When Should You Spend and When Should You Skimp?

A few weeks ago I got a turtleneck for cheap from Banana Republic. It proudly states “Made with Italian Yarn,” which is hilarious, because it’s 20% nylon (do Italians make the best nylon?). However, that didn’t bother me because it was inexpensive, it fit well, and it was exactly what I was looking for.

We’ve all got a certain budget we’re working within when buying clothes. Some folks have a larger budget than others, of course, but everybody has to make decisions about what they will drop a ton of money on versus what they’re okay buying for less. For me, I’m always thinking about opportunity cost. While I’d have preferred, say, an Eidos turtleneck for its superior construction and material, the cost (nearly 10x) simply wasn’t worth it to me. Now I’m planning ahead to know what spring purchases I will use that extra money for.

While I don’t have a flowchart or anything, here are some questions to ask yourself in order to maximize the use of your dollars when building your wardrobe.

First, have a working list of what the ideal wardrobe for you would look like. It should mostly be the “must-have” items that you’d wear regularly, but it’s also okay to have stuff that delights you. This list can help you keep track of progress made toward attaining a good working wardrobe, and also keep you from making costly mistakes. I wrote more extensively on this concept in my article How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe  and Making Smart Menswear Purchases.

With that in mind, then, here are questions to ask yourself:

  • What is your lifestyle? The utility of any given item is defined by your lifestyle, meaning what you have to wear day to day will play a huge role in what makes sense to invest in. This can go both ways, actually—for instance, if you need to wear a white dress shirt every single day to work, it can make sense to buy a bunch at low cost when you’re first starting out, knowing that the regular wear and tear will take its toll on them. But as you increase your rotation, adding in nicer, better designed, better made shirts as your budget allows makes sense because of your needs.
  • How do you like to dress? What is your style? Most of us have clothes we reach for time and again when we are dressing to impress. It makes much more sense to spend extra on stuff you know you’ll wear a lot (and in particular that which will be seen a lot), than it does for things you’ll primarily be wearing to bed.
  • What kind of design are you looking for? Designers typically continuously tweak, evolve and update their line to stay fresh. That can be good if you’re someone who’s already got a good working wardrobe and are now just buying clothes because you like them—you can be open to being surprised by something interesting. But sometimes that’s not good because you just want a stylish basic to fill a need in your wardrobe. I was excited to find that Banana Republic turtleneck because it met several specific criteria I had that I couldn’t find anywhere else within my general price range—thin enough to layer but with visual surface texture and a ribbed neck.
  • How long do you honestly think you’ll wear it? Is it a “forever” piece or something you know is a just a phase you’re going through?
  • Is it outside your comfort zone a little bit? Maybe you’ve been inspired by someone’s sweet fit on Insta, but aren’t quite sure if it’ll work for you—finding it for cheap somewhere is a good way to dip your toe in to see if it’s “you.”
  • Is there a dramatic quality increase from the budget options to the expensive options?

With the buying and selling forum, eBay, etc., it’s possible to get high-quality stuff for much lower prices—if you’ve got the patience and time. But especially when you’re starting out and you need to build a wardrobe fairly quickly, asking yourself these questions can help you decide what to save up for and what’s okay to buy for less.

Below are some products (including that turtleneck) that I personally own or would buy that run the gamut from expensive to not so much.


Banana Republic turtleneck.

Barbour Ashby: I’ve been inspired by cool dudes like Jake Grantham rocking the Barbour over tailoring, and there is really no substitute for the original. This, to me, was worth spending more on for the authentic original.

Navy/Gold repp stripe tie, PoloRL: Navy/gold bar-stripe repp ties aren’t hard to find, but I liked the specific color of gold Polo used.

Brooks Brothers light blue OCBD: OCBDs are a staple for some guys, and while Kamakura, Proper Cloth, O’Connell’s, Ratio, Mercer & Sons and millions of others make good ones, the shape and complete lack of lining of the collar from Brooks Brothers—in addition to the consistency of availability and generous return policy—make this a good choice. I prefer this lighter blue color, but they offer tons of other options. Just make sure to stack discounts (you can browse the Official Sales Thread to find the newer ones).

Eidos Navy donegal blazer.

Eidos large glen plaid suit: There is no substitute for Eidos as designed by Antonio Ciongoli for me—the swooping arc lapels, the Neapolitan details, the killer fabrics, not to mention a near-perfect fit on me. When you find a winner, you stick with it as long as you can.

Why Black Tie Matters

“What are you wearing tonight?” My wife and I have this conversation, more or less, every year, about this time. She calls out to me from her closet. We’re off to see The Nutcracker, which starts in less than two hours.
“Black tie.” 
Again?
There’s more than a slight tone of incredulity, but then, I can’t blame her. The egalitarian tuxedo (or dinner suit) has remained, in principle, unchanged for over a century, and although every sort of fashion has been tried on the red carpet, most likely it appeared ridiculous.  Classic black tie, however, looks good on everyone, not because it defies the folly and fickleness of fashion, but rather transcends it.  Which is fortunate, I think as I reach for the hanger, as it makes getting dressed for black tie events easy.

White tie may be the reigning champ of event dress, and when done correctly it is indeed a sight to behold, but I’m glad black tie casualized things somewhat.  The jacket shed its tails, and the wing collar on the shirt softened into the turndown collar, except on single breasted dinner jackets with peaked lapels, where wing collars are still OK. 
Vests became an option alongside cummerbunds, or both embellishments can be ditched altogether, if your waist is covered by a double breasted jacket, as mine is. It’s a bit more sporty since single breasted one-button jackets increase the elegance of an outfit, but both should have peaked lapels; notch lapels make an outfit look like a regular old suit, and what’s special about that? Peaked lapels, or swankier yet, a shawl lapel, with silk satin or grosgrain facing is appropriate for your black tie event. My outfit for the evening has the latter, which I prefer; the sheen from grosgrain is more subtle and has a bit of texture. 
Trousers, of course, match the facing down the outside of the leg, making the top and bottom a complete outfit.
As I take out a pleated white shirt with covered placket, I wonder if I should get another shirt in piqué and some nice onyx studs.  I prefer the sleek appearance of a “fly front” placket, and owning studs is just another thing to lose.  Still, it adds a small bit of decoration suitable for special outings, and some might argue that it’s historically proper.  Maybe I’ll start shopping for them.
I’ve always felt self-conscious about pumps.  Having large bows on my feet not only seems a touch precious, but slip-ons seem casual to me. Fortunately, a pair of well-shined calfskin wholecuts are just fine. Perhaps later my wallet might surrender to the luster of patent leather oxfords. I like how they echo the gleam of silk from the jacket, down the trousers, and continue unto one’s feet – which are covered in fine black hosiery, of course.
The beauty of black tie is simplicity.  Everything except the cotton shirt and optional silk or linen handkerchief is black.  Equally acceptable is midnight blue, which caught on fervently in the 30’s, fell out of style, and presently is returning with a vengeance (although too blue is too blue, GQ).  
Limiting your options is incredibly liberating and makes dressing for formal engagements a breeze – I’m fully dressed in ten minutes, and there’s not many other outfits that flatter the physique as well.  The only way you’ll look like a penguin is if you’re The Penguin.
“You’re done already?” 
Congratulations, you won the race.  Now help your partner get ready, or you’ll miss the curtain rising and you’ll both lose.



PETER’S SHOPPING LIST FOR BLACK TIE 2017

Still have questions? Ask the Styleforum community! Join the conversation on The State of Black Tie thread, and post your black tie outfit on the What Are You Wearing Today thread.

Beginner’s Guide to Thrifting Menswear

Ethan Wong has already shared his love of thrifting menswear with our community. In this piece, he details how he chooses the pieces worth saving, and lays out a guide for thrifting that any men’s clothing hobbyist can follow.

We created a downloadable PDF guide with a checklist that you can consult whenever you’re out shopping for thrifted goods.


It’s no surprise to anyone that I can’t afford to always buy bespoke or MTM clothing, considering how much I love menswear. Instead of buying cheap knockoffs from fast fashion retailers, I almost exclusively buy thrifted and vintage pieces for my wardrobe. With a good eye and some education, I’ve found that it’s a great way to acquire quality garments for an extremely affordable price. Here’s some a brief guide that I live by when I go thrifting.

  • Check your local thrift stores

    • You never know what you’re going to find!
    • Wealthier places may have better pieces (contemporary, designer/brand), but they may already be popular with other pickers.
    • Not all thrift stores operate on donations; some receive general shipments of clothing.
  • Stay cognizant of promotions and holiday deals

    • Some stores have rotating promotions around certain colored tags or item categories.
    • There’s almost always sales during holidays that can apply to clothing!
  • Put your education to Use

      • The amount of stuff you see at a thrift store can be overwhelming; use the “touch test” and run your fingers through the racks. If something feels familiar (wool, flannel, tweed, cotton), it’s worth inspecting!
    • Your knowledge of brands and manufacturing can come in handy. A Purple Label RL suit will be much different than a Lauren by RL one.
  • Check interior labels and tags

      • Fabric labels will let you know if there is a semblance of synthetics (ie; polyester) within the garment, as well as any other blends. I typically go for 100% wools.
      • If you’re in America, union tags will be present on anything made pre 1980s. Different union tags correspond to different years, so this can be helpful when encountering vintage suits and sportcoats!
    • Font can play a difference. “Artsy” labels are usually earlier while stiff, corporate ones usually denote the 1960s-1970s era.
  • Consider the design and cut of the piece

      • Shoulder padding varied throughout eras and especially from designer to designer. Make sure that the jacket you get has the right amount for you, because that is something you cannot fix later.
      • Vintage and quality made garments usually have half-lining or less; most mass produced stuff post 1970s will be fully lined.
      • Always look at button stance and configuration. If the last button on the suit is below the pocket line, the overall buttoning point will be too low and results in an extremely dated look.
    • Trousers with a long fly (11in or more) will usually mean that they feature a high rise.
  • Focus on Unique Pieces, not Workhorse Stuff

    • Keep an eye out for cool details like patch pockets or belted-back jackets!
    • You can always find a quality navy suit at any store, so try to find pieces with great patterns like herringbone or houndstooth since they’re pretty common in thrift stores.
  • Be Aware of What You Can and Can’t Tailor

    • Make sure the shoulders fit!
    • Inspect the garment carefully for extra fabric allowance.
    • Sleeves and chest can always be taken in, but letting them out/down depends on how much fabric is available.
    • You can shorten a jacket by less than 2”; anything more will ruin the balance and proportion of the garment.
    • Trousers are the easiest to alter, provided that you take in the waist and taper the leg. Like jackets, making them bigger depends on the fabric allowance.
    • Tailoring will always cost more than the purchase price, but it can be worth it to make something wearable!

thrifting menswear thrifted menswear guide to thrifting styleforum

  • If you like it, buy it; if you don’t, pass on it.

    • Buy it when you can, since someone may take it when you put it down!
    • They add new things everyday, so you can always come back if nothing catches your eye.
    • Normal wear and tear is expected with thrifted pieces, but pass on anything with holes or major non-seam rips.

This is typically how I approach thrifting. It takes some time to get used to, but it’s really fun if you have the education, eye for detail, and a great tailor. It’s how I’ve gotten great stuff like a 1960’s olive green ivy jacket, the infamous 3PC brown chalk-stripe suit, or even a Camoshita suit. Whether you want to build a wardrobe or find some statement pieces to experiment with, it’s always worth it to check out your local thrift store from time to time!


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

The Best Ties For Summer

Even though most of us dread the unbearable humidity and heat that comes with summer, we still need to dress professionally. While we can likely endure wearing year-round or three-season suiting in air conditioned offices, the clothes that tend to bring us the most joy in summer – as in winter – are those made from fabrics specific to the season. Our garments for summer can be as particular, as interesting and as beautiful as those for winter, in that they have different characteristics in make, color, weave, and the like. However, in order to complete the outfit, you still need the right accessories; only then will you ensure that the ensemble is complete.

Fabrics for summer ties are similar to those for our garments. While there are ties that can work all year long, or for most seasons – grenadine, silk rep, printed silk all come to mind – you might want to add a little seasonal variation by adding an interesting element into an outfit. Just as is the case with an odd sport coat, crunchy or slubby textures, open weaves, or unstructured designs all help make a tie more summer-friendly. Playing with color, as you would with said odd jacket, also helps a tie to be more appropriate for warm weather – pastels or subdued neutrals work well for summer. Personally, I enjoy a six or seven-fold tie for less structure, especially when paired with a more open weave, such as grenadine in a light but muted blue or green. It gives it a sort of nonchalant look that works for most occasions, excepting the most formal or serious business meetings.

Shantung, or tussah silk, offers a slubby texture that helps bring an informal element to the tie. This is a wild silk that is obtained from silkworms that feed on leaves in an uncontrolled environment; because there is less control over the process, the silk worm hatches to break the filament length, creating shorter and more coarse fibers, which provides a more ‘matte’ look.

Ties made of linen or linen blends have the benefit of inherent slubbiness, but they wrinkle easily. They do retain that crisp nature that all linens share, which allows these fabrics to drape well especially when lined. Just keep in mind that they work best for less formal outfits, and work especially well when paired with linen or cotton suits.

Cotton and cotton-blend ties are similar to linen, serving as a more relaxed option. They tend to wrinkle – like linen – but do not have that crisp characteristic; this means that they exhibit less of an elegant drape. I recommend cotton ties for the most relaxed environments, and they would be at home more with an odd jacket or a cotton suit.

Here is a list of some examples for summer appropriate ties that we think are worth considering, and a few tips on how to pair them.


This tan shantung silk tie from Calabrese 1924 via No Man Walks Alone provides a classic stripe, but the subdued, neutral tan and the slubby fabric help to make it more of a summer affair. This self-tipped tie provides a structured neckpiece that could work in most occasions.


liverano summer tie

This Liverano&Liverano seven-fold silk tie is the epitome of a tie for the more conservative striped style. The colors scream Ivy League (if you ignore that the direction of the stripes are European instead of American), and it begs to be worn under the staple hopsack blazer in everyone’s closet. The orange almost evokes that quintessential go-to-hell attitude that you might not dare pull off with colored trousers.


drake's tie linen summer

This tie from Drakes features tussah silk in a natural color. Paired with an odd linen sport coat, the tie would wear well, seeing as it has hand rolled blades and less structure than a normal tie.


seersucker tie vanda fine clothing summer

How many times in your life have you seen a seersucker tie? This gorgeous muted green tie from Vanda Fine Clothing is extremely neutral, and would pair lovingly under blue, tan and brown jackets. The handrolled edges and light lining complete the nonchalant air.


vanda oatmeal tie summer

This tie made by hand from Vanda Fine Clothing out of Solbiati linen is a great warm weather accessory. The texture and wrinkles with the classic Glenplaid pattern and subdued neutral colors makes this an exceptional tie under a wool-fresco or linen jacket.

The 5 Best Organic Cotton Underwear Brands for Men

In conjunction with Fashion Revolution week, we would like to share our picks for the best organic cotton underwear, and explain briefly why it is important to choose such underwear.

While many of Styleforum users pay close attention to the quality of the items they buy and even to the type of material employed – oftentimes preferring natural materials to synthetics – not all cotton is made the same, when examined in ethical and environmental contexts.

Today, only 15% of the global production of cotton is organically grown without the use of pesticides and chemicals.

People working in industrial cotton fields are exposed to carcinogenic agents that correlate with increased likelihood of developing brain tumors – most of which result in death. Additionally, there have been an increased number of suicides caused by financial ruin brought about by the debts the farmers have to multinational corporations on account of the the pesticides they provide. As farmers use pesticides, they continually need to increase the use of these chemicals in order to see the same effects as the first time they are used on account of increased tolerance.

This does not only happen in India and other developing countries, but in the United States as well. Some of the leaders in the organic cotton market within the United States were impacted personally by the use of industrial chemicals found in large-scale agricultural production.

LaRhea Pepper has worked in a cotton farm for all her life, and she dedicated her life to switching to 100% organic production after losing her husband to cancer: “My husband grew up on a chemically intensive farm in south Texas and his father died of Leukemia at the age of 57.

Terry was diagnosed with a brain tumor–a glioblastoma multiforme–when he was forty-eight and I had to say goodbye to him just 2 years later. We were partners in transforming our farm from a low-input ‘almost organic’ to certified organic in 1991–we worked hard to build the organic cotton market for us and others as well. Promoting organic, as THE way to farm and be responsible stewards of our land was an important priority in our lives. It is no longer important to me–it is imperative! Agriculture MUST change and LIFE must be the focus,” she told viewers in an interview for the movie The True Cost.


Organic cotton is not only a more ethical way to grow the most utilized textile fabric in the world–it is a higher quality product for the final customer: with organic cotton, people are less likely to develop allergies and prevent irritations that may occur from wearing cotton treated with chemicals, especially in areas where the fabric is in direct contact with the skin.

Now that you’re a slightly more familiar with some of the important reasons to support organic cotton producers and brands that source their cotton from these farms, let us explore a few options in case you’re considering upgrading your underwear drawer with organic cotton options. Here is a selection of the 5 best brands that manufacture organic cotton underwear for men:

PACT Underwear ($9)

pact underwear organic cotton men underwear briefs best organic cotton underwear

All PACT apparel is sweatshop free, and ethically produced. You can order online (they usually have specials and discounts on quantities) or you can buy them at Target.


I LOVE BAD ($24)

I love bad hemp underwear mens best organic cotton underwear

I Love Bad’s underwear is made with a blend of organic cotton, hemp, and lycra – all pesticide and chemical free, and organic. The elastic band-free design alleviates stomach congestion and other discomforts. Their products are made in Southern California using low-impact dyes.


BGREEN ($24)

 best organic cotton underwear

Bgreen offers ultra-soft, stretchy underwear made of organic cotton. All their items are organic, fair trade, and made in the USA.


NATURAL CLOTHING COMPANY ($24.99)

natural clothing company organic cotton underwear briefs men ethical fair trade best organic cotton underwear

This is a small business run by a husband and wife from the state of Washington. They make underwear employing organic cotton and they commit to a fair trade, ethical business model.


COTTONIQUE ($27)

cottonique organic cotton underwear best organic cotton underwear

Cottonique specializes in underwear for individuals that have particularly sensitive skin and/or allergies; they pay lots of attention to the materials to make sure that even people with latex and spandex allergies can wear their underwear. They also offer elastic-free options that include a drawstring, made of 100% organic cotton.


If you have already switched to organic cotton, feel free to share your experience and your opinion on the matter. We would love to hear from you and discover more brands that produce ethically made, sustainable clothing.

Why a Solaro suit is the only suit you’ll need this summer

The time has come to legitimize the Solaro suit as a staple garment in any man’s wardrobe.

Oh please, don’t give me that look. We already established a long time ago that brown and earthy colors are no longer reserved for the countryside, and we integrated them as part of our daily – and even business – clothing. A Solaro suit is going to be your best investment this summer.

First, let’s go back to the origins of the fabric. Despite being quite popular among the Italians, we owe the invention of Solaro to the Brits and their assumption that the red color repelled radiation caused from direct sunlight.

The Solaro was born at the dawn of the 20th century, during the colonialism of the Tropics. The London School of Tropical Medicine dedicated studies to the wellbeing of the soldiers in colonial lands: climate conditions in tropical areas were incredibly harsh, and a need for new fabrics and garments to protect the colonizers arose as it did the belief that they were responsible for dreadful tropical diseases.

One of the School’s scientists, Louis Westenra Sambon, conducted some studies on the skin of the colonized populations, coming to the conclusion that the darker pigment was able to block off the UV rays coming from the sunlight. It was clear to him that Nature provided the natives with the necessary protection against the harm of the climate, and that the colonizers would have had to find a way to protect their fair skin just as well. Clothes were the obvious choice, as they act as an additional layer to protect the body from the external agents.

It was common knowledge at the time that light fabrics retained less heat than dark fabrics; however, white garments were not quite suitable for soldiers. Khaki green, on the other hand, was both light and suitable for a soldier’s uniform, and that’s why Dr. Sambon chose it as the base of the cloth of his invention: the Solaro. He added to it a red layer that supposedly repelled the UV rays.

“Dr. Sambon, assisted by Mr. John Ellis, has produced a fabric hat has a “perfect khaki effect” on the outside and a red colour screen on the inner surface, and he has stated that Mr. Bailey has examined it at the University College and that it has proved as impervious to the actinic rays as is the skin of natives of tropical countries. This cloth is called Solaro. We have not seen specimens of this cloth, but we note that it is obtainable at Messers Ellis and Johns, Tailors, 21, South Moulton Street, London, W.”¹

“Unlike clothing promoted for use in tropical climates today, Solaro was meant to prevent more than sunburn and carcinomas. It was designed to inhibit the “actinic” rays—what we would now call ultraviolet (UV) radiation—of the sun, which were thought to disrupt proper physiological functioning and produce nervous disorders. The design of the clothing was linked to the observation that skin color was darkest where sunlight was most intense.”²

Another debate concerned the type of fabric that would work best against the heat: cotton or wool? German zoologist Gustav Jaeger pointed out that many animals survive in tropical areas with a wool coat, and that wool breathes better than vegetable fabrics, which are not meant to be used in clothing: Nature has clothed the animals. Man clothes himself. Animal wool, which Nature has created to clothe the animal body, is the ‘survival of the fittest’ clothing material.”³

His assumption is at the base of Dr. Sambon’s choice of wool for the Solaro.

The patented Solaro fabric –“Original Solaro Made in England”- is produced by Smith Woollens (now part of Harrisons). It weighs 310 gr and is in a tan/olive-ish color with a herringbone pattern. It features an underside woven with brick red yarn;

solaro suit fabric history

Solaro fabric. Photo: No Man Walks Alone

this characteristic produces an iridescent sheen that is most evident when the light hits the fabric at a specific angle, but it is nonetheless quite subtle.

Today there are several mills – Loro Piana, Drago, Angelico, to name a few- that produce Solaro in a variety of weights and hues, yet remaining somewhat faithful to the mid-weight, khaki-and-red original version.

The most common fabrics employed to create Solaro are pure wool twill and yarn-dyed gabardine.

As I mentioned, the Italians are particularly fond of Solaro suits, as they embody perfectly the Italian sprezzatura with the relaxed, casual, and slightly impudent look provided by the semi-iridescent cloth. It’s not uncommon to spot distinguished, elderly Italians wearing Solaro suits, whether they are businessmen riding a bicycle in Milan, or classy Neapolitan gentlemen savoring espresso at a café while reading the Corriere della Sera.


Here are a few good reasons why a Solaro suit is the perfect integration to your summer closet:

It’s a conversation starter; we are not given that many chances to make fun of the Brits (if we don’t consider Brexit) so why lose the chance to make a joke of their belief that a red thread in their suits would keep them safe from tropical diseases? Jokes aside, the history of the fabric and its continental charm make a good topic of conversation for anyone who has an interest in menswear or history.

It’s unconventional but not crazy extravagant; the red sheen is barely there, just enough to remind the world that you are confident enough to pull off a suit that goes beyond the conventions. You own it.

It suits everyone. Just take look at the gallery, and you’ll see that a solaro suit looks good on every single person, flattering every complexion from the fairer to the deeper. Additionally, it seems to class-up everyone’s style, making the solaro suit the male equivalent of a pearl choker.

It makes a great option for business casual. I promise not to roll my eyes and scoff when you tell me that America is too conservative to allow such a suit to be part of a business environment. However, to the West Coast fellows that suffer from suit envy because their workplace is too casual to wear even the most innocent two-piece navy suit, I say: this is your chance! A Solaro suit is casual enough to be worn even in an office where the most formal piece of clothing is not-ripped denim, and you won’t be labeled as “the uptight dude in the navy suit”. Plus, you can lose the jacket any time and not look like you forgot a piece of your outfit at home.

If you’d like to read what other forumites have to say on the matter, there is a whole thread dedicated to wearing Solaro for business.

It’s incredibly easy to style. Click here to read our guide to wearing a Solaro suit – including some spezzato options!

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Note: please note that the original Solaro cloth is only available through Harrisons and their agents, and it is a registered trademark. Any other maker that refers to this type of cloth with the name Solaro is in trademark infringement.

@AriannaReggio


1. The Indian Medical Gazette, Volume 42, p. 188

2. Bulletin of the History of Medicine: Bull Hist Med. 2009 Fall : 530-560

3. Jaeger Gustav. In: Dr. Jaeger’s Essays on Health-Culture. Tomalin Lewis RS., translator. London: Waterlow and Sons; 1887. p. 116.

Velasca’s Holiday Alternatives

BY VELASCA

Hi, this is me: I’m a man in my late twenties. I grew up in a business-oriented city, have been traveling the world when I can take a few days off from my studies (and now from my job), only to end up working in the same city that I tried to move away from many times.

I’m a manager of a startup company who really cares about dressing up, drinking the right cocktail at the right time, and going on dates for wine after 6:30pm.

I’m not crazy enough, really. I’m rational, and as with my job, restaurants, and plans in general: I have to have alternatives. I had to realize this pretty early in my youth, when I had to start doing it all by myself: paying for my own bills, flights, escapes, and gifts.

Yeah, gifts, I really like those. Have you ever imagined working for a company that crafts clothes? And being there, watching the process, from designing a model on a piece of paper to seeing the final product packed into a box?

velasca

In 2016, my dream of working for a fashion company came true. I’m with the guys of Velasca: a made in Italy brand at its finest. I can try on the prototypes before going into the market, and then drop an unexpected pair of shoes off to my friends and family.

While spending time in my department, I’ve learned that you need alternatives in fashion as well. It’s not just a matter of style ― your clothes have to go along with the occasion you’re attending, whether it be a casual dinner or grand wedding. You need variants. Maybe the weather will shift or even the location of an event will change at the last minute.

For this reason, I usually research the perfect outfit with at least one ‘Plan B’ ready to go. This Christmas, I got invited to my uncle’s place with the rest of the family. You know, a typical Italian atmosphere where everyone cooks his/her own food (and there’s always a lot of food); there are the classic tunes and tree, the talks and the gifts. And as always, I’ll wear a nice pair of leather shoes:


1. Velasca Chelsea Boots

velasca

I might take my motorcycle by myself to ride straight towards the house. It’s not a long way there. A pair of Velasca chelsea boots would be perfect, to go with a white cotton shirt, a blue pullover, and some grey woolen pants. Very easy, and casual without looking sloppy – always appropriate for a dinner with family.


2. Velasca Cap-Toe Oxfords

velasca

Or, it’s possible that I’ll have to pick up my grandmother at her house; by car, of course. In that case, Velasca’s full grain leather oxfords with a rubber sole would be my choice. They’ve been a standy for ages, and I really like the model we came up with. No need to completely change my outfit: I might wear a pair of blue pants to stay classy.


3. Velasca Derbies

velasca

What if we’re not celebrating Christmas at the house anymore, and we’re moving at the very last minute to some friend’s restaurant? It happens, especially since it’s impossible to find a reservation around the Holidays. Well, I’d like to get noticed in a dining room full of strangers and my family. If that happens, I’ll wear my Velasca derbies. They’re unique and classic at the same time.

See, you always need to have alternatives. Keep it in mind.

Warmly,

Paolo

The 2016 Tuxedo Buyer’s Guide

If you’re attending a black-tie affair this winter and you’re already panicking about what to wear – we understand. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of shoddy tuxedos, conflicting advice, and too-good-to-be-true deals. You know what? We’ve got your back. And there’s still time to find yourself the perfect black tie rig. Because whatever you do, we really don’t want you to rent an ill-fitting tuxedo.

This tuxedo buyer’s guide will go over some of Styleforum’s top picks for the winter, detailing the pros and cons of each. We’ll cover a range of budgets and a range of styles so that you can be sure you’ll look downright incredible in your tuxedo, no matter the event. You’ve got plenty of time to pick out a tux before the party season is over, so don’t worry – plus, part of the beauty of the tuxedo is that you only need the one. And you know what that means? You’ll never need to rent a tux.

All of the below will require the traditional accoutrements: a proper shirt, shoes, and accessories (tie, studs and links, and a cummerbund or waistcoat).


Black Tie on a Budget

1. Suit Supply Black Tuxedo, $569

Modern, stylish, and very sleek. There’s a reason Suitsupply is so well-regarded on Styleforum: the value proposition is hard to beat. Plus, returns and try-ons are easy and shipping is fast, so you’ve got a good chance of nailing the fit. This is an easy fire-and-forget option.

Pros: Price, obviously. You’ll look good, you’ll have some money left over for the rest of the rig, and you’re going to spend all your time partying and enjoying yourself anyway.

Cons: The Suitsupply look is not to everyone’s taste. The lapels are loud, the cuts tend towards the slim and short, and the gorge can be quite high, so you’ll have to plan and adjust your size accordingly.

2. J. Crew Ludlow Shawl Collar Tuxedo, $525

Those who would like a slightly more staid offering than Suitsupply’s admittedly in-your face tuxedo may wish to consider J. Crew’s “Ludlow” option. We’ve picked this shawl collar variation because, unlike J.Crew’s other options, it has a single button closure. Combined with the shawl collar this does, at the least, distinguish it from a business suit – though why it has patch pockets is beyond us. You’ll have to tuck those in or remove them. Otherwise, this is the cheapest tuxedo on our list, and if you can get the sizing right and you have a decent tailor you’re likely to have a good time. Just note that J. Crew staff seem predisposed to forcing customers into jackets at least one size too small and far too short.

Pros: A true budget option. While it’s not the pinnacle of style or quality, you won’t look out of place if you nail the accessories.

Cons: Less elegant than the other options on this list due to its somewhat confused pedigree, and J.Crew patterns can be hit or miss depending on the wearer. You may have to try this on in person to find your ideal fit – or at the very least, take a handful of size options to a reputable tailor.


The Trad

J. Press Peak Lapel Tuxedo, $795

For the Ivy-inclined, J.Press’ classically American take on the Tuxedo may be the perfect option. However, we admit that this tuxedo did cause the Styleforum editorial team to come into conflict. While some forumites will argue that a single-vented tuxedo jacket is an acceptably and intentionally American take on a continental garment, others firmly believe that a single vent is far too casual for evening wear, rooted in sporting garments as it is. We’ve compromised and included this tuxedo to show the range of available options.

Pros: Firmly American in style, from an old guard of the East-Coast Trad. Easy to wear, easy to obtain.

Cons: Somewhat lacking in personality, and you’ll have to tuck or remove the flap pockets.

Note that J.Press also produces a notch lapel tuxedo. Notwithstanding the contemporary prevalence of this garment, we do not feel we can endorse such a garment. Although there is modern precedent (read: 1980’s) for a notch lapel tuxedo, when compared to contemporary business suiting we feel that details are firmly required to distinguish evening-wear from office-wear.


Affordable MTM

Kent Wang Tuxedo, $840

If you’d like to be sure you’re getting every aspect of your tuxedo correct, look no further than Styleforum affiliate Kent Wang. Their tuxedo is elegant without being precious or costumey, and for the price it’s quite the deal. You’ll be able to specify color and lapel style, but note that their tuxedos are only available through their MTM service, meaning that this isn’t the ideal last-minute option.

Pros: Fantastic value, guaranteed to nail every element.

Cons: You’ll have to have the time and inclination for MTM

Kent Wang is a Styleforum affiliate. You can join their conversation here.


The Standard

Ralph Lauren Polo Tuxedo, $1,395

At this price, a Ralph Lauren tuxedo is a very easy option, particularly if you don’t have the time or inclination to search, try, return, and generally occupy your mind with the ins and outs of tuxedo-buying.  A solid workhorse of a tuxedo, this is a good option if you’re looking for something simple but very elegant. The trousers sport side tab adjusters as well as loops for braces, so you can wear them as you wish. The jacket is canvassed, the pattern will fit a wide range of body types, and this tuxedo is certainly not going to fall apart on you. While a Polo tuxedo may lack some of the character of the other options on this list, it will provide solid, accessible results for most buyers.

Pros: There’s a 90% chance you’ll look great in it. Reasonable value for your money, and they’re easy to obtain.

Cons: Flapped pockets are a no-no. You’ll have to tuck or remove the pocket flaps, but once you’ve done so the vents are no issue.


The Monaco

Sartoria Formosa Tuxedo from No Man Walks Alone, $2,350

Look at those full lapels and bountiful quarters! This stunner from Sartoria Formosa certainly isn’t cheap, but it represents some real value from the well-regarded Neapolitan sartoria. The silhouette is fantastic, and we’re huge fans of the unapolagetic peak lapels. This tuxedo is tasteful and elegant, while giving you room for some personal touches.

Pros: It’s beautiful. And, at $2,350 it’s somewhere in the attainable mid-high range of tuxedo pricing. While that takes some splashing out, this is a tuxedo that is going to last you a long, long time.

Cons: With such a full body and bombastic lapels, this tuxedo may take some panache to pull off. Side vents in the jacket mean it will take more naturally to lounging with one hand in a pocket (and will be more forgiving if you have a muscular posterior), but it lacks the absolute rigidity of some of the more precise options. Of course, that could certainly be seen as a pro as well, depending on personal preference.

No Man Walks Alone is a Styleforum affiliate. You can join their conversation here.


The Red Carpet

Tom Ford “O’Connor” Midnight Blue Evening Suit, $5,470

If you’re up for splashing out to look like a contemporary movie star, this is the tuxedo for you. A low gorge, wide shawl lapel, and glam silhouette make this a mean contender if you’re less inclined towards the classic and more inclined to look like James Bond. This tuxedo begs for some non-traditional styling, and you could certainly pair it with a black turtleneck and embrace the full Tom Ford look.

Pros: You want sexy? You got sexy. This tuxedo hits all the right notes to be a show-stopper.

Cons: Well, it costs five thousand dollars, and it’s not exactly classic.


The Roman Holiday

Brioni Tuxedo, $5,750

Gregory Peck wasn’t the only Hollywood star to wear Brioni, but he certainly did his part in popularizing the Roman house’s tailored clothing – just as he and his cohorts are still doing their part to keep black tie alive. Brioni, decades later, remains a glittering, glamorous option for the well-to-do.

Pros: Hard to argue with what you’re seeing here, really. From the strong, structured Roman shoulder to the narrowed waist, this is an unabashedly masculine take on an already masculine garment.

Cons: At almost six grand for one of Brioni’s off-the-rack options, you may start asking yourself what you’re really paying for. And if that seems like a drop in the bucket to you, perhaps you’d get more joy from a fully bespoke experience.


A note on vintage tuxedos and accessories: while the vintage route can bear beautiful black tie fruit, it does take a real eye for details. Beyond the fact that you likely wont’ be able to return a vintage tuxedo, you’ll also have to contend with the previous owner’s alterations, you’ll have to divine the fabric composition, and you’ll have to find the damn thing in the first place. Remember, just because something is “vintage” doesn’t mean it’s good. A vintage polyester tuxedo is still unacceptable, and shoddy craftsmanship on a set of studs will mean that those “heirloom” accessories aren’t really heirlooms at all. While we fully support buying vintage or pre-owned clothing, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.  

A note on white jackets: you may have dreams of telling your friends to “Play it again,” but the truth is that Humphrey Bogart’s white dinner jacket in Casablanca is an intentional nod both to Bogey’s personal style as well as to the warm climate of the locale featured in the film. Remember that black is always appropriate, and that during the winter season white will seem counterintuitive.

10 Best Watches for Every Budget

Guys love watches. Is it for status? Is it the mechanical prowess? It is for the utility? Who knows, and you know what, who cares? Here’s a great collection of the best watches to buy for yourself or convince someone to buy for you as the holidays approach.


1.  Swatch System Boreal YIS401G. MSRP: $215

A neat-looking watch with respectable mechanics and for as cheap as you can get without buying a watch meant for a 6th grader. 

Available at Swatch.com


2. Hamilton Khaki Field. MSRP: $445

One of Hamilton’s most popular offerings, the Khaki is a classic American watch. With a suede strap and beige numbers, the Field model is just a bit more fun than the run-of-the-mill model.

Available at Hamilton


3. Hamilton Khaki Pilot Auto. MSRP: $995

No list of best watches would be complete without a pilot’s watch. Hamilton nails it again with classic pilot styling, cool looks, and darn good price. 

Available at Hamilton


4. Nomos Tangente 38. MSRP: $2,330

No one, and I mean no one, does understated elegance like Nomos. The Tangente 38 is as pure as it gets and a bargain when it comes to bang for your buck. 

Available at Nomos


5. Longines Master Retrograde Seconds. MSRP: $3,325

Probably the best-priced complicated watch ever made. The Master Retrograde boasts 4 retrograde hands, day-date functions, and somehow manages to do it without looking looking like an awful cluttered mess. 

Available at Prestigetime


6. Bell & Ross BR01-92. MSRP: $4,800

If you want something really cool and off the beaten, look no further than B&R’s military spec, black carbon coated, square shaped, BR01 beast.

Available at Prestigetime


7. Tag Heuer Monaco. MSRP: $5,350

Is anyone cooler than Steve McQueen? No. Can you be Steve McQueen? Also no. But you can get pretty close with the iconic watch that he sported in the all time great film, Le Mans. Watch the movie, wear the watch.

Available at Prestigetime


8. Glashutte Original Senator Sixties. MSRP: $7,500

Vintage styling and top-notch mechanics join forces for Glashutte’s nod to the 60’s. Go for the gold indices for some extra pop. 

Available at Prestigetime


9. Rolex Datejust 116234. MSRP: $7,950.

You just can’t argue with the Rolex crown, and this about as classic Rolex as it gets. 

Available at Prestigetime


10. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 15400. MSRP: $50,500 

 If you just won the lottery, or re-financed your house and took some cash out, this is what you buy. Just make sure you signed that pre-nup.

Available at Prestigetime

Gifts for the CM Wife or Girlfriend

5 gifts for the woman in your life gifts for the CM wife

If you’re a Classic Menswear dude with a female partner, chances are she’s a classy, educated woman who treats her clothes just like you do: a vehicle to express her impeccable taste in a manner that is neither extravagant nor – heaven forbid – fashionable.

(The exception to this is if you are my husband, who is the archetypical CM guy, but somehow ended up marrying a fashion blogger who collects Victorian mourning jewelry).

If you recognize your wife in the picture I just introduced, and Zara and H&M are cringe-inducing words to her, keep reading and find some ideas for your better half.

 


An Eileen Fisher top

Eileen Fisher is my husband’s obsession when it comes to womenswear. Every time we go shopping together, he secretly hopes that I will drop the eye-catching lace dresses and opt for an understated, elegant poncho made of a soft alpaca and cashmere blend.  In his wildest dreams, I’m wrapped in an Eileen Fisher hand-woven cardigan in a melange color with tailored pants featuring perfectly ironed pleats.

The thing is, I like Eileen Fisher a lot. Despite my preference for lace and more “statement” clothing, I even own the above-mentioned poncho (which I hardly ever wear here in SoCal). Almost any Eileen Fisher piece is an evergreen garment that will work with most women’s wardrobes – even those in which white lace is predominant. Eileen Fisher is the anti-Zara, and any woman who has an appreciation for quality over “trendy” will gladly welcome such gift.


Carmina boots

I personally discovered Carmina’s women shoe line at The Proper Kit this past November, and it took all of my strength and willpower not to break the bank over their boots. If you’re just a little familiar with women’s fashion, you know how hard it is to find pieces that equal menswear’s in terms of quality – at least through mainstream outlets. When I think of quality footwear for women, the first names that pop in my mind are Louboutin and Ferragamo, and even then, the construction is not on pair with a comparable menswear collection.  Carmina offers mind-blowing construction and materials as well as classic designs that will likely last for over a decade. Again, if you wish to give a gift that lasts, and if your partner has the sensibility to appreciate the great work and care that’s behind this type of product, you can’t go wrong with Carmina.


A bracelet stack by Astley Clarke

Jewelry is, obviously, a great classic when it comes to gifts. Some couples even have a tradition where they give at least one piece of jewelry a year, in order to slowly build up a collection that can be passed on to the next generations, or to simply remind them of the years that pass while they’re together.

The first and most important thing to remember when you shop for jewelry is to avoid Tiffany’s at any cost. It’s mainstream, banal, and overpriced, and you don’t really want to see a condescending smirk appearing of your wife’s face when you hand her that sickening “blue box.”

Once you bid farewell to overrated jewelry houses, you will find a world of glimmering collections. One of my favorite brands – and I have to thank my husband for introducing it to me – is the English maison Astley Clarke. The founder was even appointed by the Queen with one of those crazy titles the English appreciate. Dame of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, or something like that.

In any case, you can find something delightful on Astley Clarke’s website, and the best thing is that prices go from $50 to $50,000, so you really have a wide choice at every price range. I would personally choose one of their bracelet stacks, which follow the trend of layering jewelry with no risk of incurring in the Jersey Shore/Christmas tree effect.


A leather cardholder

Long are gone the days when a woman used to carry huge wallets and stuff them with anything ranging from pictures of her parents as toddlers to Target’s loyalty card. If there’s one good thing that smartphones did, it was ridding us from such superfluous paraphernalia.

Normally I dread patterns, but since a cardholder is such a small item, I feel that this could be a good time to be a little adventurous and choose a piece that would turn heads when making its appearance out of the purse. This beautiful Dolce&Gabbana cardholder features a typical Sicilian tile motif, and since it folds over, it actually has some space to carry some cash, which always comes in handy.

If you’d rather play safe and stick to a more traditional look, this Smythson card holder in powdery blue will do the trick.


A Silk Scarf

There is something incredibly sensual in a woman covering her neck with a scarf (and a man too, actually.)

Perhaps deep down I am a vampire, but I consider it quite intriguing when one of the most vulnerable parts of the human body is hidden under layers of precious cashmere or impalpable silk, perhaps sprayed with a sophisticated fragrance.

On this account, I believe that the gift of a scarf comes out as thoughtful and delicate, even protective. It’s a way of saying: “I’m here and I’m taking care of you.” There is more love in a man kissing goodbye to his wife on her way to work while wrapping a scarf around her neck than there is in any epic poem.