How to Declutter Your Winter Wardrobe

It’s half past 8, it’s 25°F outside, and you’re rushing to get out the door—running late for work again. You throw open your closet to choose a coat to layer up over your suit.

“Hmmmm, which one will I wear today?

“I could go full Russian and wear the Norwegian Rain Moscow with fur collar. But that’s my favorite coat and I wore that yesterday.

“I could go full Italian with the Eidos topcoat. Ehhh, that’s too insouciant for the workplace.

“I suppose I could go full #menswear and wear the robe coat. Nah, I’ll get a hundred snide comments.

“Dang it, now it’s 20 to 9 and I still haven’t picked a coat. Forget it, I’ll wear the Moscow again.”

The signs are obvious—it’s a Tide ad.

Just kidding, you’ve got a #menswear problem.

Maybe it’s time to declutter your winter wardrobe, including—but not limited to—your sweet outerwear collection. Here are five tips to help you do so.

declutter your winter wardrobe

I wrote a little bit about this in one of my previous article. The gist is to have a system for your clothes—whether it’s shirts, trousers, jackets, coats—where it’s obvious what you have worn recently and what you have not. Doing so allows you to identify what winter wardrobe items you just don’t wear.

I don’t recommend going full Marie Kondo, assessing the specific level of joy each thing brings, then donating the rest of it—but, if there are jackets, sweaters, flannel shirts, or anything else that you haven’t worn all winter because there’s other stuff you enjoy wearing more, it’s probably safe to get rid of those things.

declutter your winter wardrobe

Allow me to state that besides the “joy” factor, there is a time that you have to acknowledge that your style has changed and maybe it’s time to get rid of old things you never wear for that reason. There was a good season or two I was still gaming the J.Crew sales to try to score good deals on V-neck merino sweaters before realizing, “wait a minute, I don’t actually wear these things.”

There’s also a time to acknowledge your #dadbod, to put it charitably. Looking at my own dad, I can see that at my age, he had roughly the same body shape as I do. But something clearly happened in the ensuing 10-15 years (at 62, he’s back to my size again, and I have a mind to kop an Eidos jacket or two for him at some point). I fully intend to maintain my current fitness level forever, but we all know best intentions don’t always go fulfilled. If you find yourself in a position of unfulfilled intent, consider it an opportunity to sell off old clothes that don’t fit and upgrade with something that does.

Besides, those old 32 waist APCs have too low a rise for your more sophisticated appreciation of higher rise denim.

declutter your winter wardrobe menswear

There’s a point where you can declutter too much. I know because I’ve been there. My friend Jonathan had gotten engaged, and for his bachelor party, we went paintballing—in March (in Ohio). Sounds like a great (if freezing) time, except I had purged my closet of nearly everything I might’ve been okay getting covered in paint. I wore pebble-grain chukka boots from Banana Republic that up until then were still in somewhat regular rotation (this was early in my menswear transformation, cut me some slack). So while I enjoyed the final gauntlet we put Jonathan through (he had welts all over his body for his honeymoon), I was definitely not appropriately dressed for that day.

These days, I make sure to have stuff in my closet or in storage bins downstairs so that I’m not caught without the right gear. Like a few weeks ago when I dug a trench outside my house for drainage in 30° weather after a week of heavy rain. I was glad to have a fleece, old jeans and some old boots to work in the mud in.

declutter your winter wardrobe men

Back in my merino V-neck wearing days, I recall having a perfect navy sweater. It was from Banana Republic and I wore it to great effect all the time (in particular over a blue gingham button-up shirt—you know the one). But even then I recognized that Banana quality left something to be desired, and there came a point within 2-3 years that it was clearly showing its age. I knew I needed to replace it and reduce how often I wore it.

I’m not the kind of guy to, say, buy seven identical pairs of shoes so as to spread out the wear and tear amongst them and prolong their natural life. But I do think it’s good to recognize those things you’ve identified as your best-of, favorite items (see point 1), and when there’s an awesome deal on the same or very similar thing, you can buy it to keep the magic alive. Depending on what it is, you can take advantage of seasonal sales, especially if you’re under no time pressure to immediately replace it.

declutter your winter wardrobe outerwear

The coat matrix skews admittedly toward a tailored-favoring audience, so I apologize to the streetwear guys. But it can be useful for classifying the coats in your wardrobe, which will, in turn, help you spot gaps (or surpluses in certain categories). The gist is to break your outerwear into categories based on the level of formality level, and how warm they are.

It’s fair to say that the colder months are more ripe for dressing well because of all the layering opportunities and wealth of great clothing categories (sweaters, outerwear, scarves, etc.). The flip side of that is that the risk of over-stocking your closet to the detriment of warm-weather attire. You need to save some room in your wardrobe so you can look great all year round—not just when it’s freezing outside.

Use these five tips to help free up some space and clear out the cruft of your wardrobe. Of course what you do with that newly vacant space is up to you. Something tells me it’ll quickly be filled again.

Presidential Style: The Best Dressed Presidents In History

For the last few administrations, presidential style has been incredibly boring. The uniform of navy/charcoal suit, white shirt, and solid red/blue tie is strictly adhered to, and those who break the mold are met with harsh criticism (remember Obama’s tan suit?). If we look to the past, we can see that a few of the presidents were actually quite stylish. It might be a case of writer’s bias, but it’s no surprise that these presidents served during the first half of the 20th century. Here’s an overview of the style of three of the most jaunty presidents in US history.

Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge is not a president remembered for action. According to journalist Walter Lippmann, Coolidge was occupied constantly with “grim, determined, alert inactivity.” He earned the nickname “Silent Cal” during his tenure as Vice President and continued to live up to it when he ascended to the presidency in 1924. Amusingly, in 1927, Coolidge’s terse demeanor caused considerable political confusion when he announced his intention not to seek re-election.

Coolidge goes fishing presidential style

Coolidge goes fishing.

He called a press conference, and handed each reporter in attendance a card that simply read, “I do not choose to run for President in 1928”. The reporters struggled to determine the exact meaning of the words, and he refused any further explanation and left.

While his presidency is often overlooked, there is no denying that Coolidge had great style. Serving for most of the 1920s, President Coolidge exemplified the best of that era’s tailoring. In almost all of his photographs, he can be seen wearing the typical slim, high button suit, complete with narrow cuffed trousers. With a background as a New England lawyer, it makes sense for him to be impeccably dressed.

Although most official portraits and photos show him in formal morning dress, he still knew how to make the business suit look good. He was most often seen in plain worsted suits or business stripes, but was spotted wearing interesting summer outfits as well. As a true 1920s gent, he’s mainly seen in what are presumably starched, detachable collar shirts, and brocade ties. While this could seem a dandyish uniform to us, this was the norm back in the 1920s. He had a formal demeanor, both in an out of office, going as far as wearing a hat while shaving. The man even wore a fedora and a three-piece suit while fishing on vacation!

Honestly, Coolidge made this on this list for one specific outfit. In 1927, while vacationing in the Black Hills of South Dakota, he was given an outrageous cowboy outfit- a huge ten-gallon hat, red western shirt, and wide-legged chaps embroidered with “CAL”. Despite the laughter he received from reporters, he loved it and wore it proudly all summer.

The infamous cowboy outfit presidential style

Coolidge’s infamous cowboy outfit.

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FDR

Not only does Franklin Delano Roosevelt hold the distinction of being the only president to serve more than two terms, but he served during one of the most turbulent times in world history. He took office during the height of the Great Depression and passed away just before the end of World War II. The New Deal helped bring relief to millions of Americans and influenced American politics for decades. Fireside Chats helped keep morale and optimism up through economic hardship and war. He consistently ranks among the best presidents and was revered for years after his death.

FDR in a patch pocket stripe suit presidential style

FDR in a patch pocket stripe suit.

FDR might take the cake for me as the president with the best style. Unsurprisingly, he was born in the same East Coast upper-crust that graced the pages of Esquire in the 1930s.  Like Coolidge, he could be seen wearing the iconic slim, long silhouette of 1920s suits early in his career.  He apparently kept interest in fashion, as his suits evolved with the times.

Apart from some great suit combinations (which grew to be a bit more conservative during his tenure as president), one of my favorite images is of him in 1933, shaking hands with Vincent Astor.  He’s seen wearing what I believe is a play on the stroller suit: a patch pocket jacket with cream striped trousers; it’s even complete with a light-colored fedora and a pinned spearpoint.  In the 1930s, he sometimes wore unstructured suits with little shoulder padding. He wore one in 1935 during the signing of the Social Security Act. In contrast to the business suits around him, FDR made the bold decision to wear an unstructured light-colored summer suit.

Another great piece of his wardrobe is a wool cape, which he wore during the Yalta Conference.  It’s a quite ornate garment, complete with a velvet collar, satin lining, and a braided silk fastener. Apparently, the President preferred it over an overcoat, due to the greater freedom of movement it allowed. You can’t deny that he looked pretty regal wearing it over his suit. Maybe those Pitti guys were onto something!

FDR's famous cape and top hat presidential style

FDR’s famous cape and top hat.

I would be remiss if we didn’t mention Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr., who seemed to pick up a few style cues from his father. He was a Harvard student throughout the 1930s, and was the epitome of early ivy style, with one famous picture showing him in a shearling collar overcoat, herringbone tweed jacket, and a pinned collar with a foulard tie. It’s practically something I would wear!

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JFK

On September 26, 1960, millions of Americans tuned in to the first-ever televised presidential debate. Richard Nixon was sick, tired, and thanks to his light-colored suit, blended in with the studio backdrop. John Kennedy, on the other hand, knew the power of appearances and came well-rested and well-prepared. As the famed (but slightly misleading) anecdote goes, those that saw the broadcast on television said that Kennedy easily won, while those that only heard it on the radio declared Nixon the winner of the debate. During the height of the Cold War, Kennedy successfully avoided nuclear exchange during the Cuban Missile Crisis and directed NASA to begin research that led to the Apollo 11 mission. Kennedy remains the youngest man to be elected president, and he and his wife became fashion and pop-culture icons.

JFK is often considered the most fashionable president, no doubt due to the love that 1960s fashion enjoys today.  It’s important to remember that he grew up during the late 1910s and he was fond of what I like to call “Golden Era” style.  There are pictures from his youth wearing traditional 1930’s attire, wearing cream flannels, navy jackets, and a pinned collar. One of my favorite images is him in a pleated patch pocket jacket, which is one of my personal grails.

JFK in the early 1930's presidential style

JFK in the early 1930’s.

Like the others on the list, his approach to style is influenced by his upbringing, again hailing from a wealthy east coast family.

JFK loved fastening all the buttons on his suit jackets presidential style

JFK liked fastening all the buttons on his suit jackets.

As university students became the arbiters of fashion, it makes sense that he developed a keen sense of style.

There’s even a great picture of him and FDR Jr. in the 1940s, where Kennedy is pattern matching with a pinstripe suit and a striped shirt. It’s quite fascinating to see how much fashion influenced him, as he truly kept up with what was in style. In the 1950’s, even Kennedy wasn’t immune to the bold look; one of his look at the time consisted of a heavily padded jacket with a swing tie.

The JFK we all know is the poster boy for 1960’s style.  His suits are generally very conservative two-button jackets with slim lapels and an equally slim tie. Some say that he wore paddock suits (since he fastened both buttons), but in my opinion, that’s false; paddock suits have a high button stance and if you compare his suits to others (sometimes in the same picture), his had a normal button stance. He probably just liked to fasten both buttons.

Casual style flourished in the 1960’s and was something largely absent from the wardrobe of previous presidents. Kennedy was spotted relaxing in sweaters, chinos, and loafers – a big change from the linen and tweed sport suits worn by his predecessors when OOO.  Additionally, we can all agree that his shades looked cool as hell. It’s no wonder why he is revered among the proponents of ivy style.

 

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Today, it seems that most male politicians opt for the same uniform – and nobody says they shouldn’t, considering their focus should be on more important things than style.

However, that’s exactly the appeal that the men on this list have for me; their attire did not only look effortless, but it spoke for them.  Looking at Coolidge’s starched collars, FDR’s cape, or JFK’s odd separates, we can catch a glimpse of their personalities. If clothes played a huge part in presenting oneself to the world in the past decades, today, in the Internet era, there are other ways for people in the public eye to express their personas.

Did social media kill our politicians’ style?


You can keep up with Ethan’s thrifting and vintage adventures on his Instagram (@ethanmwong) or on his blog Street x Sprezza.

Peter’s Guide to Dressing for a Date

Ah, Valentine’s Day. I remember our 2nd Grade class getting loads of pink cardboard paper and glitter to create cards for “our valentine,” not knowing what that was. Then I found out. A good way to jump-start anxiety at an early age. Fortunately, I was exempt, because if you’re like me (you know who you are), every day is Valentine’s Day!

But let’s say you want to take your SO on a special date. What do you wear? The answer to that depends on the situation. Dinner and a movie? Opera and cocktails? A walk on a moonlit beach? Decisions, decisions.

The quick answer is: be you, but a bit nicer looking. You could show up in your pajamas, but dressing up demonstrates respect for your date and the occasion, because both are special, right? Right. Unless the date is a pajama party. In which case, wash your pj’s first.

 

VALENTINE’S DAY DATE FOR NEW COUPLES

For new couples, keep it casual. If you’re meeting at a coffee shop, wear a nice pair of jeans or khakis, a button up oxford, and clean sneakers or oxfords. After coffee, why not take a walk at a nearby park? Or better yet, find out what activities she likes – hiking, bicycling, karaoke – and plan around that.

valentine's day outfit menswear

Shawl collar jacket: Eidos | Long-sleeved t-shirt: Orcival

Of course, just because you’re a new couple doesn’t mean you can’t get all fancy. If you’re date’s down for a night on the town, go for it – and dress accordingly. If you start with dinner at a nice restaurant, go for a dark outfit. It’s safe, unfussy, and easy to dress up or down, depending on where you go. A fail-safe option is a navy suit. Pair it with a crisp white button up shirt, or swap the shirt for a thin charcoal or black merino turtleneck. If dark jeans are your thing, reach for black Chelseas or zip boots, a blue oxford button down, and a grey tweed sport coat or field jacket.

Daytime date from Beige Habileur. Everything about this is awesome and chill, but refined.

Shirt: G. Inglese x Beige | Pants: Husbands

 

A SPECIAL VALENTINE’S DAY DATE

Perhaps you’ve been together for a while now, and are looking for something special to do. Show that you were paying attention – you were, weren’t you? – by choosing something she said she liked to do. It could be a picnic, wine tasting, or a leisurely walk to a park, downtown, or movie theater. If you have access to a beach, lake, or river, walk there, and bring a frisbee with you to enjoy the sun – everybody can play frisbee. All you need are a nice pair of jeans, boots, and a nice button-up shirt.

However, when it’s a special occasion that calls for something a bit more formal, consider what she’ll be wearing. Being over- or underdressed can be a bit embarrassing, so set the tone by saying “Let’s dress up,” and be sure to follow by saying what you’re wearing so that she can have something on which to base her decision. On the other hand, she could have that one outfit that she’s been dying to wear, so let her choose and follow suit. What if she says she has nothing to wear? Besides starting an argument (don’t do it), you have two options: go shopping with her (that’ll score you major points) or tell her far enough in advance so she can plan to go shopping with friends. Whatever she chooses, be a gentleman and let her take center stage. You may have the perfect red velvet cocktail jacket, but be careful not to outshine your date; remember that this is her night. Show that she’s important by taking her into consideration. For example, ask her what her favorite outfit of yours is and wear it. Or find out what her favorite color is, or which one she’ll be wearing, and chose a flower or pocket square that complements it.

the armoury menswear outfit date night valentine's day

Shirt: The Armoury | Pocket Square: Drake’s

SOMETHING DIFFERENT THAN A DINNER…

Dinner and a show is always a safe bet, but why not try something different? Go to that one restaurant she’s been dying to try, and then follow up with a dancing class. Or you could go to a club that plays her favorite music. Many museums have evening hours, perfect for an after-dinner stroll and providing easy topics for conversation. If black tie is too formal, a nice suit, comfortable shoes, and a listening ear are all you need to enjoy your time together.

Pro tip: if she likes perfumes, start the evening out by going to a department store and trying scents. Let her pick one for herself, ask her to pick one for you, drop your bank card, and the rest of the evening is set. You’re welcome.

Evening date - houndstooth flannel suit and rollneck

Evening date – houndstooth flannel suit and rollneck.

 

 

Grey flannel suit: Eidos
Navy turtleneck sweater: Stephen Schneider

 


Any date, no matter the day, is an opportunity to show your partner that you care about your relationship. Let your dress reflect that by notching it up a bit. These are occasions to engage in relaxed conversation, have fun, and cement your relationship. The special dates are your chances to create long-lasting memories. Don’t let your dirty sneakers ruin it.

An Overview of Ties by Decade

We’ve already talked about how suits and sportcoats can be differentiated by era and how you can pull them off.  Ties can also be categorized similarly, as I believe that vintage ties are a great source of quality pieces which still have a place today. In general, most ties pre-1960 had thin interlining, forming a great four-in-hand knot, and untipped edges that will not look out of place even in modern outfits. But if you pay close attention to their shape and designs, you’ll also be able to recreate a vintage look, if that suits your fancy.

This is an overview of ties by decade, considering the patterns, shapes, and constructions that were peculiar of each generation. Keep in mind, however, that the same patterns and designs were sometimes sold for lengths of time, overlapping each other, so by no means is this guide definitive.

1910s

While the modern tie as we know it has been around since the 1860s or so, ties at the turn of the century through the 1910s were different than those you see today today. Like the oddly shaped suits of the era, there really wasn’t any “standardized” shape or length. Some models were short and exceptionally wide while others were slim and angular; in general, there were a lot of variations similar to the the different suit cuts and designs popular during this era. Woven brocade silk was the name of the game, but prints were still widely available, with florals and stripes being the most popular. I don’t own many myself, but I find that these designs are sometimes a little too dandy to be worn with contemporary tailoring.

1920s

Ties of the 1920s got closer to the shape we know today, thanks to the growing popularity of turndown collars, which allowed for the four-in-hand cravats and bowties to be worn. The novelty shapes seen in previous decades continued to be worn, but went out of style in favor of more standard styles by the mid-late ’20s. Woven silks and shiny brocade/jacquards dominated this era, with many designs directly influenced by the art deco movement. Style as a passion for collegiate youth began to take off in the late 1920s, and more men began buying neckties to show off their style. Some of the most beautiful ties I’ve ever seen come from this era, with some being wonderful interpretations of the classic patterns and prints we see today, just with a little bit more creative freedom.

1930s and 1940s

Of all the eras, my favorite ties come from the ’30s and ’40s, although they were definitely less “artsy” than the decade that preceded it. Most young men preferred simple stripes and foulards.  Geometric prints, two-tone plaids, and university stripe reps dominated the fashion illustrations of Laurence Fellows, who was one of the most prolific menswear artists of the time. Ties of this era were characterized by being 3-4” wide, but tapered through the body, widening out again to the back blade. The length was short, but perfect for high rise trousers. While silk was the mainstay of tie fabrics at this time, wool and rayon began to be popular choices as brands tried to one-up each other for the market. One fabric that is popular among collectors today is Palm Beach, made by the suit company that patented its own unique blend of wool and mohair (later cotton too); these ties are hard to find and often fetch a lot of money on eBay.

1950s

The bold look of the late 1940s to mid 1950s had a big effect on ties.  The four-in-hand was cast out in favor of the wider Windsor knot. Tie patterns also got crazier, with large scale abstract designs being favored in place of the classic patterns. Novelty prints came in full force, with some ties featuring pin-up models, animals, and scenery. These ties were often painted by hand.

As tailoring began to become wider and elongated, ties designs also followed suit (pun intended), with ties from the early 1950s featuring long, vertical patterns.  However, this fad was soon cast out during the ultra-conservatism of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Thanks to Mad Men, the ties of this next era will be familiar to most. As men began to wear their trousers lower, the ties became longer, as well as slimmer-seldom going beyond 2.75” in width.  Foulards and vertical designs were still made, but most men preferred stripes and solids to go with their sack cut business suits. This conformity was in reaction to the bold era that preceded it.

1960s – 1970s

This theme of rebellion continued in the late 60s and early 1970s, as crazy designs soon took hold.  A return to fashion in the minds of consumers helped bring back abstract designs, featuring crazy paisley prints, wide stripes, and a multitude of colors.  In general, it looked almost like the 1930s-40s with one main exception: polyester was the new fabric.  These synthetic ties were wide and thick, creating huge knots that went perfectly with wide disco collars. Ties like these can often found in thrift stores.


Just like tailoring, ties have changed quite a bit over the years. Like most of menswear, the manufacturing quality of ties decline after the 1960s as the best ties today are found by more artisanal makers like Kenji Kaga and Drake’s, who have not only preserved the untipped folded methods but have even brought back the vintage-inspired prints and patterns.

Personally, I’ll always prefer foulards and stripes from the 1960s and earlier, as they provide a vintage avenue for classic menswear that is often more affordable for younger guys like me. These vintage ties can be quite similar to high end ties today, making them easy to wear as well as making for an interesting conversation piece to those who notice it!


Post the pictures of your ties on the Neckties Thread on Styleforum.

You can read more about why I prefer vintage ties on my blog Street x Sprezza.

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.

tuxedo black tie styleforum menswear guideWhite 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.

tuxedo black tie velvet

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.


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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: