How To Mirror Shine Shoes in Less Than an Hour – By Kirby Allison

The peak of traditional fashion for men might just well be a proper mirror shine on a fine pair of dress shoes. It sets you apart from other well-dressed individuals by demonstrating the dedication and effort you put into your daily appearance. It is no secret that a proper mirror shine can be, unfortunately, rather time-consuming. You may be looking at a day-long project between applying layer upon layer of polish while waiting for each one to dry.

Thankfully, a great mirror shine doesn’t have to be that exhaustive. With the right tips and know-how, you can achieve a stunning mirror shine on any pair of shoes in less than an hour. Here’s what you will need:

 

Water

Saphir Mirror Gloss Wax Polish

High Shine Chamois or old cotton dress shirt

Fan or blow dryer

Saphir Pate de Luxe Wax Polish

 

 

how to get mirror shine shoes quickly

Using a High-Shine Cotton Chamois, apply Saphir’s Mirror Gloss Polish to your toe caps. Make sure you avoid cracking in the future by not applying any waxes on parts of your shoes that bend or move. Saphir’s Mirror Gloss contains a higher concentration of hard waxes than regular polish, making it indispensable for quick mirror shines. The High Shine Chamois or cotton shirt smoothly applies the polish without any lint or loose threads getting in the way. The high count threading effortlessly glides across the surface of the leather, vastly reducing the amount of effort required to buff it later. Apply a very small amount of water to your chamois whenever you start to feel resistance.

 

how to mirror shine shoes leather

Set your blow-dryer to medium heat and use it on the toe caps of your shoes. This will serve two purposes: it will speed up the drying process and will slightly melt the waxes. Melting the waxes will help the clear up, bringing them closer to that glossy finish. Once your shoes are dry, use a clean portion of your High Shine Chamois or dress shirt to buff the waxes off. Once the waxes are buffed, you are ready for the Pate de Luxe Wax Polish.

 

how to achieve mirror shine shoes hour

Apply Saphir’s Pate de Luxe Wax Polish to your shoes’ toe caps. The Pate de Luxe contains solvents which help further soften the Mirror Gloss, elevating its shine. This will further reduce the number of times you need to apply wax and buff. After applying it, blow dry the toe caps and buff it off with your High Shine Chamois like you did with the mirror gloss.

 

how to mirror shine leather saphir

You are all done! In a short amount of time, with significantly less effort, your shoes will have a stunning shine that elevates your appearance.

 


 

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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

Style Icons: Jimmy Stewart

I love vintage style, but there are a lot of things that set me apart from other enthusiasts. While many enjoy period hobbies, I definitely don’t swing dance and I don’t watch a lot of old movies. It comes as a shock to some, as the latter is how most people I know came to be involved with vintage menswear. Sure, I may have seen a few of the big name classics, but it’s not something I consider monumental in my personal style journey; that doesn’t mean I haven’t been influenced by them, nor that I’m unfamiliar with them. Screenshots of films, promo shots, and candids of Golden Era actors used to fill my Tumblr. So with that, it’s no surprise that Jimmy Stewart was someone I saw often.

As you may know, Jimmy Stewart was a movie star during the “Golden Age” of Hollywood. Initially, he had attended Princeton studying architecture, but he soon found himself acting in small performers troupes. Eventually, he moved to Los Angeles, encouraged by Henry Fonda, and began his career in Hollywood, starring in almost 30 films until he enlisted in the Air Force during WWII. Stewart currently holds the distinction of holding the highest rank of any other actor who served in the U.S. Military.

For me, the appeal of Jimmy Stewart stems from how natural he makes everything look. I was never a fan of the prim and proper Cary Grant photos (who is loved for his 1950s-1960s style) or the “badass” look of Humphrey Bogart; I always felt more drawn to the candid and lifestyle shots of Stewart. Admittedly, Rear Window and It’s a Wonderful Life are the only Jimmy Stewart films I’ve seen, but I am familiar with his work (and style) through the countless images I see.

One thing in particular that I appreciate is that he had a very classic style. With flannel suits, striped shirts, and the occasional foulard tie, his style is a preview of some of the stuff you can see today. While the suits are cut in the classic Golden Era style (broad shoulders and wide leg pants), it’s not done in a costumey way. The fit is always on point, with a tapered waist and trousers that seldom break, which is a hard contrast to what most people think of when it comes to vintage style. He was sharp for the times without subscribing too much to the trends that we covered before.


During the 1930s and 40s, many actors would wear their own clothes in films. Because of this, men like Stewart were perpetually well dressed, both on and off the camera. One of my favorite outfits of his appears in a photo where Jimmy is sitting on a white fence, in which he wears a wide peak lapel houndstooth tweed jacket with navy trousers and white bucks. It really goes against the common style rules that we abide by today, like combining tweed and summer shoes. He does employ the “sprezza-tie,” with blatant disregard for its length and whether or not the back blade is showing. The entire outfit seems to be slightly ivy in its execution, as other pictures show that he was, in fact, wearing a striped cloth belt.

Another outfit that comes right in time for spring-summer, is Jimmy wearing a gaucho style polo shirt with the same peak lapel jacket. Not only is this cool because it showed that he reused a lot of the same pieces, but it also shows a little bit of the unique, trendy items of the 1930s. Gaucho shirts are largely similar to polo shirts but they featured a deep loop button placket and spearpoint collars; the hems were usually all ribbed. They grew in popularity among Golden Era actors during the late 1930s, and were seen on many stars, including Jimmy Stewart.

Gaucho-style polo and a tweed peak lapel jacket.

Gaucho-style polo and a tweed peak lapel jacket.

This image speaks wonders about Stewart’s style, though it might be a costumer’s idea. In a huge contrast to the well put together Cary Grant, Jimmy wears an unfastened chalkstripe DB suit, with a striped shirt and striped tie. Talk about sprezzatura, right? I remember seeing this years ago being inspired to experiment with triple pattern mixing–even if it’s all stripes. It’s hard to see people do that today, let alone make it look so natural, which made vintage style appeal to me even more today.

Jimmy Stewart in Philadelphia Story

Obviously, there are more great looks from Jimmy Stewart than the three I’ve examined here. It’s all very indicative of classic 1930s-1940s style without getting into the bold or flashy styles of Fred Astaire or George Raft (both of which are inspirations nonetheless). I’ve included a small album of my favorite looks from Jimmy Stewart for you to look at. I think that he was pretty consistent with his look, which you can definitely see in his later years. He may not have the spearpoint collars, but he still rocked the collar bar and the runaway collar until his death in 1997. Honestly, I think a lot of his attire can be used as inspiration today, whether you’re going for a true vintage look or something more contemporary. I certainly look to him quite a bit.

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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.

The Atholl Highlanders parade, Blair Castle. Photo: VisitScotland.com

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.

There are different hues of tartan: ancient, modern, and weathered. Photo: VisitScotland.com

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?

In Defense of Structure

Last year in these pages, Mitchell Moss made a strong case for the appeal of soft tailoring. His argument, like his subject, is approachable, laid back, and appealing. In offering a defense of structured tailoring, I’ll try to give the counter-argument without being rigid and inflexible.

What do I mean by structure? In practical terms, I mean a few features of a suit jacket or sport coat that give it shape—particularly shoulder pads, wadding, and chest canvas and padding. Of course, the vast majority of jackets fall in between totally unconstructed and heavily built up. Most good ‘unstructured’ jackets still have a very light canvas layer; they don’t give up on structure entirely. But more abstractly, by structure I am writing about anything that inclines a jacket to shape the wearer as well as the wearer the jacket.

There’s a great old thread on the forum which captures a common trajectory of new menswear enthusiasts:

“You came to SF looking for an answer to a clothing question. You got caught up, and next thing you know, you’re wearing suits, jackets, dress shirts, ties, wingtips, dress pants, etc. Eventually, you come full circle and realize you look like Pee Wee Herman in the real world and decided to tone it down a notch.”

What begins as research for a single suit purchase, for an occasion or a new job, leads to a swelling appetite for everything #menswear. Your new hobby leaves you hopelessly (if not obnoxiously) overdressed. And at this point -it’s true- soft tailoring is a godsend. It takes the formality down a notch. You stop wearing a three-piece to the beach and find some middle ground. Since you never did work for a white shoe law firm, even though you dressed like it, soon enough it’s spalla camicia all week.

But this doesn’t have to be the end of the journey. When you’ve experienced the appeal of soft tailoring, you can go back to structure with a subtler eye. To the newcomer, suits are formal and stiff, and that’s the whole story. Once you know better, you can see the difference between ’80s Armani shoulder pads and the subtle shoulder extension of Liverano. You can feel the difference between the cardboard-like fusing of a cheap suit and the tension of the stiff horsehair chest piece in a Savile Row jacket, which begins equally firm, but molds over time to your body. In short, you start to see structure as a series of nuances and possibilities.

I don’t believe anyone has a single “true” style. Finding a style that suits you is an ongoing process, and the right answer changes as you develop, change jobs or lifestyle. And if there’s no one “authentic” choice, you’re always free to experiment.

If you’ve gone over to wearing soft tailoring for every occasion, here are a few reasons to reconsider:

Structure comes in degrees.

You don’t have to go straight from Isaia or Boglioli to Huntsman. Between the two are the Northern Italian makers like Canali and Pal Zileri, who excel in modest, refined use of structure. While I love Canali’s Kei Jackets, which wear almost like knitwear, a modern Canali mainline suit has subtle shoulder padding which just grazes the body, creating a clean line from neck to shoulder without adding imaginary bulk.

Structure provides balance.

When I ordered a suit from Luxire, I was in conversation with the tailor who was making it. During the fitting process, he observed that one of my shoulders is higher than the other, which is not uncommon—especially for men. Because my suit had shoulder pads, he could balance the jacket by taking one out and sewing in some extra wadding. Wadding is like music in films or seasoning in cooking: if it’s added correctly, you don’t notice it except as an improvement to the shape of the whole.

Structure can also be cool.

When you watch a film like O’Mast it’s easy to recognize a level of bravura and danger in the Naples of Antonio Panico and Renato Ciardi’s childhoods that starchy, high bourgeois London and Paris cannot match. And with it comes unaffected, careless elegance. But while Naples is associated with unstructured tailoring, it’s also where the spalla con rollino is perfected: the rollino highlights the shoulder by rolling excess sleeve into the sleevehead to create a distinctive raised silhouette. Think of Rubinacci, or the Anglo-Italian house cut.

Structure is flair.

While plenty of structured suits aim for stiff formality (as do the military uniforms from which they were derived), Tom Ford’s use of structure is all about sculpting, exploiting and exaggerating the torso to create gravity and sex appeal. Anderson and Sheppard’s drape cut fills out an Olympian chest on any figure. Cifonelli’s iconic cigarette shoulder makes no concession to conformity.

Cifonelli via Guerreism.com

I’m not arguing against soft tailoring. Everything in its time and place. But it’s worth finding the time and place to enjoy the fine balance—and the virtuosity—of structured jackets.


Join the conversation on the forum on the Soft Vs Structured Tailoring thread.

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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Casual Menswear Trends for Spring 2018

Spring is almost here, I can just taste it. Strangely enough, winter finally arrived in the Bay Area, and record lows in the 30s (I know, we’re wimps) meant I’ve been finally able to enjoy my Eidos+Vanson shearling grizzly, Stephen Schneider Merino Coat, and throw a belted overcoat over my suit.  It’s been novel, but I’m no sadist; moderate temperatures are where it’s at. Besides, current freezing temperatures notwithstanding, the longer, sunny days have been pushing tree blossoms out to greet the sky – a perfumed harbinger of warmer seasons to come.
About this time, designers and the stores that stock them start rolling out their looks for spring and summer, and there’s a lot – A LOT – to like.  From pale pastel solids, to printed camp shirts, and even beachwear, there’s something for everyone to look forward to, meaning you can actually wear runway looks (groundbreaking, I know). Here are a few standouts of Spring 2018 collections, beginning with more familiar silhouettes.
 

Drake’s London – Americana

Prep came and went a few years ago, but there are some things that are–by now–timeless. Drake’s obviously isn’t the first to try their hand at it, but for a British company who uses predominantly Italian makers for their shirts and suiting, they do seersucker and madras rather well. Gorges are a bit lower and wider compared to the resurgence of Ivy style in recent years, which makes the look seem new. Of course there are polo shirts, but there’s also a terry cloth polo shirt; this sounds like it would run hot, but I can tell you from experience after climbing out of the Mediterranean last summer that there is no better nor more stylish way to dry off. They’re not available yet, but when they are I’d jump on it, since they’re generally hard to find.
My favorite combination of the lookbook is a madras sport coat paired with a saturated blue linen popover shirt (the saturated color is the perfect complement to the red madras), jeans, and loafers. Not necessarily new, but with the lengths that some fanatics go for prep perfection, Drake’s London via Italy interpretation is a refreshing departure.

Junya Watanabe – Workwear

The spring collection from Junya Watanabe continues his workwear-inspired Carhartt collaboration, often tweaked just enough to wear comfortably on the street (although some pieces I would 100% wear on a job). I really like this plaid overshirt worn with white chinos. Wear them with a pair of Vans, Chucks, or Common Projects and you’ve got a great spring look. Carhartt even manages to dress up workwear, as we see in this black shop jacket worn with black pants and oxfords. That’s practically a dinner date outfit, something I thought I’d never see from Carhartt. For those who can’t get enough workwear, this season’s offerings from Junya could be worth looking into.

Corneliani – Tonalities

Some guys are perfectly comfortable in slim silhouettes, and men tend to keep their wardrobes for years, even decades.  If that’s you, then Corneliani’s lookbook this season will be right up your alley.  The proportions have changed only slightly, and the way the outfits are paired are fresh enough to give you ideas for this season and beyond.  For Spring, I really like dressing in light tones (sometimes referred to as palewave) but it can be hard for some.  Corneliani makes it look easy – and it is, if you start with white pants as an anchor.
From there, you can throw all sorts of shades from beige, gray, and tan, to light blues and greens.  Of course, you could play it safe with black, and Corneliani makes this easy, too. The textured leather jacket provides a touch of visual interest, the beige polo sweater is different but still classic, and the higher waisted pleated trousers are cut a bit roomy in the top but still razor sharp.

 Club Monaco – Modern American Classics

I noticed printed shirts are recurrent for Spring ’18, particularly those with club collars. Club Monaco seems destined to carry this trend, and sure enough, they do, in a slightly loose fit. However, instead of leaving their squared off hemline outside, they’re mostly tucked in, leaning dressy. The style harkens back to some of the 1950s silhouettes featuring camp collars but making the silhouettes a bit more modern.
It’s not groundbreaking, but for those wanting to try something new, it’s not bank account-breaking either. I particularly like their grey linen camp collar shirt – the underside of the placket is a soft white. I also really like their cream boucle rollneck. It’s a very subtle texture, giving a basic item loads of visual interest. It’s not on the website – yet – but a striped version is, and it’s on sale.

Armani – Wider Silhouettes

As a guy who wears suits at least twice a week, there’s nothing like the process and result of a bespoke suit that fits well. That said, for more casual wear, I like the look that some designers have been leaning towards the past few years – a looser, drapey look that fondly recalls the 80’s without the stuffy shoulders. Who other than Armani would better interpret the silhouettes of the decade that he became known for? For his newest collection, he puts together seersucker shorts with an interesting crepe de chine shirt that buttons a bit of to one side (making it an interesting v-neck) and tops it off with a boxy shawl cardigan to ward off the chill. I quite like what looks like a gray-and-black block striped bomber jacket in–wait for it–suede.  Paired with a t-shirt and loafers, it looks like something a chillwave DJ would wear to a cocktail party.

No Man Walks Alone – Curated Casual

Greg and his crew at NMWA have a keen eye that can spot interesting clothes that fit into almost everyone’s lifestyle, and this season is no different. My favorites are…pretty much everything from Sage de Cret, as they’ve chosen tops and bottoms that can easily go with each other. I’ve got my eye on the fixed collar popover shirt, though. The gauzy cotton and easy going fit add such a vacation vibe to it, and it’ll go with all the linen and seersucker shorts I’ve got in my closet. If you dig something a little less plain, they have you covered with Portuguese Flannel. Their new shirts for the season have tasteful prints that feature a slightly less Hawaiian and a bit more Mediterranean color palette.

Lemaire – Refined Slouchiness

Lemaire takes the loose-is-better mantra and adds a bit of louche sheen. In one look, he throws together a loose printed camp-collar shirt and baggy black lightweight trousers with a self-belt.
For those not into camp collars, he presents the same trousers in gray worn with an oversized shirt that has no collar at all, three-quarter sleeves, and is punctuated with lowered chest pockets. Nothing is crazy here, just a dash of late-era disco clubs under neon palm trees, which is exactly why it’s so compelling.

Engineered Garments – Technicolor

Spring and Summer usually mean beachwear will be on display, but I didn’t expect any from Engineered Garments. Up till now, their motif has been largely military-inspired tweaks of tried and true menswear in earthy colors, like khakis with a cargo pocket on the front, or M-65 jackets with buttons in strange places. Maybe that’s why they went all technicolor this season, and not just with beachwear –  everything is in saturated colors.
Not everyone will feel comfortable walking down the street with these pieces, but on the beach (or lake, depending on where you are) it feels right at home. And really, EG’s trademarks haven’t changed that much. The jackets still have interesting closures, belts, and toggles, and the shorts still feature that one odd pocket in front. It’s just a little brighter because you know, summer.

Shirt Collars: Different Styles Over the Years

The shirt collar is an often overlooked aspect of menswear since many people buy and stick with one style. However, minute details- the length, height, tie space, and spread can completely change an outfit; they can even point to a specific era.  As we have discussed before with suits and ties, shirt collars have gone through numerous changes from the beginning of the century. While the spread collar reigns supreme today, different collars work better for different people, so taking cues from the past can help, especially if you’re on the path of creating your own style.

Washing shirts in the 19th and early 20th centuries was a difficult and time consuming process. To save time, men would wear shirts with detachable collars and cuffs– which, since they were the only exposed parts of the shirt, could be washed separately. These collars were often stiff, made of either paper (which could be simply wiped clean), or actual fabric, which had to be washed and starched.

By the 1910s, standing collars and wing collars were being phased out in favor of turndown collars, which framed the necktie well. While it wasn’t uncommon to see patterned shirts sold with matching collars, they were oftentimes paired with contrasting plain white collars.

During WWI, men had become accustomed to the soft, permanently attached collars of their service shirts. Upon returning home, veterans purchased dress shirts with the same features. Detachable collar shirts still saw the lion’s share of sales until the end of the decade, and they were still popular among the wealthy and seen on formal shirts (and they will remain in vogue until the 1950s). The spread collar was introduced around this time, but short point collars were standard wear; club collars were popular as well. The 1920s also saw a boom for the button down collar, which was first introduced in the 1890s by English polo players.

Point collars got longer in the 1930s, and what resulted was called the spearpoint collar shirt. This collar (my personal favorite) had a subtle curve near the point that resembles a teardrop. Generally, they were about 3 ½ inches long, but some Hollywood celebrities, such as Walt Disney or John Barrymore, had shirts with collars as long as 4 or 5 inches. Collar bars or pins complement this shape quite well, and they can be worn open casually as the “runaway collar”, with the points lying flat on a jacket’s lapels.

Not all spear points were the same, as brands would come up with their own designs and versions of it, changing the spread and length of the collar. Also popular during this time were short, rounded collars and eyelet collars, which you can see in advertisements and illustrations of the period. All styles were usually designed for small, four in hand knots.

vintage shirt collars styleforum

The spearpoint collar continued to be worn into the mid 1940s, but would begin to fall out of favor with the introduction of “the bold look”: suits were bigger and bulkier, ties were wider and longer, and the windsor became the go-to tie knot. To compensate, wide spread point collars came into fashion. At the same time, button down collars worn with bow ties became a minor fad. Also during this decade, the “convertible collar” (better known today as the cuban collar or camp collar) became incredibly popular for casual-wear.

vintage shirt collars styleforum

By the mid-1950s, the bold look had faded, and the new trend leaned towards simplicity. A 1952 issue of Esquire describes the unprecedented variety of collar styles on the market: short point collars, spread collars, and tab collars were just a few of them. Still popular was the button-down collar, this time with many more varieties including a wide spread for windsor knots, rakish rounded button down collars, and models with an extremely exaggerated roll. The trend would continue as the ivy look gained dominance in the ‘50s and ‘60s. A shorter version of the club collar also gained prominence in that time.

Fashion is definitely cyclical, seeing how the late 1960s and early ‘70s drew much inspiration from the clothing of the 1930s. Suits once again featured wide lapels, nipped waists, and wide trousers, with a “modern” twist. Shirt collars too, were reminiscent of the spearpoints worn decades earlier, with one major difference: the teardrop curve was now absent. The body of the collar was wider, the band higher, and the points longer, leading to an exaggerated look. Use of polyester, “the fabric of the future”, was gaining popularity, and these disco shirts were often cut from 100% synthetic material, with built-in collar stays to preserve the shape. The idea was that they wouldn’t flap around while you were dancing!

vintage shirt collars styleforum vintage shirt collars styleforum

Normal 1980's shirts worn with awful suits.

Normal 1980’s shirts worn with awful suits.

Shirts returned to a more traditional look during the 1980s and onward: simple point collars were the norm until the 2000s, but the 1980s and ‘90s saw trends of their own.  Gordon Gekko style spread collars with contrasting fabric and tab collars were popular among businessmen, while the band collar was often seen on casual looks. Thanks to the “Mad Men” craze of the late 2000s, 1960s style short collars gained steam. Later, the already short 1960s point collar was reduced even further by “fashion-forward” designers, with some barely holding a tie knot. Menswear soon moved away from these tiny point collars and embraced the spread collar.

The classic spread collar isn’t actually a modern invention, but it’s definitely different enough from the point collar to mark it just touch more interesting. Classic menswear enthusiasts know not to fill up the extra space with a wide windsor knot; the lightly exposed parts of the tie attributes to this collar’s charm. Eventually, the spread collar gave way to the more exaggerated cutaway collar (again, not a modern invention), with fashion designers going for the extreme. The spread even influenced the latest iteration of the OCBD, with some brands offering wide spread OCBDs with a huge roll.

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Time can only tell what the next fad in shirt collars will be. For the past few years, the spread collar has been king, however, with the resurgence of ivy style, OCBDs have been getting more wear as well.

Personally, I think that a collar choice is up to the individual.  You can’t go wrong with the spread or button-down, but if you’re someone who likes playing with different styles, or simply wants more variety in his closet, a look at the past will provide more inspiration than a quick browse of the #menswear trends on your Instagram feed.


You can keep up with Ethan’s thrifting and vintage adventures on his Instagram (@ethanmwong) or on his blog Street x Sprezza.

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.

pitti uomo 93 brands trends streetstyle

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.

pitti uomo 93 brands trends streetstyle

What it Means to Be “Made in Italy”

made in italy chinese factory

My Italian has gotten good enough that I can understand pretty much everything the locals say to me. The only words I consistently miss are the English words that they insert into conversation like french fries stuck in a spaghetti carbonara. WTF is “Nike” when it rhymes with “hike”? “Levi’s” when it rhymes with “heavies”? “Ee Red Hot Keelee Pepper?” But one English phrase comes up so often in conversation, at least within the rag trade, that I can pick it up on the first take: “Made In Italy.”

Cosa Vuol Dire “Made In Italy”?

To understand the meaning of “Made In Italy,” you have to go back to the genesis of the Italian nation, in the second half of the 19th century. Before that, Italy was a geographic concept, but not a political or cultural one. There was no real sense of an “Italian people” in the same way as there was already for the Germans, who formed a nation around the same time. Italy became one country not through collaboration, but through conquest by the Piedmont in the far north, which might as well have been Sweden as far as many Italians were concerned. If you think of Italy as a boot, the Piedmont would be the knee. A knee the rest of the peninsula would feel at their throats.

Citizens of the newly formed Italian state had little shared history, so newly-crowned propagandists created one, often relying on Roman iconography. Over the following decades, nationalistic myths hypertrophied into fascism – also largely a Northern phenomenon. Italy’s defeat in World War II broke this fever, but at a huge cost. The War was, for Italy, also a civil war, mostly pitting North against South, breaking open all the fissures that had been plastered over at the nation’s birth.

Marcello Mastroianni

Two industries recreated Italian identity following the war – the film industry, and the fashion industry. Film helped the country understand its experience with the war and the poverty that followed. Fashion gave Italians a new nationalistic myth. Its appeals were more to the artistic achievements of the Italian Renaissance than the empire-building of the Roman era, and it helped that the industry’s first successes were in Tuscany, birthplace of Michelangelo. The Sala Bianca in the Pitti Palace hosted the first Italian fashion show in 1951, as well as Brioni’s men’s fashion show, famously the first of its kind, in 1952. Italian designers were able to capture something of the uniquely Italian approach to luxury and craft that had eluded the stuffy couturiers and tailors of Paris and Savile Row. As post-war realist film gave way to Fellini’s surrealist fantasies, Marcello Mastroianni became the guy everyone wanted to look, dress, and act like. And he wore Italian suits.

Allure, but Insecure

By 1980, the industry had grown tremendously, but had become something different. It had mostly moved to Milan, the industrial behemoth of the North. And it had begun to shift its focus from brands like Brioni to emerging giants like Armani and Ferre’. It was at this point that the “Made In Italy” campaign began, with the ambitious goal of branding an entire country. As one politico at Pitti’s “Opening Ceremony” said this year,” ‘Made In Italy’ is not just about selling fashion – it’s about selling Italian quality of life.” “Made In Italy” was intended to convey more than just the country of origin, but elegance, sophistication, craftsmanship – as if Leonardo DaVinci himself had blessed every stitch.

An old advertisement for Borsalino

The campaign has been a massive success. Armani remains one of the most valuable brands in all of fashion. Gucci, Prada, and Zegna aren’t far behind. The manufacturing infrastructure that supports these brands is now also used by brands from Huntsman to Tom Ford to Ralph Lauren Purple Label, all of which are Made In Italy.

But the future is uncertain. At the Pitti’s Opening Ceremony, politician after politician announced their full support for the Italian fashion industry, for Pitti as a trade show, and their belief in the enduring allure of Italian luxury. Each one pledged a re-investment in “Made In Italy”. Which is what you do when you’re worried that a good idea’s time is running out.

The worries come mostly from China. A decade ago, there were no Chinese factories that could produce an approximation of Italian goods. Even if you stuck a “Made In Italy” label on a Chinese product, it wouldn’t fool anybody who cared enough to know the difference. Today, that’s no longer true. Chinese workers can produce high quality – they just can’t sell it at a high price without the “Made In Italy” label. As a result, there’s a lot of money to be made by someone who can figure out how to get that label on a Chinese product.

The Competition

A few miles outside of Florence is a town called Prato. The Pitti Opening Ceremony panel referenced it a few times as a major player within the Italian fashion industry, as in “Milan, Florence, and Prato.” I had never heard of Prato, and you probably haven’t either. But it is home to about 3,500 workshops that produce clothing, textiles, and accessories. The majority of people working in these workshops are Chinese.

Nor is it the only population of Chinese workers within Italy. There’s even a Chinese neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples that includes garment workshops. Of course, their work gets the “Made In Italy” label – how could it not?

But other products can get the label too, even if only some of the manufacture occurred inside Italian borders. It may not even take very much work on a product within Italy to make it “Made In Italy”. This is because the percentage of Italian work that goes into a product is calculated based on cost, rather than time (which would be difficult to measure anyway). Since wages in Italy are much higher than in China, you could have most of the work done in China for $4.90, pay an Italian $5.10 to put on the finishing touches, and the entire thing can get stamped “Made In Italy.”

It goes without saying that Italians have no monopoly on craftsmanship or design taste. There is no reason a well-trained Chinese person can’t do at least as good a job as an Italian. One way to view this development is that Italians traded for decades on a promise of inherent superiority, and Chinese workers have now proven that promise false. Not only have they become just as good as “Made In Italy,” they have become “Made In Italy.”

But it’s difficult for native-born Italians to be so generous. For one thing, competition from immigrants eats away at Italian wages and profits. Heirs of businesses that span multiple generations worry that they will have to choose between keeping their companies afloat and maintaining the quality and integrity of their product. For another, if customers hear about Chinese workers in Italian factories, the mystique of Leonardo’s blessing seems to lose its luster. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it’s hard to maintain national pride in “Made In Italy” when many of the workers behind it are foreign. So opinions are strong. Companies that dilute “Made In Italy” by employing immigrants or moving production overseas are considered traitors who don’t respect their product or their heritage.

Protecting the Brand

The backlash prompted some political movement in 2010. The Italian government raided factories in Prato and found illegal immigrants working there. It also passed a law restricting further the products that can use the “Made In Italy” label, including creating a new “100% Made In Italy” label that can be used only by products completely made in Italy.

But this is a losing battle. Illegal immigration is difficult to prevent. Italy’s national laws on product labeling are constrained by EU rules, since there is a free trade agreement among all member countries. The new levels of “Made In Italy” only confuse the consumer and sound defensive. Consider this Pitti booth insistently declaring itself “Absolutely Made In Italy”:

Doesn’t exactly instill you with confidence. When they start using intensifying adverbs, you know it’s bad.
The most encouraging development for Italian manufacturing in the past few years is not new regulations, but rising prices elsewhere. Alberto Merola told me that his glove company, Merola, saw some of its private label clients take production to cheaper countries a few years ago, but now many are coming back. “If the workers are good,” he said, “they get paid, no matter where they are.”

Claudio and Stefano Merola

Even if “Made In Italy” is eventually doomed, it can look forward a long and stately decadence. Right now, Italy is still sexy. Pitti has been such a huge success that the Italian government is trying to replicate it with other trade shows – further support for the Milan show, and collaborative shows with the US in New York and with China in Shanghai.

Italy already exports 62% of the clothing it makes. In the end it may be this that finally dilutes the Italian national brand beyond recognition. Many of the Italian brands I spoke to at Pitti were there hoping to attract Asian buyers. At one stand, I was shown a wall of double-breasted plaid waistcoats, complete with watch chains. After some discussion, they brought out from hiding a very nice plain navy overcoat that they planned to show the Italian buyers the following week in Milan. I wonder how many of the chained waistcoats they have to sell before they stop producing the navy overcoats. How much “Italian quality of life” can you sell and still have some left?

-David Isle


This article was originally published on Styleforum.net on Feb. 4, 2015.