December 31, 2011

Year in Review: 2011

As the year comes to an end, I wanted to take a look back at my posts and share my top five favorite looks since I started this blog back in August.

Also, based on the feedback I have been getting, I am excited to introduce two new features for 2012. In Review will share my thoughts and opinions on new books, articles, and features that pertain to the world of men’s style and fashion that I find interesting. Favorite Finds will be a regular post featuring pieces that are currently in stores and covering points such as fit, price, quality, and perceived value.

Shirt by Allsaints Spitalfields; Jeans by Juicy Couture Mens (now defunct);
Shoes by Ted Baker; Sunglasses by Alexander McQueen; Watch by Bulova.

This was from the first shoot that I did for this blog back in July and it is still one of my favorites. It was completely unplanned because I was in Union Square shopping and, after putting off the first shoot for a week and a half, decided to just go for it.

If you are a regular reader, you know that I have a particular affinity for AllSaints Spitalfields and I knew I wanted to wear them in my first shoot. I chose this look as the first one I would feature (and my profile pic for quite a while) because it embodies the aesthetic that I want this blog to convey. Style, quality, and proper fit can carry through from a black tie event to ripped jeans on a hot summer day.

Pocket square by Thomas Pink; Vest by Ted Baker; Shirt by Nigel Hall;
Pants by Marc by Marc Jacobs; Sneakers by Paul Smith Jeans;
Tie by Alexander McQueen; Belt by Fossil; Eyeglasses by Dolce & Gabbana.

The main reason that this particular photo made my list is because of the composition. Don’t get me wrong, I love the look (it wouldn’t have made the blog otherwise), but the way the planter box and the winter sunlight play off of the deep blues and purples in the outfit really bring it all together.

Overcoat by John Varvatos; Shirt by Vince; Henley by AllSaints Spitalfields;
Denim by AllSaints Spitalfields; Boots by Altama; Scarf by Burberry;
Camp socks from J Crew; Fingerless gloves from the Men's Store at Bloomingdale's;
Belt by American Rag; Sunglasses by Alexander McQueen.

This look made my list because it is the first time I have styled for myself based solely on an inspiration board (in this case the Balmain lookbook). It challenged me to step outside of how I would normally style a look for this blog and taught me a new way to wear a woven in the process.

I am a huge proponent of layering, so it’s no surprise that two of my favorite looks came from this post.

Peacoat by INC; Blazer by Costume National; Sweater by The Men's Store
at Bloomingdale's; Shirt by 1 Like No Other; Pants  by Marc by Marc Jacobs;
Boots by John Varvatos; Tie by Ben Sherman; Scarf by John Varvatos;
Gloves by Isotoner; Sunglasses by Prada.

I like this look because the outfit is casual, but tuck in the shirt and put the pants over the boots and you are ready for a nice dinner out. I also really like the composition of the photo and way the color of the door in the background makes the teal in the tie pop.

Wool trench by French Connection; Blazer by Ted Baker; Vest by Umit Benan;
Shirt by Hawes & Curtis; Trousers by Fink Clothing; Shoes by Ted Baker;
Tie by Robert Godley; Pocket square by Thomas Pink; Belt by Lacoste;
Scarf by Burberry; Gloves by French Connection; Eyeglasses by Dolce & Gabbana.

This is my absolute favorite look. It was actually not the one that I was going to shoot for the vest section of this post. I had worn it to a theatre company gala several days prior and liked the way all of the colors worked together so much that I shot it for the blog.

As always, I really enjoy hearing from you as The Shy Stylist continues to evolve and grow. Leave a comment or send me an email at with any questions, comments, or even things you might like to see featured in the future.

Stay stylish in the new year!
- JJ

December 28, 2011

Style Feature: The Wool Coat

A good wool coat should be one of the staples of any winter wardrobe. As with all your clothing, fit, function, and fabric are the most important things to consider when shopping for a new coat. I have picked four of my go-to styles to feature here, but this is just a small sampling of the variety that is available.

1. Classic Peacoat

This peacoat was bought when I was wearing a suit to work everyday and it is also one of the heaviest and warmest wools that I own. I have searched for years to find another as heavy but without much success.

Extra Tip : If buying a coat to wear over a suit or sport jacket, make sure to wear the jacket when you go shopping to make sure the fit is comfortable enough.

Extra Tip II : Probably the best place to go for a warm and durable peacoat is a military surplus store. They will be affordable, built to last, and will keep you as warm as just about any other comparable coat you will find.

Peacoat by INC; Chinos by Kenneth Cole New York; Boots by John Varvatos;
Scarf by Psycho Bunny; Gloves by Isotoner; Sunglasses by Prada.
2. Three-Quarter Trench

This updated take on the belted trench shortens it and slims down the fit. The military-inspired detailing in the epaulets and gunflap add some structure to an otherwise soft coat.

Extra Tip : In a lighter weight wool, such as this, you want to either buy it fitted (and keep it for the slightly less frigid temperatures) or make sure there is enough room to be able to layer a chunky sweater underneath for warmth in the dead of winter.

Trench by French Connection; Pants by Marc by Marc Jacobs;
Boots by AllSaints Spitalfields; Scarf by John Varvatos.
3. Modern Overcoat

Not all overcoats need to be the same shapeless black, camel, or navy that flood the streets of downtown NYC during the winter. Break out of the mold and go with an overcoat that has a more updated style and silhouette like this glen plaid.

Extra Tip : The slim silhouette that is nipped in at the waist provides a more fitted appearance while still providing enough room to layer underneath. At the same time a narrower button stance helps slim and lengthen the silhouette.

Extra Tip II : It’s all in the details! The ticket pocket adds a bit of classic flair while the leather trim on the pockets, buttonholes, and collar straps really makes this coat unique.

Overcoat by John Varvatos; Trousers by Fink Clothing;
Boots by AllSaints Spitalfields; Shirt by Charles Tyrwhitt;
Quarter-zip by Nautica; Scarf by Burberry; Gloves by French Connection.
4. Double-Breasted with a Twist

This coat is an updated take on a classic, with styling that hearkens back to mid-century military dress. The wool has a rougher hand than is usually found on winter-weight wool that, when paired with the fitted cut, gives the coat a decidedly rugged and more casual feel.

After two seasons, this has become my go-to wool for daily wear. When you put the snug fit, hearty hand, and hard details together, it has the same place in my wardrobe that a motorcycle jacket might (but with the ability to be a little dressier if needed).

Coat by AllSaints Spitalfields; Cords by Nautica;
Sneakers by Paul Smith Jeans; Scarf by Moschino; Sunglasses by Prada.
There are dozens more styles of winter wools and I have seen zippers becoming incredibly popular over the last few seasons. My advice would be to avoid anything with zippers because in the freezing cold, metal (and zipper teeth in particular) is the last thing that I want to have to deal with.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

December 25, 2011

The Art of Fit Pt 4 – The Trouser

Part 4 of this series will cover the proper fit of trousers. First, I feel a little explanation of the title is necessary. While for many ‘pants’ has become a catchall term regardless of style or context, I feel that some differentiation is necessary.

While some would argue that the terms ‘trouser’ and ‘slack’ are interchangeable, I prefer to separate them. For my purposes, trouser refers to a pair of dress pants that is not part of a suit or other matching ensemble, while slack refers to suit pants when they are not being worn with the rest of the suit.

Just like your shirt, there are several things to consider when deciding if a pair of trousers fits you properly. The first is going to be the fit of the legline. You will generally want to stick to a slim and straight leg, unless you are heavier around the midsection, in which case a classic leg will keep you looking more proportional.

You will also generally want to avoid pleats and opt for a flat front, unless for one reason or another you need the extra room around your hips and backside. While recently there have been some designers doing a new take on pleats, by nature they add fabric to the leg, which results in a baggier fit.

Many well-made trousers will come with extra details such as full or partially lined legs, buckles at the waist, and notched waistbands. These are partially for added comfort, but also for increased practicality and functionality.

When pant legs are lined, it is usually in silk or satin and on cheaper items a poly-satin or acetate. This not only provides a little extra warmth, but also keeps the wool from rubbing on your bare legs. With modern high-quality wools that are far less itchy than their predecessors, lining is rarely a necessity, but it adds a nice level of comfort and helps extend the life of the trouser by adding another layer between you and the fabric.

Buckles at the waist allow for slight adjustments (after a big holiday meal, for example) that don’t warrant an extra notch on your belt. A notch at the back of your waistband, which will look like a small ‘V’ at the center seam, provides a little extra stretch while sitting, bending, etc without additional strain on the fabric or stitches.

Little about the fit of trousers is more contested than the proper length of the hem and whether or not to cuff. My best advice is to peruse as many images as you can to see what look you like best. The three primary options for hem length are single break, double break, or no break. Thom Browne has popularized the cropped pant, but unless you are really committed to that aesthetic, it is better to stick to one of the standard lengths as it can very easily go from looking like high-fashion to looking like you just had a growth spurt and your pants no longer fit.

I always stick with a single break for my trousers because it is the most versatile since the pants will fall differently on varying styles of shoes depending on the shape and heel height. I also insist on a slight angle so that it just grazes the top of the heel (right at the seat where the upper meets the heel) in the back.

When it comes to cuffs, the generally accepted rule is that pleated = cuff and flat front = no cuff, but as I have said before style rules are meant to be broken. If you are a shorter person, cuffs will only emphasize that by shortening your legline, so it is usually best to avoid them. I usually only prefer cuffs with a heavier weight wool trouser because the weight of the fabric helps to keep a clean line down the leg and the cuff gives a heartier more seasonal feel.

Trousers by Burberry; Shirt by BOSS Hugo Boss; Shoes by Johnston & Murphy;
Tie by Kenneth Cole New York; Tie bar by Link Up; Belt by Ted Baker.

With trousers more than anything else, your tailor will be your best friend in getting the perfect fit. Letting the waist in and out slightly is an easy alteration, and a good tailor can even add a notch for you. Same thing with adding or removing a cuff, though if your pants have already been hemmed without a cuff, chances are there will not be enough fabric to add one.

Getting your desired break is usually a bit trickier as many times the tailor will have a very strong opinion as to how the pant should break. If you think differently, don’t be afraid to be firm and insist on having it break the way you want. There might be some grumbling, but you will usually be happier in the end. Also, don’t forget to wear dress shoes so that you can get a more accurate sense of how the pants will fall then the tailor is pinning them.

As always, my best advice is to try everything on to see what works best for you and your body type.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

December 22, 2011

Reader Question: Thermals

Hi JJ,

My boyfriend and I moved up north a year ago and this is going to be our second real winter. My boyfriend was complaining that he was cold all last winter because he refuses to wear thermals. He claims that ‘long johns’ remind him of his grandpa and are just really unstylish. He has taken tips from you before, so I am hoping you can persuade him to let me buy him thermals because I really don’t want to hear him complaining for another winter.

- Victoria


Hi Victoria,

Believe it or not, I had the exact same problem when I moved back up north from Miami. It took me four very long and very cold winters before I got over my trepidation and got some thermals. With new styles and performance fabrics, the thermals you can buy now are definitely not your grandpa’s long johns. Some brands like Uniqlo and 32 Degrees Heat by Weatherproof are departing from the standard waffle knit cotton to keep you even warmer while making the fabric thinner and more comfortable under clothing. Making the adjustment to wearing the thermal bottoms will probably be the most difficult, especially if he is not used to wearing very tight clothing. If he is still hesitant, try starting with just a thermal shirt- since it is like a simple undershirt or long-sleeve tee it won’t seem so silly. Then, once he sees how warm his top half is, he’ll be much more inclined to try the bottoms too.

Good luck and stay stylish,
- JJ

December 18, 2011

Style Feature: Layering for Fall

One of the more frustrating parts of winter is dealing with the difference in temperature going from a heated building out into the cold and back again. To complicate things even more, many buildings are either over- or under-heated. And what if you are going to a party or dinner? As more people arrive, the room will get warmer.  Trying to find a single coat or jacket that will satisfy all those varying situations, while still remaining comfortable, can be a nightmare. That is where layering comes in. Layers are a great way to navigate all the temperature changes with style and ease.

1. Wool Vest

If you have a dressier event to attend, a wool vest is a great layer to add over any dress shirt. The heavier weight of the wool helps keep you warm when you need it, without adding too much bulk.

Extra Tip : The color of the shirt helps pop the subtle blue in the vest and the dots in the tie. Remember, your colors should coordinate, not match.

Pair it with a blazer to help pull the whole look together, and lose the coat and scarf when inside. If you enter a particularly warm room, or find yourself in a more casual setting later in the evening, you can even remove the blazer and roll the cuffs for total comfort and effortless style.

Wool trench by French Connection; Blazer by Ted Baker; Vest by Umit Benan;
Shirt by Hawes & Curtis; Trousers by Fink Clothing; Shoes by Ted Baker;
Tie by Robert Godley; Pocket square by Thomas Pink; Belt by Lacoste;
Scarf by Burberry; Gloves by French Connection; Eyeglasses by Dolce & Gabbana. 

2.  Sweater

A light sweater is another classic layer that can never go wrong. Wear it with a dress shirt or sport shirt, and add a blazer for even more warmth. I usually prefer v-necks, because they allow you to see more of the layers underneath and nicely frame the knot of a tie.

A jewel-tone color is also a great touch, and a great opportunity to punch some more color into your winter wardrobe. Pick a tie with a nice pattern or pop of color to add some extra interest at the neck.

Extra Tip : A pull-over sweater is a great opportunity to take advantage of any super-wide vintage ties you may have picked up, as you’ll never see the width of the blade, just the knot.

Peacoat by INC; Blazer by Costume National; Sweater by The Men's Store
at Bloomingdale's; Shirt by 1 Like No Other; Pants  by Marc by Marc Jacobs;
Boots by John Varvatos; Tie by Ben Sherman; Scarf by John Varvatos;
Gloves by Isotoner; Sunglasses by Prada.

3.  Mock-Neck

A mock-neck sweater is my go-to layer in the winter for casual settings. They come in a variety of styles, but I love a classic black full-zip as it will always go with anything. It is also thin enough to wear under a more fitted suit or blazer, but heavy enough to stand alone under a coat if needed.

A henley shirt is another great layering piece, and a much more interesting alternative to a long-sleeve tee. Wear it underneath as a thermal layer or try pairing it over a sport shirt for something a little different.

Wool trench by French Connection; Full-zip by Armani Collezioni;
Henley by AllSaints Spitalfields; Shirt by Vince; Denim by AllSaints Spitalfields;
Boots by UGG Australia; Scarf by Burberry; Gloves by Kenneth Cole New York.

However you choose to layer up, if you remember to dress appropriately both for the weather and occasion, a well-edited and curated wardrobe will do most of the work for you.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

December 15, 2011

Care and Maintenance: Winter Edition

With snow on the ground and layers on your body, there are all kinds of new garment care issues that arise during the winter months. Here are a few helpful tips to get you to spring.

Removing Salt Stains
Living in the northeast, the coming of winter means snow. Especially in the suburbs, that also means salting the ground to prevent icing. The city is sometimes even worse between the salt trucks driving by and building supers shoveling it onto the sidewalk. As a result, salt stains on your nice leather boots  (or even your gloves) are a common occurrence.  What many people don’t realize though, is that this is easily remedied.

Take a quick stop into your local shoe repair or wardrobe supply store and pick up some salt stain remover. Brush it on and voila! It should take care of those pesky stains in minutes. It is also great for stains on the inside collar of a leather or suede jackets caused by sweating.

Another way that you can help prevent salt stains on your leather goods (or any stains really) is to regularly reapply your waterproofer. As I mentioned in the Leather Care post, waterproofing is something that will help your leather goods last longer by keeping water from soaking in.

Another great benefit of regular waterproofing is that many kinds also help protect the leather from staining. Generally, how often you should reapply depends on what type of waterproofer you use and how much you wear your item. For winter items, I find it best to do it right when I pull them out of the closet so I don’t forget. If they ever get soaking wet though, be sure to reapply and condition as soon as the item dries.

Hanging Your Sweaters
I always recommend folding sweaters because hanging them often causes the knit to stretch out from the edges of the hangers. If you would still prefer to hang them up, or don’t have the space to keep them folded, there is a great trick to hanging them without the potential damage.

First, fold the sweater in half length-wise. Then place it on the hanger so that the neck of the hanger sits where the ‘V’ of the sleeve underarm meets the body of the sweater. Drape the arms and tail of the sweater around the hanger to keep it from slipping. This will keep it hung and unwrinkled, without stretching out the knit.

Using Cedar
Good news! Horrible smelling mothballs in pockets and closets are a thing of the past. Instead, try cedar to keep the moth holes out of your winter clothes when it comes time to pack them away. Cedar has a nice light scent that won’t transfer to your clothing or leave you smelling like your grandmother. You can buy cedar hangers in just about any style, cedar balls, or just cedar blocks that can hang between your clothes.

If you live in a humid environment or store your out of season clothes in a damp basement, cedar has the added benefit of absorbing moisture (which is why shoes trees are often made of it). This will help prevent the formation of mold and mildew because even a little bit of moisture can leave your clothes smelling stale.

The End of the Season
One last tip, and possibly the most important to remember, is that when packing away your clothes as spring approaches, make sure that those garments are clean and completely dry, even heavy coats. Packing clothes away that haven’t been cleaned can lead to permanent staining as body oil dries, stains (even those you may not have noticed) set in, and things like cologne or deodorant cause bleaching and discoloration.

Taking proper care of your clothes will help make sure you get the most out of your investment and have plenty of stylish winters ahead.

Stay warm and stylish,
- JJ

December 11, 2011

Inspiration: Balmain F/W 2011

When I saw the lookbook for Balmain’s Fall/Winter 2011, I was really drawn to the aesthetic and couldn’t wait for winter so that I could use it as a starting point for some of my own sartorial choices.

When contemplating this post, I really wanted to showcase how you can translate inspiration into a look of your own. An edited wardrobe and a little creativity can allow you to emulate a particular look without having to buy new pieces. This post challenged me to look at my wardrobe in a new way and other than the scarf, every other component of this look are pieces that I already owned.

Photos from Balmain F/W 2011 Lookbook

Now I really loved the style that these two pictures convey, but I didn’t really want to spend upwards of $10K to get them. The extra-long scarf is what caught my eye the most in this lookbook and after scouring the stores, I could not find anything that really fit the bill. So like I have done many times before, I had resigned myself to having to make a scarf that fit the bill. Then, last week I stumbled upon an amazing double-faced cashmere scarf that was exactly what I was looking for (and wasn’t the roughly $800 that the Balmain cost).

Topcoat by John Varvatos; Shirt by Vince; Henley by AllSaints Spitalfields;
Denim by AllSaints Spitalfields; Boots by Altama; Scarf by Burberry;
Camp socks from J Crew; Fingerless gloves from the Men's Store at Bloomingdale's;
Belt by American Rag; Sunglasses by Alexander McQueen.
I took the specific aspects that I particularly liked from each of the two inspiration photos and adapted them into a look that, while clearly inspired by Balmain, falls well within my personal aesthetic.

While I may not have thought to put these pieces together in this way, that is the beauty of inspiration. Where do you find inspiration?

Stay stylish,
- JJ

December 7, 2011

Reader Question: Undershirts

Hi JJ,

I just got my first real job after graduating from college and now have to wear a suit and tie on a regular basis. Sometimes it gets really warm in the office and I end up sweating right through my shirt. I can usually take my jacket off when I’m at my desk, but in a meeting or presentation I have to leave it on. Any advice?



Hi Robbie,

First, congrats on the new job! This is actually not that uncommon of a problem and my best advice is to start wearing an undershirt. There are a lot of different opinions out there about undershirts, but I am personally a strong advocate. Not only will it help keep the sweat stains off your dress shirts, it will also prolong their life.

‘But how can adding another layer keep me from sweating through my shirt?’ Great question, but think of it this way – the undershirt acts as a barrier so that the perspiration never makes it to your dress shirt (or suit jacket). As a result, you won’t have to dry clean your shirt as often which will make it last longer, since dry cleaning slowly eats away at the fibers.

I wear undershirts under basically everything from dress shirts to casual shirts and often even t-shirts. They come in such a variety of colors, styles, and materials that there is one to pair with pretty much any shirt. I usually stick with a black crew neck for wovens and v-neck for t-shirts. I do, however, have some colored crews that I wear under sport shirts to be able to add another layer of color to an outfit when I want.

If heat is still an issue, you might also look into underarm liners. You can order them online or if you live in a large city, you can probably find them at a theatrical wardrobe supply store. They are small super thin rounds of synthetic-backed cotton fabric that fold over the seam where your sleeve underarm meets the body of your shirt. They come in either disposable dailies that have a light adhesive or reusable ones that can be pinned or stitched in. I’d recommend the latter both for their environmental friendliness and their lack of adhesive that could potentially damage the fibers of your shirts.

Hope this helps.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

December 4, 2011

Style Feature: The Rain Coat

As I have said before, dressing seasonally is a key aspect of being stylish. Part of that is dressing appropriately, not just for the occasion but also for the weather. You wouldn’t wear a wool topcoat in 80 degree weather or go out for the day wearing a cotton blazer in a hail storm (and if you would, I suggest reconsidering). There are dozens of styles of rain coats, but the most important things to consider when buying one are fit and function.

1. Full Trench
When buying a trench coat, or any piece of outerwear, it is important to remember what purpose it will serve in your wardrobe. I bought this trench to wear over a suit, so the fit is loose enough to accommodate my suit jacket. Many classic trenches tend to have a boxy cut so always try different brands and sizes to get the right fit.

Extra Tip : A removable lining helps extend the time you can wear your coat, sometimes almost year-round.

Trench by Burberry; Shirt by Nautica; Trousers by Burberry;
Shoes by Johnston & Murphy; Tie by Ben Sherman; Eyeglasses by Dolce & Gabbana.

2. Casual Trench

If your trench is for casual wear, it should fit trimmer than one for business wear but still give you enough range of motion to be comfortable. Try sizing down for a better fit.

Trench by Shipley & Halmos; Corduroy pants by Nautica;
Sneakers by Paul Smith Jeans; Scarf by Tallia Orange.

3. Field Jacket

A field jacket is another great casual option. Its military heritage and surplus of pockets make it one of my go-to pieces for daily wear. The updated design and easy drape makes this the perfect way to finish off that carefree-casual look.

Extra Tip : The removable hood easily fits in the large pockets, but I usually just leave it on.

Extra Tip II : The drawstrings at the waist and hem help keep the wind out during a strong storm.

Jacket by Marc by Marc Jacobs; Denim by Guess;
Shoes by Original Penguin; Scarf from H&M; Sunglasses by Prada.

4. Nylon

While I usually avoid nylon outerwear (out of a personal dislike for the sound it makes), I have to admit this coat has definitely earned its place in my closet. As great as treated cotton is, it will never be as truly water repellent as a synthetic made for that purpose. As a bonus feature, the hood rolls up into the collar to keep it out of the way when it isn’t needed.

Jacket by Burberry; Shirt by J Crew; Denim by William Rast;
Rain boots by Marc by Marc Jacobs; Scarf by John Varvatos;
Hat by Prada; Umbrella by Tumi.

5. Military Surplus

I got this German WWII jacket almost 15 years ago from a military surplus shop in Washington DC and it has certainly taken a beating. A few years back Urban Outfitters started making replicas of this jacket but they didn’t come close to the original quality.

Extra Tip : Military surplus stores are a great place for functional pieces because clothing made for military use is built to last and hold up in a variety of weather conditions. Here in NYC, Kaufman's is probably one of the best, and its owner, Jim, will give you great suggestions based on what you're looking for.

Jacket from military surplus store; Shirt by Nautica;
Denim by AllSaints Spitalfields; Boots by John Varvatos.
Style considerations aside, always remember that when buying a rain coat it is important that is holds up in the rain. Otherwise, you just have a nice coat. Weigh the pros and cons and make a choice on material based on how you are going to wear it and what is most important to you.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

December 1, 2011

Quick Tip: Holiday Shopping

Holiday shopping can be overwhelming, especially when you live in a big city without a car to store all your purchases. For today’s Quick Tip, I thought I’d offer up some useful suggestions, no matter where you live, to help make your holiday shopping as painless as possible.

When To Shop:
One of the most basic things to think about is what time of day you shop. From experience, the best times of day to go are during the week from 10-11am or 2-3pm. At these times, you avoid the onslaught of customers who are shopping before or after work, or on their lunch hour- basically the same rules that apply to traffic.

If you aren’t able to take work off to do some shopping, and are stuck with weekend-only availability, I’d recommend choosing Sunday over Saturday and sticking with morning hours. And of course, the closer to holidays you get, the crazier the crowds will be, so try to plan ahead.

How To Shop:
Another trick to painless shopping is about where you pay for your purchases. The key is to look for a checkout line in a less populated location. If the store you are shopping in has multiple floors, always go for the upper floors. The first floor is generally the most crowded, and since stores place the majority of their small-ticket impulse pieces on the first floor (to catch your eye as you walk in and out), you are most likely to encounter customers with larger item counts and thus longer per-shopper checkout times.

When I’m shopping for multiple people in multiple sections or departments within the same store, I also try to strategize where I’m going to go and work from the bottom up, leaving me finished with my shopping on a higher floor where I can purchase, grab my bags, and exit down, avoiding as much of the craziness as possible.

If you find yourself shopping for your wife, girlfriend, or mother I have a particularly useful tip. The ladies’ shoe department is almost always a war zone, especially during the holidays so unless you absolutely have to venture in, avoid this area of any store at all costs. If you do, stick to the hours above to get in and out with as few bruises as possible.

Shopping Secrets:
Especially if you are shopping without a car (but even if you are just doing a lot of one-shot shopping), one of my favorite tips is to take advantage of department store bag checks. Find a store with a bag check and make it your home base. Keep bringing new bags back and adding them so that you can continue to shop unhindered.

Most stores will hold onto them all day, so you can spend the entire day shopping, adding bags as you go, including going to other nearby stores or a lunch free from the obnoxious pile of purchases. Just make sure to keep track of your claim ticket, and double-check the bag check hours (they may be different from the store itself) so you get back to them before closing. Then, at the end of the day all you have to do is grab all your bags (having someone meet you to help carry is always a good idea) and go. I’ll often shop this way so that I can get everything done in a single day and then pile it all into a cab to get home.

Another shopping secret to know is that more and more stores are offering price adjustments on purchases. That means that if you buy something and then see it go on sale soon after (adjustment time limits vary but are usually between 7-10 days), you can bring it back into the store with your receipt and have them adjust the cost and refund you the difference. So, even if you’ve done your shopping, keep an eye out for future sales.

Lastly, some departments, such as high-ticket and shoes, will not let you pay elsewhere. Use this to your advantage and add on other items to these purchases rather than waiting in multiple lines.

Hopefully you can use some of these tips to have a (slightly) less stressful holiday shopping experience.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

November 28, 2011

The Art of Fit Pt 3 – The Dress Shirt

I am a firm believer that if you feel like you look good in your clothes, you will have more confidence. Part of getting that confidence is making sure your clothes fit and this is rarely of more importance than in the professional world.

In part 3 of the Art of Fit series, I will explain how to ensure a proper fit on your dress shirts. There are four components to this: shoulders, body, sleeves and neck. The shoulder and body tips from the Casual Shirt post carry over to dress shirts, so be sure to check that out too.

Shirt by BOSS Hugo Boss; Trousers by Burberry; Shoes by Johnston & Murphy;
Tie by Kenneth Cole New York; Tie bar by Link Up; Belt by Ted Baker;
Cufflinks by Thomas Pink; Eyeglasses by Dolce & Gabbana.

Dress shirts, unlike casual shirts, are sized by neck and sleeve measurements. This allows for a better off-the-rack fit, but still may require a little tweaking by a tailor. Shirts also come in different fits, such as slim, athletic, or classic (which is often looser), so make sure to pay attention to this as well when shopping.

The sleeve measurement is taken at three points. It starts at the center-back of your neck to your shoulder bone and then, with your arm slightly bent, down to just past your wrist bone. As I have mentioned before, a sleeve can be shortened so always err on the longer side.

Shirt by Nautica; Trousers by Burberry; Belt by Ted Baker.

With French cuff shirts, you should be able to lift your arm up without the cuff pulling up from your wrist.

Shirt by BOSS; Trousers by Burberry; Cufflinks by Thomas Pink.

The neck measurement is simply the circumference of your neck.  To make sure that it is not too tight or loose, you should be able to fit 1-2 fingers, or about ¾”-1”, between your neck and collar. When you buy a shirt, the neck usually comes in half sizes, so if you are between a size just go up or down to whatever is closest because you can gain or lose about ¼” by moving the top button.

Just like with all your clothes, different labels will all fit differently. Shop around until you find one that is right for you and don’t be afraid to try them on.

If you really want a perfect fit you can also go the custom route and buy made-to-measure or bespoke shirts, which is especially helpful if you are someone with broad shoulders and a very thin neck and body, or vice-versa. I have several clients with this problem, and bespoke shirts are a great option and more affordable than you would think. More on this in a future post.

Next up in the Art of Fit series: Trousers

Stay stylish,
- JJ

November 25, 2011

Quick Tip: Straightening Your Knots

The knot you use to tie your necktie can be as unique and varied as you want. There are 85 known knots currently at your disposal, some more eccentric than others and many simply variations on the basics. If you are new to wearing a necktie though, the three knots below will get you through any occasion. See my recent post on collars to pair them up with your knots. One thing to keep in mind is that pairing a knot with a collar will take a little bit of trial and error because the width of the tie blade and weight of the fabric will result in different sized knots, even using the same method.

1. The Four-in-Hand

Tie & Shirt by Ben Sherman.
This is the basic knot and is generally considered the most popular. It is a smaller, asymmetrical knot and works best with a point or button-down collar, though it could be paired with a semi-spread collar depending on both the thickness of the tie and the degree of spread on the collar.

2. The Half-Windsor

Tie by Paul Smith; Shirt by Hawes & Curtis.
 This method provides a medium-sized triangular knot, and in my experience, is the most versatile of the three knots listed. It is definitely my personal favorite, as I prefer the symmetrical look that it gives without the bulk of the Windsor knot. Depending on your tie's thickness you could use this knot with everything from a point to a spread collar.

3. The Full-Windsor

Tie by Burberry; Shirt by Brooks Brothers.
Also simply called the Windsor, it is the widest of the three and is generally relegated to slightly more formal occasions when a spread collar (also known as a cutaway) is worn.

There are literally hundreds of diagrams and videos on the web, some better than others, showing the ways to tie these and other knots. You can also pop your head into any Thomas Pink boutique, as they have a free how-to card at their registers that has proven extremely useful to me in the past, especially when travelling. Find the knot that you like best, or try them all!

Thanks for reading.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

November 20, 2011

Reader Question: Packing for the Weekend

Hi JJ,

I am going away for Thanksgiving weekend and wanted your advice on what to pack. I always end up either not bringing enough or bringing too much stuff. Any suggestions?

- AH


Hi AH,

Packing is always difficult, especially around the holidays (and often more so with family involved) when you have a variety of occasions to pack for, but don’t want to show up on your parents’ doorstep looking like you need a bellhop to manage all the bags you’ve brought. When I’m packing for a weekend away, the first thing I do is figure out the exact number of outfits I’m going to need, from nice clothes for dinner, to travel clothes, to casual day wear.

For an occasion like Thanksgiving, you will generally need one more formal outfit for Thanksgiving dinner and the rest of the weekend can be a bit more casual. Let’s assume that you are leaving Wednesday evening and returning Sunday afternoon. This means that you need outfits for 4 days plus Thanksgiving dinner-wear, pajamas, and whatever you will be traveling in.

This is what my packing list would look like with the items I would wear for traveling indicated:
       -       Denim (wear)
       -       Woven and/or knit shirt – 3 (wear one)
       -       Lightweight sweater (wear)
       -       Sport jacket (wear)
       -       Dress boots (wear)
       -       Socks, Underwear, Undershirts, & Handkerchiefs – 5 pair each
       -       PJ bottoms
       -       Chinos – if you want an extra pant option
       -       Dress trousers
       -       Dress shirt
       -       Dress socks
       -       Tie – 1-2
       -       Cufflinks, Pocket Square, Tie bar
       -       Dopp kit with toiletries

As you can see, I choose to wear the bulkiest pieces and layer a lot. Not only does this save packing space, but it gives you some extra layers because busses and trains are always colder than expected.
One of the most space-consuming items is shoes, so I always try to stick to either a single pair that is utilitarian enough to be dressed up or down (and that way I can wear them and thus not take up any space), or if not possible then one extra pair that is as space-conscious as possible. I always pack my shoes in dust bags, that way there is no need to separate my shoes from the rest of my clothes, saving space.  I will also use the space inside each of my shoes for any small items, such as rolled ties, pocket squares, and the ever-necessary handkerchief. I sleep in my undershirt because it saves a little space, but you can also pack a t-shirt to serve that purpose.

Another good tip is that whenever I buy my hair, skin, and fragrance products, I ask for samples. If they don’t have samples to give, I will often buy small containers so that I can make my own travel-sized toiletries. This saves a lot of space when it comes to big bottles like shampoo and body wash.

If you are staying with family and can take advantage of their laundry facilities, you can pack half the amount of skin layers (meaning anything that touches your skin like socks, underwear, and undershirts) and do a wash on Saturday morning.

Good luck with your packing and enjoy the weekend!

Stay stylish,
- JJ