Real People: Unassailable Combinations

People pity the poor peahen, forever in the shadow of her showier suitors, but I prefer to think she lives a life of restrained good taste in plumage of gray and brown, with a dash of blue-green (and a fun hat!). Likewise, a palette of blues, grays, and browns is a sophisticated one for humans, and intentional “peacocking” is associated with the seamy (at best) pick-up artist scene.

RT in Copenhagen would still turn all the peahens’ heads in the blue-gray-brown palette in the three photos above, where all the pieces are different but consistent in fit and tone. On the left, RT wears a tshirt under a cashmere blend cardigan with a cashmere scarf at the neck and casual gray cords. In a word: cozy. In the center, a rollneck complements trousers hemmed at a cleaner, slightly more formal length, and at right, a folk-ier style cardigan (in this case, Inverallan) is worn with a collared shirt and flat-front midgray flannels. Each combination is simple but sophisticated, with no need for pieces of flair. They’re also excellent examples of un-boring business casual (although you’d probably have to add a collared shirt on the left).

Real People: Wearing Tailored Clothes Casually

I find that many men like the look of tailored jackets, but are afraid of looking too formal. That’s understandable when, as my friend Christian once put it, tucking a pineapple-print shirt into some faded khakis can be enough to make some men overdressed these days. 

Philipp from Moscow, pictured above, shows how you can wear tailored clothes casually. The bolder glen plaid pattern on his sport coat helps distinguish it as a causal piece, and it’s been dressed down further with some khaki chinos. The light blue shirt is also less formal than your office-standard of white, and here, it’s worn open collared and without a tie. The tie-less look will rankle many traditionalists, but I think it’s a smart move if you live in a casual town. To finish the look, a silk handkerchief from Rubinacci adorns the breast pocket. 

As I’ve said before, if your clothes fit you well, you can dress quite simply. There are no frills here, and the color palette is quite sedate. This is about as simple as you can get, but it looks great because the jacket’s proportions are classic (albeit with slightly wider lapels), and the fit is slim, but not skinny. Philipp has the good fortune of having his clothes custom made for him (the jacket was made by Raffaele Iorio, a tailor in Naples, from wool Philipp bought in Florence), but if you train your eye, you can find well-fitting garments as well off-the-rack. It just takes time.  

Real People: Layering Lengths

The ideal men’s casual ensemble, as etched into stone tablets handed down to Steve McQueen by a god resembling On the Waterfront-era Marlon Brando, involves straight or slightly tapered pants worn a little below the waist with a slight break at the hem, sneakers or leather boots, a shirt or tshirt either tucked or untucked and ending just below the beltline, and a jacket that’s just a little longer. These are the commandments of flattering proportions in layering.

But the geometry of good layering is more complicated than that. Adrian in DC's photos often show off a sophisticated sense of proportion and length that just slightly subverts the military/sportswear styles from which most of our casual dressing norms derive. In the top photo, Adrian's midlayer denim is shorter than his shirt, and not just a little bit. In the lower left, he layers a shorter jersey tee over a longer one. The lower right photo's layers are not as unusual, but maintain the “A”-shaped silhouette that literally inverts the traditional, shoulder-emphasizing “V” of most western men's clothing. Making sure it doesn't look like an accident is key—note Adrian's shirt sleeve length is precise and the colors he's wearing are basic but complementary, not mismatched or sloppy. It's not generally advisable to mimic directly a brand's lookbook or runway show, which after all are primarily marketing tools rather than how-to guides, but Engineered Garments fall 2011 book and Siki Im’s work were some of the places I initially saw layering like this and thought it looked good—both lines use a lot of sportswear elements but aren’t afraid of aprons or tunics as layers.

I don’t yet have any recommendations for a best value tunic.

-Pete

Real People: Cream Linen Suits
Cream linen suits can make for a bit of a statement, but if you find the right occasion and the weather is hot enough, they can also look pretty great. Roberto in Madrid shows how to wear one well. The jacket fits him across the shoulders and chest, is long enough to not look boyish, and the area below the buttoning point (which online clothing enthusiasts like to call "quarters") opens out towards his hips, giving him a nice sweeping line from the top of his lapels down to his hem. 
The shirt underneath (made by Mirto) is finely striped, but the color resolves to a solid light blue when viewed from a distance. The suede tassel loafers are from the newly revived Spanish brand Yanko, the tie is an old silk knit with a unique diagonal weaving pattern, and the colorful madras hank is from Jesse’s own pocket square shop (I swear I didn’t know this until Roberto told me). Lastly, the well-proportioned straw Panama is from a generic Spanish department store. I like how the brim isn’t too skimpy.
The upside to a cream linen suit is that you can wear the jacket and pants separately. The jacket, for example, can be worn with grey tropical wool trousers, and the pants can be paired with a mid-blue sport coat. The downside is that cream can show dirt a bit easily, and thus will see more trips to the dry cleaners. Perhaps that’s why our friend Roberto here is carefully leaning against a (seemingly) clean metal pole. 

Real People: Cream Linen Suits

Cream linen suits can make for a bit of a statement, but if you find the right occasion and the weather is hot enough, they can also look pretty great. Roberto in Madrid shows how to wear one well. The jacket fits him across the shoulders and chest, is long enough to not look boyish, and the area below the buttoning point (which online clothing enthusiasts like to call "quarters") opens out towards his hips, giving him a nice sweeping line from the top of his lapels down to his hem. 

The shirt underneath (made by Mirto) is finely striped, but the color resolves to a solid light blue when viewed from a distance. The suede tassel loafers are from the newly revived Spanish brand Yanko, the tie is an old silk knit with a unique diagonal weaving pattern, and the colorful madras hank is from Jesse’s own pocket square shop (I swear I didn’t know this until Roberto told me). Lastly, the well-proportioned straw Panama is from a generic Spanish department store. I like how the brim isn’t too skimpy.

The upside to a cream linen suit is that you can wear the jacket and pants separately. The jacket, for example, can be worn with grey tropical wool trousers, and the pants can be paired with a mid-blue sport coat. The downside is that cream can show dirt a bit easily, and thus will see more trips to the dry cleaners. Perhaps that’s why our friend Roberto here is carefully leaning against a (seemingly) clean metal pole. 

Real People: Stealth Style

"Stealth wealth" is a complicated term. Essentially it refers to expensive things that aren’t aggressively, obviously expensive. Taking a positive view, in clothing, that can mean clothes and accessories that are special in some way, but not flashy, a combination that many of us consider desirable. On the other hand, it can mean stuff that the rich buy so they can wink knowingly at other rich people without looking like dicks. Less desirable.

Jesse’s recent post on packing for travel reminded me of the ways that these sorts of items can work well. Not that everything Jesse packed is expensive; but like many of us, he’s carefully selected unusual and, yeah, sometimes expensive items (the A-1 jacket, LVC denim) that are special in ways not obvious to everyone. Most people who meet Jesse on his trip will see a guy in an oxford shirt, leather jacket, and jeans. 

Lenny in Richmond makes a similar case in his consistently interesting (but generally normal!) clothing. In all of these photos, he’s wearing jeans, a button-up shirt, and boots (and holding a hot beverage). The color palettes are neutral grays, blues, browns, and olives. The fits are super consistent—the shirt waists hit at the same spot, the jeans are a flattering straight leg. But Lenny mixes J. Crew shirts, which fit him well, with covertly great vintage stuff, pieces from Engineered Garments, Japanese denim, and Visvim footwear, all of which you won’t find at the mall, or even online in some cases. These brands use unusual materials, arcane construction methods, and unorthodox design to produce relatively small runs of items that in the end don’t draw a lot of attention. Not a bad thing. The interesting aspects of this stuff are either subtle—an extra pocket here, exotic leather there—or reveal themselves over time, like the fading of indigo denim. Everything looks comfortable and broken in, and Lenny looks relaxed, knowing his wardrobe is stealthily awesome.

I understand that wearing such items can invite accusations of snobbery, not entirely unfounded. E.g., why buy a $500 pair of boots when the $100 pair looks and performs much the same? Of course there are diminishing returns the more you choose to spend. But once you’ve built a reliable wardrobe in a value-conscious way (this is how I like to think I filled my closet), you’ll likely want to keep your clothing interesting to yourself, and choosing more refined versions of the stuff you already like is one way to do so.

-Pete

Real People: Well Rumpled
I really like this casual ensemble that Ben from Richmond, Virginia recently put together. Clothes are a bit wrinkly, shirt’s untucked, and the long sleeves and pants are slightly rolled back at the cuffs. It’s a carefree, rumpled look that still looks well put together, and proof that you don’t need a tie to look great. 
For those interested, the khaki cotton jacket is by Engineered Garments, white oxford shirt by Wolf vs. Goat, garment dyed chinos by RRL, and plain toe derbys by Mark McNairy. 

Real People: Well Rumpled

I really like this casual ensemble that Ben from Richmond, Virginia recently put together. Clothes are a bit wrinkly, shirt’s untucked, and the long sleeves and pants are slightly rolled back at the cuffs. It’s a carefree, rumpled look that still looks well put together, and proof that you don’t need a tie to look great. 

For those interested, the khaki cotton jacket is by Engineered Garments, white oxford shirt by Wolf vs. Goat, garment dyed chinos by RRL, and plain toe derbys by Mark McNairy. 

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

Real People: Casual Warm Weather Clothes
I love this casual summer ensemble that our friend Theo over in London recently put together. The pleated, high-waisted, brown linen trousers are probably something every style blogger will tell you to avoid, but when well tailored and well fitting, I think they can look great. The cardigan by itself, worn like a jacket, is something I’ve found difficult to pull off, but Theo here makes it look pretty good. Maybe he just has the right proportions for it. 
You can’t see it in this photo, but if you were able to zoom in, you’d also notice that Theo’s shirt is slightly patterned (there are small dots running along like stripes). Again, I think it’s always good to have a little pattern or texture somewhere, just so that three or four solid colors don’t end up looking too boring.

Real People: Casual Warm Weather Clothes

I love this casual summer ensemble that our friend Theo over in London recently put together. The pleated, high-waisted, brown linen trousers are probably something every style blogger will tell you to avoid, but when well tailored and well fitting, I think they can look great. The cardigan by itself, worn like a jacket, is something I’ve found difficult to pull off, but Theo here makes it look pretty good. Maybe he just has the right proportions for it. 

You can’t see it in this photo, but if you were able to zoom in, you’d also notice that Theo’s shirt is slightly patterned (there are small dots running along like stripes). Again, I think it’s always good to have a little pattern or texture somewhere, just so that three or four solid colors don’t end up looking too boring.

Real People: Bold Dressers

I consider myself a fairly conservative dresser, but I don’t think one has to dress conservatively in order to look good. Niyi from New York is a perfect example. He has a very strong, bold sense of personal style. What he wears might not suit everyone, but it works excellently for him.

Pictured above are two of his recent summer ensembles. The first combines charcoal trousers with a tan sport coat (the best combination for charcoal trousers, in my opinion), and plays a bit with proportions. The jacket’s gorge is higher, lapels narrower, and collar points shorter. I’d normally think such proportions look affected on most guys, but Niyi carries it off here exceptionally well. I also like the soft fit of the jacket along the shoulder line, and think it helps him look natural and relaxed.

The second ensemble is deceptively more complicated than it seems. Here, Niyi is mixing four patterns without any of them clashing. There are the narrow stripes on the suit, the wider stripes on the shirt, the boldly patterned tie, and the complementary (but not matching) patterned pocket square. To go with the summery shirt and suit, he’s picked chestnut shoes instead of your regular dark brown. I think it looks fantastic.

Incidentally, like our friend Rob, Niyi is also putting together his own men’s accessories label. It’s called Post Imperial, and the two ties you see here are actually from his line. I’m told that the shell fabric is made of a cotton treated in “adire” – an old hand dying process developed by the Yoruba people in the southwest region of Nigeria. These ties will be available in Spring of 2014. 

Real People: Texture over Pattern

Bold graphic pattern is an easy way to make men’s clothing interesting, since, as a whole, the cut of what we wear is circumscribed within a pretty tight space by traditions and what’s socially acceptable (otherwise we’d all be draped in sumptuous velvet). However, complementary tones and texturally complex fabrics can be quietly interesting without the brashness of wild patterns.

Nam in Jersey City consistently wears simple, clean-lined shapes in cool tones of blue, gray, and stone, and differentiates them with chambray, linen, flecked wool, and open-weave cotton knits. (The cardigan he’s wearing in the upper right photo is especially awesome; beware the air tie, though—an advanced maneuver for sure.) I like the way he wears a consistent pant length either by hemming or rolling to ankle length. It’s flattering and has the added benefit of showing off some suede shoes and matte white sneakers.

-Pete