Real People: Gray for leisure

The iron-fisted enforcement of business casual office dress codes means many of us wear suits mostly for non-work occasions, if we wear suits at all. Rob in Los Angeles has a great casual wardrobe, but in compiling a post about it I stumbled on these photos of Rob suited up in gray in non-business settings and was struck by the easiness and elegance of Rob’s suits and accessories, which are neither obsessively businesslike nor sprezzatura’d beyond all relief.

In the top photo, Rob’s peak lapel suit in a dark gray worsted wool could be quite formal, but that formality is undercut by a matte wool tie, brown rather than black balmorals, and holiday-season-appropriate red socks. Rob’s suit in the other photos is a wonderful high-twist twill, that looks equally good with a white shirt and brown shoes as with more evening appropriate (though not, you know, by “the rules” evening appropriate) black monk strap shoes and an ice blue shirt. Again, Rob sticks with matte wool ties, which along with the cloth make that suit look downright cozy. The trouser length is a little longer than many men are choosing in the post-Thom-Browne era, but note that when Rob is seated his trouser cuff doesn’t ride halfway up his leg.

And regarding timelessness—these shots were taken a few years ago (the top shot in 2007), and they all look great right now.

—Pete

When You Need It NOW! (You Shoulda Got It THEN!)
A huge portion of the emails I get at Put This On are about men who NEED IT NOW! They’ve just been invited to a black tie gala, they’re headed to a summer wedding this weekend, they have a state funeral to attend, they finally got a job interview with the firm they’ve been targeting. So they want to know: how can they save money and buy something great today?
The truth is: it’s impossible. You can go to Barney’s or Nordstrom or Brooks Brothers, beg for on-the-spot alterations, and walk out with something that works, but let me assure you: you will pay full price. And I’ll add that if you don’t live within easy access of those stores, you may well be plum out of luck.
So the solution is pretty simple: be prepared. Not for every eventuality, but for the few that you’re almost certain to encounter.
If you have black dress shoes, a solid gray suit, a white shirt and both a navy and black tie, you’re all set for almost any eventuality. A wedding, a funeral, a job interview.
These should be conservative, and fit. You can thrift them, eBay them, buy them on sale or buy them at full price. But if you’re a grown man, you will need these things. Often on short notice.
If your lifestyle means black tie is a regular occurrence - say once a year or more - then a black tie rig is worth owning as well. Give yourself the time you need to find exactly what you want at the price you want to pay, but do it now, not later.
Great-Uncles don’t die on your schedule, and once-in-a-lifetime job interviews don’t happen right when you expect them. So be prepared.

When You Need It NOW! (You Shoulda Got It THEN!)

A huge portion of the emails I get at Put This On are about men who NEED IT NOW! They’ve just been invited to a black tie gala, they’re headed to a summer wedding this weekend, they have a state funeral to attend, they finally got a job interview with the firm they’ve been targeting. So they want to know: how can they save money and buy something great today?

The truth is: it’s impossible. You can go to Barney’s or Nordstrom or Brooks Brothers, beg for on-the-spot alterations, and walk out with something that works, but let me assure you: you will pay full price. And I’ll add that if you don’t live within easy access of those stores, you may well be plum out of luck.

So the solution is pretty simple: be prepared. Not for every eventuality, but for the few that you’re almost certain to encounter.

If you have black dress shoes, a solid gray suit, a white shirt and both a navy and black tie, you’re all set for almost any eventuality. A wedding, a funeral, a job interview.

These should be conservative, and fit. You can thrift them, eBay them, buy them on sale or buy them at full price. But if you’re a grown man, you will need these things. Often on short notice.

If your lifestyle means black tie is a regular occurrence - say once a year or more - then a black tie rig is worth owning as well. Give yourself the time you need to find exactly what you want at the price you want to pay, but do it now, not later.

Great-Uncles don’t die on your schedule, and once-in-a-lifetime job interviews don’t happen right when you expect them. So be prepared.

The Eighties Drape Suit
When I wear tailored clothing I lean toward a trim silhouette and the lineage of the midcentury Brooks Brothers/J. Press cut. Not that I’m unique; this describes me and maybe half of the American men who’ve bought new suits in the last three or four years. But in favoring these modern versions of “trad” or “ivy” looks, it’s tempting to dismiss most suits made between 1969 and 2001—when Thom Browne started his line and shortened our pants—as outdated, unflattering, or sloppy.
This 1988 New York magazine article on custom tailoring makes the case that 1980s suits were not sloppy or oversized—they were carefully considered exercises in proportion, calculated Savile Row influence, and aspirational dressing. The article trots out some hoary old chestnuts about the wonders of going the custom route, but it’s a wonderfully in-depth piece (15 pages—6 of them full, glorious, three-column, no-ad pages!), and I found this illustration of “the eighties drape suit” especially enlightening. Twenty-five years ago, this Alan Flusser suit represented the ideal: extended shoulders; a full chest; low-slung, six-button (one working) stance; wipe lapels; no vent; and full, pleated trousers with more of a break than Pitti Uomo has seen in this side of the year 2000.
This cut was the pinnacle of good taste at the time, visually referencing to the elegance of British tailoring as described by Flusser in his influential  books, Making the Man (1981) and Clothes and the Man (1985). I’d bet many men who asked for this cut at their tailor in 1988 wanted something timeless, just like many of us do today when we buy two-button, natural shoulder suits. The piece also cites Richard Merkin on Flusser and his drape suits: “He produces very haughty and snappy clothes with a wonderful arrogance about them.” 
-Pete

The Eighties Drape Suit

When I wear tailored clothing I lean toward a trim silhouette and the lineage of the midcentury Brooks Brothers/J. Press cut. Not that I’m unique; this describes me and maybe half of the American men who’ve bought new suits in the last three or four years. But in favoring these modern versions of “trad” or “ivy” looks, it’s tempting to dismiss most suits made between 1969 and 2001—when Thom Browne started his line and shortened our pants—as outdated, unflattering, or sloppy.

This 1988 New York magazine article on custom tailoring makes the case that 1980s suits were not sloppy or oversized—they were carefully considered exercises in proportion, calculated Savile Row influence, and aspirational dressing. The article trots out some hoary old chestnuts about the wonders of going the custom route, but it’s a wonderfully in-depth piece (15 pages—6 of them full, glorious, three-column, no-ad pages!), and I found this illustration of “the eighties drape suit” especially enlightening. Twenty-five years ago, this Alan Flusser suit represented the ideal: extended shoulders; a full chest; low-slung, six-button (one working) stance; wipe lapels; no vent; and full, pleated trousers with more of a break than Pitti Uomo has seen in this side of the year 2000.

This cut was the pinnacle of good taste at the time, visually referencing to the elegance of British tailoring as described by Flusser in his influential  books, Making the Man (1981) and Clothes and the Man (1985). I’d bet many men who asked for this cut at their tailor in 1988 wanted something timeless, just like many of us do today when we buy two-button, natural shoulder suits. The piece also cites Richard Merkin on Flusser and his drape suits: “He produces very haughty and snappy clothes with a wonderful arrogance about them.” 

-Pete

“[Tom Wolfe] arrived wearing the white ensemble he is noted for—a white modified homburg, a chalk-white overcoat—but to the surprise of regular customers looking up from their tables, he removed the coat to disclose a light-brown suit set off by a pale lilac tie. Questioned about the light-brown suit, he replied: ‘Shows that I’m versatile.’” — George Plimpton in the Paris Review

(Source: theparisreview.org)

Savile Row, 1939

This article from England’s defunct Picture Post magazine depicts the process of ordering and making a suit at Williams, Sullivan, & Co., a firm that occupied 12 Savile Row at the time of publication in 1939. Today the building houses Chittleborough and Morgan, formerly of Tommy Nutters’ shop, and the Scabal flagship store. (Check out a recent Chittleborough and Morgan suit in navy seersucker at Permanent Style.) Picture Post was a photo-heavy publication not unlike LIFE, and this piece gave the reader a glimpse into the clubby atmosphere of a tailor’s shop (for the customers, at least; the article mentions sewing girls making £3 a week—around £165 today).

"Even if you cannot tell an Englishman abroad by anything else, you can tell him by his suit. The suit may be old, it may have done a dozen years’ service, but its cut and the way it hangs on his body identify the owner as an Englishman."

-Pete

Real People: Summer Linen Suit

My friend gdl203 maintains a really nice thread on StyleForum where he reposts his favorite pictures that other members have posted of themselves. It’s a nice way to catch some of the best looks on StyleForum if you don’t have time to follow one of the many “What Are You Wearing Today” threads (where the activity can get quite busy). Gdl203 doesn’t update his thread often, but when he does, it’s always great.

His latest post came three days ago, and it’s of a StyleForum member in Germany named David. David is seen here attending an alumni mixer while wearing a khaki linen suit, blue and white candy stripe shirt, and a solid brown tie. For shoes, he has chestnut colored wingtips, which is a much more summery color than your standard dark browns.

I like how the stripes on his shirt break up the expanse of solid colors on his suit and tie. It adds a bit of variation where a solid blue shirt would have not. I also really appreciate how breathable the suit looks. Not only is it made from a pure linen, but it has three patch pockets. This allows it to do away with any lining that would otherwise be necessary to protect interior bags used for welted pockets. And though it’s hard to judge from a photo, the coat also looks quite soft, suggesting that the canvassing and chest piece inside are relatively thin. Having an unlined jacket with only a thin layer of material allows heat to escape more easily, thus letting the wearer stay as cool as possible. Useful if you, like me, get hot easily.

Of course, what I really like most are the wrinkles. While some people can’t stand how linen rumples and creases, I think the look imparts a certain carefree, natural charm. It suggests that the wearer himself is stylish, not that his clothes are perfect.  

What Is Balance?
If you’ve ever participated in online forums about classic men’s clothing, you may have come across people talking about a jacket’s “balance.” But what is balance? Sometimes, it’s a nebulous concept - just a way of someone saying whether they think a jacket looks off or not. Most of the time, however, it refers to something very specific: how a jacket hangs from the shoulders.
To understand this, you have to remember that a jacket takes on the shape of our bodies, so our unique contours and posture will affect how it fits. Which is why if you take two men with the same chest size, the same jacket can look very different on each of them.
There are two aspects to a jacket’s balance. The first is how the front and back lengths relate to each other. Very simply, if you look at a man from his side, the front hem of his jacket should be either roughly even with his back, or it can be slightly longer. The back, generally speaking, should never be longer than the front. If it is, you may see the quarters of the coat (the area of the front below the buttoning point) hike up and possibly “swing inward.”  
This can happen for a number of reasons. One might be that the person stands too erect, so the back essentially “dips down” while the front “hikes up.” It may also be that the person has a very large stomach, so the front of the jacket doesn’t have enough material to cover that area without disturbing how the jacket hangs.
The opposite of this is also possible. Someone might have prominent shoulder blades or stand with a stoop. In this case, he’ll need a bit more length in the back and less in the front. Otherwise, the quarters of his jacket might fall away towards his hips and the vents at the back might gape.
The second aspect of balance refers to how the left and right sides of a jacket relate to each other. Similarly, these should also be aligned. This might seem like it should occur naturally, but certain things can complicate it. If your right shoulder is considerably lower than your left (which is very common, by the way), you’ll notice that everything on the right side of your jacket will also be dropped accordingly.
Fixing this isn’t as easy as just adding length to the right side or taking away some on the left, however. It’s not just the hem that’s affected, it’s everything on the right – the way the left and right pockets align with each other, the notches on your lapels, as well as the buttons and buttonholes. A tailor can fix this for you, but it helps to know what to look for in order to assess whether a jacket fits you correctly.
All this can seem confusing and complicated if you’ve never thought about these concepts. In the end, however, you can simply think of it like this: if someone were to view you from the side, the front and back of your jacket should be even, or the front can be slightly longer than the back. You can examine this by seeing how the hem aligns. Similarly, when viewed from the front, the left and right sides of your jacket’s hem should be roughly even as well. If they’re not, it can be said that your jacket’s balance is off.  
(Photo via Voxsartoria)

What Is Balance?

If you’ve ever participated in online forums about classic men’s clothing, you may have come across people talking about a jacket’s “balance.” But what is balance? Sometimes, it’s a nebulous concept - just a way of someone saying whether they think a jacket looks off or not. Most of the time, however, it refers to something very specific: how a jacket hangs from the shoulders.

To understand this, you have to remember that a jacket takes on the shape of our bodies, so our unique contours and posture will affect how it fits. Which is why if you take two men with the same chest size, the same jacket can look very different on each of them.

There are two aspects to a jacket’s balance. The first is how the front and back lengths relate to each other. Very simply, if you look at a man from his side, the front hem of his jacket should be either roughly even with his back, or it can be slightly longer. The back, generally speaking, should never be longer than the front. If it is, you may see the quarters of the coat (the area of the front below the buttoning point) hike up and possibly “swing inward.”  

This can happen for a number of reasons. One might be that the person stands too erect, so the back essentially “dips down” while the front “hikes up.” It may also be that the person has a very large stomach, so the front of the jacket doesn’t have enough material to cover that area without disturbing how the jacket hangs.

The opposite of this is also possible. Someone might have prominent shoulder blades or stand with a stoop. In this case, he’ll need a bit more length in the back and less in the front. Otherwise, the quarters of his jacket might fall away towards his hips and the vents at the back might gape.

The second aspect of balance refers to how the left and right sides of a jacket relate to each other. Similarly, these should also be aligned. This might seem like it should occur naturally, but certain things can complicate it. If your right shoulder is considerably lower than your left (which is very common, by the way), you’ll notice that everything on the right side of your jacket will also be dropped accordingly.

Fixing this isn’t as easy as just adding length to the right side or taking away some on the left, however. It’s not just the hem that’s affected, it’s everything on the right – the way the left and right pockets align with each other, the notches on your lapels, as well as the buttons and buttonholes. A tailor can fix this for you, but it helps to know what to look for in order to assess whether a jacket fits you correctly.

All this can seem confusing and complicated if you’ve never thought about these concepts. In the end, however, you can simply think of it like this: if someone were to view you from the side, the front and back of your jacket should be even, or the front can be slightly longer than the back. You can examine this by seeing how the hem aligns. Similarly, when viewed from the front, the left and right sides of your jacket’s hem should be roughly even as well. If they’re not, it can be said that your jacket’s balance is off.  

(Photo via Voxsartoria)

No Backpacks at the Office
For the past year and a half I’ve been largely working from home, so I forget what it’s like to commute with other fellow city-dwellers on public transportation in the rush periods. But the past few weeks I’ve been up and out early in the morning and was reminded of the all-to-common practice of men wearing backpacks with their suits. 
The look is very unprofessional. Seeing a grown man walking to his office wearing a backpack that would be found in a high-school student’s locker strikes me as juvenile. The ballistic nylon, the tactical pouches, way-too many zippers and often-terrible color schemes look tacky on a guy who went through the trouble to wear a suit to make a favorable impression. 
If you have items that need to be carried to and from work, then buy a briefcase. You can find them in almost any configuration to carry whatever you need and it will compliment your business attire. And there’s the added bonus you won’t be that guy who keeps his backpack on his shoulders while riding the crowded bus or train that hits everyone else in the face and takes up room (please, at least put it on the ground like gentleman). 
And don’t think of this as being against all backpacks all the time. We’ve recommended backpacks in the past, but for more casual attire and situations. But if you’re going to the office, then leave them at home. 
-Kiyoshi
(Image via primatage)

No Backpacks at the Office

For the past year and a half I’ve been largely working from home, so I forget what it’s like to commute with other fellow city-dwellers on public transportation in the rush periods. But the past few weeks I’ve been up and out early in the morning and was reminded of the all-to-common practice of men wearing backpacks with their suits.

The look is very unprofessional. Seeing a grown man walking to his office wearing a backpack that would be found in a high-school student’s locker strikes me as juvenile. The ballistic nylon, the tactical pouches, way-too many zippers and often-terrible color schemes look tacky on a guy who went through the trouble to wear a suit to make a favorable impression.

If you have items that need to be carried to and from work, then buy a briefcase. You can find them in almost any configuration to carry whatever you need and it will compliment your business attire. And there’s the added bonus you won’t be that guy who keeps his backpack on his shoulders while riding the crowded bus or train that hits everyone else in the face and takes up room (please, at least put it on the ground like gentleman).

And don’t think of this as being against all backpacks all the time. We’ve recommended backpacks in the past, but for more casual attire and situations. But if you’re going to the office, then leave them at home.

-Kiyoshi

(Image via primatage)

Traveling with a Suit

I’m on a trip right now and I hate packing large bags when flying. I just don’t trust checking my luggage. Plus, carrying a heavy bag while trying to catch your transfer isn’t fun. 

So, I carry my briefcase and a small weekend bag for most trips. I stuff it with the usual — shirts, socks, an extra tie and of course underwear — but there is one thing I don’t try to pack away: my suit. 

Instead, I prefer to travel while wearing it. While most fliers like to wear “relaxed” clothing, I think wearing the suit makes more sense. You don’t have to fold it up and worry about setting it aside to let the wrinkles fall out. The extra pockets are great for carrying your stuff, like tickets, phone and wallet.

Typically, I wouldn’t recommend wearing the same suit several days in a row. But if it’s for the occasional trip, the convenience of not having to pack anything but a shirt a day can’t be beat. 

If you’re worried about creases in your suit from sitting for several hours in an airplane seat, I haven’t found it to be too much of a problem if you place your suit on a hangar and let it hang in the shower with hot water running to steam the wrinkles out. It should only take 10-15 minutes. 

If you can get away with it and your trip is short enough, try traveling light and in a suit. 

-Kiyoshi

Traveling with a Suit

I’m on a trip right now and I hate packing large bags when flying. I just don’t trust checking my luggage. Plus, carrying a heavy bag while trying to catch your transfer isn’t fun.

So, I carry my briefcase and a small weekend bag for most trips. I stuff it with the usual — shirts, socks, an extra tie and of course underwear — but there is one thing I don’t try to pack away: my suit.

Instead, I prefer to travel while wearing it. While most fliers like to wear “relaxed” clothing, I think wearing the suit makes more sense. You don’t have to fold it up and worry about setting it aside to let the wrinkles fall out. The extra pockets are great for carrying your stuff, like tickets, phone and wallet.

Typically, I wouldn’t recommend wearing the same suit several days in a row. But if it’s for the occasional trip, the convenience of not having to pack anything but a shirt a day can’t be beat.

If you’re worried about creases in your suit from sitting for several hours in an airplane seat, I haven’t found it to be too much of a problem if you place your suit on a hangar and let it hang in the shower with hot water running to steam the wrinkles out. It should only take 10-15 minutes.

If you can get away with it and your trip is short enough, try traveling light and in a suit.

-Kiyoshi

Suits Aren’t for Standing in Front of Mirrors
The past few days a several images of soccer star David Beckham showing off his moves while wearing a suit came across my dashboard (likely from this Glamour article) and it reminded me of some advice I’d once read.
Most often, when guys go to purchase a new suit they immediately go in front of a mirror and turn into a robot. Their back stiffens, the chest heaves outward and knees lock. But this is only one way to determine if a suit fits you well. Instead, try walking around a bit and not focusing on a mirror. Sit down in a chair and cross your legs or put your feet up. And perhaps consider kicking around a soccer ball. 
The point is to get a feel of how the suit moves with your body. Perhaps the slimness you like in the mirror isn’t the best for when you need to squat down and pick up something off the floor. Or maybe the shoulders don’t quite have the range of movement you’d prefer, although they may look perfect when you’re standing still like a statue. 
Your suit shouldn’t only fit you when you’re standing upright, as Mr. Beckham proves. It should make you feel like you can do anything and look great, too.
-Kiyoshi

Suits Aren’t for Standing in Front of Mirrors

The past few days a several images of soccer star David Beckham showing off his moves while wearing a suit came across my dashboard (likely from this Glamour article) and it reminded me of some advice I’d once read.

Most often, when guys go to purchase a new suit they immediately go in front of a mirror and turn into a robot. Their back stiffens, the chest heaves outward and knees lock. But this is only one way to determine if a suit fits you well. Instead, try walking around a bit and not focusing on a mirror. Sit down in a chair and cross your legs or put your feet up. And perhaps consider kicking around a soccer ball. 

The point is to get a feel of how the suit moves with your body. Perhaps the slimness you like in the mirror isn’t the best for when you need to squat down and pick up something off the floor. Or maybe the shoulders don’t quite have the range of movement you’d prefer, although they may look perfect when you’re standing still like a statue. 

Your suit shouldn’t only fit you when you’re standing upright, as Mr. Beckham proves. It should make you feel like you can do anything and look great, too.

-Kiyoshi