January 30, 2013

Care and Maintenance: Wool Outerwear

I have already covered a lot of the general care guidelines for wool, but there are some outerwear-specific tips that are worth mentioning. Wool is an incredibly durable fiber and, with proper care, a well-made wool coat will easily last you for years.

When most people think of taking care of their coats it usually pertains to off-season storage, but proper treatment during the season is just as important to the life of your garment especially when the weather keeps bouncing all over the place like it has been in NYC this month. Wool outerwear is usually a very dense weave to help keep water out, which is good but can also make the piece heavy. That is why it is important to hang your coat on a sturdy hanger between wears instead of just using a coat hook. The weight of the wool can, over time, misshape the garment if it isn’t evenly distributed. You (hopefully) have a nice cedar coat hanger for off-season storage, so make use of it year round and keep your coat in tip-top shape.

If you happen to get some dirt or a spill on your coat, make sure to treat it quickly. For dirt, use a suede brush or a lint brush to get it clean again. If it is a liquid of some kind, take an absorbent cloth and apply pressure. You want to dab not rub the spot. Rubbing will not only spread the liquid, but it will also push it deeper into the fabric thus making it harder to remove. If after this you notice a stain, take the garment to your dry cleaner. Knowing what caused the stain will help them remove it more efficiently. The less time it has had to set, the easier it will be to remove, so time is a factor with stains. Whatever you do, don’t apply heat. Not only will heat shrink the wool, but it will also set the stain making it difficult to get out.

There is nothing worse than pulling out your favorite coat and finding moth holes in it, but mothballs are a thing of the past. Not only are they toxic, they smell horrid and that smell is often hard to get out of clothes (particularly wool). There are many natural moth repellants out there. Lavender, mint, and a rosemary/thyme/clove/ginseng combo are all popular folk remedies but the scents don’t quite do it for me. Lavender can be a bit feminine at times. My cat goes insane at the smell of mint, so that one is out for my own sanity. And the rosemary mixture can be a bit strong, especially after 8 months in a garment bag.

For my money, cedar not only is easiest to procure but it lends a subtle woodsy smell that I like. You can buy cedar blocks, sachets, chips, balls, and hangers at nearly any place that sells closet supplies. The variety allows you to easily find the right type of cedar for your application. For wool outerwear, I like to combine a nice cedar hangar for each piece with a few cedar blocks in the closet. With my favorite pieces, particularly the longer overcoats, I will throw a couple cedar balls in the pockets or bottom of the garment bag for good measure. Cedar will lose its scent over time, so either give it a light sanding or add a few drops of cedar oil to bring back the repellency.

I have discussed this before, but I think it is worth mentioning again. Many people will say that you should dry clean your coat at the beginning and end of the season, but this seems like flawed logic to me. If you make it a habit to properly put your clothes into storage right after they have been cleaned, then they will be clean when you take them out at the start of the next season. To send them to the dry cleaner again only degrades the fibers more quickly and shortens the life of the garment.

Part of proper storage is using a garment bag. This will help keep the dust and dirt that accumulates over months in a closet off of your coat and keep any bugs out. Plastic bags can seal in moisture and allow mold and mildew to develop. Instead, opt for a cloth garment bag that still allows the piece to breathe.

If you pull your outerwear out for the season and you find it massively wrinkled, take it into the bathroom while you take a hot shower (or just close the door and run the hot water). This is one instance where the weight of the fabric works in its favor, as the steam will help the wrinkles hang themselves out, no pressing needed.

Wool outerwear is one of the priciest investment pieces a man can buy, so it only makes sense to take good care of it. With the right tools and a little awareness, you can keep your coat looking like new for years to come.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

January 26, 2013

Favorite Finds: Uniqlo Slim Fit Chino

As I’m sure even the most casual Shy Stylist reader knows, I am a huge proponent of colored chinos. Not only are they a great way to introduce some color into your wardrobe, they are also a nice starter piece to build a new wardrobe around. When buying pants, for most people, you'll want to look for a slim legline because it provides a more flattering and updated silhouette. A modern fit for a modern man, if you will.

I have reviewed colored chinos twice before (here and here) with two differing results, but Uniqlo (with their ever practical product names) has an incredible piece with their Slim Fit Chino Flat Front Pants.

The Slim Fit Chino Pants fit pretty close to size (the vanity sizing is 1.5” – 2”) so the 34 fit me great. There is not a lot of give in the waist, so it is good that Uniqlo offers odd sizing to be able to get the perfect fit. The leg is slim without being skinny and I think these pants would be equally appropriate with a business or casual look. They feature slanted front pockets, buttoned welt back pockets, and a zipper fly.

As with all of their casual pants, these chinos are only available in a 34” inseam. For me this isn’t a problem, since I like to wear a cuff on my chinos. The nice thing about Uniqlo though is that, in store, they will hem the pants for free (if they are over $20). This makes an incredible deal even better.

These particular chinos are 99% cotton and 1% spandex. Spandex is becoming a more common thing in casual pants, with 1% – 3% being standard. Don’t be afraid of spandex though, it gives you a little bit of stretch to help the pants last longer and help them fall a little better.

Though pretty basic in the detailing, these pants do offer an extended button tab closure on both the interior and exterior. This not only give them a more polished look but also helps keep the waistband from taking too much stress. The waistband and pockets also feature a nice tonal striping on the inside. Nothing fancy, just a nice touch.

Uniqlo is known for making great basic pieces at affordable prices and these chinos are no different. $39.90 is less than half of what it would cost to find comparable chinos elsewhere and the color selection doesn’t disappoint.

Currently available in nine colors, they are machine washable. There is an accompanying hang tag that warns of potential color bleed because of the dye technique, so it might be a good idea to wash them separately (and on cold) the first time. Personally, I have had several pairs of pants with similar instructions, and have never had a problem but it is still better to be safe than sorry.

Like all of Uniqlo’s pieces, there is nothing particularly remarkable about these pants but they have everything that I have come to expect from Uniqlo. They are simple, affordable, available in a variety of colors, and fit incredibly well. Just like every other Uniqlo piece I have ever tried on, I highly recommend these Slim Fit Chinos as a new wardrobe staple.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

January 22, 2013

Style Etiquette: Casual Attire

As people adopt less formal styles of dress on a daily basis, it also has a habit of carrying over into special occasions such as weddings. While I have covered most other dress codes in previous posts, ‘Casual Attire’ can actually be the most confusing when you see it on an invitation but is also one of the easiest to figure out. Since everyone has a different interpretation of what is considered casual, it is very easy to make a misstep and embarrass yourself or your host, but with a few easy to remember guidelines you can always be dressed to impress at your next ‘casual’ wedding or get-together.

Dressing appropriately for an occasion, particularly one as important as a wedding, is first and foremost about respect. Not just respect for the person(s) hosting the event, but also for yourself. Every social event is an opportunity. You could be introduced to someone that will become your new best friend, future spouse, or business associate and it is important to make the right first impression.

The first thing to keep in mind when you get an invitation to an event with a casual dress code is that you received an invitation. If your host took the time to send an actual invitation, be it through the mail or electronically, you should take care not to show up looking like you just came from having a picnic. Jeans, t-shirts, and anything with rips, holes, or distressing are never appropriate. With very few exceptions, you should also avoid wearing shorts.

As a starting point, you will always want to wear a shirt with a collar, chinos or trousers, and dress shoes. Everything else depends on where the occasion falls on the casual spectrum. While a dress shirt and tie may not be necessary, perhaps a jacket over a polo shirt is the more suitable option. Layering is also a great way to make sure you are not only comfortable but also appropriately dressed. Wear a jacket with a sweater and you can always lose the jacket if things get too hot or are more casual than you expected. Arrive in a tie and if no one else is wearing one and you feel uncomfortable, you can roll it up and put it in your jacket pocket. Having options you can add or remove is a great way to always feel appropriate, no matter what you walk into, and this goes for life as well as wedding etiquette.

Just like with formal attire, you can take your cues from the details. An evening event is inherently dressier than one held in the afternoon. Take things into account like type of event, location, and type/style of food being served to help you put together an appropriate look. Buffet service is always more casual than sit-down waiter service, so if you are being asked to choose your entrĂ©e, you know it is going to be more casual than a buffet. One last tip – unless you are very comfortable with your personal style (and/or you know the marrying couple well), it is usually a good idea to stick to a more neutral color palette with maybe a small pop of color. Like I’ve said before, at a wedding you never want to overshadow the bride and groom, so make your color choices accordingly. You may love your magenta Marc Jacobs suit, (and I probably would too) but a wedding may not be the right occasion for it.

Remember, when in doubt, err on the side of being overdressed. If you show up in a suit and everyone else is in chinos, for all anyone knows you came from or are going to somewhere fancier. There is no shame in being well-dressed (provided everything fits properly).

Stay stylish,
- JJ

January 17, 2013

Style Feature: The Wool Tie

Bringing seasonal accessories like a wool tie into your wardrobe is a great way to step up your style, but not all wool ties are created equal. Different wool to silk ratios can give you a wide variety of appearances, making it easy to pair with any look.

1. Check

The more wool a tie contains (80% in this case) the easier it is to pair with a casual look. While more refined, the wool in this tie still has some of the natural texturing that makes wool distinctive.

Extra Tip : Pairing colors that share the same family, like teal and purple, is a great way to make your look pop.

Extra Tip II : A wool pocket square gives you another opportunity to introduce some seasonal color and helps balance the tie.

Tie by Ben Sherman; Jacket by C'N'C Costume National;
Denim, boots, and bag by AllSaints Spitalfields;
Shirt by Uniqlo; Scarf by Tallia; Tie bar by Link Up;
Pocket square by Goods for Life

2. Solid

A moderate wool content combined with a rougher fiber will bring some texture to any office wardrobe. This tie is 68% wool and 32% silk, but the herringbone pattern makes it seem a lot heavier.

Extra Tip : When your outfit contains a lot of bright color, like these garment dyed chinos, a solid tie in a neutral color can help keep your look grounded.

Tie by Penguin; Jacket and shoes by AllSaints Spitalfields;
Shirt by Charles Tyrwhitt; Chinos by Ted Baker;
Gloves by The Men's Store at Bloomingdales;
Scarf by Psycho Bunny; Tie bar by Link Up;
Belt by Brooks Brothers; Laces by Allen Edmonds;
Socks by Corgi; Sunglasses by Alexander McQueen

3. Plaid

A heavier wool trouser can weigh your look down, which is why a higher silk content can keep you looking seasonal but with a little more business polish. This tie is only 18% wool and the light sheen that the silk brings to the mix makes sure you are ready for any meeting.

Extra Tip : Don’t be afraid of damaged goods. I bought this jacket as part of a suit for ridiculously cheap. The pants were beyond saving, but now I have an incredibly well-made jacket for a fraction of the retail price.

Tie by Penguin; Jacket by Lanvin; Sweater by The Men's
Store at Bloomingdales; Shirt by Brooks Brothers;
Pants by Express Studio; Shoes by Johnston & Murphy;
Socks by Corgi; Pocket square by Salvatore Ferragamo

Seasonal ties  wool in the fall and winter, cotton or linen in the spring and summer  are becoming easier to find. If you don’t have any in your closet, they are a nice addition that can help set you apart from the crowd. The key to seasonal pieces is being selective in choosing pieces that enhance your existing wardrobe. Remember, style is in the details.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

January 12, 2013

In Review: Manhattan Wardrobe Supply

For the first In Review of the new year, I wanted to share this (sort of but not really) secret of the wardrobe industry, Manhattan Wardrobe Supply, nestled in the heart of the fur district. They have literally anything you could need to wardrobe a play or style a photo shoot and a whole lot more. You may be thinking “but I’m not a stylist and I don’t live anywhere near New York City, why do I care about this?” The reason I love this place so much is that they are essentially a one-stop shop for all your clothing care and maintenance needs (and they have a website).

What initially sparked the idea of writing a post on Manhattan Wardrobe Supply was the spinner they have at the front counter. The Decent Man’s Grooming Tools are a new addition and one that I have since seen scattered about the city in Duane Reade. They are small, easy to use things to keep you looking ship shape with minimal effort. Collar guards, pit pads, stain removing wipes, and sweater stones are just a few of the nine items available.

One of my favorite aisles is the shoe care aisle. Cleaner, conditioner, and polish in basically every color that is on the market. The next aisle over has shoe trees, horns, and stretchers.

There are racks of all types and sizes of laces, shoe and boot dryers, travel bags, and more insoles than I have ever seen in one place before. If you have shoes (or feet), there is something here for you.

Perhaps you recently made the decision to start sporting braces. I’m not talking the clip on suspenders that your mom made you wear when you were a kid (or maybe that was just me?), but the legit kind that button on to your waistband. Manhattan Wardrobe Supply has got you covered with suspender buttons in all the basic colors.

But now you need thread, right? Not to worry, they have every color imaginable.

DIY project you want to try? Every color of leather, suede, and fabric dye is at your fingertips. Not to mention Angelus leather paint, which is fantastic. It is what I used to paint my leather jackets back when I had a mohawk and a punk band.

The best way to keep your clothes safe and dust free is a garment bag. Manhattan Wardrobe Supply has garment bags in a wide variety of sizes to keep your clothes protected.

When it comes time to do your laundry, they have the perfect solution. In addition to your usual options, they have natural and organic detergents as well as some made specifically for hand washables and wool items. They have a selection of dryer sheets, fabric softeners, stain sticks, and assorted brushes and other things to make your cleaning easier and more effective.

While this may seem like a lot of stuff, it is only a small selection of the clothing and wardrobe-related products that Manhattan Wardrobe Supply stocks. They are located on the 8th floor at 245 W 29th Street between 7th and 8th Ave in Manhattan. If you aren’t in NYC or just don’t feel like making the trip (though I promise it is worth it) you can visit them online at

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, I just really like this place that much. They have so many cool and useful things that I find it hard to leave empty-handed.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

January 7, 2013

Favorite Finds: Polka Dot Woven

It’s getting more difficult to find shirts with interesting details that don’t look tacky. I’m always a fan of classic with a twist, and the Rastigar NPE shirt in Chambray Dot by Theory is just that.

The shirt is a lightweight cotton with what appears to be a faded tonal dot pattern. What makes the shirt interesting is that shirt seems to have been constructed with the ‘wrong side’ of the fabric facing out to provide the faded appearance because the inside of the shirt features a nice vibrant polka dot (which is great for when you roll your sleeves).

Theory tends to run on the trim side and this shirt was no exception. I tried on a Medium and while it was certainly a tailored fit, it was not overly snug. I felt comfortable with a full range of motion and no pulling that I could feel.

The shirt features a point collar and could easily be paired with a tie (and tucked in if you had to) for a dressier look or left untucked with an open collar for a more casual one. It has a button down front, button cuffs, and a rounded hem that measures about 29”.

Theory is also usually rather expensive and, at $225, this shirt is certainly not cheap. Before you write it off completely though, consider the quality factor. Theory makes pieces that are classic and timeless in design and, in my experience, every Theory piece that I have owned has lasted me for years (with proper care, of course), which goes a long way to offsetting the price.

When I say it goes a long way, it doesn’t quite take it all the way there for me. I would seriously consider making the purchase at 25% or 30% off, but full price is just too hard for me to justify. It is dry clean only, which is a factor because the care and maintenance costs will be higher and the life will be shorter (because of the chemicals) than if it was machine washable.

In this instance, the quality and nice detailing doesn’t offset the price for me. If you have the money to spend, it is definitely a great piece worth investing in, but I know that there are other shirts that I like as much (or better) for a better price. As with all purchases, weigh the cost against the quality and fit and make the best decision for you.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

January 3, 2013

Style Feature: Pattern Mixing

On a recent trip to visit my family, my father asked me if I would ever wear a stripe shirt with a patterned tie. I most certainly would, in fact I love mixing stripes , check, plaid, houndstooth, and pretty much any other pattern you can name! The trick to not looking like a disaster is to carefully choose which colors and patterns to mix and what pieces to do it with. If you can pull it off, pattern mixing can take your style game to the next level.

1. Plaid and Stripe

This look is really heavy on not only pattern, but also texture. What keeps everything pulled together is the subtlety. The sweater has a lot going on, so it is important not to get too busy with the rest of the outfit. From a distance the shirt looks white and the tie looks navy, but when you get up close the grey stripe on the woven and shadow plaid on the tie really pop. Pair all that with a thin wale cord and you have a statement-making outfit.

Extra Tip : When in doubt, stick with basic colors. Black, navy, white, and grey are always safe bets. It is really hard to look bad mixing any of these colors, no matter what the patterns.

Sweater by Rag & Bone for Neiman Marcus & Target;
Shirt by Uniqlo; Cords by Gant Rugger;
Boots by AllSaints Spitalfields; Tie by Band of Outsiders;
Tie bar by Link Up; Sunglasses by Bulgari

2. Stripe and Check

Bow ties are cool, and striped ties (bow or otherwise) will almost always go well with a checked shirt. The simplicity of the stripe balances out even the busiest check. The blue striping in the blazer helps the shirt and bow tie pop while the pocket square plays off the check of the shirt.

Extra Tip : Bow ties don’t have to be reserved for dressy occasions. Make a statement and tie one up with a pair of jeans.

Extra Tip II : Personally, I don’t like showing shirtfront with a blazer. So if I’m not wearing a necktie, I’ll always wear a vest or sweater. In this look, the black cardigan helps anchor and break up the other patterns and brings it back to the pants and boots.

Jacket by Ted Baker; Shirt by J Crew; Pants by Marc by Marc Jacobs;
Cardigan by Tristan; Boots by John Varvatos; Bow tie by The Men's Store
at Bloomingdales; Pocket square by Giorgio Armani

3. Print and Plaid

A bright plaid shirt can be a tough piece to mix with. A classically patterned tie, like this woven foulard, can help. It’s simple dark background helps make the emblems on the tie stand out from the shirt’s brightness rather than compete with it. A good guideline to follow is the busier the plaid, the simpler the pattern you want to pair with it.

Extra Tip : I really like to anchor a look in one color and take my pop of color from that. In this instance, the red laces bring out the red dots in the tie and the purple in the vest brings out the deeper tones of the blue. The fair isle socks are just plain fun.

Extra Tip II : Foulard is a small, repeating block pattern. It is usually made of geometric shapes and usually printed on silk, but doesn’t have to be. Classic always works.

Jacket and shoes by AllSaints Spitalfields;
Vest by PS Paul Smith; Shirt by Charles Tyrwhitt;
Chinos by Gant Rugger; Tie by Paul Smith;
Pocket square by Psycho Bunny; Belt by Brooks Brothers;
Laces by Allen Edmonds; Socks by J Crew

Pattern mixing can be daunting, as there are dozens of pattern combinations that you could come up with, all with their own unique challenges. Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what you like and feel comfortable wearing. No matter how well a pairing is, the most important thing is that you are confident wearing it. If you have any questions, I’m more than happy to help you find the right patterns.

Stay stylish,
- JJ