Magnificent Bastard

Tuesday, December 12, 2017



Ask the MB: Millennial Pipe

Churchwarden on the left, Prince on the right
Churchwarden on the left, Prince on the right

I've decided to take up smoking again because, well, I'm a nihilistic millennial, and was wondering if I could get some guidance on pipe smoking. I was set on a Churchwarden's pipe, as it's distinctive but not predictable and overused like a calabash. I feel it meets the principles of archaism, senseless lack of utility and natural materials, but will it look like I'm trying too hard?

Yours Bastardly,
Erik

A: Thank you for smoking! We also appreciate your nihilism; your letter has given us a lot to be hopeful for as the holidays approach and we fret about where the world is heading. But choosing a 12" long pipe is the equivalent of a guy who wears extra-long ties.

As A.A. Milne, the author of Winnie-the-Pooh once observed, "A pipe in the mouth makes it clear that there has been no mistake–you are undoubtedly a man." But a 12" pipe is a signal that you really, really, really want to broadcast that message, and even dull-eyed observers will suspect there is some deficiency informing this effort. Don't short-change yourself in this manner!

Meanwhile, we agree on the Calabash; that is purely Sherlock Holmes costume-wear.

As a much better alternative, we recommend a Prince. While lacking the senseless lack of utility of a Churchwarden, it more than makes up for it with its Anglophilia. According to The Pipe Guys, it was fashioned for Prince Albert who would later ascend to the British throne as King Edward VII, and is also accurately identified by TPG as "simple and understated."

Best of luck on your new vice!

MB Endorses: Free Secret Agent Belts

Left to Right: 300-Year Belt 'Classic' Edition, 300-Year Belt 'High Plains Noir' Edition, Game-Day Belt, Secret Agent Belt
Left to Right: 300-Year Belt 'Classic' Edition, 300-Year Belt 'High Plains Noir' Edition, Game-Day Belt, Secret Agent Belt

Holiday coffee cups just dropped at Starbucks; Pandora suggested Willie Nelson Holiday Radio; Metro Transit attacked Minneapolis railways in the War on Christmas. 'Tis the season, and we're participating by offering a FREE Secret Agent Belt with any purchase of the one of our leather belts:

300-Year Belt — "Classic" Edition (left)
We've been sold out for months while Arizona-based artist Mary Daughtrey carefully crafted dozens more sterling silver buckles. Leather Works Minnesota attached them to thick slabs of water buffalo that exude rugged character, are incredibly durable, and yet surprisingly soft to the touch — sometimes when we start rhapsodizing about these belts, we're not sure if we're talking about them or Clint Eastwood's face. Anyhow, it's fully back in stock. We've worn this belt every day since the first sample in 2014, it's that good. Just 297 years to go.

300-Year Belt — "High Plains Noir" Edition (2nd from left)
The "Classic" was such a hit we made another version in dark brown that we're very excited about and proud of. Get the Eastwood-inspired "High Plains Noir" Edition while they last.

Game Day Belt (2nd from right)
Never miss a game but still content to leave the body paint and giant foam finger to others? This belt all but shouts "football!" — but not in a sloppy, spit-flecked way that breathalyzers can detect at 20 paces. The strap is made from Horween "Tanned in Tack" leather — the same stuff the NFL uses to make its footballs. The buckle resembles a football, but we have it made out of metal, in Italy, to cut down on the chances of Tom Brady deflating it.

Buy any of these and receive a Secret Agent Belt (far right) for FREE, while supplies last.

Free 2-day shipping. Free returns. Always.

MB Endorses: Geox Midweight Windbreaker

MB Endorses: Geox Midweight Windbreaker

It was love at first sight with this white Geox windbreaker, which to our eye looked like a low-key Steve McQueen Le Mans reference, except with 100% less asbestos.

But the starting price of $266 seemed rich, even if it's Italian and comes with Geox's patented "Respira" tech that claims to combine rain and wind resistance with breathability.

Using our price-tracker app — which we are sure hoping to get to beta by the end of the year — we watched with pleasure as the price dropped to $158, $77, and even $66 before recovering to $77, where we purchased a few. Lots still available in all four sizes. Highly recommended for spring 2018 and beyond.

NB: This item runs about 1.5 sizes small. If you are in between, go up two full sizes.

Ask the MB: What Kind of Cane Do You Recommend?

Howell vintage wooden cane with sterling and horn handle
Howell vintage wooden cane with sterling and horn handle

Q: I recently injured my left knee and need to use a cane. The insurance company supplied an ugly blue aluminum number that looks like it came from a drug store. Since it seems that I will need a cane for some time to come, I am thinking of trying to find a plain aluminum one or getting a nice wood cane. What do you think?
—P.T.

A: P.T., if you've read our recent post about peacoats and the wisdom of following MB Principles of Anglophilia, Archaism, and Organic Materials, isn't the answer obvious? You need a vintage wooden cane from England.

More specifically, you need a Howell cane. According to cane aficionado Canequest, the brand was founded by John Howell in London in 1832, and his canes were the shit with it mid-19th century Londoners suffering from knee injuries like yours.

As you might expect, eBay UK is the place to find them. We're so smitten with this £110.00 sterling and horn-handled version we may just pre-purchase in case of an ACL. Get it before we do.

MB Endorses: Wearing a Nametag Even if You're Hosting a Party

MB Endorses: Wearing a Nametag Even if You're Hosting a Party

His image is plastered on every vertical surface in Beijing, yet at his speech at the twice-a-decade national congress, Chinese president Xi Jinping wore a nametag. This might strike some as false modesty, but it strikes us as just plain modesty. The 2nd most powerful man in the world wore a nametag like everyone else.

The 91 year-old and former General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Jiang Zemin remained unimpressed.

Ask the MB: Is the Peacoat a Timeless Classic or Out of Style?

Ask the MB: Is the Peacoat a Timeless Classic or Out of Style?

Q: I recently bought a peacoat - dark navy, well fitted, none of those goofy epaulettes or anything like that. I say it's a timeless classic but my girlfriend says they're out of style. Who's right?
—Peter

A: Peter your GF is so spectacularly wrong we're gravely concerned about any sartorial advice you may have taken from her.

Would Tom Ford be asking $4,950 for his peacoat take if he thought they were out of style?

We're big fans too, because the garment adheres to at least 3 key MB principles:

1. Principle of Anglophilia
It originated in the British Royal Navy.

2. Principle of Archaism
It's been a standard part of the United States Navy uniform since 1881.

3. Principle of Organic Materials
The definitive Naval Clothing Factory peacoat is 100% wool, with corduroy-lined pockets (cotton).

You nailed a few of our peacoat requirements (i.e. navy, flair-less, slim fit), and hopefully our most important one: a Three Days of the Condor Collar. You need to be able to stand it up tall like Redford.

When it comes to peacoat collars, size does matter.

Style blog consensus favors the Billy Reid "Bond" version ($695; pictured upper left), but the anemic collar is in desperate need of growth hormone, and is a disqualifying feature. For others who might be in the peacoat market, first check the local military surplus, and if you're flush consider this gorgeous Maison Margiela option.

Ask the MB: Cycling Sunglasses

Ask the MB: Cycling Sunglasses

Q: Hi MB, your summer might be over but sunlight never spares me here in Singapore. I am looking for sunglasses for cycling to work. Any suggestions?
—Davin

A: We're big fans of Grant Petersen's Just Ride manifesto, which strongly objects to the ubiquitous spandex-infused cycling costume and instead favors "normal" clothing (even woven shirts!) for riding a bicycle*.

While he doesn't specifically address eyewear, we're adding a Just Ride corollary we're sure Petersen would approve of: no matter how long the ride, never wear cycling-specific toolbag sunglasses.

Now that you're perhaps in the market for a pair of regular sunglasses, our all-time favorites are the Allyn Scura Angelo in Light Havana with bottle green lenses. They're simultaneously retro and modern, and work wonderfully for commuting rides, long rides, daydrinking, sitting around, whatever. Highly recommended.

*Does not include winter riding. Please consult our Biking to Work in Arctic Conditions guide for suggestions on how to do this both stylishly and warmly.

Ask the MB: YOOX 8 Shoes

8 Sneakers via YOOX, $89.00
8 Sneakers via YOOX. $89.00.

Q: You've been a big fan of "8" brand clothing over at Yoox, and I agree it's great bang for ze buck. But what do you know about their shoes? Kind of digging these sneakers. Might be hard to pass on for $100.
—Joe

A: While we don't have as much experience with 8 shoes as 8 clothes, yes they seem equivalent in terms of bang for the buck. Two years ago we recommended these 8 Denim Sneakers as an MB Deal of the Week and we'd recommend them all over again if they were still in stock.

As for those joggers, they're now marked down to $89 and you better grab them before we do.

Side note: We've long suspected that 8 was the YOOX in-house brand, and despite a flat-out denial from Omar from Customer Service, we can confirm that 8 is in fact a trademark of YOOX NET-A-PORTER GROUP S.P.A., serial number 79186766.

(This fact should not diminish in the slightest enthusiasm for 8 stuff.)

MB Endorses: Tom Ford Sunglasses

MB Endorses: Tom Ford Sunglasses

Tom Ford will sell you a Prince of Wales slim fit shirt for $655, and a pair of selvedge denim for $680, so it's a treat to discover a way to wear the world's greatest designer on your face for something less than the annual per capita income of Burundi.

Our two favorites from a large collection on Bluefly:

Left: Tom Ford Omar Aviator Sunglasses. $99. (76% off; will expunge lens legibility)

Right: Tom Ford FT0443 Aviator Sunglasses. $189. (57% off)

MB Endorses: Forthcoming MB Price-Tracking App

MB Endorses: Forthcoming MB Price-Tracking App

Part of the reason we haven't been posting much this year — besides chronic laziness, combined with chronic drunkenness — is that we've been working on a price-tracking application we think you're going to really like. You simply post something that interests you, whether it be on Amazon, eBay, YOOX, or thousands of other sites, and when it goes on sale we send you an alert with the new price.

We've been in alpha for a while here at the office, and here are a few things we finally pulled the trigger on, with their price history. Yes, we're really digging sportswear that may make some wonder whether we play sports for money.

Moschino Sweater

(Fits small. Go one size up, and two if you are on the fence. Also check it in red.)

Date Price
7/4/2017 $89.00
6/28/2017 $110.00
6/15/2017 $160.00
5/28/2017 $230.00
Luigi Borelli Napoli Polo Shirt

(Fits true to size.)

Date Price
7/1/2017 $105.00
6/14/2017 $114.00
5/28/2017 $229.00
8 Sweatshirt

(All 8 stuff fits small and this is not exception. Add a size.)

Date Price
6/30/2017 $60.00
6/15/2017 $69.00
5/28/2017 $78.00

We're hoping to have this launch later this summer. Please stay tuned for updates.

The Winner of the 7th-Annual Allyn Scura Eyewear Challenge Is…

The Winner of the 7th-Annual Allyn Scura Eyewear Challenge Is…

Lee Lerner.

Lee was part of the 92% of entrants — too easy this time! — who identified the bespectacled or sunglassified MBs in the 7th Annual Allyn Scura Eyewear Contest.

1. David Mamet
2. Wilt Chamberlain
3. Dennis Hopper
4. John Wayne
5. Elvis Presley
6. Frank Sinatra
7. Jack Nicklaus
8. James Caan
9. Sammy Davis, Jr.

Lee was also part of a much smaller cohort — 12 — who nailed the tiebreaker question. "What do they all have in common?" Answer: they all are (or were) members of the Republican party.

Lee also lucked out as his entry was randomly selected from the 12, as were the two runner ups, who will receive a Magnificent Bastard tie of his/her choice (2nd place) and a Secret Agent Belt (3rd place).

Lee, enjoy your new pair of Allyn Scura frames. We always recommend the famed Legend, or for a less traditional look, the Sergio. Both are terrific and draw positive feedback as either eyewear or sunglasses. Alternatively, you can put your $125 credit towards a pair of Allyn Scura's vintage or reproduction frames, like these ridiculously oversized and equally fun Kala Chateaus, modeled by Elliott Gould in Ocean's 11. It's your choice.

Ask the MB: What if Bonobos and Walmart Get Married?

Dondup near-denim trousers via YOOX, $98.00
Dondup near-denim trousers via YOOX. $98.00.

Q: If the Walmart/Bonobos marriage gets consummated, can you recommend a Bonobos alternative? I refuse to give money to the evil empire.
—Dave

A: Unfortunately, whether this particular marriage gets consummated or not, you are now faced with a grave question: Do you keep hooking up with a brand that (a) has seriously considered the possibility that Walmart would be a good home for it? And even worse is (b), in the eyes of Walmart, a highly desirable acquisition target?

Think of your dilemma as a variant on the old Groucho Marx koan: I don't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.

While we're fans of Bonobos' moleskin jeans, it's otherwise not a brand that holds any special allegiance in our hearts. Mostly, it has always struck us as an attempt to leverage dot-com venture capital into, say, a slightly more colorful James Perse for the masses. In other words, Walmart's attempted acquisition of it seems like a logical and ultimately inevitable endpoint.

Thus, we say why wait until the marriage is officially consummated to start looking elsewhere to fulfill your clothing needs?

Just the fact that the deal has reached due diligence is a strong signal that we're at Peak Bonobos. In another month or so, they may come out with their own version of the RompHim!

Lucky for you, good alternatives abound. Here's a couple Italian brands we've recently discovered on YOOX that we highly recommend:

Myths
We own a bunch of Myths pants and shorts are they're both terrific. Fair warning: You may have to skip leg day every once in awhile in order to get them all the way on. Innovative combinations of fabrics and pocket lining material, and a senselessly-over-engineered-yet-charming 3-button closure system (even on the shorts). Mostly best for 18 holes or a casual workplace. True to size.
Myths 2017 S/S collection.

Dondup
Without a doubt our current favorite trouser maker. Generally dressier and more expensive than Myths — and slightly more forgiving — these are pants you wear to the office with a woven, and so comfortable you keep on while transitioning your top to a knit at home. The only knock on these is a discreet, riveted gothic-font "D" on the rear right pocket (we've tried removing without success). They're modesty-sized; go up one and maybe two inches on the waist.
Dondup 2017 S/S collection

Ask the MB: Sneakerhead?

Puma Suede Classic Sneakers. Don't buy size 13. via Lord and Taylor (!), $64.95
Puma Suede Classic Sneakers. Don't buy size 13. via Lord and Taylor (!). $64.95.

Q: Hi. I like old school Nikes (Jordans), Asics, Adidas and so on. Is it MB to be a sneakerhead? I assumed it wasn't. Am I correct?
—Richard

To paraphrase Craig Finn, certain brands they get so scratched into our souls. And when we really start thinking about it — and we have been, because of your question — we realize that many of the brands that have been scratched into our souls (and, yes, soles) deepest and longest are sneaker brands.

It's possible we were introduced to McDonald's, Mars, Inc., and Coca Cola earlier than we were introduced to Puma, Adidas, Pony, and Converse. These days, however, we go years without a Big Mac, months without a Snickers bar, and sometimes even a week without a Coke. Whereas we believe that there is probably no 72-hour period over the course of our post-toddler lives where we have not worn one of the aforementioned brands for at least a couple hours.

And of course those brands have company in our overall collections — a quick assessment of our three nearest closets nets approximately 140 pairs of sneakers from roughly 30-plus brands, with heavy emphasis on Golden Goose, Tod's, Diemme, and Maison Margiela.

That said, we've never owned a pair of Air Jordans, much less cleaned them with a toothbrush. So are we sneakerheads?

As we understand the term, sneakerheads seem to focus on (a) shoes that NBA superstars and other professional athletes might credibly wear in regulation play, (b) shoes that Captain America might go jogging in, or (c) shoes that Marc Benioff might wear while delivering a keynote address at Dreamforce.

While we can embrace option (a) in limited contexts — we're not going to play tennis in our Maison Margielas — options (b) and (c) don't appeal to us under any scenario. Instead, we stick to vaguely businified sneakers — i.e., sneakers we could wear to work without, as we've said in the past about sweatpants, making our colleagues wonder if we're about to dunk on them.

In the end, we think the best way to express our thoughts on this is a Venn diagram:

MB Contest: 7th Annual Allyn Scura Eyewear Challenge

MB Contest: 7th Annual Allyn Scura Eyewear Challenge

Welcome to the 7th Kind-of-Annual Allyn Scura Eyewear Challenge, sponsored by our all-time favorite eyewear and sunglass outfitter, Allyn Scura.

THE CHALLENGE: Identify the nine bespectacled or sunglassified MBs above and you will be entered to win a pair of Allyn Scura frames ($175 value) or a $125 credit you can apply toward any vintage frames Allyn Scura carries. It's up to you. And same as last year, we're adding a couple of MB sweeteners. The runner up gets a Magnificent Bastard tie of his/her choice and 3rd place gets a Secret Agent Belt.

To enter simply fill out the form located here with the names of the men pictured, and, in the event of a tie, what they all have in common. One entry per person. USA only. Good luck. The deadline for this contest is Wednesday, May 31 at midnight CDT.

Ask the MB: Paul Weller's Glasses

Ask the MB: Paul Weller's Glasses

Q: What make/model of sunglasses has Paul Weller been wearing for the last 20+ years? Gold / single wing in gold across the top / rimless brown lenses. Seemed to be wearing them from mid '80s onward. Maddening....
—Andy

A: Andy, we asked our eyewear expert about these frames and he's confident Weller's glasses are a 1960s frame by Amor.

What's unique about these frames is they use a double-stick adhesive strip to mount the lens to the top rim. We're not making this up: the lenses are literally taped to the frame, using 1960s-era adhesive technology.

Which may account for their relative rarity today and also Weller's enduring allegiance to them. Fragile attachments often exert a strong psychic pull on us.

Anyway, you probably want to know how realistic it is to get your hands on a pair if you're not a fastidious rockstar with a well-cultivated and sufficiently capitalized sense of style.

Well, you're in luck. Not only does our eyewear expert Allyn Scura have a pair of the frames in stock — he also believes he's found the supplier of that double-stick adhesive tape. Send a note to info@allynscura.com if you're interested in a pair.

And speaking of Allyn — we haven't been doing our annual Allyn Scura Eyewear Contest for quite as long as Paul Weller has been wearing his Amor sunglasses, but we're just as attached to it. Next week, we'll be launching our 8th edition of the Contest. As always, the winner will get a pair of Allyn Scura frames (or credit towards a vintage pair). And there will be a bunch of MB goodies for the runners up. Please check back and enter to win.

PICTURED: Paul Weller reading George Orwell's 1984 in what looks like a Martini Racing watch strap. We have that strap (plus two others of your choosing!) available on a wallet in brown, black, and tan.

Ask the MB: Belstaff H Racer Jacket

Ask the MB: Belstaff H Racer Jacket

Q: I've my eyes on the Black Racer Jacket from Belstaff that you featured in your makeover header from a few years back. Is this jacket still MB recommended? I've found one for a pretty good price and in good condition on eBay and I'm considering whether to go for it.
—Conor

A: When Google's self-driving clown cars are established as the only vehicles that can legally operate on our roads, the Belstaff H Racer may seem a little superfluous. But we predict that that's going to take a good five years. Until then, we endorse the H Racer, albeit with one caveat:

As we alluded when we first posted about Belstaff jackets in 2009, human beings are not quite as timeless as a streamlined leather jacket.

If you're under 45, wear the H Racer as you please.

Once you pass 45, certain conditions apply. In a nutshell, the skinnier you are, the longer you can wear an H Racer without looking like you're trying to recapture your lost youth in the wake of your third divorce.

More specifically, if you have a BMI of 21-23, you can the H Racer until you're 50.

If you have a BMI of 20-21, you can wear it until you're 55.

If you have a BMI of 19 or lower, you can wear it forever.

Ask the MB: Dad's Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M

Ask the MB: Dad's Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M

Q: My father passed away recently, and I've inherited his Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M Skyfall. I'll be wearing it either way, but I just wanted to get your opinion: Is this watch suitably MB?
—Matt

A: Whether it's a strong backhand, a weakness for good bourbon, or a slightly oversized limited-edition timepiece, we are big believers in honoring the entire catalog of what a father bestows upon his son(s).

To our coolly dispassionate eye, your watch is 2mm too wide, and we give the "007" on the dial a 4 out of 10.

On the plus side, the Seamaster is built like a waterproof tank, it has a rich pedigree, and yours is part of a sold-out limited edition of just 5007.

Our verdict: Even if that Seamaster was passed down to us from our least-favorite uncle, we'd probably keep it and wear at least as often as we crossed paths with Aunt Miriam.

But yours is from your dad, and that's a whole different enchilada.

That you've already committed to wearing it regardless of what a somewhat unreliable website has to say about the matter suggests your pop gave you far greater gifts than a highly collectible watch. But the watch now exists as an immediate, highly tangible, and appropriately symbolic totem of your dad, your bond with him, and the way we mortals push back against the inescapable march of time with love, loyalty, and fantastically precise Swiss movements. And all of that is MB as heck.

We extend our sincere condolences for your loss, and are veering from our usual MB nightcap to raise a martini, shaken, not stirred, in honor of your dad.

WINNERS! The "Holy Fucking Shit! Donald Trump is President" Contest

WINNERS! The

We combined our latest sale — two Made in USA ties for $60; use code BUYAMERICAN at checkout — with our latest contest: Identify the 13 people/rodent labeled in the banner ad and win free stuff.

First, the correct answers:

1. Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock in the original Star Trek
2. Kim Kardashian
3. Will Ferrell as Buddy in Elf
4. Queen Elizabeth II
5. Clint Eastwood as Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino
6. Janet Leigh as Marion Crane in Psycho
7. Jeff Bridges as The Dude in The Big Lebowski
8. Richard Simmons
9. Dramatic Chipmunk
10. George W. Bush
11. Katy Perry
12. Will Smith as Will Smith on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
13. Hillary Clinton

We needed to make this more difficult as most entries scored a 100%. Just about all of the failed entries were the result of identifying the Dramatic Chipmunk as a squirrel.

Anyhow, we ran the perfect scores through random.org and the winners are:

1st Place: Gregory Miller — A MB University tie
2nd Place: Conor Deegan — A Minimum Viable Wallet
3rd Place: Patrick Franz — A Baker's Dozen Letterpress Beverage Shields

Thanks to everyone for playing. In April we'll run the 7th-Annual Allyn Scura Eyewear Contest where you can win a great pair of sunglasses or eyeglasses, and MB will be sure to throw in some goodies, too. Stay tuned.

Ask the MB: Minimum Viable Wallet

Ask the MB: Minimum Viable Wallet

Q: Love the site. Sorry don't have a burning menswear question other than, I was wondering, how many cards fit in the wallet you current stock? I like the look, but need to carry 2 credits and some other flat cards (library, insurance, metro) and am wondering if they'll all fit.
—AJL

AJL, as much as we'd like to sell another Minimum Viable Wallet — available in Horween Chromexcel Black, Horween Chromexcel Brown, and Horween Latigo Tan — we cannot ensure its viability under the conditions you describe.

The Minimum Viable Wallet doesn't just boast a simple construction. It demands a simple life. While it can fit five cards, or even ten if, paradoxically, you have great patience and a lot of credit card debt, we designed it to work best with just three cards. It's a bit of choice architecture that keeps us judicious about what we really need in life — our driver's license, our Coutts World Silk Card, and of course our Trump Card.

Those three cards plus a wad of cash keeps us prepared but nimble. While we admire your commitment to intellectual development (library card) and urban sustainability (metro), the honest unvarnished truth is that because we optimized the MVW for the three cards we use, each additional card you add to the equation becomes infinitesimally more difficult to remove and insert. And we didn't create this wallet to make life more complicated — we created it to make life simpler!

If you ever decide to give up reading, planning for the worst, and one of your credit cards, let us know. Only then will we be able to sell you an MVW in good conscience.

Ask the MB: Are Square-Toed Shoes Back in Style Now?

Ask the MB: Are Square-Toed Shoes Back in Style Now?

Q: It's been awhile since you guys have talked about classic black shoes to go with any classic suit. Do you guys still subscribe to the semi-rounded Kenneth Cole oxford, or has a decade brought the square toe back?
—Jordan

A: As you imply, it's been nearly a decade since we last addressed this issue. Specifically, in 2008 we created a Shoe Toe Pointiness Chart. While the shoes we were wearing then are long gone, the advice we dispensed remains sound. Indeed, whenever we are moved to produce a chart, it's usually because we are expressing a law that is based in some timeless geometric or mathematical principle of style. Just as gravity persists, so does the aesthetic appeal of a semi-rounded shoe.

Now to the second half of your question: Just because we're right about the correct shape of an oxford doesn't mean society always shares our opinion. And square-toed shoes have been so out of favor, so long, that in an era that celebrates nostalgic reappropriation and contrarianism, they seem like a shoe-in for a renaissance. And yet we still suspect the odds of that happening are only slightly higher than Tiger Woods winning another major anytime soon.


Kenneth Cole's "Bro-Tenial Leather Oxford"

Why? Frankly, we can't recall exactly why square-toed oxfords had their moment in the 1990s in the first place, but our off-the-cuff hypothesis is that their gimmicky novelty was the source of their appeal. Most shoes were rounded or pointed — so square-toed shoes, and by extension, their wearers — were mavericks! Rebels, Macarena-ing to the beat of a different drummer.

But here's the thing: Who wants to present himself as a guy who thinks his best strategy involves steering as much attention as he can to his feet?

Even Kenneth Cole, who pioneered the square-toed vogue, eventually abandoned ship. His site currently shows 280 shoe styles, and only about six — or 2% — qualify as square-toed. And even they are mostly denatured and relatively streamlined descendents of the ubiquitous right-angled clunkers of Cole's heyday, the New York Oxford. Perhaps the one exception is Cole's "Bro-Tential Leather Oxford," which is exactly as awful as its name warns and unsurprisingly marked down from $118 to $79.

Ask the MB: Blazer Lapel Width Too Wide?

Ask the MB: Blazer Lapel Width Too Wide?

Q: I love your site and have been a reader for a while, but I don't think you have explicitly commented on this:

I know you like jacket lapel widths to be 3 1/8" or greater, but what is too wide (for 2017)? I recently purchased a great Lab. Pal Zileri jacket from YOOX and the lapels are pushing 3.5" inches. I wear a size 40 jacket, so the lapels end about half way between my collar and my shoulder.
—Ben

A: As you suggest, our ideal lapel width is 3⅛ inches. If a jacket has lapels that are thinner than that, we're unforgiving: It must be released back to the wild. But if lapels come in a little wider than our ideal, we're more accommodating. The reason? Tom Ford expressed the principle that guides our thinking:

"There is something a bit meager and uptight about a skinny tie and jacket...I think that accentuating the natural V of a man's body makes men look more masculine, less boyish, and in general more powerful."

So exactly how much wider should you consider going?

That depends on how long you'd like to keep wearing the jacket in question. For us, 3⅛" is the golden mean that looks great in perpetuity. As our chart below shows, any deviation from that value, however small, decreases a garment's potential lifespan and puts its wearer at increased risk of future embarrassment and even shame.

At 3.5 inches, your jacket will continue to look good at least through 2025, and should not look violently out of fashion for far longer — provided, of course, Trump aide Stephen Miller does not stage a coup.

EARLIER: The great tie and lapel width debate: Band of Outsiders' Scott Sternberg vs. Tom Ford

Ask the MB: Donald Trump's Tie Length

Ask the MB: Donald Trump's Tie Length

Q: I'm a big fan of the site and your store. Keep up the good work.

I would like to hear your thoughts on Trump's cartoonishly-long ties, especially at the inauguration. This is somewhat common for him although he's not consistent, as he will often wear them at an appropriate length. Given his obsession with his image, what messages is he trying to convey with the stupidly long ties? You wrote about this back in 2011 and it'd be great to have an updated analysis. Thanks.
—Andrew

A: Back in 2011 we chalked Trump's excessive tie length up to an attempt to look boyish, like a kid trying on his father's suit.

Now that he's 70, and his face looks like an older, oranger slab of ancient Moab slickrock, we're pivoting from that analysis towards an explanation that's far simpler: obesity.

As Donald Trump loses the battle with his own personal borders and grows squarer and squarer, his long red tie must bear the increasingly heavy burden of creating an illusion of verticality. Note how a tie tied to MB-recommended lengths makes him look even wider.

While Trump's "tiet" is a visually sound tactic, it's risky from an engineering perspective: Trump's ties are now so long they're architecturally precarious.

To increase the load-bearing capacity of his neckwear, Trump uses Scotch tape as a kind of sartorial rebar. But how long before such stopgap measures end in catastrophe? President Trump, your ridiculously long ties need stronger reinforcement. It's time to put some of your beloved steelworkers back to work!

A Sale! And a Contest! At the Same Time!

A Sale! And a Contest! At the Same Time!

2017 is off to a roaring start, and let's face it, no one's exactly sure if we'll make it to 2018. Or even March. So we're speeding up the pace here. Instead of having a sale now, and then somewhere down the line, when we get bored again, a contest, we're having a sale and a contest!


SALE

The terms of the sale are explained in the banner ad at the top of our site: 2 Made in the USA ties for $60. 4 for $120. Use code BUYAMERICAN at checkout.

Shop Ties Now!


CONTEST

The contest is simple too: Accurately identify the 13 people (and rodent) labeled in the banner ad and you're entered to win free stuff via a random drawing:

1st place: An MB University Tie
2nd place: A Minimum Viable Wallet (MVW) of your choice
3rd place: A baker's dozen Letterpress Beverage Shields

Here's the link to the contest entry. [THIS CONTEST IS OVER BUT STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT ONE.]

As a sort of prayer to the universe, we're accepting entries until March 7th, because we're hoping the USA survives at least through the Super Bowl and the first episode of Season 5 of The Americans. Good luck to us all!

Ask the MB: Sean Spicer's Style

Ask the MB: Sean Spicer's Style

Q: How awesome is our new press secretary's sense of style?
—Dave

A: Dave, we appreciate the hanging curveball. And yet... we're not quite ready to fire Sean Spicer. Why? Adaptability.

Yes, Donald Trump's new spokesman looks like a high-school wrestling coach crossed with a fire hydrant. Supergirl appears to tower over him, as does everyone else.) Plus, he's carrying at least 30 extra pounds, a combination that makes him resemble a slab of precast concrete. Clone him half a dozen times, and his boss's border wall would be nearly complete.

But while Spicer kicked off his career as Donald Trump's squattest spokesmodel ever with a meme-starting, career-threatening performance, we've also seen him make significant improvement in just one week. In light of this, we're withholding final judgment for now, and in the spirit of bipartisan style guidance, holding him up as an object lesson for all to learn from.

Let's break it down to date.


Day 0: Possibly the last man on earth who should be wearing a spread collar wore one. Then he paired it incorrectly with a four-in-hand knot and a jacket that engulfed him even more thoroughly than the XXL podium. If Spicer was trying to set the bar low, he succeeded. And yet even with this disastrous start there was a point of light: No stupid flag pin, or those other ugly lapel pins that Team Trump uses to indicate who shall be spared when the Purge begins.



Day 1: The ridiculously huge jacket gape is gone but the lapels are too narrow for his body shape and his tie. (Lapels and ties need to echo each other.) The spread collar has been replaced with something resembling a point. It's nothing we'd ever wear, but at least he now looks he could hold down the weekend anchor spot in a mid-sized market.



Day 2: He's starting to pull it together. Lapels and tie roughly match, and both are in a weight that matches his age and body type. Point collar + four-in-hand is proper. Okay, wait a second ... one step forward, and three steps back. The .50 caliber wedding ring is bad enough, and then a fucking jelly bean bracelet? We know it says "Dad" on it. But we're still assuming this is some kind of Fancy Bear hack and thus won't hold Mr. Spicer totally accountable.



Day 3: More of the same from Day 2. But the jacket fits and the proportions make sense.

For now, at least, we'll give him a two-fisted finger gun for effort and improvement.

Ask the MB: Corporate Shirt Buttoning Policy

Ask the MB: Corporate Shirt Buttoning Policy

Q: Shirt buttoning policy was recently discussed at our corporate board meeting. I advocated for the MB endorsed n-2 formula (for men), but to no avail. While most agreed with the concept, the fatal flaw was chest hair, the exposure of which was seen as ungentlemanly in the workplace. We could not craft policy allowing n-2 sans chest hair, without exposing ourselves to discrimination suits from hirsute men, so we settled on the formula x ≤ n-1. Your thoughts?
—Todd

A: Todd, while we admire your shaping corporate dress code policy based on MB-endorsed looks, we fear there might be some confusion: our n-2 formula relates strictly to knitwear; i.e. polo shirts.

Unless you work on the floor at Best Buy or for support at SmartTech this likely doesn't apply.

For wovens, which expose ~100% more chest at n-2 than most knits, n-2 is inappropriate for a professional setting and can easily devolve into Guido territory, even without the gold chain and chest hair.

In other words, we endorse the formula you settled on, with the caveat that if x is in fact 0 a tie should be part of the equation. So break out the 18-year-old Scotch and increase your cash retainers! Your board make the right call!

Ask the MB: Untuckit Sport Shirts

Ask the MB: Untuckit Sport Shirts

Q: Do you agree Untuckit shirts are the equivalent of the Sansabelt pants? The new shirt company seems to be spending an enormous amount on advertising this silly idea.
—Dave

A: We think you're giving Untuckit too much credit. Sansabelt's innovation was to eliminate the need for a belt by elasticizing waistbands, thus disrupting dressing by automating pant tightening and putting an entire accessory category on the endangered species list. To match Sansabelt's achievement, a company would need to engineer a similar sartorial breakthrough, like combining socks with shoes or boxers with pants.

All Untuckit did was circumcise sport shirts.

That's not to dismiss Untuckit's value in the marketplace. Despite our long-standing admonishments against the practice, some guys cannot resist the urge to expose their hemlines. Any technology that spares them from looking like Obama throwing out a ceremonial first pitch qualifies as progress.

MB Endorses: Woolrich White Label Quilted Mill Shirt Jacket

Woolrich White Label Quilted Mill Shirt Jacket via Sundance, $117.49
Woolrich White Label Quilted Mill Shirt Jacket via Sundance. $117.49.

A clear sign that plaid is comfortably post-peak enough to start wearing again? Robert Redford, purveyor of the Sundance Catalog, is practically giving you the shirt off his back in the wake of this holiday season, with a 50 percent additional discount on a garment already marked down from $295 to $234.99. Price in the cart: $117 and change.

A few years ago, we started chopping down trees to fuel our living-room hearth while enjoying our nightly Magnificent Bastard cocktail. This year, we've both upped our drinking and made a pledge to go beyond aesthetic fires to actual home-heating. Our goal is to cut our monthly electric bill so drastically at least one coal-miner will be forced into early retirement.

That means we're doing more felling and bucking than ever. So while we already own one Quilted Mill Shirt Jacket, it's time for another. Especially since Mr. Redford is currently dispensing them on such favorable terms we half-suspect we're being set up for some con. But all that Bulleit and Laphroaig is making us reckless so we're clicking the "Add to Bag" button. Let's just hope the only sting involved here, is the sting we'll be taking out of those cold January afternoons when we're wearing our new shirt jacket and splitting and stacking the day's bounty.

NB: Woolrich is sized large. If you are in between sizes order one down.

MB Deal of the Week: Todd Snyder Shearling Topcoat in Camel

Todd Snyder Shearling Topcoat via Todd Snyder, $1999.00
Todd Snyder Shearling Topcoat via Todd Snyder. $1999.00.

The 20 percent discount on this Todd Snyder topcoat may not seem like much of a deal by 2017 standards. But winter is coming — meteorologically and metaphorically. And we love the way this coat looks cozy enough for, say, a young Shelly Winters to sprawl on, while maintaining a cosmopolitan sleekness that will look right at home on the streets of Manhattan during the next polar vortex. Regularly $2598, now $1999 — the perfect price to usher in the year ahead!

Ask the MB: Tie Belts

Ask the MB: Tie Belts

Q: As a longtime reader of MB I was surprised to see you recommend wearing a tie around your waist to accessorize. Seems to me that's veering pretty close to trying to hard. I mean, you really think this is a good look? Take a look.
—Charles

A: Charles, we concur that wearing a full-figured tie as a belt is TTH. And if you think spread collars and the requisite Windsor knot worn around your neck makes your face look fatter, guess what it does to your ass if you wear a Windsor around your waist!

Our recommendation, on the other hand, was Joseph Kandell, who was laid off as a Barney's skinny tie, but then upskilled in NYC with D-rings and an Italian leather tab.

We're not saying this look is for everyone — our product copy states that "we figure maybe one in a thousand can wear these things successfully" — but given the right event and otherwise quiet dress, this accessory wins.

Earlier: Joseph Kandell's LinkedIn Profile

Ask the MB: Rabbit Fur-Lined Gloves

Ask the MB: Rabbit Fur-Lined Gloves

Q: I have my eye on a pair of those rabbit fur-lined gloves you endorse as an xmas gift to myself. I know it might not be totally MB to care about how the rabbit fur gets inside, but I've seen a couple of PETA rabbit fur videos and don't want any part of them if they're made using that technique. Please tell me they're free-range rabbits and are only used for glove lining after they die of natural causes.
—Ben

A: Ben, would you like us to tell you that there's a Santa Claus too?

Sorry, we can't sugarcoat it. But at least the answer we can give you is not as awful as what you might be expecting after watching those videos, which document what PETA saw at some angora rabbit farms in China. Here's what Fratelli Orsini told us when we asked about the source of the rabbit fur they use in the gloves:

The shell of the glove is Italian lambskin and the rabbit fur comes from either France or Belgium where rabbits are used as a food source and therefore the pelts are used for gloves and other garments.

In other words, if you're okay with wearing a leather belt that comes from a farm-raised cow that ended up as a hamburger, you might find the gloves acceptable too. If not, you will have to continue your quest for free-range fur. If you choose that course, let us know how it goes.

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