Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Few Rainy Spring Essentials

We had a bright sunny 50 degree day here in Chicago over the weekend, so I think we can finally say that spring is starting to set in.  Unfortunately, the upcoming weather is likely to not be quite so pleasant. Hopefully it will stay warm, but I'm ready to bet on a lot of rain and overcast skies in the next few weeks. As we get through these transitional days, here are a few essentials to help you stay dry and stylish:

One of the first things you're going to need in order to maintain a sharp appearance is a waterproof (or at least water resistant) coat. Nothing puts a damper on a great outfit like, well, dampness. Plus, if you let a blazer get soaked in the raid, it will often rumple and bubble as it dries, and will never look the same again. Trends these days have made it perfectly acceptable (encouraged, actually) to wear even a bright parka-style jacket over your sharpest suit. Suit Supply just released this awesome raincoat, and if you have the budget for it, I'd look no further:
Yellow Rain Coat | Suit Supply
Sure, the yellow is bold and will draw attention, but true to form, Suit Supply made a piece of outerwear worth drawing attention to. The silhouette is trim, but built to fit over a suit, and the bright color is tempered by classic details and no wacky bells or whistles.

Understandably, a $300 rain coat is a bit steep for most, but J.Crew offers a surprisingly affordable alternative by Penfield. Added bonus: if the yellow is a bit much for you as well, this guy comes in a more neutral navy blue:
Penfield Gibson Jacket | J.Crew

Rain Boots and 'Drawer' Shoes:
Same lesson goes for your dress shoes. A sure way to kill a nice shine is to step in a few muddy puddles on your morning commute. You can opt for overshoes from a company like SWIMS, but they tend to be as expensive as a pair of shoes on their own. Personally, I just go for another pair of shoes. These Bean boots have been my go-to in the winter snow, and I was smart enough to get the unlined, uninsulated version, so I just use lighter socks and they're perfect for spring rain as well:
Men's Bean Boots | L.L. Bean
I love the northeastern, rugged prep style of Bean boots, but some guys will find them a little too rustic and outdoorsy. Hunter, along with their classic 'Wellies', offers a biker-inspired rain boot that is much more city-oriented:
Men's Shoreditch Moto Boot | Hunter
Of course, either of those options are fine for the commute, but you can't be wearing them with your suit or trousers during a day in the office. That's why I always keep a pair of shoes tucked in a desk drawer (hence, drawer shoes) to swap out after I get to work. The trick is to opt for something as versatile as possible. I usually stick with a pair of burgundy Weejuns loafers by G.H. Bass. They are dressy enough for dress trousers and chinos, but will still fit the bill with a pair of jeans on a casual Friday:
Larson Weejuns | G.H. Bass

Even better, the reddish hue is one of the leathers that (in my opinion, at least), is OK to wear with both brown and black belts alike. Again, versatility is the name of the game, and these keep all my bases covered.

If you don't have a shoe-shine in your office building, just bring these home over the weekends for a quick shine, and you'll be good to go.

Something Bright!
I'm looking at the 10-day forecast for Chicago right now, and the cheeriest day in the lineup is a lonely 'partly sunny' a week away that will probably turn into rain before it even comes. It's easy to get stuck in the greys of early spring, so I like to remind myself that all this rain is just a precursor to bright, sunny weather to come by rocking something bright every so often. If you're feeling truly bold, a pair of go-to-hell pants is just the trick. Chinos from Bonobos can be a bit pricey, but there are always some brighter colors to be found at a great price in their sale section. Right now I found these in what they call a dark teal:
Everglade Chinos | Bonobos
Like I said, this is not the subtlest of moves, but you can temper the look by grounding it with neutral colors up top (like a white shirt and navy tie).

One step down on the boldness-scale would be a brightly patterned shirt. I love this orange gingham from Banana Republic:
Tailored Slim-Fit Non-Iron Gingham Shirt | Banana Republic

Gingham is a great spring pattern to begin with, and I like it because the white checks kind of mute the bright orange, as opposed to something in solid orange. Again, you can tone down the boldness with some neutral slacks (grey or tan would work well), or covering up the color a bit with a blazer or cardigan.

Finally, for a much more subtle injection of color, rock a bright accessory, like some striped socks, a patterned pocket square, or a colorful tie. This time of year, you'll be able to find these things at pretty much any menswear store. Personally, I've had my eye on the knit ties at the Knottery for some time now, and they have some great spring colors available:
Solid Silk Knit Tie | The Knottery

I'm a big navy blue guy, with most of my neckwear being somehow grounded in that color. This brighter blue will play just as nicely with most of my wardrobe, but will add some seasonal punch.

How do you handle the rainy weather of early spring? Tell us in the comments!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Deals and Steals for the Weekend - 3/28/2014

Quick note before we dive in, but can you believe it's already almost April??? Shit's cray.

"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!"

Got a nice, well-rounded list this week...a healthy mix of things I've bought and loved, and ones I'm dying to try - all at great prices, of course:

30% Off at G.H. Bass (code FRIENDS30):
First up is a selection of penny loafers from the folks who started it all. The Bass Weejun is widely acknowledged as the original penny loafer, a style that has become synonymous with American prep and can be seen everywhere still today. They're one of my favorite shoes, balancing dress and casual, adding a classic timelessness, and staying remarkably affordable, even at list price. Lucky for us, we don't even have to pay that! This pair, in a tan nubuck, might just become my go-to spring shoe, if I get my hands on a pair:
Nubuck Weejuns in Tan | G.H. Bass
Starting at $128, the discount drops these to just under $90, which is a helluva good price for such a solid yet stylish option. I'd wear these with pretty much everything. Although the lighter suede leans a bit more casual, I still think these would look sharp paired with a light grey summer suit.

Next up is a bit more formal, polished option in 'cherry' (read: burgundy or oxblood):
Rencrist Weejuns in Cherry | G.H. Bass
These bad boys are already on sale, so the discount takes them all the way down to $63! I have a pair just like these (if not the same shoe), and they are a workhorse in the office. In fact, I kept a pair in my desk all winter long. Any day I'd wear my Bean Boots through the snow (more often than not), I'd swap them out as soon as I got into work, and voila, looking like a pro. Great color, great shine, all business when you need them to be, but pop them on with some chinos and no socks in the summer for a carefree - but still polished - vibe.

Promotional Pricing at UNIQLO:
How I wish there was a Uniqlo in Chicago. I have a few pieces from them and love every one of them, but ended up in a few different sizes. In general though, you can count on them for high quality while mega-affordable basics, and I also love their lightweight summer blazers (again, mega-affordable). Got a few different options this time around though. First up are two shirts:
White Oxford Slim Fit Long Sleeve Shirt                 Uniqlo                      Slim Fit Print Long Sleeve Shirt      

On the one hand, their OCBD's can't really be beat. And they are on sale for under $20. I have one, and need to get more. Badly. On the other hand, where a white OCBD was a safe choice, you can test the waters of the printed-shirt trend and a true steal of a price with this navy pin-dot shirt. So very 'in' and so very inexpensive at just $13.

Next, another double for you, this time with some uber-cheap neckwear:

Wool Blend Tie                          Uniqlo                                 Knit Tie                  
Truth be told, these aren't anything hugely special. The wool tie is a blend, with a decent percentage of acrylic, while the knit tie is 100% acrylic. However, I've seen these in stores, and they look much nicer than they sound. PLUS, holy hell they only cost $4 a piece. So. What do you have to lose? Four bucks I guess...

Bonobos Sale Section:
OK, so they had a code-sale going on Thursday that dropped these prices even farther, but they are still a great deal without the code. Just don't kill me if they finagled with the pricing since I wrote this up! We've done tons of Bonobos before, but I'm shaking it up a bit this time with two adaptations of their classic chinos. First is this chino blazer - yup, same fabric, but in a jacket:

The Washed Chino Blazer | Bonobos
OCotton blazers are one of my favorite things about spring/summer. The one I have from Uniqlo gets worn way to often, so I'm on the hunt for a second one to add to the collection, and this might just fit the bill. It's unlined, unconstructed, and only $78 (originally $198). OK, so they're calling this one 'denim,' but it looks like that just refers to the color, as they list the fabric as indeed chino.

Next, they took their great fitting chinos and, boom. That's right, they made jeans:

Bottle Rockets in Overdye Indigo Dark Wash | Bonobos
I haven't tried a pair yet, but the reactions seem to be pretty darn good, plus you already know the fit will be perfect. One review says the weft and stitching are grey, and that it lends to a dressier look, so there's that as well. Marked down to $58 from $145.

Hugh & Crye at
Last up, some dapper duds from the Hugh & Crye folks, on sale at Gilt. I've been eyeing up Hugh & Crye for a long time, but haven't been able to get myself to bite, usually because the prices were juuuust out of my reach. This sale brings them down to an attainable level, for sure. My first pick is one of their shirts, which are what they cut their teeth and built their name on:
Santorini Wine Region Dress Shirt | Hugh & Crye via Gilt
This one, down to $49 from $85, is in a light blue gingham, which is just about the most perfect shirt pattern for spring. Gingham itself is always a good spring option, and opting for the lighter shade rather than the more common navy is a great seasonal choice. Use their alternative sizing method to find the perfect fit for an added bonus.

We'll close it out with one of their wool blazers, which have been getting a lot of hot press as well:
Wool Sport Coat | Hugh & Crye via Gilt
Looks like this is one of their McComb blazers, which are fully lined, so it might not get a ton of use in the hotter months, but it will fit right in next fall (and you should be able to get some decent use in before it heats up). Original price is $245, knocked down to just $129. I dig the plaid, but if you want something a bit more tame, it looks like they have some solid options as well.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring Colors: My Picks

Back in the fall, I did a series of two posts (here and here) on fall colors - the industry 'color of the season,' was a forest or hunter green, while my own personal favorite was along the lines of a burgundy, maroon, or oxblood. I was hoping to do a similar set of articles for the spring season, and was brainstorming over the weekend when I realized just how similar my two favorite warm-weather colors this year are. In fact, you could even say that they are just a re-interpretation of those two fall colors, adapted and invigorated for the brighter, more lively color-ways that tend to dominate in the spring and summer.

When it comes to the green, fall called for a dark, dark green, sometimes with touches of brown that lent it even an olive color. This worked perfectly for fall, as bright green leafy trees give way to darker evergreens with a healthy dose of bare branches (see? dark green, hints of brown...this is easier than you think). Now, those same colors are giving away to bright new buds and are being given a healthy dose of sunshine. Similarly, the greens in your wardrobe should see some new life. Instead of reaching for those dark greens, pick something, I'm not talking neon bright, or even pastel. Last year I was all about mint, and those days may come later this summer, but for now, it's just the emergence of color, so keep some air of subtlety. My favorite has been an almost sea-foam green, but not quite so light. Close to emerald, I guess, but a little more washed out. It's the kind of color that is bright and bold on it's own, but can easily be tempered by pairing it with a few neutrals. Here are some options to give it a try:

Frank and Oak has been killing this color already this season. I just grabbed a pair of green cords that are unfortunately no longer available, but they've still got this OCBD in a very subdued shade (BONUS: use this link for $25 off if this is your first purchase):
Jasper Oxford in Sea Green | Frank and Oak

The folks over at Dockers took this a bit more balls-to-the-wall. These chinos are definitely a bolder move, but like I mentioned, just adding a few neutral balances will keep everything in pretty safe territory (BONUS: These are currently ridiculously on sale):

Alpha Khaki in Water Wheel | Dockers

On the other hand, the fall took red and completely over-saturated it, again adding that touch of brown, for something dark, rich, almost heavy. The same logic applies, and as I write this, I think about how much out minds associate winter with death, or at least absence of life, as much in color as in nature. With spring comes new life, and therefore new color, and brightness. The burgundy and oxblood reflect, for lack of a better word, decay (while remaining handsomely attractive all along). Now that we are through the winter (kind of?), it's time to brighten the shade. Burgundy takes red to the dark extremes, but the color this spring will take red in the opposite direction. Still a big fan of subtlety, I'll avoid anything bright red, or even in your slightly-faded Nantucket red that is so inherent in prep style. Instead, I go for something that is, again, a little washed out. My favorite example here is a red chambray shirt. The white threads woven in with the red lighten the color, but not to a pink or orange. Instead, the color is just as red, but again the opposite of burgundy...undersaturated and kind of understated. I've been seeing the same thing lately in some chinos and canvas trousers, and every time I do, something else gets added to my wish-list. And again, it's a color that seems bright on it's own, but is easily muted by including balancing pieces in the rest of an outfit. Here are some items I found around the web:

This. Exactly what I'm talking about here, from GANT. Featured these in Deals and Steals a little while back, but had to pull them out again for this post:

Canvas Chino in Summer Coral | GANT

This pair of sneaks (by Vans, for J.Crew), is a bit deeper of a red, but that washed canvas is gonna fade and wear in beautifully:
Washed Canvas Authentic Sneaker | Vans for J.Crew

And yeah, I know the fashion-world is all about orange this spring, and I've seen it utilized in some pretty awesome ways, but it's a damn tough color to use, and can just as easy bring to mind chintzy halloween decorations as it can vibrant spring hues. Instead, I'm taking my own route and picking these two. Come summer, I expect to continue to see and use these tones, only in paler and paler reincarnations (think mint linen shirts and pastel red OCBD's). Until then, here you have it. I plan on following up in the next week or two with a post putting these colors in action, just like I did last year. 

Share your favorite seasonal colors in the comments!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Navigating End-Of-Season Sales

This week, I'm handing over the reins for a post from guest writer Matt Hanrahan. If all goes well, Matt will be doing some more writing for the blog in the upcoming months, so we hope you like his stuff! Here we go:

If you’ve been to a mall in the last few weeks, you’ve probably noticed the huge crowds and the great deals at most (if not all) of your favorite stores. Late season sales are probably one of the best times all year you can shop, and right now you have an excellent opportunity to upgrade and maintain a fashionable wardrobe. In this article we’ll discuss how you can pick up some great new pieces and avoid making some common mistakes when hitting the mall.


Let’s first talk about the obvious benefits. It’s so hard to pass over stores lowering prices by 30, 40, or even 50 percent, and this short period of the retail season is probably the best time to snag great deals on staple pieces you’ve been missing in your closet. 

Probably the best part of this season is full inventory sales. Even if you are fully prepared for anything fall and winter can bring, full inventory sales will let you take advantage of your favorite stores new lines without breaking the bank. 

This is especially the case with shoes; if your footwear is looking a little scuffed or muddy I recommend waiting for the nearest department store sale and stocking up (full disclosure, I’m a big shoe guy so take “stocking up” with a grain of salt”).

Last but not least is the time and efficiency benefit. If you’re a busy guy like me, even one that loves shopping, spring brings a lot of opportunities to get away from the bright lights of the retail environment and into the sunshine we almost forgot existed. With every store around dropping prices all at once, you don’t need to spend a lot of your precious time hunting for discounts because pretty much every place has them. 

What to avoid:

Now I know most people reading this are probably well aware of the deals and discounts at their favorite stores and I might go so far as to say you’ve already read this week’s Deals and Steals For The Weekend”. You probably also know that, when late season shopping, you run the risk of buying something that you hate in 6 months. 

That being said, the mistakes many people make are a little less obvious. The first thing you want to watch out for is smart marketing, and by that I mean the goal should be to avoid impulse buys. The reason most sales only last a few days is to get you to buy right then and there. Try to move yourself away from anything someone might consider trendy and definitely don’t buy anything you wouldn’t buy at full price. 

The next piece of advice to avoid is outerwear like coats, gloves and hats. A lot of people will tell you that this is the best time to buy these items but I completely disagree. Your outerwear is one of the most worn items in the winter and you should love how it looks it and feels when it’s just a few degrees outside. If you buy a winter coat when it’s warm out you can’t comfortably test it, it might not fit in your wardrobe in a year and realistically you’re looking through what didn’t sell. (Editor's Note: I agree with Matt here, but I will give a nod to scoring staple outerwear at the end of the season. In other words, I say go ahead and buy out-of-season, but only if it's a timeless piece - no risk of it going out of style before you can wear it. Bonus if it's something you've been on the hunt for all season but couldn't find. Just my two cents!)  

Finally, if you are like 99% of everyone else, you are working with a limited budget. I am in full support of buying clothes well in advance of the season (as long as they are basic items you need) but if you spend most of your money on seasonal items, you won’t have enough to buy anything for the upcoming summer weather. (Editor's Note: Amen.)

Tips for your next shopping trip:
To round out our discussion here are the tips take advantage of the benefits but avoid the pitfalls of end of season shopping:
  • Don’t use this time to buy anything particularly trendy. Only buy staple items for your wardrobe.
  • Try to identify any pieces you may be missing and focus on finding those items first. Think solid colored shirts, chinos, jeans, accessories, and formal wear.
  • Avoid very heavy fabrics. Clothing sold in the fall is meant to be worn in the winter when it’s cold, and that thickness is going to make you very hot in the summer doldrums. 
  • Try to identify full inventory sales and spend most of your time and money there. Not only can you pick up in season items on the cheap, you are supporting companies that give us this opportunity. 
  • Stay away from outerwear (we’ve discussed this above)
  • When online shopping, give yourself a few hours or even a day to make sure this isn’t an impulse buy. 
  • Finally the golden rule: If you wouldn’t buy the item at full price, don’t buy it on sale. 

What are you’re favorite tips for end of season shopping? What mistakes have you made? Let me know in the comments!

Matt hails from the suburbs of Minneapolis. His day-job is at an investment firm, but he also has a passion for clothing (or, more significantly, style in general). Check out his own blog on life after college at, or follow him on Twitter (@mhanrahan18).

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Deals and Steals for the Weekend - 3/21/2014

"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!"


Extra 30% Off Sale Items and Club Monaco:
I swear to god, CM has been offering this deal off and on for months now. Regardless, it's worth checking on every so often because the stock changes pretty consistently. This week, I found a few really nice pieces for the spring season. First on the list is this pair of brown lightweight 'Davis' chinos, discounted to a crazy $21 (originally $70):
Lightweight Davis Chino | Club Monaco
The Davis is their slimmest fit, and obviously, the lightweight version will be great for spring. I picked this color for two reasons: first, it's incredibly versatile, and goes very well with blue, which is probably the most prevalent color in my (and many others') wardrobe. This versatility makes the second reason even more useful: as a more neutral color, these pants will be a great way to ground a shirt in a brighter spring color. 

Next, I found this nice cotton crewneck in what Club Monaco calls 'placed stripes', originally $80, but down to $42 after the discount: 
Cotton Placed Strip Crew | Club Monaco
To me, it's reminiscent of a nautical stripe, but having it in red instead of blue is a nice differentiating touch that also lends a more spring-timey flair. This will be a great layering piece for a cool spring night.

American Eagle Outfitters Clearance:
There's not very much that I go to American Eagle for (I think their target customer is a bit younger than myself (like, a decade). However, I've had good luck with their OCBD's before, and they often end up in the clearance section. It looks like they all come in a slim fit, and while that cut isn't majorly slim, a quick trip to the tailor will have it fitting perfectly. In their current selection, I was particularly caught by this option in a horizontal black-on-white stripe:
Striped Oxford Button Down Shirt | American Eagle Outfitters

At only $30 (down from $50), it's a bit of an experiment, but a largely low-risk one. The horizontal stripes are a trend(?) that seems to be picking up steam, and I really like when done well (which, IMO, this is). The black on white color scheme, again, reminds me somehow of nautical stripes, making it, again (again), seasonal.

They also have this color-blocked OCBD that I liked (also marked down to $30 from $50):
Colorblock Oxford Button Down | American Eagle Outfitters
I still have yet to test the color-block waters, but this is an option I could definitely see myself in. Plus, like the horizontal striped shirt, this one is a bit outside the box just by leaning darker in both colors, where most color-blocked shirts that I've seen feature at least one pastel block. (Edit: I just noticed that this one is in 'prep-fit'. No idea what that means, but I take it it's not slim fit. Something to keep in mind).

30% Off All New Arrivals At J.Crew Factory (prices as marked):
Spring is finally on the way, and for a lot of people the warmer temps mean the return of seersucker. J.Crew Factory to the rescue with a few great options in the lightweight fabric. First is this suit jacket, marked down to $117.50 from $168:
Factory Thompson Suit Jacket | J.Crew Factory
A buck-twenty is not a bad price at all for a southern summer staple like this. Added bonus, the jacket is styled casually enough to be worn as a separate, which will give you significantly more chances to rock it.

If a seersucker jacket is too pricey or too bold for your tastes, opt for something cheaper and milder, like this seersucker tie:
Factory Seersucker Tie | J.Crew Factory
J.Crew ties are always up to par when it comes to quality and style. Wear it under a navy jacket with a white shirt for a sharp spring 'fit, or dress it down with a white or light blue OCBD. Either way, at just $30, it's not a bad deal at all.

Accessories Clearance at Nordstrom:
Since the rest of the selections this week were so heavily spring-oriented, here's a chance to grab some end-of-season deals on winter gear. Some people avoid off-season clearance in case trends or personal tastes change before the season comes around again, but I think leather gloves like the ones below are pretty safe bets to be just as 'in' next year (plus the prices are hard to beat). First up is this pair from Ted Baker:
London 'Skyfall' Driving Gloves | Ted Baker via Nordstrom

Goddamn are these things classy. I think I saw these on another blog when they were closer to full price, and the general consensus was that the original price of $120 was crazy, even if the 'Skyfall' has anything to do with James Bond. However, knocked down to $50 at Nordstrom, these are now crazy affordable.

If $50 is still too rich for your blood, grab a slightly more affordable pair from Nordstrom's house brand, in leather and tweed:
Tweed Gloves | John W. Nordstrom
$25, down from $70, is about as good as it's going to get, price-wise, for real leather gloves. Plus, the tweed backing keeps these from being too run-of-the-mill (and I have an admitted penchant for everything tweed).


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Old Spice - Take A Look What You've Done

Earlier this month, Old Spice reached out to me to see if I was interested in doing a sponsored feature on their line of hair care products. At first I was hesitant, as I strive very hard to maintain the integrity of our reviews here. Regardless of what we get for free, get paid, or who sponsors us, we keep our writing 100% objective and would never recommend a product or service we wouldn't use ourselves. That in mind, I was worried I would be obligated to endorse a product against my better judgement. The response from Old Spice was great, and triggers my first recommendation for them as a company with some of that fore-mentioned integrity. Not only would they give me full creative control over my article and it's conclusions, they even offered to send the products with no guaranty of any article at all.

So, I figured, "What the hell? I may as well give this a try." I thought, worst case, I'd have a box of hair care products that I wouldn't use, no one the wiser. Best case, I'd find something worthwhile to pass on to you readers, and in fact, I was able to do just that.

First, a quick summary of the products they sent:

WOW. So. Much. Hair care. There's even more buried underneath....see the whole line here.
Basically, I was provided with two types of products: washing products, and styling products. We'll take a look at the washing products first. These included a variety of shampoo and conditioning treatments. Actually, all but one were 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner combinations, with the last being just a shampoo product. I'm not really sure why that one was set up differently, but there you have it.

So what did I think? In general, I was actually pretty impressed, and for two main reasons:
  1. Right off the bat, I was impressed with the scents. Now, I do use Old Spice deodorant already, so I'm not opposed to the scents themselves, but in my past experiences, shampoos such as these, or perhaps those from Ax, or any other brand specifically marketed towards men, are so overpowering. Again, the scent might be pleasant, but the crazy doses they throw at you definitely aren't. Not so in the case of the Old Spice hair care. Instead, the scent was very subtle. While you definitely get a good whiff of it while you lather up, by the time you rinse and dry, there is just a pleasant lingering fragrance. Well done, smell-engineers, or whatever you call yourselves.
  2. Second, I almost always veer away from 2-in-1 hair care products. While the concept is great and time/space-saving, and my hair needs don't require individual specialty shampoos or conditioners, I've found that combo products really struggle to get the ratios right. Either there's just shampoo and hardly any conditioner, and your hair feels like it only got hit with the first, or the conditioner is so heavy that by the time you get enough shampoo for a healthy lather, your hair comes out almost greasy. Again, Old Spice surpassed my expectations, as the 'Swagger' combo (my favorite scent, and the same one I use for deodorant) gave me the perfect amount of each. I came out with soft, clean, silky smooth hair that has been pretty well prepped for any type of styling I have in mind.
Which brings us to the second round; the styling products.

Here, I was a little less impressed, but still managed to find a bit of a gem. Why not impressed, you ask? Mainly, I just didn't get the described effects on 4 out of 5 of the products. High hold was damn near impossible to find, and while I did get some varying amounts of shine, nothing held up to the high shine, medium hold that I prefer for my day-to-day grooming. Even the pomade, which by name should have been a thicker, sleeker product, was a bit weak and lackluster.

Now, having said that, I did find a product that I will be using well into the future. I usually style my hair with a classic side part. I use pomade for medium hold and high shine, and give it just a bit of lift on top. This has worked for me for a long time, and on my day-to-day, I don't have much desire to change. However, there are some days where I don't want to look quite so put together and business like, instead opting for a more casual, laid back, almost 'thrown together without a though' type of a vibe. In this case, I want a hair product that will look like I didn't put anything in it - natural, low shine, flexible - but with just enough hold to keep everything out of my eyes. This has honestly been a damn tough product to find - and every time I'm on to something, my barber stops stocking it, or the brand changes their formula, and I'm back to square one.

Lucky for me, the 'Cruise Control' forming creme did that exact job perfectly. You can actually see me with this stuff in on one of my more recent outfit posts. See how the part is there, and the hair is out of my face, but it looks 'naked' and blows in the breeze. Fantastic.

Bottom Line:

So what's my overall conclusion here? For the money and the reputation of brands in it's league, I think Old Spice does a darn good job. If you have found your niche product and love it, I doubt there is much here that will pull you away. However, if you need something to shake things up here and there, Old Spice makes a relatively effective and very affordable option. 

And for me? I'll keep using the Swagger shampoo/conditioner, as I'm getting really attached to the ease and feel. As for the styling products, most days I'll be sticking with my Baxters of California Soft Water Pomade (more here), but when I want to kick back and keep it casual, I'll have a tube Cruise Control handy to do the trick.

Oh, and let's never forget, the real reason I agreed to do this post, was this lady. Can't you just feel the anguish in her cry of 'OLD SPIIICE'? I can...pulls at the heartstrings:

This was a sponsored article, 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 Old Spice. While I love to be given products to review, don't worry, I will never endorse a product I wouldn't wear myself.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Solid Ties - Think Outside the Box

As patterned shirts get more and more play in office settings, it can get tricky to match a patterned tie. However, a plain silk, especially with any type of sheen to it, can look like something you would have worn to prom. Even a toned down version, like a silk twill, is just kind of boring. 

A quick and easy remedy is to stock up on some nice solid ties with interesting textures or fabrics. The solid color scheme will ensure that it will match easily with any pattern, but the visual depth that the texture or fabric choice adds will keep you looking like a man on top of his sartorial game. 

Here are some of our favorite options:

Silk Knit:
This is one of my go-to options year-round. Honestly, a silk knit with an OCBD is probably my favorite combination, and is so incredibly versatile that you'll find yourself reaching for it again and again. It's a look equally at home under a suit as it is with jeans and a tweed blazer. 

Solid Silk Knit Tie in Bordeaux | The Knottery - $18.00

Wool/Cotton Knit:
Keep it seasonal by changing your fabrics appropriately - cotton in the spring and summer, wool in the winter and fall.. The lack of any real shine here makes these a bit more casual, but can still work under a suit if done right - just opt for a coarser or heftier suit fabric with your wool knits, or a lighter summer fabric like linen or cotton (chino would look especially great) with your cotton neckwear.

Solid Wool Knit Tie in Charcoal | The Tie Bar - $15
Knit Cotton Tie | J.Crew Factory - $29.50

Raw Silk: Of all fabrics on this list, I have the least experience with Raw Silk, but maybe the strongest desire to give it a try. The stuff just looks very holds the elegance of a silk material, but the unfinished nature and inherent roughness take it from business to creative.

Solid Raw Silk Tie | Sid Mashburn - $95

The white weft threads in chambray give the fabric a bit more depth than a plain weave or twill, and also lends a lightness to the colors that is perfect for spring and summer. Just be careful, as a good rule of thumb is to keep your tie darker than your shirt. With that in mind, lighter colored ties such as these will work best with a white-based shirt. Of course, if you dig around enough, you'll be able to find a tie cut from dark chambray remeniscent of your favorite pair of jeans:
Stafford Cotton Chambray Tie | JCPenney - $30
Back to winter options, a Donegal wool tie will have the characteristic nubs and flecks that the name is known for. From a distance it will look solid, but up close you'll get some great texture and variation. These pair incredibly well with tweed or heavy english wools. 

New Look Donegal Tie | ASOS - $8.50

Silk Grenadine:

The rest of the options listed here tend to lean at least just a bit more casual, but grenadine knit is all about class. This textured weave is vaguely similar to a plain silk knit, but usually keeps the triangle point (as opposed to flat edge), and is a luxurious (although usually more expensive) alternative that will go great with a sharp power suit and slick dress shirt.

Handmade Slim Navy Grenadine Tie | Charles Tyrwhitt - $85

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Deals and Steals for the Weekend - 3/14/2014

Do I need to keep saying this? Haha: "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 this week's deals are:

MyHabit Flash Sales:
I'll be the first to admit that flash sale sites like MyHabit, HauteLook, and Gilt can be hit or miss. A lot of the selection tends to be kind of...wonky, for lack of a better word, return policies can be restrictive, and shipping times can be pretty delayed. That said, some of the best purchases I've made have been through these sites, and I consider them well worth keeping an eye on. MyHabit tends to be a favorite of mine, as they offer free shipping and process orders at a reasonable pace. I'm not sure if it's a standard return policy, but both of the sales listed below are returnable up to 14 days after recieving your order for a $3.99 return fee. Use my referral link and you might get hooked up with a discount (this policy tends to change back and forth, if I'm not mistaken). Here are my picks: 

Levi's Made & Crafted via MyHabit:
First up is Levi's Made & Crafted, one of Levi's premium lines that normally comes with an equally premium price point. The selection here isn't huge, but what they have is crazily affordable. While they are obviously known best for their jeans, my favorite piece is this long-sleeve Tee in a Breton stripe, knocked down from $125 to just $50:

Breton Long Sleeve Tee | Levi's Made & Crafted via MyHabit
The timing for this is actually pretty perfect, as The Style Blogger (one of my favorite menswear blogs), actually just featured a piece with a similar stripe in today's WIWT post (check out Towni here). As they mention, the pattern is perfect for spring, and I really like the red/white/blue colorway (plus, it'll be great for 4th of July). Also, you almost don't notice the pocket, which makes it the perfect kind of subtle detail that will set it apart. 

There is also a decent selection of trousers with similarly huge discounts, but alas, not much in the way of denim.

Gitman Brothers Vintage via MyHabit:
Next up is another high-end, highly desirable designer line, Gitman Brothers Vintage. These guys are known for their perfect shirts, which is exactly what they have to offer here. There's a smattering of stripes, checks, and gingham button-downs available, all in great spring colors - is it finally warming up where you are? I have my eye on this orange and white number, marked down to $70 from a whopping $175. 
Broad Cloth Graph Check Sport Shirt | Gitman Brothers Vintage via MyHabit
Sure, not cheap, but for what you get, it's a helluva deal. Again, perfect orange spring color, and the checked pattern will work casually as well as it will for a brighter office look.

Hugh & Crye Square-End Cotton Ties:
Not a sale, but a good deal nonetheless. Hugh & Crye is best known for their shirts, but they've been steadily building a whole line of great mens clothing and accessories. Ties have been offered for a while, but they just released a new line for the upcoming Spring/Summer season that's been getting a lot of great press (including from GQ), and for good reason. I like these things more and more each time I browse the collection - the patterns are kind of bold, and definitely visually interesting, but something about the colorways and scale keep them from being in-your-face. The best part, is each runs just $25, making them damn affordable. Here are my two favorites:

'Legend' 2" Square-End Tie in Black and White Mosaic Print | Hugh & Crye

'Nightfall' 2" Square-End Tie in Navy and White Dot Pattern | Hugh & Crye
Even if these are a bit too casual for the office, they'll look fantastic under a cotton or linen blazer for summer cocktail parties, nights on the town, you name it. 

Clearance and Spring Sale at Dockers:
Dockers has a big Spring Sale going on with a bunch of their chinos on a good discount. I make my picks from the slim-fit section, but they have all four of their fits available. Granted, I've only tried their Alpha collection, but these Field Khaki's look real nice too:

Field Khaki in Slim Fit | Dockers
The $35 price point, down from $58, is a real bargain. The color is super versatile, and the flap coin pocket is a nice touch (again, it's the details that set a piece apart).

What's really crazy though, is the deals they have on their Alpha Khakis in their standard sale section, which are running at an unbelievable $19.00 a pair. The colors are mainly pretty bright and bold, so if you're looking for some go-to-hell pants, or even just something with a nice kick to it for the spring season, look no further. I even found this pair in a light blue that's actually pretty subtle, and would look really sharp paired with a lightweight navy blazer:

Alpha Khaki in Slim Fit | Dockers

Buy a Tie, Get a Free Pocket Square at Peter Field (code FREESQUARE):
Full disclosure: I recently started working for these guys as their Director of PR. It's a really exciting opportunity, largely because I think they make some awesome products and I'm really excited to help them move forward and continue to grow. Right now, they offer a line of custom ties (no more struggling to get the right length), as well as an assortment of double-sided pocket squares. For a limited time, you'll get that pocket square free with the purchase of a tie:

Like I said, their products are top notch, plus they are 100% made in America (actually, hand-made right here in Chicago), with fully customizable lengths and widths. Check them out! If you have any questions, give Nick (founder) a call, one of the most friendly guys I know.