December 29, 2012

Year in Review: 2012

2012 was a whirlwind of a year for me and I am so excited that the blog has grown as much as it has in its first full calendar year! Looking toward 2013, I want to share some of the changes in store as The Shy Stylist continues to evolve and grow. Some series, like The Art of Fit, are nearing their natural conclusion, while others will continue to expand. In Review, for example, is going to be posted more frequently and will begin to include stores, collections, and any other fashion or style related things that I think are worth sharing.

As always, I love hearing from you all and the number of emails I got this year with style questions has been wonderful and I have enjoyed answering every one! If you have a question, comment, or would like to see something featured, email me at I read every email and will get you a response.

So back to the business at hand. Just like last year, I wanted to take a look back and share my five favorite looks from the last twelve months. There were plenty to choose from, but a few stood out from the pack for me. So here, in no particular order, are my favorite looks of 2012.

1. The Wool Pant

Trousers by Fink Clothing; Shirt by AllSaints Spitalfields;
Down vest by Uniqlo; Shoes by Ted Baker; Scarf by Psycho Bunny;
Sunglasses by Alexander McQueen

I love this look for the way that the colors work together both with each other and with the background. The darker blue of the shoes and the darker grey of the pants help anchor the lighter colors up top.

2. Inspiration: DSquared2

Jacket and Boots by John Varvatos; Sweater by Ben Sherman; Shirt by Vince;
Denim by Juicy Couture; Socks by J Crew; Scarf (women's) from Gap;
Sunglasses by Alexander McQueen

What I love about this look is that it demonstrates that you don't need to spend thousands of dollars to emulate runway looks. Some judicious sale shopping, some luck thrifting, and a good eye can get you some stylish pieces on a budget. The only pieces in this look that I paid retail for were the denim and socks, everything else was either sale or thrifted.

Vest by Alexander McQueen; Jacket by Bamford & Sons; Shirt by Uniqlo;
Chinos by Gant Rugger; Boat shoes by Sebago; Tie by Band of Outsiders;
Pocket square by Psycho Bunny; Belt by Brooks Brothers; Sunglasses by Prada

I find this photo interesting because when taken individually, all of the pieces lend themselves to composing a very dressy ensemble. And while certainly is true, it is easy to see how this look could be taken to a much more casual place with minimal effort in any number of ways. I also love the way that the shadow plaid of the vest and the tie play off each other (detail photo in the original post).

Cords and socks by J Crew; Jacket by Alexander McQueen;
Vest by Umit Benan; Shirt by Charles Tyrwhitt; Shoes by Ted Baker;
Tie by Brooks Brothers Black Fleece; Pocket Square by Dior

This look is one of my favorites because of the pattern mixing, which is one of my favorite ways to make an outfit stand out. Nearly every piece has some sort of pattern and/or texture which I think is just really fun. If you do it right (more on this in an upcoming post) combining different patterns can help take your look to the next level.

Jacket by Artine; Shirt by Uniqlo; Trousers by Sons of Intrigue; Shoes by
AllSaints Spitalfields; Laces by Allen Edmonds; Vintage head scarf
(as pocket square); Tie by Penguin; Tie bar by Link Up; Socks by Corgi;
Scarf by Psycho Bunny; Gloves by French Connection 

This one is pretty simple. Velvet jackets are just awesome. I have always loved velvet jackets, but finding an appropriate occasion to wear one can prove somewhat difficult. What is great about the resurgence of them as a trend is that people won't give you a weird look for wearing velvet in your daily life. Well maybe you will still get some looks, but only because people will be jealous of your style (at least that's the goal).

I would love to hear from you what posts, looks, or details were your favorites this year. What did you like, what didn't you like? What pieces or looks from your own closet are you excited about? Leave a comment or shoot me an email!

Stay stylish in the new year!
- JJ

December 19, 2012

Favorite Finds: Last Minute Gifts

Christmas is right around the corner (like literally less than a week away), but there is still time to pick up that last minute gift for the stylish gent in your life, even if it is yourself. I found all of these at Bloomingdales, which is why three of four are Jack Spade (also because Jack Spade makes really fun little giftable pieces).

1. Repp Stripe Thermos

While this may seem like a rather unconventional gift, it can certainly come in handy and this is the real deal. Jack Spade and Thermos teamed up on this stylish navy and red repp stripe that can keep your coffee hot for 12 hours and your other beverages cold for up to 24 hours. Equally great for a camping trip or a long day at the office, $35 is an incredible deal.

2. Wallet

Keep your ‘bacon’ crisp in this Jack Spade bill holder. Vegetarian? Try the cheddar. These wallets are embossed and printed with gold foil (for durability) and feature a bill pocket and six credit card slots. Made from fine-grain calfskin, they feel incredible and put a little bit of humor in your pocket. $95 is a little pricey, but these are definitely worth the money.

3. Canvas Tote

I love totes, particularly canvas ones. They are so versatile and there is such a variety out there that you are sure to find one that suits your mood. This Christmas Shark Tote by Jack Spade lets you carry things in seasonal style. Simple but fun, $35 is on the expensive side for a canvas tote but what is not to love about a shark with a Santa hat? There is also a Hanukkah Octopus Tote available on Jack Spade’s site that wasn’t in the store (presumably because Hanukkah is over). Since this is a seasonal piece, I would expect to see a sale happening.

4. Lapel Flower

On my way out of the store, these hook + ALBERT lapel flowers caught my eye. Not only are they stylish, but they are also pretty cool. Available in a variety of colors, these flowers are made of different fabrics and handmade in New York City (remember, ­shopping local is especially important this time of year). What makes these different than most other lapel pins is that they attach with a button, which when you think about it makes perfect sense. The sizes are 1” and 1.5” with the prices set at $26 and $30 respectively. Stylish accessories are like the icing on a sartorial cake, and this lapel flower is an incredibly stylish gift.

Whatever your plans are for the holidays (or were if your holiday has passed), enjoy the time you get with family and friends. Especially here in the Northeast, this has been a very trying last stretch of the year, so spending time with loved ones is especially important.

Have a safe and stylish holiday,
- JJ

December 16, 2012

Inspiration: Novelty Sweater

This time of year means a lot of things, not the least of which is holiday parties. Over the years, novelty sweaters have gotten a bad rap and spawned the ubiquitous ‘ugly sweater’ party. Fashion is cyclical and novelty sweaters have been making a comeback, particularly as designers embrace and reinvent traditional Fair Isle patterns.

The traditional Fair Isle pattern originated in the tiny Scottish island of Fair Isle and is characterized by a limited color palette with no more than two colors in each row and made with a circular knitting technique. The unused colors are run in strands across the reverse of the fabric, leading to the more generic term of stranded knit/colo(u)rwork.

Not all novelty sweaters fall into the ‘ugly’ category, and this crew neck pullover is the perfect example. Inspired by a traditional Fair Isle pattern, it keeps the business of the pattern confined to the chest while balancing the colors and gradient to prevent a dated look.

The pattern shows a clear derivation from that made popular by Edward, Prince of Wales but with a modern twist. The sand color of the body is a light alternative to the usual red, blue, and green that most novelty sweaters are anchored to, but it can be hard to pull off for many skin tones. What I love about this sweater is that the navy at the collar combined with the red chest pattern helps to flatter and draw attention up to the face.

What you want to look for when shopping for a novelty sweater is a traditional pattern (avoid reindeer, skiers, santas, and the like) and color palette (anything more than 4 or 5 colors is usually too busy). The style of the sweater is entirely subjective, but for a Fair Isle sweater I prefer either a crew neck or shawl collar.

Sweater by J Crew; Leather jacket and shirt by AllSaints Spitalfields;
Chinos by PPD; Shoes by Ted Baker; Socks by Corgi

It is important to remember that a novelty sweater is a statement in itself, so you want to let it be the focal point of your outfit. Keep the rest of your pieces simple and complementary because even a really nice Fair Isle can end up looking like a hot mess if you overcomplicate things. Do it right and a well-made novelty sweater can keep you looking stylishly festive for years to come.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

December 8, 2012

Head-to-Toe: John Varvatos

 In the second installment of my Head-to-Toe posts, I wanted to introduce the idea of mixing a designer’s multiple lines that share a core aesthetic. Wearing an ensemble comprised of a single design can be a fine line to walk, so it is important to keep visible branding to a minimum to avoid looking like a (decidedly unstylish) billboard.

While it can sometimes be difficult to find a line that stays complementary from one season to the next, it is quite a bit harder to combine a designer’s multiple lines across collections. Normally, multiple lines showcase different inspiration, but John Varvatos’ design aesthetic and palette seems to carry through all his lines (including the late Converse sportswear collaboration) to the point that nearly all the pieces from any collection can be worn together.

I am a big proponent of layering because it allows me to be able to add or remove pieces to always stay comfortable. So when I was putting this look together, I pulled out a layering technique that I like to use when dressing mannequins because it looks cool (luckily it is also practical because it was cold outside).

Layering a woven shirt over a knit shirt is something I have featured before (here for example in looks 2 & 3), but not when both have collars. It can be tough to pull off unless both pieces work really well together. In this instance, the woven collar is small enough to tuck nicely underneath the knit so the neck doesn't get too bulky. I also love the way the colors and textures of the knit, woven, and sweater play off each other.

Sweater and knit shirt by John Varvatos Star USA;
Trousers, boots, and scarf by John Varvatos;
Woven shirt by Converse John Varvatos;

The payoff to wearing a single designer can be huge in the simplicity that it allows in keeping a well-curated wardrobe. If the majority of your clothes share a similar color palette and pervasive design aesthetic, then it is that much easier to pull a stylish look out of your closet.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

December 1, 2012

Favorite Finds: Etsy Edition

With December here, it’s time to start the hunt for holiday gifts (for yourself or others). One place that I always know I will find some really cool things is Etsy. For those who may not have heard of Etsy before, it is an online marketplace that only deals in handmade and vintage goods. It allows you to deal one-on-one with the people who make the products, which can often result in some really unique pieces. There really is no end to what kind of great gifts you can find on Etsy, but here are some of my menswear-related favorites, in no particular order.

1. Wool Pocket Square

Wool pocket square in a heathered purple herringbone
Frequent readers know that I am all about dressing seasonally, and what better way to accessorize in the winter than with wool? These wool pocket squares from Goods for Life are a fantastic way to make your pocket pop and at only $20 each they won’t drain your wallet. These handmade pocket squares are available in a variety of plaids, textured solids, and patterns with enough variety to coordinate with any look. Visit Goods for Life’s Etsy shop for the full selection.

2. Luggage Tag

Chocolate tweed luggage tag

I know this may seem like an odd gift, but for the style-minded traveler this is a unique and thoughtful gift from Jack and Bee. These fabric luggage tags will help your bag stand out from the crowd. Not only do they look really nice, they are only $7.50 each, which is an incredible price for any luggage tag (let alone a handmade one). Visit Jack and Bee’s Etsy shop for the full selection.

Sailor Stripes luggage tag

3. Boutonniere

Up-cycled lapel pin boutonniere in black and white

So while looking for some new accessories, I stumbled across Wims & Co’s shop. These two pieces are handmade from repurposed materials, which make them not only unique, but also eco-friendly. The lapel pin boutonnieres are a fantastic way to take your suit or blazer to the next level and with lapel pins making a comeback lately, they are a great way to set yourself apart. This particular boutonniere is $24.97 but there are a variety of styles currently available at Wims & Co’s Etsy shop.

Up-cycled lapel pin boutonniere in purple and white

4. Shoe Bag

Up-cycled mens travel shoe bag in red and black

A shoe bag is something that I think every man should own, for home and travel. At home I use them as dust bags and while on the road they keep my shoes from getting scuffed and/or dirtying my clothes. This is another piece from Wims & Co and, like the boutonniere, is made from repurposed materials. It is lined and features two pockets to keep the shoes from rubbing against each other. $24.97 may seem like a lot to spend on a shoe bag, but think of it as an investment to protect your shoes (which are presumably an investment of their own). Check out Wims & Co’s Etsy shop for the current selection.

Up-cycled mens travel shoe bag in blue and white

5. Flask

Vintage theatre tickets flask

Let’s be honest, at one time or another we have all wished we had a flask on us. Unless of course you are a teetotaler, in which case you can probably skip this one. These unique flasks from The Hair of the Dog can stylishly fill that need. With over 200 different flasks to choose from (many featuring moustaches) available in 6oz and 8oz sizes, you are sure to find one that is right for you. Almost every single one can be personalized and they all come with a funnel and tote bag all at no additional charge. At $19 each, this is extremely reasonable for a nice stainless steel flask and the perfect gift for almost anyone. Take a look at The Hair of the Dog’s Etsy shop to peruse all the choices.

Mustache on blue flask

6. Travel Tray

Men's travel tray in gunmetal gray

Travel trays have become popular over the last couple years and if you travel a lot, this piece from Susan Victoria Designs is a great gift. They lie flat in your luggage and give a sense of organization and personality to your hotel room while on the road. I actually have two of these that come with me anytime I travel, whether for a day or a week. They are also great for a dresser or nightstand at home (unfortunately my cats don’t allow that to happen at my place). Made from a nice suiting fabric in 4 color choices, $15 is a great price for this functional gift. Take a look at Susan Victoria Designs’ Etsy shop for more details.

Flattened for travel

7. Money Clip

Money clip in nickel silver - antique finish with heavy texture and pleated edging (obverse)

Among many other things, Gaia Metal Studio has some fantastic handmade money clips. It is incredibly difficult to find a money clip that isn’t ostentatious, and these definitely fit the bill. Refined with a little bit of edgy style, this is a great way to keep your wallet from getting bulky from cash. They are available in a variety of metals with different texture options at a variety of price points (the one featured here is only $38) and would make a great gift, especially for the man that appreciates modern sophistication. Check out Gaia Metal Studio’s Etsy shop for all the options and price points.

Reverse side

8. Tie Bar

Mens sterling silver tie clip - heavy texture in antique finish (obverse)

I think that a tie should always be worn with a tie bar, but for my tastes there are not a lot of unique (non-tacky) options out there. These handmade tie bars also from Gaia Metal Studio, ranging from $22-$42, feature a similar aesthetic to the money clips and are a stylish way to keep your tie from flapping in the breeze. Check out Gaia Metal Studio’s Etsy shop for all the options and price points.

Reverse side

As I have mentioned a lot lately, the holidays are a fantastic time to support small businesses and use your gift giving to help small business owners have a nice holiday too. All of the items featured in this post are made in and ship from the USA.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

November 28, 2012

The Art of Fit Pt 8 – The Suit

There comes a time in every man’s life where, for one reason or another, he needs to buy a suit. Some men will own dozens of suits, while others may only ever need one. It is often a major investment, which is why proper fit is even more important. Now, many of the basics have been covered in my previous posts on trousers and sport jackets, but there are a few important points that are worth repeating and some considerations that differ when it comes to suiting that you should be aware of before you start shopping.

Off the rack suiting will come with a jacket and pants paired together and will be sized based on the jacket measurement (which is derived from your chest measurement). The size of the pant will be determined by what is known as the drop, which is the difference in size between the jacket and the pant. For example, if the suit jacket is a size 40R and the pants are a 33W, there is a 7-inch drop. 6-8 inches is the standard range you will generally encounter when it comes to drops, but there are some designers who venture outside of this so be sure to double check. As with sport jackets, the measurement on a jacket will be larger than the size itself, so a size 40 will actually measure around 42” to give you room to move and accommodate the clothes you’ll be wearing underneath.

If you have difficulty finding the proper jacket/pant pairing with off the rack suits, you have a couple options. Suit separates offer the pants, jacket, and often vest sold separately so that you can mix and match for the closest fit. Another option is made-to-measure which involves a standard pattern being altered to fit your measurements. This can get pricey, but there are a lot of reasonably priced made-to-measure that are popping up as of late. Lastly, you can go fully custom with a bespoke suit. This will be patterned to your measurements and basically built from scratch to fit you.

When it comes to finding the proper size for your suit, the most important thing to pay attention to is the fit in the shoulders. A tailor can do many wonderful things, but short of what amounts to major reconstructive work, there is nothing they can really do if the shoulders are too big (and definitely nothing if they are too small). The seam should hit basically at the bone of your shoulder (or just the teeniest bit off depending on cut) to allow enough room for comfortable movement.

The next thing to consider is the letters that you will often see after the chest size – R(egular), S(hort), and L(ong). The quickest way to determine what fits you best is to just try it on. Sleeves can always be shortened, so the jacket length is the important thing to get right here. With your hands at your side, the length of a standard suit jacket should fall to just about the second knuckle of your thumb, which should also be just below the bottom of your butt. A standard jacket length should allow you to wrap the tip of your fingers around the bottom of the jacket. Technically, you can have the length itself shortened by a tailor, but it will skew the proper placement of the lapels, pockets, vents, etc., so I really wouldn’t recommend it.

This becomes infinitely more complicated with the recent popularity of cropped suits, but if you are new to suit buying, you are always better off sticking with a classic styling. A Short jacket will generally fit a man 5’5” – 5’8”; 5’8” – 5’11” for a Regular; and 5’11” – 6’2” for a Long. This is by no means an exact science as it varies based on the length of your arms and torso, so while I shouldn’t have to say it – TRY EVERYTHING ON. This is an expensive mistake to make.

If you are spending your hard-earned money on a suit, you should pay the extra money and have it properly tailored to you, as virtually no one gets a perfect fit off the rack. How short you have the sleeves taken up will vary based on your personal style. The suit that I shot for this post is my black suit for slightly more formal occasions (weddings, funerals, galas, etc) so I have the cuffs a bit longer than I normally would to avoid flashing too much cuff. If you wear a lot of double cuff shirts, you will probably want to show ½” – 1” of shirt cuff. Otherwise, I would recommend about ¼” but the jacket sleeve should never be longer than the indent between your wrist bone and the beginning of your hand.

When it comes to your pants, my trouser post pretty much covers it, so I won’t rehash too much. The major difference that you will encounter between most trousers and the pants that come with a suit is that the latter will be unfinished. This means that there will not be a finished hem, instead the leg will have either been cut off with pinking shears or serged to prevent the fabric from fraying (usually at a 36” inseam). As a result, you will have to make the decision about how you want your pants to fall because they will need to be cut and hemmed.

Suit by Ermenegildo Zegna; Shirt by Brooks Brothers; Shoes by Allen Edmonds;
Tie by Paul Smith; Tie bar by Link Up; Pocket Square by Giorgio Armani

As I have mentioned, I prefer a single break because I think it is both the most versatile and best looking. This is, however, a much-contested personal preference that will vary based on what you like best and what kind of shoes you are planning to wear with it. I recommend looking at pictures and bringing in the ones you like to be able to show the tailor exactly what you are looking for (the same goes for sleeve length).

When you go to shop for a suit and have it tailored, it is incredibly important to wear a dress shirt and dress shoes because these will make it much easier for you, your salesperson, and your tailor to determine what you really want. Like with anything else you invest in, the least guess work you can give yourself the better the result.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

November 25, 2012

Inspiration: Velvet Jacket

Personally, I feel that velvet jackets have never gone out of style, but this year they are particularly on trend. For many men who own one they are reserved for formal occasions in place of a tux jacket, but that doesn’t have to be the case. When it is utilized properly (and in season), a well-fitting velvet jacket can be almost as versatile as anything else in your wardrobe and make just as strong a statement. For this post, my inspiration comes from just such a statement piece.

When building an outfit around a statement piece, especially a seasonal one, it is important to keep things simple. Velvet is a strong statement to make (let alone when it is a chalk stripe), so competing patterns and colors should be kept to a minimum.

Attention to details is important when crafting any outfit, but even more so with something like this. I took my cues primarily from the purple lining and accent stitching, but also from the color of the chalk striping.

I really like purple, so I went a little heavier with the accessorizing than I may have with another color, but the purple pocket square, laces, and tie provide a nice contrast to the deep black velvet without going overboard (especially since the lining is rarely ever seen). The pants pick up on the silver-white of the pinstripe and help keep the look from seeming too heavy.

With this particular jacket, the raw edges are purposefully left unfinished so that they will fray, give the jacket character, and play against the formality of the peak lapels. This also allows the piece to even more seamlessly transition between dressy and casual. However, even with your classic velvet jacket, don’t be afraid to pair it with jeans (as long as they are slim and dark).

Jacket by Artine; Shirt by Uniqlo; Trousers by Sons of Intrigue; Shoes by
AllSaints Spitalfields; Laces by Allen Edmonds; Vintage scarf (as pocket square);
Tie by Penguin; Tie bar by Link Up; Socks by Corgi; Scarf by Psycho Bunny;
Gloves by French Connection 

Velvet has a storied history and a longstanding association with nobility, so it is hard to not have a little extra confidence when wearing a finely tailored velvet jacket, but you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on one (though you certainly can). The good thing about something being on trend, is that it is much more affordable than it otherwise may be due to sheer availability of options. Nearly every department store currently has a velvet jacket in one form or another so you can find one to fit any budget.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

November 19, 2012

Favorite Finds: Stocking Stuffers

I stopped by J Crew recently while killing some time before an appointment and thought I’d check out their current collection.  What I ended up finding were some really cool stocking stuffers that all happen to be Made in the USA (and are under $30).

1. Camp Socks

I have been a huge fan of J Crew’s camp socks for a while now, and actually just picked up two more pairs today (bringing my total to 10). I discovered them during an unseasonably cold spell while on a trip to Vermont and they were a huge lifesaver. Ironically, they are made in Vermont’s last remaining sock mill. There are over a dozen different colors and styles, all with a slightly different cotton/nylon/acrylic blend and all machine washable. At only $16.50 a pair, these are a fantastic little gift that is both stylish and practical.

2. Hav-A-Hank Handkerchief

Frequent readers know that I am a strong advocate of handkerchiefs (it was even one of my very first posts). These particular handkerchiefs feature a traditional bandana print and are made in Greenville, South Carolina by Carolina Manufacturing Co. for the Japanese label Anonymous Ism. They are 14”x14”, 100% cotton, machine washable, and available in a wide variety of colors. Sure, $12 is a little pricey for a handkerchief/bandana, but I will gladly pay the extra money to support an American manufacturer, especially during the holidays. Plus, they feel a lot nicer than the cheap ones that come from China.

3. Shoehorn

The shoehorn is an oft-overlooked accessory in a man’s life. Not only will it help keep your shoes protected from unnecessary wear and tear, but it also conjures up thoughts of a simpler era. Anyone who has ever bought one knows that there are generally two options when it comes to most commercial shoehorns – plastic and metal. Plastic is prone to break, and metal is cold and hard. This leather shoehorn, at $28, is soft but durable and is a thoughtful gift that is a little out of the ordinary for an extraordinary gentleman.

Accessories are always a nice gift that are appropriate for anyone from a casual acquaintance to a close family member. There is such a wide range that you can spend as much or as little as you want but still give a thoughtful present. I’ll be keeping my eye out for more stylish gift ideas to share as the major gift-giving holidays approach, but remember that shopping locally can multiply your gift by supporting a small business at the same time. What would you like to see in your stocking?

Stay stylish,
- JJ