Looking around Pitti, I wanted to photograph the people that were more visually interesting to me. Sometimes, those were characters who bordered on the absurd. But in general, my goal was to photograph those who I felt would be more interesting to users of Styleforum, people who tended to have a more conservative or classic aesthetic.Continue reading
Back in the day, Esquire magazine stalwartly carried the torch of classic black tie. One of my favorite writers of that era, John Berendt, grew up in Syracuse, New York, not far from one of the first appearances of the tuxedo. Almost immediately after graduating from Harvard, he became an associate editor of Esquire from 1961 to 1969 and continued to contribute from 1982 to 1994, when his book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was published. Many of his columns begrudgingly acknowledge trends while scornfully piss on what he calls “atrocities.” A particularly funny one is when he took umbrage with some of the spirited choices his contemporaries passed off as acceptable black tie. After observing that the first two public exhibitions of Henry Poole’s dinner jacket in America caused quite a stir, he wrote:
“I mention these two episodes…to make the point that, historically, there has never been much tolerance for individual touches when it comes to formal attire. And properly so–if not for the sake of tradition, than because for some reason the classic model is almost always debased rather than improved by innovation….But in a perverse sort of way we can be grateful to them because of what they reveal about the wearer’s level of taste.”Classics: The Tuxedo, from Esquire, January 1983
For about 100 years, the classic black tie model has remained more or less the same, and is fairly straightforward: the suit itself can be black or midnight blue wool. As for the jacket, the most formal is single breasted peak lapel, and happens to be the most flattering one. Your shirt, which is always white, should be the quintessential marcella bib with two or three studs. A wing collar would have been the first choice a century ago, but nowadays a soft turndown collar has become the norm. Pleated shirts are fine, but I find they go better with peak lapels in a double breasted jacket or shawl collars in either configuration. A notch collar is acceptable, but has the tendency to look more waiter than waited on. Your bow tie, which should never be pre-tied and always in front of your shirt collar, can be in either black silk satin or grosgrain. Ideally the same material should be repeated in the lapel facings, buttons, and a single stripe down the trouser’s outside seam. Your waist should be covered by a double breasted jacket, a formal black waistcoat, or a cummerbund that matches your tie. Shoes are black oxfords or opera pumps in patent leather, although either in properly shined calf leather is a fine alternative. Hosiery is black silk.
Once you have a tuxedo in any of the above, you can start to go crazy – a little – for less ceremonious affairs. An easy way to do this is by simply swapping the top. An off-white jacket is a fine choice for daytime or if you happen to find yourself on a boat. On informal occasions, such as a party in someone’s home, a velvet smoking jacket in deep jewel tones is a louche option, or plaid if you’re feeling particularly festive. In these cases, lapels should never be notched, and facings can be in black silk or in the same color and material as the jacket, depending on how shiny you wish to be. If you feel especially casual, you can swap your courtly footwear for slippers in silk or velvet in black.
There are other options, of course, but listed above are already a dozen or so that will take you everywhere from the opera to the stag party. With the proviso that you have them all already and are exceptionally popular with a calendar bursting with fancy engagements, just don’t. Unless you’re Andy57.
Andy Poupart is a self-professed romantic that loves black tie more than anyone I know. His job, like most of us, doesn’t pit him against secret agents or nefarious megalomaniacs, but if it did, he’d be ready for the part. His black tie closet includes:
- Straight-ahead, classic, by-the-book, black, peak lapel, grosgrain facings, single-breasted dinner jacket, with matching trousers, cummerbund, and U-front waistcoat
- Midnight blue, shawl lapel, midnight blue satin silk facings, single breasted jacket, with matching trousers, cummerbund, and U-front waistcoat
- Ivory, self-faced, double-breasted shawl lapel jacket
- Deep bottle green velvet, black grosgrain facings and cuffs, shawl lapel, single breasted jacket
- Thai silk, red, self-faced, peak lapel, single breasted jacket
To accompany these, he has socks in black and midnight blue silk, two shirts each in white and ivory, all with soft turndown collars and marcella fronts, several sets of studs and links, a butterfly and diamond point bowtie in black grosgrain, another in black mogodor, a fourth in midnight blue satin silk, and black patent leather oxfords. If that sounds like overkill, be assured Andy has worn every piece in his armory many times over, and has his eyes set on a few more. “I keep thinking about a burgundy double-breasted jacket in a fantastic wool/silk velvet,” he grins.
Although all of his outfits are excellent, Andy reckons his favorite is the ivory dinner jacket. “I designed it after Humphrey Bogart’s in Casablanca. When I wear it, I’m a 1940s gun-runner, one step ahead of the bad guys, with places to go and things to do that you can’t be any part of, but we’ll always have Paris. Oh, and a martini in one hand.”
“I know that all sounds silly, but I don’t care,” he states. “It’s how I can express the side my personality that I want to portray. I think that when we get dressed, in any sort of clothes, we are telling a story about ourselves, how we wish to appear to the world. When I wear black tie, I feel I’m presenting the best me.”
I have to catch up to Andy – I’ve got a few black tie rigs myself, but alas, no velvet yet.
You can wait until the invitation requests it, or you can do like Andy and where it wherever you want. To be honest, even a black trash bag is better than not trying at all, but as long as you’re trying, you might as well do it right. To that end, try your best to follow John Berendt’s sage words:
“My advice is to stick with the classic unless you happen to have a tailor with the prescience of a Henry Poole. And the odds are you do not.”
For what is probably the biggest, most awesomest collection of classic black tie, check out Voxsartoria’s blog. But you knew tha
As soon as sweater season rolls around, you can be sure to see menswear guys post pictures of Steve McQueen in Bullitt and caption it with “mood.” It’s a no-brainer, the turtleneck look is absolutely killer and has gone on to influence countless gents around the world. Not only is it stylish, but it’s pretty practical and is perhaps one of the easiest things a guy can wear due to its minimalistic, yet sharp look. The best part is that no shirt or tie is necessary (unless you really want to wear them, despite them not being seen).
Now, most people know the progression of the turtleneck thanks for the copied content across different blogs. Some of the more romantic bloggers say that knights wore one of the first variations, an undershirt to protect themselves against their chainmail and armor. It then was adopted as a sweater, no doubt to keep the wearer warm and to prevent the need for a scarf, which featured an extended neck. Then, they briefly touch on Noel Coward before ultimately landing at the 1960s and later, calling it the uniform of the anti-establishment, citing beatniks, the Beatles, Steve McQueen, and Steve Jobs. This alone should be enough to point you in the direction of this loved sweater. If not, that’s why I’m here.
More personalities than people imagine wore the turtleneck back in the Golden Era. You could find it across everyone from film actors to the naval officers to even university students. In general, the chunkier turtleneck (whether plain weave or in the cable knit) was the main one worn, no doubt due to it’s more utilitarian nature. The finer weaves were reserved for loungewear at home rather than to be worn out. Early pictures and advertisements will have the turtleneck done in bold block stripes or with embroidered years or motifs, something that seems to have been lost today. Still, many guys back then wore them on their own or with full tailoring.
Inspiration can be found across all eras. While everyone likes to bring up Clark Gable and Noel Coward for Golden Era moods, one of my favorite has to be a 1910s illustration of a student wearing a cream roll neck with a stingy billed cap, grey flannels, and opera pumps. Pretty rakish, but I’m sure that it provides plenty of inspiration for your own outfits. I also have found photographs of the Prince of Wales wearing one with jodhpurs and the beret combo from an old archive of 1930’s European family pictures.
The 1960s-1970s definitely reflected the shift away from mainly utilitarian use and more as a true replacement for the shirt and tie combo. The chunky cable knit ones were still in play, but it’s the thinner, finely woven ones that took the spotlight. These newer turtlenecks were more form-fitting, echoing the trends in the mod and disco phases. Now they were available in much more than dark navy, black, or cream: you could now see them in saturated colors and earth tones. Though they were a classic item, they were definitely a trend during this era.
In some cases, the growth of their popularity was indeed a rejection of corporate culture (think artists and musicians) as other people have noted. In others, it’s more of a futuristic fashion trend that negates the need to think too much about shirts and ties. For example, a solid turtleneck will contrast or help mute a tailored outfit making for a sharp, minimalistic look. Even if you were against neckwear from the beginning, you could achieve a more formal vibe with a turtleneck than if you simply wore an OCBD and a crew neck sweater; this is all thanks to the high, closed neck that subtly harkens back to the tunics worn by royalty back in the day. Michael Caine even doubled down on this “high neck closure” by wearing it with a double-breasted suit.
Looking back now, we have a plethora of different examples to follow if you want to rock the turtleneck. Obviously the most common is that minimal 1960’s look with a nice, slim finely woven variation. It’s not a bad look, as it looks fantastic with most tailoring and serves as the starting out point for many. Navy blue is probably the best choice to get since it will work across a variety of outfits, but you could always experiment with something in light browns or burgundies/yellows to evoke the earthy palette of the 1970s. It especially helps when you feel like the patterns in your suit or sportcoat are too loud and need a bit of grounding. If you want to go for that look, I suggest looking at merino wool, since it’s supposed to be ultra fine in its texture. Luckily, you can find these at most stores like Uniqlo and J. Crew at a great value. There’s nothing wrong with experimenting with the different colors they offer (pairing it with simple grey trousers is great), but keep in mind that they won’t be as versatile as the navy or black ones.
Despite the fact that I live in California and merino are the only pieces I can wear without vigorously sweating, I definitely have a soft spot for looks that incorporate chunky turtlenecks. These make more sense if you’re wearing selvedge denim, heavy peacoats, double-riders, and scratchy tweed. It feels a bit more nautical and workwear-focused, that’s for sure, but I’ve always been a fan of a more rugged take on tailoring. Cream is probably the way to go, but soft greys and intricate weaves or even fair isle patterns can also work. North Sea Clothing is a place to consider if you want a solid wool one that echoes the traditional maritime ones, complete with a wide ribbing on the neck, cuffs, and hem. Lambswool variations can be found at Drake’s (whose latest lookbook has plenty of turtleneck ideas) while the cashmere ones can be found anywhere from Uniqlo, Todd Snyder (at $300), and at Berluti ($1000+). I personally wish they made heavy guage in cotton for warmer climates, but a guy can dream!
Overall, I really recommend that you guys try the turtleneck out if you haven’t already. The utilitarian benefits are clearly there, but I like the added bonus of being able to look sharp without having to wear a tie or even a shirt. While I like that this “throwback” piece of clothing has stuck around, I just hope that the horrid v-neck sweater/turtleneck hybrid doesn’t make a return appearance. That simply belongs in the mid-1960s and should stay there forever.
Even though I find myself drawn further and further into the world of contemporary classic menswear, I don’t think I’ll ever leave vintage behind. It’s less about cosplay or wanting to live vicariously in a different age, but it’s more about getting certain details that I wouldn’t be able to find or afford otherwise.
If you’re familiar with my blog or social media, you’ll know that I attempt to bring vintage pieces into a modern context, making them wearable-yet-eccentric pieces. I decided to write about a couple of my most interesting pieces in today’s article and a bit about where I got them.
If you’re new to thrifting and vintage shopping, check out this Guide to Thrift Shopping
Outerwear is probably the easiest one to incorporate since it usually functions as a finishing layer for an outfit. If you go on eBay or get lucky at your local goodwill/vintage store, chances are you’ll find something interesting. One of my most favorite pieces of outerwear is a 1940’s, single-breasted overcoat, made from a brown wool with an extremely faint green windowpane. Made by Curlee Clothiers (a sought after yesteryear brand by collectors), it is half-lined and has a long length, two details seldom seen on modern overcoats. It’s served me during this past California winter and definitely did its job when I visited NYC last December. It really was a lucky purchase at one of the LA vintage stores I frequent; they had just put it out when I walked in!
Another random find was my 1950’s brown leather double rider at the Dapper Day Expo, a community event that celebrates classic style at venues like Disneyland and LACMA. Unlike other 50’s jackets, the one I found was cropped short, lacked any epaulets or “punk” elements, and was generally similar to the ones found in the 1930’s. Despite it looking rather 1930’s to my eyes, the dealer said that due to the nitty gritty details (buttons/zipper/labels) itthe jacket was actually made in the 1950s, making it was way more affordable than a 1930’s buco. In the fall, it has been my go-to casual jacket, perfect to wear with turtlenecks, denim, and flannels.
Wearable vintage tailoring (like jackets and trousers) is a bit harder to find, especially if you’re used to getting things custom, but there are still times when you come across something cool. From Paper Moon, I was able to obtain a pair of 1950’s chocolate brown nubby rayon trousers. Thanks to their full cut and interesting fabric, they make a great summer trouser that is just a bit different than a regular linen or cotton pair. For trousers, I couldn’t pass up a lightweight flannel cinch back, made for college students in the 1950’s when cinch-back chinos were a short fad. You can thank eBay for that one!
One stand out piece that I almost always gets a fun comment is my 1930’s belt back jacket. It’s made in USA, out of a soft, broken-in white linen that has soft construction, making it widely different than a majority of the tailoring in the same era. Despite the bi-swing back and the fact that it’s ventless, it comes across as very contemporary on account of its subtle waist suppression, natural shoulder, and relatively normal sized lapel. It’s become one of my favorite pieces to wear in the summer. It was actually a lucky bid on eBay as similar jackets go for high amounts while it only cost me $200 years ago, purchased with my first paid internship income. I’ll always wonder if it simply passed under other collectors’ radars.
Apart from that linen jacket, I also have a few 1940’s Palm Beach garments: a jacket purchased from Reese’s Vintage Pieces (a guy with the biggest non-warehouse stock, selling out of his Pomona home) and a full suit sold by a theater wardrobe on eBay. This material is inherently special due to the fact that the patented PB fabric (a mix of wool, cotton, and mohair) is no longer in production after the brand was sold and the factory closed; for future reference, anything Palm Beach post-1950s isn’t the original fabric. It’s not really an open weave, but it drapes well and wears pretty cool, offering up a heartier alternative to normal cotton jackets. Like my linen jacket, my PB jackets softly tailored (perhaps even more so) and fit really well with a more contemporary wardrobe. The small detailing like swelled edges, lapel width/shape, and button stance offer the vintage charm that you can’t really find anywhere other than a willing custom tailor. My odd jacket gets plenty of wear, while the full suit (and it’s full cut) only get worn during more appropriate events.
In addition to these summer jackets, I think the obvious “unique” pieces are my collection of tweed sack jackets obtained from eBay, Etsy, and NYC’s own Sean Crowley. Not many affordable makers make interesting checks and plaids in soft shoulders and 3-roll-2 stance, so vintage is always my go-to for fun cold weather jackets. Two are from Brooks: a 1960’s grey/blue plaid and a 1970’s light brown/red plaid. The grey might get more wear than the brown due to the silhouette differences, but my favorite has to be my green check one. There’s no way I’d be able to find something similar without going bespoke. I just can’t wait for it to be cold again!
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the smaller stuff like my sweaters and ties. I have two 1930’s sweaters (that have seen better days) that I think are completely different than the knitwear you find today. Not only do they have a shorter length, which is necessary for high waisted trousers, but there is something about the specific colors and design that mark it something that only vintage could create. There are also a few fun Cuban collar/sport shirts that have gotten plenty of wear during this past hot summer season.
As for my ties, I generally cycle between 1960’s reps and 1930’s brocades, but my favorite one has to be this fantastic blue abstract print/foulard. It was actually apart of a lot of ties I purchased from a local vintage guy; I didn’t even expect to love it as much as I did! Like most ties of the era, it has a short length (again, great for high rise trousers) and a more shapely blade, ending in an untipped edge resulting in a lightweight, unique tie that is unlike any other out there. I often have to stop myself from wearing it too often, not just to prevent repeat outfits, but to ensure that it lasts as long as possible. One of the reasons I love it is how similar it looks to the tie’s you’d expect from Drake’s.
In reality–like many things in life–my favorite vintage pieces are usually the most recent ones that I’ve acquired. It’s always nice to have something that’s a little bit different than the staples that most people tend to recommend, coming with a unique buying experience that feels rewarding after careful hunting. Whether you get a vintage leather jacket, overcoat, or even just a tie, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Do you have any fun vintage pieces yourselves? Let us know by commenting below!
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The first pair of “raw” denim jeans I saw that were not my father’s Levi’s Orange tabs ($29.95 at Zellers back in 1980) were Helmut Lang’s “Narrow” and “Straight” cuts, which I stumbled across the Beverly Hills Barneys in 1998. The hems of both seemed improbably tight and unfashionable to me at that time, when 16-18” hems were the norm, and the $300+ price was prohibitive to a graduate student without a trust fund.
A few years later, the North American premium denim movement, which started in LA, where the bulk of denim manufacturing is located, began in earnest. My personal favorites were Scott Morrison’s first brand, Paper Denim & Cloth, which was revolutionary for its time; and Levi’s Premium, among the first of Levi’s many attempts to gain a fresh foothold in the new fashion landscape. In the early 2000s Scandinavian brands, led by Nudie, gained a following in North America, helped by representation from the super agency WANT. During my honeymoon in Spain, finding Nudies in Madrid was a major goal, and I dragged my new wife on a several-hour walk just to find the small boutiques I was interested in – I know that more of you sympathize with this than would care to. ACNE (also represented by WANT) were the next to gain popularity in the US. My Norwegian friends told me that in Scandinavia, Nudie were for the douche-bro crowd, and ACNE was the jean of choice for the less objectionable, but my loyalty to Nudie – at this point ingrained – didn’t waver.
These were all gateway drugs to the Japanese denim that had been popular in Japan a decade earlier. In usual form the States were a decade behind, but our interests were stoked by retailers like Self Edge and Blue in Green, who were as much a product of the times as they were the flag bearers. Like everyone else swept up in the trend, I agonized over shrinking, stretching, and the much-sought-after wear marks, which Babelfish awesomely translated from the Japanese as “vertical falling.” Those were heady days for the raw denim crowd. Ultimately, I came to the realization – as did all of my denim-nerd peers – that forcing yourself to wait six months before washing a pair of jeans is madness. I always thought that the sizing-down-so-that-the-jeans-stretch-out stance was a terrible idea, so I didn’t have to learn that lesson at the cost of the months – even years – of testicular pain, that so many others paid.
Today, my denim collection resembles an archaeological dig site that spans the past 15 years and has its beginning with the premium denim trend of the very early 00s. And while I am sure that my preferences will continue to evolve, I’m at the point at which comfort, or at the very least, not-extreme-discomfort, will always be a consideration. This means that the recommendations below have some breathing room through the seat front and thighs, and hit comfortably at the hipbone. Since tapered is still the standard, both are slimmer from the knee down. Generally, I like the feeling of heft in my jeans – no paper-light stretchy jeggings for me – but super heavy jeans are never all that comfortable, so jeans between 13.5 and 17 ounces, light enough to be nimble, heavy enough to have some real power, hit that sweet spot.
If you’ve got big thighs, check out this article on Jeans for Men with Big Thighs
“Slim tapered” jeans from Big John’s “Rare” line have the minimalist trappings of designer jeans – a plain, midnight blue, deerskin indigo back patch, a placketless fly, and no gratuitous branding; and they are cut not unlike the Helmut Lang jeans that I used to think were too narrow at the hem, with a mid-rise and a tapered leg. But they are made from inky “Ransei” denim (meaning “king of denims”), which is the highest quality denim made by Japan’s “first” Americana-inspired denim brand and is designed to fade in an extremely attractive manner. I hesitate to describe them as versatile, since that’s only a few steps away from suggesting that they will go from “the boardroom to the bar,” but I will say that all of the very different people to whom I’ve recommended them have liked them.
The other pair I frequently wear are even more of an amalgam of the trends of the last fifteen years than the Big Johns: a collaborative project (collaborations went from novel to ubiquitous between 2003 and 2006) from American retailer Blue Owl and Japanese manufacturer Momotaro; the very precisely-named (and discontinued) BOM005 (the closest analog is now the BOM008). The “modern,” mid-rise, tapered cut is borrowed from its sister brand, Japan Blue, and the heavy denim appeals to both denimheads and fashion customers alike, with weft threads (the colored threads in a jean) that are nearly black when first worn, and fade to a dark indigo with wear. They also have a black leather patch – plain or tonal patches seem to be popular with the minimalist set these days – and instead of the typical contrast stitching, the thread is tonal save for the single line of pink running along the inseam.
These two pairs take me through most days. Not a decade ago, I would have recommended a much lower rise, tighter jean, possibly in the heavier denim. Those cuts and weights still exist, and there is always a race towards the heaviest possible denim, but as a retailer once said about super heavy (18-ounce and greater) denim, “that’s for kids.” I do have a pair of 23-ounce jeans that I wear when I get nostalgic for the age of sick fades, though. Jeans, after all, are about the memories.
Fedoras will always get a bad rap, despite being a fully functional and stylish accessory. It’s probably due to the infamous status of “vintage hat”, gracing the heads of Golden Era illustrations, period films, and your latest Gatsby party (it should be noted that the story takes place in the early 1920s, and the fedora hat reached the peak in popularity in the mid-to-late 20s). The stigma is hard to shake, and I’ll even admit that a fedora hat is one of the few things I can’t really bring myself to wear often, despite being a vintage enthusiast. But that’s changed in recent history.
In my free time, I’ve hung out and shot with Cody Wellema, a hatmaker the California suburb of Pasadena. He is completely self-taught and has gone from fulfilling orders in his apartment to opening up a storefront in a building that has existed since the 1920s. Our friendship led him to develop more of an appreciation for classic menswear, while he has shown me a different side to fedoras. When looking at the old pictures of Jimmy Stewart or even candid pictures of regular Golden Era people, he noted that these people wore their clothes (and hats) naturally. They weren’t trying to put on a certain look, as some guys do today. Wearing a fedora at the time was the same as wearing a bucket hat or a beanie today; you sport it with a suit on a hot day or with a chambray shirt when working. Back in the day, there wasn’t a concern about being dapper.
A couple of guys follow this same mantra. The guys at Bryceland’s are one great example. As I’ve noted before, they have a vintage-meets-modern sartorial/workwear style where the fedora comes in perfectly. Both their personal hats and RTW stock are made by Wellema, which you can see them wear across their social media. They really wear them with everything, from tailoring to rayon shirts to 1950’s pin-up print tees. It might be a bit too bold for some, but it’s definitely miles ahead of any gangster cosplay. Seeing them do it well, in addition to my many conversations and pictures with Cody, really inspired me to get some made for myself. I currently own two Wellemas, a dressy grey and my own take on the brown fedora; they have seen more wear in recent history.
Yet Bryceland’s isn’t the only ones who wear it. You can see a bunch of people do it during the F/W Pitti. Drake’s featured a floppy brimmed one a few seasons ago. Like pleats, established gentlemen continue to wear it while the like-minded younger generation is seeing the appeal. At no point does it look like a costume or something affected. With the tucked tie before it, it simply takes confidence in your look. But even before that, it takes careful consideration to find the one that suits you.
Like with shoulder styles, lapel width, and jacket length, you need to pay attention to your proportions.
Fedoras vary widely in terms of crown height/shape and brim width, with some combined details bringing specific eras to mind. You don’t always have to play to your facial structure, but at least be conscious of the look you’re projecting. Once the shape of your hat has been determined, you should also decide on the ribbon width: wider ribbons with a bow are more formal whereas thin ones are more “western” and casual. The same can be said for brim treatment; a snap front and upturned back are more traditional and having it up all around is more dressed down.
Color is personal preference, but you really can’t go wrong with a grey or brown, with the latter as my personal favorite despite the ever-present imagined Indiana Jones archetype. Contrasting your hat with your outfit is definitely needed, as to not appear matchy-matchy. A grey fedora works well with a brown suit or navy suit, while brown works especially well with grey or green. For me, I think that grey becomes a bit too formal; brown tends to work better with denim as well as a flannel suit. I’ve also seen the tan/silverbelly one grow increasingly popular since it subverts a lot of people’s expectations over the fedora. You’ll see that in the album I’ll include below.
Lastly, it just stands to say that fedoras are more of a fall/winter item. Due to the “structure”, it creates for your head, it really works best with a fuller cut suit. I don’t mean that you have to wear a 1940’s draped suit, but keep in mind that a close hugging jacket and skinny pants won’t cut it. The idea is to be relaxed in your clothing. Adding coats, sweaters, and scarves also help add to this proportion building, as to not make your head/hat appear too wide.
Here are a couple of places that I think have some great fedoras other than getting a vintage one from eBay or vintage store.
Cody Wellema makes each hat by hand, making him one of the few bespoke hatmakers in the US. He doesn’t have a house style, which means that you can ask him to do anything you want, whether it’s something period authentic or original. He is a wealth of knowledge and a perfect gentleman, who is dedicated to making the hat you want thanks to his enormous collection of hat blocks and vintage ribbons. It is a bespoke service, so it works best if you go in person to get measured (with late 1800s equipment) and consult on the details. He’s done things as crazy as burn distressing to indigo dyed felt! The lead time is a 6-8 weeks since they are done by hand, but it’s completely worth it to have a hat that’s entirely custom and made with the highest quality.
The Armoury fedora is similar to the Stoffa one, in that the crown is unblocked, allowing it to be styled to its owner’s preference. The brim is 3”, which is a bit too much for my taste (I prefer a sub 2.5” at most), but that just means it looks especially rakish and is sure to protect you from the elements. The ribbon is thin, which makes it easy to wear casually.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Borsalino and Stetson, who are perhaps the biggest brand name hatmakers in the world. I will admit that I have no real experience with these apart from true vintage models (which even then were some of the highest quality on the market), but I’m sure that there are many out there who are pleased with their modern hats. The Borsalino Traveller and the Stratoliner are probably my picks of the bunch, though the colors available aren’t the most versatile. I’d also suggest leaving the feather at home.
The Stoffa hats are like a combination of a fedora and the original panama hats: they can actually be rolled up! The brand is all about making things more accessible and natural, so these soft felt fedoras lack a ribbon in order to help them float the line between casual and formal. The felt is extremely pliable, so you can style the brim and crown anyway you like. It’s a great one for guys unsure of wearing the traditional fedora, but still want to don one.
So, you’re starting a new job and don’t want to go to work naked–or worse yet, dressed unprofessionally. This discussion will be aimed at getting you into something professional, attractive and appropriate: in other words, a complete business wardrobe.
This is not a piece on how to be “the best-dressed guy in the office.” Rather, this will help you “look nice” for work every day, whatever that means in the context of your office environment. If you’re at the very beginning of your journey, you might want to check out our guide to buying your first suit, and the perfect business attire before diving into this guide.
There are basically two kinds of professional dress codes. Either your work environment dictates, or at least allows, you to wear a suit and tie some/most of the time, or it doesn’t. I’ll use “business casual” to describe all of the environments in this latter category, which range from jeans to polos and khakis to blazers and button-downs.
This encompasses a wide range of modes of dress. As the decline of the suit (relative to 50 years ago) is the main source of male confusion over what to wear, it would be impossible to clarify everything in a single post. But if you find yourself lost, look around you for direction, notice what your coworkers wear for a couple of weeks before buying a whole new wardrobe.
The two best ways to look nicer without looking too “dressed up” are to have clothes that fit you well, and to upgrade your footwear. A common mistake is to buy clothes that are too big. The shoulder seam of your shirts – be they polos or dress shirts, should approximately line up with your own shoulders. Your pants should have little to no “break” around the ankles, and should sit above your hips, within an inch or two of your belly button. Pant length is easily altered, but you may have to try a couple of different makers before finding a trouser that fits you correctly in the seat and thighs.
In an office of polos, you can wear a well-fitting oxford cloth button down and look better without being overdressed. With the advent of online tailors, getting dress shirts that fit is cheaper than ever before, although it may take a couple of iterations with your tailor before the fit is just right. Starting at less than $100, you can have shirts made for you so that they won’t be billowy around the arms and midsection. Luxire and Spier & MacKay are places to start with good reputations. If you do buy ready-made shirts, any tailor can take in the shirt and put darts in for around $15-20.
For some reason, quality of footwear is virtually uncorrelated with the formality of clothing in modern male dress. Walking around the streets of today’s cities, you’ll see men in suits wearing rubber-soled slip-ons, as well as men in jeans wearing nicely polished leather-soled oxford dress shoes. As a result, you can wear nicer shoes with almost any outfit and not be overdressed. Wearing quality, well-cared-for shoes with your business casual outfit will significantly improve your appearance without seeming pretentious or out of place. As an added bonus, women notice shoes.
About the only shoe most men should have that might look “too dressy” is the black oxford cap-toe, although even this can still be worn with business casual. Since you’ll need this kind of shoe for more formal occasions like weddings, funerals, and job interviews anyway, it’s a good one to have. Just don’t wear it with your more casual clothes. After that, you can add some wingtips, brogues, and/or loafers.
[For more information about what shoes to get and how to care for them, check out Mitch’s article on versatile shoes]
If you’re wearing a business suit and tie to work every day, then you have a more closely prescribed form of dress. Let’s start off with:
Hopefully, you’ve got one or two navy and/or charcoal suits from prior to your interview process. If you’ve only got one, first thing to do is buy another. You don’t want to be wearing the same suit every day. Suits benefit from a day of rest after wear, and you may have to send one to the cleaners at some point. Although while we’re on that subject, unless you spill something, you shouldn’t need to dry clean suits often at all. Once a season (every few months) is plenty.
Eventually, you’ll want to get to at least 5 suits if you’re wearing one every day of the work week. Once you have 3 or 4 solid suits, maybe a medium gray, a navy, and a charcoal, you can branch out into a pinstripe or a subtle glen plaid for a slightly more casual look.
The reasons to start off with solids are that they go with every shirt and tie you have, so you don’t have to be limited to one particular suit once you get to laundry day, and they are less memorable to the people you see every day. If you have a pinstripe suit and a windowpane suit people will realize pretty quickly that you own exactly two suits. You could own two solid navy suits and no one will ever think twice about it. In fact, some of the best-dressed men in modern history have worn nothing but navy suits.
Finally, although they are common in American businesswear, the consensus on SF–and indeed among most menswear writers and stylish gentlemen throughout history–is to avoid black suits except for funerals. Black in the daylight flatters very few complexions. Instead, it should be left to evening wear.
Here are some styling pitfalls to avoid for a business suit: you don’t want anything that looks flashy or too distinctive. Practice moderation in the width of the lapels, which should approximately half-way to your shoulder. Leave the “shrunken,” too-tight look to the runways of fashion shows. Stick to notch lapels until you are more confident in your understanding of professional standards.
Start off by finding yourself a shirtmaker. These days, you can get a custom-made dress shirt for less than $100, which will fit you better and therefore look better than most of the $300 dress shirts you could find at your local upscale department store.
Start off with three white shirts, three light blue shirts, in varying weaves if you like, then a couple more in a conservative pattern, perhaps a stripe and a microcheck. This will give you enough shirts that you can make it through the week before needing to get any shirts laundered. If you decide you like light blue shirts more than white, get only one or two white shirts. A light blue shirt will be formal enough for most occasions, so you needn’t worrying about being underdressed in such a shirt. Most people do, however, suggest that white shirts are particularly attractive in the evening, and are the most appropriate for funerals. Check out some quality shirts here for inspiration.
As you’ll be wearing these shirts with a tie, the shape and dimensions of the collar are especially important. Although you’ll see many men walking around with “point collar” dress shirts where the points finish before the jacket lapel begins, this is frowned upon by most stylish suit-and-tie wearers. Instead, the points of the shirt collar should reach under and be hidden by the jacket lapels. If you’re American, you can wear button-down collar shirts (whose points will not be hidden underneath the jacket) with your suits. In other parts of the world, button-down collars are considered too sporty to be worn with suits.
Here is the most extravagant element of the suit and tie outfit. While the suit and shirt are sober wool and cotton there to cover your body, the tie is a nicely colored piece of luxurious silk that is purely decorative. The virtue of these boring suits and shirts is that they will look attractive with any tie that is attractive on its own. As such, the tie is the main thing you change from day to day to break up the monotony of navy suits and white shirts.
That said, if you’re going for a business look, you still don’t want your tie to be “loud”. No fuchsia, no lime green, no exploding fireworks, nothing bedazzled. For solid colors, texture is key, so grenadine ties or highly textured weaves work well. For some inspiration check out this soporific tie collection. Most tie-wearing men will have at least one or two ties with navy as their basic color. A starting wardrobe of 12 ties might contain:
- Two navy solids (a grenadine, for instance)
- Two other solids (perhaps a forest green or a burgundy)
- One glen plaid or shepherd’s check in black and white or navy and white
- One houndstooth
- Two pindot ties
- Two “neats” – small, evenly spaced designs
- Two repp stripe
This is just a suggestion. Buy ties you like. All ties should be between 2.75” and 3.75” in width. Which side of this spectrum you tend towards should depend on your own width. Choosing colors that reflect the colors of your eyes and hair is likely to be beneficial. Lighter color ties (pale yellows for instance) are more difficult to wear effectively.
If you want to fill your tie wardrobe quickly and cheaply, and you have the patience to go through the Buying & Selling section of SF, you’ll frequently find good ties in the $50 range. Once you get to the $75-100 range you can look into places like SF affiliates Vecchio Anseatico, Kent Wang, and Vanda Fine Clothing.
Without question, this is the most neglected area of the typical American man’s wardrobe. And without quality footwear, an otherwise impeccable suit-and-tie combination immediately looks slovenly. A proper dress shoe has a leather sole and is classically shaped so that it is neither square-toed nor extremely pointy-toed. If you have the money for it (again, check eBay or the Buy&Sell forum) the “upper” (the non-sole part of the shoe) should be made of full-grain, not corrected-grain (sanded down and filled in to have a specific texture for the grain), leather. New full-grain looks better than new corrected-grain, but more importantly, over time properly maintained full-grain will develop a patina and look better and better, while corrected-grain will look worse and worse.
Outside of Britain, brown shoes are fully appropriate for business-suit-and-tie, although within Britain, only black is complet, ly correct. Black is also completely correct everywhere else.
A good place to start is with one black and one brown pair. If you only needed shoes for work, two brown pairs would be fine, but having at least one pair of black shoes means you are prepared for more formal situations such as job interviews, weddings, and funerals. This black shoe should probably be an oxford cap-toe. For the other, you could get wingtips, derbys, longwings, as you see fit. Adding a medallion or other broguing decreases the formality of the shoe, and therefore probably shouldn’t be one of your only two business shoes.
There’s a reason you should start with two pairs. Dress shoes need to rest in between wearings in order to have a long, happy, life. Proper care for dress shoes entails:
- 24 hours rest between taking off and putting back on
- Use of shoe trees when not being worn (especially for the first 24 hours after wearing, as the shoes dry out)
- Periodic conditioning and polishing
[For further details on conditioning and polishing, see the official shoe care thread]
The entry-level shoe brand to what most SF members would consider a real quality dress shoe would be Allen Edmonds. You can find AE “seconds” (shoes with very slight defects) for as little as $200. “Firsts” go for around $300. Below AE would be brands like Johnson and Murphy, Cole Haan, and Florsheim. Most of these shoes will have corrected-grain leather, and will not be Goodyear-welted. However, there are at least some models that are classically styled. Kenneth Cole and Aldo are among the most abhorred brands on SF, as their construction is shoddy and their styling hideous.
Check out these popular shoe threads:
This article is an edited version of an article published on Styleforum.net by Shawea.
When we think of tailoring, the suit is usually what first comes to mind. In fact, the suit is so synonymous with tailoring in the popular lexicon that even if you’re wearing a blazer with odd pants, you’ll almost certainly be told “nice suit.” Of course we know better, and if you follow my posts on Styleforum or my personal blog, you’ll know that I rarely wear suits. My personal preference is for tailored odd jackets and trousers. I love suits and absolutely would wear them every single day if my job or other circumstances necessitated it. As it is, however, I have flexibility in what I wear for work, and I like the versatility of odd jackets.
But in practice, I’m pretty repetitive with my jacket-trouser combination choices. In the warm months, the choices differ from the cold months, but the principle is the same: I basically rotate the same 3-4 pairs of pants with basically every jacket I own.
In that light, here are the four pairs of trousers I find easiest to pair with my tailored jackets in the summer:
1—Mid-Gray trousers in some form of lightweight, breathable wool
My personal preference for this category is fresco, because it keeps its shape and is so hard-wearing (which is a boon for trousers). Fresco is a trademarked name for a specific weave developed by Minnis, but many different mills have developed their own version of the cloth. It stays cool by being open-weave, but it keeps its shape by having tightly-woven yarns. There are other weaves, of course. I owned a pair of gray summer weight hopsack trousers once, which also wore fairly cool. But I ultimately did not like how they draped on me—too loosey goosey. Tropical wool is kind of a catch-all term that means lightweight wool meant to be worn in the warmer months. I say: stick with Fresco if you’re unable to examine the cloth in real life to know if you’ll like it.
2—Off-white trousers in whatever fabric you like
I personally go for cotton-linen blend trousers in off-white for summer, because I can wash them. But off-white wool trousers work, too, but I have a personal aversion to them. I have this very specific memory of a used car salesman who had a very 1970s vibe wearing some (honestly they were probably polyester) with a yellow shirt, selling my parents a 1989 Mercury Sable that turned out to be an absolute lemon of a car. That, and I am too cheap to dry clean unless I absolutely have to. But I fully endorse off-white trousers in whatever fabric floats your boat. They literally go with everything (tan jackets, tobacco/cigar jackets, dark brown jackets, navy jackets, green jackets, the list goes on).
3—Warm khaki cotton chinos
Go toward dressier versions that hold a crease and have either an unfinished seam or a finely finished seam, and you’ll look better for the office. Broken-in, more rugged chinos also can work well with a tailored jacket but will look out of place if you’re trying to dress them up more. For instance, I wouldn’t wear polished calf leather shoes with broken-in chinos, nor would I wear a tie. But with a creased pair of chinos, I’d wear both no problem. I personally think the warmer khaki tones are the most attractive—British khaki, copper, caramel, whatever the retailer you find them at calls them. I prefer its warmth over standard khaki, which is a dustier, more faded tan. That has its place, too, of course (I personally think it works best in the broken-in configuration, worn with a beaten-up OCBD or navy polo shirt).
4—Dark or slightly faded-looking denim
Dark jeans have ruled menswear for a decade or more, and I’m pretty sure there are more selvedge denim companies than there are Styleforum members. There’s a good reason for that: they are more flattering on more body types than faded jeans and worn out at night they look dressy enough to make an outfit feel put together. The lighter you go, the closer you get to the dad-jean territory, or rancher territory, or miner territory, or menswear blogger territory. So I say, stick with dark rinses or just ever-so-subtly faded denim and you can’t go wrong. In the height of summer, depending on where you live, they might be too hot to wear—but in those situations, wearing a tailored jacket might not make much sense, either.
I think it’s safe to say that pleated trousers, like the Skynet sentinel-turned-Resistance protector, are back. Actually, they’re still shunned by the greater “menswear” (found on Youtube of all places), but for guys in the know, they’ve never really left. Despite what people say, pleats are functional, stylish, and can certainly have a place in your wardrobe. I’ve begun wearing them, not as simply a “throwback” but because I genuinely like the fuller cut and the aesthetic difference they provide.
Now, pleats are a fairly modern invention in the world of classic menswear. Though old renaissance and revolutionary trousers were puffy and employed micro pleats, the “modern” suit as we knew it was originally very slim. You can see this reflected in the late 1800s through the early 1920s; trousers were “stovepiped” (meaning slim), had a slight crop/shivering break, and no pleats. Vintage suit ads of the 1910s and early 1920s would show an overall slim silhouette that would almost put shame to the H&M of 2009. In my experience, the main time we saw pleats would be on plus fours/knickers; if they were present, they came in the form of micropleats, hardly the ones we employ today.
Things changed during the late 1920s and 1930s, as menswear began to embrace a broader, masculine silhouette: jacket shoulders became slightly extended and padded (not as much as the later decades) and this draped cut was not flattering over slim trousers, which then became wider, with some models incorporating pleats. English tailors preferred forward pleats, while across the pond they opted for reverse ones. Not only was this just a natural evolution of suit silhouette, but it was necessary as swing dancing and other “casual’ activities grew in popularity. Simply said, people needed room to move!
The popularity of pleats and pant width grew in shrank in size–but were always present–until almost disappearing completely during the 1990s after reaching their peak of popularity. Wide, triple pleated pants (worn at the hips for some reason) marked the almost-death of this take on trousers, as fashion bloggers (and vloggers now) only continue to shun pleated trousers, not only saying that they’re old school but actually make you look uglier and less flattering. Those statements, oft spouted in every free guide they peddle, couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, pleats have never really gone away, being worn by both seasoned gentlemen and younger men in the classic menswear world. It’s easy to see the draw of this tailored detail: everyone knows that it provides more room in the thighs, but to me, it also acts as a visual additive.
Pleats on trousers accent the sharp crease, making them much more interesting than simple flat fronts. I think that the recent popularity surge of Gurkhas only added to this phenomenon due to their deep forward pleats, wide waistband, and use of overlapping belts. They’re a bit different than regular pleated trousers and work great with tailoring and with casual looks. Personally, I like side-tabs with my pleated trousers to maintain a clean, minimal look.
The secret to pulling pleated trousers off lies in good tailoring. Firstly, you need a high rise. Pleats on hip-hanging pants simply don’t work, as they make you look very bottom heavy and contribute poorly to your proportions. Next, you’ll have to realize that pleats don’t always result in baggy pants. If you’re going MTM or bespoke, you can always ask for the trousers to be slim, just with the addition of pleats. Even if you want RTW, most places have been following the trend, offering pleated trousers that are nowhere near as roomy as an 80s power suit. Ensure that the trousers have a slight-to-no-break, and you’ll preserve the straight line the crease and pleats create.
Further Reading: a Guide to How Trousers Should Fit
Today you can find pleated trousers in a bunch of different treatments. Grey pleated flannels/worsteds are probably the classic choice, but I think it’s worth exploring with pleated chinos and linens for maximum comfort; a dyed seersucker wouldn’t be totally out of place in the hot summer sun, with or without a matching jacket. You don’t even have to always wear them with a tie! You can always request pleats from your preferred tailor or MTM service (Luxire is a good way to customize your own) but there are a few places that I’d recommend. I’ve included a pleat inspiration album so you can hopefully see the appeal that pleats have.
A lot of my pleated trousers are old RL ones that I’ve purchased on eBay. Some are Polo and others are purple label, but they really get the job done with a high rise, full cut, and generous pleating. The only changes I make are usually a gentle taper through the thigh and a hem if necessary. I can’t speak too much about their current offerings, but there are some decent offerings on their website that have been updated for a more contemporary fit.
Rubinacci has been extremely popular for RTW gurkha style trousers. They don’t make them in traditional dress fabrics, but their different shades of cotton should be enough to fill out your wardrobe. They’re a bit on the casual side, but that’s nothing a good textured sportcoat and blucher won’t fix!
Stoffa has been known to make great MTM field jackets and aviator zips, but their trousers are rather noteworthy. While there is a degree of customization on fit, the brand has a house style that opts for a slim-straight leg that can be offset with sharp (yet a bit shallow) pleats; you can always choose to go with one if you haven’t graduated to double-pleats just you. Like Rubinacci, they offer cottons to experiment with, though Stoffa also has linen and flannel swatches for you to choose from if you want to get dressy.
Suit Supply is typically one of the places to go when you’re first starting out in menswear, as they offer some of the classic details you can’t really find at the mall. Think wide lapels, soft shoulders, side tabs, and patch pockets to name a few. While they have typically done extremely slim, flat front trousers, they’ve experimented with pleats a few times. Their Jort line is probably the best model, with a high rise, full button fly, side tabs, and double reverse pleats. If you find pleats on their regular models, I suggest sizing up so that the leg opening is a bit roomier.
If you really like the gurkhas but want to go straight into the more casual side of pleated trousers, the Scott Frasier gaucho trouser is something to consider. With a high waist, wide opening, and a single lead construction, they are a very clean/minimal trouser, if not eccentric; they’re begging to be worn while relaxing around the beach. If that isn’t your speed, he also has a “traditional” trouser that comes with dropped belt loops.
As a retailer of fine clothing, it makes sense that they stock a variety of trousers, some of which are pleated. All of these are cut with a high rise and a slim-straight silhouette, as to prevent you from looking too too “old school” with your grey pleated trousers. The Ring Jacket AMP-02 features a single pleat and are a great entry before moving onto their Rota selection. I’m much more intrigued by their pleated Pomella RTW, which has a self-belt, calling back to the gurkha closure. They’ve also introduced Osaku Trousers which are double pleated and use Daks (button) side adjusters.