Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hidden Treasure

I know this is a crap photo, but since I've been talking about ties and pocket squares, I figured this little combo was relevant. The colors sync up nicely here; there's orange in both pieces, but the hanky has hints of purple and blue in the plaid, though it's tough to see in this picture. Orange and purple is one of my favorite color combinations, and I can't believe it's taken me this long to mix these two items, given that I've had both in my closet for at least two years. It was like finding hidden treasure.

Next up: ruffly pirate shirts.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Tie/Handkerchief Dilemma

We're living in well-dressed times. More than any time in the past decade, men have lately been taking more pride in their appearance and the image it projects. While it's important to have some natural ability in matters of attire, it's equally (if not more) important to learn the rules of clothing to as to manipulate them and, eventually, tastefully break them. The first concept where men can generally use some guidance is coordinating a tie and pocket square.

First and foremost, note usage of the word “coordinate” as opposed to “match.” To match your tie to your handkerchief is poor form for a couple of reasons. For starters, it draws the viewer's eye horizontally across your chest and takes attention away from your face, which does you no favors at all.

Secondly, it lacks sophistication. Certain things make sense to be sold in pairs: shoes, socks, cufflinks, the Olsen twins on the black market. Ties and pocket squares, on the other hand, should be sold separately. Anyone selling them in matching sets is a clothier of dubious distinction and is not to be trusted, much less supported with your business.

Successful coordination between ties and hankies isn't all that difficult if you think of both in terms of color and pattern. For example, let's say you're wearing a red/blue striped tie like I am in the picture above. If you'd like to coordinate the stripes, wear a handkerchief with blue/white stripes or a plaid, as the straight lines of the plaid sync up nicely with those of the striped tie. If you'd like to focus on color, you can do solid red, solid blue, blue with red dots, red with blue paisley, etc. As you get a bit more advanced, you can start playing with complementary colors: that same red/blue tie can take a purple pocket square, for example, because blue and red make purple. For more insight on this, all you have to do is remember your primary (red, blue, and yellow) and secondary colors (orange, purple, and green). Most of these colors will play nicely with the others, depending on shade.

As a guideline, remember that a white pocket square goes with anything and is to be worn exclusively with semi-formal and formal wear. Finally, keep in mind the Rule of Two, oft-stated as “one for blowin', one for showin'.” The idea here is that a gentleman has two handkerchiefs at all times: one for show in his breast pocket, and one in his back pocket should he or someone else need it to clean up a spill, wipe away sweat, and even plug up a nosebleed. Perfect for the pugnacious gentleman, eh?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Style Profile: Paul F. Tompkins

Last Friday night I had the pleasure of going on a double date with my girlfriend and a couple of friends of hers to see Paul F. Tompkins at Plays and Players Theater in Center City. A brief review:

1. The man does high-brow humor incredibly well. Not only did I laugh my ass off throughout most of his show, his usage of the word perfunctory forced me to look it up on (decidedly not in a perfunctory way), so I learned something too. Bonus!

2. Mr. Tompkins can dress. Like, really well. Take a look:

I lifted this picture from his Facebook page; hopefully my admitting this and the fact that I make no money whatsoever from this (obscure) blog (with a whopping 46 followers) will contribute to his not filing a lawsuit against me for using his likeness. 

Anyway, he's pictured above in the same jacket and bow tie he wore when I saw him, and I'm 90% sure the pants are the same. This look is excellent because not only is it completely dandy -confident, colorful, and perfectly tailored- but it's also a great image projection for both his personality and his profession as an entertainer. He's clearly having fun with how he dresses, but the cut and proportion of his clothing are so exact that it screams, "I am smart professional who's good at what he does." His hair and mustache, while unfortunately reminiscent of Will Ferrell's Ron Burgundy, hearken back to burlesque days when taken in context with his outfit. Here's a breakdown of what's going on here:

1. The Jacket: This is clearly the center piece of the outfit. It's a great shade of medium blue with a bold chalk stripe and is a relatively unconventional 4x2 double-breasted model (meaning it has four outside buttons, two of which are functional). I can't know for sure, but I'll bet that it's custom, judging from the color of the buttons and the contrast-colored stitching on the front-most sleeve button. It was properly done with peaked lapels and side vents, and trust me when I say that the fit was, to quote Marisa Tomei's character from My Cousin Vinny, "dead-on-balls accurate."

2. The Bow Tie: Perfectly proportioned insofar as it wasn't wider than his face, and the color coordinated beautifully with the jacket. Also, he was wearing a friggin' bow tie! How awesome is that?

3. The Shirt: I remember him wearing a white barrel-cuff shirt at the show, but he's pictured here in a French cuff number. You can tell it's custom from the monogram on the left cuff, and while I can appreciate a monogram, I have to say that putting them on a visible part of your clothing strikes me as pompous. I don't think Mr. Tompkins is a pompous individual, so since he's obviously reading this (right?), I humbly suggest taking a cue from Fred Astaire in the future and placing his monogram on the left front of his shirt where it'll be covered by his jacket. It also has a certain old-school charm that I'm a fan of.

4. The Pants: Whereas the jacket is bold and attention-grabbing, the pants Mr. Tompkins opts for here are the perfect counterpoint in their simple grey solidity. Matching the trousers here could work, but it could also turn into costume-y overkill very easily. He made a great choice to tone it down here.

5. The Mini-Boutonniere: I love this for two reasons: men don't wear boutonnieres often enough, and it makes up for his lack of handkerchief. Well-played.

Though they're not visible in the picture, he was wearing brown dress loafers and red socks (matches the boutonniere!) at the show. This guy was killing it sartorially AND comedically; to that end, I leave you with this:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tough Guys Wear Pink, Pt. II

Though the heat and humidity at this point in the summer make me yearn for fall, I never want to give up wearing bright colors with the change of season. I always think color is just more interesting to look at as opposed to wearing just neutrals like black, grey, or cream, but I mostly enjoy the challenge of pairing colors that complement each other well. I was so pleased with the combination you see below that I took thirty seconds out of my day to post it on Facebook, so you know it's a huge deal:

The shirt is a custom one from my new job and the tie is at least seven years old, bought at Banana Republic when I worked there. Pink and blue is a can't-miss combo, especially if your facial complexion has a pinkish hue to it. Many pasty white men like myself have this complexion. If you have blue eyes, all the better. The lesson here is that when you mimic the background colors in your skin or your hair and eye color, you do yourself a huge favor in terms of elevating your countenance from "nice" to "awesome." I didn't make this discovery myself; many a menswear author like Alan Flusser have written about the subject already, so know that I'm regurgitating information here. But keep in mind that it's very useful information.

Please don't hesitate to ape this combo; it's not like I was the first guy to ever do it, and I certainly won't be the last. If you do, pairing it with dark jeans, grey slacks, or navy blue pants is a home run. 

Style vs. Fashion

I'd like to start this entry off with a brief quiz:

Please select how you prefer to hear yourself described:

a. As a stylish guy.
b. As a fashionable guy.

Ah, the age-old question of fashion versus style. The difference is akin to that between a square and a rectangle. While every square is a rectangle but not every rectangle is a square, all stylish men are fashionable but not all fashionable men are stylish.

Fashionability is wearing whatever the people at GQ decide is cool for any given season. For the past few years, this has meant super slim skinny jeans, tiny suits with narrow lapels, one-inch-wide ties, breakless pants that sit low on the waist, or whatever else the Sartorialist seems to enjoy photographing. A lot of what we're going to see for Fall 2012 in men's suiting is the double-breasted suit, but with the bottom two buttons missing. Like many fashion trends, it's an interesting idea on paper but is silly upon execution.

To be fashionable is to be strictly of the moment. To be strictly of the moment is to not be timeless.

Stylish men, on the other hand, understand that looking good is not so much about wearing the latest trends but rather about understanding your body type and complexion and how those relate to the silhouettes and colors that work for you specifically. It's also about the geometrical relationship amongst the garments themselves. They may flex some trendier items into their wardrobes, but only if those items work within the aforementioned parameters. Armed with confidence because they're playing to their strengths and minimizing their weaknesses, they acquire true style not just in their clothing, but in all aspects of their lives, right down to the way they stand. Well-fitting clothes will make you stand up straighter, I swear.

Stylish men are comfortable in their own skin and their clothes are a an extension of that skin.