Causal Dress Shirts

If you want to dress down a tailored jacket, there are few better ways to do it than wearing a casual dress shirt. Things in slightly more textured or patterned materials will be less formal looking than your traditional, solid white and light blue broadcloths, and make you look less like you’ve just come from the office. In his books Dressing the Man and Clothes & the Man, Alan Flusser has some suggestions that I think are particularly good. A few of them are pictured above. All are unique enough to be casual, but also still unassailably in good taste. 

Some other pointers for picking good, casual dress shirts:

  • Stripes work year-round, but checks can sometimes be seasonal. Gingham and madras, for example, work better in the warmer months, while tattersalls, graph checks, and tartans look better with the tweeds and corduroys we wear in the cooler seasons.
  • Although light blue is a staple for many men, don’t be afraid of colors such as burgundy and dark green. Just get them in patterns, instead of solid colors.
  • Forgo the tie, especially if your shirt is particularly casual (e.g. busy patterns or non-traditional fabrics). 
  • Remember: the bolder the pattern, the more casual the shirt.
  • Consider less-formal materials. Brushed cotton flannels, chambray, and wool-cotton blends have a visual heft that goes well with tweed jackets. Linen and madras, on the other hand, are good with summer jacketings. 
  • Small collars can give you a very modern look, but they’re more likely to collapse underneath your sport coat when you’re not wearing a tie. If you want your collar to stand up, you have two options. The first is to go with a button down collar, which will stand up once you fasten the collar points. The second is to get a semi-spread collar with a tall enough collar band, long enough points, and stiff enough interlining. Be careful to not get something too big or stiff, however. Things can quickly look cheesy. I think our advertiser Ledbury has a particularly nice collar for wearing casually with sport coats. 
  • Shirts with a slightly lowered second button will give you a more attractive neck line when your collar is unbuttoned. Again, our advertiser Ledbury does this well. You can also request it on custom shirts. I use Ascot Chang and think they do a great job. For other options, consider MyTailor, Dege & Skinner, and CEGO (the last of which you have to be in NYC). For online made-to-measure companies, check out Cottonworks and our advertiser Proper Cloth. We have a series on custom shirts that can help you through the process.

You’ll rarely go wrong with a solid white or light blue shirt, but if you’re trying to dress down a sport coat, consider more casual options. Again, any of the patterns in Alan Flusser’s guides above would be a great place to start, so long as you pay attention to the details. 

Whither the Metrosexual?
For The Awl, Johanna King-Slutzky considers the culture behind the buzzword, which was first coined in 1994 but peaked in the era of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy a decade ago :

Indulgence is at the crux of metrosexuality’s demise. This is not new. Victorianist scholar James Eli Adams argues that Victorian masculinity was characterized by intense programs of self-discipline, and dandyism is conventionally masculine because its lacquers demand self-discipline to curate and maintain. Dandyism, hipsterism and metrosexuality all toe this line by demanding a disciplined commitmentto narcissism and indulgence. Dandys must starch their linens and tie their cravats; hipsters must update their glasses and curate their records; and metrosexuals like Beckham must sculpt and oil their muscles. The masculine transgression isn’t the behavior, which is not actually strange, but the intent—usually self-love, the desire for desire, or (perhaps this is most shocking of all) self-care camaraderie between men and women.

She further makes the point that a lot of the behaviors and consumption associated with metrosexuality—particularly attention to grooming—have been made mainstream by conscious association with old-school masculinity in the decade since.
-Pete

Whither the Metrosexual?

For The Awl, Johanna King-Slutzky considers the culture behind the buzzword, which was first coined in 1994 but peaked in the era of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy a decade ago :

Indulgence is at the crux of metrosexuality’s demise. This is not new. Victorianist scholar James Eli Adams argues that Victorian masculinity was characterized by intense programs of self-discipline, and dandyism is conventionally masculine because its lacquers demand self-discipline to curate and maintain. Dandyism, hipsterism and metrosexuality all toe this line by demanding a disciplined commitmentto narcissism and indulgence. Dandys must starch their linens and tie their cravats; hipsters must update their glasses and curate their records; and metrosexuals like Beckham must sculpt and oil their muscles. The masculine transgression isn’t the behavior, which is not actually strange, but the intent—usually self-love, the desire for desire, or (perhaps this is most shocking of all) self-care camaraderie between men and women.

She further makes the point that a lot of the behaviors and consumption associated with metrosexuality—particularly attention to grooming—have been made mainstream by conscious association with old-school masculinity in the decade since.

-Pete

It’s On Sale: (Almost) Everything at Bench & Loom

Bench & Loom is having a clear-out sale. Everything except their Chapal jackets is available at 50% off with the discount code END50. The available stock at this point is pretty slim, but there’s still a full run of sizes for niche brands such as Hansen of Denmark and Black Sign (the latter being a Japanese workwear label). I particularly like the loopwheeled t-shirts from Barns, but be warned that they run slim. A small should only be taken if you usually buy an extra small in everything else. For people who can’t find anything in their size, check out the grooming products from Jack Black

Note, everything here is final sale, and the promotion ends September 1st. 

(Pictured above: Filson moleskin shirtScott A-1 jacketBlack Sign linen work jacket, and loopwheeled Barns t-shirt)

Artifacts From the Hiroshima Atomic Blast

Slate has some haunting images today of some of the clothes left over from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. An excerpt from the article:

In 2007, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum opened its archive to Ishiuchi, and since then she’s photographed hundreds of artifacts. Some of the objects came from bombed buildings or were found on the streets; others came from families who held onto items for decades after the blast. People are still coming into the museum to donate, Roth said. “It’s not a nostalgic project. She’s not interested in that. She’s not even really interested in the history of what happened in Hiroshima because it’s known. She’s more interested in the life of these objects she’s photographing and the life that’s there now,” he said.

You can read the rest here.

Q & Answer: What Clothes Can You Wear for Running?
Michael asks: I saw in your post about activity trackers that you run. Do you have any suggestions for good running clothes? 
There’s a joke about how runners only wear special clothes so that people don’t think they’re running from or to anything. A bit tongue in cheek, but it’s true. Outside of needing running shoes (which you should be professionally fitted for), you can more or less run in anything. Which, frankly, is what makes running so great.   
If you’re OK with spending a little more money, then I’d suggest the following.
If you run at night, get reflective snap bands. They can potentially save your life. Nike and Ovadia & Sons also have some cool looking reflective jackets, but they’re expensive. Brooks has their Nitelife collection, which is more affordable, but slightly dorky looking.
Get running socks, which will wick sweat away. Cotton socks absorb sweat, which can give you blisters.
Depending on how hot your summers get, you may want to consider lined running shorts. Wear them with compression shorts if you need to reduce chaffing, or if you want to add a layer of warmth during the cooler spring and fall seasons.  
Synthetic shirts are ideal, as they’ll help wick sweat away. Cotton t-shirts on the other hand, will only hold sweat, which will make you feel clammy and gross.
If you plan to run in the snow, make some screw shoes. Be careful, however. If the roads are icy, you’re best off staying in or running at the gym. Slipping and spraining your ankle a few miles from home is a bad, bad situation.
Depending on how cold your winters get, consider wool beanies and gloves. Baselayers are also useful, but again – avoid cotton, as it’ll hold sweat and possibly give you hypothermia. Instead, get wool or some kind of synthetic material that will wick sweat away.
A lightweight nylon jacket is useful for rainy days, but otherwise, I find they kind of get in the way.
I assume GPS watches are useful, but I’ve never used one.  
As for where to get some gear, I really like Nike, which you can find on discount at Nike’s outlets, Marshall’s and TJ Maxx. Iffley Road also seems really nice, although expensive. For something more affordable, check out C9 by Champion at Target, Under Armour, and the Airism and Heattech lines at Uniqlo. Dependable brands such as Saucony, Brooks, Adidas, and Hind are also worth looking into, as are general running sites such as Running Warehouse and Road Runner Sports. In addition, Track Smith is a new “Ivy inspired” line, although their clothes look like they’re more geared towards style than performance. 
Personally, I wear Nike Miler Dri-Fit tees with Gyakusou running pants on most days. Gyakusou is a collaboration line between Nike and Jun Takahashi (the designer behind Undercover). The more recent collections look a bit funky, but you can find older seasons on eBay (and at cheaper prices). Gyakusou’s clothes are really slim fitting, however, so be sure to size up. For baselayers, I wear Nike Pro Combats; for gloves, I wear Smartwool; and for shoes, I wear Flyknit Lunars. Other than that, I take a single house key and my Nike Fuelband, the second of which I use to time my laps. 

Q & Answer: What Clothes Can You Wear for Running?

Michael asks: I saw in your post about activity trackers that you run. Do you have any suggestions for good running clothes? 

There’s a joke about how runners only wear special clothes so that people don’t think they’re running from or to anything. A bit tongue in cheek, but it’s true. Outside of needing running shoes (which you should be professionally fitted for), you can more or less run in anything. Which, frankly, is what makes running so great.   

If you’re OK with spending a little more money, then I’d suggest the following.

  • If you run at night, get reflective snap bands. They can potentially save your life. Nike and Ovadia & Sons also have some cool looking reflective jackets, but they’re expensive. Brooks has their Nitelife collection, which is more affordable, but slightly dorky looking.
  • Get running socks, which will wick sweat away. Cotton socks absorb sweat, which can give you blisters.
  • Depending on how hot your summers get, you may want to consider lined running shorts. Wear them with compression shorts if you need to reduce chaffing, or if you want to add a layer of warmth during the cooler spring and fall seasons.  
  • Synthetic shirts are ideal, as they’ll help wick sweat away. Cotton t-shirts on the other hand, will only hold sweat, which will make you feel clammy and gross.
  • If you plan to run in the snow, make some screw shoes. Be careful, however. If the roads are icy, you’re best off staying in or running at the gym. Slipping and spraining your ankle a few miles from home is a bad, bad situation.
  • Depending on how cold your winters get, consider wool beanies and gloves. Baselayers are also useful, but again – avoid cotton, as it’ll hold sweat and possibly give you hypothermia. Instead, get wool or some kind of synthetic material that will wick sweat away.
  • A lightweight nylon jacket is useful for rainy days, but otherwise, I find they kind of get in the way.
  • I assume GPS watches are useful, but I’ve never used one.  

As for where to get some gear, I really like Nike, which you can find on discount at Nike’s outletsMarshall’s and TJ Maxx. Iffley Road also seems really nice, although expensive. For something more affordable, check out C9 by Champion at Target, Under Armour, and the Airism and Heattech lines at Uniqlo. Dependable brands such as Saucony, Brooks, Adidas, and Hind are also worth looking into, as are general running sites such as Running Warehouse and Road Runner Sports. In addition, Track Smith is a new “Ivy inspired” line, although their clothes look like they’re more geared towards style than performance. 

Personally, I wear Nike Miler Dri-Fit tees with Gyakusou running pants on most days. Gyakusou is a collaboration line between Nike and Jun Takahashi (the designer behind Undercover). The more recent collections look a bit funky, but you can find older seasons on eBay (and at cheaper prices). Gyakusou’s clothes are really slim fitting, however, so be sure to size up. For baselayers, I wear Nike Pro Combats; for gloves, I wear Smartwool; and for shoes, I wear Flyknit Lunars. Other than that, I take a single house key and my Nike Fuelband, the second of which I use to time my laps. 

“I think perfection is ugly.” — Yohji Yamamoto

It’s On Sale: (Almost) Everything at Exquisite Trimmings

Nice sale going on at Exquisite Trimmings, an online retailer for high-end men’s accessories. Use the checkout code BANK20 to take 20% off most items. Customers outside of the EU can expect another 20% off for not having to pay European taxes (which is included in the listed price). 

I haven’t gone through everything, but the code seems to work on Drake’s ties and pocket squares, as well as Exquisite Trimming’s house line of ready-to-wear and bespoke ties. There are some handsome striped grenadines that come down to $60 with the discount, and bespoke ties starting at $104. The selection of ancient madder and wool challis is especially tempting, given how close we are to fall. 

Some other notables:

Code expires September 1st.

Uniqlo Fits Short, Slim People … For Now
PRI reports that Uniqlo’s expansion into the US hasn’t been very successful, partly because Americans are having a difficult time fitting into clothes originally sized for the Japanese market. An excerpt: 

And Uniqlo’s US operations aren’t doing so well. They have more than 25 stores on both coasts and they’re collectively losing money for the company. One of their biggest challenges in breaking into the US mainstream market is sizing.
Yuya Tanahashi, Uniqlo’s Boston area manager, calls it an ongoing struggle for the brand. “We are actually analyzing every year about the fit,” he says. 
Basically, they’re checking sales data in each of their stores around the world, including here in Boston. “We’re going to try to find the best fit for the Boston customers as well by analyzing what items sell and what sizes sell,” Tanahashi says.
Uniqlo is looking into changing the sizes they offer in the US. In their words, they’re figuring out how to provide “a more ‘3D’ fit” for American shoppers.
So all those glorious form-flattering Smalls in the Boston store? They may not be small for long. But Tanahashi did offer me this: “We have kids line as well, and many adults actually purchase [clothes from the] kids line, meaning the boys and the girls style. So I would try to recommend the girls style as well.”

You can read the rest here. 

Uniqlo Fits Short, Slim People … For Now

PRI reports that Uniqlo’s expansion into the US hasn’t been very successful, partly because Americans are having a difficult time fitting into clothes originally sized for the Japanese market. An excerpt: 

And Uniqlo’s US operations aren’t doing so well. They have more than 25 stores on both coasts and they’re collectively losing money for the company. One of their biggest challenges in breaking into the US mainstream market is sizing.

Yuya Tanahashi, Uniqlo’s Boston area manager, calls it an ongoing struggle for the brand. “We are actually analyzing every year about the fit,” he says. 

Basically, they’re checking sales data in each of their stores around the world, including here in Boston. We’re going to try to find the best fit for the Boston customers as well by analyzing what items sell and what sizes sell,” Tanahashi says.

Uniqlo is looking into changing the sizes they offer in the US. In their words, they’re figuring out how to provide “a more ‘3D’ fit” for American shoppers.

So all those glorious form-flattering Smalls in the Boston store? They may not be small for long. But Tanahashi did offer me this: “We have kids line as well, and many adults actually purchase [clothes from the] kids line, meaning the boys and the girls style. So I would try to recommend the girls style as well.”

You can read the rest here

It’s On Sale: Stuff at Kafka and Ledbury

Both Kafka and our advertiser Ledbury are having some nice sales right now. 

  • At Kafka, there are some things from brands such as Engineered Garments, Nigel Cabourn, Common Projects, and Inis Meain. There’s also this one lonely pair of Alden shoes, which I wish were in my size. Note, customers outside of the EU can expect 20% off for VAT deduction (VAT being European taxes, which are included in the listed price). You can also knock another 20% off with the coupon code EXTRA20, which brings already discounted prices even lower. 
  • Next, a good selection of shirts have been discounted at Ledbury. Included are some very basic blue Bengal stripes and graph checks, as well as seasonal brushed cottons and linens

Bad Haircuts; Good Style: The Kinks, 1968

This photo of the Kinks was taken right around the recording of The Village Green Preservation Society, a concept album thick with allusion to British culture and shot through with nostalgia. It can be difficult to tell when Ray Davies is being earnest in certain songs, and when he’s poking fun at how glossy and pleasant the past can look from the present.

But sometimes the past does look sharp. 1968 arguably marks peak style for the Kinks—British Invasion bands at the time were getting over matching outfits and showing some individuality as they slouched toward hippiedom. By 1970, the Kinks’ lineup had changed and things were getting a little too paisley. The band (left to right: Pete Quaife, Ray Davies, Mick Avory, and Dave Davies) are putting on a style clinic here, though; and it’s easy to draw a line from the components they’re putting together here and similar items available today. 

The Kinks were maybe the most self-consciously British rock band of that era—half the references in the Village Green Preservation Society's title track are above my American head. But the concept of preserving what's good about the past, yet still progressing, is universal. “Protecting the old ways from being abused; preserving the new ways for me and for you. What more can we do?”

-Pete