The Cardigan Reinvented

The Cardigan Reinvented

Various Designer Cardigans

Named after James Thomas Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan, this zip-up or button-down version of the sweater gained popularity with the French and British in the 17th century and has been keeping us warm and dapper ever since.

Yes, the cardigan has faded in and out of style over the decades.  What’s impressive this season is less the comeback that’s been building up over the past few years and more the evolution or reinvention of the cardigan both in style and the manner in which it is worn.  The cardigan has morphed considerably from what was seen during the days of Fred Rogers or Bing Crosby.  This season, designers have delivered, presenting us with cardigans of unprecedented variety.

Functional avant/après ski chunky knit cardigans that zip or button up to a turtle neck look beautiful, are comfortable, and keep you warm.  Thinner, deep V-neck, neutral-coloured, merino wool varieties in single or double-breasted styles are effortlessly dressed up or down for maximum versatility in the office or relaxing at home.  Contrasting trim and shawl-collared cardigans offer a refined twist to the timeless classic.  Designers are definitely more daring this season, introducing bolder buttons, toggles, fair isle patterns, Cowichan-inspired heavier knits, pronounced pockets, even adding playful hoods and belts to their cardigans to help you stand out.

You can mix and match cardigans with everything from three-piece suits to jeans and a T-shirt.  Few pieces in a man’s wardrobe can offer both the comfort and versatility that a cardigan can.  Tip of the hat to the Earl for that.  Visit my Facebook page for my picks of some of the best cardigans for this season.

Men’s Fashion No-Fly List Fall/Winter 2010

Men's Fashion No-Fly List Fall/Winter 2010

Fashion No-Fly List

Fashion dos and dont’s, hits and misses, best and worst dressed.  Every fashion magazine, at one point or another, publishes a list – and they all should.  Why?  To keep you from looking like a schmuck?  To get you to buy new stuff and donate your old clothes to charity?  To give you a reason to buy their magazine?  Maybe all of the above.

Having taken a look at a few of the lists for FW10, I felt that there were some crucial sartorial elements missing.  So in an effort to do my part in helping you not look like a schmuck, getting you to donate your stuff to Goodwill, convincing you to help boost the economy, and getting you to visit my blog – here is my Top 5 Fashion No-Fly List.

1. Faded Blue, Baggy, Button-Flapped, and Ragged Jeans (or any combination thereof)
If you have a pair of faded blue jeans that resemble any shade of the daytime sky, lose them.  When I see guys in faded blue jeans, I can’t help but think of my teachers on casual Fridays, Lee Majors in the Fall Guy, Eurotrash pop singers, and that skid row rocker kid who bullied everyone back in high school.  While on the subject of jeans, no matter what colour they are, get rid of the baggy bell-bottomed or bootcut Kris Kross jeans as well.  Start with the faded blue ones.

Jeans with button-flapped back pockets are not only ugly and done to death in America, they are a pain in the ass to wear.  Not sure if the idea behind them is to keep you safe from pick-pockets or what, but the buttons often get stuck in-between chairs or snagged in door handles tearing the shit out of your expensive jeans.  True Religion Brand Jeans might be the worst of the lot.  In addition to ugly oversized flaps, the large white contrast stitch, and bagginess they make you look like Howdy Doody.  Finally, distressed jeans with a hole or tear here and there look great.  That being said, looking like you’ve just narrowly escaped a pit bull attack is another story.

2. Square-Toed Shoes, Super Pointy-Toed Shoes, and Crocs
This season, you want your footwear to be somewhere in between squared-toed and pointy-toed.  I’ve never been a fan of either and have always opted for a more timeless classic-shaped toe.  Squared-toed footwear makes me cringe.  If you choose to wear them, risk looking like a thug.  Leave the pointy-toed shoes to Santa’s elves, the Leningrad Cowboys, and the Guidos.  As for Crocs, stay away from creepy people who wear these.

3. Baggy Suits
Baggy clothes in general should be avoided this season.  Trim, non-pleated, streamlined, two-buttoned two-piece and three-piece suits are the way to go.  Note how the gentleman in the photo above looks sloppy and disheveled in his 90s NBA influenced baggy suit.  More on suits in a future post.  

4. Argyle
Argyle, as an acquaintance of mine once put it, ‘is the struggling straight man’s attempt at adding colour to his wardrobe’.  A little harsh, but point well taken.  This pattern was played out a few seasons ago.  Give your old argyle sweaters to your grandpa.  You can buy new ones in a few years when argyle makes its comeback. 

5. Tattooed Print T-Shirts and Caps
Oh, how I loathe skin tight clothing that looks like its covered in tattoos.  Enough to make a graffitied subway jealous, Ed Hardy and Affliction designer T-shirts and caps will go down as the MC Hammer pants of our decade.  Do not donate or throw away.  Burn them with a priest or rabbi present.   

So there you have it boys, my Top 5 Fashion No-Fly List for FW10.  Honourable no-fly mentions to obnoxious bling and anything bejeweled or bedazzled.  Also, unless you’re the Hulkster or a MMA champion, your belt should not have an oversized gold or silver logo for a buckle.  Am I missing anything?  Agree or disagree? Would love to hear from you in the comments below.  Happy donating, happy shopping!

Checks & Plaids Are Wild

Checks & Plaids Are Wild

Check & Plaid Shirts by Band of Brothers, Vince, Tommy Hilfiger, Crooks & Castle, Burkman Bros, Future of Frances Watson

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or worse yet the suburbs – it’s hard not to have noticed the vast array of colourful check and plaid dress shirts on display everywhere from Saks to Target.  Checks (larger more monotonous coloured squares) and plaids (smaller multi-coloured mix of squares and bands of Scottish heritage a.k.a Tartan) were big on the men’s fashion runways for FW09 and continue to go strong into FW10.

Made of cotton or flannel, the stylish check and plaid dress shirts are very appealing and available everywhere at a variety of prices.  Land’s End Canvas and Macy’s both sell plaid shirts for under $40 a shirt.  Alternatively, you can find ones made by Band of Outsiders and Dolce & Gabbana for anywhere between $200 to $500 a shirt.  You could also try vintage clothing stores (see my post on vintage shopping here) where you may find shirts in great shape for anywhere between $20-$50 a shirt.  The vintage 80’s plaids by Polo Ralph Lauren are particularly nice.

Casual check and plaid dress shirts work well with a rugged pair of jeans, relaxed khakis, or crisp skinny jeans with rolled cuffs.  They look great on they’re own, but try layering over the top with a basic knit cardigan or underneath with a cool T-shirt, or on cold days with both at the same time.  You can also dress them up with a sharp tie or full two or three piece suit (see photos of Jason Sudeikis and Ed Westwick above).  Just keep the suit and tie simple so that it’s not competing with or clashing with your dress shirt.

A final word on fit.  Regardless of your body type, look for slim-fit check and plaid (or any kind of) dress shirts.  Ideally, the shoulder seams should hug your shoulders, the sleeves should not be too long or too short reaching just past your wrists, you shouldn’t have all of this excess fabric bunched at the waist or under the arms either.  That being said, unless the dress shirt is bespoke, chances are it won’t fit right.

I need to have every single dress shirt I buy altered.  I have the sides taken in and sometimes the arms as well.  I would consider shortening the shirt if you choose to wear it out because some fit like Lenny Kravitz’s tunic.  Insist that when the tailor takes in your shirt they do so at the seams and not by making darts.  They’ll try to push the darts on you because it’s less work for them to get the same effect, at the same price.  As I explained to my tailor, the problem with darts might not be so evident on a plain coloured shirt, but try them on a check or plaid and your pattern will look totally messed up from the back.

No longer the stalwart of only the Scots, lumberjacks, and construction workers, checks and plaids are wild and here to stay so have fun with them.  Just remember, if you’re wearing a check or plaid dress shirt, please keep the pants or suit and tie simple.  No plaid vs. plaid.  Check out some of GQ’s check and plaid picks on my Facebook page.

Men And Their Bags: The Work Bag

Men And Their Bags: The Work Bag

Men's Briefcases by Bottega Veneta, Louis Vuitton, Matt & Nat, Bally, Prada

I can remember my first day on the job, working for the government as a consultant.  My welcome package included a Windows PC laptop (yuk), complete with a Revenge of the Nerds styled black ballistic nylon laptop bag with countless clips and shackles hanging off of it.  The laptop I had to learn to live with, but I instantly tossed the government-issue laptop bag, shackles and straps whipping away at me as I plunged it into the vacuous depths of my filing cabinet.  It was swiftly replaced with a sophisticated looking Tumi I had just purchased in Las Vegas.

It’s just a bag you say?  Why not toss the PC out instead?  Why were you even working for the government in the first place?  All valid questions, except for one –  it’s not just a bag.  Once again (see my post on vintage wear) the women get this, most of the men are still learning.  Your briefcase, laptop bag, attaché case, portfolio bag, or any other variation thereof which I will collectively refer to as a work bag, is a style accessory.  A man’s work bag is part of his overall attire and communicates his personal style.  A work bag says a lot about who he is, what he does, and where he’s going.

So what should a professional carry?  Think of your work bag as you would a pair of black lace-ups or your overcoat.  It’s a fashion staple (more on this in a future post) that will cost you a bit and will be expected to go the distance both in durability and style.

Refrain from purchasing any kind of backpacks or backpack hybrids – they make you look like a hitchhiker or student.  Unless you work in a very casual environment, I would try staying away from the messenger bag.  There are portfolio bags and briefcases that have removable straps which you can wear like messenger bags, which go better with a suit.  Also, you don’t want a stiff rigid rectangular briefcase that makes you look like Inspector Gadget, or a baggy beat up antique that makes you look like doctor on house call or a nutty professor.  Aluminum briefcases?  You’re kidding right?  Leave those for Al-Qaeda.  Finally, keep away form work bags with corporate logos (we know you went to a trade show and got it for free, good for you) or designer bags with logos slapped all over them.  You need “LV” on your bag only once to make it a Louis Vuitton.  Having thousands of LVs doesn’t make it a thousand times more Luis Vuitton.  If anything, people will think it’s a fake.

Stick to soft leather work bags like the ones in the photo above (detailed on my Facebook page) in black or brown.  A minimum of two compartments, one for your laptop and one or more for paperwork is ideal.  A lock and removable shoulder strap is also important.  I look for adequate cushioning for my MacBook and easy access compartments for my cell phone, business cards, and pens as well.

Hope this helps gentlemen.  Please make sure you know the measurements of your laptop prior to purchasing your work bag so that you save yourself the aggravation of making a second trip.

Breaking The Sweatpant Fashion Taboo

Breaking The Sweatpant Fashion Taboo

Designer Sweatpants L-R: Commonwealth Utilities, Dolce & Gabbana, Mucha (Background: Scotch & Soda, Lanvin for H&M

With the exception of white socks with dress pants, I can’t think of any fashion faux pas over the past two decades worse than wearing sweatpants anywhere outside of the gym.  It did however hit the runway big time this past year, with almost all of the big fashion houses showcasing their offerings on both the men’s and women’s catwalks.  This was a trend many of us did not seen coming.

So the rules are simple.  Sweatpants are athletic-to-casual wear.  Careful dressing them up and don’t show up in a job interview or business meeting with them on please – but you’re smart enough to know that.  Think weekend wear, running errands, grabbing a coffee, or for après-ski.  Your sweatpants should be made primarily of thick cotton or cotton blend – no nylon, no zippers.  There should be an elastic at the waist and/or drawstring and the pant cuff should follow the waist with an elastic or drawstring for a tapered look.

Stay neutral.  Wear them in dark black/blue/brown, shades of jersey grey, or white/off-white.  Stay away from the pastels, let your patterned or coloured sweater do the talking.  For best results, tuck the cuff into your lace-up boots or wear with designer sneakers.  You can experiment with the pants in our outside of the socks and weather permitting, even try pulling the cuff up to just below the knee or bottom of your calf.  Dock shoes and a Lacoste or Polo shirt for spring/summer is also a nice look.

Commonwealth Utilities have come up with a beautiful, albeit expensive sturdy pair of white sweatpants that they’re calling motorcycle pants.  The thing I like about these $425 (*gasp*) sweatpants is that they come with belt loops and a thick pant cuff, allowing you to dress your sweatpants up a bit.  Dolce & Gabbana’s long john underwear styled Italian sweatpants are another option.  The underwear look is a bit of a gamble for the design duo.  Wearing sweatpants out and about is one thing, long underwear – significantly more ballsy.  German designer Mucha also has some nice sweatpants worth investigating at around $240.   If you’re looking to save money, give $59.95 Lanvin for H&M (see my post) or $140 Home Alone sweatpants by Scotch & Soda a try.  Online store SSENSE.com also has tons of options here.

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