The Art of Tonal Layering

You’d be forgiven if, from a distance (and primarily through Instagram), you thought that ‘layering’ in menswear meant technicolor vest worn under saturated suits. That’s certainly one angle that certain large menswear e-tailers have pushed in recent years – gotta find a way to attract eyes in a sea of online images –  and you can’t really blame consumers for wanting to lust after garments more titillating than grey and navy suits. That’s not to say it’s necessarily a bad thing – look at our friend and occasional contributor @flannels_and_tweed for some great examples of high-contrast layering – but I’ve always loved the alternative that is tonal layering. Some colors work much better than others, however. I think that matching earth tones – blue, olive, brown, camel, taupe – works out much better than than brighter colors (including, for example, burgundy), which are apt to make you look like a streetstyle hanger-on, or a movie villain.

Note: to offer a brief, insufficient definition, tonal layer is when you’re matching single colors but the tones aren’t quite the same. I’m also discounting monochrome (black and white) outfits, because that’s not what we’re talking about here.

the art of tonal layering menswear styleforumI’m a guy who wears blue a lot. Like, a lot a lot. I’m not the only one – layering blue is very simple, and you don’t have to be wearing fifteen pounds of indigo-dyed cotton (like me); it might be as easy as pairing a blue sportcoat or jacket with your denim, as seen in this fetching shot from Drake’s:

Of course, there’s a contrasting layer involved here, but add a washed-out blue knit to this ensemble and you’re good to go. You probably have a lot of blue in your closet already – navy being, as we all know well, one of menswear’s sacred pillars – so it should be easy for you to experiment.

Plenty of people do this, and in all honesty it’s not that hard if you don’t mind looking like you’re wearing nothing but indigo – which I don’t. You can find examples all over the internet, including on the Styleforum tumblr, but if you’re looking for casual inspiration I can direct you to both 45RPM and Blue Blue Japan.

The latter is a company I’ve written about many times, best known for their incredible work with indigo dyes. The clothes boast incredible depth of color, which makes donning multiple layers of blue a bit less strange than it sounds. Of course, you just have to be comfortable wearing head-to-toe indigo – if you’re not, I understand.

Camel is also a good bet, and the same cam be said of other neutrals like taupe and oatmeal. All white tends to come off a bit priestly – or Miami Vice-y – but a little bit of grey calms things down quite a bit. I happen to be a big fan of camel (as are many men), although I maybe wouldn’t recommend wearing it head-to-toe the way you might wear navy. It’s such a classic color for outwear that slipping on a similarly-colored inner layer isn’t hard, nor are the results strange.

Finally, green layers can look very nice, both with militaristic olive tones and mossier country greens. Something like the below, featuring cotton cargo pants and a Ten C nylon and shearling liner, is a nice option, since not only do you have the subtle variation in color, but you have mixed fabrics as well. This helps you feel a bit less like you’re wearing a not-quite suit, and becomes especially fun if, like me, you have trouble distinguishing green from brown.

the art of tonal layering menswear styleforum

You may have picked up that neutral colors work pretty well for this. Think oatmeal and grey wools, textured browns, as the subtle variations in these colors create a wonderful depth when they’re combined. When you’re matching similar layers, one key is to make sure that you’re also mixing textures. Just because something is blue, or camel, or green, doesn’t mean that everything needs to be the same fabric – lest you end up looking as though you’ve draped yourself in bedsheets.

We’d love to see your own examples of tonal layering, so stop by the Classic Menswear and Streetwear and Denim what are you wearing threads to share your own inspirations.

Overcoats for Cold Weather

Everybody looks good in an overcoat.  Or, more accurately: everyone looks good in a good overcoat.  Even growing up in San Diego, I knew this, despite never wearing one – until I moved to New York.
A few weeks before my departure, one of my father’s friends, originally from Indiana, took me aside and asked me if I was ready for the cold.  Being a teenager, and thus knowing all there is to need to know about everything, I mentally reviewed my closet – full of shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops – and replied, “Yes.”
He smiled graciously, humored no doubt by youth’s ignorantly blissful anticipation of the unknown, before adding, “Well, I’ve got a coat for you, just in case.”  And he handed me an old LL Bean barn coat, faded and creased from years of use.  I remember looking at it with dubious skepticism, like earmuffs on the equator: with recessed cuffed sleeves, snorkel neck, 3” storm zipper, and rainproof Thinsulate liner, It must have weighed 20 pounds. More importantly, it was downright ugly.
“Thanks…?” I meekly offered. “Um…I do have a jacket…” thinking of the Starter jacket I wore when temps dipped to the low 60s. “I should be okay.”
“No,” he shook his head. “You have no idea.”
Sure enough, he was right about one thing: the Nor’easter blizzards of 95-96 would paralyze me with a bracing chill that I had never before experienced, a wetness whose piercing winds blasted through five layers of clothing as if I were naked, that left my feet frostbitten even standing three socks deep in Sorel’s. And yet that ugly barn coat, with all its engineering and overkill insulation, wasn’t enough; it still didn’t keep my legs warm, like a too-short bed blanket.  What I needed – and finally got – was a good overcoat.
Overcoats are not only practical, but in covering most of the body, they lengthen the wearer and give the illusion of height.  The slim and casual trends of the past 20 years have had men cropping everything from pants to jackets, and overcoats were traded in for parkas.  Thankfully things are starting to change, albeit slowly, and longer coats are beginning to make a comeback. Depending on how it’s constructed, an overcoat’s cut and contour can give the wearer various silhouettes, all of which have their own charms.  Here’s a quick breakdown of styles:
The Chesterfield – what most think of when they hear the word “overcoat”.  In fact, your typical modern variation basically looks like a long sports coat: single breasted, notch or peak lapel, straight hip pockets, single back vent.  The big differences are that the fronts are squared, rather than curved, and there are no front darts to shape the coat close to the body.  Up to the early 80s you might have seen a velvet collar, but those mostly exist on the internet, and mostly in pictures of Roger Moore.  Generally plain, in charcoal or navy; as it traditionally has no darts and is meant to fit over a suit, it looks slightly large on the hanger but looks perfect when worn.

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The Covert Coat – like the Chesterfield, it’s single breasted, can have a velvet collar, but typically has a fly front (covered placket) so the the buttons are unseen when the jacket is closed.  There are other details, such as the rows of stitching at the sleeves and hem and inside poachers pocket, but the most important is the eponymous cloth.  Initially popular for sporting gentlemen, covert cloth is a rare bird these days – what with the decline of fox hunting – but is still a good choice for a hearty coat.  Made of a dense twill, its tight weave not only protects the wearer from vicious game, but from rain and wrinkles as well.  Traditionally cut generously, its colors fall somewhere between a mid-grayish-browny-moss.  To hide in the brush, you see.
Lasse Hedenstead from Denmark wears his covert coat traditionally, but it fits in well with his surroundings.  Check out his blog here.

styleforum overcoats for cold weather

The Balmacaan – I’m happy to see this one making a comeback.   Similar in purpose to the covert coat, the balmacaan is cut a bit oversized, with raglan sleeves for ease of movement.  However, unlike the covert coat’s comparatively plain city-suitable twill fabric, the balmacaan is generally made from country-ready tweeds in various patterns of houndstooth, checks, and plaids.  This overcoat can just as easily be worn with a suit as with jeans, as there are no lapels to suggest formality; only a small collar that can be turned up when temperatures fall down.  Its blobby shapelessness gives it a casual charm that doesn’t take itself too seriously.  G. Bruce Boyer describes it as a “blanket with sleeves,” and I’m inclined to agree.  Read his feature on the balmacaan on Drakes here.
Here’s a choice offering from S.E.H. Kelly:

Styleforum overcoats for cold weather

The Paletot/Guards Coat – this is the coat you see in all the old Hollywood movies.  Like a classic double breasted jacket in most every way: a 6-to-2 stance (meaning the top two buttons are at a wider stance like a Y), peaked lapels, and the occasional single vent.  Usually tailored closer to the body.  Being the most formal of overcoats, the absence of decoration makes it appropriate in practically every situation that calls for a suit.  Which means you should wear it with a suit.  The Guard’s Coat is similar, but can have a different buttoning stance, turned cuffs and and optional back belt.  A little less formal, but in today’s athleisure world, no one will bat an eye.

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The Ulster Coat – the one you want when it’s really cold.  Recognizable for its collar and lapel made to be turned up to protect the neck, it’s usually made from heavy marled tweed for protection, double breasted for warmth, and a roomy fit for layering.  Details include turn back sleeve cuffs, big patch flap pockets, and probably a force field for errant laser beams (currently only available on bespoke commissions).
The Polo Coat – one of my favorites, as borne out by this previous article.  Originally Polo players threw on an oversized coat and cinched it with a belt to keep warm post-game, but since then the tan coat has morphed a bit.  For example, the belt might still be there, or there might be a Martingale half-belt in the back.  The collar could have peaked or Ulster-style lapels.  There could be six or eight buttons, and sleeves could have cuffs or not.  It could be camel hair, wool, or a mix of the two.  What hasn’t changed is the color: always golden.  Also, it’s always double breasted.   A single breasted Polo coat is just a camel coat.

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Another coat that I like is the bridge coat.  Unfortunately you don’t see it too often, like its close cousin the great coat, even though it’s basically just a longer peacoat.  Being that overcoats are gaining popularity, the bridge coat and great coat’s oversized collar, structured shoulders, and sweeping fronts add a bit of drama to an otherwise drab city seascape of boring coats, and I hope to see it more often.

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Member Focus: Baltimoron

Styleforum member Baltimoron is a regular sight on the SW&D subforum, where he posts regular contributions in the form of WAYWT photos and KPop gifs. Here, he talks about walking the long road from deal-chaser to designer-clothing-collector and general well-dressed dude.

I got interested in clothes because of my brother. I remember walking past his computer once while home from college one summer and asking him why he was on a site called Put This On. After he explained he was reading about clothes, I laughed and then walked immediately to my own computer to start reading Put This On, because brothers can’t help but imitate each other sometimes. In the beginning, I made all the mistakes that people that get into clothing tend to make. I chased deal sites, ordered cheap button downs from Land’s End Canvas, and read more lists about what clothing items I needed than anyone ever should.

Looking back, I was someone who was just trying to change how he looked by checking things off a list and emulating what was around me. I grew up in Northern California wearing band tees and cargo shorts, but attended college on the East Coast surrounded by boat shoes and button downs. Changing how I dressed was a way for me to try to fit into the new culture in which I had found myself, but it wasn’t something that I enjoyed beyond chasing check marks on lists. At some point I ended up on Styleforum, though the exact path has slipped from my memory (I’d hazard a guess I was trying to decide if I should put shoe trees in my boat shoes…oh man, what a painful thing to write).

When I started here, I browsed the Classic Menswear side much more frequently than Streetwear and Denim. I can think of two major factors that caused me to slowly transition to spending more time in Streetwear and Denim; a user named Parker starting the Dries Van Noten thread and a user named El Bert posting a series of links to Yahoo Japan in the “Someone should buy this” thread. The Dries thread was one of the first designer threads that I ever followed, and it left quite an impression on me. Up until that point, I’d never seen clothes with the types of prints, colors, embroideries, and elegance like I was exposed to in that thread. I remember thinking that the clothes made people look as if they were almost gliding across space in their elegance.

One of the wonderful things about the thread was that other posters like Parker, sipang, the Shah, and others had faithfully compiled a virtual lexicon comprising of videos, interviews, and pictures of past collections. It was a daunting experience at first, but having that much information forced me to move slowly, so I read and absorbed as much as I could from those posts before I ever owned my first piece of Dries. Even today, I’ll still sometimes go back to the first page of that thread just to read interviews or look at different collections again (personal favorites include FW11, FW14, and SS15).

The second major moment for me, however, made my interest in owning clothes from Dries more attainable. He doesn’t do it quite so often anymore, but El Bert used to post these semi-frequent lists of all the cool things for sale that he found on Yahoo Japan and Rakuten for others to see. Of course, I was most interested in Dries, but many of the listings El Bert posted were for brands that I’d never heard of before. Everytime I’d see him post a brand, I’d go searching through old threads here to read about different seasons and the pieces that other users owned. It’s how I first learned about Helmut Lang, Undercover, and many other designers. El Bert was also kind enough to answer my private messages about how proxy buying worked and to help introduce me to lesser-known brands (he’s still the best at finding cool stuff). This opened a whole new world of clothes to me. It offered a second-hand market for me to explore my interest in Dries, but beyond that, I found that hunting for cool clothes was just an enjoyable activity for me. Some of my purchases have turned out great, others have not, but all the way through I’ve been able to pursue the things that I’m interested in and control my own experience.

These days, Dries is still one of my favorite designers, but my closet has expanded to include influences from all over. I’ve found that the more time I’ve been on the forum, the more willing I am to try different things. I certainly wouldn’t have thought about wearing more voluminous trousers before seeing them on people like Parker or the Shah, but now my Issey Miyake trousers are some of my most worn (and comfortable) clothes. In this community there are always people to learn and take inspiration from. Seeing posts from people like diniro, conceptual 4est, penanceroyaltea, ghostface (whose blurred out faces I emulated when first posting), frankcowperwood and so many others continues to encourage me to think about my own personal style and how I might incorporate elements that I enjoy from others. This forum is one of my favorite places to be, and I credit the people as much as the clothes for making that so.

@Baron’s Take on ‘Tailored Contemporary Casual’

baron elevated basics tailored contemporary casual styleforum

It’s rare that long-time member @Baron posts a photo in our WAYWT threads, but in this case the quality makes up for the infrequency. I love outfits like these that blend contemporary brands with a sharper, tailored look; all the more impressive considering the cut of the oversized shirt worn as outerwear. I suppose I could go on, and refer to a style like this as ‘tailored contemporary casual’ in true internet speak, but instead I’ll leave @Baron to tell us more about what he’s wearing:

I bought the shirt and trousers from NMWA. I’m a big fan of the store and their whole aesthetic, especially the Japanese and Korean brands. I mentioned in my WAYWT post that I took inspiration from the recent editorial they published, styled by Antonio from Eidos. That shoot was in my sweet spot. I realized I could do a few of those looks with things already in my closet. Some new, some old or vintage.

I’ve bought several pieces from the store over the years – I try to find things that are versatile and easy to wear in a variety of contexts. Elevated basics, I guess, to use a #menswear cliche. The shirt is a band collar flannel from Document. The fabric is unusually dense and textural for flannel, and the band collar is in a heavy oxford cloth. The pants are from Scye, pleated and slightly cropped, in a slubby olive cotton. I really love the pants – they’re “overbuilt” with a few unusual details. Scye seems to be influenced by traditional English tailoring, from what I can gather online, and you can see that influence in the waistband and fly construction.

The over-shirt is from this season’s Uniqlo U/Lemaire collection. I’ve picked up things from this collection for a few seasons running now. This shirt didn’t catch my eye online, but I saw it in store and I really liked the boxy cut, the heavy flannel and deep indigo color, the interior pockets. The shoes are Loake Camdens. They’re desert boots, more or less, which I’ve been wearing since I was a kid, but they have the structure and welt of a regular English dress shoe.

See the original post here

A Talk with Ian Segal of Nine Lives Clothing

If you haven’t heard of Tokyo-based brand Nine Lives clothing, you’ve been missing out. Their line of high quality denim, cutsews, and heavy outerwear is produced in Japan, and combines the quality and material know-how of a heritage brand with the razor-sharp edge of Japan’s v-kei and mod scene; all of it seen through 9L’s particular, ‘piratical’ lens. If you’ve been looking for a new rider’s jacket, a sashiko-embellished varsity-jacket-turned-chesterfield, or beautifully realized jacquard-weave flannel shirts, you’ve come to the right place.

I spoke to Ian Segal, who’s approximately one half – the American half – of the operation, and asked him about the brand, about his clothing, and about how he went from being a poetry editor in New York to making rock ‘n roll clothes on the other side of the world. 

Jasper Lipton:  How did you end up in Japan in the first place, after working as – correct me if I’m wrong – a poetry editor for the New Yorker? Which is also awesome.

Ian Segal: It was fun. Yeah, I always say I was a Lehman Shock baby. I graduated into the maelstrom there, and I took a consulting job in LA to get home – my dad was sick, so I wanted to be close to home. When the market looked like it was turning, I headed back East, as that was still where it seemed I had to be to build a career. I was making electric guitars – shittily, I might add – in my girlfriend’s basement in central New Jersey while I was applying for jobs, and in the same week I ended up interviewing at the distressed debt desk at Merril Lynch and the assistant poetry editor position at the magazine. While I was in the Merril interview – and mind you these buildings were directly adjacent to each other; Condé Nast was in what’s now the H&M building. So the same week, I go in for these diametrically opposed job interviews, and the Volcker rule was announced while I was doing the Merril Lynch interview, which more or less iced the job opening.

I mean, I was happy to have Obama win the Presidency, but he was sort of surreally speaking through the television while I’m in the middle of the interview, and everyone was sitting there a little dumbstruck as to what we were all still doing having the conversation. So I ended up at the new Yorker, and that was really fun – did it for about a year and a half and met basically all the people I wanted to meet, in terms of meeting all my heroes. It was an honor to do it. But I was young – I was 25, maybe, and I’d have these experiences where I’d go to parties and people would be like “Oh, you’re the New Yorker guy,” and I was like “No, I’m Ian.” Have you done any New York living?

JL: I’ve been around a little bit, yeah.

ian segal nine lives clothing styleforum nine lives brand

Kotaro and Ian of Nine Lives

IS: The thing about New York, in contrast to LA – and this is an LA partisan thing to say – is that New York is a renter’s city, and LA is a homesteader’s city. There’s this idea in New York that there are all these great jobs, all this great opportunity, but there’s always a line of 100 people to jump into that position behind you. You’re still a cog – you’re maybe a beautiful cog, and it’s an honor and a privilege to be a cog in that industry, but nevertheless you’re a cog. Whereas to me, LA still has a little bit of the – you can go and build your own fuckin’ life.

So anyway, after about a year and a half at the New Yorker I realized that everybody was either only there for a year and a half or two, or they were lifers. And it’s one thing to be a lifer there if you’re coming in as a journalist and you’re 35, and you’re like, “This is it, pinnacle of journalism, I’m gonna do this,” but the idea that you’re gonna be a lifer as a poetry editor is sort of an oxymoron to begin with, and I just was like…I just needed to do my own shit.

So very randomly I was given a job doing real estate, like, asset management and finance stuff in Tokyo – that was 2011 – so then I came over here, and I was doing that for a little while. It wasn’t a very good gig, but I didn’t really have enough money to get home, and I didn’t really want to come home with my tail between my legs just totally flamed out on something. So I was just in a holding pattern.

I went out to dinner with an acquaintance of mine, who I’d met through Josh Warner, of Good Art Hollywood; he was a Japanese designer and we went for drinks, and he was asking what he could do to do a little better in the States, and in the West. We were a little tipsy, and I was like, “Here’s an idea for a brand, here’s what you have to do,” because I thought he was a good designer and that the product he was making was really nice, it was just – very Japanese. Very Tokyo mod. And you know, I’m a half-Irish, half-Jewish kid from LA, so sarcasm’s my first language, and Japan’s a very earnest country that doesn’t really understand sarcasm, so he was just like “Great! Let’s do it!” and I said “Great!” and the next day I had pretty much forgotten about it, and he was like “Oh, I’ve opened an account and we have production meetings next week.”


IS: Yeah, so I just said ‘Fuck it.’

JL: Nice.

IS: Yeah, and that’s it. That was 2015. And this guy, he was doing his own brand called ‘Cruce,’ and it was very – well, it was connected to the visual kei world, right? So I met this guy originally through Josh, but it was actually through Die, from Dir en Grey, that I actually ended up following him, so Die was a sort of a casual acquaintance of mine, and Die wore a lot of this guy’s brand. I saw him posting about it on some – I don’t know – but I was like ‘Oh, I’ll go take a look.’

JL: That’s kinda wild. Were you, like, a clothing guy beforehand? I feel like landing in Tokyo, and then your first interaction with the clothing business is some guy’s visual kei brand, that might be kind of overwhelming.

IS: Yeah. So, my cousin, when I was younger, owned a clothing company. And so when I was in middle school, without really knowing it, there was a lot of osmotic exposure to clothing, because we’d just go and hang out, and I just ended up spending hours walking the racks. I mean, I didn’t pay heed at the time – I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t anything that lasted – but what did last was that my cousin became very good friends with Josh Warner of Good Art, and so it was through my cousin that I ended up becoming very close with Josh, and it was through Josh that I met Kotaro. So that’s the whole daisy chain.

JL: So, Good Art seems much more in line with what Nine Lives is, currently.

IS: Yeah, I mean, that’s certainly got to be a part of it; it’s gotta be partially the air we breathe, and partially because I’ve known Josh since I was, what, fourteen or something. He’s family now. One thing I’ll say is that Nine Lives as a name was actually partially inspired by Good Art – I love Good Art as a name because of its vacuity.

JL: Right.

IS: And I mean I tell this to Josh, I love it because it’s so empty. It’s almost a meaningless shell that you have to backfill – this is the product and this is what it is – and that informed picking ‘Nine Lives,’ because Nine Lives is kind of a generic name. I’m sure that there are a thousand brands and, y’know, projects in the universe – not to mention, apparently, a terrible movie a couple of years ago –

JL: Yeah, that comes up a lot on Google.

IS: Nine Lives, it’s a cliché. And it was picked slightly for that reason – I liked the idea of picking something that, y’know, it’s not that it sounds bad, it’s fine; it has on a literal level a sense of the varied life and various energies that are being brought to the project, but in a sort of literal sense is trite, and is not that memorable, and people have to focus on product and have to actually see what it is for that name to take on life and take on meaning.

That’s actually a terrible business decision. I don’t know that any marketing MBA would tell you that was the right move. But that’s probably where I share DNA with Josh; a little bit of the punk rock, fuck you, I’m not gonna do it by your rules.

ian segal nine lives clothing styleforum nine lives brand

JL: ‘Zen as fuck,’ I think your website says, which also seems like an oxymoron. There’s also something a little bit of Baudelaire, of the flaneur, especially when you link it to clothing – but then it’s, like, a cat thing, and you guys are into coyotes. So where do the coyotes come from?

IS: So that’s one of the funny things. Yeah, I like animals – I mean, cats are fine. But Kotaro and I are very much dog people, and we basically started the whole project and were eventually, like, “Ehhh, I don’t know, we’re not the ‘cat guys,’ we gotta push against that.” So I thought, okay, what’s a really weird, cracked thing? And I said, “Coyotes have nine lives.” And that’s – we had a dog living with us that wandered in off the street when I was eleven, and was with us until he died twelve years later, and the legend was that he was half coyote. He certainly looked it. He was a feral, noble, prince of a mutt.

It sort of dovetails, because I have one line of poetry that’s sort of deliberately a purple prose line, and it says ‘Glinting mongrel in a dying land,’ and we ran with that line, and have adopted the coyote. You’ll see it a little more – this winter, we’re doing a little more Americana, whereas last spring was this pop horror, Lovecraftian Jurassic Park response to the Trump. This collection is a little bit more going into shadow country, and doing some more mod Americana.

I don’t love putting our brand name on stuff, and that sort of speaks to the ‘Zen as fuck’ line; y’know, even when stuff is more pugilistic and strong, I still hope that there’s a certain degree of minimalism, and it’s obviously not that branded – and we’re not really making money by selling a brand. So there’s an essentialism to it, and because of that I always feel funny making a t-shirt that actually says ‘Nine Lives.’ We did it that first time, because we just kind of didn’t know what we were doing, and now we’ve finally managed to be making a full collection where we’re excited about everything – from the crazy outerwear down to the t-shirts – we feel like we’ve hit our stride. In that context, well, okay, we still want to do some printed t-shirts, we want to do a remake of a 70’s nylon Kawasaki long-sleeve jersey. And it can’t say “Kawasaki,” so we won’t put that on there, but I don’t want it to say Nine Lives, so we’re gonna use ‘mongrel.’ So that’s what we’re using in place of the brand name when we want to do text.

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Incorporating Vintage Menswear Silhouettes

After my last article detailing the differences of suit silhouettes from past eras, I thought that it would be helpful to offer some advice on how to mix pieces from different eras and incorporate vintage menswear silhouettes into your wardrobe. It’s something that I’ve done for the past few years as a lot of my wardrobe was thrifted, found on eBay, or purchased from a vintage store.  Be sure to look at my guide to thrifting as well!

The first thing that I take a look at are the shoulders, which in turn usually points toward the structure of a jacket.  Each era of menswear has a different treatment of a shoulder, which corresponds directly to the overall silhouette. Broad, padded shoulders usually requires a wider, fuller pant leg while natural, narrow shoulders can work with a slim trouser.  Interestingly enough, this reflects the 30’s and the 60’s respectively as well as contemporary tailoring styles around the world.  You wouldn’t wear a structured British jacket with a slim chinos, would you?  Probably not.  It just so happens that soft jacketing is how tailoring has moved in recent time, so anything soft or unstructured (from the 1960s especially) would definitely work well today.  

The next thing I look at is length and buttoning point.  Like shoulders, each era had their own treatment too.  Typically jackets with a “classic buttoning point” (with the last button on the pocket line) lead to a classic and versatile proportions.  Jackets that have a low buttoning point usually have a longer body and will look much more dated.  Suits and jackets from the 1930’s and 1960’s are the best and creating this aesthetic and can be worn with most contemporary pieces, while other “bold eras” like the 1940s-50s and the 1970-90s are much too out of place.  Obviously 1920’s and earlier jackets were designed to be slightly edwardian and have an exceedingly antiquated look to apply today.  

Fabric also plays an important part.  It’s important to remember that looming technology has changed significantly since the 1920’s, which is why older vintage clothing has a certain weight and texture to it when compared to contemporary fabrics.  To make them work today, I find that it’s best to combine vintage garments with similarly weighted and textured garments like flannels, tweeds, and brushed cottons.  Try to avoid novelty fabrics like sharkskin, since they’re hard to pair.  Personally, I find that most vintage garments looks quite odd when worn with super fine worsteds. Patterns will definitely play a part, as old fabrics will usually have some heavy striping or checks, so it’s best not to over do it.  Grey flannel trousers will usually be your best friend when wearing a vintage jackets, though creams, navy blues, and browns can help too.

Lastly, the main way to pull off vintage garments is to style them classically.  Usually the jacket (or suit) is the star of the outfit, so it’s best to keep everything else toned down.  Resist the urge to “complete” the vintage look with bowties or skinny 60’s ties.  Wearing normal striped shirts with repps and foulards is what I always recommend to people, since it’s inoffensive and classic enough to not look like a costume.   Obviously you can mess around with details like collar lengths (like rolled OCBDs or long point collars) or accessories (like a collar bar/pin) but I find it best to keep things simple, especially if you don’t normally wear vintage garments.

As I’ve written before, buying vintage is not only a way to save money on a quality garment but it’s also a great method to add some statement pieces into your wardrobe. Most people avoid vintage since they assume it’s too costumey and aren’t sure how to style it.  I’d like to think that this article helps put a different spin on vintage pieces and while they are a little quirky when compared to contemporary garments, they still have a great place in a classic menswear wardrobe.  

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How to Style an Overshirt, with Erik Mannby

how to style an overshirt styleforum erik mannby overshirt

Overshirts, or ‘shackets’ – as our friend Kyle refers to them –  are often the province of casual-wear. Leave it to Erik Mannby, friend of Styleforum and editor of Plaza Uomo, to make the garment shine in a semi-tailored context. In this case, the added length of the overshirt helps balance out the proportions of the outfit. You might call it cheating, and if we’re being honest it’s about the same length as a short jacket, but as far as I’m aware there’s no universally agreed-upon length for an overshirt, so in my mind it’s fair game. Beneath that, the outfit is a well-considered blend of autumn textures, noticeable largely because of the light colors. Many of us – myself included – gravitate towards darker tones once the days begin to grow shorter, but I like the use of the cream cardigan in particular. Also worth noting is the brown tie which, as the sole point of saturation outside the overshirt, stands out in a good way and looks very nice against the striped shirt. I find it difficult to wear shawl-collar cardigans as a mid-layer, but again, I like the way it’s done here. Erik has really mastered the slim-but-comfortable silhouette, and it’s nice to see layering that doesn’t get bulky.

We haven’t addressed the best accessory, which is of course the puppy. Experts have long known that dogs make an excellent counterpart to a good outfit, and Mr. Mannby has perhaps found the ideal complement to his autumn tones in a dark-haired companion. The sheen of the fur goes well with the overshirt, and the tiny, adorable nose adds some welcome gloss to an otherwise matte ensemble.


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What’s so Great About Tweed?

This article originally appeared on Styleforum in 2015.

Words and pictures by Ian Anderson

I have mixed feelings about tweed. This standard-bearer for autumnal fabrics does not fill me with excitement, like it does for so many on Styleforum; rather, I can’t help but feel a bit put off by the sight of it. I could pretend that this ambivalence stems from the fabric’s rough texture, loud patterns, or stuffy Ivy-style connotations, but that would be a lie. My struggles with tweed comes from the fact that I simply can’t wear it – the weather in San Francisco is just too mild to require something so warm, and that alone fills my sunny autumns with deep pangs of jealousy.

Since I rarely enjoy tweed the traditional way – by wearing it – I find myself getting my fix in any way I can. I pore over vintage photographs, run my hands over the old tweeds in thrift stores, and watch documentaries on the history of the textile. These substitutes may not replace the real thing, but they are less sweaty than wearing tweed in the sun. Moreover, they’ve given me a lot of time to think about how I would wear tweed if I had the opportunity.

As many members of this forum will know, tweed is a woolen textile known for its hearty texture, earthen color palate, and British heritage. The fabric’s warmth, texture, and rich patterns and colors make it ideal for the cooler months. Tweed can be found in many forms – suits, hats, luggage, and more – but the quintessential item is the sportcoat. From fox hunting in Ireland to the Fall semester curriculum at Ivy League institutions, this item has become the go-to garment for tweed novices and experts alike.

What's so Great About Tweed? styleforum tweed

Tweed jackets can come in a variety of forms, but I feel that the best ones are those that stay true to their classic iteration. Flap pockets, soft shoulders, center vents, leather buttons, and so forth are all design details that suit the fabric well. As for colors and patterns, the options are extremely vast. There are classics like herringbones, twills, and donegal tweeds, as well as checks, plaids, and tartans. All of these can generally be found in an assortment of dusty browns, mossy greens, and other earthen colors. Tweed can be as bold or as muted as you’d like, so take the time to find a fabric that suits you.

Wearing a tweed jacket is not difficult – assuming the weather is cooperating – as long as it is paired with other pieces that play well alongside its heft. The safest bet is to wear tweed with other hearty or textured fabrics. For instance, a tweed sportcoat will pair wonderfully with flannel, moleskin, and even denim (although purists may disagree). With regards to footwear, the same thoughts apply – leave the chiseled oxfords in the closet, and instead reach for suede bluchers, wingtip boots, cordovan longwings, or even a Norwegian split toe if you’re feeling adventurous.

What's so Great About Tweed? styleforum tweed
Tweed and leather: a perfect cool-weather combination

When looking for an off-the rack tweed jacket, the best options are typically from the trad-leaning retailers – stores like J. Press, Brooks Brothers, Southwick, O’Connell’s, Polo Ralph Lauren, and even J. Crew typically have a few pieces to choose from every Fall season. Even so, the incredible durability of tweed and the steadfast nature of its style makes it a fantastic candidate for thrift shopping. Any solid secondhand store will likely have a hearty selection of vintage tweeds worth looking at.

If you have interest in going the custom or bespoke route, there are many British mills that produce exceptional tweeds in cut lengths. Harris Tweed from the Outer Hebrides may be the gold standard, but there are many more options available. For instance, Molloy & Sons is a small two-man operation out of Donegal, Ireland that specializes in the tweed named after the region. Other British mills like Holland & Sherry, Moon Mills, and more will always carry a robust selection. Lastly, cloth merchants like Harrison’s (which owns W. Bill, Porter & Harding, and more) will have a variety of tweeds available.

Looking ahead, I anticipate that this autumn will be as bleak as the ones before it – full of sunshine and temperatures in the low seventies. For those of you preparing to enter a season of crisp morning air and crunchy fallen leaves, don’t waste a moment of it. Hold your tweeds close and use them often. Wear them with frayed oxford cloth shirts, flannel and denim, and your favorite pair of country boots. Whether you’re planning on hunting red grouse, teaching an undergraduate course on Shakespeare, or just keeping the fall chill at bay, your tweed jacket will be an ideal companion.

Embracing The Styleforum Uniform, with @jcmeyer

The Styleforum uniform security guard look styleforum jcmeyer

Ah, the Styleforum Uniform, affectionately (and sometimes mockingly) referred to as “The Security Guard Look.” At its core, it comprises a navy jacket and grey (or neutral) trousers, with the option of rotating a wide range of colors and styles of footwear, neckwear, jacket silhouettes, and other accoutrements. In this case, @jcmeyer has opted for a trouser that tends towards ‘oatmeal’ in coloration, which helps to take away some of the flatness that pure grey can bring to an outfit. It’s a nice touch, and offers a pleasant depth of color. The tie is a good choice as well, as it’s fall-friendly without being costume-y, and finally, take a look at that collar roll! Finished off with a pair of brown suede chukkas, this is one of the most versatile combinations you can have in your wardrobe. All that remains for you to do is nail the fit and finish of each item – easier said then done, but you can see how much of a difference it makes.

Here’s what @jcmeyer has to say about his take on the Styleforum Uniform:

“I probably do some version of the security guard every week or two. It’s especially good for a few reasons: 

  • one, it takes very little brain power to put a successful combo together with this as the base, which is especially nice now that I don’t get to sleep through the night with an infant in the next room
  • two, it’s akin to a grey or navy suit in that it’s basically invisible to people at the office – in other words you could wear it just about every day and no one would really notice
  • and three, it allows for easy, nearly infinite, variations by accommodating a wide range of ties, shoes, and shirts (collar styles too) and it also gives you the option to change the color of the trousers to oatmeal (like in the pic), tan, and even subdued patterns

As for how to make it distinct, I kinda have to dodge the question by the nature of what I said in my second point above. To me the best part about this look is that it isn’t distinct. Fit and the quality of the items/fabric is going to make you feel good about it, and maybe a few people will notice that, consciously or otherwise, but in the end the best thing is that you blend in. For those of us who wear #menswear to work, that’s actually pretty important!”

Now, the relevance of that last point will of course depend on your job and lifestyle, but I’m not sure I completely agree with @jcmeyer’s impression of the results – buddy, if you didn’t want to stand out, you shouldn’t have done such a good job.

Developing Personal Style with @eddiemczee

You may remember Styleforum member @eddiemczee from a recent post on white denim, but as usual, there’s more to his story. Today, this CM member tells us how he first decided to upgrade his wardrobe, describes the pitfalls he experienced along the way, and reveals his secret to developing personal style.

My descent down the menswear rabbit hole begins with an umbrella.
In 2009, I received my first-ever Christmas bonus. It was also raining a ton and I needed a new umbrella. So instead of saving the money for a figurative rainy day, I decided to go all out on an actual one. I Googled “best umbrella” and after reading a few articles, settled on a Brigg. I knew nothing about the brand other that they had been around for a long time, so I hoped for the best.
When I received it, I discovered that “best” was an understatement. This umbrella became the nicest thing I owned. Made from a continuous piece of maple wood, the umbrella was both stylish and durable. Most important, it felt good to hold.
After that umbrella, the rest of my wardrobe paled in comparison. My closet consisted of cheap dress shirts, ill fitting pants, and squared toe shoes. I wanted to upgrade all my clothes.
I started to follow a lot of menswear blogs where I learned more about fit and construction. I discovered new brands and stores that I had never known about. Soon after, I found Styleforum.
My first Styleforum experience wasn’t on the forum. It was the 10th anniversary party in San Francisco.  At the event, I met Fok and a lot of the affiliate vendors like Epaulet and The Hanger Project. I also made quite a few friends. Afterwards, I made an account and kicked off my forum career with this brilliant thread:
developing personal style styleforum eddiemczee

I actually got helpful advice.

For a long time, I only posted in the Epaulet affiliate thread. I loved the brand and would get excited to see what Mike and Adele were up to next. It also helped that everyone who posted there was super friendly.
As I developed my style, I made some great decisions, but plenty of terrible ones too. My biggest mistake was not focusing on the fundamentals first. I tended to buy things that I thought looked interesting and were on sale. I had a small collection of loud, plaid sport coats but no navy blazer. Without a solid foundation, I created an incohesive closet that made it hard to get dressed.
developing personal style styleforum eddiemczee

When a #menswear closet throws up on you.

After spending way too much on clothes, I stopped buying things for a while and looked through my closet.  Out of all the many, scattered purchases, there were quite a few gems. Items that evoked the same feeling of excitement I had felt when I first bought my Brigg umbrella.
I started to sell a ton of things. As I went through my closet, I used my umbrella as my litmus test. Did this item feel as good as my umbrella did? I was performing the Konmari method before there was a Konmari method. (On a side note: it looks like I missed an opportunity to write a book on this).
developing personal style styleforum eddiemczee

Umbrella still going strong, eight years later.

By 2015, my closet was shrinking more that it was growing. Getting rid of clothes actually helped me hone my style more than any thread I could read. I was able to distill my unwieldy collection of clothes into curated wardrobe of items I loved. Things like a loden tweed sports coat, pebble grain dress boots, and of course, my Brigg umbrella.
The interesting thing was that all these pieces that I kept looked great when worn together. Turns out that I had figured out my personal style – I only had to get rid of the noise that was obscuring it. On the weekdays, I like to wear tailored clothing with sports coats to work. I spend my weekends in workwear and leather jackets. Sometimes I’ll even wear jeans with a sport coat!
Photo 4:
developing personal style styleforum eddiemczee

Current style.

I still browse online stores and read menswear blogs. When I buy clothes now though, I try to only buy things that fill in gaps or upgrade something I already have. I’m much more excited to wear what I already have and develop beautiful patinas.
Styleforum is a great place for a person in any stage of their menswear journey to come and hang out. I’ve since ventured out of my favorite affiliate threads and have even posted some WAYWT pics. I’ve made some good friends through the board and even in real life. A big shout out to Gus for planning all the San Francisco meetups.
Currently, I’ve been taking a ton of inspiration from posters in the WAYWT threads. My current favorite posters include Mossrocks, FrankCowperwood, StanleyVanBuren, and Gerry Nelson. Not only do they all have great style, but also their posts aren’t an endless parade of new items they bought. Instead, I’ll see them all re-wear their favorite garments over and over as we all should.
It’s fun (and expensive) to buy new clothes. But for me, I’m trying to enjoy what I have now versus what I want to get next.

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