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

Filtering by Tag: Ralph Lauren

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

Shell Cordovan: The Story

Mark Kwak


Boots: Peal & Co (Crockett & Jones)

Excuse my French for today, but these... are my ass boots.

Yes, ass boots. Why do I call them that? To clear up any confusion, it's not because they get me a bunch of ass. It's instead because these boots are literally made of leather from the rear quarters of an animal, also called shell cordovan.

Here's the story as I've heard it.

Apparently in the early 1900s, shoemakers were tired of making shoes that did a poor job of shielding feet from harsh weather conditions. They wanted shoes that were weatherproof, durable, rock solid. Unfortunately the material they were using, calfskin, just wasn't up to the task. As some of you may know, calfskin shoes generally stains and loses its shine after a night in the rain or snow.

As a result, people started to look in every which direction to find leather that could ultimately handle the elements, while at the same time still look shined and spiffy after a downpour.

They search high and low, wide and far, but just couldn't find anything that was strong enough, until they tested the hide from a horse. At first the hide was nothing special- no better than calfskin. They almost tossed it away, but then saw that the butt region of the horsehide was actually a little different from the rest.

Yes, they realized that the butt region of a horse is actually one of the strongest leathers on earth, and thus started to build shoes out of it. It's true, you can basically make 1.5 pairs of shoes per hide! If you own a pair of cordovan shoes, you basically are wearing the entirety of a horse's rear quarters.


The good news is that cordovan shoes look amazing. They always look shined, and never crease (though they do suffer from what's known as "rolling," look it up). They are also expensive. Almost unjustifiably expensive. You probably can't get a pair of shell cordovan shoes for under $350 unless you find them used or defective in one way or another. However, remember that they are shoes that are meant to endure plenty of hardship before retiring. I could argue that cordovan shoes can last you an entire lifetime, if well taken care of! So, maybe that can help you justify the price a bit.

My favorite brands that carry cordovan shoes (and there aren't that many of them) are Crockett & Jones and Alden.  These two makers actually rebrand their shoes through other retailers as well. All Brooks Brothers' cordovan shoes are Alden, and Ralph Lauren cordovan shoes are C & J.

Definitely not a necessary part of anyone's wardrobe, but worth a thought if you have the money. They look glorious, and really are one of the highest points of men's shoes, period.


Naval stripe undershirt

Mark Kwak

naval stripe 2Source: Black Fleece

Sometimes, it's good to wear an undershirt beneath your collared button down. I don't always recommend it, but when you're in the dead heat of summer, it's good to have your perspiration stopped by a layer of cotton instead of soaking through your expensive oxford shirt.

Generally, the usual suspects for summer undershirts are solid-colored white or gray v necks. Classic, abundant, and simple, who can argue?

Well today, for the heck of it, I will. A new trend is on the rise (I think?), and surprisingly, I'm 100% on board this time. It's none other than the naval stripe undershirt.

naval stripeSource: Iseastripes

I believe naval striped crew neck T-shirts, peeking out underneath a collared shirt or jacket, can add some spice and unexpected flare to your outfit. When in neutral colors, like white/blue or blue/gray, naval striped shirts can be quite versatile, and work with tons of different colors and patterns.

Instead of opting for a V-neck like I usually do, I think crew necks work best here, as they will purposely be visible when wearing button ups with the first or second button unbuttoned. Also, they should be lightweight and comfortable, generally 100% cotton. Though quality is always important, let's be real; at the end of the day, these are just T-shirts, and you shouldn't break the bank just to get some.

I'm planning on getting a couple naval stripe shirts myself, and encourage you to get on board too, especially if you're interested in adding some subtle variation to your outfit.

Here are a couple at different price points for you to check out:

~$10: Uniqlo, Club Room

~$20: River Island, Asos

~$40: American Apparel, Wolsey, Ralph Lauren

~$60+ : Black Fleece, Sunspel, St. James

Style rules - part 5

Mark Kwak

Welcome to the fifth and final installment of the "Rules of Style" by Ralph Lauren. To give you some context in case you haven't seen my previous posts, a while back, I found some really great images that Ralph Lauren put out, going over what he considers some fundamental rules of menswear. I also wanted to write down my thoughts on these said rules as there are some I wholeheartedly agree with, and others that I'm a bit skeptical of. Here they are below:


True to an extent. Having more than one attention-grabbing piece can make your outfit look like an eyesore, or even worse, you look like a pretentious douche. For that reason, adding just one of an eskimo-esque coat, or colorful pair of chinos to a relatively conservative outfit is probably your best bet.

However, if you saw my dandy dapper post last week, you'll notice that the outfit worn has a couple attention-grabbing pieces working together. In cases where you're really trying to stand out and bring forth a somewhat extravagant look, it's okay to wear several poppy pieces, just as long as they work together in harmony. Yes, it becomes much more difficult to coordinate than using plain grays and navys, but it can certainly be done.


Yes. So true that I feel like I don't need to say anything more.


For the sake of preservation, it's always best to wash denim sparsely. As far as I'm concerned, if they don't stink, don't wash 'em. This rule is especially true with regards to raw denim, where the jeans have never been washed before, giving them a very clean and unadulterated look. By washing, you're essentially removing parts of the indigo dye on your jeans, and thus decreasing the lifespan.

Instead, wear them as much as you can and only wash when truly necessary. To encourage this behavior, let me say that you wouldn't be alone in wearing jeans that haven't been washed for three months. Recently, a kind of subculture has formed around this phenomenon of "individualizing" your denim. This process where you wear your denim in so hard between washes, that you ultimately show creases, lines, tears, and discoloration based purely on your unique lifestyle. The cell phone crease on the left pocket, the outline of your wallet on the right back pocket, the whiskers from your constant sitting at the office. "Individualize" your jeans, and you just might feel better in them!


Texture is indeed your friend. Nothing more amazing to look at than a piece of clothing made of unique, highly textured fabrics.

However, don't take his tip on mixing refined and rough textures too liberally. Truth is, there is a rhyme and reason to why certain fabrics are rough or refined in texture, and it's not smart to mindlessly mix the two whenever you feel like it.

So yes, putting a course shetland sweater (rough) over a fine broadcloth shirt (refined) is okay, and even encouraged. However, not all fabrics are meant to go together. Denim or chambray shirts with rougher textures don't match too well with worsted wool suits made with fine texture. Though it's okay to do, something like a poplin shirt will be a better alternative.

Just remember that certain fabrics are used to indicate the formality of a particular piece of clothing, and it's smart to keep that in mind when building a cohesive outfit.


Voila, the final wrap up of the Rules of Style by Ralph Lauren; hope you enjoyed them.

Once again though, remember that these are merely guidelines that you should consider, not hard and fast rules for you to follow blindly. Develop your own personal style, and just keep the rules in your back pocket so you always have a safety net to catch you when things might go haywire.


Images sourced from

What am I wearing 2.13.12

Mark Kwak

A couple months ago, I wrote a post about wearing sport coats casually, and I wanted to put everything I said in there into practice today. This brown, all-cotton herringbone jacket by RRL does the trick perfectly, its design and fabric giving off a very casual vibe. Kept my shoes, belt, and bag in the same color family as the jacket for consistency, and combined those elements with a very versatile white shirt and dark blue selvedge jean.


By the way, if you have the opportunity to get a Filson bag, I highly recommend it. Durable, rugged, stylish, and carries a lifetime warranty. You can see mine gets used quite a bit, as my raw denim has rubbed off on the side of the bag.


I'm a fan of this jacket because of its herringbone design, which is usually found on wools, but in this case, on cotton.


Some of the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn. These suede chukka boots weren't cheap, but I think they were worth the extra money.

Jacket: RRL | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban | Shirt: Thomas Mason for J.Crew | Watch: Omega

Bag: Filson | Jeans: J.Crew | Socks: Merona | Shoes: Alden

Style rules - part 4

Mark Kwak

Welcome to another addition of the "Rules of Style" by Ralph Lauren. Remember, most of the time these "rules" should be taken as suggestions, rather than hard-fast musts. The key is to develop your own sense of style, but I think having the rules under your belt is still helpful. Here are my thoughts for this week:


Why they chose this to be a rule baffles me. First of all it's not a rule, it's more of a thought/preference. Second, I don't really agree with it, and let me tell you why.

I think sport coats, cashmere cardigans, and denim jackets all have different uses in one's wardrobe. Yes, all three can work with a dress shirt and tie, but the occasions that you can wear each item will probably be a bit different. What I'm saying is that a denim jacket or cardigan isn't quite a 1:1 substitute for a sport coat. Sport coats will certainly be the most formal of the three. Cardigans come next, and then denim jackets.

Denim jackets are considered very casual, so when you pair a tie and dress shirt with one, you're basically dressing your outfit down. With a cardigan, I'd say you're keeping your outfit neutral in formality, and with a sport coat, you're dressing the outfit up. So in all, I think all 3 combinations can be great, but know they are not true substitutes.


Personally I think this is a pretty solid look, but borderline preppy. I don't actually own any repp ties for that reason, and in case you don't know what a repp tie is, here's an article about them. Anyway, a classic oxford shirt paired with a repp tie is a solid and safe look to go with if you want to showcase your "American" sense of style.

Oh, and clearly you can tell this is Ralph Lauren's rules of style by this picture- check out that tiny polo design on the guy's shirt.


I love the four-in-hand knot. In fact, I love it so much, it's the knot I use about 95% of the time. The other 5% is divided between the half-windsor and full-windsor. It's easy to tie, versatile (can work for pretty much any occasion) and really looks great with most tie widths. In case you don't know how to tie this knot, here's something to help you.

So to recap:

Cardigans, denim jackets, and sport coats all work well with a tie & dress shirt. The formality will likely differ with each piece though.

If you want to put together a solid American look, just pair an oxford shirt with a repp tie. Though preppy, it can't go wrong.

The four-in-hand knot is almost the only knot you really need to know. Easy to tie, and works for basically all situations.

Hope these help; peace easy my friends.

Dress Shoe Makers

Mark Kwak

First off, Merry Christmas Eve my friends. Hope you're enjoying a nice day off.

Beautiful John Lobb captoes. (Photo credit: dieworkwear)

A couple people have been asking me about what dress shoe brands I like. Well, here's a quick list I put together for you all. It's certainly not exhaustive, but hopefully it helps you guys familiarize yourself with some premier shoe brands. Just FYI, most of these shoes are quite high-quality, so they'll probably be much more expensive than shoes at your average Kenneth Cole / Calvin Klein level.

Dress Shoes

Edward Green $$$$ : Stunningly amazing shoes, but will easily cross the $1k mark. Not for the light-hearted... or light-walleted.

John Lobb $$$$: Also extremely amazing shoes, and a direct competitor to Edward Green. Will cross the $1k mark easily just as well. The finish on these bad boys is second to none.

Gaziano & Girling $$$$: Okay okay, I'll stop with the $1k+ shoes here. G&G is also one of the premier makers of ready-to-wear dress shoes, just like John Lobb and Edward Green.

Crockett & Jones $$$: A solid shoemaker from England that makes some of my favorite shoes in the world. Great design, high quality construction.

Santoni $$$: Pure Italian designs using extremely supple, high quality leather. Comfort and design in one.

Tricker's $$$: Pretty innovative company getting press for doing some cool collaborations recently, but ultimately they are pros at their craft in their own right.

Alfred Sargent $$$: Quality English shoemaker that gets a lot less attention than they deserve.

Peal & Co. $$$: High-end Brooks Brothers brand name, but they're actually Crockett & Jones or Alfred Sargent shoes, depending on which one you get.

Ralph Lauren $$$: I'm talking about their "Made in England" shoes, as they'll be constructed by Crockett & Jones. This applies to POLO Ralph Lauren shoes as well.

Church $$$: Solid company, with a solid reputation. Amazing quality and attention to detail, highly recommended.

Alden $$$: One of the last standing classic American shoemakers. Quality of their stuff is absolutely rock solid, but a bit more bulky in design than, say, an Italian shoe.

Tod's $$: Never really tried these on, but have heard rave reviews about them consistently. Might want to find them on sale though, as value isn't the best.

Allen Edmonds $$: Best bang for the buck high quality shoes. Made in the U.S. and is probably the standard in American-made shoes.

Loake $$: Another nice shoe maker that I respect quite a bit. A very good alternative to Allen Edmonds.

Meermin $$: Simple shoes, made with very nice attention to detail. Harder to get, since I believe they're in Europe, but worth a try.

Florsheim by Duckie Brown $$: Duckie Brown makes some interesting designs, but I've been a fan of his partnership with Florsheim. Pretty good quality stuff and you can find it on sale often.

Charles Tyrwhitt $: Follows very classic designs, and provides pretty high quality shoes. Good news is they often go on sale as well, thus giving them one $ sign (still will cost you over $100 though).

Johnston & Murphy $: Solid entry level brand for shoes just as well. Don't expect these to compete with most of the above brands though.

There you go! Get yourself a pair of dress shoes. They are investment pieces, so I'll say this again... they're worth the extra buck or two.