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

Filtering by Tag: clarks

Signature Style: Dressy Casual

Mark Kwak

So today, I'm bringing back the signature style series I started a while ago. And this time, it's all about the dressy casual look. If you work in an office environment, the term "business casual" is probably one that you're pretty familiar with. Well, dressy casual is kind of the same thing, but arguably a bit more informal. Still, the term is both narrow and wide at the same time, since it basically describes an outfit that lies somewhere between formal and casual, and that middle-ground is always up for debate.

To me, the dressy casual look can range from as casual as an untucked oxford shirt + dark denim + desert boots, to as formal as a navy blazer + white poplin dress shirt + grey slacks + black dress shoes. Suffice it to say, the term is slightly ambiguous.

Well, I've outfitted my buddy Eugene with a fairly versatile dressy casual look that can be a bit more formal or casual based on how you wear it. See below.

eugene4

Solid dress shirt, leather belt, dark chinos, and suede boots.

eugene8

If you want to go even more casual, untuck your shirt. Just make sure that the length of the shirt fits kind of like what you see above.

eugene2

Layer on a light V-neck sweater to change things up every now and again. Plus you can stay warmer if it's cold outside.

eugene1

It's summertime. To make things more casual, expose some ankle, and people will know you're a stylish guy.

eugene3

Don't like V-neck sweaters? Try a cardigan. Works just as well, if not better.

eugene5

I personally like a slim taper to my chinos or slacks. Seems to make a huge difference.

eugene6

If you have a leather banded watch, please wear it with an outfit like this. It's an extremely important cherry on top.

eugene7

And if you want to be more dressy with an outfit like this, tuck the shirt in and maybe even layer on a sport coat. 

 Shirt: Hucklebury | Belt: J.Crew | Watch: Timex | Cardigan: Etro

V-Neck Sweater: Merona | Pants: J.Crew | Shoes: Clarks

The outfit above is quite easy to reproduce. Just get a pair of well fitted chinos (or dress pants for those who need to be a bit more dressy), tuck in a solid or lightly patterned dress shirt, add some leather shoes, and you're good to go! For the win, my friends.

Thoughts from a simpler woman: Grow up!

Mark Kwak

It's time for another edition of “Thoughts From a Simpler Woman,” where I bring to you a woman’s perspective on menswear. In case you missed the first couple posts in the series, here they are: 1 and 2. Today's post is all about growing up and upgrading your high school, college, or for some of you, post college wardrobe. My friend and colleague Allison will be taking the reigns on this one, and she's one of the most fashion-conscious people I know. Now that I think of it, she was one of the first people I consulted before starting Simpler Man. It would be wise to listen up!

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Grow Up!

Not everyone out there is as stylish as Mr. Simpler Man.  But even if you aren’t a GQ subscriber, putting a bit of effort into your personal style can make a difference.  Don’t believe me?  According to a joint study by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, first impressions are established in just 250 milliseconds (a quarter of a second).  For those of you looking to nail that interview, charm on a first date, or just come across as a put-together dude, I hope these tips can help.

My first piece of advice: grow up!  If you’ve been wearing the same thing since high school, chances are you need to upgrade.  Not sure where to start?  Here are some of the top offenders I’ve seen as a Simpler Woman:

1. Instead of The Embellished Hoodie … Try a Hooded Jacket

From this:

To this:

I know, I know - they’re comfy.  They’re practical.  And I’m pretty sure everyone I know, including myself, has had one at some point in their life.  But trust me, it’s time to let this one go.  The good news is, you don’t have to go to extremes.  I don’t expect you to go straight from hoodies to a suit.  Instead, try a hooded jacket.  This one from Banana Republic is a good example of taking the major features you love in a hoodie, but done in a tweed-like texture in a neutral color.  Ahh, much better.

2. Instead of Sneakers … Try Desert Boots

From this:

To this:   

Let me be clear: I’m not saying that you can’t ever wear sneakers and be stylish (that being said, there could definitely be a whole separate post about fashionable vs. non-fashionable sneakers).  Sure, there is definitely a time and a place for them in a simpler man’s repertoire.  But they shouldn’t be the first thing you reach for, and certainly not your daily footwear of choice.

If you’re particular about your shoes, and won’t sacrifice comfort for style, take a baby step and try desert boots.  Clarks’ version pictured here is a classic for a reason - they’re extremely versatile, and never really go out of style.  For a plethora of great looks featuring desert boots, check out men’s style blog Street Etiquette (my second favorite, of course):

3. Instead of Velcro … Try a Leather Wallet

From this:

To this:

Okay, okay - this one is a bit of a joke.  Or is it?  Just to be safe, I’ll make myself clear: invest in a nice wallet.  Velcro, chains, and duct tape probably won't get you very far with the ladies. Enough said.

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simplerwoman allisonAllison is a food, tech, and style loving San Franciscan.

You can catch her in the city making Tartine bread, consulting people on their startups, or helping guys dress better. 

Photo Credits: Coach.com, Streetetiquette.com, Banana Republic, American Eagle, Zappos

Holiday Gift Guide for Men

Mark Kwak

So it's time to get your brother, dad, grandfather, husband, buddy, boyfriend, or self some gifts for the holidays. What do you get? Well, here's a list of gift ideas that might help you on your quest to find the perfect present!

Altuzarra Whiskey Set

Altuzarra-for-Target-+-Neiman-Marcus-Holiday-Collection-Double-Old-Fashioned-Glasses-Shaker-and-Tray-600x433

I just wrote about the whole Target/Neiman Marcus collaboration in my last post. Well this is one of the items that I feel might be worth a buy from that collection. Altuzarra is an up and coming designer who generally works with high end clothing, but I think he has a home run with the set above. Not only does it look classy, but all the pieces actually feel quite hefty and high quality. Just lift the tray- it's so heavy you'll feel like you're doing a workout.

For any man who likes to drink whiskey, nice tumblers are always welcome in the household, and these fit the bill in my opinion. The three pieces (glasses, shaker, and tray) all come separate, so I would probably start with the glasses, and get either, neither, or both of the other pieces depending how much you can spend. They might be from Target, but they're not cheap. The tumblers come in at $49.99, the shaker also $49.99, and the tray $79.99.

Clarks Desert Boots

91a0G4GETCL._SL1500_

I've praised these shoes on more than one occasion here at simplerman. For good reason, they are rock solid with regards to quality, classically/beautifully designed, and relatively inexpensive ($69 to $139). Everyone can pull these shoes off, and they'll likely be comfortable from the get-go. If the person you want to give a gift to needs shoes, these should be a no brainer in my opinion.

Shaving Set with Stand, Bowl, and Brush

Shaving has become pretty awesome in the last few years. We're going back to the old school times, and I couldn't be happier. There's something about using a shaving brush, shaving bowl, and manual razor that makes me want to wake up in the morning and shave. I know I'm not alone in this either; just check out the rampant popularity of the Art of Shaving. Five years ago, I didn't even know such a business existed, but today, they seem to be in every nook and cranny of the U.S.

Clearly, shaving has become cool again, and with a set like the above, you'll make whoever receives it just as cool. FYI, both Don Draper and James Bond use shaving brushes and bowls (just check out Mad Men and Skyfall), and who wouldn't want to be like them?

Spotify Premium Membership

Spotify is a bit random in comparison to the rest of the list, but definitely something I still wanted to bring up. I personally use Spotify everyday, whether I'm in transit, at work, or at home. In fact, as I type this right now, I'm listening to Christmas carols through Spotify.

Spotify is free to use, but I recommend getting someone a premium membership as a gift, since there are many benefits that come from paying that $9.99 a month. They won't get those annoying ads anymore, they can use the app on mobile and tablet, and most importantly, they can download songs offline, so if they're on an airplane or subway, they can still listen to music.

Just putting it out there, since I feel like it's worth every penny. I generally don't purchase monthly subscriptions, but this is one I had to.

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So there you have it. My small gift guide for this 2012 Christmas season. Happy Holidays everybody, and I hope you all get tons of gifts and love. Peace.

My leather favorites

Mark Kwak

I'm a huge fan of leather... and beef I guess, so maybe I'm a huge fan of cows. Anyhow, I wanted to show you some of my leather items, and why I think that all of them are musts in a man's wardrobe.

1. Leather Jacket

Theory Leather Jacket

Want to feel badass? Get a leather jacket. Not only is it a classic piece that has always been in style, but it's also one of the most standout pieces you can own. What I mean by "standout" is that if you get a nicely fitted leather jacket, it will get noticed, likely leading to loads of compliments. However, the great news is that you can still wear this bad boy quite regularly. You might get compliments on your red pants, but if you wear them 4 times a week, people may start to wonder if you have other pants. The same does NOT apply to your leather jacket, mainly because of its versatility & timelessness.

2. Leather Shoes

Clarks Beeswax Desert Boots

A must, in every way. Black or brown in both dress and casual forms needed. I personally think that wearing leather shoes contributes the most to distinguishing boys from men. Sorry to offend grown men who still wear sneakers and athletic shoes everywhere, but in my life, I felt it was a big step to go from Asics to Johnston & Murphys. Plus, let's be real, leather shoes look great.

3. Leather Belt

Hugo Boss Leather Belt

Gotta have a leather belt. Other material can be used for casual belts, but leather is king here in my opinion. A must for dress belts, and highly recommended for casual belts as well.

4. Leather Watch Strap

Hamilton Leather Watch Strap

I love both stainless steel watches and leather strapped watches, but recently, I've started to favor leather. There's something so classy about leather strap watches, and they can be used both casually and formally. Black leather without contrast stitching is my ultimate preference, but as you can see in the picture, I love me some brown leather (with contrast stitching) as well.

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In all, leather is the way to go with various items in your wardrobe. They'll get better with age, hopefully last a long time, and provide you with that bit of badassery you've constantly longed for. Timeless, slick, and awesome.

Correlation of brand and quality

Mark Kwak

Oliver Peoples sunglasses :: Gitman Vintage shirt :: Hamilton Khaki watch :: Tellason jeans :: Clarks beeswax desert boots

Ah, the topic of brands... one of my favorites, and one that is often controversial. Why? Because people will always have disagreements about brands, whether it be on quality, style, reputation, whatever. I'll attempt to swing at this curveball though, and I hope it doesn't anger too many of you.

I think brand names are a wonderful proxy for discerning quality distinctions in clothing. I swear by certain brands due to their quality (eg: Tellason and Gitman Vintage in the pic above), and will always trust that they will make a genuinely great product. However, I also think that brand names can often be over-emphasized, bandwagoned, and taken way too far. For example, I know many people who will immediately dismiss the quality of companies like the Gap or J. Crew because they generally make mass-produced articles of clothing at less than optimal quality-control. Before moving forward, let me tell you right now, I've bought pieces from both Gap and J.Crew that have exceeded my highest expectations. And though it's not always the case, I'll often find deals that will blow away any competition at those price points: Thomas Mason shirt from J.Crew for $35? I'll take it anyday.

Also, in the other direction, people will endlessly praise companies like Lanvin or Oxxford for their excellence in quality. However, I've had a pair of Lanvin pants tear apart on me, and have a friend whose Oxxford shirt lost two buttons in the first day of wear.

Am I saying that J. Crew makes a better product than Lanvin? Absolutely not. In fact, I can confidently say that Lanvin is at another level in terms of clothing quality (I mean just look at the price difference). However, what I am trying to say is that brands are not static, and there will always be quality changes that come with following a brand, up or down. Thus, it doesn't make sense to rely solely on brand when making a decision on what to buy.

Now that I've gotten that giant caveat out of the way, I will say that brands can at least make it easier for you when shopping for clothes. All brands have reputations to uphold, and need to stick to a certain level of quality in order to maintain those reputations. Thus, you can trust certain brands that have held the test of time, or been deemed by the general public as high in quality. This way, when you enter a mall and you have 100 brands in front of you, you'll be able to at least start weeding out what you'll look through and what you won't, based on brands.

I wouldn't advise that you put all your eggs in the brand basket though. Nothing beats going into stores and actually feeling fabrics, wearing the clothes and moving with it, checking the construction, etc. If you find a piece that catches your eye, don't dismiss just based on brand. Go up to the piece and check it out! From there, make sure that the quality is high.

Allen Edmonds Dalton boots :: Diesel Darron jeans

So what are good indicators of high quality garments?

1. Material. Is it made of more natural materials like 100% leather, cotton, silk, or wool? Or is the material fully/partially man-made (spandex, rayon, polyester, etc.)? If possible, I would recommend sticking to more natural materials. Not bulletproof in determining quality, but it's a start.

Also, does the material look and feel solid? Hold the garment against a light, and see if the thickness of the material is consistent throughout. Buttons and zippers matter too (horn buttons > plastic buttons, zippers can feel more solid on some rather than others).

2. Construction. Take for example suits. Some suits may look amazing and have a great fabric, but aren't constructed in a way that deems them high quality. They may be fused together in the inside and the outside by glue, rather than canvassed fully to help remain its organic shape. Maybe the seams on a shirt or jacket are at points like the elbow, which might not make the piece as durable due to the way we move. Are buttons put together well? Are shoe soles stitched or glued? Inspect items as best as you can to check on the constructional integrity.

3. Made in ____. This can sometimes be misleading, but it is indeed important to check. Products made in the U.S. or countries in Europe are often more reliable in quality than those made in Southeast Asia and China. This isn't ALWAYS the case, but it correlates quite often due to the cost of manufacturing. In reality, it just costs more to produce things domestically, so the quality better match the price.

4. Style. Don't forget that we buy clothing so we can look good. It's not solely just to feel great, since if that were the case, we would all just wear blankets of cashmere and fur exclusively. If a piece of clothing is styled well, there is a higher likelihood of the brand fitting you better. Look at the styles, patterns, and designs, and ask yourself if you find them especially appealing. For example, one of my favorite brands is Theory. Not for the material quality, since that can sometimes be shoddy, but because all Theory products seem to fit me down to a T.

So in all, definitely identify the brands you feel are great quality and fit you well. You can use these brands as go-tos and make the process much easier when shopping. However, try not be a brand-whore, and think less of others due to the brands they wear. There are some fine quality garments in virtually all clothing brands, and until you feel & wear the clothing yourself, you shouldn't make rash judgements on the quality that certain brands can offer. Check for yourself, and buy things that are high in QUALITY, not just BRAND.