Thursday, February 27, 2014

Started From the Bottom, Now We're Here

Disclaimer - I don't like Drake. But that lyric keeps popping into my head. Don't hold it against me, either way.

So, I'm actually out of town on a ski trip with my girlfriend and her family, and wasn't planning on posting anything while I was gone. However, I was going through some e-mails before I left and realized we just hit our one year anniversary! I can't believe that it's been a year...on one hand, it seems like yesterday that I sat down and started typing away at my first post, but at the same time, it feels like I've been doing this forever. I remember when we first reached 100 followers on Twitter, and it was such and accomplishment. I watched each follower come as we ticked closer to triple-digits. Just a month or two ago, we broke 1000 followers, and barely noticed through the whirlwind of activity that Wide Eyes, Tight Wallets has grown to. Looking back, I couldn't help but jot down some notes to share on our progress over the past year:

How Far We've Come:
  • From a whim of a blog to a focused and functional men's style blog.
  • From a silly name like 'Something Less Pretentious' to a slightly less silly name.
  • From unheard and unseen to almost 5,000 visitors every month and steadily growing (thanks, readers!)
  • From a tumblr-only launch to the Wide Eyes, Tight Wallets 'empire' - our own domain name, Twitter feed, Facebook page, Instagram profile, tumblr feed, Bloglovin' feed, DETAILS Network page....we takin' over!
To Where We Stand Today:
  • We've settled into a strong and consistent publishing schedule.
  • As we expand our platforms, we are working to keep every aspect polished and tight (for example you should see some improvements to the tumblr feed, which I've been cleaning up).
  • We continue to seek great brands and writers to work with, and have a steady queue of reviews and posts in the pipeline (contact me if you want in).
All the while, we look to make even bigger steps, and in the coming months we hope to make huge improvements to the blog as we work to create a redesigned site and move to a self-hosted platform (which in turn will open up even more opportunities to take Wide Eyes, Tight Wallets to all new heights).

Anyway, the point is not to brag or anything, but to express my appreciation both for the journey itself and for the support I've gotten from readers, colleagues, friends and family alike. Thank you to all of you, and here's to another great year in the works!

NOTE - We'll be offline for the next few days as I romp around Colorado, trying to learn to ski and hopefully not breaking any bones. You can expect us back by the end of next week (March 7th), if not sooner.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Packing Tips

This weekend I'm taking a trip to Snowmass Village, Colorado with my girlfriend and her family. I'll be offline until I return next week, but I figured I'd take the opportunity to share some packing tips with you before I hit the road (er, plane...). Honestly, this is my first ski trip, and I'm relatively clueless about what to pack, so I won't be offering any advice there. Instead, it's with that in mind that I revisit some more general tips that will help you out regardless of where your travels take you:

  • Know what you'll be doing: This is probably the biggest, and it's amazing how many people (including myself) will just skip it and try to pack for anything and everything. Instead of being over-prepared for everything, this kind of tactic will really leave you over-prepared only for the things you won't be doing, and under-prepared for the things you will be doing. Instead, take the time to find out what occasions you need to be considering. For example, on my upcoming trip, I know we'll be spending the whole weekend in the ski town of Snowmass Village, rather than any time in Boulder (where Christine's brother lives) or Denver (where her sister lives and we will be flying into). We aren't going out to any fine dining establishments, having any business meetings, or going clubbing. So what does all that mean? It means I can save a ton of space in my bags by leaving my suit, blazers, dress shoes, and dress pants at home. Instead, I can focus on casual, outdoorsy gear that will keep me warm on the slopes and around the town, and comfortable in the lodge or local bars.
  • Opt for versatility: If at any point you are trying to decide between multiple items of clothing, always go for the most versatile option. That way, you'll end up with the maximum number of possible combinations once you arrive at your destination. This makes it way harder for some unexpected circumstance to screw up your entire wardrobe plan for your trip, and instead you'll be more able to adapt and adjust to events on the fly.
  • Don't forget your basic packing tips: These are the ones that everyone learns (or should) at some point, but that we often forget. Things like rolling your jeans and trousers to save space and avoid creases; to stuff your socks (or ties and other accessories) into your shoes - again to save room; to keep your necessities in your carry on in case your checked luggage is lost; the list goes on, but you get the idea. Keeping all of these things in mind will give you more room - and since you know exactly what you are packing for, you'll have more room to over-prepare for those specific occasions.
  • Dress smart for the airport: Again, something that is easy to forget in the whirlwind of packing. Keep your airport check-in simple by making smart wardrobe choices. Among my favorites: wear a jacket with a lot of pockets. Then, keep all of your things in your jacket pockets rather than your pants. Going through security, you just need to remove your coat, rather than digging out your phone, change, wallet, headphones, ID, money clip, etc. etc. right there at the x-ray machines. In the summer (non-coat weather), same idea works with a light blazer. Similarly, save time by wearing slip-on shoes, like loafers. Nothing pisses me off more than seeing someone in front of me in line with lace-up boots on that will probably take him/her ten minutes just to untie. Easy little decisions like this will make things that much smoother and less stressful.
There are zillions of travel tips out there, and I'm not going to try to list every single one I can think of, but these four are the ones that I'll be keeping in mind as I pack for this upcoming excursion. Feel free to share your own in the comments!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Washing Wool - Sweater Care Instructions

Laundry care can be a minefield that will leave you with stained, torn, shrunken clothing with just a small misstep. Even if you do all of your research, you'll find dozens of conflicting opinions all over the Internet, and all from reliable sources. The long and short of it is just simply that what works for some people, doesn't for others, and it's pretty darn close to impossible to find out why. Your best bet is to use trial and error (hopefully on not-too-expensive clothing) to lock down what works for you, and stick to it.

Personally, the most difficult category of clothing to safely clean and care for has always been sweaters. I've followed instructions on labels, used tips I've found online and tactics handed down from friends and family, and time after time ended up with completely unwearable knitwear. Now I approach all my sweaters with extreme caution, and opt for a careful hand wash and lay dry method that has (so far) yet to fail me. If you don't have a tried-and-true method yourself, this is probably a pretty fail-safe place to start. Here is my process:

  1. Fill a bucket with cool to lukewarm water - make sure the bucket is clean, as you don't want to be accidentally contaminating your sweater with any leftover grime or cleaning solutions. The water should be cool (definitely not hot), but if you go too cold your hands will be freezing halfway through this, so anything up to lukewarm will do.
  2. Add a small capful of detergent - I use Woolite, as I've heard many people recommend a wool-specific detergent (usually a bit gentler). If you have problems with itchy sweaters, I've also heard people vouch for using hair shampoo and conditioner instead of laundry detergent, although I have yet to try this myself.
  3. Gently submerge your sweater - From what I've read, the real damage from washing machines to wool sweaters is the agitation, not the heat or water. Rubbing the sweater against itself or other clothing, especially while wet, will cause the fabric to pill and turn into a flannel/felt-like consistency. Therefore, you want to be gentle as you soak your sweater. Move it around a bit to make sure the soapy water is thoroughly absorbed, but don't go crazy.
  4. Allow the sweater to soak - I usually let mine sit for 10 minutes or so. I'm not sure if this is even necessary, but it doesn't hurt, and makes me more confident that my sweater will actually be cleaner when this is all said and done.
  5. Empty the soapy water and rinse - I usually squeeze out as much of the soapy water as possible, refill with clean water, submerge and repeat 3 or 4 times. Again, you want to be careful that you are not agitating the sweater too much or allowing it to rub against itself. After the last rinse, again squeeze out as much water as possible.
  6. Roll the sweater in a towel - I actually sandwich mine between two towels, and then roll it tightly to sop up as much moisture as I can.
  7. Lay the sweater to dry - Last, find a flat space where you can lay it to dry (I'll warn you though, sometimes this can take even a few days, especially with thicker knits). At this stage, you can reshape the sweater (while still wet) to remedy any stretching or shrinking that may have occurred. Here's another time when having your measurements can come in super-handy, as you'll be able to form your sweater to your exact body type. Once the sweater has dried, it will hold the new shape you've formed - at least to some significant degree. 
Again, I want to emphasize how much laundry care techniques seem to have a case-by-case success rate, so don't kill me if this doesn't work for you. And with that spirit in mind, please feel free to share your own methods in the comments!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Deals and Steals for the Weekend - 2/21/2014

The deal: "Every weekend, check in on the blog for a collection of the best (read: my favorite) deals and steals on the interweb for some quality shopping over the weekend. Have any to add? Share them in the comments or shoot me an e-mail. Also, if you're biting on any of these hooks, I'd love to hear about it!"

And the steals:

End of Season Sale at J.Press/York Street:
J. Press and their younger brother, York Street, are both offering some awesome end of season many in fact that I'm having a crazy hard time trying to decide what to highlight (thus, I highly recommend checking out the whole selection on both sites). Honestly, there's a ton of great stuff, so I picked two items at the ends of the spectrum. First, from York Street (the slimmer fitting of the two), there is this fantastic looking navy overcoat in a highly desirable (read: soft and warm) blend of wool and cashmere: 
Classic Top-Coat | York Street
At $295, it's still an investment, but when you take a look at the original price of almost $1000, it's for sure a steal. Ignore the foolish pants this model is wearing...and damn if that coat doesn't hit all the right notes. Ticket pocket, three button closure, hits a bit above the knee, available in navy and, since it's a York Street offering, it will fit slimmer than something from the standard J. Press line.

Which is the very reason I picked this classic-prep striped tie as my recommendation from J. Press. Obviously, since it's neckwear, you don't have to worry about losing the slim fit. Even without 'fit' to worry about, I thought this tie would run wide, but it's 2.75" at it's widest, which is actually my favorite tie size - not quite hipster-skinny, but still proportional for a slim guy.

Leeds University Tie | J. Press

This one hits the other end of the price-commitment spectrum at less than $20, but the original price of $70 hints at a much higher level of quality than other options in the $20 range. The pattern is super preppy, which I actually dig, and while the burgundy/dark green colors are maybe just a bit Christmas-y, they are also just generally seasonal.

Ok, ok, so there were so many great things that I had to include one more. I was just showing my girlfriend the Todd Snyder + Champion crew neck sweatshirts and telling her how much I was coming to like the chest pocket. Then I saw this one from York Street, and the more I consider it, I think I actually like this option even more: 
Vintage Reverse Sweatshirt | York Street

Originally, the York Street sweatshirt goes for $135, pretty close to the Todd Snyder price, but now it's on sale for only $34. That's just crazy. 

Free Shipping (and Clearance Section) at Levi's:
Levi's is currently offering free shipping, which is especially good news when combined with the fact that they have a ton of stuff already marked down to some awesome prices. For example, they have their iconic denim trucker jacket marked down from $88 by more than 50% to just $40:

Slim Fit Trucker Jacket | Levi's
This one is the dark blue rinse, but they have a few others as well. Offered in a slim fit, it will be a versatile and timeless addition to your wardrobe. Wear it as a light jacket in the spring and fall, and carry it into winter as a layering piece. 

These wool/cotton blend jeans aren't quite as good of a bargain, but I'm fascinated by the idea. Wool jeans? Well, at least partly wool? I've seen jeans with a minor percentage of silk before, but this takes things in the opposite direction. With this never-ending winter, making your jeans a tad bit warmer wouldn't hurt.
501 Original Fit in Wool Denim Rinse | Levi's
Like I said, not as crazy cheap as the trucker jacket, but still offered at a significant discount, down to $60 from $128 (again, over 50% off there, folks). In the classic 501 fit, which is always a popular choice.

Up to 50% Off Select Styles at Banana Republic:
Banana Republic is offering up to 50% off, and once again, they have just a ton of stuff on the list. Definitely worth browsing through, but I locked onto this dot-print button-down shirt because it'd be so great to stop thinking about winter and start looking forward to spring...sigh. If you step back (or look at the smaller picture), it looks solid, but up close it actually has a pretty bright, almost bold pattern.

Slim-Fit Soft-Wash Dot Print Button-Down | Banana Republic

The pattern itself will be perfect for a spring or summer casual option, but that solid-from-a-distance appearance keeps it from being in-your-face. Best part? At half off, it's barely over $30 (just $32.50).

Jack Spade Accessories at Gilt:
I love Jack Spade style, so I was excited to see them pop up on Gilt. I was kind of disappointed to see that the bags were still out of my price range, until I found this pair of cashmere gloves. Discounted down to only $45, which is cheap for gloves in general, let alone cashmere, I was expecting some sort of crappy, 5% cashmere blend. But no. Well, yes. It is a blend, but a whopping 92% cashmere???
Tommy Cashmere Gloves | Jack Spade via Gilt
At one-size-fits all, these are sure to have a bit of stretch, which means that the final-sale caveat shouldn't be too big of a risk.

New Arrivals at Spectre & Co.:
We reviewed Spectre & Co. last year, and I was a big fan of their dress shirts. I've kept in touch with founder Jeffrey Zhang since then, and he gave me a heads up on some new additions to the shop. As always, they're bringing everything at pretty spectacular prices, so we'll end this list of deals and steals with a few from them. One of the big areas they've branched into has been accessories, with scarves earlier in the year, and just this week the addition of belts. They have some in solid colors with contrast edging, but my favorite are these braided belts:
Dark Brown Braided Belt | Spectre & Co.
I've been on a big braided belt kick lately...funny, I always thought they were kinda dorky looking when I was a kid, but now I love them. While I have one that I got for next-to-nothing at the thrift shop, it's pretty beat up, and I'm definitely thinking of updating and upgrading to one of these, especially with the $50 price point.

Also, not necessarily a new offer, but recently re-stocked, I'm going to grab one of their white OCBDs. Like all of their standard shirts, this guy will only set me back $45:
Washed White Oxford Button-Down | Spectre & Co.
The white OCBD should be a staple in every man's closet, but I've recently found a renewed love for them. I find myself wearing my few multiple times a week, so I've come to decide that I can't have enough of them. Therefore, finding an affordable but high quality option is awesome. Soon, they'll be adding ties for $35, and I'm pumped to see what they've got.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Essential Winter Outerwear

I've always been kind of averse to outerwear. The good stuff is so expensive, and the cheap stuff is so ugly. Therefore, I've made it through three Chicago winters (and many more Pennsylvania ones) with no real winter coat, no boots, living in layers and thick socks. However, I got an early feeling this year that this winter was going to be particularly rough (and man, I couldn't have been more right). More significantly, I took on a project this year to write a course on dressing seasonally for Cladright (more on that below), and it really inspired me to finally step up my outerwear game.

Honestly, I was still going to save this post for next year, thinking it was too late for you readers to get much use out of cold-weather tips, but hell, this winter is never going to end, so here are my biggest and best new gear investments:

Mid-Length Duffle | Gloverall
Between two coats I have been able to combat pretty much anything this Chicago winter has thrown at me. On one hand, I have this incredible Gloverall wool duffle coat that keeps me toasty, even when the temps are friggin -11 (before windchill). Honestly, this purchase alone gave me a newfound respect for winter outerwear, as I think it's the first time I've really been warm through the whole winter. 

Ranier Parka | Frank & Oak
On the other hand, I recently picked up a lighter waxed cotton parka from Frank and Oak that I reserve for rain, snow, and everything wet in between. As much as I love the Gloverall coat, if I wear it during heavy precipitation it gets a bit...soggy. Since it's usually a bit warmer when it snows, I've taken to throwing on this parka over a few layers to stay warm and dry.

Second to my Gloverall coat, my footwear purchases this winter have had the immense effect of waking me up to the idea that my toes don't have to be freezing from October through March. Again, I made two purchases:

Norbeck Boot | Ralph Lauren via Macy's

First, I caught a pair of tan suede boots on a great sale from Ralph Lauren. It looks like these are sold out at Ralph Lauren, but Macy's sells it as well and has a few sizes left. Ideally, I'll get some dressier (leather soles) and more weatherproof (non-suede uppers), but these have been amazingly handy. With the help of some Allen Edmonds suede spray, they've gone through slush and snow and barely shown the wear. At the same time, the lugged sole is thick enough to keep my feet off the freezing ground (and much warmer), but is still trim enough to wear with a heavier winter suit. 

8" Bean Boots | L.L. Bean

However, last month we caught some heavy snow followed by a really warm day and lots of rain and Chicago turned into a giant, ice-filled lake (as did my living room, but that's another story). As rugged as those suede boots have turned out to be, I decided it was time to get something truly weatherproof. From there, the decision was easy as I've had my eye on a pair of Bean Boots by L.L. Bean. While they sell out in-store and online pretty early in the season, I was able to find a brand new pair on eBay. You can also pre-order them now for next season. The things are just straight up awesome...I feel indestructible, stomping through snowdrifts and puddles without a care in the world.

As I mentioned above, I wrote a course on dressing for the Fall and Winter for Cladright, which is a member-based style education program run by Barron Cuadro of Effortless Gent. Cladright is an awesome resource all around, with more lessons as well as discussion forums, interviews, and a variety of member perks. Enrollment only opens periodically, but keep your eyes on the site, because I believe Barron is planning on accepting a new round of members pretty soon (OR, sign up for the e-mail list and get alerted).  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Know Your Measurements!

Sorry for the radio silence the past few days, but I was happily caught up in a fantastic Valentine's Day weekend with my gal...we cooked a great dinner on Friday (crab cakes, corn pudding and fresh tomato/cucumber salad...mmmmm), went out dancing with friends on Saturday, and caught a fantastic sketch comedy show at Second City last night. But never fear, we're back! Unfortunately, Chicago is still cold and snowy and grey, so I haven't had many opportunities for good photo shoots. The silver lining is, that gives me some great chances to take a break from personal style and get into some meatier discussions, which I have enjoyed. 

On that note: one of the most important pieces of advice I will give any stylish gent working on expanding their wardrobe, and especially if you are trying to take advantage of thrift shops or the virtual treasure trove that is eBay, is to know your measurements.

Purchasing used clothing and accessories can be an incredible opportunity to expand your personal selection without spending an arm and a leg, but it's also a risky venture. Not only are sales often final, with no option for returns, but you'll also find that a lot of pieces will already have been tailored - for someone else's body.

When it comes to eBay, most sellers will help you avoid sizing mistakes by providing very precise and specific measurements. If they don't, any decent seller will happily provide them upon request, and if they won't, you probably don't want to buy from them to begin with.

At a thrift or consignment shop, the measurements won't be as readily available, and trying things on of course is always an option. However, the key to successful thrift shopping is being ready to dig through innumerable pieces of crap to find that one treasure, and trying everything on in the process can be exhausting. My trick is to mark some of my more important measurements (i.e. shoulder width or sleeve length) on a measuring tape and bring it along with me. I'll still try something on before I buy it, but I can weed through a lot of the excess without even taking an item off the rack.

Even when buying new, having your measurements on hand is a huge benefit, especially shopping online. Again, it's not being able to try things on that make online shopping risky, but all clothiers will provide sizing charts, and if there's a measurement they don't provide, they should be able to relay it if you ask. I still always lean towards companies that offer free returns, but being able to compare their measurements with your own will take a lot of the risk out of the process.

Besides my tape measure, I also keep an index card in my wallet with all my important measurements, as well as my preferred sizes from my favorite brands (especially shoes). The more measurements you can include, the better prepared you'll be. On one side, I list the measurements of my best-fitting clothing...mainly my custom shirts and suits, so that when I see something with similar dimensions I can grab it in a flash. On the other, I put my body measurements, which come in handy more often when consulting sizing charts from online retailers. By including as much as possible, and carrying the card everywhere, I'm always prepared more money...(is it payday yet?!).

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Delaying Deals and Steals for Valentines Day

Sorry folks, Deals and Steals is getting delayed until after Valentine's Day. I've just been way too busy doing everything I can think of to spoil my darling girl tomorrow.

Also, screw shopping tomorrow! If you have a significant other (no matter what level of significance you are at), spend some time with them! Even if you think this is just a made-for-money Hallmark holiday, time spent with those you love is never a waste. It doesn't have to be a fancy, you don't have to treat it like any other day, but find a way to show you care.

There ya go, my sappy romantic spiel, cuz I'm a sappy romantic guy at heart!

Deals and Steals may be up for tomorrow, but in the meantime, a super quick note on Valentine's day. I mention at pretty much every holiday that I like to wear something special for the day. That does NOT mean I will be in all red everything tomorrow, for, like always, subtlety is the name of the game.

Instead, I'll be rocking these two items:

First, a pair of heart-adorned socks that I got last year for V-Day and are still (obviously) very appropriate. I like that they specifically aren't red, which keeps them from being too tacky or chintzy.

As worn last year...
Unfortunately, these Topman socks are no longer offered (I snagged them from Nordstrom for only $6, yes I'm bragging), but hey, you're probably too late anyway, haha. The point is, these are the perfect festive's almost something I'd wear year round (actually, heck, I do wear these year round), it's far from costumey, and it's subtle, as opposed to in-your-face and loud. It's something I, and those around me, will notice, but not much more. Classy.

Even better though, are these red Mapache Weejuns from G.H. Bass. They originally sent me a pair of these to style for a New Year's Eve post, but we got dumped on with snow, so there was no way in heck I was going out in these, regardless of how nice they look. Therefore, I'm even more excited to be bringing them out as it warms up a bit just in time for Valentine's Day, and I think they fit this occasion even better. These guys are still available, and are actually marked down to $80 from $130, so hey, there's a Deal/Steal in here anyway!

Red Mapache Weejuns | G.H. Bass
Again, I love that this is a style I will continue to wear year round, and not some clowny costume I'm wearing just for this day. I've written before, and mentioned over and over again, my principals when it comes to dressing for a holiday, and I stick to my own rules. These, on the other hand, follow the classic Weejun shape (which is close to second-to-none in the penny loafer world), but shake things up with a burnt red color. I'll be using these a lot to inject color into my outfits, especially as spring rolls around, but for now, they combine with the socks to make the perfect subtle Valentine's day statement.

Keep an eye on Instagram to see the two together, I think it will be a perfect combo (but you never know til you try it)! Of course, chime in with your thoughts (on IG, or below).

Also, I'd love to hear what your Valentine's day has in store (both for the festivities - or lack thereof - and for your outfit). I'd share my plans, but if my lovely lady reads this before her day of surprises begins, it'd spoil all the fun! So you tell me!!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Note On The Struggles of Being a Budget Shopper

These days, it's damn hard to be a stylish gent on a budget, and it's getting even harder. This week came with the rough news that Bonobos will no longer be offering free shipping. As a company that isn't really cheap to begin with, I loved the fact that I could snag that one, on sale item (out of the hundreds that, while fantastic looking, are out of my price range) and get it to my house without shelling out extra bucks that would negate the 'deal'. Now that I have to factor in an additional $8.00 (also, $8??? Not even a slightly friendlier flat $5, like at J.Crew?), it's becoming pretty unlikely that I will ever buy direct from them (eBay continues to be a decent source of New or NWOT Bonobos pants). 

This comes on top of their recent decision to change their previously-awesome return policy. Couple that with a general feeling on the web that quality has gone down recently as well (maybe contributing to the much more limited return time), and it seems like Bonobos is falling in line with all of the other brands that come out as game-changers, only to change their own game to fit in with the rest of the retail crowd. 

Other bad news this time of year? Well, not quite bad news, but a disappointment at least, comes from J.Crew, who teased us all with promises of 'more friendly' pricing in 2014. Where budget-conscious shoppers like myself initially rejoiced, as J.Crew has been steadily raising their prices and have quickly been stepping into un-affordable territory, J.Crew quickly amended this statement. No lower prices :-( just clearer pricing policies? Better communication as to what you are paying for? Less convoluted sales structures? I honestly can't remember what the final outcome was, but it definitely meant no brand-wide price reductions.

Long story short (ok, it's already gotten kinda long above), the options are getting more and more limited. They are still out there, but it's getting harder and harder to find decent quality goods without doing major damage to your wallet. Sigh, such is the fight of the budget shopper.

Chime in here in the comments (we had a good discussion going last week, and I love to hear from you guys). Do you agree that times are getting tougher for budget-minded stylish gents? Have you seen other examples of this, at other brands or retailers? Do you have any hidden gems that still offer the good stuff at the good prices?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Dressing Sensibly for the Occasion

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Cider Summit here in Chicago at Navy Pier with my girlfriend. She's a huge cider fan, and I generally am not, so I decided to really cater to her interests as a Christmas present, and am glad I did. The event was a blast, and I got to taste ciders that were made and used in ways I had never heard of (my favorites were a hoppy cider, and one brewed with bitters that clocked in at 18% ABV and is meant as a cocktail mixer). 

I really had no idea what to expect as far as the venue and dress code went. The website didn't give a ton of background, and while I've been to Navy Pier many times, I hadn't been in this part of the building before. Add to that fact that we were maybe supposed to get some heavy snow right around when we'd be heading back, and I was in a bit of a conundrum as to what to wear!

In cases like these, I think it's always your best bet to go as sensible and as versatile as possible. I kept that in mind as I picked out my 'fit, and I'll break down the decisions I made. Here is what I ended up with:

The most important thing I decided I wanted to make sure I included was some solid layering. It was cold outside, but not too cold, and the venue itself, while indoors, could have been anywhere from toasty warm to shiveringly cold (I was at a beer festival last winter that had huge, industrial doors opening to the outside, and while they closed them after the event started, the place never really warmed up). Therefore, I thought layers would offer me options to deal with any level of warmth in comfort.

I started with a J.Crew OCBD that I just got off eBay. Thanks to having a good knowledge of my measurements I was able to get this perfectly-fitting, already tailored shirt for next to nothing. It's got a red stripe that is a nice shake-up from my standard whites and blues. I figured it would make as good a base layer as any. If you aren't as lucky to find one used, Brooks Brothers has some of the best Oxford shirts around.

On top of that, I decided to wear my chunky cardigan from H&M (it looks like they are all out of the wool option, but they have it's lighter twin here in cotton). I'm not a huge fan of H&M, but this is one of my favorite pieces. The wool/acrylic blend is soft and warm, but most importantly it comes on and off easily, and light enough to cart around if need be. This would be my deciding middle-piece, depending on how high they cranked the heat. 

For pants I went with slim dark Levis, my go-to for the weekends. I knew this wouldn't be a formal event by any means, so denim was a perfectly safe choice, but I kept it sharp with the dark blue wash, just cuz that's how I roll. Just to be safe, I threw some long underwear underneath, opting for cotton over wool so I wouldn't overheat once I was inside.

I think I was really smart to leave the heavy wool jacket at home, and instead opted for a lighter, waxed cotton parka from Frank and Oak. Like I said, the weather wasn't horribly cold, and the forecast of possible snow made the waxed cotton a great choice. I was a little worried I'd be chilly, but thankfully the OCBD/cardigan combo underneath gave me some good insulation. 

A pair of L.L. Bean boots on the bottom finished things off. The snow didn't hit as bad as I was expecting, so I might have been ok with something a little less heavy duty. Even still, I'm happy with this choice, as I wasn't concerned about them getting scuffed in the crowd, or spilled on and mussed up as I got (admittedly) a little bit sloppy. Mmmmm....cider....anyway! Rocked these warm (but cheap!) boot socks from Target, which have been my go-to this winter.

Perhaps more important than what I did wear is what I didn't wear. For example, I was a little tempted to rock a blazer instead of the cardigan, but the sweater was definitely the way to go. Aside from the fact that a blazer would have been far more annoying to carry if it was warm enough to need to take it off, I also guarantee I would have spilled on it, and a sweater is far easier to clean than a jacket that would need a trip to the dry cleaners. 

Also, like I said, while I may have been a bit cozier on the commute, I was smart with my choice to forgo my wool duffle coat that I've been loving all winter. The heavy wool coat would have been a pain to lug around dry, but if it had gotten bogged down and wet with snow, having to carry it around the event would have been a huge damper.

Even the shirt was a smart, and deliberate choice over the other options in my closet. When I wear a cardigan, I'm often inclined to wear some of my shirts that are queued up for  a trip to the tailor as they run a bit baggier. The cardigan hides the fact that they are loose around the waist, and I get to wear some pieces I wouldn't be wearing on their own, purely due to fit. However, I stuck with a slim shirt that I love wearing on it's own, just in case it ended up being so warm that I wanted to ditch the cardigan.

In the end, the point here is that this is in no way a flashy look, or even very fashion-forward at all, but there was still a lot of thought put into each piece. The end-game was casual and easy-going, but hit all the right notes, both in terms of style and functionality. The best part of having thought this through so well was that, once I got going, I didn't have to think about my clothing at all and could just enjoy myself! 

Here are a few pics we shot while enjoying ourselves at the event:

Starting things off!
Hmm...picture is a bit dark, but it's hard to criticize when your photographer is a random stranger!
Wow, JUST noticed I took a picture of the Seattle logo, not the Chicago one...this was towards the end of the event...
Of course things got a little silly...
...but we just like to have fun!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Deals and Steals for the Weekend - 2/6/2014

You know the dealio: "Every weekend, check in on the blog for a collection of the best (read: my favorite) deals and steals on the interweb for some quality shopping over the weekend. Have any to add? Share them in the comments or shoot me an e-mail. Also, if you're biting on any of these hooks, I'd love to hear about it!"

So here's this week's lineup:

25% Off Select Spring Style at J.Crew:
So, this is a much lighter and more limited discount than most of what we feature from J.Crew. So how did it make the list: Almost entirely by virtue of this striped popover shirt:
Brushed Twill Popover | J.Crew
I've been wanting a popover shirt for my collection since I saw a great on from Gant sometime last summer. Unfortunately, they aren't all that common, and most of the ones I could find were damn pricey, especially for a casual shirt. This one ain't cheap to start either, with a $75 original asking price, but the 25% off drops it to just over $55. It's the perfect in-between shirt, not quite as sport-centered as a polo, not quite as formal as a full-placket shirt. I'm also loving the horizontal stripes, just different enough to make yours unique but not flashy.

Loving shawl collars this winter? I know I am. Here's a chance to keep wearing them into the spring! This shawl sweater is made from cotton, so it will be much less warm than your standard thick wool, but will still make a comfortable layer on a cool spring or summer evening. 

Marled Cotton Shawl-Collar Sweater | J.Crew
The added hoodie-like kangaroo pocket makes it a bit more casual as well, which makes it perfectly suited for a night on the beach. Again, not a crazy deal, but definitely affordable at under $55 (originally $70). 

Extra 25% Off and Free Shipping at Sierra Trading Post (applied at check-out):
Editors Note: I had some issues getting the discount applied, but eventually had it work by clicking to the site through their social media (Facebook or Twitter). Otherwise, I'm sure you can e-mail customer support to get hooked up!
Ok, back to winter. I'm going on a ski trip with my gal's family in a few weeks, and I've never been on the slopes before, so I've had my eyes on some affordable insulating layers. Here comes discount outdoorsy retailer Sierra Trading Post to the rescue. First on my list? A pair of Smartwool socks, like this mid-weight pair:
Jovian Grid Sock | SmartWool via Sierra Trading Post
A lot of winter-ready socks only come in boring solid greys and blacks, so it's nice that these have a healthy dose of color. Also, SmartWool has a great reputation for being crazy warm and comfortable. The standard STP discount has these at $13, and the extra 25% takes them down even more to under $10 (normally $21 a pair). Oh yeah, it's also FREEZING in Chicago, which make me even more eager to buy these. In my cart as I type this.

I've also quickly realized that I only have one pair of long underwear, and they are a cheap pair from Target a few years back. Not only aren't they super warm, I also don't want to wear the same pair 3 days in a row on this trip. That in mind, these merino wool guys look nice and toasty:
RedRam Merino Wool Leggings | Icebreaker via Sierra Trading Post
I've never heard of RedRam or Icebreaker before, but these have (mostly) good reviews and at $30 after the discount (originally $58), they are the most affordable pair in merino wool that I've seen. It's a debate between these and a pair in Uniqlo's Heattech, but regardless, these wouldn't be a bad choice. Hmm...

Filson Clearance Sale:
Filson makes ungodly nice outerwear, and usually at ungodly high (for my tight wallet) prices. However, they've got some nice sales going on now, like this work jacket, which has been reduced almost 50%, from $385 down to $200 (props to Well-Spent for featuring this today):

Scout Work Jacket | Filson
One of the few beefs about Filson has previously been their classic, less slim fits. Recently, they addressed this by issuing their new Seattle fit, which is much more modern and close-fitting, and has been met with rave reviews all over the net. Not all items come in the new fit, but this is on the list. It's got some stylish details (check the specs on the site for a full list), and since it's a Filson, it will last a lifetime. I just picked up a lighter spring/fall jacket using some store credit at Frank and Oak, or I'd be seriously considering this.

It's definitely worth a browse to check out the rest of their sale items...I believe this is their end-of-year/season sale, and there are some really hefty discounts. This corduroy shirt is also available in the new Seattle Fit and is, again, unusually affordable at $60 (originally $165):
Seattle II Corduroy Shirt | Filson
I recently found an old corduroy shirt of my dad's (I think) when I was at my folks over the holidays, and I've latched onto it as a kind-of lightweight jacket around the house. Mine is super loose-fitting and pretty worn out, so I've been looking for a replacement, and I'm tempted to scoop this up for that very purpose.

50% Off at Sid Mashburn:
We'll wrap this week's list up with some more high-end winter duds at surprisingly affordable prices. Sid Mashburn has their 'Sid Sale' running with several half-off items. These shetland sweaters immediately caught my eye:
Shetland Crewneck Sweater | Sid Mashburn
It's another one that's not incredibly cheap, at just under $100, but it's marked down from $195 and holy hell does it look cozy.

If you're looking for something easier on the wallet, consider grabbing a pair of Levi's cords:

514 (Straight Fit) Cord | Levi's via Sid Mashburn
You all know (and probably, like me, love) Levi's, and the corduroy fabric along with the woodsy green color are perfect for the fall and winter. Add the fact that these are only $30, and Sid Mashburn always offers free shipping, and it's a deal definitely worthy of the list.

Shop away, and stay warm!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Where's the Focus? - A Style Principle

One of my side-jobs has been to do some editorial/proofreading work for Barron Cuadro over at Effortless Gent. I was working on a piece recently that brought up a strong point that I thought was worth mentioning over here (without spoiling the upcoming EG post).

That point is that, no matter how much we love clothing and style, and the accessories and accoutrements, color-ways and patterns, the focus should always be you.

Put even more simply, your clothing (and the choices you make regarding them) should be purposed to make you look better, not the other way around. 

A jacket so loud it will drown out whatever you have to say.
Picture c/o STREETFSN
I think this is a great thing to keep in mind, especially to those of you new to the style game, and I say that completely based on my own experiences. I remember how easy it was to get caught up in flashy new pattern-matching that I had just learned how to put into action, combined with the excitement of my first tie-bar, and wanting to put that bold new blazer to use as soon as it came in the door, and how many times that probably resulted in outfits that drew all the attention to what I was wearing, and away from me. 

Even now, as I'm much more comfortable with my personal style, and have learned (I hope) to master the art of balance subtlety and boldness, I think it's important to keep this principle in mind, lest I get too carried away with my attire and distracted from my character.

Sorry to pine philosophical, but it happens! Carry on, dapper dudes. Oh, and keep an eye for that post on Effortless Gent. The above point aside, it's a fantastic article. Due out this week, I believe.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Outfit Post - The Sunday Lunch Date

Sorry for the delay on this post...I was planning on getting it up after the Super Bowl last night (what the hell happened there???)  but since my girlfriend was leaving first thing this morning for a business trip, I decided to spend my time with her instead of working. Sue me. 

Anyway, it's appropriate that I was so sweet to my gal, since she was kinda the inspiration for this post. It's restaurant week here in Chicago, so I took her out to a snazzy afternoon meal at The Savoy (our first time there, but I recommend it if you're in the city). We made ourselves nice and appropriately presentable before heading out, so I figured I may as well do an outfit post with an example of a great lunch-date ensemble.

At the Savoy...hmm...tie is slightly askew...and I'm slightly OCD...
The Savoy, like many lunch-date options, was a nice restaurant, but not fancy. There's no way I was going to show up in sweatpants, but at the same time it didn't call for a suit (although I have a new on from Dragon Inside that I'm dying for a chance to wear - more to come). As it should be, this was the first criteria for picking my outfit - sharp casual.

From there, I (half-jokingly) decided on a black-and-white color palette for the sole reason that it was Super Bowl Sunday, I could care less about both teams, and didn't want to throw affiliation either way (not that I own much in orange, but I have a lot of blue and green). 

Black, white, and in-between. Greyscale doesn't mean boring.
After that, it was pretty easy. When you're going for sharp casual, crisp blue jeans are never a bad choice. Either is a white OCBD. Either is a dark grey tie. Either is a charcoal merino V-neck. The point, I guess, is that those menswear staples are there for a reason. Not every outfit you pick needs to stand out.

My socks were the one place I let some color pop...and that's what I love about socks, as I mentioned last week.
A little flash of purple.
When it was all put together, I think it was a classy look...subtle yet sharp (man, I'm overusing that word, but it just fits), interesting but not bold, and I think (hope?) that the same balance came across in the image I presented...confident but respectful, because I know that's how my girl likes me best. :-)

Despite the snowy appearance, it was actually warm enough to wear a new lighter jacket from Frank & Oak.
Side note - my gal took some pages out of the menswear book herself and looked awfully cute doing it...rocked some nice blue jeans, a chambray shirt with just enough contrast from the denim, and some new suede boots. Gorgeous!

My beautiful date!

Outfit Details: