All posts in Men’s Clothing Reviews

The Party Sport Coat: Batik

Party

Summer means vacation and that means it is time for fun. Clothing used to be one of the main ways that was used to communicate to others that you were not working. However, times have changed. With today’s dress codes being so relaxed the ability to distinguish office wear from casual wear is difficult. I am not going to go down that rabbit hole in this post, but instead focus on a classic piece of resort wear the Batik sport coat.

Batik sport coats were popular party jackets. They are loud. They are colorful. They are fun. They are not for the timid and no they will not work in the office not even on GTH Friday.

The exact origin of Batik fabric is unknown. What is known is that it is ancient art form has existed in Egypt, India, the Middle East, China, and West Africa for over 2,000 years. Traditional Batik is made using a wax resist dye process which gives it its distinct look and it has a very distinct look.
Club Monaco Batik                                    Club Monaco 3/2 Batik Sack Sport Coat (Southwick Cambridge Model?)

While the demand for Batik jackets is close to non-existent they are still being produced. The inspiration for this post was not a vintage image of a man on vacation, but rather the Batik jacket that I found on the site of the often overlooked (and under remembered) member of the Ralph Lauren family Club Monaco. It is a great looking jacket. They do offer pants, but I would not go whole hog. I would do one or the other.
O'Connell's batik-ish                                                    O’Connell’s Navy and White Batik-ish Sport Coat

Club Monaco was not the only brand with a Batik offering.  I also saw a great looking Batik-ish jacket offered on O’Connell’s website that was not new old stock. Last, but not least I spotted a Batik pocket square on Sid Mashburn’s site for those who aren’t ready to dive right into a sport coat.
Batik Pocket Square                                                                 Sid Mashburn Batik Pocket Square

Batik may never again experience the popularity that it did in its heyday, but it is not gone yet. It can still be comfortably worn in a party or vacation setting, but be warned that  it will draw attention. I have aspirations to wear one at some point. I think that I will wait until I reach senior citizen status and don’t have to worry about getting too much attention. At that point in my life I will be most likely be ignored by almost everyone and those that do notice my fancy jacket will just chalk it up as something that was popular back in my day.

To Crease or not to Crease?

To Crease or not to Crease

I used to never crease my chinos. It seemed too fussy. Not that it looked overly fussy, but rather that it said to others that I spend an excessive amount of time thinking about and prepping clothing which is exactly the opposite reason that I am attracted to a classic American style. However, in pursuit of the perfect pair of chinos I began experimenting with the crease…and liked it.
Creased Chinos & Blazer
Creased chinos with madrasFar and away the biggest reason that I liked the crease is the tapered silhouette that it creates. This makes perfect sense when I started to think about it. Ironing pants without a crease actually increases the amount of chino visible from the front presenting the viewer with the widest possible leg. By ironing a crease down the middle of the pants the amount of visible chino is reduced and instead of a flattened chino the viewer is presented with the edge of a diamond shape. The tradeoff is that profile of a creased chino is wider which is more than a fair exchange in my book.

No Crease     For comparison, here is a picture of the same pair of chinos featured above, but without a crease.

There is another reason that I am growing fond of the crease and that reason is formality. A crisp pair of chinos ironed with a knife blade crease is better suited for a blazer than those without. The crease takes the chinos from casual to business casual (see blazer picture above). This can be a double edged sword as it can make a casual rig look off. When wearing a pair of chinos on the weekend I would avoid a knife blade crease (or any crease).

I now tend to crease more chinos than not. It helps to create the tapered silhouette that I have been in search of without having to go through round after round of alteration. It also communicates a more professional image especially when worn with a blazer or sport coat. I am still learning when to crease and when not to crease, but the biggest lesson that I learned is that I need to be flexible and not live by absolutes.

Trad DIY: How to Hem pants with a Cuff

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With a box of unhemmed chinos staring at me for well over a month I finally broke down and decided to something about it. My dry cleaner takes at least two weeks to turn this around. My tailor takes one week, but he is an hour away. So that something turned out being learning how to hem them myself …with a cuff.

My first step was to learn how cuffs were constructed. I could have searched the internet for the perfect answer, but having a few pairs of chino with cuffs coming apart on their own I just looked at how they were constructed.  That is all to say fair warning. There may be better methods out there.

Here is the formula that arrived at:

X” for cuff
+
X” for cuff
+
1” for hem
+
.5” to turn under
Amount of material required

I wanted 1.5″ cuffs.
My formula looked like this:

1.5” cuff
+
1.5” cuff
+
1” for hem
+
.5” to turn under
4.5” of material
Sewing Starter KitNext, I had to get the proper tools. Luckily my mom who has helped me out of more than one sartorial jam with her alteration skills agreed to help. She put together a  simple sewing kit for around 10 dollars. This kit included everything (listed below) that I would need to hem my pants. She also volunteered her tutelage for the sewing portion of the project. A big thank you goes out to her for the help!

Tools required:

  • Chalk
  • Needles
  • Thread
  • Pins
  • Seam ripper (I didn’t need this, because my chinos were unfinished.)
  • Measuring tape for cloth
  • Thimble

Creating the Cuff

  1. Mark chinos at desired length for wearing (if the pants are not unfinished like the ones I began with this is where I recommend letting the hem out.)
  2. Measure down X inches of material that is required for desired cuff size
  3. Double check measurement
  4. Cut off excess material
  5. Fold material up toward the outside by the amount of material that you added for the cuff (see bel0w)
    Turning chino cuff up
  6. Iron material
  7. Fold the material down toward the bottom of the pants. The material will now pass the bottom of the pants by 1.5”.
  8. Iron material
  9. Turn the material inside of the pants by 1” and iron. You will now be able to see what the finished pants will look like.
    Cuff
  10. Pin the bottom of the cuff. I would put at least two pins in. One on each size.
    Pinning Cuff
  11. Turn the pants inside out
    Turn inside out
  12. Turn .5” of the extra material down behind this material
  13. Iron the material
  14. Take a break

Hemming the Cuff

  1. Thread the needle with 2-3 ft. of thread and tie a knot at one end of the thread
  2. Now we are going to start sewing. Take the needle and place it through the extra material pulling the know so that it will get stuck
  3. Next run the needle through a little bit of the main chino material.  You don’t have to worry too much about the thread showing because we are sewing low enough that it the cuff will cover our marks. See the picture below to better understand the sewing method I described.
    Sewing Cuff
  4. Continue sewing like this until you get to the other seam
  5. We will now attach the top portion of the cuff to chinos so that they are secure
  6. Push the needle through to the outside of the pants
  7. Next going back and forth between the inside of the cuff and the main leg of trouser 4-6 times so that the thread is not visible
  8. After attaching the top portion of the cuff to the chinos push the needle back through into the inside of the chinos.
  9. Knot the thread and pull tight the thread tight so that you have enough thread to keep sewing
  10. Continue to sewing as you were in Step 3 until you come to the seam on the other side
  11. Repeat Step 7
  12.  After completing Step 7 add 2-3 knots and then cut off excess thread
  13. Enjoy your freshly cuffed and hemmed chinos!

Finshed PantsFinished Product (Undisclosed Chinos)

Learning how to hem pants may be one of the most useful skills that I have learned. I feel liberated. No longer am I dependent on my tailor or the dry cleaner to hem a pair of trousers and the timeline to turn them around is now up to me. Plus, I save $20 for every pair that I hem myself. If you have any question about the process please don’t hesitate to ask. While creating this post I learned just how challenging it can be to write step-by-step directions.

Billax’s made up rules for TNSIL apparel – Shoe impact

Shetland Herringbone Tweed with AE loafers
This post is a reprinting of a post on a forum that is frequented by Billax. Billax is not only one of my style role models, but a friend and a man that was Trad back when it was called Ivy League.

Hypothesis/Justification for trousers – cuff/no break and tapered leg casual pants.

I’ve worn the cuff/no break (see here: Cuff, no break)look for 56 years. I’ve also worn tapered-leg-opening casual pants for the same number of years. It’s a deeply ingrained preference for me, but can one work backward to an analytic justification for that look? Maybe.

I’ve been speculating on a set of principles that might/could justify the “look” of the pants I’ve worn so long. I’m at a point where I’ve stopped grinding on it, so I am writing it up to have thoughtful guys tear apart my principles and reasoning. Here goes:

There is one practice I always follow. If you can’t buy in to it as part of this thought experiment, what follows will make little or no sense. Here’s my practice: When standing, while wearing a jacket and tie, I button my jacket, except when wearing a vest or waistcoat. This practice (right or wrong) comes from my principles (up until recently completely inchoate)

Here are my three rules:

1) In TNSIL Men’s apparel all cinches, closures, and adjusters are invisible when standing.

2) In TNSIL Men’s apparel all ornamentation is exposed when standing.

3) When rules 1 and 2 are in conflict, rule 1 takes precedence.

So, what are cinches, closures, and adjusters? Firstly, they are NOT the top layer of apparel. Here’s a partial list:

  • arm bands to adjust sleeve length
  • braces
  • belts
  • shirt buttons
  • tie bars (when used exclusively for promoting tie arch and verticality)
  • shoe laces

All the above serve to organize, adjust, and hold the relative positions of one’s garments. They are not seen by others during business, professional, or formal settings.

Now, what are ornaments?

  • cufflinks & studs
  • Tie Bars that express one’s interests or have a ornamental design element
  • Tassels, horse bit, or penny straps on loafers
  • Lapel pins

 All the above are designed to attract the eye

Issues that come up with my hypothesis:

  1. Shirt buttons are not covered by a bow tie. While I am not a bow tie wearer, I am a Bow tie fan.
  2. Monogrammed and otherwise fancy belt buckles are ornamentation on belts. When standing, while wearing a jacket and tie, a buttoned jacket with TNSIL rise trousers won’t show the ornamented buckle. (Rule 3)

Now, getting to trouser length and leg opening taper, here are side views of a classic dress shoe and a classic loafer. It is not necessary to like or dislike these shoes in order to make my point.
Dress Shoe 1Tassel Loafer 1

I’ll add a black rectangular overlay to represent trousers as they touch the dress shoe and the loafer.

First, a very dressy captoe – Allen Edmond’s Park avenue. To meet Rule 1, the leg opening must cover all the shoe laces on this 6 eyelet shoe. This shoe widens the required leg opening, and because of the high quarters on dress shoes, exposes no sock.
Blocked Dress ShoeSecond, an ornamented loafer – Allen Edmond’s Manchester. To meet Rule 2, the trouser leg must be both more narrow and sit a bit higher on the shoe. In addition, the low quarters on loafers will expose a little sock at the requisite height for ornamentation to show.. Whether the ornamentation on the loafer is a penny strap, a horse bit Gucci, or a tassel, the same result occurs – trou are narrower and sit higher on the shoe when wearing the more casual shoe.
Blocked LoaferException 1: Monk Straps and double Monk straps require trousers to drape lower on the shoe than any other footwear, so as to not violate Rule 1, which states that all cinches and closures must be covered when standing. No getting around it, monk straps are problematic for the TNSIL guy. Maybe that’s why I have never owned a pair.

Exception 2: Venetian loafers have no ornamentation and no closures, thereby having no min/max point for trouser height or width. Fifty-two years ago I bought my first (and only) pair of Venetians. I could not make them look “correct” with trousers of any height or width. That was the first time I ever thought to myself that, “There should always be some natural suggestion as to the relationship between apparel elements.” Still think that.

So, loafers with their ornamentation and lower quarters look best with a slightly narrower leg opening and sit slightly higher on the shoe. Laced dress shoes require trousers with a slightly wider leg opening sitting a little lower on the vamp. Socks will show with ornamented loafers, given their lower quarters. Socks will not show on dress shoes. THIS IS A DESIGN FEATURE, NOT A DEFECT. Any way, that’s my story and I’m sticking’ to it!

 Thoughts?

PSA: Allend Edmonds Shoe Bank Website

The once mythical Allen Edmonds Shoe Bank where deals were rumored to be unparalleled has now transcended trad lore and manifested itself as a website (Shoebank.com). I first became aware of the Shoe Bank from an employee at the Allen Edmonds factor outlet not too far from my home. I was looking for a discontinued style and the employee said they would look at the Shoe Bank for it. While they didn’t Allen Edmonds Shoe Bankhave the shoe the employee had the Shoe Bank send me a list of everything that they had in my size. My eyes where opened.

The original Shoe Bank was a retail store located in Wisconsin where factory seconds, discontinued, and closeout styles were sold. This is where the legend originated. Visiting the physical store in Wisconsin was not the only to get access to this stock. Prior to the new website emailing the Shoe Bank was how us trads accessed the stock from afar.

The new Shoe Bank site also functions as online factory outlet.  I have always felt lucky to have Allen Edmonds factory store near me. They primarily sell seconds with the occasional closeouts and discontinued styles mixed in. 99% of the time I have not been able to identify why the shoes are labeled seconds which speaks to the standards that Allen Edmonds has in place.
My Allen Edmonds Shoes                                                                    A pair of my Allen Edmonds seconds

At first I was a bit unconcerned that this new website would lead to a depletion of stock. However, the fact the new site is not an e-commerce site made me feel a little better. This means that there is still some leg work that is required customers which may deter a few would-be customers. If you see something in your size that you want I would encourage to act quickly before someone else does.