Cheap Shoes That Age Well
Although I wouldn’t call it a “rule” for myself, when I can, I try to buy things that I think will look better with time, rather than worse. That is, after all, why most of us value full grain leather shoes over corrected grain ones. It’s not because they’re cheaper in the long run (because they’re not). It’s because high quality shoes acquire a beautiful worn in look that only good materials and years of wear can impart. Shoes made from corrected grain leather, on the other hand, look terrible new and even worse with time.
Unfortunately, shoes that age well are typically expensive. The exception to this is canvas sneakers, which always look better with a bit of dirt and grass staining. Think:
Converse Chuck Taylors and Jack Purcells
Vans Authentics and Classic Slip-Ons
Superga 1705 and 2750
Sperry Top-Sider’s striped CVOs
Tretorn Nylites
All of these retail for under $75, but can be had for less than $50 if you wait for sales.
The best thing about these shoes isn’t their price, however. It’s their designs. Most have been around for decades and their designs are hard to improve on. Take Maison Martin Margiela’s interpretation of Vans’ slip-ons, for example. The heavier look and feel of leather doesn’t evoke the airiness of summer like canvas, even if the design itself looks more luxurious. Similarly, Nigel Cabourn’s interpretation of Chuck Taylor All Stars has a nice retro feel, but truth be told, I think the standard model today is hard to beat.
You can wear these with any number of spring or summer ensembles. I often wear my Chuck Taylor high tops with a white t-shirt, leather jacket, and pair of jeans, and my Superga 1705s with chinos and a madras shirt. On a cooler spring day, the madras shirt gets swapped out for a sweatshirt and light parka. Neither of these feel like compromises over full grain leather shoes, and they’re appreciably much cheaper. It’s nice that good things don’t always have to be expensive. 

Cheap Shoes That Age Well

Although I wouldn’t call it a “rule” for myself, when I can, I try to buy things that I think will look better with time, rather than worse. That is, after all, why most of us value full grain leather shoes over corrected grain ones. It’s not because they’re cheaper in the long run (because they’re not). It’s because high quality shoes acquire a beautiful worn in look that only good materials and years of wear can impart. Shoes made from corrected grain leather, on the other hand, look terrible new and even worse with time.

Unfortunately, shoes that age well are typically expensive. The exception to this is canvas sneakers, which always look better with a bit of dirt and grass staining. Think:

All of these retail for under $75, but can be had for less than $50 if you wait for sales.

The best thing about these shoes isn’t their price, however. It’s their designs. Most have been around for decades and their designs are hard to improve on. Take Maison Martin Margiela’s interpretation of Vans’ slip-ons, for example. The heavier look and feel of leather doesn’t evoke the airiness of summer like canvas, even if the design itself looks more luxurious. Similarly, Nigel Cabourn’s interpretation of Chuck Taylor All Stars has a nice retro feel, but truth be told, I think the standard model today is hard to beat.

You can wear these with any number of spring or summer ensembles. I often wear my Chuck Taylor high tops with a white t-shirt, leather jacket, and pair of jeans, and my Superga 1705s with chinos and a madras shirt. On a cooler spring day, the madras shirt gets swapped out for a sweatshirt and light parka. Neither of these feel like compromises over full grain leather shoes, and they’re appreciably much cheaper. It’s nice that good things don’t always have to be expensive. 

The Advantage of Unusual Designs in Pocket Squares

Like with ties, I find it’s easy to acquire more pocket square than you need. This is true for almost any accessory, really. As I mentioned before, accessories tend to be easier to size right, are relatively more affordable, and can satisfy that urge to buy something new. Before you know it, you have dozens of ties and pocket squares, and not nearly enough sport coats or suits to justify your collection.

In my time wearing pocket squares, I’ve come to realize that I mostly rely on just three types. The first is clean white linen, which I like to wear with everything except tweeds. Then there are madder silks, which I find to be useful in the fall and winter months. For some reason, those are a bit hard to find (especially in soft, muted colors), but Ralph Lauren sometimes stocks them.

Then there’s the third category, which I think is the most useful – squares with large, intricate designs of the kind that you’d never see in ties. The advantage of these is that you never run the risk of looking like you bought your tie and pocket square as part of a matching set (which you should never do, by the way). With a big, bold pattern – as opposed to something like pin dots – you can always be sure that your square will stand on its own, but still harmonize with whatever else you’re wearing through some complementary color. Plus, if you find something with the right square, you can get a bit more versatility by simply turning the square a bit here or there to show off the colors you want. That’s much hard to do if every inch of your square is essentially the same repeating pattern.

In recent years, the number of places where you can buy such squares has exploded. There are the standards, of course, in the form of Drake’s and Rubinacci, both of which produce beautiful pieces. You can purchase those directly through each brand’s shops, or through various online retailers such as No Man Walks Alone, A Suitable Wardrobe, Exquisite Trimmings, Malford of London, Mr. Porter, and our advertiser The Hanger Project. There are also a number of other operations worth considering:

Put This On: The first is of course our pocket square shop. Jesse finds vintage and deadstock fabrics from online sellers and thrift shops, and then has them handmade into pocket squares through a tailor in Los Angeles. That means having the edges handrolled with a nice plump edge, rather than something machined and flat.
Vanda Fine Clothing: Run by the newlywed couple Diana and Gerald, these two produce excellent high-end ties and pocket squares – all hand sewn by them in their workshop in Singapore. Recently, they came out with a series of Chinese zodiac squares, which add a bit of personalization for the wearer.
Ikire Jones: Ikire Jones is a relatively new company run by a finalist in one of Esquire’s “Best Dressed Real Man” competitions. The designer, Wale Oyejide, is a bold dresser with a strong sense of color. Whether you’re a conservative dresser such as myself, or more daring, I think his pocket squares are quite useful. I reviewed them here.
Christian Kimber: Christian has some refreshingly modern designs with abstracted shapes made to look like famous landmarks. At the moment, there are squares representing London, Melbourne, and Florence, but more cities will be released sometime this year.
P. Johnson Tailors: Like Christian Kimber, P. Johnson also produces designs with a slightly more modern sensibility. Their squares tend to have large swaths of color, so you might want to think about how you normally fold your square, lest you look like you’re wearing something that’s one solid color.
Kent Wang: Always a good source for more affordable options, Kent has printed more unique looking pocket squares in the last year. The only thing to watch out for is the size. I find that squares smaller than 15” x 15” feel a bit too insubstantial, although your taste may differ.

(Photos above by The SartorialistChristian KimberRubinacciMalford of LondonVanda Fine Clothing, and us)

Touchscreen Gloves

In the age of iPads and smartphones, it’s surprising that there aren’t that many options for attractive, touchscreen-friendly gloves. Many are overdesigned and too techy looking, like something that would come out of an REI store.

I recently came across this problem while I was searching for a pair for my cousin, who received iPhone for Christmas, but also lives in Canada, where gloves are a winter necessity. On the casual side, there’s iTap and Etre, although neither of them are particularly attractive. Muji and Isotoner have plain, simple designs, but I was afraid the acrylic composition wouldn’t be warm enough.

The best I’ve found are leather gloves, which in recent years have come with various gadget-friendly solutions. The simplest are by Pengallan and Land’s End, where there’s a slit in the index finger that allows you to operate your devices. The Pengallans are nice in that they’re made with a horizontal slit instead of a vertical one (which is what the Land’s End model features). This allows you to more easily pull the leather back when you need to push the tiny buttons on your cell phone. There are also gloves that are conductive through leather. You can purchase those through Isotoner or Dents (the second being also available at Mr. Porter), or have them custom made through Chester Jefferies. Chester Jefferies makes great custom gloves if you send them a tracing of your hand, but for better results, I recommend submitting a photocopy. That way, you won’t get any errors from changing the angle of your pen as you trace.  

If you’re daring, you can also try to hack your current set of gloves so they become conductive. There are a number of YouTube videos that show you how, as well as posts at Fashioning Tech and Instructables. It might be wise to be extra-careful if you’re working with leather, however, as you won’t be able to hide poked holes, so mistakes will be costly. 

(Pictured above: Pengallan gloves)

Six Great Types of Shirts for Fall

For nearly a century now, the most basic dress shirt for men is a solid white or light-blue button-up, made from 100% cotton, and usually coming in a plain or twill weave. It’s the default choice for dress shirts – something you can rely on year-round to look decent and acceptable, and is very rarely the wrong choice, assuming you’re dressing classically. 

There are times, however, when choosing something a bit different can yield a more harmonious look. Take, for example, the advantage of combining an airy, light-blue linen shirt with a tan cotton sport coat. The two textures are equally casual, and together, they lend a better presentation for summer. Similarly, a fine cotton dress shirt can look puny when set against a hardy Shetland tweed or mid-waled corduroy jacket. Better to pick something with more texture and “weight,” such as these following options, which I think make for excellent fall and winter shirts.

Flannels 

At the top of the list are flannels, which can come in a variety of forms. They can be solid or patterned (if patterned, usually checked), and made from either a softly brushed pure cotton or some kind of wool/ cotton blend. Viyella is particularly famous for their flannel shirtings (the word “shirtings” means “fabrics intended for shirts;” it is not a synonym for the word “shirts”). You can find them at a number of places, such as Dann Online, J. Press, and O’Connell’s. I unfortunately can’t say how any of those fit, but my guess is “traditional.” If you have a custom shirtmaker, they may also carry Viyella fabrics, which you can ask for by name.

Bold cotton plaids

Bold cotton plaids are different from flannels in that they don’t have that soft, brushed quality. They’re smooth like a fine cotton dress shirt, but remain a bit more autumnal through their patterns. Our advertiser Ledbury carries some through their short-run collection (they’ve got more coming down the pipeline, as they’re releasing a new short-run shirt every day this month). Brooks Brothers also has some designs, though mostly in non-iron fabrics, and Gant Rugger might be a good option for younger men. For something more affordable, there’s J. Crew. Just wait for one of their many sales. 

Tattersalls

Tattersalls are symmetrical, thin-lined checks, usually made up of two colors for the lines and a plain-colored background. I find they’re a nice compromise between the dressiness of a standard dress shirt and the casualness of a bold cotton plaid. For something dressier still, you can go for a graph check shirt, which is exactly what it sounds like – a shirt with a pattern that looks like graph paper. Either would do well underneath a tweed or corduroy jacket, and you can find them at places such as Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, and TM Lewin.

Oxford Cloth Button-Downs (aka OCBDs)

OCBDs are versatile enough for year-round wear, but also have the weight and texture necessary to look great underneath fall jackets. What’s not to like? You can read my long-winded series about them here, or just skip to my recommendations.

Chambray

Another good year-round shirt that really comes into its own during the fall and winter seasons. You can find nice high-end options at Self Edge, Rising Sun, and Blue in Green. Mr. Porter also has some designer offerings, and J. Crew is again good for something more affordable (just wait for a sale). My favorite, however, is by Mister Freedom. I appreciate the emphasis they put into beautiful fabrics, and have found mine to age exceptionally well. When choosing one, keep in mind the kind of outerwear you might want to wear. Very casual chambray shirts with extra detailing should be kept with very casual outerwear, rather than traditional sport coats. 

Corduroys

Corduroy shirts are less versatile than any of the above options, but they’re nice to have if you’d like some more variety. Our advertiser Ledbury has one in brown coming out this month (it’s pictured above) and I like that it has a traditional looking collar and lowered second button (good for when you’re wearing the shirt casually and don’t want it buttoned all the way up). For something available now, there’s Michael Bastian, Beams Plus, and LL Bean.

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

A Very Useful Belt for Summer

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

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

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

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

It’s On Sale: Mr. Porter

Mr. Porter is one of the best collections of menswear available online, but the full retail prices for designer clothes can be staggering. In their seasonal sales, the Mr. Porter folks mark stuff down 30-50%, and that’s when things start to get really interesting. Of course, even at 50% off Maison Martin Margiela is expensive, but we can dream, right?

Above, left to right, top to bottom, a few favorites:

Drake’s Striped Grenadine Tie

Drake’s Pocket Square

LVC 1960s Star Shirt

Row Two

Incotex Slim Wool Trousers

Woolrich Woolen Mills Madras Shirt

Belstaff Motorcycle Jacket

Row Three

Billy Reid Cable-Knit Sweater

Maison Martin Margiela Silk Bomber

J. Crew Madras Shirt

It’s On Sale: John Smedley Knitwear

Basic John Smedley v-necks and cardigans are on sale for 60% off right now at StyleGun. Once you discount for European taxes, that puts the v-necks at about $93 and cardigans at $110. Expensive, but these really are very well-made knits. I bought my first John Smedley sweater about seventeen years ago, and it’s held its shape and color beautifully. You can’t say that about many other brands out there. Colors right now include your basic navy, grey, and browns, which don’t go on sale at John Smedley’s website (they only discount seasonal colors). 

The v-neck model on sale is their Bobby, which has somewhat of a small v-neck opening, making the neckline a bit higher. I personally favor this style, but some like the more traditional, lower neckline. It’s designed to wear a bit fitted so that you can wear underneath a sport coat. You can find measurements for it on Mr. Porter’s site, under their “size & fit” tab.

The cardigan is their Bryn model, which is also quite fitted. Unfortunately, Mr. Porter doesn’t have measurements for that, but I would take whatever size you’re in for the Bryn as you would for the Bobby. 

Cool-Wearing Shirt Fabrics for Summer
Warmer temperatures call for open weave shirtings - those lightweight, airy fabrics that allow your skin to breathe and body heat escape. My favorite summer shirting is linen. It’s so gauzy and open that it allows you to feel every gentle breeze passing through, but it’s also quite prone to wrinkling. Personally, I find a lot of charm in that, but it’s not to everyone’s taste. Additionally, depending on the quality of the linen, you may find that new linen can feel a bit rough. You can trust, however, that it will soften considerably over time.
In addition to pure linen, there are all of its variations. Linen-cotton blends, for example, will give you some of the benefits of linen but look less messy. I also recently came across a pure cotton that’s woven to feel and look just like linen. You can find any of these - pure linen, linen-cotton blends, and pure cotton woven to feel like linen - from a variety of makers. Brooks Brothers, J. Crew, and Howard Yount are good starts. Brooks’ shirts are better in their slim to extra-slim fit cuts, depending on your size. For more affordable options, you can check Uniqlo (which you can shop at through Suddenlee) and TM Lewin. For higher-end models, browse the stock at Ledbury, Mr. Porter, and Barney’s. The latter two are holding sales right now, which means you can get particularly nice ones at a more affordable price. 
I’m also a fan of pure-cotton oxford cloth (the stuff used to make OCBDs), but not everyone thinks they’re well suited for summer. For example, Michael Anton, author of The Suit, has written that he thinks they’re too warm for high temperatures. On the other hand, Alex Kabbaz, arguably the best custom shirtmaker in America, has recommended them. Personally, I find that my OCDBs wear cooler than many of my other dress shirts, but you should try wearing some for yourself and seeing how you fare.   
For those who have shirts custom-made, I also recommend cotton-batiste, cotton voile, and chambray. The first two are rather popular in Southern Italy, where the weather can get quite warm, but they have the problem of often being too translucent. Fortunately, A Suitable Wardrobe has some cotton voile shirting that’s very wearable, as well as a very nice, fine chambray. I would heartily recommend either of those if you can afford them. If you’d like to find other sources, check with your shirtmaker. He or she should have some from a variety of makers such as Thomas Mason.
And last, but not least, there’s madras, which we’ve already talked about here.
Of course, being that the world of shirting is wide and varied, it’s best for you to always check for yourself whether a particular fabric is good for hot weather. One trick you can employ is holding the cloth up to the light. If the fabric is lightweight and you see a lot of light passing through, it’s more than likely perfect for summer. 
(Pictured above: Bolts of fine chambray shirting at A Suitable Wardrobe. Photo taken from StyleForum.)

Cool-Wearing Shirt Fabrics for Summer

Warmer temperatures call for open weave shirtings - those lightweight, airy fabrics that allow your skin to breathe and body heat escape. My favorite summer shirting is linen. It’s so gauzy and open that it allows you to feel every gentle breeze passing through, but it’s also quite prone to wrinkling. Personally, I find a lot of charm in that, but it’s not to everyone’s taste. Additionally, depending on the quality of the linen, you may find that new linen can feel a bit rough. You can trust, however, that it will soften considerably over time.

In addition to pure linen, there are all of its variations. Linen-cotton blends, for example, will give you some of the benefits of linen but look less messy. I also recently came across a pure cotton that’s woven to feel and look just like linen. You can find any of these - pure linen, linen-cotton blends, and pure cotton woven to feel like linen - from a variety of makers. Brooks BrothersJ. Crew, and Howard Yount are good starts. Brooks’ shirts are better in their slim to extra-slim fit cuts, depending on your size. For more affordable options, you can check Uniqlo (which you can shop at through Suddenlee) and TM Lewin. For higher-end models, browse the stock at Ledbury, Mr. Porter, and Barney’s. The latter two are holding sales right now, which means you can get particularly nice ones at a more affordable price. 

I’m also a fan of pure-cotton oxford cloth (the stuff used to make OCBDs), but not everyone thinks they’re well suited for summer. For example, Michael Anton, author of The Suithas written that he thinks they’re too warm for high temperatures. On the other hand, Alex Kabbaz, arguably the best custom shirtmaker in America, has recommended them. Personally, I find that my OCDBs wear cooler than many of my other dress shirts, but you should try wearing some for yourself and seeing how you fare.   

For those who have shirts custom-made, I also recommend cotton-batiste, cotton voile, and chambray. The first two are rather popular in Southern Italy, where the weather can get quite warm, but they have the problem of often being too translucent. Fortunately, A Suitable Wardrobe has some cotton voile shirting that’s very wearable, as well as a very nice, fine chambray. I would heartily recommend either of those if you can afford them. If you’d like to find other sources, check with your shirtmaker. He or she should have some from a variety of makers such as Thomas Mason.

And last, but not least, there’s madras, which we’ve already talked about here.

Of course, being that the world of shirting is wide and varied, it’s best for you to always check for yourself whether a particular fabric is good for hot weather. One trick you can employ is holding the cloth up to the light. If the fabric is lightweight and you see a lot of light passing through, it’s more than likely perfect for summer. 

(Pictured above: Bolts of fine chambray shirting at A Suitable Wardrobe. Photo taken from StyleForum.)

A Few Notable Sales: MyHabit, Brooks Brothers, and Mr. Porter

There are a few notable sales going on today. First, Attolini, De Corato, and Finamore shirts are on sale at MyHabit for one day only. At $149 and up, they’re pretty expensive, At that price, I think you’re better off getting something custom made from a high-end, reputable maker such as Ascot Chang. However, if you have the money and like the fit, this is a good opportunity to get staple shirts such as solid whites and light blues.

Brooks Brothers also started their semi-annual sale today. Items across the board have been discounted up to 40%. I especially like this driving jacket in sand for $179. 

Finally, there’s the Mr. Porter sale, which I wrote about here. Select items have been discounted up to 70%, and they include great deals from brands such as Drake’s, John Smedley, and Ralph Lauren.

For more sales announcements, sign up for our Inside Track. We publish an edition every week on Monday, and they include an eBay roundup, just like the ones we write every Tuesday and Friday, as well as a review of that week’s sales. I think there were twelve announced in today’s edition. 

(Thanks to Cooper for tipping me to the MyHabit sale)

Conservatively Patterned Socks

There’s an old piece of wisdom that says men should match their socks to their trousers. Doing so elongates the leg line, which in turn supposedly makes the man look taller. I’ve never been quite sure of this rule (or the logic). It works fine for navy or charcoal trousers, but matching brown socks to similarly colored pants and shoes seems off to me. I also don’t care for light colored socks, so wheat and mid-grey trousers need a different colored hose. 

In the end, I’ve found that navy socks go with everything. It’s richer than black and complements any color next to it. Thus, most of my socks are a solid navy, with charcoal a close second. I also have a few pairs in odd colors such as dark bottle green and aubergine, which I wear whenever I want a bit of irreverence. Those are never worn to match trousers, of course, though sometimes they complement a secondary color in my tie. 

It can be a bit boring to only have solid colored socks, however, so you can mix in some conservative patterns. This takes a bit more focus in the morning, but can add real character to your ensemble. Time-honored combinations include a two-toned houndstooth with glen plaid flannels, fine herringbone with a chalk striped suiting, or well spaced pin-dot hose with windowpaned wools. The key here is to find a pattern that both complements and contrasts your trousers. If you stick to neutral colors and conservative, traditional patterns, this should be easy. 

Marcoliani and Bresciani makes some of the best patterned socks out there. Marcoliani can be found through Kabbaz & Kelly, Howard Yount, and O’Connell’s. If you’re in the Bay Area, you can also find them at The Hound Clothiers. Bresciani can be bought through A Suitable WardrobeBerg & Berg, and Mr. Porter. Both of these brands are expensive, but the construction is top-notch and the patterns are tasteful.

For more affordable options, keep an eye out for Pantherella socks on Sierra Trading Post. They have more synthetic fibers in their composition, which means they’re a bit less breathable and durable, but their patterns are equally tasteful and they can be had for as little as $5 a pair (just wait for the heavy markdowns). Uniqlo also has these dotted socks which you can buy through Suddenlee, but they’re cotton and not over-the-calf. I recommend waiting for the Pantherella sales instead, if you can wait. 

Photo credits: MostExerent, SpooPoker, and Pocket Square Guy.