Wednesday, February 15, 2017

How to Dress for a Funeral

Originally published on the Suits Unlimited Blog June 9, 2016

While this is a morbid subject, it's one that's pretty quick to address. You or someone you know may have just lost a loved one. But what do you wear to show your grief?

Many people mistakenly assume that they need a black suit. It's not quite true. In certain lines of work, it may be required for dress code, such as private security. Otherwise, a two button charcoal suit works just fine for the inevitable funeral scene. It is appropriately dark and versatile for other occasions. However, if you only have a black suit, it will work fine. Alternatively, a dark sport coat and pants can work if you don't own a suit. Some people advise against a 3-piece suit, but their formality is appropriate for most traditional funerals. Just leave any pocket chains you may own off of the vest!

With that out of the way, let's talk shirts. White is the absolute best option, it’s muted and classic. Try not to use button-down collars since they're rather sporty and casual looking. French cuffs are fine so long as they're worn with plain silver or otherwise non-flashy cufflinks.

Speaking of jewelry, no watches please. It will subtly communicate that you are keeping track of the time and have better things to do than mourn the deceased.

Ties should be dark, such as black or navy. Red, purple, orange, or green may be a little too colorful. Avoid tie jewelry such as bars, tacks, and chains.

Shoes should be black, classic, and well-polished with your belt matching them. Socks should match the suit rather than the shoes.

We hope this gives a good idea of how to dress tastefully for this occasion. Feel free to come in and ask one of our Clothing Professionals for any other advice you may need.

Pierce Brosnan demonstrates an appropriate funeral outfit.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Landing the Job

Originally published on the Suits Unlimited Blog May 6, 2016

For many people, the only time they'll need a suit is for job interviews, weddings, and the unfortunate-but-inevitable funeral. However, the what’s and the how’s of the first subject tend to elude many men. Fortunately, we can show you what to wear and how to wear it.

Your suit should be dark but not black. Solid charcoal or navy are your safest bets. There have been many debates about which one to wear to a first and second interview. The general synopsis is to avoid wearing the same one twice in a row if possible. Avoid earth colors, stripes, patterns, or double breasted suits. Two button suits are a good choice for any body type since it creates an elongating "V" of shirt and tie. Keep the top button fastened while standing and undo the button when you sit. Ensure the back of the jacket is free of wrinkles and the pants have a good crease before putting them on.

A white shirt makes the best impact but pale blue also works well. Point or spread collars are the optimal choice as button-down collars can look too casual. Cutaway collars may also be tempting but they can look overly fashionable. If going for an executive position (or applying to a clothing store like ours) French cuffs can be okay, otherwise keep the cufflinks at home. As with your suit it should look crisp. Take some time to press a couple shirts at home the night before the interview. You might be requested for a second one, after all.

Ties should be kept conservative, like textured solids, simple patterns (such as light dots on a dark ground), or stripes. Blue, red, black, and combinations of those colors tend to do well. If in doubt for which tie knot to use, the guideline of the wider the collar wider the knot is good to follow. For example, a moderate spread collar with a half-Windsor knot. If you need guidance on how to tie a tie, watch our how to videos here.

Belts and shoes are not rocket science, just match the color of the leather and keep them conservative. Now is not the time to show off your shiny plaque buckle belt and slip-on square toed shoes. A classic dress belt and lace-up cap toes will give you a lot more mileage anyway. Black is the color of choice. Why? It connotes a professional and formal attitude than brown or burgundy. Polish your shoes before you head to the interview, as it will show an attention to detail. (Alternatively, our shoeshine valet is available Monday through Friday, 10AM-3PM if you want the best possible shine.)

This should go without saying, but your hair should be neatly styled. Get a fresh shave or trim any facial hair to a professional look if the workplace permits it. Avoid cologne or body spray since many companies have a no-scent policy.

Finally, RELAX! You're going to do great. Hopefully, the confidence gained from being well dressed will translate to confidence when answering questions. Good luck!

If you must wear a pocket square, keep to folded white linen.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

How to Dress for Valentine's Dinner

Originally published on the Suits Unlimited Blog February 10, 2016

Going to that four star restaurant with the menu items you can hardly pronounce? Or maybe you're just going to dinner at a casual sit down? You could you be giving that personal touch by cooking for your date? In any case, have you considered how you're going to dress?
For many men, dressing for a date -- even on Saint Valentine's Day -- is a mere afterthought. But we'll show you how to keep on the straight and narrow of making a good impression, no matter what the place.

Option #1: The Romantic Cook

This is the most relaxed of your options. You don't want to wear anything that will require dry cleaning since you might get a bit of your "special" canned spaghetti sauce on it. You can leave the sport coat for another time in this case. A tastefully patterned sport shirt (tucked in please!), well fitting chinos or non-blue jeans, and some brown loafers will show that you care about your appearance while still catering to the more intimate nature of this date.

Option #2: Casually Elegant

It may "just" be a date at the local Olive Garden or T.G.I. Friday's, but that's no excuse to stoop to a t-shirt and jeans. Sure, that may be what every other guy is wearing. But do you really want to be every other guy? Try upping the ante with a sport coat or blazer, dress shirt, and chinos or dress pants. For extra style points, add a dash of color with one of our many pocket squares.

Option #3: Cocktails at 8

This is the ultimate date in many minds. You managed to book a reservation at that four star restaurant. There may not technically be a dress code, but we at Suits Unlimited say you should set the tone. Your date will be putting forth the effort to look good at a place like this. Why shouldn't you? Take out that dark suit you only wear for funerals and spruce it up with a french cuff shirt, patterned tie, and discreet pocket square. Black shoes and belt are a given here. A lapel flower pin is another good way to dress up your suit. The lighting will probably be dim, so don't worry too much about making colours pop. Just focus on looking like you belong there.

Good luck and happy Saint Valentine's Day!

A good example of cocktail attire.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Presidential Attire: Donald Trump

Donald J. Trump has been a controversial figure to say the least, from the way his campaign was run to how things are currently shaping up in the White House. On the other hand, his clothing is hardly controversial, but until recently it wasn't too good either. GQ recently gave their attempt at a makeover, but apart from the grooming and skincare improvements I didn't find myself in agreement. They didn't take his body type or position as POTUS into consideration. Overall, what they suggested clothing-wise would be better suited for a young executive at an insurance firm rather than a 70 year old man who runs the country.

A slim fit suit and narrow tie would not suit his body type. Additionally, a brown tie and tie bar do not look very presidential.

His presidential campaign suits had the same problems many politicians' do. The jacket is simply too big in the shoulders and sleeves, which visually shortens his hands. Furthermore, he chooses to wear a belt when a pair of braces would keep the trousers up at his waist all day. Often, they tend to sag since most of his weight is carried around the abdomen. They are also far too wide, making his considerable size 12 shoes appear tiny. The overall fit contributes to making him appear shorter and wider than he actually is; less powerful in other words. Add to that, most of the always-navy suits have a very lightweight fabric with a shiny finish... and lots of wrinkles. Perhaps he believes this looks and feels rich, but in combination with poor fit it simply looks cheap. I give due respect in that he wears a trouser rise long enough for his build. Many celebrities wear trendy, low rise trousers regardless of whether it looks good on them.

The last debate between Clinton and Trump. This is one of the few times he buttons his jacket while standing.

Trump's clothier of choice has mostly been Brioni, a longtime luxury suit maker based in Italy. He is also a noted customer of Martin Greenfield, a Czech-American tailor in New York City who has dressed U.S. Presidents starting with Dwight Eisenhower. His suits have been said to be bespoke. One would wonder why something made specifically for the wearer would have the fit problems they do, but sometimes clients ask to have things made a certain way against the expertise of the tailor. Perhaps Trump thinks the looser fit disguises his figure, but this is far from the truth. Portly men actually need suits that follow their body. Not necessarily slim fit following the body, just well fitting in general. A suit that is too big only exacerbates any perceived flaws. It has been suggested that he merely attempts to look like an everyman. But considering many other politicians and civilians alike make the same mistakes, including Democratic primary candidate Bernie Sanders, one can simply assume that they don't know any better.

Many have already criticized him for the way he wears his ties too long, well past the waistband instead of terminating there as is custom. A candid picture of his windblown tie revealed that he uses ordinary Scotch tape to secure the smaller end, since it is not long enough to fit into the keeper loop. Sloppy all around. Maybe someone can introduce him to The Tie Thing? (If they do, please let me know the results of the attempt.) He should probably be wearing extra long ties at 6'2 with a large neck. If he already does, this blunder is even less excusable. He chooses a Windsor knot, yet it is not very substantial due to being knotted where the tie is narrowest. However, his always-white shirts appear to fit properly and the cufflinks are not garish. It's too bad his jacket sleeves go to the thumb half the time and completely obscure the double cuffs. Regardless of their style, shirt cuffs should show about a quarter to half inch below the jacket sleeve to coordinate with the exposed shirt above. It has the added benefit of reducing wear on the jacket sleeve ends, since shirt cuffs are easier to replace and cheaper. Trump's choice of two button jacket with double vents is a sound one that will work for anyone in any setting, so he knows what he is doing in that regard. He sometimes appears to wear single reverse pleats with cuffed bottoms, other times flat front with plain bottoms. Those details are up to the preference of the individual but pleats will give more ease of movement.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert pokes fun at Donald Trump's ties during the inauguration day episode.

Unfortunately, it seems that some people are looking to emulate Donald Trump's entire look without critical examination. Some even believe that the more expensive something is, the better it must be. This is not necessarily true. A few articles have already been published regarding his patronage of Brioni, but relatively few examine the fact that expensively dressed doesn't always equal well dressed. Brioni suits start in the thousands for a ready-made two piece and only go up the more luxurious the fabric is. "Luxurious" being a subjective term past a certain point, because finer or more delicate fabrics do not wear as well as regular worsted wool weaves. Politicians should generally avoid anything too flashy as it distracts from the message they are trying to send. A fabric can look cheap, like a synthetic, if it has a high sheen or outright shine. Cashmere, silk, and mohair blended with wool can look tasteful if well chosen, though these are not the best picks of suiting for a politician either.

However ill-advised the fabric content of his suitings may be, solid navy is a solid choice. Presidential hopefuls frequently wear this suit color along with red ties and white shirts because of the patriotic image they convey. Navy is also considered more of a "power" color for business suits, since it is bolder looking than any shade of grey can be. The frequently worn, notoriously bright red tie manages to look tacky in comparison. Satin ties should be approached carefully when it comes to business suits. In vibrant colors they can frequently look low-end no matter how pricey they actually are. Dark red would help him look more distinguished. Even better would be a texture such as grenadine or other bi-color basket weaves. He does occasionally wear a light blue, red/white striped, or blue/white striped tie which improve things a bit. At times, especially earlier in his campaign, even pale pink or yellow were worn. These do not strike as good a contrast against white shirts or connote authority as efficiently, so he was correct in jumping to the trusty reds and blues later.

In all cases, one will look better dressed, perhaps wealthier, wearing a properly fitting $500 suit than someone wearing a badly fitting $5,000 suit. A well chosen tie, tasteful cufflinks, and well polished shoes will also distinguish the wearer from those who simply let money and flashiness over substance guide their purchases.

When I heard that he would be using the services of an American made to measure clothier, I held a small glimmer of hope. Perhaps they could bring him to the light of good fit. The word is that he is now being dressed by Brooks Brothers' made to measure department, likely the Golden Fleece quality level, since unlike Brioni they are an American company and much of their production is now in the USA. It's unclear why he didn't go back to Martin Greenfield if he wished to put his promise of buying American into action, but no reason has been given as yet. Interestingly, he initially believed that Brooks Brothers had moved all production overseas but was corrected in an interview with George Stephanopoulos. He may have gotten the idea there. Not to mention, Brooks has a long, storied history of dressing American Presidents dating back to Abraham Lincoln. It is unclear where his ties, shirts, cufflinks, and shoes are made, but he has claimed in the past to wear some pieces from his own clothing brand, the Donald J. Trump Collection.

The jacket fit is much improved but he does not reap the full benefits wearing it open.

The result is competent if not stupendous. Thankfully, the unsightly reflective fabrics have given way to more ordinary worsted wool. From what we can see in his White House interview with David Muir, the jacket fit is improved. The shoulders no longer appear too wide and droopy, the jacket has lost some excess fabric, and judging by the sliver of shirt cuff the sleeves actually look like they're the proper length. For reasons unknown, Trump wears both his overcoat and jacket open for most of the inaugural proceedings, a gaffe son Eric Trump also committed. This is perhaps a habit he's had for a while, seen with jacket unbuttoned quite often, but it's unfortunate that he continues it even while being sworn in. More odd is that in the aforementioned interview, Donald chooses to button his jacket sitting down but once again leaves it to flap about during his walk around the courtyard with Muir. A better practice is doing the opposite, if anything, but one can leave their single breasted jacket buttoned all day if desired. (If tailor Edward Sexton gets his wish of dressing him in double breasted suits, those must remain fastened.) Former President Obama has a leg up by always keeping his suit buttoned when standing. To be fair though, Barack's sleeves are still too long after eight years.

Trump would have looked far more commanding of respect had he kept his jacket, let alone his overcoat closed.

Braces are still absent from his daily wardrobe so the trousers sag a bit once more, though not quite as much as before. The long rise is fortunately still present and looks better than if he were wearing lower rise trousers. The overall fit is improved, with legs tapering more gracefully towards the shoe. In other words, they no longer look huge by 1940s standards. Donald has opted for reverse pleats and cuffs this time, rather than plain in both areas. Pleats are a good choice for someone his body type since they expand while sitting and thus will not wrinkle as much. Forward pleats drape better and would be the superior choice, but Brooks Brothers no longer makes that style as they once did. The cuffs look slightly shallow for his height and could be increased by a quarter inch.

The Donald may have unknowingly taken a style cue from the last POTUS, since he has been seen with a folded, white linen pocket square recently. Obama occasionally wore this accoutrement during his second term, especially for black tie events. This may in turn have been influenced by Former Vice President Biden, who wore them even before their first term. Regardless, it is good to see pocket squares returning to presidential attire in the last few years. Past Presidents including John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan wore them, but they have been sparsely seen in the Oval Office since. White linen, folded to show just a small edge above the breast pocket opening, is a good way to add flair to a tailored ensemble without being too conspicuous. It has resurfaced as a popular look in menswear since the mid-2000s, alternately known as the Flat Fold and -- somewhat appropriately -- the Presidential Fold.

Trump wearing a simple flat folded pocket square while signing an executive order.

Regrettably, Trump still downgrades his look by knotting his ties too high up, leaving the blade to rest halfway down to his crotch. Even if his jacket was fastened, the tie would conspicuously hang below the waist button several inches.

I will not discuss the inaugural tuxedo in much length since it does not appear to be made by Brooks Brothers, lacking the fit refinements previously discussed. But at the very least, he appears to be wearing braces (since a belt is unforgivable with black tie) and a self-tied bow tie. Peak lapels have a good lengthening effect, but he should leave the cummerbund at home in favor of a low cut waistcoat next time. Cummerbunds do not look harmonious with anything besides shawl or notch lapels and can draw the eye towards a larger stomach.

The favorable benefits of a tailored jacket are lost when not fastened and those pants are yuge.

It would seem that with the guidance of Brooks Brothers' staff, President Donald Trump has gotten a wardrobe upgrade more in line with his declared wealth and status as Commander-in-Chief. If he could only fasten his jacket and knot his ties to an appropriate length, he would look even better. Whether his style will impact menswear in the United States as many previous Presidents have remains to be seen. We are already on the cusp of traditional fits and pleated trousers coming back into fashion. Perhaps his time in office will be the final push required.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Review: NVSBL Undershirt

Recently, Jake Lengui contacted me to ask if I wanted to review one of the undershirts from his brand. Naturally, I accepted.

NVSBL is one of a number of companies now -- it's difficult to tell which one started this trend first -- that are offering undershirts that actually blend with one's skin tone. Initially, they only offered a colour that works on fair skin, appropriately dubbed "Light" which is the one I was sent. Recently, they are offering "Medium" (beige) and "Dark" (brown) for darker skin.

It's hard to pinpoint why, but men have been restricted to white, grey, or black undershirts even though women have known the power of "nude" coloured undergarments to avoid see-through for ages. Perhaps men thought it was too feminine a concept until now? In any case, it is good to finally have such a solution. Even very fair skinned folk like myself can have a white undershirt show through, especially with a white shirt. Deep v-necks only help so much when going sans tie, since one can still see the outline of it around the placket and biceps of the shirt.

These companies have combined both concepts -- a deep v-neck and nude undergarments -- to create an undershirt that works for any situation. All the models are shown without ties on the website, but I can safely state that it works well with all the buttons fastened. The only "danger" is the possibility of seeing the collar's outline, but it's minimized when wearing a jacket or sweater anyway.

So how does NVSBL rate? Pretty well. The cut is nice and slim as all undershirts should be. It's long enough to stay tucked all day, again as undershirts should. The sample I received had rather generous sleeves, but they appear to have raised the hem since then to be worn with short sleeved shirts. Like many other competitors, NVSBL is made with modal blended with a small amount of Spandex so it breathes well and absorbs/dissipates more moisture than cotton. And unlike some other undershirts I've tried which are cotton blended with modal, this fabric DOES NOT PILL. Seriously, I've been washing and wearing this for over a month. It holds up beautifully. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the tagless logo and care information as it has mostly peeled off. But that's a minor point. I hope the wearer would know their size and how to care for it by the time that happens! The only other con I can think of is that the back collar tends to sit away from the neck, raising the "V" in front so that it may show when leaving two buttons undone on a shirt.

This is a good quality undershirt and I highly recommend it. It is affordable (only $27 US, free standard shipping when purchasing two) and does what it sets out to do.

DISCLAIMER: Nouveau Vintage received material compensation in exchange for a review. However, every attempt has been made to remain objectively critical.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Read my black tie article on Navy Blazer

Navy Blazer is a fairly new online publication revolving around American style which started on Reddit but later expanded its presence to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a proper website. A while back, I was commissioned to write an article about the basics of black tie by the founder. Here is the article published just in time for the upcoming dinner jacket season. Please let me know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments.

Click to go to the article.
Soon, I'll be putting up a review of iDesign's suits and shirts. iDesign is a MTM clothing company only available from clothing retailers who use their services, one of which is the local menswear store I work at.

iDesign suit and shirt, Bruno Piattelli tie, and Kent Wang pocket square

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Kingsman: The Secret Service -- The Blue Velvet Dinner Jacket

Since my article on Colin Firth's beautifully-cut double breasted suits from Kingsman, I've had many requests to cover another beloved outfit from the film.

There are spoilers. You have been warned. But really, why haven't you seen it yet?

"DeVere" arriving at Valentine's mansion. 

Galahad poses as a billionaire to infiltrate a black tie gala held by supervillain Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). To his surprise, he finds himself not only overdressed but the whole affair cancelled in his honor for a private dinner. He keeps up appearances nonetheless in a striking blue velvet dinner jacket and Black Watch Tartan trousers. This outfit is perhaps more appropriate to what the event turned into rather than what was originally intended, but it may suit his cover to dress in a more creative way. As all the other film's tailored clothing the dinner jacket and trousers were made by Martin Nicholls London, a bespoke tailoring firm on Savile Row.

Valentine later refers to it as "that dope ass smoking jacket" in admiration and its retail counterpart was listed as such in the Mr Porter clothing line. This is something of a misnomer since it is styled as a dinner jacket, complete with a single button closure, black faille silk facings, jetted besom pockets, and a more structured appearance. The only aspects this dinner jacket has in common with smoking jackets is the velvet fabric and shawl collar. The sleeves feature faille silk turnback cuffs, an Edwardian era touch that may not serve a purpose but certainly looks stylish. Hart is in good company, with other fictional spies including James Bond wearing them. Double vents on a dinner jacket are frowned upon by some menswear purists but embraced by others as a tasteful update. A single vent would be too casual given its sporting origins and less refined appearance. The straight padded shoulders with roped sleeveheads, nipped waist, and flared sleeve ends are signature details of Nicholls' house cut also present on his suit jackets. The sleeves appear slightly short at times but they could simply be catching on the end of his shirt cuffs.

Note how the jacket looks dark navy or even black in some shots.

The trousers are of Black Watch Tartan fabric and have a medium-low rise, flat front, and plain hemmed bottoms with a moderate break. Unlike most evening trousers, these are more akin to Scottish trews and lack a silk stripe on the side. This offers more dinner jacket options to pair them with -- not needing to match silk facings -- and the flexibility of wearing them outside of black tie. As with his suits, they have a trim straight cut and are held up with slide buckle tabs.

Replica dinner jacket as sold through Mr Porter's first Kingsman collection.

Hart wears a white marcella-fronted evening shirt, again from Turnbull & Asser. The body and sleeve fabric are poplin with the collar and cuffs in marcella to match the bib. The studs on the front of the shirt are white mother of pearl on a silver backing, but the cufflinks are difficult to see. They appear to be the same rose gold ones that he wears with his suit judging by behind the scenes materials. The Drake's bow tie matches his dinner jacket's facings in black faille silk. Unfortunately he chooses to forego a cummerbund which leaves some shirt exposed between the jacket's modern, higher button stance and the trouser's lower rise. This is the only low point in an otherwise polished look. His shoes are black George Cleverley patent leather oxfords. Though not seen in great detail, the Mr Porter version suggests they are the same chisel toed last as on the cap toe oxfords. As always, he fills the jacket's breast pocket with a folded white linen pocket square, also by Drake's.

Between takes on the set of Kingsman, which shows the jacket to actually be dark blue. The exposed triangle of white shirt is even more obvious here.

Bonus: Harry's Manners

Even undercover, Harry displays class and good etiquette by not belittling his host's rather unconventional culinary choices. This seems to go along with his general dislike of snobbery. Valentine expresses his love for pairing '45 LaFitte and cheeseburgers, with Harry humorously suggesting '37 Chateau d'Yquem and Twinkies as pudding. As he says earlier in the film, "Manners maketh man." It matters little how well-dressed one is if their character doesn't match.

"I'll have the Big Mac, please."

If you have any questions about the movie's clothing, please feel free to leave a comment or send an email through the contact form. I may cover another outfit if there is a call for it (such as Lancelot's tweed suit) and hopefully you'll wait less than a year this time! Thanks to Matt Spaiser for the inspiration and all those who enjoyed the original blog post.

Screencaps taken by