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

November 17, 2011

Quick Tip: Dressing Up Your Collars

When it comes to dress shirts, there are four basic types of collars, each with varying degrees of formality. There is no set formula to tell you which style will suit you best. It all comes down to personal preference and experimenting with different collars to see which looks best with your facial structure and body type.

1. Button-Down Collar
Shirt by Nautica.
This is the most casual of the four and is usually found on softer cotton or oxford shirts. Modeled after shirts worn by polo players at the end of the 19th century, it gets its name because the points of the collar literally ‘button down’ to the shirt to prevent them from flying up. Due to its sporting heritage, outside of the United States it is rarely worn with a suit.

2. Point Collar
Shirt by Ben Sherman ( 3" Spread).
This is probably one of the most common collars and is perfectly appropriate for everyday office wear. It comes in different spreads (the distance between the two points), but is generally considered to measure between 2.5” and 3.25”.

3. Semi-Spread Collar
Shirt by Hawes & Curtis ( 5" Spread).
This is a slightly more formal collar, though still completely acceptable for your business attire. While technically a Spread Collar, the Semi-Spread is distinguished by a smaller point to point measurement, usually in the 3.5” - 5”range. You will usually want to pair this collar with a thicker tie and a wider knot.

4. Spread Collar
Shirt by Brooks Brothers ( 6 1/4" Spread).
The Spread Collar, also known as the Cutaway, is the most formal of the four collars I am featuring. However, with the right shirt, suit, and tie it can make a confident and bold statement when integrated into a business ensemble. To pull off this collar, I recommend using a Full-Windsor Knot with a medium or heavyweight tie as the spread can get pretty wide (I’ve seen collars with an 8” spread!).

There are other styles that you may encounter such as the club, wing, and tab collars but these are less common, and in the case of the wing collar reserved for formal attire. Whichever collar you choose, make sure you tie an appropriately sized knot. I’ll have more on that in a future post.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

November 13, 2011

Style Feature: The Long-Sleeved Knit

Right now in NYC, the weather can’t seem to decide what season it is. With the temperature bouncing back and forth between the 40s and 60s, proper layering is key to making sure you are comfortable and a long-sleeved knit is the perfect way to do it.

1. Classic Cotton

A long-sleeved polo shirt gives you a good base layer for the inevitable temperature changes that fall brings. Add a sweater, jacket, or both.

Extra Tip : Multiple layers give you the flexibility to add or remove pieces to suit the situation. You might need to lose a layer when you go into a store or several layers if you visit an absurdly warm apartment (which thanks to inattentive supers, always seems to happen in NYC).

Shirt by Burberry; Trousers by Fink Clothing; Shoes by Ted Baker;
Jacket (carried) by SQ; Sunglasses by Prada. 

2. Sporty Casual

The benefit of a simple button-down knit is the added versatility of layering under a sweater or over a tee.

I usually assign function based on fabric and this cotton jersey knit is usually a more casual piece for me because of the athletic-inspired nature of the fabric, but I have also dressed it up with a tie and jacket for a little twist. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Shirt by Yoko Devereaux; Tee by Kenneth Cole New York;
Denim by Guess; Sneakers by Converse.

3. Light Wool

This merino wool knit is great for some added warmth. It is a more stylish alternative to wearing a sweater over a tee (which I am unfortunately seeing a lot of this year).

Extra Tip : A scarf is always a nice add-on, not just for style but as another easily removable layer.

Shirt by Burberry; Denim by AllSaints Spitalfields; Boots by
AllSaints Spitalfields; Scarf by Express; Watch by Bulova;
Leather bracelets from thrift store; Sunglasses by Prada.

4. Military Inspired

For me, this shirt is fun and I love wearing it because it is unique. The soft fabric plays nicely against the hard military details and gunmetal studs so it works very well dressed up or down.

Shirt by Marc by Marc Jacobs; Corduroy pants by Nautica;
Sneakers by Paul Smith Jeans.
Thanks for reading and stay stylish,
- JJ

November 2, 2011

Head-to-Toe: AllSaints

One piece of advice that you will likely hear over and over is that you shouldn’t wear only one designer, but rather mix and match. This is generally good advice to follow because you do not want to be a walking billboard, especially if you are wearing a label that puts its logo on almost everything.

Also, many designers’ inspiration and palette changes from season to season, and the assumption that just because something is from the same brand makes it work is often inaccurate. As a result, a shirt from the Fall ’10 collection could clash horribly with a pair of pants from the Fall ’11 (or even Spring ’11) collection.

Sometimes, however, you will come across a line with such a strong core aesthetic that their pieces mix seamlessly from one season to the next, and they do not have the visible branding that makes you an advertisement. If you can find a few of these lines that all speak to your own personal style, they will help you to build an incredibly versatile wardrobe that makes putting together a cohesive look that much easier. Think about it – if most of the pieces in your wardrobe go well together, it is rather difficult to not look stylish.

In this series I will showcase labels whose design aesthetic is very clear and, with few exceptions, whose pieces look great together across seasons and years.

The first label that I wanted to cover is one of my personal favorites – AllSaints Spitalfields, particularly fitting since yesterday was, in fact, All Saints’ Day.

You can see these boots featured close-up in my Style Feature on The Brogued Shoe.

One of the things that makes this look work is that the color palette is all muted and in the same family (in this case grayscale), without matching too closely.

Jacket, shirt, denim, and boots by AllSaints Spitalfields;
Sunglasses by Alexander McQueen.

What are your thoughts on styling one designer head-to-toe?

Stay stylish,
- JJ