August 28, 2012

Care and Maintenance: Denim Redux

In the last Care and Maintenance post I talked about two of the less common ways to clean your denim, showering and freezing. These methods are mostly used by serious (raw) denim enthusiasts who want to preserve the crispness of their jeans, but what about the rest of us?

While there are dozens of different techniques of caring for your denim, one even involving an oven, there are two methods in particular that I have found particularly useful (depending on the desired outcome).


So this is relatively straightforward. If I have a pair of jeans that I want to soften up and not look brand new, I will wash them like I would any other pair of pants (more frequently if I want to fade them). This is where a basic knowledge of laundering comes in handy. Machine-washing on any temperature will fade your denim simply because of the agitation, but you can have some control over the amount of fading by changing water temperature and wash cycle.

The hotter the temperature in the wash, the more the color will fade. Standard washing instructions are usually the normal cold cycle. This is usually a pretty harsh wash though, so I wash my jeans (and all my clothes really) on delicate. There is less agitation, which results in less stretching and less loss of color.

This is where the relatively part comes in. There are some people who embrace the effect that washing can provide, but refuse to use any sort of cleaning agent because it will degrade your clothes. My personal philosophy is that I buy clothes because I like them and want to enjoy wearing them. I buy quality so that it lasts a long time, but if it wears out, I will replace it. With denim I want it to show its wear so if it is dirty, I am going to wash it.

The dryer is a little more contentious. If you put denim in the dryer, it will shrink, and not always evenly. The flipside to this is that as you wear a pair of jeans they will stretch out, and tossing them in the dryer for a few minutes can get them back to their original size. This happens because the heat causes the wet fibers to constrict as they dry, so as a result the more heat, the more they will shrink. Don’t get me wrong, you can absolutely ruin your jeans by putting them in the dryer (and it isn’t that difficult either), so dry at your own risk.

I always hang dry my denim unless I need a little shrinkage, in which case I will tumble dry them on low for about 20-30 minutes. This accomplishes the shrinking without drying them all the way and potentially killing them. Depending on the pair, I may then take a tip out of the prior denim post and put them on slightly damp to form back to my body.

Not Washing

Another technique I use if I have a particularly stiff pair of denim that I want to break in is the exact opposite – not washing them. This also ties in to a method I discussed in the previous denim post, because the quickest way to break in your denim is to wear them every day and not wash them for as long as possible. Depending on what you do while wearing your denim, they might become a bit odiferous. While you can freeze, bake, or Febreeze them, I prefer an old theatre trick. Vodka spray (1 part vodka and 3-4 parts water) is a fantastic way to remove smells from fabric, and no it won’t leave you smelling like you just stumbled out of a bar. Just let dry and voila (and safe for most fabrics as well, as long as they don’t water spot).

I have some denim that I wash a few times a year and some that I wash every few weeks. There is really no wrong way to clean and care for your denim, just your way. Decide what purpose you want your denim to serve, how you want it to look, and choose a care method that will give you the best results.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

August 25, 2012

Barneys Warehouse Sale: August 2012 Menswear

So it’s that time of the year again when fashion lovers and bargain hunters alike go crazy for great deals on designer duds (yeah, I just said that). But unlike previous years when the New York sale could count on a mid-sale boost from the LA leftovers, there was no LA sale and, if the current stock is any indication, all of the best pieces were prioritized to the first-ever online iteration.

When the online Warehouse Sale was first announced, speculation was that while there would be better finds online, surely there would be deeper discounts in NYC. Unfortunately that doesn’t appear to be the case. I wanted to wait until the third day of the sale to write this post to be able to give a decent survey of what people who didn’t line up at 7am (the shortest line in recent history) might hope to find. There also seems to always be numerous reports on every piece to be found in the women’s section, but very little coverage of the men’s offerings, so I wanted to fix that.

One thing that I will comment on is that there seems to be security at literally every turn, which made things even more crowded than normal. While they were all very friendly, it often felt that there are more of them than there were employees, which was a little disconcerting at times.

As always, the first section you encounter when you walk in are the suits and this is where you will find the best selection. There is a solid selection of suits and sport jackets and everyone should be able to find something good, even the less popular sizes. I will say there appears to be less in the way of interesting or unique pieces than at previous sales, with the bulk of the stock being of the standard black/gray/navy variety, though there are some great Canali and Hickey Freeman suits to be had if you dig a little bit. In what turned out to be a trend, every suit and sport jacket that I looked at was marked at 50% off with no additional discount.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the lightweight outerwear had a rather large presentation, however, in what would turn out to be another trend, the majority of the standout pieces seemed to be gone after the first day. Today, for day three, it appeared that there was a fair amount of restocking happening so hope is not lost for finding that special piece.

Dress shirts almost entirely consist of the house brand, though there are a few Black Fleece shirts sprinkled about here and there. That's right, it looks like Barneys bought some overstock from Brooks Brothers, but you really have to hunt.

Ties, which are usually one of my favorite buys at the sale, turned out to be a mixed bag. By day three, primarily all that was left were Barneys ties with a few exceptions. There is a decent cluster of Duchamp ties at the end near shoes, and the occasional gem from Etro, Alexander Olch, title of work, Thom Browne, and Brunello Cucinelli but these are few and far between so you really have to hunt for them. I was a little disappointed to not see any McQueen and only one Psycho Bunny this year, as I have in at least the past four sales, though I did walk away with a Black Fleece tie and a Liberty London bowtie for $59 each.

There is a decent selection of accessories, and today they were actually easy to shop (a huge improvement if you’ve ever seen the disaster that is the accessories bins in the past). Around midday, two employees spent a few hours organizing and restocking the accessories bins. When they were done there was a fixture for hats, two for bags, and one for bowties making everything SO much easier to shop (though it also diminishes the chance of finding that diamond in the rough hidden at the bottom of the bin) while socks, cold weather goods, and iPad cases filled the bins. Nothing really jumped out at me as amazing, but there are some good Duchamp, Alexander Olch, and Liberty London bowties to be found, and some fun Trafalgar braces if you are in the market.

One big upside is that if you are looking for some kind of boot or brogues then you should definitely consider a visit, as that is what dominates the shoe section. There are not a lot of amazing pieces, though a few Florsheim by Duckie Brown, Paul Smith, and Prada pairs can still be found. One bedazzled Prada pair particularly caught (and somewhat blinded) my eye.

Crossing over to the other side, you will find a mediocre selection of denim. There is a small but colorful row of cords, almost all by Levi’s Made & Crafted, that is worth checking out. There are tons of miscellaneous pants, but again, nothing that really jumped out as fantastic. The blue ticket imperfects (read: damaged) were in pretty bad shape this year, and by day three most of it had been pretty well picked through.

The casual shirts were plentiful, with sizes skewing hard towards the L-XXL end of the spectrum. This was your usual fare, with some nice pieces by a good variety of designers, including Elie Tahari, Michael Bastian, Etro, and Canali, and while most were marked down to 50% off, there were several that were closer to only 30%.

To sum it up, after three days there are still a few good (but not amazing) finds and the prices are not that great. You could get the same deals in the clearance section of a department store (maybe even better if you have a coupon) without having to deal with the crowds. The flipside is that it seems like there is a lot of restocking happening and some of it is pretty good stuff. In fact, I found some nicer pieces on the third day than on the first. It is worth a look to see if you happen across that one piece that is a must-have for you, but I would recommend waiting until the markdowns start to hit before doing any serious damage. Hopefully there are more pleasant surprises waiting in the wings.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

August 22, 2012

Favorite Finds: Lightweight Topcoat

Even though the heat is still with us, we are counting down the days until the thermometer starts dropping. Now is the perfect time to start looking for ways to refresh your fall wardrobe. When I think of a wool trench, I lean more towards the dead of winter, but this double-faced topcoat from Vince could definitely change my mind.

This piece is a lightweight, ¼ lined, single-breasted topcoat. The fit is a little trim, with plenty of room in the chest and shoulders but a nice taper at the waist. I tried on a Medium and it fit like a nicely tailored 40R sport jacket should. That being said, I would recommend this as a top layer over a shirt and maybe a thin sweater but not over a jacket as it would mess with the fit.

Detail-wise, this coat is pretty simple, which is one of the things that Vince does really well, and not a bad thing in a topcoat. Classically styled with notch lapels and a single vent, there are two flap pockets at the hip, a single-welt pocket at the chest, and an inside patch pocket for extra storage.

This topcoat is made out of 90% wool, 10% nylon and, as the name implies, is double-faced. It has a surprisingly soft hand and drapes really well. It is dry clean only, which is not at all unusual for a wool garment.

The price ($595) is a little steep, since you can get a decent winter overcoat for about the same price, but Vince does high-quality basics incredibly well. This is a very specific piece with a limited window of use, but if it fills a hole in your wardrobe I would highly suggest considering this coat.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

August 19, 2012

The Art of Fit Pt 7 – The Sport Jacket

A sport jacket is the companion piece to the trouser in that it is a tailored piece that is not part of a suit. It is very similar in construction to a suit jacket but because it is (often) worn more casually, the fit considerations are a bit different.

There are a few things that carry throughout that can help narrow down the choices right off the bat. You should usually stick to a two-button jacket and the lapels should be about 2.5” – 3.5” to stay in the safe zone and keep that timeless look. You can always stray from this, but you risk investing in a piece that may eventually look dated.

Depending on who is making them, a sport jacket will either come in lettered sizes (S, M, L, etc) or suiting sizes (38, 40, 42, etc). Now obviously suiting sizes will give you a closer fit, but knowing your size for either system starts in the same place – with a chest measurement. If you have a measuring tape, have a friend (or the salesperson in the suiting department) wrap it around the widest part of your chest. This will be your base measurement, but also where it starts to get a little confusing.

With pants, if your waist measures 34, you can pick up a pair of pants and if they measure 34, they will most likely fit regardless of vanity sizing. With tailored jackets, if your chest measures 40, you will still pick up a size 40, but the jacket itself will actually measure closer to 42 to accommodate the layers you will be wearing underneath. Most companies base their lettered samples on a Medium, which for a jacket is usually right around a 40. Once you have a general idea of what your sizing is, you can start to get into the details.

The most important thing to consider when buying a tailored jacket of any kind is the shoulder. There are a lot of really incredible things that a tailor can do to make your jacket fit perfectly, but fixing the shoulders is not one of them. Though possible, it is difficult, time-consuming, and thus costly, and basically means reconstructing the jacket so I would recommend making sure this area fits you well before purchasing. When shopping for a jacket, you also want to keep the amount of padding in the shoulders to a minimum. Not only will this help with a more natural and less boxy look, but it will also help give you a classically timeless piece.

When the jacket is on and buttoned, the shoulder seam should hit right at the bone on the edge of your shoulder. Too far off and your jacket will just look ill fitting, too tight and it will restrict your movement even if the body fits fine. If you are in between sizes, try on as many different labels as you can until you find one that hits your shoulders right because each one will fit slightly different.

Once you have the shoulders taken care of, it is time to move on to cuff. Since sport jackets are intended for more casual wear than a suit jacket, the length of the cuff tends to be a little longer. While the exact length depends on your own style, there are a few good guidelines to follow. If you feel your wrist, you should feel the bone, then a slight dip, and then the flare of where your hand starts.

This dip is the ideal length of the jacket sleeve when your arm is down at your side because it gives you the most versatility of what you can wear the jacket with. Any shorter and you risk showing a lot of wrist if you throw it on with a short sleeved knit or tee; any longer and it starts looking oversized. If the sleeve is close but not exactly where you want it, don’t worry, a good tailor can take care of that.

The next big thing is the jacket length. Sport coats are often cut a little shorter than suit jackets, again, because they are a little more casual. A good general rule to follow is this – with your arms at your side the hem for a sport jacket should fall between the first knuckle and tip of your thumb. Anything within that range is pretty classic and going outside of it is making more of a statement. Whether that is good or bad depends on your style and how you wear it.

Jacket by Ted Baker; Shirt by Uniqlo; Pants by Marc by Marc Jacobs;
Boat shoes by Timberland; Belt by Brooks Brothers

Lastly is the body, and this is surprisingly pretty simple. You generally want to look for a slim (sometimes called tailored) fit just so that there is a little definition to the body. Like with most pieces, avoid the extremes. Too boxy or too skinny usually end up looking dated and trendy, respectively, which is never a good look. When buttoned, there should be about a fist’s worth of space between the jacket and your body to make sure you have a good range of motion.

As I have said countless times, clothing should be an investment. Know how your clothes should fit to make sure it is a worthwhile one.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

August 15, 2012

Reader Question: The P Word

Dear JJ,

I’ve been shopping for some new clothes (and checking my care labels!) and I’ve come across a bunch of shirts that contain polyester. I’ve always heard such bad things about polyester, but these are higher end shirts, so I don’t want to pay a lot of money for something that isn’t worth it. Why are the prices so high, isn’t polyester cheap?

- Brian


Hi Brian,

Glad to hear you are looking to invest in quality! The 70’s gave polyester kind of a bad rap and one that I think is only partially deserved. Things got so hideous and, yes, cheap-looking that there was a major backlash against polyester. In recent years, more labels are re-embracing synthetic fibers. You can find pieces that are either completely or partially polyester from a wide range of labels like BOSS, Nautica, Lacoste, Theory, Michael Kors and Alexander Wang. The list gets even longer if you expand it to all synthetic fibers.

Despite the renewed interest from designer labels, there are some markets that never stopped using them. Synthetic fibers, like polyester, have always been a mainstay in activewear (particularly golf) because the benefits they provide are surprisingly impressive. Polyester also has excellent moisture wicking properties that help keep you dry, wrinkle resistance and durability for easy care, and increased color retention to keep it looking fresh.

There is a flipside though. Because it is synthetic, polyester doesn’t breathe well, which is why you will often find it blended with a natural fiber, like cotton. It also usually feels and occasionally looks unnatural which can be a definite drawback. Now don’t run out and stock up on just any polyester piece you find, quality is still important and so are weighing the benefits against the drawbacks.

You can pick up a polyester shirt at Kmart or JC Penney, but those are exactly the kind of quality issues that you are trying to avoid. Think of polyester the same you would any other fabric. If you want a really warm sweater, you would opt for wool over cotton. If you want denim with a little give, you look for a little bit of spandex. Decide what your intended purpose will be for the piece you want to buy and that will go a long way towards deciding whether polyester is a good choice.

Thanks for reading and stay stylish,

- JJ

August 12, 2012

Favorite Finds: Single Needle Woven

In my continuing search for interesting and unique wovens, I came across this ivory and navy gingham Single Needle Shirt from Steven Alan.

I tried on a Medium, and while the fit is a little slimmer than some, there is enough room through the body to keep it comfortable. The hem in the back is a little longer than in the front, but not so long that it looks awkward when untucked.

The stitching and construction is also impeccable, and the dotted gingham pattern is pretty unique. It features a very narrow button-down collar that I think fits in well proportionally with the size of the check.

The attention to detail is really great too, with the chest pocket lining up incredibly well so that it almost appears invisible, as well as both front panels perfectly matched at the button placket.  

The one thing that might be problematic is that the threads running the length of the shirt’s inside seem prone to catching and breaking (which had already happened a couple times on the one I tried on). While this shouldn’t affect the integrity of the pattern, it is something to consider, especially if you’re someone who isn’t delicate with your clothing.

This shirt is made in the USA, 100% cotton, machine washable and, according to the label, tumble dry medium. I would be a little concerned about tumble drying this shirt because of the stitching used to make the pattern, though, so if you go pick up this one, I’d suggest letting it hang dry.

The price is reasonable for a well-made American shirt at $188 and I really like the design, fit, and quality. Compared to some other comparable options with more interesting details it would definitely be on my list, just maybe not at the top.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

August 8, 2012

The Shy Stylist Turns 1!

When I started writing this blog a year ago, I knew that I wanted to write about men’s style, and offer my own experience both in life and in the fashion industry, but I didn’t have a specific plan as to how I wanted to do it. The format of the blog has evolved naturally into what it is today, but like anything, is perpetually continuing to change.

Writing about style has been an exciting adventure, because style itself is always evolving. I feel that style should not only be personal, it should be what sets you apart from everyone else. How you dress affects not only others’ perception of you, but also your perception of yourself. It affects your carriage, your behavior, and your confidence.

You only get one first impression and it should always be your best. When you feel good about how you look, it translates into how you act. Now this doesn’t mean wearing a suit all day, every day, but putting thought and consideration into your wardrobe can go a long way. Boots, jeans, and a henley that fit properly can look way more stylish and put together than a suit that doesn’t.

With this blog, I want to convey the idea that clothing is an investment and you should be invested in your style. If you purchase quality pieces that are classically stylish, not trendy, they will pay for themselves in longevity and usefulness. Oftentimes, cheap garments look cheap but that doesn’t mean you have to drop hundreds of dollars on everything you buy. With some knowledge of fabrics, fit, and construction, a lot of persistence, and sometimes a little luck you can create a well-curated wardrobe that will take you easily through any occasion.

I wanted to inspire people with this blog, to help those who are unsure or don’t know where to start when it comes to crafting their own style, and those who may not have the resources to always buy the latest trend the moment it comes out. My goal is for my readers to be able to see pictures they like and adapt the elements of those looks into their own wardrobe, or maybe give a particular item or style a chance when they may otherwise have passed it over. Style is about individualism, not about each new piece sent down the runway, and I hope that in some small way I have inspired my readers to try to find their own paths, or to have an outlet to ask questions when they are unsure.

One of my biggest hopes for growth in this blog as I begin year two is to try to cultivate a more active community. Blogging about style is best when it is a conversation, so I hope that this post will inspire those who have wanted to ask questions or make comments to speak out. I appreciate all of the emails that I get, be they questions, comments, or suggestions, and do my best to respond to each one individually and in a timely manner.

The growth that I have seen over the last year, particularly in the last few months, has been incredibly inspiring and validating and I wanted to thank every single reader for a fulfilling year.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

August 6, 2012

Inspiration: Ivy Style

On a recent trip to Boston and Harvard Square, I found myself doing a lot of people watching. What I noticed, not surprisingly, was the proliferation of preppy style, specifically collegiate-inspired. I know there is a lot of contention about the difference between preppy and Ivy style (or if there even is one), but what I wanted to do with this post was take some specific aspects of traditional Ivy style and have a little bit of fun with them.

Patch pocket blazers have a storied history in university settings, particularly in sporting clubs. This one features grosgrain piping to add a little uniform styling. What makes this jacket great for summer is that not only is it linen, but it is also ¼ lined which lets the linen really breathe and keep you cool.

Button-down collars and chinos are about as ubiquitous on campuses in the northeast as anything else you’ll find. Ever since the 1950’s when button-down collars made the transition out of sporting wear they have been a preppy staple. They are one of the truly American sartorial contributions, and nothing is more classic than white.

Chinos, by contrast, have their origins in the British military. Originally khaki in color (in fact khaki and chino were once, and to some degree still are, considered synonyms), they are now offered in nearly every color imaginable.

Another collegiate staple is the repp tie. Though commonly thought to refer to the diagonal striping, ‘repp’ actually refers to the type of weave commonly found on these ties that produces a tight ribbed pattern. This tie takes the traditional patterning and infuses some of the fun that Psycho Bunny is so good at doing. I try not to take my wardrobe too seriously, which is why I like the whimsy of this tie (despite a bunny skull and crossbones not really being ‘whimsical’ per se).

Boat shoes are another American contribution to style and, while not really Ivy, they have enough of a history in New England to complete the look. Plus, I like the way this particular pair plays against the pants, shirt, and tie.

Jacket by Bamford and Sons; Shirt by Uniqlo; Chinos by Gant Rugger;
Shoes by Sebago; Tie by Psycho Bunny; Tie bar by Link Up;
Belt by Brooks Brothers; Eyeglasses by Dolce & Gabbana

The beauty of inspiration, like style in general, is that it doesn’t need to follow any rigid guidelines. Be cohesive, be complementary, but above all be yourself.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

August 2, 2012

Favorite Finds: B/W Plaid Woven

For the last couple years, I have found myself eschewing tees and knit shirts in favor of wovens. As a result, I am constantly on the lookout for pieces that pique my interest. At first glance, there didn’t seem to be anything particularly exceptional about the Continuum sport shirt from Rogan. Upon closer inspection though, this shirt is packed with interesting design and detailing, and it’s made in the USA to boot!

This black and white plaid shirt is a slimmer cut, but not restrictive by any means. I tried on a Medium and it fit great.

The chest pocket is cut slightly asymmetrically with the button off-center and the pattern placed perpendicular which is the most noticeable display of the “intellectual utilitarianism that combines modernism with asymmetrical construction” that Rogan’s website lists as the driving force behind their collections.

What I found really interesting is the diagonal yoke, which is something I’ve never seen before. It is one of those subtle details that makes a garment interesting without being overt.

One of the things I like best about this shirt is the hidden button-down collar. I actually didn’t even notice it until I was adjusting the shirt for the picture. The underside of that diagonal collar seam has been left open a bit to be able to act as a buttonhole. Though it is a little hard to work, it seems easy enough to adapt to.

The inside of the collar, yoke, and cuffs are faced with black for a nice contrast.

I usually don’t include photos of care tags because they are usually incredibly uninteresting, but these have enough whimsy that I felt they were worth sharing.

This piece isn’t up on Rogan’s website yet, and Nordstrom’s site lists it as available for preorder. I admit, $230 is pretty pricy for a woven, but in my opinion the design, detailing, and made in the USA construction (not to mention supporting a local NYC company) make this piece worth the price. I view clothing as an investment and this is definitely a piece I would invest in.

Stay stylish,
- JJ