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.

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 kissthemgoodbye.net.

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.