‘Structured Casual’ Look

One of my favorite looks, regardless of changing fashions and trends is what I would define as “structured casual.” In contrast to the bohemian intellectual look, this style is more sophisticated and urbane as well as likely easier to coordinate with the items you already have in your wardrobe. It’s the ideal outfit for either a museum excursion, dinner date at a trendy restaurant, or even a fashionable casual Friday at the office.

The most important elements of this look are slim jeans paired with dressier items such as narrow-toed brogues, dress shirts, and ties. The jeans you choose should be tapered at the leg and dark-colored. Right now, there seems to be a trend towards cropped jeans that end right below the ankle so as to show off the shoe. Unfortunately, this is almost impossible without the aid of a tailor as almost all jeans are sized to the same insanely long length despite a varying waist measurement. Levis Matchstick Jeans ($138)

The shirt and tie combination are the driving force and also what give the look a certain elegance and refinement. Unlike the current trends, this look eschews plaid and flannel in favor of more classic styles. A white shirt with a high collar is clearly the most versatile choice but striped and other patterned shirts are other alternatives. Tucking the shirt in is an absolute must; the days of the slovenly un-tucked shirt are over. Though the skinny tie-look with a business suit is mostly finished, they still go well with this style. Solid Knit Skinny Tie ($50)

Substituting dress shoes instead of sneakers when wearing jeans is always encouraged, regardless of what style you are trying to emulate. For the “structured casual” look in particular, a pair of narrow shoes looks best with slim jeans. I wear this pair from To Boot New York on a daily basis and constantly receive compliments on them. The fading around the toe and back of the shoe is a cool effect that differentiates it from more traditional or banal brown shoes. It is important to note that even though you are wearing jeans, white socks are not permissible with dress shoes. Rather, you can display some creativity with your choice of socks, either opting for something colorful or just basic black/brown.

To complete this style, a belt is a necessity. While wearing jeans and a T-shirt offers much more discretion as to whether or not to include a belt, forgoing one when wearing a dress shirt looks remiss. Thin belts are the look to opt for as they generally work better with slim jeans.

For colder weather, adding a waist-length trench coat helps establish the lines that create the “structure” in this look. Other ideas for making the look more winter appropriate include either wearing a fitted cardigan or sweater over the shirt. Don’t be afraid to tuck your sweater into your jeans; rather than looking over thought, the clean lines created by this will make you look slimmer and better put together. Short Trench Coat ($130)

3 Versatile Man Bags

It is with much pride and happiness that I feel I am finally able to announce that the debate on man bags (also known affectionately as a “murse”) has concluded and their acceptability is no longer of contention.  It is almost impossible to walk down the street in New York without seeing at least one man carrying some sort of version of the man bag, now a necessity for all of modern living’s impedimenta.

With the legitimacy of the man bag now firmly acknowledged by almost all, men are beginning to look beyond the traditional messenger bag for both more practical and stylish options. Here are some different styles to keep an eye out for when making your next purchase.

Andrew Marc (on sale: $319)

Don’t let the title of “weekender” bag here fool you. Most likely, it would be much too small for even the most Spartan of packers, likely unable to fit more than a day’s change of clothing, let alone the other things necessary for a weekend excursion. Instead, this bag from Andrew Marc, as well as others, has been proliferating all throughout New York as the bag form of choice for the modern gentleman. Because of its unmistakably masculine appearance, it is not easily confused for a women’s bag. At the same time, it is still both sophisticated and attractive and is thus a great option for a daily bag around town. I prefer bags like this because the pockets and compartments that are normally lacking on messenger bags aid you in being better organized, which saves you all the trouble of digging around through your stuff until you find your vibrating cell phone at the absolute bottom of everything. 

Dolce and Gabbana ($520)

The problem I have with most messenger bags is that the plain canvas bags are so ubiquitous that they become a turn-off. This incarnation from Dolce and Gabbana is exciting in its contrast to other banal messenger bags available from retailers like Manhattan Portage. The distressed leather flap and “antique” brass hardware make it stand out as a refined bag, well adept for expressing your individuality.

Gucci ($1,436)

The shape of this bag, from Gucci reminds me vaguely of a traditional doctor’s bag. In reality, I would classify it as a briefcase-hybrid since if it were not for the bag’s expanding shape at the bottom, it would essentially be a soft briefcase. The bag’s roomy interior and larger size allow for it to be easily converted to carrying files to and from the office. At the same time, the bag is casual enough for even weekend use, making any outfit more sophisticated. It is also possibly the most perfect manifestation of what a piece of carry-on luggage should be in terms of proportion and style.

Dangerous Trends

As everyone knows, not all trends are for everyone, and some trends prove to be for no one. When a trend is too innovative or ‘out-there,’ it’s usually an indication of a short life span. Witness such expired trends as destroyed jeans, 80’s neon colored fabrics, underwear as outerwear, and the list continues almost infinitely.

Other trends, however, are somewhere in the middle between completely wearable and outrageous. I call them dangerous trends because when not worn correctly, they can end up looking horribly wrong and laughable. It takes a certain type of person who is advanced in their style of dressing and is adept at experimenting with clothes.

Fur hat

Fur has been making a subtly growing comeback both among men whose goal is to be deviously provocative as well as avant-garde hipsters. While fur coats are still a long way from being acceptable to the mainstream, fur accessories seem to be undergoing resurgence in popularity. After Gucci’s Fall/Winter 2007 collection included fur accented and even three-quarter length fur coats, other designers have followed suit. Hats and scarves make for opulently warm and luxurious pieces, and can even look good when worn the right way and by the right person. The danger, coming not only from being attacked by PETA supporters, is also inherent in that you can easily look like an eccentric throwback from Stalin’s Russia or Daniel Boone.

Metallic blazer

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb in saying that this does not look good on anyone. Not only has not enough time passed since the 70’s to make this new or interesting, but the overall fashion-forwardness of it makes it too risqué for most people to wear. My theory for the existence of this trend is that after metallic handbags for women were such a hit over the summer, designers had a surplus of material they didn’t want to waste.

Slim collar

The thin-collared shirt is a style that had disappeared for a time and has now been reincarnated as the preferred shirt of hipsters (after plaid, of course). The problem with these shirts is that the collar can give a certain look of impotency, in contrast to a high collar, which can make the wearer look powerful and commanding. Therefore, it’s best not to wear them in place of a tradition shirt for any formal or even moderately dressy occasion.

White jeans for winter

White pants for winter are another sartorially tricky item to pull off. Everyone knows the dictum about not wearing white after Labor Day, but this is really an outdated and baseless rule. There are a few basic guidelines to effectively wearing this trend and not causing stares or raised eyebrows. First, white pants should never be worn when it’s gray or raining outside for the simple reason that it looks indecent and flashy. By contrast, on a sunny day, white pants can give you a ‘mod’ look when worn with black ankle boots and a striped sweater.

Upgrade Your Down Jacket

When a wool or even cashmere topcoat won’t suffice against the biting cold, it may be time to pull out the strongest weapon in your arsenal—the down puffer jacket. While a puffer jacket can neither match the refinement nor the tailored look of an overcoat, it provides the best protection against almost all of nature’s most cruel manifestations.

To some, the puffer jacket is an abominable and ridiculous article of clothing that should only be worn by mountain climbers and young school children. A few years ago, they would have been quite justified in their conviction. People were faced with either an incarnation of the Michelin Man costume or some heinous, oversized coat that absolutely could not be worn if one needed to be taken seriously.

Luckily, winter wear pioneers like Moncler provide an alternative that has literally given a new shape and perspective on men’s down jackets, transforming them into stylish and luxurious items that both look and feel great. Known especially for their shiny body and opulently soft material, they are the gold standard when it comes to heavy-duty winter jackets.

This Moncler jacket is great for a variety of reasons. First off, it’s cut close to the body meaning that you won’t look like the Pillsbury doughboy. It also incorporates one of the biggest crossover trends for men and women this season, which is the patent leather-look the shiny veneer gives off. Slipping on a Moncler jacket is like the intensified feeling of comfort you have when you first wake up in the morning and would give anything to stay in bed. The material is so plush and luxurious that you’ll wish it were winter longer.

If you aren’t interested in spending nearly a month’s rent for the real deal, you can buy a similar looking substitute from North Face ($249). While it doesn’t have the same attention to style and detail, North Face is known for their high-quality insulation, meaning it will serve its primary purpose: keeping you warm well into the negative digits.

This jacket from Lacoste ($295) is a little wide across, but its glossy finish, which mimics the Moncler look, adds redeeming style value. One important feature it has though is the cinch cord at the bottom hem of the coat that allows for a more fitted appearance.

For the best equilibrium buy between price and quality and if you live in New York City, check out Uniqlo in SoHo, which has a good selection of puffer jackets for around $130.

The best way to look stylish while wearing a down jacket anywhere besides the ski slope is to embrace the inherent bulkiness and offset it by wearing a long scarf that comes down through the bottom of the coat to elongate your body. Wearing a great pair of boots will also add flair to an outfit otherwise muted by the weather.

Raw Denim Jeans

One of the biggest trends in jeans at the moment is raw denim, referring to jeans that have not ever been treated or washed with chemicals. While at first they are stiff and almost feel like a corset for your legs, they will over time both expand and conform to your body, becoming unique to your shape.

One of the most important things when buying a pair is that they fit like a glove (a very tight one) from the onset. When you try them on, they should be so tight that it is at first difficult to pull them up. I recently bought a pair of A.P.C raw denim jeans and thought I was going to have a stress-induced stroke just trying to close the top button. The reason for this is that in just a few months, the jeans will expand and gain at very least, an inch in the waist.

When you first wear them, they feel incredibly stiff and movement itself is quite limited. This sensation takes a few months to go away completely as the jeans are broken in, but they become manageable even after the first full day of wearing them. You can speed this process by wearing them around the house and just moving in them. An important caveat, however, is that they may bleed onto light colored shoes or surfaces so you must be wary for the first few days of this.

When you have your jeans, it’s important to not wash them for least six months. During this period, they are still conforming to your body and washing them will severely interrupt this process. If they become unbearably dirty, you can have them dry cleaned or even put them in the freezer to get rid of any odor. On the A.P.C. ‘instruction manual’ that came with the pair I bought, one of the more extreme washing remedies advised, “Let your jeans get dirty for as long as possible, go swimming in the ocean wearing your jeans, rub your jeans with dry sand, and repeat several times. Rinse in fresh (not salt) water and let dry in the sun).” Besides possibly accelerating the deterioration process, I see no real world benefit in engaging in such time consuming and obsessive behavior.

If you are not the kind of person who likes neither the idea of having an instruction manual for your jeans nor having to work at getting them broken in, do not buy raw denim jeans. For those who are willing to work at it, the end result is both gratifying and rewarding. After six months of wear, your jeans will show lines and creases at natural places on your body and will tell a story about you. They will fit you better than any other pair of jeans you have ever owned previously and like life’s battle scares, you’ll be damn proud of the story behind every rip and hole in them.

I recommend A.P.C’s “New Cure” jeans ($140), which have a tapered leg and no unnecessary or pretentious markings or logos.