Start With a Good Cloth
I love this photo by Ethan Desu. It reminds me that at their foundation, all nice garments begin with a good cloth. The man pictured here is Taka from Liverano & Liverano, a bespoke tailoring house in Florence, Italy. His clothes are fairly simple – a navy sport coat, blue shirt, and a burgundy silk tie with medallions printed on it – but what makes them beautiful is how rich and handsome the fabrics look. The slightly fuzzy nap and barely discernible twill lines on the jacket, which is made from a vintage Harris Tweed, are especially appealing.
If you take the time to sample enough cloth, and pay attention to what you feel, you’ll soon be able to discern the quality of a fabric the moment you touch it. Good wools, for example, will feel lively and rich in the hand. If you pinch them between your index finger and thumb, they’ll easily roll and sometimes even feel a bit springy. Bad wool, on the other hand, will feel flat, lifeless, and might even be a bit crushable. Bad cottons will also feel a bit “paper-y.” More than these “tests” though, you should always go with your gut, emotive reaction. A good cloth will always look and feel beautiful, while a bad cloth will be dull and uninteresting. In some ways, it’s as simple as that.
The online community of men’s style enthusiasts loves to obsess over details that most people won’t notice. I’m not saying a garment’s design isn’t important, but at their core, a beautiful garment starts with a good cloth and a nice cut. Considerations such as patch vs. welted pockets come after. 
(Photo from ethandesu)

Start With a Good Cloth

I love this photo by Ethan Desu. It reminds me that at their foundation, all nice garments begin with a good cloth. The man pictured here is Taka from Liverano & Liverano, a bespoke tailoring house in Florence, Italy. His clothes are fairly simple – a navy sport coat, blue shirt, and a burgundy silk tie with medallions printed on it – but what makes them beautiful is how rich and handsome the fabrics look. The slightly fuzzy nap and barely discernible twill lines on the jacket, which is made from a vintage Harris Tweed, are especially appealing.

If you take the time to sample enough cloth, and pay attention to what you feel, you’ll soon be able to discern the quality of a fabric the moment you touch it. Good wools, for example, will feel lively and rich in the hand. If you pinch them between your index finger and thumb, they’ll easily roll and sometimes even feel a bit springy. Bad wool, on the other hand, will feel flat, lifeless, and might even be a bit crushable. Bad cottons will also feel a bit “paper-y.” More than these “tests” though, you should always go with your gut, emotive reaction. A good cloth will always look and feel beautiful, while a bad cloth will be dull and uninteresting. In some ways, it’s as simple as that.

The online community of men’s style enthusiasts loves to obsess over details that most people won’t notice. I’m not saying a garment’s design isn’t important, but at their core, a beautiful garment starts with a good cloth and a nice cut. Considerations such as patch vs. welted pockets come after. 

(Photo from ethandesu)

After light blue solids, checks, and stripes, I’m a big fan of grey and white Bengal striped shirts. Here’s the ever dapper Ethan Desu wearing his with a charcoal double-breasted suit and grey glen check tie. 
ethandesu:

The slight drop in temperature, the approach of Autumn weather, means that I can enjoy wearing this 465gram Fresco by Minnis. A further adaptation of the Armoury house doppio petto, it is a wide lapelled, soft shoulder with rope, button stance characteristically wide on my versions. Besom pockets, sans flaps, button holes on both lapels.
I am looking forward greatly to the cooler months, to the richness of dressing for winter.

After light blue solids, checks, and stripes, I’m a big fan of grey and white Bengal striped shirts. Here’s the ever dapper Ethan Desu wearing his with a charcoal double-breasted suit and grey glen check tie. 

ethandesu:

The slight drop in temperature, the approach of Autumn weather, means that I can enjoy wearing this 465gram Fresco by Minnis. A further adaptation of the Armoury house doppio petto, it is a wide lapelled, soft shoulder with rope, button stance characteristically wide on my versions. Besom pockets, sans flaps, button holes on both lapels.

I am looking forward greatly to the cooler months, to the richness of dressing for winter.

The Beauty of a Soft Collar

I assume my friend The RJcat might find them to be a bit affected, but I really like soft collars. Ones worn without collar stays and allowed to give some natural expression. I think they look a bit more carefree and comfortable, and those to me are the bedrocks of good style.

A soft collar requires two things. First, there needs to be enough cloth. Many collars these days are skimpy and can’t carry a good necktie. If you wear them with one, the collar’s points will lift up off the shirt and make you look like you’re being choked. Even without a tie, a short, stubby collar can look awkward, almost like it’s apologizing for its own existence. A more traditional design will have longer points, which in turn will give you more material to express some character.

The second requirement is a soft interlining. A man’s shirt collar is traditionally made with three pieces of material – the two cotton fabrics that make up either side of the collar and an interlining sandwiched in between. This interlining is typically steam pressed into place so that it’s essentially glued to the cloth. If the interlining is stiff, the collar will look rigid; if it’s soft, it will roll, curl, or otherwise do whatever it will naturally do.

Note that some shirts are made with unfused collars, which means the interlining won’t be glued to the shirt fabric. If you rub the collar between your fingers, you can feel the fabric slide across the interlining sitting in between. These types of collars will express their own character (one that Mr. Tony Chang of Ascot Chang, my preferred shirtmaker, described in my interview with him). However, this matter is technically a separate issue from whether the interlining itself is soft.

A stiff collar has its own merits, of course. It will look a bit sharper and more “at attention.” In a truly professional setting, I suppose these are the only way to go. For myself, however, I mostly wear soft collars with fusible interlinings most days of the week, and every once in a while, something unfused. On a well-made shirt, such collars will express themselves like the ones above. Only if I need to look more professional will I straighten them out with collar stays, and that’s the part that The RJcat would probably disapprove

(Photos taken from Ethan Desu, Voxsartoria, and The Sartorialist)

Shell Cordovan for Foul Weather Boots
Pictured above is a beautiful pair of cognac shell cordovan boots, custom made by Carmina for Ethan Desu. As Ethan notes, these are his go-to wet weather boots, and they’ve taken quite a beating in their time. 
Shell cordovan is also my material of choice for rainy day footwear. Some men worry that harsh elements will ruin their “precious” shell cordovans, but it’s important to remember that one of the material’s main advantages is its toughness. You can walk through hail, rain, sleet, or snow in these things and your feet will stay bone dry. Yes, this may cause the leather to rise a bit in some places, but you can smoothen it out by rubbing it with a deer bone (or simply the curved side of a metal spoon), and giving it a vigorous brushing. If you wish, you can also help protect the leather by applying a bit of wax polish once or twice a year (any more and shell cordovan won’t shine up well). 
Just take a look at the gleaming pair of shoes above. Although Ethan uses these as his rain boots, and has put in a lot of wear, he’s taken a stiff brush and a little bit of water, and made them look better than most people’s pampered dress shoes. 
Don’t be afraid to use your things. 

Shell Cordovan for Foul Weather Boots

Pictured above is a beautiful pair of cognac shell cordovan boots, custom made by Carmina for Ethan Desu. As Ethan notes, these are his go-to wet weather boots, and they’ve taken quite a beating in their time. 

Shell cordovan is also my material of choice for rainy day footwear. Some men worry that harsh elements will ruin their “precious” shell cordovans, but it’s important to remember that one of the material’s main advantages is its toughness. You can walk through hail, rain, sleet, or snow in these things and your feet will stay bone dry. Yes, this may cause the leather to rise a bit in some places, but you can smoothen it out by rubbing it with a deer bone (or simply the curved side of a metal spoon), and giving it a vigorous brushing. If you wish, you can also help protect the leather by applying a bit of wax polish once or twice a year (any more and shell cordovan won’t shine up well). 

Just take a look at the gleaming pair of shoes above. Although Ethan uses these as his rain boots, and has put in a lot of wear, he’s taken a stiff brush and a little bit of water, and made them look better than most people’s pampered dress shoes. 

Don’t be afraid to use your things. 

Talking to The Armoury About Trousers

I recently talked to Mark Cho and Ethan Desu, two of the three men who run The Armoury, about one of my favorite men’s style topics: trousers. Both Mark and Ethan style and fit men of different builds for a living, so I thought it would be worthwhile to ask them what they think flatters men the most. We talked about three aspects: the height of the rise, style of the fronts, and fullness of the legs.

For the height of the rise, Mark has found that almost all men (with the exception of those who are lanky) look better in a high waist. By “high waist” he means something that either sits at, or just below, the belly button. “We deal with many Asian men who often have longer torsos and shorter legs,” Mark noted. “A high-waisted trouser does wonders for them. It is pretty rare that we recommend a low-waisted trouser, but often customers will prefer it for fashion reasons.”

As for the style of the fronts, a man can choose either flat fronts or pleats. Which is best depends on his overall size, total height, and proportions above and below the belt, as well as the thickness of his legs, shape of his stomach, and size of his posterior. Depending on these configurations, pleats can serve a number of purposes. They can break up an otherwise flat expanse of fabric at the front of the trouser, add comfort, and put a bit of fullness around and in front of the thighs. A corpulent man, for example, may need a fuller leg, and pleats would not only give him some room, but also visually break up the flat, empty cloth at the front of his body. 

In general, Mark recommends a flat front or single pleat for men with flat seats, and flat fronts, single pleats, or even double pleats for those with rounder ones. As the number of pleats increases, the fullness of the legs should also increase in order to maintain a balance.

At the same time, Ethan added, fit is everything. He’s a slightly bigger guy with big legs and a big seat, but a reasonably flat stomach. He wears everything from flat fronts to single- or double-forward pleats, as well as single- or double-reverse pleats. He finds that they all have their advantages. “If trousers are well fitted,” he said, “all styles can look good. Anything that doesn’t probably has more to do with the fit than style.” 

Finally, as to how full the trousers’ legs may be, the gentlemen at The Armoury are fairly open to any size, as long it makes sense. While they dislike tight trousers, they find that a nicely tapered leg with no break can work on the right frame, and a full leg can be good as well. It just has to make sense on the person. They personally prefer something with a bit of shape in the leg rather than something that is narrow and goes straight down. That means a small curvature in the taper, and a nice cinch to the waist above the buttocks.

These days, as I near my mid-30s, I like my trousers to have a high-waist, very slight taper, one break, and slim, but somewhat full legs. Luciano Barbera and Ethan Desu, pictured above, illustrate this style well. I find that anything narrower and lower-waisted exaggerates the size of my feet, length of my torso, and width of my hips. Of course, this is just what I’ve been finding works well for my build. In choosing something for yourself, I recommend you refer to the more generalized guidelines above and remember to pay attention to proportions, as well as what flatters. 

(Photos by The Sartorialist and Ethan Desu)

Excellent advice below from Ethan Desu. Although Ethan noted it, it’s worth emphasizing that grey trousers, blue jackets, and brown suede shoes don’t have to be reduced to a uniform. There are a near infinite number of possibilities once you consider the different shades of blue, grey, and brown; the different weaves fabrics come in (e.g. flannel, nailhead, tropical wool); and the various styles clothes can be made into (e.g. single vs. double breasted, oxford shoes vs. derbies, pleated vs. plain front, etc). 

Add in the task of buying things in the best materials and construction you can afford, and focusing on fit (can’t be emphasized enough), and you have at least one sure-fire way of looking smart. 

ethandesu:

Classic Combination

Alan and I have a long running joke - and like most jokes it is firmly rooted in a real desire to do so - that we should open a new store where we only sell variations of grey trousers, blue jackets and brown suede shoes.

I am, as I write this, in light grey Crispaire trousers from Ambrosi, a Dormeuil Tonik jacket in a vibrant junior navy, made by Liverano, and rich mid brown suede oxfords from Saint Crispin’s. While for many, a grey suit is their comfort clothes to face any situation in, for me this is it.

The beauty of this combination for me is that it can be a louche and effortless as jeans and a white tee, or as proper as a double breasted. With dark flannels and a rich navy twill, it has stroller like formality, but in a light grey fresco, blue linen and snuff suede sans socks it is perfect weekend dinner attire in the summer. The number of variations I have of this very combo is telling.

Who knows, maybe there is a pop-up concept in there - a new uniform for The Armoury.

Brown Suede Split Toes by Koji Suzuki for Spigola

Snuff Suede Single Monks by Carmina

(Re)consider Buff

Ethan Desu recently took some wonderful photos of his colleagues at The Armoury and they reminded me of a post I wrote last month. Here we see his colleagues wearing buff-colored ties against their soft brown and grey suits. The color is more unique than your standard navy, brown, and burgundies, so they help attract just a little more attention. However, everything harmonizes quite well. Nothing stands out too loudly on its own and everything is pulled together very elegantly. As a result of having a slightly more unique tie set along gentle and conservative ensembles, the men here look a bit more rakish but still remain tasteful. 

What a wonderful color for a tie. 

Photo credit: Ethan Desu

If I’m not mistaken, I believe this is a Drake’s tie from this season. It’s always easier and safer to go with a dark, conservative pattern, but sometimes a brasher, bolder choice can be much more enjoyable to wear. I think this photo shows how it can be done well and without sacrificing any elegance. 
Barney’s is carrying something similar right now. It’s on already on sale, but if you wait a few weeks, it will be discounted another 30%. Mr. Porter also has some brightly-colored Real Ancient Madders. They just had a 50% off sale for founding members, but I imagine that will be made public soon. 
(photo from ethandesu)

If I’m not mistaken, I believe this is a Drake’s tie from this season. It’s always easier and safer to go with a dark, conservative pattern, but sometimes a brasher, bolder choice can be much more enjoyable to wear. I think this photo shows how it can be done well and without sacrificing any elegance. 

Barney’s is carrying something similar right now. It’s on already on sale, but if you wait a few weeks, it will be discounted another 30%. Mr. Porter also has some brightly-colored Real Ancient Madders. They just had a 50% off sale for founding members, but I imagine that will be made public soon. 

(photo from ethandesu)

(Source: ethandesu)

Suede Shoes

I’m a huge fan of suede shoes and wear them more or less year-round. The word “suede” comes from the French word “Suède,” which simply means Sweden. At one point, Swedish suede gloves were the most common form of luxury, and the French word for Sweden ended up being used for the leather itself.

Suede can be made from almost any leather. You often find it made from lambskin, goatskin, and calfskin. In Germany they make it from stag and in Louisiana, there’s a producer that makes alligator suede. To get the texture, the animal’s skin is buffed with an abrasive. This can be done to the grain side of the leather, which will give you a finer, more velvety texture, or on the flesh side, which will give you a slightly coarser feel. Each animal will produce a slightly different feel to the suede, however, so the variation isn’t just through top vs. flesh side usage.

I personally prefer finer, velvety suede. To examine the quality, I examine to see if the fibers of the nap are uniform in length and packed tightly together. If the nap is firm, dense, and compact, the suede will be a bit more resilient. I eschew suedes with longer naps, as I find that they get a bit ragged and develop bald spots over time. I also avoid any suede that feels a bit greasy.

Since it’s fall, I suggest that you try suede shoes with wool flannel, corduroy, and moleskin trousers. Those tend to have “softer” looking textures, and I think they look quite well next to suede. The above are just some of the options - oxfords, Norwegian split toe bluchers, chukka boots, field boots, double monks, and tassel loafers. I myself just ordered a pair of Crockett & Jones Belgraves in Polo suede from Pediwear and plan to wear it often on weekends. In being an oxford, this shoe is a bit dressy; in being made from suede, however, it’s also a bit casual. They’re the perfect way to look sharp in a non-business, casual setting, I think.

(Pictures above by MostExerent, Ethan Desu, Leffot, and Run of the Mill)

The Color Purple

Most men rely on standard colors for their wardrobe - blues, greys, and browns, in various shades and textures. These are good foundational colors since they’re easy to wear and complement each other well. However, only relying on these colors get a bit boring, and eventually cease to excite the eye. As such, it’s good to have a few secondary colors in your wardrobe just to break things up a bit. Salmon pink, hunter green, and bordeaux are all very nice, but today I’ll talk about purple. 

Purple can make a statement since it’s a unique color. However, it’s so closely related to blue that it can also feel familiar and sophisticated. Purple is also much more versatile than men give it credit for. It complements many of the standard colors men wear and serves a good substitute for blue. For example, a dark, deep purple tie goes well with a tan jacket and light blue shirt, and can be used any time you would otherwise wear a navy tie (though the conservativeness of navy can make it more useful). 

I also recommend purple socks. Michael Drake, co-founder of Drake’s of London, wears them as a personal signature of eccentricity. This past summer, I often wore purple socks with light blue shirts and pants in either a grey tropical wool or tan linen (first picture above). I’ve found that this ensemble goes especially well with brown suede shoes. 

Hardy Amies once said of purple, “I can see no use for this handsome, not unmasculine colour except for ties, socks and handkerchiefs.” I, however, think it can be used for more than accessories. For example, lavender shirts go quite well underneath navy or tan suits. You can pair it with a conservative, charcoal tie, and then have a secondary color in the tie pick up the lavender in your shirt or the color of your suit. This practice seems to be common in Moscow. From my observation, one in six men here on the street will be wearing a lavender shirt, and it always looks good (assuming the shirt fits well). 

The standard palette of grey, brown, and blue is a nice foundation, but don’t neglect to have some secondary colors here or there. Purple works with a number of colors and wearing it well can add variety into your wardrobe. Just don’t overdo it. Wearing too much of it will make you look like Barney, and doing things such as matching purple socks to purple ties will make you look too studied. Purple, in my opinion, should be worn with a healthy dose of nonchalance. 

(pictures above taken from Ethan Desu, A Bit of Color, Men of Habit, and me)