Longtime readers will note that we've often argued against legible clothing and for organic materials since our founding in 2007, but we're confessing to breaking both rules when it comes to these hats. (And after all, they're officially accessories.) Why? It's simple: They look so fucking groovy. Here are four we have worn during Zoom calls this winter:
After unboxing these tonight, we're ashamed to even admit we've previously used aluminum poles.
Handmade by a small shop in Steamboat Springs, they almost entirely fulfill on the MB "organic materials" principle, not just with the 'boo of course, but also the rubber grips. And they're covered with a marine-grade coating that looks rugged enough to withstand a yard sale at the annual Big Sky Pond Skim.
There's only one incongruous detail keeping these out of our HOF: the recycled polyester straps. But to MB-mod these all you need is a Phillips screwdriver, boxcutter, hole punch, and your favorite 5oz. leather. We used some brown Horween Chromexcel scraps leftover from our wallet production that turned out great.
Due to Covid-related supply delays they are 2 weeks out. So plan ahead and be ready for the first big dump.
Since we reviewed seven custom shirtmakers a decade ago, a bunch of others have offered free shirts for an evaluation, and because it takes us getting up from the sofa, we've always said no.
But when Apposta asked us to have a look we changed our tune, primarily because their shirts are made in Italy. Where possible, this is where MBs want their clothing (and shoes) to be made. It's a default setting like getting forged blades from Japan, Scotch from Islay, or pump-action shotguns from here in America.
The shirtmakers we originally reviewed all outsourced their manufacturing to Thailand, Hong Kong, Honduras, China, and Vietnam. Proper Cloth, now one of the most popular online shirtmakers, has their shirts made in Malaysia. We're not saying some great shirts cannot be made in these places — especially Hong Kong — but we are saying that shirts made in Italy are likely just going to be better.
This was the case with the Apposta shirt. Probably because the fabric came from an Italian mill, the buttons were Australian mother of pearl, and the stitching and fit are both just very ... Italiany. While Apposta doesn't offer our preferred sewn collar, they do have an option of a "soft" collar that approximates unfused, to allow for maximum sprezzatura (that's Italian for artful dishevelment).
To top it off — and recalled the memorable touches of ordering from a well-known Italian fashion house — is the shipment came with an ear-loop mask made from the shirt fabric. Magnifico! Just don't pair with the shirt (too strong of a Garanimals vibe), or put it on while trying to buy a pump-action shotgun from a West Palm Beach gun shop (at least without an appointment).
Just to show you how much coronavirus has upended the universe, we're hoping the 150,000 masks that Brooks Brothers is planning to produce on a daily basis are all their synthetic narrowly-tailored Soho Fit. In the midst of a pandemic (but only in the midst of a pandemic), artful dishevelment must take a backseat to epidemiology.
Q: Say you're wearing black shoes, blue jeans, and a white (or similarly neutral) button-up shirt. What belt are you wearing? Is it black? Does it have to be? —West
A: West, please refer to our super-scientific black shoe dressiness and belt blackness chart.
If you're at Point A, with something heeled and hard-soled that needs polishing, belt blackness requirements are high. (Also at Point A, with the outfit you described, you are in the Blazer Zone. See our blazer channel for tons of tips.)
As you move down the y-axis into sneakerized dress shoes (Point B), belt blackness drops precipitously. If we were wearing the Prada Spazzolato Leather Penny Loafers shown above, we'd feel completely comfortable in our 300-Year Sterling Silver High Plains Noir belt, which is MB longhand for "very dark brown."
Finally, further down the scale into sneakers (Point C), the belt blackness spec is loosened almost completely, sort of like traveling in the NBA. Here we'd be in a sport belt (like our own SAB) and, yes, even brown.
Next time you put on black shoes, apply the chart, and let us know what you think.
Q: I just bought tickets to The Nutcracker for December 6th in Minneapolis. What would a Magnificent Bastard wear to a ballet? I have a new grey cashmere turtleneck by 8, I want to wear if possible. —David
A: David, glad to hear you're into an 8 cashmere turtleneck. 6 years after our original recommendation, we still have a strong buy rating on this item, and it's definitely on the ballot for the forthcoming MB HOF.
To complete the outfit, consider:
1. PANTS: Makers & Riders Travelers Jean in Coal. $89. A few weeks ago we said we'd try these and we're glad we did. They're not just stretchy (6% spandex) but also remarkably flexible: we cannot think of an activity or event where they wouldn't feel right, including The Nutcracker. Owner Chris Ontiveros is closing down Makers & Riders so get these before he shutters, or we sell him out. (Seriously, we're buying enough of these to last 50 years.) Use the code MR15 for 15% off. NB: These are vanity-sized by a full 2 inches.
2. BLAZER: 8 by YOOX in Glen Plaid. $179.
8 provides such great value there was panic last year when YOOX pulled all things 8 from their site. But just a few months later the brand was reincarnated as "8 by YOOX" — finally owning up to its corporate ownership — and it's better than ever. Their blazers are fantastic and check all the boxes: a modern fit, meaty lapels, and functioning buttonholes. This Glen plaid version is just $179. NB: Unlike everything else 8, the blazers run small. Order one size up, and if you're between, two.
3. SHOES: Pantofola d'Oro Brown Wing-Tips. $185.
Longtime readers know we've been fully sneakerized. But we respect those who are still dipping their toes into it, which is why we're suggesting these wing-tipped training wheels. NB: In the Italian style, PdO runs one size small.
4. FLASK: Wentworth Pewter 6 oz. Flask. ~$68.09.
Our live events involve lots of tequila shots, vodka Red Bulls, and overly-aggressive pat-downs. We're betting The Orpheum has none of those, and you may need help getting through the 2nd act. Will fit inconspicuously into the blazer's inside pocket; plus, Anglophilia.
We've written about these fantastic gloves four times over the past dozen years (which is a lot since we post about quarterly). When we get around to publishing the MB Hall of Fame they'll be an original member. And now, thanks to a price-drop notification from our price-tracking app (still in alpha) they're just $85.95. Since 2012 we haven't paid a dime less than $125. Buy them; you'll love them.
If, like at least one reader, you're concerned about whether rabbits have suffered in these gloves' production, they have. But if it makes you feel any better, we learned from Fratelli Orsini they provide Gauls nutritional value before being turned into ridiculously luxe and cozy glove lining: "...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."
As recently as May Corey Lewandowski sported a sort-of-normally-sized flag pin. Yesterday in front of Congress he literally doubled down, and this new pin's weight is affecting his posture and spine angle. Ease up on the patriotism, Cory! Your health depends on it!
One of our readers recently started a new white-collar gig in downtown Minneapolis, and based on an Ask the MB post from last year, asked us to get him dressed in a similar way. For the right price, we agreed.
STYLE ARCHETYPE: Our client's target archetype was "English landed gentry," and while Anglophilia is an MB principle, it immediately conjured thoughts of Roger Stone at Trump's inauguration. After some back-and-forth we landed on "urban landed gentry," which forgoes top hats and double-breasted suits in favor of plaids, tweets, velvets, and corduroys. It also allows for sneakerization of his footwear.
BUDGET: We settled on $2000 as a ballpark to purchase 4 woven shirts, 3 sweaters, 2 blazers, 3 pants, 2 shoes, one suit, and a few accessories for a fall/winter collection. It's a somewhat arbitrary number but constraints are useful to drive creativity and craftyness. Bonus: F/W 2018 is on sale we should get tremendous bang for the buck.
TIMING: We are preternaturally lazy — and also perpetually lit — so our client is currently going to work naked. But we plan on having him wearing his new F/W clothes just in time for S/S.
WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?: It's one thing to sit here and publish suggestions to a newly-minted museum director. It's quite another to actually order the items, try things on, see what fits and works in the overall look, and what doesn't. We plan on posting tasting notes on the keepers and the ones that got thrown back (and why) for our readers' benefit. Finally, and most importantly, we are getting paid.
FIRST UP: Woven shirts. We'll hopefully have a report on our successes — and failures — next week.
Q: Hi MB. Based on your recommendation, I recently got a Woolrich White Label Quilted Mill Shirt Jacket. I love it. Thanks. What are some great (and relatively inexpensive) scarves that you'd recommend to go with it? Thanks! —Chris
A: Glad you like that jacket as much as we do.
As for winter scarves, we have one hard and fast rule: must be mostly cashmere. It's the only thing soft enough we allow draped around our necks, besides the the drunk temp at the office Christmas party.
As for colors and patterns, we've had great luck pattern-matching all kinds of outerwear with Missoni's funky stripes. And in the case of this this jacket, it's irresistible going high-low, pairing a workwear jacket designed in Pennsylvania with a cashmere scarf designed in Lombardy, Italy.
But you asked for "relatively inexpensive."
One glance at YOOX, and you can play it safe with a solid grey scarf from Arte Cashmere ($67), or if you're feeling slightly more adventurous, there's a beginner plaid-plaid matching opportunity with more Arte Cashmere in black or khaki.
It's down to 16. Who will advance? This weekend has four games, and we've run all the data through our proprietary algorithm that uses predictive analytics based on a coach's sideline presence to determine game outcomes. Here's what's going to happen, and why:
France vs. Argentina
Didier Deschamps — France
Jorge Sampaoli — Argentina
Gold bracelet. Chunky wedding ring. Ridiculously oversized watch. Between his excessive male jewelry and his "Bring me my goddamned Harvey Wallbanger!" body language, Deschamps looks more than ready to hit the Baccarat table at Caeser's. But at least his lapels are the right size. That gives him a slight edge over Sampaoli who completely undermines pretty good "Are you fucking kidding me?" Jesus Arms with a black blazer over black tee combo that Michael Lohan would be proud to rock at wherever Michael Lohan is rocking it these days. Plus it looks like he might be smuggling a couple keys of cocaine in his shoulder pads — and given recent news emanating from Argentina, that gives us pause. MB Prediction: France, 3-1.
Uruguay vs. Portugal
Óscar Tabárez — Uruguay
Fernando Santos — Portugal
Uruguay rolled through the Group A like they were all riding on Óscar Tabárez's motorized scooter, but despite sleeve-rolling at near MB levels, look for Portugal to advance on the sheer will of Santos's artful dishevelment and insouciance. He's just not into that cigarette. MB Prediction: Portugal, 1-0.
Spain vs. Russia
Fernando Hierro — Spain
Stanislav Cherchesov — Russia
"Dress for the job you want, not the job you have" is always good advice, and Spain's Fernando Hierro should have taken it. Instead, the Interim Head Coach is dressed like an Interim Head Coach — a solid performance (minimal accessorization, crest on the blazer) but nothing extraordinary, and the slightly oversized watch makes us wonder if he's truly a long-term fit. In the short term, it doesn't matter, because he's matched against Cherchesov, whose rumpled three-piece suit, black patent shoes, and over-sized ID Badge makes him look like he's head of security for a boy band from Novosibirsk. Sometimes in the World Cup, it's all about the luck of the draw. MB Prediction: Spain, 2-0.
Croatia vs. Denmark
Zlatko Dalić — Croatia
Åge Hareide — Denmark
Obviously, Knockout Phase matches cannot end in a draw, but Dalić and Hareide are pretty evenly matched here, in the timeless and understated uniform of charcoal pants, white woven, black sweater. As far as accessorization goes, Hareide's black-out sunglasses are slightly outplaying Dalic's tie — but whatever advantage that gives him is completely erased by an ID badge that appears even bigger than Cherchesov's. And maybe even bigger than a Denny's menu. We're still debating that here at MB headquarters, but giving the win to Dalic in the interim. MB Prediction: Croatia, 2-1.
Q: I just found your site and I am pretty thrilled someone is finally calling out the rules. I am a big guy so I tend to pay attention as much as I can to look good. I have just accepted a new position as a director at a cool museum. One of the largest and most prominent. My co-workers dress well and I need a primer for what to buy as far as basics. I want to dash the old frumpy look of a security director and add the young flavor and style to compliment my new administration. —Phill
A: Congratulations on your new gig! Follow our advice, and you'll be on the path to a wardrobe that may even have your colleagues in Acquisitions & Accessioning looking to preserve for the edification and delight for future generations.
Since you said nothing about a budget for this endeavor, we suspect that's not a major concern or constraint for you. But since you're starting from scratch, and don't have a firmly established idea of what you'll like best or what works for you, we're going to steer you toward options that represent good values.
Our point: When you're starting out, you want the freedom to experiment, without worrying about potential sunk costs and buyer's remorse. Or to put it another way, when you start golfing, you shouldn't buy Pro V1s until you've reached the point where you are no longer sending multiple drives into the woods and water every round. Develop your swing, then step up to $6 golf balls.
Okay, that's enough context. Without further ado, here's the MB Sartorial System — Young Museum Director Version (Fall/Winter). See below for assembly instructions.
SUIT  charcoal grey
When you and the mayor cut the ribbon for that new Impressionist wing, you're going to want to wear a suit. As you may have read, we're big fans of two-button charcoal grey ones. And you're in luck because Century 21 (our new favorite site, right up there with YOOX) has this Ralph Lauren version, likely in your size and with functional buttonholes, for just $220. (15 bucks off with code JOINUS31 for purchases over $150.)
BLAZERS  1 velvet, 1 corduroy, 1 plaid
We've found this to be a winning combination of F/W textures to accompany the shirts and pants you'll see in a minute. Our go-to YOOX brand for value, 8, wants just $109 for their camel velvet version. (Choose one size up.) For the others, just make sure they meet our blazer requirements.
SWEATERS  1 v-neck, 1 cardigan (both merino)
For under one of those blazers or alone on Casual Friday, you're going to need a couple of sweaters. A brand we recently discovered — and love — that provides perhaps even stronger value that 8 is +U Plusultra. Yes, its name sounds like a condom brand created by a marketing AI optimized for redundancy. But their cardigans (again, likely in your size) are now just $46.
SHIRTS  1 white, 1 blue, 1 gingham, 1 plaid (all point collar)
Getting this right is key for a fully functional system. The white and blue shirts cannot have button-down collars, because you may use them with a tie (the gingham and plaid are fine with buttons). These days point collars are an endangered species, but hang in there and don't settle for a spread or cutaway that both fattens your face and will be at resale shops shortly. Century 21 has this Steven Alan plaid for a ridiculous $25 as a starting point.
PANTS  2 brushed/moleskin, 1 corduroy (all 5-pocket)
It doesn't take a very stable genius to recognize that regular trousers on a big guy can send you into Trump territory fast. But that's not the only reason to go the 5-pocket route. 5-pocket pants are also more comfortable and modern, and can easily be dressed up for your new role. While Bonobos' version is more expensive than most of what we're recommending here, its straightforward style and overall utility make it a very safe investment.
We're normally not ones to toot our own horn, but we have created a belt that is not only a work of art, but will work with every system combination herein, including the suit. It's the 300-Year Belt (either in Classic or High Plains Noir), with a sterling silver buckle handmade by Arizona-based artist Mary Daugherty. (Free Secret Agent Belt with purchase.)
OK, so maybe we are ones to toot our own horn. Both The Cosina Veloce and The Kakutani bring unique textures and a rakishness to the system on dress-up days. (Wear with both the white and blue shirts.)
SHOES  1 shiny, 1 matte (both sneakerized)
Perhaps the easiest way to dump frumpy security director is via footwear. We've rhapsodized often about shoe sneakerization, and for both pair recommend splurging on something in the Common Projects vein, like these Common Projects dark brown will work with everything but the suit.
So, not counting the suit separates or the ties, this system provides 60 different permutations of pants, shirts, and blazers/sweaters. Throw out the handful that don't jibe (like the corduroy pants and corduroy blazer) and you still have enough variety to keep you going until spring, when we can do this all over again. Thanks for the question. It was fun.
What else could possibly explain Trump tying his tie at the proper length?
As Trump himself has previously instructed on tie length: "At most, a tie should kiss the top of your pants — and it should only kiss the top of your pants in the way you kiss your best friend's wife — with absolute restraint."
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?
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
Q: Any recommendations for a brand of Nato straps for my watch? There are a ton of companies/versions out there now. —Chris
A: Yes, by our accounting there are now are at least as many online NATO watch strap sellers as there are NATO member states!
We've had very good luck with one of them, named, aptly, NATO Strap Co.. They offer a wide variety of quality straps, a 30% discount when you order 5 or more, and frequent promotions. And while they don't have naming or storytelling elan or quite like "The Buscemi" or "The Pretty Nice Rack," they do at least attempt differentiation on what's essentially become a commodity item with "The Black Ops" and "The Inmate."
Q: I need an exceptional black tie for a funeral this Saturday; it will be paired with a black Hardy Amies suit, white shirt, black shoes. Can you help? Sounds simple but a classy black tie is not that easy to find. Sorry such short notice. —Cristian
A: We understand your dilemma. A black tie sounds simple, but you want to look like Bobby Kennedy — or even Ted — not the lead singer for The Knack or a Halloween mobster. Especially at a funeral. What that means is nothing too shiny, nothing too skinny, nothing too wide.
Our first choice is this Lanvin — which weighs in at the exactly proper MB tie width of 3⅛ — but there's only one left. So either act fast or be prepared to settle for this Brooks Brothers number — which will do in a pinch but does not quite possess the strikingly generic elan of the Lanvin. So we say act fast.
Al Gore and Leo DiCaprio are going to have to take a lot more trans-oceanic plane trips before they manage to put a dent in the bone-bruising chill that greets us every morning in Minneapolis this time of year. But while there's nothing we can do to avoid the snow, sleet, and ice, we can avoid the even-worse-than-usual traffic and parking-space hunts that come with them. How? By continuing to ride our bikes to work, even in the face of sub-zero temperatures.
How do we pull this off without looking like we're about to engage in some heavy breathing with a couple of broad-shouldered Scandinavian beauties at the Winsport Olympic Luge Track? We lay out our strategy below.
2. Nannini "TT" Goggles. Made for motorcyclists but adopted by cyclists looking for a stylish way to keep your eyelids from freezing shut.
TORSO & LEGS
3. Smartwool Baselayer underneath a 8 Wool Turtleneck. A baselayer under a jacket is all we usually need in anything above 10°F but it was -6°F this morning so we layered with a wool turtleneck. 8 makes a stylish one, with value.
4. Love Moschino Long Down Puffer. Down blazer-style jackets and some days even down shirts work for Minneapolis winter commuting. But not this neo-Polar Vortex shit. At anything below 0°F we pull out the long down puffer. Jack Frost may nip at your nose, but first he nips at your toes, then, surprisingly, your ass. Having goose feather coverage back there helps prevent his bite.
5. Smartwool Baselayer underneath Naked and Famous Snowpant Denim. Naked and Famous is responsible for some of the most important innovations in the history of denim, like scratch and sniff raspberry scented jeans. But their all-time best effort is the discontinued Snowpant Denim, a deep indigo wash treated with a waterproof and wind-resistant coating, and lined in comfy fleece. Look for them on eBay and try to grab them before we do.
6. Wigens Bear Claw Gloves The synthetic lobster claw gloves you see most winter commuters wearing are neither a warmth nor a dexterity match for these Swedish leather and fur marvels. Unfortunately Wigens seems to have stopped making them. Set up an eBay alert.
Minnesota-based 45NRTH makes the popular Wölvhammer commuter boot, but they're nearly as heavy as a pair of Pacs, only rated to 0°F, and don't abide by our un-gear aesthetic. After several years of trial and error we've concocted a 4-step footwear solution that's fairly lightweight and can hold up to a 45 minute commute at -20°F.
Darn Tough Hunting Socks. Not all wool socks are created equal. We've tried a dozen different brands and Darn Tough are the best. Made in Vermont.
No, this is not the official belt of the NFL. That wouldn't make sense, because NFL players don't wear leather belts. For us, though, our new Game-Day Belt has become an indispensable part of our viewing uniform. We have couch-tested in throughout the entire preseason, and we are now looking forward to see how it performs in regulation play, when everything's on the line. For more information, visit our shop.
Exhibition games are mercifully over. Final cuts have been made. It's time for a new season of NFL action, and that means it's also time to introduce our latest lifestyle accessory: The Magnificent Bastard Game-Day Luxury Box. Crafted by fourth-generation woodworker Kyle Huntoon of Hunt & Noyer, this Super Bowl-caliber six-pack caddy is constructed from sturdy furniture grade pine, real football leather from Horween, genuine AstroTurf, and our own hard labor. (It's true; we screwed the straps into the boxes ourselves.)
Let's huddle and break this down in a little more detail. The box itself is made in Detroit. The strap comes from a Chicago leather supplier. The strap was cut and finished in a Minneapolis leatherworks, and all the finishing touches were done in our garage by Packer fans. Talk about a team effort — that's 100% of our all-time favorite division, the NFC North!
We know the NFL would like to project a less sociopathic image these days. But in our book, wearing two pieces of conspicuously wholesome flair on one appendage constitutes an illegal formation penalty. Seriously, a wedding ring, in the middle of a game? From coin toss to the final tick of the game clock, the only ring any NFL player should be thinking about is a Super Bowl ring. You don't play for the Minnesota Grooms, Mr. Ponder. You play for the Vikings. Five yard penalty!
A: As loyal readers know, we are suckers for a senseless lack of utility. And a timepiece that can't make it on its own from dawn until dawn surely qualifies as that. In addition to its presumably short battery life, the Apple Watch will use wireless charging — which introduces even more paraphernalia to the mix. As we understand it, to fully use an Apple Watch, you need an iPhone, the Watch's wireless charger, and, say, a Timex, to determine how many minutes until your Apple Watch runs down and to keep track of the time while it's juicing up again.
All told, that's not a "watch" — it's a time-telling system almost as technologically clunky as our beloved Geochron.
And yet here's the issue as we see it: The Apple Watch starts at just $349. And even the higher-end versions aren't likely to be that expensive — the Business of Fashionpredicts a price point of around $1000 for the 18-karat gold model. In the realm of luxury timepieces, this qualifies as "sensibly affordable." And the $349 Apple Watch is downright cheap.
Throughout its history, Apple has always functioned as much as a fashion company as a technology company. (When it was designing its breakthrough product, the Apple II, co-founder Steve Jobs couldn't find a shade of beige for its case that pleased his discerning eye — even though the vendor he was working with offered 2000 choices.) Now, with the Apple Watch, it's leaving technology almost entirely behind and attempting to disrupt bling. For the $10,000 or so you might pay for a used, lightly scratched Submariner, you can get Apple Watches in a couple dozen different varieties. Or to put it another way, the 21st century finally has a Swatch to call its own.
In short order, these things are going to be ubiquitous, and that's why we want no part of them. At least until we've turned Pourcast into an app that sends you an alert every time you step within 100 feet of a bar stocked with all the ingredients that a Magnificent Bastard cocktail requires. Alas, unless someone invents a watch that magically adds a few extra hours to each day, that's still a ways down the road.
When you're chasing extremely fit and agile villains up scaffolding in the midst of a chaotic but scenic construction site in the Bahamas, do you really care what time it is? Or is it more important that your belt remains secure? We're not secret agents ourselves, but we know a guy at The Sardine Can who swears he is — or was, until he learned a little too much about Area 153. (Nope, we'd never heard of it either, and of course that makes sense. It's three times more top-secret than Area 51.)
Anyway, Spiro — probably an alias — assures us that a secure, durable, and dashing belt would be an incredibly useful item for a genuine secret agent. So rather than give the world one more lookalike watch strap, that's what we've created. Based on the iconic color scheme of the watch band James Bond wore in Goldfinger, we present the Secret Agent Belt. Country of origin: China. Price: $30.07. Ships concealed in a handsome semi-automatic box, and available in our shop now.
Society's best defense against bad men wearing bad belts are good men wearing unusually stylish belts. Will you answer the call of duty?
We have been watching this Jil Sander collar for what feels like years now, wondering who might pay $1480, then $589, and now $147.25 for this item. On the one hand, we were conceptually intrigued by Sander's merchandising innovation — she was trying to appify or unbundle something that had traditionally been considered a part of a shirt or jacket rather than a standalone accessory. On the other hand, there was the item itself, which always made us think, "Damn. Somewhere, there's a really toolbaggy, circumcised leather jacket walking around." Now, months later, the snipped foreskin, er, collar, can be had for a 90% discount. And yet sizes S, M, and L are still available. Verdict: Unsafe at any price!
Q: Wondering what you think about reversible belts like this croc/ostrich one — toolbag gimmick or useful wardrobe expansion technique? Also, that buckle looks strangely familiar.
A: At first glance, a belt that efficiently moonlights as another belt might seem to violate the principle of senseless lack of utility. In this case, though, the utility manifests itself in the realm of style. That is to say, a reversible belt doesn't make any claim to hold up your pants better, or provide some other practical benefit. It just multiplies the possibilities of looking magnificent. And that's the kind of utility we can embrace. In fact, we have plans to someday release a reversible belt ourselves.
Nonetheless, while we conceptually endorse reversible belts, there's still the matter of execution. Regarding the belt you've got your eye on, we love the Caiman crocodile side. But we think the full-quill ostrich side should probably bury its head in the sand. In other words, we'd approach this one as a strictly one-sided belt if we were to incorporate it into our wardrobe.
With their covered faces, camo pants, and simple black tees, this strikingly well-coordinated Mahdi Army flash mob almost looks as if they are about to surrender to 2014's most hegemonic force — normcore. And yet note the emphatic gestures of resistance. Fluorescent explosive devices and sweatbands. Skull face scarves. We are astounded that amongst all the upraised right hands, there is not one clutching an iPhone and taking a selfie — because this is the most self-consciously fashion-forward rebel army we've seen to date. When Opening Ceremony decides to get serious about invading the Gap, they know who to call.
Q: Hi, MB! What do you think of novelty cufflinks?
A: We're not unconditionally opposed to novelty cufflinks. But we are somewhat baffled by the current state of the market. The last time we posted about this — in 2007 — we advised a reader to steer clear of skulls. Seven years later, that prohibition still stands. And from what we can see, you are going to have to do an awful lot of steering — the cufflinks sections on the websites of most major retailers look like the Crypt of the Sepulchral Lamp remixed by Hot Topic. (Seriously, when did skulls start accessorizing so heavily?)
Has the Day of the Dead introduced a more formal dress code? While we understand that cufflinks offer a man a chance to signal his sense of style in a understated over-the-top way, and even encourage that, we're a little alarmed by this massive proliferation of skulls. A cufflink is not as permanent as a tattoo, but that shouldn't give you license to turn your sleeve into a black metal album cover from 1993.
Our advice: Stick with novelty cufflinks that allude to an interest in MB-approved pastimes like golf, tennis, sailing, skiing, or eating lobster. And even with those we have some caveats:
It's Week 3 of Monday Morning Quarterback, a feature that combines our love of chronic traumatic encephalopathy-inducing bloodsport (aka, the NFL) with our passion for style.
Each week we break down the postgame press conference film and pick the best and worst-performing quarterbacks from around the league. We take their actual Passer Rating, multiply it by the proprietary Magnificent Bastard Dresser Rating, to arrive at their Total Magnificent Bastard Quarterback Rating.
Mike Glennon has added reading Monday Morning Quarterback to his game-day preparation. Two consecutive weeks with large jacketgapes split wide to his right, he's clearly seen a tailor to tighten his collar coverage.
Just two weeks removed from winning MB Player of the Week honors as an NFL quarterback disguised as a professor, Palmer is hit for a big loss, with the age-inappropriate tandem of hoodie and skully each recording half a sack.
Manning could've dressed like Tom Brady on his best day and still been well down the MMQB rankings due to his comically bad performance against the Seahawks. Layering is an MB principle, but that value (3) should never be exceeded by the number of interceptions (5). Nor should the number of quarter-zip mock sweaters (1) ever exceed TD passes (0).
Q: The ascot....I am wearing it. It does have a HDD (High Degree of Difficulty —Ed.) but a real MB can pull it off. Your thoughts on this? —Jason
A: The ascot meets at least four core MB principles:
1. Anglophilia. They were first introduced in England. 2. Archaism. In the late 19th century. 3. Exclusivity. It's nearly impossible to find a good one. 4. Senseless Lack of Utility. They are even more useless than a necktie (i.e. they're too short to double as a belt or decent tourniquet in a pinch).
In other words, we love them.
But can you really pull it off? To answer that question we've created an ascot-wearing "decider" flowchart below to help guide you.
At the 2007 NFC Championship game in January 2008 one of us nearly lost a toe to frostbite even though his feet were inside a pair of Sorels. Yeah, it was that fucking cold.
Meanwhile, everyone's hands were toasty because they were sheathed by Fur Armor's beaver fur chopper mitts. At $189 ($209 for the sheared beaver model) they're a terrific investment for a lifetime of hand warmth, and they're not just for ice fishing or arctic evenings at Lambeau Field; we occasionally pair them with a tweed blazer, scarf, and hat to great effect.
The best part? They're handmade in Bemidji, Minnesota at the Fur Armor factory located on Paul Bunyan Drive. Really. Our only quibble is with the Polartec lining, which we immediately removed and replaced with ragg wool chopper liners from Bemidji Woolen Mills.
Our beloved GBP is 8-0 and we'd like to introduce Anna — decked out in a vintage Ashwaubenon high-school Packers cheerlearder uniform — as your guide to scarf tying based on the game-time temperature at Lambeau Field.
The Drape — 45° - 50°
The Red Baron — 40° - 44°
The Once-Around — 35° - 39°
The Ascot — 30° - 34°
The Parisian — 20° - 29°
The Once-Around Ascot — 10° - 19°
The Playoff Tuck — < 10°
Meanwhile, you didn't ask, but we couldn't help but notice Petty's scarf has a message for our readers. It's saying, "Don't do me like that!"
We know this is a signature look for Petty, but if you ask us, what it says is, 'I've been waiting for the Sundance Catalog to add an ascot page for years, but still no luck. I'll guess I'll use this scarf. And, uh, how do you tie an ascot again? Well, this is sort of close, right?"
Next week, we're posting a scarf-tying guide that will feature 7 ways to tie one. The Petty won't be on the list.
Nothing tests the Magnificent Bastard principle of understatement more than holidays. Halloween is the worst, followed closely by the 4th of July. Red, white, and blue are great colors for Ol' Glory and beer cans, but unless you're a superhero, too much red, white, and blue in your wardrobe at any one time can make you look like you're hitting the bricks to shill your local tax return service. If you're looking for a role model, choose Founding Father Thomas Jefferson over Uncle Sam — subtlety trumps bombast every time.
Of course, on a day when bombs — or at least their Las Vegas cousins, Class 1.1G fireworks — are bursting in air, subtlety's a relative concept and some red, white and blue in your wardrobe is completely appropriate. With that mind, here are 5 ways to show your patriotism without looking like Yankee Doodle Toolbag on the 4th of July.
Block Headwear makes our favorite hats. Salute the spirit of Betsy Ross by hiring a seamstress to create a new temporary hatband for you using 67 cents worth of grosgrain ribbon from M&J Trimming. Get the 7/8" size.
It's become popular in recent years to bash the French, but while America was fighting for its independence, the French gave us the spirit of Enlightment that would later inform our Constitution, military support, and, we're guessing, some pretty good pastries. Show your gratitude with this Moncler track jacket.
FINAL WORD OF ADVICE: Choose only one of these items and leave it at that. Except for the beer koozie. That goes with everything.
When Tiger Woods finally addressed the media after his sex scandal last year, his statement included 3 "sorrys," 1 "apologize" and 0 "regrets." By contrast, Representative Anthony Weiner's opening statement included 4 "sorrys," 1 "apologize" and 1 "regret."
In other words, Anthony Weiner apologized 33% harder than Tiger Woods, and he didn't even nail any of these chicks!
But do you know what Anthony Weiner didn't apologize for? His promiscuous flag pin usage. Seriously, when Biggovernment.com released this photo of his remarkably hairless chest, we initially thought, "No, that can't be him ... no flag pin. He wears that stupid thing every time a camera's within 500 feet."
Later in the day, however, the horny Congressman admitted to and apologized for almost everything — the dick pics, the sexting, the lying. It was a sad, sordid performance, but let's hope, amidst all the political maneuverings and voyeuristic speculation that's sure to follow, its essential lessons are not lost in the hubbub:
1) When you're peppering Internet strangers with questions about their blow-job skills, that's when you should be discreet. When Andrew Breitbart accuses you of tweeting glamour shots of your dong to your Twitter followers, and you actually did tweet glamour shots of your dong to your Twitter followers, that's when you should be totally candid and transparent.
2) If you're 46 years old and your chest is smoother than an 18-year-old stripper's cooch, you have vanity issues.
Q: Bow Ties? Bastardly or schmuck? Thanks fellas. —Fidel
A: In their February, 2008 issue, GQ declared bow ties back, and we declared them MB-appropriate only for summer weddings (in madras) and black tie.
More than three years later, GQ's recommendation has finally been adopted by top-rated NFL prospects, as two of the top 13 picks wore bow ties on Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall in what we believe to be the first-ever bow tie sightings at an NFL draft. #6 pick Julio Jones wore one that looked like a silver version of a Chippendale's pre-tied (top), and #13 pick Nick Fairley wore a paisley BT that, while clearly hand-tied, was still far too neat (middle).
Of all men's accessories, it's the bow tie that demands strictest adherence to the MB principle of artful dishevelment. Perfect bilateral symmetry should be reserved for breasts and butterflies.
To properly tie a bow tie, first drink three martinis very quickly. Then, close your eyes and follow the instructions from the guide below. When you're finished, your tie should be noticeably askew, with uneven ends and at least one of the rear loops exposed, as Winston Churchill (215 lbs., 6.5 second 40, never drafted) demonstrates (bottom).
If you do have an event that calls for a bow tie, one of our grandfathers gave us this "how to tie a bow tie" guide that came in handy as young lads when we wanted to learn how to do it.
The iPad 2 is out and it's 33 percent thinner than the original model, or as we like to think of it, 33 percent more breakable. But here's the good news: Because the revolutionary iPad 1 is now officially obsolete, it has been discounted to $399. Which means that if you buy one now, you can apply your $100 savings to the purchase of a Kenton Sorenson iPad Portfolio.
Unlike iPads themselves, which are made in China by morose factory workers whose hobbies include low pay, overtime, and suicide, these portfolios are tanned, cut, oiled, and stitched by hand by a retired barber in Wisconsin who clearly derives substantial satisfaction from his labors. Craftsmanship this fine can only spring from passionate engagement.
If God permitted the Amish to play Angry Birds, or whatever it is people do on iPads, these would definitely be their favorite iPad covers. Indeed, these things are so plain but purposeful, so perfectly rendered, that every time we look at them we try to think of reasons why we might want another tiny electronic gizmo to clutter up our lives. We haven't come up with one yet.....but if the new low price of the heritage iPad is your personal tipping point, you know what cover to buy.
Fifty years ago today, on March 11, 1961, Mattel unleashed a tiny cultural revolutionary upon an unsuspecting world. He was 12 and a half inches tall, he was made from Japanese vinyl, his name was Ken. Ken's influence on the American psyche cannot be overstated -- when you see bros wearing brocade, when you see musclebound peacocks like The Situation and Pauly D. bragging about how much laundry they do, blame Ken.
But surely Ken's most eager student has been Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, who has completely internalized Ken's three rules for cultural domination. 1) Never wear the same outfit twice. 2) Rule with an iron fist....but sheathe that fist in a velvet glove. 3) A true leader doesn't just say he can wear many hats -- he actually wears them.
When it's a little chilly on the first tee, we recommend a white cotton turtleneck. When it's downright cold, a cashmere version like this flannel grey Harrison* (on deep discount) should do the trick. When it's snowing, as it was at the Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson this weekend, we suggest you book a flight to somewhere where it's not snowing and play there. (There are plenty of nice courses in Maui, where it shouldn't start snowing until at least 2013.)
Whatever you do, though, never wear what Martin Kaymer, the world's newly crowned top-ranked player, was wearing this weekend. On Sunday's broadcast, we learned the hideous scarf-like accessory assaulting his neck is a UV Fishing Buff by artist and retired Florida Keys fishing guide Vaughn Cochran.
The UV Fishing Buff is made from Coolmax Extreme fabric and features a black fly fishing lure pattern that we're pretty sure is guaranteed to actually repel oysters and mollusks, not to mention creatures with actual eyes. The only time to wear such a thing is if you're skippering the S.S. Toolbag. Never ever wear one a golf course.
* Harrison's quality is as variable as Bubba Watson's golf swing. Some of their sweaters are our favorites; others barely make the Vietnam Veterans clothing donation bin. Inspect carefully before committing.
Q: I recently found out that I no longer need glasses, but whereas my vision is perfect in one eye, the other could use a +1.5 reader; in other words, I could legitimately wear a monocle. Now ordinarily I'm a big fan of unusual accessories, but is this going too far? --Peter
A: Quick, name two monocle wearers that immediately come to mind. That's right, Mr. Peanut and Colonel Klink. What this says to us is that in the best-case scenario, people might associate you with a jaunty legume if you start wearing a monocle. And in the worst case, they'll look at you and think "Bumbling Nazi!" Our best advice to you? Squint.
"Preston, meet Huxley! Sinclair, meet Wiloughby! Griffin, meet Digby!" No, we're not imagining the whitest dinner party in history. We're imagining the 14 new styles of Warby Parker frames meeting the 19 original ones. Which is an event that's far more likely to happen at, say, Kanye West's house than the whitest dinner party in history. Yes, they're that WASPy.
But if the look is classic midcentury, the sales policy is contemporary Internet retailing at its finest. Pick up to five frames you like and Warby Parker will send them to you free of charge to try on in the comfort of your own home. If you're ready to commit, you can have them made into full-fledged glasses for $95. If you're not, return them to Warby Parker at no charge. What an amazing time to be alive and astigmatic!
Ed. Note: As luck would have it, the Spectacular Bitch has moved into some office space right across the street from MB headquarters. Main Street just got a lot more interesting. This morning she came shooting out of her front door like a bat out of hell in heels, brandishing her laptop and bringing out every dog (human and canine) in Pulaski to see what the ruckus was about. We gotta admit, it was highly entertaining until we realized she was heading our way. Was it something we said?
You will have to forgive me, but did the MB just tell a hapless lad named Mitch that he did NOT have to buy his lady a proper engagement ring? A lady, whose lady friends all just recently got some ice? Mitch. MITCH! Read my lips: following this advice is a one way ticket to the doghouse. Who you gonna believe?
When you decided you liked it and Beyonce told you to put a ring on it, she was most definitely not talking about a subtle, understated platinum band. Boyfriend, is your love subtle and understated? The ring that MB would have you buy would be lovely for your actual wedding day, as a wedding ring, but an engagement ring is a whole different beast. A whole different gorgeous bad-ass one-of-a-kind beast. Kind of like you, Mitch.
Your instincts are good regarding the cookie cutter solitaire diamonds held aloft on prongs. That is not my favorite look and chances are, not your betrothed-to-be's either. Birds of a feather flock together and I think she, like you, might have something more creative in mind. Is she a romantic? Then perhaps a '20s art deco ring that whispers of torrid past love affairs, smoky speakeasies, and far flung adventures. Is she a futurist? Then perhaps something architectural, modern and clean -- a beautiful heirloom for the future. Is she a nature girl? Then she might like something soft, organic, rough-hewn and evocative of the elements. Is she wee and slight, with hands no bigger than a child's? Then perhaps something wee and slight.
My point, Mitch, is to ask her. Talk about it. Shop around. Look online. Get an idea of what she likes or find the perfect ring together and save the big surprise for the when and how of it all (just promise me you won’t pop the question in a restaurant). Trust me, no matter how down-to-earth or pragmatic she might be, she wants something that will make her feel all fluttery inside when she looks at her hand. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to be a diamond. It just has to be something she finds beautiful.
This ring, like you, is forever. So do yourself a favor, doll, and make it a good one.
Q: Engagement rings...the inevitable awaits. I noticed a recent trend of colored/gemstones set in rings instead of the traditional diamond. Also, I am thinking of buying a gemstone ring because all of my recently engaged friends seem to have purchased rings at the same place because they all look alike. Wanting to stay MB and keep my second half MB as well, what say you about the gemstone engagement ring? --Mitch
A: We've answered this question before regarding the man's ring (with a chart), and we'd put a gemstone engagement ring for the Mrs. at the same lousy position on the scale.
Don't do it man.
If you want to set yourself apart from your Zales-shopping peers, while simultaneously conferring loads of class upon your bride-to-be (and by association, you), apply the understatement principle and choose a band. We like platinum. A good local jeweler should be able to create one in a shape you like for roughly a grand. If not, there's always Tiffany & Co. If she requires a diamond, get two with a pair of earrings.
We're pretty sure that tossing around a 12 lb. sack of leather scraps is not the best way to prepare for the marathon we're planning to run later this year. Then again, a strong stride starts with a strong core. And we're going to have to do something to mitigate the fact that we'll be wearing synthetic leather running shoes a lot more than we're comfortable with. The Melzer's Boxing Club Chromexcel Medicine Ball is certainly one way to do that. It is the Macallan 25 of medicine balls -- understated, expertly crafted, and guaranteed to age beautifully.
According to Context Clothing's Ryan Huber, the ball replicates one his grandfather Melzer Rhey, aka "Bear Grease," used for over 50 years as a Golden Gloves boxing coach in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Each ball is hand-made by Pete Cunningham of Leather Head, using Horween Chromexcel leather for the shell and filled with 12 lbs. of leather scraps and kapok stuffing, a natural fiber made from the seed pods of a tree that grows in the South Pacific.
Whether this is an oversight by Leo Burnett's continuity team, or a conscious accessory editing decision, Allstate's Mayhem has dropped the collar bar in the most recent ad, first aired during last night's Sugar Bowl. (Hat tip: Wade)
Q: Earmuffs. I don't think you've mentioned a thing about these. I see lots of suited lobbyists (toolbags) here in DC touting the 180s, though they seem like a better option compared to grandma earmuffs. What are your thoughts? Let the ears freeze? Mess up my hair with a hat that does the job? --Jay
A: On January 21, 1961, John F. Kennedy took the oath of office in 22° weather and didn't wear a hat or scarf or earmuffs. Nor did Lyndon Johnson, and he was practically bald!
Not to mention the fact that you've also got fifty years of global warming working in your favor. We checked the latest 10-day forecast for DC -- there's nothing lower than 34° for a high over the next ten days.
But if you reckon you're not as hardy as either JFK or LBJ, forget the earmuffs and go with a cashmere hat which is warm, soft, and delivers a perfectly artfully disheveled head of hair every time.
Q: Hey MB: I happen to be a huge fan of the Burberry brand and have not been able to decide on a bastardly dastardly watch for an up-and-coming MB like myself. Are these watches ok for me to have as an MB? What is your take? I like the fabric because I think it is ultra classic. Could this be worn for any occasion? Let me know. --Nick
A: Nick, we object to this purchase for at least two reasons. First, this watch is 44mm in diameter, which, unless you have Popeye-sized forearms, is in clear violation of the 40mm max diameter watch rule. Second, it's $380 at Amazon and has a quartz movement! Quartz vs. mechanical is the equivalent of motorboats vs. sailboats, or gas fireplaces vs. wood fireplaces, or fake breasts vs. real breasts. You can probably guess which side we come down on, but just to be clear: go real. Always. You can even save 100 bucks (at least) on a mechanical watch at westcoastime, and if you're digging the fabric strap and can accept a non-Burberry color combo, use your savings to pick up a couple of Zulu or Bond straps.
Q: It's starting to get a bit cold outside. What do you think about fingerless gloves? --Tom
A: Fingerless gloves are great if you're either a street vendor or bum, since they provide the necessary dexterity to make a hot dog or fish a beer can out of the trash. MBs have no need for doing either, and prefer to keep the extremes of their extremities encased in cashmere, or better yet, fur. The latter are a little hard to come by these days but we've been satisfied with the Fratelli Orsini option at leatherglovesonline.com and they're just 82 bucks.
Q: So MB - I was at an NBA game on Friday night and there were several MB-looking types wearing patterned driving caps. I've always thought of this as my grandpa's hat, wondering what your thoughts are. --Jennifer
A: We charted the style curve rise and fall of driving/newsboy/ivy caps back in early 2008 and declared the trend dead when Cuba Gooding Jr. showed up at the 10,000 B.C. premiere wearing one (plus flashing hand signs). Now that Gooding Jr. has gone missing, co-starring with Val Kilmer and Christian Slater in straight-to-DVD flicks, and iconic toolbag and the frequent ivy cap-wearing Tony Romo is on injured reserve, this headwear style can now emerge from rehab. In fact, as the NFL season hits the increasingly chilly home stretch, we would not be surprised to see Tom Brady sporting a newsboy for one of his ridiculously stylish post-game press conferences.
Q: So I need to upgrade my winter hat collection, and started off with your suggestions for cashmere knit caps. However, I'd also like something a little different from the standard knits, and was looking at stuff like this BR military hat. Any other suggestions? --Dave
A: We suggest waiting on military until the next election. But even in 2012, that particular hat is reserved exclusively for baller revolutionaries. Plus, unless you hail from Cuba or anywhere south of about the panhandle, a winter hat needs ear coverage as an option, so it doesn't even qualify in our book.
It's really unfortunate Barney's CO-OP has labeled this $65 cashmere hat a "basic skully" because "skully" gives off negative vibes associated with TTH urban hipsters and age-inappropriately styled NFL quarterbacks. This is simply an excellent "winter hat," in cashmere, that strongly lends itself to artful dishevelment and fits nothing like a skully.
Speaking of the NFL, in handicapping lingo this is our F/W 2010 accessory lead pipe lock.
Q: I've just bought a pair of grey Kenneth Cole leather oxford shoes. I intend to wear them with long-sleeved shirts in the office. Should I wear a grey leather belt too? --Mark
A: First, we hope those Kenneth Cole oxfords plot on the proper portion of our shoe pointiness chart. (We're afraid for you, Mark!)
Second, we've never been fans of strict adherence to the belt-must-match-shoes rules handed down by previous generations of MBs, and the gray-on-gray you're wondering about sounds a little too Garanimalistic for our taste. You've essentially opened up the accessory playbook by wearing a pair of gray shoes, which is the footwear equivalent of denim. So while black and brown belts will both work, feel confident in pairing them with just about anything.
Q: What's your take on collar bars (aka collar pins) as a bastardly accessory? A vintage touch to a magnificent ensemble, unecessarily dressy for everyday at the office, or just TTH? I mean, it's hard to deny the "Mayhem" guy from recent Allstate commercials is a bastard and a half, and wears a tie bar in every ad. --Nate
A: Based on the number of marriage proposals on YouTube, Allstate has an even bigger hit on their hands with Mayhem than Dos Equis had with The Most Interesting Man in the World.
There is a lot to like here: the shirt collar/tie knot combination, the real 5 o' clock shadow, the way he pulls off a receeding hairline, and of course that sinister grin. And the wink, too. It's no wonder women are crazy for this guy.
The only knock is the personalized license plate (pictured), which is the toolbag auto's de facto standard. As for the collar bar, it's a little Mad Men-y and hence played out, but if you're otherwise as artfully disheveled and bruised and cut up as Mayhem, it works to balance out the look.
Forget cashmere hats. Qiviut is the wool of the muskox. It is ridiculously expensive and ridiculously warm. The material is thin and lightweight, yet warm enough to let muskox survive brutal winters in Siberia and northern Alaska. It's also more rare than cashmere. As an added bonus, the value of qiviut-made clothes goes up as they age because the material absorbs oils and becomes softer. --Andrew
We welcome the tip from the Siberian Qiviut Producers Association, and weren't even aware this beast existed, since it looks like something that went extinct 10,000 years ago.
If you demand that your qiviut accessories be made in the USA, David Morgan sells a qiviut hat that's hand-knit by the Eskimo women of the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers' Co-operative in Alaska for $170.
Q: I've been struggling with finding a good umbrella -- all of mine are hugely logoed. Where does an MB get his umbrellas? --Albert
A: Albert, legible clothing is one thing. Legible umbrellas are quite another. Even when paired with golf spikes, this is a look to avoid unless you've got a paying sponsor.
When it comes to umbrellas it's important to buy one made in England, and not merely to satisfy the MB principle of Anglophilia. Besides soccer, James Bond, and the flush toilet, the British also invented rain.
If you're flush (with cash) then there's really only one option: A Swaine Adeney Brigg umbrella, preferably covered in coated silk and handled with horn from a deer or buffalo. Just don't leave this behind in a taxi. A tiny notch down from Brigg is James Smith & Sons, who've been making umbrellas for 180 years. Their solid stick umbrellas are essentially bespoke, handmade and measured and cut according to your height. Finally there's this Paul Smith stripe umbrella which, while not made or horn or silk, folds into something you can slip into your bag and doesn't cost more than the per-capita income of Burundi.
Q: Let's talk about Bastardic pockets/pocket gear. Am I correct in the belief that inside an MB's pockets there should only be a minimalistic non-George Costanza wallet, a maximum of 2 keys with no obtrusive keyring and a cellphone? Keys and wallet on the left, phone on the right and party in the middle. Oh, and a mini Altoids tin in the coin pocket of your jeans, as this eliminates that offensive sound of announcing your arrival by walking. I have this Dopp wallet which I think is MB...your thoughts? --Robert
A: We've previously endorsed minimal, non-George Costanza wallets. Specifically, the MAKR CARRY GOODS "One" ($60) made from free-range cattle each given a loving pat on the head before being shipped to slaughter, and Malcolm Fontier's polyurethane "Mojito" ($29) for more highly evolved types.
While Dopp certainly has a pedigree -- German immigrant Charles Doppelt invented the toiletry case in 1919 -- a magnet seems like an especially bad materials choice for a money clip. Besides potentially demagnetizing something like a room key, the clip's effectivness diminishes in proportion to the more cash an MB is carrying.
Q: What are your thoughts on tie clips? I've noticed some articles on ties and suits and thought maybe I skimmed over something on tie clips. I have a wedding coming up and will be sporting a 2 button, single vented, dark grey, slim fitting suit with white/charcoal edged cotton pocket square, purple checked shirt and a solid lavender tie. Will a well placed silver tie clip make the outfit complete? --Mike (MB in training)
Besides strongly recommending a plain white pocket square, we'd pass on the tie clip. Like fused collars, collar stays, creased pants, starch, and excessive hair gelling, tie clips contribute to a too neat, too calculated, too TTH look. We call for freedom for ties! To dangle asymmetrically, to catch a little gust of wind, to do their part contributing to the aesthetic goal of artful dishevelment.
Over time even the most Magnificent of Bastards can end up with a shortie or two running around the house. While parenthood clearly can have devastating lifestyle effects, it's also an opportunity to turn them into accessories that pack more sartorial punch than any belt, hat, or watch (OK, maybe not this watch).
Q: I recently picked up a silver Clint Orms "Trophy" buckle on vacation out west. In a room of Texan high-rollers you could call it understated, but I'm not sure how to pull it off in NYC without looking like a confused cowboy. Any suggestions? --Charles
A: Charles, we applaud your decision to get a Clint Orms trophy buckle. For those unfamiliar with Orms, he's a Texas-based silversmith and engraver known for his meticulously crafted belt buckles that along with silver incorporate gold, rubies, diamonds, sapphires, and emeralds. A single buckle may be constructed from as many as 200 different pieces, take 200 hours to make, and cost upwards of $20,000.
Always remember, though, that while a belt buckle in it simplest form is functional, a belt buckle that costs more than $20 is essentially male jewelry, and male jewelry involving precious metals and stones is typically an express train to Toolbagville. So restraint is crucial. Orms clearly gets this -- even at their most ornate, his trophy buckles display a sense of lavish understatement (see example, pictured).
The key to wearing them in NYC is to keep that principle in mind. First, we'd recommend going with a matte black/brown leather belt rather than lizard, alligator, or anything else with a lot of shine or texture. Second, keep everything else simple too: Unadulterated denim, canvas sneakers or sandals, and a well-worn tee or polo can work with an Orms trophy buckle. Never wear it with a suit. Never wear it with a shirt that has pearl snap buttons or Western-style stitching. Never wear it with a cowboy hat, a lariat, or cowboy boots -- which should be pretty easy since you should never wear a cowboy hat, a lariat, or cowboy boots in NYC anyhow.
When a reader recently asked us about watches, we endorsed the gray and black stripe "Bond strap" worn by Sean Connery in Goldfinger and sold at Westcoastime. This prompted several responses from our readers. Here are a couple:
Q: Saw your recent post about military inspired watches and the "Bond-band". In my follow up search, I found these folks who took spy fantasy authenticity to a new level. After studying a high-res freeze fame of MB Connery's wrist in Goldfinger, they had that strap reproduced down to the precise hue of every thread. http://corvuswatch.com/index.asp?page=watchbands
After some investigation, we've determined that it's actually the same U.K. company, Phoenix Straps, that manufactures the "Bond Strap" sold at Westcoastime and the "Real Bond Strap" sold at Corvus. To make things even more complex, Phoenix Straps sells a version of the Bond Strap itself on British eBay. There are almost as many real Bond Straps as there are James Bonds.
So why are there more than one and which one is the real one?
The way we hear it, GQ was doing a feature on Bond-inspired apparel many years ago and asked Phoenix Straps about producing a copy of the strap. TV technology being what it was in the 20th century, all involved believed the strap to be black and grey. And thus the first iteration of the Bond Strap was born. This is the version Westcoastime sells.
But you know how it goes -- time marches on, technology improves. Equipped with Blu-ray and HD, the folks at Corvus viewed Goldfinger and Thunderball and decided the true colors of the Bond Strap were not grey and black, as long believed, but rather black and olive green with thin red stripes. Corvus asked Phoenix Straps to produce a new version of the strap and began selling it on its site.
If you think that's the end of it, you don't know many Bond geeks. Some people believe the Corvus version is correct. Others insist the red stripe is a phenomenon of Blu-ray rendering technology and not an accurate representation of the original.
Meanwhile, Phoenix Straps also sells a slight variation on the new Corvus version: This third version -- the one available on British eBay -- replaces the olive green of the Corvus version with the traditional grey of the pre Blu-ray version.
So which strap to buy? We recommend that you watch the Blu-ray version of Goldfinger and follow your heart.
This guy is clearly cracking under the pressure. Paired with the right summer blazer that scarf could be magnificent, but accompanying only a polo it's wrong, and this guy's sheepish grin shows he knows it.
Q: You guys give great advice on style, however I have a question on a different kind of style. Office style, as in decorating your office so it is sufficiently MB. I got a new job recently and need to make my cube mine (cube is not MB I'm sure, but I'm early in my career). I have a good hookup on Mulholland Brothers items, so I'm thinking of putting a few of their products in to get away from the grey. Any suggestions? --Chase
Chase, Mulholland Brothers makes nice stuff, and unless it's nailed down it's going to fly out of the office faster than yellow highlighters and Swingline staplers. And you don't really want to be known as the guy who locks up his change base every night, do you?
We're no experts on cube customization, but our instinct is to un-customize it as much as possible -- no photos, no calendars, no nothing. The message you want to send is that you're not staying long.
Q: Hey - my girlfriend's birthday is coming up and I'm a pretty cheap bastard. How much should I shell out for a handbag and how do I know (other than asking her friends) which one is appropriate/good - as they all the mid-range bags look pretty tacky to me. --Hamish
A: Hamish, you sound pretty committed to the notion that you're a cheap bastard, so it's probably best to find out sooner rather than later if your girlfriend is equally at ease with this fact. Test her out with this Hollywood Intuition bag from Target, designed by Jane Hersh, who owns celeb-fave Intuition in LA. It's $27.
Q: I know it's totally un-MB of me to decide to get married, but I am wondering what is the most MB wedding ring for a guy to wear. I see so many of these thick tungsten bands around that look like a washer from a car or something. What is an MB to do? --Alex
Q: Does your 2009 endorsement of retro frames still hold for 2010, because I am looking into buying a pair by Oliver Peoples. --Max
A: Eyewear is the most personal of accessories, so buy what you like. But yes, we're still on the retro frames bandwagon (glasses and especially sunglasses) and always will be, simply because they almost always offer superior styling and value. In fact, the only pair of glasses made this century seen 'round the office are these $49 Criss nylon frames, typically issued to penitentiary inmates because they cannot easily be weaponized. But for those of us on the outside they're both super light and surprisingly stylish.
Q: How does an MB wear his ID badge at work? None of the options (lanyard, clip-on, stapled to the forehead, etc.) seem particularly magnificent or bastardly....and certainly not both together. Any suggestions? --Mickey
A: Our primary suggestion is to not have a job where an ID badge is required. A well-endowed trust fund is another good option. But sometimes you gotta feed the monkey, which is where a reinterpretation of the classic luggage tag comes in. On sale right now at giltman.com is this Jack Spade boar skin version for just $18. Sale ends tonight at 11PM CT.
(Again, if you'd like an invitation to Gilt Man -- currently our favorite shopping site -- drop a line.)
Q: While I feel confident that I have successfully managed the unfavorable hand of genetic hair-loss with a close cut; and despite a having solid hat collection, every winter I pine for the many benefits of a full head of hair. With that in mind, what's the MB stance on seeking hair-replacement treatments? --Joe
A: Joe, don't cut it too close (see an earlier post on the matter). It's easy for us to sit here with hair up the wazoo and tell you to work with what the good Lord gave ya, but that's exactly what we're going to do. Hair replacement/transplants run into the many thousands of dollars and they're a crap shoot. For that kind of bread you can upgrade your hat collection with this ultra-toasty shaved beaver model (now on sale for $290) and have wads of cash left over for penis enlargement pills.
I wanted to update you on my efforts to knit the perfect scarf. You were kind enough to obtain the dimensions of the SOH Cashmere Scarf so that I could knit it for my dear son. I found the ideal cashmere yarn and have just finished the last stitch of scarf. My son will be celebrating his 25th birthday on Saturday and this will be a truly fitting gift to commemorate his quarter-century mark.
With sincere thanks, Bonnie
A: That truly warms our hearts, Bonnie. Now, if you enter our MB Cocktail Contest and submit an entry that your son will be proud to order in any bar in America, you will truly be en route to winning Mom of the Year!
Q: As a top-flight plain clothes supervisor in a major southern police department, this question must be asked: Holster on the belt or go with the shoulder holster? I feel pretty good about my overall MB status but this one keeps me awake. I like the convenience of the belt holster but really feel like the shoulder rig is the only real MB choice for those of us in a suit. Your call - just the right call for the classic MB police style or just trying too hard (TTH)? --Ray
A: Our call is that it's the right call. The MB plain clothes cops we know -- Virgil Tibbs, Harry Callahan, Jack Cates -- all choose the shoulder holster and for good reason: it hides the pistol's bulk beneath your jacket (form), and also allows for a quick draw (function) as demonstrated by Sydney Poitier in 1970's They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!.
Not so much a tip as props: needing a new pair of gloves, I scanned the archives for this. Sent the link on to the gift-giver late in the season (12/21) and damned if the (awesome) gloves didn't arrive in time for Xmas morning. Also, the gloves are phenomenal. So thanks for the killer tips, and keep up the good work! --Andy
A: Yes, in spite of having perhaps the most prosaic company name on the entire internet, Leather Gloves Online has some excellent product at a good value. We recommend anything lined with rabbit fur. Once you go bunny, even cashmere-lined gloves feels like you're slumming it. In fact, besides being pets, the rabbit's primary reason for existence is to line an MBs accessories and sweaters.
Elsewhere in America, the Stormy Kromer is experiencing renewed popularity as the workwear revival peaks on the trend curve. Here in Pulaski, it's a permanent fact of life. (Heck, it was invented just 36 miles south in Kaukauna, Wisconsin.) Thanks to a recent cold spell -- it's minus 8 here tonight -- we've been wearing ours so often we're even starting to miss old Ackley.
While many contemporary designers are offering their take on the Kromer this year, this is one classic that needs no twist. Like the Eames Aluminun Group Task Chair, it's a design so pure and simple and correct that there's just no way to top it.
Q: Have you seen this yet? GQ is on a downward spiral with their "good" fashion tips. Collar stays? Really? --Perry
A: GQ is like a machine. Every month they need to produce x amount of words to fill a magazine, and when that happens you're bound to get some bad (and often contradictory) advice. Not to mention, Glenn O'Brien (The Style Guy) can't write everything. Collar stays aren't just out, they prevent successful artful dishevelment. Take a close look at George Clooney's beautifully disheveled collar and you can clearly see there is definitely not a collar stay.
Q: Can you tell me your thoughts about the ECigarette? --Randall
A: Randall, besides being a gross violation of the principle of organic materials, the first time we saw this thing we thought it was a gag gift, on par with fake vomit and fake dog shit. Remarkably it's real (and incidentally delivers a real dose of nicotine). Can you tell how we feel? If not, we've created a useful chart below.
At least once in a man's life, he should buy a scarf that costs more than the most expensive suit at Men's Warehouse. We recommend the new 70 cashmere/ 30 superfine merino wool cable hand-knit scarf from new designer Song Oh. It takes more than a week to knit each piece. A Men's Warehouse suit takes like 18 minutes to assemble, tops.
This beauty is available exclusively at Pamela Robbins in Scarsdale, NY. And we also have a handy guide on how to achieve the "lofty wrap" look.
Q: First of all, I love your site. Your advice as led to (too) many purchases as of late. What does an MB use as a checkbook cover? It can't be the freebie from the bank. --Kyle
A: Kyle, thanks for the kind words, but we haven't written a check since the Clinton administration. Even if you still write a few, we recommend doing it in the privacy of your own home, with the curtains drawn. In other words, no cover required.
Not so MB: This ain't Wimbledon! White visor, white shirt, white belt, white glove, white pants, and white shoes (not pictured: white undies and white socks). Even Colonel Sanders (inset) knew enough to mix in a black string tie and pocket square.
Very MB: Newly-crowned PGA champion is 37 years old with a headful of dark hair and chooses the perfect headwear to highlight its existence.
Q: I recently broke my pelvis and back in a motorcycle accident because some unmagnificent bastard decided to turn left without using his blinker. Thus, I am handicapped. Soon I will be able to walk again with the use of a cane. Where can a 21 year old guy go about looking for an MB-approved cane? --Brandon
A: Sorry, Brandon. The only more annoying (and in your case dangerous) driver behavior than lack of turn indication is driving in the left-hand lane. Move over, asshole! (Please visit slowertraffickeepright.com for more information on this important matter.)
Sorry, we digress. What you need is what's called a "system" cane, one that has a dual purpose or function, like cane+knife or cane+gun, or our recommendation: cane+flask. As usual, vintage trumps new so keep your eyes on eBay. Otherwise, both Fashionablecanes.com and Target.com (!) have someoptions that will keep you upright. Or depending on what's in the flask, not.
Q: I'm in an upcoming wedding, and we're wearing pocket squares. Any suggestions on how to fold those suckers like an MB? --Mike
A: Mike, we've covered this before and stand by the advice given: apply Occam's Razor and keep it simple with either a one-point or flat fold. Even moreso for a wedding because those photographs have a way of lingering on mantles, walls, side tables, and Facebook -- and those two options have best stood the test of time.
Top: Ol' Blue Eyes with some youthful indiscretion.
Bottom: More mature Sinatra goes artfully disheveled, timeless.
Q: Hey guys, love the site and what you're doing. I was wondering what your take on medical identification (i.e. bracelets, dog tags, and the like) was. I've been a type 1 diabetic for over nine years and have always refused to wear medical ID's because they tend to make people feel sorry for you ... and because most of the ones that I've seen, look ridiculous. However, recent events have brought to light the necessity of wearing a medical ID and I can thus no longer ignore the issue. What type of medical ID would say "hell yea I have diabetes, what about it?", while still maintaining the fashion style of an MB? --Iain
A: Here are the options as we see them:
Option A: Wear a necklace. They are barely visible 95% of the time and will indicate your medical need when necessary. If you're like us and can't stand things hanging from your neck, then...
Option C: If you are feeling flush, with the help of Tiffany you could make a one-of-a kind piece to last a lifetime. Buy a Tiffany 1837 I.D. bracelet (bottom) and work with their customer service -- and they are all about customer service -- to get the custom engraving your body needs.
Unless you're a superhero or cop, nothing should hang from your belt. Seriously, we don't even recommend this for professional exterminators. This thing belongs in a closet, next to the box of Cinch Saks and the Swiffer.
Sure, the iPhone is fine for urban applications. But what if you want to take your tweeting off-road? Then, you need something a little more rugged, like Oakley's new Hummerized iPhone case. We suspect it gets terrible gas mileage. We suspect Arnold Schwarzenegger already owns seven of them. Naturally, this seals it for us. Oakley is the King Midas of contemporary design. Anything it touches instantly turns toolbaggy. Don't believe us?
Q: On the subject of pocket squares, where does the MB plant it roots? My hunch would be you favor the artfully unruly puff fold, but what is your stand on the Quantum of Solace "angled" straight fold featured in the print ads for said film? --Tune
A: We've covered this before, but we'll happily cover it again. Unless you're Yves Saint Laurent, who's dead, we prefer the one-point or the flat fold. James Bond is clueless about the martini (shaken is just plain wrong), but the flat fold has been in place from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig. That "angling" you're seeing is Bond's version of artful dishevelment. Either that or the result of having to lug around a silenced Heckler & Koch MP5 9mm.
No one digs Alexander McQueen more than the MB. His collaboration with Puma has practically redefined men's footwear. But Spring 2009 is way, way too late in the game to be featuring skull accessories, even if they do have Swarovski crystal eyes.
Magnetic collar stays? "Super strong magnetic buttons give you the unique ability to adjust your collar's spread on a whim, creating multiple different looks with the same shirt"? Ummm, how about just buying a shirt with a spread that you like and wearing it as it was tailored? --Kevin
A: Who knew this much thought went into collar stays? Whenever we buy a shirt with collar stays they're immediately tossed in the trash, simply because they greatly inhibit the MB Prime Directive: artful dishevelment.
Q: I'm planning on traveling to some rather unsavory places. Is there an MB alternative to money belts? --Jet-Setting Bastard
A: Assuming you're going to be spending some time overseas and not just a weekend in Detroit, the belt's problem is that it doesn't have a place for your passport.
We've previously ripped on the YMYL Holster for being focused on holding an MP3 player instead of, say, a weapon. But in this case it will suit your needs pretty well. Combine with a couple unstructured blazers and a Beretta 418, you're jet-setting safely, and in style.
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: I'm trying to find a stylish, affordable winter leather glove for everyday wear. What would you recommend? --Brian
A: The name practically defines prosaic and their site is a blast from 1996, but we've had great luck with stuff from Leather Gloves Online, especially their rabbit fur lined options. Trust us, once you go rabbit fur lined, you never go back, even to the finest Outer Mongolian goat cashmere. Choose the pique stitched version for a dressier look (top, $79.95), and the handsewn chunky stitch pair (bottom, $86.95) for more casual wear.
Q: My husband seems to be losing his hearing, but since he is the quintessential MB he is dead against a hearing aid. I saw this item in the latest SkyMall airline catalog -- it's a hearing aid camouflaged as a Bluetool, I mean -tooth. The copy claims it will make my darling look more youthful. And if it works, he would be able to hear me better. It's $40. What do you think? --Dru
A: Take it easy there, hon. Do *not* mess with a man's hard-earned ability to tune out his wife, even if it's the result of actual hearing loss. May we suggest a dozen Titleist Pro V1s instead?
Q: What is your take on thumb rings? I wear one from time-to-time to round out my MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter look. It's a silver ring with a gold skull I bought while in combat over in Iraq. I have read that back in the day, like 1400s back in the day, docs and military types use to wear thumb rings. I catch a lot of shit from friends, but that's as far as it goes when I ask them what would look more gay? "My low-key skull thumb ring or them walking into the ER with a broken jaw?" --Glenn
A: We reckon you're mistaking thumb rings for thumbscrews. We also reckon your friends are more regular readers of this site, just trying to help their boy out. So get medieval on someone else's ass.
Yeah, we were a little harsh on Obama on his inauguration, tracking his 47-year fall From Cool to Tool. But there's Hope, and even Change we can Believe in. Forced to give up his Blackberry (which we've previously discussed), Obama has turned to the Sectéra Edge, which would be positioned quite nicely on the MB Portable Communication Guide. It certainly has the benefit of being both exclusive and obscure, and in spite of the QWERTY keyboard and touchscreen display, with only 2 hours of secure talk time and weighing a whopping 12oz. it also scores highly for senseless lack of utility.
Is nerd ironic in for 2009? Browsing through the New York Times' Obama's People gallery we were struck (rather hard) by Peter R. Orszag, the new OMB director, who seems to be putting us on. Kind of a Robert Carradine attire/accessorization with a Boy Wonder stance. So over-the-top it has to be by design.
More to come on President-elect Obama's inauguration on Monday.
Q: What's your take on glasses? I'm nearsighted and I wear contacts most of the time, but occasionally I do like to wear my glasses (for the sake of the "look"). Do you have any recommendations on things like frame (metal/plastic), shape (round, oval, square), color (black, brown, etc...), rimless or rimmed, and size? Or should I just stick to contacts? --4Eyes
A: We strongly endorse eyeglasses. They are a great way to accessorize stylishly, or to achieve "the look" as you say. This "look" may even end up defining you, as they have for many MBs throughout history. As far as material and shape and rims, experiment and see what you like and don't like. We almost always end up with vintage eyewear, which you can find at antique stores or our favorite (and we reckon the best) online dealer for new old stock: allyn scura. Tell Scott (the owner) we sent you.
See if you can identify these MBs before looking at the answers below.
Top Row: Salvador Allende, Arthur Ashe, William S. Burroughs, Michael Caine Middle Row: Elvis Costello, Sammy Davis Jr., James Dean, Johnny Depp Bottom Row: J. William Fulbright, Mahatma Gandhi, Philip Johnson, Le Corbusier
Although the New York Times reports Obama is "clinging" to his BlackBerry and he says, "They're going to pry it out of my hands," it looks as though Barack Obama might have to give it up. Next thing on the agenda -- far more important than any stimulus package: find a decent casual wardrobe.
Q: Do you hate the Blackberry Storm like I do? --Deborah
A: Well if you've been here for a while you know our stance on the iPhone, so you can probably guess what we think of an iPhone impersonator from the maker of the ultimate toolbag communication device. The "Storm" feels like a middle-aged dad trying to be "cool" and "hip" like his high school son/daughter, but ends up only embarassing the hell out of everyone.
Overheard at the office:
"Says here 'Upload to flickr.' What the fuck is flickr?"
Q: I'm not a big fan of jewelry in general, but every once in a while I get the inclination to try wearing a bracelet or dog tags. Should I ignore that inclination? --Dustin
A: We don't love the smell of accessorization in the morning.
Robert Duvall rocked the bracelet and dogs tags in a major way as Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now. (Incidentally, he was 48 years old in this picture.) But he was in the U.S. Army, in theater, fighting the Vietnamese at the time. We're guessing you're not. For civilians we preach accessorization minimization, so go ahead and ignore that inclination.
Q: I reject the MB's stance against pinkie rings at all cost. I wear a simple, small, stainless steel one because of what it represents. I'm an engineer from Canada (ya make all the jokes you want to prove your American insecurity, eh) and it represents a solemn expression of intent, a reminder of the humanity and responsibility involved in the profession. Keep that in mind when the guy-from-out-of-town drinks you under the bar while wearing one. Plus the ring follows the MB mantra, lack of utility coinciding with obscurity. --Ethan
A: The other day we were watching a television advertisement for a national restaurant chain and witnessed a customer wearing a pinkie ring (and exhibiting PDA). The restaurant was Applebee's. Our challenge to you, Mr. smart engineer guy: calculate the degree incline of the uphill battle you're fighting.
Q: What's your view on pagers? You know the little thing that sits on your belt and receive messages. I don't like carrying my phone around with me, but I still want people to be able to get in touch with me when I'm out of the office. --Dave
A: Dave, we reckon you're toying with us by asking this question, but we strongly endorse such an anachronistic gesture. It's like writing a letter on a typewriter. (Don't go with the acid wash though.)
Three cheers to Details magazine for coining a new term: bluetool
n. A person who wears a Bluetooth earpiece at any time other than while driving. Provenance: Annoyed pedestrians Usage: "The bluetool behind me on the sidewalk was telling the loudest story about who he hooked up with the night before."
Fans and critics are both saying Usain Bolt could've run even faster than 9.69 had it not been for the last 10m of showboating (top). Maybe, but he certainly would've been faster without the drag of the cause wristband, pinkie ring, and shiny gold ring (bottom).
It's sometimes useful to look to cinema for reinforcement of style principles. When the creators of Bull Durham wanted to create a shlubby, clueless rookie pitcher "with a million dollar arm and the 5-cent head" they dressed Ebby Calvin 'Nuke' LaLoosh in:
1. Pleated, linen pants. (Note the wrinkles!) 2. Tommy Bahama-style camp shirt. 3. Shiny gold watch and ring. 4. Pinkie ring.
Yes, we've got Bravo on full-time in the MB office, partially because it's The Toolbag Channel. The examples of what not to do are irresistable. Like Slade from Date My Ex. Shiny gold watch, shiny gold ring, and that scarf epitomizes TTH (Trying Too Hard). MBs can safely avoid all three things (and the hand gesturing, too).
Q: I've been a reader for a while now, but haven't seen you tackle the portable communication conundrum. (Or maybe I just missed it.) With iPhone, Blackberry, Helio Ocean, et al. as communication options, each with more features than a Swiss Army Knife, which one(s) is MB approved? And don't worry, no belt clips here...middle management life is not for me. --Gregory
A: While we can't get into all the specific models available, our new Portable Communication Guide chart will hopefully make clear where we stand on this matter.
Trying to make a Bluetooth headset look MB is as hopeless as trying to rock out a pair of Crocs in an un-ironic way: not possible. In spite of this, the folks at Jawbone are giving it a shot with their headset that claims to be "both humanistic and minimal." And totally toolbag.
As we've said before, this look is just one-degree removed from Lando Calrissian's bald android assistant. (Well, two degrees if you include the need for a shave and removal of Kenny G ringlets.)
Q: In a March critique of an Iraqi insurgent's magnificent bastard-dom, you note: "Pinkie ring acceptable only if starring in Scorsese mob picture." With an astute sense of style, I think one could pull this off. I'm thinking Jude Law in The Talented Mr. Ripley (approx. 24 minutes in), with a jade/gold pinkie ring. In almost every situation, I would stay away from gold, but I found a similar ring in Egypt -- very simple and understated, with a small piece of turquoise in it -- if anything, more understated than the film. If done in good taste (not the least bit Rush Limbaugh-esque), would the MB endorse such a ring? Thanks. --Colin
A: We'll see your Talented Mr. Ripley and raise you an Idiocracy (where writer/director Mike Judge puts everyone in Crocs), featuring 5-time Ultimate Smackdown Champion and U.S. President Dwayne Elizando Mountain Dew Hector Camacho, in a gold pinkie ring.
Q: What is the rule for a lapel pin on a blazer (not a flag)? Side? Height? Anything else? --Aaron
A: Aaron, do you know a single Magnificent Bastard who wears a lapel pin? OK, French President Nicolas Sarkozy on overseas visits qualifies with his Legion of Honor pin. Also, Napoleon rocked them out, but that's about it. So, unless you're a current or former French leader, forget it.
Q: Where does the MB fall on pocket squares? It has been my new accessory this year. Thumbs up or thumbs down? --John
A: Thumbs up, depending on the material they're made of and how you fold them. Once we apply a Magnificent Bastard
principle here and a universal rule there, a pocket square-wearing framework quickly emerges:
Matte vs. Gloss MBs almost always choose matte over gloss, which means choosing pocket squares made from cotton or linen vs. silk or (the horror!) synthetic. Yes, it's possible to nail silk but this is best left to Yves Saint Laurent (upper left). Otherwise you might end up looking like some sleazy televangelist like, say, Benny Hinn (upper right).
Occam's Razor Though he lived 700 years ago, Franciscan friar William of Occam weighed in on pocket square folds, eschewing any with unnecessary steps, like the four-point fold. Instead, choose the one-point as demonstrated by Cary Grant (bottom left), or our favorite, the flat fold just peeking out of your breast pocket, as demonstrated by 007.
Q: MB: Ball caps? Nope, never worn them. Flip it backwards? Are you kidding me? Visors? Yup. Wear 'em. Even feel like a bastard at times. How 'bout you? Visors? I'm talking on the golf course, and off. --C.D.
A: The highly-destructive Tiger Woods Apparel Effect has contributed to making visors quite rare these days. MB strongly endorses them, but only when both of these rules are met:
1. You're on a golf course, and 2. You've got the locks to show off.
(Clockwise from upper left: Fred Couples, Trevor Immelman, Phil Mickelson, Tommy Armour III.)
GOOD 1. Pants. Lounge-fit khakis work nicely on bigger men. 2. Footwear. Climbing/hiking boots transition well from granola/North Face look; useful for dodging sniper fire. 3. Shirt. Untucked, unbuttoned knit short-sleeve satisfies MB principle of artful dishevelment.
BAD 1. Headwear. Ski mask creates hat-head and even worse, hat-face, especially in hot desert climates. 2. Weapon. AK-47 noisy and big and showy. Violates MB principle of understatement. 3. Neckwear. Bullet scarf made from too large of diameter rounds (see understatement). Leave larger caliber accessorization to G.I. Joe & Rambo. 4. Jewelry. Pinkie ring acceptable only if starring in Scorsese mob picture.
Where else on the World Wide Web are you going to get two posts about Guido the Killer Pimp in a 2-week span? Only at magnificentbastard.com. (See earlier one.)
Let's have a look at what's wrong with GtKP (Joe Pantoliano) at the red carpet premiere of Flawless starring Demi Moore and Michael Caine:
1. Beret. Violation of the principle of Anglophilia. Francophilia way less cool. 2. Multiple necklaces. Violation of principle of minimal accessorization. 3. Tucked-in sweater. Never do this. 4. Skull belt buckle. Skulls beyond outgoing. 5. Cane. OK if used for actual physical ailment; never OK for affect. Doesn't really work with skull belt buckle. 6. Multiple rings. (See multiple necklaces.)
We like to keep accessorization simple, limited to perhaps a watch. Even a wedding ring is pushing it as far as we're concerned. Accessorizing with a goat that look like a unicorn is not only un-MB, it's probably also un-American.
Q: Pleated pants. We know they should be banned, but what if you like to wear suspenders; do you wear them with plain fronts? Is doesn't seem right. Holly
A: Holly, we presume this is for your husband or boyfriend. Either that or you're Annie Hall. Anyhow, suspenders with "plain fronts" is totally fine, and actually preferred to pleats. Just have a look at the pleats-suspenders combo on Lumbergh (with belt!) and Mork. Pleats just plain suck.
Q: Am I a dork because I really want to start wearing an ascot? I'd like to think it would make this bastard even more magnificent. —MJ
A: MJ, this is like being at the 2008 Summer Olympics, jumping off the springboard and trying a reverse 2½ somersault pike. With such a high DD (degree of difficulty), yes you might nail it (like Fred from Scooby Doo), but you're more likely to hit your head and require stitches (like Danny Noonan in Caddyshack).
Ascots are one of those things where the following MB rule is applied: If you have to ask, forget about it.
Only a smidge bigger and Flavor Flav is going to start wearing these watches around his neck. Yesterday on Fox's NFL Sunday, both Curt Menefee and Jimmy Johnson sported these monsters. (Big Ben looks only slightly less awful on Menefee.) Thankfully, "Terry" and "Howie" both abstained.
A: Cool Hunting, you say? No kidding. In this case, "cool" gets shot in the abdomen and is in critical condition. Ben, this is a solution looking for a problem. If you're wearing a blazer, you'd just stick the iPod into an inside pocket. Sans blazer, you really going to wear a leather holster to carry an MP3 player? Thought so. Anyhow, thanks for the question, because it's helped us define a new Magnificent Bastard style rule: If you're wearing a holster, it'd better be for holding a weapon.
After longing for a slimmer wallet, I finally picked up this card carrier and it's great. The only problem I have, however, is that there's not much room for cash. I can cover most of my daily routine with plastic, but cash is nice for incidentals, such as a quick pint at the pub, tipping, etc. There is room for a couple C-Notes in the center, but then the problem that arises is what to do with the bills that come back in change. I'm trying out the idea of also carrying a money clip, but that doesn't seem ideal to me.
So my question is: How much cash should a Magnificent Bastard carry these days? —Scott
A: First, give the money clip a try. May we suggest this Paul Smith model to accompany your new purchase? Second, we reckon anything less that $100 is when the gas light goes on for a refill. Waving around a credit card all the time can make you look like you're leveraged to the hilt, like some piss-poor South American country, or the USA.
Now here's a lapel pin we can get behind. French President Nicolas Sarkozy was in town (wearing a lapel pin) and while we couldn't get a close-up tight enough for visual confirmation, evidence points in the direction that it may be a portrait of Marquis de Lafayette (inset) -- the French general and hero of the Revolutionary War who named his son after George Washington -- placed between the American and French flags. Here's to rapprochement between America and one of her greatest friends.
Update/Correction: Even though the above makes for a tear-jerking story of two great nations kissing and making up, Sarkozy's accessory selection was wishful thinking on our part. Anyhow, the Marquis/French flag/US flag pin, from the Durel's jewelry shop in Lafayette, LA, wins strong MB endorsement.
Dear MB: I just read your post on N. Sarkozy. The pin he sports is most probably not the Lafayette / Flags pin, but rather the symbol of the highest order in the French Legion of Honor. A French president automatically gets this highest order when he gets elected; all members of the legion of honor place a small symbol on jackets (plain red for a Chevalier, the first level, then various additions of colors as a person grows in the order). It's actually kind of cool as it's a discreet reminder of an old-fashioned but still sought-after French membership. —Thomas
Q: I want to express my concern regarding the use of neo-cowboy belt buckles, more specifically the D&G logo belt buckle worn prominently by quasi-fashionistas with a suit, as shown in this office group photograph. In my opinion, this trend is Miami meets Monterey - you get the picture? Magnificent Bastard-worthy or not? —Cam
A: It's generous to refer to this buckle as "neo-cowboy," and perhaps even more charitable to describe it as "Miami meets Monterey;" it's more just plain old "Miami." We're just not that down with logos, especially on something as prominent as a belt buckle. Unless your office-mate has a sponsorship deal with Dolce & Gabbana, this is definitely not Magnificent Bastard-worthy.
October marks the official start of Brown Liquor Season. Whether by whiskey, bourbon, scotch, cognac or DeKuyper Cherry Brandy, The Magnificent Bastard heartily endorses getting sloshed (in style), and what better way than to nip from this sterling silver Tiffany flask?
Q: Assuming french cuffs are ok in your book, what kind of cuff links would you recommend? And which online store would be a good place to buy them? Prakash
A: French cuffs are way OK, primarily because an MB can discreetly strut his sartorial stuff and personality with the right pair of cufflinks. What kind, you ask? This is a little like asking what kind of woman you should marry. Though we can safely rule out skulls and anything logoed, like you'd probably rule out any psycho chick or a geezer with 3 kids.
Thanks for asking about where to shop online, because that's about all we do. Always
check bluefly first for a bargain. If you're feeling flush and bold, don't miss Barney's. If you're still not finding your match, save your pennies and try these:
"Mystery," the host of VH1's car-crashingly bad reality show The Pickup Artist often sports flying goggles as part of his brand. Yet this look was originally adopted by another pickup artist: the gyro pilot from The Road Warrior. And even though it was a small, rather beat up machine, he actually piloted an aircraft of some type.
(Incidentally, the hard-to-look-away-from show in question is on VH1 Mondays at 9PM ET.)
Skulls are about as post-peak as you can get without wearing an American flag lapel pin, yet Juicy Couture still cranks out skull-related stuff like they're coming into style. Even the New York Timescalled skulls dead over a year ago. Unless you're an actual pirate, or child, avoid.