Saturday, June 30, 2012

Affordable Essentials - Dress Shoes

It's all about the Brannock, baby. Of course, I'm referring to the Brannock Device, that odd chunk of metal you'll find at any shoe retailer. This is where your shoe shopping experience begins. Just as it goes for clothing, most guys never wear the correct shoe size throughout life. So...

Go somewhere to figure out your shoe size.
Leave that somewhere and visit every thrift shop in town.
But first, watch this excellent video from Put This On.
And remember
  • Allen Edmonds and Alden are the gold standard of American dress shoes today
  • Older Florsheim, Johnston & Murphy, and Bostonian are solid if made in America
    • also Italy and England
  •  Avoid shoes with ripped leather, as there's no way to fix this
    • However, shoes can always be resoled, polished, and given new laces

Put This On, Episode 2: Shoes from Put This On on Vimeo.

Friday, June 29, 2012

An Unexpected Night Off

At home, with no power.

Writing from cell phone, which is about to die.

See you soon, blogosphere,

~Scott Alexander

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Night Off

I considered sharing another Affordable Essentials post tonight... then I decided to screw sartoriocity for a moment.

I don't think I've mentioned it in two and a half years of blogging, but I love the NBA. In fact, I'm as much a fan of the NBA as I am of men's style and all this silly stuff about which I write. Tonight is the NBA draft, and I'm finding it difficult to break away from my television to write even this brief paragraph. I'll be back to Affordable Essentials tomorrow.  Until then, take a lesson from a guy with style on and off the court.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Affordable Essentials: Ties

You can't have too many ties, at least not when you're buying them from thrift shops for a few dollars. When buying new, you don't have to go out and drop a hundred bucks on what is, essentially, no more than a little bit of silk. Though there may be big differences between a $15 tie and a $150 tie, either will last for years with good care. When you're trying to find a few proper ties to kickstart your work wardrobe, there are a few classic styles to which you can turn. I feel the best options are the repp stripe and pindot. Below are several examples of both, in overall neutral tones which work with your standard grey suit/navy blazer and just about anything else.

The ties above are available at the Tie Bar for $15 each. You can also pick up your white silk or cotton pocket square here. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Affordable Essentials: Dress Shirts

Time to dress down the dress shirt list. Whether you're picking up your first-ever shirts or you're going for something all-around more proper, these notes might help. 

The colors: white, light blue, white and blue small stripe/check.
  • White works anywhere, for anyone. Light blue and a white/blue pattern are quite acceptable.

The collar: semi-spread.
  • Most guys say the point collar works for everybody. This is true, but point collars on most cheaply constructed shirts are too long and severe, leaving the wearer's head looking out of proportion. The semi-spread is comparatively modern yet classic. The trick is wearing a tie with enough heft so as to keep your collar looking appropriate.

The fabric: 100% cotton poplin/broadcloth or pinpoint oxford.
  • This is simple. A cotton/polyester shirt is a cheap shirt. Pure cotton is soft and breathable. 
  • Also, stay away from non-iron shirts, even those that are all-cotton. The chemical treatments which prevent wrinkling may shorten the life of the shirt. 
The fit: if you don't know your size, get measured.
  • If you think you know your size, still get measured. Most guys wear the incorrect size without realizing it. Head to your local department store or menswear shop and ask for measurements. At least one salesperson should know how to do this properly. However, if the measurements seem way off, ask for someone else or get your measurements from another store. You'll look more foolish wearing an 18 when you're a 16.5 then you will for asking your sizes. 
  • Even if you don't plan to buy at the store you're receiving measurements, try on shirts from a few different brands. A 16 34/35 from Eagle Shirtmakers won't fit the same as another 16 34/35 from Lauren Ralph Lauren. When you're thrift shopping, you can't be so choosy. But if you're buying new, remember fit comes before brand. 

*More on fit/styling when I cover sport shirts.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Seersucker Spread

I'm all for breaking the rules of sartorial standards, but a spread collar on seersucker? Give me a white oxford button-down atop this seersucker and the thing would already be in my closet.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Puzzled by Patchwork

O'Connell's goes Black Fleece with this patchwork blazer. 
Somewhere in the world, Thom Browne is wishing he thought of this horrid thing.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Affordable Essentials: Grey Suit, Navy Blazer

It starts with the grey suit. For business, it's all about something simple, something timeless. A lightweight, solid wool suit will serve as the foundation of your work wardrobe. A truly decent wool suit will run hundreds of dollars, which is why you should start browsing your local thrift shops.

*When suit shopping, wear your best-fitting dress shirt and dress shoes to gain a proper understanding of how the suit will fit. If you don't yet have either of these things, find what you can at the thrift shop to try on along with the suit.*
  • Fit. If you have any idea of your measurements, this will help tremendously as you peek at the suit rack. Don't expect the size of a suit to be printed anywhere. Most older suits are without such labels. If you're clueless as to your size, just grab a few things that might fit and head to the dressing room. So much of thrift shopping is trial and error.
    • It's better that a suit be a slightly too large than too small. Most aspects of a suit can be taken in/up. However, if the shoulders are too wide/padded, move on. There's practically no way to remedy this issue without spending a lot
    • Ideally, the jacket's sleeve should fall just past your wrist, while the jacket itself should end about two inches above your the tips of your fingers (with arms flat at your sides). The pants should rest just slightly on your shoes. Remember, these things can be altered.
    • A two-button, single-breasted suit is always safe. Three-button works as well.. Any more than three or less than two and you're looking at the wrong suit.
  • Feel. Many suits will have a label somewhere indicating fabric content. A lightweight, pure wool is the best. A polyester suit lacks stretch, breathability, and softness.
  • Brand. As with any item of clothing, brand is the last thing to think about. Sure, there are certain labels you see that almost certainly guarantee quality, but fit and feel take precedent. Also remember that, while today's average suit from a Haggar or Stafford may be junk, companies like these used to produce quality goods in America. As such, ignore all preconceived notions.

The navy blazer will serve you for all occasions in which the grey suit is simply too formal. Paired with tan chinos, grey wool trousers (from your suit), or (sometimes) jeans, the navy blazer rests between formal and casual.
  • Fit. A blazer the same size as a suit will likely have a different fit, as blazers are naturally cut for a less formal fit. 
    • Two-button, single-breasted is ideal. 
      • The classic navy blazer generally has brass buttons. Some people find them to be a little old-fashioned. If brass isn't for you, a tailor can easily switch out the brass for navy, dark grey or tortoise buttons.
  • Feel. Look for lightweight wool suitable for year-round use.
  • Brand. Again, fit and feel are the important things here. 

I hope you're all enjoying the start of this series. I figure most of you know these things already, but I'm always receiving questions about building up the basics of a wardrobe. Of course, these are just my thoughts and any suggestions to amend this guideline would be appreciated. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Affordable Essentials: the List

Whether your office is suit-and-tie-only or more rumpled-and-wear-creative, this list can serve you well. Think of this as a guideline, not a set of rules. This is your starting point, and the path you take will vary with profession, location and climate.

  • Solid grey wool suit
  • Navy wool blazer
  • White, light blue, and striped dress shirts
  • Repp and pin-dot silk ties
  • White cotton handkerchiefs
  • Brown and black leather belts
  • Black cap-toe shoes
  • Brown wingtip shoes
  • Tan topcoat

  • Tan or navy windbreaker
  • White, light blue, and pink oxford shirts
  • Navy and heather grey polo shirts
  • Heather grey v-neck tees
  • Navy or camel lightweight cotton v-neck sweater
  • Navy or camel Merino wool v-neck sweater
  • Tan chinos
  • Dark wash straight-cut jeans
  • Navy and tan shorts
  • Grosgrain or brown braided leather belt
  • Brown bluchers
  • Navy peacoat or camel duffel coat
In upcoming posts, I'll take a closer look at each of these items, with consideration for fit, brand and price.

National Seersucker Day

If you're anywhere near Charleston (WV) today, stop by Tony the Tailor to celebrate National Seersucker Day. From 1:00PM-7:00PM, Tony will be offering sales on custom seersucker and cotton jackets, linen shirts, and seersucker products throughout the shop. I'm especially excited about the offering of High Cotton bow ties for only $29.99. In addition, refreshments and hors d'oeuvres will be served, including the Seersucker and the Madras. Please stop by and support this incredible local business!

The Seersucker

2 ounces Flor de Cana white rum
1/2 ounce cinnamon schnapps
1 ounce lemon juice
1 1/2 strawberry
Muddle one strawberry, shake
ingredients with three ice cubes
and strain into a pilsner glass
with crushed ice. Garnish with
1/2 strawberry.

The Madras
1 1/2 oz Kettle One vodka
4 oz cranberry juice
1 oz orange juice
1 orange wedge
Shake ingredients with three ice
cubes and strain into a pilsner
glass with crushed ice. Garnish
with orange slice.

PS: Don't forget to wear seersucker!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Affordable Essentials: Intro

As I reflect on the advice of blog after blog, I keep coming back to one question. What is affordable? You have affordable style, then you have affordable style. One thing is clear - style is not achieved by the money you have. However, what does it take to reach the personal pinnacle of style? To start from scratch, one might view an affordable, essential wardrobe, as one that costs $5000, maybe $10000, maybe more. With the meticulous effort that should go into building one's style, I find an essential wardrobe can be built for much less. Over the next week or so, I'll be chronicling my own set of essentials, and how best to utilize thrift shops and such to achieve a put-together wardrobe for under $500.

Tomorrow: the list.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

For the Good of Gant


(left) Old. (above) New. You pick.

The old menswear shops in town used to sell Gant - sack suits, repp ties, oxfords and more. This is Gant before my time, yet the Gant I've come to love via thrift shops. Even if most of the shirts were a cotton/polyester blend, the quality was there. Today's Gant is made overseas and yet ever so expensive. It's more J. Crew than J. Press, more Rugby than Polo. Christopher Bastin and Michael Bastian may have brought the brand back to prominence, but I'll take the old over new any day.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Just in from eBay

Two in from the 'Bay. Robert Talbott repp patchwork and Lands' End (Indian bleeding) madras. $20.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Yellow Laces

As I continue to read high praises of the Knottery from all over the blogosphere, I inch closer to picking up an array of colorful shoelaces. Yellow? Definitely. Orange and green? Perhaps. 

Colored shoelaces. 
Cool idea, or too much?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Shades of Rugby

I believe there's not a more quintessential piece of classic sportswear than the rugby (aside from its sartorial cousin, the polo). These days, most rugby teams don skintight synthetics, but nothing compares to the real thing. A well-constructed rugby will last decades, with sturdy cotton twill that can really take a beating. Whether working around the house or working your way from a scrum, you should not be without a few, in classic rugby stripes like those shown above. Barbarian Rugby is perhaps the finest choice for authentic pieces, and Canterbury of New Zealand is great as well. The Polo rugby has always offered the perfect fit for me - trim cut, good sleeve length, and excellent durability. I've taken several through scrimmages, and they've held up as well as my Barbarian hand-me-downs. 

Polo puts out a number of basics each season (aside from the Big Pony monstrosities), which can be picked up around $30-$40 on clearance. Stocking up for summer, I snagged the rugby shirts pictured at a Macy's sale for $24. For an even better deal, hit up your local thrift shop or eBay. On eBay, you'll find vintage pieces from brands such as Barbarian, Lands' End, Umbro, and Izod for practically nothing.

Go in for a scrum, chum.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Cables o' Cashmere

Not my cashmere, but beautiful, nonetheless. Thanks, Tumblr.

If anybody comes across a Polo cashmere cable knit in purple, XL or XXL, let me know!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

eBay Eye Candy

While browsing patchwork blazers, I came across this fantastic thing. 

It's not my size, so somebody, please, find it and wear it well.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Putting it in Park

Allen Edmonds Park Avenue from the thrift - $1
A quick brushing, shine and some time with shoe trees and they'll be like new.

What's your best, recent thrift shop shoe find?

Monday, June 4, 2012

May Acquisitions

After another successful month of bargain shopping, I figured I'd clear out my photo inventory. I picked up each of these items in May.

 Polo Ralph Lauren two-pack socks in argyle and solid purple
$8 at

 Pierre Cardin dragonfly print tie (Vineyard Vines-ish)
$7 at Marshall's

 Polo Ralph Lauren plaid poplin shirt
$33 at Macy's

Polo Ralph Lauren silk v-neck sweater
$16 at eBay

 Rooster (vintage) Indian madras tie
$8 at eBay

Lauren Ralph Lauren paisley silk tie
$12 at Macy's

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Lidstrom Retires

No, he didn't die. He just retired. 

It's still a very sad day for Red Wings fans.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Two from Tasso

 When two quarters equal $10.

Quarter-zip sweaters from Macy's Tasso Elba line, snagged on final clearance.

Honestly, I find quarter-zip sweaters somewhat superfluous, as I prefer a standard crew or v-neck collar. However, I'll take a quarter-zip over a turtleneck any day.