Thursday, September 26, 2013

Origins - Gingham

If you're reading this blog, you should probably already know what gingham is. These days it's a hugely popular fabric and can be found by practically every menswear brand. This is largely due to its combined simplicity and boldness, which makes it at the same time visually interesting and versatile.

The term has, like many textile terms, origins in south-east Asia. It is derived from the Malay adjective, genggang, which means, 'striped.' Where gingham fabrics were largely striped through the 17th and 18th centuries, it later became known for a trademark checkered pattern.

These days gingham usual incorporates checks combining white and one other color (my personal favorite is navy, seen in my recent review of Spectre & Co. shirting). Recently, I've been noticing more two-tone ginghams that swap out the white checks for another complimentary color. While I personally favor the contrast the white checks add to the pattern, the alternative is a warmer and slightly richer look, in my opinion.

From my understanding and observation, gingham tends to be a much popular pattern in the warmer months, used in lighter shirting fabrics like broadcloth and poplin. That said, I have been starting to see it pop up a lot more in winter flannels and other heftier fabrics, with colors ranging more into the fall tones. If you're looking for something gingham to add to your wardrobe now, I recommend something like this casual shirt from J. Crew (available at J. Crew Factory):

If you're looking for something a little dressier, head on over to our review of Spectre & Co., who offer this great shirt in navy gingham, as well as a variety of other color and scale combinations:
In fact, one of the most fun things about gingham is you can own 20 gingham shirts (not that you should...or shouldn't...), and never repeat a color or pattern scale. Wear bigger, bolder gingham to make a statement and stand out, or smaller micro-gingham for something almost-solid-but-with-visual-depth, or anything in between.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Spectre & Co. - Reviewed

I was recently made aware of an up-and-coming shirting company by the name of Spectre & Co. I expressed some interest in their products, and they were kind enough to send me a shirt to review.

I'll begin with the standard disclaimer. This was a sponsored review, and the products reviewed were provided to me free of charge. The article, however, remains objective and unbiased and is published without prior editing or review by Spectre & Co. While I love to be given products to review, don't worry, I will never endorse a product I wouldn't wear myself. 

About the Brand:

I'll be perfectly honest, I'm going to skimp a bit on this section, not because I don't think it's worth looking into, but because Spectre & Co. was just featured in a fantastic article on that does a way better job exploring the company and what it does than I could ever do. Here are the basics, but definitely check that article out.

The company is run by founder Jeffrey Zhang, who quit a consulting job a little under a year ago to start Spectre & Co. He told me that the idea came about through his own troubles finding a "perfect white dress shirt" for a wedding. After he paid a whopping $135 to get the shirt he wanted, he decided to take a step in offering affordable but high quality dress shirts. In his words, "My family being in the garment industry, I knew how much things actually cost, and I came up with the idea to bring truly high-quality shirting to the market at the right, affordable price. Everything we have ranges from $45 - $65, and we offer free shipping in the United States and free returns for first-time customers."

Jeff was also kind enough to go into some detail explaining to me just how they are able to maintain a high level of quality and integrity while keeping the prices so low. 

"We're also completely vertically integrated, in that we own everything from production and distribution to retail. We cut out all of the middlemen to pass those savings to our customers. We also pride ourselves with responsible sourcing and fair labor practices. One of the driving forces when finding our production team was to not only prevent tragedies like the one in Bangladesh with the fast fashion retailers, but to well exceed the standards of fair labor. Instead of employing low-wage laborers, we hire local artisans and shirt-makers in Shanghai who have a passion for the craft. It's more expensive for us, but it's the right thing to do, and it also shows in our final product when it comes to quality, stitching, and pattern-matching. Our production team has over 100 years of combined experience in the garment industry, and have pedigrees from renowned shirt-makers such as Ascot Chang."

Long story short, his family has been in the biz long enough to know how to put together a quality product, but by paring the business down to an e-commerce-only shop and just skipping right past all the overhead associated with traditional retail, Jeff has found a way to bring that quality at an affordable price point.

What I Ordered:

For my first pick, I went with the Navy Gingham with a cutaway collar. I was debating trying one of the oxfords, as I'm enjoying OCBD's as my go-to shirt this fall, but I've been dying to have a strong gingham dress shirt in my rotation and thought this was a perfect chance.

Straight out of the box.
I originally ordered in my regular sizing (15" neck with standard sleeve length). The shirt I got was a pretty close fit, but was looser than I prefer around the waist and had some room to tighten up in the collar as well, so I decided to take advantage of the free first return and sized down to a 14.5" neck. I did ask them to keep the sleeve length at the size associated with a 15" neck, and they were happy to oblige. 

What You Get:

First off, overall this is a great shirt, especially for the money. We'll start with fit:

As you can see, the shirt fits almost as well as my MTM shirts. Just right across the shoulders, slim through the body, and almost no billowing at the waist. I was a bit worried about the neck when I sized down, but it still buttons comfortably. I'd say my only complaint (and it's a tiny one at that), is that the cuffs of the sleeves are tight. As in, there's no way I'd be able to come close to using the tighter button, and even the looser option doesn't really let the shirt hang on my wrist the way I like. It's not a huge deal, but it affects the way the sleeves look under a blazer, and just isn't perfect in my opinion. Maybe it's something they will adjust for over time.

The fabric itself is more than satisfactory as well. Spectre & Co advertises "100%, long-stem, two-ply cotton" in the shirt description itself, but you have to dig around a little more to find thread count information. Honestly, those numbers don't mean a whole lot to me, but what does is how smooth and comfortable this shirt felt on its first wear. As a non-technical observer, I'll turn to comparisons here to judge the quality: I'd say it well exceeds to feel of my shirts from Gap and Express, and definitely seems a bit more luxurious than my shirts from Frank and Oak (although most of those are more casual by nature to begin with). My MTM shirt from Modern Tailor was made from their low-tier fabric, and the shirt from Spectre is definitely softer and less wrinkle-prone. I'd put it on par with what I have from Charles Tyrwhitt and J. Crew, both of which retail for MUCH more than $45 a pop.

Spectre & Co really talk up their collars on the site, and don't disappoint here either. The result is a collar that isn't stiff or unforgiving, but still holds up with or without a tie, and lays very nicely under a blazer.
Great-looking cutaway collar.

Collar sans tie or blazer.

Collar seen under a blazer. 
Spectre & Co also points out their higher-than-standard armholes, and once again they deliver. You'll remember a post from a few weeks back featuring a shirt from Target.Loved the shirt, except the armholes were cut low which caused some very unpleasant bunching when I raised my arms. Not so with this shirt...the high and well-fitted armholes let me move my arms without moving the rest of the shirt.
Notice the lack of bunching at the shoulders.
 Other promises from Spectre & Co., such as stitch count and pattern matching are also solidly met.

Shoulder construction and pattern matching. Not perfect, but still solid. 
Side seam construction and pattern matching.
Of course, this shirt is still only $45.00, and no matter how many costs they can cut in their process, no one can offer an entirely luxury shirt for that glorious of a price. Things you might miss include split yoke in the back, gusseting along the seams for reinforcement, mother-of-pearl buttons, metal collar stays, but honestly, if any of those details will keep you from buying an otherwise fantastic shirt, you probably should be adjusting your budget to well over that $50.00 mark.

No gussets on side seams.

Additional Notes...

The Pros:
  • Free shipping! Always high up my list of appreciated perks. Plus, that first free return gives you a level of confidence you don't often have with e-commerce.
  • Customizable Sleeve Lengths: - Wouldn't think on my own to include this in a list of 'wants' from a brand, but it definitely came in handy. Jeff tells me that at some point they will offer a range of sleeve lengths with each neck size (a la more established shirting companies), but their small-scale production doesn't allow for it just yet. Meanwhile, this customization more than makes up for that.
  • Business Model: I'll say it over and over again, I think this idea of cutting out the middlemen, paring everything down to a simple-online experience, and therefore being able to offer top-of-the-line goods at affordable prices is THE FUTURE of the apparel industry.
  • Selection: Great selection of colors, collars and patterns. As it's not a custom shirting company, each shirt does come in only one collar option, but they have done a good job styling and all of the individual specs seem well thought-out and attractive. 
  • Great Website: Full disclaimer, I will totally overlook a shitty website if you are delivering strong products, but Spectre & Co. manage to deliver those goods while putting up a polished front, which is sometimes a bit of a struggle for these smaller, cost-cutting operations (ahem Modern Tailor). 
  • Style Advice: You might remember, one of the things that got me hooked on Tie Society was their feature offering free style advice. While I haven't tried it out with Spectre & Co. just yet, I love the fact that they have this option. Which leads me to...
  • Overall Vibe: Honestly, I just like the way Jeff approaches business. From the writing on the site, to the interactions I had over e-mail, to the services Spectre offer, everything is friendly, conversational yet professional, and looking out for your best interests. I always felt like Jeff wanted me to look (and feel) great with my purchases, and never that he was only trying to make a buck off of me (complimentary shirt aside).  

The Cons:
  • Just for balance here, some things were a bit of a dig to find on their website. For instance, product descriptions describe the fabric as 'high thread count' without offering an actual number, which had me a bit skeptical at first. Turns out the info is there, but it's tucked away on their FAQ page in the explanation of price differences between products.
  • Along the same lines, this one isn't really a con, but just seemed odd to me: Spectre's Oxford-Cloth shirts land at a full $20 more than the rest of the options. It turns out this is perfectly well explained by a higher thread-count fabric, but I was (and still am) just a bit surprised to see this, considering I tend to think of Oxford Cloth as more casual and a bit rougher. More to the point, I've never picked a more expensive OCBD because of a higher thread count. Not bad, just not what I'm used to seeing.
  • While for the most part the pattern selection is great, there aren't very many strong plaids. This will probably change with the seasons, but just a personal thing now, as I'm in the mood for a big, blockish plaid. That's just me.

The 'Depends How You Look At It':

Just two quick things to note, that you can take as good or bad depending how you look at it:
  • While there is collar and pattern variety, no variety in other details (plackets, cuffs, etc.). For those of us picky enough to care about these things, it's a bit of a disappointment (but at $45.00, again it's not much of one). For others, this might come as a relief, as it streamlines the process (I spent an hour last night designing a MTM shirt after I had chosen the fabric) and you can't really go wrong with any of their selections.
  • They only offer free returns on your first order. This isn't horrible (at all) and is in fact pretty smart on their part. As an online merchandiser, they understand the hardest thing about buying online is being confident in the fit. By offering one free return, they give you a chance to perfect your fit with their brand. That way, moving forward your only risk is in the patterns and cloths you choose, but you can be sure you're ordering the right size. So really, if you need more than one return, it'll be due to your own indecisiveness, so just make up your damn mind and stick to it!

Bottom line, I would definitely recommend these shirts to anyone looking for a quality dress shirt without the budget to go full MTM. You may be able to find casual options within this price range from stores like Frank and Oak, but as far as dress shirts, this has been the best bang-for-your-buck option I have yet to find.

Has anyone else gotten the chance to try Spectre & Co. out? Thoughts? Feedback? Any other brand recommendations? On any given work day, I may or may not wear a blazer, may even go without a tie, but I always wear a dress shirt, so I love to hear what people think.

Friday, September 20, 2013

My First Suit (Part One)

Alrighty, so I'm going to a wedding this fall in Boulder, CO (very excited to go) and am using the event as an excuse to purchase my first suit (a menswear blogger who doesn't own a suit...shocking, right?). I've had some money sitting around for a while that I set aside for the very purpose, but just hadn't had a need to buy one yet, so instead I browsed. And browsed. And browsed. Now I'm giving myself this deadline to finally make a decision.

The Suit:

First, I just wanted a decent idea of what kind of suit I wanted. As fun as it would be to have some plaids or patterns or rich fabrics or tweeds, I'm a sensible guy, and I'm sticking to the staples for my first two suits: grey and blue all-season wool. For some reason the blue is just calling to me, so I'm heading that direction.

From there, I really just started browsing the web, focusing on some of my favorite menswear bloggers. Here are some styles of blue suits that stood out to me:

Mr. Van Der Beek, if I'm not mistaken. Love the fit and lapels, but the blue is a bit bright.

Wes, of The Style Blogger. Closer in color to my choice.

Found via Google Image search. Almost exactly what I want, but a bit boxy.

Dan, of The Style Blogger. This, is a gorgeous suit. More pics here, but this is my main inspiration.

Through browsing and critiquing I now have a good (and kind of picky) idea of what I want, but I've already decided to go with a Made-To-Measure suit, so I"ll be able to make all these choices in my order. Briefly, MTM is halfway between bespoke and ready-to-wear. Rather than be measured by a tailor, you measure yourself and submit your measurements. Like bespoke, you get to pick your fabric and features, although your options aren't quite as expansive. You can read a very comprehensive guide to MTM suiting here. Bottom line, I get the make this thing my way. So here's my rundown: Navy suit, two buttons, peak lapels, pick stitching, flap pockets, double vents, no cuffs or pleats, functioning sleeve buttons, and probably half-lining. To pick out a few highlights:

Peak Lapels: For a while, I was a notch-lapel-only kinda guy, but a few months ago peak lapels really started to grow on me. They have to be tasteful, and can easily cross in gaudy, in my opinion, but if done right they put a little bit of panache that makes a staple suit a little less ordinary.

Done wrong, IMHO. Too much lapel for me.
Pick Stitching: Pick stitching is a visible line of stitching that follows the edges of the suit. It's usually the sign of a higher quality, usually bespoke suit, although now (obviously) it can be found on less pricey options. Honestly, I could go either way with this, but most recently I've been noticing that a lot of blazers that I see and like include pick stitching, so I'm adding it to the mix.

Pick stitching, illustrated by Indochino
Functioning Sleeve Buttons: Also called surgeon's cuffs, many people avoid this feature on a first suit order because it really limits the room a tailor has to alter the sleeve length. The general advice is to wait until you know your measurements are right (2nd or 3rd order). I'm going to flaunt this advice though. I have a jacket with perfect sleeve length that I can measure for them, and I really want to be able to roll up my sleeves a bit when appropriate because...

Half-Lining: ...I am most likely going to get a half-lined jacket. I have an unlined summer jacket and I love the way it drapes and wears without the added structure of the lining. I do want this to be an all-season jacket, so getting a half-lining will allow me to wear it at least sometimes through the hotter months. On top of that, I love to layer in the fall and winter, so losing the little bit of insulation shouldn't be a problem. I've consulted to the twittersphere, gotten mixed results, so I'm going with my gut and going half-lined. Decision, made.

The inside of a half-lined jacket.

Everything else is pretty minor and just personal preference, no real reason why I chose the way I did besides that's what I like best. If I get real ballsy I may add a ticket pocket, or maybe slanted pockets both features I've liked before, but am not totally sold on. I'll look around the web and see what I like. God bless Pinterest and Google Image Search.

The Company

Next came picking out which MTM service I was going choose. Initially, I had really only heard of Indochino and Black Lapel, so I started off comparing those two. Here's what I was looking at:

Shoulders: I have a pretty specific picture in my head of how I want this jacket to drape. Without going full bespoke, my best option to get that is to find the MTM company that constructs their standard shoulder closest to what I have in mind. Personally, I wanted a very natural shoulder with little padding.

Turnaround Time: I'm starting to cut it close for this wedding, and I don't want to rush this and screw it up, so I've resigned myself the possibility of maybe no getting my suit in time to wear it in Boulder. Life goes on. But, if possible, I'd like it to be ready

Fit/Quality of Construction: I'm turning mostly to the reviews here, and of course I want something that lives up to expectations as far as construction and fit go. Even more importantly, I'd like to choose a service with a reputation for getting it right the first time, so I don't have that suit in hand at this wedding and still can't wear it.

Price: Well, duh. Low = Good. High = Bad. My budget falls around $500. Just low enough that I can't afford to buy what I want from SuitSupply and get it tailored.

So I started searching, reading, reviewing, and honestly I've been doing this for months anyway and kind of already had an idea of what I'd decide. I'm not telling anyone who to buy until I've tried them myself, but from what I read: Indochino is the most popular choice, but this doesn't mean they are the best. From the more sartorially inclined customers, complaints include the 'hybrid' canvassing used as well as problems with poor fits. On the other hand, it sounds like the customer service is pretty good at fixing anything that goes wrong, and their $75 tailoring credit doesn't hurt either.

On the other hand, Black Lapel seems a bit more expensive, but not unjustly so. The general opinion is get just a little better quality with Black Lapel, from the fabrics to the construction. However, the fit is not as appealing to me. From the pictures I've seen, I find the Black Lapel suits to lean a bit more towards to side of being boxy, or at the very least, not the soft shoulders I'm looking for. Maybe I can ask them to do something different for mine?

From Black Lapel - notice the boxier shoulder.


Then, out of nowhere I saw a recent post by Sabir Peele on Men's Style Pro featuring an 'every day' grey suit by Dragon Inside. The suit looked great and is pretty much exactly what I want, only in blue. I'd never heard of Dragon Inside, but I've been following Sabir on MSP for a while and definitely trust his taste (I got in touch with him later, and he confirmed his recommendation, said they did great work). Price-wise, they were definitely competitive with Indochino. It actually really unfortunately looks like they just bumped up their prices (not a ton, and really I could be completely off base). Still, they are definitely no more than Indochino, and therefore also less than Black Lapel. Honestly, the pictures on the Dragon Inside website kind of threw me off a bit (sorry, guys at Dragon Inside), and I didn't think the suits looked great on them. Instead, I looked up some more 'real life' examples of guys who have purchased these suits, and I think they all look really good:

Sabir M. Peele, of Men's Style Pro

Sabir, again.
Ken Yau, from his blog.

Justin Jeffers, of The Fine Young Gentleman
They seem to drape much more naturally than either Indochino or Black Lapel, and that's something I really want in my suit. Icing on the cake is the reputation their customer service has. I'm only at the stage of ordering swatches and they've already been fantastic. From what I've read, they take a lot of effort to work with the customer to get exactly the suit they want. That makes me confident that the peak lapels will look good, the functioning buttonholes won't be a problem, the pick stitching won't look tacky, and that this suit will turn out a beauty. So, voila, Dragon Inside it is. I hope to give Indochino and Black Lapel (among others) their own turn later down the road, but for now my decision is made.

At this point, I have the fabric swatches en route to my apartment so I can narrow down which blue I want. At that point, the measuring begins, and then it's just a matter of time. I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, I'd love any feedback on my choices!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Warm Fall Days

So many seasonal posts coming out of Wide Eyes, Tight Wallets! That's because these in-between times, where it's part fall and part summer, give you the most room to play when it comes to selecting your daily wear. Take my outfit the other day, for example. Friday felt like fall, but was still pretty warm in Chicago (definitely not time to start layering). Plus, it's September, one of those weird months where it might be freezing one day and sweltering the next. Rather than pick one or the other, I decided to dress a bit for both seasons:

First, I held onto some of the summer trends with this short sleeve chambray shirt (from American Eagle, believe it or not). The short sleeve, lightweight chambray was one of my go-to's this summer, and the dot print pattern just adds a bit more summery playfulness to the look.

Moving down, I started to head into fall territory. I wrote a post the other week about wanting a pair of burgundy chino's, but lucky me, I already have a pair of burgundy cords that I picked up at Gap last year. The color is fantastic for these transitional purposes. It let's you move into the darker, more earthy colors of fall while keeping a toe in the pool of all the bright colors that summer has to offer.

I tend to think of corduroy as a good transitional cloth as well, mostly because of the range the fabric offers. Wale refers to the thickness of the ridges on a piece of corduroy. Thin or fine wale can be seen as more formal, and is usually lighter in weight and one of the few corduror fabrics you will want to wear in the summer. Sometimes, you get an effect close to seersucker. Thick or heavy wale fabrics will be more rugged, casual, and warm, and are usually reserved for the winter. This pair is right in the middle, so I get a bit of the rustic fall look without sweating my cajones off.

I finished it off with my Clark's chukkas. I haven't worn these all summer...some people can do boots in the summer, but I am not one of those people. But I love wearing boots. So, now that it's cooling down, this was one of the first 'seasonal' items I unpacked and they finally got their first wear of the fall.

In the end, I think it's a great outfit for the day. It's moved on from summer, not clinging desperately to those last few rays of hot summer sun, but it's not quite ready to embrace the dreary cold days to come, instead walking the line between seasons. When those cold days do come, just throw on a light jacket and the look is just as sharp.

How do you dress on these not-quite-summer but not-quite-fall days?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Losing Your Stuff and Maybe (?) Buying It Back!

Brilliant person that I am, I left my laptop bag on the train on my way home today. I fell asleep between stops (yup, that's me you see doing that on the red line every day), jolted awake at my exit, and walked right off the train without picking up the bag, which was right at my feet. I'm a little frustrated with myself, incidentally. As soon as I realized my mistake, the train doors closed and the train left the platform. At this point, the proper calls have been made (namely one call, to the ever-pleasant transit worker who told me "They don't look for stuff until the end of the shift. Call back tomorrow,") so tomorrow it is. Hopefully at that point I'll have all of my stuff returned to me, no harm done! But I'll settle for just the friggin bag. Actually I didn't even have much of value in there, besides a nook. Thank god.

Anyway, in case I don't get anything back, or get back an empty bag, or get everything back and want to use this as a sartorial(?) exercise, I decided to ponder what I would buy if I had to replace everything that was in the bag. So here you have it, and I'll throw the rest of my EDC (that wasn't abandoned by myself with the contents of my bag) in at the end.

1. The Bag:
Ok, starting with the basics. Actually, a post from the folks at Dappered really helps out here. Regarding one of J. Crew's more recent sales, Dappered recommended the Abingdon Laptop Bag marked down to $58.50. Not o brag, but I got mine for a little closer to $35...but then again it was a J. Crew Factory bag, which actually entirely explains the price difference. To stop myself from rambling, this is a great bag to have. The shoulder strap lets you wear it cross-body while you bike (which I do), or casually over your shoulder when you're in your more relaxed digs. Then, when it's suit time, you have briefcase-esque handles to keep that shoulder strap away from your coat and the way it pulls and distorts the drape. Don't even ask. Or do, maybe, this is a huge pet peeve of mine. Topic for a later debate. The waxed cotton canvas is sturdy and will hold up well. All around it's a great bag to balance high-low and therefore be VERY versatile.
$58.50 after discounts (regularly $98) From J. Crew

2. My Books:
I love to read. I also hate being bored, so my nook and I were like, best buds. Sure, I take a hard-copy book with me every so often, but my nook gives me days of entertainment. But this time, I'd upgrade. I've had my eye on a iPad mini (still gotta be able to hold it with one hand on the train), and this could just be the push that gets me to pull the trigger. The books I'm currently on? I'm re-reading some Kurt Vonnegut, for shits and giggles, but next I'm dead set on getting another read of one of new favorites, 'Prepare to Die.' Previously recommended on the blog, read it, please, you won't be disappointed.

$329+ From Apple

3. Key Case
I know this one is a little expensive, and I might not actually bite on it, but I'm so damn tired of my keys jangling around all the time, scratching up everything in my bag, and getting horrible tangled with my headphones. Enough is enough. These cases are just classy little envelopes to keep your keys in order. I like them, and I want one.
$59.00 From Kaufmann Mercantile

4. Notebooks:
I was never really one to spontaneously take notes, but over the past year or so I've found my self constantly e-mailing myself stupid little messages and reminders and names and ideas and all of the sudden I had the revelation that this would be so much easier on a little pad I took everywhere. It didn't quite catch on like gangbusters, but I do write in them regularly and I do find that they help me organize my thoughts. I just use the ones my girlfriend got me, but I'm a big fan of the Moleskine Ruled Reporter Notebook. It flips over the top, which I prefer...I've always hated writing in and out of that center crease on every single line. I'm not on the expensive pen bandwagon yet, so any writing utensil will do. Heck, make it a Bic.
$12.95 from Moleskine

The Rest of My EDC
1. Insulin Pump: Hate to break it to you, but I'm a diabetic. Maybe we can still be friends.
2. iPhone 4: Hate to break to you, but I don't even have the 4*S*. Maybe we can still be friends.
3. Slim Wallet By J. Crew: Only the essentials, every day. Take a minute to think about what you need every morning. Besides being well-prepared, you have a clear vision to start your day.
4. Money Clip: Slim, metal, understated, holds things. That's all I need.
5. FFF Watch: Not only a gift from my fantastic gal, but also one of my favorite accessories. Thing grows on me every time I wear it. Now if only it wouldn't tick so loud...

So, add up everything I have to replace, stick another 10 or so on top to replace my work badge to account for the winning $5 scratch off I had yet to return aaaand we'll say today has cost me JUST: 459.45. Fuck my life. Ok, I'll stop whining long enough to admit I don't need an iPad, so let's adjust for a new nook instead at $80.00, bringing out grand slam total to: $210.45. Still no walk in the park for what should have just been a ride on the train (see what I did there?), thats stomachable, I guess. It won't put me out on the streets at least. Well, tomorrow is a new shiny day, maybe I'll get all of my crap back, no problems!

And I hope you are all impressed that I put this together less than 4 hours after said incident occurred (just wanted some Law & Order talk on the site, for once).

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bonobos Oxleys - The Results (An In-Person Review)

As promised, here is a quick update on the pair of Oxleys I snagged at Bonobos' summer sale. To reiterate, these guys were a steal, and I had been hearing incredible things about them all summer, so I couldn't resist grabbing em when the priced dipped below $40 (with shipping).

The pants are, well, incredible. They are literally the most comfortable thing I've ever worn (including the hospital scrubs I stole last time I was in for a broken leg). They dress down great with some beach clothes or nautical themed knitwear. I wear them a lot with a tan striped pullover from Target, perfect for cool nights on the shore. At the same time, press the legs and they dress up as well as any trouser. Today I wore them to the office for what is hopefully the last 90+ degree day of the year. It was too humid for even a dress shirt and tie, but even with the polo and dress shoes this is by all means meets the law firm office dress code. It looks even sharper with the shirt and tie, and can easily be paired with a lightweight blazer (as I believe they are shown on

Ignore my dopey expression. One of those days.
My hesitation when buying these was that the slim option was not available, just the straight leg. Of course, something like the day after I ordered these, they dropped the slim pants down to the same sale price, but such is life. To be honest, these were a bit too baggy when I first got them, but they were a tad long as well, so I just threw them in the drier. Now they fit just fine. I might have the leg slimmed down a bit more at some point, but I've been wearing them regularly since I then with no complaints.

Bottom line: these pants get a huge thumbs up and high recommendation from Wide Eyes, Tight Wallets. These are currently only available in the sale section on the Bonobos site, and are probably being phased out in favor of heavier fall and winter fabrics, so go grab a pair while you still can!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Frank and Oak - Reviewed and Revisited

First off, use my referral link if you are signing up with Frank and Oak so we can both get swag ($25 to each of us). Ok, on to the juicy details.

After some recent frustrations, I feel that it's only fair to you readers that I revisit my previous review of Frank and Oak. Apparently, over the past few months, they have signed on with a new billing service (this was what I was told by a customer service agent). As a result, I personally have been experiencing a kind-of ridiculously high number of billing errors. I am a member of their 'Hunt Club,' a service I previously highly touted as a great way to get to try on clothing without having to go shopping at the mall. Hunt Club members get to pick out a selection of three items at the beginning of every month. These items are provided by mail, and according to Frank and Oak, are not charged for until you decide that you want to keep the items (otherwise you return your items and never see a charge). 

It sounds fantastic in theory, and it really was for the first several months that I was a member. However, as of late, the processing of my returns has been so slow that my items get automatically catalogued as 'kept', at which point I am charged the full price. Granted, Frank and Oak has been great about issuing the appropriate refunds, but my money is still tied up while the banks process the transactions, and most importantly, this is not what Frank and Oak so enthusiastically advertises. Honestly, what makes it really grind my gears is that these types of errors have now been plaguing me for months in a row with no improvements, and it seems to remain up to me to bring the issues to their attention before any remedies are issued.

Add to all of that a few inaccurate product descriptions, and the gradual creeping increase of prices, especially for blazers and suiting (which I will say really bugs me as well, as they are still advertising 'clothing under $50'), and I just can't give the whole-hearted, all-in recommendation I gave so many months ago.


I will say I'm still, in general, a big fan of their actual products. And yes, I will probably continue to shop with Frank and Oak if only for their incredibly fitting shirts. However, these billing issues, compounded by occasional (but not that rare) double-billing and other potentially costly errors, force me to advise against storing your credit card information, and therefore using the Hunt Club option.
Personally, I'm staying a member, mainly because my store credit let's me use the Hunt Club to try things on without processing payments to my credit card, so I'll provide an update if (and hopefully 'when') things improve. 

Again, before you take this as all bad, let me reiterate and add some of the positives to Frank and Oak. I've dived (dove? doven? nothing sounds right here...) into their neckwear (now the proud owner of a navy silk repp stripe and a muted cotton square-bottomed number) and both are spot on. I'm always a big fan of ties from, and these do clock in a few bucks higher, but I gotta say they have a little more heft, a little more elegant of a drape, and just a bit more substance than what I'm used to. 
Well done. Also loving some other accessories like socks, which I have in solids and in argyle.

The maroon in the middle add some subtle color, I weare them a lot.
Also, I've always been a bigger fan of their fall/winter selections over spring/summer (more classic, less trendy).  I have two blazers and a sweater on the way, so we shall see!

If you ask me, Frank and Oak had a really great thing going, got the positive attention they deserved, now might be tripping over themselves a bit as they work to expand to fill those shoes. Time will tell if they manage to smooth things back out and keep up their rep. Meantime, use my referral link if you want to try them out (we both benefit in some way that has faded from the front of my mind). 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Dressing Down A Dapper Look

I love to read the comments sections on all the menswear blogs out there. One of the issues I read coming up most often is that guys like the style they are being shown, but feel too overdressed when trying to apply it themselves. For all of you out there feeling the same way, here are a few pointers on how to dress down a dapper outfit:

1. Change Shoes: Simply switching from a pair of well polished oxfords to some slip on loafers, boat shoes, or subtle sneaks can take an outfit from boardroom to barroom in a snap. While your at it, ditch the belt as well. Try something braided or stitched, or perhaps some suede, but this is a great chance to give the plain leather a break. 

2. Let Loose: When dressing sharply, there tend to be a lot of things held very neatly in place. If you want to loosen up your 'vibe,' do the same with your clothes. Lose the tie clip, for one. Heck, don't even bother tucking the tail into the loop on the front blade. Roll up your sleeves. Roll up the cuffs on your pants. Undo a button on your shirt. Loosen your tie a bit. All of these help make you look like you feel more relaxed.

3. Tone Down: This pertains to the materials you're wearing. Swap out your slick white herringbone shirt for a white OCBD, or a semi-spread collar chambray shirt. Pick out a knit tie with a loose weave instead of the shiny silk repp you wear to work. Wear pebble grain or suede shoes instead of high-shine dress leather. Instead of a blazer or sport coat, opt for a classy bomber jacket or an overshirt.

4. Mix and Match: The key here is in avoiding looking like you spent a lot of time laying out the perfect outfit the night before (even if you did). Separate your suit components. Keep the shirt and tie, but throw on a pair of jeans instead of dress trousers. Wear a casual shirt (chambray, flannel, band-collar, pop-over) under your blazer instead of your french cuffs. 

The point is, you can dress well without looking stuffy. I turn to these methods pretty much every casual Friday. While I love the lack of restrictions that a 'jeans day' in the office provides, I still want to look good. Following the advice laid out above, I can end up in an outfit such as this:

Besides the jeans and the boat shoes, every single aspect of this outfit is something that could fit into my office's Monday-Thursday business casual dress code. Now I feel sharp and put together, but won't draw attention in the office as being that guy who dresses up when everyone else is dressing down. Even better, I'm ready to head straight to the bar when 5:00 hits. Because that's what I do.