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.

Soldier with African pigmies. Photo: Wikimedia

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.

sambon inventor solaro

Dr. Sambon, the inventor of the Solaro fabric.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

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.

solaro fabric

Original Solaro fabric

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

5 Rules to Dress Like an Italian

Before moving to the US a few years ago, I didn’t really have a clear idea of what Italian style really was. I’ve lived all my life surrounded by people with different tastes in fashion, but I never fully realized the impact of Italian culture in the choice of our  garments.

This is valid for womenswear as much as for menswear; I still get baffled when people stop me to tell me that they like my outfit or they ask my opinion on something in a store. When I go shopping with my husband and I start chatting with employees and customers, many ask me: “How can I dress to look like I’m Italian?”

Usually at that point I puff my chest and put on a big smile, and I start listing all the points that I have observed as key to “Italian Style”. Here they are. Take notes.


1. RELAX

This is a golden rule for Italians, in menswear as well as in every aspect of life: abandon stiff constructions and extra thick padded shoulders and embrace softer, looser fabrics that move with your body.

You can read this as a philosophy of life: clothes are our shell, and we want to feel comfortable in them in order to have a positive attitude towards life. Freedom of movement is the first step towards expressing yourself at the fullest. Neapolitan tailoring was born to provide an alternative to stiff English tailoring that didn’t quite suit the Italian spirit (and didn’t allow for nearly enough gesticulation).


2. DRESS DOWN YOUR FORMAL WEAR

It might sound strange, but while it is extremely difficult to dress up casual clothes, it is quite easy to dress down formal ones – and the results can be quite stunning.

In Italy, nobody wants to look too formal. There is a cultural element in this assumption as well: Italians believe that people should not take themselves too seriously, and dressing up in a homogenous way will not make anyone look any more interesting to the society.

This leads me to the next point: yes, it is possible to look elegant without wearing only formal clothes.

How? Easy: you dress down your formal clothes. As long as your clothes fit you well, you can play around with them. That’s why it’s important to invest in casualwear just as much as in formal garments: a few, nice pieces to pair with your more formal clothes will be your best allies in creating a classic (and unique) style that can be worn on any occasion. It’s not a secret that Italians love their turtlenecks – and thank God the trend has been picking up in the menswear community – but there are endless possibilities to dress down your favorite jackets and pants: polo shirts, button-downs, chinos, colorful scarves, etc.

Even easier: wear your best suit and lose the tie. Unbutton the first two buttons of the shirt and vai con Dio.

@AlessandroSquarzi is a master in stepping up his style by playing around with casual and even workwear pieces.


3. EXPERIMENT WITH COLOR

“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love colour the most,” wrote John Ruskin in 1853. Of course, he was referring to colors in painting: he was trying to defend Turner’s scandalous skies, which inflamed the walls of the art galleries in London, where cloudy greys and muddy browns were the dominant colors.

Italians are not afraid of colors. In fact, we never were. Think of the vibrant landscapes of the Macchiaioli, who were Ruskin’s contemporaries, and apply that sensibility to menswear.

You’ll see every color of the rainbow walking in any boutique in Italy – whether it is just a little touch, like the stitching, or a vibrant garment that many Americans would label as a “statement” piece.

Combining color is an art – Ruskin knew that well. The wrong hue could throw the balance off and turn poetry into disaster.

Educate your eyes to appreciate colors that go beyond blue and brown, and you’ll experience the same type of sensuous pleasure a painting by Turner provides: harmony, and a tingling of the soul that will be an inspiration for the people around you.


4. LOSE THE BIRKENSTOCKS

If you see someone wearing Birkenstocks in Italy, you can be certain it is a German or American tourist. There is a sort of social stigma on Birkenstocks (and on other, similar-looking footwear) as Italians simply cannot accept them as real shoes. They might secretly wear them around the house, while gardening, but there is no way an Italian would ever show in up in public wearing a pair of Birkenstocks.

As a general rule, try not to choose comfort over style. Pick your clothes carefully, so that they are both comfortable and stylish, and keep those sweatpants in the gym bag.

If you’re looking for casual and summer footwear, I recommend espadrilles; specifically, I like these by Zabattigli, which are hand-woven in Capri. The rope keeps the soles of your feet aerated and fresh, and the sleek style is way sexier than those bulky, Teutonic, panzer-looking shoes.


5. DON’T DRESS WELL ONLY ON OCCASIONS

In Italy, people dress well because they like to. Period.

This is something that is very eradicated in me, and that people don’t understand in America. My husband still gets confused when I wear makeup and a nice dress to go buy groceries.

“Why do you dress up like that? We’re going to Ralph’s.”

“Because I like it,” I reply every time, as I spray my most expensive cologne extensively on my neck.

There is a crucial distinction between being well-dressed and being overdressed. Obviously, I would look ridiculous wearing a cocktail dress in a grocery store; but a nice dress, why not? The same goes for men: nobody is saying you should wear your top hat to go to the movies, but a nice blazer and a few, carefully picked accessories will make you stand out for your elegance without looking out of place.

To everyone worrying about what people will think of your choice of clothes, I say: if you are the only one well-dressed person in the room, you shouldn’t be the one feeling embarrassed. Rather, all the others should be the ones feeling shabby and looking up to you.

Occasions shouldn’t make the man. We are better than the sum of social boundaries we are submitted to, and clothes are a way to let our personality spark any time of the day, any day of our lives. Why waste an opportunity to do so, and let trivial actions get in the way?


You might have figured at this point that the Italian Style is much more about attitude than it is about clothes. I’ve read many articles on the Internet that teach you how to “dress like an Italian,” and I think they all missed the point.

There are really no rules when it comes to expressing yourself, and even an extravagant flair can be turned into a jaw-dropping detail that will step up your game. This is the secret of the Italian Style: as long as you like what you wear, and you’re confident enough to pull it off, you’ll be fine.

@AriannaReggio

How to Pair Fabric Textures: Choosing a Suit Fabric, Pt. 2

Wool plain weave or twill suit, cotton oxford or broadcloth shirt, silk tie.

That’s the current, standard armor of menswear that man begins with, is married in, and is eventually buried in – it’s a relatively easy recipe to remember, and it works very well.  Make sure everything fits, choose colors that go well together, and you’re done.  Easy peasy. Last time, we talked about the basics of how to choose a suit fabric, but there are other options – and you’ll have to consider how to pair fabric textures.

Besides twill, there’s mohair sharkskin for Mods, slick gabardine for Rockers, and cavalry twill for hunters.  There’s fresco for the heat, flannel for the cold, and tweed for a pint in the pub. And that’s just the plain stuff – patterns abound, suitable for whatever environment you find yourself in.  Try birdseye for the boardroom, chalkstripes for less formal offices, and windowpanes, glen checks, and gunclubs for the casual or adventurous.  Some men see a soft cashmere tie and cannot resist its fuzzy allure.  Others succumb to the easy-going appeal of a rumply linen suit.  All well and good, but understand that arbitrarily changing one ingredient in the recipe can lead to an unsavory sight.  The heft, feel, and texture of fabric thus come into play when choosing one for a suit.

The importance of texture in clothing is often overlooked and under-appreciated.  Those ignorant of it can make an otherwise winning ensemble fail, whereas those who understand how textures play together can upgrade even mediocre outfits with depth and interest.

First, it should be noted that the most basic iteration of menswear – dark wool suit in a plain weave, light broadcloth cotton shirt, silk twill or grenadine tie – is in and of itself a wonderful mixture of textures.  As the main component, a suit in a modest wool is discreet, elegant, and light-absorbing.  The cotton shirt adds another layer of texture, tightly woven and offering a hint of sheen.  Finally, the silk fabric of a fine tie gives off a soft luster that delicately reflects light.   Let’s go over some basic combinations below:

These three elements – again, wool suit, cotton shirt, silk tie – when worn in classic woven fabrics such as the examples above, are your bread and butter.  But…

What if you toast your bread, and melt your butter?  You have now introduced two new textures that are miles beyond their original state: the once spongy bread is now crispy and crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside; and the formerly waxy pat of butter now oozes like smooth, liquid velvet through its crevices.  

Here’s a couple of simple tables that can help pull together your outfit so that your fixins fit in:

choosing a suit fabric styleforum alternative suit fabrics suit fabric pairings how to pair fabric textures 

Deviating from the tried-and-true triad of menswear can seem a bit complicated, but hopefully the above charts will assist in making it less so.  Bear in mind they are neither exhaustive nor unyielding, but meant to be used as a guide to assist in making sure your ensemble “ingredients” form a pleasant picture.  

At the top of each chart, there is the wool suit in a plain weave, silk twill or grenadine tie, and broadcloth shirt, which you already are familiar with.  As you go down the chart, the fabrics get more casual. Here are some examples of how to pair fabric textures:

Warm Weather

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And here are some good examples of how to pair fabric textures for cool weather

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A few items are always seasonally correct and good for most outfits:

Silk ties; twill, or – slightly more casual – knit

Silk pocket squares

White pocket squares in cotton or linen

Other factors, such as patterns, also play a role in the formality of menswear.  That’s already been discussed in another article, but hopefully these charts and pictures will help when putting together items based on texture.  When all ingredients come together as a whole, the end result – simple or intricate, urbane or nonchalant – will be a palatable portrait of classic menswear in coat and tie.

How to Choose a Suit Fabric: Part 1

I remember first stepping into Britex Fabrics in downtown San Francisco several years ago, when the seeds of bespoke clothing had begun to germinate in my imagination.  This landmark building, which has hosted Britex since 1952, sports walls over one hundred feet long, all lined to the ceiling with practically every shade of the rainbow in wools, silks, and linens.  After pouring over dozens of bolts of fabrics for hours, I mentioned to the sales clerk the difficulty of choosing between so many.

“Oh, there’s three more floors upstairs.”

Indeed, the sheer volume available to the consumer can be intimidating, if not outright paralyzing, and knowing how to choose a suit fabric means starting with the basics. Even if you own a closetful of suits, the decision is only marginally less challenging: any wardrobe, vast though it may be, is just a small fraction of the myriad of options up for grabs along the capacious walls of Britex, not to mention what can be found on the internet.  How does one decide what to get?

It helps to narrow your suit choice first by color, then by occasion.  As a rule, there are essentially three proper colors for a suit: navy, grey, and brown.  Even if you feel that fuchsia complements your eyes or that chartreuse is your happy color, restrain yourself.  Unless you’re an extra in the next Mask sequel that will hopefully never ever happen, stick to these tried and true colors.  Try not to think of it as limiting.  Instead, think of it as enjoying a scenic road paved long before you, one that will safely guide you to and from any destination in comfortable aplomb, with guardrails preventing you from any sartorial accidents.  At the same time, these colors come in an endless array of shades, complement all skin tones, and will ensure that your suit will be appropriate no matter what.


First, choose a solid navy or charcoal grey wool in a plain weave or twill.  Realistically speaking, these two suits are sufficient for any time coat and tie is recommended.  Wear either the navy or grey suit with sober captoe shoes, and pair the navy jacket with the grey trousers for a third outfit.  Take off the tie, undo a couple buttons, and you’re ready for a night on the town.  Pull on a black turtleneck with Chelsea boots, jodhpurs, or zip boots for that swanky art show in SOMA.  These two suits can take you many places with the right accessories.  In fact, the vast majority of guys stick to these two color options, buying successive suits in either darker or lighter color casts.  Brown used to be rarely seen, and even though nowadays it enjoys a bit broader acceptance, it typically skews casual when worn.  That means that when you’re in doubt, stick to navy and grey – but if you can, branch out into brown.

The somber colors of grey and navy complement the slightly dressy sheen of worsted wool in a plain weave or twill quite well.  A true all-purpose fabric, plain weaves (where the warp and weft threads follow a simple 1-over-and-1-under pattern) permit the fibers to give freely, allowing air to circulate and yielding a comfortable suit.  Twill, due to the way it is woven (the weft goes under one warp and then over two or more), creates a tougher fabric that drapes well.  Together they comprise the lion’s share of fabric for suits, and a suit in either of these weaves is a classic choice for either your first or fiftieth.

However, are there other choices available?  Yes there are, which will be the subject of part two. Here are some examples of suits in the wild:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How to Choose a Raincoat

I never had a raincoat growing up in San Diego.  I always wanted one then, like I always wanted a cast or braces or glasses, but the worlds most inoffensive climate precluded the need for one.  Now, thanks to global warming (or the impending ice age, depending on your view), it seems that place is immune to unending sheets of rain that never stop please make it stop for the love of all that is sacred can I please see some sun OK now I know why Kurt Cobain killed himself.

Last year was bad, but this year is just ridiculous.  Who cares that a the first mandatory urban water restrictions in the State’s history happened just two years ago?  The weather pendulum has swung to the other extreme, and to date this season’s rain is destroying the streets of cities with crater-sized potholes ruining wheel alignments, and forcing almost 200,000 to evacuate their homes near a bulging reservoir in Oroville, one of many in Northern California that is at or above capacity.  The President has declared it an emergency.  Enough already.  

Time to get a raincoat.

Today, one can protect themselves from the rain with a variety of materials, in an equally vast array of styles.  Here’s a few that I’ve been reaching for this season, from off-and-on drizzles to full-on typhoons.

  • A leather jacket
    I’m surprised this isn’t on many lists, but maybe purists want to keep their leather in like-new condition.  But come on – it’s skin; you can’t get much more watertight than that (queue Seinfeld clip).  Once I wore my Schott cafe jacket in the rain when scooting home from work; fifteen minutes later I was holding a warm cuppa and my upper body was still dry.  Clothes are meant to be worn after all, not kept on a hanger for your Instagram feed.  Besides, leather as a material has a special quality in that over time it develops a history; a very personal one.  The more a leather jacket is are worn, especially in the rain, the quicker it will mold to your body, the softer the leather becomes, and slowly but surely your own patina begins to develop.  The bonus is that it keeps you dry during drizzles.  Just dab a little waterproofing moisturizer on your jacket once a year and you’re good to go.
  • A Barbour in lightweight waxed cotton
    Not waterproof, but enough to keep you dry when you want to shed the mists of Redwood rainforests, or a drizzle in urban alleyways.  With four outside pockets and two inside, it’s got plenty of storage space for keys, wallet, cell phone, and either a map or your Clipper card.  There are a few styles, some of which go well with tailored clothing, but I much prefer them with more casual clothing, from flannel trousers and a turtleneck to jeans and a t-shirt.  The waxed cotton finish emits a particular smell, faint but distinct, a little earthy and musty, something I imagine Steve McQueen’s jacket would smell like after a few rounds on the track.  
  • A no-holds barred waterproof jacket
    Time was, if guys wanted to be sure to keep the rain out, the only choice was to wear the equivalent of a plastic bag in highlighter-yellow or safety-orange.  Nowadays there are plenty of choices, all using more or less the same technology: bonding a waterproof membrane on the inside to something else on the outside.  The “something else” can be cotton, wool, or varying synthetics.  Any of these will cost a pretty penny, but if staying dry is your goal, nothing else will do.
    Mackintosh is the proprietary eponym for any generic bonded jacket, and has been so for over 100 years.  After languishing in the 1970s and relegated to making uniforms for various state officers, Mackintosh was revitalized by promoting its legacy alongside fashion house collaborations for a constant fresh interpretation of the heritage brand.  Today it remains the go-to choice for the aristocracy when the weather threatens.  My own Mack was originally made for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, cut and designed like a trench coat, long and double breasted with a high collar for added protection, in a dusty loden green.  The outside bonded cotton is attached to a wool lining for added warmth, because Canada.  Underarm grommeted holes are added under the arms to assist with ventilation so the wearer doesn’t become a sweaty mess.All last month, I decided to put it to the test by walking 45 minutes in the rain to work, and the thing performed beautifully, if a little hot.  Not one drop made its way inside, and the long, wide skirt kept my legs from getting wet, leaving just my boots to stomp the puddles underfoot.

If you don’t want to go the trench coat route for fear of deep-rooted associations with flashers, bad disguises, or Inspector Gadget, don’t worry; you’ve got options.  I really like this season’s design from Norwegian Rain at No Man Walks Alone, made from a waterproof fabric of recycled polyester.  Plus, it comes with a detachable liner and hood for the poor souls that have to suffer Nor’easters (I did for three years, and then ran back to California).  However, don’t dismiss the trench coat entirely.  None other than the Smithsonian published a fantastic article on the ascension and following ubiquity of the trench coat, and practically every year designers put their own spin on the classic piece.  

Whatever you choose, do it quickly – another storm is scheduled to roll into town later on today, and no matter what you have on underneath your jacket, it’s gonna look lame if you’re all wet.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

7 Ways to Wear Boots With Jeans

No, it’s not rocket science, and yes, the key is to put the jeans on before your boots, but there’s still more than one way to wear boots with your jeans.


1. The Stack

ways to wear boots with jeans

Jeans, APC; Boots, Scarosso

Simple: do nothing. Put your boots on, pull your jeans over the shaft, let ’em stack up on top of the boots. Ideally, you don’t want wrinkles running all the way up your legs; instead, leave an extra couple of inches to your inseam and you’ll end up with nice honeycomb fades

Works best with: slim denim


2. The Micro-Cuff

Also simple – you know what, they’re all simple. In this case, you turn up the hem of your jeans – but not by much, just enough to leave a sliver of well-worn selvage denim showing. Vary this by accompanying it with a stack, or with a jean hemmed to a shorter length to show off the shaft of your boot.

Works best with: slim-straight jeans

3. The Regular Cuff

ways to wear boots with jeans

Jeans, Uniqlo; Boots, Nonnative

Cuff your jeans once. Done.

Works best with: slim, slim-straight jeans

4. The Double Cuff

ways to wear boots with jeans

Jeans, Uniqlo; Boots, Nonnative

For a thicker cuff, turn your hem over twice and your jeans should sit just at your ankle. This is an easy option that will look nice with most boots.

Works best with: slim-straight or straight jeans

5. The Triple Cuff

ways to wear boots with jeans

Jeans, Shockoe Atelier; Boots, Nonnative

Not too hard – roll it up one more time. It’ll give you a thicker cuff, and although this looks good with heavy boots, I also like it with sleeker silhouette and taller shaft.

Works best with: a straighter-legged pair of denim so that the bigger cuff doesn’t overwhelm the leg of the jeans.

6. The Narrow Roll

ways to wear boots with jeans

Jeans, Evan Kinori; Boots, Peter Nappi

Make like you’re rolling a single micro-cuff, and then keep going as high as you like. Wear the hem low to stack on top of your boots, or pull it high for a cool silhouette.

Works best with: straight or relaxed denim.

7. The Railroader

ways to wear boots with jeans

Jean, Kapital; Boots, Guidi & Rossellini

Only for the dedicated: instead of making small cuffs, turn your hem inside out and pull the cuff halfway up your shin. This has the potential to be massively rad or not rad at all – you need to back it up with an outfit that meshes well.

Works best with: stiff, straight-leg jeans and heavy boots (like engineer, combat, or service boots).

Date Night Outfit Inspiration from SF Members

There are many ways to approach dressing for a date, whether or not it falls on Valentine’s Day. Most of them boil down to your company and your destination. Going ice skating (which we don’t recommend, at least for first-timers – a broken wrist or fractured coccyx is hardly romantic) necessitates a different wardrobe than hot air ballooning, which necessitates a different wardrobe than a nice dinner. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some outfits submitted by Styleforum members that are the perfect date night outfit inspiration.

1. If you’re going tailored, nail it.

An outfit based around a poorly-fitting sport coat is worse than a great casual outfit, so if you’re trying to impress your date, don’t half-ass it. And unless you’re actually having a black tie dinner, avoid severe outfits – no black suits, please. A luminous blue or a pleasing grey is a fine choice, as are any number of odd jacket and trouser combinations. Here are some great examples to get your creative juices flowing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2. A Leather Jacket is Always Good

If you’re spending your time outdoors (or in) and the weather is nice enough, a leather jacket is a great option. You can wear a classic double-rider or moto with jeans, or with a shirt and trousers; and other, more experimental options may be a great way to work something new into your wardrobe. Besides, just about every guy looks good in a black leather jacket, and it’s one of those garments that just screams “touch me.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

3. Go Casual

You don’t have to wear a suit (or a leather jacket) to look great. If you want to draw the eye, try a beautiful color instead of your standard black or grey, or aim for great texture. Again, try to let your personal style show through. You want to come off as you, not a giant reptile wearing the skin of a human. And as always, you want to be comfortable – so comfortable, both mentally and physically, that you’re focusing on having a good time with your date and not fidgeting with your clothing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.