits as a defense against poverty, hopelessness and death. And in so doing, they inspire the next generation to look beyond the dark world in which they are raised and dream of what might be.

 

I on Fashion: Elegance and the Sapeur
I on Fashion: Elegance and the Sapeur

 

I on Fashion: Elegance and the Sapeur
I on Fashion: Elegance and the Sapeur

 

I on Fashion: Elegance and the Sapeur
I on Fashion: Elegance and the Sapeur

 

Men shoes on the runway during Milan fashion week Fall/Winter 2014 Collection

Ever heard the saying, “the shoes maketh  a man” ? And so it does make your outfit look even better. We already know women love shoes, and yes the fashionmister loves his shoes too. A well polished dazzling shoe can get you that job, attract attention or perhaps get you a compliment. Women are always checking you out , starting from your shoes, so put your best shoes forward. Here are few of the men shoes for the fashion conscious man, the fashionMR., for work, dinner or just a casual outing we spotted on the runway during Milan fashion week Fall/Winter 2014 Collection:  Give us your thoughts on your favorite.

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 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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Why socks are every men’s best accessory…

Socks are like the footnotes at the bottom of the page of your favorite novel. You can read about the nouns, the descriptive adjectives and the verbs making the nouns come alive but the real substance, the real meat of what the words mean are down below; just like socks with every day wardrobe choices. Most 9 to 5 jobs have a rather bland feel. The walls are grey, the cubicles are grey and your mood is grey. A colorful, perfectly patterned offsetting sock can be the perfect remedy.  To break the conservative funk, men are turning more and more to bold statements socks that put a creative twist on their day.  Another way to describe this new accessory is that socks are like lingerie for men. If you want you can be the only that knows there under your pants… but when you walk or cross your leg as you sit you can give a little peak of what you’ve got underneath. According to Askmen.com/ Burton (2013), “women wear sexy lingerie under their everyday clothes to give themselves that boost of confidence they need…it might be what’s under her attire that’s got her in a good mood.” (p.1)

The craze is truly infectious. Robert Kardashian in October of last year launched his new line of playful socks, the Arthur George Collection at Neiman Marcus. According to the New York Daily News, “Everyone wears the same sort of conservative uniform,” Robert Kardashian says. “This is a way to personalize my work wardrobe.” (Pesce p.1). Love it or hate but the newest additions to the men’s fashion arsenal are socks.

Never Wear: Lumberjack Style

Young men in cargo pants and buffalo plaid trek boldly under a gray sky, their Red Wing boots tramping on the stony ground.  They wear heavy watch caps on their heads, while over their shoulders axes are slung.  There’s one problem with this: these young men are walking down our city sidewalks, not the gravel roads of some frontier town.  The trend toward American workwear reached its zenith several years ago, but even so, it has expanded and grown.  There’s a point at which this needs to stop, and we have clearly passed it.

It was a good exercise at first, this workwear trend.  At its core, the focus on American workwear is a focus on the days when garments were made with quality, and were built to withstand the hardship of a working man’s life.  It was an attempt to rediscover a distinctly American identity by young men who were just learning how to dress well.  It was natural that, after years of t-shirts and jeans, they would gravitate toward the familiarly rugged trappings of chambray shirts, workwear boots, trucker jackets, and tin oil cloth.  Brands like Filson and Red Wing and Gitman Brothers, true holdovers from the heyday of the American garment industry, welcomed these newcomers and created a new generation of products to meet their old-fashioned tastes.

Then things started to go overboard.  Wearing a flannel shirt and hiking boots started to become expected apparel for the sidewalk, instead of just the mountainside.  Men were showing up with bushy beards and watch caps to well-appointed restaurants and meetings.  There were even companies that sold ‘fashion axes,’ and men bought them.  Middle-class men who were in no proximity to any wood in need of chopping bought axes as a fashion statement.

We say to you, the budding FashionMR: please don’t dress like a lumberjack.  Heritage clothing and workwear is fine in a casual setting, but it should be worn with the understanding that you are probably not a mill worker, a mechanic, or above all, a lumberjack.  You work at Starbucks.  You work at Bloomingdale’s.  You work at Wells Fargo.  You do not work in a steel mill and you do not work at a saw mill.  Please dress appropriately.  Of course, if you do happen to be a lumberjack, then by all means, buy that axe.

The Fabrics of Fall

The leaves turn to warm colors, contrasting the chill that pervades the air.  The days grow short, the nights grow long.  Strong flavors of pumpkin, wheat, apple, whiskey enter the daily palate.  Autumn is upon us, and as the season changes, so too must our wardrobe change to accommodate it.  This is partly from necessity, as heavier fabrics are needed to ward off the gathering cold.  In no small part, however, the change of clothes that Fall brings is a matter of stylistic renewal.  We welcome the opportunity to wear and display fabrics, colors, patterns that would be out of place in the heat of Summer.

A fabric that has often been overlooked amid the Fall wardrobe is moleskin, a richly woven cotton that is sheared after said weaving to create a soft pile facing outward.  Moleskin is known for its gentle, luxurious feel to the skin, a hallmark of the English country estate aesthetic.  However, moleskin’s commonality in the manor house is also due to its toughness: it is a hardy and durable fabric, able to block out the wind and cold with ease.  We recommend its use in trousers, sport coats, and even outerwear.

Another luxurious fabric that sees justified use in the Autumn is mohair, which is derived from the wool of the Angora goat.  Mohair needs no introduction to some, having been used in suits, sport coats, and especially sweaters for hundreds of years.  It is a durable, long-lasting fabric, especially when tightly woven, yet it has a luster and softness comparable to cashmere.  As might be expected, mohair can be pricey, but as an investment piece, a mohair sweater can be well worth the money, giving warmth and conveying elegance for seasons to come.

Finally, we would be remiss if we did not mention the archetypal Fall fabric: tweed.  Heavy, unfinished wool, open and flexible, rough and rugged, tweed is the fabric of the outdoors, the garb of hunters, hikers, wandering philosophers.  It is often seen in brown, gray, and green, though tweed can be almost any color, from salmon pink to midnight purple.  The tweed sport coat is an essential element of a man’s Fall wardrobe, arguably the most important piece a man can wear as the weather turns cool.  Its smart styling means it can be dressed up with a tie and wool trousers, but its rugged exterior means it can be dressed down with jeans and a flannel shirt.  It may be said that no fabric is so closely matched with a season as tweed is with Autumn.  May the leaves begin their dance.

Color Study: Orange

Today we’ll look at the color orange, a worthy addition to any FashionMR’s wardrobe, particularly in this time of year.

Orange is a warm color, but not a hot one.  It is the color of the rising and the setting sun, but not the sun at noon.  It doesn’t make us wince away in its brilliance as yellow does; rather, orange is an inviting warmth, drawing us closer, making us slow down and bask in the comforting heat.  Orange lacks the immediacy of red.  It is a complex color, a considerate color, requiring more study than its other warm shades.  Yet orange is still bright, and still sturdy.  Its harmony with the falling leaves makes it suited for the outdoors, giving it a rustic, sporting aesthetic.  Anyone who has hunted quail will connect orange with the reflective vests used to identify hunters in the field.  Like them, a FashionMR who wears orange will be noticed without fail, and the scrutiny he will endure means the piece he chooses must be able to stand up to careful examination.

Orange is not a color that should dominate a wardrobe.  It is so sturdy and bright that a single item of it in an ensemble is enough to capture attention.  We suggest picking a piece that you feel comfortable showing off.  A sweater is an easy choice: wear an orange sweater under your navy blazer with brown pants for an ideal Autumn wardrobe.  It will make you appear warm and confident in the cold days to come.  On the other hand, you can go the Ivy League route and wear orange trousers.  Pair them with a gray tweed sport coat and a white shirt and you’ll be the toast of any party.  If you feel uncomfortable sporting orange in such a broad fashion, you can even wear something simpler.  An orange necktie will look good, particularly with blue, its complimentary color.  Hurry, though- Fall will be over before you know it.