Not sure if you should wear that Tommy Bahama shirt out tonight? The magnificent bastard is here to help. Go ahead. Ask away.
Relax, big spender, we want your knowledge, not your credit card info. If you know about something you think we should know about, let us know (so we can then pretend that we knew about it all along.) Send a tip.
Q: What's up with the lack of postings lately? You've had two so far for the month of September, which sported a grand total of five words. I've taken to reading the SB (who has 8 posts in the month, with more words than I care to count) just to have something to do while I'm supposed to be working. Am I right to be concerned?
A: Our in-house masseuse thinks this has something to do with blockage of our third eye chakra. We think it has more to do with replacement refs, abundant tee times, and excessive MB Cocktail indulgence.
Whoever's right, we still have a lot to say — although never more than the SB — and will be back to a more regular posting schedule someday.
Q: Urgent: funeral. Black suit of course but black tie as well?
A: It is a good choice.
Left to right: Iowa, August 13; Colorado, August 14; Ohio, August 15; Virginia, August 17
In the week or so since fellow Wisconsinite Paul Ryan was selected by Mitt Romney to be his running mate, it's become clear he has some significant sartorial shortcomings. He wears:
* fused, spread collar shirts (open)
* exposed crew neck undershirts
* overlong pants
* cowboy boots with khakis
* suit jackets two sizes too big and too long
Before making the pick, Team Romney should've looked less for skeletons in Ryan's closet and more at the clothes.
Four years ago the RNC spent $150,000 to get Sarah Palin out of polar fleece. You'd think this time around they could've spent a few grand on a style consultation and a tailor. The GOP is clearly getting serious about fiscal restraint.
At any rate, the point of this post isn't to go negative, but to highlight the positive of Ryan's obvious thing for gingham, a pattern we highly endorse. Since the Romney announcement on August 11, Ryan has been on the stump for seven days and appeared in gingham in four of them; a gingham-to-appearance percentage of a whopping 57%, even exceeding our own.
Q: I am madly in love with Ryan Lochte but read on MSNBC that he has 130 pairs of shoes. This is roughly 100 more pairs of shoes than I own. Which team IS he on?
A: 130 pairs is a lot of shoes, but well below the well-known homosexual shoe-ownership cutoff of 150 pairs. Dude is straight.
While he would bring more shoes into the relationship than you, we'd be far more worried about his taste level than his sneaker collection. In an interview with Women's Health Magazine he says his celebrity crush is Carmen Electra. This answer was possibly appropriate 15 years ago, when Lochte was 13 and Electra was on Baywatch and in Playboy pictorials. Now ... disturbingly weird old chick fetish!
Q: What's the MB in the header wearing? The shirt is mostly likely a custom shirt, what about the pants and shoes? Thanks!
A: Good eye on the shirt. That is a custom Deo Veritas made with windowpane Thomas Mason in magenta. It's $138 and totally worth it. Vinnie makes great shirts and if you mention MB he'll take good care of you.
The pants are the bottom half of a suit separate prototype one of us is working on.
The shoes are Converse Chuckit mesh sneakers. They work best for the beach or pool but can also be adopted as streetwear during hot Pulaski summers, as shown here. Unfortunately these don't seem to be available online unless you are OK with purple in men's sizes 3, 4, or 7.
Q: Amid the brouhaha about this year's US Olympic uniforms, I'm surprised no one's brought up the obvious complaint: they're hideous! Horrible berets, round collars, ugly ties, and jackets with distractingly enormous manufacturer logos... even the white trousers under stadium lighting will give us a good sense of who wears what underwear. Am I right about this, or just completely out of touch?
A: You are right (for the most part). The insane politicians who wanted to burn the Ralph Lauren uniforms because they were made in China should have instead wanted to burn the blazer because it's a too-short DB with peak lapels and brass buttons.
The beret is an odd choice. Maybe Lauren thought the games were in Paris instead of London.
As for the rounded collars, we have previously argued against trimming there because all the sensitive nerve endings are at the tip, and we've weighed in on Lauren's enlarged equestrian logo, which is approaching the size of a real-life jockey.
Where we disagree is on the white trousers. Even under hundreds of 1500-watt lights, they get us to chant U-S-A U-S-A.
Earlier: Ask the MB: White Pants
Just 10 days after we published The Golfing Toolbag, Adam Scott suffered one of the worst-ever major meltdowns, handing the Claret Jug to Ernie Els. Coincidence? Yes! But still not a good look on a man with good style otherwise.
Q: Spread or point collar?
A: Do you want your face to look longer and thinner or shorter and fatter? For the former, point; for the latter, spread.
The only two people we've seen who belong wearing spread collars are Adrien Brody and the guy in Edvard Munch's The Scream.
Earlier: MB Rule: If your nose is as long and sharp as a point collar, wear a spread collar.
None of the above
Q: Where does the MB stand on shirt monograms? I feel like pocket lettering is trying too hard, but having initials peek out from a cardigan sleeve could bring things up a level.
A: Mike, it's TTH on the sleeve, too. We've covered this before, arguing that they violate the understatement principle (while also managing to work in a picture of Pippa Middleton's ass), but forgot about the legible clothing principle, which they also clearly violate.
As for the monogrammists' arguments, they speak for themselves, like Howard at Ask Any About Clothes who posts, "I like monograms sometimes. It represents the feeling of being important and professional."
Earlier: Ask the MB: Monograms
Graeme McDowell in 2010 and Webb Simpson in 2012. Before 2010 the most recent cardigan sighting on a winner was Lee Janzen in 1998, also at Olympic.
Q: At what sort of events are blue blazers (the classic type with gold buttons) appropriate? I have a nice Polo blazer, but am sometimes unsure it's the right call.
A: We recommend this look only for scotch ads and sloop christenings.
Don't just stand there, get some glue!
We have been in your shoes — with exposed ankles, of course — with nice blue Polo blazers and strongly recommend jumping ship. Sure, you could replace the brass buttons with blue ones, but we suspect this garment has other problems like padded shoulders and a length hanging down below the bottom of your ball sack.
Instead, get into the modern navy blazer, which is deconstructed and shorter, like this one from Prada Sport at YOOX. It's made from resin-coated wool so it doesn't really wrinkle, and comes with a cool bag it easily folds into, so it's perfect for traveling. It's a great piece and it's on sale. Fits true to size.
Earlier: MB Endorses: Exposed Ankles
Earlier: Ask the MB: Blazer and Suit Jacket Length
Q: Not an ask so much as a heads up. Noted this month's Esquire advises to NEVER roll sleeves above the elbow. It seems to be a sincere attempt at advice, unfortunately.
A: Yes we saw that too (right) on page 78 of the June/July issue. Esquire is an odd case. On the one hand, in the Spring 2012 Big Black Book, fashion director Nick Sullivan wrote the most timely and insightful essay on suits we've ever read (not online, unfortunately). On the other hand, Sullivan and his staff hit at about the Mendoza Line when dispensing style advice.
Anyhow, back to sleeve rolling. Take a look at the images below and decide for yourself where to stop the roll.
Whether you're voting for Tom Barrett or Scott Walker, or abstaining out of principle like us — this is what regular elections are for — one thing all parties can surely agree on is that Scott Walker is a toolbag. Shown to the left at Quad Graphics last Friday sporting not one, but two cause wristbands. (Not pictured: Walker's pleated pants, belt-clipped cell phone, and Crocs.)
Earlier: Top 10 Ways to Look Like a Total Toolbag
Dozens of readers have written in to ask what constitutes an MB car. We haven't answered any of them.
Here's Fussell's take.
The automobile, like the all-important domestic façade, is another mechanism for outdoor class display. Or class lack of display we'd have to say, if we focus on the usages of the upper class, who, on the principle of archaism, affect to regard the automobile as very nouveau and underplay it consistently. Class understatement describes the technique: if your money and freedom and carelessness of censure allow you to buy any kind of car, you provide yourself with the meanest and most common to indicate that you're not taking seriously so easily purchasable and thus vulgar a class totem. You have a Chevy, Ford, Plymouth, or Dodge, and in the least interesting style and color. It may be clean, although slightly dirty is best. But it should be boring. The next best thing is to have a "good" car, like a Jaguar or BMW, but to be sure it's old and beat-up. You may not have a Rolls, a Cadillac, or a Mercedes. Especially a Mercedes, a car, Joseph Epstein reports in The American Scholar (Winter 1981-82), which the intelligent young in West Germany regard, quite correctly, as "a sign of vulgarity, a car of the kind owned by Beverly Hills dentists or African cabinet ministers."
Fussell on what you drink:
...the ultimate class bifurcation based on drink is simpler than [what they're served in], and it cuts straight across the center of society, unmistakably dividing the top classes from the bottom. I'm speaking about the difference between dry and sweet. If the locution of "a Seven and Seven" is strange to you, if your nose wrinkles a bit at the idea of drinking a shot of Seagram's Seven Crown mixed with Seven-Up, you are safely at or near the top, or at least not deeply compromised by the sugar fixation at the bottom. Bourbon "and ginger" is another drink favored down there but virtually unknown higher up. Both these, like daiquiris and stinger mists, brandy Alexanders and sweet manhattans, are often consumed before dinner, suggesting that the apéritif principle is not well understood except by non-proles who have undertaken extensive, i.e., European, travels.
It's been a week since Paul Fussell died and we've mourned the best way we know how: by re-reading Class for what we believe is either the 30th or 31st time since its publication in 1983 (we read it at least once a year). No, obit writers, Fussell's masterpiece is not The Great War and Modern Memory, which won the National Book Award in 1976 and we're convinced is a very good book; it's Class, his sagacious, hilarious examination of social class in America.
We think so highly of this book that we've made it required reading for family, any prospective SO, even for prospective acquaintances with whom interactions have gone beyond "hi." If you receive this book as a gift from us — and we gift it often — consider it an invitation to a club where "What would Fussell say?" is the secret handshake.
For the rest of the week we're pulling our favorite bits from Class because, well, it helps us deal with this loss.
Fussell on elite male and female looks in the U.S.:
It requires women to be thin, with a hairstyle dating back eighteen or twenty years or so. (The classiest women wear their hair for a lifetime in exactly the style they affected in college.) They wear superbly fitting dresses and expensive but always understated shoes and handbags, with very little jewelry. They wear scarves—these instantly betoken class, because they are useless except as a caste mark. Men should be thin. No jewelry at all. No cigarette case. Moderate-length hair, never dyed or tinted, which is a middle-class or high-prole sign, as the practice of President Reagan indicates. Never a hairpiece, a prole usage. (High and mid-proles call them rugs, mats, or doilies. Calling them toops is low-prole. Both women's and men's elite looks are achieved by a process of rejection—of the current, the showy, the superfluous. Thus the rejection of fat by the elite.
Without Paul Fussell this site would not exist.
A tribute to follow next week.
Q: The MB-ness of white jeans has been well documented, but what about white cotton dress pants? Denim is too casual, but I would like to step it up at work this summer.
A: White pants.
WHITE FUCKING PANTS!
Were we previously not clear on the MB-ness of white pants? Sorry.
On summer days when we're not wearing blue jeans or white jeans, we're wearing white pants. However, they're not without their challenges, namely finding them and keeping them clean.
For the former, we have YOOX's white pants latest arrivals on speed dial. If there is a bigger collection of white pants outside of a Naval Academy graduation, let us know. For the latter, just make sure your wife/girlfriend/launderer is aware of the stain-fighting power of Ivory + OxyClean. They're going to need it.
Earlier: Billy Mays: The Best-Laundered Huckster on TV
On Saturday Mark Zuckerberg gave each of his hoodies the day off and donned a suit and tie for his marriage to Priscilla Chan. Zuck impresses with a tie that echoes his jacket's lapel width, the tie's length is just about perfect (the tip nipping at his belt buckle), and he even wore actual shoes instead of the standard Adidas Adilettes (bottom).
But we're definitely not a fan of the wide spread/cutaway collar — a style that works only on Adrian Brody — and the mistake is compounded by pairing it with a four-in-hand knot when a Windsor is called for. Zuckerberg's loosened it up for this pic but when fully tied, a four-in-hand combined with a cutaway or wide spread can expose the part of the tie that's supposed to be under the collar, distracting from the beautiful asymmetry of the knot and, in general, looking like shit. Like this poor bastard on Style Forum.
Earlier: Ask the MB: Spread Collars
Q: Black suit: Is a slim fit black suit a good move for the office and, if so, how should it be accessorized? I prefer to reserve black for evening events, but I'd like to go beyond the navy and charcoal options. (I either don't like light-colored suits, or I don't look good in them...I'm not sure which.)
A: A black suit — slim-fit or otherwise — is only a good move for exactly two occasions:
2. Auditioning for a gangster role in a Tarantino pic
If you're bored with navy and charcoal and can't do light colors, try a pattern like a windowpane, pinstripe, or our favorite, Glen plaid like this one from Ralph Lauren
What American men need now: Grocery lists on their wrists
Q: I was randomly looking through Kickstarter today and saw this: American-made, American-grown underwear. What do you think?
—Brian in Seattle
A: In a world where over 56,000 people have pledged over $8.3 million for a clunky wrist device that looks like a Swatch humped a Skycaddie, you'd think American-made (and American-grown, as you astutely point out) undies would generate at least, say, half a mil, right?
No, but a still-impressive $163K has been pledged for Jake Bronstein's Flint and Tinder to make classic briefs, straight-leg boxers, and boxer-briefs at a California clothing factory powered partially by the sun.
While we're opposed to boxer-briefs with leg bands, and "tighty whities" violate our guidelines on testicle-constricting underwear, the boxers look worth the modest investment. We're in.
Earlier: The Magnificent Bastard Underwear Guide
Q: What's your take on eyebrow maintenance? The unibrow is something to be avoided at all costs but there seems to be a lack of guidance on the subject in terms of the well-groomed male.
A: Agreed that the unibrow should be avoided, though a few of our favorite Muppets make it work.
Just as we outsource cutting the grass and trimming the shrubs to lawn care professionals, we also recommend outsourcing eyebrow maintenance to your hair care professional. No manscaping here — that's a violation of the artful dishevelment principle — you want just enough deforestation so you don't end up looking like George W. Bush in the Navy pilot or blow years.
Any decent salon (and even a barbershop or two) has warm wax at the ready and can tidy up that patch of real estate in seconds. Simply ask for the service and tip well. It lasts for about four weeks, roughly the same time between haircuts, which is a convenient coincidence.
About this time last year Esquire ran a terrific little piece on top designer Michael Bastian, and how he couldn't afford his own clothes due to an expensive relationship with launch partner Brunello Cucinelli.
We speculated at the time that Bastian was shopping at J. Crew.
By going out on his own it was thought Bastian could lower his prices by 20%, but in fact it seems prices for his clothes have increased by about that much. Just in at thecorner.com:
* $810 for a Western shirt
* $2,915 for a blazer
* $360 for a pair of shorts
* $225 for a tank top
* $1,800 for a cashmere sweater with a ridiculous logo
That cashmere sweater (pictured) has us interested in the emerging field of Designer Algebra. In the Michael Bastian equation, a grey cashmere v-neck sweater is $300. Suede elbow patches are a buck seventy-five. The felt appliqué is 50¢. Put them together and it adds up to $1,800.
Q: What's your opinion of dress shirts from Charles Tyrwhitt?
A: Regular readers know we're raging Anglophiliacs but there are some notable exceptions, like the food, the Windsor knot, and the shirts from Jermyn Street menswear outfitters like Charles Tyrwhitt.
Besides the Windsor knot-ready collar design, their shirts all look far too neat due to the stiff, fused interlinings that inhibit artful dishevelment, an MB principle even more dear than Anglophilia.
By contrast, dress shirts with sewn interlinings (or no interlining at all) aren't just more comfortable, they lend themselves to AD, their collars sometimes taking on as much personality as the person wearing them.
To see what we mean, take a look at Cary Grant's shirt collar in North by Northwest, shot before the invention of fusing. In our view, Grant's shirt from this movie should be equally as revered and admired as his Kilgour suit or Persol sunglasses.
Earlier: The Four Things Wrong With the Windsor Knot
Early last year we wondered if Bubba Watson was a toolbag with MB tendencies or vice versa.
Now we're pretty sure it's the latter.
This season Watson combined a pink head with his pink-shafted Ping G20 driver to support Breast Cancer Awareness (Ping donates $300 for every 300 yard drive Watson hits), and at the Masters he just won he wore the same white-on-white outfit for four days to raise money for Fresh Start, a California charity that provides cosmetic reconstructive surgery for children with physical defects.
Now Watson clothing sponsor Travis Mathew is selling a $200 white polo and belt package with 100% of the proceeds going to Fresh Start. If they sell out, an additional $50,000 will be donated to the California-based cancer research center City of Hope.
While both the polo and belt badly violate the MB principle of legible clothing, we're in, and the Pulaski Goodwill soon be receiving a NWT Travis Mathew polo shirt and belt.
Earlier: Top 5 Ways to Make the Green Jacket Look Even Worse
Q: I am going to a summer wedding and want to wear my favorite blue seersucker pants and white shirt. What I'm not sure about is what style shoes should I wear and what color jacket would be best? Also should I wear a tie? If so what kind?
A: We would embrace and extend your casual look and wear a deconstructed two-button navy blazer, like this one from Scotch & Soda that's just 85 bucks. As for the tie we'd probably wear madras in a width that echos the 3" S&S blazer lapels, but if you don't have one handy just stuff this Land's End Canvas crinkle twill Tartan pocket square in your chest pocket and call it good. It's on sale for $9.99.
With all the money we just saved you, spend it on the shoes.
We always opt for fun takes on the sneaker, like these Bally boat shoes that would tie your preppy look together, and provide comfort when performing the inevitable running man/Melbourne shuffle.
If you don't think you can (or want to) pull that off, go for a blue suede moc from Car Shoe, the original driving shoe.
Earlier: MB Endorses: Exposed Ankles
Q: So my cheap Target sunglasses finally broke recently, and I'm upgrading to Randolph aviators. In regards to frame style, my instinct screams bayonet, but I've noticed toolbag frames are usually bayonet. For the up-and-coming, detail-driven magnificent bastard, what is your recommendation?
A: Never ignore a screaming instinct, we always say. They happen to be right a lot.
While we agree that some toolbag frames are bayonet, Randolph Engineering aviators with bayonet temples are worn by two of our all-time favorite fictional characters: Col. Kilgore in Apocalypse Now (upper left) and Don Draper in Mad Men (upper right), both of whom would certainly qualify as MBs.
As long as you don't shave your head into a mohawk, wear an oversized Army jacket, and plan on assassinating a presidential candidate, you're good.
Earlier: Col. Kilgore's Bracelet and Dog Tag Accessorization