Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Personal style and changing standards

Greetings, readers. I know it's been a while and I apologize for that. A combination of work and other things have kept me away or not that inspired. (Which is ironic considering my work involves menswear yet it leaves little time in the evening for blog writing. On my days off I still couldn't find inspiration.)

But I've finally come to a subject I'm fascinated by: Personal style. Or rather, how it evolves. Those who have read for a long time or looked in the archives will notice a bit of a shift in my preferences. I used to be all about the vintage, 1930s style clothing and found little to no inspiration in modern clothing. I was also into the '60s proportions almost exclusively for a while, coinciding with my "Trad" obsession. Now, as I've gotten older and experienced more, I've actually become more tolerant. I still think those 10" rise trousers are pretty bad, make no mistake, but I'm not quite as into the high rise stuff I used to be. Actually, if anything, a mid-rise seems to suit me better and feel more comfortable. I also think there's something to be said for a lot of the clothing being made by designers like Tom Ford that use classic proportions in some areas (like the lapels and shoulder width) yet update slightly in others (like the trouser fit).

When I started this blog, my ideal would have been a heavyweight suit with three buttons and a ventless back, spearpoint collar shirt, and lightly lined vintage tie in some obscure repp stripe. My ideal outfit now is more like a lightweight darted suit with three roll two closure and side vents, spread collar shirt, and robustly lined tie in a small repeated pattern. To say nothing of the difference in fits, accoutrement choice, and other details. I still have a fondness for all those other styles I adopted,

Why the change of heart? I don't know, besides that for some time I was feeling a little frumpy in what I wore. Those baggy, reverse pleat, WWII-style Polo chinos I used to treasure about eight years ago are far from what I'd wear now. There's still value in secondhand clothing, but I've limited my impulse purchases to things that fit well and suit my personal taste to begin with. Working in a menswear store for a while has also exposed me to a variety of personal styles and more modern fits. I've also learned more about clothing alterations and how to fit a variety of body types.

Again, there are some limits. For example, I still more or less adhere to The Black Tie Guide's definition of what is proper for tuxedos, even though I will rent or sell whatever my customer prefers. I can steer them a bit if they don't have a clue what they want. Oftentimes they think they want classic black tie only to go back and choose a bright red waistcoat and long tie with a two button slim fit tuxedo. But that's their call, not mine. I'm only there to guide them.

What is different now from when you started getting into menswear? Please share in the comments.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Sebastian Ward -- 20% off first order

For those meaning to give them a try but find their prices a bit high, here is a referral link to 20% off your first order. Check out my review here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bold look resurfacing

Perhaps a bit lower rise and slimmer fit than it was before, but it's coming back nonetheless. And as much as I've been a fan of narrow (but not skinny) lapels and ties for a while, I think this is a good change of pace.

Tom Ford is leading the charge, as always, with his wide peak lapels, pocket flaps, and ties paired with trim fitting jackets and trousers. Though I think his own jacket fits need some help (particularly the collar gapping and button pulling) and the trouser rise could stand to be an inch or two higher, I'm pretty okay with his default style. When the narrow, narrow, NARROW trend was in full force in 2008, his clothing in Quantum of Solace showed that traditionally masculine proportions were still relevant. It says something that the suits, shirts, and ties still look fresh seven years later. Only now are the fashionistas realizing that the very tight cuts were never flattering on anyone -- too late, as always. Tom Ford seems to agree, thinking that super skinny fits and micro-lapels look like you're cutting costs on fabric. (Worth noting that he only developed the Skyfall suits under orders from Jany Temime. The fit is not at all his preference.)

From the set of Spectre. Still a bit tight, but overall it fits Craig's mesomorphic build much better.

Besides suits, high semi-spread and spread collars with longer points seem to be getting a little more love now. Certainly, they look better than any number of really tiny point collars young celebrities have been wearing in the last several years, though the high stand looks better on men six feet and taller or those with long necks. You can see such an example in the Sebastian Ward collar shape, which is semi-cutaway. What I'm most attracted to now are the collars that have longer points and almost look like semi-spread collars due to the slope. Such an example is below.

A very nice looking long point, tall band spread collar from Proper Cloth.

Now you may ask, "Why the sudden interest in wider stuff?" Well, I've always had an interest (much of my early clothing knowledge came from looking at 1930s stuff) but recently found that, contrary to the common claim that skinny guys need skinnier ties and lapels, it suits me and my body proportions better. As it does most men, really. There is nothing particularly wrong with narrow ties and lapels, so long as they don't get downright anemic. But this rediscovery has me making use of long-abandoned ties in my collection from around 8-10 years ago, when 3.75" was still standard. I'm sure the average male office worker will be relieved that his old ties didn't have to go to Goodwill, as well.

I personally can't wait until fashion shifts even more this direction. It will make shopping for my body type and preferences a lot easier.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review: jT Undershirts

Some abhor undershirts, saying they are purely an "American" thing (which I don't get considering I've seen more undershirts overseas than here). Others of us depend on them day in and day out. Some only wear them in winter. Whatever your style of undershirt wearing, it can be a struggle to find one that fits well, performs well, and doesn't cost too much.

I've already covered RibbedTee a couple times, but found out about jT Undershirts through a colleague who also reads The Suits of James Bond. I was struck by the way that there was no collar on them in the traditional sense, which makes it easier to conceal under dress shirts when worn open. They call this the "two button hidden guarantee". I don't wear my shirts quite that open, but was nevertheless intrigued. Some have noted that the undershirts are strikingly similar to a discontinued International Male (now known as Undergear) product called "The Scoop", so is it really an innovation? Regardless of anyone's opinion on that, someone stepped up to the plate and filled a niche. I contacted the proprietor, Jesse T. Szynal, about the undershirts and after a bit we decided trying it for myself would be the best way to go.

To wit, he sent me one jT Original in grey, jT-V, jT Modal, and a three pack of jT Tank, all the rest of which only come in white. All of these performed pretty well (though I don't normally wear tank tops -- I missed the sweat wicking ability of undershirts with sleeves) in my extensive testing. The fit is slim but not form-fitted. For that you'd need to buy one of their Compression models. As promised, there was no collar to ride up and be seen (which can be a bit of a problem with even my best v-necks) and I could even unfasten two buttons without anything showing. With my Ledbury dress shirts which have a lowered second button, it was just teetering on the edge of showing. But those are not too common so I can't exactly fault jT for not thinking of that. Enough of my manly, muscular cleavage is showing anyway.*

The fabric and construction is pretty good for the most part. Only a few loose threads here and there. The fabric, even in the basic model, is buttery soft. It gets even better if you choose the 100% modal version, which not only felt wonderful, but gave a bit of warmth on cold winter days. The only shortcoming was with the jT-V's white jersey fabric, which shrunk much more than expected with just one wash and wear. The second wash and dry (on low/gentle -- which I do for all my underwear) made it shrink so much it could barely be tucked. On the other end of the spectrum, the Modal didn't shrink at all, which is not too surprising. It was almost too long, some could argue, coming past my butt. I'm guessing they used the same pattern as they did for everything else, not taking into account shrinkage allowances.

The only other slight disappointment was that the products were made in China. I don't have anything against Chinese manufacture so long as the workers are paid appropriately and work in good conditions. However, I wish for the asking price that they were made in the US or Canada. In fact, I would be willing to pay a bit more for that.

I actually ended up wearing these under a dress shirt and tie half the time, as my day job at a menswear retailer requires those at minimum. Naturally, they're going to show more under white or other light fabrics. It prompts me to wish they'd make something in the opposite direction -- an undershirt with a classic, high crew neck. Many of today's are a bit low and show awkwardly under one's tie knot.

All in all, these are pretty good undershirts for guys who wear one or two buttons unfastened and pretty comfortable even when wearing a tie. I'd like to see what else they have in store for the future.

DISCLAIMER: Nouveau Vintage received material compensation for this review. However, every effort has been made to remain objective.

*This is a joke. Anyone who has seen me on this blog knows that I'm a pretty slender guy even with regular exercise.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Hope you all had a great year!

Soon to come are my reviews of Dragon Inside (the grey flannel suit seen here) and jT Invisible Undershirt (worn here but not seen, obviously).

Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review: Sebastian Ward Shirts (Blue & White Stripe)

I first heard about Sebastian Ward as I do many new clothing companies, on the Ask Andy Forums. It came up in a discussion about the merits of taller collars for longer necked people. Most off the rack shirt collars are made in just one height. It can be a little frustrating to those of us who want a taller collar for our giraffe necks but mostly have to make do. Of course, they are passable and most people but us won't notice. One of our newest yet quite knowledgeable members mentioned Sebastian Ward as an option for those who are looking for such an animal. It was easy to see why he was a satisfied customer, looking at the website. The features these shirts boasted were ones normally only available by bespoke. For good reason -- the shirts are made by Mel Gambert Bespoke of Newark, New Jersey.

The taller, curved, wide spread collar is a feature listed as "helping frame the face", though I believe it's best worn by taller people or those with a longer than usual neck. Otherwise it may simply overwhelm your features. The sleeves are done a bit differently from most shirts, instead having a snug cuff and longer length to allow for more movement in concert with the higher armholes. I found it had the added benefit of keeping your hands dressed at all times and ensuring the shirt cuffs never disappear into your jacket sleeves. (An annoying habit some shirts can have even when you get just the right amount of cuff showing.) I'm not going to say one way is necessarily right over the other. Merely a matter of preference, even to bespoke shirtmakers.

About a month ago I came into contact with Christopher Berry, founder of Sebastian Ward, and we agreed to do a review to give some constructive feedback and spread the word about his brand. To that end, he sent me a blue and white striped shirt which is essentially a Bengal stripe. This is actually a good idea for shirt reviews since it shows how skilled in pattern matching the tailors are. He explained the genesis of how he designed these shirts, being inspired by Victorian clothing (much of which was designed for horseback riding, necessitating a full range of motion) and the frustration of shirts that didn't let him move around as well as he'd like without binding uncomfortably or becoming untucked in the process. In designing the shirts, he got his hands on every book about drafting shirt patterns as he could and designed probably the best Australian mother of pearl shirt button I've seen. Basically, he had already done most of Gambert's homework for them. What a guy. We need more like him.

Overall, I really do like the shirt. However, I think there needs to be an actual fused, folded over placket for stability rather than the soft French (seamless) front on these. It would cause less gaping between the buttons when seated. It's not as if this shirt is any slimmer than the ones I have either. Which is good, as I agree with them that tighter is not better -- there needs to be enough fabric that it's still comfortable and looks like a man's shirt. In fact, upon measuring, the fit in a 16/36.75 (I normally wear a 35" sleeve) is nearly identical to Ledbury's in a 16/35 down to the extra long shirt tails. I suppose great minds think alike? The sleeves and hips are a bit slimmer than Ledbury, but that's about it.

Another area that could improve is in the sewing of the buttons, despite how well designed they are. Ledbury and many other shirts in this price range have thread wrapped button shanks. This is especially noticeable in how short the slack is, causing a bit of a "bubble" effect around the seamless placket.

While we're comparing to Ledbury, it's worth noting that the collar bands are similarly fused from the outside in, giving it better stability and making it more comfortable to wear around the neck.

The fabric is beautiful, soft, and light two-ply 100s broadcloth. It irons pretty easily and doesn't wrinkle like hell. But then, I'd expect no less of Thomas Mason fabric.

More observations (and actual pictures!) below.

Simple, sturdy little box. Unseen is the neat little plastic window at the top side, perhaps used at the warehouse to identify the shirt fabrics at a glance.

Fairly standard tissue wrapping.

Some may be disappointed at the lack of a split yoke, though some shirtmakers disagree about how useful they are, especially in ready-to-wear shirts.

Here you can see the unique, seamless way they integrate the stay pockets into the rest of the collar. It's a small thing to be sure, but it makes the collar look even cleaner in design when worn with a tie.

Gussets. Though controversial with some clothing addicts and shirtmakers, I think these actually help since they expand when sitting.

Darts in back, something I like as it gives shirts a little more shape than side seams alone can. I used to dislike them from a distance, but upon trying on Ledbury's original line of shirts my opinion changed. I was later disappointed when they took them off due to customer complaints.

The barrel cuff design. The buttons are close to the bottom edge so a watch can be worn while still maintaining the snug cuff and longer sleeve. Brooks Brothers and Mercer & Sons do this on their shirt cuffs, though for different reasons. Some say it was originally to fold back and keep your cuffs clean when writing with fountain pens.

Reinforcement at the bottom of the placket on both sides. Nice touch.

The plastic collar stays have some jagged edges and might do some damage to the stay pockets over time. Not great for a $175 shirt and something that needs immediate improvement, in my opinion.

True to their word, my watch slid inside the cuff pretty easily and still shows the right amount with a jacket.

This is the only area where the collar design falls short, no pun intended. The points are certainly long and flamboyant, but the stays tend to creep up within minutes of wearing and a good 3/4" of the ends are flat against my chest. Though I understand wanting to make sure the collar points meet the lapels, they do not quite need to be 4.25" long.

Nice pattern matching from yoke to sleeve.

So, would I recommend this shirt? Yes. With some slight reservations. Namely that the collar design is not universally flattering and the stays definitely need better quality control. Some of the aforementioned issues could simply be attributed to the way Mel Gambert makes their shirts. Still, for $175, consumers rightfully demand that things be perfect.

This is only the "first phase" of their clothing line. Christopher plans to add more options and a MTM service for shirts later on, with other clothing items currently in the planning stages. Tomorrow, their showroom will have its grand opening in New York City. Check it out if you're in the area! Tickets are free and it sounds like it's going to be a blast.

DISCLAIMER: Nouveau Vintage received material compensation for this review. However, every effort has been made to remain objective.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

New things from Proper Cloth

Proper Cloth is a company I've watched for a while. They boast one of the best collar selections you can find in an online shirtmaker and a pretty well featured set of fit options.

In the last year they've expanded into other clothing and accessories. Most recently, ready to wear cashmere sweaters have been the focus. Along with that are ready to wear suits and sport coats as well as a selection of ties, pocket squares, jewelry, and scarves. This is a curious development for a company that's been almost exclusively focused on made to measure shirts for the better part of its life.

But going back to shirts, there has been an interesting addition to their rather extensive collar lineup: A hidden button-down shirt. Most examples people think of look a little too '90s, narrow, and lifeless. This one basically looks like a semi-spread collar without the stays (but also without the negatives of doing so).

Doesn't look very dated and eliminates the need for collar stays.

If you take the plunge and try out Proper Cloth for the first time, remember to use my referral link for $10 off your first order.