This is Mitchell’s selection of the best outfits from Pitti Uomo 95 and his suggestions to replicate them without breaking the bank.Continue reading
When we think of tailoring, the suit is usually what first comes to mind. In fact, the suit is so synonymous with tailoring in the popular lexicon that even if you’re wearing a blazer with odd pants, you’ll almost certainly be told “nice suit.” Of course we know better, and if you follow my posts on Styleforum or my personal blog, you’ll know that I rarely wear suits. My personal preference is for tailored odd jackets and trousers. I love suits and absolutely would wear them every single day if my job or other circumstances necessitated it. As it is, however, I have flexibility in what I wear for work, and I like the versatility of odd jackets.
But in practice, I’m pretty repetitive with my jacket-trouser combination choices. In the warm months, the choices differ from the cold months, but the principle is the same: I basically rotate the same 3-4 pairs of pants with basically every jacket I own.
In that light, here are the four pairs of trousers I find easiest to pair with my tailored jackets in the summer:
1—Mid-Gray trousers in some form of lightweight, breathable wool
My personal preference for this category is fresco, because it keeps its shape and is so hard-wearing (which is a boon for trousers). Fresco is a trademarked name for a specific weave developed by Minnis, but many different mills have developed their own version of the cloth. It stays cool by being open-weave, but it keeps its shape by having tightly-woven yarns. There are other weaves, of course. I owned a pair of gray summer weight hopsack trousers once, which also wore fairly cool. But I ultimately did not like how they draped on me—too loosey goosey. Tropical wool is kind of a catch-all term that means lightweight wool meant to be worn in the warmer months. I say: stick with Fresco if you’re unable to examine the cloth in real life to know if you’ll like it.
2—Off-white trousers in whatever fabric you like
I personally go for cotton-linen blend trousers in off-white for summer, because I can wash them. But off-white wool trousers work, too, but I have a personal aversion to them. I have this very specific memory of a used car salesman who had a very 1970s vibe wearing some (honestly they were probably polyester) with a yellow shirt, selling my parents a 1989 Mercury Sable that turned out to be an absolute lemon of a car. That, and I am too cheap to dry clean unless I absolutely have to. But I fully endorse off-white trousers in whatever fabric floats your boat. They literally go with everything (tan jackets, tobacco/cigar jackets, dark brown jackets, navy jackets, green jackets, the list goes on).
3—Warm khaki cotton chinos
Go toward dressier versions that hold a crease and have either an unfinished seam or a finely finished seam, and you’ll look better for the office. Broken-in, more rugged chinos also can work well with a tailored jacket but will look out of place if you’re trying to dress them up more. For instance, I wouldn’t wear polished calf leather shoes with broken-in chinos, nor would I wear a tie. But with a creased pair of chinos, I’d wear both no problem. I personally think the warmer khaki tones are the most attractive—British khaki, copper, caramel, whatever the retailer you find them at calls them. I prefer its warmth over standard khaki, which is a dustier, more faded tan. That has its place, too, of course (I personally think it works best in the broken-in configuration, worn with a beaten-up OCBD or navy polo shirt).
4—Dark or slightly faded-looking denim
Dark jeans have ruled menswear for a decade or more, and I’m pretty sure there are more selvedge denim companies than there are Styleforum members. There’s a good reason for that: they are more flattering on more body types than faded jeans and worn out at night they look dressy enough to make an outfit feel put together. The lighter you go, the closer you get to the dad-jean territory, or rancher territory, or miner territory, or menswear blogger territory. So I say, stick with dark rinses or just ever-so-subtly faded denim and you can’t go wrong. In the height of summer, depending on where you live, they might be too hot to wear—but in those situations, wearing a tailored jacket might not make much sense, either.
The reluctance to wear white past Labor Day has long been debunked in the United States. But for many men, when to wear white isn’t an issue because, save for the white business shirt, they never wear it. Which is a shame, because alongside navy blue, wearing white pants (or off-white) is just about the easiest yet most stylish things a man can do.
Why the reticence to wear white outside the realm of the dress shirt? I think for many guys, there is a deep-seated disposition toward rugged, hard-wearing clothes that they don’t have to “baby.” A very practical co-worker of mine once allowed that spending a few hundred dollars on a suit might be worth it, “if it’s going to last for 10 years.” I didn’t tell him that sometimes, the more expensive the suit, the less durable the fabric. Many men wear tailoring only when required, changing into something else as soon as they can, and I believe a large part of it has to do not just with comfort, but with this mindset. It’s the same line of thinking that I think stops many guys from considering white pants.
Another complementary reason is that if you do venture into wearing them, you signal to everybody else that you care about clothes. I’m reminded of a How I Met Your Mother episode where Marshall asks whether he is pulling off the white pants he’s wearing, to which Ted enthusiastically affirms that he’s indeed rocking them. It was a leap for him to make, and he needed affirmation from a friend.
Sid Mashburn has said that his first sale to a lot of guys just getting into dressing well is a pair of white Levi’s. From there, their interest in clothing grows, but it starts with white pants. I can’t recall what first drew me to want to dress well, but I do remember that white jeans were one of the very early things I bought. My first pair were pure white denim from Banana Republic. Once I grew out of them, I replaced them with an off-white pair from J.Crew that I’m still wearing 3-4 times per week, 5 years later. They are my year-round staples because they go with literally everything I own.
Overcoming the barrier to being seen as a dandy for wearing white pants is probably the biggest challenge. After all, lots of guys have no problem wearing white sneakers—but that doesn’t signal the same things that white pants do. Yet once you do jump the hurdle, you wonder why you thought it was a big deal at all.
It turns out white pants are the easiest things in the world to wear, because they go with literally everything. Swap out your gray trousers for white and your outfit becomes a lot more fun with no additional work. They can be worn very casually—white jeans paired with a navy polo, for instance—or more dressed up—white cotton twills pressed with a crease, paired with a navy blazer and pale blue shirt.
I’ve gotten many comments from both men and women who wonder how I can keep my white pants so clean. It honestly isn’t that hard. I’ve found that even sitting on the grass won’t stain them—unless it’s very wet or I’m moving around on the ground a lot. Of course, stains do happen, whether it be from carelessness on my part, sitting on a dirty chair, or any other number of reasons. And when they do, I have had almost 100 percent success removing them if the pants are machine washable. I’ve stashed Tide pens in my car, briefcase, desk drawers—everywhere—and they often solve the problem immediately. When that’s not the case, Tide detergent works wonders, as does Oxy-Clean and Clorox color-safe bleach when needed.
This is where I must make a caveat to my enthusiastic embrace of white pants—I only buy pairs I know I can wash myself. Which can potentially put a limit on dress trousers, because even if they are made from fibers you would normally not give a second thought about washing (like cotton or linen), they are usually marked as dry clean only. The reason is usually due to the irregular results the rigors of a washing machine will produce on waistband construction or the lining (if they’re lined).
That said, if they’re made from cotton or linen (or a blend of both), unlined, and the waistband is made from the same or similar fibers to the trousers themselves, you can probably wash them. Unlike with a tailored jacket, which has been put through a lot of steaming to get a specific shape out of the cloth, trousers can be pressed back into shape. I recently bought a pair of cotton-linen trousers from Spier & Mackay and washed them right away with no ill effect. I’d suggest doing so with a new, un-hemmed pair before you get them altered, in case of any shrinkage (of course, wash on cold in a delicate cycle).
If you’re not sure if you can pull off white pants, I think the Sid Mashburn introduction of white Levi’s is a great way to try them. With their multitude of fits and low price, it’s a good way to dip your toe in and see how you feel. I’m guessing you’ll love them and will wonder how you ever lived without them.
If that happens, welcome to the other side.
Another summer, another edition of Pitti Uomo. With the excellent coverage by Charlie (@sebastianmcfox) at this summer’s Pitti Uomo 94, we’ve got a Styleforum guy’s eye for style to show us the looks that other street photographers might overlook. Out of the “best of” pics from his time there, I’ve chosen three of dudes outfits I liked in particular, with the intent to find similar products if I wanted to assemble a similar fit for myself.
Aloha shirts—also commonly called Hawaiian shirts—are huge right now, and the Pitti crowd proved no exception to that trend. A lot of the times I’m seeing them with the collar—often a camp collar—worn over the jacket collar and lapel. It’s a look that harkens back to casual ensembles in old Apparel Arts illustrations. Whether you want to wear the collar over the jacket lapel or not, bringing the formality of your jacket or suit down with a Hawaiian print shirt might be a fun way to expand your horizons this summer. Just make sure your tailoring is made from an already somewhat “casual” fabric—think linens, cottons, blends, or textured wool.
Some options for Hawaiian print shirts
[edit: the actual shirt worn in the picture is by the brand Two Palms, available here.]
Tan and brown suit options
This guy’s clearly there to work, but while his clothes are obviously comfortable, I still like the accessible, layered style he’s done here. First of all, he’s wearing canoe mocs and off-white pants (he must read my blogs) in a loose fit that I’m sure helped beat the heat. Since he’s got a camera in hand (the excellent Canon 6D, which I use and highly recommend at the price point), the untucked chambray shirt makes perfect sense because moving around to get the shot, it would probably just come untucked anyhow. The loose olive linen safari jacket makes the fit feel a bit more put together and has the benefit of giving him extra storage for camera gear (and probably hides sweat—a major benefit of wearing an outer layer when it’s warm out that people just don’t think of). And he’s rounded out the fit with a Coke-bezel Rolex GMT-Master and a straw panama hat.
Canoe mocs / boat shoes
Safari / field jacket options
This is my favorite photo of Charlie’s from Pitti, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody. I like what all four guys are wearing (though white bucks on the second from the right guy wouldn’t have been my choice). Of the four, I love the casual simplicity of Andreas Weinas (far right) the most (though Maxim Lundh, far left, is wearing an Eidos Ciro suit, which I love). Andreas appears to be wearing a grayish-greenish sport coat (looks to be Orazio Luciano to my eyes), pale blue washed chambray shirt, off-white possibly single-pleat summer trousers and a pair of chocolate brown Belgian loafers. It’s exactly the kind of thing I’d wear.
As the desire for quality, authenticity, and longevity in men’s clothing once again became more appreciated, Styleforum has been here for guys to share their knowledge on the questions that inevitably cropped up.
“Who made these shoes?—Look at the nail patterns.” “Who made this private label suit?—Look at the manufacturer tag.” “Is this line of suiting full canvas or half canvas?—Here is the history of that maker’s quality for the past 25 years.”
It is this last point—full canvassing in suits and sport coats—that remains a worthy benchmark for determining a garment’s quality and value. I’d say cut, fit and design are more important in deciding whether a suit or jacket “works” on someone, all other things being equal. But thanks to the resurgence of interest in tailored clothing in the last 10 years (however long it may yet last…), there are a lot of good options for full canvas tailoring.
One of the original value propositions of my favorite menswear brand, Eidos, was that it offered full canvas, made in Italy tailoring, at an almost unbelievable price point (I believe sport coats started at $895, suits at $995). Prices crept up over time, and with Simon Spurr’s first collection, suits will begin at $1395 (no word on sport coats). That is definitely an increase over the years, but it’s well within the norm for what you’ll find from other brands of similar quality (and limited handwork). No Man Walks Alone will continue to carry Eidos in their own signature cut from the brand at least through fall, so it’s business as usual at least through 2018 for customers of Greg’s.
As for the new aesthetic direction Mr. Spurr is taking the brand, I like to keep an open mind about things, and who knows – maybe it’ll be great. However, I’ve cultivated a list of other contenders for my tailoring wants if that doesn’t turn out to be the case. Here are five I’ve got my eye on.
Only two seasons into their tailoring offerings, this Scandinavian company has expanded from men’s accessories into a nearly complete collection. Their tailoring is made in southern Italy (Puglia, the region at the heel of Italy’s boot). The collection is small, with only four suits and four odd jackets this Spring (one being double breasted in each category) but it is exceptionally well priced. For those outside the EU, without VAT, the price for a jacket is as low as $656 and a suit $852. The cut hits all the notes you’d expect this day and age—soft shoulder, lightweight canvas for a soft structure—with some departures from the mainstream, namely a longer jacket length and slightly wider than average lapels.
SuitSupply is pretty much the king of half-canvas, contemporary, European-centric tailoring. Being made in China and having a vertically integrated retail presence, their prices are very competitive. Their Jort line—named after the company’s “sartorial historian” Jort Kelder—is fully canvassed. Each season, they produce a tightly curated Jort collection, using better fabrics that feature a slightly more elevated design compared to the main line. It takes the same cues as the rest of the company’s tailoring—soft-shouldered with a bit of grinze, lightweight canvas, open patch pockets if the fabric and design calls for it—but adds some design flourishes that most Styleforum guys would appreciate: a lower buttoning point as well as a slightly lower breast pocket, both of which lean on the more classic side. Jackets start at around $600, and suits are priced at a solid $1,000.
Check out: Suit Supply Jort Brown Check
Even though they’re known best for their made to measure shirts, Proper Cloth has offered other clothing items for a long time—accessories, sweaters, outerwear and even tailored jackets. Recently, they upgraded their tailored offerings from simply off-the-rack to made-to-order. It isn’t quite to the same level of customization as their shirts, but with sizes ranging from 32 all the way to 64 (at single intervals), with short, regular, and long lengths, as well as three fits (classic, slim and extra slim), there’s a pretty good chance you can hit the mark in fit, or at least get pretty close before alterations. Their Hudson jackets and Mercer suits are fully canvassed, while the Allen suits and Bedford jackets are half-canvas, coming in at about 2/3 the price. The design details on them check all the standard boxes—soft shoulder, open patch hip pockets, unlined, etc.
Check out: Hudson Navy Performance Wool Hopsack Jacket
I quickly took notice of this new shop from Jake Grantham and Alex Pirounis (both formerly from The Armoury). Just like Berg & Berg or SuitSupply, they are a self-branded store, which means they don’t carry products under other labels. As the name clearly communicates, their product is meant to fuse the best of British and Italian menswear traditions: soft tailoring and design from Italy, and English fabrics. I stopped by the shop when I was in London last October, and really liked what I saw and felt. Their biggest focus is on made-to-measure, but they do stock a small collection of tailoring off the rack each season, as well as a full range of other products—ties, trousers, shirts, outerwear, etc.). Everything is made in southern Italy. For those outside the UK, a sportcoat runs about $1,350 (with the current exchange rate of about $1.41 per Pound Sterling). Trousers are about $350.
Much has been written about Sid Mashburn. His personal charm is legendary, and his business has grown immensely since its opening, so he must be doing something right. At this point, there are enough cuts in the American-Italian spectrum to please most customers. His full-canvas sportcoats start at around $700 and suits start around $1,000.
Although it’s made in Japan, Ring Jacket designs along southern Italian lines—a curved barchetta pocket, open patch pockets, soft construction and soft shoulders. Part of this is because the company, which specialized in making suits and jackets for brands in Japan over the years, had a factory manager that studied tailoring in Naples, learning from them. He helped to recreate Ring Jacket so it features smaller armholes and larger sleeveheads. Their products were only available from only a couple retailers in North America for a long time, but despite their slow and deliberate expansion, it’s now a bit easier to find. They have their own e-commerce for some products, and a list of stockists you can find here: https://ringjacket.com/stockists
Accessories can make or break an outfit. A perfect fit can be elevated simply by having one additional element of interest introduced by a well-chosen accessory. But on the other hand, accessories can ruin an otherwise fine fit by being overdone, ostentatious or in conflict with one another. “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” Keep that advice from Coco Chanel in mind as I share five accessories that will, in the right contexts and done tastefully, make you look like a million bucks.
Okay, it doesn’t necessarily have to be Swiss, but it should be tastefully designed, and small. Giant diameters ruin what might be otherwise great watches these days. And unless you have Chris Hemsworth’s arms, they don’t really look at home on your wrist (though if you’ve got Chris Hemsworth arms, by all means, wear something proportionally small on your wrist!). When you’re wearing coat and tie, and want to look refined—whether it’s for a wedding, evening out with your significant other, or even just at the office—a small watch looks far more elegant. My personal favorites are Omega’s from the 1960s. My brother generously bought me a 1966 DeVille for my 30th birthday last year, with an off-white face that comes in at 34.5mm across. It’s magnificent.
I realize calling a product meaningful sounds like the worst marketing language, but I only say that because the guys wearing bracelets well are those doing it for a reason and not just because it’s the cool thing to do. When done well, a bracelet communicates a sense of refinement that no other accessory does in exactly the same way (when done poorly, it usually communicates that the wearer is trying too hard).
The ideal bracelet can lend style to an outfit because it’s carefully chosen, and the wearer knows when to wear it. I don’t typically wear a bracelet, but my dad does—and he absolutely nails it. He owns a couple, though one is far and away my favorite; it’s a heavy, solid sterling silver piece with decorative Navajo carvings made by Darin Bill. My dad has loved New Mexico since he was a boy, and Navajo blankets, art, and jewelry have been mainstays for decades in my family. I’d borrow it from time to time, but my wrists are much smaller than his.
Years ago I got a fairly inexpensive belt in snuff suede from Meermin and it changed my life. It sounds like a hyperbole, but seriously, suede as a belt material was a revelation to me. I wear that belt 90% of the time to this day. It looks particularly great with white pants and denim, but I’ll wear it with wool trousers as well. It doesn’t have to be suede, but a belt in a subtly different texture can bring your outfit together in a way you might not immediately think of. Something like alligator leather can improve a dressier fit, while canvas looks great with madras in the summer.
Besides just the belt material itself, you can also look for a cool buckle. For instance, I’ve always liked machined flat plaque buckles on a narrow dress belt—they feel very mid-century, and they make me think of my grandpa. I have no meaningful memories of him because he died when I was young, but I know, from what my dad has told me, that he was a very skilled craftsman. He had a fine attention to detail as well as a penchant for design, which he put to use making all kinds of things, usually with a strong mid-century aesthetic. A narrow belt with a machined buckle feels like something he’d have worn—and possibly even made himself.
This is a super basic pick, but it’s an impeccable choice that really does improve a navy or gray suit. As pocket squares have gone mainstream, many men have been led astray into thinking the more gaudy, loud, bright and matchy, the better. In response, stylish men and forum members have sworn off squares all together. But even those most grieved by the over-saturation of pocket square culture still wear the white TV fold. It’s because it’s a stylish detail that’s not ostentatious. Mine is from J.Crew; it was a gift, and it is monogrammed.
If you’re looking at ways to fold your pocket square perfectly, check out Peter’s guide to folding a pocket square.
Not a visible accessory most of the time, but when it is, it ups your class factor by a zillion. The things most men carry around to house their cards and cash are abysmal, awful, ugly, and thick. Don’t be like that. When you pull your wallet out of your breast pocket, a slim card case (or I suppose, a breast pocket wallet if you use bills regularly) makes for a nice indication of your appreciation for elegance—even if it’s not seen by most. It is slim enough that it doesn’t show if your jacket is more fitted in the chest. And even if you don’t have a jacket on it won’t make too big a bulge in your front pants pocket.
I’ve been feeling very nostalgic about all things Scotland lately. Chalk it up to all the ‘Outlander’ my wife and I have been watching, and our having returned from a holiday there in October. The mention of Scotland conjures up images of the beautiful highlands and wind-swept isles. Its history is one of a charming people who nonetheless possessed rugged, grim resolve, rising in the face of the mighty British Empire time and time again, only to finally be defeated at the Battle of Culloden.
My wife and I walked the grounds of that battlefield. It is a solemn, quiet place for introspection. The subsequent Act of Proscription in 1746 made it illegal to wear “highland clothing,” and so wearing kilts and tartans could have landed you in prison—or worse. The proud clan system was destroyed, and tartans all but disappeared, save for in the lowlands and in the uniforms of the Highland regiments. One of the most popular tartans, Blackwatch, originates from one of those regiments.
Several decades later, after the repeal of the 1746 Dress Act, tartans became officially cataloged and the romanticizing of Highland culture began. While kilts worn as a man’s everyday garment never regained widespread traction, tartans can be found everywhere today. Corporations and individuals can and do design their own signature tartan—think Barbour, Burberry, and even Brooks Brothers.
When my wife and I were planning our trip there, I did a lot of research to make sure we didn’t accidentally offend anybody by wearing a tartan that was off limits to the general public. I learned that as they spread in popularity throughout the world, strict clan associations relaxed. I’d still recommend sticking with universal tartans—of which there are many—out of respect. If you have a true historical connection to a clan which has its own sett (the technical term for the specific pattern of intersecting plaids that make up a tartan), wear it with pride. But like so many other cultural traditions, tartans have become mainstream enough that it is acceptable today to wear any tartan you want for no other reason than that you like the way it looks.
Tartan trousers, shirts, tuxedo jackets and ties are front and center in clothing ads everywhere, especially during the holiday season. Why? Why is December and the “holiday season” the only time tartans—outside of accessories like scarves and ties—are so dominant?
Cultural researcher Brenna Barks speculated that perhaps because tartans were only worn for special occasions in Scotland post-Proscription, here in America descendants of Scottish émigrés forgot it was traditional dress and wore it simply because it was festive. Over time, as those people’s descendants became more American and less Scottish, that just became the norm. Whatever the case, given the democratized nature of tartans today, I find it unfortunate that wearing them except as accessories is so closely linked to holiday attire.
In the same way as madras—said to be the local’s interpretation of regimental tartans worn by Scottish soldiers posted in India using their own colors, and in fabrics appropriate for the climate—is freely worn all summer when the weather calls for it, so I think traditional wool tartan deserves to be worn all autumn and winter.
So I will keep wearing my Blackwatch flannel as long as it’s cold enough out to do so.
Won’t you join me?
It’s a lot of work to explore different brands, silhouettes, aesthetics, and stores, narrowing down what you like most. I’m reminded of Greg from No Man Walks Alone replying to a compliment on his store’s well-curated selection of goods, saying that finding the gems at a show like Pitti is incredibly difficult, requiring lots of patience wading through a nearly unlimited number of booths. Sometimes it’s nice for someone—like Greg—to simply say, “here are the best options. Choose from these.”
In the same spirit, I thought I’d share the five pairs of shoes I think you would be best-served buying—either as a capsule shoe wardrobe or simply as your starting point as you build a larger wardrobe. It goes without saying this advice comes from a point of view that favors versatility with tailoring, denim and chinos as my “what I wore” posts will attest. As a complement to this advice, read my “Versatile shoe” piece from last year. Thankfully there are lots of brands who make each one, so I’ll recommend a maker for each type at different price points for you to consider. In no particular order:
1- Chukka Boots
I wear these most of the time October through April. My chukkas are snuff suede with a Dainite sole so that I never think twice about wearing them if it’s wet out. I hiked Quiraing at the Isle of Skye wearing them, so they’re rugged enough in a pinch. Versatility wise, suede is the best, and with a more pointed toe, you’ll be able to wear them with a sport coat just as easily as with a full workwear fit. A rounder toe would help them match more closely with denim or moleskin pants.
2- Penny loafers
I wear these most of the time May through September. Mine are—surprise—snuff suede. I walked throughout the cobblestone plazas and streets of Florence, seeing David, visiting the Uffizi Gallery and enjoying Florentine steak in mine. I prefer an elongated toe on these to the rounder ones you might see on a classic Alden, but that’s a personal preference.
3- Longwings or Wingtips
I’ve always loved the brogue, at time shifting my preferred model back and forth between the wingtip silhouette or the long wing silhouette. I’m currently in the long wing camp, but I only own wing tips. Perhaps the grass is always greener. Mine are a pebble grain with Dainite sole, which came with me this past winter during our travels in Scotland. The Dainite sole came in handy for the rugged outdoors. I wore them on our road trip through the highlands, from Glasgow to Glencoe and Fort William, during which we stopped many times to jump out and photograph the scenery. Versatility wise, they can indeed be worn with denim, but really only dark denim. They look great with flannel or tweed trousers.
4- Cap-toe Oxfords
You need something to wear dressed up more than just a sportcoat and jeans. For many years I went through that phase where you hate black shoes, and even today I think probably most of us could get away with only dark brown calf cap-toes in this category. But I think around the time Skyfall came out I realized black shoes in a tapered, chiseled toe last can make you look like James Bond – or, more realistically, they can make you feel like you look like James Bond. In any case, dark brown will help you through almost all the time, and it looks great with navy suits, gray suits, the navy blazer with gray trousers look, and almost every other tailored outfit.
5- The Wild card
I know I said up front I’d tell you exactly what to buy, but this last one is going to come down to you making a decision for yourself based on your personal taste. It’s the dressed-down-but-contemporary-and-stylish slot, and which one you pick will depend solely on your preferences. For me, it’s a canoe moccasin, which I wear constantly. I walked from the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and all the way to the Spanish Steps in mine. For others, it might be a pair of sleek white sneakers: they look great with jeans, khakis and some brave souls even wear them with tailoring. Other options are Wallabees and desert boots. Instead of prescribing exactly what to get, take stock of your aesthetic preferences and make a choice to help fill out your own individual wardrobe.
It’s half past 8, it’s 25°F outside, and you’re rushing to get out the door—running late for work again. You throw open your closet to choose a coat to layer up over your suit.
“Hmmmm, which one will I wear today?
“I could go full Russian and wear the Norwegian Rain Moscow with fur collar. But that’s my favorite coat and I wore that yesterday.
“I could go full Italian with the Eidos topcoat. Ehhh, that’s too insouciant for the workplace.
“I suppose I could go full #menswear and wear the robe coat. Nah, I’ll get a hundred snide comments.
“Dang it, now it’s 20 to 9 and I still haven’t picked a coat. Forget it, I’ll wear the Moscow again.”
The signs are obvious—it’s a Tide ad.
Just kidding, you’ve got a #menswear problem.
Maybe it’s time to declutter your winter wardrobe, including—but not limited to—your sweet outerwear collection. Here are five tips to help you do so.
I wrote a little bit about this in one of my previous article. The gist is to have a system for your clothes—whether it’s shirts, trousers, jackets, coats—where it’s obvious what you have worn recently and what you have not. Doing so allows you to identify what winter wardrobe items you just don’t wear.
I don’t recommend going full Marie Kondo, assessing the specific level of joy each thing brings, then donating the rest of it—but, if there are jackets, sweaters, flannel shirts, or anything else that you haven’t worn all winter because there’s other stuff you enjoy wearing more, it’s probably safe to get rid of those things.
Allow me to state that besides the “joy” factor, there is a time that you have to acknowledge that your style has changed and maybe it’s time to get rid of old things you never wear for that reason. There was a good season or two I was still gaming the J.Crew sales to try to score good deals on V-neck merino sweaters before realizing, “wait a minute, I don’t actually wear these things.”
There’s also a time to acknowledge your #dadbod, to put it charitably. Looking at my own dad, I can see that at my age, he had roughly the same body shape as I do. But something clearly happened in the ensuing 10-15 years (at 62, he’s back to my size again, and I have a mind to kop an Eidos jacket or two for him at some point). I fully intend to maintain my current fitness level forever, but we all know best intentions don’t always go fulfilled. If you find yourself in a position of unfulfilled intent, consider it an opportunity to sell off old clothes that don’t fit and upgrade with something that does.
Besides, those old 32 waist APCs have too low a rise for your more sophisticated appreciation of higher rise denim.
There’s a point where you can declutter too much. I know because I’ve been there. My friend Jonathan had gotten engaged, and for his bachelor party, we went paintballing—in March (in Ohio). Sounds like a great (if freezing) time, except I had purged my closet of nearly everything I might’ve been okay getting covered in paint. I wore pebble-grain chukka boots from Banana Republic that up until then were still in somewhat regular rotation (this was early in my menswear transformation, cut me some slack). So while I enjoyed the final gauntlet we put Jonathan through (he had welts all over his body for his honeymoon), I was definitely not appropriately dressed for that day.
These days, I make sure to have stuff in my closet or in storage bins downstairs so that I’m not caught without the right gear. Like a few weeks ago when I dug a trench outside my house for drainage in 30° weather after a week of heavy rain. I was glad to have a fleece, old jeans and some old boots to work in the mud in.
Back in my merino V-neck wearing days, I recall having a perfect navy sweater. It was from Banana Republic and I wore it to great effect all the time (in particular over a blue gingham button-up shirt—you know the one). But even then I recognized that Banana quality left something to be desired, and there came a point within 2-3 years that it was clearly showing its age. I knew I needed to replace it and reduce how often I wore it.
I’m not the kind of guy to, say, buy seven identical pairs of shoes so as to spread out the wear and tear amongst them and prolong their natural life. But I do think it’s good to recognize those things you’ve identified as your best-of, favorite items (see point 1), and when there’s an awesome deal on the same or very similar thing, you can buy it to keep the magic alive. Depending on what it is, you can take advantage of seasonal sales, especially if you’re under no time pressure to immediately replace it.
The coat matrix skews admittedly toward a tailored-favoring audience, so I apologize to the streetwear guys. But it can be useful for classifying the coats in your wardrobe, which will, in turn, help you spot gaps (or surpluses in certain categories). The gist is to break your outerwear into categories based on the level of formality level, and how warm they are.
It’s fair to say that the colder months are more ripe for dressing well because of all the layering opportunities and wealth of great clothing categories (sweaters, outerwear, scarves, etc.). The flip side of that is that the risk of over-stocking your closet to the detriment of warm-weather attire. You need to save some room in your wardrobe so you can look great all year round—not just when it’s freezing outside.
Use these five tips to help free up some space and clear out the cruft of your wardrobe. Of course what you do with that newly vacant space is up to you. Something tells me it’ll quickly be filled again.
A few weeks ago I got a turtleneck for cheap from Banana Republic. It proudly states “Made with Italian Yarn,” which is hilarious, because it’s 20% nylon (do Italians make the best nylon?). However, that didn’t bother me because it was inexpensive, it fit well, and it was exactly what I was looking for.
We’ve all got a certain budget we’re working within when buying clothes. Some folks have a larger budget than others, of course, but everybody has to make decisions about what they will drop a ton of money on versus what they’re okay buying for less. For me, I’m always thinking about opportunity cost. While I’d have preferred, say, an Eidos turtleneck for its superior construction and material, the cost (nearly 10x) simply wasn’t worth it to me. Now I’m planning ahead to know what spring purchases I will use that extra money for.
While I don’t have a flowchart or anything, here are some questions to ask yourself in order to maximize the use of your dollars when building your wardrobe.
First, have a working list of what the ideal wardrobe for you would look like. It should mostly be the “must-have” items that you’d wear regularly, but it’s also okay to have stuff that delights you. This list can help you keep track of progress made toward attaining a good working wardrobe, and also keep you from making costly mistakes. I wrote more extensively on this concept in my article How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe and Making Smart Menswear Purchases.
With that in mind, then, here are questions to ask yourself:
- What is your lifestyle? The utility of any given item is defined by your lifestyle, meaning what you have to wear day to day will play a huge role in what makes sense to invest in. This can go both ways, actually—for instance, if you need to wear a white dress shirt every single day to work, it can make sense to buy a bunch at low cost when you’re first starting out, knowing that the regular wear and tear will take its toll on them. But as you increase your rotation, adding in nicer, better designed, better made shirts as your budget allows makes sense because of your needs.
- How do you like to dress? What is your style? Most of us have clothes we reach for time and again when we are dressing to impress. It makes much more sense to spend extra on stuff you know you’ll wear a lot (and in particular that which will be seen a lot), than it does for things you’ll primarily be wearing to bed.
- What kind of design are you looking for? Designers typically continuously tweak, evolve and update their line to stay fresh. That can be good if you’re someone who’s already got a good working wardrobe and are now just buying clothes because you like them—you can be open to being surprised by something interesting. But sometimes that’s not good because you just want a stylish basic to fill a need in your wardrobe. I was excited to find that Banana Republic turtleneck because it met several specific criteria I had that I couldn’t find anywhere else within my general price range—thin enough to layer but with visual surface texture and a ribbed neck.
- How long do you honestly think you’ll wear it? Is it a “forever” piece or something you know is a just a phase you’re going through?
- Is it outside your comfort zone a little bit? Maybe you’ve been inspired by someone’s sweet fit on Insta, but aren’t quite sure if it’ll work for you—finding it for cheap somewhere is a good way to dip your toe in to see if it’s “you.”
- Is there a dramatic quality increase from the budget options to the expensive options?
With the buying and selling forum, eBay, etc., it’s possible to get high-quality stuff for much lower prices—if you’ve got the patience and time. But especially when you’re starting out and you need to build a wardrobe fairly quickly, asking yourself these questions can help you decide what to save up for and what’s okay to buy for less.
Below are some products (including that turtleneck) that I personally own or would buy that run the gamut from expensive to not so much.
Banana Republic turtleneck.
Barbour Ashby: I’ve been inspired by cool dudes like Jake Grantham rocking the Barbour over tailoring, and there is really no substitute for the original. This, to me, was worth spending more on for the authentic original.
Navy/Gold repp stripe tie, PoloRL: Navy/gold bar-stripe repp ties aren’t hard to find, but I liked the specific color of gold Polo used.
Brooks Brothers light blue OCBD: OCBDs are a staple for some guys, and while Kamakura, Proper Cloth, O’Connell’s, Ratio, Mercer & Sons and millions of others make good ones, the shape and complete lack of lining of the collar from Brooks Brothers—in addition to the consistency of availability and generous return policy—make this a good choice. I prefer this lighter blue color, but they offer tons of other options. Just make sure to stack discounts (you can browse the Official Sales Thread to find the newer ones).
Eidos Navy donegal blazer.
Eidos large glen plaid suit: There is no substitute for Eidos as designed by Antonio Ciongoli for me—the swooping arc lapels, the Neapolitan details, the killer fabrics, not to mention a near-perfect fit on me. When you find a winner, you stick with it as long as you can.