Style Makeover

Style-Up on a Budget: Jeremy M

Above, Jeremy’s Style-Up: Before and After.

Over the years, I have gone through my own style growth.

I have learned a great deal: what rules to follow, what rules to break, and how style is more about self and identity and less about cloth and clothes.

I call the process of matching up my outsides to my insides (and maybe stretching both in the process) “Styling-Up.”

“Styling-Up” might be part of someone’s “Style Story” (my nickname for the story that we tell about who we are and how we choose to express ourselves). I’ve been fortunate enough to assist a few in their newest chapters.

As much as I’ve enjoyed the looks on their faces (or their significant others’ faces) as they came out of the dressing room in Styled-Up gear, I’ve found the stories behind the Style-Up to be meaningful and inspirational.

Meet Jeremy – in his own words. The cartoons are mine.


Jeremy M: Sales Executive, San Francisco, 29.

WHAT WERE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT YOUR STYLE “BEFORE?” WHAT DID YOU LIKE? WHAT WASN’T WORKING? 

  • My style has always been very “me.” I do a lot of jeans and t-shirts. It reflects who I am. It’s awesome. But…sometimes it isn’t appropriate.
  • I can dress up in a suit and a button-up, but it’s very basic. I don’t process accessories.
  • Essentially, I’m not sure how to make my look “pop.”

WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND YOUR INTEREST IN “STYLING UP?”

My ex-girlfriend used to pick out my clothes. I'm ready for something new.

My ex-girlfriend used to pick out my clothes. I’m ready for something new.

  • I’ve gone through a year of transition and many phases. I used to have my clothes picked out for me by my (ex)girlfriend. Since then, I’ve added new clothes, but I’ve been playing it safe. Dress shirts from Target, you know? If I wanted to take a risk – wear a fly suit and stand out – I wouldn’t have known what to do or where to start.

SINCE YOUR STYLE-UP, WHAT HAVE YOU ENJOYED/ NOTICED / LEARNED? 

  • I notice I look forward to chances to show off my new swag. It was fun to get it, but it’s more fun to wear it.

IF YOU COULD “CHANNEL” THE STYLE TRAITS OF ANY PERSONALITY, WHO WOULD IT BE? 

"Ditch" the overweight guinea-pig and "Charlie" the cat. Childhood tributes to style-icon, Charlie Sheen.

“Ditch” the obese guinea pig and “Charlie” the cat. Childhood tributes to style-icon, Charlie Sheen. #Winning.

  • Charlie Sheen’s character from Major League – when he pitches? He’s such a bad-ass. As a kid, I had a house-full of pets named after Charlie and his best characters. Especially awesome was the obese guinea-pig named after “Ditch,” the sky-diving instructor from Terminal Velocity.

The Style-Upgoodposturev2

Rocking a great look on a budget

To start with, Jeremy and I talked about his budget for the Style-up. It was totally reasonable to accomplish his goals. It was also realistic. This was not going to be a cost-no-matter shopping spree. We decided to do a Style-Up with a budget theme.

For many of us on a budget, the idea of Styling-Up may seem aesthetically appetizing but fiscally impossible. As it turns out, however, whatever you think clothing costs – the reality is that you should only pay about half of that. Think about Nordstrom, for a moment. They have a pretty great range of men’s styles. And they have one price range. Expensive.

Take Nordstrom Rack, on the other hand. That’s where you get Nordstrom’s overstock and returns. And you pay what this stuff probably should have cost in the first place.

And if you don’t have Nordstrom Rack in your area, you may have something regional to your area that you don’t know about. Find a well dressed dude and pretend you’re new in town. Try this: “Good sir, could you direct me to the place where people with style shop if perchance they do not have unlimited funds?”

If that fails, you certainly have Marshalls, Ross, T. J. Maxx, and the like. Are those places as pleasant as Nordstrom? No. Is it pleasant to save much bank when you shop?

Yes.

Three principles Apply:

1. Be patient: you may not find what you were looking for. Go home and come back in a month.

2. Be flexible: didn’t find what you wanted? Maybe you can find something similar to fill the niche.

3. Be lucky: when you nail it, you nail it.

Jeremy was flexible and lucky, and he walked away with some choice cuts.


Timberland Boot Company. (Trust me, the "Boot Company" distinction is worthy of a closer look and a bit more money.)

Timberland Boot Company. (Trust me, the “Boot Company” distinction is worthy of a closer look and a bit more money.)

Kick off with Kicks: 

A great outfit starts and ends with shoes. If you’re going to do one thing to lift your look, that’s where to do it. Jeremy and I dug through a mountain of discounted shoes, and that’s when we struck gold.

Styley meets Comfy: Timberland, which makes meh-footwear, for the most part, has a side label called Timberland Boot Company. TBC’s are very comfy, but also look like a heritage shoe. They’re well made, feature repairable soles, and have the perfect blend of old-world class and “in your face” pop. The style Jeremy found featured the classic cap toe and came in a “wear-it-with-everything” brown – but also, it has intentionally asymmetrical detailing. Just the perfect dash of “rough around the edge.”

tyingshoessittingfeetoutQ: What’s more bad-ass than low-top Chucks? A: leather low-top Chucks. The grey, low-top chucks with leather laces will complete Jeremy’s already perfected jeans n’  t-shirt signature look, with enough flair to satisfy his interest in adding a bit of risk.

Timberland Boot Company Wodehouse shoes retail for $275.00 We got them for $100.00

Leather Chucks retail for $80.00. We bagged them for $50.00


jeremywtieandwoutAs it turns out, the Styliest Color Is…

White.

The color that goes with everything… and that highlights whatever else you’re rocking.

“What, the secret is wear a white shirt?”

Yes, but it must fit perfectly. And the weave must be a rich broad-cloth or oxford. No billowing sleeves or tenting back.

Gant shirts retail for $125.00. We got it for $60.00


The tiger can’t change its stripes… but striped on a tie can change your style.

After stepping up your shoes and putting on a great fitting shirt, the next Style-Up step is a non-silk, non-clerk, non-“I’m running for mayor” tie. My recommendations are:

1. Denim

2. Wool

3. Knit

A striped, knit tie, paired with jeans and a casual, unstructured blazer, says: “Let’s seal the deal on this account and head to Soda Popinskis to celebrate with a round of picklebacks. Although we’re probably a bit old for that. Let’s make it I.P.As.


 

Chambray: Good enough for Jake Gyllenhaal. Good enough for you.

Chambray: Good enough for Jake Gyllenhaal. Good enough for you.

Denim Darko 

When I first showed Jeremy a chambray shirt, he wasn’t impressed. Indeed, you might not pick a chambray shirt off the rack. The color is pleasant but…familiar. Almost denim. And, well, it’s blue. What are you going to wear a blue, demin-like shirt with?

Everything.

Chambray is like tofu. It goes with everything, and it takes on the flavor of whatever you serve it with. Jeremy’s new chambray shirt lets the navy in his tie pop and plays off the cuffs of his jeans.

Speaking of tofu, and since we’re on a budget, here’s a recipe for the most unbelievable, budget-friendly tofu on earth. Whoever you’re trying to impress with the chambray shirt will jump into bed with you after tasting this.


Sweat It Out

snerpyonstairs

Now, add the sweater. What we see here is the magic of fly footwear, a classic shirt, a casual tie, and a teeny bit of rock-star in this John Varvatos sweater (retails for about $175.00 We found it for just over $100). The sweater itself walks the line between bohemian grunge (with it’s loose knit and straw-color) Oxford professor (elbow patches) and fasionisto (slim fit).

The effect of the gestalt is easy on the eyes — blending hints of lumberjack with Vampire Weekend Prepster – and Jeremy’s boyish good looks (somethings are not for sale at any price).


The most expensive pair of jeans are cheap

One thing Jeremy knew from the get-go was that he wanted some dope new jeans. As it turns out, my recommendation didn’t point to any multi-hundred dollar pair of gourmet hoo-hah.

It’s Levi’s.

The magic of jeans is not in the label. It’s not in the stitching. It is most certainly not in distressing or bedazzling.

It’s in pairing a perfect fit with the darkest, richest indigo you can find.

These jeans could have been $250.00 if they were made by ExpensiveDouchery. By Levi’s, they’re fifty bucks.


This style-up included:

2 sweaters

4 shirts

1 pair of jeans

and 1 tie.

Shopping the Style-Up Budget way saved Jeremy about $500, and that looks good on anyone.


 

Ready for your own Style-Up?hemmingway

I won’t hold your hand, but I will guard the fitting-room door.

Live in the bay area? A Style-up is painless. Maybe even fun. And it might help you land a date / job / both at the same time. Drop me a line at stylefordorks at gmail dot com.

Outside of the Bay Area? Through the miracle of the interwebs, we can arrange an on-line consultation. You’ll end up with a handful of great items, some new looks, and a spring in your step. Drop me a line at stylefordorks at gmail dot com.

 

 

Style Story: Chris K

Above, Chris’s Style-Up: Before and After.

Over the years, I have gone through my own style growth.

I have learned a great deal: what rules to follow, what rules to break, and how style is more about self and identity and less about cloth and clothes.

I call the process of matching up my outsides to my insides (and maybe stretching both in the process) “Styling-Up.”

“Styling-Up” might be part of someone’s “Style Story” (my nickname for the story that we tell about who we are and how we choose to express ourselves). I’ve been fortunate enough to assist a few in their newest chapters.

As much as I’ve enjoyed the looks on their faces (or their significant others’ faces) as they came out of the dressing room in Styled-Up gear, I’ve found the stories behind the Style-Up to be meaningful and inspirational.

Meet Chris – in his own words. The cartoons are mine.


Chris: Database Designer and Published Author, Chapel Hill, 41.

WHAT WERE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT YOUR STYLE “BEFORE?” WHAT DID YOU LIKE? WHAT WASN’T WORKING? 

I have a superman cap I've been wearing off and on since I was a grade-schooler, and golly, it's fantastic.

I have a Superman cap I’ve been wearing off and on since I was a grade-schooler, and golly, it’s fantastic.

  • I’d never really been much for paying attention to clothes. I’ve generally worn things that are comfortable, easy to keep clean, and, well, don’t require too much fussing. Recently, I went through a very Steve Jobs phase. Which isn’t to say I wore a black mock-turtle neck and jeans every day, but I was into very utilitarian, simple clothing (read: solids) that didn’t draw attention to itself (or me). I do have a cool Hugo Boss suit, but how often can you wear a Hugo Boss suit? Well,  every day, I suppose, but I’m not that type’a dude.
  • That said, I do become very attached to certain pieces of clothing. For example, I have a Superman cap I’ve been wearing since I was a grade-schooler, and by golly, it’s fantastic. You can almost see through the material, it’s worn so thin, and the integrity of the bill has been breached (and supported by paperclips) since the late 90s. This proves that I’m not a heartless, anti-clothing troll, right? I have a heart and sentimentality.
  • Still, I yearn to look good. Well, naturally—who doesn’t want to look good? I’d already figured that choices about what to wear could directly affect how others (girlfriend, friends, colleagues, potential clients) see me, but I didn’t have the energy to unlock that code. Enter Style For Dorks.

WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND YOUR INTEREST IN “STYLING UP?”

  • I have a lot of exciting, new things in my life. I’m traveling frequently to New York, to London, to San Francisco—networking and working with creative people—and I thought it would be fun to show up always looking put together, always looking on top of my fashion game.

SINCE YOUR STYLE-UP, WHAT HAVE YOU ENJOYED/ NOTICED / LEARNED? 

Before the Style-Up I was a flat glass of milk. After the Style-Up, I’m an effervescent bottle of Italian Soda with a twist of lime.

Before the Style-Up I was a flat glass of milk. After the Style-Up, I’m an effervescent bottle of Italian Soda with a twist of lime.

  • Well, for one, it was über fun. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it—and sort of prepared to grit my teeth and poo-poo all of Evan’s choices and combinations using my polite coping skills, but once we got going, I enjoyed it. I’m a left-brained programmer in my day job…so it was a nice change, focusing on texture and color and pattern and subjective beauty and how all these things combine to create a look.
  • I was surprised at how many different combinations you can get from a few select items. I think I have enough varieties here to wear something different every day until the machines become self-aware, none of this is relevant any more and we’ll all flee to underground tunnels and wear silver, polyester bodysuits with numbers on them (I’ll be THX 1138).
  • I have to admit, after the Style-Up, I have a little extra glide in my stride. Before the Style-Up I was a flat glass of milk. After the Style-Up, I’m an effervescent bottle of Italian Soda with a twist of lime. I want to be seen. I stand a little taller.

IF YOU COULD “CHANNEL” THE STYLE TRAITS OF ANY PERSONALITY, WHO WOULD IT BE? 

Steve McQueen in Bullit or Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke—both pull off that "effortless stylish" thing.

Steve McQueen in Bullit or Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke—both pull off that “effortless stylish” thing.

  • That’d be Steve McQueen in Bullit or Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke—both pull off that “effortless stylish” thing. I’ve always been really good at the effortless part, but I’m kind of excited about focusing now on the stylish.

The Style-Up

sweater and tie

Slim and Simple:

In a recent interview with J. Weekly, I was asked what a man on a budget could do to Style-Up, and my first piece of advice was to make sure your shirts fit properly – notably, shirts’ shoulder seams must hit right at the shoulder.

Shoulder seams should hit right at -- well, the shoulders.

Shoulder seams should hit right at — well, the shoulders.

Chris and I started at Banana Republic and picked out 3 staple shirts: chambray, and black gingham.

All three were snugger in the torso than Chris was accustomed to, but a saleswoman watching us remarked, “Looking good! Great fit! I hate it when guys wear their shirts too baggy!”

Going into the Style-Up, Chris (who had read my polemic on the power of the knit tie) warned me: I will not be buying any knit ties.

I reassured him that there would be no knit-tie pushing.

Until he found a sweater he liked and asked what I would advise wearing it with.

Let’s just say that Chris is the proud owner of a fly knit tie.


Through the Denim, Darkly.

Through the Denim, Darkly.

Denim Darko: 

Though Chris emerged from the Style-Up with enough outfit options to suit up during his entire upcoming international adventures, he only needed one pair of pants, and, perhaps surprisingly, it’s something he already had.

Jeans.

But all jeans are not created equal, and the best jeans are not the most expensive, and they do not push a fancy, gourmet label.

Rather, the distinguishing feature is that they must be dark denim. Dark denim is not the same as faded bluejeans. They look sharp. They look “grown up.” They never look douchey, and you can wear them with a t-shirt if you’re ready to rock a Paul Newman look, or with a nice shirt and thin tie, if you’re ready to bag a new client with the best barrel-aged Manhattan ever. 

We picked out a pair of slim-fitting, straight leg jeans in an indigo-blue color, and we cuffed them at the bottom so there was no drape.


Chris, time to get comfy with the fact that your shoes are gonna be ogled.

Chris, time to get comfy with the fact that your shoes are gonna be ogled.

 Eye-popping shoes

Chris likes to wear a pair of hiking boots when he’s taking his kids to the park, but his best leather shoes are sweet oxfords from To Boot New York. They are classy but conservative.

To bring Chris a bit forward into flair-city, we fit him with two pairs of shoes which I was jealous of.

First, he surprised me by pulling from the shelf (I’d like to think it has to do with my comforting presence) a pair of Monk Strap Dress Shoes.

Monk Straps are the flashy cousin to the Oxford. They’ve been making the feet of men fly since European friars rocked them for their foot-protecting, laceless simplicity. Now, paired with dark denim and a stylish shirt-n-tie, they’re a little bit classy and in fact – a little bit dandy.

Monk Straps: Classy with a touch of dandy. And a touch of the best dressed Franciscan Friar in the abbey.

Monk Straps: Classy with a touch of dandy. And a touch of the best dressed Franciscan Friar in the abbey.

I figured that was it for fine footwear, until Chris laid his eyes on a pair of shoes close to my heart  – blue Allen Edmonds neumoks. I suggested, back in a post on the top five stylish to do with a Tax Refund, that anyone who lays eyes on these shoes might find their eyes welling up in joy – whether for their style or for the fact that they’re union made in Wisconsin.

Their red laces played off the “trust me” socks I’d put in the shopping basket earlier. and though they’re bold in their color, they go with everything.


Blaze it, Sweat It 

Chris wouldn’t have described himself as much of a “blazer and tie guy” … like about every other fellow I’ve done a Style-Up with. And like many of us, the second he found a blazer he liked, it was like he’d just discovered wood-fired margherita pizza with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil. 

Like a pizza from Del Toro, great style is all familiar ingredients – just better. Fresher. And more lovingly made. And the meal, as a result, is fan-fricken-tastic. It’s beyond being simply full at the end of a meal. It’s being moved and delighted and kind of impressed.

We left Banana Republic with a fine pair: an unstructured (no padding, no lining) navy blue blazer and a classy grey blazer. Both items can be paired with shirt and tie for a casual, styley, professional look, but the blue one (with it’s working buttons) can be worn with a white t-shirt, sleeves rolled up, for a rock-star on a nice date look.

chris booya


Ready for your own Style-Up?

I won’t hold your hand, but I will guard the fitting-room door.

Live in the bay area? A style-up is painless. Maybe even fun. And it might help you land a date / job / both at the same time. Drop me a line at stylefordorks at gmail dot com.

Outside of the Bay Area? Through the miracle of the interwebs, we can arrange an on-line consultation. You’ll end up with a handful of great items, some new looks, and a spring in your step. Drop me a line at stylefordorks at gmail dot com.

 

Style-Story: Robin K

 Style-Up: Before and After

 

Over the years, I have gone through my own style growth.

Now, I express myself a little differently than I used to, but more importantly, I have learned a great deal: what rules to follow, what rules to break, and how all of this is much more about self and identity and much less about cloth and clothes. I call the process of matching up my outsides to my insides (and maybe stretching both in the process) “Styling-Up.”

Sometimes, “Styling-Up” is part of someone’s “Style Story” (my nickname for the story that we tell about who we are and how we choose to express ourselves). Actually, lots of people have their own Style Stories. I’ve been fortunate enough to assist a few in their new chapters. And as much as I’ve deeply enjoyed the looks on their faces (or their significant others’ faces) as they came out of the dressing room in Styled-Up gear, I’ve found the stories behind the Style-Up to be meaningful and inspirational.

Meet Robin – in his own words. The cartoons are mine.


 

Robin K: Data Architect, San Francisco, 34.

What were your feelings about your style “before?” What did you like? What wasn’t working? BLOG SHOTZ   Google Drive

  • In 4th grade, [some girl] made fun of my ass… I [still] have beefy thighs… I ride a lot.  I have a complex about finding pants I like …and I feel a little silly that a girl said something that’s still with me, 25 years later.

 

 

 

  • I felt ignorant… I liked being casual, but I wanted to “grow up” a little. I felt too scruffy. I didn’t feel “put-together.” Now, the other aspects of my life were “put together” – my reputation in my field, I work with good people — but I felt like a slob in my clothing.
  • I didn’t understand why I liked some things and not other things; I confused “I don’t like this” with “I’m unfamiliar with this. I don’t understand this.”
  • Incremental changes wasn’t working. I needed a neutral party to help me break through…my own bullshit.

What’s the story behind your interest in “Styling Up?”

who am i  v3

My mom died in September. There was a big void. I had to re-anchor myself.

  • My Mom died in September, and when that happened, I reevaluated a lot of things – “who am I without this very important person in my life?” 

    I explored spirituality - and being mentally and physically happy.

    I explored spirituality – and being mentally and physically happy.

  • I didn’t know who I was: there was a big void – I had to “re-anchor” myself.
  • I explored spirituality… being mentally and physically healthy… and since I was reevaluating everything, I also wanted to reevaluate what I was putting on my body every day.
  • I didn’t want a “makeover” – but since I was updating my “psychological clothes,” It made  sense to update my actual clothes.
  • My guard was coming down. What did I have to lose?

Since your Style-up, what have you enjoyed/ noticed / learned?

  • While I’ve gotten some good-natured ribbing, I’ve been enjoying compliments – mostly, “You look snazzy!”
shoespop

The thing that popped was the shoes.

  • I notice other people’s style more. And I appreciate shoes, more. I was at a wedding – wearing my new white shirt, this [subtle] tie – but the thing that “popped” was the shoes.
  • Slim fit is the shit!
billowy

I don’t want to hide under a billowy t-shirt, anymore.

  • I don’t want to hide under a billowy t-shirt anymore. I bike, I run, I like being fit. Why wouldn’t I want to look  fit?

If you could “channel” the style traits of any personality, who would it be?

  • David Bowie. I saw him in concert in the early 2000s – he was in his 50s, wearing a great suit.

David Bowie, circa late 90s.

 

grandmother

My grandmother was an elegant dresser and a gracious host.

  • That said, my grandmother was an elegant dresser and always looked sharp – and she was a gracious host. She took time with every guest and made sure they felt good about what was going on.

The Style-Up

Not your Uncle Russ’s shirt and tie

bigsmilechambrayRobin looks great in this chambray shirt and cotton tie. That’s not surprising since Robin’s modus operandi is casual. Chambray (think: if denim and linen had a baby) is casual-meets-casual classy incarnate. Here, it’s paired with a cotton-tie. To learn more about why cotton-ties are perfect for every occasion, check out this post. Here, the blue-on-blue is simple, and it looks so clean.

Chalk-Stripe Blazer

Chalk-Stripe Blazer

This “useful-for-everything” outfit can be dressed up with a blazer. No drab wool “suit-jacket” blazer – but rather, an unstructured (no heavy shoulder pads or lining) blazer with a bold pattern. Chalk-stripe. Shirt and blazer from Club Monaco.

Gourmet Denim and Desert Boots

Gourmet Denim and Desert Boots

Gourmet Denim and Desert Boots. (Bonus: the socks!)

Robin was already a jeans wearer, but he was rocking the “eh, not sure what else to wear” type – faded, and shapeless. To capitalize on Robin’s callipygean physique, I put him in some gourmet denim, slim, but not skinny — after extolling the virtues of indigo-died, selvage jeans. In short, they look good with everything not because you don’t notice them – but because they look good, period. Club Monaco’s jeans cost as much as a good blazer, but they are well worth it – they can be worn with everything and the material felt ready to serve for years.

clarksDesert Boots are pretty much the most versatile pair of shoes a man can own. Like the dark-indigo jeans, they can compliment a blazer and tie or a t-shirt. They’re comfortable, they’re well made, and they transcend “fashion” – gracing the feet of style-conscious mods as far back as the early 60s. 

diesel

Functional and Elegant

The boots’ rich, masculine brown played well off Robin’s new Diesel Watch. Diesel makes watches that you shouldn’t wear unless you are the captain of a nuclear submarine, but  also, they make some elegant, masculine pieces like this one. It’s functional, but it’s elegant.

Kicks for the Beach, Kicks for the Lounge

Blue isn't such an exciting color - unless we're talking SHOES!

Blue isn’t such an exciting color – unless we’re talking SHOES!

Ready for sand and sun.

Ready for sand and sun.

Two pairs of shoes, besides the Clarks, rounded out the look. On the one hand, canvas Ben Sherman “derby shoes,” combining a wee-bit of class with a beach-ready fabric/sole. It would look great with Robin’s madras-plaid shirt .

On the other hand, since Robin’s new gear fit within a fairly subtle color-palette, a pair of shoes that would grab attention (or, as he calls it above, pop!) seemed in order. Behold, Gordon Rush wingtips in blue leather.

Stay Simple – Slim it Up

White shirt, wool blazer. The fit is the magic.

White shirt, wool blazer. The fit is the magic.

Here, Robin’s wearing a simple white oxford dress shirt and a wool blazer. But they’re “Styled-Up” because, as Robin says above, “slim is the shit.” If these were a size too large, they’d look like the outfit of that chemistry professor who lives in a secret office behind the bookcase.

Robin will get used to a slight tug in the buttons and around the chest and arms, and everyone around him will gawk and wonder how he makes it look so damn snazzy!

Ready for your own Style-Up?

I won’t hold your hand, but I will guard the fitting-room door.

Live in the bay area? A style-up is painless. Maybe even fun. And it might help you land a date / job / both at the same time. Drop me a line at stylefordorks at gmail dot com.

Outside of the Bay Area? Through the miracle of the interwebs, we can arrange an on-line consultation. You’ll end up with a handful of great items, some new looks, and a spring in your step. Drop me a line at stylefordorks at gmail dot com.

 


 

Following this post, Robin wrote his own account of coping with loss. Here, you can read about the journey – one written with love, tenderness, and dare I say, style.

 

The Great Style-Up of 2014: Joe E.

Too old to wear Old Navy, too young to dress like Uncle Russ at the BBQ.

Joe is 39. He’s a father, a designer, and the creative force behind “domesticated daddy.com,” — snarky, brilliant t-shirts about being a Daddy in a Mommy’s World.

joey before

Before: Old Navy and Baggy.

He asked if I’d help him update his style; his family is moving to a new town, he’s building a new community, and he is turning 40. Since I, too, am turning 40, I felt qualified to assist him in his Journey of Style-I-zation.

 

3 Rules of Thumb for Updating Style

1. You wear a smaller size than you think you do.

2. You wear bolder colors and patterns than you think you do.

3. Your body is brawnier and more masculine than you think it is; show off your “good parts.”

(Not that good part, sicko).

 

The Result 

sneaks

These purple kicks were languishing on his shoe-rack. But Joe’s a creative-designer! Guess what his new “business-lunch” shoes are?

happywithgingham

Gingham: Joe was horrified. His wife loved it. Guess who won?

Dark Denim, not light. Cuffs, not baggy. Form fitting, not tent-like. Dark glasses to frame his face. Rahroooooo!

It took some serious beitzim for Joe to try on some gear that he feared would reveal areas of his physique that he doesn’t love. What Joe is coming to terms with:  he’s got shoulders most men (including myself) would kill for. He’s got substance to his body that looks, well, powerful – in refined designs.

cardigan man 2

Joe didn’t want to look like a “Hipster Dad.” That’s fine, since he plays in a band and has a cooking blog. Sounds pretty “Hipster Dad” to me.

He’s a good lookin’ guy – and he’s getting better.

 

Want a style update for 2014?

For an online consultation, click here.

Show off your good parts.

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

If my ties could talk

If my ties could talk, they’d have a story to tell.

Tie #1.  Purchased at Target, 1998. Paid for by my mother. 

straw had striped tie

1999: Atlanta, GA My second teaching job. Still, my first tie.

If my tie could talk, it would tell you that it was the first tie that I (Evan) ever picked out for myself – meaning, not a hand-me-down from my old man.

I was heading off to grad-school overseas. My mother took me to Target and treated me to $250 worth of baggy jeans, camp shirts, and a few “nice things” – e.g. the tie.

I was 28, but I still dressed like I did in college.

I’d never held a job for more than an academic year. My only marketable ability was a decent Kermit-the-Frog impression.

My relationship to clothing: fear and awe.

As an adolescent, I’d always felt inadequate in a department store. The whole concept of Style was over my head and physicially, nothing fit. In middle school, I somehow managed to be chubby and scrawny at the same time. I discovered bugle-boy chinos and bad-dog T-shirts at the precise moment I discovered girls; this coincided with the discovery that my total lack of confidence was going to be a problem.

As a 10th grader, style was mired in the same early 90’s absurdity that brought the first Gulf War and Michael Bolton.

I busted into African dashikis. Long hair. I played in rock bands. I played A D & D.  I learned how to create a costume as a form of revolt. It was sartorial survival.

Fifteen years later, in my first teaching job, looking like a grown-up was the goal.

If my tie could talk, it would tell you that it was a classic (a Repp tie is as classic as a tie can be, but I didn’t know that at the time). But when paired with the first “fashion forward” glasses I’d ever worn, it was a little ironic.

How coincidental.

Tie #2 Purchased at Kohl’s Department Store, 2006. Paid for by my father. 

gold

I am a disco. San Francisco, 2006.

If my tie could talk, it would tell you that it was the first “far-out” tie I’d ever owned. It was gold and black and combined with a gold-ish colored shirt, I think I imagined that I looked a little like a professional Disco Ball. Trust me, the colors popped.

At the time, I owned a yellow MINI Cooper. I would crank Salsa music while I drove through San Francisco. I was in my fifth year of teaching. There was magic. I loved teenagers and their attitudes and I loved having a persona that was all at once “me” and bigger than me.

It felt safe to be loud.

If my tie could talk, it would tell you how I began to take a selfie (they weren’t called “selfies” yet) every day, because I wanted to remember. What shirt went with which tie. Maybe also, I wanted to see – what did it look like to feel good?

In the morning, I’d put on my pedagogical disco-gear and think, “It takes confidence to rock a look like this.”

Tie #3 Purchased at Soul to Soul, San Francisco, 2010. Paid for with store credit. Made by Nobis

skinny tie died

2010: My first skinny tie. A look I might have stolen from Best Buy’s Geek Squad.

If my tie could talk, it would tell you about how I was half a year out from a significant break-up. I started thinking about first impressions. What did I look like when I walked into a bar for a first date? I figured that even a thoughtful, “authentic” person still would see me before they would talk to me. My ties got skinnier. I got some nice shoes. But it was difficult to imagine myself as — um, marketable.

I started dating a woman who’d never seen Revenge of the Nerds, one of my old favorites. She was unimpressed, but more interestingly, she was confused; the “Jocks” were dressed and groomed like castrated Ken-Dolls, while the “Nerds” looked like they were ready to form an excellent indie-rock band.

In our post Steve-Jobs / Bill Gates world, most people don’t remember how the word was once pejorative. Those of us who grew up not as beautiful people learned to fear the word. It was sneered before a locker-room beating, shouted by pursuers.

Only years later, like other dehumaizing epithets, was it reclaimed.

It became something to be proud of.

If my tie could talk, it would tell you how I was learning to radiate confidence.

I learned to flush vestiges of Nerd-shame from my system, and I learned to tie a bow-tie.

bow tie and plaid

2011: My first bow-tie. Nerdy-edgy.

Nerdy. Edgy. Proud.

Tie #4

Purchased online at Bonobos.com, 2011. Got some sort of discount. 

blue knit and plaid

2011: Wool. Simple. Fancy.

If my tie could talk, it would tell you about how I was collecting a lot of clothes. If I was a famous painter, some docent in a museum would point to my selfies and say, “This was a period of incredible creativity for Wolkenstein.”

It was a time of anxiety. Hope. I dated a lot. I worried about the future.

I invented a number of looks. I made many, many style mistakes.

I know. I have pictures to prove it.

Once in a while, though, I got excited about simplicity.

This tie is blue / black, made of fine Japanese wool, and looks good with everything.

If my tie could talk, it would tell you that I was learning not to be afraid of being classic.

Tie #5

Purchased on Gilt.com, 2012.  Band of Outsiders.  

purple stripe

Band of Outsiders. 2012.

If my tie could talk, it would tell you about how I’d started dating a woman way out of my league.

I mean, she wouldn’t have said that, but I was only a celebrity within the relatively narrow confines of Jewish Education. She was a published author with a TV show on the way.

I wasn’t trying to use clothes to hide. Or to spark a riot. Or to overturn a version of myself I wasn’t happy with.

I was enjoying exploring my late 30s. I was great at my job. I was playing with new ideas, new concepts, every day in the classroom. I was drawing. Writing.

My tie would tell you, I was nearly ready to open the doors.

Tie #6 

Out of my league with both tie and girlfriend. Thom Browne. 2013.

Purchased at Black Fleece, San Francisco.

Some years earlier, on my weekly run down Fillmore Street, I’d seen a colleague in a store called Black Fleece.

This colleague and friend had also been a mentor of sorts during my early days of style-awakening. Every day, I’d pestered him with questions. Why doesn’t this go with that? Why DOES this  go with that?

He would offer guidance and ideas and sometimes wrinkle his face with distaste, but he always encouraged me to think of Style as being IMPORTANT. It’s the first thing people see when they look at you.

How can that not be important?

Jogging by, that day, I’d seen him through the door. To say hello, I took a detour into the most beautiful store I’d ever been in.

Yes, it was expensive. But that wasn’t it.

It had it’s own Style. Classy yet edgy. Apologetically bold and yet refined. Totally “in your face,” and yet – riffing off blue-nearly-black, white, and red.

I didn’t know this at the time, but it’s designed by the amazing Thom Browne. 

Around that time, I began to know, deeply and fully, that Style wasn’t about what you wear, but who you are.

Style is about stripping off what you’ve always worn because you’ve always wanted to play it safe, and stepping into the shoes of who you’ve always wished you could be. Style is about pride. Loving yourself. Expressing yourself. Playing with the fantasy of the future.

Style is about reflecting. Sometimes in front of the mirror. Acknowledging what’s already perfect about you. Noticing what you’d like to change.

Style is about not being afraid to make mistakes.

Style is about feeling as attractive as you actually are – to your significant other, and to the World.

Style is about asking for opinions and only sometimes following them.

Style is not something you learn.

Style is about who you already are.

 

My tie could tell you…Style is not for the beautiful people.

Style is for dorks.

 

 

15 Things to Throw Out. Now.

Marching Orders: Get up, go to your closet, and start making a pile. This is not the “try it on, one last time” pile. That pile always ends up back in the closet for another year. This is the proceed to Salvation Army and give it to someone who needs it more than you do.

Sympathy: Look, I get it. Ten years ago, those shoes were very cool. Or maybe they weren’t cool, but other people wore them. So they were “a thing.” Or maybe there’s a story attached to that tie or that jacket: you wore it when you graduated from college! It was a gift from someone you love. It retailed for $1,000 and you got it for $25! It doesn’t fit right, but you love the color.

No Sympathy: It doesn’t look good.

The List: I’ve owned every last thing listed below.  I survived. You can, too.

slip on sneaker

A hybrid shoe! “Doesn’t look good” crossed with “doesn’t go with anything.”

1. Any sort of slip-on hybrid shoe. These shoes are essentially fancy Crocs, and I’m going to waste your time talking about Crocs, since now [clears throat] you only wear Crocs to the beach. And even that isn’t a good idea. As long as I’m at it, if the leather shoes you wear to work incorporate sporty-hybrid elements, get rid of them. 2. Any shirt where the seam falls below the beginning of the slope of your shoulders. As a man, your shoulders are your best feature, and they can compensate for anything else about you that you don’t love. But they can’t do anything for you when your shirt seams are midway down your arms.

seams

The “Sweet Spot” to make your manly shoulders stand up and say, “Whassup!”

3.T shirts with writing. You can donate both the Hulkamania Tshirt AND the irony to the Salvation Army.

4. Shoes with squared off toes. One word for you: platypus.

5. Running shoes / sneakers that you use for anything other than running / sneaking. The exceptions are Chuck Taylor / Converse sneakers because, if they are in decent shape, they are the tofu of the shoe world (they take on the flavor of anything you serve them with). Also, New Balance old- school sneakers because, unfortunately, it’s in (although becoming cliche) to wear them with blazers and the like.

6. White socks that you wear with anything other than the running shoes / sneakers while you are actually running / sneaking. Get some striped socks.

7. Pants where the hem of the pants hits your shoes and causes your pant legs to pool up. Those need to be tailored. Probably thrown out. hemming

8. Khaki shorts.  You will never wear khaki shorts with a tucked in polo shirt, running shoes, and white socks pulled up. Ever again. I call that look “Uncle Russ at the BBQ.”

uncle russ

Uncle Russ at the BBQ

9. Navy blue suit jackets which you try to pull off as a blazer. As long as I’m talking about blazers, I don’t care what size you are, you need to get fitted by a tailor. You should learn the NUMBER and the SIZE. For example, I’m a size 36 SHORT which is a Small. Only one in 500 jackets fits me. But I’m armed with that knowledge, and knowledge is half the battle.

Shiny, silk-ties are about as cool as your friend, Jacob, on his bar-mitzvah day.

Shiny, silk-ties are about as cool as your friend, Jacob, on his bar-mitzvah day.

10. Shiny Silk Ties. If your tie is shiny and silk, and probably picked up from a department store, then you should give it to your nephew for his Bar Mitzvah and replace it with something cotton (for summer) or wool (for winter).

11. Baggy Jeans. The 90’s called. They want their “The 90s called, they want their xyz joke” back.

12. Anything with epaulets, those roll-up sleeve holders, or unnecessary stitching. All three say, “Hi. I’m a Douche-bag. Care for a red-bull and vodka?”

13.  Anything (especially shirts) that are a little too big. If it’s a little too big, it’s A LOT TOO BIG.

14. Snap-back baseball hats. Invest 10 more dollars for a fitted cap and only wear it when you’re at a little-league game.

15. Old-man caps except for one style: the 6 Paneled Ivy. Everyone looks good in one of those. (The worst old-man cap, by the way, is called a driving cap, and unless you’re an old-man, you shouldn’t wear it.)

kitoose cap

Cesi na pas une “hep-cat.”

Reassurance: You’re on your way to Salvation Army with two duffel bags worth of clothing you love but should never wear again. The only thing you have to wear now is underwear. So, for a week, walk around in your striped boxer-briefs with than zen-feeling that everything in life is impermanent, including not being in style.

That phase, for you, is over.

Get ready to get stylish.

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.