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)

Donegal Tweed Ties
As conventional wisdom goes, grenadines are some of the most useful ties you can own. The reason is they’re (typically) solid in color, but also textured in weave. The textured weave allows you to wear it easily with solid colored shirts and jackets, while the solid color allow you to pair it with patterns. There are few jacket, shirt, and tie combinations where a grenadine would not work.
The same principle can be applied with other ties, although they’re slightly more seasonal in use. A tussah or raw silk can be worn in the summer with cotton or linen jacketings, while a boucle can paired with tweed or flannel in the fall. A Suitable Wardrobe just launched their end-of-season sale, and all three types are available at pretty attractive prices. Slightly similar are lightly patterned ties, such as the speckled Donegal tweed my e-friend Voxsartoria is seen wearing above. From a distance, it appears solid in color, but upon closer look, it has little flecks to keep it interesting. Again, something you can wear with solid colored shirts and jackets, or ones with patterns.
Or so I think, anyway. I wanted to get a Donegal tie this past season, but wasn’t able to. Berg and Berg launched their winter sale yesterday, and they had this very lovely speckled navy tie that someone bought before me. Brooks Brothers also had this knit tie that sold out before I even had a chance to consider it.
There are other options still available though. Vanda Fine Clothing has them in Air Force chevron and pebbled grey patterns. Those come in their signature, lightly lined construction, which allows their ties to feel a bit more “true” to their shell fabrics. There’s also Drake’s and E.G. Cappelli – two of my favorite tie makers. Drake’s is a high-quality, no-nonsense construction, while E.G. Cappelli is typically lightly lined and has a bit more visible handstitching. Additionally, there’s Howard Yount and Sid Mashburn. I have no experience with their neckwear, but both companies have solid reputations. And if someone doesn’t mind the skinny widths, there are these options by Gant Rugger and Alexander Olch.
Hopefully I can get one before winter ends. 
(Picture via voxsart)

Donegal Tweed Ties

As conventional wisdom goes, grenadines are some of the most useful ties you can own. The reason is they’re (typically) solid in color, but also textured in weave. The textured weave allows you to wear it easily with solid colored shirts and jackets, while the solid color allow you to pair it with patterns. There are few jacket, shirt, and tie combinations where a grenadine would not work.

The same principle can be applied with other ties, although they’re slightly more seasonal in use. A tussah or raw silk can be worn in the summer with cotton or linen jacketings, while a boucle can paired with tweed or flannel in the fall. A Suitable Wardrobe just launched their end-of-season sale, and all three types are available at pretty attractive prices. Slightly similar are lightly patterned ties, such as the speckled Donegal tweed my e-friend Voxsartoria is seen wearing above. From a distance, it appears solid in color, but upon closer look, it has little flecks to keep it interesting. Again, something you can wear with solid colored shirts and jackets, or ones with patterns.

Or so I think, anyway. I wanted to get a Donegal tie this past season, but wasn’t able to. Berg and Berg launched their winter sale yesterday, and they had this very lovely speckled navy tie that someone bought before me. Brooks Brothers also had this knit tie that sold out before I even had a chance to consider it.

There are other options still available though. Vanda Fine Clothing has them in Air Force chevron and pebbled grey patterns. Those come in their signature, lightly lined construction, which allows their ties to feel a bit more “true” to their shell fabrics. There’s also Drake’s and E.G. Cappelli – two of my favorite tie makers. Drake’s is a high-quality, no-nonsense construction, while E.G. Cappelli is typically lightly lined and has a bit more visible handstitching. Additionally, there’s Howard Yount and Sid Mashburn. I have no experience with their neckwear, but both companies have solid reputations. And if someone doesn’t mind the skinny widths, there are these options by Gant Rugger and Alexander Olch.

Hopefully I can get one before winter ends. 

(Picture via voxsart)

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.)

Umbrellas: Cheap, Expensive, and Everything In-Between

We’re back in rainy season again, and here in San Francisco, the weather was a bit wet this weekend. That reminded me of how useful it is to own several umbrellas. Not only does that ensure that you’ll always have something if one of your umbrellas breaks or gets lost, but it also allows you to have several options to choose from depending on your mood.

When buying a good umbrella, it’s tempting to get something unique and different, but I’d suggest your first purchase be one with a solid black canopy. These will go with anything, and in some cases – say if you’re wearing a somber suit – it’s the only appropriate choice. After your first good, black umbrella, you can get one with a navy or tan canopy if you’d like something conservative, or go with something dotted, checked, or striped for something more fanciful. 

The upside to decent umbrellas is that they come at almost every price point. Belt Outlet sells some basic black Totes for $15 after you apply the coupon code belt10. Fulton and Gustbuster are a bit more expensive, but remain reasonable affordable. Decent tartans can be bought through Orvis and Brooks Brothers. Those cost about $70, but they often go on sale. Wingtip, for example, has the Barbour version at 30% off with the coupon code TAKEACHANCE.

For a little more money, Howard Yount and Kent Wang sell some handsome single-stick options. Single stick means that the umbrella’s shaft and handle are all made from the same piece of wood. It’s a nice, artisanal touch, I think. (Note, whangees are not single stick because you can’t have the bumpy ridges on the handle go up the shaft for obvious reasons). London Undercover and Passoti are two other good options in this price tier.

Finally, for some of the best umbrellas in the world, you can turn to Swaine Adeney Brigg, James Smith, Fox, Francesco Maglia, Talarico, and Le Veritable Cherbourg. Those are made from better materials, often have single stick constructions, and are just beautiful sights to behold (as shown above). They typically run a few hundred dollars, but sometimes you can find “deals” (relatively speaking). J. Peterman occassionally discounts their Swaine Adeney Briggs, for example, and Grunwald sells Maglias at good prices (actual price is lower at checkout because of VAT discounts). Even on sale, they’re not cheap, but a look at some of those handles is enough to make a man dream. 

(Photos by fk118, Voxsartoria, and me)

Clay Tompkins’ Trousers

I was recently pretty impressed by a pair of trousers Clay Tompkins sent me on loan. He designed them, but the pattern was made by Tony Rubino, who works with Rocco Ciccarelli at the Primo Factory in Brooklyn (by pattern I don’t mean visual pattern, but rather the paper patterns from which each panel of the trouser is cut). Julian Hertling (aka “Julie”) then sources all the fabrics and makes up the pants. As people who are either in the business or are die-hard clothing enthusiasts may know, these are some of the best guys in the business and have been at their trade for decades (for those unfamiliar, a quick Google search will yield plenty of articles).

The trousers are cut fairly similar to my Italian-made Howard Younts, who I’ve long thought to be a very good go-to source for pants. The rise is just slightly higher, the thigh slightly fuller, and the taper slightly stronger. Slight variations, but all in all, very similar.

There are differences in the details, however. Rather than belt loops, there are side adjuster tabs, which is rare to find on ready-to-wear odd trousers (“odd” here meaning trousers that are not part of a suit). There’s also an open lapped seam going down the side of the legs, and some signature red stitching on the back pocket loop-tabs. If you don’t care for those details, I’m told that your trousers can be made without them (as all of these are essentially made-on-order from Hertling’s factory). Ones made with modifications aren’t returnable, however, so you should be familiar with the fit before asking for them. Stock makes are subject to a 14-day return policy.

The retail price on these is $250, which isn’t cheap, but when Howard Yount’s are $195 and Epaulet’s range from $195 to $235, they’re also not far off from what many style enthusiasts are paying at the moment. The quality of Clay’s seems better to me as well (at least compared to my Howard Yount’s; I don’t have any first hand experience with Epaulet’s). The flannels he sent, for example, are much softer and richer in the hand, and the frescos have a very nice, heavy weight to them. A heavier weight fabric, as many people may know, will hang better on the leg. Outside of pants retailing for $400 or more, I haven’t seen trousers made with such nice materials. (Note, neither of these models are on the website at the moment, but I’m told they’re part of the fall line, which should be up sometime this month). Of the ~$200 retail priced trousers I’ve seen, these are some of the best in quality, and if one is already paying that much for pants, I think Clay’s are worth a look. 

(Photos from Clay Tompkins and The Trad)

A Simple Summer Look
I love this Apparel Arts illustration. I found it last year on an online men’s clothing forum, and put it in my head to try to find similar pieces. Unfortunately, by the time I did, summer had already passed. This year, however, I’ll be wearing this on more than a few occasions once the weather gets hot (though, I’ll probably leave the ascot and pipe to more dashing men).
The great thing about this is how stylish it looks with just a few simple pieces. To get something like this for yourself, consider this long-sleeved polo from Kent Wang. Though not technically the same as what you see above, I think long sleeves rolled up look better than short ones. I also find that long sleeved polos have the advantage of being able to do double duty underneath sport coats. They show the bit of requisite shirt cuff underneath the jacket sleeve, and ensure that no bare wrists will be exposed when you move your arms. If you want something sportier, however, Kent has a number of short sleeve options as well.
The upside to Kent’s polos is that they have a few “button up shirt details” that make them look a bit smarter than your average tennis shirt. The collar band, for example, is reinforced, so the collar doesn’t flop down and lay flat against your shoulder (like you’d see on most polos). The downside, however, is that they fit very slim and the sleeves can be a bit tight. Kent has measurements posted though, and he accepts returns.
For other options, Jesse has recommended Lands’ End. I also really like this new polo at The Armoury, which I believe was made for them by Ascot Chang. To order one, you’ll have to call or email their store (expect the price to be higher than either Kent’s or Lands’ End).
Tan trousers are harder to find. For mine, I bought a pair of flannel ones from Howard Yount, but they’re sold out now and won’t be restocking until fall. Flannel has a bit of richness and mottling that’ll help keep this from looking like a Best Buy employee uniform. You can find something similar at the moment at O’Connell’s and J Press, the second of which is having a sale right now. And though they’re not tan, these Pantas look fantastic. Their prices aren’t cheap, but their pants are some of the highest quality you’ll find in the ready-to-wear market.  
Finally, for the creped-soled shoes, consider some of the options I mentioned a few weeks ago. I think pair of sueded, dark brown chukkas with rubber crepe soles here would look great.

A Simple Summer Look

I love this Apparel Arts illustration. I found it last year on an online men’s clothing forum, and put it in my head to try to find similar pieces. Unfortunately, by the time I did, summer had already passed. This year, however, I’ll be wearing this on more than a few occasions once the weather gets hot (though, I’ll probably leave the ascot and pipe to more dashing men).

The great thing about this is how stylish it looks with just a few simple pieces. To get something like this for yourself, consider this long-sleeved polo from Kent Wang. Though not technically the same as what you see above, I think long sleeves rolled up look better than short ones. I also find that long sleeved polos have the advantage of being able to do double duty underneath sport coats. They show the bit of requisite shirt cuff underneath the jacket sleeve, and ensure that no bare wrists will be exposed when you move your arms. If you want something sportier, however, Kent has a number of short sleeve options as well.

The upside to Kent’s polos is that they have a few “button up shirt details” that make them look a bit smarter than your average tennis shirt. The collar band, for example, is reinforced, so the collar doesn’t flop down and lay flat against your shoulder (like you’d see on most polos). The downside, however, is that they fit very slim and the sleeves can be a bit tight. Kent has measurements posted though, and he accepts returns.

For other options, Jesse has recommended Lands’ End. I also really like this new polo at The Armoury, which I believe was made for them by Ascot Chang. To order one, you’ll have to call or email their store (expect the price to be higher than either Kent’s or Lands’ End).

Tan trousers are harder to find. For mine, I bought a pair of flannel ones from Howard Yount, but they’re sold out now and won’t be restocking until fall. Flannel has a bit of richness and mottling that’ll help keep this from looking like a Best Buy employee uniform. You can find something similar at the moment at O’Connell’s and J Press, the second of which is having a sale right now. And though they’re not tan, these Pantas look fantastic. Their prices aren’t cheap, but their pants are some of the highest quality you’ll find in the ready-to-wear market.  

Finally, for the creped-soled shoes, consider some of the options I mentioned a few weeks ago. I think pair of sueded, dark brown chukkas with rubber crepe soles here would look great.

It’s On Sale: Howard Yount sweaters

For the past two winters I’ve enjoyed wearing Howard Yount’s lambswool sweaters. They’re of decent thickness — but not too thick — to keep you warm on milder days and add quite a bit of warmth when layered under a sport coat on colder ones. I wore mine quite frequently in the fall over an OCBD and under a waxed jacket and found they did quite well as transitional clothing. The fit is on the trimmer side, but not so slim that they’re unwearable and the quality has held up after a good amount of wear. 

Howard Yount rarely has sales or discount codes, but right now quite a lot of items from their fall-winter collection are on sale, including these sweaters, which are now $99 (down from $115) in both crewneck and v-neck form. I think they make great additions for a casual wardrobe. 

-Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide
This portion of our Black Tie Guide dabbles in some luxurious indulgences that some would consider optional. You might not necessarily need them immediately, but consider them things to upgrade as you build your tuxedo ensemble.
Part 5: Hosiery, Sock Garters & Braces
Black tie might be the only time wearing black socks can be considered acceptable. Formal hose should be over-the-calf, as mid-calf socks tend to slouch and expose your bare skin, which looks bad. 
In terms of material, the preference is for silk, which has a sense of refinement and sheen that compliments the silk piping of the trouser and shine of the shoes. 
Socks made of 100% silk do have trouble staying up on their own and can require the use of sock garters. If you’d rather dispense with having to wear those, then you’ll probably opt for the also-cheaper silk socks blended with nylon, which are more common to find.
The cheapest silk socks I’ve found come from Brooks Brothers, for around $40. You can also get pairs from Kabbaz-Kelly & Sons made by Marcoliani and Bresciani, who also have pure 100% silk hose. A Suitable Wardrobe’s Store also has pure silk hose for $55. 
If you need sock garters, then you can either search eBay U.K. or go with Brooks Brothers or Cable Car Clothiers, which has them for $38 and $45, respectively.
In regards to braces (commonly called “suspenders”), these are a great way to keep your trousers up and any pair of pants can have buttons added to the waistband to attach the braces. Remember: proper braces fasten using buttons, not alligator-clips.
Braces should be kept simple and discrete, avoiding the temptation of being flashy with bright colors or patterns (you shouldn’t be removing your jacket anyway). Go for solid black or white. I prefer white as it blends together better with the white shirt, but some might like the contrast of black. 
Braces should also be sized properly so the metal adjusters are on the bottom toward the waist, not high on the chest. 
As for where to buy, braces made by Albert Thurston come highly regarded and they actually seem to be very competitively priced at $75 at A Suitable Wardrobe’s Store in ivory barathea and both black and white moiré. 
The one thing I want to point out about the items mentioned in this part is that they’re probably not necessary for the most basic of tuxedo ensembles. If you pants are sized correctly to your waist, you can forgo braces. Cheaper socks can be found by going with cotton or wool options from the same high-end makers. For instance, Howard Yount carries several black over-the-calf options from their own private-label and from Marcoliani. 
-Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide

This portion of our Black Tie Guide dabbles in some luxurious indulgences that some would consider optional. You might not necessarily need them immediately, but consider them things to upgrade as you build your tuxedo ensemble.

Part 5: Hosiery, Sock Garters & Braces

Black tie might be the only time wearing black socks can be considered acceptable. Formal hose should be over-the-calf, as mid-calf socks tend to slouch and expose your bare skin, which looks bad. 

In terms of material, the preference is for silk, which has a sense of refinement and sheen that compliments the silk piping of the trouser and shine of the shoes. 

Socks made of 100% silk do have trouble staying up on their own and can require the use of sock garters. If you’d rather dispense with having to wear those, then you’ll probably opt for the also-cheaper silk socks blended with nylon, which are more common to find.

The cheapest silk socks I’ve found come from Brooks Brothers, for around $40. You can also get pairs from Kabbaz-Kelly & Sons made by Marcoliani and Bresciani, who also have pure 100% silk hose. A Suitable Wardrobe’s Store also has pure silk hose for $55. 

If you need sock garters, then you can either search eBay U.K. or go with Brooks Brothers or Cable Car Clothiers, which has them for $38 and $45, respectively.

In regards to braces (commonly called “suspenders”), these are a great way to keep your trousers up and any pair of pants can have buttons added to the waistband to attach the braces. Remember: proper braces fasten using buttons, not alligator-clips.

Braces should be kept simple and discrete, avoiding the temptation of being flashy with bright colors or patterns (you shouldn’t be removing your jacket anyway). Go for solid black or white. I prefer white as it blends together better with the white shirt, but some might like the contrast of black. 

Braces should also be sized properly so the metal adjusters are on the bottom toward the waist, not high on the chest. 

As for where to buy, braces made by Albert Thurston come highly regarded and they actually seem to be very competitively priced at $75 at A Suitable Wardrobe’s Store in ivory barathea and both black and white moiré. 

The one thing I want to point out about the items mentioned in this part is that they’re probably not necessary for the most basic of tuxedo ensembles. If you pants are sized correctly to your waist, you can forgo braces. Cheaper socks can be found by going with cotton or wool options from the same high-end makers. For instance, Howard Yount carries several black over-the-calf options from their own private-label and from Marcoliani. 

-Kiyoshi

The Most Versatile Knit Tie

Jake over at Wax Wane already wrote about black silk knit ties this week, but I thought I’d give them another plug anyway. Black is, unexpectedly, one of the most versatile colors for knit ties. Better than the standard go-to colors for neckwear, such as brown, burgundy, and bottle green. Better even than the always wearable navy. The black silk knit was perhaps most famously worn by the literary version of James Bond, who was often described by Ian Fleming as wearing a dark suit, clean white shirt, and a “thin, black silk knitted tie.” It’s also heavily associated with other mid-century icons such as the fellas in The Rat Pack. In fact, one of the first ties I bought as an undergraduate student was a black silk knit, precisely because I thought Sammy Davis Jr. looked so great in them.

You can wear almost anything with a black silk knit tie: brown tweeds, navy jackets, or grey suits paired with white or light blue shirts in solids, stripes, or checks (knit ties are especially nice with checks). Given that many men today want to wear a tie without looking too formal, the black silk knit is about as good as you can get. Versatile in color; casual in form.

There are many places to score one. On the high-end, we have Drake’s, who makes them in a rather unique weave. They’re also commonly found at traditional American haberdasheries, such as Ben SilverBrooks Brothers, and J. Press (the last of which is having a 25% off sale right now). Additionally, Howard YountKent Wang, and Sid Mashburn sell them for between $60 and $75. For more affordable options, consider Land’s End and KJ Beckett. The stock at Land’s End doesn’t include black right now, but they regularly restock their knit tie inventory in wide range of colors and their navy blue’s more like a midnight blue. If you join their mailing list, you’ll be notified of when they do their 30-40% off sales (which happens a few times a season). That will knock down the price of their knit ties to something around $25. Not bad for a tie you can wear with almost anything. 

Thoughts on Buying Good Sweaters
The best time to purchase sweaters is at the end of the season, when the fall/ winter stock gets discounted by fifty percent or more. The best time to shop for sweaters, however, is now, so that you can give yourself a few months time to figure out what you want and not be rushed into impulse buys come January. So, if you’re out browsing for sweaters, I’d suggest the following:
Low- to mid-tier purchases: If your budget is limited, I recommend aiming for sweaters made out of lambswool, Shetland, or merino wools. The first two, all things being equal, are harder-wearing. I also think they can often have more visual depth in their texture and color than most, lower-end merinos, which can be useful if you want to wear the sweater without a jacket. The sweater pictured above really shows off the nice lofty nap on lambswool, I think. 
High-end purchases: If your budget is over $350 or so, consider cashmere. The problem with cashmere below this mark – at least at full retail prices – is that they’re often poorly made. Cashmere is expensive, so when a company is selling a cashmere sweater for under $350 or so, it means they’ve likely skimped on the construction. That can mean shorter fibers used for the yarns, which will result in more breakages and pilling, or thin, loosely knitted fabrics, which will lose their shape over time. Better, I think, to stick to lambswool, Shetlands, and merinos, rather than be tricked into the allure of “cheap” cashmere.
Checking for quality: It’s difficult to determine a sweater’s true quality without having actually owned it for a few years. Nothing can substitute for experience. There are a few things, however, that you can do to make an educated guess. On cashmere, try rubbing the fabric between your fingers for a bit, and see if a light, oily residue has been left on your hands. If there is, that means the fabric was treated with a kind of emulsion, and is probably of low quality. On everything else, see if the sweater has been knitted densely, and check the elasticity of the collars and cuffs. It’s difficult to convey online exactly what level of quality to look for – which is why I think you should browse the inventory at a high-end store – but generally, if you think the sweater might lose its shape easily, it probably will.
Altering knits: Ideally, you should buy something that fits perfectly off-the-rack, but some knits can be altered if you have a good alterationist. On sweaters with side seams, I’ve found it’s easy to take in the body without too much trouble. You can read my post on knit alterations here.
Getting rid of pills: Every sweater, no matter what the quality, will pill to some degree. The question is just how much and how quickly. To take care of pills, I recommend using a sweater shaver. I use this one and it works decently well, though there are probably better ones on the market.
Where to buy: I can’t give a full list of every place that stocks good sweaters, but I can make a few suggestions based off of my experiences. On the high end, I really like Inis Meain, Drumohr, Drake’s, John Smedley, and William Lockie (the last of which you can buy through Heather Wallace). For more affordable purchases, I’ve had good experiences with Brooks Brothers, Club Monaco, and Howard Yount. The first two often do significant mark-downs throughout the season, which is when I think you should buy. Club Monaco also gives students an extra 20% off if they can show a student ID in-store or give a university email address online. I’ve picked up their basic v-neck sweaters before for about $45, and find them to be of a good value. 

Thoughts on Buying Good Sweaters

The best time to purchase sweaters is at the end of the season, when the fall/ winter stock gets discounted by fifty percent or more. The best time to shop for sweaters, however, is now, so that you can give yourself a few months time to figure out what you want and not be rushed into impulse buys come January. So, if you’re out browsing for sweaters, I’d suggest the following:

Low- to mid-tier purchases: If your budget is limited, I recommend aiming for sweaters made out of lambswool, Shetland, or merino wools. The first two, all things being equal, are harder-wearing. I also think they can often have more visual depth in their texture and color than most, lower-end merinos, which can be useful if you want to wear the sweater without a jacket. The sweater pictured above really shows off the nice lofty nap on lambswool, I think. 

High-end purchases: If your budget is over $350 or so, consider cashmere. The problem with cashmere below this mark – at least at full retail prices – is that they’re often poorly made. Cashmere is expensive, so when a company is selling a cashmere sweater for under $350 or so, it means they’ve likely skimped on the construction. That can mean shorter fibers used for the yarns, which will result in more breakages and pilling, or thin, loosely knitted fabrics, which will lose their shape over time. Better, I think, to stick to lambswool, Shetlands, and merinos, rather than be tricked into the allure of “cheap” cashmere.

Checking for quality: It’s difficult to determine a sweater’s true quality without having actually owned it for a few years. Nothing can substitute for experience. There are a few things, however, that you can do to make an educated guess. On cashmere, try rubbing the fabric between your fingers for a bit, and see if a light, oily residue has been left on your hands. If there is, that means the fabric was treated with a kind of emulsion, and is probably of low quality. On everything else, see if the sweater has been knitted densely, and check the elasticity of the collars and cuffs. It’s difficult to convey online exactly what level of quality to look for – which is why I think you should browse the inventory at a high-end store – but generally, if you think the sweater might lose its shape easily, it probably will.

Altering knits: Ideally, you should buy something that fits perfectly off-the-rack, but some knits can be altered if you have a good alterationist. On sweaters with side seams, I’ve found it’s easy to take in the body without too much trouble. You can read my post on knit alterations here.

Getting rid of pills: Every sweater, no matter what the quality, will pill to some degree. The question is just how much and how quickly. To take care of pills, I recommend using a sweater shaver. I use this one and it works decently well, though there are probably better ones on the market.

Where to buy: I can’t give a full list of every place that stocks good sweaters, but I can make a few suggestions based off of my experiences. On the high end, I really like Inis Meain, DrumohrDrake’sJohn Smedley, and William Lockie (the last of which you can buy through Heather Wallace). For more affordable purchases, I’ve had good experiences with Brooks Brothers, Club Monaco, and Howard Yount. The first two often do significant mark-downs throughout the season, which is when I think you should buy. Club Monaco also gives students an extra 20% off if they can show a student ID in-store or give a university email address online. I’ve picked up their basic v-neck sweaters before for about $45, and find them to be of a good value.