Not sure if you should wear that Tommy Bahama shirt out tonight? The magnificent bastard is here to help. Go ahead. Ask away.
About this time last year Esquire ran a terrific little piece on top designer Michael Bastian, and how he couldn't afford his own clothes due to an expensive relationship with launch partner Brunello Cucinelli.
We speculated at the time that Bastian was shopping at J. Crew.
By going out on his own it was thought Bastian could lower his prices by 20%, but in fact it seems prices for his clothes have increased by about that much. Just in at thecorner.com:
* $810 for a Western shirt
* $2,915 for a blazer
* $360 for a pair of shorts
* $225 for a tank top
* $1,800 for a cashmere sweater with a ridiculous logo
That cashmere sweater (pictured) has us interested in the emerging field of Designer Algebra. In the Michael Bastian equation, a grey cashmere v-neck sweater is $300. Suede elbow patches are a buck seventy-five. The felt appliqué is 50¢. Put them together and it adds up to $1,800.
Q: Just saw on J.Crew's website that J.Crew has teamed with Tourneau to create a watch by former watch makers Mougin & Piquard. I think it would be a great watch to add to the collection. What's your opinion on how MB it is and is it worth the $425 price tag?
A: Normally we're in favor of watches made by defunct Swiss manufacturers that require a pronunciation guide — it's pronounced mooj-awe and peek-are — but this watch is a definite pass. It's ironic that J.Crew is resurrecting a brand that was killed off by the quartz movement craze of the '70s, yet with Tourneau's help fits this watch with a quartz movement!
We've said it before, but quartz vs. a mechanical movement is the equivalent of motorboats vs. sailboats, or gas fireplaces vs. wood fireplaces, or fake breasts vs. real breasts. It's a corollary to the long-standing MB principle of organic materials. For around $300 you can get a decent Swiss-made military-inspired mechanical watch and save enough money to buy a cord of firewood.
ELSEWHERE: The "quartz crisis" that laid waste to Mougin & Picard and many other Swiss mechanical watch manufacuters.
Q: Oh oracle of basterdom, could you give us a rundown on what the ex-toolbag in the header is wearing?
A: The toolbag has transformed from camo cargo shorts, a waffle-knit Florida State long-sleeve T, a royal blue windbreaker, and running shoes (see a picture of the poor guy) into:
Shirt: Levis. $100.
Tie: Mountain and Sackett. $59.
Jacket: Belstaff 'The Racer'. $450.
Pants: J. Crew vintage slim (wheat). $98.
Shoes: Allen-Edmonds McAllister. $325.
Watch: Timex Vintage Field Army. $150.
Belt: Stylist's own
Which reminds us, the header promotion sponsored by LKc Style — three hours of personalized online style consulting, including a free shirt from Read's Clothing Project for $150 — ends when we turn Miss August into recycling and say hello to Miss September.
Read just received a new shipment of nice-looking shirts (we've already ordered the Jake Madras), and at a $98 retail you're getting the style consulting for 52 bucks. If we didn't already strongly resemble the "After" shot — yes, we raided our own wardrobe for the shoot — we'd seriously consider this deal.
There are more than 75,000 nerve endings in your feet, a fact many sock-makers don't pay proper attention to. We've tried everything. Paul Smith, Happy Socks, Brioni, BOSS, Etro, Corgi, Ecco, Caufield Preparatory, Obey, Thomas Pink. You name it, we've tried it. If price is no object then hands down Nudie Jeans makes our favorite socks. Yeah, even better than Paul Smith or current J.Crew favorite Corgi. They're made in Nudie's homeland of Sweden and are stylish, soft, thick, don't pill, and are worth every krona.
However, if you can't or don't want to spend $25 on a pair of socks we believe we've discovered big value from the nearly 200 year-old Scottish brand Pringle. Asos.com, which has lately been claiming an increasingly large portion of the brainpower we devote to staring at endless arrays of miniaturized backpacks and outerwear, sells 3-packs of Pringle argyle socks* in either cotton or bamboo — apologies to the pandas for wearing your lunch on our feet — for right around 15 bucks. At only $5 or $6 a pair, we've decided to fill up a whole drawer with them.
*Two of the three pair are argyle. The other one is solid color.
Q: I met a man at a party and he was impeccably dressed in a charcoal suit and black tie. We have been seeing each other and he dresses very well; however, he has let it slip that he wears a Tommy Bahama watch and thinks that J. Crew floral shirts are acceptable "during vacations." Should I give him the benefit of the doubt, or kick him to the curb? Thanks for the help.
A: Katelin, the Tommy Bahama watch is definitely a red flag but you could fix that problem by buying him a watch for Christmas. There are still 4 days left. Regarding the floral shirt, they're OK during vacations in Hawaii.
So he's warm. And remember, as Tom Brady clearly demonstrates, many MBs are made, not born. We say give him the benefit of the doubt. If you look at our graph of the American male below, the vast majority need work and with your help, this guy sounds like he could be on the verge of breaking through.
Q: You recently recommended the J.Crew Aldridge suit, but the Ludlow has a trimmer fit. Wouldn't that be more MB? I'm planning on a charcoal suit for my slightly casual wedding.
A: Yes, the Ludlow (lower right) has a trimmer fit, plus a shorter cut and narrower lapels, which is why we recommended the Aldridge (lower left) as that aspiring MB's first suit. It's the same reason we recommend it over the Ludlow for your wedding.
The Ludlow's overly narrow lapel is looking post-peak to our eyes, and for an event that's forever preserved for posterity -- more pictures will be taken of you on this day than that time you passed out on the sofa and your buddies drew shit all over your face with Sharpies -- you want a look that's as timeless as possible. That means lapels approximating the width of those on Cary Grant's suit in North by Northwest, which have style, yet are virtually devoid of trend.
We recommend buttoning up for the ceremony
Q: I have to attend a viewing/funeral with my girlfriend for someone I don't know. It's Saturday and I am in college so I don't have much time to plan. What would the MB recommend for an aspiring MB?
A: Matthew, use this stranger's death as an opportunity to prepare for the next phase of your life: get into a four-season charcoal gray suit. Besides rocking the funeral, it will serve you nicely for forthcoming interviews, peers' weddings, and just about any other occasion that calls for a suit.
With the deadline just two days away, online and custom are clearly not options, which can be a good thing since they sometimes cause anxiety due to The Paradox of Choice.
Two acceptable suits available at popular offline stores are the oft-recommended J. Crew Aldridge, or, of you're a bigger guy or prefer a more traditional cut, BR's version which is $80 cheaper. Either way, just be sure to stay clear of Men's Wearhouse.
via J. Crew. $85.00.
Q: What's your take on those half zip sweaters with the collars that kind of stand up, like the J. Crew version? Is this akin to popping a collar? Or, is this acceptable collar territory?
A: We hate these sweaters. But it's got nothing to do with collar popping and everything to do with them being stuck in a stylistic no man's land between Mark Zuckerbergian fleece outerwear and a regular sweater, much like capri pants are stuck between pants and shorts, or a mock turtleneck is stuck between a turtleneck and a t-shirt. In fact, if you zip one of these up and throw a blazer over it, you're in Van Gundy Rule territory. Avoid.
via shopbop.com. $121.00.
Q: For an Irish-themed wedding, is it all right to wear a black mini dress? Or is a floral longer dress more appropriate?
A: Hon, this is a question best left to Spectacular Bitch, but as SBs are wont to do, they're making us wait.
Anyhow, the answer is "neither." Even if the longer dress was made with printed shamrocks, flowers are best when used in combination with vases. And while we strongly endorse black mini dresses, they're for the club, not a wedding. Instead, wear something that hits right around the knee, like this silk "Lorelei" dress (but go ahead and get the mini dress too).
For Fall 2010. Yet not quite right. Above the elbow is correct, but these rolls are too precisely turned and considered. In an acronym, TTH.
Not quite there, J. Crew
Q: I have a couple of polo shirts that have gotten lines in the collars from lots of wear. I iron them, but it doesn't seem to remove the whole line. Is there any way remove/prevent this from happening?
A: Tom, do you realize J. Crew has an entire division of fabric engineers dedicated to creating ersatz collar lines, and they still have not duplicated what you've achieved naturally via hundreds of wash cycles? Accept and embrace these lines, and most importantly, like tax returns, leave all ironing to professionals.
(Take an extra 20% off Final Sale with code Extra20)
via J. Crew. $150.00.
Q: When (if ever) is it acceptable to wear boots during summer? I'm getting tired of sneakers and flip flops already and it's only May. By the way, I live in Atlanta so it's damn near 100 degrees already with humidity through the roof. Boots just seem like TTH in the summer...what's the ruling?
A: You've heard of desert boots, no? In the desert, it's always summer, at least when it isn't freezing. What we're saying is, sure, wear boots. Nothing higher than your ankle, and nothing an Eskimo would consider practical. Not long ago, we told our readers to stick with the classic desert boots -- Clarks. They're the boots that British officers wore in WWII while fighting tank battles with Rommel in the North African desert in June of 1942. The action was so hot there that the battle was dubbed "the Cauldron." But let's face it -- taking Panzer fire from Nazis in the dry wastelands of Libya in mid-summer is one thing, but Atlanta humidity is another thing entirely. So if you're looking for something a little lighter than suede, try these J. Crew MacAlister boots, which approximate the look of the Clarks originals but are constructed out of cotton twill.
Q: The Chino Ludlow Sportcoat from J. Crew is currently on sale for an appealing $78.00 with the use of the coupon code EXTRA20. Just saying...
It's only late April and J. Crew is already having its spring clearance sale? Call this one more reason we love climate change. We wish the lapels were 9/16" wider for long-term ownership, but at this price it will do fine for S/S 2010.
J. Crew suit / Alexander West gingham
Q: This J. Crew cotton suit.
Can I wear that with a blue gingham shirt, or are the subtle stripes going to give me problems? Also, brown loafers and a gray flannel tie.
A: Yes you can. Just make sure the check on the gingham is 3/16" at an absolute minumum, and even a little bigger would be better to further quiet the suit's stripes. The shirt is the star of this show. Save the flannel tie for pairing with a fine-whale corduroy suit this fall. Instead try a gray knit or linen-cotton blend; either will provide the texture you're looking for.
Q: Love the gingham and the reviews on the custom shirt-makers. Anywhere else to get a nice gingham shirt for under custom prices?
A: This season J. Crew doubled down on gingham shirts, with loads of casual options to choose from for $59.50. And nice. For $25 more -- still less than typical custom shirt prices -- we definitely recommend looking at the Deo Veritas gingham (pictured). It's custom made to your measurements and collar/cuff/pocket/placket specifications, and by choosing the sewn (vs. fused) collar you're getting a dress shirt that can moonlight as a first-rate casual shirt.
Ed. note: For gingham enthusiasts with thicker wallets than Mark, check out Alexander West (and see our review, too). No fewer than 18 different ginghams to choose from, and if you ask nicely, CEO/founder Alex Yoo will make your shirt with a sewn collar, and you can choose the thickness of the interlining.
via J. Crew. $55.00.
Q: Is gingham acceptable outside of spring/summer? If not, is there an equally awesome winter-based pattern?
A: This answer is definitely not by the book, but we endorse all manner of gingham year-round, partly because it is so awesome. It takes a certain attitude and confidence to pull it off, but the rewards are great. If the idea of wearing a large-check purple gingham shirt in the middle of January -- even under a cashmere sweater -- sounds a bit too adventurous, you can take a safer path and seasonalize it by choosing black and navy and brown for fall/winter (J.Crew is showing some cool washed options), and save the pink and red and yellow versions until you see the first robin (that usually happens in early April here in Wisconsin).
via J.Crew. $19.99.
OK, we know you don't normally read MB to be recommended a shirt from J. Crew. But we just got a shipment of these and we wish we'd bought more. This slubby, slightly off-kilter polo embodies artful dishevelment, and it's the rare shirt you can wear for 18 holes in the afternoon, then throw on a pair of denim and hit the bars at night (hopefully with a shower in between). We can just about guarantee you'll love it. On sale for just $19.99 a pop. Final sale. No returns. Fit is true to size.
(For collar-buttoning advice, see our polo shirt buttoning policy.)
Q: I am graduating from college this semester and it puts me in the predicament of being both extremely broke and in need of a decent suit for interviews. What can a poor bastard do to pull off both conservative and MB on a budget?
A: We're not saying we've been there, but we feel your pain. And we're going to give you our usual response: choose a two-button charcoal grey suit in either wool or cotton. You can wear it all four seasons, and to weddings and funerals, too. Unfortunately, finding a stylish, affordable grey suit isn't easy. First, check YOOX for something in your size. If that fails, we're really impressed with what J. Crew is offering. $540 is certainly more than you probably want to spend, but this is a suit you can wear for the next 10 years, at least.
UPDATE: From reader Pete we get word that J. Crew offers a 15% discount of full-price clothing, including suits.
via J.Crew. $150.00.
Q: I have a problem. It's called small wrists. 40mm watches are too big, but 30-36mm are good. Everything you've suggested so far (Westcoastime, etc...) have watches that are way too big for me. Can you suggest something smaller for us skinnier folk? And under $400?
A: To be clear, the gem of a watch we recently recommended from Westcoastime is 39mm and we bet would look fine on your wrist. But if that's still too big, J.Crew is selling a Timex military-inspired 36mm watch that passes muster and is just $150.
Q: I've been looking for a new fall/winter coat. I really like this coat from J. Crew, but I wanted your opinion. It's the J. Crew Sutherland herringbone topcoat.
A: Great silhouette. Nice price. Model has collar properly turned up. We endorse this purchase, Matt, but only if you are > 6' 0" and fairly svelte. Otherwise you may be headed into herringbone bathrobe territory.
Q: I will be in Hawaii for a week for the first time in some time. My wardrobe has few to nil summer or warm weather components. To ensure a great vacation free of ransom-worthy toolbag photos, can you provide some recommendations for me so I can snatch up some MB-worthy clothes for the island sun?
You mean you don't want to look like this guy? Good move, indeed. Even though MB.com lukewarmly sanctions Tommy Bahama while in Hawaii, avoid it. Instead, keep it casual and understated with these loose John Varvatos Soho pants (middle), and this perfectly rumpled J. Crew broken-in pocket jersey polo (left). Then, throw in a dash of zip -- and a subtle yet meaningful nod to surf culture -- with these plaid Volcom flip flops.
via J. Crew. $39.50.
Q: Why are shirts made for the fat f***ers of the world and not for slim build guys. Is it still ok, not to want to have baggy clothing that makes you look as if you have just been released from prison?
A: Let's be honest. Most of the shirt-wearing public are fat f***ckers. Have you seen the latest US obesity statistics? Brands are just making what people can wear without them looking like a stuffed sausage.
However, there are companies that understand not everyone looks like Dick Cheney. Just about anything from Urban Outfitters will do, as will the entire American Apparel collection. As much as we might hate to admit it, one of our favorite shirts over the past two years is the J.Crew broken-in jersey polo. It's well-made and versatile; and with its slim cut and short sleeves, doesn't leave a single bench press to waste.