Thursday, August 23, 2007

Summer Fashion Advice For Men

What? Summer fashion advice now, in the middle of August?

Okay, so it may be too late to rearrange and restock your summer wardrobe, but a quick glance around on my way to work brought my attention to one of the most important events of summer: The End of Summer Clearout Sale!

Fine men's wear shops all over this city (and yours too, no doubt) are busy making room in their shops for the fall arrivals, so if you have room in your closet, time to stock up!

The Areas of my Expertise: What Tall Men Should Wear

I'm not the world's pre-eminent fashionista -- I'm not the guy who can make any person look good, regardless of their body type.

In fact, I don't know much about the current state of the fashion industry except how it pertains to me.

I know what looks good on me, and by extension, I know what clothes look good on tall men.

I'm 6'5" and 175 pounds, and frankly, guys like us have it easier than most. Sure, it may be next to impossible to find shirts with sleeves that are long enough and don't look like a tent around our waists. And pants with a 36 inch inseam and a 34 inch waist aren't everywhere.

If you're shaped like me, or just want to know how to dress a bit better (much of the information here applies to other people too!), then stay tuned. I've got some good stuff coming.

And by all means, ask any questions you may have!

I've got one for you: what's your secret to dressing well?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

What to Wear: The Shirt (Part 3)

What to Wear: The Shirt (Part 3)

Sleeves & Cuffs

On to cuffs. This is the easy part. You have a few options, but it’s mainly built-in buttons or holes for cuff-links. Again, personal style. A note on cufflinks, though, in case you want to wear them: never wear cufflinks if you’re not wearing a jacket. Otherwise you’ll look like a pirate who forgot to hide his treasure.

Once you have your cuffs, size, and collar set, you’re left to fit and color. If you can wear them, always opt for a "fitted" or "athletic" style dress shirt. This means you’ll walk away with a garment that tapers toward your waist, as opposed to the kind that billows at your back like a galleon at full sail. A well-fitted shirt will look like it was sewn right on you. Except without the drops of blood.

Finally: colour or pattern. Men usually choose according to one of a few reasons: either they trust the colour (men whose shirts are all either white or blue), they need some new colours (the men we just mentioned who are now sick of white and blue), or a colour has become trendy (1999, Banana Republic, crimson red). Again, the most we can say is choose the style that’s right for your look, but don’t be afraid of expanding your repertoire. Remember: Shirts are where you get to have the most fun with your outfit, and it’s so easy to be boring.

But what about the sleeves? Good point. For places with summers in the warm to warmer range, you can get away with long sleeves for most of the year. And don’t be afraid to roll those sleeves up when necessary. Not only does it look great, but it also suggests you’ve been hard at work on something or other. Probably.

If, however, your summers sit in a neighborhood that’s no stranger to blowing the top off the thermometer, feel free to wear your dress sleeves short and sit sweat-free, knowing fashion didn’t give you two weeks of carefully tended re-hydration therapy in the hospital.

Now you have your shirt, and you’re ready to get dressed. What seems to change most in dress shirt fashion is how to wear them. Right now it’s alright to leave the tail un-tucked (unless you’re wearing a suit) assuming the shirt tapers to the waist and ends before it’s half-way down your ass. Still, with the un-tucked look so pervasive, tucking or not tucking doesn’t say much, assuming you don’t look like a slob. What people really want to know is, how many buttons are unbuttoned at the top of your shirt.

Zero buttons? You’re either a) the classic nerd, b) an out-of-touch New Waver, or c) a turn-of-the-century heartland obsessive. In all cases, buy a tie; you’ll do yourself a world of good.

One button? Average. Simple. No judgments to be made here. You’re not offending anyone; you’re making nobody wonder. This is probably good.

Two buttons? If you’re starting each day this way, you’re either a cocky bastard or European, and lucky for you, we admire both types. For an American, though, it’s worth waiting until after lunch before you slip that second button.

Three or more buttons? Hope you’ve got another shirt on underneath there, Rico Suave.

Now you’ve got your shirts, you’re wearing them, and people love you. At some point, though, you need to take them off. When it comes time for cleaning, the best method is hand-washing, followed by a nice, stiff press. But who’s got time for that? Instead, get them dry-cleaned (no starch) or have them cleaned and pressed.

When they get back from the cleaners, call that special someone, make drinks, lay a fire. Escort your lover to the closet and—slowly!—take down each shirt, unbuttoning every cuff (you can use your teeth), then throw them up so the air is a cloud of stripes, an ecstasy of cotton.

We love good shirts.

What to wear: The Shirt (Part 2)

What to Wear: The Shirt (Part 2)

To start with style, there are a variety of collars available to the shirt-shopping man.

Straight: Possibly the most standard of men’s collars these days. This collar aims in varying degrees of “down.” There are a number of “spreads” available in straight collars, the “spread” being the amount of space visible between the collars, at the neck, where a tie might live. Choose too-narrow a spread and you could be on the GoodFellas poster.

Spread: A straight collar that’s been spread to the point of not being considered straight anymore. This collar is also sometimes referred to as the “cutaway” collar, for the large amount of visible space between collar tips; it’s also called the “British Spread,” because it’s popular there and Americans love wearing anything that smells European. Due to their construction, spread collars are typically slightly less-wide than straight collars. This collar, too, is available in a variety of spread distances.

Button-Down: The collar that’s affixed to the shirt, popular with Mormons, prep schools, mod parties, and consulting firms. I.e., either hip or square, depending on how you wear it. Never wear the collar unbuttoned. And don’t snip off the buttons to make it a non-button-down shirt: you’ll still be left with buttonholes in the collar, and people will notice. And we don’t want that.

Curved: A straight collar that has a slight curve outwards from the face. It’s a different look, for a different type of man. Yes, just different. And sometimes preferred by Steve Martin. No comment.

Tab: A collar that has a small snap-tab connecting the two collar sides together. No real idea what this tab is for. Must be a reason. Maybe it’s an added security feature.

Banded: Quite simply, no collar—just a button at the neck. Preferred by Michael Stipe circa-1990 and Robin Williams at any formal event. Come to think of it, Steve Martin’s also worn it on occasion. Good for wooing women with the I-used-to-be-a-Yoga-instructor-but-now-I-study-African-drumming look.

The point in having so many collars is that you get to choose one that suits you. It’s often said that men with narrow faces should choose collars that are wider, to help broaden their faces; conversely, men with wider faces should choose collars that are narrower, to help lengthen their faces. Personal style is really the best route, though: don’t choose a collar that isn’t you. And don’t blame your face for keeping you from wearing what you want. Only Hugh Grant is Hugh Grant, and anyway, we suspect he’s a doofus.

Friday, July 20, 2007

What to Wear: The Shirt (Part 1)

First, a ground rule: Shirts, like all matter, can be destroyed. A shirt you buy tomorrow won’t last more than two years. Chili cookoffs, leaky pens, poorly-positioned coffee lids... the world is full of ways to ruin good fabrics. So don’t get sentimental when your Thomas Pink turns pinot noir; you never should have spent that much money anyway.

For dress shirts, you’ll either buy them off the rack or have them made for you. While the latter is the preferable method, it’s also usually the most expensive. Most men buy dress shirts in three ways: from a catalog, off a hanger, or from those wooden cubby-holes that haberdashers use to make their store seem like a gentleman’s club.

In all cases, the most important thing to know is your size. We don’t mean small, medium, or large. We mean knowing the length of your arms and the girth of your neck at all times. If you don’t know, go to a fancy shirt-shop and have a caring salesman wrap you with measuring tape. Scribble down the numbers and memorize them as if they were a pass-code to a better life. And they are.

This pass-code, however, is not a universal standard (except that any man in a well-fitted shirt is probably living better than a man in an ill-fitting one). Neck and sleeve sizes don’t mandate design, so where one 15-33 makes you look like Justin Timberlake, others could drape Perry Mason.

Some shirts are cut longer than others so you have enough tail to tuck. Unfortunately, most times you’ll look like you’ve crapped a blanket. Others are cut too short, so when you raise a hand your tail comes un-tucked. This is why we don’t recommend catalog shopping where avoidable; you need to sample the wares before clinching the sale.

And sampling means noticing how the shirt is made. Examine the stitching, the buttons, the hem. If the shirt looks cheap, it is. And if you wear that shirt, you’ll look cheap. If looking cheap is your thing, God save you. Shirts, while more expendable than suits, are worth the money they cost, to a point. No shirt, unless it’s made-to-measure, is worth more than $150. If you’re going to spend more than that, have it made for your body.

Let us note, before going further, that the experience of having good shirts made for your body, with all of your preferences in mind—style, collar, cuff—is a wonderful, expensive indulgence. You are choosing to pamper your vanity rather than a small village in Africa. You must be without guilt or illusions: you are paying someone a lot of money to make shirts that will fit you, and only you, perfectly.

If you decide to go down this path, make sure you work with a good tailor, and have the permission of your partner. If you’re in New York, The Editors recommend Seize sur Vingt. And if you're in Bankgok, you can get amazing quality for a fraction of the price from one of the many excellent tailors on Sukhamvit Drive. (The Dread Pirate Robert recommends Lucky & Oscar.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

What to wear: the only four suits you need

Men need to dress better. And there's really no excuse because it's just so easy: put on a suit.

It's almost like "The Suit" was designed for men.

Seriously, imagine a well-dressed man and tell me what he's wearing. You know it's a suit.

As mentioned in the previous post, you only need four suits, so shop accordingly. Here they are.

The Fab Four

1. The Standard Blue: Great for business, lunches, New York Mayors, summer dinners, or casual parties. Can be worn with black or brown shoes, even white if you’re daring. Reflects well by a pool. Standard blue means navy, with no room for paler shades, even if you went to UNC.

2. The Classic Gray: Appropriate for everything and even makes a red-head look dandy. Grays also are the best with patterns, especially anything in the chevron family. Start with plain, move to window-pane. Even such, the gray is never controversial. It’s the Switzerland of suits.

The Basic Black: Our favorite and the perennial classic, it’s a fit at the Oscars or your sister’s wedding, the perfect complement to a good white shirt, beloved by gangsters, designers, and undertakers (those jobs with the highest doses of fashion-conscious aptitudes; respectively, aggression, vanity, and wisdom). If you only own one suit, this is it. You can even be buried in it.

4. Any of the above, with pinstripes.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Man's version of "The Little Black Dress": The Suit

A Man's Guide to Dressing Well: How to buy and wear a suit

On Suits, Part One

Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.
—Cary Grant

In the world of fashion, men have one choice up their sleeves, and it's an ace.

In fact, if dressing well were a baseball team, the suit bats cleanup -- and more importantly, you could slot the suit in for all nine spots and come out looking like a champ.

Without suits, men would have nothing. In the arena of style, a good suit remains a man’s only trump card. Even in our sad age of track pants and baggy jeans, the suit still carries an air of success, taste, and sophistication.

A suit is designed to make you look better and to break down boundaries between social classes. It can make a small man look taller, a fat man look slimmer, and it can make a man of modest means look like a million bucks.

The suit looks good in restaurants, ball parks, dinner parties, night clubs, or Paris; in short, everywhere you want to be. It is, in its best forms, a complete outfit that will never fail you.

And that is exactly what it will do, if you treat it right. Unfortunately the majority of suits you see look awful. This isn’t necessary.

Even if you work ten hours with your jacket on, being mindful of your clothing will keep you ready for cocktails after work. Too many men either don’t know or don’t care how to wear a suit, and, suitably, they look like shit. This is worth avoiding.

To start off, a few general rules should be observed when approaching a suit, and most apply to good dressing in general:

1. The suit, no matter the style, needs to fit your body, closely. Get over puberty, you're not going to grow into it. This means all pieces should be cut and tailored appropriate to your form as it is now. If you do gain a couple of inches, suits can be let out.

Surprisingly, this doesn’t require a lot of money, but it does take an eye, and the strength to ignore any saccharine compliments from salesmen.

In terms of money, $500 can, in fact, get you a new tailored suit. You can save money by buying one off the rack and having it tailored to fit you. And if you know your measurements, you can buy great quality second-hand suits online for a song, but take care in choosing size and quality. And these will definitely need some tailoring to fit.

2. Trends have six-to-eighteen-month shelf lives. If you plan to retire your suit in this window, feel free to splurge. Otherwise, shop conservatively.

3. Suits are made of wool or cotton, and their variations. Additional fabrics need not apply. What's that you say? That polyester suit is only $69 off the rack? Just keep walking...

4. You are an interesting, confident, multifaceted man of many talents. Let others learn that from how you behave, not from the label on the inside of your jacket.

5. A suit jacket goes with suit pants, not with jeans or chinos. If you want a casual jacket, buy a sport-coat or a blazer. Stand-up comedians are regularly shot over this rule.

6. If you’re not comfortable -— if you don’t feel the suit’s appropriate for you -— the salesman’s looking out for his commission, not your style.

7. A modestly, well-dressed man has never failed to impress. Yes, that's right, never.

Assuming you’re not an investment banker, you don’t need ten suits; you only need four. This means you can be a discerning shopper and spend time accumulating, then keeping your suits in good condition (learn to use a clothes brush, dry clean once a year, then more for spills; don’t you dare iron it yourself). Think of the process in terms of collecting, spending years searching for that mint condition Chewbacca in original packaging.

Next: Part Two -- The Fab Four

Originally published in "The Morning News" by Rosecrans Baldwin and Andrew Womack

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Sharp Dressed Man

We men have it easy, the ladies say, clothes fit us better and if we want to dress up, we just put on a suit.

So why do so many men dress like bums?

Is it because a good suit costs over a thousand dollars?

Because dressing well is too hard?

Because we don't care about fashion?

What a load of crap.

It's easy, inexpensive, and rewarding to dress well. And that's what this blog is all about. Dress for success, dress for the job you want, not the job you have, and every girl's crazy for a sharp dressed man.

Insert rockin' guitar solo here.