WSJ on the Shell Cordovan Shortage
If you’ve been in the market for shell cordovan shoes, you may have noticed there’s been a shortage lately. Retailers have been slow at getting them in, largely because manufacturers can’t get the material from Horween, who is the most popular supplier for the leather. When they do get some in, it’s usually in darker colors (such as the Horween’s “color 8” and black), as lighter colors show imperfections in the leather too easily. Which means if you’ve been wanting a pair of cigar shell cordovan boots from Alden, like those shown above, you’ve had to sit on a waitlist that stretches back almost a year (I’m on such a list, and am still waiting for a phone call). 
The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about what might be going on:

In the clubby world of men’s high fashion, there are rumors and theories. Some blame hide speculators who snapped up skins as the price of leather was about to rise. Others point to Chinese shoe manufacturers, saying they bought up entire horsehides—which include both the coveted small rear shell pieces and the cheaper and larger front pieces—in lieu of more expensive steer hide when prices for the latter spiked to historic highs in 2012. However, there is little proof of either.
Matthew Abbott, technical sales director at tannery Joseph Clayton & Sons Ltd., based in Chesterfield, England, said the supply of hides was also hurt by a horse-meat scandal last year in the U.K. “There was nothing wrong with the meat, just that it was misidentified,” he said. “But I suppose people didn’t want anything to do with horse for a while.”

On the upside? Things might be rebounding. 

Nevertheless, there is a glimmer of hope for those seeking a pair of loafers or oxfords. Mr. Horween reported that the hide supply began to return to pre-drought levels at the end of the last year, which means cordovan supplies for shoemakers may soon be back to normal. His advice to covetous shoppers: Sit tight. More is coming soon. That doesn’t quite mean that cordovan shoes will be plentiful, however. “It’s still not as much as the market wants,” said Mr. Horween.

Here’s to hoping. 
(Photo via LeatherSoul)

WSJ on the Shell Cordovan Shortage

If you’ve been in the market for shell cordovan shoes, you may have noticed there’s been a shortage lately. Retailers have been slow at getting them in, largely because manufacturers can’t get the material from Horween, who is the most popular supplier for the leather. When they do get some in, it’s usually in darker colors (such as the Horween’s “color 8” and black), as lighter colors show imperfections in the leather too easily. Which means if you’ve been wanting a pair of cigar shell cordovan boots from Alden, like those shown above, you’ve had to sit on a waitlist that stretches back almost a year (I’m on such a list, and am still waiting for a phone call). 

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about what might be going on:

In the clubby world of men’s high fashion, there are rumors and theories. Some blame hide speculators who snapped up skins as the price of leather was about to rise. Others point to Chinese shoe manufacturers, saying they bought up entire horsehides—which include both the coveted small rear shell pieces and the cheaper and larger front pieces—in lieu of more expensive steer hide when prices for the latter spiked to historic highs in 2012. However, there is little proof of either.

Matthew Abbott, technical sales director at tannery Joseph Clayton & Sons Ltd., based in Chesterfield, England, said the supply of hides was also hurt by a horse-meat scandal last year in the U.K. “There was nothing wrong with the meat, just that it was misidentified,” he said. “But I suppose people didn’t want anything to do with horse for a while.”

On the upside? Things might be rebounding. 

Nevertheless, there is a glimmer of hope for those seeking a pair of loafers or oxfords. Mr. Horween reported that the hide supply began to return to pre-drought levels at the end of the last year, which means cordovan supplies for shoemakers may soon be back to normal. His advice to covetous shoppers: Sit tight. More is coming soon. That doesn’t quite mean that cordovan shoes will be plentiful, however. “It’s still not as much as the market wants,” said Mr. Horween.

Here’s to hoping. 

(Photo via LeatherSoul)

Technology and Fashion
One of the things that interest me about men’s clothing is not just the clothes themselves, but also the business of fashion - how things are produced, marketed, and even sold. In 2013, there were a couple of interesting stories about how developments in technology might affect the way we interact with and buy clothes.
Online Fitting: Our friend Jeffery Diduch had a post last year about developments that could improve our online shopping experience. The biggest difficulty with online shopping, obviously, is the inability to try things on before you buy, which is why it’s helpful to do business with stores with generous return policies. Companies are coming up with innovative ways to reduce that return-rate, however. True Fit, for example, is creating a database of garment measurements across companies, so that if you’re shopping at, say, Ralph Lauren, you can get a suggestion on which suit you should buy if you already know that the Brooks Brothers suit you have in your closet fits you well. You can already see how this works at places such as Nordstrom. 
The Store is Everywhere: There were a couple of stories last year about potential smart phone developments that would allow people to take pictures of others on the street, and then be able to identify exactly where they can buy the clothes and accessories they saw. This would essentially make the entire world a store where you can instantly purchase almost anything you see. Business of Fashion - a fashion industry trade publication - had some interesting thoughts on what this could mean for traditional retail.
Science Fiction: There were also some more futuristic predictions. Ray Kurzweil predicted that we’ll start to see 3D printing for clothes by 2020 (surprisingly not that far away) and Business of Fashion wrote about how the emerging field of “digital biology” - which enables biologists to not just read, but also write genetic code - could allow companies to design “synthetic life” materials. This could allow us to “grow” things such as self-repairing, self-cleaning garments, or create garments that can reproduce themselves and receive “updates” (new colors, patterns, etc), much like how software updates on our computers. 
Of course, many of the advancements in technology will affect fashion in ways we won’t immediately see or realize. Increasing computing power and the digitization of data has allowed companies such as Zara to react faster to consumer trends, and as companies grow in their ability to marshal "big data," we’ll likely see fast fashion get even faster (a speeding up of trends and a continuing drop in prices). For better or worse, the idea that men’s style moves at a glacial pace might not always hold true. 
(Pictured above: an early prototype of "body scanning" pods used for custom tailoring. This contraption was made in the 1940s)

Technology and Fashion

One of the things that interest me about men’s clothing is not just the clothes themselves, but also the business of fashion - how things are produced, marketed, and even sold. In 2013, there were a couple of interesting stories about how developments in technology might affect the way we interact with and buy clothes.

  • Online Fitting: Our friend Jeffery Diduch had a post last year about developments that could improve our online shopping experience. The biggest difficulty with online shopping, obviously, is the inability to try things on before you buy, which is why it’s helpful to do business with stores with generous return policies. Companies are coming up with innovative ways to reduce that return-rate, however. True Fit, for example, is creating a database of garment measurements across companies, so that if you’re shopping at, say, Ralph Lauren, you can get a suggestion on which suit you should buy if you already know that the Brooks Brothers suit you have in your closet fits you well. You can already see how this works at places such as Nordstrom
  • The Store is Everywhere: There were a couple of stories last year about potential smart phone developments that would allow people to take pictures of others on the street, and then be able to identify exactly where they can buy the clothes and accessories they saw. This would essentially make the entire world a store where you can instantly purchase almost anything you see. Business of Fashion - a fashion industry trade publication - had some interesting thoughts on what this could mean for traditional retail.
  • Science Fiction: There were also some more futuristic predictions. Ray Kurzweil predicted that we’ll start to see 3D printing for clothes by 2020 (surprisingly not that far away) and Business of Fashion wrote about how the emerging field of “digital biology” - which enables biologists to not just read, but also write genetic code - could allow companies to design “synthetic life” materials. This could allow us to “grow” things such as self-repairing, self-cleaning garments, or create garments that can reproduce themselves and receive “updates” (new colors, patterns, etc), much like how software updates on our computers. 

Of course, many of the advancements in technology will affect fashion in ways we won’t immediately see or realize. Increasing computing power and the digitization of data has allowed companies such as Zara to react faster to consumer trends, and as companies grow in their ability to marshal "big data," we’ll likely see fast fashion get even faster (a speeding up of trends and a continuing drop in prices). For better or worse, the idea that men’s style moves at a glacial pace might not always hold true. 

(Pictured above: an early prototype of "body scanning" pods used for custom tailoring. This contraption was made in the 1940s)

Average young men—in the male of the species, interest in fashion dies at middle age—have become so overwhelmed by images of the flamboyant that they find their own clothing shamefully deficient. The solution? To look acceptable, dress exactly as the Internet tells you.”

(Full story at the Wall Street Journal)

“People dress up for funerals. Why not dress up to celebrate that you’re alive?” — Gay Talese. (Quote taken from a fun Wall Street Journal article about Mr. Talese’s style)

The Custom Shirts Series, Part II: How Should a Shirt Fit?

Most men can find a well-fitting shirt off the rack. The question is just how well fitting they want it. SpooPoker, a member at StyleForum, posted a photo of himself in his made-to-measure pink Charvet shirt some years ago. I think it’s a good example of what a truly well fitting shirt should look like. Let’s talk about each dimension of a shirt’s fit in turn:

  • Shoulders: How cleanly a shirt fits will be affected by whether your shoulders curve forward or backward, and whether they slope. More often than not, they do, and usually one will curve or slope more than the other. This will create wrinkling around the collar bone or, sometimes, the rib cage. To ameliorate this, a shirtmaker has to cut the shoulders and yoke correctly in order to account for your body’s nuances.  
  • Chest: A shirt’s chest should fit cleanly, but it should also be somewhat full in order to allow movement. There shouldn’t be any pulling under the armholes or around the front’s buttons. 
  • Waist: Whether you have the waist taper in or not depends on your build. One thing is for certain, however - your shirt should flatter you when you’re standing up or sitting down. Many men opt for overly slim fitting shirts, only to realize that their shirts have unsightly pulls across the stomach when they’re seated. This should be avoided.
  • Sleeves: Correctly set sleeves should come down to the webbing between your thumb and index finger when the cuffs are unbuttoned. When the cuffs are buttoned, the sleeve should sit a little bit below your wrist. By having some extra material in the length, you’ll ensure that your sleeves won’t ride up your arm when you extend them. Above are two photos from Men’s Ex that illustrate this well. 
  • Neck: If you button your shirt all the way up, you should be able to comfortably slip just your index finger between your neck and collar. Note that this is only after a few washes, however. Most shirts fit a bit looser in the neck when they’re new, so that they can account for shrinkage. 
  • Collar: When your collar is buttoned up, the collar points should touch your chest. If it doesn’t, your collar is too short. 
There are two excellent videos that discuss some of these points further. The first is Jesse’s visit to CEGO Custom Shirtmaker in New York City. The second is the Wall Street Journal’s interview with David Hamilton. Be sure to watch both of them. 

Now, as to whether you need to go custom in order to achieve a good fit depends on how well off-the-rack shirts currently flatter you and how demanding your standards are. Most men will be fine with off-the-rack, and they can get an alterations tailor to nip the waist, slim the sleeves, and tighten the cuffs if they need to. However, it’s also quite common for men to have curved or sloping shoulders, which in turn gives them a slightly less clean look. If you want to solve those issues, sometimes a custom shirtmaker is the only way to go. 

Whichever you choose - custom or off-the-rack - it’s worth emphasizing that your shirt should allow movement. Most men wear shirts that are too baggy; many wear them too tight. Getting the right fit is about finding that delicate balance between flattery and function. Your shirt should look nice even if you extend your arms or sit down, so don’t judge its fit by just how well it looks in front of the mirror. Take Spoo’s shirt above as an example. It’s neither baggy nor tight, so there aren’t excessive folds of cloth or pulling in the waist or chest areas. It fits cleanly, just as a truly well-fitting shirt should. 

Check back tomorrow, when we’ll talk about shirt fabrics. 

Bruce Boyer in the Wall Street Journal
Bruce Boyer, one of the best voices we have in men’s clothing and style, was recently interviewed in the Wall Street Journal:

It is both delusional and stupid to think that clothes don’t really matter and we should all wear whatever we want. Most people don’t take clothing seriously enough, but whether we should or not, clothes do talk to us and we make decisions based on people’s appearances.
On the other hand, there are people, particularly in the fashion industry, who take clothing too seriously. We aren’t doing biomedical research or working on some nuclear collider. Clothing is not everything in life and it won’t solve problems of famine and overpopulation. It’s a fine balance you have to strike and that’s what I try to do.
[…]
I’ve learned a lot from bloggers. Some of the young men doing it are wonderful and know much more than I do. But what bothers me is that some of them seem to know everything about clothing except how to enjoy it. They want the latest, hippest labels and they know what all the most expensive brands are but you get the feeling that they really don’t enjoy it or don’t know how to wear it the way they should.

You can read the rest here. 
(photo via The Sartorialist)

Bruce Boyer in the Wall Street Journal

Bruce Boyer, one of the best voices we have in men’s clothing and style, was recently interviewed in the Wall Street Journal:

It is both delusional and stupid to think that clothes don’t really matter and we should all wear whatever we want. Most people don’t take clothing seriously enough, but whether we should or not, clothes do talk to us and we make decisions based on people’s appearances.

On the other hand, there are people, particularly in the fashion industry, who take clothing too seriously. We aren’t doing biomedical research or working on some nuclear collider. Clothing is not everything in life and it won’t solve problems of famine and overpopulation. It’s a fine balance you have to strike and that’s what I try to do.

[…]

I’ve learned a lot from bloggers. Some of the young men doing it are wonderful and know much more than I do. But what bothers me is that some of them seem to know everything about clothing except how to enjoy it. They want the latest, hippest labels and they know what all the most expensive brands are but you get the feeling that they really don’t enjoy it or don’t know how to wear it the way they should.

You can read the rest here

(photo via The Sartorialist)

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on the cost of a domestically-produced pair of premium blue jeans. Ignore the fact that this is a laughable play for the unadorned, “authentic” market by True Religion. The numbers are fascinating. The markups here are significant, but not ridiculous. There are overhead significant costs that aren’t listed here - not least of which is marketing.
Among the other interesting findings is that only 1% of the jeans market is for jeans that cost more than $50.

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on the cost of a domestically-produced pair of premium blue jeans. Ignore the fact that this is a laughable play for the unadorned, “authentic” market by True Religion. The numbers are fascinating. The markups here are significant, but not ridiculous. There are overhead significant costs that aren’t listed here - not least of which is marketing.

Among the other interesting findings is that only 1% of the jeans market is for jeans that cost more than $50.

Ascot Chang, the best bespoke shirt maker I’ve ever used, just got featured in the Wall Street Journal. 
I have an interview with Tony and Justin Chang that will be published soon. It will be featured as part of a special series on custom shirts, so keep an eye out!

Ascot Chang, the best bespoke shirt maker I’ve ever used, just got featured in the Wall Street Journal. 

I have an interview with Tony and Justin Chang that will be published soon. It will be featured as part of a special series on custom shirts, so keep an eye out!

In my opinion, O’Mast is going to be the most important documentary on menswear to come out in years, possible a decade. The trailer is absolutely incredible, and if you haven’t seen it already, it’s a must see. 
The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about it. This excerpt caught my eye. 

While the sartorially inclined may be eager to see “O’Mast,” Mr. Migliarotti, who studied filmmaking at New York University, has had trouble garnering commercial interest. He originally secured funding from an institution in Naples, but it pulled out after he made the film. He finished work on “O’Mast” in February and he hasn’t secured a distributor, though he says he is currently in talks with a few.

What’s going on here? I don’t know anything about the film industry, but seriously - given how many men are interested in menswear these days, this film has a ton of potential. Film folks, let’s get on this. 

In my opinion, O’Mast is going to be the most important documentary on menswear to come out in years, possible a decade. The trailer is absolutely incredible, and if you haven’t seen it already, it’s a must see. 

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about it. This excerpt caught my eye. 

While the sartorially inclined may be eager to see “O’Mast,” Mr. Migliarotti, who studied filmmaking at New York University, has had trouble garnering commercial interest. He originally secured funding from an institution in Naples, but it pulled out after he made the film. He finished work on “O’Mast” in February and he hasn’t secured a distributor, though he says he is currently in talks with a few.

What’s going on here? I don’t know anything about the film industry, but seriously - given how many men are interested in menswear these days, this film has a ton of potential. Film folks, let’s get on this. 

WSJ: How to Get the Bespoke Suit That Fits
Featuring G. Bruce Boyer and MistahWong.

WSJ: How to Get the Bespoke Suit That Fits

Featuring G. Bruce Boyer and MistahWong.