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September 15, 2013

Favorite Finds: Jack Spade Drummond Tweed Oxford Sport Shirt


I am always on the lookout for interesting pieces to share with you for my Favorite Finds posts, and this Drummond Tweed Oxford Sport Shirt by Jack Spade definitely fits the bill. It combines subtle but unique fabrication with classic design aspects into a shirt that is not your standard fare.


The specks of color against the traditional blue oxford make for a shirt that stands out from the crowd but in a much more subtle way than a bright color or bold pattern. It is something that isn’t frequently seen, which helps make this shirt different.


The other feature that sets this shirt apart, and the one that initially grabbed my attention, is the club collar. While they aren’t for everyone (particularly those with a round face) and aren’t widely available, I really like club collars for just that reason. With their storied academic history, they are a classic addition to any wardrobe.


Another little detail, though it may be inconsequential, is the label for your name on the inside of the shirt placket. It’s little things like this that add to the value and make the shirt more unique.



The Drummond Tweed Oxford is listed as a slim fit, which I am usually wary of, but I found that in a Medium I still had enough range of motion to keep it comfortable without looking sloppy. I did feel that there was a little too much excess fabric in the upper arms, especially since this shirt is billed as being slim fit.


If you are shopping for this shirt online, the description of the content is a bit misleading. Bloomingdale’s lists it as being a cotton/polyester blend, and while this is technically true, there is only 0.5% polyester in the shirt which is not really enough to make it wear any differently than a traditional cotton oxford.


As with most oxford shirts, this one is machine wash cold, tumble dry low, warm iron if necessary or dry clean. At $175, the price may seem a little high but the unique details on this shirt make it, in my opinion, worth the price. Though I don’t own any Jack Spade clothing (yet), all the pieces that I’ve looked at seem to be pretty well made. If there wasn’t a self-imposed moratorium on buying shirts and blazers in place right now, I would definitely consider adding this shirt to my closet.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

September 10, 2013

In Review: Warby Parker Fall 2013


Personally, I’m in desperate need of new eyeglasses as I’ve had the same pair for almost 8 years now. Every time I wander into an optical shop to scout out new options, I balk at the sky-high prices (and that’s just for the frames). Anyone who has tried to find complete glasses for under $200 knows that the options are either incredibly cheap or incredibly unattractive. This is one of the things that make Warby Parker different. They were founded on the principal of producing high quality but affordable eyewear that still actually looks good.


When I was asked to help announce the launch of their Fall 2013 collection, I was thrilled to do it! The new line, released today, continues the tradition of literary inspiration that gave Warby Parker their name (derived from two early Kerouac characters) by invoking the spectre of the early 60s. The new collection, to quote their press release, “recalls the shaky years when social change was nearing take-off, just before the Surgeon General denounced smoking and hemlines creeped north.” Salinger, Didion, and Hunter S. Thompson are just some of the icons that shaped the era and it is easy to see this reflected in five new designs.


The four new eyeglass frames, each in two colors, provide even more ways to express your personal style on a daily basis and their names (Rowan, Ames, Ripley, and Holcomb) pay sly homage to the years that inspired their design. Glasses are a really personal thing and finding a pair that fits your face can often be a beleaguering endeavor. This new collection adds to the wealth of options already offered to make picking the perfect pair that much easier.

My personal favorite is Rowan, specifically in Graphite Fog. Rectangular frames seem to fit my face better, and I like their sleek silhouette. There is a pretty good chance that you will be seeing a lot more of these on the blog in the future depending on how they look once I try them on.

Rowan in Graphite Fog
Rowan in Whiskey Tortoise

Ames is a wide frame with a strong brow that evokes thoughts of collegiate sweaters and ivy-covered buildings.

Ames in Whiskey Tortoise
Ames in Graphite Fog

Ripley features round lenses with stainless steel rims and an acetate brow. These glasses will definitely make a statement.

Ripley in Whiskey Tortoise
Ripley in Oak Barrel

Holcomb, with its understated cat-eye, seem to be an offering that’s primarily geared towards the ladies though it brings up an interesting point. So many of Warby Parker’s frames are unisex that it takes away that awkwardness of finding a pair you like only to be told derisively by the sales associate that they are women’s (or am I the only one that’s happened to?).

Holcomb in Marbled Sandstone
Holcomb in Oak Barrel

In addition, three of their classic frames, Wilkie, Duckworth, and Zagg, each get a new color.

Wilkie in Greystone
Duckworth in Oak Barrel
Zagg in Striped Sassafras

Don’t wear glasses? You can get in on the excitement of picking up some new frames with the rest of us. Ames is also available as sunglasses, along with the fifth new sunglass-only frame, Ellison, to keep your eyes looking good no matter where you are.

Ames in Graphite Fog
Ames in Whiskey Tortoise
Ellison in Marbled Sandstone
Ellison in Whiskey Tortoise

Like with all their glasses that I’ve checked out, acetate frames are $95 and those with stainless steel are $145. Not only is this a phenomenal price for eyeglasses, but it includes prescription lenses, which usually cost at least $100 on their own at a boutique. Sunglasses get the same pricing and come with high-end polarized lenses. Prescription sunglasses will cost just a bit more, but still a lot less than you would expect to pay elsewhere.

Another thing that sets Warby Parker apart, and instantly gained them my respect, is their ‘Buy a Pair, Give a Pair’ campaign. For every pair sold, they will provide funding and/or glasses to people who need them through a network of non-profit partners, like VisionSpring. This means that when you buy a pair of their glasses, you can look good and feel good.

So check out the new Fall Collection of eyeglasses and sunglasses and see things in style. Shipping is free, returns are free, and they have an awesome Home Try-On program (also free). Or, if you prefer instant gratification and are lucky enough to live in one of the 11 cities where they have stores or showrooms you can check out your favorite frames in person. They also have a school bus that is currently touring the country bringing their showroom to eight cities in six months for Warby Parker’s Class Trip.

My favorite style is Rowan, what’s yours? Do you wear Warby Parker frames? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Stay stylish,
- JJ

Disclosure: All images courtesy of Warby Parker. I have not been compensated in any way for this post and all opinions contained within it are my own.

September 7, 2013

In Review: The Coat Route


I’m constantly on the lookout for interesting menswear-related books and on a recent trip to Strand, I stumbled across a small book with a vibrant blue paisley print on the book jacket and a long, but intriguing, title – The Coat Route: Craft, Luxury, & Obsession on the Trail of a $50,000 Coat by Meg Lukens Noonan. I skimmed the inside flap and wasn’t really sold so I put it back down and kept shopping, but I found myself repeatedly drawn back to that paisley cover.


Admittedly, I was a little skeptical about the titular coat. Was it some ostentatious overindulgence or narcissistic spectacle? What would posses someone to spend $50K on a coat? What I found was that the book turned out to be less about this one specific crazy expensive coat and more about the culture and uncertain future of bespoke tailoring framed within the context of this overcoat’s creation. It was also a much-needed indictment of disposable fashion mixed in for good measure.

The way the book is written, the reader accompanies Mrs. Noonan on her journey of discovery and I am hesitant to give a play-by-play style review because I want you to experience the journey on your own (should you choose to read it).

Divided into nine chapters plus an introduction and epilogue, the author’s journey begins with the discovery of an apparently non-descript navy overcoat that a tailor in Sydney, Australia by the name of John H. Cutler made for one of his long-time clients. Upon seeing pictures, Mrs. Noonan likens it to “something you might find on Macy’s clearance rack.”

In actuality, this coat is made of vicuña, a $6,000/yd cloth that is made from the fleece of its rare namesake animal. The lining is exquisite printed silk secured from an Italian designer who never sells his fabric. The buttons, secured from a 180+ year-old English firm, are made from water-buffalo horn. The gold-trimmings, two small plaques to be placed inside the collar and above the inside breast pocket, were made by one of the world’s best engravers. Then, all of this was hand-stitched by the firm of one of the foremost tailors in the world, John H. Cutler, as “the ultimate expression of the bespoke tailor’s art.” A swan song, if you will, for an aging fourth-generation tailor with no successor.

The story that unfolds takes the author to six countries on three continents in her efforts to track down the history and legacy of what can only be called a bespoke masterpiece. Each chapter begins with a short narrative, which reads like a novella, telling part of the coat’s unique story as it pertains to that chapter’s topic. The chapters then each delve into the history of each of the coat’s components and their makers, often informed by tales of glory days long since past: The Roots, The Fleece, The Lining, The Merchant, The Cloth, The Buttons, The Gold Trimmings, The Tailor, and The Coat.

What emerges is a glimpse into a culture of people that spend a lot of money on clothes, not because they carry a flashy label, but because they appreciate quality in tailoring the way some appreciate a fine scotch or cigar or vintage car. In point of fact, some bespoke tailors will actually hide their labels inside pockets because, as the saying goes, “those who know, know.” Wearing bespoke is not about advertising your clothing’s provenance; it is about an appreciation of the skill and craftsmanship that went into making a truly unique, often one-of-a-kind, garment that fits you perfectly and will last a lifetime. This stands in stark contrast to the ever-growing instant-gratification consumerism that has seen the decline of manufacturing in the West in favor of cheap overseas labor and fueled the backwards notion that things are purchased with the expectation that they will break.

My main criticism of the book, aside from a couple editorial oversights in the introduction, is the marked lack of pictures. Frequent references are made to the author’s camera and taking a picture of this or being denied a picture of that, but the only glimpse the reader gets of what I can only assume to be stunning visuals are the small black and white thumbnails that mark the beginning of every chapter.

Don’t get me wrong, Mrs. Noonan does an incredible job of painting a detailed picture with her words. She does such a good job, that I find myself wanting to actually see the antiquary looms at Paragon Textiles or the orange crocodile-skin chairs in Stefano Ricci’s Florentine boutique or even some detailed (color) shots of the infamous overcoat. The story is so compelling that, in the end, I can’t help but feel a bit slighted. I suppose it’s an appropriate comparison to draw because Mrs. Noonan does such a good job of making me want to indulge in the unique experience that is bespoke tailoring despite the fact that my bank account currently will not allow it.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone with an interest in tailoring or menswear regardless of how much you know about the industry. There is equal value to be found for the reader who is unfamiliar with the true meaning of ‘bespoke’ as for the well-read student of menswear. Even a casual appreciation for the work of the dwindling number of true artisans is reason enough to pick this book up.

Having read it a twice now, my takeaway from this book is a renewed dedication to investing in quality. Paying more for quality, and I mean true quality, means that not only will the piece last longer, but you are also helping to ensure that the people that made it get paid a fair wage. This book will also make me really think about any future ‘fast fashion’ purchases I may be tempted to make because of a renewed awareness of the global ramifications of our disposable consumer culture.

Have you read the book? What are your thoughts on the future of bespoke?

Stay stylish,
- JJ

The Coat Route: Craft, Luxury, & Obsession on the Trail of a $50,000 Coat by Meg Lukens Noonan. First published by Spiegel and Grau on July 16, 2013. Hardcover with dust jacket; 272 pages; MSRP: $27.00.


September 2, 2013

Care and Maintenance x The Hanger Project


In my Care and Maintenance series, I talk a lot about how to care for certain fabrics and pieces to ensure that they have a long and stylish life, but proper storage is equally important. No matter how well I care for my clothes, I have always found a deficiency when it comes to storage – the lack of high-quality hangers. Sometimes things just fall into place and that is exactly how this post came about.

Alexander McQueen jacket on Luxury Wooden Suit Hanger in Natural
Finish.

I had been bemoaning the difficulty in finding a well-made wooden hanger for a new jacket I recently purchased when I was contacted by Kirby Allison of The Hanger Project who offered to send me some of his luxury hangers to try out. What stood out to me the most when I checked out their website was the way that the product was presented.

You invest money in your wardrobe because quality lasts. It’s not uncommon to spend over $2000 on a suit, only to store it on the plastic hanger that it came with. The ideal solution is not only a high-quality wooden hanger but also one that is available in multiple sizes. Your clothing comes in different sizes so why shouldn’t your hangers? It was really one of those light bulb moments because it is so simple and makes complete sense but no one has ever done it before.

Assortment of other suit hangers with The Hanger Project's
in Natural Finish on far right.

If your hanger is too big, it pushes out into the sleeves and misshapes your jacket. If your hanger is too small, it won’t reach and support the shoulders, which also creases and misshapes your jacket. Finding the right sized hanger will not only help keep your clothes in their proper shape but also indirectly extend their life. The less you have to press and steam a garment, the longer it will last you.

Ted Baker suit on Luxury Wooden Suit Hanger in Traditional Finish.

The Luxury Men’s Suit Hanger comes in 4 sizes (15.5”, 17”, 18.5”, and 20”) that you can choose from based on your jacket size. I wear a 40R, so the 15.5” works perfectly for me. What struck me immediately is that right out of the box, the superior quality is obvious. You can feel that these hangers are built to last and it doesn’t hurt that they look fantastic too.

Luxury Wooden Suit Hanger in (T to B) Traditional, Natural, and Alfred
Finishes c/o Kirby Allison's Hanger Project.

In addition to the multiple sizes, these hangers also come in three finishes. The Traditional finish is made from birch, which is a very hard wood with a fine grain that is often used for furniture, and given a high-gloss finish. The Natural finish (my personal favorite) is made from environmentally responsible and sustainably harvested American maple. Lastly, the Alfred is constructed from European Beech with a satin finish. Each has a felted trouser bar that keeps your pants in place without creasing them.

Luxury Wooden Suit Hanger in (L to R) Traditional, Natural, and Alfred
Finishes.

Other than the sizing, what sets these apart from your run-of-the-mill suit hanger is the 2.5” shoulder flare combined with a more conservative slope. Both of these are important features because while the slope maintains the shape and drape, the flare prevents the shoulders from getting crushed or flattening out.

The Hanger Project's Luxury Wooden Suit Hangers with 2.5" shoulder flare
in (L to R) Natural, Alfred, and Traditional Finishes.

Another of The Hanger Project’s offerings, and the one that most intrigued me, is the Sweater and Polo Hanger. You will remember from my post on Sweater Care that you should avoid hanging sweaters (and all knits for that matter) because it will stretch out the material and leave you with dimples in the shoulders. 

Luxury Wooden Sweater and Polo Hanger in
Natural (T) and Traditional (B) Finishes
c/o Kirby Allison's Hanger Project.

While I wouldn’t recommend these for long-term storage, they are fantastic for seasonal use, but again, size is key. It is important to make sure that the hanger width lines up with the shoulder width to make sure everything falls properly into place. The 1” width, curved ends, and flocked tips help keep your knit in place without damaging the shoulder. I’ve had this knit shirt hanging for a little over three weeks with none of the usual ill effects.

Marc by Marc Jacobs knit shirt on Luxury Wooden Sweater and Polo
Hanger in Natural Finish.

The last two hangers I wanted to talk about are the Shirt Hanger and the Trouser Clip Hanger. The nice thing about wooden shirt hangers is that they will last longer and, in the case of a properly sized one, keep the natural drape of the fabric during storage.

Top: Gant by Michael Bastian shirt on Luxury Wooden
Shirt Hanger. Bottom: Luxury Wooden Shirt Hangers
in Natural Finish from above c/o Kirby Allison's
Hanger Project.

While The Hanger Project also offers both bar and clamping trouser hangers, I prefer the clip variety for a few reasons. Unlike the bar version, hanging your slacks will help prevent wrinkles. So why the clip over the clamp? What I like about the clips are that they are adjustable so that you can get the perfect width regardless of how skinny or wide your cuffs are, and unlike most clip hangers, the metal on these is well designed to prevent the sharp corners that I so often find on other commercial offerings. I actually moved away from clip hangers in favor of trouser bars because I snagged some pants on the clip corners a few times, but after putting these hangers through their paces, I may have to reconsider.

Top: Burberry trousers on Luxury Wooden Trouser Clip
Hanger. Bottom: Luxury Wooden Trouser Clip Hanger
c/o Kirby Allison's Hanger Project.

The prices may seem a little high at first glance, but don’t balk at the sticker shock. The $74.85 price tag for the Traditional Finish Luxury Wooden Suit Hanger is for a set of 3, or about $25 per hanger. When you consider that you would spend about half that for a much cheaper product that isn’t sized to your garment and will likely need replacement, it just makes sense. The same goes for all of the other hangers that The Hanger Project offers. $30 for a set of 5 Traditional Finish Luxury Trouser Clip Hangers is only a few dollars more than its cheap counterpart for a far superior product.

Despite what the name may imply, The Hanger Project is more than just a luxury hanger destination. They are pretty close to a one-stop shop for all your garment care needs. Collar stays, garment bags, shaving accessories, belt and tie hangers, and so much more including some amazing Saphir shoe care products. They also offer a selection of women’s hangers with just as much thought in the design as the men’s options.

Saphir Pommadier Shoe Polish in Medium Brown (L) and Renovateur (R)
c/o Kirby Allison's Hanger Project.

I receive requests for reviews and endorsements fairly frequently but nothing makes it on the blog unless I can honestly recommend it to you. Some of the products I am contacted about just don’t interest me or fit into the blog. Some I like and try out but they don’t meet my standards and thus will not be endorsed on this site. Others, like the hangers from Kirby Allison’s Hanger Project meet and exceed my expectations.

Yes the hangers featured in this post were provided to me courtesy of The Hanger Project, but that does not in any way affect my opinion of them. It really only takes the first 20 seconds of holding one to realize how superior they are to anything else on the market. I encourage you to try them out for yourself and I’m sure you will agree that these are top of the line. If there is a better product on the market, I certainly haven’t found it (and trust me, I’ve been looking for years).

I view my wardrobe as an investment, so I spend money on pieces when I feel the quality warrants it. Now I plan to ditch the plastic tube and cheap wooden hangers that currently populate my closet and slowly replace them all with these incredible luxury hangers from Kirby Allison’s Hanger Project. Visit them online at www.hangerproject.com and see what they have to suit your garment care needs.

Have you heard about or tried any of The Hanger Project’s products? I’d love to hear what you think about them!

Stay stylish,
- JJ