Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Style: Pattern Mixing On A Whim

Ever since I started my style journey I have taken due consideration of the rules a learner has to engage in order to be an eventual master. And I’m still learning.  One thing, however, that I seem to execute expertly without any challenges or faux pas is pattern mixing. I don’t know how it happens but I just see to be able to pull it off and this is without any serious forethought. This ranges from two to three patterns, and the overall look is always aesthetically pleasing and presentable. Let’s go back to a tie when I was deceiving myself thinking I had this style thing on lock. Without thinking about it, I had actually executed mixing three patterns unknowingly and unintentionally.

This picture was taken in 2011, but in 2006, when I was far from any inkling of dressing presentably, I wore this exact navy blue suit with bright blue pin stripes, this striped tie and a white shirt with a blue rice stripe. The picture taken in 2011 features a white spread collar shirt not the striped one (that one was stolen along with my car). However, when I think back to that time I’m quite amazed at myself and the level of execution, and just how effortless it was. One thing I will concede is that my pattern mixing back then was guided by colour as opposed to contrast and scale. A suit with blue stripes, a shirt with blue stripes and a tie with blue stripes, that just sounds and looks like too much of one colour which can be quite boring. In fact, there was a time when I wore this exact tie with a hairline stripe shirt, bad idea and very jarring to the eye. I’m actually shaking my head at the fact that I was under the impression that I was styling heavily…meanwhile.

The great thing about pattern mixing is that it can be learned starting from one pattern, using a patterned suit as the foundation and then building from that. The next step can be a patterned suit and tie. This aspect also needs one to take contrast and scale into consideration. Just because it is two patterns it doesn't mean there won’t be a clash. So a contrast and scale in both the patterns of the suit and tie need to be duly considered. Even in instances where the suit and shirt are patterned, consideration of scale and contrast must be given a thought. Scale and contrast are important because they either hold together or spoil multiple patterns. This guideline must also be considered when dealing with different patterns in one ensemble and patterns from the same family because the end goal is for a harmonious and visually appealing aesthetic. 

                                       PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Style: 2014,The Year Of The Tux

There is absolutely no time like the present, and if there is one an item of clothing I am going to make sure I acquire this year, it is a tuxedo. No, I don't attend any award shows or functions that require a tuxedo, but, just for the sake of owning one, and also covering myself for whenever the need arises. Rather be prepared and not have an opportunity than have an opportunity not be prepared. That's how I'm treating the quest for a tuxedo in 2014. It's just a great feeling just knowing that I will have my own tux for black tie events and I will be able to adhere to the dress code if it calls for it. Black tie is getting some sort of a resurgence of late and this couldn't be a better time to get one.

I had the privilege of attending the Channel O Africa Video Music Awards in November last year and it was a splendid affair. With celebrities, musicians, artists, dancers and performers from all over the African continent. One thing my colleagues and I were not ready for was the black tie dress code which is standard for award shows. So, I suggested to them that since it was too late to go out and buy tuxes, we should just go with the black suits we were issued and just tweak them here and there. I suggested a white shirt and a black neck-tie.

I can't help but feel that the overall outfit exudes a funeral home kind of vibe. In retrospect I should've opted for a black bow tie and a black or patterned pocket square. This would at least have been closer to tuxedo territory. This particular ensemble is comprised of a silk knit tie by T.M. Lewin, black cotton striped socks by Bresciani, a tie bar, a white single barrel Country Road shirt and black whole cuts by Roberto Rosetti, which are my official black tie footwear.

My ideas around a tuxedo vacillate between the winter and summer seasons, however, as a starting point I will definitely go for a standard black one button tuxedo with peak lapels. I'm also all about the details and the right accessories, therefore, I will go with a pleated white shirt in winter with black stud buttons, a cummerbund and a black patterned pocket square. In summer, although ideally, I would love an off white or ivory jacket, I will stick with the black tux but some of the accessories and details will be lighter. I would prefer a white shirt without any pleats but with a hidden placket. The cummerbund will stay and maybe the footwear will also change to a pair of leather slip-ons or penny loafers. In both instances I will not wear a belt, if I can get side tabs added that'll be great. However if I can't then a little alteration to tighten the waist will be in order. There's just something about a clean, minimalist, cool and colourful aesthetic in summer, conversely, winter is great with something textured, layered, dark and warm.

Now, I just need to make it happen and I think I know where to start.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Where Is The Love? CAT® Apparel Give-Away Winner

Well, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate our very first give-away winner, Tania Naidoo. The requirements for being entered into the contest were to sign up to the CAT® Apparel newsletter, like the page on Facebook and follow on Twitter. That's all you had to do and this would've stood you a chance of winning a R1000 gift voucher. Once again, congratulations Tania.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Style: The Difference Between A Pocket Square And A Handkerchief

I've been meaning to ask this question for some time now: How many pocket squares or handkerchiefs do you wear at one time? With one outfit? I have always been under impression gents wear two. One in the breast pocket of a jacket and the other inside. One for decorative and the other for hygiene purposes. But it appears that some gents roll with only one; the one in the breast pocket used for decorative purposes and then they also use it for hygiene purposes. I don't understand this. Isn't that like using your face cloth to wash your buttocks? I started thinking about this issue when I got wind of the fact that some gents use the same pocket square they use as a decoration also for hygiene purposes. To me this is totally wrong and inappropriate because a decoration should never be soiled or spoiled in any way. So, to answer my question, I always wear two, a pocket square and a handkerchief. Let me use some handkerchiefs and pocket squares I have in collection for illustrative purposes.

These are three pocket squares/ handkerchiefs I use for different purposes, and never make the mistake of using them for two functions at the same time.  The one on the top left with pin dots is exclusively for decorative purposes. It is made of polyester, so you can imagine how that would feel to my nose if I were to use it for wiping. It also looks too lovely to be used as such. In my opinion, I really think that the pin dot pocket square was not intended to be a handkerchief and that if it were used as such it would be totally wrong. Let's take a silk pocket square for example, would you use it to blow your nose, wipe sweat or clean dirty, soiled little hands? It wouldn't even feel right to the touch. The one on the right is a cotton handkerchief, less decorative and I use it solely for hygiene. And it has been used in a multitude of ways, blowing my nose, wiping sweat, cleaning hands of food or gravy, placing it on dirty surfaces as a buffer, wiping my hands after using a public restroom, etc; I have used it for a myriad things and I continue to do so. I have never attempted to use it as a pocket square in my breast pocket simply because it is not pleasing to the eye and its bulk also negates this. The bottom one is a new acquisition which is a handkerchief meant for hygiene first, however, I have decided to use it for decorative purposes because it is aesthetically pleasing and the bold fuchsia check just begs to be showed off in a breast pocket as opposed to being banished to the inside pocket of a jacket. It is made of fine cotton and this would make it user friendly for hygiene, however, I have decided against that. I find that it serves a better function as a breast pocket decoration than something to wipe off things. So my definition of a pocket square is a piece of cloth intended for decorative purposes placed in the breast pocket of a jacket. A handkerchief is a piece of cloth used for hygiene or personal purposes and is usually placed in the inside pocket of a jacket or away from full view.

Can a handkerchief be used for decorative and hygiene purposes? Of course yes! The decision is up to you. Ultimately, what I'm saying is, don't use either one for two functions at the same time, it's just not a good look.

                                                PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Brands: Country Road Suit

I had the privilege of being the recipient of a suit because of the work I was doing in Joburg last year. This was from October to December. Although this was a standard black suit, I found that it was a starting point in talking about suits. And what could be more apt than starting with an off-the-rack, two button suit. As a standard issue I would’ve preferred a navy or medium grey simply because the combinations are infinite. All style enthusiasts will agree with me on this point. This suit is a 100% wool, pure new wool in fact, by Country Road and the fabric is by Malfatto. It is described as a tailored fit, and being an off-the-rack suit, let’s just say that it is a tailored fit according to the standards of mass production. I will concede, however, that the jacket is more tailored than the trousers, and that I had no work done on the jacket as opposed to the trousers.

I didn't have any work done on the jacket because I chose the right size, which is a 40. For an off-the-rack piece, it fit quite well in the sleeves, throughout the chest, and the length and skirt. I don't understand this trend with cropped jackets, especially the ones that expose your backside, so I'm quite happy with the length of the skirt. It features two vents at the back, standard pockets with flaps, and just about the right amount of waist suppression to give it that contoured aesthetic.

I decided to pair this suit with a pink semi-spread collar shirt, purple tie with light blue pin dots, and a pocket square with a bright yellow trim. As I stated earlier in this post this suit is made of 100% pure new wool, which means that the fibres came from the shorn animal and spun into yarn for the first time. If you're not spoiled for choice then you should always opt for this kind of wool as opposed to pure wool because the rough, itchy kind. Another factor which makes it 'ideal' for summer, even thought it's a black suit, is that it is made from the Super 100S range. It might be lower in the grade of fibres but it is still extremely light.

An off-the-rack suit has its disadvantages and in this case it's the lining in both the jacket and trousers. The jacket lining is made from a polyviscose blend, this goes for the trousers as well. I just don't understand that pairing. It's like because the lining is made from synthetic materials is totally negates the functionality of the suit for hot weather. I said it last week, and I'll say it again, polyester is not your friend. Even the placing of the lining in the trousers is uncomfortable and it restricts a lot of movement in the thigh.

There is some pooling of fabric in the back of the jacket and this should be expected from an off-the-rack suit. No matter how tailored it can be, it can never be panacea in terms of suit sizing to different kinds of body shapes. I also seem to have a dropped shoulder and this is affecting the fit of most of my garments in the arms. One side will be perfect but the other side will be totally off. This is evident in the second image above, where there is more shirt cuff showing in the right arm as opposed to the left arm. Even so, this still doesn't necessitate the altering of the jacket. I also mostly go beltless with these trousers because the waist was altered to fit tightly and obviate the use of a belt. I am also, like Luther and Oprah, fighting the battle of the bulge, which makes a belt all the more unnecessary.

Would I recommend this suit for business? No, black is too bland a colour, as versatile is it can appear to be, it is just too boring. However, for evening or even day wear, in small doses, I would recommend it. On a trip to Woolworths in Sandton City I eyed a grey, wool-silk blend by Country Road as well, I hope to review it soon. Do stay tuned because on Friday I will be showing another way I wore this suit last year.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Cut 'n Sew: These Chinos Are Four Years In The Making

This post is a long time coming, even more than that, these chinos have come a long way as well. This is the second pair of chinos in this shade I own. The first were an experiment in fit, sizing and length. Eventually, I gave them away because they just didn't work in the way that I wanted. I kept these, at the back of my closet, for a very long time. So when I decided to work some alterations on these I started with a slim, tapered fit, something not too tight, especially around the seat and thighs. The result is what you see on the right, the picture was taken about two weeks ago. The picture on the left was taken back in early 2010. It is evident that the images evince the changes that the whole outfit has undergone.

The image on the left is all baggy, ill-fitting, almost unnatural, because it seems as if the clothes are wearing me. Those chinos were fairly new then. Even the mini gingham shirt is in parachute territory because of the bulging on the sides and the arms. And the plimsolls on my feet were the rage for me back then, but, time has shown me that something a little more rounder at the toe is what would make my sneakers more versatile and stylish. Ultimately, I was oblivious to the myriad errors in my outfit. Over the past four years, however, I've had the opportunity and time to work on the fit and this is the final result.

These chinos came back from the tailor after some alterations on the length, waist and bottom opening and the very first thing I noticed was that the seat was too tight. I'll elaborate on that with the bottom image. But, what happened is that I was happy with the waist being 35 inches, the length at first was shorter than this, at maybe 41 inches, and the bottom opening was 16 inches. I took them them back because I wasn't quite happy especially considering how everything just seemed incongruent and disproportionate. This time I discussed with my tailor how I needed the length to be let out a little bit more, to approximately 42 inches, and the bottom opening pared down to 15 inches. In my mind this was the alterations experiment that would be the prototype for all my summer casual trousers. If I nailed this one, then I could always refer to these chinos as a guide. The above image, much clearer than the top one, is the final outcome. Thirty-five inch waist, 42 inch length and 15 inch bottom opening. I also had the shirt slimmed on the sleeves, elongated them about 2 inches at the cuff, and inserted two darts at the back to eliminate excess bagginess.

Late last year I did a post titled 'Tight Seat', wherein I detailed how these very same chinos had been adjusted at the waist and were incredibly tight in the seat resulting in flared pockets and making it extremely tight and difficult to move throughout the thigh region. So, I took them to The Tailor Shop, and when they checked, they found that the seat couldn't be adjusted properly because there wasn't enough fabric in the inseam so as to loosen it up and thus allow for better movement and comfort. So, they suggested that they would insert a piece of cotton fabric, and that is what the above image shows. I find that after that piece of fabric was inserted they fit much better and movement is even great. I don't feel any tightness in the thighs, crotch and backside. Aesthetically, it's not an eye sore because that strip is never exposed, even when walking, so I'm quite satisfied with the final outcome. 

It's been a journey, and it continues, because menswear and style are always evolving.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Pick of the Week: Shoes, Shoes, Shoes!

It has been a hectic past 3 months and this year looks to be longer and more grueling. I am, however, preparing and will no doubt be ready for it. I had the privilege and honour to work in Johannesburg from October to December last year and one thing I know about Joburg, it is a gold mine, just like the name eGoli suggests. In terms of style, sartorialism, thrifting and so forth, Joburg is a style aficionado's playground. Everywhere you go you are bound to find something that will pique your interest and eventually arrest you. It was on one of those weekend's that I decided to visit the United Fashion Brands outlet on Marlboro drive Woodmead.  And true to form, I was ready for what my eyes would feast on that morning.

I got introduced to two brands of shoes that I'd never heard of or seen before; Vinzano and Blackinc. Occupying the commodious top floor in the UFB building I had enough time to admire and perused at leisure what I think are shoes any gent could use in summer. I haven't done much research into the brands because there isn't much on the internet about them, however, I'm sure you'll agree that the visuals are enough to convince any shoe lover of the beauty and necessity for such shoes. The black suede tassel loafer with a high vamp by Blackinc is perfect for black tie in the summertime. I also like how a little rugged the suede is, thus shedding any notion of the shoe being dainty and fragile. A rough suede is better than the brushed kind simply because the cleaning and maintenance of the material is a lot easier and consistent with the former.

The tan slip-on is right at home with casual suiting; a dark navy or khaki linen suit. With a casual suit the sockless trend is very welcome because if the suit lets you breathe, then your feet might as exhale as well. It's not a fussy design and this calls for even more restraint in your outfit. I used to like the idea of a slip-on or loafer with shorts but I think there are designs that go with one or the other. The penny loafer kind is not suitable for shorts, it's slightly more formal and has no casual instincts. The tassel loafer kind is more casual and holds up pretty well when paired with shorts. That tan colour is just inviting to be dressed up.

I would agree with anyone who said that bright blue penny loafers are gaudy in an inland region. For a coastal gent, your shoe wardrobe is incomplete without a pair. That bright blue penny loafer is a fun shoe, both in colour and in wear. And I surmise that the folks at Blackinc had shorts, the seaside and sundowners in mind when they designed this shoe. For the fastidious who are not satisfied with the casual mien of boat shoes, plimsolls or espadrilles at the beach, this is the quintessential shoe for them.

Now we get to my favourites; and let's start with the tan whole cut. If you're struggling for suitable, comfortable and acceptable suiting fabrics to counter this scorching heat then you can continue to ruminate on that issue, but allow me to suggest this tan wholecut as a starting point. This shoe is made for the business man who is fond of light coloured suiting fabrics both in business and leisure. Think of a blue suit for business, this shoe is the ultimate addition. And when you think of a tobacco or terracotta suit for leisure, this shoe is still the business. This is the Vinzano brand and I think they did a great job of incorporating all the aesthetics that afford the shoe both business and leisure time appeal. It's the ultimate shoe for displaying both uniqueness in style at a meeting and a wedding. Consider it my top pick. The stone coloured, brushed suede tassel loafer is also a favourite, and the casual clothing options are infinite. I think the one item of clothing it would pair well with is a pair of white jeans or chinos. It felt comfortable when I fitted it on and the soft suede material was just wonderful to the touch. Vinzano did great with these designs. 

I threw in the bright blue full brogue with a medallion for good measure, just to balance the equation in as far as the other blue shoe is concerned. This is also a Blackinc design and I think where the penny loafer doesn't fit in and what it lacks in semi-formal qualities, the full brogue picks up the slack, open doors and fits right in.

I can't elaborate on the quality of the shoes or the construction but I would hope that at R1700 a pop they more than hold up in terms of durability and wear. That's the only draw back when dealing with unknown or untested brands. If I had all five though, my summer would be made for decades.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Style: My Favourite Summer Combination

For the first Sunday of 2014 I decided to revisit a colour combination ensemble that I have liked for a few years. The light khaki jacket, navy trousers, and the red and white candy stripe shirt. Long time readers of this blog will know of my affinity for this combination, especially that it goes back a few years, circa 2009. I posited about it this exact combination back in 2010 and the look and style is still relevant and timeless. Looking at the previous post one can tell that not much has changed, however, I decided to tweak a few things, here and there, especially in terms of accessories and fit.

It's no secret that my body has gone through some changes, most notably, losing a considerable amount of muscle mass, which necessitated the taking in of this jacket on the sides. Just so as to achieve a more taut fit. The candy stripe shirt is one of my favourite shirts and it's still in pristine condition after 5 years of wear. I added a few changes though; the sleeves seemed a bit short at the wrist, so I had a  piece of white fabric inserted at the wrist/ cuff just to elongate them a little. The opening at the cuff was also a bit too loose, so I inserted an extra button on the sleeve cuff so as to have a more restrained fit around the wrist. Even with the second button fastened there is enough space to fit a slim wrist watch. So, I think the alterations were well worth it. At first glance one would think that the tie and pocket square are a matching set, that's far from it. The inclusion of this tie in this ensemble hasn't changed (it's a thrifted piece I picked up for R1 if I recall correctly), the pocket square is a different story. I purchased it at Markhams in 2012 and thought it would add a nice touch to this and a lot of other summer ensembles.

My menswear and style journey is an interminable one, and the journey leads me to a point where I have to concede a few things. Polyester is not your friend, polyviscose is not your friend either, don't even get me started on various other blends of polyester. These particular trousers are viscose, a terrible fabric for summer and even more terrifying a fabric to be used in menswear. I never bought them, I got them from home when I visited a few years ago. It's about the only 'proper' pair of navy trousers I have, somewhat appropriate for summer. I wear these in small doses though. Church was only 2 hours and after that I went straight home and changed. Viscose may be light, but, it is not breathable. Be prepared to sweat profusely if you're caught wearing viscose. Just because they are viscose it doesn't mean I will get rid of them however. I just need to know the time, place and duration I can wear them whenever the need arises. This does mean that I should step up my efforts to purchase linen, cotton and tropical wool trousers for wear in summer which will be much more appropriate.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.