Archive Page 2

10
Dec
10

New Feature: Email


If you don’t want to go through the hassle of creating a WordPress account (or you’re a bit shy) and Twitter’s character limit doesn’t give you the space you need, than you can now email the blog at oneguysstyle@gmail.com.  Questions, comments and suggestions are more than welcome.

09
Dec
10

How to Maximize Your Wardrobe Dollars


Introduction

How do we, as men, buy things?  Well, when it comes to clothes, the answer is usually “as quickly as possible”.  However, at the root of nearly all purchases are one or both of these considerations: 1) I need this; and 2) I want this.  Something you need could be a winter coat if you live an a cold climate, or a tuxedo if you’re invited to a black tie event.  Things that aren’t really optional and therefore take precedence over other purchases.  They may be required for the long-term (the winter coat) or for a single use (the tuxedo).

On the other hand, there are things we want.  They can be anything and this is where we can get in some trouble (but also are what can make buying clothes interesting and fun).  We may want an expensive cashmere scarf that we’ll wear every day during the winter.  Or, we may want a pair of baby blue driving loafers from a place like Zara that don’t cost too much but that we’ll wear a grand total of twice.  Given that the vast majority of us have limited resources with which to buy clothes, like Steven Segal in Under Siege, it’s about making our bullets count.

 

Actual Cost

I majored in Economics during my undergrad years and so I have a habit of reducing things into economics-based ideas.  This may sound like something you don’t really want to read, but hear me out for just a minute.  I think it’s important for all of us to figure out the actual cost of what we buy.  What I mean by the term “actual cost” is the “cost per wear” for a particular item – the amount you paid for the item divided by the number of times you’ve worn it. Say I buy a sweater for $200.  An relatively expensive sweater to be sure, but one that fits me perfectly and looks great.  I really like this sweater, so over the span of 3 years I wear it 50 times.  Imagine, as well, that right around the time I bought the first sweater, I come across a second sweater, marked down to $30 from $120.  It’s lime green, but it’s a great deal and I kind of like the colour.  Three years later, I still do like the colour, but I just haven’t found as many occasions to wear it as I might have liked.  In fact, I’ve only worn the second sweater 5 times over that same 3 year period.  On the one hand, we have a sweater that cost $200, and on the other, one that cost $30.  I wore the first sweater 50 times, making the actual cost of that sweater $4.  The cheaper sweater I only wore 5 times, making its actual cost $6.  In other words, the first sweater cost me less on a “per wear” basis than the second one, even though it was $170 more expensive in the first place.

When you think about it, we all have to get dressed every day.  We need pants (or shorts) of some kind, a shirt, a sweater and/or jacket if it’s cold or rainy, undergarments, some sort of footwear and whatever other assorted things we wear on a daily basis depending on the weather, time of year, the occasion, etc.  Each day has clothing slots that need to be filled and we’re paying everyday to fill these slots – albeit, we paid upfront.  If you think about it, this partially explains why certain things cost more than others.  Well constructed items such as Alden shoes (above, on the left) or Barbour jackets (above, on the right) will last you years, which allows you to amortize the hefty up-front cost over many wearings (and, this also means that these business don’t expect you to be coming back for a replacement for a long time, meaning they need to charge more for each item they sell).

H&M, on the other hand, operates from the exact opposite notion.  Their clothes (some examples of which are pictured above) are disposable; they’re not of particularly high quality and they’re built to be stylish for a brief window of time.  H&M expects you to be replacing them regularly and therefore they’re available at a very low price.  Neither of these approaches, economically speaking, is really better or worse than the other.   On the one hand, with a Barbour coat, you wear it many times (good for “actual cost”) but it’s got a high upfront cost (bad for “actual cost”).  H&M clothes are cheap (good for “actual cost”) but disposable (bad for “actual cost”), so you’re really not particularly better off, economically speaking, buying one over the other.  Both have their function and fill a particular role.  What you generally want to avoid are items that are relatively expensive and that you won’t wear very often (either because they won’t last very long, or because you don’t really have the need or desire to wear them).  I say that you “generally” want to avoid these things because there are certain instances where you have no choice.  Things fall into the “need” category rather than the “want” category all the time.  For example, if you live in Hawaii and decide to go on a ski holiday in the Alps, you’ll need a good ski jacket to keep you warm.  Good ski jackets tend to be costly and you’re not likely to be wearing this jacket very many times living in Hawaii – but if you want to go skiing and stay warm, you need one.  The same goes for things like tuxedos and many other things that are required for one reason or another.  You simply have to bite the proverbial bullet and take the hit with a high actual cost.  What you want to avoid are things that you’re buying because of “want” for a lot of money that, when you actually try and think clearly through your cloud of lust, you’re really never going to use.  Even cheaper things, as shown by my earlier example, may not make economical sense if you don’t wear them very often.  However, given that you purchased them for a lesser cost, you need to wear them less than a more expensive garment for them to make financial sense.

Factors that tend to give you the best (i.e. lowest) actual cost, are items that:

a) you like and will be wearing regularly (this is the most important factor – if you really like something, you’ll find reasons and occasions to wear it);
b) serve more than one function (for example, a navy blue suit jacket, which can also be worn as a blue blazer, thereby increasing the times you can wear it);
c) cost less (although, as my first example shows, this shouldn’t necessarily be your focus, as it is for many people);
d) are well-made and likely to last a long time (thereby increasing the opportunity for you to wear them); and
e) are staples, things that are acceptable to wear in as many social situations as possible and match as many items in your closet as possible (for example, a grey sweater is generally more useful than a lime green one, just because it can be paired with more things in your wardrobe and is a more classic colour).

There are undoubtedly other factors that influence actual cost, but I think these are the core ones.  It’s not as simple as buying low and wearing things a lot, because often you get what you pay for.  It’s about “using your bullets” like a sniper rather than a machine-gunner.  Target certain things that will check the major boxes (navy suit, black shoes, gray sweater, etc) and fill in the space around them with things that are more interesting, one-dimensional and infuse your personality into your wardrobe, but always with at least an eye on the actual cost of what you’re buying.

 

Substitute Goods

The second consideration when it comes to maximizing the economics of buying clothes is how substitutable the item is.  In other words, can you get something that is reasonably close to the same thing for less, and, if you can, why are you paying more?  This second consideration becomes useful where an item seems to be carry a reasonable actual cost.  Here’s an example: imagine that I’ve purchased a pair of black Salvatore Ferragamo captoe lace-up shoes.  These shoes are from Ferragamo’s Studio line, which is their lowest priced line of three. (Studio, Lavorazione Orginale and Tramezza).  I purchased them from Saks (here), for $473 Canadian.  The first thing I will say about these shoes is that they look great.  Modern, classic and yet very elegant and tasteful in appearance.  They’re black and captoe making them an absolute wardrobe staple.  Plus, I can wear them to the office, but also out on the town.  Frankly, I can wear them just about anywhere.  They’re not going to go out of style, and their construction is certainly equal to many commonly sold shoes on the market.  They cost a fair amount, but I’d say that I might wear them as many as 150 times in 3 years, making their actual cost around $3.  In other words, they seem like a winner on an actual cost basis. However, they’re a bit of a disaster when it comes to a substitute goods analysis.  You see, they may look great, and their construction may be equal to many shoes on the market, but they’re still $500.   They’re entirely glued together, as most shoes are, meaning that you’re only likely to get 3 years out of them.  This is especially so if you wear them as regularly as you’d need to to make them economical – plus, while many shoes are constructed similarly, this is actually more than I’d like to spend on glued shoes.  For less than $500, I can find you many shoes that are better made here, here or here .  These alternatives would last you longer, look just as good (or nearly as good) and therefore be more economical for you.  A lot of what you’re paying for the Ferragamo shoes is due to the Ferragamo brand name on the sole and the cachet that goes with it.  This means that items can pass the “actual cost” test, but still not be a great buy.  Therefore, it is important to determine whether there are cheaper substitute goods available.

Now, this isn’t to say that buying a $500 navy suit is superior to buying a $1,500 navy suit, because these goods may not be as substitutable as you think.  The construction of the cheaper suit is likely to be such that it will limit the life of the suit; perhaps it’s more trendy and therefore will go out of style faster; perhaps, when you buy a few more expensive suits, you’ll shy away from the cheaper suit because you’ve seen the way that nicer suits look on you and you’re almost embarrassed to where that one; perhaps the cheaper suit really doesn’t fit you particularly well.  In other words, perhaps you’re really not getting the same thing for less money at all.  At the same time, I feel that dress shirts are inherently disposable.  They get stained, shrunk, sweated in, rolled up in laundry baskets, their collars get damaged, etc.  The life of a dress shirt is hard and often relatively short.  Moreover it’s often predominantly covered up by your suit jacket and tie, so only your collar is visible.  Which, to me means that I don’t want to pay $300 for a dress shirt even if it becomes my favourite dress shirt and I wear it all the time making its actual cost not particularly high.  This is because I feel confident that I can find a dress shirt nearly as good for under $70 at places like T.M. Lewin.  If you look at the pictures above, there really isn’t much perceptible difference at all, despite the fact that the Brioni shirt on the right costs $475 at Niemen Marcus, while the T.M. Lewin shirt on the left can be had for $50. Undoubtedly, if you inspected the shirts up close, you would notice a difference in materials and quality, but enough to justify a $425 price difference?  In my opinion, no.  With suits, the gap between expensive suits and cheap suits can often be massive, for a variety of reasons.  Suits are far more technical and difficult to make than a shirt and require more expertise to properly fit.  Shirts do not; neither do socks and even pants.  So, your second question when you’re buying an article clothing (after estimating your actual cost) should be asking yourself whether there are any substitutable goods.  If there are, you may be better served buying the cheaper item and pocketing the difference.  On the other hand, if there’s not, you might be better off ponying up the extra cash.

Conclusion

So, the next time you’re shopping, don’t necessarily jump at sale prices and turn up your nose at high prices.  Weigh each of them on their merits and use the tools of actual cost and substitute goods to decide what your best decision, economically speaking, would be.  Don’t be afraid in making an investment in something you’re going to wear the hell out of, even if the initial cost is high.  If you always try to cut cost corners and end up with things you don’t quite like, you may actually be costing yourself money on an actual cost basis.  And don’t worry too much about not wearing something very often if you really did get it for a song.  Soon there won’t be as many “ghosts” kicking around the back of your closet, hardly worn that you purchased on a whim.  That’ll put money into your pocket, and who doesn’t want that?

07
Dec
10

One Guy Recommends: Warby Parker Glasses


I’ve needed glasses since I was in elementary school, but I’ve never been a glasses person.  I’ve never particularly liked the way they look and, even more, I really don’t like having to shill out a bundle of cash to buy them.  Contact lenses have long been my daily ritual, but as contact wearers know, it isn’t very ideal not to have a pair of glasses available to throw on when you wake up in the morning, or don’t really feel like putting your contacts in.  Nonetheless, I held out for more than 7 years from buying new glasses, preferring to either walk around semi-blind or to wear my twisted and scratched emergency pair.  Undoubtedly my prescription had changed in that absurdly long time period, but I really didn’t have much interest in going through the process of buying new ones.

That is, until I came across Warby Parker, an exclusively online retailer of fashionable glasses.  Unbelievably, Warby Parker will send you a pair of glasses, including prescription scratch resistant and anti-reflective polycarbonate lenses for $95.  That’s right, I just said that you can get a cool pair of glasses, including prescription lenses and frames, for $95.  With free shipping.  And, you can even have them send you 5 pairs of glasses (without prescription lenses installed) to you to try-on at home and make your decision – once again, for free (although this is depending on how much stock they have, and availability has been hit-or-miss).  You can also upload a picture and do a “virtual try-on” directly on their website.  They also have a fantastic, no-hassle, no-questions return policy if you get your glasses and aren’t entirely satisfied – you guessed it, returns, even postage for them, are entirely free.  But wait, there’s more…  When you buy a pair of their glasses, they’ve agreed to give a pair away to someone who needs it in the poorer areas of the world. Amazingly, your $95 makes you charitable too! Continue reading ‘One Guy Recommends: Warby Parker Glasses’

06
Dec
10

Oneguysstyle’s Inaugural Christmas List


We’re getting closer and closer to my favourite time of the year.  In the spirit of the season, here’s what I’m hoping to find under the tree this year:

1.  Tumi Alpha Frequent Traveler Zippered Expandable Carry-On Bag

I’ve been doing a fair amount of traveling this year, which is something I very much want to continue into the future.  While I make do with a myriad of beat-up and abused luggage, this rolling carry-on is what I really want.  Made of Tumi’s signature ballistic nylon, it’s damn near un-damageable.  I also love the removable garment sleeve, which holds up to three suits and would allow me to not have lug around a separate garment bag.  Airports are places to survive, not enjoy, and so the more your rolling suitcase allows you not to carry, the better.  I’ll have mine in black, with the complimentary monogramming (so I can tell it apart from the herd of Tumi’s seen at every airport), please.  Check out this particular suitcase here; it’s available for $595.  They also regularly find their way to eBay.


2. Alexander McQueen Silk Skull Print Scarf

Because why not quietly feel like a bit of a badass this year?  In a muted navy (and with a small pattern that looks quite conservative unless you get quite close to it), it’s a fantastic way to be daringly conservative, if there is such a concept.  Alexander McQueen produces items that are kind of a cross between James Bond and Keith Richards and really, are there two cooler male characters than them?  I’ll have mine in navy with white, as conservative as possible to off-set the pattern.  Alexander McQueen’s website is alexandermcqueen.com but I would recommend trolling eBay for better prices.


3.  Gant by Michael Bastian Oxford Shirt

My vote for the coolest collaboration of the year.  Michael Bastian makes some of the finest “american style” menswear in the world.  Think of a modern interpretation of what the Kennedy brothers wore in the ’60’s.  He prides himself on making the finest examples of classic American items like khaki pants and shorts and oxford shirts with modern fits.  The downside is that the “finest” carry a price to match.  Which makes his contribution to Gant absolutely perfect.  Gant has long been something of a poor man’s Polo Ralph Lauren.  Their collaboration with Bastian has bumped up their price a bit (but not really very much at all considering) while delivering some of the best items you’ll find on the racks this year.  I would recommend going with what Bastian does best – the oxfords, the khakis and the corduroy pants.  Given that I wear the hell out of white oxford button-down I already own, a pale blue oxford button collar shirt tops my list.  Check out the Michael Bastian collection at Gant’s U.S. website here, the oxford shirt I’m talking about here, or in stores in Canada at Harry Rosen for a little over $150.

4.  Playful socks from Paul Smith, Richard James, Smart Turnout or Happy Socks

I’m a bit sick of the drab socks in my closet, particularly as drabness of winter has set in.  Which means that I’m looking for some interesting and colourful options in my sock drawer.  Any of the above makers will do (I’ve arranged them from highest to lowest in price), preferably with a some red in there somewhere.  More info can be had at paulsmith.co.uk, richardjames.co.uk, smartturnout.com or happysocks.com.

5. Slim fit Sea Island Cotton Shirt from Charles Tyrwhitt

We’ve covered the fine Sea Island cotton shirts made by Charles Tyrwhitt before (see here).  I’m going to be heading somewhere warm after Christmas, so I’d like a shirt that’ll keep me comfortable and cool when I go out for dinner.  Anything with a pattern in blue or pink will do quite nicely.  Also, skip the french cuffs and opt for standard barrel cuffs – I’m inevitably going to forget to  pack cufflinks and the less you need to bring  on vacation, the better.  Check out ctshirts.com for more details.  Shirts from around £59.95

 

 

6.  Belstaff Roadmaster jacket

From the black waxed cotton exterior and traditional tartan interior, to the slim fit and belt, there is no cooler jacket than this one.  Made for motorcyclists by Belstaff, a company founded in England in 1924, it not only keeps you warm, but it’s rugged waxed cotton feature keeps you dry.  You may remember seeing Will Smith in one of these throughout the film I am Legend.  Instead of following the herd and buying a leather jacket, buy one of these classics and instantly look about as cool as a man can look.  Mine would be in black, but the olive and brown also look great.  Available via jcrew.com, belstaff.com and a variety of other places, for around $595.

 

 

7.  H&M Tweed Blazer

Winter = tweed.  It keeps you warm and stylish through the months of cold we experience in Canada and in the northern U.S.  Plus, it’s timeless and will never go out of style (even if it does, at H&M prices that isn’t too big a fear).  Add on some elbow patches and you’ve really got a winner.  H&M offers a modern fit, which makes sure you don’t look like your Grandpa or your first year English professor.  Grey is the way to go, at least in my opinion.  Check it out in H&M stores for around $130.

 

 

8.  The Art of Shaving Sandalwood Shaving Cream

Shaving is the cross that every man bears, so why not make it tolerable (or perhaps even enjoyable) with some quality shaving cream.  Once you lather this up with a badger brush (feel free to skip the one from Art of Shaving and pick one up from the drug store), you’ll realize you’ve been missing out with the thin crap you get out of a can.  Plus, the sandalwood smells great, so you can skip the aftershave.  There are other scents available, but I would skip the lemon as I’ve heard it can adversely effect certain people’s skin.  The $22 price may seem expensive for shaving cream, but my tub has lasted me more than a year (you’ll plow through a few cans of Edge or Gillette in that time period), so it’s actually not as expensive as it seems.  Time for a replacement tub for me.  More info available at theartofshaving.com.

 

 

9.  James Perse Brush Stroke Crewneck

James Perse very well may make the world’s most comfortable casual clothes.  I’ve already got a long-sleeve graphic t-shirt that I wear all the time from JP, but I think it’s time to add to my collection.  This example is made from heavier “slub pique” cotton, which combines a bit of extra thickness for winter with Perse’s famed softness to equal the most stylish way to laze around on a Sunday.  Available in black, grey and white, I think I’m partial to the grey.  James Perse is available at jamesperse.com or in Holt Renfrew, Niemen Marcus and other such retailers.  This particular shirt is available for $135.

 

10. J. Press for Urban Outfitters Drill Pant

J. Press sells preppy like nobody else.  Urban Outfitters does the same for trendy urbanwear.  Mix the two together and you’ve got classic items with a modern look.  J. Press was founded in 1902 in New Haven, Conn., which many may know is also the location of Yale University.  J. Press’ other stores are in Cambridge, Mass. (home of Harvard), Washington, D.C. (home of Capitol Hill and Georgetown University) and the inevitable store in New York City.  J. Press’ ties to the Ivy League schools and their distinctive preppy dress code is long-standing tradition.  The one issue has been that they’re frankly a bit stuffy and out-dated in terms of fit.  Enter Urban Outfitters, which fills the exact opposite end of the spectrum, while still catering to the same audience.  A match made in heaven, and these heavy duty khakis are the pick of the litter in my mind (see my earlier post on slim fit khakis: ).  The slim fit and cool details such as the buckle cinch at the back make them instant classics.  Check out the whole J. Press x Urban Outfitters collection at www.urbanoutfitters.com or in stores.  These pants are $78.

06
Dec
10

This Week’s Object of Lust: Dunhill Biometric Wallet


Rarely will I come across something that immediately jumps out as being incredibly cool.  Without question, Dunhill’s Biometric Wallet falls into that category.  I have a few bad habits, but chief amongst them is my tendency to misplace things.  Whether it be jumping out of a cab after a few pints on a Friday night without my wallet, putting my phone down on the counter at the bank, or table at a restaurant, or seat pocket on a plane, or…. well, you get the picture.  Small accessories and I rarely form a lasting bond.  Which makes this wallet seemingly purpose-built for people like me.  First, it requires a brief swipe of the thumb to open, thereby preventing the theft of cash, credit cards, phone numbers or whatever else you keep in your wallet should it ever go missing.  Second, and even more importantly, it offers bluetooth connectivity to your phone and provides audible warning when the two are separated by more than 5 metres (16 feet).  So, you can leave your wallet in a pair of pants across your bedroom without bother, but, if you hop out of a cab with your BlackBerry remaining quietly tucked away on the seat, it’ll sound the alarm.  And vice versa – if you misplace your wallet, your phone will give you the same courteous notification.

Luckily, these features do not come at the expense of style.  The wallet is constructed from beautiful and ultra-lightweight carbon fibre, so you won’t feel like you’re lugging around a computer in your back pocket.  It features places for your credit cards inside, along with a money clip to keep your banknotes safely organized.  And really, this combination of style and ingenuity should be expected from Alfred Dunhill, a British company that many North Americans may not be familiar with.  Originally started in the late 19th century by its namesake founder, it supplied luxury goods meant to accessorize one’s automobile under the slogan “Everything but the Motor”.  Dunhill also became famous as a high-end producer of tobacciana (including their famed pipes with trademark white dot, their rollagas lighters and even custom tobacco blends that they made on request).  Dunhill has long provided accessories for the James Bond movies (including the cigarette lighter used by Bond in Dr. No) and was also featured in the remake of the movie Alfie with Jude Law given how quintessentially British the company is in terms of quality and style.  The company has, over time, branched out into luxury clothing, watches, leather goods, ties and a host of other products, always with a nod to the company’s British heritage, and sometimes with a nod to their automotive roots.  Quite surprisingly for North Americans, Dunhill is the third most popular luxury brand in China, following only Louis Vuitton (and beating out Gucci, Dior, Armani and Hermès).

The only drawback with the Biometric Wallet is its staggering price tag ($825 or £525) – then again, items at the forefront of technology always cost an arm and a leg.  I’m not suggesting that we should all run out and pay retail, as cool as this particular item is (and, I actually just purchased a new wallet anyway).  However, this won’t stop me from trolling eBay, hoping that one of these slips through the cracks for a reasonable sum.  For more info, check out out Dunhill’s website (www.dunhill.com), or the page specific to this wallet, (www.dunhill.com/en-us/…/wallets/biometricwallet-qgk0169).

 

NOTE:  Speak of the devil, there’s one up on eBay right now: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=320629718008&ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:ITOpening bid is £99 (approx $155US), or a £425 reduction from the retail price.  Buy it now is £250 ($395), or more than 50% off retail if anyone is interested.  I’m watching the auction and am very interested how it’ll shake out.

18
Nov
10

One Guy Recommends: J. Crew’s Upcoming Canadian Invasion


I make no bones about really liking what J. Crew has been up to the last few years, and I’m definitely not alone in this opinion.  Collaborations with such hallowed names as Belstaff, Barbour, Alden, Crockett & Jones, Globetrotter, Baracuta, Mackintosh, Woolrich, Thomas Mason, Levi’s, Sperry, adidas, Converse Jack Purcell, Selima Optique, Timex, Red Wing, Quoddy, Mister Freedom, Clark’s and Rolex have made them a one-stop shopping destination for some of the coolest gear out there.  This is an idea that’s turned out so well, that it’s been borrowed by their competitors, including Banana Republic.  Furthermore, their everyday collection has reached nearly “must-have” status for style (and budget conscious) gentlemen, with their “secret wash” cotton button down shirts being first choice weekend wear for me, with their casually rumpled cool.  In other words, the men (and women) at J. Crew have really created something special out of a brand that, 5 or 6 years ago, was kind of like a Toyota Camry: reliable, but entirely unremarkable.

The only big downside for Canadian J. Crew fans is that we don’t have any actual, brick-and-mortar, J. Crew stores.  We’ve been stuck shopping online and via catalogue.  This doesn’t seem too bad on the surface, but shopping in this way creates two major issues: first, you have to tack on international shipping to every order, even a pair of socks; and second, Canadians get hit by nasty customs duties and the infamous “customs brokerage fees” that UPS arbitrarily pays itself.  I’ve had orders almost double in price because of these two nasty little additions.  Plus, there’s the fact that you can’t try anything on before you buy it unless you want to cross the border and pretty much anything you purchase takes a week and half to get to you.


Well fellow Canadians, this will soon be a thing of the past – if you live in Toronto, that is.  According to their new catalog, J. Crew is opening a store in Toronto in 2011.  Details are minimal right now, but at least we have a fixed date to look forward to.  In the mean time, you can check out J. Crew’s online store here.

15
Nov
10

One Guy’s Daily Tip: Beware of Clothes Made for Outlet Stores


I’m definitely not someone that’s “cheap”.  However, my Midwestern, Scottish roots mean that I’m frugal and I love nothing more than to get something at a bargain price.  Perhaps I’m not quite Jerry Seinfeld’s dad who “doesn’t care about the gift; he gets excited about the deal” (see “The Wizard” episode about the “hot” tip calculator), but I’m close.  And who doesn’t like to get something nice for less?  Well, unfortunately, it’s becoming harder to do so.  Surprisingly, this isn’t because the prices are getting higher; rather, what companies are giving you for those bargain basement prices is getting worse.  I’m talking about Outlet Store Lines – clothes made specifically for outlet stores.

Allow me to give you an example.  Picture yourself walking into a Brooks Brothers Outlet store.  You’ll take a look at the price tags on the suits and undoubtedly smile (and maybe even rub your hands together in glee) over the savings you can reap on the suits you’ve seen in their retail stores (which have tags like the one above on the left).

Hmmm… A Brooks Brothers suit for $325? Don’t mind if I do….

Here’s the problem: if you look closer, you’ll notice that the label on the suit says “346 Brooks Brothers” (just like it does above on the right).  Now, the addition of those three measly numbers doesn’t seem like much of anything, especially since Brooks aficionados might remember that their headquarters has long been at 346 Madison Avenue in New York.  Except, those three numbers are of enormous importance because they identify that suit as one that’s only sold in a Brooks Brothers Outlet Store.  It’s made from lower quality fabric, cut in a less modern way, constructed use down-market techniques and likely even in a different country from Brooks’ main offerings.  Other than the fact that the words “Brooks Brothers” follow the 346 and that the Outlet Store you’re in has a lot of wood paneling and smells of lime cologne, it really isn’t a Brooks Brothers suit at all.  Which means that you’re not really getting a deal – you’re pretty much getting exactly what you’re paying for. As someone who has said favourable things about Brooks Brothers and their suits on this very blog, I don’t want to single them out – pretty much every retailer these days is doing the same thing.  For example, Calvin Klein Collection sells very nice minimalist suits at upscale retailers like Barneys.  They also sell “White Label” Calvin Klein (see below on the right) suits at their Outlet Stores.  That’s kind of like if Tom Brady and Steve Urkel were brothers – not a lot of family resemblance there.  Others that do this: Ralph Lauren (Lauren Ralph Lauren, below on the left), Hugo Boss, The North Face, Banana Republic, J Crew, Gap and many others, and not just when it comes to suits.  If you’re buying for your wife, you should know that Coach, Donna Karan and other brands do the same thing.

This may come as a shock to you given that the original purpose of Outlet Stores was to sell off merchandise that didn’t sell in the main store,  for whatever reason.  Often this meant that it was full of odd sizes and ugly things (and, they still are), but there were often diamonds in the rough that somehow made their way onto the crowded racks, shelves and bins of an outlet store.  This is becoming less and less the way that these stores are doing business – a large reason for this is that stores, post-recession, are maintaining far less inventory than before, which means there is a lot less unsold merchandise to stock their outlet stores with.  Hence, the move towards “Brooks Brothers 346”, “Lauren Ralph Lauren” and “Calvin Klein White Label” to fill up those stores.  This doesn’t mean that you should totally swear off outlet stores.  Places like Holt Renfrew Last Call, Saks Off 5th, Last Call by Niemen Marcus and any number of other brands can give you legitimate savings on actual retail merchandise.  But beware of the Outlet Store Line.  Sometimes an innocuous few letters or the colour of a label can mean that you’re not getting the deal you think you are.  Even more scarily, there may be no signs at all that an article of clothing was made specifically for an outlet store (J Crew does this) and is of inferior quality to their regular offerings.  So, be careful and do your due diligence to make sure that your bargain is as good as you think it is.

12
Nov
10

This Week’s Object of Lust: Nordic Boots


Winter is tough on clothes and there is no article of clothing that takes more of a beating than your shoes. With dress shoes, you can at least cover them up with overshoes. However, if you take your typical casual shoe out into the elements, you’re really throwing them to the wolves. The summer and fall, at least for me, has been spent wearing sneakers, boat shoes, loafers, suede chukkah boots and the like.  All of these shoes would be very quickly destroyed by the snow, salt and sand that accompanies the winters in Canada (and other northern climes). Not only that, but your feet are going to be absolutely freezing in a pair of adidas Sambas and you’ll be sliding all over the place in a pair of chukka boots.

What then? Well, I’ve got some good news, gentlemen. One of the coolest shoes for guys at the moment is the nordic style boot. Nordic boots look fantastically vintage (especially when they sport bright red or orange laces), they look even better when they get beat up a bit, they’re typically waterproof and featured thick leather and lining that’ll keep your feet warm. Plus, they often feature treaded soles that prevent slippage on ice, a design feature that no doubt arises from their icy, nordic heritage.

Now that I’ve got your attention (and your wallet open), there are a number of options. On the high-end are beautiful boots from french luxury outdoor company Moncler (above on the left), which are available at http://www.moncler.it/. But, given that these ring in at about $800, they’re probably an unrealistic splurge for most guys, especially since they’re really only wearable in winter and fall and early spring. Which brings me to two cheaper alternatives: the Timberland Newmarket Nordic Hiker (above on the right) and, the fantastic new Nordic boots from Roots (picture at the top of the post). The Timberlands will set you back $120 on their website here, while the Roots boots are $198 and available here.  In my opinion the Timberlands lack the euro flair of the Roots version – and, buying from Roots supports a Canadian company. Best of all, Roots has everything in store and online at 25% off this weekend, so your new boots will only set you back $150. Think of that $150 as an investment in keeping your other shoes in good shape, your feet warm and your butt from getting bruised after a spill on the ice.  Just make sure you don’t grab the last pair of size 10s before I can get my hands on a pair.

27
Oct
10

One Guy Recommends: This Year’s Banana Republic Fall Line


The last few years have seen most of the “cool, well made and yet affordable” kudos being given to J. Crew, and for good reason.  However, this year I can’t say enough positive things about J. Crew’s closest rival, Banana Republic.  In particular, there are two pieces from the fall collection that are pitch perfect.  One, a corduroy blazer with peak lapels,  is more on trend (while remaining something that you can wear, without fear of reproach, for life), while the other, a chesterfield overcoat, is timelessly elegant and something that I’ve always wanted to add to my closet.

Corduroy suiting (and blazers) are one of the predominant trends for fall this year, as you can note from the large spread featured in the current issue of GQ.  I enjoy GQ, but they have a habit of featuring articles of clothing that fail the “affordability” test, even if they’ve been getting a lot better in this regard since the recession hit.  And while I’ve been known to splurge on an article of clothing on occasion, I generally only do this on something that is timeless and will never go out of style, such as a navy suit.  The GQ spread features corduroy suits (which aren’t likely to last long in the fashion spotlight), but a corduroy blazer is something that is far more timeless.  Banana Republic’s example features their excellent new “Tailored Fit” and also the more modern peak lapels, which add an elegance to an otherwise casual blazer.  It’s available in two colours, beige and black and I would suggest going with black, which is more in line with the formality of the peak-lapels and is perfect for going out for dinner.

The other piece that stands out for me is the Chesterfield-style overcoat.  Chesterfield overcoats are of a knee length, have concealed buttons and, most famously, feature black velvet on the back part of the collar. They’re named after the famously stylish 6th Earl of Chesterfield and have also been worn by such stylistic icons as the Duke of Windsor, James Bond in “Live and Let Die” and Van William’s “Green Hornet”.  The Chesterfield has also been said to be one of the classic overcoat styles in Bernhard Roetzel’s seminal book, “Gentleman’s Guide to Grooming and Style”.  Traditionally, it is available in either grey or navy (and perhaps beige or brown), and either single breasted or double breasted.  Chesterfields are one of the most formal styles of overcoat and there is no better option that can be worn over a suit.  Banana Republic’s example is in grey, features slanted pockets in the Saville Row style and is a nice trim fit (keep in mind that you can and ought to take it to a tailor to really have it fit perfectly).

The best part of Banana Republic is the price you can obtain both of these staples for.  The corduroy blazer is available for the very affordable sum of $198US ($240CDN), while the overcoat is an even better bargain at $275US ($345CDN ), which is especially notable given that chesterfield coats, being such classic and timeless pieces, are very difficult to find at an affordable price.  For more information, and to purchase these two pieces or others from Banana Republic, check out: http://www.bananarepublic.com in the U.S., or http://www.bananarepublic.ca in Canada (which now offers online shopping – although, as you can see from the price disparity, it may be worth a road trip to see our friendly southern neighbours).

27
Oct
10

This Week’s Object of Lust: Nudie jeans


The majority of the posts on this site deal with “corporate” style – things you’re going to be wearing to the office. Judging by the search terms and posts that draw the most traffic on this site, the majority of readers are looking for information about work clothes. But, as much as I enjoy discussing the merits of basted suits and closed lacing on dress shoes, there are such things as Saturdays and Sundays. Which means you need some more casual components to your wardrobe to kick back in and do what even the busiest guys need to do sometimes: relax, while still being able to hop off the couch and go to a bar, cool restaurant or friend’s birthday party.

What is the universal symbol of casual clothing in the 21st century? A pair of jeans. Lately (and, by lately, I mean the past few years), there has been a decidedly positive development in the denim world – a return to natural and raw denim, precipitated generally by our brothers and sisters in Japan. Instead of pre-distressing jeans in a way that somebody in a factory somewhere thinks your jeans should look like after a year of wear, companies are now allowing you to take care of the distressing. The natural way. Over time, and in your own unique manner.

There really is nothing better than a pair of jeans you have broken-in perfectly, a process that can take months of wear. Amongst the best makers of raw (also referred to as “selvedge”) denim jeans is a company out of Sweden named Nudie (which stands for “The Naked Truth About Denim”, a reference to the raw, natural denim they use). Cut in a way that is “slim-ish” but by no means is too slim, Nudies gradually mold to your unique shape and become incredibly comfortable.  Plus, Nudies maintain their rich indigo colour for as long as you refrain from washing them (which, I would say is for, at minimum, one year – put them in the freezer occasionally to kill off any bacteria, if you’re concerned).  They are made in Italy and I would highly recommend picking up a pair and starting the process of breaking them in. I guarantee that in a few months, they’ll be the first pair of pants you reach for on your coffee run on Saturday morning.

The only issue with Nudie jeans is that they’re a little bit expensive.  Given that one of the stated goals of this blog is to promote affordability and economical style, this would seem to be something of an issue.  However, given that most people wear denim on a very regular basis, when you analyze the price from a “cost per wear” basis, it will be less than almost all else in your closet.  Jeans are something that most men wear almost every day when they get home from work (and almost every day on the weekend).  Furthermore, in this casual era, they’re something you’ll wear with a blazer or cardigan to a nice restaurant, to work on Fridays and on many other occasions.  Given this, you should put almost as much thought, money and consideration into your choice of denim as your choice of suit (if you’re single, than this goes doubly as women are far more likely to recognize and appreciate denim brands and fits than suit brands).  If you’re interested in Nudie, check out http://www.nudiejeans.com/start.  Otherwise, head to the store with the best selection of selvedge denim and find a pair that works for you.  Finally, this may be one of the only occasions where I would actively suggest that a female’s eye is nearly essential to the purchasing process; for some reason, most men, including myself, have a tough time judging how they look in a given pair of jeans, so keep this in mind.  Good luck gentlemen.




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