Final Run for Winter

Despite the calendar’s indication of its arrival, true spring weather has yet to make an appearance here in NYC. Mild days make a coat unnecessary, yet a thin worsted fabric isn’t enough to combat the elements. Herein comes the final go around for the flannel suits, tweed jackets and trousers.

Ideally, these pieces should not see the outside of a closet for another several months. However, right now, they’re suitable and provide just enough warmth. The seasonal weights are the same pieces with which to begin winter, on those same cool autumn days.

The substantial fabrics provide enough of a shield against a cool, not cold, but cool day. This Harris Tweed jacket is damn near bulletproof. It’s beefy and thick, enough to stand up to both a little wind and calm 50-60 degree days, but not actual bullets.

IMG_5848

Hat by Fine & Dandy, Harris Tweed jacket by Bloomingdale’s private label, shirt by Kamakura, tie by Ike Behar, trousers by Uniqlo

All the other pieces-flannel trousers, cashmere tie, wool cap-keep the textures consistent throughout. The button down collar shirt is also a more casual option, befitting such a sporty jacket.

IMG_5847

For a day full of meetings, I paired the same cashmere tie with a flannel, chalkstripe double breasted suit. Again, the fabric was heavy enough for a cool day, rendering a coat superfluous.

IMG_5822

Flannel, chalk-stripe double breasted suit by Burberry, shirt by Piatelli, same tie as above, black monk straps by Salvatore Ferragamo

Of course, my hope is that I can finally ditch the heavier pieces and transition into actual spring. By I, I mean we, collectively. I’m certain everyone yearns for the real spring. The kind the fashion magazines drone on about with gingham check shirts as the ‘It’ piece. The sort where the colored chinos, linen jackets and untanned ankles see daylight after a dreary few months. Pardon my puzzled look below, I’m merely reminiscing about the Miami spring.

IMG_5823

Scissor pin by By Elias, unbranded pocket square

Until the temperatures reach a consistent high above 65 (which is, somehow, refreshingly warm), I’ll grudgingly give one more final lap to the winter weight pieces.

Pocket Square in the Overcoat?

An outfit awash in grey or navy can become dull. On the dreary days, when a topcoat  or overcoat is needed in either aforementioned shades, even more so. A little pop of color in the overcoat/topcoat breast pocket does wonders in bringing a dark fit to life, often complimenting one’s scarf and hat. I’ve come to appreciate a little lift over the past month. Everyday, there’s a little something occupying my pocket, to punch things up a bit. Ideally, I should add wintery pocket squares or those of like texture. I’ve tried colorful squares, but white is the most unobtrusive.

IMG_5777

Cap by Fine & Dandy, coat and scarf by J.Crew, pocket square by Ikire Jones, pants by Faconnable, gloves by Brioni, shoes by Howard Yount.

 The topic is met with harsh critique by the proponents of the clean breast pocket. They call the addition of a square affected. These are often the same gentlemen who devote hours upon hours debating the merits of grenadine versus satin neckties for evening functions on a number of forums. I find nothing affected about the five extra seconds it takes to add a pocket square into my topcoat breast pocket. Since no actual style police exist, I’ll continue experimenting.
Hat by Weatherproof, topcoat by J.Crew, vintage scarf (from my grandmother), trousers by Uniqlo, Wholecuts by Santoni, Gloves by Brioni, briefcase by British Belt Company, Umbrella by Kent Wang.

Hat by Weatherproof, topcoat by J.Crew, vintage scarf (from my grandmother), trousers by Uniqlo, Wholecuts by Santoni, Gloves by Brioni, briefcase by British Belt Company, Umbrella by Kent Wang.

In the winter, any reason to lighten up the mood in a good one. In my experimenting, I’ve found white works the best, just as with jackets. White doesn’t clash with one’s choice of scarf, but still breaks up the darkness a bit.
Cap by Fine & Dandy, coat by J.crew, suit by Burberry, shirt by Piatelli, tie by Ike Behar

Cap by Fine & Dandy, coat by J.crew, suit by Burberry, shirt by Piatelli, tie by Ike Behar.

For the skeptical, start with something simple. You just may end up appreciating the pop of color.

The Armoury NYC

In the face of mounting competition from large department stores, and fashion brands with big advertising budgets, the local tailor and menswear haberdashery has undoubtedly lost valuable real estate, though not its cachet. The recent expansion of one Hong Kong outpost, The Armoury, into New York City is a welcome  reprieve, given the trend.

IMG_5840

As a new New Yorker, I’ve continued my adventures exploring menswear shops around the city. I’d previously only read of this shop. The first U.S. outpost opened a few months ago in the TriBeCa neighborhood of New York City. Revered among menswear enthusiasts for offering handmade clothing, Goodyear welted shoes (Saint Crispin’s, Carmina) and accessories from smaller brands (Fox Umbrellas, Drake’s ties and scarves), The Armoury is one of the few shops that gets it right. It is a quietly masculine shop that prides itself on the quality of its garments.

IMG_5837

Understated yet inviting, the approach is decidedly classic; both in the exterior representation and interior inventory. Here the emphasis is on the superior construction and fit. A well-informed, unobtrusive, yet passionate staff, makes a visit to The Armoury a necessity.

IMG_5844

During my visit,  staff members were discussing, of all things, which band they would all join, given the choice. Without hesitation, I was asked to name mine. To which I readily replied, “I’d jam with Thelonious Monk.” Given the opportunity, plus, of course, some form of musical ability. That was met with nodding approval, I might add. When the discussion moved toward clothing, the gentlemen were more than accommodating, enthusiastically answering my questions and showing me merchandise. It was clear, they were just as keen on educating me, more so than selling.

IMG_5843

The clothing simply speaks. For example: A pair of trousers from Ambrosi Napoli, run by Salvatore Ambrosi, caught my attention. At the mere mention, Jeff went upstairs, got a pair and proceeded to educate me about details like the hand finishing both inside and outside, as well as the various fabric options. It didn’t seem to matter whether I was interested in purchasing the trousers!

The inventory include jackets and suits by Orazio Luciano, Ring Jackets and Liverano & Liverano and spread collar dress shirts by Ascot Chang.

IMG_5836

Many of the vendors mentioned travel to the shop for trunk shows throughout the year, where they can meet clients and fit them for bespoke or made to order goods. I poked around the shoes area, with a pair of Carmina brown suede captoe oxfords and suede loafers the most memorable.

IMG_5841
The shop has risen in recognition, in part to social media. Founders, Mark Cho, Alan See and Ethan Newton reguarly are  seen photographed during Pitti Uomo. All three have extensive backgrounds in menswear. Additionally, the daily Tumblr and Instagram feeds of the founders, feature new products and genuinely brilliant pairings. All three have a distinct personal style, each just as inspiring as the other.

While there’s certainly no shortage of places to purchase men’s clothing in New York, finding a balance of merchandise made to the highest standards with a well educated staff isn’t so common. The Armoury strikes that balance nicely.

The Flannel Slim Cargo

When an extra trouser detail is desired, men have often reached for a pair of cargo pants. The side pockets make us feel a little more rugged. Not Bear Grylls level, but a little tougher than our 9-5 selves. A cargo pocket adds a little utility to a conventional pair of trousers. I don’t often (ever) carry a buck knife or emergency set of rubberbands and paperclip with which to whip up a MacGyver-esque contraption, but cargo pants make me feel a little more mountainous. That’s the beauty of the utilitarian aesthetic, the possibility to store some save-the-day hardware.

IMG_5809

When the cargo pocket is unobtrusive and the cut of the trouser is narrow, it can work well with a blazer for the more casual office days. What’s more, said trousers can dress up a weekend look quite nicely.

IMG_5808

Jacket by Hardy Amies, cargo trousers by Claiborne, shirt by A.M. Bespoke, monk straps by Howard Yount, cap by Weatherproof

Perhaps I won’t get far trekking the highlands in the snuff suede monk straps, but with a quick swap of shoes and jacket, I’m ready for the weekend.

The Suit Softened

I popped into a store recently near the alterations tailor I now use. Following a purchase, the young lady behind the counter asked if I was going somewhere, ostensibly because I was wearing a suit. I decided against the hardline response, “Oh, a brotha can’t just wear a suit!” The truth, that I was running errands on my lunch break, made for a much more smooth exchange.

That left me thinking that, despite strides made in menswear, the suit is still seen as an obligatory garment by most. One is attending to an event and he must wear a suit. Fair game if the tie is muted and the suit is dark. However, there are ways to soften the suit. The fabric choice is an immediate indicator of the formality. In very broad terms, a suit with some texture is also a little less formal than a solid. This blue cashmere nailhead is an example of a less formal fabric. Details like patch pockets solidify its position on the casual side of the fence. Though in menswear, nothing is ever set in stone.

Nailhead cashmere suit by Brioni, cashmere turleneck by Uniqlo, blue oxford by Gap, brown tweed cap by Weatherproof, navy suede chukka boots by J.Crew

Nailhead cashmere suit by Brioni, cashmere turleneck by Uniqlo, blue oxford by Gap, brown tweed cap by Weatherproof, navy suede chukka boots by J.Crew

The suit is softened when paired with unexpected navy chukkas and a teal turtleneck knit. Suede and knit are two easy solutions when stumped on how to take the formality out of a suit. Suede shoes and knit tops or neckties make it appear less stuffy, for me. If need be, I’m certain a pale blue dress shirt and a brown cashmere tie would dress this up just a bit. That wasn’t the goal that day, though.

Bee pin by By Elias, pocket square by Ikire Jones, frames by Tom Ford

Bee pin by By Elias, pocket square by Ikire Jones, frames by Tom Ford

Similarly, the accessories play a role is taking the suit out of the suit. The Ethiopian Bee pin and the New Lagos pocket square are more fun touches to echo the nonchalance of the suit. Fortunately, I’m in a creative field and can accessorize accordingly.

The goal is to advocate the versatility of the suit; to move beyond thinking of it a strictly formal piece, despite its inherent dressiness. It’s more so that there is room to add personal touches, to make it less stuffy.

The Navy Odd Trouser

Following grey and beige, navy is the next logical choice for an odd trouser. The accepted belief being that since the navy blazer is so versatile, one can expect a similar level of versatility from the trousers. It’s a little more complicated, though. Complicated, not impossible.

Maligned in the circle of menswear enthusiasts, the navy trouser faces the obstacle of often looking like a pair of orphaned suit trousers. Paramount among the reasoning is the inherent dressiness of navy, versus that of grey, beige and brown. Why is that an issue? In many instances, the textures of worsteds are too fine and appear more formal than their sportcoat counterparts. Importantly, the end result looks as though you’ve just lost your suit coat, rather than pairing two items of complimentary textures with one another. It’s crucial that the trousers aren’t of a more formal fabric than the sportcoat, in order for the ensemble to harmonious. With that said, navy flannel or cashmere, brushed cotton or moleskin are fine options for the cooler weather months. Navy cotton chinos and linen trousers are equally well placed with warm weather sport jackets. So long as the fabrics play well off of each other.

I sometimes don’t follow what I write about, either out of lack of appropriate items, or a stubborn desire to experiment. More so than not, it’s the former of the two. Last week I paired a brown Harris Tweed jacket with a pale blue dress shirt, navy cashmere tie, brown tassel loafers and trousers from my navy three piece.

IMG_5799

The result is a pair of a trousers that looks a trifle dressier than all other pieces in the ensemble. My worsted wool trousers clash with the heavier pieces throughout my ensemble. A better option would have been a fabric with a bit more texture. Being new to cold weather, I’ve not yet begun accumulating heavier trousers. I thought, maybe, I could get away with the suit trousers, but judging from the photo, that’s not the case. The other gentlemen, Terry Corbett and Bevin Elias, are both wearing trousers with more pattern/texture that diminishes any formality.

Something like these lambswool flannel trousers, from Howard Yount, would pair nicely with a tweed jacket,

Howard Yount

Howard Yount

Navy isn’t unreasonable to pair as an odd trouser, though it’s more difficult than grey. So long as you pair it with like fabrics and textures, the final result will be congruous.

The Topcoat Revisited

Just before I moved to NY, I wrote a post about the J.Crew Ludlow topcoat I’d recently purchased.  Though I’ve had the benefit of no polar vortex since the relocation, I’ve not been spared whipping winds and teen temperatures. The coat has held up relatively well thus far. However, in a just a short time, I’ve discovered the importance of the benefits of other coats necessary for cold weather living. Weight, cut and lapels are chief among those.

The Ludlow has been a trusty friend for the past three weeks. It’s a versatile charcoal herringbone that works well with denim and wool trousers. Additionally, the weight is good for the more mild 30-40 degree days. The single-breasted design is sleek without looking too trendy.

IMG_5777

Hat by Fine & Dandy, scarf and topcoat by J.Crew, pants by Faconnable, monkstrap shoes by Howard Yount, gloves by Brioni, pocket square by Ikire Jones.

Having said that, I’m inclined to follow the suggestion of David Isle, from A Suitable Wardrobe, that a coat should be double breasted. Any sudden gust of wind and this coat is blown open, exposing the vitals to the elements. Of course, that’s only an issue on a windy day, but it’s enough to encourage me to opt for the full closure of a double breasted  coat for my next coat. The extra flap of fabric does a much better job at guarding one against wind and debris.The topcoat weighs less than a true overcoat, which suggests its use is better suited to more mild days. I’ve quickly learned to layer, to the point of perspiration.

Hat by Rag & Bone, scarf by Target, topcoat by J.Crew, trousers (part of suit), monk strap shoes by Sergio Rossi, gloves by Banana Republic

Hat by Rag & Bone, scarf by Target, topcoat by J.Crew, trousers (part of suit), monk strap shoes by Sergio Rossi, gloves by Banana Republic

Additionally, a double breasted coat would, in my perfect world, come with substantial lapels. Along with greater coverage through the body, the lapels add a bit more protection for the face and neck, in addition to one’s scarf. The slim lines of the Ludlow render the lapels an insignificant source of protection from the cold. I flipped up my collar to find the lapels barely came up half way on my neck. This is cold weather basics for those who know. When you’re  not accustomed to it, you’d never think about it. Three weeks in, and a eight-block daily walk to the train station and I’ve found out.

I have to stress, this coat is a fine addition to the cold weather arsenal. However, when the temperature dips, as it insists on doing, more substantial pieces are most certainly needed. A guard’s goat or a polo coat will most likely be on the list for next season.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,364 other followers

%d bloggers like this: