Embrace Transitional Layering

Transitional layering is one of the greatest pleasures that menswear has to offer, but it’s also a source of a surprising amount of difficulty for a surprising number of men. It’s understandable, really – we’re bombarded with heavy outerwear and beach-ready clothing, and you have to look to find the stuff that falls in between, as plentiful as it is.

We’re big fans of light outerwear at Styleforum, and while a leather jacket, M-65, or other option worn over a shirt and maybe a sweater is a simple way to win at life, there are more interesting ways to layer. Let’s go over a few of them.

  1. Wear Two Shirts at Once

    Seriously. Well, not two normal shirts; @Conceptual_4est wrote a great article on the Shacket last year, and his advice on the matter is still relevant. A shirt-jacket can be worn alone, or under a heavier parka should the weather already have turned on you. Denim or canvas workshirts also do well at this, especially if they’re noticeably thicker than your standard button-up. I haven’t tried one myself, but Styleforum affiliate Yellowhook is making some denim workshirts that would work for this. Otherwise, Evan Kinori, about whom I’ve written before, does a good field shirt; and I happen to have a flannel, pocketed variety from Cloak. This is also one of those pieces you can find at LL Bean or the like, although they’ll be of a different, Bean-ier variety. Note that this is specifically casual – wearing two shirts under a sportcoat probably isn’t going to go over that well – literally and figuratively.

  2. Put a Jacket Under Your Jacket

    It doesn’t have to be a shacket, either. It’s really easy to slip the ever-present chore jacket under your outerwear, but there’s other stuff that can work as a midlayer. Say, a knit jacket that’s cut like a blazer. And a sport coat can be certainly be worn under a field jacket or hunting jacket. Nifty, no?

  3. Are you a Cardi-can, or a Cardi-can’t?

    The cardigan is the perfect transitional layer. If you’re wearing a suit or sportcoat, you can wear a thin merino cardigan under your jacket as a warmer stand-in for a waistcoat.  If you’re putting together a casual outfit, you can easily substitute a heavy cardigan (say, the perennial favorites from SNS Herning, or perhaps a cowichan) for a jacket. This works with both denim and with trousers, as the buttoned (or zipped – FULL zips, please) front makes the knit look a bit more like a jacket, and tends to lend a more flattering silhouette to the wearer than a sweater would.


  4. Vestos are the Bestos

    By vest, I don’t mean that you have to wear North Face puffer the way you do when you’re raking leaves or otherwise living the suburban dream. In fact, it doesn’t have to be made of nylon at all. There are some really cool insulated (and not) vest options from a whole host of makers, and it’s worth your time to check them out. Vests are super handy, and although I can’t endorse the Instagram hero vest-over-blazer look, I’ll happily wear a vest over a more casual garment, such as the aforementioned shacket, chore jacket, or cardigan.

I can’t really think of anything for number 5, but my main point here is that you don’t have to resort to a grey sweatshirt or a heavier sport coat for autumn. Nor do you have to immediately fall into a rotating uniform of light jackets, as I’m certainly guilty of doing. Experiment with colors, silhouettes, and textures. More importantly, experiment with layers of various weights, because autumn can be fickle and proper layering is the key to staying comfortable.

What to Expect from Bespoke

So you’ve decided to “go bespoke.”  Great!  From now on, everything you commission should be perfect, right?

I decided to ask some of StyleForum’s members to elaborate on their bespoke experiences to give the “n00b” an idea of what to expect during the first (and hopefully continuing) foray into bespoke.  Their combined familiarity helps create a balanced prospective of what one should be looking for during the process.

Granted, it may take some time before finding a tailor that suits your needs.  Forum member @Slewfoot, AKA David Beckwith of Grand Cru Wine Consulting, had tried several tailors before he found his current favorite: Steed.  “A big reason I settled on them was seeing all the amazing photographs of their work online.  Additionally,  many people on StyleForum and London Lounge that I trust use them regularly.”

Once at the tailor’s shop (or at a traveling tailor’s temporary shop space), what do you ask?  Indeed, where do you even start?  David continues: 

“I think it’s a very good idea to take the long term approach to the relationship with your tailor. At the beginning you are really getting to know one another. You’re getting a feel for making sure you all are on the same page aesthetically and philosophically. The first handful of items you get from a tailor you all carefully discuss the specifics of the fit and details, but after a while much of that becomes second nature and you then just do tweaks here and there depending on the specific garment at hand.”

Andy Poupart, known as @Andy57, on StyleForum concurs:

“My first suits came out fine, but that first commission was also a learning experience for me.  What I didn’t know to ask about were the many stylistic and detailed choices that one can make when commissioning a garment. Since then, I have come to know such things as I almost always want a ticket pocket, I want at least two narrow inside breast pockets for my reading glasses, I don’t want belt loops on my trousers, nor do I want rear pockets or a coin pocket in the waistband.”

During the process, the learning curve for both client and tailor can leave certain details to chance.  What happens then?  @Manton recalls one such incident: 

“I once ordered a dinner jacket, as a double breasted shawl collar, and I thought the lapel buttonhole should be angled up, as is typical on a double breasted jacket.   In this instance the tailor angled it down, as on a single breasted jacket. I was sort of miffed at first, but I solved the problem by always wearing a flower in the lapel.”

Small tweaks are to be expected, even after the initial commission.  However, the process does get easier with time.  David explains:

“I used to overthink things too much when I was first getting into it. At first, it’s like re-doing a room in your house – you’re presented with dozens of options for paint and drapes, and  start running around in circles. These days I just let my gut take over and make much faster decisions. One thing I’ve noticed that’s a big help is physically seeing the fabric in person first. Holding it in your hands, you often suddenly get hit with how the finished garment will come out. You inherently know that patch pockets will be great for this fabric or that this suit should be a 3-piece vs a double breasted kind of thing.”

After multiple commissions, @Manton agrees: “As I’ve gained experience with bespoke, I’ve streamlined the process.  I just say, “Just say “Single or double-breasted, two piece or three,” and let them do their thing.”

Take your time to get to know your tailor. Trust them to do what they do best, and trust yourself to make the choices that are best for you. Oh, and try not to overthink it!

The Neckerchief: In Praise of Individual Style

Allow me to suggest The Neckerchief: a humble scrap of fabric tied around the neck, elevated to the heights of style through the affectations of men in search of the perfect accessory. An alternative form of neckwear suitable for men of all strokes, be they bankers or buckaroos. Keep your ties, gentleman; I’ll be wearing a silk bandana.

You may think I jest, but I assure you that I do not. The neckerchief is a viable, admirable, and stylish accessory that will keep you warm, allow you to mop the sweat off your neck, protect you from sudden dust storms, or even provide anonymity in moments of pure chaos. It has been the choice of gents the world over, from military captains to artists to physical laborers, all of whom embraced the neckerchief as a functional and fashionable part of their daily wear. And, although you still find the rare man who has embraced the puissance of the neckerchief, they are sadly few and far between. I intend to change that – so please join me as we discuss some of the best ways to put these lengths of fabric to best use.


The Poet

neckerchief

George Gordon Byron, Lord Byron. © Photos.com/Thinkstock

Perhaps the best-known of all neckerchief looks, The Poet is the ‘chief of choice for men interested in adding a bit of worldly flair to their ensemble. It works with a suit, it works with a loose silk shirt (you have one of those, right?), and it probably works with anything else you can think of. Now, this one is just as much about the fabric of your neckerchief as it is the knot. Go for a larger piece of silk or otherwise lightweight material, and be sure to tie it at a rakish angle. Otherwise, it’s best you don’t care too much or try too hard, because that would defeat the purpose of wearing it in the first place. You’re trying to look as though you might recite a heroic couplet or die of consumption at any moment. My only tip is to avoid wearing a striped top with a poetically-tied neckerchief, as you run the risk of looking like a mime.


The Scout

neckerchief

Source: OrgSites.com

A throwback to the days of white picket fences and casual racism, The Scout employs the neckerchief in all its youthful glory. Fold your neckerchief in half and tie it around the neck of your shirt as you would a tie, fold your collar down, then turn the triangular fabric to the rear of your outfit and drape it over your back. Military in origin and functional in nature, it connotes boy scouts and Popeye the Sailor Man, allowing you to be both boyish and manly at the same time. As an added benefit, you’ll look a bit like you tried to wear a superhero cape but didn’t have the guts to go all-out. I can’t say I’ve ever seen this one used to positive effect on the street, but if you want to give it a shot you have my blessing.


The Vaquero

neckerchief

Sam Elliot in The Quick and the Dead / HBO

The Vaquero is my personal favorite, as it’s adaptable, functional, and has the added benefit of being not immediately noticeable by plebs who would otherwise judge you on the street. Tie your bandana in a double square not, then turn it around so that the doubled triangle of fabric covers your neck. See? It’s like a bizarro Scout look, which makes it cool and dangerous and menacing. Also, it keeps your neck warm, which is nice. You can kind of turn this to the side so that it’s over your shoulder for a John Wayne look, if you so choose.

I find that this one lends itself to more entertaining fabric choices, as a silk neckerchief can be tucked jauntily into your shirt so that you look more like a character out of a breathy adventure-romance movie than a guy who has watched too many Westerns.


The Railroader

neckerchief

Photo: RRL

Ah, The Railroader; favorite of cuffed-jean wearing, bearded men everywhere. The bandana must be red paisley (or chambray/denim with a visible selvage line), and it must be rolled and then attached with a leather or silver neckerchief slide to keep the ends of the fabric bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Or just roll up your bandana and tie it sort of loosely around your neck like a fabric necklace. This look is best accompanied with a heavy denim chore coat, heavy jeans, heavy boots, and heavy leather accessories. See where I’m going with this? Don’t even bother trying if your outfit weighs less than 50 pounds, because you’ll look like a poser. Also, if you embrace this one, you’re required to tuck your vintage white tee shirt into your jeans and talk endlessly about craft beer. Finish the look off with a giant hammer, and watch out for tunnels.

*Not to be confused with the “Gold Panner,” which is similar but requires accessorizing with a mule and fleas.*


This is, of course, just a taste of the many ways in which the neckerchief can be worn and loved. Many others exist – the Prince, the Kid Rock, and the Rosie the Riveter are all examples of other styles, and while I can’t personally recommend any of these, the beauty of the neckerchief is that you just tie it around your neck (or head, I guess) however you want and then do as you please. Best of luck on your journey, dear reader – and enjoy.

5 Stand-Out Takes on the White Court Shoe

The white court shoe has taken its place atop the throne of the sneaker world following the rise of the Stan Smith. The latter is now (still!) found on the feet of half the people at any trade show, with only mild competition from Adidas’ shell-toe and three stripe options. But if you’re looking for a simple, good-looking sneaker, there are many brands that offer pleasing design – and, let’s face it, a price that makes Common Projects Achilles look like a joke. Here are 5 white court shoes that you can wear all through the winter – and for a long time to come.


  1. Greats “Royale”

    Photo: Greats


    Luxury court shoes are nothing new, but we all know that Common Projects are no longer the must-have they once were. Greats’ take on the classic design is a little bulkier, a little cushier, and little less ubiquitous (and who doesn’t enjoy a bit of rarity with their sneakers?). The suede models are stand-outs, and will look great with worn-in raw denim or even casually-worn trousers.  And at 1/4 the price of CP’s, what’s not to like?119$, Greats.com


  2. Adidas Stan Smith Primeknit OG pk

    Photo: SSENSE

    What would a list of tennies be without at least one variation on the original? Adidas has updated its classic Stan Smith silhouette with a primeknit upper that offers breathable comfort and keeps you from looking like the rest of the fashion-obsessed sneakerheads out there. And since we’ve reached – and passed – peak Stan Smith saturation, a slight re-config means that you can wear these without feeling self-conscious. Although you can find Primeknit Stans at several retailers, this OG-pack version has a different knit and a slightly lower profile than the all-leather model, but pairs equally well with denim or slim black trousers (yeah, yeah – we see you, fashion week attendees).

    Best part? The added airflow means your feet will stink less.

    130$, ssense.com


  3. Common Projects Court Low
    Photo: Need Supply

    Photo: Need Supply


    Instead of going for the by now ubiquitous Achilles, spend those hard-earned dollars on the CP Court Low instead. We’re big on suede sneakers for a bit of added character, and this even-more-minimal take on the tennis shoe is perfect for fall. Stack your jeans on top of the low cuff, roll ’em up, or even wear a pair of (gasp!) shorts. Common Projects is really the original luxe sneaker brand, and they’ve stayed relevant for a reason.

    435$, NeedSupply.com


  4. Ann Demeulemeester Suede Low-Top

    Photo: FWRD



    While not exactly a court shoe (they’re more of a take on the venerable Converse), these suede low-tops nonetheless offer a great alternative to your standard tennis shoe. They’re much more versatile than the brand’s die-hard fans would have you believe, and are equally at home with head-to-toe Ann D. or a rolled-up pair of Engineered Garments BDU pants. The suede upper takes on added character with wear, and well-read forumites will know to ask their cobbler about adding a Vibram (or other rubber) outsole for increased longevity and grip. At this point, they’re a modern classic.

    830$, fwrd.com


  5. Filling Pieces “Low Top Tabs White”

    Photo: Filling Pieces

    Looking for a little more flash from your court shoe? Streetwear brand Filling Pieces could be right up your alley. This take on their classic Tabs low top adds a gum sole and toe-cap perforation for a does of athletic style. Prices, while firmly upmarket, aren’t Givenchy-high, which means you’ll have some cash left over for a fancy pair of sweatpants. Long live athleisure!

    EUR240, Fillingpieces.com

5 Essentials of Neapolitan Style

In general, the Neapolitan style is “simple” – the Neapolitan gentleman will be not be perfect in every way, but he will be elegant and nonchalant. With that in mind, here are the five essentials of my wardrobe.


  1. Neapolitan Jacket, either in brown or blue. The Neapolitan jacket is unique in having a light, casual structure, which makes it perfect for both casual wear and tailored outfits.  Many people love the soft, easy feeling of wearing one, as a good Neapolitan jacket is like a second skin.image4


  2. Striped Shirt, of which there are several possibilities. White and blue, white and light blue, and white and green are all very useful standbys, and are simple but never boring. Called bacchettato napoletano, these shirts are wearable on all occasions, with or without a tie.image8


  3. Madder silk tie, in beige, burgundy, dark green, or blue. These offer a versatile, colorful background that is easy to wear with an odd jacket and trouser, or with a suit. There are of course many other tie options, but madder silk is always a good choice. 
  4. image3


  5. Pleated trouser, in any fabric. It should be 4 seasons-appropriate, however, because in Naples it’s warm through the winter. The accepted look is to have only a single pleat, and to accompany it with a 4.5cm cuff. This keeps the silhouette trim, while maintaining the relaxed shape and feel that Neapolitan style is known for.

    image6



  6. Loafer/tassel loafer in suede or leather. For go-anywhere, comfortable style, the tassel loafer is a great choice all year round. It’s also an excellent travel shoe, as it slips on and off and can easily be fit into your luggage.image1

You can find more of Nicola’s thoughts and writing at www.nicolaradano.com, where he discusses his youthful take on Neapolitan style. Nicola’s ties are available at Spacca Neapolis

How to Jump Into Bespoke

Today I’m in a salon in San Francisco with my wife.  The stylist asks how she wants her hair, and as she responds, she’s also using her hands almost like paintbrushes, drawing invisible lines here and there to indicate bob and bang length.  Then she points to a picture of a model on a wall.

“Like that.” 

Getting a bespoke suit follows a similar path.  We have an image in our mind and say to ourselves, “I want to look like that.”  Getting to look like that can be tricky.  Where to begin?  The following steps should help you on your way.

Decide what style you want. This cannot be overemphasized.  When you look at a picture of a suit you like, what exactly about it attracts you?  Is it the roping on the sleevehead, clean chest, and precise lines?  Or maybe you’re drawn to the roundness of the shoulders, gentle drape and curves, and soft tailoring.  Perhaps you like them all, but what do you see yourself in?  Nail that down, and proceed to step two.

Find a tailor that makes what you like as the house style.  This can be tough.  Generally speaking, there are three types of tailoring: British, American, and Italian.  The tailoring houses in the respective countries roughly adhere to the local style, but even within there are differences.  There are several threads on Styleforum that focus on various tailoring houses and geographical particularities; peruse them to pinpoint the one that most appeals to you.  These will get you started:

THE ANDERSON & SHEPPARD EXPATRIATES THREAD900x900px-ll-1f6ab035_i-79sdpzv-x2

FRENCH TAILORING THREAD

ANTONIO LIVERANO, FLORENTINE TAILOR

EAST SICILY TAILORS

 


Decide if you are willing to travel.  If so, you can go to any tailor you want, with only time and your budget to hold you back.  If not, you need to limit your choices to traveling tailors.  Here are a couple threads on StyleForum with tailors that travel to the US:

STEED TAILORS

WW CHAN

Plan the logistics of your travel.  Earlier this year I went to Sicily and wanted to try the tailors there.  When planning for the trip, I started to look for hotels and rental car agencies.  Many of these are available online in English, and email communication is also in English.  ProTip for car rental: InterRent is reliable and crazy cheap, often $20 a day or less for a car.  Their offices are sometimes located away from the airport but they do provide shuttle service.  Hotels usually speak English, and depending on your pocketbook, Sicily can provide unforgettable accommodations.

Set900x900px-ll-2505fe4a_tumblr_mltkm24ltx1rf1jvro1_1280 up an appointment. Many Italian tailoring shops don’t speak English, so along with other useful questions such as “Qual’è il miglior vino della casa?” you need to learn simple phrases to set up your appointment.  In this regard, utilize the many online translation sites, or language apps to use on your smartphone.  Or try this:  “Buongiorno, mi chiamo Peter. Voglio venire alla sua sartoria il diciannove ottobre alle 3 di pomeriggio. Va bene per lei?”

Since I speak conversational Italian, I called to let both tailors know the dates and general time of day I would be coming, which I did again about a week before my departure date. Most tailors will not discuss prices over the phone, so while it’s good to have a ballpark figure, be prepared for a somewhat fluid policy.  Allow at least a week for the first visit, first fitting, a possible second fitting, and the finished product.  If staying for less time, most tailors are willing to ship to you at cost. 

But what do you do once you get there?  What can you expect?  What do you ask?  I asked venerable StyleForum members to share their experiences, and next week’s Journal will reveal their responses.

Styleforum endorses the Ami double-breasted overcoat

One of the perks of going to a winter wedding is that you’ll get to wear an overcoat, which makes your outfit feel so much more substantial than anything you can wear in the summer.  I’m 42 now, which means that most of my friends were married over a decade ago (the average age at which people get married, according to a quick google search, is about 29, in the USA).  However, I have a large extended family, which means that I have a lot of younger cousins who are just now tying the knot, hitching the horse, or whatever euphemism you wish to use.  This means that my 15 year old overcoat will probably not fit any more.  And while I wouldn’t mind spring $3K on that casentino overcoat from Liverano&Liverano I saw in Florence a few years ago, I won’t need it that often (my family is not that big, nor do I need to wear suits that often). And with kids of my own, and a house, and all of that stuff that cost money, $3K seems a bit extravagant right now.  So, I’ve decided to go with this Ami double-breasted overcoat, which hits all the right style notes, and is the right price too.

Double-breasted camel hair overcoats are one of the few overcoats that have sporting, rather than military, roots, and originally appeared as a cover-up on the sidelines, apparently at polo matches.  Even though features in the original coat changed as it became a staple in both the UK and at American Universities, with two columns of buttons replacing the original belt, the original inspiration for the beige colored, double-breasted overcoat with flapped patch pockets is still quite recognizable.  It soon became an overcoat that was used for occasions of differing formality levels.  I saw this on East Coast campuses a lot in the noughties, and more and more throughout the general populace as long coats have become more and more popular for casual use, in this decade.

Of course, clothing evolves, and today’s versions of polo coats so often have details added or taken away that it’s probably best to just descriptively call the thing a double-breasted camel overcoat, to avoid arguments about whether it’s more like a polo coat, or more like a military greatcoat, or whatever.  It’s fun to discuss and argue the distinctions in an online discussion on Styleforum, of course.

Parisian brand Ami, founded by Marc Jacobs and Dior alum Alexandre Mattiussi, concentrates on contemporary sartorial basics and good approachable prices.  I’ve heard it called the heir apparent to A.P.C., and each collection includes robust similar sportwear and military inspired pieces in narrow and straight cuts that characterize early A.P.C., the brand is a little more urbane, a little more like that other French stalwart brand -Agnes B.

The original versions of this coat were apparently made of camelhair.  This coat uses the 80% wool/20% polyamide blend melton that is common in many modern overcoats, with the polyamide lending strength to a thinner material than would have been previously used.  Purists sometimes scoff and make sour faces at the use of synthetics, but I see it as an acceptable concession to modern tastes, which tend towards lighter weight fabrics.  I personally love the 32 ounce traditional melton, but I know that a lot of guys balk at that weight.  Also, textiles sciences has made great strides since the 1970s, when synthetics developed their bad reputation, and the old, still lingering, negative ideas about them are simply inaccurate.

The new version of the double-breasted overcoat also has a slim fit, which is quite different from the boxy fit of the original coat, and has set in, flapped pockets, rather than the original patch pockets.  Both I see as merciful changes made for the non-perfect physique.

Ami doublebreasted overcoat, $840 at www.mrporter.com

ami double-breasted overcoat

Ami doublebreasted overcoat, $840 at www.mrporter.com

Five Aging Menswear Trends That Need to Die

Although all of us at Styleforum are as pleased as punch with the explosion of interest in men’s clothing and fashion that has accompanied the new millennium, there have been a few aging menswear trends that made our teeth hurt when they were new and aren’t treating us any better now. Some of them are still clinging to life, and that needs to stop. The usual Styleforum disclaimers apply: it is, of course, possible to embrace the entire list below and look great. Theoretically. In a parallel universe, maybe. If you’re still hanging on to all of these, I’m sorry. For you.


 

  1. Wooden Bead Bracelets
    beads

    Photo: Beadboy

    You know what we’re talking about. For a good five years, iGents the world over had these bracelets stacked halfway up one or both arms (and, we assume, sock-less legs as well). As an idea, we fully support men’s jewelry – and even the odd bead. But they have become the grown man’s elastic band bracelet; the ideal way to show how cultured and worldly you are, collected without thought or intention. Thankfully, this trend has almost killed itself off, but to everyone still in denial: please. Let it die.


  2. “Fun” Socks
    webst21795

    Photo: Theidleman

    They don’t make you more interesting. They don’t show your personality. If you honest-to-god love your bright pink argyle, fish scale, or curled-mustache socks, we can’t stop you. But no one’s going to find you more daring, more exciting, or any bolder than you would be if you were sporting a sock that didn’t suggest you also sleep in a race car bed (Disclaimer: if you sleep in a race car bed, that’s awesome and please send us photos).


  3. Contrast Buttonholes
    contrast-button

    Photo: Anton Alexander

    We’re not sure who thought this up or why. Perhaps men were having trouble finding their buttonholes, hence reduced to running around in a state of unbuttoned panic. Perhaps internet MTM companies needed a thousandth feature to grant a $1 upcharge. Or perhaps, in an era of endless customization, men in search of ways to make themselves stand out thought that red thread around a white buttonhole was the best way to show off their sartorial chops. The absolute worst offenders are contrasting buttonholes combined with busily-patterned shirts, most of which have extra-tall power collars and contrasting cuffs. Most egregiously, these made their way onto the cuffs and lapels of sport coats, which…sorry, I was too busy retching to finish that sentence. Just Say No.


  4. Contrasting Cuff Dress Shirts

    shirt

    Photo: Madebytailor

    I’m not sure how to feel about these. On the face of it, a shirt (or jacket) that hides a special fabric reserved only for the wearer is perhaps the most Styleforumish of affectations, and one that I cannot ideologically oppose. However, when contrast cuffs are combined with the in-your-face stripes and collars (also contrasting on the underside) of Jermyn-inspired clubwear, men the world over are done a disservice. This is the ultimate boss form of the “going-out shirt,” and should be avoided at all costs. There’s no better way to say “Hi! I’m probably an asshole.”

    Addendum: Contrast Anything, Come to Think of It

    Yellow shoelaces? No. Purple collar tips? Please.  If it seems like a gimmick, it probably is – and a gimmick does not a well-dressed man make.


  5. Teensy-tiny ties with tie clips
    skinny-tie-bar

    Photo: GQ

    I blame Mad Men, and by extension, JCrew. For a couple of years there, every other man on the street had declared himself dapper, a man’s man, by virtue of jacket lapels skinny as a pinky finger, a tie as narrow as a pencil, and to top it off – a tie clip (need we mention the ubiquitous gingham shirt?). Okay, I may be conflating a few different trends there, but they definitely went hand-in-hand, and were usually found beneath thick-framed retro spectacles.  It’s one thing to bring the 60’s back, it’s another to use your lemming powers for the sake of looking like an anonymous office drone. It’s not minimalism, people. It’s just bad.

    There’s a lot to be said for a tie that doesn’t make you look like you’re performing at a high school rock show, but to be fair, this has deep, deep roots. It reappeared in the mainstream alongside the the geek-chic look of the early 2000’s (we’ve talked about this before), but it’s not Joe Craft-Sixpack who’s to blame for the resurgence of the skinny-tie-and-bar. After all, who doesn’t want to look like Mick Jagger in his younger days? Sadly, at this point, the romance has become mundane. We must insist that your ties – and your lapels – increase to a respectable width. And please – leave the tie clip at home.

    There you have it: five of the most egregious aging menswear trends that really, desperately need to be buried. Does this list mean you’re not allowed to embrace color or personality? Of course not. It means that even when you’re dressing with the times, good taste should govern your stylistic decisions. Because “more, more, more” has never been a particularly effective guiding philosophy, and that extends to clothing.

Knit Ties and How to Wear Them

The knit tie is a strange but wonderful beast. It is by no means a wardrobe staple, but neither is it associated with frivolity. In the global circles of menswear lovers, it has become something of a hallmark of the well-dressed hobbyist. And if you’re a Styleforum member, there’s a good chance you already have a collection of these. But if you don’t (and let’s face it – Styleforum represents a small percentage of men worldwide), and if you’re interested in neckwear, this is a chance for you to discover what could become a new favorite accessory.

The knit tie, in its current state, has been around since the 1920’s more or less unchanged. Once adopted by the Ivy set, the knit tie is now a staple of American and Italian tailored wardrobes, often found worn with oxford cloth shirts. They show up everywhere from JCrew to Charvet. These days, you’ll most often see ties knit from silk due to the sheen from the fabric’s texture, but wools and cottons are an equally good choice and are by no means a “step down,” depending on the look you have in mind.

To Knit, or Not to Knit

A knit tie isn’t an evening tie. Let’s get that out of the way. And although a knit tie may be office-appropriate depending on where you work, it is by and large informal neckwear. A grenadine is a more elegant option for most occasions, including a conservative business wardrobe. That means you have to consider when, really, you should wear one. Although they’re more commonly worn with an odd jacket and trousers, you can indeed wear a knit tie with a suit, as long as the cut and material are appropriate – for example, a three-piece peak lapel suit will probably look out of place with a knit tie, but a tweed jacket with chinos and chukkas may be just right. As another possibility, a black knit tie with a navy notch-lapel suit can look impeccable if the outfit is put together well. Note that there are no hard and fast rules, but that certain combinations may be more successful.

Remember that a knit tie is still a tie, even if it can be an eye-grabbing touch to bring together an outfit. Rules for tie-wearing still apply, and the fun of knit ties doesn’t mean that taste can be tossed out the window. A knit tie can be contrasting or complementary, but do try to avoid mashing together too many styles or patterns at once. The line between quirky, stylish dressing and gaudy dressing is often thin, and forcing too many elements into one outfit is a good way to wind up with the latter.

As in all things, trust in your own good taste – and be aware that life doesn’t exist solely through an Instagram lens. Or, barring that, post a picture on Styleforum and ask for feedback.

How knot to wear one (heh heh)

On that note, we at Styleforum have noticed, over the last few years, an attempt to make the skinny knit tie a rugged accessory to be worn with denim and boots. Often, they’re paired with a plaid or denim work-shirt (this latter is a different beast from a chambray or denim shirt to be worn under a jacket). You’ve probably seen this look before, since it has been peddled in men’s style magazines and at malls across the country for the last 5-7 years.

While on some levels this is understandable – attempting to make every piece of clothing “dressy casual” seems to be the forte of Americans – the results tend to be poor. There are exceptions to every rule (and in this case an Ivy-inspired casual outfit might not be a total disaster) but we suggest not doing this. No one benefits, and the look is confused. If you are aiming for a casual, denim-based look, forego the tie, even if it’s knit.

Instead, remember again that a knit tie is still a tie. In most cases, it will look best with trousers and a jacket. You just have a bit more leeway.

Widths and Shapes

Again, the look pushed to the public in the recent past has been pencil-thin knit ties. I’d suggest not going narrower than 2.5” or so, but that 3” knit ties are quite elegant. And although you’ll most commonly find square-tipped ties, a pointed blade is by no means out of place on a knit tie.

Patterns and Colors

The whole point of a knit tie is to showcase texture. If a knit tie is knitted to look flat and lifeless, don’t buy it. It should be visibly knit, you know? Beyond that, the flavor is largely up to you. Whether you want a soft, soothing touch or a crunchy feel, you have a lot of options.

Solids are by far the easiest place to start. Navy, brown, rust, green, and even purple are great options. If you’re looking for patterns, try something subtle – simple dots, or even just a clever knit design, is usually all the pattern you’ll need with all that texture going on.

Seasonal dressing offers more for the adventurous at heart, of course. For example, Styleforum member @GusW suggests charcoal cashmere for autumn, or an eye-catching pink for springtime.

Tying Up Loose Ends

Finally, the only knot you should ever use for a knit tie is the four-in-hand. Never mind that the four-in-hand is the only tie knot you should ever use; in this case, anything else will not only make you look like a jerk, but a ridiculous jerk.

How you tie it is more or less up to you, though. Currently, the style favored by Instagram personalities and some well-dressed forum members seems to be to let the skinny end of the tie hang a bit lower and looser than the blade. I can’t argue with that – I am aware that it may be “technically” improper, if you want to loop a rakishly-tied piece of casual silk around your neck, I feel that you ought to be free to adjust lengths as you choose. As long as the blade of the tie is hitting the proper length (neither too long nor too short), the skinny end can do as it wishes.

As you may have picked up from this article, knit ties remain a popular accessory on Styleforum. Luckily for all of us, this means that there’s no shortage of excellent examples. The slideshow below shows a range of knit tie styles, and many suggestions on how to wear them. You’ll appreciate the wide range of looks demonstrated here.

Where to Buy

A number of Styleforum affiliates offer knit ties. Here are a few options:

Chipp Neckwear

No Man Walks Alone

Proper Cloth

Kent Wang

The Armoury

Khaki’s of Carmel

H. Stockton


Looking for further discussion? Try this Styleforum thread:

Knit Tie Discussion and Appreciation

 

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Seasonal Endorsement: The Roll-Neck Sweater

Fall knitwear has been arriving in stores for months now, but if you’re like some of us you’re still dying of heat. Even so, for the sake those of us with an eye on our winter wardrobes, I’d like to take a minute to discuss the venerable roll-neck sweater, which – trust me on this one – is one of the most useful, versatile, and comfortable items of clothing any man (or woman) can have in his or her closet.

First of all, let’s get the semantics out of the way. For the purposes of this article, a roll-neck sweater and a turtleneck sweater are the same thing – and both are the same as a polo-neck sweater. A true roll-neck features a tube of fabric sewn to the neckline of the shirt, which can then be pulled all the way up to the chin, or folded – or rolled – down to the neckline.

That’s in contrast to a mock-neck or mock-turtleneck sweater, on which both ends of the tube have been sewn to the neckline. I would suggest avoiding the mock-necks, as not only do they have a tendency to make the wearer look like a high school sports coach (there are, of course, exceptions), but on cold days it’s incredibly handy to be able to pull that extra fabric up to your chin if you choose.

You have a couple of good fabric options when choosing a rollneck. For simplicity’s sake, let’s discuss the general categories of cotton, wool, and cashmere variants. Cotton rollnecks – just thick shirts, really – are by far the easiest to wear and wash. Wear it as you would a t-shirt, either tucked into your trousers or worn free. I enjoy these pieces, as they’re usually less warm than actual knit rollnecks. That’s handy if you’re layering for unpredictable (or temperate) weather, but they tend not to look as sharp as the knit varieties. On the plus side, they’re cheap and available, and they’re the kind of basic that can easily be turned into part of a daily uniform. My choice is Uniqlo’s offerings, which come in thick, black cotton (although a variety of other colors are available) that’s plenty comfortable and stands up to repeated washing. These don’t come with ribbed hems, so there’s no mistaking them for a sweater. Keep in mind that cotton is still cotton – it doesn’t insulate like wool does, and if you sweat through it, it won’t be pleasant.

Your second choice is the fisherman-style heavy roll-neck, which encompasses the whole range of rural, outdoorsy, salt-n-pepper manly offerings. You can find these at a variety of outlets at a variety of prices, from LL Bean to Inis Meain. The two most important considerations for these pieces are weight and material. Consider whether you plan to layer your sweater under your outerwear (you probably are). If so, how thick do you want the fabric to be? Thick cable knits tend to work best under equally heavy coats and jackets, as the sweater won’t visually overpower the outerwear, which itself should be roomy enough for added bulk. If your sweater doesn’t fit under your coat, you’ll be neither warm nor comfortable.

Second, consider the fabric. If you have sensitive skin, or dislike scratchy things touching your neck, consider avoiding heavy wool offerings. Purists will howl, but the addition of nylon or – gasp – acrylic to a wool blend (sometimes a hallmark of a cheaper or more fashion-forward knit) can make the fabric much softer to the touch.

Finally, consider the color and style. If you’re interested in any of the available fisherman-style, aran, or cable-knit sweaters, greys and oatmeals are traditional colors. If instead you’re searching for a “commando” sweater, most of which feature cotton or nylon shoulder and elbow patches, you’ll probably find a lot of blacks and dark greens. Don’t limit yourself, however – any of these options are very versatile.

Lastly, if you’re interested in luxury, you can consider a cashmere roll-neck sweater. These tend to be simple, and if they’re good they don’t need to be complicated: buttery-soft cashmere wool is enough of a focal point. They also tend to be thinner, which makes it very simple to wear one under a sport coat, vest, or other lightweight outerwear. Although there are cheaper options available at major chain stores, cashmere still tends to be expensive – from about 200$ on the low end to well over $1,000 for fancy, branded options. A cashmere sweater is by no means a wardrobe necessity – but that’s the definition of luxury, isn’t it?

 

Blacks and charcoals are the easiest colors to pair with a variety of outfits, but tans, creams, and oatmeals are fantastic if you tend towards casual wear. However, a camel roll-neck is one of the easiest colors to pair, and looks as good underneath black wool as it does with tweeds.

And that’s really what makes the roll-neck sweater so handy: it can be worn with anything. Wool or cotton options are equally at home splitting wood with the sleeves worn up (yes, people still split wood), worn under a down vest while out for cocoa, or worn under a jacket when out on a date. A thinner, shirt-weight roll-neck in any fabric looks fantastic under a sport coat, and exists in the strange but wonderful intersection between sharp and casual. You can wear the same roll-neck sweater with faded blue jeans or sharp trousers without ever looking out of place. Plus, the elongating neckline looks truly fantastic under a dramatic lapel, whether you’re wearing a suit or high-collared outerwear. It’s one of the clothing world’s few go-anywhere pieces, and whether you’re wearing Ralph Lauren or Yohji Yamamoto, there’s a place in your wardrobe for a roll-neck sweater.

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