Sunday, November 29, 2009

Black Suit for Business?

Black wool is for formal wear.  Black and white is striking at night, but in the daylight black is too severe for the complexion of most men; suits in blue, gray and brown are much more flattering for the majority of complexions.  Futhermore, dark blue, charcoal and dark brown are a much better accompaniment for the shirts, ties and shoes that a man is likely to wear in a business setting.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Blue & the Gray

The title of this post does not refer to the 1982 television miniseries about the War of Northern Aggression.  Instead I refer to the classic color combination of gray and blue.  Consider combining a gray suit with a white shirt and blue tie.  A navy suit combined with a light blue shirt and gray tie works equally well.  For the weekend try a dark pair of blue jeans with a light gray cashmere sweater.  When selecting your attire, remember the blue and the gray.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Propriety of a Monogram

Some men choose to stylishly personalize their bespoke dress shirts with a monogram; however, one must be careful when displaying a monogram to avoid looking pretentious.  Alan Flusser wrote in Dressing the Man that "discretion is paramount to good taste, and large or conspicuously placed initials are indiscreet." 

The monogram should be in small block letters.  To maintain discretion, some men request that the monogram be sewn from thread that matches the shirt so the monogram nearly disappears.  Others may choose a coordinating color, or even a signature color, as an exercise of personal style. 

The most discrete locations for a monogram are inside the yoke or on the tail.  The only person likely to see the monogram is the one who launders the shirt; keep in mind that monograms originally developed as a means of identifying shirts at the laundry.  The most discrete, yet visble, location for a monogram is about five inches above the waist and to the left of the placket.  The location is discrete because a buttoned jacket completely obscures the monogram.  This is the location where I choose to place my monogram.  My personal opinion is that other locations (i.e., breast pocket, collar, and cuff) are stylistically dangerous territory.  Unless you are an auto mechanic, do you really want your name emblazoned across your chest for the whole world to see?  Keep it discrete.  When it comes to monograms, less is definitely more.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fall Pocket Square from Ben Silver

Ben Silver is located on historic King Street in Charleston, South Carolina.  The Ben Silver Collection, available online and through print catalogs, is a tribute to classic style.

I recently purchased this wool and silk tapestry theme fall pocket square from Ben Silver.  The Moghul Knights Game Hunting pocket square is woven for Ben Silver by Drakes of London.  It is from the same collection as the Bird of Paradise hank that I featured in a previous post.  Both patterns were inspired by paintings from India's Moghul period.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Green Gloves

Yesterday a package arrived in the mail from Chester Jefferies containing a new pair of hand-made green capeskin driving gloves that I ordered online just a few weeks ago.  The Chester Jefferies website is quite easy to navigate.  You may select the style of glove, the type and color of leather, and the lining.  When it comes to fit you may either request a standard glove size or mail a tracing of your hand for a perfect fit.  With all that, the prices are still surprisingly reasonable.

I took my inspiration from this photograph from The Sartorialist.  As a side note, I have recently noticed an interesting twist on breast pocket decoration.  Instead of wearing a pocket square, some men are adorning their breast pocket with a pair of gloves.  I first noticed this practice in some of the photographs from The Sartorialist.  The Paul Stewart Holiday 2009 catalog that came in the mail yesterday also includes a photograph showing a jacket breast pocket decorated with a pair of gloves.  I like the look; maybe I'll give it a try with my new green gloves.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Contrast in Texture

Texture is one thing to consider when selecting the day's tie and pocket square combination.  A contrast in texture adds interest to your attire.  If you plan to wear a lustrous silk tie, consider a matte pocket handkerchief like linen or cotton.  It is hard to go wrong with the classic combination of silk tie and white linen pocket square.  On the other hand, the dulled surface of a wool or linen tie benefits from the sheen of a of silk hank.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pocket Handkerchiefs: Coordinate, Don't Match

Your pocket handkerchief should not match your tie.  Instead, your pocket handkerchief should coordinate with some other element of your attire.  For instance, you may wish to coordinate your pocket handkerchief with a secondary color from your tie or a stripe in your shirt.  A solid colored tie might coordinate with a patterned pocket handkerchief.  You could display a white linen pocket square to complement a contrast collar dress shirt. 

Coordinating a pocket handkerchief with your attire is admittedly a challenge, primarily because there are no hard and fast rules to guide you in the selection; once again, that selection must be an expression of your own personal style.  I encourage you to experiment with your attire.  Display a pocket handkerchief that you believe coordinates well with your outfit and then listen to the comments that you receive, both positive and negative.  Through that experimentation process you may begin to refine your own personal style.  But along the way, keep this advice in mind:  coordinate, don't match.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mainstream "Style" Magazines for Men Really Suck

I recently received one of those frequent flyer offers in the mail where you can convert unused miles into freebie magazine subscriptions.  My miles were about to expire so I selected subscriptions for GQ and Esquire.  Now I'm confused.  Who is the target audience for these magazine?  It's obviously not me.  Most of the trendy clothes these magazines promote could only be worn by some young buck in his twenties.  But what college kid can afford a $2600 pea coat?  Who are these fashionable little fellows with the fifty thousand dollar clothing allowances?

GQ contains approximately two pages of worthwhile style advice.  Glenn O'Brien, known as The Style Guy, solves the "sartorial conundrums" of his readers.  His column provides the only reasonable style advice in the entire magazine.

Esquire was arguably the style bible of the early part of the twentieth century, a time when mens' style consciousness was at its peak.  You may have seen some of the old illustrations that once graced the pages of Esquire.  Those illustrations gave practical style advice on matters like coordinating different items of clothing, or which colors complement different complexions.  Many of those "old" illustrations still have relevance today.  Remember that style is timeless.  But oh how the great have fallen.  What passes for style advice in the current Esquire is a photo shoot of some famous person wearing the overpriced clothing of the magazine's advertisers.  The ticket price for one outfit pictured in the November 2009 issue:  $17,195.  Seriously?

Fortunately we live in an age where an unimaginable volume of information is readily available at our fingertips over the internet.  I hope that this blog is able to provide some helpful style advice.  Three other excellent blogs that I read daily are A Suitable Wardrobe, The Sartorialist, and Permanent Style.  I also enjoy reading the style forums at The London Lounge, Ask Andy About Clothes, and Style Forum.

If you prefer sitting on the couch flipping pages, I would recommend two excellent books on mens' style:  Alan Flusser's Dressing the Man, and Gentleman by Bernhard Roetzel.  I've read some positive reviews about a new magazine called The Rake.  Unfortunately it's published somewhere in Asia (I think maybe Singapore) so subscription rates are a little rough in the States.  There is always Christmas......

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ralph Lauren Odd Jacket

My biggest purchase during the long weekend in Charleston was a Ralph Lauren odd jacket that I bought at Grady-Ervin & Co. on King Street.  The jacket is a black and white herringbone tweed with four bellows pockets and brown suede elbow patches.

I'm thinking this new jacket will work well with jeans and a sweater on the weekend, or maybe even dressed up for the office with gray flannel pants, sweater and tie, and brown suede shoes. I left the jacket in Charleston for a few alterations - shortened sleeves, an inch out of the waist, and a nip from the back of the collar. It should arrive via UPS next week. I'll post some follow-up pictures once I've had a chance to accessorize.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Silk Knots

While I was in Charleston over the weekend I stopped in at Brooks Brothers on King Street.  Their silk knots, regularly nine dollars each, were on sale at four for twenty dollars.  And I had a twenty-five percent off coupon.  Needless to say I picked up a selection of them.

Silk knots are a colorful alternative to metal cufflinks used to fasten French cuffs.  These silk knots, or monkey fists, are made from three strands of elastic silk interwoven to create two round knots connected by two of the three elastic strands.  Because the knots are made from three strands of elastic silk, they may be produced in one, two or even three color combinations.

Consider coordinating your silk knot with a stripe in your shirt, a check in your tie, or even your socks.  The quite adventurous might even try coordinating a tri-color silk knot with three similar colors in a tweed jacket.  Because of the multitude of color combinations available, the possibilities are limitless.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Middleton Place

I spent a long weekend in Charleston, SC.  We stayed at our favorite spot in Charleston, the Inn at Middleton Place.  The Inn is sited on the bluffs overlooking the Ashley River

Awarded for its architectural design and found to be a modern counterpoint to the neighboring 18th-century Middleton Place plantation, the Inn's distinctive architecture and simple, rustic decor lends to the beauty of the property.  With dramatic floor to ceiling windows that evoke a sense of living within nature and wide plantation shutters for privacy, guests enjoy the sights and sounds of nature at its finest.

Each room is furnished with handcrafted furniture, hardwood floors with braided rugs and warm cypress paneling.  A wood burning fireplace adds to the ambiance and can be enjoyed during the cooler months while a 150 gallon garden tub beckons guests to relaxation.  The Inn's 53 private accommodations are found in four separate, bold, geometric structures each located within a short and convenient walking distance of one another.

Just a short walk from the Inn is the garden at Middleton Place.  Begun in 1741 by Henry Middleton, President of the First Continental Congress, the 60-acre formal garden is accented by ancient live oaks draped heavily in Spanish moss.  Middleton Place has survived war, hurricanes and earthquakes to earn the distinction as a National Historic Landmark.  If you are ever in the area, the garden is worth a visit.

Friday, November 6, 2009

In Support of the Cravat

A cravat is a type of silk neckwear descended from scarves worn knotted at the neck of seventeenth century Croatian mercenaries enlisted in the French military.  The word cravat derives from the French pronunciation of Hrvat, an individual of Croation heritage and ancestry.  The cravat is the predecessor of the modern necktie.

In a business-casual or weekend wardrode, a cravat is an appropriate substitute for a necktie.  A cravat adds a splash of color to an open-necked shirt and sublimely elevates an otherwise ordinary and mundane ensemble.  Consider the photograph of Cary Grant from Alfred Hitchcock's 1955 classic To Catch a Thief.  Grant's gray jacket and open-necked white shirt would appear lifeless without that splash of silk at his throat.

My source for handmade silk cravats is Beau Ties, Ltd. of Middlebury, Vermont.

If you elect to wear a cravat, be forewarned that you will receive the occassional comment regarding Thurston Howell, III.  Do not be dissuaded.  The person making the comment is probably wearing SpongeBob SquarePants underwear.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Pre-Folded Pocket Handkerchief Lacks Sprezzatura

I mentioned in a previous post that one issue you must consider in the display of a pocket handkerchief is the manner in which you fold it before placing it in your breast pocket.  I intend to discuss in future posts a number of possible folds that you may employ; some are quite conservative, while others could be considered flashy.  In the end the choice of fold is a matter of personal preference.  Remember that part of dressing stylishly involves making clothing choices that reflect your personality.

I would recommend that you avoid using a pre-folded pocket handkerchief.  A pre-folded pocket handkerchief is a piece of fabric that is pristinely folded and attached to a piece of cardboard that holds the cloth perfectly in your breast pocket.  Using one is akin to wearing a clip-on tie.  The problem with a pre-folded pocket handkerchief is that it is too perfect.  It lacks the carelessness necessary to be stylish.

Count Baldesar Castiglione in The Book of the Courtier (1528) coined the Italian word sprezzatura which generally translates as "deliberately calculated nonchalance."  Castiglione warns that one should "avoid affectation to the uttermost and as it were a very sharp and dangerous rock; and, ... to practice in everything a certain sprezzatura that shall conceal design and show that what is done and said is done without effort and almost without thought.  From this I believe grace is in large measure derived, because everyone knows the difficulty of those things that are rare and well done, and therefore facility in them excites the highest admiration; while on the other hand, to strive ... is extremely ungraceful, and makes us esteem everything slightly, however great it be."

When applied to your wardrobe, sprezzatura means carefully making clothing choices so that it appears little thought was put into their selection.  In other words you don't want to look like you are trying too hard.  A pre-folded pocket handkerchief has that affected and unwanted look.  An imperfectly folded pocket square is perfection.  That is sprezzatura

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In Support of Pinned Collars

A collar pin, or collar bar, is a item of men's jewelry that connects the tips of the shirt collar and passes underneath the knot of the tie to elevate it above the front of the shirt.  This accessory functions much like a tabbed collar in that it keeps the collars tidy and provides an aesthetically pleasing arc to the necktie.

There are three varieties of collar pins.  My preference is the "barbell" style that I wore today (see the picture above).  One end of the bar is unscrewed so that the pin will pass through special eyelets sewn into the collar.  This style of collar pin almost certainly requires the purchase of bespoke shirts because it is nearly impossible to find a ready-to-wear shirt that features these eyelets.  The second style of collar pin looks like a large safety pin.  It may either be used on shirts with eyelets, or pierced through the collar tips of a shirt that lacks eyelets (the very idea makes me cringe).  The third style is a bar with clips that grasp each collar tip; there is some danger that this style of bar may slip and go askew because the clips merely hold the collar ends with a friction fit.

Wearing a pinned collar is not for the stylistically tentative.  Some people may find it elegant; others may think it's fussy.  In either case, a pinned collar will likely draw attention because it is so rarely seen these days.  To wear one you must be willing to suffer the consequences of being a non-conformist.  A pinned collar is not fashionable.  But it is stylish.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Theme Tie Haiku

Tabasco on silk.
Spilled hot sauce on a Hermes?
No. Worse.  A theme tie.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Southern BBQ

I mentioned in my first post that I intended to occasionally add a bit of Southern flavor to this blog through the discussion of food and drink.  After having spent much of the night smoking pork butts for an All Saints Day celebration at church today, I decided that this was an opportune day to depart from our discussion of clothing. 

There is no food more Southern than smoked pork.  I'll share with you my method for preparing pulled pork sandwiches.  First inject a Boston butt with pineapple juice.  Then slather the butt with yellow prepared mustard.  Sprinkle all surfaces of the butt generously with a spice rub (see my recipe below).  Smoke at 250 degrees using a mixture of hickory and apple woods until the pork butt reaches an internal temperature of 205 degrees.  Wrap the butt in aluminum foil and then in an old towel.  Placed the wrapped butt in a small cooler for at least an hour.  Unwrap the butt and shred the meat with your fingers.  Place the meat on a cheap hamburger bun and coat with sauce (see recipe below).  Serve with cole slaw, baked beans and sweet tea.


4 TBSP paprika
1 TBSP sea salt
1 TBSP celery salt
2 TBSP sugar
2 TBSP light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp  chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 tsp dried oregano


1 cup yellow prepared mustard
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 TBSP chili powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 TBSP hot sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
2 TBSP butter

Add all ingredients (except soy sauce and butter) to a small sauce pan.  Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes.  Remove from the heat and add soy sauce and butter.  Stir until smooth.