Spring Reds

I've spoken about my affinity for red before. I'm excited for spring because I can finally start  wearing this Gant Rugger cotton "varsity" jacket I picked up last season. It fits me damn near perfectly (an XL), and it's a good weight for chilly spring nights worn over a sweater or just a shirt on a sunny day. Stylistically, I like it because it's kind of a cross between a traditional wool/leather varsity letterman jacket (which is a bit too young for my taste) and a Harrington (which is a bit too old for my taste).

Don't worry, Dragon's got me.


On Beardedness...

What is this man hiding?
With regard to presenting yourself, the hair on your face is nearly as important as the clothes on your back and the shoes on your feet. I've seen enough terrible facial hair to realize that it is quite noticeable, likely moreso that the clothes you wear. Seriously, there isn't much worse than terrible facial hair (ie. scraggly, flesh-colored, soul patches, line beards, most goatees, etc.). I most highly respect a full beard and I can only support partial styles in special cases.

If you haven't figured it out by now, or haven't seen a recent photo of my face, I currently have a beard. I am a seasonal beard-grower because I enjoy being both bearded and clean-shaven. Also being bearded in hot summer months can sometimes be uncomfortable.

Either way, I'm very much a beard supporter, provided it looks good. Coverage is one of the ultimate qualifiers for how good a beard is. Unfortunately, this is a genetic trait over which man has no control. This is why I believe every man owes it to his ancestors to, at some point in his life, attempt to grow a beard. If you can go days without shaving and nobody can tell, beardedness may not be for you. Still, I implore you to try. If you shave everyday, every other day, or twice a day, you stand a decent chance. Give it four to six weeks, keeping the trimming minimal. For beard growing strategy abound, visit All About Beards (beards.org). This is where I gleaned the knowledge to grow and maintain my first solid beard. It is an excellent resource for anyone thinking of growing a beard and covers topics that you wouldn't really think of. For example, establishing a good neckline (highly underrated). At the very least it has a gallery of user-submitted beard progress (and some pretty epic beards). Don't bother looking for me on it because I've never submitted any photos.

Anyway, for the sake of brevity, I'm not going to delve into the history of beardedness. I think Brent of The Art of Manliness does a pretty good job in this video. Right now, beards seem to be slightly waning in popularity although popularity is still pretty high. Regardless of the fashionably of beards in mainstream popular culture, I still believe that men should grow them (because they can, dammit!). I also think that facial hair can be worn in earnest (as opposed to ironically) and that hipster culture has all but destroyed the image of the modern mustache.

Aside: I used to worry about whether women would be repelled by my beardedness until I realized that it doesn't matter. In my experience, while most women wouldn't prefer their man to be bearded, those who do are way more enthusiastic about it. Plus, if she doesn't like you for you, she's not worth it anyway.

Anyway, I'm not just ramblingly waxing poetic about beards. This has a point, right? I'll stop beating around the bush. I wrote this personal endorsement of beards because of something that's been bothering me for a while now. This:


Who is this guy? Is he a secret agent?
In the most literal sense, I suppose this statement is true. Facial hair usually obscures the skin on the wearer's face. However, it is clear that this is an unsubstantiated slight against facial hair owners.  This statement is analogous to saying that men without facial hair have nothing to hide. This is why I will never be buying a book (or anything) from Mr. Lamond (although I may be unknowingly supporting him as he is a television producer and writer). While he is free to one day teach his son to distrust men with facial hair, I will not turn a blind eye to his public recommendation, however indirect, to do the same. Nor will I teach my future unborn son to suspect something of his fellow man based upon appearances. Also, you can argue that based upon the careful wording of his above statement that it isn't expressly negative but Mr. Lamond says in an interview he with did with The Art of Manliness:
"You know, it’s funny when people feel like they are getting criticized for their personal style, it can get a little touchy. I have a thing against facial hair. My dad always taught me that men with facial hair have something to hide." (Source)
From father to son, from father to son, and so on and so on. Is this what we want? Generations of unquestioning beard antagonists?  Because of his vast audience due to the popularity of his book and the accompanying Tumblr and Twitter accounts (25K+ and 6.2K+ followers, respectively, at time of publication), Mr. Lamond has a responsibility to to treat men with facial hair with more respect. It is truly a shame that he chose to include this "rule" because I actually think most of the others I've read to be rather clever and quite good.

For the record, I do feel like I am being criticized for my personal style. I might feel differently if the statement against facial hair had been either witty or humorous or both. Instead the claim is admittedly baseless and also insensitive. It only adds insult to injury that the Rules for My Unborn Son logo is a boy preparing to shave...


Man-Sized Jeans, ACL x Telason Denim

Big dudes rejoice: the One-man Americana Army, Michael Williams of A Continuous Lean has teamed up with Tellason to create an exclusive pair of denim for those of us who, to quote the immortal Jay-Z, "can't wear skinny jeans cause [our] knots don't fit".

Williams's explains the sizing:
The ACL Fit as it became known...has a slightly higher rise in the front, a higher rise in the back, a bit of a wider leg and runs straight from the knee to the leg opening. It is a true straight leg jean...In the true spirit of America we even made sure to run the jeans up to a size 40 — so man-sized MF’ers don’t feel left out.
Although the photos in the ACL webshop make them look enormous, I've compared the size chart to that of my beloved Epaulet Hoyts and in comparison, the ACL x Telason jeans have a more generous waist, a higher total rise by a little more than 0.5", identical thigh measurements, and about 0.75" larger leg opening. They also have a shorter inseam, between 33 and 34" depending on what size you order.

In the typical ACL fashion, everything is made in America, including the leather patch, supplied by Tanner Goods. Denim is sourced from the seemingly now standard Cone Mills. All the standard accoutrements are there too (five pocket design, button fly, etc.).

They retail for $198 in the ACL Shop (which I suppose is a bit steep for American denim but not much comes close in terms of size aside from a repro pair of LVCs).


How to Shrink To Fit (STF) your Levi's

Being a vocal and ardent supporter of Levi's, particularly the rigid 501 shrink-to-fit model, I get many questions about sizing and methods for shrinkage of said jeans. So many such that I feel it necessary to create a document to point to should anyone else ask.
So here it is, the definitive TBTYH guide to STF Levi's.
What we're workin' with.
A quick disclaimer, this is my proven method for myself. You may find it doesn't work for you because of your body type/size. If you're here because your thighs/butt are big, this should work for you in general. Some of my internet friends have reported to me that they've actually had to size up in 501s to accommodate their thighs!
Before you do anything, if you've never tried on a pair of Levi's or you haven't worn a pair in many years, get to your local Sears (I'm pretty sure most carry the standard indigo rigid 501s). Try a few pairs on to get a feel for how the pre-shrink waist will fit. Levi's recommends this:
If your waist is 27"-36", Increase size by 1"
If your waist is 38"-48", Increase size by 2"
If you want your jeans to still remain fitted after the shrink-stretch cycle, I would recommend subtracting one from each of those 'size-up' numbers. In other words, get your regular Levi's size for waist sizes under 36" and one size up for sizes over 36". If you like your fit a little slouchy after you wear them in, take the Levi's advice.

For the inseam, Levi's recommends this:
If your inseam is 27"-34", Increase size by 3"
If your inseam is 36"- up, Increase size by 4"
Once again, I would alter this advice. I favor a 31.5" or 32" inseam on most of my pants. I find that a sizing up two inches on the inseam of my STFs yields the best results for me. So unless you are freakishly tall or want a crazy tall cuff, I'd say size up two in the inseam. The caveat here is that Levi's only makes even-numbered inseam lengths. You'll have to deal with that fact. I can tell you that via this method, based on actual measurements of my jeans, that are tagged and measured to be a 34" inseam will shrink about 2.5 inches to ~31.5".

Alright, so you've figured out your size...oh great, you got a pair online in a color you like on crazy discount because Levi's has many periodic sales Now you're ready to shrink them... Aside: right now I am shedding a single tear for the "verde" greencast 501s that are now unavailable (don't worry, I haven't even started on my third and final pair). For this particular demonstration, I'm using a lighter brown pair of 501s. The procedure is the same regardless of color, however.

In order to shrink your jeans, you're going to have to expose them to water and then dry them. There is nothing magical about it, if your unsanforized denim gets wet then dries, the fabric is going to shrink, plain and simple, temperature of soaking and drying be damned. Conventional wisdom says you will get maximum shrinkage via an ultra hot soak and a hot dry. 
If you have a bathtub, start filling it with the hottest water your hot water heater can generate (remember to engage the stopper).

Gather your jeans and turn them inside out. This will minimize the amount of dye that leaves the fabric during the soak.
Next, throw them into the tub of hot water. You don't have to wait until the tub is full. As long as the jeans are fully covered in water, you can stop the flow of water and take a break. One hour is usually good enough. If this is your first soak/bath, check the tub periodically to make sure that you aren't losing water due to a leaky stopper. You don't want to come back to a pair of jeans in an empty tub.

Break time. Make yourself a sandwich, grab a beer or two, chill out for a while. After an hour or so, your jeans will be well soaked through with hot water. Fire your hand into the scalding hot tub and grab your soaking denim. Heavy, huh? Get some kind of pants hanger that can support the weight of your 501s + the water they carry. I had to wedge a washcloth in one kind of pants hanger to increase the friction in order to hold the jeans up. Hang the jeans up for twenty or so minutes to drip dry. Essentially, you want to just get rid of the serious moisture on the outside of the garment.

After the jeans are no longer dripping, lay a towel on the floor of your bathroom, place the jeans on top, then lay another towel on top of that. A drying Levi's sandwich is what you're going for here. Warning: your towels may pick up dye from the jeans. Don't worry about this, as it washes out fairly readily.

Next, imagine you are squishing grapes between your toes making wine in Italy and step on every square inch of the towel above the jeans, with both your feet, at least twice. This squeezes the extra water out of the jeans and shortens the drying cycle.
Step in the name of love. No, I'm not always wearing denim.
Rip those jeans back right-side-in and repeat the foot-blotting procedure on the exterior of the jeans.

If you're gonna wuss out, hang dry exactly like I described to drip-dry or hang on a hook from the back-most beltloop. About a day should do it depending on relative humidity. If you're planning on truly shrinking-to-fit, strip down to your skivvies, seriously. Or more. You get better heat transfer going commando. Put on your jeans! Wear them proudly while very damp. In the Northern Hemisphere, this (December) is not a very pleasant time to shrink jeans. The best time to do this is late Summer, early Fall, in my opinion. Sometimes you have no choice, however. If you get the chance to shrink in warmer weather, go outside and take a walk or bike ride. This will greatly decrease drying time.

Some tips while wearing your awesome damp Levi's:
  • Avoid sharply bending your knees. 501s have a serious tendency to stretch out in the knees, especially if you do full, ankles-below-knees squats while the jeans are wet.
  • If you're working with a darker color (especially indigo), lay towels on any upholstery you sit on. Wet denim is very prone to transfer its dye. Towels are easier to wash than your couch.
  • If you run up against your bedtime or you're just sick of wearing damp pants, hang them to dry for however long it takes. The parts that take the longest to dry are the hem, the pockets and the fly.
After the jeans are dry, the process is complete. You've done it. Start wearing the hell out of your new Levi's.
Wearing the crispy cardboard jeans for the first time.


November of Dressing Nicely -or- Guys in Chicago Don't Care How They Look

I've recently had the pleasure of meeting (online but soon to be in person) a writer/social media director for Metromix, which is somehow related to RedEye, which is a faction of the Chicago Tribune essentially concerned with cool stuff for younger adults in the city. Ernest Wilkins could tell you better about what he does than I can.

Anyway, he is someone who has an interest in dressing better and wants to bring as many people as possible along for the ride. Much like Will over at Momentum of Failure with his 100 Days of Ties Project, Ernest has launched his own initiative. Enter November of Dressing Nicely (NoDN). The movement was inspired by a visitor to his office:
A guy from LA came into the office a few months back to take some meetings with my bosses. He was the best-dressed dude I've seen in years. I mean, suit was tailored, shirt had a monogram, sick longwing brogues, and a clean shave. The women went bananas. "Who is that guy?" "Is he working here now?" *wolf whistle*. A comment rang out that stuck with me. Upon finding out the gent was from LA, a co-worker stated, "Oh of course, no guy who lives here would look like that."
One of Ernest's #NoDN photos
Disturbed by this comment, Ernest asked his peers about Chicago men and their apparent disregard for dressing well. The general consensus was that "Guys in Chicago don't care how they look". Hell bent on being the exception rather than the rule, Ernest vowed to dress better for at least an entire month beginning November 1st, 2010. He has posted his photo every work day and has invited any one else to do the same. I've been submitting my self-taken photos and it's really encouraged me to avoid falling victim to laziness when I dress myself in the morning. It has already been a very positive exercise.

As I've stated before, my office environment is very casual and it would be easy to slip into a groove where a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers become a uniform. I now refuse this possibility and try to look good all the time. However, I still lean toward casual dress (I'm not wearing suits to work) so I'm not scaring my coworkers too badly. In fact, I'm probably wearing jeans more often than not. Even so, the ignorant will still assume I have a job interview if I'm wearing a coat and tie as well. Anyway, it is interesting to see the photos submitted by the others who participate (there's a loyal community of maybe 6 people) because of the range in level of formality and perspective on what "dressing nicely" is to them.

I see NoDN as a continuation of the Tie Tuesdays I've observed since last fall. It serves as a reminder to take extra care in laying out an outfit that I know will look good. I'm not sure how many of you follow my Tumblr but I've been posting most of the photos I submit there along side the ones that end up on the NoDN Gallery that Ernest has set up. Below are some of my better submissions (please excuse myself looking like a complete ass in most of these, it's just the way I am).

If you're a Chicagoan trying to get in on the action, e-mail Ernest with your photo attached and he should post it right up. Prove to the land that you care about what you look like!



Shirts Bigger Than Your Jackets

Allow me to preface this with saying that I am primarily an online shopper. I mostly hate going to brick and mortar places for a number of reasons I will not explain here. I'm usually pretty good at judging sizes based upon vendor-supplied size charts on websites and have generally been very successful in getting my size right while buying online. 

While discussion around these parts seems to settle on pants most of the time, inconsistencies in shirt sizing aggravate me as well. The rest of this rant data-driven study explores just one example of the root cause of this aggravation.

As far as sport shirts in the realm of an everyday essential, I could not stop hearing about how great Brooks Brothers was (most notably the extra slim fit). Sport shirting at Brooks Brothers comes in standard, nonspecific sizing (S, M, L, XL, etc.). Consulting the size chart on the site (scroll down to MEN’S SIZE TRANSLATION CHART) and you'll see that the large (L) would be best for someone between a 42 and 44 inch chest and 35" sleeve. This is nearly perfectly describes my sizing. But ah yes, the cut of the shirt...how is that? Directly above that size translation chart, you'll see a description of all the cuts offered at Brooks Brothers. I've transposed them below (I've omitted the Luxury Fit because it is the same as the Traditional Fit only available in longer sleeve and body lengths).
  • Traditional Fit
    •  Our fullest cut sport shirt
  •  Slim Fit
    •  Measures 3” slimmer through the chest, 5” slimmer through the waist and 2” slimmer through the seat than our Traditional Fit Sport Shirt.
  •  Extra Slim Fit
    • Measures 2" slimmer through the chest, 2" slimmer through the waist and 3" slimmer through the seat than our Slim Fit Sport Shirt. Higher arm holes and narrower sleeves complement the trimmer silhouette.

So it would stand to reason that the Extra Slim is 5" slimmer through the chest, 7" slimmer through the waist, and 5" slimmer through the seat than the Traditional Fit (simple addition of SF to ESF reductions). Now, I'm not exactly a slim guy but I'm not cut like an action figure either. I was actually debating originally between the Slim Fit in large and the Extra Slim Fit in large. One of the reasons for this debate was that I saw a friend who had one of these very shirts (Brooks Brothers Extra Slim). He had one in medium and he reported to me that it was very trim through the chest and that he probably should have gotten the Slim Fit in medium on account of him having an unusually large chest for his height (shorter than me). So using this information and the information on the Brooks Brothers site, I ordered an Extra Slim Fit oxford cloth buttondown in large.

Upon receiving the shirt, I was disappointed to say the least. Not because it was too slim through the torso but because it was way, way too full. I'll let the measurements do the talking. I took measurements of the chest pit-to-pit, the waist where it would tuck into pants, and the largest part of the sleeve, pit to outer shoulder.
A: Chest : 23.5"
B: Waist : 22.5"
C: Sleeve: 9.5"

At least for me, wearing this shirt has resulted in considerably annoying bunching around the waist while tucked in and sail-like excess through the sleeves. I never realized just how large it was until I threw a Levi's trucker jacket (size large) over it. This is actually what prompted me to measure the shirt in the first place. For reference, I've included the same measurements for the jacket as well.
A: Chest : 22.5"
B: Waist : 21.5"
C: Sleeve: 8.5"

Thus, the "Extra Slim" shirt (compared to the Levi's jacket) is 2" larger through the chest, 2" larger through the waist, and 2" larger in the sleeves! This shirt is larger than an article of outerwear of the same tagged size! I understand that different brands have different guidelines and that you can't assume that a large is a large is a large, always. Having said that, why on earth is this shirt described as extra slim? It's not even slim by conventional standards. Also, the minuscule collar with rear button that prevents all but the slimmest ties from fitting through is some kind of sick punctuation mark on this bloated, adverb-laden sentence of a shirt.

I am aware that Brooks Brothers is a traditional brand with generally traditional (see: full) sizing. But when heard repeatedly from young people on the Internet championing "BB-ESF" as the gold standard for off the rack sport shirting, I figured that Brooks was trying to target a wider demographic and hey, better for everyone, right?

What is the explanation for my dissatisfaction with this shirt? Is it just me? Do I just have unreasonable standards compared to those of my peers? Did I read the size chart wrong? Is there something wrong with the Large pattern at Brooks Brothers? Did my shirt get tagged wrong at the factory? Either way, this shirt fitting me properly will require it to be entirely recut through the side seam.


Mountain & Sackett Neckwear (a rare product blast)

Well it's time for my lame, bi-monthly, one-off post on TBTYH and I've decided to switch it up a bit. I'm going to do a SartInc-style brand highlight for ya'll. I'm a pretty big fan of neckwear of all kinds. I wear a tie every Tuesday and sometimes on the weekend when I want to make all my friends think I'm a weirdo. I also nearly exclusively buy neckwear secondhand or new at severe discount. Hell, I've even made my own tie and have loose plans to make more. Anyway, if there was one company to turn me over to the dark side of buying new ties at retail prices, Mountain & Sackett would be the one.
I heard about Mountain & Sackett through The Art of Manliness a couple of years ago. They have done a few promo giveaways with AoM but otherwise have been largely overlooked by the cool-kid blogs. This is likely due to the fact that M&S seems fairly off the grid in terms of social media utilization. Granted, they do have a Facebook page but we all know that Twitter seems to be the most effective way for small companies to communicate directly with niche customers.
100% Handmade

Mountain & Sackett is a New York based company that has been around since 1957. Their ties are all handmade in New York from fabric from European mills and are sold direct from the factory. I wanted to bring them to your attention because they seem like a legitimate family business putting out a high quality product for a reasonable price (most of the ties are betwee $60 and $74 with the more expensive ones topping out at $105). They have an amazing selection of not only colors and patterns, but of sizes too. Most of the ties are a pretty classic 3.5" in width and 58" in length but for some styles you have the option of a slimmer or bolder width (2.75" and 3.75", respectively) and/or a longer length (62"). Being of above average height, I appreciate the 62" option.

If it wasn't enough to make a high quality, sharp-looking product in the States, the good folks at Mountain & Hackett have their hearts in the right place by producing a line of neckwear and accessories adorned with the puzzlepiece logo of Autistm Speaks, a charity dedicated to changing "the future for all who struggle with autism spectrum disorders." Sixty percent of sales of these pieces go to the charity.

Anyway, let's hit some highlights:

Stylistically, the regimental stripe seem to be M&S's bread and butter. With 22 different variations, you're bound to find something you like. Made of English silk, these ties come in the standard 3.5" width and the standard 58" length. M&S also claims that these are the "World's Only 100% Handmade Regimental Tie(s)". Believe that claim or not, handmaking a tie is a real craft. It is a time-consuming and tedious procedure that should not be taken for granted in the eyes of quality.

                     Royal Marines                                             Sherwood Foresters                                             Ocassionals Hockey

If a traditionally stripped regimental tie is not your thing, maybe you want to stunt like Kanye at New York Fashion Week (I thought every week Fashion Week?) and you don't want to go as bold as J.Press would like you to. Mountain & Sackett have quite an array of silk ($60) and wool ($74) knit ties at a 2.5" width, as compared to the 3" J.Press numbers. Also, it is worth noting that these are NOT handmade in the US, rather in Italy.

Or maybe you'd care to get crazy-luxe-Italian and opt for a fine cashmere tie. A bit more pricey at $105, this ultra-soft tie is cut from fabric from Lanificio Cesare Gatti, a leading Italian textile manufacturer specializing in wool and cashmere. These ties only come in 3.5" widths and both standard and long lengths.

You know paisley stuff is gonna be the next it thing, right? Mark my words. These are pretty beautiful, traditional 3.5" width, regular and long lengths. Not much else to say.

You can't go wrong with a wool tartan tie in the fall and winter. There are several patterns to choose from, some actual Scottish family tartans (any MacDonalds, Sinclairs, Stewarts, Thompsons, or Kerrs around here?) which is cool, as well as a few glenplaids. The black/white glenplaid pictured below is definitely my favorite tie offered by M&S and the one I'm currently talking myself into buying. This particular tie can be cut into any of the widths or lengths previously mentioned so you can customize to your heart's content.