About Grant Harris

Grant Harris is a Washington, DC based menswear specialist. He is owner & Chief Style Consultant at Image Granted, LLC. He owns many more pairs of socks than he should.

Introducing Hottin Daro Cashmere Sweatpants

Hottin Daro is a new online retailer started in 2012 which sells luxury cashmere lounge pants. I originally came across the brand through a third party luxury gift site which included ridiculously extravagant gifts that only those with enormous amounts of time and even more money could afford or even think of purchasing. However, Hottin Daro was offering an actually viable product that seemed interesting. Cashmere sweatpants are not inaccessible. Club Monaco offered an option at $590 which sold out and French high street boutique Zilli offers a pair of cashmere jogging pants in store in DC at over $1500. The latter is a bit more aggressive than the former.

I am a proponent of any cashmere product in whatever form it comes in as long as it passes the three “F” test–fit, fabric, and function. Hottin Daro had one “F” in their corner with the fabric. I decided to investigate further and through several conversations with entrepreneur and owner Any Rotondaro of NYC I had a pair of cashmere sweatpants. Needless to say many of my colleagues heckled me for even thinking of such a thing, but why can’t your lounging pursuits be as luxurious as any other?

Hottin Daro offers their cashmere sweatpants to both men and women. Women happen to be the bulk consumer and for good reason. The right woman with the right curves could look impossibly irresistible in cashmere sweatpants. Or could she? I have yet to witness it. The closest I’ve seen are the pajama jeans which sound and look much better on TV. The men’s sweatpants are offered in black, beige, and navy in three sizes from medium to XL. Their product is offered at a $358. Not cheap by any means, but cheaper than $1500 and if you’re in the market to wear cashmere sweatpants then you’ll probably be willing to pay for it.

The actual product is minimalist in nature. True navy with Hottin Daro inscribed on the front underneath the waistband, two long drawstrings that apparently are meant to sit outside the waistband, two back patch pockets flapped and buttoned and what seems to be a heavy iron or metal crest with leather trim on the back left pocket. I’m not much for symbols, labels, and patches and I routinely remove them if need be, but this time I could tell it wouldn’t be possible to remove this. The crest is actually rather heavy and removing it would only end in ripping a hole in the ass and no one wants to harm $358 cashmere?

The fit was not all bad. I ordered a medium and of course with online shopping you never know what the fit will turn out to be. The waist sits nicely but the elastic used is extremely snug. Now, this could be denying any weight gain, but since all my other pants fit the same I could only surmise that it’s the internal elastic. I was not fond of the drawstrings being exposed outside the waist and although the rear drapes quite nicely two large patch and flapped pockets with an iron crest announcing that you’re wearing $358 cashmere sweatpants is a bit much for my taste. The cashmere is made in China which could be good or bad over time. The best cashmere comes from Scotland and Mongolia, but production in the Asian market has improved. The only way to tell is to wear them on a regular basis which, unfortunately, I will not be able to do due to the uncomfortable tightness of the waistband and the rather short rise exposing my natural anatomy.

Upon informing Hottin Daro that the pants were a bit snug and that I’d like to go a size up I was unfortunately notified they were out of stock until several months down the road by which time it will be sweltering in DC and the thought of sweating in cashmere sweatpants is not a pleasant one. But like Hottin Daro says. “You only live once; you might as well live it in cashmere.”

Hugs & Co Footwear – Got %100 Off, You Get %15

I was originally introduced to Hugs & Co by my colleague Justin FitzPatrick of The Shoe Snob and if Justin recommends a footwear brand, I don’t hesitate to investigate.  Hugs & Co is a British born label offering suede penny loafer/drivers and now offering suede tasseled loafers/drivers since 2012.  I originally spoke with Hugo back when they only offered penny loafers and discussed his upcoming product. He mentioned the addition of more colors and tassels.  The wait was worth it.

Hugo was generous enough to send me a pair of burgundy suede tassel loafers/drivers.  I combine loafers and drivers in this case because they seem to be a hybrid of the two.  If there was a full leather or rubber sole than they would squarely be loafers—although there is nothing square about them.  However, they come with the classic pebbled sole which puts them in the driver’s seat so to speak.

I like Hugs & Co because they know their place and are not trying to compete the high luxury makers such as Tod’s or Car Shoe.  Instead they offer a straight forward product in quality construction at an attractive price point.

All Hugs & Co footwear is made in Portugal, a reputable shoe manufacturing country, producing for high street as well as boutique retailers.  While they are made in Portugal everything else about them is genuinely British:  Only offered in UK sizes and sold at 65 pounds. At less than 100 dollars they are affordable alternative to Tod’s without missing any style points.

I haven’t had much success with ordering overseas footwear recently.  They all seem to run a bit big.  This time I sized down.  I’d rather have my shoes a bit snug than too big. This principle does not apply to 90% of items of clothing but shoes can be worn in and stretched without much damage to the structure. Most other garments cannot be.

Speaking of structure the Hugs and Co product feels solid and substantial although there is not much to the shoe.  I’ve worn several drivers/loafers in my day and most of them I no longer own because they succumbed to wear and tear and became misshapen.  Only time will tell with Hugs & Co.

For our readers and admirers Hugo of Hugs & Co has graciously offered a %15 percent discount.  Just use code ImageGranted at checkout and you’ll be taken care of.

Introducing | Mantorrii Custom Footwear

Mantorii is a relatively new online custom footwear maker.  They are one of the latest to jump on the train of the sub $300 made to order footwear providers.  Others include Pediwear and Beckett Siminon.  A review to come on the latter in the future.  As many menswear enthusiasts are aware it is widely held true that quality men’s shoes and boots start around $300 and climb exponentially from there.  Today Mantorii is attempting to reverse this trend and offer a good year welted product at a below market price.

Mantorii is co-founded and operated by Aron Szabo and HQs are located in the Philippines which is also where production occurs.  From their beginning Mantorii set out to create a quality product without the overhead of brick and mortar shops, inventory, and other headaches that come along with physical store fronts.  They also wanted to reach a worldwide audience and felt online was the best way to do so.  Mantorii’s philosophy on creating a custom product is that the world is becoming increasingly more customized.  Mr. Szabo’s believes in providing a customized product and lifestyle but doesn’t feel the need to price gouge for it.

In the short few months since Mantorii’s launch they have progressively expanded their offerings from plain toe derbies and Oxfords to monks, penny loafers, dress boots, chukkas, and wholecuts.  Their color ranges have expanded from tried and true chocolate brown and black to chili pepper red, and a slew of pantone color customizations to achieve a unique offering.  Each shoe comes with several options for detailing from the formal and elegant plain toe to the casual and adorned wingtip full brogue.  Still more,  they offer four choices of soles in standard, double leather, half rubber sole, to a full rubber sole.

I’ve had the unfortunate glory of having my feet measured for a pair of bespoke shoes by the professionals at George Cleverly.  I say unfortunate because it is the ultimate tease to be measured for shoes but not be able to purchase them.  However, Mantorii afforded me the first time to measure my own feet.  Instructions are clearly given through videos and photos, and measurement sheets are provided.  While one may be saving money by ordering shoes online the task of measuring your own feet in your kitchen and scanning the result to some unknown wormhole on the other side of the planet is less than intimate.  However, in these days of technology this seems to be common place.  I, for one will always go for the expertise of a seasoned professional but for the sake of acclimating myself to the here and now I gave it my best shot.

Mantorii Custom Single Monk Strap Shoes in Calf Leather

I ordered a single strap monk in brown calf leather, with medallion toe and half rubber sole.  After some weeks the shoes finally arrived.  The question was would they fit.  I’ve ordered shoes from reputable overseas providers in the past and none of them fit properly due to inaccurate measuring and/or size differences between our European brothers.  I had hoped these would produce a different result.

However, upon removing them from the box there was the familiar feeling of knowing they were just a bit off.  Indeed they were a mere half size big, running long in the toe.  Normally I have slippage issues with my heels but surprisingly this was not the issue with this pair.  My toes have ample—make that too much room to maneuver.   Another one chalked up to the first time fit.  At this stage of my sartorial journey I am inclined to believe nothing fits right on the first try.

Mantorii Goodyear Welt Stitching

Fit aside, construction and detailing were another matter.  The single strap monk was hand stitched and it shows.  While every handmade product will have inconsistencies and variances, there is a difference between handmade art and just missing the mark.  The soles of the shoes, while genuinely stitched show jagged stitching and inconsistent welting not usually seen in higher levels of manufacturing.  The leather itself is also a concern.  Both shoes looked as if there were streaks in the leather and one toe box looks as if it is water and/or chemical stained–not very presentable either way.

Mantorii Toe Medallion

The medallion is punched well while the strap looks as if it has been imprinted or pressed around the edges indicating subpar manufacturing techniques.  I do not claim to be a cobbler nor bookmaker, but one can easily see the defects in the leather and the inconsistencies in the stitching.  The half rubber sole is also a point of attention.  It does not seem to be high quality rubber.  Instead it looks and feels to be of a composite material.  I own other shoes with half rubber and full rubber Dainite soles and this material falls short of the mark.

Mantorii Half Rubber Sole

The best part about Mantorii at this point is their customer service.  From the start communication was stellar.  Every email and notification was answered in a timely manner by a human being.  The only fault is that I did not receive communication that my order was sent until I asked.  However, this is most likely because of dealing directly with the back office and many regular customer experiences may have been cut short.

Overall Mantorii is a company with clear intentions to offer a customizable product to the masses at a reasonable price.  I believe that if I were to order another pair of shoes that they would come out a bit better in fit and construction but as this is my first experience with them I would have to suggest improvements in several areas before they can compete on the level of their elder brothers in cobbling.

Mantorii Single Monk Straps In Action

Monkeying Around with Bonobos

Bonobos Guide Shop Georgetown Introduction

Bonobos is an online technology-driven clothing brand launched in 2007 by Andy Dunn based on the need for better-fitting men’s pants.  Bonobos is now the largest web based apparel brand in the US. In 2011 Bonobos extended offline, launching e-commerce showrooms called Guideshops to bring personalized, one-to-one service to those wanting to experience the brand in-person.  In 2012, Bonobos expanded its distribution to a partnership with Nordstrom, offering Bonobos apparel at select doors nationwide and to Nordstrom.com.

The Bonobos Guideshop is an e-commerce showroom designed as the answer to the traditional retail experience.  Currently, the company has e-commerce showrooms in Boston, Chicago, New York City, Palo Alto and San Francisco with plans to introduce the concept in additional domestic cities throughout the year.  The Bonobos Guideshop in Washington, DC in the affluent neighborhood of Georgetown is a physical space serving as an extension of Bonobos’ comprehensive customer service for those who want to see and try on the clothing in person before placing an order on the popular retail website.

Bonobos Guide Shop Georgetown Entrance

Assisting visitors in the Guideshop are ‘Bonobos Guides’ who walk customers through the unique range of Bonobos items from suits and denim to button-down shirts and washed chinos.  Bonobos Guides provide the hybrid service of a fit expert and style advisor in a relaxed, one-on-one environment without the stress of a traditional retail store.

Bonobos Chinos

The concept of the guideshops are to display a range of products in limited size runs in order for the customer to get an idea of the fit and feel of the product with the convenience of being able to purchase online.  The high touch concept walks men who may not be familiar with their own body type and/or desired fit through a hand-holding process initiated by young ladies who may be educated on Bonobos product itself but may be lacking in overall knowledge of men’s body types and the psychology of the male shopper in general.

Bonobos Guide Shop Showroom

Bonobos Cotton Shirting

As a DC style enthusiast I was afforded a personal shopping trip to the new shop before it opened this week.  With no previous experience with the fit and feel of the product and not knowing anyone in my personal network online or offline who patronizes the brand regularly, I had a less than clear picture of what the brand would offer in terms of fit, fabric, and function.  Upon entering the guideshop I was readily met by one of several young ladies who are bubbly and energetic about the product and service they are providing.  Albeit this visit was a special one, I imagine the process is very much the same for a customer who makes an appointment for the first time.  Being walked through each of the offerings in chinos, denim, and suit trousers.  Then to jackets, shirts, shoes, outerwear etc.  My tour may have been more general as I had no specific needs, but since the company was built on pants this is where the fitting started.

Bonobos is famed for its curved waistband which supposedly eliminates the “diaper butt” phenomenon in which the trousers sag in the buttocks.  Admittedly, the pants do feel much more contoured than straight waistband trousers.  However, the rest of the fit is lacking.  Being a former athlete I have more contours in my lower body then the average male even after being 15 pounds less than my playing weight.  The Bonobos slim fit in my normal waist size of 30 was so tight they couldn’t be zipped much less buttoned.  A short rise, hip hugging waistband and out-of -proportionate bulging thighs were the result.

The worst part about the fit wasn’t the actual pants themselves, but that the pack of four women waiting for me to emerge from the dressing room who all had the same reaction.  “Those look great!”  I politely mentioned the fact that I couldn’t zip nor button them and they recommended that I go a size up instead of moving on to a different type of trouser.  This type of reaction is common in retail even in the intimate environment which Bonobos is hosting.  While the average man will appreciate a compliment from a women and especially one whom he is shopping with, the blatant concurrence with any and everything that one puts on even if it doesn’t fit his physical body shape nor his emotional capabilities left the experience lacking.

Several other pieces were tried on including shirts and suit jackets.  Throughout the process not one of the “guides” ever commented that their fit just wasn’t right for me or that we move onto other pieces of apparel that may compensate for the fact that their trousers are built for young men who want a skinny and/or slim trouser that sits on their hips and barely allows one’s lower extremities to breath properly.

Bonobos Alma Mater Blazer with Gingham Crooby Slim Fit shirt

As a thank you Bonobos gifted an Alma Mater Blazer and Ging Crosby slim fit shirt.  The blazer is their standard fit in a wool/cashmere mix woven in Italy although it doesn’t say where it was actually assembled.  The blazer has a natural shoulder with minimal padding, gold buttons, slim notch lapels, shallow center vent and non functional buttons.  The fit in the shoulders, under the arms, across the back, the arms and chest is actually quite nice.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Unfortunately, my elation was undone by the fact the jacket is so short that nearly my entire rear end is on display.  The disheartening fact past that the jacket is a regular length.  One can only image the hem length on a short model.  On first glance the shirt looks identical to anything that can be found at J. Crew.  A short button down collar with neck button in a navy Gingham made in Malaysia while most of J. Crew’s shirting is made in Mauritius.  Having owned and tried dozens of made-to-measure shirts over the years this off the rack shirt does fit quite nicely across the chest, shoulders, waist, and even in the sleeves which is a common pain point for me in the past.  Between the blazer and the shirt, hit and miss was the general reaction.

However, all is not lost.  Bonobos has come a long way from their roots and have partnered with several of the most reputable names in the menswear business.  The Harris Tweed blazers, BillyKirk bags, Cone denim, and Grenson shoe offerings were stellar.  Other collaborations with Hunter boots and Riviera’s are also part of the equation.  A lovely purple Harris Tweed was on display.  Unfortunately, sizes were limited.  These types of pieces may be more intriguing for the experienced and even beginning sartorialist over the ill-fitting pants.

Overall the concept is one which holds merit – presenting a close knit group of products in an intimate setting on a one on one level.  On the other hand being placated to by young peppy sales girls who throw out compliments for commission is not the recommended route for a man to expand his wardrobe properly and sensibly.

Guideshop appointments can be scheduled by visiting www.bonobos.com/guideshop. Appointments are always complimentary.

Volley Sneakers

Volley is an Australian sneaker company born “down under” in 1936 and specializes in canvas and leather sneakers for athletes and those who want to add classic casual footwear to their collection.  Volley’s heritage lies in the pursuit of athletics with tennis players both men and women alike wearing their sneakers faithfully during the Wimbledon championships of the 60’s and 70’s.

For decades the low profile leather, canvas, and rubber shoes have only been available in Australia.  Not until recently have they been stocked in the US in LA and NYC at select Steven Alan and Urban Outfitter stores.  I have yet to see or hear anyone in my sartorial circles speak of these or wear them, so I thought it was the perfect time to introduce them.

Although dress shoes make up the majority of shoe collection, I do happen to own and wear several pairs of sneakers.  Jack Purcell’s, Converse All Stars, and Seavees have made up my casual footwear selections over the years.  I’ve been fortunate enough to add a pair of Volleys to the rotation and have been breaking them in over the last few months.

Volley’s come in several different lines from the classic canvas and rubber rope soled O.C., to the leather S.S, to the sporty International.   The classic line of the O.C caught my fancy.   The shoes are offered only in whole sizes.  I’ve tried and only moderately succeeded in the past with ordering shoes from outside the US.  Fortunately this is one of the few successes.  The 9’s run true to size and fit well although they were a bit snug on the toe at first.  I’d rather have it this way then too big in the heel which many shoes are due to my skinny heels.

These sneakers were a replacement for my Converse All Stars which were falling apart.  So far I can say that I believe my Volleys will actually hold up better than the Converse which are glued rather carelessly and crack at the crease point after several wears.  The Volley roped sole seems to be constructed better although both shoes are made in China.  The canvas is light and breathable.  The shoe strings are sturdy and flat with weighted silver aglets.  The only branding to be seen is the red Volley flag at the back of the heel which I don’t mind.  The gray and white combination is unassuming and functional.  They have married well with my linen five pocket pants and chinos in the summer and I imagine they will go just as well with my cords and denim in the fall.  At an attractive $80 a pair they can be easily replaced over the years as need be to keep one looking stylish and feeling comfortable all at once.