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

Filtering by Category: Fall

Essential Outerwear: The Field Jacket

Mark Kwak

So we're onto the second installment of the Essential Outerwear series, and today, the spotlight is on the field jacket, or sometimes more broadly called, the utility coat.

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So what in the world is a field jacket? Well I'mma get descriptive on you: field jackets are jackets that are inspired by a type of outerwear design worn by soldiers during World War II, usually characterized by a rugged look made of waxed cotton or some sort of synthetic, donning multiple pockets, and generally in an olive green or khaki color, just like the military men wore it. To see a couple classic field jackets, check out the M65 or M43.

I love field jackets and utility coats, and they've become quite popular in recent years. I swear every other person on the street is wearing some sort of olive green canvas jacket, whether guy or girl, old or young. Good news is that this ubiquity has made this jacket a very seamless one to wear in any situation. You can be in casual sweats, and a field jacket won't look out of place. I've also seen the other end of the spectrum where finance folks from London are layering their Barbour jackets over their pinstripe suits. I might add that it's not a bad look.

If you're going to get one, I would recommend getting a field jacket/utility coat in a neutral color. Think olive green, khaki, navy blue, black, gray. They look best when they're a bit distressed or wrinkled, and they should fit well at the shoulder, but it's not 100% necessary for them to fit too snug. For example, the Barbour Bedale is one of my favorite field jackets, and it's actually cut in a more classic form to help make sure your movement is unrestricted while you're hunting that deer, or grappling a bear.

These jackets can also act as great rain coats. If it's made of waxed cotton, it's actually meant to be worn in the rain, as the wax keeps the jacket protected from any rain damage. I will have to warn you though, they usually aren't as warm as wool or puffer coats, and hopefully you didn't expect them to be. They work well in the winter time, but not in below zero degree weather.

Here are two of my field jackets, one being more classically field-like (the Barbour one), and the other being a little out of the box (the Banana Republic one). I like them both a lot though:

field1 field2I love the corduroy detailing on this particular jacket. field3Wear these jackets with a scarf if your neck gets cold. Looks great in my opinion. field5Here is the most common color that you'll find a field jacket in. Olive green. field6This one has no lack of detailing either. Leather on the collar. field7 This is actually the jacket that Bond wore in the main battle scene of Skyfall. Couldn't resist getting it for myself as a result. field8

Sweater: J.Crew | Scarf (blue): Todd Snyder x Gap | Scarf (black): Prada

Jeans: Rag & Bone | Jacket (blue) : Banana Republic | Jacket (black): Barbour

Now, I normally say you should spend the extra dollar in getting a piece, but honestly, with field jackets, you can find some great ones for a little less at your mass retailers like Gap or Uniqlo. Penfield also makes some less expensive ones (though they're going to be more than what you find at Gap or Uniqlo).

In the case that you do want to spend the extra dollar, I'd say look for jackets from Barbour, Filson, or Pendleton, GANT, or Jack Spade, in that order. Nordstrom has a great filter where they show only utility coats, so I'd check that out as well.

Either way, a field jacket / utility coat is a great piece that you'll own for quite some time, perhaps even for the rest of your life. I recommend getting one sooner rather than later, and wear it throughout the entire year. Love the ones I have, and I don't regret a single cent in those purchases.

Essential Outerwear: The Leather Jacket

Mark Kwak

Finally, I'm starting the outerwear series I promised you all a couple weeks ago. First on the agenda... leather jackets. leather7

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I'm a huge fan of leather jackets. What's not to like? They protect you from the wind, feel great to the touch, and of course, make you look incredibly badass.

As a result, over time, leather jackets have basically become my favorite article of clothing. I'll tell you though, the journey to get there was not easy. I don't have the most forgiving body type, so leather jackets often looked weird on me. Sleeves would be too long, shoulders would fit awkwardly, and some reason, most jackets gave me the silhouette reminiscent of an NFL linebacker.

Also, the cost of real leather jackets were always prohibitive. If I finally found one that I liked, I usually needed to take a deep breath before looking at the price tag- mainly to prepare for shock. Usually every jacket extended well beyond the $1k mark.

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Over time though, I realized two things. First was that it's not easy to find a leather jacket that fits well. This is largely due to the fact that leather jackets are not easy to alter, so the flexibility of customizing your jacket disappears. The second is that it is well worth it to spend the extra buck for a nice leather jacket, because it will last you for a lifetime.

After understanding these two concepts, I decided to first, be patient with shopping for a leather jacket. The investment would be substantial, so making the right decision was crucial. Second, I needed to suck it up and just be okay with paying the money, knowing that it would be hard to get a decent leather jacket without spending a bit more. Plus, they don't really go out of style.

As a result, here are the two I ended up with:

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 Sunglasses: Ray Ban | Shirt: J.Crew | Jeans: Rag & Bone

Belt: Hugo Boss | Jacket (Black): Theory (similar)

Jacket (Brown): Levi's Made & Crafted (similar)

So this is an outerwear series in preparation for winter. You may be asking why leather jackets are part of that list. Well, leather jackets are actually appropriate year-round, and winter is no exception. Especially in cities like San Francisco, leather jackets work great during the colder months, especially when paired with a scarf and sweater.

They do well against the wind as they're not porous, they are great at insulation (depending on the type you get), and the style is not only appropriate, but encouraged during the fall and winter months.

Get one if you have the opportunity, you won't regret it.

Photo Credit: Chris Eldredge

A warning about Black Friday

Mark Kwak

Unlike a lot of folks, I'm a huge fan of Black Friday. Thanksgiving has just passed, the air is crisp, the malls are bustling with interesting people... If anything, it's a wonderful time to people-watch and hang with some friends in a busy environment.

This may also seem like the best time of the year to buy clothing, especially when every single store has a seemingly ridiculous sale going on at the same time. That's why I'll see a line out the front door at Macy's, or an ensuing fight between two middle-aged ladies clutching at a single purse in the Bloomingdale's line.

However, I do have one warning for you all: Black Friday is usually not the best sale you'll find all year, or even all season. So before you go to your favorite mall and wait in line for two hours, do some research, and utilize that nifty thing called your computer, to make things a bit easier for you.

Here are my observations around Black Friday:

1. Oftentimes, better sales happen around Black Friday, rather than on it. Shops like Macy's have actually told me that they have higher discounted pricing on weeks prior to Black Friday than Black Friday itself. Not sure what the strategy around that is, but it seems to be shared across a ton of other retail stores as well.

2. Look at sites like Slickdeals.net, Fatwallet.com, Dealsplus.com, etc. to find better deals than you can find on your own. These sites are amazing, and (warning) addicting as well. They curate some of the best deals on the web at any given time, and the deals during Black Friday are generally pretty ridiculous.

3. Electronics, toys, and other items are more heavily discounted than clothing. Contrary to popular belief, clothing is usually discounted only marginally during Black Friday. Most of the bigger discounts you'll find are related to other things like iPads, TVs, games, etc. Not always true, but just take a look for yourself!

4. Check blogs like Dappered & PutThisOn. Some menswear blogs post up sales during these times of the year. I would suggest you check them out for some of the deals that are ACTUALLY decent.

All this to say that there are smarter ways to spend your time shopping this Black Friday. I wouldn't recommend waking up incredibly early, waiting in line, fighting the crowds, and ultimately getting a deal that's inferior to one you could get weeks later, when you could go online and figure all that mess out beforehand. Just sayin'.

Either way, have a safe and homey Thanksgiving, fellas. I'll probably post before Thanksgiving again, but thought I'd put it out there for now.

Essential Outerwear

Mark Kwak

There are a number of reasons why I enjoy fall the most when it comes to menswear. Among those reasons, one in particular is my love of outerwear. My favorite category of clothing, hands down.

Well the good news is that there are a variety of different types of outerwear to choose from come October/November. The bad news is that this "unleashing of the bulls" per se, can get a bit overwhelming- you'll have a hard time figuring out what coat to actually buy.

To make things a little easier, I've outlined what I consider the essential outerwear list. This doesn't mean you need to own every piece on the list, but choosing a couple from here might do your wardrobe some good. In no particular order, here they are:

1. The Peacoat

2. The Field Jacket / Utility Coat

3. The Trenchcoat

4. The Leather Jacket

5. The Topcoat

6. The Cold Weather Coat

In the following weeks, I hope to delve a bit deeper into each of these jackets/coats, and let you know why I think they're awesome pieces to have in your closet. Keep an eye out, and also let me know in the comments below if there is anything specific you'd like to know about each item.

PS: I realize that I never finished by accessories series (only went through about half of the items on that list, here's part 1 , 2 , 3). That's definitely going to be intermingled with this series!

 

My question to you: Puffer vests

Mark Kwak

I've been meaning to talk about this subject for quite some time. Puffer vests.

Some part of me really likes them, and finds the look quite appealing. The other part of me wonders why they're so popular when they're functionally kind of awkward. If it's cold enough to be wearing a puffer anything, I would imagine that it's best to put on a puffer coat/jacket that covers the sleeves. If it's not cold enough to be wearing a puffer anything, then wouldn't it make sense to just wear a lighter jacket?

Again, I'm a fan of the look, but this thought makes me hesitate on getting one for myself. And I'm also not talking about those thinner quilted vests, but rather the type of vest that makes you look like Marty McFly or the Michelin Man.

Maybe it's for the layering aspect, where you can layer a vest underneath another jacket or coat, but not deal with the sleeve bulk? Or perhaps it's just an easier piece to put on above your sweater? Whatever the case, would love to hear from you guys why you would or would not wear a puffer vest. Lay 'em on me!

In the case that you are pro puffer vest though, here are a couple that I'm a fan of:

$50-100 : Uniqlo Ultra Light Down , Banana Republic Grey Flannel Vest , Kane & Unke Colorblock Vest

$100-200 : North Face Lindero , Ralph Lauren Elmwood

$200-500 : Canada Goose Lodgewood , Gant Rugger Down Vest

$500 + : Moncler Hooded Vest , Burberry Crosby

My Fall Wish List

Mark Kwak

It's wishlist time. I've started to buy clothing again so there are a ton of fall/winter items on my list that I've been drooling over. Also, the fact that it's getting pretty cold in San Francisco (oh what a wimp I've become...), means that most of these items are actually relevant again. For anyone who has mounds of cash just sitting around, please feel free to buy me any of the pieces below:

John Varvatos Star Topcoat

There is something so incredibly classy about topcoats. They are wonderful complements to a formal or semi-formal getup, and keep you really warm and toasty. I own a topcoat already, but have been thinking about upgrading, since topcoats are very much investment pieces. I came across this one from John Varvatos on the Nordstrom website recently, and really liked the simple design. Can't really attest for the quality just yet, but I may visit the store to see if they have one on the rack to try on. Will report back.

Hey and if you're doubtful about getting a topcoat, if anything, Don Draper wears them.

Bloomingdale's Ribbed Knit Beanie

One of my buddies recently showed me his Prada knit cap, and I was thoroughly impressed with how it looked. It was charcoal in color, made with very fine wool, and extremely simple in design, like the above picture. I checked online to see how much the thing cost, and unfortunately, it was priced at over $200.

I'm all about buying quality but $200 for a hat was quite a stretch for me so I found a suitable substitute at Bloomingdales and am contemplating picking it up. I mean they say the head is where you hold the most heat, so I have to keep that heat in during the colder months, am I right?

Moncler Puffer Jacket

I cheated a bit on this one as I've recently bought a similar model to this particular jacket due to a sale.

To be honest, I used to be kind of against puffer jackets, and still am to some extent, but some of the models that Moncler has been releasing have really caught my eye. You retain the warmth of a puffer jacket, but the fit doesn't make you look like a marshmallow, and the attention to detail is just fantastic.

There are a couple downsides though. First, I live in SF, so it rarely gets cold enough to wear this thing. These jackets don't just keep you warm, they make you melt inside if it's not cold enough outside. Second, Moncler is outrageous with pricing. The cheapest models are barely sub-$1K, and the more expensive ones are ludicrously expensive.

Ralph Lauren Merino Wool Sweater

I tried one of these Polo Ralph Lauren sweaters on last week at Bloomingdales, and absolutely loved the feel and look of it. Not only did it fit snug to my body, but the colors were beautifully vibrant, and there was no annoying polo logo on the front. Again, the only thing stopping me was the price, as each one of these is $125. The sweater is actually quite thin, so it made me wonder if this was something worth investing in.

I may still end up getting it, but it will hurt the wallet.

So there is my wish list this November. God, do I love fall/winter for menswear.

Nordstrom's 10 Fall Essentials

Mark Kwak

While I was doing some research for my grey crewneck sweatshirt post, I came across Nordstrom's 10 fall essentials post, and wanted to share it with you all. Not necessarily because it's groundbreaking or a must-see, but because I do agree with a lot of it, and think it could be a decent guide for some of you heading into F/W 2013.

In case you're too lazy to click through, here's the cheat sheet:

1. Wool overcoat : Definitely agree with this, a must for winter. Look for one that ends before your knees though.

2. Crewneck sweatshirt : See previous post to view my opinion on the matter.

3. Quilted jacket : This is probably one I disagree with. Quilted jackets (especially by Barbour) are cool and all, but certainly not an essential in my book.

4. Chunky cardigan : My chunky cardigan has saved me from the cold on more than a couple occasions. Thus, this is also a must.

5. Brown leather-strap watch : I'm finding that brown leather straps are more versatile than black leather straps for me. Perhaps it's because I own more earth-toned clothing, but either way, I concur with this item.

6. Patterned sport coat : This is another one that I don't necessarily find essential. I'm a fan of patterned sport coats, but don't go rushing out to buy one of these just because Nordstrom told you to.

7. Soft briefcase : Here's my thought on briefcases. Yep, if you're over the age of 21, you need one.

8. Corduroy pants : Corduroy pants came back last year pretty strong during the fall and winter months. I think they are a good item to have since they're warm and also something different from your daily denim. Essential though? Maybe.

9. Iconic sunglasses : Not sure why this is a must have for fall and winter, but sure, iconic sunglasses are always good to have.

10. Dress boots : I own 3 dress boots, need I say more?

Though everything Nordstrom.com offers isn't always my style or taste, there are some really good finds in there if you dig long enough. Get yourself some fall/winter clothing in preparation for the changing winds. Cheers.