Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Reader Question: Summer Business Suits, Off-the-Peg, Suspenders and More

Let's start 2016 with a BANG! By dropping some practical menswear knowledge: Christopher C asks:

Thank you for responding.  It’s quite gratifying to see someone taking an authoritative interest in the finer points of fashion for men.
Your blog is appreciated.

If you could advise on the following, I would be grateful:

1.       I live in Durban.  What, in your opinion, is the best fabric for suits, except linen, considering our hot and humid climate?
2.       Do you have a preferred supplier for ‘off the peg’ suits?
3.       I am quite partial to three piece, single breasted suits but these are quite difficult to come by ready-made.  Do you know of anywhere I may purchase these or are you able to recommend a good tailor who is able to craft a suit from scratch?
4.       Have you had any experience with the online service
5.       I am always on the lookout for attractive belts and cufflinks but most of the shops keep the same boring items.  Where do you recommend?
6.       Speaking of belts, I have recently considered moving to suspenders.  What is your opinion on this?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your time.

Hi Christopher

1.       I’m glad that you consider linen to be a suitable fabric for summer suiting because I enjoy it immensely. I like wearing it casually and I think it is the best fabric for a man to counter the summer heat and humidity. So, besides linen there are many other fabric choices like cotton, hopsack, silk and tropical wools. Let’s talk about the fabrics I have experienced besides linen. I’ve had a cotton suit before and it was a practical garment, which was very soft and comfortable. I like how it felt against my skin and I rarely broke a sweat in it. What I didn’t like however is the fact that it lacked structure and shape, and this prevented me from wearing it in a business or professional environment. I also noticed how non-durable it was even though I didn’t wear and dry clean it much. At some point it started losing its lustre and because it was light grey it developed white patches after I wiped off some stains. I do fully endorse it for casual suits.

Last year I had the opportunity to purchase a wool suit and what prompted the buy was a small, negligible detail which has a lot of bearing on the overall wear and performance of the suit. I have profiled it before on the blog; it is a 130’S wool suit. The ‘S’ is very important because it indicates the quality of the wool and its fineness. Actually, I have a navy 120’S and a grey 100’S and they are all suitable and lightweight for summer. The 130’S however is the lightest and it is quite breathable as well. I wear all of these suits throughout spring and summer; the navy is a more structured fit and it’s appropriate for business wear. I also find that with all of them, they are crease-resistant and retain shape quite well.

2.       I don’t yet have a particular supplier of off-the-peg suits because I buy suits from everywhere; factory shops, retail shops, men’s stores. Whenever I find something I like, I buy, as long as it makes practical and monetary sense. The three suits I spoke about in point one are Trenery or Country Road. They were in the R2000-R2500 range and I consider them to be great value for money.

3.       When it comes to three piece suits I have never owned one. The few waistcoats I have, I purchased as separates and wear them as odd waistcoats when I pair them with a suit. The few three piece suits I have seen in stores were not to my liking and this made me shy away from such purchases. I would recommend that you have one tailored so that it fits to your body shape. Another advantage of having a three piece suit tailored is the fact that you can wear everything as separates, which allows for mixing and matching with other garments and combinations. For a three piece of your own I would recommend visiting Vic Gobrie at the Tailor Shop in Montclair, south of Durban. He runs a very professional service and has been in the men’s tailoring business since his teens. I have never had a suit made by him however his professional service is what makes me vouch for him. They really listen to instructions and carry them out with precision.

4.       Unfortunately, I don’t have any experience with Instichu therefore I can’t say anything about them. I have some experience with US based Combatant Gentleman and after measuring at The Tailor Shop and submitting my order online, I received a suit which was almost the perfect fit with few alterations needed. One thing about Combat Gent is the fabrics. They use Italian fabrics which are top quality. They have really endeared themselves to me. You can however take a look at this Men's Flair review of an Institchu suit.

5.       There was a time when all I wanted to wear was cufflinks because I thought there was a certain style superiority about them, but I’m well over that now. I’ve come to understand that cufflinks are an accessory which can be used to inject some fun into an outfit as well as an extension of one’s personality. It’s been a while since I bought cufflinks because I rarely wear double cuff shirts. I am partial to silk knots though. Most men’s stores sell the same types of cufflinks and belts; therefore, I suggest you try exclusive men’s stores that aren’t replicated much. Stores such as Grays and T.M. Lewin should be able to fill that need. You can also try Belmondo in Johannesburg at Rosebank Mall; Levison’s also never disappoints.

6.       In all honesty Christopher, I hardly wear a belt. Even when I’m wearing trousers with belt loops, I make sure that the waist is tight but not restrictive, so as to obviate a belt. Going beltless helps with maintaining a clean line between the upper and lower body. Since a belt cuts the body into half, I wholeheartedly support suspenders. They are fun, versatile, functional and practical. I wouldn’t go out in public wearing a shirt and tie without a jacket, but, I would try the same combination with suspenders sans jacket. That’s just how much I rate suspenders; they add to an ensemble and they draw attention in the right way as opposed to a belt. They do require some consideration because you don’t want them to stand out in a garish way, therefore blending and coordinating them with the rest of your outfit is advisable. 

                                                      PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Style: A Suit For Spring

The more I wear this suit the more I realise just how playful it is. It is really not suited for business because of its fit and the cut of the jacket. We are experiencing a lot of hot weather, a heatwave even swept through other parts of the country, and this should translate to lighter and brighter clothing. This is a very lightweight wool suit, which I am convinced is a tropical wool. I do however think it needs to be approached with a 'flippant' attitude because that's how it'll eventually work .

It's a lightweight suit of a light shade of blue and that means that it shouldn't be overpowered by too many dark colours which will result in many contrasts. I decided to keep the shirt within the same colour scheme and opted for this light blue shade. It is made of 100% cotton and it is perfect for the warm/ hot months.

For this whole year I have consciously worn my jackets with the flaps inside the pockets. And the only reason is the fact that I think it's a lot neater and excess material is minimised. This is something I have done with consistency. The neck-tie is made from 100% silk, fastened with a four-in-hand knot and a natural dimple. A natural dimple for me is one that forms without any manipulation by my hands and fingers. I will also admit that this tie is slightly more formal than the suit and this creates some sort of disharmony. A knit tie or something slimmer would've been better. I also decided to keep the pocket square relatively quaint by opting for white linen with a yellow border.

Due to some weight gain (blame it on winter) I don't wear any of my trousers with a belt. It might appear as a poor choice for some, having belt loops but no belt, but to me the tight waist obviates a belt. This suit has also undergone some alterations, mainly to the trousers: tapering the hem, bringing in the waist and shortening the length. But these are all regular alterations that were done with ease by a tailor. I opted for the burgundy oxford shoes because they seemed to complement the burgundy pattern on the neck-tie. Somehow I feel that tan loafers would've done the trick as well. As we head deeper into spring and only to face the unbearable heat of summer, one way to stay stylish and presentable is with a tropical wool suit. You won't be disappointed.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Style: Good, Better, Best

I'm a little wary of socks and how they are supposed to be worn. The sockless look is still one of my least favourite and I try to avoid it at most times. When I do go sockless with a suit or semi-casual look it's because of function rather than form. I also take this aversion back to the days when my dad read men's style books, in the early 90s. There was one particular book I used to page through just out of curiosity and one quote stuck with me ever since: "Keep your least erogenous zones covered." This was in direct reference to socks, their length, and how important it is to keep one's shins covered because of how unsightly they were when exposed between the trouser hem and the top of the socks. This post therefore is about socks, their length and how best to wear them.

Not every outfit requires socks, especially in the warmer months, however, what is important is that socks are worn for both aesthetic and hygiene purposes. The top image shows exactly what I am talking about. The socks are just above the ankle in length and they do the trick both in covering and insulating the foot however they are just not long enough to provide warmth to the leg up to the knee. Here any gent gets marks for just wearing socks and not subjecting people to uncovered ankles which could be ashy and unsightly. There is also the challenge of poor construction of the socks because the shorter they are the less workmanship that goes into their making. That's why you find that most socks of this length tend to roll down because they aren't made to stay up. This can be quite tiresome to the style conscious gent, who pays attention to detail, because he'll be forced to pull up his socks regularly. So you get marks because you're wearing socks instead of going without them. This is Good.

The next length of socks is slightly better than the ankle length because they do a better job of covering and insulating the leg. These striped socks are from a brand called Celio, which I trust very much. They are incredibly durable, considering that I have been wearing them for over five years. They have held up quite well. As the next length to consider they are calf length. They are made of a thick cotton and have worn quite well in  mild winters and humid summers. They are well elasticated at the top and this makes it impossible for them to roll down as well. Evidence of this is the fact that after wearing them for a full day I am always left with a mark right around my shin and calf which shows just how they've stayed in place. This can also be a drawback, because they are so tight at the top, they can be quite constrictive. In colder weather, socks of this length in a warm fabric can actually obviate thermal underwear. These are Better.

Over-the-calf length socks are panacea to all sock problems that might be experienced by gents. My experience with them has been nothing short of stellar. These particular socks are by Bresciani and are made of 100% cotton. They are light, breathable and wearable in hot and humid weather. Nothing feels constricted with these socks because the lightness is consistent throughout, and they stop just short of the knee. This means that the fabric is critical to these long socks because it plays such a vital part in function. I've tried these in winter and they didn't work; my feet were wet and clammy throughout the day but, in summer they were a charm because they kept my feet cool. One of the other important factors to consider is how tight they are at the top. These are tight enough in keeping with the weight of the fabric. They stay up all day and only come down when I take them off. Therefore, with over-the-calf socks fabric and construction are paramount because they play a role in function and comfort. These in fact are Best of the Best.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Style: The Grey Suit In Different Ways

This might be a little out of season for the spring season but it is wholly appropriate for the autumn and the impending winter in the northern hemisphere. The medium grey wool suit is incredibly versatile and what I like most about it is that it can be worn 9 out of 12 months in a year. At least that's how I wear this one because it is a little too heavy for sub-tropical weather.

The first two images show just how appropriate this suit is for business. With a white shirt and black shoes, the suit becomes instantly versatile because it can be worn with a variety of shirt and shoe colours. Just as long as everything is kept within the bounds of business dress code. I almost don't like wearing this shade of grey with tan shoes as the contrast is too sharp, so the darker the shoe the better it'll complement the suit.

This is my go-to business casual combination and I wear it almost all the time at work. The navy jacket belongs to another suit and this just shows how well these two pieces complement each other.  Of course the burgundy oxford keeps the look somewhat serious but the open neck shirt keeps the casual vibe. If you're also looking into experimenting with mixing and matching jackets and trousers then the age old navy jacket and grey trousers is your starting point. The combinations are innumerable.

I like to call this the after-work look simply because a polo-neck with a suit is not a favourite of mine for work or office settings, maybe casual Friday. This is also one of my favourite winter looks because it presents so many colour options where the polo-neck and shoes are concerned. Once again this is a combination of grey and navy but even a burgundy, black, light grey, beige, light blue or light brown polo-neck would complement the suit.

This past winter wasn't so cold for me and since this is a light wool suit I found that throwing on a top coat was enough to protect and insulate against the cold. It is also one of mine best fitting suits since it is a 42 regular. The jacket is slightly longer than my 40 regular but it's not baggy or ill-fitting at all. It has also gone through some alterations and I am quite happy with how both the jacket and trousers turned out after. It will also be one of my go-to autumn/ winter suits because I know it's going to give me some good mileage.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pick(s) Of The Week: Pringle

Courtesy of Runway Sale, an end of season sale featuring items from Pringle. These items are all marked down and they definitely have a place in a gent's wardrobe. Some might say you're getting ahead of yourself. I think it's preparing early for next winter.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Style: My Favourite Winter Shirt Pattern

Rather fitting that this post comes on the last day of winter, even though it's not officially over. The weather however has been incredibly warm. Joburg has been hot and Durban is back to its humid self. I thought I'd touch on a shirt that's been a favourite of mine for many years, way before I became conscious of menswear and style. When winter comes around this has become my go-to shirt because of its colour scheme, pattern and versatility. Winter in Durban isn't that cold so the fabric isn't a big issue just as long as it's warm enough but not sweat inducing like a polyester blend.

This shirt is white with a check of brown and navy blue. It's one of my favourite. I first had a shirt of this nature back in 2003 and after misplacing that one it became something I missed in my wardrobe. After starting this blog in 2009, I came across this one by Ralph Lauren and the only difference it had with the original one I had was that it was button-down. Needless to say that I purchased it without much thought because it had long been a wardrobe staple. Whereas the original one was a spread collar, this one was button-down and this appealed to me because it presented me with many other ways of wearing it.

Brown is an incredibly versatile colour especially because it works with so many other colours that are suitable for autumn and winter. Grey, navy, green, brown; it's just that malleable. I consider it a statement colour with so many valuable properties because of its complementary qualities. It's a casual shirt therefore pairing it with jeans and this brown leather jacket was the obvious choice.

This shirt is slightly more dressy with a sturdy collar that allows me to wear it without a tie. It also has the same colour scheme although the only difference is the pattern. The RL shirt has a mini window-pane check and this one is gingham. It is a spread collar and what I like about it is that the colours make it a bold, standout piece. I also like the fact that it can be paired with a blue, navy, brown, green or grey necktie. That's just how versatile it is.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Style: A Lighter Shade Of Blue

Any shade of blue is probably considered the most complementary colour because of its versatility. Think of a blue shirt and just how well it works with almost any combination of colours and how it's able to hold its own but contributing to the outfit's harmonious aesthetic. I find that blue attire is very easy to incorporate into my wardrobe because it is easy to work with and blends in easily with other clothes and colours. What I find quite concerning is the fact that I find it difficult to incorporate light blue accessories. The knit tie and socks above are what I'm talking about. I've had these items for more than a year now but I haven't worn them because I've found them difficult to coordinate with my combinations. This then begs the question, why did I buy them? Well, it was a case of my eye being captivated and I also thought that it was a colour I don't have, so why not experiment.

I find that with a dark shirt the contrast will be stark and striking and with a light shirt it'll be bland or bright. So the right balance in colour between shirt and tie is key. So I am still pretty much thinking and trying the tie with different colour shirts, but a white shirt seems to work every time whether it's with a grey or navy suit. This colour also forces me to think creatively as to what other colours complement this shade.

The socks will be of better use in summer because they are under the calf and made of cotton. The key is to wear them in such a way that they don't stick out like white socks. This will require careful consideration especially where the rule regarding socks being a shade darker than the trousers comes into play. These are definitely not to be worn with a business suit but should rather form part of a casual ensemble or a casual suit. I'm sure you'll agree that in this case the other rule of matching your socks with your trousers would be inapt because this kind of blue on blue wouldn't be flattering. For now though, they continue to ride the pine in hopes of getting playing time soon.

If you have any suggestions I would appreciate them.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.