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.
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.
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.
Japan Blue Jeans
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.”
“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.”
“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.'”
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Wedding Question Thread (ask your question here if it doesn’t appear below)
On The Wedding Suit
On Ties and Accessories
Featured image: P Johnson Tailors
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.
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.
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.
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.
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;
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.
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.
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.