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.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

12 Rules for Wearing & Caring For Your Dress Shoes

  1. Purchase a nice, expensive pair, with genuine leather uppers, a leather welt, and thick leather sole. Care for these properly and they'll last you 10 years or more.
  2. With a suit, oxfords or brogues are classic.
  3. Slip-on's are okay if they have a high enough vamp (the part of the shoe where the laces are, if they had laces).
  4. Shoes with buckles are acceptable if they are to one side.
  5. Shoes with tassels are never okay. To quote from a favorite source, "There is no occasion or outfit in civilized society which justifies the wearing of loafers with a leather fringe and a dangling tassel over the vamp. These shoes are an abomination."
  6. Ankle boots are daring. They can make a suit look fantastic, if a bit romantic. They are acceptable with a suit if simple in design, however they may not be appropriate for some settings (i.e. The Boardroom)
  7. With a suit, your shoes should NOT have metal grommets reinforcing the eyelets for the shoelaces. This look is okay with chinos and a blazer, but never a suit.
  8. A gentleman knows his laces should be neatly parallel, not in the criss-cross pattern with which you lace your tennis shoes.
  9. Black shoes are classic. Long ago many believed only black shoes should be worn with a suit. These rules no longer apply. Brown shoes are very appropriate, although never with a black suit. For more tips on color, see this post.
  10. Your shoes and belt should match. However, if you're wearing a suit jacket a belt isn't required. See this post for additional insight on this look.
  11. Have a cobbler install a thin protective rubber sole for $20. When it wears out, have a new one installed. Spend $20 instead of $200.
  12. Most importantly, nothing helps a nice pair of shoes last longer than a regular shine. The good old fashioned way. Read here to see how to properly care for your shoes. And here to read about polishing your shoes.