The Basics

10 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid When Clearance Shopping: [30 DAYS OF WRITING: EPISODE 16/30]

shoppingThis is day 16 of a 30 day New Year’s Resolution.


People think the best shopping day of the year is Black Friday or Cyber-Monday, but that’s just what the businesses want you to believe.

The reality is that the biggest sales (at least for new threads) are happening now. Why? Mainly, the spring season is here, and a lot of last season’s stuff has to be moved out, fast. It’s almost as if the fashion industry has a problem with anticipatory anxiety and needs to take care of weather changes three months away — right now.

This means that if you haven’t already blown your shopping wad, so to speak, you probably ought to hit a few of your favorite shops before the reduced reductions are gone.

Here are 10 tips to help you on Clearance Shopping Day.


By the way, if you're a grown-ass man, you have no business shopping at punk-ass Abercrombie.

By the way, if you’re a grown-ass man, you have no business shopping at punk-ass Abercrombie.

1. Cheap does not mean that you need it. Yes, it retailed for $150. Yes, it’s now $50. It’s still ugly. Don’t buy it.

2. When trying on pants, put your shoes on. I know that you get tired of slipping your kicks on and off, and the back of your foot is getting rubbed raw, but you cannot gauge the fit of pants without having shoes on.

3. Go shopping with a friend who can give you a) moral support, b) grab you another size while you’re in the fitting room, and c) tell you enough is enough when it’s time to go.

4. If you’re hitting a mall, after three stores, your judgment is shot. Don’t try to fit in a fourth. You’ll end up bringing home something you didn’t really want.

5. Make sure you’re clear on the return date. Some stores offer two weeks, some a month, and some 60 days. Whatever you bought at the fourth store (see #4 above) will need to be returned promptly.

6. If you’re not sure whether you should buy an article of clothing, use this simple formula: if you love it but you’re not sure about the fit, take it home and try it on in front of your own mirror. If it fits beautifully but you don’t love it — don’t buy it.

7. If you already have something like it, don’t buy it. If it’s similar but a quantum leap better than what you had, buy it and donate the old one. That’s called an upgrade.

8. Focus on finding a piece that’s a bit of a stretch for you: find a statement blazer, a bold shirt or tie — something refreshing. For guidelines on how much flair you should be aiming for, consult this handy-dandy infographic.

9. Have a sense of what you’re looking for before you hit the shops. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll waste your time and probably your money.

10. Wear a white t-shirt, indigo jeans, and styley-casual shoes (see links for more info) to allow you to change sweaters or shirts without using the dressing room, and to allow you to try a variety of tops without swapping the pants and shoes. You know…since everything goes with indigo jeans and styley-casual shoes…

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Expensive Jeans: Scam or Denim Umami? [30 DAYS OF WRITING: EPISODE 13/30]

Levi's 514: Good enough because they're already great.

Levi’s 514: Good enough because they’re already great.

This is day 13 of a New Year’s Resolution.


I’m a little burned out on the subject of death and grief, so let’s talk about denim and the reality of expensive jeans.

Jeans generally go into two categories: way too expensive and meh.

On the one hand, this great land of our is piled high with cheap, uninspired, mass-produced denim. It’s made, bought and donned with very little fanfare. And it doesn’t need to be that way.

On the other hand, walk around any menswear boutique and you’ll find jeans which cost almost much as a suit. And while there’s nothing wrong with dropping $250 on a pair of jeans per se, the nature of denim implies, well, a certain practical accessibility. There is something a little off about the concept of ungodly expensive jeans.

I know that much of the the world, every seventh grader, and all of Los Angeles disagrees with me. But millions of styley folks roll their eyes at the price tags. To misquote Macklemore: $200 on jeans — I call that getting tricked by a business.

Unless…you get something for the money.


So what are the options. What could you possibly get?

Possible answers: you get A) a better look or B) you get higher quality.

Let’s analyze. 

The following thing I say is not a boast. The following thing I say is a fact: I get compliments on my jeans all the time. People ask what they are. Where I got them. How much they were. And the answer is that my jeans, my quotidian, put ’em on and wear ’em with absolutely everything jeans are Levi’s 514. I got them at a Buffalo Exchange for $25.

So, to answer the question: Can I get a better look for $200? Probably not.


indigo

Indigo: the most beautiful color in all of cloth-dom.

On the other hand, for about $100 more than “regular” Levi’s, you can bag one of the upscale side-brand Levi’s called Made and Crafted. It’s a problematic name. All jeans are made and crafted. Everything is made and crafted. But these are made in U.S.A.! (Insert happy, excited emoticon). And/or Turkey. (Insert sad emoticon). The website attempts to explain the premium cost by explaining that Levi ‘s Made and Crafted are:

  • Our premium quality denim is woven in the USA, Japan and Italy
  • The Levi’s “Arcuate” is stitched behind the pocket–gradually apearing [sic] with wear (apparently their high price tag wasn’t high enough to allow the company to retain a proofreader for their website).
  • We use real indigo and other natural dyes
  • Every garment is cut, sewn and finished using the best methods available.

Does this justify the $169 cost? To begin with, that figure is low for premium, gourmet denim, but still about $100 more than Levi’s “normal” jeans. In that sense, it still sounds like getting “tricked by a business.”

But I wasn’t sure. So I got a pair from a website that allowed easy returns. 

And here’s what I learned.


selvege

Behold the selvedge: might signify high quality denim. Certainly looks awesome. Only visible if you cuff.

Denim Umami

Really great jeans are not just about how they fit, it’s also about the quality of the color and also something I’d like to call Denim Umami (or maybe Denimami?). In food, Umami is the lip-smack “yum” that makes you want to eat the whole bag.

Great jeans have undeniable umami.

And while I love my Levi’s 514, when I slid into the Made and Crafted, I could feel the Denimami. It felt like I was wearing something much more savory. With satisfying crunch. The details caught my eye: the stitching a little more solid. Bold. The seams a little more bad-ass.

But what made an impression on me was the undeniable beauty of the Rigid Indigo denim, itself. Not everyone likes rigid jeans. They take a while to break in, they’re a little stiff for a while, and they drape differently than the soft jeans you wear when you lay on the sofa, watching the game. 

But the rigid indigo Made and Crafted managed to blur rugged with class, rough with refined, no-frills with fine-finish – just as my favorite foods are often rustic, executed with excellent ingredients, and served with a subtle panache (along with something crispy or crunchy, every few bites).


Rigid Indigo or Indi-Go Home!

Rigid Indigo or Indi-Go Home!

The Harsh Reality

If spending $170 dollars on an article of clothing you will wear more than anything else you own (maybe more than everything you own, combined) and will have for years is something you can relate you, you’re a candidate for some Made and Crafted. But some caveats:

  • If you don’t want Indigo or Indigo Rigid denim, save your money.
  • If you don’t want to turn up your cuffs to show off the selvedge denim – the usually red or blue stripe running up the inside seam – save your money.
  • If the style you want doesn’t have a selvedge edge (not all do) – save your money.
  • If ‘Murca and products made here aren’t important to you, then go find another place to live! U.S.A! U.S.A! (And Turkey.)

Ultimately, if after reading this it’s not abundantly clear to you that you need Made and Crafted jeans – if my description of Denimami didn’t make any sense to you, or you rolled your eyes at any time, then take my advice: save your hundred bucks and wear a great pair of “regular” Levi’s — jeans that are good enough because they’re already great.

It doesn’t take a “Jeanius” to figure that one out…

Give Your Shoes a Fast Upgrade: NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION — 30 DAYS OF WRITING. EPISODE 8/30

laces2 This is day 8 of a New Year’s Resolution.


In the 1950s, industrialists were interested in studying productivity and the effects of lighting.

They added extra lights to the factory floor, and productivity increased. Once the study was over, productivity slumped.

The experimenters took away light to see what the effect on productivity could be. Again, a surge – and when the study was over, a slump.

As it turned out, whatever the experimenters did increased productivity.  And conversely, when the workers knew that the observation was over, that no one was looking at them, productivity tapered off.

cool shoes and lacesIt seemed that light was not the factor. Being watched was the factor.


Let’s say you’re not going to go out and get new black dress shoes. But you wouldn’t mind a little attention below the ankle, so to speak. How do you turn up the lights and add productivity? Get noticed?

Like the scientists did – make a change, a simple one. Put on some colored laces.

Start with blue or red. Later on, yellow, green, or purple. See how it puts an extra glide in your stride.


You can drop a lot of money, unnecessarily, on colored laces, and you can also get them super cheap… and they’ll look cheap. These are right in the sweet spot, the price of a cappuccino, from Johnston and Murphy.

What Tailoring Teaches Us About Growing Up: New Year’s Resolution — 30 Days of Writing. Episode 5/30

This is day 5 of a New Years Resolution.


Until I was 35, I’d never taken anything to a tailor.

Well, that’s not exactly true – I got a vintage suit when I was in college, but the pants draped down over my shoes, and the jacket was too big. But my parents orchestrated (and paid for) the whole thing, so I don’t feel like that counts.

Behold: the majestic shirt of non-fittage. Circa 2008.

Behold: the majestic shirt of non-fittage. Circa 2008.

But when I was thirty five, I got this brand new, awesome — (pauses to consider name of color) — burnt-umber colored shirt. And while I loved it on the hanger, when I put it on, I didn’t feel “classy” or “dapper” or even particularly grown-up. In fact, I felt like I used to when I was 14, and would borrow my dad’s shirt, tie, and jacket for Rosh Hashana services.

At first, I chalked this feeling off to a delinquent Saturn Return.

But I started to notice: in rooms full of well-dressed adults, say: a gala banquet — it didn’t matter what color my shirt was, or how cool my shoes were, or how well I matched my tie to my shirt, I seriously never felt like I belonged. 

One day at work, I asked a very dapper friend if he could direct me to the store that sells the shirts that fit. His response?

Do what grown-ups do, and go get your shirt tailored.


Ok, so he didn’t mean the burnt-umber atrocity, per se. That thing needed to be phased out, stat.

But I did pick out a few respectable shirts and I brought them to a place that Yelp reassured me wouldn’t ruin them, and one week later, I put on this newly tailored white shirt. Nothing special about the shirt. White. Buttons. But I noticed something profound.

It fit. I fit. I fit myself, if that makes any sense. With a decent tie and shoes, I’d be comfortable in any board-room (or bar-room) in this glorious land.

My friend Luke, who has a Ph.D. and a way with words, once described his feelings about moving away from the community he’d grown close to for several years, and did this by referring to his basketball shoes: “These shoes fit so well, I don’t even feel them. In fact, it’s hard to tell where my foot ends and the world begins. That’s how I feel about you all.”

Yes, indeed. Well fitting clothes, like a well-fitting community, help you feel united with yourself, and connected to the world.

Weird, but true.


Warning: if the shoulder seams don't hit right at the shoulderbone, it's hopeless. Give the shirt to someone who needs it more than you do.

Warning: if the shoulder seams don’t hit right at the shoulderbone, it’s hopeless. Give it to someone who needs it more than you do.

FAQ about Tailoring Your Shirt

Q: What will this so-called tailor do to my beautiful shirt?

A:  Shorten the sleeves (even a great tailor cannot lengthen sleeves), de-blousify the upper arms (my neologism, there), and get rid of the tenting, billowing, and poofing in the back. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re a lucky guy who fits stuff right off the rack, and no offense, this article isn’t for you.

Q: What will it cost to turn a shirt that doesn’t fit into a miracle of Joie de Vivre?

A: 20-40 bucks.

Q: What? The whole shirt cost me thirty bucks!

A: Ok, so here’s the deal. If the shirt fits right off the rack, great: Bob’s Your Uncle. But if it doesn’t fit, you need to do a little calculating. Is the $25 shirt from H&M worth tailoring? Only if you can’t stand how it fits, but you couldn’t live without it. You know, like the U2 song.

So, maybe you have a nice Brooks Brothers or J.Crew shirt but the fit is a little off. Better to spend $40 on a perfect fit, or go out and find something else that fits better off the rack? Do the math. What’s your time worth?

Q: So when I buy a shirt, I might want to calculate the cost of tailoring into the cost of the shirt? Seriously?

A: You want to feel that one-with-everything feeling or not?

New Year’s Resolution: 30 Days of Writing. Episode 4/30: We Love the Plain, White T-s. The shirt. Not the band.

Do Not: Smoke. Do: Wear a Plain, White T

Do Not: Smoke.
Do: Wear a Plain, White T

This is day 4 of a New Years Resolution.


Under no circumstances should you spend $50.00 on a T-shirt, and probably not even half of that.

I know that the entire metropolitan LA area is full of men sporting incredibly expensive t-shirts. Meanwhile, every-college campus is full of men sporting beaten-up concert t-shirts.

You want to be classy, styley, and not spend money on a garment that should cost almost nothing. What should you do?

Answer? Wear a plain, white T.

Clean. The smallest size you can before you’d call it “tight” (otherwise known as “slim).

This t-shirt costs $400. Is that any more crazy than $50?

This t-shirt costs $400. Is that any more crazy than $50?

Here’s proof.

  • Wear a t-shirt with a band or abstract design on it. Show it to someone. Ask how it looks.
  • Answer? “Fine.”
  • Put on white t-shirt. Clean. Slim-fitting. Show to same person. How does it look?
  • “Hot.”

You spent five dollars on a t-shirt that bagged you a major compliment. You win.
diagram

New Years Resolution: Episode 3/30: Where Not to Cut Corners

We, like Tony Hawk, shall do a 180.

We, like Tony Hawk, shall do a 180.

This is day 3 of a New Years Resolution.


Recently, I wrote about aspects of Style where cutting corners is not only advisable, it’s downright admirable.

Now, we’re going to do a 180 like the dude in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.

Where not to cut corners.

My first pair of non-cheap footwear. Purchased nearly five years ago. Cost more than all the shoes I owned at the time, combined. Guess which pair I still wear and cherish, today?

My first pair of non-cheap footwear. Purchased nearly five years ago. Cost more than all the shoes I owned at the time, combined.
Guess which pair I still wear and cherish, today?

1. Grown-ass Shoes

I completely understand that you’re not accustomed to spending $100 on anything style-related. You’re used to getting away with something from Target or Old Navy. You have bills. Priorities. You’re a family man. You’re playing of zillions of dollars in college-debt. You’re putting away all your pocket money so you can knock down a giant retirement-domino like the guy in that Prudential ad.

That said, the time has come to dig deep. Dig deep into the pockets and buy a pair of grown-ass man shoes. They will not cost you $75. They will not cost you $100. They will be probably around $200. Put your eyeballs back into your skull, and go see if you have $200 in your rainy-day fund. And I bet you anything, your loan-officer / girlfriend / wife / Prudential domino-dude will not scowl when you say: I’m splurging on a proper pair of shoes.

They will say: you’re a grown-ass man. Walk like a grown-ass man.

Wear a pair of grown-ass shoes.


Allen Edmonds' "McTavish" shoe. A heritage of kick-assery.

Allen Edmonds’ “McTavish” shoe. A heritage of kick-assery.

Here are five brands that will treat you right. 

1. Allen Edmonds. Made in America. You will leave them to your progeny.

2. Cole Haan. Dressy shoes with the sole/soul of a running shoe. My Style-Up clients try them on and sprint out the door. I have to run after them to remind them to pay. It’s all very awkward.

3. Timberland Boot Company. Different than Timberlands. Don’t confuse them. So damn comfortable. And sorta badass.

4. Red-Wings. Unquestionably cool. Pair them with jeans or a suit.

5. Johnston and Murphy. Styley. A little bit dandy in a very cool way.

Lastly: how to cut corners with shoes? Get a good brand on sale.


I mean, if you want to cut corners on your haircut, be my guest.

I mean, if you want to cut corners on your haircut, be my guest.

2. Proper Haircut

Many men talk about how little they spend on their hair-cuts as if that’s admirable. It’s not. Sometimes in life, you get what you pay for: fresh produce vs. frozen. Fresh herbs vs. dried. Fresh haircut vs. Supercuts.

It’s your head. It should look good.

Some men say: “My hair is thinning. No point in an expensive cut.”

No. Wrong. A good cut by a talented stylist will make whatever hair you have (or don’t have) look better.

How to find a good stylist?

  • 1. Ask some dude at work with good hair where he gets it cut.
  • 2. Check Yelp.
  • 3. You know that small salon (or hip barbershop?) around the corner from where you work, where the cuts are $60? Try it. Just TRY it. You will feel amazing.

"Small-batch" ties like those made by The Hill-side are much more expensive than department store ties. And guess why? They're made of excellent fabric, and excellent die, and they're gorgeous.

“Small-batch” ties like those made by The Hill-side are much more expensive than department store ties. And guess why? They’re made of excellent fabric, and excellent die, and they’re gorgeous.

3. Non-department store ties

You already know that I’m a Tie-vangelist, and that I think that dudes should wear ties way more often.

The thing is, while you can cut corners with ties, in terms of not spending tons of money on them, you cannot walk into:

and expect to find a non-expensive, styley tie. Most of what you find will be those shiny, silk things which you will have no use for — except to wear to your job at a bank. But you don’t work at a bank, and you don’t want to drop a lot of money.

Here’s the thing: though my previous post declared that you can cut corners with a great $20 tie, you have to go out of your way to get it. To find it. To pick it out. Sure, you can order one of the ties I suggest in my previous post, but let me put it this way – you cannot run out and buy whatever ties you find. You need to pick one. Thoughtfully. Invest the time and energy.

Here are some great places to browse for non-banker ties:

ebay: lots of options. Lots of digging needed.

The Hillside: a little more expensive. Worth it.

The Knottery: gourmet. Delicious.

Dandy’s: a small store in Austin, Texas, with a vintage look. Everything they have is gorgeous. Even a fabulous tie is very affordable.

This suit is about double the cost of a mass-produced suit. And it's triple the quality, and looks a million times better.

This suit is about double the cost of a mass-produced suit. And it’s triple the quality, and looks a million times better.

4. Suit

If you don’t want to spend the money required to buy a decent suit, don’t wear a suit.

Ooh, jeez. That sounds so harsh. Let me back up.

You can get a cheap suit (even two for one) at Mens’ Wearhouse, but it will look like you got two suits for the price of one.

Instead, do one of three things:

  • Conclude that you can get through life with a great blazer and dressy pants. Don’t get a suit.
  • Decide that you need a suit, and bite the bullet. Get something nice. Look amazing.
  • Do the in-between. Go to a discount place that carries last year’s overstock like Nordstrom Rack. Have it tailored.

But even in the third case, it will cost you money. It will be more expensive than Men’s Wearhouse, H&M, or Zara. And guess what? It will be a grown-ass suit you can feel good about wearing to, you know, grown-ass events like weddings, gala banquets, and James Bond parties.


How Much Style-Flair Causes a “Flair-up?”

One plus one plus one plus one is zero. flair

Every artist knows that there is a sweet spot, somewhere between too little and too much.

Too little doesn’t get noticed. Too much, like every single game on the Price is Right, is a bust. You get nothing.


When you start getting in to style, you discover how much there is to learn:

Ties. Blazers. Watches. Pocket squares. Shoes. Socks.

Maybe you’re ready for shoes that pop. A blazer that pops. A watch that pops.

Q: Can you do all of the above? How much is too much?

A: To assist you in navigating the straights of TOO LITTLE and TOO MUCH, I’ve put together the infographic above.


Sort of a bold tie, right? +1 Flair!

Sort of a bold tie, right? +1 Flair!

Add a red bandana for +1. The seer-sucker jacket might qualify for a flair point, as well. Here, I'm probably in the +2 or +3 range. I'd want to tone down the pants and shoes.

Add a red bandana for +1. The seer-sucker jacket might qualify for a flair point, as well. Here, I’m probably in the +2 or +3 range. I’d want to tone down the pants and shoes.

Q: What is flair?

Answer: Flair is anything that gets noticed. A loud print or color. Something shiny or bling-ey. Something oversized (a watch) or undersized (an incredibly skinny tie).  Almost any kind of accessory.

Q: Why do I want to wear flair? Shouldn’t I stick with a classic look?

A: Sometimes, sure. Go classic! But the reason you’re reading this blog is you’re curious about style. And curiosity often leads to expression. Flair is a way of expressing yourself through your style — taking a little risk, getting noticed.

Q: What does not qualify as flair, even if it’s noticeable?

Answer: Something so classic, so clean, that it “blends in” with the look. A white pocket square, folded over doesn’t count. Brown or black Oxfords, loafers, and wingtips don’t count. A simple knit, wool, or cotton tie doesn’t count.  A neutral (cream, beige, grey, blue) sweater doesn’t count. Dark denim jeans never count. All these things look fantastic, but they aren’t flair.

Get the idea?


 

STYLE-UP: BEFORE and AFTER

+2 Flair: Bold / Dapper!

Q: What’s the first place to add flair?

Answer: Shoes/socks or ties. Definitely. In the picture to the right, you can see a StyleUp with Chris, wherein (ankle up) he level-ups his style with a great shirt, tie, and blazer combo, but it’s nothing that would catch anyone’s eye, per se. It’s a great outfit. It is not a “wow” outfit.

But Chris was ready for flair, and it’s all there – from the ankle down. Blue leather shoes, bold socks, and a super-wide cuff? That’s level three: daring / edgy!


 

Q: Does anything earn more than one flair-point, immediately? 

Answer: Absolutely. Here is a non-exhaustive list of flair items which bump you up two notches, immediately. Use with caution.

  • Anything gold or shiny (excluding simple jewelry). Read: gold / silver sneakers. goldsneakers
  • Leather pants, or a blazer / sweater with leather elements besides elbow-patches.
  • Colored leather other than brown / black.
  • Cropping pants / sleeves very high (unless you’re Thom Browne).

    IMG_0531

    If you’re Thom Browne, cropping your pants high doesn’t earn you any flair, since you invented the look.

  • Anything that registers as “costumey” or “affected.” This includes: flared pants (see? They’re called that for a reason) and other hippie-gear.
  • Derbies, top hats, walking sticks, cravats, and other “steam punk” styles.
  • Matching shirt and tie? Daring / Edgy!

    Matching shirt and tie? Generally a style no-no. Here, the patterns are bold, but classic. The tie is narrow. And the gentleman was trying to catch someone’s eye…

    Cowboy boots, hats, bolos, anywhere outside of a place where they’re the norm.

Any of these items: if you rock a really stellar style with it, YES. You might be able to pull it off. If you do it, do it with confidence, knowing that you are going out of your way to stand out.

And hey. That’s a good thing.


stylr4flair

I was going to a fabulous event and I wanted to make a splash.

Question: I’ve been doing this style thing for a while, and I’ve rocked levels 1, 2, and 3. Is there nowhere left to go?
Answer: The Advanced Style Swerve is the fashion equivalent of Nirvana, where all the rules of mortal men no longer apply. Once in a while, if you know what you’re doing, you can break some essential rule and come out looking like a baller.

Still…I always show my Advanced Style Swerves to someone I trust before I rock it in public!

But I showed it to her, first.

But I showed it to her, first.

Top Five Ways to Rock a Sweater… without looking like a slob.

“Put a sweater on, your mother’s cold.”

Once upon a time, a sweater was something I might don, at my mother’s behest, only because it was drafty in the living room, and no one important was going to see me in it.

The warm garment of choice was a hoodie sweatshirt. Sweaters were for, well, dorks.

Then, five years ago, I was in Berlin, at one of the most infamous nightclubs in Europe. And lest you think I’m boasting, let me clarify: the bouncers at the door of this exclusive club glanced at me as if I was floatsam that had washed up on their beach, and it wasn’t worth their energy to throw me out.

I tucked my favorite sweatshirt behind a rusty pipe for safekeeping, and five hours later, the hoodie was gone. (Again, not because the garment was so cool that some tattooed, pierced Berliner needed it for his collection. It was probably used to mop up spilled Club Mate.)

My girlfriend was sympathetic to my loss but she surprised me, saying: it didn’t look that good on you, anyhow.

A bit of wisdom from the official spokesperson of the cardigan sweater.

A bit of wisdom from the official spokesperson of the cardigan sweater.

* * *

This was the dawning of the age of the sweater. It’s the sweatshirt’s older, classier, and more versatile cousin. And when selected carefully, it becomes an essential component in your style.

Here’s how to wear a sweater without looking like Mr. Rogers…or like a slob.


bill

This perfectly fitting garment is a hybrid – crossing the sweater, jacket, shirt nexus. That’s why it pairs so well with a hoppy IPA.

Rule 1: It’s gotta fit.

Like all garments, the difference between a styley sweater and a “put a sweater on, your mother’s cold” sweater is fit. A sweater’s seams should trace the outside point of your shoulder, and it should conform to your body, without being tight. In other words, it’s not a sack. It should confirm to your torso, not hug it, and not bury it.

Rule 2: choose one based not only on how it looks on a hanger, but how it looks with the rest of your clothes.

A sweater isn’t just something to throw over a T-shirt, although that’s one of its many duties. It’s also a layer to pair with a nice shirt and tie, for date night or for drinks after work. In a lounge full of blazer-wearing other dudes, your carefully crafted sweater-tie combo will catch eyes. From there, your scintillating personality will have to seal the deal.

chris

The tie says: classy. The sweater says: snuggly. That’s a killer combo.

Rule 3: the thickness of the threads is inversely proportionate to the sweater’s formality.

I call this the thickness-formality principle. It’s been written about in many academic journals. Trust me.

What does this mean to the non sweater-pundit? If you pair a sweater with a fine weave with a white shirt and knit tie, for example, it’s biz-casual. And very styley. If you work in a creative field, you can wear it to a meeting with a client to go over some ideas. And afterwards, celebrate with a barrel-aged Manhattan.

But if you pair the same shirt and tie with a chunkier sweater, then it’s better for sipping pretzels and bier after work. With the shirt and tie, you’re the best dressed, most relaxed alta in the garten.

The take home: mashing up fancy and casual is a recipe for a funky, styley look.

Rule 4: No holes. No wrinkles. No pilling.

Your sweater isn’t a sweatshirt, and while it gets more character from being beaten up, it’s not the kind of character you want when you’re going styley.

Once a sweater starts pilling — (those little fabric nubs, satisfying to pluck off, akin to popping bubble wrap) — it’s over. You can keep it at home for lounging and wear it to the laundromat, but it won’t do much for your style. (A word to the wise: higher quality sweaters will pill less and look good for longer. Meaning: buy fewer, better. That said, there are ways to treat pilling, after the fact).

sweater-vest

When rocking a sweater-vest, make sure it is slim-fitting, and make sure the shirt under it is also slim fitting. Otherwise, you’re going in the middle-school geek direction.

Rule 4: Try a sweater vest. Seriously.

A sweater vest, if it’s slim and a simple design, looks amazing. It’s reminiscent of styley dudes as far back as the 20s, and has never gone out of style. Pair it with a wool or knit tie, a chambray shirt, and a blazer for a knockout look. Then, if the office is sweaty, take off the jacket, roll up your sleeves, and you look like you’re ready to get down to business – styley casual business!

joe

A sweater with contrasting sleeves is great for bigger dudes, as it helps bring your body definition. The contrasting stripe is also good for bigger dudes because it looks awesome.


Rule 5: A good cardigan will raise your game.

A sweater with buttons broadcasts a styley, relaxed look. It’s a little preppy, a little sporty, and even a little badass, depending on what you do with it, the design, and the weave.

  • Leave it open, pair with a plaid shirt.
  • Wear it with a t-shirt and a cool hat.
  • Button, and wear with a tie.
  • Roll up the sleeves.
  • Wear it with slacks or dark denim.

But warning: cardigans are like tattoos. After you get your first cardigan, you’ll find an excuse to find another.


drawingcardigan

Cardigans are like tattoos. Addictive. But easier to remove.

Ultimately, figuring out how and what to do with a sweater is a little bit of an art. My first suggestion is to skip expensive sweaters at department stores, and hit the resale stores. For whatever reason, sweaters are abundant at resale stores, and since they’re easy to try on (no need for a changing room), you can burn through the whole rack in 10 minutes.

I guarantee: you’ll no longer associate sweaters with drafty rooms. You’ll associate them with drafting tables.

And lounge tables.

And dinner tables.

And tons, TONS, of compliments.

Bow Ties 101

If you don’t already wear a bow-tie, well, I’m not sure what you’re waiting for.

Perhaps you have an image in your head that bow ties are for:

chemist with bow tie

Professor of theology

A) professors of theology

cat chemist

Chemist

B) chemists

hipster v2

Hipster

C) hipsters

D) Adorable children

Adorable child with bow tie.

Adorable child with bow tie

E) Dr. Who

Dr. Who

Dr. Who

 

But my personal research indicates that bow ties are:

A) fun

b) a little alternative

c) able to net compliments from cute baristas and bartenders.

Bow tie are for everyone.

Rules to Follow for an Optimal Bow Tie Experience

What not to do.

What not to do.

It’s most effective to start your bow-tie adventure with “what not to do.”

See image on left.

 

 

 

Now, the “dos.”

1. Pair a bow tie with a slim shirt shirt / jacket. 

Yes, I always prescribe slim shirts, but it goes double for bow-tie days. In the case of a bow tie, the only thing dividing “geezer chic” from “geezer” is whether everything fits you properly.

Go slim or go home.

This J. Crew outfit nails it. It's light, slim, and very much on point.

This J. Crew outfit nails it. It’s light, slim, and very much on point.

2. Go with a fabric other than shiny silk. 

You'd jump, too, if you owned this gear.

You’d jump, too, if you owned this gear.

 

 

 

 

 

I recommend linen or cotton, because they’re light and casual. Wool is great for cooler weather.

Shiny silk is a little… middle school marching band.

3. Go small.

Huge butterfly bow ties are for your “eccentric” uncle. For you, it’s compact and streamlined.

And lastly, the clip on / pre-tied controversy solved. 

Pre-tied bow tie: suspiciously perfect. Avoid.

Pre-tied bow tie: suspiciously perfect. Avoid.

Q: Clip on?

A: Never. Ever.

Q: Pre-tied?

A: Only if it’s thick wool. A thick-wool bow tie’s material will conceal the suspicious perfection of a pre-tied knot. Anything else will say, “I’m committing to this bow tie thing only halfway.”

And we don’t do things halfway around here.


Sold on the bow tie thing, but not sure where to start? Here are some places to begin poking around.

Forage Bow Ties: On point, especially with their denim tie.

The Hill-side: everything they make is simple, clean, and classy.

General Knot: would you like a tie made out of material salvaged from a WWII-era haberdashery? Yeah, you do.

Now, a word about ties by Thom Browne.

Remember what I said about avoiding silk? This doesn’t apply for Thom Browne. The silk is luxurious, with a buttery, matte finish. Every single tie he designs is on point: wool, linen, cotton, and even silk.

ebay: a great place to start looking for a Thom Browne bow tie. Use the “follow that search” feature, and with a little persistence, you’ll nab a tie that retails for over a hundred dollars for around $30.

Black Fleece Sale: reliably, you can nab one here for 50 or 60 dollars, and it’s well worth it.


me in bow tie

Now you have your bow tie. How do you put the damn thing on?

This diagram aint pretty, but it’s how I learned. If you’re the movie-watching type, Youtube is loaded with how-to videos, all up your alley.


See something you like and want a second opinion?

Style For Dorks is here for you!

 

Email Me with a link to the site, and I’ll give you a yay or a nay!

 

 

Top 5 Styley-Casual Shoes for Men.

There’s what men think impresses women, and there’s what actually impresses women.

It’s worth paying attention to this; some things, men worry about unnecessarily. And other things, men forget to pay attention to.

In a recent interview with a very talented SF style-genius, there was a lot of good news for normal, non-superhot guys:

“Shoes. Shoes are very important. A guy can have a belly, he can be sort of so-so looking, but if he smells good and has great shoes, game on. We can totally make something work.”

So the good news is you don’t need mega-lottery genes. Just like the caveman dorks who defeated the alpha-males through using their higher brain functions, you can make a smart shoe choice that might earn you a genetic legacy.

The “bad news”: there are no “Whateva Whateva shoes.”

Shoes always count.


What do you wear when you want something comfortable. Casual. That won’t call attention to your feet. That you can wear with a t-shirt or with a blazer?

One of these five. I list them below with level-up options for extra flair. (For a deeper dive on how to avoid too much flair, click here.)

Before you feast your eyes, some food for thought: every casual shoe below looks pretty much the way it has since it first emerged – 40, 50, or 60 years ago. The update is in the material and the color. This means that the best outfits to wear with your new kicks follow the same rules.


1. Chuck Taylor All-Stars: white, black, or blue.

+1 Flair: leather or herringbone.

2. Clarks’ Original Desert Boots: Beeswax Leather

+1 Flair: blue canvas

3.  PF-Flyers

+1 Flair: PF-FLyers Ebbets Field from Brooklyn Circus

4. Adidas Originals Superstar 2

+1 Flair for sticking to all white. But if you gotta get your flair on, keep it simple and pick one. Red. Blue. Black.

5. Pro-Keds by J. Crew

Perfect as is.

Perfect as is.

+1 Flair: Keep it simple, keep it white.

6. Boat Shoes: brown or blue

+1 Flair: Really blue. Or blue linen.