Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Accessories: A Pocket Knife

Bone-handled, a gift from a fine gentleman whose wedding I groomsmanned.  (At this point, I'm a pro.  Proud to say that none of my grooms have succeeded in their attempts to flee the wedding five minutes before it began.  Watching all that pro wrestling finally paid off.)  Absolutely gorgeous.  I keep it on my office desk.  It has a great heft to it. 

Back in the Boy Scouts, a good pocketknife was de rigeur on one's person at all times.  Nowadays, with my constant comings and goings at various courthouses, I tend not to carry one, just to make sure that I don't accidentally take it through a security checkpoint and get it permanently confiscated by an alphabet-soup agency.

But men have precious few opportunities to express themselves in casual dress, and the right pocketknife can set the tone.  Maybe I should add "stow your knife" to "straighten your necktie" and "mute your phone" to my entering-the-courthouse mental macro.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

He Might Prefer Myrrh to Silver and Gold

I had always heard that silver and gold don't mix well, but I really wanted a pair of gold cufflinks for this brown suit.  Unfortunately, all I could find were these Joseph Abbouds, which are nice enough but have a burnished silver border.  They just look funny, even with colors that should've worked in theory.  I suppose a big stainless steel watch isn't helping the color balance, but I swear they looked funny even before I put on the watch.

Stainless steel always goes.  Gold sometimes goes.  They don't usually go together.*  (Corollary*: Neither do black-and-brown oxfords.)

*All propositions and corollaries subject to The Menswear Caveat, which is that rules may be broken if you know what you're doing.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

We All Make Mistakes Once in a While

My camera can't seem to do justice to just how pink these socks are.  I wore them with my crazy checked purple-and-pinkish shirt, and it just didn't go.  (Of course, I didn't realize this until I got to the office, at which point it proceeded to bother me for the rest of the day.)  I think maybe the pinks in question were just too different despite both being sort of pink.

So it turns out there are outer limits to my dandyism.  I guess that's good to know--means I'm less likely to end up wearing combinations that everyone but me thinks are crazy.  By age 70 or so, I hope to have overcome this stricture.

[Title alludes to "Hawaii", by Mew, on their latest album, "No more stories Are told today I'm sorry They washed away No more stories The world is grey I'm tired Let's wash away."  This isn't a music blog, but some things are too good not to share.]

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuck Style: Wisdom from the Comments

Reprinted, here in its entirety, with my imprimatur, is a comment from Mr. Timothy Chen Allen on how to prevent a bunch of folds in the back of your dress shirts.  The elegantly simple solution comes, not surprisingly, from our armed forces.  I have experimented with both styles and have a slight preference for the Marine Corps Style.

I went to the Naval Academy, and was commissioned into the Marine Corps in 1986. We learned two different styles of tucks in the Navy and the Marine Corps. Both keep you from having bunched up material in the back.

In both cases you start with the shirt tails tucked into your trousers, which are not all the way closed up.

1) Navy Style: Grab the sides of your shirt at the seams. Put a thumb into the material *behind* the seam, an make a fold on either side of your body going towards your spine. Keeping this fold tight, you grab your trouser waistband with your pinkie and ring fingers and pull up our pants. Keep the waistband tight so you won't lose the tuck, and work your hands around until you can button your trousers.

2) Marine Corps Style: Much the same, but the folds start farther back and go towards the front-- in other words, the reverse of Navy style. They're further back so you don't have the folds swimming around in front.

If you want to really get hard core, both Navy and Marine Corps officers used "Shirt Stays"-- elestic bands that attached the shirt tails to the tops of the socks so everything stayed drum tight. OOHRAH!

Disclaimer: This is what I was taught. In reality, there was a right way, a wrong way, and a Navy way to do everything.
 Hats off to you, Mr. Allen.  Thank you for the tip, and thank you for your service.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Q&A: Permanent Creases

Anonymous asks:

Do you get "permanent creases" put in your suit pants, if not how do you keep your pants creased as steaming them doesn't seem to take care of this? 

I know that Jos. A. Bank offers permanent creases when you buy the suit, but my salesmen never offer it to me.  I do not know why this is so.  I do not ask for the permanent crease.  However, I find that the crease stays noticeable for months after it comes back from the dry cleaners.  I guess I've never focused on it.  So, good question, Anonymous!

You should be able to get the crease back on your own if you don't want to drop $3 at the cleaners.  Put your iron on the high-steam setting, lay the pants leg out on your ironing board exactly as you want it--there are no do-overs on this, unfortunately--put a handkerchief down over the area to be pressed, get the steam going, and press down like you're ironing, but only for a second.  If you overdo it, the crease will be too deep and will look funny.  Think of yourself as a benevolent small-town sheriff: Mete out your steamy justice only where needed and in the smallest amount necessary.

There are also pants pressers, but dang, they're expensive, and it's one more appliance to have to find a place for.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Getting Your Game Face On

When you need to spend an hour or two working from home, it's hard to stay focused.  So many distractions--I could take out the trash, for example, or fold laundry, or play Fallout 3: New Vegas for my fortieth hour, or eat cookie dough out of the freezer.

So when I got home, I swapped my suit (as I did before) for this shirt and a bow tie--this one having come in the post from Ellie at The Cordial Churchman, with selection guidance, on demand, from friend Erin.  I find that dressing up a bit for the home office hones my attention.

What's that you say?  That little bit of fabric in the center of the bow looks like seersucker, whereas the rest looks like madras?

Hell yeah, it does, because this bad boy is reversible.  I'm in love.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Emergency Preparedness, by Accident

My shirt developed an inexplicable blotchy yellow stain on the sleeve at the office the other day--maybe food, maybe highlighter, who knows.  Anyway, I wanted to get it to my dry cleaners before the stain set up.  But--what would I do?  Walk in there in my undershirt?

You see, I'm of the opinion that undershirts are like underwear: if someone is seeing yours, and it's not Sexy Time, it's usually a bad thing.  I know there are many opinions on this subject.  I will make concessions for guys with unruly chest hair who want to wear a button-down shirt without a tie and leave the top button open--but only because the alternative is looking like Disco Stu, and only because apparently hirsute friend Matt persuaded me not to take a more extreme position (such as mandatory chest-waxing).

Anyway, this beloved green-and-tan rugby sweater (J. Crew outlet) was in the car, waiting to be returned to the apartment, so I was able to put it on for my trip to the dry cleaners.  I like the look.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Frost on the grass outside my office window this morning.  Buy yourself a nice winter coat.  You deserve it.  Pea coats and toggle coats seem to be popular this year.  Look for a lean silhouette, and don't be afraid to get it tailored.  A good coat will last you years and years.