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

Filtering by Tag: gap

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.

Denim vs chambray

Mark Kwak

Every now and again, people will ask me what the difference is between denim and chambray, since both seem to look pretty similar. Well my friends, today I shall reveal the difference, and fingers crossed that you don't leave here more confused than when you entered. chambraydenim

Alright, so the picture above shows you a denim jacket and a chambray shirt (though I'm using a bad example of a chambray shirt here since it has a herringbone design). Generally, this is how you'll see denim and chambray used: denim for jackets and pants, chambray for shirts. However, it's important to note that this isn't always the case. Denim can occasionally come in shirt form and chambray can be used for jackets.

Anyhow, the main difference between the two is in the way that they are woven. Denim is woven diagonally, while chambray is plainly woven, meaning that there's more of a traditional criss-cross weaving happening. The best way to tell is actually by looking on the inside of your jeans. Since they're probably made of denim, you'll notice the fabric is woven diagonally. This weave will look very different on chambray.

So in all, clearly not that big of a difference between the two. And perhaps a rather boring difference if anything. Either way, I wanted to at least clear up any confusion.  Alright, getting' out of here, happy day before the 4th!

chambraydenim2

Gap Denim Jacket :: Gitman Vintage Chambray Shirt

Fast Fashion

Mark Kwak

Source: Tangledupinclothes

There is something that H&M, Forever 21, Zara, and even the Gap all have in common.

First off, all of these companies are immensely popular, both for men and for women. I can't tell you the last time I went to a mall and didn't see someone with a Forever21 shopping bag filled to the brim with colorful pants, T-shirts, and accessories.

Second, these companies run on a very successful business model known as fast fashion. And in case you don't know what that is, here's the wikipedia definition: fast fashion is a contemporary term acknowledging that designs move from catwalk to store in the fastest time to capture current trends in the market. These trends are designed and manufactured quickly and cheaply to allow the mainstream consumer to take advantage of current clothing styles at a lower price.

Well, as with anything, I have my personal thoughts on this particular business model, and it is this... be careful. Let me explain why.

One thing I haven't been shy to talk about in the past is garment quality. I think quality is incredibly important when it comes to clothes, and sometimes you have to pay a premium to get it. A general thought I've started to have is to buy half as much, but at double the price, meaning that you should spend more for those high quality garments that will last you decades, as opposed to cheap trendy items that are intended to be thrown away in a month's time.

Well, this is the problem with fast fashion. Stores like H&M rarely have anything that you can actually keep for very long. The quality is subpar at best, and the styles are generally not very classic. It's almost common knowledge that pieces from H&M are meant to be worn a couple times, then tossed when you purge your wardrobe six months later. The quality just isn't all that great; there's a reason that items there are so cheap.

Source: H&M

The other thing is that fast fashion is really all about the newest fashion trends. You know, those pieces that you saw on the runway during New York Fashion Week (actually, do we do this?). These new trends are the focal point of fast fashion businesses, and though they're cool and popular now, they're usually in danger of fading at some point in the near future. And once they fade, the likelihood that you'll still continue to wear those pieces gets pretty slim.

Now, don't get me wrong. This isn't to say that you should never buy from these companies. I definitely pop into a Zara or H&M every now and again, and might have done so as recently as a week ago. However, there is a particular reason I go to these stores, and it certainly isn't to get a new pair of leather shoes that I intend to keep for the long haul. Instead, these stores are great for providing me cheap clothes that I need for specific purposes.

For example, let's say I need a pair of white chinos for a white party. Or maybe a pair of throwaway sunglasses that I can wear to a Mardi Gras parade. Perhaps I am really digging a new trend that I know won't last long. These are all reasons that would lead me to make a purchase at a fast fashion shop. Clearly, you can tell these are one-off situations though.

In the case of my dress shoes, suits, and raw denim? I think I'll stick to places like Nordstrom and Brooks Brothers, and stay as far away from fast fashion as I possibly can.

So in all, be careful when it comes to H&M, Forever21, Zara, and the like. Use them for specific purposes, but get your staples and/or basics from more tried and true retailers. The extra money will go further than you realize.

The denim jacket, a perfect spring piece

Mark Kwak

denimjacket2Glasses: Warby Parker | Jacket: Gap | Shirt: Vince | Chinos: Dockers

It's Spring.

Not quite hot enough for you to wear just a T-shirt and shorts, but not so cold that you need to bust out the wool peacoat. You need something that can protect you from a cool breeze, but not have you sweating in direct sunlight.

Well, I never thought I'd be saying this, but I've found that the perfect medium piece for springtime is... the denim jacket.

To be honest, I've never really had a liking for denim jackets up till the very recent past. Generally all denim jackets I had seen prior to last year were fitted awkwardly, wildly distressed, and of course, paired incorrectly (think light wash denim on light wash denim). The types of people wearing them were also usually in their fifties, and looking like they were going through some sort of midlife crisis.

Well, the good news is that things have changed, as they often do in the fashion world. The denim jacket is back and looking great, especially when incorporated into the appropriate outfit.

Source: Esquire

There are a couple things that you should know when looking for the right denim jacket:

1. A denim jacket should feel snug. It can even be used for layering, so you want to minimize bulk as much as possible.

2. The color of your denim jacket should not match most of your denim pants. If you do somehow end up pairing denims, you want to at least make sure they aren't of similar color. Just FYI, I would recommend chinos or cords to be safe.

3. Make sure the shoulders fit perfectly on the jacket, as that measurement will be the most important in determining whether the jacket fits you or not. Alterations can be made elsewhere, but not on the shoulders.

4. I don't think you necessarily need to spend a lot of money to get a good denim jacket. I've found that the Gap one I bought for $50 is rock solid in construction, and feels like it won't be falling apart anytime soon. My Levi's one from ten years ago is also going on strong, with no indication of slowing down.

5. Start with a less-distressed jacket, and give the jacket some of your own character. Like denim jeans, you'll start noticing whiskering, distressing, and other marks on your jacket as you wear them in. You'll probably find that you enjoy distress marks more when you're actually the one contributing.

Here are a couple denim jackets at different price points that I would recommend:

~$50 : Gap

~$75: Levi's

~$100: J.Crew

~$125+: BLK DNM

Keep it simple, find one that fits well, and you'll be getting compliments in no time. Give it a try, it might be worth the effort and money! Good luck fellas.

Signature Style: American Schoolboy Prep (the Thom Browne look)

Mark Kwak

Source: Camodiaries

I've mentioned this before, but I think everybody has their own signature style. You can probably picture several of your friends right now, wearing what you would consider their signature pieces. The buddy who can't be seen without his blue baseball cap and Ralph Lauren polo. Or your coworker that wears such rugged boots and jackets that it looks like he's ready to go on a hunt at any point in time.

But what about you? Can you identify your own signature style? Is it something you stand by? Personally, I think it's important that we all discover the look we're most comfortable and confident in, and move in the direction of making our signature style embody that look.

To help in this endeavor, I've decided to launch a small series called Signature Style, where I showcase outfits that I believe represent certain signature styles we may encounter on the streets. Hopefully these styles will give you some ideas or inspiration for developing your own signature look.

To accomplish this task, I enlisted the help of some of my buddies, who agreed to model and demonstrate several looks that I have been wanting to put together for quite some time.

To make it clear, these are very particular styles that aren't necessarily what I deem classic or simple. However, I think that the slightly exaggerated nature of these getups can help you identify what works for you and what doesn't. Taking ideas here and there, and then ultimately putting together your own unique look is what really matters to me.

---

The first signature style I put together is that of one of my favorite designers, Thom Browne. His style is one I personally like to call:  American Schoolboy Prep.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Thom Browne, he is a very fashion-forward designer from New York, who sort of revolutionized modern menswear tailoring. Have you noticed trousers are getting shorter and shorter these days? Well, in many ways, we have Thom Browne to thank for that. Have you noticed folks wearing dress shoes without any socks? Again, Thom Browne. Red, white, and blue grosgrain trimming? Thom Browne.

Truth is, his look is not one for the insecure or conservative. He starts with seemingly classic American outfits (like a flannel grey suit), but then cuts them in ways that make you wonder if the man wearing them is wearing his son's clothing. Trousers are cut too short, sport coats end closer to the hip rather than the thigh, and knitwear is skin tight. To illustrate, I've put together this look for my buddy Grant:

Grant1

As you can see, this outfit is very similar to Thom Browne's one at the top of this post. White oxford button down, gray sport coat and trousers, gray tie, brown bluchers, and a white pocket square.

Grant2

I wanted to make sure this outfit was monochromatic, with gray acting as king.

Grant3

I also wanted to work with various wool textures and patterns. Got some herringbone and specked designs, all over cashmere and flannel fabric.

Grant4

Chunky brown wingtips, no socks, and trousers cut 2 inches too short. Pure Thom Browne.

Grant8

Also, I believe using thick, plastic rimmed glasses really finishes off the American schoolboy look.

Grant5

Though this look is trendy and on the up-rise, I honestly wouldn't advise going into the office this way.

Grant6

Glasses: Warby Parker | Shirt: Jack Spade (in blue) | Jacket: Black Fleece | Tie: Bloomingdales

Pocket Square: Jos A Bank | Cardigan: Gap | Pants: Uniqlo | Shoes: Alden

There you go, the American schoolboy prep look... a look that I'm quite intrigued by these days.

If you live in New York City, you'll probably see these types of outfits donned by avant-garde fashionistas from time to time. It's blowing up in the fashion world, and for good reason.  I think it brings something new to the table, combining a very particular form of modern tailoring with what we've always considered traditional American style.

Anyhow, hope you can take something away from this outfit, whether positive or negative. Oh, and look out for the next part in this series where I go over dandyism.

High Fashion & Affordable Fashion Collaborations

Mark Kwak

margiela-hm-campaign-preview

How do you feel about these new collaborations that are happening between luxury brands and cheaper stores (ie: Target/Neiman Marcus or H&M/Margiela)? You think it’s worth it for me to get stuff from these collections? – Matthew

I was hoping a question like this would come up, thanks for asking. As many of you know, these days there are a lot of partnerships occurring between high fashion and affordable fashion.  Gap partnered with GQ to bring several higher end designers (Mark McNairy, Ian Velardi, Ovadia & Sons, etc.) to their stores for a limited time. H&M partnered with Versace, and now Maison Martin Margiela to do the same. Even as recent as last week, Target released a collection of items with Neiman Marcus to bring 50 CFDA designer pieces to retail Target stores.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about these new collaborations that keep popping up.

Some part of me is extremely excited to see designer pieces being offered at reasonable prices. For instance, a Maison Martin Margiela coat is over $2k the last time I checked. Barney’s sells them, and I may look, but the likelihood of me buying would be quite low. However, with H&M offering a similar piece still designed by Margiela for $150… who knows?

The other part of me knows it’s all just a marketing tactic to get folks in stores to buy things they don’t want/need, and in ridiculous quantities. Do I have any urge to check out H&M these days? No. Will I walk in and considering buying from there now that they have this collab collection? Probably.

gap-gq01

Now I’m all for bringing designer pieces to people for affordable prices. I think it’s a genius idea both for the business and the consumer. However, to me, it really comes down to quality. Will these products even slightly compare to the real deal, and last just as long? Sure they may look good, but that won’t help if they fall apart on me in three months. To me, if the quality is bad, I’m out… even if it looks like an unreal deal from the outside.

Well, from my experience, it’s generally been a bit disappointing.  I checked out Gap for their GQ collab, H&M for their Margiela collab, and Target for their Neiman collab. Walked away with a piece from each, but not much more than that, and for good reason.

First, you need to go in with the right expectations. You’ll definitely find that the quality is inferior to products offered in designers’ main lines. I do hope most people expect that, since it can only be that way considering the prices and the scale of manufacturing. Also, know that the fits will differ slightly from mainline items. This is probably so that the pieces will fit a wider breadth of people, but I wish they would just keep it the same. Lastly, now that the pieces are more available, you'll notice a lot more people wearing the same stuff. Will this be something you're okay with? Probably not for me.

Once you get past these points, sometimes the price can be justifiable for such pieces, but I highly suggest you check the items out for yourself to truly know. Don't compromise in quality just because of the brand. Before you purchase, make sure you're doing it because the item fits well and is of great quality, not just because the label on the back says Thom Browne.

598359_10151112888012461_788266730_n

Got myself a Rag & Bone sweater from Target/Neiman and turns out it's actually a great piece quality-wise, and something I would be willing to pay for even if it wasn't Rag & Bone. Also was able to pick up a pair of Margiela H&M boots with leather soles for under $100. Pretty good in my book. Suffice to say, I passed on 99% of the other stuff because they didn't meet the quality & fit : price ratio I was looking for.

Bottom line: I think these collaborations are fun and exciting, and can provide a couple cool items for your wardrobe. However, I wouldn't go jumping on every one of them expecting the same level of detail and quality as mainline items. Choose carefully when looking through these collections, and think quality and fit first. All else should fall by the wayside.

What am I wearing 12.8.12

Mark Kwak

Today is a relatively cold day in San Francisco, even though the sun is blasting like no one's business. Probably not cold enough to wear my winter coat and scarf, but definitely too cold to go jacket or sweater-less. Thus, I thought it would be the perfect time to bust out my shetland sweater.

Now I've had my reservations about shetland sweaters in the past. Not only can they look a little old-school, but they can also be a bit uncomfortable to wear (itchy and scratchy). However, I think if you wear them right, shetland sweaters can be an amazing addition to your wardrobe, both functionally and stylistically. They'll keep you warm and give you a bit of traditional American charm.

purpshetland3

So clearly, I'm wearing a fairly bold color- deep purple. Well, truth is that I'm a huge fan, both of the band and the color. I think a bold color like this can distinguish you from the crowd and provide a bit of uniqueness to your outfit.

However, I also made sure that I didn't have any other bold pieces in this outfit, just so I don't stand out too much. Grey / brown / white can cover the rest.

purpshetland1

Remember boat shoes are generally meant to be worn without socks. Not a hard-fast rule, but I try and follow it.

purpshetland4

Again, I think it's great to show your shirt cuff when wearing long sleeve shirts under sweaters. Also, an oxford cloth button down, like what I'm wearing, is a perfect item to help shield you from the itchiness of a shetland sweater.

purpshetland2

Sunglasses: Ray Ban | Sweater: Ralph Lauren Rugby | Shirt: Jack Spade

Watch: Hamilton | Pants: GQ x Ian Velardi | Shoes: Sebago

It's only going to get colder, so I'm stoked to start busting out some more of my fall and winter clothing to keep myself warm. Who says you can't look legit while doing so? Cheers friends.