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

November 13, 2012

Style Feature: The Cord Pant

Corduroy pants have developed a bad rap, but with nearly everyone making an updated version now, they are not just for your grandpa anymore. Cords have become a quintessential fall item that can be appropriate for any style or occasion. Things got crazy and I just missed getting this up in time for Corduroy Appreciation Day (November 11), but cords are one of my favorite seasonal fabrics.

1. Sporty

Corduroy is widely known as being a rugged fabric, which is why it is great for all kinds of gentlemanly pursuits and outdoor activities, like fly fishing (though it was a little too cold the day this look was shot).

Extra Tip : Dressing seasonally not only makes sense, but it’s also a great way to infuse some seasonal color into your wardrobe.

Extra Tip II : There is rarely a wrong time to wear a bowtie.

Cords by Gant Rugger; Sweater by Gant; Shirt by Uniqlo;
Boots by LL Bean; Hat by Prada; Bowtie by Liberty of London

2. Casual

A dark, five-pocket cord can easily take the place of denim in any look. You can't go wrong with a medium wale straight leg for a walk down a country road or a city street. Keeping your cords simple also allow you to add more layers up top without the outfit feeling bulky.

Extra Tip : Just like with other textured fabrics, the fibers of your cords can wear down (i.e. get unfuzzy or extra fuzzy depending on the type), so do be aware that excessive rubbing or wear in one place (like the obligatory smart phone in your pocket) will affect them. Distressing can add character to a garment, just make sure it's what you want before it happens.

Cords by Nautica; Vest by Uniqlo; Shirt by J Crew;
Henley by Odin for Target; Sneakers by AllSaints Spitalfields;
Scarf by Rag & Bone

3. Urban

A fine wale cord is a great way to sneak some texture into your clothes without making a major commitment to corduroy. It also lets you stretch their wearability into the spring.

Extra Tip : The actual piping in corduroy is called the wale. The wider the wale, the lower the number used to measure it (just like electrical wire and body jewelry).

Cords by Converse John Varvatos; Jacket by Nautica;
Knit by Yoko Devereaux; Henley by Odin for Target;
Boots by John Varvatos; Scarf by Psycho Bunny;
Gloves by The Men's Store at Bloomingdales;
Sunglasses by Alexander McQueen

4. Dressy

Corduroy isn’t just for more relaxed settings. The right pair of cords can be dressed up as well (or better) than any slack.

Extra Tip : Stick to a slim straight leg and a medium wale for a modern silhouette. Extra wide wales are your grandfather’s pants.

Extra Tip II : Sneak in a subtle color, like these purple, to break out of the traditional mold.

Extra Tip III : Mixing patterns can be tricky. Pick one piece to be the focus, and let the rest of the outfit complement it.

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

Cords really are one of the most versatile pants, so if you haven’t given them a chance yet try picking up a pair. They come in all different price ranges, so find the one that best suits your needs. And, for a different twist, try corduroy in other places- jackets, vests, I even have a corduroy shirt that I love, especially for fall.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

November 6, 2012

Quick Tip: Shopping Local

Unless you’ve literally been living under a rock, you’ve heard (and for those in NY or NJ lived through it) about the devastation of Hurricane/Superstorm/Frankenstorm Sandy and the crushing blow it dealt to local businesses. As the power comes back on, the flood waters recede, and mass transit returns, it is more important than ever to support these local businesses so that this storm doesn’t take any more casualties.

To this end, I wanted to draw up a list of some local NYC clothing stores, some online only and some with brick & mortar locations, that I personally really like (and a few new ones that I’ve only recently discovered). Especially with the holidays coming and people beginning to do their gift shopping, supporting local stores both now and with your gifting is a great way to help the economy and those affected by Sandy. And of course, if you are looking for other ways to help, check out or other local charities who could really use your help. And, Hurricane Sandy aside, these are all also really cool stores that are worth checking out. In no particular order:

Odin was one of the first menswear boutiques that I discovered when I moved to NYC and it is definitely one of the best. Their curated selection of designers like Bespoken, Engineered Garments, Mark McNairy, and Todd Snyder, as well as their own line, is a great stop for an assortment of nice clothes. Fresh off a successful collaboration with Target, they are gaining more national prominence, but still keep their NYC roots. They have three locations in Manhattan at 328 E 11th St; 199 Lafayette St; and 106 Greenwich Ave and are definitely worth checking out.

Hickoree’s carries a huge selection of Made in USA product including The Hill-Side (of which they are the primary stockist) and Gitman Brothers Vintage. They also sell American-made candy, body care products, and even some household items (like some really cool rugs from The Weavery). They have a store at 109 South 6th St, 2nd Floor in Brooklyn right below their office.

I ran across Old Hollywood when they had a shop in the Limelight Marketplace and was really intrigued by their offerings. They have a location at 99 Franklin Street in Brooklyn and at 250 Broome Street in Manhattan. From their website: “Old Hollywood is a carefully curated environment of old and new. Our stores are a mixing ground overflowing with jewelry and treasures from over 70 designers. New York Magazine awarded our Greenpoint boutique the ‘Best Jewelry in New York’ in 2009. Since then we have expanded into a full lifestyle brand with jewelry, clothing, and home goods to style your life without breaking your wallet.”

I have included Ernest Alexander on this list because of their commitment to NYC and to making all of their line in the USA, with many pieces being produced right in the Garment District (also because their clothes are awesome). They have a location in SoHo at 98 Thompson Street. From their website: “Ernest Alexander New York began with simple idea - create the perfect men's bag using heritage materials, fine craftsmanship and thoughtful attention to design aesthetic. We continue to evolve from this idea, and now offer a variety of distinctive bags and accessories, neckwear, shirting and jackets. Our feeling is a garment should be built to last a lifetime. We craft each of our pieces from the finest materials and pay specific attention to the small details, from our signature wax cottons, to contrasting linings, double stitching, zipper pulls and extra pocketing. We remain deeply committed to ethical manufacturing practices and produce all of our line here in the USA.”

I found Fine and Dandy shop a while back at a pop-up in Chelsea Market. They have a great collection of really interesting accessories and I’m really excited that they are going to be opening up a storefront in Hell’s Kitchen. “ caters to the guy who enjoys dressing up. He doesn't believe in Casual Friday, nor thinks of getting dressed each day as a chore. He has an appreciation for the well dressed gentlemen of yesteryear and is inspired by their unabashed use of accessories. This shop is for that modern man looking for the finishing details to truly be fine and dandy.”

Epaulet carries a nice range of designers, but it is their in-house line that really caught my attention. I really like the aesthetic and their commitment to overseeing the production process from beginning to end. Their website provides five characteristics that they say define their business: Epaulet & EP's In-House Brands, Special Edition and Collaborative Products, Value and Knowledge, Made in the United States, and Conscious Products. They have two locations at 231 Smith Street in Brooklyn and at 144 Orchard Street in Manhattan.

In God We Trust has a commitment to Made in USA. Their own line is produced entirely in NYC with the jewelry made in-house in Greenpoint and the clothing made either in the Garment District or in their Greenpoint Studio. Their stores also carry other local brands such as The Hill-Side and Ivy Prepster. They have three locations at 265 Lafayette St in Manhattan; 70 Greenpoint Ave in Greenpoint Brooklyn; and 129 Bedford Ave in Williamsburg Brooklyn. “Inspired by everyday life, Tabor’s collections, whether clothing, jewelry, or interior design, embody her traditional New England upbringing, along with her obsession with collections, everything vintage, and her irreverent, often dark-witted, humor. Going against the grain of most brands, In God We Trust prides itself on manufacturing all of their designs exclusively in the USA.”

What I like about Save Khaki is the simplicity. It is proof that crazy branding and patterns are not always the best options. Sometimes an understated piece makes a bigger statement. They have three locations at 327 and 317 Lafayette in NoHo and 112 Greenwich Ave in Greenwich Village. “Save Khaki brings new life to menswear basics through fit, feel, and color, with a streamlined, contemporary touch. Our products take inspiration from classic workwear, and are translated into everyday wardrobe essentials. Currently, Save Khaki's philosophy is ‘less, but better,’ which applies to the look and feel of our product, as well our three brick and mortar stores in New York City. Save Khaki is a New York-based company and the majority of our clothes are made here in the USA.”

Assembly New York carries a really interesting selection of goods and is a great destination for that unique or one-of-a-kind item that you didn’t know you needed until you saw it. Their store is located at 170 Ludlow Street in Manhattan. “Started in 2008 as an artisan hub for designer information and fashion resource, Assembly New York is a mens and womens boutique focusing on international and otherwise hard-to-find luxury labels alongside curated vintage and art d'objet. Many of the articles are the result of collaborations with designers and are exclusive to our New York location and website. In 2009 Assembly introduced the in-house collection, designed by owner Greg Armas. This collection is a unisex and uniform range, combining exclusively natural and historic fabrics in a spirit of a future-primitive instinct; utilizing the organic technology of those survivalists before us. Subtlety is paramount and design details are concealed and personal, available only to the wearer. All garments are handsewn in New York City and are available year round in varying and appropriate fabric selections.”

I only recently discovered Erica Weiner’s jewelry, and it is really stunning. All of items are handmade in NYC, with a lot of it created from repurposed material, and their commitment to the community and the environment is incredible. Not all guys wear jewelry, which is totally fine, so it’s a good thing that their women’s stuff is just as amazing. The store at 173 Elizabeth St in Manhattan was knocked out of commission for a little while due to the storm, but they are back open now and so worth a look.

R. Alexander is a new neckwear brand that I think is really going to take off. It also doesn’t hurt that all of the items currently for sale are Made in NYC. “R. Alexander was created for people who share a love of a more simple time. Combining design practicality with the mystique of ages past, R. Alexander is intergenerational fusion. Simply put, R. Alexander is vintage design interpreted through modern eyes. When you put on a piece of R. Alexander clothing, you can be assured that you are wearing a high quality garment made in the United States of America. Made in the USA is not only a fact regarding our production, it is evidence of our commitment to quality.”

Graham Withers is another local neckwear brand that I like that is stocked by several local stores in addition to their online store. “Graham Withers was founded in 2008 by good friends Dave Roma and Paul Hanan in their Brooklyn apartment. Entirely self taught in neck tie production, Dave and Paul started selling their hand made ties to friends and at local markets. Now produced by one of the oldest and most respected New York City neck tie manufacturers, Graham Withers strives to blend exceptional fabrics with quality craftsmanship to create timeless garments.

Ivy Prepster is another neckwear brand with a really interesting design approach. Most of their items are Made in USA and they are stocked by several local stores. “Inspired by the resurgence of the tie in the male wardrobe and the modern prep movement, IVY PREPSTER neckwear reflects the past, present and future of knit ties.  The IVY PREPSTER team has combined knit sweater inspiration and whimsical design to produce a knit tie line that is youthful and classic, yet modern distinguished by its patterns, points and preppy features.”

Can you tell yet that I like ties? Pierrepont Hicks started out with neckwear but are coming out with a complete collection in the spring that I am really looking forward to. All of their current products are Made in NYC, which I always like seeing. “Pierrepont Hicks was founded when a girl from Brooklyn met a guy from Minnesota. Now married, Mac and Katherine McMillan launched Pierrepont Hicks in 2009 out of a desire to make the perfect tie.  After planning their wedding in Scotland and researching bold woolen ties for their groomsmen, they wondered why the American tie brands were mostly silks.  They honeymooned in Croatia along the Adriatic Coast, and learned that the cravat was born there. The first collection of ties was well-received online, and it grew into a brand with a small but loyal following. Now in the 4th year of design, Pierrepont Hicks will launch a complete collection for Spring 2013 to include suits, jackets and pants... and of course - neckwear. “

Obviously this is by no means anywhere near complete, but the point I want to make extends to all my readers. Making the choice to patronize local businesses, whether for clothing, food, services, or anything else, helps strengthen the community by reinvesting your hard-earned money in the places that really need it. Local businesses are also usually more invested in helping the local economy by paying better wages, supporting local manufacturing and production, and giving back to local non-profits because if the neighborhood does well, so do they.

So as you begin your holiday shopping, please consider supporting your local businesses. Local places don’t have what you want? Try the closest big city, or the internet is a fantastic resource for finding some really cool things. Check out some options from a small business (NYC or otherwise) rather than a big box chain to help stimulate the economy in a way that really does make a difference.

Stay stylish,
- JJ