Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wardrobe Essentials

The Top 10 Wardrobe Essentials for any man's closet:

  • Gray Suit – The most versatile dress wear in the closet, the gray suit.  Make it a medium to dark 100% worsted wool suit from a top brand (Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Ben Silver, Brooks Brothers, J Crew), you will get the most use out of this suit.  This is the workhorse suit in the wardrobe as it is the most formal suit and the only suit appropriate for weddings, funerals and interviews.  This suit can be worn for business, a dinner party or a date.  Spend the money on this suit and it will benefit you tremendously.  Ideally, get this suit hand made and tailored specifically to you, if only one suit can be bespoke, this is one.

  • Navy Blazer – A navy blazer is the uniform of the American male.  It can dressed up with a pair of slacks or dressed down with jeans and it will never look out of place.  A navy blazer may be most at home with a pair of khakis and a button down shirt, few outfits have more classical appeal.  The blazer is as American as apple pie and Pabst Blue Ribbon.  Buy one with a modern slim fit, add some gold or brass buttons and you will look like an updated and hip Northeasterner who attended Warton or Harvard.  The blue blazer is the best jacket to wear with a dress shirt and tie during the day and a simple t-shirt at night.  Make sure it is well made, because you will be wearing it a lot.

  • Blue Oxford Shirt – Another quintessential piece of the American wardrobe.  The blue oxford shirt has been worn by the best dressed in America for as long as anyone can remember.  The Oxford shirt comes in many types, and while I would recommend one of each, at least have a nice one ready when you need it.  Dressed up or dressed down the Oxford is shirt for all occasions, except the most formal and somber.

  • White Pin-Point Collar Shirt – If the Gray suit is the workhorse of the suits then the white dress shirt is the workhorse of the shirts.  This shirt is the most formal of all the dress shirts, appropriate for every occasion, with a tie or not a white dress shirt is never a bad choice.  It looks stunning under any suit or alone with jeans during the summer.  Many a great wardrobe was compiled with the idiom: “You can never have too many good white shirts”.

  • Dark Denim Jeans – Straight or Slim cut clean, simple, dark denim jeans.  They are simple, versatile, classic and always popular.  Every wardrobe needs one pair of clean dark jeans.  Avoid the fancy stitching, flashy pockets or complicated designs, the simpler the jeans the better, in this case minimalism goes a long way.  Your closet should have multiple types of jeans, but these should be the first pair you buy.

  • Chinos – Every man should own a few pairs of these pants.  Whether fixing the car in the garage or worn to work on a more casual day, chinos always look sharp.  They are great for a casual coffee date and are the uniform of weekend trips.  Chinos are easy to wear, last forever, always look good and are never out of place.  They can be worn with a t-shirt, a polo, a button down or a blazer.  Match them with dress shoes or Chuck Taylors, chinos always look good.  Make sure they are a modern slim fit and a durable material, cause they will be worn until they are frayed and stained and then worn some more.

  • Gray V-Neck Sweater – Stick with a light gray V-Neck Sweater, at first, since it is the most universal and will go with any color.  The V-Neck can be worn over a shirt and tie for cold days in the winter or over a t-shirt and jeans for a night out.  It can be thrown on with shorts for a night at the beach or chinos and a polo for a Sunday brunch.  As you expand the wardrobe continue to add more colors of the V-Neck Sweater, but keep them plain to start.  Plain sweaters are more useful as they can be matched with anything in the closet, only have you have every color and in cable knit version should you expand to limiting designs like argyle & striped.

  • Black Cap-Toe Oxfords – This is most formal shoe you can own.  It works with every suit made and is the only option for somber events, interviews and weddings.  Keep them polished and in good condition because you will be in these shoes more than your car.  Make sure the shoes are Oxfords, not bluchers, have a simple, clean and sleek design.  These shoes must have wooden soles that can be replaced and simple laces.  These are serious shoes worn with serious suits and should look the part.  Also, for the sake of all things stylish make sure they have a rounded toe and are made from real leather.  With as wear as these shoes will get, paying a little bit more for them is certainly worth the money.

  • Brown Leather Boots – Good quality leather boots will keep your feet dry and be the perfect solution for situations that the shoes make take some wear and tear.  Boots only get better with age and become more personalized as they take on wear and care.

  • Timepiece – A man needs a timepiece beyond his cell phone.  Keep the watch simple, basic and well made.  Stick to silver band watches that can be worn with anything from a suit to jeans and a t-shirt.

  • Solid Color Neckties – At first only a few solid color ties are all that are needed in the wardrobe, expansion from this point is certainly nice but is not needed until later.  One solid blue gabardine tie, one solid dark red wool or silk knit tie and one silk solid black or charcoal gray tie.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Update on John Varvatos Warehouse Sale

I went on Saturday afternoon to the John Varvatos Warehouse Sale in Downtown Los Angeles at the LA Convention Center, close to Staples Center and the Fashion District.

Overall, I was fairly disappointed in the selection, I have been to much more enjoyable Warehouse sales with wider selections of clothes and accessories. The John Varvatos selection was limited and frankly disappointing. The jackets were odd looking with a minimal selection. The shirts were abundant, but nothing I was drawn to. The best stuff, were the pants, which fit great and had interesting designs. After trying on almost every style they had the only pair I could see myself wearing again were a pair of khaki dress pants. Originally the pants sold for $245, but were on sale for $50.

I had to have the length tailored to fit, so I will provide a picture once they are have been finished.

Since the shopping experience was such a dud, I ended up spending the afternoon scouring the Fashion District for deals. I will update you all on that adventure later on, the story is still evolving.

It's About a Wardrobe Not an Outfit

When buying clothes focus on buying clothes that fill out your wardrobe as a whole, not clothes that fit specifically into an outfit. The clothes in your wardrobe should be versatile and interchangeable. The ties should be able to be worn with all your suits. The shirts should go with all of the ties. The suits should go with the shirts and so on. While one set of tie and shirt and suit may look great together, you can certainly switch it up as needed.

Buying only outfits makes your clothes repetitive and predictable. When you wear the tweed jacket with the purple tie and white striped shirt every time, people will no longer think it is an interesting combination, and instead find your wardrobe boring and downright unoriginal.

If you think of the wardrobe as a whole, with holes that need to be filled, then you will have more universal and interesting wardrobe. The clothes become puzzle pieces and fit together beautifully. The same shirt and jacket will work with every tie in closet. The gray suit works with every shirt in the wardrobe. The red silk knit tie will fill in that gap in the wardrobe you have been thinking about.

This is way we stick to gray, blue and brown suits, in general, as they are more versatile and useful. And avoid black suits as they are limiting and eventually useless. We avoid suits with pinstripes in colors like pink and purple and green, since they limit the options on shirts and ties that we can wear with them.

Only as we fill the holes of our wardrobe do we add the unusual pieces and colors. Having a dark gray suit, navy suit, tan suit, medium gray, light gray and brown suit do we expand to the pinstripes, glenn check, window pane and hounds-tooth suits. This will ensure that our wardrobe is never boring, provides us with true longevity and the clothes will fit all occasions.

Of course, their are exceptions to the rules but keeping versatility in mind will keep your wardrobe fresh and interesting for you and others.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Versatile Brown Shoes

Most men wear black shoes with dark colors and brown shoes with light colors.  While a black cap toe Oxford is needed in every closet, since it is the most formal and serious shoe made for a suit, brown is most versatile.

It is common that men under utilize the brown oxford shoe.  Black shoes are commonly seen and worn almost as a rule where a brown shoe can add style, flair and make the outfit look smarter.  Never fear wearing brown with dark colors, no matter the shade of brown, it goes well with any color suit.

The men that do wear brown with darker colors, usually wear a dark brown shoe.  This is quite acceptable and looks good, but personally I prefer the light brown or tan shoe.  I especially enjoy a modeled brown shoe with colors ranging from tan to dark brown.  I think a modeled brown shoe is the most versatile shoe made since it picks up all shades so well and it visually interesting.  It is also a shoe that improves with age and time, growing character and becoming more personal.

Gray suits, no matter the shade, are benefited tremendously from the brown shoes.  It brings out the richness of the suits fabric.  Enhancing the colors and adding an interesting pop of color at the waist and at the shoe.

Navy or Blue suits and brown shoes are a natural, in my opinion.  Blue and Brown go well together and the colors enhance each other well.  I think that black shoes actually take away some of the color and beauty found in a navy blue suit.  I would only suggest wearing black suits with a blue suit in only the rarest occasions when formality is mandatory.

Brown shoes even work with black.  Brown shoes and a belt pop with a black suit, highlighting the craftsmanship of both.  While I generally do not condone a black suit, this is a great technique to send focus to the shoes and belt.

Keep the brown shoes with only minor brogue work and a beautiful and sleek last (a term referring to the shoes silhouette) and they can be worn for almost any occasion with any suit.  Brown is much better than black.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bespoke Suits Everyone Can Afford

Since we all know that suits are all about fit, the best way to achieve a perfect fit is by ordering a hand made suit.  Bespoke suits can fit all types of bodies and will make you look better than even the most expensive designer suits.  In most cases considerably better, since almost no body types fit designer suits.

The one problem with bespoke suits is the cost.  Unfortunately, most men can not afford to only have bespoke suits in their wardrobe.  Even though a few bespoke suits will go much farther than a wardrobe of ill fitting off the rack suits.  Even man needs bespoke.

Well finally there is an opportunity for every man to obtain bespoke.  Indochino, offer bespoke suits tailored and made in China for $250 to $500.  They offer bespoke suits, blazers, slacks, shirts and ties.  They even have bespoke overcoats, which are incredibly attractive.  Each suit comes in limited quantities, which probably holds down costs.  The suits range from the conservative to the fashion forward.  They even make bespoke tuxedos, which is a much better option than renting, in every possible way.

The suits are all slimmer European cut.  They look to be Drape cut suits, but it is hard to tell, most likely they are a slim fit Continental cut made to look like a Drape cut.  The pants are also slim.  You just need to provide various measurements to Indochino and they will make it to your specifications.  I recommend going to a local tailor and having them measure you for a minimal cost, so that you know the measurements have been done correctly.

I have not tried making a suit with Indochino yet, but I certainly would like to try it out.  Let me know if you use the service, so we can report on the success or possible failure.

Happy suiting.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Suit: Three Kinds - Drape, Continental & Sack

Expertly tailored suits come in two general styles or cuts: Drape or Continental. There is also a third style, but it is not nearly as attractive or well tailored, the Sack.

Drape Cut Suit -
Drape is my favorite suit cut. It was developed by the English, but have expanded from there. It has soft, light or unpadded “natural” shoulders, side vents an hourglass shape and a high waist on the jacket. It can be single or double breasted. The term Drape refers to how the suit is built. The structure of a Drape jacket comes from layers of fabric on the chest and back that drape down from the shoulders. These layers of cloth keep the jacket full in the chest, but allow for freedom of movement and a soft, supple look. This jacket will follow the body and move with the individual. Some feel that construction of a Drape cut suit requires the most skill as a tailor. Drape suits were worn by Fred Astaire and Duke of Windsor and others with impeccable taste.

Continental Cut Suit -
Continental cut is originated in Italy by Roman tailors, but have expanded from there. It has its history in military uniforms and is identified by it very structured design. Continental suits have structured and defined shoulders, typically high & more squared shoulders. A true Continental cut will be close-fitting with a defined waist line. The skirt of the jacket can either flare out or hang straight. The suit has a solid and structured look and in a classic model is ventless. It will have very clean lines in the chest and back, but will limit the range of motion. This suit was popularized on wall street and “serious” business and is often called a power business suit. Donald Trump will only wear a Continental cut suit as will other power brokers of business.

Sack Cut Suit -
Sack cut suits are least attractive of all the suits. They are shapeless and are common for on the rack suits. The jackets flow straight down from the shoulders in a shapeless sack like shape. The body of the suit is roomy and typically has a single center vent. Classic sack suits are three-button suits, but now they are made in many different variations. The sack suit was originated in America by large retailers who needed to make a suit that fit everyone. J. Press is one of the most high profile makers of the Sack cut suit. The modern version of the sack suit is now a little more tailored, but it is still designed to fit the masses. It is the least flattering of the three suits, since it is designed to fit everyone it in turn fits no one.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Warehouse Sale This Weekend - John Varvatos

Bring on the deals!  Tonight, tomorrow & Sunday is the John Varvatos Warehouse Sale in Los Angeles. They are filling up the convention store with clothes that are up to 90% off and selling them off.  Like most Warehouse sales it is clothes from past seasons as well as irregulars, so try everything on. Each day the prices will drop but so will the best items. You have to register before hand for the event, but it is worth checking it out.

I am definitely checking in out on Saturday. I wish I could make it on Friday night, but I already have plans. I personally am hoping that they have some good accessories, shoes and slacks. They may even have a suit, but I doubt they will have it in my size. I really dig the John Varvatos converse shoes, hopefully they will have those on sale and in my size.

A few more hints:

  • Accessories (watches, sunglasses, etc.) & shoes are the best deals at the Warehouse sales.  Not that the items are the cheapest, but they are high quality and a lot less expensive then you will find in stores.
  • Grab pants in your size and one size up and one size down, and grab a bunch of pairs before trying them on.  It is a community dressing room so it is really a hassle to try stuff on, make it worth your time. 
  • Remember you can tailor it. If the pants fit but are too long, buy them and have them tailored.  If the jacket sleeves are too long, you can have them tailored.  If the pants are slightly big, but fit otherwise, have them tailored.  You probably won't find clothes that fit perfectly at a Warehouse sale so rely on a tailor to make the few nips and tucks needed to make it fit. It will be less expensive than buying it new.
  • Remember a tailor can't fix everything.  If the jeans are too small, a tailor can't help. If the jacket is too big all around, a tailor can make it smaller, but it will lose its silhouette.  A good tailor can help make your clothes fit, but they are not a miracle worker.
  • You can't take the items back.  Once they have been bought you won't be able to exchange them or return them. Buy them only if you are going to wear them.
Maybe I will see you there!  You can register for the event at the link below: