Saturday, June 8, 2013

Red Red Pants

A couple of years ago my parents and I finally dropped all gift-giving formality and we started giving each other gift cards for holidays and birthdays. I used to think that gift cards smacked of thoughtlessness, but I've since come around to the line of thinking that it's actually less thoughtful to buy someone something you're not sure they'll like just so you can feel good about yourself for making the effort. Kind of defeats the purpose of gift-giving, doesn't it?

In any case, my parents were nice enough to give me a Banana Republic gift card for my birthday. I used to work for them in my college days and have always liked their stuff, so I was pleased to receive it. I ended up getting these bad boys:

They're a little too orange and not mauve enough to be Nantucket reds (some other lucky diminutive guy already got our size), but they're pretty obnoxious and I love them for that. They're a smash with a white shirt and my blue suede loafers, but I wore them to work on a casual day and paired them with tan/cream argyle (trust me) socks and my tobacco wingtips. On top was a blue coat, blue/white gingham shirt, and a tan tie in raw silk:

The pocket square was a handmade birthday gift from a friend; it pairs nicely with the tie and is done in a motif with archaeological tools and finds. Given that my girlf fiancee is an archaeologist, I think it now makes sense to incorporate some of that into my wardrobe. Now all I need is an Indiana Jones hat.

Here's the whole getup:

I was so pleased with this combination of things I could have exploded. I have only one other pair of obnoxious pants, but they're a deep brown and not nearly as loud as these. Are they for everyday wear? Certainly not; put these on twice in a week and all of a sudden I'm the Guy in the Ridiculous Red Pants. Once a month, on the other hand, just means that I get to scream for attention every once in a while and get away with it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

An Open Letter To Dwyane Wade

Mr. Wade,

Please allow me to begin this letter by commending your talents as a professional basketball player. Being a guard for the Miami Heat for the past decade has brought you fame and fortune, and you certainly deserve it; two world championships and your scoring 2386 points in the 2008-09 season are superlative to say the least. You're one of the best of your time, an Olympian, and clearly a great guy whose involvement in philanthropy is as selfless as it is profoundly generous.

With that out of the way, I'd like to ask you what you were thinking when you put these pants on:

dwayne wade short pants

It's tough to tell whether you had your pants hemmed at this length or if you just rolled them up, but either way I respectfully question your sartorial judgement on this one. Rolling them up, while not a bad thought in the summertime (and something I do myself), makes no sense when you're a) indoors, and b) wearing a not just a jacket, but a double-breasted one. If you had them hemmed this short, well, I don't really know what to say except, "Please don't do that again."

While I appreciate the fact that you avoided the four-button single-breasted trap that so many of your fellow players fall into and went with a 6x2 double-breasted jacket, I humbly remind you that a double-breasted suit is arguably the dressiest of all suits and it isn't done proper justice when worn with what appear to be ladies' capri pants.

Plus, they just look silly.

My professional opinion is to have you throw on some matching full-length pants. Jeans or chinos will also do, assuming that they, too, are full-length. If you don't have anything that fits the bill, I cordially invite you to stop by my showroom the next time you're in town playing the Sixers to have a drink and talk pants.

Yours in style,

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Style Profile: Justin Timberlake

I've been doing a great job of pissing off my girlfriend, friends, and co-workers in the past couple of weeks because I keep singing Justin Timberlake's "Suit & Tie" like this:

As long as I've got my suit and tie
I'ma leave it all on the floor tonight
Beda duh dah dah what you like
Lemme show you a few things

All dressed up in black and white
And you're dressed in that dress I like
Herpa derp derp derp derp-a-die
Lemme show you a few things

Being a high school guy in the late 90's and early 2000's when N'Sync was a thing, it was basically against Massachusetts state law to like them. Justin Timberlake was the de facto leader of the group, so being a fan of his was particularly off limits.

Times certainly have changed.

As far as his image is concerned, the Justin Timberlake of 2013 is vastly different from that of 2001, and the dude is killing it musically and sartorially. He's transformed from a teenybopping pop star to a talented, respectable song-and-dance man. If Frank Sinatra had grown up listening to hip-hop and soul, he would have been 2013 Justin Timberlake. Check out this live performance, for example:

The band is tight, his voice is on point, and the back-up dancers are talented and fun. But let's break down the clothes:

  • The jacket: See the lapels on that baby? These are not your trendy, narrow-ass lapels you see splashed on the pages of GQ. These are a much more classic width -rather wide, even- and it gives him the air of a confident, grown man instead of a childish pretender to the throne.
  • The bow tie: He's wearing a bow tie. It looks like he tied it himself. This is awesome.
  • The shirt: I'm actually not doing backflips over this. It doesn't look bad per se, but I question the color choice, and it seems that the sleeves are a bit too long in relation to the jacket sleeves. 
  • The shoes: I am doing backflips over these bad boys. Black and white saddle shoes with an otherwise formal get-up? This is an excellent way for him to draw attention to his feet, and his influence for it comes from one of the best-dressed men in American history, Fred Astaire:

  • The back-up dancers' white socks: White socks and black shoes? Talk about a direct nod to Michael Jackson:

Having tapped into these kinds of influences, I'm excited to see what Mr. Timberlake does in the future. For now, he's evolved into one of the best-dressed male entertainers of our time. Kudos to him. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

For Krystle

Krystle Campbell was my friend, and her wake is today. She was one of the three people murdered senselessly in the bombings at the Boston Marathon last week, and I spoke with a mutual friend this morning who summed it up succinctly by saying, "This is fucking surreal."

My friend has always had a way with words.

I've been very fortunate insofar as I haven't had to deal with too much tragedy in my life. Sure, the whole country mourned 9/11, but other than that, my experience with death has been limited to what most would consider normal. My grandparents' deaths were sad of course, but you could at least take solace in knowing that their passing was in the natural course of things.

Krystle's death, on the other hand, shouldn't have happened. She would have been 30 next month and had her whole life ahead of her. Most importantly, she was a genuinely wonderful human being who didn't deserve to have her life taken from her, and her family doesn't deserve to have to mourn for a loved one who was killed at such a young age. This injustice makes me (and plenty of others) seethingly furious as well as profoundly upset, but I take a small amount of solace in the fact that the outpouring of support from the local community, the country, and even the world has been tremendous. Nothing will bring her back, but to see my social media feeds flooded with words and pictures of encouragement from all around the globe has been heartening to say the least.

Still, I don't really know what to think of this, and the sadness I feel is completely beyond the scope of the English language.

Krystle and I met in the fifth grade at the Swan School in Medford, Massachusetts. We were even each others' boyfriend/girlfriend for a short time in the cute, innocent way that eleven-year-olds "date" each other. In fact, I remember one particular instance at Magoun Park where her friends had to hassle the shit out of me to do so much as give her a peck on the cheek, which I'd resisted up to that point not because she wasn't cute (I remember thinking that she was actually very pretty), but due to my incredible fear of kissing girls. I guess I just wasn't ready to get tied down.

Fast forward about fifteen years later, after I'd graduated from college and settled permanently in Philly. She dated a close friend of mine for a while during those years, and I always made it a point to hang out with them whenever I was home for a visit. This is when I had the privilege to get to know her as an adult, and what a joy she was to be around! She was an astute, warm, easygoing young woman whose smile was bright enough to light up an auditorium. She loved her dog Rocky and was funny as all hell, too. On top of all this, she was one of the most down-to-Earth people you could ever meet. She'd seen a lot in her life and never passed judgement on anyone as a result.

The memories I have of Krystle will stay with me forever, and I'm honored that I was a part of her life, albeit it in a very small way. Her death was untimely and unjust, but the Krystle I knew -the smart, funny, warm young woman who brought joy to those around her- will live on forever in my heart, my mind, and my soul. Even now that she's gone from this world, her memory can put a smile on my face. I hope anyone who reads this and was affected by last week's tragedy can say the same, difficult as it may be.

Krystle Campbell was my friend.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My New(-ish) Sport Coat

I've been working for a custom tailoring shop for a year now, so I'm almost ashamed to admit that one of my favorite articles of clothing is actually a sport coat I got off the rack. Not only is it ready-to-wear, I got it way on sale back when Daffy's was liquidating their inventory before they closed their Chestnut Street store. I had my tailor do some minimal work on it and it has since become my favorite coat, despite being so bold as to lack the versatility of this one. Check this baby out:

That's right, folks. It's a mega-bold brown/tan/orange plaid that looks, ahem, good'n'a mug with dark jeans or my stone-colored corduroys. Sure, it fit me very well right off the hanger and was priced to move, but it had so many rarely seen details that I couldn't have passed it up even if it were pricier. Here's why:

It's got a 3X2 Roll

This means that the lapel rolls to the second (middle) button, which makes the top buttonhole purely for show and is visible with the middle button fastened. It's not an uncommon detail, but I think it's very smart when worn with a sport coat.

It Has Elbow Patches AND Surgeon's Cuffs

I used to hate elbow patches. I was in my early 20's and thought I knew everything about getting dressed, and I'd decided that elbow patches just made things look messy and unkempt. That opinion changed in the past few years and I was pumped to see grey flannel patches on this jacket.

The functional sleeve buttons were fun to see on a ready-to-wear coat, but I knew from experience that shortening the sleeves as much as I needed would compromise their functionality. My tailor Jay very pleasantly surprised me when he showed me the finished product: I ended up with two two-button sleeves (a very Northeastern preppy detail) and he maintained the functionality of both. I damn near did backflips.

It's Got A Wind Tab

That extra bit of fabric at the gorge is called a windtab; there's a button on the other side of the collar (on its underside) to which the windtab is fastened. These are pretty rare and look great on sportswear like this. Too bad this one doesn't even come close to buttoning for some reason.

Finally, The Breast Welt Pocket 

Another very sporty look, and I'm not sure that I'd ever seen one in real life before the day I bought this. It's strange for me to wear a blazer without some kind of pocket square, but the flap tucks in nicely if I ever want to throw some linen in there. It's a fall-weight wool, but I can't wait until it warms up just a bit and I can show it off instead of wearing it under an overcoat. The Internet will have to suffice for now.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

My Bow Tie Resolution

Neckties have always been in my closet but weren't a regular part of my rotation until about 2009 or so. In that time span I've increased my collection significantly and have enjoyed the hell out of wearing them, but back on New Year's Eve I decided that it was time to start wearing bow ties more regularly.

Bow Tie Tips

I wrote about some different bow tie silhouettes in a previous post, so I won't re-hash that stuff here. One nugget of information I forgot to mention is that you should keep the width of the tie no wider than that of your face. Otherwise you run the risk of looking like your head has been gift-wrapped. 

Why Bow Ties?

I'll be the first to admit that bow ties are tough to pull off in the real world. They won't fly in most business scenarios and if not carried off well, you can look fusty, clownish, or stereotypically professorial.

When you rock the hell out of a bow tie, however, you send a message to the world that not only are you unconcerned with fitting into the mold of a dressed up guy, you are in fact aggressively unconcerned with it. I have to confess that sending such a message appeals to me, so I figured I would sack up and actually start wearing them.

The only issue? I only own three that I really like. One is an all-season silk that you see above, and the other two are a madras cotton for summer and a navy wool number for the winter. I guess I'll just have to buy more.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Men's Cocktail Attire

I got a great question recently:

"Need a clothing expert opinion. "Cocktail attire" is vague for a man. Would you wear a suit and tie, no tie, or go in a completely different direction?"

Ah, a rare instance in which it's actually more confusing for men to dress properly than it is for women. Ladies' cocktail attire is simple: wear a cocktail dress and a flirty pair of pumps, throw on some jewelry and do yah hurr. Standards for men are understandably more confusing.

As always, keep your surroundings in mind when considering how to dress for an occasion. This particular cocktail party is in the evening at a hotel in Boston and is work-related. This means you want to look good and tailored but not do anything to make your co-workers remember you negatively because of what you wear.

I rarely recommend it, but this is a time when a black suit would be appropriate. While it's too stark for daytime businesswear, black clothes are good for evening social occasions. Given that this is an evening social occasion in the wintertime in a major metropolitan area in the Northeast, I'd go with a black suit. A white or blue shirt will look fine, but if you have something bolder that's maybe a little much for the office, now's the time to bust it out.

If you decide to wear a tie (and I would), have more fun than a plain solid. It goes without saying, but keep in mind the pattern and color of your shirt when coordinating with your tie. Wear a pocket square. Even if it's just a plain white cotton one.

Finally, bust out a nice watch, some cool cufflinks, and some killer socks to round out the ensemble. And whatever you do, try not to get too drunk. It's still work-related.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tapered Pants, The Sequel


Professionally speaking, I spent the end of 2006 through the beginning of 2012 in jeans. You've presumably read my endless blabbering about how my taste in denim changed over the years, so I'll just say that my jeans nowadays are a slim-fitting straight leg with very little break. I thought I wanted my dress pants to fit the same way when I took my new job back in April of 2012. What follows is the lesson I learned (the hard way) in the hopes that if you're a reader who's into a mega-slim pant leg, you'll think twice.

My college job was at Banana Republic as a sales associate, and I loved it. I was one of the younger employees and not only was I proud to work in a much higher-end environment than I'd ever been in before, I really enjoyed being dressed up on campus during the day. Not only did it mean that I could head right to work from class; I also enjoyed the attention I got being the guy in slacks and a dress shirt while everyone else looked like, well, college kids.

I had a bunch of dress pants at the time: dark charcoal pinstripes, navy with tan pinstripes, solid grey flannels, and a bunch of others. Too bad I had no idea how they were supposed to fit. I wore them a little below my hips like you would a pair of jeans, which in hindsight meant that the rise (crotch) looked way too low. I had the inseams shortened accordingly, which screwed me in the end. When I tried them on again during a closet clean-out in 2007, I pulled them up to my natural waist (where they belonged) and they were way too short, without enough material to let down.

Well, shit.


I hadn't worn dress pants regularly for many years when I ordered some for my new job, and this lack of recent experience bit me in the ass. While I learned my lesson about wearing dress pants at my natural waist, I let my taste in denim (barely any break, very slim leg openings) get the best of me. 

The result? Look at the picture above. I got pants that sit nice and high on my waist but are so breakless that they're fine when standing but show too much sock when I walk, even for my taste. What's worse is that I had them made so tapered that even if I were to have them lengthened, they wouldn't have enough room to rest comfortably on my shoes. They're fine, but anything I get in the future will have a bigger leg opening, for sure.

My style is apparently more fluid than I thought.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Tale of the Tapered Jeans


Like most people in the civilized world, I've been wearing jeans all my life. I didn't give a crap about what I wore until I was about 16 years old, and like a novice in any field, I sucked at first. In high school I owned both painter's jeans and carpenter's jeans, the difference being that the carpenter's jeans had the same stupid pockets but were somehow baggier than the already-massive painter's jeans. I would pair these with slim t-shirts in the hopes that it would show off my chiseled physique and attract the attention of cute girls in school.

"Fail" wasn't a thing at the time, but if it had been, it would have applied to that last sentence.

As I got to college and took a job as a sales associate at a Banana Republic, I started paying closer attention to how clothes were supposed to fit and became a fan of a denim silhouette known as "slim bootcut." This was my go-to choice even after graduation.

Fast-forward to 2007, when I finally stopped wearing boot-cut jeans and started slimming things down. My pants became increasingly tight until one day I was in a second-hand shop and found a dark pair of Levi's in my size. I tried them on, and not only were they slim as hell (at $14 I figured I'd ignore the moose knuckle they created), they required no alterations! The legs tapered a lot, but not to the point that they could be called "skinny" jeans, which was a bullshit boundary I had set up so I could tell myself that I wasn't being too trendy.

I can now admit that I was flat-out lying to myself. But it gets worse.


I crossed the line one last time when I walked into an Urban Outfitters during a sale and bought an embarrassingly slim pair of jeans. I've only worn them about ten times since I got them three years ago, the reason for which is twofold:

  1. I dubbed them my "four-hour jeans" because around the four-hour mark it feels like they've come to life and are trying to strangle my balls, and
  2. They're skinny jeans. I didn't want to admit it when I bought them; I got swept up in a good price and finding something in my size, which is a rare occurrence. All I'd need to do is wear them halfway down my ass and throw on some neon yellow-framed sunglasses and I'd look like a hipster.
The evolution of my taste in denim was like that guy Jared from the Subway commercials, except Jared would have had to become anorexic at the end for the comparison to fully work. Don't get me wrong, I still like slim clothes. I'm a thin guy and I like to show off, so wearing garments that gently hug the body is a good thing for me. Maybe I'm just getting older, but I'm starting to put more emphasis on gently hugging the body. Nowadays I'm happy with slim, straight-leg jeans with a slight break. They show off my shoes, look good with tailored clothing, and don't squeeze the shit out of my nuts.

There are two lessons here: First, only buy clothes that work with your body type. It will take some trial and error to learn what's good for you. Hell, it took me thirteen years. But once you make all the mistakes you need to make, you'll be confident in spending money on things that you know will work and are comfortable to wear. And you'll enjoy wearing these things even more.

Second, your testicles are real things and should not be ignored when buying pants.