All Ties Are Not Created Equally

Grab a tie from your closet. Well, hopefully it’s there, hung neatly on a tie rack or draped over a wood hanger. Or, you might roll your ties and store them in a dresser drawer. Regardless your preference, grab one and place it face down on a table so you’re looking at the backside (the side with the tags).

Study it. There’s a story in your tie. At least in how it was constructed. Commercially-made neckwear — perhaps most you own — is fashioned from

The Story of Thomas Mason Fabrics

The finest shirting fabrics 1701 carries are Thomas Mason fabrics. Thomas Mason is one of the most well known names when it comes to shirts, but is not necessarily explained as to why it’s great. It almost seems like in fashion you can put someone’s name in front of a product and that gives you rights to mark up 10 times.

But Thomas Mason is a different animal.

Classic gray, seen here in Super 130's cloth from Vitale Barberis, is one of the 3 essential suits every man should own. It's the perfect compliment to any skin tone and can easy take you from the board room to dinner. Opting for a high twist, year-round fabric will ensure the suit is never uncomfortable or out of place. It's versatility at its best. 

Shirt Maintenance: How To Properly Clean Your Shirts

Shirt Maintenance: How To Properly Clean Your Shirts

As with everything, there are tradeoffs in the amount of time you want to spend on something versus the results you’re getting.

If you want perfect shirts every single time, you have to wash them yourself. If you don’t want to spend that time, you can take them to a dry cleaner, but they are not going to look as good as if you cleaned them yourself.

The Best Suit Fabrics for Summer

The Best Suit Fabrics for Summer

Summer heat can pose a challenge to those of us that wear suits everyday, and as the temperatures heat up, we’re often asked for recommendations on the types of fabrics to create some lightweight, breathable suits. The fabrics we always recommend for summer are high twist fabrics, linen, cotton, and blended fabrics.

A Brief History of the Modern Day Suit

In 1892, a man named Keir Hardie showed up to his first day of British Parliament wearing a tweed, working-man’s three piece suit known as a lounge suit.

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Above: Keir Hardie

While this event may seem quite innocuous, at the time, it represented a big change in fashion and class. Before Hardie’s suit, lounge suits were exclusively worn by the working class, as this was the only affordable menswear out there.

The upper classes and members of Parliament wore frock coats, which were coat-skirt hybrids that paid homage to petticoat breeches, the large coats/dresses you would see men wear in Victorian times.

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Above: Frock Coat
Below: Petticoat Breeches

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When Hardie entered Parliament in 1892 wearing the uniform of the working man, it changed the dynamics of style and politics. The lounge suit instantly identified Hardie as a member of the working class, and as someone that would fight for working class ideals. Hardie was really the first politician to begin the tradition of using clothes to appeal to voters.

Hardie went on to found the Labour Party of Britain and Hardie’s contribution to the world of fashion is little known, as this contribution was overshadowed later on in the beginning of the 20th Century by the Duke of Windsor.

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The Duke of Windsor was one of the first to pick up on this trend of looking like the common-people and certainly popularized it. At one point, the Duke was the most photographed man in the world and this popularity allowed him to set the benchmarks for fashion.

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The most popular contribution of the Duke’s was his use of the Windsor knot. The knot was supposedly invented by his father, King George V. But the Duke also popularized four-button double-breasted jackets, the modern day tuxedo, as well as the usage of midnight blue in tuxedos and other stylistic choices such as pocket flaps.

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Since the Duke’s popularity in the 1920s and 30s, the modern day lounge suit has become the standard of menswear, and has virtually remained unchanged.

How Jacket Shoulders Should Fit

Shoulders are one of the most integral piece of a suit that determines whether it fits you right.

You can spot the shoulders from a mile off, and if they don’t fit right, you could be wearing a $2000 fabric and it’ll still look like crap.

I’m going to detail how we fit shoulders and the five different ways you can customize your shoulders.

How Shoulders Should Fit

The easiest way to determine how your shoulder should fit is if you stand next to a wall with your jacket on and gently lean so your shoulder touches the wall. Your shoulder muscle should be the first thing that touches the wall – not the fabric of your shoulder. If the shoulder fabric touches the wall before your shoulder, then the shoulder does not fit you right.

Here are some examples of shoulders that fit right:

Bad Fit:

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As you can see from the image above, the shoulder that is too big creates a divot right  underneath the shoulder pad.

Perfect Fit:


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The perfect fitting shoulder creates no divot, and has an effortless flow of fabric from edge of the shoulder to the shoulder muscle in the sleeve.

How to Fit Shoulders

To get this perfect fit, we rely heavily on the bones in the shoulder blades.

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To be specific, we’re looking for the acromion bone. You can feel your acromion when you touch your shoulder – the acromion is the the last bone before the drop-off to your shoulder muscle.

Measuring the shoulders is as simple as measuring from one acromion to the next.

Some people like a bit bigger shoulders, and we certainly accommodate for our clients’ own style, so depending on that, we’ll add a half of a centimeter to a centimeter to each shoulder if our client prefers a  more traditional shoulder.

Types of Shoulders

We offer five different types of shoulders:

 

  • Soft

  • Roped

  • Traditional

  • Unpadded

  • Unpadded with spalla camicia

Soft

Soft shoulders are characterized by little to no roll from the shoulder pad to the fabric of the sleeve. In the image below you can see that the shoulder continues uninterrupted into the sleeve. This shoulder has padding but is about half as much as the padding in a traiditonal shoulder.

 

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The soft shoulder is considered to be more of an American style, and is popular among suit connoisseurs.

Roped

Roped shoulders literally looks like a rope is in between the shoulder pad and the sleeve. In the image below, you will see a hump between the shoulder and the sleeve, where the shoulder is roped. Note: A properly fit roped shoulder will not create a shoulder divot.

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The roped shoulder is considered to be an Italian-style shoulder. You’ll generally see roped shoulders & traditional shoulders on older gentlemen that have been wearing suits for decades. When fit right, roped & traditional emphasizes the size of the shoulders and accentuates a masculine silhouette.

Traditional

Our traditional shoulders are a mix between roped & soft. As you can see from the image below, the traditional has a far less of a hump, but still maintains the roped look. This type of shoulder is considered to be a British-style and is a look that can’t go wrong.

 

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Unpadded & Unpadded with Spalla Camicia

Unpadded shoulders are all in the title; no pads in these shoulders whatsoever. That means the jacket comfortably sits on your shoulders almost like a shirt would.

The difference between unpadded & unpadded with spall camicia are little imperfections in the shoulders.

 

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With spalla camicia, the end of the sleeve - where it connects to the shoulder – flares out similar to the bell of a trumpet. When the sleeve is connected, the extra fabric bunches up in the shoulders, creating tiny imperfections in the shoulder. These imperfections are considered to be a sign of a well-constructed suit.

 

All of our shoulders will have a little bit of spalla camicia added to them, but our unpadded spalla camicia shoulders emphasize these imperfections.

How To Use Color to Compliment Your Complexion

Today is about color. Color is a subject that only a handful of men know about and incorporate into their style. Colors that work best for me? What?

This is something every guy should know a little bit about. When you wear a color that compliments your skin and your hair, people notice and come up to you and say, “Wow, that’s a really great color on you!” Wearing the right color will make you look more attractive.

It enhances your features you already have.

And wearing the wrong color, especially if you have fair hair and fair skin, can completely wash you out, making you blend in with the beige walls at work.

The main idea is you want people to look at your face, and then your clothes. So you want to balance the contrast of the clothes you wear to your complexion.The way to fit the right color to your complexion is:

Determine the contrast of your hair & skin. For easier discussion, let’s group the different levels of contrast into three groups: high contrast, medium contrast and low contrast.

  • High contrast is when a person has light skin and dark hair. Africans as well as Eastern Asian skin types are considered high contrast..

  • Low contrast is when a person has light skin and light hair. Anderson Cooper is a perfect example of low contrast.

  • Medium contrast is are tan-skinned brown haired people. Bradley Cooper, Brad Pitt, etc.

Find out what colors go well to fit your contrast. Remember, the idea is to draw the eye your face, and not the color of your clothes.

For high contrast, this means dressing in darker colored suits. Check out this comparison of Jon Hammk:

In the first picture, he’s wearing a low contrast outfit, which makes him look pale. There’s barely any color differentiation between his shirt and suit, which contrasts with his off-white skin. In the second picture the contrast of his dark suit and light shirt matches the contrast of his hair and and skin, and the dark tie, helps frame his face.

For medium contrast, you can do anything you want. Ya bastards. You look good in everything. You generally don’t have to worry so much about colors washing you out, but stay away from extremely contrasting colors, like black & white, as they can draw attention away from your face. Check out this example of Bradley Cooper.


.The first picture he’s in a tux. It’s no big deal, but your eyes are drawn towards his tux rather than the face. In the second picture, he has a lighter jacket on and his face is the center of attention.

For low contrast, you’re going to want to look for earthy tones and blues that will help balance out your skin color. Avoid too dark of colors that contrast with your skin, and avoid light colors that blend in your with your skin. Blues are you friend – as well as earthy tones such as green and burgundy.

 

Here’s a great example: Aaron Staton who plays Ken Cosgrove on madmen.


The first picture, his the stark contrast between his shirt and his jacket does his complexion no favors whatsoever. But in the second picture, the nice base of a brown suit with a light blue shirt really brings out his complexion and compliments his hair.

Now a lot of this is really subjective, so you’ll hear varying advice all around. But the basics in this post should get you on the right track to wearing colors that emphasize your skin tone.

World War II and Fashion

Most people may not think about it, but World War II affected nearly every industry in the entire world - entire production styles were invented to make-do with limited resources, edicts were imposed on populations to control how products were made, and what many people may not realize is that communications between people and industries in different countries were cut off for a significant periods of time.


The fashion industry is one of those industries that changed dramatically because of World War II. When the United States joined the war in 1941, Stanley Marcus, son of Neiman-Marcus co-founder Herbert Marcus, was brought into the Oval Office by Franklin Roosevelt and was asked to devise a plan to get civilians to buy less fabric in order to supply the military.

 

Here’s Marcus looking like a Bond villain:


In order to supply the military, Marcus & Roosevelt devised a plan to “freeze the fashion silhouette” industry in place, to prevent the urge from consumers to buy new clothing. This meant that Marcus would convince designers to reuse previous designs, so men and women would not feel pressure to buy new clothes.


We settled on certain prohibitions, such as lengths, sleeve fullness, patch pockets, ensembles, sweeps of skirts, widths of belts and depth of hems. … The restrictions we put into effect froze the fashion silhouette. It effectively prevented any change of skirt length downward and it blocked any extreme new sleeve or collar development, which might have encouraged women to discard existing clothes. - Stanley Marcus


To aid in the goal of conserving material, the War Productions Board was created and from 1942-1945, the WPB came up with a list came up with specific lists and edicts that were imposed on companies of every industry on how to build their products and what materials could be used. In the world of fashion, it consisted of how much fabric could be used for specific garments and what types of garments could be sold.


In March of 1942, the WPB passed regulation L-85, which banned the use of natural fibers and controlled nearly every aspect of clothing manufacture, even down to the number of buttons that could be on a jacket.


As a result, we saw hemlines come up in women, and in mens suits, what is known as a Victory Suit – a suit using limited fabric – was promoted. The main feature of this suit was the single-breasted closure, along with a narrow lapel, no pleats, no cuffs, and no waistcoat. Before the war, it was typical to receive a waistcoat and a second pair of trousers with the purchase of a suit, but war-time restriction eliminated this tradition.


The Victory Suit was widely unpopular, and there was a strong reaction by youth-culture to the Suit with the continuing popularity of the zoot suit, which featured excessive amounts of fabric, big shoulders, wide lapels, baggy pants with cuffs, and often times a large hat. Wearing a zoot suit during the sanctions of the War Productions board was considered to be nearly-criminal, and in some places it was. More on zoot suits here.


The fountainhead of style, Paris, was also greatly affected by the war, which resulted in the rise of the American designer influence. In 1940, Germany invaded France, forcing many fashion designers to flee Paris and set up shop in New York. But not all designers made it out of France, and because of the war, and many simply closed up shop – one such famous shop being Coco Chanel. No longer were American designers, editors, and buyers traveling to Paris fashion shows.


Correspondingly, American designers stepped up with their own designs and increased their influence on men and women fashion in the US. American designers were now being credited by name in magazines like Vogue and they relocated the capital of fashion to New York.


The American style, heavily influenced by the zoot suit, really took form after the war ended and the WPB was disbanded. A toned-down zoot suit became popular when the fabric limitations were lifted; double breasted suits became popular with large lapels, big buttons, wide ties, and ostentatious gold chains.


With the spread of American soldiers all over the world as a result of the war and post-war military bases, the entire world was now seeing American soldiers wearing American-designed clothing, and with the brief exit of Paris from the world of fashion, New York became the powerhouse of fashion it is today.

Zoot Suits: Rebellion in a Suit


When you say the word zoot suit, I think of two things: Jim Carrey’s character in the Mask and the Cherry Poppin’ Daddy’s song, “Zoot Suit Riot.” I think of comical, over-sized suits, and really, when I think of 20th Century fashion, the zoot suit seems about as influential as the flock of seagulls haircut.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, the zoot suit was a polarizing form of fashion, that was very influential in shaping the second half of the century’s mens suits, and many considered the zoot suit to be a symbol of political resistance, and rebellion against the mainstream culture.

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The zoot suit was originally worn by jazz musicians, African-Americans and Mexican-Americans in the late 1930s. Nobody is too sure who originated the look or where it came from – some suggest it was Toddy Elkus, a Detroit designer, that first created the zoot suit in 1939, calling it the Thunderbird. Or it might have been Harold C. Fox, a clothier and trumpeter from Chicago that made the suit. Or maybe it was Louis Lettes, a Memphis tailor.

Either way, the main characteristics of a zoot suit were established as a jacket with wide and low lapels, exaggerated shoulders, and cut very long, sometimes down to the knee. The trousers were characterized by the high waist, low crotch, and cuffs that tapered as close as possible to the ankle.

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This look soon gained popularity with the hipsters of the day, African-Americans and Mexican-Americans, as well as dancers and musicians.

Then came World War II.

In 1942, the US War Productions Board passed edicts inside the US mandating fabric buying ceilings for clothiers and regulating the garment manufacturing process, going as far to ban pleats & cuffs on pants,

At a time when the government was promoting conserving fabric and banned pleats, cuffs and long jackets, wearing a zoot suit suddenly became illicit, subversive, and a sign of criminal activity. Yet many groups of African-Americans and Mexican-Americans and jazz musicians still wore their zoot suits with pride, getting their suits from underground garment stores.

This lack of patriotism, mixed with racism, led to greater tensions in major cities between whites, Mexican immigrants, and blacks. In Los Angeles, the tensions overflowed into the streets in what is known as the Zoot Suit Riots.

In the summer of 1942, a gang of zoot-suited Mexican-Americans known as the 38th Street Gang, led by local tough-guy Hank Leyvas, started a fight at a birthday party resulting in the death of 22 year old Jose Diaz. The story riled up the media, the governor and the LAPD, who blamed juvenile delinquency and proceeded to round up 600 zoot-suited Mexican-Americans in connection to the murder.

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Eventually, 17 Mexican-Americans were charged with Diaz’s death, including life in prison for Leyvas. This spawned outrage in many Mexican-Americans, activists, hipsters, and celebrities, who claimed the youths were not given a fair trial, but also garnered the outrage of white communities and sailors, who thought of the zoot-suited youth as criminals

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Over the course of the trial and conviction, many fights and miniature riots broke out in Los Angeles. Fueled by alcohol and the plethora of sailors on leave in Los Angeles, it became commonplace to read reports of sailors with clubs beating Mexican-Americans and ripping off their zoot suits.

The culmination of these fights was the Zoot Suit Riot, which lasted between May 30 and June 8 in 1943, when a vicious fight broke out between a group of zoot-suited Mexican Americans and a group of sailors and soldiers. Rumors of the fight spread throughout the bases in Los Angeles in the preceding days, resulting in a retaliatory strike.

On June 3, a group of 50 sailors and soldiers marched throughout Los Angeles, pulling zoot-suited Mexican Americans from theaters and restaurants, tearing their suits off their bodies, and beating them. Clashes between Mexican-Americans and sailors & soldiers grew larger and larger over the course of the next few days.

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Military commander Clarence Flogg reported that there were “hundreds of servicemen prowling downtown Los Angeles mostly on foot – disorderly – apparently on the prowl for Mexicans.”

PBS puts it best:

The worst violence occurred on Monday, June 7. One Los Angeles paper printed a guide on how to "de-zoot” a zoot suiter: “Grab a zooter. Take off his pants and frock coat and tear them up or burn them.” That night a crowd of 5,000 civilians gathered downtown. By this time the mob was no longer made up of only sailors from the Armory. Soldiers, Marines, and sailors from other installations as far away as Las Vegas eagerly joined in the assaults. Part of the mob headed south for the predominantly African American section of Watts and another group headed east for Mexican American East Los Angeles.

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On June 8, military officials banned soldiers and sailors from Los Angeles city streets and LA City Council passed a measure banning zoot suits.

However, less than a month later, the movie “Stormy Weather” was released. One of the more famous scenes in Stormy Weather included Cab Calloway singing “Geechy Joe” in his all white zoot suit. In the film,

http://youtu.be/RlE-Zv4Pyhk

Movies like Stormy Weather cemented the zoot suit in jazz culture, and wowed the mainstream, white culture,  gaining great acceptance and influencing mens suiting.

After World War II ended and fabric bands were lifted, the style of mainstream suits reflected zoot suits in their large lapels and wide shoulders. In 1948, Esquire released their new look which they called The Bold Look – eerily similar to the zoot suit.

The latter half of the 20th-Century saw shoulders getting bigger and bigger until the shoulder revolution of the mid-90s, and while most do not give credit to the zoot suit for influencing 20th Century fashion, certainly a case can be made that the zoot suit is the most influential garb of the 20th-Century.

Sources: http://www.nytimes.com/1996/08/04/opinion/zoot-suit-required-cutting-and-cajoling.html

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/zoot/eng_peopleevents/e_riots.html

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/zoot/eng_peopleevents/e_murder.html

The Dandy Man Can: Beau Brummel

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Funny how language changes. Words that were offensive yesteryear are common place and innocuous now, and vice versa; seemingly banal words back then can be distasteful. In reading about suits, one such word that I’ve become interested in is the word ‘dandy.’

Today, most associate the word ‘dandy’ with being an effeminate male – limp wristed, lanky, probably shaves his chest. But back in the late 1700s, dandy was a term for a fashionista.

To quote the great scottish writer Thomas Carlyle:

“A Dandy is a clothes-wearing Man, a Man whose trade, office and existence consists in the wearing of clothes.”

The term first came into fashion with someone who many consider to be the first dandy; Beau Brummell.

Brummell was a man that loved fashion and pioneered the modern day suit. But born into a middle-class family, Brummell was not afforded the luxury to wear fine clothes, as many did in that day. Influenced by his father in his yearning to join the elite of society, the well-to-do gentlemen who were educated and well-dressed, Beau had a sense of style that was unmatched with other middle-class families and he quickly stood out.

When Brummell joined the military at the age of 16, joining the future king, and current Prince of Wales, George IV’s regiment – who were known for their many costume variations – it was expected for officers to provide their own uniforms – I know, weird, huh? Brummell’s dress became the center of attention in his regiment, and allowed him to create a friendship with George IV that allowed him to become the future king’s personal clothier.

After the military, Brummell, along with King George IV, began to popularize the modern suit: trousers covering the entire leg, a matching jacket, a white linen shirt, and of course, an ascot.

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But where did this bad connotation come from with the word dandy? Along with being well dressed, Brummell was also known for his long and daily toilette rituals, which could take up to 5 hours. Yes – that man was standing in front of a mirror staring at himself for at least 5 hours a day, followed by a marathon of clothes shopping in the afternoon.

Those that were dandy’s were known to be obsessed with their appearance and clearly had no time for the regular work of the everyday man.

Keep in mind, these were the waning days of the aristocracy – and to have the luxurious amount of time to keep up your appearance was envied.

But now, because our society seems to be chock-full of leisure time, it is fashionable to have workmen value and attributes: strong work ethic, tan skin, big muscles, limited-concern with appearance.

And although the term dandy would be considered an insult today, if you’re a well-dressed man, the suits you wear pay tribute Brummell – the dandy man.