Archives for November 2007

Wearable Trend to Embrace Right Now

This picture, taken from the Mulberry website, showcases the look of this season. The leather bomber jacket, the plaid shirt, braided belt, and slim dark-wash jeans are all integral pieces for anyone looking to follow the latest trends. Even with the plaid shirt, however, I would not classify this look as “bohemian intellectual.” Rather, the slim-fitting bomber jacket and jeans provide a structure to this look that is more the Ramones than Woody Allen.

With the exception of the braided belt, this is a look that won’t soon go out of style. Every man should have a bomber jacket in his closet. They are great for a casual night when wanting to add an element of timeless cool to your outfit and for staying warm well into the winter. When buying one, you should look for a style that is cut close to the body and ends right below your belt. If the jacket is too small, it will look effeminate (as is almost the case in the above picture). This one from Dolce and Gabbana ($1,395) fits perfectly and also has an immaculate style that will still be cool in thirty years (which is almost enough time to justify the price).

For the belt, the trick is not to just find any old, braided variety. Previously existing only in the realm of grandpa fashion, design houses from Prada to Balenciaga gave the braided belt a much-needed reworking, making them wider and sturdier. This one from Diesel ($70) is one of the coolest and most stylish you can buy. It has a distressed looking front with the rest in braided leather, clearly distinguishing it from your father’s golfing belt.

Despite my avowed detest for all things plaid, I surprisingly don’t find this shirt terribly odious. The red, white, and gray color scheme keeps it simple and not looking too much like a tablecloth pattern. This one from J.Crew ($50) is almost identical in pattern. Just be wary that a bad pairing of plaid and leather will leave you looking like one of the Village People.

In the spirit of this outfit, a pair of boots would be a great addition to pull the look together. This pair from Mezlan ($149) are both affordable and undeniably stylish. The subtly Western look brings another dimension to your outfit without being overwhelming or tacky. When wearing slim jeans, make sure that the leg of the jean goes fully over the boot instead of tucking it in, which cannot be done without looking like the guy who’s trying way too hard.

Gordon Brown’s Style Problem

I feel a modicum of sympathy for modern politicians. It must be inordinately taxing for them to appear to be pleased to see the deep ranks of the sniffling public; those pushing up at railings at hospital openings, shouting about their relatives languishing on endless waiting lists. Then, braving the underrated brutality of eggs and saliva, they shake hands with all and sundry and lie convincingly about ‘new steps’, ‘great improvements’ and ‘increased funding.’ Their life is the very kind of celebrity that others dread: public responsibility.

They can therefore be forgiven, you might think, for lacking physical pleasantness. And some might even go as far to say they don’t expect their local Member of Parliament to be ‘too fancy’ in dress.

And why should they be? Politicians represent the serious tonic of reality that awakes us from the reverie many of us float around in; they are the Officers of the Watch who allow us to luxuriate in the privileges of our first rate lives whilst the dirty and grim realities of our existence are attended to.

However, when politicians represent you on the world stage, when they shake hands with presidents and popes, sultans and soldiers, there is an embarrassingly superficial desire for them to look good when doing so. Though patriotism may be the virtue of the vicious, wanting the rest of the world to see the best that your country can offer is a natural desire.
Gordon Brown, our Prime Minister, is one of the worst dressed politicians in our history. Charles James Fox was notoriously scruffy and unwashed, and yet he had charm, Gladstone was tedious in attire and yet even his staidness had a gravity of aging elegance. Brown is hopeless. His feeble hold over his own wardrobe seems to reflect his weakening grasp of his own party, his disregard for custom (he recently resigned from his determination not to wear black tie) and his cynical treatment of the British people. His hideously shiny ties are as badly tied as a rebellious teenager’s. His ill-fitting suits relegate him from world statesman to chippy, ill-informed pretender, and his naive demeanour implies doormat rather than diplomat.

So what went wrong with the mighty Labour public relations machine? Tony Blair, once voted one of the worst dressed Britons in 2003, seems like Cary Grant in comparison with the maladroit and awkward Glaswegian. By comparison, Old Etonian Tory David Cameron is riding high in sartorial public approval; voted one of the most attractive and best dressed men in Britain, Cameron is on a roll as far as his managed appearance is concerned. And the secret is? There is no secret. Cameron makes no clandestine disguise of who he is as far as his garb is concerned.

The difference is that he doesn’t look uncomfortable wearing what he wears. Moreover, Cameron looks like he belongs in his threads. He is not exactly spectacular or that inventive with dress; he doesn’t deserve accolades for individuality. It’s just that he isn’t ashamed of who he is and where he came from. He knows his own style and he sticks to his guns.

The same can be said of Charles, Prince of Wales, who I consider to be the best dressed of men. He doesn’t dress down misleadingly and he doesn’t treat tradition and honest style with cold cynicism. He has artistry and flair and he uses these qualities to great effect and I applaud him for his stoicism and grand representation of the British monarchy.

‘For shame!’ The reader may cry, ‘Wardrobe is not the meat and veg. of representing the people.’ I agree. It has fractional importance when you come to the point. However, we don’t live in the sort of world where people can get away with inadequacy any longer. The camera lens and the gossip column invade all secret places of meagreness; we want more and we demand more from our representatives.

Therefore, I think it’s time either Mr Brown, or his unschooled clothiers, take a leaf from the style pages of the heir to the throne, or the spruce young chap sat opposite in the House of Commons. Brown certainly isn’t what he wears, and it’s hard to imagine Brown actually looking debonair or commanding. However, pride in personal appearance and style doesn’t always indicate personal vanity; it can be a herald of a concerned mind and of the desire for enhancement. Style, confidently shown, is respected and is considered a sign of self-assurance and conviction.

3 Random Sartorial Mistakes That Bother Me

As we head into this holiday season, with shopping and gifts on the near horizon, I want to point out a few pet peeves of mine. They are simple areas of improvement that can benefit guys everywhere. Not major investments, they are more simple behavioral changes; minor yet still egregious sartorial errors that people make on an all too regular basis. So, before you get that fancy overcoat or pick up some new shoes, please read this first.

My first pet peeve is something that should be fairly obvious to most men, but unfortunately is not. Should you receive a sport jacket or overcoat that has not yet passed through a tailor’s hands, please snip out the basting stitches which keeps the various vents and pockets sealed shut during shipping. Though the fact seems to escape some men, let me be clear: they are supposed to come out. Pockets are meant to be opened as are vents. Particularly annoying to me is when I see some guy out on the street in a dark overcoat with its rear vent stitched closed with a big white X. It makes me want to carry around scissors all winter long.

Another outerwear issue which I simply cannot fathom is wearing a short ski parka over a suit jacket. The effect of this totally inappropriate clothing choice creates a tutu-like effect with the skirt of your jacket; not to mention the damage and wrinkled inflicted on your good clothing. This look is simply juvenile, incongruous, and in a word, laughable. Your outer coat should always be longer than the suit jacket or sports coat.  Please don’t do this.

Lastly, a big pet peeve of mine is fake dress shoes. You know the ones – trainers doctored up to look like oxfords. I hate to break it to you, but you’re not fooling anyone – really. It just looks wrong for so many reasons, not the least of which is that when those awful shoes are sighted, whatever else you have on is more or less ignored.

Men often complain about dress shoes being uncomfortable, which to me means that they are wearing the wrong shoes. Dress shoes should be comfortable all day long. Are they just like a pair of sneakers? Of course not, but you don’t wear sneakers with a suit – well, actually in some cases you can but that’s for another day. If you have persistent arch pain or other foot issues, see a doctor and consider investing in some bench made footwear or custom orthotics.

COS Stores: Style and Quality Finally Affordable

I am very wary of making predictions. Dining on my own words has always put me off soothsaying and I am unpleasant when humbled. However, there is one thing I am confident in claiming, something I am almost certain will be proved to be correct. And that is that COS, the stylish little-sister company to Swedish behemoth H&M, is the future of style for the man on the street.

I am famous for my unswerving loyalty to Zara, and for good reason; Zara is a breathtaking success in terms of fashion. When I first experienced the London store those 4 or 5 years ago, I was stunned. Now, unsurprisingly, I am used to it. Also, in that period, Zara has, unhappily, let me down on a number of occasions. In its bid to capitalise on the tastes of all men, the menswear department’s audacity has gone. It still offers excellent design, but with a rather depressing familiarity to the clothing. While the women’s department still offers some of the best and most innovative designs I have seen for the high street, the menswear designers seem keen to give us rehashed, and to be frank, rather ordinary versions of items that are available in countless other stores.

COS on the other hand is a revelation. And why, you may ask, am I not concerned that COS will turn the way of Zara? Why will it not bend to fashion and to the collective taste of the average man on the street?

To answer the latter question first, COS does not seek to clothe the average man on the street. COS seeks to appeal to the disenchanted man of style, the dandy without a tailor. The man who seeks style and form rather than cheap slogans and throwaway fashion is at home in COS. Suits are well made; the cut is simply superb, and by far and away, they are the best suits on the high street for form. Colours are seasonal, but subtle; do not expect the rainbow of colours on offer at H&M, COS is about sleek clothing. Black, white and grey prevail. There are country colours on offer too; khaki, browns, dark greens and blues, but there is a COS mission to provide excellent quality basics at affordable prices. In other words, don’t come here for pink braces.

To answer the former question, I refer to the comments of Michael Kristensen, head of COS menswear design and flag-carrier of this new movement in providing style and form rather than fads and frippery. When asked what character the current collection at COS evoked, Michael replied the collection calls to mind “…a modern man with a big city mindset. He understands and definitely appreciates good style and great quality.” He was also asked to name the strongest defining characteristics of the collection and, though this was specific to Autumn/Winter 2007, they could easily be applied to all collections available in store as I believe this quote defines COS as a store; “Upgraded qualities and clean, modern silhouettes.”

With a captain like that at the helm, there seems to be no worry that COS will start downgrading for popular appeal. H&M doesn’t need COS to be a flyaway success with bright young things throwing clothing away like empty packets of Marlboro Lights. It needs it for what it already is and what it currently stands for. My only wish is that they open more stores around Europe, and eventually, the world, so more men of my leaning can appreciate the spectacular sensation of COS for themselves.

If you are German, you are very fortunate; there are six stores. Apart from London, Brussels, Antwerp, The Hague and Copenhagen are the only other cities to have a COS store. Depending on how successful COS is in the next sixth months or so, I would imagine more stores would open, including perhaps one or two in Stockholm. I doubt it will hit the United States for another 12-18 months, which makes it a very long wait, but in my opinion, it is definitely worth it.

Mastering the Rumpled Look

Cooler weather is always more kind to men when it comes to getting dressed in the morning. We can layer, pull out the cords, throw on a chunky jacket and top it off with a warm scarf. The sheer variety of cool weather clothing is something many a man looks to as the thermometer drops.

For those of us with the flexibility to move between business dress and corporate casual, what I call the “Rumpled Look” is a middle alternative to just dressed up and dressed down. Originally an offshoot of the American Preppy aesthetic, the rumpled look has come into its own.

The basic idea behind this style is the allusion to old money, classic taste, and timeless style. Newer or continental styles don’t lend themselves to celebrating beat up and handed down clothes quite like the preppy culture does. The unspoken message of the slouchy khakis, un-ironed oxford shirt and slightly beat up shoes is that you have old money, an Ivy League education, a summerhouse in the Hamptons, and you sail a lot. Or at least you dress like you do.

I have to say that this really is a fun look which is not hard to carry off well as long as you don’t try too hard. Like the current “critter” trend, with pants, ties, belts and coats are adorned with embroidered animals and icons of every sort – dogs to martini glasses – less is more. One creative article of clothing at a time is ironic, more is overkill.

For most men, wearing this look at the office can be a bit tough, but depending on your company’s culture, distressed chinos matched up with a wrinkled button down under a crewneck sweater should be just fine. For a younger look, don’t tuck in the shirt but rather let it hang out under the sweater. Wear a washed tweed jacket over the whole outfit. This kind of layering effect is another signature of the rumpled look. To meet up with friends for drinks, try pairing a permanently wrinkled Thomas Pink dress shirt with dressy jeans and a sport coat. The juxtaposition of classic and casual is a key balance to this look.

Like any other style you want to incorporate into your own, stop and look in the mirror before leaving the house. You want to be happy with the overall feel and proportion of your outfit. The goal should be to look like you’ve had everything for years and don’t think twice about getting dressed.