How Much Should You Spend on Dress Shoes?
One of the questions I frequently get in my inbox is: “I’m looking to buy a better pair of dress shoes, and only have X to spend. Should I save up for something better, or is so-and-so brand OK?” Like with many questions we get, a lot depends on the person asking.  
It’s worth noting, however, that in footwear (like in everything), there are serious diminishing returns after a certain point. Very roughly speaking, that point tends to be around $350 at full retail, although what’s sold at full retail can be had for less with smart shopping (eBay, factory seconds, seasonal sales, thrift stores, etc).
The Unfortunate Reality of Diminishing Returns
There are a number of things that go into the construction of a good shoe, but the two biggest are: the quality of the leather used and how the soles have been attached. Jesse did a great job in describing the difference between corrected grain and full grain leathers here. It’s also worth noting that even among full-grain leathers, there can be differences in quality. Additionally, most well made shoes will have their shoes attached through a Goodyear or Blake stitching process. Jesse reviewed some of these in the second episode of our video series, and you can read more about each technique here. The short of it is: with a sole that’s been stitched on, rather than glued, you can more easily resole your shoes, which means you don’t have to bin them when the bottoms wear out.
In the past, the “entry price” for good (dress) shoes tended to be around $350. These were usually from Allen Edmonds, Ralph Lauren, and Brooks Brothers, although not everything from these brands were worth buying. There were also some European names such as Herring and Loake’s 1880 line.
After this, you get marginally better constructions, but the differences become smaller and smaller (perhaps a leather insole vs. a fiberboard insole, or a sole that’s been attached by hand rather than machine, or slightly better leathers used for the uppers). Largely, as you move up from the $350 MSRP mark, you’re paying for design. A $1,250 pair of Edward Greens won’t last you 4x longer than a $350 pair from Allen Edmonds, but to many, they’re shaped and finished more handsomely.
The Emergence of a More Competitive Market
The good news is that the market has gotten a lot more competitive in the last five years, and the cost/ benefit curve has smoothed out considerably. Today, there are companies such as Beckett Simonon, John Doe, and Jack Erwin below the $200 price mark (the last of which I was particularly impressed by). Just a hair over $200 is Meermin, which I still think is one of the best values for (relatively) affordable footwear. They have a “Classic” line for about $200 (but with customs and duties, you might pay around $230) and a higher end “Linea Maestro” line for about $300 starting. And at the $350 mark, there’s more than Allen Edmonds and Loake’s 1880 these days. Paul Evans, Kent Wang, and Howard Yount are all good companies to look into.
The question of how much should you spend isn’t about what’s “good” in the footwear market, it’s about what’s “good enough” for you. For dress shoes, the only real criteria are: quality full-grain leather uppers and some kind of stitched on sole. Much of the rest is about aesthetics and personal preference.
(Photo: Crockett & Jones’ Whitehall oxfords at Ben Silver)

How Much Should You Spend on Dress Shoes?

One of the questions I frequently get in my inbox is: “I’m looking to buy a better pair of dress shoes, and only have X to spend. Should I save up for something better, or is so-and-so brand OK?” Like with many questions we get, a lot depends on the person asking. 

It’s worth noting, however, that in footwear (like in everything), there are serious diminishing returns after a certain point. Very roughly speaking, that point tends to be around $350 at full retail, although what’s sold at full retail can be had for less with smart shopping (eBay, factory seconds, seasonal sales, thrift stores, etc).

The Unfortunate Reality of Diminishing Returns

There are a number of things that go into the construction of a good shoe, but the two biggest are: the quality of the leather used and how the soles have been attached. Jesse did a great job in describing the difference between corrected grain and full grain leathers here. It’s also worth noting that even among full-grain leathers, there can be differences in quality. Additionally, most well made shoes will have their shoes attached through a Goodyear or Blake stitching process. Jesse reviewed some of these in the second episode of our video series, and you can read more about each technique here. The short of it is: with a sole that’s been stitched on, rather than glued, you can more easily resole your shoes, which means you don’t have to bin them when the bottoms wear out.

In the past, the “entry price” for good (dress) shoes tended to be around $350. These were usually from Allen Edmonds, Ralph Lauren, and Brooks Brothers, although not everything from these brands were worth buying. There were also some European names such as Herring and Loake’s 1880 line.

After this, you get marginally better constructions, but the differences become smaller and smaller (perhaps a leather insole vs. a fiberboard insole, or a sole that’s been attached by hand rather than machine, or slightly better leathers used for the uppers). Largely, as you move up from the $350 MSRP mark, you’re paying for design. A $1,250 pair of Edward Greens won’t last you 4x longer than a $350 pair from Allen Edmonds, but to many, they’re shaped and finished more handsomely.

The Emergence of a More Competitive Market

The good news is that the market has gotten a lot more competitive in the last five years, and the cost/ benefit curve has smoothed out considerably. Today, there are companies such as Beckett Simonon, John Doe, and Jack Erwin below the $200 price mark (the last of which I was particularly impressed by). Just a hair over $200 is Meermin, which I still think is one of the best values for (relatively) affordable footwear. They have a “Classic” line for about $200 (but with customs and duties, you might pay around $230) and a higher end “Linea Maestro” line for about $300 starting. And at the $350 mark, there’s more than Allen Edmonds and Loake’s 1880 these days. Paul Evans, Kent Wang, and Howard Yount are all good companies to look into.

The question of how much should you spend isn’t about what’s “good” in the footwear market, it’s about what’s “good enough” for you. For dress shoes, the only real criteria are: quality full-grain leather uppers and some kind of stitched on sole. Much of the rest is about aesthetics and personal preference.

(Photo: Crockett & Jones’ Whitehall oxfords at Ben Silver)

Building an Affordable Neckwear Collection
If you want to build a necktie wardrobe for not too much money, there’s no better place to start than eBay. At any given time, there are hundreds of silk repps floating around that site, many available for only $10 to $20 a piece. Striped silk repp ties, as I’ve mentioned, are exceptionally useful because you can wear them with either sport coats or suits, whereas some ties are too casual to wear with one, or too formal to wear with the other. 
To find them, just search eBay for well-regarded American brands such as Ben Silver, Brooks Brothers, J. Press, and Paul Stuart. Seaward & Stearn and Atkinsons are also good names to look out for, although they’re usually available at lower quantities. E. Marinella and Drake’s are undeniably exceptional, but typically sell at much higher prices. Ralph Lauren can also be nice, although he carries such a wide range of lines - each made to different qualities - that it can be hard to find what’s well made. If you care to sort through it all, just look for the blue Polo label or the high-end Purple Label. 
The only problem with shopping on eBay is that it can be difficult to discern a tie’s condition. Most sellers can tell if there’s a pull or stain in the silk, but this is hardly the only damage that can occur. If a tie has been sent to the dry cleaners, for example, the silk will have likely lost its luster, and if it’s been wrongly ironed, you’ll see an impression of the tie’s folds pressed into the front blade. The slip stitch that goes up the back spine might also be loose or even broken from improper yanking, and the neck area might be faded or overly worn, making the tie’s knot a slightly lighter color than the rest of the body. Worst of all is if the previous owner never let his tie rest after each day’s wear, but instead kept it knotted, so that he wouldn’t ever have to retie it again. This will ruin the interlining inside, making it difficult for you to ever get a good dimple. It’s rare that you’ll come across a seller who knows how to look for these kinds of defects. 
Still, for $10-15, not much is lost if you get a bad piece, and even if the tie doesn’t come in the most perfect condition, this might not be a bad thing. The men who wear silk repp ties best are often wearing pieces that are ten or twenty years old, and their ties have a sort of worn-in quality that makes them more appealing than things that look too new or pristine. Set aside $100 or so and stick to dark colors (e.g. burgundy, forest green, brown, and navy), and you’ll have a pretty good starting collection in no time. 
(Photo via Oxford Cloth Button Down)

Building an Affordable Neckwear Collection

If you want to build a necktie wardrobe for not too much money, there’s no better place to start than eBay. At any given time, there are hundreds of silk repps floating around that site, many available for only $10 to $20 a piece. Striped silk repp ties, as I’ve mentioned, are exceptionally useful because you can wear them with either sport coats or suits, whereas some ties are too casual to wear with one, or too formal to wear with the other. 

To find them, just search eBay for well-regarded American brands such as Ben Silver, Brooks Brothers, J. Press, and Paul Stuart. Seaward & Stearn and Atkinsons are also good names to look out for, although they’re usually available at lower quantities. E. Marinella and Drake’s are undeniably exceptional, but typically sell at much higher prices. Ralph Lauren can also be nice, although he carries such a wide range of lines - each made to different qualities - that it can be hard to find what’s well made. If you care to sort through it all, just look for the blue Polo label or the high-end Purple Label. 

The only problem with shopping on eBay is that it can be difficult to discern a tie’s condition. Most sellers can tell if there’s a pull or stain in the silk, but this is hardly the only damage that can occur. If a tie has been sent to the dry cleaners, for example, the silk will have likely lost its luster, and if it’s been wrongly ironed, you’ll see an impression of the tie’s folds pressed into the front blade. The slip stitch that goes up the back spine might also be loose or even broken from improper yanking, and the neck area might be faded or overly worn, making the tie’s knot a slightly lighter color than the rest of the body. Worst of all is if the previous owner never let his tie rest after each day’s wear, but instead kept it knotted, so that he wouldn’t ever have to retie it again. This will ruin the interlining inside, making it difficult for you to ever get a good dimple. It’s rare that you’ll come across a seller who knows how to look for these kinds of defects. 

Still, for $10-15, not much is lost if you get a bad piece, and even if the tie doesn’t come in the most perfect condition, this might not be a bad thing. The men who wear silk repp ties best are often wearing pieces that are ten or twenty years old, and their ties have a sort of worn-in quality that makes them more appealing than things that look too new or pristine. Set aside $100 or so and stick to dark colors (e.g. burgundy, forest green, brown, and navy), and you’ll have a pretty good starting collection in no time. 

(Photo via Oxford Cloth Button Down)

Ben Silver Warehouse Sale

Ben Silver’s Warehouse Sale starts today and will last for two weeks. The discounts aren’t as deep as one might hope, but they do have some nice things. 

These country grain Coniston and Brecon boots, for example, are some of the most used shoes in my closet (both models are made by Crockett & Jones in England). I also like these tiger and Kelim pocket squares from Drake’s, although sometimes find them to be a bit too flashy and colorful in the pocket when worn (your taste may vary, of course). In addition, there are some nice belts on sale, such as these slide buckles, and one of the best prices I’ve seen on SWIMS overshoe galoshes (good for the coming rainy season, if you’re not able to wear more casual shoes to work). There are a ton of Alden shoes on sale too if you want to browse around.

Polo Coats

Despite what people say, it doesn’t get that cold in San Francisco, at least not compared to places where it actually snows. Still, that doesn’t stop me from wanting a polo coat every year. Polo coats are long, loose fitting coats originally worn by polo players in England. Early versions were often simple wrap styles - something like a robe, I suppose - but the cut eventually evolved into the more detailed version we think of today. The defining characteristics? Certainly flapped patch pockets, which mark the coat as somewhat casual; a double breasted closure to keep the wearer warm; a loose, half-belt at the back (known as a martingale); traditionally an Ulster collar (the thing you see in the first photo above, with the almost horizontal notch), though peak lapels have also become common; and of course that golden tan color that so nicely complements the browns, blues, and grays most of us wear.

Though the coat originated in England, the double-breasted style really developed in the US, where retailers such as Brooks Brothers popularized it in the 1920s. It soon became associated with prep schools and “Ivy style” - that distinctive, American style of dress that involves tweed jackets, penny loafers, and Shetland sweaters. With the ups and downs of Ivy style, so went polo coats. They fell into obscurity in the ‘70s or so, but had a revival in the ‘80s. You see the coat much less today, but that’s true of all traditional outerwear. With fewer people wearing tailored clothing comes fewer customers of “dress coats.”

I like the idea of having one if only because the polo coat stands out as one of the few coats you can wear both formally and casually. By formally and casually, I don’t mean the extremes, of course - tuxedos on one end, jeans and flip flops on the other (is this guy wearing one in his boxers?). I mean that it’s something you can wear with a suit in most industries, or with a sport coat and a pair of wool trousers if you’re going out to a really nice restaurant. Compare that to coats that are much more formal, such as Chesterfields, or ones that are too casual, such as many of the sportswear styles you commonly see today.  

Where to Get One

Unfortunately, like all good dress coats, polos are expensive, even more so than your standard piece of outerwear (which can already be pretty pricey). For new and off-the-rack, you’re looking at about $1,000 to $1,500. If you have that kind of money, you can find some handsome ones at places such as O’Connell’s, Ben Silver, Brooks Brothers, and Ralph Lauren. If you can afford bespoke, some tailors can make you one for about the price of a suit. For traveling outfits that visit the United States, that price ranges anywhere from $2,500 to $6,000.

That’s a lot of money. On the upside, heavy coats such as polos hold up really well over the years, which means if you’re patient, you can find one on eBay or at your local thrift store for pennies on the dollar. Jesse wrote a great thrifting guide you can use for this. I’m not as experienced as he is in thrifting, but even in my few trips, I’ve seen some nice dress coats selling for about $100 or $200. Set aside a little extra money for alterations and cleaning, and you can have a very nice garment on your hands.  

A note from Jesse: I bought my own polo coat, which is from the 1930s, for $35 on eBay. Not a tailor on Savile Row wasn’t pawing at it when I wore it to our shoot there last year. There’s a decent overcoat right now in a quarter of the thrift stores in America, and with some patience, there are plenty on eBay as well.

Oh, and one other note: the good folks at Howard Yount have a shorter, lighter (and more lightly constructed) version of the polo coat at $899. Thanks to NickelCobalt for the tip.)

Staying Warm at Home
I recently moved into a new apartment, and like most homes in the Bay Area, the insulation is terrible. Heat leaks through the windows and drafts come in from under the doors. It doesn’t get too cold here in the Bay, but it can get pretty dang chilly.
Rather than run my heating bill up, I often just rely on some simple at-home layering. Wool long johns can be put underneath a pair of pajamas to give some extra warmth, and a wool sweater can be thrown over whatever else I might wear at home. My favorite long johns are by Smartwool, who produces them in both light- and mid-weights (I prefer the latter). You can usually find them on sale at Camp Mor, Sierra Trading Post, or REI. Icebreakers is also pretty nice, though from my experience less warm than Smartwool, and I’ve heard good things about Uniqlo’s Heattech.
For sweaters, cashmere is obviously the warmest, but unless you’re going second-hand, the good stuff can be exorbitantly expensive. Cotton is pretty useless since it doesn’t retain heat all that well. Best, I think, are really thick sweaters made from lambswool or merino, which will have the kind of loft necessary to keep you comfortable. I personally wear a chunky, 6-ply lambswool cardigan from Ovadia and Sons (they’re having a sale right now, but sadly this season’s cardigan is not included). There similar pieces by Scott & Charters, Ben Silver, O’Connell’s, and Inverallan (the last of which Pete recently wrote about). Of course, you don’t have to wear a cardigan. Any style will do, so long as the sweater is thick.
In the mornings, I usually wear a pair of long johns and some pajamas, but once I come home at night, I’m usually in a pair of jeans, some at-home slippers, a button up shirt, and my chunky cardigan. It’s cheaper in the long-run than running the heater, more environmentally friendly, and frankly a good excuse to buy nice clothing.
And for those of us with significant others, sometimes excuses are necessary. 

Staying Warm at Home

I recently moved into a new apartment, and like most homes in the Bay Area, the insulation is terrible. Heat leaks through the windows and drafts come in from under the doors. It doesn’t get too cold here in the Bay, but it can get pretty dang chilly.

Rather than run my heating bill up, I often just rely on some simple at-home layering. Wool long johns can be put underneath a pair of pajamas to give some extra warmth, and a wool sweater can be thrown over whatever else I might wear at home. My favorite long johns are by Smartwool, who produces them in both light- and mid-weights (I prefer the latter). You can usually find them on sale at Camp MorSierra Trading Post, or REI. Icebreakers is also pretty nice, though from my experience less warm than Smartwool, and I’ve heard good things about Uniqlo’s Heattech.

For sweaters, cashmere is obviously the warmest, but unless you’re going second-hand, the good stuff can be exorbitantly expensive. Cotton is pretty useless since it doesn’t retain heat all that well. Best, I think, are really thick sweaters made from lambswool or merino, which will have the kind of loft necessary to keep you comfortable. I personally wear a chunky, 6-ply lambswool cardigan from Ovadia and Sons (they’re having a sale right now, but sadly this season’s cardigan is not included). There similar pieces by Scott & Charters, Ben Silver, O’Connell’s, and Inverallan (the last of which Pete recently wrote about). Of course, you don’t have to wear a cardigan. Any style will do, so long as the sweater is thick.

In the mornings, I usually wear a pair of long johns and some pajamas, but once I come home at night, I’m usually in a pair of jeans, some at-home slippers, a button up shirt, and my chunky cardigan. It’s cheaper in the long-run than running the heater, more environmentally friendly, and frankly a good excuse to buy nice clothing.

And for those of us with significant others, sometimes excuses are necessary. 

The Soft Silk Knit
For as long as I’ve been buying silk knit ties, I’ve always preferred the crunchy variety - the kind where if you squeeze the tie in your hand, the silk material feels a bit “crunchy” as it rubs against itself. I like these for their heavier weight, as the tie doesn’t flop around as much, and for their more distinctive visual texture. You can find them on the high-end at Drake’s, but the best bang-for-you-buck might be from Land’s End. Those retail at $60, but it’s not uncommon to see them go for ~$30 during one of their many sales. 
Some months ago, however, I came across this photo of Dr. Keith Churchwell. Here, he’s seen wearing a brown hat, light blue shirt, Russell plaid jacket, and a burgundy soft-knit tie. The softer knit tie seems so much better suited to an autumnal ensemble, much like how a wool tie would be a better here than any of your basic silks. So, I’ve been hunting for a good soft knit to try out. 
Luckily, it’s easier to find soft knits than crunchy ones. Many the more traditional American clothiers will carry them, such as O’Connell’s, Ben Silver, and J. Press. For something more affordable, there’s The Knottery. In addition to silk, there are also ones made from wool, cashmere, and alpaca blends. Our friend Will at A Suitable Wardrobe has some cashmere ones on sale, and Brooks Brothers just came out with these Donegals. I may just try one of these options out this fall. 
Incidentally, the photo above was taken by Rose Callahan, who has two upcoming events for new her book I Am Dandy. The first is on November 7th from 6-8pm at the Fine and Dandy shop in New York City, and the second is on November 18th from 6-8pm at the National Arts Club (also in New York City). The second will double as the opening reception for a weeklong exhibition of prints by our friend Rose. If you’re in town, stop by and tell her we said hi. 

The Soft Silk Knit

For as long as I’ve been buying silk knit ties, I’ve always preferred the crunchy variety - the kind where if you squeeze the tie in your hand, the silk material feels a bit “crunchy” as it rubs against itself. I like these for their heavier weight, as the tie doesn’t flop around as much, and for their more distinctive visual texture. You can find them on the high-end at Drake’s, but the best bang-for-you-buck might be from Land’s End. Those retail at $60, but it’s not uncommon to see them go for ~$30 during one of their many sales. 

Some months ago, however, I came across this photo of Dr. Keith Churchwell. Here, he’s seen wearing a brown hat, light blue shirt, Russell plaid jacket, and a burgundy soft-knit tie. The softer knit tie seems so much better suited to an autumnal ensemble, much like how a wool tie would be a better here than any of your basic silks. So, I’ve been hunting for a good soft knit to try out. 

Luckily, it’s easier to find soft knits than crunchy ones. Many the more traditional American clothiers will carry them, such as O’Connell’s, Ben Silver, and J. Press. For something more affordable, there’s The Knottery. In addition to silk, there are also ones made from wool, cashmere, and alpaca blends. Our friend Will at A Suitable Wardrobe has some cashmere ones on sale, and Brooks Brothers just came out with these Donegals. I may just try one of these options out this fall. 

Incidentally, the photo above was taken by Rose Callahan, who has two upcoming events for new her book I Am Dandy. The first is on November 7th from 6-8pm at the Fine and Dandy shop in New York City, and the second is on November 18th from 6-8pm at the National Arts Club (also in New York City). The second will double as the opening reception for a weeklong exhibition of prints by our friend Rose. If you’re in town, stop by and tell her we said hi. 

Shetland Sweaters for Fall

There was some confusion after my post yesterday on Shaggy Dogs, where some readers were unsure what’s the difference between Shaggys and what’s commonly referred to as “Shetland sweaters.” Simply: Shaggy Dogs are just one of the many types of Shetlands that exist, and not all Shetlands are shaggy.

What’s a Shetland Sweater?

Shetlands get their name from the Shetland Islands, which are located halfway to Norway off the north coast of Scotland. Due to the region’s harsh conditions, the sheep there produce a sturdy, lightweight, long staple wool fiber, which is typically plucked instead of shorn. This wool is made into a very sturdy fabric, which is then turned into garments. Woven Shetlands are relatively rare, and when you see them, they’re usually in sport coats. Much more common are knitted fabrics, which are used for sweaters.

Shetland sweaters were originally made by peasant women on the islands, and came with a strong, smoked herring smell because of the way the wool would absorb domestic odors. It’s said that on damp days, the smell would become unbearable. These early sweaters were often knitted with distinctive patterns that were developed on the island over a period of centuries, but over time, they mainly came in one of four forms: plain, cabled, Fair Isle, or brushed (J. Press invented the hairy, brushed version, and they called it their “Shaggy Dog”). Thus, the term “Shetland sweater” – while formally referring to a very specific knit – now simply just means any sweater that’s made from that hardy, slightly itchy Shetland wool (brushed or not).

Where To Get A Good, Plain-Knit Shetland

Shaggys are certainly distinctive, but almost anyone with a classic sense of dress can wear a plain-knit Shetland. I particularly like mine with chinos or corduroys, and layer them over thick oxford-cloth button-down shirts. They’re more casual than your typical merino or cashmere sweater (the kind you find in almost any store), but dressy enough to wear underneath a sport coat. Plus, I think guys just look awesome in them. Evidence is above.

If you’re looking for a plain version, let me recommend who I think sells the best: O’Connell’s. They’re expensive at $165 (and never go on sale), but they’re the Goldilocks of Shetlands. Not as thick as Bill’s Khakis, and not as thin as Brooks Brothers’, they’re just right. The Andover Shop also has something similar, but I favor O’Connell’s saddle shoulder design. If you get one, I recommend sizing up from your sport coat size. They should also be restocking on sizes in a couple of weeks, and getting in a few new colors.

Other good, traditional Shetlands can be found at Cable Car Clothiers and Ben Silver, while slimmer interpretations can be had through Howlin’ of Morrison, Albam, and Norse Projects. There’s also Harley of Scotland (available through Bahles and Neighbour), Peter Blance, and Fisherman Out of Ireland, but I have no firsthand experience with those. Made-to-measure versions can be bought through Spirit of Shetland. If you go custom just remember: it’s better to err on the size of full than small, as you can slim a sweater down, but you can’t add material where there isn’t any.

(Photos via Heavy Tweed Jacket)

A Very Useful Belt for Summer
As much as I enjoy the “coat and tie” look, it admittedly can look a bit too formal for certain situations. One way to soften it up is by making each of the individual elements a touch more causal. A wool sport coat can be swapped for something made from cotton or linen; wool dress trousers can be changed for chinos; and dress shoes can be put aside in favor of loafers.
You can also reach for slightly more casual accessories. The braided leather belt you see above is from Brooks Brothers. I bought it a few years ago and have found myself turning to it every summer. The tubular construction means that the leather wraps around like a tube, which gives the belt a substantial, but still soft, feel, and the 1.25” width makes it perfect to wear with chinos and casual trousers. At full price ($150), it’s a bit expensive, but like with everything at Brooks, you can expect that it’ll be discounted by 25-40% during sale seasons. When put with a tailored jacket, pair of chinos, and a boldly striped shirt like you see above, you’d be surprised by how much more casual a sport coat can seem. 
Ben Silver and Ralph Lauren also carry some nice braided leather belts, and Berg & Berg has a few really handsome options made from soft, Italian leather. For something more casual, check out these nylon and cotton options at Paul Stuart, Brooks Brothers, Ben Silver, and O’Connell’s. You can also do a search for Anderson’s belts, an Italian company that has essentially made a name for themselves off this sort of thing. Mr. Porter and The Armoury are stockists, and Trunk Clothiers has a pretty good sale going on right now with Anderson’s belts discounted as low as $30. Note that Anderson’s typically fit a bit wider at 1.5”, which may or may not be to your taste.
For something very affordable, check out Belt Outlet, who sells a number of options for under $15. You can even knock 10% off your order with the discount code belt10. 

A Very Useful Belt for Summer

As much as I enjoy the “coat and tie” look, it admittedly can look a bit too formal for certain situations. One way to soften it up is by making each of the individual elements a touch more causal. A wool sport coat can be swapped for something made from cotton or linen; wool dress trousers can be changed for chinos; and dress shoes can be put aside in favor of loafers.

You can also reach for slightly more casual accessories. The braided leather belt you see above is from Brooks Brothers. I bought it a few years ago and have found myself turning to it every summer. The tubular construction means that the leather wraps around like a tube, which gives the belt a substantial, but still soft, feel, and the 1.25” width makes it perfect to wear with chinos and casual trousers. At full price ($150), it’s a bit expensive, but like with everything at Brooks, you can expect that it’ll be discounted by 25-40% during sale seasons. When put with a tailored jacket, pair of chinos, and a boldly striped shirt like you see above, you’d be surprised by how much more casual a sport coat can seem. 

Ben Silver and Ralph Lauren also carry some nice braided leather belts, and Berg & Berg has a few really handsome options made from soft, Italian leather. For something more casual, check out these nylon and cotton options at Paul Stuart, Brooks BrothersBen Silver, and O’Connell’s. You can also do a search for Anderson’s belts, an Italian company that has essentially made a name for themselves off this sort of thing. Mr. Porter and The Armoury are stockists, and Trunk Clothiers has a pretty good sale going on right now with Anderson’s belts discounted as low as $30. Note that Anderson’s typically fit a bit wider at 1.5”, which may or may not be to your taste.

For something very affordable, check out Belt Outlet, who sells a number of options for under $15. You can even knock 10% off your order with the discount code belt10. 

Finding An Eyewear Case
It’s been unexpectedly wet and cloudy in San Francisco, but to prepare for what should be a real summer, I recently went in search for an eyewear case. Having to wear eyeglasses all the time means that I need some place to put my regular frames when I put on sunglasses, and although eyewear often comes with cases, none of them are particularly attractive.
I found mine through Ghurka. It’s a tan leather sleeve with a sueded interior and nicely turned edges (meaning the leather on the edges is turned inward and stitched down, rather than being left exposed). I like that it’s simple enough that I can use just one hand to hold the sleeve and slip my glasses in (useful if you’re on the run and carrying a bag of some sort). It also fits comfortably in my interior coat pocket. The leather quality leaves much to be desired, however, and for the price, I was hoping for something better.
Still, I decided to keep it, as it seemed to be the best option for my needs. In my search though, I found a number of options that might work better with a backpack or briefcase. La Portegna, Glenroyal, Freeman’s Sporting Club, Makr, and Emil Erwin, for example, make softly shaped cases that give a bit more protection. They’re not exactly hardcases, per se, but  should your case ever wind up at the bottom of a bag, their fuller shape should fare better than a simple sleeve.
I also like this unique design by Tanner Goods, but it requires a bit more work to open and close. Probably not good for someone who’s always on the run, but it looks nice.
If you’re interested in other sleeve designs besides Ghurka’s, there’s Daines & Hathaway, Barrett Alley, and Col. Littleton. I also liked the uniqueness of these silk repp striped sleeves sold by Ben Silver, Shibumi, and E. Marinella.
Finally, for something just cheap and simple, you can find these Ralph Lauren cases all over eBay for about $25 (just search around). The material isn’t that great, but the front side is completely hard, which is nice if you’re a bit rough on your things.

Finding An Eyewear Case

It’s been unexpectedly wet and cloudy in San Francisco, but to prepare for what should be a real summer, I recently went in search for an eyewear case. Having to wear eyeglasses all the time means that I need some place to put my regular frames when I put on sunglasses, and although eyewear often comes with cases, none of them are particularly attractive.

I found mine through Ghurka. It’s a tan leather sleeve with a sueded interior and nicely turned edges (meaning the leather on the edges is turned inward and stitched down, rather than being left exposed). I like that it’s simple enough that I can use just one hand to hold the sleeve and slip my glasses in (useful if you’re on the run and carrying a bag of some sort). It also fits comfortably in my interior coat pocket. The leather quality leaves much to be desired, however, and for the price, I was hoping for something better.

Still, I decided to keep it, as it seemed to be the best option for my needs. In my search though, I found a number of options that might work better with a backpack or briefcase. La Portegna, Glenroyal, Freeman’s Sporting Club, Makr, and Emil Erwin, for example, make softly shaped cases that give a bit more protection. They’re not exactly hardcases, per se, but  should your case ever wind up at the bottom of a bag, their fuller shape should fare better than a simple sleeve.

I also like this unique design by Tanner Goods, but it requires a bit more work to open and close. Probably not good for someone who’s always on the run, but it looks nice.

If you’re interested in other sleeve designs besides Ghurka’s, there’s Daines & Hathaway, Barrett Alley, and Col. Littleton. I also liked the uniqueness of these silk repp striped sleeves sold by Ben Silver, Shibumi, and E. Marinella.

Finally, for something just cheap and simple, you can find these Ralph Lauren cases all over eBay for about $25 (just search around). The material isn’t that great, but the front side is completely hard, which is nice if you’re a bit rough on your things.

Consider the Silk Scarf
If you’re wearing a wool coat this winter, consider pairing it with a silk scarf. Silk scarves aren’t as versatile as ones made from cashmere or lambswool, but they look amazing when worn with heavy dress coats. By that I mean things such as polo coats, Ulster coats, and Chesterfields – the kinds of things that you sometimes see labeled as “dress outerwear” in places such as Brooks Brothers. It’s just another way of saying outerwear that’s dressier than things such as parkas and leather bomber jackets.
A silk scarf can really soften up the look of a heavy wool coat. See Noel Coward above or Gordon Gekko in this scene from the movie Wall Street. In both cases, their scarves in lend a nice sheen to an otherwise matte ensemble. It’s not unlike how we use silk ties and polished shoes to counterbalance the flatness of a wool sport coat or woolen trousers. As I wrote earlier this year, I believe a lot of what it means to dress well is learning how to strike a balance between different elements of what you’re wearing (patterns, texture, hardness/ softness, sheen/ flatness, etc). Light silk scarves do that well with heavy wool coats, so long as the coat is as dressy as the scarf.
There are a few places to buy a silk scarf. My favorite is Drake’s, who sells them in a few different designs. I have two of their reversible dotted tubular scarves – one in navy and one in brown – which kind of look like this, but without the fringed ends. A navy dotted silk scarf is arguably the most versatile version you can buy, though I like my brown one for when I wear navy coats. The difference in color helps distinguish it from the rest of what I’m wearing.
You can also pick some up from traditional men’s haberdashers, such as Ben Silver, Brooks Brothers, J. Press, Paul Stuart, and A Suitable Wardrobe. Additionally, San Francisco’s Wingtip stocks Edward Armah silk scarves, as well as a few under their own house label. You can also buy Edward Armah’s scarves directly from Edward Armah themselves.
Admittedly, all those are quite expensive. You could wait for them to go on sale, but they’ll still be on the pricey side. Alternatively, KJ Beckett sells silk scarves by Michelsons of London (also available through the manufacturer themselves), but I have no first hand experience with their products, so I can’t speak about their quality. You can also try eBay. This seller, for example, regularly stocks them, but his/ her scarves are often short and narrow. That’ll limit how you can wear the scarf. You may be able to get away with wearing it like a muffler underneath your buttoned up coat, but it may look silly if you try anything else. Better if you can get something 64” or longer, but those will typically cost you considerably more. 

Consider the Silk Scarf

If you’re wearing a wool coat this winter, consider pairing it with a silk scarf. Silk scarves aren’t as versatile as ones made from cashmere or lambswool, but they look amazing when worn with heavy dress coats. By that I mean things such as polo coats, Ulster coats, and Chesterfields – the kinds of things that you sometimes see labeled as “dress outerwear” in places such as Brooks Brothers. It’s just another way of saying outerwear that’s dressier than things such as parkas and leather bomber jackets.

A silk scarf can really soften up the look of a heavy wool coat. See Noel Coward above or Gordon Gekko in this scene from the movie Wall Street. In both cases, their scarves in lend a nice sheen to an otherwise matte ensemble. It’s not unlike how we use silk ties and polished shoes to counterbalance the flatness of a wool sport coat or woolen trousers. As I wrote earlier this year, I believe a lot of what it means to dress well is learning how to strike a balance between different elements of what you’re wearing (patterns, texture, hardness/ softness, sheen/ flatness, etc). Light silk scarves do that well with heavy wool coats, so long as the coat is as dressy as the scarf.

There are a few places to buy a silk scarf. My favorite is Drake’s, who sells them in a few different designs. I have two of their reversible dotted tubular scarves – one in navy and one in brown – which kind of look like this, but without the fringed ends. A navy dotted silk scarf is arguably the most versatile version you can buy, though I like my brown one for when I wear navy coats. The difference in color helps distinguish it from the rest of what I’m wearing.

You can also pick some up from traditional men’s haberdashers, such as Ben Silver, Brooks Brothers, J. Press, Paul Stuart, and A Suitable Wardrobe. Additionally, San Francisco’s Wingtip stocks Edward Armah silk scarves, as well as a few under their own house label. You can also buy Edward Armah’s scarves directly from Edward Armah themselves.

Admittedly, all those are quite expensive. You could wait for them to go on sale, but they’ll still be on the pricey side. Alternatively, KJ Beckett sells silk scarves by Michelsons of London (also available through the manufacturer themselves), but I have no first hand experience with their products, so I can’t speak about their quality. You can also try eBay. This seller, for example, regularly stocks them, but his/ her scarves are often short and narrow. That’ll limit how you can wear the scarf. You may be able to get away with wearing it like a muffler underneath your buttoned up coat, but it may look silly if you try anything else. Better if you can get something 64” or longer, but those will typically cost you considerably more.