Monday, August 31, 2009

Summer Style Retrospective - Part 3 - Swim Trunks

Do you hear that sound? That tapping on your window? There it is again, tap, tap, tap. Ah yes, now you remember it. Its Fall, gently rapping at your door. Today, for the first time this year, Fall's cool chill has graced the air of Brooklyn with her presence. As I sit here by my keyboard, I eagerly anticipate the first sip of coffee that I hear dripping in the kitchen. Drip, drip, drip. But don't let these thoughts occupy too much space in your mind, as we both know, that not only will Summer come back for a visit one last time before the Autumn gets here for good, but that it may come back with avengence and provide us with the motivation for one last dip in the pool or the ocean. As we Splash, splash, splash in the water that last time before next year, lets think about what we'll be splashing around in. Swim trunks, the bathing suit, those special shorts used for more leisurely activities, and general lounging at the beach, pool, lake, or river. So what should we wear while lounging our lasts?

Its far too easy today to take a trip to the mall, or the outlets, and for $20 buy a bathing suit that fits more like a tent. This is the mistake that most American men make. Similarly to those baggy cargo shorts, men tend to wear their bathing suits far too long, and far too baggy. There's no need to wear, what one of my buddies calls them, "manpris" when sitting in the sun at the beach. Swim trunks should NOT, EVER, venture below the knee of the wearer. But what about for guys who are not skinny freaks that make Thom Browne models look overweight? Well, we'll start here:

Taken on Hilton Head Island, SC, here I'm wearing an Etro suit and my daughter is wearing a "What the hell is this?" face.(It was her first dip into the Atlantic, or any ocean for that matter) The suit is very light and 100% cotton, and it dries suprisingly fast for the material. It has two side seam pockets and a rear patch pocket, but I strongly suggest keeping your valuables out of them when anywhere near the wet stuff. The suit is lined to keep everything where it should be, and really is my most comfortable pair of trunks. These stop right at my knees and are my longest pair also. Etro, a Milan based fashion house, sells these upwards of $150 retail, but who pays full retail for anything? They were at the Etro Outlet store in Woodbury Commons for $80, and at the time of my visit two years ago, were having their Labor Day Sale. The 50% off all summer goods there brought the price down to $40, a great bargain. For around that price you can get your typical "manpri" suit at Nautica or Tommy Hilfiger, right?

A man should never own only one bathing suit, especially one who usually hits the beaches religiously each summer. So below we'll look at a few other pair, of the shorter variety. First, a pair of "board short" type trunks that I picked up at a shop on King Street in Charleston this summer. The brand, Nantucket Brand, I have never come across before. When reading up on the company, I realized why. The brand is sold only in their two company shops, one in Charleston the other in Nantucket. There they sell mostly preppy wear for the Nantucket set. As I meandered my way through the shop, checking out OCBDs, khakis, and ribbon belts I found my way to a back alcove. (Thats the word right? Alcove?) In this little nook of the store were all of their sale items. Polo shirts, shorts, belts, and swim trunks. All summer items that needed to be cleared out and all were $20 each. So for that price I couldn't pass up this navy and red pair of board shorts (an unlined bathing suit):

Pictured here with a JCrew tailored fit polo and my Ben Silver Ball Cap, these come about half way down my thigh. They are 100% polyester and have two side seam pockets and two back flap/velcro pockets. When examining the suit further, the "Made in China" tag becomes apparent as the fairly shoddy interior stitching. There are quite a few loose threads inside the suit, and I've had to take my shears to them on a few occations after some washes, but for the $20 I paid for them, I'm satisfied. Had they been full price, they most certainly would have gone back; but they were just right for lounging on a SC beach waiting for the sun to set...always with the upcoming hockey season on my mind!

The last suit I'll be showing you is by far the shortest, but also a favorite of mine. While out of our apartment last summer due to a fire in our building, a dry cleaning company took all of our clothing to clear all the smoke from them, leaving us with literally just the shirts on our backs. So, we headed out to Paramus, NJ, and to the massive Century 21 department store there, to pick up a few things to get us through. These trunks, and a similar pair in white and orange, were two of them. The brand is Acquarossa, another Italian outfit, and they were $19.99 each. Normally these suits would retail around $80. These are 100% polyester, which helps them dry miraculously fast, with a 100% cotton lining. Only coming down about 1/3 of the way on my thigh, I needed to be careful with the sun, and made sure I sprayed my thighs with SPF30 each time they were worn. Here you can see why:

Now I'm sure a lot of guys wouldn't feel comfortable in a suit this short, and they probably would look so good if I had even a little more of a belly, but if your decently fit, and not shy about showing some leg, these come highly recommended. These provide a shorter alternative without being the "full monty". As for that, unless you are an Olympic swimmer, competing in an Olympic event, please don't wear a speedo.

Now we'll turn our attention to shirts. A disturbing trend caught my eye as I spent two glorious weeks at two of America's finest East Coast beaches this year. Grown men wearing "surfer style" shirts while on the beach or at the pool. Big men, small men, skinny men, and fat men. Listen, if your 12 years old, and have one of these, its ok. In fact, then, its quite appropriate. Little kids forget to come back to mommy and daddy for the reapplication of vital sun screen and wind up getting burned. That sucks. But for those of you old enough to know better, c'mon now. No man should be caught dead wearing these things unless he's a professional surfer, competing in an event. The same as the speedo rule. "But Rob, what if you just get burned too easily?" Then wear a tee shirt, a sweat shirt, or anything else BUT the surf shirt. Even if your modest about exposing yourself to the ladies on the beach, just throw a tee shirt on and you'll will be fine. Leave the Underarmor shirts in your gym locker and your surfer shirts on your kids. Its just not acceptable.

One of these three styles of swim trunks should suit just about every man who ventures their way into the water this last weekend of summer or next year. But before the last sun of Summer sets beneath the waves of Fall, try and get out one more time to enjoy it. Enjoy the warmth of the sun. Enjoy the refreshment of a cool ocean breeze on a hot and humid day, but please, do it without your surfer shirt and "manpris".

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Summer Style Retrospective - Part 2 - Color in Tailored Clothing

So I posted an entry about how I like to wear casual clothing in the summertime, but what about when the occation calls for something a bit more dressy? Well, if you are afraid of color, then your options are substantially limited. Wool isn't the best choice (unless its a very fine weave) for the warmer months, so cotton is king. Khakis and a light shirt are the easy go to option during these summer swelts, but if you need to dress often, you may look like your wardrobe has the handicap of being very constricted.

If you want to stay in the cotton range, and mix it up, I suggest going to colorful options which aren't generally a feature of American clothing. Just because these items are imported from Europe, doesn't mean they have to be expensive. I have NEVER paid anywhere near full price on any of my trousers, and can find especially good deals on summer trousers in places like Daffy's, Century 21, and the B&S Forum over at All of the pants you will see below have been obtained from one of those three fora. I didn't pay more than $50 for any one pair, and most were bought closer to $20 each. Many of these pants retail for well over $200, so I'm living proof that buying luxury doesn't always have to be cost prohibitive.

Here is a pair of very light wool Incotex pants with a yellow gingham shirt. After work the BrooksBrothers blazer and BB Pink tie was removed.

This look shows a light navy cotton pant (Adam and Eve) with a madras long sleeve shirt and seersucker vest. To me, seersucker is the ideal summer fabric, refined enough to be considered dressy, cool enough for hot days, and textured enough to give your look a little "edge".

Below are some red chino-lino pants, a colorful tie and belt with a subdued pink stripe dress shirt.

Perhaps the belt was an unneccesary addition, but you live and learn.

Here is a look I wasn't terrifically pleased with, but felt is was just "alright". A seersucker jacket (part of a three piece suit) and navy cotton trousers and a light blue shirt witha navy striped tie. Did like the shoes and trousers together are Alden for JCrew longwings. Love the look, but for the price would have rather just purchased a pair of shell cordovan longwings direct from the Alden store. they now sell them in whiskey shell.

We here have lighter blue trousers with whiskey cap toes and a fitted navy blazer. To compliment the trousers (Incotex) I went with a sky blue tie.

This look probably elicited the most comments (good and bad) from the fora where I post. The pants are Tangerine Mabitex and the jacket is a bold blue 3 roll 2 to which I had white MOP buttons added. A Paul Smith Tie and Square were added but the most "controversy" came through my choice of shoes and head gear. In retrospect, I probably would have gone with one of my summer driving caps and the JCrew Longwings instead. But with color, you have to try different things...

Regular khakis feature here, with the color coming from the salmon tie. Remember how nice June was in NY this year?

Green Incotex and a Navy hopsack blazer. For a more subdued look, lose the white shoes, and go with a darker brown.

Almost as summer as seersucker, the linen suit. It doesn't have the greatest fit, and the pants have been altered as they are entirely too long here. But, for the price (well under $100 on sale) it suited me just fine. The madras tie, light blue gingham shirt, and blue faced and banded watch provide just enough color where the suit lacks it.

The green pants and blue sportcoat for a July engagement party. This time with white bucks and my yellow gingham shirt with a skinny Theory light blue cotton tie.

Here's a really ambitious get up of seersucker (jacket), gingham (square), plaid (shirt) and stripe (tie) with denim.

For more casual wear, a bit of an inverted dress down colorway. The first look, Cobalt Blue Incotex chino-linos (cotton/linen blend) with a light yellow gingham shirt. The second is a light yellow Incotex chino-lino with a blue gingham shirt. These are two ways color can be incorporated into a more casual look.

I'll leave you with a project for next summer. I picked up this great seersucker plaid jacket at a thrift store on my travels in Richmond, Va this July. I'd like to have the pocket flaps and lapels slimmed down a bit as well as having the waist nipped for wear the first 80 plus day of 2010.

Stay tuned for the last summer installment...bathing suits.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Summer Style Retrospective - Part 1 - Wearing Shorts

So one of the perks of teaching school here in NYC, aside from the opportunity to educate our young minds, is that for the majority of July and August, there is no work to be done. Room preparations this year don't start until the 8th of September, although many teachers, including myself, will head back a bit early to get a head start. So what is one to wear through these hot and oft humid months while not being gainfully employed? Its easy to fall into a lazy habit of doing what most of America does, throwing on a pair of baggy cargo shorts, or worse jeans shorts, and an ill fitted tee shirt. Maybe a polo shirt will eek its way out of your wardrobe's slumber for a night out. Maybe.

Well, I hope to illustrate how I have attempted to remain stylish, and more importantly cool and comfortable, while the rest of my mind was on hiatus. The key to a summer wardrobe is fit. Just because your in a relaxed mood, doesn't mean your clothing needs to follow. Its a common misconception that baggy = comfortable in the summertime swelter. This is simply not true. Shorts that creep their way down past your knees are no longer shorts, but longs, and highly uncomfortable as humidity and sun play their games with the atmosphere. Take note of a few examples below that show how shorts and a nice top, be it a polo or a tee shirt, can be worn while remaining cool and well dressed.

Shorts are French linen and the tee is very soft cotton.

Cotton khaki shorts and a very light and soft cotton polo.

Same shorts paired with a cotton shirt, sleeves rolled, and a straw hat.

Cotton shorts and a cotton pique polo. The shirt here is not baggy, but conforms to the shape of my body, and I wasn't a bit out of my comfort range.

Another soft and light polo with a cotton driver's cap...I guess I wore those shorts a lot this summer!

Cotton shorts that were long pants. I had these pants trimmed down in the leg and cut to fall just above my knee.

Cotton madras shorts with a long sleeve cotton shirt, sleeves rolled. These shorts are a bit baggy for my tastes, but the madras material (an Indian cotton that wear very well in summer climates) is breathable enough to keep me cool, even if there's a lot of air between my skin and cloth.

A madras long sleeve shirt and my sole pair of "longs", a pair of madras pants. The pants were rolled up for an evening stroll on the South Carolina shoreline.

Using these images as guides, one can mix and match well fitted tee shirts, polo shirts and long sleeved shirts with shorts to keep cool on the warmest of summer days.

Next up tomorrow in Part 2 of my summer retrospective, keeping cool while keeping on your pants! Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Just a Common Man...

So, I feel a little background about me, who I am, how I live, and why I choose to make style a priority in my life is in store. I'm sure most people in my profession, and with my income, do not put such priority on how they dress as I do. Not to say they dress poorly, but that they choose to spend their hard earned money on other things, things that hold higher importance to them than the vain exterior. What can I say? I'm vain. It makes me happy, and I'm lucky enough to have a family that supports me, and is happy with who I am, and who they are inspite of, or because of me.

Firstly, for those of you who don't know, I'm an employee of the City of New York. I teach American History to 14 year olds here in Brooklyn. It's not as challenging as it may seem. I earn anywhere between $60 and $75k per year, depending on overtime available. I live and work in close proximity (less than a mile) so commuting costs me nothing. In fact, at the end of the year, when you total it all up I, as well as my colleagues, have a decent amount of disposable income, even after mortgage and childcare responsibilities.

Where my colleagues and I differ is how we spend that money. Many teachers take two or three vacations a year, with can cost anywhere from $2500 per trip per person (when totalling all money spent) and up. I don't. Some opt for two cars in their household, since my wife and I work together (it's where we met), we needn't. Others choose to pay close to $200 a month just for a parking spot in our notoriously tough-to-park-in neighborhood, Bay Ridge. I don't. Others wouldn't blink an eye at dropping $500 in Atlantic City for a weekend. I would, my eyes would be sewn shut. This year I've even sold my NY Ranger season tickets (can't imagine we'll have much time or energy to get to the Garden with two rug rats crawling around!). By the end of the year, the money that others put toward foreign vacations, nights on the town, commuting costs and trips to the casinos, I put toward my wardrobe. It makes me happy in the same way that others find happiness in the things previously listed. I am by no means a monetarily rich man, where I am rich, is in the family that I love. I have a wife, who shares my philosophy on spending for vacations, commuting, and entertainment. She also supports my "vanity" by encouraging me to feel good in my clothing purchases. I have generous parents, who take our family on vacations whenever its feasible. In fact, this year we were guests for two weeks on the beach in two of the East Coast's finest beach resort towns. First, we spent seven days in Hilton Head Island, SC, and then a week in Victorian Cape May, NJ. They also help subsidize our childcare costs, without the "drag" of being French socialists.

I even manage to be fortunate enough to have a decent savings program through my job (TRS and TDA) so that our future will be just as bright, if not brighter, than our present. Also, a benefit of being a teacher here in NYC, I have job security, something that in this day in age is a real luxury. While others cut back their spending in tough times, retailers are forced to give better and more frequent sales. This enables people like me to be able to keep our retail spending and get more for our money. That's exactly what I've been able to do in the last few years, while not breaking the budget. In fact, I'm proud about how well I can shop, and what I can get for my money.

They key in this regard, is to practice. Like anything else in life, you get better at things the more you do them. Now, this doesn't mean that one has to spend to get better, but you certainly must look. The more you look, the more you see. The more you see, the more you know what you like, and whats for you. You more you know...well, you know, don't you?

I will rarely pay full price for anything, but still don't sacrifice exactly what I want. If I buy something OTR (off the rack) it needs to be exactly what I'm looking for, at half to a quarter of the retail price, otherwise I won't buy it. What I won't hesitate to buy at full price, is bespoke, which doesn't go "on sale". Again, here I was blessed with a lucky find, Frank at Ercole's. Although his prices are at the lower end of bespoke clothing (a three piece suit for ~$1500) his work is impeccable, and from my experience, as well as the experience of others whose bespoke wardrobes range from Ercole's to A&S or other Savile Row firms; his work is just as good as anyone elses. He also has a knack for my "type". Now I know what many of you may think, "Jesus man, you're a teacher, what the hell do you need a $1500 suit for?" I don't need it. I need it as much as someone making a comparable salary to me needs a European vacation, or a few trips a year to AC. I want it, just like others want those things. That's where our differing priorities come into play. I'm just as happy to stay home and watch TV for a weekend with my wife and daughter, and one day take advantage of NYC's great public parks, to go play ball with our son, than to spend a weekend in Newport, or Martha's Vinyard, or Atlantic City. My $1500 suit doesn't seem so extravagant now.

Its easy to dress well when you have a disposable income thats comparable to the national budgets of most Central American nations, but to do it when your budget is limited, is a real challenge. So while I have been eliminated in Esquire's Best Dressed Real Man Competition this past week, I feel alright. I know that most of the five finalists, based on their profiles, who are impeccable dressers and have great individual style, are also men of more means than myself. To know, that I have been able to hang around with the likes of these fellas, and be in competition with them, makes me feel very good about myself, and about the choices I have made.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Seersucker For City Summers

Most people who know, know that seersucker is a classic staple of a gentleman's summer wardrobe. We've all seen the image...southern men, meandering around their plantation grounds carrying a mint julep, wearing their seersucker suits, but for the city seersucker can look, well, just plain affected. I thought about this when comissioning my last bespoke piece at Ercole's this June. I wanted something for summer, and the warmer weather that pre and procedes it and love the seersucker fabric, but didn't want a "typical" seersucker jacket. Well, I found a terrific fabric, a navy on navy medium wale seersucker that Frank and I had pieced together in a two button jacket.

As with all of my coats, I like them to be a touch on the shorter side and double vented (to accomodate my hockey player posterior), and Frank knows this. I decided that eventhough this would be a summer jacket, it should be lined fully, as I didn't want patch pockets on her. Frank found a great cotton shirting fabric in stock with the colors of the NY Mets (blue, orange, and white...the whole new black thing in their colors still irks me) and we decided that it would be perfect. I also had him make me a square in the same cotton fabric. We went with two standard flap pockets, a breast pocket, and three and a quarter inch lapels that had somewhat of a higher than normal gorge. We also took all padding out of the shoulders and kept his house Neapolitan or "waterfall" shoulder-arm seem connection. For finishing touches we went with white MOP buttons (4 on the sleeve) and at Frank's suggestion we sewed a white edge to the lapel buttonhole which really helps the jacket "pop".

Some pictures of the first fitting:

I want this jacket to be my go-to summer jacket. A blazer, but not. I will wear this in the warmer months with attire that I would normally wear my navy blazer with when the mercury drops a few inches on my thermometer. Jeans (white or lighter washed), khakis, seersucker pants will all compliment the navy coloring of this jacket well. I think I've succeeded in creating (well, Frank has succeeded in creating) a summer jacket that will give me plenty of years of wear with the versatility of the ubiquitous navy blazer, even with the ability to turn it out with some Breuckelen edge to it.

And some photos of the jacket in action. First paired with a pair of fine waled khaki seersucker pants (by Ercole) with two inch cuffs, white suede Peale wingtip bucks, a small blue gingham shirt (Ercole again) and a Ben Silver tie (that my wife got me for my birthday!). You can see the square Frank made eeking out of the breast pocket as well. Covering my head is a linen cap from City Hats in London.

A second look, for a more casual wearing:

Jeans are Citizens for Humanity in a light wash, Jack Purcells by Converse for John Varvatos, ribbon belt is by Atelier F&B Geneve, red micro-gingham shirt by JCrew, and the square is by Brooks Brothers.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

NewYorkRanger's Blog - An Introduction

Alright, so I've decided to take up blogging. I've decided just boring myself with my thoughts was not nearly enough, so I'm bringing it to Al Gore's internet, and the world. I hope those of you reading this will enjoy my posts and enjoy what I have to share. So, now you're probably asking yourself, "Self, what the hell is this blog going to focus on?"

NewYorkRanger will be focusing on life, his life, and some of the things important to me. First and foremost, there's my family. My beautiful wife, my extraordinarily wonderful daughter, my soon to be extraordinary son will be the primary subjects of any "family posts".

I'll also be focusing on men's clothing. Fresh from my elimination from Esquire magazine's Best Dressed Real Man competition you'll hear my thoughts on the latest trends, some classic styling, bespoke, and any other satorial issues that come to mind. You'll most likely be hearing a lot about my favorite tailor, Frank, over at Ercole's Creative Fashion in Brooklyn and some of my favorite brands. Being a family guy, and not a "baller", you'll most likely see posts that intertwine the two in my posts. You'll also be hearing some about two of my favorite men's web sites, Ask Andy About Clothes and StyleForum. These sites focus on men's clothing and style and have some similarities and some glaring differences. Be forewarned, there may be some "venting".

Some other things that you may read about here from time to time are the New York Rangers, the NHL in general, Manchester City Football Club, the EPL, and international football. Some other sporting events may also be discussed, but the main portion of my sporting commentary will focus on those fora.

You may even hear some opinions on my profession, being a teacher. I don't define myself as one, but it is a profession that I enjoy, and at times love. I enjoy the kids I teach, I enjoy the subject I teach (History) but I do have some serious issues with some stereotyping of the occupation which in my mind has led to the demise of the current "teacher" in the United States.

Hell, you may even hear some political thoughts as well.

I'm sure I'm forgetting somethings, but that's life isn't it? Especially when you have a 14 month old running circles around you.

I hope you all enjoy what I have to say, in yet not another blog.