Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Seasonal Neckwear

First, some exciting news: for those of you that didn't see the posts on Twitter or Facebook, Wide Eyes Tight Wallets hit a milestone this week as we broke 500 followers on Twitter! Every big step like that is exciting, so we definitely plan on celebrating, and what better way to celebrate that to reward the peeps that make it happen. That's right, YOU. Long story short, keep your eyes peeled for a **giveaway** sometime in the next week or so as a token of our appreciation for you guys following along.

Ok, on to the meat of the post:

I hope I'm not the only one who has been scoring some awesome deals from the various summer sales going on about now. I featured Bonobos last week, but J. Crew Factory had some killer discounts recently as well. This week, I received my order in the mail, and my favorite pick has to be this new madras cotton tie, which brings me to a great point as we are really getting into these hot summer months.

Ok, to be entirely fair, I have to admit I had this post planned for earlier in the season, but unavoidable delays kept pushing it back, but there's still plenty of summer left. When the temperature rises, we all adjust the cloth and style of our clothing to keep us cool and comfortable. Heavy wools get stuck in the closet, while lighter cloths like cotton and linen hit the rotation full-swing. What a lot of people don't realize is that you can (and should) take the same steps when picking out your neckwear.

Now, it's fair enough to mention that wearing a cotton or linen tie isn't really going to keep you any cooler. However, there are still two good reasons to do this. The first is that the clothing that you will be matching your tie is now in a different cloth and therefore a different texture. Where a wool suit or a thicker dress shirt has a certain sheen to it that pairs well with silk ties, or where tweed is thick and hearty and goes great with a wool tie, these clothes would look kind of out of place with a breezy lightweight tie. The same goes for the opposite. Linen suits, cotton blazers, lightweight dress shirts, all have a unique weight and texture that lends to a little 'rough-around-the-edges,' while not necessarily casual, style that just looks out of place with a shiny silk tie. You can really notice this in the shots with the blazer, which is a summer-weight cotton/linen blend that plays nicely off the texture of the tie.

Secondly, silk and linen ties just lend to a more summery feel all around, and those summer styles you're looking for will be hard to find in a silk or wool option. You're much more likely to find madras plaids in cotton, and, as far as I know, you'll never find a seersucker tie made out of silk (I'm not sure that would even be possible). When designers and brands put out their cotton and silk tie lines, they are designing these specifically for the summer months, and you'll find a plethora of bright summer colors and patterns to choose from. Long story short, as your rolling up you sleeves, embracing the season, your neckwear should reflect the same attitude.

This tie from J. Crew is 100 percent cotton and came in a great madras pattern, which I discussed before as one of my favorite summer patterns. This pattern in particular is a perfect blend of bold and subtle. It features the brighter madras reds and blues, but the plaid isn't too busy and the colors are slightly faded, keeping it from being 'in-your-face' while remaining plenty summery. You'll also notice I went with a solid pocket square in a similar fabric (chambray) that brings out the red in the tie without being to matchy-matchy. 

The J. Crew Factory sale has unfortunately passed, but there are still plenty of great options for summer neckwear. The Tie Bar is my go-to for affordable ties, and they have entire sections dedicated to cotton and linen options. I actually just grabbed a great blue-striped cotton tie (shown below) from their pop-up stand at the Daley Center last week (always love avoiding paying shipping). If I'd gotten this post up earlier, like I had planned, Uniqlo had some great madras options as well, but it looks like they are already moving on to their fall line. 

My favorite fan.

On a final note, as the following here continues to grow, I'd love to hear more from the readers! If you have any summer tie suggestions, or selections you want to brag about, or any other input, have your say in the comments section or e-mail me at and I'll share your stuff with the community! As always, thanks for reading!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Deals and Steals - Bonobos Oxleys

In an effort to always be improving the Wide Eyes, Tight Wallets site, I was recently thinking about what my favorite blogs have that we don't. One of the biggies that came to my mind was updates on great sales or bargains to be found. If any of you read the great work over at Dappered, you'll know what I'm talking about. I love their 'roundups' and other similar posts because not only does it suggest what to buy, it tells me where to find it for a steal. So voila, new 'series' on Wide Eyes, Tight Wallets. To put my own spin on things (well to some extent, I'm sure others out here do this too) I'll be focusing on items that I myself am purchasing. Today, I'm finally taking the plunge for a pair of Oxleys from Bonobos.

My first Bonobos purchase, this has been a long time coming. Not only have I heard only good things about Bonobos in general, but there has been a plethora of rave reviews for this specific pair of pants. I've honestly been drooling over these since they hit the inventory this spring, but the regular price of $98.00 was alas too steep for my blood. Thank god for summer sales though, as these bad boys are currently discounted down to $48.00, which is do-able enough, but then add in the extra-30%-off-summer-sale-discount (code HEATWAVE30) and these suddenly become only $33.60. Free shipping both ways is just the icing on the cake.

I went for this pair in was between this and the white. I went with blue mainly because I have a few white summer-weight shirts that I definitely would want to wear with these. Easy enough. My only worry is that the only the straight leg version was available in my size, rather than the slim straight. Normally, I only buy slim, but the straight leg doesn't look too wide, and the free shipping and free returns make this a pretty risk-free purchase. I'll let you folks know how they turn out!

Final note: I actually gotta give Dappered extra props because the original extra-25%-off code that I was planning to use for these pants expired before I made the purchase. I thought I was out of luck, until I saw the feature on the new 30%-off code on Dappered. Head over to their article for some other great picks as well.

Feel free to use the comments section to share any recent purchase of your own, or to point me (and everyone else) in the direction of other great buys!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Origins - Madras Cloth

I've mentioned madras as a description of a few pieces in recent posts, and I'm sure you've seen the fabric everywhere, especially in these summer months, used for everything from shirts to blazers to ties. But where does the term come from and what exactly does it mean? 

Madras Cloth
Madras cloth is named for the city in India where it originated (the city is now called Chennai). As you can imagine, India is a pretty damn hot country, so their prowess in cool, breathable cloths shouldn't really come as a surprise. This particular cloth is crafted from a lightweight cotton fabric, but what really sets it apart is the traditional pattern. Nine times out of ten, a piece described as madras is going to involve a bold plaid pattern, usually emphasizing strong reds and greens with undertones of blue and yellow. This is my favorite kind of madras, and will be featured in an upcoming post on seasonal ties.
Traditional Madras Shirt by Bonobos
Madras Tie by J. Press

The other type of madras that you will see is called patchwork madras, and is really just that, a patchwork collection of smaller madras squares. This creates a bold look that has really been embraced in prep styling. Once again, this fabric is used for a wide variety of garments, but I've seen it most often in shorts and blazers.
Patchwork Madras Shorts by Brooks Brothers
Patchwork Madras Blazer by Just Madras c/o Country Club Prep

Personally, I love madras as a slightly more rugged summer cloth, allowing you to stay cool and embrace some bright summer colors. Where seersucker and linen tend to project an image of southern gentility or maybe even British colonialism, madras is more a 'cloth of the people,' and is a great transition for lovers of plaid flannel into a more warm-weather appropriate fabric.

So there you have it, and expect to see more madras in upcoming posts. It's hot out there, y'all. Try to stay cool.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

WIWT - 7/9/2013 - Doing A Lot With A Little

I know I've been leaning a bit heavily towards WIWT posts over more specific articles, but today's outfit offered me a great chance to show you all just what you can do with a very tight budget. This whole outfit cost me easily under $100, but looks good enough for any day at the office or even a job interview (although I'd add a blazer).

This shirt is actually a recent purchase from Target of all places. I usually only go to Target for basics...I'll take a $12.00 Target V-Neck tee over basically the same thing from J. Crew for $50.00 any day. That said, I tend to steer away from pants or dress shirts, or anything that I would prefer to order in a 'slim' size. However, I was browsing the other day and noticed that their Mossimo OCBD's were labeled 'Tailored Fit,' as opposed to 'Classic Fit,' like the rest of their dress shirts. On top of a cool price point of $23.00, I couldn't resist grabbing one. Considering it was just an impulse buy (I didn't even bother trying the shirt on in the store), I'm pretty happy with the purchase. 

You do make some sacrifices for the cheaper price, but if you're just looking for a little bit of a change in your rotation and aren't ready to drop the appropriate amount on a quality shirt, this is a refreshing option. The fit is spot on while standing straight, although the shoulders bunch and pull a bit if I raise my arms (slightly weird armhole dimensions, from the looks of it). 

Weird bunching at the shoulders...can't win them all.

I'm sure the shirt isn't going to last all that long, but it looks decent, is a soft comfortable material, and will hold me over great for now. 

I got these Chinos from J. Crew Factory, and they are a great example of how well you can just by patiently waiting for sales. J. Crew Factory prices are already significantly lower than J. Crew's normal goods, but they put up sale codes all the time. Earlier this summer they had a helluva combination of deals going on and I managed to get a few of these broken-in slim fit Chinos for just around $20.00. They are a tad bit loose around the thigh, but I like the width through the knee and the amount of taper in the lower leg, and the extra room up top is barely noticeable. This khaki pair is just about the most versatile thing in my closet, and I wear them all the time.

I may have talked about these shoes before, but they were a great eBay find. Brooks Brothers shoes tend to run over $300.00 new, and I got these for about $40.00 (if I remember correctly). The soles will need replacing soon, but I've had them for about 8 months, they look spectacular, and fit like a dream. For that price, I couldn't ask for any more. Threw on some bright blue socks from Gap (rang in at around $6.00). Along with the tie, I think they add a colorful dimension to the outfit that makes it seasonally appropriate and breaks away from the khaki/blue-white-OCBD uniform of the masses.

Lastly, the tie is my latest pick from Tie Society, part of my $11.00/month subscription. I've touted Tie Society plenty of times here, but I'll just reiterate that it's a great way to keep your tie rotation fresh and new without actually having to buy tie after tie. I do wish this wasn't a polyester tie (personal aversion to poly neckwear), but the colors and patterns are very madras-esque, which has recently become one of my favorite summer looks.

So, adding up all the prices:
Shirt - $23.00
Pants - $20.00
Shoes - $40.00
Socks - $6.00
Tie - $11.00

With a grand total of exactly $100.00 (give or take a few depending on the accuracy of my memory as I write this on a Tuesday morning). Just goes to show, you don't need to shell out hundreds for a solid outfit. As I mentioned, if I was to wear this for an interview, I might add a blazer, which does jump the price up a bit, but with the availability for affordable yet stylish blazers from brands like Uniqlo, H&M and Zara, this shouldn't be too much of a stretch either. Just remember, it's all about fit. A well-fitting outfit like this one, for $100.00, will look way better than a $1,000.00 ensemble that drapes and droops like a pillowcase, and will leave you with some $$ to actually do something while wearing it.

Just schemin' bout savin' all that dough...
Now, to be perfectly honest, I did add some of my own accessories when I wore this to work (tie clip, watch, bag), which you can see below. I left them out in the rest of the post to illustrate the 'budget' look, but here's the final product:

The Details:
OCBD Shirt by Target
Tie via Tie Society
Belt by Levis
Chinos by J. Crew Factory
Socks by Gap
Shoes by Brooks Brothers (via eBay)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

WIWT - 7/4/2013 - HAPPY AMERICA!

I've mentioned how excited I get about dressing for holidays before, and I'll say it again now. These special occasions are where my sartorial nerd really lets loose, and I've been planning my 4th of July ensemble for days.

First off, of course I have to wear red white and blue. It would just be unpatriotic to do otherwise (I'm just kidding, kind of, but it was a good place to start). When I wrote about my St. Patrick's Day outfit, I stressed the importance of being festive without looking clownish. Once again, your safest bet is to make sure you aren't wearing something you would be embarrassed to wear any other day of the year (weather aside).

My strategy was to keep most of my get-up classic and simple, and to add the festive touches in the accessories, and I stuck with the everlasting classic prep combo of khaki chinos, white shirt, and navy blazer.

Here are those festive touches I was talking about. I actually bought these shoes way back in high school, wore them once and shoved them in closet in favor of skate shoes as I grew out of my indoor soccer era. Let this serve as a great reminder to shop your own closet every so often. Since I've reinstated these bad boys back into my footwear rotation they've become one of my favorite pairs of casual shoes, and were pretty damn perfect for the holiday.

I paired them with a similar blue and red tie, which was actually a big hit around Christmas as well. That's one of the things I love about knit ties; they are ridiculously versatile. This one looked just as good under a chunky shawl-neck sweater as it does here with a cotton blazer and lightweight white shirt.

Other small notes: Kept it 'sockless' as it's finally warm again here in Chicago (the weather this summer has been bizarre, it was only 60 degrees on Tuesday). Also, I was hoping to be able to incorporate a belt with a bit more color and pizzazz, but once again, time constraints kept me to my current wardrobe. I actually really like this belt, which is a recent purchase from Levi's. Levi's are always a go-to for jeans, but they make some great accessories too and have awesome sales on the reg.

Happy America everyone!

The Details:
Cotton/Linen Blazer by Uniqlo
Silk Knit Tie by The Tie Bar
Linen Pocket Square via eBay
Custom MTM Shirt by Modern Tailor
Belt by Levis
Chinos by J. Crew Factory
Shoes by Adidas
Watch by FormFunctionForm