Get Out and Enjoy a Romantic Evening Picnic

At least once a week, my fiancée and I head to the Botanic Gardens for a dinner free from distraction, and it’s a pastime I recommend everyone reading this embrace. It’s fun, it’s super romantic, and the best part about it is that it’s incredibly easy.

I’ve mentioned in the past – on numerous occasions – how much I enjoy dining outside, as well as how much I enjoy picnics. All you need is a cooler (or a fancy picnic hamper), a few tasty dishes, and a bottle of something equally delicious. In addition, I recommend taking the time to look at least a little bit nicer than you normally do, but I also recommend dressing in a way that suits the occasion. By that I mean leave both the tie and the tennis shoes at home. This is your chance to dress like a stylish gardener, or an exiled novelist, or whatever your own fantasies may entail. It’s like going out to dinner – only more celebratory. Here’s what I recommend, both in terms of wearing and eating.

1. Food

Really, as long as you can make your dish of choice portable, anything goes. Just avoid ‘heavy’ foods, since they’re largely at odds with the setting. Some of my favorite options include:

  • Baguette, cheese, olives, charcuterie (never forget to bring your baguette)
  • Caprese salad (we grow our own tomatoes and basil, and only use a bit of good oil and some salt)
  • Cold Soup – gazpacho or leek
  • Chilled soba noodles with steamed vegetables (use a vegetable peeler to slice zucchini and carrot into ribbons, steam very briefly, then stir into soba noodles with a peanut vinaigrette) or stir-fried mushrooms
  • Seared tuna bites (Sear, slice, wrap in individual packets of butter lettuce if you choose, top with thin-sliced jalapeno and a ponzo sauce)
  • Pre-grilled chicken skewers (chicken and green onion)
  • Tiramisu or creme brulée in individual ramekins – this gets you points, and both are very easy to make.

2. Drink

Recently, I had the very good idea of pre-mixing a pitcher of Mojito ‘concentrate’ (2 cups rum, 1 cup sugar, as much mint as you can find; blended) and bringing a bottle of sparkling water along with me. If you have access to a cheap rose you’ll love it, especially as the evenings become cooler. I tend not to bring ‘nicer’ bottles with me on picnics, just because everything tastes better when you’re outside anyway, and you also limit the chances of being disappointed if your plastic cup spills in the grass. Speaking of, a plastic cup is great to have, since it won’t shatter if you drop it. Plus, it’s not hard to can find clear plastic cups that are an elegant alternative to a wine glass (I always favor stemless) – just look for something that doesn’t have a pronounced lip. Oh, and if you’re bringing wine, don’t forget a corkscrew – and remember that something bubbly is always fun.

3. Where to Go

I’m a big fan of botanical gardens. We’re members at the one in Denver, and we tend to visit them when we travel. Of course, the nearest nice park (or beach) is also a great choice (just be surreptitious with your alcohol), and if you can drive 15 minutes out of the city to a pretty spot that’s also great. Just be sure that you’re not going to get stuck in traffic for more than 20 minutes – nothing kills romance and spontaneity like staring at the back of the same minivan for hours. If you do have a botanic garden near you – go! Especially if you’ve never been before. Strolling through beautiful gardens is a fantastic activity by itself.

4. What to Wear

As I said, if you’re picnicking with your significant other, this is a chance to look nice in a way you don’t look nice while at the office. It’s not really the time for ‘weekend’ clothes, and while you can certainly wear an odd jacket and trousers I recommend you give in to the weather and wear something more at home in the sun. I tend to favor floral prints, lightweight outerwear to fight the evening chill (which is a reality now that we’ve passed Labor Day), and loose or cropped pants that are comfortable for lounging, strolling, as well as sitting around when the sun starts to go down.

Here’s some of my recent picnic-wear:


5. Why You Should Picnic in the First Place

Because it’s fun. No, seriously: taking the time – during the week, no less – to consciously disconnect yourself from all the stress and distractions you probably don’t even know you have while you’re at home (phones, shows, computers, errands, etc.) results in a sense of profound relief, both mental and physical. The kind of relief that results in you feeling the stress leave your shoulders. Not only is the cooking and meal preparation cathartic (at least, it should be), but choosing an outfit based on no one’s expectations on your own is way more entertaining than choosing what you’ll wear to work or even to a restaurant. The older I get, the more I’ve come to cherish slow moments, especially with loved ones. A picnic – and the slight sense of celebration that goes with it – is a fantastic and intimate way to liven up your weekly grind and, I hope, start a new tradition.


My Signature (Winter) Look: Gerry Nelson

We can always count on Gerry Nelson for consistently great outfits and great insight to go along with them. This week, we figured that you, just like us, would be sick of the heat, so we turned to our friend from down under for a glimpse of cool-weather style, and what (hopefully) awaits those of us in the Northern Hemisphere 2-3 months from now.

We’re particularly impressed with his ability to choose garments that are both versatile and interesting – he does a great job of mixing and matching seemingly-complex textures or patterns that others might find daunting, and can always be counted on to put his own twist on otherwise simple outfits. Below, he details his signature look, and in the process gives us all some great inspiration to keep in mind when autumn collections begin to hit our favorite stores.

When it came to writing a piece about my signature winter look, one template stood out to me. A chunky, shawl-collared cardigan, a thick shirt (or thin turtleneck sweater), some warm trousers and textured shoes are all I need. What draws me to this outfit time and time again is how comfortable and adaptable it is. I have a few of these cardigans now and wear them when the weather gets cooler, but it’s important that they fit well. The baggier they are, the greater the chance you can end up looking fuddy-duddy.

For example, if I’m relaxing at home or it’s cool outside, the cardigan over a shirt is more than enough. If it’s a little colder, I add a scarf, and if it’s colder still, I can throw on a roomy coat. Sometimes, I even wear a vest underneath. What I like is that this feels completely comfortable to wear at home, at work or even when I’m out for the weekend.

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Do yourself a favor and follow Gerry on Instagram

Member Focus: Leanderthal

This week, we feature another relative newcomer to Styleforum: Leanderthal, who can be found most often in the Classic Menswear WAYWT thread. In this installment, Leanderthal talks about inspiration, hobbies, and growing up – but more importantly, about why menswear is such an impactful part of his life.

I grew up in a small rural community in the central United States. I was raised in a log cabin, deep in the middle of the woods, and led a mostly simple and sheltered life. I first became enamored with men’s clothing after watching Fight Club for the first time. I became obsessed with Brad Pitt’s character, Tyler Durden, and I wanted whatever the look was that he possessed: his bad-ass attitude and his vintage red leather jacket. Mostly that jacket though. But other than hoarding GQ magazines, I mostly chalked my ambitions up to a pipe dream. It didn’t seem realistic to pursue them, largely due to my roots and my up-bringing. It didn’t fit into my life, and I had no idea how I would even get involved in something like that anyway.

So instead, when I was of age, I enlisted in the United States military and eventually forgot about whatever it was that I thought I wanted to do in menswear…until about two years ago. Fast forward a decade. I found myself still serving, and while I was proud of what I had achieved, I hated the work that I did. I had become addicted to alcohol, and it seemed like my life was falling apart all around me. I was swinging at air, trying to keep my head afloat. It finally dawned on me that I had to stop drinking, and that I had to get my life in order, so in 2015 I admitted myself to treatment. I got sober, and I’ve stayed sober thankfully. But I found myself yearning for something; something that I didn’t have, but I didn’t know what it was. I had devoted most of my previous time to drinking and work, and I realized that I had no hobbies, and very few friends. I needed to find something for myself. I needed something that made me feel like I had a purpose, to fill the void I had dug myself into.

Then, one day, I was rummaging through my closet trying to find something appropriate to wear to church. In all of my drunken stupor, my wardrobe had fallen by the wayside, and I really didn’t have much to choose from. I was complaining to myself because apart from a few boots and tennis shoes, I really didn’t have any footwear other than a pair of black, square-toed derbies, which I hated. I decided that I needed to go shoe shopping. So, like any wise person, I turned to the internet to begin my search! Almost immediately I was overwhelmed with endless amounts of brands, opinions, and options. I had no idea what to look for or where to start. So I just started to read everything. I read all day that day at work about everything shoe-related that I could find. And I enjoyed it. I loved it! All those little dreams and fantasies that I had when I was a young adolescent started to resurface, and for the first time since I could remember, I became excited.

I decided that I wouldn’t buy a new pair of shoes, but that I would instead begin to build a wardrobe. A wardrobe that I wanted. I discovered websites like and Styleforum. I started watching how guys were dressing, and noted what I liked. At first I thought that I should build a formidable wardrobe of modest staple items. Things like a charcoal suit and cap toed shoes. But before I could even make a purchase, I started to become bored with the idea. I really didn’t need a charcoal suit. I worked a uniformed job, and apart from an occasional wedding or funeral, I had nowhere to wear a suit to.

I wanted to dress like the guys I was seeing on threads and in magazines. I wanted to wear what I wanted to wear, how I imagined it. I wanted to dress how I was feeling. I wanted to wear colors, and textures, and unique pieces. So, that’s what I started to do. It took me awhile to come out of my shell. I was scared of what people on the internet would think if I posted a picture of something I was wearing and they didn’t like it. It meant putting myself out there. I really didn’t know what I was doing. I was just trying new things every time, things that I liked. And I still am. What has changed is my confidence.

I still consider myself just a novice menswear enthusiast. Every day I am trying something new and experimenting. If I see something I like or that inspires me, I try it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I get critiqued, and I get complimented. But it really doesn’t matter to me either way. I am doing something that I take great pleasure in and that makes me happy. And every day and every ensemble is new and fun. Even if I don’t get it right! It’s always an experience that I love. My confidence has sky-rocketed since I started dressing how I like and how I see myself dressing.

Working a uniformed job gives me the freedom to dress as I please when I am not at my place of work, something I find very unique and that I am grateful for. Menswear has also filled that void that I once had in my life – that void that I used to fill with alcohol and depression. It has kept me alive, in a sense. Because of everything that has happened in my life in two short years, I have decided that it is fitting for me to change my choice of career. At the end of this year I will be discharging from the service, at which point I will go on to finish my bachelors in Fashion Design and Merchandising and begin my MBA. This is a whole new world for me, and I am ecstatic to be stepping into it.

You can follow @Leanderthal on Instagram @ollisleander

Member Focus: Mr. Six

Mr. Six: impeccably dressed, impressively erudite, and friendly to boot. Although many of us might claim to be all three, it’s perhaps rarer than we’d like to admit. This week, a star of the Classic Menswear WAYWT thread shares a bit about his ongoing sartorial journey.

I have a theory – probably wrong – that most families have a “thing.” Members of the family know about the thing, and it’s a regular topic of conversation, even if they aren’t all experts and aren’t quite sure how they gained the knowledge. In my family the thing is art. My father has an MFA. When I was a kid, he painted and made pottery, when he wasn’t teaching middle school or running long distances. My mother loves East Asian arts and crafts and collects what she can: vintage kimono, netsuke, paper. She loves textiles. For a while when I was a kid, she hand-dyed different kinds of yarns and had a small team of old ladies knitting custom pieces for her to sell. Color, texture, materials, composition, art history—these are things I know a little and think about, even if I can’t draw a line.

When I was a teenager, that thing was (perhaps unexpectedly) partly what attracted me to punk. A multi-faceted subculture; the use of attire as a means of expression appealed to me, among other things it had to offer. It provided a means for me to say outwardly, without speaking a word, what I felt inside. I don’t mean to insert a level of depth to my teenage beliefs that probably wasn’t there. But I wanted to say something, and the punk style of the 80’s was a way for me to do it.

Between those two influences, an interest in mens clothing was possibly overdetermined. Nevertheless, I spent a long time in my 20s and 30s not really being able to figure out what I was comfortable wearing and what fit me well. During that period, I also went to law school and found myself with an obligation to dress professionally, for which I was only minimally prepared. I did the best I could and considered myself well-dressed compared to those around me, even if I had no formal rubric for judgment or comparison.

As I made my way across the internet, I somehow landed at Styleforum and started reading. At first I didn’t think much about all there was to learn about classical mens clothing. But I didn’t turn away, either. Eventually I found that I was beginning to understand something about the history of these clothes that I had to wear for work, how they were supposed to fit, what was good and bad, and all the options available. Then I began to be able to discern what I liked and didn’t like. The end of the beginning was reaching that place where so many forum members find themselves: I looked in my closet and didn’t like anything I saw there. So, I started to rebuild.

At first, I added pieces from various affiliates and sources discussed on the forum that I thought I’d like and also wouldn’t cost too much, since I knew I was in a period of transition. Those additions provided a basis to begin to refine a sense of what I liked, to understand better how to combine pieces, and what would fit me well. I began to evaluate MTM options, mostly so that I could select exactly the fabrics that I wanted. I was fortunate that a few things happened around that time. Steed began offering MTM and traveling to the San Francisco, Greg opened No Man Walks Alone, and previously difficult to access makers like Vass and Cappelli became reachable by the web or email.

I should mention that the Good Taste Thread, Vox’s Coherent Combinations (even if he now occasionally mocks it on Twitter), the Unfunded Liabilities thread, the threads about bespoke adventures in Italy and bespeaking generally, and older discussions of cloth selection, levels of formality, the function of fabrics, combining pattern and texture, and history were all incredibly helpful. Greg’s curation didn’t hurt either. Through that knowledge and a lot of careful consideration, I completely rebuilt my dress wardrobe with a combination of British-influenced and Italian tailoring and now continue to refine it. At some point I felt I was doing well enough that I could share some pictures with the community, which it seemed like was the right thing to do in light of how much others’ had helped me.

Since I mostly only post pictures of jacket and tie or suits, it might surprise people to know that I actually have maybe 2.5 wardrobes. I wear suits and appropriate accompaniments for formal-ish, client-facing work. I wear sport coats with ties for less formal meetings with clients and without ties for days in the office, where our dress code is pretty casual (recently changing to Silicon Valley casual). And when I’m not at work, I wear streetwear, which is comfortable and fits well but never seems interesting enough to anyone else to bother posting pictures. I’ve also gained a lot from reading the SW&D forum.

I’m still learning and still enjoying seeing what others post, here and on IG. I’ve made a number of StyleFriends (to steal a jcmeyers-ism), some of whom I’ve never met in person but enjoy chatting with, even about things non-sartorial. I continue to fill in gaps in my wardrobe and realize that there are new things that I want. As deliberate as I’ve been about this hobby, I’m sure I’ll be surprised about the next stage. And I did recently commission my first fully bespoke suit.

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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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Why I (Almost) Never Wear Black Clothing

I almost never wear black clothing. It’s true. That’s because black clothing bores the hell out of me, and life’s too short as it is. I have seen a lot – a lot – of clothing sold by a lot of different retailers, and 9 times out of 10 when the season’s buy is all black it’s because consumers don’t know what the hell to do with anything else. Sure, there are exceptions, and I can already hear you lot frothing at the mouth, ranting about “dandyism” and “Baudelaire” and “anonymity” and no one cares so shut up and listen.

If your goal is to spend as little time as possible thinking about your clothing, great. If you want to ignore all the world’s beautiful, vibrant color, that’s valid. That’s your business. Wear all the black you want. I won’t be joining you, and here’s why: colors are beautiful. Whether it’s the deep tones of indigo, the coarse browns and greens of homespun wool, the crimson or gold of rich velvet, there are simply too many gorgeous things in the world to limit myself to the mundanity of black.

black clothing

Me, resolutely wearing as many colors at once as possible.

I own a handful of pieces of black clothing. A jacket or two, and a couple pairs of jeans. On the rare occasions when I do wear black, I wear one piece tops. When it’s sunny outside, and things are looking up, I can never bring myself to intentionally put a damper on the day. And when it’s grey or unpleasant out, and I’m feeling down, I’m not going to go out of my way to make things worse. There are endless examples of how to win with color in both the classic menswear style thread and its streetwear counterpart, so I feel I’m justified in pointing you in that direction. Plus, Peter wrote a great tailoring-focused article on color just these week. But even if you don’t wear a suit; even if you self-identify as an intellectual, artistic type, there’s no reason you need to wear black all the time.

“Wearing black is all about texture,” you might say. “And silhouette.” I have essentially the same reaction to these declarations as I do when bloggers tell me to “Up my game,” which is to close my laptop and stare at the ceiling for a solid thirty seconds. So yes, I call shenanigans, unless texture and silhouette somehow cease to exist in the presence of color. Black doesn’t offer me anything that colorful clothing doesn’t – in fact, it’s an absence of one of the small things that reliably brings a smile to my face, and I’m loathe to give that up. I appreciate the challenge of matching colors as well as textures, of comparing shades of blue and purple, and I love the beauty of colors that reflect the seasons changing around me.

And so, when I look at my closet in the morning, overflowing with colors and fabrics and shapes of all kinds, and I get to go through all the pieces one by one I feel – I feel…I feel as though my life would be much simpler if I just wore black every day.