Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cufflink Varietals

Cufflinks, those most indispensable men's accessories, come in several major varieties.  I offer a primer and some suggestions.  N.B. My naming conventions are my own and are not likely to be understood by anyone who doesn't read this post.

The Clasp: The Clasp has a little widget on the back that pivots freely; the image above shows the link in its fastened position.  If the rotating pin is perpendicular to the "public face" of the cufflink, you can easily line up all four holes of the French cuff and push the pin through, then rotate it to the shown configuration.  The public face should point away from your body when your hands are at your sides.
The Good: The Clasp is very secure and is far and away the most common type of cufflink available at most retailers, from Filene's to Brooks Brothers.  It also tends to be less expensive than other types.
The Bad: People sometimes see the inside of your wrist, and that means they see a homely cylinder of inexpensive metal.

The Two-Face: The Two-Face has two public faces, usually identical.  The faces are held together either by a solid bar, as shown, by a chain, or by a snapping mechanism.  Generally, to get a Two-Face on, it's easiest to push the public face through the French-cuff hole from the side, one hole at a time.  If your hand can fit through your French cuff when it's fastened, it's even easier to fasten the cuff while your shirt's still on the hanger and then shove your hand through.
The Good: The Two-Face is far more elegant than The Clasp--your inner wrist is just as handsome as the outer.
The Bad: The Clasp is extraordinarily hard to find in most retail stores.  Recently, Jos. A. Bank has started to offer simple Two-Faces for a reasonable price.  I got the pair shown during one of their "50% off everything" sales.  Quite a good deal.  The Clasp is also hard to put on when you're in a hurry.

The Monkey's Fist: The Fist (treated more extensively here) is a Two-Face made out of cloth with a knot of string on either end.  The versions I've seen are held together by two strands of stretchy fabric.  This means you can easily put the link in place while the shirt is still hanging (which means you can use both hands to maneuver it) and then stretch out the cuff opening when you're ready to put the shirt on.
The Good: Inexpensively had at Brooks Brothers.  Comes in a huge variety of colors.  Easy to put on.
The Bad: Somewhat less formal than a metal link, but depending upon whom you're meeting, that can be an excellent thing.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pop Psychology: Photo-Recycling/Holiday Edition

The other day, I wrote that a pocketknife can set the tone for an outfit.  A commenter wondered what I was smoking, and I thought I would elaborate.

1. Perhaps you're doing Christmas with the in-laws and everyone's slightly dressy and you will be called upon to open obstreperous packaging.  An elegant pocketknife that coordinates with everything else is a lovely touch.

2. More importantly, who cares if nobody sees it?  Maybe I'm fetishizing Stuff here, but a gorgeous piece like this, or the more functional one with my grandfather's initials on it, makes me feel more confident just knowing I have it on me.  Not because I expect to have to use it, but because it's pregnant with emotional meaning and memory.

Until I started to receive thoughtful, unique gifts like this one, I didn't understand why dads dutifully wore the ties and sweaters that their kids got them for Christmas.  I don't have kids, myself, but I understand now.  We encode happy memories onto physical objects associated with those memories.  Wearing the sweater or carrying the knife reminds us of those memories, reminds us of Good Times, reminds us of why we work the livelong day.

As a result, our attitude that day changes--we are happier, so we carry ourselves better, so we feel more confident, so we are more confident.  Thus: the pocketknife sets the tone.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Color Is Hard: Swiss Army Tie

This bow tie goes with bloody everything.  Here, my Brooks Brothers blue check with gray herringbone suit.  The madras contains a lot of the classic menswear colors--white, blue, gray, navy--without having any one color dominate.  This means the tie will work with almost any conceivable suit/shirt pairing in my closet and kill with several.

I feel like I've written this post before, but I'm so in love with this bow tie that half the new pictures in my Picasa queue (where I store the Dapper District photos) are pictures of it.  I will try to keep my topics varied.

You can get your very own from Ellie at The Cordial Churchman, which gets my hearty recommendation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Color Is Hard: Photo-Recycling and Comment-Answering Edition

Anonymous said [responding to this post]... 
Didnt you break a rule here?....3 patterns?  I guess you are in that "special" category of people who can break rules because they know what they are doing.


1) Anyone can break the "rules."  I don't know if there are any "rules" that I 100% endorse in all situations (front necktie blade should be longer than the back one? don't walk around naked in public?). Regardless, I'm familiar with the 3-pattern "rule" but haven't deliberately incorporated it.  Like every other style rule I've read, it's a guideline to warn you against something that frequently doesn't work.  As I understand it, the concern with mixing a plaid shirt, a polka-dot tie, and a herringbone jacket is that the collar space will look garish or busy.  That's certainly possible.  It's also possible with combinations of solid colors.  Personally, I think the image above looks sharp.  Here's why:

a. The stripes in the suit and the necktie are the same color--blue and gold.  They are the same type of pattern and the same color, but on vastly different scales.  This makes them distant cousins, so that they complement each other without looking matchy.

b. The colors all fit.  Light blue, white, navy, and gold; and gray in the suit.  The gray is basically a canvas here--everything works with it.  So while the patterns might be slightly busy (I don't think so), the color unity tones down the busy.

2) I guess writing two or three posts a week on a blog about menswear for over a year (just noticed that I missed my one-year anniversary by 11 days!) means I can't say that I never claimed to know what I'm doing.  But I will say this: I don't have magic powers or think I'm any smarter than anyone else when it comes to this stuff.  I used to dress like a slob.  Now, I don't.  I think about color and pattern and fit and silhouette a lot.  I DO NOT think I'm special.  I think I have some information that is worth sharing that I've learned through years of reading blogs, books, and magazine articles and from spending time in the mirror trying out ideas and from making some mistakes.  I try to distill it for you.  If I come across as thinking I'm "in that 'special' category of people," whatever the category, maybe that's the fault of my writing style.  Sometimes, I wax poetic about clothes.  No apologies.

Anyway, that's enough talking about myself instead of clothes.  Anon, thanks for reading and commenting.  Hope you keep coming back.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Sharp Collar

Speaking of the suit I wrote about last week, the collar on this Brooks Brothers shirt, paired with a fat four-in-hand, comes damned close to the "British" look I try to wrest from my collars--plenty of space on either side of the knot, strong vertical lines leading to the face, a slightly convex shape with respect to the chest.

I call it the British look because I see it on Charles Tyrwhitt and particularly Thomas Pink but not conventional American retailers like Brooks Brothers or Paul Fredrick.  I only wish that the bottom edge of the knot was about even with the bottom corners of the collar.  This is why I favor the spread collar; this collar is somewhere between a spread and a point collar.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Color Is Hard: Eye-Eye Coordination

It's so easy to throw on a scarf as you're running out the door when you know it's 24 bleeping degrees outside.  It's just as easy to forget that your scarf needs to coordinate with the rest of what you're wearing.  So, don't forget, or else you'll end up in the courthouse parking lot with a brutally long walk to the courthouse door, sans scarf, like I did this morning after noticing the above image reflected in my car window.

Jacket: Calvin Klein, Filene's.  Tie: Countess Mara, Filene's.  Scarf: [I don't remember, something generic, but it's nice, warm, fluffy material], Filene's.  Shirt: Extra Slim Fit with French cuffs (for example) from Brooks Brothers.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Punctilios: Pants-Pockets Poofs

You are looking down my right hip at the slacks of my (I think) second-favorite suit, made by Hickey Freeman's now-defunct Hickey label, which stressed a more modern cut.  I got it at Filene's for 70% off list price. 

Anyway, my point is, my tailor says my hips are too big for my waist (not sure how to take that, Darryl!), so as a result, the hip pockets flare visibly.  I'm not happy about this, but there's nothing more to be done.  But don't despair too much on my behalf; the photos of pants on, say, Calvin Klein's retail website often display the flare, so it's clearly either (1) a problem facing more than one person out there and enough to boggle even the most skilled model-fitter, or (2) normal. 

I suppose the line between the two is not so clear, and that's encouraging.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

If You Pay a Man Enough

Let's suppose for a moment that UGG had paid Tom Brady barges of cash, not to endorse their boots, but to, say, endorse the punching of kittens.  Would that affect your conclusion that there was nothing manly about punching kittens?  Would you decide that punching kittens was actually a stylish thing to do, despite the mountains and foothills and escarpments and mesas of evidence to the contrary?

The standard UGG boot, considered alone, is a floppy, puffy, "but it's so comfortable" middle finger jabbed in the eye of the proposition that we ought to get a little bloody bit dressed up to go out in public to see people.  Why do we let girls get away with it?  It's complicated.  The short answer is that many of them are better at navigating the "My feet are dressed casually, yet I am still demonstrating that I have a modicum of respect for you" line, by dressing up other parts of their outfit, than many men are.  Another answer is, "Sometimes, they pair them with a cute skirt and leggings."  The point is, Tom Brady can do it because nobody cares about the clothes he's wearing unless they're a combination of Nylon, lycra, jock strap, and pads, and it's Sunday.

You and I, gentle reader?  We are held to a higher standard, every day of the week, and for that, I am thankful.