Examples of My Favorite Menswear Deals When Thrifting

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!

Have you scored any good deal recently? Let us know on the Official Thrift / Discount Store bragging Thread!

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An ode and a guide to tapered jeans


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.

BIG JOHN Slim tapered jeans, 14 oz raw denim - via No Man Walks Alone

BIG JOHN Slim tapered jeans, 14 oz raw denim – via No Man Walks Alone

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.

How to choose a Fedora that suits you

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.

Black felt Wellema. Works well with minimal outfits.

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.  

Wellema Hat Co. 

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 

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.


Borsalino / Stetson

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.


Stoffa 

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.

Creating a Business Wardrobe – Styleforum Guide

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:

The Suit

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.

A solid beginning for a suit wardrobe

A solid beginning for a suit wardrobe

Dress Shirts

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.

white shirt business outfit

A good start.

Ties

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
A navy grenadine tie by Vanda Fine Clothing

A navy grenadine tie by Vanda Fine Clothing

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.

Footwear

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:

The Official Shoe Care Thread

Vintage Shoe Thread

2018 Revival Shoe Challenge

What is the best value shoemaker you know?


This article is an edited version of an article published on Styleforum.net by Shawea.

4 Essential Trousers for the Summer

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

Photo: @sebastianmcfox

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.

Spier & Mackay 1 • Brooks Brothers • Suitsupply • Suitsupply 2


2—Off-white trousers in whatever fabric you like

Photo: @sebastianmcfox

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).

Drake’s in stone • Polo linen-blend • Spier & Mackay cotton-linen

Spier & Mackay cotton stretch • Brooks Brothers cotton-linen • Ring Jacket


3—Warm khaki cotton chinos

Photo: @sebastianmcfox

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).

Brooks Brothers dressier •  Brooks Brothers casual •  Unis • J.Crew


4—Dark or slightly faded-looking denim

Photo: @sebastianmcfox

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.

RRL jeans • Drake’s • Mr. Porter denim • Anglo-Italian

Pleated Trousers: the Styleforum Guide

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.

Gurkha style pleated trousers pants men

Gurkha style by @thefilodapper

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.

Ralph Lauren

pleated trousers ralph lauren

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

rubinacci pleated trousers sale

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

stoffa pleated trousers pants

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

pleated trousers menswear

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.


Scott Fraser Collection

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.


The Armoury 

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.

What Should I Wear to a Job Interview? – Styleforum Guide

“What Should I Wear To A Job Interview?” is one of the most common questions we get here at Styleforum, and the answer is always rather blunt: you should wear a suit and tie. This is absolutely never wrong for an interview once you have graduated from high school. It may be that your interviewer is not expecting you to be so “dressed up,” but nevertheless it is not a mistake for you to look your best. That means wearing a conservative but sharp outfit that adds to your appearance without competing with you for attention.

A Basic Uncontroversial Outfit (though many would leave out the pocket square)

  • A single-breasted, two or three button, navy or dark gray/charcoal suit (i.e., jacket and pants made of the exact same fabric, not just same or similar color), tailored to fit you (especially make sure the sleeves are not down to your knuckles and the pants are not puddling around your ankles). If you don’t own a suit, read the Styleforum guide to buying your first suit.
  • A white, spread collar, long-sleeved dress shirt with single cuffs (i.e. not French cuffs/double cuffs)
  • A silk tie in a solid or simple pattern (pindots or stripes, for instance). Almost any color will do well with a white shirt and either of the aforementioned suits.
  • Black cap-toe shoes and black belt (or suspenders/braces instead if your suit pants take them – but this is rare on ready-to-wear suits today). Check out this thread on Styleforum for more information on black formal shoes.
  • Socks in the same color as the suit.

The above outfit is never wrong for a job interview. Nor is a job interview a time to get “creative” with your outfit, especially if you are not already well-versed in suit-and-tie-wearing, in which case you wouldn’t be reading this.

If you want to deviate from the above suggestions, you can wear a light blue shirt instead of a white one without much risk. In the United States, you can wear a button-down collar instead of a spread collar. Outside of England, in many industries, brown cap-toe shoes with a brown belt are acceptable substitutes for their black counterparts.

You can add a white pocket square in a “TV fold” without much risk, but if you’ve never worn such an item before, don’t make this the first time. It’s also fine to wear navy socks with a gray suit, gray socks with a navy suit, etc..

Avoid black socks or any kind of “fun” socks. Finally, an understated watch is acceptable jewelry, but do not wear a sports watch or a bulky and/or gaudy watch. Other than a wedding ring, this is the only kind of jewelry that is acceptable.

  • A black suit (navy or grey only).
  • An ill-fitting suit (get your suit tailored by someone experienced after purchasing). If you’re unsure about what could be tailored, read here first.
  • A wrinkled shirt (iron your shirt before wearing).
  • Shoes with square toes and/or rubber soles.
  • Scuffed or dirty shoes (make sure your shoes are well-polished – if you don’t know how to do this or don’t have the proper equipment, visit a cobbler or read this guide).
  • Bright colors or wild patterns (you do not want to be competing with your clothes for attention).
  • Buttoning the bottom button on your jacket (it’s not meant to be buttoned – never do this).
  • Removing your jacket (keep it on, with possible rare exceptions).

Here are a couple of examples of good outfits from Styleforum users. These men would be very well dressed for a job interview:


Somewhat riskier would be wearing French cuffs (double cuffs), as the cufflinks may be too flashy. Their appropriateness depends on your region and industry. Barrel cuffs (single cuffs) are always acceptable. More extravagant shoes such as wingtips fall into the same category. A suit in a subtle pinstripe or a striped shirt (with one color stripe on a white ground) can also work, but needlessly increase the difficulty of putting together a nice outfit. Any other kind of patterned suit should really not even be considered. Likewise, three-piece or double-breasted suits should be avoided.

Anything not mentioned to this point, such as wearing a sweater, a bowtie, a novelty tie, loafers, a cherry red dress shirt, etc. with your suit should be absolutely avoided. Remember, this is a job interview. You want to look professional, but with few exceptions, this is not a place to demonstrate your personal style.


If you are absolutely convinced that a suit and tie would be inappropriate, for instance, if you are told specifically not to wear a suit and tie, lose the tie before you lose the jacket. Wearing a tie without a jacket makes you look like a cell phone salesman at the mall. A professional might wear a sportcoat and trousers with no tie, but never a tie without a jacket. You will have more latitude in these less formal situations, but the same principles of keeping your clothing clean, simple, and well-fitting still apply.


Whatever you wear, wear it confidently. If you arrive in a suit and your interviewer says something like, “you didn’t need to dress up for us!” don’t look sheepish, just smile and say, “I wanted to look my best.” Finally, and I hope obviously, but perhaps most importantly, nothing is less stylish than poor personal hygiene. Get a decent haircut, take a shower, and clip your fingernails!

If you’re still not sure about what to wear, visit the Styleforum Style Advice forum and ask for help here.


This is an edited version of an article published on Styleforum in 2012 by Styleforum member Shawea.

Style Icons: B&Tailor

As I’ve moved forward in my style journey, I find myself looking toward more contemporary dressers for inspiration. There’s nothing wrong with looking at old pictures of Jimmy Stewart or Laurence Fellows illustrations, but the fact remains that those sources are finite!

That’s why I’m drawn to contemporary guys that have a bit of vintage flair, like Bryceland’s. But while they can skew more workwear, the guys at Seoul’s B&Tailor find ways to keep vintage style (across different eras) alive in an elegant and modern way.

B&Tailor and Chad Park were the subjects of one of my first blog posts that covered contemporary style. Stumbling across their account was a big moment for me, as it showed me that there was still a place for high rise trousers, pleats, and wide lapels. Started in 1980 by Jung Yul Park, the brand has already made quite a name for itself, taking fittings all over the world and even creating a casual RTW line called Chadprom, no doubt named after his son Chad. To most of my friends, they are a great source of inspiration and a bit of an aspirational goal for clothing.

It probably helps that Park’s sons Chad and Chang have worked hard to brand the company, with Chad being the face of B&Tailor, expertly shot by Chang for their Tumblr and Instagram profiles. With natural light, somber expression, and fantastic clothing, the pictures rack up engagement on all social media, presenting an almost streetwear-esque way of making clothing look cool. As the brand has grown, they’ve also included more pictures of their other staff, consistently making their associates style icons in their own right. But let’s look at how their style specifically appeals to me.

Like with Brycelands, the vintage appeal comes down to two things: the design of their tailoring and the way they choose their accessories. First, let’s explore the jackets. The jackets are cut with an extended shoulder, featuring a broad chest and nipped waist, echoing the draped figures in the 1930s and 1940s. Of course, this isn’t something new as the English have been doing that for a long time; the real charm is in their lapel treatments.

Their standard notch is quite wide (looks like it approaches over 4 inches), with a notch placed quite low compared to most brands. B&Tailor goes a step further by making the notch’s “mouth” go pretty wide (almost a full 90 degrees) yet without making it go too far into the body of the lapel. The resulting “droopy notch” not only makes the chest appear fuller but it appears to be lifted directly from the detailing on a 30s-40s suit. For their peak lapels, they maintain the width but again place the peak low. While models definitely vary, Chad and the rest of the B&Tailor crew tend to favor a peak that juts out far from the collar, recalling both vintage designs and the treatment favored by Polo Ralph Lauren in its early days. Whether it’s a notch or peak lapel, the lines are accentuated with a slightly lower lowered buttoning stance for a classic look (which is pretty 1940s to me).

The high rise is standard for B&Tailor (a trait that extends to even their Chadprom denim), which is always a sign of classic style. In fact, the rise seems higher than most, appearing to sit a little above the navel. Pleats are also a welcome sight among their tailoring, which when combined with a fuller leg, makes for an “old school” look. Most of the complaints about vintage style usually concern how baggy trousers can look, but luckily B&Tailor ensures that they are expertly tailored, done with a shivering break to prevent pooling at the ankle and a hearty cuff.

While we can talk about the cuts and designs of their suits, the real style comes in how they wear it and how they spruce it up with accessories. If you go on any of their social media platforms, you’ll see that they always prefer long collars, whether it’s pinned, a button-down, or a spread; in general, a longer collar makes for an “older look,” evoking the spearpoint collars. They match their shirts with a variety of great sevenfold ties, in foulards, abstract prints, and colorful stripes. Like I said before, wearing these with a striped shirt brings to mind the styles of the 1930s-1940s where there was a lot of similar styling. The look can be a bit bold for some (especially compared to the minimal approach from Brycelands), but they carry the look with confidence.

They also have a few novelty pieces that I feel are directly lifted from casual 1940s-1950’s styles. One example, in particular, is their Hollywood waist trousers, complete with “dropped loops”. This design, which is essentially a continuous waistband with loops placed fractions of an inch below the top, was a trend in the mid-1940s until the 1950s, worn by young men with extremely thin belts. It strikes me as particularly interesting move since most gentlemen today prefer suspenders or side tabs for keeping their trousers up.

Keeping with this casual vintage design, they’ve also done a few runs of cuban collar shirts, which have been increasingly popular during the past year. While they are technically known as cuban collars to most, I’ve always called them “loop collars” since vintage pieces have the top button fastened via a loop rather than a normal buttonhole cut into the fabric. They wear them their tailoring, which makes for a cool, sartorial-casual look that skews more vintage-inspired due to their fuller cut.

They also have a few idiosyncrasies that make their style unique; at some points, they experimented with multi-stripe vintage fabric, which was the norm back in the Golden Era (flat, plain suits weren’t common). They’ve also created cropped sweaters and jackets that are just begging to be worn with high rise trousers. Their love of turtlenecks even brings to mind some 1960s-1970s inspired looks. A big one is their latest preference for designing DBs that can be rolled to a 6×1 configuration. While these were a trend in the 1930s-1940s, it’s most commonly seen from Armani in 1980s-90s, emphasized further by their bold (power?) tie combos. B&Tailor keeps this vibe going by wearing their high waisted, light wash denim with their tailoring. Who would have thought that the 1980s-90s have a place in classic menswear?

I could keep writing about the observations that I’ve seen from B&Tailor, but the best thing to do is to look at the pictures and see it for yourself. There’s something about this brand that seems old school and yet not anachronistic at all, as they take their cues from different eras and mix them together to create such a unique look not just with the sartorial designs, but with the styling. Even Chad Park’s glasses skip around with different styles. In any case, I think they’re a good source of inspiration, not only for regular wear but for a great indication of making vintage-inspired style look wearable (and elegant) in the modern day.

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Buying your first suit: a guide

By shawea

Wondering about suits and how to fit them? You’ve come to the right place. First, what is a suit? A suit comprises a jacket and pants in the same fabric. Do not buy a jacket or pants separately and then go looking for a matching piece whose fabric is just “close enough”. A suit is bought as two (or three) pieces together, in exactly the same fabric, from the same bolt. That settled, how to decide between the myriad suits available?

There are four basic areas in which to assess a suit – fabric, construction, fit, and styling. You should consider all these aspects of a suit before deciding on which to buy.

The advice in this article will be geared towards someone buying a small number of suits that he hopes will serve him well in a variety of different settings.

The suit should be made of 100% wool, no elastane, no polyester. Do not be tempted by cotton or linen or cashmere suits. They do have their place in a large wardrobe, but they are not for starter professional wardrobes.

Since you’ll be starting off with suits that you’ll want to wear year-round, get a medium-weight wool (say, somewhere between 9 and 13 oz). Most suits on the market fall in this category so don’t get worried unless the suit seems particularly thin or heavy.

The fabric should be worsted wool, meaning that it is smooth to the touch instead of feeling wooly and hairy like a sweater. An exception to this is woolen flannel, which is acceptable as an alternative to worsted in all but the most formal of office settings. The difficulty is that woolen fabric is quite warm, so if you live somewhere with hot weather, is a less attractive option. But if after 3 medium-weight worsted suits you purchased a woolen as your 4th and a lighter weight suit (with some mohair in it, for instance – mohair makes a suit wear cooler) as a 5th, you’d be better prepared for particularly extreme days and have somewhat more variability in your wardrobe. Avoid fabrics that are above “Super 120s” as they will wear out too quickly. To learn more about different fabrics check out the cloth thread.

As discussed previously, the fabric should be a solid color, at least for your first three suits. Again, you want to be ready for all suit-wearing situations. It helps if each suit goes with as many different shirts and ties as possible. Patterned suits go with fewer shirts and ties than solid suits. And there are virtually no situations in modern life where the more casual patterned suit is appropriate, but a solid suit is not.

buying your first suit guide
A solid worsted flannel is a very versatile choice, at least in cooler climates.

Further Reading: Fabric

The Cloth Thread

How to choose the fabric for your suit

The fabric you see on the outside of a suit jacket is far from the only cloth that is used in its construction. Inside the chest and the lapels are pieces of cloth that give the jacket its structure. What these pieces are and how they are attached to the rest of the jacket is the main differentiator of construction quality between suit jackets.

The guts of a fully canvassed jacket

The guts of a fully canvassed jacket

Guts of a half canvassed jacket​

Guts of a half canvassed jacket

The lowest quality jackets are made with a piece of “fusible” interlining that is glued to the front of the jacket. This results in a stiff chest and roll of the lapel. Fused jackets also may have reduced longevity, although there has been significant improvement in fusing technology in recent decades, such that this may no longer be true. Older fused jackets were infamous for having the interfacing separate from the body fabric after many dry cleanings, with awful and obvious ‘bubbling’ ruining the jacket.

Higher quality jackets are made “half-canvassed”, meaning that the chest piece and lapels are constructed with a canvas interior, which is then sewn to the rest of the jacket. Below the chest, fusible is used, but this is less problematic in the “skirt” (lower part of the jacket) than upper areas. Finally, jackets of the highest quality are fully canvassed, but most of these will be extremely expensive.

Of course there are many other ways in which one jacket can be better made than another, but the divide between fused and half-canvassed is by far the most important one, and is also highly correlated with the others. If your jacket is half-canvassed, you can be sure you’re buying at least a decent quality garment. If your jacket is fused, you can be equally sure it is of shoddy construction.

Construction quality has a loose correlation to price. Many highly priced brands (e.g. all but the highest quality Armani, Hugo Boss) sell fused jackets. Spending even $2,000 is no guarantee of avoiding a fused jacket. So you have to do your own investigation. You can employ the “pinch test” around one of the higher buttonholes to see if you can feel a third piece of fabric floating in between the two sides. Alternatively, you can ask the salesperson. It’s possible they won’t know or won’t even know what you’re asking, in which case you should not listen to anything else they tell you. But the minimally informed salesperson will be able to give you this information.

Commonly recommended brands that offer half-canvas suits at a reasonable price include Suit Supply (~$500), Brooks Brothers 1818 (~$1k retail, but frequent sales). eHaberdasher’s Benjamin line (~$500) offers fully canvassed suits which are very reasonably priced.

Further Reading: Construction

Canvas and Suit Construction

The Styleforum Working Hierarchical Suit Quality List

Suitsupply Design Your Own Program Review

eHaberdasher – Categories

Now we get to the hard part. Everyone’s body is different. Even at a retailer with a wide range of different fit types like Brooks Brothers, there may not be a jacket that fits you particularly well, no matter which size you choose. You may have to try a couple of makers before you find the one that suits you best.

Some of this misfittery can be remedied by any tailor. Almost every suit you buy will need to have the length of the sleeves and the pants changed. These are simple operations. Everyone has their own method for determining the correct sleeve length. The estimable Guido Wongolini suggest that you begin by standing straight with arms at your sides, then lift your hands so that your palms are facing towards the floor, perpendicular to your body. The jacket’s sleeves should then just rest on the back of your hand. This should result in ¼” to ½” of your dress shirt’s sleeve showing. Pants should be hemmed so that they have little or no break, if they have an appropriately tapered leg (a leg opening of no more than say 18” in circumference). The waist of the trouser can usually be taken in or let out by about 2”.

Adjusting the collar is a more complicated procedure. Your suit jacket’s collar should remain affixed to your shirt’s collar behind your neck at all times. Separation between the two is referred to as “gapping”. In a bespoke Savile Row suit, you might be able to play a round of golf without experiencing any gapping. This is harder to achieve with a ready-to-wear garment, but at least see if you can get the jacket not to gap, then walk around the room, sit down, stand up, and see if you’ve got any gapping. If gapping is a problem, a tailor may be able to fix it, but you might be going down a road with no end. Your life will be easier if you buy jackets that have no gapping problems off the rack. To examine the next part of collar fit, you’ll need a mirror or a friend for this one. Look to see if there are horizontal lines on your back, underneath the collar. If so, you’ll need the collar lowered. This is a reasonably simple, low-risk procedure. This could be accomplished by most tailors, but probably not your typical dry cleaner’s/alterations shop. It should cost around $40-50.

The next three points of fit are crucial. If one of them is off, step away from the jacket. No tailor can help you. They are the waist, the shoulders, and the length.

These are the basics of fit, but the topic is nowhere near exhausted. A large fraction of discussions on Styleforum is based around how different garments should fit. These threads should get you started:

The Tailors Thread Fit Feedback and Alteration Suggestions
Official Fit Critique Thread
Get Foofed

Further External Reading: Fit

Most Exerent – Cover Your Ass There is a Common Misconception
How Much Can My Clothes Be Altered

Styling refers to the decorative elements of the jacket that are unrelated to fit. Number of buttons, pockets, breasts, that sort of thing. If you’re starting out buying suits, you’ll want to buy a classically styled suit. Pants can be single-pleated, double-pleated, or flat front, cuffed or uncuffed. Once you get more experience you can decide whether and in what way to deviate from what is below.

The suits that will never elicit any raised eyebrows are two or three-button single-breasted jackets, with two flap pockets, notch lapels, and dual back vents. Generally on SF two button or three-roll-two (meaning the top button is never meant to be buttoned) are preferred, but a “hard three” (roll to the top button, with the top button intended to be used) is perfectly acceptable, especially if you are tall. Lapels are of moderate width, reaching approximately half-way to your shoulders.

A "two-and-a-half" button lapel - it rolls above or through the top button

A “two-and-a-half” button lapel – it rolls above or through the top button

A three-roll-two lapel - the top buttonhole is folded over and the roll goes to the second button

A three-roll-two lapel – the top buttonhole is folded over and the roll goes to the second button

Relatively innocent deviations include the absence of vents, ticket pockets, welted pockets. If you like them, go for it on one or two of your suits. Double-breasted suits and peak lapels on single-breasted suits are dandifications. Hold off on them until you know what you’re doing. A single vent, though acceptable, is an inelegant deviation, as it creates an awkward splitting of the rear of the jacket when you put your hands in your pocket.

Here are some further readings in book form if you would really like to delve into the art of the suit:

The Suit, by Nicholas Antongiovanni
Clothes and The Man, by Alan Flusser


This article is an edited version of an article originally published on Styleforum.net in 2011.

Aloha shirt: a summer staple

As much as I love suiting, I let it take a back seat during the summer months. Sure, there are Minnis fresco suits, linen trousers, and madras button-downs, but I’ve always preferred to go bolder and casual than traditional classic menswear.  And nothing screams “casual summer” quite like the aloha shirt. It’s a unique piece that has a perfect place in a summer wardrobe, and it can be worn casually or even elevated with tailoring, if you want to go bold.

In Aloha Shirt: the Spirit of the Island, Dale Hope shares a few different stories about the origin of this American classic. One model was made in the 1920s by Gordon Young’s mother, who made sport shirts out of printed cotton yukata cloth that was normally used for kimonos. In 1935, tailor Musa-Shiya Shoten advertised RTW and MTO “Aloha shirts”.  However, the term was trademarked later in 1937 by the Chun family who sold similar shirts (also made from kimono fabric) in King-Smith Clothiers. There are other stories of course, but the main idea was that the shirt was born during a time when men were starting to opt for “sportswear” or casual dress.

Overall, it’s pretty similar to sport shirts (loop/camp/cuban collars, whatever you want to call them) in design. This most distinctive feature is the band-less collar, which results in the floppy open collar that lays flat on the shoulders of the shirt.  The garment has a clean french front and a square bottom, meaning that it can be worn tucked or untucked, adding to its casual nature. The aloha shirt retains all these features with the addition of an exploded floral pattern or scenes; later patterns would adopt more vertical, tiki-inspired designs.

I personally like the older designs that are large-scale and have some space between the designs. There’s nothing wrong with tighter, vertical print shirts, but they tend to look a bit more modern than I’d like and bit too Tommy Bahama.

In terms of material, most of the 1930s-1940s shirts I’ve seen were made of rayon or delicate voiles (in cotton or rayon); later, they would be made from cotton or polyester.

Before the tee shirt and OCBD took over as the go-to shirt for men in the 1960s, aloha shirts (and by extension, plain sport shirts) were a distinctive type of shirt in the 1930s-1950s. Images of the Beach Boys, Elvis, and Frank Sinatra rocking colorful aloha shirts come to mind instantly.

While some think that they are a bit old school to wear now, I heartily disagree. We’ve been seeing the return of camp collar shirts in general, thanks to a couple of fashion forward guys at Pitti wearing them over their jacket lapels like youth in the 1950s. We’ve also seen it come in the mainstream fashion world, being the shirt of choice of Harry Styles, rocking vibrant full cut aloha shirts to contrast his skinny black jeans and slick chelsea boots. It’s certainly something to consider if you’re feeling fatigued from your tie-less linen shirts and Friday polos.

Embracing the uniqueness of the alohas shirt is all apart of the fun. The bold florals and painted scenes are exactly what summer style is all about! When I wear an aloha shirt with tailoring, I usually opt for chinos or summer weight trousers and loafers as an updated 1940s-1950s casual look. I know that Kenji Cheung and Ethan Newton of Bryceland’s have done similar looks.

You could even wear it with a pale linen suit, using the jacket to tone down the bold print. I’ve begun to wear aloha shirts with pleated shorts and a chore coat, as it’s starting to get hotter. For those of you wary of the 1980s/Miami Vice connotations, you can always opt for the classic rockabilly look by wearing an aloha shirt untucked with selvedge denim. Maybe leave the pomade at home and go with slimmer denim and canvas sneakers to make it a bit more contemporary.

In addition to some images to serve as outfit inspiration, I’ve included a couple of places where you could pick up a shirt for yourself! They vary in price and quality, but I think there’s something here for everybody.

Two Palms

two palms aloha shirt

Two Palms was my first real foray into wearing aloha shirts. They are extremely affordable MiUSA at around $45 (with free US shipping) which means that they can be your gateway too! Their cotton shirts are cheaper, but I prefer their rayon ones in the vein of being “traditional”. It might take some careful perusing through their website to separate the “good shirts” from the more “dad vibe” ones, but you can’t go wrong with most of them. Surprisingly, they have pretty solid construction despite being on the lower end of the spectrum and they even take care to match the fabric on their chest pocket. The only caveats are that the cut is pretty full and the collar is pretty small compared to the vintage ones; I’m sure that you guys will find the latter more desirable since it’s easier to wear in the modern day. 

J. Crew

You’ve gotta hand it to J. Crew for making a pretty good Hawaiian shirt. They’re about $10 more than Two Palms and they only have a few models to choose from, but it’s still a good buy if you lean more toward shopping in person. Instead of rayon, these J. Crew aloha shirts are made in linen-cotton, which is a bit more wearable (and washing machine friendly) if you’re not used to the traditional fabric. According to the website, these also have a roomier fit, but I would assume that it’s slimmer than the ones from Two Palms.

Avanti Shirts 

 I always have a soft spot for shirts that display scenes, because they’re different than the aloha shirts that you normally see.  It also has the bonus effect of looking a bit more old school, lifted almost directly from the styles in the 1940s-1950s. Like the Two Palms shirts, they also feature a breast pocket that is carefully matched to the shirt.

Onia 

Onia makes a few great camp shirts and I’ve included a picture of their most “aloha” one here. It’s pretty much the same thing as the other ones, with a modest collar and a chest pocket (that again is not matched). The fabric is cotton voile making it extremely delicate (and hand-wash only), so I would say to wear with caution. It does seem ideal to wear when relaxing on vacation!

 

Gitman Vintage 

 

 I’ve gotta say that these ones from Gitman really hit the spot.  Like the Avanti ones, they have a bit more interest than the typical florals, but they also bring back the wide collar! They also do away with the chest pocket in order to maintain a clean front.

 

RRL

 

RRL takes us back to the original 1940s-1950’s manufacturing with their rayon camp shirts.  Like the Gitman ones, there’s just something so much more interesting when the prints are something more than oversized florals.  According to the official website, this particular design was based on 1930’s tattoo art, which I think is super cool. The shirt also features two breast pockets (making them similar to plain sportshirts of the era) and also opts for a modest collar.

RRL also has an indigo camp shirt with a more straightforward floral print, while Polo RL has more scenery based prints for half the price.

Sun Surf

 

Sun Surf is probably the best reproduction brand for aloha shirts, which makes sense considering Japan’s love affair with Americana. I’ve come across these in some of my favorite vintage stores, and they’re practically indistinguishable from true vintage pieces apart from the fact that the Sun Surf ones are new. Being a detailed reproduction, a lot of their prints are influenced directly from old garments; most of the time they go all out with their large-scale, bold prints. This is what makes them my favorite, since it’s a great way to get a true vintage flair that is completely different than the more standard florals and smaller scale scenes that you can find in the previous examples. They also keep the long, floppy 1940s-1950s collar and make them in the traditional rayon. You could own the character and wear it by itself or cover it up with a chore coat or casual jacket to tone it down.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a lot of places to find them other than a few boutiques, but they do pop up occasionally on Rakuten, Grailed, and eBay.

 

Brycelands 

 

Brycelands stocks a selection from Groovin High, another Japan-based company.  Like the Sun Surf ones, these are damn good designs lifted from 1940s-1950s shirts. The ones sold by Bryceland’s aren’t necessarily true aloha shirts since the prints are more geometric than floral/island based, but they still can be used for a similar look.  The shirts are made up of luxurious rayon/silk and have a wide collar, two breast pockets, and long sleeves.

Prada

 

We can’t have a proper list without a bit of luxury.  This voile shirt by Prada is really growing on me! The coloring is vibrant and leans more 80s-90s rather than strictly 1950s; think DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet. In addition to having an amazing beach scene painted on the back, this shirt is made of delicate voile and features black mother of pearl buttons. At a certain point, you’ll just have to go ahead and go all in on the price; you won’t find another one like it.