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.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Why the jacket vents?

A comment on my Kingsman post sparked an interesting conversation with a friend about how tailored clothing should be both practical and look good.

The question came up: Why vents on a jacket?

It's interesting to note that in a period known for its full cut, pleated trousers (1930s-1950s) the fashion was to have no vents at all on a jacket. This is a curious juxtaposition to me, especially when one considers that men used to wear suits the same way most men now wear jeans and a t-shirt. What baffles me even more are the jackets that had a bi-swing back yet still no vents! Why give freedom of movement in a couple areas but not in another?

Searching the internet has yielded very few real answers, except for the assertion that cinematographers believed ventless jackets filmed cleaner. Whatever that means. Though it's safe to say film had an influence on fashion, perhaps more than it does now in the age of internet, I don't quite think that's the end of the story. Some have claimed that vents are a relatively recent innovation, but that makes little sense as well. Just in the previous decade (1920s), all jackets had a long single vent. Furthermore, all the tailored clothing we now think dressed up was derived from sporting clothes; namely shooting or horseback riding. Those certainly had vents for movement. In short, I'm uncertain why this trend started or lasted so long. Even into the 1960s some suit or sport jackets were being made without vents.

Generally, I follow the guidelines that tuxedos/dinner jackets can be ventless or have double vents, single breasted suits and sport coats can have single or double vents, and double breasted suits and sport coats should always have double vents.

A lot of great things were innovated for menswear in the 1930s. I don't think ventless jackets were one of them. They restrict your movement, place more stress on the buttons, and wrinkle more easily. I used to think otherwise when I was heavy into the vintage clothing community, but now believe some things date badly for a reason.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Sebastian Ward now more affordable than ever.

You're hearing it here first -- in a couple days (8/3), Sebastian Ward is reducing their price to a more accessible $99 versus the debut of $175. For now, this is just on the shirts they currently offer, but later they will be getting new product from another supplier that is near identical in every way.

For those who haven't heard of Sebastian Ward yet, here are some of the features they boast:
  • Extra long tails with expanding side gussets keep it tucked all day, even after sitting down.
  • High armholes, snug cuffs, and longer sleeves to allow a full range of arm movement.
  • Trim "athletic" fit. Not extra slim or very full, just right.
  • High two-button collar that stands on its own with or without stays.
They are one of the best shirts I've had the pleasure of owning just by virtue of the fit and features. So if price was ever an issue before, now you have no excuse.