18
Aug
13

One Guy Recommends: Nigel Cabourn


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I enjoy looking at old family photos. Both of my grandfathers, in their own ways, liked clothes. My father’s father can always be seen in a suit and tie. The suits were always perfectly cut (he had all of his suits made for him, although that was a lot more standard at that time), the ties perfectly tied, always with a dapper hat and clean shaven. My mother’s father was a military man; more casual but also effortlessly cool in his own way. Some of my favourite photos of him were taken during his tour in the Navy in the ’40′s. Smoking a cigarette in heavy dungarees, grinning at the camera.   One thing that immediately jumped out to me is the look and fit of the clothing – it appears heavy, well made, solid and almost indestructible.  In today’s Ikea and H&M society, our clothing tends to be disposable, temporary and forgettable.

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Apparently, I’m not the only one who looked at old photographs and had this thought - Nigel Cabourn, after being Paul Smith’s right-hand, decided that the world needed this type of clothing once again.  Sturdy, epically well-manufactured via classic methods and yet, at the same time, modern.  Inspiration has come primarily from vintage military uniforms and Cabourn’s passion for (and private collection of) vintage men’s clothing.  The fabric used is some of the best in the world – heavy tweeds, incredible jersey cottons from Germany, all of which feel perfectly preserved from another time.

Cabourn’s clothing looks and feels almost like it came out, perfectly preserved, from an archaeological dig of early 20th Century menswear. Stylistically, they resemble a cross between what Steve McQueen would’ve worn on the weekend and what a member of the royal family would wear for a casual walk around their palace in the Scottish highlands. Best known for his coats, most notably the Cameraman and Airman, I’m even more partial to some of the shirts he makes. From the heavy, “new old stock” buttons, the reinforced seams and luxurious fabric, it is apparent from even the shortest of glances the thought andattention to detail that goes into each Cabourn piece.  Pick up the sweater pictured below, feel its five pound weight and you’ll walk away a believer.

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In North America, it can be a slightly more difficult brand to find.  Barney’s often has items for sale in-store and on their website, and it’s worth searching locally around wherever you live for a stockist.  There are usually twenty Cabourn pieces on eBay at any given time.  The incredible quality definitely make them worth stalking on the ‘Bay.  Even at full price, these are the type of legacy items that can be passed down to future generations, as cliche as that is to say.  In the same way that my grandfather’s shoes and suits remain in excellent condition after 50 years, Cabourn pieces are built to a similar standard

If you’d like more information on the brand, or to see this season’s items, check out www.cabourn.com.  One important note: there is another line called “Cabourn Utility” that is available but isn’t made to nearly the same standard. I would steer clear and hold out for some “Authentic” Nigel Cabourn.

“They don’t make ‘em like they used to” is an oft heard refrain due to the deteriorating quality and temporary nature of just about everything.  I hope Nigel Cabourn never gets the memo.

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14
Aug
13

One Guy’s Idiot-proof Rules for Dressing


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INTRODUCTION

This blog isn’t about telling people that they should be obsessed with clothes, that they should dress like a parade of corporate clones or that they can’t show their personality in their wardrobe choices.  In fact, far from it: it’s meant to be some words of advice from a fellow man on how you can tweak and upgrade your wardrobe without requiring a great deal of time or money (and, I also throw random, interesting stuff on here as well, such as biometric wallets, just for interest’s sake).  There’s not one way of looking good, and it always annoys me when websites and forums claim that there is – with that said, there are some things that I believe are mistakes that do guys no favours and I believe there are certain basic rules that will serve you well.

Occasionally I’ll check my inbox and find a message from someone about this blog, asking me either: a) to post more (thanks, I really do appreciate the encouragement, please keep it coming – I’ll try to post more); or, b) asking for some sort of general sartorial guidance.  This post is my attempt to kill two birds with one stone.  These are my general rules for dressing – some of them I’ve gleaned from various books, my father and grandfather, or other sources; some should be obvious and yet I see them gone wrong all the time; others are because I’m a bit nit-picky; and still others are just things that I’ve adopted and I’ve found to work well.  The common thread is that following these rules have helped to prevent me from at least looking like a jackass, which, as I’ve stated in the past, is one of the major goals of this blog.  I’m hoping this article will be something that I update and add to regularly, so feel free to send in suggestions and check back regularly (I’ll post on Twitter, @oneguysstyle, whenever I make a significant addition).

Without further ado, here are an assortment of rules that I follow to jackass-proof my wardrobe, along with my reasoning for them. I’ve also divided them into categories – things you absolutely have to get right, things that you probably should get right, and things that may take your style game up that extra notch.

2010 Met Costume Institute GalaPoor Fit

THE BASICS - YOU NEED TO GET THESE RIGHT

1.  Fit is everything

It doesn’t matter what the label says;  how much you paid for it;  how much the retail price was; what store you bought it in.; or, what the “working for commission” sales associate said.  If it doesn’t fit (and cannot be made to fit), it’s not worth it.  That goes for suits, shirts, pants, jackets, belts or whatever else you can think of.  A Uniqlo shirt can look better on you than a Brunello Cucinelli shirt, simply because the former fits better than the latter.  Outside of Sweden, guys tend to wear clothes that are too big for them.  I’m 6’2″, 175lbs and grandmas and aunts have long sent me “Large” sized clothes.  In actuality I wear “medium” in most brands - use this as your benchmark.  Just because you’re over 6’0″ doesn’t make you a “Large” (although it may make you a “tall”, depending on the length of your arms and torso).  Wearing clothes that are too big for you make you look sloppy; and, contrary to common belief, they are no more comfortable than clothes that actually fit you.

The good news is, if you do have clothes that don’t fit (especially shirts) than a good tailor can likely work wonders (more about this in a minute).  I’ve had shirts that I’ve bought (knowing full well that I’d be taking them to my tailor) that I could almost make a second shirt out of with the excess fabric – the only thing that fit when I got them was the collar.  Don’t live your life trying to find ways to tuck in extra shirt fabric, or trying to keep pants from sliding down your ass, or looking like your jacket is wearing you rather than the other way around.  Either don’t buy clothes that fit like that in the first place, or, if  you already have, take them to a tailor.  Clothes that fit will make you look slimmer, taller, more professional, sexier and better proportioned.  There’s not attribute on that list that you don’t want.  It’s really as easy as figuring out what fits and buying it (or having things altered to fit) – but I constantly see men that have ignored this rule.  If you take nothing else from this list, at least understand the importance of Rule 1.  Check out the pictures above.  Clearly they represent something of a caricature, but it’s immediately clear to everyone when someone is wearing things that fit and when they’re not.

2.  Find a tailor and understand what he or she can and can’t do

People associate tailors almost entirely with suits.  This is like associating football entirely with quarterbacks – sure, they’re the most recognizable member of the team, but there are 50 other guys out there as well.  In the same way, to simply go to the tailor to have your suits fit is to barely skim the surface of their capabilities.  To whit, I recently purchased a polo shirt from a well-known manufacturer.  I have a few of their shirts already, all in a particular size (they don’t use the typical “small”, “medium”, “large” sizing).  I happened across a sale, was in a hurry and simply grabbed a shirt in what has always been my size and didn’t try it on.  Unbeknownest to me, this particular maker has introduced a new fit and their sizes are now a little bit different than before – which meant that I now own a polo shirt that swamps me, that I can’t return.   I took it to my tailor and,  $12 later, I have a polo shirt that fits perfectly and I was even able to customize certain details of the shirt.  At first this may seem ludicrous (tailoring a polo shirt? Really?).  However, think of it this way.  Before, I had an article of clothing that was essentially worthless to me – I couldn’t return it, and I would never wear it because it didn’t fit.  Now, I have a polo shirt that I will wear, and fits me perfectly – $12 very well spent, in my opinion, as it saved a $35 investment from becoming worthless.  Think of it this way: every pair of dress pants you buy needs to be tailored, just like every suit.  If a shirt doesn’t fit perfectly, it needs to be tailored.  I’ve tailored jeans that I liked, got a great deal on and wanted to keep, despite the fact that they didn’t quite fit (they now fit perfectly).  I’ve had my tailor repair jeans and shirts that had ripped, thereby reviving some of my favourite articles of clothing.  You can have ties narrowed, sleeves and armholes repositioned or narrowed, custom articles of clothing made, even t-shirts recut, sometimes for the price of buying you and a friend venti americanos and a muffin from Starbucks.  More importantly, they can take something you never wear, that lingers in the back of your closet like a spectre because you don’t like how it fits, what it looks like, or a certain thing about it and make it your “go-to” article of clothing.  Sometimes, you can go shopping in your own closet and find things that, with a little work, can be made new.

The only caveat is this: you need to know what a tailor can’t do.   They can’t really do much for suits that don’t fit in the shoulders (so, make sure your suits fit there; you can do some tailoring to the body of the suit, if need be).  They can’t remove shoulder pads, or reduce them.  They can’t really adjust the collar size of a shirt.  They can only work with the material you give them (i.e. you can’t have pants let out if there’s no material to let them out with.  You can’t have pants lenghtened without material being there to do it.).   It’s tough to adjust the rise of pants too substantially.  There is a limit to how many sizes they can take an article of clothing down (sorry, but those size 42 pants cannot be made into 32s…  The two back pockets will become one back pocket).  Sweaters aren’t really their speciality.  Re-working sleeves with functioning buttons is a problem (as it’s tough to move already made buttonholes without leaving very visible marks).  So is substantially lengthening or shortening a jacket (the pockets will now be in a slightly odd position, and it’s expensive).  Just like Superman had his limitations (kryptonite), so do tailors – in my experience, Superman is the most apt comparision for a great tailor.

3.  Wear a tie darker than your shirt, 95% of the time

- This is a good experiment:  walk into the suit section of Tip Top, Men’s Warehouse or other down-market men’s retailers – your eyes will be greeted with dress shirts in a ROY G. BIV assortment of colours.  Mannequins will be rocking solid black, red, green, dark purple and even orange dress shirts.  Then head over to one of the finer men’s stores in your area; I’ll toss out Harry Rosen, Niemen Marcus, Barney’s… any of those would be fine.  Now check out what colour shirts the mannequins and floor displays have on – I guarantee that at least 90% will be wearing shirts where the predominant colour is either white or blue (they may have red, purple, pink, green, orange or any other colour represented via stripes or checks, but the shirt will almost definitely be rooted in white or blue).  This isn’t an accident – solid black, red, orange, green and dark purple are not colours for dress shirts, unless you work as a magician in Vegas.  For whatever reason, it looks better when your tie is darker than your shirt, and these colours generally make this difficult.  They’re also tough colours to match and they’re definitely not traditional for business or just about any other form of social interaction.  This isn’t to say that you can’t wear solid shirts in colours other than white or blue; pink and lavender can be nice colours for shirts. However, stick with pale rather than dark shades, and pair with a tie in a colour darker than your shirt (navy, dark grey, etc). Furthermore, I have no problem if you’re going to cocktail party in a dark space at night and want to wear a black dress shirt with a black suit and no tie (see Bradley Cooper on the left).  If it’s nighttime and dark, and drinks are in the hands of many, then black may be an option (again, skip the tie) – but the look on the right is a train wreck.  Ties and black shirts do not go together, especially at the office.

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4. Suit, shoes, tie and then shirt should be your focus in terms of allocating your attention and resources

A nice suit is something you need and is the most noticeable part of your business or formal wardrobe.  Plus, a suit is versatile, as it can be worn without a tie, just as a jacket with jeans or slacks, etc, or even the pants with a shirt and sweater.  Suits are also the most difficult thing to get right. Shoes are the next most important as bad shoes can destroy a look, even if you have a nice suit, tie and shirt.  Shoes can also be quite expensive and often demand a significant investment (although, if you purchase quality shoes, this investment should last a lifetime).  Ties come third as a nice tie will get you noticed positively, and a bad tie will immediately get you noticed negatively – if you’re diligent, you can often find nice ties at relatively low prices without sacrificing quality (eBay, Holt Renfrew Last Call, Saks Off 5th Avenue, Century 21, etc, can be excellent sources for high quality ties at bargain prices).  Furthermore, if you don’t own many suits, having a range of ties will make it seem like you have a wide ranging wardrobe.  Finally, shirts should be your last area of focus, as you can find nice shirts quite easily at good prices (see my articles about Shirts (here) and TM Lewin (here)).  The importance of shoes should really be underlined (I thought about putting them first).  Don’t fall into the trap of spending $150 on shoes and $140 on a shirt.  Spend $40 on a TM Lewin shirt, as per my post here, and $250 on the shoes (for some info about choosing shoes, read this post.

5. Don’t wear black suits or ties (or shirts) to work

Simply put, black is not traditional business wear, beyond shoes and belts.  A black suit doesn’t look good under artificial light (and is susceptible to, and looks worse after, fading more than any other colour).  Black ties are too formal for most workplaces (unless your job is hosting the Oscars, working at a funeral home or raising barns on the weekends with your Amish buddies).  And, as I discussed earlier, don’t even think about wearing a black dress shirt to any workplace.  Black is one of the hardest colours to match shirts and ties to.  Choose navy, charcoal grey, mid-grey, light grey, dark brown or even khaki or beige (in the summer time) for suits before you go with black.  This is especially important if you only have one or two suits, as your goal should be to maximize the number of colour combinations you can wear with your limited suit wardrobe.  That said, black is great when it comes to evening activities; for suits, ties or shirts.  So if you’re going out for a night on the town, as a 5th or 6th suit, or you’d like to wear it for other occasions that aren’t business related, think about black.  But unless you work as a chaplain or are going door to door for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (or were given the suit as wardrobe for your role in ‘Book of Mormon’), go with navy or charcoal for your suits at the office, and skip black shirts and ties.

6.  Shoes polished.  Always.

When I was in university and needed a pair of brown dress shoes, I found a pair of Brown’s Shoe Store’s private label shoes on sale and bought them.  I couldn’t afford much more than a $75 investment and these looked nice enough for what they were and served me well.  Being that my grandfather and father have instilled in me a pseudo fanaticism about keeping shoes polished, I made sure that they sparkled when I wore them.  Amazingly, my $75 shoes got lots of compliments.  I’ve since upgraded my shoe collection, but nonetheless, these experiences underline something vitally important – you can make decent shoes look substantially better when you take the time to keep them polished.  I actually still have the shoes in my closet (the uppers remain in good shape, and, as they were glued, it was the soles that went first – I resoled them and they’re now my rainy day shoes). Conversely, you can make nice shoes look like cheap shoes if you do not polish them.   Polished shoes will set you apart from the rest of the dull-shoed masses and undoubtedly engender compliments.  How else can you upgrade your wardrobe for $3 (the price of a tin of shoe polish) and ten minutes of your time?

7.  The bottom button of a two or three-button suit should always be left undone.  The top button of a shirt worn without a tie should always be left undone too.

Not only is this the modern way of wearing suits, but, more importantly, suits are actually cut with the assumption that you will leave that button undone.  If you do it up, it will often result in a pull at that button and change the balance of the suit.  If you’re wearing a dress shirt (or casual button down, or polo shirt) without a tie, then leave the top button undone.  If you’re not wearing a tie, then clearly the occasion is at least mildly informal, so you don’t need to do that button up.  I realize that it’s hipster-chic to do these buttons up, but, at least in my mind, it doesn’t work for the majority of guys trying for this look.  If you want to add formality to your outfit, wear a jacket, don’t do it with that damn top button.  To my eyes, doing up the top button makes you look about as uptight as a nun in Vegas.  Even the guys on The Big Bang Theory don’t do up their top buttons, and that’s a strong statement.

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8.  Step away from the cell phone belt holster

We get it, you have an iPhone, Galaxy or BlackBerry.  So do most 11 year old girls.  I’m sure you’re a very important man, who gets very important emails from very important people.  That’s great.  The good news is, those emails still manage to get to your phone when it’s in your pocket.  This applies in equal measure to your pants pocket and your suit jacket pocket – you really don’t need to display your BlackBerry like you’re Wyatt Earp in Tombstone.   I’ll make an occasional exception for individuals with holsters who wear suit jackets that will cover the holster, but grudgingly.  Unless you’re a time traveller from 5 years ago and are stuck with a BlackBerry with a side scroll wheel, than your phone will be slim enough to be in your pocket with no discomfort, I can assure you.  I covered this growing societal issue before here.

THINGS YOU SHOULD GET RIGHT

9. Polo or ‘golf” shirt sleeves should hit you mid-bicep, not below your elbow

Continue reading ‘One Guy’s Idiot-proof Rules for Dressing’

09
Apr
13

One Guy’s Guide to Outlet Malls


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I like nice things.  I also, at least try, to hold onto my familial frugality.   Buying something at full price has always been difficult for me – hence the full blown eBay addiction that occasionally rears its ugly head.  However, as much as I love the ‘Bay, it has one tremendous downside: the inability to physically see, touch and try-on what you’re purchasing.  Which brings me to the almighty Outlet Mall, the focus of this post.  Outlet malls (can sometimes) provide the bargains found on eBay and they also do not share eBay’s flaws noted above.  However, they have their own set of issues, which will be explored further below.  eBay is great in that it has an incredible selection of rare items AND it allows you browse these items while drinking a glass of wine in a bathrobe at home.  While some of the people you see at the typical outlet mall are only a half step removed from this, I would not recommend trying to mimic this experience.  If you want to visit your local outlet mall (if you have one), you will need to pry yourself off the couch to experience the joys (or, more often, horrors) that are part and parcel to such an expedition.  As someone who has been to many outlet malls on many occasions and has lived to tell the tale, please find some suggestions below that I hope will make your experience as good as digging through mountains of unsold goods in a crowd of people possibly can be.

1. Do not be specific

Almost daily, we hear the common refrain to “be specific”.  However, if you are looking for an oxblood suede belt with silver buckle, or a specific model of Tod’s loafers, or even just a “bathrobe”, and that is the primary purpose of your shopping expedition, than I would suggest not going to an outlet mall.  Outlet malls are places where you find things you aren’t looking for, but don’t find things that you are.  In other words, specificity is not the forte of  outlet malls.  From a time-cost persepective, you will spend eons of time trying to find that specific item you’re looking for.  Generally speaking, it’s not worth the time or trouble, particularly since outlet malls tend to be in the middle of nowhere.   Go to your preferred local store and spend a few extra dinero, or, easier still, troll eBay or Amazon.com in the comfort of your own home rather than sacrificing your day scouring sale bins at a distant outlet mall when your chances of success approximate the odds of the Cubs winning the World Series in the next twenty years (not out of the question, but history says that it’s highly unlikely).

2. Price, time and the sphere of availability

Walk into Harry Rosen, Bergdorf Goodman, Canali, Louis Boston, etc., and say that you would like a medium grey suit with pale blue pinstripes and they will likely have an array for you to choose from.  Same with the perfect yellow tie that you’re after, or the pair of brown boots you want for Fridays and the weekend.  It will be an easy, comfortable shopping experience (at least it should be).  When you reach the cashier with your purchases, you’ll see why: you pay for service and the ease and comfort described above.  Someone else is curating for you; sifting through the litany of options and providing you with precisely what you’re looking for with you barely having to lift a finger.

Outlet stores more closely resemble the following scenario: a dump truck pulls into the back of a warehouse and dumps a massive pile of loosely sorted apparel onto the floor for you to sift through with a crowd of fellow misers.  Much like Andy Dufresne, you will crawl through a pile of foulness to find the diamond in the rough.  This is part of the reason why they can offer goods so cheaply; they have stripped away much of the cost associated with good customer service.   I’ve made peace with this trade-off – just be prepared to spend quite a bit more time (and incur a substantially larger headache) per purchase than you normally would.  Furthermore, outlet malls bring clothes that would otherwise be out of your sphere of availability into that sphere of availability, which is the reason why it may be worth the trip.  That, plain and simple, is the value of outlet malls.

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3. Reach for the top; ‘zig’ instead of ‘zag’

Further to “2″ above, I have found the most success (and the best deals) when I’ve focused on items that I couldn’t otherwise afford, but have been made affordable at the outlet.  I cannot afford a $3,000 suit; however, a $3K suit marked down to $700?  That’s what you’d pay at SuitSupply or other mid-priced establishments.  In other words, you are getting a far nicer suit at a price that comfortably fits within your budget.

I believe that there are a few specific reasons as to why these situations present themselves and how best to capitalize on them.  The first is that people buy things that they know and recognize.  Simply put, most people recognize the names ‘Gap’, ‘ Hugo Boss’ and ‘Armani’, so items from these brands will not need to be as deeply discounted to sell, and will also be substantially more “picked over” due to their brand recognition.  Nearly everyone knows these names, but far, far fewer are familiar with Loro Piana, Pal Zileri, James Perse, Belstaff, Sundek, Grenson and even higher-end brands within a brand (eg. ’15 mil mil 15′ by Ermenegildo Zegna or Ralph Lauren Purple Label).  These brands make fantastic quality items that, at full retail, would constitute a huge splurge over other options for the majority of people, if they even knew what they were.  They may not sell at the retail store because, next to more recognizable names, people chose those recognizable names for the same price.  At an outlet store, they are suddenly deeply discounted because they were passed over, only to be passed over again for more recognizable brands, even at the outlet store, and therefore often discounted again.  I have, on several occasions after finding a gem gone to the retail store and asked for the brand, only to be told that they no longer carried it because it didn’t sell.  Undoubtedly, there are many that are familiar with these names, but far less than more common names, which gives you a better chance of scoring a great item at a great price from a brand that flies under the radar.  In addition, there are no ‘outlet brands’ for these particular marques.  Companies like J. Crew, Brooks Brothers, Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, Burberry, etc., make items specifically for their outlets, meaning that the dress shirt you think you’re getting an outstanding deal on is actually not the same shirt they sell in their retail store.  I covered the idea of “outlet brands” in depth in the following post: https://onemansstyle.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/one-guys-daily-tip-beware-of-clothes-made-for-outlet-stores/

The best way to find deals at an outlet store is to be familiar with lesser known brands that make high quality items.  In other words, where everyone else “zigs”, you need to “zag” to find the best deals.

Here is a “cheat sheet” of brands I’ve seen in outlets which are not as well known to the casual consumer as Banana Republic, Hugo Boss, Burberry, Prada and the like, and often are deeply discounted because of it (if you’d like to learn more about the brand, click on the name as each is link to the respective brand’s homepage):  Loro Piana, Pal Zileri, Vince, Belstaff, James Perse, Grenson, Sundek, Rag & Bone, Billy Reid, Smythson, Aspesi, Charvet, Oxxford, Battistoni, Brunello Cucinelli, Turnbull & Asser, Samuelsohn, Drake’s, Nudie, Balenciaga, Mabitex, Incotex, Naked & Famous, WANT Les Essentials de la Vie, Jack Spade, Barbour, Martin Dingman and Kiton.

In other cases, many customers are unaware that a specfic brand has a variety of quality levels, leaving extremely expensive items available at deeply discounted prices.  Ralph Lauren Purple Label, Ralph Lauren Black Label, RЯL, Ermenegildo Zegna ’15 mil mil 15′, Salvatore Ferragamo Tramezza, Calvin Klein Collection, Gant by Michael Bastian, Gant Rugger, etc., can provide, as many do not realize, a much higher quality level than a brand’s standard fare.

While many of you will be aware of some, or even the majority of the names found above, keep in mind that many are not.  Furthermore, many that are do not frequent outlet malls.  This makes the Venn Diagram’s centre very small indeed.

4. Best and worst outlets

First, it must be said that many outlet malls are not even worth bothering with.  Sadly, my native country of Canada has embraced the concept of the outlet mall in much the same way as Americans have embraced the sport of curling: half-hearted at best.  In Canada there are really two places worth visiting: Holt Renfrew Last Call (which, I believe, is only in Toronto now), and Harry Rosen Outlet (again, only in Toronto).  Basically, if you’re not in Toronto, you’re probably out of luck, at least locally.   If, however, you reside in, or near the United States, there are a number of great outlet malls potentially close by.  This is particularly the case if you live in an area frequented by tourists: New York, Los Angeles, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Niagara Falls, San Diego, Las Vegas or Phoenix.  Therefore, the first decision to make is whether it’s even worth driving out to the nearby outlet mall.  In many cases, it may not be worth it at all.

I’ve found the majority of my best deals at department store outlets.  Barney’s New York, Century 21, Niemen Marcus Last Call, Holt Renfrew Last Call (apparently there is a shortage of outlet store names, as somehow two share the same one) and Saks Off 5th tend to be some of the best.  Unfortunately, like every other store at the outlet mall, the value of these stores has been decreasing.  Formerly, they were the exlusive domain of unsold merchandise from their regular stores; however, lately they have begun to sell “outlet store merchandise” - clothing manufactured expressly for outlets (usually, they are named after the store itself, eg. Saks Fifth Avenue Green).  Nonetheless, these stores are still the cream of the outlet crop in terms of bargains, as there remains loads of items that went unsold at retail locaitons, providing some excellent access to nice things at good prices.

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In addition, some of these stores, offer customer loyalty programs that provide even deeper discounts on items if you show the card associated with the program, or offer discounts if you sign up for a credit card.

The outlet stores I would tend to avoid are those that almost exclusively sell merchandise manufactured for outlet malls: Brooks Brothers, J. Crew, Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, etc.  By and large, the prices match the quality of the items being sold.

5. Buy with purpose, not for price

You may think that the teal blazer is kind of cool and it’s down from $722.98 to $89.99!  How could you lose on this deal?  Well, after it sits in your closet, unworn, for 2 years, the economics no longer support this particular purchase.  Don’t buy something cheap, buy something because you know it will be part of your regular rotation, or you have a specific purpose in mind for it (wedding coming up, been looking for an orange tie, you can never have too many socks…).  It’s cheap and you may not have otherwise been able to afford it (“I’ve always wanted an Hermes tie… it’s just too bad it’s pink, yellow and orange, with pictures of bunnies on it…”), but that doesn’t make it a wise purchase.  I have a number of items I’ve bought at outlet malls that I wear/use all of the time (my go-to carry-on bag, a number of my favourite ties, some favourite shirts, one of my favourite suits) but I’ve also had a few losers haunt my closet after the fact.  You really need to win much more than you lose, otherwise you are negating the savings you believe you are getting via outlet shopping.  Only buy something at an outlet mall if you’d buy it in a regular store.  More is not always better when it comes to a wardrobe; I find that I gravitate towards certain items time and time again, and the remainder simply take up precious storage space in my condo.  Buy like a surgeon, not a drunken gambler.

teal

6. Get in, get out

Outlet mall trips are like commando raids – you want to get in and get out as quickly as efficiently as possible.  The decending hordes typically do not get there until mid-afternoon.  Be smart and go first thing in the morning.  You do not need to into every store and wander around.  Only go into the ones that you actually may make a purchase in.  Do you really need to wait in line to get into the Coach Store?  (Hold on – you WANT to get into the Coach store….?  Your problems are bigger than I thought….)  Outlet malls are exhausting places; don’t blow your stamina at places that are a waste of your time.  If you’re there with your wife, girlfriend or friends, and your attention is starting to wane, often times there are restaurants with bars to grab a bite to eat and a drink (often times at very cheap prices – they want you to stay as long as possible, not to go elsewhere to find something to eat) when you’ve just about had enough.

08
Apr
13

One Guy’s 10 Tips for Traveling in Style


I love to travel.  I always have.  Even though air travel has, generally speaking, deteriorated to the level of subway travel since 9/11, doesn’t mean it has to for you.  I somehow found myself on more than 40 flights over the last year and I figured I would pass along some of my tips for traveling in style.

In no particular order:

1. Your suitcase is the single most important item you bring with you

It can make your traveling life a breeze, or be a constant headache.  I almost never check a bag.  Of those 40 flights I’ve taken, I’ve checked a bag on less than 5 of them.  Twice were due to the extended nature of the trip, and the others were out of necessity (I moved cross-country twice this year).  Other than that, I can almost always cram my things into the generally allowed two carry-on bags.

A few years ago, I purchased a suitcase from Japanese store Muji.  I cannot imagine living without it now.  Muji is a cross between Ikea, H&M and… nothing that North America really has (other than Muji, which you can find in New York City, and online).  They make a wide variety of products, including household goods, clothing and luggage.  I own their black, wheeled, carry-on bag and it is outstanding for the price.  Their luggage is incredibly light, smart looking (it’s simplicity defined), durable, with lots of interior space, and most importantly has 4 wheels on the bottom.  I cannot stress the importance of having a rolling suitcase with four wheels enough: it will make your life much, much easier.  Instead of dragging your roller behind you, you can now walk normally with your bag rolling beside you (which surprisingly makes a large difference).  You can also nudge it ahead in whatever line you inevitably find yourself in.  Basically, it almost does the work of rolling itself along for you.

Muji

2. Add a passport case

While the Muji suitcase is decidedly ‘downmarket’, it’s always nice to mix a downmarket item with an ‘upmarket’ item.  Especially when this item can assist you in organizing your travel essentials. In Canada, when boarding a flight, one has to always show a piece of photo I.D., along with one’s boarding pass, even for domestic flights.  Trying to flip open a passport to the right page, hand said passport and boarding pass to the gate agent while lugging your coat, the aforementioned two carry-on bags, a coffee and whatever else you may be carrying, is a collosal pain in the ass.  Smythson of Bond Street’s passport cases are made out of beautiful leather, keep your passport open to the picture and also have a space for your boarding pass.  This prevents your boarding pass from looking like a piece of origami when you take it out of your pocket (or worse, losing it), while also letting you hand one thing to the gate agent rather than two.  It is also great for storing other travel documentation (Frequent Flyer membership cards, NEXUS/Global Entry cards, etc). It keeps your travel documentation organized in style, which is always nice and lets you simply toss one thing into your bag that has everything you will need to board a flight. If I didn’t already have my Smythson, I’d definitely look at the offerings from WANT Les Essentials de la Vie (a line of leather goods from Montreal that actually has a stand-alone store called ‘Passport’ in the Island Airport in Toronto), Valextra or, if you’re looking to save a few bucks, the Aspinal eBay store, which sells slightly imperfect or previously monogrammed goods.

SmythsonWANT-Les-Essentiels-De-La-Vie-passport-wallet

3. Loafers are best

Sadly, we are now all one step away from being al Qeada in the eyes of the security personnel at North American airports.   We’re scanned, frisked and generally dehumanized as we slump through security with our shoes off, and pants de-belted.  Rather than spending 3 minutes searching for a chair to re-tie your shoes on the other side of security, go with some loafers that allow an easy on-off transition on either side of the metal detector/body scanner/guy-named-Jim-with-rubber-gloves-on. One caveat for this piece of advice is if you require boots for your trip – in that case, it will likely be best to wear them as they will take up an immense amount of your available luggage space.

Loafers

4. Wear a blazer or coat

Similar to the loafers, I always wear a blazer or coat (depending on the season), preferably with a number of pockets.  This serves a few purposes.  First, it allows me to toss all my metallic items (change, wallet, watch, etc) into the pockets before I get into the security line so that once I get to the security line, rather than dumping all of these items messily into a bin, I simply remove my jacket.  Furthermore, as airports and airplanes swing wildly in temperature, it’s always good to have a few layers.  In addition, I find that gate agents, lounge attendants, flight attendants and the like treat you much better when you’re a little bit more dressed for the occasion.  Finally, packing a blazer into a suitcase will make said blazer look like you slept in it when you reach your destination.  Save the headache and just wear it (you can always lay it over your carry-on luggage in the overhead bin if you get hot). Having more storage space on your person while traveling is always of benefit.

Boglioli

The best jacket for travel tends to be more casual, with a fabric that won’t get too wrinkled (or looks good a bit wrinkled), with soft shoulders and a few usable pockets. A good example is the soft-shouldered Boglioli with patch pockets that can be seen above. Obviously climate and time of the year are important when choosing a jacket as well.

5. Noise cancelling headphones

A frequent flyer’s best friend.  They can take that crying baby six rows behind you and replace him with peace and serenity.  If you travel more than a few times a year, these are well worth it, particularly for long flights.  I have a pair of Bose, which seem to be the most common, but I’m sure there are other reputable brands out there.  My girlfriend borrows them when she’s looking for some peace and quiet to study at home as well, so they’re not a one-dimensional purchase. I would note that they are typically not allowed for take-off and landing, so make sure to bring some earbuds (which are allowed on many airlines if plugged into their in-flight entertainment system) for these two times, and also for walking around the airport.

qc15_gri_2

6.  Scratch off the size

As mentioned above, nobody is beyond suspicion anymore in the security line.  Don’t even think about bringing more than 3.0 ounces of liquid or gel through that line or you will be met with an extended dialogue along the lines of: “Sir, can you please come over here for a minute.  Are you aware that you cannot bring liquids over 3.0 ounces through security?  Blah blah blah….”.  Yet, there are things you want to bring when you’re not checking a bag that don’t quite fit into those guidelines.  If the size is close, do what I do: scratch off the size.  Security personnel will, almost without exception, only throw away something if they can PROVE it is over the limit.  Even more annoying is, that while there may have originally been more than 3 ounces of liquid in a particular item, I rarely travel with new products and therefore there’s likely around 1.5 ounces left and the “3 ounces” listed on the side is merely academic. Save that pomade from the garbage and simply scratch off the size – I’ve been doing it for years and have never had even the slightest issue.

7. Don’t bring it as you can likely get it for free!

Along the same lines of #6, there is another way of getting around liquid restrictions, especially if you wisely are not checking a bag: don’t bring them. Many people are not aware that nearly all hotels will provide you (free of charge) a host of common items upon request. Toothpaste, toothbrushes, shaving cream, razors, mouthwash are some of the most common. Obviously soap, shampoo and conditioner are also standard fare. I would also save luggage space by not packing things like slippers and bath robes, as hotels will also lend you these (if they’re not already in your room when you check in, call the front desk and request them). Also, you can take these products home with you and use them on future trips, or throw them in your guest bathroom at home.

Even if you’re not staying in a hotel, travel size versions of these items are available for next to nothing at nearly any drugstore chain. $3 will kit you out with just about everything you need and so don’t stress about hauling your medicine cabinet across country.

7. Packing

I’m not a “list” person, per se – except when I travel.  I typically jot down a packing list a day or two before I leave.  I always organize my list into two columns – the first, is items that, if forgotten, would essentially ruin or greatly hamper my enjoyment of a trip (passport, glasses/contact lenses, wallet, cell phone, iPad….).  The other is essentially everything else.  However, there are some items that I don’t worry about because they are easily replaceable.  Toothpaste, deodorant and socks can be purchased anywhere for next to no cost (as discussed in detail above).  Don’t lose sleep over the small stuff, make sure you have the essentials and you’re basically in the clear.

Inevitably, you will only use 3/4 of the things you bring, so come to terms with that and slowly cut back on how much you pack.  Unless absolutely required, you should be able to fit all you need into two carry-on bags.  If you’re really pressed for space, buy a decent suit bag and fill it with things on hangers (and the bottom toss in a couple of pairs of shoes).  Keep in mind that it will be heavy and cumbersome, and you will hate lugging it around after 10 minutes, but it will get everything you need to your destination (and, because they’ll be on hangers, with far fewer wrinkles).  I try to avoid this approach as carrying a clothing bag is simply not fun at airports. On one occasion, I had a wedding with four separate events, each with vastly different levels of formality, forcing me to use drastic measures to get to everything onto the plane and back.

8. Relax and make the best of it: Having a beer is all about context. 

Having a beer at 12:30PM on a Tuesday in your apartment?  Sad.  Having that same beer at 12:30PM on a Tuesday on Opening Day at the ballpark?  Carry on and enjoy – in fact, have another.  The airport, along with ballparks, stadium tailgate parties and the cities of Las Vegas and New Orleans are essentially “judgment free zones” when it comes to (the responsible enjoyment of) booze, so use that to your advantage.  Airports in particular are becoming both less hospitable (hot, crowded, crumbling, low-ceilinged prisons with endless lines) and, in certain instances, more hospitable (there are some great restaurants, bars, shops, etc springing up in a number of airports.  For example, the Anchor Steam Bar in San Francisco, Mill Street Bar and Brewery in Toronto, Ike’s Restaurant in Minneapolis, Anchor Bar in Buffalo, etc.).  Either way, pull up a stool and enjoy a pint of the local specialty.  I’ve found some amazing beers that I would never have otherwise tried this way, and even familiar beers and food items just taste better in their home locale.  Beef on a weck, buffalo wings and Gennesse Cream Ale just taste better in Buffalo; the same goes for Anchor Steam at SFO, Brooklyn Lager at JFK, Fat Tire at DEN, Yuengling at PHL, Mill Street Tankhouse at Toronto Pearson, barbecue in Houston and guacamole in Cancun.  Sit back and enjoy the ride – don’t get stressed at the airport, use it as an extension of your vacation.

anchor-bar-airportmillstreetyyz


9. iPad

There is no greater travel tool than the iPad.  It fits into the seat pocket in front of you; is light and easily packed; lets you communicate with others via FaceTime, Skype, etc; holds movies, TV shows, e-books and music; allows internet access in the airport and on certain airlines mid-flight; and, you can now even put your boarding pass on it, making it a “one stop shop” for when you’re traveling.  While in-flight entertainment is improving (especially in Canada, where you can easily amuse yourself with the bevy of options on Air Canada seat-back TV systems) but you still want that ace in the hole in case your screen is the one that’s broken or you’ve seen the movie that’s playing.  The iPad can replace your laptop (especially if you have a keyboard for it) and is significantly smaller (huge plus when it comes to traveling) and lighter (even bigger plus).

10.  Skip the line

If there’s a way to skip any line at the airport, find it.  Programs like NEXUS, Global Entry, Known Traveler, etc are programs in Canada and the US that let you access special security lines and customs lines, speeding up your airport trip significantly.  They’re really worth the half-hour interview and $50 for the three years of benefits you receive.  Many airlines have credit cards that allow you to board the plane early, avoid baggage fees, access a special security line and/or access the first class lounge (this is a great benefit, especially if there’s a flight cancellation – everyone else will be forced to line-up at the gate or at customer service, while you can go to the lounge and get treated far better, far faster).  If you travel on a particular airline regularly (but not quite enough to gain elite status), it’s worth looking into these perks and finding a way to attain them. There are many easily accessible websites which detail the best credit cards for earning points and earning status and/or benefits, or even setting up a “mileage run” whereby you fly simply to earn miles to gain status (seems insane, but if you fly enough on an airline, the above listed benefits can be hard to live without).

nexusAC-cards_Portfolio_large

11
Aug
11

This Week’s Object of Lust: Breitling Top Time


My love of watches is apparent from even a cursory read of this blog.  I’m always looking to add to my roster of timepieces, especially where I feel I have a gap.  My current obession is a series of vintage watches from legendary Swiss watchmaker Breitling.  For me, the mid-to-late ’60′s examples from the relatively short-lived ‘Top Time’ line of watches check all my personal watch aesthetic boxes: simple and elegant dial design (unlike the majority of modern Breitlings, whose dials I often find too busy); chronograph registers (earlier Top Times sport two chronograph registers, while later watches have three); a modern size (the ‘Jumbo’ size checks in at 39mm, which stands up well to modern watches and is only a single milimetre smaller than a Rolex Submariner); and finally, price.  Many vintage Breitlings will set you back closer to $5,000 than $1,000.  The Top Time hasn’t quite garnered the same amount of attention as the Navitimer or Chronomat lines (likely because these lines continue to exist to this day, whereas the Top Time died an untimely death) and I’ve seen examples sell for anywhere between $500 and $3500.  The cheaper Top Times tend to have the ‘cushion’ style case (as pictured below, in middle), are older models (from the late ’50′s and early ’60′s, in the smaller 35mm size and made of stainless steel rather than white or yellow gold.  The most expensive typically hail from the ’70′s, such as those on the far left and far right below, often sporting three chronograph registers.

For me, a 39mm, two-register, mid-60′s model with a “panda” dial (black with white chronograph registers) exactly like the one pictured above, keeps me up at night (usually trolling the classifieds section of watch sites trying to find one).  With the wide variety of colours, case shapes, sizes and materials, the above may not be your first choice.  Which is ok, because  there’s something for everyone in the Top Time line (and in the vintage watch market in general).  Click on the pictures below to make them larger.

To me, this is what loving watches is all about: the thrill of the chase.  I’m sure other watch-loving readers can relate, and have their own “grail” watch in mind right now.  Most importantly, if anyone knows the whereabouts of a watch like the one pictured above, please send me an email at: oneguysstyle@gmail.com.  To sweeten the pot, if anyone can find such a watch (and I end up purchasing it), than I’ll hook you up with a $25 gift certificate to eBay, a Ralph Lauren Purple Label tie from my personal collection, and my eternal gratitude.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to add comments below, email me at oneguysstyle@gmail.com, or follow me on Twitter, @oneguysstyle.   For my earlier comprehensive post on watches, click here.   For my recent post about NATO watch straps, click here.

11
Aug
11

What One Guy’s Buying on eBay: Carmina shoes


I would estimate that for 99% of readers of this post, a pair of Carmina laceups would be the best shoes in your closet.  I would say that they’re the best shoes in mine.  I would further estimate that 99% of the readers of this post have never even heard of Carmina.  That’s partly the point of this series of posts – bringing to light little known makers of the highest quality goods.

Whereas, in my initial ‘What One Guy’s Buying on eBay’ post, I talked about Martin Dingman (a cursory search of eBay will turn up over 100 listings), this post focuses on a much rarer beast.  eBay can often go for a month with only one Carmina shoe listing in one size; yet, when your number is called (i.e. your size becomes available at a good price), I can’t recommend more that you pounce on them.  For example, there’s a pair of Carmina shoes on eBay at this very moment, in size 7.5US that are amongst the most elegant shoes I’ve encountered (the listing can be found here).  Judge for yourself, they’re the same shoes as are pictured above, except in brown.  At the time of this post, the current bid is $102 (no reserve), with a Buy It Now price of $250.  While $250 may seem like a bit of an investment, keep in mind that ‘The Armoury’ men’s store in Hong Kong, one of the only places online to purchase Carmina shoes, has these precise shoes for sale at a cost of HK$4,500 (or, nearly $600 Canadian), and these shoes will last a lifetime with proper care.  Sometimes Carmina shoes are listed at higher prices – but quite regularly a diamond in the rough will appear.

Shoes, like watches, are one of society’s (and, more importantly, women’s) clearest identifiers of social status and taste.  So, when the opportunity to thrust your shoe wardrobe into the upper reaches of the social strata for $200 appears, DON’T HESITATE – JUMP ON THE CHANCE!

Also, I’d be remiss not to point you to The Armoury’s online store and website at thearmoury.com.  If you can’t quite track down the pair of Carminas you’re looking for on eBay, than this Hong Kong store is likely your best bet.  Beyond that, their website is well worth a perusal as they sell some of the finest men’s clothing and accessories in the world (Drakes ties, Fox Umbrellas, John Smedley knitwear, to go along with stunning tailored clothes) and their Tumblr site may just be my favourite place online right now for men’s style photography: thearmoury.tumblr.com

Thanks for reading and please feel free to add comments below, email me at oneguysstyle@gmail.com, or follow me on Twitter, @oneguysstyle.   For the first installment of the ‘What One Guy’s Buying on eBay’ series, please check out my post on Martin Dingman belts here.

10
Aug
11

What One Guy’s Buying on eBay: Martin Dingman belts


A big part of what this blog is about is maximizing the bang we can get for our bucks.  There are a number of sources for excellent deals on clothing items and accessories on the internet, and two of my favourites are eBay and Styleforum.com’s Buying & Selling pages.  One of the ‘tricks’ to eBay is uncovering items that fall into two camps: 1) Makers of high-quality items that aren’t widely known, and therefore attract few bidders; and 2) Makers of high quality items that aren’t known, and therefore attract few counterfeiters.  Sorry to say, but you’re unlikely to score a great deal on a Prada suit on the ‘Bay – and, that listing based in Malaysia with ‘Prada’ spelled incorrectly should probably give you pause as well.  Your best bet is identifying a few under-serviced, under-hyped brands to bid on when they come up.  To help the readers of this blog out, I’m going to be running a new series of posts identifying just such brands.  The first brand I’m highlighting is Martin Dingman.

Martin Dingman makes accessories.  Made-in-America, high-quality leather goods, with a particular focus on belts and shoes.  My experience with his shoes is limited – however, his belts now make up a major portion of my closet.  For whatever reason, the idea of purchasing an expensive belt never quite sat well with me.  It seemed like an item that was seldom focused on and even covered up, if one is wearing an untucked shirt.  Worse still are belts with logos the size of car trunk badges (the ‘H’ belts from Hermes are offenders in this regard) that we really could use as a society to uncover the ‘D-bags’ amongst us.  Then I discovered Martin Dingman – whose belts range from stunning alligator and crocodile, to high-quality calf leather.  They feature exquisite buckles, no visible branding and really might be the perfect belt for the office.  In particular, the crocodile print belts from his calf leather and suede collections look fantastic.  Best yet, few people have heard of Martin Dingman, which means that you can uncover some amazing bargains.  To whit, my first Martin Dingman purchase: a brand new, polished black leather, crocodile print formal belt with gunmetal buckle, which set me back a whole $20 on eBay.  As soon as I picked it up, I was a convert to the quality belt (although, only where I can purchase it for less than a mediocre belt).  This has been followed by a number of further Martin Dingman acquisitions, capped off by a stunning suede belt for $35.

So, set your eBay search to ‘Martin Dingman’ in ‘Clothing, Shoes and Accessories’, and make sure to find a belt that’s approximately 1-2 sizes above your actual waist size (so, if you wear pants in size ’34’, look for belts in ‘35’ or ‘36’).   Happy hunting.  You can also check out Martin Dingman on their website, and read more about a proud Ozark Mountains-based company who make consistently high-quality products: www.MartinDingman.com.




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