July 30th, 2010

How To Tie A Tie Video Series

Are you clueless about ties? Can’t imagine that – you’re a regular reader of this blog, afterall – but ANYWAY: I made a “How to Tie a Tie” video series.

This isn’t just a four-in-hand and Windsor deal. This is comprehensive. Whatever thickness and symmetry you want, I’ve got a knot. All you have to do is head over to Affordable Style’s YouTube page to become a “cravatologist” (someone who studies ties).

And stay tuned for our special project – a “How to Tie a Tie” section of the website that will pull all the videos and instructions together in an easy-to-use format.

July 30th, 2010

Celebrity Style: Inception and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

After seeing all 563 of my Facebook friends post a status update about how it “blew their mind,” I finally gave in and saw Inception. First reaction: Relief. I kept reading this on Facebook: “I didn’t get it.” Great, I’m going to have to think AND watch a movie.

Luckily, 6 seasons of LOST prepared me well for watching plots unravel full of twists and difficult concepts, so I understood it all. It was great. Also, the outfits were dreamy. (GET IT?)

When it comes to style, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his vests pretty much dominate Inception. You’ve probably seen this:

joseph gordon-levitt on an inception movie poster

I just don’t think it would look as badass if he was wearing a suit or if he was sans-vest. The vest’s armholes and his arms and their movement is just awesome.

Joseph Gordon Levitt in the beginning of Inception

A scene from the beginning of the movie. Look at those shoes. Now, those are what you wear with a light gray suit. Also wearing a vest.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the hotel room

His hair stands out as a supporting character.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Inception

C’mon Tom, didn’t you get the memo? The dress code is leather. Also, this picture, since it features three, allows me to transition into other characters. What, characters besides Joseph Gordon-Levitt? They exist.

Leonardo DiCaprio in a dream in Inception

Can you say, “super sleek single-buttoned jacket?” At least I think it is. It’d be pretty sweet if it is. (I feel like his tie is a little too short, but I’m nitpicking.)

Michael Caine and Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception

Michael Caine, in a tweed jacket. Because what else is an architecture professor/Batman’s butler supposed to wear in France?

Ken Watanabe in inception with a suit

Pretty good.

Ken Watanabe in Inception

Pretty awesome. (I refer to Ken Watanabe’s half-Oriental, half-Western gettup, not crazy dream-ex Marillon Cotillard)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt at the premiere of Inception

Technically from the premiere, not the movie, but still, how could I not include this? I mean, I don’t really like it, but still. I think his sleeves might be too long. Nevertheless, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s wardrobe in Inception is sleek, and that shows up in everyone else’s appearance, too. (Even you, Leo!) The same has been said about Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s acting. I know zilch about acting, so I’ll let you decide that one.

Picture #2 and #5 photo credit: Rotten Tomatoes

Picture #7 and #8 photo credit: Flixster

The rest: IMDB

Note…many of the photos I found via this Reddit r/fashion thread.

July 29th, 2010

The History Of The Tie: The 20s

This post is the first in a history of the tie series, with hopefully many to come. Men’s fashion doesn’t change as violently as women’s; its value comes from subtleties. This series will examine how the subtleties of the tie have changed, from 1920 to present day.

Golfing legend Bobby Jones

During the 20s, athletes like legendary golfer Bobby Jones exerted powerful style influence

I pick the 1920s to start for some important reasons. Throughout the 19th century, cravats were tied in a variety of designs. However, as I wrote in an earlier post, their arrangements became more discrete and more characteristic of modern ties and bow ties as the 20th century approached. Come 1900, modern day bow ties and ties were dispersed among ascots and traditional cravats, and gaining on them.

The golfer Walter hagen

Another influential golfer, Walter Hagen

In the first half of the 1920s, however, ties were plagued with problems. Since they were cut along the length of the tie, they easily developed permanent wrinkles. Though the four-in-hand was, by far, the most popular knot, the tie material caused it to become untied, which led to the use of tie pins to secure them.

A macclesfield tie, now popular at weddings

However, those problems didn’t slow the spread of the tie. The most popular style was the Macclesfield, a silver-toned tie with small geometric patterns. (Named after the location it was produced in.)

A regimental striped tie

Another popular choice in the 1920s was the striped club/regimental tie. They began in England, when men would take a silk strip, designating membership in a club or experience in a fighting unit, from their boater and tie it around their neck. After World War I, American demand for such ties increased, leading Brooks Brothers to reverse the direction of the strip (originally left shoulder to right side) and introduce club ties to the masses.

Actor Douglas Fairbanks and his wife

Actor Douglas Fairbanks and his wife

The reason the 1920s is the start of my series is that in 1926, Jesse Langsdorf, a NY tie maker, developed a new way to cut ties. By cutting the tie on a 45 degree bias, the tie maintained its original shape and resisted wrinkles. The same decade, an England manufacturing company developed the slip-stitch, which allows ties to snap back to their original shape after being tied.

The Duke of Windsor visiting America with Henry Ford

The Duke of Windsor, visiting the Fords in the 20s

Another powerful sartorial influences arrived on America’s shore in the 20s: The Duke of Windsor, or, as he was still called at that point, David Windsor, Prince of Wales. Though his visit immediately attracted media attention, the Duke’s popularity, and wrongly assigned reputation for pioneering the Windsor knot, would continue to grow during the 30s. Which will be the decade discussed in the next part of this series.

For a broader view on men’s style in the 20s.

Bobby Jones photo credit: Black Watch

Walter Hagen photo credit: Wikipedia

Club tie photo credit: Ben Silver

Macclesfield photo credit: A Suitable Wardrobe

Fairbanks photo credit: Wikipedia

Duke of Windsor photo credit: The Detroit News

July 26th, 2010

The Bolo Tie, Part 1

As World War II raged on, and the size and intricacy of cravats was replaced by the simple neck tie, an American contribution to menswear was, literally, being forged. Victort Cedarstaff, an Arizona silversmith, donned a sliver-trimmed band around his hat. Since he didn’t want to lose the band when the hat kept slipping off, he looped the band around his collar. A friend remarked, “That’s a nice-looking tie you’re wearing, Vic,” according to an Arizona newspaper. Cedarstaff soon fashioned the first “bola” tie, which comes from boleadora, an Argentine lariat. The bolo was born.

Bruce Springsteen wearing a bolo tie on the cover of tunnel of love

A southwest favorite, it’s a leather strand connected by a buckle in the front, with aglets hanging down on the ends of the strands. Based on the pictures I’ve seen, it’s worn with a suit, in place of a tie. It’s currently the official neckwear of three states: Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

the patent for the bolo tie arizona

This is a diagram from Cedarstaff’s patent, filed in 1959. The diagram lacks a buckle, though the text mentions a “rigid front plate.”  One oddity I’ve noticed about bolo ties is that there’s no clear rule about whether the front plate/buckle should rest over the collar button or below it, like a traditional tie knot. In the previous picture, the cover of his album, Tunnel of Love, The Boss wears his bolo tie under his collar button. On the other hand, Buddy Ebsen, who played Jed Clampett in Beverly Hillbillies, wears his on top of his collar button. (Though the guy on the right is wearing his under the button)

Buddy ebsen wearing a bolo tie

From what I’ve seen, the bolo tie is most popular with older men in western and southwestern states. Ken Salazar, former Colorado senator and current Secretary of the Interior, falls into this mold. However, it’s the only picture I’ve seen of a bolo tie next to a President. (Though I wouldn’t be surprised if George Bush didn’t wear one at some point.) As you can see, Salazar wears his above his collar button.

secretary of the interior sporting a cowboy hat and bolo tie

In discussions about menswear, the question is often asked, “Can I wear this?” It’s usually in the context of a clothing item that might be practical or widespread in a different time or place, but rare, odd, or even dandyish today. Men should dress well, but they should not dress up, in a costume. So is a bolo tie too much of a costume?

A princeton student wearing a bolo tie

The most common answer is, “only if you’re a cowboy or you live out West.” The bolo tie isn’t practical for a time or place, but it does carry certain connotations. The reasoning behind that common answer is, don’t try to imply what you’re not, ie, a cowboy.

Yet, I’ve never worn my boat shoes on a boat, I don’t wear ties to keep warm and I have little need to show of my white cuffs to separate myself from the blue cuffs of the working class. Point being, style eventually sheds old connotations and uses and becomes something you wear because people think it looks good. When men’s style experts say, “don’t wear that,” they don’t mean, “it’s not practical,” they mean, “it’s not in style.”

Will bolo ties ever become “style?” Well, maybe if Obama wears one.

Stay tuned next week for the next installment!

The Boss photo credit: Poster Guide

Buddy Ebsen photo credit: The Official Buddy Ebsen Website

Salazar photo credit: Reuters

Black and white photo credit: The Trad

July 26th, 2010

Weekly Roundup

Many men make the mistake of concentrating on the price, quality, and feel of a suit. What’s most important? Fit. After that, it’s the rest of your ensemble that matters, especially shoes and watch. Dappered dishes on how to wear a suit - it’s in the details.

How a suit “fits” is not a static definition. The Gent’s Gazette explores one early 20th century fitting style, the English Drape. The English drape, a suit cut It was large and wrinkled around the shoulders and armpits, then sharply tapered around the waist.

Great idea, terrible idea? After proposing that bars set their own closing times, instead of all obeying the 2 AM curfew, Seattle mayoral candidate Mark McGinn won. Just A Guy Thing on the original news.

As Short Shrifted writes, the NYTimes was a little slow in picking up the guys rolling pants trend. Heck, it not only looks good, but it can accommodate those of us usually plagued with hem jobs.

Renting tuxes should be, if possible, avoided. However, if you’re absolutely positively certain that you’ll never need to wear a dinner jacket again, Guys Style Guide gives hints for a successful visit to a rental agency. The same advice applies for any clothes you might borrow.

It’s not just business casual that kills workplace dress. When attention isn’t paid to the fit of a suit and the material needed for the weather, the results are just a disastrous. Maketh the Man on dressing for work.

Swim trunks are not an accessory you should dismiss. Even swimwear has dos and don’ts, as A Man Of Style writes. Find a length that fits your body type and avoid anything too loud.

The past week was (capsule) New York, a menswear show. I can’t pick one post to highlight, so instead, here are some of my fav accounts of the week:

Photo credit: Gent’s Gazette

July 21st, 2010

Subtle Quirkiness: Wes Anderson

Stuff white people like #10: Wes Anderson. Purveyor of films quirky and understated, Wes Anderson is beloved by hipsters everywhere. Though I thought The Royal Tenenbaums and Bottle Rocket were boring, I loved Rushmore and Fantastic Mr. Fox. So Wes’ movies get a pass from me.

Essential to all Anderson’s movie is some sort of costume. Often the characters wear the same clothes throughout the movie. I won’t get into the details or symbolism of Anderson’s costume design throughout the years. However, the attention Anderson pays to clothing is reflected in his style as well.

To get a feel for Anderson’s style, who has even been featured by The Sartorialist, I found these ideal screens from IMDB’s The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou photo slideshow. They perfectly capture Anderson’s casual style.

Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson of the set of The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

Look at the color. Burgundy sweater (complete with shaw collar) and dark brown Clark’s Wallabies.

Wes Anderson and Bill Murray on the set of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

The two shots above are my absolute favorites. Look at his neck – covered with a scarf or a handkerchief, as well as his collar. The suits – both textured, both earthy colors. Both complemented with cream. He’s sporting Wallabies again in both, complete with high-rising white socks. Why not? He looks completely at ease.

Wes Anderson's style on the set of The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

This screen showcases Anderson’s favorite color: brown.

Wes Anderson's style on the set of The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

Wes Anderson and Bill Murray at Fantastic Mr. FoxWes Anderson's Style at the premiere of The Darjeeling Limited

I’m not too sure about the tie length; though this pic encapsulates Anderson’s color pallette. He uses natural, earthy tones that don’t contrast greatly.

Wes Anderson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman at the premiere of The Darjeeling Limited

Wes Anderson and Cate Blanchett at the premiere of the Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

I’m not sure how I feel about this one, as much as I love the tie…

Wes Anderson, Jason Schwartzman, and Natalie Portman at the premiere of Hotel Chevalier

Did you notice that Anderson avoids black like the plague? Even navy was underrepresented.

Wes Anderson’s style is earthy and simple. He picks natural, subdued colors and compliments them with similar tones. He loves texture; his favorite is corduroy – check out photos #4 and 6. He avoids contrast and flashy colors or clothing pieces.

The white people who like him should take note!

Photo credit: IMDB

July 20th, 2010

The Slim Fit

The “slim fit” is in, and that makes me happy. Because it means that men are finally paying attention to how their clothes fit them. And what do you know, we actually have a waist!

Designer Thom Browne and a slim fit suit

Thom Browne, “inventor” of the slim fit.

What is the “slim fit,” exactly? No, you don’t need to wear pants half a foot above your shoes.  What designers make is meant to influence the retailers you buy from. The slim fit is about showing off your middle – the shape of your chest above it, and the shape of your legs below it.

Based on selections from trad American clothier Brooks Brothers, Thom Browne is influencing retailers. BB, traditionally a preppy, conservative staple, has introduced extra slim fit as well. Look at BB’s slim fit chinos:

slim fit brooks brothers chinos

To achieve this, shirts and jackets closely hug the waist, chest, and arms, while pants are tighter around the legs and break at the top of the shoe. The same applies for dinner jackets. A skinny tie typically accompanies the slim fit.

Everything else essentially stays regular: Shirts still vary in formality and collar design, suits still vary in lapel shape and button arrangement, pants still vary in waist design. Check out these slim fitting shirts from ASOS:

slim fit dress shirts

Here’s what I like about the slim fit:

  1. It shows that you care about clothing. Baggy clothes are the mark of a man who doesn’t know what he’s doing.
  2. It shows off your physique. (Which is why it isn’t for everyone.)
  3. It forces men to know how clothes fit their body. Wearing a “sack suit” doesn’t require much courage, just willingness to be measured. If you’re going to wear a suit that hugs your back and chest, you’ve got to learn to notice the tension on the back.

Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman in slim fitting suits

Daniel Craig, though not an early adopter of the slim fit, brought a fit to the silver screen that is achievable by non-movie stars, even those without Craig’s bod.

As mentioned before, there are some downsides to the slim fit. If your middle is not so trim, you probably don’t want to show it off. Moreover, slim is bold – I wouldn’t wear pants that break before my shoes to a job interview.

However, if you’re dressing to impress a lady friend or go out at night with friends, slim fit can set you miles apart, with the help of a couple of inches.

Thom Browne photo credit: LAist

BB chinos photo credit: Brooks Brothers

Shirts photo credit: ASOS

Craig and Jackman photo credit: PromAdvice

July 19th, 2010

Weekly Roundup

Maxminimus visits Boston, cans fruit, tries on 80s Polo ties, and more. This long stream of pictures and text is funny and flows well.

Most of the advice I get about cuffs can be summed up like this: If you’re tall, do it, if you’re short, don’t. However, as Simon Crompton writes on Style Crave, pant design and weight should be considered as well. Cuffs can properly “end” front pleats. Lightweight pants, on the other hand, will simply flap around if cuffed. Moreover, skinnier pants can be cuffed more bravely, since the cuffs won’t be as visible. Keep that in mind when shopping for pants.

The quality of a watch, similarly to a dress shoe, cannot be faked. That’s why luxury watches exist – few articles of clothing so visibly express one’s budget. A luxury watch For those of us with larger budgets, watchmakers like German firm A. Lange and Sohne can satisfy every whim and desire about watches. Gear Patrol visited their factory near Dresden. It’s worth a read, or at least a perusal of the stunning handiwork.

Unfortunately, baggy board shorts are a male staple at pools and beaches during the summer time. They’re fine, but as Guy Style Guide writes, men have other options. If you’ve got the abs and legs to do it, swim trunks and square leg trunks will make you the talk of the YMCA. (Bad thing? No!)

When I think of Combos, those cracker things filled with cheese, “manliness” does not spring to mind. Yet Combos decided to figure out the “50 Manliest Cities” with a criteria that makes me want to cry. As Better Guy X comments, the concentration of BBQ restaurants can hardly reflect more than a stereotypical view of manliness. Though my town, Indianapolis, did place 9th…Must be the 500.

A Time To Get visits NY, takes pictures, then recounts what happened, except the way he puts it creates so much more importance for everything.

Men’s magazines like GQ and Details can be a little…off the mark sometimes. They always pick products to showcase that can be found 50% cheaper for the same quality from lesser-known brands. And, as Dappered writes, some of their “Style previews” are just plain wrong.

Photo credit: Gear Patrol

July 14th, 2010

The Man Your Man Could Dress Like

Dear Old Spice guy, what should a man wear after he’s used Old Spice?

Look at your man. Now back to me. Now back at your man. Now back to me. Sadly, he isn’t me. But if he stopped using lady-scented body wash and switched to Old Spice, he could smell like he’s me.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owGykVbfgUE[/youtube]

As cliche as this term has become, the “latest internet phenomenon” is Isaiah Mustafa (what an awesome name), aka the Old Spice Guy. The “man your man could smell like.” He’s been super active on the interwebs lately, answering fans’ questions on his Twitter and Facebook page and through YouTube video responses. It’s not just the responses themselves that have landed him on Ellen and The Early Show, it’s the colossal amount of responses, to power players like Gizmodo and everyday users. I stopped counting after 100..uploaded in the past 24 hours. He even frequents Reddit, my constant hideout.

As a men’s style blogger, it’s my sworn responsibility to monitor stylish men. And since he’s receiving so much attention, Mustafa must be analyzed. Is he a man your man could dress like?

Isaiah Mustafa, aka the Old Spice guy, riding a horse in the video "did you know?"

You’re probably already aware that many scenes from the commercials take place on a beach. This is the ending shot from “Did You Know.” Like the end of “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” Mustafa’s wearing white chinos, rolled halfway up his leg. It’s good that Old Spice is paying attention to the rolled pants trend. It’s especially fitting since he’s on the beach. And, you know, riding a horse. White pants are terribly difficult to keep clean, but someone who can swan dive off a waterfall into a hot tub probably doesn’t have that problem. Plus he’s got sock-less leather loafers, probably Sperrys.

Isaiah Mustafa, aka the Old Spice guy, rolling on a log in the video "questions."

This next two pictures are from “Questions.” As he changes out of a towel and balances on a rolling log in the middle of a river in front of a gorgeous mountain range, Mustafa’s khaki shorts and belt reflect the ruggedness of his surroundings.

Isaiah Mustafa, aka the Old Spice guy, riding a motorcycle in the video "questions."

Speaking of rugged, in this shot, Mustafa prepares to ride off on his motorcycle into the wilderness, wearing nothing but well-fitted jeans and what appear to be leather boots. He shrugs off any hint of goggles, gloves, or other accessories women wear when riding motorcycles.

Regardless of his environment, Mustafa never sacrifices practicality for the raw strength of the no-shirt look. Bravo, “Old Spice Guy.” Or should I say, the man your man could dress like?

July 14th, 2010

The Tie Tuck – Yes or No?

The days of waistcoats are gone. Men frequently wear jackets unbuttoned, or forgo the jacket completely while sporting a tie. This leads to a predicament: What to do with a tie that flops around in the wind and potentially endangers you?

The American answer is the tie clip, formerly emblazoned with logos and colors, now delegated to simple gold and silver designs. Other accessories include the tie pin, which punctures the tie, the tie bar, which, unlike the tie clip, extends completely across the tie, and the tie chain, which attaches the tie to a clip on a shirt button.

Sans hardware, the final option is to tuck the tie in, which has jumped from practicality to fashion statement. Moderate dressers can get away with solely tucking in the narrow end, especially if its longer than the wide end. However, tucking entire ties into pants or shirts has been creeping in popularity for the past couple of years.

Derrick Miller and his tie tucked into his pants
A skinny black tie tucked into a shirt
A man with a tie tucked into his pants

Tucking ties into pants has been the subject of much debate among menswear enthusiasts, as Sartorially Inclined attests. I’m not a big fan. In all these pictures, the ties appear too long. Moreover, the tucking makes the tie poof out, and not the stylish poof formed by a tie clip. It’s a saggy poof, a roll, that forms at the waist.

Sean Connery with his tie tucked into his pants

So here’s my say: If one’s pants are at the natural waist (like Connery, pictured) and one’s shirt fit and waist is slim enough to avoid any unsightly rumples at the bottom (unlike Connery), a tie tucked into pants may be acceptable. Nice skinny tie, Connery.

Now onto the second question…Is it ok to tuck your tie into your shirt?

A tie tucked into a shirt

Tucking ties into shirts is a slightly different matter. On one hand, unlike the pant tuck, I don’t think the shirt tuck can ever look good. It looks abrupt and unfinished. On the other hand, tucking a tie into a shirt is actually practical; it can save your tie at hazardous lunches. Men’s style should never be handicapped by practicality. One shouldn’t be punished because the lunch one’s being served, or the distance between the table and the booth one’s sitting on. However, I would refrain from tucking ties in shirts anywhere outside eating establishments.

Are there any other options? Like the answer to a prayer, I found a post at Permanent Style that detailed his “dreamed up tie tuck.” Simply fold the narrow end in and out of a button, then thread it through the label loop as normal. Conclusion? There are many alternatives to tucking your tie into your pants or shirt. Try them before you try the tuck.

Photos #1-3 and #6: Sartorialist

Photo #4: Sartorially Inclined

Photo #5: Brandish.tv

Photo #7: Put This On