Real People: Finding Your “Voice”

Ethan Newton of The Armoury recently wrote a nice piece about finding one’s “voice” when it comes style, and it reminded me of Niyi in New York. Niyi is a bold dresser, often wearing things I’d never wear, and using them in a ways I’d never consider, but he’s also often pulling off looks that I admire. 

Above are two good examples. In the first photo, he’s wearing a tie I also happen to own. It’s a striped burgundy raw silk from Drake’s, which they sold a couple of years ago. When I wear mine, I pair it with a simple, light-blue, striped shirt and a conservative solid-tan sport coat. Niyi, on the other hand, is wearing his here with a dotted lime green shirt (!) and a more attention grabbing seersucker suit. 

In the second photo, he’s in a more somber, solid navy suit, but has enlivened the look with his choice in a tie and pocket square. The tie is actually from his own accessories line. It’s a navy cotton that’s been treated to a process called adire, a kind of hand-dyeing treatment developed by the Yoruba people of Nigeria. Niyi himself is of Yoruba descent, and his men’s accessories line heavily reflects his heritage. You can check it out at his website and (soon) Sid Mashburn

I’ve always believed that you don’t have to share other people’s choices in clothing in order to appreciate their style. Niyi’s bold sense of dress reflects his personality as much as my conservative sensibilities reflect mine. It’s this diversity of dress, and pursuit to find one’s own “voice” as Ethan puts it, that makes dressing personal, social, and fun. 

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 Two)

Finding the right suit can be really difficult if you’re not familiar with the terrain. And even when you are, it can still be hard. So I’ve put together a loosey-goosey guide on where one might want to look first for a good suit, given certain budgets. Yesterday, I covered stuff under $1,000. Today, I’ll talk about brands at the four-digit mark (either on sale or at full-retail prices). Again, many thanks to my friends listed at the end of this post for helping me put this together.

For a budget between ~$1,000 and ~$2,500

  • Ralph Lauren: Ralph Lauren’s Polo line (also known as their “Blue Label” line) has safe, but flattering cuts. They’re made in Italy and constructed from great fabrics.
  • Brooks Brothers Black Fleece: Brooks Brothers’ premium line, designed by Thom Browne. The jackets run a bit short (some being a bit more extreme than others), but if you’re a man of slightly shorter stature, these can be a nice buy. Like with most things at Brooks Brothers, you can reliably count on their 25% off sales. Black Fleece often gets discounted even further, especially at the end of the season. 
  • Sartoria Formosa: A famous bespoke tailoring house in Naples that is now offering a small ready-to-wear line. Style is very Neapolitan with soft shoulders and wide lapels, and construction quality is very high (e.g. lots of handwork).
  • Ring Jacket: A Japanese line with a bit of Italian styling. They’re not easy to find outside of Japan, but The Armoury and Khakis of Carmel are two stockists. Cuts are slightly fashionable, but not in a way that would look out of place in an office environment. 
  • Eidos Napoli: An interesting new line designed by Antonio Ciongoli, who formally designed for Michael Bastian and Ralph Lauren. Very Italian in style, and comes in at a very competitive price point, given the quality offered. You can find a list of stockists here.
  • Sid Mashburn: Slightly fashion forward suits with a lower rise trouser and shorter coat. If you’re going for a slightly trendier look, these can be a good option. Many have also said good things about Sid Mashburn’s made-to-measure service.
  • Lots of Italian brands: There are a ton of high-end Italian brands here that can be had on discount if you wait for end-of-season sales. Try looking for Zegna (their Milano and Roma cuts are nice), Canali, Caruso, Corneliani, Belvest, Boglioli, and Sartoria Partenopea. The retail prices of some of these will be high, but you can find them on sale through boutiques such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Barney’s New York, and Shop the Finest. You can also check each brand’s stores, as some will have their own shops. Again, the key is waiting for sales.

For a budget above ~$2,500

  • Ready to wear: The world of nice suits in this range is perhaps too big to cover. Just to start, however, you can find really great ready-to-wear models from companies such as Isaia, Kiton, BrioniAttolini, and Oxxford. All those will have good made-to-measure options too if you need something customized. If you don’t want to play the sales game, you’ll also find many of the Italian labels listed in the last category being offered here at full retail.  
  • Bespoke: In this price range, you’ll start to find some very good bespoke options. Again, that’s a topic that’s too big to cover in this post, but you can begin by checking out some of the bespoke tailoring houses talked about at StyleForum. Popular ones include WW Chan, Steed Bespoke, English Cut, Napoli Su Misura, and Rubinacci. The upside to these operations is that they regularly travel to different cities around the world, which makes it easier to get really high-end bespoke tailoring if you’re not able to regularly visit England, Italy, or Hong Kong (where these tailors are based). Savile Row tailors are also excellent, and many travel. You can find a partial list of the tailors there at the Savile Row Bespoke Association. Lastly, don’t forget to search your own local area for good tailors, as it’s not only good to support local craftsmanship, but it can be helpful to work with someone nearby. 

Ending Note

It’s worth stressing that this list isn’t meant to cover every worthwhile suit in each price tier. It’s a list of suggestions of where you might want to look first if you’re in the market to buy a suit or sport coat. As usual, fit is going to be most important, so while a $2,500 suit might be better built than a $750 one, it’s best to try on as much as you can. A perfectly fitting suit that’s fused will look a hundred times better than something fully-canvassed, but ill-fitting. Use our guides on fit and style when shopping around. Once you develop your eye, you’ll soon find what works best for you. 

(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 Ralph Lauren and Voxsartoria for the photos above. The Ralph Lauren photo is of a Polo suit, while Voxsartoria is wearing a bespoke 4x1 double breasted jacket by Steed, and bespoke trousers by Napoli Su Misura).

A Popover for Summer
The spate of hot weather recently had me thinking about what kind of shirts I might like to get this summer. High on the list are popovers. A popover is a woven shirt with a placket that only goes partially down the chest. I suspect they’re a holdover from when sport shirts weren’t all made with coat fronts (an early version of such a design can be seen here). They’re less common now, but I think they can look quite good on men with slim stomachs. They’re more relaxed than a traditional shirt, but more dressed up than a polo shirt, and this in-between-ness makes them just right for when you want to look smart on casual days.
I bought this one from Gant two years ago, but sadly the cut didn’t work out for me, so now I’m on the market for another. The nicest one I’ve seen is by Isaia, which is pictured above. My friend Agyesh, who actually took the image shown, works for Isaia and tells me that the brand still makes these. They should be available at Saks Fifth Avenue (especially the one in New York City), but if not, any store that offers Isaia’s made-to-measure program will be able to custom make one for you. You can get the model above, or one with a button-down collar and mitered placket. 
In addition, Sid Mashburn has some very handsome ones with a deep, long placket. Epaulet, New England Shirt Company, and Wharf also look promising. 
For something a bit more fashion forward, there’s a small selection at Need Supply, and a few designs by Engineered Garments this season at French Garment Cleaners and Oi Polloi. Steven Alan happens to have one of them on sale, which you can knock another 15% off by signing up for their newsletter. For something a bit more workwear-ish, check out Thoroughstitch and Levis Vintage Clothing.
All the aforementioned companies make really nice shirts, but they can be a bit expensive. If you want something more affordable, and don’t mind short-sleeves, J Crew has a bunch on sale right now. You can take 30% off the listed price by punching in the code SUMMER at checkout.
And finally, for people who need a special size, there are a number of options for custom. In addition to the Isaia you see above, Individualized Shirts and Mercer & Sons have made-to-order programs. They’re not exactly made-to-measure, meaning you can’t get things made to your exact measurements, but you can choose from different cuts and patterns to get the shirt you need (for Individualized, you’ll have to go to their factory, however). Luxire also makes them through an online made-to-measure service, and I can recommend my shirtmaker Ascot Chang for bespoke. Ascot Chang is actually running a promotion right now where you can get one shirt free for every six you order. Granted, they’re not cheap – so buying six at a time is pretty expensive – but they do fantastic work and offer tremendous value at their price point. You can visit them at one of their stores, or catch them on their US tour this month. 
(Photo credit: Mad House, Inc)

A Popover for Summer

The spate of hot weather recently had me thinking about what kind of shirts I might like to get this summer. High on the list are popovers. A popover is a woven shirt with a placket that only goes partially down the chest. I suspect they’re a holdover from when sport shirts weren’t all made with coat fronts (an early version of such a design can be seen here). They’re less common now, but I think they can look quite good on men with slim stomachs. They’re more relaxed than a traditional shirt, but more dressed up than a polo shirt, and this in-between-ness makes them just right for when you want to look smart on casual days.

I bought this one from Gant two years ago, but sadly the cut didn’t work out for me, so now I’m on the market for another. The nicest one I’ve seen is by Isaia, which is pictured above. My friend Agyesh, who actually took the image shown, works for Isaia and tells me that the brand still makes these. They should be available at Saks Fifth Avenue (especially the one in New York City), but if not, any store that offers Isaia’s made-to-measure program will be able to custom make one for you. You can get the model above, or one with a button-down collar and mitered placket. 

In addition, Sid Mashburn has some very handsome ones with a deep, long placket. EpauletNew England Shirt Company, and Wharf also look promising. 

For something a bit more fashion forward, there’s a small selection at Need Supply, and a few designs by Engineered Garments this season at French Garment Cleaners and Oi PolloiSteven Alan happens to have one of them on sale, which you can knock another 15% off by signing up for their newsletter. For something a bit more workwear-ish, check out Thoroughstitch and Levis Vintage Clothing.

All the aforementioned companies make really nice shirts, but they can be a bit expensive. If you want something more affordable, and don’t mind short-sleeves, J Crew has a bunch on sale right now. You can take 30% off the listed price by punching in the code SUMMER at checkout.

And finally, for people who need a special size, there are a number of options for custom. In addition to the Isaia you see above, Individualized Shirts and Mercer & Sons have made-to-order programs. They’re not exactly made-to-measure, meaning you can’t get things made to your exact measurements, but you can choose from different cuts and patterns to get the shirt you need (for Individualized, you’ll have to go to their factory, however). Luxire also makes them through an online made-to-measure service, and I can recommend my shirtmaker Ascot Chang for bespoke. Ascot Chang is actually running a promotion right now where you can get one shirt free for every six you order. Granted, they’re not cheap – so buying six at a time is pretty expensive – but they do fantastic work and offer tremendous value at their price point. You can visit them at one of their stores, or catch them on their US tour this month. 

(Photo credit: Mad House, Inc)

It’s On Sale: Sid Mashburn

There’s a whole lot of lust-worthy items that’s been discounted at the Atlanta menswear shop Sid Mashburn for their final markdown sale right now. I really like the look of that blackwatch sport coat. Go check it out. 

-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. 

It’s On Sale
Lots of great sale material at Sid Mashburn, running at 60% off.

The Necktie Series, Part VII: Tying it with Some Panache

Oscar Wilde once said something like “A well tied tie is the first serious step in life.” By now, you should know that the four-in-hand will work for most situations, and that the double four-in-hand can be used when you want a bit more bravado (or if you’re short and need to shorten the back blade a bit). I’ve also talked about how the Pratt should be used for spread collars or wider ties. With those three knots, you should be prepared for anything. 

Next, I thought I’d cover the two basic ways you can add some panache to how you tie your tie. The first is the Italian method - pulling it to the side a bit and leaving the blade out of the keeper. If you have an extra long tie, you might even want to leave the back blade a big longer than the front. The other method is arching your tie, a technique I always use now. It used to be a knee-jerk reaction to seeing guys leaving their ties loosely tied, a look so juvenile and awful that I cringe even just thinking about it. Nowadays, however, I just like the panache it gives. In this technique, the tie lifts off from the shirt. The photograph I’ve chosen exaggerates it a bit; in practice, the tie ends up looking a bit more like this or this. As Hardy Amies once put it, these kind of ties “come into a room almost before the man.” 

Check these two videos to see how to do each. The first is an interview with Sid Mashburn by GQ, who probably pulls it a bit more to the side than I would recommend (though he still looks great). The second is by Will, from A Suitable Wardobe, and he’ll show you how to achieve that tie arch.