Bolder Ties for a Less Boring Look

Bold ties have a bad reputation, and perhaps for good reason. In the 1940s, shortly after the war, wild tie designs took the US by storm, creating what Esquire would later coin as “the American bold look.” Perhaps it’s because livelier ties helped uplift men’s spirits, or because an embattled Britain could no longer supply the US with its usual materials. Whatever the reason, rayon and Dacron replaced silk, and conservative patterns were forgotten in favor of more flamboyant designs. Rummage through the discount bin in any thrift store today and you can see some of them: ties made with African or Indian iconography, large motifs of pin up girls, or just strange designs inspired by art movements from the early 20th century.

There are times, however, when a bolder tie can look good, and just because many bold ties have been designed poorly (both in the past and today), doesn’t mean that every one should be avoided. Just check out some of the examples above, which I took from Anderson & Sheppard’s vanity book, A Style is Born. Impeccably well-dressed men wearing slightly more interesting designs. There’s a bright fuchsia tie that makes a grey suit look more cheery; a paint splattered grey tie that makes a navy suit look more interesting; and a green tie with an unusual motif that looks not too unlike those 1940s designs I mentioned earlier. For an even bolder look, check out this photo of Barima Nyantekyi, who was shot by Rose Callahan for her book on modern-day dandies. Few men will ever look that good. 

There are a couple of companies I like for bold neckwear. Morigi Milano has some old, deadstock Arnys designs, which were made before the company was sold to the luxury conglomerate LVMH. Their old tie designer, Dominique Lelys, has started his own line called Le Lys, which is available at Cuffs, but the designs aren’t as whimsical (they do have contrasting front and back blades, however, like some of Zegna’s ties). In addition, I really like Drake’s and Battistoni, although many of Battistoni’s better designs are hard to find in the US (they’re carried at Barney’s, but the selection is often not that appealing). Our friend Niyi also has a great line using fabrics from Nigeria, and he’s having a sale at the moment, with a new fall line dropping soon. Lastly, our advertiser Chipp has what they call their “conversational ties,” which have cleverly hidden messages. You can see some of them being worn by Voxsartoria.

Of course, I think most men do best with a drawer full of basic, conservative neckwear. Lots of repp stripes, foulards, and grenadines in dark colors such as navy, dark brown, and forest green. But it also doesn’t hurt to have a few more interesting pieces as well. Things don’t always have to be so boring. 

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).

Five Sneakers for Summer
As much as I like leather hard-bottom shoes, summer is really a great time for sneakers. They go well with chinos and madras shirts, jeans and t-shirts, and even the occasional casual button-up with shorts. I mainly rely on five different models for my rotation.
German Army Trainers: If German Army Trainers (GATs for short) seem new but familiar, it might be because the two brothers who invented them would later go on to launch Adidas and Puma, two classic sneaker companies that often make shoes bearing a familial resemblance to GATs. They were also used by German soldiers for indoor exercises during the 1970s, which is how they got their name.
You can find GATs today at a pretty affordable price. They’re about $30 if you’re in Germany and can get to a military surplus store, but if you’re not, you can find them between $60 and $90 on eBay and through German proxy sellers. Jesse wrote a great article on how to score them here.
There are also a couple of slightly modified designs by Svensson and Maison Martin Margiela (the second of which issues them in a number of different colors every season). I have the black pair you see above, the grey ones here, and the classic white leather/ grey suede combination. The last is probably the most popular among style enthusiasts, but I find myself wearing the black and grey pairs most often. You can get Margiela GATs for about $250 on eBay or during sale seasons. 
Common Projects: Enough has probably been said about how useful this minimalistic design is, so let’s talk about alternatives, in case Common Projects are too expensive for you. The good news is that there are a ton of alternatives. Check, for example, these by Acne (some on sale here), ETQ, Erik Schedin, Vor, Marc Jacobs, Svensson, National Standard (some on sale here), Twins for Peace, Kent Wang, Zegna Sport, Aspesi, Buttero, Generic Surplus, Superga, and Adidas (Stan Smiths, Soloist collaboration, and Campus 80s). Admittedly, the last few don’t look very much like Common Projects, but they’re somewhat similar and it’s nice to have options.  
Hydrogen-1: A few months ago, Hydrogen-1 offered to send me a free pair of sneakers to review. I was skeptical, to be honest, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to give their black Oxygen high-tops a try, so long as they knew a positive review wasn’t guaranteed.
I’ve been happily surprised with them and find they’re just as well made as my Common Projects or Margielas. The slightly pebbled black calf leather doesn’t show creases easily and the padded collar makes them exceptionally comfortable. The sole looks chunkier online than in real life, but they do give the shoe a nice casual look. Like the aforementioned minimalistic options, the simplicity of these high-tops makes them very versatile.
I also like these grey chukkas. Hero, the founder behind the company, tells me they’ll be doing an end-of-season sale in a few months, and that both models will be coming out in different colorways and materials this October or so.
Billy Reid: Billy Reid has a collaboration line with K-Swiss that I really like. It’s a very sporty, slightly retro design that goes well with a grey sweatshirt and pair of jeans. A bit more “designed” than the other options on this list, but in a way that still feels simple and basic.
Canvas sneakers: The great thing about sneakers is that they don’t have to be expensive. If you’re on a budget, aim for something classic and made from canvas. My go-tos are Superga 1705s in white and navy, but you can read about a number of other options in this old post I wrote a couple of summers ago. It’s hard to go wrong with any of those models.
If you want something more unique, check out these other designs by Superga, Converse, Twins for Peace, Industry of All Nations, and Nigel Cabourn. Wooden Sleepers also has a pretty neat-looking Italian military sneaker that I’ve always admired. Like with all the models mentioned in this post, I think they’d make for a really great pair of summer shoes.
(Pictured above: Margiela GATs, Common Project Achilles, Hydrogen-1 Oxygens, Billy Reid x K Swiss, and Superga 1705s. For what it’s worth, I’ve found all these run true to size, except for the Supergas, where I had to take a 10 instead of my regular 9).

Five Sneakers for Summer

As much as I like leather hard-bottom shoes, summer is really a great time for sneakers. They go well with chinos and madras shirts, jeans and t-shirts, and even the occasional casual button-up with shorts. I mainly rely on five different models for my rotation.

German Army Trainers: If German Army Trainers (GATs for short) seem new but familiar, it might be because the two brothers who invented them would later go on to launch Adidas and Puma, two classic sneaker companies that often make shoes bearing a familial resemblance to GATs. They were also used by German soldiers for indoor exercises during the 1970s, which is how they got their name.

You can find GATs today at a pretty affordable price. They’re about $30 if you’re in Germany and can get to a military surplus store, but if you’re not, you can find them between $60 and $90 on eBay and through German proxy sellers. Jesse wrote a great article on how to score them here.

There are also a couple of slightly modified designs by Svensson and Maison Martin Margiela (the second of which issues them in a number of different colors every season). I have the black pair you see above, the grey ones here, and the classic white leather/ grey suede combination. The last is probably the most popular among style enthusiasts, but I find myself wearing the black and grey pairs most often. You can get Margiela GATs for about $250 on eBay or during sale seasons. 

Common Projects: Enough has probably been said about how useful this minimalistic design is, so let’s talk about alternatives, in case Common Projects are too expensive for you. The good news is that there are a ton of alternatives. Check, for example, these by Acne (some on sale here), ETQ, Erik Schedin, Vor, Marc Jacobs, Svensson, National Standard (some on sale here), Twins for Peace, Kent Wang, Zegna Sport, Aspesi, Buttero, Generic Surplus, Superga, and Adidas (Stan Smiths, Soloist collaboration, and Campus 80s). Admittedly, the last few don’t look very much like Common Projects, but they’re somewhat similar and it’s nice to have options.  

Hydrogen-1: A few months ago, Hydrogen-1 offered to send me a free pair of sneakers to review. I was skeptical, to be honest, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to give their black Oxygen high-tops a try, so long as they knew a positive review wasn’t guaranteed.

I’ve been happily surprised with them and find they’re just as well made as my Common Projects or Margielas. The slightly pebbled black calf leather doesn’t show creases easily and the padded collar makes them exceptionally comfortable. The sole looks chunkier online than in real life, but they do give the shoe a nice casual look. Like the aforementioned minimalistic options, the simplicity of these high-tops makes them very versatile.

I also like these grey chukkas. Hero, the founder behind the company, tells me they’ll be doing an end-of-season sale in a few months, and that both models will be coming out in different colorways and materials this October or so.

Billy Reid: Billy Reid has a collaboration line with K-Swiss that I really like. It’s a very sporty, slightly retro design that goes well with a grey sweatshirt and pair of jeans. A bit more “designed” than the other options on this list, but in a way that still feels simple and basic.

Canvas sneakers: The great thing about sneakers is that they don’t have to be expensive. If you’re on a budget, aim for something classic and made from canvas. My go-tos are Superga 1705s in white and navy, but you can read about a number of other options in this old post I wrote a couple of summers ago. It’s hard to go wrong with any of those models.

If you want something more unique, check out these other designs by Superga, Converse, Twins for Peace, Industry of All Nations, and Nigel Cabourn. Wooden Sleepers also has a pretty neat-looking Italian military sneaker that I’ve always admired. Like with all the models mentioned in this post, I think they’d make for a really great pair of summer shoes.

(Pictured above: Margiela GATsCommon Project AchillesHydrogen-1 OxygensBilly Reid x K Swiss, and Superga 1705s. For what it’s worth, I’ve found all these run true to size, except for the Supergas, where I had to take a 10 instead of my regular 9).

Two Closeout Sales

Two stores are having closeout sales at the moment, both with pretty good deals.

The first is at Pockets Menswear in Dallas, Texas. The owner is retiring, so everything in the store must go. Things at this point are discounted about 75% off. Nelson there tells me they have

  • Zegna shirts for about $120 (sizes 15.5 through 17, and medium through extra-large)
  • A few Incotex pants for about $70 (sizes 32 through 34 waist)
  • A couple of Boglioli sport coats for about $500 (sizes 44 and 46 in US sizing) 
  • Lots and lots of ties from brands such as Luciano Barbera, Zegna, Nicky, Seaward & Stern, and Altea. There’s also a couple of E. Marinellas left, but not many. Prices for these are about $45. For ease of ordering, I’ve included ten photos of some of their inventory. When you call, you can tell them something like “I want the brown tie on the left hand side of picture 8” (or something like that). Note, in pictures 1 and 3, those are mostly wool knits, but there are some in silk. 

When you call, ask for Nelson. He’s familiar with Put This On and the photos above, so he’ll be able to sort you out. Their phone number is (214) 368-1167. Nelson said it’s fine to call today and next week, but ideally not over the weekend, as they get super busy then. 

The second sale is at Independence in Chicago. They’re selling off all of their Swims Premium Classic galoshes and pricing them at $60. Colors available include orange and black. Again, you have to call in the order, however (the number is 312.675.2105). Ask for Timothy. 

It’s On Sale: John Smedley 

John Smedley is having their end-of-the-season sale. Sweaters are 50% off and begin at $90. They’re a bit expensive, to be sure, but the company makes really wonderful knits. The raw wool is all sourced in New Zealand and then dyed by Zegna. The rest of the work is done in-house by John Smedley in Derbyshire, England. This includes spinning out the yarn, creating the panels, and knitting the final product. The wool is said to be processed through their local spring water, which supposedly gives the fabrics a superior handle. I’m not sure I completely buy that theory, but their garments do feel very nice and last a long time. I bought my first John Smedley sweater over ten years ago and it still looks great today.