Ask me: wave #3

Thanks so much for all the questions guys. As some of you may know, I’ve been answering you directly via email, but I wanted to post up a couple more questions (and my answers) for all to see. Without further ado…

uniqlo Ask me: wave #3

I had a question about the quality on Uniqlo’s products. Their dress shirts seem super inexpensive, do you own any of them? How do they hold up? I’m looking to slowly upgrade my wardrobe and if their dress shirts, especially their no-iron are high quality, it seems like a great option. -Ed

Sure! As you know I’m a big fan of Uniqlo, and have been for a while. They make nice quality, basic clothing at reasonable prices. I actually do own a couple dress shirts of theirs, and I stand by their quality. Now, I wouldn’t say that they are revolutionary, or mind blowing… but at $30 bucks, I didn’t expect them to be. However, I think they’re better constructed, then say, Gap or maybe even Banana Republic, so for the price, you’re getting a bargain.

Also, I’m a big fan of non-iron shirts, as I travel for work often and it makes it so easy, but I do hear that non-iron shirts don’t hold up in the long term due to the chemical properties infused into the clothing. Haven’t noticed this myself 1st hand, but could definitely see this being the case. Your mileage may vary, but just a warning. As a result, I generally buy 100% regular cotton, without non-iron.

10875  99822  47195 1346798461 1280 1280 Ask me: wave #3

Do you have any belt recommendations? Every time I buy a belt it seems to lose its function very quickly. I’m looking for both business and casual belts to add to my wardrobe. -Adam

Ah belts… my unending love/hate relationship with them. I personally do not buy very high end belts because they inevitably wear out, and it’s always frustrating if I spent a lot of money on them. However, I will say that you shouldn’t just find some cheap belt and call it a day.

Ultimately there are a couple things you need to think about:

1. Shoes. What color / material are most of your shoes? We want to match our belts as best to our footwear as possible. Make sure you have all your blacks covered with a nice, thin black leather belt, your browns with a leather in a matching shade of brown (doesn’t have to be exact, but close), and a casual belt that can usually either be brown, grey, or black as well.

2. Next, material and width. Dress belts are always leather. Consistency of the leather should change based on shoes again. Crocodile shoes? Crocodile belts. Casual belts on the other hand, can be a number of materials. I think all materials are fair game, but keep colors a bit muted so they match with more, unless you have a variety of belts, in which case get whatever you want to stand out. Width should be 1 and 1/4″ wide for dress belts, and can be any width that fits in your loops if casual. I prefer slimmer belts though.

3. Size. Buy belts a size larger than your pants. Wear a 30W pair of pants? Get a 32W belt.

4. Brands: If you’re willing to spend a bit more, go to a nice shoe company like Allen Edmonds, Alden, etc. They make some great belts in a variety of blacks and browns. If not, head to a Nordstrom Rack, TJ Maxx, or Marshalls. You’ll get a belt cheap, and generally at a decent discount from retail price. Look for “Genuine Leather” and a bit of grain on the belt itself. Most of these brands will be similar in quality, so just find a design and feel that you enjoy. Expect to replace every couple years.

brown shoes gray suit Ask me: wave #3

How do you feel about a gray suit with camel colored shoes? – Obed

Great question man. This is a bit tricky, but I’ll try to explain as best as I can. A grey suit is one of the most versatile pieces you can wear. The camel shoes, on the other hand, are not as liberal. However, I think that the two can be pulled off, assuming a couple things. But before I got into that, let me try and put down a foundation for you:

Lighter grey suits can go with light brown, dark brown, and black shoes.

Darker grey or charcoal suits can go with dark brown and black shoes, but not as well with light brown shoes.

Just from this, you can probably tell that charcoal or dark grey suits will likely not work with camel shoes. So that’s out. However, with a light grey suit, it may be possible to still look good depending on how light the shoes are.

If they are more like a light brown, and you have a matching belt, I’d say that I wouldn’t count the combination out, and it can actually work great. However, if they’re closer to a light beige, then I would advise against. The contrast might be a bit too high, and peoples’ attention will go straight to your shoes, and not your outfit as a whole.

Hope that helps!

Sales & Impulse Buying

You’re surfing the web when you see an amazing deal pop up. Whoa, wool pants for under $20 bucks?! Take one in each color they offer!

sale wool pleated Sales & Impulse Buying

WAIT…..

Let’s hold our horses for a sec! Impulse buying like this might not take us very far… let’s talk about it.

Just like some of you, I used to be a guy that looked for literally the most dirt cheap price on any item I could. There was even a time in high school when I bought a deep V neck T-shirt with Ed Hardy-like designs on it just because it was $4.

Good news is that I’ve changed. Not much, but at least enough to know that sometimes, it just might be wiser to buy clothing at slightly higher prices to ensure quality. The above picture can help illustrate my point. Just because an item is dirt cheap, does not mean that it’s immediately worth buying. Especially on classic pieces like a pair of wool dress pants, you want to make sure you get a pair that won’t rip on you midway through your hot Thursday night date.

Forget the fact that these pants are a cheap wool blend, unknown brand name, pleated, and classic baggy fit. The main point is that you have very little proxy for discerning quality on this item, and this can happen often when buying clothing, especially online. The only thing you know for sure is that it’s cheap. A little too cheap to probably be any good.

sale sign Sales & Impulse Buying

Before you can really start discerning quality, you need to own or at least feel out quality pieces first. Check my post on quality; it might give you some tips on how to determine what’s quality and what’s not. Hopefully after you’ve been armed with some knowledge & experience, you will realize it’s better to put weight on quality over quantity with regards to clothing. My spidey senses tell me that the pants above probably aren’t very high in quality, and will likely just give me a higher quantity of pants, but hey, what do I know? Either way, I’ll skip the risk.

Anyhow, moral of the story? Do some research ahead of time and get your ducks in order before impulsively pulling the trigger on sale items. Just because something’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. You’ll probably have regrets and end up spending more in the long run anyway.

Denim

sammark3 Denim

Outfit: Oliver Peoples sunglasses :: Black Fleece sweater :: Michael Kors shirt :: Tellason jeans ::  Gordon Rush shoes

Photo credit: Dana Patricia

One of my close friends, Sam, is a denim expert working in the apparel industry here in San Francisco. I had an opportunity to chat with her about denim, where we discussed how it’s made, why it’s one of our favorite materials, and what we should look for when shopping for denim.

While enjoying the nice San Francisco summer (yes, summer arrives in SF for a week during fall, and that’s about it), we came up to several mutually agreed upon points:

1. Denim belongs in your closet. Period.

2. It’s smart to put in the extra money for a nice pair of jeans. There are too many crappy jeans out there, and oftentimes they’re not worth the trouble.

3. Denim on denim is always case by case.

4. For men, it’s all about the solid dark wash straight leg jean.

I’d like to elaborate on each point, because the topic of denim certainly deserves some attention.

sammark1 Denim

1. Denim belongs in your closet.

I think blue jeans are one of the most essential pieces to have in your wardrobe. They are durable, stylish, versatile, comfortable, cool… need I go on? A pair of blue jeans can work in the most casual of situations and can also be dressed up significantly (think blazer, dress shirt, dress shoes, dark wash denim). I don’t think I need to do any more convincing, just please get a pair if you don’t already.

2. It’s smart to put in the extra money for a nice pair of jeans.

So there is a substantial difference between a $15 pair of jeans at Old Navy or Walmart, and a pair of $180 APC New Standards. Here’s a great video that I think explains some of these differences. Now, I’m not saying you need to spend over $100 on a pair of jeans, as many of you would find that ridiculous with so many other inexpensive alternatives out there. However, I do think you need to examine and try on a bunch of denim before you make a decision.

Between $60-$100 can probably get you a pretty nice pair of jeans, Levis 501s being a solid choice in that range if it fits your body. My biggest recommendation would be to shop for sales at Nordstrom Rack for denim. I will say though, that there is another tier of denim when you cross the $100 mark. Going into selvedge raw denim has been a treat for me, and can be for you as well. Basically this type of denim has not been washed or treated in anyway. They are like cardboard when you first get them, but you can start to soften them up, build creases/marks in them, and really make them your own just by the way you wear them. Just putting it out there, as my experience has been great.

sammark2 Denim

3. Denim-on-denim is always case-by-case.

As a general rule, we don’t want to pair denim jackets with denim pants. The whole Canadian tuxedo thing is a no-no. However, I wouldn’t say this is always the case. What we want to do is make sure our tops and bottoms don’t match too much. If you have a black denim jacket and a pair of medium wash denim pants on, I think it can work. Also, denim shirts are super relevant today as well, and the same rule applies. Make sure your shirt isn’t the same shade or color as your pants.

4. It’s all about solid dark wash straight jeans.

Sam deals with washing, dying, distressing, etc. on every different type of jean out there. It was fascinating hearing all the things denim goes through before it ends up on a shelf at the mall. However, as cool as this detailing can be, I think it’s important to have a solid, dark wash, non-distressed, straight leg jean. In terms of fit, forget bootcut, relaxed cut, and skinny jeans. Stick with a straight or slim straight look. Also, keep it dark. Indigo’s, greys, and blacks all can work with a lot of outfits, and can be dressed up easily, while slimming you as well. Find a great pair and wear ‘em in!

sammark5 Denim

So there you go! Denim in four quick (eh, maybe not quick) points! Also a huge thanks to Sam for discussing denim with me, even outside of her work hours.

Uniqlo Online Store


uniqlo online store Uniqlo Online Store

Uniqlo, a company that I’m a huge fan of, finally opened its online store. This way, you don’t have to go to NYC (or SF now) just to see their stuff.

The website is nice and colorful with fairly easy navigation. Time to go and shop, my friends! You won’t regret it.

PS: Get their perfect shape cargos, oxford cloth button downs, or vintage chinos. All awesome.

Wish List #2

That time to discuss my wish list once again. What am I interested in this time? Well, let’s just say I currently have a couple holes in my closet, and am in dire need to fill them. Most of all, I need myself the most basic of basics… a solid navy suit. Either way, here’s my wish list, the second time around:

Ralph Lauren Black Label V-Neck Sweaterrlbl purp Wish List #2

Some reason this sweater has been on my mind for the past several weeks. I visited a Barneys up in Seattle and saw this bad boy and it’s so BASIC but the color and material really hypnotize me. Cashmere v neck sweaters are a classic piece, deserving of real estate in every man’s wardrobe. The fact that purple is one of my favorite colors and that this one is by Ralph Lauren Black Label just ties the knot. Too bad the price is a bit ridiculous to me.

Black Fleece Cashmere Scarf

 Wish List #2
I’m really close to just pulling the trigger on this piece. The scarf is a basic design, but I really like the grey and navy combo. It’s also by one of my favorite designers, on sale, and 100% cashmere. Perfect in time for fall. Gotta think hard about this one…

Red Wing Brogue Ranger Wingtip Boot

red wing brogue ranger 8 Wish List #2
I’m in need of a pair of black boots. They go well with so much and are almost essential when pairing with a black leather jacket. These ones by Red Wing (who I think makes great quality boots) are nice because they not only have the construction I’m looking for, but also stand out with some unique detailing. The little bit of brown doesn’t distract from the black boot itself, but allows the boot to be a bit more versatile when pairing with browns.

Suitsupply Jort Navy Suit

jort Wish List #2

Suitsupply is an interesting company that specializes in made-to-measure suits (but sells off the rack as well) that you can buy online or in select stores in the country (NYC and DC I think). They are European in origin, but I visited their NYC shop a couple weeks ago, and unfortunately they didn’t have any in my size to try on. However, I could definitely tell the quality was excellent for the price you pay. Canvassed construction, prices starting at $400, and great designs? Call me in. I’m interested in one of these Jort suits, or the Washington style if I’m feeling a bit Harvey Specter-ish.

So there it is! My expensive and ever-changing wish-list. I’m on a hunt to save money in the next couple months, making these items even harder to look at.

Trying too hard

tumblr m5slfp1WIP1rw8ydao1 1280 Trying too hard

So yes, we want to dress better as individuals. We want to make a good impression in front of others, and we want to look and feel great.

All awesome. But can we go too far?

My answer to that question is yes. I’ve seen it, you’ve seen it, we’ve all seen it. The truth is, fashion can easily go from helping a man’s image, to making that same man outright laughable. I think a simpler man would not want to cross that line.

First off, I never want clothing to take away from the product that is you. How does the saying go? Wear your clothes, don’t let the clothes wear you? Well, I am a huge proponent of that, and think that sometimes we need to take a step back and realize that clothing is simply static material. Static material that is there to help the dynamic you look and feel more confident.

When starting to dress better, I think we need to sometimes be careful and consider a couple things. First is occasion. What is the occasion that you are dressing up for? Is it formal, casual, somewhere in between? Whatever it is, you want to make sure you fit somewhat appropriately to the picture, or else unwanted attention may come to you. You know that guy who wears a suit to the all-casual work place? Ever heard the people around you whispering, asking “why is this tool wearing a suit to work for no reason?”

Now if you are that guy, and you feel best in a suit regardless of the occasion, all power to you! However, if it’s simply to show that you have fashion sense, you want to make sure you’re wearing suits at the appropriate times. In a casual setting, you can still look damn good with a nicely put together casual outfit, and you won’t look out of place. Likewise, you can still set yourself apart during formal events as long as you have a nicely fitting suit, and the right accessories to make you stand out.fc2 Trying too hard

As a general rule, I would say that if you pull something out of your closet, put it on, and wonder “can I pull this off?” for even a split second, then you should evaluate why you are wearing those clothes in the first place. The reason I say this is that you might get self conscious while you’re out and about for the rest of the day, and remember, we want to promote self confidence, not self consciousness. If you’re walking around constantly wondering if you can pull off your newly bought wine-colored slim pants, then you’re probably not fooling anyone. Go back to those trusted blue jeans of yours, there are plenty of ways to improve dress even with just basic blue jeans!

Lastly, remember that fashion trends are just that… trends. I’ll say it again, stick with the classics and staples, as they will never do you wrong. Wearing camo, colorful bowties, hot pink skinny pants, and the like are fine at times (minus the hot pink skinny pants), but I personally think that you’ll look better with a pair of dark jeans and a thin v neck sweater. And you probably won’t think twice about what you’re wearing, letting your true self come out more.

Dress in confidence, but remember why you’re doing it. Is it to prove to others that you can follow fashion trends? Or is it to look awesome and feel even awesomer? Keep it simple gentlemen. You can call me a broken record, but at least I’m replaying the key part of the song.

Signature Look

Don%20Draper Signature Look

Don Draper in his signature look, a charcoal grey suit with slim tie and white pocket square.

Picture a close buddy in your head. What is he wearing? Maybe it’s blue jeans, a T-shirt, and a leather jacket, or possibly a white button down shirt with chinos. A charcoal suit with black shoes, maybe?

There’s a high likelihood that you’ve pictured your friend in their signature look, whatever that may be. Now think about yourself, do you have a signature look?

Maybe you have a favorite article of clothing that is part of that look. Those raw denim blue jeans that have creases and whiskers that you’ve personally created. That old trench coat that you just can’t leave home without. The watch that your father passed down to you when you graduated high school. Personally, my look has changed quite drastically in the last several years, mainly because my tastes have been changing. However, this doesn’t mean that I don’t think I’ve had a signature look for elongated periods of time.

Here are two from the past. There was some weird stuff going on with lighting on my camera though, so forgive the weird photo quality.

During my college days, my friends will tell you that it was definitely a UCLA fitted baby blue cap, hooded sweater, and blue jeans.

yesterday signature Signature Look

During my first several years in the working world, it was a Lacoste polo shirt, dark blue jeans, and dark sneakers.

in between signature Signature Look

If you have a signature look, I say embrace it. It’s a huge part of who you are, even if you don’t think so. So even if you want to improve your wardrobe as a whole,  maybe it makes sense to keep your normal look in tact,  just with upgraded pieces that might fit and look slightly better than your previous ones.

Let me know, comments, tweets, messages, whatever!

Cardigans

Five years ago, I thought cardigans were reserved for old men and hipsters. Think Mr. Rodgers and Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  The thought of paying money for one left a bad taste in my mouth, and I never really got around to pulling the trigger until about a year and a half ago.

Boy did I miss out.

I have to say, cardigans are slowly turning into one of my favorite articles of clothing. They come in so many different shapes and styles, they are incredibly comfortable, and are versatile in many ways. Think about it. You can wear a cardigan casually over a T-shirt, polo, or button down. You can wear it a bit more formally underneath a sports coat or jacket. You can unbutton it, button it, layer it, whatever! With one cardigan, I think I can probably build a thousand different outfits, no exaggeration.

Just a couple tips when wearing cardigans:

1. If wearing casually, do not button the top or bottom button.

2. Make sure the cardigan fits slim and snug on your body. Even if it’s a chunky one.

So, here I am with a shawl collar cardigan, which can essentially be used as outerwear. Can be dressed up or dressed down, and I chose to dress it up a bit here. It’s a bit chunkier so I wouldn’t layer a jacket over it… maybe a coat. It’s warm, stylish, and just awesome.

card1 CardigansBrooks Brothers cardigan :: Brooks Brothers shirt :: Boss tie :: The Tie Bar tie bar :: Omega watch

See, even Bond approves the shawl collar cardigan.

Cardigan gris Cardigans

Here’s also a lighter cardigan that can work as a layering piece. I’m wearing it casually just over a V-neck T-shirt, but I believe it can be dressed up just as easily as a shawl collar cardigan.

card2 CardigansEtro cardigan :: Calvin Klein T-shirt

Moral of the story? Definitely get yourself a cardigan. They look great, can be extremely versatile, and will keep you warm. No longer reserved for hipsters and grandpas only. Cheers!

Correlation of brand and quality

outside pic Correlation of brand and qualityOliver Peoples sunglasses :: Gitman Vintage shirt :: Hamilton Khaki watch :: Tellason jeans :: Clarks beeswax desert boots

Ah, the topic of brands… one of my favorites, and one that is often controversial. Why? Because people will always have disagreements about brands, whether it be on quality, style, reputation, whatever. I’ll attempt to swing at this curveball though, and I hope it doesn’t anger too many of you.

I think brand names are a wonderful proxy for discerning quality distinctions in clothing. I swear by certain brands due to their quality (eg: Tellason and Gitman Vintage in the pic above), and will always trust that they will make a genuinely great product. However, I also think that brand names can often be over-emphasized, bandwagoned, and taken way too far. For example, I know many people who will immediately dismiss the quality of companies like the Gap or J. Crew because they generally make mass-produced articles of clothing at less than optimal quality-control. Before moving forward, let me tell you right now, I’ve bought pieces from both Gap and J.Crew that have exceeded my highest expectations. And though it’s not always the case, I’ll often find deals that will blow away any competition at those price points: Thomas Mason shirt from J.Crew for $35? I’ll take it anyday.

Also, in the other direction, people will endlessly praise companies like Lanvin or Oxxford for their excellence in quality. However, I’ve had a pair of Lanvin pants tear apart on me, and have a friend whose Oxxford shirt lost two buttons in the first day of wear.

Am I saying that J. Crew makes a better product than Lanvin? Absolutely not. In fact, I can confidently say that Lanvin is at another level in terms of clothing quality (I mean just look at the price difference). However, what I am trying to say is that brands are not static, and there will always be quality changes that come with following a brand, up or down. Thus, it doesn’t make sense to rely solely on brand when making a decision on what to buy.

Now that I’ve gotten that giant caveat out of the way, I will say that brands can at least make it easier for you when shopping for clothes. All brands have reputations to uphold, and need to stick to a certain level of quality in order to maintain those reputations. Thus, you can trust certain brands that have held the test of time, or been deemed by the general public as high in quality. This way, when you enter a mall and you have 100 brands in front of you, you’ll be able to at least start weeding out what you’ll look through and what you won’t, based on brands.

I wouldn’t advise that you put all your eggs in the brand basket though. Nothing beats going into stores and actually feeling fabrics, wearing the clothes and moving with it, checking the construction, etc. If you find a piece that catches your eye, don’t dismiss just based on brand. Go up to the piece and check it out! From there, make sure that the quality is high.

ae Correlation of brand and qualityAllen Edmonds Dalton boots :: Diesel Darron jeans

So what are good indicators of high quality garments?

1. Material. Is it made of more natural materials like 100% leather, cotton, silk, or wool? Or is the material fully/partially man-made (spandex, rayon, polyester, etc.)? If possible, I would recommend sticking to more natural materials. Not bulletproof in determining quality, but it’s a start.

Also, does the material look and feel solid? Hold the garment against a light, and see if the thickness of the material is consistent throughout. Buttons and zippers matter too (horn buttons > plastic buttons, zippers can feel more solid on some rather than others).

2. Construction. Take for example suits. Some suits may look amazing and have a great fabric, but aren’t constructed in a way that deems them high quality. They may be fused together in the inside and the outside by glue, rather than canvassed fully to help remain its organic shape. Maybe the seams on a shirt or jacket are at points like the elbow, which might not make the piece as durable due to the way we move. Are buttons put together well? Are shoe soles stitched or glued? Inspect items as best as you can to check on the constructional integrity.

3. Made in ____. This can sometimes be misleading, but it is indeed important to check. Products made in the U.S. or countries in Europe are often more reliable in quality than those made in Southeast Asia and China. This isn’t ALWAYS the case, but it correlates quite often due to the cost of manufacturing. In reality, it just costs more to produce things domestically, so the quality better match the price.

4. Style. Don’t forget that we buy clothing so we can look good. It’s not solely just to feel great, since if that were the case, we would all just wear blankets of cashmere and fur exclusively. If a piece of clothing is styled well, there is a higher likelihood of the brand fitting you better. Look at the styles, patterns, and designs, and ask yourself if you find them especially appealing. For example, one of my favorite brands is Theory. Not for the material quality, since that can sometimes be shoddy, but because all Theory products seem to fit me down to a T.

So in all, definitely identify the brands you feel are great quality and fit you well. You can use these brands as go-tos and make the process much easier when shopping. However, try not be a brand-whore, and think less of others due to the brands they wear. There are some fine quality garments in virtually all clothing brands, and until you feel & wear the clothing yourself, you shouldn’t make rash judgements on the quality that certain brands can offer. Check for yourself, and buy things that are high in QUALITY, not just BRAND.

Two prices, one outfit

afford vs not Two prices, one outfit

At the end of the day, you are really the only one who knows what you’re wearing. That is, unless you’re going around obnoxiously shouting what brands of clothing you wear and the prices you paid. If you’re doing that, please stop; no one likes a showoff. Anyhow, because of this, sometimes it might make sense to skip the designer stuff and pay a bit more reasonable prices for your clothing. Note: remember that I do always encourage quality > quantity, but hey, different strokes for different folks.

I got the idea for the picture above off of a guy named jdbee on reddit, where he posted one outfit at two different price points. The aesthetic outcome of the outfit may be comparable, but the prices are astronomically different.  Without watches considered (since the Rolex price is a numerical outlier), you could pay a total of $315 for the outfit above or a whopping $3480.

You may be wondering which side I chose from? Well, let’s just say there’s a bit of mix and match going on, and I’ll let you guess.