Saturday, August 7, 2010

Don't Ruin Your Silhouette

As recently published on Men's Flair:

A silhouette is the outline of a solid object. When applied to male attire it refers to the (hopefully pleasing) outward appearance of a man’s clothed shape. Michael Anton, writing under the pseudonym Nicholas Antongiavanni, very artfully stated in The Suit that “the virtue of tailored clothing is that it improves a man’s rudimentary shape.” Unfortunately many men seem to consistently and unwittingly sabotage the tailor’s effort to create a pleasing silhouette.

The habit of walking around with an unbuttoned jacket is a quite common sartorial sin. An unbuttoned tailored jacket hangs open like a limp dishtowel. Jackets are tailored to accentuate the narrowness of a man’s waist and then flare out at the hips. The button set near the natural waist holds the jacket closed at this narrowest point. To ensure proper drape and a pleasing silhouette one should always, when standing, fasten the top button of a two-button jacket, or the middle button of a three-button jacket.

Many men seem compelled to fill their trouser pockets full of all sorts of paraphernalia. Common lumpy masses include lighters, knives, huge wads of keys and fat wallets stuffed with three-year-old receipts and expired credit cards. Trousers should hang without any lumps or ripples; filling trouser pockets with all of this kit ruins their elongating line.

I hold a special dislike for those clunky, awful belt-worn cell phone holsters. Unless your name is Bruce Wayne, please don’t wear junk hanging from your belt.

So what to do with all of these trappings? The first thing is to pare them down. Clean out your wallet. How many credit cards do you really need to carry in your pocket? Are you really going to use that coupon for a free round of miniature golf? Get rid of the key to that car you sold last year. Do you really visit the safe deposit box often enough that you need to carry the key with you every day?

Once you have separated the wheat from the chaff, you need to decide how to covertly carry the necessities. You might invest in a nice coat wallet (see Andrew Williams’ recent profile of Ettinger of London) and keep it in an inside jacket pocket. I carry a slim iPhone in one inside jacket pocket and three keys (office, home and car) in an outside jacket pocket; these items are completely unobtrusive. If you must carry more than a few bare essentials then put them in a nice leather briefcase. I’m saving my pennies for a Swaine Adeney Brigg document case…

Friday, August 6, 2010

Warby Parker Interview

As recently published on Men's Flair:

I recently had the opportunity to interview Neil Blumenthal, one of the founders of Warby Parker.

Andrew Hodges: By offering low-cost boutique-quality glasses directly to consumers, Warby Parker has created a unique niche in the eyewear industry. What led to this idea for a new kind of eyewear company?

Neil Blumenthal: Andy, Dave, Jeff and I were tired of paying $400+ for new glasses every time we scratched a lens or misplaced a pair. Andy had the great idea to sell glasses online, which enabled us to bypass the middlemen (the optical shops and large licensing companies) that charge outrageous amounts for frames and lenses. And, I had experience designing and manufacturing frames from my days at VisionSpring, a non-profit social enterprise that distributes eyeglasses to people in need throughout the world. We set out to transform the optical industry by providing the vintage-inspired, boutique-quality frames we love, at a revolutionary price point.

Hodges: What was the inspiration for the designs in the current Warby Parker eyewear collection?

Blumenthal: All four of us have been lifelong glasses wearers with an eye toward larger, classic shapes and vintage frames. Our first collection is inspired by our lives as recent students at The Wharton School and our time as New Yorkers. The brand is both classically Ivy League and urban hip. Many of the frames are named after literary figures, including the Huxley (Aldous Leonard Huxley) and the Roark (protagonist in the Fountainhead). The name “Warby Parker” actually comes from two characters found in Jack Kerouac’s unpublished journals, Warby Pepper and Zagg Parker.

Hodges: Some potential customers have expressed frustration about delays because of the short supply of frames. Were you surprised by the level of demand, and has the company taken measures to address the supply issue?

Blumenthal: We thought our idea would resonate with our friends, but we had no idea that it would resonate with so many people so quickly. While it was exciting that so many people from all of the country and world were interested in our eyewear, we felt terrible that we couldn’t provide everyone with glasses right away. The four of us would literally stay up all night writing emails to apologize to customers. Thankfully, we’ve now been able to produce additional frames and we are almost through the waitlist that grew during the weeks that we sold out of frames. We’ve now tripled the team’s size and are working hard to quickly produce as many frames as possible.

Hodges: Does Warby Parker have any immediate plans to broaden its collection? Should we expect any new designs or a wider range of sizes?

Blumenthal: Yes, we’re currently designing some great new frames in different colors and sizes. Our new collection will be available in October.

Hodges: Many Men’s Flair readers live overseas. Has the company considered making eyeglasses available for orders and shipping outside the United States?

Blumenthal: Absolutely! We’re working on it as we speak.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Fine Line

An article of mine recently published on Men's Flair:

As the current readers of my blog, A Southern Gentleman, already know, and as my new readers here on Men's Flair may soon discover, I am a proponent of classic men’s style. One may trace the roots of most of the best elements of male attire to the first half of the 20th Century, sometimes referred to as “The Golden Age of Style.” I do not mean to romanticize that era or suggest that it represents some utopia of male sartorial splendor. But it is an inescapable truth that, as a general rule, our ancestors dressed more stylishly than we do today.

When incorporating these elements of classic style into one’s daily wardrobe, I believe there is a fine line between dressing with style and merely becoming a caricature of an era. For example, a safari jacket, if woven properly into a summer wardrobe (a vintage Esquire illustration comes to mind), can add a classically stylish element to a man’s attire. One who instead pairs the safari jacket with a pith helmet and gurkha shorts risks being mistaken for an extra from Hatari! or a WWII military reenactor who took a wrong turn somewhere in North Africa.

A couple of years ago I picked up a handful of issues of a new magazine called Classic Style. The name of the magazine was promising, but unfortunately much of the content crossed that line into retro caricature. I recall one advertisement for a leather belt-worn cell phone holster (that’s a rant for another day). The model pictured in the advertisement was dressed in a gray double-breasted suit with high-waisted pleated trousers, a loud geometric-patterned vintage tie with a silver tie bar, a Panama hat and spectator shoes (apparently making spats unnecessary to complete the look). Individually, many of the elements of the model’s attire were quite stylish. Panama hats, spectator shoes and tie bars are all classics. But taken as a whole, the look was fatuous and outdated.

I encourage everyone to incorporate, in moderate doses, elements of classic style into their daily wardrobe, and to aspire to dress better than the t-shirt and flip-flop clad masses. But beware of looking like you just stepped out of a Wellsian time machine. It’s a fine line.