Man Maintenance

1 Outfit + Accessories = Many Outfits: Featuring Broke-Ass Stuart

I see a better day.

Broke-Ass Stuart is a travel writer, TV host, poet and self-proclaimed hustler.

His whole philosophy: “What makes life interesting is not the things that you own, but the shit that you do.”

Truth.

So what if you wanna do “cool shit” – and you want to do it in style – but you’re on a tight budget? You’re living from burrito to burrito?  

Answer: the same way you keep your daily burrito interesting for weeks on end (at least until your tax refund comes in)…

Same old burrito + a range of great condiments = a super-burrito buffet.

In other words, you accessorize.


cardiganupcloseA Black-Tie Affair

Let’s start with a classic: the grey cardigan. Alone, it’s about as dull as a tortilla sans everything.

Along comes master accessory #1: the black, knit tie. This is the sour cream and salsa of the accessory world. Goes with everything, makes everything pop. Pair that black tie with your grey cardigan for a look that’s neither preppy, nor punk, nor rocker, nor geezer, nor varsity, and yet, it’s all four. Four outfits for the price of almost nothing.

nixonupclorIf you’re nearly broke, get one from The Tie Bar for 25 bucks, and if you’re Broke-Ass, sacrifice your burrito-budget for one night and bag yourself a black tie on eBay: literally, the same cost.

By the way, since you kept it subtle with the black and white and grey, go nuts with your watch. Find one with a big face and boss attitude. 


Ron Burgundy Returns

Our next accessory is not an accessory at all: it’s color. Wierd. But true. Men’s clothing tends to fall into the same boxes, season after season. Lapels grow and shrink, but the form is the same. Color, however, is one area where broke-ass fashionistos can flex their funk, and that’s where burgundy enters the story.

purplennookalookrightnookaAbout five years ago, every department story was selling burgundy (and blue and black) blazers. And though saturation lead to their fall from favor, trust me – no one remembers this. More burgundy for you. (And if anyone remembers and points it out, well, here are some resources for dealing with that. I’ve got yer back.)

It’s been long enough that you can both a) find one for a song, and b) pair it with a bold, colored watch, for maximum effect.

Keep the shirt toned down, and find a colorful watch on eBay for the cost of a parking ticket (What? You don’t have a car? Great, you don’t have a parking ticket! So splurge!)

If you keep the tie a neutral color (have fun with the pattern, though), you can even get away with a lapel flower.


lapelflowerWHOA. LAPEL FLOWER?!

Yes. Lock the doors. Eat the keys.

An accessory boss isn’t afraid to show appreciation for nature. With a flower. Made out of some synthetic material.

Look, this doesn’t need to get complicated. Grandpa wore a flower in his lapel every day. Oscar Wilde never went out without a boutonniere.

Surely, a little pop of color won’t kill you.

A few tips, however:

1. On the “flair-up scale,” a burgundy jacket is already +1 or +2, depending on what city you live in. A used, orange NOOKA watch will bump you up to “Daring/Edgy” (+3). So if you’re gonna rock a flower lapel, keep the color subtle, and be sure you’re comfy being a little costumey.

2. Find a flower-lapel on Etsy, and keep your hard-earned cash in the artisanal lapel-flower-making community.

3. Wear this ensemble anywhere folks are being fancy, but where reverence is not required: the reception, not the wedding. Traffic court, not Superior Court. “The Kinda Late Show with Broke-Ass Stuart,” not Phil Donahue.


5. Herringboner

pensivehatHerringbone, according to legend, earned its moniker because when it was invented, old men favored the pattern, and also, they love to eat herring. Today, herringbone provides rich turf for the accessory-maven to roam. Find a herringbone blazer at your local resale shop – but if it doesn’t fit beautifully, don’t buy it. Blazers are a costly to tailor. Be choosy and hunt until you’re like, “Back off. browndetailIt’s mine.”

Then, accessorize the shit out of it.

Up above, the burgundy-on-fire look popped because of the contrasting colors. Here, the pop comes from a range of browns, all creating an optical illusion: Stuart appears to be timelessly suspended in style between 60 years ago and on-point to the microsecond.

Notice also the flower lapel and the tie clip. The stone is tiger’s eye, and what’s great about a tie-clip with tiger’s eye is that it’s got a ton of flash, but it’s so classic, it sits back in its own old-school cadillac of awesomeness. And it’s cheap. 

Find a vintage clip for the cost of a quality hair-cut and a jar of herring.


bowtie

Bow Out.

It’s no secret that I love bow ties. They blend friendly approachability with eclectic attitude. But you can’t just slap on a silk bow tie with a suit and think you’re a baller in the accessory game.

To take yourself seriously enough to accessorize, and not so seriously you ask people to remove their shoes before they enter your presence, rock a bow tie made of cotton, wool, or even denim. This one is made of salvaged Joe’s Jeans, and it would play as beautifully with a chambray shirt or blazer as it does with this pseudo-seersucker.

The pipe, however, is only for trained professionals. Do not try this at home.

Notice, by the way, the asymmetry of the tie? Asymmetry (and it’s big, Italian cousin, Sprezzatura,  is exactly what keeps accessories from looking too fussy.


bandana

A Secret From the Horse’s Mouth

If you’re new to the accessories game, here’s a little secret: for a new look on the cheap, ditch the tie and dig a bandana out of your costume bin. Unbutton your top button, and jam that red hanky in the pocket.

Will that baller move cost you much? Nay.


hatpose

One outfit with a million variations

A few pieces of advice for accessory-hunters:

  • Hit vintage or antique stores for accessories sprinkled with that special spice called “Old n’ Cool.”
  • Lurk around eBay and ETSY for stuff that’s used, cheap, and unique.
  • Dig around your Uncle Russ’ jewelry-box for stuff he doesn’t wear, anyway. Offer to take it off his hands.
  • Mix and mash-up textures, colors and materials.

You say you’ve spent your burrito-budget on accessories? No problem. Get gussied up in your best gear and take your friends out for a burrito dinner… minus the burritos.

After all, chips and salsa are free.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Getting Rid of Stuff

The Style For Dorks Guide to getting rid of stuff. Clockwise from upper left. 1. Anything you haven't worn in a year. 2. Anything that no longer fits. 3. Anything where you also have a "better version" of it. 4. Anything with a stain.

The Style For Dorks Guide to getting rid of stuff. Clockwise from upper left. 1. Anything you haven’t worn in a year. 2. Anything that no longer fits. 3. Anything made redundant because you have a “better version” of it. 4. Anything with a stain.

I feel sorry for sweaters.

Allow me to explain.

I’m a sentimental person. I’d hope my friends would say that  this is what makes me a decent listener when they’re in crisis.  I empathize, I feel others’ pain. It’s worth it to be wired this way, because being a human being is about human feeling.

It has a few odd side effects.

1. Crying uncontrollably when Battlestar Galactica ended.  I take comfort knowing I am not the only one.

Cylons don't wear ties. But when they do, they prefer to wear Cylon-Ties.

Cylons don’t wear ties. But when they do, they prefer to wear Cylon-Ties.

2. I feel sorry for sweaters whose time has come to complete the Circle of Life, and continue their journeys to the Sweater-Nightlands.

The sweater that mounts the world.

As a result of this somewhat misplaced sentimentality, I own the following:

  • A Ted Baker blazer. Moleskin. Forest green, awesome lapel pin, gorgeous pattern. Too long. Don’t wear it.
  • Diesel Blazer. Military khaki. Cowl neck collar. Sleeves are weird. Don’t wear it.
  • Striped shirt from Target. Got two compliments on it, five years ago. Don’t like the collar. Don’t wear it.

I won’t bore you further.

What I remind myself: Styling-Up is not just about amassing stuff. Though I am good at that. It’s also about streamlining, refining. Curating. Editing.

In that sense, Styling-Up is exactly the same ongoing process as all learning, all growth. Continuously, we add new elements to who we are, and say goodbye to elements that have outlived their usefulness. Or rather, we try to. If it was easy, therapists would be out of a job.

It seems to be that the thing that makes growing difficult, as a human being, is that not only may we fear the unknown, we may feel sorry for the old-selves who we banish off to the Old Self Nightlands.

Forever may they ride.

 

5 Stylish Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund

tax imageAccording to the internet, the average tax refund (in the state of California), is $2,900.

Let’s assume that you will require two thousand dollars for boring things like student loans, your credit card bill, and cat food.

That leaves you $900 to Tax-Refundify your Style. What should you do with it?

 

1. Get a pair of Allen Edmonds McTavish shoes. 

mctavish

Do they call you “Styley-shoe Wearin’ McGreggor?”

Why:

Allen Edmonds is a company from Wisconsin. Great things come from Wisconsin.

Sprechers beer is from Wisconsin.

Harley Davidson is from Wisconsin.

The University of Wisconsin is from Wisconsin.

I am from Wisconsin.

If that’s not enough to convince you: with Allen Edmonds, you’re getting a handmade, “legacy-quality” shoe (years from now, you will still have them while being nostalgic for the time when you got them). On the other hand, you’re not going to pay $600 dollars for them.

Beyond that, though Allen Edmonds had become something of an old-man’s shoe (bought and worn by U.S. WWII servicemen who wore them during the Big One, and kept them on for years after), recently, the company renewed its image with a number of models that are shockingly stylish.

If this pair of Neumok doesn’t bring tears of joy to your eyes, then picture how the person who made it lived in Wisconsin and received a great wage and safe working conditions; picture him finishing the final stitch in the fully repairable sole and heading off to quaff a Sprecher Black Bavarian with his unionized brethren.

You’ll want a pair, too.

How:

Allen Edmonds has frequent clearance sales, bringing the cost down nearly to the level of a mass-produced Chinese-made shoe. But because they’re made so well, eBay is full of Allen Edmonds shoes that outlived their owners whims, despite being in excellent condition, and they can be picked up for a C-note and change.

If you really want to be a #Styledork and abuse the privileges of the internet, order a pair from Zappos, ensure you like the fit and style, and buy the same pair on eBay for somewhere around 100 bucks.

(A few years from now, consider buying a new pair. The entire state of Wisconsin will thank you for it.)

 

2. Invest in a proper hair cut 

ralph

Well, if it’s 1984…

Why:

Some years ago, in a grad-school class on Post-Modernsim and Pedagogy (don’t ask), we watched and read about Docker’s ad campaign: “Nice Pants.”

The idea here is that men want pants that don’t make their hinders look like sacks of potatoes.

The problem is that men also don’t want to talk about pants.

They don’t want to talk about fit or cut or style or stitching or pockets or whatever, and you know why.

They want the procuring of said pants to be as easy and casual – just like Docker’s pseudo-compliment-slogan: “nice pants.”

The problem is that your pants can make you look like an Alpha (like the guys in this Alpha Khakis ad), or like a middle school kid whose body hasn’t quite sorted things out, yet.

So, the solution is to buy a pair of pants that are masculine and simple and classic and clean and we shouldn’t talk about that any more.

Which brings me to the subject of haircuts.

Men feel the exact same way about haircuts as they do about pants.

Men need a good hair cut.

Men are often very hesitant to spend too much time looking for one.

But even more than your butt, which will never be seen in any photos for any online dating sites, your head is pretty much the main-attraction. So it needs to look good.

A good haircut will make people at work, who look at you every single day, go: “Hey! Lookin’ good!”

You will not get that haircut at Supercuts, Cheapcuts, Cut-n-go, or Paynothingforyourcut. You will need to spend about $70.00 for your amazing cut.

How:

Unless you have friend who swears by his $70.00 stylist, use Yelp. Do not worry about the price. Pick a place or a stylist that is highly rated.

Walk in, take the first stylist who’s available, and use this script:

“I’m looking for something different. I just got a new job / new girlfriend / I’m flying to L.A. to pitch a script / I’m going on a book tour [pick ONE of these. NOT all of them] and I am ready for a new look.

Then, whatever the stylist asks you for your preferences, say, “Go for it, I trust you.”

When s/he is done, you may think, “Great. My head is ruined.”

But when you get to work the next day, you will need three hands to count the “Hey! Lookin’ good!”s you will hear.

If not, hair grows back, so wait 3 months and repeat the process.

One last suggestion: a good haircutter is an artist. While many advocate for telling the stylist exactly what you want, the reason I am writing this blog and you are reading it is that I spent a really long time before I even knew what I wanted, and perhaps you’re somewhere in that process.

Let the artist do his/her work.

 

suits3. Get a suit, for God’s sake. 

Why:

When I wear a suit to work, quite often I will get a friendly compliment, followed by the question:  what’s the occasion?

The occasion, my friends, is that you are not sitting around the house in sweat-pants, playing Pac-man and eating Pringles.

You are a man, going off to work, to kick ass. Even if your job is not kick-ass, per se.

And that is why you are wearing a suit.

The thing you have in your closet, incidentally, which you bought from Men’s Wearhouse seven years ago is not actually a suit. It’s a costume for weddings.

Here is my definition of a suit:

  • It must fit you impeccably.

 

That’s it.

The three main areas where men’s suits fail their owners are:

Symptom A: The pants pool up around the ankles.

Cause A: The pants are too long

Symptom B: A thin band of shirt cuff doesn’t peek out of the sleeves.

Cause B: The sleeves are too long.

Symptom C: You look like you just returned from a business trip to the 90s.

Cause C: The lapels are too wide.

Symptom D: You don’t look slim and dashing.

Cause D: Your jacket is too long.

Symptom E: You look like you just walked out of Men’s Wearhouse

Cause E: You just walked out of Men’s Wearhouse.

The Cure: Get a proper suit and have it tailored properly.

 

How:

You are going to embark on an exciting adventure called, “Getting measured by someone with a tape measure and trying on a lot of suits.”

The tape-measure-person is available at any department store or tailor. It’s free.

As for trying on the suits, this is where gilt.com and myhabit.com come in.

You are going to skip over Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and DKNY. For now, skip Brooks Brothers (unless you know what you’re doing, you’ll look like a banker) and Banana Republic / J. Crew (you already know about them, and you’re trying something new).

You will try suits by Theory, Ben Sherman, Hugo Boss, ETRO, Paul Smith, and maybe even by Jack Spade, Luca Roda, and GANT Rugger.

You are going to order suits made by labels you’ve never heard of and return all of them until you find one you love.

They will be marked $300-600.

They will not be black. They will be grey or plaid. Yes, plaid.

You may find that you are a size smaller than you expected. Your proper size might even contain an S next to the number – for “short.”

[Wait, hear me out. This doesn’t mean YOU are short, it means you want the suit to look amazing. Suits, now, are slimmer and shorter than when you were a best man in whats-his-name’s wedding.]

Once you find it, have it altered by a respected tailor (again, Yelp). If it’s done right, you will see a teeny bit of sock, and your shirt-cuffs will peek past the sleeves; you will look amazing.

Do NOT wear this amazing, new shirt with crappy, old dress shoes or with sneakers, thinking that’s what the cool kids are doing. Wear it with your new Allen Edmonds.

Wear it to work once a week.

When someone asks what’s the occasion, you know what to say.

4. Buy a thin, non-silk tie 

knit tie

Knit tie. Thin Lapels. Ready for the 2014 Fiscal-Fashion Year.

Why:

All those ties you have are probably too thick and too shiny.

Thick ties are from a life-cycle ago, and should be donated to the Salvation Army, along with your NES and the barbells you bought at a rummage sale while in college.

Shiny ties, meanwhile, are often plucked from the pile-o-ties at Mens Wearhouse, Brooks Brothers, and Kohls. And the only difference between them, in my opinion, is the price.

It’s time to move on to cotton and woven ties.

These ties say, “I am a boss. But I am not the boss from Office Space.

How: 

Get your woven tie at the Tie Bar.com. It will cost less then the entree at a decent restaurant, and if you wear it with your sharp, new suit, you will look like you work for a hip design firm. Stay away from TieBar.com’s cotton and wool ties, which look, in my opinion, cheap.

Stay also away from Ben Sherman and Penguin ties. Some of them are great (I own a few nice ones), but most are skinny versions of the shiny “pile-o-ties” tie.

Get your cotton tie from bonobos.comgilt.com or myhabit.com. Find a design that’s fresh and light: for example, this chambray tie and this gingham tie  will go with the new suit or with jeans and a white oxford shirt. Actually, it will go with anything. So buy it and wear it a lot.

Check out cotton and wool ties also from Alexander Olch and Pierrepoint Hicks.

chambray5. Get one gingham shirt and one chambray shirt 

The vertical stripes with big barrel cuffs looked great 10 years ago.

Now, it’s patterns and materials with a bit of “Americana”: enter the chambray shirt and the gingham shirt.

Why:

Both look amazing with your new suit and dress shoes, and both look amazing with jeans and a corduroy jacket.

Both are masculine and yet refined, a little bit rugged, and a little bit classy. Perfect.

How:

You know how you have shirts in your closet which, when you need to look good, you go to them? You can count on them? You look great in them?

Why is that?

Well, it’s not because of the pattern. (A white oxford shirt is my go-to.)

It’s because your “knock-em-dead” shirt probably fits better than your other shirts.

Buy your gingham and chambray shirts wherever, but be prepared to have them tailored (to the tune of 20-40 dollars each).

Many men don’t realize that when clothes are too big, it makes them look less put together.

Slimmer is nearly always more flattering.

Unless you’re a big dude, or you find a “slim cut” (which you should look for), you may need to have the sleeves shortened and the back brought in so you will cut a fine silhouette.

You would be amazed at what a proper fitting shirt does for you, and how many of the shirts in your closet do not do that.

One bonus of this tax-refund Stylification is that now you have a tailor who can make even your blousy, baggy shirts look great. Tax bonus!

 * – * – *

Those are my top-five stylish ways to spend your tax refund. If you had a hundred bucks left over, what would you do with it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Style For Dorks

bio pic solareWhat this blog IS NOT:

It’s not for connoisseurs, fashionistos, or people who are “fashion foward.”

It’s not full of “clothing-porn.” No close-ups of of fancy fabrics – no donegal, no tattersoll. Whatever that is.

It will have zero shots of metrosexual models imitating poses copped from GQ.

It will not talk much about what is “in,” nor what is “right now.”

It will not fawn over incredibly expensive, Italian labels – nor extol the wonders of $300 work-shirts from boutiques that smell like Musk mixed with Road Tar.

* * *

Who this blog is for:

You saw a few episodes of Mad Men and you wondered how you can look that sharp without drinking your first Manhattan before 11am.

You used to play  8-hour Dungeons and Dragons campaigns in your friend’s basement – and you’re moderately concerned that this biographical nugget from the past isn’t hard to believe, purely based on how you continue to dress, fifteen years later.

You like to learn new things, but you’ve never learned much about style. You prefer to learn new coding language, but you could be persuaded to learn something about the power of a knit tie.

You prefer to prioritize the practical over the obsessive. As in, “How do I dress sharper without too much fuss?”

Your girlfriend / wife / significant other sometimes comments about how nice you’d look in [fill in the blank]. You generally say something along the lines of, “Mm-hm.”

You have a big date coming up. Or a big meeting. You just got a big promotion…or want to dress like you deserve one.

You’re turning 30. Or 40.

* * *

What we’re going to do here

1. Simple lists of things to donate to the closest Salvation Army.

2. Simple lists of things to buy two of.

3. Some guidelines for how to put together a decent outfit. And some guidelines for how to put together an outfit that will nab a double take from the right person.

4. An occasional link to a good deal.

5. A smattering of style nerdiness in case you’re curious.

I’m not going to hold your hand – but I will guard the fitting room door.