Here at MB HQ, it's that time of the year where our conversations turn toward the ever-worsening trend we describe as the Halloweenification of Christmas. You know what mean: Millions and millions of adults, dressing up in clownishly garish Christmas costumes to honor the birth of our lord Carrot Top.
Has anything ever provided less joy to the world than a grown man or woman, half-sloshed on 100-proof eggnog, trying to camouflage his bone-deep holiday despair by wearing a naughty snowman on his chest?
On December 12th, the 'weenification' of Christmas will reach its awful apex on National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. We understand the profound global forces underlying this phenomenon. Social media has connected us all more tightly, made us all more visible to each other, and yet, paradoxically, all more invisible to each other as well, as everyone battles for attention.
The urge to stand out intensifies in this new milieu — and what better way to signal one's singularly charismatic sense of style than in a context where looking ridiculous is the explicit goal? Talk about a tradition tailor-made for an era where self-esteem and convenience rule.
To all this, we issue a hardy and heartfelt "Bah humbug!"
And advise you to cede National Ugly Sweater Day to Utah. On December 12th, put on a garment that will truly make your heart swell with gratitude for this incredible world we live in, where impeccably crafted garments are always just a click away. We recommend this Rice-Knit Cashmere Cardigan in Burnt Red Melange.
Yes, that name sort of makes it sound like this sweater belongs on a menu rather than your back, but don't be deterred. The cashmere comes from the Bayangovi region of Mongolia, where zero-degree days qualify as "hot" and the local livestock develop suitably thick and fluffy coats to compensate. Nomadic herders hand-comb the wool from these magnificent creatures, and each of these sweaters comes with a label that specifies the exact herder who did the combing! Add some genuine horn buttons, and what you've got is a Christmas sweater that looks as stylish as it does cozy.
Q: This winter will be my first time hitting the ski slopes since pursuing the MB lifestyle. What do you recommend I wear to look good and stay warm without looking like a Spyder Toolbag?
Q: Great to have you back! I checked out your ski channel, and while I liked the suggestions, (especially the pants), I'm unable to locate a pair in my size. That was back in 2011, any chance on getting an updated recommendation for a full ski outfit?
A: We keep things really simple when we hit the slopes, using, for the most part, what we normally wear in winter. (See earlier post on the matter.) There's no reason to get into a special synthetic sports uniform — see "Spyder Toolbag" look — unless there's a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract involved.
Here are some suggestions from bottom to top:
Naked and Famous throws a lot of denim against the wall and some of it — like our highly-recommended Snowpant Denim — unfortunately doesn't stick. (These were nearly 60% off at Neiman Marcus and still took over a year to sell out.)
We contacted N&F and there are no plans to make more. However, Tate and Yoko have 29 and 30 in stock, and there are always a few pairs floating around on eBay and about half the price. Set up an alert.
UNDERLAYER Smartwool Merino next-to-skin. This works for winter biking, snowshoeing, football game watching, or just sitting by the fire.
SWEATER Cashmere turtleneck from 8. No, this is not Brunello Cucinelli cashmere. But we believe 8 to be the best cashmere value in the world.
They cost nearly as much as a Vail lift ticket, but if Moncler is good enough for Italians scaling K2 (pictured), it's good enough for us to scale the St. Regis bar at the top of Deer Valley. But any down puffy jacket will do, and if you want to keep it stylishly Italian and starting with the letter M, YOOX always has great deals on Montecore, Moschino, Martin Margiela, and Museum.
Cashmere hat with a pom. (Similar to pictured.)
SUNGLASSES Vintage Carrera 5425s in tortoise, from Allyn Scura, the official eyewear provider to Magnificent Bastard, and the film American Hustle (opening nationwide on Friday).
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.
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: Now that we're in sweater weather, what are the rules for wearing a sweater with a suit or sportcoat? —Dave
A: We only have one rule when it comes to sweaters under blazers: don't look like Gene Siskel or Roger Ebert (top).
Instead, go for something fine-gauge in crewneck as demonstrated by Robert Redford, or our personal preference, the turtleneck as shown by Steve McQueen most famously in Bullitt (bottom).
While we're pretty sure McQueen could handle wool against his skin, we suggest opting for cashmere. If you have the bread, Malo is the obvious, best choice. If you don't, take a look at 8, available at YOOX. We've obsess over cashmere sweaters and have discovered 8 is the best value going, and this version is on sale for just $135. Fits slightly small.
A: As much as we are amused by the black sheep sweater's marketing concept, we don't actually own one. However, we've heard from several readers that at $120 this is a very good purchase, in spite of it initially smelling like the Irish barn they are made in. All it needs, apparently, is a little fresh air and it's fine. One reader likes it so much he called it a "lifer" and something he plans on handing down to his black sheep offspring.
A: We never button our cardigans, except for the walk home from the Pulaski bar scene on a chilly night when we will ineptly button them off by one button, and if we've had enough Magnificent Bastard cocktails, two.
In our cinematic world view there is The Big Lebowski and then there is every other movie ever made. While we could be fatuous with Lebowski references about how owning The Dude's actual sweater could really tie your wardrobe together, we say no funny stuff. For those of you who don't have 12,000 bones or clams or whatever you call them, you can get a vintage Pendleton Cowichan sweater on eBay for around $300. Or you could knit your own.
For those who don't get bogged down in a lotta ins, a lotta outs, or a lotta what-have-yous about the cost of things, see you at the auction.
Important: Even though it's on sale, and you may be an Achiever, do not compromise your ideals with a Little Lebowski.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi is clearly trying to make a point. In fact, we've actually seen sign language how-to videos that can't match his arsenal of hand gestures, but unfortunately his exposed crewneck t-shirts are communicating a message that drowns out all that finger-pointing and air-chopping: the 38-year-old London School of Economics-educated son of Muammar Gaddafi is in desperate need of a few casual collared shirts!
1. Too much laundry. Wearing clothing in direct contact with the skin requires cleaning, and cashmere sweaters -- as if you'd be wearing anything else! -- should be washed even less frequently than cats. It's just too hard on them.
2. Layering is a key component of artful dishevelment, and chest hair doesn't count.
Q: What is your official stance on Fair Isle sweaters? I am looking to purchase this classic winter clothing item but don't want the whole corny holiday cliche that is often attached to some patterns/colors. Any recommendations? --Mike S.
A: We heartily endorse Fair Isle and wear it often, but less so now that it's everywhere on both men and women for F/W 2010. To avoid looking like you just walked out of a family Christmas card photo shoot (top), choose a limited palette and make it a cardigan or go for a vest (bottom), like King Edward VIII did while in public.
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? --DTC
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.
Mark your calendars for 11 AM CT tomorrow as Malo is on sale at Gilt. We recommend buying Malo cashmere at full price, so when it's on sale we double recommend it. (If you need an invite, just let us know.)
How about it! It's Anglophilic, made of natural materials, exclusive, and not just derived from a military inspiration, it's actual military surplus. Why go designer when you can go right to the source? --Broski
A: Yes, it's all those things, and it's also modeled on a (flat-out ugly) woman, which is appropriate since military is big for them this fall. Military buttons, sleeve tabs, skinny cargo pants, and camo denim are the rage for women, but the closest thing to military you'll see us in this fall is a peacoat.
By our account military is on the 4-year election cycle. Men are on the presidential, women on the midterms. Look for lots of camo and epaulets available for the 2012 Obama-Palin tilt.
We got a few angry emails from German soccer fans -- der Blödmann is the term they're using -- pointing out that coach Joachim Loew's royal blue pullover is in fact not synthetic but baby cashmere, and available here. Magnificent Bastard regrets the error, though due to his nose-picking (and booger eating!) incident, England's Fabio Capello still wins on style points.
Q: I'm definitely on board with tucking in your sport shirts (I don't like Bravo, either). But I've been wearing sport shirts under sweaters a lot recently, and was wondering about the protocol on the sport shirt underneath. Tucked or not? --Christopher
A: First of all, we love Bravo, just not the guys who give the dudes on Jersey Shore a run for their toolbaggery.
Second, the tuck rule still applies for shirts underneath a sweater. I.e., if your shirt is designed to be untucked, go for it; if it's designed to be tucked, tuck it. This way you'll achieve the desired artfully disheveled shirt-barely-peeking-out look as demonstrated here by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer.
Ed. note:(500) Days of Summer is the best romantic comedy we've seen since Annie Hall. OK, maybe it's the only romantic comedy we've seen since Annie Hall. Anyhow, the only thing better than the flick (just by a whisker) is the soundtrack that includes tunes from The Smiths, Hall and Oates, and Spectacular Bitch par excellence Carla Bruni.
Made of 100% black sheep's wool, Cordarounds' Black Sheep Sweater is this year's most thoughtful backhanded Christmas gift. Exclusive, imported, and $125, it shows you care enough to give only the finest-quality mixed message. (By the way, mom, we'll take ours in a size L.)
For the Magnificent Bastard who you think has everything, we bet he doesn't have a wool cardigan lined with rabbit fur. We're pretty sure it's like carrying around the lodge at the Ahwahnee Hotel on your back -- it's that cozy and luxurious. Like the rest of Costume National's Fall 2009 collection, it's now 40% off.
A: Cardigans are everywhere this year but don't let that keep you from wearing them. They're timeless. One strong suggestion, however: find one that's on the short side, and slim (bottom). The majority out there are droopy, longer ones that have a very un-MB shortening effect.
Q: Dear MB: I am writing to get your official position on a matter that arose last night between my girlfriend and I regarding sweaters: V-neck or crewneck? My girl (who claims she knows her stuff with clothing) told me to go with a crewneck and steer clear of v-necks if I am wearing a collared shirt underneath, as the V-neck would not be appropriate. I, on the otherhand, I prefer the v-neck and don't care for the crewneck, as it reminds me too much of those John McCain sport coat-sweater-tie combos that he was running around in last fall (sort of an older man's look to me). Does MB have an official preference for v-neck or crewneck sweaters, or am I just a dumb bastard for not listening to my girl? --Ryan
A: We agree with you and not your girl. When Paul Newman died last year, we cited his v-neck-woven shirt combination as his life's greatest achievement. And just look at James Dean in a v-neck and woven. This is artful dishevelment defined.
As a side note, John McCain typically did do the coat-sweater-tie combo until, hopelessly behind late in the campaign, tried the v-neck look with disastrous results.
From about the time the Yankees are eliminated from the playoffs to the time Yankee fans start thinking Steinbrenner's latest overpriced impulse buy will make a difference this year, we practically live in cashmere sweaters. And it's why we feel especially confident about our endorsement of Malo cashmere. If you've ever worn Malo cashmere you know what we're talking about. Their entry level v-neck is still $225 at YOOX, but this is a far better investment than $188 for J. Crew cashmere that starts pilling within 5 minutes of wear.
Q: How can a 36 year old male dress in resort casual without looking too metrosexual, preppy or like a Tommy Bahama wanna-be? --Mollee
A: From top to bottom:
Knit Shirt: Polo with sleeves that hit at about the middle of the bicep. No logos if possible, especially none with the name of your country club or a high-end public course he recently played. Be sure to follow the polo shirt button rule.
Woven Shirt: At least one in white, of course. Unpressed. Just take it out of the dryer and go. Not buttoned-down. If it's not specifically designed to be worn untucked, have him tuck it in.
Sweater: Fine gauge v-neck cashmere. Period. On cool nights have him toss this over the polo or the woven and let his shirt collar just do what it wants to do.
Pants: No pleats. No creases. No linen. Khakis with patch pockets are a solid choice. Only denim if it's dark and dressed up, like Theory. Shorts OK too, but when the sun goes down remember the rule: pants only.
Footwear: Plimsolls or Jack Purcells. Sandals or flip-flops (but only if they're made from organic materials).
The Feet Themselves: If he chooses the sandal/flip-flop route, remember this rule about feet: If you wouldn't put his toe in your mouth, you need to convince him to get a pedicure.
Q: I'm a freshman in college, about to enter my sophomore year, and I've just started reading MB, but I do consider myself rather stylish on an unemployed college student's budget. What's an MBs stance on collared shirt under a sweater with both of the sleeves rolled up over jeans? And do you have any other general tips to get that artfully disheveled look to truly shine? Thanks. --Mike
A: Mike, you're young and a still a little wet behind the ears, so we'll go easy. This look can be categorized as TTH (Trying Too Hard). Artful dishevelment is indeed calculated, but ends up looking like you didn't try at all. This looks like you tried; not to mention it's also going to stretch the shit out of your sweater sleeves. It's only OK if you're involved in an emergency birth.
Q: I know you've addressed this issue before with crewnecks, however, what should one do with their shirt collars while wearing v-neck sweaters? I tend to keep them in although I've had people comment on how I should wear them out. --Chevy
A: Chevy, it's going to depend on the cut of the v-neck and the shape of the shirt collar, but this is one of those times when you should submit to your shirt's free will. Don't force artful dishevelment. If the collar is meant to stay in, it will stay in. If it's meant to be out, it will come out. 9 times out of 10, however, daily activities like hailing a cab or hailing a bartender will push your collar out.
Here are five things you need once the snow melts, and you have about $2K burning a hole in your pocket:
1. Khaki Trench
The khaki trench doesn't just protect you from the elements, when left unbuttoned all that fabric can create the illusion of a man of action, intrigue, and dramatic flair, even if you work in a cubicle. And it goes with everything (except, of course, khakis). To avoid looking like Inspector Clouseau, choose one without a belt and all those cluttering loops, like this Tiger of Sweden version.
2. Lightweight Cashmere V-Neck Sweater
The average April temperature at our Pulaski, Wisconsin offices is just 48 degrees, so this Lono Piana sweater is practically a necessity. No matter where you live, toss it over a rumpled, washed white shirt with denim, or under a blazer and you're suddenly oozing casual elegance.
3. White Pants
Conventional wisdom holds that unless you're a rock star or live in South Beach, white pants are strictly a Memorial Day to Labor Day thing. As we've said before, baloney. By the time your favorite team has gone through a couple of pitching rotations, you can start rotating in white pants. This season, Gucci's 5-pocket denim are especially inspired, and at $595 they better be.
4. Gingham Shirt
Nothing signals longer days, warmer weather, and bugs quite like a gingham shirt. Fear not, this ain't your granddad's Sunday brunch gingham shirt. It's a classic interpreted with a couple of twists by Domenico Dolce & Stefano Gabbana.
5. Walking Umbrella
So you're rocking a few of the items above and it starts to rain. Don't veer toolbag with one of those $5.99 popups or a contrast-panel Titleist better suited for a shower on the 15th green. Paul Smith has you covered much more stylishly with his signature stripe trimmed, chestnut-handled version.
Q: Ok shawl collar? Any comments? Steve McQueen sure did and I don't think I've ever seen a better one than on Daniel Craig in Quantum. Misguided or magnificent? --Ron
A: Ron, your question kinda leads you to the answer, don'tcha think? We've weighed in on McQueen's shawl collar sweater before. A couple oftimes. While we'd prefer Dan Craig had a woven under his Tom Ford version, we agree with your analysis.
Q: A sweater with a shawl collar: a fleeting trend or an MB wardrobe staple? --Wadie
A: The shawl-collar sweater doesn't quite reach the high "wardrobe staple" bar, but in 1968's Bullitt Steve McQueen definitively made it more than a "fleeting trend." Wear with confidence this year, and next.
Longtime readers know how much we dug Paul Newman. In an interview earlier this year we cited Newman as one of the four most stylish people who've influenced us, along with Oscar Wilde, Yves Saint Laurent, and Chi-Chi Rodriguez. With two of the four dying this year, 2008 has really sucked. Hang in there Chi-Chi!
Anyhow, beyond the movies, the blue eyes, the philanthropy, and the tasty salsa and salad dressing, Paul Newman's greatest achievement -- even better than being on Nixon's enemies list -- was demonstrating the coolness of a v-neck sweater with woven white shirt.
Q: My boyfriend, (who is 30, I am 29) and I are attending a wedding on November 1st. The wedding is around noon, and what to wear then is not an issue. The reception however, is 6 hours later, in the early evening, at local micro brewery's event hall. Boyfriend is a sous chef, and his clothes are either casual, or formal, but we aren't sure what's best in this situation. And what about me? Cocktail dress? Satin slacks and a pretty top? We humbly seek your expertise and guidance. Thank you! -Dana
A: Dana, you don't need much help. Your hosts are signaling casual with the noon wedding and the brewpub. We like the satin slacks and pretty top idea. Hot. For your hash-slinging beau: casual to go with your un-cocktail dress look. November 1 is officially fall and darn close to holiday, so velvet works. Otherwise corduroy and something nubby, either the tie or the cardigan or the v-neck.
Regular readers know ourdisdain for Juicy Couture, yet their wares somehow still show up at Barney's Co-Op and Saks, poisoning two of our favorite retailers' collections, like turds in a punchbowl. We're pretty sure they've reached the height of suckitude (or perhaps explosive diarrhea in a punchbowl?) with this barbed wire sweater, which reminded us of the bicep barbed wire tattoos that were so cool 7 or 8 years ago ... never.
Q: I have a couple of sweater vests. My wife says if I wear one-- I will lose my magnificent bastard title and will have to start a web site called, Dirty OLD bastard. She said I could ask the MB to break the tie. So what do you think? Sweater vests? Should they have been buried with Mr. Rogers or can I wear one?
PS-- I found your web site after my favorite site, National Review Online linked to it. Please don't discuss politics. It's the only thing you and I don't agree on.
A: Well, Mr. Rogers (RIP) was a cardigan man, and that's a post for another day. Regarding sweater vests, the degree of difficulty is quite high, but your wife is going to have a hard time convincing us this Moods of Norway sweater vest isn't completely mental. So if they're stylish enough and you're feeling adventurous, we say wear 'em. With a crisp white shirt underneath and the sleeves rolled way up, to your biceps. Match this look with killer tortoise shell eyewear and before you know it you're the second coming of James Dean (in his intellectual phase).