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

Filtering by Tag: thom browne

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.

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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.

Ask me: wave #4 (closet purges, best fitting brands, etc.)

Mark Kwak

Hi folks! Time for another edition of "ask me." First off, please continue asking away since I'm here to be your resource, and am more than happy to help out where I can. Second, really sorry if I'm sometimes a little late in answering your questions, life's been a bit hectic recently, but I promise to get to every single question I can. Here are a couple select questions that I've gotten that I thought I would share with everybody:

I’ve started to understand style a lot better in the last six months or so. Unfortunately, all the clothes that I own don’t really fit the way I want them to, according to my newfound knowledge. Do you think I should just purge everything? - Steve Great question Steve. I’ve had this dilemma in the past as well. There was a point where I looked at my closet and felt like only 1/10th of it was actually wearable anymore. This was due to two reasons. First, I had just lost about 15 pounds, and most of my clothes simply did not fit. Second, I thought it was finally time to do away with hoodies and baseball caps, since I wanted to have a bit more refined sense of style.

In these situations, I don’t think it’s a good idea to completely purge your wardrobe at once, as it takes a lot of time, effort and money to recoup from something like that. Instead, I would do a basic purge of items that you know you won’t wear anymore, and then start replacing one piece at a time. If you have a coat that you’re not a big fan of, go ahead and buy another one that you actually do like, and replace your old one. Keep going on like this once in a while, when you happen to be shopping, or have a little more disposable income, and in no time you’ll have a wardrobe you actually enjoy, and one you’ll cherish for the long haul. In the meantime, try and be creative! Mix your old clothes in with the new, and create new combinations of outfits. You might find that your old clothes actually look pretty great in the right context.

Thanks for the blog man, it's awesome! So my question is, do you think that dressing really too well as a man might give off the impression that you might be gay or metro even if you're not? I want to dress better, but I don’t want to give ppl the wrong idea. – Brian

First off, be confident in your sexuality man! If you’re straight and you know it, that's all that matters. Plus, who says that a straight man can't look dapper too?

Now that being said, I think I know where you're going with that question. There is certainly a point when someone can look too polished, too clean, and too meticulous with their clothing. This can potentially give off a sort of non-hetero impression to others, not that there is anything wrong with that. Also, going skinny as opposed to slim, wearing flamboyant colors and patterns, and showing a lot of skin can all contribute to you looking more “metro” as well.

For that reason, if this is very important to you, and you want to maintain a clean, good look while still having no one question your straightness, I’d stick to more classic colors and patterns, wear slim-fitting but not skin tight clothing, and exercise proper skin discretion (not wearing shorts & shirts that are too short). Also, if that's not enough, maybe adapt a more rugged style, wearing more Barbour and Filson, and less Margiela and Rick Owens.

As long as you do those types of things and remain confident, you should be just fine. Also, nothing wrong with people asking if you’re gay because you wear nice clothes, since it might be more of a compliment to your style than anything else. We all know gay men can dress well.

Can I ask what your go-to clothing companies are in terms of fit? I think I have a build similar to yours and I usually can't find very well fitting clothes. - Young

Sure man, not a problem. In terms of pure fit, I do have some companies in mind, though I will say it's not so cut and dry due to possible inconsistencies in fit even within the same brand. Also, I've made a larger habit of altering my clothes recently. I never used to do it before, but now that I know how effective and cost-efficient it is, I try to alter anything that I feel doesn't fit well, regardless of brand.

I would say my best fitting brands would be the following, in price-point order:

1. Ben Sherman

2. Theory

3. Black Fleece

4. Band of Outsiders

5. Thom Browne

Hope that helps!

--

Alright fellas, keep asking away! And as always, stay dapper.

Wish List #3

Mark Kwak

So Christmas is coming soon and people are shopping off the hook. As a result, new and shiny things are starting to catch my eye, and it's no good for my crying wallet. Here's my wish list for December.

Filson Harris Tweed Bag

Twill and Tweed Original Briefcase

Filson is my favorite company for durable men's bags/luggage. They make bullet-proof products that are meant to last, and I mean it. Each of their products employs a lifetime warranty, so once you get one, you're set. Also, remember how I told you all that I have a weakness for tweed in an old blog post? Well, Filson has taken advantage of my weakness and released this sexy Harris Tweed version of their uber popular 257 style bag.

This thing is perfect as a daily commuter bag for those who carry a laptop, books, and other large items on a daily basis. Unfortunately, I already own the original 257 myself, so it would be quite a waste to get the above, although I can't say I wasn't tempted.

Crockett & Jones Highbury

Crockett & Jones Highbury, Black Calf

This shoe is amazing. To me, it embodies exquisite craftsmanship and timeless design, two characteristics that are always welcome in my book.

Also, there's more. Not only is this shoe made by one of my favorite shoemakers, Crockett & Jones, but it was also worn by one of my favorite film icons, James Bond, in the movie Skyfall. I'm not going to say anything more about this shoe because it's out of my price range, and the pain of that reality is lame.

Davek Solo Umbrella

I am currently living in gloomy San Francisco without an umbrella. Crazy? Yes. Stupid? Yes.

After being hit by one too many rain storms this past week, I have made a rather obvious decision to buy myself an umbrella, and no one is better in this business than Davek. Like Filson above, Davek also offers a lifetime warranty on all of their umbrellas. That, to me, is ridiculous since I've personally broken too many umbrellas to keep track. Clearly this indicates that Davek knows what they are doing, so I'm sold. I have quite an itch to get their all-black Davek Solo... too bad it's pretty expensive ($99) for just an umbrella.

Rag & Bone Shawl Collared Cardigan

Okay, so I'm cheating a bit here. I already ordered this one (and it's on its way), so it should technically be out of my wishlist, but I thought I would still put it up here. Recently, Target and Neiman Marcus did a collaboration event where they brought together 24 high-fashion designers (think Thom Browne, Marc Jacobs, and Oscar de la Renta) to create 50 unique holiday items at relatively inexpensive prices. Genius idea. Among all the items, there were only a few targeted towards men, but thankfully, this beautiful cardigan was one of them.

Rag & Bone is actually a company I'm quite a fan of, and I love shawl collared cardigans, so this one was a no-brainer for me. I'll let you know all about it another time, but go and get yourself one if you're in need of a nice sweater for winter.

So there you have it! To all of you who also have Christmas wishlists, let me know what items are on your mind; I'm curious to know!

What am I wearing 11.18.12

Mark Kwak

As many of you may know, SF is a pretty hip city. A year ago, I lived in the Mission District, and found that my attire stuck out like a sore thumb, mainly because I wasn't wearing handmade scarves, cardigans, plaid, handlebar mustaches, and chrome bags. Well today, I needed to go to the Mission to get some drinks with friends, so I thought it would be fun to put a little hipster flare into my outfit. (IE: cardigan, thick rimmed glasses, no socks, cuffed jeans).

Glasses: Warby Parker | Cardigan: Gap (similar) | Shirt: Thom Browne (similar) | Jeans: Levi's

Belt: Tumi | Shoes: Simple (all organic company, just like them hipsters like it)

A couple quick things. First, I always make sure to show a bit of my shirt cuff when it's underneath a sweater. In my opinion, it's just a bit cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing that way. Second, I want to mention again that subtle color coordination can pay off. I coincidentally matched my jeans to the navy trim on my cardigan (on the pockets and the middle of the cardigan) and got some random compliments around that. Who'da thunk?

Also, some people might ask if my glasses are prescription or not. Well, they are indeed prescription glasses, and I am one of those people who is somewhat against wearing glasses purely for the look. If you don't have a prescription, just thank God for your great eyesight, and keep your face bare. No need to hide parts of your face with lens-less glasses or non-prescription nonsense.

Anyhow, till next time fellas, stay fresh.

Wish List #1

Mark Kwak

I don't have an unlimited stream of cash coming out of my faucet, so one of my favorite things to do is create wishlists and drool over things I can't get. That sounds really sad, now that I verbalize it. Here's my recent wishlist, in case you were interested. New Balance 1400 for J. Crew

I think New Balance has a home run on their hands with these J Crew collab sneakers. I'm not much a fan of New Balance, but this shoe changes my opinion drastically. This is one of the few running-inspired sneakers that I would say works well with chinos and a casual button down shirt, not just dry fit shirts and shorts. The suede-like texture gives it a hint of class, but it still remains very casual and "I don't care"-like, which is always good.

Thom Browne Oxford Button Down Shirt

I'm a huge fan of Thom Browne Oxford Cloth Button Down shirts. The size 1 fits my body just right, and the material he uses feels like a million bucks against my skin. I particularly like this shirt's design because green and blue are my favorite colors, and they're crossing each other very creatively, especially on the collar. I'd wear this with a pair of dark wash jeans and maybe a navy trench or peacoat to match the blue on the shirt.

Burberry London Cashmere & Wool Peacoat

I'm in dire need of a peacoat, since I gave away my last one (it was too big on me). It's the ultimate winter coat, and can work with just about any outfit, outside of workout clothes. Since peacoats are classic, and never really go out of style, it's worth spending the extra money on one you love. Burberry is my choice here, and I'm tempted. I think they do the back of this jacket especially well. The belt and vent flap = pure class.

Ermenegildo Zegna Formal Jacket

What a classy jacket. I'm a big fan of Ermenegildo Zegna, and have always loved their suits and jackets. This particular jacket is a favorite of mine due to its unique texture.  It has silk shimmer but still remains quite subtle and classic thanks to the cashmere. Lapels are a nice width and the silhouette is slim... too bad it has an astronomical price tag. Well, there's my envy list for today. If only high fashion didn't cost so much money right? Cheers!

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.