Sunday, January 27, 2013

Crazy about Coats!

For details sake I will be making each picture set a little larger than usual this time. So, let us begin our crash course in commonly worn coats. I will be skipping a couple (that I either don't own, or are poor examples due to fit or state of repair). I will post links at the end to check out those coats for yourself.

While perhaps this would have been better done in the fall or beginning of winter I wanted to wait until winter coats began going on sale before posting this. Many stores begin to roll out their warmer weather gear immediately after Christmas, especially south of the Mason Dixon line where our winters tend to be a lot shorter and warm weather appears a lot sooner. A huge benefit to this is that winter coats go on sale well before winter is over and some amazing deals can be found. Waiting till spring would be conventional logic as ALL the coats will be on sale. But by this point MOST of the coats worth having will have been bought. So, now is the time, especially for those of you in warmer climes, to begin your hunt for that perfect winter coat. It might not serve you perfectly this year, but you'll be ready when the cold weather hits next year (and if you live anywhere near the DC Metro, you have no idea when the cold weather is gonna strike again. It was 0 degrees F outside of Quantico this past week).

So! For all pictures in today's post I am wearing Chippewa GQ ($85 on Amazon with a $25 off code), Levi 514 Slim Straight jeans ($40 in store on clearance) and a white Brooks Brothers OCDB (thrifted $5). I'm going to skip over the scarves as they have been covered in other blog posts. SO! Let us begin.

In the first photo series picture I am wearing three different pea coats. (From left to right) A blue Old Navy pea coat ($20 on sale) a black Eddie Bauer pea coat (a gift, guessing $150 new), and a grey patterned Banana Republic ($30 on clearance + 40% off clearance). Links are not available for these coats as aside from the Old Navy (currently on sale for $9.99 and not available online) the other two are last season and no longer sold.

So a quick run down on the pea coat. The pea coat is a nautical uniform item originally worn by sailors, especially naval sailors, on cold nights crossing the oceans. Almost always made of wool or a wool blend they come in a variety of colors, weights, an designs. But a pea coat will always be double breasted, and (typically) will have naval themed buttons (usually anchors). In these three examples, I am wearing all mediums but the size run a bit differently. The Old Navy fits me very snugly but the sleeves are longer than I need (easily remedied by a good tailor), and same with the Banana Republic (notice the uprolled sleeves). The Eddie Bauer is by far the thickest and least casual, but the fit leaves something to be desired (notice how baggy it looks in my chest area).

When deciding what to wear a pea coat with, I tend to lean to the more casual end of the spectrum. I would never wear a pea coat of a suit jacket or sport coat as it's a bit too fitted to be worn with like that, nor would I wear a bow tie with a pea coat as the collar will smash the bow tie and  force your neck area to look very busy. I tend to wear my pea coats casually with a pair of jeans or chinos, a button down shirt, pullover or cardigan, and at most a simple knit tie. So... shall we move on?

Still in the theme of casual jackets, this J. Crew ($47, out of season now) four pocket field jacket was one heck of a steal that helped me break my winter wardrobe down into the less formal and more down and dirty outerwear. Thickly lined in the style of a quilted jacket (though more durable) the olive drab colors lets me wear this much more casually than I would a more conservative dark wool jacket. The field jacket hails the woodsman, the hunter, the avid outdoorsman who can't be bothered with fancy baubles or pretty buttons. With pockets to store all your junk, and a hood for when it's just too cold not to cover your head, this coat fits the bill as perfectly casual way to keep warm without completely throwing away good taste and style. I would pair this exactly the way I am. Jeans, boots, a button up or henley, and sweater as needed.

What is more classic than the leather jacket? I'll tell you what- a properly fitting non glossy leather jacket. Leather is a tricky material for outerwear. If you're not a motorcycle riding bad ass, maybe that double breasted glossy black jacket isn't for you. Not an aviator from the 80's with matching aviators and terrible attitude? Let's forget that deep drown glossy bomber jacket. But if you're just a regular guy looking for a solid coat to keep you warm when you're out and about town running errands, maybe look for a well fitting, proper length (about waist-level) medium brown leather jacket? The one I'm wearing here was bought for me when I was 16 and was, at the time, enormous on me. As I've worn it for many years and grown (and added on a little extra weight) the coat is substantially better looking on me now than it ever was before. A caution about leather jackets, is that leather is a material that tends to develop it's own particular characteristics as it's worn. A special luster or wear known as a patina that develops as it's worn. Brand new, a jacket will look... brand new. As you break it in and wear it it will take on a life of it's own and be a very versatile part of your wardrobe. On leather I do not suggest going cheap (fake leather will look fake, and thin leather will tear quickly) but rather find the coat you want and wait for a sale on it.

Perhaps the best deal I have found on a coat this past year was snagging this Target Meron4-Pocket Wool Coat for $50 on Black Friday. At the link provided you'll find it's now on sale for $32 (if you call your local store and have it delivered to them for local pick up they will often waive the shipping fee. If you're just looking for a warm coat that isn't completely hideous, I STRONGLY encourage you to pick up this coat before they are discontinued. No telling if it will be back next year, and at $32 can you really afford not to? My critiques on this coat are that, as is the case with Target men's wear, it is catered towards a larger man than myself. Usually I find Target's mediums to be the perfect size for me (elsewhere I'm between a large and a medium), but this particular coat is just a bit too roomy in the stomach and chest and a bit boxy on the sides. Regardless, it is a warm coat that pairs well with darker trousers, boots, a couple layers of sweater and thermal shirt. Without a doubt, if I had to recommend a coat to someone looking to enter the world of dressing better, this would be the first suggestion I would have for them.
More utilitarian in function than anything else, this London Fog full length raincoat ($15 at Salvation Army) is intended to keep a suit wearing man dry and warm with it's detachable fleece lining. Substantially more dressy than the four pocket coats, I would not wear this out with jeans and boots normally but instead with a suit or sports coat. This coat is built decidedly larger than a regular jacket as it is meant to be worn over a suit jacket, much like an overcoat (discussed next). If your regular wardrobe does not include these more dressed up items, you might not need a full length raincoat, but if you find one that fits well for the same steal of a price that I did, I would strongly advise you to pick it all the same. By far the best rain coat I have owned outside of my military issued GoreTex.
For those truly cold days, where the occasion dictates a more formal attire (be it taking the misses to the theater or just going into the office) a great coat or overcoat are your best friend. This one is a wool coat made by a Scottish coat company that was handed down to me from my father. The blue fabric somewhat limits what I can wear it with, but as coats go, this is the warmest and thickest one I own, and I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for a similar one in black or grey. It would be a bit of a fashion faux paux to wear this casually as it is really meant to be worn over top of a suit jacket or even a tuxedo (provided you have some sort of midnight blue tuxedo). This runs up there with "If your style is more utilitarian and less dressy, this is not for you."
Finally! What review would be complete without a trench coat? This three quarters length wool lined trench coat from Banana Republic is one of the best steals I've ever made. Coming from their higher end line it was returned after Christmas to a store that didn't carry this line and was automatically thrown on clearance. When I saw the coat I asked when the next 40% off clearance deal was and was told it would be the next day. Returning the next day with this 40% off clearance I picked up this beautiful coat for less than $100. Easily my nicest coat, the fit is spot on, it is decidedly windproof, and handles well in the rain (not billed as water proof, it is definitely water repellent). With it's wool lining it's very warm in the windy DC winters, and paired with a sweater and thicker button up, I'm downright toasty in this coat. It's three quarter length makes it much more casual than a full length trench coat while retaining the detail and classy militaryesque style of a the trench coat making it a lot more versatile. I pair this coat with a good pair of jeans, perhaps gray wool trousers, and plain patterned button up.

A quick note on two other kinds of coats. While I don't own them myself, a resurgence of popularity for the Duffle Coat and University Coat especially in younger men's wear has given me cause to consider looking for them myself. While the university coat is really just a pea coat without all the nautical detail or double breast, the duffle blog is loaded with detail and very much an en vogue piece of outerwear at the moment.

Well, as always, I hope you enjoyed wasting your time on my blog, and dress dangerously my friends.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Why Ever Man Needs White Button Down Shirts

The white button up. Could it get any more boring than this? What's the point in even having one outside of job interviews (for the love of all that his holy, at LEAST have one for this) or formal affairs? I'll tell you what. I'm forgoing fancy pictures of myself wearing the item this time, because there are much better looking men than I to display them for you. So, let's discuss why you need a white button in your wardrobe.
What the white button up gives us is versatility. It's an item that works well on it's own, paired with other clothing items, or even just to give depth in layering. It's the simplest palette to work with; pretty much any pair of pants, any suit, and jacket, and cardigan or sweater, and perhaps most importantly for those of you who work in a professional environment, almost EVERY tie goes with a white button up shirt.

The above pictured outfit is a decent mix of casual and formal. Do you live in an urban environment and like to walk/bike to work but don't feel like throwing on full-on workout clothes? The above outfit lets you drop your dress shoes and tie, make your way to work without looking a child lost on his way to school. Get to work, throw on the dress shoes and a tie, and you're ready to go. Done for the day? Drop the jacket, take off the tie and loosen the top button and you're ready to grab drinks with the guys. All the while, you're in ONE outfit, only making minor changes to fit in to what you're doing.
Cheap trick to pander to my female readers with a picture of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but the man knows what the hell he's doing when he gets dressed. A question I get asked quite frequently has to do with guys who have begun to start paying attention to what they wear and have bought a few sweaters/jackets/coats but are unsure what to wear them with. My first response would be "Never buy something you're not sure how to wear because it will likely end up a regret-buy." Following that I'll tell them...get a white button up. As demonstrated here (and equally well with almost any color of sweater/jacket/cardigan really any sort of top) white button up + sweater (although perhaps not as sloppily as Mr. Levitt, he's just good looking enough to make the sloppiness work) is a solid look that requires almost no effort.
I know, it's Brad Pitt, anything this bastard puts on is gonna make whatever we're wearing look like a hobo that just walked through a car-wash, but the point here is that the white button up looks just as good with a pair of (hopefully darker than these dad-jeans) decent fitting jeans or khakis or chinos or really any sort of pants that don't have cargo pockets on them. I tend to wear white button ups in the summer with the sleeves rolled to just below my elbow a pair of dark wash Levi 514s and some boat shoes for a look that is as classic as they come without sacrificing comfort or style.

It's not really necessary for me to demonstrate why you should own a white button up for dressing up in a suit, because that's so basic that if you can't wrap your head around this concept, you need far more help than I can give you. So in closing- gentlemen- buy a freaking white button up. You'll be glad you did, and so will the lady in your life.
Oh, one more thing. NEVER EVER EVER do what this guy is doing. Not only because that is way too little clothing for there being snow on the ground or because his skinny jeans, size too small jean jacket, and clip on suspenders make him look like some sort of Neo-Nazi hipster, but because this is just an outright terrible look. Anyways, as always, dress dangerously my friends.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Don't Love the Color? CHANGE IT

Stock photo of CK Lawson boots
One of the primary purposes I had in starting this blog was to offer frugal alternatives to the high cost of high fashion. To this end, I am learning to leverage some of my mistakes as a buyer (especially impulse buys) to take something that might have been a decent deal but really didn't fit my wardrobe or sense of style. Today's example is this pair of Calvin Klein Lawson boots, shown above in a stock photo. When I ordered them, the picture shown was a substantially darker leather. When they arrived, they more closely resembled the picture above- an almost sickly greenish brown leather that simply was not attractive to me.

Left boot untouched, right boot after one coat of each
But what was I to do? They fit great, they're comfortable, and frankly, being zip ups, they're freaking convenient. The height of fashion? Perhaps not, especially not in that color, but I was certainly not getting rid of them. So, my obvious choice was to change the color.

There are plenty of guides on the internet for dying shoes, from leather to suede to canvas. This is not one of them. What I ended up doing was layering shoe polish to darken the leather without damaging it using harsh dye strippers and dyes themselves. Details are going to be a bit light, because I'm not going to insult anyone's intelligence with a guide to polishing shoes. There are plenty of those on the internet as well (YouTube is a great place to start, as is The Art Of Manliness's Guide.) So I'll just give you the basic process. 

Using plain black kiwi shoe polish (not parade gloss) I applied a thick coat to the shoe, running it over the shoe in tiny circles until I could rub a white piece of clothe over the surface of the shoe and only withdraw trace amounts of polish. You might wonder as to the rationale of using black instead of a darker brown? Well really it was just me shooting in the dark for a color I'd like and I wanted a DARK brown as opposed to just browner. So I went with black being careful to test it first on the tongue of the shoe where no one could see it, and upon satisfaction with that, moving on to the rest of the shoe.

Left shoe still untouched. Right shoe two coats of each.
Following my first coat of black, the shoe is reasonably darkened but spots just won't take the color. I then applied a thin coat of neutral polish to build a bit more wax on the surface, using the same method as with the black. Following this I applied one more layer of black shoe polish, one more layer of neutral and used a lighter, just barely touching the cap toe to melt the wax into the crevices. I then buffed intensely until a low shine emerged. I did the same on the second shoe as you can see in the photo below.
Purple boot laces because why not? I come away from this with a pair of boots I enjoy immeasurably more than the original color, for the cost of 1/10th of a can of Kiwi polish. It is worth noting that there are a million different ways to polish your shoes and mine is hardly the best, but it works for me and I plan to keep doing it. I'd challenge you to find an old beat up pair of leather shoes and give it your own attempt at changing the color or shade of your shoes to breathe some new life into them. As always, dress dangerously my friends.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

End of No Blue December


I am a bit late posting my last post for December, but here it is. It will be a bit image intensive and not so much text as usual, because I didn't get around to making my last two posts before this one (Christmas was a bit hectic and New Years... well... I certainly enjoyed myself on New Years). So, a quick breakdown of my last outfit in December. As my wife and I were going to a black tie affair (the International Club of DC New Years Eve Ball) it was of course expected that I be in... black tie formal. So I busted out my one button notch lapel tuxedo jacket, my tuxedo pants, tuxedo shirt (with cuff links and button studs), cummerbund, bow tie, and patent leather shoes and made my way with my beautiful wife down to the Marriott in DC. It was a hell of a time. Below are more detailed pictures of my outfit. 
 And of course, what post would be complete without a vanity shot of my socks.

The following pictures represent December 27th and December 30th respectively. I was just dying to get my blue clothes back at this point.
 Wool cardigan from Banana Republic on the clearance rack. Pants from H&M, not a company I generally recommend due to the cheaper quality of their clothing, but these pants have held up pretty well. Standard OCBD shirt, and bow tie from Joseph A Banks.
 The fit on these pants is not the best it could be as I bought them when I was fifteen pounds heavier. I will likely be taking them in for alterations soon.
 My bow tying skills leaves much to be desired when I'm in a rush. I should have taken more time to get a more even knot with a smoother center.

And of course- banana socks from Target's Mossimo Supply Co. brand.

 A splash of blue in this one, but I hardly count a single diamond on my v-neck sweater as violating the rules. The pea coat is from Banana Republic (on sale in the middle of the summer for some ridiculously cheap price), the pants are from GAP (an end of summer sale- $20), generic OCBD, Ralph Lauren sweater, and singing Christmas tie from a Christmas of the past.
My photographer sister suggested this pose, so I followed her lead.
Full shot.

I hardly think this outfit would be complete with crab socks, Clarks Desert Boots, and red laces. To all of you who followed me during my No Blue October, many thanks, and I appreciate your support and questions. I look forward to a new project to share with my readers in the coming weeks. As always, dress dangerously my friends.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Day 23- Tweed it up

So! A few days absence as I traveled to Tennessee (by way of NC and Georgia) to spend some much needed vacation time with my wife and her family. I really wish I had brought a decent camera with me because this place (outside of Nashville) is just gorgeous and I would have loved to put up some pictures from here. But anyway, here I am procrastinating and not doing my homework. So, have an outfit. For this post I decided I wanted to build my outfit around an original Harris Tweed jacket (eBay is your friend- new these jackets are $300-400, I got three for $35 each). This old school look may not be for everyone but if you love Ted Mosby's style, pick yourself up a tweed jacket and play around with it. I like to dress mine down with a t-shirt and sweater, or maybe a button down sans tie. So, let's break down today's outfit.

As discussed the Harris Tweed jacket is from eBay ($35), the pants are corduroy from Banana Republic ($20ish), sweater is alpaca wool from a market in Peru ($10), scarf is also alpaca wool from Peru ($4-5), and my shoes are Clark's Desert Boots ($70). As we've discussed before, CDB's are one of the most versatile pair of shoes/boots you can get yourself. They generally run about $100 but there are frequently sales on them and I've seen them as cheap as $50. I like to treat mine with Obenaufs Leather Oil about every few months. Softens and darkens the leather, differentiating them from off the shelf desert boots, and change out the laces for different colors pretty frequently. Easily my most worn pair of shoes. Hell, I'm wearing them now.
So, I've had a few questions recently and I swore I would get to them. One I have had a few times is "HOW THE HELL DO I TIE MY SCARF?". Rather than field that myself, I'm going to refer you to an excellent guide on scarf tying that I use myself. The scarf is an awesome way to stay warm in the winter without throwing on a massive 90's rapper style down puffy jacket. I strongly suggest investing in a few. Anyway, here is the guide that I use: Black Lapel Scarf Tying Guide (thank you Reddit for bringing this to my attention) . As always, comments are open (as if- I've gotten one comment in the past six months, but can't blame a guy for trying) and I welcome your questions, critiques, or comments. Dress dangerously, my friends.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Day 19- Let's Talk About Your Socks Life

Your Socks Life

We're going to do today's post a little bit differently. After a brief forward with some of my personal rules about socks, I'm just going to post a bunch of pictures. No discussion about each picture. Not what to pair them with. Just pictures of socks and me wearing socks. Not interested? You best be moving on then, friend.

So, in my mind one of the most exciting and important parts of your outfit is that tiny little bit of fabric showing between your pants and your shoes. Those wonderfully protective foot condoms. I'm speaking, of course, about socks. So why do I care about socks? Mostly because I feel it's one of those areas where the conservatively dressed man can spice things up and rebel a bit. Most men know two rules about socks: Black shoes need black socks and brown shoes need brown socks. I can see the wisdom in this and I definitely don't wear black with brown or brown with black, but why limit yourself to two colors when there is such a broader scale? With all that said, my take on socks is... make up your own rules. Let them add flavor to your outfits. And for god sake, if you can rock a pair of sucks with mustaches on them... ROCK THEM.

Anyway, I've gone on for far longer than I intended. The point I'm getting at is... make up your own rules for socks. Especially if everything else about your outfit must be drab, let your socks spice things up a bit. I'm looking at you, grooms.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Day 18- Orange and Green

I am light on pictures (or even a quality picture) today, so please forgive this crummy cell phone picture. I will do my damndest to get a better one up in the next post. I'm a bit of a bow tie whore and my most recent purchase from The Tie Bar (The Tie Bar- home of the $15 tie) came in so of course I'm gonna rock it. I enjoy bright and loud warm colors but I've become aware that they just don't look great on me in abundance. So I try and wear them with more muted cooler colors like darker greens, blues (not this month!), greys, and browns. Today I'm wearing a green wool cardigan by H&M ((On sale for $15, although the green is not listed). I have come to appreciate the cardigan as an excellent means of layering. Prior to this year I had always regarded the cardigan as very Mr. Rogery and totally Dadcore, until I bought one on a whim and found it a lot more versatile than most sweaters and with many more options. Pockets that would look out of place on a sweater are much better received on a cardigan. Military epaulets (one of my favorite looks) blend right in. And perhaps most importantly for a pretentious tie wearing fuck like myself? A deeper v-cut to show off my cravats. But I digress. Buy a cardigan. A nice one. Screw everyone who tells you you look like Mr. Rogers. Mr. Rogers was awesome. Moving on...

The shirt is a very generic Brooks Brothers Oxford Cloth Button Down, like most of my button downs. I picked it up at Goodwill for $5. The pants are a light grey poplin chino from Lands End Canvas (Check out their sale section frequently, they are always adding amazing products for absurdly cheap, especially at the end of a season) for $12. Shoes are not pictured but they're Clark's Desert Boots in beeswax with subdued orange laces. Anyway, I should probably go do some work before someone figures out I'm writing a style blog on the government dime. As always, dress dangerously my friends.