Why Black Tie Matters

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

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



PETER’S SHOPPING LIST FOR BLACK TIE 2017

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

Buying Jeans for a Tailored Wardrobe

The ‘blazer and jeans’ look is as common today as it ever has been, championed by retailers and social media accounts of all sorts. Most commonly, you’ll see narrow black blazers paired with narrow black denim or torn jeans, or you’ll find true dad-wear diehards wearing stonewashed Levi’s with too-big sport coats. On the other side of the spectrum are Styleforum’s SW&D posters, who have long been sharing less rigid and rule-bound takes on the same combination.

However, if you fall more on the Classic Menswear side of things, don’t lose heart. There is certainly – perhaps more so now than ever – a segment of the denim market in which you can find some very versatile jeans for a tailored wardrobe. If that sounds like you, here are several considerations you’ll want to keep in mind when you’re shopping for denim, along with some tips from Styleforum members to send you on your way.


1. What to Consider

Remember that Jeans are Jeans

First and foremost: jeans are not trousers. The key to wearing them with tailored clothing is understanding that they don’t need to be forced into a role as stand-ins for trousers, but that they offer new and different styling possibilities for your wardrobe. If you think that jeans are too casual to be worn with tailored clothing, then you’ll likely be happier if you stick with trousers than you would be trying to force denim into your wardrobe.

Consider the cut

Before you consider the hem width or color of your jeans, make sure that you’re keeping an eye on the rise. Are you planning to tuck in your shirt? If so, you’ll want to stay away from low-rise jeans, which will result in untucked shirts and unsightly bulges at the crotch and belt line. If your tastes tend toward the classic, you’ll probably want to look for a ‘medium rise,’ as most men’s jeans won’t be marked as a ‘high rise’ (if you’re looking for explicitly high-rise denim, your best bet is to search Western and Cowboy supply stores for brands such as Lee and Wrangler). This has the added benefit of making your jeans resemble trousers more closely in silhouette, which means that if you’re sticking with your classic clothing, it will be easier to work denim into your wardrobe.

Determining hem width

Do you plan to wear your jeans with espadrilles and camp collar shirts? With loafers and a polo? With chunky, English footwear and a sport coat? This will help you do decide on the inseam length and hem width that you prefer. I suggest not going wider than 8-8.5″, as denim has its own characteristics and quickly starts to look sloppy when overly wide.

For example, you’re looking for a pair of jeans to wear in the summertime, consider a cream fabric hemmed to no break, as these will pair well with loafers. If you plan to wear them with chukkas in the fall and winter seasons, a longer inseam and some tasteful stacking will look nice.

Similarly, too-narrow jeans may look at home in a streetwear context, but be out of place in a more traditional getup.

Fabric

Texture is as important in denim as it is when choosing trousers. Wearing thin, uninteresting denim that doesn’t stand out won’t necessarily elevate your look – however, pronounced slubbiness or neppiness may not be what you want either. The latter fabrics can be difficult to dissociate from their rugged, workcloth origins, and don’t necessarily pair well with tailored clothing, while the former can read as bland and unconsidered.

There’s no specific ‘best’ denim for wearing with tailored clothing, but I prefer to err on the side of textured. This limits the chances that you’ll look like a boring office drone.

What about the color?

My personal opinion is that very dark jeans look silly with sport coats and a tucked-in shirt, as they go too far in aping the look of trousers and instead ignore the characteristics of denim. Jeans are not a formal garment, even in this informal world, and that’s not changed by pairing them with more formal clothing. A highly-textured denim can alleviate this effect somewhat.

Obviously, you may choose to go the raw route, and wear your jeans until they’re distressed to your tastes. Otherwise I’d suggest looking for a light to medium-dark blue, depending on the look you’re after. Faded indigo is a lovely color, and works very nicely with tailored jackets in a way that navy trousers can’t.

There are also more and more makers offering tasteful washes, should you prefer your jeans pre-washed.

To cuff or not to cuff

There’s no right answer here. Generally, I recommend avoiding thick, heavy cuffs – a single cuff or micro-cuff can look nice, but this depends greatly on the width of the hem and the shoe you’re wearing. Here are some examples that I think look good, followed by others that I think miss the mark. Ultimately, the choice is up to you.

A note on alterations

Don’t be afraid to hem or taper your jeans, the way you would alter any other garment. They’re still an off-the-rack garment, so the chances that anything you find will fit you or your tastes perfectly are as slim as they are in any other case. For example, Levi’s had so many customers request that the legs of their 501 jeans be tapered that they introduced a new fit, the 501 CT. Keep that in mind if you’re looking through thrift stores for the perfect, already-broken-in wash.

However, don’t get too precious – remember, jeans aren’t trousers, and part of what makes denim pleasant is its innately unkempt, casual feel.


2. Brands to try

The following are brands that offer denim in cuts amenable to tailoring or to a more classic wardrobe. Keep in mind that there are many, many others – a cruise through most of the Italian RTW brands on Yoox will net endless results. Levi’s offers numerous budget options, and would be my choice if you’re looking to keep costs down, but if you have the cash to spare there are far nicer options available.

Levi’s

Japan Blue Jeans

Orslow

Kapital

The Armoury


3. Member Tips

Lots of people have already figured out what works for them. Like other members, I happen to think that dark denim worn with a dark, office-ready blazer is a strange look. Here are some selected tips and impressions. For more, check out the Sport Coats and Jeans thread. I’d also direct you to our contributor Mitch, who nails the blazer-and-jeans look.

“I think the best way is to just throw it on and think no more of it. A very casual jacket helps of course.”

– E.F.V.

“I don’t do the denim+SC look often – I generally prefer chinos – but I do think it can work. When I’ve done it in the past I’ve usually reached for gray tweed, brown flannel, tan linen, things like that (depending on the weather). I’ve never tried the navy on navy, I just haven’t felt good about it whenever I looked in the mirror.”

– Brillopad

“It helps to have awesome hair. Or some interesting detail so it doesn’t feel like ‘I just got home from the office but only had time to change half of my outfit before going out to dinner.'”

– ChetB

“I’ve debated this with folks here before, but I think for all but the tallest of dudes, jackets worn with odd pants generally and jeans particularly should be shorter than a standard suit jacket. If this isn’t done, the jacket makes the look top-heavy and dumpy. One inch minimum, probably no more than two.”

– Sugarbutch

The Best Ties For Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


liverano summer tie

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


drake's tie linen summer

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


seersucker tie vanda fine clothing summer

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


vanda oatmeal tie summer

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

Bespoke Trousers at Tailor’s Keep

It all started a little over a year ago: my first pair of bespoke trousers.
Most people think of suits, or at least a jacket, when it comes to bespoke clothing. Trousers are just there, like the fries that accompany your Niman Ranch burger at Causwell’s. Good, but nothing you’d order on their own. 
Such thinking couldn’t be farther from the truth. Granted, the jacket is probably the first thing noticed, but if the accompanying trousers are garbage, the whole outfit suffers. You’ve seen it before: hem too long or too short, gaping pockets at the hips, slim legs that grab the calves, excess folds at the crotch, a droopy seat. We’ve all experienced it, but are not necessarily condemned to it. 
This is where bespoke trousers come in. The thing is, to nail the fit, multiple fittings are required until everything is just right. Either you spend a week or two near a tailoring house, use a traveling tailor who comes twice a year, or – if you’re fortunate – use a local guy.  I’ve had the opportunity to have fantastic trousers made for me in Sicily, but I’m not always there. Ideally you’d have a local tailor who can make a proper pair, but finding one can be next to impossible. However, if you’re in San Francisco, you do have a local option I wholeheartedly recommend: Tailors’ Keep. 
Located across the street from the world-famous Transamerica Pyramid, on the border of North Beach and the Financial District, Ryan Devens, the co-founder of Tailors’ Keep, runs the show.  Inside is an uncluttered haven of gentlemanly items: a distressed leather couch, paintings from local artists, various libations, and many books of fabrics.  Won’t you won’t see are the workers – they are in a separate shop upstairs.  “It’s great to have the shop onsite,” Ryan says.  “It’s a magical escape, a hidden gem, with music always playing, smiles always on faces, and hands always moving.  There we can make bespoke clothing, or fix up ready-to-wear and vintage pieces.  There is always a special project at some stage in its process – recutting a pair of old trousers for a new and updated fit, or building a new pair of pants from scratch.”
I wish I could say Tailors’ Keep has a house style, but they don’t. This is not to say they aren’t capable; on the contrary, Ryan appreciates all styles, and when I told him I wanted a classic, flat front, slightly slim trouser with a higher rise, he simply nodded, “Yes, we can absolutely do that.”  A few months and fittings later, and the trousers were finished:  14oz Fox Bros oatmeal flannel from No Man Walks Alone, cut into a classically slim pair of trousers, with off-seam hand-tacked besom pockets, button cuffs, and a perfect fit.
The last particular is a particular that cannot be overemphasized.  Sure, you can have a pair of trousers fatto a mano from a tailor whose family has been doing it for generations, complete with hand stitched and attached curtain waistband, pick stitching down the legs, and extended waist tab, but all that means nothing if they don’t fit.  
 Ryan’ crew can do all the hand stitched details you want, but will make sure the trousers fit.  “Fit is everything, we pride ourselves on that,” he says.  “I’d rather lose money than have an unhappy customer who isn’t satisfied what what we give them.”  Such stock in one’s reputation is a rare commodity these days, but Ryan has always carried through on his word.  My first pair took no less than four fittings to get the back and front rise just right.  For me, this meant having an unbroken line from my seat all the way down to my shoe heel.  This is easy with looser fitting trousers, but if you want a slimmer fit, it’s near impossible – the back of the trousers will invariably grab your calves or bunch underneath your seat.   This is no easy task, as Ryan explains: 
“The process of making a pattern normally starts with seeing the client in a pair of trousers that he/she already owns and is decently happy with.  In some cases, I’ll take those trousers and make a few adjustments first, then have a second fitting with that specific pant and assess if that pattern is sufficient for starting a bespoke pattern or not.  The most significant measurement to a proper fitting trouser is indeed the rise – but also the relationship between the front and back rise.  These measurements are based on posture, preference, and the specific style in which the garment is being made – low-rise, mid-rise, high-rise, etcetera.  
 
“For example, if someone has a hips-forward posture, a different measurement will be applied for the front/back rise balance as opposed to someone who may have a high seat or hips-back posture.  This is necessary in order to alleviate the dreaded pocket-pulling effect, which is quite often seen on MTM pants too.  One rise for one client may not fit another client who is the exact same height and weight.  Being able to see these proportions and body-type relationships can greatly assist in creating a very accurate “first pass” on a bespoke pant.  
 
“Since our master tailor/cutter is in-house, I can focus on strictly fitting, consultation, and the measurement process, while he focuses on pattern-making.  I ideally would create a shell trouser that has no pocketing or working fly so that any front/back rise and hip adjustments can be made easily without too much re-work.   This is essential in preventing extensive rework and repatterining, especially in a majority-handsewn piece where time actually does equal money to the tailors involved.”
Such a process can take time, but as anyone who has had bespoke trousers will tell you, it is well worth the wait.  After Ryan and his crew dialed in the fit, I’ve had three subsequent trousers made straight to finish according to my specs.  If something’s not quite right, I don’t have to wait until the next time the tailor comes to town; Ryan pins the adjustments needed, and the final result is ready in a few weeks. Personally, I haven’t experienced anything but a remarkable end product.  If you want to have pants that sit well, lay flat, and hang straight, consider going bespoke.  You’ll be happy you did.

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How and When to Wear a Boutonniere

Warmer months mean more time spent outside, where you can soak in the sun’s warm rays and take in the intoxicating perfume of spring’s flowers in full bloom.  While doing so, you may even be tempted to pluck one and place it in your jacket’s lapel, because why not?  Flowers are, after all, one of Mother Nature’s most beautiful creations and have been used since ancient times to celebrate everything from birth to one’s memory.

“Why” is not the subject of this article – “how” is, because the simplicity of wearing a flower in one’s lapel, a boutonniere, has been morphed into all-too-often complicated mess, with results both unpolished and overly precious.  In short, the process can be put into five words: put it in your buttonhole.  And then: put it through the loop.  Okay, so that’s ten.

There are more than a few things about menswear that may never get used but do serve a purpose, however remote.  One of those things is the boutonnière loop.  Found on some bespoke and higher-end suit jackets and sport coats, this little loop is just underneath the buttonhole on the underside of the lapel.  Here are a few examples:
Truth be told, the boutonniere never was a staple even in menswear’s heyday.  Hats and handkerchiefs were worn on the daily, but boutonnieres were saved primarily for special occasions.  Nowadays they are even more rare, but that doesn’t mean you can’t wear one.
Some may be inclined to pop a flower in his lapel whenever it suits their fancy.  After all, they muse, isn’t every day special?  Pollyannas and dandies may do as they wish; I won’t cast a pall over their rainbows and unicorns.  Special occasions, though, do exist, and are a perfect time to dress up your lapel. 

Weddings – Most men know that boutonnieres are for the groom and his entourage, but two things should be mentioned.  One, they are usually much too large, bordering on a bouquet, when single simple flower will do.  Two, they are not the only ones who can wear a boutonniere; the invited may wear one as well.  Pair it with a navy or grey suit, white shirt, appropriate wedding tie, black shoes and belt, and there’s your no-brainer outfit for the wedding season.  Deep in Esquire’s archives, this spread from 1948 lists appropriate wedding attire for both participants and guests.  Since not much has changed, use it as a starting point.
Here are two examples of men who wear a boutonniere correctly:
And here are examples to avoid:
Note that if you are attending a wedding as part of the groom’s entourage, you should graciously accept both the honor and whatever boutonniere you are given, even if it is not to your taste. 
Special religious/state ceremonies – if you are participating in or invited to one, a boutonniere may be an acceptable accessory.  For example, cloth poppies are often worn on Remembrance Day.  Just be sure to remember that certain colors may or may not be appropriate, depending on the affair .  Do your due diligence and research to choose one that doesn’t offend or attract attention away from the solemnity of the event.
Festive celebrations – a bit more leeway is allowed here, since the main point during such soirees is to have fun.  There are many opportunities throughout the year where flowers fit in fine, so look for them.  The Kentucky Derby immediately springs to mind, as the most exciting two minutes in sports is well-known for its blanket of roses given to the winner.  Not just observed in Louisville, Kentucky, pop-up celebrations are observed everywhere, thanks to televised satellite locations.  Just a few short years after the first Derby in Kentucky, Britain had one, and since then Derby Day has seen even the Queen participate with flowers in her hat.  Boutonnieres in this environment would blend in quite nicely and add to the spirit of the event.
Wearing a boutonniere is easy: grab a carnation or small rose, clip the stem a couple of inches, and slip it through your jacket’s lapel and loop.  Don’t have a loop?  Look online for video tutorials on how to make your own, or ask your tailor if he can (he’s probably better).  Some opt for a fake flower, but unless you wear the same flower multiple times during the year, you’re better off with what nature provided.  If you can spring to go to a social event, a real flower won’t break the bank.  Try this: next time you go out to a nice dinner with your partner, wear a boutonniere along with your suit and tie.  If he or she asks why, just say it’s a special occasion and smile.
 
Finally, take moment to watch, in real time, how simple it is to add a bit of floral inspiration to your outfit:
You’re welcome.

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The 4 Best Ways to Wear a Pocket Square

Almost six months ago, I wrote How to Choose a Pocket Square, showcasing some of Styleforum’s member’s pochettes and how they used them to accessorize various coat and tie combinations.  Still, much like a child eagerly pores over paint brushes when first handed one, many have little to no clue what to do with them, and so impulsively stuff a blob of fabric into their pocket without regard to proper technique.  Granted, it’s not rocket science, but like all other components of classic men’s clothing, a bit of know-how can make a big difference. 
First, should you wear a pocket square?  Forum member Will, creator and writer of A Suitable Wardrobe, recommends a square for all empty breast pockets.  While that may have been appropriate when coats were worn with only trousers, nowadays sport coats can be seen with jeans and even sneakers.  Should you wear a pocket square in this instance?  Since a pocket square dresses up an outfit, whether or not you choose one depends on the look you’re going for.  Are you sporting sneakers and beat-up jeans with that sport coat?  Then skip the square; it’ll look out of place with the casual kicks, like a top hat with pajamas.  A pocket square in a sport coat with raw denim and loafers or wingtips, however, give off a similar dressier vibe.
How should you wear your square?  As with neckties, simpler is better.  Countless YouTube videos demonstrate a dozen ways to fold and place pocket squares in increasingly-complex methods, most of which are fastidiously abominable.  The following are not only the best ways to wear a pocket square, they are the only ways you need to know.
The Square Fold (AKA the TV Fold, AKA the Presidential Fold)
The most basic fold, often seen in Styleforum’s “Conservative Business Dress” thread.  Anesthetized and inoffensive, this option may be perfect for the rest of your outfit if you are going to a formal event or if you work in a conservative office (think grey worsted suits with black captoes).  However, many people make the mistake of folding the square so that none of the seams show, and are instead left with a perfect, paper crease-like fold at the top of their pocket.
This is a proper way to do it: place the square in your pocket so that the edges of the square are facing the shoulder and arm.  This gives a touch of visual interest to an otherwise, well, boring square.  Try angling the outside corner up and out toward your deltoid.  This way the diagonal lines of the square’s edges echo the same contours of the V of your suit and lapels.  For extra credit, space the edges apart haphazardly as you fold to create a more organic square-ish fold.  This type of fold works well with small repeating patterns, and of course, plain white linen or cotton.
The Three Point Fold
Variations of this one exist (Two and Four Points), but even numbers seem to make an already artificially manipulated piece of frivolous cloth overly contrived.  To do it, simply fold the square in half on the diagonal, bring the left corner up over the top so it falls on the right, and then the right corner behind so it falls on the left.  A less studied look than the Square Fold, and works with all squares.
The Puff
The puff is basically a half circle, accomplished in several ways.  The easiest way is by simply shoving the points down in your pocket, leaving a puff at the top.  This can sometimes look a little shapeless, so another way is by pinching the middle of the square, twisting it, and folding it.  This creates soft pleats that give the square an interesting dimensionality.  Another way similar to the last is after pinching the square, bringing it through an O of your thumb and forefinger, and then folding it in half so that the points are either behind or on the outside edge of the puff.  Best for abstracts, paisleys, and large prints.
The Whatever
Another option is to do combinations of the three above. I find myself doing the Three Point and Puff Fold regularly. I also like how Will at A Suitable Wardrobe puts it: shove it in, direct points toward your left, and forget about it.  This is basically what is demonstrated by TTO here:
Pocket squares, like most articles of menswear, follow simple rules of aesthetics and harmony.  You may not always need one, but when you do, practicing these tried-and-true methods can make your pocket square an elegant accompaniment to your ensemble. Finally, for your edification and viewing enjoyment, I’ve put together a video, which you can watch below:

Perfect Spring Style: the Popover Shirt

As further proof that fashion – and men’s fashion in particular – operates entirely in cycles, I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many popover-style shirts at so many different retailers as I have this spring. Although it never disappeared, the popover hasn’t exactly been a mainstay of menswear since the 60’s, when Gant made up the style in oxford cloth and it became an instant favorite of the Ivy set. Certainly, there have always been men who’ve worn them, especially in Italy (as opposed to elsewhere in Europe) – Gianni Agnelli was, after all, well known for favoring them – but especially in America, they’ve been a purely casual item to be found mostly at Ivy retailers (Brooks Brothers, Gant, occasionally J. Press), and mostly made up in Ivy colors and fabrics.

The thing is, the popover wasn’t a new style when Gant “introduced” it to the East Coast (besides, Agnelli appears to have been wearing them – with a spread collar as opposed to a button-down collar – by that point). It’s full-length buttoning that’s relatively new, and which only appeared in the mid-1800’s. If you’ve ever browsed antique shirts, you’ve probably noticed that most of them – whether they’re the sought-after French workshirts or the “formal” English pieces – only sport half-plackets. It was only after the introduction of the full placket that popovers slowly disappeared across most of Europe and America.

Part of the recent dearth of popovers, at least in terms of contemporary fashion, must surely be due to our decade-long obsession with Tight Things. Since popovers must be pulled on over the head, they require a bit of extra room in the body to accommodate waving arms and wide shoulders, and I can only imagine that said extra room was anathema to most brands attempting to ride the slim fit wave. In addition, the view of popovers as a purely casual item didn’t do much for their popularity, but as tailored clothing continues to become less and less important to the daily lives of most men, it appears that popovers are – at least in some places – back on the menu, so let’s talk about how to wear them.

First, it’s easy to find casual popovers cut to a length that’s meant to be worn untucked. If you want to channel Ivy style, add a pair of chino shorts, a woven belt, and some penny loafers, and you’re set for summer on the Vineyard.

popover shirt styleforum

Spring and summer are, in my opinion, the perfect seasons for popover-wearing. The slightly relaxed cut, especially when done in a linen or linen blend, is great for warm weather, especially as a vacation shirt. That’s because it’s nice-looking enough that you can wear it out to dinner, but not so nice that you feel bad bundling it up with a beach towel. And you don’t have to be channeling the preppy thing, if you don’t want to. Roll up the sleeves, put on a pair of Vans, and you’ll look just great. Or do as men such as Gianni Agnelli and Yasuto Kamoshita do (Kamoshita also often wears polo shirts under his jackets), and wear yours under an odd jacket or with a suit. The point is that no matter the style you’re after, a popover is a great shirt to have in your wardrobe.

If you’re looking for casual options, affiliate Need Supply is a good place to start, as are brands like Gitman Vintage. If you’re open to wearing a band-collar shirt, those aren’t hard to find at all. Tailoring-friendly options are a bit less easy to come across, although Kamakura offers their own take on the Ivy classic, as does Brooks Brothers. Eidos has been known to offer both band-collar popovers and long-sleeve henleys in the past, and Ralph Lauren’s stock rotates regularly. Amusingly, Gant’s own popovers come and go as well, so you may have to do a bit of searching. If you know exactly what you’re after, Proper Cloth also offers popover plackets as an option.

popover shirt styleforum

It just so happens that affiliate No Man Walks Alone stocks this great linen popover from G. Inglese, which would look pretty darn good with one of those Solaro suits we keep talking about. Wear it with a tie or without, with laced shoes or loafers. However you decide to wear it, wear it in good health, and enjoy the good weather.

What Should a Man Wear to a Wedding: Everything You Need to Know

With April upon us already, it’s time to start thinking about wedding season. Come June, many of us will be traveling around, watching people get married. If you’re sitting on a collection of wedding invitations, we hope you’ve given some consideration to what you’ll be wearing, because there’s no worse feeling than realizing two days before a wedding that you don’t have anything appropriate. Lucky for you, Styleforum can help, whether you’re going to a casual wedding or a black tie wedding – and we just might be able to help you figure out what on earth “Black Tie Casual” means.

For now, we’d like to share some of the more useful wedding instructionals and resources we’ve published in the past. It’s entirely possible that you’ll find the answer to your questions below.


General:

What is Formalwear?

The Wedding Question Thread (ask your question here if it doesn’t appear below)


On The Wedding Suit

what a man should wear to a wedding what should a man wear to a wedding how to dress for a wedding men's wedding style styleforum

BASICS:

The Basics of Wedding Attire for Men

What to Wear to Almost Any Wedding

Where can I buy an affordable suit for my wedding?

Where to Buy a Last-Minute Suit for a Wedding

 

ASSORTED QUERIES:

Does the Groom Need to Stick Out from the Groomsmen?

Where should the points on my shirt collar lie in relation to my jacket lapels?

What shade of grey should my wedding suit be?

Can I wear a velvet jacket with flannel trousers to a wedding?

How can I include my Scottish Bride’s Family Tartan in my Wedding Suit?

Can I Wear a Black Suit to an Evening Wedding?

Should my groomsmen wear black suits?


On Tuxedos

How do I have a black tie optional wedding?

Do pleated shirts work with three piece tuxedos?

Should I wear a Tuxedo if my Groomsmen are wearing navy business suits?

What does a “formal” wedding dress code mean?

What shirt should I wear with a single button peak lapel dinner jacket?

Is a Burgundy Tuxedo wedding-appropriate?

Can I wear a waistcoat made of a different cloth than my tuxedo?

Will it look totally stupid to wear a proper tuxedo for a summer daytime ceremony?


On Ties and Accessories

What tie is appropriate to wear as a wedding guest?

Why the Four-in-hand is always better than the windsor knot

What tie would work best with a medium-blue suit for a wedding?

What is the optimal width for a wedding tie?

Should I Wear a Watch to a Wedding?

 


Featured image: P Johnson Tailors

How to Wear a Solaro Suit

how to style solaro suit how to wear solaro how to wear a solaro suit solaro styleforum

Summer, to any menswear aficionado, means Solaro. How could anyone not love a fabric that contains the essence of summer in its name?

Because of the neutral tone of the cloth, a Solaro suit is quite easy to wear, and you probably already have in your closet the right garments to complement it. Let’s explore a few options that will make the most out of your sophisticated Solaro suit.

Shirt

Because of the summer nature of the Solaro fabric, chances are you’ll want to wear a light shirt that will keep you cool. I would opt for an ivory/white shirt in linen or light cotton, with no pattern. Light blue works just as well, but be mindful not to add too many colors: the beauty of the Solaro lies in its red iridescence, and you shouldn’t wear any color that overshadows it.

Since Solaro suit pants look good even when separated from their jacket, your outfit will look put together even in case the heat will force you to remove the top part of the suit. You can even unbutton the first two buttons of the shirt, roll up the sleeves  and prepare to look as close to Gianni Agnelli as you’ll ever be.

Spezzato

I grew up in a country where men hardly wear suits with matching pants and jacket. Okay, this is an exaggeration, but I assure you that it’s not uncommon for Italians to play with their suits and mix & match their parts according to their mood and taste.

Because of the light tint of the fabric, a solaro suit will give you plenty of options should you decide to wear the pants and jacket separately. White is, again, an excellent pairing, as well as warm tones that flatter the red hue bleeding from the weave. If you’re feeling brave, you can even wear a pair of blue jeans, like style icon Lino Ieluzzi.

Accessories

A burgundy tie and an earth-toned pocket square will complement both the red and tan hues of the cloth, like the ever-impeccable Fabio Attanasio shows in the picture below. Naturally, since the Solaro is a light color fabric, you can go tie-less – as most people seem to prefer.


 

Usually solaro suits are made bespoke, but you can find ready-to-wear options such as this suit by Eidos for No Man Walks Alone. You can also get a made-to-measure, made in Italy Solaro suit by Lanieri.

Let us know if you’re the proud owner of a solaro suit or if you are considering stepping up your summer game and buying one in the near future. Don’t forget to share your pictures in the What Are You Wearing Today? thread on Styleforum!

If you would like to read more about Solaro, click here to learn about its history and why it makes a perfect choice for a summer suit.

For more inspiration about Italian style, check out the 5 Rules To Dress Like an Italian.

@AriannaReggio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

solaro suit fabric history

Solaro fabric. Photo: No Man Walks Alone

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

@AriannaReggio


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

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

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