Defending a Man’s Bag

As student of history, I am often fascinated about how things seem to cycle in and out of favor over the years, decades, sometimes even centuries. Men have always been on the move, be it hunting, exploring, or – in a less glamorous modern vein – commuting. Look at old painting and drawing; a man always seemed to have his bag. Tied to a belt, hanging from a horse’s saddle, or slung over a shoulder; it was always there. Somewhere along the way however, the perception of a man’s bag shifted from manly explorer to effete dandy. Well, finally common sense appears to be re-emerging on the issue.

Growing up, my hero was Indiana Jones, the globetrotting archeologist. He had a bag. It made sense of course; where else would all that stuff go? It was beat up and worn out but held in there one adventure after another, filled with golden statues and grail diaries. The message was clear: a man with a bag has things to do.

As I grew up, my needs and sense of style changed. What stayed the same was the belief that, like Indy, guys with bags are cool. Years ago, when I first went to Europe and saw men walking around with great leather bags confidently thrown over a shoulder, I felt vindicated. Still, it took years for a man’s day-to-day bag to become a relatively common site in the US.

I recently surveyed a few guys, asking what they carried around on an average day. This was the average answer: wallet, phone, sunglasses, blackberry, keys, change, checkbook, day planner/notebook, newspaper, and sometimes a laptop. Some had real briefcases, which only look right when you’re going to work, and some had backpacks, which only look right when you’re in college.

The truth is men have a lot of things to lug around these days and they need a good bag; all of that stuff won’t fit in your pockets. I’m kind of an evangelist about this; there is no shame in having a cool bag to haul around all the things we need to get through the day.

You want to find at least one that looks right on you and matches what you’re doing. For all purpose needs, I’m a big fan of Jack Spade bags. The company’s founder, Andy Spade, is the husband of women’s bag maker, Kate Spade. After you’ve got your key bag, it’s time to expand your wardrobe.

If you want to go upscale and get something that will look at home in the boardroom, check out Ghurka or Mulberry. If function rather than form is your goal, true messenger bags are perfect. Two of the companies that literally created the market, Timbuk2 and Manhattan Portage, have bags in every shape, size, and color.

Choosing and Wearing Daytime Bow Tie

If there was ever a misunderstood item of male clothing, then the bow-tie is that item. Perceived as an accessory appropriate for mockery, relegated from everyday use to infrequent evening wear, the bow-tie is the symbol of a lost generation.

So many people are incapable of tying their own bow tie. A fact which, in itself, shouts of a neglect for a style of necktie which has been ridiculed as much as it has been celebrated; people are as likely to associate the bow-tie with Jerry Lewis as Winston Churchill, and this unhappy result has had a marked effect on the pride of a wearer. Once deemed to be the height of artisan sophistication, if you wear a bow-tie on any occasion other than a black-tie event, ordinary people are likely to expect you to pull a bunch of flowers from your sleeve.

I used to be afraid of the bow-tie. I have always loved neckties, but I found the everyday bow-tie to be a step too far in the nostalgia direction; something about their declining status kept me away from even considering wearing one. Now, I cannot wait to find the perfect bow.

Below I have listed some rules and guidelines about choosing and wearing the daytime bow-tie.

Self-tie

The first rule is that the bow tie you select should be one you tie yourself. No self-respecting man should buy a ready-made bow tie; they are only for children and have the intractable flaw of being too perfect. A real bow-tie is imperfect. Though the Beau spent hours trying to tie his neckwear, discarding the ‘failures’, the key with bow ties is that they should be different every time, thus making the self-tie bow tie one of the most unique accessories in a man’s wardrobe. Sometimes a little fat, sometimes a little too tight, however they are made, they are usually gloriously asymmetric in appearance. This asymmetry has the canny effect of adding an air of old world civility to the wearer. Don’t crave for symmetrical perfection because that was never the point in wearing one in the first place; when you see Churchill’s bow it is loose and characterful, not a stiff cut-out.

Pattern

The other rule with wearing a day-time bow tie is that it must be patterned. Non-patterned bow ties look like black-tie substitutes, so always shop for dots, stripes or paisley. Colours should be sober and darker in tone; forest green rather than apple green and claret rather than blood red. The reason for this is to turn the bow-tie into something which is not screaming for attention, but rather standing, silently still, ignoring the prying eyes and castigating remarks – rather like an Irish Guard on duty outside St James’ Palace. The idea of this simple revolution is to remove the comical bow-tie from the limelight of the Big Top and to forge a new association with the stylish gentlemen of the day.

I have found it rather tricky purchasing good quality silk bow ties. Nearly every shop assistant I have encountered has pointed me to the evening dress section when I have specifically asked for day-dress dickies. John Lewis had a small selection of paisley bow ties, reasonably priced at $30. However, one of the best retailers of preppy nostalgia clothing in the world, Ralph Lauren, has a wonderful selection in his stores.

When to wear it

Bow-ties look youthful when worn properly and they can brighten up almost any outfit. Wear a bow tie with a sharp, slim-fit suit for an on-trend cut with an eccentric dash. Or wear a bow tie with a casual collar and a cable crew neck for a ‘relaxed academic’ look. Bow-ties can also prep-up plain spring outfits of short sleeved shirts, tailored shorts and blazers. The key is to avoid overdoing a look with a bow tie; keep pocket squares to a visual minimum and try not to colour match too much.

The Odd Jacket

So, you ask; what is an “odd Jacket?” It’s really just a clever term for any sport coat, blazer, or other jacket that is not part of a suit. The odd jacket, long a versatile weapon in many a man’s wardrobe arsenal, has finally come into its own on the fashion front. In catalogs and stores blue blazers, tweed hacking jackets, corduroy sport coats, and linen jackets abound.

I have always been a bit of a sucker for jackets. To me, they add that extra bit of personality that cannot otherwise be attained; like the Ivy League college professor strolling across campus, leather case in hand and wearing a slightly battered Harris Tweed jacket. I actually saw that once at Harvard (no, I didn’t actually go there). It was like a scene out of a movie. Without the jacket however, his overall look would have suffered – it just wouldn’t have been the same.

Odd jackets can help you finish off your look in several ways. As we now move into autumn, we also move into odd jacket weather. Depending on your mood and what sartorial message you are trying to convey, they can dress you up or down, polished or scruffy.

Classic Preppy
When looking to create a studied prepster look, a la Ralph Lauren, focus on the layering. You don’t want too much going on, just enough to generate a textured history: grey tee shirt under a checked oxford, under a light sweater vest, surmounted by a chunky olive cord blazer. Details matter with this kind of look, so finish it off with slightly worn khakis, tartan ribbon belt, and vintage watch. Heavier brogues or classic loafers round out the outfit. Earthy tones should drive this fall look.

Urban Cool
For a refined city look that speaks of dressed down formal, think about a more finished jacket; maybe the coat from your favorite suit. Stores like H+M that sell affordable suit separates, are a great resource for this kind of look. Take your finely tailored jacket and pair it with a good dress shirt and modern, dressy jeans. Shirts with spread collars are best as they don’t look like you forgot your tie. The goal is to create a balanced presentation between the casualness of the jeans and formality of the jacket.

Classic Dress
If you are looking for an office appropriate outfit that falls somewhere between a suit’s full-on formality and khaki’s casual attitude, the classic combination of a sport coat and trousers is always right. Contrast is key, so grey flannels and a chocolate brown cashmere sport coat paired with a lightly checked shirt would fit the bill.

However you want to wear your jacket, be comfortable but also be aware of scale. Match finer weight trousers to finer weight jackets; heavy cords and tweed jackets. Just play around and enjoy the versatility that the odd jacket offers your wardrobe.

Wearing Now: Men’s Runway Trends Fall-Winter 2007-2008

Sometimes runway round-ups can leave you feeling like you’ll be out of style because you can’t find anything that looks quite right, but this fall and winter will bring you something that suits you very, very well. If you’re sporty, refined, or even a combat boots-loving guy, this is your season to work in your personal style.

Ski and Snow Details
Parkas, ‘70s throwback racing stripes, and Fair Isle sweaters have that fun, retro vibe that really works this winter. With an elegant addition of soft fur and bold graphic stripes, you’re styling on and off the slopes.

Don’t be afraid to go totally vintage this season when you rock the ski trend. Comb through vintage shops and even your grandfather’s ski trunk to grab styles that scream Aspen, a-frames, and aviators. To avoid looking too much like a blast from the past, aim for a more modern pair of boots and dark, slim jeans.

On the Runway
Missoni deviated from stripes this season with a snowflake theme, and you’ll feel pretty darn fresh when you pair this sweater with textured wool or corduroy trousers and boots. Michael Bastian also had a rather distinctive ski sweater look for winter, which is available in a way-vintage, traffic-cone orange color with black accents. (Definitely not for the faint of heart.) This runway bright looks great when layered, as it will be toned down and tamed with a darker colored jacket or blazer.

Modern and Combat Styles
Futuristic styles were married with more militaristic looks for fall and winter. Grab a pair of high black boots or more heavyweight lace-up shoes, and sling on a black jacket to complete tough-guy style (even if you’re secretly not). What a way to get some respect!

On the Runway

This is one such case when you’ve got to be able to filter out extremely militaristic styles for just a hint of combat cool. Runway looks varied from Emporio Armani basic, well-shaped pieces, to the more extreme looks of Galliano’s hooded, dark separates. Choose heavyweight, laced boots or a combat-esque jacket, but play it cool and try not to pile on too many items to avoid being confused with a SWAT sniper.

Americana Look

Are you an English gentleman, a hopeless romantic, or a closeted academic type? Tweeds are the perfect touch for fall and winter 2007/2008 if you need something that has structure and strong lines. If softer, more casual looks aren’t your thing, then the tweed trend is just what you need.

Tip:
If you need budget-friendly additions to your wardrobe, try out plaid wool and houndstooth caps, such as ones from traditionalist-gone-trendy milliner Frenel Morris.

On the Runway

Fair Isle prints are an easy way to steal a look straight off the runway, and what’s simpler than a basic pullover for coordinating with the rest of your closet? Usual suspect is Ralph Lauren. If you’re into the plaid scene instead, check out Paul Smith and Billy Reid, who brought it home with earthy tones and sophisticated silhouettes in coats and jackets

Tips to Keep Clothes Wrinkle Free

Ironing has to be one chore that no one (and really, no one) actually looks forward to. Why don’t we just prevent all the wrinkles from happening so we don’t have to bother anymore? If that sounds like a good idea, read on to find out how to prevent wrinkles from occurring.

Preventing Wrinkles
Preventing wrinkles is an important step, because if you play your cards right when you wash and dry everything, you can pretty much avoid the ironing step all together.

• Hang your clothes well. While we may be tempted to throw our jacket or sweater over an arm of a chair or on the back of a car’s seat, it will leave fold lines that aren’t easy to remove. Stay away from clothes hooks as well!

• Never leave items in the dryer. As soon as they’re completed, take them out of the dryer and get them hanging (on a hanger, please!). Cool air sets wrinkles as items sit in the dryer longer.

• Smooth your clothes with your hands as you remove them from the dryer. If you “pull” out wrinkles the best you can, they will be wearable.

• Avoid folding lightweight items, and hang them instead. If it’s possible, hang everything! Many items have a better chance at being wrinkle-free if they aren’t folded or bunched.

Getting Rid of Wrinkles
These techniques will remove wrinkles without an iron.

• Hang your items in the bathroom when you’re taking a shower. Hang your clothes on plastic hangers, get the bathroom steamy, and then gently stretch each item after it has been hung.

• Remove wrinkles by sticking each article that’s been wrinkled in the dryer. Spray it lightly with water before you dry it, and make sure that it’s on the “Press” setting if you have it.

• Use a wrinkle-free spray. Spritz it on and then smooth wrinkles out with your hand.

• Dry clean your items to get rid of wrinkles with minimal effort. . . but you’ll have to wait for a day before you wear it.

Traveling Tips
• Look for items that are made from special travel fabric. Does it seem gimmicky? Try it before you decide. Consider fabric of 2-ply combed cotton and stretch microfiber of poly, viscose, and lycra all work. How do they work? Wrinkle-free clothing has been treated with a special treatment that coats all threads and lining to keep everything crisp.

• Don’t just shove your clothes in a suitcase! If you carefully roll your items, then even your “regular,” untreated items will resist wrinkling.