Sunday, January 29, 2012

Join the sartorial revolution.

... and it all starts with a sports jacket.

You look in the mirror and get that hair perfectly quaffed in a vertical spike that tilts back just a little, looks great -- now for the clothing. A black t-shirt with a spirited set of words scrolled on the chest, and to cover your hindquarters, you choose that red pair of knee length shorts that coordinate perfectly creating a harmony that you have spent decades honing and it defines you -- it is you! Your friends know it as you, you feel comfortable, and you don’t think you can be done any better. You go to the club and, well you see the guy at the table with his girlfriend and he’s wearing a button up casual shirt and jeans, the man next to you at the bar is wearing jeans and a grey t-shirt with a wolf image on his back and the man behind the bar is sporting a t-shirt with a beer logo on his chest and a pair of black trousers. Great it’s a club, that’s normal.  But I do have to say that we sartorialy inclined men are abnormal beings and a t-shirt and jeans at a nightclub, a house party, a date or an auction just isn’t going to cut it when you want to slice a hole in the crowd. Whether it be good or bad press, standing out is still a better alternative than falling into that gray in-between that is today’s clothing standard

In Saturday Night Fever, Tony Manero rocked a white suit because he knew he’d either be noticed as a clown or seen as the hottest guy in the place. All the others in between looked like people wearing clothes in-between. Those others were at their comfort level when it came to style, sartorial cowards? Perhaps, but some people need to be grass on the lawn letting that flower stand out to be admired.

Like a uniform makes a soldier feel like a soldier, a stronger willed set of clothes can make a stronger willed person. So the black t-shirt and red shorts combo is nice, but here in 2012 it’s the easy way out, and if you are looking to a be a sartorial stand out and reach for that higher end of the fun spectrum you’re going to need to break out of your shell and dress the part! This means the next level.

Tailored clothing. Trust me guys the world around you is going to love it!  It’s not going to be easy, there is a transition time and nobody has the eye off the bat for creating that tailored wardrobe that mixes and matches. It’s an eye that has to be honed, honed in the same fires that told you that t-shirt went with that pair of shorts, yet this time around you have to be the rebel and fight the urge to blend in; a rebel with a tie on. Where do you start? Do you buy a suit? And what color? Well if you haven’t got a suit, don’t go for one yet, it will just put you in a corner with your style unless you buy three off the bat, but I don’t think that’s wise until you have some experience with what looks good on you when it comes to fitted jackets and trousers).

No suit. If you are starting from scratch there is one way to go and that is with a versatile sports jacket in a brown or gray color. Best case scenario you can get two jackets with patterns that aren’t too loud and if you’re lucky they will both work with khaki, gray, black, navy and brown trousers (just keep hunting that jacket is out there). If you have two well-fitted staple jackets you can buy a slew of trousers and work on the shirts and ties as you go. With this start, you have the versatility with colors and a start of a look that will put you on your way to reinventing that droll t-shirt clad man into a true man of the world that looks at home at the congressional hearing and the party after the indictment is called off.

Yes the suits will have to come next, but before being cornered into a single look, take the time to build your wardrobe piece by piece, and that means taking off those shorts and putting on those khakis that are in that drawer (I know you have them) and roaming around till you find the sports jacket that suits you. The suits will come, but that’s when you are settled

Just a shot of Tony for good measure.

There is a sartorial revolution in the winds and you too can join us by getting that sport jacket. It can be gray or brown or even navy blue with shiny buttons (a blazer) just as long as you can wear it with jeans, khakis, gray flannel trousers, and just about any shirt in your closet that has a row of buttons that lead up to your neck and end in a collar that can house a necktie.

Monday, January 23, 2012

From walking to dancing without changing your shoes.

For dancers who like to wear suits, yet don't always like to look like they are strictly wearing their shoes for dancing.

I tend to always wear a suit and tie when I dance, and, over time, I've come to the conclusion that I don’t like changing any part of my outfit when traveling between the car to the dance floor. Too much fuss! I’ve been asked by more than a few people about what footwear can best be used on days where you just want to be dressed up for walking about town and also be used for dancing... well, here is a bit of a dance shoe revue 2012, in order of what I'd most likely wear on the dance floor to what I'd least likely wear.

Price range is around $300 
Perhaps the best all around shoe you can find for working through the day, hitting the town, and then dancing. A good all day dress shoe. Allen Edmonds is one of two companies left in the USA that makes shoes the way they were made in the 1930s and 1940s. The other company is Alden. You can walk around in them all day and transition straight to the dance floor with no worry. I choose them over any other shoe when it comes to dancing for their sheer utility. One of the beautiful features of these shoes is that classic footbed with cork underneath. Over time this provides a custom imprint of your foot in the shoe. Just like Granddad used to wear.  Keep the uppers polished now and again, and have them resoled when you start seeing cork through the soles and these could last you a decade or more with good rotation between other pairs. 

Price range is around $100
One of the shoe companies that has put out more misses than hits in the last several decades. They tend to cause my feet to ache more than the Bostonian or Allen Edmonds ever will. This has been due to the footbeds of their shoes not truly forming to my feet. They feel very hard after a long day of wear and their cushioning inside is no replacement for a footbed that forms to your feet. Not too heavy, and okay as a dress shoe that can be worn dancing; yet, because of the materials used, the uppers and the soles tend to wear out faster than Allen Edmonds.

Bostonian (First Flex)
Price range is around $85
Bostonian used to be one of the higher end names back in the day, but the blush has fallen off that rose when it comes to quality of materials and construction. However, when it comes to a good beater dance shoe with which you can pound the pavement, there is no better dress shoe that lasts like a sneaker than the shoes made by Bostonian. One caution: this is a shoe that has an upper which doesn't appear to be a very nice porous leather. As a result, the uppers tend to crack after a few months of wear, so even polishing doesn't really give them that nice patina that it gives to better shoes. They also tend to cost as much to resole as they cost to buy a new pair. Still, when you really need a pair of shoes that can be walked in and danced in, and you don’t want to make a hefty investment, go for Bostonian. They have very hard rubber heels as well, so feel free to do heel slides.

Price range is around $110
This company's shoes look like they walked out of the 1920s, and have soles that are great for dancing. This makes them a good shoe if you are the sporadic dress shoe wearer who wants a really snazzy pair for dancing, but I don’t recommend them for daily wear as the uppers will wear out as fast as the soles if you are as abusive to dress shoes as I am. If you buy them, just realize this shoe isn’t really worth a resole. 

. The soles are great for dancing.

Price range is around $165
I was excited when I saw that Re-Mix was finally releasing a new style for men. I wasn’t excited about the fit. A bit too loose in the heel for my liking, and the construction is a little lower than that of dress shoes within the same price range. They are pretty light and have a leather sole and heel that are great for dancing. They have a very prominent arch support that also made my feel a little off when compared to the other offerings in which I was more at home with dancing and walking. More of a show shoe than a go shoe.

Price range is around $75
A shoe that I attempted to walk in before I decided I don’t want to wear them anywhere but on the dance floor. Specifically made as dance shoes, they are very lightweight and a standard among the top-notch dancers on the scene. I’m not a pro, yet I dance a lot so I bought a pair. They are fast on the floor, yet I have fickle feet that need a bit more support and a better footbed than these provide. I stopped wearing them when I started wearing Bostonians for dance purposes. Aris Allens are light weight, good for dancing but can’t take the walking. 

Price range is around $90
I remember when they released their Balboa shoe and it was a craze for everyone to have a pair back in swing’s revival. Like the Aris Allens, they are strictly dance floor shoes. They have a good classic color scheme yet are definitely not for anything but dance floor use as the uppers and soles will tear apart easily if taken on frequent sidewalk jaunts. The lifespan is short as the soles are much like a sponge. The soles will soon show how much dancing you’ve done as the color wears off the edges. Light weight, and  good for dancing, but not for walking.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The modern/retro college wardrobe

Harold Lloyd making a good impression sporting his freshman beanie

For those who are going to school in the modern times yet don't want to dress like it, I suggest the following easy wear and care wardrobe essentials for the gentleman with a bag full of books.

1 wool tweed cap
2 fedoras 1 grey 1 brown
1 wool scarf
1 overcoat
1 raincoat
2 patterned sport coats 1 Brown 1 blue (tweed suggested)
1 navy blazer (if you really find one with a crest, make sure it’s from your own school)
1 grey suit
2 sweater vests 1 solid 1 patterned
10 dress shirts 4 white 6 patterned and colored
15 ties some wool some silk must have 1 school tie.
4 pair wool dress trousers 1 in gray flannel
4 pair casual trousers... khakis... linen
2 belts leather 1 black 1 brown
2 pair leather soled shoes 1 brown 1 black
2 pair shoes with rubber soles for weather and comfort (white bucks and saddle shoes)
2 pair pajamas
1 pair slippers
1 terry cloth robe
1 umbrella
6 white handkerchiefs
1 pair round sunglasses

Lots of socks and underwear

Convertible Scholar from Custom Hide
1901 Logan Oxford from Nordstrom

For the athlete

2 pair cotton sweats in gray
1 pair gym shoes, canvas and rubber in black or white

2011 re-released Converse 1946 U.S. Army athletic shoe

For the “I'm not always old school” days

ballcaps (have at least one from your school)
various t-shirts
casual button shirts
leather jacket
school sweater

More college wardrobe suggestions that will impress your professors in the 2012 semesters.

Buster Keaton
sporting bowtie, fancy v-neck sweater tucked into belted trousers,

Buster Keaton
sporting beret, striped regatta jacket, fancy sweater vest tucked into belted wide legged trousers, carrying gladstone bag

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fedora hat basics (you need to know this stuff if you own [or want to own] a fedora hat)

Bogart wore one with the brim over his eyes to rough up gunmen. Jimmy Stewart kneaded one in his hands when he looked nervous in front of the girls. It was a rumpled fedora that gave Clark Gable that shabby look of a drunkard in front of the boys, and a beaten hat that helped Roosevelt sell his ideals to the common worker. And what about you?  What’s the impression you want to give? Are you a rakish adventurer or a city-worn reporter?  Your hat can tell the story.  As with all worthwhile stories, it won’t be told overnight or in its entirety with your first purchase.
The classic fedora is the perfect first addition to a man’s hat wardrobe; finding the right hat and knowing how to care for it is what will separate the men from the boys. I’ve created a focused guide for those new to fedora ownership outlining things to look out for when making this all important purchase and how to take care of your fedora once you find the one that's right for you.

1.        COLOR : Begin with grey. Brown or any other color just isn’t as versatile as a grey fedora – it will take you from wear with suits to a fashion piece on your days off. It can be worn with blue, grey, and black suits and pretty much any sports jacket you have. (You’ll be happy you held off on the brown hat when you notice that you’re spared being called ‘Indiana Jones’ every day of the week.)

2.       SIZING : Never buy a hat that’s even a bit too tight, even if you think it will stay on better on those windy days! You don’t want to have to tug if off of your head, and it will cause enough headaches (literally) that you won’t wear it. If your choice is between sizes, always go big. Leather can shrink with constant exposure to moisture and drying out.

3.       QUALITY : Resilience in the rain and pliability are two factors to ask about when purchasing your fedora. Your felt hat will soak up water like a sponge in a downpour, and you don’t want your hat drooping over time. Asking whether the hat can be crushed or rolled and still return to its original shape without the integrity being compromised is another important inquiry. Some felts are better than others in this regard. (I tend to abuse my hats and roll them for travel, not all hats can take this abuse).

4.       CLEANING AND CARE : Your hat can look rumpled, but please keep it clean! Brushing keeps the dust away, and a hat can collect dust for decades that can be pushed off with a quick whisk. (Always brush your hat in a counter-clockwise direction.) For those hearty, deep-down felt problems, I pull out my off-white rubber hat sponge. It takes out those easy-to-get grease and salt stains that come from grabbing the brim and crown. If that doesn’t work, I go for the heavy-duty with Scout hat cleaner. Just spray it on and let it dry to a powder, then brush it off. If the stain is deeper and you are not used to using Naphtha or other cleaning agents, then take your hat to a professional. For dress hats, I highly recommend Graham Thompson of Optimo Hats in Chicago. There aren’t many hatters left that can do a good job cleaning and blocking, and if you want the best, he’s the one!

5.       RAIN : Don’t be afraid to wear your fedora in the rain, but you need to know that when felt gets wet, it tends to stay in the shape that it dries in. If it is a soft felt hat like a fedora with a snap brim and the hat is soaked, leave the hat, brim turned up, on a flat surface with a towel underneath. If you leave the hat upside down on its crown (as many hatters suggest) you will end up with flat spots on the top of the crown, and if you turn out the sweatband the brim will droop, so don’t.  (If it is a firm hat like a Western hat or like some of the Indiana Jones hats on the market, or a homburg, place a towel on the arm of a chair or a sofa and place the hat on the towel with the brim hanging over the sides. If you leave the hat on a flat surface the hat will conform to that surface.)

A good gray hat can easily work with a navy or gray suit... a solid business headwear staple.
A white hat gives versatility, and with the right ribbon like on the one above, you can wear it with a navy or brown suit with ease. With a black ribbon, you can wear it with nearly anything.