STAY WARM - LOOK COOL

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Sorry. I actually hate that header … “stay warm, look cool” … but it was too easy and I just had to use it.

Recently I heard someone use the expression, “Polar Vortex” in reference to the weather. Which sounds like some kind of fake news way of saying, “Hey y’all, it’s winter so sometimes it gets extra cold”. When the weather dips, it’s logical to choose function over fashion. But the thruth is, you can both stay warm, and style your wardrobe in a way that leaves your lady proud to walk next to you in public. It’s actually quite simple! Here’s the trick:

LAYER SMART.

I think what happens is as the weather shifts, fellas say, “I really still love this t-shirt I’ve been wearing for several months… so I’ll keep wearing it and just throw a heavy coat over it.” In so doing, two things happen: you look frumpy and unintentional in your wardrobe, and you are left being either hot or cold with little in-between.

Layering smart involves three things: a proper base layer, a removable mid-layer, and a sharp outer layer.

Base layers are the most important because they are what hold in the heat your body naturally releases, and because if you strip away everything else you’re wearing when you happen to be indoors and the room is quite warm, it’s what determines if you still look presentable. Great considerations for base layers are a long sleeve button-up henley, flannel, or oxford. In all cases, make sure it has a medium to heavy weight of fabric. If it’s too thin, it won’t keep you as warm!

Mid-layers drop overtop of that base as the “buffer”. It’s the optional element that helps keep you warm when you’re outside braving the elements, but can be removed when you move indoors and they have the heat cranked, or can be left on if you want to remain cozy. Obvious mid-layers are things like sweaters, but you can also treat a heavier denim shirt or jacket as a mid-layer! The convenient thing about this kind of mid-layer is it offers an additional option for styling and temperature comfort. Try this: wear a henley base layer, and a denim mid-layer… leave it on, but unbutton it and open it up for a bit more airflow. Right now as I type this I have a striped henley as my base, and a denim long sleeve shirt as my mid. And it’s worked just fine!

Outer layers are the final touch. This is one thing I like to remind people of when they think about what coat to grab: how long are you actually going to be braving the elements? If you’ll only be outside in the cold for a matter of moments when moving from one climate controlled space to another, it’s far less important to pull out that massive parka! Opt for a more sleek layer like a sherpa-lined denim jacket, waxed canvas jacket or chore coat, and include a scarf if needed.

If you plan to be outdoors for longer periods of time, sure, consider something with more substance. But for many instances, that huge layer is less crucial than one might think!

The final consideration is this: don’t forget to pay attention to patterns, color tonality, and fit. These are always good guidelines for styling success!

Now get out there, stay warm, and keep cool dear ones.

MIXED PATTERNS: MEN CAN DO IT TOO

HOW TO MIX LAYERS AND PATTERNS AS A DUDE

Mixed patterns is nothing new, and it’s growing again in popularity over the last few years. But that’s primarily only been the case for women. The thing is, fellas, you can do it too. If I, a man who often wears black on black on black, can break out colors and patterns every now and then, I swear you can do it. So whether you’re a man trying to figure out a new approach, or a woman trying to give your fella some new things to work with… here are a few considerations:

photography by  Ian Bell

photography by Ian Bell

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Think in opposites.
Stripes and camos are an easy starting place because they are diametrically opposed, so the eye doesn’t get confused by trying to lump them into the same category. One is linear, the other has no clear form. This is “why” it can work together. Other patterns can be far more challenging… i.e. two forms of plaid. You can try it, but the chances of getting it right aren’t nearly as easy. Just take two garments you’re considering wearing and lay them on top of each-other… look at them… and if your eye starts to get confused, you know it’s not the look.

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Focus on color tones and textures.
If the patterns are working well together, but one color is super primary and bold while the other is muted, this can pose a challenge because light reflects differently off of them and the colors won’t blend as well together. This same issue applies with textures. If one is synthetic and the other feels very natural, light will interact differently with them and it’ll just feel “off” — so find textures and tones that compliment one another.

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Fit still matters.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times — make sure it fits correctly! If it doesn’t, mixing patterns can almost be counter-productive. If you wear things fitted, make sure it’s all fittend and works together. If you wear them loose, same thing applies. But make sure the fit is on purpose.

Add in details.
I love when you are rewarded by a closer inspection. Toss an enamel pin on that jacket or wear some kind of jewelry. Add just enough of a touch that when someone is close, they can say, “well that detail is interesting and I hadn’t noticed it before!”

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Mixing patterns and adding layers is a simple way to elevate your style game. These are just a couple considerations to get you started. Have questions or feedback? Let me know! Let’s talk, dear ones.

REVIVAL HOTEL: A LIFESTYLE SHOOT WITH IAN BELL

Ian Bell is a Baltimore-based photographer that I highly respect. So when he reached out about working together a few months ago, I was humbled and excited. We met up and spent some time in one of my favorite new places in Baltimore: The Hotel Revival Baltimore. The environment there is intentional. It's equal parts elevated and playful. Everywhere you you turn your head you'll find something that rewards a closer inspection if you give your time to really be "present" in the space. I think what's powerful about environments is they have the ability to affect our mood, the way we view the world around us, and even how we carry ourselves. Here's a snapshot of our time there.

 

FIX YOUR OLD JEANS

GIVE LIFE TO THAT FAVORITE PAIR OF OLD DENIM

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I've been there, and I know you have too. You have a favorite pair of jeans. Then life happens, time passes, and they fade, tear, and you're left searching for a fresh pair. But every time you try to slide in to a pair of "replacement" jeans, you just don't feel like yourself! Whether you're trying to milk that favorite pair and keep them alive a little longer, or just avoid the consumerist trap of fast fashion and buying new things, here are the three things I do that have revolutionized the denim game for me:

CARE FOR THEM PROPERLY UP FRONT
Some say the best care for denim is to only dry clean them, others say throw them in the freezer... and there are a million different "hacks" that you can google. But at the end of the day, the best thing you can do is, whatever your cleaning method, try and wash them only when absolutely necessary. Another consideration is to not carry too much crap in your pockets! The more that you carry in your pockets, the more things there are that your denim can rub against and cause holes and thin spots. Don't be afraid to carry what you need... but also pause and ask yourself if it's an actual NEED. An once of prevention is still worth a pound of cure! So take care of them, and they'll take care of you. 

RE-DYE THEM
Let me start by saying if you have a pair of jeans that has faded, that is probably a very GOOD thing. Those fade marks are like badges of honor and should be treated as such! But, if that coloration doe need some help... here's how. I primarily wear black jeans. Particularly Levis 510 -- and the 510's from BEFORE they changed the cut of their jeans (why oh why did you do that Levis?! Terrible idea!) Black jeans are notorious for looking old faster because the black pigment rubs and fades and suddenly they need TLC. Just hop to any store (literally almost any store... Safeway, Target, Walmart, Amazon...) and buy a bottle or RIT garment dye. You can also go to a craft store for wider selection of colors if you need something specific. The thing I do that's different than the instructions is this: Instead of adding the dye to the washer, I'll take a 5 gallon bucket (like the orange ones they give away at Home Depot) and fill it half full with hot hot water (boiling even) and add the dye. Drop the jeans in, submerging them and stirring them for 40-60 mins. I opt to do it this way rather than just adding the dye to the washer because I can get a hotter water temp and because it leaves the dye in a more concentrated format. Both of these things translate into your jeans soaking up a greater concentration of that dye! Wash the jeans with other black items in a small cold wash cycle with no detergent, and when that cycle is done, re-wash them one more time on another cold cycle with just a little detergent, then put them in the dryer and dry them at a medium heat. Voila - black as midnight and it cost you about four dollars and a little stirring while watching your fav Netflix show.

DARN THEM
No, I'm not using elementary school swear words towards my jeans. Darning is a means of repairing tears and holes! There are many places that will boast about garment repair -- but be warned, not all repair jobs are equal! Some places will simly lay the tear overtop of itself and sew it shut... this is awful. Some will take an actual patch of similar material and stitch it in. This is better. But the best option by far is proper darning. Darning is a technique that involves taking the tear or worn spot, trimming and cleaning it up a bit, then sometimes taking a neutral colored fabric that is similar in weight and feel as the original materiall, laying it inside the tear, and meticulously sewing it into the original fabric until it's grafted into the garment in a way that is almost seamless. To learn more about darning, watch this video.

 

HOW TO CREATE A PERSONAL STYLE

Style > Fashion. // photo by  Ian Bell

Style > Fashion. // photo by Ian Bell

Individuals will often say something like "I want to be more fashionable/stylish" -- and they use these words interchangeably. Style and Fashion are two very different things. Fashion is an industry that only survives if it can convince you that what you already have isn't good enough. Style is a manner of particular form and expression. Fashion and style can overlap, but they don't have to! So when someone speaks of elevating their style/fashion game, what they are really saying is, "I would like what I wear, and how I wear it, to say something more/different than it currently does." I frame it as such because the non-verbal impressions we make communicate as much as the words that come out of us. If someone looks put-together, we automatically frame our mental posture towards them in like manner. So with that said, here are three quick tips on cultivating a personal style.

BE AT PEACE WITH WHO YOU ARE

I know that seems incredibly existential, but honestly -- if you aren't settled internally, your external expression will probably follow suit. Know who you are. Know what you actually like, and why you like it. This will help you decide on what to wear based on YOU and not based on what an industry tells you to wear. This will also help you feel confident to try things that seem outside of norms. Example: when I first decided to wear a wide-brimmed fedora, I was teased and called "Smokey the Bear" and Pharrell all the time. But I didn't really care because I loved the hat. Had I been insecure, those little jabs might have prevented me from wearing what is now a staple of my attire!

PICK SOME ADJECTIVES

This exercise might seem odd, but just chill out and DO IT. Take a moment and list out as many adjectives as you can think of that you'd like to be associated with a description of "you" ... is it edgy? urban? refined? easy-going? sporty? dark? ... make a list, then narrow that list into a small few specific words. Now as you put on that garment or accessory, compare the way it looks against those words you came up with! If it's a mismatch, either re-think the way you approach wearing it (i.e. change the vibe of your button-up), or rethink wearing it altogether.

BE PICKY

Often in an effort to attain a certain "look", we'll settle for something that is close but not quite right. Here's a personal example: I love hats. (Have I mentioned that enough yet??) There was a time when I would try and snag a cheap brim that is "close" to the look I was going for, but not quite right. The problem with this is that if it's not quite right, no matter how close -- it's still wrong! Don't settle for something just because you're impatient and want it "now", because it's a cheaper option, or for any other similar reason. Take a moment and review that garment or accessory and say, "Is this exactly what I'm going for, or is it just "close" and I'm settling?" If it's only close, be picky. Be patient. Wait till you find the actual right piece. You'll be amazed at the difference it makes when you decide to not settle.

Whether you're shooting to be fashionable, stylish, or all of it -- these three considerations are key starting points! Cheers, dear ones.

 

 

HOW TO: MEN'S SUITS

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There are a number of videos and articles out there that talk about how to achieve the perfect fit for a suit. Men's style and men's fashion articles by the big boys like GQ. If you don't believe me, just google it and you'll see! So candidly, I'll spend less energy on how to find the right fit of suit. Instead, what I find there is far less of is not just the fit of the suit, but what to pair it with and how to make it work overall. Fellas tend to fall into one of two extremes: either far too boring of an overall ensemble or way too much. Striking that balance is what will take your suit game from good to great. From "He cleaned up nicely" to "Holy smokes look at that put-together man over there."

It matters because we all make judgments about those with whom we interact. From the moment we meet someone, impressions are made and decisions are formed. Decisions about the kind of person we think they are, the weight we place to the things they say, and so on. Our appearance is the absolute first impression. If your suit game is boring and uninspired, the initial vibe you communicate is boring and uninspired. Conversely if your suit game is complicated and over-the-top, the initial vibe also follows suit. (Pun very intended.)

Here are two thoughts on how to strike the balance:

FOCAL POINTS

Please, for the love. Don't be boring... but do not wear a tie bar, patterned shirt, patterned tie, pocket square, suspenders, lapel pin, patterned socks, complicated shoes, fancy watch, rings on three fingers, bracelet, cuff links, etc... all in the same outfit. I know that sounds absurd, but there are so many times that in an effort to look stylish, people go too far. Our eyes can only take in so much at once. The reason rules of composition exist in photography are so that the person viewing that picture can actually focus in on what matters. So if you have too many focal points, then you actually have no focal point at all. It goes from being interesting to being confusing. From good to gaudy. (Don't get me wrong, gaudy can be done intentionally and done well... but even then there are focal points!) So instead of throwing the whole kitchen sink in there -- decide what you want to stand out. Sure, go for a patterned shirt AND tie, but leave it at that and avoid any accouterments on the jacket like a pin or pocket square. Let those mixed patterns do the talking instead. Clean shirt and tie? Okay, feel free to add some flare with extras. After you complete your ensemble, step back and see if your eye naturally falls anywhere... if there are MOMENTS, or if your eyes continuously want to roam across the outfit in search of a visual home. If you have a hard time deciding where to focus, try stripping something back!

TEXTURES

Textures are a sneaky component to a good outfit. Here's why: textures interact with light in different ways. A texture like a wool sock-tie will absorb light versus reflect it. So if you choose a suit with more shine to it like merino, a tie that doesn't equally reflect light will look inconsistent and prevent your ensemble from looking complete. Choose textures with more sheen for evening affairs and more formal moments, and more natural looking textures for daytime and outdoor events. 

There is more that could be said, but for now we'll keep it focused. Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know!

 

 

HOW TO STYLE A BUTTON-UP SUMMER SHIRT

Summer clothes used to be my least favorite. Perhaps it's because I'm an Oregon boy and I've never been huge on summer in general, or perhaps it's because I love layers... but whatever the reason, figuring out how to dress for summer has historically posed a challenge for me, particularly when it's come to shirts. If I had to guess, I'd assume I'm not the only one who's had this struggle! But after a little time, trial and error, and moments of epiphany, I'll share what I've learned so that perhaps you gents can avoid those same struggles!

GET THE RIGHT FIT

I know it's been said before but, for the love... the way something is cut makes a huge difference! Find a shirt that's close to the right fit, then, if needed, get it tailored just a bit.  Proper fit means the shoulder seam should land right on the ball (bend) of your shoulder, and the sides should mirror your natural silhouette without being too baggy or too tight. The length is determined by whether you plan to tuck it in, or leave it untucked. If you plan to leave it untucked, the length should hit just below the belt buckle.

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STYLE IT WELL

If it fits right, you're already a step ahead. Congrats! But this second step is what will set your vibe apart: don't just wear it, STYLE IT. Seven years ago I was at a thrift store outside of Portland Oregon (insert hipster jokes here) and I found this gem of a button-up shirt for $2. It's a basic, unsuspecting lil' striped fella that you can pair with literally anything. It can be worn casually with jeans or shorts, or dressed under a blazer. When worn as-is, the shirt is just okay. But with a little imagination, it takes on a life of it's own. Here's the "why" behind each styling point. -- Tucking it in accomplishes two things. It compensates for the shirt being otherwise a bit too long, and it creates a finished, "on-purpose" look. I often unbutton the top two buttons. This allows the shirt to flow and look less restricted and thus more effortless, while also expanding the chest portion and giving you a more "V" shaped silhouette from chest to hips. I often roll the sleeves. This is a quick fix for sleeves that are otherwise too bulky or long, and gives any short-sleeved shirt a more finished appearance. If you roll it right to the line where your shoulder muscle meets your bicep, it creates the appearance of more arm definition!

BE CONFIDENT

The final step is this: just DO IT. (re: Shia Labeouf motivational clip) Don't take yourself too seriously, but also be confident! Don't get scared! Be willing to push yourself one step outside of that conventional safe zone.

Summer is coming fast, so get up, and get ready. There is style to be had, fellas. Have additional thoughts to add to the conversation? Leave a comment below!