Standard Recommendations – Suede & Nubuck Cleaner

Suede Eraser BrushYes, it is official, the time has finally arrived when the gentleman can confidently retire his snow boots; at least until Polar Vortex 2014-15 commences later this year. However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, now is the time to welcome and appreciate our current spring weather. Sure, it will be a little rainy, but given what some of us experienced from December 2013 until late March 2014 – we won’t complain. That being stated, stylish gentlemen everywhere are more than ready to emancipate their suede walking companions from their shoe boxes, priming them for daily jaunts around the city. Now, more likely than not likely, a few scuffs and smudges will discreetly materialize over the course of your many excursions around the block. As with your calfskin leather kicks, the necessary maintenance must be employed to keep your suede looking fresh and new.

Readily available at any reputable shoe store or department; a nubuck & suede cleaning kit should be able to properly address the occasional scuff. Because, as you very well understand – scuff happens. The kit should contain a small brush with stiff bristles and a gum eraser – sometimes both are offered as a combination 2-in-1 tool. The eraser is equipped to clear away marks and scuffs, and the brush is purposed for fluffing the nap and removing dirt. The result: suede that looks almost as good as when you first lifted your shoes out of the box. If you have suede shoes (we’re sure you do with the plethora of colors out now), it would be wise to have this nifty kit in your possession. It will cost you no more than 6 to 8 dollars for this gentleman cleaning essential. And that is small cost in the promotion and extension of healthy suede, so ensure you have a kit in your possession if it is not already there.

Review – Armstrong & Wilson – Pocket Squares

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The gentleman’s pocket square: A discreet piece of sophistication whose primary objective is to effortlessly elevate the overall sharpness of a suit. Now, for seemingly decades, the pocket square was relegated to bland neutrality – no offense to the crisp, clean elegance of the gentleman’s white handkerchief. However, recent developments on the sartorial front has emancipated the classic accessory from the confines expected stodginess and monotony. Widely and roundly believed to be on the cusp antiquation, the contemporary pocket square has emerged reinvigorated, offering a countless amount of variety and selection. And perhaps none are as unique as the pocket squares available from Armstrong and Wilson.

Founded in 2009 by Ontario Armstrong and Clifton Wilson – each a finalist in Esquire’s Best Dressed Real Man in America – Armstrong and Wilson has sought to reinvent tradition surrounding the pocket square, and they are more than succeeding. With an astute attention to detail; the duo infused their reinterpretation with an exciting variety of color and pattern, blessed the inventory with exquisite material, and added a detail that has become their signature – a button. And now, with a surging popularity, it is not uncommon to spot their product being worn by the likes of Chris Bosh, Mos Def, Michael A. Smith, and Lebron James.

Personally, I first noticed these fashionable pocket squares a few years ago, but the pricing precluded my inclusion with the aforementioned players of the Miami Heat roster. Stunning visuals aside, dropping $55 to $85 on a single pocket square just wasn’t in my budget at the time. However, with a few job advancements and a purchase of a high quality camera, the plunge was ready to be made. So, here we are today, ready to offer an honest evaluation of the merchandise for the audience. So, let’s dive right in and break it all down for you.

Standard Recommendations – Suede Wingtip

Grenson Suede Wingtips

Grenson

Currently at this juncture in sartorial history, it can be wholly agreed upon that a gentleman is devoid any excuses for not dressing well, or at least attempting to dress well. Of course, this is stated with the understanding that said gentleman has the financial means to do so. If the means are indeed present, a gentleman can be free to explore the myriad of choices at his disposal. True, the gluttony of options can be overwhelming at first take, but once the terrain is dutifully studied, the navigation can be exciting and refreshing. And so today, we arrive at my latest style endorsement – the impeccable suede wingtip. Chances are you have already bolstered your shoe rotation with a classic wingtip. And chances are you possess a few suede options in that rotation as well. So why not reap the benefits of both worlds?

An attractive amalgam of sophistication and elegance; a well-appointed suede wingtip is duly equipped for both casual and business occasions. A smooth pair will properly add an unexpected dose of attitude to a suit, and they will also hold their own when pitted against a pair of sturdy, tailored denim. Owning footwear that can serve many purposes definitely a bonus. You might also recognize the pair pictured above is heather grey. Well, as a side-note, grey is trending for men’s footwear this spring. However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, brown variations will do just fine. Unless, however, you have settled into the terrain and are ready to take the plunge in the grey area. Stay stylish gentlemen.

Standard Recommendations – Face Moisturizer

Jack Black FacePolar vortex. Sure, the news climate calls for more sensationalized headlines to elicit attention, but truthfully, the climate has done a fine job by itself. I don’t require a fancy catchphrase to provide an education about how it feels outside. Wintry. Frigid. Blustery. Yes, this winter as been brutal in my region. That being said, let’s discuss a topic that rarely gets any attention within many masculine circles – moisturizer. Yes, we need to protect our skin gentlemen beyond regular body lotion. Do not allow yourselves to be deceived by the glacial temperatures outside your window. The sun is still out there. And as it seems that sub-zero temperatures will be around for the time being, understand that the sun does not leave for hiatus in the winter.

Ultraviolet light is just as damaging in the winter as it is in the summer – especially when it is reflected off freshly fallen snowflakes. It is wise to employ a moisturizer that is formulated with a sun protection factor (SPF) to help shield the skin from harmful ultraviolet light. A minimum SPF of 15 or higher is strongly recommended; meaning a product of SPF-15 will protect a gentleman’s skin 15 times longer with said sunscreen than without it. A note of caution, some sunscreens only address UVB sunlight (sunburn), while UVA sunlight (increased skin cancer risk) goes unattended. Select a moisturizer that offers absorption for both UVA and UVB sunlight.

Moreover, the lack of humidity combined with the intense need to turn up the heat can give rise to unwanted dryness. During these bitter days of cold, your skin can be continually robbed of much-needed moisture, potentially leading to cracking or flaking. For bothersome dryness, look for a moisturizer with oil or water-based emollients, as well as antioxidants (vitamins A, C, E) to protect against free radical damage. A good moisturizer may also be fortified with humectants which extracts moisture from the air and promotes retention within the skin. Some common examples are glycerin and glycerol. Now, the natural aging process cannot be stopped, but one can mitigate the process if the proper measures are taken. Do your face favor and employ a moisturizer in your life. Your face will thank you some years down the road.

Standard Recommendations – Collar Stays

Collar Stays Turnbull & AsserIts function is actually free of unnecessary complication. Its purpose is quietly basic and simple. For unruly shirt collars that stubbornly refuse to stay in place, the collar stay is specifically designed to, well, make your collar stay. Residing underneath your dress shirt collar, a small slot has been fashioned to house these plastic or metal accessories, thus eliminating the propensity for your collars to run astray. They afford much required weight to the dress shirt collar and prevents the tips from curling. Resting flat against your upper chest, the aesthetic is far neater and cleaner than a wild butterfly collar. Respected brands usually equip their shirt offerings with plastic stays, but I’ve found metal ones to be the better alternative. So, if you are really lucky, your selected shirt may arrive with a metal pair. For either option, remember to remove your stays before laundering or ironing. A few collar stays in your collection should suffice. This way, you can rotate each pair accordingly.

Standard Recommendations – The Rubber Sole

Allen Edmonds Mcallister

Allen Edmonds Mcallister

To be perfectly honest here, the delicate practice of dressing with elegance and sophistication need not be, well, delicate. However, some fashion fanatics espouse strict rules and regulations pertaining to said practice for dressing well. And even though there exists an expectation that a gentleman should be serious about his style; style should not be taken all that seriously. Now, that statement may appear to be contradictory, but allow me to explain further. True, style arrives with a seemingly complex array of principles, but a gentleman should not burden himself in an attempt to adhere to each and every one. Rules can be broken without consequence. And as we are discussing style, the consequences cannot be that dire.

So, the point of it all is to say this: I endorse the rubber sole. Allow me to be more specific: I endorse the rubber sole on a leather dress shoe. Now, before select members of the audience ready the torches and pitchforks, hear me out. I completely understand Style Rule #56: leather shoe, leather sole. Some hold the belief that a leather shoe with a rubber sole is somehow, somewhat less dignified than one with a leather sole. In my humble opinion, that is crazy. In the ever-changing universe of style – style changes.  

It’s just fashion people. Calm down. Here in Michigan, we were just treated to an arctic blast not seen in many, many years. Seriously, one day last week, temperatures were lower than the North Pole. Snow and ice made for very slippery conditions. And if you are a gentleman that has to traverse more than a few parking lots, a rubber sole can definitely be the best traveling companion. It provides much-needed traction and required stability. Slick parking lots – no worries. Slippery lobbies – no problem. Your anointed rubber sole can possibly be a saving grace.

Now, you may be worried that a big, clunky rubber sole will ruin the graceful aesthetics of a leather dress shoe. That is not the case at all. Modern dress shoes with a rubber sole can be just an elegant as those with a leather one. And some may even be more comfortable. Function over fashion. Goodbye rules; hello what best works for you. So, what is less graceful: rocking a leather dress shoe with a rubber sole, or potentially busting your tail in the parking lot? Sure, you can slip either way, but I hope you use your best judgment.

Standard Recommendations – The Merona Knit Cap

Merona Knit Cap 2I have always been cautious of discount retail chains, such as Wal-Mart and Target, that have aggressively entered the market of selling serious clothing merchandise. Beyond the standard collection of tee shirts, underwear, and socks; it feels slightly strange retrieving a gallon of milk from aisle 16 and then selecting a merino sweater from aisle 12. Prejudiced by the simple reality of kitty litter being a few feet away, I always suspected that the clothing sold was cheap. And not cheap as in price, but cheap as in cheaply constructed. One spin in the washing machine would surely send your sport shirt to a premature state of fraying and tearing.

Nevertheless, I have heard whispers that clothing from stores such as Target was actually good. In a concerted effort to offer quality products at an affordable price, Target has teamed up with various big time designers to offer such selections, as well as offering their own house brands. So, that brings me to one such brand – Merona. In search of a good cold weather cap, the thought of slapping down $50 to $70 for a cap wasn’t too thrilling. And so, I found myself in Target doing some light shopping when I spied the Merona knit cap. Now, for approximately $4.99, the risk was minimal and the reward would be tremendous if it performed its duties.

Offered up in a myriad of colors, I promptly grabbed a black, charcoal gray, and green knit cap. It’s not 100% wool though. It’s actually a blend of predominantly acrylic and some spandex for stretch. That didn’t matter. My only concern was would it keep my bald head warm. And it does. The fit is comfortable. It doesn’t lose its shape. And it keeps the dome nice and toasty. For $3.99 a pop, a gentleman can’t beat that. Sure, it’s not wool or cashmere, but I’m not trying to win on style points here. Not when arctic blasts are threatening to take off my ear lobes. Thus, the Merona knit cap passes the test. With the colors offered, it’s a great way to accessorize your look with a little color, stay warm, and do it on the cheap. This cap is a winner. And I’ll probably be back at Target to pick up a few more. There’s an orange one with my name on it.

Standard Recommendations – The Mesh Laundry Bag & Drying Rack

Laundry AssistantsIt is an inevitability that every individual will painfully experience in their lifetime. Naively you will ready your soiled garments for a routine wash, rinse, and spin inside your trusted high-efficiency washing machine; completely oblivious to the dangers that await your modest load of hosiery that have tagged along for the adventure. Immediately following the completion of the cleaning phase, it is now time to sufficiently remove the resulting dampness from your load. Into the dryer they go. And when that is complete, you will readily retrieve your shirts, khakis, jeans, hell – even your underwear.

They all make it out fine. But not your socks. Yes, 10 socks enter, only 7 make it out alive. The laundry room, call it the Bermuda Triangle of Hosiery, because you can be damn sure you’ll lose some of your favorite socks. Therefore, may I suggest a possible resolution? It involves two items that can be procured at a Target, a Wal-Mart, or whatever store that tickles your fancy. May I present to you: the mesh laundry bag and the drying rack.

The solution is simple. Toss your socks into the small mesh laundry bag and zip it up securely. Toss that bad boy into the washing machine and remove it when the cycle is complete. Now, instead of throwing those clean socks into the dryer, unfold your drying rack and have them dry naturally in the open air. Boom! Every sock is accounted for. You no longer have to lose a beautiful pair of striped wool socks because one vanished – never to be seen again. Neither item takes up much space, and both are inexpensive to buy. Trust, it is a worthwhile investment. Unless of course you like wearing mismatched socks. I didn’t think so.

Standard Recommendations – Forsyth of Canada Neckties

Forsyth 2Contrary to popular belief, a good gentleman’s necktie does not have to be terribly expensive. Nor are they mandated to bear the name of an esteemed luxury brand. Trust, many quality neckties fly silently under the radar, as they are overshadowed by larger companies with better advertising and wider distribution. True, material and construction are key components that should not be ignored, and both components ultimately determine the asking price by the designer. So, it is not unlikely to encounter a necktie that is well above the $200.00 mark.

Nevertheless, there is level of diminishing returns as one pays more and more for a necktie. Sure, an expensive necktie may knot better and drape better than most economy level neckties. And some individuals may even try to shame you for wearing one that costs less than most affluent brands. But that is just silly. For an average gentleman, neckties that clock in at the price of a car payment is not sensible. If you want to treat yourself every now and again – go for it. However, if you plan on paying $200.00 per necktie on the regular, then prepare to have 5 neckties in your closet – maximum.

Now, I am not a devout follower of any particular brand, as I am willing to give any company a legitimate chance. And so on a shopping excursion at the mall, I discovered Forsyth of Canada wool neckties. They were pretty impressive. Beautiful patterns. Great weight and thickness. Soft, yet incredibly resilient. And the price was respectable, retailing at approximately $60.00 – a fair asking price for a quality wool necktie. The department store of choice was Lord and Taylor, so they were pleasantly on sale. Combined with an online coupon for 15 percent off (almost always available on their website), the retail price was effectively reduced to around the $25.00 mark. So, as you can see, a gentleman can score a well-made, stylish necktie at a very affordable price.

If you are in the market for a few new neckties, I humbly suggest you check out Forsyth of Canada, as they are high quality and reasonably priced. Von Maur and Lord & Taylor carry a variety of selections, so I suggest you begin your search there. Lord & Taylor in particular has what seems like a perpetual sale going on, and combined with an online coupon that you can either print or use on the website, the savings can be substantial. Happy shopping gents.

Standard Recommendations – The Tie Clip – Apologies To Nick Sullivan

Lanvin Tie ClipNick Sullivan, Esquire’s resident fashion director, does not favor the ritual of affixing one’s necktie to one’s dress shirt utilizing the duties of the tie clip, or tie bar – whatever term you particularly fancy. I first learned this curious fact after watching a clip of Mr. Sullivan over at Mr Porter where they feature a video series titled The Way I Dress. During the brief clip, Sullivan explains his apparent dislike for the small accessory. And actually, it is not the dislike of tie clip itself, but the gentlemen that actually wear tie clips. Interesting. That sentiment was once again echoed in the September issue of Esquire in his advice section. Truthfully, his disdain for tie clips is never fully explained; aside from the reasoning that he just does not like them. Style is all about individuality, and a gentleman can maintain his sartorial preferences as he wishes. However, I cannot see tie clips as useless affectation because they actually serve a purpose. Sullivan thinks it looks too neat when the necktie is held strategically in place. What’s wrong with neat? Better than sloppy – right? Question: How many gentlemen actually blow their nose in handkerchief or pocket square? I would surmise not many, yet we wear them anyway because it affords a small, yet stylish detail to the overall ensemble. And so, in praise of the tie clip, we present 5 reasons why you should be wearing one. Continue reading

Standard Recommendations – The Madras Pocket Square

Tie Bar PS Green&RedDefinition: Madras is a lightweight cotton fabric, usually manufactured with a vibrant plaid design, and used primarily for summer clothing such as pants, shorts, dresses, and jackets, or as the picture shown above – pocket squares. The fabric takes its name from the former name of the city of Chennai, India. For the sharply dressed gentleman, assembling a well-rounded wardrobe requires the procurement of stylish, season specific accoutrements. And given the fact that summer is in full operation, perhaps the procurement of something madras could be a worthwhile endeavor. Nothing big. A cool pocket square is a nice start. Light and airy, madras is not as rigid or stiff as your typical cotton square. Colors are usually vivid, and the plaid pattern is typically pronounced. Great for a casual khaki suit or sport coat. However, if you are really bold, you can stuff one inside your business suit for a delicious dichotomy of serious and playful. No matter the preference, a madras pocket square certainly deserves a spot adjacent to your collection of wool, cotton, and silk pocket accessories.

Standard Recommendations – Colored Shoelaces

1901 Shoelaces 1Gentlemen, it is officially summer, and the time has arrived to lace up with some colored shoe laces. And by colored – we mean brightly colored. Beyond the rudimentary selections that you are accustomed to – you know – the unenthusiastic shades of black and brown, there exists a bright brave world of sprightly shoestrings ready to secure your kicks to your feet. The vibrant colors can add a bit of playful charm to a gentleman’s presentation. Totally unexpected, but undoubtedly stylish. This endorsement is not surprising, as I have championed the utilization of jazzy hued laces before. So, to further drive the point home, I decided to photograph a pack of 1901 shoelaces that I purchased from Nordstrom. This 7 pack of organic waxed cotton laces is not only great for summer play, but I can see these making a surprise cameo in the fall. However, let’s not rush autumn in prematurely. We still have plenty of summer days to enjoy.

1901 Shoelaces 2 1901 Shoelaces 3 1901 Shoelaces 4

Standard Recommendations – The Gentleman’s Umbrella

UmbrellaDuring those dreary days of rainy, inclement weather; it is not unusual to find me carrying a trusty umbrella on my way to the office. My umbrella – a perpetual target of soft ridicule and surprising bewilderment. Bewilderment because no one really carries an umbrella as large as mine nowadays, and ridicule because, well, no one carries an umbrella as large as mine nowadays. But please forgive me, I am a gentleman with a moderate amount of girth on his frame, a dainty and frail umbrella just won’t cut it. I require more than adequate coverage when the day threatens to unleash a torrential downpour. And besides, on more than one occasion, I have found a companion, male or female, ducking under my umbrella because it was more than sufficient at handling the job. And they probably left their umbrella in the car. The benefit of owning a sturdy, hefty umbrella? First, the pros: maximum coverage, resists hurricane (not quite) winds, almost impossible to misplace, and you’ll look damn gentlemanly providing shelter for some umbrella-less soul in danger of being drenched. The cons, well, there aren’t any. Invest in quality one and stay dry.

Gent Hints

  • The canopy – the part that provides coverage – should fall somewhere between 40 and 50 inches in diameter. Any bigger and you are entering golf umbrella territory.
  • For your umbrella’s material, the canopy should be taut and made of nylon.
  • Durability is vital, therefore, we prefer a frame composed of steel. However, fiberglass and aluminum are also options that a gentleman can consider.
  • The shaft can also be made of the aforementioned materials, or a gentleman could select a wooden shaft for a touch of elegance and class.
  • The shaft should complement your height. In the interest of providing a reference point, I am approximately 6 feet tall, and end-to-end, my umbrella hits me right at the hip. It provides comfortable clearance for my head.
  • The handle should be ergonomic for easy handling. I prefer a textured rubber hand for secure gripping.

Standard Recommendations – The Duffel Bag

Suit Supply Duffel Bag

Suit Supply Duffel Bag

Sure, my leather portfolio bag provides adequate transportation for my laptop, but sometimes I feel as if I require a bag that is more robust in nature. During my commute to the office, I may pick up a bottle of 32 ounce Gatorade. Or, I could be carrying a 64 ounce water bottle. If the weather is dreary with the threat of a thunderstorm, a hefty umbrella may be a side companion. For late evening trips to Fitness 19, workout attire would either be stashed in the car trunk in a separate bag, or tossed on the backseat until it was time to change. All that being said, I am steadily leaning towards investing in a large, sturdy duffel bag to house all of my belongings. Especially in the winter when boots are a must, dress shoes can be neatly tucked away, shielded from the salt and muck that accumulates on the sidewalks and streets. Preferably, a combination of leather and canvas duffel would be ideal. Both canvas and leather are hard-wearing, with the leather adding a touch of tough elegance to the overall aesthetic. If you are a gentleman that requires a bag with a spacious interior, whether it be for trips to the office or a weekend trip away from home, investing in an appropriately sized duffel bag could prove to be a wise decision. If you are sure that it will sustain a moderate to substantial beating, ensure that you select a bag comprised of tough material, be it canvas or leather, that will withstand the punishment. In my case, I desire the best of both worlds. And so, the hunt commences.

Standard Recommendations – The Floral Necktie

Floral Necktie1Trust, a well-dressed gentleman appreciates the beauty of seasonal changes, and he appropriately adjusts his wardrobe selection to coincide with the subtle nuances that a new season may bring. As you might have noticed, well, depending upon what part of the globe you reside, flowers have fully blossomed and anything that should be green is of course – green. Again, this is all contingent upon where in the world you happen to call home. Well, my home is Michigan, and given the state of the weather today, I decided to head out to the backyard and snap a few shots of today’s endorsement – the floral necktie. Sure, stripes and solids are perennial classics. Checks and a few paisley prints may creep into the mix every now and again. But it seems as if floral neckties never procure the same level of consideration, and that is regretful. Woven and even printed floral neckties are whimsically stylish without being silly and buffoonish. The right selection can lend a light touch to a stern suit and soften a decidedly masculine presentation, absent the fear of emasculation. Trust me, you’ll be fine.

Neckties, in order of appearance: J.Z. Richards, Ted Baker, Peter Millar, XMI, Lauren Ralph Lauren, Ermenegildo Zegna

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