12 April 2014

Business Casual

The other day, I read a post  on Put This On about dressing down a suit, and I thought I might offer my own two cents on the subject. As someone who only ever wears a suit by choice, it's something I think about now and then. I personally tend to prefer a sports jacket and trousers most of the time. It's a look that is inherently less dressy than a suit, and allows for more room to play. Jackets can range in color and texture from the staid formality of a classic and well cut navy blazer to tweeds and linens in all manner of bright color and pattern. Still, I do like to wear a suit sometimes. The tough thing is that many suits, particularly navy and grey, are difficult to wear without looking like you're dressed for a business setting, which I never am, so it helps to find ways to soften the edges. 

I'm not a fan of the look of a suit with no tie, something that's become increasingly popular in the past few years. To me, it always looks like you just left the office and are out grabbing a beer before heading home, in other words, like an incomplete outfit. Rather, I like to use accessories and minor details less aligned with business situation to do the trick. Pictured above is a worsted grey pinstripe suit, ($12.98 in a thrift shop), softened with a glen check tie in an earth tone, a pattern and color hinting more at country clothing ($1.99),and a densely printed paisley square rather than white ($2.99, found in the ladies scarves in a thrift store). A white shirt with a suit like this may be as proper as can be with a suit like this, but I opted for a softer one with a button down collar by Brooks Brothers ($5.49). 

Instead of black, all my leather accessories are brown. Added to that, the shoes are heavy longwing brogues, another style derivative of country clothing. The skull and bones socks are perhaps totally silly, but again, a good degree less formal than plain black or grey. (side note: don't wear argyle socks with a suit, ever. I hate that.)

With a little whiff of imagination, you can wear your business clothes in a more casual way.

p.s. In writing this post and searching back through my own blog for links, I realize that I have written much the same thing on this same topic about this same suit before, right about this time of year when I first pull this suit out of storage (see here). I suppose that means that a grey pin stripe suit really is the most challenging thing to wear outside of its proper context of business, or that immutable things like classic menswear are hard to blog about for over five years without at least a little repetition. Oops.

11 April 2014

S/S 2014

It's finally time to pack up the tweed and corduroy, and I've been hard at work preparing the Spring/Summer collection for the shop.  Available tomorrow in the physical store and appearing online  next week.

An Affordable Wardrobe
249 Elm Street, 2nd Floor
Davis Square, Somerville, MA
open Saturday 10am-2pm

05 April 2014

One Thing At A Time

A collar pin can be a quick and easy way to punch up a simple outfit and set yourself aside as one of the few guys who's been paying attention. I find the best way to wear one is to let it be the only unusual element in an ensemble, let it stand alone and do the talking. Being something of a luxury item, I find it also works best with quality clothes and fabrics. In this case, a grey nailhead suit by Paul Stuart ($40 on eBay), a blue point collar shirt by Brooks Brothers ($5.49), a simple navy bar stripe tie by Liberty of London ($1.99), and a plain white linen square. The collar pin is from the Andover Shop, a simple gold colored safety pin style, and the only item purchased at retail, for $17.50.

I find the older I get, the more I appreciate simplicity in an outfit. Before any of you points it out, I'm fully aware that this very blog is rife with photos of combinations that "push it", and I still appreciate sartorial adventure. But lately, I'm really digging the One Thing At A Time school of dressing.

Of course, not being one to ever leave well enough alone, I simply couldn't resist the purple socks.

01 April 2014

Tweed For Spring

I do enjoy Winter, and don't mind a cold day for wearing tweed and flannel, but I'll be damned if even I can't wait for the cold to let up a little and have me a balmy walk in the sunshine. Looks like this week the sun will at least smiling on us, and while the temperatures creep up a little, we can't dive head first into khaki and tennis shirts. And though the streets may be full of people in short sleeves with no coats on, in reality we still need to keep at least comfortably warm. If you're looking to ditch the overcoat (finally), remember that tweed, the stalwart fabric of the coldest times of year, can also be perfect for Spring.

A tweed sports jacket can offer a welcome replacement to your overcoat or Barbour jacket when worn as a alternative to outerwear. It helps to keep color and weight in mind here. Many of the best tweeds are seen in earthy shades of brown ad olive, maybe punctuated with burnt orange. While I do love these fabrics, these colors are too "Fall". This time of year, I stick with lighter tans or cool grey, as seen here. Because of the roughness of the cloth, it's a good choice worn casually with jeans, and it gives me the pockets I need for keys, phone, and all the other crap we can't seem to live without these days.
I like a jacket like this tailored very soft with enough extra room for a sweater underneath. It being (almost) warm (?...not really) today, I've swapped the Shetland sweater that has been an almost daily piece since November with a lighter cotton crew neck. I may still be wearing heavy oxford shirts, but a pink stripe livens things up a bit, as dose a pink pocket square. Baby steps folks. Don't be the guy in shorts shivering at the bus stop.
A recent thrift shop acquisition, this jacket features my (current) favorite combinations of English/American hybrid details: natural shoulders, a 3/2 front, with darts, and real braided leather button. File also under the "What's in a Name" department:
Homework leads me to discover that Sibley's was a small department store chain in New York State, with it's flagship in Rochester. Absorbed by Kauffman's in 1990, and later Macy's, the store no longer exists. Stanley Blacker is a name I remember men of my Dad's generation wearing when I was a kid. It wasn't super expensive, but of generally good quality and traditional styling, in a time when traditional American style was popular enough to support lower tier brands of reasonable quality. Maybe not the most special thing I ever found in a thrift shop, but it fits well, feels good, and for $7.49, it will do just fine until a better replacement comes along.
As a side note, I've also recently discovered that leather and suede saddle shoes are the absolute JAM with jeans. This pair is vintage L.L.Bean, made in USA by Walkover, with a comfortable brick red rubber sole. Acquired through direct purchase from a consignor in my own shop for $25, and worth every penny.

We may all want the cold weather to be over, but it's not something we can control. With a few touches of color and some small changes, you can breath new life into your tweed and manage to keep warm and be seasonally appropriate. You can wear tweed in the Spring.

p.s. speaking of tweed, I have a knockout English shooting jacket available on eBay now. If you're a 46 long check it out. If not, look at it anyway as a reminder that there is s real reason why we call these things "sports" jackets.

p.p.s. the Spring Clearance Sale continues in the AAW Shop, with many items on deep discount. Enjoy an additional 10% off everything using discount code SPRING2014 at checkout through midnight Saturday.

26 March 2014

Free Stuff : Passaggio Cravatte

A while back, I was graciously offered a tie to review by Gianni Cerutti of Passaggio Cravatte. I had heard so many good things about them, and never having owned an Italian seven fold tie, I accepted. Besides, the broken English of whatever translator he used in his emails, all of which began "Hello, Dear", was something I couldn't refuse.

His process was in depth and friendly. After we agreed to work together, he sent me over 200 high resolution photos of vintage fabrics he has on hand, silks, grenadines, knits in wool and cashmere,you name it. In many cases, each fabric is only enough for a few ties. After some deliberation, I settled on a soft cashmere in burgundy, brown, and tan tic weave. I gave him the length and width of a favorite tie of mine and waited excitedly for my tie to arrive.
In a matter of only two short weeks, my tie had arrived. The cashmere was softer than I could have imagined, and the construction is indeed superb. All Gianni's ties are made to order, completely by hand, in his small studio in Naples. The tie is unlined, with a rolled tip and seven fold construction, which gives it a nice heft yet lets it hang very softly when tied. I hate to sound maudlin, but it really is something of a work of art. In person, there is no denying the superior quality this tie has in relation to nearly all of my others, that there is something special about this one is obvious from a distance (that is, to a clothing nerd who thinks too much about these things anyway). The only other tie I have that comes close is a wool and cashmere blend made in Italy by Paul Stuart.
As you can imagine, these things do not come cheap. This tie would have sold for 195 Euro, or roughly $235. No small chunk of change, and frankly a hard thing for me to justify endorsing on a blog about being cheap. But we need to consider it in context I suppose. Ralph Lauren Purple Label sells ties for upwards of $220, but there are a lot of each of them. The tie I ordered is the only like it in existence, and that's at least worth something. If you're reading this blog, chances are you probably won't be ordering one of these any time soon, but it is worth knowing that in very rare cases, things are expensive for a very real reason. My Nonna would have loved this tie, for it's Italian-ness as well as the beauty of it's construction and material. She was like that.

Grazie, Gianni.

p.s. Speaking of ties, look for a follow up to this story soon. It's been really interesting the way this has developed, and I look forward to sharing the results with you.

p.p.s. In the Shameless Self Promotion Department, Spring Clearance Sale is happening now in the AAW Shop.

19 March 2014

The S.P.C.P.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of pairs of innocent, high quality trousers are passed over and cast aside, simply for having a pleated front. Don't wait for the fashion media to tell you pleats are o.k., that comfort and style come in many forms. Won't you please help?

-Brought to you by The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Pleats

p.s. don't forget to send a tie to show support for Mayor Rivera

15 March 2014

One For the Good Guys

Mayor Dan Rivera of Lawrence, Mass.

Recently, Dan Rivera, the newly elected Mayor of Lawrence Massachusetts, has instituted a dress code for City Hall employees. Read the story here.

Basically, he's only asking grown-ups who work in an office to dress like grown-ups who work in an office, which of course has some of those same grown-ups in a lather. He's banned jeans, sweatpants, spandex, and pyjamas. To me, the only thing shocking here is that we need to have rules in place to get people to do this. Adults used to just know these things.

The rule that seems to have garnered the most negative reaction is the one requiring men to wear a tie. It's been called everything from sexist to elitist. A lot of guys are citing the cost of these clothes as their primary complaint. I'm sure you all can guess how I feel about that. Of the more than one hundred ties currently in my own collection, I'm sure none of them cost more that five dollars at thrift shops.

Lawrence has been known for years as something of a "rough town", one of poverty and crime. Mayor Rivera is trying to clean up the city's image, and he believes that City Hall, effectively his own back yard, is the place to start. I for one would like to show my support of his efforts. As such, I'd like to take up a collection of ties and donate them to the Mayor to give out to his male employees. An Affordable Wardrobe will be donating a dozen or so of its own ties to this cause. I'm sure many of you have at least one tie you don't really need. Find that tie, and send it to me by the end of the week. I'll drive them up to Mayor Rivera's office myself with support on behalf of all the readers of this blog. I guarantee that after a week of wearing ties regularly, most of the complainers will begin to feel better about themselves in the morning.

Let's get behind Mayor Rivera. This really is one point we can chalk up for the good guys.

You can send your ties here:

An Affordable Wardrobe
249 Elm Street 2nd Floor
Somerville, MA, 02144

p.s. the last time I visited a thrift shop in Lawrence, I came away with half a dozen shirts from the Andover Shop. Penury is not an excuse.