Q and Answer: Where Can I Find Odd-Sized Suits?
Mike asks: Where can I find odd/less common suit sizes (my natural fit is a 45r, which is quite difficult to find)?
Some companies size more specifically than others. Some use S-M-L-XL sizing (blech!), some just go with even number chest sizing (36-38-40), some add short and long sizes and some go whole hog with odd numbers in the mix as well. The very best even offer semi-tall sizing off the rack.
Your best bet for odd sizes are traditional American retailers like Brooks Brothers and Paul Stuart. They consistently carry these sizes up to 46 or so.
After that, consider European-sized coats. You’ll find that the sizing translations are rough, since “subtract ten” rule of thumb is inexact. A size 52 Euro, for example, is actually a size 41, though it’s likely to be labeled a 42. A 54 Euro is about a 42 1/2. You can learn more about how the conversions work here.
And of course there’s always the classic backup option: alterations. Buy something very slightly too large, and have it altered. Remember that the portion of a jacket that’s above the armholes is really tough to alter, but the waist is pretty manageable.
One good bit of news: when you have an unusual size, eBay can really be your friend. Strange sizes mean less inventory, but also much less competition. The odds that someone else is searching for a 45R coat and likes the one you like are relatively slim, so you have a shot at some great bargains in an auction context.

Q and Answer: Where Can I Find Odd-Sized Suits?

Mike asks: Where can I find odd/less common suit sizes (my natural fit is a 45r, which is quite difficult to find)?

Some companies size more specifically than others. Some use S-M-L-XL sizing (blech!), some just go with even number chest sizing (36-38-40), some add short and long sizes and some go whole hog with odd numbers in the mix as well. The very best even offer semi-tall sizing off the rack.

Your best bet for odd sizes are traditional American retailers like Brooks Brothers and Paul Stuart. They consistently carry these sizes up to 46 or so.

After that, consider European-sized coats. You’ll find that the sizing translations are rough, since “subtract ten” rule of thumb is inexact. A size 52 Euro, for example, is actually a size 41, though it’s likely to be labeled a 42. A 54 Euro is about a 42 1/2. You can learn more about how the conversions work here.

And of course there’s always the classic backup option: alterations. Buy something very slightly too large, and have it altered. Remember that the portion of a jacket that’s above the armholes is really tough to alter, but the waist is pretty manageable.

One good bit of news: when you have an unusual size, eBay can really be your friend. Strange sizes mean less inventory, but also much less competition. The odds that someone else is searching for a 45R coat and likes the one you like are relatively slim, so you have a shot at some great bargains in an auction context.

Silk Knit Ties for Summer
Silk knit ties are great for wear year round, but they’re especially nice in the summer. This is partly because they go well with the rumpled linens and cottons we wear when the weather gets hot, and it’s partly because summer clothes often look better when they’re a bit more casual (and the silk knit is the most casual tie of all). If you wear sport coats this season, there are few better ties to reach for than the silk knit.
The good news is that - unlike with regular neckties - the differences in quality here are much smaller. All knit ties are made by machine, which means there’s less variation to be had in handwork. They also don’t have an interlining inside (which regular neckties do), so the construction is much simpler. As a result, which silk knit you buy is largely about design and taste.
You can break up silk knits first by thinking of them in terms of their material. Even though all silk knits are obviously made from silk, each will have a different kind of “crunchiness” to them. Some will feel very crunchy in the hand, while others will be softer and floppier.
Of the crunchy variety, there’s Drake’s, Exquisite Trimmings, Conrad Wu for something with a denser weave, and Land’s End, KJ Beckett, Paul Stuart, Howard Yount, and our advertiser Ledbury for something looser. Notice that the different weaving patterns give the ties different textures. None are better or worse; just different.  
For something softer and floppier, there’s J. Press, Brooks Brothers, Ben Silver, Kent Wang, and The Knottery. Each, again, have theirs made in their own weaving patterns, which give them different textures. Rubinacci and Sozzi also make some in really attractive and unique patterns. You can find Sozzi at No Man Walks Alone, Exquisite Trimmings, and The Armoury (though you’ll have to call or email The Armoury to order).
My favorites? Probably the Drake’s for their width and texture, at least if you’re going for solid colors. Sozzi and Rubinacci are really nice for something a bit more unique. Few ties can beat Land’s End in terms of value, though. At full price, they’re a bit expensive, but if you wait for one of their many sales, it’s not hard to grab one for about $30. If you haven’t already, get one in solid black. It’s arguably the most versatile silk knit you can own.

Silk Knit Ties for Summer

Silk knit ties are great for wear year round, but they’re especially nice in the summer. This is partly because they go well with the rumpled linens and cottons we wear when the weather gets hot, and it’s partly because summer clothes often look better when they’re a bit more casual (and the silk knit is the most casual tie of all). If you wear sport coats this season, there are few better ties to reach for than the silk knit.

The good news is that - unlike with regular neckties - the differences in quality here are much smaller. All knit ties are made by machine, which means there’s less variation to be had in handwork. They also don’t have an interlining inside (which regular neckties do), so the construction is much simpler. As a result, which silk knit you buy is largely about design and taste.

You can break up silk knits first by thinking of them in terms of their material. Even though all silk knits are obviously made from silk, each will have a different kind of “crunchiness” to them. Some will feel very crunchy in the hand, while others will be softer and floppier.

Of the crunchy variety, there’s Drake’sExquisite TrimmingsConrad Wu for something with a denser weave, and Land’s EndKJ Beckett, Paul StuartHoward Yount, and our advertiser Ledbury for something looser. Notice that the different weaving patterns give the ties different textures. None are better or worse; just different.  

For something softer and floppier, there’s J. PressBrooks BrothersBen SilverKent Wang, and The Knottery. Each, again, have theirs made in their own weaving patterns, which give them different textures. Rubinacci and Sozzi also make some in really attractive and unique patterns. You can find Sozzi at No Man Walks AloneExquisite Trimmings, and The Armoury (though you’ll have to call or email The Armoury to order).

My favorites? Probably the Drake’s for their width and texture, at least if you’re going for solid colors. Sozzi and Rubinacci are really nice for something a bit more unique. Few ties can beat Land’s End in terms of value, though. At full price, they’re a bit expensive, but if you wait for one of their many sales, it’s not hard to grab one for about $30. If you haven’t already, get one in solid black. It’s arguably the most versatile silk knit you can own.

Building an Affordable Neckwear Collection
If you want to build a necktie wardrobe for not too much money, there’s no better place to start than eBay. At any given time, there are hundreds of silk repps floating around that site, many available for only $10 to $20 a piece. Striped silk repp ties, as I’ve mentioned, are exceptionally useful because you can wear them with either sport coats or suits, whereas some ties are too casual to wear with one, or too formal to wear with the other. 
To find them, just search eBay for well-regarded American brands such as Ben Silver, Brooks Brothers, J. Press, and Paul Stuart. Seaward & Stearn and Atkinsons are also good names to look out for, although they’re usually available at lower quantities. E. Marinella and Drake’s are undeniably exceptional, but typically sell at much higher prices. Ralph Lauren can also be nice, although he carries such a wide range of lines - each made to different qualities - that it can be hard to find what’s well made. If you care to sort through it all, just look for the blue Polo label or the high-end Purple Label. 
The only problem with shopping on eBay is that it can be difficult to discern a tie’s condition. Most sellers can tell if there’s a pull or stain in the silk, but this is hardly the only damage that can occur. If a tie has been sent to the dry cleaners, for example, the silk will have likely lost its luster, and if it’s been wrongly ironed, you’ll see an impression of the tie’s folds pressed into the front blade. The slip stitch that goes up the back spine might also be loose or even broken from improper yanking, and the neck area might be faded or overly worn, making the tie’s knot a slightly lighter color than the rest of the body. Worst of all is if the previous owner never let his tie rest after each day’s wear, but instead kept it knotted, so that he wouldn’t ever have to retie it again. This will ruin the interlining inside, making it difficult for you to ever get a good dimple. It’s rare that you’ll come across a seller who knows how to look for these kinds of defects. 
Still, for $10-15, not much is lost if you get a bad piece, and even if the tie doesn’t come in the most perfect condition, this might not be a bad thing. The men who wear silk repp ties best are often wearing pieces that are ten or twenty years old, and their ties have a sort of worn-in quality that makes them more appealing than things that look too new or pristine. Set aside $100 or so and stick to dark colors (e.g. burgundy, forest green, brown, and navy), and you’ll have a pretty good starting collection in no time. 
(Photo via Oxford Cloth Button Down)

Building an Affordable Neckwear Collection

If you want to build a necktie wardrobe for not too much money, there’s no better place to start than eBay. At any given time, there are hundreds of silk repps floating around that site, many available for only $10 to $20 a piece. Striped silk repp ties, as I’ve mentioned, are exceptionally useful because you can wear them with either sport coats or suits, whereas some ties are too casual to wear with one, or too formal to wear with the other. 

To find them, just search eBay for well-regarded American brands such as Ben Silver, Brooks Brothers, J. Press, and Paul Stuart. Seaward & Stearn and Atkinsons are also good names to look out for, although they’re usually available at lower quantities. E. Marinella and Drake’s are undeniably exceptional, but typically sell at much higher prices. Ralph Lauren can also be nice, although he carries such a wide range of lines - each made to different qualities - that it can be hard to find what’s well made. If you care to sort through it all, just look for the blue Polo label or the high-end Purple Label. 

The only problem with shopping on eBay is that it can be difficult to discern a tie’s condition. Most sellers can tell if there’s a pull or stain in the silk, but this is hardly the only damage that can occur. If a tie has been sent to the dry cleaners, for example, the silk will have likely lost its luster, and if it’s been wrongly ironed, you’ll see an impression of the tie’s folds pressed into the front blade. The slip stitch that goes up the back spine might also be loose or even broken from improper yanking, and the neck area might be faded or overly worn, making the tie’s knot a slightly lighter color than the rest of the body. Worst of all is if the previous owner never let his tie rest after each day’s wear, but instead kept it knotted, so that he wouldn’t ever have to retie it again. This will ruin the interlining inside, making it difficult for you to ever get a good dimple. It’s rare that you’ll come across a seller who knows how to look for these kinds of defects. 

Still, for $10-15, not much is lost if you get a bad piece, and even if the tie doesn’t come in the most perfect condition, this might not be a bad thing. The men who wear silk repp ties best are often wearing pieces that are ten or twenty years old, and their ties have a sort of worn-in quality that makes them more appealing than things that look too new or pristine. Set aside $100 or so and stick to dark colors (e.g. burgundy, forest green, brown, and navy), and you’ll have a pretty good starting collection in no time. 

(Photo via Oxford Cloth Button Down)

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. 

Paul Stuart Spring Sale

Paul Stuart’s spring sale just started. Prices aren’t cheap, but the goods look tempting. I like these dark brown wingtips on sale for $296 and some of the trousers, which start at $138. Unfortunately, sale items can only be returned for merchandise credit. Pretty dicey gamble unless you can stop by their store in New York City to see how things fit, but if you can, this seems like something worth checking out. 

(Update: A couple of astute readers pointed out to me that the wingtips above are made from bookbinder leather. Best to stay away, especially at this price. Yikes). 

Consider the Silk Scarf
If you’re wearing a wool coat this winter, consider pairing it with a silk scarf. Silk scarves aren’t as versatile as ones made from cashmere or lambswool, but they look amazing when worn with heavy dress coats. By that I mean things such as polo coats, Ulster coats, and Chesterfields – the kinds of things that you sometimes see labeled as “dress outerwear” in places such as Brooks Brothers. It’s just another way of saying outerwear that’s dressier than things such as parkas and leather bomber jackets.
A silk scarf can really soften up the look of a heavy wool coat. See Noel Coward above or Gordon Gekko in this scene from the movie Wall Street. In both cases, their scarves in lend a nice sheen to an otherwise matte ensemble. It’s not unlike how we use silk ties and polished shoes to counterbalance the flatness of a wool sport coat or woolen trousers. As I wrote earlier this year, I believe a lot of what it means to dress well is learning how to strike a balance between different elements of what you’re wearing (patterns, texture, hardness/ softness, sheen/ flatness, etc). Light silk scarves do that well with heavy wool coats, so long as the coat is as dressy as the scarf.
There are a few places to buy a silk scarf. My favorite is Drake’s, who sells them in a few different designs. I have two of their reversible dotted tubular scarves – one in navy and one in brown – which kind of look like this, but without the fringed ends. A navy dotted silk scarf is arguably the most versatile version you can buy, though I like my brown one for when I wear navy coats. The difference in color helps distinguish it from the rest of what I’m wearing.
You can also pick some up from traditional men’s haberdashers, such as Ben Silver, Brooks Brothers, J. Press, Paul Stuart, and A Suitable Wardrobe. Additionally, San Francisco’s Wingtip stocks Edward Armah silk scarves, as well as a few under their own house label. You can also buy Edward Armah’s scarves directly from Edward Armah themselves.
Admittedly, all those are quite expensive. You could wait for them to go on sale, but they’ll still be on the pricey side. Alternatively, KJ Beckett sells silk scarves by Michelsons of London (also available through the manufacturer themselves), but I have no first hand experience with their products, so I can’t speak about their quality. You can also try eBay. This seller, for example, regularly stocks them, but his/ her scarves are often short and narrow. That’ll limit how you can wear the scarf. You may be able to get away with wearing it like a muffler underneath your buttoned up coat, but it may look silly if you try anything else. Better if you can get something 64” or longer, but those will typically cost you considerably more. 

Consider the Silk Scarf

If you’re wearing a wool coat this winter, consider pairing it with a silk scarf. Silk scarves aren’t as versatile as ones made from cashmere or lambswool, but they look amazing when worn with heavy dress coats. By that I mean things such as polo coats, Ulster coats, and Chesterfields – the kinds of things that you sometimes see labeled as “dress outerwear” in places such as Brooks Brothers. It’s just another way of saying outerwear that’s dressier than things such as parkas and leather bomber jackets.

A silk scarf can really soften up the look of a heavy wool coat. See Noel Coward above or Gordon Gekko in this scene from the movie Wall Street. In both cases, their scarves in lend a nice sheen to an otherwise matte ensemble. It’s not unlike how we use silk ties and polished shoes to counterbalance the flatness of a wool sport coat or woolen trousers. As I wrote earlier this year, I believe a lot of what it means to dress well is learning how to strike a balance between different elements of what you’re wearing (patterns, texture, hardness/ softness, sheen/ flatness, etc). Light silk scarves do that well with heavy wool coats, so long as the coat is as dressy as the scarf.

There are a few places to buy a silk scarf. My favorite is Drake’s, who sells them in a few different designs. I have two of their reversible dotted tubular scarves – one in navy and one in brown – which kind of look like this, but without the fringed ends. A navy dotted silk scarf is arguably the most versatile version you can buy, though I like my brown one for when I wear navy coats. The difference in color helps distinguish it from the rest of what I’m wearing.

You can also pick some up from traditional men’s haberdashers, such as Ben Silver, Brooks Brothers, J. Press, Paul Stuart, and A Suitable Wardrobe. Additionally, San Francisco’s Wingtip stocks Edward Armah silk scarves, as well as a few under their own house label. You can also buy Edward Armah’s scarves directly from Edward Armah themselves.

Admittedly, all those are quite expensive. You could wait for them to go on sale, but they’ll still be on the pricey side. Alternatively, KJ Beckett sells silk scarves by Michelsons of London (also available through the manufacturer themselves), but I have no first hand experience with their products, so I can’t speak about their quality. You can also try eBay. This seller, for example, regularly stocks them, but his/ her scarves are often short and narrow. That’ll limit how you can wear the scarf. You may be able to get away with wearing it like a muffler underneath your buttoned up coat, but it may look silly if you try anything else. Better if you can get something 64” or longer, but those will typically cost you considerably more. 

Getting a Good Leather Belt
Belts are one of those things you can skimp on without looking too much worse for it. I wrote a post a few months back about how you can find a serviceable (even if not terribly well-made) belt for about $20-30. If you’re willing to spend a little more, however, I thought I’d cover some of my favorite places to get something better.
Ready-to-Wear Belts
If you purchase most of your shoes from one company, it can be wise to source your belt from the same manufacturer. Companies such as Allen Edmonds, Alden, Crockett & Jones, and Edward Green make belts in the same leathers they use for their shoes. In this way, you can easily follow that rule of thumb that the color of one’s belt should generally match one’s shoes.
For other nice, off-the-shelf options, check some of the more traditional American clothiers, such as Ben Silver, Paul Stuart, and Brooks Brothers. Brooks discounts theirs by 25% or more once or twice a season. I liked the buckle on this one so much that I bought three in different colors. And though I don’t personally own any, people have written good reviews of Traflagar and Martin Dingman’s offerings.
Online, you can find some beautiful belts at A Suitable Wardrobe. Their lightly textured hides – made from 20-month old French calves – is a nice balance between the more boring, plain variety (which I admit I mostly have) and showier exotics such as alligator, ostrich, and crocodile. For something more affordable, Austin Jeffers supplies nice, basic designs for about $50. 
Custom Belts
The world of custom belts is vast, but I’ll only cover four. The most affordable I know of is bridle belt maker Narragansett Leathers. Bridle leather is a thickly cut leather with a high oil content, which makes it both harder wearing and water resistant. This is the kind of belting leather that will indeed last a lifetime. Narragansett makes their belts quite simply – leathers are cut, holes are punched, and buckles and keepers are then attached. A basic, durable belt starting at about $35.
Another bridle leather belt maker is Equus Leathers, who I like a bit better for the details they put in. The edges have a nice scored line, the keepers are squared off, and the edge burnishing is done a bit more nicely. I also like their very well-executed handsewn saddle stitching. Charlie, who runs Equus, used to make a living in bespoke saddlery, but the market for that has been destroyed by foreign imports. So now he just does belts, and knows the craft quite well.
The robustness of bridle leather makes it appropriate for chinos and jeans, but for suits and any worsted material, I like dressier, edge stitched belts from companies such as James Reid. Theirs are made from an all-leather, two-piece construction. There’s no inner layer or non-leather filler, which makes them much softer and smarter than bridle leather belts. The backing strap is made from full-grain, oak-tanned, harness quality cowhides from one of the last remaining tanneries in America, Herman Oaks. This strap is beveled along both edges, so that when the top layer is laid down, a contoured cross-sectional shape is produced with a feathered edge. Should you need an affordable buckle to go with their belts, you can contact Charlie at Equus. 
Lastly, there’s Herve N. Sellier, a French maker of fine leather goods that was introduced to me by a friend of mine who knows more about quality clothing than anyone I know. I’ve never tried Herve N. Sellier’s goods, but the company’s founder and craftsman used to produce exclusively for Hermes for twenty years, which alone should probably say something about his craft. Remarkably, the prices he charges for his belts aren’t too much more than those from the options mentioned above.
(Pictured: my belts from James Reid, Narragansett Leathers, and Equus Leathers)

Getting a Good Leather Belt

Belts are one of those things you can skimp on without looking too much worse for it. I wrote a post a few months back about how you can find a serviceable (even if not terribly well-made) belt for about $20-30. If you’re willing to spend a little more, however, I thought I’d cover some of my favorite places to get something better.

Ready-to-Wear Belts

If you purchase most of your shoes from one company, it can be wise to source your belt from the same manufacturer. Companies such as Allen Edmonds, Alden, Crockett & Jones, and Edward Green make belts in the same leathers they use for their shoes. In this way, you can easily follow that rule of thumb that the color of one’s belt should generally match one’s shoes.

For other nice, off-the-shelf options, check some of the more traditional American clothiers, such as Ben Silver, Paul Stuart, and Brooks Brothers. Brooks discounts theirs by 25% or more once or twice a season. I liked the buckle on this one so much that I bought three in different colors. And though I don’t personally own any, people have written good reviews of Traflagar and Martin Dingman’s offerings.

Online, you can find some beautiful belts at A Suitable Wardrobe. Their lightly textured hides – made from 20-month old French calves – is a nice balance between the more boring, plain variety (which I admit I mostly have) and showier exotics such as alligator, ostrich, and crocodile. For something more affordable, Austin Jeffers supplies nice, basic designs for about $50. 

Custom Belts

The world of custom belts is vast, but I’ll only cover four. The most affordable I know of is bridle belt maker Narragansett Leathers. Bridle leather is a thickly cut leather with a high oil content, which makes it both harder wearing and water resistant. This is the kind of belting leather that will indeed last a lifetime. Narragansett makes their belts quite simply – leathers are cut, holes are punched, and buckles and keepers are then attached. A basic, durable belt starting at about $35.

Another bridle leather belt maker is Equus Leathers, who I like a bit better for the details they put in. The edges have a nice scored line, the keepers are squared off, and the edge burnishing is done a bit more nicely. I also like their very well-executed handsewn saddle stitching. Charlie, who runs Equus, used to make a living in bespoke saddlery, but the market for that has been destroyed by foreign imports. So now he just does belts, and knows the craft quite well.

The robustness of bridle leather makes it appropriate for chinos and jeans, but for suits and any worsted material, I like dressier, edge stitched belts from companies such as James Reid. Theirs are made from an all-leather, two-piece construction. There’s no inner layer or non-leather filler, which makes them much softer and smarter than bridle leather belts. The backing strap is made from full-grain, oak-tanned, harness quality cowhides from one of the last remaining tanneries in America, Herman Oaks. This strap is beveled along both edges, so that when the top layer is laid down, a contoured cross-sectional shape is produced with a feathered edge. Should you need an affordable buckle to go with their belts, you can contact Charlie at Equus. 

Lastly, there’s Herve N. Sellier, a French maker of fine leather goods that was introduced to me by a friend of mine who knows more about quality clothing than anyone I know. I’ve never tried Herve N. Sellier’s goods, but the company’s founder and craftsman used to produce exclusively for Hermes for twenty years, which alone should probably say something about his craft. Remarkably, the prices he charges for his belts aren’t too much more than those from the options mentioned above.

(Pictured: my belts from James ReidNarragansett Leathers, and Equus Leathers)

Shawl Collar Cardigans

As legend has it, the original cardigan was invented for Lieutenant General James Brudenell, the Seventh Earl of Cardigan. He wanted a sweater that he could put on without ruining his perfectly coiffed hair. So, the front was cut open, buttons put in, and voilà – we have the cardigan sweater. How the shawl collar – a detail originally designed for the Victorian smoking jacket – got mixed in is unclear. Perhaps it’s because both were considered at-home pieces for lounge and leisure. Who knows.

In any case, shawl collar cardigans make for great autumnal sweaters. The elongated line of the collar nicely frames the face while the body of the knit keeps the wearer comfortable and warm. Today, you can get these from a number of companies, and they range from the stratospherically priced to the reasonably affordable.

I’ll start with the stratospherically priced. Even if we’re not able to afford them, they’re fun to look at (and talk about). These tend to be knitted in Scotland and made from multi-ply wool, cashmere, lambswool, or camelhair yarns. Multi-ply means that multiple plies are twisted together to form a thicker, stronger yarn. This gives the sweater more warmth and durability. The yarns are also usually made from longer animal fibers, which means there are fewer weak points that can break and result in pilling. Finally, the weaves tend to be denser and tighter, which helps ensure that the sweater will keep its shape for years to come. The result, while expensive, is something that’s incredibly chunky, plush, and warm. Wear one of these on a chilly morning and you’ll be immediately be impressed with the quality. 

You can find such cardigans at a number of traditional American clothiers. Ben Silver, O’Connell’s, Kabbaz-Kelly, and Paul Stuart have exceptionally nice ones. From Europe, there’s Drake’s, Berk, Johnstons of Elgin, and Peter Johnston. Ovadia & Sons also makes a nice, thick lambswool one that’s suitable for someone wanting a slimmer fit. All of these tend to be expensive, but some will go on sale at the end of the season. In fact, Ben Silver has some at 50% off now.

For something more affordable, check out J Crew, Rugby, Brooks Brothers, Gant, Land’s End, Orvis, and Save Khaki (one of which is on Gilt). These tend to be thinner than the ones mentioned above, and will likely have cheap, plastic buttons instead of animal horn. You can swap out the buttons yourself, however, for about $30-50. Finally, you may want to consider the options at Northern Watters, White of Hawick, and Black Sheep. I have no personal experience with their products, but nice things have been said about them across the various menswear forums. And although their websites aren’t terribly appealing, it’s important to separate out marketing hype from quality of clothing. They may just be the right middle point between the over-priced, under-delivered “fashion brands,” and the superlative, but incredibly expensive, Scottish knits. 

A Good Day’s Thrifting
After working every day for a few weeks straight, I took a few hours yesterday to pursue some hobby time. I hopped in the car and headed for the west side of Los Angeles to do some thrifting.
I live in East LA, where there are plenty of thrift stores, but precious little quality menswear on the racks therein. The reason’s simple - no rich people, no rich people clothes. There are some thrift chains that distribute across a region, rather than store-by-store, and there are always scores available everywhere, but the percentages are best in nice stores in affluent areas.
I ended up with the pile above. The Polo suit is older, probably from the 1980s, made in the USA, in a beautiful gray birdseye. Perfect fit and a very classic style, especially for a big tall guy like myself. I find myself drawn to Polo from the mid-80s and before, when it was inspired by classic styles of the 1930s and ’40s. The better-quality pieces have held up with time, as well. This suit will require a letting out in the waist and taking up in the sleeves and trousers, but both of those are easily done by my tailor. It set me back $40.
I found the pocket squares in the ladies’ scarves section of one of my favorite thrifts. It’s always worth taking a peek there - pocket squares are usually about 15 or 16 inches square, and scarves for women tend to be much larger, so it’s easy to spot the difference. Only one of the ones I picked up had a brand (also Polo), but all are great options, and they were only five bucks each.
The ties came from a Goodwill that’s been very productive for me in the past. The green striped one was the first I found - I spotted its Kiton tag from across the room. The rest are made by Paul Stuart (in England), Facconable (by Breuer, in France), Brooks Brothers Makers and Andrew of Milano. There was another Kiton, stained, that I left on the rack.
The trip represented visits to six stores, and I shopped at two of them. I spent a total of about $75 (plus another $15 on baby clothes, not pictured). Not bad for half a day’s work.

A Good Day’s Thrifting

After working every day for a few weeks straight, I took a few hours yesterday to pursue some hobby time. I hopped in the car and headed for the west side of Los Angeles to do some thrifting.

I live in East LA, where there are plenty of thrift stores, but precious little quality menswear on the racks therein. The reason’s simple - no rich people, no rich people clothes. There are some thrift chains that distribute across a region, rather than store-by-store, and there are always scores available everywhere, but the percentages are best in nice stores in affluent areas.

I ended up with the pile above. The Polo suit is older, probably from the 1980s, made in the USA, in a beautiful gray birdseye. Perfect fit and a very classic style, especially for a big tall guy like myself. I find myself drawn to Polo from the mid-80s and before, when it was inspired by classic styles of the 1930s and ’40s. The better-quality pieces have held up with time, as well. This suit will require a letting out in the waist and taking up in the sleeves and trousers, but both of those are easily done by my tailor. It set me back $40.

I found the pocket squares in the ladies’ scarves section of one of my favorite thrifts. It’s always worth taking a peek there - pocket squares are usually about 15 or 16 inches square, and scarves for women tend to be much larger, so it’s easy to spot the difference. Only one of the ones I picked up had a brand (also Polo), but all are great options, and they were only five bucks each.

The ties came from a Goodwill that’s been very productive for me in the past. The green striped one was the first I found - I spotted its Kiton tag from across the room. The rest are made by Paul Stuart (in England), Facconable (by Breuer, in France), Brooks Brothers Makers and Andrew of Milano. There was another Kiton, stained, that I left on the rack.

The trip represented visits to six stores, and I shopped at two of them. I spent a total of about $75 (plus another $15 on baby clothes, not pictured). Not bad for half a day’s work.

Q and Answer: The Partially-Lined Blazer
Layton writes: I recently bought a Paul Stuart tweed blazer on eBay. I’m happy with the  way it looks on me, but it seems to be missing the liner on  the inside that all blazers and suit jackets I have ever worn or seen  have. Did the seller remove the liner, or are some blazers sold without one?
A jacket’s lining has three purposes.
The primary functional purpose is to allow the coat to slide freely on and off, and to hang freely when worn. The lining also provides some measure of additional warmth, and it covers up the guts of the coat, meaning that seams can be left unfinished without looking sloppy.
Until the latter part of the 20th century, the norm was for coats to be made from heavier fabric (for drape), with lining only where necessary. That meant that the sleeves would be lined (so your shirt wouldn’t catch), the shoulders would be lined (so that the back would hang smoothly without bunching), and the chest would be lined (to cover the canvassing and provide for pockets). This meant that exposed seams - in the back of the coat and sometimes in the lower part of the front as well - had to be taped (wrapped with a sewn ribbon) so they’d be presentable and durable.
When the suit coat became a mass-produced product, manufacturers realized that it was cheaper just to leave the seams unfinished and cover them up with a lining. Things were a bit more clammy in a fully-lined coat, but this was less important as the jacket’s primary cloth became more and more lightweight.
When one finds a partially-lined coat these days, it’s generally either a high-end product or designed for summer wear. Since I prefer to wear a heavier cloth, given the opportunity, I like a less-lined coat when possible.
The lining, by the way, is almost always made of bemberg, an early semi-synthetic fabric (invented in the teens) made from plants. If your suit is lined with polyester, it’s probably crap. (If it’s lined with silk, you’re probably super sweaty.)

Q and Answer: The Partially-Lined Blazer

Layton writes: I recently bought a Paul Stuart tweed blazer on eBay. I’m happy with the way it looks on me, but it seems to be missing the liner on the inside that all blazers and suit jackets I have ever worn or seen have. Did the seller remove the liner, or are some blazers sold without one?

A jacket’s lining has three purposes.

The primary functional purpose is to allow the coat to slide freely on and off, and to hang freely when worn. The lining also provides some measure of additional warmth, and it covers up the guts of the coat, meaning that seams can be left unfinished without looking sloppy.

Until the latter part of the 20th century, the norm was for coats to be made from heavier fabric (for drape), with lining only where necessary. That meant that the sleeves would be lined (so your shirt wouldn’t catch), the shoulders would be lined (so that the back would hang smoothly without bunching), and the chest would be lined (to cover the canvassing and provide for pockets). This meant that exposed seams - in the back of the coat and sometimes in the lower part of the front as well - had to be taped (wrapped with a sewn ribbon) so they’d be presentable and durable.

When the suit coat became a mass-produced product, manufacturers realized that it was cheaper just to leave the seams unfinished and cover them up with a lining. Things were a bit more clammy in a fully-lined coat, but this was less important as the jacket’s primary cloth became more and more lightweight.

When one finds a partially-lined coat these days, it’s generally either a high-end product or designed for summer wear. Since I prefer to wear a heavier cloth, given the opportunity, I like a less-lined coat when possible.

The lining, by the way, is almost always made of bemberg, an early semi-synthetic fabric (invented in the teens) made from plants. If your suit is lined with polyester, it’s probably crap. (If it’s lined with silk, you’re probably super sweaty.)