May 31, 2012

Favorite Finds: Linen Pants

With Memorial Day weekend temperatures near 90˚, I found myself scouring the shops for a casual linen pant to prepare for what everyone is predicting will be a long, hot summer. These patch pocket linen pants from Vince, which I’m sure won’t be the only linen items you’ll be reading about from me over the coming months, seem like a pretty good find.

These 100% linen pants are cut in a casual chino pocket style and feature a button fly, which is an interesting detail despite being a little difficult to work. They have button-flap patch pockets in the back and slanted front hip pockets with an external watch pocket, which I always enjoy. The linen material is very soft and lightweight, so they will certainly help keep you cool, without feeling stiff and springy like I’ve encountered at times.

They come in a washed navy color, and are available in a large selection of sizes (not just the even numbers, giving you an even more accurate fit) so I tried on a size 33 and while they fit me well in the waist, the legline felt a lot looser than they look in the photo on Vince’s website. As with most linen pants, they have an inner drawstring at the waist, which is a nice detail if you’re still between sizes or decide to go beltless.

Unlike the variety of waist widths, the inseam is only available in 34, similar to most designer pants, but since they are straight stitched at the cuff, if you don’t want to roll them, they will be easy enough to have hemmed (your local department store may even be able to take care of that for you when you make the purchase, though it may be less expensive at your local tailor).

Care is fairly simple as they are machine washable, line dry and are able to be professionally dry cleaned if you’re a drop-and-go kind of guy (though I always recommend avoiding dry cleaning too often or you’ll break down the fiber quicker). The price is a bit high for being made in China, at $165, and there is not a lot that sets them apart from other offerings that are priced lower.

I wish they were a little narrower in the leg, and if they cost a bit less I would consider having them slimmed. However, if you are looking for a looser casual pant to get you through the heat, these are certainly a worthwhile option.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

May 27, 2012

Style Feature: The Vest

Vests (or more properly, waistcoats) can be one of the most versatile pieces in your wardrobe, and I’m not talking about the sweater variety. They can take a suit to the next level, bring some business into a casual look, or just add a great layer. And remember, layering is both fun and practical.

1. Plaid

Plaid can be tricky, but incredibly versatile. A busy, contrasting plaid can make a bold statement while a shadow or glen plaid can convey a more sophisticated air. 

But that doesn’t mean that the different types of plaid are limited in the slightest. Mix a subtle glen plaid with a bright tie or go for high contrast under a plain black suit. There are an unlimited number of possibilities; many of them are a good idea.

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

2. Pinstripe


It’s hard to go wrong with a classic pinstripe. Unlike a lot of other patterns, it is the easiest to pair, both with solids and other patterns. The simple, clean lines make it much easier to pull off the pattern-mixing trend that is so popular right now.

Extra Tip : Just because it’s easy, doesn’t mean it can’t go horribly awry. Keep the colors complementary and the patterns different enough that it doesn’t look like you are trying to match. Example – a micro gingham shirt with a fun repp tie and a pinstripe vest.

Vest by William Rast; Shirt by Nautica; Denim by PPD;
Sneakers by Paul Smith Jeans; Hat by Coal Headwear;
Tie by Psycho Bunny; Belt by American Rag;
Sunglasses by Prada; Watch by Bulova

3. Houndstooth

Sometimes vintage can be a mixed bag, but a piece that might seem a bit out there can give an otherwise simple outfit the extra pop it needs. This tri-color micro houndstooth looks like a tweed until you get really close up.

Extra Tip : If you see a vintage piece you love but it looks a little dated, don’t write it off completely. The suit that this vest came with is a great vintage 70’s piece. That unfortunately meant that the pants were double-pleated with a wide bell-bottom cuff. Needless to say it is in the process of being modernized. A good tailor can be your best friend.

Extra Tip II : If you do opt to go the vintage route, remember that the most important consideration (other than fit) is material. A tailor can do a lot, but he can never turn polyester into wool.

Extra Tip III : I always wear a tie bar with a vest and tie, even if the vest is buttoned. This way, the tie bar helps hold the tie in place to keep it from puffing up into something that looks like a faux-ascot.

Vintage vest (part of a suit); Shirt by Uniqlo; Cords by Gant Rugger;
Shoes by AllSaints Spitalfields; Tie by Valentino (vintage);
Tie bar by Link Up; Sunglasses by Bulgari

4. Three-Piece (almost)

Just because you didn’t buy a 3-piece suit, doesn’t mean you can’t rock one. Bring the jacket or pants to the store and look for a matching vest to instantly make your suit even more versatile.  This won’t work for every suit, but with some persistence you can usually find the right one.

Extra Tip : When trying to match and not just coordinate, be sure you find the exact right shade. Even black is not just black. That’s why bringing a part of your suit with you is key.

Extra Tip II : If your suit is a little more interesting, maybe a plaid that is more difficult to match, grab a vest with a complementary pattern or color and embrace the cobbled three-piece. This vest has buttons that coordinate to the brown button on the jacket sleeve and pink pick stitching that complements the red in the suit’s plaid. It may not match exactly, but it gives the feel of a cohesive suit because of these key details.

Vest by Ted Baker; Suit by PS Paul Smith; Shirt by Ben Sherman;
Shoes by Allen Edmonds; Tie by Alexander McQueen;
Vintage pocket square

When shopping for vests, you can get a good idea of whether they are intended to be worn with business or casual attire based on the approach to sizing (suit sizing generally implies business while small/medium/large tends to suggest a more casual piece). But as with all your clothing, don’t let intention limit you. Mix things up and you’ll find a whole new closet of possibilities.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

May 24, 2012

The Art of Fit Pt 6 – Denim

As society continues to become more casual, many men spend the majority of their time in jeans. Unfortunately, most men also don’t buy denim that fits them properly. The good thing is that, with so many different denim labels readily available, you can find a quality pair of denim that fits you well with little difficulty.

One of the most important things to consider when shopping for denim is that every brand will fit differently and will likely also have several different styles. What that means is that when you are checking out a new label, you need to try it on to know whether it is going to work for you.

When it comes to buying denim, simple is usually better. The days of elaborately embellished pocket details and crazy contrast stitching are (thankfully) gone. Any in doubt should take into account the rapid demise of Rock & Republic and their subsequent reinvention as a discount Kohl’s house brand.

Despite the newfound popularity of the drop-crotch, or carrot fit, and the ever-enduring skinny jeans, the best choice is almost always a slim-straight. This will give you a clean legline without making your jeans look like they were painted on, and will flatter the majority of body shapes.

When shopping, remember to take into account that denim is composed of tightly woven cotton fibers, and thus will stretch and shape to you somewhat. So, you want to make sure that the waist of your jeans fits well to a tiny bit snug because it will stretch. If you’ve ever noticed that your jeans sag more after a while of wearing them without washing, you’ll know what I mean. You don’t want them to be too tight at the waistband though, because the stretching won’t be too extreme.

If you want to check whether the jeans you are thinking about buying are too tight at the waist, a common trick, like with a dress shirt collar, is to stick two fingers in the waistband- if you can fit them comfortably, but with little extra space to fit another, they should be the right size. Can’t fit both fingers? In that case, they’re probably too tight.

The next element of denim fit is the inseam. The inseam of all pants is measured from the center seam line of the crotch to the bottom edge of the leg. Most people’s inseams will fall between 30-34”, however some lines will be more accommodating to one or both ends of the spectrum and will run anywhere from 28” all the way up to 36”(Levi’s and Dickies are good examples of this, without having to go to a specialty store). Despite this range, if you are looking for designer denim, pairs often come only in 34” inseams. Personally, I favor a cuff on my jean, so a 34” length to my normal 32” works well, but if you’d prefer the uncuffed look, don’t be disheartened- you’ve got options.

First, whatever you do, do not attempt to hem your own denim. If you take a look at a pair of jeans, you’ll see that they use a special chain stitch with a heavy-duty thread. This stitch is made using a chain-stitching machine, and is not something you can replicate on your home sewing machine. You can certainly stitch them yourself, but it will never replicate that professional look and the subtle gather that a chain-stitching machine will give you and thus I do not recommend it.

Most regular tailors will not have the proper machine, so make sure to specifically ask if they have a dedicated chain-stitching machine. If they seem unsure of what you are talking about, walk away or else you will likely end up with a standard straight stitch. The problem with this is that a straight stitch is a locking stitch, which does not allow the hemmed edge any movement. As I’ve mentioned, denim is constantly stretching and shrinking, so a locking stitch will eventually break from the extra strain.

If you live in a major city, more than likely you will be able to find a company with a chain-stitching machine that offers professional jean hems, like Self Edge. Don’t live in NYC or LA? No problem. There are several companies, such as Denim Therapy, that will allow you to mail your jeans with measurements and they will put them through their machine and send them back to you.

Along with the inseam, the other measurement you should take into account is the outseam. The outseam is measured on the side of the leg from the top of the waistband following the seam to the bottom edge of the leg. With all the different rises (the length of the crotch seam from waistband to the center of the crotch) available, from super low rise to the vintage 50’s high-waisted long rise to dropped-crotch carrot jeans, you can’t rely on the inseam alone to tell whether the legs of your jeans will fit. A standard rise is about 8-10”, with long rises being anything from 15”-18” or longer.

Remember, no amount of measurement is a replacement for trying clothing on. What it will do is help you pick the correct size off the rack to minimize the number of trips to the fitting room (and the frustration that often accompanies them).

Denim by AllSaints Spitalfields; Shirt by Vince;
Sneakers by Paul Smith Jeans; Scarf and tote by Gant;
Sunglasses by Alexander McQueen; Watch by Bulova;
Leather bracelets thrifted.

Aside from measurements, the other fit issue to take into consideration is back pocket placement. How the pockets sit on the pants will help determine whether or not a pair of jeans will flatter you in the posterior department. This will depend primarily on your body shape, but you should check whether the pockets sit central on your butt and don’t either start too high, too low, spread too wide, are too big, or too small.

Most of these will lead to what I call saggy butt jeans. That is to say jeans that may fit in the waist, but the pocket placement or size throws off the visual dimensions of your butt and make it appear droopy or extra wide. This is not something a lot of people consider when purchasing a pair of jeans, but trust me, it will make the difference between a good fit and an excellent one.

Over time, you will become familiar with the way different labels fit you and what you like and don’t like about each. If you find a brand and style that you like and fits you really well, stick with it. Quality jeans only get better with age. Despite the innumerable options, with some basic knowledge and a little fitting room time you should be able to find that holy grail – your perfect pair of jeans.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

May 19, 2012

Favorite Finds: Printed Woven

With a week of ridiculous humidity and temperatures creeping ever closer to summer, the right clothes can make the difference between a nice day and a miserable one, and this shirt by Woolrich, John Rich & Bros will do the job nicely.

I tried on a US Medium (which is a EU Large), and it felt like a slightly trim standard fit. The hem and sleeve length were both great, and it fit consistently well through both the shoulders and chest. My only real issue is that it felt like there was a little extra fabric in the width of the sleeve, which left some unnecessary bulk. I will say that the shirt must have shipped folded (note the fold lines running up the body), and it was still on the stiff side. You can tell the hand is soft, so it may drape better after a wash, but still not a deal-breaker for me.

I like this shirt for a few reasons, the biggest one being the incredible attention to detail. The buttons are made of wood and carved with a nice bevel that help set it apart from most other shirts I’ve seen on the racks. In what is likely a result of me inferring way too much, I view the buttons as a nod to the long history of Woolrich as an outdoor and workwear company. Their published history has it that John Rich began selling his wares to nearby lumber camps.

Another great detail is the complementary fabric that is used on both the gusset and the sleeve placket. The blue and white gingham adds some extra visual interest and contrast to the piece while not drawing undue attention. There is also a small Woolrich tag on the placket, a detail that is becoming more popular on casual wovens as a means of subtle branding.

The fabric is a medium blue double-faced cotton, printed with a white box pattern. It feels really light and breathable, while also being a tight enough weave that it will hold up to daily wear. The care instructions are machine wash cold, inside out. Do not tumble dry or dry clean.

It is priced a little high at $145, but the attention to detail and quality makes it more than worthwhile in my opinion. Another great thing about this shirt is that the color is neutral enough that it can easily carry you through the spring, summer, and even into the fall.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

May 16, 2012

Reader Question: Missing Posts


I regularly read your blog, but I have noticed that there haven’t been any new posts in the last couple weeks. Are you still going to be working on the site?



Hi Richard,

As you’ve noticed, at this point, it’s been almost a month since the last post and I wanted to post your question to explain that gap a little because I received quite a few similar ones and so I felt an little explanation was needed. I am absolutely still working on the site and it is something that I hope to do for a long time, my schedule just finally got the better of me.

My three biggest passions are fashion, music, and theatre, and before I started working in fashion, I spent years working in the theatre industry. Despite having moved from freelancing in theatre to personal shopping and styling, I am still very much involved in a production and design capacity with a fantastic theatre company that I was fortunate enough to join a few years back, EBE Ensemble (you should check them out).

The lack of posts was due to EBE Ensemble’s most recent production and an unfortunately timed combination of a minor injury, bad weather, hectic days at work, and some bad scheduling that prevented me from backlogging enough material to cover the run of the show. All told, it was a great learning experience for me so that I can be better prepared in the future to balance all of the projects I have going on and, while there will undoubtedly be bumps along the way, I hope to maintain a relatively consistent schedule of new posts for the foreseeable future.

Thanks for reading!

Stay stylish,

- JJ