Peter Zottolo

About Peter Zottolo

Peter works in construction, but has an extensive collection of custom suits which he gets so that he can wear suits on the weekend. Even though he lives in San Francisco, he has never used the word "impact" as a verb. He writes about classic menswear and is one fedora away from being a complete dork.

GIIN Elevated Essentials – Boxer Briefs REVIEW

giin boxer briefs review

“The way it supports, you’ve never felt anything like it.”

Frank and I were chatting during l’ora dell’ aperitivo in Florence at the StyleForum Maker Space. It was the final evening before the final day, when vendors leave the Pitti booths after the sun sets and talk shop with those they’ve met throughout the day over a cup of something viscous. Frank’s company, Giin, is perhaps better known for their lapel hole object d’arte flowers, but his side gig – men’s underwear and undershirts – intrigued me, since I’ve never given either one more than a passing thought.

“Sell it to me,” I challenged, to which he said the opening line. “You see how I’m cupping this glass of chardonnay?  That’s the kind of support I’m talking about. It’s there, but natural.” I was a little incredulous – natural wouldn’t describe anything I’ve tried that’s made for down there. Frank must have read my face because he immediately responded with another angle: “You can wash and wear them the next day.”

Now that was something that struck a chord with me. The practical usefulness of something that could withstand a sweaty, pick-and-shovel day in the field and be ready for tomorrow might prove applicable for vacation as well.  “All right,” I nodded. “I’ll take a pair and put them to the test at work. Then I’ll take them on my next vacation in Turkey. We’ll see how they perform.”

He chuckled. “I’ve already tested them in Singapore. If they can handle those summers, Turkey will be a cakewalk.”

Frank ended up sending me a week’s worth, “just in case,” he writes, which I tell my wife in the event that she refuses to touch a person who hasn’t changed their underwear after a day. The fabric is fantastically soft, made from a mix of high twist cotton, polyester, and Lycra that Frank says took extensive trial and error to perfect. I put them on in preparation for running power in the crawl space in the Tenderloin’s Salerno Hotel lobby – a sweatbox if there ever was one – and the first thing I notice is the second-skin snugness. Boxers, these ain’t, but after a few minutes, they stretched to the point where I didn’t notice any snugness, and – perhaps disconcertingly – I didn’t notice them at all, meaning I had to remind myself that I’m actually wearing underwear. Part of the reason is the fabric, some magical hybrid of high-twist cotton, polyester, and lycra that is featherweight and silky smooth that was developed in-house. Also, there is a not a single stitch anywhere; instead, the seams are bonded with a thermoplastic film called Bemis that Frank swears by. “Throw them in the dryer if you want,” he challenged. “The fabric will wear out before the adhesive does.” The result is a low-profile non-abrasive pair of chonies that you forget about almost as soon as you put them on.

Up in the stuffy 100-year-old crawlspace, I twisted, contorted, and twisted my day pulling MC home runs over ductwork, underwater pipes, and carefully stepping on black iron supports, and not once did the underwear bind, ride up, or fall down. At home, I finished the daylight with a perspire pool of a Shawn T workout, hopped in the shower and per Frank’s instructions, washed with soap and water, hung to dry overnight, and put on a new pair.

The next day I did the exact same thing – work and workout – except instead of grabbing a new pair, I reached for yesterday’s and did the sniff test. To my amazement, they smelled not just clean, but laundered. No trace of yesterday’s funk at all. Nonetheless, since my olfactory senses have been dulled from years of construction inhalation, I handed them to my bloodhound-nosed wife for confirmation. She took a pair of tongs, held them six inches from her face, and took a deep breath. Her eyes widened.

“Impressive. If anything…” she pursed her lips. “I smell a hint of EO body wash.” And with her blessing, they were green-lit for Turkey.

giin boxers review

Bringing underwear on vacation is always a gamble: what if you’re nowhere near a place to do your laundry? You’re better off throwing them in a nuclear waste disposal and buying a new pair than risk repacking them and spreading the odor to the rest of your luggage. But if Giin underwear is truly wash-and-wear…

In short, the underwear wasn’t compatible with the whirlwind ten-day Turkey tour. We did have a shower every night, but since we departed for a different city every morning, there wasn’t enough time for the underwear to completely dry in the hotel before repacking them. However, we bookended our trip with several days before and after in Istanbul, and had three straight days on a boat; in these instances, the every-other-day rotation worked fine. Not surprisingly, the fabric handled the Turkish heat with aplomb, never once feeling clammy or uncomfortable. Additionally, they come in mid-grey and nude, giving them ninja levels of invisibility underneath white pants or shorts. Because even if your aloha shirt is shamelessly crass, at least your unmentionables are modest.

I don’t know of any other real-life stress test to put Giin underwear under, but I’ll bet that they can take whatever can be thrown at them. More than that, they are easily the most there-yet-not-there pair I own, equally comfortable and imperceptible. Just wash, allow to dry for 24 hours, and you’re good to go.

And if you’re wondering about support, just think of Frank holding a glass of chardonnay.


Read the review of GIIN’s seamless undershirts here.
You can purchase GIIN’s underwear on the official website.
Check out the Official Affiliate Thread and join the discussion on the forum.

This is not a sponsored article; to read Styleforum’s review policy, please click here.

18 East: A Chat with Antonio Ciongoli About His Travel-Inspired New Project

Antonio likes Italian, but now he wants you to try something Indian. Other options include Japanese, Irish, or North African, because, for him, each place offers something interesting.
We’re chatting in La Cumbre, one of the restaurants in San Francisco that claims to be the birthplace of the Mission-style burrito, and Antonio is all smiles.
“Man, you guys have it good. There’s probably a million places to get Mexican food out here. I love it.”  We’re talking about Antonio’s new project, 18 East, which was born, in part, from his visit to Rajasthan a few years ago. He was struck by the various patterns and silhouettes that, while commonplace there, are relatively unused by Western designers. Inspired by his visit, he designed a handful of clothing for his subsequent collections for Eidos, but it wasn’t enough.
“I loved my time at Eidos, but there was so much I couldn’t do,” he recalls. “For one thing, there are so many artisans all over the world, but with Eidos, I could only use their Italian factories. Not that they weren’t great – their knitwear is simply amazing – but they just can’t recreate what we saw in India. In Jaipur, there are huge indigo fields as far as the eye can see where they hand-dip and then air-dry garments. No factory in Italy can do that.”  
“Besides, the idea of massive two-season collections doesn’t make sense to me,” he continues. “There’s the stuff I’d do for Eidos, and then the exclusives for various vendors, like Barney’s and Bloomingdales – literally hundreds of pieces, all at the same time. Guys aren’t looking for polo coats in September – they’re looking for transitional pieces.” With 18 East, Antonio is able to focus on a few dozen pieces seasonal-appropriate every couple months. “I’d rather do a few unique pieces that I’m really excited about, rather than producing an item just to check off a list.”
While it’s true that the items from this drop are influenced by the textiles he saw in India & Nepal, they are not simple imitations. The next day I go to Unionmade to check out the clothes in person, and I’m impressed with just how wearable everything is. Sure, there’s a uniqueness to them – the hand-blocked prints and intricate woven patches, especially – but nothing is so far out that would make the wearer self-conscious. “I didn’t want to create a line that would alienate people,” Antonio says while sipping a beer at the store. He then points to the corduroy sherpa coat hanging on a mannequin. “Take this jacket, for example. It’s my favorite from the collection. It reminds me of something you’d see at a Vermont head shop.”
18 East "Charlotte" sherpa travel vest and belter corduroy rancher coat.

18 East “Charlotte” sherpa travel vest and belted corduroy rancher coat.

Online, I immediately was drawn to the red pajamas (inspired by Steve McQueen’s character in Bullitt) and made a b-line over to them on the rack.  Unfortunately, photos and words can’t do them justice – they really are special.  In two seconds they were off the rack and bagged at the counter, and I wore them that night.  They’re a little different, but the muted color and repeating kalamkari and bagru patterns provide just the right amount of visual interest, and I’ve found they go well under sweaters and jackets.
18 East "Julian" Vintage pajama created with kalamkari - a traditional block-printing method.

18 East “Julian” Vintage pajama created with kalamkari – a traditional block-printing method.

I also picked up the tie-waist cardigan. Made from a donegal-style yarn of sheep’s wool and yak, Antonio chose to use a basketweave to fashion this kimono-style sweater, giving it an insane amount of depth and texture. “That cardigan was a happy accident,” he recounts as I try it on. “We first made it without the placket, and the ends curled up in a funky way.  Then someone attached this placket from the inside, and it just fell perfectly.”
Prices are reasonable, and the general silhouette of the clothes, while loose, is far from baggy.  As a reference, I’m 5’8” and 160lbs, and I took a small in everything and felt comfortable. This first drop had nominal sizing information on the 18East website (e.g. “This garment is oversized”) and it took me a couple tries to find the best size for me in person. Future collections will have measurements to minimize confusion and help get a better idea of how each garment fits. It’s a departure from his much-beloved suiting at Eidos, and for the time being, Antonio isn’t planning on introducing any tailored clothing at all.
18 East "Hima" chainstitch crewneck and "Nomad" tie waist cardigan.

18 East “Hima” chainstitch crewneck and “Nomad” tie waist cardigan.

“Don’t wear any of these clothes with a tie,” he chuckles. “Matching tops and bottoms, though, that’s something I’d like to explore a little in the future.” He shows me pictures from a photoshoot he did earlier in the week with Marco (@KamoteJoe on the forum) wearing pants and a shirt in matching fabrics. “You see this often in India, and it looks fantastic. You’ll see something like this later on. Don’t get me wrong – an Italian suit is great, but it’s not the only suit there is.”
While it may be an obvious statement that there is wearable fashion everywhere, it’s another thing entirely to incorporate global influences in a way that doesn’t come off as ethnic appropriation. From Antonio’s collections, you get the feeling that if Antonio wasn’t in fashion, he’d be a chef, finding inspiration in local flavors around the world.
“But what is local?” he asks back at the restaurant, and it’s a good question. The Mission burrito, stuffed to cylindrical hugeness with equal amounts of beans, rice, and meat, is undeniably San Franciscan, but has origins elsewhere. Ditto for cioppino, chop suey, sourdough, Irish coffee…the list goes on. Like many international cities, the Bay Area readily embraces foreign tastes and incorporates them often into their dishes, because how boring would it be to eat the same thing over and over again?
“I couldn’t agree more,” Antonio says between bites. “As much as I love the pizza in Napoli, I love Philly pizza just as much. As long as it’s good, does it matter where it comes from?”

Photos courtesy of 18East and Ian Anderson
Discuss 18 East with other Styleforum members on this thread.

Sicilian Tailoring

When Vittorio Palmisciano was 11 years old, he starting helping a friend of his father’s at a tailoring shop in his spare time after school.  His mother already knew how to sew trousers and shirts for his father; the trade seemed logical. But it took him a long time to open his own sartoria in Catania.
“There’s a saying in Italy,” he begins. “Impara l’arte e mettila da parte. I worked with several tailors in my youth. There’s a lot to learn. First, you master straight seams, then curved ones, then important parts of the jacket like the collar and shoulders. You can’t master everything in a few years. I didn’t start my own business until I was 27.” Now, almost 40 years later, he admits he’s still learning. “But I like the suit I made for you. Send me another picture of it when you get the chance.”
 
A brown fresco suit from Vittorio Palmisciano in various stages

Drafting the pattern for a straight-to-finish (no fittings) sport coat
The final product

Grey fresco suit, straight-to-finish (no fittings)
The final product

At a cafe in Palermo, Guido Davi and I are engrossed in caffè and conversation. As a child, Guido would accompany his father to the sartoria and help.  When Guido was in his 20s, he started working with his father full time.
“It takes years just to master a buttonhole,” he explains. “My father was truly un sarto maestro – he had 60 years of experience. My father wouldn’t let me cut a pattern for a suit for the first seven years. These guys that say they are tailors after a couple years…” he puts his thumb and fingers together and shakes it up and down in that quintessential Italian way. “They are not tailors.”
Salvo Ioco works at I Sarti Italiani, a Sicilian tailoring house, as designer, fitter, and operates the day-to-day activities and projects. The laboratorio employs about 10 tailors, each doing several jobs in various stations and with different machines. “We have sewing machines that our tailors use for straight seams,” Salvo says as we walk among the workers, “but certain parts are only done by hand using needle and thread, like attaching the sleeves to the armhole and stitching the canvassing to the chestpiece.” Although he takes the lead in most of the projects and lends a hand in the construction from time to time, Salvo is quick to deflect. “We’re a team. There are tailors, office workers, and those who deal directly with the clients.  Everybody has an important role in the sartoria. Together they have over a hundred years of experience,” he proudly says. “They are very good at what they do.”

The sartoria has been an integral part of Italian culture for parts of three centuries, faithfully passed on from one generation to the next. Originally transferred to Italy via Britain, Italy’s jacket differs in at least one aspect: canvassing. Guido, who has worked for a designer on Savile Row, comments: “The jacket in London descends from the uniform, which is very elegant but generally uses stiff canvass to create more angular chest and shoulders. Italian tailors took the British jacket and mellowed it.”
Vittorio concurs: “I have a client from London, where the style is more rigid compared to what we do here,” he says. “Not any more or less comfortable, but definitely softer.”   
After being imported to Italy, regional subtleties began to manifest themselves. Sicily’s style developed more or less at the same time as Naples and both share similar characteristics: a clean body, high armholes, open quarters, and soft canvassing. Differences may exist, but if so, they are very small.
“I’d say our jackets are usually less substantial than that of Napoli,” declares Guido. “But not by much. Sometimes not at all.”  Not only do Sicilian tailors favor light fabric (at least two have called my 10oz fresco “winter cloth”), but they also use lighter canvassing.
“The Sicilian summer is deathly hot,” Salvo says as he waves his hands. “You want the lightest jacket possible.”  
To put things in prospective: whereas British tailors may use several layers of horsehair cloth from top to bottom, most Sicilian tailoring houses and tailors typically use just one layer in the chest and shoulderscrine di cavallo – enough to give a suit its shape, but keep the weight down. The rest of the canvassing is far lighter. Pelo di cammello (camel hair cloth) is layered along with the crine and comes in various weights. The lightest is tela, which has a consistency similar to linen. All of these together are used to give shape to the jacket. 
“It’s like reinforced concrete,” describes Franco, Salvo’s father and the founder of I Sarti Italiani. “Without rebar inside, it won’t retain its shape. It’s necessary to give the jacket its form and structure, but it shouldn’t be so heavy that you notice it.”
Many think that a lean chest and narrow, rounded shoulders are part and parcel of the southern Italian style, but it would be more accurate to say they are currently di moda (a trend)A full chest does exist: Guido, for example, calls drape cannello but says it’s also called piega (“a fold”). Elsewhere in Sicily it’s known as lama (“a blade”), and strangely enough, drappeggio. As for extended shoulders, tailors are intimately familiar with them. In truth, one need only give a cursory look at Detective Montalbano – one of Italy’s most popular series and set in Sicily – to dismiss any notions of their scarcity. Like all trends, they may very well swing back into fashion.
Another notable difference between Britain and Italy is the method in which suits are produced. Whereas larger tailoring houses that employ many tailors exist in Italy, they are uncommon. Mostly you find the hole-in-the-wall family-run sartoria, with one tailor doing most of the work. The advantages to smaller shops, the theory goes, is that there is less chance of miscommunication if the same person takes your measurements, makes the pattern, cuts it, sews it, and fits it on you. In my experience I’ve found this to be true – sometimes. Vittorio once made an entire suit just based on my previous measurements and a few messages on WhatsApp. When it arrived at my home in San Francisco, it fit perfectly.  
Speaking of his experience on Savile Row, Guido remarks: “Their way is different. They have one person who is the pattern maker, another who is the cutter, still another who is the fitter. Then there is a trouser maker, a separate vest maker…there is a specialist in every area. And they do it exceptionally well – very precise. In Italy though, a tailor is a tailor. You do it all.” 
This doesn’t mean that he always does; currently, his mother and brother help him. “But If I need to make pants, I can. A jacket, a vest, an overcoat…everything. That is a true tailor.”
Noteworthy is the fact that the word for the job of cutter or fitter in Italian is virtually unheard of in Italy.  Only sarto.
 
Guido Davi’s work in various stages

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For well over a century, the general population of Italy had one – maybe two – nice suits made from the local sartoria, designated for church or festive occasions. As the suits for church started to show signs of wear they became suits for the field, another suit was commissioned, and so on. Before mass-produced suits became the norm, local tailors were in constant demand in Italy. Things are much different now.
“In the old days,” Guido recalls, “there used to be, without exaggerating, one tailor on every block.” Now there remains only a handful in Palermo, and he notes that the average age of a tailor in the city is in the 70s, as it is in most of Italy.  When asked about the future of tailoring in Italy, he shrugs.
Boh.  Something has to change.”
He’s not talking about demand; there’s plenty of that. The resurgence of interest in artisans has grown the client list of many tailors. Some have even raised their prices, something they haven’t done in over ten years. He’s talking about the continuation of the craft by the next generation, and it doesn’t look good.
Most trades in the United States have a program that provides classroom instruction and connects the students with contractors so that the majority of their training is working on-the-job alongside a journeyman; I followed such a program by the IBEW to become a Union Electrician. Apprentices are paid a percentage of the wages of a master tradesman based on their time in the field. The reasoning is that an apprentice’s output is a fraction of that of a journeyman, especially at the beginning. As their speed progresses and expertise grows, so does their salary, and when they have enough experience to become a journeyman and pass the state test, they are certified in their trade and can demand a full wage. Thus the continued availability of qualified craftsmen and women is secured, without being an economic burden on either the teacher or the trainee. Everyone benefits.
Such a program doesn’t exist in Italy. On the contrary, the law stipulates that everyone working a particular trade must earn equal salary, regardless of their experience. This means that master tailors have to pay an apprentice the full wage of another master tailor, not a percentage. Since becoming a master tailor takes at least five years – taking on an apprentice is an expenditure they can’t afford, and so the craft is dying out.
“It didn’t used to be that way,” Guido clarifies, “But since the change, hardly anyone has taken on an apprentice. If they do, there is an agreement sotto tavola but they risk getting a fine.” He then tells the story of a fellow tailor who was fined more than 15000 euro for doing so, despite having paid the apprentice a commensurate salary.
A few tailoring schools do exist, but they focus more on teaching theory than real-world field experience. “I have kids that come to me after graduating from these schools,” Guido relates, “but I have to turn them away because they have no technical skill. It’s sad, but they’re really no better than anyone else.”
Vittorio agrees. “These schools last two, maybe three years,” he remarks, “and they don’t even cut a suit. It’s better to get experience first, and then go to school.”
Salvo contends the law has to change to allow programs similar to the ones in the States, and then deliberates for a moment. “Everything happens slowly in Italy,” he says finally. “I don’t see change happening anytime soon. But how else are we going to be able to afford training apprentices?”
All the tailors I talked to learned their trade when they were still young, either because their parents made them or they themselves were interested. Guido, though, has no children to whom he can pass on the trade. Vittorio does have children, but when asked about them, he sighs. “It’s hard work. I have to work eight, ten, sometimes 12 hours hunched over.  They don’t want to do that.” When I ask him whether he thinks children or parents are to blame, he pauses to reflect. “I don’t know, but if kids do anything now, it’s just school. That’s fine, but what if you can’t find a job in the field you spent so much time studying for?  You need a skill that you can fall back on.  Like I said: impara l’arte e mettila da parte.”

In his sartoria, Guido shows me the various stages of a suit as its being made. The first one has all the tell-tale marks of the first fitting: no sleeves, collar, and uncovered lapels.  
“Did you notice there are no pockets?”  He asks.  I didn’t before, but now the detail screams at me. 
“A first-time client will always have the prima prova like this,” he says as he points. “You must see how the jacket fits the client before the pockets; a returning customer can skip this step. And when the pockets are put in, a good tailor will put the pouch behind the canvas. This is very important. It’s more difficult and time-consuming, but when you put something in it – like a pocket square or sunglasses – the jacket lays more flat.” Then he smiles. “I have just told you a tailor’s secret.”
Salvo concedes that his experience is relatively shallow. “Because of my age, I’m always looking to others to better myself,” he says. “There is an indispensable coalition of tailors that I can learn from, and I only stand to benefit from their experience. When I meet another sarto who doesn’t mind sharing his knowledge, I take advantage of it.”
 
First fitting of a corduroy suit from I Sarti Italiani
Final product
Another suit from I Sarti Italiani in summer tweed from Die, Workwear!
It’s true, you do learn from your mistakes,” Vittorio observes. “But I had guidance, too. I worked for fifteen years with different tailors before starting my own sartoria. They would share their experiences, I’d get together with them for coffee to talk shop, and sometimes I’d cut open a pair of trousers so I could see how they were made.
Really, tailors learn – no, steal – from each other. And after you’ve mastered the basics, you need to have a little imagination and make everything that you learned your own, with your own sartoria. Hopefully, you can pass that on to the next generation.”

Take a Summer Vacation from Your Usual Wardrobe

Depending on what one does for work, most of us live day-in, day-out in the same clothes, and frankly, it can get a little boring.  Even if one adds items for social occasions, sport, and loungewear, unless one is looking to draw attention to oneself, you’re generally limited to what is practical and acceptable for whatever society you live in.  But traveling, especially to another country and culture, opens up opportunities to do as the Romans do in an environment and setting free from dress codes or OSHA requirements.  Why not take advantage of it?

If old Esquire articles are any indication, resort wear was practically born on vacation, simultaneously in the Riviera, the Far East, Africa, the Caribbean, and Brazil – everywhere that Americans and Brits would go on holiday.  Once away from home, travelers were free to incorporate local dress in a manner that would otherwise be considered outlandish and were encouraged to do so liberally; bold prints and vivid colors might be garish in the boardroom, but they fit in perfectly well amongst the tropical flora and fauna.  Rough-textured and wrinkled fabrics might not inspire confidence when meeting clients downtown, but in 100 degree weather and 100% humidity you’d be mad to consider anything else.   Sandals, espadrilles, and loafers were the preferred footwear, because who wants to be troubled with laces on vacation?

In such an environment, a suit almost seemed silly, but for occasions that did require it, suiting options were white, tan, peach, yellow; anything but dark worsted.  Since most of one’s vacation time would be spent in less formal settings, the majority of the suggested outfits offered were much more casual, and some were fairly avant garde, especially given the time: a Mexican poncho in terry cloth, a diaphanous shirt in silk mesh, a pith helmet, and matching beach-jacket-and-shorts combo in madras.  Loose fits, open weaves, and indigenous motifs were choice favorites.

How well-heeled socialites of the time would become willing – if only on holiday – to trade bow ties for bush shirts is a mystery.  Or did they secretly love sarongs all along?  Who knows, but many items that were introduced as “resort wear” eventually made their way from the elite to the masses.  The jippi-jappa hat, for example, was a straw hat typically worn by plantation laborers in Jamaica and adopted by vacationers in Nassau.  The happi coat was a westernized version of the Japanese hanten shirt, described as a “short sleeved, sawed off kimono”; originally worn by summertime workers in the field, its loose, belted fit and open sleeves offered breezy comfort with just the right amount of international panache when lazing about under the umbrella.

Some of these looks were reinterpreted in the 90s, but in contrast with the heavy and dry cloths of the past, new weaves lightened up the fabrics and gave them a drapey, luxe feel.  roomy trousers, easy-fitting band collar shirts, and softly constructed and unlined jackets in various shades of white or muted hues of earthy colors are perfect for leisure pursuits among the sandstone and faded whitewash of the Mediterranean.  Say what you will about “fit”, but there’s nothing that’ll kill your chill quicker than constricting clothes.

In fact, many designers have been resurrecting this louche look for the last few years in their collections.  My favorites for summer resort-hopping are the ones that capture a hint of that vacation vibe without going overboard. 

If you’re just dipping your toes into vacation wear, stick with the basics – shirts, trousers, and shoes – and choose casual fabrics in light or summery colors.  Look for telltale signs of do-nothingness: rayon camp shirts with collars meant to be worn open, drawstring linen easy pants that accommodate overindulgence, and slip-on espadrilles. 

You don’t have to go all-out baggy everything; an easy way to incorporate loose fits is by playing with proportions: roomy trousers with a more fitted top, or a slightly oversized shirt with classic-fitting shorts. 

Much inspiration can be taken from Antonio Ciongoli’s tenure when he was the creative lead of Eidos.  During my last few vacations near the sand and sea of Sicily, I found myself constantly reaching for his gauzy, wide-legged trousers and loosely belted jackets in breezy, textured fabrics.

I love Charlie’s wardrobe choices (@sebastianmcfox on StyleForum and Instagram) from when he was in Italy this summer.  For dressier occasions under the Tuscan sun he wore a nubby linen green jacket, white polo shirt, tan Panama hat, khaki cotton trousers and brown loafers.  For a wedding he wore a tobacco linen suit, tasteful light blue shirt, black grenadine tie, and white pocket square.  His more casual outfits consisted of just one print, usually a camp collar shirt or striped tee, and safari jackets in linen and cotton, easy pants, and white sneakers.  Everything looks comfortable, relaxed, and stylish.  In other words: perfect vacation wear.

For someone who enjoys clothes, you can’t do much better than a vacation as an excuse to expand your wardrobe.  Or at the very least, attempt to.  Not only will you look cool, you’ll wear cool as well, and besides, it’s great fun.  Embrace the batik.

Pics from Esquire, Urban Composition, and Sebastian McFox.

100 Hands Shirts Review

As soon as Fok saw me, he told me to turn around.
“Drop your bags off, we’ve got an appointment.”
A three-hour flight delay in San Francisco caused me to miss my connecting flight in London, forcing me to spend the night at a local generic Double Hilton Marri-Stay and take the next flight to Milan at 7am the next morning. From there I hopped on a train to Florence, and by the time I arrived at the StyleForum Maker Space, I had been traveling for over 24 hours. All I wanted was a cold drink and a warm bed, but as we were already late to our appointment, off we went.
“Did you bring a camera?” Fok asked as we wove through the cobblestone streets. “We should take pictures. I’m really excited about it. Is this the right street? I thought it was right around the corner…”. Around and around we went until we found ourselves in front of a modern-looking palazzo in a narrow alley. On the doorbell was the name 100 HANDS, written in fine cursive.
“You’re going to like Varvara,” Fok said as he pressed the doorbell. “She’s the sweetest person ever.” And then she opened the door, a petite young woman, with light brown hair parted to one side, greeting us with a kind smile. “Please come in.  We’ve been expecting you.”
Up to this point, I had only seen pictures of 100 Hands’ shirts online, accompanied with interesting, if unclear, descriptions of their construction: threadless and invisible stitching mechanics? What does that even mean?  
Once inside, Varvara introduced us to her husband Akshat, a tall young man from India with curly dark hair and gracious manners. “I’m so sorry,” he began as he shook my hand, “but I’m presently with another client. Please, have a coffee, and Varvara will show you one of our shirts.”
And what shirts they were.
Varvara pulled out what seemed to be an ordinary shirt with a box check pattern, but a closer inspection would reveal much. As an example, the box checks of the shirts line up practically everywhere – collar points, sleeves, shoulders, under the arm, and 360 degrees around the body. There is no way this can be done by a machine, and the result is a marvel to see. 
 
Pattern matching awesomeness (click below to start videos):

Another detail that sets their shirts apart is that instead of simply folding over the bottom of the shirt and running it through a sewing machine, the hem is hand rolled and stitched. The result is not unlike the edges of similarly crafted pocket squares, except the rolls are smaller and the stitching is more dense, making the stitching comparatively discreet; thus the term invisible stitching.
Indeed, the amount of hand stitching per inch is incredible – roughly 25 per inch, about three times than what you’d normally see on a shirt – but what is more striking is the way in which it’s done.  “When a thread breaks, we don’t simply tie a knot and continue,” Varvara explained.  “We pull it out and start all over. This is what we mean when we say threadless stitching. It’s just a single thread along a seam. That way, when you wash your shirt over and over, there is less chance of the shirt coming apart.”

Over a later email conversation, Varvara admitted the market speech can muddy the method. “But we feel the most important aspect of our work is the patience and precision of it.  We do use machines for some steps, but the majority of the undertaking is done by hand, and doing so takes time.” The time-intensive shirtmaking process passes through no less than 50 pairs of hands (thus the name). Simon Crompton of A Permanent Style has written extensively of the superb craftsmanship and exceptional working conditions of the over 100 people who work there. Although the atelier has existed for over 20 years and had made shirts for Savile Row tailors and haute couture maisons in France, the brand itself was established in 2014 and has enjoyed quite a bit of success since then, outgrowing the factory in the city of Amritsar and relocating to the neighboring countryside.
Photos courtesy of 100 Hands

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Another peculiar adornment found on each shirt are what Varvara calls their “one-of-a-kind” buttonholes. Put simply, they are not sewn, but embroidered: fine silk thread is worked around and up to the slice. In contrast, traditionally a slice is made in the fabric and then thread is brought around the cut edges to form a buttonhole. 100 Hands’ decorative method, which takes about 45 minutes per buttonhole, is borrowed from India’s own textile culture. Compared to other makers, the results are much cleaner and far less bulky. Here’s a few pics, plus a link to a 100MB picture Varvara sent me that you can zoom in on for full menswear geek gawking:

Besides being able to choose the collar, fabric, and finishes for a shirt, some may benefit from a custom shirt for a better fit.  For example, most OTR shirts are cut with higher, square shoulders; doing so can accommodate more body types.  The downside to this “democratic fit” is when you have more sloped shoulders, as the excess fabric can bunch in sloppy folds around the chest. Customization and fittings can adjust the pattern for these and other individual peculiarities for a cleaner fit while still being comfortable.
Speaking of customization: in addition to seasonal offerings, 100 Hands has access to nearly 400 fabrics from Italy and Japan, such as Canclini, Monti, Loro Piana, SicTess, Albiata and Albini. There are five different interlinings options for the collar, 12 different types of buttons, and the embroidery initials – sewn by hand – can be done in three different fonts.  Moreover, there are two levels of handwork, the Black and Gold Line. Both have the pattern drawn and cut by hand, handfusing and pattern matching, but the Gold Line contains far more: hand-embroidered buttonholes, handsewn side and bottom seams, shoulder, and sleeve placket.
After describing the work involved in making a shirt, Akshat fit Fok and me for a shirt each. I chose a plain white oxford cloth to go with light tans and blues that I’ll be wearing come warmer weather. Fok chose a denim shirt to wear, I assume, in the rough factory environment of his home office.

After taking our measurements, Akshat brought out prototypes for casual outerwear they have in store for the future, including a field and shirt jacket in slubby navy linen. No word on when these will be available, but I’m excited for the shirt jacket in particular – with a barchetta breast pocket, flapped patch hip pockets, and buttoned sleeves, it makes for a compelling choice when a sport coat might be considered too dressy. Meaning, I’ll probably be wearing it everywhere in California.
L’ora di aperitivo was upon us, so we said our goodbyes to Akshat and Varvara to meet up with Arianna at the StyleForum Makers’ Space. While making a wrong turn or two, Fok reflected on our visit with 100 Hands.
“I never wear dress shirts,” he mused. “I mean, look at me. I’m wearing beat up 18oz denim, a  worn in leather Type 3 jacket over a dirty tee shirt, and old sneakers.”  He paused for a beat, then chuckled to himself. “Those are some amazing shirts. I’m going to find an occasion to wear that shirt,” he vowed.
“Does that mean we’re coming to Pitti next year?” I asked. Fok stopped. “You never take pictures; how are you going to prove you ever wore the shirt?”  
“You make a valid point,” Fok conceded as he began walking again. “I could just buy a camera, but I’d miss the cobblestones and pasta. And cheese. And salame. And…I keep getting lost. Just wait till you see your apartment, it overlooks the Arno. Is this our street? I need a glass of wine…”
Later on, in San Francisco, the shirt arrived neatly packed in a box within a green canvas “suitcase” with a wooden button. I chose a Capri collar, unique in that both the collar and points are constructed in one piece so that it can be worn either buttoned with a tie or casually open. The result is not only one of the best fitting shirts I own (despite all the cannoli and gelato I’d been eating) but also one of the most versatile. For all those times you go from meetings to dining or vice versa, the collar handles both with ease and looks great doing so.  
Unboxing video: 

So much handwork does come at a price – $350 and up – but you’ll be getting more than similarly priced options from better known brands, such as Kiton and Charvet. All three do have a measure of hand stitching, but the sheer amount of intricate, precise handwork of a 100 Hands shirt frankly dwarfs most others and is one of, if not the defining characteristic, something Varvara and Akshat are very proud of. And then there’s longevity.
Mark Boutilier of San Francisco, who wears dress shirts far more often than I do, has had his shirts from 100 Hands for over a year. “I have shirts from various high-end makers,” he says, “and the Black Line not only has finer stitching and finishing, but has held up better after wearing and washing. Others have had stitching come loose, buttons unravelling, but not 100 Hands. I’m really impressed, and would highly recommend anyone to give them a try.” He did lament, however, the lack of availability for their MTM program in the US, which wasn’t available at the time. But that has recently changed.
“People have been requesting our MTM service via Instagram and email,” Varvara relates, “So we decided to begin to tap the US market that way.” My friend Tom was one of the first.
“I contacted Akshat, and he was very accommodating,” he began. “He offered for me to simply send in a good fitting shirt, but I decided that would be too much hassle, and sent him measurements instead. I also sent him photographs, and he was able to diagnose my biggest fit issues stemming from a forward posture.”
And the results? “Quite good for a first attempt,” Tom reports. “They hit the measurement specs perfectly and adjusted for my stance. My guess is that with one more iteration, we’ll be golden.”

Maiden voyage of Tom’s shirt from 100 Hands

Maiden voyage of Tom’s shirt from 100 Hands

While my own shirt seemed fine by my eye, Varvara was able to detect a few problems. “The upper front placket under the collar could use some attention,” she noted. Otherwise, maybe the biceps need slimming? I guess my guns are more like pea shooters.
Currently their showroom is in Amsterdam and while they do trunk shows in various cities (London, Hannover, and Stockholm, to name a few) and their shirts can be found in several shops online and in-store (the Rake and Linnégatan in Sweden, for example), there is presently just one place to see 100 Hands shirts in person in the US, and that is at Carroll & Co in Beverly Hills. Tom and others have had success with the remote MTM program, but since Ill be going back to Florence for Pitti next January, I think I’ll make an appointment to see them in person to catch up. Maybe get another shirt or two.
To contact 100 Hands, email them at info@100hands.nl or varvara@100hands.nl

This is not a sponsored article; to read Styleforum’s review policy, please click here.


Loungewear in Classic Menswear

In 1878, an unnamed New York Times correspondent was asked “How do you travel in the Eastern seas?” and decided to answer with his pen rather than his mouth, describing in great detail his sea voyages from San Francisco eastward across the Pacific.
Peppered among his experiences with steamers and train lines are his thoughts on the hot climate from Hong Kong all the way south to India, inescapable even in the evening, which he compares to “the temperature of the fiery furnace built by Nebuchadnezzar for the occupation of those who fell under his displeasure.”
Due to the intense heat, the nightshirt, commonplace in Western cultures then – and still today – was nowhere to be seen on steamships in the East. Instead, the “traveler may be found, almost invariably, in pajamasThese are nothing more nor less than a coat and drawers, both of them loose and of light material. The latter are gathered at the waist by a string; the former buttons down the front to its termination at the hips. The suit may be of muslin, jeans, light flannel, or pongee silk.”  
This may not have been the first time pajamas were introduced to the American public, but soon they took over by storm.  In 1885, another article from the Times removed the italics and related that Kaskel & Kaskel’s haberdashery in New York had “nightshirts prepared with beautifully embroidered fronts, though pajamas are decidedly the robes de nuit at the present day.” By 1900, the Times lamented that “since the Spanish War everybody is wearing pajamas. The nightrobe seems to have gone completely out of existence.
Over a century has passed since, but the desire for comfortable clothes to kick back in around the house still exists.  Most, though, balk at the idea of proper loungewear. Why spend money on clothes no one will see you in?- the reasoning goes. And that is the reason for $10 sweats from the sale bin. Others believe that it’s too hot to wear anything to bed, but they’re missing the point: pajamas, like all loungewear, were meant to be worn around the house, not in bed. The original intention was to show a little decency to our surprise guests, neighbors, and our own children, and if you can do so with style, why not?
One of the more popular modern figures who donned loungewear was the fictitious Sherlock Holmes. Twenty years ago Jaymie of Berkeley lent me a tome containing the entire canon written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which I voraciously devoured. Among the many descriptions of Holmes was him in his dressing gown, which is not so odd per se, only in the way he wore it. Doyle describes the usual process:

He took off his coat and waistcoat, put on a large blue dressing-gown, and then wandered about the room collecting pillows from his bed, and cushions from the sofa and armchairs. With these, he constructed a sort of Eastern divan, upon which he perched himself cross-legged, with an ounce of shag tobacco and a box of matches laid out in front of him.

Still in shirt and tie, Holmes typically would slip into a robe at home to unwind, ponder over the day’s clues, and hopefully solve the mystery. More than a dozen times the robe is mentioned in the original stories: the detective could be found “lounging upon the sofa in a purple dressing-gown”, “lounging about his sitting-room in his dressing-gown,” and so on. When Watson or other characters would arrive at his flat, the fully-clothed yet comfortably relaxed Holmes could see to their needs without suffering embarrassment.

While Doyle only described the robe in color and Paget’s sketches of it were relatively featureless, it was American actor William Gillette who really brought it to life. Over the course of the over 1,300 times he portrayed Holmes on stage in both the U.S. and England, Gillette could be seen in a lavishly elegant robe of heavy silk brocade with a quilted shawl collar. If Gillette’s dressing gown is your bag, Baturina Homewear in Hamburg, Germany makes these in sumptuous quilted velvet, silk, or a combination of the two. Prices aren’t cheap, but they look well-made, are fully customizable, and if reviews on Etsy are any indication, they fit the bill.

Whereas coat and tie revolve around fit and streetwear often portrays a mood, loungewear is all about comfort. That said, while style is a distant second, a little bit of it wouldn’t hurt, and there are plenty of ways to lounge with more refinement than sweats. I like how Erik (EFV) of Stockholm comes home from work and changes into a comfy cardigan and house slippers, or dresses up the slippers with a short silk damask robe for entertaining guests. For the cold mornings, he has a longer wool plaid dressing gown with silk piping, with which he pairs his velvet slippers from Larusmiani–chosen, he says, “for their sleek appearance. I love slippers, but like to look as good as possible for my wife.” 
loungewear menswear larusmiani slippers leather
For traditional loungewear that won’t make you look terribly precious, it’s hard to beat the classic PJs-and-robe combo.  Bay Area bud Derek Guy has an enviable combo from Ascot Chang which he finds helps to fend off the morning chill. Gerry Nelson of Melbourne only recently purchased his PJ-and-robe combo and can’t be happier. “All these years, I’d been wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants to bed,” he explains. “That was OK but I’d been wanting something a little more appropriate, and when I found this woolen robe from Derek Rose on eBay, I bit the bullet and got it. I wear it with pajamas and slippers and suddenly, I’m Cary Grant or Spencer Tracy. Not only is it comfortable, it looks great. I actually feel properly dressed all the time now.”

My own loungewear was driven by several factors:  1) we have a no-shoe policy in our house, 2) people drop by all the time, and 3) I needed something to wear when we stayed at friends’ homes while traveling. Traditional western pajamas and robes didn’t appeal to me at all, even though I think they look great on other people. Plus, I tend to run hot, and everything seemed too heavy. After all, options in loungewear are rather limited, so I resigned myself to wearing fleece shorts and t-shirts. And then came Antonio Ciongoli.

In 2013, Antonio co-founded Eidos and was its creative director for five years. One of my favorite pieces he made was a long, loose, shawl-collared cardigan with a medallion motif. Only 10 were ever made.  In the Eidos thread, Antonio explains:

“The knit jacquard pattern is based on traditional Rajasthani indigo textiles that are block printed by hand in the Ajrak style. We spun together four different colors of cotton yarn (navy with black and cream with ecru) to give the pattern a subtle depth of texture.  You really need to see it up close to appreciate how beautiful it is. The garment is knit full but light and layers easily over a tee shirt or pajamas around the house.”

He wasn’t kidding – the fabric has an understated richness and is easily one of the softest pieces of clothing I own. I love cardigans for general comfort, but Antonio’s pattern gives the garment a bit of sophisticated élan. Similar to the fancy brocade of William Gillette’s dressing gown which distinguishes it from a simple bathrobe, the jacquard pattern elevates an ordinary cardigan to something special. You go ahead and drop cash on expensive PJs, but for my money, it might as well be something I actually wouldn’t mind being seen in.

After I posted a picture on Instagram of the Ajrak cardigan with linen pants, Antonio commented, “you need some Agy pants.”  According to what he posted in the Eidos thread at the time of their release, “…it’s my personal favorite silhouette from the season. While on a two-week inspiration and development trip I took to Rajasthan, India…Agyesh was wearing traditional Patiala pajama pants basically every day and…I loved how they looked. I was determined to make them work for the collection, so when I got back to Italy, I sat down with our knitwear supplier to reimagine them as lounge pants…the end result is the most comfortable sweats you’ve ever worn in your life.”

Similar to the Times correspondent, I was intrigued by these pajama pants, “loose and of light material,” so I took Antonio at his word and purchased a pair from Mohawk General Store in a slub loopback terry sweatshirting that was turned inside out for optimum texture. After wearing them at home for almost a month straight, I can say with little hesitation that they are the most surprising purchase I’ve made in a long time. The drawstring pulls the 40” of waist material to create flattering diagonal pleats that give these pajamas a refined shape while being airy, comfortable, and cool.  
Slippers were probably the hardest thing to find since many are either far too warm or far too fancy for my blood. I used to have a pair of wool slippers from J. Crew that were so dense they made my feet sweat, and ended up never wearing them. I liked the look of velvet slippers but all the ones I saw had leather soles, which seemed incongruous with loungewear, at least for me. Then I remembered that Gerry had a pair from Eidos that Antonio designed with Christian Kimber of Australia, the La Casetta House Slipper. They ticked all the boxes I was looking for: slim profile, casual tweed material, and rubber sole. After much searching, I finally found some stock at Coachman Clothiers of Knoxville, Tennessee. The material is breathable and the rubber sole provides just the right amount of warmth and cushion for Bay Area wood floors. For those interested, Antonio says he plans to produce pajamas as Creative Director for 18 East.

Loungewear is a funny thing. I’ve read that it increases productivity for those who work from home, and though I’m not convinced (neither is this guy), I’d be lying if I said they have no effect at all, at least for me. Like all clothes, loungewear can serve multiple purposes, not just practical. Sweats are comfortable, but so is a toga. If you care to be presentable as well, consider upping your loungewear game, and if you’re looking for an excuse, throw a pajama party. 
Of course, you may not care at all; anyone can wear whatever they want around the house. When asked what she wore to bed, Marilyn Monroe famously answered, “Chanel No. 5.”  Rawr.  

Then again, she died alone, so there’s that.

loungewear menswear luxury tailored pajamas nightrobe

A Focus on Evan Kinori and Fashion Revolution

The Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh was home to five factories, part of the country’s famed garment industry; it was the second largest factory in the world. Zara, H&M, Gap, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and numerous other brands were being made by 3.6 million people in Bangladesh, to the tune of $21 billion in exports in 2012, nearly 12% of the GCP.  Roughly 90% of those exports landed in the United States, because producing in Bangladesh was so cheap: minimum wage there was $37 a month, four times less than that of China. No wonder everyone wanted their clothes made there.  Business was booming, and everything was humming along smoothly.
And then the roof caved in. Literally.
On April 24, 2013, the building collapsed, killing 1,100 people and injuring another 2,438. Most of these were garment workers, and most of those were young women.
All accidents are tragic, but this one is especially so because it could have been avoided; it almost was.
The morning before the collapse, an engineer deemed the building unsafe and recommended its evacuation. A government official hurried to the site, had a meeting with the engineer, and changed the verdict, declaring the building safe. The bank in the building sent its workers home, but garment worker management told them to come back to work the next day or risk losing their jobs. They did, and some of them never returned home to their families.  The engineer tried to escape the country but was caught and arrested at the border.
 
Shortly after this, Fashion Revolution began. For one week in April, they urge consumers who buy clothes – basically everybody – to participate in their #whomademyclothes campaign, building awareness of the many hands that produce the garments we wear. At the same time, brands, producers, and stores are encouraged to be transparent and honor those workers. Part of the point is to encourage ethical production through changing consumer practices. 
 
San Francisco has a long history in the garment industry (think Levi’s), and there are events April 22-29 throughout the city. In an effort to promote American-designed and American-made clothes, and in the spirit of a movement that demands transparency in this oversaturated and poorly regulated industry, I wanted to chat with local designer Evan Kinori, so I made an appointment to stop by his studio in Hayes Valley.

I first met Evan at a maker event in SOMA about six years ago. Nestled in between a leather specialist and candle maker, Evan had his wares that I had seen on his Tumblr, back when Tumblr was a thing. One of them was a reversible jacket that was one of the coolest things I’d seen, and it continues to be one of my favorite pieces of outerwear. A testament to Evan’s sense of style is the fact that it appeals to practically everyone; through the years, I’ve been asked about it on the street and the job site. 

Evan recalls: “This was the third jacket I had come up with while in school. I was studying pattern making and was really eager to bring my ideas to life but the curriculum only taught womenswear. Even so, I was very anxious to make the garments I was envisioning. The thing that I really began to fixate on was how when most elements are removed, a garment can be much more transcendent and speak to more people. 
“I had found this amazing British brand, SEH Kelly, that had made a reversible shirt and it had really sparked my brain. I loved the idea of giving people options. From there, I just came up with the shapes I like and the way I wanted it to look and feel: timeless, smooth, but wearable on a daily basis. To me, the design retains the simple essentials of a men’s jacket but doesn’t appear too rigid or utilitarian, nor too dressy or blazer-esque.
“The denim is nice weight, 12 oz Japanese selvedge that I thought was the right shade of indigo to be paired with the greenish grey cavalry twill wool that I had got a bolt of at an estate sale. I love the idea of wool and denim, one side being the more rugged and tolerant side for messing about, and the other being a little more dressy for when the time calls for it. they are complimentary weights, not overly rigid, but enough to make the jacket feel substantial.”

Of the many things that stand out about this garment is the fabrication – after years of abuse, the jacket shows no signs of ever falling apart. Evan explains: “The entire jacket was sewn on a single needle Juki DDL 555 lockstitch industrial machine, with the buttonholes being sewn with a Reece keyhole machine. Lockstitch construction is just unbreakable. When you pair it with tight stitch counts, that garment will surely last long enough for your grandchildren to fight over it.”  When the buttons started to crack or the button stitching began to unravel, Evan added buttonholes to the other side and kick press buttons, which will never break or come loose, on both sides, for free.

The belief that clothes are meant to last and can be repaired, instead of tossed and replaced, is one that the Fashion Revolution is trying to instill in the mind of modern customers. The fact that Evan himself took care of my jacket, free of charge, is an almost radical concept if we think of the current state of the fashion industry, where we hardly ever get to interact with the designers or the makers of the pieces we wear. 
 
Currently, Evan’s stock can be found in a handful of shops in New York, LA, Antwerp, Belgium, Japan, and South Korea. In San Francisco, you can find his stuff at Reliquary or make an appointment to visit his studio. 
It’s nice to see Evan’s growth from that booth six years ago, but he’s in no rush.
“I’m pretty particular about where my stuff goes,” he says. “I have to fit in, not just with the other brands, but the shop itself. When I go in, I listen to the music, talk to the owners, and see if we think along the same lines. It’s not just about selling the product.”

When asked about his clothing style, Evan shrugs and says, “I like to make garments people don’t have to worry about styling. I don’t want people to feel like they have to buy everything, even though all the pieces go together.”
His Instagram feed has a certain feel to it – I’d call it relaxed menswear –  with models showcasing his garments head-to-toe. Similar to Kapital and Engineered Garments, but without the randomness.
Quality is high, with taped seams and leather backed kick press buttons. Details are thoughtfully executed, such as lower chest pockets to facilitate use and flaps with hidden button closures. Personally, I’ve found his garments easy to pair with what I currently have in my closet. Silhouettes are easy and familiar, with focus on practicality and texture.
I ended up purchasing another three-pocket jacket in an amazing cotton/linen/wool/hemp yarn dyed blanket cloth tweed. While mostly black, it has white and grey vertical broken stripes that pairs perfectly with a white button-down, black jeans, and white sneakers for when I don’t feel like thinking about color.
He’s got something in the pipeline that I’m really excited about, including the three-pocket jacket in a casentino cloth (!) and a longer coat in a large gray herringbone.

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Time was that Evan himself made every garment himself, like my reversible jacket from six years ago. Nowadays Evan outsources the sewing either to LA or San Francisco, depending on the garment, so he can focus on designing.
For the guy into classic menswear, you can’t do much better with Evan’s garments; they are all California designed and made, which means you can do your part in supporting local talent and industry.

Evan Kinori’s clothing can be purchased online or at these stockists.

What to Wear on a 24 Hour trip

The other day I found myself in a familiar stressful situation: I arrived home from work at 6:30 PM and had a plane to catch in less than two hours. And I hadn’t packed yet.  
Crazy, I know; packing procrastination does that to you.  For a dizzying moment, I felt overwhelmed, trying to visualize outfits with my closet content revolving in my mind like a tie organizer.  And then I thought: what if my choices were limited?
My trip wasn’t long – just a little over 24 hours from the time I board the plane to the moment I touch down from my return flight – and it wasn’t as I had to pack for a vacation. I just needed to be comfortable enough for the flight down, an all-day assembly the next day, and the return flight home.
Why waste time fretting over different outfits if I could make one outfit last 24 hours? 
Can one outfit last 24 hours?  

what to wear on 24 hour trip menswear sport coat tailored

Sport Coat: Spier & MacKay

Shirt: Finamore

Pants: Rubinacci

Shoes: Alden

Belt: W. Kleinberg

Pocket Square: Drake’s

Tie: Drake’s

Scarf: Drake’s


Here’s what I chose: 
For sheer flexibility, nothing beats good old gray flannel trousers – mid-grey to be precise. You could wear them from the boardroom to the bedroom and no one would bat an eye. They’re like dress sweats, with a crease and a fly. I grabbed an alligator belt to cinch them up.
A jacket, of course, is a no-brainer. You want to have easily-accessible pockets to stash your boarding pass & ID that you’ll be taking out a million times to show every TSA agent in the airport. Get yourself the right sport coat, one that you can dress up or down, and you can take it anywhere, from meetings to martinis. The all-purpose navy blazer is the obvious choice, but it’s not the only one. I really like this classic tan gunclub from Spier & MacKay. The houndstooth pattern is casual without being crazy, and being a shetland wool tweed, its looser weave makes it feel more like a cozy sweater than a rigid jacket. 
Instead of a blue oxford cloth button-down shirt, which is the fail-safe option, I chose its slightly more stylish cousin, the dark chambray spread collar shirt from Finamore. I like how the darker color and twill weave pair particularly well with tweed jackets. Plus, it’s a fantastic fabric. My wife says it’s denim, but I can’t say that I agree, because then I’d have to explain why I’m recommending a denim shirt to meetings. Just say “chambray” and you’ll stay above reproach.
Everyone always says loafers are a good choice for airports, and for good reason: you can easily slip them on and off at security and in the plane, and they go equally well with dressy or casual outfits. If you have a high instep though, the band on the vamp of traditional penny loafers may cause a bit of discomfort when worn for an extended period of time. That’s why I chose tassel loafers – they generally have no band.  And while I do have cordovan tassels, I grabbed my suede pair from Alden. For sheer shoe comfort, suede tassels are tough to beat, and I find they go well with flannel trousers and tweed jackets.
 
Leaving to catch the plane, 7 PM Friday evening
peter 24 hours same clothes
I wore this on the plane knowing I’d be wearing this not only on the flight down, but at the assembly as well, which meant I had to choose accessories. For ties, you’d be hard pressed to find a one more versatile than a dark solid silk knit. The crunchy, nubby, slightly shiny texture plays well with everything from plain worsted suits to busy sport coats. As I recently gave my navy one away (as a hint to a bro who painfully tries to mix patterns), I opted for a dark green one instead. That, as well as the matte silk/wool square with a large pattern I grabbed to complement it, are both from Drake’s.
 
At the assembly, noon Saturday
After the assembly, I would get rid of the tie and square and exchange them for a scarf. Of course, I could’ve just loosened the tie, but I’m not one of those guys that wear a tie just because. Ties signal a recognition of seriousness or solemnity; don’t dilute their meaning by just wearing them willy-nilly. When the situation calls for it, by all means, tie up and show respect. Otherwise, adorn your neck with a scarf.
For those of you with a penchant for crazy ties but know better, this is your opportunity to give in – a little –  to your ornamentation fixation. This one is from forum member X of Pentacles, and is the perfect pattern and color for a casual scarf; it stuffed easily in my briefcase, along with my tie, square, and an extra pair of unmentionables.  

 

Getting ready to fly home, Saturday evening

 

In retrospect, I think the experiment went well.  I was never uncomfortable in my clothes, and I had everything I needed to be presentable; that much I expected. However, what I didn’t expect was the weightlessness of it all.
All the familiar stresses of travel were gone. Having everything in my briefcase meant there was no luggage to lug around to the check-in counter; not even a carryon to heave and stow in the overhead bin. When I arrived, there was no need to wait by the baggage claim; I just left the terminal and got an Uber. The next morning there was no time spent deciding what to wear because I had packed only one choice. And after the assembly I didn’t need to organize my belongings; I simply picked up my briefcase and left for the airport. In the end, I realized that eliminating options wasn’t restricting – it was liberating. 
Maybe there is something to living a simple life after all.  I should think about that when I order my next suit.

Peter’s Guide to Dressing for a Date

Ah, Valentine’s Day. I remember our 2nd Grade class getting loads of pink cardboard paper and glitter to create cards for “our valentine,” not knowing what that was. Then I found out. A good way to jump-start anxiety at an early age. Fortunately, I was exempt, because if you’re like me (you know who you are), every day is Valentine’s Day!

But let’s say you want to take your SO on a special date. What do you wear? The answer to that depends on the situation. Dinner and a movie? Opera and cocktails? A walk on a moonlit beach? Decisions, decisions.

The quick answer is: be you, but a bit nicer looking. You could show up in your pajamas, but dressing up demonstrates respect for your date and the occasion, because both are special, right? Right. Unless the date is a pajama party. In which case, wash your pj’s first.

 

VALENTINE’S DAY DATE FOR NEW COUPLES

For new couples, keep it casual. If you’re meeting at a coffee shop, wear a nice pair of jeans or khakis, a button up oxford, and clean sneakers or oxfords. After coffee, why not take a walk at a nearby park? Or better yet, find out what activities she likes – hiking, bicycling, karaoke – and plan around that.

valentine's day outfit menswear

Shawl collar jacket: Eidos | Long-sleeved t-shirt: Orcival

Of course, just because you’re a new couple doesn’t mean you can’t get all fancy. If you’re date’s down for a night on the town, go for it – and dress accordingly. If you start with dinner at a nice restaurant, go for a dark outfit. It’s safe, unfussy, and easy to dress up or down, depending on where you go. A fail-safe option is a navy suit. Pair it with a crisp white button up shirt, or swap the shirt for a thin charcoal or black merino turtleneck. If dark jeans are your thing, reach for black Chelseas or zip boots, a blue oxford button down, and a grey tweed sport coat or field jacket.

Daytime date from Beige Habileur. Everything about this is awesome and chill, but refined.

Shirt: G. Inglese x Beige | Pants: Husbands

 

A SPECIAL VALENTINE’S DAY DATE

Perhaps you’ve been together for a while now, and are looking for something special to do. Show that you were paying attention – you were, weren’t you? – by choosing something she said she liked to do. It could be a picnic, wine tasting, or a leisurely walk to a park, downtown, or movie theater. If you have access to a beach, lake, or river, walk there, and bring a frisbee with you to enjoy the sun – everybody can play frisbee. All you need are a nice pair of jeans, boots, and a nice button-up shirt.

However, when it’s a special occasion that calls for something a bit more formal, consider what she’ll be wearing. Being over- or underdressed can be a bit embarrassing, so set the tone by saying “Let’s dress up,” and be sure to follow by saying what you’re wearing so that she can have something on which to base her decision. On the other hand, she could have that one outfit that she’s been dying to wear, so let her choose and follow suit. What if she says she has nothing to wear? Besides starting an argument (don’t do it), you have two options: go shopping with her (that’ll score you major points) or tell her far enough in advance so she can plan to go shopping with friends. Whatever she chooses, be a gentleman and let her take center stage. You may have the perfect red velvet cocktail jacket, but be careful not to outshine your date; remember that this is her night. Show that she’s important by taking her into consideration. For example, ask her what her favorite outfit of yours is and wear it. Or find out what her favorite color is, or which one she’ll be wearing, and chose a flower or pocket square that complements it.

the armoury menswear outfit date night valentine's day

Shirt: The Armoury | Pocket Square: Drake’s

SOMETHING DIFFERENT THAN A DINNER…

Dinner and a show is always a safe bet, but why not try something different? Go to that one restaurant she’s been dying to try, and then follow up with a dancing class. Or you could go to a club that plays her favorite music. Many museums have evening hours, perfect for an after-dinner stroll and providing easy topics for conversation. If black tie is too formal, a nice suit, comfortable shoes, and a listening ear are all you need to enjoy your time together.

Pro tip: if she likes perfumes, start the evening out by going to a department store and trying scents. Let her pick one for herself, ask her to pick one for you, drop your bank card, and the rest of the evening is set. You’re welcome.

Evening date - houndstooth flannel suit and rollneck

Evening date – houndstooth flannel suit and rollneck.

 

 

Grey flannel suit: Eidos
Navy turtleneck sweater: Stephen Schneider

 


Any date, no matter the day, is an opportunity to show your partner that you care about your relationship. Let your dress reflect that by notching it up a bit. These are occasions to engage in relaxed conversation, have fun, and cement your relationship. The special dates are your chances to create long-lasting memories. Don’t let your dirty sneakers ruin it.

Peter’s Adventures in Pittiland – Part II

After meeting with 100 Hands, Fok and I made our way back to the Maker Space.  By then the show was over and Aperitivo Hour was in full effect.  After catching up with my good friend and tailor Salvo, I met the other artisans that shared SytleForum’s exhibition. Red and white wine, olives, prosciutto, and mozzarella were being passed around while conversations of the day’s effects were being discussed, and I could finally relax after my 30 hour travel ordeal.  Enjoyable as it was, though, I couldn’t wait to sleep in a proper bed.

“Wait till you see your apartment,” teased Arianna. “You have the best view of Florence.”

She wasn’t exaggerating.  The apartment that Salvo and I shared a panorama of the Arno and Ponte Vecchio, one of the most charming hallmarks of the city.  I could have soaked in the view for hours, but it was already past midnight, and exhaustion got the better of me.  I crashed on the bed in my clothes and fell asleep.

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The next day, well…let’s not dwell on the fact that I left my phone in the cab on the way to Pitti and forgot to finalize my press pass for the show…yeah, that’s a bit embarrassing.  Let’s skip to the show.  I was told the show is big, but when people say Pitti is “big”, they’re downplaying it.  It’s huge.  The show lasts four days because there’s so much to see – 60,000 square meters and 1230 exhibitors. Here are some highlights:

Monitaly

Not classic menswear, but casual clothes for CM guys that are looking for something interesting and unique.  Runs the gamut from trousers acceptable for date night to furry leopard print boots. Yup.

Knit Brary

If you like sweaters, you’ll fall in love with this brand. Based out of Spain, this company produces handmade sweaters with tons of visual interest and texture. One of the cardigans on display used yarns thicker than a pencil. Most are made with baby alpaca, so while not cheap, it’s the kind of cozy softness you can wear all day long, if your partner’s not borrowing it.  Check out their video here.

Carmina

Apparently Tebas, the father of the company, won’t stop making new lasts in his workshop. The latest, named after him, is a wider-than-Forest casual last that can be dressed up but is best represented on a chunky brogue boot. Other new lasts include the dressier Queen’s and Broadway.

La Portegna

When I vacationed in Sicily earlier this year, I scoured the internet for a good pair of espadrilles.  Most are flimsy things that only last as long as your vacation does before they fall apart. If only I had known of La Portegna. Although they do make other types of shoes, their espadrilles are the only ones I know of that have a leather sole, so you can keep wearing them long after you get back from your holiday.

Invertere

Like fellow British coatmakers Mackintosh, the popularity of Intervère began to wane in the late 20th century, but owner Graham Shaw was proudly showing the current line of coats at Pitti, and I’m glad. The company began over 100 years ago as the originators of the reversible gabardine/tweed coat. Mr. Shaw explains this was the reason for the name “Invertere” – a Latin word that can mean “inside out”.  The practical coats are as attractive now  as they ever have been, and if I could chose another travel coat, it’s going to be an Intervère. No US stockists exist now, but hopefully that will change.

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After hours of circling the grounds, ogling the products, and snapping pictures, we headed back across Ponte Vecchio to the StyleForum Maker Space, where Salvo had two jackets and one suit ready for the my fitting. Soon afterward, the guys from Nine Lives Brand (amazing yak jackets) Red Rabbit Trading Co (handmade pre-1920’s southwestern silver jewelry) and Jailbird Leather (belts made by salaried inmates) stopped by to hang and get fitted by Salvo. Because suits and streetwear can be friends. All three companies had a booth at Pitti, and make goods that be dressed both up and down.

Friday came all too quickly. I didn’t see all of the exhibitors, I didn’t see all my friends, I arrived late and was leaving early.  Suffice it to say, I didn’t really plan this well.  After packing my bags and my camera (thanks Leica) I wistfully said goodbye to our underutilized apartment on the Arno.

But that wasn’t the end of Pitti for me.  On my way to the train station I bumped into StyleForum user Steffen Ingwersen AKA @vecchioanseatico, whom I’ve met before, and his friend Mikolaj. After standing on the street chatting for a while, we decided to have lunch before leaving Florence. I got a chance to see some unique accessories Steffen is working on: a striped wool tie made of Fox flannel and pocket squares with prints of his own design. But what struck me most were the yellow carpincho gloves. Unlined and butter soft, I couldn’t resist, and bought a pair as a physical memento of my time at Pitti 93.

It’s always fun meeting StyleForum users, especially by accident; you never know what to expect from their online persona. Usually, though, they end up being regular guys who happen to be into clothes. This happened later on at the train station, when I thought I recognized another StyleForum user.  When I asked, he flashed a sly grin and replied, “I’m the notorious Alan Bee.”

Turns out Okey Onyehbule AKA @Alan Bee is a quite an amicable gent. As a guy with the Herculean build of a Mack Truck, he’s always had difficulty finding suits that fit him off-the-rack.  Now that he has been having success going to Naples for bespoke, he is keen to share his results so that those with similar fit issues can see how to dress.

“I don’t pretend to know everything,” he laughs, “but I do like to share what I’ve learned, which is why I’ve posted some videos.  When other users give me feedback, I take it in stride and try to learn from it.  I’m passionate about it, but I don’t take myself too seriously.  Bespoke is really just an indulgent hobby.”

It’s now my last day in Italy. In a few hours I’ll be picking up my commissions from Salvo, hopping on a plane, and going back to work in construction.  I’ve heard Pitti described as a kind of menswear Mecca for fame seekers or a necessary evil for those in the industry, and while there may be truth in both of those viewpoints, I think there might be another sentiment, one neither romantic nor cynical.

To be sure, those whose livelihood requires Pitti cannot but recognize its importance for business: product is bought, connections are made, bonds are forged, the machine is oiled, and business is set for another six months.  For those of us not in the industry, it’s a different story. We’re basically menswear fans, and Pitti is the draft. Everyone dresses up, shoppers look for products and products look for buyers. It’s exciting, sure; we might have fairly strong opinions about a particular player (cough, Kapernick).  After the draft, the season begins and we watch the players perform on the field.

At the end of the day, though, it’s only a game. Taking a pastime to its logical end doesn’t mean devoting one’s life to it, but the change from fan to fanatic happens pretty often. The common rationale is that if one enjoys something, more of that something translates into more happiness.  Kids do this all the time; ask a child what he wants to eat and he’ll choose pizza and ice cream.

I’ll admit, Pitti is a blast, and I’m excited to watch the rest of the season to see how the clothes play out in real life.  But the end of the day, though, it’s only clothes. I’m actually looking forward to just being home.

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