Thursday, July 30, 2015

Style: Avoid These Mistakes

I have been meaning to do this post for a very long time especially after what happened yesterday, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on some mistakes we make when dressing. There are menswear rules and for a long time they were cast in stone, however, over the time the stone has been eroded so much that menswear has become very personal and subjective. Men get dressed in whatever they want, however they want, without any regard for the rules or maybe a lack of knowing the rules. I've been thinking about it and these are seven style mistakes a gent should avoid perpetrating.

1. Leaving the stitched-on label on a jacket sleeve. Some gents don't know that the label on the sleeve should be removed, some leave it there in order to flash the brand name of the suit. In actual fact the label has to be removed. Rather let the suit as a whole speak for itself and not the label.

2. Socks that are not over the calf. From personal experience I can say that this is a pet peeve of mine. I really doubt that the average South African man is privy to how wonderful and useful over the calf socks are. Ankle high and calf length socks just don't suffice because they expose a man's shin, which can be quite unsightly. Over the calf socks don't necessarily cause warmth to the leg. In the right fabric it can be warm or cool, depending on the weather. Another factor to consider in the scarcity of over the calf socks could be the fact that they are difficult to find.

3. Undershirt with inscriptions under a shirt. Nothing is quite unsightly like a bright t-shirt worn as a vest/ undershirt under a shirt. Plain white vests made from cotton with perforations all over are meant for this purpose. More often than not the inscriptions are visible and sometimes unsavoury. Some gents can't wear a vest and will opt for a t-shirt, if you must then go for a white one. This also goes for wearing a crew-neck t-shirt under an open neck shirt, if the t-shirt protrudes from under the shirt then it will spoil your whole aesthetic.

4. Tie and shirt only. This look is incomplete because it's missing a jacket. I think it's permissible for boys in their late teens, however, for a young man fresh out of graduate school entering the workforce there is a variety of inexpensive suits and sports jackets to choose from. Without a jacket you're constantly having to tuck in your shirt and so many foibles that would be hidden by a jacket are exposed.

5. Over accessorising. This has become an affectation that has taken away from the essence of dressing and has bordered on gaudy. Nothing has become more ubiquitous and boring quite like flower lapels. They are everywhere. There was a time when I was really into them but they weren't readily available, this was probably four to five years ago. I don't own any and I'm I don't. But this is not only about flower lapels it's about all these accessories men wear to embellish their look. Everything should be done in moderation because as the adage says 'less is more'.

6. Peek-a-boo look. I thought this look stopped when I ceased to be a hip-hop head. But this is when someone is wearing a sweater over a dress shirt and it's untucked, with the shirt tail and front hem hanging below and exposed. We'll give hip-hop heads a pass but, the style conscious gent shouldn't be dressing this way. Keep it tucked in and tasteful.

7. Short jacket and long sleeves. This is a matter of style and proportion. I find some jacket designs to be a little off because you find the sleeves slightly long but the jacket to be short so much so it exposes the rear. This is wrong in a way because the length of the jacket and the sleeves are out of proportion. The jacket sleeves should be long enough to expose two inches of shirt cuff and the jacket long enough to cover your rear.

These are just my observations and I wonder if any of you gents feel the same way?

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pick Of The Week: Ben Sherman Crew Neck Jumper

Ben Sherman Crew Neck Jumper

I have a love-hate relationship with clothing in general. One time I may like a certain article of clothing, then another time I may dislike it. This goes especially for clothing that I initially dislike and then over time I start gravitating towards it. This can be said for this week's pick of the week: The Ben Sherman crew neck jumper. I can honestlty say that this design of a jumper hasn't been my favourite for a long time. It's only this year that I started giving it some serious attention, especially because of the way it enhances an outfit overall. My favourite jumper all these years has been a V-neck, simply because of the way it enhances the aesthetic and the way it looks, however, I'm convinced that a crew neck deserves the same if not more consideration.

This one by Ben Sherman is made of 100% cotton, it has ribbing on the cuff and the hem, and it also has a chest pocket. I would consider it a casual piece because of the way it's designed. It's great for layering under a jacket, top coat or some kind of outerwear. It looks set for sporty weekend wear as well. One other thing I like about a crew neck jumper is the fact that it holds a shirt collar in, you don't get the collar falling outside of the jumper creating an untidy look. My favourite way to wear any of these jumpers would be with chinos or jeans and a khaki camel top coat, fnished off with come chukka boots.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Brands: The Great American Shoe Company

It was two years ago in October 2013, I was jogging in Hyde Park down Jan Smuts Avenue, when I came across a billboard with a list of shops in a particular centre. One name caught my attention: Allen Edmonds, The Great American Shoe Company. It goes without saying that I was incredulous. I couldn't believe what my eyes were showing me; Allen Edmonds was and is available in South Africa. Naturally, my curiosity had been piqued and I had to take a closer when I had time. When I visited the store, I set up an appointment with one of the owners and scheduled to visit for an interview later on in the month. Unfortunately, I didn't make it and when 2014 also passed without a visit, I made it a point to revisit and schedule another interview in 2015.

When I made a stop in March this year, during a 5 day visit in Johannesburg, Richard Kushlick didn't remember me. So, I had to start afresh, introduce myself, what I do and why I was interested in Allen Edmonds. We set up a time for the following day and while he continued with his day's procedings, I proceeded to browse the store again and take pictures.

Richard Kushlick and Tyrone Ridgway are the owners and licensed distributors of Allen Edmonds in South Africa. The brand however, has a history in this country which dates back to the 1960s. In those days AE was very popular among black men and it was also easily available through a wholesale distributor in Johannesburg. The main retailers during that time were City Hall, City Outfitters, and Kayser. The distribution and retailing continued from the 60s to the late 80s. In the early 90s AE was discontinued in South Africa due to political unrest and sanctions; and for 15 years AE was not available in the country.

In the mid 2000s the AE brand returned to the country and a distribution license was granted for Sub Saharan Africa; the DRC, Angola, Botswana, and South Africa are where they can be found in Africa. The lack of widespread distribution throughout the continent is due to the fact that AE is strict about where it can be located and its shoes sold. In South Africa the situation is rather peculiar because there are distribution outlets in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, and they can also be found at Spitz stores ( I never knew this and I surely didn't fathom this kind of relationship). Spitz stores in Sandton, Eastgate, Rosebank, Menlyn, V&A Waterfront, and Century City, are where you can find AE.

Mr Kushlick and Mr Ridgway are well versed about the AE brand and are proud and ready to intimate to anyone about the brand, its heritage, history and how wonderful the shoes are. Mr Kushlick went on to tell me about the beauty of AE shoes in that they are classic, timeless, have a market in South Africa, and that they haven't even scraped the surface of the brand's potential because it is still in its developmental stages.

 I asked about their relationship with the headquarters in Wisconsin, USA, and he said that they received full, extensive and on-going training from the Allen Edmonds University. This is where staff get trained on sales, distribution and customer service. Training for other retailers such as Spitz is expensive and is mostly centred around the overall AE customer experience. Therefore there might be a difference in the customer experience because with retailers it might be clinical but with the AE brand it is centred and focused on the overall experience.

Talking about growth of the business Mr Kushlick informed me that 10% of sales are from outside the US and 15% are online. There is also immense interest and buying power from markets such as China, Russia, France, and England. Mr Kushlick was bold in his assertion that AE has the potential to match Carvela in terms of popularity and sales.

One thing I wanted to know was the relationship between Allen Edmonds and Horween. Exactly how they fit together. Simply put, the Horween Leather Company supplies leather shells for footwear to Allen Edmonds. Horween is mostly known for its Shell Cordovan, which is a leather made from horse hide. Horween deal mostly in horse and cow hide in producing leather goods. The importance of shell cordovan is in its longevity. Shell cordovan shoes can last more than 20 years, and this is evident with AE shoes.

Apart from the top quality leather used for AE shoes, their construction is also of the highest standard. AE shoes are both Goodyear welted and hand sewn. There's a look and feel about welted shoes and when you try them on they feel solid.

The AE Dalton brogue boot made me rethink my stance on its suitability for a suit. My experience has always been via pictures on the internet and to me it always appeared as rather chunky, heavy and thick soled, which made it very unsuitable for business dress. My views changed however,when I saw it up close and felt it. It's very light and slim. I was truly surprised especially the fact it looked very dressy despite the broguing. Mr Ridgway expressed that what makes the Dalton such a unique boot is the character of the leather, the toebox, and its patina. It's the perfect boot for autumn and winter.

Part of the customer experience at AE is the fitting process. Mr Kuchlick stated that they may ask a customer what size he wears but they determine the customer's real size. The image above shows the foot measuring device which is used to measure the customer's foot so that the proper size can be ascertained. It is a meticulous process because the foot is measured from all angles. Factors that are considered in the measuring process are the fit, whether the arch of the foot is low or high, the length and width measurement, the flex point of the foot and shoe, as well as an assessment of the depth of the foot.

AE also has its own repair service called recrafting. This is when a shoe is sent to the AE factory for repairs in order to extend the life of the shoes. Recrafting can be done to restore the leather of the upper or replacing of the sole. It costs up to R1700 and despite the high price you're guaranteed an extra 20 years to your AEs.

Surprisingly, most of the AE clientele is black and they comprise 70% of the customer base. The remaining 30% is largely a racial mix. The fact that the brand has a history steeped in heritage, and products made of the highest quality, is what endears it to black customers who are in the 30-35 year bracket.

For me, this was a great lesson and wonderful insight into this venerable American brand. When I asked Mr Kushlick about their customer retention he said that the first encounter with a customer is about getting their buy-in, but he has full confidence in the brand because an AE customer is a customer for life.

Allen Edmonds can be located at Bakos Brothers, 226 Jan Smuts Avenue, Randburg.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Reader Question: Shirt & Pocket Square For Grey Suit And Tan Shoes?

photo supplied by reader

Hi Mxolisi

I want to wear this gray suit with brown shoes, tan specifically. What colour shirt and pocket hanky would go with it? I don't want to wear a tie.

Please give me some options. 

Appreciate it.


Hi L.N.

There are a lot of shirt styles and colours you can wear with a combination of a grey suit and tan shoes. Firstly, that shade of grey complements tan wonderfully. I couldn't have picked a better combination.

Allow me to dissuade you from going for a solid colour shirt in the proverbial white, light blue or tan/ mustard shade, they are incredibly boring especially when you are trying to be creative with an outfit. My first piece of advice would be to go for something with colour and a pattern since the suit is a solid grey. A striped shirt with a candy or a Bengal stripe would do the trick especially since you want to go sans tie. I’d venture to say that these two stripes exude a casual vibe as opposed to a dress or hairline stripe. Try a white shirt with navy or red or sky blue stripes. I advise you to try these colours because your tan shoes deserve immense consideration. You don’t want your shirt to clash with the colour of your shoes since the suit already complements them. Consistency is key.

Since you won't be wearing a tie I'd say make sure you take care of the little details that can make or break your outfit. Try and get a shirt with a high collar (not the ones with all sorts of buttons, extra collar leafs with different colours or, where the collar is so high it hides your neck) I'm referring to the kind that will stand it's ground against the collar of your jacket. Nothing screams unpolished quite like a floppy shirt collar buckling and disappearing under the pressure of a jacket. Collar stays, magnetic ones particularly, can help you in this regard because they hold the shirt collar up thus ensuring that it doesn't flop. In the event that they aren't an option then your safest bet would be a button down shirt.

I dare you to try a denim shirt. In the conventional dark blue, preferably button down. Not only would this be a distinguishing feature but, it would be the mark of a gent well versed in personal style. You could then finish off this combination with a pair of tan shoes (lace-ups or monk straps) in suede. That would be suave. That's why I’m daring you!

With regards to the pocket square, here you can go bold. So go for something patterned, not conventional patterns like checks, stripes, etc. but try something with pin/ polka dots, paisley, or a border. It’s not a must that it matches the shirt or suit but it must complement them by staying in the colour scheme and creating a perfect harmony. For me, my picks would be something with a touch of pink or a white pocket square with a contrasting border, or polka dots in the same colour schemes. Try to incorporate bright colours that complement your suit, shirt, and shoes. Ultimately, your choice of pocket square is broad and this is where you get to be most creative.

You will notice that I didn't suggest a checked shirt or anything of the sort, that's is because I find them a little difficult to work with because your look will appear incomplete without a tie. A striped shirt gives you better options.

Good luck and I hope everything works out!

                                                            PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Brands: RANGE Minimalist Card Holder

One thing I've come to learn over the years is that at some point a gent has to be organised, in all aspects of his life. Being organised makes life so much simpler, less complicated; this also extends to one's accessories as well. A case in point has been my card holder. I have always stored my cards in a wallet and have done this for many years. This wasn't right though because the cards were filling the wallet and the wallet didn't have enough space to accomodate everything, thus resulting in the dreaded bulge. The Range Leather Company however, came calling at the right time because they offered me something I didn't know I needed, a card holder. It's simple, easy to use and very practical. 

The Range card holder features a double sided insert for cards, thick stitching along the seam, and this is done on tan leather. I haven't had it for a long time, just under a month, but I can attest to it's quality simply because the leather is Horween leather. Horween leather is reputed to be some of the best in the world and it is used by some of the best leather goods manufacturers as well. I know I will be using this card holder for years to come. It's small size makes it ideal for carrying in the pocket, it can also fit in the ticket pocket of a jacket. So, it goes without saying that it fits into all categories of what a card holder ought to have. I currently have cards for payments and business in it and it suits me just fine.

This is just an illustration of what I was using since 2012 in comparison with the Range card holder. Notice how much smaller the Range is but, fulfills its purpose a lot more than the money bag on the left. The money bag was shorter in length and thus couldn't hold my cards properly. I always had to squeeze them in and out. Things are simpler now, thanks to the Range card holder. I definitely give this product the Perfect Gentleman stamp of approval.

You can check the Range Leather Comapny website here for details and prices.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.