Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Review: Chipp Neckwear

Chipp Neckwear, previously known as Chipp 2, is named after an iconic American menswear institution. Chipp as it was known was actually a fashion leader at one point, helping weave patch madras and patch tweed into the Ivy League clothing canon. Besides their ready to wear clothing, they were also well known for tailoring some of late President John F. Kennedy's suits in house.

Today, Paul Winston continues the tradition with Winston Tailors and Chipp Neckwear. The only ready to wear items he sells now are ties, braces, and other menswear accessories, but the spirit is certainly the same. Chipp 2 originally sold just dog breed ties and small accessories, eventually moving into grenadines and other ties when it became Chipp Neckwear.

One thing Chipp has always been known for is its humourous -- some would say childish -- tie designs, most of which you need to look closely to see the joke. While they're not everyone's cup of tea, there's certainly been a market for them for decades now. Paul has no reason to discontinue them at this point.

But the more serious tie collector will still find a few goodies to satisfy them.

I was given three ties to review, a lilac grenadine, red ancient madder paisley print, and silk shantung stripe. All of them are the reasonable width and length of 3 1/4" x 57". This is in keeping with the times without looking trendy. I believe their ties were previously 3 1/2" wide. Brooks Brothers ties are currently the same dimensions as Chipp Neckwear, but the narrowing of a quarter inch was a source of some controversy when it happened. Nonetheless, I think these dimensions will look good on most everyone, especially considering they have a firm interlining that makes nicely sized knots.

Grenadine is probably what Chipp Neckwear is best known for on menswear forums besides the dog breed ties. In spite of the allusion to a fictional superspy, these are garza fina, a finer weave of grenadine that is less prone to snagging. Bond more often than not wore garza grossa in films, something The Knottery makes. In spite of what I said in the above paragraph, I think the use of the same interlining as other ties in this one is a bit of a mistake. There's no way around it, the knot is huge. Like, sportscaster Windsor knot huge. My rule of thumb is that if it looks unbalanced as a four in hand knot with a button down collar, it will look too big with any other collar. Consequently, due to the thick interlinining and grenadine's own fickle nature, it is resistant to dimpling nicely though perhaps some wear would break it in. This was my only disappointment. The quality of the grenadine is wonderful, however.

Curiously, despite the change of name, the bartacked label still reads "Chipp 2" on recent products.

Looks a little '70s big. Not my personal taste.

I was pleasantly surprised with the ancient madder tie I received, though. I don't normally like paisley patterns on ties, but this one is pretty tasteful compared to many I've seen. Would I wear it? Probably not. But I imagine those with bolder tastes would be into it. The tie knot is more reasonable in size than the grenadine's, most likely due to the difference in thickness of the fabrics. The fabric feels great, nice and soft. I would love to have one in a simple Macclesfield pattern.

The great depth of colour can be appreciated up close.

Knots quite nicely.

The last one I looked at is quite a doozy and not for the faint of heart. Silk shantung striped in many colours. Wow. Though not something I'd wear, it's certainly in the "GTH" (go to hell) tradition of Chipp. The colour and texture are definitely beautiful on their own. I'd probably wear the checked version over this. I'm not certain why, but for some reason it seems a bit more sober and reminds me of madras plaid. They are both being sold as summer ties, which is appropriate.

Wonderful texture and sheen.

Not my cup of tea, but many could pull it off with the right colour coordination and attitude.

Chipp Neckwear offers some great quality products at the bargain price of $49.50 per tie. I believe the grenadines need a bit of work to knot more nicely, but that's about it. I hope Paul Winston's online business flourishes and I look forward to seeing how the other accessories do.

DISCLAIMER: Nouveau Vintage received the items for this review on temporary loan to evaluate their quality. Every effort has been made to remain objective.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Review: Salt + Dapper (Plaid Tie, Handmade Grosgrain Suspenders, and Seersucker Check Pocket Square)

Recently, I came into contact with Jack Fischman of Salt + Dapper. After some discussion, he decided to send me a few products for review here. Rather than letting me pick anything specific, I asked him to surprise me by sending styles that represented his aesthetic. The package that came recently did not disappoint.

Salt + Dapper debuted back in late 2013. When I first heard about it, I was intrigued by their unique styles and approach to accessories as well as how affordable the prices were. Jack has been in the menswear industry for just over a decade, having been a co-founder at The Knottery (whose grenadine tie I reviewed here) previous to striking off on his own.

Because of his connections in the industry, he is able to offer good quality products at fair prices due to sourcing the best components he can for the lowest cost yet keep it all made in the USA. That is admirable, and something I also like about The Knottery.

The tie I was sent is simply referred to as plaid cotton in the description, yet it seems awfully madras-like to me in both look and feel. Had I not known better, I would have simply called it that. It's a great spring tie regardless of what it technically may be. My misgivings about cotton ties were that they'd wrinkle too much and not drape well. I'm glad to say I was proven wrong on the latter. While it does wrinkle around where you knot it (as cotton will undoubtedly do), the drape is excellent. They use just the right thickness and stiffness of interlining so that it isn't droopy and knots well. I was also pleasantly surprised that, since the interlining is robust, the 58" length isn't too long as it usually would be on me. It falls to just the right length when using a decent sized four in hand knot.

I was also sent a pair of their signature grosgrain braces. Unlike the majority of braces out there now, they are made with cream corded ends rather than the common leather ends. These are typically only used on braces meant for black and white tie. However, Jack feels that this lightens up their look a bit from a stereotypical Wall Street yuppie to something you could wear with a narrow silk knit tie if desired. Light is also a good term to describe the grosgrain ribbon used, because it is quite different in feel from the heavy barathea braces I have from Brooks Brothers. I barely noticed it when wearing them to work yesterday, yet the ribbon is quite strong enough to hold up one's britches all day. (Not too surprising considering grosgrain ribbon is used for casual D-ring belts all the time.) Naturally, they also come in black and white flavours for your formal needs.

Rounding out the package was a rather nice looking pocket square made of navy and white mini-gingham seersucker. I'll be the first to admit that I'm addicted to white linen pocket squares in a "boring" flat fold, only recently adding light blue to my collection. However, I was instantly inspired to puff this bad boy into my chest poclet upon seeing it. It's just that kind of pocket square. I love the texture and pattern, but my only wish is that it had a hand rolled edge. While the braided edge does an adequate job, it would look nicer to have it hand rolled if you were a fan of putting the points up or another type of puff or fold that exposes the edge. It would also make it just that much more luxurious in feel.

All told, I'm pretty impressed with what I'm seeing so far. I think Salt + Dapper is going to be a household name in the #menswear community soon enough and highly recommend them to anyone who wants decently priced men's accessories made in the USA.

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

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Review: The Knottery Grenadine Tie (Navy -- 3")

Grenadine ties, especially in navy, are one of those #menswear/iGent memes that have kind of exploded in the last few years. Every little startup haberdashery seems to be offering them. For good reason too. It's versatile, classy looking, makes a nicely shaped knot, and -- look, there's no avoiding it -- menswear icon James Bond (the Sean Connery version) wore them in the films. The recent, nostalgic look back to simplified men's wardrobes of the mid 20th century probably influenced the popularity as well.

"I swear, I wasn't trying to make this popular half a century later."

The Knottery has offered them in garza grossa (large scale grenadine weave) since they started, but only recently restocked after being out for some time. Before that they had a pre-order deal where you could pay only $40 and get one. They have since gone up to $60. After that, due to popular demand, they started offering pre-orders for them in 3.5" width for the more traditionally-minded or bigger man. I'm not certain what the status is on those, but I did have to wait a couple months for this one to come in after pre-ordering.

Even considering the 3" width, the knot size feels a bit small compared to other ties. Perhaps they wanted to compensate for grenadine's thickness by making the interlining a bit thinner. I think they could have made it just a bit thicker.

For comparison's sake, my collar points are 3" long and my lapels 2.75".

The quality of the Italian grenadine fabric is good, as it should be. There are but a few weavers of this fabric left in Italy. (Similarly, there are only a few good quality makers of silk knit ties left in Italy.) It is not to be confused with woven ties that emulate the basic texture but not the springy structure of the weave. The only problem I ran into was that there were two small snags at the bottom of the narrow end right out of the package. This isn't a big deal as no one will see it. But it does highlight the biggest problem of grenadine -- the need to treat it carefully. Keep your nails manicured and those grenadines away from any wooden splinters, rough surfaces, et cetera. I'm not sure what happened in making or packaging the tie that this occurred.

Small snags at the bottom.

Beyond that, it's my nitpick with most modern ties -- the length is a bit long. It comes in at 58", and most modern ties are a standard 57". An inch or two off at the very least would have been nice. But then, it should be taken into account that I wear my britches higher than most people do now. This probably won't be an issue if you wear ones that are mid rise or (heaven forbid) low rise.

At $60 it is a great value for a grenadine tie. The more widely known, usual makers of them such as Drake's of London will charge at least twice that. If they can iron out the small niggles in construction, it will be even better. But as it is, you're getting a pretty good tie made in the USA at a small shop (which keeps costs down).

No material compensation was received for this review. The item was purchased with the reviewer's own funds.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April Fools

In case it wasn't obvious enough, April Fools from me. I would never give up some of the things I think look great and make for better fitting clothing. That said, I've actually become a bit more tolerant of other points of view in the last couple years. The way I see it is, as much as I may not like it, slim fit suits are better than no suits at all. And if it causes younger people to know how to dress and adapt that to changing fashions as they go on (eventually the pendulum will swing back and we'll see pleated fronts in the mainstream again), all the better.

Here's what I'm actually wearing today, including a new grenadine garza grossa from The Knottery. I'll do a review on it pretty soon.

Hope everyone had a silly and fun April 1st.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A realization...

I think it's best if I just start wearing current styles. I know this will come as a shock to many of you who read, but it will make shopping a hell of a lot easier not having unattainably high standards. And I can just sew buttons for braces to keep lower rise trousers from slipping down my hips anyway.

The thing is, nobody but us cares about "classic style". The term is a joke and always has been. Style changes through the decades and there's little we can do to stop it. Plus my significant other said she likes me in slim fit suits. Happy wife, happy life, right?

So gentlemen, the whole "pseudo-vintage" look has been fun but I'm afraid you'll see a change in my outlook. If I'm no longer welcome in the classic menswear blogosphere, so be it. I can always go on Reddit or something.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Upcoming Paul Evans collection

This collection stands apart from their initial offerings in that they're taking more risks, style wise. However, I'd definitely wear the single monk straps, chukkas, and wholecuts.

Again, they are offering sleeker profile, Italian-made shoes more accessibly in the United States, which sets them apart from American shoe manufacturers at around the same price point. Allen Edmonds already offers Italian shoes, but they are limited to loafers only.

I look forward to the debut of this collection and hope this brand prospers -- as well as offers more sizing options in the future.

A beautifully burnished pair of wholecuts.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Black Lapel Spring 2014

I think, for once, Black Lapel has actually released something right on time. Ahead of time, actually.

The Spring 2014 Collection is here. Along with their usual addition of a few all-seasonal suitings (the grey birdseye is a particularly classic choice), there is finally linen! Or sort of. Blends of roughly 3/4 wool and 1/4 linen. Derek Tian explained that this was chosen because it resists wrinkles more than pure linen, but less than pure wool while still giving much of the same warm weather comfort. Along with that is a wool-mohair blend in light grey with white stripes. Blends of mohair (you will rarely if ever see a fabric in pure mohair) are more breathable in warm weather than pure wool but aren't as popular as they once were for menswear. I hope to see more wool-mohair blends from them in the future, including solids. I only find it unfortunate that the model is wearing a belt with a three piece suit, as it splays and bulges out the waistcoat points in an unattractive way. The dark belt also breaks up what should be an elegant flow of fabric.

I'm not sure if they changed this before the spring collection, but I just noticed the Shawl Tuxedo pictures were updated to a classier single button style with the newer, improved shawl shape. It is a big improvement from the examples pictures they had before -- rather bottom heavy and evocative of the '90s in a bad way -- but the bottom taper may be a tad too skinny for my tastes. Worth noting however that they are perfectly willing to copy lapel shapes that you prefer, which is great for guys like me who are way too picky.