All foolish rhymes aside, I think that one of the most important aspects of wearing tailored clothing well is the space right below the neck, where jacket, shirt, and tie all come together. This magical zone is the pedestal for the face (which is really where you want people looking, right?), and for that reason it is of critical importance.
This is the third installment in a series about events that shaped the way I dress. These stories may or may not be relevant to you but hopefully they offer a perspective that isn’t often seen on the internet. Previously: Part I, Part II.
If you’re reading my blog then you’re probably someone that puts some thought into what they wear. It’s a sad truth that many men do not dress as well as they could or as well as was expected historically (although there has certainly been growing momentum to change this). Here in California, most men dress very casually in and outside of the office. It takes some serious guts to go against the grain. Being “that guy” can be hard at times, especially when you’re first learning about clothing. When you dress well it is often interpreted by others as an open invitation to remark and critique; nobody comments on what the frumpy office drone is wearing, but once you start to make a change people often seem more comfortable in commenting on your attire. That’s why dressing well takes confidence.
We all have days in which we don’t feel that great but still need to get things accomplished. It may be a lack of sleep, long work hours, lingering head cold, unexpected hangover, funky Chinese food or a myriad of other reasons. Many of these situations can be avoided to some degree, but less-than perfect days will always exist. The difference comes in how we react to them. My method of combating these difficult days involves one easy step: dress better than you feel. Here’s why:
Previously: Part I, Part II. This is the third installment for my fellow white collar ballers.
If you’ve spent any time learning about men’s clothing (be it from family, friends, or the internet) you’ve probably heard a disproportional amount of talk about shoes. Shoes are a huge part of what dressing well is about (both in cost and importance), even though they take up a fairly small amount of space on your body. It can’t be stressed enough; shoes are often what separate the men from the boys, and business casual workplaces are notorious for bad shoe choices. A little bit of knowledge here will go a long way. Shoes are also the foundation of your outfit in stylistic and structural terms; if you buy well and take care of your purchases they will in turn keep you comfortable and stylish for decades.
1. Save up some money.
This one has the potential to get expensive. Accept the fact that high-quality shoes will be expensive if bought new, and can even be pricey when bought secondhand. Thrifting can be a good option here as well.
2. Learn the differences between “real shoes” and bad shoes.
High-quality shoes are expensive for many reasons, but the biggest two are material quality and construction. These qualities are much more important with shoes than they are in a shirt or pair of pants because shoes need to stand up to a tremendous amount of wear. Read Kiyoshi’s post and Put This On’s article to get a sense for what I’m talking about. If you buy a high-quality welted shoe that fits well and is well taken care of it will last for decades. Trust me.
Need some help finding out which brands can be trusted for high quality shoes and which can’t? I’ve included a short list at the bottom of this post, but my rule of thumb (toe?) is this: don’t buy shoes from any manufacturer that can’t tell you what last their shoes are made on. Any respectable shoe maker will have products on a range of last choices and will be able to tell you about them.
3. Understand the different styles and their applications.
Ready for some shoe terminology? This should be enough to get you started.
After some positive feedback from my first business casual post (I see you, Reddit) I’ve decided to continue the series for my fellow white collar ballers (being a baller is not actually required). Again, this may be old hat to some, but for those that are interested – read on.
I’m about to embark on my first ever business trip (I was going to head to NYC last month but then Sandy happened). I’ll be in sunny Los Angeles, spending two days in meetings and one day on a construction site. The challenge: pack lightly for one professional day, one business casual day, and one on-site day. Here’s what I threw together:
Gray Prince of Wales suit
Navy cotton blazer
Pale pink shirt (stiff spread collar)
Blue shirt (soft spread collar)
Navy stripe tie
Navy knit tie
Steel toe boots
Wide leather belt
Not pictured: neon vest and hard hat (safety first y’all)
This is what I’m thinking: suit and pink shirt the first day, keep the pants and add unstructured jacket and shirt the second day, and sub in denim, OCBD and boots for the site. I generally enjoy the challenge that packing presents; you want to present yourself well wherever you’re headed, but you can’t bring everything. Making everything work together is like a brain teaser to me. At the very least it’s certainly a test of the versatility of a wardrobe.
I’ve talked about Proper Cloth and Ratio Clothing several times in the past. Not everybody needs or likes online MTM shirting, but I clearly enjoy the process. Here’s why I like it:
The potential for a better fit without tailoring
Control over collar style and other details
More fabric options than off-the-rack
More information on fabric, construction and the overall manufacturing process
Small cost premium when including additional tailoring to off-the-rack shirts
Usually less expensive than traditional tailor-made shirts
There are downsides, of course (the biggest being the potential for receiving a less-than-perfect fit), but my experiences have overall been positive. I’ve made it clear that I think Ratio and Proper Cloth are the best of the internet in delivering these criteria. I’ve had some time to pick up more shirts for each, and in the election-year spirit I decided to compare them head to head. I’ve created a helpful rubric with what I believe are the most important parameters to consider when shopping for a MTM shirt, as well as how the two companies stack up in each category. You will have to weight them yourself depending on what is most important to you. If you decide to look outside of Ratio and Proper Cloth for a MTM shirt, you may want to consider these same variables before purchasing.
Consensus: they’re both great companies making high-quality products and I don’t think you could go wrong with either. They do have different styles and areas of expertise, though. Proper Cloth is probably your best option for the shirt fanatic that wants control over every aspect and is interested in luxe options like name-brand mills and mother-of-pearl buttons. Ratio excels in helping the man who just wants to fill his wardrobe with well-fitting, high-quality garments with classic styling. I’ve had a great time interacting with both companies and I fully endorse both.
TL;DR: If you want a monogrammed mini-gingham Albini shirt with contrasting club collar and mother-of-pearl buttons, head to Proper Cloth. If you’re new to nice shirts and looking for the perfect OCBD that you can wear the sh*t out of, go to Ratio. Anything in between and they’ll both treat you well.
If you want to try Proper Cloth, my referral link will get you $25 off your first shirt.
If you want to check out Ratio, this link will get you $20 off your first shirt.
Like many Americans, I work in a ‘business casual’ setting. This vague definition means different things to different people and companies, but you can be sure of one thing: you will be wearing a shirt, and that shirt will (hopefully) have buttons up the front. Since so many men eschew ties and blazers nowadays, the shirt often attracts a disproportional amount of attention in the business casual setting. Moreover, the shirt is generally not something that can be slowly accumulated over time, like blazers and shoes; when you get your first job, you’ll need a wardrobe full of them, and fast. For these reasons it seems that the dress shirt is a point of stress for many young professionals. I’ve put together a primer which will hopefully help some young men out; this may be old news to many, but it is a topic I am often asked about by friends and coworkers, and this seems like a good place for it.