Donegal Sweaters

We’re on the cusp of sweater weather, and this fall, I’m most looking forward to wearing this grey "Donegal" knit from Inis Meain. I put Donegal in quotes because the sweater wasn’t actually made in Donegal, but rather, it’s reminiscent of the hallmark tweeds that come of that region. Those tweeds have flecks of color, which are allowed to glob onto the yarns in irregular ways. You learn about it in this wonderful video Jesse put together on Molloy & Sons, one of the region’s best mills.  

The nice thing about speckled sweaters is that you can wear them on their own with an oxford cloth shirt or a brushed flannel. I like hardier shirtings in this case because they have a visual weight that feels a bit more at home with such rugged looking knits. By itself, the flecks make the sweater a little more interesting than the smooth, plain-colored merinos you see everywhere else. At the same time, the pattern is also easy to pair with any kind of outerwear. 

This season, it seems everyone is selling a Donegal knit. Here are some you may want to consider, from most to least expensive. 

Over $300

Over $200

  • East Harbour Surplus ($265): A Japanese brand with Italian-made, American-inspired designs. These vintage-y looking cardigans fit really slim, so be sure to size up. 
  • O’Connell’s ($225): My favorite source for Shetlands. Well made stuff that stands up to abuse. Plus, O’Connell’s has a great pedigree that’s hard to beat. 
  • Oliver Spencer ($225): A slightly more interesting look piece. Pair this with more modern looking coats and jackets, and perhaps a slim pair of charcoal trousers.  
  • Epaulet (~$220): A popular brand among menswear enthusiasts. They just released some cabled Donegal sweaters with shawl collars and mocknecks. 
  • Alex Mill ($207): A new label headed by the son of J. Crew’s CEO, Mickey Drexler. Designs tend to be basic, but easy to incorporate into any wardrobe. This black Donegal sweater has a sort of chic look to it. 

Over $100

Under $100

The Usefulness of Cotton Pocket Squares
Just this summer, I’ve started appreciating how useful having a few cotton pocket squares can be. Most squares you see on the market are made from linen, silk, or wool, and each have their own advantages.
Linen is easily the most versatile, as it can smarten up the look of a suit jacket or sport coat while also remaining discrete. Very helpful these days if you want to look sharp without seeming overly dandy.
Silk squares are a bit more fanciful, but they do better with tweed or flannel jackets since their sheen nicely complements the matte finish of wool cloth. They also go well with wool neckties for the same reason.
Wool squares, on the other hand, are great for sport coats, as they don’t have the sheen of silk, and therefore look a bit more casual. They’re also good for when you feel a sharply folded linen square might look too studied. And like how silk squares pair best with wool or cashmere neckties, wool squares give a nice balance to silk neckwear.
Much like wool squares, then, I’ve found that cotton squares go great with summer sport coats and silk neckties, or for when you’re not wearing any neckwear at all, but are trying to smarten up the look of an odd jacket and open collared shirt. Which is basically what I use mine for these days. 
Pictured above are the four I own. The first is a finely woven white square from Simonnot Godard, which I bought from A Suitable Wardrobe. They’re out of that specific design at the moment, but they have others in both their pocket squares and handkerchief sections. The other three are various printed squares from Drake’s, which I bought from Exquisite Trimmings and No Man Walks Alone. You can also find nice cotton squares at our Etsy shop, Vanda Fine Clothing, Mr. Porter, as well as our advertiser The Hanger Project.

The Usefulness of Cotton Pocket Squares

Just this summer, I’ve started appreciating how useful having a few cotton pocket squares can be. Most squares you see on the market are made from linen, silk, or wool, and each have their own advantages.

  • Linen is easily the most versatile, as it can smarten up the look of a suit jacket or sport coat while also remaining discrete. Very helpful these days if you want to look sharp without seeming overly dandy.
  • Silk squares are a bit more fanciful, but they do better with tweed or flannel jackets since their sheen nicely complements the matte finish of wool cloth. They also go well with wool neckties for the same reason.
  • Wool squares, on the other hand, are great for sport coats, as they don’t have the sheen of silk, and therefore look a bit more casual. They’re also good for when you feel a sharply folded linen square might look too studied. And like how silk squares pair best with wool or cashmere neckties, wool squares give a nice balance to silk neckwear.

Much like wool squares, then, I’ve found that cotton squares go great with summer sport coats and silk neckties, or for when you’re not wearing any neckwear at all, but are trying to smarten up the look of an odd jacket and open collared shirt. Which is basically what I use mine for these days. 

Pictured above are the four I own. The first is a finely woven white square from Simonnot Godard, which I bought from A Suitable Wardrobe. They’re out of that specific design at the moment, but they have others in both their pocket squares and handkerchief sections. The other three are various printed squares from Drake’s, which I bought from Exquisite Trimmings and No Man Walks Alone. You can also find nice cotton squares at our Etsy shop, Vanda Fine Clothing, Mr. Porter, as well as our advertiser The Hanger Project.

Why You Shouldn’t Hang Your Suit in the Bathroom
There’s a “trick” that often gets passed around on blogs and through magazines for how to get the wrinkles out of your suit. The trick is: hang your jacket in the bathroom while you take a hot shower. The steam supposedly helps the fibers relax, which in turn will let the wrinkles fall out. 
The idea sounds plausible, but in practice, doing something like this can be ineffective at best and damaging at worst. Depending on how big your bathroom is, you’re unlikely to even generate enough steam to make a difference. If you do generate enough steam, you can ruin your jacket by taking all the shape out. 
Why Steam Can be Bad
A long time ago, I wrote a post about the problem with steamers in general. The danger with these things is that you can “blow out” the seams and cause them to pucker if you’re not careful with how much steam you apply. What you really need is something that both pushes the steam through and sucks the moisture out, but those kinds of machines can be expensive (if not also cumbersome to use at home). 
With a suit jacket or sport coat, there’s other damage that can be done. Remember, a tailored jacket is not like a shirt. It’s not something that simply “hangs” from your shoulders. Rather, it’s shaped through careful ironing and pressing, which results in the jacket having a certain three dimensional form. In fact, the reason why people recommend half- or fully-canvassed jackets is because that canvas gives the jacket some shape. 
It’s true, when you run steam through your tailored jackets, you’re making the fibers relax. This does take out the wrinkling, but also takes out all the shaping as well. The result? A potentially limp jacket that no longer hangs on you the way it should. If you’ve put enough steam through, you may also make certain areas pucker, which will look even worse than wrinkling. 
How To Get Wrinkles Out
To get wrinkles out, there are really only three things you can do. One, let your clothes hang on their hangers for a few days. Wool naturally relaxes anyway, and should return to its original form (more or less) if you let it sit. For trousers, you can use clamp hangers like the ones our advertiser The Hanger Project sells. Those will help get the wrinkles out by letting the trousers hang by their own weight. 
The other ways include either learning how to press clothes yourself (which can be difficult on jackets) or sending it to someone who can do it for you (I use RAVE FabriCARE, as they’re one of the few places I know of that does it properly). 
Barring that, you can use a steamer in spot areas, but very conservatively. Avoid areas where shaping is perhaps most important, such as along where the lapel folds over, and around the chest.
The worst method is hanging your jacket in a steamy bathroom, where you have no control over where the steam goes. 
In the end, it’s worth noting that suits and sport coats don’t have to be completely wrinkle free in order to look good. In fact, wrinkles can make a jacket look a bit more lived in. How good a tailored jacket looks on you is more about its silhouette, which is determined by its cut and shaping, not the presence or absence of a little wrinkling. 

Why You Shouldn’t Hang Your Suit in the Bathroom

There’s a “trick” that often gets passed around on blogs and through magazines for how to get the wrinkles out of your suit. The trick is: hang your jacket in the bathroom while you take a hot shower. The steam supposedly helps the fibers relax, which in turn will let the wrinkles fall out. 

The idea sounds plausible, but in practice, doing something like this can be ineffective at best and damaging at worst. Depending on how big your bathroom is, you’re unlikely to even generate enough steam to make a difference. If you do generate enough steam, you can ruin your jacket by taking all the shape out. 

Why Steam Can be Bad

A long time ago, I wrote a post about the problem with steamers in general. The danger with these things is that you can “blow out” the seams and cause them to pucker if you’re not careful with how much steam you apply. What you really need is something that both pushes the steam through and sucks the moisture out, but those kinds of machines can be expensive (if not also cumbersome to use at home). 

With a suit jacket or sport coat, there’s other damage that can be done. Remember, a tailored jacket is not like a shirt. It’s not something that simply “hangs” from your shoulders. Rather, it’s shaped through careful ironing and pressing, which results in the jacket having a certain three dimensional form. In fact, the reason why people recommend half- or fully-canvassed jackets is because that canvas gives the jacket some shape. 

It’s true, when you run steam through your tailored jackets, you’re making the fibers relax. This does take out the wrinkling, but also takes out all the shaping as well. The result? A potentially limp jacket that no longer hangs on you the way it should. If you’ve put enough steam through, you may also make certain areas pucker, which will look even worse than wrinkling. 

How To Get Wrinkles Out

To get wrinkles out, there are really only three things you can do. One, let your clothes hang on their hangers for a few days. Wool naturally relaxes anyway, and should return to its original form (more or less) if you let it sit. For trousers, you can use clamp hangers like the ones our advertiser The Hanger Project sells. Those will help get the wrinkles out by letting the trousers hang by their own weight. 

The other ways include either learning how to press clothes yourself (which can be difficult on jackets) or sending it to someone who can do it for you (I use RAVE FabriCARE, as they’re one of the few places I know of that does it properly). 

Barring that, you can use a steamer in spot areas, but very conservatively. Avoid areas where shaping is perhaps most important, such as along where the lapel folds over, and around the chest.

The worst method is hanging your jacket in a steamy bathroom, where you have no control over where the steam goes. 

In the end, it’s worth noting that suits and sport coats don’t have to be completely wrinkle free in order to look good. In fact, wrinkles can make a jacket look a bit more lived in. How good a tailored jacket looks on you is more about its silhouette, which is determined by its cut and shaping, not the presence or absence of a little wrinkling. 

Storing Heavy Leather Jackets

In the past year or so, I’ve come to appreciate the value of good hangers. Suit jackets and sport coats have complex constructions, and improper hangers can warp and shift some of the material that goes into the shoulders (thus ruining not only your jacket’s silhouette, but also how it fits). I say that not because our advertiser The Hanger Project sells fancy hangers, but because a well-respected English tailor confirmed this for me two years ago, and Jeffery at Tutto Fatto a Mano said the same thing (Jeffery’s a tailor, a professional pattern maker for a large suit manufacturer, and one of the more fair-minded guys I know when it comes to clothing). 

How you store leather jackets is just as important. As I’ve mentioned, most leather jackets are made from lambskin, goatskin, horsehide, or cowhide. Generally speaking, the first two will be lighter in weight than the second two. Of course, you can thin any leather down to whatever thickness you wish, so it’s possible to have a lightweight horsehide jacket, but it’s rare. Most cowhide and horsehide jackets are quite heavy.

If you have such a jacket, storing it on a thin hanger can also ruin the shoulders. The weight of the leather will pull the garment down, and over the course of years, can stretch out and crack the shoulder line. Thus, some leather jacket enthusiasts recommend using hangers with wide moulded shoulders. I really like The Hanger Project’s, again not because they’re our advertiser, but simply because their hangers are nicely made and come in a width that perfectly fits my jackets. In fact, I’m buying a dozen more from them next month. The only downside is that they’re expensive and a bit wide at 2.5”. The extra width gives more support, but it also takes up more room in your closet. You can get slightly more affordable hangers through Wooden Hangers USA, and slightly thinner hangers at Butler Luxury

Better yet, the other solution is to not hang your jacket up at all. If you have the room, you can lay your jacket down and just store it somewhere. This will ensure that nothing will get stretched out. 

For vintage shoppers, it’s good to pay attention to the shoulders when buying heavy leather jackets. Some of these have been sitting on the racks for years, jam-packed into tight spaces. If the shoulder is damaged and cracked, it can be difficult to repair, and thus might be wise to pass on. 

(Photos via Mr. Moo)

StyleForum Trunk Show Sales
There was a StyleForum trunk show today for some of StyleForum’s affiliate vendors, and it’ll be happening again tomorrow from 12 noon until 7pm. From photos posted of today’s event, it looks like there was a great showcase of men’s clothing, footwear, and accessories, as well as some seriously delicious looking food and drinks. Readers located in New York City can catch tomorrow’s event at the second floor of the Third Streaming Gallery, located at 10 Greene Street. 
For people who can’t attend, there are two sales right now associated with the trunk show, which can be taken advantage of online. 
The first one is from The Hanger Project, who is offering a 15% discount plus free shipping on any order over $75. Just use the code TRUNKSHOW at checkout. 
The second is from No Man Walks Alone, who is offering a 25% discount on all Alfred Sargent footwear, Cantarelli sport coats, Esemplare outerwear, and Scott & Charters cashmere and lambswool sweaters. Use the discount code TRUNKSHOW1113 at checkout. 
Both codes expire tomorrow at 7pm EST (when the trunk show ends). 

StyleForum Trunk Show Sales

There was a StyleForum trunk show today for some of StyleForum’s affiliate vendors, and it’ll be happening again tomorrow from 12 noon until 7pm. From photos posted of today’s event, it looks like there was a great showcase of men’s clothing, footwear, and accessories, as well as some seriously delicious looking food and drinks. Readers located in New York City can catch tomorrow’s event at the second floor of the Third Streaming Gallery, located at 10 Greene Street. 

For people who can’t attend, there are two sales right now associated with the trunk show, which can be taken advantage of online. 

  • The first one is from The Hanger Project, who is offering a 15% discount plus free shipping on any order over $75. Just use the code TRUNKSHOW at checkout. 
  • The second is from No Man Walks Alone, who is offering a 25% discount on all Alfred Sargent footwear, Cantarelli sport coats, Esemplare outerwear, and Scott & Charters cashmere and lambswool sweaters. Use the discount code TRUNKSHOW1113 at checkout. 

Both codes expire tomorrow at 7pm EST (when the trunk show ends). 

Films about Italian Tailors

The long awaited Men of Cloth film is premiering in New York next month. The film is about three Italian tailors facing the decline of the apprenticeship system. Traditionally, very young men (often children, really), enter the tailoring trade at an early age, but with growing opportunities elsewhere, fewer and fewer have gone into tailoring, which has left many master tailors without students. This particular film focuses on three men: Nino Corvato and Joe Centofanti, who are both traditional custom tailors in the US, and Checchino Fonticoli, who has spent his entire career at Brioni.

The film is premiering on November 19th and 21st at New York’s Documentary Festival (Doc NYC). You can buy tickets here, and see the trailer here. Some other interesting documentaries will be at the festival, which you can browse here. Seems like it could make for a fun activity if you’re in town. 

Also, in case you’re unaware, our friend Gianluca Migliarotti (who directed and produced O’Mast) recently came out with a documentary on Florentine tailor Antonio Liverano. I had the opportunity to see it some time ago, and it’s a great film. Recommendable to anyone passionate about Italian tailoring, bespoke clothing, or even just traditional men’s style in general. You can see the trailer here. DVDs can be bought from The ArmouryExquisite Trimmings, or The Hanger Project

Five Tips For Polishing Shoes
I spent a little bit of time this weekend polishing an old pair of chukkas of mine. Though their pebble grain texture makes them feel more like fall/ winter boots, I’ve been wearing them a lot this summer. They just go too well with jeans.
Polishing shoes is simple enough. Take out the shoelaces and insert some shoe trees, so you have a hard surface to work on. Next, use an old rag to apply some leather conditioner (Saphir is nice, but I mostly use Allen Edmonds’ Conditioner and Cleaner). Then, apply your cream polish with a dauber (I use Saphir for polish, which our advertiser The Hanger Project sells, but you can also get nice results with Meltonian). Finally, brush your shoes out with a large horsehair brush to raise a shine. That, more or less, is the basic process of how to shine shoes. 
There are some things that I think can help improve your technique, however.
1. Brush your shoes down with a large horsehair brush before applying any conditioner. This will remove any specks of dust or dirt that can otherwise mar the leather.
2. I add a layer of wax polish on most of my shoes (almost everything except loafers, camp mocs, and boat shoes). This gives them a higher shine and an extra layer of protection. If you decide to use wax polish, brush down your shoes with a big horsehair brush first. This will even out your cream polish and give you a nicer surface to build a wax layer upon.
3. Also, if you use a wax polish, wipe your shoes down with a leather cleaner every once in a while, as wax can build up and make it difficult for your leather to absorb conditioner. Don’t go crazy though. Leather cleaner is powerful stuff, and you don’t want to damage your shoes’ uppers by scrubbing. Some gentle swipes with a soft cloth will do.
4. Most people try to match the color of their shoe polish as closely as possible to their shoes’ uppers. I actually often go one shade darker, as I find that helps build a bit more “depth” in the color, and makes for a more interesting patina. I’ve also heard of people using black polish for dark brown shoes and navy polish for black shoes. Choose according to your taste, but don’t be afraid to experiment a little. 
5. Finally, the most important tip of all: Always wait a while in between each of your steps. Wait for the conditioner to soak in before you apply cream polish. Wait for the cream polish to dry before you apply wax. Wait for the wax polish to settle before you buff everything out with a large brush. This is not only better for your shoes but it also makes the process of buffing much easier.
(Pictured above: Saphir cream and wax polishes, Edoya horsehair brush,  Crockett & Jones’ Brecon chukkas)

Five Tips For Polishing Shoes

I spent a little bit of time this weekend polishing an old pair of chukkas of mine. Though their pebble grain texture makes them feel more like fall/ winter boots, I’ve been wearing them a lot this summer. They just go too well with jeans.

Polishing shoes is simple enough. Take out the shoelaces and insert some shoe trees, so you have a hard surface to work on. Next, use an old rag to apply some leather conditioner (Saphir is nice, but I mostly use Allen Edmonds’ Conditioner and Cleaner). Then, apply your cream polish with a dauber (I use Saphir for polish, which our advertiser The Hanger Project sells, but you can also get nice results with Meltonian). Finally, brush your shoes out with a large horsehair brush to raise a shine. That, more or less, is the basic process of how to shine shoes. 

There are some things that I think can help improve your technique, however.

1. Brush your shoes down with a large horsehair brush before applying any conditioner. This will remove any specks of dust or dirt that can otherwise mar the leather.

2. I add a layer of wax polish on most of my shoes (almost everything except loafers, camp mocs, and boat shoes). This gives them a higher shine and an extra layer of protection. If you decide to use wax polish, brush down your shoes with a big horsehair brush first. This will even out your cream polish and give you a nicer surface to build a wax layer upon.

3. Also, if you use a wax polish, wipe your shoes down with a leather cleaner every once in a while, as wax can build up and make it difficult for your leather to absorb conditioner. Don’t go crazy though. Leather cleaner is powerful stuff, and you don’t want to damage your shoes’ uppers by scrubbing. Some gentle swipes with a soft cloth will do.

4. Most people try to match the color of their shoe polish as closely as possible to their shoes’ uppers. I actually often go one shade darker, as I find that helps build a bit more “depth” in the color, and makes for a more interesting patina. I’ve also heard of people using black polish for dark brown shoes and navy polish for black shoes. Choose according to your taste, but don’t be afraid to experiment a little. 

5. Finally, the most important tip of all: Always wait a while in between each of your steps. Wait for the conditioner to soak in before you apply cream polish. Wait for the cream polish to dry before you apply wax. Wait for the wax polish to settle before you buff everything out with a large brush. This is not only better for your shoes but it also makes the process of buffing much easier.

(Pictured above: Saphir cream and wax polishes, Edoya horsehair brush,  Crockett & Jones’ Brecon chukkas)

Q and Answer: What Shoe Care Products Should You Consider (Part Two)
Over the weekend, one of our readers asked us for our opinion on which shoe care products he should consider buying, so we started with what’s most important. Today, we’ll cover some stuff that’s less essential, but can still be kind of nice to have if you’re really getting into shoe care. 
1. Cleaners: It’s good to wipe down your shoes every once in a while with a cleaner if you use wax polishes. Doing so helps removes build-up and allows the leather to best take in conditioner. Lexol and Saphir Reno’Mat work really well as general purpose cleaners, while Saddle Soap is a bit better for rugged workboots. When using these, make sure you use a sparing amount and go gently. This stuff can be powerful. 
Saphir also makes a special cleaner for suede shoes, though much of stain prevention can be done by spraying your suede shoes down with Allen Edmonds’ Waterproofer. 
2. Welt Brush: These are handy for brushing out the dirt that accumulates in the welt (the area where the sole meets the upper). A Suitable Wardrobe sells one made from pig bristle, but you could also just use a stiff bristled toothbrush. 
3. Shoeshine Mat: Shoeshine mats are completely superfluous, but I really like them. They’re used to protect the surface of your table as you work on your shoes. Obviously, newspaper is a much cheaper solution, but if you don’t mind spending the money, La Cordonnerie Anglaise and Valmour make some really nice leather options.
4. Solvent dispensers: If you want to bull your shoes, you have to put a little bit of water on your polishing cloth to build a shine. One way is to do this is to fill up a very small cap with water and dip your cloth into it every once in a while. Another is to lightly spit (a bit gross, admittedly, but this is where the term “spit shine” comes from). I personally use this solvent dispenser, which you can see in action here. Amazon has a bunch of other options as well. 
5. Deer bone: Deer bones are used help smooth out any small, superficial scuffs on shell cordovan. I own and use one, but unless you take some kind of pleasure in obscure shoe care techniques, I think you can get equally good results with the back of a spoon. 
6. Chamois cloth: I like to dust off my shoes before putting them on. Allen Edmonds’s horsehair brush is good for this, as is Saphir’s chamois cloth. 
7. Shoe bags: Speaking of dust, shoe bags are useful for keeping shoes dust free when they’re not in use. The company that made your shoes probably provided you with a free pair, but if you need replacements, our advertiser The Hanger Project and this seller on Amazon seem to have good options. 
8. Edge dressing: The edges of soles can get pretty scuffed up from wear, so every once in a while, it’s a good idea to “repaint” them. Saphir and Allen Edmonds make some pretty good tools for this. 
9. Boxes: Finally, you might need a box to hold all this stuff. I talked about a bunch of options in this post, but since writing that, I bought this box by Gerstner & Sons. I highly recommend them if you don’t mind spending the money. 

Q and Answer: What Shoe Care Products Should You Consider (Part Two)

Over the weekend, one of our readers asked us for our opinion on which shoe care products he should consider buying, so we started with what’s most important. Today, we’ll cover some stuff that’s less essential, but can still be kind of nice to have if you’re really getting into shoe care. 

1. Cleaners: It’s good to wipe down your shoes every once in a while with a cleaner if you use wax polishes. Doing so helps removes build-up and allows the leather to best take in conditioner. Lexol and Saphir Reno’Mat work really well as general purpose cleaners, while Saddle Soap is a bit better for rugged workboots. When using these, make sure you use a sparing amount and go gently. This stuff can be powerful. 

Saphir also makes a special cleaner for suede shoes, though much of stain prevention can be done by spraying your suede shoes down with Allen Edmonds’ Waterproofer

2. Welt Brush: These are handy for brushing out the dirt that accumulates in the welt (the area where the sole meets the upper). A Suitable Wardrobe sells one made from pig bristle, but you could also just use a stiff bristled toothbrush. 

3. Shoeshine Mat: Shoeshine mats are completely superfluous, but I really like them. They’re used to protect the surface of your table as you work on your shoes. Obviously, newspaper is a much cheaper solution, but if you don’t mind spending the money, La Cordonnerie Anglaise and Valmour make some really nice leather options.

4. Solvent dispensers: If you want to bull your shoes, you have to put a little bit of water on your polishing cloth to build a shine. One way is to do this is to fill up a very small cap with water and dip your cloth into it every once in a while. Another is to lightly spit (a bit gross, admittedly, but this is where the term “spit shine” comes from). I personally use this solvent dispenser, which you can see in action here. Amazon has a bunch of other options as well. 

5. Deer bone: Deer bones are used help smooth out any small, superficial scuffs on shell cordovan. I own and use one, but unless you take some kind of pleasure in obscure shoe care techniques, I think you can get equally good results with the back of a spoon. 

6. Chamois cloth: I like to dust off my shoes before putting them on. Allen Edmonds’s horsehair brush is good for this, as is Saphir’s chamois cloth

7. Shoe bags: Speaking of dust, shoe bags are useful for keeping shoes dust free when they’re not in use. The company that made your shoes probably provided you with a free pair, but if you need replacements, our advertiser The Hanger Project and this seller on Amazon seem to have good options. 

8. Edge dressing: The edges of soles can get pretty scuffed up from wear, so every once in a while, it’s a good idea to “repaint” them. Saphir and Allen Edmonds make some pretty good tools for this. 

9. Boxes: Finally, you might need a box to hold all this stuff. I talked about a bunch of options in this post, but since writing that, I bought this box by Gerstner & Sons. I highly recommend them if you don’t mind spending the money. 

Q and Answer: What Shoe Care Products Should You Consider (Part One)
Lookyoungspeakold writes us to ask: I just watched the PTO episode on shoes and am now working on picking up some shoe care supplies. What things do you guys recommend?
It’s probably best to break this answer into parts, so you know what’s important to have, and what’s just nice to have. Today, we’ll cover the important stuff.
1. Leather conditioner: Leather needs to be conditioned every once in a while, otherwise it’ll dry out and crack. For this, Saphir Renovateur is commonly said to be the best, but I’ve gotten equally good results with Allen Edmonds’ Conditioner & Cleaner. Some say you shouldn’t mix conditioners and cleaners (just as you shouldn’t mix shampoo and conditioner), but I’ve used this stuff for years and haven’t seen any ill effects. If you’re worried about it, you can turn to Lexol, who sells them in separate bottles, or get Venetian cream. 
For workboots, I really like Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP, which you can read about here, and if you have any exotics, Saphir makes a special conditioner called Reptan. 
2. Polishes and Waxes: To hide scuffs and build a shine, you’ll need an assortment of polishes and waxes. If you want to maintain your shoes’ original color, use a polish that best approximates it or go one shade lighter. To build a slightly more antiqued look over time, go with something a touch darker. For the most part, try to avoid neutrals, as they can sometimes build a white flakey residue. 
I use cream polish on all my shoes, but for any that need an extra layer of protection (e.g. winter boots) or a higher gloss finish (e.g. oxfords), I add a finishing layer of wax polish. 
Again, Saphir here is often said to be the best, and if you’re a shoe aficionado, these can feel a bit more fancy to use. You can get them from The Hanger Project (one of our advertisers), Exquisite Trimmings, A Suitable Wardrobe, and Gentlemen’s Footwear (the last of which is offering a free Saphir chamois cloth with any $50+ purchase of shoe care products this week). If Saphir is too expensive for you, however, I’ve gotten excellent results from Meltonian cream polishes and Lincoln waxes. 
3. Brushes: Obviously, to apply the creams and waxes, you’ll need some brushes. There’s some really nice stuff here by Edoya and Abbeyhorn, but they’re expensive. Check them out if you take a special interest in this stuff, but otherwise, know that you only really need a basic dauber and large horsehair brush, both of which you can buy for $5-15 from The Hanger Project and Allen Edmonds. 
4. Suede products: If you have suede shoes, you’ll want to get a couple of special products. First is a waterproofing spray, which will not only help protect your shoes from water, but also any stains that may come their way. A suede eraser can also be good for spot cleaning, and a suede brush is useful for rebuilding a nap. Suede brushes can come in crepe or wire. I really like the wire ones from Edoya, but Allen Edmonds has a much more affordable version for $6.50
5. Shoe trees and horns: Along with the leather conditioner, I think these last two products might be the most important to buy. First are cedar shoe trees, which you should always put into your shoes when you’re not wearing them. This will help maintain your shoes’ shape and minimize creases. You can buy them for about $11 a pair from Sierra Trading Post once you apply their DealFlyer coupons (they’re out of stock at the moment, but they’ll likely bring them back). Nordstrom Rack also sometimes has them in-store for about $12 a pair, and Jos A Bank will regularly do 3-for-1 deals. For boots, you’ll need something bigger to fill up the space. I recommend these from Woodlore. 
And lastly, you’ll want to use a shoehorn whenever you put on your shoes so that you don’t crush the heel counter. Abbeyhorn makes some really nice ones. For something more affordable, these basic metal ones will serve you fine, and if you’re ever in a pinch and find yourself without a shoehorn, try using your credit card or driver’s license. If you place it at the heel, just as you would with a shoehorn, your foot should slip in pretty easily.
Check back Wednesday for part two to this answer, where I’ll go over some stuff I think is nice to have, but not as essential as what’s mentioned above.

Q and Answer: What Shoe Care Products Should You Consider (Part One)

Lookyoungspeakold writes us to ask: I just watched the PTO episode on shoes and am now working on picking up some shoe care supplies. What things do you guys recommend?

It’s probably best to break this answer into parts, so you know what’s important to have, and what’s just nice to have. Today, we’ll cover the important stuff.

1. Leather conditioner: Leather needs to be conditioned every once in a while, otherwise it’ll dry out and crack. For this, Saphir Renovateur is commonly said to be the best, but I’ve gotten equally good results with Allen Edmonds’ Conditioner & Cleaner. Some say you shouldn’t mix conditioners and cleaners (just as you shouldn’t mix shampoo and conditioner), but I’ve used this stuff for years and haven’t seen any ill effects. If you’re worried about it, you can turn to Lexol, who sells them in separate bottles, or get Venetian cream.

For workboots, I really like Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP, which you can read about here, and if you have any exotics, Saphir makes a special conditioner called Reptan.

2. Polishes and Waxes: To hide scuffs and build a shine, you’ll need an assortment of polishes and waxes. If you want to maintain your shoes’ original color, use a polish that best approximates it or go one shade lighter. To build a slightly more antiqued look over time, go with something a touch darker. For the most part, try to avoid neutrals, as they can sometimes build a white flakey residue.

I use cream polish on all my shoes, but for any that need an extra layer of protection (e.g. winter boots) or a higher gloss finish (e.g. oxfords), I add a finishing layer of wax polish.

Again, Saphir here is often said to be the best, and if you’re a shoe aficionado, these can feel a bit more fancy to use. You can get them from The Hanger Project (one of our advertisers), Exquisite Trimmings, A Suitable Wardrobe, and Gentlemen’s Footwear (the last of which is offering a free Saphir chamois cloth with any $50+ purchase of shoe care products this week). If Saphir is too expensive for you, however, I’ve gotten excellent results from Meltonian cream polishes and Lincoln waxes.

3. Brushes: Obviously, to apply the creams and waxes, you’ll need some brushes. There’s some really nice stuff here by Edoya and Abbeyhorn, but they’re expensive. Check them out if you take a special interest in this stuff, but otherwise, know that you only really need a basic dauber and large horsehair brush, both of which you can buy for $5-15 from The Hanger Project and Allen Edmonds

4. Suede products: If you have suede shoes, you’ll want to get a couple of special products. First is a waterproofing spray, which will not only help protect your shoes from water, but also any stains that may come their way. A suede eraser can also be good for spot cleaning, and a suede brush is useful for rebuilding a nap. Suede brushes can come in crepe or wire. I really like the wire ones from Edoya, but Allen Edmonds has a much more affordable version for $6.50

5. Shoe trees and horns: Along with the leather conditioner, I think these last two products might be the most important to buy. First are cedar shoe trees, which you should always put into your shoes when you’re not wearing them. This will help maintain your shoes’ shape and minimize creases. You can buy them for about $11 a pair from Sierra Trading Post once you apply their DealFlyer coupons (they’re out of stock at the moment, but they’ll likely bring them back). Nordstrom Rack also sometimes has them in-store for about $12 a pair, and Jos A Bank will regularly do 3-for-1 deals. For boots, you’ll need something bigger to fill up the space. I recommend these from Woodlore.

And lastly, you’ll want to use a shoehorn whenever you put on your shoes so that you don’t crush the heel counter. Abbeyhorn makes some really nice ones. For something more affordable, these basic metal ones will serve you fine, and if you’re ever in a pinch and find yourself without a shoehorn, try using your credit card or driver’s license. If you place it at the heel, just as you would with a shoehorn, your foot should slip in pretty easily.

Check back Wednesday for part two to this answer, where I’ll go over some stuff I think is nice to have, but not as essential as what’s mentioned above.

Why Pay for Canvas?

As many readers know, suit jackets and sport coats mainly come in three types of construction: fused, half-canvassed, and fully-canvassed. A fused jacket will have a lightweight fusible interlining sandwiched in-between the two outer shell fabrics, and a canvassed one will have a canvas made from animal hair (usually horse or camel) mixed with either cotton or wool. Generally speaking, canvassed jackets will cost considerably more than fused ones. So why pay for them?

Well, one of the reasons is that a canvassed jacket will have a lot more three-dimensional shape. Animal hair can be molded using steam, heat, and pressure, much like how a woman’s hair can be shaped using a hot curling iron. With that shape, you get a much more beautiful garment. 

Take a look above. The top most photo is of Alan See with his lovely wife at the menswear trade show Pitti Uomo. He’s seen here wearing a three-piece suit by Liverano & Liverano, a bespoke tailoring house in Florence, Italy. Notice how his lapel line “blooms” as it moves from the buttoning point to his shoulders? It has a “roll” to it, rather than being pressed flat against his chest. Similarly, just below him are JefferyD and MostExerent, both of which also have nice, shapely lapels that “roll” near their buttoning points.

To understand how this is achieved, look at the bottommost photo above (also taken from JefferyD). Moving from left to right, the first material is haircloth, which is made from wiry horsetail strands. This is used to add shape to the chest and shoulders (ever put on a Tom Ford suit and feel like you’re wearing a prosthetic chest? This is because he puts in a ton of haircloth into his suits). The second material is wrapped haircloth, which is a softer, more affordable alternative. Next, we have a wool canvas (the brown material) and a fusible (the black material). These are added on top of the haircloth and extend from the shoulders to the hem (the haircloth is only in the chest). Notice that the brown wool canvas has a natural roll to it while the black fusible is limp. This natural roll is what gives those lapels their “bloom.” 

Of course, this isn’t to say that fused garments aren’t worth buying. They’re considerably more affordable, which is nice if you’re on a budget or if your tastes are still developing. It can take a long, long time for your tastes to settle and for you to develop an eye for what truly fits and flatters you the most. It would be a shame if you had to make your mistakes on much more expensive garments. 

If you have the money, however, and you feel confident in your choices, canvassed garments can be much more handsome. And once you own some, know how to best preserve their shape (after all, that’s what you paid for). Make sure your jackets aren’t smashed against each other in your closet and use hangers with wide, flared out shoulders. Our advertiser The Hanger Project sells some really nice ones, but if you want something more affordable, check out Wooden Hangers USA. Also, stay away from bad dry cleaners, as they can really press the life out of your jackets’ lapels, shoulders, and chests. I ship my stuff to RAVE FabriCare, but you can look for someone more local. Finally, be careful with garment steamers, and don’t hang your jackets in the bathroom while taking a shower. Steam will take out the wrinkles, it’s true, but it’ll also take out the shape. If that ever happens, you can send your jacket to a place that gives a good handpressing. That should be done every once in a while anyway, just so your jackets can maintain their form. 

(Photos via NY Mag, JefferyD, and MostExerent)