Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Origins - Hacking Pockets

So, we've been coming at you with a lot of pretty lengthy posts, but this isn't college, we aren't here to give you loads of 'homework' and assigned reading, so let's take a quick break with a short post. It's been a while since we checked out a bit of menswear terminology, so today we'll take a look at the term 'hacking pockets.'

Hacking pockets is a term that refers to the positioning of the pockets on a suit jacket or blazer (rather than the actual pocket style, although I don't believe you will ever see this with patch pockets - just flaps and jetted). 

To understand the term when it comes to menswear, and why it's used, you have to understand the origin of the word. To 'hack' was once a British term (maybe still is?) for recreational horse-back riding. Therefore, you got it, hacking pockets referred to a style designed for equestrians.

A jacket with hacking pockets will have the pockets placed at a slant, rather than straight across. For riders, this served two purposes: first, it made it easier to reach into the pockets while horseback. Second, it helped keep things from falling out of the pockets while the men rode.

Straight Pockets....                                                                       ...and Hacking Pockets    
Photo Credit: Dragon Inside

Today, obviously, most people (even with hacking pockets) are not wearing their suits to ride horses, but the pockets are still in style. Largely, they are a throwback to a more casual, British, 'country' style jacket, but have become incorporated in day-to-day suiting to the extend that it's become mainly a matter of personal style preference. Some shorter men prefer these pockets as well, as they lend to a more vertical line through the suit, rather than chopping up one's height with horizontal lines a la straight pocket. Personally, I have some jackets with and some without, and don't have a strong preference either way. Regardless, informed decisions are the best decisions!

Now you know! Do you have a personal preference?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Cocktails - Two to Know Today

Happy Monday! If you're anything like me, you're wishing pretty hard that this was Friday, and that instead of having a work-week ahead of you, you were just a few hours away from kicking off your shoes and hitting the booze. To help ease you out of your weekend debauchery and to give you a CTB (cold-tasty-beverage) to look forward to next weekend, today we turn to cocktails.

Right off the bat, let me admit that many of you will find this information very, well, basic. These aren't any crazy cocktails, and are probably among the first few a real 'mixologist' (is there a less pretentious word I can use here? I can't say that without hating myself a little bit...) will learn. That said, I personally have always been a craft beer guy (the last time I could call myself a 'liquor' guy was in college, when a 'cocktail' was rum and diet coke). Recently, however, I've gotten a taste for good whiskey, which has in turn developed into a taste for well-mixed cocktails, and I've begun to take it upon myself to learn to mix my own.

This weekend, my girlfriend and I mixed up two essentials, although each is essential in it's own unique fashion.

The Classic Old Fashioned:
The first was my favorite cocktail, at least at this point, the Classic Old Fashioned. First, a bit of background, that I found particularly interesting: Old Fashioneds used to just be ordered as 'whiskey cocktails.' In fact, it was basically the only cocktail made from whiskey, so merely by ordering a cocktail, that's watcha got. Then the Manhattan was introduced, and a few of the other more classic whiskey drinks, and people started having to be more specific. If that original mix is what they wanted, they had to ask for the 'Old Fashioned' whiskey cocktail (not one of those new-fangled things all the kids were drinking those days). Just an interesting tidbit. With that behind us, let me share my recipe:

An Old Fashioned, if done right, is an incredibly simple drink to make. Sure, there are tons of variations and twists, but the real deal, the original champ, consists of just a few ingredients:

Sugar Cube & Club Soda (or Simple Syrup)
2-3 Dashes Angostura Bitters
2 oz. Bourbon or Rye Whiskey
1 Orange Twist

To mix the cocktail, start with a tumbler (or rocks glass, whatever you prefer to call it). Splash just enough club soda over the sugar cube to dissolve the sugar (it won't dissolve in alcohol, so making sure it dissolves now is very important. For a little less fuss, you can use a splash of simple syrup to taste (I went this route this weekend, .

Next, add 2-3 dashes of bitters (to taste).

If you're going to add ice, do it now. I prefer one large ice cube, as it provides a very slow and steady dilution while chilling the drink quite fast, but I'm stuck with my refrigerator ice-maker. No biggie, but smaller cubes = more water. If you want chilled with minimal dilution, you can mix this in a shaker and then strain the ice, but that is not very traditional.

Anyway, add 2 oz. of whiskey over the ice (I prefer bourbon for something a tad sweeter, but Rye is considered a traditional ingredient as well).

Garnish with an orange peel (you can squeeze it to get some of those citrus-y oils mixed in). Stir lightly and enjoy.

Now, I've read some traditionalists who say there is no muddled fruit, no vermouth, no maraschino cherries, but I had a drink this weekend with all of those that was quite tasty. Perhaps not a real Old Fashioned, but hey, if it tastes good...I'm not complaining.

The finished product.

Editor's Note: Along the lines of variations, by far the best Old Fashioned I have ever had was crafted at Rhine Hall in Chicago. A brandy distillery, they use their fantastic apple brandy in place of the bourbon...I'm not sure how the rest of the recipe varies but holy hell that's one tasty drink.

Cucumber Gin Fizz:
For today's second cocktail, we're doing a quick 180. Where the Old Fashioned is a bit hearty and a bit manly, hopefully we'll soon be sipping drinks pool-side and will need something much lighter and more refreshing - and lady-pleasing (although I'm not trying to insinuate that the gals won't enjoy the whiskey as well). For that, my all-time favorite (and not-so-coincidentally my girlfriend's, as well) is the cucumber gin fizz. I have no idea if that is the official name, but I'm sticking with it. Because it just makes sense.

This one takes a bit more prep, between slicing and peeling and muddling the produce, but is still relatively simple. You'll need:

Fresh Mint
3 Cucumber Slices
1/2 oz. Simple Syrup
2 oz. Hendrick's Gin
Limes (or 1/2-1 oz. lime juice)
Club Soda

First, take about 4-5 leaves of mint and two peeled slices of cucumber and muddle them thoroughly in a shaker. Next, add the liquids: you'll use about 1/2 oz simple syrup, 1/2-1 oz lime juice (depending on taste), and 2 oz gin. We prefer Hendrick's, since it's already infused with cucumbery goodness, but we suppose other gins will suffice. Add a handful of ice and shake vigorously for about a minute. This will not only get everything nice and cold, but will also really get all of those cucumber and mint juices mixed into the cocktail.

Fill a highball cocktail glass about halfway with ice, and strain the cocktail over the ice. Top with club soda and a un-peeled cucumber slice garnish. Sip, and relax.

The finished product.
As far as this drink goes, variations will be plenty, and will all probably be freakin' fantastic. Some with vodka, some skip the lime or mint, some have pureed cucumber mixed in, and every one that I've had has hit the spot.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Deals and Steals for the Weekend - 4/25/2014

Wooo the week is almost over, and you know what that means: time for Deals and Steals. This week, I'm re-visiting some pieces from older posts that have just now popped up at some better-than-usual prices:

30% Off Select Styles at J.Crew (code GOSHOP):
I think I've said this before, but it seems like J.Crew is running a perpetual sale, and they just filter in and out the items that the discount is applied to. 99% of the time, this means that they exclude anything from their Ludlow collection (which stinks, because their Ludlow suits are pretty darn sharp but very darn expensive). This time around, that rule doesn't seem to be least not for this incredibly tempting unstructured cotton blazer that I was eyeing up in a post about two weeks back:
Ludlow Sport Coat in Mini-Houndstooth Cotton | J.Crew
Honestly, the regular price of $188 ain't too bad for a J.Crew blazer, but the 30% discount takes it down to barely over $130, which is like, Frank and Oak prices. I was just given an almost identical jacket as a gift, or this would be on the way to my house right now.

While at J.Crew, check out the rest of the sale - like I said, items seem to be coming and going so it's worth a browse, even if you've looked recently. Previous discounts have been limited to already-marked-down merchandise, but this one branches out, so be sure to check the full-price listings as well. For yet another item that I would buy now if I hadn't just gotten something similar, check out these 'striped' linen trousers:
Bowery Slim in Navy Stripe Irish Linen | J.Crew
The stripe really looks to be super-fine, maybe even a textural thing? Like a whipcord? Anyway, from the looks of it, they appear pretty much solid, making these a great summer alternative for your standard navy chinos. Marked down to $70 (originally $100), they aren't cheap, but don't expect to find good-quality linen trousers for much less.

Spring Sale at Frank & Oak (plus $25 off with our referral link):
Sales only pop up at Frank & Oak every so often, but when they do, they tend to last a while and have increasingly well discounted items. This one is already well underway, and as I was browsing through, this varsity jacket immediately popped out at me:

French Terry Varsity Zip-Up | Frank & Oak
Remember last week's piece on testing new trends? This would have made a perfect selection to go with my black/white ensemble, and the reduced price of $42 plops it well into that sweet spot of cheap enough to not be a huge risk. Plus, even if Frank & Oak are hit or miss at times, I'll be willing to bet this is better quality than the Forever 21 number I picked out before - bonus.

Like I said, sales at Frank and Oak tend to get better the longer they last, and this one is no exception. I just got an e-mail in the past day or so announcing further reductions on shirts, and they have a few marked down to only $20 - over half off and cheaper than even Target! There's a nice variety available, and my recommendation goes to this blue plaid shirt:
New Haven Plaid Shirt | Frank & Oak
If you're looking to transition your fall and winter plaid styles into a more spring/summer friendly outlet, this shirt is the way to go. The colors are very spring-timey, with light blues and greens, but doesn't take the full dive into over-saturated madras (though I do love me a good madras shirt).

Feel free to use our referral link for an extra $25 off if this is your first Frank & Oak order.

New Arrivals at the Knottery:
Ok, this one is admittedly a bit of a stretch to pull from an old blog post, but I did mention The Knottery back in my post on rainy-day essentials. At that point, I was highlighting their bright knit ties as a way to fight the spring doldrums, but now I'm coming back to them as they release a new handful of options specifically for the summer season. I'll go ahead and give credit to Valet for pointing out these awesome new pieces made from Japanese cotton:
Indigo Stripe Tie | The Knottery
Indigo-dyed Japanese cotton is huge these days, and the attention is well deserved, because it's a fantastic-looking fabric. Lot's of character, bright but not bold, deep and rich...what's not to love? Ok, so the normal prices on this stuff are probably not to love. These ties, however, remain solidly affordable in standard Knottery fashion, clocking in at just $35.

They've also added some 'summer knit' ties, which are more loosely woven. I don't necessarily think the weave is more summery as much as it is just an alternative style (Lands End, I believe, makes loose-knit ties year round), but I still love the look.
Solid Silk Summer Knit Tie | The Knottery
I'm a navy/blue addict, so I would grab this one, although there are a few other colors and patterns available. Again, these are marked at $35, a great price for a 100% silk tie of this caliber.

SuitSupply at Huckberry:
Alrighty, we'll close it out with a quick peek at SuitSupply on sale. This like, never happens. Yeah, they had their 'Outlet' with some crazy markdowns last fall, but that was pretty short-lived and there has been less and less word about it coming back. Point is, you can imagine my excitement when I saw just a few SuitSupply suits hanging out in 'The Wedding Shop of Camp Huckberry USA.' There look to be only three options available, but they are smart picks - summer fabrics and staple colors (SuitSupply is kind of known for their more fashion-forward fabrics, so it's nice that the limited selection isn't too out there). Of the three, I love this blue cotton suit:

Copenhagen Suit in Blue | SuitSupply via Huckberry
It's cut in their Copenhagen fit, which they describe as their slimmest fit, which is perfect for a scrawny guy like me. I also love the way that a slim, tailored cut plays with the more relaxed, unstructured construction for a balance that can be dressed up or down as needed - versatility is the name of the game, as always. Best part, Huckberry knocked about $70 off of each option, with this one coming to just under $400 after the discount. Snag em while you can.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Birkenstocks are Back - Yea or Nay?

I’m back on the grind after a brief break for a weekend trip to San Francisco. It was my first time to the West Coast, and we had an incredible time, man, what a beautiful city! We’ll definitely be back. 

While we were traveling, I got an e-mail blast from J.Crew - I can’t remember the subject exactly but it went something like “Yes, You Can Wear Sandals” or “Birkenstocks Are Back” or a combination of the two, and had this conflicting surge of emotions. Ok, ok, so really, sandals and Birkenstocks don’t evoke surges of emotion, but there were some battling feelings for sure.
Birkenstock for J.Crew | Arizona Sandals
You see, on one hand, I’ve quickly latched on to the idea that men should never wear sandals in public - the only exceptions being the pool and the beach (and the shower-room, but I don’t consider that to be in public). Why? Part of it just goes to function - I believe you should use things for what they were designed to be used for, and the same way that undershirts should be treated as underwear, flip-flops and sandals in general should be treated as resort-wear. Another part is that guys feet are ugly. Girls feet can be small and dainty and cute, but guys feet are always callused, knobby and crooked. I don’t care who you are. It’s a curse. With that in mind, we should cover them up, as a favor to the rest of the world! Last, to me, sandals in public are just kind of lazy, and sacrifice style for a misperceived (an in reality practically non-existent) increase in comfort - like wearing gym shorts, or sweats.

On the other hand, I was raised by hippies, and couldn’t be happier about that! And nothing goes more hand-in-hand than hippies and Birkenstocks. Therefore, something about the classic style of sandal says way more ‘summers in the backyard’ and ‘music festival’ than it does dorm shower room or sloppy beach-goer (like most other sandals). For that matter, nostalgia aside, the Birkenstock isn’t a bad looking piece of footwear. The leather straps and buckles are well made, and you can tell. Even better, they don’t look like someone took a shower shoe and tried to dress it up (like leather thong sandals), and instead look comfortable in their own…shoes…or whatever. On first instinct, I’d say I won’t be snagging these any time soon, but the more I think about it, the more I could see myself tossing these on for a summer walk with the dog or a BBQ in the park. With J.Crew throwing their hat in the game with a limited collar (and updating the look with some snazzy white soles), the style might just be joining the preppy-menswear-mainstream right along with brogues and penny loafers.

What do you guys think? Running at $130.00, yea or nay? Would you wear them? More pictures and details below and at J.Crew:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Off For the Weekend!

Sorry folks, no 'Deals and Steals' this week. I'm traveling to the West Coast (San Francisco, to be exact) to celebrate my birthday, my fourth anniversary with my girlfriend, and to visit some good friends. Unbelievably pumped, but I need to be at the airport in oooh, 7ish hours as I'm writing, so yep, no big post going up before I leave.

I'll be back in action next Wednesday, so check back in then. Meanwhile, check out the archives, shoot me an e-mail and say hi, follow us on all the social networks, or just, you know, go about your lives, ha.

If you really need your menswear fix, I'll leave you with this: This will be my first time in SF, and we won't have a ton of time, so I'm keeping my own menswear-related activities to a bit of a minimum. That said, I will be visiting:

Uniqlo, because we still don't have a damn store here in Chicago, and I hate paying for shipping. I'm 100% getting a MB x Uniqlo Polo, and my gal has promised me a new linen/cotton blazer (I've got my eye on this one).

I'm also planning a quick stop in at Unionmade, but probably will do my wallet a favor and just kinda window shop. I'll surely be drooling over their selection of impeccable Alden shoes.

I'm also very excited to be meeting/hanging out with some other industry insiders, including Barron Cuadro of Effortless Gent, who I've been working with for the past few months, and Jake Kuzceruk, CMO of Tie Society (one of our reviewed and endorsed menswear services) as well as one my first un-official mentors in the industry.

Have a great weekend, I know I will!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How To Test a New Trend

Menswear folk preach timeless style all the time, and you'll read on many blogs tons of advice and comments instructing you to avoid trends. In general, I tend to agree - to an extent. Yes, timeless pieces are just that - timeless - and as such, will probably be the more long-lasting versatile pieces in your wardrobe, and as such, are the ones worth investing in. However, trends shouldn't be ruled out entirely. For one thing, some of those trends do end up graduating to timeless status. If we never tried anything new, we'd still be wearing togas, or caveman skins. Even classic style evolves, and that can't happen without people trying new things. Also, timeless can get boring...sometimes you need to jump off a cliff and do something exciting, new, and fun.

So how do you go about testing a new trend? My recommendation is to dip your toes in the water before you dive in (although I did just make a reference to jumping off a cliff...). The trick is to find a way to try out a new style without investing yourself so heavily that if, as many trends do, yours falls to the wayside in a few months, you're out a chunk of change and stuck with some expensive and now useless crap.

With that in mind, you'll want to treat these trends exactly the opposite of how you treat timeless pieces. Instead of focusing on construction and quality, and saving your money to invest in a truly worthwhile piece, look instead for quick fixes - inexpensive options that embody the heart of the trend but don't require you to hand over a month's pay. Skip all the painstaking research, go with your gut, but go cheap.

For example, I've really been digging this microtrend lately of stark black and white outfits - especially in more casual terms. It's definitely a more street-wear friendly look, which isn't one I usually go for (tending instead to stick to a nice preppy/prepster balance). I'm thinking black jeans, some black leather trainers, a bright white tee, and a black bomber jacket. Something like one of these looks:

John Legend (photo via Créme de la Créme) | Anthony Urbano (photo via Closet Freaks)         
I've been so tempted to try it out, but I'm almost certain it's not going to be a strong player in my 'fit rotation, and might even just be relegated to a few wears. Therefore, I'm not even starting to look at premium denim, designer sneakers, or classic bomber jackets (I would spend some $$ on a tee, but only because everyone can use a white tee, and I'll rock that part for as long as it lasts). 

Instead, I'm going as cheap as possible. I just grabbed a pair of lightly used Levi's on eBay for around $12 (shipping included). If it weren't for those, I'd pick up this pair from H&M (a store I usually skip). I found a bomber jacket at Forever 21 (where I also wouldn't normally even consider shopping) in an especially fashion-forward mixed-media for only $30 . I actually already have a white tee that I copped from Bonobos, on sale for around $10, but you can score one for the same price at Uniqlo year-round. Even the trainers, I'm grabbing for just $45 at Vans. Voila, an entire (on trend) outfit for well under $100 (which wouldn't even cover the shoes for a 'timeless' ensemble):

This way, no matter the outcome of my little experiment, I'm only out a small amount of money. If I like the look, I can take some more time and spend some more money to get pieces really worth being proud of, and swap them out for my cheapskate options over time. If I'm not so fond of the look, like I said, little skin off my back (way less than if I went high-end on everything right off the bat). 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Made-To-Measure Customizations ft. Proper Cloth

Ever since getting my first Made-To-Measure shirt last spring, I've been hooked. There's just something about wearing a shirt that was made just for you that feels above and beyond even the nicest off-the-rack shirting (in my humble opinion), and with the surge in online MTM options, going custom isn't quite the exclusive club it used to be.

That said, going the MTM route can be kind of intimidating, understandably. While most MTM clothiers offer pre-styled options, I personally think half the fun of ordering custom is getting to pick out all the little details. However, you really need to know where to start, and what each of those custom decisions is going to say. Made-to-measure clothier Proper Cloth has been kind enough to provide a shirt for a future review, and I'm going to walk you through my customizations (all screen shots are taken directly from the Proper Cloth website):


First up is your choice of fabrics, and this will probably be the one you are already the most comfortable with, as you make similar decisions when you buy OTR. Some MTM brands offer a crazy number of fabrics (see Modern Tailor), others offer very few, and I think Proper Cloth falls pretty comfortably in the middle. As you'll notice as we get farther along, the biggest difference your choices will make lie in the formality of your shirt - certain fabrics and patterns are inherently much more casual, while others are dressier. In general, heavier fabrics tend to be more casual, although there are some nice twills that dress up very well. For the most part, fabric and pattern will be based on personal taste, but I recommend focusing on finding a versatile option that you will be able to wear with everything - if this is your first venture into MTM shirting, I can safely bet that this will quickly become your favorite shirt and you'll want to wear it as much as possible. 

Even for myself, after having a few custom shirts in my wardrobe, I'm choosing a solid oxford cloth, and the only limiting factor in it's wearability is the fact that it's a heavier fabric and might be warm in the summer. 

Collar Style:

Next up is collar style, and like I mentioned before, your choice here will say a lot about the formality of your shirt. Proper Cloth offers 23 collar options, many of which differ only very slightly, so it helps to know what you are looking for: 

Going for a casual shirt? Button-down collars are traditionally reserved for more casual shirts, like OCBD's - some guys will even go as far as saying that a button-down collar should never be worn with a suit. I'm not that strict with my rules, but I agree with the general mentality. Within the button-down category are a few options, mostly different in collar height and width of spread. From proper cloth, their Colorado Button Down is probably the most modern with a wider spread and shorter height, but I'm partial to the coveted collar-roll of the Soft Ivy option. The longer the point and narrower the spread, the more conservative the look, and I think the Soft Ivy cuts a nice balance.

On the dressier side of things, you have your point and spread collars. Proper Cloth, like most MTM retailers, offers one standard point collar (which offers a more conservative, office-friendly style), but several spread collar options. For the most part, the spread collars will differ in the width of the spread and the height of the points, and the difference speaks largely to the modernity and 'fashion-forward-ness' (for lack of a real word) of the style. The wider the spread, the more flair - maybe not necessarily more dressy (a point collar with a narrow spread can be just as formal), but definitely bolder and more rakish. 

It's not 100% personal taste, though, as your body type will dictate, to some extent, the proportions that will work for you (which is what custom is all about, anyway). A shorter collar will look proportionate on a smaller guy, whereas it might look childishly small on a tall or large man. Likewise, a very wide spread (which usually calls for a wider tie), can swallow a skinny guy's neck. There's definitely some room in either direction, but it's something to be aware of. 

Beyond button-down, spread, and point collars, there are a few more unique collar choices: 

For example, do you like the functionality of a button-down, but want a dressier look? Try the hidden button-down, which is exactly what it sounds like. the button-holes don't go the whole way through the collar, so they are invisible when fastened (but still hold the collar to your shirt).

Other options include the wingtip, which should be reserved for tuxedo shirts, the band collar, which is seeing some popularity as a casual, summery option, and the club collar which has a cool, rockabilly, 50's vibe. These can make cool choices, but again, I recommend aiming for versatility, which these tend to lack.

Cuff Style:

After choosing your collar, you have a variety of cuff options to pick from as well. Again, your choice will mainly affect the formality of your shirt. French cuffs are the most formal option, and you should only wear these with a jacket (and remember that they will require cuff-links as well, if you don't already own a pair). The convertible cuff is a nice in-between option that gives you the best of both worlds - links when you want em, buttons when you don't. If you opt for buttoned (which I usually do, again for versatility), there are still a few options to pick from. I find the two-button cuffs to be more formal, with just a bit more structure - I actually caught on to Frank Underwood rocking the two-button cuff on House of Cards and think of his sleek, refined style whenever I see these. You'll also be able to pick the finishing of the corners - mitered, rounded, square - which make pretty negligible differences in my eyes. For your most casual shirts, a soft cuff will give you the most laid-back, easy-going style. 

Pocket or no pocket? To some extent, like always, this is down to personal taste, but a pocket is traditionally seen as a more casual accouterments, and going pocket-less definitely lends to a sleeker, more formal profile. 

At this point, if you're rocking Proper Cloth, click 'more style options' for, well, more style options:

I love that Proper Cloth is offering a popover option now, and I'm hoping to see that available at more and more retailers as the style gains popularity. That said, the popover style, as well as the tuxedo style, are pretty niche options, and you should know if that's what you want. Between the rest, as usual, it comes down to formality. Basically, the more stitching you see, the more casual - which makes sense, as you tend to look for more streamlined looks when going more formal or dressy. That said, a standard front placket is widely versatile, and will only be too casual in the most formal of settings (I wouldn't wear one with a tux or dinner jacket, per se). Other end of the spectrum, the hidden placket, is going to be far too formal for most occasions, unless you're going for some serious sartorial flair. 

You will also see the option to pick a split yoke or solid yoke. Often, a split yoke comes at a higher price, because the two pieces across the shoulders (as opposed to one) require special attention in order to match patterns or textures. For the most part, a split yoke is preferred, as the construction method actually allows for a more freedom of movement and therefore a more comfortable wear. I would only avoid this option if I was not so confident in the skill of the people constructing the shirt.


A few other MTM retailers that I've used have offered a full range of button colors, but I think Proper Cloth offers all you need. For the most part, you just want to compliment the colors on your shirt - 9 times out of 10, Mother of Pearl is the way to go. I only opt for dark buttons with particularly dark shirts, as I don't like a lot of contrast between the shirt and buttons (personal preference). For lighter colors, MOP is a bit heartier, and a bit classier. It'll usually cost you a couple extra bucks, but I think it's worth it. If you're concerned about buttons breaking, or are picking a more casual shirt (like an OCBD), the tall mother of pearl option will be a bit more solid. I like that Proper Cloth includes a brown horn option, which I think would play very well with more patterned shirts (that aren't strictly light or dark). 


Do it. Especially with Proper Cloth, who I don't believe charge any extra. This is your custom shirt, and having that little touch that marks it as such just feels good, even if you get one that no one else will see. If you put your monogram in a visible position, pick a thread that closely matches your shirt color in order to create a more subtle effect. However, if you are placing the monogram somewhere hidden (like inside the collar), feel free to go bold and bright. Regardless, it's something that should be there more for you than anyone else. I tend to opt for either a cuff, which looks very classy peeking out from a jacket sleeve, or the back of the collar if I want it to stay hidden.

And that pretty much wraps it up. There are a few minor adjustments you can still make, such as watch allowance, which will leave one sleeve slightly wider at the cuff to fit a timepiece underneath, pleats or darts which will affect the slimness of the shirt, and sometimes options as to the shape of the hemline (more curved to better stay tucked, or flatter to look better untucked).

If you're still unsure (which hopefully you are, at least, less so after reading this), play around with designs for a while, design a few shirts, and see what you end up with. I do this for fun all the time, picking out all the details without actually committing to a purchase. It's a good though exercise, to get you really thinking about the choices you make. It's not so much about making right vs. wrong choices (although there are some rules to follow and some to break), but more-so about making deliberate decisions and understanding why you are making them. 

For kicks, I'm including my specs for my most recent order below: 
Fabric: Thomas Mason Light Pink Oxford
Collar Style: Soft Ivy Button Down
Cuff Style: Soft One Button
Pocket: One Chest Pocket
Placket: Soft Front Placket (although I'm very tempted to try out the popover)
Yoke: Split Yoke
Buttons: Tall Mother of Pearl
Monogram: Back of Collar in Burgundy

As this is my first purchase from Proper Cloth, I'll be reviewing the shirt once it arrives, so keep your eyes open!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Deals and Steals for the Weekend - 4/11/2014

Before we get started, check this out: Cool Material has been one of my favorite sites since waaay before I could begin to call myself stylish. Most of the feed is just what it sounds like, with featurettes on just cool stuff (just check it out, everything is awesome, and I want it). They also have an ongoing series called 'Wear This,' where menswear bloggers and industry insiders put together curated outfit recommendations. I had the pleasure of drafting up my own, and it was published today! Check it out here, and add Cool Material to your list.

OK, you know what's coming next:
"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, I don't know how much you all liked last week's list, which was focused pretty heavily on J.Crew, but I'm gonna do it again. Similarly to the J.Crew sale (still going on here), Club Monaco is offering an extra 50% off their sale items, and just like J.Crew, there was way too much inexpensive awesomeness to limit to the normal two picks. Thus, a Club Monaco focused list it is:

Extra 50% Off off Clearance (code SPRING50):
Alright, this sale might be even better than last week's J.Crew one, because some of this stuff is unbelievably cheap. Proof: These classy khaki shorts, just $10 (originally $60):
10 1/2" Lemon Maddox Short | Club Monaco
With a 10 1/2" inseam, this will hit just an inch or two above the knee, which is just short enough to look grown-up without showing too much leg. Just like your chinos, a khaki color is about as versatile as it gets, making these a ridiculously good value.

Go up just a few bucks and you can score some lightweight slim chinos for just $15 (originally $70):
Lightweight Davis Chino | Club Monaco
Most of the other chinos in the sale section are in absurdly bright colors, but luckily these are much more neutral. I'm a big fan of this burgundy shade, which I picked out last year as a fall color, but will still serve you well through the year. The 'Blue Moon' color adds a bit more spring-timey brightness without going all dayglow on you.

There are a decent number of option for shirts as well, most hovering around the $30 mark (post-discount). The list includes some nice crew-necks and dressier button-ups, but this casual work shirt is what really caught my eye:
Slim-Fit Checked Workshirt | Club Monaco
I didn't even think about it until I saw this, but I've found a bunch of options to brighten up my more formal dress shirts for the spring and summer, but I haven't paid much attention to my casual button-ups. At just $20, knocked down from $90, this is a solid and cheap pick.

Don't be afraid to look a little higher up the price line, too, as there are some blazers that are definitely worth checking out. There's this jacket, in a brown and white stripe that's neutral, and will match with almost anything, but is still definitely unique:
Grant Corded Stripe Jacket | Club Monaco
Originally not cheap at $330, the discount brings this down to a Uniqlo-cheap price of just $80. Hot damn. 

They've also got this option, which they're calling a suit blazer. I'm not 100% sure what they mean by the 'suit' part...maybe there are matching pants? Regardless, it will make a fantastic summer sport coat on it's own:
Grant Poplin Suit Blazer | Club Monaco
It's made from a lightweight poplin and looks to only be partially lined, which will help you stay cool when the weather heats up this summer. It does cost a bit more than the previous pick, but it's still very affordable at $115 (also originally $330).

I'll leave it at that for CM, but definitely check out the rest of the selection, there's a ton there.

On top of Club Monaco, I found two more deals that I gotta share:

Last Chance for Discounted Pre-Orders from Beckett Simonon:
Beckett Simonon has made the list before for their full-price shoes, which are unusually affordable for their high quality to begin with. This spring, they are releasing a new batch of styles, and for just a few more days (until April 15th, I believe), you can pre-order the new options at a discount (up to 30% off - plus get $25 credit with our referral link). There's not a bad looking shoe in the batch, in my opinion, but I'm on the hunt for some warm-weather loafers, like these suede, tasseled bad boys:
Blake-Constructed Venza Slippers | Beckett Simonon
Love the rich chocolate suede, love the sleek, slipper-like silhouette, love the $114 price (originally $140).

The suede guys are admittedly a bit fashion forward, but Beckett Simonon also has these penny loafers in a more traditional style and color:
Goodyear-Welted Cohen Loafers | Beckett Simonon
I really like the shape on these. It's sleek enough to be a summer shoe, but not pointy or 'dainty.' These also clock in at $115, down from $140. They've also got some nice-looking monkstraps and a couple of chunk-soled options worth checking out.

Early Access to the Bonobos Spring Sale:
I'm ending things with two pretty safe picks from the Bonobos sale (plus, get $25 off your first order with our referral link), . They always have some darn cheap chinos in their sale section, but the selection is often limited to some wilder colors, or unflattering cuts. I was pretty excited to see some more neutral, classic colors available in their stellar slim-straight cut:
Seanotes Slim Straight Chinos | Bonobos
This blue isn't as dark as your go-to navy, but it's very subdued, not in-your-face bright at all. I think it would make a great seasonal alternative to that navy, and at $48 (originally $88) it will barely set you back.

Also knocked down to an affordable $48, these brown chinos are actually something I've been looking for (on sale, of course), for a while now: 
Mochachinos in Slim Straight | Bonobos
These would have worked great all winter long, but they'll still come in very handy through the summer, grounding bright gingham shirts with a foundation of earthy neutrality. 

That's a wrap!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Hunt Is On...

Took a few days offline for some R&R while we had friends in town, but I'm back at it.

It’s still  a bit too early for a 'summer shopping list,' or even a spring one, but it's not too early to start hunting for some key pieces. A lot of spring/summer essentials are easy to find when it starts to warm up, but there are some that either remain frustratingly elusive in general, or that I’ve developed such critical tastes in that it takes me forever to find exactly what I want.

This year, there are three main items that I’ll be hunting:

The first is a lightweight blazer. This is a perfect example of that item that you can find everywhere, but that I can never find exactly what I want. I’ll be the first to admit that this is purely because I’m picky as hell, and know exactly what I want: An unlined blazer, made from cotton, linen, or a blend thereof, unstructured, with natural shoulders. I came really close with my Uniqlo blazer last summer, and I may very well end up with another from their line again this season, but I'm doing my damnedest to find something a bit less chopped, and with a slightly lower button stance.

This newly released option from J.Crew would probably be just about as perfect as it gets, but I'm not sure I can stomach the price quite yet:
Ludlow Unconstructed Sportcoat in Mini-Houndstooth Cotton | J.Crew - $188
Same goes for these options from Hugh & Crye (true, it's in wool, but a loose hop-sack weave that should breathe well in the heat) and Bonobos...fingers crossed that something ends up on a sale rack!
(Editor's Note: I didn't realize until I was formatting this to publish that the J.Crew option is actually the cheapest of all of these...that's going to be damn tempting if it's ever eligible for even a small discount...I'll be watching eagerly, for sure).

Next on my list is a new pair of Sperry Top-Siders. This is similar to the blazer in that, come summer, you can find Sperry's EVERYWHERE. Even better, you can always find some that are being offered for a crazy discounted price, but you usually have to take what you can get, as far as colors and styles go. However, after realizing last year that every pair goes on sale at some point, my tactic this year is to keep my eyes open, stay patient, and wait until I see that exact pair drop down to like, half price.  Last year I scored a pair of boat shoes in a classic brown color. This year I’m going to step out of the box a bit, either in navy, suede, or a two-tone combination. No bright colors, though, and no crazy contrast soles. Right now, I'm watching these in navy like a hawk for a good discount to pop up:
Gold Cup Authentic Original 2-Eye Original Boat Shoe | Sperry - $150

Last is one I’ll be hunting for truly because I can’t find any (at least at a price I can handle). I desperately want a lightweight, breezy linen shirt - but I want it in a dress cut that I can wear with a tie to the office - spread collar, slim fit, a little less rumpled, a little more pressed and proper. These do pop up now and then, but more often from high end shirt makers, while the affordable options tend to remain much more casual, beach-y with that 90's Miami vibe. Everlane has a line of slim linen shirts coming out later this summer that will probably fit the bill, but I don't know if I can wait that long! 

Coming soon at Everlane....
Meanwhile, I'm taking a trip to SF this month, so I'm going to swing into the Uniqlo store and see if their linen options will work until then (however, they don't offer a slim fit, so I have a feeling it's going to be on the loose side):
Premium Linen Long-Sleeve Shirt | Uniqlo - $29.90
 I'll keep y'all posted...

What are you hunting for this season? Share in the comments below:

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Deals and Steals for the Weekend - 4/4/2014

"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!"

Ok, so I was browsing around for deals, and got entirely immersed in the J.Crew sale selection. So much good stuff, such great prices, I couldn't resist picking out way more than the standard two pieces. We'll call it the J.Crew spotlight, plus some extra goodies at the end. Enjoy:

Extra 50% Off Final Sale Items at J.Crew:
Allllrighty so we'll start things off with one foot still in cold weather. I've had my eye on this quilted shirt-jacket since I included it in a course I wrote for Cladright (check it out, I got another course coming up this spring). I might have even had it in a 'Deals and Steals' post already. Normally $170, this is pretty expensive at full retail price, but every so often it ends up at a crazy discount, and I always kick myself for not grabbing one. Maybe this time will be the clincher, as the extra % off has it down to only $60. 
Quilted Shirt-Jacket | J.Crew
Especially at such a steal, this is a ton of bang for the buck. It's light enough to wear into spring, and slim enough to wear under a few layers when it gets all frigid again next winter. Also available in an olive color that hits the military trend spot-on.

Next on the long J.Crew list is this Ludlow dress shirt in a plaid Thomas Mason fabric. Thomas Mason fabrics are widely renowned and usually hella expensive (take a look at the starting price of $170). Already pretty heavily discounted, the extra markdown has this at a pretty unheard of price of just $50:
Ludlow Shirt in 1903 Tartan | Thomas Mason Archive for J.Crew
The pattern is fantastic too...there's a lot of visual interest in the plaid, but the colors are muted enough to make this easy to pair. Spread collar, slim fit, all sizes available, it's a knockout winner, and you won't see a deal like this very often, for sure. 

There are actually a bunch of nice shirts in the sale section, but we just picked out one more. This floral patterned shirt is about as good as it will get for a guy looking to try out the trend, but hesitant to end up with anything too bold or, well, flowery:
Slim Indigo Shirt in Floral Print | J.Crew
First, it's plenty affordable, down to $30 after the discount (originally $88), which means it's not a huge risk either way. On top of that, the colors are all just a bit faded...the blue isn't super saturated, and the flowers are almost barely there, rather than a bright contrasting white. It's the kind of pattern that's almost hard to notice from a distance, but has all the interesting ingredients once you get up close. It's a great buy as we head into spring weather.

And to wrap up the J.Crew list this week, we've got our eyes on summer and hot days by the pool (or at the beach). I'm long overdue for a new pair of swim shorts, and these board shorts are definitely a contender.
7" Board Short in Oxford Cloth | J.Crew
I've never heard of an oxford cloth swim short before, and I'm not 100% sure how that would turn out, but I'm very tempted. Oxford shirts are one of my favorite things, so it would make sense that this would end up a winner in my book as well. The color is a just-right pale blue (have you notice that I like blue a lot?) that won't make you look too pasty while you're still working on your first tan, and the low price of $17.50 (down from $70), is - yup - a steal.

Check out the rest of the sale, there are ton of great finds in the 50% off section, and even more (not on final sale) at a 30% discount. Great chance to stock up as the seasons change.

Everyday Low Prices from Vans:
So, admittedly no discount here, but with the already low prices of Vans shoes, it's still a great chance to grab some canvas kicks in time for summer. Two pairs in particular stood out to me. First are these in a faded green for $55:
Brushed Twill Authentic in Granite Green | Vans
I love the color (it fits in very well with the seasonal color-scheme I laid out last week)...just unusual enough to be unique, but subtle enough that they won't be hard to match. For me, though, the real winning element is the leather laces. I wish you could opt for these as an option on all Vans, except I guess I'd have an even harder time narrowing down my choices.

For those of you looking for more of a classic, look no further than a pair of off-white Vans Authentic Originals:
Canvas Authentic in Off White | Vans
There are a few options very similar to this (brighter whites, contrast soles, etc.), but in the general white canvas category, these are my favorite. I think the off-white will wear in really well, and the blue trim breaks things up just enough that it's not one solid white blob (although I think some leather laces would look fantastic here too). At just $45, these are a very affordable option for a summer sneaker.

Grayers via Huckberry:
Last but not least, we have a few selections from Grayers available on Huckberry. Huckberry is a flash sale site similar to Gilt or MYHABIT, but with more of an outdoorsy focus, a more tightly curated selection, and an emphasis on quality (although slightly leaner discounts). Use my link (here) for $5 credit when you sign up.

I don't have personal experience with Grayers, but they have a solid rep, and I've been seeing them pop up in some very nice Instagram shots lately, so I was already interested when I saw them on Huckberry. The selection isn't too wide, but I found a few pieces I really dig. First is this selvedge chambray shirt, marked down to $70 from $95.
Selvedge Chambray Shirt | Grayers via Huckberry
It's not exactly cheap, but it's probably one of the lowest prices you'll see for a selvedge chambray shirt. It's got a great balance of rugged and refined, fantastic for casual gear, but definitely polished enough to work into a more dressy look. And yeah, chambray just rocks.

Last, this sweatshirt really caught my eye. It's got an awesome, throwback 70's surfer vibe that just screams summer. The description lists it as super lightweight, which will make it a great layering piece for cool summer nights.
Onlan Crew Neck Pullover | Grayers via Huckberry
This one has a pretty nice discount, too, knocked down to under $60 from a starting price of around $80. And damn, it just looks so comfortable.

And there you have it, another week down!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Socks - How To Choose 'Em

I recently professed my love of socks, one of the things that I have a zillion of and can't stop buying. Eventually, you get to a point where you have some in every color and pattern, and it can seem a little daunting to pick out a pair that doesn't clash. Sure, they might be covered by your pants most of the day, but those times that they do flash, you want the proper effect.

And that's really what it comes down to. What's the effect that you want? You really have two choices. The first is definitely the most basic. You just want to match. You don't want to stand out, you have no urges to inject your look with a pop of color, you want to be stylish but unobtrusive. If this is your motivator, simply pick socks to match your pants. A lot of people waiver between matching their pants or matching their shoes, and let's end that hesitation here and now - always match your pants, never your shoes. By matching your pants, you make your legs look longer, which is a good thing for 90% of guys out there (that's an exact statistic, by the way). Comparatively, if you match your shoes, your legs can look cut off at the ankle. Also, if you're wearing some snazzy kicks, the lack of contrast between your footwear will make them far less likely to shine. 

Thompson Chino Suit Pant in Navy paired with Basic Crew Socks in Navy | J.Crew Factory

The second effect is to show a little pizazz around the ankle...whether it be that pop of color, a flashy pattern, or even some subtle texture. I'm sure there are tons of methods to doing this, but my personal method is to pick a part of your upper outfit (above the waist), and try to play off that piece. This may be your shirt, your tie, even something as small as a pocket square. This is a great way to really make your outfit a whole, with correlation between the top and bottom halves. There's not necessarily anything wrong with it, but it's very easy to have one outfit from the waist down, and another, not necessarily clashing, but unrelated outfit from the waist up. 

However, you do NOT want to match exactly - a faux pas almost as bad as wearing a matching tie and pocket square. Instead, compliment. An easy way to do this is to match solid with patterned, and vice versa. If you have a patterned tie (or pocket square, or shirt, or whatever you are trying to match), pick one color from that pattern, and match it with a solid sock. If you have a solid tie, go ahead and rock a patterned sock that shares one color with the tie. Once you are confident in your pattern matching, go ahead and mix things up, but be careful not to get too out of hand and risk looking clownish. This is your clothing, not a costume. 

Summer Plaid Tie (patterned) paired with Basic Crew Socks in Navy (solid) | J.Crew Factory

Red Chambray Tie (solid) paired with Triple Stripe Socks (patterned) | J.Crew Factory
Bonus Tip: The scale of the pattern tends to be directly proportional to the casualness. Pin dot socks, or fine stripes, perfectly OK for business attire. Large polka dots, rugby stripes? Probably best kept to more casual occasions.

OK, after giving all that advice, I just gotta say, socks are a great place to stretch your sartorial wings, largely because they are so low-risk. They do stay hidden most of the day, so if you experiment a bit and it doesn't work out, you're not going to be running around looking like a fool all day. So have some fun! Try something new!