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Articles

Democratization of #Menswear

Kamau Hosten

Sometime, during the throes of #menswear, the shift to rule-driven pursuits overruled that core individual approach to clothing and presence.

It was that devotion to the guidelines of tasteful dressing that prompted followers to adhere so fiercely to the point of costume. Subsequently, they, we really, derided peers for as little as a tie that was not at the appropriately askew angle.

The level of nerdery and exclusivity never sat well with me, despite my initial longing to blend in to this crowd of aesthetes. The jackets deemed worthy of conversation had to be from obscure corners of Florence or Naples. The trousers - never with belt loops- had to be cuffed. Plain bottom? The sign of an amateur or, even worse, that the wearer bought his trousers off the rack! It’s a very Us vs. Them mentality.

This collective body of individuals, yours truly included, found themselves at the fringe of a casual-society. The masses, we deemed, were untidy, their collars sank down below their jackets, which were boxy and bland. We found refuge in one another. That guy, over there, across the street one block away had some impressive waist suppression. His sleeve pitch was nearly flawless, we noticed from a distance. Similar quotes, like when Karl Lagerfeld pronounced, he could spot a Cifonelli shoulder from a distance of 100 meters resonated with us. Some of us worked directly with tailors or brands, observing the painstaking process of creating bespoke garments. Others poured their energy into research and historical elements relevant to modern clothing. Others launched their own lines, determined to put their own sartorial spin on the sphere of the industry. With that learned information came chips on the shoulders of some in the menswear crowd. That’s just a shitty way to operate.

It’s lovely now, these days, the lines are firmly blurred. Brands like Rowing Blazers and Todd Snyder are great representations of that blending of worlds. They’re taking the worlds of skilled craftsmanship and melding them with the streetwear and sportswear in ways thats both refreshing and accessible. I’m pleased. Listen, there will always be those who pride themselves on exclusivity; being part of a small members-only club. That’s wonderful. But I appreciate a move towards the democratization of menswear. It is, and should be, for everyone who seeks it out. Besides, looking good and feeling good has a transformative power that shouldn’t be reserved to the well versed.

To continue that evolution we must expand our definitions of what constitutes proper attire. Take into this the context of culture: background, surroundings, upbringing, exposure. All of these facets serve as perspective to one’s outlook towards clothing.

Interview With Kamakura Shirts

Kamau Hosten

A few months back, Kamakura Shirts asked me to participate in an interview describing their shirts. Having established a good relationship with the team at the Madison Avenue store, I happily obliged.

 

In this video, the process and history of the company is articulated by the CEO Yoshio Sadasue. About a dozen shirts in, I can safely recommend them. There's not a shirt company that compares within that sub-$100 price point.

Take a look.

The Neckerchief: A Champion of Summer

Kamau Hosten

Despite the inclination to don fewer layers in the summer some, such as the neckerchief, are proven to combat the oppressive heat. Like much of traditional menswear, this isn't a new accessory or approach, just one that's stylish and makes sense. That should satisfy both the dandy and the pragmatist. 

Jacket: Suit Supply, Shirt and trousers: Brioni, Neckerchief: vintage from my mother's scarf drawer, Pocket eyeglass holder: Caruso, Rose lapel pin: By Elias

Jacket: Suit Supply, Shirt and trousers: Brioni, Neckerchief: vintage from my mother's scarf drawer, Pocket eyeglass holder: Caruso, Rose lapel pin: By Elias

This one, in green with a faint white windowpane was an old scarf of my mother's. The green gives the white shirt a necessary lift as well as compliments the high blue of the blazer.

A small scarf or triangle piece of fabric loosely tied around the neck serves to absorb sweat as well as protect the neck from the sun's rays. That's the practical end. The less pragmatic point is that it looks pretty damn good. The open shirt gets tiring, yet a tie is too much of a commitment during heat waves. Enter the neckerchief. It adds the visual interest where a tie would go, with a less formal feel, but still dressed.

Imagery of the legendary Cary Grant in To Catch A Thief, has been used over and again to emphasize this stylish choice. So, in a momentary dearth of creativity, here's the photo again.

The colors are complimentary, enough for you and a retired cat burglar. The idea is pretty simple though. The scarf may be wrapped, knotted or just kind of arranged around the neck. There are no bonus points for intricate knots, just a sense of relaxed confidence.

I know, I know, despite it's practicality, this may be a more daring choice for some men. I still encourage it. As with any sartorial step, make it once and see how it goes.

 

Part IV: Fluidity

Kamau Hosten

Elegance is fluid. The graceful man exudes a certain freedom of self, allowing himself to release not all inhibitions, but arbitrary restrictions. Within him is a sense of joviality that works in tandem with a requite respect of occasion. Both are equal parts of the gentleman, neither no more important than the other. He remembers to have fun, to be accommodating, to release...

CONTINUED HERE

Part III: Equanimity

Kamau Hosten

Elegance is equanimity. The root of it being a demeanor that one exudes throughout scenarios. Within that air is certain calmness. That’s not to indicate a lack of excitability or exuberance, but rather the art of maintaining one’s composure. This is a life long effort. This takes patience, a sense of awareness, and an exhausting commitment to the high road...

 

CONTINUED HERE

Part II: Authenticity

Kamau Hosten

Elegance is authenticity.  There’s distinct line in the sands of disposition. On one side, there are those who do their best to play a role for the sake of promoting themselves: the man who uses the “right” lines to satisfy his amorous ambitions, versus the romantic who’s sincere in his words and actions. It’s an overall approach that takes effort.

Part I: An Introduction to Elegance

Kamau Hosten

To be elegant is to glide through the vagaries of life with a consistent, and understated refinement and dignity, regardless of the scenario. It, the core of elegance, is a sense of grace and humility that lingers with others long after a brief, yet pivotal interaction.  There is a distinct, and nuanced, appreciation of beauty in carrying out even the most mundane duties...

A Series on Elegance

Kamau Hosten

As of the beginning of August, I started a series on elegance in collaboration with the good gentleman at Genteel Flair. As part of the collaboration, a weekly feature on what it means to be elegant, broken down in evolving components, will appear on Genteel Flair, with a teaser on this site.

 

The series further enhances my take on what elegance truly is more than what it isn’t. Much like the overall theme of this site, elegance is far reaching. It encompasses how we carry ourselves. To whittle it down, it’s about making those choices that be laborious, initially, but yields greater, more satisfying results in the long term. Short cuts are popular these days, but not always advantageous. 

Summer Suit with Angel Bespoke

Kamau Hosten

Though the maxim for combating the draining summer heat is to wear less, the clothing-minded man will take no part in this suggestion. Although this is his down season, he has duly brought out his panama hat, string loafers, popovers and unlined jackets while cashmere rests comfortably in his spare closet.

Seersucker, solaro, linen and fresco are all king fabrics of warm-weather due to their breathability. Another, one I’ve just had made, a wool-mohair blend, has proved to be just as effective.

Needing something simple and versatile for the summer, I visited Angel Bespoke, opearted by Angel Ramos, who I’ve come to call a good friend over the years. Ramos’ house style, has a few immediate characteristics that appealed to me: soft shoulder, broad lapels, and nipped waist.

Wool/Mohair Suit by Angel Bespoke, Linen Shirt by Gitman Vintage, String loafers by Meermin, gold rose lapel pin By Elias, frames from SEE Eyewear

Wool/Mohair Suit by Angel Bespoke, Linen Shirt by Gitman Vintage, String loafers by Meermin, gold rose lapel pin By Elias, frames from SEE Eyewear

I went with a 3-roll-2, which is when the top button is essentially a design feature, rather than a useful fastening point. It makes a suit a little less corporate and softens up the image of the wearer.  We discussed lapel width, and I opted for a 4-inch with a higher notch. When the middle button is fastened it lends a dramatic appeal to the V created. Additionally, the relatively closed quarters (below the middle button) coupled with the slightly suppressed waist create a clean silhouette. 

Smaller, but more noticeable details like the Milanese buttonhole and operational sleeve buttons aren’t necessarily useful, but are touches that add a more artisan feel to this suit. The barchetta pocket, which is essentially a curved breast pocket, has a uniquely dashing appeal, especially when compared to its rectangular sibling.

The higher rise allows the trousers to fall more naturally. The inclusion of buttons for braces will ensure the cuff shivers just so over the shoes versus a lower rise, which will inevitably slide down a bit. What's more, the larger waistband is cleaner, giving the suit a uninterrupted look. Low rise waistbands tend to buckle under the pressure of movement throughout the day. What's more, when the jacket is button, a trousers with a proper rise leaves the suit looking finished. Lower rise trousers run the risk of leaving an unflattering bit a shirt showing when the jacket is fastened. 

To complete this summery look, I opted for a decidedly casual button down linen shirt and green neckerchief. The colors pair together nicely and are balanced by a simple white handkerchief.

 

All photos by Bevin Elias

 

Panama Hats, A Summer Staple

Kamau Hosten

Though the pattern of weather sees spring transition to summer, it seems New York has gone from winter to summer, then back to mild winter. There was precious little time to appreciate those ideal, 70-degree days of April before temperatures peeked in the upper 80s just this week.

With that, I, like many of my clothing-enthusiast e-friends, have begun reaching for the time-tested, warm weather arsenal of gear. None top off the unlined linen and seersucker-champions of the summer-better than the Panama hat. To continue the pursuit that is menswear, I just needed to find one. Enter Flamekeepers Hat Club.

Flamekeepers Hat Club owner Marc Williamson displays a navy Panama Hat.

Flamekeepers Hat Club owner Marc Williamson displays a navy Panama Hat.

The Harlem shop, previously covered on this website, has grown in both stock and notoriety as it approaches its first anniversary at the end of the summer. I chatted with owner Marc Williamson, who’d just completed a weekend displaying his goods at a menswear-geared Pop Up Flea shop, held bi-annually in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York. Having now spoken with him several times, before I uttered a word, he knew I was in to ready myself for summer. And to the Panama hat section I darted, picking up a few. As I tried on the lot, spending far too much time in the mirror, Marc discussed the process of the Panama hat.

Panama hat by Flamekeepers Hat Club; frames by SEE Eyewear, jacket by Club Monaco, polo shirt by Uniqlo

Panama hat by Flamekeepers Hat Club; frames by SEE Eyewear, jacket by Club Monaco, polo shirt by Uniqlo

“It’s really a scientific process,” explained Williamson, about the production of the hats. Made from the toquilla palm, which is native to coastal areas of Ecuador, the weaving process can take anywhere from days to months, depending of a number of factors, according to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The open weave makes it a popular choice for the warm weather, as it allows the wearers head to breathe.

Despite the name, the hats are very much Ecuadorian in origin. Two widely accepted foundations for the name come from the hats being first shipped through Panama, then Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th U.S. president, being photographed in one during the construction of the Panama Canal. The name stuck.

Jacket by Suit Supply, shirt by Kamakura Shirts, trousers by Brioni

Jacket by Suit Supply, shirt by Kamakura Shirts, trousers by Brioni

The hat itself, often light in color, pairs well with seasonally suitable garments in lighter fabrics. Despite a sometimes lapse in formality during the warmer months, the Panama hat adds that touch, dresses one up a bit.

Darker options are often very elegant, and tow the line well between the seasons. For the follow up feature, I will explore the benefits of that route.

 

Photos by Bevin Elias

The 'Non Functional' Scarf

Kamau Hosten

Though the seasonal weather is rarely predictable, staying armed for it is the surest way to combat the conditions. Following winter is a mid-season of sorts. It’s not quite spring, but it’s no longer frigid. Whereas heavy overcoats have long been put at the back of a closet, linen jackets are not yet the norm.

Transitional dressing has been covered before, no doubt. Lightweight spring jackets, perhaps layering, are both fixes to this in-between season. With that, my best weapon during this period has been a series of thin scarves: silk, silk/wool or silk/cashmere blend.

Silk/wool scarf from J.Crew, Jacket and shirt from Barney's NY, pocket square from Kent Wang, frames from SEE Eyewear, lapel pin from by Elias

Silk/wool scarf from J.Crew, Jacket and shirt from Barney's NY, pocket square from Kent Wang, frames from SEE Eyewear, lapel pin from by Elias

Worn with a sport coat, they provide just enough warmth for the brisk mornings, and coverage from the whipping winds. To be clear, these aren't winter scarves. I'd be a fool to opt for one of these during a sub 20 degree day. A good friend of mine refers to them as the 'non-functional' scarves; since they provide little substantial warmth. To my point, they're ideal for these more mild days.

Silk/wool scarf 'Around the World' scarf by Monsieur Fox, jacket from Hardy Amies, Shirt from Kamakura Shirts, frame from Tom Ford, trousers from Brioni, lapel pin from By Elias

Silk/wool scarf 'Around the World' scarf by Monsieur Fox, jacket from Hardy Amies, Shirt from Kamakura Shirts, frame from Tom Ford, trousers from Brioni, lapel pin from By Elias

Silk and wool/silk blends work well due to the relative fineness of both. They're both soft in addition to being a stylish element to an otherwise muted ensemble. I look for a strong contrast when pairing mine with sport coats. Since every other component is toned down, the scarf is given greater emphasis; standing in for a tie or a pocket square.

Vintage scarf (taken from my grandmother), Jacket from Angel Bespoke

Vintage scarf (taken from my grandmother), Jacket from Angel Bespoke

New York certainly takes her time, tip toeing into Spring but these additions make it a bit more doable. Soon enough, though, it'll be linen season.

All photos by Bevin Elias

The Gun Club Check

Kamau Hosten

With respect to the navy jacket and its versatile appeal, it does become rather a dull reach-for. For the odd jacket aficionado, a windowpane option, a houndstooth and the gun club check are all suitable alternatives to the always-tasteful navy.

Coat by Isaia, shirt by Kamakura Shirts, Tie by Josiah France, pocket square by Kent Wang lapel pin by By Elias,

Coat by Isaia, shirt by Kamakura Shirts, Tie by Josiah France, pocket square by Kent Wang lapel pin by By Elias,

However, when the large check teeters on ‘too much’ and a micro check doesn’t provide enough, the gun club offers that crucial balance. What’s more, the (typically) brownish tones lend a decidedly casual nature to the coat. The pattern registers as a near-solid from a distance, but on closer view the eyes get a bit of visual interest. The blue overcheck in the coat and that of the jacket are in harmony, and the seasonally appropriate tie is the finishing touch.

The check, according to author and menswear historian Alan Flusser, was a Scottish pattern, The Coigach, adopted by an American gun club in the late 19th century. The name became synonymous with the club. It's popularity as an off jacket continues, with the name firm.

Trousers by Brioni, monk straps by Howard Yount

Trousers by Brioni, monk straps by Howard Yount

Because of the neutrality of the tones, it’s easy to pair with equally neutral colors that pick up the coats base colors; the blue oxford here. The texture plays especially well with trousers in flannel and suede monk straps. Mid-grey and blue-ish grey trousers offer the nicest compliment to the pattern on top. That contrast is pleasing, as brown trousers may come off a bit too stark.

Pinned By Elias

Kamau Hosten

When the art of dressing is practiced and edicts of style are employed, therein follows a pragmatic approach for men.  Whereas some aspects of tailored clothing lend a touch of practicality, others serve to diffuse seriousness; adding a touch of gentility at the same time.

There is a breast pocket. Naturally, something should fill it; either a hand-rolled silk square or a linen handkerchief, the latter pocket addition being utilitarian in nature.

The lapel has a buttonhole; some device must go there, one presumes. For the clothing-enthusiast, this is yet another area in which one may display either a flower or another personalized ornament or pin. Kofi Annan utilized a white dove pin, the symbol for peace and hope, in his lapel during his tenure heading the United Nations. Pierre Trudea, the late Canadian prime minister relied on the powerfully vibrant, and more dandyish, red rose. The imitable Fred Astaire swore by the quiet simplicity of the white carnation.

Lapel adornment beyond the established flower has increased in popularity in the past few years. Some of this can be attributed to a certain component of younger men hungry for a greater sense of formality in the art of dressing, and who readily embrace this sense of formality.

While the classic flower or boutonnière is still very much a staple, social media that modern gift and curse, has propelled felt flowers and other accouterment to the forefront, especially for the man looking to separate himself from the pack. A decade ago, before 'Like' and follows were part of the collective lexicon, when television and magazines were the source for style inspiration for the majority of men, there was hardly a lapel decoration in sight. Perhaps the dashing or dandy would add that final touch of gentility, but they were in a gross minority. Following 9/11, no politician would dare be caught without an American flag pin.

As cyclical as menswear is, clothing-obsessed men on Internet forums popularized little twists to the lapel adornment.

From silk knots to medals to whimsical pins, the adornments began to look similar, almost trendy. Enter By Elias, a menswear accessories firm founded by FIT alum Bevin Elias.

A Grenada-born turned Brooklynite, Elias was fascinated with menswear from a young age. That interest, according to Elias, is rooted in his West Indian heritage.

Myself and founder, Bevin Elias

Myself and founder, Bevin Elias

“My family always made certain we were put together; shirts and trousers always crisply pressed,” said Elias.  “It was important in the Caribbean culture. They believed looking put together gave you a leg up.” This was especially crucial for blacks, emigrating from the West Indies to America. Elias maintained that sense of propriety. His time at FIT and subsequent positions in luxury retail only strengthened his focus on the what he calls “the finishing touches.”

Fueled by a passion for menswear and desire for something to fill the paucity of choices aside from the standard lapel flower, Elias came up with the idea for his own customized pins in 2013.

Gold rose By Elias pin

Gold rose By Elias pin

"When the conversation about the boutonniere began, I said I didn't want to take the traditional route," recalled Elias on a conversation with his then-fiancé. "I was thinking about something unique, something I could keep."

A stroll past a midtown NYC button shop proved serendipitous, as Elias spotted a silk button that resembled a flower and the idea was birthed for the wedding accessory he and his groomsmen would wear for the big day.

"I wore it around and to work and a lot of people liked it," recalled Elias, in between sips of a latte at the quaint Nolita patisserie, Ceci-Cela. "I started making a few as a hobby."

The hobby, and that initial silk button, has since evolved in the nearly two years since Elias first conceived the pin from silk button to metal bees, fleur de lis and rose pins. The initial response was a good learning experience, despite less than positive wholesale results. Elias presented the product to large retailers who liked the collection, but thought the product less than substantial.

“One upscale retailer said the pins were beautiful, but weren’t substantial enough,” Elias recalled.

With the advice, Elias and his team reworked the production and streamlined the selection. The rebrand proved successful. In the late summer of 2014 By Elias and A Custom, a quaint Greenwich Village atelier came to a wholesale agreement. This was the first step in widening the brand's audience. 

Following that, Garibaldi Lavena, Director of Client Services at Paul Stuart, contacted Elias and a partnership ensued. An exclusive collection was produced for the upscale retailer and, for Elias, a spot in the vitrines of the one of the most respected men's shops in the United States.

By Elias now only produces pins in 14K gold and silver, with a renewed focus on the "elegant finishing touches of both male and female clients."  

What Elias stresses throughout our meeting is the importance of the entire experience. From the personalized stationary to the cashmere-lined, custom-made box, no detail is ignored.  Harkening back to his childhood rearing or the finishing details.

The hashtag, #100pinned began as an attempt to promote each new pin, to reach not only his social media audience, but the followers and friends of each person he snapped a photo of, wearing a By Elias pin.

 Since its inception, Elias has made his way across the country and, most recently, the Atlantic, pinning clients in an effort to solidify his position as a top accessory designer gaining attention. At Pitti Uomo 87, the bi-annual menswear trade show in Florence, Italy, Elias was able to experience for the first time, the global response to the product as well as conceive a few as-yet-be announced collaborations.

"To see the global response motivated me to create expand, to create more." That more includes a foray into cufflinks and collar bars as well as the larger arena of menswear accessories.



Supply & Advise, a Miami Oasis

Kamau Hosten

It's my loss that my first visit to Supply & Advise was later and not much sooner. A pop-up in Miami’s midtown area, it is the shop that houses the  kind of merchandise I've long sought; quality, no frills pieces that are guaranteed only to improve with age. Undeniably, the inventory is superb and imaginative.

 

 

A credit to founders  Jonathan Eyal and Kevin Beltran who, irritated and frustrated by the paucity of menswear options in Miami, carved out this welcome oasis. "It's what this city needed," says Eyal.

Admittedly, fashion in South Florida is often associated with color, and prints, in-keeping with the joviality the area exudes. That said, for the gentleman or men who yearn for pared down, handcrafted pieces, the options were limited to internet shopping.

 

Not just hand crafted pieces, here’s the bonus, almost all the merchandise boasts “Made in theU.S.A.” tags. Among the top vendors the shop carries are Gitman Vintage oxfords and Alden, the venerable shoe company.  Eyal and Beltran found they shared a love of many of the same brands, the majority of them just happened to be American.

While tailored menswear has deep roots in England and Italy, Eyal argues that America really perfected the casual, durable pieces, especially denim. Levi's Vintage is among the denim brands carried at the shop.

Levi's Vintage denim is made to same specifications as the original run, from decades earlier

 "It happened organically," Beltran says of the store's inventory of domestically made products. "Made in the U.S.A is our focus, but we want to carry the best."

Alden is among the best. From experience, I can attest to Alden’s stature in men’s footwear.  Established in 1884, Alden has a rich history of superior craftsmanship and consistent quality. This, and an extensive list of rave reviews sealed my proclivity for Alden over many other better known-outside the menswear world-brands. It's a quiet brand that lets quality take center stage. A lifetime guarantee helps, too.

The Alden wall

“Hand-construction” is almost always synonymous with costly. And people often are taken aback by Alden’s price tag. Furthermore, in a city like Miami, a higher price tag often comes with a prominent, well-marketed logo.

"Miami is very status oriented," notes Eyal. One of the challenges with customers new to the brands is relaying that concept of craftsmanship over label.

Take, for example, Gitman Vintage shirts. The Oxford, an American innovation, can be found at stores from J. Crew to Club Monaco. While I like my purchases from those stores, something never felt right when I paired them with a blazer. The Gitman Vintage shirt I tried stood the jacket collar test. It doesn't limp down (for want of a better expression) beneath the collars. Rather it stands up prominently due to the higher band and longer collar points. "The fit is amazing," agrees Eyal. "The collar is high enough where you can fit a tie."

Woolrich oxfords

That's precisely what the Eyal, Beltran and third member of the team, Miguel Diaz Pimentel, opt for; the oxford. Wrinkled, pressed, sleeves rolled up or down unbuttoned or with a tie, there a few wrongs ways to wear one.

Gitman Vintage oxfords

And while craftsmanship costs, there is an intrinsic relationship between cost and value. One staff member explained, there's an innate belief that a lower price tag equals savings. Oftentimes though, the savings is short term because an item of lesser quality has to be replaced in a much shorter time frame. Paying more once for a well constructed item is a long-term, better investment in your closet.

Bags by Klaxon Howl

 

As I chatted with an agreeable staff, I was impressed with their level of commitment, aggregate knowledge and passion for the concept of Supply. And I thought, how apropos; Supply and Advise. It’s what they do.

The Supply & Advise team: Miguel Diaz Pimentel, Jonathan Eyal, Kevin Beltran

 

Supply & Advise

3322 N. Miami Ave

 Miami, FL

305-846-9437

 

Kamakura Shirts

Kamau Hosten

During a recent work-related trip to New York, I was able to stop into Kamakura Shirts on Madison Ave, just one block north of J.Press. Prior to my visit, I'd read favorable reviews on the Style Forum regarding the Japanese brand, which opened its first U.S. store in 2012.

The store itself is quaint, with the focus on the product rather than flashy advertising. The sales staff is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the details, like the single needle stitching. That's what separates the smaller shops from the large department stores: the level of service.

The store offers four fits: The Tokyo Classic and Slim and, for the American market, the New York Classic and Slim. The latter two are considerably wider than their former counterparts. The Tokyo Slim I tried on was ideal, with no further tapering required, which rarely occurs with shirts. I should add that the store carries 'Try-on' shirts, so as to not unfold several shirts. That streamlines the process. Additionally, should you decide against purchasing a shirt, trying on one versus a half dozen leaves you feeling less guilty. The collars include, on a scale from most to least formal, cutaway (below), spread, semi-spread and button down.

 

White Pinpoint Oxford Tokyo Slim

They've recently launched a Made-To-Measure program featuring 300 count cloth, which is worth a try judging from the quality of the RTW shirts.

 

Blue Oxford Tokyo Slim

Well-made dress shirts under $100 are difficult to find. I'm talking retail, not reduced prices. Normally, it's a sea oversized, cotton-poly blend with awkwardly small collars and sleeves cut for two arms. Not so, here. There's a welcome combination of quality, fit and price. Naturally, I recommend picking up white and pale blue, as these are the best backdrops for most suits and sport jackets. Following that, some of the more bold stripes are welcome alternatives, not just for this brand, but all shirts.

A Dandy Evening

Kamau Hosten

I'm taking baby steps as I explore New York City. Gone are the vacation days where I struggled to cram as many touristy activities into a day with too few hours. I had a busy first week as a new resident of NYC, a rather dandy one at that. This past Wednesday I attended a panel on dandyism at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Chelsea. Photographer Rose Callahan and writer Nathaniel Adams, authors of I am DandyNick Wooster, co-owner of Atrium and former menswear exec at Bergdorf Goodman and JC Penney and Dr. Andre Churchwell, the  always elegant Nashville cardiologist, were the panelists. The discussion was moderated by the author, G. Bruce Boyer. I'd just finished reading Mr. Boyer's Elegance: A Guide to Quality in Menswearwhen I saw the event on The Dandy Portraits, Callahan's blog.

 

In the hour-long discussion the panelists touched on their own style evolution and paths in menswear. Among the commonalities they shared was that clothing, while important, should be utilized as a tool to aid in one's path. That's certainly not a difficult concept to grasp, but sometimes I admittedly get caught up in the minutiae of menswear as I continue to learn. As Mr. Boyer put it, "It's clothing, it doesn't cure cancer."

We should remember to have some fun with it.  Therein lies the separation of the dandy from the appropriately dressed man; he enjoys the creative process of getting dressed. Putting on a necktie isn't a chore, but a rather pleasant part of the morning. For the dandy, sports jackets and suits aren't some obligatory boardroom armor meant to shield the wearer from individuality. Rather, discovering one's own style allows the wearer to break away from the monotonous and the mediocre.

Dr. Churchwell went into detail about the importance of dressing in regards to one's signature. In truth, appearances do become apart of us. It is, after all, advantageous to outfit one's self in the most flattering manner. Delving a bit deeper into that concept, we must find what suits us and, especially, what reflects us. Perhaps it's a pork pie hat or a flat cap tilted just slightly, or lapel flower, or tortoise frames. Regardless of the item, wear it well enough and it becomes stylistically associated with you, transcending any current trends.

 

Dr. Andre Churchwell. Photo by Rose Callahan, via The Dandy Portraits

This is evident as I've continued to flip through the pages of I am Dandy, where a multitude of gentlemen with a passion for clothing are chronicled. It's a reminder to loosen one's inhibitions when it comes to experimentation with menswear. I admire the bold choices of the men profiled, though I'm entirely comfortable with my own style. Sure, some revel in the peacockery that comes with experimentation. At first glance, I may even think some are over the top. But, after consideration I appreciate their devotion to this form of wearable art. Many pursued an avenue in menswear, while others fell into it by chance. Each path is just as fascinating as the other.

A few days after the panel, fueled by curiosity, I visited Fine and Dandy, a brilliantly curated shop in Hell's Kitchen. The owners, Enrique Crame III and Matt Fox, are featured in the book. A post about the shop will come later this week.

To be clear, this isn't the guidebook that dictates what month to break out flannel trousers. Nor is there a dictum about the over the calf socks or proper tie knot. Rather, it's a celebration of artistry as displayed through clothing and one's surroundings.

 

Fine & Dandy

Kamau Hosten

Just a few blocks west of the fast fashion, big retailers in midtown Manhattan, sits Fine and Dandy, a small shop in Hell's Kitchen. The shop has been in its unassuming location for about a year, though the website has been open since 2008. The owners, Enrique Crame III and Matt Fox, were featured in the book I am Dandy.

 

On a mild Saturday, I made it a goal to visit the shop, which I'd read about in Rose Callahan's above mentioned book. Fox and Crame have made the most of a quaint space, which is remarkably well curated.

 

Among the pieces produced under the Fine and Dandy name are scarves, ties and pocket squares. I found a paisley wool scarf with green piping which I wore out of the shop. Additionally, the pieces under the Fine and Dandy name are locally produced.

 

The shop eschews trends in favor of locally produced  pieces and vintage merchandise. In addition, there are a number of trinkets that the well dressed man covets. Items like crystal whiskey decanters, hand-carved walking sticks, vintage top hats and cufflinks adorns the shelves. The majority are accessories which separate the elegant  gentleman from the masses: ribbed cashmere socks, wallets, passport holders, wool and silk pocket squares. All of the details that dapper gentlemen pays acute attention to can be found within these walls. Repp ties and bowties, ribbon belts and needlepoint belts are all regularly stocked pieces that evoke a forgotten whimsical, yet elegantly preppy approach to dressing.

 

The shop is well worth a trip for those visiting-and new-to the city. For the natives who appreciate menswear and haven't been yet, there's just no excuse.

The Armoury

Kamau Hosten

In the face of mounting competition from large department stores, and fashion brands with big advertising budgets, the local tailor and menswear haberdashery has undoubtedly lost valuable real estate, though not its cachet. The recent expansion of one Hong Kong outpost, The Armoury, into New York City is a welcome  reprieve, given the trend.

 

As a new New Yorker, I've continued my adventures exploring menswear shops around the city. I'd previously only read of this shop. The first U.S. outpost opened a few months ago in the TriBeCa neighborhood of New York City. Revered among menswear enthusiasts for offering handmade clothing, Goodyear welted shoes (Saint Crispin'sCarmina) and accessories from smaller brands (Fox UmbrellasDrake's ties and scarves), The Armoury is one of the few shops that gets it right. It is a quietly masculine shop that prides itself on the quality of its garments.

 

Understated yet inviting, the approach is decidedly classic; both in the exterior representation and interior inventory. Here the emphasis is on the superior construction and fit. A well-informed, unobtrusive, yet passionate staff, makes a visit to The Armoury a necessity.

 

During my visit,  staff members were discussing, of all things, which band they would all join, given the choice. Without hesitation, I was asked to name mine. To which I readily replied, “I'd jam with Thelonious Monk." Given the opportunity, plus, of course, some form of musical ability. That was met with nodding approval, I might add. When the discussion moved toward clothing, the gentlemen were more than accommodating, enthusiastically answering my questions and showing me merchandise. It was clear, they were just as keen on educating me, more so than selling.

 

The clothing simply speaks. For example: A pair of trousers from Ambrosi Napoli, run by Salvatore Ambrosi, caught my attention. At the mere mention, Jeff went upstairs, got a pair and proceeded to educate me about details like the hand finishing both inside and outside, as well as the various fabric options. It didn't seem to matter whether I was interested in purchasing the trousers!

The inventory include jackets and suits by Orazio Luciano, Ring Jackets and Liverano & Liverano and spread collar dress shirts by Ascot Chang.

 

Many of the vendors mentioned travel to the shop for trunk shows throughout the year, where they can meet clients and fit them for bespoke or made to order goods. I poked around the shoes area, with a pair of Carmina brown suede captoe oxfords and suede loafers the most memorable.


The shop has risen in recognition, in part to social media. Founders, Mark Cho, Alan See and Ethan Newton reguarly are  seen photographed during Pitti Uomo. All three have extensive backgrounds in menswear. Additionally, the daily Tumblr and Instagram feeds of the founders, feature new products and genuinely brilliant pairings. All three have a distinct personal style, each just as inspiring as the other.

While there's certainly no shortage of places to purchase men's clothing in New York, finding a balance of merchandise made to the highest standards with a well educated staff isn't so common. The Armoury strikes that balance nicely.

Neutralize With a Basic

Kamau Hosten

To be clear, blue, burgundy and grey is no revolutionary pairing of tones. Quite the opposite, as each color pairs with one or a combination of the other two.  Grey suits, especially those in more pale tones, always strike a pleasing balance when worn with shoes in the burgundy/cordovan/merlot/aubergine family. Likewise, the same can be said of a blue suit in a shade slightly lighter than navy. As an aside, two years later and I'm still not certain what color this Suit Supply double breasted is below.

What may be underrated is the choice of hosiery, or sock, for the less pretentious. Men are inundated with imagery from fashion magazines telling them to amp up their sock game, that solids are dull. To counter this, the stuffy, rubric obsessed internet style gestapo insist that socks must coordinate precisely with trousers. No need to go full on bold or entirely dull though. I believe it was Glenn O'Brien who dictated that socks should match one's personality and not any specific component of one's attire. If it wasn't Mr. O'Brien, then it should be.

OTC socks by Brioni, monk straps by Sergio Rossi

I was pleased with the result of a patterned grey sock paired with an almost royal blue suit (see, still trying to place this color) and burgundy single monk straps recently. The shade of blue was not entirely business, which complimented the more jaunty nature of the shoe. The grey sock neither coordinated nor picked up any other colors of the day, yet it provided a nice harmony.

Suit by Suit Supply

I find myself over thinking the minute details, only to reach for a basic at the last moment. This day was no different. A sock in burgundy, blue or green (the color of the day's necktie) would have proved too obvious and less creative.

Shirt by Kamakura, tie by Polo Ralph Lauren, Fleur de lis pin by By Elias, pocket square by Bergdorf Goodman

 

A fun sock needn't be multi-striped or whimsical, so long as it is complimentary. Grey neutralizes the high shine of the shoe and the tone of suit.