5 Best Jeans for 2016 and Beyond

The streetwear and denim forum within Styleforum started in large part because I wrote a “10 Best Jeans” post years ago, in the days when “premium denim” was blowing up in LA and the North American Market was just starting to get imported jeans from Scandanavia and Japan.  In those days, the threads were named “5 Best jeans,” or “10 Best jeans,” but it’s really impossible to make a superlative list in such a varied category, so I always tried to make these representative of different styles and needs rather than pointing to one model and saying “Yeah, best jeans right there.”  I do think that the below is a representative list of “best in class” jeans.  Of course, it’s like the 100m dash (or at least, the 100m dash, pre-Usain Bolt).  There are many contenders for the #1 spot, and the winner is usually the first among peers.

This is the first such list that I am writing for the Styleforum Journal, so I’ve chosen the below 5 great jeans with a nod to the past and a eye on the future.

Best wearable art – Kapital Cisco Century Jeans, $375 at www.standardandstrange.com

Cisco - Century Denim No5 kapital styleforum best jeans for 2016

Kapital is perhaps the exemplar of the “mythological folklore by way of Japan” brands, and there are many.  It borrows liberally from Native American imagery, old military uniforms, American workwear, the clothing of some tribes that may or may not exist outside Kapital’s famous photoshoots, and mashes them up with Japanese textile traditions like boro patchwork and sashiko stitching.

Kapital’s cinchback “Cisco” jeans are made from Kapital’s “Century” denim that has been dyed using the kakishibu method, with fermented persimmon juice to produce a deep brick color, and then sashiko stitched using indigo thread.  They are a good (and not inexpensive) example of the combination of Japanese and American clothing and textile traditions and the brand’s general obsessiveness with their production process.  They were first introduced in 2012, but have been popular enough to be kept in the list of “best ofs” that seem to accompany each of Kapital’s collections (other best of Kapital pieces include their moleskin ring jacket and their Old Man and the Sea caps).

Most comfortable heavyweight jeans – The Ironheart 17 ounce straight tapered jeans, $295 at www.selfedge.com

ironheart self edge styleforum best jeans for 2016

I’ve owned and worn many jeans that range between “heavyweight”, usually defined as 16 ounces and above, and “monster weight”, which is my personal term for anything about 20 ounces (per square yard).  To put this into perspective, most military tents are made from 12-14 ounce canvas, and lighter weight stretch jeans are often about 9-10 ounces.  It’s rare that I’d call any heavyweight jeans the “best jeans,” but of all of these, Ironheart makes the most comfortable.

Kiya, who owns Self Edge – one of our oldest advertisers – once told me that this is because they use the longest staple yarns, even longer than do luxury brands, which gives the jeans a cool feeling, and because they use a cold water rinse, instead of the usual, hot, industrial rinse,  Back in the day, the consensus on Styleforum and other forums was that you had to (physically) suffer for the perfect fit, that the first few weeks of wearing jeans three sizes small was a trial by fire to be endured for excellent fades.  Luckily for us all, that insanity is behind us.  Also, I am way too old for that now.  I need my jeans to slip on and off effortlessly.  This is especially important in heavier weight jeans.

Best “Starter” jeans – The Japan Blue tapered model, $220 at www.blueowl.us

japan-blue-tapered-jeans styleforum best jeans for 2016

If you want a pair of jeans that fits well, is neither too slim not too loose, is neither too heavy nor too lightweight, neither very high rise, nor very low rise, and without features like a drop crotch that will date it easily, and will generally stand up to the test of time, Japan Blue’s “Tapered” model is a good choice.

The cut is mid rise, with a slowly tapering leg.  They come in a variety of denim weights and types, and I’ve seen them worn in “full workwear”, and as part of our editor in Chief’s indigo patchwork outfits, and I wear them as part of what was once called my “killer cowboy” style, but that I suspect might be considerably less romantic and cool.

While “versatility” of often code for “really boring”, Japan Blue rescues us by using very interesting denim on any otherwise fairly standard, well made, jeans that lack the bells and whistles of jeans by its sister brand, Momotaro, both produced by the Japan Blue Group.

My favorite are in indigo warp with a black weft, and tonal stitching, made in an unsanforized version of Japan Blue’s “Monster” denim, exclusively for Blue Owl (shown above).  They are heavier than most like their jeans, but don’t worry, there are many lighter weight jeans in the same cut.

Best skinny jeans – Saint Laurent Paris low rise slim fit black jeans, $290 at www.ysl.comstyleforum best jeans for 2016 saint laurent paris slp skinny

I heard a story about Jim Morrison once – that he was a skinny, awkward kid with a crew cut, and that over a summer in California, he grew out his famous mane and transformed into the Lizard King.

This is the revenge of skinny, awkward, teenagers everywhere on the world.  According to recent polls, 95% of all models, male or female, report having been “awkward and nerdy” as teenagers.  (the remaining 5% were jock douchebags – sometimes life remains the same).

If you still have the chops to look like a young Axel Rose (as opposed to the much less attractive 50-something middle-aged Axel Rose), you might want to go for Hedi Slimane’s (they are still his) Saint Laurent Paris jeans, that make his Dior Homme era jeans look baggy and overly comfortable.  How times and our perceptions have changed.

Best Discount Jean – Uniqlo slim fit selvedge denim jeans, $49.90 at www.uniqlo.com

styleforum best jeans for 2016

Over the years, on Styleforum, one of the most commonly asked questions, was “What is the best selvedge denim (jeans) for under $100?”  For a while, there was not much at that price range.  During the era of the $300 jean, you could either go to your local Sears for standard Levis, or you could shell out.  Or you could try to get your friend who was living in Japan to buy and send you a pair of Uniqlo selvedge denim jeans.

These days, particularly with the advent of the direct-to-consumer model, there are many more choices, but the under $100 beacon jean for all those years still remains also the standard bearer.  Of course, these days, there is no need to wheedle a favor out of a friend visiting Japan.  If you can’t get to a Uniqlo in person, it’s only a few clicks away.  At $49.90, the Uniqlo slim fit (these days with a bit of stretch) give a good fit and very passable construction.  If you want 100% cotton and a more relaxed fit, the “normal fit” is also available for the same price.  Both look good on, and age reasonably well.

Are they the best jeans for under 100$? They’re bare bones, to be sure, and all the bells and whistles of the higher end Japanese brands are not there, nor are you likely to develop one of the very distinctive fade patterns of hardcore denimheads, but at just under $5o, you can’t do better.


A Mountain-Friendly Outfit


I spend a lot of time up in the mountains over the winter, in various ski towns. Some are glitzy, fur-covered; the kind where the wine list at your average restaurant is as long as the runs. Others are run-down, podunk spots – or literally gravel spots on the side of the road. I also live in a place where style tends to take a back-seat to comfort and utility, which means that I always keep one eye on versatility. Rubber soles are great to have, as are clothes that can go from walking the dogs to driving up to the mountains to going out to dinner when you get there – hence the denim and the handy scarf.

That’s where a mountain-friendly outfit such as this comes in – I don’t think an outfit in this vein would be out of place anywhere in the world, no matter where you’re skiing. And if you don’t ski, the combination of a comfortable knit with a quilted blazer means you’ll have some useful layers to fall back on as the weather turns. Chelsea boots are great for slipping on and off as you come in and out of the mudroom or car when you’re putting on your snowboots, and easy-wearing jeans are almost never out of place. Quilted blazers are their own beautiful thing, and although this example from Moncler is on the pricey side, some internet searching could very well land you with a new favorite jacket. So next time you’re planning a weekend getaway – or just a weekend outfit – give a do-anything ensemble such as this a shot. You’ll feel ready for all the fondue you can eat.

1. Moncler quilted blazer, from Mr. Porter

2. GRP roll-neck, from No Man Walks Alone

3. Shockoe Atelier “Standard Como” jean from Standard & Strange

4. Meermin Chelsea Boots

5. 19 Andreas’ 47 Chevron scarf, from Exquisite Trimmings

5 Stand-Out Takes on the White Court Shoe

The white court shoe has taken its place atop the throne of the sneaker world following the rise of the Stan Smith. The latter is now (still!) found on the feet of half the people at any trade show, with only mild competition from Adidas’ shell-toe and three stripe options. But if you’re looking for a simple, good-looking sneaker, there are many brands that offer pleasing design – and, let’s face it, a price that makes Common Projects Achilles look like a joke. Here are 5 white court shoes that you can wear all through the winter – and for a long time to come.

  1. Greats “Royale”

    Photo: Greats

    Luxury court shoes are nothing new, but we all know that Common Projects are no longer the must-have they once were. Greats’ take on the classic design is a little bulkier, a little cushier, and little less ubiquitous (and who doesn’t enjoy a bit of rarity with their sneakers?). The suede models are stand-outs, and will look great with worn-in raw denim or even casually-worn trousers.  And at 1/4 the price of CP’s, what’s not to like?119$, Greats.com

  2. Adidas Stan Smith Primeknit OG pk

    Photo: SSENSE

    What would a list of tennies be without at least one variation on the original? Adidas has updated its classic Stan Smith silhouette with a primeknit upper that offers breathable comfort and keeps you from looking like the rest of the fashion-obsessed sneakerheads out there. And since we’ve reached – and passed – peak Stan Smith saturation, a slight re-config means that you can wear these without feeling self-conscious. Although you can find Primeknit Stans at several retailers, this OG-pack version has a different knit and a slightly lower profile than the all-leather model, but pairs equally well with denim or slim black trousers (yeah, yeah – we see you, fashion week attendees).

    Best part? The added airflow means your feet will stink less.

    130$, ssense.com

  3. Common Projects Court Low
    Photo: Need Supply

    Photo: Need Supply

    Instead of going for the by now ubiquitous Achilles, spend those hard-earned dollars on the CP Court Low instead. We’re big on suede sneakers for a bit of added character, and this even-more-minimal take on the tennis shoe is perfect for fall. Stack your jeans on top of the low cuff, roll ’em up, or even wear a pair of (gasp!) shorts. Common Projects is really the original luxe sneaker brand, and they’ve stayed relevant for a reason.

    435$, NeedSupply.com

  4. Ann Demeulemeester Suede Low-Top

    Photo: FWRD

    While not exactly a court shoe (they’re more of a take on the venerable Converse), these suede low-tops nonetheless offer a great alternative to your standard tennis shoe. They’re much more versatile than the brand’s die-hard fans would have you believe, and are equally at home with head-to-toe Ann D. or a rolled-up pair of Engineered Garments BDU pants. The suede upper takes on added character with wear, and well-read forumites will know to ask their cobbler about adding a Vibram (or other rubber) outsole for increased longevity and grip. At this point, they’re a modern classic.

    830$, fwrd.com

  5. Filling Pieces “Low Top Tabs White”

    Photo: Filling Pieces

    Looking for a little more flash from your court shoe? Streetwear brand Filling Pieces could be right up your alley. This take on their classic Tabs low top adds a gum sole and toe-cap perforation for a does of athletic style. Prices, while firmly upmarket, aren’t Givenchy-high, which means you’ll have some cash left over for a fancy pair of sweatpants. Long live athleisure!

    EUR240, Fillingpieces.com

Denver’s Best Menswear Stores

Denver is an interesting city in a number of ways. While plenty of local writers are happy to talk up the city’s cultural scene, I’ll be the first to say that Colorado’s capital isn’t a menswear (or cultural) mecca in the way America’s coastal cities are. It’s been an “Up-and-coming” spot for as long as I can remember, and it’s my opinion that it still hasn’t quite arrived yet.

However, with tens of thousands of people moving to Colorado every year, there’s certainly a new interest in menswear that didn’t exist ten years ago. While most of the Denver metro area skews towards offering solid, utility-oriented outdoor clothing (The North Face, Mont Bell, and Salomon are what you’ll see most people wearing – along with a lot of yoga clothing), there are a handful of local stores that do offer garments for the discerning enthusiast. Denver’s options range from skater-focused streetwear to contemporary Italian design to high-end tailored clothing. Here are my picks for Denver’s best menswear stores, with an eye on finding something for everyone.

Andrisen Morton
High-end tailored clothing

The first stop on our list, Andrisen Morton, is the store to visit if you’re interested in tailored clothing. They stock an impressive number of well-regarded tailored brands, such as Kiton, Caruso, Brioni, Canali, and Cucinelli, and they even range into accessories from Tom Ford and Shinola. If there’s one department in which they’re lacking it’s footwear, as Alden is, the last time I checked, the only quality shoe brand on the shelves.

The buys, while extensive, aren’t necessarily adventurous, instead focusing on a particular look that’s there to attract Denver’s growing middle class, fueled by the tech and finance industries. Denver remains a more conservative environment than California, but hidden in among the office-ready suits and separates are enough characterful brands and pieces to make a trip well worth your time.

If you’re looking for a dinner jacket in burgundy velvet, or an unlined casual blazer to wear out the door, Andrisen morton is your best stop. The store is impressively large, and in addition to what’s on the shelves they offer an array of fabric swatch books for you to peruse. There isn’t much in the way of casual or streetwear, but then again, that’s not why you came, is it?

Minimal urban workwear

Clean workwear is the bread-and-butter of Steadbrook’s offerings. This store, which is half coffee-space and half showroom, is a poster child of Denver’s post-hipster culture. Located near Washington Park in the Baker neighborhood, Steadbrook rubs shoulders with tattoo parlors and bars. The space itself is brightly lit and minimal, with a heavy does of content curation, but Steadbrook nonetheless stocks a respectable selection of Styleforum-approved streetwear brands.

Less loud and youthful than the Denver shops offering Billionaire Boys Club and walls of high-top sneakers, Steadbrook is the purveyor of the Denver uniform: clean, raw denim, sleek workwear, and un-fussy footwear. Japan Blue, Momotaro, and 3Sixteen denim sits alongside clothing from forum standbys such as Apolis, Reigning Champ, Norse Projects, and Our Legacy. Simple offerings from Vans and Adidas remind the visitor that this is a streetwear destination, while accessories from Miansai and a small selection of grooming supplies reinforce the coffee-shop/lifestyle aspect of the store. There are even a handful of skateboards for you to check out, assuming you didn’t ride your fixie.

Affordable, trendy tailored clothing

By now, SuitSupply is probably a familiar name to any forum member, but the Dutch brand’s decision to open an outpost in Cherry Creek suggests that the Denver market is there to support it. It certainly speaks to the area’s tastes at the moment: easy, affordable suiting that’s well-made enough to stand up to curiosity and criticism, and stylish enough to keep wearers from feeling like office drones. SuitSupply offers a rotating, seasonal selection of basic and less-basic suits and separates, and the fact that the products never go on sale (except for a twice-yearly seasonal inventory purge) hasn’t stopped #menswear aficionados from stocking up on blazers for every day of the week.

The Denver location is one of the fastest-growing Suit Supply stores in the country, which is surprising in a state whose “house style” tends to be “I found it at the REI garage sale.” The staff is friendly, the building is nice, and if you’re in search of something particular on a budget – or something fun – there’s a good chance SuitSupply will have you covered. It’s become a go-to shop for the city, and caters to young men starting out on their careers, hobbyists with an interest in clothing, and even Denver’s professional athletes, many of whom are devoted customers. Besides, it’s right next to the first and third stops on our list.

Lawrence Covell
Contemporary men’s and women’s design

Lawrence Covell is my pick for the most interesting menswear store in the Denver area. First and foremost, the women’s selection is at least as nice as the men’s, so if you’re bringing a female friend along she’ll have something to do. It’s located essentially across the street from Andrisen Morton and around the corner for Suit Supply, but does cater to a slightly different customer – one that’s less conservative and perhaps more willing to browse and experiment.

Although Lawrence Covell has some real personality, the racks and shelves are still stocked with a mix of contemporary and classic brands that leans towards conservative.  If you can look past the required offerings (there’s many a chino to be found alongside the Citizens of Humanity denim), the buys offer a surprising amount of character. It helps that the store itself is comfortable, well-lit and airy. The women’s section in particular has some gems, showcasing both classic (and very luxurious) pieces from Brunello Cucinelli and Carven alongside Dries Van Noten and even more street-driven buys from Rag and Bone and Public School.

For the men, Caruso, Bontoni, and Luciano Barbera are stocked alongside Eidos Napoli and Eleventy, while offerings from Oliver Spencer, Barena Venezia, and Gitman Vintage round out the more casual pieces. A respectable selection of Alden and Common Projects shoes isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it does mesh well with what’s shown on the shop floor. The look is clean and trim, but largely unfussy and not as rigid as what you might find at Andrisen Morton – an appealing blend.

London City Map


Welcome to Styleforum’s City Maps! Remember that these lists are not definitive. They have been chosen by our editorial staff to reflect what we believe our community will appreciate. We are open to suggestions, and are aware that shops close and re-open regularly. If you have a store suggestion or a comment to share, let us know in the comment section

Expert Shoe Care With Nick V.

Nick with some very nice shoes (although I spy a stray Ugg)

Nick V., owner of esteemed shoe repair outfit B. Nelson Shoes, NYC, knows his stitch. And his welts, and his vamps from his throats. He knows shoes. He takes abused, worn-out kicks and recrafts and resoles them–rehabilitates them. In an ongoing series, Nick will be answering some of my questions to help you treat your footwear better.

Pete asks: What’s the number one most important step a guy can take to keep his shoes looking better, longer?

Nick answers:

Actually, there’s two equally important steps, waterproof/polish and use shoes trees:

WATERPROOF AND POLISH: Apply two light coats of waterproofing to your shoes. Meltonian Water and Stain Protector is an easy product to find and very effective. It’s essential to use a non-silicone waterproof treatment on dress-wear, because silicone is oil-based. The oil can darken leathers. It tends to pick up dust and dirt. It also might not mix well with conditioners and polishes you may want to use in the future.

Polish and condition your shoes regularly.

USE SHOE TREES: Make sure that you have a pair of cedar shoe trees, AND USE THEM REGULARLY! Regardless of whether or not you think your feet perspire… they do. Cedar is a dry wood that absorbs even the slightest moisture. Insert them when the shoes are new and immediately after each wear. This will prevent any moisture from settling into the lining of your shoes. Moisture will cause decay of the leather.

In addition to keeping the liners dry, shoe trees help to maintain the original shape of the shoe. They also reduce the prospect of deep creases forming on the uppers caused by normal wear. The split-toe, claw-back style offers even tension vertically and horizontally. They are easy to install and remove. Leave the trees in the shoes until you are ready to wear them again.

Washington, D.C. shopping guide, part II.

Guest post by Grant Harris of Image Granted.

Image courtesy Rue 14.Rue 14
1803A 14th St. NW
Washington, DC 20009

Owned and operated by a husband and wife tag team, Rue14 has been a fixture of D.C. shopping since it opened in late 2008.  Husband Andrew brings his experience as a buyer at Brooks Brothers, while Jiwon relies on her expertise gained from her time working in production for Ralph Lauren. The idea for Rue 14 was to bring the look and feel of a SoHo boutique to D.C. without the NYC price tags. The store carries a progressive lineup of modern offerings including Gant, Happy Socks, Nudie Jeans, Penfield, and Will Leather Goods, among others.

Image courtesy Georgetown Patch.

Image courtesy Georgetown Patch.

Sky Valet
1800 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20007

You could be forgiven for passing by Sky Valet’s modest Wisconsin Ave. storefront, which barely hints at the selection of men’s shoes within. Sky carries some of the highest quality, most world-renowned (and most expensive) footwear brands around. Including bluchers, oxfords, monks, loafers, and boots, the lineup includes cordovan models from Alden, Edward Green whole cuts and cap toes; Loake suede oxfords and desert boots; Crockett & Jones double monks and slip ons; and Bowhill & Elliot evening slippers.  From American-made to bench-made in Britain, Sky Valet can suit footwear needs from casual to formal. Sky also does a brisk business in shoe repair.

1525 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC

One of the newest thrift and consignment shops in the District is Tari.  Another gem located in the Georgetown neighborhood, Tari offers consignors and consumers a place to find luxury brand names at lower prices. Zegna blazers, Borrelli and Canali shirts, Burberry and Brioni trench coats and vintage Charvet ties are prevalent throughout the store.  You’ll have to become a regular to catch the best stuff, but that’s the idea.

1802 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20007

Louis Everard has dressed everyone in D.C. from presidents to business owners, to bloggers.  Everard’s has two locations in the District but the most recognized is the Georgetown location, just a couple doors up from Sky Valet.  Louis sells American heritage suiting brands such as Hickey Freeman, but also carries the best of non-U.S. brands, like Marcoliani socks, Tino Cosma ties, and Martegani shoes.  Everard’s prides itself on its made to measure service and will gladly create something to your personal taste.

1961 Chain Bridge Rd.
Mclean, VA 22102

Monita Italian Leather is a shoe shop and walk-in made-to-order footwear boutique.  The Tysons Corner shop is the only boutique located in a residential shopping mall on our list.  Monita offers its customers ready-to-wear as well as custom footwear from several of a dozen little known, but well-established Italian brands the average American consumer may not be familiar with (like Doucal’s and Maurizi).  Customers have manyoptions from suede oxfords to calfskin Beatle boots to penny loafers.  For MTO, the customer’s measurements are taken on site and then are allowed to select from upwards of 50 different shoe styles including leathers, brogueing, laces, etc.  Weeks later you’ll enjoy a hand-lasted, hand-finished pair of custom shoes.

Other worthwhile stops:

J. Press
1801 L St. NW
Washington, DC 20036

The venerable trad-ing post only has four locations, so it’s always worth a stop for university stripe OCBDs (with flap pocket), ribbon belts, and sack jackets that remain much same as they were 30 years ago or more (some of the salesmen are the same, too, and can share some good stories).

Field English Custom Tailors
2134 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, DC 20007

As close as D.C. comes to Savile Row, Field Tailors has been creating bespoke men’s clothing for decades. William Field II took over the business from his father a few years ago and still offers English cut suits in fabrics from Dormeuil and others. Appointments preferred.

See also part I of our D.C. shopping guide.

Washington, D.C. shopping guide, part I.

Guest post by Grant Harris of Image Granted.

Streets of Georgetown is the local outpost of Hart Schaffner Marx's dandy chain.

Streets of Georgetown
1254 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20007

When Joseph Abboud sold his namesake label to become chief designer for HMX Group, the largest manufacturer of tailored menswear in the country, he worked with HMX CEO Doug Williams to open Streets concept stores in select cities. The Streets concept capitalizes on major cities’ top-drawer  shopping neighborhoods or streets—in DC’s case, Georgetown. The boutique is stocked with some of the elder statesmen of American suiting, including Hickey Freeman and Hart Schaffner Marx, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. Streets offers off-the-rack suiting as well as a truly tailored experience with made-to-measure services offering several hundred fabric choices. Bobby Jones, Coppley, Palm Beach, Austin Reed, and Filson round out suiting, casual, and sportswear offerings.

2216 14th St. NW
Washington, DC 20009

A recent addition to the DC shopping scene, Federal may sound like it caters to the politicians and lobbyists of Washington, but it’s far from what you might think. Located on 14th St. corridor, it’s part of a restructured and converted skate shop. Its street-oriented history is reflected in on-trend offerings from a range of heritage-based Americana and workwear lines like Tellason, Pendleton, Red Wing, Danner, Dickies, Filson, Converse, Clarks, Herschel Supply, and others. D.C. has a rep for being short on this sort of gear and Federal is changing that.

The good doctor.

Dr. K’s Vintage
1534 U St. NW
Washington, DC 20009

Dr. K’s is a vintage shop on the U street corridor that stocks the best edited stock of vintage men’s apparel in the city—leather jackets, militaria, cowboy boots, varsity jackets, and original cinchback denim from Levi’s. A native of Thailand, Dr. K has brought some of his personal collection to the shop, and can be seen showing off his latest finds from Brimfield or the Rose Bowl or more clandestine sources. Dr. K is often open late, but keeps strange hours so it’s best to call ahead.

Sette Neckwear
Suite 300
1701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20006

Sette means “seven” in Italian. Given how much attention is given to Neapolitan menswear, it’s a breath of fresh air to have the presence of Sette in D.C. A collaboration between a former Robert Talbott designer and a White House staffer, Sette offers a lineup of made-in-Italy woven or printed silk ties for power players inside the beltway and beyond. Sette seven folds come in a versatile 3-inch width and are constructed with the exacting standards of old world Italian tie makers. Silks are sourced from the hills of Como, then folded, slip stitched and packaged. Each tie is a unique creation and is part of a limited run of no more than 21. Each is individually numbered, and owners can register them online with Sette. Sette ties don’t come cheap, but the customer service, presentation, and product are arguably worth it.

Other worthwhile stops:

1781 Florida Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20009

Sharing an address with Stüssy, Commonwealth is D.C.’s outpost of the Virginia Beach streetwear king. Source for limited edition footwear, high-end hype like Maiden Noir, and wildcards like Gitman Vintage and Creep by Hiroshi Awai.

Hugh and Crye
3212 O St. NW #5 (between Potomac and Wisconsin)
Washington, DC 20007

DC-based brands fits shirts differently–by body type rather than measurements. Trim, darted cuts and strong colors and patterns dominate. Their bright Georgetown space is shop, laboratory, stockroom, and office all in one.

More recommendations to come in part II.

Chicago shopping guide, part II.

Our first look at men’s shopping in Chicago covered the venerable Oxxford Clothes, hatmaker Optimo and others. Part two has the goods on a #menswear specialist and some more old-school purveyors.

607 N. State St.

One of a bunch of new haberdashers that have emerged onto the scene in the last few years.  I’ve listed their newer store, since it’s a little closer to the rest of the things on this list, but their Old Town location was ahead of the curve, opening its doors in 2005.  If you’re a hardcore #menswear guy, this is going to be Mecca for you.  Alden, 3Sixteen, Filson, Gant, LBM 1911, Steven Alan, and Woolrich are just a few of the oft-lusted-after brands they stock.  There is also EDC shop, next door to the location listed above, which features exclusively footwear, accessories, and grooming products.  All in all, a can’t-miss if you’re in town for a short stay.

Haberdash's State Street digs.


Jack Spade
47 E. Oak St.

Literally just downstairs from Shrine, it would be foolish not to pop in if you’re already on Oak Street.  Jack Spade has only a handfulof stores, most on the East Coast, and offers a great selection of functional basics that are classic without being humdrum.  The briefcases and messenger bags are a personal favorite of mine.  Plus the people who work here are great and really love the brand.  You don’t feel like they’re there to get a paycheck but to share something they love with anyone who will listen.  And that’s what I’m looking for in retail.

Paul Stuart
107 E. Oak St.

One of the most elegant mens stores you’ll find anywhere.  The store is cozy (small, but in a good way), the guys who work there are extremely stylish for the most part, and I unabashedly think Paul Stuart always has some great stuff.  Their giant selection of silk knit ties in a reasonable width, many colors with the option of woven spots, are a standby for me, as are the other colorful accessories.  Tip—their travel umbrellas are a great buy if you need something that looks good but fits in a carry-on bag.  There is also a smaller Paul Stuart on LaSalle, but unless you just want to pop in after a visit to the Art Institute, I recommend going to Oak Street.

Ralph Lauren
750 Michigan Ave.

Sure, you can buy Ralph Lauren stuff pretty much anywhere in the world, including your couch, but his grand stores are undeniably awesome.  This store is actually larger than any of the New York stores, features more than one palatial staircase, all the usual wood paneling and oil paintings, as well as a top-notch selection of vintage goods.  If you’ve been hunting for a 50-year-old Patek in near-perfect condition, look no further.  Also next door is the the RL Restaurant, my favorite re-fueling spot in this part of Chicago.  It lacks the commercial-extortion feel of most restaurants in the Michigan Ave. area, instead feeling like a club in the 1920s.  Service is out of this world, rivaled only by the food.

Aspirational food.


Chicago shopping guide, part I.

Chicago is a pretty classic city. Not classic like London, with its tailoring trade and aristocratic propriety.  And not like Florence, where every cobblestone and sport coat is imbued with history and tradition.  It’s classic in a way that’s equal parts rugged Americana and serious business.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Chicago was at the heart of the American garment trade, and more specifically, the American ready-to-wear menswear explosion.  It was not long ago that men switched over to ready made clothes, and Chicago was a catalyst for that switch—urban legends claim one in three garments in the U.S. passed through Chicago.

But Chicago’s history doesn’t weigh it down. Horween Leather (founded 1905) and Oxxford Clothes (1906) sit alongside newcomers like Haberdash and Optimo Hats.  Chicago’s merchants seem to share a passion for authenticity and giving customers an experience along with a product. Whether it’s a custom-fitted hat from Optimo or a chat about tie patterns with the gents at Shrine Haberdashers, you’re getting service and substance for your money.

Below is a brief guide to what Chicago has to offer the guy looking for the best.  And often the best he can’t get anywhere else.

Oxxford Clothes
1220 W Van Buren St. #7

So this isn’t a store per se, though you can give them a call and set up made-to-measure appointments here.  Oxxford produces arguably the finest factory-made suits around—on par with anything from the better-known Kiton, Attolini, etc.  Honestly, there is more hand-work in an Oxxford suit than in some bespoke suits, although it’s not without its cost.  If you’re a tailoring nut, it’s worth giving them a call and asking if you can drop by to check things out.

Chris Despos
34 E. Oak St.  #3

Chicago used to have a plethora of great bespoke options.  It was just as good, if not better than, New York when it came to fine tailoring.  But things have changed a little in the last two decades.  As far as I know, Chris is the only guy producing a real bespoke suit to Savile Row level standards in Chicago.  This includes cutting a paper pattern for each client, followed by as many fittings as it takes to get things perfect (generally three-ish for a first suit).  He is making me a suit right now, and you can follow the process on Simply Refined to take a look and see if you think it might be for you.

Rack city at Despos.

Optimo Hats
320 S. Dearborn

Optimo is one of the few great hat stores left, not in this country, but in the world.   If you want, they can bust out the torture-device-esque hat measuring tools and build you something from the ground up, custom fitted to you alone.  Or you can always go for an off-the-shelf staple.  The cost is not low, but like a suit or great pair of shoes a proper hat is made to last a lifetime.  I’ve provided their downtown location, but there is also a Southside location for those who would prefer to stay out of the main shopping district.

Shrine Haberdashers
47 E Oak St

This is the other must-see haberdashery in Chicago.  Nestled on the second floor of an Oak Street townhouse, Shrine is a cool mix of off-beat brands you might not have heard of and tried-and-true favorites like Drake’s and WANT.  Ok, so the over-sized rings might not be my thing, but the store really represents the personalities of the guys who run the show.  Stop in, have a chat about clothes, and maybe pick up something that no one else back home will have seen before.  These guys celebrated their first anniversary in November, and here’s wishing them a good sophomore year.

Oak Street Bootmakers

No storefront here.  But the shoes are all designed in Chicago by a second-generation cobbler, made out of Horween’s Chromexcel leather, and feature full welts that allow your shoes to be resoled.  Heads and shoulders above the other camp mocs and work boots you find in most stores.  Prices are competitive.  Order online or give them a call if you need to chat about styles, stock, or anything else.

Part II deals with more classics and more newcomers.

Stephen Pulvirent also writes at his blog, Simply Refined.