Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

Hope you and yours have a great holiday. 

I'll be spending the next couple of hours with the 2013 Bryan and Vinny Christmas Show. 

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The L.L. Bean Dickensian Nightshirt

So I'm looking for a new bathrobe and I come across this. I wonder if it comes with a (literal) nightcap and a candle on a saucer? 

(And I'm sure that anyone who knows me appreciates the irony of me writing this; when I of all people tell you that something you wear is too old-fashioned, you've got serious problems.) 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Now Dig Me Up and Make Sure I'm Still Dead

Looks like the other half of the "suit" is ready:

 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Link: New Articles at Bown's Bespoke

I always enjoy reading Francis Bown's blogs (one is about clothes; the other is about travel), if for no other reason than I find his snooty writing style wildly entertaining for some reason.

He publishes on both infrequently (as in maybe a couple of times per year), so I'm always thrilled to see new articles. 

He just published two, both about getting new bespoke summer suits made, each from a different tailor. 

The first one is here.

But the second one really caught my eye, because it's the first time I've ever seen a negative review and poor recommendation from him. (His "reviews" mostly read more like advertisements, and there has been speculation that he gets the items he writes about free, or at a significant discount, in exchange for favorable reviews. In fact, there was an email from him to a tailor circulating on the Internet at one time, where he attempted to solicit a free suit in exchange for him writing a [presumably positive, although I don't recall the message promising that] review. If that's the case -- and I don't know that it is -- there's nothing wrong with it in my opinion, but he should disclose it.) Regardless, this review seems to be negative for the accommodations of the tailor's facilities, not for his work. 

The suit in question is a roughly $3,000 three-piece seersucker. Bespoke seems an odd choice, even for him, for such a cheap fabric. (Although I suppose it's not always so cheap; characteristically, he chose what he describes as the world's finest seersucker from Holland and Sherry, which he reports cost about $900 of the $3,000 total). And three-piece also seems an odd choice, even for him, for a summer-weight suit. Oh, well -- Fr. Bown is nothing if not profligate. 

Enjoy.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Happy Labor Day

Welcome to the unofficial start to fall. Wherever you are in the northern hemisphere, hopefully you'll soon have the weather for flannel, tweed, corduroy, and all of the other things that make fall and winter the best sartorial seasons. 

As for me, it's still hot here, so I'll be spending most of the day inside, constantly reminding myself to stop searching the TV for Jerry Lewis. I'll never get over it.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Link: Muffy Aldrich on Fall

This is a beautiful essay about how those of us who love fall really start to anticipate it when August hits, and we also begin to see small signs of its impending arrival. I've already noticed that the days are getting shorter. However, people like her who live in New England get to enjoy the crisp weather sooner than some others, like those of us who live in the midwest; it's usually at least mid-October before there's any chill here. Regardless, I share her August Anticipation.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Knowledge: The Coat Wardrobe

As I've probably written before, my favorite time of year is Christmas, followed closely by fall. We're definitely into the point of the summer where I'm sick of the hot weather, and am longing for fall. 

That's probably why I've been thinking about coats for the past few days. 

If a man is to have only one coat, it unquestionably should be the classic tan, double-breasted trench with a removable liner, which also makes it suitable for warmer wet days in late-spring and early-fall:

 

My last two have been from Burlington Coat Factory. My latest one is 11 years old, and about due for a replacement. I have my eye on this one from Jos. A. Bank, and I'll probably pull the trigger sometime this fall (as I recall, last Black Friday, they were $99; the typical real ["sale"] price is in the $200 range). 

The second coat should probably be a similar one, in a lighter weight, and with either no liner or the liner permanently removed. (Removing liners is a hassle, and this will allow you to have a second tan trench, designated solely for days when it's too warm for your winter one). For variety, it could be a singe-breasted, balmacaan style:

  

For my taste, this particular coat is a few inches too short; dress coats should always extend a few inches below the knee, to around mid-calf, both for the aesthetic reason that shorter coats look too boxy and top-heavy, and for the utilitarian reason that a longer coat keeps the legs warm and/or dry. 

To reiterate, the first raincoat (or winter coat with a waterproof, raincoat-style shell) in the wardrobe should be tan. Basically, the only other acceptable colors are navy and gray -- but only as a second or third coat. Anyone unfamiliar with John T. Molloy's research on black vs. tan raincoats should buy his book, Dress For Success, which can be found on Amazon for next to nothing. 

In addition to my winter coat from Burlington, I also have a lightweight, unlined tan no-name-brand trench, purchased at a thrift for $2.00 (yes, $2.00). 

I also have a similar-weight, unlined tan balmacaan from London Fog, acquired at a thrift for $10. 

And, just a couple of weeks ago, I scored another lightweight, unlined balmacaan from Austin Reed, in a medium-gray with a faint yellow windowpane plaid, also at a thrift for $10. 

I also have a heavyweight, lined navy trench with wool collar from Stafford (J.C. Penney, seems like better quality than their current offerings, I suspect vintage 1980s), bought at a thrift for $4.00. 

What can I say? I like clothes, and I like variety -- and, at those prices, how can I miss? 

Once you have a heavyweight tan trench and a lightweight tan trench or balmacaan, your next dress coat should be a wool-like (wool, camel hair, cashmere, combination, etc.) coat, ideally double-breasted (for style and extra warmth). 

The quintessential version is a tan polo coat, like this one from Polo Ralph Lauren (a Polo polo):


In my opinion, while this is beautiful, a navy or gray version is preferable first, both as variety from the tan trench and to have a coat for more somber occasions, when needed:

  
(This gorgeous version is also from Polo Ralph Lauren; unlike the tan version, it's 100% cashmere, and also features a ticket pocket.  I believe that this is the exact coat written about by Richard Merkin in Esquire Gentleman about 20 years ago.)

Of course, this advice can't always be followed perfectly by those shopping the second-hand market. I don't yet have a navy or gray version; my only one is also tan, from Polo University Club (an inferior Ralph Lauren brand from about 20 years ago, not as nice as the full Polo version above). I bought it on eBay 12 years ago for about $175, and it has served me well every winter since. 

To me, a dream coat wardrobe would be (in addition to the heavy tan trench and unlined tan trench or balmacaan) versions of this double-breasted style in tan, chocolate, navy, medium gray, charcoal gray, and olive green, plus two herringbone tweed balmacaans, one brown and one gray. 

I'll leave casual coats as a subject for another day. 


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Knowledge: Spectator Shoes

I recently scored a pair of like-new Allen-Edmonds Broadstreet brown and white spectator shoes on eBay for $68 shipped:




Spectators were originally darker calf and white (or colored, but lighter than the dark portions) suede, like saddle shoes. This provided a contrast not only of color, but of texture. 

Will Boehlke and Alan Flusser have both opined that all-calf spectators are worthless, shouldn't even exist, and should never be worn by anyone. 

The real, calf and suede version is definitely more attractive and visually interesting, and is preferable when it's available. 

However, it's likely to be out of the financial reach of most men. Allen-Edmonds is the least expensive quality shoe brand, and this all-calf version would've been north of $300 at full retail -- and for a shoe that's only in season about 3-4 months per year (either Easter-Labor Day or Memorial Day-Labor Day, depending on one's opinion), and even then is only an occasional shoe. (AE has a custom program for a $100 upcharge, and they might be able to make a suede and calf spectator for that.)

Also, I've seen vintage all-calf spectators on eBay from the 1920s, which is close to the shoe's origin of popularity. This reminds me of Flusser's contention that notch-lapel tuxedos were either invented or became widely used (probably the latter, but I can't remember off-hand) in the 1960s as a cost-cutting measure, because they were made by manufacturers using business suit patterns. However, people have produced scans of clothing catalogs of tuxedos from the 1895 era (about 10 years after the tuxedo was supposedly invented) showing notch-lapel versions for sale.

In my view, all-calf spectators are like notch-lapel tuxedos: less than ideal, and less stylish than other versions, but not deal-breakers. 

And even the all-calf versions will definitely put a spring in your step, and will garner plenty of double-takes -- usually followed by longer, admiring looks. So look into getting some for your summer wardrobe.

Link: David Mercer on Timeless Style

Keikari.com has an essay from David Mercer, owner of Mercer & Sons shirt makers, about timeless style and clothing longevity.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Rep. Bryan Holloway: Farmboy to WASP101

Chad Nance of the Camel City Dispatch weighs in. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Holloway Repeats Denial to WRAL on June 3

After having four days to think about it, instead of coming clean about being "Richard" from WASP 101, Holloway dug in his heels even deeper:

Monday night, offered the chance to reconsider his denial, Holloway declined. 
"I’ve just made the only comment that I’m going to make, and that’s it," he said. "I’m going to stick by what I said. I don’t really see it as news or a story, so we’re just finished with it."
Holloway said the coincidental similarities between himself and "Richard" prove nothing.  
"One thing I would point out is how many brown dachshunds are out there, how many Brooks Brothers ties are hanging on the rack at a Brooks Brothers store," he said. "I’m 5’10”, I have brown hair, I’m white. There’s a hundred million people who could look just like me."
What about the North Carolina politics link?  
"I haven’t even read [the blog]," Holloway said. "Again, I stick with what I said. Do whatever you will, write whatever you will. I’m done with it."

There are about 200 million adults in the U.S. Apparently half of them -- 100% of the males -- are 5'10", white, and have brown hair. 

And I guess they also all live in North Carolina, have identical wardrobes and front stoops to the WASP 101 guy, have wives who look just like "Richard's" wife, and have employees who look just like WASP 101's "Kipp."

My jaw is on the floor at this point. Seriously, could this guy be any dumber?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Other Bloggers on WASP 101

Guiseppe and Yankee Whiskey Papa have both weighed in on Christian Chensvold's "outing" of "Richard from WASP 101. Both feel that Christian was wrong, as do I. According to YWP, he already knew who "Richard" really was, and so did several other bloggers -- and they chose to keep it a secret. 

(Guiseppe, by the way, was "outed" last fall by the Boston Globe, but I take it he allowed it, as he cooperated with the feature story about him, and still prominently links to it on the homepage of his blog. I had always assumed that he was already "out," because I naively thought that Guiseppe Timore was his real name; the possibility that it was a pseudonym never occurred to me.) 

But, even though I agree that "Richard" should've been allowed to keep his anonymity, he made himself a lightning rod with his persona and outlandish stories (many of which I still think were fictional, or at least embellished). As I've written, I not only always wondered who he was, but whether he was even real and whether his blog was meant to be serious -- or whether it was extremely subtle satire and he was supposed to be some kind of fictional character, like a sophisticated sociological experiment or a very involved, Andy Kaufman-esque joke.

By contrast, I also enjoy Yankee Whiskey Papa's blog, but I've never wondered -- nor cared -- for a second who he really is. If someone "outed" him, I admit I'd probably Google him out of curiosity and read what I could find for maybe five minutes. But, unless it turned up something really interesting, I'd quickly get bored and forget about it -- and I certainly wouldn't care enough to write about it even once, much less multiple times, like I am with WASP 101. 

Anyway, it looks like Chensvold unwittingly made himself the villain in all of this. I wonder if he now wishes he could undo his decision.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Bryan "WASP 101" Holloway: Give It Up Already

Writes Greg Flynn, the source of yesterday's update about Holloway's stoop, in a post showing that an exact photo of Holloway was cropped and used on WASP 101.

Flynn also has another post today about Holloway and "Richard" wearing the same watch.

(I don't know why this "scandal," such as it is, fascinates me so much, but it does. I guess it's due in no small part to spending the last five years reading WASP 101 and wondering who "Richard" was -- and whether he was even a real person and the blog was supposed to be serious, or a character someone made up as satire. Rest assured that I intend to keep posting about this for as long as there are new developments.)

More than anything, I can't believe that a 35-year-old man isn't wise enough to know that denying something afterward gets you in more trouble than whatever you originally did. Didn't he learn anything from studying Nixon -- or from his own childhood? Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, given the bang-up job he did concealing his identity. Then again, even leaving that aside, "Richard" never seemed like the sharpest knife in the drawer anyway, did he?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bombshell: Identity of WASP 101 Blogger Revealed

Christian Chensvold of Ivy Style has finally figured out who "Richard" of WASP 101 really is: Bryan Richard Holloway, a Republican member of the North Carolina state House:



The most damning evidence is the fact that, according to Chensvold, Holloway's receptionist already knew who he was -- which she informed him of quite curtly -- when he called Holloway's office, asking for comment. Why else would a female receptionist already know -- and have a poor opinion of -- a niche men's clothing blogger who has no connection to the politician Holloway, but who has had a longtime online feud with Wasp 101's "Richard?" (It turns out that his receptionist appears to be Wasp 101 contributor "Kipp.")

Also, look at his mouth; there's no doubt. You can also tell that he's wearing a Polo Ralph Lauren OCBD, which he has written about wearing often, because it has the trademark too short collar points that don't look "right" with a tie. Much more incriminating than that is the fact that his blog was removed within moments of the news hitting. 

It's also obvious that his claims about not balding are untrue. 

I laughed out loud when I read on Wikipedia that his alma mater is Appalachian State University -- not because there's anything wrong with that, but because he always struck me as such a phony and poseur (or someone who was doing unbelievably subtle satire). I went to a state school too, but I don't pretend to be a blue blood. 

Anyone who's familiar with my political writings knows what I think of politicians, and government itself, in general. And this one was dumb enough not to crop out his whole head; to put pictures of his wife and his dog on the blog; to not get his wife to make her Facebook profile private, like his was; and to let readers goad him into revealing that he lives in, or near, North Carolina. Those were the clues that brought him down. And just by starting such a blog, he was risking his identity being revealed. But he still managed to keep it a secret for five years. 

Here's an example of what a poor job he often did of cropping his head:


I don't see why this should be a scandal; he could laugh off some of the less attractive qualities his writing seemed to display by claiming he was playing somewhat of a character for fun, or at least a caricature of himself. I think he'll damage his reputation more by pulling the blog than he would by leaving it up, owning up to it as damage control, and letting it blow over. By trying to erase it, he makes it easier for his future opponents to pull cached posts in an attempt to impugn his character. 

I find Christian's use of the info arguably unethical, and certainly unkind; I don't think I would've "outed" him. But "Richard" doesn't control Christian; he only controls himself; from his perspective, he did this to himself by starting the blog in the first place, and by putting too many clues to his identity on it. It was only a matter of time before someone connected the dots.

I'm also not happy about it causing the WASP 101 blog to be pulled; I always found his blog very entertaining, and I often browsed the archives. Hopefully Rep. Holloway will reinstate it after the shock of being "outed" blows over. 

If not, thanks for the entertainment, "Richard." 

UPDATE: 

WRAL (the studios of which, I must mention, were where Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling was taped from c. 1969-1981) has reached Holloway for comment, and he's denying it. Politicians never learn, do they? 

Another blogger has also noted that Holloway's stoop is identical to "Richard's." 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Link: Cary Grant on Style

Here's an interview with Cary Grant from the Winter 1967/68 GQ (back when it really was quarterly). The entire thing is well worth reading, but I especially noticed his comments on timeless style, which echo my own:

"I've never, as far as I can compare the efforts of others with my own, gone to any special trouble to acquire clothes that could be regarded as noticeably fashionable or up-to-date. Some of my suits are ten to twenty years old, many of them ready-made and reasonably priced.

"No, it isn't only money that determines how well a man dresses—it's personal taste. Because of the demands of my work, I've purchased dozens of suits over the years and they all have one attribute in common: they are in the middle of fashion. By that I mean they're not self-consciously fashionable or far out, nor are they overly conservative or dated. In other words, the lapels are neither too wide nor too narrow, the trousers neither too tight nor too loose, the coats neither too short nor too long. I've worn clothes of extreme style, but only in order to dress appropriately for the type of character I played in particular films. Otherwise, simplicity, to me, has always been the essence of good taste."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Reader Questions

Q: I had always wanted to buy shoes online, but could never tell what size was the best fit. Is there a way for me to check my size at home and then order online? Thanks for the awesome info on your site.

A: Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you're enjoying my blog.

The ideal situation, of course, is to buy them in a physical retail store.

But, if you're buying online to save money (say, on eBay, which is where I've bought all of my Allen-Edmonds shoes, each at a minimum of 75% off of retail), if there's a store in your city that sells the brand you're looking for, you should go try some on.

If you can't afford the shoes at retail, I would tell the salesman I'll think about it, and buy something else from him to thank him for his time, like some shoe polish or socks.

However, remember that the same manufacturer uses different "lasts" for different models, so two different models from the same brand may fit slightly differently, even in the same size and width.

So, unless you're able to try on the exact model you're thinking of buying, there's always a gamble involved. But that's part of the price of getting something at 50-90% off of retail.

The good news is, if you buy a quality item on eBay and it doesn't fit, you should be able to re-sell it and recoup your money.

Q: What's high rise? Does it mean the pant goes really high up above my waist/hips area, like near the bellybutton? How about folks like me with a "beer gut?" Will your opinion about high rise change in such a case?

Also, using braces (I'm guessing you are referring to "suspenders") is fine if I am going to wear the suit for an evening. But, what about work suits? I am 30 and can't pull off the braces look because when I get to work, I take my jacket off and all the inner office stuff is then just with my suit pants, shirt, tie combo. It will look too "trying hard" esque if I wear braces everyday. Belts OK in this case?


A: Rise is the distance between the crotch and the top of the waistband. Yes, dress pants should ideally be around your belly button. The less sophisticated may see this as "old-mannish," but so be it. As I wrote in my original post, getting pants of a sufficiently high rise can be difficult if you don't have your clothes custom-made, and extremely difficult if you buy ready-made clothes second-hand. Jos. A. Bank and Lands' End both, as far as I know, still offer different rises, usually expressed as "short, regular, and tall." 

If you have a gut (I do too), my opinion not only doesn't change, but is reinforced -- men with guts need high rise pants more than do men with flat stomachs. 

Also, it's important to buy your pants big enough to fit loosely. If you wear suspenders, they're called that because they're supposed to literally suspend your pants from your shoulders. If you're heavier than you'd like to be, it's easy to lie to yourself about your size, suck it in, and wear pants that are too small. I know, because I did it for years. But tight pants actually make you look fatter, and they're horribly uncomfortable. You'll be amazed at how comfortable a pair of slacks can be when they're made from good quality, breathable cloth, have a high rise, and are loose around the waist. No one but you and the people who supply your pants/your tailor know what size you really wear anyway.

Regarding suspenders/braces (same thing), everyone has to adapt advice for their own taste and situation. If it were me, I would try wearing suspenders; if you get too much guff, you can always stop. In my opinion, suit pants with a waistband extension (the little strip of fabric to the right of the fly that goes across the waistband a couple of inches and fastens with a button or clip) look okay without anything -- suspenders or a belt (unless they're too loose to stay up otherwise). As I stated in my original post, belts are less than ideal with suits. But, if you feel you must wear one instead of suspenders to fit in at work, when in Rome, as they say.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Knowledge: Real Wet Shaving

My parents divorced when I was about five, after which I lived with my mother and spent a lot of time at my maternal grandparents' house when my mom was working, especially in the summer. 

My dad and I still saw each other all the time, and have always gotten along great. But, since I wasn't around him on a daily basis as I got older, I learned to shave by watching my grandpa. 

He shaved the old-school way, with a stainless safety razor, a badger brush and shaving soap. He even used boiling water, which I remember him making every morning with a tea kettle on the stove. 

He died when I was 13, after which my mom sold our house and we moved in with my grandma (who just died last October, age 100). 

I started shaving about a year later, using my grandpa's equipment that was still in the medicine cabinet. 

That stuff was lost somehow along the way as I grew up, and I regressed to a Gillette Sensor and aerosol shaving gel. 

For whatever reason (probably from reading about it on other men's style blogs), I started reminiscing last year, and resolved to go back to real, old-fashioned wet shaving.     

Now with Quadruple Vibrating Blades, Separated by Four Gyrating, Lubricated Strips!  

First, a little history is in order. 

Prior to about 1900, men shaved (or, more often, were shaved by a barber) with a straight razor. (I still have my maternal great-grandfather's straight razor in a closet. I think he died in 1957.) 

Apparently many men thought those were too dangerous to use, and they didn't want to walk around looking scruffy between barber shaves, nor did they want to go to the expense or hassle of getting a barber shave every day or two.

I say that because, within a generation of the safety razor's introduction around 1900, men's facial hair virtually disappeared and has never returned. (Past Presidents of the U.S. are probably as good a barometer as any; we haven't had a bearded president since the 19th Century, and we haven't had a president with a mustache in 100 years -- since Taft, who left office in 1913.)

The problem (for the manufacturers) with the original stainless safety razor was that they and the flat, double-edged blades they take are all interchangeable -- you can use any brand of blade in any brand of razor.


So, in the 1970s, Gillette finally figured out how to design a new blade that locked onto the razor via a unique mechanism, which they patented so no one could copy it. That way, anyone with a Gillette razor had to buy Gillette blades.


Ever since, Gillette and Shick have been in a promotional war, each coming up with more gimmicks to one-up each other -- more and more blades, blades that flex or vibrate, etc.

In other words, stainless safety razors gave way to newfangled ones not because the new ones were better for the consumers, but because they were better for the manufacturers. For the most part, none of them work as well as the old metal safety razor, especially given how much more they cost.  


By contrast, I just bought 30 Merkur blades on Amazon for around $20 shipped; changing the blade once a week, that's a nine-month supply. You'd be lucky to get one month's worth of modern blades for that same $20. (You can buy drugstore blades much cheaper, but I've found premium blades to be superior enough to warrant the extra cost.)

Regarding creams, aerosol shaving creams dry your skin because of the propellant. And applying it with your fingers mats your beard down, or raises it unevenly. Shaving soap or cream from a tube hydrates your face, and applying it with a badger brush raises your beard evenly. I got my brush and soap before my razor, and I noticed a massive improvement in the ease, speed, comfort, and results of my shave just from that, even using the same plastic razor. 

My Experience 

Probably the best indication of the old equipment's superiority is a "cold" shave (which I define as a shave not in -- or immediately following -- a shower, when you've had hot water and steam softening your beard for about 10 minutes). 

I avoided cold shaves like the plague with aerosol gel and a modern razor, because my skin would get irritated like crazy. 

As a side note: I used to shave after my shower. But, a few years ago, I started shaving at the end of my shower, while the conditioner is soaking into my hair. This allows me to do two things at once and makes me leave the conditioner in longer, rather than just standing around bored, waiting for the conditioner to work. Then, when I'm done, I can rinse my face at the same time I rinse out the conditioner (again doing two things at once). 

Then I just have to splash some cold water on my face at the vanity to close my pores, splash on some aftershave, and I'm done. 

I immediately began dreading shaving far less than when I shaved after my shower, even when I was still using my inferior equipment. 

I still prefer to shave in the shower. But, when I do a "cold" shave now, I literally get no irritation. In fact, I think the cold shave may be even more pleasurable. 

Equipment

I bought this Merkur razor on Amazon for $30, and this badger brush for about the same price. (Badger is superior to synthetic or boar bristles because it holds water much better. There are varying grades of badger, but I've found this basic one to be more than sufficient.) Add a tube of shaving cream or a puck of shaving soap,  and a bowl or mug (I bought a bowl at Wal-Mart for one dollar), and you're in business. 

You can get pucks of soap in stores cheaper, but I got mine from ClassicShaving.com for about $10 each, shipped; each puck lasts about 2-3 months. The ingredients are probably better, but I especially like the variety of scents they have. I started with Candy Cane, since I got my order at Christmastime; I put it away after New Year's, and will break it back out after Thanksgiving. Then I switched to Fresh Lime, followed by Citrus Spice (which I like better) after the Fresh Lime was gone. 

Using it

Your shaving soap puck can be permanently stored in the bowl. With cream from a tube, just squeeze a dollup into your bowl, like toothpaste onto your toothbrush. 

After getting your badger brush good and wet with the hottest water you can stand, make your lather. With cream, you can do it in the bowl. With a puck of soap, I learned after a couple of shaves that it's best to swirl the brush into the puck for about five seconds, then build the lather on your face instead of in the bowl. This minimizes waste; if you build the lather in the bowl, you'll make too much and wind up rinsing most of it away. 

If you're using a puck, all you have to do afterward is turn the bowl upside-down to drain the excess water, then rinse off the outside of the bowl and dry it off while it's upside-down, then flip it back over and put it in the medicine cabinet. It'll keep exposed to air just as well as a bar of soap would. 

You'll more than make up the up-front cost (less than $100) in future savings, especially in blades.

But, even if it were more expensive, every aspect of an old-fashioned wet shave is so much better that it would be worth it. So, given that it's both better and cheaper, it's a no-brainer. 

Give it a try. Both your face and your wallet will thank you.   

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Knowledge: The Seasonal Clothing Changeover

Spring is, of course, one of the two transitional times of the year for the wardrobe. What is one to do in March or April when it's still cold, or in September or October when it's still hot?

Heavy Tweed Jacket just posted a new picture of himself today -- April 2 -- on his Tumblr, wearing a, well, heavy tweed jacket.

It makes more sense to dress for the weather than for the calendar.

For late summer/early fall, I like Will Boehlke's advice: ditch the overt summer items, like straw hats and spectator shoes, but continue to wear summer-weight clothing for as long as the weather requires it, but try to do so in more seasonless or autumnal colors -- such as a linen suit in navy or dark brown, instead of in light blue or tan.

For late winter/early spring, my opinion is to reverse the advise: maybe ditch overtly wintery items like tweed, but continue to wear winter-weight items in spring or seasonless colors, like a navy flannel blazer, as long as necessary. You could also mix them with some springier hues, like a light blue tie. I love HTJ's outfit, but I don't think I personally would wear it in April.

If this seems too confusing, or you don't have an extensive enough wardrobe to do it fully (I don't either), I suppose you can take solace in the fact that only hardcore clothing nerds like us even pay attention to such things; I suspect that the seasonal clothing distinction is lost on most people, who regard all classic clothing as "a suit." Sigh.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Idea: Using a Bathroom Towel Bar for a Tie Rack

It drives me nuts to think about all of the great style blogs that I don't know about. 

Today, Giuseppe over at An Affordable Wardrobe linked to a blog I had never seen called The Suit Room.

I found a picture on it of the closet of someone named Michael Hainey.  

What struck me most about it was that it appears that he uses a bathroom towel bar for a tie rack on the back of his door:


This is one of those times when I see something that's so obvious that I can't believe I never thought of it myself years ago. I like this idea a lot, because it seems sturdier, cheaper, and capable of holding more ties than a typical wall/door tie rack of comparable length.  It would also make the ties easier to remove, especially if you have three ties per peg on all of your tie racks, as I do. 

I have some unused space on the wall of one of my two closets; I had been thinking of buying another tie rack to put there. Now I'm going to try this instead. I'll report back soon.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Links: Black Clothes

As a follow-up to my previous post, Richard Press (formerly of J. Press) and Paul Winston (formerly of the defunct Chipp) have both opined about black clothes. 

I'm also indebted to Will Boehlke for first calling my conscious attention to the view that black doesn't look as good as navy or charcoal in stark sunlight. 

I remember reading on one of the style blogs (unfortunately I can't find it now) that, in firms that still require business attire, black suits are frequently seen at lower levels, but become more sparse, eventually disappearing, the further up the ladder one goes. John T. Molloy also wrote about this. Everything else being equal, anyone who doesn't ditch the black suits is unlikely to go very far up that ladder.

Other than dinner clothes, black should basically be reserved for shoes; ties; belts, if you must (suspenders are better); and socks, if you must (matching your pants, or using a different color than your pants and your shoes, is better).

Monday, January 28, 2013

Photo: Amjack "Formal"

I saw this picture somewhere on the web and had to share it. This seems to be the high school/college age "formal" uniform today:

1. Black shirt. For the life of me, I cannot understand where in the world anyone has gotten the idea that dress shirts are supposed to be black. (Occasionally the shirt will be in some other off-, non-dress shirt color, like red.)

2. Black, long tie. (Sometimes changed for another solid tie, usually in a gaudy color, and with a shiny, satin finish.) This guy's is tied way too long.

3. No jacket. I also can't understand for the life of me where so many guys have gotten the idea that dressing up involves not wearing a jacket. (If there is anything approximating a proper dress jacket, it too will be solid black, with the sleeves down to the knuckles and with all of the buttons closed. Someone who wears such a thing is likely to take it off as soon as he gets indoors. Other, non-dress jackets -- like leather ones, usually also black -- are also sometimes seen.) 

We've left the options; the following are mandatory.   

4. Solid black slacks, with a flat front and too tight in the crotch and thighs. 

5. Cheap, glued, square-toed, Kenneth Cole-type shoes.

I sincerely hope (but am not at all confident) that this is a trend with a limited shelf life, and that someday these guys will look back on this the way men today look back on their baby blue tuxedos from the 1970s. 

I will never understand the appeal of all black or of duck-billed shoes. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Link: My Father's Closet

John Seabrook remembers his father's closet, from the March 16, 1998 New Yorker.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Photo: Closing the Lapel

Awhile back, I wrote about the origin of the lapel's buttonhole -- that supposedly there used to be a button under the opposite lapel, and you could pop the lapel and close it across your chest. 

Here's a vintage ad I found on eBay from defunct clothier Norman Hilton. According to the listing, the photo is from a 1967 Princeton Tigers football game (ironically, the 1967-68 era is usually cited as the end of the Ivy League Look). I'm guessing the Tom Landry-esque man in the photo is the coach; this was still the era when football coaches tended to be well-dressed. He's demonstrating the closed lapel, although his has a throat latch (the strip of fabric sticking out from under the notch on the left lapel when the jacket is open), which allows the jacket to be closed a little higher. 

 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Rant: Cuff Links

Ideally, cuff links should be double-sided, with the same adornment on both sides; the popular T-bar links are only half a link. 

I was in Burlington Coat Factory tonight. I walked by a table of cuff links and stopped for a minute. As I expected, they were all one-sided, T-bar style -- except for one pair. These were a silver bar with an identical silver rectangle on each side, except one side had a dark blue stone, while the other side had a light blue one; idiotically, they were labeled "reversible," as if both sides aren't visible when they're worn. But even the two colors of stone didn't look bad together -- and, if the stones would've been the same color, they would've been perfect. 

What's really aggravating is they were the same price as the T-bar style links. So this is another example, like with mid-calf socks, of something that shouldn't even exist. I would gladly pay a modest up-charge for something made the right way. But I understand that perhaps the average man wouldn't, so that would be a possible answer as to why things are made the wrong way. But, if you can make things the right way and afford to sell them for the same price as making them the wrong way, then why do you make them the wrong way?! If you make them the right way, then someone who knows the difference, like me, will be happy, and someone who doesn't won't care either way. 

It must be ignorance, not cost; someone who thinks a two-sided link with two different stones can be marketed as "reversible" obviously isn't an afficionado of classic style -- and that's the least of his problems.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Knowledge: Avoiding the Terrible Triangle

Once, on an episode of TLC's "What Not To Wear," I heard the fashion-forward co-host, Clinton Kelly, tell the man who was the subject of that week's episode that he should wear his pants on his hips, unless he wants to look like an old man. This opinion seems to be shared by most men today -- even those who care little about clothes. 

My response: no, you should wear your pants on your natural waist unless you want to look like an Amjack (which Kelly often does). 

Wearing pants on the hips may be fine for ultra-casual pants, like jeans. But, for suits, it destroys one of its whole purposes, which is to create a visually unbroken line down the body. 

Here's an example of what I call the Terrible Triangle, courtesy of a popular blogger whom I'll leave unnamed: 
 

See what I mean? The whole line of the suit is destroyed -- and the problem is compounded by the belt, which is one of the reasons that belts should never be worn with suits. 

Contrast that with this photo of Dr. Andre Churchwell, courtesy of Will Boehlke's A Suitable Wardrobe blog:


This is how trousers should fit! The fact that his jacket is unbottoned is even better, because it shows the rise of the pants. You can see that, if his jacket were buttoned, there would be an unbroken line from his shoulders to his ankles. 

The principle still applies with blazers and sport jackets, even though the unbroken line principle doesn't. 

Here again is our low-rise blogger:


Here, in contrast, is Will Boehlke himself:


Even when the unbroken line isn't an issue, the outfit still looks massively better without the Terrible Triangle. 

In fairness to the Triangle blogger (especially if he, or someone who recognizes him, sees this), he buys his clothes in thrift stores, while Will and Dr. Churchwell have theirs custom-made. Even if you wear your ready-made pants as high as they'll go (and maybe he does), if the rise is too low, it's too low; there's nothing you can do about it (but he can -- and should -- still ditch the belt). 

Also, I'm not attacking him; I'm just using him to illustrate a point. In fact, I'm a big fan of his blog. 

If you buy new ready-made pants, many places, like Jos. A. Bank, offer them in different rises. Anytime you have a choice, get them with the highest rise possible to avoid showing any shirt or tie between your buttoned jacket and the top of your pants. And use braces instead of belts; they're more comfortable, and look better -- even with a high enough rise, a belt can still create a bulge under your jacket. 

Avoid the Terrible Triangle whenever possible.  
   

Monday, January 7, 2013

Knowledge: Style vs. Fashion

"Fashion is for women; style is for men."

I've seen that quip attributed to various people. Regardless of who first said it, it's true. 

Classic men's clothes never go out of style; they may go out of fashion among the trend-following masses, but you shouldn't be overly worried about fashion anyway. 

Style is basically timeless (at least within a given person's lifetime).  Classic style follows the natural lines of the body and rules of proportionality, and utilizes natural (or natural-looking) fabrics and colors and shades that are pleasing to the eye. 

Fashion, on the other hand, is transitory because it runs counter to these principles. It's merely an attempt by the clothing industry to sell more clothes. As G. Bruce Boyer has noted, following fashion is the most expensive way to dress, because it requires you to throw out (or put into storage) clothing that's still in good physical condition just because some designer arbitrarily decrees that such items are "out," and that something new is "in." 

Think about it: things like over-padded shoulders or flared (bell-bottom) trousers run counter to the natural lines of the body. The skimpy lapels of the 1960s were out of proportion to the rest of the garment and to the proportions of the body, as were the lapels of the 1970s that were two-thirds of the way to the shoulders. Ditto the one-inch ties of the 1960s -- and the five-inch ties of the 1970s. 

Things like natural-shoulder, 3/2 roll jackets; trousers with rises appropriate for wearing on the natural waist and with moderately-tapered legs, hemmed long enough to cover the socks when walking, but short enough not to puddle around the ankles; natural (or natural-looking) fabric shirts with collars of a moderate length; and natural fabric ties 3-4" wide are classics that stand the test of time. (This list isn't meant to be exhaustive; it's just a gallop through some classics.) Such things have remained basically unchanged amidst a sea of fads for more than 100 years, and they're likely to last at least another 100. 

Whenever I hear someone say something like, "That went out of style two years ago," I know I'm dealing with someone who's clueless about real style, but who thinks he's a sharp dresser because he's in step with all of the trends.   

"Those long collar points looked great in 2008, but now, not so much." WRONG. If something doesn't look good now, then it never looked good; it just seemed less ridiculous at the time because all of the other clueless, unstylish lemmings were wearing it too.