makeover

Style Story: Jerry – One Outfit to Rule Them All

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


Meet Jerry — in his own words. The cartoons are mine.

1. Describe your style, in general.

jerrywithkinder

Jerry rocking his usual steez – “Jewish Nerd Dad Chic.”

Is “Jewish Nerd Dad Chic” a thing? I wear lots of t-shirts with logos and/or imagery, usually design, software or pop culture-related. I also own a number of fine vintage silk shirts and florals. I rarely wear a suit and tie into business meetings, as I’m expected to represent the “creative” element — “business casual” shirts and pullover sweaters are de rigueur. Nice jeans or corduroys during the week, cargo shorts on the weekends. Also, a hat or head covering is typical — a knit skullcap for business, a driving cap otherwise.

2. Tell the story about why you decided to do a Style Up?

I don’t dislike my current day-to-day style, but as a busy father of three, I don’t frequently refresh or reconsider it — and I occasionally wait too long between refreshes. My business wear aesthetic could use a dash of sophistication. Then, I was peer-nominated for a very prestigious award at my company, wherein I was invited to an exclusive banquet with the CEO, CFO and other Senior Operations staff. I recently moved to Silicon Valley and had this one moment to make the best possible impression on the top brass. I wanted to project effortless refinement and a fashion forward sensibility without pretension or overstatement. My existing “dressy casual” lineup wasn’t particularly reflective of my personality.

3. What did you learn from the Style Up?

I learned that the Style business is all about relationships. As I watched Evan navigate the racks, I also watched his interaction with the floor staff at the various stores — the rapport, comfort and understanding that flowed between them smoothed the

So as not to leave anyone out, including all 4 natty members of OK Go.

So as not to leave anyone out, I’m including all four natty members of OK Go.

entire process, and I realized that getting the salespeople on your side is helpful to achieving the best results.

4. If you could channel the Style Traits of any personality, who would it be?

Either of the front men of OK Go — Damian Kulash or Tim Norwind. Those guys personify excellence and innovation across music, visual media, performance and conceptual art — all with rakish good looks and impeccable style.


The Style-Up

The Challenge

The photos Jerry showed me of last year’s award banquet attendees featured well-dressed men and women in suits and dresses. Because of the short turnaround, however, anything we bought had to fit off the rack. No tailoring or altering would be possible. This ruled out a suit, which could require multiple trips to a tailor.

Conclusion: we would use a 3 Step Plan to find a “non-suit suit.”

6 shoesThe Plan, Step 1: Shoes are the Foundation

When learning any skill set, people discover that a) what they thought was simple is actually complicated. Then, with time, learn that b) what is complicated can be made simple through a series of steps.

In Jerry’s case, we had a few hours to nail a single outfit. And we had access to the entire downtown San Francisco area, with dozens of stores. Too many options.

That’s why we started with the shoes. Not only does an outfit begin with your feet, but also, it would help Jerry and I articulate what kind of aesthetic suited him best for the occasion.

Jerry and I looked at six types of shoes at Nordstrom, each representing a different “style platform.” In each category, we pulled from the shelf only the best model; it needed to be eye-catching without being ostentatious.

Oxfords were “too plain,” and everything else was too casual for this critical evening; Jerry selected the brogues.

One watershed choice remained: Nordstrom sells a great line of brogues from Allen Edmonds in a few different colors. If Jerry chose brown, that would send us looking for an outfit featuring brown, blue, grey, and red: stylish but casual. If Jerry chose black, it might indicate that he was looking for a more restrained, formal look. Jerry’s final choice, however, was a bit of a style-swerve: Blue leather, red laces.

neumokAllen Edmonds hit on something amazing with this particular shoe, the Neumok. While the wingtip stitching affords it plenty of flair, the shoe’s basic style is such a classic, it can easily contain the eye-catching colors without suffering any loss of elegance. (For a deeper dive on achieving that balance, click here).

Now, we knew: we were going for a look with attitude.


IMG_5770

Simply a placeholder for an even better outfit.

The Plan, Step 2: The Working Title

When I was a teenager, I was fascinated by the idea of a “working title.” The Beatles, for example, used “Badfinger Boogie” as a working title for a new piece which, eventually, they named “With a Little Help From My Friends.” It’s hard to imagine that such a familiar, classic, and, well, perfect song ever had a different name…or no name… but all great things go through iterations, and placeholders are needed to mark progress.

Same for Jerry’s outfit.

Since we were already in Nordstrom, we began to look through the racks to see what caught our eye. Only one shirt stood out from the endless racks of button-down shirts, and not surprisingly, it was gingham.

Gingham is an amazing pattern because it can be dressed up (I love wearing gingham with a suit) or it can be dressed down (jeans and canvas sneakers or Clark’s desert boots). Meanwhile, it “builds structure” — the vertical lines build height and the horizontal lines broaden shoulders and give the arms definition. We paired the gingham shirt with one of my favorite go-to ties: navy blue knit. Like gingham, a knit tie dresses up an outfit, and yet, it retains a casual edge. It stands out, subtly, from crowds of shiny silk ties.

On the other hand, the shirt wasn’t tailored as sharply as I wished, and the tie was a bit underwhelming in its quality. Don’t get me wrong, the outfit would have looked great in almost any workplace, and maybe even for Jerry’s award ceremony, but I felt like we could do better.


texture

Notice the same gingham from above, but in a finer size, a more formal color, and paired with a killer blazer.

The Plan, Step 3: The Upgrade

From there, we headed to Club Monaco, a great Canadian label, featuring premium gear and excellent service. The store we visited was full of rugged but refined sweaters, chinos in rich, blue fabric, a handful of shirts featuring variations on classic themes, and blazers that catch the eye with their understated elegance. It was not cheap, but you could clearly see what your money was getting you.

One of these blazers caught our eye within a minute of walking in the door, and soon, we found a gingham shirt that picked up the general approach of our “working plan” above, but in a dark, charcoal hue, and featuring  a smaller print (generally, smaller prints are more formal than larger prints, even in the same category).

Lastly, a knit tie – like the tie from Nordstrom, but in a darker blue, and featuring pleasing, slightly irregular weave, a hallmark of handwoven cloth (vs.  too-perfect mass-produced).

This new ensemble, layering dark navy and charcoal, allowed us to assemble an outfit resplendent with texture. While other award attendees might wear an obscenely expensive Italian suit or eye-catching patterns or ostentatious detailing, Jerry’s new outfit was captivating in its subtlety.

It wasn’t trying very hard to be awesome. It WAS awesome.


champaigne v4


An unstructured blazer can be paired with a t-shirt for casual friday.

An unstructured blazer can be paired with a t-shirt for casual Friday.

Ready for your own Style-Up?

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

Live in the bay area? A Style-up is painless. Maybe even fun. And it might help you land a date / job / both at the same time. Email Me and we’ll get you on your way!




Outside of the Bay Area? An On-line consultation will provide you with a handful of great items, some new looks, and a spring in your step. Click to Email Me.


Want to See More Style-Stories?

Advertisements

Style-Up: Paul – Rugged Yet Refined

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


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

I have learned a great deal: what rules to follow, what rules to break, and how style is more than what we wear — it’s self and identity and personal expression. I’ve been fortunate to assist others, too, as they sought ways to match their outsides to their insides. Each of these people has a unique Style Story with something to teach.

Meet Paul — in his own words. The cartoons are mine.


Style -Story: Paul, Instructional Design

paul2

Paul: “I would like to begin to develop my own sense of style.”

What are your feelings about your style “before?” 

I can’t really say that I have a style, as such. I feel like I have a decent aesthetic, and have some sense for what goes together and what doesn’t, but I don’t feel like I really have a distinct style expression. [That said,] I would like to begin to develop my own sense of style.

What do you hope you’ll get out of a Style-Up?

Sometimes I will put something on, or look at something in a store, and [my wife] will look at me like I’m crazy. I trust her eye, so I go and change into something I know she will approve of, but would be really cool if I could surprise her with a new look or some new expression that I have created on my own.

James Franco: Inspiring styley guys of all species.

James Franco: Inspiring guys of all species.

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

That’s a tough one for me because I am not particularly hip to all of the fashionable people. I’ll go with James Franco.


The Style-Uppaulstyleupbeforeafter

Getting the Right Fit

chambraySharing a beer with Paul after the Style-Up, we talked about his takeaways from the experience – besides two bags of great, new gear.

“I’m amazed at the importance of fit,” he remarked. “And finding the fit that works best.”

As you can see from the before picture, Paul typically wore clothing that was too large for his frame. We sized down from his usual shirt-size, and the effect accentuated his shoulders and upper torso – helping to construct a strong silhouette.

bigbuffalocloserPattern

On a rack of shirts, you can find 100 patterns that look great on a piece of cloth, but that doesn’t mean they look great on your body. I often recommend the following for men: find garments with “strong patterns” — meaning, if you want stripes, go big. If you want some flair, go with gingham or checks, and choose strong colors (blue, red, black, etc.). The effect is amazing, as the pattern and color help to construct a flattering T-shape. (Click here for a deeper dive on strong-patterns).

The Plain White T

Speaking of the T, a while ago, I wrote about the power of the plain, white T-shirt and offered some advice about when to (and mostly when not to) wear a T-shirt that costs over $50.00. That said, a white T-shirt you can wear to a pub, to the park, or with company around may not come in a pack of 3 for $10. Those are probably a cotton/polyester blends: they’re thin (and see-through), and look like underwear.

plainwhitetThe happy medium is a $15-30 T-shirt, made of 100% or a cotton/linen blend. They cost just a bit more, but you’ll be proud of the way it conforms to your body, doesn’t become a transparent dishrag after three washes, and can pair with a dark pair of jeans for a refined (but rugged) look.

Bottom line: you don’t need to spend $50 on a T-shirt. But don’t cut corners, either.

Lay(er) it On

A great sweater multiplies the potential of whatever look you’re already rocking because it adds contrasting (but complementary messages).

This principal (complementary vs. contrasting) is one of the cornerstones of a great look (for more on that, check out this post). For example, the white T and jeans is Rebel Without a Cause, classic “tough-guy.”

But a well-knit sweater? It’s a little bit professor / dad  / merchant-marine captain. It’s authority and confidence. Paired with the white T, it builds a nuanced, literally layered gestaldt  – pleasing to the eye and complex.

sweaterv2 Three rules: a) it’s gotta fit slim but not tight, b) it’s gotta be decent quality (no holes or stains, no pilling) and c) it’s gotta have a subtle and understated pattern. Paul found a sweater that fit all 3 criteria, and it looks great.

Shoes: No Need to Be Distressed

As you know, it’s all about shoes. There are many places you can cut corners on an outfit and get away with it, but if your shoes aren’t on point, the whole look is shot.

Here’s also where Paul’s taste and vision for his new look really shined: we found a pair of Frye wingtips on sale, and he took right to them. The leather is stylish (wingtips, after all) but these shoes featured distressed leather and a crepe sole – which you might be familiar with from crepe soled desert boots. They’re casual by definition.

Do the math: classy wingtip plus “tumbled” (a kind of distressing) leather + crepe sole = high/low mash-up.

Blazing the Trail

Finally, Paul chose a few blazers to round out the classy part of his new, rugged look. Each blazer adds a different element, and when paired with a dark polo or chambray shirt, they have a chance to shine. (BTW, for more or how to rock a polo, click here – and for more on the power of a chambray shirt, click here).


chambray2Ready 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.


Want to See More Style-Stories?

Style-Story: Bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Style-Story: Bill

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

  • fugazi

    8 years ago — a working artist (stage director)…

    I had a lot of conflicts around the word “style” and the idea of “fashion,” and I still do, although the process of the “Style-Up” did help with my desire to get past this hang-up.

  • I have some sort of chip on my shoulder about form vs. function/content — I see that dichotomy everywhere, and I react negatively to any clothing that I interpret as valuing appearance for its own sake or, worse, for the sake of trend.  I’m biased towards clothes that are low-cost and built to last.  This is something I like about the way I relate to clothes, but my rigidity about style has prevented me from developing my own sense of my own style.
  • I know that everyone including me has a style, whether I like it or not, and I would like to exert more control and self-determination, not to mention self-expression, into my approach to what I wear.

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

  • Another style issue for me is my career change 8 years ago from being a working artist (stage director) to becoming a clinical psychologist.
  • It’s been easy for me to focus on building up a whole new wardrobe of boring business casual clothing because, well, it’s easy, and also satisfies my desire to be “functional” with my clothing purchases, but this has hobbled me in developing any sort of casual outside-of-work wardrobe, especially since I never had any coherent sense of style in this department in the first place.
  • Coming into my “Style-Up,” my desire was to focus on my casual, evening-out type clothing, face my fear of flash, and not embarrass my wife when we go out on a date.

SINCE YOUR STYLE-UP, WHAT HAVE YOU ENJOYED/ NOTICED / LEARNED? bill2

  • First of all, I love the clothes I bought.
  • It’s great to feel proud and secure when I put a piece of clothing on, with confidence that  it’s cool and looks good on me.
  • The Style-Up gave me the freedom to push my boundaries a bit and wear things that I probably would have rejected as too flashy or “that’s cool, but I could never wear it.”

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

  • ianThe “personality” I go to first for inspiration about most anything is Ian Mackaye (Fugazi, Minor Threat).
  • A lot of what he wears doesn’t fit or doesn’t look very good on him., but I admire his attitude because it embodies integrity, social justice, non-conformity, self-confidence, and a lack of pretension.

The Style-Up

best pic of bill everBad-Ass: the word of the day. 

During a Style-Up, I listen to the words that guys use to describe a new jacket or some shoes they love. I’ve heard, “cool,” plenty of times, and I’ve heard, “awesome,” and I’ve heard, “amazing.”

Bill’s word of choice was “badass.”

For Bill, “badass” means “attitude intact.” It means decidedly masculine. It can have plenty of flair, but it must be built upon a classic, solid structure.

Bill is as sweet and gentle a guy as you can meet, and a family guy.

This makes him a domestic, styley badass.


Badass styley

Start with the Last Thing you Put On 

The first place to begin Styling-Up is shoes. It’s the most comfortable thing to take a risk with, and the thing that makes the biggest difference. If you don’t buy that, take a look at the picture below, and notice the difference the shoes make.

Bill wanted some shoes to raise his style-game, but he wasn’t going to be impressed by the brand or by fancy details. Rather, he wanted something “badass.”

The first find was a pair of shoes featured a few weeks ago in my post on Top 5 Casual / Styley Shoes: Chuck Taylors with a great, faded blue wash. A pair of Chucks will go with everything, and this color will go with, well, everything else: it’s fun enough to rock with a t-shirt and its subtle enough to wear with chinos and a button-up.

Styley badass.

But sometimes it’s date night. Babysitter, check. Reservations at brew house, check. Significant-other looking very fine, check. Time to put away “badass-styley” Chucks, and break out the “styley-badass” (see what I did, there?) Penguin canvas oxford shoes. Oxford shoes are styley. Canvas reminds me think of big sacks of coffee-beans: badass.

Mix up the high and the low, and you have a great pair of kicks to match with nice jeans, a button-up, and a blazer or sweater.


stripey badass 2

Stripes: Grrrrrrreat. 

There’s a few old style myths that have outlived their function.

Myth: The first is that you shouldn’t wear white pants after labor day.

Reality: I wore white pants last week, and the only people who felt the need to inform me about the “white-pants fashion taboo” were, themselves, dressed in a manner suggesting they had no business telling me what to wear.

No offense.

Myth: horizontal stripes make you look wider.

Reality: big, bold stripes are for bold people. Tony the tiger. Stripes. Badass, and hottest of children cereal icons.

Big stripes build shape and structure into a silhouette, forming a sort of “ladder.” Trust me, this “ladder” invites significant others / attractive cutesters to climb on up and see what else you got goin’ on.


Secret Weapon: The Hybrid Sweater 

On date night (or when you’re out, trying to turn a non-date night into date night), you don’t need to “get lucky.” You need a magical, outer layer that broadcasts confidence tempered with approachability.

For many men, the unstructured blazer does the job, nicely.

Bill was more interested in something equally effective, but less “affected”: a sweater. Sweaters are great because they scream “approachable” — but sometimes too much so. What does a styley, domestic badass wear on date-night?  We hunted the perfect hybrid-beast: the blazer-sweater.

Soft and cuddly like a sweater. Dapper, with collar and lapels.


no parkingThe white polo: your new “whateva, whateva” shirt

Sometimes (usually) it’s not date night. You’re at the farmers’ market with your kids or picking them up from school – or sitting down for dinner at home.

What does a styley, domestic badass wear, just… whenever?

First of all, dark denim. Levis. Cuffs. Done.

Then, the magic of the white polo comes in.

On the one hand, it’s a polo. You can throw it in the wash. You can wear it with your badass styley Chucks or your styley badass canvas oxfords or whatever slick, casual shoes you rock (click here for my top recs).

On the other hand, the iconic Fred Perry Polo has a storied history. Mods wore ’em back in the 60s while thrashing London on their Vespas. What’s more badass styley than a Mod?

Remember when we used to thrash London? Me neither. But the closest I get to it is a white polo.


bill awaits his preyReady 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.

Style Story: Chris K

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Style-Up

sweater and tie

Slim and Simple:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Through the Denim, Darkly.

Through the Denim, Darkly.

Denim Darko: 

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

Jeans.

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

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

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


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

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

 Eye-popping shoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Blaze it, Sweat It 

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

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

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

chris booya


Ready for your own Style-Up?

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

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

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

 

Style-Story: Andrew

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Andrew: Researcher, Berkeley, 32.

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

"I liked the times when things seemed to fit right and I felt confident about my appearance.  I also liked that I had a few items - such as a bright purple sweatshirt - that would draw compliments and open conversations."

“I liked the times when things seemed to fit right and I felt confident about my appearance. I also liked that I had a few items – such as a bright purple sweatshirt – that would draw compliments and open conversations.”

"Style has always been something that I’ve felt uncomfortable and apprehensive about - even whether to pay attention to it."

“Style has always been something that I’ve felt uncomfortable and apprehensive about – even whether to pay attention to it.”

  • I often felt that I didn’t really have a sense of how things went together. Sometimes I wore clothing that I felt didn’t look right on me, but I lacked a way to describe what wasn’t working.

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

  • I recently finished school and was entering a new stage of my life. I wanted to feel more confident and appear more professional, while also finding ways to express myself.
  •  I was looking to gain some outfit ideas that were in between casual sportswear on one hand (which I mostly wore day to day), and formal wear on the other – something that I could wear to my work as a researcher, or for an evening out.
  • I had a lot of … very basic questions about clothing and style, [and] was looking for a framework to answer them.

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

  • The Style-up with Evan was an important step along my style development. My style awareness has been heightened, and I feel a lot more confident in putting together an outfit.
  • I enjoyed learning specifics about some of the details like socks and undershirts, as well as some broader concepts for the future.

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

"My grandmother has a timeless elegance in her style. She knows how to add details to any outfit such as a scarf or jewelry. I really admire how she is able to complement strangers on their style and accessories, which often leads them to open up into conversation."

“My grandmother has a timeless elegance in her style. She knows how to add details to any outfit such as a scarf or jewelry.
I really admire how she is able to complement strangers on their style and accessories, which often leads them to open up into conversation.”

  • My grandmother has a timeless elegance in her style. She knows how to add details to any outfit such as a scarf or jewelry.
  • I really admire how she is able to complement strangers on their style and accessories, which often leads them to open up into conversation.

The Style-Up

Slim and Simple:

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

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

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

A great fitting shirt makes you feel great.

A great fitting shirt makes you feel great.

Andrew and I started at Levi’s and picked out 3 staple shirts: white, pink, and gingham.

All three were smaller than Andrew was accustomed to, but they brought definition to Andrew’s shoulders and torso.

To go with the shirts, Andrew bought two ties – denim, but very classy. One, grey-blue, and one with subtle engineer stripes.

The gingham shirt with denim tie is classy enough for martinis after work, but it’s also casual enough for a pint at the pub.

The gingham shirt with denim tie is classy enough for martinis after work, but it’s also casual enough for a pint at the pub.

Dark Denim:

To match the shirts, we picked out a pair of slim-fitting, straight leg jeans (tumbled rigid Levi’s 514, to be precise) – and the usual rules applied: the darker, the classier (stick to indigo-blue), and we cuffed them at the bottom so there was no drape. This creates a crisp finish above his new shoes.


 

The Dress Shoe that Fits Like A Sneaker 

Look like a million bucks. Fit like sneakers. Got 'em on clearance.

Look like a million bucks. Fit like sneakers. Got ’em on clearance. Yup.

 

Andrew was interesting in picking up some shoes to wear at a wedding – but we wanted them to match with the look he was already establishing – simple, clean, and classic.

We found a pair of Cole Haans which accomplished a few things; they’re dressy, they’re styley, AND they’re made by Nike. They fit like sneakers.

What's cooler than Chuck Taylors? Leather Chuck Taylors.

What’s cooler than Chuck Taylors? Leather Chuck Taylors.

Finally, just because they were awesome, some grey-leather Converse All-Stars. As I’ve said in a previous post, Chuck Taylors are unstoppably cool, and the grey leather boosts even this classic look – making it a wee-bit edgy!


The Power of a Great Watch

Diesel dz1090 - earns the maximum compliments per dollar (CPD).

Diesel dz1090 – earns the maximum compliments per dollar (CPD).

Like many guys, Andrew uses his cell phone to check the time. Great. That frees up his watch for completing the look.

In a prior post on watches, I featured four time-pieces that double as conversation pieces. We happened upon the Diesel DZ 1090, and with its thick, brown, leather band (matching Andrew’s belt), it added a little raw-punch to the refined outfit. [By the way, you can find these online for under a hundred dollars.] 


 

Dressed up without standing out.

Dressed up without standing out.

Blaze it, Sweat It 

Finally, since Andrew presents research at science conferences, he expressed an interest in being able to dress up without standing out.

Two pieces addressed this need, and completed his look.

First, an unstructured (no padding, no lining) blazer by Jack Spade, and second, a classic cardigan by Banana Republic. Both items can be paired with shirt and tie for a casual, styley, professional look, but can also do double-duty with a T-shirt for the science conference after-party.

cardiganReady for your own Style-Up?

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

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

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

Style-Story: Robin K

 Style-Up: Before and After

 

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

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

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

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


 

Robin K: Data Architect, San Francisco, 34.

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

who am i  v3

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

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

    I explored spirituality - and being mentally and physically happy.

    I explored spirituality – and being mentally and physically happy.

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

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

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

The thing that popped was the shoes.

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

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

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

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

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

David Bowie, circa late 90s.

 

grandmother

My grandmother was an elegant dresser and a gracious host.

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

The Style-Up

Not your Uncle Russ’s shirt and tie

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

Chalk-Stripe Blazer

Chalk-Stripe Blazer

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

Gourmet Denim and Desert Boots

Gourmet Denim and Desert Boots

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

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

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

diesel

Functional and Elegant

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

Kicks for the Beach, Kicks for the Lounge

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

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

Ready for sand and sun.

Ready for sand and sun.

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

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

Stay Simple – Slim it Up

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

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

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

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

Ready for your own Style-Up?

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

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

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

 


 

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