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

Filtering by Tag: tellason

Product Review: Alden Long Wing Bluchers

Mark Kwak

Once in a while, I'd like to review a product for you guys on this blog. Sometimes, it might be my initial reactions towards a product I just purchased, and other times I'll go over something that has been part of my outfit rotation for some time. Today, I'll start with a fairly new purchase: a pair of shoes by the famous American shoemaker Alden. Alden is one of the few remaining true American shoemakers. They manufacture in Middleborough, Massachusetts, and have been at it since 1884. The pair I got is one of their most classic designs, known commonly as the long wing blucher (LWB). The design is fairly similar to that of a normal wingtip, the only difference being that the wing design extends from the front of the shoe all the way to the back. Here are some pictures below:

alden lwb4

Alden Made in the U.S.A.

alden lwb1

See how the wingtip design extends all the way throughout the shoe?

alden lwb2

You can tell the stitching on the welt ends at a point near the heel.

alden lwb3

Black leather sole with rubber at the edge of the heel.

alden lwb5

Wearing the shoes around the house.

alden lwb7

You can get these in many shades of brown as well.

alden lwb8

Pretty handsome shoe in my opinion.

alden lwb6

Outfit I'm wearing with the shoes.

Shirt: Brooks Brothers | Sweater: Old Navy | Watch: Omega

Bracelet: Unbranded | Jeans: Tellason | Shoes: Alden

Okay, so let me go into the review.

Construction: These shoes are solidly constructed. First off, all Alden shoes are Goodyear welted, meaning that the upper portion of the shoes are sewn onto a welt that also attaches to the sole. This is definitely one of the highest forms of shoe construction you can find, and Alden's been doing it brilliantly for generations. The other great thing about Goodyear welting is that it allows you to easily resole the shoes when your soles start to fall apart. Alden has a great policy where you can send in your old shoes to them, and for around $100, they can refinish the entire shoe, get you a new sole, and have them back to you looking altogether brand new.

Another thing to add is that the attention to detail is top notch, probably because these shoes are hand-made domestically. I can't find any flaws in stitching, lining, broguing, or just about any other construction element of the shoes. Suffice it to say, I'm happy with the overall quality.

Comfort: Comfort is surprisingly good. When comparing these to my Allen Edmonds, the Aldens are actually more comfortable even out of the box. I do believe they still require some breaking in of the sole, as the sole is a bit stiff from the get-go, but for the most part I think comfort isn't going to be a problem. Might also have to do with the fact that the last (the shape/mold of the shoe) is a bit roomier than my other pairs of shoes.

Design: Truth is, I don't think these shoes are very sleek or sexy. The last that these shoes are on, called the Barrie last, is slightly chunky, and the longwing design takes a bit of getting used to at first. For that reason, some might consider the design to be too old or boring. However, I don't think these shoes are trying to be some sort of modern chic cocktail-hour shoe (like many English or Italian shoes might be).

They're designed to be a daily workhorse of sorts, with a signature American look & feel to them. The chunkier sole helps support your foot better, the rock solid leather defends your foot from the elements, and the long wingtip design is a classic design that's been loved and worn for ages. I personally love the look, hence me purchasing, but can see why others might feel like the shoes aren't handsome enough to buy.

Material: The materials used are very high in quality. I can already tell that the sole and uppers feel hefty by touch, and will stand up to daily wear and tear with ease. Good news is that leather is still soft, despite being so durable, making the shoes a pleasure to wear.

Price: The price of most Alden shoes will be between $400 and $600 (when made with calf-skin). Clearly, they're expensive, and not something to be taken lightly. To add, Aldens don't go on sale. I was lucky enough to find a loophole and get some on sale via some menswear forums, but I likely won't have an opportunity like that again. So the question begs, are they worth the asking price?

Well, it depends. To some, the price increase from a pair of Allen Edmonds might not be worth it. They're constructed similarly and might even source their leather from the same place. I do know they use the same cordovan leather. However, I do think that the attention to detail on these shoes is much higher than any of my Allen Edmonds. The shoes feels sturdier, and thus, looks like they'll last longer. They're also more comfortable. So to me, the increase in quality is evident, and sometimes I'm willing to shell out some more dough as a result.

Just be aware that the law of diminishing returns is certainly playing a factor at this point. Let's say these were almost two times as expensive as my Allen Edmonds. Are they two times as good? No. Are they, in my opinion, maybe 10-20% better? Probably. So the question really becomes, are you willing to pay double the price for a slight increase in construction and quality (and design for those who like it)?

Conclusion: Overall, the shoes are constructed with the highest quality materials, feel rather comfortable even from the get-go, and are clearly strong enough to be in the game for the long haul. The look of these shoes can take a little getting used to (as I had to), but they are a classic Alden design- something that will likely never go out of style. The asking price is steep, but could be worth it for some of you. For those who need to save some money, stick with Loake, Charles Tyrwhitt, or Allen Edmonds. If you like any of their designs and have the money though, I highly recommend a pair of Aldens. You're guaranteed excellent quality and construction.

Here are some links if you'd like a pair for yourself:

Unionmade

Alden of Carmel

J.Crew

Wearing sport coats casually

Mark Kwak

Sport coats are technically supposed to be part of a casual outfit. In the old days, it used to be that on the days that one was not wearing a suit, it would be customary to relax at home with a sports coat on instead. Boy have the times changed. Today, the moment you put on a sport coat, you'll get plenty of questions asking why you're so dressed up and formal, not dressed down. Overly casual dress has become the name of the game, and thus I see far less sport coats worn in public. Instead, a weekend outfit would more likely be comprised of a North Face jacket, distressed jeans, and Vans than a sports coat and chinos.

The traditional way to wear a sport coat would be to wear it as an odd jacket that pairs well with, but doesn't match your trousers. For example, people will often wear navy sport coats with grey flannel trousers. Or maybe heavy brown tweed sport coats with tan khakis.

Well, even though the times have changed and people aren't wearing their sport coats as traditionally as I would prefer, I still think there are plenty of ways to wear them casually, all without looking like too much effort is being put forth. Here's an example of how I would wear a sports coat fairly casually:

tweed2

I'm wearing this Harris Tweed sport coat with a pair of dark denim, a casual button up, and a brown belt. Since the jeans, shirt, and belt all scream casual, I thought putting a tweed sport coat into the mix would be a good way to dress the outfit up, but still remain relaxed.

tweed1

Tweed is a good material for the fall, and can look a bit less dressy when compared to a worsted wool jacket that looks like it came straight from a suit. For this reason, tweed allows you to dress down easier than other sport coats probably can.

This applies to materials like seersucker and corduroy as well (tweed and corduroy are more for the winter, cotton and seersucker are more for the summer).

Sports Coat: Michael Bastian (similar) | Shirt: A.P.C. (similar)

Belt: Club Monaco | Jeans: Tellason

Now, technically you could still dress this type of outfit down even further, going with a T-shirt or sweater instead of a button-up shirt. I say go for it as long as everything looks nice and fitted to your body. Not my first preference, but I'd say it's fair game. All I'm really trying to say is that the sport coat was, is, and always will be an amazing piece in menswear and because people consider it too formal today, it is utilized far too sparingly.

If you have to dress a sport coat down to feel comfortable wearing it out, do so, as I think it will still elevate your style game. You'll get much joy out of wearing one, I promise.

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.

Four levels of work-appropriate casual

Mark Kwak

With new companies these days, the workplace has become a very casual environment. Some say this is bad news for fashion, I respectfully disagree.

I've taken a basic casual outfit (blue gingham oxford cloth button down, dark wash denim, and brown boots) and dressed it up one piece at a time. Here are four levels of casual, plus a debut of the real me. Please excuse the serious face.

Roll up the sleeves, untuck the shirt, and cuff the pants. Super casual, but the outfit is still nice enough to go into the office with.

Tuck the shirt, uncuff the bottoms... the clean generic office look.

Unroll the sleeves and put a sports coat or blazer on. Dapper.

Slap a tie on (casual tie here since we're pairing with denim) and I guarantee you, people will comment on your outfit.

Black Fleece shirt ::  Perry Ellis Belt :: Tellason denim ::  Allen Edmonds boots :: Hickey Freeman jacket :: Ovadia & Sons tie.

My opinion? Dress up your casual outfits once in a while. You'll get some notice, and you'll feel great.