Men’s Jewelry… Approach with Care

Men’s jewelry is a contentious topic for many. Some people feel very strongly that men’s bodies should remain strictly unadorned except of course for a watch, while others favor the increased self-expression that these items bring. Whatever the case, when investing in men’s jewelry, it’s best to leave the flashy items for FlavaFlav and aim for accessories with some dignity.

Bracelets

A bracelet should not be sexually ambiguous. It should be big and chunky so as to differentiate itself from more feminine styles. Unless you are Jay-Z, it is furthermore unacceptable to be dripping in diamonds and showing off your bling-bling. I think bracelets for men can work well when they are simple and sturdy. Your best bet is to go with a chain-link bracelet or something similar.

Pictured one from Dolce and Gabbana is undeniably masculine and stylish. I am not, however, a fan of leather wraparound bracelets, which are too S&M-inspired to be worn in most respectable locations.

Watches

A watch tells more about a man that any other article of clothing or set of accessories and neither a man’s wardrobe or identity are complete without one. If you are going to splurge on any item at all, it should be a watch as it both the item on which you will most likely be judged and is often (justly or unjustly) used as a marker for success. A high-quality watch is something that can be passed on from generation to generation as a family heirloom; as the slogan of Patek Phillipe goes, “You never really own a Patek Phillipe, you merely look after it for the next generation.”

Rings

Besides a wedding band, it is hard for a man to pull off wearing a ring without looking either like Phil Leotardo from the Sopranos or a car mechanic. At the same time, it is still not impossible.

Rings like pictured one from Gucci are simple and attractive while not overwhelming. Basic rules for making rings work is to not wear any diamonds in them and also to steer away from gold. One absolute is that your class ring should remain off your finger until a meeting with your alma mater’s dean to try to get your legacy child into the same prep school (when applicable).

Necklaces

Necklaces again are a tricky item to pull of and it can really only be done well by certain types of people. Long chain necklaces look good on thin, hipster types who have a tendency to wear low-cut V-neck as well as open collard shirts. Necklaces made of string, shells, hemp, or any combination are reserved for middle school children and surfer punks. Middle-aged men should stay away for fear of again looking like a Mafioso.

Inclement Weather Style

Often times during inclement weather, it seems that people lose both their sense of style and reason. One need only witness the sad endemic of Ugg boots during the winter for confirmation of this.

What I am talking about specifically, however, is the way we dress in the rain. As it was the rain pouring abundantly down upon New York the other day, I was forced to remark how many people were so improperly, even foolishly dressed for the occasion. The quantity of people, men especially, who were totally unprepared for the weather was rather astounding.

There is of course the excuse of not anticipating the rain and being caught by surprise when walking out the door, but the modern man (especially one equipped with an iPhone or Blackberry) should never let surprise get the best of him.

Raincoat

One staple that should be in everyone’s wardrobe is a raincoat. Both smart and chic, a raincoat will make you look prepared and keep your clothes dry, which is especially important if you are wearing a suit underneath. Raincoats vary greatly in price; you can get one for as little as $130 from Topman to easily over $1,500 for a designer one from the likes of Ermenegildo Zegna. Spending this much for a raincoat though is really not necessary as both high and low-end coats tend to be made from only cotton or a cotton-microfiber blend. Therefore, the variance between them is quite low.

I prefer something traditional and simple like this one from Burberry:

Umbrella

Besides a raincoat, though rather obvious, is the need for an umbrella. I am not talking about that one you got for $10 at Walgreens, however, I mean the sturdy, wood-handle kind that you will keep forever (provided you don’t lose it). There is something emasculating about a man who holds up a wimpy, collapsible umbrella as opposed to the commanding air of a man with a robust, tall umbrella of high quality (size matters with umbrellas). If you are really up for an investment, Briggs umbrellas of England are the top in quality and beauty, but will cost around $400, meaning you want to pay careful attention not to leave it at the restaurant.

Rain Boots

The last essential item for outsmarting Mother Nature is a good pair of rain boots. The best thing you can do for yourself is to buy a pair of Hunter Royal rain boots ($375 at Zappos). They are not only made of waterproof leather on the leg, but also contain a fleece lining for warmth in the foot region. I was at first a bit apprehensive about the idea of rain boots for men in the city, but have come around to their utility and actual stylishness.

In general, Americans could learn a thing or two from the British who are much more adept at dealing with inclement weather. In any case, since the rain will come again another day as common sense and the childhood song tell us, buying these items will keep you dry and stylish every time you need them.

Turn Lumberjack Style into Bohemian Intellectual Look

It’s no secret that fashion run in cycles and things that were once fashionable will almost always come back in style. It is nonetheless a little sad and disheartening that truly atrocious styles can’t be weeded out for good. When the seventies were over, I believe it was the general consensus that the Village People-lumberjack look was over. Not so, apparently.

Though not an exact copy of the late 70’s look, the lumberjack style has been reincarnated as what I would call a “bohemian intellectual look.” Making their way back into not only the pages of GQ, but also quickly spreading into the streets, are bootcut jeans, plaid shirts, corduroy jackets, and oversized sweaters.

This is a clear departure from the past few couple years of structured pieces and slim cut jeans. The worst perpetrator of this style has been J. Crew. Because of its accessible prices, it has been able to promulgate among the masses.

I have never liked plaid so I am clearly biased against its resurgence. The entire grunge look of the 90’s was a dark time for style. I believe that it set the stage for an entirely new level of lower standards when it came to dressing as grunge was, in a sense, a repudiation of fashion.

To be fair, I think there is a way to embrace the trend in a classic way that exudes “weekend at the country manor” rather than hipster punk. Tartan does, after all, possess a rich history dating back to Braveheart days. Shawl collar and toggle close sweaters are two ways of interpreting the style in a positive way.

Another decent aspect of the “bohemian intellectual” look is the importance of layering. This means that you shouldn’t get rid of your cardigan just yet. One good approach of making this work in the dead of winter would be to wear a down vest over a shirt and cardigan, then finish with a close cut overcoat. I like the contrast of new and old this creates. For a discreet nod to the plaid trend, you could include a tartan scarf from Burberry or elsewhere. As for the bootcut jeans, I recommend staying away and opting for just straight leg jeans, which are a compromise between skinny jeans and flared ones.

With this trend, you can also expect to see more clothes in earth tones and a move away from black and gray. The shoe of choice to match would be a moccasin unless you are actually going to be at your country manor, in which case may I suggest the Hunter rain boot (pictured).

If you are in a lumberjack mood, J. Crew is currently having a fall sale where you’ll be able to stock up on enough plaid to clothe an entire Irish village.

Dressing in Style Is Not About Spending and Brands

Some of my favorite articles of clothing that I own are also my least expensive ones. During a recent trip to London, I stopped in at Topman, a trendy, inexpensive store in the same vein as H&M and Zara, and bought a pair of dark, slim fit jeans that I wear more often than any other pair of jeans that I own.

I believe that mixing and matching pieces from different price ranges is not only economical, but also eminently intelligent. Though there are still marked differences between a discount, off the rack suit and a bespoke one, fashion-forward stores such as Uniqlo minimize the nuances between high-end and more economical, everyday pieces. For example, there really aren’t many hugely distinct differences between the pair of $695 Dolce and Gabbana jeans and the pair of $80 Uniqlo jeans besides the amount of marketing that went into them. Granted, the Dolce and Gabbana jeans may have been more intricately fabricated, but with the constant change in trends, how long do you expect to be able to wear them?

While in general my theory is that you should buy only items about which you are passionate rather than buying a bunch of things that you will end up never wearing, I believe that if you can get the same (or very similar) item for less, then why not? It’s one thing when you are faced with the choice between an expensive, well cut suit and a buying a few lackluster ones, but an entirely different thing when you can buy essentially the same thing for less money. My minimalism ideology comes from the “20/80” clothing rule, which states that you wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time. Even though I have tried to filter out unnecessary items in my wardrobe, this is still definitely true in my life; when I go to get dressed in the morning, I usually find myself continually pulling out the same pair of pants or shirt.

People who are ‘label slaves’ care more about who makes their clothes rather than their fit or style. This can leave them looking ridiculous to the point of foolishness, wearing an ensemble of disjointed, ugly pieces. They hide behind these labels, believing that it grants them some sort of immunity from criticism in having paid more for their clothes. I witnessed that this was generally more prevalent in France where “Eurotrash” is actually a style (the small Louis Vuitton monogram manbags were the most glaring manifestation.)

I, on the other hand, prefer to buy the items that look the best on me, regardless of price or make. It is not uncommon for me to pair $300 shoes with my $60 Topman jeans or a $300 Prada belt with a $40 shirt from Uniqlo. This takes not only more shopping confidence, but also requires a more adept sense of style and maturity to be able to put things together. Anyone can look good if given tens of thousands of dollars for a new wardrobe and with the aide of a stylist. The true test is being able to successfully build outfits from a wide range of stores and prices.

Thus, my recommendation is to buy the things you love and not to worry about what it says on the label because it’s not the brand on which you’ll be judged, it’s how good it looks on you.