Alternative Markets

If you purchase your clothes online (and you probably do), you’re aware that the online marketplace for clothing—sure, for everything—has exploded in the last decade. First, established stores began selling their wares online, then warehouse-backed, online only behemoths like Yoox and Mr. Porter showed up. The vast gray market of eBay has been another source of growth for both new and used stuff, providing a place to snag vintage, deadstock, and new clothing and accessories from well beyond your local Goodwill/Buffalo Exchange. Also, helpfully, a place to dump your own regrets and didn’t fits. Of course you pay for access, through eBay fees and transaction charges.

Recently we’ve seen more independent options compete with eBay in the secondary men’s clothing market. As a seller, I always like to see more outlets where I can sell my stuff, particularly when listing is easy and cheap/free, and where the people browsing will be knowledgeable about what I’m selling. As a buyer, smaller markets can mean less competition and less chaff to sort through.

Styleforum Marketplace

The Styleforum buying and selling forum has historically been the best non-retail place to find niche men’s clothing online. Although not easy to search, it’s simple to browse and, once you register, pretty simple to use. Styleforum has a custom tool for setting up listings with photos and details. Styleforum management is relatively laissez faire and does not get involved in transactions or disputes. There are rules, though, and a feedback system. Listings are split between “classic menswear" (mostly tailoring and traditional men’s clothing; e.g., suits you’d wear to work, sweaters and pants you’d wear out to dinner with your in-laws), and "streetwear & denim" (mostly non-tailored and designer stuff, e.g., high-end workwear and edgier stuff). Sellers who want to maximize visibility and sell at a high volume can pay for better placement; some earn legitimate livings selling exclusively through Styleforum.

Superfuture Supermarket

Another forum marketplace, one even simpler than Styleforum’s, because Superfuture listings are plain ol’ threads just like any other on the forum. As for the what you’ll see here, it’s seriously niche interest stuff. Up and coming designers, rare streetwear, and for lack of a better word, gothninja. Like Styleforum, Superfuture mostly stays out of the way and lets members negotiate and work out payment amongst themselves.

Que Pasa Shop

A new concept is a storefront like Que Pasa Shop, with a limited pool of sellers and a managed payment system. Que Pasa’s system means that the stock is more tightly edited than the constantly moving free-for-all of forum classifieds. Que Pasa reviews all items before they post, and holds payment until sellers enter shipment tracking information, adding a level of trust for buyers. Payments are processed through Paypal. Que Pasa, however, takes 15% of each sale price. Que Pasa does additional merchandising through their blog, which, frankly, looks pretty cool.

Grailed

A similar but more straightforwardly user-driven site is Grailed. The name is a reference to the sort of rare, sought-after items you might conceivably quest for, and the products currently on offer are a very broad mix of obscure designers and much more accessible stuff. The site allows you to filter items displayed by designer, size, etc., in an intuitive way, making it easy to narrow down the selection to what you’re interested in. Grailed uses Paypal and expects buyers or sellers to resolve any issues through Paypal’s buyer and seller protection policies; for now, the site is not charging users any sort of fee. As its user base broadens, it will be interesting to see how Grailed’s stock changes. Anecdotally, I saw quite a few items on Grailed that are also listed on forums and eBay.

Bureau of Trade

Bureau of Trade has built an attractive, Monocle-y looking, humor-laced site around, essentially, aggregating interesting eBay listings. They list more than clothes, branching into cars, art objects, and puppies. It’s fun to browse but truthfully I already know a good place for eBay finds.

-Pete

Put This On’s Holiday Gift Guide 2013

Every year we hear from the brothers, parents, wives, girlfriends and best pals of fashionable gentlemen. They ask us: what should I get my guy for Christmas? Well, we’ve got a holiday guide for you. Our goals: convenience, timelessness, and near-universal applicability.

Below are our picks. We’d also love it if you checked out the offerings of our beloved advertisers, not to mention our own goods. We offer hand-made pocket squares, by the piece or in subscriptions, and we’ve still got a few of our American-made baseball caps left. And if all of that isn’t enough, check out our 2011 and 2012 guides for more ideas. Again: timeless.

But for now… to the gifts!


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An Antique Stickpin

Lately, I’ve taken to occasionally adorning my lapel buttonhole with a small stickpin. Men don’t get much chance to wear jewelry, and as long as the pin is muted in design and small in size, this is a nice way to do it. Jewelry, of course, is a wonderful gift, and you can find a fine stickpin for as little as a hundred dollars or so, or a costumier one for twenty. Even superb Edwardian and Victorian examples like the one above rarely go for more than a few hundred. An eBay search will reveal the possibilities. - Jesse


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Artist / Rebel / Dandy: Men of Fashion

I’ve been sitting with this big beautiful book, the companion to RISD Museum’s exhibition of the same name, and really enjoying it. There are some scholarly articles (a bit obtuse), some dandy profiles (often charming, occasionally a bit hagiographic) and a lot of amazing, spectacular pictures. A perfect gift, whether your giftee is an artist, a rebel, a dandy - or just wants to imagine himself as one. - Jesse


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Hilditch & Key Pyjamas

If you’re writing about British sleepwear, you get to spell it with a “y,” right? Hilditch & Key is one of England’s most respected shirtmakers, and in addition to shirts, they sell PJs. Flannel, twill or broadcloth, they’ve got it all, and on sale they’re quite reasonably priced, though delivery to the U.S. isn’t cheap. They even have long nightshirts, if that’s your thing. - Jesse


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Merz B. Schwanen Socks

It’s rare that I fall in love with a product based on a picture on the internet, but when I saw these Merz B. Schwanen socks on Where Is The Cool, I found myself leaping to the search field on my browser and tracking down European websites from which I might buy them. They’re not cheap, but they’re beautiful. If you prefer a more affordable alternative, try Wigwam. - Jesse


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Cedar For The Closet

If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer, why not some cedar for closets and underwear drawers? Sierra Trading Post has Great American Hanger Company’s hangers, rings, balls and sachets for less than five bucks, before you even apply one of their ubiquitous coupons. A bit of cedar oil can keep the wood fragrant for years. - Jesse


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Vintage Deadstock French Work Jacket

The classic French worker’s jacket is cotton with a plain buttoned front. It’s been made famous in the US by the photographer Bill Cunningham. The French vintage shop Le Magasin General has them for 35 Euros - about fifty bucks. - Jesse


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Les McCann & Eddie Harris: Swiss Movement

There are few records that can be relied upon in any company, in any context. Swiss Movement is one of them. One of jazz’s greatest LPs, it’s lively, fun and beautiful. It doesn’t require a degree in jazz studies to enjoy, but you can listen to it over and over again and get something new every time (trust me - I have). A perfect album for your giftee’s morning dress routing, or their evening cocktail parties. - Jesse


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Gordy’s Camera Straps

I needed a strap for my camera - something better than the hideous nylon-and-plastic monstrosity that came with it. I turned to Gordy’s Camera Straps, and I couldn’t have been happier with the result. They allow you to customize leather color, length, binding color, attachment and everything else. The quality was superb and the price is excellent (about thirty bucks). The perfect gift for a photographer on your list. - Jesse


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A Kiva Gift Card

Kiva is an NGO which specializes in third-world microlending. They offer small loans to poor people who otherwise would lack access to capital. The loans are low-interest, but are repayable, like any other, and the impressively high repayment rate makes an investment in Kiva a great way to make an impact on third-world poverty. They offer gift cards in any amount, and your giftee can reinvest his gift (and see it repaid) again and again. (Thanks, A.M.) - Jesse


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Knit Cap

Winter accessories are easy Christmas gifts; the only problem is you the recipient gets them halfway through the cold-weather season. A distinctive cap that will last a few years is the best choice. I’d love a Buzz Rickson replica WWII watch cap or a Scotland-made striped or fair isle cap from J. Press; for the budget-minded there’s the always reliable but essentially disposable surplus wool caps. - Pete


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Matt Zoller Seitz’s The Wes Anderson Collection
A fastidious and carefully orchestrated discussion and illustration of Wes Anderson’s fastidious and carefully orchestrated films. With full-bleed, colorful film stills and illustrations, this is not a candidate for your Kindle. The art complements accompanying essays and a long interview with Anderson by Zoller Seitz, TV critic for New York Magazine. Say what you want about his films, but Wes Anderson is maybe our culture’s best argument for corduroy suits and Wallabees. - Pete

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Brady Ariel Trout Bag with Liner

English maker Brady’s flagship fishing bag is fantastic for carrying fly fishing tackle or camera equipment, but because of the generous size and removable, rubberized liner, it’s also supposed to make a great diaper bag. As a soon-to-be dad to twins, I think I’ll need two. - Pete


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Subscription to a Magazine He Probably Can’t Read

Maybe Men’s Non-no, Huge, Free & Easy, and Popeye are as shallow and disappointingly ad-driven as most American men’s magazines, but I can’t read Japanese so I’ll never know. You can buy Japanese men’s magazines one issue at a time at places like Kinokuniya, and subscriptions through services like Acclaim.  A 12-month, 12-issue subscription to Popeye is around $200, but it’s exactly the kind of gift I like—something that defies practicality. - Pete


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Good Coffee

I recently moved into a new apartment and it turns out my landlord is a famous coffee expert. His website, Coffee Review, has a page dedicated to exceptionally good roasts. I imagine any of those would make for a great gift for a coffee lover. (Note, I’m not getting anything by plugging my landlord’s website, I just think it’s a good resource). - Derek


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Shoe Care Box

A nice box to hold shoe care supplies would be great for anyone who’s fastidious about their footwear. I listed some options here a couple of years ago, but just picked up this from Gerstner recently. They’re a bit more expensive, but exceptionally well made and, perhaps most importantly, big enough to hold all the shoe care supplies one might own. They also have nice cases for other types of enthusiasts and hobbyists. - Derek


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O’Connell’s Shetland Sweaters

I really fell in love with O’Connell’s Shetland sweaters this year. They’re the best Shetlands I’ve come across - dense enough to be hardy, but not so dense that they’re bulky. I recommend going one up from your giftee’s sport coat size. Note, the colors on O’Connell’s website are a bit washed out, so I took some photos of my Shetlands here for reference. - Derek


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A Nice Fragrance

If you want to give a fragrance, it would be hard to go wrong with Creed’s Green Irish Tweed or L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Timbuktu (both of which we’ve recommended in the past). I also really like Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet and Terre d’Hermes by Hermes. All four would be good, but safe, bets. - Derek


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Leather Laptop Sleeve

Most laptop cases are a bit of an eyesore, which is why it’s nice to see simple leather designs from companies such as Berg & Berg, Kaufmann Mercantile, and Calabrese. These would be well appreciated by anyone who puts thought into how they dress - regardless if they like to wear sport coats and ties, or something more causal such as field jackets with chinos. - Derek  


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Framed Photograph

For family members and close friends, consider giving a simple, framed photograph of you and your giftee, perhaps taken in the past year. You can find nice frames at Tiffany & Co. and Ralph Lauren, or more affordably at Target and Michaels. This past Thanksgiving, a friend of mine pulled out a photo I gifted him fifteen years ago. These kind of things really do become more special with age. - Derek

The US Government on Suits

StyleForum member CrimsonSox recently found this fascinating guide on how to buy a suit, surprisingly published in 1949 by the US government. This 24-page book covers everything from suit quality to proper fit, and gives a level of sophisticated detail that would be hard to find in many men’s magazines today. 

There are some things here, however, that limit this book’s practicality for today’s use. For example, there’s no discussion of fused suits, which today makes up much of the market. The tips given for how to discern quality also seem like they mostly apply to the extremes. That is, it’s like telling someone how they can tell if they’re looking at a Kiton suit vs. something you’d buy at one of those shops that sells five suits and a beeper for $200. Most people probably don’t need a guide for that - they’re usually trying to discern the quality between two very similarly priced garments (which is very hard, if not impossible, to judge). 

Still, it points to some things that go into making a suit jacket, which is fun to know, and the guide on how a suit should fit is pretty good. Best of all, the first eight pages has a great overview of fabrics (especially pages 6 and 7), which is useful if you’ve ever wondered what words such as gabardine, serge, covert, and tropical worsted mean. 

You can download the book by clicking on the “gear icon” button, located at the right hand side of Google Book’s site. To read more, you can check out the other guides the US Department of Agriculture published as part of their Home and Garden Bulletins. Here’s one on how to mend men’s suits, for example, and here’s one on the fitting of women’s suits and coats

"Does It Fit?" Checklist
A friend of mine recently had to get a new suit for a wedding (not his), and asked for my advice on how to tell if a suit jacket fits. I thought about sending him to the various guides Jesse and I have written on the topic, but realized they might be too much to read for someone who doesn’t have a particular interest in menswear. So I wrote out a very basic checklist – something simple, practical, and easy-to-use for how to evaluate if a suit jacket or sport coat fits, with links to longer articles in case anyone wants to read more. 
The Basics
The guiding principle for how a suit jacket should fit is pretty simple. There should be clean lines all around, with no puckering or pulling anywhere, and the jacket should flatter the body (this doesn’t mean it should be super tight). Looking at photos of our friends Voxsartoria and MostExerent can be instructive. 
More specifically …
Shoulders: The shoulder line should be clean, not lumpy, and the ends of your jacket’s shoulders should generally coincide with the ends of your natural shoulders.
Chest: Most off-the-rack suits are designed so that the jacket’s chest stays fairly close to your body, but if you see the lapels starting to buckle, that means your jacket is too small.
Length: If you want something classic, the hem of your jacket should hit roughly midway between your jacket’s collar and the floor.
Collar: The collar should stay glued to your neck, even when you move your arms about (within reason).
Sleeves: Make sure the sleeves fall cleanly. There shouldn’t be any divots or wrinkles when you hang your arms naturally by your side.
Sleeve length: Few jackets will have a perfect sleeve length off-the-rack, so most will need to be altered. Just make sure that after alterations, you have about a half inch of shirt cuff peeking out. Unfortunately, this can sometimes be made difficult by what’s called “working buttonholes.”
Vents: The vents should stay closed when you’re wearing the jacket, but this is hard to tell in a store because vents are usually sewn shut on a new garment. Take a seam ripper and remove these when you’re home, and just make sure they remain fairly closed when you have the jacket on.
Waist: There’s some wiggle room here. You can have the waist nipped to give the jacket more shape, or let out if it feels too tight. In the end, just make sure the jacket isn’t pulling at the buttoning point. 
Other Details
After that, there are some other details you might want to pay attention to:
Quarters: This is the colloquial name for the area of your jacket below the buttoning point. Think about whether you like this area closed or open. It can make a big difference in how your jacket looks. 
Buttoning point: On a three-button jacket, button the middle button, and on a two-button jacket, button the top. Notice where this point sits. Ideally, it should be at your natural waist, though fashion designers have been placing it higher and higher. Be aware that an overly high buttoning point can make you look heavier than you are.
Lapels: Skinny lapels have been en vogue for a few years now (thanks to Mad Men), but are possibly on their way out. I presume the next fad will be wide lapels at some point. For something classic, stick to something that ends half way between your collar and shoulder point.
Notch: Pay attention to where the notches are placed on your lapel. It’s been fashionable to have them very high up on the body, sometimes almost near the top of the shoulders, but like low notches in the 1980s, these will probably go out of fashion at some point. Be wary of extremes. 
Balance: When looking at the jacket from the side, the front and back hem should even with each other, or the front should be slightly longer than the back. When viewed from the front, the left and right sides should generally be even. This is called balance. Truthfully, unless you’re getting something bespoke (and even then, this doesn’t always work out), the second part is rare to achieve. If you have a very dropped shoulder, this can affect how the buttons and buttonholes align, which can then throw off how the jacket looks when buttoned.
The second section above is admittedly a bit nit-picky, but it points to some good things to pay attention to when evaluating how a jacket looks on you. Fortunately, there are some workarounds if you see something you don’t like. If the cut of the quarters doesn’t look good, or if the buttoning point is too high, you can always just wear the jacket unbuttoned. And if the balance is a bit off, you can ask an alterations tailor to move the buttons up a bit so that they align with the buttonholes. Finding the perfect jacket can be difficult, so how much you care about getting the perfect fit will greatly depend on how much time and money you want to spend. But at least now you know what to look for.

"Does It Fit?" Checklist

A friend of mine recently had to get a new suit for a wedding (not his), and asked for my advice on how to tell if a suit jacket fits. I thought about sending him to the various guides Jesse and I have written on the topic, but realized they might be too much to read for someone who doesn’t have a particular interest in menswear. So I wrote out a very basic checklist – something simple, practical, and easy-to-use for how to evaluate if a suit jacket or sport coat fits, with links to longer articles in case anyone wants to read more.

The Basics

The guiding principle for how a suit jacket should fit is pretty simple. There should be clean lines all around, with no puckering or pulling anywhere, and the jacket should flatter the body (this doesn’t mean it should be super tight). Looking at photos of our friends Voxsartoria and MostExerent can be instructive.

More specifically …

  • Shoulders: The shoulder line should be clean, not lumpy, and the ends of your jacket’s shoulders should generally coincide with the ends of your natural shoulders.
  • Chest: Most off-the-rack suits are designed so that the jacket’s chest stays fairly close to your body, but if you see the lapels starting to buckle, that means your jacket is too small.
  • Length: If you want something classic, the hem of your jacket should hit roughly midway between your jacket’s collar and the floor.
  • Collar: The collar should stay glued to your neck, even when you move your arms about (within reason).
  • Sleeves: Make sure the sleeves fall cleanly. There shouldn’t be any divots or wrinkles when you hang your arms naturally by your side.
  • Sleeve length: Few jackets will have a perfect sleeve length off-the-rack, so most will need to be altered. Just make sure that after alterations, you have about a half inch of shirt cuff peeking out. Unfortunately, this can sometimes be made difficult by what’s called “working buttonholes.”
  • Vents: The vents should stay closed when you’re wearing the jacket, but this is hard to tell in a store because vents are usually sewn shut on a new garment. Take a seam ripper and remove these when you’re home, and just make sure they remain fairly closed when you have the jacket on.
  • Waist: There’s some wiggle room here. You can have the waist nipped to give the jacket more shape, or let out if it feels too tight. In the end, just make sure the jacket isn’t pulling at the buttoning point

Other Details

After that, there are some other details you might want to pay attention to:

  • Quarters: This is the colloquial name for the area of your jacket below the buttoning point. Think about whether you like this area closed or open. It can make a big difference in how your jacket looks. 
  • Buttoning point: On a three-button jacket, button the middle button, and on a two-button jacket, button the top. Notice where this point sits. Ideally, it should be at your natural waist, though fashion designers have been placing it higher and higher. Be aware that an overly high buttoning point can make you look heavier than you are.
  • Lapels: Skinny lapels have been en vogue for a few years now (thanks to Mad Men), but are possibly on their way out. I presume the next fad will be wide lapels at some point. For something classic, stick to something that ends half way between your collar and shoulder point.
  • Notch: Pay attention to where the notches are placed on your lapel. It’s been fashionable to have them very high up on the body, sometimes almost near the top of the shoulders, but like low notches in the 1980s, these will probably go out of fashion at some point. Be wary of extremes. 
  • Balance: When looking at the jacket from the side, the front and back hem should even with each other, or the front should be slightly longer than the back. When viewed from the front, the left and right sides should generally be even. This is called balance. Truthfully, unless you’re getting something bespoke (and even then, this doesn’t always work out), the second part is rare to achieve. If you have a very dropped shoulder, this can affect how the buttons and buttonholes align, which can then throw off how the jacket looks when buttoned.

The second section above is admittedly a bit nit-picky, but it points to some good things to pay attention to when evaluating how a jacket looks on you. Fortunately, there are some workarounds if you see something you don’t like. If the cut of the quarters doesn’t look good, or if the buttoning point is too high, you can always just wear the jacket unbuttoned. And if the balance is a bit off, you can ask an alterations tailor to move the buttons up a bit so that they align with the buttonholes. Finding the perfect jacket can be difficult, so how much you care about getting the perfect fit will greatly depend on how much time and money you want to spend. But at least now you know what to look for.

Shopping Japan

Although, technically, legal trade between the United States and Japan has been going on since the 1850s, and Americans and Europeans can order from each others’ webstores as easily as they can order from a store two towns over, Japan’s online retail economy still confounds many an eager shopper. The disconnect is part language barrier and partly technological—many Japanese sites are just not set up to accommodate global e-sales. English speakers are privileged in that most European stores have staff who speak English, or can translate quickly via online tools like Google Translate. English/Japanese translation tools are not nearly as reliable, and sometimes no amount of good will and intentions on the part of both seller and buyer can overcome the communications breakdown. Likewise, even if you can navigate Japanese shopping sites, you often can’t register with or ship to non-Japan addresses.

The state of affairs is even more frustrating because Japan-based brands just make so much cool stuff, and because Japan’s big retailers, like Beams and United Arrows, have the buying power to carry exclusive goods from many brands that you’ll just never see elsewhere. (For instance, Danner still makes Japan-exclusive boots.) And Japan’s secondary market (Yahoo Auctions is analogous to ebay) is full of new and secondhand goods at relatively reasonable prices. Compared to U.S. stores and ebay, the Japanese market is particularly rich in niche and cult brands like Buzz Rickson, Visvim, Undercover, Jun Hashimoto, and Nepenthes/Needles.

How to Use a Proxy or Buying Service

Brad at Harajuju has put together a really solid guide on buying stuff from Japan, the bottom line of which is that your best bet is proxy services; that is, paying someone in Japan to shop for you and then ship goods to you. Brad’s guide has a helpful breakdown of the steps and costs of purchasing through a proxy. He recommends using FromJapan; SutoCorp also has a good reputation. I’ve personally also used the smaller scale StylisticsSpace. (Harajuju and Put This On readers may or may not be shopping for the same stuff, but the process is the same.)

Tips

Some things to remember in addition to Brad’s advice:

  • Be realistic about an item’s marked price vs. what it will cost you. Transaction fees, shipping, and proxy commission all add up.
  • Right now, 1USD is approximately 100JPY, a relatively favorable exchange rate for U.S. shoppers.
  • For Japanese brands, clothing generally runs smaller than U.S.-market clothing.
  • Japan isn’t Nordstrom. Some shops and proxies accommodate returns, but when you order something through a proxy, chances are you’re stuck with it. Consider fees and shipping, at least, as sunk costs, and be prepared for some trial and error. In my experience, if a store makes a mistake (for instance, ships the wrong item), they’ll work with you to fix the mistake.
  • For most U.S.-based brands, you’re better off buying domestically. On average, American-made goods will be more expensive in Japan than in the United States (this goes for European goods, as well). Japan is not a good place to look for discount Alden shoes.
  • Transactions take time. If you want a pair of Visvim sneakers on Yahoo Auctions and the auction ends in an hour, it’s not likely you’ll be able to coordinate with a proxy service in time.
  • Depending on what you order and how much it costs, you may have to pay duty (import tax) on top of everything else. It’s illegal to misrepresent the value of the goods you order in order to avoid paying taxes.
  • Rakuten, which lists some stores’ inventories as well as one-off (often used) items, has made it easier to order for buyers outside of Japan. Some Rakuten merchants will work with you directly (i.e., no proxy); Rakuten even offers occasional specials like free international shipping from select merchants.
  • The market opens up a little more every year; Japanese brands are more widely available than they used to be. Self Edge carries a lot of great Japanese brands. Kamakura has a shop in New York and a webstore; a lot of stores sell the Beams house line Beams Plus now; Danner is more liberal with their Japan designs. Don’t use a proxy if you don’t have to.

This may all sound discouraging, but I’ve had many good experiences shopping from Japan, both through proxies and directly through Rakuten. It may seem perverse in a make-everything-easy, customer-is-always-right shopping culture, but it’s satisfying to successfully navigate the process—the extra effort is emotional investment in the item you purchase, whatever it may be.

-Pete

Where To Look First for a Suit (Part One)

Far and away, the most common question I get in my inbox is: “Where should I go to buy a suit, given my budget is X?” I usually try to stay away from such questions, as too much depends on the person’s specific needs. Where are you planning to wear the suit? What kind of styles do you like? What kind of climate do you live in? All these make it difficult to recommend something over email.

However, I’ve always thought it’d be helpful to have a list of recommendations for a broader audience. Something that’s painted with big, broad brushes. So, I reached out to some friends to see what they’d suggest, given different budgets, and added a few ideas myself. Of course, you might go to these stores and find nothing works for you, but at least you have a list of where you might want to look first.

For a budget of ~$500 and under

  • Suit Supply: A pretty good first stop. They have a wide range of styles to fit different tastes and body types. Jackets will typically be half-canvassed, and be made from fabrics sourced from respectable mills. Their lookbook styling is a bit fashion forward, but once you actually check out their stuff in person, you can usually find some reasonably classic designs.
  • Land’s End: Not the greatest in terms of construction, but impressive in terms of price. Check out their “tailored fit” and wait for one of their many sales.   

For a budget between ~$500 and ~$1,000

  • Brooks Brothers: Brooks Brothers has 25% off sales pretty regularly, and sometimes you can knock an additional 15% off by opening up a Brooks Brothers credit card (some sales associates won’t let you stack these discounts, but most will). That should bring the price down to under $1,000. Their newest cut, the Milano, is perhaps too trendy to recommend, but they have three good “classic” models. From slimmest to fullest, they go: Fitzgerald, Regent, and Madison. Note, you can sometimes also catch their premium Golden Fleece line on Rue La La for just under $500.
  • J. Crew: Their Ludlow series can be a good starting point for many men. Just watch out for the models with razor-thin lapels, which might look dated in a few years. 
  • Howard Yount: Very respectable half-canvassed suits that are, again, made from nice fabrics. They’re also styled fairly well.
  • Proper Suit: Made-to-measure suits for prices starting at $750. You can see our friend The Silentist review them here. If you go, bring along your best fitting jacket and trousers, so you can say what you like and don’t like.
  • Southwick: Classic American styled suits that start at $1,000 or so. You can find them at O’Connell’s or any number of classic American clothiers. They also have made-to-measure for around $1,200, give or take, depending on the fabric. A good option for someone with truly classic tastes.
  • Lardini: Terrible name, but nice Italian suits. Full retail price is north of $1,000, but you can easily find them on sale. Just check places like Yoox (and ignore Yoox’s terrible styling).
  • Benjamin: Great fabric, full-canvas construction, and nice detailing (e.g. discrete pick stitching). Their cuts are slightly fashion forward, but still office appropriate. Our friend This Fits owns their Classico and Napoli models and likes them a lot.

Come back tomorrow, when we’ll cover suits in the four-digit range.

(Special thanks to La Casuarina, A Bit of Color, This Fits, Ivory Tower Style, Réginald-Jérôme de Mans, and Breathnaigh for their help with this article. Also, credit to Suit Supply and Brooks Brothers for the two images above.)

Ramon Puig: La Casa de las Guayaberas

I was in Miami last week, and rather than visit South Beach, I thought I’d take my half-day of free time and go on a hunt for a guayabera. Thanks to a tip from Image Granted, I made my way from my hotel to Ramon Puig, one of the most respected guayabera shops in the world.

If you’re not familiar with the shirt, the guayabera is a pleated, button-down shirt with four front pockets. It’s often worn with short sleeves, though a long-sleeve version is worn in the tropics for business and formal occasions. It’s most associated with Cuba, though you can find it throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, and a sister shirt, the Barong Tagalog, is worn in the Philippines. You can basically find a version of the shirt anywhere tropical trade traveled in the 19th century - even Africa. The name is purportedly derived from the guava plantation workers (guayaberos) who wore them originally, though that’s in much dispute.

The guayabera, like the Aloha shirt, is perfectly suited for tropical weather. It’s also a genuine classic, a garment that blends form and function close to seamlessly. These days you’re much more likely to find American-style dress on younger folks in the third world, but like the Aloha shirt, the guayabera has made a comeback on the strength of cultural pride.

At Ramon Puig, the style is traditional, conservative and distinctly Cuban, but there are racks upon racks of shirts in a dizzying variety of fabrics and colors. There are only two styles: long sleeve and short, but when you multiply those by regular and long sizes, then numerous fabric levels, then colors in each fabric, you get a store filled to the brim. Prices range from $40 for the basic poly-cotton blend shirts to $140 for Irish linen.

Besides all this, there’s also a custom operation. Sr. Puig died a few years ago, but there’s still a tailor making shirts that run upwards of $500 each in a shop in the back. I was lucky enough to fit comfortably in a size medium-tall (be sure to size down one for a slimmer fit if that’s your preference), and walked out with a souvenir I couldn’t get anywhere else.

What A Clown Taught Me About Dressing
Or: How Not To Be A Lonely Nerd In A Fedora
I’ll admit it here and now: I went to theater school. School of the Arts in San Francisco, specifically. It was a public school; auditions to get in, academics in the morning, arts in the afternoon. I was an actor.
Part of my training was a class in physical theater taught by a clown named Jeff Raz (pictured above in full clown garb). Jeff now runs a school for clowning - he’s an expert in Commedia dell’arte and a veteran of the Pickle Family Circus, one of the world’s first “alternative” circuses. He taught us a lot of lessons that I later used in my comedy career, as you might imagine, but there was one in particular that I think about when dressing all the time.
Here it is, put simply: before you can vary, you must demonstrate mastery.
I’ll give you an example. A clown walks on stage with five pies. He throws them in the air, and they land all over, including his face. Not very funny.
But if the same clown walks on stage, juggles them succesfully for a while, then they fall on his face, that’s funny.
Both punchlines are the same. The difference is a demonstration of mastery. You can break the pattern once you have established the pattern. Surprise grows only from consistency.
What does that have to do with dress?
Every day, those of us who chose to dress conscientiously, and especially those of us who are passionate about clothing, push the limits of dress. It may be dressing a little more formally than those who surround us. It may be a particularly outre element from a designer collection. It might simply be eschewing cargo shorts and flip flops at the fraternity house.
So what’s the difference between Michael Alden wearing a hat and the Lonely Nerds in Fedoras tumblr? Why can Thom Browne show men in business skirts? Demonstrated mastery.
I wrote recently about the point of distinction: the element of difference that demonstrates that you have control over your dress. Dressing works the other way, too. If you have an established pattern of dressing well, whether over time or within a single outfit (say a suit that fits exceptionally, sharp quality shoes and the perfect sober shirt), you can add an unusual element and it will reinforce rather than destroy your aesthetic.
But fail to demonstrate mastery? Take swings in the dark? Pile wildness on wildness without qualification?
You’ll end up looking like a clown.

What A Clown Taught Me About Dressing

Or: How Not To Be A Lonely Nerd In A Fedora

I’ll admit it here and now: I went to theater school. School of the Arts in San Francisco, specifically. It was a public school; auditions to get in, academics in the morning, arts in the afternoon. I was an actor.

Part of my training was a class in physical theater taught by a clown named Jeff Raz (pictured above in full clown garb). Jeff now runs a school for clowning - he’s an expert in Commedia dell’arte and a veteran of the Pickle Family Circus, one of the world’s first “alternative” circuses. He taught us a lot of lessons that I later used in my comedy career, as you might imagine, but there was one in particular that I think about when dressing all the time.

Here it is, put simply: before you can vary, you must demonstrate mastery.

I’ll give you an example. A clown walks on stage with five pies. He throws them in the air, and they land all over, including his face. Not very funny.

But if the same clown walks on stage, juggles them succesfully for a while, then they fall on his face, that’s funny.

Both punchlines are the same. The difference is a demonstration of mastery. You can break the pattern once you have established the pattern. Surprise grows only from consistency.

What does that have to do with dress?

Every day, those of us who chose to dress conscientiously, and especially those of us who are passionate about clothing, push the limits of dress. It may be dressing a little more formally than those who surround us. It may be a particularly outre element from a designer collection. It might simply be eschewing cargo shorts and flip flops at the fraternity house.

So what’s the difference between Michael Alden wearing a hat and the Lonely Nerds in Fedoras tumblr? Why can Thom Browne show men in business skirts? Demonstrated mastery.

I wrote recently about the point of distinction: the element of difference that demonstrates that you have control over your dress. Dressing works the other way, too. If you have an established pattern of dressing well, whether over time or within a single outfit (say a suit that fits exceptionally, sharp quality shoes and the perfect sober shirt), you can add an unusual element and it will reinforce rather than destroy your aesthetic.

But fail to demonstrate mastery? Take swings in the dark? Pile wildness on wildness without qualification?

You’ll end up looking like a clown.

The Point of Distinction

Here at Put This On, we’re all about encouraging a simple, classic aesthetic. You won’t find Ed Hardy t-shirts or Versace suits here. But what makes a simply constructed outfit something special? I call it a “point of distinction.”

It’s an idea I first read expressed by my friend MistahWong, who’s one of the best-dressed men I know. The principle is simple. One’s style should be impeccable. Fit should be inarguable. So on and so forth. But there should be something about your outfit that says “this isn’t generic, this is me.”

Back when MistahWong was wearing business suits for work, he wore almost exclusively solid navy and gray with white shirts. Perfect fit, conservative cuts. Heavy black or burgundy longwings. But he also wore casual silk knit ties. Or, as above, a felt flower in his lapel. A simple point of distinction.

Above is what I’m wearing on a cool morning in Southern California. Literally a white t-shirt, khakis, and a black chamois shirt. Add some bold sneakers and sunglasses and you have distinction.

Accessories, of course, are the easiest choice. I find that adding the glasses above (which are made by the California maker Kala) to an otherwise very conservative outfit works well. I’ll sometimes add a vintage stickpin to my lapel. There are trendy choices, like colored laces or bracelets, though those have run their course to some extent. The goal isn’t necessarily to be outrageous, but simply to demonstrate that you care.

It’s easy to pile wild choice on top of wild choice, or conversely to make nothing but down-the-middle clothing decisions. To choose to demonstrate understated mastery and nonetheless show distinction is much more difficult.

More Military Surplus: Leathers
Last week’s field jacket roundup addressed primarily cotton field jackets, omitting some other massively influential categories of military outerwear—today we’ll look at U.S. military leather jackets. These jackets are sort of the culture to the field jackets’ counterculture; they were and are expensive items designed and manufactured for airmen operating in the demanding conditions of early aircraft, which were short on creature comforts. The primary source of the badass, Brando school of leather jacket is motorcycle culture rather than the military.
A-1
Years in service: 1927-1931
The A-1 flying jacket is the original pilot’s leather jacket. The Army Air Forces spec’d it in olive/brown capeskin (lambskin; lighter weight than many leathers), and finished the jacket with knit woolen fabric at the collar, cuffs, and hem; it buttoned closed and has buttons on both the collar and hem (casually, it’s most often worn collar up, with a couple buttons undone at the neck and hem). The A-1 was only used for a few years before being replaced by the more familiar A-2, and finding vintage versions of the A-1 is virtually impossible; the supply is too low and the demand too great. It was cut a little slimmer than later leathers; although modern versions are flattering on a lot of people, it looks best on the fairly slim. Maybe because it’s not as ubiquitous as subsequent military issue leathers, it seems more refined, and in recent years A-1-inspired jackets in suede, like this one from Temple of Jawnz/John Coppidge have gotten a lot of attention. With no vintage market and no large-volume manufacturer of reproductions, a good A-1 doesn’t come cheap. True-to-spec capeskin repros are available from Eastman Leathers in the UK (pictured is a jacket Eastman made for YMC), and Hickorees just released a beautiful two-tone horsehide version. You can also keep an eye out for similarly styled blouson jackets from Valstar, which at least cost hundreds rather than thousands of dollars.

A-2
Years in service: 1931-1940s
The A-2 was the U.S. fighter pilots’ jacket of World War II. Thousands were issued, and there are many, many A-2 jackets out there, both vintage military, vintage civilian use, and new. The jacket’s design eliminates the buttons and knit collar of the A-1 in favor of a shirt-style leather collar and zip closure covered by a storm flap. There are passants on the shoulders and knit trim at the cuffs and hem. Most vintage A-2 jackets are very dark brown, and different contractors made them from different hides, mostly horse or goat. The A-2 is one of few clothing items that can legitimately be called iconic; for many it is the leather jacket. Although the A-2 looks great on most men regardless of age or fitness, a good deal of reproduction or imitation jackets, especially from the 1980s, are cut large and will be baggy on thinner guys, so be wary of tagged sizing on any used/vintage jackets. Old vintage A-2s actually run small. By virtue of its popularity, the A-2 is also so unobjectionable, it can border on boring; but a well-cut A-2 is a great entry point into leather jackets. Pictured is a version from Good Wear, which reproduces jackets down to the details of specific WWII contractors’ specs, which varied a lot. Schott, which made A-2s during WWII, has a solid  version in its Perfecto line (not all Schott A-2s are made to this standard).

G-1
Years in service: 1940s to present day
The G-1 started as the Navy version of the Army A-2, but while the Army version sometimes includes a detachable fur collar, the mouton (sheepskin) collar is standard on the G-1. The G-1 also omits passants and the storm flap and features button-through pockets rather than snap pockets. Particularly since its starring role in Top Gun, The G-1 is one of the most commonly reproduced jackets on the market, so there are many G-1-style jackets out there. Likewise, the jacket has had a long military service history with many contractors, so details can vary some from jacket to jacket. The originals and many current civilian versions use genuine sheepskin for the collar, but many if not most use synthetic fur. Vintage models abound, and new civilian versions are available from Alpha and Schott, with widely varying specs (look at the collar on that Schott). Beware patched, plasticky-leather versions from the immediate post-Maverick-and-Goose era. Personally, I prefer the G-1’s furriness to the A-2’s minimalism, but taste in leather jackets is subjective; many people favor motorcycle-derived leather jackets to these military versions.

Sheepskin jackets
Years in service: 1930s to 1945
Although all of these are indeed flight jackets, most of them were too lightweight for cockpit-wear at the high altitudes, and in fact both the A-1 and A-2 specs refer to them as summer jackets. Heavy, unshorn sheepskin jackets were designed to keep B-17 and fighter pilots warm in unpressurized aircraft flying at altitude over Europe. The B-3 and ANJ-4 were sometimes even worn over A-2s for maximum warmth. These jackets were expensive to make and were phased out in favor of cloth, pile-lined jackets after World War II. Sheepskin jackets are bulkier and a little longer than the lighter weight jackets, and their heavyweight sheepskin will keep someone on the ground warm in almost any climate. Originals verge on impractical; B-3s have for instance just one pocket. The relative luxury of the materials means you still see high-end designer takes on the B-3 and its British equivalent, the dashing Irvin jacket; Burberry recently made exaggerated versions. For less interpretative versions, you’re looking at the usual suspects: Eastman, Schott, and Alpha.
-Pete

More Military Surplus: Leathers

Last week’s field jacket roundup addressed primarily cotton field jackets, omitting some other massively influential categories of military outerwear—today we’ll look at U.S. military leather jackets. These jackets are sort of the culture to the field jackets’ counterculture; they were and are expensive items designed and manufactured for airmen operating in the demanding conditions of early aircraft, which were short on creature comforts. The primary source of the badass, Brando school of leather jacket is motorcycle culture rather than the military.

A-1

Years in service: 1927-1931

The A-1 flying jacket is the original pilot’s leather jacket. The Army Air Forces spec’d it in olive/brown capeskin (lambskin; lighter weight than many leathers), and finished the jacket with knit woolen fabric at the collar, cuffs, and hem; it buttoned closed and has buttons on both the collar and hem (casually, it’s most often worn collar up, with a couple buttons undone at the neck and hem). The A-1 was only used for a few years before being replaced by the more familiar A-2, and finding vintage versions of the A-1 is virtually impossible; the supply is too low and the demand too great. It was cut a little slimmer than later leathers; although modern versions are flattering on a lot of people, it looks best on the fairly slim. Maybe because it’s not as ubiquitous as subsequent military issue leathers, it seems more refined, and in recent years A-1-inspired jackets in suede, like this one from Temple of Jawnz/John Coppidge have gotten a lot of attention. With no vintage market and no large-volume manufacturer of reproductions, a good A-1 doesn’t come cheap. True-to-spec capeskin repros are available from Eastman Leathers in the UK (pictured is a jacket Eastman made for YMC), and Hickorees just released a beautiful two-tone horsehide version. You can also keep an eye out for similarly styled blouson jackets from Valstar, which at least cost hundreds rather than thousands of dollars.

A-2

Years in service: 1931-1940s

The A-2 was the U.S. fighter pilots’ jacket of World War II. Thousands were issued, and there are many, many A-2 jackets out there, both vintage military, vintage civilian use, and new. The jacket’s design eliminates the buttons and knit collar of the A-1 in favor of a shirt-style leather collar and zip closure covered by a storm flap. There are passants on the shoulders and knit trim at the cuffs and hem. Most vintage A-2 jackets are very dark brown, and different contractors made them from different hides, mostly horse or goat. The A-2 is one of few clothing items that can legitimately be called iconic; for many it is the leather jacket. Although the A-2 looks great on most men regardless of age or fitness, a good deal of reproduction or imitation jackets, especially from the 1980s, are cut large and will be baggy on thinner guys, so be wary of tagged sizing on any used/vintage jackets. Old vintage A-2s actually run small. By virtue of its popularity, the A-2 is also so unobjectionable, it can border on boring; but a well-cut A-2 is a great entry point into leather jackets. Pictured is a version from Good Wear, which reproduces jackets down to the details of specific WWII contractors’ specs, which varied a lot. Schott, which made A-2s during WWII, has a solid version in its Perfecto line (not all Schott A-2s are made to this standard).

G-1

Years in service: 1940s to present day

The G-1 started as the Navy version of the Army A-2, but while the Army version sometimes includes a detachable fur collar, the mouton (sheepskin) collar is standard on the G-1. The G-1 also omits passants and the storm flap and features button-through pockets rather than snap pockets. Particularly since its starring role in Top Gun, The G-1 is one of the most commonly reproduced jackets on the market, so there are many G-1-style jackets out there. Likewise, the jacket has had a long military service history with many contractors, so details can vary some from jacket to jacket. The originals and many current civilian versions use genuine sheepskin for the collar, but many if not most use synthetic fur. Vintage models abound, and new civilian versions are available from Alpha and Schott, with widely varying specs (look at the collar on that Schott). Beware patched, plasticky-leather versions from the immediate post-Maverick-and-Goose era. Personally, I prefer the G-1’s furriness to the A-2’s minimalism, but taste in leather jackets is subjective; many people favor motorcycle-derived leather jackets to these military versions.

Sheepskin jackets

Years in service: 1930s to 1945

Although all of these are indeed flight jackets, most of them were too lightweight for cockpit-wear at the high altitudes, and in fact both the A-1 and A-2 specs refer to them as summer jackets. Heavy, unshorn sheepskin jackets were designed to keep B-17 and fighter pilots warm in unpressurized aircraft flying at altitude over Europe. The B-3 and ANJ-4 were sometimes even worn over A-2s for maximum warmth. These jackets were expensive to make and were phased out in favor of cloth, pile-lined jackets after World War II. Sheepskin jackets are bulkier and a little longer than the lighter weight jackets, and their heavyweight sheepskin will keep someone on the ground warm in almost any climate. Originals verge on impractical; B-3s have for instance just one pocket. The relative luxury of the materials means you still see high-end designer takes on the B-3 and its British equivalent, the dashing Irvin jacket; Burberry recently made exaggerated versions. For less interpretative versions, you’re looking at the usual suspects: Eastman, Schott, and Alpha.

-Pete