June 26, 2015

Editorializing for the Masses

or “Why I Cancelled My GQ Subscription.”

Okay, so I haven’t actually cancelled it yet, but it’s right up there on my list of things to do between booking my next tattoo consultation and going to the dentist. A large part of my dissatisfaction with GQ is indicative of my feeling that our society as a whole has become too casual. Not just in dress, but in speech, manners, and general social interactions. Now obviously I don’t think GQ is responsible for the breakdown of polite society, but rather than bucking the trend and striving to be a benchmark, setting the sartorial bar high for their readers, each month I witness an increase in the degree of pandering that occurs.

I’ve noticed what to me seems like a slow decline in the quality (not to mention quantity) of editorial style content over the last few years and a rise in the presence of articles with questionable levels of impartiality. Now, I get it, surviving as a moneymaking print enterprise is tough these days. More than tough, it’s a Herculean feat and endorsing things that appeal to the mass population makes perfect business sense. I can’t begrudge the editorial staff for wanting to stay employed but the level of transparency as to what is essentially sponsored content is becoming much more difficult to discern.

For a magazine whose name became a colloquialism for the well-dressed man, there seems to be a dearth of that signature aesthetic. I see a huge push in support of the latest casual streetwear trends, like the rise of joggers and their place in dress attire, or suspect style advice, like a groom wearing Vans to his wedding. In a recent 168-page issue of the magazine whose tag line is ‘Look Sharp + Live Smart,’ there are, generously, 40 pages of men’s style related things (this includes the entire 14-page spread on traveling to Cuba) that are original, non-advertising content.

I can’t just lay the blame on GQ’s doorstep, ring the doorbell, and walk away. And that’s not what this post is intended to do. I understand that it is a symptom of our culture; the instant everything; the ever-shortening attention spans; the need to provide coverage of everything lest someone get bored; the rise of a society where people become famous and wield undue influence on a young population who never knew a world without the internet.

Maybe that is both the problem and the solution. A double-edged sword. The rise of bloggers and independent magazines shows that the need was there for something beyond the status quo when it came to men’s style, and there are some really great people out there producing incredible content. The issue arises when the market becomes so diversified that the audience becomes too segmented and the major publications try to cater to the trend instead of setting it.

People who are only interested in tailored clothing can find enough sources to sate their appetite without ever having to read another point of view. The same goes for streetwear enthusiasts or those with an edgier style. If you are not challenged with content and opinions that you don’t agree with, then you lose the opportunity to expand your outlook and solidify your own style.

There are the old sayings ‘dress for the job you want’ and ‘the clothes make the man’ and to a certain extent, they hold true. The clothes you wear affect your carriage and deportment. They impact how others see you and, even more importantly, how you see yourself. Another popular saying is ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ but unfortunately that is how we are programmed. We judge, and we judge quickly. You never know whom you are going to meet, so I feel you should always look presentable. One look at my blog will tell you that I don’t think that means wearing a suit all day, every day. I would love to do that, but for the work I do it is just not practical all the time. You can be comfortable and casual, but there is a line and on the other side of that line is too casual.

I guess my whole point in writing this article is that I wish more entities with as wide and entrenched an audience as GQ would live up to the reputation that they themselves established and help guide the new generations towards an elevated sense of style in dress. Convincing their readers that sweatpants are acceptable daily wear is to me a disservice. At the risk of throwing one too many clich├ęs into this post, you only get one first impression.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading my diatribe. And stay stylish,

- JJ 

February 8, 2015

Favorite Finds: Ryan Seacrest Distinction

Let me preface this by stating that I'm not a fan of Ryan Seacrest. Nothing against him personally, just a bias against his association with a particular music show and a begrudging of the rapid expansion of his media empire. That said, I have to give credit where it is due and the concept behind his clothing line, Ryan Seacrest Distinction, is a really good one.

Men in general have historically been deficient in mixing and matching patterns and colors. For those who don't have a solid grasp of color theory, shopping for stylish business attire can truly be a nightmare. The plethora of colors, patterns, and textures available in a men's dress furnishings department can be overwhelming. What the Ryan Seacrest Distinction line seeks to do is simplify the entire process with a numerical system for easy reassurance on coordinating your attire.

The line is all encompassing, with suit separates, dress shirts, ties, pocket squares, and other small accessories. Everything is based around a numerical color matching system: Black (01), Grey (02), Blue (03), and Brown (04). Each item has one or more numbers listed on their label, the idea being that all you need to do is match up the numbers and you have a cohesive look. It's basically a color by number for men's style.

Say you have a black suit, number 01. Grab a dress shirt that works with 01, 02, and 03, a tie that works with 01 and 02, and a pocket square that works with all four. Done. It's that simple. I looked at a lot of different combinations and while there were certainly some interesting ones, if you follow the color matching system I think it would be hard to go wrong.

My hope would be that putting together a wardrobe in this way would familiarize you with which colors go together so that you can start putting things together on your own. The quality seems to be pretty decent, the collection features a modern slim fit, and the prices are reasonable. Suit separates are around $400 for the jacket, $150 for the trousers, and $80 for the vest. Shirts are $69.50, ties are $59.50, bow ties are $49.50, and pocket squares are $30.

Currently it is available exclusively at Macy's. For the guy who is looking to up his game but is afraid of making a mistake or lacks the confidence to do it on his own, this might be a good place to start. The whole idea behind the collection is so mind numbingly simple, and it's one that gets used a lot by personal stylists, but I am really surprised that no one has done it before at a mass market level. 

From the cursory research I've done into Ryan Seacrest's wardrobe, it does seem like he wears his own collection on TV, which says a little something of the quality of his line (for some reason I don't think Adam Levine wears his line for Kmart). Also, the fact that his company owns the master license means that he has a lot more input in the process than most celebrity clothing lines. And hey, if Ryan Seacrest's celebrity can help elevate and evolve the way men dress, then I guess that's not such a bad thing.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

January 27, 2015

Dressing for the Occasion: Blizzard

If this post were an academic paper it would probably be subtitled “Responding to the anti-climactic aftermath of Snowpocalypse 2015.” With all the unfulfilled hype that was Winter Storm Juno, I wanted to give some tips on dressing for a blizzard (if one were to actually show up). Now obviously, you should not venture out during a blizzard if you can at all help it. This is more about what to wear when you venture outside the next day to resupply on bread and kale, since it was all likely sold out the day of the storm.

A high collar button-mock sweater will help keep you warm and protected from the elements. The reason I prefer button necks as opposed to turtlenecks is because the buttons allow you to regulate your coverage. If the wind is blowing, button it all the way up. If things have calmed down, open it up a little bit.

Layering is key to keeping you warm as your body heat gets trapped between the layers and helps insulate you. Underneath the sweater, I’m wearing a heavy oxford shirt and a long-sleeve undershirt, but on especially cold days I would opt for a thermal or heat-tech option.

Accessories are important, and I don’t just mean a scarf and gloves. During the day, sunglasses will be a huge help at cutting down on the glare coming off the snow. It’s hard enough to navigate snow-covered sidewalks when you can see. Shearling gloves are perfect for those really cold days as they provide more insulation that regular leather or wool alternatives.

A hat is another accessory to consider, especially when it’s snowing. You can keep your hair dry without having to carry an umbrella around and when it has a brim, in the case of this military cap, windswept snow will (mostly) stay out of your eyes. Just because it’s a blizzard, doesn’t mean you can’t add some flair. A lapel flower is just as at home on a peacoat as a blazer.

The reason I chose to wear black denim is because after a snowstorm in NYC, you end up wading through dirty slush and puddles of questionable depth. Black denim is a good choice for inclement weather because it won’t stain from getting splashed with mud and if the cuffs get wet from trekking through snow, you won’t see it.

Duck boots are a must – they’ll keep your feet dry and stylish. Since Juno only dropped 6ish inches on us, I went with a more unique alternative to the classic Bean Boot. A lot of companies are putting a fresh take on duck boots, and the wingtip detailing on these Timberland Stormbucks infuses a little touch of traditional menswear into a utilitarian boot.

Coat by AllSaints; Sweater by SQ; Shirt by J.Crew; Denim by PPD (now Paige);
Boots by Timberland; Hat by Prada; Scarf by Psycho Bunny; Gloves by Kenneth
Cole New York; Handmade lapel flower; Sunglasses by Bulgari

Inclement weather can always throw you a curveball when it comes to dressing practically and appropriately, but with a little thought and consideration you can weather any storm in style.

Stay warm and stylish,

- JJ

January 18, 2015

Head-to-Toe: Thrifted

As I’ve mentioned before, you can find some really great pieces to add to your closet for not a lot of money if you put in the time and know where to look. I wanted to do this Head-to-Toe post was to show that you can put together a well-styled, high quality look for a fraction of the retail cost. Case in point, this entire outfit cost less than $200.

The other reason I wanted to do this particular post was to demystify the illusion that you need a lot of money to have a designer wardrobe. Some of my favorite pieces and best deals came from thrift shops, and I wanted to break down the acquisition of each piece to give specific examples of what you can find, with a little bit of luck.

This blazer is by Helmut Lang and would retail for somewhere around $600-800, but I got it at a Salvation Army coat sale for $30. It was in amazing condition with very minor wear, the only issues being that one of the cuff buttons was missing and the lining had separated from the body, both easy fixes. The shirt is Barney’s New York and cost $9 at Goodwill, the Burberry tie came from Housing Works for about $30, and the AllSaints scarf was $15 at Buffalo Exchange.

The Express Studio trousers cost $8 at Salvation Army. The legline was a little on the wider side, but i really liked their texture so I needed to slim them down a bit. See my post on trouser alterations for step-by-step instructions on how to do this.

Blazer by Helmut Lang; Shirt by Barney's New York; Trousers by Express
Studio; Shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo; Tie by Burberry; Tie bar by Link Up;
Scarf by AllSaints; Belt by Ted Baker; Handmade lapel flower

The Salvatore Ferragamo shoes were $18, also at Salvation Army. Shoes are always a little tricky to thrift because most people don’t get rid of shoes until they are pretty worn down. Sometimes, if the shoe is in good shape and just needs a new sole you can find a good deal, but in the case of these Ferragamos, I just got really lucky as they just needed a good polish.

The lapel flower, while not technically thrifted, cost nothing because it was made with fabric swatches and spare buttons. The only pieces that were not purchased at a thrift store were the belt and tie bar. The belt was about $40 on clearance and the tie bar was $20 at an off-price retailer.

Hopefully this post will show you that a tight budget is not an obstacle to looking great if you put in the time and work. For more tips on thrift shopping, check out my previous post.

Stay stylish,

- JJ

January 1, 2015

Year in Review: 2014

2014 has been a year of ups and downs here at The Shy Stylist. I hit 1,000 followers on Twitter, finally jumped on the Instagram bandwagon, and picked up a couple really great new personal shopping clients. I also didn’t have a lot of time to get posts shot, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. I have a backlog of copy, but no accompanying pictures (which would make for a pretty boring style blog). Looking forward to 2015, I am contemplating new avenues to explore while sticking to my philosophy that style is both personal and timeless.

As with every New Year’s Day, I wanted to share (in no particular order) my favorite looks from the previous year. Despite the number of posts being embarrassingly low in 2014, I put together some of my favorite posts, so I think it balances out. If you want to check out the post in it’s entirety, just click the title.

Jacket by Scott James; Trousers by Express Studio; Sweater by Nautica;
Shirt by Uniqlo; Shoes by Johnston & Murphy; Tie by Penguin;
Pocket Square by Giorgio Armani; Gloves (in pocket) by French Connection

I like this look for its simplicity while also being very visually interesting. This was also one of my favorite posts content-wise because it showed that you can stand out while still sticking to classic tailored pieces.

Suit, pocket square, and belt by Ted Baker; Shirt by Charles Tyrwhitt;
Shoes by AllSaints; Tie by Alexander McQueen; Tie bar by Link Up;
Laces by Allen Edmonds

This look sort of came together on its own, as I happened upon the perfect pieces to fit the wedding’s Midsummer Night’s Dream theme. It also didn’t hurt that I have an affinity for purple. Another thing that I like about this post is that the wedding I attended was beautiful and I get to remember the weekend every time I look at it.

Jacket with pocket square by Ted Baker; Trousers by Fink Clothing; Vest by
J.Crew; Shirt by Ben Sherman; Boots by Ugg Australia; Tie by Paul Smith
 Gloves by French Connection

I love this entire ensemble, particularly because of how lucky I was to piece together what, for all intents and purposes, is a 3-piece suit from separates acquired over the last decade.

Jacket by AllSaints; Trousers by Nautica; Vest by Umit Benan; Shirt by Uniqlo;
Tie and scarf by Psycho Bunny; Shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo; Socks by Corgi 

I just think this outfit is fun, but in a subtle way. The subdued hues in the striped pants and the plaid vest are a great contrast to the colorful socks. I always love mixing patterns and I think people should be less afraid to experiment. After all, it’s only clothes.

Car coat by The Man's Shop at Lord & Taylor; Sweater & watch by Nautica;
Shirt by Barney's New York; Denim and tote by AllSaints; Boots by John
 Varvatos; Tie by Penguin; Scarf by Tallia; Sunglasses by Marc by Marc Jacobs

What I like most about this look and post is that it conveys the idea that vintage pieces can still be stylish and modern. Sure, there are a lot of really dated items that should be avoided (I’m looking at you 80’s shoulder pads…), but classic silhouettes are truly timeless and can easily be brought into the 21st century.

Thanks for reading and helping the site have it’s best year ever!

Have a stylish 2015 and keep the emails and comments coming!

- JJ