Men's Winter Wardrobe Essentials

"Winter is Coming..."

Ah, wintertime. From the warm fireplaces to the holiday (disclaimer: stylesofman.com is a non-denominational men's fashion resource) lights glistening on the fresh, powdery snow to the general retirement of pumpkin spice (thank god), winter is a season everyone can enjoy. Subdued colors, more pronounced textures, and an emphasis on not freezing to death are accentuated as we make the shift to a colder weather wardrobe. As always, this is by no means an authoritative guide on what you must wear to be stylish; treat it only as a reference. Let's begin.

Table of Contents


Materials

Before I even jump into apparel categories, I'd like to go into the actual composition of our clothing. The chillier winter weather allows one to layer considerably more than summer or spring. What's the difference between an undershirt made of polyester as opposed to cotton? A leather jacket to a nylon one? A wool sweater, or one made of tears? To put it simply: plenty. Different textiles have different inherent properties, which means they'll all perform distinctly in varying conditions. A fundamental grasp of materials and their applications can save you from sweating right through a shirt or losing the rest of your toes to frostbite. 

Cotton: The backbone of the clothing industry, cotton makes up the vast majority of all apparel, and for good reason. It's inexpensive, relatively soft, retains color well (depending on dye), durable, and generally easy to clean. The downside to this material is that it wrinkles easily, shrinks/stretches, and is very absorbent, which results in body odor retention and lengthy drying. Do note that not all cotton is created equal, and many factors determine the material's softness, color retention, and durability. Pima, for example, is long-staple cotton that's very soft to the touch, and more expensive than traditional cotton. Kirkland makes a solid pima T-shirt for under $10 if you're looking to try the material.  All in all, cotton's a time-tested, versatile fabric with plenty of uses. 

Flannel: Contrary to popular belief, flannel is actually a type of fabric and not a pattern (e.g plaid). It was originally made of woven wool, but more modern compositions consolidate different fibers like cotton, nylon, and polyester. Flannel is finished with a process called napping, which gives it its iconic "fuzzy" appearance. This process allows flannel to be very warm and soft without being too heavy. A downside to flannel is that it can pill easily. Flannel is a staple fabric for colder weather and looks great without sacrificing utility. I'm a fan of Woolrich flannels as they're available in a ton of designs, though they're 100% cotton and fit a bit boxy. 

Wool: Chances are, you own an article of clothing made of wool, but there's quite a bit more than meets the eye with this peculiar fiber. Wool comes from sheep, goats, alpacas, and rabbits, though wool from sheep is by far the most common. The type of wool (graphic) varies from the type of sheep it comes from, and the properties of each vary too. Wool is animal friendly (the sheep is unharmed if properly sheared) and environmentally sustainable. It's very warm, hypoallergenic, odor/stain resistant, and insulates when wet. In fact, wool doesn't feel wet to the touch until it absorbs 60% of its own weight in water. The material's high water and nitrogen content even allow to be fire-resistant, which is great if you're someone who catches fire frequently! I can go on and on about why wool is a seriously cool fabric, but just know that it's a great material for sweaters, shirts, and especially socks. If you're prone to sweaty (therefore smelly) feet, wool socks might change your life. 

Polyester/Nylon: I'm choosing to include these fabrics together because they share multiple characteristics and are similar enough. Both polyester and nylon are synthetic fabrics spun from chemical solutions. Advantages of these fabrics include: inexpensive production, moisture-wicking, strong shrink resistance, and stretch. Synthetic fabrics are often shiny or reflective in appearance, which may deter some. Polyester is often used due to its remarkable moisture-wicking properties. A good example is in Uniqlo's Airism boxers, which are great and very comfortable. Nylon, on the other hand, is more often used with outerwear and "shells" of clothing. For instance, this Alpha Industries bomber has a nylon outer shell, but polyester lining because the nylon is more durable. Something to note is that these materials, nylon especially, tends to make that swooshy swoosh noise when rubbed against itself (and yes, that's definitely the technical term). 

Leather: To clarify, I'm referring solely of animal leather here, and not the artificial/faux/"vegan" substitute, which has different characteristics altogether. There are tons of different kinds of leathers, each with differing heat insulation, durability, softness, color, etc. Generally speaking, however, leather is strong and has great heat insulation. Leather fibers hold large amounts of water, which allows them to absorb perspiration and later dissipate it. Something I strongly urge is to not buy cheap leather. Not only will it likely be of inferior quality, but cheaper leather often comes from places where ethical standards for animals are non existent. 


Outerwear

One of my favorite aspects of cold weather fashion is the reintroduction of coats. Not only are they functionally great for breaking wind and storing leftover Halloween candy, but they're excellent statement pieces that can really make your look stand out from the crowd. Not to mention, the sheer variety (infographic) of different outerwear available is impressive, so you're able to experiment and figure out what compliments your personal style best. Aside from design, color, and fit of your outerwear, textures play a much bigger role in your look as opposed to the warmer seasons. I'll be highlighting a few different types of jackets that can diversify your wardrobe.

Technical Jacket: We all need a reliable jacket to combat wind and rain. I've been enjoying the look of technical jackets a lot more recently, and they're top notch when it comes to functionality. This category of outerwear is probably the most technologically-advanced, usually boasting Durable Water Repellant (DWR) coating and wind resistant outer shell. The Patagonia Torrentshell takes at least 30 minutes of consistent rainfall to saturate its fabric. These are great jackets to save for a rainy day (literally), but you may not want to!

Bombers: These have come a long way since their introduction. They were first manufactured 100 years ago for pilots in World War I. Planes had open cockpits back then, so flyboys had to endure the elements all while dodging enemy planes and flak alike. Flight jackets combated this problem with thick, sturdy leather and fur lining to keep pilots warm in the skies of no man's land (you can totally tell these sick facts to the hordes of ladies lining up to ask about your jacket).

War - war never changes, but fortunately bomber jackets did. Though traditional leather models are available, modern bomber/flight jackets are typically composed of nylon or polyester. My recommendation for a solid bomber has to go to the Alpha Industries model. It's available in both regular and slim fits, and comes in six colors. A more budget-friendly alternative would definitely be the HM version, retailing for about $50. If you're geared more towards the more traditional look, this nylon/cotton bomber from J Crew could interest you. I love these jackets because they're so easy to pull off. Whether you choose to layer it over a simple T-shirt or hoodie, the bomber is always a stylish look. 

Field/Military: These military-inspired jackets have a lot of different names, and even more kinds of styles and variations. Specifically, the M-65 (stands for M-1965, the year it was first introduced to US troops) is likely the predecessor of most army-type outerwear seen today. They're not typically very warm, so it's definitely a jacket to layer over a sweater or flannel shirt. Essentially every large brand has their own variation of the M-65. J Crew, Urban Outfitters, Rothco, and Levi's offer modified versions of the classic jacket. Aside from fashion retailers, it's also possible to obtain a military surplus jacket for a fraction of the price of competitors (and they're often brand new). 

Peacoat: If I had to pick a single coat to wear for all of winter, it would definitely be the peacoat. Originally worn by European and later American sailors, the peacoat can be traced as far back as the 1700s. Like the M-65, this jacket has its roots tracing back to military use, and has also been transformed into a modern fashion staple. Pea jackets are made from wool (at least they goddamn better be). The ideal composition of a peacoat is 70-80% wool to ensure warmth without sacrificing the durability that some 100% wool coats do. Peacoats usually have two outer pockets (either slant or horizontal) as well as inner pockets for storing things like wallets, keys, or flasks of liquor - 'cause sometimes you need that extra warmth. Typically, these coats are worn with the collar down, but some wear it up when the weather gets tough. Those looking to try out a peacoat without investing too much could opt for an Old Navy model, which retails for $80, but can be had for much less on sale. Personally, I'm a fan of Seibertron and Schott peacoats, though they're considerably more expensive. Like the M-65, it's also possible to get military surplus peacoats for relatively cheap. Check if you have a local Army/Navy store. 

Photo credit /u/thecynicroute on Reddit

Parka/anorak: These are hooded coats adapted from traditional Inuit tribe outerwear, and can range from light fishtail parkas (pictured) to heavier fur-lined ones. Parkas are found in nearly all branches of men's fashion, and are often a staple in winter streetwear. A heavier, puffier model like this N-3B is a great bang for the buck for staying warm in the winter months, though they typically run large so be sure to size up. There's a considerable range of prices, features, cuts, and materials when it comes to parkas and anoraks. HM, Zara, and other fast fashion retailers introduce new parkas every season. For beginners, I'd recommend the Alpha Industries N-3B linked above (be sure to size down), an HM parka, or this Penfield Fishtail


Shirts

Shirt (n.): a garment for the upper body made of cotton or a similar fabric, with a collar, sleeves, or buttons down the front. Now that we have that out of the way, let's get into it:

Button-down: This is a pretty large category of shirts, so I won't be going too in depth on them. Whether you have a job/internship or you simply have a need for dressing up every once in a while, a button front shirt is a necessity for every season. The biggest difference in how you wear this type of shirt during the winter is the material it's made of. Hang up your linens and chambrays and replace them with heavier fabrics like oxford or broadcloth. A popular style is to layer a sweater over your OCBD, which can create some interesting color and pattern combinations. Light blue and white are definitely the most adaptable.

Henley: Not everyone's a huge fan of this type of shirt, but I happen to love 'em. They're incredibly versatile and make a great layering undershirt. Typically, henleys are made of cotton, wool, or a mixture of the two. You can also totally pull off the Dexter aesthetic (vigilante homicide optional though encouraged). American Apparel makes some great henleys, and I believe it's the one Dexter wore in the shore if that matters. 

Flannel: Flannel shirts are, in my opinion, an essential in a winter wardrobe. They're easy to pair with pretty much anything, come in a wide assortment of colors and patterns, and the ladies love 'em (subjective to wearer's attractiveness, wealth, muscularity, facial hair, car, and Battlefield 1 kill-death ratio). Uniqlo makes some great flannels, and they're often on sale for less than $20, which is an incredible value for the quality of the shirt. 

Photo from omaille.com

Sweaters: Chances are, sweaters will be a large contributor to your winter looks and there's really nothing wrong with that. They're clean, effortless garments that are warm and cozy - what's not to love? Cotton, wool (merino or shetland), or cashmere are common sweater materials. Patterns aren't uncommon for sweaters, and fairisle is quite popular during the colder months. Sweaters typically come with either a crewneck, V-neck, or shawl collar. The knit type (infographic) of a sweater also serves to differentiate it from the pack. I'm a big fan of cableknit sweaters as they can add some awesome textures to your fit. This No Nationality sweater features a pretty sick structured pattern. I'd recommend having at least 2 or 3 sweaters in varying colors and knits to maximize versatility in your winter wardrobe. 

Hoodies: 'Cause let's be honest: you're not gonna dress up every day. Normally, I'd factor in hoodies into the outerwear category, but the winter season inhibits wearing just a sweatshirt at least where I'm from. Hooded sweatshirts are great for days when you just blatantly give up (we all have those days), though they can certainly be fashionable with the proper execution. My personal favorite sweatshirt, especially for the price, is the American Apparel California Pullover. It's medium weight and has a well-balanced slim fit, which makes it a great piece to layer underneath a bomber or M-65 and it's around $25. Those seeking a more premium sweatshirt can check out Reigning Champ


Pants

Left to right: Levi's 511, Nudie Steady Eddie, Woolrich Wool Pants, Assorted chinos

Left to right: Levi's 511, Nudie Steady Eddie, Woolrich Wool Pants, Assorted chinos

Unfortunately, societal standards require us to wear pants (total bullshit, I know), but that doesn't mean we should be stuck with sweatpants and bootcut jeans all winter. In fact, the cold season permits the most experimentation with different pant styles and fabrics. 

Jeans: Likely the cornerstone of every man's trouser ensemble, denim hasn't changed much since its inception more than a century ago. Nowadays, jeans have evolved into a myriad of cuts, materials, colors, and scratch-and-sniff scents (Naked & Famous, y'all wild). For winter, darker washes are definitely the fashionable choice. Lighter washes in winter aren't unheard of, but it's definitely easier to pair darker denim with other, more neutral winter colors. My go-to for denim (and always will be for many reasons) is Levi's 511 in Rigid Dragon. They're an awesome cut, fade well, and are unbeatable for the price. Check out my mini guide to Levi's jeans for more information on the different cuts and styles of the brand. A step up to Levi's would definitely be Unbranded denim, which also offers an gateway to affordable selvedge jeans (read my introduction to selvedge denim here). You definitely don't need to go overboard with jeans in your wardrobe. I'd aim for solid pairs in dark indigo and black.

Wool Pants: Depending on your climate, investing in a dependable pair of wool pants can be a power move. They're incredibly warm, and provide some awesome texture to your outfits. Wool pants pair perfectly with your favorite boots, chukkas, dress shoes, or even some sneakers. When a regular pair of chinos simply isn't warm enough, I find myself opting for wool pants quite often. I'm a fan of both Uniqlo and Woolrich's pant offerings, but it's best to try on a pair in store. 

Chinos/khakis: The sheer versatility of chinos is unparalleled; whether it's business casual with a pair of oxfords or paired with boots or sneakers, chinos have you covered. Similarly to jeans, khakis come in varying cuts and styles, so choosing the right pair for you may be a trial-and-error predicament. Personally, I'm partial to J Crew's 484 cut chinos and Banana Republic's Alden cut. They're definitely a bit higher on the price spectrum, however. Cheaper alternatives include Levi's, Uniqlo, HM, and Zara. 


Footwear

White sneakers: There are some who believe white shoes should be constrained to the warmer months. I am not one of those heathens. White, minimalist sneakers absolutely have a place in winter fashion. They're clean, simple and can really help balance out an otherwise overly-dark outfit. The cheapest, reliable pair of white sneakers would have to be Vans Authentics followed by the super popular Adidas Stan Smith (I'd go for the all white, blue or green accent colorways). More upscale models include the Buttero Tanino and Common Projects AKA "Dev's favorite sneakies". 

Nike Flyknit Racer "Oreo"- Photo credit: klekt.in

Casual Sneaker: It's always wise to diversify your wardrobe, especially when it comes to your shoes. Having a comfortable sneaker for long days full of walking can be a lifesaver, so opt for a shoe with a comfortable, supportive sole. Adidas' Boost cushioning is great for casual use and is very comfortable. Ultraboosts and NMDs are the brand's flagship models utilizing the boost technology, and are very popular but may be difficult to obtain. Nike's Flyknit material is meant to fit snug on your foot and is used in some great shoes like the Flyknit Racer and Lunar.

Dress shoe: Even if you don't need to dress up often, it's essential to at least have the means of doing so. It isn't totally necessary to drop a ton of cash on a really nice dress shoe, either. A simple Bass oxford or JCP Stafford wingtip will do the job just fine if you only dress up occasionally. However, if you're in the market for a nicer dress shoe, check out the Johnston & Murphy Conard oxford or even the Allen Edmonds Strand. Do your research before committing to a nice dress shoe; a quality pair can last you well over a decade with proper care. 

Boots: Hands down my favorite part of fall and winter fashion, boots are the MVP of my footwear lineup. They're comfortable (at least they should be), warm, and build character with each wear. For an introductory pair of boots, I'd personally shoot for a pair of the ever-so-popular Clarks Desert boots in Beeswax or some Chippewa Apaches. There's a lot to say about boots and all the different types, so check out my fundamental guide to boots if you're looking to learn more!


Accessories

Watch: Well, a watch isn't totally an essential, but it can really add a noticeable aspect to your look, even if it's a cheap Timex. I'd recommend a modest, white-dialed watch with a brown leather strap. I absolutely recommend picking up a few NATO straps. They're inexpensive and easily alter the appearance of your watch with minimal effort. In my opinion, the best entry-level watch would be the Timex Weekender, though the ticking is very loud (especially in a quiet room laying in bed waiting for Stacy from calculus class to Snapchat back....sigh). Anyway, watches are a whole different discussion altogether, but the fellas over at wornandwound.com have a ton of great watch resources and reviews. 

Mink Oil: This is an oil derived of mink fat removed from fur pelts. Besides being a great dip, it's also very good at conditioning and waterproofing leather. I recommend picking up a small tin to prepare your boots for the snow, or just to condition them a bit. Be careful, however, as mink oil is known to darken leather slightly. 

Warm socks: A lot of guys wear whatever socks are cheapest and come in the largest quantity, and while I can understand this because I used to do the exact same thing, I've since been indoctrinated to the ideology of wool socks. Seriously though, these are a total game changer, especially when cold weather. If you're prone to smelly, sweaty socks and feet, you may want to give the natural odor and moisture-repelling properties of wool socks a try. I'm a big fan of Smartwool's MiUSA socks, but have heard great things about Costco's house brand, Kirkland. 

Backpack: Alright, most people already have one of these and it isn't necessary to go out and purchase something 'cause some dude on the internet told you too. That being said, if you are in the market for a new bag, Everlane's Snap is a clean, stylish alternative to that old Jansport you've lugging around.

Sunglasses: Contrary to popular belief and the fact that it depressingly sets at 5PM every day, the sun does in fact exist throughout winter. I'm a firm believer in eye protection, so I'd consider a polarized pair of sunglasses a wardrobe essential. More info on sunglasses, facial shape, and the sun's effects on your eyes here.

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Men’s Jewelry: What You’re Missing


Written by Jason Hall of MaleFashionReviews.com

The Big Idea

So, you’ve found your perfect pair of jeans, you know where to buy your favorite, best-fitting t-shirts, and you know which mall stores really aren’t worth your time. You might even be reduced to online shopping; not because you despise human interaction, but because you’re a smart shopper and know the best finds are online. 

You’ve been doing this for long enough that you know what works. Mostly.

There’s something about men’s jewelry that makes it seem so unattainable. Seriously, google “men’s jewelry” and you’ll either *recognize that celebrity* or be swept under the current with whatever combination of 17 colorful beads and plastic leather that "male fashion icon" number X claims is cool as of last week.

But every once in awhile the stars align and a dude puts some jewelry on - without looking like a damn fool.

I’m not gonna lie, I used to be afraid of jewelry too. I mean, my subtly-shiny black jeans are one thing, but I never want to be the guy you can pin as “into fashion” from across the street. I’ve been dabbling with a more “experimental” style these days, and I’ve begun to look at that shiny stuff like it's the girl I meant to talk to in high school. Do note that this guide will not cover jewelry such as watches or piercings. 


I’m here to tell you about how and why I made this transition.


A Necessary Risk

Consider any example of an expressive style and I’m sure you’ll see how polarizing these looks can be. It doesn’t take much to put a look over the edge and I think people would much rather dabble on the safe side than venture into the unknown.

Don't get me wrong, remaining on the safe side of things is fine. A lot of people are content to stay there forever, there’s no reason to venture away from the simple comfort of jeans/tee/sneakers - and I’m sure the same applies to oxford/chinos/dress-shoes or whatever other combination you find most wearable. 

You could spend the rest of your life in that zone and no one would bat an eye - I’d even commend you for your efforts - I’m sure you’ll eventually take that combo to the next level. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, try wearing the same basic outfit, six out of seven days a week, for a year. I mean it - you’ll do great things - but I'll save the rest of this idea for another time.

I never actually set out to complete this experiment but you'll never see me in anything but jeans and a t-shirt. I like to think I’m qualified to speak to the results and I’ve discovered that the simplest of combos can only be done so well - less is more! There’s a limit in how good an outfit can be - and it’s inevitable that you’ll reach this limit, so long as you’re continuously striving for improvements.

So what do you do when you feel like you’ve reached simple-combo-nirvana? Obviously, one might reach to outerwear. Unfortunately it’s currently early September, and I’m breaking out in sweat because this freaking beam of sunlight is coming in through the window. As much as I’d love to suck it up, break out my jackets, and layer up... it’s just not an option yet. So, for whatever reason, let’s pretend layering isn’t an option for a few minutes here. The only alternative to layer-experimentation that I could conceive was the all-so frightening idea of experimenting with jewelry.

So there I was. A day trip to NYC and a pitstop in the A.P.C. store later, I had my first bracelet.


Picking Your Perfect Piece

You’re not alone if you’ve never dealt with jewelry before. But I’m sure you’re wondering... Where do you even begin?

Jewelry has to be something that you feel strongly about. I like to think jewelry is like an impermanent tattoo. The way I see it, neither of them has to have sentimental value. However, if it does have sentimental value, no one will ever try to take that away from you. Wear it all you want and own it. 

On the other hand, if it doesn’t have sentimental value - if you just like the way it looks - well I say, more power to you. Just be ready to stand your ground and talk about why you like it. Having a confident answer prepared for the time these questions inevitably arise is a crucial part to ‘pulling it off’ so to speak. 

If it doesn’t have sentimental value, and someone else likes the way it looks on you, well don’t look at me for backup when someone inevitably makes a comment.


Potentially Perfect Pieces

I can definitely recommend some styles of jewelry that are easier to put on and subsequently "pull off" than others. Word of warning, I think you’ll see that I aim to keep things aggressively understated… especially when it comes to jewelry.

Here are some general shopping notes:

Cheap jewelry is worthy of some caution. The prices are often lower because cheaper metals are used, some of these metals can actually react with your skin and something like a ring can leave a nice green tarnish on your finger. But who am I kidding, I’ve spent much more more money on much dumber stuff. The budget pieces are worth it for a quick experiment. With the rationale at shopping at budget retailers like HM and Uniqlo, use cheaper jewelry to find out what pieces compliment your style. Brands like Fossil are solid for figuring out a style you like without taking out another student loan. I've even seen bracelet and necklace "packs" at HM for around $15. 

While I’m talking about experimentation, necklaces in general are easier to conceal than a bracelet. This is great if you’re particularly self-conscious about these things, because you’ll have more time to see how you feel about your jewelry before that first comment inevitably arrives.

Unembellished Cuff

Hnng. I love these things. There's just something so pure about a bracelet that is (externally) unmarked and unbranded. You can just slip it on every morning and forget about it. It doesn’t get much more understated, which means it’ll look just as great in a cheap bar as it will at a nice restaurant. You really can't go wrong with any color here, but I prefer to stick with matte black, polished gunmetal, and either matte or polished silver.

Plain Cuff with Interesting Clasp

My first piece came from this category. There’s something utterly endearing about the way you can say more with less. I don’t know what it is about these things that does it for me but, damn, when you can find an interesting way to do the same-old mundane task of “keeping something together” just shut up and take my money.

Bead Bracelets

For wrist use ONLY. Bead bracelets are typically constructed with an inner elastic band holding the individual spheres in place. There are quite a bit of options available when it comes to this category of wristwear: from a tasteful black and silver display all the way to being that guy. Though not really jewelry at all, I've been seeing a lot of those Lokai bracelets around recently. They have water from Mt. Everest and mud from the Dead Sea and is supposed to have some sort of spiritual significance. Whether or not you buy into that is completely up to you, however. 

Chain Necklaces Without Adornments

I enjoy these, a lot, but I’m afraid to cheap out on them for some reason. I think these are best if you have a little to spend - when you can throw a little more cash at your accessories you’ll be able to afford the heftier, thicker, shinier chains - the ones that will last longer and look better the whole time. Definitely do some research into this if it's something you may be interested in. 

Chain Necklaces With Adornments 

This is totally up to your personal taste, but if you can find something that really vibes with your look, go for it as long as you don't go too overboard and accidentally become a mutant monster slayer. This is a very popular category of jewelry to any sort of religious pendants to. 

Tie Bars

Tie bars are one of those things that you never knew you needed 'til you get one. Aside from functionally serving to secure your tie to your shirt, they're a pretty classy way to add some flair to your business casual or professional looks. Not to mention, they come in an insane variety of different styles and compositions. Here's a set of 3 colors for under 20 bucks - great deal for seeing if tie bars match your style!


wear what you like.

The same goes for all of these pieces. You’ll be nervous putting it on for the first time. You’ll feel weird until that cold metal chain acclimates to your skin temperature. You’ll feel weird until the silver cuff molds precisely to the shape of your wrist. You’ll feel weird until other’s curiosity begins to feel welcoming.

You may feel weird at first, but that’s okay. What is pursuing your own essence of style if not feeling uncomfortable for short periods of time?

I can tell you right now that this feeling may never go away. You’ll just build up a tolerance and eventually find yourself seeking greater highs.

And that’s when you’ll finally pull it off.

 

Men's Sunglasses: A Visual Guide

The sun is bright [citation needed], so it would only make sense for us to want to protect our ever-so-precious set of eyes, right? It may seem straightforward enough to pick a pair of sunglasses off the rack at your nearest convenience store and deal with it; however, there are various elements often overlooked when choosing a quality pair of sunglasses. Factors such as facial shape, skin tone, sunglass color, and frame silhouette/size all perform a role in whether or not a pair of glasses harmonizes with your face. Aesthetics aside, not all sunglasses are made equal (not even close), so it's useful to understand how polarization, ultraviolet rays, lens tint, and frame construction come into play. This guide aims to help you identify your facial shape and select the perfect pair of shades.


Facial Shape

Arguably the most important parameter to consider when choosing a pair of glasses is the shape of your face. Because all of our mugs are unique, there's no "perfect" pair of sunglasses for everyone (though some do come close). It's necessary to pick a pair of glasses that agrees with the contours of your face and jawline to ensure you're looking your best all while protecting your vision. 

 

Depending on who you ask, there are between 4 and 7 types of facial structures. To streamline things a bit, I've decided to include the four most prevalent face shapes: circle, oval, square, and heart. I'm not the type to codify any "this must go with this" kind of rules, so if you like a particular pair of glasses, don't let some dude on the internet tell you not to wear them. Facial shape is merely a guideline; wear what you makes you feel confident. 

 

How to Determine the Shape of Your Face

The most accurate way to determine the shape of your face is to simply use a tape measure to record the dimensions and go from there. Remember that it's possible to fall in between shapes. Here's a quick and easy method from Birchbox. Be sure to record each measurement.

  • Forehead: Measure from highest point of one eyebrow's arch to the opposite side of the other eyebrow.
  • Cheekbones: Measure across your upper cheeks, starting and ending at the sharp bump below the outer corner of each eye.
  • Jawline: Measure from the tip of your chin to the point below your ear where your jaw angles upward. Multiply that number by two.
  • Face length: Measure from the center of your hairline to the tip of your chin.

Round: Cheekbones and face length have a similar measurement. They are larger than the forehead and jawline, which also have a similar measurement. The angle of the jaw is soft.

Heart: Jawline is long and pointed. Chin is the smallest point of the face.

Square: All measurements are fairly similar. The angle of the jaw is sharp.

Oval: Face length is larger than the width of the cheekbones, and forehead is larger than the jawline. The angle of the jaw is rounded.

Alternatively, it's possible to outline your face on a mirror using an Expo marker (or blood). Pull back any long hair and trace the outline of your face (don't include ears). Check out WikiHow's guide here.

Now that you've figured out the shape of your face, we can dwell further into which styles look best with each:


Round Face

Round faces have softer edges and with the cheekbones being the widest section of the face. The face is approximately equal in both height and width. Slim, angular sunglasses work well as they allow your mug to look narrower and longer.  Leo DiCaprio is a notable celebrity boasting a round face, along with Aziz Ansari, Kanye West, and Caillou. Shoot for some glasses with corners and definitely avoid circular lenses, as it will saturate the roundness of your face.  For a proper fit on this face type, the bottom of the glasses should land just above the cheekbone. Some recommendations for this face type include wayfarers, Oakley Tincans, Warby Parker Ames, or just about any other angular sunglasses. 

Oval Face

While structurally similar to round faces, oval faces are distinguishable with slightly wider and higher cheekbones, height greater than width, and a forehead somewhat broader than the chin.  Stylistically speaking, oval faces are compatible with the most types of frame and lenses. Celebrities with oval faces include Zac Efron and Chris Hemsworth. A good rule of thumb is that the frame of the glasses should be slightly wider than your forehead. Unlike round faces, oval faces are actually complimented by thicker frames, though make sure your sunglasses don't overpower the features of your face. Author's picks for oval faces include Persol 0649s (as seen worn by Zac Efron in Neighbors), Aviators, and Knockaround Fort Knocks

Square Face

Sporting wider cheekbones and jawline, square faces are similar to round ones in that the height and width of the profile is relatively the same, though the jawline and chin are broader and more defined. Tom Cruise,  Brad Pitt, and David Beckham boast square faces. Choosing rounder frames can help soften the features of your face, while opting for edgier choices can reinforce the sharp features of your face. Both options can look great and the direction is up to you. Aim for frames on the thinner side of the spectrum as very thick ones can make your eyes look tiny in comparison to the rest of your face. For square faces, I'd recommend wayfarers (shocker), Tom Ford Aviators, and Ralph Lauren rectangular sunglasses.

 

 

 

 

Heart Face

Heart-shaped faces are characterized by narrow cheekbones and a pointed chin. The jawline is elongated, though the chin is the lowest and sharpest point of the face by a bit. The forehead also tends to be a tad larger as it gradually narrows down to the chin. Celebs like Ryan Gosling and Jesse Eisenberg rock their heart-shaped faces. To elongate your facial form and accentuate your features, choosing browline sunglasses wider at the top than bottom (and therefore more visual weight) will help bring the focus to the center of your face. Frames that are too blocky or cornered likely won't mesh well with the natural curvature of your face. Similarly, avoid frames that are too thin, as your aim is to have your sunglasses bring attention upwards without looking too overpowering. My go-to for this facial type is definitely the Ray-Ban Clubmaster followed by Warby Parker Model X1, and Tom Ford Campbell

 

 


Function over Form

You ever stare at the sun just to really see how bright it is? Yeah, don't do that. When it comes to eye protection, it's crucial not to skip out on the whole "protection" part of it. I know how easy it is to pick something out just because it looks good (HM, Uniqlo) and sacrificing quality for the sake of the pricepoint, but I'd wholly recommend getting a pair that prioritizes function. I'll briefly explain a few terms that are useful to know when picking out a pair of glasses.

Stunning artistic display of polarized vs non-polarized lenses

Polarization: You've likely heard the term in the context of sunglasses and wondered what the big deal was and why they cost extra. Polarized lenses are treated so that they not only dim incoming light rays, but additionally reduce bright glares that bounce off reflective surfaces like water or other vehicles. This is especially useful when driving and can ease the fatigue on your vision (so you can use your damn turn signals). I only buy polarized sunglasses as I think it's worth the price. 

Ultraviolet (UV) rays: These radioactive light rays are located a bit past the violet section of the visible spectrum and sunlight is the primary source. Do note that UV rays can go right through clouds, so eye protection is important even if it's cloudy. Ensure your sunglasses block at least 99% of rays and a UV400 rating. There are three types: 

  1. UVA: longer wavelengths that pass through glass easily. Experts disagree on whether or not they're harmful to eyesight.
  2. UVB: dangerous to vision, but can't pass through glass.
  3. UVC: do not reach Earth because our atmosphere blocks them (thanks, atmosphere!)

Lens color: There are many misconceptions about which lens color is the "safest"; however, color is a personal choice and has no effect on eye safety, but can affect perception of existing light sources (traffic lights). Gray, black, and brown are good choices as they distort colors the least. 

Photochomatic lens: These are lenses generally made for people who normally wear corrective eyeglasses. They darken when activated by certain types of ultraviolet light, essentially creating a sunglass.


Types of Sunglasses

There are tons of different sunglasses variations. I'm going to showcase a popular few. 

 

Aviators

Ah, the aviators; perhaps the most famous of men's sunglasses, they were originally developed by Bausch & Lomb in 1936 to protect pilots' eyes while flying. The original design and Ray-Ban brand was acquired from B&L by Italian eyewear company Luxottica in 1999. Iconized in popular culture through films such as Top Gun, The Big Lebowski, and Terminator,  the aviators are a simple, modern classic. There are three variations: classic, teardrop, and square. Personally, I think square looks the best. My brand preference for aviators is Ray-Ban, but Randolph Engineering is a close second. Check out Knockaround Mile Highs for a polarized, budget alternative. Those seeking something a bit different can look at the offerings of Persol, which have a similar lens shape to aviators with an alternative frame. Kent Wang offers a polarized variant for $55 for those seeking a cheaper alternative without sacrificing quality. 

Wayfarers

Wayfarer (n.): a person who travels on foot. Often cited as the design of sunglasses in history, the Ray-Ban Wayfarers made their debut in 1956. Utilizing the radically-new idea of plastic  frames as opposed to metal, the Wayfarers were an instant hit in the 50's and 60's. Sales dropped in later years til strategic product placement in 1980's The Blues Brothers sparked a resurgence in popularity. More recently, many brands offer contenders in the classic Wayfarer design, though Ray-Ban was the original. This is my personal favorite among sunglass styles. Ray-Ban offers their line in a multitude of variations including an array of colors, foldable models, and the ability to customize a pair (at a premium). Ray-Ban offers two main models: the Classic and the New Wayfarer. Though stylistically similar, the new model has thinner dimensions for a more modern look. I'm partial towards originals, so I swear by Ray-Ban for Wayfarer models, but other quality contenders include Warby Parker Paleys, Oakley Frogskins, and Yves Saint Laurent SL 35/S. If you're looking for a pair that's a bit less vanilla, these William Painters are constructed of titanium, polarized, and have bottle openers built into the arms. Another viable option is the Tortoiseshell Keyhole sunglass by Kent Wang, which features polarized lenses and spring hinges for a comfortable, secured fit. 

Browline/Clubmaster

Browline sunglasses are often referred to as Clubmasters despite that being Ray-Bans variation. Like Wayfarers, browline glasses were very popular in the 50's and 60's, though the frame's use with sunglass lenses didn't occur til several decades later. In recent years, they've become quite popular in men's fashion as they're a bit fresher than traditional sunglass silhouettes. They're especially great for heart and oval shaped faces as the thicker upper frame draws attention away from the lower face. Notable makers include Persol, Ray-Ban, and Tom Ford.

Rimless

Though some are technically semi-rimless rather than full, rimless sunglasses are pretty self-explanatory. The frame of the sunglass is minimized to highlight the form of the lenses and create crisp silhouette. They're also a great way to enter Matrix cosplay. I think rimless shades look pretty great, and they're available in a wide variety of lens shapes and colors. The downside is that they're generally very fragile as they lack the structural integrity of a full frame. Check out RB3183s, Maui Jim Breakwalls, and Oakley Tincans or Wiretaps.

Sport

Those with active lifestyles may be interested in sunglasses meant for movement. Trading fashion elements for utility and comfort, sport sunglasses are perfect for things like running, kayaking, and social justice. These are generally constructed of durable, yet slightly flexible plastic and fit tighter to the form of your face. This is a category of glasses I would either try out in store or purchase from an online retailer with an easy return process. Personally, I'd stick with polarized variants of sports glasses since it can really help with sunlight straining your eyes. Julbo Venturis, for example. are polarized, and feature a photochromatic lens to adjust lens tint to light intensity.


I know there are a ton of other styles of sunglasses, but you get the idea. I'd definitely recommend stopping by your local mall Sunglass Hut or similar shop to try on different frames and see which styles work best. However, I wouldn't stick to just buying sunglasses from brick & mortar stores as it's almost always cheaper online. I know I've had good experience finding sunglasses and other items for great sale prices on SlickDeals.net and /r/FrugalMaleFashion

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Spring Footwear Checklist

Spring is an interesting season in a sense that it's incredibly unpredictable. Pleasantly warm sunshine one moment can quickly deviate to an inclement deluge of showers and inconvenience in what seems like the blink of an eye. April showers bring May flowers, right? 

Optimism aside, the objective of this post is to provide an array of possible spring and summer footwear options for the season. Given the fortuitous nature of spring weather, it's essential to employ a line of footwear that's not only fashionable, but functional as well. Shoes are arguably the most subjective category of apparel as it seems like no two people have the exact same taste in footwear. That being said, be sure not to treat this as an authoritative guide of what one must buy to look good this season, but rather a reference. Another point to note is that some options may be more/less viable in certain regions of the world as opposed to others. Let's begin.


Boat Shoes

Arguably the most iconic American footwear for warmer weather, boat shoes are typically constructed of canvas or leather, though you should almost always opt for the latter. Boat shoes (AKA deck shoes) were invented roughly 80 years ago by Paul A. Sperry (who later founded Sperry Top-Sider) for the purpose of providing grip on the wet deck of a vessel. They've since deviated from their original function and have established themselves as a staple component of casual and preppy styles alike. Boat shoes look best with chino shorts or cuffed pants and are generally worn without socks, though I'd definitely recommend some no-show socks for added comfort and to eliminate foot odor. If you're looking for something along the lines of a deck shoe, looking into camp moccasins may be worthwhile. They're similar to boat shoes both functionally and aesthetically, but instead sport a single eyelet that merges directly with the vamp along with a few other minute differences. 

($) - Dockers Castaway Boat Shoe: One of the least expensive options for a fundamental boat shoe, the Castaway features leather construction, contrast stitching, and a rubber sole. 

($$) - Sperry Authentic Original: Perhaps the most popular model of boat shoe in the market, Sperry's A/O is an excellent mid-tier offering with plenty of different colors combinations and leather finishes. For under $100, this takes the cake. 

($$$) - Rancourt Read: Those looking for a higher quality, American-made option should consider this option. Boasting hand-sewn construction, chestnut leather laces, and brass eyelets, the Read is certain to turn some heads. Fun fact: Rawlings sources Horween leather for its professional baseball mitts and nearly one half of MLB players use Horween gloves. 

White Sneakers 

Let's face it -  the minimalist white sneaker craze isn't going anywhere, and I'm not complaining one bit. Low-cut white trainers can open up a lot of different styles in your wardrobe. An attractive and unobtrusive silhouette coupled with nearly limitless versatility might make some of your other footwear a bit jealous. Nowadays, practically every name in fashion has an offering for a white sneaker, so does one know what to look for? Well, for starters, I'd recommend acquiring a pair constructed of leather as opposed to canvas or another material. It's often easier to clean, and is much more stylish than lower-end textiles. 

($) - Vans Authentic Canvas Sneaker: Given the price point, Vans are actually a very solid option for a canvas sneaker. Do note that the material in canvas and is, well, a canvas for any sort of stains. I've found my pair of white Vans one of the hardest to clean stains off of; however, the retail price practically makes them disposable if the problem becomes too troublesome. Note that Vans lows come in two different lines: Authentic and Era. I personally prefer the Authentics as they have a slimmer profile while the Era has a padded collar, which makes them a tiny bit chunkier. The Era is also available in a leather version as opposed to canvas. 

($$) - Adidas Stan Smith: Though practically its own meme in the men's fashion community at this point, the Adidas Stan Smith is as optimal of a choice as ever. The most popular model is the white base with Fairway Green accent on the heel. I'd shoot for the Triple White colorway, though a model with a colored heel would look just fine.

($$$) - Buttero Tanino Low: The Tanino is renowned Italian shoemaker Buttero's take on the crisp, low-profile sneaker design. The shoe is comprised of Vachetta leather and exhibits little ornamentation as to not take away from the simplicity of the form. 

($$$$) - Common Projects Achilles Low: The cult favorite Achilles Low was undeniably a vanguard in the white leather sneaker trend and for good reason, too. Though far from cheap at a Hamilton above $400, the CP Achilles is the culmination of elegance and simplicity when it comes to minimal footwear. 

Chukkas 

Characterized by suede or leather construction, open lacing, and a frame ending at the ankle, chukka boots have a place in every footwear arsenal. Though they can be worn with shorts, I wouldn't advise deviating far from denim or chinos. Taking this into consideration, chukkas are best reserved for cooler or cloudier days. One particular variation of the chukka is the desert boot, which was originally worn by British officers in the second World War. Chukkas are an excellent choice for those seeking a simple boot for both casualwear and slightly dressier occasions.

($) - L.L. Bean Kennebec: The Kennebec Chukka features full-grain leather construction, an EVA midsole, and is made in Brazil, which is arguably better than sourcing from Eastern Asia. The boot runs a bit large, so size down accordingly. 

($+) - Clarks Original Desert Boot: Admittedly, I have an affinity for Clarks Desert Boots. Not only are they competitively priced at $80-$120, but the sheer selection of leather finishes and colors is impressive in itself. In my opinion, the "Beeswax" leather finish is by far the most versatile, but I'm also a fan of Sand Suede, especially for warm weather. Be sure to skip the heavy socks in place of a lighter, more breathable material as long, warm days and boots often don't mix well. 

($$) - Red Wing Heritage Work Chukka: Red Wing's US-made chukka features Goodyear Welt construction and a contrasting white sole that compliments the bold color of the leather. 

Loafers

Penny loafers (AKA Weejuns) are characterized by a low-cut, laceless silhouette constructed of supple leather. They're as classic as it gets when it comes to footwear (their origins trace to Norwegian dairy farmers) and have consistently played a role in menswear since the 1930s. Stylistically, they're pretty versatile and will likely have no trouble fitting into your existing wardrobe. They're often ornamented with tassels, which is a love-it-or-hate-it addition. Loafers are generally offered in brown or black, though I'd certainly recommend a shade of brown as it carries far less visual weight that can through off the color cohesion of your look!

($) - Bass Larson Penny Loafer: Bass is proclaimed to be the first to market the loafer in the fashion sphere. The Larson comes in a few variations of black as well as a gorgeous burgundy leather finish. 

($$) - Rancourt Pinch: Handmade in Maine, Rancourt's Pinch penny loafers offer a lightweight Horween Chromexcel leather build as well as contrasting moccasin stitching. 

($$+) - Quoddy Penny Moc: Quoddy hits the nail on the head with its classic loafer fused with Vibram sole technology. If you're not familiar with Quoddy, you might be interested (or rather shocked) at the expansive selection of customization options. From the upper leather/suede construction down to the color of thread to sew it all together, this Maine-made loafer is sure to satisfy any taste. 

 

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Men's Spring Wardrobe Essentials

After a bitter winter, who wouldn't welcome some warmer weather?

The time has come to store away the chunky wool sweaters, hang up the heavy coats, and bring out the springtime clothing arsenal as we thaw out from the chilly winter. This brief guide aims to help you construct a basic, yet versatile spring wardrobe in preparation for the warmer months. I must note, however, that I intend for this post to serve as an informational reference only. By no means am I claiming that this is an authoritative wardrobe of what every man must have to be fashionable. I encourage you to build upon this guide and augment it to create a truly personal spring wardrobe for yourself. This blog post contains affiliate links.


Spring Vibes

There's something about this  season that's particularly alluring; the warm sunshine on your skin, the colorful plants, or simply the fact that the piercingly-cold wind no longer hurts your face. For those of us who like to dress well, it's also a time of creativity and self expression. 

The typically-neutral color palettes of winter are instead replaced by the vivid colors and patterns of spring. A wider array of colors to use creates a much more dynamic range of possible fits. Don't get me wrong; I love layers. More articles of clothing means more ways to customize your look, right? Especially for men, fall and winter styles just brim with opportunity. However, it's also important to consider that spring/summer allow for more "statement" pieces, which essentially allow you to say more in as few words as possible. Now, pour yourself a nice glass of lemonade (or whiskey) and let's begin.

Long Sleeves

Though spring brings warmth and general happiness (if you don't have allergies), it my certainly still get cold depending on where you live. Because of this, the long sleeve button down is the most versatile shirt for spring in my opinion, especially with the cuffed sleeve look. Though many button down shirts may look identical, they are far from so. The most substantial difference between shirts is definitely what fabric they're made of. I briefly touched up on the different materials in my cold-weather wardrobe guide, so I'll re-purpose the information below. I also chose to include long sleeve, non-button shirts since I think they fit into the same category. 

Chambray: This is a type of plain weave cotton cloth with a colored warp and white weft, giving it a speckled-like appearance. Chambray comes in a bunch of colors, but the most common for men are light blue, dark blue, and gray. The best way to think of it is like a light and clothy denim. Any color chambray should look great paired with some fitted chinos or shorts, but I'd definitely recommend a light or medium blue if it's your first. I've had very good experience with chambray shirts from J Crew, Banana Republic, and Levi's. 

Linen: Made from the fibers of the flax plant and laborious (and therefore expensive) to manufacture, linen is the ideal fabric for hot weather. In fact, mummies were usually wrapped in linen as a sign of purity and wealth (and do you know how hot it is in Egypt?). Linen constitutes a large portion of Spring/Summer clothes, including shirts, blazers, pants, bags, etc. After buying my first linen button down last Spring, I definitely have plans to have more as the fabric is substantially more breathable than my OCBDs. Since linen is usually associated with the warmer months, it's advisable to buy linen shirts in more vibrant colors like light bluelime green, and orange; however, you can never go wrong with neutrals either. For a truly versatile wardrobe, a man must be prepared for whatever elements nature can throw at him, so linen is a key fabric to combat the spring and summer heat. For starters, I'd recommend white and blue

Gingham: This is a mid-weight pattern woven from cotton or blended yarn, and is always checkered in white plus another bold color. Usually worn in S/S, gingham is often mistaken with plaid, though the patterns differ; gingham is white with another color and has equidistant lines, while plaid can be any combination of colors any varying line spacing. Gingham is a very "busy" pattern, so it's not the easiest to pair into fits. I'd recommend either a blue or red one. Don't go overboard with distracting patterns like this as the key to a solid basic wardrobe is simplicity and cohesion. Match gingham shirts with a more neutral bottom to ensure your look isn't too eye-catching.

Oxford: A basketweave cloth that's not too light yet not too heavy. It's a reliable fabric that finds its way into all sorts of styles. The oxford cloth button down (or OCBDs as us hip, young people call them) are made by countless manufacturers and come in all sorts of colors and patterns. There's a reason this type of shirt is an MFA favorite. Colors you should consider having at your disposal include: light blue, white (can never have too many white button downs), and light green - aim for neutral, plain colors as they're easiest to wear with other clothes and busier patterns.

Henley: henleys are generally form-fitting, cotton shirts with 3 or 4 buttons stemming from the collar. They're a great, casual choice for layering under a jacket but also function standalone. Effortless and simple, the henley is a great component of any wardrobe. These look best in neutral colors, but feel free to experiment with some brighter colors. I'm personally a fan of the American Apparel henleys, though note that they're a cotton/poly blend. 

Breton stripes: Stemming its roots from French sailors in the 1850s, the original breton shirts had 21 stripes (one for each of Napoleon's victories). Nowadays, many militaries use similar shirts, so its possible to find surplus shirts all over the place for cheap, like these Russian telnyashkas. I picked one up at HM for roughly $20, but other options include French Connection and J Crew. These look awesome with a pair of dark denim. 

Short Sleeves

Honestly, there isn't too much to mention about short sleeve shirts as they're likely the most basic staple of any wardrobe. I'd recommend shirts made from cotton as they're the best for breathability and moisture-wicking in my experience. 

Uniqlo Supima tees: I started this section with Uniqlo's Supima cotton t-shirts because I'm a huge fan of the fabric's breathability. They're also pretty inexpensive - each tee retails for only $12.90 and often goes on sale. Another solid contender is American Apparel's poly-cotton (50/50 mix with polyester) t-shirt. These also have an insane variety of colors and are actually even cheaper than Uniqlo's shirts at ~$11 with free shipping. I'd grab a couple of these in white, black, and navy. 

Short Sleeve Button Downs: Some people prefer to roll the cuffs of a long-sleeve button down rather than buy another shirt, but it entirely comes down to personal preference. Personally, I think short-sleeve button downs are a spring outfit staple. They look great in solid colors, wear patterns well, and make great statement pieces. However,  when considering any patterned shirt, be sure the design isn't too obnoxious or flashy. Depending on your personal style, you may enjoy the offerings of Polo by Ralph Lauren

 

Outerwear

Depending on where you live and its seasonal climate, you may or may not have a need for outerwear. I live in the Northeastern United States, so our springtime can vary from '"Damn, I lost another finger to frostbite" to "I've shaved every inch of my body and I'm still sweating". Regardless, I'm going to list a few types of jackets and styles that will look great this season.

Denim trucker: Without a doubt, the denim trucker is one of the most classic displays of Americana outerwear. The simple jacket has not only been around for a century, but is here to stay. It's a reliable, mid-weight choice for a nice breezy day. My go-to would be the Levi's variant, which comes in several different denim washes. For those seeking a superior quality denim jacket, I'd recommend the Canadian-made Naked & Famous selvedge jacket

Field Jacket/M-65: Most modern field jackets stem from the M-1965 jackets worn by American soldiers in the Vietnam War. Fortunately, you won't have to fight in the jungles of Southeast Asia to obtain one; many different variants are available and most large brands have their own take on the classic coat (like all of them - check out J Crew, Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy etc.). My personal favorite: the Alpha Industries M-65. If you decide to pick up this amazing jacket, make sure to size down as they run large.

Anorak/Parka: Before May flowers come April heavy downpour, so it's always a wise choice to have some functional, yet fashionable weather-resistant outerwear. Compact and packable, carrying an anorak in a backpack or car is easy and can come in handy for sudden rain clouds (not to mention they look great). If you're looking for an authentic Scandinavian anorak, check out the Fjallraven High Coast. A lower budget (yet also effective) option with a broader color selection is the Charles River (great for wind and light rain). I'd recommend an anorak/parka in a bright, nautical-inspired color like blue, orange, or green to reinforce that classic look. 

Bomber: This is a style of jacket that not every guy can get behind or in (heh), but terrible jokes aside I think it's a great-looking category of jacket suitable for tons of different looks. Bomber jackets, named for their use by WWI bomber pilots (old planes didn't have closed cockpits, so pilots wore then to stay warm), are available in plenty different materials, from cotton "varsity" to nylon versions. Though originally made from sheepskin leather, most modern flight jackets are now made from cotton or nylon and have gained considerable popularity in the streetwear community. This is definitely optional and should fit into your own personal style. 

Navy Blazer: Few articles of clothing are more iconic than the classic navy blazer. Versatile, clean, and outright manly, the blazer is a garment that's stood the test of time. It was originally worn by British royalty in the 1800s and has been adopted as a fundamental key in the menswear community. Though considerably less casual than the previous outerwear choices, the blazer has a place in nearly every man's wardrobe as the perfect jacket for more formal events or a classy night in the city. Fit is absolutely essential to nail with jackets like these and chances are that no suit/blazer/sports jacket will fit you right off the rack. I'd recommend putting forth a bit of extra money to get it tailored to your own body. The difference will feel unreal. If you really want to nail the look, look for a jacket with gold buttons or buy them separately. Blazers are typically made of wool, which may be too warm for certain climates; however, they're also made in more breathable linen fabrics. 

Bottoms

Even though this is a wardrobe guide intended for the warmer months, I'm going to focus mainly on pants as they seem most appropriate for the climate where I live. I will, however, include a couple different types of shorts along with a brief note on selecting and wearing the best type. 

Denim: To put it simply, there really aren't many situations where jeans fall out of place. As always, I recommend a slimmer cut of pant. Levi's 511 slim fit is my denim of choice. Lightwash is going to be very fashionable this season, especially if you're a fan of the cuffed look, perhaps the iconic style of spring/summer style. Of course, if you're not a fan of the lighter denim, darker wash variants will also work well. I recommend Levi's Rigid Dragon for a deep, true indigo. Regardless of wash or model, cuffing your denim is also a great way to flex some selvedge.

Chinos: Chinos (AKA khakis, though not always beige) are without a doubt the most versatile pants for the warmer weather. Not only do they come in every color on the visible spectrum, but chinos can be worn in nearly every context imaginable. I'd definitely recommend picking up several pairs in some brighter colors (khaki, blue, olive, gray, red, and white if you can pull them off). I'd suggest Levi's 511 Slim Fit Chinos and Dockers Alpha Khakis - both are great quality-per-dollar and offer plenty of colors. Other notable, yet more expensive, brands include Bonobos, J Crew, Outlier, Club Monaco, and Banana Republic. H&M also offers chinos, though I've had several pairs rip through moderate wear, so be wary. 

Shorts:  hope you didn't skip leg day. In the US, warmer temperatures mean shorts – so if you took a “one week break” from squats all winter, well, now might be time restart. Now, there are many, many types of shorts, though I'll only be showcasing and recommending a single type as I think it's the most fashionable: the chino short. Simple, yet reliable, the chino shorts are the go-to short for menswear and most other sects of fashion. Reserve your athletic shorts for lifting or running and your cargo shorts for never. There's a ton of hate for cargo shorts and although I agree with a fair amount of it, it's honestly become more of a meme than legitimate fashion advice. Slim fit cargos can offer an interesting silhouette and a lot of practicality. Would I recommend you to wear baggy cargo shorts? Absolutely not; however, if you like them and they make you feel confident, then go for it. Remember the reasons you choose to dress well. Back to the topic at hand, I'd endorse chino shorts because when paired with a nice button down, they're a perfect look for the warm weather. Like chinos, they come in tons of different colors.

Graphic by Primer Magazine

Graphic by Primer Magazine

One thing I'd like to clear up is the actual appropriate length for these types of shorts as the length (like the fit) can make or break your look. I'd recommend shooting for a 7" or 9" inseam, but height and weight definitely play a factor in this.  Just like regular chinos, practically every brand carries their own variant of chino shorts, and a lot of them fit differently than each other. My top picks include J Crew, Bonobos, and Levi's.

Footwear

Footwear is the category where personal preference  plays the biggest part. I tried my best to choose simple, "universal" shoes for the spring season, but I'm certain these won't fit for everyone. I chose shoes in neutral colorways because I believe that they're easiest to pair with other clothing articles, but feel free to modify this to coincide with your personal style. 

Boat shoes: Arguably the most iconic American footwear for warmer weather, boat shoes are typically constructed of canvas or leather, though you should always choose the latter. My personal preference is Sperry Topsider - they're the original manufacturer of boat shoes, and their 2-Eye Authentic Original in Sahara Leather is as spring a sit gets. Otherwise, check out Sebago, Timberland, and Rancourt. I'd aim for a brown/tan leather model and steer clear of the tacky two-tone versions. 

White sneakers: Offering a clean, minimalist look and great contrast for most outfits, a solid white sneaker is a men's wardrobe staple without a doubt. They're a perfect shoe choice for shorts, chinos, streaking, becoming an internet meme, and just about anything else. Adidas Stan Smiths are insanely popular right now as are Vans. Both these choices are relatively affordable at <$100. If your budget is a bit higher, you may be interested in white sneakers by Kent Wang or Common Projects

Boots: Boots? In SPRING!? Actually, yeah. One boot specifically. The boots I'm choosing to include are Clarks Desert Boots because they were designed for hot and dry climates (hence desert) featuring a crepe sole and lightweight/breathable construction. Not to mention, they're an excellent choice to wear with chinos. CDB's also come in a 75+ colorways, so there's bound to be one that catches your eye. For spring, I'd definitely recommend lighter colors like Oakwood, Amber Gold, Beeswax, and Purple Camo Suede

Oxford: Similarly to the navy blazer, this is yet another piece that will only be worth it if you actually wear it and it fits your wardrobe. This Bass Oxford (though resembling more of a Derby) is a sturdy, inexpensive casual shoe for nights out. I personally like the look of rolled-up pants with shoes like this. 

Misc. sneakers: I included this category of shoe for more comfortable, casual looks and perhaps walking-intensive days. Despite its reputation as a "dad sneaker", New Balance actually makes some pretty fashionable sneakers; here's an inspiration album. If that's not your style, pretty much any padded sneaker will do. Some other quality choices are the Nike Air Pegasus and Nike Internationalists. Check out Reddit user asrakestraw’s guide to retro-style running shoes here if you want to learn more/be the cool dad at Little League.

Accessories 

The final category of this guide is an overview of springtime accessories. Chances are, you already own the majority of these things, but perhaps there are a couple things here that you may not have thought of. 

Rucksack: This is essentially just a handsome backpack. I go in-depth on all sorts of bags and briefcases in my guide to men's bags. I personally love the look of this rucksack and it's a perfect bag for a day trip to the beach. Fjallraven also makes them in a ton of vibrant colors that are perfect for spring.

Belts: Okay, so this is a very simple category, yet it often doesn't receive the attention it deserves. Depending on your work, you wear a belt probably 300 days out of the year. So why not invest in a good one? I included two belts in the visual: a US-made, sturdy leather belt and a more preppy one. They obviously have different purposes, but I think both fit very well in a spring wardrobe. 

Watch: I can't stress enough the importance of a man owning a watch. It absolutely doesn't need to be expensive whatsoever, but the look of a clean watch adds tons of style factor to any guy's look. Some inexpensive options include Timex and Daniel Wellington. Do note that Timex Weekender are loud as hell. I actually have to stuff mine in a drawer at night to mute the .308 caliber ticking. In the visual, I included some NATO straps, which I think are fantastic because you can totally change the look of your watch for only a few bucks. I swap out the strap on my watch whenever I get bored of it and it's like having a new watch altogether. They come in some nice color options as well - perfect for spring!

Sunglasses: Honestly, any basic sunglasses will get the job done, so don't feel as though you have to spend the big bucks on designer sunglasses (totally fine if you do). If you're most concerned about sunglasses as eye protection as opposed to a fashion statement, I'd recommend looking into polarized lenses. I do, however, really like the look of the classic Ray-Ban Wayfarers. Something to note is that Luxottica, the brand's owner, has an actual (debatable I suppose) monopoly in the sunglasses industry. They've been accused of questionable business practices in the past but also own Ray-Ban, Oakley, Persol, Lenscrafters and Sunglass Hut. In addition, Luxottica is licensed to make sunglasses for essentially every big-name designer. If you want a nice pair, I'd consider doing your own research on the brand before you buy. I'm not gonna go much deeper on the subject, but you can read more about it here (Forbes). 

Bracelets: Bracelets are love 'em or hate 'em.  I think there's definitely a place for certain bracelets in a man's wardrobe. They look great next to a watch and really help to pull off that slightly-preppy spring look, which some guys are all about. 

No-show socks: If you have a pair of boat shoes, buy these. Do it. Just... do it. This might be the only item I've ever explicitly said is needed. Boat shoes are traditionally worn barefoot and lots of people do wear them this way. That's totally fine. Some may argue that it's never acceptable to wear socks with boat shoes; however, I think socks are acceptable if you're wearing pants and not short. Not wearing socks at all can lead to foot odor, and no one wants their shoes to smell like wet dog. No-show socks then are the best of both worlds. There low-cut socks will be your best friend if you love wearing your boat shoes often. Look at this photo, and you can see why it's important to have socks that are completely invisible under the actual boat shoe. 

 

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A Look at the Kent Wang Handgrade Sneaker

Ah, the minimalist white sneaker. It's essentially the vanilla ice cream of footwear: simple, reliable, but most importantly - incredibly versatile. It's without question that every well-dressed gentleman should have a pair of white sneakers in his wardrobe, especially during the warmer months (they're a Spring/Summer staple). With the surge in popularity of the Common Project Achilles and low-profile white sneakers in general, many different brands offer their own take on the shoe. Today, we're going to be taking a look at the Kent Wang Handgrade Sneaker, which has stirred up some curiosity in the men's fashion community. Do note that I was sent these sneakers at no charge for review purposes. 


Kent Wang is a pretty interesting designer/retailer and here are a few reasons why:

  • Operated by only two employees 
  • Steers clear of discounts/sales - lowest price available year-round
  • Direct retailing keeps pricing low
  • Minimalist branding - no obnoxious logos to detract from item's appearance 

 

Inside the Box

The retail packaging the sneakers come in

The sneakers are shipped in a deep navy blue shoe box with reflective silver branding. Inside the box is a note depicting the company's return/exchange policy and a recommendation for shoe trees (worth every penny!). 

The sneakers themselves come with plenty of packing paper stuffed inside the actual shoe to ensure no warping of the leather occurs during shipment. My pair arrived with no scuffs and very minimal leather creases, which occurs naturally. 

One thing to note is that these are from the "handgrade" line retailing for $145. A "benchgrade" line is also available at $95 but lacks features such as stitched soles (better durability) and higher-quality leather. Both lines look essentially identical, but the handgrade version undoubtedly boasts superior longevity.

 

 

Details

Here's a photo of the sneakers out of the packaging. Lookin' pretty crisp! 

A close-up of the handgrade sneaker's stitched soles and leather. Notice the slight color variation of the laces/stitching and leather.

A closer photo of the tongue and sides 

Out of the box, the sneakers are very clean. They're definitely more of an off-white than true white, but the minute difference doesn't bother me. They're by no means a shade of yellow despite some other online reviews claiming otherwise. The laces and stitching are a shade or two whiter than the leather itself. The leather is soft and supple to the touch; however, it's rather thin in the sides and tongue. Initially, this was very concerning to me but after a week of daily wear through different conditions, this concern has deviated to just a minor gripe. Regardless, I think the thin leather is the shoe's biggest con, though it's really not that bad. 

The bottom of the rubber soles

The Kent Wang branding etched on the insole

The thing I love most about these sneakers has to be their sheer simplicity and minimalist silhouette. The only visible branding is on the insole. The bottom of the sneaker is a basic zig-zag design. I've noticed no errors in stitching or visible glue on the rubber soles. The sizing is true-to-size, but the shoes are only available in whole sizes (it's recommended to size up if you're in between). The sneakers are equipped with a pretty standard set of synthetic white shoelaces, which can easily be replaced if stained with questionable fluids. 

On the Feet

Development of some nice creases after 2 weeks of daily wear. Surprisingly enough, I kept them mostly white. 

So, I've worn these sneakers daily for about 2 weeks now and I'm pleasantly surprised at how much I actually ended up enjoying them. They're low profile, yet provide enough cushioning for long days of walking. Like I've mentioned, I thought the thin leather tongue and sides would be an issue, but it's easy to see past it considering these work best as a Spring/Summer shoe (that breathability, man).

The shoes actually provide a nice amount of cushioning and heel support, which in return amounts to an all-around comfortable sneaker. Comparing them to my white Vans Authentics, they're considerably more comfortable and come off less juvenile in my opinion. However, the Vans are made of canvas and these are made of leather, so the only comparable attribute is the fact that they're both low-profile sneakers. 

 

Close-up of the leather.

Close-up of the leather.

Here are a couple fits incorporating the Kent Wang sneakers. Notice how the style of each is totally different, yet the versatility of the minimalist white sneaker allows it to work in a variety of looks. 

Summary

To sum up, I think the Kent Wang Handgrade sneaker is an excellent contender in its category. If you love the look, but not the price tag, I'd recommend the Benchgrade at $50 less. Though I haven't worn them too long, I find these sneakers to meet all the criteria I look for in minimalist white sneakers including silhouette, comfortability, and leather quality. At more than 60% cheaper than Common Project Achilles, the Kent Wang handgrades are a very solid alternative in my opinion. I will be updating this review as I wear the sneakers more. 

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A Visual Guide to Men's Bags

"It's not a man-purse. It's called a satchel. Indiana Jones wears one.." - The Hangover 


A man's bag selection is often an extension of his own character. From Kanye to Harry Styles to Shia LaBeouf (this one's my favorite), bags offer much more than just a place to store your books and drugs. In this guide, I'll be showing you how to identify your own personal style when it comes to bags in addition to showcasing some popular choices in separate categories. Quick note however: this guide will focus more on menswear-inspired backpacks, briefcases etc.. and will not bear upon sportier options like this. As always, I'd like to mention that this is by no means an authoritative guide as opinions can vary greatly in terms of fashion. These are my own opinions. Let's begin:

What bag is right for me?

Great question, guy! Before we even look at the types of bags, it's important to grasp the concept that not every bag is compatible with every style. Without going too deep into the notion of personal style (a post for another time), we're gonna take a look at a few examples of bags that just don't fit cohesively with the rest of the outfit. What makes this guy look a bit foolish while this one looks considerably better? They're both wearing suits and they're both wearing backpacks. Well, it's obviously that the first guy's bag is considerably more casual than his suit while the second's (though a backpack isn't the best choice) fits a bit better.

The key to having a bag that's a continuation of your style as opposed to something that diminishes it is what you're wearing and where you are. Say, for example you're a fan of parkas, boots, and other typically "outdoorsy" apparel; you may want something like a knapsack. Someone more accustomed to streetwear could go with this "techy" bag and someone who dresses more professional could opt for a leather bag. If you plan on buying a leather anything, please note that "genuine" leather is actually a grade of leather, and it's nearly the worst kind (see leather grades here). Opt for full or top grain leather, especially if you want to have the bag for many years. Full grain leather will not only look considerably better with age, but it's structurally superior to genuine or PU. Remember that there isn't really a universal bag. Each category has its strengths and weaknesses, and it's not like you can only own one. 

Backpacks

So, the term "backpack" is actually an umbrella term that encompasses multiple types of bags like knapsacks and rucks. The biggest clear advantage of the backpack is the shoulder straps, allowing the most free movement of any bag choice. Backpacks range widely in price, material, and design. Most are made from polyester, cotton, or canvas (durable, typically weather resistant) and some have leather detailing. Backpacks are a very common household item and its utility is apparent, but it might be time to upgrade from that Jansport Super Break you've had since high school. Backpacks go with most outfits, but opt for something classier for more formal  wear.  Here are some options:

Jansport Right Pack - Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not bashing Jansport in any way as I think they're one of the best options for the price range. They come in essentially every color imaginable and that's largely why I think Jansports are a bit juvenile, but some colors look pretty solid. In short, a sturdy polyester bag with a solid warranty. This option lacks the suede bottom but adds considerable carrying capacity (+2 STR boost). 

Augur Canvas Knapsack - The thing with Augur bags is that they're sold under dozens of different brands, but Augur is the original manufacturer. I actually own one of these and it's actually a very solid bag for the price (you may be able to find it cheaper from sites like Aliexpress, but shipping will take a month). The canvas is decently constructed and the leather straps are nice and soft. My bag didn't see much heavy use, but I already started noticing the button snap rivet (it took me longer than I'd like admit to find out what this was called) peeling away from the leather. Other than that, Augur's line of bags is great for seeing if you like the style of a given bag type without fully investing into a more expensive brand. 

Herschel - Herschel bags have been gaining considerable popularity recently. They're priced a bit higher than Jansport, but offer a much nicer (in my opinion) aesthetic. They're becoming increasingly common among high school and college students as people try to move away from the traditional backpack look. It combines the looks of a ruck/knapsack and traditional backpack into a solid bag. Do note that it uses cotton and polyester as opposed to canvas.  My biggest gripe with them is that nearly all of the models come with this reddish pink lining that I just can't get on board with. Their customer service is also pretty lackluster from what I've heard. 

Everlane - Everlane is one of those companies you just have to respect. Not many companies will openly tell you what it costs to make their product. They also pride themselves in selecting only factories with ethical working conditions. The brand sells exclusively online to eliminate brick & mortar costs, which helps keep their prices low. This bag is a bit small, though, so I wouldn't expect to fit much more than a few books and a 15" laptop. 

Fjallraven - I've been seeing a lot of Fjallraven bags around recently, so I figured it'd be a good idea to include this. It's made from a blend of polyester/cotton treated with a water-resistant coating. Like similar bags in its category, it comes in a ton of different colors and sizes (be warned - the "small" size is very small). If you're into the Scandinavian style, this is a must-have. 

Though backpacks are generally more easygoing in terms of style, designers such as Prada, Alexander McQueen and Salvatore Ferragamo have made their own luxurious takes on the classic bag. 

Courier Bags

Characterized by a strap worn over one shoulder and resting on the lower back, the courier AKA messenger AKA satchel (satchel isn't completely the same as it's typically worn across the shoulder) is great for lighter loads (laptop + couple binders/books). Unlike backpacks that require you to remove the pack to access it, messenger bags are easily-accessible hence the name. These are great for warmer climates as they contact your body much less than backpacks. Most messenger bags are made from cloth (canvas, cotton) or leather (cow, human). These packs are best used for shorter periods of time as most would agree that a single shoulder strap is less comfortable than a backpack's twin straps, which provide better weight distribution. These are a usually a more stylish option than most backpacks and are appropriate for both students and professionals, though the leather types are significantly more formal. A courier bag can look great if paired with things like button-downs, chinos, and boots but can  look out of place in overly-casual looks. Be careful not to carry them too often on jackets or blazers as it can wear out the shoulder pad. 

Berchirly - Of very similar construction to Augur, Berchirly bags are also made of canvas, soft leather and comes in an array of colors and styles. The bag is very roomy and can accommodate up to a 17" laptop. If you want to try out a messenger without committing to a pricier leather model, I'd recommend this one as it's a good mix of form and function. 

Kattee - This bag uses the same leather as the Berchirly, except the entire bag is comprised of it as opposed to just the straps. It also has a briefcase handle in addition to the shoulder strap, which is great if you just want to ditch the removable strap and use it as a regular briefcase. 

Fossil - The Fossil Aiden is made of waxed canvas, so it could be a good choice against light rain. It's smaller than the Kattee and can only fit a 14" laptop, so keep this in mind. If you're a fan of the bag's silhouette but not the canvas, a full leather model is also available, but for nearly double the price. 

Visconti - These are made from smooth, oiled leather which I'm sure will age well . With room to hold a 14" laptop and a book or two, this bag aims more for form over utility. The bag comes in a few different leather finishes but has no briefcase handle nor is the strap removable (but it is adjustable). 

Duffel Bags

The Duffel bag AKA weekender gets its name from a town in Belgium, where the original cloth sourced for the bags originated. Duffels are commonly used as gym bags and are great for carrying clothing, sports equipment, or kilos. They range from very basic sports models to considerably more expensive ones. Definitely a good bag to own as it's very useful for weekend trips or other instances that require you to carry more than a backpack's capacity.

Kenox - The Kenox Duffel is a great budget option for those looking to get away from all the sporty duffels. It's constructed of canvas and has plenty of pockets for storage. All three color options look pleasing as well. 

Herschel - Next up is the Herschel Novel. At nearly twice the price of the Kenox, the fully-polyester Hershel model comes with both inside and outside pockets. Like most products in the brand's line, it's cursed with the reddish pink lining (why did they do this..). Remember that you are paying for the brand for Herschel bags, but that doesn't mean they're a bad choice.

Filson - Though this Filson Small Duffel fits less than the previous two options, the quality of it is nearly unmatched. Oiled twill with leather straps and detailing, this US-made Duffel will surely outlast its competitors. If you're looking for a larger option, Filson also offers medium and large versions of this bag.

Navali - The Stowaway looks like the lovechild of a Duffel and a messenger bag, which could mean it's the best of both worlds. Small enough to carry on one shoulder but large enough to store the goods, this bag is a great and stylish option for those seeking a smaller Duffel. The inside is lined with two zipper pockets and one larger pocket, which can fit a small tablet. It also comes with Navali's lifetime warranty. 

Chirstian Lacroix - This option is ideal for those who like the aesthetic of the Duffel, but prefer leather construction over canvas or polyester. Sporting a zip-top closure and a side zip pocket, this designer bag will certainly attract attention, but it's  not necessarily the best value for the price. 

Fjallraven - The Fjallraven No.  Duffel is made from the company's G1000 fabric and has a 50L capacity. It's built from weatherproof G1000 fabric and has straps designed to held in either one hand, on a shoulder, or across your back. Fjallraven's stuff always has a nice, minimalist look, which could help explain the brand's popularity in the men's fashion communities like MFA on Reddit. 

Briefcases

Originating from lawyers carrying briefs (legal documents, not underwear), briefcases have expanded to nearly all corners of the professional world. Briefcases are usually known for being leather "boxes," but I think the softer leather ones are more appealing and stylish, though they're still sturdier than messenger bags and satchels. This is used to protect documents and it's the primary distinguishing factor between briefcases and other bags. They're not built for carrying a whole lot, but are very stylish and let's be honest; you look important if you have one. When it comes to briefcases, leather quality is key. If you're committed to getting a briefcase, you should certainly spend the extra bit to get a nice, leather one as you'll likely be sporting it alongside a suit. I'll mention a few varying price options, but still keep this in mind.

Zebella - I want to be clear: this bag may look like it's made of leather, but it's actually a very thin "split" leather layered on top of polyurethane. For a briefcase, it's pretty much the cheapest option you can find. It has a few pockets and can fit a 14" laptop. This is a good choice for someone who wants a "professional" looking bag, but without the associated pricetag.

Vicenzo - This bag is constructed entirely of full grain leather and comes in 4 different leather finishes. This is also one of those bags that can fit into multiple categories as it does technically qualify as a courier bag with the removable strap attached. It uses a push lock closure and has a side zip pocket on the outside (good or bad depending on taste). 

Filson - A high-quality alternative to some of the Chinese bags, this US-made Filson is sure to impress. Produced from a combination of oiled twill and bridle leather, this bag is a great in-between of casual and formal. It's able to fit a 15" laptop, though the padding on it is relatively thin. 

Saddleback - Though considerably more expensive that the other three options, this Saddleback briefcase is built to last and look great while doing it. Constructed of full grain leather and is made in Mexico, this bag comes with multiple pockets and a cigar holder. It can get very heavy, especially when filled. It also comes with a 100 year warranty, so it will literally outlive you. 

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Selvedge: The Other Side of Denim

Photo by Jean Gilles Arpajou

Photo by Jean Gilles Arpajou

Raw. Selvedge.

 

Chances are, you've seen these words used together, but what exactly is raw selvedge denim and what makes it so special?


Selvedge (n.): Derived from "self-edge" meaning an edge produced on woven fabric during manufacturing that prevents it from unraveling

Comparison of selvedge vs. non-selvedge. Photo by www.blog.gotstyle.ca

Comparison of selvedge vs. non-selvedge. Photo by www.blog.gotstyle.ca

Now don't get me wrong; I love selvedge denim, but even I think that definition is boring and a bit too concise. Something to note immediately is that raw denim and selvedge denim are independent. Denim can be raw and selvedge but it can also be one just or the other, or neither at all. To truly understand why selvedge and raw denim have such an expanding devoted following, we must dwell a bit deeper than the standard definition. To do this I think it's appropriate to start off with a brief history.

As you may already know from my Levi's post, denim was originally created as a pant for the working man. During this time of small-scale production, each pair of denim jeans was crafted from raw, selvedge denim on individual looms. These pants were made in small batches with considerable attention to minute details. Then things got worse (or better depending on how you look at it).

Denim shifted from a workman's trousers to an icon of both the men's and women's fashion industry. Manufacturing capabilities grew exponentially as did the efficiency of creating such pants. As with all companies, profit margins were a top priority, so corners were cut and methodology for production was drastically altered. Rather than create raw selvedge denim individually (a painstaking process), looms were redesigned to create many pairs at once, though this new generation of denim pants lacked the selvedge, which was often thought to be a mark of quality for jeans. In addition, raw (unwashed/unsanforized - we'll get into this in a bit) denim's popularity began to decline in favor of new predistressed and prewashed denim. Fortunately for quality denim enthusiasts, both raw and selvedge denim has made a comeback in recent years, with countless companies sprouting up choosing to create small batches of quality denim. Many Japanese manufacturers have become authoritative names in the raw selvedge denim industry, boasting companies like Pure Blue Japan and Samurai. One thing to note is that selvedge isn't just exclusive to jeans, it's also used in chinosdenim truckers and more.

Rare hand-dyed weft by Naked & Famous. Photo ourtesy of blueowlworkshop.blogspot.com

Rare hand-dyed weft by Naked & Famous. Photo ourtesy of blueowlworkshop.blogspot.com

Aside from the reinforced edge, selvedge also offers visual appeal that allows for additional customization for your denim. The original Levi's selvedge came in red, but today you can find selvedge in an impressive assortment of colors. Companies have began adopting their own colors to differentiate their brands like Unbranded's blue, Lee's yellow, and Samurai's gray. Others have created styles like rainbow and this Charizard-lookin' one. You aren't able to actually see the selvedge unless you cuff your jeans however, but the majority of selvedge wearers do so anyway. Personally, I always cuff my jeans as I think it makes a nice, clean interaction between your pants and shoes - and the selvedge looks sweet.

While we're on the topic of customization, it's also possible to have different colored wefts on your jeans, like in this Momotaro pair. This isn't nearly as common as seeing different colored selvedge and the colors can get pretty crazy: twisted candy and rainbow. While these look pretty unique, I wouldn't necessarily recommend them for the sake of style. Not only are they generally expensive due to small production runs, but they're also difficult to obtain as many are manufactured in Japan. 

Though selvedge is often a sign of the craftsmanship and durability, it is not a definitive metric to gauge the quality of a pair of jeans. Due to the recent burst in the popularity of selvedge, many companies have started creating shoddy renditions of selvedge as well as some putting fake selvedge "tape" over non-selvedge jeans. Genuine selvedge runs all the way up. Now that we have a solid understanding of selvedge, let's take a loot at raw denim:

 

Raw Denim (n.): denim that is not washed or pre-distressed during or after production.

This means that the denim comes straight off its production loom and is measured, cut, and then sewn into jeans ready to break in. Denim comes in two types: sanforized and unsanforized. Sanforized denim undergoes a special process that moistens or steams the individual cotton fibers of the pant so that the finished product will shrink less when washed by the end consumer. Unsanforized denim is just the opposite; it is totally raw and will shrink considerably more than sanforized denim. Both types of raw denim are usually dyed with Indigo dye giving it its classic dark blue color. Raw denim usually fits into one of three tiers: lightweight (12oz), middleweight (12-16oz), and heavyweight (16+oz). The lighter the weight, the smoother the jeans will break in, but they won't fade as well. Speaking of:

Sick raw denim fades. Source unknown

Sick raw denim fades. Source unknown

Here's the cool part

All denim fades, but because a lot of denim is sold pre-faded, people miss out on the real personalization component of raw denim. Having different colored selvedge and wefts and denim is one thing, but what if your jeans could morph to your body? Think of an untreated pair of raw selvedge jeans as a blank canvas. As you wear your jeans more and more, the cotton fibers in the denim will contour to your body, creating a glove (but with pants - glove pants.). Note: raw denim requires different care/cleaning methods traditional jeans. I'ts recommended to not wash a new pair of raw denim jeans for at least 6 months, unless they get dirty. I'm not saying to go around wearing filthy pants, but the longer they go without soaking up water, the better the fades will develop. Continuous wear will create faded spots of indigo in certain areas of the jean. These fades become marks of your own movements. Always have your wallet in the back right pocket? Phone always in the front? Live on a rough block? I think you get the idea. Through enough dedication to wearing your denim, your jeans will grow with you, building character as you make your jeans more and more your own. Fading denim is a pretty big part of the raw denim/selvedge community. In fact, there are even different kinds of fades:

Honeycombs: contrasting lines found opposite of the kneecap. Another one.

Whiskers: streaks around the crotch and pockets of the jeans

Traintracks: appears on the outseams and outline the selvedge

 

Raw Selvedge for Beginners

There's a giant community (check out /r/rawdenim) of raw selvedge denim enthusiasts and countless brands that range in price, quality, color, country of origin, etc... and different people like different kinds of denim. For those looking to get a pair, plenty of choices exist. Here are some that I'd recommend:

Unbranded: Competitively priced and with modern cuts, Unbranded's line of jeans and chinos are solid quality for the >$100 price range. They're made in Macau, which I now just learned is a small city in China, so keep that in mind. Unbranded is actually a subsidy of Naked & Famous, though the brands have different focuses.

Naked & Famous: I own a ton of Naked & Famous stuff from their denim to their jackets, and they're my go-to for raw denim. Most of their offerings are made in Canada, which I think is pretty cool (heh) and the quality of their products has been superb in my experience. Their Weird Guy (overall slim with relaxed seat and taper below the knee) cut is pretty popular. Though I don't own an exact pair myself, I've heard great things about the Elephant 5s. Fun fact: they also make scratch-and-sniff denim that releases a minty smell when rubbed. Seriously.

Levi's: Levi's often makes selvedge that isn't raw, but does offer raw selvedge on their website. Levi's Shrink-to-Fit and Rigid Dragons aren't selvedge, but are raw denim. I love my pair of Rigid Dragons and they've faded very nicely. 

Nudie: Swedish brand Nudie Jeans brings a lot to the table when it comes to their dry (AKA raw) selvedge denim. Nudies are considerably more expensive than some of the other options listed here, so keep that in mind. 

Gustin: What sets Gustin apart from other brands is that they use a prefunding sales model. This allows them to source unique fabrics that other companies don't offer. The biggest downside is that because each product is made-to-order, it can take a month or two to receive your order. Keep this in mind. 

 

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Men's Wardrobe Essentials

 

Check out the updated Spring Wardrobe edition


Many will tell you that the key to dressing well is a basic yet versatile wardrobe, but what exactly comprises one?

Well, different people have different thoughts on what the basic men's closet holds, and that's totally fine. This is by no means an authoritative guide for what you must have to be a stylish guy. Style varies, so this guide aims to encompass a solid foundation for casual wardrobe essentials that also encourages you to build upon it and please do. This post assumes you already have items like t-shirts, underwear, etc... and it does not include formal items such as suits or dress shoes.

Button Front Shirts

Left to right: Woven cloth, Gray Chambray, Oxford cloth, Gingham, Flannel

Left to right: Woven cloth, Gray Chambray, Oxford cloth, Gingham, Flannel

Ah, the button down.. The sheer variety and adaptability of the button down family is nothing short of impressive with shirts being made from virtually limitless patterns, colors, and fabrics. Perhaps the best part about the button down is its variety of applications; they're wearable year-round in tons of different outfits. For Spring/Summer, lighter fabrics like chambray and linen are solid choices as they're light and breathable while you may want to switch to heavier flannel or oxford cloth (though oxford can usually be worn S/S as well). 

Chambray: A type of plain weave cloth (usually cotton) with a colored warp and white weft, giving it a speckled-like appearance. Chambray comes in a bunch of colors, but the most common for men are light blue, dark blue, and gray. The best way to think of it is like a light and clothy denim. For a basic wardrobe, you can't really go wrong with any shades of blue or gray.

Oxford: A basketweave cloth that's not too light yet not too heavy. It's a reliable fabric that finds its way into all sorts of styles. The oxford cloth button down (or OCBDs as us hip, young people call them) are made by countless manufacturers and come in all sorts of colors and patterns. There's a reason this type of shirt is an MFA favorite. Colors you should have at your disposal include: light blue, white (can never have too many white button downs), and light green - aim for neutral, plain colors as they're easiest to wear with other clothes and busier patterns.

Linen: Made from the fibers of the flax plant and laborious (and therefore expensive) to manufacture, linen is the ideal fabric for hot weather. In fact, mummies were usually wrapped in linen as a sign of purity and wealth (and do you know how hot it is in Egypt?). Linen constitutes a large portion of Spring/Summer clothes, including shirts, blazers, pants, bags, etc... After buying my first linen button down this past Spring, I definitely have plans to have more as the fabric is substantially more breathable than my OCBDs. Since linen is usually associated with the warmer months, it's advisable to buy linen shirts in more vibrant colors like light blue, lime green, and orange; however, you can never go wrong with neutrals either. For a truly versatile wardrobe, a man must be prepared for whatever elements nature can throw at him, so linen is a key fabric to combat the summer heat.

Gingham: This is a mid-weight pattern woven from cotton or blended yarn, and is always checkered in white plus another bold color. Usually worn in S/S, gingham is often mistaken with plaid, though the patterns differ; Gingham is white with  another color and has equally spaced lines, while plaid can be any combination of colors any varying line spacing. Gingham is a very "busy" pattern, so it's not the easiest to pair into fits. I'd recommend either a blue or red one. Don't go overboard with distracting patterns like this as the key to a solid basic wardrobe is simplicity and cohesion.

Flannel: A soft woven material made from wool or cotton, a flannel is the time-tested choice for a reliable casual look. Though far too casual for any sort of tie, flannels offer considerable comfort without sacrificing style. They come in essentially every color combination imaginable, so you're sure to find one that fits your style. You can never go wrong with a classic red flannel, but again you should pick a color that will contribute something to your wardrobe. Be warned though, as some flannels are made in very large, boxy fits so be sure to check the size measurements before buying one online.

Sweaters

Left to right: classic pullover, cableknit, wool, henley*

Left to right: classic pullover, cableknit, wool, henley*

Not much needs to be said about sweaters besides that they keep you warm and they can be utilized in both casual and more formal attire. For a basic wardrobe, stick to safer neutral colors (heather gray, dark gray, navy, black, beige) as they're easiest to create cooporative outfits with. There are several different types of styles and materials, so we'll go over a few:

Cable knit: Though more a method of knitting than just a category of sweater, cableknit sweaters are great for giving off a chunky look. This makes them an excellent choice for the colder months. Cable knit sweaters are a wardrobe essential because their texture alone defeats the need for any sort of pattern, which sets them apart from your other pullovers. I'd recommend at least one cable knit just so your sweater lineup has some texture variety. Go for gray or navy.

Wool: Obviously not just used for sweaters, but wool is probably the second most common material for sweaters next to cotton. Wool comes in several different varieties such as merino, lambswool, and shetland. Wool sweaters are very warm, but can sometimes be itchy so it may be a good move to layer a t-shirt underneath a wool sweater (make sure the shirt's color doesn't peek through the sweater) 

Henley: Okay, so this isn't even a type of sweater, but I figured it was similar enough to include in the same category. Popularized by Dexter (not really but also maybe), henleys are a must-have in a basic wardrobe as they look stylsh standalone or while layered underneath something else. It wouldn't be a poor choice to pick up one or two henleys (I'd say white plus gray or navy). 

Outerwear

Left to right: denim trucker, field jacket, cotton parka, bomber, peacoat

Left to right: denim trucker, field jacket, cotton parka, bomber, peacoat

Perhaps my own favorite category of apparel, outerwear is comprised of tons of different kinds of coats and jackets from vest to flight jackets to top coats. Check out this awesome visual to look at all the types and their weather application. As you can see, the spectrum of outerwear is quite big,  which made choosing wardrobe essentials tedious. Now because layering is a considerable component to dressing well in the colder months, the selection I've chosen isn't overly warm or suitable for low temperatures on its own. Wear them over a sweater or henley to maximize your body temp. As I've said previously, it's important to comprehend your own personal style and see if these pieces fit into it:

Denim Trucker: Though not everyone's cup o' tea, the denim trucker is a staple in the wardrobe of the Americana enthusiast. A great choice for a casual setting allows the trucker to go with a number of different outfits. For a beginner's wardrobe, I'd recommend the Levi's model, but those who like selvedge and raw denim may want to take a look at the Naked & Famous one. 

Field Jacket: Modeled after the M-65 jacket manufactured for soldiers during the Vietnam War, the modern field jacket can come in all sorts of types. It's a great piece to pair with denim and boots to complete that rugged aesthetic. I personally love the J Crew field mechanic jacket though it's a pricier option for a basic wardrobe. Gap and Old Navy have some solid field jackets for the sub ~$60 range. I chose the field jacket because green is generally an underused color and it can add a lot of variety to your looks. 

Cotton Parka: Parka is an umbrella term for a hooded coat, so they can range from something like thick and heavy like this to something lighter like the cotton parka. Parkas/anoraks are a large part of Scandinavian fashion. If you're not familiar, check out this Norse Projects inspiration album. This type of jacket was included because it serves as an exceptional layering piece that goes great over a knit sweater with a pair of chinos and boots.

Bomber: Bombers can come in a range of materials including nylon, leather, cotton, wool etc... Giving off more of a streetwear-esque look, this category of jacket is easy to make "work" and like the denim jacket, is great for casual settings. For starters, I'd recommend a black nylon jacket. If you plan to get a leather one, don't cheap out on faux leather; the real deal is always worth the extra cash. 

Peacoat: The classic peacoat is a personal favorite of mine. They were originally created for sailors dating back to the 18th century, peacoats are characterized by broad lapels and double-breasted fronts. The best material for a peacoat is a wool blend because 100% wool models often lack structural integrity. Common colors include navy, black, and gray, but recently camel/tan peacoats (and other outerwear) have become increasingly popular. I included the peacoat because it's a timeless jacket that not only does a superb job at keeping one warm, but is eternally stylish as well.

Bottoms

Left to right: black jeans, dark rigid jeans, assorted colored chinos

Left to right: black jeans, dark rigid jeans, assorted colored chinos

This post is directed more towards Fall/Winter styles, so this category will only include pants (look out for an updated Spring/Summer guide in the future). The main two categories of pants in a the casual wardrobe are jeans and chinos and honestly, they're pretty much all you need. 

Jeans: I think it's safe to assume that if you're reading this, you have a pair of jeans; however, it's important to know that the decrepit boot-cut pair you may have lying around isn't what you want to be wearing to be stylish. The current trend for jeans is a modern slim fit. For the basic wardrobe, the best bang for the buck is the Levi's 511 without a doubt. I would recommend a pair of Rigid Dragons as well as one in black.

Chinos: Man, I love chinos. They're completely effortless, yet everyone thinks you dress well if you wear them (win-win). Like jeans, aim for more of a slim fit with these, though not too skinny. Levi's makes chinos in the 511 fit as well.  Recommended colors include khaki, olive, navy, and gray. Recently, I've been seeing a lot of this color around, and I personally like it a lot. 

 

Footwear

Left to right: Clarks Desert Boot, Adidas Stan Smith, Vans SK8 HI, Chippewa Apache, Vans Era 

Left to right: Clarks Desert Boot, Adidas Stan Smith, Vans SK8 HI, Chippewa Apache, Vans Era 

Possibly the most enjoyable part of selecting wardrobe basics, the footwear category is one that can't be skimped out on. I personally own each of these pairs of shoes and boots, and they're all very popular in the men's fashion industry. Each choice is relatively affordable <$150 and it's more than possible to swap them out depending on your own style. These are just some common staples:

Clarks Desert Boots: I go in-depth on these in my boot guide, but basically they're a  super versatile chukka and go particularly well with both chinos and jeans. I'd recommend the Beeswax color with the original crepe sole. Stay away from the Bushacre model.

Adidas Stan Smith: These have definitely caused a buzz this past year, largely because they're an affordable, minimalist sneaker that has a nice silhouette - not too chunky though not too small. They come in a ton's of different colors, but I'd recommend getting a pair that's mostly white. 

Vans SK8 HI - A hate it or love it kind of sneaker, the Vans SK8 HI is ideal for a casual look. Some may think it's a bit too casual of a sneaker and I can't necessarily disagree, but if you like the look, they're very easy to incorporate into your normal looks.

Chippewa Apache - Like the CDBS, these are also went into more in the boot guide, so check that out if you're interested. This was my first pair of boots and they were worth every penny. Similarly to chinos, wearing boots is one of those things that isn't necessarily difficult, but gives substantial style factor.

Vans Era - A perfect answer to a budget canvas shoe, the classic Vans Era sneaker should be in every man's footwear lineup. They come in nearly any color imaginable, but I'd stick to neutral colors like white, black, and gray because some of the other colors look a bit juvenile. 

Bass Oxford - Though technically a derby, the Bass line of shoes isn't the best quality, but they're  an affordable option for a dressier shoe. I own a pair in the Mexi-rust color and it's held up very well so far.

Jose Real Berlina Oxford - Sporting a smooth leather vamp, this Italian-made oxford pairs well with a suit or blazer. The toebox is burnished, meaning the leather is buffed to achieve variation in shade from the rest of the shoe. Those looking for a more expensive, yet higher quality option should check out this Allen Edmonds model. I'd recommend a pair of oxfords in either black or dark brown (whatever color your dress belt is).  

Accessories

 

Left to right: Timex Weekender, Timex T2E581, Orion leather belts, Florsheim shoe trees

Left to right: Timex Weekender, Timex T2E581, Orion leather belts, Florsheim shoe trees

Timex Weekender: The Weekender is a great watch for the money. It has a clear, simplistic face and uses easily interchangeable NATO straps in case you want to switch up the look a bit. I own a pair of these, and their biggest drawback is the loud ticking. Though barely noticeable during the day, you'll be able to hear the ticking in a quiet room when you're trying to sleep - definitely keep this in mind if you're considering one. 

Leather belts: If your pants have belt loops, wear a belt. It's as simple as that. You'll wear a belt almost every day, so it's definitely worth the extra money to get one that's made of sturdy, durable leather. I've been wearing my Orion belt every single day for over a year now and it's still going strong. It's expensive, so some cheaper alternatives are Dockers and Levis. I'd recommend having at least two; one in brown and one in black. 

Bracelets:  So, these are totally unessential as are most accessories that don't possess utility, but I've been seeing a lot more bracelets being worn by guys recently. Don't go overboard; however, a minimalist bracelet can add a nice touch to your look. I personally wear an ox bone skull bracelet by fellow Redditor Kangalex.

Shoe Trees: These help keep your footwear (mainly leather boots) from losing their shape, developing creases, and they also eliminate odor. Though not absolutely necessary to own, they're a good investment if you own or plan on owning an expensive pair of shoes or boots. 

 

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Men's Boots: A Fundamental Guide

Photo courtesy of thepacman82 on Instagram

So, you wanna buy a pair of boots ...  

I can think of plenty of reasons why a man striving to dress better should own a quality set of leather boots. Whether it's their longevity, fit, warmth, or simply their appearance, boots are a staple in the realm of style. From chelseas to moc toes to chukkas, the selection of boots in this day and age is essentially limitless, meaning it's that much easier for you to find your perfect pair!

Though I'm certain you've heard it countless times before, let's get something out of the way first; you get what you pay for, and that goes double for boots. The difference in caliber, durability, and appearance of a well-made, American pair of boots compared to something you find at Target is substantial. Think of a pair of boots as an investment. From the minute you try them on, they'll conform to your feet, age as you age, walk you through the elements, be there when Stacy from accounting doesn't text back (but whatever - she wasn't that cute anyway), and they will become an extension of your own character. In short, a set of solid boots will last a long time and if you treat them well, they'll return the favor.


Before we get into styles and types, let's get some basic terminology out of the way. I've made a quick diagram to do so:

Original photo courtesy of modernwidwest.com

Original photo courtesy of modernwidwest.com

1. The outsole is the bottom part of the boot that directly touches the ground. It's important for this part of your footwear to be sturdy, as it'll be taking the most beating. This part can be made of various materials including leather, crepe, and Vibram, which all have their own separate applications.

2. The toebox provides space and protection for your toes, and is often lined in workboots (hence, steel-toed boots). Your foot's interaction with the toebox is crucial to fit and comfort. This part can come rounded or square, though rounded seems to be much more stylish.

3. The eyelets secure your laces to the boot itself. Pretty self-explanatory part of any footwear.

4. The vamp AKA upper surrounds and protects your foot from the sole upward. This is the part that creates the shape of your boot using a last.

5. For higher-rise boots, speedhooks are often implemented to let you tie/untie your laces quicker. Essentially, it allows one to swiftly insert and remove his foot from the boot.

6. The tongue prevents the laces from rubbing against your ankle.

7. The Goodyear welt runs along the outsole. This part is only found on quality boots as it signifies that the boot-maker used a specific process that's generally believed the be the best way to craft boots. 

things to Note: 

  • The sole of the boot comes in several different styles which are used for different purposes: flat (similar to photo above), wedge (insulating) , Dainitelugged (anti-slip).
  • The toebox, like the sole, also comes in a few different looks: plain, moc-toe, wingtip, and cap-toe. Unlike the sole, the toebox's appearance is generally ornamental; pick one that you like.
  • You can add water-resistance to your boots by coating them with some mink oil, though it'll usually darken the leather.
  • Looking into some leather conditioner could also be a good move, as it'll protect and rejuvenate your boots. 

Now that we have a general understanding of the anatomical components of a boot, let's dwell further into the aesthetics: 

Chippewa Apache 6" Lace-up boot

Chippewa Apache 6" Lace-up boot

Work boots:

Perhaps the original branch of boots, this category employs a range of footwear ready to take a beating, but that doesn't mean they can't look good while doing it. Work boots are generally made of more rugged leather and often employ Dainite or lugged soles. These are the things your granddad wore. Here are a few brands and models:

  • Chippewa Apache 6" Rugged Handcrafted Lace-Up Boot - these were actually my very first pair of boots as well as the purchase that got me interested in men's fashion. They're an excellent pair of boots for the price and the burnished leather is soft and nice. Not to mention, they're handmade in the United States. Also available in a lugged sole. Make sure to size down! Chippewa's collection
  • Red Wing Heritage Iron Rangers - The Iron Rangers are near the top of the workboot echelon. The Minnesota-made boots are a staple for the Americana enthusiast. The only problem I see with these is that they might be too nice to use like regular workboots. They also come in a huge range of different leathers and colors. Red Wing's collection
  • Alden Indy Boots - (Not to be confused with Aldo) Okay, so I might be a little bit obsessed with these, but can you blame me? First of all, they were made famous by Indiana Jones (hence the Indy). And if you don't think that's awesome, each pair is handmade in Massachusetts. As with the Allen Edmonds, this is by no means an entry-level pair of boots. Just remember, you don't need to spend an absurd amount of money on boots to look good; there are plenty of budget alternatives available that look just like the expensive boots.
  • Wolverine 1000 Mile - An excellent contender for an upper mid-tier boot, the 1Ks are another US made boot. The leather is sourced from Horween, a great tannery that actually provides leather for MLB baseball gloves (kind of interesting, right?). I personally have a pair of the Centennial version, which has pebbled leather as opposed to smooth. The boot fits like a glove (heh) and they can fit into a range of outfits. I'd recommend a pair of these for sure. They also go on sale a few times a year, so look out for that.

 

Clarks Original Desert Boot in Beeswax

Clarks Original Desert Boot in Beeswax

Chukkas:

Gaining considerate popularity in the past few years, chukkas are here to stay. Likely the lowest rise of and boot, they're characterized by simplistic design and usually two or three eyelets. A definitive must-have for the modern gentleman's arsenal of footwear.

  • Clarks Original Desert Boot - Ah, the CDB. It's practically a meme in the men's fashion community along with *ahem* Uniqlo, but there's a reason why these are so unbelievably popular. First, they're only about $100 and go on sale regularly. Second, a lot of people love the look of the crepe sole (CDBs are inspired by British WWII officers which is kind of cool). Third, they come in essentially every color and pattern imaginable (like what...?). To keep things short, these are a staple piece that wont break the bank. I'd recommend the Beeswax colorway if they're your first boot. Check the sizing before you order
  • Red Wing Heritage Chukka - These look a bit different than the CDBs and have a couple of other features as well. To begin, they're US-made (I know I keep stressing the importance of this, but you really don't want to buy Chinese leather for both quality and ethical reasons). In addition, Red Wing's take on chukkas has Goodyear welt construction and an additional set of eyelets for a more secure fit. 

 

Chelseas: 

Chelsea boots are laceless, closed-vamp boots that usually have a pull tab to slip them on in addition to elastic webbing on the sides. Considered to be popularized in the 1960s by the Beatles. These boots are considerably more difficult to pull off as they work best in slim outfits (see Saint Laurent Paris) unless you're Kanye, then you can pretty much do whatever. Chelseas come in either suede or leather, but I tend to see suede more often. 

  • Wolverine 1883 Chelsea - A sort of lovechild between the workboot and chelsea, these are a good choice for those who like the craftsmanship of traditional full-grain leather but the silhouette of the chelsea.
  • Crevo Denham Chelsea - Chelsea boots tend to be on the pricier side of the boot spectrum, so these are a nice alternative for under $100. Just don't expect them to last as long as a more expensive pair of boots.
  • Grenson Declan Suede Chelsea - A slight redesign of the traditional chelsea, this pair of Grensons boasts deep brown suede and Goodyear welt construction.

 

Carmina Cordovan Balmoral boots

Carmina Cordovan Balmoral boots

Dress Boots:

Unlike work boots, dress boots often prioritize form over function, but that doesn't mean they'll fall apart on you. If you're looking for a pair of boots that look as great with a suit as they do with a pair of chinos, then this is the category you should be searching in.

  • Allen Edmonds Dalton Lace-Up - There aren't many names out there in the men's fashion industry quite like Allen Edmonds, and there's good reason for this. I mean like, damn, look at these things. The walnut leather finish is iconic of AE, and these ornate wingtips are surely no exception. If you're willing to spend half a grand on a pair of boots, these could certainly be a pair to consider.
  • Grenson Sharp Leather Brogues - Similarly the Daltons, these Grenson brogues utilize wingtip leather. The leather is burnished at the toebox, meaning it's smoothed out and appears darker than the rest of the boot. These boots will look great in anything from denim to chinos to dress pants.
  • Edward Green Galway Cap-toed Boots - Alright, I don't think there would ever be a time where I'd drop $1500 on a pair of boots, but there are certainly those who would. Constructed of tan grained leather set on a Dainite sole, these beauties are certain to impress.
  • Carmina Cordovan Balmoral Boot - If you want your boots to be the shiniest objects in your county, you may want to take a look at these Carminas. A much higher rise than the previous options, these boots are built to impress and come in two stately color: a rich, brown cognac and a deep blue marino. These are the perfect boots for a formal setting. 

 

Moc-Toes

Moc-toe boots can fall into several categories, though they're likely fixed between a casual and a work boot. These kinds of boots are characterized by a bulkier silhouette, contrast stitching, and a thick wedge sole. Some people love 'em, some people hate 'em. I happen to love 'em. 

  • Wolverine Moc-toe Work Boot - Moc-toe boots can fall into a few different categories, this particular pair is definitely built for work. Not as durable as US-made boots, but this is a solid budget option for those looking for beater boots.  
  • Red Wing Moc-toe Boot - Though more expensive than the Wolverines, the Red Wing heritage moc toe is the perfect conception of form and function. They also come in a range of some pretty great colors.
  • Golden Fox lightweight Moc-toes - I've actually heard some great things about these boots despite their ~$75 price range. Full-grain leather and Goodyear welt construction let this budget boot contend with some of the pricier models. A great choice for those seeking a cheap, sturdy boot.
  • Thorogood 6" Moc - Yet another US-made boot, the Thorogood model has white contrast stitching and a cushioned man-made sole. While definitely a well-made set of boots, the brand's flair put all over the boot can turn away some prospective buyers (myself included) as it makes the boot come off as a bit too casual for my tastes. 
  • Vivsim 7 Hole Moc - The Japanese brand's iconic style has made its mark on the men's fashion industry, boasting celebrity advocates from John Mayer to Drake (what the hell are those jeans, Drake?) to Kanye. This model utilizes raw cowhide leather uppers along with Vibram lug soles, TPU heel stabilizers, and its handsewn Goodyear craftsmanship

 

Miscellaneous Boots

These are a few honorable mentions that I feel should be included in this guide, but don't fully fit into a category on their own. 

  • Dr. Martens Men's 1460 Classic Boot - Everyone knows about Doc Martens, and there's reason for that. A sub-$100 pair of boots available in plenty of colors including some questionable ones. They were made in England up until 2003 due to declining sales, which is a shame because though the price dropped, so did the quality. They're currently produced in China and Thailand and the leather's quality is mediocre at best. However, they do currently have a 'Made in England' line, though it's nearly twice the price. 
  • Timberland Classic Work Boot - Alright, so these probably belong in the work boot category, but because they're largely worn as an urban fashion boot, I think they fit here quite well. Tims have been around for a while and have retained popularity for a number of years. Personally, I'm not a fan as I believe you can get a much better boot for the price, but some like that look and that's fine by me.
  • Nike Special Field Boot - Popularized by Shia Labeouf and often dubbed the Shia Laboots, these boots have become a cult favorite among some streetwear enthusiasts. The SFBs are an interesting boot without a doubt. The lacing closure system ensures a tight fit so they won't come loose, which aligns well with its initial purpose as a first responder's boot. 

Here's a great graphic from the guys at /r/goodyearwelt, a Reddit community for boot enthusiasts. Check 'em out if you're interested in learning more. 

 

 


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Levi's Jeans: An Introduction

Photo courtesy of Levi.com

Photo courtesy of Levi.com

If you're from the USA (or nearly anywhere else in the world), Levi's is probably a household name, but what makes the little red tab on your back pocket so special?

How about a brief history of the company? Well, in the mid-18th century, a man named Levi Strauss traveled to California in the midst of the gold rush hoping to make his fortune; however, his fortune would be not gold, but blue. 

In 1872, Strauss received a letter from a friend describing a method of creating pants with rivets instead of traditional thread, but he needed a business partner. Strauss loved the idea and jumped at the opportunity. On May 20th, 1873, the blue jeans as we know them were born.

Now, fast-forward several generations to the modern day, and Levi's has established a quality brand name at an economical price point - denim for the working man. A lot has changed since the introduction of Levi's jeans, including an assortment of washes, fabrics, colors, and cuts.

Now that I mention it, the sheer variety of cuts and fits of Levi's jeans is pretty incredible:

  • 501 - The original classic, straight fit with button fly
  • 505 - Regular fit with a slightly (1/2in) narrower leg opening
  • 510 - Skinny fit with the smallest leg opening (13.5in)
  • 511 - Slim fit with a tapered leg opening. -- My personal favorite cut of Levi's and in my opinion, the most modern and stylish
  • 513 - Slim fit with straight leg opening.
  • 514 - Regular fit with straight leg opening
  • 517 - Slim fit with a boot cut
  • 541 - Athletic fit with straight leg. I've heard these called the "squatter's cut," so they could be a great fit if you have muscular legs
  • 550 - Relaxed fit with a tapered leg

Another thing to mention is that these numbered cuts aren't only for denim, but for chinos and other pants made by Levi's as well. I personally love my Levi's 511 chinos and they're at a price point where it's more than feasible to grab a couple in different colors. That being said, Levi's makes far more than just pants. Over the years, you may have noticed their redirection as a sort of "lifestyle" brand (e.g logo t-shirts, hoodies, jackets etc...) as the company broadens its foothold in the fashion industry.

However, there is certainly a major drawback from the Levi's brand and that is its quality control. Levi's is an industry giant  and sells millions of pairs of jeans all over the world. Because of this, their quality control suffers considerably meaning there is a significant amount of variation between each "identical" pair. All Levi's jeans are NOT made equal. The company has factories all across the world that manufacture these jeans, and while the working conditions are generally fair for workers, quality of the denim produced can range widely. 

For example, I have a pair of 511 Rigid Dragons that I totally love and that particular pair is made in Cambodia. They're a good weight, well-stitched, and fit perfectly. I liked them so much that I picked up another pair of 511s from Levi.com. Once they arrived, I immediately noticed that the quality was not nearly up to par with my Rigid Dragons; the stitching had errors and the fit was significantly less comfortable. I looked at the tag and noticed they were made in Kenya, so I assumed that particular factory's quality control was inferior to that of the Cambodian one.  I'd definitely recommend trying on a pair before purchasing! Here is a great Reddit post going further in depth about Levi's quality and variance.

Photo courtesy of selectism.com

Photo courtesy of selectism.com

Let's talk about another Levi's classic: the trucker jacket. Now, despite its initial introduction as workwear-oriented outwerwear, the trucker is a piece that can in every man's wardrobe. Warm enough to be a light Fall jacket yet light enough to make a sweet layering piece, the denim trucker can be a great addition to the wardrobe of the Americana enthusiast. Just be careful wearing a trucker that's the same color as your jeans; the Canadian Tuxedo is generally not a very fashionable look ;)

 

Photo courtesy of Levi.com

Photo courtesy of Levi.com

Recently (~2011), Levi's has introduced its new Commuter line. Essentially, it's similar style to the traditional collection, but with a focus on being "bike-friendly." For example, my 511 commuter pants have a band of stretchy fabric in the back meant to hold a bicycle U-lock while riding, which I think is pretty convenient. It also has reflective tape where the inside stitching is on the pant leg, similar to where the selvedge would be. This reflective 3M tape acts as a safety feature to protect the cyclist from passing vehicles, because no one likes being hit by cars, you know? The pants are have much more elasticity than my regular 511 chinos or jeans, which is great for peddling and provides far less restrictive movement than normal pants.

A personal favorite of mine from the collection is the Commuter Trucker jacket, which is a sort of modernized version of the classic trucker. The piece features a concealable hood, extra pockets, and a few more details that make it a pretty unique jacket. This trucker has been pretty popular in tech and streetwear centered outfits, which makes sense given the jacket's appearance. 

All in all, Levi Strauss & Co. is a well-rounded brand with a lot to offer. The company's focus on competitive MSRPs makes it easily obtainable without sacrificing form or function. The poor quality control is definitely something to look out for, but generally isn't a problem as long as you're able to try on a pair in a brick & mortar store or return it for an online order. 

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