No Tie Required

I was watching a recent television segment on dandysim. The piece featured the book, I Am Dandy, previously posted here. It struck me magnificent that these men can adhere to a core principle of dressing so fervently day in, day out. While I appreciate the devotion to all things elegant, the weather is a brutal reminded of practicality. I’m of the school of thought that suggests one needn’t be dressed to nines on every occasion; that style is often a representation of a range of life’s adventures.

This brings me to the T-shirt and jeans phenomenon. Popularized in America, yet maligned due to its casualness, the simple combination may not be the most appropriate choice for white cloth dinners, but it, this duo of informality, has its place.  Casual summer evenings outside are, naturally, the first to come to mind. To ensure its effectiveness, there needs to exist two core components, which are often stressed on this blog: fit and proportion.

T-shirt, jeans by Uniqlo, Jack Purcell sneakers by Converse

T-shirt, jeans by Uniqlo, Jack Purcell sneakers by Converse

The T-shirt with a hemline not far below that of the jeans and a sleeve somewhere above the elbow is ideal. Accompanying that, jeans that are neither skinny nor baggy. The more fittings the casual pants helps them escape that informality, just a bit. Following that similar cut, chinos can be easily interchanged with equal aplomb. The ease of a sneaker versus a formal shoe adds to the decidedly relaxed nature of said combination of pieces.

Polo by Uniqlo, Chinos by J.Crew, sneakers by Converse

Polo by Uniqlo, Chinos by J.Crew, sneakers by Converse

The idea behind this is, when clothes fit a certain way, one mustn’t always worry about dressing too much. I apologize to no one when I say a jacket and tie are not required everywhere and, can actually look quite foolish in some settings. Dressing is about expanding and evolving. This also means moving beyond a limiting formulaic approach.

I’ve nothing but respect and admiration for those who stay firm to the elements of dressing. I simply suggest to ditch the neckties every now and again.

Cause For Celebration

Warmer temperatures are a now a daily reality. Naturally, a shift to more summer-weight  appropriate clothing is in order. The idea behind dressing well during the warmer months isn’t wearing less clothing, but rather lighter pieces.

I find it refreshing, summer weight pieces, that it. Overall, the colors echo the more jovial mood the next few months have us in. Outdoor activities abound, as do World Cup gatherings, cookouts (hopefully lacking prepackaged patties), park concerts and vacations. Dressing well should fall in line.

Jacket by Acquaviva, shirt by Piatelli

Jacket by Acquaviva, shirt by Piatelli, pocket square by Drake’s of London

One mustn’t wear white bucks and seersucker (thought it is a smart combination) to truly embody summer. Unlined jackets and trousers in a variety of linen and cotton blends are undoubtedly the most aggressive ally against the draining heat. These fabrics breathe a bit more easily that their wool counterparts. The quarter lined jacket, above and below, is a lightweight wool. The minimal lining aids in the airiness necessary to survive during the next few months.

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In addition to the lightness of fabrics, the color scheme is equally lighter and, perhaps, brighter than any fall offerings. The concept being that one is shedding the burdens of sub-zero temperatures. The color scheme is the same, but the hues are softer, like this blue jacket.

Jacket by Gant, shirt by Kamakura, tie by Polo RL, hat by Scala, cotton trousers by J.Crew

Jacket by Gant, shirt by Kamakura, tie by Polo RL, hat by Scala, cotton trousers by J.Crew, bag by Want Les Essentiels de la Vie, shoes by Howard Yount

The jacket is a cotton/linen blend and is quarter lined. The weight and shade of blue truly make this a spring/summer piece. A shade or two darker and the feel of the jacket would seem to heavy for the season, despite the weight. The pale grey cotton trousers echo the top half by playing into that softer tone, while still proving enough contrast.

Details like patch pockets and white buttons also add that casual element. For the more conservative circles, the essential components are the same: fabric choice, weight and lining, yet without the less formal choices.

Go sockless will add to the less restrictive nature of the season and will keep you a bit cooler. Linen and cotton, even shantung ties won’t keep you cooler, but they are a bit more fun than the standard printed silk varieties.

Some men chose to bulk up from January to now, seeing summer as an opportunity to display their toned physiques in tanks tops and shorts. That’s fine. If you’re not toned by now though, that ship has most likely sailed, and you may just have to rely on your wit, unlined fresco jacket and linen slippers to woo the fairer sex.

Either way, it’s a time to relax, even for a short while. That’s cause for celebration.

The #Menswear Uniform

The combination of a navy jacket and grey trousers has been utilized for decades. Young men who have, in part, received their sartorial education from the internet (myself included) have learned to appreciate this most essential of combinations. I’ve previously posted about the two powerhouse shades in menswear, for good reason. The pairing combines two staples that, more or less, always work together.

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The combination can be subdued or, with a change of underpinnings, a bit more bold. The backdrop of two neutral colors allows one’s creativity to roam with it comes to the furnishings. The two solids ground even the busiest shirt and tie, not that I recommend pairing two hectic patterns together.

Jacket (part of suit) by Suit Supply, shirt by Kamakura, tie by Drake's, Fleur De Lis lapel pin by By Elias

Jacket (part of suit) by Suit Supply, shirt by Kamakura, tie by Drake’s, Fleur De Lis lapel pin by By Elias

A myriad of tie patterns would pair nicely here, but the plaid was the winner of this day. DSC09811

Double monk straps and green herringbone socks gave a lift to otherwise understated pale grey cotton trouser. For a more formal event, a darker brown captoe would be at home with these trousers.

Shoes by Howard Yount, socks by Barney's NY

Shoes by Howard Yount, socks by Barney’s NY

I understand the desire to be more experimental with one’s wardrobe, and I encourage it. However, it’s comforting to always have a firm backup option when nothing else works or, if you’re like George Constanza and dress according to more, you feel more subdued.

 

Spring, About Time

The weather has warmed up a bit here in NYC. Though it’s not what I would call warm, most have done away with coats and scarves in favor of pieces like the transitional jacket. This past week is the clearest indication that spring, previously tucked away, is ready to makes its full appearance. Needless to say, I brought out the spring summer wardrobe, though slightly prematurely.

To celebrate this near-tepid temperature, out came an unlined linen jacket and the first appearance of ankles.

Jacket by Z Zegna, shirt and chinos by Uniqlo, belt by Martin Dingman, shoes by Alden, pocket square by Drake's

Jacket by Z Zegna, shirt and chinos by Uniqlo, belt by Martin Dingman, shoes by Alden, pocket square by Drake’s

The #menswear uniform of blue and grey doesn’t have to be dull nor do spring colors need to be overpowering. Everything here is muted, but works well together. The Drake’s square, via The Armoury, and the By Elias Fleur de lis pin both add a little lift that is always needed.

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The lightweight chinos in this neutral pale grey will work with a multitude of seasonal jackets. Uniqlo chinos are affordable enough to purchase a few pair for the season. The anchor pieces; shoes and jacket are considerably more important and should be the focal point of one’s budget. Mine, these well worn Aldens, are my go to for every casual day. The rolled, rather than cuffed, bottom is more casual, in-keeping with the informal nature of this day’s attire.

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The shoes are most certainly money well spent as they work just as well in the winter as they do in summer. Perhaps the only addition I would make is a lighter loafer.

Now, as I mentioned, the level of spring-ness to this was a little early. Fortunately, a cotton scarf served me well for the (mild) gusts of wind. Everyday I’m learning about this city’s deceptive weather forecast.

Photos by Bevin Elias

Photos by Bevin Elias

Speaking of, said forecast shows some sunny days ahead. With that clearance, the hunt begins now for an unlined double breasted navy jacket.

 

The Transitional Jacket

Spring is a tricky time for the clothing enthusiasts. While it’s no longer cold, it is still cool outside. Therein is the dilemma of either carrying a coat, which is only required for morning, or tough it out for the day. Men more versed to the shifting elements than I have long looked to lighter weight spring coats and trenches with which to keep out the seasons winds. Herein enters the transition jacket. Mine is a 100% cotton trench from master of minimalism A.P.C.

Coat by A.P.C., chinos by Uniqlo, Chukka bots by J.Cew

Coat by A.P.C., chinos by Uniqlo, Chukka boots by J.Cew

It’s light enough for the seasonal temperatures, yet still provides warmth for a windy day. It has also doubled as a raincoat for the past two months. Said rainy day service will continue for this coat until I spot something unlined for the brutal summer that I’m certain is to come.

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Photos by Bevin Elias

What I especially love about this coat, aside from the simplicity, is that it looks good with just about everything; jeans, chinos, wool trousers. A few wrinkles don’t hurt either. The detailing suggests its utilitarian roots, though it’s just as home in the city.

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Neutralize With a Basic

To be clear, blue, burgundy and grey is no revolutionary pairing of tones. Quite the opposite, as each color pairs with one or a combination of the other two.  Grey suits, especially those in more pale tones, always strike a pleasing balance when worn with shoes in the burgundy/cordovan/merlot/aubergine family. Likewise, the same can be said of a blue suit in a shade slightly lighter than navy. As an aside, two years later and I’m still not certain what color this Suit Supply double breasted is below.

What may be underrated is the choice of hosiery, or sock, for the less pretentious. Men are inundated with imagery from fashion magazines telling them to amp up their sock game, that solids are dull. To counter this, the stuffy, rubric obsessed internet style gestapo insist that socks must coordinate precisely with trousers. No need to go full on bold or entirely dull though. I believe it was Glenn O’Brien who dictated that socks should match one’s personality and not any specific component of one’s attire. If it wasn’t Mr. O’Brien, then it should be.

OTC socks by Brioni, monk straps by Sergio Rossi

OTC socks by Brioni, monk straps by Sergio Rossi

I was pleased with the result of a patterned grey sock paired with an almost royal blue suit (see, still trying to place this color) and burgundy single monk straps recently. The shade of blue was not entirely business, which complimented the more jaunty nature of the shoe. The grey sock neither coordinated nor picked up any other colors of the day, yet it provided a nice harmony.

Suit by Suit Supply

Suit by Suit Supply

I find myself over thinking the minute details, only to reach for a basic at the last moment. This day was no different. A sock in burgundy, blue or green (the color of the day’s necktie) would have proved too obvious and less creative.

Shirt by Kamakura, tie by Polo Ralph Lauren, Fleur de lis pin by By Elias, pocket square by Bergdorf Goodman

Shirt by Kamakura, tie by Polo Ralph Lauren, Fleur de lis pin by By Elias, pocket square by Bergdorf Goodman

 

A fun sock needn’t be multi-striped or whimsical, so long as it is complimentary. Grey neutralizes the high shine of the shoe and the tone of suit.

Budget Minded Shopping

Question from a reader:

I stumbled across your blog almost 6 months ago and am consistently impressed with the style, wit and humbleness you display. It is also quite refreshing to get a cultural view that’s not always displayed. Keep up the good work.
My problem is my budget. I live in Detroit, Michigan and am the proud father of 8 kids. Do you have any advice for someone who loves fine quality over horrible quantity?

Thanks,

Kevin W.

Firstly, thank you Kevin. I can’t begin to appreciate what it takes to raise 8 children, so I commend you.

Secondly, and this applies to many men, looking good does not need to be costly. Though I stress buying the best products and garments you can afford, I fully recognize the very real decisions that many family men have. There are a multitude of choices regarding shopping on a budget.

In order to keep the focus on quality I suggest coming up with a checklist of pieces you need or, more accurately, would like to have. This will streamline the shopping process and keep you away from flashy clearance signs.

Buy fewer pieces and purchase infrequently. If your clothing budget is small, it’s more beneficial to spend the bulk of your budget on pieces that you will get the most mileage from. For instance, purchase one navy jacket or a  good pair of shoes, rather than several items of lesser quality. I know from personal experience, $200 goes a long way at H&M but, most of the pieces aren’t designed for longevity. Sure, you may feel a temporary sense of euphoria walking around the mall with massive bags full of new gear but, that high fades after half your purchase shrinks in the dryer. The quality is less than desirable. It’s actually quite shitty, to be blunt. Do that and you’ll have wasted your money within a year’s time. The same $200 can be spent on a decent jacket at a better department store, which has been marked down several times.

This has been repeated but, it’s worth it to mention again: eBay and your local consignment stores have many good finds, often buried. Incredible deals can be found but, it does take work. I’ve sold several pieces of mine on eBay, all of which were well taken care of. I only hope the new owners are as kind to the garments as I. Ebay is good for suits and jackets from well respected names the same goes for shoes, from companies like Alden and Allen Edmonds. Research the companies and the seller’s reputation. Know your size and ask questions.

Still yet, for brand new pieces, patience is a must. Department stores will gradually mark down items from the previous season to make room for new merchandise, we all know this game. The salesman warns you that this is the last piece, since his paycheck depends on such deceit. You don’t owe him anything, wait for the markdown. This is the most opportune time to snag a good basic. Last season’s grey suit will look just as good next season, provided it’s appropriately tailored. Again, the idea is to perhaps only get one or two pieces, so as to not sacrifice quality. Perhaps you may only be able to get yourself one piece a few times a year. Perhaps it’s just once a year. The quality pieces add up though. Only got one great jacket? Wear the hell out of it, get your Barack I-just-killed-bin laden-strut on and own it.

There are some avenues to cut corners though. For dress shirts, companies like Charles Tyrwhitt and T.M. Lewin produce well-fitting, very reasonably priced dress shirts, for at low at $30. This is often a better deal and of better quality than any department store will have.

A white French cuff shirt  is a necessity.

A white French cuff shirt is a necessity.

Listen, I own $35 shirts from T.M. Lewin and $600 Brioni shirts, no one knows the difference. To be fair, one may feel better, but they both get the same wear. Same the money here.

For ties and accessories, the Tie Bar is hands down the best route at $15 each.

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If you’re on a budget, save the money for jackets and shoes. There’s no need for $100+ neckties and pocket squares.

Ultimately, looking good makes us feel good. Money should not be an impediment, though many men use it an excuse. But it needn’t be so. Having a clear idea of what you want, knowing when and where to shop and how to cut corners are the components of dressing well on a budget. Ultimately, it ain’t about how much it cost. How the garment fits and how you carry yourself determines how good it looks. And, more importantly, how good you feel.

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