April 29, 2013

Favorite Finds: Marc by Marc Jacobs Navigator Sunglasses

I have never been a fan of the aviator/navigator family of sunglasses. Objectively I think they can be pretty cool on a lot of people, but can very easily cross the line into looking like a douche. They never really look good on me because they are always either too big or too wide for my face. That is until I happened upon these Marc by Marc Jacobs Navigator Sunglasses.

What I like about navigators over aviators is the squared off lenses and usually smaller profile. No matter the style, when shopping for sunglasses it is incredibly important to try them on because you never know how a pair will look on you. When I first tried these on, I was a little hesitant. I have tried so many pairs on and never liked any of them, but after a little while looking in the mirror (and a second opinion) they started to grow on me.

It took me about 4 months of stalking them every time I went to Bloomingdales (which was far more than I care to admit) before I finally made the purchase and, if I’m completely honest, my main impetus to buy was mostly because the nose pad on another pair of my sunglasses broke and I was putting off taking them in for repair (or at least that is what I told myself). I have noticed that stalking accessories that I really like for months on end is becoming a theme, but that is for another post.

These glasses in particular stood out to me because they have that unique twist that makes Marc Jacobs’ pieces stand out. The stripes on the side of the stems give this pair a little bit of fun in what is usually a more serious style of glasses. They have the versatility to be appropriate for both business and casual occasions, which most of my other sunglasses do not.

I couldn't find them for sale on the Marc Jacobs site, but Bloomingdales sells them in three colors – Light Gold, Ruthenium, and Shiny Black. I went with the Ruthenium, which is like a gunmetal with bluish gradated lenses. The Light Gold comes with the classic brown lenses and the Shiny Black has grey ones.

Both the inside and outside of the stems as well as the edge of the left lens are engraved with ‘Marc by Marc Jacobs’ but not in an ostentatious way. It is subtle details like this that really add to the value. One of the best things about these sunglasses though, is the price. At only $98, they feel like they are going to turn out to be a fantastic deal. I tend to take really good care of my glasses (the ones that the nose pad broke on are 7 years old) and these navigators feel a lot sturdier than some that I’ve tried on with a price tag of $400+.

All in all, I am extremely happy with my purchase and would highly recommend these as an option to anyone in the market for some new specs. It will take a while to see how well they hold up to time and use, but if they make it a year I will consider it a worthwhile investment (though I suspect they'll make it quite a bit longer).

Stay stylish,
- JJ

April 24, 2013

Quick Tip: Uncommon Accessories

As I’ve said before, accessories are an incredibly easy way to up your style game and show off your personal style at the same time. Tie bars, watches, cufflinks, and pocket squares are usually the first things that come to mind when talk turns to men’s accessories, but you don’t have to limit yourself. There are a myriad of less common accessories that can help you to distinguish yourself. This post will cover more gentlemanly business-appropriate pieces, but there is no reason that you can’t incorporate them into your casual wardrobe as well.

1. Lapel Flower

Handmade seersucker lapel flower; Jacket by Bamford & Sons;
Shirt by Uniqlo; Tie by Psycho Bunny; Scarf by Z Zegna

Lapel flowers have been experiencing a surge in popularity lately and it is easy to understand why. A nice flower on your lapel (be it real or fabric) makes the subtle statement that you take pride in your appearance. You can find all shapes and sizes but sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands and make your own (more on that in an upcoming post).

2. Sock Garters

Sock garters from Bra*Tenders

Sock garters have kind of a bad record when it comes to style points. I do understand it, but there is nothing stylish about flashing some ankle and having your socks bunched around them. This is where practicality wins out. I have been wearing sock garters for a few years now but it has always been more function than style.

Sock garters from Fine and Dandy Shop

While black is classic and traditional, you don’t have to resign yourself to looking like your grandpa anymore. Places like Fine and Dandy Shop (where I picked up this pink plaid pair) have a variety of offerings in interesting patterns and colors. Hopefully you already have some fun socks, now you can make sure that they stay in place and look good doing it.

3. Pocket Handkerchief

Vintage handkerchief

Personally, I think every man should carry a handkerchief. I even wrote one of my first posts about them. This is another instance where function can cross over into style. You don’t just have to shove that cotton square into your pocket though. You can use a handkerchief as a pocket square so why not treat it that way all the time? When you put the handkerchief in your pocket (I put mine in my back right) let a half-inch or so peek out. It will give your pocket a pop of color and keep your hanky handy.

4. Hat Accessories

Vintage hat pin; feather off a hat from JJ Hat Center;
Straw hat by Goorin Bros.

This one may be a little more specialized because hatpins and feathers require that you already wear another accessory, a hat. You can wear them together or separately and most higher quality fedoras will come with one or both. If you really want to personalize things, you can find some really nice vintage hatpins out there as well as more feathers than you can imagine (just keep it small). Though they work best with a fedora, if you have the confidence you can put a hatpin or small feather in just about any full-brimmed hat with a band (as long as it’s not a fez because no matter what some people say, fezzes are not cool).

Incorporating uncommon accessories into your wardrobe is a great opportunity to put your own unique stamp on the clothes you wear everyday.  Some accessories are purely decorative, while others also serve a practical purpose, but what they all share is their ability to set you apart from the crowd.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

April 19, 2013

Reader Question: Confident Colors

I recently received an email from a reader asking for advice on pairing colors and I often get similar questions from clients that are looking to revamp their style. Since I love playing with colors when putting together outfits, I thought it was perfect for a reader question.

Lucas asks: 
“I read your blog pretty regularly and I’ve noticed that you wear a lot of colors together that I would never have thought would work in one outfit. I really like wearing color but every time I put more than a color or two together I feel like a walking rainbow and I end up changing. How do you know how to put different colors together to look good without feeling ridiculous? Whatever advice you can give me would be awesome.”
This is a great question and something that I think a lot of guys are unsure about. A big part of wearing multiple colors is confidence. You are undoubtedly going to get some looks because most people are afraid to step outside of their comfort zone, especially as our society gets more and more casual. Unless you make some serious missteps, most people are looking at you because good style is far less common than it once was.

When it comes to picking which colors will work well together and which ones will make you look like a circus clown. There is no quick and easy answer because there are so many variables, but there are some basic guidelines that I can give to get you started on your way exploring colors.

The best place to start is a super abridged lesson in color theory. The basic pigment color wheel is made up of 12 different hues. You have primary colors (blue, red, and yellow), secondary colors (green, orange, and violet), and tertiary or intermediate colors (which are made by mixing a primary color and the adjacent secondary color).

Image from The Working Wardrobe

Obviously this is a basic representation of color, since within each color there are innumerable shades (made by adding black) and tints (made by adding white) with varying degrees of saturation (the intensity of the color), which gives you the wide range of hues that undoubtedly make up your wardrobe. I like this image because of the breakout wheels that help clarify some of the terms.

The best way to approach color theory when it comes to your closet is to view the primary and secondary colors in terms of color families. You have your blues, reds, oranges (which includes brown), etc. This keeps things from getting too complicated and makes the whole process a little more fluid.

The two main ways that you will want to begin coordinating your colors are by using complementary and analogous colors. Complementary colors are the ones that are opposite each other on the color wheel – orange and blue or violet and yellow, for example. This method provides you with a nice contrast that still works well together. In fact, when you pair complementary colors, they actually make each other seem brighter (which is why sports teams often use this method for picking their team colors).

In this look, the pinks and greens are complementary to each other. 

Analogous colors on the other hand are the five hues that are next to each other on the color wheel. If blue is your dominant color, the analogous colors will be violet, blue-violet, blue-green, and green. This gives you a more nuanced look but still provides the opportunity to pop if you take advantage of different shades, tints and saturations of the colors.

Pink, purple, and blue are analogous which presents a more
understated color palette.

What you will usually want to avoid is using contrasting colors. These are colors that are separated by three hues on the color wheel, such as red and yellow or orange and green. These pairings tend to give you a harsher contrast that is less pleasing to the eye. There is a lot of psychology behind color pairings, but there is a reason that fast food chains use contrasting pairings like red-blue and red-yellow for their color schemes and it isn’t to make you feel comfortable. There will always be exceptions though, because as with so many things when it comes to style, rules are meant to be broken. Just think of anything styled for Independence Day (the holiday, not the Will Smith movie).

Red and blue are contrasting colors, but the shades (oxblood and navy)
tone down the abrasiveness while the tint (pink) provides a nice pop.

Once you have a basic grasp of color theory, it is important to know what colors you personally should and should not wear. To keep it simple, you should try to avoid colors that share characteristics with your skin tone, especially near your face (i.e. shirt, jacket, tie). For example, I have more of an olive complexion, so I generally avoid anything in the yellow spectrum as they really wash me out and make my face look a little sallow. Someone with a very fair complexion and pink undertones (or bad acne for that matter) will want to avoid the red/pink family because it will make you look more flushed and splotchy.

The last thing I will say is when in doubt, ask someone else. Ask your friend, significant other, or even your mom. Tweet a picture asking for a yea or nay. Try different combinations and see what kind of response you get. If you like the way something looks, give it a go. There is no shame in experimenting. Unless you are going on an interview, best not to experiment too much when you are trying to get someone to give you a job.

Hope this helps and thanks for reading!

Stay stylish,
- JJ

April 16, 2013

Style Feature: Layering for Spring

Spring is in the air. Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t quite gotten the memo and with the temperature bouncing around between the 40s and the 70s, it’s hard to dress comfortably for the entire day. Layering is the simple solution. Not only does it let you flex your sartorial muscles putting together a complex outfit, but it also gives you the flexibility to get through the day in comfort and style. Now I already covered layering for fall, but layering for springtime can be just as tricky.

1. Sport Jacket

A sport jacket may seem like an obvious choice, but I don’t see them nearly as much in the spring as in the fall. You can throw one on over pretty much anything and it instantly takes your look up to the next level.

Extra Tip : When I said ‘pretty much anything’ what I really mean is please don’t wear a sport jacket over a t-shirt unless you are going as Don Johnson or Michael Kors for Halloween.

Extra Tip II : In the spring, a lightly colored cotton pocket square can brighten up your look and make it feel more seasonally appropriate.

Extra Tip III : It's spring, don't be afraid to make a statement with color. Sure bright fuschia pants will get some attention, but be confident and embrace it.

Seersucker jacket by BOSS Black; Shirt by Uniqlo; Chinos by Ted Baker;
Chukkas by Timberland; Tie by Psycho Bunny; Pocket square by Burberry;
Tie bar by Kenneth Cole Reaction; Sunglasses by Bulgari

2. Knit & Woven

This combo is a little strange to some people, but it is a lot more common than you might think, sort of. You would be hard pressed to go into a men’s store and not find a mannequin layered with some combination of knit/woven.

Extra Tip : Don't underestimate the effectiveness of a scarf. It is a small accessory that can make a big difference if the wind picks up. I almost never go out not wearing one and this double sided silk piece is incredibly versatile.

Mock neck sweater by Dolce & Gabbana;
Woven shirt by Charles Tyrwhitt; Knit by Lacoste;
Chinos by Sons of Intrigue; Boat shoes by Sebago;
Scarf by Tallia Orange; Watch by Bulova;
Bracelet by American Eagle

3. Henley

The great thing about a henley is that it’s perfect year round and conveys a strong sense of ruggedness. Just think about any post-apocalyptic contemporary tv show. What are the leads wearing? Henleys. Their versatility is really incredible as they can be a substitute for nearly any layer – base, mid, or top.

Extra Tip : I often treat a henley like I would a sweater. Just because this one is embellished with shirt cuffs and a pleated front, doesn't mean you can't layer it.

Extra Tip 2: Let your shoes get in on the action too. A nice pair of colored laces can brighten up a dark leather shoe and help tie your outfit together.

Jacket by Nautica; Henley, chinos, and shoes by AllSaints;
Woven by Uniqlo; Scarf from H&M; Laces by Allen Edmonds

As I’m sure you can see, most of these pieces can be used to layer in the fall and winter as well. This is just another example of how a few carefully chosen pieces can take you (almost) all the way through the calendar.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

April 10, 2013

Favorite Finds: Timberland Heritage Boat Chukka

I really like shoes (particularly boots), but for some reason I was always reticent to try Timberland. Last year though, I happened upon a pair of purple suede Timberland boat shoes that I just couldn’t pass up. Those and my AllSaints pairs are the only leather shoes I have owned that were so incredibly comfortable right out of the box, no breaking-in required.

Since then, I always keep an eye on Timberland’s for a stylish multi-purpose shoe to add to my ever-growing collection. The Heritage Boat Chukka seemed to me the perfect pair, so I had to pick them up.

The Heritage Boat Chukka are a low-boot with boat shoe detailing which makes for a versatile combination that is equally appropriate with denim or chinos. They are offered in two tri-color tones, grey and earth. I went with the grey since it works better with my wardrobe than the blue-brown-sand coloring of the earth version.

A big selling point for me is the anti-fatigue footbed since I am usually on my feet, for one reason or another, for at least 10 hours a day. Shoes that don’t have sufficient support or cushioning can easily make your feet miserable, but Timberland’s anti-fatigue technology is designed to provide better comfort, shock absorption, and energy return than a normal shoe. This is something that they developed for their iconic work boots and have integrated into some of their other footwear offerings and I am really glad they did. After a full day, I can easily say that these are one of the most comfortable shoes I own, sneakers included.

Another nice thing about Timberland is that their Earthkeepers line, of which these are a part, is eco-friendly. The outsole is made from 42% recycled rubber, the leather is at least 50% from a Silver-rated tannery, and every effort is made to keep the environmental impact down. Not only can you look stylish, but you can help protect the environment at the same time.

These chukkas feature a small bootstrap on the back to help pull them on. Bootstraps, the loops on the back of a boot to help make pulling them on easier, are one of those things that I don’t realize how helpful they are until I pull on a pair of boots that doesn’t have them. The loop on these is small enough that it isn’t a defining feature (like on Dr. Martens) but big enough to get the job done.

The fit is pretty true to size. I wear a 43 EU/9 US and the size 9 fits me perfectly. The leather is soft, which provides all the flexibility I need, and the handsewn stitching is a nice bit of added detailing. The price, $120, is pretty comparable to similar offerings that are out there. It also comes in a non-boot version in 12 colorways for $100 if the chukka isn’t your thing.

Boat shoes (and their boot counterparts) may not be for everyone, but I can say that I would gladly wear these Heritage Boat Chukkas all the time. If you are someone who is on their feet a lot, I cannot recommend these enough. The comfort alone makes them worth the price and the quality, details, and styling are just major bonuses.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

Disclosure: I work for Nautica, which shares a parent company with Timberland. The thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.

April 7, 2013

DIY: Pocket Square

Sometimes you have to take style into your own hands, literally, and do it yourself. This is something I have wanted to write about for a while because it is an easy way to put a personal twist on your style for very little money. Every time I visit a fabric store, I always think about how this cotton or that wool would make an awesome pocket square. With the right tools and a little bit of practice, you can turn almost any fabric you find into a unique pocket square (or handkerchief).

Handmade pocket square; Jacket by Lanvin

Here's what you need:
  • Fabric
  • Thread
  • Fabric shears
  • Tailor's rule (or measuring tape)
  • Rolled hem foot
  • Sewing machine
  • Straight pins (optional)
  • Needle (optional)

The first thing you will want to do is decide what size pocket square you want. Many silk squares are 17” x 17” but if you are working with anything other than a thin silk, I would recommend 14” x 14”. Not only will it be less bulky in your pocket, but I find that it is easier to get a clean straight fold with.

I went with a 14” square since this is a mediumweight cotton. Whatever size you choose, you will want to leave a ¼” border on each side of the square to allow for the rolled edge. If your fabric has a selvedge you will likely want to trim it off before starting to keep a consistent edge all the way around. This is purely cosmetic, so if you like the look that the selvedge will give, feel free to leave it.

Next, you will want to lay your fabric on a flat surface, measure out 14 ½” from the corner, and snip to mark the spot. Do the same down the other side so that you have a 14 ½” square marked out. Start with the side of the fabric that runs lengthwise (with the weft) and you can just rip the fabric to length. This is an easy trick to make sure you get a straight line, but it only works on natural fibers. Hopefully you won't be using synthetics to make a pocket square though, so this shouldn't be an issue.

Snip a mark at 14 1/2" on each side.

Next, fold your long 14 ½” wide strip over to the second mark that you made. Use the folded edge as your guide to cut out the rest of the square. This will make sure that you end up with a square when you finish. 

With one side cut, fold over to the mark you made. Cut to make a square.

The reason I listed fabric shears specifically is to ensure that they are sharp and long enough to get a nice clean edge in as few cuts as possible. Once you finish, you will have a 14 ½” square of fabric.

Now that you have a square, you will want to fold over your edge. Fold 1/8” of the edge and then another 1/8” over on itself. Depending on the type of fabric you are working with and your experience level with a rolled hem foot, I would suggest pinning the folded edge down just to help you start things off. You can either pin just the corner or the whole thing, but the sewing machine foot will do most of the work for you.

Fold 1/8" of your edge over itself twice and pin in place.

After that you will want to start the corner under your machine and just put a few stitches in to lock the fold in place.

Start with a couple straight stitches.

Then lift the foot and feed the folded edge into the opening of the rolled hem foot.

Insert the folded edge into the groove on the hem foot.

Proceed with a straight stitch down the edge making sure that the fold continues to catch in the foot. If you pinned the entire edge, make sure you don’t forget to pull the pins before they get to the foot or the edge won’t roll properly.

Halfway through a side without pins (top)
and with pins (bottom

Continue with the other three sides and your edges will be nicely rolled and stitched in place. Personally I prefer to stop about 1/8” before the corners and finish these by hand to make sure I get a nice clean corner, but depending on your fabric weight you could finish it on the machine (it might just take some trial and error).

Finished edges of the pocket square.

Now, you will have a finished 14” pocket square with a rolled edge. Press out any lines or wrinkles, fold, and enjoy.

Handmade pocket square; Jacket by Bamford & Sons

Stay stylish,
- JJ

April 2, 2013

Dressing for the Occasion: The Ball Game

Now that baseball season has arrived, so has the inevitable team gear. In the last week alone, I have seen three different people wearing head to toe royal blue and orange. Supporting your favorite team is great, but sometimes subtlety is the more stylish route. So what happens if you find yourself with tickets to a game? I found myself in just that situation last season for the first time in over a decade and I thought it was perfect for a Dressing for the Occasion post.

When going to a sporting event of any kind, the most important factor is going to be comfort. Unlike a lot of other sports though, when you attend a baseball game you will likely be outside exposed to the elements so it is important to dress appropriately for any weather you might encounter.

A lightweight knit hoodie gives a stylish twist to an active staple. It is easy to layer and can easily be tossed over your shoulder if things get hot, plus the hood will help if it starts to drizzle (like it did when shooting this post). As with all your clothes, fit is key, so be sure to pick up one with a slimmer fit because boxy is never stylish.

You don’t want to wear anything too near and dear to you (because that will inevitably be the night that beer gets spilled on you) but you do still want to step up your game. Some twill pants and a polo shirt are the perfect alternative to jeans and a tee while letting you rep your team in a more stylish/less obnoxious way.

Wearing team jerseys was (barely) acceptable in college, but there isn’t really any good reason to wear one unless you are actually employed by the team. It’s like the guy who wears the band’s t-shirt to their concert. Don’t be that guy.

Footwear is probably the easiest thing to choose because it is all about dressing appropriately for the occasion. You would be a little out of place showing up to the ballpark in a suit (unless you were headed to a private box, perhaps), so why wear oxfords when sneakers will do the trick. Trainers are not daily wear sneakers no matter what people seem to think, so my go-to is always a pair of Chucks. They don’t cost too much and can easily be thrown in the wash if they get dirty.

Hat by New Era; Hoodie from H&M; Polo and watch by Nautica;
Pants by Marc by Marc Jacobs; Sneakers by Converse

Last but not least, is the team cap. This is a tried and true way to show your team colors, but you can still add your own twist. You don’t always have to have a brand new hat, especially with how often teams are tweaking/screwing up their colors and logos (I’m talking to you Miami). Be proud of how long you’ve been a fan and let your hat show it. I have had this Yankees cap for almost 20 years. It has taken a lot of abuse but that gives it the kind of character that will take it through another 20+.

Stay stylish,
- JJ