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

Filtering by Category: Pants

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.

The essential color to wear with bold pieces

Mark Kwak

Source: GQ

Last weekend, I went out to a couple nearby parks to hang out in the sun with my friends. During my time at these parks, I noticed that my eyes were being pulled from place to place by the bright colored pants and shorts everybody was wearing around- men included.

Though I'm personally not much a fan of bright colored pants myself , I think they can look pretty attractive on a lot of people, and if you've been thinking about getting yourself a pair, I say why not? There's no better time than now (it's spring/summertime + bright colored pants are on trend at the moment, just check this article by StyleGirlfriend).

So now, if you've wholly decided that you'll be wearing this somewhat daring piece in the near future, I've got a tip for you: wear white too.

Source: Denimtherapy

Let me explain why. The more outlandish the color of your pants, the more difficult it will be to coordinate other pieces around that color. Ever tried to coordinate your shoes, shirt, and jacket around a pair of neon green pants before? It's doable, but it ain't easy.

Ah, but here's where the color (or shade?) white comes in handy. Luckily, white really does work with everything. It's basically a blank canvas on which you can layer different colors around- no matter how outrageous- and still look fine overall. Also, white is a great color to wear in the summertime anyway, as it's bright and refreshing to look at amidst blue skies and yellow sun rays.

So you have a pair of salmon shorts? Add a white V neck T-shirt.

Got bright red chinos? No problem, a white oxford will do just fine.

Violet pants? White polo to the rescue. 

If you're having a hard time deciding what to match your colorful pants and shorts with, just wear some white and be done with it. I'm not saying other colors don't work- they absolutely do. And, if you have the time and patience, definitely wear other colors as well!

However, sometimes it's kind of nice not to worry about what works and doesn't work with your pastel or colored pants. Knowing that a white shirt will do the job no matter what, is a pretty liberating thing. Besides, a blankness of a white shirt will bring the focus to your pants anyway, and if you're buying bright colored pants, isn't that kind of the point?


Initial Impressions: Gustin Selvedge Raw Denim Jeans

Mark Kwak

By now, you probably know that I love denim. Denim shirts, denim pants, denim jackets, love 'em all. Add characteristics like raw, selvedge, and made in the U.S.A (or more specifically San Francisco) to that denim, and now you've got my undivided attention. Well, two guys I met in SF recently, Josh Gustin and Stephen Powell, did just that by showing me their line of raw selvedge, made in the U.S.A. jeans, proudly branded Gustin.

GUSTIN denim at three stages of wear - new, 6 months, 1.5 years

At first, the guys and I talked about the history and vision of the company. Some really interesting stuff these guys are doing, which I'll go into in a sec. More importantly though, we talked about their main product, their jeans. They whipped out some of their denim, and I got a chance to look at and feel them out, and boy was I impressed.

I've owned over 5 pairs of selvedge jeans since discovering selvedge several years ago, and it was clear that these Gustin jeans were on par, if not better in construction and quality than most of my other pairs. Thus, I asked if I could try a pair at home, just to give them a true test. They kindly said yes, and I jumped on the opportunity.

So I've been wearing these Gustin jeans for the last three days now, and I have to say, I'm still pretty impressed. Here are some of my initial thoughts:


1. The weight of the denim is hefty and strong. Feels rock solid and looks very durable.

2. The attention to detail is surprisingly high. Belt loops are nicely tucked, the stitching, buttons, and pockets are all flawless, and the accent selvedge signature is tastefully placed.

3. The jeans are incredibly simple. No unnecessary stitching, design, or whatever. Very clean lines, stitching, and color.

4. The price? Whoa... I'll get into that below.


1. The jeans don't fit me all that well in the thigh area. I have weird leg proportions, so that might be why, but they flare out slightly when I wear them.

2. The rise is a more standard rise, which to me is a bit higher than I prefer. Since I'm shorter, I prefer more of a low rise jean.

Here are some extremely poor quality cell phone pictures of the fit on me:



Now, here's the juicy part. The two guys over at Gustin are tired of selling their jeans to boutiques just so that these boutiques can turn around and sell them for a hefty 100% profit to their customers. Sure the jeans might be worth $205, but the team at Gustin thinks that they can do the consumer a solid by changing up their business model a bit.

Instead of selling to boutiques, they've decided to start selling their jeans at wholesale prices directly to the consumer. So instead of $205 for a pair of these jeans, they're going to be selling them for $81.  Now I don't know about you, but to me, $81 is an absolute steal for Cone Mills raw selvedge denim, constructed in San Francisco. Frankly, this makes all my other selvedge denim purchases seem like a waste of money. That's only $25 more than a pair of Levi's you might buy at Macy's. Crazy!

Now, I don't endorse products that I don't believe in, but this company Gustin... I do endorse. Not only is their product high in quality, but the entire experience is wonderful. They take in user feedback for their future designs, offer amazing shipping and return policies, and provide excellent customer service along the way. Not too shabby in my book.

They're starting it all off on Kickstarter, and there, you can read all about them, and get the full scoop. You can also purchase their jeans on there if you help raise them money. I suggest you get over there right now and pledge $81, and get yourself a pair of nice raw selvedge denim. Probably the best deal you'll get on a pair of jeans like this for a while.


Mark Kwak

Outfit: Oliver Peoples sunglasses :: Black Fleece sweater :: Michael Kors shirt :: Tellason jeans ::  Gordon Rush shoes

Photo credit: Dana Patricia

One of my close friends, Sam, is a denim expert working in the apparel industry here in San Francisco. I had an opportunity to chat with her about denim, where we discussed how it's made, why it's one of our favorite materials, and what we should look for when shopping for denim.

While enjoying the nice San Francisco summer (yes, summer arrives in SF for a week during fall, and that's about it), we came up to several mutually agreed upon points:

1. Denim belongs in your closet. Period.

2. It's smart to put in the extra money for a nice pair of jeans. There are too many crappy jeans out there, and oftentimes they're not worth the trouble.

3. Denim on denim is always case by case.

4. For men, it's all about the solid dark wash straight leg jean.

I'd like to elaborate on each point, because the topic of denim certainly deserves some attention.

1. Denim belongs in your closet.

I think blue jeans are one of the most essential pieces to have in your wardrobe. They are durable, stylish, versatile, comfortable, cool... need I go on? A pair of blue jeans can work in the most casual of situations and can also be dressed up significantly (think blazer, dress shirt, dress shoes, dark wash denim). I don't think I need to do any more convincing, just please get a pair if you don't already.

2. It's smart to put in the extra money for a nice pair of jeans.

So there is a substantial difference between a $15 pair of jeans at Old Navy or Walmart, and a pair of $180 APC New Standards. Here's a great video that I think explains some of these differences. Now, I'm not saying you need to spend over $100 on a pair of jeans, as many of you would find that ridiculous with so many other inexpensive alternatives out there. However, I do think you need to examine and try on a bunch of denim before you make a decision.

Between $60-$100 can probably get you a pretty nice pair of jeans, Levis 501s being a solid choice in that range if it fits your body. My biggest recommendation would be to shop for sales at Nordstrom Rack for denim. I will say though, that there is another tier of denim when you cross the $100 mark. Going into selvedge raw denim has been a treat for me, and can be for you as well. Basically this type of denim has not been washed or treated in anyway. They are like cardboard when you first get them, but you can start to soften them up, build creases/marks in them, and really make them your own just by the way you wear them. Just putting it out there, as my experience has been great.

3. Denim-on-denim is always case-by-case.

As a general rule, we don't want to pair denim jackets with denim pants. The whole Canadian tuxedo thing is a no-no. However, I wouldn't say this is always the case. What we want to do is make sure our tops and bottoms don't match too much. If you have a black denim jacket and a pair of medium wash denim pants on, I think it can work. Also, denim shirts are super relevant today as well, and the same rule applies. Make sure your shirt isn't the same shade or color as your pants.

4. It's all about solid dark wash straight jeans.

Sam deals with washing, dying, distressing, etc. on every different type of jean out there. It was fascinating hearing all the things denim goes through before it ends up on a shelf at the mall. However, as cool as this detailing can be, I think it's important to have a solid, dark wash, non-distressed, straight leg jean. In terms of fit, forget bootcut, relaxed cut, and skinny jeans. Stick with a straight or slim straight look. Also, keep it dark. Indigo's, greys, and blacks all can work with a lot of outfits, and can be dressed up easily, while slimming you as well. Find a great pair and wear 'em in!

So there you go! Denim in four quick (eh, maybe not quick) points! Also a huge thanks to Sam for discussing denim with me, even outside of her work hours.

Ask me: wave #2

Mark Kwak

Time for the second heat of question answering. Thanks for writing in guys! I know there's several more questions that have come to me, so I'll make sure to get to them in a future post. Also, you can leave comments below as well!

Are cargo pants back in? If I wanted to get some, any recommendations? - Andrew You're in luck! Cargo pants are coming back in, but you must know that it's a different breed of cargo pants that are in today, compared to ten years ago (give or take a couple years). Cargo pants today are slimmer, tapered in the leg, and with a little less fabric on the pockets, to keep the slimmer look in tact. I own a pair of Uniqlo Perfect Shape cargo pants and love them. Not only are they great quality, but also relatively inexpensive at $39.90. Uniqlo is only in NYC (and SF, starting Oct 5) so if you can’t get them there, I’d recommend either Ralph Lauren or GANT by Michael Bastian.

Not a question, simply feedback. All I can say is that I love what you're doing, this blog is absolutely wonderful. The blog is simple and easy to follow and your posts are helpful and informative. Please keep posting more! :) - James

Man, you are too kind. Thanks so much for following, and I appreciate the comment. Things like this keep me going!

Is it OK for a dress shirt to be a little baggy when wearing a suit? Also, I like the option of wearing my shirt untucked with jeans or tucked with chinos, so I get 16.5 34/35 slim fit Brook's Brothers button downs that seem to do the trick. The problem, however, is that I can't close the collar without feeling uncomfortable, so dressing up the casual a bit with a tie is out of the question. Do you have any recommendations? I know BB is European cut and thus the better fit, but do I need to sacrifice the collar space for a better-fitting shirt?- Adam

Great questions Adam! To your first question, having a baggy dress shirt is OK, but unfortunately that's about it; you can certainly look better.  We want to make sure to get rid of as much excess baggage as we can with our clothing, since it will only make us look bigger than we are (even if you are already quite a big dude). This is true even when you are wearing a suit. If you notice carefully, you'll find that the suit gets a bit wider on the sides when your dress shirt bags up. Plus, we oftentimes take off our suit jackets, so it pays to have a slimmer shirt. Now, this doesn't mean go and find the slimmest possible shirt on the market. You'll look ridiculous if you're bursting at the seams. I would opt to find a shirt that fits well in the shoulders and chest in a slim / city / tailored / European cut. If they still don't fit, then buy a sizing that is slightly more loose (again with the shoulders and chest fitting well) and then get it taken in from the back by a tailor for $15-20 bucks.

To your second question, the short answer is no, don't sacrifice the collar space for a better fitting shirt. Part of the reason a BB button down is so valuable is its versatility both casually and formally, and you don't want to throw that away. However, there is a way to make this work. If you like BB shirts, I'd say stick to the slim fit in the larger size, (maybe 17 34/35) and again, pay 15 bucks to get the sides taken in by a tailor. This is a really easy job, so I'm sure your local laundromat can do it for you cheap. You'll find that the collar fits fine, and you also have slim sides. As long as the shoulders fit fine, and the sleeves aren't too long/short, you'll have yourself a very nice looking shirt for both casual and dress occasions. I can't stress this enough... just take it to a tailor and your shirts will look 20x better.