A Day in the Life of a CM Wife

SCENE: Florence, Italy; famous menswear boutique.

Alan’s head is buried inside a jacket, where he’s scrutinizing the lining and trying to decipher the inner tag.

Apparently, the tag inside a man’s garment is the key to reveal whether a piece is worth the price or not. Just from looking at that 3-inch piece of fabric, you may be able to identify the maker of the item, and therefore judge the quality of a piece of clothing. Burberry, Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren: these names don’t mean anything to a man that is into classic menswear, because he knows that behind them there’s someone else maneuvering the making process. And the first step of a purchase is identifying that maker.

I look around and I notice that two sales assistants are staring at my husband, debating whether they should offer him help or kindly ask that he removes his nose from inside the armhole of the jacket. After confabulating for a bit, one of them starts walking toward us. Alan doesn’t notice, as he’s now concentrating on pinching the jacket to understand if it’s fused.

“Good morning, may I help you?”

He speaks in English, probably figuring  we are not Italian, judging by Alan’s English-looking suit and shoes. And, y’know – the beahvior.

The thing is that I am very Italian. Born and raised in the Piedmont region, and only recently relocated in California. I offer the man my brightest smile and I explain to him in Italian that my husband and I are looking for a light sport coat.

Meanwhile, Alan emerges from the inside of the jacket and gives the sale assistant a dazed look, his glasses crooked on his nose.

“We are fine, thank you,” he says. “I’m just having a look around.”

I keep smiling and nod encouragingly, hoping that the man will leave us alone. However, I know that this is not going to happen. Italian clerks are trained to be a pain in the customers’ ass, and there is no way he’ll let us “have a look around” without making sure we are receiving proper assistance.

Alan is back at pinching the jacket, this time with less conviction, clearly upset that someone is watching his moves.

The salesman frowns and turns to me. “What is he doing, may I ask?” he asks me in Italian.

I keep smiling but I freeze.

What is he doing? He’s inspecting the sport coat to make sure that there is no trace of fusing and that the maker is reputable. In order to do so, he has to decipher the code on the tag, check Styleforum on his mobile device, and then track back to the history of the fabric employed in the realization of the garment, to make sure that the latest production was not spoiled.

I can’t tell him that. The fact he’s a salesman and he’s probably used to weirdest requests from his customers doesn’t justify the mental asylum situation.

His eyebrows rise so high that I’m afraid they’re going to merge with the spare hairline on his forehead. My mind is desperately trying to find an excuse for the fact that Alan is now running his finger under the collar of the jacket, as if it were a bra he wanted to strip off a woman.

C’mon Ari. Think.

“Ahem. He is…a fabric trader.”

I don’t even know what I’ve just said, and I immediately regret it.

The clerk stares at me for a few seconds.

“A fabric trader?”

“Yes! My husband trades fabric for some of the biggest names in fashion. He buys only the finest on the market, for his clients as well as for himself. We are here in Florence to study the history of brocade, and its rise during the Renaissance.”

I still don’t know what I’m saying, but I feel suddenly thankful that I read the biography of Lucrezia Borgia in college.

“You probably know that brocade is the reason Italian silk fabrics became the finest choice in all Europe in the 15th century, as the demand for intricate designs forced the production to get better.”

I can tell from his vacuous eyes that he is not impressed, so I decide to make up an even more unlikely scenario in order to give my husband the time to decide whether the jacket is worth the splurge or not.

“We are considering working with some Italians mills in order to bring brocade back into favor. In fact, we are attending Pitti this summer to discuss the chance to create a whole collection of suits and tuxedos made of Italian brocades.”

Finally, his eyes brighten up and I silently rejoice. Ah! You didn’t expect that, did you, Mr. Grumpy Clerk?

He looks at me with new respect, as though I’m the wife a fabric trader deserves.

“That is so very interesting, Madame,” he says with genuine admiration, his pupils glistening.

“Uh-uh,” I mutter, “Big names. Kiton and stuff.”

Okay, I need to stop now. I don’t even know why I’m putting myself in this unpleasant situation only to allow my husband to indulge in his crazy operations.

My husband, the fabric trader. The thought is so ridiculous that I have to pretend to receive a funny text on my iPhone to justify my grin. However, the whole story starts making a lot of sense in my mind and I can’t help myself: I have to keep going.

I lean towards the man as I lower my voice to a whisper: “I just got a text from Armando at Kiton. They want to meet us at the Boboli gardens tonight to see some samples of brocade they just got from Venice,” I say, bringing my hand to cover the mouth.

“Perhaps I shouldn’t reveal too much. A few competitors are already trying to make contact with the brands we are in touch with and we suspect some insiders leaked the idea.”

The poor man’s eyes widen as he reassures me that my secret is safe with him. He gives me one more admired glance before apologizing and pacing away.

At last!

I turn to Alan and I notice with horror that he’s trying to bite the buttons of the sport coat, probably to make sure that it’s real horn. He hasn’t heard a word of my nonsensical dialogue with the salesman.

“What the hell are you doing? Can you please try on the jacket and make your decision?”

“Knock it off. I’m almost done inspecting. Then, I’ll try it on.”

I let out a big sigh, but I stiffen when I notice the clerk walking back towards us, with an old man at his side.

“Ciao!” I squeak, trying to hide my husband to their sight, as his mouth is still perilously close to the buttons of the sport coat.

“Madame, this is Ernesto Valanza, the owner of the shop.”

“Pleased to meet you, Ernesto”, I mumble while casually checking Instagram on my phone, as I always do when I am bored out of my mind. I wonder how long it’s going to take Alan to decide on the jacket.

“Mr. Valanza comes from one of the most respected families in Como; one of a very long tradition of yarn-making.”

“Right? That sounds interesting,” I jabber while taking in a picture of Kylie Jenner at Coachella. Perhaps I should dye my hair turquoise.

“He’d like to ask you and your husband a few questions on your project.”

“Uh? Sure…” I say as I put away my phone.

Wait, what? An alarm bell starts ringing in my head. Yarn-making? Como?


I look at Alan, who’s finally trying on the jacket and inspecting the length in front of the mirror.

“I understand you can’t reveal much of the project, but would you mind telling me the maker you’re in contact with? We are truly a big family of fabric makers in Como; I’m sure I am familiar with them.”

Fuck. Now what? I can’t confess that I have no contacts in Como, that I knew about brocade only because it was in Bloomingdale’s last shopping issue, and that I’m in Florence with my husband, watching as he goes on a shopping spree.

Thankfully, Alan approaches us wearing the sport coat.

“Hey, do you guys have a tape measurer? I’m not sure about the length of the jacket. It may be a few millimeters too short as it doesn’t seem to divide my body in half.”

The two men exchange a look that clearly says that my husband has a mental issue.

“I’ll fetch one for you, sir”, says the first clerk I spoke to.

“I think it’s time to go,” I say firmly, indicating the door with a gesture of the head like only an Italian can do.

“Honey, don’t be ridiculous, I’m almost done here. What do you think? Is it too heavy for California?”

“It’s perfect, amore. I love it. Now let’s get the hell out of here because I’m going to cry if you don’t feed me gelato within the next five minutes.”

“Alright, then. I just wanted to make sure that the length in centimeters is less than or equal to my average jacket length. I wouldn’t want to have to tailor the length.”

The sale assistant stares at me intensely and I know exactly what he’s thinking: If this man is as picky at choosing women as he is at choosing clothes, you must be a saint.

“Listen to me,” I whisper to Alan’s ear, “I’ve been in this shop with you for more than 40 minutes. The jacket is fine, and you know it. If you really hate it, you can list it online once we get back and you’ll probably make more than what you spent considering it’s a bargain.”

“Well, aren’t you cranky today? Alright, I’ll take it. Gentleman, could you please check me out?”

“Oh, sure. Come this way. Your wife was just telling us about your work here in Florence.”

Oh no. Please not again. I can’t deal with this.

“My job in Florence? Yeah, that’s like the ideal job, right? Shopping and everything,” mutters Alan reaching for his wallet.

“Ah-ah! Yes, I guess that us insiders can call it shopping after all, eh?” says the man winking at Alan.

“Thank you very much for your help. I’ll certainly visit your store again before leaving.” Alan shakes Mr. Valanza’s hand and I have a spasm of horror when I see that he is handing him his business card.

“Would you please give me a call if you get any more Caruso suits within the next 10 days?”

Mr. Valanza studies the business card for a few seconds, and then he stares at me for a time that seemed forever.

“Sure…Mr. Alan Jones, attorney.”


I squeeze my husband’s arm and I waltz towards the exit, encouraging myself with the thoughts of a big gelato.


What to Wear When It’s Sunny and Cold

What to wear when it's sunny and cold
It can be tough to know what to wear when it’s sunny and cold. Too many layers, and you’ll end up sweaty and then freezing. Too few, and you might as well spend the whole day inside. Since sunny winter days are best spent in the great outdoors (or at least out of the house), let’s go over an outfit that will keep you happy no matter what you’re up to.

First, you don’t want anything to be too tight. That kills your insulation, and you end up, well, sweaty and freezing. In this case, that slouchy streetwear look has a temperature-regulating benefit. So the outerwear – this beautiful cracked pepper slouch coat from De Bonne Facture – isn’t too heavy, which means that even if you pop into a coffee shop you don’t instantly overheat. Most of the warmth comes from a hefty rollneck, and cream is a great choice for wintry days when the sun’s out.

Since we’re going for a look that’s light but still tailored, we’ve opted for slim trousers from Styleforum favorite Blue Blue Japan as opposed to denim. The rich indigo hues are more compelling than a faded blue when worn with sharper clothing, and let’s face it – they’ll be more comfortable than your heavy jeans. On the feet, a leather sneaker with a robust sole will keep your feet happy while you’re moving around, and the details on this pair from Lanvin will keep you from looking like a slob when you’re too lazy to wear lace-up boots.

Finally, don’t forget the details.  We’re big fans of oversized scarves that can be wrapped around the neck or draped over the shoulders, like this beauty from Suzusan. Cashmere-lined gloves offer a good compromise between weight and warmth, and are perfectly suited for days when you don’t have to do any shoveling. Finally, the winter is no time to ignore protective eyewear, and Dries van Noten’s ongoing collaborations with Linda Farrow are stylish and versatile.

To top it all off, try a winter scent that’s as bright and chilly as the weather. De Bachmakov, from The Different Company, smells of snowmelt, icy streams, and frozen sunlight; cedar, coriander, and white freesia combine to form a foundation that’s rich, compelling, and perfect for a sunny winter’s day. You’ll look great, you’ll smell great, and you’ll be ready to spend the day enjoying all the sunlight you can.

1. De Bonnie Facture slouch coat from Unionmade

2. Turtleneck from Maison Margiela

3. Blue Blue Japan trousers from Matches Fashion

4. Lanvin cap-toe sneakers from Browns

5. Suzusan stole from No Man Walks Alone

6. Tod’s cashmere-lined gloves from Mr. Porter

7. Dries van Noten sunglasses from Oki-Ni

8. De Bachmakov perfume from Luckyscent

Wear a Black Turtleneck Under Everything

Remember when I said that I almost never wear black? Well, I’m here to tell you about the one exception I make: the black turtleneck. Because in Denver, the weather has finally turned, which means that it’s the season when I wear a black turtleneck every other day.

We’ve discussed roll-necks in the past, but I’m specifically talking about the cotton, shirt-weight black turtleneck, which is the ultimate cheater’s garment. Let me explain: it is a t-shirt that looks fancier than a button-up. Well, not always. But a lot of the time, wearing one instantly takes you from “slob” to “suave” (zing) in perfect comfort. Besides, it fits every style out there, regardless of whether you pine for James Bond-ian masculinity or Creative Artsy Dude Vibes(tm).

Although you can find these anywhere, in a wide range of fabrics, my favorite black turtleneck comes from Uniqlo. It’s very unassuming – thick-ish cotton, relatively relaxed in fit, and it only cost me 15$. I like to wear it under my quilted ts(s) blazer, under an SNS Herning “Stark” cardigan, or alone under a piece of long outerwear or flight jacket. The point is that it looks really good with everything I can think of at the moment. It’s an especially great option for the dreaded company holiday party, when you don’t really know what to wear but you sure as hell don’t want to wear a tie.

The black turtleneck is the kind of shirt that you could stock up on, wear every day of the week, and look great. And as a plus, that whole myth about black being slimming isn’t entirely a myth, which – if you’re as predisposed to holiday overindulgence as I am – can come in pretty handy. The only downside to these cotton pieces is that they don’t insulate as well as wool. So, if you plan on sweating a lot, a good way to combat that is to wear an insulating undershirt beneath it and stay nice and toasty. Of course, Uniqlo also offers Heattech turtlenecks. I have no experience with those, but I’ve worn plenty of “athletic” undergarments under casual clothing, and the idea is sound.

It’s the ideal garment for days when you want to look good but can’t be bothered to try looking good: choose pants and shoes, put on black turtleneck, and outerwear goes on top of that. Done. That’s the kind of ease I can get behind.

Erik Mannby’s 10 Rules of Style

Erik is one of Styleforum’s best-known and best-dressed members, and you may recognize him from our Pitti Uomo coverage. Here, he breaks down his top ten sartorial rules.



  1. Always use the four in hand knot.

    I’ve noticed that the false notion of the Windsor knot being more formal still lives on in some lines of business. Here in Sweden it’s especially favored by real estate brokers for some reason. I guess the idea that it’s named after royalty and the fact of its symmetry fool some people. The four in hand is the only knot you ever need to learn. If you need a bigger knot, you can easily just wrap it into a double four in hand. The slight asymmetry is what gives it personality. Also, don’t forget the dimple underneath the knot. Fact is that the duke of Windsor, who the Windsor knot is named after, only used the four in hand knot, but with a thicker lining, thus making it appear slightly more bulky.
  2. Be comfortable.This is the key to looking good. Make sure your clothes fit you well enough to give you freedom of movement. For me this means that I wear trousers with a higher waist. The comfort level this grants has made me completely forgo all dress trousers that don’t reach my natural waist. Also, I wear all my garments cut generously enough to never restrict me. For me, a suit should always be comfortable enough to not be noticed when worn.
  3. Invest in good hats & caps.Relating back to the last point, this is about comfort to me. In the summer time a Panama hat is excellent protection against the sun, and in winter a hat or cap will keep your head warmer. Also, a proper hat generally looks better with tailored clothing than a regular beanie.
  4. Know yourself.This is more important than getting to know any “menswear rules”. This will also relate back to the point about being comfortable. This is what makes you LOOK comfortable. Your way of dressing usually looks its best when it reflects who you are. I see a lot of people wearing what they’ve seen influential or famous people wearing, and it just looks off. Are you a casual or formal person? Do you love colours or different shades of grey? Do you like vintage wear or sprezz, or both? Do you wear suits for work or for your own pleasure? You make up the questions that are relevant to your idea of style. What I’m trying to say is: “You do you”.
  5. Know the history of your garments.Once again, these are MY rules. I generally like to know what the history is behind a certain garment or design trait. I can then chose to wear it with what it was originally meant to be worn with, or if I feel it’s too anachronistic or pointless, completely discard the original rules of wearing it and choose a way that seems more reasonable.

  6. Get to know your colours.Colours can be tricky. There is plenty written on this subject, so I’d suggest you Google this if you want to learn everything about colour wheels – or read Peter’s article on color. I usually visualize colour combinations that I think would be interesting and then try them out in actual outfits. Now, since I am my own boss, I don’t need to care for dress codes, which obviously gives me a greater freedom of messing about with this. If you want some good tips, I’d suggest also looking at old apparel art, as there are usually some really interesting colour combinations to be found.
  7. Contrasts, high or low – do it consistently.Some people prefer high contrast outfits, while other like medium- to low contrast. Personally I love the whole spectrum. A good idea is to do it consistently, though. If you have a low contrast between trousers and jacket, it can look off beat to throw in a pair of shoes in a completely different shade.
  8. Mix your patterns according to size.I make exceptions to almost all of my “rules”, but this is a constant. It just never looks good wearing several garments/accessories that are in close proximity to each other, in a pattern that’s roughly the same size. It creates a disharmony in the total composition that isn’t very appealing. You can stay safe by only wearing one patterned garment, or let the patterns be big/small enough not to get confused with each other. Again, Peter has written a good primer on this subject.
  9. Vintage, budget, premium? Who cares? Aesthetic is king.To me, the end result trumps whatever brand/maker you’re wearing. Of course, crap quality clothes should always be shunned. Today, you can find some of the finest quality clothes available in vintage stores, and a lot of brands offer a great quality/price ratio. I mix and match personally. One of my favorite jackets is a vintage M51 field jacket, I’ll wear it with premium priced clothes, but it still works in my opinion, just because I have a consistent idea of what aesthetics I strive for.
  10. Learn the fundamentals, then wear it as you like.Read Flusser, Roetzel, and other menswear writers. Their books will give you a good idea about some of the conventions that influence how menswear is conceived and worn today. At the same time, be aware that they are just that: conventions. There really are very few “rules” to menswear. Look at it historically and you will see that these ideas change drastically over time. The modern suit is quite young, and when introduced to the masses were considered unorthodox and therefore free to experiment with as on chooses. Now, of course, conventions have set in, and people love to beat each other over the head with this set of conventions that they believe are actual rules. Know what’s what and you’ll be more free to wear it as you see fit.

Erik is co-founder of EFV Clothing. You can find him on Instagram at @ErikMannby.

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