MANual of Style


Accessories I Like by Shreyas
14 February, 2010, 8:16 am
Filed under: Special | Tags: , ,

Hi friends! Sorry about the late post—Elizabeth and I started our Valentine’s Day festivities a little early.

On to the meat, though. Here are a couple of pieces from Sundance, which tends to focus on women’s gear as a general rule, but occasionally has a cool piece for men in an unusual stone. If the handmade look or the cowboy aesthetic appeal to you, Sundance is for you.

See what I mean? I like the big looped clasp on this, it’s kind of a cool reference to a lasso. The thoughtful combination of metal and leather gives you a little more flexibility when pairing this with other pieces, too. Given how massive this is, however, I’d suggest wearing it with a pendant and a fancy belt, at most. Adding a lot of stuff to your hands will make them look feminine.

This is the sort of thing I really like Sundance for: bold rings with unusual stones. Since this particular stone is opaque and unfaceted, it comes off as an interesting panel of color rather than a huge piece of bling.

Here’s a piece from Novica, a site that collects interesting objects from artisans across the globe (realistically, mostly Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa). I love the contrasting textures on this ring. Since it’s not particularly large, a viewer will have to be fairly close to get its full effect; from a distance it’ll work like any other silver band.

And here’s a great houndstooth fedora on sale at Nordstrom. The yellow detail on the hat band adds a bit of levity and versatility—the added color means it’ll tie into colorful outfits more easily—and it’s got a nice narrow brim that isn’t so small as to look disproportionate.

That’s it for today! See us on Tuesday for a serious rundown on putting together an outfit. Also, Elizabeth and I will be at Dreamation next week, so come by and say hello if you’re there!

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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 8: Accessories by Shreyas
14 January, 2010, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Basic Concepts | Tags: , , ,

So let’s talk about accessories—all those things you wear without which you’d still be dressed, things such as watches, jewelry, gloves, scarves, and hats. (Not too long ago, a hat was an essential, not an accessory!)

Why Accessorize?

An accessory is a removable, repositionable detail. You use it the same way as any other detail—to draw the eye to a strong feature. You can also use it as a decoy. Since it draws attention to itself, you can deflect attention from a part you’re not so sanguine about. Until quite recently, I wore a pair of keys on different lengths of ball chain as a necklace; it’s a flashy, moving object that makes a clanking sound when I move, which makes it a nearly irresistible attention trap. I could tell it was working because lots of people made comments about it. At the time I was gaining some weight, and it helped keep eyes off my waistline.

That’s not a particularly subtle way to use an accessory, but I hope it makes it clear what you can do with them. One friend of mine always wears very fancy vintage belt buckles to draw attention to his package, but that’s not for everyone either. On the other hand, I have a lot of friends who spend hardly any money on their clothes, but invest hundreds of dollars and lots of man-hours finding just the right glasses to accentuate their faces. That’s a relatively low-risk thing to do; glasses have an inherent practical value, and if you don’t want people to look at anything you’re wearing, a great pair of glasses is a good way to accomplish that.

Path of the Eye

When you’re choosing accessories, think about where on the body you’ll wear them. Also think about the way the gaze has to travel to take them in. When people are casually looking at other people, their attention naturally falls on the face, and from there it travels to approximately the nearest visually interesting area; it generally gets to the hands at some point because hands are expressive and mobile. So, if you’re trying to keep eyes off your middle, you can wear a striking accessory on your wrist, or have a shirt with a bright sleeve detail, and the eye will travel from your face to your hands without ever going to your middle. Alternately, you could wear a long scarf hanging straight down, so when the eye moves off your face, it hits a straight line leading to the floor.

If you want to be checked out head-to-toe, be sure to wear an interesting belt and interesting shoes, and possibly jeans with an unusual back-pocket detail, to ensure that you get looked at all the way before the eyes go back to your face. It’s important to give people something to look at if you want them to look at you.

Accessories that Stand Out

Choosing a good accessory is a challenge. For starters, as usual I recommend a small selection of conservative items. It’s hard to go wrong with a nice analog watch on a dark leather band, a solid or striped scarf in a color that suits your skin, and a basic leather belt with an interesting buckle. Also consider a few pairs of shoes of varying levels of dressiness.

Forgive me, because I’m about to be judgemental: Most digital watches are only appropriate if you want to look like you’re from Back to the Future. If analog watches bother you, think of it as a mechanical bracelet and check the time on your cell. There are a few designers who make really cool digital watches (like Nooka), but they’re hard to find and often more expensive than comparable analogs.

But, back to the main point: Since the purpose of these things is to direct attention, you should feel free to splurge on really distinctive items, daring colors, investments, or conversation pieces. Accessories can add color to an outfit (I have a scarf with red and yellow stripes that I wear when I’m feeling down) or change your silhouette. They’re also a great opportunity to reference your interests; I knew a couple of Buddhists who always wore their prayer malas as bracelets, for instance. There is some great anime-inspired jewelry out there.

Less is More

While it’s important to have visual landmarks, you shouldn’t overdo it. Too many accessories cancel each other out and look cluttered. One or two is usually enough. Coco Chanel said you should always take off the last thing you put on; while you may not actually have to, it’s always a good idea to check yourself out as you’re walking out the door to be sure you don’t look like Mr. T.

That’s it for today. Check in with us on Saturday, when I’ll tell you about some accessories I like. Tell me about some of your interests or concerns, and I’ll recommend some stuff that you might like, too.