About Thom Wong

Thom Wong writes thesundaybest.org.

Back to Basics – Hats

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when a man’s head, whilst outside, would always be covered by a hat. Go back a bit farther and one discovers that much of the new world, or at least Canada, was discovered due to an insatiable British desire for felt hats made from beaver pelt. Fast forward to the sixties where the entire plot of Le Samourai hinged on the fact that he wore a specific style of fedora and you begin to see just how important hats have been in both fashion and general world history.

As a hat person myself I’ve loved the new interest in headwear, as more varied styles become widely available and specialty hat shops open and remain open. And the renewed interest has lead to innovative collaborations.

Leading the way is British hat manufacturer Kangol. In April they teamed with Junya Watanabe of Comme des Garçons, who sent his models down the runway with Classic Cabbies fabricated out of his signature patterns.

Then in September they worked with Rickey Kim of Evil Monito to update two of their classic looks. Kim’s versions of the Felt Fedora and the Classic Cabbie retain the traditional Kangol lines; he innovates on the inside where he has silk screened photographs from his own family collection. And, perhaps justifying its $160.00 price tag, the fedora comes with a space invaders-inspired hat box and four pins.

For someone just starting out the number of choices can be overwhelming. The fedora is a good starter hat, as it tends to go with almost anything (although one might want to avoid the Pete Doherty habit of wearing his Trilby to style death). The Brixton Gain fedora will give you the style without raiding your bank account.

The Goorin Rude Boy adds a feather to the mix and is on sale now for $37.50.

Other safe bets from the Goorin line, hat makers since 1895, include the grey tweed Suzuki, the plaid Mondavi, or the poorly named but still interesting leather/snakeskin Boom Boom.

David Colman in the New York Times attributes the rise of the fedora to none other than Brad Pitt. Pitt has been in the fashion news again for wearing a hat, this time a newsboy; he tried selling them for his charity, Make It Right. Of course, wear anything too long and people might start to notice. The lesson, if there is one – coordinate your hats like the rest of your accessories, and use them sparingly. On the other hand, Pete Doherty once dated Kate Moss.

Buying Belts And Wallets

Belts

It is a well-worn maxim that a man’s shoes should match his belt. While this sentiment certainly has its merits, it also, as with most absolutes on style, creates a rather severe and foreboding landscape in which a man may dress. A man’s belt and shoes can be in whatever varied hues he chooses, provided they do not clash; like socks, there is no need to follow the overly strict and generally misguided dictum of matching when coordination is a far more useful guide.

Unless you are a cowboy or it is made of brass and spells your name, a belt buckle shouldn’t draw attention to your midsection. I blame J. Lindeberg for this recent phenomenon. (I also blame him for convincing Justin Timberlake he could design clothes). Your t-shirt and jeans do not become an outfit just because you have a belt buckle larger than my hand.

A black leather belt should handle most of your wardrobe’s heavy lifting, pardon the pun. Kenneth Cole has a nice one currently on sale. This one distinguishes itself from the sizable pack with its thin, black metal buckle.

This one from Fossil has done the trick for two years now.

With a brown leather belt I think you can afford to be a bit more risky and creative. I like this Ben Sherman belt with his name punched out like a dot matrix printer.

I don’t have anything to say about fabric belts. There a little like off-white paint – ubiquitous and completely forgettable.

Wallets

When I was eight I had a velcro Ocean Pacific wallet that never had any money it. Still, I carried it everywhere I went and kept it filled with notes about comic books. The main point of this story is that I had this wallet when I was eight. If you still hear a ripping sound when you need to pay for something it’s time to buy a new wallet.

Although not the first name to come to mind when contemplating men’s wallets, Coach has a handsome collection in a variety of textures – including this Signature Embossed edition:

I know men who change their wallets every year, perhaps in response to the fact that after socks and ties, wallets seem to be the most popular gift for men. Apart from being wasteful this denies the wallet the chance to mature, since most leather goods only reveal their character once broken in. At the risk of not having any money to put in it once you buy it, grab one like this Bosca made of ostrich leather and let it age until it is something you’d be proud to give to your grandkids.

Socks: Choose And Coordinate

Generally as much of an afterthought as shoes, socks are the unsung hero of the creatively dressed man. Given next to no coverage by magazines and generally assigned to the back walls of stores, or featured like celebrity mags near the registers, socks can and should be a quick way to spruce up an outfit.

On first glance the offerings can be disheartening – pair after pair of grey and black dress socks with an equal number of athletic socks. This lack of selection has clearly driven some men mad as they then take the drastic step of pairing their oxfords and wingtips with white cotton ankle socks. A man’s socks should accurately reflect his taste in clothes, and while, like t-shirts, they should never be more interesting than you or the rest of what you’re wearing, they should compliment your attire more than just blend in.

Don’t Beige Your Feet

The major chain retailers make fairly interesting socks, but experience has taught me that a five dollar sock will last about five dollars long. That said, few of us have the money to buy $100 Corgi cashmere socks, or take up the company’s offer to have them custom made. For the last year I’ve been buying most of my socks at the GAP and Banana Republic, and find that an understated stripe works well in almost any situation. Of course, you can’t really go wrong with argyle either.

Because Our Time and Our Clothes Got to Coordinate

A majority of men–and women–seem to think that coordinate means matching. This helps to explain the head-to-toe pink abominations Juicy Couture has foisted on us, and the black suit, black shirt, black tie ensemble that was everywhere a few years ago. Terrified of not coordinating, or simply too tired to care, most men reach for the automatic black or grey socks and wash their hands of the entire affair. But as anyone who has ever taken an introductory art class will tell you, coordinating colours is a simple matter of tone (and the all helpful colour wheel). Even without this basic knowledge a man can only really go wrong with his socks if he’s wearing blue shoes with orange socks and grey pants, and even that could look good depending on the person and the rest of the outfit.

That arbiter of style The Sartorialist sets off a near riot every time he posts a man in a blue suit with red socks. While many commenters will praise the “bold” choice, at least as many will question it – with some decrying it to the point of non-existence, as if to say “this cannot be.” If your curious about it yourself, here’s a simple solution – buy a pair of red socks and try it. Maybe you will discover, to your surprise, that red socks were the missing component from your wardrobe, and will then make the leap to radial red and white stripes. It could happen.


Buying Socks Online – Not As Crazy As It Seems

You buy groceries, books, DVDs, and cars – why not socks? As with almost every other consumer product, the internet now has a better selection of socks than any brick and mortar location and shouldn’t be casually dismissed as a source for livening up your feet.

Paul Smith’s online store is currently having a sale on some of its stock.

The Joy of Socks offers a huge selection (but avoid at all costs the “novelty” socks).

You knew Zappos.com was a great source for shoes, but did you know they sell socks? Great selection.

In a Perfect World

Speaking of Paul Smith, if money were no object I would only wear his socks. Immaculately manufactured and showcasing the man’s deft eye for colour, Paul Smith socks are the Christmas gift you won’t be returning.

Back to Basics – The Shoe

In this age of doing more with less, global energy crises, and the Ugg viral outbreak, it is the perfect time to contemplate how many shoes a man should own. The Thoughtful Dresser states a rule, unfamiliar to this writer, that a man tends to believe he doesn’t need more than three. The esteemed Manolo places that number closer to ten. The simple answer is – as many as he wears.

Most men treat footwear as an afterthought, which naturally risks derailing even the most carefully considered outfit. Before even thinking about tie and shirt combinations a man should take stock of what is going on his feet. As a learned friend from law school once opined about two thuggish young men wearing impeccably maintained kicks, “gangster starts from the ground up.”

The following list does not take into account footwear that is work specific.

Black Leather Shoes

Nothing works in more situations and paired with more outfits than black leather, whether lace-up or slip-on. Avoid the risk of looking too corporate by going with a more playful option, such as Barker Black’s loafer.

Brown Leather Shoes

First of all, we can stop calling leather shoes “dress shoes,” as though they should only be used when one is trying to make some sort of impression. If you find yourself dreaming of leaving work so you can take off your shoes, chances are you’re either not spending enough money or are buying the wrong fit. I’ve never understood the logic where you buy five shoes, none of which feel right, instead of spending the same amount on one pair that can last ten years. If you already have a pair in black, a brown pair can give new life to suits and, I am lead to believe, can even be worn without socks in the summer.

Casual Shoe

Running shoes are called running shoes because you exercise in them. If you’re wearing them with jeans and a blazer, you are doing them a disservice and causing an existential dilemma. If you’re not going to travel the white leather oxford route, you need a pair of casual shoes that don’t look like you’re headed to the gym.

I’m probably biased as I own five pairs, but for my money Medium makes some of the best looking casual shoes around. I have two of the Expressionist in different colorways.

Are there any shoes that a man should never wear? In Vancouver, apart from the aforementioned Uggs, the ubiquitous socks with sandals combo is a frequent offender.

However, I would argue that any three strap sandal tends to make men’s feet, already big and plodding, look like trussed up legs of ham. Which, unless you’re a Roman gladiator, never ever looks stylish.