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

Filtering by Tag: fall

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.

Lovin' Tweed

Mark Kwak

Beautiful tweeds lined up in a closet. Drool.

It's fall, and winter is coming. Time to bust out the tweed.

Tweed is one of my all-time favorite fabrics. Not only does it keep you warm, but it also oozes of pure class. I think every man should strive to have at least one piece in their wardrobe made of this awesome cloth.

Now some of you may say, "Tweed? What am I, an old man?" To that I say... you think you're better than tweed, you wanna fight?  In all seriousness, I do get that tweed can seem a bit dated, as its resurgence is a bit of a throwback to an earlier time period. A time period when our grandfathers wore tweed sportcoats while smoking cigars, and sipping neat bourbon in their dim lit living room. But come on, doesn't that time period paint an amazing picture? I'll gladly embrace the revival of old school tweed, and wear my tweed pieces till I grow old myself. Plus, if you're still feeling self conscious, take a look at any fashion magazine today- tweed dominates.

Tweed comes in many shapes and forms. Think crazy patterns and colors like above, or plain grey herringbones like below. Unlike other fabrics, most patterns and colors, however crazy, can look great on tweed. Despite this, if you're new to tweed, I would recommend getting it in an overcoat or sports coat, colors being a solid grey or brown. This way, your piece will remain timeless, and you can at least have your basics down before moving onto more daring pieces.

Nordstrom has a large list of really great tweed pieces, but you'll notice that most of them require quite an investment (which I think is warranted). Some standouts to me are the Todd Snyder sports coat and Gitman woven tie. Either way, I say you should look into tweed a bit, and get a piece for yourself. If you're still uncertain, here are some pics that may help persuade you.

This is probably my favorite tweed- a mid-grey herringbone. In my opinion, it's the most versatile out of all the tweeds, as it will go well with almost anything. Doesn't the subtle pattern just mesmerize you? Does for me.

Notice how there are literally between 10 and 20 colors all interacting together in this picture? Tweed has an amazing ability to showcase color and patterns while still remaining relatively subdued and classic. If I were to don these colors on leather or even cotton, I would likely look ridiculous.

Timeless and elegant.

So in all, I say you should get yourself a nice tweed jacket for the fall and winter. You'll get great use out of it, and you'll probably rely on it more often than you think. It's a piece you can be proud of wearing today, tomorrow, and forty years from now. Cheers.

Cardigans

Mark Kwak

Five years ago, I thought cardigans were reserved for old men and hipsters. Think Mr. Rodgers and Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  The thought of paying money for one left a bad taste in my mouth, and I never really got around to pulling the trigger until about a year and a half ago. Boy did I miss out.

I have to say, cardigans are slowly turning into one of my favorite articles of clothing. They come in so many different shapes and styles, they are incredibly comfortable, and are versatile in many ways. Think about it. You can wear a cardigan casually over a T-shirt, polo, or button down. You can wear it a bit more formally underneath a sports coat or jacket. You can unbutton it, button it, layer it, whatever! With one cardigan, I think I can probably build a thousand different outfits, no exaggeration.

Just a couple tips when wearing cardigans:

1. If wearing casually, do not button the top or bottom button.

2. Make sure the cardigan fits slim and snug on your body. Even if it's a chunky one.

So, here I am with a shawl collar cardigan, which can essentially be used as outerwear. Can be dressed up or dressed down, and I chose to dress it up a bit here. It's a bit chunkier so I wouldn't layer a jacket over it... maybe a coat. It's warm, stylish, and just awesome.

Brooks Brothers cardigan :: Brooks Brothers shirt :: Boss tie :: The Tie Bar tie bar :: Omega watch

See, even Bond approves the shawl collar cardigan.

Here's also a lighter cardigan that can work as a layering piece. I'm wearing it casually just over a V-neck T-shirt, but I believe it can be dressed up just as easily as a shawl collar cardigan.

Etro cardigan :: Calvin Klein T-shirt

Moral of the story? Definitely get yourself a cardigan. They look great, can be extremely versatile, and will keep you warm. No longer reserved for hipsters and grandpas only. Cheers!

Layer

Mark Kwak

Your breath creates a fog as you walk slowly along the breezy coast. A beautiful woman walks by your side and begins to cross her arms for warmth. You ask her if she's cold, and she abruptly says no, even though you can tell she's shivering. Time to be the man she wants you to be. Time to give her your jacket. You take off your fitted trench and drape it along her shoulders, feeling cool and masculine.... But oh no. You start getting goosebumps, your teeth start shaking, and you can barely keep up with conversation. You realize the only thing you're wearing is a thin dress shirt, and it's too damn cold... My friend, you've just lost the cool that you had 10 seconds ago, and it's all because you didn't LAYER.

Gentlemen, we've just started fall, and winter is next door. The time has come for us to layer our clothing in order to keep warm... and of course to look awesome.

To me, nothing looks more sophisticated than a man who properly layers his clothing. You'll get a nod of approval from me if you put a wool scarf on top of your favorite peacoat and sweater, with a little bit of your dress shirt peeking out. Apart from keeping you warm and fuzzy, the technique of layering helps you show off more parts of your wardrobe at once. Layering allows you to start being creative with color, pattern, and texture matching, not to mention the fact that you never need to choose between wearing your black sweater and your grey jacket. Just put them both on and call it a day.

Of course this doesn't mean you can just blindly choose a random sweater, shirt, and jacket to layer on top of each other. We're still trying to remain stylish, and there are some basic rules I would suggest you follow.

1. Don't wear too many patterns.

I love patterns. A gingham shirt or pinstripe jacket can really make clothing a bit more fun and appealing. However, you start layering heavy stripes on top of argyle on top of checks, and you've essentially made your outfit unbearable to look at. Your clothes will start to distract attention from you... and that's never good.

2. Colors matter.

Try to layer with complementing colors. The reason I keep recommending greys, blacks, whites, and browns is because you can match a lot easier with basic colors/shades. Put yellow, purple, green, and orange in one outfit, and you've likely got yourself an eyesore. This isn't to say that you can't have some accent colors in your layered outfit. In fact, I would recommend it! Put a pink shirt on in the midst of greys, or an olive sweater around black. It'll be fun and classic at the same time.

3. Don't overdo it.

Yes, I'm telling you to layer. However, I don't want you to perspire to death or debilitate your arm movements while doing so. Stick to layering two or three pieces. Maybe four if the fabric is thin enough. If you start layering too many pieces, the other problem is that patterns, colors, and fabrics may start to clash. We want to keep style simple, not complicated.

So next time you're on that date and you've just lent out your jacket in the midst of a cold winter night... thank your style knowledge, for it saved you both practically, and fashionably.

Jackets, my favorite

Mark Kwak

I'd have to say my favorite article of clothing is the jacket. Always has been, likely always will be. Why do I have such a fascination with jackets? Because they not only keep me warm, but they also are the most noticeable article of clothing one puts on. I mean seriously, a jacket goes on TOP of everything else, covering any clothes you are already wearing. It's also one of the only articles you can take off or put on multiple times in a day. It allows you to effortlessly change your look whether you're outside or inside. Make sure you have an awesome one in your wardrobe.

Here are some jackets that I personally like, all different styles:

Just quick comments on the photos above.

Trenches make you feel boss, and will never go out of style. This is especially true for Burberry , since they invented trenches. Stick with tans, greys, blacks and navys, and make sure to find the right fit, since they'll last you a lifetime.

Parkas, like the wings + horns one above, are extremely versatile, and can be dressed up or down effortlessly. They protect you from the rain, and are quite utilitarian, with the pockets and all.

Matt Bomer from White Collar pulls this jacket off awesomely (is that a word?). I've always had a hard time finding leather jackets that fit me well, but the day I do, I hope it looks like the one above, simple and slim.

Lastly, I think John Varvatos makes some really creative, and quality jackets in his mainline collection. If you've got some $, or rather, $$$, I would take a peak; you might find one that sings to you.

In terms of brand recommendations for jackets, it really depends on the price range you're looking at. Jackets can get astronomically expensive, because designers know they can charge a hefty fine on them. They usually are constructed with thicker fabrics, have a lot more variance in design, and are bought more sparingly, thus people are willing to splurge more.

I recommend spending a bare minimum of $50 on a jacket. I don't think that's unreasonable, because it will last you a long time if you buy the right one.

At the $50-$100 range, I would probably recommend Land's End or Banana Republic with a coupon (easily accessible). Many snobs will gawk at anything from GAP Co., due to their mass production and inconsistency of quality. However, I think that you can get some great jackets here that are stylish and will last. I have a jacket from BR that looks like the parka above, and I love it. People compliment this jacket all the time, and I got it for around $80 bucks.

At the $100-$200 mark, I like Topman and Diesel. I am going to say that these two recommendations are mainly based on look, rather than quality. Not saying that the quality is bad by any means, but just know that I put a bit of weight towards design. I also have to plug in The North Face & Patagonia, where it's function rather than fashion.

When we get to the $200-$400 range, this is where I think one should spend to get a quality jacket that will last. Brooks Brothers and Polo Ralph Lauren have very high quality jackets, and have obviously been in the business forever. In this range, my highest rec goes to Barbour since they make a damn solid jacket, and you'll notice the quality is exceptional.

Between $400-$1000, many jackets start to look absolutely amazing. However, you are now heading into brand name snobbery territory, so watch out!  Brooks Brothers Black Fleece and Ralph Lauren Black Label are two of my favorites.

$1000+: My favorite looking jackets come from John Varvatos Collection, Dior Homme, and Paul Smith Main Line. All three make very sleek, trim, European style jackets that I think can elevate your look. Be careful, as clearly you're spending a lot for the brand name, rather than the pure functionality of the jacket. Hey, but if you have the cash, why not right?

I'd recommend picking up a solid jacket for the fall. Whether you buy a parka, trench, leather, or wool jacket, find one that helps identify your image. It will get noticed.

Fall Boots

Mark Kwak

The autumn leaves are starting to fall. Get your old book, thick cardigan and smokey scotch out fellas. Oh I forgot, make sure to open your closet and dig to the back. Today we're talking boots. To my left are some of my favorite boots around. They're a pair of Crockett & Jones Coniston derby boots in a walnut-like color. One day... One day...

But instead of just drooling over these boots, let me go into why I think every man should own a pair of stylish boots for the fall and winter.

Generally, people change their clothing between the summer months and the winter months. They go from wearing colorful shirts, shorts, and t-shirts to jackets, overcoats, and sweaters. Obviously this is natural, as winter is coming (Game of Thrones anyone?) and you need to be prepared to take the cold. However, I rarely see people change their footwear. Yes, maybe one will wear sandals more often in the summer than the winter, but generally you keep wearing the same shoes throughout the four seasons, whether they be sneakers, casual leather shoes, or dress shoes. Enter the boot. Finally a shoe that can stand the snow-filled ground, give you the ankle support you need to hike up that mountain, and also stop rain from wetting your socks so easily.

For me, nothing beats having a nice pair of boots for casual wear. I'd recommend sticking to browns (both light and dark shades) and blacks, as you want to wear them just as much next winter as you do this winter. You also want to make sure they are durable and of high quality. This is a piece of your wardrobe that I think you should invest a bit in, as a good pair can last you as long as fifteen years if you take good care of them.  I think you should expect to pay a little extra to buy quality. By extra, I mean nothing under $150 if possible.

If I were to have only one pair of boots, they might be a pair of lace up cap toes (toe is capped with stitching) like the C&Js or a pair of chukka boots like these ones by Church's on the right:

Both of the types of boots I mentioned  are extremely versatile and can be worn with a pair of wool trousers, chinos, dark jeans, whatever. These days, many guys are also cuffing up their casual pants to show more of their boots, and since that's IN, I suggest you do it while you can!

As for recommendations, here are a couple that I might recommend, in ascending price.

~$100 Clarks Desert Boots

~$200 Chippewa Lace Boots

~$300 Redwing Beckman Boots

~$400 Allen Edmonds Dalton Boots

~$500 Crockett & Jones Coniston

So go out there and wear some boots gentlemen! I keep hearing from women that they always look at mens' shoes, and generally my most complimented shoes end up being my boots... coincidence? I think not.