Monday, April 5, 2010

Ties, Part II

As mentioned in the previous post, a tie and a collar should have about the same width for optimal effect. But what about the tie knot? Care should be taken here, as well. There are a number of ways to tie a knot, and I'll talk about the 3 most common here: The full Windsor, the half Windsor, and the four-in-hand. Each has it's place, and a few are more versatile than others.
full Windsor, half Windsor, four-in-hand

Full Windsor: Very symmetrical and the largest of the 3, it forms a wide triangle and is best suited for wearing with wider collars. Somewhat erroneously named for the Duke of Windsor, who liked to sport a large knot and so had extra-thick ties commissioned, which he tied with a four-in-hand knot, not a windsor. People who tried to emulate his big knot using normal sized ties originated the knot.
Pros: It tends to stay in place quite well and has a more formal appearance, making it the choice of many professionals.
Cons: Usually too symmetrical, making your look have an overly-studied appearance, like you spent an hour in front of the mirror. It looks best with wider collars, so it's versatility is limited. James Bond said in From Russia With Love that a Windsor was the mark of a traitor. The jury is still out on that.

Half Windsor: Also symmetrical but not as large as the Windsor.
Pros: Gives a neat appearance while not being as large as the Windsor, so it's more versatile. Can be worn with a wider variety of collars.
Cons: The symmetry issue, again.

Four-in-hand: The most common knot and maybe the easiest to tie. Its asymmetry, narrowness, and smaller size set it apart from the Windsors.
Pros: Gives variety to the otherwise symmetrical appearance of shirt collars and suit jacket lapels. With a tie that has good thickness, it produces a knot that is neither too large nor too small. Looks great with ties of all widths, and should be the only choice for narrower ties. It's typically the knot used with a more contemporary look.
Cons: If your tie has good thickness, the knot has great versatility. With thin (not narrow--thin) ties it makes a small knot. So the four-in-hand may be too small for wider collars if the tie isn't adequate.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Primer on Ties, part 1

Width. There are extremes on either side of the spectrum: The lobster bib sized 4.5 incher on one end, and the pencil-thin trendy tie on the other. I like to practice moderation when selecting a tie. Too wide and it's outdated and out of style. It also adds a visual element of width/girth that you probably don't want. The ultra-narrow ties are trendy and will likely cause "what was I thinking?" types of sentiments in the not-too-distant future. Better to stick to the safe zone of about 2.5 inches to 3.5 inches. An inch may not sound like much of a difference. It is. 2.5 inches wide is too narrow for some conservative types, but is a nice, contemporary look. 3.0 is a great middle ground: it looks contemporary without coming off as trendy. 3.5 is a classic choice for guys who want a bit wider tie without looking like it's been in their closet since 1997.

Remember: your suit lapels should be around the same width as your tie, and your shirt collar should follow the same rules as well. For consistency in your look, narrow tie>>narrow lapels>>narrow shirt collar, and the same for wider ties, lapels, and shirt collars.

A great tie has a good shape. After the tie is knotted, the tie gradually gets to it's maximum width. Skinny at the top and wide at the bottom is not good--while there should be some difference between the width of the tie up by the collar and the width at the bottom of the tie, it's not a drastic change.

Next up in part 2: How to pick your knot.

Some good examples of width: Note how the width of the tie matches the shirt collar. When knotted, these will look consistent, regardless of the spread of the collar.

A few bad examples: When knotted, these ties will be too narrow compared to the shirt collar. The smaller knot yielded by the narrower tie will look oddly small next to these long collars.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Helpful Tip for Trousers

It's frustrating to go to the closet and find your trousers in a heap on the floor after they've fallen off the hanger, as they are prone to do. Or worse, when you're traveling and and they've slipped off and are amassed at the bottom of the garment bag. Wrinkled trousers don't make a great impression, needless to say. At least at home they have a chance to de-wrinkle after they've been rehung. Best to keep them on their hanger where they belong. You either need to upgrade your hanger, or try this useful tip, courtesy of Esquire:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Suit Fabric Overview

For those of us that enjoy dressing in a nice suit, it may be helpful to have a little education into the background and definitions surrounding the fabric of what we love to wear.

Wearing suits began at roughly the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, at the end of the eighteenth century. At that time the British Isles dominated the world in the production of wool. Wool comes from sheep. The first step is called "carding," where the wool is scraped together into long strands. There are two basic types of wool: woollen and worsted.
- WOOLEN: This type of wood is coarse and heavy. Carding is all that is done to refine the wool. The result is used for sweaters, tweek, flannel, and meltons.
- WORSTED: After its been carded it is combed to make the fibers more parallel with fewer exposed ends, resulting in smoother strands. These strands are then tightly twisted to make very long, fine strands.

This raises the issue of the term "Super" as in "Super 120's." The first usage of this term came from the Ermenegildo Zegna factory in the northern Italy village of Trivero. The introduced the term "Super 80's" denoting that their wool was 18 micron's in diameter. The number refers to the diameter of the wool, not the thread count. The higher the number advertised, the finer the wool, although it is a marketing term, not an actual measurement.

Regardless of the Super count, there are 3 types of worsted wool that are typically used in suits.
- Merino: It's a type of sheep. Wool from merino sheep create the softest, most expensive wool for suits.
- Cashmere: This is an even finer hair, from Himalayan goats.
- Angora: From Angora goats, in Turkey

Wool is dyed before it is woven, thus the phrase "dyed in the wool." This results in a more consistent and permanent dye (as opposed to dying the wool after it's been woven into fabric. Patterns are then created from weaving wool yarns of different colors and textures.
- Hopsack: a course, loose weave
- Flannel: a loose term for any fabric with a smooth, napped surface
- Twill: a weave that makes a diagonal line
- Gabardine: made from a tight twill weave
- Houndstooth: a twill variation, made of jagged, broken checks
- Herringbone: made by alternating the direction of two twill patterns to make a 'V' pattern
- Glenplaid: a pattern of small checks alternating with large squares
- Windowpane: large, plain, open square pattern
- Pinstripe: solid wool with a fine stripe of a contrasting color
- Chalk stripe: Like a pinstripe, but with a less sharply defined line that may be faintly blurred or indistinct.

Wool suits are here to stay. Hopefully this little taste of wool education will help you better understand and appreciate the suits you enjoy so much.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nothing Suits Me Like A Suit

I know we are usually pretty serious on this blog, but I can't resist. A recent episode of How I Met Your Mother included a musical number entitled, "Nothing Suits Me Like A Suit." For those of you that don't watch this show, there is a character on the show that wears a suit all of the time. It's a major part of the character, and a recurring topic in the show. It's quite funny if you love suits like I do. This particular episode was hilarious. Enjoy the video.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Suit for Every Shape

A man looks his best when he's wearing a suit. A suit minimizes flaws and maximizes strengths. It makes you look better than anything else you could put on, if you know how to pick a suit that is right for your body shape. The wrong suit will do the opposite of what it's supposed to, and it's not just about the cut. Patterns and colors matter as well. Here is a guide on body shape to help you look your best.

The Square
The jacket should be long enough to cover your rear, but only just. Too long and your legs will be unfairly shortened. Get a 2 button with side flaps, pinstripes or solids are okay, make sure the lapels aren't too wide. Avoid anything horizontal--cuffs, wide square patterns in your suit or shirt, and horizontally striped ties. Go fitted anyplace you can--in the shoulders, the jacket waist, and the pants.

The Inverted V

If your largest area is your midsection, go for a 1 or 2 button jacket to elongate your torso. Pinstripes are also helpful. To offset your shape, opt for stronger shoulders and a wider lapel. V neck sweaters can be flattering. Dark solid colors for your suit are best. Like the square shapes, you should avoid horizontal lines. And baggy pants don't solve anything. The extra folds only break up the vertical lines your trying to create, so make them comfortable but as fitted as possible.

Tall and Skinny
You can wear a 3 button or a 2 button jacket, preferably with the buttons set a bit higher up on the 2 button. Brighter/bolder colors in the tie and shirt will draw attention to your upper body and help create breadth, as do square and plaid patterns. Solids are good, stripes only make you look taller and skinnier. Just because your skinny doesn't mean you need extra padding or extra cloth. Keep it fitted so it doesn't look like it's hanging off of you. Your pants should be pleatless. Cuffs are optional.

The Athletic V

If you're muscular, your suit should be fitted (notice the recurring theme? A suit with a nice silhouette is flattering, and doesn't have to be restrictive) but make sure biceps aren't detectable. A 2 button suit with narrower lapels goes with your body shape nicely. You can wear pinstripes, solids, and, depending on how wide you are, square and plaid patterns.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Removing Shoe Polish

I recently made the mistake of using a darker shade of brown than I intended on a medium brown pair of oxfords. I failed to follow my own advice to use neutral polish on light to medium brown shoes. Luckily it didn't make a huge difference, but it got me thinking about how to remove unwanted polish. If you're using a shoe polish like Kiwi or similar, chances are it's more of a colored wax than a stain or paint, which means it can be removed, at least to some degree. So if you've used the wrong shade or you've got too much build up--which inhibits the shoe from breathing as it should--you can get it back to where you want it to be. A few options to try:

1. Use hot water and wipe off the polish.
2. Use shoe cleaner to remove the polish. Apply a small amount of cleaner at a time and work it into the leather. Buff the cleaner (and the excess polish build up along with it) completely off.

Now you're ready to apply new polish. Shine your shoes regularly, but use a light coating. If you're too heavy handed you'll shorten the life of your shoes.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What's In A Suit? Contrasting different sources.

These days you can purchase a suit almost anywhere, including Wal-Mart. But not all suits are created equal. Below you can compare the different sources of suits, their features, benefits, and prices.

(Click to view larger)

I believe that the best value is in the third column. Here you get most of all of the benefits of a true bespoke suit at a fraction of the cost. If you're willing to shop around you can probably find a retailer with costs at or near those of upscale off-the-rack stores.

Friday, January 1, 2010

10 Style Tips for the New Year

1. Be sure 1/2 inch of your shirt cuff is visible when wearing a suit and your arms are hanging freely at your sides.

2. All your suits should have double vents (2 side vents) or a single vent in the middle. Reserve no-vent suits for waiters, weddings, and Miami Vice reunions.

3. Remember this: pant pleats are dead. All your pants should be flat front. If you must have a pleat, consider having inward-facing pleats. They tend to balloon less.

4. Try wearing brown shoes with grey suits. The darker the suit, the lighter the shade of brown. This rule applies to navy suits as well. In general, wear black shoes only with black suits.

5. Never button the bottom button on your single-breasted suits. Ever. By now you should only have 2-button or 3-button suits in your closet. Leave the bottom unbuttoned. If you are wearing a double-breasted suit, button all functioning buttons. For all suits - if you are standing, the suit should be buttoned. If sitting, unbuttoned. No exceptions.

6. The width of your jacket lapel should be similar to the width of your necktie. Remember, moderate to narrow ties are the current fashion.

7. Your pants should only have a single break at the shoe. No folds upon folds. The leaner the trouser cut, the less break you should have. But never more than a single break. Cuff or no-cuff? Either is acceptable.

8. Try a
vest. They are versatile and hip. They add several new options to your wardrobe. And they are currently fashionable, even with jeans. Tip: always leave the bottom button of your vest undone.

9. Get a
fitted dress shirt. Trust me - It's flattering. You'll know why men love them as soon as you get your own.

10. Buy a new suit in 2010. Expand your suit collection and push your personal style a little.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Building Your Suit Wardrobe

Every man should own a suit. If you are a regular to this blog, and others like it, you already own at least one suit - probably several. For the gentlemen building or overhauling their suit closet, here's our list of essentials, in order of preference (which should be purchased first, second, etc.)

1) Dark charcoal. Solid. Dark, but not black.
2) Navy. Solid.
3) Medium charcoal pinstripe.
4) Light grey (pinstripe, glen plaid, or solid)
5) Solid black.
6+) Anything you like, including sport coats, casual suits, or other whimsical indulgences. (Only now should you buy a brown suit.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

New Topcoat

In preparation for cold weather, I commissioned a new topcoat from our tailor. I've been enjoying it for a month and a half or so now. I've written on topcoats/overcoats previously. My design was for a military topcoat in navy. It is double breasted with epaulets on the shoulders and slanted pockets. The collar can be popped and the lapels folded over and buttoned for particularly cold days. I requested it to be quite fitted: the shoulders are just wide enough for a suit coat to be worn under it comfortably, and the sleeves and waist give a nice silhouette. It goes down to a few inches above the knee. It looks great with a suit and I also love wearing it with more casual attire.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Following Beckett & Robb

For those of you that follow us regularly, we wanted to let you know that we regularly post info to these social networking sites:




Thank you for following us!


Beckett & Robb

Monday, December 7, 2009

Another Reason to Get Your Shirts Right

With so many businesses allowing a more casual look around the office, the dress shirt is playing a bigger role than ever. With a jacket on, getting the fit of the shirt right isn't as big a deal. The jacket covers most of it, so a shirt with even a poor fit is fairly inconspicuous. Take the jacket off, however, and the truth comes spilling out.

Without the help of the suit jacket, the shirt has to step up its game. If you're like a lot of guys, your wardrobe could do with some refreshing in the shirt department. Make sure you look your best by adding shirts that enhance your appearance and style by fitting the way they should.



Monday, November 23, 2009

Consider This...

Once when I was a teenager I was in men's clothing boutique looking at suits. The owner imparted a bit of wisdom on that occasion that has stuck with me and served me well ever since. While the prices at the shop weren't exorbitant, being a high school student they were a bit out of my range at the time and I commented about being able to get 2 suits somewhere else for the price of the one he was showing me. I don't remember the exact phrasing he used, but the message was clear: one great suit is better than 2 average suits any day. 1 great suit gets you noticed, 2 cheap suits get you nothing.

An average suit makes you look... average. Your attire leaves no lasting impression and fails to set you apart. You think that because the suits are cheap, you can get a few and have variety. The downside is that now you have not one but several suits that don't do you any favors. You see yourself in the mirror and it doesn't inspire confidence. You go about your day looking and feeling average.

A great suit gets you noticed every time you wear it. You feel confident and successful. You look and feel sharp; different from all the other guys who look and feel lackluster. Even if you're only able to add one great suit to your wardrobe at a time, you've made the right decision.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Proper Suit Fit

For those of you that haven't heard, baggy suits are out and fitted suits are in. Contrast this ill-fitting suit ...

... with these nicely fitted suits ...

Gently reflecting today's more modest sensibilities, it's at once boldly austere and beautifully refined. But with narrower lapels, a trimmer waist, and a closer-cut silhouette, it's a style that has a power all its own - a cool simplicity that is self-assured yet refreshingly unpretentious.

Now is a great time to consider throwing out your old suits and buying new suits that fit your body and today's style.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Fit is the most important component of how your clothing looks on you. The other elements--color and style--should be afterthoughts to how it fits. A great looking suit on my dad, for example, would be a bad choice for me because our sizes are different and the fit would be poor. A fairly obvious observation, but the point is that the nicest of suits will look bad if the fit is wrong. This is true with suits, and it's also true of shirts. A shirt, like a suit, should fit properly. Too large and it looks billowy, sloppy, unkempt, unattractive. Too small and it pulls at the buttons, is short on the arms, and is generally unflattering. All this regardless of whether it is a good color or pattern.

From November's GQ

The majority of off-the-rack shirts are made to very general specifications, and are designed to fit as many people as possible. The result is that even if you are a 15 neck and neither skinny nor large, the waist and chest will always be several inches too big, and the arms will usually be too wide. You can tuck it in as best you can, but the folds and ballooning effect of all the extra material only gets worse as you go about your business. There is a better way, however. You can find fitted and semi-fitted options with many retailers. Stores like Banana Republic and Express gear most of their shirts toward a more fitted look.

The point is to find a fit that works for your body type. If you're a bit larger, a regular cut could be a good choice because you won't end up with lots of extra material in the arms and torso. For guys that have normal or skinny frames, get a shirt that doesn't look like it was meant for someone 40 pounds heavier. The neck should not be loose yet unrestrictive. Cuffs should go down to the ends of your wrists where your thumb meets the wrist.

Like suits, the best option with shirts is to get it tailor-made for you. Not only do you get the right fit in the torso and arms, as well as your preferred length in the sleeves and tails, you also get a bunch of other options. You choose your fabric, collar and cuff, and even the smaller details like pocket, yoke, placket, pleats, and button options. And you can have it monogrammed if you like. Sound expensive? You can get a custom shirt for the same price as an off-the-rack shirt at Nordstrom or Banana Republic.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why Every Man Should Own A Suit

"All the world is not, of course, a stage, but the crucial ways in which it isn't are not easy to specify." - Erving Goffman

You need one. I don't care if you work in your basement. I don't care if you're an artist. A grown-up man needs at least one suit for special events. And once you have one, a good one which fits you and doesn't make you feel constricted, you will wonder why all your clothes aren't suits. You will want to buy three more.

The standard men's uniform of well-fitting jacket and trousers is a remarkable confidence-giving garment: people will treat you differently when you are in a suit; they will look at you differently, they will ask your opinion, they will expect you to take care of trouble.

To take this one step further, every man should own a custom suit. The first time I purchased a custom suit I knew I would never buy an off-the-peg, ready-to-wear suit from my local department store again. And I haven't. This is one of those things you just won't understand or fully appreciate until you do it. So you'll have to take my word for it until you, too, take the plunge. The way a suit cut for my own measurements - 20 or more - makes me feel is a remarkable thing. The process results in a garment that breeds confidence. I own some very nice off-the-rack suits. A few of them major name brands. But they don't compare. How can they when they only consider 3 measurements? You've got to try it to know what I'm talking about.

Monday, October 12, 2009

How to Pick a Coat

With cold weather already upon us, it's time to invest in an overcoat or topcoat. A ski coat over a suit is sloppy and quickly takes away the sophistication of the suit. A nice coat, by contrast, enhances an already smart looking suit and will make the right impression on anyone who sees you in it.

The overcoat and topcoat are similar. The overcoat extends below the knees, while the topcoat stops short of the knee. When deciding between the two, choose whichever suits your needs and style best. For me, I enjoy the modern look of the topcoat, as well as its versatility for wear with more casual clothing. The overcoat potentially provides more warmth as it covers more of your body, so is possibly more appropriate for very cold climates.

Overcoat vs. Topcoat

Your coat will share some of the same characteristics of your suit jacket. Some of the considerations include the lapels, pockets, buttons (on the coat front as well as the cuffs), and single or double breasted. It should fit well--too big and it looks loose and shapeless, too small and it will be constricting and possibly won't fit around your suit. If you wear a size 42 suit jacket, you should be a 42 in a coat as well. To be sure on the fit, wear a suit jacket while you're picking a coat, or better yet, have it custom made for you. Make sure the coat has good shape. Just because it's long doesn't mean it should be boxy, roomy, or otherwise ill-fitting.

There are lots of styles to choose from. Aside from specifics such as lapels and pockets, which vary from , a few of the general coat styles to be aware of include the trench (belted waist), polo (also belted), military, peacoat, single and double breasted. The materials also vary and include camelhair, tweed, wool, moleskin, mohair, cashmere, and others. Dark colors are usually most versatile and are best for the winter months.

Single-breasted camel hair

Double breasted, Peaked Lapel, Ticket Pocket

Single breasted. Clean and classic

Military Style--Note the cuffs, collar, and shoulders

Single breasted tweed, ticket pocket, working cuff buttons

Style vs. Fashion >> What's the difference?

Let's make one thing clear: Fashion and Style are two different things. They are connected, for sure, but they are not interchangeable terms. Fashion is a preference initiated by a minority then arbitrarily adopted en masse regardless of its suitability to the wearer. Style, on the other hand, is the selective incorporation of sartorial traits to complement a person’s unique characteristics. Consequently, the first approach to dressing benefits a person by chance, the second by design. Fashion is what is out there for you to choose from; Style is what you choose.

The idea of clothing as palette, rather than as uniform. Fashion is a set of ever-changing rules. Fashion seeks to do away with tradition, and with it all the special knowledge required to enter the most powerful circles. Fashion influences tradition more rapidly with women. Yet it is having a greater and greater impact on men's attire. Those runway shows you sometimes see feature trends that evenutally will filter down - however diluted - into the Fit-Rite department stores, though it may take 5 years.

The set of rules you follow to strike the uneasy balance between timeless and trendy. Style is about being able to pull off a look that is at once classic and daring. It's not about being traditional or conventional. Sure, elements of style don't change (or shouldn't) while others are being challenged every season. Having style is a personal thing - unique to you alone. It's about being able to find the classic elements that attract you, and add to it your own flair with what is fashionable now. It's a tense fusion between the traditions of the past and the forward thinking of the present.

At Beckett & Robb our primary aim is to help you discover your own style. We're making men into gentlemen one suit at a time.

As Alexander Pope once said regarding trendiness, "Be not the first by whom the new are tried / Nor yet the last to lay the old aside."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

More Stain Removal Tips

I wrote recently about DIY cleaning for spots and stains. If you spill something or get something onto your clothes, no need to be intimidated. Use the following tips and tricks to get the stain out. Note: many of these methods use soaking or saturating with something that will eventually be washed out in the wash. For suits or other un-washables, try blotting with the substance, then use a sponge to absorb any residual moisture. For tough stains on clothes you can't wash, the dry cleaner may be your only recourse.

Ketchup: Scrape off any excess, then apply a mixture of cool water and liquid dish soap (or hand soap if dish soap isn't readily available). For tougher stains, blot with white vinegar.

Ink: Spray heavily with hair spray or douse with rubbing alcohol and blot. Apply laundry detergent directly to the spot before putting into the wash.

Blood: Hold the fabric under cool, running water while rubbing it against itself. Avoid hot water, which sets the stain permanently.

Oils: Blot excess from fabric with a cloth or napkin. Work baking soda or cornstarch into the stain to draw it out. Wash with detergent. Or, blot with a sponge into which you've put a few drops of dish soap, as I've demonstrated previously.

Perspiration: Saturate the area with shampoo--preferably one for normal hair, as shampoos for dry hair contain extra conditioners--and then launder as usual.

Red Wine: Blot with club soda. The salt helps prevent permanent staining while the bubbles in the soda help lift the stain.

Coffee/Tea: Rinse with white vinegar or commercial stain remover. Blot.

Grass: Soak the area with white vinegar for an hour, then wash.

Chocolate: Scrape off excess with a dull knife or spoon. Saturate the spot with a solution made from a tablespoon of an enzyme detergent (like Wisk) and two cups of water. Let stand for 20 minutes, then rinse well.

Lipstick: Remove as much as possible with a credit card or dull knife. Dab with baby wipes, then rinse with hot water to dissolve the oils.

Chewing Gum: Freeze the gum with a wrapped ice cube, then peel it off the garment.