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.

Critter Crazy

SSEW Clothing

Sometime fun needs to be had and when you are in fun mode sometimes you need clothes to communicate that to others. There are few better ways to do this then by wearing a pair of pants or shorts emblazoned with critters. I am sure that most of you are familiar with these items and where to get them (pretty much anywhere). You can find them at Brooks Brothers, Lands’ End, J.Crew, and of course Castaway Clothing, but I found a new source the other day.

SSEW formerly known as English Sportswear has been producing clothing for over 50 years. What made them stand out from the sources that I mentioned above is that not only do they offer a wide range of fabrics such as seersucker, twill, poplin, and cords, but they also have a few critters to choose and while the selection could be larger the fact that they can be embroidered with your choice of thread color helps increase the options. The icing on the cake is that they will do custom critters (Basically they are to critter pants what Leather Man is to critter belts). You can send in your own artwork and they will turn it into stitches for a onetime fee of $30 (4-6 week turnaround). Their prices are very reasonable, too. Pants cost $90 and shorts $75. Shorts receive up to 24 embroideries and pants 48. Pants are also available in slim fit.
SSEW Emroidery ChoicesI have been trying to think up a few fun combos. I know that I would get the most use out of a pair of shorts, but a pair of seersucker pants in say lime green or pink seersucker with contrasting embroidery could be really really fun, especially on vacation. I am trying to push myself out of my comfort zone, but even blue seersucker pants would get me there.

One last thing, the site is a little dated looking, and while I have never ordered from them I have heard positive things from those who have. Let your imagination run wild and go critter crazy.

Shantung Summer

Shantung Summer

As the weather changes so does our wardrobe and many of us look forward to these transitions, but. “look forward to” may be an understatement when it comes to warm weather wear. Clothes horses everywhere begin salivating over madras, seersucker, and linen as Memorial Day (The official first day for these fabrics) draws near. However, there is one summer fabric that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as the others. This fabric is Shantung Silk.
Shantung tie                                                                   My one and only Shantung Tie.

What is Shantung?
Shantung ties get their name from, yep, you guessed it: The Shantung Province of China. Shantung silk is made from raw silk and was traditionally woven from uneven pieces of yarn. The result is a very textured slubby silk that is perfect for warm weather tie wear. Learn more over at Gentleman’s Gazette.

Who sells them?
Sometimes I think that I drop the same names again and again (J.Press, Brooks Brothers, O”Connell’s, etc) when I am guiding readers to products. This time I tried to switch it up a little bit (, just a little bit.).
PRL Shantung Silk Tie PRL Argyll & Sutherland Shantung TieThe first Shantung ties that caught my eye are over at Ralph Lauren (above and here). While RL is no stranger to those interested in traditional American clothing they are often overlooked by the Trad crowd, because of their use of logos and their image as a bastion of all things preppy. However, I suggest keeping tabs on them. Especially for ties. Uncle Ralph’s Shantungs come in at 3” (A tad slim for some.) and they only offer 3 striped variations, but two of them were so well executed that they are definitely worth a look.
Drakes Shantung Regimental Tie Drakes Shantung Regimental TiesMy Second recommendation for sourcing Shantung ties is Drake’s of London (above and here). Drake’s has an impressive number of attractive Shantung offerings such as regimentals, dots, and solids. These ties are 8cm (or 3.14962 inches) which a touch wider than the PRL ties, but they are also about $70 more expensive than the PRL ties. What I like most about their selection is the number of muted colors (like tie #1) that say summer without yelling it.

The next time you are stocking up on summer staples think about picking up a Shantung silk tie. These slubby ties pick up where your tweeds left off adding texture to your summer rigs. Whether you go with my suggestions above or hit up the usual suspects a Shantung tie is a great way to bring a piece of summer into the office without screaming GTH.

A Blazer for All Seasons

I was recently asked by a reader how many blazers I had in my rotation. I thought that this was a great question that deserved its own blog post. I used to think that I only needed one blue blazer. Those were the days. I currently have 3 blue blazers and I have noticed that I still have a few holes to fill. Let me give you a quick run-down.
1818 Blazer1818 Blazer and grey wool trousersThe first blazer up is my Madison fit Brooks Brothers 1818 3/2 sack blazer (pictured above). This blazer is my go-to-year-round blue blazer. It looks polished with grey flannels and at home with a pair of chinos. If I was going to recommend a first blazer it would be this one (or O’Connell’s worsted wool blazer). This is the type of blazer that is the cornerstone of a traditional business wardrobe. Also, this is the only blazer that I have purchased new and consequently it is the best fitting jacket that I have. There is a lesson in there.
Poplin Blazer 1Poplin BlazerNext, is my vintage Brooks Brothers wash-n-wear poplin blazer (above). This is a lightweight summer blazer with a relaxed look. Generally, you see wash-n-wear items sold as suits and similarly you will hear many people (mostly on clothing forums) advising you not to wear them as separates. This blazer helps to illustrate that it can be done. I love throwing this jacket on in the summer.
Deansgate Hopsack BlazerDeansgate Lapel RollMy newest blazer is a Deansgate blazer that was made for the Princeton University Store (above). This is another blazer made for warmer weather. Here it is not the material like the poplin blazer above that makes it suitable for warm weather, but the hopsack weave. Hopsack is a loose weave that allows for breathing. I actually had this blazer shortened about .75” (which deserves its own post). It is still a little big in the skirt area, but it has a fantastic lapel roll and drape to make up for it.
J.Press Flannel Blazer

The three blazers above make up my rotation, but as I mentioned I do see a few gaps that will need to be filled at some point. The next blazer that I would like to add to my wardrobe is a fall/winter weight doeskin or flannel blazer. Doeskin and flannel are very similar in weight, but doeskin has less nap which may give it a hair of an edge in terms of formality. Both J.Press (pictured above) and O’Connell’s offerings are high on my list.
Tropical Weight Blazer Although I already have two summer blazers I want another one. This blazer will be made from tropical weight wool. It is lighter than the hopsack blazer and more formal than my poplin blazer. Summer is a casual season, but business still happens and with this blazer you will be prepared. This one from J.Press looks great.

The blue blazer is one of the most iconic pieces of traditional American clothing. It is a workhorse. It can take you almost anywhere. If you are just starting out down this path I would start with a year round weight and add on from there, because as you can see the more you get the more you need.