20
Feb

Sneakers and Suits: No, thank you

Last week, Evolving Style mused about wearing sneakers with a casual suit, saying, “Done well, it just looks good.” (Yes, he said much more than that and wrote a follow-up, too. Go read both, as they’re the reason why I’m writing this post.) 

One may argue the look is “trendy”, “fashionable” or even “stylish” in the most broad sense of the term, but it doesn’t present a look of being well-dressed in a “classic” sense. And that’s my objection to the look.

I’m not entirely sure why people enjoy the sneakers and suit look. Perhaps these synthetic, rubber-soled, radioactive-neon tumors show their keen sense of rebelliousness and creativity — so eager to break rules! — where the contradiction is the appeal.

But I don’t share those values and it’s my preference to wear clothing where each item shares a similar level of formality and function. 

The visual effect of looking at a tailored suit and then ending at the sneaker is a jarring one. This comes from the inherent contradictory realms the pieces occupy. To be dressed well, all elements must work in concert, not in chaos. 

The simple fact is that sneakers are for athletics and sportswear — they’re a different class of clothing in terms of use and formality than what even the most casual of suits can occupy. The two should remain separate for their respective functions and never intersect. 

It should be understood that while sneakers are for casual wear, a casual suit is simply just a less-formal type of suit. This doesn’t diminish the suit’s importance and reason for being worn to that of a situation where casual athletic sportswear is appropriate. 

A casual suit requires a more casual shoe, however, not the most casual shoe. Bucks, saddle shoes, spectators, suede brogues and even the controversial loafer are appropriate for the casual suit. I feel this achieves a harmonious look and is best. 

I find the look a bit childish, like what a teenager or disaffected college student would do in a situation where they’re forced to wear a suit but hate the idea of dressing up. 

I like wearing the appropriate clothing for the situation. I see no personal need for fashionable rebellion. 

16
Aug

Investment Pieces: Levi’s 501 jeans

Remember the pilot of “Put This On” and how it was kind of mindblowing that some people spend a couple hundred dollars on jeans? At the time, I thought, “Wow, that’s fucking expensive. I’ll never do that.” Fast forward two-and-a-half years later and I’m buying a pair of 3Sixteens at Self Edge in San Franscisco’s Mission District. 

But let’s rewind a bit to just over two years ago when I decided to buy a pair of Levi’s 501s that happened to be selvedge and their “rigid” dark denim fabric. I did the whole thing of sizing down 2” in the waist, knowing it would stretch and began to break them in for a week. Then two weeks. Then almost three. 

I never got them hemmed, even though my tailor gave me some shit about rolling the cuffs (“You look like a little boy!” he said, after only a few weeks earlier telling me I should start shaving regularly because I looked like an old man). I washed them the first time in a bathtub with Woolite Dark and let them hang dry after about six months.

It’s been about the same amount of time between washes since. It’s not that I can’t stand the smell, but every once in a while I’ll be at the grocery store or in a bar in Logan Square and some hipster just reeks really bad of body odor — like those kids in junior high gym class whose parents hadn’t had the deodorant talk yet with them — and I get a bit self conscious and smell my jeans to see if they are approaching ironic levels of freshness. I just hate the idea of smelling offensive to people when I actually have access to water and soap. 

Still, the jeans are great. No crotch blowouts, no rips or serious damage. The fading has started to show up a bit, especially when I compare them to my newer jeans. But the real awesome thing is just how comfortable they are to wear. I love wearing them around the house, because they’re never not soft and worn. It’s like comfort food, that you wear on your legs. 

Best of all, they weren’t that expensive. You can easily find pairs for under $100.

The cut isn’t the slimmest, but it’s not bordering on absurd, either. If you really want to slim them up, pay $15-30 to a tailor to have them tapered to your liking (something I did with a pair in white denim). Plus, I really like them for the fact they have a button fly and the rise on them is a little bit higher — something nice to have in the sea of low-rise denim out there (how people keep their shirts tucked in, I’ll never know). 

But get a cheap pair of jeans and then you won’t be afraid to screw them up by wiping your dirty hands on them all the time — like when you’re prepping ingredients to make tacos or spilled some of your drink on your hands. They’re jeans, not rare silks. Wear them paintballing or while digging your car out from the largest blizzard in decades. 

I’m not going to be that denimhead who tells you “My jeans, they tell a story,” because that’s not true and my life isn’t that interesting. But I have noticed that there’s a worn diagonal crease line along the left thigh to the knee where the fabric always bends from when I cross my leg while sitting. And there’s a white stain from my pet cockatiel who shit on them because I haven’t figured out how to housetrain her in the past dozen years I’ve had her — not that I’m angry or anything about that.

You’ll probably wear jeans a lot — even if you wear a suit all day, you’ll probably just want to come home and change into jeans at the end of it — and I can say for certain that a pair of Levi’s 501s should last you a good while. I feel like I got a lot of mileage out of mine and I still keep grabbing them off the door hook in the morning. 

(“Investment Pieces" is a series about the items in my wardrobe that have gotten the most usage and wear. It’s part review and part paean to the clothes I really would recommend to anybody. These aren’t luxury items or limited in availability — you can get them anywhere at anytime for a fairly reasonable price.) 

13
Aug

Investment Pieces: Brooks Brothers white OCBD

It’s hard to find a #menswear “essentials” list that doesn’t include the oxford cloth button-down collar shirt. Everyone tells you to buy one and pretty much every retailer carries some version of this shirt. 

Sure, it’s “classic” and J.F.K. wore one and it’s an Ivy staple. You have guys on forums and blog comments whining about how the collars used to have a much better roll to them decades ago compared to the ones now or how they used to take sandpaper to the collars to wear them down a bit for that “worn in” look. (And don’t even get them started on this “slim fit” business all the kids like!)

It’s easy to read that and laugh. But you have to realize the reason why they talk in such detailed curmudgeonly ways about this particular shirt is because they love it. It’s like meeting someone who is a complete nerd about a particular thing they’re really, really into: they love it so much that they want to tell you all the reasons why so that you’ll understand and love it, too. 

And the OCBD nerds aren’t totally crazy! It’s a fantastic shirt. I particularly like mine from Brooks Brothers in a certain non-trad fit (“extra-slim”, which makes it sound like a diet drink supplement) for a variety of irrational reasons.

Yes, the collar is great. It’s softer than a stiffer collar from most off-the-rack dress shirts. It’s a bit more substantial, too, in its collar point length — not some wimpy tiny collar that’s currently in fashion — that gives it a decent roll. Not the best roll, mind you, that you see in black and white photos of “Take Ivy”, but better than what else is out there in retailers today. 

I also love the shirring of the sleeves where it attaches to the cuff instead of the pleated look a lot of other shirts use. And it’s even more ridiculous that I like this unique detail on the shirt because you can’t even see it when I roll my sleeves up anyway, which I do most of the time when wearing the shirt, but I know it’s there.

I’ll also add that I love the pocket on the shirt. People are adding all sorts of useless crap to their shirts like epaulets, grosgrain trimming or monograms, but I’m a fan of functional things. I know a growing number of people prefer the French front placket and no pocket on shirts, but I can’t stand it. I use my pocket all the time. I put a pen in there, or my glasses when I head outside during the day and wear my prescription sunglasses. I don’t know why anyone would turn down a free pocket on their shirt. 

The shirt’s construction is pretty solid with single-needle stitched seams. It’s also still made right here in the United States (something that unfortunately cannot be said about the majority of Brooks Brothers’ shirts). The best part about the OCBD is that you can wash it, dry it and hang it up. That’s it. No need to worry about ironing it, as it looks great a bit wrinkled and just feels comfortable, which is the most important thing. 

The shirt doesn’t feel terribly stiff when first worn, but it just feels better several washes in. You can throw it on when you’re mildly hungover or just about to head down to the grocery store to buy some cilantro for some tostadas because you’re an idiot who forgot to check the fridge before you went to the store yesterday. 

Of course, it goes well with almost anything. You can wear it untucked with jeans or tucked into chinos with a madras, seersucker or navy wool blazer on top. And while my personal uniform most days consists of the blue OCBD, the white OCBD probably gets a fairly high amount of time covering my torso. I consider it a casual shirt to just wear around the house or on weekends. It’s what I do chores in and take naps in. 

You want that “lived-in” look? Pick up one of these shirts and live in it. There will always be time for you to put on a really dressed-up outfit to get dinner or go somewhere nice or even sit in your office cubicle. People always say that you should dress up for the important moments of your life, but the rest of your life’s more mundane and non-Instagram worthy moments ought to have a place in your wardrobe, too. For me, that’s the Brooks Brothers OCBD.

(“Investment Pieces” is a series about the items in my wardrobe that have gotten the most usage and wear. It’s part review and part paean to the clothes I really would recommend to anybody. These aren’t luxury items or limited in availability — you can get them anywhere at anytime for a fairly reasonable price.)

09
Aug

Investment pieces: Clarks desert chukka boots

I think a lot of guys get overwhelmed by footwear choices when they first set out to rebuild their wardrobe away from those crappy Rockport hybrid dress/sport shoes or square-toed Kenneth Cole polished leather abominations. If you don’t wear a suit or even a sport coat every day and you’re on a budget, then consider buying a relatively cheap pair of shoes you can beat to death every day with chinos or jeans. 

For me, that’s the Clarks desert chukka boot. Easily my most-worn pair of shoes by a large margin and they’ve been going strong for well beyond a year now. The crepe sole hasn’t worn down much — surprisingly — despite the fact that the heels on many of my other dress shoes have shown some very noticeable wear quite quickly. 

I tried to think about why I wear them so much, and I came to the conclusion that they lace up and come off quickly. You don’t need to worry about a shoe horn. The suede is insanely comfortable to wear barefoot as it’s unlined. These shoes work great for those quick trips around your neighborhood and fit with the more casual element of your wardrobe with ease. 

But I don’t want to shortchange them on their legitimate rugged abilities, either. I know some people freak out when it rains and they’re wearing suede shoes. I used to, until one night I got caught at my favorite (now closed, R.I.P.) Italian restaurant in a downpour that was so bad that raindrops actually hurt when they hit you and puddles were half a foot deep. 

Needless to say, I got my shoes completely soaked in water. I stuffed some newspaper in them when I got home and let them dry out overnight. The result: the suede got incredibly softer and they actually felt better to wear. Funny how that works. 

I continue to be impressed with the fact it hasn’t fallen apart just yet, nor has the sole started coming off from the uppers. I’ve put other “cheap” shoes through less and gotten way less mileage out of them. 

For a shoe you can find from $60-$100 regularly in a wide variety of colors, I think these are a no-brainer recommendation for someone who just needs a decent-looking shoe that’s built for comfort and has classic styling for the modern casual wardrobe. 

(“Investment Pieces” is a series about the items in my wardrobe that have gotten the most usage and wear. It’s part review and part paean to the clothes I really would recommend to anybody. These aren’t luxury items or limited in availability — you can get them anywhere at anytime for a fairly reasonable price.)

02
May

White bucks roundup

With summer coming up and the Kentucky Derby this weekend, it’s about time to start breaking out the seersucker in your wardrobe. And with summer suiting comes summer casual footwear — particularly the white buck. 

They naturally go with summer clothing, like linen and seersucker suits, colored chinos and madras. I particularly like their high-contrast look against dark denim, letting the indigo stain the suede a bit. 

While some brands like Walk-Over and Mark McNairy have decided to make them more colorful, I’m still a proponent of the classic white buck. You could go with a dirty tan, which might have more year-round appeal, but there’s something I just really like about a stand-out pair in optic cocaine white. 

White bucks are typically seen as a preppy staple, with the term “white shoe firm” often referring to successful firms filled with partners who were Ivy Leaguers, as described in this column by William Safire. I suppose the thinking went that those in “black shoe” firms could only afford one pair of shoes, thus they bought the basic staple: a black pair of shoes. Those in “brown shoe” firms were more successful and able to buy pairs black and brown. And those in the elite could afford to have excess footwear, such as white shoes. 

Funny enough, suede bucks are relatively cheap nowadays in comparison to full-grain leather shoes, as Put This On points out. In fact, many see them not as shoes you purchase with the intent to wear them forever, but as disposable after they wear out. Of course, that depends how much you intend to wear them. You can spend as little as $60 with Bass, or go as high as $500 with Alden.

On the higher end, you’ll find construction with Goodyear welts and soles made of the more durable Dainite red-brick rubber. The suede will probably also be of higher quality. By contrast, the lower end will have less durable rubber and glued soles.

Personally, I have a virtually unused pair from Brooks Brothers I found on eBay on the cheap. Unfortunately, a day after wearing them sans socks resulted in the footbed lining to come unglued and curl up under the ball of my feet while walking. Frustrated, I ripped out the footbed liners and now only wear them in colder weather with socks. So, paying more for “mid-range” bucks might not necessarily mean you get something better than something on the low end. Buyer beware — I’m just glad I didn’t pay full retail for them. 

I will, however, vouch for the Walk-Over brand. I have a pair of saddle shoes from them — similar in construction with a Goodyear welt — and the lining has yet to come off the footbed with my bare feet. They typically turn up once in a while on sale, but $225 for Walk-Over bucks strikes me as a fair retail price. 

Below I’ve done a roundup of white suede bucks by price bracket, so everyone should be able to find a pair in their budget.

$100 and under:

$100 to $150:

$150 to $300:

$300 and over:

And for grins, here’s me last year wearing mine during a nice summer weekend last year:

05
Mar

Blue spring, blue summer

Ever so often, I am asked by some how my uniform experiment is progressing. I haven’t done many WIWT posts, because I simply wear the same thing each day working from home

But I do find myself leaving the apartment from time to time and even with the limited amount of items I brought with me for my temporary move out to the West Coast I’ve managed to have a variety that still sticks to the uniform concept and blue color palette I’ve chosen.

Below are a few looks I put together that I plan on wearing for the upcoming spring and summer months. The unifying item is the blue OCBD, which I think gives me a good fundamental building block to start with as I pick what else to put with it. 

Another thing I’d like to stress is that each of these items could all be mixed and matched with each other — for the most part. For me, having a unified monochromatic color scheme simplifies not only my purchases, but also with coordinating a look together without much thought. 

And while I wouldn’t expect such a restrictive style choice to be appealing to everyone, it’s worth noting that those who want to involve more colorful or varied pattern options can easily do so by removing one element and inserting another quite easily.

Swap out denim and put in a colorful pair of chinos. Remove the blue OCBD and insert a gingham shirt. Get a wild-patterned and brightly-colored sport coat instead of a blue blazer. 

Your warm-weather months need-not be just blue. 

15
Feb

WIWT: Working from home

After moving out to the San Francisco Bay Area last week, my daily commute now consists of maybe getting up off of my bed and into the living room. As you can imagine, this doesn’t necessitate clothing remotely approaching the most casual work attire.

Combine this with the area’s tech-startup culture and you instantly find yourself in a completely different mindset from when you have to get up, get dressed, get on a train and get to an office building each morning for work in the hustle-bustle of Chicago’s Loop. 

I’ve continued to wear my uniform, however, I’ve shed parts of it. I don’t put on a sport coat or blazer, nor do I knot a tie around my neck. What you see above is what I wear each day: jeans, a blue OCBD, military web belt and socks (if my toes are cold). 

Often, we leave the apartment for lunch and I’ll quickly throw on a pair of desert boots and a navy washed cotton sport coat with a silk pocket square. It’s still casual and gives me the ability to carry my loose items like my wallet, pocket calendar and phones with me around downtown Mountain View. 

It’s not something that would ever get you noticed by a street-style photographer in New York during fashion week, but it’s still stylishly practical for the environment I work and live in daily.

I know many will probably find this extremely boring. It’s not challenging. The pocket square is barely trying to interject a color into a very monochrome palette. Wouldn’t a necktie elevate this look? Why not add a more formal element or two? Anyone could do this!

And, yes, anyone could do this. That’s my point. Creating a stylish look is really simple. You don’t need a complicated wardrobe or to really do anything super “advanced” with color, patterns and fabrics. You don’t need to wear a full suit — or even a necktie — to have a cohesive, put-together look. And dressing nicely doesn’t even have to be a daily practice that interferes with your daily life and morning routine. 

If you’re living frugally on the Ramen Noodle Budget, don’t think you need to wear a new outfit everyday of the month. No one will ever expect you to never wear the same thing twice. Odds are, if they do notice that you wore the same thing twice, then you’re probably dressing a bit too outrageously to the point where people are remembering your clothing instead of you as the person. 

So, realize what you need each day and dress yourself accordingly for your situation. It might turn out that you don’t need much.

Fit details after the jump:

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18
Jan

Where to buy great neckties

I received a question from bbgahman about neckties and what some of my recommendations were:

My question is about identifying and purchasing quality ties. I’m very Ivy/Trad in tie collection, and I want to incorporate grenadine/silk knit as well as four/six/seven fold ties. Can you point me in the right direction in terms of brands, price points, and retailers? Appreciate it man.

First, I want to point you toward Derek’s necktie series at Put This On. You’ll get a great amount of background on identifying quality neckwear and some recommendations. Many of those same recommendations will overlap with my suggestions. I don’t want to retread that ground.

I’ll address each type of tie type. Keep in mind I don’t have hands-on experience with all of these and sometimes a trip to a high-end retailer like Saks, Neiman Marcus and Barney’s just to take a look at the luxury neckwear can give you a better idea of what they feel like that you just can’t get from photos online. 

Silk knits:

If you’re into shinier silk knits, then I’d recommend looking into offerings from Kent Wang ($65-75), Lands’ End ($60), Drake’s ($145-160), Ben Silver ($85), Brooks Brothers ($80) or Polo Ralph Lauren ($75-95). I’m more partial to the wider widths of Kent Wang and Lands’ End. The latter two tend to have skinnier widths. Most of these seem to be made in Italy and be rather “crunchy”.

If you’re just looking for solid basics though, you should take a look at The Knottery's line of silk knits. For $25 each, these look like an incredible deal. I've talked to Jay, one of the owners, about the choice to use a supplier from China rather than the traditional Italy or England. Frankly, it came down to the fact that to offer silk knits at their pricepoint, using a high-quality manufacturer from China was the way to go. We're all aware of the skepticism of “made in China” on clothing and accessories, however, I've yet to see a menswear blogger express their dissatisfaction with buying a silk knit tie from The Knottery. 

If you’re looking for softer, less-crunchy, less-shiny silk knits, then take a look at J.Press ($80). Both my J.Press silk knits are made in England and are a lot softer, which gives them a slightly different textured knot alongside with their 3” width. Also, there’s several silk knits at O’Connell’s ($65) that are made in Ireland. 

But say you want to get away from just solid silk knits and traditional designs. I’d check out designs from Howard Yount ($48-65), Cravatta Pelliano ($102-153) and Berg & Berg ($54-90). There’s some more non-traditional colors and designs that you might find add a particularly colorful accent.

Grenadines:

I’ve only had hands-on with Drake’s ($160) and Kent Wang ($75), so I can’t recommend personally much more than them, however, I feel that if you’re going to be buying a grenadine, then you probably can’t go wrong with any of these choices.

If you really want to specify construction, then go with Sam Hober, who’s baseline solid grenadines start at $80 and are four-fold construction standard (prices go up if you prefer different constructions, but he recommends four-folds). They also have striped and pindot fabrics available.

Other places include: New & Lingwood ($75-100) and Paul Stuart ($99). And if you’re looking for grenadines with some stripes or pindots, try A Suitable Wardrobe ($135-155).

Multi-fold ties:

This is pretty tough, to be honest. Again, I’d point you to Kent Wang ($85-95), who has six-fold ties in some pretty good staple designs. If unlined 7-fold ties are your thing, then check out Vanda Fine Clothing ($110-$135). Panta Clothing ($120) does six-fold ties. 

Seeking something Italian? Check out Shop The Finest and eHaberdasher for a variety of multi-fold neckwear that’ll be discounted to around $100. Same goes for Exquisite Trimmings, who has been getting in quite an impressive stock. You could also bide your time on eBay, looking for 7-folds from Kiton, Isaia, Barba, Borrelli, Tom Ford and other Italian-made ties. 

If you’re looking for something bespoke, Sam Hober obviously offers such construction to your specifications. Obviously, more folds, more work, more silk will cost you more money.

OK, but what do you recommend?

I really loathe to make a definitive recommendation. It depends on the shirt you’re wearing and the collar. It depends if you like thicker knots or thinner knots. Maybe you like unlined ties or perhaps thicker ties. Is multi-fold worth the premium for you? Do you want the tie within a week — shipped — or are you willing to wait for something bespoke to your specifications? 

I’ve explored a lot of options and set out to learn as much as I can about what’s out there and see what works with my style. I’ve slowly learned my preferences for things like color, width, thickness, pattern, etc. If you’re going to spend a lot of money on a tie, then it certainly helps to give it an ample amount of thought about what will work best for your wardrobe and style. 

So, consider this list “Step One” in just learning about where to buy, what is out there and what it costs. 

05
Jan

Adopting a personal uniform

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately toward moving even more closely toward a personal uniform. Pieces of this have been slowly happening the more I’ve come to find what my tastes and preferences are for things. 

When I first started to learn more about the topic of dressing nicely and #menswear in general, it was very overwhelming. Besides the depths of information you could mine via forums, blogs and sites, there was also seemingly an equivalent amount of infinite products and combinations you could purchase. 

Taking a look back through my WIWT archives, I’m really all over the place. A lot of stuff is pieced together and I was buying items an individual units, not as part of an overall cohesive effort to recognize where each piece fits into my wardrobe as a whole. 

I had a lot of shirts in different colors, which meant a lot of ties in different colors. This meant getting more pocket squares in a lot of colors. And so forth, the wardrobe expanded. I’d get an odd jacket here and there and then get a tie for the jacket. The cycle got out of control. I went from only filling up one tie hangar to needing four of them and thinking of getting a fifth. At that point, I really had to reassess what was going on. 

A large part of my wardrobe wasn’t been worn very often. I found myself going back toward the same look more often than straying from it and doing something a bit wild and different. Sure, I could put together some interesting looks and dress loudly when I felt like it, but being a rebellious personality isn’t my thing — it was a reaction toward being bored in a bureaucratic work environment and thinking, “I should do at least one fun thing today,” and coming up with odd things to wear was part of that. 

But now, things have changed in my life. The new job environment, for one, is much more relaxed and wearing my bureaucratic uniform with a noisy twist is somewhat out of place with the lifestyle I have now. This has all gotten me thinking how I want to re-approach my wardrobe and style. 

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(Image via AP)

The desire for a uniform is something that I’d been kicking around for a while. I started giving it serious thought after reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs and his experience working with designer Issey Miyake. Steve Jobs’ uniform emerged from their collaboration together to design an Apple employee uniform:

He also came to like the idea of having a uniform for himself, both because of its daily convenience (the rationale he claimed) and its ability to convey a signature style. “So I asked Issey to make me some of his black turtlenecks that I liked, and he made me like a hundred of them.” Jobs noticed my surprise when he told this story, so he showed them stacked up in the closet. “That’s what I wear,” he said. “I have enough to last for the rest of my life.”

Complimenting that passage was an essay by John Gruber who recalled the time he saw Jobs up close and noticed the obvious parts of his uniform with one striking detail: grass stains on Jobs’ shoes:

Surely, my mind raced, surely he has more than one pair of those shoes. He could afford to buy the factory that made them. Why wear this grass-stained pair for the keynote, a rare and immeasurably high-profile public appearance? My guess: he didn’t notice, didn’t care. One of Jobs’s many gifts was that he knew what to give a shit about. He knew how to focus and prioritize his time and attention. Grass stains on his sneakers didn’t make the cut.

I like the idea of only worrying about something once and never having to think much of it again. I see the hobbyist appeal of clothing and the creative outlet it gives people, too. But on the flip side of the coin it would be great to make a decision and never have to deviate from it much again. That “daily convenience” does have some value to some people. 

As I began to edit my wardrobe down mentally, I noticed the items I’d keep were meant to all just work together seamlessly. The less variation, the less time spent on the tyrannical paralysis that comes from the abundance of options and choice. 

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I also began to think about what I wanted my clothing to convey about who I was as a person. This is really cliche to say, I realize, but it’s really true about how you get judged by what you wear. I realized that if I were to pick a uniform and stick with it, then each element would have to be saying the right thing.

More importantly, it would have to be extremely versatile, able to work casually and professionally throughout the day. In addition, I wanted it to be easily modifiable throughout the seasons in a simple manner. It also needed to give me the functionality I wanted for my EDC of items I carried with me. Finally, each element either had to be something I could easily stock up on or would last me a significant amount of time (maybe even a lifetime). I didn’t want to find myself wearing out an item and then not being able to easily replace it. 

With this in mind, I thought about other people well-known for the uniform they wear and a few came to mind immediately. The first was Thom Browne, who distinctively wears a grey suit, with a few red, white and blue accents (namely, to maintain his branding, but they are also meant to introduce color on a neutral palette):

(Image via Hypebeast)

Now, say what you will about how Browne plays with the suit’s classic proportions or his more “out there” fashion designs, but the takeaway for me was that he recognizes that if you start with a neutral base, you can inject a small amount of color that will be magnified since it’s surrounded by so much blandness around it. Importantly, wearing shades of the same color without much contrast also makes the color in your face stand out more noticeably. 

I also thought of Bill Cunningham, who has made of career of documenting street style through photography. One of the interesting parts of the documentary about his life (“Bill Cunningham: New York”) was where he talked about his humble uniform. It’s simple: he picks up a workman’s jacket in France and wears it simply for its functionality found in all the pockets which he uses to store his photography gear. 

(Image via PMc)

What you wear should be functional. I hadn’t even really thought to use my blazer pockets to hold my stuff until I saw this video featuring Sid Mashburn, who explained that he uses it to carry everything he needs throughout the day. Nowdays, I can’t imagine not wearing a blazer just for that reason. So, whatever I ended up choosing would have to give me that functionality throughout the year. Seasons can change as can actual items being worn, but the functionality should remain consistent. 

When it comes to uniforms that balanced casualness and formality, I thought also of Andy Warhol’s semi-well-known uniform of a blazer, repp-striped tie and blue jeans. I think this came pretty close to where I wanted to move towards. You’re arguably more dressed up than just wearing a shirt and jeans, but denim also means you’re not too over-dressed for an occasion. 

(Image via LIFE)

Some would consider Warhol’s uniform a bit of an ironic statement to adopt an aesthetic from the Ivy-League look. I’m not much of a historian or expert on the artist’s life, but I do know that I really like wearing my navy blazers the best and most days at some point I’m in my pair of Levi’s 501s and an OCBD. In the end, I’m probably heavily borrowing from this look, which was borrowed to begin with itself. 

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Here’s the uniform I’ve picked.

In truth, it’s not ultra restrictive as you might think. There’s still a lot of variance and I’m keeping some items on hand still for certain occasions. But on the whole, this is what I’ll be wearing Monday thru Friday.

Shirt: Blue button-down collar dress shirt — While white shirts look nice and clean, I think they wash me out a bit. Also, I wanted to move toward a blue palette and this is the base layer to build upon. The button-down collar is less formal than a spread collar shirt might be and works best at time when layering is needed from a v-neck sweater or a tie is not worn. For most of the year, I’ll be wearing OCBDs from Brooks Brothers, however, last year I discovered that I really needed summer shirting. To solve this problem, I’ll be getting some MTM linen-cotton blend shirts for something lighter. 

Neckwear: Navy neckties — Wearing and knotting a tie is one of my favorite things, so I think this is a great place to have a variety of options. I’m going to be sticking to simple patterns (dots, bar stripes) and the simple palette of only including white and/or red as secondary colors used. I don’t want anything too complicated or flashy.

Pocket squares: Coordinating with the tie I choose to wear will be much simpler now, but I still would like variation to exist. I have two Kent Wang squares with contrast trim in blue and white, another white linen square, two white linen squares with red floral designs for summer and a E.G. Cappelli silk square that’s got a paisley geometric set of designs in blue, red and gold. Again, I’m sticking with elements of red, white and blue that could easily go with the rest of my uniform. 

Jacket: Navy blazer — This was a simple one to pick. I have several for different times of the year in worsted wool, flannel and an unlined tropical wool one for summer. I have another linen-cotton unlined one for summer weekends with a faint light-blue pinstripe and a cashmere one for cooler temperatures. I have a few “blogger blue” ones to also rotate in, too, during warmer weather. Regardless, the idea is to keep my jacket centered on the shade of blue. It’s simple to work with and looks great. 

Pants: Dark denim — It’s comfortable and fits great. Again, it keeps with the blue palette, too. My day-to-day is a bit too casual for needing grey trousers five days a week now like before.

Footwear: Unsure — I’m not quite sure what to pick and will be giving this a lot more thought. Regardless, I’ll be rotating in the various shoes in my wardrobe for now until I really have something I feel strongly about. 

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I’ll also be keeping several other wardrobe items on hand beyond just the elements of my uniform. As great as a uniform is, it’s never going to be batting 100% for you in all situations. 

Here’s the rest of what I’m keeping on hand:

Grey wool trousers: one tropical wool, one mid-weight wool, one flannel — At some point, I imagine I’ll need to wear trousers for slightly more formal occasions. My fix is to simply have a trouser on hand for each season. 

Worsted wool suit: dark grey, navy — When the blazer and trousers won’t cut it for formality or for business meetings, I’ll be needing a suit. I’ll also be keeping two spread collar dress shirts (white for formal events and evenings, blue for business and daytime). 

Sweaters: solid v-necks in lambwool, tennis sweater, chunky knit cardigan — The v-necks will be for layering in colder weather (one grey, one burgundy). The tennis sweater is also a great layering piece and can be great for milder weather when you might take your jacket off. The chunky knit cardigan is for when I just want to be warm around the house or running to do errands.

OCBDs: pink, white, ecru, red & white university stripes — There’s no way I’m going to give up my Brooks Brothers button-down shirts. They’re great for wearing casually and I’ll be wearing them on weekends when I want to do something a bit different. 

Seasonal suits: seersucker, grey donegal tweed — These are great because they’re more casual, yet weather appropriate. Plus, they have the added benefit of being able to be broken up with the jacket and trousers worn separately. I’ll probably put these to use on the weekends as well. 

Tuxedo: midnight blue dinner suit — Because sometimes you have the opportunity to wear black tie and shouldn’t miss the opportunity to do so. Also includes the obvious tuxedo shirt, black bowtie, cufflinks, solid white silk pocket square, black over-the-calf socks and black captoe balmorals. 

Reds: red gingham button-down shirt, red go-to-hell chinos — For the most casual of days when I feel like having fun. Both still fit nicely into my blue palette. 

Certainly, within this realm there are wardrobe staples that I’m glad to have and would never get rid of, even at my most minimalist wardrobe state. Others are a necessity to have on hand for the job. Additional elements are seasonally incorporated because of dropping temperatures. And some could be shed, but I’d miss them terribly. 

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And this is where attempt at a uniform begins — after an entirely too long of a thought process and even longer blog post. It is all a journey and experiment. I’m pushing myself toward one direction and away from another. It’s still much more narrow than it was before and a lot more focused.

There’s the added benefit of also being much more focused when it comes to future purchases, where all I have to do is ask myself, “Is this part of the uniform?” Interestingly, the only remaining purchases I need to make are MTM shirts for summer, otherwise, I own all of the elements now. 

I’ll likely be picking up a necktie here or there if I find ones that really strike me. If I decide on a footwear uniform, I’ll make a purchase in that direction, too. But for now, it’s good to know that I’m really set with my wardrobe each morning I wake up to do work and go about my day. 

I won’t say this is something everyone should do or that it’s even all that interesting or that it’ll make you the best-dressed person alive or that your uniform should look like mine. I will say that it’s for me and where I’m at in my life and I know it’ll work well. 

14
Dec

Review: Howard Yount lambswool sweaters

If you live in a place that has a “real” winter, then I think that owning several sweaters for layering is a fairly essential wardrobe consideration, especially so if you’re wearing blazers or sport coats.

Of course, I was woefully neglectful of having them in my wardrobe for quite some time. I spent most of the fall looking at options and debating how much I wanted to spend and from whom I wanted to buy them from. I teetered back and forth between fabric types (merino wool, lambswool, cashmere, cashmere-wool blends, etc.).

But I always came back to one option and finally got around to buying two v-neck lambswool sweaters from Howard Yount.

The verdict: I shouldn’t have waited so long — and neither should you if they fit your budget and wardrobe needs. The price of $99 is extremely fair.

The fabric quality feels substantial. I don’t feel like it’s something I have to treat with gloved hands like cashmere, but I don’t feel like it’s lacking in superb softness either.

The fit is trim to the body (I’m a 38”-chest and ordered a size small) and hugs the chest nicely if you want to layer it under a jacket.

And, yes, they’re warm. I bought the burgundy and heather grey sweaters — and I really want to buy several more.

So, how do I plan on wearing them? Here’s two examples.

The burgundy looks great against a navy blazer and grey trousers. I’ve put it over a ecru OCBD and a wool-knit tie from The Knottery. This is a nice, conservative color scheme that can go just about anywhere.

For my grey sweater, I put it over a blue university stripe OCBD and with a polka-dot blue tie. White denim? Sure, why not? And a mossy green cashmere sport coat on top. It almost feels a bit monochrome and a bit out of season until you get a closer look at the textures. I think of it as a lighter, brighter contrast to all the super dark, black and grey colors you see worn in winter (seriously, does everyone have to have a black wool or nylon coat?) that is slightly more casual.

11
Oct

Thoughts on man bracelets? Ok for work or no? Where to get them that don't cost a ton?

- Asked by Anonymous

Personally, I’m not really a fan and generally don’t know how appropriate they would be in my workplace (then again, I do stuff like go sockless and wear coral-red chinos from time to time, so make of that what you will).

As for your workplace, tough to say without more details. At a law firm or banking institution, wearing one might fall outside of the more conservative atmosphere. Anywhere else though, perhaps it’d be fine if kept “toned down” and you weren’t wearing six inches of them up your arms.

For a dissenting opinion, dieworkwear thinks bracelets can be worn conservatively. He also has a roundup of where to buy some leather bracelets.

Still, I think his list is definitely on the expensive end of the spectrum. A cheaper, but decent-looking alternative would be these Horween shell cordovan woven bracelets from Hellbrand Leatherworks for $55.

A quick search on Etsy also turns up Joe V. Leather and Born in Brooklyn. There’s also Corter and Hollows Leather.

For bead bracelets, I’ve previously mentioned BrryBnds and HomerJ.

ADDING: dieworkwear mentioned in the comments that you should also check out Put This On’s “bracelets” tag for more options he’s found, too.

11
Oct

Review: Charles Tyrwhitt military captoe boots

Back in July, I bought these military captoe boots from Charles Tyrwhitt on super deep discount ($160), but hadn’t really gotten a chance to break them in and use them enough to feel comfortable reviewing them.

After a series of rainy days a couple of weeks back, I used them quite often and I’d say they’re definitely getting the job done and for the price I have no regrets about the purchase.

The facts on these boots are pretty straightforward: Goodyear welt, Dainite rubber soles, pebble full-grain leather and made in England. Finding shoes for $160 that fit that description isn’t usually easy to do, let alone a pair of boots.

In terms of comfort, it did take quite a few wears to fully break them in. The first time I tried lacing them up all the way to the top and tied them tight around my ankles. Well, my ankles could not bend at all which made walking painful and pretty much impossible. So, I loosened up my lacing at the top and now over time the leather’s broken in to allow for tighter lacing.

The walnut color is definitely a favorite of mine at the moment (currently own five shoes in that color), but the currently available pair is in a much darker brown. It depends on your preference, obviously, but I think either works well with most trousers and jeans.

I have noticed that over time the pebble grain has smoothed a bit along the toes. I’m not sure what this means in terms of the quality of the leather, but it’s something you should know. Also, I’ve yet to give these a polish and see how it reacts with some conditioner, but the leather from the beginning did feel quite stiff and now has begun to wear much easier.

Initially, I’d recommend some slightly thicker socks. I did wear some cotton socks, wool socks and some thick socks with them at various times, and can definitely say thick socks felt better. I have some mildly skinnier feet than the traditional medium “D” widths, but not quite enough to be a “C”, so thicker socks helped in the first few wears before it was broken in. Now, it’s gotten easy enough to wear with thinner socks, but there’s certainly room in the boot for thick wool socks come winter.

My primary reason for purchasing these boots was to deal with the slicker surfaces. They’ve held up well enough in rain and I imagine they’ll do well enough in the winter on ice. While I wouldn’t call them “rugged” in comparison to a pair of L.L.Bean boots, they’re probably going to be just fine for a mild snow, which is fine for my work commute.

In terms of pricing, obviously $160 is a good deal, but right now they’re selling for £179, which is about $280. Sub-$300, I think they’re a pretty good deal, but Charles Tyrwhitt does have a history of reducing prices throughout the season. Frankly, it’s up to you and how badly you need a pair — or if you want to take your chances and see if they have your size once they start hitting clearance prices. Just remember to buy from the U.K. site — not the U.S. site — because the prices are cheaper. Also, you should use the U.K. site and size down a full size from your U.S. size to get the U.K. size that fits. I’m a 10.5D US and got a 9.5F UK. For some dumb reason, their size charts only tell you to size down a half size, which to me seems way off.

For comparison’s sake, I stopped yesterday into the Allen Edmonds store located in downtown Chicago to see how the two’s boots compared. The AEs seemed to have a mildly better leather quality just based on my limited touch and handling of them. I wasn’t so much a fan of the lug sole on the Bayfield boot in comparison to the Dainite sole on the CTs — the profile just seemed off and too rugged.

Bottom line: Definitely get a pair if you can wait until they’re on sale. What price you think they’re worth is going to be fairly subjective, but I’d probably pay upward of $250 for these — especially if you’re looking for a Dainite sole over a leather sole.

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badscene replied:

What are your thoughts on the toe-box? It looks a little squared off in the picture.

From above, they don’t strike me as squared off, nor do they feel that way when I wear them.

06
Oct

Megalist: Etsy menswear finds

For quite some time, I’ve been slowly curating a list of menswear items on Etsy that I think look pretty exceptional. While there’s a few semi-well-known Etsy stores (listed below), there’s also a lot of random items out there you more-or-less stumble across through random searches.

Of course, this is mostly reflective of my personal tastes. Still, maybe you’ll find something you’ll enjoy.

Great Etsy stores:

Neckties:

Outerwear:

Sweaters & Knits:

Footwear:

Blazers & Sport Coats:

Trousers:

Luggage and bags:

04
Oct

Long time fan my friend, I may have to drive up to Chicago for a meetup just to meet you fancy #menswear Godfathers. Anyway, I'm wondering about wingtip price points. I fully understand, embrace, and endorse the common #menswear practice of buying quality that will last long... however I must live within my means at the time being (20 year old university student). Can you recommend any wingtips around $75-125? If there are none worth the buy, I understand that too. Appreciate your time!

- Asked by bbgahman

If you ever drive up, I’m sure we’d all be more than happy to welcome you.

As for finding cheap — yet good — wingtips, I’m going to suggest you follow this link to eBay and search for a pair of Allen Edmonds in your size and snipe bids like SEAL Team 6. Just narrow the search filter by size and do a sort by “newly listed” and go back through the entirety of search results. Once a day check back on the same search string and you’ll see all the new pairs that were just listed.

You might find a few pairs to add to your watch list (or maybe that you can buy instantly). Just be sure to check that the soles aren’t too terribly worn out. I’ve bought barely worn Allen Edmonds on there for around $50 before. You just have to babysit on the final seconds of the bid and strike. Takes time and patience, but that’s where you’ll probably find your best deals.

Now, if you want to go brand new and not sit around, then that’s a bit harder. Bump your price range up to $150 and get over to Charles Tyrwhitt. Make sure when prompted you stay on the U.K. site, as the American site has higher prices. All the prices will be in GBP, but when you do the conversions to USD, the prices are actually cheaper than the same item’s counterpart on the U.S. site (yeah, I don’t know either, but they still ship to the U.S. on the U.K. site).

Right now there’s a few choices for 99 GBP ($153.03). You’ve got a merlot longwing with a Dainite sole and brown captoe brogue. There’s a few other similarly priced options, too, worth looking at.

For sizing, take your U.S. shoe size and subtract 1 (ie: US 10.5 is a UK 9.5). If you’re a wide foot, then use the “G” fitting. Please don’t pay attention to CT’s size conversion chart as they don’t tell you to subtract a full size from the U.S. size to get the U.K. equivalent — they tell you to only subtract 0.5 of a size. (This is another reason to NOT use the U.S. site, as they’ll send you the wrong-sized shoe.)

CT’s got free shipping right now, so that’ll also save you money, too. I’ve got one of their boots (review tomorrow) and like it a lot. Their shoes are Goodyear welted and made of full-grain calf. At $150, I think they’re a really good deal.

03
Oct

Question: “Should I buy or rent a tuxedo?”

I received this question from an anonymous reader just now. In short, my answer is “buy”.

This is a fairly common question and lots of other blogs and sites have covered this in-depth before. Having personally been in a situation where I’ve rented a tuxedo from the likes of Men’s Warehouse, I eventually decided to buy a tuxedo on eBay.

If you don’t have the time or patience to wait around on eBay to find that perfect vintage tuxedo for a steal of a deal, then you’re going to be reduced to the retail options. If you have money to blow, I’m sure you know where to go buy a fine tuxedo off-the-rack. But if you’re on the cheap end, then here’s probably the best option I’ve found: Tommy Hilfiger’s trim-fit tuxedo separates on Amazon (jacket & pants).

The jacket is a one-button, shawl-collared tuxedo that’s dual-vented and 100-percent wool. Buying the pants and jacket should run you about $300 together. Keep in mind that most rentals will cost you around $200 and will look like crap.

You’ll probably need a tuxedo shirt. There’s a lot of options out there, but if you have the time, then I’d consider getting one that’s MTM — like from BiasedCut. Cufflinks can be found all over the place at different prices. I would just do a quick search on eBay or Etsy for some mother-of-pearl links. For a bowtie, I bought mine from The Tie Bar.

About The Silentist

A menswear blog on finding your personal style, written by Kiyoshi Martinez.

I work at Khaki's of Carmel and live in the Monterey Bay area. Formerly from Chicago.

E-mail me, I'm fairly nice: thesilentist@gmail.com

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