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A guide to help the average man... look less average

Quick Reminder. Purge.

Mark Kwak

Source: NYHabitat

Source: NYHabitat

I've been reading this book for the past week called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Sheesh, what a title.

This book has become hugely popular in the recent months, even getting onto the NY Times Bestseller's list. It's all about minimalizing, a topic you guys probably know is close to my heart. Anyhow, I'm not done with the book yet, but I've already found that one thing is becoming painstakingly clear... the key to tidying / minimalizing is to discard, discard, discard. Oh yeah, and also to discard.

Too often we just move things from one place to another. Or shove everything into a hidden closet. We think: "out of sight, out of mind!" But of course to no one's surprise, the accumulation of useless things inevitably continues, until eventually you're right back where you started- stressing about the clutter of your place.

Source: Decoist

Source: Decoist

So in case you feel like your living space is too messy or unreasonable, I ask that you go home today and take a nice long look at your closet (or wardrobe, or bookshelf, etc.). Then... without hesitation begin to purge. Yes. Discard, dispose, shed, trash, ditch, abandon, toss, [enter next thesaurus word]. I know it's not easy, but it's the only way you'll keep yourself organized and free from clutter. It seems as though there are no alternatives.

....Though of course I'll let you know if the book changes its mind somewhere towards the end.

Apple + Wood

Mark Kwak

Source: Grovemade

Source: Grovemade

It seems like living in San Francisco has made me a full-blown Apple fan boy. Since my move in 2010, I’ve accumulated six Apple devices - a Macbook air, Airport Express, iMac, iPhone 6, Airport Extreme, and iPad. Thanks goodness some of those items are company-issued (oh how my wallet would cry otherwise).

Anyhow, this post isn’t to talk about my obvious sickness, but instead to introduce a pretty cool company for those who own a bunch of Apple devices like myself. It’s called Grovemade, and they specialize in wooden accessories and stands for your Apple products.


Yes, these wooden pieces aren’t cheap. But hey, sometimes you want the best for your phone, computer, or whatever.  I’m particularly a fan of their iPhone dock and monitor stand. Just putting it out there in case you’re a fan of that modern wood + aluminum look that I’m personally fond of. Looks scrumptious.

Nike Flyknits

Mark Kwak

Source: Kicksonfire

Source: Kicksonfire

Being from Portland, Oregon, I must give a shoutout to the one (and basically only) major successful business in my neck of the woods: good ol’ Nike.

Recently, I’ve been obsessed with their flyknit collection. In case you’re not familiar with the word, let’s just say it’s Nike’s fancy branding of their proprietary mesh/fabric/cloth/awesomeness material used in some of their shoes. Complex has a super in-depth article on flyknits if you want to learn more.

I have a pair myself, the Lunar 3, and I love them. Great for running use, but also as casual street wear. Some other designs I like include the Racer, Free 4.0, and Roshe. Slightly expensive, but totally worth it in my book. Get at ‘em!

Source: Kicksonfire

Source: Kicksonfire

PS: Quick tip for you. You can use Ebates to get 8% cash back at right now in case you’re planning on buying a pair.

To a new beginning

Mark Kwak

Source: Bacardi

Source: Bacardi

Hello loyal readers… I’ve neglected this blog for far too long, but I’m coming back!

Over this nine month Simpler Man hiatus, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what I want this blog to be. Originally it was (and hopefully continues to be) a resource for men who have no idea where to begin when it comes to clothing. My whole thesis is that you really don’t need to know too much to look great. It’s ultimately about keeping it simple- you’ll never guess how finding just a well fitted, high quality collared shirt or pair of jeans can elevate your sense of style two-fold.

However, in writing multiple times a week, I find the scope of menswear a bit more limiting than I’d prefer. I want to start expanding beyond the walls of fashion and talk about my other life passions as well. Dining, cocktails, technology, music, motorcycles, coffee, exercise, movies, business, design, you name it!

Basically all this to say: though Simpler Man will continue to remain primarily about style, the next step in its journey will have a splash of lifestyle in the mix as well. Too cheesy? Eh probably. At the end of the day, the good news is that I’ll be writing more often now, just be aware it may be about more than just OCBDs and selvedge denim.

Collar height

Mark Kwak

We all know fit is incredibly important when it comes to clothing. You can find a piece that uses the highest quality fabrics, was designed by the brightest minds in fashion, and has incredible value, but if it doesn't fit well, might as well throw it in the trash because you simply won't look good.

And it's pretty easy to tell too. Even the most amateur of menswear enthusiasts can spot sleeve lengths that are too long, bagginess and billowing in the torso, or too broad of a shoulder fit.

That being said, there are other fit problems that most folks won't readily notice or be able to diagnose. The smaller details that you know are bothering your subconscious mind, but just can't pinpoint. One of those problems is collar height.

What is collar height? Well, simply put, it's the length from the top of the collar fold to the bottom of the collar on a collared (obviously) shirt. Interestingly enough, the collar height really does matter when you're searching for a well-fitted shirt.

Below is a picture I took for this blog a long while back. Back then, I didn't really see a problem with the fit of my shirt, but today, I'm a little more critical of myself. As a result, I'm a bit bothered by the collar height. Take a look:

Now, I don't think it necessarily looks bad, but I think a shorter collar could be more aesthetically pleasing in this outfit, don't you agree? Take a look at the collar height on a shirt like this:

Sure, if I was a gargantuan linebacker in the NFL, a short collar like the above might actually look more comical than anything. But seeing as how my neck is far smaller than someone like that, the aesthetics just work better to use a collar with a shorter height.

Now, having made this discovery, would I go back to my closet and replace everything with a suboptimal collar height? Probably not, that would seem a bit over the top. However, would I consider this detail when buying shirts in the future? Absolutely.

So it's just one more thing to think about when looking at fit. Take it or leave it, but put some consideration into the collar height when choosing a new shirt! My guess is that your current shirt collection is overly generous in collar height and you'll want to reduce them just a bit with your new shirts. But also remember, don't go too far in the other direction either - look at this guy, I feel like his collar is way too short:

Also, if you're still clueless on what to look for when choosing the shirt for you, check out Hugh & Crye's collar guide. Gives you quite a bit of detail about what you should be looking for in a shirt, down to the nitty-gritty details.

Cheers fellas, stay warm.

Wishlist December 2014

Mark Kwak

Every time the Holidays roll around, my wishlist starts to extend longer than Stretch Armstrong's limbs (oh boy, remember those toys?). Alongside cool gadgets, auto equipment, alcohol, and other goodies, clothing usually sits atop of the list. Today, I share with you some of my wishes for December.

Leather / wool rifle coat

I don't know what it is about wool coats with leather sleeves, but I've become a die hard fan. A bit on the trendy side, I know, but damn the combination looks good. I particularly like this Theory one above. It's expensive, but I saw it on sale at Macy's (yeah we have a legit Macy's that carries Theory) for almost half off, and was about a millimeter away from pulling the trigger.

New Balance high tops

Oh man, I am going to lobby hard to get these shoes under my Christmas tree this year. I've always been a fan of suede New Balances and these high tops are no exception, even though I think they're a JCrew collab exclusive. The color scheme, streamlined silhouette, and material all look wonderful to me. They even look comfy to boot!

Alden scotch grain bluchers

Whoo wee! What beauties. As many of you know, Alden is one of my favorite shoe brands in the world. One of the few remaining American shoemakers making quality product through the generations.

One thing you'll notice is that these are not made of your normal calfskin leather. After looking at some Thom Browne samples the other day, I realized I really like the use of scotch grain leather on shoes, and they add a bit of pop to what would normally be a very conservative shoe design. The Unionmade ones on the link above are sold out, but I think JCrew sells something similar here.

GQ x GAP leather backpack

It looks like GQ is partnering with GAP once again to deliver some really unique pieces, designed by some of the top designers, to the general public. The collection isn't set to be out until December 15th, but GQ offered a sneak peak into some of their favorite pieces. I really like this backpack by En Noir. I felt like there was a time when leather backpacks were a bit gaudy, but that time is no more. This slim, simple, elegant design just works, and I'll definitely take a look to verify quality when the collection comes out.

Anyhow, there's my December wishlist. Even though I'm trying not to buy any clothing, I will certainly be looking out for ways to get some of these things come January. Hoping that sales roll around by then! Stay warm out there, fellas.

Buffalo Plaid

Mark Kwak

Source: JCrew Ah buffalo plaid. A staple in almost every fall/winter catalog I come across.

Truth is, it took me a while to really embrace this pattern, mainly because I was brainwashed to hate the color red (go UCLA). That being said, the more I saw it on magazines, store windows, and print ads around town, the more I began to fall in love with the aesthetic. As a result, I now have a couple buffalo plaid pieces in my closet that have achieved the status of "go-to" within my wardrobe.

So exactly where did this ubiquitous red and black pattern originate from? Perhaps Paul Bunyan? Some hipster in the Mission District of SF? Nope. Buffalo plaid comes from the genius minds at Woolrich, a company that began producing shirts with this pattern around 1850. That's right, over 150 years ago! Talk about withstanding the ups and downs of fashion, huh?

Here are some of my favorite ways to outfit buffalo plaid.

1. Scarf to add some pop to an otherwise very conservative outfit. (See above)

2. Collared shirt underneath a solid blazer or suit. Adds a ton of complexity to a formal outfit, Timothy Olyphant representing below:

3. A classic buffalo check wool shirt from the OGs who created it. Definitely a more rugged look that can be used on the streets as easily as it can be out in the woods.

All in all, buffalo plaid is versatile, able to be worn as a subtle accent piece or stand out as the main attraction. I suggest looking around to find a piece that works for you. If folks are still wearing this stuff 150 years after it was originally made, it's probably safe to assume you'll be in style for however long you choose to wear it.

PS: To add to that Timothy Olyphant picture above, he had a full shoot with just buffalo plaid in this GQ article. Worth looking at.