Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Top of My 'Buy List' for Fall

First things first: The Wide Eyes, Tight Wallets, "Wits + Beaux Giveaway" still has about 5 hours to go....get your entries in now to win some great socks!

On to new biz: The other day I posted a list of things I was excited for with the Fall season around the corner. I gotta make a big addition to the list, as I think these are at the very top of my fall 'To-Buy' list. I've been having a lot of fun with bright colors this summer, and as the it gets cooler I plan to keep it colorful, but to transition to more seasonal hues. I'm thinking dark greens and deep blues to take over the mints and sky-blues of summer. Call it what you want, oxblood, burgundy, dark-dark-red, this color was the color of the season last fall, and it's really not going anywhere this year. I love the color, partly for the richness and variety of tones, and more-so for the the fact that for how good-looking it is, there are suprisingly few people on the streets wearing it.

THUS, top of my 'To-Buy' list is a pair of oxblood chinos. Fellow bloggers Bowties and Boatshoes just  gave a little review/preview of this pair of twill Chinos from Bonobos and I'm captivated: 

They are running $148.00 with no sale price at this time, which is a bit out of my budget, so I may be looking for something slightly more affordable. Any suggestions? What's the first item you're going after this fall? Got any favorite colors in mind?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wits + Beaux Reviewed and Raffled!

Our product reviews have been pretty consistently the most popular posts on the blog, so I'm making an effort to bring more of them your way! Here's the first in a while, a review of the up-and-coming men's accessories brand, Wits + Beaux, who were kind enough to send us a few pairs of their snazzy socks. Along with a review of the goods, we are happy to finally announce our celebratory giveaway. Check the deets at the end of the post for instructions and get your chance to be the lucky reader! 

The Brand:

Wits + Beaux is a NYC-based men's accessories brand founded by Kevin, Dan and Kent. These guys noticed that, for the most part, menswear brands were adding lines of accessories almost as an after-thought to their clothing lines. They wanted to take the challenge of making accessories their focal point, and started their journey with a line of socks. Socks aside (for a moment), the name, 'Wits + Beaux,' has an awesome story of its own. Apparently, 'Wits' and 'Beaux' were nicknames from the 1800's Regency-Era England. 'Wits' were thinkers, and 'Beaux' were the stylish trendsetters, and the apt combination is a name that is a "tip of [their] hats to this rich history of sophisticated and stylish gentlemen" (from WitsAndBeaux.com).

We just reviewed their socks, but Wits + Beaux is a new brand, and one of the great things about getting in with a new brand is looking forward to the good things to come. At this point, Wits + Beaux is working on some great new ideas. The one I'm probably most excited for is a tool on their site that allows you to design your own socks. Custom menswear is all the rage these days, but you don't really see many opportunities to really personalize what's going on under your shoes. I don't believe this option has fully rolled out yet, but it looks like they have some sort of 'beta' test program going on on their site. Definitely worth checking out.

Wits + Beaux is also currently funding new lines of goods via their latest Kickstarter. In their own words, "Socks were our first step in accessorizing your wardrobe each season." Now they are looking to expand to other accessory lines, including belts, pocket squares, bow-ties (ha, love that they call them Beaux-Ties) and watchbands. You can already order a few bow-ties and pocket squares, but if you pledge through the Kickstarter campaign you can get in line for the new lines, which are expected to start shipping sometime in September. My only beef so far is that the bow tie and pocket square selections match each other exactly, and hopefully you all know now that matching tie/square sets are only for sports commentators. That said, all of the options will go great on their own, so just don't wear them together and you're all set.

I especially like the 'Life's a Picnic' pocket square shown above (reversible pattern = two squares for the price of one = winner).

The Socks:

My Selection (Hero, Rabbit, and Tango)
Of course, with socks the real test is a test of time, whether or not these bad boys will last. Since I just got my pairs a few days ago, I can't really attest to their durability yet, but on all other counts, these socks are great. The colors are pretty accurate to the pictures on the website (one of the downsides to online shopping can definitely be the possibility of incongruity between what you see online and what you get in person). The socks are comfortable as well, thin but not flimsy. There's an elastic band that gives a bit more support in the arch, and the socks are tall enough and just tight enough that they don't fall down through the day.

The "extra four inches in height" really make the difference.
No problems with these falling down throughout the day.
As far as the selection goes, I will say that all the options are bright. You aren't going to find any subtle patterns or classic staples here, but you will find some great options to put a punch of color into your outfits. This has it's pros and it's cons, as most things do. 

The Cons: it's hard to match these socks with any bold patterns or colorful items you might already own. For example, I got this pair of blue and green striped socks ('The Hero'), hoping that I could use the blue to compliment one of the many blue-based shirts or ties that I own.

Unfortunately, the blue in the socks is so bright that it doesn't really play well with the mostly-navy or subdued light-blues that I own. There are also a lot of oranges and bright yellows, which you won't find much of in my existing wardrobe. I also gotta say, I find $20.00 a pair a bit pricey for socks. It's nothing ridiculous, but with the brand advocating themselves as an affordable option, this seems a bit of a stretch.

The Pros: Keep the rest of your outfit calm, and these socks are a fantastic way to add some pizzazz to an otherwise stolid look. For the businessman who can't wear a bold plaid shirt in the office, a bright pair of socks might be perfectly acceptable.

Adding said 'punch' to a slightly-drab-on-their-own combo of grey and black.
If you're keeping things simple with jeans and a white tee, flashing some color at your ankles can distinguish you from the rest of the crowd. Where I mentioned price in the cons, you can get these goods in a three-pack, which brings the price down to a more wallet-friendly $42.00 ($14.00/pair). 

The Giveaway:

So here's the exciting news: A few weeks back we hit 500 followers on Twitter (woot woot), and to celebrate the milestone, we've been promising to host another giveaway. Wits + Beaux has been good enough to provide us with a code for a three-pack of socks of your choosing, and we are passing this gift on to one lucky reader! Each of the following will gain you one entry to the sweeps:

  • 'Like' us on Facebook
  • 'Share' the review/giveaway post on Facebook
  • Follow us on Twitter (@WideEyesTWBlog)
  • Tweet about this giveaway (just be sure to tag us in your tweet)
  • Leave a comment on this post (let us know what you think of the socks, share your favorite sock brand, just say "Hi," the choice is yours).
All entries must be submitted by 11:59 PM (CST) on Tuesday, August 27th. The winner will be announced and notified on Wednesday, August 28th.

The Fine Print:

**While the socks reviewed in this article were provided by Wits + Beaux, the opinions expressed are entirely my own and not biased in any way by my relationship with the brand. 
**By entering our giveaway, you agree to the following terms and conditions listed in this Terms agreement
**No purchase or donations necessary to. Giveaway is open to legal residents of the United States 18 years and older. Void Where Prohibited.
**Odds of winning depend on total number of entries received during the giveaway period. The winner(s) of the giveaway will be chosen by Wide Eyes, Tight Wallets.
**Winners will be selected at random from the entries received via the entry methods described above. 
**Entries will be accepted from the time of posting until 11:59 PM (CST), 8/27/13. Winners will be notified on or around 8/28/2013. 
**Winners will have one week, until 1:59 PM (CST) 9/4/13, to claim their prize. If a price is unclaimed, another winner will be selected using the previously described methods.
**Duplicate entries will be removed and excessive duplicate entries will result in disqualification.
*Prizes are non-transferable. Federal, state and local taxes, if any, and any other costs or expenses related to acceptance and use of the prize not specified, are the sole responsibility of the winner.
**This giveaway is in NO way affiliated with or sponsored by Facebook, Twitter, Google or any other website. It is sponsored by the participating blogs/websites/company’s. By entering, you release Facebook, Twitter, Google and any other webistes from any liability. You are providing information to WETW and/or other participating blogs/company’s/websites and not to Facebook, Twitter, Google or any other website.

Monday, August 19, 2013

I'm Gonna Pop Some Tags... (Wide Eyes, Tight Wallets Goes Thrifting)

Here it is, folks. My first post lauding the wonders of thrift shopping. I've been a little slow on the uptake since I've moved to Chicago. I used to thrift back in PA all the time, as a kid actually. I remember coming home with corduroy blazers, 70's style dress shirts, straw fedoras and hounds tooth pants way back in the beginnings of high school (my parents must have thought I was so bizarre). I can't remember specifically, but all that great stuff must have come damn cheap, considering I spent my summers checking the couch cushions at Panera for quarters so I could buy some Ben and Jerry's. At some point, my sense of style fell off for a few years and I haven't been to those stores in ages. Now I'm here in Chicago, and since experiencing my own sartorial revival, I have often been tempted to dive back into my old ways of thrifting. A few factors have kept me from doing so. When I was still at the beginning stages of dressing well, I liked to shop pretty much primarily online. I didn't have to be as confident in my knowledge on-the-spot, and could research and browse and compare until I found exactly what I wanted. Then, when I did start venturing into thrift shops, I found that most of the options here in the city were filled with cheap polyester suits, wide lapels, huge shoulder pads, and just didn't have the patience to pick through a million things to find the one gem (though I do know this is how thrifting tends to work). Add to that the fact that summer was hitting, and none of these stores are air-conditioned, and it just wasn't happening.

Lately, we've been blessed with some way cooler than average temperatures for a Chicago August, and I recently found myself wandering back into one the more highly-recommended used stores. To be honest, I didn't have much more luck when it came to clothing, and the place was a little overcrowded for comfortable browsing (back-to-school sale, I believe). I checked out a few promising blazers, but didn't take any bites (almost had a trim J. Crew number in my hand, until I realized some fatal flaws - 4 buttons, no sleeve buttons, super short sleeves, just wasn't worth it). Instead I found myself happily sorting through the ties and belts in an empty little corner of the store. In the end, I didn't come away with anything mind-blowing or wardrobe-changing, but I got enough value and spent little enough money to have me looking forward to going back with more time on my hands. 

My purchases ended up being two good-looking belts. The first is a woven leather belt. It's definitely a bit worn in, but that's mostly what appealed to me. I'm not an expert purveyor of leather goods, so I'm not confident in my ability to judge the quality of leather right off-the-bat. However, this belt had been used long enough that I could tell how it was going to age, and so far it had aged beautifully. The leather was soft and supple, didn't show any cracks or 'plasticy' looking shine, and was developing a nice patina. I've been looking for a woven belt for a while, so this was an easy choice:

The second was a purchase inspired by a recent post in TSBMen.com on luxury animal skins (particularly crocodile). I think belts and shoes (and more) made from these hides look classy as hell and add a bit of visual interest to simple pieces. However, authentic crocodile skin is hella pricey, and not likely to be in my budget anytime soon. Therefore, I was pretty excited when I saw this croc-leather belt at the thrift shop. Unlike the woven belt, this one looks almost brand new. Chances are, it's entirely synthetic, and won't age well (kind of the opposite of the other belt, in fact). But here, I'm not looking for something to wear every day and last me forever. Instead, I'm looking for a conversation piece to throw on now and then when I want to punch up my look a little bit, and for the price this will do just fine.

And that's the real kicker here. The PRICE. Got both of these belts for less than $3.00. Fan-freakin'-tastic.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How to Wear It: Dots and Checks

We haven't delved too much into pattern matching here on Wide Eyes, Tight Wallets, but there's definitely a science to it. Today I wore this awesome new tie from The Tie Bar, but didn't feel like throwing it on with my normal go-to solid whites or blues. So, this morning was an exercise in pattern matching.

There are two big things to focus on when working with more than one pattern. The first is, make sure it's more than one pattern. In general, don't match dots with dots, or checks with checks, especially if they are literally the same pattern (no matching tie/pocket-square sets, no camouflaging your tie into your shirt).

Second, make sure your two patterns are of a different scale. My combo is a good example. The dots are big and spread out, while the checks are small and thin. If the checks were spaced equally with the dots, and in a bolder line, the patterns would run the risk of blending together. If you do decide to match similar patterns (stripes with stripes, for example), this is doubly important. 

Sartorialists often add the rule that your tie should always be bolder than your shirt, but I tend to throw that one to the wind and just have fun mixing things up. Another one you'll hear a lot is to limit your patterns to two. Essentially, if you already have two patterned pieces, keep the rest of your outfit solid and subtle. I only follow this loosely, breaking the rule especially often for a good pair of fun socks (along with a patterned tie and shirt). Even my two 'rules' are made to be broken (see Zachary Quinto expertly rocking three different stripes as featured on GQ.com), but if you're new to the game, this is a good place to start.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Recent Purchases - The Tie Bar

Just a quick post today. I tweeted/instagrammed a week or two back when I visited a pop-up booth that The Tie Bar had set up at the Daley Center in downtown Chicago. I have a personal aversion to paying for shipping, and the little shopping bazaar is only a block away from my work, so I couldn't resist the temptation to go pick up a few new pieces to add to my ever-growing collection of neckwear. When I originally posted, I promised to show my purchases on the blog, so here I am, living up to that promise.

This tie is another cotton one, and will probably be my last seasonal tie purchase of this summer. It's a simple blue/grey stripe that's quickly becoming one of my favorites. It's light and breezy enough to be a cheerful summer tie, but the classic stripes and subtle colors remain slick and classy. I wore this outfit to work today and had half of the secretaries bugging me all day about what job interview I was going to (I was not, for the record). Honestly, most of this look is pretty standard for my day-to-day, so I gotta attribute this at least in some part to this hella-awesome tie.

I'll try to throw up some pics of myself in my other purchase, but in case I don't get around to it for a bit, here's the image from The Tie Bar:

I LOVE a good knit tie for the versatility...the thicker substance of the tie makes it great with winter fabrics, while the looser weave of the fabric makes it pair wonderfully with summer-wear as well. I'm also a huge fan of polka-dots, and the size of these dots is a great balance between straight-up-business pin-dots and goofy clown-show over-sized options. Pick either of these up at TheTieBar.com (along with countless other great ties) for a mere $15.00 each.

And I'll leave you with this...

...because my photographer girlfriend always makes me take a goofy one!
AND it's always important to remember to have fun.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A 'Wide Eyes, Tight Wallets' Fall Preview

I know I just wrote last week that there is still plenty of summer left, but one of my favorite things about men's style and fashion is getting to enjoy todays trends while already looking forward to tomorrow's. That in mind, here is a quick preview of the things I'm looking forward to that will come with the cooler weather.

I love sweaters in general, but I'm especially particular to cardigans, and they are one of my favorite layering pieces. I love the way that a cardigan transcends the casual/formal border. For example, throw one on buttoned up under a blazer, and you have a dressed-down three-piece. Wear one loose over a tee and you have a bit classier of a sweatshirt jacket. I've been meaning to try out the brand Scotch and Soda, and I've got my eye on their dark-red cardigan to mix things up in my sea of greys and blues:

Shawl Collars:
This kind of goes along with cardigans and sweaters, but I can't wait to get back to my addiction to shawl collars. Can't really tell you what I love so much about them...but I think it has something to with the smooth line that the roll of the shawl makes, adding heft to a sweater without making it bulky or cumbersome. J. Crew offers a shawl neck pullover with a nautical stripe pattern, which would fulfill another of my latest obsessions:

I've honestly been putting off buying another summer blazer in anticipation of getting to invest in some great tweed options. Tweed has been one of my favorite fabrics since before I even knew anything about style, which goes to show how great it looks, even to the untrained eye. On top of that, I don't think tweed has ever gone out of style, nor will it. If I go custom (which I will, if I can afford it), this brown number from Indochino is high on my list:

Heavy Denim:
One of the sartorial leaps I have yet to take is getting into high quality denim. As the plethora of denim-heads out there will tell you, there's a world of a difference between a pair of $50 Levi's from Macy's and a pair of selvage jeans constructed from heavy, raw Japanese twill.  Summer was definitely not the time to try these out, but come fall I'm definitely picking up a pair that I'm sure will quickly become my go-to non-business pants. Gustin makes some great-looking, affordable selvage jeans, and just announced that they will be regularly stocking their Japan Classic line (most weaves are limited releases):

This one is a big IF in my book, mainly dependent on IF I can ever afford them. I tout thrifted and eBay'ed shoes left and right, but at some point you gotta invest in a pair of high quality, new shoes that will form to your feet and be an investment that will pay off for years. I fully plan on making my first pair some wingtip brogue boots (especially appropriate for dealing with Chicago winters here in the windy city). I've heard nothing but great things about Allen Edmonds' Dalton boot, and would give an arm and a leg for my own pair:

And to top it all off, and bring a lot of these together, Layering. The highlight of pretty much any menswear enthusiasts year, the options that come with colder weather are like a friggin playground. I honestly get giddy just thinking about it...blazers on vests on sweaters on shirts, wool on cashmere on denim, contrasts and compliments, the options are really endless. After trying to pare everything down as much as possible during the sweltering heat of the summer, finally getting to layer again is a pleasure