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Review – Class (#sociology, #class, #society, #books, #review, #elitism)

Review – Class (#sociology, #class, #society, #books, #review, #elitism)

Class: A Guide Through The American Status System (buy on Amazon.com)

by Paul Fussell, published 1983

“A touchy subject”

Is class “America’s forbidden thought”? Does class bring up “unpleasing” notions? Does class exist in America?

While things may have been different in 1983 when this book was first published, for most of my life I have heard a lot about class– in literature, reading history, in the news and in conversation with friends, family, colleagues and strangers. The divisions that are most common are “upper class”, “middle class” and “working class”. Oh, and “the rich”. We don’t seem to have “lower classes”, and it isn’t always clear what the difference is between “the rich” and “upper class”, or even the well-to-do “middle class” and the “upper class”, or the barely-hanging-in-there “middle class” and the “working class.” We often hear about “the poor” but no one seems to have ever seen or spoken to one. The homeless don’t count.

These are primarily economic distinctions but, then, America’s economic identity has loomed larger than much else throughout time so that stands to reason. But Paul Fussell is more concerned with the elements of class which are connected to choice, call it taste, and so am I. Class is a confusing and complex subject and I don’t think Fussell manages to precisely and objectively define the term before launching into his observations, yet somehow this doesn’t prevent him from hitting his mark.

There’s so much to the idea of class and yet what has always fascinated me is the behavioral aspect of it. How a person of a certain class will tend to behave whatever his economic standing, whatever his occupation or role, whatever his level of education or wherever he grew up. Is there something genetic to class? It may be.

Segmenting the classes

Fussell identifies nine primary American classes despite the typical sociologists system of five:

  1. Top out-of-sight
  2. Upper
  3. Upper middle
  4. Middle
  5. High proletarian
  6. Mid-proletarian
  7. Low proletarian
  8. Destitute
  9. Bottom out-of-sight

The first three constitute a group, the next four constitute a second group and the last two constitute the final group. There are several interesting things to note about this arrangement. First, Fussell sees many similarities in behavior between the absolute top and the absolute bottom which is why they are similarly named (for modern, statistically-inclined socialists, read “top 1%” and “bottom 1%”). Second, the arrangement of classes 2-4 highlight the tendency of those closer to the top to see themselves as more average while acknowledging the penchant of those closer to the middle to identify more closely with the top out of aspiration-exasperation and paranoia.

Third, there is a glaring emphasis on crude commonality and the reality that much of the American populace looks, lives and behaves in a peasant-like fashion. While the proletarians were historically disenfranchised, undifferentiated masses providing cheap labor in industrialized urban environments, the truth is these people were and always will be peasants at heart and Fussell, joyously, acknowledges this in his class distinctions. The lack of buffer between destitution and proletarianism also shows how, whether they’re aware of it or not, those who look “down” on them from “above” can rarely tell the difference between a stable prole and a lost one.

While he comes up with 9 categories, in reality Fussell spends an inordinate amount of his time discussing the habits and tastes of proles, another, smaller fraction typifying the “uppers” and the remaining moments pointing out how anxious the few middle class people are between these two poles.

Class safari

Through an exploration of appearance, living space, consumption habits, intellectual pursuits and speech Fussell tries to narrow in on specific details that can help us see class clearly. As you read through this material, two things happen: one, you become retrospectively more observant of the behavior of others you’ve witnessed without special note and two, you flinch each time you realize you’ve done something prole yourself.

This might be a good place to collect some of my favorite observations and append my comments.

Our former lower-middle class, the new high proles, now head “the masses”… they are identifiable as people things are done to. They are in bondage to monetary policy, rip-off advertising, crazes and delusions, mass low culture, fast foods, consumer schlock.

To that I’d add food pyramids (government nutritional diktat), public education and (increasingly related) a lifestyle of indebtedness. And “social engineering” broadly understood.

Imagine being under the constant eye of the foreman, a figure who has absolutely no counterpart in middle-class society [and] being required to bring a doctor’s note if they are absent a day…the degree to which your work is overseen by a superior suggests your real class more accurately than the amount you take home from it.

Interpreting class as a choice, I think it is even truer to observe whether one’s supervisor feels the need to ask you for that note or not, for example. The truly lower class person is held in check and formally “made honest” by the routine of the doctor’s note (even if he’s making one up or paying the GP off to scribble out a stack of notes for his use). The low-skilled worker who is nonetheless classy at heart never raises this suspicion from his supervisors and would probably find the exercise offensive and detrimental to the trust he has in his managers.

This idea of a spectrum of supervision is an interesting one. We can see the self-made entrepreneur at one end of the band and the on-the-job-transient at the other. Curiously, major corporate executives probably belong close to the transient, being supervised closely by the regulatory-legal apparatus and, nominally, by a board of directors and shareholders… some “kings of the world” they are! Elite politicians are clearly upper class in this sense, inhabiting a space close to the entrepreneur, but perhaps even further for those who have truly made it– the Clintons, Roosevelts and Al Sauds and others who are beyond scrutiny and control.

At the bottom of the working class, the low prole is identifiable by the gross uncertainty of his employment.

What I think Fussell is referring to here are people like construction workers, whose only hope of holding steady work is that the bubble of the day keep on inflating. When it pops, these types usually experience grave setbacks and may even take up or return to a life of petty crime to get by.

But what I think many (middle class? high proles?) would think of here is the crude characterization of the cold workings of a competitive market place, where the poor working stiff minds his own business and then loses his job in a sudden, mass layoff. Or where the boss just doesn’t like you, because you talk back or look at him funny or remind him of someone he hated in high school, so he fires you.

This doesn’t really happen in real life. Assuming a company is a viable going concern and not a fraud or otherwise mismanaged (in which case ALL staff jobs are at risk, prole and management alike), most prole occupations are secure with good behavior and dedication to the cause. While the bogeyman of job security is trotted out now and again, implicitly or explicitly, either in the case of a significant behavioral breach or as a means of putting the piss into the team and reminding them who is in charge, it’s all in “good fun.” Most employers aren’t that capricious because competition goes both ways and they can quickly lose much more than a staff member if they treat people like crap all the time.

a cheap way to achieve a kind of distinction is to be thin… flaunting obesity is a prole sign, as if the object were to offer maximum aesthetic offense to the higher classes and thus exact a form of revenge.

One flight across the country nowadays is all you need to remind you what class you’re in. If you can comfortably sit in an economy airline seat for 5 hours, there’s an excellent chance you are middle class at least.

legibility of their dress is another sign… T-shirts or caps with messages on them you’re supposed to read and admire… When proles assemble to enjoy leisure, they seldom appear in clothing without words on it.

Another example is the way proles turn unhealthy lifestyles into faux-pride brands, such as “Big Dog”. And the penultimate in legible clothing is the wearing of sports jerseys in public, conspicuously and most frequently outside of sporting events and arenas or as a form of semi-formal dress wear. In fact, I was rather dismayed to see Fussell miss this one, but then a correspondent reminded me: “Sports jerseys as casual wear were unthinkable at  the time of ‘Class’. If there were to be a new edition, one would have to assess virtually the entire country as prole.”

So true.

On baseball caps:

The little strap at the rear is the significant prole feature because it demeans the buyer and the user, making him do the work formerly thought the obligation of the seller, who used to have to stock numerous sizes.

This was such a quaint observation looking back. Gone are the days of the plastic adjusto-strap. “Lids” nowadays are characterized by a bowl cut with a sewn in elastic band thus making them all “one-size-fits-all” which looks as believable as a one-size-fits-all dress shirt would. The funny thing is that some proles have adopted the perpetual wearing of the merchandising stickers as a sign of pride, as if to suggest this “lid” just came off the shelf (or better– was just sneakily removed from it without the vendors notice). Many other proles have graduated on to capless attire, headwear having degenerated so much amongst the lower classes that you can now spot a prole by his lack of cranial adornment (typically with an odd, early-balding molting pattern on the dome signifying poor diet and careless lifestyle choices) and similarly you can spot an ambitious member of the lower middle class by his decision to wear a simple, out-dated hat for the look and thrill of wearing it rather than because it is considered respectable or polite to cover one’s bird’s nest.

And for the she-prole, there is nothing that shouts “I am sexy and interesting” at a party or while walking a yippie, twerp man-repellent dog around the neighborhood like the fluorescent trucker hat which could only be complete, of course, with the throwback old-school plastic prole adjusto-strap.

you could probably draw a trustworthy class line based wholly on the amount of sugar consumed by the family

And thus, one of the most important and yet overlooked motivations of the “paleo diet” movement beyond health. In a society experiencing high prole drift, it seems only natural that those with class would take a stand anywhere they can in drawing clear class boundaries.

This is such a great book with so many things to quote and comment on, I simply don’t have the time. Maybe I will follow this post up eventually with another round of “Class” wits but for now the media above should suffice.

5/5

Review – Dressing The Man (#sartorialism, #style, #masculinity, @ArticlesOfStyle, #review, #books)

Review – Dressing The Man (#sartorialism, #style, #masculinity, @ArticlesOfStyle, #review, #books)

Dressing The Man: Mastering The Art Of Permanent Fashion

by Alan Flusser, published 2002

Why do some men look debonair while others look disheveled or worse? What role do clothes play in making a handsome man look plain, and a plain man handsome? According to Alan Flusser, the secret lies in the man’s face itself– do his clothes direct the eye confidently and purposefully to the face, or do they beg the viewer to stare anywhere but there?

Dressing well rests on two pillars– color and proportion… Fashion should be accountable to a specific set of physical trademarks.

For Flusser, successful sartorial pursuits play within known boundaries of taste, structure and purpose, but within those broad confines the greatest spoils go to the most individual:

The best dressed men consistently demonstrate the greatest degree of self-knowledge… a superior understanding of their physical manner and appearance.

This self-aware approach to menswear starts and ends with a man’s face.

The face is the destination to which one’s attire should escort the beholder’s attention… the colors of any given ensemble should exhibit the same degree of contrast as that manifested by one’s skin and hair tones, a person’s two primary color signposts… highlighting each face by repeating one or more of its natural pigments in the colors worn below.

While there is infinite variance to men’s faces, all men happily fit into one of two primary categories of complexion:

If your hair is dark and your skin light, you have a contrast complexion. If your hair and skin tone are similar, your complexion would be considered muted, or tonal.

For example, Southern Europeans and Slavs, as well as Africans and Asians, are clear contrast-type complexions. Northern Europeans, Scandinavians, the Irish and other “norse” blooded peoples are classic muted/tonal complexions. Of special note is the “light, bright and blond”, for whom “at least one item in each ensemble reflects his gold toned complexion.”

For contrast complexions, contrasting colors help to brighten the face and draw attention to it. Conversely, tonal complexions are best shown against complementary, typically warm, colors as their complexion can be easily over-powered by a surfeit of dark tones. The idea is to find combinations that help the face to “pop”, almost as if one is walking around with a low-powered spotlight directing attention to one’s face.

If the man can master this one element of permanent style, he has accomplished at least 80% of the job. The rest of the book involves classic style recommendations on how to wear and match the different elements of mens’ formal clothing such as the suit, jacket, slacks, dress shirt (including collars and cuffs), ties, hosiery, shoes and accessories, as well as how to think about patterns and colors. As I found these sections immensely helpful, I am recreating the most essential advice in list form below:

Navigating the body

While style must be matched to the individual characteristics of each man to succeed, Flusser cautions against simply making up the rules.

Genuine innovation has always taken place with an awareness, rather than an ignorance, of restraints.

The primary restraints beyond complexion are the “five major intersections” of menswear: the neck, shoulder, waist, wrist and ankle. Each provides an opportunity to choose complementary lines, angles and colors which can either greatly enhance or greatly diminish the effect of drawing the viewer’s eye toward the man’s face.

The suit jacket

  • Since the jacket’s shoulders frame the head, if they are too narrow, the head will appear larger than actual size; conversely, if cut too wide, the head will appear disproportionately small
  • Length: long enough to cover the curvature of the buttocks while giving the leg as long a line as possible (relative to torso, divide in half the distance from the collar’s seam to the floor)
  • Bottom line: should line up with the thumb knuckle
  • Waist button: when fastened, should divide the body so that the torso and legs appear at maximum length; should be placed 1/2 inch below the natural waist (place your hands around the smallest part of your torso and then press down at the sides into the hollow above the hipbone)
  • Lapels: width should harmonize with the necktie; single-breasted should cover between 2/5 and 3/5 of the distance between the chest and shoulder line
  • Sleeve: full at the top and tapering down to the wrist bone; the converging lines should conform to the broad shoulder and narrowing waist of the jacket; the band of linen between the jacket sleeve and hand is yet another stylistic gesture associated with the well-turned out man
  • The sine qua non of tailoring sophisticiation is a suit that brackets the wearer’s head with gently sloped, natural-looking but defined shoulders
  • Side vents lead the observer’s eye up either side of the coat’s back, subliminally imbuing the wearer with an illusion of greater height
  • Four buttons (working!) on a suit jacket’s sleeve convery superior satorial breeding
  • The waistcoast adds gravitas to the single-breasted suit; it is a rememberance of things past and accessible only to those able to afford one custom-made

The suit trouser

  • Suit trousers should extend the line of the jacket; fuller-chested jackets require fuller-cut trousers, just as more fitted jackets mandate slimmer-fitting trousers
  • Trousers should be worn on the waist, not on the hip

The dress shirt

  • The choice of the dress shirt should be guided first and foremost by the appropriateness of its collar shape to that of the wearer’s face
  • If its collar is too small, the head will appear large; if the collar sits too low on the neck, it will make the neck look longer than it is; broadly spaced points of a spread collar will counterbalance a long and narrow face; long-pointed collars that are either pinned or buttoned down will help to countermand faces with angular features and strong lines
  • With top button closed, two fingers should be able to slide comfortably between the neck and collar of a new shirt; if it fits perfectly on first wear it may strangle after repeated washings
  • It should be cut full enough to allow the wearer to sit without concern for whether its front will gape open; lengthwise, it should be such that you can raise your arms without it pulling out of the trouser top; the collar’s points ought to be able to remain in touch with the shirt’s body
  • The shirt must fit snugly around the wrist so that the additional length required to keep the cuff from pulling back when the arm is extended does not force it down the hand; if the hand can slide through the cuff opening without first unfastening it, the cuff’s circumference is too large
  • A shirt’s formality begins at the collar, its most prominent and defining feature; stiffer collars are more formal; more open points are more dressy; the cuff also contributes to the overall effect; fabric is the next indicator of formality, smoother or more lustruous materials are dressier; finally, the amount of white in the design’s ground add to dressiness
  • While pure white has been the traditional color of choice, medium-blue flatters more men’s faces; at least half a dozen or so dress shirts in one’s wardrobe should ideally be in some shade of solid blue or in a predominantly blue pattern; the trick is to find the deepest shade of blue that highlights the face without distraction
  • A mane with strong contrast in his complexion can enjoy a larger range of colors; fair-haired men with muted complexions can balance their lighter tones with soft-hued blues such as end-on-ends, oxfords and mini-checks whose weaves use white to reduce the blue’s intensity
  • Gold is frequently used as an accent color in many patterned neckties, so if a man has flecks of blond hair, echoing it under the chin is an opportune way to illuminate the face
  • While the matching french cuff is always acceptable, a button cuff has no place at the end of a sleeve attached to a shirt with a contrasting white collar
  • To fully exploit the french cuff link’s decorative potential, each side shouldbear a design and connect with a chain or link
  • Sooner or later, every well-dressed man should acquire an antique set of studs

The necktie and neckwear

  • The necktie’s correct width has always been determined by the jacket’s lapel (not what is fashionable at the time!)
  • The knot should be compressed so that it dovetails high up into the inverted “V” of the collar’s converging sides; a dimple or inverted pleat should emerge from the middle of the knot
  • Because of the move toward business casual in the professional world, the appearance of a necktie will more than ever signify the wearer’s desire to embrace a dressier, more authoritative image
  • A necktie should be agreeable to the touch, silk is undeniably the fabric of choice
  • Some standard woven types: Macclesfield, Spitalsfield, regimental stripes (proper direction is high left to low right; these ties have a slimming effect), plaid, solid (a more sophisticated look), wool (best for cool-weather); should a man want to acquire a necktie with a reasonable probability of aesthetic longevity, the woven design tie would generally be the safer bet
  • Polka-dot ties enliven all kinds of menswear ensembles but they are on particularly friendly terms with stripes
  • Bow ties can be worn on both formal and informal occassions, day or evening, and are correct with either single- or double-breasted jackets; its width should not extend beyond the outer edge of a man’s face and definitely not beyond the breadth of his collar; the hand-tied bow’s moody loops and unpredictable swirls give you that subtle insouciance; bow ties work best for the over-fifty set
  • The manner in which a tie is knotted offers the only true means of imposing one’s individual stamp on it; over time this male rite should evolve into another manifestation of one’s personal style
  • The widest point just above the tip of the tie should coincide with the belt’s upper edge
  • The tie should arch out from the collar, the dimple extending downward, projecting a subliminal authority

The pocket handkerchief/square

  • No man can consider himself an elegante without knowing how to rig out the simple white pocket square; angle the hank outward toward the shoulder, with its point irregularly arranged
  • Without some form of pocket rigging, an outside breast pocket appears superfluous and the outfit incomplete; it is the quickest and least expensive way to lend a mediocre suit a more expensive look
  • Its deportment should appear unstudied, effortlessly contributing to the overall aplomb
  • Overtly coordinating, or worse, matching a tie and handkerchief is not only a sign of an unsure dresser but also a sure way to lead the eye across the body and away from the face; solid handkerchief with patterned necktie, and should not be of the same color as the ground shade of the necktie
  • A tie’s silken luster calls for a matte pocket square like linen or cotton; wool or linen neckties with a dulled surface requires the upbeat luster of a silk foulard
  • A solid pocket hank should echo a color in the necktie, shirt or jacket

The dress belt

  • The choice should be dictated first by the shoe’s color and then by the hue of the jacket and trouser
  • Should be an equal or darker shade than the suit; darker imparts a dressier look, the more contrast between the belt and trouser, the sportier the look
  • Long enough to finish through the trouser’s first belt loop without running past the second
  • Buckles should be simple in design, in either silver or gold, depending on the color of accompanying jewelry

The tailored ankle

  • The trouser bottom should cover about two-thirds of the shoe
  • The round or slightly-square-toed oxford, or blucher lace-up with a welt-constructed sole, ranks as the ideally proportioned shoe for suit-driven attire

Hosiery

  • By reiteraing at floor level a color or pattern found near the face, the silhouette’s upper and lower zones begin to network with each other
  • Should match the trouser rather than the shoe; when shoe and hosiery are perceived as a unit, they separate themselves from the trouser which is not desirable
  • Black hose should be avoided any time one is not engaged in formal wear or swathed head to toe in black
  • The more formal the ensemble, the finer or more sheer the hose
  • The bulkier the outfit, the more one must step up the sock’s thickness
  • After the necktie, the hose’s most frequent stage partner is none other than the dress shirt

Footwear

  • A well-made and properly looked after pair of leather dress shoes can provide several decades of fine service; uppers should be made from skins no more than twelve weeks old and have a fine grain that takes a high polish; the sole can be removed and repaired repeatedly with minimal damage to the shoe’s upper; it’s impossible to spend too much on a finely crafted, perfectly fitting pair of shoes which will improve with age
  • Top quality brown leather shoes invest all fabrices with an intangible richness
  • The plain cap-toe oxford lace-up is the basic shoe style for smart, though not strictly formal, town wear
  • The wing tip takes its name from its toe cap shaped like the spread wings of a bird, pointed in the center and eztending toward the rear with heavily perforated side seams
  • The blucher is a step down in dressiness from the oxford
  • The monk-strp shoe has intermediate formality, registering somewhere between that of a slip-on and a lace-up shoe
  • The brown suede shoe happens to be suitable for all seasons
  • Crocodile leather in a dark honey tone affords versatility
  • The Weejun-style slip-on became the year-round workhorse of many men’s casual shoe wardrobe

Suit colors and patterns

  • When it comes to starter suits, the dark grey, two-piece charcoal gets the professional’s nod; it has the highest color and function versatility
  • More enriching than stark black, more ceremonial than charcoal, whether in twill or plain weave, 12 ounces or 8, a navy suit shows off the average man to best advantage
  • Of all men’s suitings, none has ever matched the glamour and popularity of the striped suit; it’s innate appeal derives from the vertical lines which lengthen the wearer
  • The window-pane is the anti-prole
  • The classic gray flannel suit remains a paragon of cool-weather stylishness
  • The brown suit provides special charisma to the chocolate-, blond-, red-, or sandy-haired man who are continually encouraged to consider brown as one of their staple wardrobe themes; the dark brown worsted jacket and the medium-blue dress shirt attract considerable acclaim
  • In medium blue, brown or gray and white oxford stripe, single- or double-breasted, worn with a necktie or polo shirt, the seersucker suit offers a heat-beater stylishness transcending both low and high fashion
  • For business casual, the easiest way to pull together unmatched separates is through the medium of color; when harmonizing three different seperates keep two pieces in the same color family
  • Accessorizing a suit in a monotone palette imbues it with instant sleekness and modernity
  • Psychologists consider black and white the most authoritarian of all color combinations
  • Darker trousers will make sport jackets appear dressier
  • For business casual, the buttons of most sport jackets often come in a complementary contrast shade, so it’s a fair guess that trousers chosen in the same tonality will match the jacket pretty well; if the jacket and trouser are in a similar hue, the shirt can be in a contrast or tonal relationship to both, dictated by complexion and personal taste; if the shirt is multi-colored, one of its colors should echo that of the jacket and trouser

Pattern matching

  • When combining two patterns of the same design, the size of each should be as different from the other as possible
  • When matching two checks, specifically, there should be a healthy dose of contrast between the scale of each player
  • When coordinating two different patterns, such as a striped suit and a check dress shirt, or a plaid jacket and a figured necktie, the patterns should be kept close in size; when in doubt, choose a larger rather than a smaller design; placing two smaller patterns near each other, whether similar or not, will wreak havoc on the eye of the beholder
  • When mixing three patterns where two are the same, separating the two like designs in size while selecting an unlike pattern that is visually compatible with both is the trick; the odd one out should take its cue from the more prominent of the similar partners; for neckties, the open-ground, large-spaced motif affords the greatest possibilities for textural harmony
  • When mixing three patterns of the same design, graduating in size from small out to large, beginning closest to the body and going up as clothing layers outward (ie, shirt smallest, jacket medium, tie or pocket square largest)
  • When mixing four patterns, the more imagination and taste one puts into his appearance, the more subtle the results should be

Conclusion

This book is an incredible resource and fun to read, to boot. It feels like having a conversation with a thoughtful but playful personal clotheshorse. The number of synonyms for different pieces of menswear and style are unbelievable and luckily there is a thorough glossary at the back of the book. There’s so much more here than what I chose to make notes about.

4/5

Collected Resources on Menswear (#menswear, #fashion, #Dandyism, #masculinity)

Collected Resources on Menswear (#menswear, #fashion, #Dandyism, #masculinity)

Summary

This page will serve as an updated resource of noteworthy links and information I have collected on the topic of menswear and principles of fashion, including wardrobe construction, pattern-matching and color theory.

Principles of menswear

20 Essential Menswear Pieces

In a perfectly curated wardrobe, all of the pieces (well, almost all) should make sense together and be interchangeable. For example, each of the ties should work with each of the shirts, and each of the shirts should work with each of the trousers. In theory, you could get dressed in the dark.

The article provides 20 items with classic appeal and high versatility allowing for recombination and higher wardrobe efficiency. It also argues that a menswear wardrobe should be built over time, selectively, rather than all-at-once, en masse.

It might take you a couple years to build a high-quality, well-edited wardrobe. That’s okay. Menswear is a marathon, not a sprint.

An Interchangeable Wardrobe – How To Build A Versatile Wardrobe

The article explores argues that building a wardrobe of fewer items of higher quality with higher interchangeability will cost less, last longer and take up less storage space than accumulating many inexpensive “one off” items. It provides a recommendation for surveying and filtering an existing wardrobe as well as a process for accumulating appropriate items over time.

Go-To Looks You Can Build With Men’s Wardrobe Staples

The article offers 9 different outfits that can be created with 2-3 essential items from a man’s wardrobe, such as a pant, shirt and topwear item. The styles range from sporty to casual to semi-casual, and from warm climates to cool climates, demonstrating the versatility of a simple, essentials-based wardrobe.

How To Easily Judge A Fashion Item’s Versatility

This article offers a meaningful definition of versatility in fashion:

The definition of versatility is: “having many uses or applications.”

In the world of fashion, this means that an item can be worn in many different ways; or a lot of different looks can be created with an item. You can measure an item’s versatility by looking at how many other clothes can be worn with it.

It also offers a 4 standard grading system for judging the versatility of clothing items at a glance:

  • Grade A, solid and neutral
  • Grade B, solid and color
  • Grade C, patterned and neutral
  • Grade D, patterned and color

The Best Underwear You’ve Never Heard Of

The article compares and contrasts three proprietary men’s underwear brands:

Metrics explored include structure and support, material type and feel, versatility and intended use, and style.

Patterns 101: All You Need to Know About Wearing, Mixing and Matching Patterns

The article explores seven common men’s fashion patterns, explains how to distinguish them from one another and provides principles for deploying patterns in outfit construction.

You should include pattern in your everyday outfits. Pattern will add some dimension, texture, and visual interest to whatever you’re wearing.

The patterns are:

  1. Stripe
  2. Gingham/check
  3. Plaid
  4. Dot
  5. Paisley
  6. Houndstooth
  7. Herringbone

A recommended approach to creating a patterned outfit is:

  1. Let the shirt you choose be the base of your outfit
  2. If your shirt is a solid color, match the color to the “background” color of your tie
  3. If your shirt is patterned, wear a bold, large-scale pattern tie with a small-scale patterned shirt, or wear a small-scale pattern tie with a large-scale pattern shirt
  4. Start with small-scale patterns closest to your body and work your way up as you move out

The article also offers a helpful DO and DON’T list:

  • DO
    • mind pattern scale, especially when pairing with other patterns (remember: start small and work your way up in scale, color complexity, and intensity)
    • wear solids (or small scale patterns) as a base for your bolder patterns
    • mix small patterns with larger scale patterns
    • start small when you first begin experimenting (i.e. a solid suit + patterned shirt, solid dark-colored chinos + dotted shirt, or small scale pattern shirt + bold patterned tie)
    • balance bold patterns with more subtle patterns, and vice versa
  • DON’T
    • wear two similarly bold patterns of the same scale in one outfit, as the outfit becomes too busy
    • wear two different patterns of the same boldness and scale; those two items will compete with each other visually
    • wear different plaids in one outfit; stick to one plaid item, keep everything else solid (see Mr. Murray as an example of what not to do… unless you are Mr. Murray, then you can do whatever the hell you want)
    • wear the same exact pattern as a top and bottom (unless it’s something like a stripe or check suit).

The 12 Commandments of Buying a Bespoke Suit

The article provides some pointers on how to make an intelligent purchase with regards to a custom-made suit from whole cloth, including helpful math for understanding the economics of the purchase:

A well made hand-tailored suit takes an average of 40 hours to complete. The average master tailor working in America doesn’t pick up his shears for less than $30-40 an hour…let’s call it an average of $35/hour. That’s $1,600 in labor alone.

Decent cloth from a respected mill, purchased at wholesale, runs roughly $50-$100 per yard…let’s call it an average of $75/yard. It takes about 3 yards of cloth to make a suit (2.5 for solids, 3 for pinstripes, 3.5-4 for check patterns). That comes out to an average of $225 for the cloth. Add roughly $25 for the buttons, trims, lining, etc. That’s $250 in cost of tangible inputs, making a rough total of $1,850 for overall cost of production.

Therefore, an American made suit (with a typical 65% profit markup) is going to retail for at least $3,050.

How to Build a Smart Suit Wardrobe

The article recommends building (and wearing) a suit wardrobe in the following order:

  1. Navy blue; the workhorse
  2. Light grey/charcoal grey; your back-up workhorse, can interchange jacket and trouser with navy blue
  3. Pinstripe (navy or grey); power suit
  4. Windowpane; suave flair
  5. Black; going-out and formal occasions
  6. Double-breasted (dark, solid and navy or grey); adds variety, can wear jacket as a blazer
  7. Light blue
  8. Khaki linen or cotton; comfortable in spring and summer
  9. Grey flannel; comfortable in winter
  10. Brown; opens up new possibilities in matching colors and patterns

Noteworthy vendors

The Tie Bar offers a variety of mid-priced neckwear options.

Thick As Thieves LA offers custom-tailored suits, “Thick as Thieves aren’t for men who need to wear a suit, but for men who want to wear a suit.”

Charles Tyrwhitt offers mid-priced fitted business shirts (see slim and classic fit)

The Matador Alcove offers a “men’s sanctuary dedicated to bespoke, grooming, leisure & vice.” Get a haircut, have a drink and enjoy male bonding. It sets a standard for the male grooming experience.

 

Travel clothing solutions (#travel, #clothing)

Travel clothing solutions (#travel, #clothing)

A friend writes in to recommend the following products in response to my earlier post on travel packing dilemmas encountered:

https://www.wescoboots.com/builder/MensCustomBoot.aspx?id=Packer

http://m.nike.com/us/en_us/pd/free-5-running-shoe/pid-10264866/pgid-10978968

http://www.filson.com/men/pants/dry-shelter-cloth-pant.html

Dressing for travel success (#clothing, #travel, #HK)

Dressing for travel success (#clothing, #travel, #HK)

Packing for this trip seemed challenging. Southeast Asia has a subtropical climate with high average temperatures and high humidity. We knew we were likely to be uncomfortable with long sleeves and pants.

However, we also knew it might rain, and that being in short sleeves and shorts might be uncomfortable in wet weather.

From the standpoint of footwear, neither of us had anything we thought would be great to walk around in a ton, or that wouldn’t look funny with shorts. For example, we both have sandals, but would those be comfortable to traipse around in for hours in big cities? But they’d work well with shorts.

Finally we wanted to have a few light cover options in case it turned out to be cooler, and also something we could dress ourselves up slightly with in case we wanted to go somewhere more civilized than a street vendor.

Despite our best efforts, I think my packing, anyway, was a failure. The critical failure has been footwear. I brought a new (brand new) pair of Sperry leather laced moccasin style shoes in brown and a black pair of leather loafer Eccos in black. My thinking was the Sperry’s would be comfortable to walk in and would have a measure of wetproof if it rained. The Eccos I thought could be useful on light walking days or times we wanted to dress up more.

The Eccos turn out to not be a great fit. They are maybe a half size too big for me which I never noticed back home because I wear them casually and don’t walk distance in them. That extra room allowed my feet to move around quite a bit and in the humid conditions in Taipei I developed a blister on my heel about ten minutes after we started walking. I haven’t worn them since as it has rained most of the time we were in Taipei and all of the time we’ve been here in HK, plus I don’t want another blister. So that was completely wasted space and a misfire from a packing standpoint.

The Sperry’s are an interesting story. I began to break them in on dog walks for three weeks before our trip. The first few days were rough, I developed blisters from the stiff leather and my soft feet which have mostly been inside socks and well worn dress shoes since last summer. But after a week my feet had toughened up, the leather broke in slightly and they became comfortable to dog walk in and I began developing confidence they’d be good for the trip.

For the first few days in Taipei this was the case, and they were surprisingly comfortable to wear on the 13h flight over. But once it rained, the shoes became water logged after sloshing around the streets for several hours. I figured a Sperry product would be water proof or highly water resistant but that just wasn’t the case with these moccasins. The interior sole got damp and when the exterior leather dried it stiffened up considerably. I then began developing blisters on my toes as the newly stiffened leather rubbed against my feet.

Too much detail? I haven’t even started.

Here in HK it has rained both days. Our first day here we went on a walking tour around 2pm and we were out in the rain for three hours. My shoes got totally water logged and restiffened again. Today they were still not fully dry and it rained again. In several places my feet didn’t even bother blistering, they just rubbed raw and it became painful to walk, but a quick stop for bandaids at 7-11 got me through the rest of the day. But man, coming down from the top of Hong Kong island back to our apartment 1/3 of the way up was pretty brutal!

As for clothing, the shorts and t-shirts have been okay for the temperature and humidity but I think we’ve looked very grubby and casual, not like respectful visitors. Eating out at even mildly casual+ places has been a little uncomfortable because we look like people who just wandered in off he street. I’ve used one of my pullovers ONCE and it wasnt really necessary then. The pullover hoody I haven’t used at all. My rain jacket zipup has worked well for repelling rain, but it’s also worked well to trap the heat around my body so I sweat more. Not ideal.

I haven’t figured out what the solution to any of this might be in the future. Mesh synthetic cross trainers would also get waterlogged, but they might be easier to walk miles in especially with socks. An even more light weight rain shell might have been an improvement. I’d probably bring only one pair of shoes and plan to look and feel grubby. Maybe a really light pair of pants to dress it up a little without feeling uncomfortable.

But t-shirts are going to look kind of overly casual no matter what else you wear.

I think the real tough part is being out walking around so much of the day, particularly in the rain.