Friday, January 29, 2010

Donate Old Shoes

City Sports is accepting shoe donations for victims of the Haiti earthquakes.  This is the perfect opportunity to get rid of your rubber-soled dress shoes for a good cause.

Have a lovely weekend.  I'll see you at Filene's after work.

Faux Pas - Tags and Stickers

Spotted: A large "M" size sticker on the back of the collar of a gentleman's sport shirt.

And, though it pains me to say it--

Spotted: A price tag, somewhat hidden behind the lapel of a new suit jacket being worn

Some likely places for unwanted post-purchase decals and tags:

  • Under the left lapel of the coat, a price tag
  • In a coat pocket, a materials tag
  • In a seat pocket, a materials tag.  This monstrosity tends to come out when you pull out your wallet.

  • On the back of the collar, a little thumbnail-sized circle.  I see this on at least one pedestrian a week.
  • On one side of the chest, generally a long, narrow sticker with sizing info

Pants, Jeans
  • On the back of the waist, one of those info tags that clips over the waist
  • On the leg, a long, narrow sticker with sizing info
When you bring a new item home from the store, give it a thorough going-over to make sure you catch everything.  Flip up the collar, look under the lapels, turn the pockets inside out.  A size sticker on your leg is almost as embarrassing as an open fly.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Casual: Anything but Trainers, Please

Steve Jobs announced the iPad today.  He was wearing Dad Jeans and...sneakers.  Generic "cross-trainer" athletic shoes.  "Trainers," as they call them across the pond.  This image, thanks to Engadget:

Look, I can't stop you from wearing Dad Jeans to the grocery store.  I know you're going to do it no matter what I say here.  I see you do it every time I go to the grocery store.  There are dozens of you.  Sometimes, you don't even wear Dad Jeans with your trainers--you just wear sweatpants.  Fine.  Wear sweatpants.  I'm sure you won't meet your soulmate at the grocery store.  (Definitely not if you're wearing sweatpants.)

But.  Please do not wear trainers anywhere but the gym.  You are so much more thoughtful than that.  I just know it.

You don't have to wear cap-toes.  They can even be $40 Chuck Taylors, which are half the price as your trainers and will last longer.  In fact, I actively endorse white Chuck Taylor low-tops as a go-to knockabout shoe for blue jeans.  They have a nice foot-lengthening effect, and the blues coordinate.

Go to the DSW or the department store or wherever and get you some Steve Madden casual shoes.  They're comfortable.  I promise.  They're stylish.  Take the step.  Don't look back.  And save the trainers for the company softball game.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sale: Latest Paul Fredrick $20 Oxford Offer

If you want to get some of Paul Fredrick's great pinpoint oxfords for $20 each, the current coupon code is TZRSAN, valid through February 28, 2010.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Secret Weapons: Jiffy Esteam

Maybe you don't have bad habits like I do, but one of mine is taking my suit pants to the dry cleaners too often.  After two wearings, suit pants are just too wrinkled to safely wear to the office, so I get them pressed.  I do this even in winter, when cooler temperatures mean I don't sweat when I walk around outside.  I never encountered the oft-stated problem of suit pants becoming lighter than suit jacket as a result of too many dry-cleanings, but such frequent washings get expensive quickly.

Enter the Jiffy Esteam.  I got mine on eBay last week for about $35. They are about $50 new.  It Just Works.  You pour water in and plug it in.  It takes a few minutes to heat up.  It releases steam.  You pass the steam-head within a half-inch or so of your wrinkled dress pants, and the wrinkles literally disappear.  I was shocked--shocked!--that such a simple product could be so effective.  It also works on shirts, almost as well as ironing, and it's much faster and less labor-intensive.

If you ever travel with suits and other dress clothing, I can only imagine how convenient the Jiffy would be compared to folding everything up in plastic wrap or whatever your solution is.

Once the hot weather returns and I begin anew to wilt during the day, I'll re-review to see how this little steamer handles odors.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Faux Pas: Peeping Tie

The title is a clever pun on "Peeping Tom."  Get it?  "Tom", "Tie".  They sound alike, but they're different, and yet a Peeping Tom is as unwelcome as your necktie peeking out from underneath the back of your collar.

You'll laugh when you're older.

It's a common problem with an easy fix.  (Peeping collars, not Peeping Toms.)  When you're ready to put your tie on, flip up your collar, button the top button, put in your collar stays, get the knot how you want it, and cinch it down as usual.  Take a close look in the mirror and move the tie-loop up or down so that its top edge is just below the line where your collar folds.  Reach around behind your neck, find the collar-fold line, and flip it down over the tie-loop in one motion.  Flip the rest of the collar down, moving toward the throat.

Once the collar is in place, reach over your shoulder and stick your finger up underneath your collar.  Your necktie should feel at least a quarter of an inch away from the lip of the collar.

Alternate solution: If you have a significant other or roommate who's awake when you're dressing, ask him/her to visually confirm the lack of tie-peeping.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sale to Watch: Jos. A. Bank Signature Gold for 70% Off

Thanks to Pater for pointing this one out.  Through January 24, Jos. A. Bank is selling their Signature Gold suits for 70% off list (usually $1100), that is, about $330.  This is as good an opportunity as you will ever have, particularly if you are The Guy Who Only Needs One Suit.  The value you obtain for the extra $110 more than you'd pay for an Executive model on sale--indeed, the value you obtain for $330 period--is immeasurable.  We are pretty sure that Hickey Freeman manufactures the Signature Gold suits on JAB's behalf.

As usual, I would recommend going to a brick-and-mortar so you can start to build a rapport with a salesman and make sure the suit fits properly.

Faux Pas: Turned-Up Jacket Collar

Saw it on Metro this morning (I have a flat tire, which compounds my general temporarily-carless malaise by requiring me to take the subway): that lurking rogue, that eldritch horror--the accidentally turned-up suit-jacket collar!

Every time you put your jacket on, reach behind your neck and feel the collar to make sure it's flipped down properly.  Do the same whenever you get off the subway--any time I have to use one of the overhead handholds, my collar tends to flip.

Otherwise, you run the risk of having a flipped-up jacket collar during, say, a job interview.  (That happened to me once.  I've been paranoid ever since.)

It has become trendy to wear an odd jacket with the collar turned up.  Some jacket manufacturers even plan for this by using some quirky color of felt under their collars.  This is most emphatically not going to cut it in an office setting unless you are The Trendy Guy in your office.  Even then, I counsel against it.  If, however, you are out at U Street on a Friday night, go nuts.

Further, feel free to wear your overcoat with the collar turned up (while overcoat weather still lasts).  This is a common enough look this season that even a well-dressed lawyer can safely pull it off without drawing disapproving glances from his bosses.

Friday, January 15, 2010


In case you are wondering whether people notice clothes (I myself used to wonder):

I was walking back to the office from the Metro station this morning, briefcase in hand, after a court appearance, and feeling a bit ratty.  I was wearing
-an unremarkable charcoal JAB Executive suit
-this shirt in blue, with some brushed aluminum cufflinks from Filene's, but the sleeves have gotten too short and the colar too tight after a rather small number of trips to the cleaners
-a basic $20 "Burma Bibas" tie from Filene's--diagonal stripes in white, cream, blue, and navy
-black cap-toes
-a white pocket square

and a gentleman, in passing, said, "You look fantastic!"

It didn't quite make my day, but it sure helped.

Put It Into Practice: Eventide

Eventide is a lovely, dressy little place in Clarendon, a neighborhood here in Arlington, VA.  They have delicious craft beers and appetizers at a reasonable mark-up.  It is an excellent place to go with friends and a cruel place to go alone, owing to the frequently pretentious clientele.

I hemmed and hawed about what to wear to a dear friend's surprise birthday party there last Saturday.  I settled on jeans and my black cap-toes but couldn't decide where to go from there.  (I tend to work from the shoes up.)  I just knew I didn't want to be Another Dude in Dressy Jeans and a Button-Down.

Flashback: I bought this shirt on Threadless a month ago--for obvious reasons, I had to have it--but once I got it, I wasn't sure when to wear it:

Until that night.  So I put it under my white Oxford, which I left unbuttoned to the navel.  From a distance, chameleon; up close, hot chicks on wolves with booze and automatic weapons, lighting doves on fire:

My friends got a big kick out of it, and I got to feel a little subversive without being rudely distracting.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Color Is Hard: Scarves and Ties

Brother Elliot asks a timely question: How to match a scarf to one's tie and suit?

This is how I learned color: I wear the suit and tie to the clothing store, and I grab an armload of scarves, and I hold them up to the suit and tie, and I go, "Does this look funny?"  If I'm not sure, I ask a female passer-by.  (I deduce, from their reactions, that women love it when random men in suits ask them if a scarf goes with a tie.)

Here is an example from the suit/hat pairing I wrote about:

The tie is a JAB number that brings out both the rust windowpane and the white windowpane in the suit's fabric while adding a consonant blue.  The scarf, meanwhile, picks up a lot of the same earth tones as well as the black present in the suit's brown.  It also goes well with my camel-colored overcoat (apologies for the inaccurate color balance):

Some general ideas:

1. Families of colors.  The ensemble above is all about earth tones--brown and red.  So various shades of brown and red are safe.  The key is not to get the shades too close together.  If it looks like you were trying to get identical shades of brown but you failed, the effect is really distracting, like simultaneously listening to Middle C and one hertz above Middle C.  The dissonance is inversely proportional to the distance between the colors.

2. Pop colors, and inverted pop colors.  The idea is to take a minor color from your tie and make it the major color of your scarf, or take the major color of your tie and make it the minor color of your scarf.  Solid red tie with just a touch of navy?  Go with a navy scarf.  Or go with a scarf with a hint of red and colors similar to your suit. Gray tie with purple stripes?  Go with a purple scarf. Or go with a multicolor striped scarf whose dominant color is purple.

3. Neutral overcoats.  Grays, blacks, and tans will maximize your flexibility when it comes to picking scarves.

Finally, remember that your scarf may well obscure your tie when you're out and about, so if you see a scarf you love but which doesn't really go with the tie, be adventurous.  Sometimes color coordination happens by accident.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sale: Fine and Dandy Scarves

On sale here for $19.  $10-20 is eminently reasonable for a scarf, especially a nice one.  A great prelude to my pending response to Brother Elliot's comment-question about how to match a scarf to your suit and tie.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Secret Weapons: A Bantam Collar

Ever since I saw Casino Royale (the Daniel Craig one, not the Peter Sellers one), I've been chasing that perfect British dress collar--spread collar, pert, vertically ambitious yet arms-wide-open, with a fat but proportionate Windsor knot puffing out from the placket.  The problem has always been that by the end of the day, the collar points have pinched down on the top of the tie knot, flattening it and themselves in the process.  The only solution is to further tighten the knot around your neck, but this is uncomfortable and tends to cause shirt deformity near the neck unless your collar is a perfect fit.  I had been stymied.

So, you know that transparent plastic piece that clips onto a dress shirt's top button and has wings that sit under the collar and which you throw away when you unpack the shirt because it's a useless piece of plastic?  Wait!  Stop!  Don't throw it away.

I found this one under the collar of my new Brooks Brothers extra-slim:

The other morning, I clipped it to the top button of my Paul Fredrick white dress shirt.  It's practically invisible against the white fabric.  I knotted my tie and slipped it into place, then folded the collar down--alas! the collar stays catch on the plastic wing!--but wait!--what ho!--everything pops into place!  This afternoon, after seven hours of wear, the knot and collar look just as they did this morning.

The trick seems to be this: while your collar is still flipped up, slip the thinger's wings underneath the exposed ends of your collar stays, then flip the collar down in one smooth movement, starting from the back.

I will never go without one again, at least on a white shirt.  The plastic may be more visible on solid-color shirts.  Just play it by ear.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Punctilios: Fly Discipline

Stylish dress ain't all fun and games.  (It will be today because I'm going to Filene's on my lunch break, but tomorrow is another day.)  If you don't love the process, the details get kind of tedious, as I realize when I come home and take off my suit: remove cufflinks, remove and unknot tie, remove collar stays, unbutton shirt, carefully hang up pants to preserve crease, brush jacket, add shirt to dry cleaners pile.

But details discipline is oh-so-important.  Case in point: saw a guy with his fly open today.  You simply cannot let this happen to you.  It means being exceptionally mindful when you're finishing up in the loo--99 times out of 100, you'll zip up automatically, but the one time you don't is the time everybody remembers.  Incorporate a fly-check into your restroom hand-washing routine.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Give to Goodwill: Your Rubber-Soled Shoes

Whether you are wearing a suit and tie or a pair of jeans and a sweater, your dressy shoes should not have a rubber sole unless you are taking the Virginia bar exam.  After you find out that you passed, you should give those shoes to Goodwill.

A leather sole has many benefits.  It is less casual.  It gives your footfall a distinct but unobtrusive sound (the very reason which the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners forbids them on the unforgiving concrete floors of the dark, yet bright, Roanoke Convention Center).  It makes for a leaner shoe silhouette (though leanness is a matter of taste; mine skews toward the slender and pointed). 

A leather sole lasts longer.  It tends to be attached to a nicer leather.  It makes re-soling easier so that you can make a beloved pair of shoes last for decades (generations, if they're made of cordovan, a type of leather made from horsehide and which tends to have a very rich burgundy color and lasts forever).

Finally, when you cross your leg, the sole looks careworn yet classy.  This is especially important when you're wearing sharp jeans.  Wouldn't want to accidentally dress them down with a clunky, dusty rubber sole.

Monday, January 4, 2010

In Praise Of: The Spread Collar with the Four-in-Hand

Did I just the other day praise the same collar's pairing with the Four-in-Hand's spiritual opposite, the Windsor? 

Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

With a properly thick necktie, the Four-in-Hand straddles the line between "thick enough" and "not quite thick enough" to bridge the gap between the spread collar's points.  The observing eye spots a potential imbalance but ultimately realizes that all is in harmony after all.  Then you are left to do with the observer's captured attention what you will--perhaps ask for a raise or a date (preferably not from the same person).

When a necktie is sufficiently wide higher up its length, its Four-in-Hand may even reach below the collar points, again pushing against but not breaking the eye's expectations.  The same effect is possible on a narrower necktie if you take care to create a large dimple.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year: My Resolutions, in Threes

1. Find three non-white, non-blue shirts from Paul Fredrick for $20 or $30 each.
2. Acquire three suits, one of which is a three-piece.
3. Buy three ties at random from Filene's and force them into my current wardrobe.
4. Pick up three pairs of quirky dress socks.
5. Donate to Goodwill three trash bags' worth of clothes.

Here's hoping 2010 treats you well.