January 29, 2012

Favorite Finds: Resort Woven

Though it seems strange to already see swimwear hitting the shelves when winter weather hasn’t really arrived yet, resort collections are here nonetheless. For this installment of Favorite Finds, I returned to the Marc by Marc Jacobs resort collection that the Varsity Wool came from.

As I have mentioned in the past, I am a big fan of Marc Jacobs’ various lines. What I have noticed recently though is that a lot of the woven offerings are ‘Shrunken Fit’ which is akin to a slim or tailored cut. The Noah Plaid shirt is no exception, which can make it a bit difficult to find the right fit.

I am usually an off-the-rack medium, and all of the MbyMJ shirts that I own are mediums. However, the Shrunken Fit wass a bit too tight across the chest for me and as a result, puckered a little between the 2nd and 3rd buttons if I did anything other than stand straight. 

I tried on the large to see if it would give me a little more room, but it was way too big in the shoulders. Additionally, the sleeves (which were more than generous on the medium) were far too long on the large.

Like all of the pieces I have tried from Marc by Marc Jacobs, there are a multitude of little details that help to set this woven apart. The cuff features a small ‘M.J.’ monogram and the darker buttons are branded around the edge and provide a nice contrast to the lighter shirt and help bring out the grey in the plaid.

This lightweight cotton woven would be the perfect shirt to take a look from day to night. The plaid is light and subtle, albeit a bit busy, and the covered placket is a nice touch to make the shirt a little more versatile. Despite being covered, the placket buttons are also branded which is a nice feature in case you want to wear the shirt unbuttoned a bit or open over a tee.

The price, $188, is at the higher end of the price range for a Marc by Marc Jacobs woven, but the quality seems nice and it is 100% cotton. If you are someone that fits well in his Shrunken Fit, I would definitely recommend this shirt as a good addition for those warm months or hot trips.

Personally, since I rarely vacation during the winter months (and if I do it is not to the tropics), I view resort collections as a perfect opportunity to get a jump on my summer wardrobe. Many of the colors and fabrics that you will find in resort collections are very similar to those for summer. As a result, when resort collections go on clearance in March, you can often snag a great piece for not a lot of money.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

January 26, 2012

In Review: Anderson & Sheppard

This is the first post in a new series, in which I will share my thoughts and opinions on books, articles, and features that pertain to the world of men’s style and fashion that I find worth sharing.

I will be the first to admit that I am a bit of an Anglophile, so when I received Anderson & Sheppard: A Style is Born as a gift recently, I must say I was incredibly excited. I had a vague awareness of Anderson & Sheppard, but was not nearly as familiar with them as I was with some of the more publicized tenants of Savile Row, such as Gieves & Hawkes or Henry Poole & Co. This is probably due in part to an unyielding aversion for marketing and publicity. They allegedly once considered legal action against an actor who dared to publicly acknowledge them as the maker of his suit in a theatrical playbill.

Book and slipcase

Before delving into the details of the book, I feel that a (very) brief history of Anderson & Sheppard is in order. Founded in 1906, they became the standard bearers for what has become known as the ‘English Drape’ that was pioneered by Frederick Scholte and is characterized by its sloped shoulders. Once a revolutionary styling, this cut is now considered to be a classic, steeped in the history of Savile Row and bespoke tailoring.

The first thing that struck me when I took this book out of the plastic was the cloth-bound book and embossed slipcase. The book fits perfectly into the slipcase, much as a bespoke suit should. Upon opening the book, the endpaper reveals a wonderful two-page close-up of one of Anderson & Sheppard’s pinstripe flannel fabrics (the first of many fabric photos to come).

Front endpaper featuring A&S 'Special' 11 oz dark-blue flannel with white stripe

With only 14 pages of actual text (not including the testimonials, glossary, acknowledgements, and credits) and a 2 page foreword, this 296 page book relies heavily on pictures to convey the style and aesthetic that is Anderson & Sheppard. Surprisingly though, for me, those 14 pages were more than enough.

Table of Contents

What really stood out to me and resonated was the investment in quality. Regular readers know that I am a very strong advocate of clothing as an investment, but the stories related about the longevity of some of Anderson & Sheppard’s garments just blew me away. I have had bespoke tailors quote me 5-10 years as the life span of a suit. Mr. Hitchcock, the chief coat cutter, “avers that ‘a 10-year-old suit is considered a new suit’ where he and his staff are concerned.” It is a regular occurrence at Anderson & Sheppard for suits to be handed down across generations and the alterations rack is filled with garments that are decades old.

Another story that I really appreciated was the explication of what a new customer could expect from their first time through the door to receipt of their garment and everything in between. The advanced skill of Anderson & Sheppard’s cutters and tailors is clearly related when the author notes that their first fitting is akin to most bespoke tailors' second fitting, termed the ‘forward’ fitting. This whole excerpt helps to de-mystify the entire experience and, hopefully, make bespoke tailoring a bit more approachable to someone who might otherwise have shied away from it.

Front window of the old shop at No. 30 Savile Row

If I could find fault with any part of the book, it would lie in the 127 pages of photos in “The Client” section. While I fully understand the desire to boast a bit, and given the company’s historical aversion to publicity and media attention there is a lot of time to make up in this department, I could have done with maybe half of this. It was more than worth the time to peruse these images, but I would have preferred more photographs of the shop and its contents, or maybe even more historical or anecdotal text.

Wall of clients' patterns. A personal record of each garment and its owner.

“The Last Word” section of the book includes client testimonials from the likes of Manolo Blahnik and Tom Ford. While some of these are a bit generic, others, like George Hamilton’s, relate very compelling and inspiring personal experiences. One of my favorite chapters is the “Terms of Art” section, which is filled with pictures of some of the employees that help keep Anderson & Sheppard a hallmark of British tailoring. It also contains a comprehensive glossary of tailoring terminology compiled by the Savile Row Bespoke Association, of which Anderson & Sheppard is a founding member.

When I go shopping for any clothing, but particularly a suit, I will only work with a salesperson that knows how to wear a suit and has mastered fit and proportion. They can’t be expected to dress a customer if they can’t dress themselves. The gentlemen who work at Anderson & Sheppard exemplify this perfectly. You can get a little hint of each one’s personal style, with a couple of my favorites being Mr. Malone, the chief trouser cutter, and Oliver Spencer, an intern (apparently you have to earn the ‘Mr.’).

A glimpse into the salesroom of the new shop at 32
Old Burlingon Street

This book is so incredibly well written that in less than two-dozen pages I was a convert. The pictures and drawings, for me, were really just the finishing touch that rounded out an informative chronicle of a company steeped in history. Should I ever find myself in London with a spare several thousand dollars and the need for a bespoke suit (or overcoat, I really want them to make me an overcoat), Anderson & Sheppard will be my destination without thought or hesitation.

What did you think of the book?

Stay stylish,
- JJ

Anderson & Sheppard: A Style is Born edited by Graydon Carter & Cullen Murphy. First published by Quercus Publishing PLC in 2011. Hardcover with slipcase; 296 pages; MSRP $75.

January 22, 2012

Style Feature: The Winter Scarf

As I have mentioned before, a nice scarf is probably my favorite accessory. Particularly in the winter, when you are all bundled up in a winter coat, scarves are a fantastic way to infuse some personal style into the monotony of winter.

1. Wool

A wool scarf is a nice addition to any wardrobe and comes in a variety of weights and styles to suit almost any weather. This scarf was actually featured in the fall scarf post, so you can see it is really a versatile piece.

Even though it is a relatively thin and gauzy scarf, at 20” wide it can be surprisingly bulky if wrapped a certain way, which goes a long way to keeping out the cold.

Scarf by John Varvatos; Coat by AllSaints Spitalfields;
Denim by AllSaints Spitalfields; Boots by LL Bean; Hat by Prada;
Gloves by Kenneth Cole New York; Sunglasses by Prada.

2. Wool/Cashmere

Another step up the warmth (and price) scale is a wool/cashmere blend. Cashmere is a very specific type of wool and its labeling is actually regulated in the US. The benefit of cashmere is that, because of the fine fibers, it allows for a warm but not bulky garment. The blend helps to keep the price down because cashmere can get pretty expensive.

I am a big fan of Psycho Bunny because many of their pieces are based around classic styles and patterns, but with a really fun and unique design. I mean, who doesn’t love a bunny skull and crossbones?

Scarf by Psycho Bunny; Trench by French Connection;
Trousers by Express Studio; Boots by John Varvatos.

3. Cashmere

A cashmere scarf is going to be pricey, but in my opinion the soft hand and warmth that it provides in such a light fabric is definitely worth the cost. Personally, I would much rather pay a little extra to have something really soft rubbing against my face than a rougher wool. The increased warmth is really just an added benefit.

This scarf is different because not only is it really long (about 100”) but it is also double faced. Despite being pretty thin, this is the scarf that I wear on the coldest days for two main reasons. The length allows me to easily wrap it around my neck three times while the two layers of cashmere provide an exceptional degree of warmth.

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

4. Infinity

In recent years, the infinity scarf has become increasingly popular. For those unfamiliar with them, the concept is basically that it is a scarf with the ends connected forming a loop (hence the infinity moniker). They are usually a chunkier knit and on the longer side, so that you can loop it around your neck multiple times.

Most of the pieces that I have seen are either fully synthetic or some sort of blend. The scarf featured here is a blend of acrylic, wool, nylon and angora and while the sheer bulk of the scarf provides a good amount of warmth, the looser knit does not insulate as well as other scarves might.

Scarf by INC; Cardigan by John Varvatos Star USA; Shirt by Gant Rugger;
Denim by AllSaints Spitalfields; Boots by John Varvatos;
Sunglasses by Bulgari; Gloves by French Connection.

Scarves are definitely one of my weaknesses when it comes to buying accessories and I can’t extol their virtues enough (plus they are easy to store). The choices in content, style, color, and pattern make it a relatively simple task to find one that suits any occasion.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

January 19, 2012

Quick Tip: Slimming Down Your Wallet

The type of wallet a man carries is often a very personal decision. Many carry the same kind that their father did, sometimes even the same one. Others change wallets every time a new trend hits and the popular style or color changes. I feel that, even more so than your clothes, a wallet should be an investment because with proper care a quality wallet can last for decades. That said, you could have the best quality wallet and keep it in the nicest perfectly tailored pants, but that doesn’t matter if the wallet is bulging out of your pocket and making even the best stitched seams work to stay together.

I used to be guilty of just this, with a large leather bifold packed with every credit card, store card, membership card, and ID card I owned (not to mention whatever cash I happened to have). Not only would it barely fit in my pocket, but it was also literally and figuratively a pain in the ass to carry around.

Wallet by Club Room

This particular wallet had a removable ID case which I would take with me when I would go out to clubs or concerts to just be able to carry my ID, debit card, and some cash. Eventually I found a slim bifold for just this purpose, but week after week of switching things back and forth finally made me realize that I didn’t need to carry all those extraneous cards. I rarely found myself needing most of them on the spur of the moment, so there was no reason for them to always live in my wallet.

It was then that I switched full-time to this slim wallet and never looked back (though I do still keep the old one in my dresser for storage purposes). This forced me to really figure out what I needed and what I didn’t. I removed the credit cards that I didn’t use and switched all of my store rewards cards to the little keychain versions (even my library card). Every department store that I have a credit card from is able to look up the account with only my driver’s license and SSN, so they got the boot too.

Wallet by Burberry

Alternately, depending one what kind of phone you have, you may be able to lose the keychain cards too. Try using one of the many apps to store all those store barcodes, and thin down everything you carry in your pockets. Slim wallets have really established themselves over the last few years, and now you are likely to find as many (if not more) slim options than regular ones, so take a look around and see what’s out there.

This purging of the contents of my wallet also allowed me to move it permanently to my front pocket (something I started doing while visiting Key West on the advice that it would help protect it from pickpockets). This freed up my back pocket for my handkerchief, which I now never leave home without.

Club Room (L); Burberry (R)

The only drawback that I have encountered with this wallet is that its size severely limits the amount of cash that I can carry. This is usually fine with me because I don’t like to carry cash, but for those times that I need to, I picked up a basic money clip with a little bit of color. I am still on the lookout for the perfect clip for me, but there are dozens of options out there in many styles, metals, and colors to find the one that is right for you.

Money clip by Link Up

It also may go without saying, but avoid velcro wallets. I’ve seen a few designers beginning to offer color-popped velcro wallets with a retro feel, but unless you want an entire store to glance your way every time you go to pay for something, I’d recommend sticking with something a little subtler.

What kind of wallet do you carry?

Stay stylish,
- JJ

January 16, 2012

Favorite Finds: Varsity Wool

This installment of Favorite Finds will focus on the (apparently) continuing trend of varsity-inspired jackets. As part of their new resort collection, Marc by Marc Jacobs has given us the letterman-style Horatio Sweater.

Even though they call this a sweater, I would definitely classify it as a sweater-jacket. The placement of the light gray (the sleeves, pocket slits, back of the waistband, and the body under the arms) has all the hallmarks of a traditional varsity jackets and the zippered front makes it feel to me a little more like outerwear than a sweater.

It is made from a roughly textured merino wool and the contrast of light grey on black is a really great combination. Another nice feature is that the pockets themselves are actually made of the same wool as the body of the jacket which is great for keeping your hands warm.

It is a standard fit, so your intended purpose will play a big part in your decision to purchase it. If I was buying this as a sweater, to wear over a woven or light knit shirt, then the fit is perfect. On the other hand, if I wanted it to wear as more of a jacket with layers underneath, then it would definitely be a bit snug and I would consider sizing up.

There are only two drawbacks that I could find to this piece and for many M by MJ fans they will probably not be deal-breakers. The first is that because of the rough texture of the wool, it seems to me that this sweater might pill rather easily. Not that big a deal, as all wool sweaters will inevitably pill and a sweater stone can easily remedy that, but something to keep in mind if you’re not big on clothing maintenance.

The second drawback is the price. At $418 it is absolutely reasonable for what seems to be a great investment piece that will last and keep you warm for years (remember it is 100% merino wool).  All my Marc Jacobs pieces have served me well with no signs of wearing out anytime soon and this sweater seems like it is of equal quality. The only reason I list the price as a drawback is that, for many people, it will push this piece out of their price range since I would not consider this to be a wardrobe essential.

Regardless, I would absolutely recommend this piece based on my past experience with the quality of the Marc by Marc Jacobs brand, the reasonable price for a designer merino sweater, and the interesting, simple, and understated take on a classic trend.

What are your favorite finds this week?

Stay stylish,
- JJ

January 13, 2012

Style Feature: The Chunky Sweater

For me, a chunky sweater is one of the most versatile pieces you can own. A good chunky knit can take you from fall all the way through to spring and there are countless ways that you can layer it for a wide range of temperatures.

There are dozens of styles and even more combinations of fabric contents, so it is easy to find one that suits your style and price point. I only have two pieces in my wardrobe but I have yet to find myself needing a third, because if you buy carefully the possibilities are endless.

1. Shawl Collar Cardigan

Sweater by John Varvatos Star USA; Shirt by Charles Tyrwhitt;
Trousers by Express Studio; Shoes by Allen Edmonds; Socks by Corgi;
Bowtie by The Men's Store at Bloomingdale's.
I love this sweater and, even though it is an acrylic/wool blend, it is one of the warmest pieces of clothing that I own. The tight knit keeps the cold and wind out surprisingly well. So much so that after this shoot, I kept it on for the rest of the day even though my wool coat was stuffed in a bag and it was below 40 degrees.

Sweater by John Varvatos Star USA; Shirt by Vince;
Denim by AllSaints Spitalfields; Boots by AllSaints Spitalfields;
Undershirt by Emporio Armani.
The shawl collar makes this piece feel a little more casual than a regular cardigan might – perfect for just kicking around the house and relaxing in front of the fireplace – but easily dressed up for a day around the city.

2. Button Mock Neck

Sweater by SQ; Down vest by Uniqlo; Shirt by Gant Rugger;
Chinos by PPD; Sneakers by Paul Smith Jeans.
This was actually the first sweater I bought after moving back up north from Miami back in 2005 and it has definitely served me well.

Sweater by SQ; Shirt by J Crew; Pants by Marc by Marc Jacobs;
Boots by John Varvatos.
The cable knit detailing is classic with roots going back to early 20th century Ireland and the high mock neck provides added protection without the need for a scarf (though there have definitely been some windy days where I’ve used one).

As I hope you can see, the right pieces can take you from day to night, city to country, and everywhere in between.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

January 9, 2012

Style Feature: The Winter Hat

Hats are another great accessory that will help keep you warm and stylish throughout the winter. There are a variety of different hats that will fit almost any style and occasion, and while there are some worthwhile synthetics out there, for winter I would generally recommend sticking with a wool or cashmere.

1. Beanie

Beanie by John Varvatos; Down vest by Uniqlo; Henley by AllSaints
Spitalfields; Shirt by Gant Rugger; Denim by AllSaints Spitalfields;
Boots by AllSaints Spitalfields; Scarf by Burberry.
Possibly the quintessential winter hat, the beanie is often the most practical for staying warm when the weather gets cold. There are several different styles and even more materials to choose from, each with their own benefits.

Extra Tip : Wool or cashmere will be the warmest, but require special care. Synthetics are often (though not always) machine washable, but though they are getting closer every year, can’t match wool for warmth.

Extra Tip II : Choose a style to suit your needs. The beanie featured here is more of a fashion beanie. It doesn’t fully cover the ears, so it is not as warm as one that pulls down further with a fold-over brim.

Extra Tip III : A thin down vest is great for layering. This one is thin enough to wear under a wool coat, but warm enough to be a top layer.

2. Military Cap

Cap by Prada; Wool coat by AllSaints Spitalfields; Denim by 7 For All Mankind;
Sneakers by Paul Smith Jeans; Scarf by John Varvatos.
The patrol cap, commonly called a military cap, is a great (and more stylish) alternative to a baseball or trucker hat. This one is wool with a quilted lining for added warmth.

Extra Tip : The main way to tell the difference is the flat top that is featured on the military hat.

Extra Tip II : Unless you are a trucker or a farmer, don’t wear a trucker hat. Remember, trendy rarely translates to stylish.

3. Fedora

Fedora from JJ Hat Center; Wool trench by French Connection;
Wool trousers by Edun; Boots by AllSaints Spitalfields;
Scarf by Burberry; Gloves by French Connection; Tote by Ted Baker.
The fedora is a classic piece of headgear and while it has recently been adopted by more casual wearers, for me it will always have a sense of elegance and refinement. I conjure mental images of well-dressed gents like Sinatra and Bogart and stand just a little bit taller when I wear one.

Extra Tip : There are several styles of fedoras, and you can find one to flatter almost any face based on brim width and crown height. Go to a reputable and established hat shop or milliner, like J.J. Hat Center in NYC. They will be able to help you pick the size and style that is right for you.

4. Earwarmers

Earwarmers by 180s; Wool coat by AllSaints Spitalfields; Denim by AllSaints
Spitalfields; Boots by John Varvatos; Scarf by Burberry; Gloves by French Connection.
While not actually a hat, these earwarmers have definitely earned their place in my closet. On those really cold days when I have a meeting and can’t run the risk of hat hair, these have kept my ears plenty warm while in transit.

Extra Tip : These are also great for winter running, with or without a hat.

Whatever hat you choose to rock, remember that it is always polite to remove your hat indoors.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

January 6, 2012

Quick Tip: Cold-Weather Skin Care

Coming off the two coldest days we have had in NYC this season I wanted to share some tips on cold-weather skin care.

Handling clothing all day can really take a toll on my hands, especially in the winter, and when I am working closely with clients, the last thing I want is dry, cracked hands. I have always had a hard time finding hand lotion because everything I have tried in the past leaves my hands feeling greasy (be that real or perceived), which bothers me both personally and professionally. As a result I usually have the urge to wash my hands (which only further dries them out).

After trying literally dozens of hand lotions, I finally found one that is perfect for me. I got Jack Black’s Industrial Strength Hand Healer for Xmas and even though it has only been two weeks, I can already feel a difference. It has a satin finish that absorbs well without the greasy feeling and it lasts for a long time (though I apply frequently to stay ahead of the weather).

Now the most commonly used skin care product for most people during the winter months is lip balm. For years I was a dedicated Chapstik user, until I tried Burt’s Bees lip balm. It is a bit waxier, which I can only assume is a result of the bee’s wax, so it doesn’t need to be reapplied as often. My go-to is the Pomegranate (as evidenced by the well worn tube in the picture below), but every one that I have tried has been great.

If for some reason I run out or forget the Burt’s Bees, my backups are Jack Black’s Intense Therapy Lip Balm or Kiehl’s Facial Fuel No-Shine Lip Balm. Both of these are much more expensive than the $3 Burt’s Bees (at $7.50 and $9 respectively) and need more applications, but are definitely worth the money if your lips need some serious attention (and you find yourself trapped in a Bloomingdales without any lip balm – trust me it can happen).

Lastly, I wanted to talk about facial moisturizers. As the part of your body that is most exposed to the elements and the one that gets the most attention, your face shouldn’t be overlooked. I have tried several different brands over the years and am still trying to find the perfect one, but I have settled for quite a while now on the Zirh Protect Daily Moisturizer. It is made for normal to oily skin and has a satin feel that does not leave me feeling like I have lotion on my face.

I know many guys who refuse to use any products because they feel that it isn't masculine to use lip balm or moisturizer. What I tell them is that taking care of your skin will allow you to make the best possible impression, whatever the weather, because cracking skin and chapped lips is never a good look. It may seem a little awkward at first, but once it is part of your routine you won't regret it.

What products work for you?

Stay stylish (and moisturized),
- JJ

January 3, 2012

Favorite Finds: Raglan Woven

I have gotten a lot of feedback asking for recommendations on where to find pieces similar to those featured on the blog.  So this new segment of the blog, Favorite Finds, is really about featuring pieces that if you like, you can head to the store and buy them. For this series, I want to highlight pieces that I personally find interesting and currently available in stores to share with you and give you all the details (good and bad) about perceived quality, fit, features, and value.

For the first installment, I went to Bloomingdale’s where things were a little crazy with the after-Xmas sales still going on. I found a few great pieces to feature, but on the way out, this light lilac shirt by Paul Smith Jeans caught my eye. Not only does it have interesting design in the collar and hem, but I have never seen a woven with raglan sleeves.

The tag identified it as a ‘Tailored Fit’ and it certainly is. There are two darts in the back, giving the cut a visible nip at the waist. On the Medium that I tried, the armholes are a little high and tight and the raglan sleeves are not cut on the bias so my mobility was slightly limited when reaching across my body, but not enough to bother me.

The placket and cuffs are stitched on in the opposite grain direction from the body of the shirt (indeed the button placket is stitched down the center with both sides different directions) providing a slightly variant sheen when placed next to each other. The details continue with a rather small button-down collar that is somewhere between a club and point and a hem in the front that is rounded (another thing I rarely see on wovens). One thing that I found particularly interesting is that the buttons are natural mother of pearl that are farmed rather than taken from the sea to minimize resource depletion.

It is a little pricey for a woven, at $215, but I was really into all of the little details that make this shirt unique and loved it so much that I was ready to actually buy it. I make it a habit to check the care instructions before I buy any garment because they can sometimes surprise you. It was when I looked at the care tag that a major problem (at least for me) developed.

This shirt is 100% cotton and is a solid medium-weight cloth that feels like it will wear well and hold up for quite a while. The care instructions say machine wash and do not bleach, tumble dry, or dry clean. Fairly standard, but the inability to dry clean always gives me pause on light colored shirts. I looked at the symbols again to double-check myself and that is when I saw it: “Allow 5% for shrinkage.”

This shirt fit me almost perfectly, but how could I expect to calculate what 5% shrinkage will translate to? I tried a Large and while it fit pretty well in the body and sleeve length, there was an inexplicable amount of extra fabric in the arms from the shoulder to the elbow that was not present on the Medium. It may shrink minimally and still fit great, but there is no way for me to tell.

I still think that this is an amazing shirt, and if you have a bit more room in the body than I did off the rack, I would definitely suggest making the purchase. For me though, at that price point I could not justify taking the risk, but if it is still in stock on clearance later in the season I might be persuaded…

Stay stylish,
- JJ