Friday, October 29, 2010

A Treatise On Tassels

If you're into reincarnation and past lives, you might say that I'm an old soul. My parents always used to say that I was "insert elementary school age here" going on thirty, and they were probably more correct than they imagined. Case in point: I love wearing tassel loafers with casual wear.

Some of you will snicker and say "Mike, they look silly," or "Mike, you should enjoy your youth and throw on some Chucks," or "Mike, you can't wear those until you pay for a routine colonoscopy with money from your first Social Security check."

Well, Social Security isn't going to exist by the time I get to that age, so I have to get it in now while I can. I do, however, understand the apprehension that most guys have towards them. Most tassel loafers aren't cool in the traditional sense because most men who wear them are either past middle age or are young men who don't know how to dress themselves, so they just mimic what their dads (who, again, are past middle age) do. Hardly a recipe for looking baller at the club.

On the other hand, for a day off where you're moseying about the city, getting coffee, or hitting up a diner, tassel loafers are fantastic. Yes, I like them because it is indeed ironic to be a young guy in tassels, but the tassels themselves add visual interest, and they play very nicely with the blue lambswool cardigan I happen to be rocking the living hell out of at the time of this writing. So what differentiates cool ones from uncool ones?

First we need to talk about vamps. "Vamp" is a term that refers to the topmost part of any loafer. A women's ballet flat, for example, has a very low vamp, barely covering just the toes. Most loafers advertised to younger men tend to have higher vamps, but most tassel loafers are pretty low-vamped. In my opinion, this is what makes them look old man-ish, more "Grandpa" than "chic." Find yourself a pair of higher-vamped tassel loafers and you're on your way to looking like a well-dressed guy as opposed to a schlumpy old man.

Second, don't wear them with a suit unless you're a hell of a dresser and know precisely what you're doing. Sockless tassels with a slim suit can be very chic and Italian-inspired, but doing the same thing with a Brooks Brothers sack suit just looks like crap. Jeans and khakis, kept slim, will work well with high-vamped tassels. If you're a confident, advanced dresser, try them with some loud socks and well-cut dress pants. If anyone gives you a hard time, tell them you're prepping for your golden years.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Reaching Back

When presented with the "does life influence art or vice-versa" argument, I always say yes, life does influence art. In fact, our environment has a profound effect on how we act and how we view the world. For example, NWA probably wouldn't have written "Fuck the Police" had they not witnessed or been a victim of police brutality. It's tough to believe that anyone would make that up. What we wear falls into the same category as art, and I'll explain below.

These are rough and often crazy times in which we live; the economy is still fragile, barely improving and will likely never return to the relative full-blown opulence we had in the eighties, nineties, and most of the 00's. Home ownership is still incredibly sluggish. We're scared of terrorists to the point of Islamophobia. We're pissed off at the banks and the bailout they received. President Obama, despite being an intelligent lawyer who certainly knows better, is more than willing to pervert our justice system by trying Guantanamo detainees in U.S. courts and KEEP THEM IMPRISONED IF THEY'RE FOUND INNOCENT. And healthcare? Christ. We're either disappointed that the public option died or, conversely, furious that so much money is being spent on new regulations. To top it off, some people still think that Sarah Palin is worth listening to, and Newt Gingrich's renaissance is underway.

Pardon the language, but shit is fucked up right now.

So how do we deal with this? Sartorially speaking (with a hint of Freud thrown in there), we've regressed. What are men wearing nowadays? Open up a GQ or an Esquire magazine and you'll see it plain as day: stuff our dads and their dads wore. Cardigans. Persol glasses. Tie bars and cufflinks. Slim, mod suits like we saw in the sixties. Hell, look at the picture of Mr. Rogers at the top of this essay; the man might as well be a Fall/Winter 2010 Polo Ralph Lauren ad (seriously, I'm going to steal this look, tie pin and all). I don't ever advise total bandwagoning, but if the people on said bandwagon are nattily dressed in classic clothes, jumping on it means that you never really have to get off of it.

We're reaching back for a time when things seemed safer and more secure, a time when flying didn't mean anxiety about being blown up or when we could be sure that our retirement funds would actually be there when we retired. Thankfully, that time was also a very well-dressed one. Your 401(k) might not look so hot anymore, but with trends the way they are nowadays, at least you can.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Return of the Texas Tuxedo

Though I didn't really start caring about how I was dressed until I was 16 years old, I was always clothes-conscious. Even as a small child I took particular pleasure in certain articles of clothing; I distinctly remember a white t-shirt with a green skull and crossbones which said "Bad to the Bone" in orange lettering that I loved to wear in Mrs. Tzizik's first grade class. As I reached the ripe old age of ten I decided that it was time to step things up a bit, so I took to wearing jeans, denim shirts, and bolo ties. Yes, there was a time when I would proudly rock a full-blown Texas Tuxedo, complete with appropriate neckwear.

The gentleman in this picture, however, was not ten years old.

To be fair, he wasn't wearing a bolo tie, or any kind of neckwear for that matter. The Texas Tux that he was wearing, though, is something against which I've previously railed, and you can read about it here.

Long story short, don't wear denim shirts with jeans. One element of good style is the ability to successfully pull off good levels of contrast in your outfits; this is why you wear a light blue shirt with a navy suit, not a dark blue one. The same logic applies to this gentleman's outfit. There is no contrast in material and almost no contrast in color whatsoever. When coupled with the tent-like fit of the shirt, this man looks like an amorphous blob of denim.

The solution: lose one piece of denim to achieve contrast between material and color. If you switch out the not-super-well-fitting-but-reasonably-acceptable-in-this-case Dad jeans for khakis, you're doing better, so long as you take that shirt to a tailor and get some darts put in it. Also, you can keep the jeans (or even better, upgrade them to something a little better-fitted and cooler), but substitute the denim shirt for a white button-down or perhaps a sweater. Either choice gives you instant improvement.