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

Filtering by Category: Personal Style

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.

A simpler kid

Mark Kwak

You know, when I was a kid, I wore strictly second-hand clothing. Goodwill, Salvation Army, Thriftway, you name it. Our family didn't have much money, and I was going to be growing out of my clothing anyway, so why bother with fashion? Personally, I think it was a good thing. Shopping that way helped me really appreciate buying a new shirt or pair of jeans when I got in high school. I hopefully plan to raise my future kids the same way.

That being said, there IS something awesome about kids who look as fashionable (if not more fashionable) as their adult counterparts. I came across a Buzzfeed article this week where a toddler's mother dresses her kid like a walking GQ advertisement. This kid looks amazing! Check out some of his pictures below. And follow him on Instagram if you want more:

Little guy's making me look like an incompetent dresser. Props to him and his mom for keeping up with the Instagram account. We all know it takes discipline to keep these things going :) Happy Friday folks.

 

PSA: 7 years is too long to keep your boxer shorts

Mark Kwak

I was listening to an episode of NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me last week and they came across a story that compelled me to put out a public service announcement on Simpler Man.

Turns out that men are wearing their underwear for 7 years on average. At first I said, what the hell? 7 years?

Then I got to thinking... I probably have a pair or two that old, and I didn't even notice. Gentlemen, I'm sure most of us have the means to replace our underwear every couple of years, so after work today, let's toss some of our ol' trusties, and keep our drawers fresh.

Altering old baggy clothing

Mark Kwak

A lot of my friends ask me for advice on what to do with their old clothing that just don't fit anymore. The process usually goes a little something like this:

1. I peruse my friends' closet.

2. I'll see a piece of clothing that looks God-awful and ill-fitting.

3. I'll say "toss" without a second thought.

4. I move onto the next piece.

At this point, my friends will stop and cringe, hesitating to move on. And of course I get it. What if the piece I'm tossing is actually a $175 shirt? Or what if it's the most comfortable piece of clothing in the entire closet?

As a result, we get hung over the piece for several minutes, trying to decide whether it stays in the closet or goes away to Goodwill.  Then we ultimately have to come to a compromise. And almost always, my compromise is this - get it altered so that it doesn't look ridiculous.

So I wanted to quickly speak about this compromise. "Getting it altered" is an easy way for someone to make a piece of clothing look better without having to spend a ton of money. Why replace an entire wardrobe when you can go to your local tailor and have them stitch up your current wardrobe to look perfect on you?

Now, I'm all for tailoring your clothing to look good, but I will say right now, sometimes it just doesn't make sense. Here are the situations that I come across where you shouldn't bother.

1. Dress shirts that are simply far too big.

Dress shirts are usually the easiest pieces of clothing to alter. However, if the original shirt being altered is two or more sizes too large, it may be a bit of a challenge. Here's why: it is very difficult to alter the shoulder hems on a dress shirt, and the shoulder hems are the most important part of the dress shirt fit. If the shoulder perforations are hanging at your mid triceps, you're likely going to encounter baggy sleeves, baggy mid sections, and too large of a collar as well.

First off, there are just too many alterations. Second, if the shoulders don't fit, no matter how well you alter the shirt, it won't look good. Toss it.

2. Boxily (is this a word?) designed clothing often cannot be altered to look fresh and fit.

Boxy clothes are often designed to give you a more relaxed fit. Take for instance a boxy blazer. You know, the one where it feels like you're swimming in the extra space? No matter how good your tailor is, the boxy nature of the blazer will make it difficult to get it to a trendy and form-fitting spot. It's not just about the extra fabric, but it's also about the balance of the jacket from top to bottom design-wise, and making a couple cuts here and there won't work. Toss it.

3. Some pieces just aren't meant to be altered in certain ways.

Think about a coat that is too long. Or a pair of jeans that are too baggy. Both of these could technically be altered to match the fit you want. However, let's say there are a bunch of pockets on that coat from top to bottom, and the jeans are baggy in not just your legs, but also your butt and crotch regions as well.

In these cases, it's likely that the tailor won't be able to alter your clothing to look better. Instead, you'll end up with a warped and unbalanced look that will force you to toss the pieces anyway. Make sure to look at your clothing holistically before making any alterations, and decide whether it makes sense. If not, toss it.

Okay, this is making me sound like I don't recommend people to go to a tailor. Not true in the slightest. I go to a tailor all the time, and it's invaluable having a good one.

All I'm saying is that sometimes it's just not worth it. It's all a cost/effort battle. Are you willing to take the financial hit by tossing the piece, or would you rather work hard and pay a lot of money to get it to look decent? Sometimes it's worth it, but I'm saying that sometimes... just sometimes, its irreparable and not worth the effort. In those cases, be okay with donating your clothing. Perhaps someone with a more suited body-style can inherit your clothing, and wear it the way it was supposed to be worn.

Looking good in different types of clothing

Mark Kwak

When in doubt, I advocate many folks to "grow up" their look. Wear button up shirts instead of T-shirts. Shed the flip flops in favor of a nice pair of wingtips. Put on a nice wristwatch. Now, some people are fortunate enough to be in situations where they simply do not need to wear these types of clothing. Be it people who are constantly active and on the run, or perhaps artistic types that are encouraged to dress a bit more eclectic than the average "well-dressed" guy.

To me, these types of occupations or lifestyles are no excuse not to wear clothing that looks good, feels good, and fits well. Just because you're not sporting a blazer and tie doesn't mean you can't look awesome. Let me try to show you some great looks even when you don't have just a normal office job.

1. The active, sports man

Zip up hoodie, dri-fit T-shirt, fitted track pants, Nike frees.

I think that activewear can look great these days. All the dry fit, compression based clothing helps keep clothing slim,

2. The eclectic type

Whatever clothing you want.

There are two people that I think dress well, albeit a bit more eclectic than I would prefer. Pharrell and Andre 3000. Take a page from their book if you're in the mood. Sometimes when you have a very confident sense of personal style, you can still look quite good in even the most ridiculous or outlandish clothing out there. Just make sure it fits well, and you wear the outfit with the utmost confidence.

3. The rugged outdoorsman

Barbour jacket, chunky wool sweater, denim or cords, rugged boots.

Just because you're out in the wilderness doesn't mean you can't look great. In fact, so much of menswear today is about sporting that rugged outdoorsman look, even if going just to the office.

4. The lazy at home type

T shirt, sweat pants, beanie, perhaps a hoodie or sweatshirt, New Balance.

I don't know if you've been following menswear magazines these days, but T-shirts, sweatpants and sweatshirts are more prevalent than I've ever seen. You know, back in the Mad Men era, when men wanted to just lounge around the house, they would dress down into a sport coat. Boy those days are gone. Instead, feel free to wear a nicely fitting sweatpant or sweatshirt to look good.

Whatever the look, there's a way to make it look good. You don't always have to be in a suit and tie, right?

Coordinating certain colors

Mark Kwak

I think that coordinating colors can be a great way to indicate to the world that you understand how style works. A simple matching of the belt to the shoe, or socks to the sweater can be a refreshing aesthetic for all to see. Today, I want to talk about coordinating colors a bit more subtly, and little techniques you can use to showcase your fashion knowledge.

For example, I just shot this picture right now (sorry for the shoddy quality), but this particular shirt has an interesting detail to it. It's charcoal all around, but the front pocket is actually navy.

pocketNow, why am I showing you this shirt? I'm showing it to you because it's a great example of a type of shirt that I can use to start matching colors around with. For me, that little hint of navy gives me a great excuse to add another navy piece to this outfit. Perhaps it's a pair of blue jeans, or my navy Vans.

In this case, I'm using the secondary color (navy), not the primary one (charcoal), to build my outfit around. And trust me, this isn't limited to a shirt with a mismatching pocket, I mean who really wears this type of shirt anyway?

Take a look at accessories, or pieces that have multiple colors in it (like a striped or plaid shirt). I think that matching up other parts of your outfit to the colors that are on that accessory, stripe or plaid just makes sense. If there's some light blue in your shirt, why not wear a light blue shoelace? It's those types of details that help ME know that YOU are in the know.

Below is an awesome example of why matching certain colors can make a huge difference in the aesthetic appeal of your outfit. In this picture, there is one guy who stands out to me. The guy with the pink flower on his lapel. Why? Because it works with the socks he's wearing. Sure, his socks won't be visible for most of the day, but the moment he sits down, that subtle detail of the pinks matching will make a huge difference.

 

So really, all I'm trying to say is that you should look at colors with a bit more intentionality. The subtle details can make a huge difference, and it's worth thinking about. Is your watch band olive in color? Try putting on some olive colored shoes. Got some red in your plaid shirt? Time to take your red wristband out. Purple jacket? Oh hi purple socks.

We all know it's good to coordinate colors overall, but take it to the next level and start complementing / matching some of the subtle parts of your outfit. Trust me, I've been complimented on some of those details even when I felt like there's no way anyone would ever have been able to notice.

 

My Style Pet Peeves #2

Mark Kwak

A long time ago, I put up a post about some of my style-related pet peeves. To give you a quick referesher, they were as such: 1. Heavy designs on jean back pockets

2. Dress shirt collars hanging outside of sweaters

3. Dress belt & shoe color mismatch

4. Square toe dress shoes

Today, I bring you several more. Remember, these are just my style pet peeves. Of course you can continue to rock whatever you're comfortable with. I'll just be dying a little inside... just playing.

White athletic socks with dress shoes

When wearing dress shoes, please wear appropriate socks. Nothing's worse than ribbed white cotton peeking out from under your pant cuff. If you have to keep it easy, stick with a mid-gray sock that goes above your shin.

Boot cut jeans

I don't know what it is, but recently I've started to really dislike bootcut jeans. Now, they do make sense if you're wearing cowboy boots, but otherwise, I prefer a straight or tapered leg. People will inevitably disagree with me on this one (like customers of Nordstrom, apparently), but I personally don't like them. All my previous ones are at Goodwill.

Athletic shoes with slacks

I see some people trying this look to be fashion forward, but I'm not hopping on that train. Athletic shoes and dress slacks are two of the most contrasted pieces in a man's wardrobe. Keep them as far away from each other as possible.

Jeans that are just too skinny

I get that pants are getting skinnier and skinnier for men these days. It's not easy to figure out how slim a man should wear his pants in this day and age, but I will say that if you're going into the woman's department for denim, you're probably going too far. The picture above makes me feel uncomfortable. You need some breathing room, man.

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My four pet peeves this time around. I wish these things didn't bother me so much, but some reason, they do. Woosah.