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. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year

Hope you had a great one.