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

Filtering by Tag: oliver peoples

A simple case for better sunglasses

Mark Kwak

On the left are my tried and true Oliver Peoples sunglasses; the one you've seen on this blog probably far too much. On the right is a pair of free sunglasses that I think I got from a swag day at my company. They look similar, but let me tell you why I think it's worth it to go with the sunglasses on the left over the ones on the right. DSC_0083

Okay, I'm going to throw a little bit of a curveball at you. Instead of focusing on style, quality, longevity, durability, and other very important benefits to having premium sunglasses, I'm going to focus instead on a reason that people often overlook when deciding between crappy sunglasses, and a pair of, let's say, Ray-Bans.

Generally when you pay the extra buck or two for sunglasses, and this doesn't have to be some outrageous amount (like $450 for Prada glasses), you will end up caring about your sunglasses exponentially more than if they were some cheap $15 glasses you found at a flea market in Brooklyn.

Before I started spending more than $25 for a pair of sunglasses, I probably replaced about 20-30 pairs, and each had a maximum lifespan of about 5-6 months. I may have left them on a table somewhere, or accidentally crushed them in my pocket, but in either case, I didn't really pay attention to the glasses because they were so cheap and replaceable.

Then I bought a pair of Ray-Ban wayfarers on sale for $75. The moment I got those, not only did the glasses look and feel much better than my previous pairs, but I also cared about them far more. I took care of them when I could, I made 100% sure not to lose them or put them in some compromising situation, and also incorporated them into my outfits much more thoughtfully. I would assume this all happened because psychologically, I just couldn't accept losing a pair of $75 Ray-Bans due to some in-the-moment stupidity on my part.

So my recommendation is to try a nice pair of sunglasses out sometime if you don't already own a pair. You'll find that the fear you have about losing them or crushing them and wasting your money will actually help you do just the opposite.

My essentials

Mark Kwak

Though my outfits change from day to day, some key items always stay the same. You can call them my everyday carries, or perhaps my essentials. I almost never leave the house without them, and in case you're curious, here they are. Geez, didn't realize I always carry so much. edc1

1. iPhone 5

2. Hugo Boss bi-fold leather wallet

3. Oliver Peoples Daddy-B sunglasses

4. Vaseline Lip Therapy

5. Apolis transit issue key chain + keys + bottle opener

6. Klipsch X10 earphones

7. Omega Seamaster Professional Planet Ocean

My sunglasses and watch will change out from time to time, but this is basically it! I'm also considering swapping out the wallet as well since it's a bit bigger than I'd ideally prefer.

I'm curious, what are your everyday essentials? Do you carry more or less than me?

Thoughts from a simpler woman: Bold Accessories

Mark Kwak

It's that time again. That time where I disappear for a bit, and bring to you a more important perspective on menswear than my own- a woman's. If you haven't checked out my previous "simpler woman" posts, you should definitely take a look. Here they are for you: 1 , 2 , 3 .

Today, we'll hear from one of my old college friends, Emilie. She's a fashion guru at heart, but also kind of a bonafide genius in pretty much every subject known to man (cough... that one Boston school... cough.... 4.0 galore). Thus, it might be worth it to listen to her advice.

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Bold Accessories

While I cannot quite put my finger on it, there is something about a man who enjoys the simple pleasures in life that catches my gaze.  You know what I’m talking about.  It’s that guy at the corner coffee shop who takes his drip coffee in-house, absorbed in a dog-eared copy of the WSJ.  It’s that guy who enjoys a quiet whisky on the rocks after a long night at the office.  There is just something about a man with the confidence to enjoy the small pleasures in life.

Style is no exception. It’s that extra bit of bold execution, shouting adoration for life, that brings a grin to my curious eyes.  What better way to exude this sort of boldness than through tastefully-placed accessories? To me, the unexpected burst of color and whimsy can add so much to any man's outfit.

Audacity

Audacious socks that peek out from beneath an ensemble of dark slacks and a pressed button-up bring a hint of fun to the usual dark getup.  I’ve met my fair share of corporate men and it’s the ones that can make me laugh and bring a little humor that can make or break an evening.  Though you may be fenced behind a corporate lifestyle, a bit of unexpected cotton color hints at your affinity to flirt with life.

BOSS dress socks

boss socks

Simply Bold

A simple, bold watch hints at those nostalgic Calvin and Hobbes days.  Only now, the kid behind that grin is a youthful, twenty-something with a quick wit and an easy laugh.  Not every workday mandates a Patek Philippe dripping from your wrist.  With ease and some confidence, a playful watch will definitely invite a few grins your way.

 

Tic O-Clock Watch  

Foresight

Eyeglasses are a statement piece.  Forget the wire-rimmed spectacles that scream “I was an extra on Office Space.”  The subtle sexiness of a well-read man doesn’t escape us women.  Frame your face with a pair of fun edges.  We won’t be able to stop ourselves from imagining tossing those rims bedside later…if you ever happen to look up from that copy of the WSJ.  Have a little fun with an unconventional pair of specs.

 

Oliver Peoples NDG-1

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Emilie Simpler WomanEmilie, a Bay Area native, and recent convert to whiskey, currently lives in Boston.  In between hitting the books, she loves to get her travel on and restaurant visits in.  She thoroughly misses San Francisco (if anyone is willing to send her some Philz coffee beans, she will forever be delighted).

What am I wearing 3.24.13

Mark Kwak

Haven't done a "what am I wearing" post in over a month, so I thought I'd snap some quick photos today in light of the beautiful weather. Today, I wore a fairly interesting sweater that I haven't worn in months. It's by Burberry, and I got it on clearance a while back. Back then, I thought since it was 100% cashmere, made by Burberry, an amazing color, and on massive sale, why not?

Turns out I couldn't get used to the weird neck shape, since it skirted the line awkwardly between V neck and shawl collar. Thus, the sweater ended up taking a back seat behind my normal shawl collar cardigans and V neck sweaters.

However, taking it out from the back of my closet, I realized it really didn't look that bad. In fact, the design was kind of refreshing, since it's not as cookie-cutter as my other knits. I paired the sweater with some dark tan chinos, a lightly patterned white shirt, and brown leather boots. Check it out:

burberry4It may be Spring now, but I'll continue to wear my boots through the summer. I don't care what others say.

burberry1I have a hard time finding decent fitting chinos. However, I recently discovered these Alpha Khakis by Dockers, and I have to say... I really like them.

burberry3The incongruent neck design has definitely grown on me.

burberry2

Sunglasses: Oliver Peoples | Shirt: Theory | Sweater: Burberry

Belt: Perry Ellis | Chinos: Dockers | Watch: Timex | Shoes: Allen Edmonds

I have to say, the feel of cashmere on the skin is pure pleasure. If you don't already have a 100% cashmere sweater, I would highly suggest getting one. Looks and feels like a million bucks.

Alright fellas. Till next time.

What am I wearing 1.22.12

Mark Kwak

Time for another outfit of the day post. Felt like dressing up a bit (ie: putting on a tie and pocket square), but also wanted to remain casual enough to blend into the city a bit. Here's my solution:

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Coat: Banana Republic | Sunglasses: Oliver Peoples | Pocket Square: John W. Nordstrom

Shirt: Brooks Brothers | Tie: Drake's | Cardigan: Black Fleece

Belt: Perry Ellis | Pants: Ian Velardi | Socks: Merona | Shoes: Paul Smith

So as many of you know, I'm a huge fan of Thom Browne's branding (the red, white, and blue, generally on grosgrain). That's exactly why I'm wearing this Black Fleece cardigan along with a relatively conservative outfit. I think a small, but noticeable pop of color can really put some spice into an otherwise "safe" getup, so this cardigan fit the bill for me. I'll certainly be doing a post about adding pops of color to an outfit shortly.

So until then...

Denim

Mark Kwak

Outfit: Oliver Peoples sunglasses :: Black Fleece sweater :: Michael Kors shirt :: Tellason jeans ::  Gordon Rush shoes

Photo credit: Dana Patricia

One of my close friends, Sam, is a denim expert working in the apparel industry here in San Francisco. I had an opportunity to chat with her about denim, where we discussed how it's made, why it's one of our favorite materials, and what we should look for when shopping for denim.

While enjoying the nice San Francisco summer (yes, summer arrives in SF for a week during fall, and that's about it), we came up to several mutually agreed upon points:

1. Denim belongs in your closet. Period.

2. It's smart to put in the extra money for a nice pair of jeans. There are too many crappy jeans out there, and oftentimes they're not worth the trouble.

3. Denim on denim is always case by case.

4. For men, it's all about the solid dark wash straight leg jean.

I'd like to elaborate on each point, because the topic of denim certainly deserves some attention.

1. Denim belongs in your closet.

I think blue jeans are one of the most essential pieces to have in your wardrobe. They are durable, stylish, versatile, comfortable, cool... need I go on? A pair of blue jeans can work in the most casual of situations and can also be dressed up significantly (think blazer, dress shirt, dress shoes, dark wash denim). I don't think I need to do any more convincing, just please get a pair if you don't already.

2. It's smart to put in the extra money for a nice pair of jeans.

So there is a substantial difference between a $15 pair of jeans at Old Navy or Walmart, and a pair of $180 APC New Standards. Here's a great video that I think explains some of these differences. Now, I'm not saying you need to spend over $100 on a pair of jeans, as many of you would find that ridiculous with so many other inexpensive alternatives out there. However, I do think you need to examine and try on a bunch of denim before you make a decision.

Between $60-$100 can probably get you a pretty nice pair of jeans, Levis 501s being a solid choice in that range if it fits your body. My biggest recommendation would be to shop for sales at Nordstrom Rack for denim. I will say though, that there is another tier of denim when you cross the $100 mark. Going into selvedge raw denim has been a treat for me, and can be for you as well. Basically this type of denim has not been washed or treated in anyway. They are like cardboard when you first get them, but you can start to soften them up, build creases/marks in them, and really make them your own just by the way you wear them. Just putting it out there, as my experience has been great.

3. Denim-on-denim is always case-by-case.

As a general rule, we don't want to pair denim jackets with denim pants. The whole Canadian tuxedo thing is a no-no. However, I wouldn't say this is always the case. What we want to do is make sure our tops and bottoms don't match too much. If you have a black denim jacket and a pair of medium wash denim pants on, I think it can work. Also, denim shirts are super relevant today as well, and the same rule applies. Make sure your shirt isn't the same shade or color as your pants.

4. It's all about solid dark wash straight jeans.

Sam deals with washing, dying, distressing, etc. on every different type of jean out there. It was fascinating hearing all the things denim goes through before it ends up on a shelf at the mall. However, as cool as this detailing can be, I think it's important to have a solid, dark wash, non-distressed, straight leg jean. In terms of fit, forget bootcut, relaxed cut, and skinny jeans. Stick with a straight or slim straight look. Also, keep it dark. Indigo's, greys, and blacks all can work with a lot of outfits, and can be dressed up easily, while slimming you as well. Find a great pair and wear 'em in!

So there you go! Denim in four quick (eh, maybe not quick) points! Also a huge thanks to Sam for discussing denim with me, even outside of her work hours.

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.