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STYLE STORY, JULIE V: [30 DAYS OF WRITING: EPISODE 24/30]

Above: Julie's Style-Up, Before and After.

“She’s A Gent” – a fantastic style blogger, describes herself as “sporty, classy, tailored, and clean.” She also uses the Oxford Comma (we approve) and is sweet to correspond with!

This is day 24 of a 30 day New Year’s Resolution.

What do you call someone who’s dapper, who wears a tie and blazer, and who rocks an amazing pair of wingtips?

Ma’am.

I suppose the title of the post gave that one away. (That’s also how I tell jokes. I say, “Speaking of mixed dancing…” Everyone who’s heard that one a million times rolls their eyes, and I don’t have to tell the joke.)

But all kidding aside, I’ve had a few readers ask why I haven’t done a post on women. And while I’ve proven myself adept at picking out sweaters, shoes, and the occasional dress for my girlfriend, I’ve never thought of myself as a maven of women’s style.

Until…a dapper colleague and I got to talking. We share similar taste, an admiration of men’s style, but she was interested in seeing what a Style-Up could bring her game.

Here’s Julie in her own words. The cartoons are mine.


Julie V., Fundraiser

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

I have a good eye, I know what I like… I liked the tailored look, but I wanted to take more risks.  I’ve spent my life being attracted to the tailored, crisp lines of men’s clothing. But only in the last ten years have I realized that if the clothes don’t hang on my shoulders tightly at the right spots, the clothes are wearing me.

WHAT’S ARE A FEW STYLE-CHALLENGES YOU DEAL WITH?

  • I spend a lot of time searching for women’s clothes that fit my 5’5″ frame and are also tightly tailored and buttoned down the way I like.
  • I’m still tempted often when I see something I love in the men’s section in a small size, but based on the criteria above, it’s a mistake most of the time.

WHAT DOES MENSWEAR TEACH US ABOUT STYLE IN GENERAL?

jacketwearsme

Only in the last ten years have I realized that if the clothes don’t hang on my shoulders tightly at the right spots, the clothes are wearing me.

For me, the intersection of men’s and women’s fashion is fit vs. form. Men’s clothing brings straight lines and economy – important to any aesthetic.

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

  • I can wear a tie! It’s valuable to let other people put your style in others hands and let go of your idea of what works and what won’t. Maybe there’s something to add [to your look]! The tie, that Rag and Bone jacket, precise tailoring ideas.
  • After trying on some pieces I wouldn’t have noticed before [the Style-Up], I’m ready to re-approach how I feel about my reflection in the world.

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

[Ellen] is her own self -- which for some people is challenging, but since she's her own self, she [is able] to help other people to be themselves.

[Ellen] is her own self, and since she’s her own self, she [is able] to help other people to be themselves.

I look to Ellen [DeGeneres]… Tailored and tight. She’s her own self — and since she’s her own self, she [is able] to help other people to be themselves.

 

julie before after with words

Any photo of these shoes is automatically

Any photo of these shoes is automatically “shoe porn.”

Best Foot Forward

Julie didn’t need to be convinced that shoes are the place to start. We went to a great menswear spot in the Castro District of San Francisco called Citizen, which, I’ll admit, taught me a great deal about how to assemble a surprising and yet satisfying outfit. Citizen describes their aesthetic this way:

Specializing in clean, European-inspired lines, Citizen is for the sophisticated man who knows how to dress sharply without sacrificing personal flare.

I’m particularly struck by the overlap of Citizen’s description (“Clean…lines”) and Julie’s description of her own tastes (tailored, crisp lines). It seems that Julie and Citizen agree that inspiring menswear is at once minimal (tailored, crisp lines) and yet, Citizen speaks of something I’ve written about: flare.

The word itself describes fire, the beginning of a process: maybe something a little dangerous. Flare is about light, brightness, catching the eye — but too much could burn or destroy the crisp lines.

With that in mind, Julie and I looked for shoes which would be at once classic and also edgy. Something she would recognize and admire if it was at J.Crew or Banana Republic, and yet, something new, never seen before. Somethibg which no one would have seen before.

shoes w cuffWe found it.

These shoes are by Sperry Top-Sider. What could be less exciting than the company which makes the boat shoes that everyone already owns?

A color and finish never, ever seen before.

This approach, mind you, is not new.

Sperry Top-Sider nailed it with this line, and it got Julie and I off to a great start.


nice smileKnot Withstanding

Julie typically rocks an air-tie, which is a sharp, styley, casual way of wearing a shirt, buttoned up to the top – without a tie. It’s kind of a hybrid. A little edgier, a little more class than leaving the top button open.

But what would happen if we added a tie? Julie didn’t want to dress like a banker – she wanted to add a little unexpected edge to her outfit. We hunted for a tie that would be thinner (thinner ties are more casual, more styley, and work better on a woman’s body) and we found one in a material that had some glint (for flare +1) and a loose, textured weave to play against the blue in her shirt.

This tie is made by DIBI. They’re unique and yet classy, surprisingly affordable, and they donate from profits to purchase school supplies for schoolkids, worldwide.


In the Pocket 

hankieBesides the tie, Julie and I wanted to pair her classy, Ben Sherman blazer with a little pocket-candy: a handkerchief. Usually, I go for the tight, neat folded cotton or linen look, but I wanted to add a dose of disorder to the abundant clean-lines of her outfit.

This handkerchief, with it’s Americana red, white, and blue, contrasts the blazer’s navy-blue formality with maritime, vintage playfulness, sort of like the rockabilly women’s dresses of the 50s and 60s. Call it an homage. Or a femage, if you will.


Final Comments

St. Harridans is designed to fit women and transmen and is damn styley.

St. Harridans is designed to fit women and transmen and is damn styley.

If you’re a woman who wants to wear “masculine” clothes, you might need to be persistent and get lucky and find something that happens to be cut just right. And that can be frustrating. As Julie pointed out in her Style-Story above, a men’s size small might “fit,” but it won’t fall in the right places. And putting on garment after garment which looks lousy in a dressing room is – let’s face it – not fun.

Another option, she can buy something that’s really close to her size and spend a bit of money at a great tailor. And truth is, once anyone starts to step up his or her style game, he or she gets used to the idea that after the trip to the store, the next trip is to the tailor. So join the club, and enjoy the benefits that a pro with a needle and thread can provide.

onthe bench

She’s a Gent.

She's a Gent.

Some designers and labels make clothing exclusively for dapper women and transmen. I am particularly inspired by St. Harridan, which adheres to ethical manufacturing practices (in Massachusetts and North Carolina) and which designs those “clean, tailored lines” that Julie clambers for.

Two other labels: androgyny (think comfy plaids) and marimacho which makes androgynous bathing suits – very cool.

My advice, though – poke around online. Google a few choice terms and find a blogger or stylewriter who matches your tastes (I recommend She’s A Gent, one of my favorite women style writers). Read what they write, and maybe drop them a line; many of us are happy to share our secrets.


julielooking greatjulie sitting and smilingReady 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. Email Me and we’ll get you on your way!

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. Click to Email Me.

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Keeping The Tags On?! : [30 DAYS OF WRITING: EPISODE 22/30]

me

Zamboni Driver

This is day 21 of a 30 day New Year’s Resolution.


I’m going to contradict myself, here.

Yesterday, I made a case for curation as part of growth: throw it out, so you can become the person you want to be.

But the Hegelian in me needs to offer the antithesis of this idea.

Let me tell you a story…


I’m in Philadelphia at a teacher’s conference. Yes, I’m a teacher. We’ve already gone over this. 

I was fortunate enough to participate in a film-making session. We learned how to storyboard, we made up an absurd story, and we got to filming.

It involved forming a make-believe Zamboni out of chairs.

stries

Zamboni Driver Shirt

It also involved filming the same sequence over and over, flicking the lights on and off, dropping a broom. Over and over. When I asked why we couldn’t move on, the most camera-savvy member of the team explained: you never know if the first shot will work. Always film more than you need.

This was not a good thing for a notorious clothing hoarder to hear: the same principle could be applied to my closet, and it’s the rationale I use for keeping shoes I haven’t worn in a year. Or a sweater in a color I can’t find a use for.

What if I want to put a look together, and I need those black Chuck Taylors – with the rubber strip peeling off.

What if I finally find the mustard colored tie to wear with the periwinkle sweater?

What if I suddenly decide that there is such a thing as a selfish phase, in life?

If I get rid of these things, I’ll be left without the option.


Zamboni Driver Shoes

Zamboni Driver Shoes

I puzzled over this until I ran it by a friend – and it seems that the Hegelian Dialectic – Thesis/Antithesis/Synthesis is not yet complete.

Thesis: Throw is out so you can grow.

Antithesis: Keep it – you might need it.

Synthesis: Throw out things that are harming you. Make space for the rest.


My shoes? I’ve worn them to the beach enough times to know that they’re real useful, they dry fast, and they don’t take up space.

The sweater? I’ll give it another year. Maybe I’ll find the mustard-colored tie of my dreams to match the periwinkle.

My selfish phase? The concept doesn’t fit, it’s wrinkled, it’s stained, and it’s super out dated.

Throw it out.

Cutting the Tags Off: [30 DAYS OF WRITING: EPISODE 21/30]

stickerThis is day 21 of a 30 day New Year’s Resolution.


I leave stickers on my laptops. You know, those “Intel Inside” stickers, or “HP: Faster Chrome. Bigger Screen.” Some part of me feels like – as long as it still has the sticker on, it’s still new.

Also: tags. I’ll have a shirt for three weeks before I cut the tag off. I might even wear it a few times.

You probably don’t share this exact pathology, but maybe you can relate: indecision (women call this “fear of commitment”) keeps us holding on to the past.

For me, it’s tags. For you, well, maybe you wear the same clothes you wore in college. Maybe you still party like you’re in college. Maybe you hold on to souvenirs from trips. Trips you took as an adult. Family trips from when you were a kid. Maybe you still have that box of shells. A shoebox full of birthday cards.

Your retainer, which you haven’t worn since you were 16.


A while back, I wrote a post on 15 Things to Throw Out, Now. 

All over the Bay Area, I could hear the sound of duffle-bag zippers as people schlepped their “seemed like a good idea at the time” clothes, shoes, and hats to Salvation Army.

Now, the holidays have passed, and you’ve been gifted all sorts of goodies. Your closet and shelves are overloaded. The stuff on hangers is bunched together, and drawers won’t close.

It’s time for another clean-out.


Don’t throw that stuff out because you need more space – even though you do.

Don’t throw it out because you don’t wear it – even though you don’t (or shouldn’t, anyhow).

Throw it out because it’s part of curating who you are. You know, like the curator of a museum who decides that some of the old collection has got to go. To keep the museum current. Relevant. Alive.

To curate is to grow.

Throw it out.

Going Out In Style: 30 DAYS OF WRITING. EPISODE 11/30

My grandfather: would've been buried in a box-backed suit, straight laced shoes and a Stetson hat if traditional Jewish law allowed it.

My grandfather in 1929: would’ve been buried in a box-backed suit, straight laced shoes and a Stetson hat if traditional Jewish law allowed it.

This is day 11 of a New Year’s Resolution.


When I die, bury me in straight laced shoes,
A box backed suit and a Stetson hat
Put a 20 dollar gold piece on my watch chain;
So the boys’ll know I died standin’ pat.

-St. James Infirmary

The first time I heard Louis sing that song, I was 15, only a few years after my grandfather died. I was impressed by the upbeat, even cheerful melody in the face of the maudlin lyrics. And I was impressed by the idea of a man who wanted to be buried in his box-backed suit and Stetson hat because life, after he was gone, went on.

My grandfather was a very dapper man. My dad recalls that Gramps would’ve donned a fine suit to go to the zoo, a quirk of dandiness that I have preserved to this day, with slight variations. 

After he died, sitting in his condo, I felt (besides terrible loss) a sense of togetherness and community I hardly knew how to identify. We were all there, eating and shmoozing and being sad-happy, and I discovered that I really liked the “Being Jewish On Purpose” thing. Twenty-five years later, looking at my life, my years of building intentional community and years of learning and then teaching Jewish studies, I see that Gramps left me a legacy in his dying.

Just as he lived in style, he went out in style.


Unless you are Cameron Frye or my Uncle David, pick: suspenders or belt. Not both.

Unless you are Cameron Frye or my Uncle David, pick: suspenders or belt. Not both.

My Uncle David was no dapper man. He preferred loose and comfortable polo shirts, work pants, and wore both suspenders and a belt (a look you should not try unless you are Cameron Frye).  

But his funeral and shiva have brought about a few things that I appreciate in the face of this loss. One: an echo of that same togetherness I felt when Gramps passed away, twenty-five years ago.

Two, while the elders were at the funeral home making arrangements, David’s grandsons (my first cousins once removed) and I got to spend a rare day together. Brunch. Bowling. Shopping. Video games. Conversation.

David was not a stylish man, but like Gramps, he’s going out in style.

First cousins, once removed.

First cousins, once removed. We wouldn’t be sitting here, reconnecting, if not for this unexpected “gift” from Uncle David.

Confidence and Humility: A Los Angeles Story

Last weekend, I went to Los Angeles for the shooting of the first episode of the second season of Young and Hungry.

This is because the main character, Gabi Diamond, has a few things in common with my girlfriend, Gabi Moskowitz. Both are spunky, funny, driven chefs – both blonde – both with terrific ambition. And this isn’t a coincidence. Gabi is actually based on Gabi.

Though Gabi Diamond lives in fictional San Francisco, “the real Gabi” lives in actual San Francisco. And, that said, in my mind, Gabi Diamond lives in Los Angeles, because that’s where I go to see her. I walk into a huge building with lofty ceilings and lots of lights – and lots of people – and lots of rushing around. And about thirty feet away, my girlfriend’s fictional alter-ego comes alive on stage.

The show is cute and clever and has a ton of heart. And similarly, Los Angeles. It’s cute. And clever. And has a ton of heart. I know this; I haven’t just felt that heart, but I’ve seen it. I’ve had the pleasure of joining the writers of Young and Hungry in their creative den, and I’ve watched storylines take shape on a white-board. Their passion for their craft is phenomenal. They are dedicated to the stories, to the characters, and to making a show that will make people laugh. And in that studio, last weekend, the thrill of creativity was palpable. I am, generally, happiest around creative, passionate people. And there was so much creativity – in Studio 15, and in Los Angeles, in general.

coiffed

Coiffed.

Walking down the streets of Los Angeles, however, I sometimes found myself thinking uncharacteristic thoughts. I was overly attuned to how people look, to how I look, and it was impossible not to. Everything is coiffed. 

  • Old women with little dogs. Both old woman and dog are coiffed.
  • Slinky dude in head-to-toe leather. Trying not to look coiffed, Totally coiffed.
  • The most attractive people I’ve ever seen. Coiffed, coiffed, and coiffed.

And there I was, standing in line for a coiffed coffee, feeling self conscious. It brought out my inner middle-schooler.

“Am I okay?”


Kristina Welzien, a friend and genius, hooked me up with this amazing cut. I think it nails the balance: confident and humble.

Kristina Welzien, a friend and genius, hooked me up with this amazing cut (and the photos, too). She, too, is confident and humble. (While I’m at it, I’ll mention that the TieBar.com flower strikes that same balace: flower made of humble yarn. In-your-face red. Get the idea?

This was neither good nor bad, but an exercise in articulating who I am. Sometimes it’s good to be pushed to the margins of who you are. Then, you can have a Northern California-esque “check in” with yourself.

I’m a Style Writer, and to be sure, I have never been un-self-conscious. What is so awful about being self-conscious in middle school, however, is that (as we remember) there is no refuge in two critical mindsets that true grown-ups learn: confidence and humility. Confidence is earned, slowly. With hard work. Meanwhile, the slings and arrows of life beat humility into you; but also, it must be chosen and honed. Like confidence. Slowly.

Which brings me back to Gabi. Both Gabis. Both are occasionally self-conscious, as are we all, but both blend healthy portions of confidence with humility. Gabi Diamond, going to bat (culinarily speaking) against the famous chef Michael Voltaggio, says, “I’m not afraid of a trial. Because I’m innocent and my food will be proven delish.” And yet, she is humble and kind when interacting with her friends – even if they’re not as wildly talented as she is. Gabi Moskowitz, meanwhile, could knock the socks off a world-class food critic — with the food she throws together on a work night. And then she’s willing to cook for her mother’s book club or for a fundraiser for a local school. 

Even this guy would be blown away by Gabi's cooking.

Even this guy would be blown away by Gabi’s cooking.

She has an incredibly successful blog, two cookbooks and a T.V. show. But she’ll brainstorm with me as if Style For Dorks were the most important blog on the interwebs.


The real Gabi.

The real Gabi.

And how does Style fit into this?

  • Find the balance.
  • Be self-conscious enough to look. To care.
  • Be confident, enough to dress in a way that helps you feel like you’re the most handsome version of you that you can be.
  • Be humble. Period.
  • Blend your inner S.F. with your inner L.A.
  • Be like Gabi. Both of ’em.

White Chinos : The Non-Nautical Way

I just picked up a pair of white denim from Scotch and Soda, and was thinking about what to do with it. Then, I found this post. Nice work, Men’s Style Pro!

Men's Style Pro

(all font in burgundy is clickable)(All shoes in the posts are by Johnston & Murphy and the chinos are from Bonobos)

It’s very easy to style white chinos the “nautical way” by pairing them with a striped or solid navy shirt. Of course, I have nothing against the nautical style, especially for the summer, but, white chinos have their place outside of the boating realm. One of the great characteristic of white chinos is that they are a blank canvas that can be pair with just about anything. As opposed to white jeans, chinos have the ability and the texture to be dressed up well for the office or a semi-casual event and they can really be dressed down with a polo or henley shirt. Below are four outfits that address the issue of stylish white chinos without going nautical and without relying on “peacocking” colors to seem on…

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Looking for a Tie? Found it.

purpleA young man (a former student) texted me last night – “Got any recommendations for a tie?”

He has a new, charcoal-grey suit and needs something to wear with it.

It so happens that this week, on ebay, you can nab a Thom Browne / Black Fleece tie for a song. Well, more like a song and 50 bucks for a bow-tie, 85 for a regular tie.

If that strikes you as expensive, let me say this: one Black Fleece Tie is worth 4 non-Black Fleece ties, pound for pound worth of awesomeness.

Color.

Fabric quality.

Design.

I have lots of ties I like, but the ties I love are Black Fleece. Check these out while they’re still available!

A grey-plad beaut. (Bow tie)

Purple and block cotton. I own this one and bought one for a friend. It’s amazing.

Red, white, blue, and classy.

Same colors, thin stripes. 

Black Gingham. Classy meets country.

Plaid – classic with bold scale.

Grey wool – plaid. Gorgeous.


homepage_pic

Help this young man find “the tie that began it all.”

That said, if an impressionable young man with a new suit asked you for a tie recommendation, what would you say? Fashionistos, please help this young man! Reply below and share your wisdom! His sartorial future is in your hands…