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AUGUST 20, 2019

“When should you wear a spread collar versus button-down? It seems like the two are interchangeable these days.” – John David I., via email


Spread vs. button-down...
Don Coryell vs. Woody Hayes...
Frazier vs. Ali...
West Coast vs. East Coast...
Almost everyone appreciates a throwdown.
THIS IS NOT THAT!
It's not either-or, it's both/and.

The first thing that comes to my mind when thinking about spread vs. button-down collars is the pick and roll in basketball. Two guys doing very different things but playing for the same team. (Hey, it takes two to score.) The button-down and spread collars shouldn't be looked at as closet competitors but rather versatile teammates that lift up the whole team. But this is a GREAT question because they can both be used for a lot of different occasions and in many instances, you're 100% right – the lines are blurred.

My very simple rule is this: if it's a formal occasion (or if you are wearing a dressy suit,) I never wear a button-down but rather opt for a spread collar with a tie.

And I wear a suit at minimum, 3 days a week, so right out of the gate I'm going with the spread the majority of the time. Part of the reason I do that is because I just love the versatility – it can go from very casual to very dressy, depending on how you're wearing it. If I'm going into the office, I put in collar stays to crispen up my collar a bit to complement the jacket and tie. If I go out after work, I might take off my tie but leave the jacket on and collar stays in. Maybe I'm headed to a concert, I'll take off the jacket, the tie, roll my sleeves up, and remove the collar stays... let the collar get a tiny bit of rakishness. I'm at a show, after all. If it can go from desk job to dive bar... and look crisp the whole time... that's some serious range. (Off-roading to the tie zone, I did go see Bryan Ferry after work last week, and kept my tie on for that one. He and I were the only ones in the house wearing them, but for me a tie is the equivalent of a hoodie for the Northern California tech set: my own personal comfort zone.) So, yeah, the spread collar is the most versatile, and the one option we feel like everyone should have in his closet.

the after-work concert look is the same as the taco joint look
the after-work concert look is the same as the taco joint look


Now a button-down doesn't have quite as much range as the spread, but it can make a very specific statement. It's going to automatically look more traditional, or "trad"... a staple in the Ivy set. While you don't have quite as many options with the button-down, you do have the decision on whether to button the collar or not. For me, 85% of the time I'm wearing it unbuttoned. Unless I'm going without a tie, then I pretty much always button it. (If you do the math here, yes, I wear a lot of ties.) Part of the secret sauce of dressing is to not look too uniform, even when you're wearing one! That's the whole idea behind sprezzatura. While I don't wear my button-down collars with a suit, I typically pair them with 5-pockets (cords included) or sport trousers, and at times, dress trousers. Can you wear it with a suit – some do, yes. I think about Wall Street or guys in DC, a navy pinstripe suit, a striped repp tie, some cordovan tassel loafers with a button-down... it's a look that's going to work for some people, but not necessarily for me.

Here's the thing, though – a lot of this is personal preference. Once upon a time, 90% of our assortment was spreads, because that's what I like. (That's also why you see so much navy blue.) We've diversified a little bit, because different guys like different things... though spreads do still have a majority in our sport shirt lineup. It's one of the reasons we have a Made-to-Measurement program, where you can pick your own fabric/collar/cuff/etc. So if you love our Roxford, or a seasonal plaid, but would rather have it in a different collar than the one we made as stock... well, then, get one made for yourself the way you like it!

button-down vs. spread
a classic blue oxford BD under a navy leno-weave jacket, and a small banker stripe spread under a glen plaid suit


And we spent a TON of time trying get the collars just right on our shirts. Which is why we basically just offer these two off the rack. We made the length of our spread collars 8 centimeters... roughly 3 1/8", to live in harmony with our jacket lapel width and tie width. (You guessed it – those are 8cm too.) One of the great things about this length is, it'll sit under the jacket really nicely, like they're made for each other. Because they are! And our spread collar is actually a modified spread, not a traditional English spread. In other words, spread but not too spread… but long enough to be substantial. Beware of small collars, they're unflattering – the proportions make your face and neck look bigger – and give off a fast-fashion vibe. And that's all I'm gonna say about that. When it comes to our button-down collar, we spent a lot of time – literally, years – perfecting the collar roll to get the right amount of "bloom."

We really wanted the movement in the spread to be just as special, so we put in a soft woven interlining to actually mirror that bloom. That interlining comes from Germany – it's the best of the best – and it's fused in our dress shirts (top layer only), and nonfused in our sport shirts. You can actually feel the difference – when you pick up the dress shirt, the collar's going to feel a bit more structured, dressier, really, and the sport shirt is going to feel a little softer and more casual. It mirrors the vibe of the shirts. On the other hand, our button-down collars never have fused interlining. It's not our look. A more formal fabric can dress it up for more formal occasions, but we want the softness to come through all the time. Again, we want the two to be complementary. A spread and a button-down party well and play well together. They're on the same team: the making-you-look-good-and-feel-good team. Pick and roll...
-SID



 

AUGUST 6, 2019

So we’ve been getting some questions about the heat...

“Hey Sid, I live in Southern California and want to dress up at times. Two issues, it’s hot! And I want to retain some of that coastal cool. What should I do?” - @turnerc7 via Instagram


“Florida is a geographic oddity-the only state in the union that’s five feet from the surface of the sun. For those of us who believe professionals should dress professional, can you discuss some warm (I mean brutally warm) weather options for those of us who can’t bring ourselves to give up their blazers, sports coats, and ties?” - Chris D. via email


“The heat in the south... How do you transition from the elegant and effortless sophistication of a jacket and tie to the mandatory shorts and short sleeve shirt for the intense southern summers?” – Ryan N. via email


US open
sweating last summer at the US Open


Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirt and gritty
Been down, isn't it a pity
Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city
All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head


That’s the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of living in New York City and how miserable it can be about this time of year. And you don’t have to be living in New York to feel like the heat is on. It’s August, it’s pretty much hot everywhere. And we think we’ve got some answers for you how to beat back the heat, no matter if you’re in California (Craig,) Florida (Chris,) the South (Ryan,) or even NYC... as I am remembering right now, sweating to the oldies in the subway station.

What to wear at the beach or poolside or at a backyard barbecue is one thing – and we’ll touch on that later. But the tougher questions, is when you need to go to a wedding or a board meeting or special event – how do you dress up, but stay cool?

Right outta the gate my mind goes to fabric – the right fabric for summer is a game changer. And the usual lightweight summer accomplices – cotton, linen, seersucker, madras, pique – are well-known (and get the job done) for a reason. They’re tried and true. But my go-to... and I’d say the one most people don’t think about, is wool. I know, you’re thinking “wait, really, wool??” But stick with me. We have a particular high-twist wool fabric from England that we use in our many of our suits that has a very fat yarn structure, and the yarns are plied – 2 ply to be exact – so 2 yarns twisted together in the warp (north-south) 2 yarns twisted together and the weft (east-west) and when you put these two fat yarns together it makes for a very open weave. Basically like a basketweave. The fabric almost literally breathes and allows air to go through it – which in turn, keeps you cooler. And that twist in the yarn means it has an excellent bounce-back to it and sheds wrinkles well. Case in point: I wore my Air Force blue high-twist to an outdoor wedding in August in the Florida panhandle a few years ago. In my mind, I hardly broke a sweat, except on the dance floor.(Though maybe I was sweating less just knowing that my air-conditioned suit was working.) But the beauty of the wool suit is that it’s a year-rounder and we make it in a variety of colors – that Air Force blue, oxford grey, charcoal, lovat green (as in we-love-it green) – and you can wear it just as easily in August as you can in November.

Second thing I think about is color. If it’s in the daytime, and if you’re going to be in the sun, the general rule is the lighter, the better. Now you might not want to go full-on white suit – though for the record, I do own one – but think light stone, light blue, seersucker, and shoot... it’s basically a requirement in the south to have a khaki poplin suit. These lighter suits are meant only for true summer or where it feels like summer most of the year. (Lucky you in Palm Beach.)

99 degrees last week in Austin
99 degrees last week in Austin - Qadir in seersucker and me in high-twist wool


The last thing I’m going to think about is putting the outfit together in a way to maximize lightness. You want to avoid looking hot, and maybe worse, having people TELL you that you look hot. I’d start from the bottom and work my way up... if at all possible, I’d bypass heavy, leather-soled dress shoes in favor of lighter ones... penny loafers or tassel loafers. And if possible, I don’t wear socks – that will instantly make you feel cooler and look cooler. I’d put a back pocket square in one of my pant pockets. It can be great for mopping a brow or soaking up the condensation from a cold drink - a makeshift coaster. And, as much as we recommend wearing a tie, depending on the event, I would consider going without one. A sport shirt – or even a polo with a cut-and-sewn collar that will stand up and keep its shape – looks great with a jacket and allows a little more airflow.

And Ryan, to answer your question about maintaining a certain level of sophistication with shorts and a short-sleeved shirt... There are a few rules I like to stick to. I like a shirt with a collar vs. a t-shirt for a crisper presentation (a short-sleeved oxford cloth button-down is fantastic). If you insist on going untucked, I’d steer you toward our Marquez shirt, a pared-down riff on a guayabera. (We also do a more classic one.) Oh, and one last thing... going a little shorter and more tailored on your shorts makes you look a little taller. Not sure you’ll be any cooler temperature-wise, but standing taller is never a bad thing.

At the end of the day, don’t forget... everybody sweats, and a little perspiration actually looks good. Admittedly, I love the summertime. Lean into it! Or, just get a drink.
-SID


Matt Hranek in the Marquez
Our friend Matt Hranek looking cool in the Marquez shirt

 

JULY 23, 2019

“When is it okay to wear sneakers with a suit?” – @gene_kansas, via Instagram


That is a fantastic question, especially since we’re living in a time where pretty much anything goes... until it doesn’t.

In general, we think about dressing as a form of manners – making an effort when getting dressed shows respect to those you’re with. So the very first thing I would think about is the host, or company I’m in. What is their style? Are they more conservative or more out-there? Consider their style as you put together your outfit. You’ll want to make an effort, but don’t want to out-dress your host either.

Second, I’d think about the environment, and both location and season. Am I in the city? West coast or east coast? (For instance, LA is significantly more dressed-down than, say, Philadelphia.) Or am I at the beach or in the desert or in the low country? What’s the climate? What’s the season? Warmer weather sort of begs for a more casual decorum in general, so that helps your chances in pulling off a suit with sneakers.

Lastly, I’d think about occasion. If the word "formal" is in there, this is probably not the time. And if it's at the opposite end of the spectrum, a pool party or kid’s birthday (or shoot, a kid’s birthday party at a pool), you might not want to be the only guy there in a suit. But this means most occasions between informal and jacket-optional are totally appropriate... which means there are a LOT of examples... travel, commutes, backyard gatherings, cocktail hours, dinners, colorful parties (holiday! costume! birthdays!), visits to country or yacht clubs, even informal or beach weddings.

Assuming this all checks out... you’re in the go-zone. So how do you do it? I don’t wear sneakers with a suit very often but when I do, I follow 3 simple rules.

  • The shoes should have the correct shape. Since you’re wearing dress trousers, you’ll want sneakers that have design similarities to a dress shoe. We like a clean silhouette, like the way we like our jackets with a natural shoulder and minimal break in our trousers. I like those that take inspiration from vintage tennis shoes with simple, clean lines – think Tretorns, Adidas Stan Smiths, Diadoras. A more streamlined, cleaner silhouette works better with a suit, so probably not something with torqued up soles. And all of these have a range of options. I’d add that slip-ons or wholecut lace-ups are also great, especially when they’re leather or suede.
  • Keep the color(s) neutral-ish. Going with sneakers is already a bit of a rebel move, so dialing it back refines the look ever so slightly. For example, an air force blue suit with Tretorn Nylites in white and navy, a flax color sharkskin suit with Diadora Game L Low sneakers in green & white, a seersucker suit with white on white sneakers, or a navy high twist suit with our own navy suede chelsea (sneaker) high tops.
  • Make sure your shoes are clean. This might be stating the obvious, but don’t undervalue its importance. Not just clear of dirt or stains or general wear, but clean in terms of appearance. The stark contrast of bright white can be distracting, so they don’t need to look like you just bought them or anything, but you’ll want them crisp, especially the laces. This is a key to pulling it off... you lose the look if you're wearing shoes that are dirty or a little too worn in.

Maybe not a rule, but as a general north star, I would consider “does it feel like you?” It’s certainly a look, and not all of us can be John Lennon on Abbey Road, or Is This It-era Albert Hammond Jr. If it’s not your bag – that’s okay, too. Feeling like you are clothed and in your right mind – no matter what shoes you’re wearing – will make you more productive, confident, and content.

Hope this helps. You might have inspired me to break out the sneakers a little more often....
-SID

testing out the look
Whole-cut sneakers in the office – just testing out the look

 

JULY 9, 2019

“What is your view on suede shoes in the summer? I don’t know the answer, so I avoid them entirely. I see them worn in London, but feel like they don’t have a place in the States. Appreciate your thoughts.” – Jake H., via email


"Don't you step on my blue suede shoes..."

Just think... Carl Perkins (the lyricist), Elvis Presley, Johnny Hallyday (the French Elvis), Buddy Holly, John Lennon, Eddie Cochran... they all sang that song. And if these guys are talking about it — suede is an important subject that we're just not talking about enough, so thank you for bringing it up.

So, can I wear suede in the summer? Well, the first suede shoes I ever had were a pair of white bucks, and I would only wear them from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Which is summer only, more or less. I am not always a "rule follower" with things like this... white jeans, for example, are year-round for me. But even if you're on the more traditional end of the spectrum, the heritage of that shoe – the quintessential Southern American shoe – is a great indicator that suede is MEANT for summer. My originals had a little bit of a cream color & some nap/scruff to the suede which was very, very nice (nubuck is not our thing – it's too flat)... and paired with that brick red sole? Fantastic. In fact, we do a pair pretty similar to that one – the only change is, besides a great fit, we added a red Dainite sole – an excellent quality rubber sole from the UK that is a good mix of town & country. It's definitely a look – I did an interview with Garden and Gun a few years back, and admitted that there are probably some spots where guys might try to fight you for wearing them. I told them that you need to be ready to take a blow for the white bucks. I still stand behind that!

But to answer your question, yes - we're big-time advocates of suede all year round. But you don't want people looking at you thinking, "man, his feet gotta be hot!" So, for the summer months, you first want to consider the type of shoe. I'd even ask yourself "do these feel heavy?" To me that's the litmus test. I leave my Chelsea boots and leather-soled suede shoes (e.g. double monks) in the closet until the first hint of fall. Then I slip into some shoes that look and feel lighter — penny loafers, tassel loafers, moccasins, bluchers, sneakers, slip-on espadrilles... even a pair of light colored chukka boots work for me. Going lighter in the weight and shape of a shoe will open up a lot of colorways – even dark ones! Chocolate, snuff, blue, navy, tobacco... though I'd probably draw the line at black unless it's a formal occasion.

The last piece of the puzzle when wearing suede in the summer, is going sockless. All of these can (and probably should) be worn without socks. To me, there's something super-cool about no socks with suede, particularly a loafer, especially if you've gotten a little sun – it just communicates a casualness... a "light and easy" feeling overall.

I own a lot of pairs of suede shoes but if I were to recommend ONE – to me the perfect summer pair is the tassel loafer, in basically any color. I love love the look of a pair of white jeans, a linen jacket, and suede loafers. But they'll go equally as well with a pair of colorful sport trousers or linen pants or even shorts — it's almost impossible to imagine where and when you can't wear these.

And caring for them is pretty easy – we created a shoe care guide if you want to go deep on it. But the necessities are a pair of shoe trees and a wire suede brush, and a suede eraser is helpful too. A buck bag for the white ones is great. (We have them in the Atlanta shop.) To give your suede the longest life possible and preserve its texture, you'll want to brush them so gently and often, so that dirt doesn't sit in the nap and stain it. And while people are often afraid of letting suede near water... it's not life or death. If it's a drizzly day, it's probably best not to wear them, but if you get caught in the rain, don't worry too much about it. The only thing you should really worry about is oil. So maybe not the shoes you want to cook or change a tire in. (In case of grease, though, cornstarch is a quick fix to soak it up.)

I hope this helps. "Go cat go..." in your suede shoes! And if you're stuck, shoot us a picture or give our shop a call... we'll help you.

-SID

suede chukkas in Switzerland
Suede chukkas in Switzerland a few summers ago

 

JUNE 25, 2019

“I'm traveling a lot this summer (Atlanta to Italy)... what are your travel essentials for a man on the road?” – @thenotoriousjjg, via Instagram


Hey mane. This is an exxxxxcellent question. When I'm traveling, I wanna look my best and travel light, so the first thing I ask myself is "where am I going, what am I gonna need, and what's the weather?"

WHAT I PACK
The goal is to get everything into one carry-on, with one zip-top canvas tote. I like my dopp kit to be small, packed with the usual suspects, plus Band-Aids, Neosporin and aspirin, just in case. I am usually on business – so I bring a suit typically – but you can skip that and get away with a jacket or two, navy or something discreet. (Even on vacation, it's good to be prepared.) I always pack a white shirt (in case something formalish comes up), always pack a solid tie, a pair of white jeans, a pair of blue jeans, and a pair of dress shoes that can be dressed up or down. If I've got room, a pair of more casual shoes like moccasins or loafers. Even if it's not fall or winter, I typically pack a lightweight sweater – a fine-gauge cashmere crewneck. Cashmere is sort of God's polar fleece... it packs so easily and is great for layering. And, no matter what, a swimsuit. It's the biggest disappointment when you don't have it. Be ready always... to go swimming.

HOW I PACK IT
I like to wear a jacket on the outbound flight – it doesn't wrinkle as much, gives you a leg-up on a possible upgrade, and all the pockets make it like a man's version of a purse. You can get a lot in there. If I'm bringing a second jacket, I first hang it on a plastic wide-bodied hanger – ask your local haberdasher for one of their castoffs. Then, I'll cover it with plastic like you get at the cleaners, and put it in a lightweight garment bag. I will section the garment bag into thirds, folding the bottom up one level, laying my ties across the middle section so they won't move around, then folding up again neatly. And that goes on the top of one side of my carry-on.

Shirts – there's a formula to this. I'll take one additional shirt for every 3 days I'm gone (4 for a 3-day trip, 8 for a 6-day trip, etc.) and I get them folded in plastic when I send them to the cleaners (Ralph's on Collier, by the way,) because they're easier to pack. You can use the plastic as your laundry bag, too. For jeans, I will turn both pairs inside out, and roll them up so they avoid getting stained (white) or staining other items (indigo). I'll usually bring a pair of shoe trees, but those things are heavy, so in a pinch, you can put some rolled-up socks and underwear in your shoes instead... it works almost as well. If I've just got the shoes I'm wearing, I'll put my socks and underwear in a felt shoe bag. And that's about it for the suitcase. One more tip: when you get to where you're going, hang everything up – and when you hop in the shower, move the stuff on hangers to the bathroom to enjoy the steam and ease up any wrinkles.

In my tote – you want one with a zipper so you can put it underneath your seat without anything falling out – I put my computer, a folder of work stuff, another felt shoebag filled with cords & adapters, my sunglasses, some reading materials that I probably won't get to, plus some pens and something to write on. You have to watch out for the kind of pens that explode on planes though. Ink stains don't come out easily.

I know I say this a lot, but ultimately dressing – whether you're on the road or on the tarmac or just on the clock – is about good manners. Be practical and comfortable on the flight, sure, but make an effort for those around you. You never know who you're going to run into at the airport... and in a funny way, it doesn't matter. To sum it up: look nice, pack light, bring a pair of swim trunks, and never underestimate the importance of those felt shoe bags. Travel safe and buon viaggio.
-SID

 

JUNE 11, 2019

“What is essential for the beginning of a young professional's wardrobe?” – @b_c.harris, via Instagram


Personally, I wear a jacket and tie every day... actually, every single guy in our office, stores, and warehouse wears a tie. It's a no-brainer in that our toughest decision in the morning is which tie I'm gonna wear. In a funny way, it makes getting dressed in the morning a heck of a lot easier. We work with a company that experimented with having their baristas wear ties in the Pacific Northwest... home of the casual look. The baristas got better tips and the morale was higher - they actually liked dressing with some structure. We quote Deion Sanders here a lot — "when you look good you feel good — and when you feel good you play good — and when you play good they pay good." Anyway. I love it. But unless you're a banker or a lawyer (or you work for us,) it's likely that you don't have to wear a tie. And "professional attire" or "business casual" are pretty broad terms... it's like, what does that even mean. For the better part of my career in design, I didn't have to wear a tie to work. It was just a choice that I sometimes enjoyed. It was a creative environment, and a lot of my coworkers really went all out getting themselves rigged up as "creatives." It was actually a blast watching what people showed up in. Like a costume party every day. Having fun with your clothes is great. But for me, especially these days, I just want to grab and go and save my brain for more challenging decisions during the day. So how do you look put-together, sharp, and professional... without thinking about it all that much? (Or looking like you're thinking about it all that much.)

So what are the go-tos? You're looking to edit your life with the least amount of items to prepare you for almost anything. You may not have a lot of dough yet — or at least I didn't when I was just starting out — so you want to treat these as building blocks. You'll have these things for years, not months, so focus on less-is-more, quality-over-quantity. Better to show up in great things more often. There is no shame in a uniform. And find a tailor you like and trust... fit makes a big difference. It's also worth the investment of the two bucks or so to get your shirts cleaned and pressed. I can usually get at least a couple of wears out of each one, and some of my best memories of being young in New York were the conversations I had with the neighborhood cleaners. Or learn to iron yourself! The point is, a pressed shirt is about showing effort and manners. But back to the list. I put together a handful of essentials — in this case, 11 — that go with everything in your closet. This should all make getting dressed easier in the morning (or in the dark!) and arm you for almost any occasion... a meeting with the boss, a trip to the bank, or a casual get-together after work.

Here's what I'd get as a starter kit, from head to toe:

 

This roll-up might seem basic, but it's super-versatile... it all works together wherever you live. If you've been asked to help with a board presentation, it's navy suit + white shirt + navy tie + dark socks + the lace-ups, shined. If it's a company outing, it's dark jeans + blue-striped shirt... sleeves rolled up. If it's hosting a client for a cocktail hour it's grey trousers + navy suit jacket + sport shirt, maybe go sockless. Any scenario, you're ready.

And of course you can build on this. Add in another pair of shoes (penny or tassel loafers), throw in some white jeans, add a few dress shirts that have a subtle pattern — a light stripe or graph check, or maybe add a pair of charcoal dress trousers in case you're getting invited back to that board meeting... and you'll be well on your way.

Let me know how it goes.
-SID
P.S. And hey... as long as you're asking... I may just throw a bit of this in as well. That stuff above will help you dress for success — but you actually have to work to BE a success.

RULES FOR WORK

  • Keep your shoes shined, your clothes pressed, your breath fresh and your mouth clean.
  • Show up early, stay late — and make the most of your time in between.
  • Say less, be more.
  • Smile, a lot. It communicates an ease and willingness to help.
  • Keep a pen & paper on you — we think Caran d'Ache and Moleskines are pretty great.
  • If you have a business card, always keep one on you. Use a business card holder. (I am reminded of this every time I forget my own.)
  • Try and stay off your mobile phone... pay attention to those around you.