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.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Easier way to iron a shirt from Sebastian Ward

I don't always know everything or can present it in an interesting way. In these cases I'll just link you the original content since they explain it much better than I can.

You'd think there's no wrong way to press a shirt and, for the most part, you'd be right. It mostly comes down to remembering to press from the collar point inward and subjective debates of whether or not you need to press a crease into the sleeves or double cuffs. (I'm in the no sleeve crease camp and never press any into my cuffs.) But certainly there are ways to make it faster and less frustrating.

Enter Sebastian Ward. Besides having a few nifty innovations for their own shirts, they've figured out a quicker and easier way to press your shirt on their blog. I would personally do it the night before rather than morning of work like they suggest, but these tips are still pretty sound.

Take a gander, try it out, and let me know if it's helped your shirt pressing routine as well.

I don't know about seven minutes, but it's certainly less frustrating than what I was doing before!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Review: Butler Luxury Suit Hangers

This review has been some time coming so my thanks to Mike Cregan, the kind gentleman behind Butler Luxury, for his patience.

Butler Luxury, subtitled "Exceptional Elegance", was founded several years ago and has provided luxury hangers to other companies for some time. Only recently did they open their doors to sell directly to the public. Since then, they've been another force to be reckoned with in the luxury hanger business.

Many in the online menswear community will know about Kirby Allison's Hanger Project. They were the first to innovate properly sized hangers according to your jacket (and later shirt) size. Continuing in this vain, Butler Luxury also offers sized hangers. The reason being that your jacket shoulders will not always match the width of standard jacket and suit hangers.

I was sent an 18" Deep Butterscotch finish suit hanger to review. I could have perhaps gone down a size, since the front tips of the hangers protrude slightly from under the jacket shoulders. It is probably best to go according to their size guide, which is slightly different from Hanger Project.

On an old Brooks Brothers suit with 18.5" shoulders.

The biggest difference from them and HP is in the proportions. Much has been made of this online and in the end it is up to you to decide what is best. On paper, HP sounds like the better option. The bigger curve in back and wider, rounder shoulders better mimic the human frame. Yet Butler Luxury has the clear advantage in balancing space saving and proper shoulder support. I haven't done any scientific studies of course, yet I find it hard to believe that 2.5" wide versus BL's 2.25" will make that significant a difference. Actually I found it saved more space than even my old standbys, Bed Bath & Beyond's EZ DO Real Hangers, which also come in at 2.5" like HP's but are half the price. (There has certainly been a market for inexpensive alternatives to Hanger Project  since their arrival.)

Different profiles of different hangers. The rest on are EZ DO Real Hangers.

It's a matter of opinion which finish is superior. Hanger Project has a machine painted, high-gloss varnish while Butler Luxury offers a dull, hand painted varnish which allows you see more of the wood's quality and thus adds to the charm. Some believe the Hanger Project finish looks "cheap" with how glossy it is. But there is a clear difference between it and EZ DO seen below as well.

Butler Luxury on left, EZ DO Real Hanger on right.
The size difference is more apparent here than the previous picture.

Besides the varnishing, the hangers themselves are also made by hand which is another advantage over Hanger Project and my own EZ DO hangers. The brass hook also has a ball end, something that improves upon previous versions of Butler Luxury's hangers and HP's looped end hook. It is also wider and thus appears sturdier, less prone to bending.

Butler Luxury in front, EZ DO Real Hanger in back. They are both 18" wide, do not let the perspective fool you.

Both have wide, felted trouser bars to hold them securely in place and without any of the creases that can develop from other methods of hanging folded in half. I was one of those people who was "so over" round trouser bars. It seems I was simply not using the right kind. In over a week of having my suit hung up, they never once fell off while browsing through my tailored clothing; a problem I have had with both conventional wire wrapped wood bars (which I really dislike) and EZ DO's strange plastic teeth that don't really work well at all (seen above).

Butler Luxury does not offer trouser hangers with clamps or men's suit hangers with clips. They do offer women's suit and skirt hangers which have clips. I'm pretty sure your masculinity won't be in question buying the latter, as it looks just like a men's trouser hanger. Hanging trousers folded in half has advantages if your vertical closet space is limited though.

Felted trouser bar

Looking at their other offerings, unfortunately their men's shirt and women's suit hangers only come in one size. I'd like to see them offer the same advantages as their suit and coat hangers at some point.

Overall, I'd give the advantage to Butler Luxury's suit and coat hangers based on all these facts. While a few dollars more than Hanger Project, they save space better while basically doing the same thing and are technically superior in every other way. They also offer bulk pricing, bringing them down in price closer to HP. If there is one thing I'd change it would be to make the shoulder ends rounder. I would also add more information on the website as to how they work better than ordinary suit and coat hangers for the average consumer. For the sake of fairness though, I will probably purchase and review a Hanger Project suit hanger at some point and review it.

A big thanks to Mike Cregan of Butler Luxury for sending this suit hanger to review.

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

EDIT: Mike Cregan plans to offer another size of men's shirt hanger in the coming months as well as deluxe garment bags and an even more luxurious line of hangers. Stay tuned, I'll try to cover those when they come out.