July 23, 2013
Personal Style, Part III: Confidence & Context
 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. 
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At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind the context that your clothes are in. Although “dressing for yourself” is a great thing to do, it’s important to remember that the way you dress (whether good or bad) will change the way people think of you and interact with you. 
A couple of years ago I was an intern for a firm in San Francisco. After years of construction work over the summer I was eager to work in a white collar environment and dress the part. I made a point of wearing a tie every day, even though ties were virtually nonexistent in the office of 300 people. I assumed that my tie-wearing was a move that showed I was a professional and could be taken seriously, but instead it did the opposite. It showed that I was not well tuned in to the office environment and was more interested in my own wardrobe agenda than the acceptable office attire. My tie-wearing made me stand out, and not in a way that an intern probably should. I later found that one of my managers expressed concern to a coworker that I was “uptight” because I insisted on wearing ties (anyone who knows me well knows that this couldn’t be further from the truth). In my attempt to fulfill my role as a professional I had unwittingly isolated myself and effectively done the opposite. Fortunately, my hard work paid off and I was able to land a full-time job at the firm; however, my “professional wardrobe” was not as beneficial as I had hoped. 
It does take self confidence to dress well but it must be done within the context of the environment you’re in. This is something that has taken me a long time to realize and is something that I’m still working on. I assume that dressing elegantly is a skill that comes with time and experience, and recognizing that hopefully means I’m on the right path. 
There is a difference between “that guy who always looks nice” and “that guy who is always too dressed up.” They way you dress should be guided not only by your personal interests but by the situation you’re in. After all, the guy that wears velvet slippers to the office isn’t really any more stylish than the guy who wears sandals. 

Personal Style, Part III: Confidence & Context

 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. 

Read More

January 28, 2013
Personal Style, Part II: It’s (not always) in the Details
This is the second 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. Part I can be found here.
Perhaps it’s because I’m an engineer, but I love getting lost in minutiae. This is especially prevalent in my fascination with men’s clothing; I love to obsess over and ponder the implications of a quarter-inch of lapel and tie, the distance between stripes on shirts, or the brogueing pattern on a pair of wingtips. That’s one of the great things about hobbies – they give you the opportunity to delve into something so deeply that only you can appreciate all the fine points.
However, I have come to realize that this type of information is only beneficial to a point; after that, it can be distracting and even detrimental – allow me to explain.
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Those that know me well know that I have spent much of my life playing music; some would even argue that my interest in #menswear only appeared when I moved to California and left my musical friends behind, thus filling the hole in my life that constant gigging had once occupied. Regardless, they are both great passions of mine and I love to obsess over both.
One of my close friends is a professional guitar player in Los Angeles. Now, one thing guitarists love to do – perhaps even more than playing – is to obsess over gear. Whenever I was able to spend time with this friend I would pump him for trade information: are vintage tubes really that much better than new ones? (yes.) Does the chip in an Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer make that big of a difference? (yes.) Are true bypass pedals always better than buffer pedals? (not necessarily.) After grilling him for an hour or two I would leave the conversation feeling confident that I was a better guitarist than before. After one such conversation, though, my friend told me something that hung with me for a long time:














"Learning about gear and obsessing over details is always fun, but don’t let it take over; sometimes we spend weeks poring over unattainable items and product specs, only to realize we haven’t practiced in a month."














This statement struck me; it’s true that my interest in creating an imaginary dream axe had completely overshadowed my desire to practice, and my playing had suffered for it. There is no substitute for practice – a good musician with bad gear will always sound better than the reverse. In the same way, we too often obsess over lookbooks and luxury items, while only seeing imperfection in what we already own. Although there is indeed value in knowledge, true understanding of any subject comes from experience. Don’t let your imperfect wardrobe or .jpeg library of #menswear keep you from putting things on with confidence in the morning. Try things, learn from your mistakes, and have fun.
Practice is the key to improving; money is not.
Many of the items I’m wearing above were cast deep into my closet for not being “perfect;” however, I’ve learned from the experiences and I still know that if I wear them with confidence nobody will notice their imperfections anyway. 

Personal Style, Part II: It’s (not always) in the Details

This is the second 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. Part I can be found here.

Perhaps it’s because I’m an engineer, but I love getting lost in minutiae. This is especially prevalent in my fascination with men’s clothing; I love to obsess over and ponder the implications of a quarter-inch of lapel and tie, the distance between stripes on shirts, or the brogueing pattern on a pair of wingtips. That’s one of the great things about hobbies – they give you the opportunity to delve into something so deeply that only you can appreciate all the fine points.

However, I have come to realize that this type of information is only beneficial to a point; after that, it can be distracting and even detrimental – allow me to explain.

Read More

January 15, 2013
Personal Style, Part I: Know Your Roots 
This is the first 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. 
One mantra we all hear a lot in the #menswear community is the importance of finding your own personal style and to avoid being “dressed by the internet.” There is a huge amount of knowledge out there, to be sure, but it can lead to a canned sense of ‘personal style’ if you only wear what people tell you to. 
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I grew up with no style influences whatsoever, be them from within my family or pop culture. My parents had little money and no interest in classic style and my small hippie west coast town had nothing to add to the equation. I always had a strong desire to dress well, but no knowledge or resources to help me properly execute this interest. Since my father wasn’t able to teach me how to shop for suits or tie a four-in-hand, I turned to the internet for guidance. I learned quite a bit, but I still felt disconnected from this new world of luxury items and father-to-son knowledge. My relationship with men’s style was a hollow connection; I wasn’t Italian, I didn’t go to boarding school, and I had no friends that held a similar interest. Clothing had become a great hobby, but at times it felt inauthentic. 
My grandfather, on the other hand, had a very different upbringing. He grew up in the Midwest in a privileged family, spent his youth at Andover Academy, and ended up attending Notre Dame after a stint in WWII. After a long and successful business career he settled in Wyoming, where he was known for his outdoor prowess, horseback riding expertise, and deadly golf skills. He passed away several years ago and I always knew him as a grand adventurer, charming cowboy, and loving granddad.  It was not until recently that I began to see that we had more in common than I had once thought.
During a trip home a while back I happened upon my grandfather’s old wardrobe in the back of my own childhood closet, dusty and untouched for years. I was startled to find that every item I saw was immediately recognizable with my newfound knowledge: gray flannel suit, Harris Tweed sport coats, OCBDs in all the right colors, a Brooks Bros. blue blazer, gingham shirts, khakis, leather-soled shoes, a white linen pocket square, hell, even an Omega Seamaster that he wore every day. It was as if a #menswear list of essentials had appeared in my closet during my absence.
I dug up some old photo albums to verify what I hoped to be true but refused to believe. In doing so I found hundreds of vintage photographs portraying my grandfather in beautiful sack suits, perfectly tailored tweed blazers, and dozens of bowties (apparently as my grandfather aged he refused to wear traditional ties - it was bowties or bolo ties every day). I reached out to my relatives to confirm; was it really true? Was my own grandfather really the stylish rouge I was seeing in these photographs, long before the internet and #menswear even existed? Friends and family from all over confirmed my suspicions and added their own stories of my grandfather’s infamous classic taste and preppy style. It was an emotional moment for me; I was deeply saddened that my grandfather and I could not share in this common passion during his lifetime, but the discovery left me happy to learn that my new hobby was not as separated from my heritage as I had once thought. Finding someone in my own family with the same desire to present themselves well - even if only through vintage photographs and old tweed jackets - was more than I ever could have hoped to discover.
Don’t be afraid to look in the closets and photo albums of your own family; just because your crazy uncle only wears sweatpants and sneakers now doesn’t mean that he never had a classy streak himself. Look into your own past and you might just stumble upon some treasures of your own.
Above: my granddad in his youth wearing herringbone tweed, a white polo collar shirt, and a black (or navy?) grenadine tie. Some styles really do transcend our own generation.
For J.A.P. Jr, 1919-2008

Personal Style, Part I: Know Your Roots 

This is the first 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. 

One mantra we all hear a lot in the #menswear community is the importance of finding your own personal style and to avoid being “dressed by the internet.” There is a huge amount of knowledge out there, to be sure, but it can lead to a canned sense of ‘personal style’ if you only wear what people tell you to. 

Read More