MANual of Style


Lesson 16: Fine Details by Shreyas
25 February, 2010, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Casualwear, Special

This brings us to the end of the casualwear unit.

Today we’re just going to talk about some details: the signature item and the matter of richness.

Signature Items

A signature item is an extremely noticeable item, often an accessory, that you wear often if not always—Hercule Poirot’s moustaches, my key necklace, Ianto Jones’ astonishing ties, etc. A few friends-and-acquaintances of mine have signature items (a hat in one case, a watch in another) they have had to replace over time, as the original wore out.

Signatures are a delicate balancing act between unnoticeable (most mens’ wedding bands) and cartoonish (Gilligan’s hat). I think it’s pretty cool to have a signature item, but it takes balls to do it and careful styling to pull it off well. A really good signature can be a comforting style talisman, something you’re always confident about no matter what else you’re wearing. If you want to try it out, pick something you have that’s pretty eye-catching and unusual, and try to incorporate it into your outfit for a straight week. If that feels good to you, maybe you’ve got a signature item.

Richness

The quality of fabrics is something that is sadly neglected in the education of the modern man. I think everyone should have a solid idea of what makes a fabric look rich, and mostly what makes fabrics look rich is quality. The things that make fabric look good are also good indicators of its feel and durability.

A good fabric will have a high thread count. Usually you won’t see this on the label of anything but bed linens, so to get a comparative look at some different thread counts, look at your favorite department store’s bedding section—you’ll see that, as a general tendency, higher-end sheets have higher thread counts and feel smoother against the skin. This is because thread count (the number of fibers per square inch) is constrained by the fineness of threads used to weave the fabric. A tighter weave requires finer threads, leading to a smoother-feeling fabric. Generally, if you can see the weave without bringing a fabric close to your eyes for a serious inspection, you can probably feel it too. (For sheets, the printed count isn’t an infallible metric for market reasons, but the naked-eye test is a good rule of thumb.)

Good fabrics will also have threads that are finished differently, and composed of longer single fibers. Check out Wisegeek’s discussion about combed cotton—a fabric using longer fibers will feel smoother to the touch and last longer, because the longer pieces are more securely interlaced. The smoother surface will also give it a subtle sheen.

You’ll also find that high-quality shirting fabrics are often woven in interesting ways that play with texture. One of my favorite shirts is a sort of platinum affair with alternating matte and satiny stripes—the combined textures make it look more expensive than any one of them would by itself.

What’s the point of all this? Well, good fabric is attractive because it’s touchable. It feels nice under your fingers. A good shirt can make people want to touch you (or give them an excuse). It’s as simple as that.

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Lesson 14: Casual Accessories by Shreyas
11 February, 2010, 2:33 pm
Filed under: Casualwear | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Not much of an intro today, because there’s a lot of ground to cover. Suffice it to say that accessories are important: they provide the bit of polish that separates someone dressed acceptably from someone who is dressed well. With a little bit of knowledge about how to choose the correct accessories, you will find your outfits look complete, without ever having realized they were incomplete before.

Hats

There are a lot of similarly-structured hats with brims and crowns of various shapes, and usually a hatband; it would be tedious to list all of them here, but here are some things to think about when choosing these brimmed, non-baseball caps. Right now, “stingy” brims are in fashion, which is to say that they have thinner brims than usual; this is flattering to most face shapes, but if the stinginess is exaggerated it tends to make the head look big or the face look round. The other thing to remember is that choosing a hat shape is functionally equivalent to choosing a haircut; your hair will have little to no visible shape when wearing a hat, so it’s up to the hat to make the usual adjustments to the width and length of your face. These types of hats usually come in stiffened fabric or felt; the stiffened fabric is an all-season thing, but the felt caps will be too warm for summer. Likewise, woven hats (hats made of a solid material with visible holes) are summer-only.

As far as looks go, patterned hats are more likely to draw the eye to your face, but less versatile overall. The same goes for bright colors, as opposed to neutrals. (Remember: subtle patterns, such as pinstripes, count as solids here; however, there’s been a trend towards very high-contrast pinstripes; those are sort of a no-man’s land between solid and pattern.) I would suggest that if the hatband has any sort of ornament, it shouldn’t be much taller than the band itself; you want people to look at your face, not the side of your head.

A good hat is a great way to get people focused onto your face, as long as the brim doesn’t overshadow too much. Which brings us to baseball caps.

Baseball caps are really only for people who look good bald; the fit of a baseball cap means that your face is viewed without the frame of hair to alter its silhouette. On top of that, a particularly low or long bill casts shadows over the face in the wrong light, making you less likely to catch the eye on a bright day. Baseball caps are also the lowest level of formality when it comes to haberdashery, with the possible exception of paper party hats— if your outfit errs on the side of formality, even if it is “casual,” you run the risk of looking like you’re trying to conceal hair loss. This also goes with the general idea of becoming less formal as you remove layers of clothing.

The final thing to keep in mind is the decoration which adorns your baseball cap: follow the rules we laid out for graphical tees in our “Shopping from the closet” lesson. If it says or implies something you would not walk up to a stranger and say to them, it’s not appropriate. And if you wear a cap with an actual team logo, make sure you know something about the team in case a fellow fan strikes up a conversation.

Now that you’ve chosen the ideal baseball cap, breaking it in is fairly simple. Soak it in warm water, shake off the excess water, and let it dry while you’re wearing it. To curve the bill, wrap rubber bands around it overnight. Voila! Perfectly broken in.

Hats like beanie/skull/knit caps are like basbeball caps without bills: they cling to your scalp and remove the frame of hair. They’re good for winter months, strange in warm weather, and count as outerwear: since they’re specifically and obviously for warmth, it looks strange to wear them inside, and it’s important to pair them with a jacket of a similar or greater weight.

Jewelry

The important thing to keep in mind when it comes to jewelry is that less is more. That’s not to say you can’t wear a ton of necklaces or something: I do, certainly. But the general rule is this: the more expensive your jewelry is, the less jewelry you can get away with wearing. If you have a really nice Movado watch, it will look gaudy in the company of a lot of rings, and out of place with a shell-and-wood surfer necklace. It’s also important to let the higher-quality and special pieces breathe; you want people to notice and compliment them, and not let them get lost in a bunch of visual noise.

On the other hand, some jewelry works best in tandem with others. The shell-and-wood necklace that wouldn’t go with your watch might look great with a leather cuff. I also have some great, brightly-colored beaded bracelets that are entirely too slender and girly on their own, so I pick out a handful of them to wear on one hand (and usually make sure one of them is black and/or chrome). Put together, they look like one item, and the girlyness is vastly toned down.

The other important thing to remember when grouping jewelry is to choose materials that complement each other. Leather, wood, and shell are all very organic materials; brushed metal and smooth stone aren’t. Partially it’s about texture, but organic materials also tend to read as less formal than metal and stone, and they tend to come in completely unrelated colors.

Make sure to choose pieces which are the right length and thickness for your frame: if you’re a big guy, a slender bracelet or a frat-boy choker will seem constricting and uncomfortable, even if they fit well. Likewise, if you’re small, don’t overdo the wide leather cuffs or the chunky industrial watch, or you risk making your delicate wrists look weak and weighed-down.

As a final note, there are pieces of jewelry that just don’t count: wedding rings, small earring studs, and functional, utilitarian belt buckles. Any body piercings you never take out do count, but you should consider them only for color and texture, and not their level of formality.

That’s everything on casual accessories for now. See you Saturday, when I talk about specific accessories I enjoy.



Lesson 13: Sneakers & Sandals by Shreyas
8 February, 2010, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Casualwear | Tags: , ,

Shoes are good. If we didn’t have shoes, we’d all have to step in things all the time. It would be terrible. Respect shoes.

The most diverse category of casual shoe is the sneaker, or “trainer” for our friends across the pond. As the British term implies, sneakers originated as athletic shoes; thus they have rubber soles, and you can find sneakers designed for the performance needs and style preferences of many different activities. If you’re looking for style and comfort (rather than shopping for a specific sport), you need to know the weight and construction differences between types. Many brands specialize in one sport or another, and they often make street shoes in similar styles. A street shoe is usually labelled as a sneaker or athletic shoe, rather than “basketball shoe” and so on. The specific construction of one style of shoe might be more comfortable or flattering than another for you.

Basketball shoes are usually heavy, have thicker soles, and tend to be high-tops. I also find that they tend to be flashier and stranger than the average sneaker. They’re good if you want to look taller or anchor the eye at the ground, since they have a lot of visual mass and thick soles. They’re also good if you want to make your feet look bigger, which you might want to do if you have particularly broad shoulders and smaller feet. If you actually want to use these for exercise, they’re crappy to run in (they’re designed to support you when jumping), so save them for show or basketball.

Soccer shoes usually have cleats. Similarly-styled street shoes look like this. They tend to be low-profile shoes with thin, flexible uppers and soles; in other words they’re pretty much the stylistic opposite of basketball shoes. The flash in soccer shoes often comes from color rather than construction. I once had a pair in dark green and lime suede. Soccer-style shoes are good for deemphasizing a large foot, since they’re small and tend to be constructed of soft curved lines. I like them because they’re flexible and breathe well.

Running shoes are lightweight, low-topped, have an upturned toe and thick soles. The upturned toe visually shortens your foot, so this is another option if you want to minimize your feet. The design of running shoes tends to either be very traditional or kind of weird (shoes with new technology invariably show off that technology on their exterior somehow), but they tend to be less flashy in general than basketball shoes. They’re good if you want to be light on your feet and not draw too much attention while doing it. Running shoes also breathe well, which is important if you spend a lot of time in your shoes.

Chucks (or Cons) are named after Chuck Taylor, a basketball player who popularized the style. (Classic Chucks are high-tops, as you would expect of a basketball shoe.) They tend toward a thin upper made of canvas, with no padding at all, and the style is pretty standard, though they come in a wide variety of colors and prints. Other than this, their features remain similar to other basketball shoes. Personally, I find Chucks to be more of a liability than anything else; they have white on the vulnerable toe, where it is likely to get scuffed and stained. However, if the uppers get dirty, you can just throw them in the washer because they’re canvas.

That’s by no means an exhaustive list, but they’re the basic types that most athletic shoes relate to.

The right sneaker for you

Once you’ve got an idea of what style works best for you, it’s time to go to the store and try some shoes on. Any good shoe salesman can size you and tell you what to look for, but everyone’s feet are different, so you should definitely walk around in a new pair of shoes (just do a lap around the aisle in the shoe store) before you commit to it.

Once you take care of that you can think about color and detail. A safe way to add color to an outfit is to add brightly-colored shoes; they don’t necessarily have to relate to your outfit as long as you’re wearing neutrals or sticking to a single color. However, if you do buy brightly-colored shoes, you have to keep them clean. This goes doubly for yellow and white, which show stains the soonest, and triple for Chucks because they’re canvas, so if you don’t wash them promptly, the stains will soak in and you’ll never get them out. Regardless, it’s a good idea to have a pair of dark sneakers in neutral tones for wear when the weather is crappy.

Rather than going for one or the other extreme of color, you can also choose a subdued non-neutral that looks good on you. These are really tough to find, but I think they make a lot of impact.

Decide on the level of detail you want—contrast stitching, panels of different colors, patterned canvas, logos and other embellishments—based on how much care you want to put into your shoes and how much attention you want them to draw. More detailed shoes call for more care; since people will look at them more, you should take good care of them. Lacing is an easy, low-investment way to personalize your shoes and add or suppress detail. You can change the color of your laces for various effects, or you can lace them in different patterns for graphic or functional effect. Check out Ian’s Shoelace Site for some really in-depth discussion of shoe lacing methods, including how-tos, pros and cons of different methods, and other good stuff.

Changing your laces is an effective way of refreshing a pair of tired shoes, too. Clean them well and put in a new pair of laces, and it’s almost like having new shoes. I have one caveat, though: brand-new laces will take a while to lose their factory gloss and look integrated with your shoes, so this is a place where it might be preferable to experiment with contrasting colors.

Socks

You should always wear socks with shoes, and never wear socks with sandals. See, the purpose of socks is to keep your feet warm and absorb moisture (i.e. sweat), so your shoes don’t get stinky over time. If you leave out the sock when you’re in your sneakers, they soak up sweat and dirt and become a breeding ground for smelly things and foot infections. It isn’t pretty. On the other hand, the reason sandals are open is to allow air to move freely over your feet, which socks interfere with. Also, you’ll look like someone’s grandfather if you wear socks with your sandals.

Generally, it’s a good idea to pair light socks with light shoes and dark socks with dark shoes, even if you firmly believe that no one will see your socks. (I have this advice from my fiancée, who I consider to be a reliable authority on hosiery.) It’s presently trendy to wear exactly the minimum sock you can and still separate yourself from your shoe. I think that’s a good thing to do if you’re wearing shorts and have nice ankles, but I also find that no-show socks tend to slip out of position and become uncomfortable easily, so when in long pants I opt for slightly longer socks.

(Note that despite having their own heading, socks are not footwear in their own right.)

Sandals

Sandals are essentially a shoe sole lashed to the foot with some arrangement of straps. As distinct from flip-flops, sandals fasten to the heel or ankle in some way, so the foot and sandal move as a unit. These straps are your friends. When looking for sandals, be aware of what parts of your foot will be exposed vs. covered, and choose sandals that cover the parts of your feet you like the least. If you are embarrassed by your hairy toes, get something with a strap that covers them. If you don’t really want your foot to be visible at all, but you want the airflow and freedom from socks that sandals provide, get yourself some huaraches.

Sandals are good for hot weather and any situation where you might be taking off your shoes a lot, but it’s difficult to find one that provides the support and traction for high-stress activity. They tend to give an even more casual look than sneakers and complement already summery attire well.

Flip-flops

Flip-flops, or thong sandals, have straps that only hold the toes against the sole. They’re the most casual type of sandals, usually inexpensive, and come in a wide variety of patterns, colors, and sole treatments. Since you can see the footbeds of flip-flops all the time, they’re often decorated. They’re demanding to wear—as you step, your toes have to work to grip the bottom of the shoe and push it back into place with each motion. If you’re not used to it, walking in thongs for long periods can be painful.

With flip-flops and sandals, be aware that you’ll get tan lines on your feet.

We’ll talk about more kinds of shoes later. I’m starting to feel long-winded. See you on Thursday for casual accessories!



Lesson 12: Jackets by Shreyas
4 February, 2010, 11:16 pm
Filed under: Casualwear | Tags: , , , ,

I love jackets. Living in New England, you don’t have a choice but to have a warm layer you can wear all the time, and I find that in cold places like this, you’ll find that almost everyone has a great coat—because you need to wear one so often, it’s a smart thing to invest a little extra thought and money in. (If you live in a warmer climate, put in the thought anyway, but also keep in mind that you can make good use of an item with a shorter lifespan, since you won’t be using it as hard.)

Today we’re going to talk about short jackets. The trench and long woolen coat are a little more formal, despite the best efforts of Dick Tracy and Matrix lovers to turn the trench into everyday wear.

Choosing a Color

Remember what I said earlier about outerwear: it is easier to make it work with your whole wardrobe if it’s one of your neutrals. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should never have colored jackets (In my time I’ve had red, green, sky blue…), but they require a little more thoughtfulness to integrate into an outfit. If you do choose a strong color, it must be a color that looks really good on you, not one that’s merely okay, since while you’re wearing it, it’ll be the most visible color in your outfit.

When to Wear a Casual Jacket

As a rule of thumb, I think that as you shed layers you should become less formal, not more. Ergo, don’t wear a casual jacket with your interview suit. There’s a sort of cognitive dissonance that happens if you take off a piece of clothing and start looking more dressed up, and I generally think that your casualwear shouldn’t be unsettling.

Formal jackets should never be worn indoors, but lighter casual jackets can, especially if you’re somewhere you can’t settle in, like the mall. I wouldn’t suggest that you wear a snowboard jacket to your Sociology class, but you can certainly leave your track jacket on in a café and no one will think anything of it. Anything less massive than a biggish sweater can act as an integral part of an outfit, rather than as a removable outer layer.

The Bomber

Shades of Greige Herringbone Bomber, $165

Descended from WWI pilot gear, the bomber jacket has lots of functional details: a high collar, snug cuffs, a fitted waist, and a wind flap over the zipper closure. It’s designed to keep cold air out in windy conditions. The constructed silhouette of the bomber flatters the waist, but it can be bulky, particularly since many bombers have quilted or shearling linings. Don’t put anything in the breast pockets; if you do, they’ll sag. I particularly like the flat pockets of the jacket above; you’ll find that many military-styled items have pleated or bellows pockets, which add a lot of weight.

The bomber-and-scarf look is traditional and iconic, by the way, for a good reason: it looks cool. The most traditional implementation uses a pretty hefty scarf, but it’s more modern to use something more lightweight, which will drape rather than bulk up—the softness and motion add contrast with the jacket’s structure.

The Puffy Coat

Fred Perry Quilted Jacket, $215

Puffy/quilted jackets are often quite warm, but they also tend to add a lot of volume in an overstuffed way. The jacket you see above is one of the slimmest specimens I’ve seen. Skiing and snowboarding jackets are usually of the puffy kind as well; as a matter of personal taste I don’t wear snow-sports jackets unless it’s actually the season for the sport. Since they add so much bulk and erase the contours of the body, I suggest wearing with caution unless you’re quite thin. Wear them with narrow pants to counteract the Michelin Man effect.

The Track Jacket

Oakley Faded Track Jacket, $46

Track jackets generally offer a slimming silhouette, backed up by ribbed cuffs and waist. They also have a collar that can be zipped to a stand-up position; that can add some height to your look, but if the collar is so tight it stretches when you zip it up, the folds that result from stretching it will cancel out the effect. Personally, I don’t wear my collar up unless it’s windy. Track jackets sometimes come with raglan sleeves, so if the raglan look works for you, you should go and find one. As with other sports jackets, I personally feel like it’s a little more appropriate to wear track jackets when the sport is in season, but don’t let that stop you.

I wouldn’t ordinarily accessorize a track jacket. The collar isn’t the right shape to accommodate a scarf, and it’s too lightweight to wear with gloves. You should generally zip up a track jacket whenever you’re wearing it, because the structure of the collar makes it drape in an unattractive way when it’s open.

The Leather Jacket

Diesel Lade Leather Jacket, $550

Just some notes about leather here—jackets of many styles are made from leather, from the track look here to the iconic double-breasted motorcycle jacket. Leather jackets often have metal details and linings of some delicacy, so they require extra care. Since leather shouldn’t stretch very much (it weakens the material), you should be absolutely sure you have the right size before you choose a leather jacket. Unlike fabric, a tight spot in a leather jacket won’t gradually creep into place and become more comfortable, without damaging the stitching and lining. I recommend trying jackets on until you find one that’s uncomfortably small, and then go one size up from that; don’t get a jacket that’s too big, either, because the way leather folds breaks up your silhouette and adds a lot of visual distraction you don’t want.

I prefer to wear wool gloves with leather jackets. For some people, wearing matching leather gloves works, but it’s not for me.

The Hoodie

Unconditional Zip-Off @ ASOS, £290

Since hoodies have more substance around the neck, they’re good for adding volume to your shoulders; by the same token you shouldn’t wear a hoodie with a scarf or turtleneck, because all the mass will make it look like you don’t have a neck at all. Although historically hoodies have been baggy rather than tailored, more recently designers have been introducing slimmer and more constructed silhouettes, and playful pieces like the one above (which is pretty damn cool if you ask me, but since it’s so unusual it’s a big style statement).

There are more jackets in the world, but I hope that’ll give you an idea of what you’ve got to look for and think about. Remember: wardrobe integration, silhouette, accessories. Should you ever wear it open? Collar up or down? At some point I’ll talk about layering in greater depth, too. For now, I’m signing off. See you on Saturday, when we’ll talk about what it means to be a douchebag.



Lesson 11: Jeans by Shreyas
2 February, 2010, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Casualwear | Tags: , , , ,

Though you can wear other pants casually, today we’re just going to talk about the cornerstone of casual buttwear: jeans. Jeans are America’s greatest contribution to fashion; they’re sturdy, versatile, and expressive. They have wildly different personalities: a man who wears Wranglers would have little to say to one who wears Rag & Bone. Today we’ll talk about why some jeans are so expensive, which jeans fit your personality, and choosing the right fit, wash, and length.

About Denim

Denim is a unique fabric because of the way indigo dye works. Rather than sinking into the thread and dyeing it evenly the whole way through, indigo bonds to the thread surface. That’s what allows denim to develop the shaded patterns of fading and wear that it does—the cores of denim threads are lighter-colored than the outsides, so as the cloth is subjected to abrasion, the contact surfaces become lighter. (Most denim sold today has been made with synthetic indigo dyes that act similarly, but not identically, to the real thing. Real indigo dye has more imperfections in it, which lead to more unpredictable and interesting fade patterns.)

A lot of jean manufacturers manipulate this fading process in various ways, like the infamous acid wash of the 80s or the more recent manipulations of fading and “whiskering”—artificial crease patterns in the crotch. You can learn how to do your own artificial jean-aging on your favorite DIY website, too, but I prefer to let jeans fade and wear naturally. The color variations of jeans also come from post-dyeing processes; indigo only comes in one color (a deep, cool blue), and any other color notes come from operations that manufacturers call “washes.”

High-end jeans are generally made with selvedge denim, which means that the fabric was woven on special looms that create a tighter, stronger fabric. These shuttle looms are slower and therefore more expensive to operate than mass-production projectile looms, so the jeans are more expensive. You can identify selvedge jeans by looking at the inside of the outer leg seam; regular denim will have a cut-and-stitched edge, while selvedge denim will have a woven edge that usually has a brightly-colored stripe running along it.

Fit

There are basically two points of fit for jeans: rise and leg. “Rise” is the distance between crotch and waistline. Low-rise jeans are for hipsters with hipbones and guys with pot bellies; low-rise means they cut directly across what is typically the widest part of your frame, so they’re good to show off flat stomachs or to avoid cutting across the belly. (If you’re one of the latter cases, make sure your shirts are long enough to cover your belly when you raise your arms, because your pants won’t do the job for you.) Medium-rise is what I recommend for most people. The waistband of these jeans should sit slightly below the waist, but safely high enough to cover your buttcrack. (Low-rise jeans wrap around the hip bones; medium-rise sit on them.) The medium rise is forgiving of less-than-perfect abs without looking too uptight.

Finally, the high-rise jean, whose waistband actually reaches the waist. Who should wear these? Well, a lot of vintage-style jeans have a high rise, so if you’re going for a Man Men casual look or a sort of old-fashioned workwear effect, go for it. It’s easier to wear high-waisted jeans with a tucked-in shirt, too. (The added bulk of the shirt would otherwise conceal your waist and make you look like you have a gut.) Either way, it takes a pretty intentionally-styled outfit to make high-rises work, and you must take care not to wear jeans that go above your waist, or you’ll look like Urkel.

The leg has a lot more variables; each brand styles their legs differently. They do fall into some basic categories, though: the skinny leg, boot cut, straight leg, and wide leg.

  • Skinny-leg jeans work best for slim dudes without a lot of muscle definition: the point of the skinny leg is to emphasize tall, lean lines.
  • Straight-leg jeans work for most builds, and if your thighs are much larger than your calves, it can provide good camouflage.  The idea with the straight leg is to emphasize height, but focus more on strong than lean. (So if you’re a skinny kid who’d rather look strong than lean, or a skinny kid who’s also a bike messenger, wear these instead of skinny jeans.)
  • Boot-cut jeans are wider at the bottom than straight-leg jeans, and are usually narrowest at the knees. It creates the look of muscle definition if you don’t have much, conceals extremely large calves, and is good for people who actually wear boots. If you already have strong legs, though, you might find the thighs uncomfortably tight. (These and the skinny jeans run the greatest risk of looking like women’s jeans if worn incorrectly.)
  • Wide-leg jeans are enlarged versions of the straight-leg jean. They lack any definition of silhouette, so they’re good for making a specific fashion statement (“I enjoy urban streetwear”), but not for making your butt or legs catch the eye.

When you’re shopping for jeans, you have to look at your butt in the mirror. (If you’re not comfortable doing this, bring a friend to look at your butt for you.) Jeans that fit properly will show some definition. Some styles will wrap all the way around (Wranglers are infamous for looking painted-on in this region), while ones with roomier legs will contour to the roundest part and fall from there. Either way, you can tell your pants don’t fit if either there’s a horizontal crease at your seat, which means they’re too tight (there should be enough room for you to sit down), or if you can’t find your butt, which means they’re too loose. Also check where the rear pockets are. Unless you’re looking at specialty jeans of one kind or another, the rear pockets shouldn’t reach your thighs. They go on your butt.

Okay, enough of that. What about length? Test! You shouldn’t be able to see your socks when you sit down, and you probably (again, specific styles excepted) don’t want them pooling at the ankles very much. Pooling makes you look shorter, and creates a lot of wear-and-tear on the cuffs, which will make your jeans wear out faster. Wear the same (style of) shoes to the store that you plan to wear with your jeans so you can see how they work together. The shape of your shoes and the thickness of the soles affect how your pants hang, and you’ll want slightly longer pants to wear with, say, work boots, than you would with flip-flops.

Wash & Detailing

We’ve already talked about color. Just go out and pick a wash that you like and look good in, keeping in mind that your pants go next to your shoes. There aren’t a lot of washes like this that are popular now, but ones with a lot of texture or contrast count as patterns when laying out your outfit. I’d also treat complicated hardware or embroidery (adorned rear pockets, button flys, built-in chains, whatever) as accessories. Basically, just remember that interesting details make people look at things.

If you want to preserve the original color and contrast of your jeans, wash them after every few wears. Use cold water, the delicate cycle, and turn the pants inside-out before you wash. Turning them out keeps the dyed surface from rubbing up against your other clothes too much. To create a more contrasted wear pattern, wear them longer between washes, or if you think that’s gross put them in the dryer with some tennis balls on the no-heat cycle (that’ll create a different wear pattern than actually wearing them, though). Always button your jeans before washing them; it takes stress off the fly so it doesn’t wear out as fast.

Join us on Thursday for jackets and outerwear, and on Saturday I think we’ll do a rundown of some denim brands and the way they style their jeans.



Products I like: Shirts by Shreyas
30 January, 2010, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Casualwear | Tags: , , ,

Wicked Quick V-Neck Tee

This shirt is great. It’s got some very nice silhouette-shaping details: the textured dye job makes bright areas at the collar and sleeve hems, drawing the eye to the face and to the widest point of the bicept, which is great for making your muscles look bigger. The sleeves are just the right length (Note that if you’ve got especially long or short arms, your results will vary), and the belly area is subtly darker than the chest, for a slimming effect. Plus, that color is amazing. (It comes in a wide variety of colors, some of which are tamer than this.)

The texture also follows my fashion rule: Wear richer, not fussier, fabrics. It looks handmade and is visually interesting, without being a noisy or distracting design. In addition, the cut is obviously very intentional; hems don’t land like that by accident. (I just found the Wicked Quick brand today, actually, and I’m very impressed.)

MK2 Fitted Stretch Cotton Shirt

I really love the arresting color and black details, but the military style is what makes this shirt stand out for me. Military styles have the strong structure to make my shoulders look their straightest and my torso look its leanest, and the epaulets atop the shoulders help add the perception of bulk where it needs to be. The sleeves are long, but can be rolled and buttoned to a shorter length, making for a neater appearance while still keeping things casual. This is definitely a shirt that could be dressed up or down: with a blazer, the double front pockets would disappear, and you’d simply see a tablespoon of well-tailored crimson cotton. It doesn’t hurt that the model is wearing a shade of dark-wash denim that is a staple in my wardrobe; when I first saw this shirt, I said to myself “Oh! That’s a whole outfit for me, right there.” You know an item is worth purchasing when it mentally pulls together an outfit (or two, or three) with items already in your wardrobe.

Of Vice And Virtue Hooded Henley

I’m always on the lookout for warm clothes with interesting necklines—living where I do, it’s hard to be warm and fashionable. Even with the hood up, the lighter-colored lining on this henley draws attention to the face, and the sleeve detail is a nice thing to have peeking out of the cuffs of a jacket. I like the slim cut on this piece, important when you’re layering, and the extra length on the sleeves to help keep my hands warm and add to the slouchy, casual feel. It’s super casual without making you look like a slob.



Lesson 10: Shirts by Shreyas
28 January, 2010, 8:15 pm
Filed under: Casualwear | Tags: , , , , , , ,

In this unit, we’re going to break down casualwear into specific items of clothing and talk about them in some detail. Let’s start at the top, with shirts.

There are three basic types of shirts: tee shirts, collared shirts, and pullovers (sweaters and the like). Any of these shirts can be casual. There are formal versions of each as well; how do you tell the difference? In a lot of cases, the difference is what you wear them with—that is to say, you can dress the item up or down, as we discussed in the intro.

Tees

Tees are the most casual shirt, and there are a lot of different types to choose from.

The basic crew-neck is probably somewhere in everyone’s wardrobe. It’s safe and reliable. Fitted correctly, the shoulder seam should land just at the point of your shoulder and the hemline at the bend of your hip, as on the model. Be sure it’s long enough; check by trying on the shirt and raising your arms straight overhead. If it rides up and exposes your belly, it’s too short. It pays to shop around for tees with the right proportions; if you’re particularly narrow-shouldered you will need to find adequately narrow, long shirts to get the shoulder seams to fit right; a shirt that’s overly wide will make you look small-armed and boxy.

Raglans and baseball tees have a diagonal shoulder seam that ends at the collar. They put a lot of emphasis on the chest and shoulders, particularly if the sleeve color has a lot of contrast with the body color. If you’re narrow in the chest and torso, you’ll want the brighter color on the body section; if you’re wider, then go for raglans with bright sleeves and a darker body. Baseball shirts always have three-quarter length sleeves, which is great if you have nice arms, but otherwise tricky. However, raglans are also available in full- and short-sleeve versions, so experiment and see which works best for you. Note that the hem of a raglan is usually a little longer than a crewneck of similar size; this, along with the longer sleeve length, may make raglans a superior choice if you’re overweight and concerned about those particular areas.

Henleys and v-necks are designed to draw the eye up to the face, while also exposing a little bit of skin. (The one above is a pretty heavy knit, and you could conceivably treat it as a pullover, but the details at the neckline, hem, and cuffs make it an ideal example of this genre.) Henleys can read more formal than raglans and crew necks, but the V effect is nice on a casual short-sleeved tee as well. I highly recommend these for anyone with visible collarbones (girls love collarbones), but consider your chest hair when choosing a low neckline—if it’s very prominent, it’ll create a focal point that keeps the eye from going to the face. I’m not saying you should all wax your chests here, but for the more hairy among us, it’s always an option.

While we’re on the subject, I’d also like to warn you off the extremely low v-neck that goes past, say, the midpoint of the sternum. Unless you’re built like an underwear model, it looks like particularly sloppy sleepwear.

Collared Shirts

We discussed collared shirts in passing in the intro, as something that’s easy to dress up or down. Collared shirts that are inherently casual tend to have bolder patterns, decorative details, and less traditional construction. Many of them are designed for rolling the sleeves up—they have contrasting cuff linings that may match a contrast collar. (Note that the white-collared, white-cuffed pastel shirt is actually a formal item, for historical reasons. Back in the day, shirts were made with detachable collars and cuffs, and when the original parts wore out they were often replaced with white rather than attempting to match an aged fabric of unpredictable color.) Rolling up the sleeves to three-quarter length, or up to the elbow, is a common way to dress down a more formal shirt.

Layering a shirt and a tee can be an effective way of adding color and interest, but keep these things in mind: If you wear the shirt unbuttoned, it hangs straight down and does no good for your silhouette, and regardless of how you wear it, more layers add more bulk to your figure. If you’re layering, try to use a well-fitting tee made of pretty thin fabric.

Polo shirts (and their cousins, like the rugby shirt) are about as casual as tees. Because of their athletic roots, these shirts are usually cut for strong, lean figures and aren’t particularly forgiving, so wear with care.

Pullovers

The casual pullover—sweatshirts, hoodies, sweaters, cardigans, fleeces—should be worn with something underneath, thus the term “pullover.” Since it’s a top-layer item, you should always try these on with the appropriate kind of shirt underneath, and you might end up buying a size up from your t-shirt size when you do. That’s to be expected; pullovers need to be larger to accommodate the clothing underneath, and if they fit well they won’t make you look any bulkier.

I find that pullovers that display a lot of the lower layer, such as cardigans with low necklines, half-zip sweaters, and so on, are easier to combine with other clothes if they’re a neutral or one of the key colors of your wardrobe.

Fabric is a lot of what separates the casual pullover from the less casual. A finely knit cashmere sweater can be dressed up quite a bit more than a cable-knit fisherman’s sweater, and there’s no hope to dress up a jersey hoodie. Most solids are easier to dress up than most patterns; however, stripes and argyle are a little more formal than most patterns, especially when they’re in subtle colors.

That’s all for today. Join us on Saturday for some of my favorite shirts.