Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Review: Standard Shirt

Recently, I was contact by Sung Jo of Standard Shirt to see if I would review one of their products. I happily agreed and was promptly shipped a White Spread Collar Shirt. There's also a Cutaway Collar version available for those who want a bolder look.

Shipping was quick, no more than five days. It was boxed with no fancy transparent window boxing, which is what I prefer. I've never particularly felt that flamboyant packaging added any value to shirts, since the box and bag would be quickly thrown out anyway.

Their logo box is the one used for shipping. There is no further, wasteful box inside.

Pretty typical shirt packaging.

Initial impressions were pretty good for the price. It had a nice, substantial spread collar (about 5.5" wide with 3.25" points) and slightly longer, European style button cuffs. Accordingly, you won't find a chest pocket as Americans are accustomed to.There are seven buttons on the front of the shirt, though I'd prefer eight. Their fit, dubbed a tailored fit, is not as slim as I prefer but also not loose by any stretch of the imagination. However, there are darts in the back, which makes it blouse a bit less than a non-darted shirt with similar dimensions would. I prefer darts on my shirts, so this was a plus. The fabric is 80's pinpoint cotton. A "standard shirt" in my opinion is made of poplin, but the choice to use pinpoint is understandable since it's generally lower in cost and more resistant to wrinkles. An interesting facet of their shirts is that the collar size goes by both half and quarter inches for a more precise fit, though only up to size 16. It's claimed on the product pages, "Our sleeve lengths run an inch shorter than advertised due to our reinforced cuffs and button location. Our 35 sleeve will fit closer to a 34." So why not just list them as the actual length?

Collar close up. Frames a tie knot pretty well.

Signature blue thread on the cuff buttons.

Fit when tucked in. It could lose just a bit of fabric at the waist, everything else is spot on.

There are a couple areas that could be better, even considering the low price of $59.00 (average department store shirt price in the USA). For one, the plastic pearl-look buttons don't seem especially sturdy. Thicker resin buttons are always preferable because they will last longer with laundering and simply look better. At first I thought they forgot to put in stays with how floppy the collar felt. I discovered that they were there, but made of low quality, transparent plastic. It was thinner than the packaging used to stand up the collar. I then looked around the package to see if there was a separate pair somewhere. No dice. This especially needs addressing and a pair of proper, stiff plastic stays wouldn't cost much to add.

Hardly a collar stay.

This is a pretty good value for the price and a stylish shirt, but I hope they improve upon those couple details. As I understand, they want to do one thing (versatile white shirts) and do them well.

Nouveau Vintage received material compensation to complete this review, but every effort has been made to remain objective.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Review: Anthony Sinclair Cocktail Cuff Shirt

Anthony Sinclair relaunched four years ago with the help of David Mason, creative director. Mason first got into the clothing business in college, but found that the ready to wear offerings weren't quite what he wanted. Later, he trained under Edward Sexton and learned even more about bespoke clothing and fashion design. Acquiring the name is not mere lip service  as he also brought back the skills of Sinclair's apprentice Richard Paine as head cutter for bespoke services. In this way, they can truly continue the tradition of the "Conduit Cut" suit. They are also providing James Bond inspired looks for reasonable prices on the retail side of the business. Sinclair tailored Sean Connery, the original 007, after all. Available are suits, shirts, and ties that roughly approximate the style and look quite fresh today with some modern fashion concessions. So no, they're not exact replicas of what Connery wore, but rather what he feels Anthony Sinclair would be doing today. The look is not complete without a folded linen pocket square, which they naturally sell too. One can even own the authentic Slazenger jumper from Goldfinger, among other branded items the actors have worn throughout the movies.

One of the offerings in this collection is the Cocktail Cuff Shirt. This style is basically as if a barrel cuff and double cuff had a baby, offering the convenience of the former and elegance of the latter. Turnbull & Asser calls it the Two-Button Turnback Cuff, whereas Frank Foster calls it the Cocktail Cuff. It was popularized in the '60s by various celebrities including David Niven and Dick Van Dyke. Both Connery and Moore's Bond were known for wearing turnback cuffs as well, though Daniel Craig donned them on Tom Ford shirts recently in Spectre. For a more thorough discussion and history of the cocktail cuff, see Matt Spaiser's article about it.

Noteworthy was the great customer service upon ordering. I soon received an email stating that my size was currently out of stock and was asked how to proceed. I let Elliot -- who it turns out is David's son and runs the social media aspect of the company -- know that I would wait for the restock. Too often I've had apathetic customer service that did not bother informing me of such things until weeks later, from both big and small businesses alike. Brooks Brothers was notorious for this in the past and I stopped ordering from them altogether after being burned for the third time.

Straight out of the box. It was shipped with minimal packaging, which I approve.

The shirt is made from two-fold 100's cotton twill. They are offered in Regular and Slim fit, though like many English shirts only have one sleeve length available per collar size. Fortunately, one can special order a shirt for a bit more and have it exactly as needed. I went with the standard sizing since it corresponds with the sleeve length I usually wear. It would make a bit more sense if they were progressively longer however. Both size 16 and 16.5 have 35.5" sleeves, for example. The tails could also stand to be a increased by a couple of inches. The fit is decently slim, not skin tight thankfully, though I may take in the waist a bit more.

Untucked showing the tail length.

The collar is fused as with most shirts made today. Some may argue that it's inferior to completely unfused construction, but it's simply a different school of thought. However, higher end shirtmakers usually face the fused part of the collar band outwards for better comfort, easier cleaning, and less chance of crumpling forward above the button. Doing so would be of great benefit on this shirt. The cuffs are also fused, but the interfacing on those should ideally be soft and sewn, allowing it to roll back smoothly.

The cuff unfolded. The design is similar to the Turnbull & Asser turnback.

There is a split yoke in the back as well as gussets at the bottom of the side seams. Both features are controversial among shirtmakers and menswear devotees alike, but I personally prefer them. The split yoke gives a bit more ease in the shoulders when reaching forward and the side gussets serve a similar function when sitting down in a shirt. The Slim Fit has darts in the back, which I prefer on shirts since it better follows the body's contours. Darts can also be easily taken in or let out at the wearer's discretion and involves less work than altering the side seams.

Split yoke.

Side gussets.

Back darts.

As style details go, they're pretty solid. The semi-cutaway collar is pretty substantial with 3 1/4" long points, 5 1/2" spread width, and 3/8" of tie space. The band is 1 1/8" tall in front. No pocket, just the way I prefer my dress shirts. The cuffs themselves are a bit shorter than real double cuffs, measuring 2 3/4" long when folded. Mother of pearl buttons are to be expected on a shirt of this price and their shape, size, and ease of fastening do not disappoint. The placket has 1/4" stitching, the back is plain, and the cuffs are attached with small pleats near the opening, so it overall looks more Italian than English in style. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but as noted before one should not expect an exact facsimile of the early James Bond shirts.

Fit with top button closed.

This is a stylish, unique shirt that I'll be able to wear with a variety of suits and sport coats, so all things considered was a pretty good purchase. (At less than half of Turnbull & Asser's asking price for a similar style.) A few small improvements would make it an even better value. Can we hope for a version available in poplin or other colours?

Suit by Maxman, knitted tie by The Knottery, pocket square by J. Crew.

Stay tuned, as I'll be reviewing other clothing by Anthony Sinclair in the coming months.

Nouveau Vintage did not receive any material compensation for this review and the product was bought at full retail price.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Three Ways to Look Your Best in a Suit

Originally published on the Suits Unlimited Blog February 15, 2016

You may already own a few suits or are looking for the first one. Either way, you should know how to wear it. Here are a few tricks whether you're looking to land that job, already have the job, or just want to step up your style game.

1. Button Up

Believe it or not, suits don't merely exist to make your life difficult. Their purpose is to minimize perceived flaws and make men appear taller, stronger, sleeker. They're the men's equivalent of the "little black dress". Fastening the waist button does just that. It presents the suit, and you, in the best possible light by slimming the waist and broadening the shoulders. Leaving it unfastened all day will cause it to look shapeless. Feel free to leave it unbuttoned if you're sitting down for a while, otherwise keep it buttoned... and send the right message to your peers.

2. Hike 'Em Up

This is an area where many first time suit wearers are confused. The waist size on the pants will sound larger than they're accustomed to wearing. But unlike jeans, suit pants (and other dress pants) are meant to sit higher at the waist. Just don't pull them up to the point of cutting into yourself! If you have a belly, avoid sagging the pants below it. This is the easiest way to look heavier than you really are. Instead, try a pair of suspenders if you have trouble holding them up. Keeping pants at the right height will create an unbroken line between jacket and pant, which translates to looking like a million bucks.

3. Right Suit for the Right Physique

Wear a suit that's proportionate to you. If you are broad, a full cut will accommodate larger shoulders, waists, or legs comfortably. If, on the other end of the spectrum, you are slight of build a slim fit works best. Wearing a suit too tight will pull and look unsightly, like you're about to "Hulk" out of your clothing. Wearing a suit too loose will look akin to playing dress-up in Dad's closet. Naturally, not every suit is going to be perfect off the rack even following this guideline. This is where a good alterations tailor comes in handy. They can take in the waist of a jacket for men with athletic builds (larger chest and shoulders to waist proportion) and taper pants to the perfect leg opening.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Two wins for Leo tonight.

One, the most obvious, is his Oscar for Actor in a Leading Role for The Revenant. The film may not have gotten great reviews, but this award was more of an apology for all the times he lost before.

The second win is his much-improved black tie game. Finally, a single button, peak lapels, and bow tie all at once! Can we hope for a pocket square, proper amount of exposed shirt cuff, and a waistcoat in the future? Time will tell.

Monday, February 22, 2016

I'm not dead yet.

I apologize for the lack of updates. Between coming home later than at my last job and writing for a menswear store here in town, the creative energy just hasn't been as it used to be. But if you want to see what I've been writing recently, see the Suits Unlimited blog. They are possibly the best menswear store in Albuquerque due to their devotion to customer service, quality alterations (done on premises six days a week), and attention to detail.

I will do my best to revive some of that energy in the coming months.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Review: The Cordial Churchman (Black Satin Narrow Butterfly)

For six years now, The Cordial Churchman has been hand making bow ties in a small workshop in South Carolina. They got their start when a wife of an online menswear aficionado (and pastor) made a rather fetching bow tie out of leftover seersucker fabric and his friends asked where it could be bought. She also started converting tired old neckties into fresh looking bow ties, a service that is still offered to this day along with "cut, make, trim" services (sending your own special fabric for product construction). Now they mostly deal in making bow ties from bolts of fabric as is traditional, but these products are no less special. You can't find many of these fabrics elsewhere, they are pretty unique.

Recently, I decided that a better quality, black satin bow tie was needed in my collection. I also thought it was time for a more classic butterfly shape instead of the diamond ended ones bought from The Tie Bar. At the same time, it was difficult to find what I wanted. That is, a butterfly shape that wasn't as wide as traditional but also not very narrow. I didn't want a straight-ended "batwing" tie either. To my surprise, none of the major clothiers one would expect had such an animal available for purchase. I then remembered TCC and how they make bow ties to order.

Arriving in minimal packaging with just some tissue in a small box, the bow tie came complete with a hand-written note from Ellie herself. This, to me, was a great little gesture. The neckwear itself seems pretty decently made for someone who was "merely" self-taught in making them just a few years ago. It has just enough body without being overly stiff and makes a pretty fine bow. Most of all, the 2 1/8" butterfly shape is precisely what I was looking for to wear at future black tie events.

The only minor downside for some is that the adjustable band doesn't have precise neck size markings like most of the major retailers' bows do. I'm a 16" neck and somehow the setting it arrived on works perfectly, but most other people will have to do some fussing before it's right. I'd like to see this feature on their bow ties in the future, but maybe it just won't happen. That's okay. I'll still be buying more ties from them in the future, because they make a great product for almost half of what the major retailers charge.

Wearing the bow tie in my James Bond (Casino Royale) inspired shoot.

Dinner jacket by Brooks Brothers
Evening shirt by Modena
Wristwatch by Kenneth Cole New York
Cuff links by Express

Photo by Cnidarium Photography

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Review: UnderFit (V-Neck)

I've had the pleasure of reviewing a few different undershirts on my blog from RibbedTee and jT Invisible Undershirt. Recently, Paul Beck of UnderFit contacted me and asked if I would review his product, since he considers it superior to both those brands. I agreed and received a package of one V-Neck soon afterwards. Besides the kind note included, the packaging is pretty minimalistic with just a bubble envelope over the clear plastic wrapping of the undershirt -- as it should be in my opinion. I believe more clothing brands should use less waste when packaging their products. Anyone can use a fancy box, tonnes of tissue, and lots of plastic wrap to pump up their brand image (and the amount of waste in landfills). What counts is what's inside.

I'll spare my readers the indignity of looking at my pale torso in the undershirt. But if you'll kindly trust my written description, it fits the best of any undershirt I own. And I am not as muscular or defined as the men modelling the undershirts on their website. It feels just right around the sleeves, something I typically have a bit of gap in with other undershirts and t-shirts. The torso and armholes also fit snug enough, not feeling binding or constricting whatsoever. The length sits at the perfect point for tucking into your underwear or leaving out if you prefer. Either way, it hugs the buttocks well and doesn't come untucked. Though the modal fabric includes some stretch (95/5) it is by no means a compression undershirt. I am a pretty slender guy at 6'1 and 190 lbs and most undershirts, even those by RibbedTee and jT Invisible, don't fit quite as well as they could. A side note, I believe it's best to get the same size you usually get for t-shirts and undershirts. According to the size chart, I should actually get L due to my height and weight. I usually wear M, selected that, and feel it worked out for the best here.

The fabric does well at regulating temperature and keeping its original feel wash after wash, dry after dry. Many modal undershirts will unfortunately pill after machine washing and tumble drying, even if the care instructions tell you to do so! Thankfully, this one (like the jT Modal) will not. I felt pretty cool and comfortable throughout nine-hour days at work.

So, the elephant in the room: Price. Considering one of these costs as much as a decent quality printed t-shirt, I don't think $25 is that pricey. Contrary to many menswear enthusiasts, I don't consider underwear "disposable", let alone dress shirts. They should be an investment like any other piece of your wardrobe. Your mileage may vary of course.

The v-neck could use slight improvement. Though promised to not show with two buttons undone, on half of my dress shirts the neck opening comes to just above the third button. I feel jT Invisible achieves this somewhat better, with the opening coming clear below the third button. It will probably not show most of the time and may not be a big concern. The other minor complaint I have is that the seams are not taped on the neck and shoulders. This is a feature I believe should be standard on undershirts and t-shirts, not only for comfort but long term strength.

I rate these undershirts highly. Did I mention they're made in the USA? Like RibbedTee, that's a pretty good selling point. Go get some if they're in your price range, they are well worth it.