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Member Focus: Mossrockss

Styleforum member @mossrockss is probably best-known for always looking good in a blazer in jeans. He exists in the very nonchalant space between East Coast Ivy and Neapolitan tailoring, and is as popular on Styleforum for being A Very Nice Guy as he is for his well-considered outfits. Here, he talks about the three pillars of his personal style, and what took him to where he is now.


The Three Pillars of My Style

The first pillar is advice I read in 2007 or 8 in Glenn O’Brien’s Style Guy column in GQ. A reader had asked whether he should wear his trench coat in his car—will it cause undue wear and tear? What does Glenn O’Brien do? Glenn memorably replied that he generally let his car’s highly engineered climate control do its job, but as to whether the reader should be concerned about wear and tear, he replied, “Don’t worry about your coat, it was made for the trenches.”

Wear your clothes. This is foundational to me because I can’t afford to buy and own things I don’t actually wear. I recently posted a picture of myself holding a baby sea turtle on the beach in Mexico, about to release it into the bay, wearing a white Eidos polo. Someone told me, “that shirt is much too nice to be wearing on the beach!”

Forget that. Clothes are meant to be worn. Wear them.

The second pillar is a feeling I had shortly after starting to wear tailored clothes, around 2012 or 2013. I thought something along the lines of “I just want a blazer I can wear dressed down, with jeans and stuff.” I wanted to dress well, in tailored jackets because they make me look better, but without coming across as fussy. The reason I felt like my jackets looked out of place – too “dressed up,” too “put on,” that they were “trying too hard” – was shoulder padding. I had bought a Brooks Brothers navy blazer in the “Regent” cut and tried to dress it down, but I always felt self-conscious wearing it casually. It was those shoulder pads! I saw pic after pic of the knocked-down, natural, pad-free (but not necessarily wadding-free!) Neapolitan style from @whnay, @voxsartoria, @maomao, and others, and I knew that’s what I wanted.

This is why every sportcoat in my wardrobe is now Eidos—soft-shouldered, slightly casual, Neapolitan in heritage, at a price point I can swallow – in textured, unique, fantastic fabrics. And of course it is paramount that the fit on me is perfect like lamb and tuna fish (what, you prefer “spaghetti and meatball?”). I was lucky to get on the Eidos train before it became more about Indian pajamas or whatever, but the key here is the fit and fabric, not the brand (and thankfully, Antonio – @NickPollica – still throws us tailoring fans a bone).

The third pillar is the very simple economics 101 principle of opportunity cost, which was somehow baked into my DNA from birth: When I was a kid and my family would go out to eat somewhere nice, I’d ask my parents if I could choose something on the menu, but get McDonald’s dollar menu food instead, and then they could give me the cost difference in cash (to save up and buy Metal Gear Solid or Tomb Raider II or whatever).

When I first got into clothing, I was a college student on the cusp of graduating and getting married within 4 months. Then I was a poor married guy with no full-time job for about a year. Then I got a modest-paying job while she pursued her dream of running a photography business where all the profits were reinvested in the business. Today I’m in the same modest-paying job, but with a house and its attendant costs. In other words, I’ve never been in a position to drop loads of money on clothing.

My style journey has been the opposite of so many a Styleforum newbie, who discovers he loves clothing, then goes on a ridiculous buying spree dropping thousands before realizing two-thirds to three-quarters of what he’s bought doesn’t fit him, doesn’t suit him, doesn’t work in his life’s circumstances, looks ridiculous on him, and was ultimately a waste of his money. Yes, I have made dumb buys, but thankfully every ill-considered purchase I’ve made has been a second-hand eBay (or B&S) purchase.

Given these three pillars, and since I love tailored clothing but am not a suit guy (don’t need to wear one that often), my wardrobe looks like this:

  • three fall/winter sportcoats (one in dark emerald green, one in brown donegal tweed, one in navy small-herringbone faux-donegal)
  • two spring/summer sportcoats with a third coming soon (one in navy, one in dark chocolate brown with matching suit pants, one in tan)
  • one navy suit in a year-round standard suit fabric that I’ll upgrade at some point.

My shirts and pants collection is a hodgepodge of brands, mostly inexpensive, because opportunity cost (a nice, say, G. Inglese shirt is $300; I’ve gotten some of my Eidos jackets for just over double that. Explain that to me). And shoe-wise, I rotate between four pairs of shoes (snuff suede penny loafers, snuff suede chukkas, tan suede jodhpurs and brown calf double-monks; I’m looking to add some light brown suede tassel loafers to the mix) when I’m not wearing my beat-to-death Sperry canoe mocs.

So, when people tell me “You do the sportcoat and jeans look so well, how do you do it?!,” hopefully this will give you some clues. I’ve spent nearly a decade ruthlessly pursuing my style, figuring out what I feel comfortable in, what makes sense for my life’s circumstances and that I like the way I look in, then trimming away everything that doesn’t get me there. Here’s where I am now:

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26 replies »

      • My pleasure – I think you’re much more Ivy than I’ll ever be, but that didn’t stop me from recently picking up an Eidos henley, which may be the most comfortable shirt I’ve ever put on. I, for my part, will be happy to explore all the Indian pajamas you leave behind.

  1. The key take away and great reminder for me is that a few jackets, shirts and pants in muted colors go a really long way. Looking at the slideshow and your instagram account, I never really thought about the fact that you “only” have 3 fall/winter jackets and 2 summer ones.
    Really well done, it’s a lesson and reminder we can all use from time to time.

    • yes sir, that is the key. i’ve bought other jackets that i’ve since gotten rid of in the past 2-3 years, and the reason I haven’t kept them is always fit or versatility. Once I round out my summer jacket collection to include the tan jacket, I’ll have pretty much all the basics covered. And then I’ll probably stop buying clothes for a while and do some work on my house or something lol

  2. Nice article, great read! I’ve just recently gotten into classic menswear but a lot your experience I can relate to thus far. I think we all make mistakes but tend to evolve or figure out our way (I hope anyway).

    Been a fan of your more casual style since it fits more into my everyday environment – first caught your photos from your great Eidos jackets and now realize there’s a photographer snapping the photos (it all makes sense now)! Anyways, nice advice and I’ll continue to look for more inspiration from you in the future

    • ah yes, my wife is the pro behind all the images! though sometimes I don’t bother her and do tripod shots via the wifi remote shooting on our Canon. thanks!

  3. There’s really no arguing that you’ve got the casual sport coat thing down. And I do admire that you are really living the clothes are meant to be worn advice. Nice work!

    • thanks Frank! it was a conscious decision—and at time still is a conscious decision—to not “save the nice stuff”. now, do I wear my single pair of flannel trousers sitting and working from home? No because there is also the opportunity cost of wearing them out unnecessarily and having to replace them aspect of it.

      You know, there is another piece of Glenn O’Brien advice that has stuck with me, and while it is major, it isn’t as foundational as the other, and it also isn’t extremely well fleshed out in my own brain making explaining it succinctly difficult, but essentially, it is: Be real.

      A lot of people seek authenticity in their dress, but I really do try to be real with myself in what I choose to wear. Is it appropriate for the life I actually lead, or is it a costume? Now, everybody defines the lines they will or won’t cross differently—for instance, @nickpollica /Antonio says he doesn’t put epaulets on stuff out of respect for military service members, which I can respect.
      But it’s why I resisted boat shoes for a long time (turns out canoe mocs are the most versatile shoe in the universe for everything from mowing the lawn to touring Rome to swimming in the lagoon to running to Home Depot), and don’t generally wear athletic gear in public, and don’t own a leather motorcycle jacket (though it would be a good excuse to buy a motorcycle).

      Anyway, this partially explains a bit more of that concept of wearing your clothes that I seek to espouse.

      • Fundamentally it comes down to living within your means, especially for those of us with modest-paying jobs. A decade ago, I had one nice pair of shoes that I “saved up” to buy. I babied them, wore them only for special occasions, and hyperventilated every time I scuffed them. Now all my shoes are nice (at least to me), and I don’t think twice about what I do with them. Don’t miss out on life because you don’t want to spill booze on your sixty-three hundred dollar suit.

        eBay/B&S/thrift is a godsend. Buying secondhand allows you to punch above your weight. Plus it’s easier to take risks knowing that you can recoup most of your investment (in the worst case scenario) or even make a few bucks (in the best case scenario).

        • Yes, absolutely. It took me a long time before I got to a point where I felt I could dress every single day in stuff that I wanted to, not just stuff that I had in my closet. That pic of me in the Corneliani jacket is pants I didn’t really like, a shirt I didn’t really like, a tie I didn’t really like, and trying to make the best of a sportcoat I didn’t really like. But the few things I did have I couldn’t just wear every day, so I had to make the best of it.

          So B&S/eBay is indeed amazing. It can let you try different brands that would otherwise be too exclusive in distribution, too, for those of us living in the middle of the country. And minimize your mistakes.

      • Just noticed this excellent reply. Being real is definitely a good piece of advice, and an interesting one when you are concerned about the line between costume and a certain level of authenticity. I have been pleasantly surprised by taking a what the heck approach to certain items that I have no good reason for wearing, but that I enjoy nonetheless. I figure maybe a motorcycle jacket, for example, stands out a bit on someone like me who is NOT riding a motorcycle, but that I’m also probably much more aware of any dissonance between form and function. And that most people either don’t care what I’m wearing or are paying only slight attention.

  4. Thanks for the uplifting “story” and the reminder that less is more, more often than not.

    On that note, what’s your shoe size? We should equalise balances. 🙂

  5. Dumb Q, is SF dead? No new posts for two days, quote and reply buttons are gone. Have I missed the move? Have no email notification either. Weird stuff…

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