Last week, vigilantesteez left me a note asking how my personal style compared to that of my coworkers:
Hey man, another fellow Chicagoan here. Great tumblr! I’m sure you’ve addressed it before, but how does your style compare to your contemporaries at the office?
This is a bit of a complicated question. I work out of two offices (state capitol building and downtown Chicago) and there’s kinda-sorta three dress codes.
When I’m at the capitol for legislative session, the dress code is typically a suit. It’s actually in the state Senate rules that all gentlemen in the chamber must wear a jacket and tie (the state House chamber has no such dress code, and there’s no dress code for women in either chamber). Suits aren’t required, however, I tend to wear them — much like every other staffer, legislator, lobbyist or statehouse worker on session days — because it’s a fairly conservative environment. Have I bucked the trend and gone with odd jackets or no-socks? Sure, but you won’t find others often doing that. So, that environment is fairly formal.
When I’m up in the downtown Chicago office, there’s sort of two dress codes: when legislators are in the offices and when legislators aren’t in the offices. Some coworkers will wear a collared shirt, jacket and have a tie around if we know legislators are in the offices for meetings that day, however, most days it’s a very casual environment. Polos, khaki chinos, jeans, tennis shoes, etc., are kind of the norm here.
So, why do I wear a jacket and tie every day?
Well, our offices share the same floor as several other offices, including the governor’s office. From what I can tell, the governor’s office staff always wears suits. Often, visitors come up to the floor and once in a while I happen to know some of them waiting in the lobby, say “hello”, and they’ll be with someone who I don’t know and will introduce me. This happened once, a long while back, and the person with whom I wasn’t familiar asked if I was an intern.
For a while I thought it was my age, but I realized that question wouldn’t have been asked if I hadn’t been dressed like an intern (baggy chinos, untucked dress shirt, sporty “dress” shoes), but rather someone who looked mildly professional. After realizing this, I decided that it was time to dress better and stop being mistaken for an intern.
While my older colleagues have the choice to dress however they wish and not be mistaken for an intern, I don’t think I have the same choice because of my age. Just because there’s an option to “dress down” doesn’t necessarily mean that you should or must do it. I got a little bit of guff from coworkers when I started “dressing up for an interview” every day, but after doing this for well over a year I can pretty much wear whatever I want and look natural doing it.
My style in comparison to others in the office is definitely less conservative in a lot of ways — despite the fact it might be considered sobering around #menswear types. I don’t mind wearing fabrics and colors that are a bit loud, maybe even saying “GTH”. I’m one of only two people on staff who wears a pocket square. I definitely have my clothing altered for a slimmer, younger, modern cut — especially with trousers going no break. I don’t want to look like I’m dressed like a typical midwesterner from the suburbs.
So, I do try to differentiate myself, even if we’re all under the same dress code and putting on a suit. I might test the boundaries a bit, but at least I don’t look like an intern.
Note: This is the fourth and final part in a series to help you with picking a necktie. Be sure to read the other parts if you have the time or curiosity.
But as you play with the endless possibilities and gradually build up your neckwear wardrobe, you’ll probably, eventually, devise a set of your own philosophies toward what goes under your collar.
These are mine. I hesitate to call them personal rules or maxims, because they’re so personal to me, my wardrobe and what I’ve found works. So, don’t take them as something everyone — including you — should do.
If I wear a tie, I wear a jacket. Or a cardigan sweater, waistcoat, sweater vest or light coat. I feel like you need a layer on over your shirt if you wear a tie, otherwise it doesn’t look right. The tie isn’t framed by a “V” around your upper middle chest and neck. Something’s just off about that for me.
Neckties do actually serve a purpose: to keep your collar upright under your jacket. Most off-the-rack and cheaper shirting will slouch beneath your jacket without a tie (or button-down collar). A tie keeps you from looking sloppy while wearing a shirt and jacket.
There’s such a thing as “too skinny”, but it’s not the same for everyone. I draw the line at 2.75” for knit ties and 3” for regular ties. I find the skinnier my tie gets, the tougher it is to achieve a great knot and dimple.
Don’t be afraid to go “fat” on tie widths. I think that if your lapels are a bit average sized (or wider), then why not try ties that are 3.5” in width or larger? They look imposing and knot gorgeously with even a simple four-in-hand.
Silk knit ties are great for travel. Some people don’t like to wear them with suits, but I often pack them for when I’m traveling for work. You don’t have to worry about creasing them in your luggage and I’ve gotten by with packing just one navy silk knit for an entire week.
More than half of my current tie collection consists of two types: silk knits and navy ties. The silk knits are often where I turn toward for when I need something colorful, with texture and yet a bit more casual. The navy ties are often what I wear to work. I buy solid navy ties in a variety of fabrics, widths and sometimes with conservative patterns on them. I have over a dozen ties where the dominant color is navy and find they work wonderfully into my daily uniform.
Find a few cheap but good solid ties to keep as an emergency necktie. Maybe keep one in your car, your briefcase or your office. Don’t buy anything fancy or expensive — keep it plain and cheap. Same with a plain white dress shirt. You’ll never worry about spilling something on yourself again.
There are two types of ties that get attention. You have those that are loud with their pattern and radiate brightly across the room. Often it seems as if the wearer is using the tie to signal to everyone that he exists — and often upon closer inspection the tie looks kind of cheap. I feel this way about “designer” or especially “novelty” ties, as if one’s sense of humor can be displayed on silk (or polyester). To me, this is the wrong way to draw someone’s attention. The preferred way is to wear a quality tie with subtle details that are only apparent up close to a trained eye, moving uniquely with the wearer’s outfit, integrated perfectly. You wouldn’t know it across the room, but you’d definitely notice it if you were close enough for a conversation. If you want to make an impression with your neckwear, then do it from only several feet away.
When buying new, there’s often a pricepoint where quality does jump significantly, but there’s often a plateau of diminishing returns where you’re probably just paying for a brand name sewed on the back. I have a hard time telling people what they should spend on a tie, but I know that I personally haven’t regretted any of my “expensive” tie purchases. Although, I’ve gotten equal satisfaction with finding steals of equal quality on eBay and thrift stores.
Think about how a tie fits in your wardrobe when buying a new one. I’ve seen a lot of really cool neckties that I would love to own, however, they don’t fit with my wardrobe at all and I’d rarely wear them. There’s often a reason why something is the “least-worn” item in your wardrobe.
Bowties aren’t for me. I have one that I wear with my tuxedo, that’s it. Nothing against people who like wearing bowties and I can think of instances where I might wear one, but I just would rather wear a tie. I like having that length of silk laying down the length of my chest.
For knots: four-in-hands for silk knits and button-down collars. And once in a while I’ll use a half-Windsor, because that’s the one my father taught me.
I don’t think of wearing a tie as “dressing up”, despite what others might think. You can wear a tie casually or formally. You can have fun wearing a tie, or wear one with seriousness. There’s enough variety out there to fit almost every occasion and environment.
Note: This is the third part in a series to help you with picking a necktie. Be sure to read the other parts if you have the time or curiosity.
At this point, you should be easily coordinating or matching while picking a necktie based on color and experimenting with picking a necktie by pattern — perhaps mixing stripes and checks and polka dots. You’re getting into some really cool, dandy-level combinations (or perhaps finding your monochrome look) and wondering how to make this whole thing more complicated and interesting.
So, let’s talk a bit about textures in a necktie. The average necktie is fairly standard, satin or reppe in silk. Nothing too terribly unusual and kind of flat. Not that there’s anything wrong with simplicity in texture, because it enables a lot of interesting prints and patterns to be used on its surface. But sometimes you want your necktie to have a texture to it that provides a visual difference.
Why would you want a textural difference? For one, it helps add some dimension to your necktie to diversify it from the other relatively flat surfaces of your jacket and shirt. If you’re wearing a worsted wool, flannel or chino-cotton jacket, then you’ve got a very plain surface that’s lacking depth. So, the necktie is a great place to add some visual complexity in that respect.
Here’s a fairly common sight: a worsted wool suit with a cotton dress shirt. Now, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with wearing a solid reppe silk necktie with this outfit with a chunky knot and a beautiful dimple. But why not play with the edges a bit and use the necktie as a place to get some of that textural contrast? I’ve paired this with a navy grenadine silk necktie, whose weave creates hills and valleys. It’s a more interesting and luxurious look than if you were to go with a solid satin or reppe tie. You see so many people in boring suits and boring shirts in the world, but if you were to have your suit properly fitted you’d be a step above. And if you were to introduce a simple tweak like this, you’d be a league above most while still wearing something very conservative.
Another reason to take an interest in texture is to have seasonally appropriate neckwear. While there’s nothing wrong with having some all-season neckties that can work in any situation, it certainly never hurts to have seasonal neckties to go with your seasonal clothing.
For the spring and summer, look for ties made from seersucker, madras, linen or raw silks. All of these look great with summer jackets made of similar materials. Depending on your style, you can either get these in fairly sober colors and patterns, or go the route of brighter color palettes and whimsical patterns. Either way, these ties tend to be more casual because of their materials, just like jackets in these materials would be. Can you mix these ties into more “serious” outfits? Maybe, but I certainly wouldn’t try it on something like a job interview or testifying in a hearing.
For the colder months of fall and winter, get out the heftier and warmer fabrics. Ties made of wool flannel, cashmere and tweed will go nicely with jackets made of the same fabrics. Again, much of the seasonal suggestions for the warmer months apply when it comes to pairing these elements. The palette will probably feature more earth tones and patterns will feature classic checks, herringbones and tartan plaids. The one thing I do think goes particularly well with heavy tweed jackets is a knitted silk tie. Yes, this is more of an all-season tie coming to bat here, but I just really like the contrast of the shiny silk against the bland donegal tweed, yet you also have the three-dimensional effect of the knitted silk that works in a way I don’t think other flatter silk ties would. For a similar reason, this is why I recommend using silk pocket squares during the colder months with your heavy cloths — the contrast is very high, but looks great.
When it comes to satin, shiny neckties — solid or patterned — I feel they have a special place during the evening. During the day they’re too bright and flat, and I think the hours of sunlight allows you the opportunity to wear your more casual, texturally deep fabrics around your neck because the light allows these subtleties to be seen easier. The evening, however, and it’s low light is where satin ties look much nicer, taking what little light there is and reflecting it back to your eyes. I think this is why evening wear for men has satin facing on the lapels and benefits from a satin bowtie.
For the example above, I’ve paired a patterned satin silk tie with a black, wool, double-breasted blazer. The wool flannel is fairly flat, but the satin works in high contrast against it. I’ve worn this several times while going out in the evening and it’s become a bit of a go-to during the cooler months. It’d be tempting to wear a solid silk knit in midnight navy or black, but I don’t think it works as well. Satin’s a bit flashy, but I think it’s at home during the hours of dark.
Texture can bring visual depth to your otherwise flat outfit to elevate its complexity. It can help solidify a seasonal outfit through fabrics and color palette. And it can be used to help differentiate dressing for the day and the evening. Contrasting textures are often as important as complimentary textures.
If you want to learn more about types of neckties, The Necktie Series at Put This On written by dieworkwear is a fundamental resource to give you an overview (and tell you where to buy some great neckwear).
Tomorrow: personal philosophies.
For winter, I like chunky-knitted, shawl-collared cardigan sweaters. Above is one I picked up last year from Lands’ End Canvas on sale. It’s 100% donegal wool and feels great and definitely kept me warm.
I’m a fan of shawl collars because you have the option of leaving the collar down while indoors, or turning it up while outdoors to use it as a substitute for a scarf under another jacket to protect your neck. The cardigan’s buttons let you remove it easier if you want to shed a layer and the pockets are handy to keep stuff in (the best would be a button-closure).
Unfortunately, LEC doesn’t have a chunky 100%-wool shawl-collared cardigan available yet. But not to worry, as there are plenty of other options.
This is one of the cheaper options. The fabric used is boiled lambswool, which makes the fabric less itchy, according to the copywriting. I kind of prefer the itchiness, but maybe that’s what turns some people off. Regardless, I’m a fan of that extra chest pocket.
Made from 100% Shetland wool, this cardigan has some additional color due to the pattern in the fabric. Available in cream, brown and green.
While lots of brands are adding suede patches to their elbows, this sweater has reinforced, double-knitted elbows that are almost invisible. Available in grey, navy, red and multi-weave.
Lambswool and horn buttons with cable knitting. The classic look you’d expect from PRL.
Definitely one of the more expensive options, and the copywriting doesn’t provide much detail other than the fact it’s made in Scotland from 100% lambswool.
I posted this sweater a while ago when HY’s F/W preview arrived and consider this my grail sweater. It’s cashmere, got patches and just looks perfect. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll be able to afford one anytime in the near future, but it’s certainly ideal.
ADDING from dieworkwear:
As long as we’re talking about ones nobody can afford, Drake’s has one that straight murders.
You can go ahead and convert £695.00 to U.S. dollars, but you’ll end up in tears.
Note: This is the second part in a series to help you with picking a necktie. Be sure to read the other parts if you have the time or curiosity.
After you’ve wrapped your head around picking a necktie based on color, then it’s a good time to talk the other obvious thing most people see when glancing at your neckwear: the pattern.
I’m not going to discuss the use of solids here. It’s fairly obvious: you can put a solid necktie with anything, whether the shirt and jacket are variations of solids or patterns. Likewise, if you’re wearing just solids, then picking a patterned necktie to go with your outfit is perfectly fine.
What’s worth discussing is the mixing of patterns in the various parts of your outfit. Notice: the focus here isn’t just on the necktie, but rather the outfit as a whole. You should keep in mind the patterns of each element: shirt, tie, square, jacket.
Because of my limited shirt and tie selection, there’s no way I could go over every single possibility you might encounter, but hopefully by discussing each of these looks you’ll get a better idea of the weird mental calculations to make when mixing patterns together.
Stripes & crests vs. checks:
We might as well start with what I wore. While I won’t get too much into color again, it’s worth noting that I chose to color match the tie and shirt here, but kept the shades different. In regards to mixing patterns, this actually blends three patterns together: crests (or what you could call a repeating “dot” or “geometric” pattern if a different symbol were to be used), stripes and checks.
When you have a check pattern, I feel it’s good to go with one of two routes: a tie whose primary color is different from the dominant color of the check and features a stripe that references the color of the check — hopefully with the stripe being significantly smaller in size than the “stripe” of the primary color.
The other route I like to take with check patterns, especially gingham, is to have a tie that has a repeating “dot” pattern on a grid. I feel this brings a high contrast. This tie arranges crests in place of dots along a diagonal, which works nicely. Despite keeping the tie in the same color as the shirt, you get some distinct visual separation from the tie and shirt.
Dots vs. checks:
This is another (perhaps clearer) example of using a “dots” arrangement on a tie to pattern mix against checks. The repetition of the dots mimics the repetition of the check pattern, however, it contrasts not just in terms of shape, but of alignment. Notice how the dots are arranged on a grid pattern that’s been rotated on a 45-degree angle to the axis. You have two otherwise orderly patterned elements now at direct conflict with each other visually. This helps distinguish the two elements to the eye and yet manages to balance the look.
Paisley vs. checks:
Another option to pair with a checked shirt (or a bengal striped shirt) is a paisley tie. Again, notice I’m staying with the same color, but varying the shades of the tie and shirt. The paisley has a huge pattern contrast with the grid-like gingham. Why do I think this works? Let’s take a look at a similar example below.
Floral vs. checks:
This outfit actually manages to mix three patterns: gingham checks, floral and dots (on the square). When you have a chaotic pattern, I often find it’s good to bring some order to your outfit by introducing strong patterns that are uniform in nature. Checks, grids, evenly-spaced stripes and dots all help contrast the randomness with some visual normality. The point is to bring some balance.
It’s for this reason that I think it’s dangerous to wear a chaotic necktie in paisley (or worse: a Jerry Garcia design) on a solid suit with a solid shirt and a no square (or a solid one). You have nothing to counterbalance that out-of-control element and frame it. The print just gets the run of the solid-palette yard and takes over. Visually, it’s distressing to witness and often I think it’s a sign of an unsophisticated dresser who says, “Oh, I’m totally going to wear this wacky, crazy, cool tie!” and seeks to make that something that will get him noticed. You’ll often find these people wearing novelty, cartoon or “holiday print” ties. Or worse, ones designed by Ed Hardy.
Stripes vs. stripes:
Beginner advice often says to avoid “stripes on stripes”, but don’t pay that much attention. You can have stripes on stripes — but you want to avoid having stripes of the same width on both your shirt and tie. Basically, if you have a pinstriped shirt, then avoid wearing a tie that also has pinstripes. Got a bengal striped shirt? Then don’t wear a tie with equally wide stripes as the shirt. My advice is to just know what kind of striped shirts you have and then buy striped ties that have a much more varied pattern.
Stripes vs. checks:
The rules here are somewhat similar to the stripes-on-stripes rules: try to vary the proportion of your stripes and your checks in each element. The checks on the tie are larger than the stripe width on the shirt. You want visual disparity in terms of proportion when playing with these patterns which are composed of linear elements. The eye shouldn’t have a hard time telling them apart.
Checks vs. checks:
Oh sh*t! It’s just checks on checks on checks! A houndstooth check shirt with a Prince of Wales check tie with a windowpane check jacket. Again, the way to make this work is to not only vary the proportion of the different check patterns, but to also vary the types of checks being used.
One of the hardest things to do is manage to bring together four unique patterns together in an outfit. Like what’s going on above. It’s easier to do if you stick to a monochrome theme, but it looks even dandier if you go for several colors at once. Definitely not for beginners, but it’s worth giving it a shot to teach yourself about pattern and color mixing/matching. It’s not something I do often — frankly, my mind isn’t that alert in the morning.
You can either mix or match patterns, but you should try to vary the proportionality and size when matching (or even mixing, but it’s not as necessary when mixing). Keep in mind color rules while thinking about patterns. Tame chaotic patterns with orderly elements. Try to achieve visual balance.
If you want to really learn a lot more about pattern mixing (and about just every single topic in menswear), I suggest picking up Alan Flusser’s “Dressing the Man”, which goes over this topic quite nicely.
Note: This is the first part in a series to help you with picking a necktie. Be sure to read the other parts if you have the time or curiosity.
Arguably a fundamental piece of knowledge when it comes to choosing a necktie, the color (or colors) you choose to put around your neck can serve various purposes.
I’m going to go through a few permutations here:
- Monochrome color matching your tie to your shirt and jacket:
- Contrasting the your tie to your jacket and shirt:
- Matching your tie to your shirt:
- Contrasting your tie to your shirt:
- Matching your tie to your jacket:
I think color is a good first topic when it comes to picking a necktie. Before you get into buying patterned or seasonal ties, you’re probably going to want to get a few solid-colored pieces of neckwear that will be more versatile as your wardrobe is still in the incubation stages. While this first part doesn’t necessarily deal exclusively with solid ties, many of the fundamentals can be easily grasped by focusing on color rather than pattern or seasonal texture — both of which topics I’ll cover in the upcoming days.
I think color is the toughest thing to master for a lot of people, mainly because there are a lot of possibilities about what could work. But once you understand a few guiding principles, it should become easier — and probably easier than pattern and texture.
Monochrome color matching your tie to your shirt and jacket:
Choosing a monochromatic color scheme, where all the colors you’re wearing are various shades and hues of the same color, is probably one of the simplest ways to pick an appropriate necktie. It’s also one of the easiest ways to dress yourself. Pick a color, get a jacket/suit, shirt, tie and square that all fits in that color.
That’s what I’m doing today: using the color blue as a common theme for all the elements to follow. The jacket is a mid-range blue, the shirt goes a bit lighter. The tie darker than both. The pocket square echoes the shirt’s shade and its border mirrors the contrasting blade of the tie.
While this is relatively simple to illustrate with solids, it’s worth looking at a monochromatic scheme with patterns as well.
Using a monochrome approach with patterns means finding the dominant color in each element. Again, I’ve picked the color blue. Notice that it doesn’t mean all elements must be void of all other colors. Neutrals — grey, black, white — can be introduced and not upset the balance. Patterns can also be used, but keeping with letting one color remain dominant throughout.
If you decide to take the monochrome route, just keep in mind that you want to create a high amount of contrast between each element. Maybe keep your shirt on the light side, your tie on the dark side (with perhaps a lighter element) and your jacket somewhere in between. You don’t want to wear a hues too close together, making it impossible for each element to be distinguished. If you’re wondering if you’re doing it right, imagine your photograph was taken in black and white: would you be easily able to see your tie, shirt and jacket’s outlines? Or would they blend together?
Contrasting the your tie to your jacket and shirt:
This is also fairly easy to do. Keep most of your outfit simple, perhaps based around a neutral or monochromatic palette. Then use your tie (and perhaps pocket square) as a way to create a high contrast. Just note that if you do this, then your tie will be distracting away from the rest of what you wear. In some cases, I think this looks great. The example above is a play on the typical “navy blazer, white shirt, red tie”, which always looks good. You could swap that red tie out with almost any other primary or secondary color that’s not blue and have it look fine. Keep the tie simple, with only one other color — perhaps incorporating a color from the shirt or jacket — and it’ll probably work.
Matching your tie to your shirt:
This is probably the first thing many guys think about doing once they get a new shirt with way too many colors and find themselves looking for a tie that “matches” their shirt. Matching is obviously fine — it’s the basis of the monochromatic look, after all — but the problem often comes in when a shirt has a base color (white or blue) with several other colors in its pattern (imagine 1-3 different colored stripes or checks in the pattern). Remember: the more colors in your shirt, the harder it gets to match a tie to it. It’s for this reason I recommend solid-colored shirts or shirts with only two colors — a base color and one accent color.
In the example above, moving away from red, white and blue scheme would be possible, but it’s much easier to use the existing colors in the shirt. Looking at the shirt, the red definitely overpowers the white and blue, so it makes the most sense to downplay the red in the tie (or perhaps exclude it) and promote the white and blue. It’s a bit of team effort here in the part of the square and the tie. The tie’s navy color helps bring out the blue in the shirt, but doesn’t contrast the jacket. The tie’s red stripe hints at the shirt’s main color and also plays to the square’s secondary color. The white stripe acknowledges the shirt and also enables the pocket square to reference it, too.
You can see how this gets really complicated and limiting the more colors you involve in a scenario like this. Can it be pulled off? Sure, but buying shirts with lots of colors right away when you’re building a wardrobe probably isn’t ideal — because you’ll need ties to match it, which may not go well with other parts of your wardrobe. Something to keep in mind.
Contrasting your tie to your shirt:
The last example could have gone a simpler and even more colorful route: ignoring matching and going for contrast. And it’s the same thing I’ve done here with this purple shirt: high contrast.
Contrasting is relatively simple in the case of this purple gingham shirt: look at a colorwheel and pick the colors directly across from each other. In this case, the opposite-facing color is yellow. And this same yellow tie would’ve worked, too, with the red-white-blue shirt in the previous section.
This works best when your jacket is on a neutral tone — or close to it, like a navy suit. Takes a bit of thinking early in the morning, but the results are colorful and yet still pleasing.
Matching your tie to your jacket:
This is a neat trick to remember when you have an odd jacket, such as this Harris Tweed blazer, which has quite a few other colors in it beyond its brown base. The jacket has gold and blue fibers woven into its herringbone pattern, so it makes sense to use the necktie to bring out those elements a bit more.
Additionally, the tie in this case contrasts the shirt fabric, while the pocket square also picks up the colors in the jacket, yet compliments the pocket square by highlighting the gold as its base and blues as its secondary color.
Learn to identify dominant and base colors. Then look at secondary colors in each element. Think of how you can play them off of each other, match them to each other, or compliment elements. It’ll take some practice, but it’ll help you decide on your next shirt or tie purchase if something fits into your wardrobe or if it’ll mean having to buy other additional elements to work with it. It’s worth keeping a colorwheel in mind and when you see someone wearing a great combination of colors, make a note of it mentally and try to think about why it works together.
I’ve been looking for a new slim card-holder wallet for a while now and there’s a lot of choices out there beyond just the well-known, big-name brands (like this predictable list that Esquire UK created).
In the event that you’re looking for a slim-card holder wallet, then you should find this list fairly helpful — perhaps close to comprehensive, and suggested additions are welcome.
They’re not listed in any particular order and I’m not going to give my commentary on them — simply because I haven’t handled any of these, and we all have our different preferences. In some cases, you’ll want to click through to the company’s site to see additional colors, leather types and pricing.
The Vegan Collection (via Nathan C., who wanted to provide an ethical alternative):
Shapeshifter (Not quite a card holder, but this is a unique design that’s super-minimalistic. It’s creator, Bob, has let me know that he will ship to the U.S.):
Other companies that make slim wallets, but not in a card-holder style:
You can also see selections at:
Got any others to add? Let me know.
Some of you might remember a few weeks ago when I asked, “What is ‘urban chic attire’ supposed to mean anyways?” I really liked a lot of your answers and thought it illustrated my point that it’s a terrible dress code to suggest.
I’ve been giving it some thought and while I have no really problems with turning out wearing something nice, I still really wanted to incorporate some evening wear style. Mostly, I wanted to give myself an excuse to wear my tuxedo again, but also because I just have a distaste for wearing denim to function like this.
I began thinking that perhaps it would be possible to break up the classic tuxedo and find a way to “dress it down” into something that’s not aggressively formal and conservative. Yes, I’m leery, too, of the high-low combinations, but thought it’d be a reason to try something new and interesting.
After some Googling around, I found a post by none other than The Style Blogger, Dan Trepanier, about how to break-up a tuxedo:
“throw the jacket over a dark gingham button-down shirt, neutral trousers and black loafers to create one of my favorite looks for a night out in the city”
I liked this idea a lot, but didn’t want to straight off copy his look. For one, I didn’t have black loafers, only chocolate brown tassels (and using them in this situation was out, given the event was at night and mixing black and brown is a no-go). Secondly, I wasn’t too keen on going neutrals only. It’s summer, I think there should be color involved somehow. Finally, I wanted to make the look more formal than casual. Going tie-less is always awkward for me, so I wasn’t interested in that.
Here’s what I came up with and plan to wear:
A breakdown of each element:
- The jacket: From my vintage midnight blue, mohair tuxedo. It manages to be the centerpiece, yet is restrained back by the rest of the casual elements it’s placed with. I wanted refinement for the evening, this is what brings that to the look.
- The shirt: For color, I felt purple was a go-to choice, since it’s a bit more regal. Also, a default, since it was the only non-button-down collared shirt in gingham I had. The spread collar shirt from Brooks Brothers has a great hue and some summertime playfulness to it.
- The bowtie: I never wear it except with my tuxedo, so it made sense to bring it in here. A bit dandy, but also has a black-on-black paisley design to it that separates it from a traditional, plain black-tie bow.
- The square: Multi-colored purple silk in a TV-fold. I easily could’ve gone with white linen, but I didn’t like contrasting the casualness of linen with the formalness of the tuxedo. Plus, I wanted to really make purple part of the look, not just a color used once, which leads to…
- The socks: Yes, I have purple socks and I’m not afraid to wear them.
- The pants: Are cream colored chinos a bit of a stretch here? I wasn’t sure until I snapped this picture and decided that I’d run with it. While this is kind of what you’d normally wear a business casual office, I felt their slimness fits in and adds to the seasonal appropriateness. If they were radiant white, then I don’t think this would look as good.
- The shoes: Black plain captoes with closed lacing. Another formal element as the base. No brown in town.
So, this is my interpretation of “urban chic attire” — at least for the summer months. I’d be interested to know your thoughts, critiques or personal twists you’d place on the look.
After a bit of an ordeal, my first custom-made dress shirt arrived from Biased Cut. In short, I’m pleased with it and would definitely order from Biased Cut again in the future. For this review, I wore the shirt pretty much the entire weekend, sweated in it, got caught in a rainstorm in it and spilled nachos on it. I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t like wearing it.
Still, my praise is not without criticisms, none of which are what I’d call deal-breakers and they’re all easily resolved. The one thing I give Biased Cut enormous credit for is their customer service and willingness to take on additional customizations not listed on their site (more on this later).
The shirt fits me well. I should note that I took measurements off of another well-fitting shirt (one made by MyTailor.com) to use as a baseline for this shirt. If you don’t have a well-fitting shirt, then you’ll be forced to use the option of measuring yourself or using a few questions and basic neck/sleeve measurements to get a shirt. I can’t comment on the rest of these options because it’s not the route I chose to take.
Wearing the shirt, it’s comfortable and doesn’t feel too tight or restrictive. They have options for “slim” or “normal” fit, and I chose the “slim” option. The “normal” option will give you more room in the torso, bicep and armhole. If you’re used to the Brooks Brothers Extra Slim Fit line, then go with the “slim” option, because I feel they’re similar in some respects.
In regards to the back of the shirt, Biased Cut does two things — one of which actually alters the fit of the shirt. The first is to add darts on the back, which is something none of my other shirts have. You can request that they not add darts by emailing customer service after you place your order. I decided to give it a shot since it is a part of their idea of how the shirt should fit.
The darts definitely do reduce the blousing effect on the shirt’s back and waist area when tucked in. I’m overall not sold on darting my shirts just yet, but I can see the appeal. In terms of aesthetics, I’m just not sure if I like how it looks and as my tailor once commented, it can definitely remind one of a women’s shirt.
I will say that the darting doesn’t strike me as too visible or noticeable on this particular fabric (I chose the “Everton”, a light-blue steel chambray), but would probably make any sort of patterned shirt look odd when the pattern doesn’t line up along those seams.
The second signature of the Biased Cut shirt’s back is the full-length back pleat. As you probably know from all of your other shirts, this is really unusual and I’ve never seen this done elsewhere. Visually, it adds a line on your torso that creates some sort of vertical line down your back. Functionally, it does nothing. The pleat is non-functional and is just extra fabric that’s purely decorative. So, unlike a traditional back pleat that actually adds real bulk to a shirt’s back (usually to allow for extra movement), this is just there for looks.
I like the look of the full-length back pleat, however, one obvious downside to it came about when I had to iron my shirt after washing it. The pleat’s folds came undone and needed to be re-pressed. This was a bit frustrating to deal with and a bit of a hassle I hadn’t anticipated. For future orders, I will definitely ask that my shirts not have a full-length back pleat.
The shirt’s quality seems pretty good. The stitching looks much better than off-the-rack shirts I’ve bought before (Nordstrom, Brooks Brothers) and definitely better than any of my MTM shirts from Modern Tailor. I’d put the quality on par with MyTailor.
The buttons are mother of pearl and are securely sewn on. Unlike the Modern Tailor cuffs, these cuffs are soft and comfortable on the wrists, yet still have enough rigid structure to them to hold up. Oh, and they include a button on the sleeve plackets, which is nice.
One detail that I really enjoyed was how the top button of the shirt on the collar was actually smaller than the rest of the buttons on the placket. I assume this is for when you’re wearing a necktie that it doesn’t get in the way of the knot and add bulk. Not a big detail and definitely subtle, but still shows some extra thought went into that detail.
The collar itself was also pretty good. It felt stiff enough to stay up, but not like a cardboard box around your neck. I chose the standard spread collar and the length on it worked well enough with all my jackets. One thing I cannot stand is the trend toward shorter collars, which increases the likelihood of the dreaded collar gap — plus, thicker bladed neckties tend to stick out from under the collar, too. No worries about that here.
As I mentioned earlier, there are some more customizations you can do to your order that are worth knowing about. I think the approach Biased Cut gives its customers through its online user interface is one of simplicity. Pick a shirt, enter measurements, pick a few limited details and order it. Unlike a lot of other online MTM dress shirt sites, they have a lot less visible choices for customization. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get extra details and additions done or make special requests.
For instance, some shirts don’t come with a pocket. But you can request a pocket be added (I did for this shirt, and I find pockets are very essential functional elements for my EDC because they carry my calendar and pen).
You can also add a club collar or contrast collar (or both!) to any shirt. You can also have a non-contrast or non-club collar and have a “normal” collar using the same shirt fabric on any contrast or club-collared shirt. So, that’s worth noting and means you could get the Basso in a spread, bengal-striped collar.
As previously mentioned, you can ask that the full-length back pleat and darts not be included as well. And I don’t know this for a fact, but I’m sure you could ask that your button-cuffed shirt either have a mitred or rounded edge. As for any other customized details, I’d just ask them by sending an email before you order to see what’s possible.
Where do I place Biased Cut in comparison to other MTM online shirtmakers? I think Modern Tailor has a huge selection and quick turnaround time, but suffers from quality control issues that’s pretty much made me hesitate to use them again, even at sale prices. MyTailor is great for their optional, in-person service to take your measurements and let you consult fabric books. Their quality is also very good and their selection is huge. The downside, however, is the turnaround time of 6 to 8 weeks and their prices tend to be a little bit higher than Biased Cut.
So, I think Biased Cut hits a good compromise. They have the quality, they have a reasonable turnaround time of 3 to 4 weeks and the pricepoint sits lower than MyTailor. Their largest weakness is that they don’t offer a large amount of fabrics nor a lot of the crazy customization options you might see on other sites. Still, don’t let this distract you from the fact that if you have a well-fitting shirt to base your measurements off of and they have a fabric that is appealing to you (they certainly do stock the basics), then they’re a good deal.
I plan to use them again in the future (along with MyTailor) and will be keeping an eye out for the fabrics they’re stocking from season to season.
A friend of mine came to me with a predicament: He needed a suit for a meeting and presentation he had to give. He didn’t have a pair of dress shoes. He didn’t have a tie or shirt. He didn’t even have socks. And the meeting was the next day.
Oh, and his budget was around $500.
In fairness, he’s living out of state for the summer to work on his startup and had moved all of his wardrobe to California, meaning he brought none of it with him when he came to visit Chicago. A company he’s working with found out he was going to be in town and wanted to meet with him, putting him in a bit of lurch.
I tend to agree with Put This On that you can’t really do “cheap/good/fast”, because you end up sacrificing so much along the way. However, I brainstormed what I think ended up being a decent outfit given the constraints. Here’s what I came up with for him over the lunch hour:
The suit I’ve linked to might be different than the one in the store (the link says “sharkskin” but that’s not what I’d call it in store, could be different but looks the same). My friend’s got a more athletic torso, so I figured the “slim fit” line might actually look decent on him without the need to taper the sides. I was pretty close in my estimations. The suit fit pretty well for an off-the-rack, no-time-to-get-altered option. The cuffs needed to be shortened, but he had to forgo that option because of time constraints.
The only alterations that needed to be done were the trousers to hem them to a slight break. The sales associate (evil!) tried to convince him to go with a full break, but after I cuffed the hem under a bit and said to look at the straight line the crease makes to your feet, he was convinced to hem them shorter.
I’ll give Macy’s credit though: they knocked out his alteration on the trousers the same day by 5 p.m. If you need a suit fast, be sure to go somewhere where you can pay for a “rush” alteration service — and make sure they do alterations, too.
The suit came to around $200 on sale and with tax and alterations. Not bad for something 100% wool and slimmer fitting. I suggested he get the cuffs shortened later, but it would look OK overall given the situation.
The Shirt & Tie: Tommy Hilfiger club-stripe tie and white “tailored fit” dress shirt, $50 at Nordstrom Rack
If you need a cheap shirt off the rack and a wide (and somewhat random) variety of brands and sizes, Nordstrom Rack is a pretty good option. I just randomly guessed my friend’s neck and sleeve size and happened to find a white dress shirt that nailed his fit on the first try. For $30, it certainly fell within budget and fit him great.
As for a tie, Nordstrom Rack has a pretty wide selection of stuff, but I went with a Tommy Hilfiger club tie because I knew the knotted fairly well (I have one) and certainly were cheap enough. For around $20, it would work.
Doesn’t need much of an introduction and my friend lucked out they were on sale. I wouldn’t say this falls under “cheap”, but it’s certainly a solid purchase that’ll actually contribute to a larger wardrobe over time.
So, that’s how I’d spend $500 to get a complete outfit — in a single day with zero other alternatives. Obviously, this isn’t ideal at all, but I don’t think at the end of it any one of those purchases were bad. And certainly, it’s better than shuffling into the Men’s Warehouse in a panic mode and buying whatever they throw on you.
Is there a better (cheaper, perhaps) way to spend $500 to get fully suited up? Sure. But within limits, I’d doubt it.
My friend said the meeting went really well and he got several compliments on his suit asking where he’d gotten it. So, that’s a plus.
- It can be done — if you have prior knowledge of what various places carry, who does alterations, how the types of clothes fit and where current sales or discounts can be had. Otherwise, this would be a much more expensive exercise.
- Everything will be a compromise, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a bad compromise where you lose more than what you gain.
- Maybe traveling in a suit when you go on a plane is a really good idea, as Gay Talese likes to point out.
This is less of a debate, but more of a curiosity of mine to know what the rest of you prefer and why.
When I first started actually getting into this whole “dress nicer” business, I’ll admit I was heavily influenced by “Mad Men” and thus the skinny tie. But the more I learned about things like proportionality and corresponding neckties to lapels, etc., I tended to go wider.
Another personal issue I have with skinny ties is that they don’t seem to knot as well — and I think they’re nearly impossible to dimple. It just doesn’t seem to lend itself to a good four-in-hand knot and I found myself using the half-Windsor.
Most ties I buy now are in the 3” range, however, I really like the 3.5” grenadine and it substantial look. Maybe 3.25” is a sweet spot?
In regards to necktie to lapel proportionality, I will say that while I’m not inclined to pair a skinny tie with a wide lapel, I’m definitely inclined to put a wider tie with a skinnier lapel.
Anyway, feel free to add your responses and I’ll post them below!
And, survey says…
I like very slim (2”) ties but understand that they’re inherently more casual. I don’t like much wider than 3.25”. 3.5+” is a no go for me.
I like 2.75-3” for casual stuff, 3.5” for more traditional, formal stuff (rare).
I also started with a sixties/mod aesthetic. But as my tastes have matured, I’m fond of 4 inch lapels and 3.25 inch ties
I tend to go for right around the 2.75”-3” range, but I’m also tiny so proportionality for me is a bit different.
dieworkwear rolls wider than Lapo:
6ft lapels, peaked, so 6ft ties to match. Ties are all 84-folds too. 84-folds or die.
I like 3.25-3.5. Only < 3.25 if square bottom/knit. Big collars needs wider ties. I don’t think much about lapels.
I prefer 2.75-3.125” ties. I’m a slimmer dude so I feel anything wider begins to look a bit odd on me.
2.5” is my sweet spot, since I’m lanky. It’s all about proportion.
I prefer 2.5-3”. I’d say you should match your tie width to YOUR width. I’m a broad guy, so skinny ties just look silly and make me look huge.
2.5-3.25 for me. I’m not that tall, and skinny.
I definitely prefer a wider tie, 3” and above. I also am not afraid to pair a wider tie with a thinner lapel. I just wouldn’t do vice versa.
I’ll add in 3.25” as well. Goes with anything IMO, and I like versatility. Skinner than 3” is fashion victim territory, at least on me (exception: a 1.25” vintage j press repp I own)
started off with 2.75, moved to 3, currently trying to accrue more 3.5s. Still wear all of them regularly though.
He also elaborated on his point in a full blog post, which is definitely worth a read, making a good point about occasion perhaps being a factor involved in deciding on width.
I think 3.25” is perfect. I’ll settle for 3”, but I’ve found I’m not wearing my 2.75” ties very much.