Posts Tagged ‘J. Crew

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.

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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.

10
Aug
11

One Guy Recommends: NATO Watch Straps


My post today centres around a new addition to my own wardrobe: a nylon “NATO” watch strap.  There’s no question that Sean Connery as James Bond looked cool as hell when he wore his Rolex Submariner on a “NATO” strap (see picture below).  So, I’m hardly the first person to trumpet these types of bands; nonetheless, I’m a late convert.  But convert I am – I’ve worn mine 6 consecutive days, and I don’t like to wear the same watch more than a day or two in a row. 

The nylon strap rose to popularity thanks to British Ministry of Defence (MOD).  The standard issue strap (called the “G10” thanks to its requisition number) has come to be known as the “NATO” strap because its stock number falls within those associated with “NATO”.  Traditionally, it came in only one colour (dubbed “Admiralty Grey”) and only in the 22mm size.  There are now two colours in the NATO stock catalogue, with both stil using the traditional chrome plated brass hardware.  It is now available in a wide range of colours and patterns, from a variety of aftermarket suppliers, most traditionally featuring vertical stripes running down the middle of the band.   Another popular variation is the “Zulu” strap, which is thicker and is worn slightly differently.

For me, the addition of a nylon watch strap stemmed not out of a particularly strong desire to wear one, but rather out of a problem: I don’t really love the standard bracelet that came with my Omega Seamaster Professional.  It’s not the clasp: I think Omega’s are some of the most functional.  Rather it was the style of the links which didn’t sit well with me (which goes to show you how personal one’s taste in watches are, as many people herald the Omega bracelets as some of the prettiest around).  The Omega has become my day-to-day, beat-around work watch, but the bracelet is a scratch and scuff magnet, it’s hot and heavy to lug around a steel bracelet all summer, and, most importantly, I just didn’t love it.  In fact, I was on the verge of selling the watch; that is until I figured I’d take a $17 flyer on a navy and steel grey NATO-style strap from Gnomon Watches.   Once it arrived (nicely packaged I might add) from Singapore, and I had taken it, along with my watch, to my Authorized Omega Dealer (or “AD” as it tends to be abbreviated on watch sites), suddenly my Seamaster was transformed.  Frankly, it looked cool as hell – just as importantly, it felt cool as hell given the light, breathable nature of the nylon.   Hopefully you’ll agree with my assessment, as I’ve provided two, rather poor quality pictures of my watch and its new strap below.

In my opinion, it’s acceptable to be worn in the summer to work (although, if you work in a particularly conservative environment, I might save it for Friday).  Really, it’s the best $17s I’ve ever spent, transforming a watch that was in my doghouse into a wrist fixture.  I highly recommend throwing one on your watch, even as summer winds down (and, what with the endless choices in colours, you can really customize your watch).  Being a Bond fan, I went with a classic NATO myself (and I’d encourage anyone to go down this road: it’s never going out of style).  Another option is to buy the watch with the strap already on.  The best affordable watch I’ve seen is this watch from J. Crew, which I’ll be discussing more in a future post.  More information on Gnomon straps can be found here: http://www.gnomonwatches.com/index.asp

Thanks for reading and I look forward to being much more active with this blog.

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.

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.

09
Jun
10

One Guy’s Daily Tip: Wear Slim-Cut Khakis


There’s been a question I’ve been mulling over lately.  If you’re anything like me, than you pretty much live (outside of the office that is) in jeans.  I would say, conservatively, that I likely wear jeans 90% of the time I’m not wearing dress pants.  I have a couple of pairs that I’ve lovingly worn in to a level of comfort that is almost unmatchable (one of these pairs I’m actually having emergency repairs done to as a hole had sprouted in the crotch;  I realize that having a tailor repair the torn crotch of one’s jeans is a bit of lunacy, but these jeans are the closest thing to a child I have right now).  That said, there has to be more than jeans out there.  Especially in summer, when wearing 3 pounds of selvedge denim around is comparable to some sort of heat based torture. 

Nonetheless, I think I’ve found a solution:  slim-cut khakis.  Now, I know what you’re going to say: “Khakis? Really? You’re  suggesting I dress less like Marlon Brando in “The Wild Ones” and more like Bill Gates circa 1999?”

Not exactly.  The “midwestern senator on the golf course” type of khaki (i.e. one that is baggy, perfectly creased and sports a squadron of pleats on the front) and is made of some sort of thin, vaguely beige material is worlds apart from what I’m talking about.   (Continue reading after the jump) Continue reading ‘One Guy’s Daily Tip: Wear Slim-Cut Khakis’

18
May
10

One Guy Recommends: Silk Knit Tie


When it comes to dressing for business or for a formal occassion, I would say that my general philosphy is to dress conservatively, but with one small area where I express my personality.  There are many ways to do this, from wearing a cutaway collar (which is a bit unusual in North America, but probably more formal and completely acceptable), to wearing Scottish flag or bright red fabric knot cuff links, or  coloured socks, or having side tabs instead of a belt on one’s pants.  Adding personality to one’s clothing can be done through colour, texture, pattern or proportion (although I would caution against doing these all at the same time).   Which brings me to the silk knit tie, which plays with texture in an interesting, but very understated way.

Most of those reading this blog have seen the James Bond movie “Goldfinger” at some point in their lives and many of have seen it multiple times.  It’s without doubt my favourite Bond film, from the golf scene to the fantastic names (Pussy Galore, anyone?) to the three piece, glen-plaid suit (pictured above along with a mint julep, “sour mash but not too sweet”) that James sports throughout the flick.  Plus, it features Sean Connery in the title role, a must to be considered the top Bond film of all time.  One other thing you will notice about Connery’s suit if you go back and watch the movie again is his tie.  It’s a dark  silk knit tie that I doubt most people even spotted the first time around.  The silk knit tie was more popular in the 1960’s, but there has recently been a recent renaissance of sorts.

I purchased a silk knit tie about a year ago (and then another a few weeks ago) and, while I don’t wear them very often, I always receive compliments when I do.   You wouldn’t think that a solid navy and a solid black tie would draw much attention and, for the most part, they don’t.  But when you’re talking to someone face to face, particularly an observant member of the opposite sex, inevitably their eyes will dip to your tie and the feedback has always been positive.

Most silk knit ties have a flat bottom, unlike the pointed  bottom on your average tie; while I don’t mind this detail, I managed to find one from Battistoni that has the traditional pointed bottom.  The flat bottom gives the silk knit tie a more casual air and so I would caution against wearing it to the office.  That said, I often wear mine on fridays, which are considered to be more casual at my office.

My tip for pulling off the knit tie is to make it a simple, solid navy.  Once you’ve decided how you feel about it, then you can begin to explore striped and more colourful silks.   Again, even though it is likely perfectly acceptable, I also might not wear a silk knit tie to the office, outside of a casual friday, but rather save it for events in the evening or in the summer, especially a more casual outdoor wedding or other party.

Another great reason to buy a silk knit tie, other than to infuse a bit of personality into your dress, is that they’re all of a sudden widely available and generally inexpensive.  You can track them down at Lands End, J. Crew, Ralph Lauren, Thomas Pink or, my personal favourite (although definitely the bank-breaker of the bunch), Battistoni.  The prices are generally around $50, which is more than reasonable for a stylish tie.  So, for those out there who are understandably a bit concerned about showing personality through their clothes because they are unsure of how to do so, or are concerned about dressing conservatively, here’s the perfect antidote.  Enjoy fellows.




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