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Posts Tagged ‘dressing well’

In praise of male elegance

In beauty, behavior, business, culture, design, domestic life, Fashion, life, men, Style, urban life, US, work on November 25, 2012 at 12:12 am
English: Lithograph of Brooks Clothing Store, ...

English: Lithograph of Brooks Clothing Store, Catherine Street, New York City, in 1845 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Loved this recent story about how (some!) American men are dressing better, in The New York Times:

Men are notoriously averse to shopping…

So why do men appear to be shopping for themselves in record numbers?

Men’s wear sales are surging at double-digit rates. Suits, sports coats and outerwear, nearly all bought by men themselves, are leading the gains, according to Steve Pruitt, founder of the fashion and retail consulting firm Blacks Retail. Blacks projects that men’s suit sales will be up 10 percent this fall and holiday season, and sports jacket sales will be up 11 percent, while women’s ready-to-wear sales remain flat.

“Men are the new women,” Bret Pittman, director of J. Crew’s Ludlow Shop in TriBeCa in Manhattan, told me when I stopped in recently for a tour of the new store, the prototype for a line that will feature men’s suits and tailored clothing.

As I write this, two gift-wrapped boxes await Jose in my closet, from Paul Stuart and Brooks Brothers, with more sartorial goodies en-route for Christmas. He went to the dry cleaner’s tailor today to get three pairs of corduroy trousers altered — after I insisted. (The tailor agreed.)

A well-dressed man is a rare and lovely sight. If this is becoming a trend, I’m all for it.

Madison in the mid-40s, in Manhattan, is where you’ll find Brooks Brothers on the south end of the block and Paul Stuart — a 74-year-old shop named for the founder’s son — at the north end…keep heading north and you’ll find 111-year-old J. Press, all shops with classic, elegant, well-made clothing.

Brooks has everything from a smart black umbrella with a real bamboo handle, (a reasonable $60), to suits, shoes, pajamas, cologne, hats and leather briefcases. Their small shoe department has wonderful things, from dressy to casual. Paul Stuart, whose styles and colors are far more European, is not for the faint-of-heart or thin-of-wallet — a pair of socks is $48 and their sweaters and jackets roam to the four figures. Their cheapest shoe, a stunning black suede Italian loafer, is $562.

But some things are affordable, and fun — silk pocket squares and their knotted fabric cuff-links for $12. I love the quiet, old-school atmosphere and the jewel tones, in virtually every item, that are their trademark.

Elegance is an acquired taste.

My father, at 83 exploring Hong Kong as I write this, still dresses with great style, as he always has, which gave me a decided interest in dating — certainly marrying — a man who appreciates it as well. I still remember exactly what Jose wore on our first date 13 years ago, very much enjoying that he had bothered to dress up for the occasion; when I see guys in their 30s or beyond still schlubbing around in sneakers and caps and hoodies, like a bunch of 12-year-olds with no dough and less imagination, I sigh.

Male elegance has a few basic, classic components:

Fit

American men seem to have no idea that tailors even exist, as so many wear trousers, (even on their wedding day!), that puddle hopelessly atop their shoes. Too many clothes, certainly the cheaper ones, are laser-cut in China, with little or no attention to proper fit. Read GQ or Details or The Sartorialist for examples of how do it right.

Material

Learn the difference between cotton, polyester, nylon, wool, cashmere and rayon, calf leather, cordovan, suede. Read labels and feel the materials under your hand. Once you can tell the difference between cashmere and merino, (and your budget has no room for new cashmere), hit consignment and vintage shops for affordable options.

Color

Many men have absolutely no idea what colors look well on them, or awful. The color of your hair, (or lack of same), eyes and skin tone should all affect your choices  — including hats, scarves and eyewear. If you’re very pale, a white shirt and light gray suit are probably not the most attractive choices. Jose, being Hispanic, has a skin tone that allows him to wear some fantastically bold color choices and look terrific in them. A decent salesman or woman in a better quality men’s store can help. Men whose wives or partners have a great eye could do worse than let us help you edit your choices.

Grooming

Huge. The nicest pair of leather shoes will look like hell if you let the heels wear down, (hence the expression, well-heeled), don’t polish them frequently and forget to use heavy, solid wooden shoe trees after each wearing. Regular haircuts — including nose, ear and eyebrow trim for the over-40s — make a serious difference. Keep nails short and clean, and hands moisturized. A subtle cologne is a wonderful lagniappe.

Footwear

Financial Times columnist Peter Aspden recently described the challenge of finding weekend shoes:

By far the trickiest part of weekend dressing is footwear. Look: there is no smart casual in footwear. Smart is what you wear to work. Casual is trainers: comfortable, fashionable. A chairman of the Royal Opera House once declared that he never wanted to sit next to anyone wearing trainers. He was ridiculed. It was a seminal cultural-podiatric moment. We are the generation that invented trainers, and now we had earned the right to wear them, whenever, wherever.

Joe Ottaway, personal shopping consultant at Selfridges, grimaces. “I’m not a great trainer [note: Britspeak for sneakers, running shoes] fan,” he says. He admits that weekend footwear can be a thorny problem. “What is important is to find something that is age-appropriate.” It seems, not for the first time, that I have missed a key trend in men’s fashion. “The age of the well-dressed, well-groomed man is coming back.” And it means, beyond a certain age, no trainers. What age might that be? “25,” says Ottaway.

Accessories

Have fun! These include gorgeous silk pocket squares, (this one is $8 in jewel tones), lovely knee-high colored socks, cuff-links, a sterling belt buckle, a slim (possibly vintage) watch, great eyewear, a well-made hat, a snazzy duffel or backpack or briefcase. Frenchmen almost always add a fab scarf or muffler to their outfits, and there are many options out there; I like this striped one from Barney’s, by Paul Smith.

Take time, if being stylish appeals to you, to browse a few high-end shops, on-line or in person, to see what’s available. The king of this is British designer Paul Smith; a visit to his Fifth Avenue shop is always fun and inspiring.

Ladies, does a well-dressed man catch your eye?

Do you — gentlemen — pay attention to such matters?

Men, Don’t Wear This!

In behavior, design, Fashion, men, women on October 20, 2010 at 4:27 pm
Image of me, larsinio wearing a Lacoste polo s...

So NOT this....Image via Wikipedia

Shallow? Moi?

Hell, yes.

And I am not alone in this respect. Two popular blogs, this one and this one, recently weighed on on the deeply important issue of things men wear that make women cringe and flee.

Writes Vanessa Lawrence:

An ill-fitting suit or an ugly pair of shoes or a Silicon Valley–worthy bag signifies not what bodily imperfection he might be hiding but who he is on a more cerebral and existential level. Artsy frame glasses: intelligent, sophisticated, well-educated. A Savile Row creation: exceptional taste, drinks his scotch neat, financially stable (or loaded). A perfectly rumpled button-down and Levi’s 501s: easygoing, likes a good beer, open-minded worldview.

With such high stakes, it’s inevitable that every woman has her own opposite-sex style dealbreaker, an instantly registered faux pas that inspires revulsion and, in some cases, fight-or-flight vital stats. I know one girl who shudders at the mere thought of a popped collar. And many ladies are self-described “shoe people,” keeping their gazes resolutely directed downward for flagrant footwear offenses. (Sandals of any kind, bulky orthopedic sneakers and cowboy boots come to mind.)

I was tickled to see that the sweetie brought home the latest version of GQs Style Guide, and we had a great time looking through it. I can’t say I’m too excited about the trend toward very tight-fitting men’s suits and I really dislike almost all hats on all men, including (sorry) caps.

Especially caps.

I feel lucky to be with a guy who enjoys dressing well and whose classic sartorial tastes — tattersall, cashmere, thick wool, a Barbour jacket — echo mine.

(I’m lucky, of course, he appreciates my style. Not every man would want a second date with a woman who wore a turtleneck sweater to their first date. But that’s me.)

I still recall exactly what the sweetie wore the night we first met. I liked all of it, from the vintage gray wool trenchcoat to (yes, definitely eccentric, but it worked) the red silk Buddhist prayer shawl worn as a muffler. As someone lucky enough to have grown up with a Dad who — still at 81 — is an extremely snappy dresser, I admit to having my male style-o-meter set early and high.

Good-looking clothes don’t have to cost a fortune. (Vintage shops and consignment shops carry much great stuff.)

They do need to be spotless, fit well and flatter your shape and complexion. I fell head over heels for my ex-husband when he was a penniless medical student, and still recall a thin white cotton shirt of his I liked.  I have a thing for white cotton on men. Few things are as hopelessly sexy as a pristine white man’s shirt.

Especially when you give it to us….

Don’ts:

Pleated pants.

Cuffed pants.

Pleated, cuffed pants.

Baggy-bottomed trousers of any description.

Too-tight trousers.

Square-toed shoes. Thick-soled black or white exercise shoes worn outside a gym. Ditto white athletic socks. Clogs, shoes with tassels, hiking boots.

Synthetics. Prints. T-shirts with logos. Anything with logos.

Baggy/striped golf shirts and polo shirts and all athletic clothing worn as default casual wear.

Do’s:

Lovely grooming. (Not the baby chick, too-much-product-in-your-hair thing.)

Well-fitted crisp cotton shirt, tucked in, ironed. Maybe even starched. Probably uses collar stays.

Leather shoes with leather soles, polished to a gleam. Heels with new(ish) lifts. Suede shoes well-brushed.

First-name acquaintance with  a tailor, barber and store clerk whose taste you trust.

A clear idea which colors and textures best complement your hair, eyes and skin color. Having the guts (if unsure, which is unlikely) to ask someone whose style you admire to help you with this.

Avoiding most trends for the innate elegance of simple, well-made garments. Think Cary Grant, not Bret Michaels.

Men, what do you hate to see on women?

Ladies, what’s a style dealbreaker for you?

Mirdles? Men Discover The Joys Of Shapewear

In Fashion, men on May 30, 2010 at 10:12 am
girdle

Image via Wikipedia

It had to happen — men and Spandex have become best buds thanks to ‘shapewear’, a tidy euphemism for girdles, corsets, anything you wear beneath your clothing that sucks you in, holds you tight and makes you look sleek, trim and smooth.

Until the moment of truth when it all has to come off. Reports today’s New York Times:

“We are selling them as quickly as Spanx can make them,” said Nickelson Wooster, the men’s fashion director at Neiman Marcus, which was until recently the only department store carrying them. (This month Spanx for Men arrived in Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom, and at Web sites like freshpair.com.) “Men may not be talking about it, but they’re buying it.”

Men’s “shapewear” is “the next big thing,” declared Michael Kleinmann, the president of Freshpair, which sells underwear to both sexes. Already, compression garments from brands like Equmen and Sculptees, to name two, have been selling briskly.

Eighteen months ago, when Freshpair got Equmen’s compression T-shirts, “we sold out,” Mr. Kleinmann said. Men’s torso-enhancing T-shirts are part of a revolution in men’s underwear that has been taking place over the last decade, he said. Another popular but hush-hush product is profile-enhancing underwear, which he called “the equivalent of a push-up bra” for men.

The success of Equmen, an Australian label, is one reason department stores and online retailers have been eagerly awaiting Spanx for Men. At Saks Fifth Avenue, Equmen has been sold for less than a year and has already become one of the store’s best-selling underwear, said Eric Jennings, vice president for men’s fashion at Saks.

Women who wear Spanx know the ins and outs of a garment that squooshes all the jiggly bits into a likeness of someone who actually hits the gym more than the remote. They do work magic, but try getting into one! Then…..try getting out again.

The dilemma, for those who are single and dating, is whether or not to wear Spanx on a date you think might end up with the removal of clothing for frisky purposes. A pretty bra, front-closing — cha-ching! A pretty bra, easily unhooked from the back with one hand, workable. Shapewear? Not so much. Even being seen in acres of flesh-colored nylon and its shimmering sausage effect — deeply unerotic.

It’s hard enough  to peel yourself out of this stuff, but someone else? Someone new, breathless at the very thought of the encounter to come….and now it’s wrestling with Lycra time.

Best to disappear for a few discreet minutes. Remember the moment when Bridget Jones is discovered wearing granny pants?

Pull Up Your Pants, Bro! British Man (Barely) Avoids Prosecution For Saggy Trousers

In Crime, Fashion, men on May 10, 2010 at 8:15 am

Moments like this, you think, good thing I live in “the land of the free” — a British man narrowly avoided getting an ASBO (anti-social behavior order) for wearing his pants so low you could see his ass. Pretty standard stuff (sorry to say) where I live; I saw a guy looking like this last week on the train.

From the Guardian’s comment page:

Ellis Drummond was last week spared an Asbo for “wearing trousers so low that the public are able to see his underwear” after a judge suggested it was contrary to his human rights. Here some of the Observer’s finest minds debate the implications for Britain’s sartorial standards.

Euan Ferguson

…an Asbo for stupidity.

Kevin McKenna

The wise ones also say that a man’s kingdom is his trousers. Where I grew up, some of us were so poor that wearing trousers that fitted one properly was a luxury. Therefore, I feel that to wear trousers in this way celebrates the poor working classes who often had no choice in the matter. I remember there was a lorry that came round each week full of discarded clothing from the Romanian middle classes. You were lucky if anything fitted. In Cameron’s New Britain, wearing your trousers halfway down your arse may be the only means of protest against the Bullingdon club influence on our life. Their use of braces to control the natural movement of trousers is redolent of Oxbridge privilege, a paradigm of social control. We must retain control of our trousers…

Euan

Remarkably restrained. I wondered how long before the money/class argument would be wrangled in. But that doesn’t hold, not unless you’re seeking to persuade us that the subtext of any gritty working-class mantra was, actually: “We were poor but we were stupid.” Euan Kev, I know you’re haunted by class: I remember you quoting some definition of a gentleman as “anyone who gets out of the bath to take a pee”. Brain-wise, think of this. The low-slung look derives from people in evil penitentiaries in America’s deep south who had their belts removed. They wanted nothing more than to, in random order, a) have a belt to keep their trousers up; b) live in a kinder place with a job, or benefits, and always chances; and c) not be in the electric chair the next morning. For someone with all of the good things above, to actually want, when there are so many good looks available – tweed, I say, always have; tweed and knitted ties – instead to dress as if he seriously wants to be a hot crying man in a dirtyard on the last day of his life? Actionably stupid. Criminally so. Asbo.

The whole idea of an Asbo is so fundamentally un-American — where you get to let it all hang out, whatever it is, most of the time. It’s always a little weird to those of us who grew up in more restrained, less individualism-obsessed societies.

The laws came in in 1998 and have been controversial since: they can be used against anyone over the age of 10 whose behavior is deemed offensive or damaging to larger society. (I blogged last year about a British couple whose sexual activity was so loud it won them an Asbo from their weary neighbors.)

I hate the baggy pants thing, but maybe that’s just my narrow, priggish point of view.

Seems we’ve got a million potential Asbos on this side of the pond: walking while staring into a phone or PDA, driving while texting, reallyloud cellphone conversations in enclosed (or not) spaces, people who leave gym equipment all gross and sweaty…

Does this “style” offend you as well?

Would you vote an Asbo for the uninvited sight of some guy’s ass?

The Sun Is Out! So Are (Sigh) Bra Straps, Scaly Heels, Doughy Arms And Other (Avoidable) Style Crimes

In Fashion on May 3, 2010 at 1:17 pm
This photo taken on July 29, 2008 shows an eth...

An extreme solution, yes...Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Gotta love those first warm days of late spring, when the temperature hits — here in the Northeast anyway — an unlikely and premature 70 or 80 or even 90 degrees.

Off come the layers of wool and silk and nylon and leather that have sheltered and protected us. Not just from nature’s cold and winds and wet, but from one another’s gaze.

We went out to eat the other day, loving the shaded table and river view at an elegant restaurant. Not loving the young hostess’ red bra straps — when duck is $28? — or the dingy white ones of a young woman sitting at a nearby table. They do make racer-back bras. A shoelace, even, would tie those straps out of sight. Not everyone wants to look at your lingerie while eating!

A tube of Vaseline and pair of cheap white cotton socks, worn overnight, also make a great way to bring scaly, cracked, reptilian wintry feet back into public view, for men and women.

If bits of your body need a little firming, and many of us are in that jiggly boat, have a heart and consider the quaint notion of a little modesty.

Fellow True/Slant writer Lily Q offers her suggestions for men on how to wear shorts. I looked at Victoria’s Secret for a pretty, affordable summer dress, (and they have many) but 17 or 18″ in length isn’t workable once you’re anywhere past 25, maybe 35 if you have really, really great legs.

Guys, consider the classic appeal of a crisp, clean, pressed white cotton shirt. Polos can look great — or really, really awful when they cling to (as they do) your belly.

Saw a fabulous look at the same restaurant with all the exposed bra straps on a man of about 50: salmon silk shirt (it looked great on him, but would look really horrible on most men; tiny, extremely cool straw hat and polished, leather casual shoes that looked like an upscale huarache.) It’s a disastrous color for almost any Caucasian with pink or yellow skin tones but looked amazing on this guy, whose skin was a deep, dark brown; the white guy two tables over, in salmon colored linen, QED.

Having studied design helped me figure out that skin tones — when suddenly exposed in huge expanses — are a color in themselves and part of the picture when getting (well) dressed for summer. I learned this hard way with my new ugly bathing suit, ordered on-line, whose cold blue and black is so unflattering, even if it’s comfortable.

It’s lovely to feel the sun on your skin and get out of thick socks and heavy boots. But the sad fact is that every sort of clothing that covers us also hides a multitude of sins, corporeal and visual.

Summer is glorious. Baring every miserable inch of your ungroomed flesh and shaky style sense to the unsuspecting hordes? Not so much.

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