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

Filtering by Tag: men's style

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.

Ask me: wave #1

Mark Kwak

Some of you have been asking me questions, and I really appreciate you writing in! I wanted to take this opportunity to answer a couple of them: Can you share some pictures of what you wear? I’m just curious, since it might help give me some ideas on what I should wear. – Jim

Absolutely. I’m in the process of getting a DSLR to make personal pictures a regular thing, but until then, I’ll put up a post soon with some camera phone pics of my attire. In fact, here's what I was wore to work the other day:

Brooks Brothers Black Fleece Ticket Jacket :: Michael Kors Mainline Dress Shirt :: Diesel Darron Jeans :: Theory Leather Belt :: Coach Briefcase

What’s your favorite brand right now? - Jesse

Great question Jesse. This always changes for me, but right now I'm a huge fan of Thom Browne. His stuff is expensive, but the quality is exceptional, and the style unique. Though he has some great pieces, he also makes some really ridiculous, out of this world stuff, so I make sure to choose carefully. Not looking for anything that will make me look like the Hulk.

I really like the leather jacket you posted up in your jackets post. Like you, I also have a really hard time finding a leather jacket that fits, but wanted to get your recommendation on what types would work on someone like me. I’m 5’8” and 150 lbs, and not looking to spend over $750.  – David

Ah, the leather jacket struggles. I feel your pain brother. The good news is, with a $750 budget, you’ll probably find some really great quality leather jackets. The bad news is, it may take a bit of work and looking to find the right one. I personally think leather jackets are a lifetime investment, so I’d choose wisely. Spend a little extra, keep it simple, and take good care of it.  I’m around the same height and weight as you, so if you have the same problem as me, the main issue might be that the sleeves are too long. You can get sleeves altered on some leather jackets, but it will cost you.

My recommendation would be to stick with black or brown, go with a moto or bomber look in lambskin (much softer), keep zippers and accessories as minimal as possible, and get 100% leather. If you want a jacket from an actual motorcycle leather jacket company, I’d recommend Schotts. They make their jackets in the US, have been doing so for ages, and make quality leather. For more fashion-based jackets, I personally like Ralph Lauren and if you have a little more to splurge, I'd go with their black or purple label stuff. The last brand I would recommend is called Temple of Jawnz, or ToJ. This is more of a made-to-measure leather jacket company that offers their jackets for under $800, so you KNOW it will fit. The only downside is that there is a wait time, but if you're willing to wait, try it out. Lots of buzz and positive feedback about that company on forums out here.

Alright gentlemen, keep sending questions over, love to answer them! Until next time.

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.

The white dress shirt

Mark Kwak

The white shirt is arguably the most important piece of clothing that you can own. It was, is, and always will be, a staple piece for any man's wardrobe.

Now, white dress shirts are not necessarily special. They won't make you stand out from the crowd and they won't get you loads of compliments. Though this may seem like a bad thing to you... au contraire my stylish friends. The fact that white shirts don't bring attention to themselves can actually work marvelously to your advantage.

First off, for this reason, white shirts match with just about anything. Take for instance pants.

Jeans? Check. Khakis? Check. Slacks of virtually any color? Check. Add in the fact that they work with every sweater, jacket, or coat you put on top of them, and voila, you've got yourself the most versatile piece of clothing in your wardrobe.

Second, white shirts will work casually (let's say with the top two buttons undone, and rolled up sleeves) and of course formally as well with a suit and tie. This means you can use them in a multitude of situations, and never be noticed if you wear the same shirt three weeks in a row. In fact, someone I know did a little experiment once and wore a white shirt for two weeks straight. The week following, he tried to wear a purple shirt repetitively. Not a single person noticed when he wore the white shirt, but only two days into wearing the purple shirt, someone commented.

However, this doesn't mean go out there and buy just any white shirt. Virtually every clothing company known to man makes a white shirt, and so it could actually be a task to find the right one for you.

There are two camps of thought, and neither is wrong. The first camp says that you should just find a cheap white shirt that's passable, buy three or four of them, maybe get them tailored, and then replace as need-be since they will be used so often. The other camp says that the white dress shirt is so important to a man's wardrobe, that they should invest some dollars into making sure they get the best shirt they can, regardless of price.

I personally think a healthy medium can be achieved. Buy something nice, that has a great fabric and feel, but don't feel the need to buy high end luxury designer, because you might be paying the extra premium for little to no improvement of quality.

I mean let's face it, there's no patterns or colors involved in a white shirt, and a good tailor can help make sure the shirt fit well on you as long as you have the right shoulder fit. Here's a good article that tells you how shirts should fit across your body. So as long as you've got a nice, durable, breathable, great feeling (to the touch) white shirt, you're good to go. As a general rule, I personally like white shirts that are a bit thicker in fabric, to show less of the peach skin tone through, and to be a bit more durable for the long run.

Here are some recs for good white shirts in different price ranges. I would suggest sticking to a slim fit with regular button cuffs (french cuffs are reserved for the most formal of situations). I personally like point collars since they work well without a tie, but a semi-spread should work just fine as well. Button down collar is up to you, depending on how casual you want to be. (button downs are considered slightly more casual).

~$30: Uniqlo Oxford Cloth Dress Shirt

~$75: Brooks Brothers Classic All Cotton

~$150: Thomas Pink Emir Poplin Shirt

~$200: Turnbull & Asser Classic Plain White Shirt

In all, make sure you have a couple white shirts in your wardrobe at all times. Go ahead, wear the heck out of them, match them with everything, and stay fresh. Till next time.

Keep it simple

Mark Kwak

Why is this web series called "simpler man?"

Well, in my opinion, one of the most important aspects of style is simplicity. Loud colors, trendy accents or highlights, and unconventional patterns can certainly have a place in fashion. However, I say these types of things don’t belong in a man’s wardrobe until he has at least got his bases covered with the simple stuff.

What do I mean by the “simple stuff?” I mean your staple colors (greys, navys, blacks, whites and browns) and your classic, essential pieces (wool suit, denim blue jeans, oxford cloth button down shirts, etc.). Just as a FYI, I’ll make sure to put up a future post outlining my short, but exhaustive list of what I consider the essential man’s wardrobe.

Stay away from anything “trendy” or “fashionable.”  Graphic T’s, ripped jeans, or studded belts may interest you now, but will likely go out of trend in the years to come. A plain navy blazer, though, will never go out of style. You can hold me to that one, since I can pretty much guarantee it.

The interesting thing is that even if you find simple pieces boring or too old fashioned, if they fit well on you, I bet you that they’ll look better than anything else you have in your closet.

The point is this. Classic pieces or colors never go out of style. As long as your clothes fit well, the simple pieces will be the only pieces in your closet that stay for the long haul. Additionally, you can mix and match easier, you can wear things more often (because people probably won’t notice you wearing that same white button down twice in three days), and you can stop worrying about fashion trends, since we know that they rotate way too often.

This is probably the most important aspect of style, and once we’ve got this covered, we can move forward... gentlemen.

Start to look good

Mark Kwak

I am a firm believer that all men can have great style. The world of fashion, style, and good looking clothes are not solely reserved for the Brad Pitts and David Beckhams of this world. If you feel hopeless due to the couple extra pounds you've put on, or maybe your less than ideal height, I say to you: FEAR NOT. Whatever your body type, I guarantee that you can still look good. Damn good. It's just a matter of finding what's right for you.  I mean check out these two very different body types. Tyrion Lannister & Tony Soprano still know how to pull off a great, classic look.

We must remember though, that not all good style is created equal. Depending on your lifestyle, it may suit your personality to walk around more often in jeans and a T-shirt rather than a full-blown 3 piece suit. My ultimate goal is to help you figure out what clothes suit you best. And once you start figuring it out, hopefully my recommendations can help you better decipher what looks good on you and what doesn't.

So let's get this party started. Of course, feel free to ask me questions or voice your concern. Simpler Man is here to benefit you, so if you think my advice is trash, it's imperative that you spread the word about my terrible work as best as you can.