5 Valentine’s Date Style Mistakes to Avoid

Whether or not you go all-out on Valentine’s Day or treat it much the same as any other, there’s a good chance that, even subconsciously, you’ll want to impress that special someone. It doesn’t matter if you’re headed out on a first date or celebrating a multi-year anniversary – these Valentine’s Date style mistakes should be avoided at all cost!


1. Don’t Wear Way Too Much Cologne

If you’re fancying yourself up for a special date, you might be tempted to spritz on a little bit extra in order to crank up the sex appeal. The thing is, you don’t need to be broadcasting your scent to the world at large (you probably shouldn’t be doing this anyway). Save your favorite fragrance for the person who matters, and avoid being “that guy” at the restaurant.

Your usual application can be altered or supplemented with some clever placement, though. Instead of sticking to just the wrists or behind the ears, add a dab at the hollow of your throat or base of your sternum. Your body heat will make it project just fine, while keeping the scent intimate so that your partner is the one who benefits – especially if they find the opportunity to lean in close.

If you’d like some suggestions on the perfect Valentine’s Day fragrance – either for yourself or to give as a gift – check out our Fragrance Thread.


2. Don’t Wear the Same Thing You Wear Everyday

Your date’s not going to be impressed if you show up wearing the same pair of distressed jeans you’ve worn every other time you’ve seen them. Headed out to dinner? Maybe try a new tie you haven’t worn before, or a slimming black turtleneck worn under a jacket. If you’re headed out for a fancy evening, maybe use it as an excuse to bust out the peak lapels and grenadine tie. Or, take a play from resident black-tie aficionado @Andy57 and wear a dinner jacket out to dinner. Changing things up – even if it’s just wearing black denim instead of your usual blue – will turn your date’s eye and let them know that you’ve made an effort.

Looking for outfit inspiration? Try one of our three fantastic What Are You Wearing threads:


3. Don’t Shower Ten Minutes Before Your Date

Being clean is great – really. Whatever you’re doing, no one wants their date to show up to smelling like day-old sweat, covered in filth from the road. But make sure you give yourself time to scrub and dry before you head out for the evening. Rushing at the last minute to clean yourself, pick an outfit, and get to wherever you’re going on time is a great way to show up a sweaty, sticky mess.

Give your hair time to dry so that you can style it – heck, maybe even blow dry it. Showing up with a wet mop on your head doesn’t tend to impress. If you’re shaving, give your face some time to calm down with a soothing cream or aftershave balm. And don’t forget the deodorant! Stress can be stinky, and that’s not what we’re after here.


4. Don’t Go Too Far Out of Your Comfort Zone

If you’re a Styleforum reader, chances are you’re on your way to being pretty well-versed in a number of different styles. Plenty of us are inclined to experiment with new or interesting garments, whether you’re a fan of tailored clothing or of streetwear. That said, part of feeling great on a date night – whether it’s first date or five hundredth – is feeling good in what you’re wearing.  You’ll be more comfortable, more confident, and more focused on having a good time – rather than fidgeting in something you’re not 100% certain of. So, when you’re picking out your Valentine’s Day date outfit, understand that it’s maybe not the time to experiment with something you’re not sure you’ll love.

If it makes you feel like fidgeting, if it makes you feel like you’ve got to suck in all night, if it makes you feel like someone who isn’t you – take a step back and pick a different outfit. After all, there’s nothing more unpleasant than feeling uncomfortable in your own skin – and your date will pick up on it too.

Note: that includes the wearing of brand-new shoes. If you’re focused on how much your feet hurt, and how many blisters you’ll have the next day, you’re not going be focusing on having a great time. What if you end up dancing?


5. Don’t Neglect the Details

Again, this is an opportunity to show your date that you take them and their company seriously, so here are some last-minute tips that go beyond just picking an outfit:

  • Don’t tie your tie like a slob – make a perfect dimple.
  • Don’t (EVER) match your tie and pocket square.
  • Do Brush your teeth.
  • Do trim your nose and ear hair.
  • Do take a minute to shine your shoes.
  • Don’t neglect your table manners.
  • Do give some consideration to your undergarments, if that’s the direction your day might take. Give the Bart Simpson boxer shorts a rest.

If you avoid these Valentine’s Date style mistakes – and they’re easy to avoid, so you have no excuse – you’ll be on your way to enjoying this most Hallmark of Holidays.

 

 

How to Choose a Pocket Square

Are you a pro-pocket square person? Perhaps you’ve heard that they are the cheapest way to “upgrade” your wardrobe, but you’re hesitant. You feel safe in your white shirt, navy suit, and black shoes, and while you’ve seen them on other guys, and even liked one or two, you could never see yourself wearing one. Maybe it’s because you don’t want to call attention to yourself. You’re wary of getting into uncertain territory, and after all, a pocket square serves no real practical purpose.

On the other hand, you may have completely lost your mind and gone square crazy, spending as much on them as you would for a well-made suit. You’ve bought untold folds of squares in every color of the rainbow. You even have a division of solids, designs and patterns, cottons and linens, woolen and silk. And why not? Most are dirt cheap, even if you splurge on one, you won’t be dropping much more than a Benjamin.

Let’s assume for a moment that you are a balanced individual that enjoys classic menswear and wishes to appear like someone who cares, but not fastidiously so. You’ve seen pictures of old Hollywood stars or various gentlemen throughout the past 100 years and admired how some of them can pull off the pochette. You’ve considered getting one; you may even have a few. How do you wear it without looking like you’ve consulted an article – like this one?
Many how-to’s have been written; often peppered with precision diagrams, architectural blueprints, and earnest cries to wear a pocket square in order to defend the dapper man’s heritage. This is not one of those articles. In fact, it should be said that it is better to wear no pocket square at all than to wear an ill-chosen one, and let’s face it: most pocket squares are hideous. Rather, we’ll showcase some of how some of Styleforum’s own members wear them, and learn from their example.


Our first member to showcase is @Pliny. I’ve always liked how his outfits combine differing scales of pattern, even though I maintain he takes horrible pictures of his successes. Let’s look at a few examples.

When wearing a small-scale gunclub jacket, a pocket square with a large design keeps things from looking too busy. Notice how the mostly cream color of the two complement the jacket, shirt, and tie in both ensembles. These are perfect examples of how well these types of pocket squares work with practically any combination of coat and tie, including, as Pliny demonstrates above, a solid grey suit.

 


Next up we have @TTO, of whom I wish the forum saw more. His creative nod to vintage style may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is always refreshing.

One of the regular pitfalls of the pocket square is wearing one that doesn’t contrast enough with the jacket you’ve chosen. TTO wisely opts for bold white stripes to set his square apart and still echo the light shade of his blue shirt.


Finally, we have Mr. Six, who always has a small sliver of good taste stuffed into his breast pocket. Although not always in solid suits, these two pictures showcase how even in a conservative environment one can enjoy pocket squares without resorting to absurd designs or obnoxious colors.

 

 

In both pictures, Mr.Six has chosen a square that contrasts with his jacket, either lighter or darker. Far from standing out, the luminance of the pocket square in the first photo harmonizes well with the shirt, and the dark colors of the pocket square in the second echo his tie.


Pocket squares, more than most other items in a man’s wardrobe, are difficult to wear well. The ideal pocket square choice neither adds nor takes away from an ensemble, and is instead a harmonious but not attention-grabbing element of the outfit. Far from being detrimental, such choices are in fact a good thing. The components of an outfit should look as though the wearer carelessly threw them together in such a way that nothing matches but everything complements; neither too studied nor too heterogenous. Admittedly, this is more of an art than science, but there are a few guidelines that can help you chose a pocket square that at the very least jives with the rest of your outfit, if not a slam dunk:

  • Silk is always a correct choice, but shun overly shiny squares. You don’t want iridescence to blind onlookers and take their eyes away from your gleaming smile.
  • Solid-colored silk squares are bad, except perhaps in cream. White linen or cotton is far better, and is by far the most versatile pocket square you can own. Really, if a plain white linen or cotton pocket square won’t work, you’re better off with no square at all.
  • Try to contrast the square with the color and brightness of your jacket, as well as with the scale of the patterns in your outfit.
  • Avoid pocket squares with the same pattern as your tie to keep from looking too calculated.
  • Don’t succumb to the interweb’s love of the pocket square explosion. That’s just a stylist’s way of quickly stuffing the fabric into a mannequin’s breast pocket. Keep the puff politely subdued and prevent your points from peacocking.

These above pictures are just a handful of the many good examples of pocket squares you can find on the forum. There’s an entire thread devoted to them, and many users are happy to go into even further depth, including seasonality and fabric choice. The perfect pochette can subtly enliven and enrich your ensemble, but choose unwisely and you may look overly affected and foppish.

Really, at the end of the day, it’s just a useless piece of fabric, and if no one noticed your square, you have claimed a victory.

What is Formalwear?

Perhaps you’ve received an invitation to an event that requests black tie, white tie, or cocktail attire. Were you confused? Did you just end up going in one of your “meeting” suits?

All three (NOT the “meeting” suit) are considered formalwear. They are usually reserved for the evening (when most formal events happen), they are typically black, and that is where the similarity ends. We’ll discuss white tie, black tie, and cocktail attire, ranked from most to least formal.


Perhaps you’ve seen Downton Abbey (don’t hate – it’s a great show). During the day the men of the house were chilling in the library in a “lounge” or “sack” suit (click here if you don’t know what those are). Dinner, however, was black tie. Every. Single. Night. Imagine that. With such daily stuffiness seen from sunup to sundown, how much more formal could you go?

Downton Abbey characters in proper White Tie
what is formalwear

Enter White Tie. Reserved for notable occasions, it had (and still has) black tails, black trousers, black patent leather shoes, and a white winged shirt, vest, and of course, tie. The jacket is wool, double breasted, left open, with silk lapels. Trousers have a silk band down the side leg seam, no cuffs, as cuffs were invented to protect from mud, and only plebeians walk in mud. The nobility walk on marble, granite, or preferably, on the back of plebeians.

It is also referred to as “full dress,” as it has its roots in the Royal Army, back when British gentry would have honorary military titles shoveled upon them wholesale, just because, and they would have to show up for them to receive said titles, and therefore dress accordingly.

In the heyday of formalwear, many Hollywood stars would rock white tie, but that was almost a century ago. White tie had its time, but like the accompanying top hat and cane, it became outdated and stodgy, relegated to the most formal of events. Trust me, unless you routinely conduct symphonies or are a magician, you’ll never need to wear it. Perhaps when you go to an inauguration for a Head of State, but even then, as a civilian, it is so archaic that you might as well be wearing armor, you dashingly oblivious Don Quixote.

Have you other options? Yes, you do.

Black tie has enjoyed enduring popularity, possibly due to its rascally roots. Known initially as the “tailless dress coat”, historical records confirm the Prince of Wales (the 1800s one, Edward VII) had one such jacket made for him by Henry Poole of Savile Row in 1865. How it made its way Stateside is a bit unclear. One account of the story is that the Prince urged an impressionable American guest to order a jacket from Poole of the same style, whereupon he did and took it back to a country club in a New York town called – wait for it – Tuxedo Park. Another version has it that a native son of Tuxedo itself had the jacket commissioned (also by Henry Poole) for the Club’s annual Autumn Ball.

Whatever.

At any rate, the “short dinner jacket” henceforth became known as the “tuxedo”, and the whole rig as “black tie”. The items that qualify for this are pretty simple: white shirt, black jacket, black trousers, black shoes, and the eponymous black tie. Done.

Or are we?

Two styles of the tuxedo, as worn by Newman & Redford
what is formalwear

Black tie is great precisely because it lacks the preciseness of white tie. Look at the differences in Paul and Robert in the photo. Shawl collar? Sure thing! Single or double breasted? Either! Vest or cummerbund? Your choice! Just keep it black. Or, do as did the younger, cooler, 1930s Prince of Wales: midnight blue, which under the artificial lighting of evening fundraisers and paparazzi flash bulbs actually looks darker and richer than black. And if your event is during the day, try a white or ivory dinner jacket. Just keep the trousers and shoes black.

Bogey in a white dinner jacket
what is formalwear

And there you have black tie. What, then, is cocktail attire? Colors are generally dark and muted, but this is your chance to get creative. You can opt for a velvet smoking jacket in a rich maroon or forest green. Or channel your inner spy and sip your martini in ablack or oxblood nehru jacket. If you’re visiting Vegas, try swinging the one-button silk shantung or mohair suit. And if you’re hosting a cocktail party yourself, reach for a plaid dinner jacket in Black Watch or Royal Stewart, or even a classy tapestry.

Niven in a velvet dinner jacket
what is formalwear

Connery in a nehru jacket
what is formalwear

Life stock photo in a plaid dinner jacket
what is formalwear

Ferry in a tapestry dinner jacket
what is formalwear

Nowadays, occasions to wear such attire are dwindling. Many men spend more time dressing their beards than their bodies. While we would never urge one to bust out white tie in a noble attempt to bring class and sophistication to his neighborhood PTA meeting, we do recommend to have a black tie rig on standby in your closet in case the situation calls for it. At the very least, plan a party, print invitations with “Cocktail attire kindly requested” in fancy stock calligraphy, and have fun for an evening.

The only thing non-negotiable in any of these is the tie. Never wear a regular tie. Get a bow tie. A real one.

Please.

Mastering Complex Patterns

“Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can play weird– that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple complicated is commonplace–making the complicated simple, awesomely simple–that’s creativity.”  – Charles Mingus

In today’s post-slacker world, just wearing coat and tie is enough to turn heads in many environments.  Sadly, in response to the incessant thundering appeal to “stand out,” men are blindly throwing together so many unrelated #menswear trends and patterns under the misguided siren call to “be original” that the resulting stew of glen plaids, gingham checks, candy stripes, and polka dots would make even Andrea Bocelli vomit. 

If that’s what you’re shooting for, more power to you; but do not delude yourself into thinking a random salmagundi of patterns is an expression of your creativity.   Many confuse “individuality” with “creativity”, but there is a difference: the aim of individuality is to be “different” by bucking convention.  The genius of creativity is taking something complex and making it appear simple. 

Charles Mingus released one of his best-known albums, Ah Um, the same year that Miles Davis released Kind of Blue.  Both, now over 50 years old, are premier examples of how complexity can be done well.  Indeed, despite the fact that up to six instruments played a part in each song, note the recurring concept that keeps appearing in critics’ reviews:

“Simplicity – the reason Kind of Blue has remained so successful for so long.”npr.org

“…one of the many amazing things about Mingus Ah Um is that he took this incredibly challenging jazz, in perhaps its creative heyday, and made it as easy as pop music.” – Bob Lange

“All of the contributions…only served to illuminate Miles’ zen-like approach on this record that relied on simplicity.” – allaboutjazz.com

This concept was by no means new.  Over 100 years earlier, none other than Chopin himself opined: “Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”

Can this concept be applied to #menswear?  Yes, it can, in two ways:  One instrument at a time; or if many, they must harmonize.


One pattern

One pattern is easy – choose one and keep the rest solid. Non si può sbagliare. 

If more than one pattern, the scale of each must harmonize via contrast.  Think of it this way:  The items that are closest to each other should be dissimilar in scale; your ensemble should not look too busy.  If your jacket has a large pattern, the shirt’s pattern should be smaller.  If the shirt’s pattern is small, the tie’s pattern should be large.  If you decide to wear a pocket square, its scale should differ from the jacket.


Two patterns

In the first example, Mark Cho wears a suit with a large pattern, while his tie has a small pattern. Same with the second picture – large windowpane suit, small scale “neat” tie. The third example showcases the reverse: small scale gunclub jacket paired with a tie that has stripes spaced far apart. 


Three Patterns

Three patterns can be done relatively easily: anchor your ensemble with a solid suit, make the shirt and tie in differing scales, and throw in a patterned pocket square. The first two pictures demonstrate this well. 

Once you throw in a patterned jacket things can get tricky, but the following photos demonstrate how it can be done. In the first, Ethan is wearing a gunclub jacket (small repeated scale), a neat tie (in a slightly larger scale with more space in between the print), and a square with a large scale, dissimilar to the jacket. The next picture has Jake in a pinstripe jacket with quite a bit of space, a tie with less space, and a shirt with closely spaced stripes. 


Four Patterns

Not impossible, but the risks of appearing fastidiously studied or a chaotic cacophony should give one pause. Simply changing the scale can have too many lines crossing every which way in a dizzying mess.  To limit this effect, try introducing shapes and prints into your accessories, such as a medallion tie or paisley square.

 

Note that in all cases, the colors are not garish.  If one pattern stands out more than the other, it is not so disparate as to look either out of place or forced. Whether simple or complex, everything should just…flow easily.  Stephen Thomas Erlewine of allmusic.com sums it up by saying:  “Kind of Blue works on many different levels. It can be played as background music, yet it amply rewards close listening. It is advanced music that is extraordinarily enjoyable.”

Standing out is easy; just wear red shoelaces.  Don’t just be different.  Be creative by making the complicated simple.  Make Mingus proud.

Photos courtesy of Alan See, the Armoury LightboxEthan Newton, and No Man Walks Alone

Accessorizing with Dogs: A How-To

There has long existed an association between tiny, handbag-friendly dogs and the fashion elite, but there is more to the art of accessorizing with dogs than a chihuahua in a purse.  For everyone who shares a home – even briefly – with a four-legged companion, the question has always been: how can I maximize my dog-outfit synergy?

The first consideration is, of course, the breed. Dogs such as border collies naturally pair well with workaday or outdoor clothing: consider Engineered Garments, Battenwear, or Nigel Cabourn, as all of these brands perform admirably even when covered with hair. A bulldog can complement both vaguely-sleezy 70’s inspired menswear as well as 3-piece suits of heavy tweed , whereas a Borzoi may lend itself best to a fan of the Antwerp Six. Devotees to the house of Marc Jacobs will, of course, love bull terriers, whereas advocates of quirky menswear will be quick to point to Menswear Dog  as an example of why Shiba Inus make the perfect stylistic companion. Some dogs are as versatile as a navy blazer – Welsh Corgis, for example, go with just about anything.

Don’t be too concerned, however, as any dog can be the perfect match for their wearer’s peculiar clothing choices, and mixes often show the most aesthetic versatility. Take, for example, my good friend @konorobu‘s predilection for combining Rick Owens and Carol Christian Poell with his small and adorable adopted friend. This, of course, is additionally powerful due to the inherent gap-moe of the combination; or the charm of contradictory habits or personality traits. If you’re a man in a power suit, consider a Pomeranian. If you’re wearing head-to-toe Acronym, a Lhasa Apso will provide a well-groomed counterpoint to your edgy, apocalypse-ready exterior. There is no reason to feel pigeonholed in your wardrobe choices when accessorizing with dogs – experiment with outfits to see what works best with your companion. I favor a pair of adopted Shiba Inus, as I find the coloration and temperament lends itself nicely to indigo-dyed streetwear and the occasional jacket and trousers.

The second consideration is fur type and coloration. When accessorizing with dogs, it’s important to take note of ideal color combinations. Keep in mind that black-and-white is not the be-all, end-all of a fashionable companion. High-fashion aficionados will find that the black-and-tan of a Bernese Mountain Dog will go nicely with a monochrome look, and the subtle tones of a Blue Heeler will bring out the best in any colorful outfit. Texture is a secondary aspect; brushed tweeds go equally well with shaggy or shiny coats, and light linens and cottons are a perfect match for both high-fuzz-factor dogs as well as adorably soft and tiny companions.

Ultimately, there is no end to the number of ways you can accessorize with dogs. The fashionable options are limitless, especially when the personality of the dog in question is taken into consideration. Beyond the purely aesthetic advantages that dogs confer, there are innumerable health benefits that come from living with them. Ten out of ten doctors now recognize that accessorizing with dogs results in lower blood pressure, more Instagram likes, a higher sex drive, and funnier jokes1. This should not be taken lightly – for any of you who are struggling with wardrobe direction or how to maximize your swag levels, a dog can provide the boost you need to hone in on your style.

There are now multiple apps that allow users to rent dogs. Dogs of all shapes and sizes, from the tiny and yappy to the huge and drooling. Some of these apps are geared towards people who want to test the waters before adopting their own new best friend; others are designed as social meet-up or even dating tools. And ever better, your local Humane Society will have all kinds of dogs for you to meet, love, and even take home with you. Just make sure that you’re doing your homework before you take the plunge, because there’s nothing more un-chic than being a bad dog owner. If you’re diligent in your search, I’m sure you’ll find a companion, and I’m sure you won’t regret it – because all along, the best accessory to a happy life and a happy wardrobe is a doggy friendship.


  1. This is completely fabricated.
  2. Cover photo credit: Arianna Reggio

Pairing Colors in Menswear

Most guys like color, but are afraid to add more than one to their ensemble for fear of making mistakes. This is laudable: better to play it safe and look possibly boring but overall pleasing than to reveal one’s ignorance. Indeed, the clueless color-lovers are often the worst offenders and blithely walk out the door looking like a clown exploded on them.

To help you embrace colors in menswear, I have a quick primer to share:

ANALOGOUS COLORS: these are next to each other on the wheel. The easiest for those who are just starting to dip their toes into the waters of tint. The least contrast, the most innocuous, if a bit unexciting. Good for impressing your mother-in-law. 

TRIAD COLORS: equidistant from one another on the wheel, e.g. blue/yellow/red. Triads are engaging, appealing. 

COMPLEMENTARY COLORS: opposite on the color wheel. Striking, compelling – if done well. Proceed with caution. 

colors in menswear

One last note: keep it muted. See the outside of the color wheel? Darker shades can add interest without overwhelming the eyes and maintain your outfit’s sobriety. You could do brighter hues and reap rich rewards, but at greater risk of looking, well, silly. Save those colors as accents for casual warm-weather rigs in cotton, silk, or linen. 

Now that the basics of color are understood, contrast can be introduced. To wit, a simple graphic: 

colors in menswear

The above picture shows varying degrees of color contrast, starting with the highest on top and ending with the lowest on the bottom. 

The top example of yellow and blue contrasts in two ways: they are triadic primary colors (equidistant on the color wheel) and they differ greatly in luminance. The yellow is quite bright, while the blue is dark. 

The second example, a kelly green and fuchsia, are color wheel opposites but have the same luminance. They do contrast, but less so than the first example. 

Next we have the analogous colors of red and orange. Since they are so close to each other, the contrast is low. Lower still is the final example – two of the same color, with one just slightly lighter than the other. 

How does this translate when wearing coat & tie? Generally speaking, as the contrast of an ensemble increases, so does the degree of difficulty of pulling it off well. Note the following examples.


Low Contrast

colors in menswear

Here we see Ethan showcasing what may be the most elementary color combination of them all: one. 

Why does it work? Simple: it is low-contrast epitomized. What makes this ordinary ensemble rise to extraordinary are noteworthy (cut, fabric, and texture), but for the moment just know that this ensemble can easily be emulated. You already have a navy worsted suit and navy grenadine tie (if not, you should; they are basics). Add a white shirt for more formal occasions or a light blue/light navy shirt for a more casual look. In the latter instance, be sure that the shirt contrasts at least a bit with your tie (you don’t want it to disappear). Either way you have an easy monochrome look that sits well in most occasions. The navy palette is pleasing, the colors cool.


Mid-low Contrast

colors in menswear

Armourer Jeff snapped a shot of his colleague Nick in an outfit that utilizes both high and low contrast, striking a serene balance between the two. 

The light grey suit provides a blank canvas accommodating any color combination (as well as black and white, for that matter). Here we have the tertiary tints of blue and yellow, which are about as far apart as you can get in luminance. However, they have been muted – the yellow mellowed, the blue brightened – so that the contrast is less severe, but not at all boring. This can be a difficult look to put together, but when executed well the mid-contrast ensemble is charming, attractive, and delightful. 


Mid-High Contrast

colors in menswear

Here, lnsee demonstrates what is by far the easiest look to pull off: mid-grey suit, light shirt, dark tie. This is an ensemble that men should thoughtlessly reach for when a situation calls for coat and tie. It is always, reliably, appropriate.

Alan chose the analogous colors of blue and green to accessorize, with a dash of the neutral color brown (which goes with practically everything, since it is essentially a mix of primary colors). The little peek of red in the pocket square adds even more contrast, but not so much that it calls attention to itself. Overall the hues are muted, giving the outfit a creative but quiet elegance.


High Contrast

colors in menswear

This is my favorite picture of Mark from The Armoury. This is pretty much as high a contrast as one can get, both in color and in luminance, and it looks great.

The odd jacket, of course, is the focal point. It is not, though, the only thing one sees. Mark makes good use of the vibrant plaid as a fulcrum; most of the rest of his outfit is either lighter (the shirt) or darker (the tie and trousers). Having red, yellow, blue, and green present is almost inviting a color clash of some sort, but instead we have all of them playing in harmonious, lively concert. It is a wonderful sight to see.

Note also the contrast between top and bottom. Darker brown shoes could have been chosen, but the look would seem too bottom heavy. The lighter snuff suede loafers not only provide contrast with the trousers, but in echoing the bright jacket, provide balance.

What does contrast mean?

Clothes speak in our behalf, telling the observer how we wish to be seen. In menswear, this has a variety of implications. You may wish (or need) to fit in, limiting your choices. In this instance, the combination of a mid-to-dark suit, light shirt, and dark tie is unimpeachable; Alan’s mid-high color contrast ensemble would fit in perfectly. 

Monochromatic looks such as Ethan’s are best in navy or grey and are a tasteful option for both day and night. In the absence of color contrast, try mixing textures instead, as he does.

Mid-low contrast, especially in lighter colors, is usually seen in more casual settings and are well at home there. Nick’s outfit is unceremonious, relaxed, approachable.

Mark’s high contrast look is all fun, for so many reasons. And when the occasion calls for it, shouldn’t that be what dressing is for, anyway?

Photo credit: ethandesu and jhilla

Chelsea Boots for All the People

Just to catch you up if you’ve been living under a rock for the last year or so, the Chelsea boot, with it’s characteristic double elastic gores, has been the footwear du jour.  Without fear of jumping on the bandwagon really late, I’m going to endorse them.

Kanye is probably to thank for the popularity of the style for some younger and some more Kanye influenced wearers, and Common Projects should probably be on their knees, thanking Yeezus for putting their lightweight, crepe soled version (in the sand color) on waiting lists for the entire FW15 season.

Putting aside debates about Kanye’s cultural significance, chelsea boots have been a staple in closets of well-dressed men (and women) since the Victorian era, when they were made for the Queen herself before eventually finding their way into men’s closets. Now, they are perhaps best remembers as a staple in the UK’s mod scene in the 1960s, which has seen something of a revival as of late. They also gave birth to the the pointy-toed, Cuban-heeled Beatle Boot variation, but weather with low heels or high, the easy on-off comfort has made the chelsea beloved of the sleek ‘n trim streetwear set – led by you-know-who. They’re a natural extension of the skinny side-zip that has been quite popular for several years, and most makers streetwear makers are pursuing similarly streamlined silhouettes.

On the other end of the style spectrum, Blundstone’s rugged (guaranteed for life!) snub-toed, thick-soled version of the style has been a staple among Australia’s outdoors-minded set since the Victorian era as well. While not exactly elegant, that was never the purpose – and if elegance is what you desire, you can still find plenty of classic shapes from brands such as Alfred Sargent, Carmina, and others. Guidi, beloved of every dark-goth-romantic-bohemian-ninja, also makes an object-dyed chelsea boot, should you wish to trade your well-heeled Victorian footwear mores for a rougher look.

So, at this very odd intersection in menswear history, outdoorsmen, dandies, gothy-ninjas, and of course Kanye fans, are all endorsing the same style of boot.

My pick of the bunch is Epaulet’s Chelsea. That’s because it’s a lot more versatile than other examples. Epaulet’s quality and construction have always been top-notch, and the leather on this pair is a lustrous steerhide that achieves the improbably feat of going with everything. In addition, the last is neither Blundstone-blobby or Yeezy-narrow, so you can wear them with jeans or casual trousers. Plus, crepe soles are really, really comfortable. These were initially a pre-order, but there are a few pairs still available on Epaulet’s website. Although I own a pair in “sand suede,” I think this “Cuoro Como” model is a fantastic buy for anyone looking for a comfortable, stylish boot. They’re only $325, too – which is a really good deal.

You can find your own pair here.

 

Building a Wardrobe: The Brown Blazer

The brown blazer is one of the most simultaneously well-known and unknown wardrobe foundations. Well-known amongst those who know, and unknown amongst those who don’t. As you start putting together a tailored wardrobe, you’ll read thousands of articles and have hordes of people telling you that the one thing you must buy, the one thing without which no man’s life is complete, is a navy blazer. I disagree. Unless you are intent on cultivating an Ivy wardrobe, a navy blazer is no more a “necessity” than a pair of penny loafers. Allow me to suggest a brown blazer instead. Here’s why:

Although the above gallery illustrates my points for me, I will write them out here for the sake of completion. Fundamentally, while a navy blazer is undeniably a wardrobe staple, the brown blazer shines in all the same ways a navy blazer does, but has the edge in a few areas:

  1. A brown blazer can be worn with navy trousers. Seriously, this is so important. Navy is a fantastic color for trousers, and if you’re stuck with a closet full of navy blazers you might be straight SOL. But navy trousers open up a world of fantastic possibility, and in my opinion a navy trouser with a brown jacket on top looks far superior to a brown trouser with a navy jacket on top.
  2. A brown blazer often looks better with jeans than a navy blazer. While not always true, this is worth considering. Especially since, if you are really building a wardrobe, you probably want a jacket that you can wear with denim. After all, you already have a suit for interviews – right?
  3. A brown blazer looks better with grey trousers than a navy blazer. Well, that’s certainly subjective, and you’re free to disagree. However, I do think that a blue blazer and grey trousers can make the wearer look a bit like a security guard, and a brown blazer certainly doesn’t have this connotation. In any case, it will look just as good as a navy blazer.
  4. Finally, a brown blazer will make you look like you know what you’re doing. Any high schooler can put on a navy blazer for “special occasions,” but graduating to a brown variant suggests that you’ve put thought into your wardrobe choices – and putting thought into your wardrobe is the foundation of personal style, regardless of the direction you take. You’ll stand out, in a good way.

See where I’m going with this? A brown blazer fulfills all the necessary duties of its navy sibling, but does even more for the wearer. If I haven’t been able to convince you, take a look at this thread, or this one, both full of some of Styleforum’s best-dressed members, and count the number of brown blazers you see.

This is by no means to suggest that a navy blazer is a bad choice or poor investment – quite the contrary. However, if you are just starting out on your clothing journey, a brown blazer may well give you more versatility than a navy blazer. And if you’re a seasoned Classic Menswear veteran who’s looking to branch out – well, at the very least a brown blazer will keep you from winding up with a closet filled entirely with navy jackets.

Choosing Leather Gloves

If you’re wondering how to pick out a pair leather gloves this fall, don’t worry – you’re not alone. The Glove (note the capitalization) has become a necessary element of the #menswear wardrobe, and no one at Pitti would be caught dead without them – I imagine that’s true even during the summertime. But it’s likely that you’ll be doing more than just posing on the Pitti Wall this fall and winter, so take some time to think about what best fits your needs.

The first step is to determine when and where you’ll be wearing your gloves. This may come as a shock, but not everyone lounges around looking cool and doing nothing with gloves stuffed into their overcoat pocket as a purely aesthetic accessory. If you’re outside 3 hours a day, you’ll probably want something soft and warm. If you’re only “outside” in the garage, getting in and out of your car, you probably don’t want or need something with a thick lining.

Same goes for the temperature: if you live in a temperate climate, you probably don’t need shearling gloves. If you live in Maine, you probably do. And if you live in a 4-season location, having a couple of pairs of gloves can mean comfy hands for almost half the year. I start wearing mine around November, because even if it’s still warm during the day, I ride a bicycle regularly and chilly mornings mean that my hands go numb.  With that said, let’s take a look at some of the ways you can keep your fingly-dinglies nice and toasty.

  1. Unlined Leather Gloves

    Pros: These are ideal when it’s not too cold out, or when you’re looking for a pair of gloves to wear when you’re driving. I dislike driving in thick gloves, especially when driving a manual, as it does become harder to operate nobs and switches and even gear-levers. Otherwise, an unlined glove – especially a driving glove – is a fantastic look that can work with most casual or tailored outfits. In addition, I find that these lighter-weight accessories really lend themselves to interesting colors, which means that if you want driving gloves in British racing green you should absolutely get yourself some.

    Cons: Obviously, they’re not as warm as a lined glove. In addition, you have to be a bit more mindful of fit, as you want the leather to fit close to the hand for maximum feel. Having a too-large unlined glove feels bad, whereas you can often get away with a less exact fit when wearing a lined glove. In addition, if the glove is of poor quality, the seems inside may bother your hands. And finally, you simply may not enjoy the feel of unlined leather, which can occasionally make your hands feel clammy.

     

  2. Lined Leather Gloves


    Pros: Depending on the lining, these gloves can either be pleasantly warm or fireplace-hot. Linings come in various forms and materials, so make sure you know what you’re getting. The three most common varieties are leather gloves that have been lined with a knit or woven fabric or wool, cashmere, or a blend of some kind; gloves lined in soft fur, and shearling gloves.

     

    1. Fabric-lined gloves are thinner but still warm, but I have had linings tear in the past, meaning they’re not exactly fit for yard work. That’s probably not why you’re buying them, but still – it pays to do your homework
    2. Fur-lined gloves are incredibly luxurious, soft, and warm – but they tend to be thicker, making them less fit for driving, and they can also be quite fragile if you’re using your hands for anything but carrying a briefcase. Fur can and will wear out over time, and while a pair of nice gloves will certainly last you a long while, you might want to take care that you’re not shoveling snow in your nicest pair.
    3. Shearling gloves are perhaps the warmest and most resilient, but also the thickest. In addition, take care that the “shearling” gloves you’re buying aren’t just lined in knit sheepswool. While shearling gloves will wear out over time (imagine your favorite pair of sheepskin slippers), they’re generally long-lasting and tough-wearing, and a bit more casual in appearance than the first two options.

Cons: Well, lined gloves are warm. That might not be what you want. And the thicker the glove, the more difficult it is to use your fingers precisely. Operating zippers and closing buttons becomes mildly more difficult, but if it’s really cold out, a lined glove – especially fur-lined or shearling – is hard to go without.

Finally, in my experience it’s worth it to spend a bit more on a pair you like. You’ll find passable examples at the mall, but they’ll run you 80-120$ anyway, and stepping up to a pair of fine gloves will make you a happy camper. Not only will you get access to more comfortable and resilient hides and linings, but nice gloves have an heirloom feel to them. Once a favorite pair is properly broken in, they feel like a second skin.

 

The Quilted Blazer: An Ideal Autumn Garment

A quilted blazer is, as you may have guess from its inclusion in yesterday’s outfit grid, one of my favorite autumn layers. Although it’s an unmistakably casual piece, it’s still a “step up” from a knit blazer or cardigan – depending on what you end up with, of course – and can fulfill a variety of roles. That’s because these pieces range from the technical to the luxurious, making them a good item to look out for regardless of which way your wardrobe skews. And, like a true sport coat, most can be worn with either trousers or denim. While they’re unlikely to pass muster at a board meeting or at an occasion where conservative dress is required, they’re fit for most other engagements – provided the weather is cool enough, because in most cases, the quilting works.

The quilted blazer can be found at vendors ranging from JCPenney to Brunello Cucinelli, which means that you have a lot of options if you’re looking to add to your wardrobe. Thom Browne does a number of these, both for his own line and for Moncler, but a quick Yoox search will yield a host of options. If you’re interested in a technical offering, it’s become relatively easy to find a quilted nylon example, although you’ll have to make sure you’re not winding up with something that will fall apart after a single wear. That is, usual quality standards apply. I think that a good streetwear fallback would be this piece, from Apolis – it certainly skews towards the very casual, but that doesn’t mean it would look out of place with a pair of smart-but-casual chinos or trousers. 

It’s also possible to find quilted blazers more in the vein of these examples from Brooks Brothers and Thom Brown. Wool, as opposed to Nylon; cut more like a traditional sport coat, and more fitting four trousers and (maybe) a tie. Examples in this latter category can get pricey quickly, as you can find all sorts of lovely fabrics. This is the sort I like, as the natural materials used for the shell makes them quite versatile. That is, you don’t have to wear denim to look natural, but you don’t have to wear creased pants either. Here are a few examples of this look, ranging in formality. 

My preference is definitely for the non-nylon look. Those are very handy, but they’re much less versatile, and you really run the risk of looking “cheap.” I’d go for a quilted natural material. My own example comes from ts(s), and works just fine with whatever I choose to put on my body. It feels like cheating, really.

Now, doing a quick internet search for the quilted sport coat makes one thing very clear: people have no idea when or how to wear them. This depends, of course, on what you’ve chosen. If it’s a technical garment, any type of jean or chino will work just fine. If it’s a more luxurious garment, the world is your oyster. And as for “when” – well, if you think of your quilted blazer as a piece of light outerwear rather than a sport coat, it will start to make more sense. Wear it as you would a heavy cardigan, wear it as you would a standard sport coat – wear it with shorts if you want to. Once the weather dips below 60F, my own quilted blazer sees almost more use than any other piece of light outerwear in my closet. I’m sure that you’ll be able to put it to good use if you’re willing to give it a shot.

quilted blazer

My own ts(s) quilted blazer, from No Man Walks Alone

I do have some final tips. First, you’ll probably want to forego the tie. I’d wager that a knit tie could work nicely with one of these, and Thom Brown has often showed his with narrow-ish neckwear; but as I’ve already said, I’d be inclined to think of this as a piece of light outerwear. Can you wear a tie? Yeah, sure. But it might not look entirely natural. Second, experiment with knitwear. In yesterday’s outfit grid, we showed a quilted blazer with a roll-neck sweater. I swear by this look. A turtleneck under a quilted jacket looks fantastic, and I’ll fight you if you say otherwise. You can certainly try a thin cardigan, or simply a heavy oxford cloth shirt, depending on the weather. And third, don’t be afraid to mix up what you’re wearing with it. Layer underneath it, wear it with jeans, wear it with creased trousers – a quilted blazer is more versatile than your standard sport coat, so don’t feel restricted. Embrace fall, and embrace the quilted blazer – you’ll be happy you did, because when you put one on it feels like wearing a marshmallow.