February 28, 2013

Quick Tip: Protecting Your Clothes

After the post a few weeks ago on caring for your wool outerwear, I got quite a few emails asking about some of the tips I gave so I wanted to elaborate a bit. If you take the proper steps to protect your clothes when they are in your closet, you’ll be able to enjoy wearing them longer.

1. Cedar Hangers

I have already talked about the benefits of cedar. There are balls, blocks, oils, sachets, and (as I just discovered today) interlocking drawer liners. Possibly the easiest to use is a cedar hanger because it doesn’t really need any further explanation. But don’t just use any hanger for your clothes. Choosing the right hanger is important to keep your garments in top shape. For suits, jackets, and outerwear, I like to use the wide shouldered suit hangers with the rounded ends. Not only will they help keep the moths away, they will prevent you from getting creases in the shoulders. These will also always have a pant bar, so you can double up pieces and save some closet space.

There are specific hangers for suits, pants, shirts, ties, belts, and pretty much anything else you might need. What I really like about cedar hangers, other than the protective aspect, is that they are a lot sturdier than plastic or felt-covered ones, which means that even though they cost more, they will last longer.

2. Sweater Stone

Despite the name, a sweater stone is for more than just sweaters. This little piece of pumice will take care of anything that has a pill (those little fuzzy balls that appear on fabrics from excessive rubbing). As you gently rub the stone over the fabric, the sweater stone will hold the pill and cut the fibers that are keeping it stuck on your garment and returning the original appearance. They won’t last forever though, as true sweater stones will slowly crumble with repeated use to protect the integrity of the fibers. It’s actually a pretty complex process, but the result is nothing short of incredible.

3. Garment Bags

Garment bags are important, especially for long-term storage, but not all garment bags are equal. Canvas and cloth garment bags will not only keep your clothes dust and bug free, but will also let them breathe. Plastic garment bags, like the kind that you get when you buy a suit at a department store, are fine for travel but not for storage. If the clothes can’t breathe, any moisture trapped inside has the potential to turn into mold. You can pick up cloth or canvas garment bags at any specialty clothing supply store, like Manhattan Wardrobe Supply, but also more generic chains like The Container Store and Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

I will usually fit 2-3 hangers in a garment bag for short term storage, but when I put things away for the season, every piece gets its own bag to cut down on wrinkles and make them easier to access. Like hangers, garment bags also come in different shapes and sizes, so pick one that is just slightly longer than your garment to keep it from wrinkling at the bottom. For heavier pieces, like thick wool coats, opt for a gusseted garment bag that provides space for it to hang without flattening.

4. Lint Brush

You can pick up a lint roller at any corner drug store, but sometimes classic is the way to go. The classic lint brush features a velvet pad that, when brushed against the nap, will remove the lint without leaving glue residue like a roller. Particularly with more delicate fabrics, a sticky lint roller has the potential to damage the garment with repeated use. As an added benefit, many lint brushes now come with a clothes brush on the other side for the finer particles that may be left behind. If you’ve ever watched Downton Abbey and seen Mr. Bates brush Lord Grantham’s shoulders after dressing him for dinner, he is using a clothes brush (so you should too).

5. Shoe Tree

Shoes trees are great to help retain the shape of your shoes, but that is all the plastic ones do. If you pick up a cedar shoe tree, not only will it keep shape, but it will absorb the moisture and help keep your shoes from developing an odor. I have shoe trees for every pair of my dress shoes because for me it just makes sense to protect my investments.

6. Pull Needle

This is an amazing little invention that I discovered a few months back. The pull needle is used for fibers that get snagged and pulled out of the weave of knit fabrics, but that you wouldn’t want to just cut off and risk unraveling the garment. Unlike a sweater stone, which cuts off the pills that develop in knit fibers, the pull needle discreetly brings those ugly loose yarns to the back side of the fabric, keeping the weave intact but the pulled end hidden. To use it, simply place the point of the needle in the center of the loose yarn and push through, twisting gently as you go to catch the fibers. It really works like magic and leaves no hole in your garment. The one that I use is lightheartedly named the ‘Snag Nab-it’ but I am sure there are others out there.

These are just a few of the many, many items that are on the market to help you protect your clothes. I could list dozens more, but chose these particular ones to address some of the more common questions that I get asked (or in the case of the Snag Nab-it, because I think it is such an awesome idea that everyone should own). If you have a specific question, email me at and I will get you an answer directly or maybe feature it in a future post.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

February 24, 2013

Style Feature: The Duck Boot

Anyone who grew up in New England is familiar with duck boots. Originally designed for the backwoods of Maine by L.L. Bean’s eponymous founder in 1912, duck boots have experienced an incredible surge in popularity over the last year. No longer just for trekking through the mud, duck boots can make a stylish statement while keeping you clean and dry.

1. Statement

Their widespread recognition means that duck boots will make a statement any time you wear them. Why not embrace it and really make a statement?

Extra Tip : What I love about this jacket is the seemingly disparate mix of lapel fabric. The satin and denim give it a unique refined yet rugged look. Something that works perfectly with the duck boot.

Extra Tip II : L.L. Bean still makes their duck boots in Maine, where they were first created, and has a lifetime satisfaction guarantee. That is strong testament to their enduring quality.

Boots by L.L. Bean; Jacket by C'N'C Costume National;
Sweater by Ben Sherman; Shirt by Nautica;
Chinos by Gant Rugger; Belt from Gap;
Pocket square by Thomas Pink; Sunglasses by Bulgari

2. Casual

Duck boots were made for hunting which gives them a rugged look. Throw them on with some jeans, a heavy twill shirt, and a chunky sweater and you’re good to go.

Extra Tip : Duck boots aren’t just for bad weather. Especially with boot liners, they’ll keep your feet comfortable and warm on even the driest winter day.

Extra Tip II : Connecting the details on your look is a great way to tie everything together. The leather buttons on this sweater play off the leather uppers of the boots for a unified look.

Boots by L.L. Bean; Sweater by John Varvatos Star USA;
Shirt by J Crew; Denim by AllSaints Spitalfields;
Scarf by Psycho Bunny; Hat by Prada

3. Dressy

The duck boot’s classic look means that you can dress them up with confidence. With the right jacket and trousers, the boots will fit right in.

Extra Tip : Heavier fabrics pair well with the duck boot’s heritage. Decades ago, heavyweight natural fabrics were de rigueur for gentlemanly pursuits like hunting and fishing, just like the duck boot.

Boots by L.L. Bean; Jacket by Alexander McQueen;
Vest by Umit Benan; Shirt by Uniqlo; Pants by Fink;
Tie by Gucci (vintage); Pocket square by Thomas Pink;
Belt by Ted Baker

Despite generally being reserved for the relatively tame task of handling rain and snow in the city, duck boots have the pedigree and versatility to hold up to anything the weather can throw at you. There is rarely a trip north of the city that mine don’t come with me.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

February 20, 2013

In Review: Vintage Menswear

While perusing fashion books, I came across an incredibly intriguing book, Vintage Menswear: A Collection from the Vintage Showroom. As the title indicates, the book is a selection of 150 pieces from the collection of the Vintage Showroom, a world-renowned archive of vintage clothing and accessories.

Cover of Vintage Menswear: A Collection from the Vintage Showroom

From their website, “the Vintage Showroom Ltd was formed in 2007 to house an ever growing archive of vintage showroom and accessories collected by co-founders Douglas Gunn and Roy Luckett. The Vintage Showroom has become one of the leading resources for vintage menswear in the UK, with the archive covering the early mid 20th century and specialising in international work, military and sports clothing, classic English tailoring and country wear.” Much like the collection, the book focuses on three areas, each given a chapter – Sports & Leisure, Military, and Workwear.

Table of Contents

The first chapter attempts to remind the reader that before World War II, sporting events and other leisurely pursuits were primarily the occupation of the higher classes and the garments that went along with them were a mark of class distinction. They hearken back to a time when pieces were designed for function before fashion.

Chapter 1: Sports & Leisure

The wide range of showcased items include an Oxford University boxing blazer from the 1930s, a cable-knit sports sweater (what we would now call a cricket sweater) from the mid-50s, as well as some Belstaff and Barbour motorcycle jackets from the 1950s and 1960s. There are pictures of aviation, hunting, mountaineering, and varsity jackets and trousers along with garments for nearly every other leisurely activity of the early 20th century.

Castell & Son University Boxing Blazer, 1930s

Harrods Cable-knit Sports Sweater. mid-1950s

The second chapter seeks to show the dramatic influence that military clothing has had on the development of casual menswear. Looking at the pictures, it is easy to see the correlation. Many of the UK’s most esteemed houses such as Burberry, Belstaff, and Gieves & Hawkes have a storied history that includes military clothing. The popularity of the military surplus market shows that function and durability are still important factors when it comes to clothing.

Chapter 2: Miltary

What makes this section interesting is the vast array of pieces specifically designed for different functions like paratrooper jump smocks, buoyancy suits, flight jackets, and cold-weather parkas. These utilitarian garments are excellent examples of how far things have progressed and how much has remained relatively unchanged.

Gieves Ltd Royal Navy Grouping, 1910s

US Military Aviator's Kit Bag, 1940s

The final chapter covers what was once a specialty field – workwear. In the first half of the twentieth century, a man’s occupation could be clearly identified by the clothes he wore while working. There were specific garments that could distinguish a street sweeper from a train engineer or a factory worker. Each had what amounted to a uniform that was worn only while on the clock. Some pieces were homemade but nearly all were altered or repaired both to increase their life as well as improve their function.

Chapter 3: Workwear

Featured items include 1920s and 1930s French work jackets as well as a British railway conductor’s jacket and an American fireman’s jacket from the 1950s. What is remarkable to see is the patchwork and alterations made by the owner as well as the specific aspects of the garments that persist into contemporary clothing. Let’s not forget that Levi’s started out making denim work pants for miners in the late 1800s and are now one of the most recognizable clothing brands in the world.

Unknown Brand Work Jacket, 1930s

John Hammond & Co Railway Conductor's Jacket, 1950s

What I really like about this book is that each picture is accompanied by a description. Not just of the item, but also some historical context. When it comes to history of any kind, context and perspective are the keys to comprehension and I found it to be incredibly helpful that the authors chose to include just such historical context. In a world of high-tech and high-performance fabrics and highly engineered garments, it is important to remember that not too long ago waxed cotton was the height of waterproofing technology.

Belstaff Trialmaster Motorcycle Jacket, 1960s

Another aspect that drew my attention to this book specifically is that it is not just a picture book of designer pieces like most vintage books are. In fact, very few of what could be considered designer garments are included when it would have been quite easy to capitulate to the appetite for labels. Nearly every century old fashion house had humble beginnings but there are countless others that did not make the transition to or survive in the world of contemporary sportswear and it is nice to see a catalogue of garments chosen solely for their merit rather than the label sewn inside.

Moss Bros & Co Ltd Officer's Trench Coat, 1930s-1940s

Though it is certainly different in Europe, as a young country that was literally built by blue-collar workers, American menswear owes much of its existence to the very workwear and military clothing that is showcased in this book. Fashion is cyclical. The trends of the past will inevitably experience a resurgence and the clothing of one social class will perpetually be appropriated and adapted by another. Knowing that, it is easy to see why designers from all over the world seek out the vast collection housed at the Vintage Showroom for inspiration and I am excited to be given a glimpse, however small it may be, into the authentic history espoused therein.

Detail of a Hand-repaired French Work Jacket, 1920s

Lastly, I have to express my appreciation to Gunn and Luckett for seeking out and preserving these rapidly disappearing pieces of cultural history. Unlike metal and wood, fabric does not favorably endure the passage of time. Over the course of history, the garments of the lower classes were worn until they fell apart and those of the upper classes were repurposed to suit the needs of the lower. This makes clothing one of the more difficult pieces of history to find and preserve and without people like the gentlemen of the Vintage Showroom, many of these incredible garments would be lost to history forever.

Stay stylishly informed,
- JJ

Vintage Menswear: A Collection from the Vintage Showroom by Josh Sims, Douglas Gunn, and Roy Luckett. Published by Laurence King Publishing Ltd in 2012. Hardcover; 304 pages; MSRP $50.

February 17, 2013

Favorite Finds: Uniqlo Linen Cotton Tie

The way the fashion cycle works means that spring is already in the air. Despite it still being below freezing outside, store shelves abound with pastels and other warm weather accoutrements. Normally, it makes more fiscal sense to wait until the end of the season when things are on sale to buy new pieces. But if the price is right, why wait? Uniqlo’s new collection expanded on a lot of last year’s offerings, especially when it comes to ties.

Every man should have at least one seasonal tie in his closet. This Linen Cotton Tie from Uniqlo is 54% linen and 46% cotton and can easily hang with ties that cost 10x as much. It is very lightweight with a surprisingly nice hand and a great look.

With this tie, Uniqlo continues doing what they do best – making quality pieces at affordable prices in a variety of color ways. The solid version is available in 10 colors and the madras check is available in 6 colors. More than enough options to go with every outfit you could possibly put together.

The width is slim, but not overly skinny (about 2 1/4 inches) and the texture on the solid tie looks more like a true linen than most blends that are on the market. The subtle changes in gradation and dupioni-like effect of the fiber variations give it an interesting look to add texture to any outfit.

The madras is a nice take on the usual plaid fare and remember, embrace the wrinkles. These ties are unlined, which means they won't be as stiff as a normal tie. It also means that it won't behave as nicely. But that's okay too. There is even an article in this month's GQ about a new trend in tailored menswear, the disheveled look, that specifically mentions unlined ties.

At only $12.90, there is not really a good reason not to own one unless you are overstocked on linen and cotton ties, but even then, one more won’t hurt. Wear it with a suit or jeans. Either way, this tie is an incredibly affordable way to introduce seasonal fabric into your wardrobe.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

February 12, 2013

Dressing for the Occasion: Valentine’s Day

Picking out what to wear for a night out can be tough, but when that night is a holiday it only gets harder. There is a fine line between playfully acknowledging a holiday and letting it dictate your outfit. I wanted to introduce this new series of posts, Dressing for the Occasion, to give you an idea of how you can stylishly touch on a holiday without looking like you are wearing a costume. First up is Valentine’s Day.

When someone mentions Valentine’s Day, the things that usually come to mind are red, pink, flowers, chocolates, and hearts. It can be easy to go overboard, but you don’t need to wear a red suit to make a holiday statement. Subtle touches will go a long way and the most important thing is to be dressed appropriately.

For better or worse, a date on February 14th has more significance than a date on almost any other day, so what better reason to step up your game a little bit. A lightweight down vest is a great alternative to a wool coat and this cotton herringbone piece is dressy enough to work on a date where other, shinier ones might not.

When dressing for a date, start out like you would dress for a job interview and then add some personal flair. A jacket is a must, but don’t just stick with primary colors. A sport jacket in a unique color or pattern, like this purple cashmere herringbone, will set you apart as a man with his own style. The patch pockets make the jacket a little more casual but that is balanced by the silk pocket square and the softness of the cashmere.

Along with a jacket, trousers and dress shoes should be mandatory. You can never go wrong with a wool trouser and a polished cap toe. Staying conservative when it comes to your pants and shoes is perfectly fine, but socks allow you to make a statement anytime you show some ankle. A red marled sock lets you get in some color without being too flashy.

Another way to add a little subtle flair is to pick up a lapel flower for yourself when you buy that bouquet of roses. Instead of the traditional rose for your jacket, change things up with a small carnation, marigold, or primrose. Not ready for a real flower? No problem. You can incorporate a floral motif into your accessories, like this tie clip.

Vest by Nautica; Jacket by Scott James; Trousers by Edun;
Shirt by Uniqlo; Shoes by Johnston & Murphy;
Tie by Robert Godley; Tie clip by Link Up;
Pocket square by Dior; Camp socks by J Crew;
Fingerless gloves by The Men's Store at Bloomingdales

When it comes down to brass tacks, details can make or break an outfit. Paying attention to them and coordinating your accessories will make your look feel special. It will also have the added bonus of making your date feel extra special because you took the time to put some thought into how you look. Next up, I’ll give you some ideas on how not to look like a leprechaun or a douche on St. Patrick’s Day while avoiding getting punched.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

February 9, 2013

In Review: Nautica Fall 2013

Yesterday afternoon I trekked through the rain to Lincoln Center for Nautica’s Fall 2013 runway show and it was well worth the trip. Nautica normally foregoes the full-blown runway for a more intimate presentation (the last runway was 5 years ago for their 25th anniversary). This year for their 30th anniversary collection Creative Director Chris Cox took Nautica back to the tent with the Black Sail Collection.

Inspired by the expeditions of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the collection succeeded in achieving a balance between the heroic expeditions of centuries past and a modern sense of adventure. The mixture of classic detailing and technical materials evokes an active man who dresses with a purposeful eye to both style and function. The show was excellently styled by Brian Coats in a way that stayed true to the brand’s heritage while pushing some trends as it looks to the future.

Here are some of my favorite looks:

I really like the chunky marled turtleneck paired with the nylon active pant. It’s hard to see, but the snorkel coat actually has wool panels, which I thought was really interesting. I’m also a sucker for the versatility of moccasin boots.

I’m not usually a fan of duffel coats, but something about the combination of blue fur trim and sailing rope made this coat one of my favorites.

I imagine this captain’s coat being perfect for the dead of winter. Perhaps during a snow storm.

What I like about this sweater is the way the bright cobalt makes an otherwise dark look pop.

I’m not sure what it is (though fur trim seems to be a trend), but I like this entire look. The canvas snorkel with the frat-tucked alpaca fisherman turtleneck and cuffed utility jean. The image that it conveys just works.

This jacket just looks rugged. Ivory washed leather? It looks like the kind of piece that you will own for decades and will only look better the more you beat it up.

I think what I like most about this, other than the marled mock-neck cardigan, is the color palette. The neutrals make the red shirt a bit of a surprise.

This look caught my eye because of the mix of dressy and active. I particularly like the metallic wool fisherman cardigan.

This is another one that I like from head to toe. The tailored single pocket cargo goes perfectly with the melton shirt jacket and the black of the sweater balances out the charcoal pant and midnight shirt really nicely.

All in all I think the Black Sail Collection was quite successful and a great way to kick off Nautica’s 30th anniversary.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

Disclosure: I work for Nautica but this review is entirely my own thoughts and opinions. I have not been compensated in any way for this post. Photos courtesy of Nautica.