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

Filtering by Category: General Style

Curated shops I like

Mark Kwak

Source: Need Supply

Source: Need Supply

We are utterly inundated with choice. Too many websites, too many stores, too many brands. Sometimes it's nice for a website to help curate only the best stuff for you.

I think there are several sites that do an excellent job of curating clothing/accessories/goods, and have become my go-to's as a result. I try my best to buy from these companies directly to support them, but I will admit, I do also take some items and plug them into Google or Amazon to find a better price.

Source: Of a Kind

Source: Of a Kind

Here's a small list for you to check out:

1. Need-Supply: This is one slick e-store. They have a fairly particular style, but even if it's not your cup of tea, they seem to only carry quality goods. Good news is that for every two items they carry that are fairly expensive, they carry one that is reasonable in price (for example, Filson & Carhartt vs Herschel).

I would take a good look at their accessories section as well. I've bought a thing or two from there, and have never been disappointed.

2. J.Crew in Good Company: As a company, J.Crew is hit or miss. I feel like two and a half years ago, they had their heyday, but today, they're potentially on a downswing. Either way, one part of their website that is rarely miss is a part called J.Crew in Good Company. This is their collaboration section, wherein J.Crew curates high quality pieces from other brands, while maintaining their excellent sensibility in style.

Some of my favorite brands like Alden, Barbour, Red Wing, and Drake's are represented in this section, and I have to say... J.Crew is one excellent curator. Unfortunately these items are generally not eligible for sale, but there's always a small subsection that seem to go on clearance. Sometimes you can find a pretty great grab if you browse at the right time.

3. Of a Kind: This site I'm not quite as familiar with, but recently I've been checking up on it quite a bit. I could be wrong, but I believe this site was originally made to help women discover emerging fashion designers. As it turns out, the staff at Of a Kind have pretty good taste, even in the menswear world.

They sell only a small number of items on their site, but I'm a fan of almost all of them. Seems like they have limited quantities of everything too, which makes each item that much more special.

Source: Of a Kind

Source: Of a Kind

Hey, sometimes you don't want to do all the research to find things you like. Let someone else curate, and you can just choose from a more limited selection. Makes your life a bit simpler.

Alright, and now I'm off.

Tapered pants

Mark Kwak

Source: Whyyoumad

Source: Whyyoumad

I've become a strong believer that men look better (no matter how tall, short, husky, or skinny) when wearing pants that taper in the leg. By taper, I mean that the fabric below the knee will noticeably narrow or slim down as you go down the leg.

This applies to dress pants, denim, chinos, you name it. Frankly, I don't even look at straight cut, boot cut, or relaxed fit jeans anymore. And if I somehow find myself purchasing a nice pair of wool dress pants with a straight leg opening, I'll ask my tailor to taper the pants pretty much 100% of the time.

The way you can tell that a pant is tapered (apart from the obvious label that might suggest that it is) is by laying the pants on a flat surface and flipping the leg opening up against where the knee of the pants would be. If the knee and leg opening are the same width, then it is not tapered. If the leg opening is more narrow than the knee, then it is.

Take a look at the difference here:

Source: Nordstrom

Source: Nordstrom

Not bad, but see below:

Source: Nordstrom

Source: Nordstrom

Ah better.

Now, I am going to caveat this statement saying that not all tapered pants are created equal. Some pants taper far too extreme for one to feel comfortable while some taper so little that you might as well call them straight-leg. I'd say it's on you to find out how much of a taper you're comfortable with.

Either way, the next time you're at the clothing store looking for a pair of pants, I'd suggest looking for pants that have a taper in the leg. You'll just look a lot better, I guarantee it.

Omega Speedmaster Professional

Mark Kwak

Source: Omega

Source: Omega

Anyone who knows me, even a little, knows that I'm a huge fan of watches. I've bought, traded, sold, owned, and toyed with too many to count. By the way, tread carefully with watches. It's a fun and exciting world, but frankly a dangerous place for your wallet to be.

Out of all of the watches I've tirelessly researched, seen, or owned, I think there are only four or five that I consider among the pantheon of timepieces. One of these is the Omega Speedmaster Professional, the first watch to be worn on the moon. I actually owned this watch several years ago, but regretfully (oh so regretfully...) sold it during an employment transition in my life.

Source: Watchuseek

Source: Watchuseek

I won't go into all the details around this watch's history, as you can find that info littered all over the web, but I will give you my take on this watch. Long story short, it's a beautiful and amazing watch, but one that will require some patience and hand-holding. Let me explain why.

The Speedmaster Professional is an older watch. It's rock-solid in construction and reliability (hell, it was used to guide Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon, surely it can guide me) but it isn't necessarily a modern watch. By that, I mean it isn't the king of accuracy (could be off by upwards of +/- 10 seconds a day), doesn't have a scratch-proof face, and requires you to manually wind it every other day to keep it running.

And so the question arises- why in the world would you want a watch like that when there are perfectly accurate, low maintenance, highly durable watches out there for no where near the $4k this timepiece demands? I'll tell you why. Because it's beautiful, it has a rich history, it gives you tangible ritualistic satisfaction every time you wind it, will last generations, and is among the most iconic timepieces of all time. This is a watch you can proudly gift to your son on his 18th birthday.

Source: Omega Forums

Source: Omega Forums

God, look at that thing on a leather strap... mesmerizing.

Luxury watches are interesting, some people will never understand why one would shell out thousands of dollars for something you can easily substitute for $20. Again, I won't go into that rabbit hole in this post, but I will say that if you are convinced that luxury watches are worth it, the Omega Speedmaster Professional is one I would highly recommend. It's a classic watch that isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Source: Watchuseek

Source: Watchuseek

Some tips in case you're thinking about it:

1. Buy used, the cost goes down quite substantially when you're buying used, and this watch hasn't been changed in spec for many, many years. Probably will never change.

2. There are a lot of Speedmasters out there now. Some with sapphire faces, some with white sub-dials, some with automatic movements... If you want the classic, get the 3570.50 model. That's my choice.

3. Service this watch. I think this watch needs to be professionally serviced every 5-6 years, so just keep that in mind, especially when buying used.

4. If you get the classic Speedmaster Professional, get some Polywatch. It'll help you remove any scuffs or scratches from the glass.

5. This watch comes on a metal strap. Purchase it that way. Then buy an aftermarket leather strap for it, as it looks great on both steel and leather.

Okay, enough writing about this; makes me want to go out and re-buy this watch. Hmm maybe I will.


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.

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.