Is a tuxedo t-shirt with notch lapels more of a no-no than a tuxedo t-shirt with peak or shawl lapels?
At 35, I've been (mostly) dressing like an adult for almost two years.
Ah, the benefits of losing weight. I had to stow this Cantarelli jacket when I gained too much weight to wear it without excessive strain at the button point.
I’m undecided if the wool knit tie is too incoherent with the warm weather jacket. I just can’t stomach saying good-bye to all my burgundy ties for the season.
Chief Wiggum was wrong, you can get chocolate out.
I was baking and neglected to put on an apron. The top photo shows the result of this negligence. As one of my workhorse shirts, I really didn’t want to sacrifice it to the baking gods, even if the resultant cake was very good.
I refused to resign myself and the shirt to this chocolatey fate and deployed my favourite laundry weapon: OxiClean. I’m not one to wantonly tout a brand, but this stuff really works.
First, I made a concentrated slurry out of the powder that I put directly on the stain. I let that sit for about two hours. Then I soaked the shirt overnight in the concentration recommended for ‘tough laundry stains.’ Finally, I did a cold water wash. There is no trace of the chocolate.
Note: Sorry for the wildly different colour cast. I was shooting under quite different lighting conditions. Trust me that this is the same shirt.
This suit was absent from my rotation for a while. Why? I got too fat to wear it. Simple as that. I’d been putting on weight for a while, mostly due to stress eating. I quietly consigned the suit to the closet, with a slight bit of shame, but not changing my eating habits. The turning point came when my neck got too fat to comfortably button up my pink Brooks Brothers OCBD. I finally acknowledged that I needed to make a change.
So, about six weeks and 30lbs later, the shirt fits and the tweed suit will be a short-lived part of my cool spring wardrobe.
I put this together acknowledging that Toronto is having a cool spring, but with the flowery pocket square to represent my hope for warmer days, even though that’ll mean the suit will again be out of rotation, although this time for happier reasons.
This is a Lands’ End shawl collar sweater in a cotton-wool-linen blend. Obviously, it should not go in the washing machine. Unfortunately, in the rush of a post-vacation launder it wound up in there. Once I realized what happened - thankfully, prior to it going in the dryer - I was heart-broken. I live in this sweater through fall, winter and early spring.
However, the heartbreak was premature, as you can see. The sweater survived. In fact, as it was starting to bag out a bit, the wash actually tightened it back up. Of course, the wash almost certainly shortened its life and I won’t be repeating the mistake.
Before I had kids, I was really into photography. Now, five years later, I’m getting back into it; taking photos for their own sake. This means I’m probably going to play around with my wiwt shots a bit more.
Although I started doing this just for fun it made something apparent to me: viewing an outfit in black & white helps judge pattern mixing better. By removing the different colours, you can focus on the shapes of the patterns.
I haven’t been posting many wiwt shots lately, in part because I’ve been choosing to stay casual or wearing redundant outfits. I decided to post this one because I’m particularly pleased with the combination of colours, textures and patterns in this outfit.
The suit is quite boldly checked, although the checks are hard to discern from a distance. The colour is also an unusual gray-blue. It wouldn’t work in almost any office setting. As a casual suit, I felt comfortable with the button-down collar. I also thought the wool knit tie worked well with both the pink shirt and the blue-gray of the suit. This knit tie also has a really nice texture to it. Since the tie is matte, I decided to throw in a silk pocket square.
Neither the shirt nor the tie has a pattern, so I wanted to include one in the pocket square. However, this is sort of a tricky proposition. On the one hand, the pattern of the suit is quite large. Yet, the multiple overlapping checks actually create the impression of a fairly small pattern. I thought the bold, pink polka dots of the pocket square fit into the middle ground between the impression of both big and small patterns contained in the suit.
The suit is thrifted Aquascutum.
The tie is eBay’d Lands End.
The shirt is Brooks Brothers ESF, bought on sale.
"We all get ideas and cues from other people to build our own personal styles. For some it may be a work in progress and others may be content with whatever their own looks may be. Some may resemble well-known memes or seem too overtly camera-friendly, but I for one am not willing to pass negative judgment on someone for that without knowing their intentions or daily routines."
Distilling part of the argument I made in my post Progress & Preservation.
The Silentist wrote a piece asserting his opposition to sneakers with suits. He’s extending a position I noted in the second of two posts I made on the subject. A Fistful of Style has offered his own rejoinder.
I would like to take this very practical topic to a more conceptual place. Specifically, I want to consider the role of two opposing tendencies in style/fashion. On the one hand, there’s what I would call progression, on the other’s there preservation. Progression involves introducing change and moving away from tradition. Preservation involves stability and a reinforcement of tradition. I’m trying to present the concepts without any overt normative assessment as I consider both important forces within menswear. In fact, I think it is the tension between them that ensures change itself is coherent. If I’m being upfront, I would consider myself more of a progressionist, favouring experimentation that pushes and crosses the boundaries of traditional style. Kiyoshi - The Silentist - is more of a preservationist, an assessment I’m quite certain he would agree with.
I consider it indisputable that style changes. If you watch Downton Abbey, then you saw how the tuxedo was considered by some to be an unwelcome casual step away from traditional white tie. Yet, the rules of aristocratic dress were, at that time, less than 100 years old, having come about with Beau Brummell’s influence on the future King George IV and the aristocracy that surrounded him. Prior to that, the aristocracy wore quite audacious and ornate costumes to demonstrate their wealth and leisure. By the 1950s, as depicted in the excellent BBC series The Hour, the tuxedo was the required dress for a man attending dinner in an aristocratic household. The clothing worn to lunch by those at the home would have given the Dowager Countess a heart attack. Although white tie and morning dress remain the height of formal mens attire, they are almost entirely restricted to the vestiges of the aristocracy, with barely two generations of British aristocrats having actually donned such outfits on a regular basis.
As the world changes it only makes sense that style changes with it. Yet, I do not wish for menswear to be radically and unhesitatingly transformed. Everyone likes to say that there are ‘no rules’ in menswear and it is true, if by rules we mean something akin to a sport’s rulebook. Instead, menswear has covert ‘rules.’ It would be a lot easier if we could all just buy the handbook. Instead, there is a learning process, figuring out what works and what is acceptable. The basis for acceptance is judgement by the community. This judgement is not arbitrary. In fact, it is built up from years of experience that includes buying and wearing the clothes, putting together outfits, learning about materials, colour combinations, use of texture, proportion, cut. However, it also includes engaging with others, both in and outside the community. Or, rather, communities, as there are multiple arenas were we have our clothes judged and where we judge others. Perhaps you were lucky enough to learn from your father, whom you still try to impress. Or, you might have very strict requirements on your dress from your place of work. Or, you might be a member of styleforum, trying to earn a kudos from Manton or Spoo. Or, maybe you post wiwt shots on Tumblr in pursuit of the official #menswear tag, or a reblog from This Fits. Let’s also not under-estimate the effect of an envious glance or compliment from someone outside the community. Menswear is, as with many things in life, about fitting in. And, contrary to those who insist that you should dress solely for yourself, I think it’s okay to dress for a community. The assessment of peers is important and it should be important.
The menswear community exists in multiple parts and they do not all accord with one another. Yet, there are many commonly held ideas about what constitutes ‘classic’ menswear. I saw it espoused most clearly and effectively in a now disappeared series by F. Corbera (voxsartoria on Tumblr) on putting together coherent outfits. These commonly held ideas form the basis for the menswear tradition and it is to this tradition that The Silentist is appealing in his rejection of sneakers and suits. Of course, it is entirely possible for traditionalists to have their own disagreements about what is and is not traditional. To see such interesting and informative nitpicking in action, read the CBD WAYWRN: An Experiment thread on styleforum. Yet, they will largely close ranks in defence of tradition when confronted with those transgressing the ‘rules.’ In fact, the existence of the CBD thread is in response to what many in the forums considered excessive transgression in the standard ‘What Are You Wearing Right Now?’ thread. These preservationists will have all sorts of arguments for why such transgressions are undesirable, unappealing, or incoherent. Yet, such transgressions will continue to occur as the progressionists play at the boundaries and occasionally stray well outside them.
So, we have these two groups: the preservationists appealing to the coherence captured by the ‘rules’ of tradition, and the progressionists who introduce new elements to the traditional combinations, including additions by subtraction. While I consider myself a progressionist, and I like to play at the boundaries, I’m grateful for the preservationists who pull in the other direction. They help ensure that the evolution of menswear does not gather excessive speed and careen out of control. They maintain a needed degree of order and discipline while the progressionists introduce the changes that can keep menswear new and exciting. Without preservation there ceases to be a tradition beyond which progression can occur. The preservationists actually impose order on the change itself.
On the specific matter of suits and sneakers, I disagree with Kiyoshi about how formal a suit must be. I think it is actually a fairly recent thing that suits are considered inherently formal. A lord traipsing about the country in full tweed with breeks and a pair of wellington boots would not have been considered to be wearing anything formal. These days, those of us living in urban areas have little reason to wander through bogs. We do, however, have reason to hang out on the streets, in coffee shops, on patios. I think there is no reason a full linen or cotton suit with unstructured shoulders would be inappropriate in such a setting. In fact, one of the secrets of suit wearing is that it is actually a fairly lazy way to dress. The bulk of the outfit has already been decided for you. When you’re not wearing a suit, properly pairing a jacket and trousers is perhaps the hardest part of putting together an outfit. So, it is easy to toss on a casual suit. Further, as Alex at AFoS pointed out, sneakers have long shed their athletic origins. I think the gap between a truly casual suit and the proper style of sneaker is far smaller than Kiyoshi thinks it is. Yet, I’m thankful for his pushback against the pairing. Not least because I know, when it comes time to fight against the pairing of blazers with sweatpants, he’ll be right there beside me.
Note: CBD stands for ‘conservative business dress’
I took this photo last night after an evening of solo movie watching. I’m wearing what I wear about 20% of my downtime; a bunny hug. Bunny hug is the Saskatchewan name for hooded sweatshirt. I have no idea where the name came from, but I work to hold onto it as an identifying regionalism.
I bought this particular bunny hug at an Unsane concert in 1998.
Oh, and the thing on my head? We Canadians call it a toque.
I received responses to my recent post on sneakers with casual suits from three of the most thoughtful and stylish members of the Tumblr menswear community. I thought I’d share those comments to contribute to a conversation about the look.
The first comes from Edwin Zee, who said:
I think it can be a well put together look if done right. I don’t enjoy the look as much when people wear shoes like New Balances, but when done with something like Vans or Jack Purcells and no tie, I think the casualness of it all looks great.
He then followed up with a link to what he said is a favourite example of the look.
The next comment came from Kiyoshi at The Silentist:
I’ve never thought it looked good. Looked immature to me. There’s so many nice, real dress shoes out there that I can’t see why you’d wear sneakers with a suit.
Finally, Aliotsy from This Fits wrote:
I think a suit with sneakers can be done, but it’s incredibly hard to pull off because every element needs to be just right. Tried once and made a fool of myself in public. I think the suit would be best in cotton and a less-serious color—say air force blue instead of true navy. Probably with patch pockets. I’d substitute a heather grey long-sleeve polo for a dress shirt, and all-white classic sneakers. Even with all those elements in place, I’d say most guys still couldn’t pull it off.
There is disagreement among the three, which we should not mistake for conflict, as I’m quite certain their share a mutual respect. Although contemporary political discourse may indicate otherwise, it is possible for adults to hold contrary positions and engage in non-combative dialogue. Ultimately, the stakes are low so there is no reason to get overly worked up about this.
Kiyoshi takes a hard line against the look. Aliotsy believes it can work, but within quite specific, and restricted, limits. While Edwin does not explicitly cite as many limits, he too thinks it has to be done right, citing certain sneakers that work and others that do not.
As my original post indicates, I’m more in agreement with Edwin and Aliotsy. I’ve certainly seen the look work. That said, I completely understand where Kiyoshi is coming from. Perhaps my take is that I’m not sure that it’s always wrong to look immature.
Sneakers with suits are definitely a no go for certain situations. But, perhaps they could be another way to do ‘business casual’? Just recently Jeff at Thrifty Gent noted that his workplace has finally capitulated to ‘business casual,’ which will make it hard for him to justify wearing a suit to the office. But, why should trousers and odd jackets monopolize the tailored clothes approach to business casual? It would obviously depend on the workplace, and not being in the work world, it is difficult for me to comment on this.
I also agree that there are plenty of very nice dress shoes out there. But, there are plenty of very nice trousers. Why would one ever wear denim? As with jeans, sneakers do something different. They twist the look. While they twist it to an immature register that Kiyoshi finds unappealing, I think that is part of the appeal of the look for me.
I applaud Aliotsy for him for trying the look, even if it was a failure. I’d be interested to see his take as I’ll bet it was not as bad as he thinks. I question whether the limits on the combination are as strict as he suggests. It certainly makes sense that sneakers would look wildly incoherent with a flannel or other winter suiting material. They also need to be paired with something more casual, although this can be expressed through details other than patch pockets. Even more than patch pockets, I’d say the shoulders need to be lightly padded. I’d also have a hard time buying the look with a double breasted jacket.
That said, I think they could work with a tie, while Edwin suggests one should be tieless if wearing sneakers with a suit. I have a hard time with ‘suit sans tie.’ I cannot get past the image of douche-y businessmen out after work. Obviously a tie works against the casualness of the sneakers. But, I the tie can be made much, much more casual than in its current popular estimation. The coherence of neckwear has a range of formality, so it would have to be the right material to work, with knit perhaps the obvious choice.
Edwin also suggests a relatively narrow range of possible sneakers, disavowing the popular New Balance with suit look that might be associated with the Mr. Porter[http://www.mrporter.com/journal] or Four Pins[http://four-pins.com/] crowds. I think this combination is perhaps the most overtly ‘incoherent’ because the shoes themselves are so much louder and sporty looking, while the stripped down aesthetic of Vans or Cons is more subtle - even if in red - and explicitly about style, rather than sport. I have seen NB paired with suits in ways I appreciated, but it does generally have the equivalent feel of the woman with her heels in her handbag. It strikes me as an incomplete look, rather than a consciously insouciant twist on the suit. That said, the sneakers I’m currently interested in are Onitsuka Tigers by Asics, which lay aesthetically between the NB and Vans/Cons. I want a pair for summer wear, but they may make it more difficult to pull off this sneakers with suit look.
The conversation continues….
 In fact, if I wanted to be snotty, I would link to a picture or two of The Silentist mugging for the camera in a manner some might characterize as immature and claim that he is also not totally opposed to immaturity.