Life After Eidos: Fully Canvassed Suits That Won’t Break the Bank

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.

 

Berg & Berg

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.

Check out: Berg & Berg Dan II Single Breasted Fresco Suit


SuitSupply Jort collection

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


Proper Cloth

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


Anglo-Italian 

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.

Check out: Anglo-Italian Sport Jacket Brown Broken Twill Wool


Sid Mashburn

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.

Check out: Sid Mashburn Kincaid No. 3 Ticket Pocket Suit


Ring Jacket

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

Check out: Ring Jacket New Balloon Wool 256 Double Breasted Sport Coat 

5 accessories that will make you look like a million bucks

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.

Brooks BrothersGustav Von Aschenbach

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.

Sid Mashburn – Tiffany&Co.

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.

J. CrewKent Wang

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.

La Portegna – Salvatore FerragamoWant Les Essentiel

Tartan Fabrics: History, Tradition, and Holiday Prison

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?

5 Pairs of Shoes You Should Buy for a Classic Casual Wardrobe

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.

Low price: Meermin (same as mine). Mid: Kent Wang. Mid-High: Sid Mashburn.

 

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.

Low price: Meermin. Mid-high: Sid Mashburn.

 

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.

Low price: Meermin. Mid: Brooks Brothers. Super High Grail: Polo Cordovan.

 

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.

Low: Meermin. Mid: Kent Wang. High: Carmina.

 

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.

My favorite canoe mocs: Oak Street. My favorite white sneaker: Tretorn. My favorite desert boot: J.Crew.


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How to Declutter Your Winter 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.

declutter your winter wardrobe

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.

declutter your winter wardrobe

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.

declutter your winter wardrobe menswear

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.

declutter your winter wardrobe men

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.

declutter your winter wardrobe outerwear

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.

When Should You Spend and When Should You Skimp?

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.

5 Shopping Mistakes and Lessons Learned

When I was young, I used to conscientiously try to live by the motto “Live with no regrets.” At that time in my life, this generally meant working up the courage to ask a girl out on a date or trying something I had never done before. Of course, the longer I’ve lived, the more complicated life has become and I have–inevitably–made poor choices that I regret. Over the roughly ten years during which I’ve been interested in menswear, I’ve had much the same goal as in my personal life: Try to make intentional choices in purchasing clothing so as to avoid buying items I come to regret.

I’m here to tell you that, sadly, as in normal life, my best intentions haven’t stopped me from making some mistakes. Here are five bad menswear mistakes I’ve made over the years, and the lessons I had to learn the hard (and sometimes pricey) way.

1. Full-price J.Crew flannel plaid shirt.

jcrew flannel shopping mistakes

This was an impulse buy I made one day when my wife and I were shopping for her back in 2010. She had picked out a cute women’s flannel shirt and with the Americana workwear movement in full swing, I was enamored by the idea of getting one, too. I bought one. I wore it to work one day, which at the time I worked part-time in a small print shop as a salesman. My boss asked why I was so dressed down, and told me I wasn’t dressed well enough to see clients that day; instead I’d work in the back of the shop. That confused me—didn’t they know about the heritage movement and Americana and all that? How was this less dressy than a Walmart polo shirt, which would’ve been perfectly acceptable?

Lessons: Never buy anything full-retail at J.Crew. Also, have a pulse on what normal people actually think about clothing.

 


2. Ultra-slim low-rise J.Crew wool trousers.

jcream slim pants shopping mistakes menswearOff the rack trousers almost never flatter or fit me well. In my quest for affordable wool trousers that were decent, I went slimmer and slimmer. After all, slim jeans and chinos fit me okay so maybe slim wool trousers would fix my normal fit problems. This pair of trousers was so slim that when I stood up from being seated, I had to pull the hems down off my calves, where they’d be stuck because they were so tight.

Lessons: Good wool trousers need some room to drape. Unlike slim denim or even chinos, they can never look right in a skinny fit. And if your body type allows a high rise without going bespoke, it looks more elegant worn with a jacket, covering up more of your waist below the jacket’s buttoning point.

 

 


3. Too-small vintage tweed Brooks Brothers sport coat.

shopping mistakes menswear brooks brother tweed jacket

This thing never fit and never had any chance of fitting. But I bought it because the tweed was fantastic. Around this time, I was also itching to try a different tailor in town, and I used this garment as a test for them. It was a disaster. They did awful, amateur work. My normal tailor, bless his heart, didn’t just fix it for me, but made some highly technical adjustments I didn’t think possible that actually made it fit halfway decently. And he didn’t charge me a dime for the work, which he did out of principle. Nonetheless, the cut and style of the jacket just weren’t my taste, and the fit was still not quite right. I sold it off several months later.

Lessons: Don’t try to take an ill-fitting garment and force it to work. If a jacket is tight in the shoulders or chest, let it go. Also, if you’re going to try a new tailor, do it on something with low stakes rather than something requiring a major sartorial surgical intervention.


4. Beautiful Peal & Co. wingtip boots.

shopping mistakes menswear peal co boots

I got an absolute killer deal on these at Brooks Brothers a few years ago. They fit fine in the store, so I immediately began wearing them. But within a day I noticed they were tight on my right foot. I tried every trick on YouTube to stretch them out, while still wearing them regularly for a few months. But of course, nothing worked and I reluctantly sold them off because they simply hurt my feet to wear.

Lesson: With shoes and boots, do your due diligence by trying them on at different times of day indoors on carpet for a week or so to assess whether they truly fit.

 

 


5. Brown Eidos topcoat that I thought was gray.

shopping mistakes menswear eidos grey brown coat

I was communicating with one sales guy who sent me pics of the coat, then switched to another guy at the store to complete the purchase. Due to bad photo quality and bad communication, I got a brown coat instead of a gray one. I found out it was brown while I was on the phone about to complete the purchase. I bought it anyway, and wore it for a while. I loved everything about it except the color—I had had my heart set on the gray, and the brown version just didn’t fit my aesthetic. So I reluctantly sold it off. I found out later they did have the gray one after all. And it was actually even still available in my size, but at that point I wasn’t in a position to afford it. It sold out later that season. I am still on the lookout for one in my size, so if you have one, please let me know (see my Styleforum signature for details).

Lessons: Be communicative and ask questions to an irritating and meticulous fault. Also, stick with one sales person through the entire process as much as is within your control to prevent easily avoidable miscommunication.

 

What about you? What are some of the worst mistakes you’ve made in building your wardrobe and discovering your style? Leave a comment in the Menswear N00b Mistakes and Pitfalls thread!

Review: Holden and Green Shoes

New shoe companies seem to be popping up all the time these days. The market today for Goodyear or Blake-welted shoes in the $200-400 price point makes the days of hunting for decent-looking Allen Edmonds Seconds seem like ages ago. Into this mix has entered a new UK-based company, Holden & Green. I received a complimentary pair of their shoes to review for Styleforum’s Journal, and commenced wearing them regularly for a month to get a feel for their quality, fit and value.

First, let me get something out of the way: while the shoes were given me for free, the opinions below are my honest thoughts.


Initial Impressions

My initial impression of the shoes was very positive. It is evident from the first that the construction quality is very good, with a fit and finish that shows very close attention to detail—no stray or crooked stitching hastily trimmed off, no varied discoloration. The construction strikes me as akin to some “mid-tier” bench grade shoes I’ve owned and handled—something along the lines of Crockett & Jones or Alfred Sargent.

The leather of course looked great out of the box, but even the cheapest shoes out there look great brand new, so a month of wear would help in determining its quality. The last shape is an attractive, elongated, European silhouette. And the soles feature a beveled waist and red-painted channel-stitched sole.


Some Background on the Brand

H&G is so new that you can scarcely find anything about them on the Internet. I reached out to the owner and founder of the brand, Frank Clune, to get some information on the company and the product they make.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to work in the West End shoe world for the last five years and to meet some of the legendary charactersgenuine one-offs who seem to be disappearing from the world of work, who thrive in this business,” he says. He has no shoemaking training himself, but worked at legendary London bespoke shoemaker Foster and Son, where he met Terry Moore and worked with John Spencer, Emiko Matsuda, Emma Lakin and Lucy Smith. Frank owns the brand, taking guidance and advice from some of the people in the business he met during his time there.

Before starting Holden & Green, he started an eBay business selling overstock from UK retailers. The experience there taught him which styles and colors sell well (black outsells brown, for instance). Once he launched H&G, the aim for the brand was to make “quality at a good price, which means European-tanned leathers and excellent making,” he says. But to hit the price point he wanted to hit (below £300, or about $400USD), “it also means that we need to use non-European makers. This has been the most interesting and challenging part of the process to-date.” The shoes are made in two workshops: one in the Far East (not China, he says), and the other in North Africa. “We cannot speak highly enough of their attention to detail and their responsiveness,” he says.

holden green shoes review styleforum

The shoes I was given to try are definitely outside the typical business wardrobe of most non-menswear-enthusiasts. If the split toe and elongated last don’t catch your eye, the red painted sole and beveled waist just might. However, the rest of their models, which fall under what they call the “City collection,” are a bit more conventional for a conservative business dress environment (albeit with contemporary, European silhouettes). That conservative design bent, alongside the lessons learned from his prior overstock business, may mean the average antique museum calf-obsessed Styleforum member won’t find much to get his heart racing. But from Frank’s perspective, “getting City-Boys out of their curly-toed abominations feels like the right thing to do morally; for every City gent in his Henry Poole suit and Edward Green’s, there are two dozen others who need more than a little help.” All told, the niche he’s aiming for “is a retail price point beneath £300, using European leathers and tanneries, and getting the right maker to work with the best lasts we can find.”


Impressions After One Month

I kept a running mental checklist of how I felt about the shoes, typing occasional notes, over the course of a month, wearing them 2-3 times per week. At the end of that time, I treated them sparingly using Saphir Renovauteur, and a polish. I personally do not like the shiny fresh-out-of-the-box look of shoes, preferring instead a nicely broken-in and freshly polished look. I wanted to see how the leather reacted to a polish.

First, I was pleased to find the initial new-shoe stiffness disappeared very quickly—within the first two weeks. They still aren’t completely broken in, but that uncomfortable period of new leather shoes is gone.

Second, the leather’s appearance maintained its attractiveness. The factory-new shiny finish didn’t completely go away by the end of the month, but it had dissipated somewhat. I can’t speak to how well these will age over years of wear, but my experience in the time I’ve had them is positive.

Third, the completely subjective matter of fit: these are the best-fitting leather-bottom shoes I’ve ever owned, and are far more comfortable than any other leather shoe I’ve owned. Around the same time I received them, I purchased some Crockett & Jones-made Peal & Co. shoes from Brooks Brothers—they are much more to my liking stylistically, but fit-wise they don’t hold a candle to these.

Fourth, the other completely subjective matter, which is of style and design: I personally find these ugly. Their “City collection” designs are better, more along the lines of something I’d wear. The red sole and beveled waist are a nice, but a purely aesthetic touch, and aesthetic appeal is of course in the eye of the beholder.

Speaking of the differences in design between the channel-stitched, beveled-waist shoes I received and the more prevalent City collection (with neither of those aesthetic features), Frank says they are both of the same quality of make: “We’d say that they’re very good benchgrade shoes.”

All said, I’d say they are a good value for the money. They come in slightly higher than mainline Meermin, which I own and think are an excellent value. But for that extra $100 or so, you get considerably better construction, and noticeably better leather quality. Compared to more-expensive Crockett & Jones or Alfred Sargent, you get comparable quality at a much more attractive price—assuming H&G makes a style you like. They currently sell five styles, with ten more slated to be released in time for the holiday season.


This is not sponsored content. To read Styleforum’s review policy, please click here.

Holden & Green shoes are for sale on their website www.holdenandgreen.co.uk.

The Coat Matrix: Choosing Versatile Outerwear

Looking at my backlog of posts, I’m starting to think I’m getting typecast as the “choosing versatile clothing X” guy. That’s okay, because generally speaking, versatility in menswear has been a key motivating factor for me. At a certain point versatility can breed boredom (a perspective shared by venerable menswear icon and Styleforum member Mark Cho), but it can be a necessity for many men, especially as they’re just beginning to build a wardrobe. Consider this in the coming months, when you start putting your fall and winter wardrobe together and building your purchase list.

Depending on where you live and what kind of daily routine you have, outerwear can either be a necessity for surviving the winter or just another delightful category you get to spend money on and take pleasure in. I’ve lived in both types of climates and lived both types of daily routines (as a student in northern Indiana I braved single-digit temperatures at a school that took pride in never closing due to weather conditions, and currently live in Tennessee where I work from home). Drawing on those experiences, I have developed a system of categorizing and choosing versatile outerwear that I thought might be helpful for others.

I call it the Coat Matrix [cue lightning and thunder].


A Two-Axis System

The name of my outerwear scheme comes from the fact that it is aligned along two axes that create a matrix of four quadrants. Brilliant! On the vertical axis is the temperature outside, and the horizontal axis of the grid is formality.

Choosing versatile outerwear styleforum coat matrix styleforum

40+jeans: Brandit M65 Giant; vintage café racer style leather jacket; Barbour Bedale/Ashby; Aspesi chore coat. 30-jeans: Schott NYC peacoat; Patagonia puffer jacket (with hood); Peter Millar suede safari jacket; Eidos Maremara hunting jacket. 40+tailoring: Sartoria Formosa jacket (No Man Walks Alone) 30-tailoring: Original Montgomery duffle coat; Uniqlo camel topcoat

You’ll notice that, contrary to nearly all my WAYWT posts, I have chosen to separate jeans and sportcoats. This is a somewhat arbitrary choice on my part, but a helpful one, I think.

The two axes create four quadrants: above 40° in jeans-level formality (for shorthand, we’ll call this 40+jeans); below 30° in jeans-level formality (30-jeans); above 40° in tailoring-level formality (40+tailoring); and below 30° in tailoring-level formality (30-tailoring).

In 40+jeans a lot of really great, versatile and wide-ranging designs come into play. This is where you’ll find shirt-jackets, military-inspired jackets such as M65’s and the like, bombers, safari jackets, Barbour jackets, motorcycle jackets and chore coats. Generally speaking, outerwear in this quadrant are shorter in length and made of materials like waxed cotton, linen blends, canvas and lightweight wool.

In 30-jeans you can find many of the same styles, just with beefed-up fabrics. By switching out waxed cotton for heavy tweed, a safari jacket that buttons all the way up should be able to keep you warm. You’ll also find more heavy-duty coats developed specifically to stop cold weather, like pea coats and technical gear originally made for outdoor adventuring (such as down puffer coats made by companies like Patagonia or North Face).

In 40+tailoring, you actually don’t really need outerwear. This is where, if you’re wearing a tailored jacket, you can get away simply by layering. Scarves and knit cardigans or pullovers under a tailored jacket are a time-tested way to warm up when there’s just a hint of chill in the air. Of course if the weather is wet, you want to get a lightweight rain jacket.

In 30-tailoring is where you find topcoats and overcoats meant to be worn over a tailored jacket. Shorter car coats and covert coats have been popular for a while, but a classic topcoat will hit at the knee (or below in decades past). Chesterfield coats dress things up (historically made with a velvet collar), and duffle coats dress them somewhat down with large toggles that you can easily undo with gloves on. If you want more warmth, double-breasted styles like the Polo coat or the more military-inspired Officer coat give you a tall collar you can turn up against the wind and extra protection from the cold seeping into your coat.

There are, of course, a multitude of styles in each of these quadrants, and of course other ways to categorize outerwear. But this has helped me to determine where my dollars are best spent when I’m hunting for a new coat—and I hope it does for you, too.

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Building a Versatile Shirt Wardrobe

Filling your closet with the essentials of a versatile shirt wardrobe can be a frustrating exercise in multitasking, and it can take years. Having a list of what you want for each category is critical so that when deals come up, you can stay focused on what you “need” instead of just jumping on every deal. Items that can be used in tons of different outfits make the return on investment higher, making the opportunity cost of buying it lower (see this post for more about how opportunity cost impacts my decision making in menswear).

However, going for maximum versatility can be boring. After all, while we all admire the starched-white-shirt-in-the-desk-drawer-of-Don-Draper lifestyle, that would be super boring. Pattern, texture, collar shape and seasonality are the four main areas where you can start to mix it up.

Solids and Patterns

Solid shirts are the most versatile shirts you can own. In the realm of classic menswear, where you want to be able to go with or without tie, there are only two colors: white and blue.

White is more formal, blue less so. Depending on what kind of work environment or lifestyle you lead will determine how many solid blue or solid white shirts you will need. For instance, I only have two white dress shirts – one with double cuffs, and one with barrel cuffs – because I wear them so infrequently. For most people, light blue is the king of versatility because you will almost never look wrong with a light blue shirt on, even with a dark suit and dark tie.

Next in versatility are vertical stripes. Small repeating patterns such as pencil stripes, university stripes, and Bengal stripes are the most versatile. Shirts that have a white ground with blue stripes are the best place to start (and are the easiest to find).

Texture

Some textures fit better in a more formal context than others. A good rule of thumb is that a smaller, denser weave is more formal than a looser, larger or coarser weave. For instance, a poplin or end-on-end will look better with a refined suit-and-tie look than will an Oxford cloth. As Derek of “Dieworkwear” says, poplins are boring. You sacrifice zero versatility but gain some measure of visual interest by going with something like an end-on-end for business shirts instead of poplin. Coarser weaves like Oxford and royal Oxford are more at home with odd jackets, and particularly so when you break out the tweeds. Which brings me to:

Seasonality

One of my joys is having distinct cold-weather and warm-weather clothing. I’m currently planning a trip to Scotland, and can’t wait to pull out my Donegal tweed jackets and flannel trousers to take on the trip. In shirting, so, too, can you diversify your wardrobe with seasonality. That said, when we’re talking about having a jacket on most of the time, the concept of a linen or linen-blend shirt making much of a difference in the summer heat is a bit of a stretch. I wear linen-cotton blends all year-round, as layering can warm them up in the winter (though I do not wear my heavier Oxford cloths in the summer). So when talking seasonally appropriate shirt fabrics, everything except those cloths at the fringes (pure linens or, say, peached cotton flannel) can be pretty much worn year-round, depending on how warm or cool you tend to naturally feel. 

Collar shape

If you want the most versatile collar shape, period, then just get all medium-spread collars and be done with it. They look great with a tie and without. Cutaways, button-downs, and point collars, however, is how you add back in variety. Generally, don’t go too extreme (such as huge 1970s point collars, David Beckham-esque cutaways or tiny, anemic button-downs), and you’re safe.

Button-downs are right at home with Oxford cloth (the ubiquitous, stylish and unequaled OCBD) and with a generous roll, give an insouciant feel that have enormous charm. Cutaways give a rakish vibe that generally look best on guys with a sharp jaw and slim figure (though, when worn open-collar, look great on almost anybody, in my opinion). And point collars (such as this beauty from Drake’s), are an overlooked-of-late collar style that give off a lived-in, almost working-class charm that works quite well when done right.

As you amass enough shirts to wear day-in and day-out, you can start to branch out to other interesting areas: denims and chambrays, awning stripes, linens and flannels, and of course, colors other than white and navy. But that’s a post for another time.