The Basics

Red Wing Boots: A Dorky Teenage Dilemma Resolved

pScreenshot 2015-12-29 at 3.02.54 PMHere’s an embarrassing story.

When I was in high-school, I fancied myself a bit of a hippie. I had long hair and listened to the Beatles and the Grateful Dead. I was opposed to the Gulf War and I wore paint-splattered Levi’s that had once been my father’s work-pants. I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X  and carried a suitcase with my schoolbooks on which I’d written: “The Mighty Quinn.”

One wet, winter day, hanging out with some fellow hippie neophytes, I posed a dilemma: what was truer to the hippie ideal we strove for? A) A pair of Nike high tops thathad been languishing in my closet since I’d discovered Birkenstocks, or B) a pair of my old man’s Red Wing boots, that were too large by two sizes? The sneakers fit, but the boots were so much cooler.

Striving for some sort of authentic hippie identity in early 90s Mequon, Wisconsin was already absurd. Trying to determine the most appropriate footwear for the costume is cringeworthy. And yet, it’s sort of touching. If you haven’t seen this Buzzfeed about the 10 most embarrassing pages from the 1990 JC Penney catalog, check it out. Stylistically, the early 90s were an extension of the 80s: everything was oversized, understyled. Fanny packs, mullets, slouchy-sweaters with big belts, and Zubaz pants. I like to think that at some level, I knew that the Emperor had no clothes, so to speak. All that shit was ugly, and I wanted nothing to do with it.

Also, by way of contrast: last week, the Beatles’ music was streamed 50 Million times in 48 hours. Conversely, when I was in high school, I was ribbed for listening to the Beatles. When Waldenbooks added a new book to their meager inventory, it was a given that I would buy it. These days, there’s too much to read, let alone to buy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. When current fashion and classic style align, it’s a good thing. That’s a luxury I didn’t experience as a High School Junior.

At some level, in my teenage groping, I was looking for music that meant something, that spoke to me, that would never age or moulder in the way that Top 40 music seemed to. I was looking for something with substance, with style, with soul. So, too, footwear.


 

 

ginghamnboots

Dapper Americana: paired with denim jacket and gingham shirt/tie.

25 years later, in preparation for spending the holidays in Milwaukee, I decided to splurge on a pair of boots that could handle a type of precipitation we don’t have out in California: “Wintery Mix.” This delightful blend of slush, show, sleet and rain penetrates the seams of boots and transforms your feet into numb stumps. My usual desert boots aren’t cut out for this sort of action.

 

 

DomesticDomestic.com, a website that curates American Made goods, offers Red Wings (made in Minnesota) in a spectacular, StyleForDorks-friendly color: Indigo. I bagged a pair and I’ve worn them every day for the past two weeks. My feet stay dry and warm, I’ve gotten a ton of compliments, and here’s what impresses me the most: no matter what I wear them with, they’re perfect. Jeans and a button up. T-shirt. Cardigan and blazer. Knit tie and flower lapel.

 

 

fedoraandredwing

Vintage hat and jacket. Classic everything else.

They go with everything because they’re a classic-original, a style never that never gets old.

 

I started listening to the Beatles when I was 15. I got my first pair of Red Wings when I was 17. I know I’ll be fans of both for a long, long time.

 

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How to (and How Not To) Layer Up: A Polar-tech Polemic.

fleecevest2

Do you want to be this guy? Go right ahead.

I know it’s cold out, so I’m going to be gentle, here. Very gentle, and yet quite firm.

I say, gently-but-firmly: no fleece indoors.

I know, I know. Fleece is a perfectly rational material to wear in the chilly months: it’s cold outside, it’s drafty in the office, and fleece! Fleece is the miracle cloth that keeps hikers and kayakers and volunteers at the State Park visitor’s center warm. It’s light! It’s durable! So… wear it inside!

You can. But you really shouldn’t.

Let me put on my teacher hat and explain why.


Menswear borrows from about 100 years worth of cultural context. Browse the racks in any store, and you will see items nodding towards their roots: classic Americana. Preppie. Glam Rock and Roll. Vintage rock. Outdoorsman. College professor. Worker/trucker. Urban/Streetwear. In every case, the material and the style have a story to tell, and also an aesthetic: the clean simplicity of a white t-shirt and jeans. The trim, jaunty design of a cardigan. The dignified structure of a tweed blazer. The trim sportiness of a well-fitting polo shirt. In every case, there was once a cultural context that gave it rise, but its inherent aesthetic gave it enduring life.

fleecevest

Fleece: performance clothing for hiking. And not for…well, anything else.

Fleece, however, was synthesized as a technical fabric. It doesn’t drape like cotton or wool, and it pills about two days after you buy it. Perhaps as a result (excepting a brief period in the late 90s when companies were hawking it as a “performance” item) it remains, to this day, a technical garment. It’s the uniform of a wooded or rocky trail, but it lacks the aesthetic of a well-made flannel.

If you could ask it: “Hey, fleece, do you WANT to be worn to the office? To a party? To a pub?”

It would say, “No, kind owner. Thank you for asking, but kindly wear me only when you’re hiking and then leave me in the bin along with my buddies, the Vasque boots and the L.L. Bean Trail Pants.” 


If I have any friends left after my anti-fleece polemic,  I’d like to share my tips on layering up for the chilly winter months.

  1. When it’s a bit chilly out, layer on a denim jacket. 

Denim stands up to a cold breeze it but won’t crimp your style, and you can pair it with pretty much anything.

rugbyovertie2. For a smart look, wear a rugby shirt over an Oxford Cloth Button Down

And over that, a tweed or corduroy blazer.

For non-stop compliments, pair the whole thing with a knit tie.

3. Look for a sweater that looks like a jacket. Or a jacket that feels like a sweater. 

sweaterbillWhatever you call it, it looks totally bad-ass. 

4. Try a baseball-jacket. 

But keep it grey, black, or navy.

baseballAnd if you think it looks good with a T-shirt and jeans, try it with an Oxford Cloth Button Down and tweed/knit tie.

5. Find a blazer made of jersey (“sweatshirt”) material.

sweatshirtblazerWear it with anything, and wear it everywhere you’d wear a sweatshirt.


 

Now you have five alternatives to your fuzzy vest. Choose one, and wear it all winter long.

As for your beloved polar-tech gear, by all means. Wear it wherever you want. But be aware: it starts with “No one’s around the office, I’m just gonna slip this on for a few minutes.” Then, it’s a slippery slope down the hiking trail of dorkdom. Next thing you know, you’ll be watching Perfect Strangers reruns while wearing a Spider-man Snuggie.

spiderman

“What!?! It’s warm!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cufflinks: How To Wear Them…And How Not To.

Recently, I had the pleasure of answering the following question, sent by an audience member to Dear Veronica – Veronica Belmont’s show on Engadget. I welcome my readers to watch the original video clip here (and embedded at the end).

“I’ve got a stash of Most Excellent cufflinks… I’d love some guidelines on when and where I can get away with rockin’ the French Cuffs.


Once upon a time, the only thing I knew about French Cuffs is what I learned from Mel Brooks’ “History of the World: Part I.”



Fortunately, since then, I have developed a more nuanced understanding.

musketeers

Sadly, the cuffs are all that survives today from these stylish gents.

But first, a little background:

French cuffs burst onto the sartorial scene in a “life-imitates-art sort of way” when Alexander Dumas published The Three Musketeers in 1844. Pretty soon, every man in Europe was wearing his cuffs rolled back and fastened with a couple of decorative baubles.

To this day, while we credit the French with their eponymous cuffs, the French called them poignet Mousquetaire — Musketeer Wrists.

Wow. Who knew.

For the next hundred years, true gents rocked French Cuffs. This culminated with personalities like Sean Connery and Frank Sinatra who brought the look to cinema, fusing stardom and style into a well-dressed masculine ideal. This set the standard for the next generation.

 French Cuffs Today: 

office spaceUnfortunately for the French Cuff enthusiasts of the world, in the 80s and 90s, many men began to idealize high-powered Wall Street executive types. The Wall Street Boss look was bad enough, but scores of imitators created a Bill Lumbergh archetype – middle managers with bad taste and chips on their shoulders. They wore cufflinks, contrast collars, suspenders, lurked around cubicle corners with their power-lingo, and pretty much ruined the French Cuff for everyone else.

The Return of the French Cuff:

The last ten years have seen a sartorial revival: ties and jackets have returned to the workplace and the pub, but slimmer, now, combining the formality of menswear with a youthful silhouette. Cufflinks, on the other hand, remain a throw-back accessory, mainly appearing at weddings and in the occasional boardroom. As a result, if you’re under the age of 50 and/or you are not a bank president, cufflinks can easily throw your look off-balance.

This doesn’t mean you cannot wear them, it just means you need to be aware of an important concept: “Flair-Up.”

flair chartFlair-Up:

The movie Office Space (1999) features a hilarious and absurd restaurant wherein employees are given kudos for featuring “flair” on their uniforms (and are reprimanded for any lack thereof). “Flair” refers to buttons, pins, badges – you know. Wearable tchotchkes.

In real-life style, I advise people to think about “flair” as an essential component of style – it’s what transforms a suit and tie (or Tshirt and jeans) from into a fantastic outfit.

Certain colors, patterns, materials, accessories – all these add +1 to your flair… until you hit +4, at which point it’s a “flare up.” The outfit incinerates into an ongepotchket mess.

Click here for a deeper dive on flair and the dreaded flare-up.

Cufflinks, to put it simply, burn through all your allotted flair points. That means: if you want to wear them, tone everything else waaaaay down.

Step 1: Start with the cufflinks.

If you’re new with cufflinks, it’s easier to build an outfit around the links you’d like to wear than to put an outfit together and hope you have a pair of links that match.

4 tiesStep 2: Select a tie

If you’re going to wear a tie, choose one with complementary colors.


headon banker


Look 1. Classy-Styley 

Pair well-made, understated cufflinks with your tie – in this case, tiger eye cufflinks with a tie featuring brown accents. The white shirt and grey jacket keeps everything else in check. Stick to strong, neutral colors: black, grey, brown, blue.

Look 2: Designy-Styley

To avoid looking like a stock-broker or a bar-mitzvah boy, lose the tie. Go ultra modern. Pair some minimalist cufflinks (like these grey or red cufflinks from BLOCK) with a neutral blazer and some slim chinos or slim, dark jeans. If you want to step up the flair, wear colored pants to matching the cufflinks (red or blue) but keep the shirt neutral and avoid any other loud accessories.

red linksup close block




Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do stick to clean lines, simple colors, and simple construction.
  • Do match your cufflink color to another color you’re wearing – and match the level of formality to the rest of your outfit. ie Colored acrylic goes with colored chinos. Silver and semi-precious stone goes with dress pants and a blazer.
  • Do match your cufflinks to a thin tie – 2.5 inches or narrower. Wider than that and Bill Lumbergh is going to ask you to “go ahead and come in on Saturday.”
  • Make sure the rest of your outfit is on point. If your pants, shirt, or shoes are not well fit and well assembled, the cufflinks will actually accentuate the problem.
  • Don’t wear (or give as gifts, for that matter) novelty cufflinks with people’s initials, funny sayings, or tiny metal monopoly-pieces representing your careerhobby, or ironic nerd-passion.
  • Avoid cufflinks featuring salvaged material: steam punk cufflinks, circuit board cufflinks, typewriter key cufflinks, or anything that, enlarged, would be a desk-toy. All of these are conversation pieces, and you should not be having any conversations about your cufflinks. Keep them understated.
  • Avoid large gold and silver cufflinks which say “mafia boss.” Leave this look to the pros. And leave them alone, while you’re at it.
  • Avoid pairing cufflinks with blingy gold or silver watches or jewelry. If you’re wearing cufflinks, that’s both your flair and your jewelry quota right there.


14 Days of Reflection: Episode 9 – Brace Yourself For This Advice

IMG_4447On the left wrist, you wear a watch. 

What goes on the other wrist?

One the one hand (so to speak), there is something to be said for the obvious answer: nothing.

If you’re sporting a styley, conversation piece like one of these watches, you really don’t need any more conversations.

On the other hand, in certain circumstances, a couple of funky bracelets do add value to the outfit, and a vacation at the beach is one of them.

The idea is not to deck yourself out from head to toe in surf-bruh gear. You don’t need a coral necklace, a pair of raybans, board-shorts, AND gnarly hair. Or, actually, any of these.

Instead, a couple of beaded bracelets will compliment a dapper outfit and add a few grains of beachiness without doing free marketing for Bodyglove or making you look like Spicoli.

These two bracelets are from eBay; they cost under 10 dollars for the pair, are made from lava and wood, and go well with a kakhi blazer (pictured) and a bright pair of chinos (for the full outfit, click here). You might also try Etsy for handmade bargains.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Too many Transformers.

One thing I have discovered this summer, so far, is the power of “just a little bit.” Gabi and I spent 4 days in San Diego, and it was as relaxing as two weeks.

I am someone who is susceptible to saturation. I find things I like and I have a tendency to go overboard. I’ve been like that since I was a child. My friend would have a small shoebox of Transformers and I’d have them on every shelf, overflowing my closet. The mindset I’d like to cultivate is being easily satisfied with a little bit of something.

This reminds me about the power nap that turns the whole day around. The walk in a city park that leaves me rejuvenated. 10 minutes of meditation. A few songs listened to, attentively, on headphones. A quick catch up with someone I love on the phone. The handful of almonds that satisfies hunger as deeply as a three-course meal (although I suggest you avoid being present when I get my hands on a bag of Funyuns; it is not a pretty sight).

As my summer kicks off, I will strive to enjoy all the great things coming my way: Budapest. Israel. An engagement party in Milwaukee. I have some fantastic plans. But even amidst the excitement, I will try to remember the simple wooden beads and the meaning of “just a little bit.”

And if life gives me more, great. I’ll just have to brace myself.


For a deeper dive into the world of men’s accessories, click here.

14 Days of Reflection: Weekend Look #3 – The First Day of Vacation

IMG_4440For many people, and understandably so, the second that vacation begins, the care to construct a styley look ends. And truly, I will never fault anyone for taking off the work clothes and slipping on the t-shirt, shorts and flips-flops.

On the other hand, as long as you gotta wear something (assuming you’re vacationing with family in, say, San Diego, and not at “Sea Mountain Nude Hotsprings”) why not wear something well put together?

The trick is this: if you know that you won’t have the headspace to pick out a bunch of vacation outfits as you rush to cram your suitcases, pick them out in advance. Way in advance. In other words, identify a couple of pairs of pants, a few shirts, a pair of shoes, and yes, a classy layer-piece: a sweater or an unconstrcuted blazer or both.

Then, when your plane takes off in three hours and you still haven’t filled your suitcase, you need not panic: you know what you’re packing.


As Gabi and I approach our first week as (and with) future-family, I’m struck by two competing forces at work. First, there is, well, the familiar. Gabi’s family is very tightly knit and meals with them are full of laughter, good-natured ribbing, and decades’ worth of stories. They seem to appreciate and understand my humor, although folks are divided on whether my puns are brilliant or groan-worthy.

IMG_4437On the other hand, there is the unfamiliar. Deeply unfamiliar. People who are dear to me, and have been for years, take on roles of new significance. Future father-in-law. Future mother-in-law. Future brother-in-law. I have never really known these roles in my life, and I’m acutely aware of this, the way a new article of clothing feels very there.

It seems appropriate, in these circumstances, to wear something fitting this odd and beautiful confluence of well-known and never known. Here, on this San Diego beach, what could do that better than comfy sneakers, a soft sweater, my old hat – and a red flower in my lapel?

Marco? Polo!

stripeypoloI hope I’ve made a decent case for why you should wear a tie on vacation, but sometimes, a tie isn’t going to happen:

You just got home from a long day at work and can’t wait to get out of your office clothes. Tie = oppressive.

You’re going to a flea market to buy a semi-functional pinball machine. Tie = impractical.

You’re going to a swimming pool. Tie = out of place.

You’re going to a toddler’s birthday party. Tie = death by strangling.

You could throw on a t-shirt, but why do that if you can wear a great polo?


tennis

If you’d had to wear something this starchy and hot to do something athletic, you would’ve invented a garment, too.

Let’s start with things you didn’t know about polo shirts:

1. In the 20s, a famous tennis player was sick of the flannel pants and long sleeve shirts that composed “tennis whites.” He invented a garment out of pique cotton (waffley weave, for you non-french speakers).

His name? LaCoste. I’ll let you guess what animal his company stitched over the pocket.

2. The shirt, both lightweight and rugged, with a collar that could be flipped against the sun, caught the attention of Polo players. One South American polo club added an emblem of a rider on a horse. It was wildly popular.

Guess why we call it a polo shirt…? 

3. Golfers, in the 50s, got their own version with a pocket over the right shirt for scorecard and tees, often with a a placket extending lower on the shirt than the older tennis shirt/polo shirt.

This version was later made of lycra and other stretchy stuff.

toobigpolo

What not to do: seams need to fall on shoulders.

4. Ill fitting polo shirts have become industry standard uniform for retail and counter-clerks, a proliferation of baggy, flappy-sleeved polo-shirts have given this handsome garment a very bad racket. No pun intended.


Now, you’re a polo shirt maven, at least as far as history of the shirt is concerned. And if you look around, you’ll see that this shirt is everywhere, but generally, it’s worn poorly.

The white, blue and red accents will not make you look like Yankee Doodle. It will, however, lend your outfit a timeless, classic past-time look.

The white, blue and red accents will not make you look like Yankee Doodle. It will, however, lend your outfit a timeless, classic past-time look.

Let’s start with color

One of the things that makes a polo shirt (potentially) classy is that, well, it’s classy in the literal sense of the word. It hails from tennis and polo

2 pockets? Trim? Stitching? This poor shirt doesn't know who or what it is!

2 pockets? Trim? Stitching? This poor shirt doesn’t know who or what it is! Keep your polo simple!

and golf, games that, historically, were thought of as “gentlemen’s” games.

And, like many uniforms of olden days, the garments were white (with red and blue accents). 

For this reason, when you put on a polo shirt, you have the potential to tap into some of this stately, classy, gentlemanly business.

bill

Classic mod – sporty and badass.

Let’s continue with attitude

While the polo began as a sporty shirt, the mods of England adopted it, and wore them as they tore up London on the backs of Vespas. 

Today, if you pair your polo with some sweet shoes and a rock-and-roll scowl, you may merit to be the main-character in a coming-of-age movie with a classic sound track.

What not to do. In soooo many ways.

What not to do. In soooo many ways.

Let’s focus on fit

The fastest way to ruin a good polo look is with a shirt that billows around the belt-line and sleeves.

Get your Polo as slim fitting as you can without it being downright tight.

In fact, look for a label saying, “slim fit.” That’s a good place to start, even if you’re a normal sized guy.

polo

Unstructured jacket and white shoes #1

Let’s focus on the outfit

Pair your polo with an unstructured jacket and white shoes for a luxury-relaxed look.

Let’s find a good polo:

My favorite is the slim fit Fred Perry. If you buy it on e-bay, be sure to find one with a tag saying 36″ (slim fit), made in UK. The made in China variety has a much bigger collar and is baggier.

For a bargain, try the Original Penguin brand or a used Ben Sherman, but don’t get suckered in by fancy stripes and patterns.

You want a classic-classy casual shirt? A white polo is as

Then again, even my rules are made to be broken...

Then again, even my rules are made to be broken…

classy-classic casual as they come.

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.

6 Things to Learn from a Hipster Dad : [30 DAYS OF WRITING: EPISODE 26/30]

thsirtThis is day 26 of a 30 day New Year’s Resolution.


Joe wouldn’t volunteer to be called an Urban Hipster Dad, but let’s tally up the criteria:

1. Between the ages of 30 and 49

2. Has small kids.

3. Beard.

4. Cool glasses.

5. Works in design.

And if that doesn’t convince you, here’s one of his websites: Domesticated Daddy. Therefore, I feel like he’s qualified to speak about Hipster Dad style.


Many “domesticated daddies” (urban hipster dads) are styley at heart, but the doodies/duties of parenthood prevent them from dropping bank on expensive clothes or from wearing stuff too fussy and fancy to muss up.

Enter 6 things to Learn from a Hipster Dad.


closeupwithblazerandsweater

1. Since, after day-care and babysitting expenses, Urban Hipster Dads don’t have the money for a Panerai watch, they splurge on a really great coffee mug. Urban Hipster Dads have a favorite mug they bring with them, everywhere they go. Usually it has coffee in it… it might have PBR.

jacket over shoulder

2. Hipster Dads spend a lot of time covered in the muck and mire of parenthood. White T-shirts are their best friend. They buy ’em 3 at a time and wash the hell out of ’em. And when they go to the cafe to work on their Hipster Dad projects, they throw on a chunky, cuddly sweater.

withblazerandsweater

3. Urban Hipster Dads don’t need expensive, gourmet denim, only availble from expensive, gourmet denim shops. They get their Levi’s from Target. They pick out the darkest denim they can find, and they run over to the toy section where their kids are opening up the boxes of Hungry, Hungry Hippos. Marbles everywhere!!!

4. Urban Hipster Daddies make ends meet with a single, all-purpose blazer. Chambray (feels and looks like thin denim) can dress up jeans and a sweater, or can step up to handle a tie at Maple Dale Elementary School Open House Night.

4. Urban Hipster Daddies make ends meet with a single, all-purpose blazer. Chambray (looks and feels like thin denim) can dress up jeans and a sweater, or can step up to handle a tie at Maple Dale Elementary School Open House Night.

5. Urban Hipster Dads know that how a clothes FIT is more important than what it is. Shoulder seams hit the shoulders, arms aren't blousy or puffy, and everything follows the contour of the body.

5. Urban Hipster Dads know that how a clothes FIT is more important than their designer. Shoulder seams hit the shoulders, arms aren’t blousy or puffy, and everything follows the contour of the body.

shoes

6. Urban Hipster Dads want to rock some flair, but need to maintain their Daddy Dignity. They employ a pop of color in the shoelaces, a tie, a pocket-square…Swag comes in many forms.

7. Urban Hipster Dads know that their greatest style accessory are the little things that make them a Daddy in the first place.

7. Urban Hipster Dads know that their greatest style accessory are the little things that make them a Daddy in the first place.

What’s the Truth About Pairing With Brown and Black? : [30 DAYS OF WRITING: EPISODE 25/30]

This is day 25 of a 30 day New Year’s Resolution.


Dear Style Maven,

If you wear brown shoes, should you wear any black at all? And vice versa? That’s what I’ve been schooled and I don’t know if there are hard and fast rules on that in this new hip era.

-Don’t Wanna Look Like a Jack-Ass

Dear DWLLAJA,

The answer requires us taking a deeper, dorky dive into the larger question, “what is brown?” — and not because brown is an unusually complex color (what its multifarious of “brown-ness” under the big, brown umbrella). Rather, every color has many varieties and shades, and in every case, we can’t talk universally about any color automatically going with (or not going with) any other color.

Indeed, the main principle to learn is not whether you should or shouldn’t mix brown and black. Rather, the principle to learn is that you shouldn’t match together two colors that are already too close.

Contrast vs. Monotone vs. Clash

Let’s break this down a bit. When pairing colors, a basic rule is that any two contrasting (sometimes called complementary) colors look great together, as long as neither of the colors is too “crazy.” For example, red and blue look great. Blue and yellow look great. Green and brown look great.

Richer, mixed colors, like orange and purple, are a little intense to pair with another “crazy color” – unless it’s just a little accent of color here and there. If you want to pair purple with yellow, keep that crazy combo in a pocket square, socks, or a tie – or risk what I call I “flair-up.” Too much flair makes you look like you’re wearing a costume.  (For more on “flair vs. flair up, read the full post). 

Then, we have deeply contrasting colors: white and black, yellow and black, orange and black. And no, orange is not the new black.

All of these are pleasing to the eye.

closeup monotone

Monotone is fun because it allows you to get crazy with patterns. Blue on blue on blue is always great – as long as the varieties are blue don’t roam into turquoise or aquamarine. Or, what’s that Crayola color… “sea foam.”

Monotone, these days, is pretty common. People will pair 2-4 garments, all variants of the same color. Light, medium, and dark blue. Or grey. Or brown. I’d stay away from doing orange or purple or red, in monotone, because they get a little intense. Otherwise, go for it – pair as many shades of one color as you like.

Clashing is when you pair a color with something that is a different color, but which are too close together. Art nerds call these “analogous colors.”

For example, coral with orange. Sky blue with turquoise. Purple with some blues.

The rule is – if they’re different, great. If they’re the same, fine. If they’re close – they’re too close.

wheel

Complementary good! Analogous bad!

For this reason, and no other reason, some browns and blacks should not be paired. They’re too close together.


Which browns shouldn’t be paired with black? Dark brown.

Which browns look great with black? Lighter brown, tan, or reddish brown (sometimes called cordovan).


Black and Brown? SURE! If the brown is light enough!

Black and Brown? SURE! If the brown is light enough!

Here are some do’s and don’ts of brown and black.

DO: pair tan slacks or dress-pants with black shoes.

DO: pair a light brown blazer with black pants and black shoes.

DO: pair reddish brown shoes with black pants.

DO: Wear any article of clothing that features black and lighter brown accents.

DON’T: Wear black shoes with a dark brown suit.

Reddish brown (cordovan) or tan shoes look great with grey / black.

Reddish brown (cordovan) or tan shoes look great with grey / black.

DON’T: Pair brown shoes with a black belt, and vice versa. Unless you do karate. Then wear your black belt with everything.

DON’T: Wear dark brown with dark blue without trying it and looking skeptically in the mirror.

And above all: Do NOT point out, to someone breaking any of these rules, that he is breaking a rule. He may not be stylish, but critique without invitation has no class.

Got a Style-Criticism? Good. Keep it to yourself: [30 DAYS OF WRITING: EPISODE 20/30]

helmetThis is day 20 of a 30 day New Year’s Resolution.


Back in February, blogger Howie Chong wrote a post on bike helmets that blew my mind. So to speak.

It was not about how helmets save lives. It was partially about how helmets may increase injuries.

But that’s not what struck me.

What I found fascinating was, as Chong points out, how quickly people criticize, even ridicule non-helmet wearers. And way out proportion to the need for the criticism.

Truth is, as a scooter rider, I’ve experienced the way people will hurl a “get a helmet” at you if you so much as pull fifteen feet up the street for a better parking space, without your helmet on.

I’d like to suggest that we live in a world where there is not enough good communication, not enough listening, and where people feel like their opinions don’t matter. So when they see someone with a helmet off, it’s their big chance to be heard.

I may, in my day, have yelled the same thing, myself.


Found in a thrift store in Austin. Still fresh after 3000 years.

Found in a thrift store in Austin. Still fresh after 3000 years.

I want to pull back a second and say, of course – there are times when people need to be told what’s what. There’s a great quote from the Mishna – I’m getting Jewish nerdy here – which is a 2000 year old instruction manual in the form of a series of arguments.

Q: “From where do we derive that one who sees something wrong about his friend should rebuke him? A: It is said (in the Torah), ‘One should surely rebuke.’

Q: How do we know that one should continue to rebuke [if his first attempt does not achieve the desired results]? A: We are taught this from the [odd grammar that one is to rebuke] no matter what.

So, yes. When it’s important, rebuke. But what if it’s some unimportant, antiquated fashion faux pas?


Picture taken in OCTOBER! Oooooh. Risky!

Picture taken in OCTOBER! Oooooh. Risky!

In style, I would maintain, there are a few rules which need to be thrown out. And yet, when I break one of them, the same guy who yells, “get a helmet” also tells me which sartorial rule I’m breaking, as if rebuking me for some moral flaw.

I take umbrage with this. So here are my top five rules you shouldn’t worry about breaking.

And what’s more…you shouldn’t worry about others breaking ’em, either.


1. White pants should not be worn after labor day or before Memorial Day.

Baloney. On a sunny winter day in California? Put ’em on.

So much matchy-matchy! Off to "style-jail?" Are you gonna narc on me?

So much matchy-matchy! Off to “style-jail?”
Are you gonna narc on me?

2. Seersucker: same.

Baloney. Okay, maybe not when it’s raining or snowing, but on a hot autumn day? Wear the damn seersucker.

3. Don’t wear Blue and Black together.

Baloney. Different shades of blue look great with black. Even navy-blue and black can look fetching.

 4. Don’t match your jacket and tie / jacket and shirt / etc.

Baloney. If it looks good, do it. Intentional overmatching is a way to raise your flair. Just, you know… get a second opinion.

Bottom button is buttoned. The earth keeps spinning.

Bottom button is buttoned.
The earth keeps spinning.

5. Don’t button the bottom button.

Baloney. If the sportcoat has a high button-stance and the bottom button keeps the jacket hugging your torso? Go for it.


In short: don’t be afraid to break the rules.

And furthermore, if you see someone else doing it? For God’s sake, keep your rules to your self.

And wear a helmet.