Uni-Watch explains how to sew your own old-timey baseball jersey. If that’s how you’re looking to spend your free time.
Dyed Sneakers for Summer
"Whatchu know about that RIT Dye?" - Big Boi on Bullseye
I’m not sure if these aren’t a bad idea, but summer is essentially made for questionable clothing choices (I’m looking at you, shorts). Lately, I’ve been thinking about dyed sneakers, which I suspect might look better on my screen than on my feet. On the other hand, they also look like they’d be really fun to wear this summer with beat-up chinos and casual shirts. Something for lounging around on lazy days.
To get a pair, you have three options.
- DIY. The first is to obviously make them yourself. Start off with a pair of white sneakers and dye them with one of the many at-home dyeing kits. RIT Dye is popular, and you can buy packet of it at Walmart, CVS, or Amazon. There are a ton of online guides that will show you how (start here, here, and here). Basically, the gist of it is: if you want a deeper color, such as these Chuck Taylors 3sixteen once dyed, you’ll want to use hot water and lots of a salt. Prepare the dye in a bucket, however, as the chemicals might stain your bathtub or sink. Then, dip your shoes in multiple times and let them air out in-between each dip. For a lighter color, such as these Chucks by Tenue de Nimes, just use warm water, don’t use a lot of salt, and don’t dip them in that much. To ensure the color doesn’t deepen, you can rinse them off afterwards. (Note: For a kind of dye that will fade with time, try Jacquard’s natural indigo. Just be careful the first few weeks, as the color might bleed a bit more than RIT Dye, which means you can wind up with blue feet and perhaps even blue floors).
- Farmtown Denim. You can also go to Melissa Farmer, who’s a popular Reddit poster with an Etsy shop. She regularly dyes things for Reddit members for a small fee. At the moment, she has a pre-order for natural indigo dyed sneakers (she uses Jacquard, I’m told). You can get anything from Vans Authentics to Jack Purcells to Chuck Taylors, and she’ll provide the shoes. A great option if you, like me, are too lazy to do this process yourself. To see how her dyed shoes age, you can see check out the photos in this interview.
- Vans. Vans has a blue overwashed version of their popular Authentics this season. The upside to these is that they won’t bleed on you, and they’ll look broken in from day one. The downside is that you won’t get the experience of having dyed something yourself.
To get a sense of how these might look on your feet, check out our friend Travis Gumbs over at Street Etiquette. Noah Emrich also once dip dyed a pair of Tretorns in order to give them more of a two-tone gradient effect.
"In 1951, when I was fourteen, I landed a job in an Oklahoma City laundromat. The pay was respectable—fifty cents and hour, up from forty-five. In a swampy, bunkerlike back room with a large concrete center drain, I had to mix bleach and water together in brown glass bottles for the customers to use. It was sweaty and dank, but I got to listen to a faraway radio, faint but distinct, playing music by the likes of Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams, and Faron Young.
One day, I saw a news item about the murder of a nurse in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A photograph of one of the teenage killers showed him in handcuffs, being escorted by police. He was wearing what looked to me like white Levi’s. White Levi’s! What style! I was overcome by an immediate urge to get a pair for myself, but after looking around I was told that no such product existed—at least, not in Oklahoma.
Then it came to me: I would make my own. I brought a pair of bluejeans from home, doused them in undiluted Clorox bleach, and placed them in a washing machine. I let them sit for half an hour, the mystery and suspense building. When I finally opened the door, I found, to my astonishment, a pair of pure-white, radiantly glowing Levi’s. A triumph.
Or so I thought. Reaching in to grab them, I felt my hand sweep through a puffy lump of dead white fibres, softer than cotton candy. The rivets and the buttons were the only parts that survived.
At the time, I was banking on white Levi’s coming into fashion. I had to wait twenty years to buy a pair off the rack.”
-Ed Ruscha in The New Yorker
A Reddit user named Brent Watson has posted an enormous photo album documenting the process of making his own shoes by hand. He taught himself the process by watching YouTube videos, and sewed every seam by hand because he didn’t have an industrial sewing machine. A pretty remarkable achievement.
DIY: Denim Jacket
Trent over at Survival of the Fittist posted about this denim jacket a few days ago. And while it’s a nice jacket, what makes it even more impressive is that he constructed the jacket himself from a thrifted pair of selvedge denim jeans:
I’m really glad I undertook this mission. First, I don’t know how many people can say they’ve made a pair of pants into a jacket. Second, it helped boost my confidence to undertake more sewing projects that aren’t strictly alterations.
Granted, not everyone can go out and make their own denim jacket and Trent’s been altering his own clothing for quite a while — see his Meatball Tailoring posts — but it’s really refreshing to see people creating clothing on their own for their own enjoyment. Given how much time and copy is spent talking about things you can buy, I think it’s something really special when you see a do-it-yourself project like this.
Getting Your Buttons Down
Knowing how to properly sew on a button is perhaps one of the most useful clothes-related skills you can pick up. Buttons occasionally fall off even the best of garments, and need replacing, or sometimes we wish to swap out the manufacturer’s buttons for something else. A mid-tier cardigan, for example, can be made much better looking if you change out the plastic buttons for some horn ones.
There are many good instructional guides online that’ll show you how to sew on a button. I like these by Nicola Donati and Savile Row tailor Matthew Farnes. Valet also has a nice "toothpick trick" for coats. The things you’ll need before practicing with these guides are quite basic: some button thread, a sewing needle, some scissors, and, of course, your new buttons. You may also want to have a seam ripper to take off your old buttons, and a thimble if you’re trying to sew through tough cloth. All these things should be available at your local supermarket for two or three bucks each. Once you have what you need, it takes about ten minutes to learn how to sew on your first button, and maybe a few tries before you get the technique down.
As to where you can score some nice buttons, I recommend Britex if you’re in San Francisco. They hold sales twice a year, which you can find out about by signing up for their newsletter in-store. In Los Angeles, there’s B. Black & Sons, and in New York City there’s Tender Buttons (arguably the most famous button store in America). For online sources, you can turn to Isles Textile Group, Hwa Seng Textile, and MJ Trimming. I personally prefer buying things in a brick-and-mortar store, especially with things that can have so much visual variation such as horn or mother-of-pearl buttons, but if you don’t have a good button store near you, you still have options.
For something truly affordable, try checking thrift stores. Something made by a reputable company such as Oxxford, for example, might be damaged and can be had for under $20. These will have all the manufacturer’s original buttons, which should be made from high-quality horn or metal. A smart way to pick up nice buttons for a fraction of the cost you’d spend otherwise.
Proper Clothing Care
Presumably you have all the things you need to properly take care of your shoes (cedar trees, conditioners and cleaners, and polishes), as well as some cedar in your closet to ward off moths. Here are a few other things that I think everyone should own.
- Seam ripper and travel-sized sewing kit: Learn to sew on buttons, do basic repairs, and open things such as sewn up pockets on suits.
- Sweater De-Fuzzer: This electronic shaver will take off all the pills from your sweaters and make them look new again. There are cheaper shavers around, but I use this one and can personally recommend it. For added pleasure (and a touch of class), I suggest you shave your sweater while wearing it.
- Clothing brush: Instead of giving your suits, coats, and blazers a chemical bath at the dry cleaner every few weeks, do it once or twice a year, at most. In between those times, you can gently brush off the dirt and lint using a clothing brush. You clothes will last much longer this way. Buy one with a two-sided brush, so that you have stiffer bristles for harder jobs.
Fixing a Pull on a Silk Tie
I’ve had this glen plaid Isaia tie for about a year now. I love it, but unfortunately, it has a few snags in the silk. The tie looks fine for the most part when I wear it, but the imperfection means that I always reach for something else before picking up this one. It’s a shame too because I love the big, bold glen plaid pattern, and would otherwise enjoy wearing it at least a few times a month.
I thought about just letting it go and passing it to a friend, but before I did, I wanted to give one last ditch effort at repairing it. Funny enough, after a quick Google search, I came across this old post that Jesse published. In it, he quoted a StyleForum member named Orgetorix, who suggested that you could repair a tie by threading a needle, pushing it through the tie’s envelope, and essentially “weave” the silk back into the fabric. It took me a few tries and some experimenting. For example, I found that a bigger needle worked better for the looser weave on my Isaia tie. It also seemed that the trick was in pulling the threaded needle through as quickly as possible. If I moved too slowly, there didn’t seem to be enough friction to push the snag in.
After about twenty minutes of work, however, my tie was fixed. I’ve posted before and after photos above. I’d like to think that the repairs are so good that you can’t tell where the snags were, so I’ve placed my sewing needle next to where the damage used to be.
Now I feel like I have a brand new tie, thanks to Jesse and Orgetorix!
My post about affordable summer style got a lot of positive response, so I thought I’d post something else in the same spirit.
This summer, instead of buying new shorts, make your own.
Take a pair of old chinos or fine-waled cords that you don’t care about, put them on, and make a mark about an inch below your knee. Then take them off, lay them flat on the ground, and make sure that the seams and hems are completely aligned. Now cut them straight across at the mark, ideally with an X-acto knife. Remember that you can always cut them shorter, but not make them longer, so repeat the process until you’ve carefully inched your way up to your ideal length.
For a slightly cleaner look, cut your pants until you’re about two inches away from your ideal length, then take them to a tailor to have them hemmed. The job should cost you between $10 and $15. Not bad for a pair of shorts.