Q: Great to have you back! I am attending my office Christmas party and I am to bring a $10 gift. Any ideas? —Richard
A: If you want something that will appeal to the widest range of potential recipients, our focus group testing has found that virtually all of white-collar America responds positively to a smoking, drinking man-deer who is not afraid to make a nonchalant spectacle of himself at Yuletime.
If you think the booze will be flowing freely at your party, and your 4th quarter performance has been strong enough to withstand a visit to HR, we like this plastic wine stopper from Gama-Go.
If you're lucky enough to work with literate, discerning colleagues, you can't go wrong with Paul Fussell's Class.
We can't make promises for the last two, but if you buy a Non-Denominational Winter Tree Accessory today, it will arrive in time for Friday office parties. (I.E., we ship it USPS two-day delivery at no extra charge.)
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? —Tim
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: 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? —Elizabeth
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 Magazinehe 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! —Viktor
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? —Vince
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 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."
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. —Matt
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.
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.) —JY
A: A black suit — slim-fit or otherwise — is only a good move for exactly two occasions:
1. Funerals 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
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.
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. —Cam
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.
Q: What's your opinion of dress shirts from Charles Tyrwhitt? —Chase
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.
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? —Sam
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? —Sky
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.
A: We absolutely love the idea behind Arnie Wear — who doesn't want to look like Arnold Palmer did in the '60s — it's the execution we have a problem with, with too-long sleeves on the polos, too-long inseams on the shorts, and far too much nylon and quick-dry polyester on everything.
The King never wore quick-dry polyester.
One item we'll be trying out, however, is the Leaderboard dress pant in (mostly) cotton, with a low rise and gentle boot cut (inset). Good golf pants are hard to find, and it looks like you could wear these into the office after a round (unless you get them in Lemon). Plus they'll go great with the Sambas.
Long before Arnie Wear came along, what we've done to put our twist on the '60s Palmer look is find a pair of casual white pants on YOOX, a slim-fitting banded-cuff polo from J.Crew (always on sale), and a fine-gauge cashmere-silk cardigan usually by Cruciani. Add a $4.99 plain white visor from e4hats.com and you are Palmer personified (except for his game).
Q: When should I mothball the tweed for the year? Is it the same in the spring as fall - last freeze as predicted by the Farmer's Almanac? Or just before Easter?
A: While the Farmer's Almanac's frost guide is perfect for the introduction of tweed, it's of no use for its retirement. The average last frost in Green Bay, Wisconsin is May 6, which is way, way too late to be wearing tweed. By then we're in white pants, drinking clear liquor.
Just before Easter might work if it had a set date like Christmas, but the range for this holiday 34 days, which is fine for Jesus's resurrection but unhelpful as a style guidepost.
Rather than rely on Mother Nature or Christian holidays for tweed mothbolling, we've been lead instead by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which extended the start of daylight savings time (DST) three weeks, to the second Sunday in March starting in 2007. For the past six years we've found the start of DST to be a very reliable and natural-feeling tweed end date.
A: We love imagining the look on "Style Guy" Glenn O'Brien's face when he learned underlings at GQ were suggesting fleece sweatpants ... with ankle-hugging elastic. He probably died a little bit, too, on the outside.
Despite the likes of prodigy designer Alexander Wang and shrunken-man designer Thom Browne doing fleece sweats — if you're insane you can buy a pair of Browne's sweatshorts for $300 — this is a clothing item best left to Rocky Balboa and George Costanza.
For times when we need the functionality of sweatpants — usually a tennis warm-up session and not training for a fight against Apollo Creed — we wear bottoms than emphasize the pants over the sweat. That is, pockets in both front and rear, unfettered leg openings, zip flys, and above all, no fleece. It's the fleece that gives off the "I give up" look.
Q: Can you please help Mitt Romney with his light colored dad jeans? Thanks. —Larry
A: Late last year Esquire suggested Romney was wearing the light-wash Obama Fit denim (left) to connect with Iowa farmers — not to mention Iowa's jean-wearing moms — which got us wondering: Is Mitt Romney the first presidential candidate to not only say anything to get elected, but also wear anything to get elected?
Apparently not, as he campaigned in New Hampshire in early January in the Iowa Jeans, but then abruptly abandoned his mom jean-wearing principles after withering ridicule, including a mom-jean cartoon from the Los Angeles Times' David Horsey, and adopted a more fitted, lower-rise, faux-distressed look, as shown at a campaign stop in Boise on Friday (right).
Q: What the heck is the Spectacular Bitch up to? Still no website! I was looking forward to seeing what an alpha female has to say. At this rate she must be in danger of losing the "spectacular" label. Spank her, will you? —Jim
A: Oh, Jim! Jim, Jim, JIM!
If anyone deserves a spanking, it's MB. I am ready. I have been ready.
Q: I was all set to pick up a pair of the MB-approved Kombi Captain Freedom gloves for a ski trip in Jackson Hole, when I discovered that the folks at Kombi have altered the design. (new one here: http://www.snowshack.com/detail/SNW+KB-30324+L). It's like New England getting rid of the Pat Patriot helmet. Some things just don't make sense. Nonetheless, the gloves are still pretty sweet. Do you approve? —Andrew
A: What's worse? New England getting rid of Pat Patriot or Tampa Bay abandoning the winking pirate Bucco Bruce? We say the latter by a nautical mile.
At any rate, we were completely joking about wearing the Kombi Captain Freedom gloves for skiing. (Though we weren't joking at all about wearing the Naked and Famous Snowpant Denim; they are terrific for banging bumps.)
What we're wearing this year is Wigens bearclaw gloves (bottom). Made in Sweden, these not only protect your fingers from Jack Frost, they also double as part of a Halloween costume if you're dressed as a black bear. 100% goat leather plus 100% rabbit on the outside, the only problem with these is they're too warm.
Q: Hey MB. I also went into an alcohol-fueled spending spree after the devastating loss to the Giants. I did my damage at Mr. Porter's sale, but I have a question about the fit of those Aspesi down jackets. What size did you order? I am 5'10" about 170, 33 waist. I want to replace my rotting Patagonia down jacket, but I wasn't sure what size to order of the Aspesi on The Corner. All that is left is a Large. Any advice?
A: Like most Italian brands, Aspesi fits small. Their XL pushes it for us, but we're all quite a big bigger than you, so our strong hunch is the large Aspesi down jacket will fit you perfectly and be a significant upgrade over anything Patagonia, rotting or not.
If you want to take it up even another notch, get into Z Zegna. Slip it on and you'll agree that the additional $202 was totally worth it. (Zegna fits much more traditional American.)
Q: I'm looking to layer up in London over the winter. What are your feelings on long sleeves under a tshirt? Is there any way I can pull off this kind of layering without looking like a douche/toolbag? —Bradley
A: Layering is a key MB principle, but this look has always seemed backwards to us, like putting underwear over your pants.
Q: Look, we agree on a lot, and disagree on a few things. But one post a week? Stop slacking. You're making us other MBs feel alone in a world of huge watches, True Religion and Robert Graham. It's fuckin' scary and it's nice to hear another voice of sanity out there. —Chris
A: We spent all last week breaking down game film, and since the fiasco on Sunday we're slowly emerging from a prescription drug and MB cocktail-induced shopping binge that triggered cardmember security calls from U.S. Bank, Chase, Citigroup, and even our local credit union.
The primary object of our expensive coping mechanism was the incredibly good deals at The Corner (aka the high-end YOOX), which we highly recommend you check out before everything is gone. Our bounty:
Q: Ben Roethlisberger, post game news conference, WTF? —Wade
A: Big Ben clearly has a hat that's Too Tiny, enhancing the size of his already large and increasingly flabby melon, one that has more chins than the number of TDs he threw against Denver on Sunday.
What struck us though, besides the fact that Roethlisberger bothered to wear something besides an untucked sport shirt, is that this is the same outfit he wore to the ESPY awards in July, 2009, 2½ years ago (below). It's true he's a Hall of Fame toolbag, but you'd think a guy who made $12 million this year would not recycle a dated three-piece suit and prepackaged shirt/tie/pocket square combo he probably picked up at TJ Maxx for $19.99.
Q: The ascot....I am wearing it. It does have a HDD (High Degree of Difficulty —Ed.) but a real MB can pull it off. Your thoughts on this? —Jason
A: The ascot meets at least four core MB principles:
1. Anglophilia. They were first introduced in England. 2. Archaism. In the late 19th century. 3. Exclusivity. It's nearly impossible to find a good one. 4. Senseless Lack of Utility. They are even more useless than a necktie (i.e. they're too short to double as a belt or decent tourniquet in a pinch).
In other words, we love them.
But can you really pull it off? To answer that question we've created an ascot-wearing "decider" flowchart below to help guide you.
Q: Winter is upon us, and I've developed a case of "color matching doubts and anxiety".
— Black pea coat with denim?
— Dark blue sweater with black pea coat?
— Brown sweater with black jeans?
All these look OK in my mind, but I've heard there are rules. Generally, how to wear black other than with black? Please help clear my mind. —Shane
A: Black and blue are a natural pairing, so wear #1 and #2 with confidence. We would never try #3, not because it can't work, but because we don't own a pair of black jeans, primarily to avoid ever looking like anything resembling Justin Theroux. (We don't care if he's plowing The Hottest Woman of All-Time. 40-year-old in a Siouxsie and the Banshees T? Even money says this dude's never even been to a show.)
Anyhow, if you're still suffering from color matching doubts and anxiety after reading this we recommend avoiding black entirely and opting instead for charcoal grey for the outerwear and blue for the jeans. Both of those go with anything.
Q: Now that we're in sweater weather, what are the rules for wearing a sweater with a suit or sportcoat? —Dave
A: We only have one rule when it comes to sweaters under blazers: don't look like Gene Siskel or Roger Ebert (top).
Instead, go for something fine-gauge in crewneck as demonstrated by Robert Redford, or our personal preference, the turtleneck as shown by Steve McQueen most famously in Bullitt (bottom).
While we're pretty sure McQueen could handle wool against his skin, we suggest opting for cashmere. If you have the bread, Malo is the obvious, best choice. If you don't, take a look at 8, available at YOOX. We've obsess over cashmere sweaters and have discovered 8 is the best value going, and this version is on sale for just $135. Fits slightly small.
A: As much as we are amused by the black sheep sweater's marketing concept, we don't actually own one. However, we've heard from several readers that at $120 this is a very good purchase, in spite of it initially smelling like the Irish barn they are made in. All it needs, apparently, is a little fresh air and it's fine. One reader likes it so much he called it a "lifer" and something he plans on handing down to his black sheep offspring.
Q: I'm shopping around for a new pair of wing tips. I see Antonio Maurizi shoes featured all the time on Gilt. What's your take? —Jim
A: We were extremely optimistic about a pair of Antonio Maurizi chukka boots last year but upon delivery they clearly were on the "excessively pointy" side of the MB Shoe Toe Pointiness Chart. Now, wing tips are certainly different from chukkas, but their toe shape still doesn't plot high enough to be considered.
A: Normally we're in favor of watches made by defunct Swiss manufacturers that require a pronunciation guide — it's pronounced mooj-awe and peek-are — but this watch is a definite pass. It's ironic that J.Crew is resurrecting a brand that was killed off by the quartz movement craze of the '70s, yet with Tourneau's help fits this watch with a quartz movement!
A: We never button our cardigans, except for the walk home from the Pulaski bar scene on a chilly night when we will ineptly button them off by one button, and if we've had enough Magnificent Bastard cocktails, two.
Q: What are your thoughts on a shirt and tie with no jacket? The internet style-forum consensus seems to be a resounding no, unless you work in a mail room or are a Jehovah's Witness; but it is still a look one sees all the time (not that that's necessarily an argument in its favor, of course). But if it is so wrong to wear a shirt and tie without a jacket, why do people take off the jacket? Does having the jacket nearby magically change the look of the outfit? If so, at what distance is that magical connection lost? The next desk over? A different floor? Do certain jackets maintain the connection over further distances from others? Thanks! —Ed
A: Ed, forget about the distance your jacket is from your body and focus instead on properly artfully disheveling your shirt and tie.
We agree with the hoi polloi that when you wear only a shirt buttoned to the top with buttoned cuffs and a snugly-tied tie, it looks like either a.) something is missing, or b.) something is missing and you're about to go preaching door-to-door.
So don't wear only a shirt buttoned to the top with buttoned cuffs and a snugly-tied tie. Undo the buttons and roll up the sleeves. Loosen the tie knot and turn it to a side. Does Paul Newman look concerned that he's missing something? Joe Paterno, on the other hand, is super pissed off he can't find his jacket.
Q: What brand/model/style of glasses did Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis wear? —Ray
A: Al Davis likely took the sure answer to this question to his grave. A Google search says they are vintage Alain Mikli shades, but our best guess is these are vintage or custom Vuarnet — indicated by the V-shaped bridge — a company which was acquired by Mikli in 2009.
Either way, finding a pair will be more difficult than finding an answer to why Davis made JaMarcus Russell the #1 pick in 2007.
Q: We're coming up on ski season quickly. What would an MB full ski outfit look like? And yes I mean ski since an MB would not snowboard. —Alex
A: Alex, you are correct. We do not snowboard. In fact we actually limit our ski vacations to Mad River Glen in Vermont and Deer Valley and Alta in Utah. These are the three remaining resorts in the United States that have rightfully banned this boarding horde of mogul-flattening teens. Do not mess with the bumps.
As for the ski outfit, we keep it very simple with stuff we already have in our regular winter rotation, like a puffy coat that hits at the waist, a cashmere hat with a pom, and leather stars-n-stripes "Captain Freedom" gloves. Where we venture outward is on the pants. Naked and Famous has created the coolest ski pants ever, the Slim Guy Snow Pant Jeans. They fit and look like denim but are lined, waterproof, windproof, and have have vented cuffs to fit over your ski boots.
Hi MB. I am into soft knit winter/fall hats, and really like this one from J. Varvatos. It's soft cashmere and looks pretty good without being douchy. Any ideas that don't cost flipping $168? It's a hat! —Dan
A: We have a simple rule about winter hats. If it costs more than $100 it must be 100% cashmere. Maybe even 110%. Either that, or there should be one extremely cold beaver somewhere. That Varvatos hat, while a fine-looking chapeau, is $168 and it's only 25% cashmere. Not even close!
Not that we're saying you should pinch your pennies when it comes to your head. After all, you'd surely spend $168, and probably even much more, on a pair of shoes you really like — and what are your feet but the day laborers of your body? Your head, meanwhile, is the CEO. So don't skimp! To that end, we like this cabled Bottega Veneta cashmere cap (bottom). Sure, it's $260, but like all CEOs, doesn't your head deserve a nice Christmas bonus?
Meanwhile, you didn't ask, but we couldn't help but notice Petty's scarf has a message for our readers. It's saying, "Don't do me like that!"
We know this is a signature look for Petty, but if you ask us, what it says is, 'I've been waiting for the Sundance Catalog to add an ascot page for years, but still no luck. I'll guess I'll use this scarf. And, uh, how do you tie an ascot again? Well, this is sort of close, right?"
Next week, we're posting a scarf-tying guide that will feature 7 ways to tie one. The Petty won't be on the list.
Q: I have a Christmas party for a large bank coming up in a few months, and since I've managed to navigate life thus far without a respectable suit I thought I'd get one made from a local tailor. As we were going over the fit and style of the suit, he asked if I would like pleats. Being a long-time MB reader and knowing your stance on such things, I replied that I did not.
This raised a problem - being a former speed skater and avid cyclist, my seat-to-waist proportion is a bit out of the normal range. Without pleats, the standard slit pant pocket would be stuck slightly open giving the impression that the pants do not fit. The tailor recommended I go with continental-style pockets, which are more similar to the style used in jeans. What does the MB thing of this dilemma? —Andrew
A: Andrew, we top out at around 15 mph on a pair of skates. But even so, we love Continental-style pockets on dress pants, precisely because they make them less dressy. So listen to your tailor on this one, and make sure to have him style the jacket to match, preferably with double vents. Single vents are great but are also more traditionally American.
Ed. note: We got this response from another thick-thighed reader and thought it worthy to post here.
I relate to Andrew of today's continental pockets question as I, too, have been endowed with strangely muscular legs. I have 26" thighs (Schwarzenegger had 28.5" at his peak). I found your answer to be incomplete in that, while I, too, find continental pockets to be both magnificent and especially bastardly, any tailor that can actually construct a suit should be able to make even on-seam pockets lay flat. My tailor has done it with off the rack pants, so fully custom is no problem. The other thing to watch out for is a too tight waist; the tighter the waist the more the pockets will flare.
Q: Punches have been making a comeback in craft cocktail bars for a few years. I like one to be my contribution to a party. I try to switch up the recipes, stay egalitarian enough for both sexes to imbibe, stay strictly away from anything too sweet and err on the side of deceptively easy to drink. I've been blamed for a lot of behavior best forgotten which I take a certain amount of personal pride in. I've tried classic British Navy recipes and ones borrowed from Death & Co., the Violet Hour, etc. Do you have any favorites? —Keska
A: In our opinion, punch is one of the world's greatest mysteries. How did it get invented in India in the 1600s, when neither country clubs nor sorority girls existed yet? We've spent a lot of time pondering this question over the years and are still no closer to an answer, but that's okay. Sometimes, it's best just to accept the bounty the universe bestows upon us.
As you've already discovered, punch is an unbeatable party drug and a drink we always serve at our get-togethers. It goes down easy, it's communal, and when made properly the police will show up.
A version that subscribes to your principles (which we wholeheartedly endorse) and is perfect for the summer-fall transition is something we call simply Fun Punch. (It has earned this name many times over.)
2 cups natural brown (demerara) sugar
2 cups water
1/2 cup grated fresh ginger
1 gallon Cabin Still bourbon
3 gallons Simply Lemonade
2 cups freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Make a simple syrup with the sugar, water, and ginger by bringing them to a boil in a sauce pan. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool and then strain. Combine the ginger-infused simple syrup and the other ingredients in a 5-gallon Culligan water bottle and shake. (You may need some help with that last step.) If you don't own a Culligan water cooler you can rent one for about 35 bucks. When you return it, it will smell like Nick Nolte has been sleeping in it for several days, but surprisingly, the company we rent from does not seem to mind this. Or at least it hasn't called us on it yet.
Q: Bootcut jeans these days are nose-diving on the stylishness scale. Sources ranging from GQ to random style bloggers now treat bootcut jeans like they're the next shiny square-toed shoes. Why is this? When did this happen? It's frustrating because straight jeans are too tapered to fall properly around any shoe. Unless you get a size that's too short, they just bunch up at the ankle and look sloppy. As a result (and the only way to alleviate this sloppiness), we've got the fashion industry telling us that it's also a great look to roll up our pants legs, because, as we all know, men want to emulate the bastardly Huck Finn and the magnificent Opie Taylor. Please, enlighten us. —James
James, we don't know what happened to bootcut denim but we haven't worn a pair of bootcut jeans in a very, very long time. In fact, we were wondering if one could even buy a pair anymore and did a quick inventory of well-known retailers and their bootcut denim stock.
# of Jeans
# of Bootcut Jeans
Saks Fifth Avenue
Among these retailers, Barney's is the most forward-looking, so this data predicts that in a year or two wearing bootcut denim might exceed shiny square-toed shoes in unstylishness, and perhaps even become the equivalent of wearing Crocs.
As for your bunching dilemma, a proper straight jean is not tapered below the knee. Hence the name. If it is, then it loses it claim on the name and becomes a skinny or slim jean. We encourage you to avoid those as much (well, almost as much) as you avoid bootcut jeans.
If you're looking for a good straight leg jean, our all-time favorite fit is Adriano Goldschmeid's Protege. 17.5" at the knee, 17.5" at the leg opening. Perfect. Cut to the proper length, these won't bunch.
Q: I'm in need of a warm winter jacket I can wear while I bike to work. I've been wearing a North Face jacket and while it's kept me warm and dry, it does not look magnificent. Any suggestions? —William
A: A good winter cycling jacket for urban/utilitarian riding should (a) keep you warm (b) offer some protection from rain (c) wick sweat away from your body (d) be comfortable without flapping all over the place and (e) look so good it will feel a little insulted that you think of it as a "cycling jacket" and not just a "jacket."
That's a lot to ask from a single garment of clothing, especially if you're planning to ride in freezing or near-freezing temperatures and/or major downpours. If you're limiting your riding to less extreme winter conditions, we have two recommendations: Sheila Moon's Red 'Tooth Jacket and Rapha's Tailored Jacket.
The former's a wool/poly blend, the latter 100 percent wool. Wool's not going to repel water like GoreTex, eVent, or other synthetic fabrics so technically advanced they defy the laws of proper capitalization. But wool stays warm even when it gets wet, and we think it works just fine for commuting-length rides. We don't think you can win the Tour de France in either of these jackets, but you would sure look good soft-pedaling down the Champs-Élysées. Or sprinting down Main Street as you race to make it to your Monday morning meeting.
If you're looking for something a little more casual, any full-zip wool sweater will do. We like this one from Khuna. It's made from 100 percent yak wool. And if yak wool can keep a yak warm and toasty on its morning commute, it should do the same for you.
Q: Do you know of any retailers (online or otherwise) that stock the TST sneaker collection? Apart from YOOX (which only offers selected items of previous collections) and tstshoes.com (which seems to be a Spanish-based site not directly affiliated with the company) I have a hard time finding any retailer that sells those shoes.
It's nice that you recommend them but I can't seem to find them anywhere (except for small sale stock)
Editor's note: This is one of many emails regarding finding TST shoes. Good luck.
A: Jeff, finding TST shoes can be as hard as finding a stripper with real breasts, which is definitely part of the appeal that goes beyond their artfully disheveled styling. We used to see them at Fred Segal in Santa Monica, but frankly YOOX has been our supplier of late. No, they're not going to be the latest versions but YOOX has lots of options at discounted prices.
If you're looking for the 2011 F/W collection — which is terrific, BTW — we've discovered that part of it is going to be available later this week at LA retailer Qio which specializes in clothing, footwear, and accessories from Japan. They've ordered the 2039F (top), the 813L (middle), and the 3039L (bottom). They won't be available on the Qio web site so email or call Masako at 310-979-3555 to get into a pair. (They run small so add a size.)
A: We've found that Mother Nature offers sound guidance on when to break out the tweed: first frost. According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, on average this happens in Green Bay on October 4. This feels just right for us, as it's also the time we move exclusively to brown liquor. For most of the rest of the country we think the Almanac's first frost table will function as a fairly accurate tweed-wearing guide too.
If you live in a climate where frost is rare, you can start wearing tweed as soon as it's gloomy at least three days in a row.
If you live in climate where it never even gets gloomy, you either own no tweed or your love for the fabric is so irrational you will have no use for practical advice like ours.
Q: What does the MB think about baldness? Obviously not George Costanza bald, but shaving one's head completely. It comes off as kind-of-MB-ish, potentially, but also frat-boy-ish. Where's the needle on the MB-meter when it comes to a completely shaved head? —Andrew
A: There are a couple things to keep in mind when you're thinking about shaving your head as smooth as a bowling ball. First, does your naked head actually look like a bowling ball? Hair hides a lot of flaws, including asymmetrical facial features, funny-shaped skulls, below-average eyebrows, etc. Even a little hair can help a little bit — when you shave it all off, you may end up calling more attention to aspects of your appearance you'd prefer to keep less visible.
Second, the smooth-shaven look requires a lot of maintenance. That's one reason that we've advocated for a less aggressively shorn look for bald men in the past. That, plus the fact that there's a pretty good chance you're going to end up looking like a penis, a white supremacist, or a magician. Which is not to say that the full Savalas can't work for some men. As our guide below shows, the closer your shaved head looks to a large brown egg, the better your chances of success.
Q: What is the proper length for a sportcoat or suit (and should there be a difference?) in the modern era? In other words, where should it end relative to your torso? I have a variety of high-quality sportcoats and suits acquired over the years and have typically worn a 40L, to get the chest fit and sleeve length mostly (I'm 6'1" with long arms and 33 inch waist). But the length of the coats (top of collar to bottom) varies from 31 1/2" for an Armani sportcoat to 33 1/2 for a suit. I'm not interested in the Thom Browne look, nor do I want to look like I'm wearing grandpa's suit. Some of mine now feel dated due to this length. The coats I see on the guys which look like they fit the best seem to be shorter length — ending just at the bottom of the rump. Looking at the J. Crew Aldridge it seems that is where they should hit — although it's hard to tell from the model's slouching. What is your point of view on this issue? –Nick
A: Nick, we believe there is a perfect length for a blazer or suit jacket (no, there is no difference). To illustrate this, take a look at da Vinci's Vitruvian Man below. A jacket should end at the end of your nutbag — give or take a 1/4" — when tried at room temperature. This will obviously involve standing in front of a mirror with your pants down, so we don't recommend doing this in department stores with security cameras, fraternity houses, or the Congressional gym, unless you want to end up on the web some day.
Note: If your balls go for a swim when you sit down on the can, this method will not work for you.
Q: I have a summer wedding to attend and have a grey zzegna cotton suit. I am not sure what shoes to pair it with as the pants are quite narrow. Please help. —John
A: With the notable exception of the recent Kim Kardashian/Kris Humphries wedding, which featured $5 million earrings and an absurd, six-foot-tall sex toy made out of wedding cake, summer weddings are casual. So your choice of a casual cotton suit is a good one.
In his highly entertaining (and highly recommended) book How to Be a ManGQ Style Guy Glenn O'Brien says:
"...the fashion-forward periodically tell us it's OK to wear sneakers with a suit. Maybe if you've been embezzling and the auditors are in the office, sneakers will give you an edge if you make a run for it, but basically sneakers with a suit is a fundamental error, no matter how much the sneakers cost or who designed them."
We disagree. Or maybe it's just that we have more expansive definition of "sneaker" than O'Brien does. In any case, we think these textured leather sneakers from Thompson would be perfectly wedded to your Z Zegna suit. Despite their Anglo-sounding name, they're actually made in Italy — like your suit — and their narrow cut will pair well with your narrow pants.
If, however, you fall more in line with the Style Guy's way of thinking, then go for these suede Gucci lace-ups. They're dressier than the Thompsons, but with their relaxed lines and non-glossy finish, you won't look like you just came from a wedding when you hit the bars after the reception ends.
Read just received a new shipment of nice-looking shirts (we've already ordered the Jake Madras), and at a $98 retail you're getting the style consulting for 52 bucks. If we didn't already strongly resemble the "After" shot — yes, we raided our own wardrobe for the shoot — we'd seriously consider this deal.
Q: I was wondering about appropriate MB sideburn length. Specifically, what's the appropriate sideburn length-to-width ratio? I've seen guys whose sideburns are narrow, but grown fairly long (past the earlobe) and it looks too long to me given the width. It got me thinking, thus my question. Thanks! —Evan
A: When it comes to sideburn length, follow the golden ratio — 1.6180339887. In other words, if you want sideburns 1 inch in width, make sure they are 1.6180339887 inches long. We know maintaining that degree of precision sounds tough, but over time, you will master it.
Throughout history, Wikipedia tells us, architects, artists, industrial designers, and Mother Nature herself have relied on the golden ratio as an aesthetic guide. If it's good enough for da Vinci, Mondrian, Le Corbusier, and the Parthenon, it's good enough for your face.
Q: What can you advise for those seeking magnificence without a great deal of financial means? I'm talking below the poverty line here: I'm a graduate student, and after rent, transportation, and tax, I have less than $120 to spend a month for food, drink, laundry, and so forth. So in what ways can a guy get the most bang for bastard buck? —Evan
A: Have you ever thought about learning to play the guitar or building a time machine? The only way we know to live on $4 a day and still attain a degree of magnificence involve imminent rockstardom (and the helpful female benefactors that come with that) or inhabiting the 18th century.
Our best advice for you circa 2011 if you don't think you have it in you to be the next Axl Rose? Spend $15 a week on food. (That should get you a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs, a jar of peanut butter, a giant sack of rice, and maybe some butter.)
Devote $10 a week toward your entertainment fund, by which we mean a monthly 1.75L bottle of Bulleit. Also, get a library card. We sound like a public service announcement here, but reading is one of those rare pleasures that can be enjoyed as much by a pauper as a king.
Devote $5 a week toward your wardrobe and pay close attention to the "Classifieds" sales that Landsendcanvas.com has fairly regularly. (A new sale just started this weekend.) If you're lucky, you can pick up a polo shirt for as little as a $1.50.
It won't be as nice as a $150 polo shirt, but you will have at least one advantage on your side: The flattering silhouette of a man surviving on 2 bucks worth of food every day.
If you find that extreme hunger is making you dizzier than the bourbon is, adjust your budget accordingly — i.e., forgo the wardrobe budget for a month or two and spend more money on food. Don't ever compromise on the bourbon — that's your recreation, your health plan, and your heating bill all combined into one convenient package.
How do I keep my dress shirts tucked in to like a model? Shirts look great in photos and then they get all puffy and bunched up around the waist in no time flat. —James
A: Roughly 66 percent of American men are overweight and about 25 percent are obese. Meanwhile, 100 percent of male models either have a six-pack, anemia, or both. (Plus-sized models are a strictly female phenomenon as far as we know.)
But while off-the-rack shirtmakers are happy to perpetuate oppressive ideals of masculinity (yes, we're totally joking) when creating their print ads, catalogs, and websites, they have to tailor their shirts to that tubby 66 percent if they want to make any money. If you're fit, which it sounds like you are, these shirts are going to make you look like you finished third in the latest season of The Biggest Loser (i.e., you lost some weight, but not enough to finish in the money and purchase a new wardrobe).
What we've been getting into since our feature on custom dress shirts is, well, custom dress shirts. Our current fave is Chicago-based Deo Veritas run by Vinnie Sikka. They've got top quality fabrics and construction, and we've tweaked our dimensions to perfection, which for us is slim through the torso but leaving just enough excess to easily achieve artful dishevelment.
A: Our favorite chukka at the moment is from MB fave TST, available here. In the waning days of summer, even the casual, laid-back feel of a classic chukka boot feels too fancy for us, so we turn to the TST 2229s, which add some sneaker genes (rubber sidewall, fat cotton shoelaces) to the classic chukka's DNA. Like all TSTs, the 2229s look like they were crafted by master artisans with an awful hangover — their lines are graceful, perfectly proportioned, but undeniably shaky. We love the effect.
Even with a debt ceiling deal, at current exchange rates these are going to run you $250. Which if you ask us is actually a pretty good value for shoes you can wear at work (if you're a "creative" or a professional shoe model) and at leisure. And why would you want to be anything but a "creative" or a professional shoe model, especially in the waning days of summer?
Q: Hi - my brother is one of the groomsmen in a wedding and they are all being told they are wearing tan linen suits, white shirts and some sort of colorful tie (Florida wedding). He knows how you stand on linen, but doesn't have much choice here and is wondering what kind of white shirt goes with a linen suit. Linen? Regular dress shirt? I have to admit, I have no idea. —Gabriela
A: Gabriela, definitely not a linen shirt. That's like the wedding equivalent of the Canadian tuxedo, aka denim on denim. And as everyone knows, you should only wear denim on denim if you're feeling lucky, punk.
What the wedding party needs is lightweight 100% cotton shirts with sewn collar and cuff interlinings, which will complement linen with their natural, artfully disheveled look. Dress shirts with fused interlinings are almost always too neat in our opinion, but they are an especially bad match with wrinkled linen suits, kind of like the shirt-suit equivalent of Crystal Harris and Hugh Hefner.
We know you didn't ask about the ties, but if you have any pull with the groom please insist they absolutely not be silk. Again, too shiny/smooth of a contrast with the linen's matte/nubs. Go for linen or a linen-cotton blend.
A: A cocktail glass is like a bra, Alan. Ultimately it doesn't matter how fancy it is — it's what inside that's going to make your evening. Which is our way of saying that we got those glasses at Crate & Barrel. Simple, functional, they do the job. When someone breaks a glass at one of your parties, you want them to regret the lost cocktail, not the lost glassware.
Q: I have a bit of an issue with polo shirts. I'm 5'6 with an athletic/weight-trained physique. I normally wear either a L or XL golf/polo shirt...my issue is, the length of short sleeve. Some of these shirts come down past my elbow. Could you recommend a golf/polo shirt with a shorter length short sleeve? I'm not liking the thought of having to take them to be tailored down. Your thoughts? —Stephen
A: We've spent $20 to have sleeves shortened on otherwise-perfect $10 t-shirts, so we know and appreciate the importance of precise sleeve length. (For tees we're not quite at Brando cap-sleeve territory, but within an inch or two.)
As for polos, anything that comes down past the elbow are for old people (top). But if you really like the shirts that have longer sleeves, pay for their shortening surgery. You won't regret it. If you're looking for shirts that already come with short sleeves, Lacoste is an obvious choice if you prefer banded sleeves, like The King used to (bottom). If you prefer no logo, J. Crew's vintage tailored polos show just enough bicep to verify your absence of a barbed-wired tattoo. Wyatt, which makes our favorite polo shirt at the moment and, as far as we can tell, is only available at bluefly, offers a similar cut with open sleeves.
Q: Dear MB — What are your thoughts on a suit that has patch pockets on the jacket? I'm considering a blue Margiela suit that I will wear for business, but it has patch pockets and I'm wondering if this is too casual? —George
A: No, not too casual unless you're a banker, undertaker, 13-year-old boy, or U.S. senator. (It's definitely OK in the House.)
We love suits with jackets with patch pockets for at least three reasons.
1. Casual suits lend themselves to artful dishevelment 2. Casual suits lend themselves to more interesting tie, belt, and footwear choices than their dressier counterparts 3. With the addition of a few other pieces you can practically get a whole wardrobe out of separating a casual suit
Wear the blazer with denim, or for an especially good look, white jeans or trousers. If you're really good, shorts. Presumably the suit pants are in a similarly casual vein as the jacket, so you'll be able to wear them with a sweater, a sport shirt, or even a polo. While it has its place in board rooms, Bar Mitzvahs, and the Capitol Building, the traditional flap-pocket wool suit can't touch this.
Q: I'm struggling to figure out what I should get my groomsmen for being in my wedding. Any ideas? —Trae
A: If it's your first marriage, you're probably relatively young and so are your groomsmen. They haven't been groomsmen at a ton of weddings yet, so we think it's safe to go with something fairly predictable and yet eminently useful to any man: A decent flask. Yes it's cliché and our endorsement might have something to do with our love affair with alcohol — did you ever think for one second this site is the product of men who are sober? — but it's the only groomsman gift we've ever received that isn't either in a landfill or hidden away in a drawer somewhere. (In fact, this gift is hidden inside our blazers' breast pockets right now.)
Anyhow, we like this Wentworth pewter flask from Kaufmann Mercantile. It's handmade in Sheffield, England, fully satisfying the principle of Anglophilia, and with the 6oz. version, also satisfying the principle of getting tight.
Now, if it's your second marriage or beyond, you need to be a little more creative. In this case, we like the Survival Hand Chain Saw from Garrett Wade. Extremely portable, weighing almost nothing, your groomsmen will find it perfect for sawing through their own arm when they need to escape that bridesmaid they're stuck under the morning after. It's not an item most guys have, but who wouldn't want to have one handy?
Q: MB: Based on your recommendation, I have been wearing the Persol PO0714 sunglasses. For all their moving parts, they have held up well. However, the silver hinges where the temples fold in half has become tarnished. I have asked an authorized dealer and looked on their website without any luck. Do you have any recommendations? —Erich
A: Don't do anything rash — that bug's a feature! Tarnish is just nature's way of achieving artful dishevelement. While we don't necessarily welcome it on our soup spoons, we think a little looks great on a pair of Persols.
Now, if your silver hinges have turned black or are crusting up, that's another story. In that case, our glasses expert tells us that jeweler's rouge, applied via a cotton buffing wheel (which itself is attached to a grinding wheel), should do the trick. A good optician should offer this service.
Q: Hello, I am just about to start college and in need of a watch. I read on the site about military-inspired watches and do love the O&W watches but they are definitely out of my price range. I diverted my attention to your other suggestion which was the J.Crew's military-inspired watch, and for $150, I think they are fairly priced. My question is, your original posts about the O&W and J.Crew watches all have black dials but I am leaning towards the white dial version of it available on J.Crew's site. Is the white dial military-inspired watch still MB-endorsed? —Sean
A: Sean, keep in mind that a watch like the longtime MB favorite, the O & W Kartargo, is built to last for decades. Over time, a reliable watch that never goes out of style becomes a treasured, faithful companion — sort of like a tiny mechanical dog that will never shed on your clothes or shit on your rug. Viewed in this light, the Kartargo's current price of $489 is not all that extravagant. But if that truly won't work for your budget, there are other far less expensive options, especially if you are OK with a quartz movement.
For a mechanical military watch on a budget, consider the Military Watch Company's GG-W-113, which follows the specifications (PDF) issued by the U.S. government for infantry watches in 1962. (We first saw these watches at Hickorees, but unfortunately, they're currently out of stock there.) The GG-W-113 is made in Germany, it's water-resistant to 30 meters, has a hack system for anal-retentive time-setters, and it only costs $125. While the Kartargo is automatic, you will have to wind the GG-W-133 by hand, every day, for several seconds. It will seem grueling at first, but then you'll come to look forward to this little daily ritual, this brief acknowledgement that life is fragile, temporary, always in danger of running down unless you make an effort to push forward.
Oh, right, your question: What do we think about white dials? Military watches invariably feature black dials because that makes them less conspicuous in combat situations. While you probably don't need to take precautions against sniper fire in everyday life, we still greatly prefer black dials for civilian use. They're more understated than white dials, and, in our opinion, more readable too.
Q: Dear MB: My brother is getting married soon, and I've been helping him pick out a tuxedo. I won't be in a tux at the wedding, but it's gotten me thinking about what I'd like to wear when it's my turn. I'm decided on most of the details (two button, double vent) but I'm still undecided on the lapel style. I'm leaning towards a shawl collar, but my brother, who opted for a notched lapel, thinks it'll look ridiculous. Is any one of the options MB-preferred? —Raj
A: Raj, we strongly suspect your brother is older (and hence wiser). Shawl-collared tuxedos are definitely having a moment in 2011, but so is Rebecca Black. In 18 months the only place you'll be able to find a shawl-collared tuxedo is at James Bond re-enactor parties. Or possibly on the back of Rebecca Black's prom date.
Meanwhile, while the average marriage that ends in divorce only lasts 7.8 years these days, your wedding photographs will likely prove to be as indestructible as the honey badger. Thus we strongly advocate sticking to the timeless and classic. In other words, listen to your big bro.
UPDATE: Just to clarify, since some readers have expressed concern: We are encouraging Raj to listen to his brother's advice only in regard to avoiding shawl-collared tuxedos. We didn't mean to suggest that he should eschew peak lapels, which we've previously endorsed. Either peak or notch, sticking to the timeless and classic is the best choice for wedding attire.
Q: What kind of motorcycle is that in your header? And why does he look upset that the girl is riding it in the apartment? She could bring it to my living room anytime. —Joe
A: The bike is a 1964 Honda Dream. As for the guy, he's not upset, just surprised. But we can see where you might be confused, especially if you haven't been following the pictorial narrative we've created to illustrate the service offered by our current masthead sponsor LKc Style.
In the first image of the sequence, we showed a troubled toolbag telling his
story of sartorial woe to his wardrobe therapist. In the current one, she's arriving from a shopping expedition to present him with clothing options that better reflect how he'd like to present himself to the world. He's surprised because she has returned so quickly, and because she has somehow managed to drive a cherry red 1964 Honda into his third-floor loft, even though his building only has stairs.
In other words, it's kind of Bergmanesque — allusive, visually striking, hard to follow.
There's more to come, though, so stay tuned. And be sure to check out LKc Style. We can't promise she'll arrive on a vintage sport bike, but we do think her introductory offer for MB readers is a pretty good deal.
Q: There are a few of us out here for whom summer consists of more than watching golf on TV and sipping watermelon sidecars. Your stance on sunglasses reveals an effete sensibility and offers no help to the runners, bikers, hikers, and Sunday afternoon softballers who can't exactly get away with a pair of Randolph Engineering Aviators (there, your monthly plug is taken care of). There has to be an athletic frame out there that is more practical than a fashion pair but still cool enough to get some looks at the postgame bier garten. —Joe
A: Clearly you don't watch golf us as philosophically as we do, Joe — we're pretty sure we burn more calories scratching our heads at Phil Mickelson's questionable course management than we ever would standing in center field watching some tubby slugger who flunked Little League playing make-believe like he's Albert Pujols.
We'd also like to point out that combat-ready sunglasses qualify as hiking-ready too, even if you're anticipating some serious incoming fire from the local bluejays. Perhaps more importantly, if you're truly planning to engage in some high-level physical activity, ditching your sunglasses altogether is your best bet. When was the last time you saw an elite marathoner, a 6-time Wimbledon champ, or even a world-class sexter wearing sunglasses in the heat of battle?
As for getting looks at the postgame bier garten, there are no sunglasses on earth with the ability to make you look cool while wearing a softball uniform. So change, put on a pair of sunglasses that are purpose-built for sedentary leisure, and raise a cold one to the effete bastards who are always willing to consider life's big issues on your behalf.
Q: Boat shoes. I can't stand 'em. And I've always refused to have anything to do with them. That policy has worked fine up until now, since I've been comfortably ensconced on dry land. But now I'm going on a week-long yacht trip in the Mediterranean, and I have no idea what to wear. Is there a practical, non-naff-looking boat shoe substitute out there? —Don
A: While the mind tends to immediately translate the term "boat shoe" into "Sperry Top-Sider" or, more generally, "those brown leather shoes with nautical rigging on the sides," the term is actually more expansive than that, at least in our minds.
A boat shoe is characterized by (a) water-resistance and (b) a non-slip sole.
Paul Sperry, creator of the iconic Sperry Top-Sider, did his most important work tackling the non-slip sole aspect of boat shoes. As the new book Icons of Men's Style recounts, Sperry bought a schooner in the early 1930s but unfortunately found himself slipping all over its deck when it got wet. To solve this problem, he first tried to make the deck less slippery, but eventually he decided it would make more sense to make his shoes more grippy. Drawing inspiration from the grooves on the pads of his cocker spaniel's paws, he created the concept of "siping" and cut grooves into a rubber sole in a herringbone-like pattern. Voila, problem solved, he'd found a shoe that allowed him to keep firm footing on the high seas.
Do you need the rest of the trappings of the Sperry Top-Sider when you leave dry land? JFK spent more time on boats than he ever did in the Oval Office, and while we don't know if he felt as strongly about classic boat shoes as you do, he did eschew them in favor of white canvas tennies. We're not sure how much traction his shoes featured — keep in mind that he was a man who was unusually sure of foot — but here are few models we think he'd endorse:
Finally, please note that JFK was a size 10. If you're anywhere north of that, white shoes can easily look like clown shoes. In this case add some color in the form of these Clae Zissous in Deep Navy, which are what boat shoes would look like if they aspired to be a sneakers.
A: In the June 2011 GQ creative director Jim Moore stops just short of endorsing them but recognizes their popularity saying they're "a big trend this summer," and that they're best "anytime you'd wear your flip-flops." [page 58]
Even though they were invented in the 14th century (principle of archaism), and are usually made of canvas and rope (principle of organic materials), for us they fall into the footwear no-mans land between a shoe and a sandal, currently occupied by MB bête noires Sanuks and Crocs.
However, if your preferred pedicurist is booked — June is Pedicure Awareness Month, BTW — we say go for it, as long as they're a. less than 20 bucks, and b. gingham.
Q: Just read your skinny tie entry and reasons for disliking. The list of people of legendary style status who favored skinny ties is endless. Fat ties are the choice of Vegas club doormen, the kind you can smell from 10 feet away and wear Affliction in their off time. The reasoning (more for your money) is beyond me, and goes against your own tastes in the few entries I've read - a pleat gives you more more material for your money, so does a tassel on a shoe, and nearly every bad thing about clothing is about addition. The guys on sportscenter and The Sopranos vs. Paul Weller, JFK, Miles Davis. You should really rethink this one. —Chuck
A: Loosen up your tie and relax, Chuck! At MB, we believe that giving our readers a good deal on a great tie calls for levity, not complete seriousness, and thus our joke about preferencing wider ties over skinny ones because you get "more for your money" was just that, a joke.
Rest assured that our often-expressed preference for wider ties has a sound aesthetic foundation. In short, we believe that one's tie width should echo the width of one's lapels, within 1/4". If you're like us and subscribe to Tom Ford's way of thinking that wider lapels "make men look more masculine, less boyish, and in general more powerful," it follows that one's ties should be equivalently wide.
As for pleats and tassels, you are absolutely correct, and if you ever catching us recommending them, even in jest, please reprimand us accordingly. There are some things that should never be joked about.
A: Well, it's pretty magnificent to be heir to the throne of the fading empire that gave us the Magna Carta and golf, and wearing hats like the one Prince William was wearing this weekend is part of the job description.
As for anyone else? William's bearskin hat is certainly characterized by a senseless lack of utility, and scores high on archaism, organic materials, and Anglophilia as well. But its primary historical purpose — to make a soldier look bigger and more imposing in battle — violates the principle of understatement and essentially establishes the garment as elevator shoes for your head.
As you allude to, the standard hat of the British Foot Gaurds is made out of an entire bearskin. It weighs 1.5 lbs. and, most consequentially, stands 18.5 inches high. Getting in and out of limos and taxis would be a huge hassle while wearing one of these things, so until horseback reemerges as the predominant form of travel, we say "pass."
Q: While rolling my sleeves above the elbow just seems natural to me, I find myself wondering how high they should be rolled? I've noticed you endorsed Alex Rodriguez's above the bicep rolling, but that seems like showing off the biceps a little too much, which would violate the MB rule of understatement. —Brian
A: In hindsight we acknowledge the Alex Rodriguez post too strongly endorsed his excessively high sleeve rolling in our haste to make a joke about him still being on the juice. We regret that we may have misled some readers into inappropriate bicep/tricep exposure, and would like to take this opportunity to offer some more thoughts on the subtle art of sleeve-rolling.
As we explained in our initial post on this topic, you want the sleeve to end up enough over your elbow to give a phlebotomist a clear shot at your medial cubital vein. But don't get carried away. A good phlebotomist doesn't need a lot of room in which to work.
Q: I'll be traveling across the pond to see Wimbledon next month and I'd like to strike a balance between artful dishevelment and weather preparedness. What would you suggest in the way of light outerwear that would be appropriate for Centre Court and/or tea with William and Kate? —Eric
A: An obvious choice is the classic and almost entirely logo-free "Made in England" Baracuta Harrington G9. It's got a touch of Teflon to repel the inevitable rain delay, and it has long been the choice of stylish Yanks (McQueen, Sinatra) adept at adding a note of elegance to even the most casual look. But it doesn't offer much in the way of artful dishevelment or surprise. Kate will be bored.
Instead, we recommend this bonded blouson, a collaboration between iconic British brand Barbour and Japanese designer Tokihito Yoshida. Barbour's almost as old as Wimbledon itself, and holds three royal warrants for its waterproof and protective clothing. (What, you don't know what a royal warrant is? Brush up on your Anglophilia.)
Tokihito infuses Barbour's classic style with some 21st century urban streamlining. With their traditional abundance of pockets, buckles, and heavy waxed cotton, much of Barbour's stock is a little too busy for us. But this collaboration is strikingly pared down, retaining just enough flaps and buttons and zipper pulls to provide some texture for the artful dishevelment you seek.
Note: Prices on this range from $245 to $450, so shop around.
Q: Hey guys. Long-time reader, can't tell you how much I love the site. I wear scrubs (sky blue) most days of the week and am looking for dark-colored footwear that strikes a balance between professionalism, function and style. I don't want my patients doubting I know what I am talking about, but would also like something MB enough to score some points with the talented nursing staff (it would also be a plus if they were a bit blood-resistant for the operating room). Shoes are essentially the only clothing item I have any control over so I feel like I really need to nail it here. I'd appreciate any suggestions, I trust you won't steer me wrong.
Keep up the strong work,
A: Doc, you want a blood-resistant shoe that's professional, comfortable, stylish and goes with sky blue scrubs? That's a tough prescription to fill.
On the other hand, the last time we went under the knife everyone in the OR was wearing Crocs, so you do have the advantage of low expectations working in your favor. Indeed, it's hard to imagine footwear less resistant to blood than Crocs — all those holes must mean the country's surgeons possess a lot of DIY polka dot socks!
Given that scrubs are essentially sweats for medical personnel, we think you should go with something that's obviously sporty, like these navy nylon and black leather sneakers from Prada. They'll communicate professionalism to your patients and style to the talented nursing staff, while being comfortable during surgery and easy to clean in case that angioplasty patient has really high blood pressure. At $336 a pair, they're not cheap, but that's what Medicare's for, right?
Q: We know the MB views linen suits as having too much dishevelment regardless of any artfulness. And this MB agrees. But now Indochino offers suits that are 55% linen and 45% cotton. Does this blend allow them to avoid the problems of shape retention and excessive wrinkling? Please advise. —James
Q: Does the warning against linen apply to shirts as well as to pants? —Jerry
A: Every year about this time we're asked whether there's any sort of special dispensation for wearing linen given our feature Linen: It Sucks. Not really.
Don't be seduced by models wearing perfectly puckered linen shirts. Linen shirts are made out of the same thing as linen pants: Linen. And thus they fall prey to the same problems, veering disastrously from artful dishevelment to plain dishevelment within minutes of wearing.
As for the suit, we've previously argued that whatever material linen is blended with, that material must retain at least a 51% ownership stake. The Indochino suit misses this requirement by 6 percent. While it may not wrinkle as fast as, say, 37-year-old Kate Moss, it will still wrinkle faster than you'd like, even if it never touches a cigarette.
Where is 50%+ linen OK? Whenever the article in question is not expected to sheathe entire limbs — scarves, pocket squares, dinner party napkins, or ties like this black and almost-white gingham from Nashville, TN tiemaker Otis James are all acceptable.
Q: I've searched the MB site and been a long time reader but cannot find anything about monograms. Pockets, cuffs? Which if either is Magnificent? A reputation is hanging on this. Thanks. —T
A: In the context of clothing, monograms started out as a way for rich people to communicate with their launderers. "These are my shirts," a monogram says. "Return them to me, not Saltonstall."
Over time, monograms evolved into a way for anyone to communicate with people who can't afford a Kindle. "I can afford to spend $5 extra per shirt at Lands' End," a monogram says. "Meanwhile, you're just sitting there reading my shirt. Dick." Do you get what we're saying here? Monograms violate the principle of understatement, and are best left to the Donald Trumps of the world.
Plus, monograms are essentially tattoos for your clothes, and therefore just as superfluous on a truly beautiful shirt as, say, a tiny butterfly would be on Pippa Middleton's ass. Why further adorn that which is already perfect?
Q: If one were lucky enough to own, hypothetically speaking of course, a horse that were talented enough to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, what could one wear in so far as footwear that would be appropriate? Would, say, Santoni double monk straps sans socks be too ridiculous? Hypothetically speaking, of course. —Fish
Now, about those Santonis. The degree of difficulty is obviously very high, and unless you're a clotheshorse with a very good pedigree, we recommend them only for occasions where the collective blood alcohol level is .10 or higher. But that's exactly where you're headed, so we say go for them. Spending $1000 on shoes to wear in a setting where they're guaranteed to get overlooked takes senseless lack of utility to a level that makes us want to put a tiny replica of Churchill Downs on our heads, just so we can take it off to you.
Q: Hi. I am a college student with an athletic build and I am going to be starting a job that requires a shirt and tie. I am going shopping soon to get some clothes to start off with and was looking at the Express Mens 1MX shirts. They seem to have a good fit, what your take? Thanks —Matthew
A: We are not familiar with the Express Mens 1MX shirt, and we have to say, any garment with a name that would work as well for a missile as a shirt gives us pause. But the 1MX does seem to have quite a cult following: the Express 1MX Modern Fit is averaging 4.8 stars (out of a possible 5) over 266 reviews, and the Express 1MX Fitted is doing almost as well, averaging 4.6 stars over 164 reviews.
The only thing more highly rated than these shirts is the news of Osama bin Laden's death.
Additionally, many reviewers own dozens of these things, and some even claim to have one in every flavor — that's 22 shirts!
Oh, did we say flavor? We meant color. Unfortunately, many of these shirts come in colors that remind us of sherbet and may lead you down paths you don't want to go. "You can not go wrong with this shirt," one poor bastard writes. "It fits great and there are so many color varieties available its almost impossible to not find the color you want. My girlfriend wanted to wear matching colors for a Christmas photo, and she wanted purple, and it was not hard to find."
Still, we agree that the fit looks good, though, and while it may surprise some of our readers, we are fans of stretch cotton — which is to say, cotton spiked with a splash of spandex or elastene to add a note of comfort and keep maintenance to a minimum. (Retrieve a good stretch cotton shirt from the dryer at the right time and you're done, no ironing necessary.)
And at $59.90 a shirt, or $89.85 for two, these 1MX shirts are affordable enough to take a chance on. If you get one, we recommend you go with True White.
But before you go that route, do some digging at yoox.com and see if you can find a white or blue stretch or 100% cotton dress shirt from Costume National or Ferre' for a price that makes sense for you. They'll have an equally good fit, mother of pearl buttons, and construction that will last more than a 1/2 dozen trips to the cleaners. (Even when there's no ironing involved, laundry is something we prefer to do only in emergencies.)
Q: Bow Ties? Bastardly or schmuck? Thanks fellas. —Fidel
A: In their February, 2008 issue, GQ declared bow ties back, and we declared them MB-appropriate only for summer weddings (in madras) and black tie.
More than three years later, GQ's recommendation has finally been adopted by top-rated NFL prospects, as two of the top 13 picks wore bow ties on Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall in what we believe to be the first-ever bow tie sightings at an NFL draft. #6 pick Julio Jones wore one that looked like a silver version of a Chippendale's pre-tied (top), and #13 pick Nick Fairley wore a paisley BT that, while clearly hand-tied, was still far too neat (middle).
Of all men's accessories, it's the bow tie that demands strictest adherence to the MB principle of artful dishevelment. Perfect bilateral symmetry should be reserved for breasts and butterflies.
To properly tie a bow tie, first drink three martinis very quickly. Then, close your eyes and follow the instructions from the guide below. When you're finished, your tie should be noticeably askew, with uneven ends and at least one of the rear loops exposed, as Winston Churchill (215 lbs., 6.5 second 40, never drafted) demonstrates (bottom).
If you do have an event that calls for a bow tie, one of our grandfathers gave us this "how to tie a bow tie" guide that came in handy as young lads when we wanted to learn how to do it.
Q: Boast USA; I think their polos are pretty MB. Yay or nay? —Chris
A: In Pulaski, Wisconsin, circa 1985, the closest thing we had to a country club was the dart board at the American Legion. So we were unfamiliar with Boast until we started see it showing up on other websites last fall.
At first we figured J. Peterman was trying to outdo himself by inventing the backstory for an entire brand rather than a single piece of apparel. A brand named after a squash shot, started by a Greenwich, Connecticut tennis pro in the 1970s, worn by John Updike, Roscoe Tanner, and a young, crackhead-skinny G.W. Bush? And bearing a logo that looks like a marijuana leaf but is in fact a leaf from one of our favorite trees, the japanese maple? It all sounded a little too good to be true. Especially since when you look at the logos on various vintage shots of the shirts, they all seem to have been harvested at different times — that's a lot of variation in the size of that leaf.
So we did what all serious investigative journalists do when trying to nail down the facts. We poured ourselves some Macallan 18* and started watching Risky Business, which was said to feature a Boast shirt in it. A dozen or so ounces later, there it was, at 1:08:20. Case closed. The brand and its history appear to be as real as Teri Hatcher's breasts.
Anyway. Onward to your question. We like the brand and we especially like their tipped polo. We'd like it even better if it came with no logo whatsoever, but even as is, we still think it's sharp enough for darts at the American Legion. And if there were a tennis court anywhere within ten miles of here, we'd be wearing it there too.
* Why weren't we drinkings MBs? Because we were working, and we save MBs strictly for our leisure hours.
A: Here are a few guidelines we try to keep in mind while mixing drinks:
1) If it's so sweet it makes your teeth ache, it's not a proper cocktail. 2) If it's got enough fresh produce in it to qualify as a salad, it's not a proper cocktail. 3) If it looks like it would feel right at home on the drinks menu at Chili's or The Cheesecake Factory, it's not a proper cocktail.
Sorry, Papa, mojitos score a perfect 3 for 3 on this list — we cannot drink mojitos.
Where mojitos use rum, derived from molasses, caipirinhas use cachaça, a Brazilian liquor distilled from sugarcane juice. It's sweet but light, and thus more appropriate for summer. Even more importantly, the absence of mint leaves in a caipirinha means you can drink them without worrying that your smile is doing an Alexander Ovechkin impression.
Try the MB version of the classic recipe below. Depending on the amount of juice in the limes, you may need to adjust the amount of limes and sugar used. Once you have it balanced, feel free to adjust the flavor with a few dashes of bitters. We've been using Fee Brothers' Grapefruit Bitters.
1/2 lime cut into wedges
2 raw sugar cubes
2 oz Leblon cachaça
In the bottom of a boston shaker, muddle the lime wedges and sugar. Top with the cachaça and several ice cubes, cover and shake aggressively. Pour entire contents into a rocks glass.
Q: MB, Seeing as how swimsuit season is quickly approaching, what's your take on compression swim shirts? Not all of us have the chiseled physique of Fight Club-era Brad Pitt. I'm not overweight, but keeping certain parts constrained could be a positive thing this summer. —George
A: Unless you're scheduled to compete in a 4x100 relay we say leave the compression swim shirt at home. Wear one while you're swimming in a non-Olympic-size pool, and you're basically transmitting one of the following messages, or even worse, maybe both: 1) You have a third nipple, a gut, or an unfortunate tattoo, and you're very self-conscious about it. 2) You really really want to beat that third-grader in a race to the deep end.
In other words, wearing a compression shirt in a non-competitive environment is like Donald Trump's combover, except worse. In both cases, the cure is worse than the disease.
As for swim shorts, we like Onia this season. Super simple, solid color and subtle print trunks and board shorts made in New York City from top-notch Japanese technical fabric. The fitter you are, the better they'll look, but they are somewhat more forgiving than, say, Parke and Ronen while staying safely away from the sort of baggy, over-the-knee style favored by The Situation.
Use the code onia20 to get 20% off your order. Here are somemorepics for a closer look.
Q: I'm heading to Europe this summer for a few weeks of tromping around. I need some footwear advice - I'm looking for something that can support LOTS of walking around being on my feet all day, and doesn't scream 'American Toolbag'. Bonus for something that works with pants and shorts, but I'd be willing to get two pairs to cover both ends of summer bottoms. Thoughts? —Peter
A: Peter, a trip to Europe is definitely time to heed Tom Ford's five easy lessons in how to become a modern gentleman and leave the shorts at home. You might not scream "American Toolbag" in them, but unless you're at the beach or in the midst of a 5-setter you definitely scream "American."
Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. For previous questions regarding European travel we've endorsed getting your American on — your feet — and for your excessively ambulant vacation we suggest you get into a pair of Cole Haan Air Mercury lace oxfords.
They don't have the pedigree of some more iconic trailblazers in the casual sneaker field — Chucks, PF Flyers, Tretorn T56s. But if you're doing lots — and especially if you're doing LOTS — of walking, we recommend the Air Mercurys. There's a reason why America embraced car culture so enthusiastically — walking in Chucks can turn your feet into bloody stumps even faster than Jigsaw or Freddie Kreuger can. Go with the Air Mercurys and you should be good for at least 15-mile days if necessary. (The black ones are on sale at colehaan.com for just $59.95).
As for that other pair of shoes you offered to pack, definitely bring along some loafers for after the sun goes down.
Q: I've lost he fight to elope over a planned wedding and now have get my order in to Indochino so the guys aren't in horrible black rental polyester bags. Is dressing up a Basic Black Suit with self tied bow tie acceptable? Or should I go for The Dinner Jacket Tuxedo? My party is a mix of undergrad, post grad and professionals so going for the suit is a useful expense for everybody but for some the tux would never be used again. I like the simple classic look of either one but is the Tuxedo more MB? —Chris
Eloping is a battle well worth fighting but all is not lost. Retreat and live to fight another day — if all goes well, you'll be fighting these battles for the rest of your life. (Next skirmish: Should you wear a wedding ring?)
As for the wedding party, definitely go for the suit vs. the tuxedo. Why burden your best friends with a purchase some will never wear again? As for the suit, we strongly recommend charcoal grey over black. This is a wedding, not a funeral or a mob hit. Plus your groomsmen can safely and confidently wear it again to their first job interview, next wedding, dinner, you name it. In fact, if your marriage lasts — we wish you all the best — they'll be able to wear it to your 50th anniversary party. Charcoal grey suits never go out of style.
Q: Regarding your 3/29/11 "Heirloom Engagement Ring" post, if one's parents have volunteered a family heirloom ring for the engagement of their dear daughter, what is the best approach in setting forth such ring for the soon-to-be betrothed aspiring MB? — Laurie
Ed. note: As Laurie stated, this question is a follow-up to the heirloom diamond question. Since the Spectacular Bitch answered that one, here she is again.
A: Oh, Laurie! I am simply all a'dither! Do you know Shane? Are you two young love birds getting ready to take the plunge? How very exciting! Congratulations!
Now, if I understand your question correctly, you are wondering how to avoid the decidedly unromantic prospect of your mother giving you the ring, you giving the ring to your beau, so that he can turn around and give it back to you when he proposes. Just because you are lucky enough to have an heirloom diamond heading your way, is no reason you two should be deprived of the romance inherent in a proposal.
Here's how it's going to work. Shane will pay a visit to your parents to ask for your hand in marriage, not because you need their permission, but because it's an honorable thing to do and your parents will be tickled. Hopefully, it will go swimmingly. Your dad will get all red in the face and clap Shane on the back while your mother weeps and struggles to get that ring off her finger to give to Shane. It may be slightly ambiguous whether she's crying about losing a daughter, losing a diamond, or gaining the awesome Shane, which only adds to the dramatic tension of the moment. All good. Shane will need to keep the ring safe until such time as he is ready to propose to you.
Now for the practicalities. The last thing you want is for your guy to have to ask for that ring if your mom is so flustered she fails to cough it up. You need a third party (siblings work well for this) to give your parents a small heads up, so that they are adequately prepared for Shane's visit, with the ring and some cocktails at the ready. If you don't have siblings, then you can leave your laptop open to this post in a conspicuous location and they'll get the message. In short, the ring needs to go directly to Shane and you two can deal with making it right for you after the proposal.
Q: Is it okay to kill a tree to make sunglasses? — Chris
A: We've noticed this trend too, Chris, and we admire the business model. The more trees you turn into sunglass frames, the hotter the planet gets, the more sunglasses you need. It's what economists call a virtuous circle.
We're kidding, of course, because trees are a sustainable resource. (These days, plastic sunglasses are a sustainable resource too — something's gotta be done with all those empty bottled water containers and more and more sunglass manufacturers are making frames using recycled materials.)
So, yes, it's okay to kill a tree to make sunglasses. Plus, you'll be adhering to the MB principle of organic materials if your frames are made out of wood. If you're looking for something specific, we like Shwood's Oswald frames in walnut. Hand-crafted in Portland, Oregon, they look both sleek and a little artfully disheveled, because they don't quite have that perfectly machined look of plastic frames. We're pretty sure Cary Grant would approve.
Q: As much as despise the phrase "jumping the shark," it appears that MB has done so with the last two posts. How can MB endorse a hoodie? I remember reading past articles that the hoodie was replacing the track jacket and a true MB should avoid this trend....now you have endorsed a fleece Columbia hoodie. Secondly, Sheex sheets. What about your mantra of organic materials only? These sheets are made of polyester. Should I throw out the advice of high thread count sheets and replace with this work out wear bedding? Very confused right now. —ML
A: ML, both the hoodie and bedsheets posts were in celebration of April Fools' Day.
As you stated, the 82% microfiber polyester and 18% Lycra Spandex SHEEX grossly violate the MB principle of organic materials. They also violate the MB principle of "Never buy anything 'The Situation' probably owns."
We've previously recommended high thread-count Tencel for the warmer months. They're also good year-round for the warmer-blooded, and of course, for those hot, sweaty chicks you bring back home from the club.
In its inexorable drive towards being Wal Mart, Target has stopped selling the popular, MB-recommended cotton sheets, so we suggest buying as high a thread count you can afford made by Sferra. They're expensive (and don't have the wet spot wicking power of SHEEX) but are well worth the money. You can find them occasionally at Gilt Home. (Drop us an email if you still need an invite.)
As for the Koozie Hoodie, with a built-in bottle opener and two beer bottle holders, well, we think Columbia might be fooling everybody 365 days a year.
Q: Just broke up with my girlfriend, so now it's a new apartment, new bed, new bedsheets. Checked the first two off my list, but stuck on the sheets. What does an MB sleep on at night — Egyptian cotton, silk, cashmere? Please advise.
AF, some people look at sleep as an opportunity to just lay around all night and accomplish nothing. To be honest, we used to be that way too — until we discovered SHEEX luxury performance bedsheets. Made from the finest professional quality athletic fabrics, SHEEX bedding breathes 50 percent better than traditional bedding and transfers body heat twice as effectively as cotton. We're not sleep scientists or anything, but we estimate that we're sleeping at least 50 percent harder than we used to sleep, and we're definitely waking up more refreshed and alert than we have in years.
Needless to say, these things also perform awesomely when you score a hot, sweaty chick at the club and bring her back to your place. The quick-dry engineering built right into SHEEX wicks moisture away from her skin, so you can get your grind on without having to pull out every move from your MMA playbook just to keep her from sliding off the side of your bed. Plus, no fighting over who sleeps in the wet spot, because SHEEX wicks away wet spots up to 75 percent faster than traditional cotton bedding. We could tell you more about SHEEX's 4-way stretch microfibers and the unrestricted movement they facilitate, but we want to keep this post relatively safe for work.
Q: Dear MB: How does an MB rock shorts? I know, I know, a real MB shouldn't wear shorts, but in some parts of the country summer gets too hot for pants. 115 degrees. Looking back at your earlier posts about shorts, the MB short has an 8"-8.5" inseam. Thanks for the help. --Larry
A: In the S/S issue of Another Man, Tom Ford offers five easy lessons on how to become a modern gentleman. Fifth on his list: "A man should never wear shorts in the city. Flip-flops and shorts in the city are never appropriate. Shorts should only be worn on the tennis court or on the beach."
Q: I am a longtime reader, and am now college-bound. Do MBs belong to fraternities, and if so, what attributes due their frats have? --Sam
A: Sam, it sounds like you've been reading Magnificent Bastard since before you were old enough to shave — so we're not exactly sure what college can teach you. If you're determined to go, though, and determined to join a frat, here's the best advice we can give you. It's all about the bros.
Yes, we just said bros, without any intentional irony. But it's the truth. Don't judge a house based on its physical amenities, on its reputation with the local co-eds, or even on the quality of its in-house cook.
It's college, and one way or another, you're going to get your fill of drunken sorority girls, awful malt liquor, and only slightly better ditchweed. But no matter how much time you spend chasing Alpha Chis, you're going to spend even more time hanging out with your bros for hours on end as you blow off Sociology 101 and wait for morning to turn into mid-morning so you can have that first beer of the day without feeling like a total degenerate. Find some guys whose antics you're pretty sure you will find entertaining even when you're so hungover just clicking the remote feels like performing brain surgery, and you will likely end up with an education not even poet laureates and Nobel Prize-winners could provide.
Q: Dear MB: My girlfriend and I are about to be engaged and her mother offered us her heirloom diamond for the ring. My girlfriend loves the idea, but I've always thought it was the guy's job to buy his girl her engagement ring. Am I being too old-fashioned? Perhaps you or your spectacular counterpart have some insight? Thank you --
Ed. note: We let the Spectacular Bitch handle this one.
A: Darling Shane,
While it is very MB of you to want to buy your lady an engagement ring, you may rest easy and follow the age-old golden maxim of engagement rings: If there's an heirloom to be had, you tap that shit.
Never, ever, ever, let a good diamond go to waste, chickadee. Also understand that mothers have a funny fixation about passing valuables to their daughters (as opposed to sons, who might marry a trollop who could trollop away with the goods), so you'll be granting your future mother-in-law a touch of peace.
You won't exactly be getting off scot free, because there's the small matter of putting that heirloom diamond into a setting, which your fiancee should choose and you should pay for. If the diamond is already in a ring and your lady likes it as is, you foot the bill for the tune-up, which includes cleaning, resizing, and a check of structural integrity with a reputable jeweler. Either way, if you have some cash left over after all is said and done, save it for a pretty bauble on your first anniversary.
Q: I'm a 19-year-old girl looking for the perfect pair of eyeglasses. I generally prefer angular frames to round ones. What would you suggest to be worthy of magnificent bastards? I'm currently wearing these from Elizabeth Arden. Don't judge too harshly, they were affordable. --Kate
A: Kate, we recommend a fuller frame vs. the narrow style like your Elizabeth Ardens; the latter is a little too common and expected. Full, angular frames coupled with a dash of artful dishevelment — as demonstrated by MB crush Suzy Kendall in 1967's To Sir, With Love — make you unpredictable, and possibly irresistible. Dorothy Parker was wrong.
As usual, we recommend starting off at allynscura.com's vintage section and poking around. They just don't make 'em like they used to. If you don't find what you're looking for try Warby Parker's women's frames like the Roosevelt or the Pierce. Warby Parker's frames + lenses are $95 (just 2 bucks more than the EA frames you're wearing now).
Q: Hey guys: Love the website, and a couple of times it's stopped me from making a fashion mistake - I appreciate it. Anyway, I saw these on Gear Patrol and wondered what you thought. They're not crocs or thongs, and I thought the blue ones would look good with some white jeans. I will defer to your expertise though. --David
A: Obey and Generic Surplus are both brands we like, but this plimsoll-boat shoe fusion (top) has us imagining comical sunburn patterns we'd just as soon avoid. We say: Women alone should bear the risk of skin-exposing mesh (bottom).
If you want a navy boat shoe, there is always Sperry, of course, but we also like the Oak Street Bootmakers version, made from Horween Chromexcel and handcrafted and handstitched in the USA.
Q: I have a blue on white gingham shirt that's developed a little bit of yellowing around the collar. I obviously can't hit it with bleach, and I'd rather not replace it because it just isn't any ordinary gingham. Is there a reliable cure for this? --John
A: While we aim for artful dishevelment, a life that produces no stains at all is a life that is being too carefully led. What we're saying is we've experimented with quite a few cleaning products over the years, and what we've found is that 2 parts Ivory liquid dishsoap combined with 3 parts OxiClean creates an unstoppable stain-fighting paste. Don't let the fact that the man who turned OxiClean into a household staple, Billy Mays, was also the man who tried to sell America spray-on grass (Green Now!) and a tie with a pocket to store your iPod in (iTie). OxiClean really does work like magic and Mays, who was always the best-laundered huckster on TV, was proof of this fact.
Q: Seeking to embrace the inner bastard, I have increased the number of blazers in my wardrobe and the only writing on my t-shirts is if I am exercising or sleeping in them. One wardrobe staple of mine from the past many years does not appear to be mentioned as truly bastard-worthy and I am concerned.
What says the MB on my basic black, made in England (Anglophile approved, I should hope) Doc Martens? --Christopher
A: Christopher, you're on the right track -- the number of blazers in your closet should always exceed the total word count on your entire wardrobe. If you ever find yourself with more words than blazers, you either have to throw out some of your t-shirts or buy more blazers. (BTW, we're counting our WikiLeaks sweatshirts as one word).
Now we just need to work on your footwear; there's a reason why you haven't seen a DM recommendation here.
The Anglophilic pedigree of Dr. Martens is not nearly as strong as most people think. They were invented in 1945 by German army doctor Klaus Märtens, who hurt his foot while skiing in the Alps. While recovering from his injury, he designed a recuperative boot with soft leather and air-padded soles. So essentially Doc Martens are orthopedic Nazi shoes, and they certainly look the part!
(The Anglophiliac connection? In 1959, a British company, R. Griggs Group Ltd., acquired the rights to make and sell the shoes in the U.K.)
Browse our shoes channel and you'll find lots of far less clunky, more appropriate footwear options for your new and improved look.
Q: Hey I was wondering what your opinion of Hart Schaffner Marx is? I don't see any reviews of them on your website! I know they own a lot of other brands, but is their flagship brand quality? I've recently seen a lot of their suits and ties on sale at deep discount and was wondering if its worth buying. -Rob
A: Rob, you're seeing Hart Schaffner Marx suits and ties on deep discount because the brand's leading model, President Barack Obama, has just a 47% approval rating. That, and fewer and fewer people who aren't either running America or dull but important Fortune 500 companies wear worsted wool suits with jackets running past the crotch, pleated trousers, and shiny silk power ties anymore.
Don't get us wrong. We give thanks to HSM every time we pee after drinking a few too many MBs -- the company was the first to introduce zippers to men's pants in 1936. And HSM suits clearly exhibit the sort of well-made craftsmanship that can only come from Midwestern fingers made strong and beefy from a livable union wage. But it's just not a look we'd ever choose for ourselves, even if that means we'll never be able to obtain the Democratic nomination or, say, occupy the top box in the org chart at ConocoPhillips.
Q: Your 5/25/10 post on the John Lennon clip-on sunglasses is interesting but impossible to find. I've worn P3's for years. Good enough to storm the beach at Normandy, still good enough for me. But P4's? Can't find them and I've asked some old optometrists and they've never heard of them either. Google doesn't turn up any clues either. Any suggestions? --Scott
A: We've asked our glasses expert for further clarification. "Even people in the industry don't use the terms 'P3' or 'P4' correctly, or at all," he says. "Find 3 people who use the words, and you'll get 3 different explanations, ranging from 'It's a military code word for the frame style,' to 'It's the relationship between the a and b dimensions.'
"Our understanding is that P3 refers to '3 points' -- the P3 shape is like a rounded, upside down triangle ... it has 3 points. Similarly, a P4 has 4 points and is usually a trapezoidal shape. If you look carefully at the photo of Lennon with sunglass clips, you can make out that he has P3 frames underneath and a P4 sunglass clip over them."
To attain the same effect, we recommend you purchase these vintage Polaroid aviator clip-ons. That way, your brain can imagine the world living as one all it wants, but your face will be packing the fire-power of two branches of our Armed Forces.
Q: I recently found out that I no longer need glasses, but whereas my vision is perfect in one eye, the other could use a +1.5 reader; in other words, I could legitimately wear a monocle. Now ordinarily I'm a big fan of unusual accessories, but is this going too far? --Peter
A: Quick, name two monocle wearers that immediately come to mind. That's right, Mr. Peanut and Colonel Klink. What this says to us is that in the best-case scenario, people might associate you with a jaunty legume if you start wearing a monocle. And in the worst case, they'll look at you and think "Bumbling Nazi!" Our best advice to you? Squint.
1. Too much laundry. Wearing clothing in direct contact with the skin requires cleaning, and cashmere sweaters -- as if you'd be wearing anything else! -- should be washed even less frequently than cats. It's just too hard on them.
2. Layering is a key component of artful dishevelment, and chest hair doesn't count.
Here's a question for the MB: Where does one get good, grey, long-sleeve dress shirts? In my current bartending job the dress code is black slacks, grey dress shirt. The darker the better so as not to show those pesky Angostura stains that sometimes accumulate during a shift, machine washable, will be worn with sleeves rolled up to around the elbow for functionality. Beyond that the restaurant's pretty open to stylistic touches, so I don't have to look like a total service industry drone. Any ideas? --Jacob
A: Jacob, this question begs YOOX as the answer: 798 grey shirts from Acne to Zegna, including this 100% polyester D&G version. Not only does it easily repel Angostura, it will keep you warm on any impromptu wilderness treks after a few too many shots at closing time.
Q: Well it's that time of the month, friends. For those MBs with girlfriends, it can be difficult to figure out what to do for Valentine's Day.
What does the MB have to say? --J.
Ed. note: We've previously touched on Valentine's Day, so thought asking the Spectacular Bitch to chime in would be a good idea.
You are correct that Valentine's Day can be a tricky proposition. That's because the two loudest voices on the topic are the Hallmark industry on the one hand, peddling faux romance and cheap chocolates, and on the other hand, the haters, the lonely hearts, and the tragically embittered. But what about the rest of us, J? What about the lovers? Sure, Valentine's Day can be riddled with landmines and clichés, but it is also the one day of the year when it is completely acceptable to be sweet and gushy. And we all know this world can use a little more sugar, right sugar?
So I say, take the clichés, dip them in chocolate and gobble them up. In other words, do it your way. I love that you asked what to DO, rather than what to BUY. It's a gorgeous distinction, and shows that your heart is in the right place. You do the things you love to do, but you take it up a notch and that just takes a little planning, which is, honestly, half the fun.
In my experience, Valentine's Day is the best night of the year to avoid the herd and cook at home. Feather your love nest (by which I mean, clean, spruce, and food shop), light the candles, dim the lights, pour the wine, queue up the music and cook together. If you really can't cook, order take-out but try your hand at a sexy chocolate mousse. You see where I'm going with this, love? By choosing to stay in, you avoid all that is stuffy, formal, fancy and fraught with expectations and replace it with casual, cozy, funny, sexy kitchen hijinks. You take the familiar and make it unforgettable.
Have fun with it, J. (but don't forget the flowers!)
Q: I'm a student who needs an MB bag or backpack of some sort. I have to carry around a laptop and up to two textbooks almost all day. Got any recommendations? --Sam
In general, we think that if you're carrying so much stuff you need a backpack, you're carrying too much stuff. But it warms our hearts to hear that there's at least one college left in America that is still making its students read -- or at least carry around -- actual ink-on-paper textbooks. And conveniently, we recently discovered, via Selectism, the Babylon Backpack from Wheelmen & Co.
These days, we see a lot of trophy backpacks, which is to say, backpacks that look great in a photo shoot but quickly become painful when put into actual use. Wheelmen's Babylon backpack combines traditional materials (waxed cotton, leather) with just enough modern comforts (padded shoulder straps, foam back panel) to make it truly functional. It honors tradition without slavishly deifying "heritage."
There. Now you've got both a good backpack recommendation plus a start on your next American Studies essay. How's that for service?
Q: I'm currently the proud owner of a Paul Smith naked lady belt. Since last time I've worn it I've dropped 2 inches around my waist. As a result, I need to put it on the smallest hole which goes against perfect prong placement. With a business meeting on Friday should bite the bullet and wear it or purchase a new one? At this point J.Crew and Banana Republic are the only options for last minute shopping. --Chris
A: Chris, that's an excellent belt on many counts. We admire your taste, your commitment to perfect prong placement, and your willingness to risk sexual harassment counseling by wearing an accessory with a naked lady on it to a business meeting.
But don't wear it on Friday. You'll leave a mark in the wrong place on the strap. Go with this J. Crew plaque belt as a surrogate. If you don't like it enough to keep, it's a no-hassle return.
As for retrofitting the PS belt to your new waistline, it's going to be a complicated and somewhat expensive operation but totally worth doing, like Matthew McConaughey's hair restoration. First, you'll need to take it to a trusted cobbler for the serious reconstructive surgery -- i.e., taking the extra length off the buckle side and cutting a new prong opening. Then we recommend you take it to a trusted tailor to recreate the signature Paul Smith stitching.
A: In theory, we ought to like rugby shirts on grounds of Anglophilia and tradition. In practice, well, you'd never want to wear an authentic rugby shirt off the pitch -- unless you want to look even goofier than your friend the cyclist who thinks his Team Radio Shack jersey looks good off the bike. Meanwhile, the more understated striped versions that have been showing up in designer collections in recent years tend to remind us of wrapping paper. Every once in a while we see one that almost changes our mind, but there are none in our closet at the moment.
Q: Engagement rings...the inevitable awaits. I noticed a recent trend of colored/gemstones set in rings instead of the traditional diamond. Also, I am thinking of buying a gemstone ring because all of my recently engaged friends seem to have purchased rings at the same place because they all look alike. Wanting to stay MB and keep my second half MB as well, what say you about the gemstone engagement ring? --Mitch
A: We've answered this question before regarding the man's ring (with a chart), and we'd put a gemstone engagement ring for the Mrs. at the same lousy position on the scale.
Don't do it man.
If you want to set yourself apart from your Zales-shopping peers, while simultaneously conferring loads of class upon your bride-to-be (and by association, you), apply the understatement principle and choose a band. We like platinum. A good local jeweler should be able to create one in a shape you like for roughly a grand. If not, there's always Tiffany & Co. If she requires a diamond, get two with a pair of earrings.
Q: What are your views on the T-shirt under casual unbuttoned shirt look? Thanks for your insight. --James
A: We're not saying no one can pull this off, ever, but in general our take is too much dishevelment and not enough artfulness. Case in point: we imagine that there are very few photos in which Kurt Cobain looks like the goofiest member of Nirvana, but here you see one of them (top), and Cobain's shirt-and-tshirt combo is definitely a contributing factor.
Q: Hate to drag this up yet again, but all the ties you recommended in your recent post, "matchy-matchy," are 3" width. So now I'm curious, when you urge everyone to abandon skinny ties and go wide, what width do you consider "skinny," and is it possible, in your view, to go too wide? I also ask because, trends be damned, I think 3"ish is ideal, but at my conservative job, my 3" ties are generally regarded as "skinny". --J. Nelson
A: A width of three inches is our starting point. If it's narrower than that, we throw it back and cast again. As for maximum width, it's all about proportion: You want a tie
that echoes the width of your jacket's lapels. The wider your lapel, the wider tie you need -- and these days, like Jessica Simpson, lapels are widening. But if you ever need a tie wider than 3.75 inches, then it's time to put your lapels on a diet.
Who's on our side in the tie width debate? In the 2010 GQ Style Manual, designers Scott Sternberg (Band of Outsiders) and Tom Ford (Tom Ford) offer their thoughts:
SCOTT STERNBERG: "A skinnier tie just feels of-the-moment right now....And there's less material, so there's less potential for a color or pattern to feel garish or offensive."
TOM FORD: "There is something a bit meager and uptight about a skinny tie and jacket...I think that accentuating the natural V of a man's body makes men look more masculine, less boyish, and in general more powerful."
AT LEFT: Both designers put their theories into practice. Ford looks classically masculine. Sternberg radiates of-the-moment inoffensiveness. The choice is yours to make.
Q: Thanks for your style advice for attending sportingevents. I will be attending an epic playoff game in Chicago this weekend. Any tips for a MB in training when attending (outdoor) winter sporting events? I don't want to do the snowmobile suit or work coverall look and some of our midwest neighbors are wont to do. Or, is it a conflict of interest to even provide advice to a Bears fan? --Ryan
A: Your squad is 3.5 point dogs at home, against the #6 seed ... have you thought about wearing a Packers' jersey?
If that's too extreme, we recommend a fairly conservative approach. With good seats running between $1000 to $2000 on StubHub, you're probably shelling out a lot just to be there. With that in mind, do you really want to blow even more cash on a jacket there's a strong chance you'll only associate with depressing memories of Aaron Rodgers doing the Championship Belt in your house? Take Jennifer Aniston's lead and go with a Spiewak snorkel parka. It's as warm as it is cheap.
A: We're pretty sure Glenn O'Brien -- GQ's Style Guy -- is using "ow" for comedic effect. Either that or he's become exceedingly brittle in his old age. Or Conde Nast's health care coverage has a high co-pay.
Anyhow, we recommend a firmer handshake than endorsed by GQ -- "grip lightly, the way you'd pick up a baby" -- for both men and women. What sets a handshake apart has less to do with grip pressure than with one's eyes. Once you've embraced the other fella's hand, look him straight in the eye. If he reciprocates, you know you've found a man you can do business with. If not, he's probably a crook.
Q: I don't normally shop at Zara, but I've found some decent pieces in their collections. I've been looking at their faux leather motorcycle jackets. In your eyes, are they a worthwhile investment? --A Bastard Striving To Be Magnificent (Manny)
A: We are not familiar with Zara, but unless you drive a motorcycle, we don't even recommend real leather motorcycle jackets. And if you do drive a motorcycle, why get a fake leather jacket? That's like screwing Sophia Loren, then activating an e-cigarette instead of lighting up a Marlboro.
Q: My fiancée recently left me for various reasons. I think the main reason could be my recent car purchase. It's a 2003 Mini Cooper S. It's fun and quick and a great driver's car, but I've also had some other comments from people saying how 'super cute' and 'adorable' it is. I find it hard to believe a supercharged 6-speed car would be anything but MB. Also, don't feel bad about the ex-fiancée. Her mother ended up getting me those nice Fratelli Orsini gloves you recommended for Christmas. So I still feel like I came out ahead. --Eric
A: The good news is those gloves will last a lot longer than your marriage would have, if all it took your fiancée to dump you was your suspect taste in cars.
The bad news is, yes, we did just say "suspect." In our estimation, Mini Coopers are the automative equivalent of a hummingbird. Zippy, adorable, kind of annoying. We're not saying you should dump your car like your girlfriend dumped you -- love is blind, after all. But, no, the Mini Cooper -- no matter the number of speeds or supercharging -- is not on our list of favorite cars.
Q: I have interviews coming up with some consulting firms which, oddly enough, identify strongly with their corporate colors. I'm thinking of doing some tie/firm color matching, but will it come off as clever and detailed, or is it a one way ticket to toolbagville? --Pete
A: Pete, this is a little like interviewing for a job at McDonald's wearing the tie worn by The Hamburglar. Don't do it. TTH and more than a little weird. Instead, invest in something you would want to wear after you land the job. Minneapolis-based Pierrepont Hicks makes great ties as does long-time MB favorite Mountain and Sackett. Another good find is Nashville-based Otis James, a cool dude who will make you a custom cashmere tie for $165. His woven linen 00502xx has been spectacular.
(While we don't endorse Hamburglar's tie, we do endorse its width and the artfully dishevelled way he leaves the narrow end longer than the wide end.)
Q: Hello MB, I've been around for awhile, and mostly like what I see. But, when it comes to putting the principles into action, I feel overwhelmed and eventually give up. Are there some essential bastardly wardrobe elements that could get me into some semblance of style? Thanks, Hopeless Bastard. --(aka Eric)
A: When you've got a good bottle of scotch and a glass at your disposal, it's hard to make a bad drink. The same holds true for denim and a white shirt. Start with those and you'll be fine. They're virtually toolbag-proof.
THE SHIRT: In China, there are factories the size of sports stadiums filled with workers who aren't allowed to pee until they've produced at least a hundred white shirts that shift, yet finding just the right white is like finding meaning in a Jersey Shore episode. Some guidelines: slim fit, no logo, no breast pocket, point collar, sewn collar (vs. fused), and mother of pearl buttons. The holy grail is a crossover -- something that can work with a tie and casual suit, then later with your new jeans. (We can't strongly recommend anything at the moment -- and may have to make one on our own -- but please stay tuned.)
Q: Earmuffs. I don't think you've mentioned a thing about these. I see lots of suited lobbyists (toolbags) here in DC touting the 180s, though they seem like a better option compared to grandma earmuffs. What are your thoughts? Let the ears freeze? Mess up my hair with a hat that does the job? --Jay
A: On January 21, 1961, John F. Kennedy took the oath of office in 22° weather and didn't wear a hat or scarf or earmuffs. Nor did Lyndon Johnson, and he was practically bald!
Not to mention the fact that you've also got fifty years of global warming working in your favor. We checked the latest 10-day forecast for DC -- there's nothing lower than 34° for a high over the next ten days.
But if you reckon you're not as hardy as either JFK or LBJ, forget the earmuffs and go with a cashmere hat which is warm, soft, and delivers a perfectly artfully disheveled head of hair every time.
Q: I know you hate the skinny tie, but you can't deny that it's still in fashion (you said way back in 2008 that it was dying). Prejudices aside, what type of collar do you think goes best with the skinny tie? I like the windsor but it might be too eccentric. The spread collar might be good, or it might just depend on the collar size as a whole. I would hope not to get a sarcastic, snide response, but I might not be so lucky with this specific question. --Sam
A: Sam, if you're looking for polite and cordial answers to style questions, you've come to the wrong place. Check askandyaboutclothes.com. He is a nice guy.
Anyhow, yes, we can deny the skinny tie is still in fashion. They're featured at EXPRESS, which is a clear indication of this look's location on the trend curve. If you still insist, a Windsor/spread collar only works for a Windsor knot, which would look completely ridiculous when tied with a skinny tie. For the EXPRESS look -- "ultra-modern" and "fresh and fearless" -- go with a traditional point collar and four-in-hand knot.
Q: Hey guys. The recent header photos are awesome! I especially love the Lambeautailgatingseries (and associated cheesebra). As part of the post-Christmas sale-mageddon, I picked up a nice Banana Republic suit for well over half off. The size 38 jacket fits me perfectly in the shoulders, and looks very MB overall when unbuttoned. But it pulls WAY too much when I button it; it's a solid size too small over my belly. The larger size 40 jacket, meanwhile, looks clownish.
So #1, yes I know, I need to go to the gym more. Working on it, I promise.
#2, Is it acceptable to wear the perfect-in-the-shoulders jacket and never button it, or do I need to cut my losses and go made-to-measure?
Can't wait to see the upcoming spring-time header photos! --Ben
A: Ben, flattery will get your question answered, but will not protect you from savagery. Save that receipt, because a man should never own a suit jacket he strains to button -- at any price -- or he risks looking like Popeye pal J. Wellington Wimpy, and feeling self-conscious, insecure, and in dire need of hamburgers. Until your presumed 2011 resolution starts to pay off, cut your losses and go made-to-measure.
Q: I am looking to find a pair of frames exactly like the style Jack Benny used to wear. I have pretty good eyes but my prescription is for 1.5 progressives as I am a reader and would wear them regularly every day. I see you show him with glasses on your site. Can you help me? --Alex
A: We're not sure of the exact make/model Jack Benny is wearing, but all the major American eyewear companies made a slightly cat eye style like the one shown during that time. The Zyloware Invincible is close, as is the Criss Apollo. Both would work for progressive lenses, and are made of nylon, which is a big deal for daily wearers because they're significantly lighter than plastic acetate. We're big fans of Criss for this reason, and the fact that they're standard-issue U.S. Penitentiary eyewear.
Q: Hello MB, I recently stumbled upon your site and I became an instant fan. For some time, I've been thinking about switching to two-tone dress shoes. Not something crazy, but maybe black and white spectators or even a slightly more attention-grabbing light-brown and white pair. But I'm involved in politics and want an appropriate but still stylish pair of shoes. Would the two-tone shoes be too much, and do you find them to be stylish or just too out of date? --Dodge
A: All the great politicians -- or at least the most memorable ones -- had some signature feature or accessory: Churchill's Romeo y Julieta, Hitler's mustache, FDR's cigarette holder, Reagan's dyed hair. While wearing spectators isn't something that's ever crossed our mind, these shoes may sway the coveted independent voter, and are not believed to cause cancer.
Q: I met a man at a party and he was impeccably dressed in a charcoal suit and black tie. We have been seeing each other and he dresses very well; however, he has let it slip that he wears a Tommy Bahama watch and thinks that J. Crew floral shirts are acceptable "during vacations." Should I give him the benefit of the doubt, or kick him to the curb? Thanks for the help. --Katelin
A: Katelin, the Tommy Bahama watch is definitely a red flag but you could fix that problem by buying him a watch for Christmas. There are still 4 days left. Regarding the floral shirt, they're OK during vacations in Hawaii.
So he's warm. And remember, as Tom Brady clearly demonstrates, many MBs are made, not born. We say give him the benefit of the doubt. If you look at our graph of the American male below, the vast majority need work and with your help, this guy sounds like he could be on the verge of breaking through.
Q: Hey MB: I happen to be a huge fan of the Burberry brand and have not been able to decide on a bastardly dastardly watch for an up-and-coming MB like myself. Are these watches ok for me to have as an MB? What is your take? I like the fabric because I think it is ultra classic. Could this be worn for any occasion? Let me know. --Nick
A: Nick, we object to this purchase for at least two reasons. First, this watch is 44mm in diameter, which, unless you have Popeye-sized forearms, is in clear violation of the 40mm max diameter watch rule. Second, it's $380 at Amazon and has a quartz movement! Quartz vs. mechanical is the equivalent of motorboats vs. sailboats, or gas fireplaces vs. wood fireplaces, or fake breasts vs. real breasts. You can probably guess which side we come down on, but just to be clear: go real. Always. You can even save 100 bucks (at least) on a mechanical watch at westcoastime, and if you're digging the fabric strap and can accept a non-Burberry color combo, use your savings to pick up a couple of Zulu or Bond straps.
Q: I have been searching (and saving) for a pair of the Prada Novo Calfskin Boots you featured in your masthead a couple years ago, and thought that these zip boots from Costume National Homme could tide me over in the interim. They have one pair left in my size. Are they MB or should I hold out for the Prada boots? --Josh
A: Josh, first thanks for reading that long. Second, our barbershopmastheadserieswas shot almost three years ago, in February 2008. The New York Timespublished a piece about "barbershop renaissance" on November 25 (2010). Finally, we hope you grabbed those boots because they're sold out. Costume National footwear has been very good to us and if you like anything from F/W 2010 it's all 50% off. Based on previous years' sale timing, if you wait a couple of more weeks it will go to 70% off.
Q: This is concerning the Love Moschino blazer you recently recommended. I purchased one and have to admit it looks awesome. I know it's slim but how snug is it supposed to fit me? It's tight in the underarm/shoulder area. I'm afraid if I hit the gym seriously for 2 months, I will have trouble putting it on. I would appreciate your advice, thank you. --Vik
A: Vik, it sounds like you are used to blazers cut to the toxically unstylish Ben Roethlisberger tent fit (pictured as he arrived for last Sunday night's game vs. the Ravens). Blazers with high armholes -- like the great Love Moschino one you now own -- are actually more comfortable because they allow your arms to move without the whole blazer moving along with them. This may take some getting used to but trust us that it's what you want.
Q: I'm about to pull the trigger on a pea coat from AllSaints. Have you come across this coat in your considerable pea coat research? --Mark
A: Despite its bona fide Anglo roots, AllSaints is not really on our radar since a visit to the Lincoln Road store last year. Their Singer sewing-machined storefronts are easily the best retail facade going, and the interior fixturing is nearly as appealing, however in our experience the clothes themselves do not fulfill on expectations. While we totally get and even endorse a neutral palette, AllSaints has pushed it too far, into Children of Men and even darker, dingier Orwellian dystopia territory. With skulls.
Having said all that, don't let us discourage you. The pea coat you have your eye on certainly looks like it's worth a try, especially since it's on sale and shipping is free.
Q: It's starting to get a bit cold outside. What do you think about fingerless gloves? --Tom
A: Fingerless gloves are great if you're either a street vendor or bum, since they provide the necessary dexterity to make a hot dog or fish a beer can out of the trash. MBs have no need for doing either, and prefer to keep the extremes of their extremities encased in cashmere, or better yet, fur. The latter are a little hard to come by these days but we've been satisfied with the Fratelli Orsini option at leatherglovesonline.com and they're just 82 bucks.
Q: Do people who pose questions here truly believe they are ever going to achieve magnificent bastardly-ness? A true MB would not ask style questions; anyone asking a question is clearly TTH. Quite a paradox you have created here. --Solo
A: Some MBs are born, others are made. If you've read this site even a little bit you know a lot of questions come from college students or recent grads. It's a formative period where many learn about opportunity cost and beer bongs and U.S. imperialism, and first develop personal style principles to apply for a lifetime.
Let's take the case of Tom Brady. As a soon-to-be college graduate from Michigan, he showed up at the 2000 NFL combine as a doughy, slow, anti-MB in grandpa boxers. He was drafted in the 6th round. Then the light switch went on and he transformed himself into a style icon who's married to a Brazilian supermodel, and in our view the best QB who ever lived.
While we don't promise the cover of GQ or the NFL Hall of Fame, go ahead and ask away.
Q: Is it MB to write love letters? With stationary and stamps and an actual pen? In this day of email, tweet/text/social mania is it romantic, or a little TTH? --Matt
Ed. note: We've spent the past 18 months searching the bars of Pulaski looking for the Spectacular Bitch, from Quit-N-Time to T'bombs to Party Marty's. It took a little longer than we thought but we finally found her at Zielinski's. While we get her site ready, she'll be answering questions now and then in this space.
A: Dearest Matt, your instincts are good, but proceed with caution. I once ended a relationship with a man because he included the words "the pitter patter of raindrops" in a letter he posted from Sevilla. Bear in mind, should things ever go south with your lady love, a physical letter can and will be subjected to all manner of ignominy -- burning, shredding, crumpling, soaking, and brutal mockery, possibly at the hands of multiple girlfriends over bottles of wine. On the other hand, a letter can be clutched to her chest, tucked in a favorite book, sniffed, caressed, and re-read as no email could ever hope to be. Perhaps putting a pen to paper is trying too hard, but true blue Spectacular Bitches don't come easy.
Because I like you, Matt, a couple pointers:
1. Know thyself: If you are a clever writer and can guarantee that there will be no grammatical errors, proceed to the next pointer. I once ended a relationship with a man because of his dangling participles.
2. Know thy audience: Make sure you never put in writing something you wouldn't be able to say face-to-face after a few drinks. You don't want to freak her out.
3. Be brief.
4. Use proper stationery and a good pen. Don't be sloppy, but don't try to get creative either. I once ended a relationship with a man because he wrote to me on a piece of birch bark. And another because he wrote to me on a scroll. Plain correspondence cards of good stock are lovely, if you ask me.
5. Speak your truth but remember, leave the poetry to the poets.
Bonne chance, my pet. And be sure to let me know how the lucky lady responds.
Q: What is your official stance on Fair Isle sweaters? I am looking to purchase this classic winter clothing item but don't want the whole corny holiday cliche that is often attached to some patterns/colors. Any recommendations? --Mike S.
A: We heartily endorse Fair Isle and wear it often, but less so now that it's everywhere on both men and women for F/W 2010. To avoid looking like you just walked out of a family Christmas card photo shoot (top), choose a limited palette and make it a cardigan or go for a vest (bottom), like King Edward VIII did while in public.
Q: So MB - I was at an NBA game on Friday night and there were several MB-looking types wearing patterned driving caps. I've always thought of this as my grandpa's hat, wondering what your thoughts are. --Jennifer
A: We charted the style curve rise and fall of driving/newsboy/ivy caps back in early 2008 and declared the trend dead when Cuba Gooding Jr. showed up at the 10,000 B.C. premiere wearing one (plus flashing hand signs). Now that Gooding Jr. has gone missing, co-starring with Val Kilmer and Christian Slater in straight-to-DVD flicks, and iconic toolbag and the frequent ivy cap-wearing Tony Romo is on injured reserve, this headwear style can now emerge from rehab. In fact, as the NFL season hits the increasingly chilly home stretch, we would not be surprised to see Tom Brady sporting a newsboy for one of his ridiculously stylish post-game press conferences.
Q: First off, I'm a junior at Cornell University and have been using MB since my first year, and I love it. Second, I recently purchased a tailored dinner jacket from Indochino, and a tux shirt. I was wondering if you have any suggestions on studs for the shirt as I was hoping to get a look more similar to Daniel Craig as he wears only buttons, and I made the unfortunate mistake of ordering the studded tux shirt. Thanks so much for your time, I really appreciate it. --Seth
A: Seth, we're honored that an Ivy League lad like yourself would read state-school products like us (UW-Madison). Thanks. Anyhow, about your shirt dilemma, you could probably mitigate the error by buying a set of mother-of-pearl studs, but this is throwing good money after bad. We treat clothing purchasing mistakes much like former Packers GM Ron Wolf treated his draft choice mistakes: don't hope it will work out. Recognize your mistakes early, cut 'em, and move on.
So go ahead and put that Indochino shirt on the waiver wire. If you want a tuxedo shirt like Daniel Craig's Bond, we say get the tuxedo shirt worn by Daniel Craig's Bond. Contact Turnbull and Asser (email link) and have them make you one, either with the concealed front placket of Casino Royale or the full-button placket of Quantum of Solace (top). Yes, it will cost more than the Indochino equivalent, but it's surprisingly affordable and, far more importantly, you'll end up getting exactly what you want.
Speaking of mistakes and James Bond, on the heels of his 1964 Aston Martin DB5 selling for £2.6M ($4.13M), Christie's is auctioning James Bond's infamous Walther LP-53 air pistol, used to promote From Russia With Love (bottom), expected to go for the relative bargain of between $23K-$30K (in 2001 it sold for $20,437.41). When Bond's standard Walther PPK didn't show up for the From Russia With Love photo shoot, photographer David Hurn's air pistol was substituted. He said he'd airbrush out the long barrel to make it look like a PPK, but lied, and this ersatz weapon was used to promote several more Bond flicks.
Q: I have just moved to Shanghai. I need to take the subway for work and if you have ever been to Shanghai before, you will know how crowded it is! I have a currently use a Costume National bag. More like a briefcase. Which is not really suitable for the subway. I need a good shoulder bag that can fit a 15" laptop, notebook, etc. Not too expensive. Functional and not bulky; maybe a mix of leather and canvas? Can you suggest somthing, MB? --John
A: Yes, we've traveled the Shanghai metro and it's even more crowded, dirty, and smelly than flying coach on U.S. airlines. The bag you need is something from Property Of..., a Singapore-based shop that makes minimally-designed bags with a harmonious mixture of the leather/canvas combo you desire, and small enough not to damage internal organs when you're being squeezed by a billion Chinese, in the same subway car all at once. The only problem is finding them. Keep an eye on Gilt (they were on sale there last week) and boutique men's retailers like Ian in Seattle or Martin Patrick in Minneapolis.
Q: I'm facing a bit of a quandary and trust the opinions of the MB Gods so ... which e-reader is more MB: The Nook or the Kindle? --Cam
A: Cam, the answer is neither. While we're like most people under 70 and have completely abandoned newspapers -- except as a great way to start a fire -- we still read actual books and always will. They meet MB principles of archaism and organic materials, and really look great on a bookshelf.
Q: What color tie would I wear with a cherry red shirt, specifically the Alexander West cherry discreet? Color matching is not my forte, and I imagine that a badly chosen tie would ruin the shirt. Thanks. --Andrew
A: Andrew, that shirt is talking pretty loudly, so everything else should be quiet, including the tie. Since it's F/W we'd like to see this matched with something brown or gray and nubby, which is where Mountain and Sackett comes in. While tiemaker Alexander Olch gets all the publicity (rightfully so) in GQ, DETAILS, and even in the December issue of women's mag Lucky, less-well-known brothers Bill and John Mountain make equivalent ties at about half the price. If you still prefer them a little narrower, try the 2 3/4" brown flannel Stanton ($59.50) or gray flannel Kenmare ($74.00). Our pick with that shirt is the 3 1/4" Cedar Herringbone ($74.00).
Ed. note: If you're looking for a holiday tie, M&S's 3 1/2" Kerr Tartan goes with nearly everything and draws loads of compliments.
Q: You recently recommended the J.Crew Aldridge suit, but the Ludlow has a trimmer fit. Wouldn't that be more MB? I'm planning on a charcoal suit for my slightly casual wedding. --Matt
A: Yes, the Ludlow (lower right) has a trimmer fit, plus a shorter cut and narrower lapels, which is why we recommended the Aldridge (lower left) as that aspiring MB's first suit. It's the same reason we recommend it over the Ludlow for your wedding.
The Ludlow's overly narrow lapel is looking post-peak to our eyes, and for an event that's forever preserved for posterity -- more pictures will be taken of you on this day than that time you passed out on the sofa and your buddies drew shit all over your face with Sharpies -- you want a look that's as timeless as possible. That means lapels approximating the width of those on Cary Grant's suit in North by Northwest, which have style, yet are virtually devoid of trend.
Q: The other day you recommended J Shoes' mojave boots. I noticed they have a crepe sole and was wondering how these hold up in Wisconsin winters. I am interested in a different model with crepe soles for Philadelphia winters. --Michael
A: Crepe soles were born on British soldiers fighting Rommel in the deserts of North Africa, then in 1950 Englishman Nathan Clark made them for civilians and called them "desert boots." These two facts are both strong hints about the wisdom of wearing them during Wisconsin winters, and intuitively we stow away our crepe-soled boots by Thanksgiving. But just to make sure we asked J. Shoes about it and here's what they said:
Crepe is a rubber latex material that changes with the temperature. It softens in the summer and gets hard in the winter, which means it can be slippery and dangerous on ice.
In our experience, the only footwear not dangerous on ice is a pair of skates, but while we want you in a pair of crepe-soled J. Shoes boots, leave the road slush and ice to footwear that's far more appropriate.
A: Please know that Schlitz, at least according to the writing on the can, is the beer that made Milwaukee famous. And their 16oz. "Tall Boys" are an especially tasty treat. Just when you think you should be out, there are still four delicious ounces left.
Q: So I need to upgrade my winter hat collection, and started off with your suggestions for cashmere knit caps. However, I'd also like something a little different from the standard knits, and was looking at stuff like this BR military hat. Any other suggestions? --Dave
A: We suggest waiting on military until the next election. But even in 2012, that particular hat is reserved exclusively for baller revolutionaries. Plus, unless you hail from Cuba or anywhere south of about the panhandle, a winter hat needs ear coverage as an option, so it doesn't even qualify in our book.
Why is the male in your header dressed appropriately for the subject of your banter, while the female looks like she belongs more on the Wisconsin version of "Jersey Shore" ("Door County Shore?")? --Allison
A: Allison, Monday through Saturday Nicole is dressed in cashmere and pearls. But on home-game Sundays she falls victim to the spell of the Packers, and dons green American Apparel shorts, grilling tongs, and a cheese bra. Like pickled herring, cannibal sandwiches, and brandy Old Fashioneds, you kinda have to live here to understand.
Anyhow, we love the Door County Shore concept and are ready to write a treatment for MTV. We can see Snooki and The Situation slinging fish boils at the White Gull Inn and sundaes at Wilson's Ice Cream Parlor. Thanks for the suggestion.
Q: I've just bought a pair of grey Kenneth Cole leather oxford shoes. I intend to wear them with long-sleeved shirts in the office. Should I wear a grey leather belt too? --Mark
A: First, we hope those Kenneth Cole oxfords plot on the proper portion of our shoe pointiness chart. (We're afraid for you, Mark!)
Second, we've never been fans of strict adherence to the belt-must-match-shoes rules handed down by previous generations of MBs, and the gray-on-gray you're wondering about sounds a little too Garanimalistic for our taste. You've essentially opened up the accessory playbook by wearing a pair of gray shoes, which is the footwear equivalent of denim. So while black and brown belts will both work, feel confident in pairing them with just about anything.
A: They are Puma Rudolf Dassler "Metropolis Low" sneakers. We recommend them, along with lots of other Dassler models, if you're OK with fact that "Ruda" (the original name of Puma) was an even more hard-core Nazi than his Adidas-founding older brother Adi. Style before National Socialist affiliation, we always say.
Ed. Note: Another Dassler shoe, the Standpunkt, also made an appearance in an MB header in early 2009. This is a highly-recommended (and far more available) model.
UPDATE: The size 13s at Bluefly quickly sold out once this entry was posted, but sizes 11 and 12 are available at Tagotti Shoes, also at a deep discount. Unlike most other Puma footwear, these fit true to size, so no need to add one.
Q: Getting married in March and I am ordering khaki suits from Indochino. Question is, peak or notch lapel? Is one more formal than others? What's appropriate for a casual feel wedding? --Jason
A: We've got a hotline connected directly to Indochino CEO Kyle Vucko's office, and after consulting with his style team, here's what he said:
"Peaked lapels are a bit dressier than notched lapels, and have a bit more flair. Given that your wedding has a casual feel, though, I'd opt for notched lapels. Peaked lapels are stylish, but put your entire wedding party in them and they'll look much more dressy costume-y. Notched lapels, on the other hand, are always classic."
Q: Greetings! Love the site. I'm hoping you can tell me where a young professional MB might find a relaxed cotton blazer like the one Bradley Cooper has on here? Thanks. --Drew
A: Blazers like this will be fairly plentiful in a couple of months as retailers/designers roll out S/S 2011 but for now it's slim pickings. First, browse through the sale rack at YOOX (our favorite blazer-hunting grounds) and you might get lucky. If you need this now and have shorter-than-average arms, the Lands End Canvas Chino Blazer is worth a try. It was a return for us but it's $89.50 (was just $69.50 when Canvas launched, BTW), has functioning buttonholes, a modern fit, and it's very close to what Bradley Cooper is wearing, including the alligator-length arms.
NB: Pairing with gingham strongly endorsed.
Ed. Note: Since pointing out that the blazer is 3-button vs. 2-button as Canvas originally advertised, we love how they've modified the copy to make it a 2.5-button blazer: "Also of note: this jacket has a three-button front, but the lapel is designed so only two buttons show."
Q: I finally got around to ordering the Spiewak McKenzie Peacoat you recommended in 2008. Naturally it has shoulder straps, which you've since informed us are post-peak. However as virtually all peacoats I've ever seen have shoulder straps is it really worth while getting a tailor to remove them? --Tadgh
A: We've finely-tuned a lot of clothing that's raised both our tailor's eyebrows, like shortening a t-shirt hem by 1", narrowing a tie by 1/2", and, yes, having epaulets removed. But if epaulets are ever OK in a mid-term election year such as this one, it's on a pea coat, military-themed outerwear that's a wardrobe basic. If you're not convinced, rather than spending money on epaulet removal, stick it in your closet until 2012 when they will be sewn back on everything.
Q: So you have me sold on O&W Kartargo but I can't decide on whether to get it with the date or without. I feel like it looks so much better without, yet I hate to have to grab for my cellphone to know the date, that's something The Situation would do, actually I wouldn't be surprised if he already has a phone app that says the time in his Jersey dialect. --John
A: We own both and vote for the ND, and not just because it looks cleaner. The date turns out to be more trouble than it's worth, adjusting for 30 and 28-day months with little discernible benefit. Unless you're a notary public or frequent check writer, how often do you need to instantly know the date? Usually a ballpark like "early November" or "late October" is all you need until you're in front of your calendar.
Q: I have to attend a viewing/funeral with my girlfriend for someone I don't know. It's Saturday and I am in college so I don't have much time to plan. What would the MB recommend for an aspiring MB? --Matthew
A: Matthew, use this stranger's death as an opportunity to prepare for the next phase of your life: get into a four-season charcoal gray suit. Besides rocking the funeral, it will serve you nicely for forthcoming interviews, peers' weddings, and just about any other occasion that calls for a suit.
With the deadline just two days away, online and custom are clearly not options, which can be a good thing since they sometimes cause anxiety due to The Paradox of Choice.
Two acceptable suits available at popular offline stores are the oft-recommended J. Crew Aldridge, or, of you're a bigger guy or prefer a more traditional cut, BR's version which is $80 cheaper. Either way, just be sure to stay clear of Men's Wearhouse.
Tip: Biased Cut is also holding a sale. Four of their shirts are at $50.
Question: I'm really digging the Bona Fide. It fits the season well and it's very understated. Your thoughts?
Also, I'm a little unsure about Eucalypt. I need your guidance on this one. --Albert
A: 50 bucks for a custom shirt should get everyone's attention, and Biased Cut shipped the best-fitting shirt of the ones we reviewed.
Regarding your questions, Albert, if you like the Bona Fide, go for it. But because you're unsure, sit tight on the Eucalypt. We've learned to hold apparel to the same burden of proof as potential partners/spouses: even if there's only a hint of doubt about an item, pass on it or return it. It really cuts down on the trips to the resale shop. And divorce court.
NB: One thing we weren't crazy about with the Biased Cut shirt was the 1/8" collar stitching and the 1/4" stitching everywhere else. If you make the request for consistent 1/4" stitching, Biased Cut will accommodate.
Q: What's your take on those half zip sweaters with the collars that kind of stand up, like the J. Crew version? Is this akin to popping a collar? Or, is this acceptable collar territory? --DTC
A: We hate these sweaters. But it's got nothing to do with collar popping and everything to do with them being stuck in a stylistic no man's land between Mark Zuckerbergian fleece outerwear and a regular sweater, much like capri pants are stuck between pants and shorts, or a mock turtleneck is stuck between a turtleneck and a t-shirt. In fact, if you zip one of these up and throw a blazer over it, you're in Van Gundy Rule territory. Avoid.
Q: I was wondering, what do you think about tweed blazers? I was thinking about picking one up for winter. If it's indeed MB, perhaps some recommendations would be nice. --Tyler
A: Tweed blazers, particularly herringbone, are a F/W necessity as much as a whiskey-filled flask in an MB's breast pocket. Wear them often, and not just for shooting clays, fox hunts, or teaching English.
This season we haven't had much luck finding good ones, with the exception of Vince's somewhat pricey classic-with-a-twist slim, short, stretch wool version with patch pockets and functioning buttonholes. It also comes equipped with leather elbow patches so you don't wear holes there while leaning on the bar (in the cases when the flask is in the shop).
Q: What are the boots the model in the Betabrand Jeans ad is wearing in the majority of the pictures on their site? Or perhaps you can recommend a similar pair for a college student's budget. --Dan
A: Dan, they're J SHOES' Mojave boot in Bark. While $145 is likely a little rich for a college student's budget, they're made in England, based on the classic British WWII desert boot (both nicely satisfying the Principle of Anglophilia), and will get better with age. In other words, you can't afford not to buy.
Q: Is there such a thing as a Magnificent Bastardly Halloween costume? --Ben
A: There are three holidays we don't participate in: New Year's Eve, St. Patrick's Day, and Halloween. Too many amateurs. Regarding Halloween, the fact that Jersey Shore cast members Snooki, DJ Pauly D, and The Situation are this year's top costumes (as well as Lady Gaga) should give you pause. However, if you insist, three years ago we created a pseudo-scientific Halloween costume chart that is surprisingly relevant today.
Q: What's your take on collar bars (aka collar pins) as a bastardly accessory? A vintage touch to a magnificent ensemble, unecessarily dressy for everyday at the office, or just TTH? I mean, it's hard to deny the "Mayhem" guy from recent Allstate commercials is a bastard and a half, and wears a tie bar in every ad. --Nate
A: Based on the number of marriage proposals on YouTube, Allstate has an even bigger hit on their hands with Mayhem than Dos Equis had with The Most Interesting Man in the World.
There is a lot to like here: the shirt collar/tie knot combination, the real 5 o' clock shadow, the way he pulls off a receeding hairline, and of course that sinister grin. And the wink, too. It's no wonder women are crazy for this guy.
The only knock is the personalized license plate (pictured), which is the toolbag auto's de facto standard. As for the collar bar, it's a little Mad Men-y and hence played out, but if you're otherwise as artfully disheveled and bruised and cut up as Mayhem, it works to balance out the look.
Q: As a poor college student, what does MB suggest I wear for when it's raining out? I know you recommend a Mackintosh Coat but those a little too expensive for a student's budget. -Peter
A: Muji Welder Raincoat Freecut. It looks like Prada and it's $12.75. But that's not even the best part. Whether you've got long arms or short, long torso or short, it doesn't matter; just grab a scissors and cut along the dotted lines on the hem and sleeves. (Scissors not included.)
UPDATE: Peter, here's what not to wear when it's raining: Sun Mountain Rainflex jackets and pants. Americans at the Ryder Cup had to abandon this permeable rain gear in favor of nonpourous ProQuip outerwear available at the merchandise tent.
Q: What are the rules for stubble on your neck and face? To me, stubble/five o'clock shadow represent the 'I don't care, deal with it' look. I like it, if I had a thicker coat I'd do it. However, is it wrong to have a problem with those who shave the neck, but leave the face stubbled? --Brian
A: No, it's not wrong to have a problem with this oxymoronic look. It's completely defeating the point of the stubble and doesn't make sense prima facie. Get it?
Add it to the list of other things we don't understand, like decaffeinated coffee, non-alcoholic beer, and dry humping.
Q: Naturally, an MB attracts the opposite sex at any time of day or night whether he is going outside to pick up the paper or waiting in line at the DMV. But, for those of us that like to go out to clubs and bars at night to meet women, what is MB-endorsed night party wear? --Amir
A: We recommend Mark Nason boots, distressed jeans with a bunch of shit on the back pockets, and an untucked striped sport shirt.
Amir, we're just fucking with ya! Only wear this if you want to look like a participant in some sort of local university's toolbag cloning experiment.
Anyhow, the whole "club wear" concept is foreign to us and feels very TTH. On the contrary, you want to look like you didn't really try at all; you and some friends had dinner and just happened to end up on the floor, fist-pumping like Vinny from Jersey Shore.
Q: I'm shopping for watches and stumbled upon Skagen's line of titanium mesh watches. Normally that would sound like something of a gimmick to me, but they seem really sharp. The watches are super lightweight, and I think the particular model I like, the 233LTTM, meets the MB rule of understatement. More importantly, I'm told that these watches can really take a beating, and I tend to be rough on watches. What do you think? Thank you. --Shane
A: When we think of worthwhile Danish exports, we think Lego, or Carlsberg, or May
Andersen, not modernly styled titanium watches. For a few bucks more we instead recommend watches with Swiss (vs. Japanese) movements that can really take a beating like, say, war.
Not to sound like a broken record, but when in the market for a watch first see what Howard Marx has available, and if you have the dough the Kartago is an excellent choice you will be repeatedly complimented on.
Q: As we MBs get older, most of us fight a valiant battle against middle-age spread. My svelte lines aren't what they used to be, despite my efforts, and I'm finding it harder and harder to make my Magnificent outfits look right. What advice do you have for us over-35 MBs to help us maintain our Bastardly good looks and taste in the face of increasing waistlines? What fits or methods are going to universally look MB on the bigger man? Thanks, and keep up the good work! --Red
A: A few weeks into the 2000 season, when 30 year-old quarterback Brett Favre was dealing with both tendonitis and conditioning issues, John Madden said, "The older you get, the harder you have to work." While it seems a little backwards and slightly unfair, it's the truth for QBs and MBs alike.
So, Red, we're not going to tell you to which shades of lipstick to apply to a pig, or which oversized camp shirt looks best untucked. Because we can't, in good conscience, plop you down on the very slippery slope to sweatpants and tracksuits.
Q: I need a winter hat. The Chicago winter is fast approaching and I have been scouring both brick and mortar and the internet for a hat that works for me. It's difficult because flat caps seem to be way too ubiquitous. Also, every fedora type hat I have ever tried on makes me feel like a total toolbag. That leaves very few styles short of just your standard knit cap, which I sometimes wear. However, I long for something a little more unique. I have looked into the Stormy Kromer hat you mentioned last year, but I feel the baseball bill really isn't my thing. Any help you could give in steering me towards a new hat would be greatly appreciated. --Steven
A: Besides being ubiquitous (in spite of Cuba Gooding Jr. signaling them as outgoing a while back), a flat cap vs. Chicago winter is the equivalent of scissors vs. rock. Same with a fedora.
Q: My wife and I have a disagreement. We joined a "walk for charity" the other day. Most of the men were wearing ankle socks with their tennis shoes. I have always preferred the calf-high athletic sock pushed down just slightly to give it a disheveled look whenever I run or work out. My wife is trying to tell me that the calf high sock is out of style and the ankle sock is the new style. I think ankle socks are for women tennis players. While a real man wears calf-high athletic socks. Will you please set her straight? --Eamon
A: Congratulations, Eamon, on being a lot less wrong than your wife. We see where you're going with the artfully disheveled tube sock look, but would like it better if they've got a stripe or two, as worn by male tennis players. As for your wife's current thinking on men's socks, ankle socks suck. They offer none of the disheveled/vintage benefits of quarter or crew-length, and leave tan lines that trash the exposed ankle look.
Q: So I've got a work boat cruise party coming up in the middle of October (I live in Virginia). I'm at a loss of what to wear. I'm starting with a pair of AG's, a nice pair of not too pointed/not too square black Clarks loafers I'm at a loss of how to be bastardly magnificent at this point. I've got the Carolina Blue Gingham Shirt, but I'm wondering if maybe a solid shirt/tie and a simple blazer might knock it out of the park. It's easy to put in barely any effort to stand out style wise with engineers, but really looking to set myself apart. Thanks!!! --Wade
A: We're on record advocating for gingham as a year-round pattern, so definitely wear that shirt.
If you really want to hit it out of the park -- essentially becoming your office's Mr. October -- pair it with a brown corduroy blazer, like this one from Banana ($198), or this one from J. Crew ($138), or if you're flush this one by Etro ($990). It's the cocktailing equivalent of mixing ginger into bourbon lemonade; you're hitting the appropriate fall notes while your shirt and leisure activity read summer (and you can wear that blazer for the next 5 months).
Suddenly we're very thirsty.
UPDATE: The J. Crew version is now on sale for $99, $109 for Tall.
Q: What is the rule with wearing white after Labor Day? I have heard a bunch of different rules and wanted to get the official MB stance on this. I live in the south and we can have warm weather all the way though October so I didnt know if I had to go ahead and hang up all my white attire (linen pants, dress shorts, loafers, etc) till memorial day or not? Thanks. --Zack
Q: The Memorial-Day-to-Labor-Day thing is an antiquated sartorial rule, like a hat requirement when when standing in an unemployment line. Even up here in Wisconsin we've adopted a May-Day-to-end-of-MLB-regular-season rule. If you live in the south, extend that to the end of the World Series. But please think twice about those linen pants.
Q: I've been struggling with finding a good umbrella -- all of mine are hugely logoed. Where does an MB get his umbrellas? --Albert
A: Albert, legible clothing is one thing. Legible umbrellas are quite another. Even when paired with golf spikes, this is a look to avoid unless you've got a paying sponsor.
When it comes to umbrellas it's important to buy one made in England, and not merely to satisfy the MB principle of Anglophilia. Besides soccer, James Bond, and the flush toilet, the British also invented rain.
If you're flush (with cash) then there's really only one option: A Swaine Adeney Brigg umbrella, preferably covered in coated silk and handled with horn from a deer or buffalo. Just don't leave this behind in a taxi. A tiny notch down from Brigg is James Smith & Sons, who've been making umbrellas for 180 years. Their solid stick umbrellas are essentially bespoke, handmade and measured and cut according to your height. Finally there's this Paul Smith stripe umbrella which, while not made or horn or silk, folds into something you can slip into your bag and doesn't cost more than the per-capita income of Burundi.
Q: I'm starting a new school year on Tuesday and want to know: what does an MB teacher wear? --Eric
A: As is often the case, movies hold the answer. You want to set yourself apart from the Phys. Ed. teacher, but not go too dressy in the direction of Mr. Hand or Ben Stein's famed economics teacher; it's a slippery slope towards administration, or Looking Like Principal Richard Vernon.
While this was the least believable movie role since Denise Richards played a nuclear physicist in The World is Not Enough, Bradley Cooper's artfully disheveled prep-school teacher in The Hangover strikes a fine balance: vest (one size smaller than normal), sleeve-rolled chambray work shirt, undone repp tie, accessorized with a vintage watch in a black nylon band.
Q: I'm a 6' 3" fellow with long arms and a long torso. I've been looking around for some casual button downs to wear untucked but all of the ones that I've found, the sleeves have been at least an inch too short. I wear slim-fit shirts and, short of ordering custom tailored and rolling up every button down shirt I own, where would you suggest I purchase shirts that are both casual and not too expensive? --Jacob
A: Jacob, we're in the same boat and know exactly what you mean. Why don't shirtmakers make off-the-rack garments for tall, sinewy lads like us? It's discriminatory!
If you can't be bothered going the custom shirt route (see our feature on custom shirts), we've found a shirtmaker that meets your needs, with the possible exception of price: Philadelphia-based Commonwealth Proper makes just 20 copies of each shirt (in the USA) and releases a few new versions each month. Their large will fit you like a glove, but don't just take our word for it. You can find out for yourself with a free home try-on by emailing your address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What are your thoughts on Indochino? They have some pretty inexpensive suits, but they look rather, well, cheap. MB or not worth my time? --Bryce
A: We want to do a custom suit feature this fall, and hope Indochino participates so we can answer your question in great detail. Their suits range in price from $329 to $449. For that price you cannot expect Kiton. (If any readers are in the custom suit-making business, drop us a line if you're interested in participating in the feature.)
Where we're from, white sneakers are on about the same wearing calendar as white pants -- Pulaski road slush really does a number on them -- which means the weather almost always calls for exposed ankles with this shoe-pant combo. But don't spare the socks. Even encased in stylish Japanese sneakers, feet without socks stink worse than Van Halen without David Lee Roth.
We've worn these for years and therefore highly recommend Banana Republic no-show loafer socks. They're now discounted so if you buy 3 or more pair they're just $5.43 each. (Choose white for this use, of course.) Another option (that we haven't tried) is young entrepreneur Philip Bunting's Mocc Sock & Co.'s version (pictured), which also come in gray and are only slightly more expensive than BR.
Q: What does an MB wear to an early September (over 100 degrees) afternoon football game at the alma mater? --Claxton
A: Even in cooler Big Ten climes, afternoon September football games against the likes of Austin Peay are best enjoyed at a bar near the stadium, rather than squeezed in with 80,000 sticky, sweaty Badger fans.
If the ticket's already purchased, follow our advice already given to Los Angeles Lakers fans: look like a fan without really trying. This means shorts, shoes/sandals, and a t-shirt/SS you'd feel comfortable wearing to a non-gameday BBQ, with only a subtle hint of your team loyalties. In other words, somewhere in between the plastic flip-flop, team jersey, backward ballcap-wearing undergraduate throngs, and the legible grey-haired alum with the world's worst sunburn.
Q: This is a question for Spectacular Bitch, but since she's making us wait, like, forever ... I'd like your opinion on what to wear to Lambeau on Thursday night. I'll be in a suite with business partners so a cheese bra is out of the question. Please advise. --Kelly
A: In lieu of the cheese bra (save that for November 7th against Dallas, when we'll be there) here's an effortless, SB-appropriate outfit for a cool August night:
Q: Let's talk about Bastardic pockets/pocket gear. Am I correct in the belief that inside an MB's pockets there should only be a minimalistic non-George Costanza wallet, a maximum of 2 keys with no obtrusive keyring and a cellphone? Keys and wallet on the left, phone on the right and party in the middle. Oh, and a mini Altoids tin in the coin pocket of your jeans, as this eliminates that offensive sound of announcing your arrival by walking. I have this Dopp wallet which I think is MB...your thoughts? --Robert
A: We've previously endorsed minimal, non-George Costanza wallets. Specifically, the MAKR CARRY GOODS "One" ($60) made from free-range cattle each given a loving pat on the head before being shipped to slaughter, and Malcolm Fontier's polyurethane "Mojito" ($29) for more highly evolved types.
While Dopp certainly has a pedigree -- German immigrant Charles Doppelt invented the toiletry case in 1919 -- a magnet seems like an especially bad materials choice for a money clip. Besides potentially demagnetizing something like a room key, the clip's effectivness diminishes in proportion to the more cash an MB is carrying.
Anyhow, the answer is "neither." Even if the longer dress was made with printed shamrocks, flowers are best when used in combination with vases. And while we strongly endorse black mini dresses, they're for the club, not a wedding. Instead, wear something that hits right around the knee, like this silk "Lorelei" dress (but go ahead and get the mini dress too).
Q: What are your thoughts on tie clips? I've noticed some articles on ties and suits and thought maybe I skimmed over something on tie clips. I have a wedding coming up and will be sporting a 2 button, single vented, dark grey, slim fitting suit with white/charcoal edged cotton pocket square, purple checked shirt and a solid lavender tie. Will a well placed silver tie clip make the outfit complete? --Mike (MB in training)
Besides strongly recommending a plain white pocket square, we'd pass on the tie clip. Like fused collars, collar stays, creased pants, starch, and excessive hair gelling, tie clips contribute to a too neat, too calculated, too TTH look. We call for freedom for ties! To dangle asymmetrically, to catch a little gust of wind, to do their part contributing to the aesthetic goal of artful dishevelment.
Q: When you finally get the Toolbag Fantasy League section of this site up and running, I call dibs on The Food Network's Guy Fieri. He is clearly the anchor for a championship caliber squad. I happened to flip past him on television last night and the guy is not missing a single facet of toolbagism. I of course am operating under the assumption that he had a cell phone belt holster hiding underneath his size XXL bowling style shirt with flames printed on it. Watch out fellow Fantasy Toolbag Leaguers, I plan on hoisting the silverware at the end of the season. --Steven
What's your take on Toy Watch? I'm feeling quite tempted to buy myself one but there's a little voice of doubt inside myself telling me to stay away... --CD
A: Listen to that little voice, CD, because it's noticed that Toy Watch -- which look like a Rolex humped a Swatch -- was once sold at Barney's and Bergdorf Goodman, and is now available at Sears. These were watches of the moment, and that moment happened three years ago.
Q: I recently upgraded the desk in my den to a nice hardwood number and realized something while pouring myself a congratulatory drink - I need coasters. A lot has been said about what to drink and when, but what do you put them on? Stone? Wood? Plain glass-sized napkins? --Adam
A: Adam, the principle of organic materials extends beyond your wardrobe to your home, too, and that definitely includes your choice in coasters. Stone surely qualifies, as does wood, but wood on wood is too matchy-matchy; and cloth napkins, while requiring laundering (and folding), are a tad too tea party.
No, this is your den, your man cave. It's the place where you pay the bills, watch sports, and gaze up at shelves filled with books you haven't read. You need a coaster worthy of your exclusive one-man club, so go for something vintage, hopefully with a few dings, and clearly one of a kind, like this sterling silver version by S. Kirk & Son, a Baltimore silversmith that dates its beginning to 1815.
Q: My husband and I are visiting NYC this summer and have reservations at an upscale restaurant that requires jackets for men. What jackets/blazers do you recommend that can be worn with non-jeans without looking like a total toolbag? --Melissa
If you do decide to venture out, we hear what you're saying about matching blazers with non-denim. While nearly 100% of blazers go with blue jeans, the success rate with trousers is no better than 10%. Unless they're white. White pants are nearly denim's blazer-matching equivalent, so rather than go shopping for a new blazer, find him a great pair of white pants (and they're all on sale now).
Q: Considering Ginch Gonch. How much fun can underwear be? --Eric
A: We don't remember wearing underwear this brightly colored (or legible) since 1st grade, when we didn't have much say in the matter. With names like "Thick n' Meaty," "London Ballin'," "Mighty Muscle," and "Tiger's Wood," we get the strong sense the GG marketing department may be overcompensating for something. However, we'd definitely consider the bacon sleep pants because everyone knows that everything -- including sleep pants -- is better with bacon.
A: Slub is a thick, irregular place in yarn or fabric, and definitely adheres to the MB principles of artful dishevelment and none-too-neat. Unfortunately everyone has jumped on the slub bandwagon -- we've even seen it on MLB attire -- so it's headed post-peak and suspect savvy designers will completely abandon it for 2011. If you own it, wear it now while you still can.
Q: Do you have any recommendations for sandals that do not have a strap shoved between my big and second toe? I know it's a hang-up of mine, but the feeling of having the strap tug up between those two toes is too much like having underwear run up my butt crack. In other words, do you have a good "commando" sandal suggestion? --Richard
A: We don't have the same hang-up as you, and we've never had underwear run up our butt crack, but if you're feeling that thong sandals are too much like a capital "T" Thong, then definitely leave those to the fairer sex.
Q: Hello! I'm sending my mother and father to the San Francisco Opera for Wagner's Ring Cycle and it has been formally requested that all men wear tuxedos to opening night. This has sent us on a search for the perfect tuxedo. Now, we already know that you recommend a double-vented jacket for maximum bastardliness, but on the matter of the pants: pleated or plain? Thanks so much for your magnificence! --Amanda-Louise
A: In Apocalypse Now Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore had his boys play Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries because "it scares the hell out of the slopes!," but it shouldn't scare your father from flat front trousers. Middle age is no excuse for pleats. Like smoking grass leads to heroin addiction, they're gateway attire to sweatpants, followed closely by full-on tracksuits.
A: We addressed this in early spring as the fad was emerging, in a Steve McQueen-Erkel side-by-side. As with most novelties to sweep the streets of Manhattan, we don't get it. Yeah, exposed ankles can be a very good thing, but pants rolling effectively shortens your legs, making you appear, uh, shorter. It's too bad 7' 7" Manute Bol recently died; he was a perfect pant-rolling candidate! Finally, the fact that the craze was popularized by the shrunken, man-shrinking designer Thom Browne really seals the deal. Our advice: Wait this one out (it won't be long).
Q: I have a couple of polo shirts that have gotten lines in the collars from lots of wear. I iron them, but it doesn't seem to remove the whole line. Is there any way remove/prevent this from happening? --Tom
A: Tom, do you realize J. Crew has an entire division of fabric engineers dedicated to creating ersatz collar lines, and they still have not duplicated what you've achieved naturally via hundreds of wash cycles? Accept and embrace these lines, and most importantly, like tax returns, leave all ironing to professionals.
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Q: Today I was at the mall and saw that American Eagle Outfitters is having a $5 graphic tees sale. I love graphic tees, can sport a patriotic look, and the fact that I tend to spend more on a Five Guys hamburger isn't off-putting. What do you think? --Mike
Q: I've been rambling through the web for months now hoping I could find a name and model of the black horn-rimmed glasses the late wonderful Mr. Cary Grant wore. They were so plain yet held their own level of style among the simplicity. What can you all tell me? --T.R.
To our eye, Roccos look not so much like glasses as the theatrical prop version of glasses -- glasses that even the folks in the last aisle of the balcony can see. This isn't to say we don't like them -- just that the degree of difficulty in pulling them off is high. Unless your face is a leading man type itself, they will steal the scene from it every time. And who wants to be upstaged by their glasses?
Q: I read Class which you suggested and it was a great book. It opened my eyes to what class is. Now everywhere I go I am sizing things up. Any more books your protégés should read? --Vik
Q: Love your site! Do you have some reading suggestions? You already mentioned Fussell's Class, which I agree is just hilarious. As a backgrounder for that I'd suggest Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class. Looking forward to any other recommendations. --Jochen
A: These are two of about a half-dozen emails we've received regarding a recommended reading list. While there's only one Class, here are a few other MB-endorsed books you can get through by Labor Day:
Q: MB, what are your thoughts on airplane attire? Comfortable is a plus, but of course it must be bastardly enough to defy the disturing trend of pajama wearers who have inundated our nation's skies. --Stephen
A: We agree, today's fliers look like they're ready to either a.) attend a slumber party, or b.) run the 100 meter hurdles. Millions of Americans in tracksuits is probably not the outcome Osama bin Laden had in mind, but in the War on Style, the terrorists have won.
Just a couple of simple rules here: 1.) Wear pants that don't require a belt (no drawstrings or elastic allowed), and 2.) Wear a pair of shoes you can easily slip on and off, like these John Varvatos canvas slip-on loafers or for something more casual, Sperry slip-ons, or Vans.
Q: What does MB think of David Beckham and Fabio Capello's Umbro suits for the 2010 World Cup? Is this a winning look? --Brennan
A: Nicely proportioned lapel, two button front, four button (which we presume to be functioning) cuffs, double rear vents in the traditional British style, and a three-lion crest. If you can excuse the creases in the pants, there is a lot to like here -- but unfortunately FIFA doesn't award any points for the amount of fearsome wildlife on your breast pocket.
With England currently 0-0-2, with just one goal to its credit, and unlikely to make it out of the weak Group C, the suits are looking a little TTH, like Beckham and Capello spent more time preparing their wardrobe than their team.
Q: Great posts about biking. However, and I feel stupid for asking, my GF loves to Rollerblade. Is this an activity I can enjoy with her without looking like a total toolbag? --Jared
A: Jared, watch this instructional Rollerblade video for ten seconds -- no, make that two seconds -- and the answer should be clear. In addition, we encourage you to read our extremely effective dating and relationship guide: separate interests. Okay, now re-read it, memorize it, and put it into action. When she goes Rollerblading, go play golf. When she's at yoga, take a nap. When she's gardening, pop a beer and watch The Big Game*. To paraphrase the Roman poet Sextus Propertius, the less time you spend together, the longer you'll stay together.
Q: I think every Puma sport fashion shoe you guys post sells out pretty quickly. I'm looking for an all around black shoe to wear to work or out with friends. How does this one work for an MB in training? --Justin
A: If this came in a matte black version, or a matte anything version, we'd enthusiastically recommend it. But unless you're at a wedding, patent leather has no place in your wardrobe. It violates the key MB matte vs. gloss principle, and would be too much for using it the way you've described (unless you work as a wedding planner, or crash a lot of weddings with your friends).
Q: Been looking at Biased Cut ever since you posted the Custom Shirt Reviews. What do you recommend as far as collars? I like the look of the spread collar as it seems more modern. Did you order any spread collared shirts? --Mark
A: No, we didn't order any spread collar shirts for a couple of reasons:
2. 95 out of 100 guys look better with a point-style collar. It's similar to striped shirts, with point collars equalling vertical stripes and spread collars equalling horizontal stripes. If you're the rare man who needs his face fattened, a spread collar can work. If you're not, point collars are a much better bet.
If you don't have enough hair for Mother Nature to style, we recommend the sort of low-profile, long-billed cap that Ernest Hemingway used to favor (top). Quaker Marine has been making them since 1948. Their Original Swordfish model will give you the protection from the sun you need while steering you clear of captain's hats, which have been relegated to the style brig for decades now due to their popularity amongst 1970s-era nautical toolbags and screw-ups.
Q: Year long reader here. Thanks for all the tips. On to my question: What is up with www.wowcool.org? Prada sneakers for $40 with free shipping? True Religion jeans for $40.00? What gives? Usually when things are too good to be true they usually are. I know that you probably don't want to give this site any exposure by posting this on your blog but maybe you could e-mail me personally? --Nick
A: Wowcool.org is a Chinese site that sells counterfeit products. If you don't mind wearing clunky $40 Praba sneakers, this is the place to find them. If a company can't even manufacture a decent logo in Photoshop, do you really want to trust them to manufacture a pair of shoes?
Q: I am starting my internship this summer. What dress shirt colors do you recommend? And what type of patterns are acceptable and go well with which color? --Garvin
A: Garvin, it's sounds like you're not only new to the world of work, but maybe also new to the world of getting dressed. So we recommend that you keep things simple. Get a white shirt and a blue shirt. Either will go with any suit, tie, or pants you own.
If you're looking for specific recommendations, check out our custom shirt feature. While Chicago's Deo Veritas made our favorite shirt in Carolina Blue Gingham, don't venture into checks until you land a job. We've gotten great reader feedback on Biased Cut shirts and they make a basic white and basic blue. Theirs was the best-fitting shirt of the ones we reviewed, and they'll even send you a complimentary measuring tape if you don't have one to take your measurements. Just be sure you're OK with the central back pleat (which we like), and request a non-fused collar with 1/4" stitching.
Q: I'm going to a large picnic out of town and want to look my sharpest. I just bought a pair of blue and white seersucker slacks and a very sharp pair of navy suede loafers with a brass buckle on them. What I was wondering is, what kind of shirt should I wear to complete my summer themed look? --T.R.
A: T.R., the pants and the shoes aren't having an argument, but they're definitely carrying on a rather loud conversation. In this case the role of the shirt is to observe, quietly. Wear a simple white sport shirt with this outfit, like this slim-fit Theory option. The fabric's subtle lustre offers the desired texture contrast to the puckery seersucker and nappy suede.
A couple of other strong suggestions while you're on the line:
1. One way to make seersucker less Gregory Peck and more 21st century MB is to remove the crease. Assuming they're flat front (and they really need to be), simply staple a "no crease" note to a belt loop for the cleaner.
Q: I was just thinking about how Bryan Ferry hasn't ever popped up on this site (at least that I can remember)...I think he deserves a little more recognition than he gets for a few reasons:
1. His music is some of the best made in the 80s. Particularly with Roxy Music. Contemporary at the time but still classic despite the normal pitfalls of the era (very "80s" production, dependence on models gracing the album covers).
2. Impeccable style. Look at literally ANY photo of him. Perfectly rolled sleeves, check. Askew bowtie or loose necktie, check. Commitment to a classic hairstyle for 40 years, check.
3. Dated Amanda Lear, Jerry Hall (BEFORE Mick Jagger), married Lucy Helmore...
4. He's British.
Basically what we're talking about here is the Bond of Rock'n'roll. --Carter
A: We like the idea of a "Bond of rock 'n' roll" and appreciate the case you make for Ferry. There is, however, the little matter of this photo from 1972, which clearly suggests the influence he would eventually have on cultural icons as diverse as Wild at Heart-era Nic Cage, Ed Grimley, and Siegfried & Roy. That's a tough legacy to overcome, and to be honest, while we know he played a crucial role in synth-pop's evolution as aural tranquilizer, Avalon never made us feel all that comfortably numb. While a better candidate for the Bond of rock 'n' roll doesn't immediately come to mind, we're abstaining from voting for now.
Q: You seem to really like the aviator style for sunglasses. Do you consider them MB for eyeglasses as well? --John
A: Aviator frames without tinted lenses are like non-alcoholic beer or vegetarian Beefaroni -- they're missing the thing that makes the thing the thing! To illustrate our point, look at Bradley Cooper in tinted aviators (top) and GQ Style Editor Jim Moore in aviators with clear lenses. The former displays classic MB style. The latter, as we've observed in the past, looks like our high school algebra teacher. If you want to stay on the winning side of this equation, leave the clear aviators to Moore and Lumberg, mmm'kay?
Q: I recently picked up a silver Clint Orms "Trophy" buckle on vacation out west. In a room of Texan high-rollers you could call it understated, but I'm not sure how to pull it off in NYC without looking like a confused cowboy. Any suggestions? --Charles
A: Charles, we applaud your decision to get a Clint Orms trophy buckle. For those unfamiliar with Orms, he's a Texas-based silversmith and engraver known for his meticulously crafted belt buckles that along with silver incorporate gold, rubies, diamonds, sapphires, and emeralds. A single buckle may be constructed from as many as 200 different pieces, take 200 hours to make, and cost upwards of $20,000.
Always remember, though, that while a belt buckle in it simplest form is functional, a belt buckle that costs more than $20 is essentially male jewelry, and male jewelry involving precious metals and stones is typically an express train to Toolbagville. So restraint is crucial. Orms clearly gets this -- even at their most ornate, his trophy buckles display a sense of lavish understatement (see example, pictured).
The key to wearing them in NYC is to keep that principle in mind. First, we'd recommend going with a matte black/brown leather belt rather than lizard, alligator, or anything else with a lot of shine or texture. Second, keep everything else simple too: Unadulterated denim, canvas sneakers or sandals, and a well-worn tee or polo can work with an Orms trophy buckle. Never wear it with a suit. Never wear it with a shirt that has pearl snap buttons or Western-style stitching. Never wear it with a cowboy hat, a lariat, or cowboy boots -- which should be pretty easy since you should never wear a cowboy hat, a lariat, or cowboy boots in NYC anyhow.
Q: When (if ever) is it acceptable to wear boots during summer? I'm getting tired of sneakers and flip flops already and it's only May. By the way, I live in Atlanta so it's damn near 100 degrees already with humidity through the roof. Boots just seem like TTH in the summer...what's the ruling? --Cody
A: You've heard of desert boots, no? In the desert, it's always summer, at least when it isn't freezing. What we're saying is, sure, wear boots. Nothing higher than your ankle, and nothing an Eskimo would consider practical. Not long ago, we told our readers to stick with the classic desert boots -- Clarks. They're the boots that British officers wore in WWII while fighting tank battles with Rommel in the North African desert in June of 1942. The action was so hot there that the battle was dubbed "the Cauldron." But let's face it -- taking Panzer fire from Nazis in the dry wastelands of Libya in mid-summer is one thing, but Atlanta humidity is another thing entirely. So if you're looking for something a little lighter than suede, try these J. Crew MacAlister boots, which approximate the look of the Clarks originals but are constructed out of cotton twill.
Q: I am going to a polo event on June 12th. I have not been to one. What to wear? Obviously weather plays a part in this, so let's assume it is 90 + degrees and sunny. I would love the detail for the outfit and sunglasses (total to spend $2500.00) and I have a great watch. I am more concerned with pant, shirt, jacket, and shoes. Thanks! --JJ
A: This may be your first polo match, but that doesn't mean everyone has to know. Follow the lead of Prince Harry, who has been there before, many times over, and go casual. Based on your budget, here's some specific pieces that will make you look like carefree royalty. (Caveat: Harry gets everything right from the neck down. His Maui Jim-style sunglasses should be left to the toolbag rabble.)
Q: I've been trying to find sunglasses like the ones John Lennon wore in this photo. Any suggestions? (Feel free to comment on how great they are as well.) --Zach
A: Imagine there are no designer sunglasses, Zach. It isn't hard to do...
In such a world, even millionaire rockstars wear "P3" frames issued by the government's nationalized healthcare program. And when it's sunny out, they slap on a pair "P4" clip-ons. This, at least, is what our glasses expert tells us Lennon is doing in that pic. While we're dubious about the common-man pretensions underlying the gesture, we can't argue with the aesthetic results. Done right, eyewear layering equals artful dishevelment. The key is to make sure your glasses don't match your clip-ons too closely. If you need more inspiration, see Woody Allen circa 1968.
Q: With baseball season under way, I've been looking around to add to my collection. I love vintage, understated quality and think I've found the fit with Red Jacket. What do you think? MB or minor league? http://www.redjacketclothing.com/ --AR
Q: I have a date with Olivia Palermo (she is on MTV's the City) this Friday. Since she is so into fashion I would like some advice from the pros on what I should wear. Thanks. --Jay
A: Since Palermo has been dating model Johannes Huebl for the last couple years, you've got your work cut out for you. Huebl has the casually stylish investment banker on the weekend look mastered, so we recommend that you counterprogram with this t-shirt from Reborn Couture, which parties in the front and in the back. If you can swing it by tomorrow night, also get the arm sleeve to achieve the full effect.
Q: I've been given a very large gift certificate (which cannot be converted to cash, so don't suggest that) for basically a free pair of Allen Edmonds shoes. Suggestions? I need a pair of black shoes to wear with suits. Thanks. --Chris
A: Next time tell your grandfather to just give you cash. But it's late spring and we're thirsty so let's turn lemons into lemonade.
If your gift certificate is indeed very large then this Cordovan blucher (in the more matte Black Shell, top) is the best shoe AE sells and will last a lifetime. For a slightly less generous gift, the best option is definitely the McAllister. These are classic, understated wing tips that have stood the test of time (first introduced in 1956). In our college days, we never got any gift certificates so had to make do with raiding dad's closet for the merlot version, which can be paired with denim or khaki and exposed ankles to great effect.
Q: Dear MB: WTF? I bet James Bond never biked to work. Why don't you get back to doing what you do best, for example by telling me whether an MB can or should wear a blue seersucker jacket, and if so, with what pants. --Julian
A: We've seen all the movies -- in somecases dozens of times -- and don't recall any scenes where 007 is rolling along at 5 MPH for 30 minutes behind some toolbag in an Escalade with a "Freedom Isn't Free" bumper sticker. There's nothing magnificent about enduring traffic jams twice a day, which is why we endorse bike commuting in many situations.
Regarding the seersucker, if your blazer is cut more like J. Crew instead of J. Press, it would look great with denim, especially white. 'Tis the season.
Q: I'm looking for an MB watch that won't break the bank (I've got about $300 to spend). Show me what you got. --Gerard
A: Browse through our watch channel and you'll notice we're partial to military/military-inspired watches. They're simple, understated, affordable, proportional to most wrist sizes, and go with just about everything.
Our all-time favorite watch in this style is the Ollech & Wajs Kartargo ($399). If you can swing the extra $99 this is a fantastic watch. If not, look at this WWII vintage O & W with the Swiss ETA-2801 movement ($248). The automatic version is sold out and production of it has stopped. This manual version is still available in limited quantities. It requires daily winding but that's part of its charm. If you like what you see, act sooner rather than later, as it will sell out eventually too. With the spare change you can buy a strap or two, perhaps the the gray and black stripe "Bond strap" worn by Connery (with a Rolex Submariner) in Goldfinger.
Q: What do you think about cashmere pants for my girlfriend? What about for myself? --Kel
Loose-lipped hotel workers in Hawaii recently blabbed to the Daily Star that George Clooney won't go anywhere without his cashmere "security blanket." Say what you will about the fact that a 48-year-old man has a special blanket. George Clooney is one of the few people on earth who can get whatever he wants, whenever he wants it, and apparently what he wants is cashmere. If that's not an endorsement for the world's best fabric, we don't know what is.
We think cashmere should be a year-round part of everyone's wardrobe. So get your girl those pants. And get some for yourself while you're at it. But don't actually wear them until at least October. In the summer months, you want to limit your cashmere usage to blankets, lightweight sweaters, and golf club headcovers.
Q: Those Faded Glory sneakers you linked to today are ugly, if you're looking for plimsolls grab a couple from Urban Outfitters. Thirty dollars for two pairs isn't bad. --Nick
A: We are aware of the UO plimsolls, which we agree are cheap at $30 for two pairs. But our initial correspondent mentioned that plimsolls are widely available in his native England at only 5 quid -- or about U.S. $7.50 -- so we took it as a challenge to see if we could find something very close to that price here in America. At first, our theory was that Brits must provide nationalized plimsoll coverage, just like they do with their healthcare, and that there was no way we'd be able to find a pair so cheap here. Then, we spotted the Faded Glorys for $8. Score one for the free market.
But just as with the Faded Glorys, there are strings attached to these shoes that go beyond shoelaces. We mean their apparently awful stench. Here are some excerpts from UO customer reviews:
"It has a faulty smell that comes with it."
"I suggest just putting them in your basement or something for a day or two, just to deal with the smell."
"Even after they stop smelling, if you leave them on top of a shirt or something the shirt will smell like the rubber."
"The smell of the shoes when you get them is something horrid. but spray them down with axe or something and it may cover it up."
"They reeked of chemicals, and for a week they stained my socks a a light black."
"Over all, looks great--but it is not worth the headache (literally, the smell gave me headaches)."
We know there are some pretty delicate flowers who shop at UO, but we find the sheer number of comments alarming. If you have to quarantine your shoes in the basement for a week, if the smell of Axe represents a solution and not a grave problem of its own, these are warning signs. In fact, we've noticed that the models in UO catalogs are looking even paler, skinnier, and more sickly than usual, and now we think we know why.
A: Alain, what we have here is the apparel equivalent of the Leno/O'Brien late night war. A blazer is designed to be outerwear. A hoodie is designed to be outerwear. But if they're both owned by the same torso, they can't each be outerwear at the same time. In this case, we say fire them both.
Q: I like the post on the shoes, Thanks. I was wondering, though, if you knew of a place to get super cheap plimsolls? When I lived in Britain, practically every store had white plimsolls for around 5 quid. Sure, they don't last long but for a fiver you could just get a shiny new pair. All of the plimsolls I have purchased on this side of the pond were about as durable and a lot more expensive. --Ian
A: In real life, we would never recommend spending less on your shoes than we spend on socks. We would also never recommend shopping at Walmart (unless you accessorize with a Nixon mask). But this is the Internet, so here goes. You can get a pair of Faded Glory sneakers from Walmart for $8, which, at current exchange rates is about 50p over 5 quid. Be careful. A reviewer writes: "I only wish they didn't put slippery canvas fabric on the bottom....Other than that, great shoes."
Q: You've touched on various cocktails and drinks of choice for MBs everywhere, but you have yet to mention The Magnificent Bastard champagne of choice for a special night with a Spectacular Bitch. What do you guys think? --Andre
A: Andre, we've previously covered this issue with our highly scientific champagne chart, and it applies to your outing with an SB. Take note: the more she skews towards the B side of the SB spectrum, pay closer attention to the x axis of our chart.
Q: Robert Downey Jr. has been on the cover of damn near every magazine this month sporting t-shirts by Alternative Apparel: www.alternativeapparel.com. Their clothes seem to follow MB principles, but I don't want the TH (Too Hollywood) look if I pick up a few. Thoughts? --Chris
A: On the cover of the May 2010 Men's Journal he's wearing the Eco-Grey aa1973 Eco-Heather Crew, and while it's not TH, is definitely TTH with ingredient complexity exceeding that of a Slim Jim. Plus we're not crazy about that chubby ringer tee collar on a non-ringer tee. But their other options look somewhat promising in our quest for The Perfect White T-shirt, especially The Dean Slub Crew.
2.) Sneakers that you plan to wear with shorts are one item where we give more leeway than we usually do to bright colors, patterns, and logos. Don't go crazy though. If Turtle from Entourage would wear it, you've probably gone too far.
3.) Sticking with white or gray is your best bet for picking a shoe that can work with a wide variety of shorts. (Important note: If you're a size 12 or over, do not go with an all-white shoe unless you're trying to pick up work as a clown at children's birthday parties.)
4.) If you're dying to incorporate red velour into your wardrobe, a pair of sneakers is the only place to do it.
The T56s offer timeless style. Our great-great-great-great-great-grandkids will be wearing these in 2210. In 2010, they're the shoes we reach for when we know the evening's going to involve some furious table tennis action.
"Leave your socks at home," the Superga website enthuses, because the interior of the 2750 feature finished inseams. We like that touch but we're not going to go that far. For all summer sneaker-wearing we recommend the Banana Republic no-show socks.
Williot is a Spanish brand that made its debut in the U.S. market last summer. If you want to look sporty but not athletic -- i.e., you aren't planning to do anything more strenuous than mixing cocktails by the pool -- these are a great choice.
Why are we recommending these Chuck clones and not the real thing? Thanks to the hidden Air Nike technology hidden in the heel, they're one of the few Chuck-style shoes that you can play basketball in and not sentence your feet to a lifetime of Bill Walton-like pain. When your day involves anything more strenuous than a J. Crew photo shoot, wear these.
Designer Seishi Tanaka hand-draws the sketches for the TST line and it shows. This model leans toward the more athletic end of the athleisure shoe spectrum -- we think we could actually play some touch football in it -- but it has an organic quality not found in the hyper-engineered footwear of, say, Nike or Reebok.
If you want to add a Gallic touch to your Fourth of July barbecue, try these sneakers from Jean Paul Gaultier's shoe line, Pataugas. (You can pick up last year's slightly different model at yoox.com for only $89.)
Q: We can all agree Wayfarers have peaked in popularity and aren't even a consideration for sunglasses this summer. Aviators are timeless, but not original. What's the recommendation to separate from the Wayfaring pack and be able to say in a few summers, "I've been wearing those for years." --Sean
A: If you own any Wayfarers, send them to a needy Third World celebrity. Even in the Risky Business era we never wore 'em, and never will. Aviators, on the other hand, are like black boots: every MB should have at least one pair in his wardrobe.
But if you're wanting to be out ahead of the trend curve -- and it sounds like you do -- put tinted lenses in a pair of horn-rimmed eyeglasses. Done most famously by Cary Grant in North By Northwest more than 50 years ago, and restared 5 years ago by Johnny Depp with his pair of vintage Tart Arnels, they're trending. See Robert Downey Jr. at the Oscars (in the Oliver Peoples Sheldrake), and Bradley Cooper in The A-Team, opening next month (in the Allyn Scura Legend). But skip the blue lenses for brown or green. They're TH (Too Hollywood), or just plain TTH.
But there are some good shorts out there, or at least one pair. We love the color, texture, and inseam length of these Obey Whalers, and we're pretty sure our tailor will be happy to excise the overly wordy logo tag for a six-pack of Schlitz. $58. (They fit true to size.)
We will address the footwear part of your question next week.
Q: I just bought an iPad and yeah it's smaller than my laptop but the only way I'm going to fit into my pocket is if I start wearing overalls all the time and that's not a commitment I'm ready to make. So please point me to something I can carry it around in that isn't going to look too much like a murse. --Dave
A: Dave, we actually prefer the overalls over the iPad, but it sounds like you're pleased with your purchase and spending most of your time playing iPad Scrabble. Otherwise, you'd know about Temple Bags' leather iPad case ($189), widely heralded on that outdated medium known as the web and currently available here.
Q: I love my girlfriend and everything she does or wears is sexy and beautiful. Except for one thing, she plucks her eyebrows so thin it makes her look like a surprised doll. I wish she would grow them out naturally, but I have no idea how to tell her -- plus I don't think an MB would ever try to correct his girl's appearance. But the eyebrows are making me crazy -- I was even thinking of taking her camping for three weeks just to force them out. What can I do?
A: Lee, first off, thanks for entrusting us with your love life -- we are always surprised at how few people seem to think a men's style website is the most appropriate venue for solving tricky relationship problems.
In any case, our first thought is that we generally prefer cat-like women: graceful, inscrutable, with fastidious grooming habits. But we agree that plucked, or at least overplucked, eyebrows take fastidious grooming one step too far.
So here's what we suggest you do. Casually browse through one of your girlfriend's old photo albums, tell her how cute she looks, etc. When you find a photo from her pre-plucking years, ramp up the praise even more: "Oh my God, look at you. Those eyebrows. You look like Brooke Shields!" Don't overdo it or she'll get suspicious. Just the one comment and move on to some other subject. Now, the seed has been planted. If your girlfriend fails to take action, that's a clear sign she'd prefer to look like Divine than Brooke Shields. In which case you have our deepest sympathies.
Q: Indochino, whom you reviewed in your Custom Shirt Reviews feature, just launched a line of made-to-measure linen suits called the Linen Collection. They claim that "the words sharp and crisp are new adjectives to associate with the fair weather suiting staple renowned for wrinkles. But we've found the perfect sturdy linen, still lightweight and soft, that maintains professional standards throughout the day with a blend of silk for sheen and tight weaves for structure." Worth a look or too good to be true? --Pete
A: Pete, given our own experiences with linen, we think it's probably easier to discover a cure for cancer than it is to create "sharp and crisp" linen. On the other hand, we live in a miraculous age. We would've never bet that our top scientists could create a wrinkle-free Joan Rivers, and yet look at her. She's sharp and crisp, with a nice silky sheen that's totally appropriate for fair weather suiting. So maybe Indochino has pulled off something similar. If they have, we applaud them -- and hope they start in on cancer soon.
Q: Looks like Kenneth Cole finally checked out your shoe pointiness chart. What do you think of these and what would you recommend in a basic black everyday dress shoe? --Matt
A: Kenneth Cole has definitely taken a roundover bit to a lot of his footwear, but he's still missing the MB mark by a mile. These are too shiny and too clunky for you to wear, Matt. One of our favorite pair of black everyday dress shoes is the discontined Camper Dni, now available only at a German web site Herren Ausstattler for €145. Our freshman German is a little rusty, so we're not even sure if they ship to the U.S. If they don't we recommend these Prada leather loafers. Yeah, they're $460, but trust us that you'll love them, and for an everyday shoe you love, and look this good, $460 is a value. And Saks will throw in free shipping with code SHIPFREE2!
Q: What's up with Warby Parker? There has been lots of love for them in a few big name fashion magazines, and after crunching my last pair of glasses on a treadmill I'm looking for a cheaper alternative to some of the $250 designer frames at Lenscrafters. Trust me, I felt it in my wallet when the pair or Burberrys I was wearing went underfoot. Anyway to the point, are they MB? Are they quality? Is it a better option than Lenscrafters? --Dennis
A: Dennis, we were tipped off to Warby Parker last month and remain intrigued. Deadstock from Allyn Scura is still our recommendation. Why get vintage-inspired when you can have real vintage? But WP's "home try-on" is irresistable: They'll send you up to five pairs of glasses for a week with a pre-paid return shipping label. Give it a shot and let us know what you think.
Q: With spring well underway, it seems an appropriate to engage in the time-honored game of "ID the sunglasses" -- Jon Hamm sports these, in my opinion, to great effect. They seem to offer the wearer UV protection along with hiding a gentleman's lusty glances from pesky wives or mistresses who may be lurking around. What are they, and are my MB instincts correct? --Andrew
A: Don Draper's sunglasses are Randolph Engineering aviators, of course, and have made numerous appearances on the big screen, too, most famously on Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) in Taxi Driver and Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall) in Apocalypse Now. Most of Mad Men style is on the wrong side of the trend curve, but Randolph aviators are as timeless as daytime drinking and womanizing. Get 'em here.
Q: I'm in between jobs right now, so I've been taking time to work out and run every day. With the weather warming up I've been wondering if it's okay to jog shirtless yet. How warm does it have to be, or how in shape must I be, to justify this? --Mike
A: Mike, you should never jog shirtless. If you have some extra chub, shirtless jogging is a violation of common courtesy -- no one should be subjected to seeing all that giggle while they're taking their dog for a walk.
On the other hand, even if you look like The Situation on steroids (yes, we know that's probably redundant), shirtless jogging is a violation of the MB principle of understatement. We recommend a simple, logo-less tank-top, preferably nothing synthetic or resembling that of a true professional.
Q: I never watch Dancing With the Stars, but last night as I walked by the TV, I saw an interesting shirt being worn on the show. I was wondering what kind it is. I believe it's got a henley collar, but it looks like a dress shirt otherwise. What is it? and what are the MB's thoughts on it? --Scott
A: Scott, your experience shows why it's a good idea to simply turn off your TV at least fifteen minutes before Dancing With the Stars starts airing. It couldn't hurt to actually pull your TV's plug from the outlet too.
Can you see where we're going with this? In 2007, we noted Banana Republic's efforts to push receding collars on the world, and predicted this trend's dreaded end-point: the dress henley. We were joking, because the idea of a dress shirt with no collar at all -- a completely bald dress shirt -- is not just aesthetically bad but also an affront to logic. How can a dress shirt be a dress shirt if it lacks the infrastructure to support a tie?
Never underestimate the power of an awful idea. Three years later, we've got dress henleys. The signature shirt of soap opera stars who cry when getting eliminated from reality dancing shows. Avoid.
Q: This J. Crew cotton suit.
Can I wear that with a blue gingham shirt, or are the subtle stripes going to give me problems? Also, brown loafers and a gray flannel tie. --Jason
A: Yes you can. Just make sure the check on the gingham is 3/16" at an absolute minumum, and even a little bigger would be better to further quiet the suit's stripes. The shirt is the star of this show. Save the flannel tie for pairing with a fine-whale corduroy suit this fall. Instead try a gray knit or linen-cotton blend; either will provide the texture you're looking for.
A: Tonio, you definitely did not make a mistake. But even at more than twice the price, don't dismiss that Ruby. It's limited edition (100), by being covered in tweed makes for desirably nubby fall/winter head protection, and it's unlikely Lagerfeld will be kissing it while you're tooling around the Marais.
Q: I have purchased the ingredients to make a Magnificent Bastard, but confused about the instructions requiring a mixing glass filled with ice. Why do you mix in an ice-filled glass, then move it to another ice filled glass? --Greg
A: Greg, you say you bought the booze an MB requires, so we're assuming that you're 21 or older -- but are you new to cocktails?
We're talking about a glass shaker here, not any old glass. As The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks author David Embury explains, metal is a better conductor of heat than glass, so you will drink less diluted cocktails if you use a glass shaker.
Q: I'm going to be getting a scooter soon, hopefully. It'll be a four stroke Stella from Genuine Scooters -- retro sexy and good for the environment. My question is, what kind of helmet should I get? I definitely don't want something full face covering. I was looking at Davida's "Classic" helmet line, but those are not approved for driving on US roads apparently. But what else could match a ride this amazing?
A: Nice choice, Mark. That Stella is so well-designed (especially if you are getting it in green) that we can totally forgive its practicality and environmental friendliness (and the fact that Genuine Scooters refers to green as "avocado"). You are headed in the right direction on helmet choice too. Ultimately, you're piloting a scooter, not a rocket ship, so the less helmet, the better. That's why we like the Bell Bandito. It's simple, streamlined, and it will let you feel the wind against your face and your ears.
Why are Earth's polo shirt logos morphing into giant mutant cartoons? Am I in any danger? --Owen
Owen, we assume you're talking about Lacoste's oversized reptiles and Ralph Lauren's iconic equestrian, which in recent years has grown bigger than most real-life jockeys.
In the case of Lacoste, as long you don't mind looking like the world's biggest three-year-old, there is no real danger. Ralph Lauren, on the other hand, has essentially created the preppy version of Ed Hardy shirts with his Big Pony and Rugby lines. If you ask us, one giant logo per polo shirt is one too many. Clutter things up with stripes, patches, flags, and other Anglophilic flair (TTH edition) and you've got a look that shouts "Muffy says no penilingus unless we rent in Sagaponack, but my heart is at the Jersey Shore." Keep your distance from these things -- second-hand toolbagism is a very real possibility.
A: This season J. Crew doubled down on gingham shirts, with loads of casual options to choose from for $59.50. And nice. For $25 more -- still less than typical custom shirt prices -- we definitely recommend looking at the Deo Veritas gingham (pictured). It's custom made to your measurements and collar/cuff/pocket/placket specifications, and by choosing the sewn (vs. fused) collar you're getting a dress shirt that can moonlight as a first-rate casual shirt.
Ed. note: For gingham enthusiasts with thicker wallets than Mark, check out Alexander West (and see our review, too). No fewer than 18 different ginghams to choose from, and if you ask nicely, CEO/founder Alex Yoo will make your shirt with a sewn collar, and you can choose the thickness of the interlining.
Q: No comments about Tiger's Nike sunglasses at the Masters? I hope they enhanced his game, because they did nothing for his already lacking MB-ness. --Nate
We know Woods spent the last few months in sex rehab, but based on his appearance at the Masters, we're wondering about the cure. To our eye, it looks like his therapists have simply stuck a pair of super-dark blind-guy glasses on him in the hope that they will prevent him from spotting trashy blonde blabbermouths in the gallery. And fed him a lot of donuts. On the bright side, he's wearing a collared shirt. And every day you can stay off the mock turtlenecks is a good day.
Q: I am moving into the city (Washington DC) and am looking for a bike to get to and from work and around the city in general. I found Bowery Lane Bicycles (http://www.bowerylanebicycles.com/). What do you think, do they make the MB grade? --Spencer
A: Spencer, we are intrigued by these bikes, especially given their price. A handmade steel frame by an American builder for less than $1000 is virtually unheard of. A complete bike with a handmade steel frame, for just $695, almost sounds too good to be true. Granted, Bowery Lane is not making these things in custom sizes (which is one reason handmade frames tend to cost as much as they do), but we'd still want to look at them in person before recommending them. (While we might endorse, say, a cashmere sweater without ever laying hands on it, we’re not depending on a cashmere sweater to keep us relatively safe in the midst of rush-hour traffic.)
That said, we like the idea that you can get something that echoes the style of a Pashley Guv'nor or a Retrovelo at a price that won't leave you reluctant to let it out of your sight. We're not crazy about the old-timey names and imagery on the web site, but we do like the visible brazing and clear-coated steel tubes of the Broncks Raw -- it's basically the artfully dishevelled version of a bike. It's at least worth a test ride.
Q: I've got a school reunion this coming weekend. +25 years on. I'm not holding out any hope of this being any good at all but what should I wear? Should I go '80s ironic with the old school tie or just go MB? --Matt
A: Wait, going MB is your backup plan to wearing a tie that you've been mothballing since the Reagan administration? Unless your real name is Angus Young, this makes no sense whatsoever. Vintage neckwear or not, you and your classmates will all start to behave exactly like your old school selves within fifteen minutes anyway -- so you might as well look like an accomplished adult for at least fifteen minutes, right?
I am a large fan of your well placed words of wisdom, and I'd like to pick your mind momentarily and add to a question that was recently asked of you pertaining to suits with sneakers. On March 18th, John Stewart of The Daily Showwas revealed to be wearing white deck shoes with his ensemble. I thought he rocked it, but I decided to seek sounder minds. What do you think? --Colin
A: Colin, If you're going to wear white sneakers with a suit, don't grab one from Jon Stewart's closet. The suit he's wearing is too dark, too baggy, and too Men's Wearhouse Business Generic to combine with anything but black Florsheims, and white sneakers are a particularly bad choice for it. At first we thought he was wearing socks.
If you want to combine white sneakers with a suit, follow Will Arnett's lead and choose something casual, fitted, and not too dark.
UPDATE: Many readers have written in to inform us that the sneakers Jon Stewart are wearing are essentially part of a Glenn Beck costume and thus worn in the name of comedy. Our knowledge of Beck and his typical shoewear choices is limited, but if he is in the habit of pairing baggy navy suits with sneakers so white it looks like he's been standing in a vat of vanilla ice cream all morning, then our criticisms of Stewart may be applied to Beck instead.
Q: As light jacket season is upon us in the Midwest I have seen several poorly plagiarized examples of the classic British Harrington jacket. I was hoping you could say a few words about the merits of purchasing the genuine article: the Baracuta G9 Harrington (preferably slim fit). Unlike many readers of this fine blog, I do not need to ask whether this is MB, as it simply is. But I think it is important to highlight a company that still makes many of its garments in England and has never strayed from its core business. This classic will never go out of style. --Steven
A: Steven, not much to add here, except that Steve McQueen is combining Persols with his Baracuta. No doubt one of the "poorly plagiarized" examples you mention refers to the $109 L.L. Bean "Signature" Canvas Jacket we recommended to our dads a couple of weeks ago. (Hey, their 401Ks are in the tank.)
Q: You guys give great advice on style, however I have a question on a different kind of style. Office style, as in decorating your office so it is sufficiently MB. I got a new job recently and need to make my cube mine (cube is not MB I'm sure, but I'm early in my career). I have a good hookup on Mulholland Brothers items, so I'm thinking of putting a few of their products in to get away from the grey. Any suggestions? --Chase
Chase, Mulholland Brothers makes nice stuff, and unless it's nailed down it's going to fly out of the office faster than yellow highlighters and Swingline staplers. And you don't really want to be known as the guy who locks up his change base every night, do you?
We're no experts on cube customization, but our instinct is to un-customize it as much as possible -- no photos, no calendars, no nothing. The message you want to send is that you're not staying long.
Q: MB: I'm distinctly lacking in the "sweet hat" department of my wardrobe, and have always been a fan of fedoras. Unfortunately, I'm a poor-as-dirt college student, and the Eugenia Kim beaver fedora you recommended at one point, as much as I like it, totals to about a third of my monthly budget. Got any cheaper alternatives that get the MB stamp of approval for an aspiring MB on a (tight) budget? --Tom
A: Unless you're attending the University of Antarctica, you are not going to want that Eugenia Kim hat this time of year anyway. Seasonally inappropriate. The calendar dictates embracing fedoras made of cooling, breathable straw, and the principle of artful dishevelment dictates choosing one that may actually look better if, say, Laetitia Casta accidentally sat on it for a moment. You want something with a little give.
From most to least expensive, here are four really good options.
In the latest Details, they endorse the "popover," aka a dress shirt will a polo-like button collar instead of a full button front. I quote: "An oxford with half the buttons, it's pulled together but casual. The best part: You never have to tuck it in." I am thinking probably not but wanted to get a second opinion. Your verdict? --Greg
A: If you are a railroad conductor on a train that maintains a semi-formal dress code and can't find a job anywhere else, okay. Otherwise, no. They look like night-shirts to us, plus they wreak havoc on the natural shirt-making eco-system. Button-makers have kids to feed too!
Q: Summer is coming around and out here in the desert (Phoenix, AZ), it gets pretty hot. Especially when standing in the sun. In hopes of staying as cool as possible, I'm looking at buying a Panama hat. They are a classic and seem suitable for desert wear during the summer. --LT
A: This hat was invented in Ecuador which, as you might suspect, is at the equator. For every degree one travels either N or S latitude from 0° -- up to 30° max -- the less it works.
Sean Connery definitely rocks the Panama in that ubiquitous Louis Vuitton ad, primarily because a.) he's Sean Connery, and b.) it was shot in the Bahamas (24°). So stick to the 30° degree rule, unless you wake up one day and find that you have somehow turned into a pimp from the 1970s.
Q: Can you identify these sunglasses worn by Johnny Depp in the movie Blow? I've not been able to find any leads. Thanks. --Rick
A: There were a handful of companies that marketed this aluminum frame in the '70s. The ones Depp is wearing are called the "Fast Back." They were pre-fabricated sunglasses with not very good lenses. As you can kind-of see (bottom pic), there are no openings in the frames to install a lens (typically metal frames open somewhere and are reattached with a screw). Replacing these lenses require what's called "cold popping," i.e., it's forced in. It may be OK for a sunglass non-corrective lens but may be tricky to "cold pop" certain Rx lenses.
If you'd like to buy a pair, our friends at allyn scura are ready to take your order.
Q: Looks like ol' Leon Leonwood Bean has teamed up with Alex Carleton, a designer with an MB-endorsed pedigree, and launched the new L.L. Bean Signature line today. I'm sure you've seen the hype in the magazines and on the world wide internerd as nothing seems to escape your discriminating gaze. Here is my two parter. 1) Is the L.L. Bean signature line bastardly, magnificent, or both in any way, shape, or form? 2) If so which pieces should an aspiring MB spring for? --Bub
A: Bub, in form, the Signature line certainly represents a departure from L.L. Bean's traditional products, which generally feature the tailored fit of a dropcloth.
Indeed, our dads, who are the only people we know who shop at L.L. Bean, are going to have to go on a diet. Signature features fitted shirts and low-rise pants, and frankly, if you've seen our dads, you know that's not going to work unless they drop a few pounds. They're going to look great in the Canvas Jacket, but we're going to pass ourselves. We prefer Carleton's work when he's not being haunted by the ghost of mail order past.
Q: What are the MB's thoughts on parke and ronen swimwear? Now that summer is quickly approaching I'm looking for new poolside/lakeside options. --Kyle
A: Parke and Ronen swimwear is only recommended if you've spent the winter doing crunches and dining on steamed steroids. But if you can wear them and still look straight, every woman within eyeshot will be easy prey.
Q: Sneakers with suit...what's the MB take? I know the Prada sport line is great as are most Sabelt, but what about Adidas Samba or similar? --Brooke
A: Great question. The closer you get to a footwear brand's "originals" the harder it is to pull off (and risk looking like you're TTH). Lots of guys can wear Puma Sport Fashion with a cool, casual suit. But are you up to combining that suit with Puma Suedes?
In the May 2009 GQ Will Arnett clearly made classic Adidas Rod Lavers work with a $100 cotton H&M suit (left). The comparatively schlubby Jason Segel did the same with Chuck Taylors on the red carpet in 2008's Forgetting Sarah Marshall (right). So what can be learned?
* Only attempt with slimmer, casual suits
* Wear flat front, and preferably un-creased pants
* Pair with a polo or artfully disheveled woven
* Occasionally do a little dancing and hand gesturing
Thanks for the tip on How to Make it in America, I'm really enjoying it. Any idea where to find a jacket similar to the grey one Ben wears in the first episode? --Sean S.
A: The tip on HTMIIA came from fellow reader Sean Z. The jacket you refer to has a very Varvatos-esque vibe, and he showed up in Episode 2. It will be tough to find anything in herringbone tweed this time of year, but if you're looking for a similar silhouette for spring and have a grand, try this John Varvatos convertible jacket. Neiman Marcus will even throw in free shipping.
Q: Man, I'm looking at that magnificent bastardly (bastardly magnificent?) banner, and I just don't get it. What is that woman doing? Why is that man touching his crotch? Where can I get that coat he's wearing? And why is that dog staring into my soul? It doesn't make any sense. --Michael
A: Answers: a.) The woman is trying to seduce the MB, albeit unsuccessfully; b.) He is holding a drink; c.) Burberry, Spring 2007; d.) We asked the dog, but so far she's mum.
Q: Being a younger MB in training (think college) whenever I'm around my mom she bitches about how wrinkled my shirts are, no matter how pressed they are. Now, please don't mock me too much for mommy problems, but I want your take. Are wrinkles ever appropriate? --Tyler
Do you think Rose Kennedy got on John's case for wearing this shirt on the beaches of Hyannis Port? Unlikely, probably because a.) she had like 7 or 8 other kids to deal with, and b.) JFK knew to enough to tell his maid to pull that woven out of the dryer right before the timer ended, easily achieving the precise amount and depth of rumple.
Q: I am about to purchase this J. Peterman bag on sale at $298. Do you think it looks MB? It's the 1928 Air Corps Briefcase? --Andre
A: In the old days, briefcases were basically desks that you carried around on a leash, and there was a genuine need for all their various compartments, straps, buckles, and such. Now? There's no reason for all that stuff -- they're Snuggies for your laptop. While we typically endorse a senseless lack of utility here, that's not quite the same thing as decor posing as functionality. Unless you're an archaelogist moonlighting as an office supplies salesperson, we say go with something simpler and definitely less shiny, like this messenger bag by John Varvatos.
Q: What should I wear to a wedding? I don't want to do the classic black dinner suit and white shirt. I'm partnered to a new GF and want to impress everyone there. --Jason
A: Jason, we understand and applaud your desire to set yourself apart from the pack. At the same time, you don't want to be the person who shows up at someone else's wedding determined to be the center of attention -- someone's crazy drunken aunt will be there to fulfill that function. Thus, we recommend a simple, expertly tailored charcoal suit. Indochino's made-to-measure Essential Charcoal Suit is definitely worth a look and it's just $349.
If you're a little more flush, we are really liking Brooklyn Tailors' bespoke charcoal suit, handmade by artisans in New York, NY. It costs $975, but its genuine horsehair construction and custom fit should see you through weddings, job interviews, and, when that sad day finally arrives, your own funeral. (Not to get too maudlin here -- we're just saying this thing is built to last and will still look great in, say, 2070.)
Q: I need your help with the issue of cuffed/rolled up jeans. I see it around a lot and admit to liking the look. Is it MB? If so, what type of jeans are ideal? How wide of a cuff? A single roll or two? --Jeff
A: Unless you're flying through the air on a motorcycle at at least 70 MPH, cuffing can be extremely dangerous. Thus, we pretty much only do it when it's at least 70 degrees outside and we're within walking distance of a major body of water.
Q: Hey guys: I am really liking the Allyn Scura site a lot - thanks for the tip about the Apollos. Could you give a recommondation about a style and color/colors that you like in the sunglass section?
Love the site. --Tim
A: Tim, without knowing a little more about your style, it's a little like asking us what kind of car to buy. However, one thing even capitalists and communists can agree on: A pair of tortoiseshell sunglasses with a nice, substantial frame never go out of style. And Allyn Scura has a pair that can make you look like a Greek shipping magnate without having to divert too many funds from your socialized healthcare program. They're $40.
(From top: Aristotle Onassis, Fidel Castro, Sant'Angelo II 907.)
Q: I'm a college student and am moving into a house with 4 roommates June. We like to think we're a bastardly bunch. As we approach the move in painting the interior to fit our MB lifestyle has come up as topic of discussion. What colors would your recommend painting the house in order to have people walk in and say to themselves "These boys have class"? Please help. --Thoroughly Perplexed
A: Walls: Benjamin Moore Regal Latex. White N221 01. Matte finish (even in baths and kitchen).
Trim: Benjamin Moore Satin Impervo Alkyd Low Lustre Enamel. White C235 01.
Topic: MB approved bags for bicycling. According to my girlfriend all backpacks are nerdy though they are ok for actual backpacking. So I'm looking for a magnificent, somewhat practical and non-bikecourierlooking bike bag... Any tips?
Greetings from snow buried Estonia,
A: Hello Siim,
While many cyclists prefer to let their bikes carry the load, we have no problem throwing on a backpack when doing our part to save the environment from one more godawful Prius. We also favor a traditional backpack design over a messenger bag. Minimalism has its place, but not when our latissimus dorsi is involved, and two straps are better than one.
That said, the most comfortable backpacks tend to involve a little too much cordura and Oakleyesque styling for our liking -- we prefer the more archaic approach of this Pendleton/Opening Ceremony bag, which, while lacking the padding of some more contemporary designs, completely alleviates the psychological pain that comes with knowing you have chosen to sacrifice style for comfort. No one will ever accuse you of that while wearing this.
In the event that you are looking for a one-strap solution, we recommend the Minnehaha Canvas Shoulder Bag. Made of natural materials, designed by people who ride bikes in the snow; we think it will look great in Estonia.
Q: Lands' End has started a line called Canvas, and it looks like they're trying to corner the more bastardly market. What do you think - are they TTH? --Jordan
A: Thanks for the tip, Jordan. We took a look, and while inexpensive, any reasonable person would agree Canvas all looks a little too Lands' End-y. Except for the chino blazer, which is sticking out like a stylish, artfully disheveled sore thumb. 2 buttons, shirt shoulder, patch pockets, functional buttonholes, machine washable, and $69.50. If it's anywhere near what it looks like on paper, we'll get one in khaki and navy.
UPDATE: The blazer shown has 3 buttons, not 2 as described on the Lands' End web site. The sleeves are also the equivalent of a S. If you are a R or L, they will be too short. This was a return.
Q: What's MB's stance on chest hair grooming? Obviously a shaved chest is unacceptable but chest hair run rampant seems less than magnificent. I tend to trim mine short using a buzzer but this seems like the most favorable alternative to an unbecoming chest. Any suggestions would be appreciated. --Brandon
A: Not to hedge, but this all depends on the amount and type of chest hair growth. The 40 Year-Old Virgin clearly needed to "wax that Teen Wolf thing right out," as his pal Jay rightly put it. Besides wearing film's best-looking suit, Cary Grant also sports one of film's best-looking, artfully disheveled chests in North by Northwest. (Incidentally, he's 55 years old in this picture.) If you just have a few unsightly stragglers poking out from around your nipples, go for the laser. It hurts like wax but after a few treatments they're gone forever, and you're ready for a Dolce & Gabbana shoot.
Q: Shockingly you have never mentioned anything about your stance on earrings. I wear a very small silver hoop in my left ear and I consider myself to be moderately MB. My hot PhD wife certainly finds it sexy. What do you think? --Mark
A: Sorry, Mark, here at Magnificent Bastard we think of earrings, even relatively understated ones like you describe, as a gateway drug to a spot on the next season of Jersey Shore. First comes the hoop earring, next comes Pauly D's blowout hairstyle.
Q: I am making a transition in my career to the position of a restaurant manager. I find myself wondering what my options are for shoes with rubber soles that look sharp, last a long time, and won't break my heart, or the bank, if they have food or drink spilled on them. Keeping in mind that I'll be on my feet for upwards of 10 hours a day, what do you recommend? --Wasabi Chimp
A: WC, you are asking us to be really practical, and we hate being practical. However, if we ever find ourselves dining in the restaurant you manage, we don't want you spitting in our food. So here goes: Cole Haan Air Obori Oxfords. They're almost as sleek as a pair of Tods, we suspect they're just as comfortable as Crocs (though we'll never actually try on a pair of Crocs to test this theory), they have rubber soles per your request, and they're on sale at Amazon for only $99.
A: The Canadians are as good at outerwear as they are at hockey. Er, they're really good at outerwear!
Canada Goose is great as long as you choose wisely. Because their stuff is engineered for arctic conditions, it can quickly make you look like the Michelin Man. Also be wary of the logo patch, which especially if you're the gentle, caring type, will quickly have people mistaking you for a volunteer waterfowl rescuer.
Our favorite from last season was the Calgary, but good luck finding one.
Q: I was shopping around in Toronto recently, and as I was looking around for a new set of jeans I stumbled upon Naked and Famous jeans (http://www.nakedandfamousdenim.com/). I really liked the quality feel, and the basic appearance, but they do seem to have a thing for skinnier fits. The jeans are made in an old-style denim machine, and are made out of fine Japanese denim. I thought they seemed MB-esque. What do you think? --Matt
A: There is definitely a lot to like about Naked and Famous. Like you say, they're made from quality materials, they're cleanly designed, and one version even contains 8% cashmere (and an MB can never be ensconced in too much cashmere). It's the fits we have a problem with. Perhaps they just need taller models, but the Slim Guy is unflattering (top), and The Skinny Guy should just be left to The Skinny Girl (bottom).
Q: Where does gardening fall on the scale of magnificent bastardom? Specifically, the desire to dig in dirt, tend, watch, and enjoy growing your own fruits and vegetables and the occasional flowering plant (and yes, even more butch plants like arbor vitae). --Andy
A: Gardening has some theoretical virtues. The English love it, it involves primarily natural materials, it presupposes land ownership. But we have trouble getting past the clogs, which are basically Crocs for land-lubbers. And our manicurist, who is frankly a bit of an underachiever, hates it when we come in with dirt under our fingernails. Thus we prefer agriculture on a larger, noisier scale -- anything, in short, that gives us a chance to operate a chainsaw, threshing machine, or drag harrow.
But knowing linen's terrible tendency to wrinkle (these are 53% linen) I'm prevented from clicking the buy button for fear of looking like I've cruelly robbed the trousers straight off the legs of a style-conscious hobo.
No less a figure than H.P. Lovecraft is reputed to have discovered a long forgotten fabric treatment that prevented linen from wrinkling, however the side-effects were horrendous...
So, failing the precise execution of a Lovecraftian material trans-mutation ceremony enacted in the tomb of an Egyptian Pharaoh; 53% linen fabric OK, or not OK? --Tadgh
A: Despite our extreme prejudice against 100% linen, linen blends can work. In general, we prefer that whatever material the linen is being blended with retain at least a 51% ownership stake, so you're tempting fate with those particular pants. But if you're feeling lucky, go for it.
Q: I'm headed to the beaches of Mexico and my wife has put her foot down on knee length surfer-dude shorts. I'm in reasonable shape for a 40 year old but I'm not quite ready to don the James Bond short shorts. What do you recommend in a mid-thigh model? --Matt
A: Anglophilia definitely has its limits, especially as the inseam approaches zero (top). While at the other end of the inseam spectrum, we're with your wife about not looking like The Situation and Pauly D. (Note to The Situation: give the biceps a rest and work those anemic calves.)
If an MB is in reasonable shape, even at your advanced age, our general rule is to go with the shortest inseam you can wear with confidence. With the right cut they're not only comfy but allow room for a few extra cervezas -- and they put you many miles away from Jersey Shore. Our perennial favorite is Penguin, like this 5" inseam caviar/light blue "Mr. Splash" option that gives a nod, however slight, to Mr. Bond.
Note: Original Penguin is one of the brands on sale at Giltman.com today. We consider this a sign.
Q: Aspiring to become MB in all aspects of conduct, I have formulated a question for you: What is the proper way to cross your legs out in public? Ankle on knee, leg over knee, or no cross at all? Thanks! --Ryan
A: Ryan, there is no single correct answer to this. Mark Twain was a leg-over-knee man. James Dean never crossed. Both were magnificent sitters!
We recommend that you adopt whatever position you personally find most comfortable. When you're most at ease, you're most likely to project an air of natural, casual confidence, and that's what you're after. If you do end up doing some variation on crossing, though, make sure whatever socks you're wearing cost at least as much as a neat measure of single malt. And take a yoga class every now and then.
Q: Hey - my girlfriend's birthday is coming up and I'm a pretty cheap bastard. How much should I shell out for a handbag and how do I know (other than asking her friends) which one is appropriate/good - as they all the mid-range bags look pretty tacky to me. --Hamish
A: Hamish, you sound pretty committed to the notion that you're a cheap bastard, so it's probably best to find out sooner rather than later if your girlfriend is equally at ease with this fact. Test her out with this Hollywood Intuition bag from Target, designed by Jane Hersh, who owns celeb-fave Intuition in LA. It's $27.
Q: I just got a wallet by MAKR carry goods. Originally recommended by GQ. Are these MB? They fit most criteria: obscure (though not so much now that they've been featured by GQ), made of natural materials, exclusive (they're made by hand in very limited numbers, and currently they're is a many month wait for any of their limited collection), have no visible labels, and they're largely impractical as they're too small to carry more than three cards and an I.D. The only thing they're missing is a pedigree. --Ben
A: Ben, your instincts are good. MAKR is new to us, but we love what we see. Their "minimal" line is where we've ended up after years of carrying wallets. Try it and you won't go back. What do you really need? We'll tell you: your driver's license, one credit card, cash. Why ruin the clean lines of your AG jeans with proof of insurance and a Ralphs value club card?
(Note: For you highly evolved types who think a cow's natural purpose in life does not involve being turned into hamburgers and menswear accessories, try Malcolm Fontier's excellent polyurethane Mojito with two pockets, one for cards, the other for cash. $25.)
Q: I know it's totally un-MB of me to decide to get married, but I am wondering what is the most MB wedding ring for a guy to wear. I see so many of these thick tungsten bands around that look like a washer from a car or something. What is an MB to do? --Alex
Q: Are Stacy Adams Madison shoes sufficiently MB? They are the nicest, hardest wearing $100 shoes I can find. --Brian
A: These shoes have a very devoted following, and those customers young enough to use a computer rate them very highly at zappos.com. But they're the Ford Taurus of dress shoes. I.e., no one's ever going to look twice in a bad way if you're wearing them. But no one's going to look twice in a good way either.
Q: I was looking for a place to buy a pair of sunglasses like the ones that the character Tony D'Annunzio from Caddyshack wears to the pool. I saw you put them as an example in one of your answers but I can't seem to find where I could buy a pair, or something like them and I was wondering if you knew of a place? --James
A: Was Tony D'Annunzio The Situation before The Situation?
We cannot determine the exact make or model of D'Annunzio's sunglasses. (If you know, let us know.) The closest we think you're going to get -- and it's pretty close -- is vintage I Ski reflectors like the ones 44 is wearing (inset) before he turned into the most powerful toolbag on earth. These always turn up on eBay or vintage eyewear sites.
Q: My boss turned me on to a suit company called Astor and Black. They make custom tailored clothing to meet any specs you could ever want. A tailor supposedly can come to your home or office and measure you up, have you choose the style and fabric of the suit you would like and in 6 to 7 weeks your custom suit arrives. The best part is the price. I was quoted $2200 for 3 suits and 6 shirts, all made to measure. Am I missing something? Why has no one else stubled upon this? --Greg
A: Greg, we're not familiar with Astor and Black, but have undertaken the task of reviewing about 7 or 8 online custom shirtmakers, so look for that feature later in February. In the meantime, rather than wed Astor and Black in a boss-arranged marriage, first take it on a date and try out a shirt before committing to a complete wardrobe.
Q: Should an aspiring MB apply the polo shirt N-2 buttoning policy to sport shirts? Should one ever wear such a shirt with only the very top button unbuttoned, or would this be an example of toolbaggery? --Russell
A: Unfortunately that simple formula does not apply to sport shirts because there are other factors at work, like button spacing, collar shape and size, and abundance (or, preferably, absence) of chest hair. In other words, it depends.
But to illustrate where we lean, take a look at a TBT (Typical Bravo Toolbag) at the top with two unbuttoned, and MB icon Paul Newman in a western -- a shirt almost demanding N-2 -- with just the top button unbuttoned.
Q: MB. Emergency. I've been watching the price on an Michael Bastian Winter 2008 NWT Orange w/corduroy detail ski jacket/vest. Cool or uncool? $400 including shipping? Pull the trigger? Product is modeled on the Bastian website, FYI. --Paul
A: We love just about every stitch of clothing Michael Bastian has created since launching his line two years ago. The only problem is his ridiculous pricing. Dude, you're not Tom Ford!
The ski jacket's original price was $1685 -- for that, we think a pair of Rossignols and a season pass at Vail should be included. But at $400, we bless this purchase decision. You get a cool jacket and a cool vest, so it's like getting 2 for 1 (OK, maybe 1.4 for 1, 1.5 tops).
Q: How does an MB wear his ID badge at work? None of the options (lanyard, clip-on, stapled to the forehead, etc.) seem particularly magnificent or bastardly....and certainly not both together. Any suggestions? --Mickey
A: Our primary suggestion is to not have a job where an ID badge is required. A well-endowed trust fund is another good option. But sometimes you gotta feed the monkey, which is where a reinterpretation of the classic luggage tag comes in. On sale right now at giltman.com is this Jack Spade boar skin version for just $18. Sale ends tonight at 11PM CT.
(Again, if you'd like an invitation to Gilt Man -- currently our favorite shopping site -- drop a line.)
Q: Is "dressy casual" a girlie thing? I'm having a film premiere and want to put something on the invitation to indicate some level of expectation for the guests. It's not a formal event, but I don't want people showing up in work jeans and Uggs. --Sam
A: Sam, you're not going to like our answer but we're strongly opposed to any invitation with sartorial guidelines that don't include both the words "black" and "tie," especially something as oxymoronic as "dressy casual." (To our ear, "dressy casual" is a dangerous invitation to popped collars and banana-colored capri pants -- not to mention coral sneakers and mom's leggings -- and should be avoided at all costs.)
MBs don't concern themselves with what their guests wear, rather, important things within their control, like whether or not they ordered enough booze. We'll be looking for our invite, and we like Dewar's.
Q: I'm definitely on board with tucking in your sport shirts (I don't like Bravo, either). But I've been wearing sport shirts under sweaters a lot recently, and was wondering about the protocol on the sport shirt underneath. Tucked or not? --Christopher
A: First of all, we love Bravo, just not the guys who give the dudes on Jersey Shore a run for their toolbaggery.
Second, the tuck rule still applies for shirts underneath a sweater. I.e., if your shirt is designed to be untucked, go for it; if it's designed to be tucked, tuck it. This way you'll achieve the desired artfully disheveled shirt-barely-peeking-out look as demonstrated here by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer.
Ed. note:(500) Days of Summer is the best romantic comedy we've seen since Annie Hall. OK, maybe it's the only romantic comedy we've seen since Annie Hall. Anyhow, the only thing better than the flick (just by a whisker) is the soundtrack that includes tunes from The Smiths, Hall and Oates, and Spectacular Bitch par excellence Carla Bruni.
Q: What's the difference between artful dishevelment and not trying? I can't seem to get the technique down, because I either end up looking like a slob or I'm trying too hard. Please enlighten me, MB. --Mike
A: Mike, for questions like these, Nick Nolte usually has the answers.
Q: A few years ago I bought a tuxedo shirt for my wedding, with the plan of wearing it as a casual "going out" shirt after our nuptials . After 4 years, I've yet to put it in play. I seemed to remember a time when wearing said shirt was alright to do with a pair of jeans. Was I dreaming? Is this something Ii should only wear if I renew my vows.....or get remarried? --Brian
A: This is not the easiest thing to execute, but definitely doable. However, Brian, in your case, the fact that the shirt has hung in your closet for four years is definitely telling you something: Listen! Either: a.) Do as you suggest and wait until your next marriage. The seven year itch is only three short years away. Or b.) Donate it to either your wife or mistress. Women can look great in them.
Q: While I feel confident that I have successfully managed the unfavorable hand of genetic hair-loss with a close cut; and despite a having solid hat collection, every winter I pine for the many benefits of a full head of hair. With that in mind, what's the MB stance on seeking hair-replacement treatments? --Joe
A: Joe, don't cut it too close (see an earlier post on the matter). It's easy for us to sit here with hair up the wazoo and tell you to work with what the good Lord gave ya, but that's exactly what we're going to do. Hair replacement/transplants run into the many thousands of dollars and they're a crap shoot. For that kind of bread you can upgrade your hat collection with this ultra-toasty shaved beaver model (now on sale for $290) and have wads of cash left over for penis enlargement pills.
Q: I see I am not the only one to take interest in your header. While the lovely lady was also what I noticed first, I had another thought: what are the best breeds of dog for a MB? --Jon
A: Like many other things, Anglophilia is at the heart of the answer, as is Paul Fussell's must-read 1983 classic Class. While MB-dom and class is not a 1:1 correlation we think his observations on dogs are quite astute:
They are classier the more they allude to nonutilitarian hunting, and thus to England. The top dogs consequently are Labradors, golden retrievers, corgis, King Charles spaniels, and Afghan hounds. To be upper-class you should have a lot of them, and they should be named after the costliest liquors, like Brandy and Whiskey. The middle class goes in for Scotties and Irish setters, often giving them Scottish or Irish names, although it reserves "Sean" (sometimes spelled "Shawn" to make sure everyone gets it) for its own human issue. Proles, for their part, like breeds that can be conceived to furnish "protection": Doberman pinschers, German shepherds, or pit bulls. Or breeds useful in utilitarian outdoor pursuits, like beagles. The thinness of dogs is often a sign of their social class. "Upper-class dogs." says Jilly Cooper, "have only one meal a day and are therefore quite thin, like their owners."
Q: In the header photo, what's in the cocktail glass the MB is holding, and how many did the lady by the loading dock have? --Jeff
A: The MB is drinking Dewar's neat. There was no ice available on the set, but we consume it this way often anyhow. In fact, if we were stranded on a desert island (or maybe an island off the coast of Scotland) with a single spirit, it would be Dewar's, not just for its flavor, but for its versatility.
The woman in the pic came to the shoot straight (as far as we know) though a belt or two wouldn't have hurt for the header photos you are about to see.
Ed. note: If you are a woman reading this and have an interest in appearing in an upcoming MB.com header photo, drop us a line.
Q: Is gingham acceptable outside of spring/summer? If not, is there an equally awesome winter-based pattern? --Foreign Dignitary
A: This answer is definitely not by the book, but we endorse all manner of gingham year-round, partly because it is so awesome. It takes a certain attitude and confidence to pull it off, but the rewards are great. If the idea of wearing a large-check purple gingham shirt in the middle of January -- even under a cashmere sweater -- sounds a bit too adventurous, you can take a safer path and seasonalize it by choosing black and navy and brown for fall/winter (J.Crew is showing some coolwashed options), and save the pink and red and yellow versions until you see the first robin (that usually happens in early April here in Wisconsin).
Q: I am looking at having my first custom suit made. Considering that this will be my ONLY suit, what qualities should I look for in colour, fabric & design? I'll be wearing it to weddings, job interviews, etc. --Sean
A: For the man who only needs or wants or can afford a single suit, this is the suit to own:
Color and Fabric: Charcoal gray, in a four season wool from a top-notch textile maker like Loro Piana.
Jacket: Moderate width notch lapel. Two buttons. Top welt and front flap welt pockets. Given your Queen's English spelling of "colour," go with double back vents. (Yanks can go single vent.) Functional four-button cuffs. Light/non-existent shoulder padding.
Pants: Flat front, straight leg cut. Tab waist with zip closure. On seam front pockets, back welt pockets. No cuff.
This is a suit for a decade, at least. Let us know how it turns out.
Q: I'm looking for some new jeans, what can you tell me about PRPS, and are they really worth the money? --Chris
A: We like PRPS denim, but we're not so crazy about the brand's pursuit of "authenticity" by torturing a perfectly good pair of jeans until they look just like a 25-year-old pair of Wranglers worn by an overworked house-painter with a second-rate washing machine. We think it's fine to spend $300 - $400 on a pair of jeans, but only if that price doesn't stop you from doing things you'd do if you were wearing a pair of 501s. They're jeans, after all, not limited edition art objects.
If you like their fit -- and fit is everything with denim -- get something like the dark wash selvedge and start making your own holes.
Q: Any tips for a camel hair coat (tan?) for winter wear? I'm looking for an alternative to urban-type coats and would like something more classic. Or is it too old-fogey classic?! --Gerald
A: We checked traditionalist sites Ralph Lauren, Pendleton, Brooks Brothers, and J. Press, and couldn't find a single camel hair coat. Gerald, this is a sign, either to abandon the idea or double down with this $2300 trench from J. L. Powell (originally $4950).
Q: This is my first time on this website, and I love it! OK. I'm thinking of getting a tattoo, it's a tribal star (5 tips), actually I have made up my mind on getting the tattoo and the design I just can't make up my mind on where to get it. I'm thinking either on the left side of my chest (under my amrpit) or on the inside of my bicep. I really don't want it to show, but which is more MB? Thanks a million. --Othman
A: We think the best place to get a tattoo is jail. As long as your record is clean, we encourage you to keep your chest and biceps clean too.
Q: MB Gods, my question is about sunglasses, specifically color. What's your stance on white sunglasses on men? I occasionally see them on pro snowboarders or surfers and they seem to pull it off but the guys I see on the streets in white shades are always toolbag-ish. Partly because they are either Oakleys, really big frames, or both. But mainly because, well...they're white! So white shades: Mag-Bastardly or Toolbaggy? --Kasper
A: Neither MB or TB, more like TTH. The fictional character Max Headroom was able to pull them off, as did Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, but he also successfully wore girls' cardigans, fingernail polish, and even made suicide seem cool. Similar to our answer to a question about pulling off a white blazer, if you have to ask, don't try.
Q: I've noticed that certain combinations of shoes and pants lack the seamless blending/transition at the overlap, such as flare pants with skinny width shoes. Are there any tips to get the right balance? See Exhibit A (top) and B (bottom). --Mike
A: It's only January 7th but we're pretty sure this will be the most astute observation made all year. Well done.
While our answer should probably take the form of a pseudo-scientific chart, the only tip or guide you need is to follow the architectural principle of proportion. Or, why wearing narrow-outsole sneakers (like a Puma Roma) with bootcut denim feels totally weird.
Similarly, a jacket's lapels and tie should be of like widths. A big part of the problem with the skinny trend (RIP) was the poor bastards who merely dipped their toe in and bought a skinny tie to wear with a traditional-width lapel suit. Like so many breast enlargement surgeries, it looks wrong, and there's a reason why.
Q: As a top-flight plain clothes supervisor in a major southern police department, this question must be asked: Holster on the belt or go with the shoulder holster? I feel pretty good about my overall MB status but this one keeps me awake. I like the convenience of the belt holster but really feel like the shoulder rig is the only real MB choice for those of us in a suit. Your call - just the right call for the classic MB police style or just trying too hard (TTH)? --Ray
A: Our call is that it's the right call. The MB plain clothes cops we know -- Virgil Tibbs, Harry Callahan, Jack Cates -- all choose the shoulder holster and for good reason: it hides the pistol's bulk beneath your jacket (form), and also allows for a quick draw (function) as demonstrated by Sydney Poitier in 1970's They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!.
Q: It's getting hard to find cool sport shirts that aren't fitted or slim fit. I know what you're going to say, but they don't look good on everyone, and it would be much worse to wear a shirt that's too tight. Any solutions that don't include going to the gym? --Adam
A: Geez, based on recent questions you'd think MB was some kind of shaving and workout-crazed American version of the Taliban. No, but perhaps menswear designers are trying to tell us all something: mix in a salad!
Adam, we recommen- Put that doughnut down! We recommend looking at Polo (preferably without the player logo). Even Ralph Lauren has jumped pretty heavily onto the "slim" bandwagon, and maybe his shirts are not the kind of cool you were thinking of, but the "classic" fit and Big & Tall have always been designed with a thicker American man in mind.
About the couples you mention: Megan Fox (age 23) probably had a crush on Brian Austin Green (age 36) since she was 10 and he was on 90210. George Clooney is rich, famous, and handsome. Any one of those three is usually enough. Angelina Jolie? Ick!
Q: I've noticed you guys are down on Brooks Brothers, and I mostly agree. However, I just picked up a suit and sport coat from the Black Fleece line for 50% off and had a made to measure suit done. I picked wool from the Zegna factory and it will be constructed in the Martin Greenfield factory in Brooklyn. So, in the right setting, can Brooks Brothers be considered bastardly? --David
A: While we've poked some good-natured fun at Thom Browne, his stuff for Black Fleece the past two years is pretty good, and the quality is top-notch. Made in China, this is not. Our problem has always been the completely ridiculous pricing. Even at 50% off (as much of it is now) it's only a so-so value. If you like Black Fleece, keep your eyes on Gilt Man; they just had a sale with discounts in the 60-75% range and we expect another one fairly soon.
Ed. note: giltman.com is fast becoming a near-daily required shopping stop. If you'd like an invitation to join just drop us a line.
Q: What types of shirts and pants combinations can be paired with a black velvet blazer for a semi-formal New Year's Eve celebration? --Black
A: The shirt is easy: white, pressed, no button-down. If you have one, an evening shirt with studs would be MB. The pants? Hmmmmm ... time is short ... is there a Black Fleece-stocked Brooks Brothers near you? The blazer + the shirt + these subtle tartan pants will definitely get you more than the obligatory New Year's peck on the cheek.
Q: What's your take on "creative black tie"? I am a traditionalist, but I f#$@ing hate wearing a tuxedo. Is there an acceptable MB-worthy solution that eliminates the need to wear a tie? --Johnny C.
A: Johnny, what you call "creative black tie," we call "a slippery slope to looking like Brett Michaels."
Opting out of a tie for black tie is a high-risk proposition. Even the sartorially gifted and adventurous Adrien Brody flopped spectacularly with the open shirt/medallion look at the Oscars a couple of years ago (inset). About the only successful untied look we've seen is David Beckham in an ascot. And he's David Beckham. With Posh Spice at his side.
A tuxedo is designed to be formal and somewhat generic. So trying to get creative with it is like trying to turn a pizza into a doughnut. You can do it, but you're probably going to end up with a funny-looking doughnut. Know when to pick your spots, or in other words, follow this MB Rule: Going against the flow doesn't mean pissing against the wind.
A: Lou, even with your apparent youthful looks and strapping bod, as you can see from the chart below, you're pushing it. Not to mention, if you're going to go moto make it leather and not polyester (principle of organic matarials).
Q: Though there have been many a discussion on jeans, whether white, distressed, old or young, what is the MB's take on black jeans? Not too black, not too gray? What is the best course of action, or stay clear all together? --Todd C.
A: We're not going to tell you not to wear black jeans. But we stay clear because we only see them fully successful when worn on stage. And none of us can sing a lick.
Q: I have a job that I'm able to dress pretty casually to and therefore wear jeans a better part of the time. My question is this, if I'm wearing something like the beloved Pumas, which may be something other than black or brown, what color of sock is appropriate? I was taught to match the sock with the pant? Does this mean blue socks? And if so, where can I find a respectable pair of socks? --Dave
A: No, Dave, it does not mean blue socks. We're not really into sock-matching in trouser situations, and with denim no rules apply, except of course the immutable rule that white socks are for athletic activities (and no, Obama, it does not include throwing out the first pitch).
We've mentioned this before but we really dig Paul Smith socks. Each spring and fall he adds just the right seasonal touches with material, color, and style. Unfortunately they retail for $30/pair. A more affordable option we've been happy with is Happy Socks (pictured), available from Gent Supply Co. for $10.50.
Q: I've got a pair of super-comfy CK jeans and I've worn them so much that they've started to get holes in the knees. I've considered cutting them into shorts because it's summer in OZ. Should I? And if so, how short? --Reece
A: Whoa, mate. Rather than make a mistake that might get you on the front page of jorts.com, instead take this opportunity to begin creating some seriously cool, organically destroyed jean pants. Find a tailor with an interest in being less like a seamstress and more like a designer, and show him this picture (here is a super-big version). Get him to put the patch behind the hole and damn-near embroider on the top with a high-contrast, heavy-weight thread. Then get to work making some new holes.
(Jeans pictured owned by: Carl Chiara. Design director, Levi's Capital E and Red Collections.)
Q: I've used your shoe-pointiness graph as a guide in footwear purchases since you've published it, but it doesn't address style. How does the MB feel about wingtips? Are they an old classic or just old? --Joe
A: The highly-polished, stacked-heeled, leather-soled wingtips our grandfathers are still wearing definitely look a bit stodgy these days. And they're so noisy, like car alarms for your feet. (Don't even try to steal that Scotch, Gramps! We totally hear you!) We still like wingtips but they're a classic in desperate need of a twist, like the flat rubber-soled Guccis we endorsed a few weeks ago.
Q: Winter is upon us and I was wondering what is a MB winter coat? I'm talking for below zero, snowy conditions. I figure puffy, bubble coats and bright colored ski jackets are out. So what is a MB to do when it gets really cold and you have to go out? --Jon G.
A: Puffy coats are definitely not out. Moncler made some of the earliest versions, and the Italians deemed them worthy for the initial ascent of K2 in 1954.
However, if you don't have an extra $900-$1000 lying around we really, really like the Spiewak N3B Snorkel Parka (also developed in the '50s) and it's just $164.95. Yeah, it is a little overkill for your garden-variety winter weather, but a good defense when Jack Frost is nipping at your nose like a pit bull trained by Michael Vick.
Q: How low should I tie my tie? My roommate says above the belt, I say the tip should be between the top and bottom of the belt. Back me up, and he's buying all of us beer next time you're on the East Coast. --Mike
A: This is definitely unconventional wisdom and somewhat difficult to pull off, but we agree with your roommate. So does one of our biggest influences, Yves Saint Laurent. In fact, we've been known to let the narrow end meet (and even exceed!) the length of the wide end with excellent results. But you need to be fairly tall and in shape or you'll end up looking like hamburger-loving J. Wellington Wimpy.
Q: I just found your site the other day through www.onthefly.com, a truly wonderful website for the modern gentleman. It now has another feather in its cap--it has led me to you folks! Immediately upon finding your site, I went looking for answer to something I've been wondering for quite some time now. Alas, it appears that you have not addressed this yet. How do you feel about manicures? Pedicures, I gather, are required for sandals, but what about the other 10 digits? --Bryning
A: We endorse meticulous personal grooming, especially when someone else is doing it. Artful dishevelment does not extend to peeling cuticles. So yes, manicures are MB-approved. However, since they are your more dexterous digits and near your face, it's possible to care for these adequately on your own. Feet, on the other hand, require a professional, unless you have yoga master-level flexibility.
Q: I've been reading your site for quite a while now and have gotten some great advice. I know SpectacularBitch.com will be up and running soon, but I have a holiday issue. I would like to get my girlfriend a brown leather jacket for the holidays (she has been wanting one for a few months, but she is really picky). I was wondering what leather jackets SpectacularBitch.com would recommend. --Stefano (MB-in-training)
A: Stefano, buying clothing for a girlfriend is not recommended. Buying clothes for a picky girlfriend? Hang on to the receipt.
Without knowing your gal's style, here are three options for three SB archetypes:
If She Owns Pearls (Classic) Daryn Suede Hacking Jacket (Top)
This Ralph Lauren Black Label jacket was once $2498.00. It's now just $1099.00.
If She Thinks Snow-shoeing is More Than Just an Excuse to Buy Another Pair of Shoes (Outdoor Enthusiast) Weathered Leather Peacoat (Middle)
Q: Dear MB: I am a basketball coach and would like to carry my magnificent ways from the classroom to the practice court. What kind of athletic apparel do you recommend to keep me on the magnificent path. Thanks. --Press
A: Press, the answer to your question lies in a '70s TV drama. Ken Reeves, aka "The White Shadow," shows the way magnificently, just as he showed Carver High's ball club how to run the high pick-and-roll with Coolidge and Salami: fitted white polo with deep placket and pointed collar, slim track pants with contrast side stripe(s), and low-top sneakers.
Q: I shave my head, due to hair loss, and feel that it detracts from your artfully disheveled standards. Are there any general rules for us smooth-domed MB wannabes that I should be following? --Dan
A: Dan, you said you shave your head, but how often do you shave? We ask because in our opinion, the fully shaved look (aka the Savalas) as a can't-miss cure for baldness is ultimately about as can't-miss as Rogaine or Propecia -- it doesn't always work as advertised. If you're Michael Jordan, go for it. If not, well, just look at Jack (top) -- suddenly one of the world's coolest dudes looks like a bigger toolbag than Joe the Plumber.
Our advice: when you shave, leave enough stubble to make your wife/girlfriend think twice about asking for special favors. Then, don't shave again until you start worrying about the impact wind/hats are having on your hair. The more hair you have left on top, the more frequently you'll have to shave. When you're looking like Jackson Pollock (bottom), you're looking just right. When you're looking like Larry Fine (inset), you've let it go too far.
Q: This is a time-sensitive request, so hopefully you will publish an answer soon. I am convinced other fathers will have the same question. I will be taking the kids to Disney World in December and was wondering what a Magnificent Bastard can wear on his feet for all that walking that will send the appropriate level of Magnificent Basterdness to the Crocs-wearing dads I am destined to see there. I don't want my feet to hurt, but I also don't want to look like...well you know what I would look like in Crocs or a similar kind of "shoe." Of course they can't be dressy because it's about as casual a vacation we can go on...short of spending all of our time on a beach, but I am sure Bastards such as yourselves can solve my problem. --Jeff from Illinois
A: Jeff, first off, relax! Disney World is the one place on the planet where wearing a Tommy Bahama shirt may qualify you as the coolest guy in the room. Or to put it another way: If your goal as an MB-in-training is merely to outdo some Crocs-wearing stroller-pusher from Topeka, well, you're setting the bar kind of low! But what the hell -- baby steps, right?
Browse our shoe channel and you'll note our interest in classic sport shoes. In fact, visit the MB-recommended classicsportshoes.com and just about anything will do, though we seem to always end up in Adidas or Puma. One of our all-time faves is the difficult-to-find Puma California EXT, available in 8.5, 9, 10, and 10.5. And don't mess up the socks. Go for no-show or none at all.
A: Cardigans are everywhere this year but don't let that keep you from wearing them. They're timeless. One strong suggestion, however: find one that's on the short side, and slim (bottom). The majority out there are droopy, longer ones that have a very un-MB shortening effect.
Q: Dear MB, I was recently traveling in Spain and noticed a particular style among the men there which I would like to replicate. Professional men seemed to wear a lot of very trim cut, double vented odd jackets in light weight fabrics (it was still quite warm in October). Solid, patterned, cotton, linen - quite a variety, but nothing I seem able to find in the US. The look was way more MB than the typical quad-pleated Dockers, golf shirts and Oakleys I tend to see here. Can you point me in the right direction? Thanks! --Matt
A: Odd jackets? Have you tried your local Goodwill? Pairing the blazers you describe with equally slim-cut wovens, cool denim, and sport/fashion footwear is a winning look that's pretty easy to achieve, especially if you would've stopped into a few of the hundreds of little menswear shops there. Now that you're back in America the easiest way to find what you're looking for is to visit yoox.com. If you're flush with cash try a higher-end YOOX property: thecorner.com.
Thank you for answering my MB polo shirt buttoning policy question! Here's a follow up: With Christmas around the corner family has been asking what I want. I've decided I'm ready to ditch the Clarks and get a legit pair of new business casual shoes for work (black and brown). To accomplish this I'm going to request gift cards but they'll have to be to the same store in order to stack them all together. But which store is the best for MB shoe shopping? Was thinking Nordstrom but haven't been that impressed with their selection. I'd also prefer an actual store versus online but will defer to your expert opinion. Where do you get your shoes? --Jay
A: We get our shoes all over the place. Any of the retailers linked on our home page, if they sell shoes we've probably bought a pair. Our biggest wins, however, have come from bluefly and we recommend it for you in spite of its online-ness. Great options for your immediate bizcash need and depending on your adventurousness and line of work, they've always got interesting sport/fashion from Prada, Puma, Tod's, and Adidas, which is the direction we're going these days.
Q: The top or bottom button on a 2 button suit. MB can you settle a debate on button etiquette? We have always been told NOT to use the bottom button on any jackets? Is it ever appropriate to a.) use both buttons on a 2 button jacket? b.) use only the bottom button on a 2 button jacket? --Dave
A: There are only two occasions when it's OK to button both buttons on a jacket: during your wedding vows or during your oath of office. And never only button the bottom button. Even a total schlub like Nixon, in complete disgrace, in a crappy Windsor knot and flag pin, knew to only button the top one.
Q: Are you ever going to touch on the atrocity of wearing flip-flops and jeans together? Your silence suggests it is still appropriate attire as you pontificate pearls of bastardly fashion from your cozy West Hollywood cyber-cafe. --Larry
A: Woah, Lar. There's actually a bit of a chill this morning on the terraced patio here at Urth Caffe on Melrose, warmed only slightly by an organic dolce espresso and the sight of Meg Ryan. Anyhow, we're from a small farming community in the middle of Wisconsin, and we say flip-flops and jeans are fine, but only if you've had a pedicure in the last 21 days.
Q: I like the look of high/riding boots, but think it's too much to wear unless you're in the English countryside or riding. The other day I saw a guy wearing a nice pair of leather ankle boots, like a ferragamo or gucci boot, with his pants tucked into them. I couldn't decide whether it looked ridiculous or courageously cool. What say you? --Tom
A: Tom, we answered your question about a year ago, calling it TTHTLLYS (Trying Too Hard To Look Like Yosemite Sam), and still oppose this overly affected style. Weather the pant-tucking trend for now as it will be completely gone by next fall, except on re-runs.
Q: Around a month ago I watched GQ Rules: How to dress better in 15 days. What caught my attention was Jim Moore's tie and collar buttons.
Is it MB to tie your tie a bit loose just like Jim Moore? Also, I know you are not supposed to wear a tie with a shirt with button collars. What do you guys think? I uploaded a picture here http://i34.tinypic.com/4h3w3m.jpg of Jim Moore just in case you guys haven't watched it yet. --Franco
A: First, it's certainly OK to wear a tie with a button-down collar. Second, this is Jim Moore's version of artful dishevelment and it's definitely endorsable (though the tie width and knot size is not). Finally, one thing we don't get about Jim Moore's look is the eyewear. We're pretty sure he got those at our high school algebra teacher's garage sale.
Q: I purchased this coat from Banana Republic. The only thing I don't like about it is the lack of vents in the back. Is this something I could trust in the hands of my tailor to remedy? Or is it too risky? --Matt
A: A tailor can easily do it. While he's adding vents, have him subtract the epaulets. Military was MB in 2007, passable in 2008, post-peak in 2009.
Q: Toggle coats, yes or no? I've never found one that doesn't make me look huge. Now I'm just thinking this is the MB's way of telling me to stop looking. --Kyle
We've never been a fan of toggle coats, but not because they make us look huge. It's because when we see one, it invariably reminds of a front door with seven deadbolts on it. It's as if the wearer is worried that someone is going to break into his coat and steal his sweater. These overfortified coats are everywhere this season, but you can safely avoid.
Q: I need to buy a new pair of magnificent golf shoes, but I don't really know where to look. Any ideas??? Thanks! --Blake
A: Unfortunately golf shoes have followed in the footsteps of running shoes and gone all ugly space-age (top), when MBs just want the golf shoe equivalent of New Balance 574s (bottom).
It's difficult to offer suggestions in such a depressed golf shoe environment, but last season's Puma Club Shoe works and is on sale for $70. Also keep your eyes on eBay for Adidas and Puma models when they were cool, like back in 2008.
Q: I was talking to my girlfriend today about MB and she mentioned that she wished there was a version of MB for women. I was curious as to whether you folks had ever thought about finding some fabulous ladies to run a sister site with a similar style? --Mark
A: Funny you should ask, Mark. We're diligently working on our sister site, spectacularbitch.com. Okay, we're not diligently working on it. But we're working on it. Check back in in early 2010, and we should at least have the website equivalent of Carla Bruni's top. In other words, not a lot of substance, perhaps, but loads and loads of style.
Q: I'm headed to the Victoria's Secret show and after party in NY and the attire is listed as "dressy cocktail" (as expected) on the invitation. I'm pretty sure I'm leaning toward a nice suit and tie, but was curious as to what you might think would be good in terms of style for the show and the party itself. Any suggestions would be great. Thanks! --DR
A: DR, did you say something? Sorry, we've got the Victoria's Secret Miraculous™ Push-Up bra ad running on a loop here. Did you know it instantly adds two cup sizes? Anyhow, what was your question? Oh, right. Suit. Good.
Q: What's the word on beige suits? I think they're pretty tough to pull off, but I'd say it can be done. I really like this one (although I'm not a fan of the 3 buttons). Where could I find this one with two buttons? --Christopher
A: This looks more like "khaki" to us, and they're not difficult to pull off at all. Just not now as we head into winter. Wait until baseball season starts again.
Unfortunately you'll likely have to wait until then to pick one up as they've disappeared off the sale pages, but Theory usually makes a good one.
Q: I would hope that you are continuing your search for the perfect peacoat this year. It is a bit early in the season, but have you found any potential candidates? Price is not a factor. --Aaron
A: Aaron, if you haven't noticed, as a result of the economy, most fall 2009 collections suck pretty hard, and peacoats are no exception. There is one standout, though, and it's this John Varvatos Star USA suede model. A real statement piece. The only bummer is that the collar is faux fur (principle of organic materials).
Q: I couldn't find any MB articles on flannel (although I haven't really looked). Just curious, I keep hearing about "designer" flannel shirts that really seem too expensive for what they are. What is the MB's stance on flannel? I like wearing it because it's soft, warm, and durable, and I live in the Rockies. --Joe
A: It took nearly 15 years but the grunge affliction is finally behind us. Wear your flannel with confidence, but only if you weigh less than 100 lbs., are female, and not a lesbian. Otherwise, we tend to view flannel as this season's fleur-de-lis.
We were looking through images on Google and found the Magnificent Bastard that puts all others to shame.
See exhibit A and B. We can't help but notice Albert Einstein's artful dishevelment and dignified countenance. In short: too bastardly for us to compete with. Also, we noticed the tuxedo collar is used with a high sense of class. What is your opinion on this Magnificent Bastard?
Zach and Jon
A: In theory, Einstein should qualify as an MB. But while we don't know much about physics, we do know that artful dishevelment does not mean being so preoccupied with quantized atomic vibrations that you don't realize you've put on your wife's shorts and sandals instead of your own. Sorry, Albert!
Q: Uncrate, previously satisfied with simply adding a "me-too" to other sites' work, seems to have recently gotten into the fashion advice business for itself (http://www.uncrate.com/men/style/garb/) . Their suggestions for "The New Wall Street" seem follow the MB-approved principles of Anglophilia, natural materials and I don't see a belt-clip for that Blackberry ... still, I worry. For example, how can I properly scmhooze a board meeting in "narrow ankle" pants that feature an index-card-sized branded patch logo on the ass?
So the question: Is Uncrate ready to quit the kids table and come drink with the adults, or is little brother TTH? --Andrew
A: Just as you can't ask a caterpillar to fly, you can't expect every guy out there to take on the responsibilities of being an MB -- which in part include knowing one's own style well enough to occasionally decide for yourself which pants go with which shirt. Or simply which pants not to wear at all.
Q: What is your opinion of the Sartorialist? It is a fashion blog that some of my friends recommended to me, and while I find a few of its entries to be MB-esque, I find many of them to be far too trendy and TTH. What is your opinion? --Jon
A: We have nothing but respect and admiration for The Sartorialist. Especially because he's got excellent taste in women.
A lot of his observations and recommendations are too trendy and TTH because he's in Manhattan. Now, there's nothing wrong with The Big Apple -- a couple of us went there once on a field trip in 8th grade -- but being from Pulaski, WI we naturally provide a more carefree, understated approach to men's style. Maybe it's NTHE (Not Trying Hard Enough) for some, but we're confident that if you follow the advice given in these pages, when you're a grandfather and look back at the photographs that document your life, you can do so with beaming pride instead of asking yourself, "What the fuck was I thinking?"
A: Halloween is a near impossiblility for an MB. It clearly violates the understatement principle. And turns on its head the objective of looking like you haven't thought about what you're wearing. You're wearing a fucking a costume!
Anyhow, if you insist, we suspect Michael Jackson may be a popular choice this Halloween, and we've put together a handy guide to choose the proper MJ look.
Q: After your recent "Are You a Cocktail Toolbag" I got to thinking about my favourite cocktail. How MB is my cocktail of choice - a White Russian? --Steve
A: Of course the most famous drinker of White Russians is The Dude, man. And while we strongly endorse his attitude towards authority, drinking, drug use, casual sex, and work-life balance, we just cannot get behind the White Russian -- it's far too sweet to be a daily drinker. If you find yourself out of Pepto Bismol, however, it does make for a good emergency digestive.
Q: I have a couple of pairs of jeans that are both a bit too long. Wondering what your thoughts and advice is for bringing jeans to the tailor? --Julius
A: It's a fact of life, superior jeans tend to be sized for folks with superior genes. Nothing too wide in the waist department, and typically with a 32-inch or 34-inch inseam. If your own legs don't measure up to that standard, you have two options. 1) Walk around as if your cuffs are trying to harbor your fugitive feet. 2) Take your jeans to a tailor. The latter is certainly OK.
Q: Two part Q, if that's ok. First - and please excuse the ignorance - I purchased a suit with the hopes of having it tailored to a slim fit (along these lines). Is that possible if the suit is not originally in that mold (it fits more so in this manner)? I have had it taken in a bit in the torso, however, I'd like the sleeves thinned out (narrower) and the shoulders to be less wide, rather more fitted to me. So I wasn't sure if the tailor was limited in ability or correct in saying that was not possible. With that comes the second part. Would MB happen to know who that suit (Roger Sterling plaid suit) is by/what style that would fall under exactly? Thanks a lot. I really appreciate all the help. --Carlos
A: Carlos: First, your tailor is wrong. Anything can be tailored to your specifications. But stop throwing good money after bad. The suit you bought (upper left) has three buttons and therefore is not what you're going for. Second, the Roger Sterling (played by John Slattery) suit in the photograph (upper right) is by D&G and it retailed for $1,425 in August 2008. Third, Brooks Brothers has a Mad Men Edition suit designed by the show's costume designer, Janie Bryant (bottom). Finally, we have a very strict rule at magnificentbastard.com, and we hope you take it under consideration: once a TV show look is available at Brooks Brothers, it's officially post-peak.
Q: What is your opinion on shopping at Ross? I know that 99% of the stuff there is unusable, but occasionally you can find a hidden gem. It also seems like a good place to start if you don't have much in the pocketbook. --Cheap Bastard
A: The nearest Ross Dress For Less (from our Pulaski, WI offices) is 491 miles away in Monaca, PA, so we're not terribly familiar with the place, though highly amusing online reviews make it sound similar to a 3rd-world bazaar, only more chaotic. And a 1% success rate is not worth it if you have to interact with The Great Unwashed in search of deals on underwear and striped sport shirts.
Do what we do: build a fire, pour yourself a glass of scotch, and click through the "Sale" links on our site's home page. There are great deals to be had from the comfort of your own home. Accompanying headbuzz just a nice bonus.
Q: Dear MB: I am writing to get your official position on a matter that arose last night between my girlfriend and I regarding sweaters: V-neck or crewneck? My girl (who claims she knows her stuff with clothing) told me to go with a crewneck and steer clear of v-necks if I am wearing a collared shirt underneath, as the V-neck would not be appropriate. I, on the otherhand, I prefer the v-neck and don't care for the crewneck, as it reminds me too much of those John McCain sport coat-sweater-tie combos that he was running around in last fall (sort of an older man's look to me). Does MB have an official preference for v-neck or crewneck sweaters, or am I just a dumb bastard for not listening to my girl? --Ryan
A: We agree with you and not your girl. When Paul Newman died last year, we cited his v-neck-woven shirt combination as his life's greatest achievement. And just look at James Dean in a v-neck and woven. This is artful dishevelment defined.
As a side note, John McCain typically did do the coat-sweater-tie combo until, hopelessly behind late in the campaign, tried the v-neck look with disastrous results.
Q: Ok here is my question. I am looking for a winter coat but I don't want something insulated because I tend to wear a lot of wool and cashmere sweaters. Essentially I am looking for something waterproof but longer than a ski jacket but not a full length trench but still long enough to cover a sport coat. Am I SOL? --Josh
A: Anything else? Does it have to come in black and be made in Scotland? Well in that case you're in luck! Try the classic Mackintosh. Yeah, it's $813 but it will stay in style as long as you're alive.
Q: After following your advice, my success with women has gone from about 5% to nearly 50%. It seems to have been the missing piece. Thank you! This is until recently. I was talking to a girl who loved my outfit at my favorite bar. She said it looked like I didn't even try, it just worked. At this time, a female bartender interjected that this look was my angle. The conversation was over. The bartender observed that on her own. Short of finding another bar, what suggestions do you have? --Ken
A: A cock-blocking bartender is even worse than a cock-blocking wingman -- you're not tipping your buddy, after all. But if you've really got the "not trying thing" down, and the bartender was female, maybe she was cootch-blocking the girl you were trying to pick up. Find out fast. If the answer's "yes," your favorite bar just became a terrible place to pick up women but a great place to get free drinks. If the answer's "no," try humor. The next time the bartender interrupts your game with some play-by-play analysis, say: "Jesus, mom, back off. Can't you see I'm trying to get laid here?"
Q: So I work in a bank now, and the attire demands shirt and tie. I'd look a little overdone in a suit. Can I wear brown dress shoes with black dress pants? (I know the policy on strictly wearing black shoes with a black suit, but since this isn't a suit...) --Christopher
A: Christopher, rules are definitely meant to be broken, but to break this one you have to know what you're doing. It has to be just the right black pant and brown shoe combination. In other words, if you have to ask, stick to black footwear with your black pants.
Q: So my pop and I are having a debate which I hope you can clear up. For my 5 year anniversary my wife and I are going to dinner followed by the orchestra. I want to look like an MB so I though this is a great excuse to purchase a new suit, but my pop told me to go for 2 nice sport coats and pants as needed which would allow me to mix and match all year long. Makes sense, is he on point with this? Also, would this be acceptable wedding and funeral attire or is that where a suit would come in? --Chris
A: It sounds like you don't just want a suit but need a suit, so we're recommending you ignore your old man and buy a suit. Choose something slightly more casual and you can flip your pop's argument right around, i.e., match the suit pants all day long with a woven shirt or knit shirt or sweater, and match the suit jacket with denim. You'll save money (well, maybe) and have something to wear to weddings and funerals.
So I'm 22 and in a band. I used to have long hair when I was around 18 but have since gone for a look more ... bastardly. The hair is getting kind of shaggy again and I'm told I should let it grow. I figured I'd clear it with the MB before doing something that could put my aspiring MB status into hot water. I was thinking something along the lines of Johnny Depp, but how does an MB look rock and roll while still being an MB? I'm no stranger to the 50 haircut so maintenance isn't an issue but I'm just not sure if I'll be rocking like a bastard or a magnificent flop. --Danny
A: Danny, this really depends on the quality of your band. If your band sucks, you'll only force Johnny Depp to get a crew-cut in order to avoid embarrassing comparisons. If your band rocks, any long style will work, no 50 haircuts necessary.
If it's that rocker vibe you need, try the more toned-down style of Rock & Republic. They keep the skulls and other junk on the sole. An even more understated choice that still passes as rock 'n' roll is John Varvatos, and you don't have to worry about keeping your feet off of anyone's desk.
Q: I am overweight and poor, and as a result I have a wardrobe that is five years old. I'm trying to make the best of it so I come to you with a question: When are camouflage pants/shorts acceptable? --Ben
A: Two situations, Ben: 1. Protecting America's freedom, and 2. Halloween costume.
Fast for a day, take the money you would have spent on food and head to the clearance rack at Target, where you will always find multiple pairs of XXL Converse One-Star pants marked down to $10 or less.
Q: I am getting a bespoke suit made and I am trying to decide, notched, peaked or shawl lapel? And what about vents? One in the middle or two on the sides? --Jon
A: In spite of recently showing Clooney in peak lapels, we'd choose notch if it were our suit. Definitely not shawl unless you're a.) making a tuxedo or b.) Goldfinger. Regarding venting, we've discussed this before and came down on the side of double vents primarily due to our severe case of Anglophilia, but single vent is a perfectly fine choice as well.
Q: It's starting to get pretty chilly here in PA, and I've been looking into getting a new winter jacket for some time, but I'm not really sure as to what brand. So, what would an MB recommend for a college student, preferably within the $300 price range? --Mike
A: Mike, if you've been reading for a while you've seen "MB Deals of the Week" on a Helmut Lang Blizzard Coat and a Rogues Gallery Snorkel Jacket, both in your price range. If you don't like those then we're going to go into broken record mode: currently the best outerwear value on the market is Spiewak, plain and simple. Check out their new fall line at their new site, and you can actually order a few styles at Nordstrom. You'll stay warm and still have enough bread left over to throw a pretty decent kegger.
Q: My son desperately wants the SOH Cable Hand-Knit scarf, which I absolutely cannot afford. I can, however, knit extremely well. Is there any chance you might know the dimensions of the SOH Cable Hand-Knit Scarf? My son may not be a bastard, but he is absolutely magnificent, and he would be even more magnificent wearing that scarf. --Bonnie
A: Bonnie, a note of caution: Extravagantly doting on your son is one of the surest ways to turn him into a toolbag. But at least you're not just handing him your Bergdorf Goodman card and telling him to shop until until he gets hungry for a sandwich, which you will lovingly prepare. The SOH scarf is 72" x 12". Good luck and please use only the finest Mongolian cashmere.
Q: Have you seen this yet? GQ is on a downward spiral with their "good" fashion tips. Collar stays? Really? --Perry
A: GQ is like a machine. Every month they need to produce x amount of words to fill a magazine, and when that happens you're bound to get some bad (and often contradictory) advice. Not to mention, Glenn O'Brien (The Style Guy) can't write everything. Collar stays aren't just out, they prevent successful artful dishevelment. Take a close look at George Clooney's beautifully disheveled collar and you can clearly see there is definitely not a collar stay.
Q: Can you tell me your thoughts about the ECigarette? --Randall
A: Randall, besides being a gross violation of the principle of organic materials, the first time we saw this thing we thought it was a gag gift, on par with fake vomit and fake dog shit. Remarkably it's real (and incidentally delivers a real dose of nicotine). Can you tell how we feel? If not, we've created a useful chart below.
Q: I'm prone to rocking the Canadian tuxedo more than most, but I've always been under the impression that the key was pairing a washed out jacket with new, crisp jeans, or vice versa OR just rocking them with different colors altogether. But lately I've been told that the denim should match as closely as possible. I think this looks like a boiler suit, or maybe a denim onesie. What's your opinion? --Robert
A: First, we should note that funny questions always move to the front of the line. Second, we're not opposed to you "rocking" the Canadian tuxedo, but know that the degree of difficulty is extremely high. For every Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain there are 100 Neil Diamonds on the album cover for "Hot August Night." (And yes we know we just recommended a gay cowboy over a vintage Jewish mega-stud, but fashion's fashion.)
Q: Are there any decent white dress shirts that are not totally see through? Friends tell me to look at the more expensive dress shirts (purportedly because of the higher "thread count"). But then I look at $250 Armani dress shirts and they are just as sheer as other shirts (if not more so). Am I just stuck wearing a t-shirt underneath everytime I put on a white dress shirt, even in the summertime? --Richard
A: Without boring the absolute bejesus out of regular readers with a thread count discussion, the sheerness of a fabric is a combination of thread count, quality of the yarn, and weave. A fine-yarn shirt can have a high thread count (high density), cost $250, and still be sheer. You can also buy a low thread count, non see-through shirt at Burlington Coat Factory for $19.99 .
If you are opposed to wearing a shirt under your dress shirt (we strongly agree with that stance) and are hung up on sheerness, then focus on the weave rather than the thread count. Look for twill weaves or oxford weaves (but not at Burlington Coat Factory).
Q: I am graduating from college this semester and it puts me in the predicament of being both extremely broke and in need of a decent suit for interviews. What can a poor bastard do to pull off both conservative and MB on a budget? --Ron
A: We're not saying we've been there, but we feel your pain. And we're going to give you our usual response: choose a two-button charcoal grey suit in either wool or cotton. You can wear it all four seasons, and to weddings and funerals, too. Unfortunately, finding a stylish, affordable grey suit isn't easy. First, check YOOX for something in your size. If that fails, we're really impressed with what J. Crew is offering. $540 is certainly more than you probably want to spend, but this is a suit you can wear for the next 10 years, at least.
UPDATE: From reader Pete we get word that J. Crew offers a 15% discount of full-price clothing, including suits.
Q: What is the MB's stance on Bonobos polos and Bonobos in general? Their polos are slim but not too slim and come just high enough above the bicep with a tight fit. However there is a small logo on the lining of the buttons near the color? Does this violate the MB policy? --Todd
A: We don't really have a stance on Bonobos pants, though one reader did rate them very high on his own "gay factor" chart. The polos look promising. Nice sleeve length, but we could do without that piping. The logo isn't really a big deal because you can choose "matching logo," and if you follow the MB n-2 buttoning policy (as shown by the model pictured) you'd be hard-pressed to even display it.
Q: Pardon me if this is out of your normal realm. But I am about to turn 17 and am in need of a car. I have it narrowed down to an '80s era BMW 325i convertible, or an '80s era Jaguar XJ6, and I just can't make up my mind. Please help. --Adam
A: Adam, you're new around here, aren't ya? This is a no-brainer, and not just because the Jaguar was made in England (see previous posts about Anglophilia). It's more obscure, consumes more gas, and will only run when the sun is fully shining. All the BMW has going for it is the convertible, which is only useful to achieve superbly artfully disheveled hair.
Q: I live in a tropical South East Asian country with temperature averaging between 31 to 34C in the day. How would a MB dress here? --Sebastian
A: Would it be Indonesia by chance? Even if you're only living in the vicinity, rent 1982's The Year of Living Dangerously and then study Mel Gibson's wardrobe. Unbuttoned double cargo pocket shirts (tucked in of course), flat-front khakis, and perfect sleeve-rolling. Accessorize with cigarettes and/or Sigourney Weaver and you're good to go.
Q: How can a 36 year old male dress in resort casual without looking too metrosexual, preppy or like a Tommy Bahama wanna-be? --Mollee
A: From top to bottom:
Knit Shirt: Polo with sleeves that hit at about the middle of the bicep. No logos if possible, especially none with the name of your country club or a high-end public course he recently played. Be sure to follow the polo shirt button rule.
Woven Shirt: At least one in white, of course. Unpressed. Just take it out of the dryer and go. Not buttoned-down. If it's not specifically designed to be worn untucked, have him tuck it in.
Sweater: Fine gauge v-neck cashmere. Period. On cool nights have him toss this over the polo or the woven and let his shirt collar just do what it wants to do.
Pants: No pleats. No creases. No linen. Khakis with patch pockets are a solid choice. Only denim if it's dark and dressed up, like Theory. Shorts OK too, but when the sun goes down remember the rule: pants only.
Footwear: Plimsolls or Jack Purcells. Sandals or flip-flops (but only if they're made from organic materials).
The Feet Themselves: If he chooses the sandal/flip-flop route, remember this rule about feet: If you wouldn't put his toe in your mouth, you need to convince him to get a pedicure.
Q: I have a 100% Rayon sport shirt that has two buttons at the bottom. This shirt is made to be worn on the outside of your pants. Do I leave the buttons on or remove them? I know these are extra buttons but I don't know what the style is in regards to leaving them on or not. --Tom
A: Tom, do not confuse laziness with style. If you were born with extra nipples, well, maybe you could leave them on, because removing them would require a scalpel, some high-quality booze, and it would still be really painful. Buttons, however, can be snipped with a common pair of scissors.
Q: Is Roger Federer a Magnificent Bastard? --Cosgrove
A: In the past there's been a lot to place Federer firmly in MB territory. He doesn't sweat, he doesn't grunt like an animal on every groundstroke, and even when he gets destroyed (see 2008 French vs. Nadal) he's so graceful it looks like he's actually winning.
But the last year has given us pause. He cried like a baby at the Australian, looked like a waiter at Wimbledon, and last night whined about the foolproof electronic line calling system after losing to a Slam finals rookie who dresses like The Karate Kid.
Q: Hey MB--I always enjoyed thinking about buying something from Clark's Register--now they are gone. What happened? --Ray
A: What happened is the owner died in 2004. The new owners did not have John Clark's aesthetic or vision and the store slowly started circling the drain. They consistently lost money, couldn't find investors, and finally euthanized it two weeks ago.
It's too bad, because Clark's Register carved out a niche that no one was really serving. Once, the store subscribed to the very sound principle that you can never have too many white shirts. Unfortunately, that evolved into a far more diabolical belief system: That you can never have too many Robert Graham shirts.
Q: I live in New York and am beginning to think about the harsh winter snow and ice set to arrive in the coming months. I don't like Tingley's or galoshes so what is an MB boot to wear during the winter months that looks decent with a suit and good with jeans? Red Wing? Bass? --Miles
A: Now that Red Wing boots have arrived at Bergdorf Goodman, we suppose that look has arrived in public as well. We're just not buying it, except, of course, to chop wood or build a barbed wire fence. Chalk one up to the marketing folks at Red Wing for a nice rebranding/repositioning, but avoid this soon-to-be short-lived trend and instead take a look at some of the new Prada options at bluefly. Sure, they are 2x or 3x as expensive as the Red Wings, but there is a high likelihood you'll still be wearing them in ten years. We've seen it happen. And they're flexible enough to work with a suit or jeans.
Q: Every MB enjoys a luxury once in a while, but I notice that you haven't given us any opinions on one that every true MB must indulge in at some point: the cigar. The occasional cigar, that is -- I don't foresee a need for a stockpile of cigars, and humidors reek of toolbaggery if you're younger than 50 anyway, right? Can you give this MB a basic cigar education, as well as some tips on good brands that won't break the bank for that special indulgence?
Much appreciated. --Max
A: On the one hand, Max, cigars are just an organic version of a Bluetooth headset or a pair of Oakleys -- a prop that shouts "Toolbag!" louder than Billy Mays trying to sell you spray paint for your lawn. On the other hand, they've got an unimpeachable pedigree -- beloved by sages, revolutionaries, statesmen, and tycoons alike. In recent decades, however, interlopers have fouled the waters. We're not saying you can't smoke a cigar -- not even an asshole as big as Rush Limbaugh can get between an MB and his pleasures. But use discretion. As our chart below shows, cigars are currently on a downward arc. Regarding specific choices, our own tastes run more toward medical marijuana. But a retailer whose judgement we endorse, On the Fly, offers sampler packs starting at $50.
A: We think boat shoes are fine, but encourage you to wear them only if you're actually on a boat or headed toward one. As for specifics, we all know the default choice when talk turns to boat shoes. Paul Sperry invented the category in 1935; the Top-Sider is an American classic. But so is Donald Trump and we don't want him anywhere near our feet. We don't feel quite so strongly about Top-Siders ... we've even given them a conditional thumbs-up in the past. But if you're in the market for something whose style is a little more amphibious, check out these Puma Decker slip-ons. We also like the Harrys of London Blake in dark tan, which is to the Top-Sider what ScarJo is to Marilyn Monroe, a more streamlined update to a tried-and-true design.
Q: I have a matching gray vest and suit jacket that was once part of a three piece (the pants ripped). Is it MB to wear the top two pieces with pants of a different color? Perhaps black pants? Please advise. --Gideon
A: No, don't do that. In fact, don't even hang the jacket and vest near each other in your closet. Their relationship is over.
We're not huge fans of this look, but you can salvage the vest by pairing it with denim and a white shirt. The jacket, on the other hand, is probably a lost cause. Since it was once part of a 3-piece suit, it's almost certainly not going to have a cut that works with denim. And combining with dress slacks is a look that should be left to middle-aged men attending Sunday service. Feel good about yourself and donate that jacket to the nearest Salvation Army -- it will help some recently laid off Christian maintain his churchly style even in the midst of financial hardship.
Q: Should Thom Brown have his right to produce men's fashion revoked, or is it ever ok for an MB to look like THIS??? --Javier
A: As far as we can tell, Thom Browne's primary contributions to fashion are:
1. suits with capri pants, and
2. suits with shorts.
If you're a wee man who wants to flaunt his weeness, then Thom Browne is your god. This particular get-up makes him look like a tiny, hairy puppet IBM invented to sell toner cartridges to yacht clubs. We sincerely do not get it.
Q: In the right setting (think a beach in cabarete, Dominican Republic) and in the right make (Ralph Lauren, navy), can one manage bastardly magnificence in a sarong? I like to wear mine late in the day as the sun dips beyond an ocean horizon, but my lovely wife doesn't find it, well, all that groovy. --Tune
A: If the penalty for not wearing a sarong is being boiled alive and then eaten by men who are wearing a sarong, we reluctantly endorse wearing a sarong. In all other cases, shorts during the day, pants at night.
Q: I know your policy on tucking in polo shirts, but how about t-shirts? Marlon Brando had them tucked in in A Streetcar Named Desire, but I believe he was wearing undershirts. Is this something that can be pulled off? --Dave
A: While the current dominant style is untucked, we think you can tuck if you like, and Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Steve McQueen agree with us. A couple of other thoughts on the matter:
* Any t-shirt that makes it into your wardrobe should look good untucked as well as tucked. In other words, if you're tucking because your t-shirt is too long or too wide at the bottom, you should demote that t-shirt to garage rag.
* Take a close look at Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire and you'll see he's actually demonstrating the MB-endorsed artfully disheveled tuck. (Avoid the rip, though -- that's a little too Flashdance.)
Q: I'm going to a dinner party at a friend's house. All my summer shoes of course, I wear without socks. Is it appropriate to be barefoot if they ask you to take off your shoes? What's the etiquette on that? --Phil
A: In survey after survey throughout the 20th century, people have named Gandhi as the guest they'd most like to have at their summer party. In other words, as long as you don't start any fights and generally project a serene vibe, you should be fine. Furthermore, a genetically superior set of toes combined with a recent pedicure look better than any pair of shoes.
Q: My girl trims downstairs, should us guys tidy up? I'm not saying a full wax, I'm just saying... --Greg
A: As a rule, we're extremely wary of style trends popularized by male porn stars. But if your overgrowth is interfering with your girl's sexual pleasure, well, there are very few opportunities in life where you can come off as sensitive and considerate when your real goal is a blowjob. Break out the trimmers.
Q: They fall under all of your MB rules: matte, history, pedigree and tradition: Calf leather opera pumps. On occasions when you have to wear black tie are they the better alternative to the shiny, plastic and cheap looking patent leather oxfords? Cary Grant wore them, and so did Sinatra. What say you? --Sean
A: If you had a face like Cary Grant, or a voice like Frank Sinatra, you can get away with calf leather opera pumps, because no one will be paying much attention to your feet. Otherwise, avoid. Either way, never let anyone hear you say the phrase "calf leather opera pumps" out loud.
Q: I'm shopping for some new boots and or shoes that I can wear to work. I work in the music industry so, stylish is not only acceptable but encouraged. What do you think about the Clarks desert boot? Or Robert Wayne's "Crue." I have a strong suspicion that the "Crue" doesn't have a clue about MB status. --Sethro
A: Sethro, it depends on how loudly the music you work with is typically played. Clarks desert boots meet just about every MB principle: They have a pedigree, they're Anglophilic, they're matte, and Steve McQueen wore them (top). But can you see Spinal Tap rocking "Sex Farm" or "Swallow My Love" in 'em? Exactly. This is where the Robert Waynes come in (bottom). Yeah, they're square-toed and shiny with an ugly Fleur de Lys design and an even uglier pirate on the sole, but you need something similar if your bands' amps go past 10.
Q: First of all, I love your site. Your advice as led to (too) many purchases as of late. What does an MB use as a checkbook cover? It can't be the freebie from the bank. --Kyle
A: Kyle, thanks for the kind words, but we haven't written a check since the Clinton administration. Even if you still write a few, we recommend doing it in the privacy of your own home, with the curtains drawn. In other words, no cover required.
Q: Magnificent Bastardom is difficult when you've been dealt the hairy back card... and not just a little fuzz -- I could pass for Chewbacca's Uncle if unkept. I shave it as often as I can, even use Men's Nair on it once in while. Since upkeep time resources are significant, I do cheat once in awhile and just trim the back of my neck. I've been thinking of accepting my fate and allowing some hair to grow as it is more work to maintain my hairy back than maintain my lawn. Is it acceptable to have a 'trimmed' hairy back? [Maintained and cut short with am electric trimmer -- versus smooth and stubble free.] Any suggestions on back hair abatement tools? --BearBack in Minneapolis
A: Shaving your own back? That must require a special modification to a Gillette MACH 3 or flexibility on par with Plastic Man.
And by the way, why are you maintaining your own lawn? Do you have something against illegal aliens? We're thinking that you might even be able to get a lawn/back maintenance combo deal -- if your back hair is as thick as you say it is, it's possible only a weed whacker can truly do the trick, and let's face it, in this economy, illegal aliens are in no position to be too picky about the jobs they accept.
All kidding aside, the only solution is a series of laser treatments. Yes they are costly and painful, but in the long run cheaper than razors or moonlighting gardeners.
Q: What's an MB's breakfast drink? Mimosas seem unbastardly, so what are we to have with our mid morning breakfast when we're sailing in Hawaii? --Tripp
A: Tripp, a few thoughts:
1. Mimosas are for women. 2. While we've given lukewarm special dispensation for Tommy Bahama camp shirts while on the Hawaiian Islands, we don't for Hawaiian Island-y cocktails while you're there. Continental U.S. cocktail rules still apply: no blenders, no pastels, no straws, no flowers, and absolutely positively no umbrellas. 3. Make it a Bloody Mary. And easy on the bloody.
Q: How does the MB view going gray or in my case white around the temples? Must I go to a salon for a pro dye job or are there any good product that I can use at home? --John
A: Neither! Graying temples are like an accessory from God. Rock 'em while you can, like George Clooney did 10 years ago (top). And as the gray takes over the rest of your mane, resist your temptation for coloration. Going gray naturally is the MB way. Dyeing is best left to Las Vegas performers and Billy Mays.
Q: Fall season is upon us, and I really need to get a leather jacket. Recently, GQdid a piece on popular leather jackets for the upcoming season but I wasn't sold on any of them. Where can I get a timeless leather jacket that won't break the bank? How about this one from Banana Republic? --Christopher
A: We weren't sold on them either, Christopher, and we're not really sold on that BR jacket (bottom) you're suggesting, either. It's just one epaulette away from Members Only.
Unfortunately, Arthur Fonzerelli's most lasting cultural influence was irreparable damage to the leather motorcycle jacket. He's basically the sun, and that BR jacket is the equivalent of wearing Icarus's wax and feathers. And we all know how that turned out.
Q: I recently broke my pelvis and back in a motorcycle accident because some unmagnificent bastard decided to turn left without using his blinker. Thus, I am handicapped. Soon I will be able to walk again with the use of a cane. Where can a 21 year old guy go about looking for an MB-approved cane? --Brandon
A: Sorry, Brandon. The only more annoying (and in your case dangerous) driver behavior than lack of turn indication is driving in the left-hand lane. Move over, asshole! (Please visit slowertraffickeepright.com for more information on this important matter.)
Sorry, we digress. What you need is what's called a "system" cane, one that has a dual purpose or function, like cane+knife or cane+gun, or our recommendation: cane+flask. As usual, vintage trumps new so keep your eyes on eBay. Otherwise, both Fashionablecanes.com and Target.com (!) have someoptions that will keep you upright. Or depending on what's in the flask, not.
Q: If you have nasty feet and shouldn't be wearing sandals, what do you recommend with shorts? Some Pumas with low socks? Thanks. --Chris
A: Over the last three decades, thousands of Vietnamese immigrants have journeyed across oceans in boats we'd be afraid to board in a wading pool just to make your feet presentable in sandals. Get a pedicure! And if you think that sounds kind of girly, do you know who else gets pedicures? Lions! Well, circus lions anyway. And if it's man enough for them, it's man enough for you too.
And what if you have some kind of physical deformity a pedi can't cure? You're on the right track. We prefer anything vintage from Puma, Tretorn, Adidas, with no-show socks or none at all. You'd have a hard time going wrong picking just about anything from Classic Sport Shoes' Adidas Originals page.
Q: I am fully on board with your preference for vintage sneakers (Jack Purcells, etc.) for casual wear and would like to get on board. There's just one problem: I have plantar fasciitis, and my podiatrist says it won't get better if I wear unsupportive shoes. By supportive, he means shoes with a 3/4 length nylon shank built into the mid sole - i.e. a shoe that has a rigid arch. I can't seem to find any casual sneakers with this feature. There are plenty of running/athletic shoes out there, but they are only MB approved for their intended function. Are there any MB approved shoes that I can wear to the ballpark, rock concert, the beach, etc that will give me the support I need? --Mark
A: What the hell do we look like? Dr. Scholl?
A few weeks ago when the Washington Postwrote about the demise of Crocs (and George Clooney being their only hope), several commenters were crushed by the news because Crocs were the only thing that relieved their plantar fasciitis. Some additional Googling and it seems to be true: Crocs help plantar fasciitis. So we say get a pair, wrap them in silver duct tape, and if anyone asks about what the heck is on your feet, tell them they came recommended by Dr. Scholl.
Q: Hi, I inherited a vintage 1950s stainless Rolex Oyster that looks almost identical to this photo. Would you recommend the standard stainless Oyster band for this baby or perhaps a black nylon strap? --Chris
A: This watch can only be worn with the stainless bracelet. Why? Because the dial is silver. After a couple of recent watch/band questions it's time we simply and clearly state the rule: a black nylon strap is allowed only if your watch's dial is black.
Q: I've got a 1960 gold faced Omega Constellation that I just repaired. Do I understand correctly that gold faced watches are more formal than darker faced watches? If so, could you please recommend a good band to dress it down suitably? Perhaps a matte black nylon number? --Will
A: First, gold-faced is certainly dressier than dark-faced. Second, putting a nylon band on this watch would the equivalent of putting snowtires on a limosine. Finally, while we prefer silver over gold, you own a cool watch. Just put a black leather band on it and enjoy at the next wedding/funeral/church service.
A: If by "all the celebrities" you mean Twilight series star Robert Pattinson, then you're right. He doesn't leave home without them. But just like Pattinson is at peak, so are the Ray-Ban Clubmaster, and you want to stay on the left side of the trend curve.
Q: I am going to be coming home after a year long deployment to Afghanistan later this year and I am planning on buying a vehicle and would like your thoughts. It's down to either a 2009 Triumph Bonneville or a 1970s International Harvester Scout II (with no top). Both of them have a senseless lack of utility because they aren't driveable in the rain and are also completely impractical. I think the Bonneville has a little more understatement going for it and Steve McQueen used to ride one, but the Scout is more exclusive because it's older and it has a much higher chance of constantly breaking down. What are your thoughts? --Blake
A: Blake, we have an unhealthy (and expensive) obsession with vintage International Harvester trucks -- we have one on the farm in Pulaski -- so it's an easy call. But even if we didn't we'd still vote IH because everything else being equal, vintage always trumps new.
Q: Polo shirt buttons. Buttoned to the top? Button the bottom one? Keep 'em all open? I'm thinking keep them open or button the bottom depending on how far down the shirt they go. What is MB polo shirt buttoning policy? --Jay
A: Buttoned to the top? Most definitely not. Too reminiscent of Ed Grimley (albeit in a woven) or certain toolbaggish PGA tour players. Otherwise, Jay, you've basically got it. The Official Magnificent Bastard Polo Shirt Buttoning Policy is as follows:
n - 2
Where n equals the number of buttons. A fully unbuttoned Lacoste polo (2 buttons) looks perfect. A fully unbuttoned J.Crew polo (3 buttons) looks a shade TTH, which is why it's displayed on their site in n-2.
Q: Is it MB to wear a dark shirt (think black, navy blue, brown) and a tie with a suit? MB-in-training in crisis as I have a number of nice, dark shirts and don't feel right wearing em with suits and ties. --Moshe
A: Moshe, your instincts are strong. If you combine dark shirts with suits, the good news is that you are all but guaranteed to become a huge success in the entertainment industry. The bad news is on the left.
Q: Most of my slacks don't have pleats, but my dry cleaner still presses them with a center crease. I prefer no crease for a clean flat front, and instruct the dry cleaner to press "no crease" - but they can't get it right. Every time they press a pant I have them redone without the crease. Is my dry cleaner stuck in 1980 or do I need to adjust my no-crease look? --Moxie
A: Moxie, your style instincts are good, but we have doubts about your resolve. If your dry cleaner can coerce you into changing your style, what is going to happen when you have a wife?
We are strongly anti-crease in virtually all situations, and don't even consider buying pants unless we think we can get the crease out. You need to get your dry cleaner on the no-crease plan or find a new one who is completely fluent in English. They will be lazier than newly arrived immigrants looking to impress, and happy to keep your pants creaseless.
Q: Hi, really love the site and the advice. Unfortunately lots of things you advise or link to is for US only (e.g. J.Crew). Can you advise a good shopping website for a MB living in Europe? --Francesco
A: Francisco, thanks for placing your trust in us -- we are always happy to do our part to promote U.S. cultural imperialism, even if it's by way of clothes designed by Frenchmen and manufactured by the Chinese. Yoox.com ships anywhere.
Q: I'm in an upcoming wedding, and we're wearing pocket squares. Any suggestions on how to fold those suckers like an MB? --Mike
A: Mike, we've covered this before and stand by the advice given: apply Occam's Razor and keep it simple with either a one-point or flat fold. Even moreso for a wedding because those photographs have a way of lingering on mantles, walls, side tables, and Facebook -- and those two options have best stood the test of time.
Top: Ol' Blue Eyes with some youthful indiscretion.
Bottom: More mature Sinatra goes artfully disheveled, timeless.
Q: I used to carry my 15 inch laptop in a black leather John Varvatos shoulder bag (pictured) with an added padded sleeve for protection. However due to work reasons I moved up to the 17 inch laptop. The ugly stick smacks incredibly hard on the choices for what to carry around a 17 inch laptop around in, and I dislike wearing backpacks. Any suggestions of what may be acceptable. My only thought is that I may have to go back to the 15 inch laptop for my dignity. --Bruce
A: Bruce, you're answering your own question. (And, man, we love those types of questions. Ask us another!) The fact that you can't find a stylish bag for a 17" laptop, well, the universe is telling you something. Allow us to translate: The only people who regularly lug around 17-inch laptops are thieves stealing 17-inch laptops. They usually use a burlap sack. We recommend you stick with a 15-inch laptop or smaller, and regain your lost dignity. Not to mention, the bag you already own is fucking gorgeous.
Q: So, you're wearing the dangly tie, you've suddenly got a lot of bending over to do - potential interference with others involved... What is your position on tie-tucking? In the pocket? Into the shirt a couple of buttons down? Not at all?! --Mark
A: Either you're the most formal heart surgeon in the world (in which case we encourage you to opt for a more casual look that keeps your patients' aortas clear of highly infectious repp ties). Or you're nailing a co-worker, in which case we encourage you to tuck your tie in between two shirt buttons. You don't want to lose a nooner who doesn't even ask you to take your shirt off to a long-term disability claim.
Q: What brand and model of sunglasses does Robert Duvall's character, Col. Kilgore, wear in Apocalypse Now? Searching for those for a while and can't figure them out. --Jason
A: We had a strong hunch they were Randolph Engineering aviators, and after contacting their marketing department yesterday, confirmed it. They're $99 and available here. But fair warning: these really work best for Col. and above.
(See previous post regarding Kilgore's slightly less-successful dogtag and bracelet accessorization.)
First, placement: you want to put them up past your elbows, like you're ready to give blood. Second, how you get there is crucial. A repetitive push-and-roll technique is required. As you turn the sleeve, simultaneously push it up your arm and repeat until it's past your elbow to achieve the perfect amount of artful dishevelment.
Q: Really enjoying your site. What's your view on facial hair? Specifically, the perpetual five o'clock shadow? I realize we are well past the days of Miami Vice, but I think you can be MB if you keep it neat (figuratively speaking) and pair it with an appropriate contrast (e.g. with a suit). --AP
A: AP, we see where you're going with the contrast idea, but consider this: the reason why Don Johnson never quite looked right is that he was otherwise so perfectly styled -- you can practically smell his cologne from this photograph -- that the five o'clock shadow looked affected. Any man who can find time for highlights can certainly find time to shave.
It works for Jason Statham, on the other hand, because it looks like he probably slept in those clothes, and reeks of cigarette smoke, bourbon, and possibly blood. Our recommendation: if you are absolutely nowhere near a razor blade for long enough to acquire stubble, then it's permitted (e.g. hostage situatons, elevator breakdowns, desert island plane wrecks.) Otherwise, shave or carry a big gun wherever you go, so it's clear you're not a gigolo.
Q: My husband is walking his sister down the aisle and the groom/groomsmen are wearing blackwatch plaid kilts. Not interested in the kilt thing, but what about a blackwatch plaid necktie with his black suit? Thanks. --Nicole
A: Nicole, your instincts are strong. That's the perfect nod to a tradition that's best left to real Scots.
Q: I have a problem. It's called small wrists. 40mm watches are too big, but 30-36mm are good. Everything you've suggested so far (Westcoastime, etc...) have watches that are way too big for me. Can you suggest something smaller for us skinnier folk? And under $400? --Alan J.
Q: My inner caveman has to ask: is it ever appropriate to wear clothing or accessories with animal-print patterns? --Pierlo
A: Roy is wearing gallons of hair gel, approximately $30,000 worth of unconvincing plastic surgery, and a couple of blinged-out crosses even MC Hammer would dismiss as tacky, and you know what? His jacket is still the worst thing in this picture. Which is all you need to know about wearing animal-print patterns. We do endorse wearing animals, however -- but not on your face, while they're still alive.
Q: I am the officiant of a wedding at the end of July, the ceremony will be held in the mountains at around 5pm, and I'm having a hard time deciding on a black or grey suit. Any quick suggestions? Also, shirt/tie color combinations would be very helpful. Thanks. --Mackenzie
A: As a regular attendee, we'd argue in favor of khaki. But since you're the guy reading the vows the objectives are:
A. to not overshadow the groom, and B. to not be mistaken for a priest
That leaves grey as our recommendation, with white shirt and neutral tie. Think Cary Grant in North by Northwest.
Q: Based on this link I'm pretty sure this proves that plaid shorts are post-peak. I've loved my plaid shorts from Penguin and the like for 3 or 4 years now but I think the style is over. What are alternatives for shorts in summer if Tommy Bahama has taken to plaid short production? --Bradley
Just like Eddie Van Halen's toolbaggish, sleep-inducing, fret-jerking in "Beat It" couldn't kill the guitar solo, Tommy Bahama can't kill plaid. Next season they'll be back to florals (bottom). Wear the Penguins and the like without fear.
Q: I'm a college kid that has recently started working. I need a bag that I can take to work that's small -- to carry stuff like my mp3 player, headphones, a sandwich, and my water bottle. For the past few months, I've been using the Briggs & Riley Map Bag (in black), here. Is this MB? I don't want a full size messenger or a briefcase because I'm not really carrying that much stuff. Suggestions?
A: A map bag? Are you planning an invasion?
This looks a little man-pursey to us, though you've chosen wisely from the Briggs & Riley collection. The rest of it has a fatal case of Tumi-itus. But why the bag in the first place? What MP3 player is so big it needs a bag? You can slip a small, cell phone-like device into the front pocket of your pants or the interior pocket of your blazer (the preferred MB method) and you're good to go. Carrying a sandwich around with you all day is a health hazard, a style faux pas, and technologically obsolete -- just make sure your device of choice has an app to find the nearest restaurant. And also an app to find the nearest drinking fountain.
Q: I really like the glasses Brad Pitt wears in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and was wondering if you knew where to get a pair of similar looking specs. --Michael
A: Pitt's character is wearing an old P3 wire frame (a.k.a. Marshwood). It was at peak popularity in the 1930s and 40s. All the big american frame companies had a version during that time (American Optical, Artcraft, Bausch & Lomb, Shuron), so you will easily be able to find them on eBay or your local antique store. Besides Benjamin Button, Lennon and Truman are among past prominent wearers of this style.
Q: I'm heading to Hawaii in a couple of weeks (for leisure) and I'm starting to think about what to bring. Keeping the luggage level to carry-on is a must, but I need to pack a hat. Where can I find something that could pack easily, but wouldn't look like I'm looking for the nearest trout stream? --Joe
A: Joe, you're really visiting Hawaii in July? Can you reschedule for January? Either way, a hat is a good idea and a brand we really like is Block Headwear. They really get the "classic with a twist" aesthetic we dig. Several of their spring/summer straw hats are crushable, like the Degas fedora. (And their tag can easily be removed.)
Q: Is there a MB way to carry one's lunch to work (retro tin lunchbox, insulated bag, brown bag, grocery bag, etc.)? Please enlighten me. --Bryan
A: If you are getting to work before lunch, you are working too hard. If in fact you are working that hard, at least treat yourself to a nice leisurely meal at a restaurant, with a waitress. If you can't afford a restaurant, then we suggest you bring your lunch to work in a bottle of Dewar's.
Q: So I've been searching for a pair of black shoes for around 2 months now. My initial thought was something between casual and dressy. I would like to have the flexibility to wear them with jeans or a pair of nice pants. Any MB help/recommendations would be great. --Chris
A: Chris, you obviously haven't been reading this site for 2 months because you'd know the answer to your footwear dilemma lies in Puma Sport Fashion. End of story. A few of us were in Dasslerversions (sockless, of course) at a wedding reception at the Pulaski (WI) American Legion on Saturday night and the feedback was universally positive.
Q: Here's the plan: my friends and I have rented out a house in Nosara, Costa Rica for a month. We will all be surfing. What style is appropriate for:
a) Pre surfing?
b) when surfing? (we are beginners)
c) post surfing?
We are all in our early to mid twenties (23-24 years old). Thanks a lot for any suggestions MB! --Eric
A: Eric, we think you're planning at least one too many costume changes -- you're going surfing, not performing in a Cher concert (she'll be at Ceasars in September). 5-7" inseam boardshorts are what's needed here for all three scenarios (see our swimsuit length graphic). Except for the apres surf we'd recommend pairing with a terrycloth cabana jacket or robe, just like what Paul Newman would do (pictured).
A: It is indeed difficult to turn the Wimbledon Whites into toolbag, though Rafa Nadal did it last year in the finals. Even the typically MB Roger Federer raised several of our eyebrows with his warmup vest in this year's first round. In between sets, does he moonlight as a waiter? We'll take a round of gin and tonics. Hendrick's.
Anyhow, like Nadal, Janko just has TB in him. Look at him at the French, with tank top and matching blades (bottom). And that tattoo, which we're pretty sure says "No fat chicks!" in kanji. Wimbledon's rules can only tamp the TB down. The good news: he's out after the 2nd round.
Q: I've recently updated my wardrobe for the summer but I'm missing a crucial piece: the Russian navy shirt (as seen on the J. Peterman website). $44 seems too much for just a shirt, so I was wondering if there were better deals on these shirts. Can you help me maintain the Magnificent Bastard look while maintaining the cheap bastard mindset? --Daniel
A: We agree $44 is too expensive for that shirt. In fact, we think $4 is too expensive. Unless you are a professional gondolier and can write it off.
If you need the nautical look, we recommend separating your blues and whites like JFK (pictured). If you're still wanting stripes, J.Crew has a couple of muchmore subtle, less costumey options, and they're cheaper too.
Q: There is some toolbaggery going on here. Are those Crocs? --Kevin
A: To our eye, it looks like an animal died to make the President's sandals. (Thanks to Reuters photographer Mike Theiler for sensing where the real story was.) So, no, they're not Crocs, which are made entirely from anti-fungal fossil fuels. They do have a very Crocs-like sole, however, and we imagined they looked great on the golf course he was headed toward, if that golf course had a styrofoam castle on the 18th hole.
Q: I'm trying to find a casual everyday type watch to buy that I can just snap on with any outfit. I don't really know if I should go with a leather, steel, or nylon strap. I was looking for something affordable a college student in his 20s can wear. People told me to try out Nixon watches but sometimes I feel their watches are a little toolbaggy at times. Help! --Brian
The Watch: Nixon often triestoohard, so choose wisely. We're fans of vintage, so do some poking around ebay or your local antique shops; you might find something cool. For new, our favorite watch shop is Howard Marx's Westcoastime*. He just got in 50 custom pieces of the Ollech & Wajs "Kartago." This is a fantastic Swiss-made watch that definitely meets your "snap on with any outfit" criterion. It's likely a little much for a college student's budget ($429.00), but unlike anything from Nixon, you'll enjoy it through graduation, marriage, kids, and likely beyond.
Q: I'm always looking to swap out my golf gear for better, more MB-ish accessories (simplify, simplify, simplify). I am currently looking for the best golf bag and towel. What is the stylish gear the leggy-model in your banner is carrying? --Your Supplicant, Kevin
The Bag:The Original Mackenzie Walker. We guarantee this is the best golf bag you will ever own. It will also be the last golf bag you ever own. The only problem is that it's $735.00. But worth every penny, and probably a value if you consider you'll go through 4-5 ordinary bags in your lifetime.
The Towel: Available at every Ritz Carlton worldwide. Right next to the hand towels and washcloths. Anywhere from $179.00 to $3,700/night depending on room size and view. (Pictured: Ritz Carlton South Beach)
Q: Hey guys, love the site and what you're doing. I was wondering what your take on medical identification (i.e. bracelets, dog tags, and the like) was. I've been a type 1 diabetic for over nine years and have always refused to wear medical ID's because they tend to make people feel sorry for you ... and because most of the ones that I've seen, look ridiculous. However, recent events have brought to light the necessity of wearing a medical ID and I can thus no longer ignore the issue. What type of medical ID would say "hell yea I have diabetes, what about it?", while still maintaining the fashion style of an MB? --Iain
A: Here are the options as we see them:
Option A: Wear a necklace. They are barely visible 95% of the time and will indicate your medical need when necessary. If you're like us and can't stand things hanging from your neck, then...
Option C: If you are feeling flush, with the help of Tiffany you could make a one-of-a kind piece to last a lifetime. Buy a Tiffany 1837 I.D. bracelet (bottom) and work with their customer service -- and they are all about customer service -- to get the custom engraving your body needs.
I'm 5'10" 140 lbs. with a semi-athletic build. What is the best kind of jeans, shirt, hoodie and possibly hat to go for a hipster look? --Patrick
A: Hat and hoodie? Do you have two heads? Because if so, 140 lbs. is really skinny.
Even if you've got just one head, we're not sure why you're wanting to go for this look. However, if you insist: spend $150 at Urban Outfitters, donate your razor blades to hairy orphans in Malawi, and you're there.
Q: I recently noticed Phil Mickelson wearing golf shirts with shorter than standard short sleeves. As a guy with short muscular arms I would love to get shirts with these extra short sleeves. Where does he get them or are they made special for him? --Ron
A: Phil Mickelson has a large endorsement deal with Callaway, so it's a very safe bet they make his shirts. And, being the #2 player in the world, he can get Callaway to make anything he wants. (Though someone at Callaway should have the courage to tell Phil to add a little material around the torso. It's looking increasingly sausage-like, with a side of manboobs.)
Anyhow, we strongly endorse shorter sleeves on polos, especially if you have pipes worthy of display. The sleeve length on many of today's golf shirts, one can't tell if they're short long-sleeves or long short-sleeves (see John Daly at last week's St. Jude Classic). But don't make this a big concern. You can have your golf shirt sleeves shortened to taste by a tailor for $10-$15. And if you're cursed with Mickelson's waistline, try to find a tailor who moonlights as a plastic surgeon.
Q: Is there any way a tattoo can be MB-approved if it is done for the sake of irony? A friend of mine, who for the most part has the MB style going on, just got a tattoo of a pirate ship on his chest. --Leroy
A: Leroy, does your friend know that tattoos are permanent? Irony is best left to things that can be changed or shaved, like t-shirts or facial hair, although an ironic "Mom" tattoo on either bicep would be acceptable.
Q: Are track jackets still Mag-Bastardly? Or, have they been relegated to soccer hoodlums and clearance sales on Rockstar? By the way, I'm referring to the classics- Fred Perry, Adidas, etc. that are worn during appropriate, casual times (i.e. not your "going out" jacket). --ARP
A: Track jackets hit peak popularity a few years ago, with every designer and their uncle doing a version. We've definitely noticed a drop-off in our own track jacket wearing over the past 4-5 years, but the classics like Adidas Originals or Fila verge on timeless.
Q: I stumbled upon your site about a month ago and have checked it every day since. I see that you are high on Panerai watches, but also say that you think the maximum size watch an MB should wear is 40 mm. I have a Panerai which it 44 mm and I think that is the smallest watch they make. So I'm confused do you like Panerai watches or are they too big? I think it is perfect. Thanks. --Joe
A: We like Panerai and no, they're not too big. The Luminor GMT PAM 00244 is 40MM as are several other new models. Older 40MM models like the gorgeous PAM00159 (pictured) and PAM00160 are also available on eBay and and other web shops.
If you think it's perfect, chances are you've got thick, Popeye-like forearms. In that case, 44MM is in proportion. For normal landlubbers a 44MM watch can look like you've glued a minute hand on a dinner plate.
Q: I'm a freshman in college, about to enter my sophomore year, and I've just started reading MB, but I do consider myself rather stylish on an unemployed college student's budget. What's an MBs stance on collared shirt under a sweater with both of the sleeves rolled up over jeans? And do you have any other general tips to get that artfully disheveled look to truly shine? Thanks. --Mike
A: Mike, you're young and a still a little wet behind the ears, so we'll go easy. This look can be categorized as TTH (Trying Too Hard). Artful dishevelment is indeed calculated, but ends up looking like you didn't try at all. This looks like you tried; not to mention it's also going to stretch the shit out of your sweater sleeves. It's only OK if you're involved in an emergency birth.
Q: Sorry for the short notice, but I need help. I'm traveling to Italy this Friday and my girlfriend, who has already been there for a few weeks, emailed me to warn that I should "bring your MB best." I prefer to travel very light, but am going to be there for two weeks. What are some bastardly standards I should consider when packing? Specifically, essentials I should have that will travel well, how many of what items, and what/how many shoes? Thanks, and keep up the exceptional work. --Harith
A: Certainly the objective is to get everything to fit into a 21" roller and a shoulder bag, and if that means going commando for a while, it beats checking luggage. With that in mind, here are the ingredients you need:
Pair of shoes. 1 leather sandal or loafer, 1 Puma sport fashion, 1 pair of flip-flops (for the beach and pool).
Knit shirts and t-shirts. No logos, and for Pete's sake, no legibility.
Pair of jeans. 2 blue, one white.
Pair of shorts. But be sure not to wear these while strolling during passeggiata. That's a pants deal.
Long-sleeve or short-sleeve woven shirts. Keep it casual.
Pair of your most killer socks. (However, most of the time you can go sockless.)
Summer-weight, fine-gauge cashmere sweater.
For the flight
Wear your most comfortable pair of jeans and the blazer (and the sweater too if the bags are full).
Something else to remember
You are in the global center of fashion and apparel. Forget the recession for a couple of weeks and buy! Even the smallest towns have some of the best menswear on the planet.
Q: I have to go to an all white event (Bar Mitzvah). I have a white linen shirt and white linen pants. Can I wear both or do I need another top. And if the answer is yes, do I need a blazer or sweater? --Kevin
A: Kevin, it would seem you haven't seen our bit on linen. It's trouble, and can turn a fella into a total mess within seconds. We've seen it happen. But when life gives you lemons, we say make lemonade (or at least some really outstanding lemon twists). Second, nobody wears white-on-white, except hospital orderlies and Mr. Clean (inset). So the objective is to break up the white with a shade of white, either in a different shirt, a sweater, or blazer. Take a look at this picture from the DKNY collection at Bloomingdale's, then ask the host if you can go as a bed.
Q: I have recently decided to do a full overhaul of my old and worn-out wardrobe and go all-out to become a certified MB (I have already started by purchasing a J.Fold V12 black/brown wallet). The journey is long, but with your help I think it's possible. Today my I find myself torn over sunglasses, and I have a few questions for you.
The first question is on lens color. Back in 2001 or so I had a pair of Oakley with a reflective, metallic-blue lens coating. Looking back on it, I wonder if (brand aside) they were a rather toolbaggy thing to buy (my only excuse being that I was 16 at the time). Although I am not considering going that path again, I wonder -- is it ever acceptable for an MB to wear any color other than black/tan lenses or do the other colors (ie. red, blue, green) not conform to the principle of understatement?
The second question is hopefully simple. I know you have already quite reluctantly defined a few lightweight sunglasses (i.e. Serengeti Vedi, Rudy Project Murphy, Maui Jim Kailua and, yes, even Oakley Nanowires) as acceptable for use while performing activities such as jogging. Is it acceptable to don those types of eyewear for everyday use or are they strictly application specific like most activewear? With my facial structure I find "fashion" sunglasses tend to look odd and I would rather continue without than pay for prescription sunglasses just so I can look like a TB whenever the sun is shining. --Adam
A: First of all, we'll cut you a little slack for the metallic-blue reflector Oakleys. You were only 16, preoccupied with acne, masturbation, and trying to find a prom date. Sunglass lens color was not a top priority at the time.
You've sort of answered Part I: The classic sunglass lens colors -- grey (some people call this black), brown, bottle green and grey/green (aka G15) -- are a good way to go for everyday use. They're cosmetically acceptable and functionally have endured the test of time. Here's an excerpt from eyetopics.com on the various functions of lens colors:
Gray sunglass lenses reduce light intensity without altering the color of objects. Thus, they provide the most natural color vision. Gray is the most popular sunglass lens color in the United States.
Brown lenses enhance contrast by blocking a larger percentage of blue light than gray lenses do. Brown lenses provide a warmer appearance to colors and make greens more vibrant.
Green sunglass lenses provide a cool, soothing tone to colors. Though not as popular as gray or brown lenses, green lenses are often used to create the classic look of aviator-style sunglasses (Ed. note: "Green" today is actually grey/green or G15. You may want to consider bottle green popular during the 1950s/60s).
Amber sunglass lenses block all or nearly all blue light for superior contrast. Amber-colored lenses are frequently referred to as "blue blocker" lenses or "shooter's sunglasses." (Amber-colored lenses are popular among hunters because they provide enhanced contrast when looking at birds and clay targets against the sky.) Though these lenses enhance contrast, they also distort colors and may not be suitable for driving and other activities that require accurate color recognition.
Pink, Orange, Rose and Blue
These and other vibrant colors are available for fashion sunglasses. These lens colors can cause severe color distortion and are unsuitable for driving and other tasks when color recognition is important.
Now for Part II: Don't you usually change out of your New Balance running shoes before going to dinner? There are better understated sunglass choices for everyday use than sport shades. If TTH (Trying Too Hard) fashion sunglasses make you feel self-conscious (and hopefully they do), try classic, ophthalmic styles from mid-20th Century (see our sunglasses channel for examples). Too often, guys today, even well-dressed guys, have only one pair of sunglasses or several pairs of sports sunglasses. Ironically, when men get dressed, they make sure their outfit works together and is appropriate for whatever function they're attending. Then they put on our only pair of sunglasses and get into the only car they own (or lease) -- the two weak links in how most men are showing up.
Q: Hey MB. What sunglasses is the baby wearing in The Hangover? --Rich
A: It appears both the baby and the co-star Zack Galifianakis are wearing the BluBlocker Demi Tortoise Nylon frame, which, at just $14.95 seems like one hell of a value in spite of logos on the temples. Lose 'em, sit on 'em, ain't no big deal. Recommended.
Q: Help me settle an argument: If you tuck in your shirt while wearing jeans should you wear a belt? My position is that you should always wear a belt when you tuck something in. --Eric
A: We hope you don't have too large of a wager, because it's certainly OK to forego the belt with jeans when you tuck. 9 out of 10 times we'll wear a belt for either accessorization or pant-holding-up purposes (actual function). However with the right denim or right shirt, feel free to leave the belt in your closet.
Q: As a recent college graduate, and as a Staples Center suite ticket owner, what is appropriate attire for Lakers games? I know a jersey and jeans just wont cut it. Thanks for your help! --Chris
A: A recent college graduate and Staples Center suite owner? Pace yourself, Chris. You don't want to peak too early.
Anyhow, a jersey and jeans is indeed out. Just have a look at Joel Madden and this other jersey and foam-finger wearing fella (top). Don't be that guy. For the celebrity set there's an ongoing competition to see who can most successfully affect the just-rolled-out-of-bed-and-showed-up-at-Lakers-game look. Jack Black, we declare you the winner. In spite of the unfortunate fact that your team's primary color is purple, we recommend trying to look like a fan without trying too hard, like David Beckham in this barely-purple fine-knit crewneck sweater (-tie).
Game 1 on Thursday, Chris, and we'll be there in spirit. In reality, we'll be in Pulaski, WI.
Q: What is the MB stance on drinking beer on the golf course? I like beer as much as the next guy and have been known to enjoy a beer during a round. But I turned a buddy down during a recent round when he asked if I wanted one. Aside from any possible negative effects on my score, the reason was that I realized that about 95% of the people I see drinking beer on the course exhibit all the symptoms of a toolbag (cargo shorts, untucked shirts, Oakleys, taking way too long, etc.). So I came to the conclusion that, while drinking beer while playing may not be inherently toolbag, it becomes toolbag by association.
So what says the MB? Is drinking beer on the course ever acceptable? If not, is there an acceptable alternative alcoholic beverage? --Brett
A: Brett, you started off by asking a question, and then, after some toolbag observation and deductive reasoning, answered it on your own, correctly. Well done. As for Part 2 of your question, we never drink on the golf course as it negatively affects performance, again, as you observe. However, once we putt out on 18 it's a stampede to the bar that's sometimes a potentially life-threatening The Who-like experience.
Q: I'm an avid reader... and have to say... you're starting to read my mind. Last night, my wife and I were watching TV -- and saw the belt bug spray fan-thing. I said, I bet the MB would NOT approve of that. She agreed and said it looks like a flea collar. Now, less than 12 hours later, you post something on it. You da man.
Now here's a situation that you're sure to agree with me. I bought these shoes. They have the feel of Crocs (though, I must say I have NEVER owned a pair.) I plan to wear them to the pool, at the beach and when we go whitewater rafting. But the other day, I saw someone wear a pair to the movies. When will toolbags learn? --John
A: John, we may need to graduate you to full-on Vulcan mind-meld. The fact that you mentioned Crocs in the same breath as a recent footwear purchase should set off alarm bells. Do you still have the receipt?
We're strongly opposed to this entire genre of footwear, whether it be Crocs, Keen, or Teva. These are for the fleece and granola set, where MBs are as rare as a dodo bird.
Incidentally, for the rafting we recommend an old pair of Jack Purcells. They work great and look amazing.
Q: I'm in the market for a new watch. But other than following the comformity of society, I want to go my own direction. I want a time piece that will be a conversation piece. I found on the web these Eduardo Milieris Watchcraft watches. Can this be the answer I am looking for? --Nate
A: If you want to look like the most punctual Roman slave ever, we say buy one.
Q: I read your article about shorts at night and wanted present a more specific scenario. You said, "Wearing shorts after dark is strictly for college boys and parking valets." However, I live on an island (Galveston, TX) where local culture seems to allow shorts at any time and nearly any place. Would shorts after dark be MB-approved in this situation? --Justin
A: Sure, you can wear shorts after dark in Galveston, but only if you're planning to make an appearance on COPS. If you are, we also recommend ditching your shirt and your teeth too, to complete the outfit. If a COPS cameo is not in the cards, get to know lightweight denim like this AG version; they will change the way you think about jeans. Just don't pair with those boots.
Q: OK, so linen is out, and I understand that. But what about this chino suit at Banana Republic? It's 65% Cotton, 35% Linen. Thanks. This is kind of an emergency because I've got a wedding to go to this weekend and it could be very hot. Other options? --Nick
A: Online shopping is out given the urgency, which is too bad because YOOX always has something worth trying out. Anyhow, you can do a lot worse than that Banana suit, and the 65% cotton will keep it from looking like you slept in it. A couple of recommended edits and suggestions:
1. Have your cleaner take out the creases. We don't endorse creases, especially on a casual suit like this.
2. Do not pair with penny loafers as pictured. Check our shoes channel for all kinds of better options.
Q: As the summer and thus the warm weather approach I find myself breaking out the summer clothes again. However, I also find myself in need of a wardrobe update. I've got the footwear and shorts down, thanks to your Magnificently Bastard-like advice, but the issue of what should cover my torso perplexes me. I know that, unless playing golf, polo shirts announce to everyone that I'm a toolbag and that they should ask me if they need a hammer or a wrench. I also completely agree that "graphic Ts" are out of the question which leaves me with the question: What casual shirts does a magnificent bastard wear in warm weather? --Braden
A: First of all, leave the jokes to us. Second, yes, graphic Ts are beyond outgoing but a cool polo is timeless. Avoid the mock turtleneck at all costs. (You listenin' Tiger Woods?) A woven long sleeve with pants and rolled sleeves works, and designer Michael Bastian demonstrated this can work with shorts as well. This season nearly every designer is showing a short-sleeve woven, and while they're generally not NASA scientist style (shown here in paper Spock ears in 1967), the degree of difficulty of pulling off this look is high and requires the right physique. Finally, nothing beats a plain ol' grey or white T. Calvin Klein used to make "the best t-shirt ever" but no more and we're trying to find a replacement, or just make it ourselves. Stay tuned.
Q: My brother-in-law is all over Cordarounds. I'm not so sure. Your thoughts? --Jim
A: Horizontal corduroy pants! The world's been needing this for a while now.
While that's a little gimmicky, and their smoking jacket has skull hardware (inset), for just $55 they sell a pair of pants from a print of the Virgin Mary (guitar not included). When you throw this much stuff against the wall, some of it is bound to stick.
At least they have resisted the urge to reinvent the vertical fly.
Q: I know that the "sun never sets on cool" but I think men who wear sunglasses inside are not MBs, no? So wear does an MB place his sun spectacles while indoors or elsewhere? --Robert
A: Robert, your instincts on the un-MBness of wearing sunglasses indoors are strong. Comedian Larry David put it best: "You know who wears sunglasses inside? Blind people and assholes." We've covered sunglass placement very extensively before, but perhaps too extensively. It could just be boiled down to: "Don't look like Mystery from The Pickup Artist."
Q: Two simple, related questions that you may have already answered:
1. Grey suit, white shirt, navy blue tie. What color shoes?
2. Navy blue suit. What color shoes?
Your answer will settle a family feud. --Ben
A: Ben, unfortunately we won't be able to settle the family feud. Between the two of you, you're right. Either black or brown shoes are perfectly acceptable in both of these scenarios. Our guess is what's throwing one of you off is the navy + brown combo. Maybe granddad only paired navy with black, but navy with brown looks great and is one small way to stand apart.
Q: Well I went looking for the Dassler Kapitans (from the post on April 27, 2009) at Puma's site and they only have one size...for people with very small feet. Guess I missed the window on those. Any suggestions for a comparable alternative? Also, what is the shoe the MB has on in the current header, out of curiosity? --Gregory
A: Too bad on the Kapitans. There are a couple pair in larger sizes available on ebay for only $83.11, but in a lighter brown. Also, keep your eyes open on store.puma.com because they do restock.
For a substitute, take a look at the Roma Re-Luxe which is available in many sizes at Zappos. We've probably said this before, but Puma is redefining men's footwear, and we're totally on board. Now men just need more things to wear these with besides denim.
Regarding the golf shoes the MB is wearing in the header photo, they're Adidas "modo Delmar," and are widely unavailable. One thing we've learned about Adidas golf shoes, if you find a pair you like, buy a half-dozen of them because they will be completely gone the following season.
Men's sandals. Apart from the pedicure issue and disqualification of Crocs, can you recommend a pair of that I can use on my sailboat getting to the beach, use to get to the beach from the boat (involves getting wet), walking on the beach to the overpriced but decent Sunset Beach Hotel in the Hamptons, wear in the casual-but-hip outdoor restaurant/bar and after several cocktails, wear getting back to the boat (involves getting wet again). I do not want to carry three pairs of shoes on the boat as I am often on trips of a week or so and want to travel light.
Thanks again and keep the advise coming. --Brian
A: Whew! These Hamptons trips sound like a lot of work!
This question kind of reminds us of the recent "shoes for workout and for work" question. It's not easy to find one pair of sandals to handle all these situations, but the Reef "Smoothy" is our recommendation. They work for us in nearby Door County, WI. They can handle the water, their thick padding is comfy and can handle all the walking, and the embroidered strap handles the style situations. Just be sure to carefully remove the logo with a sharp razor or scissors.
Q: Hey Magnificent Bastards -- What is the MB protocol on cowboy boots? --Evan in Maine
A: A very timely question, Evan. Last Thursday the Wall Street Journal's feature on Design Within Reach contained a picture of CEO Ray Brunner, who appeared to have grabbed whatever was within arm's reach for the photo shoot: an ill-fitting blazer and repp tie matched with cowboy boots and his age and body type looks totally ridiculous. In other words, you need the right "look" to successfully pull a pair of these off. Or on. Match yours with the five guys below to see where you fit.
Q: So I have to attend this (outdoor charity) event for Mother's Day with my wife and son (2 yrs) where your entry ticket is this gaudy t-shirt that violates every known MB principle: logos, legibility, ugly, etc. My question is: since I have to wear this (I have to attend), is there any way to salvage it? Should I wear the rest of the ensemble as if I was wearing some other MB-approved shirt? Or would that just look too stupid (i.e. too much of a clash between MB-ness and clear toolbaggery) and should I just throw in the towel and just toolbag this all the way? Sorry for the short notice but I was just informed yesterday, and Mother's Day is just a few days away! --Rob
A: Rob, your mother probably once told you: Two wrongs do not make a right. Don't cave and go full-on toolbag. Even the ugliest event t-shirt can be mitigated and possibly overcome with the right ensemble. Since you are going to be very unformfortable on top, get very comfortable on the bottom with your go-to denim and sneakers (or sandals, if you've recently had a pedicure). Even if monsoons are predicted, add some vintage sunglasses to the look. They can block toolbaggery almost as well as UV rays, and will provide cover for pained facial expressions.
Of course, even with these tactics, you won't be able to forget the fact that you're wearing the shirt -- because you'll be surrounded by it -- so we also advise that you get drunk as quickly as possible. Skip the beer and go straight to the hard stuff.
Q: We're in the middle of about a week straight of nothing but rain here in the Mid Atlantic, which got me thinking: What does the MB wear to keep his feet dry when he must venture out in wet weather? Women seem to be resorting to the Wellington but so far that trend does not seem to be making inroads among men. My grandfather used to wear galoshes but I haven't seen anyone wearing those either. In my Gore-Tex hiking boots I feel like a refugee from the mid 90s, when dressing as if one were on an Everest expedition was popular even if one were only going to the grocery store. There must be at least one fashionable option? --Mark
A: Short wellies (like these from J.Crew) are MB approved, but they're really only necessary for weather systems with a name. Something with a name that makes the national news and maybe kills a few people, go ahead and upgrade to the full-height version. For anything else, like a little rain, get into something rubber-soled like these Prada Novo boots. We've suggested them before -- they were featured in a header pic from 2008 -- and stand by them in spite of the price. Some staffers have had these for over a decade, so they deliver value, and are cool as shit to boot.
Q: Darling, you have cracked the door, so forgive me if I wedge my foot and possibly my shoulder in and ask (rather breathlessly): What about skinny pants for women? --Nancy Drew
(Ed. note: "Nancy Drew" is an amateur chick detective who's been trying to find out who's behind this site for, like, nearly two years.)
A: Nancy, in the women's case it's a simple matter of geometry. We call it the "Ass to Ankle Angle" or AAA (try saying that 3 times fast). Simply have someone take a picture of you naked with your feet together and then calculate the angle from your ass to your ankle. If your angle is 5° or smaller, you may wear skinny pants. As you can see, the nude in Peter Paul Rubens' "The Three Graces" is at 10°, and she clearly ain't even close.
Q: What kind of surgical mask does the MB recommend for the coming swine flu pandemic? --Bob
A: For this kind of, uh, "in your face" accessory, simple and understated is strongly recommended. And, white or light blue go with just about anything. Please, no pig noses. This is a good opportunity for designer surgical masks, like this MB prototype, inspired by British designer Paul Smith.
Q: Are there any shoes you can think of that I can wear at the gym and with a suit? --Nicholas
A: We've been thinking about this a lot lately so we're glad you asked. While no single shoe will simultaneously work for an AM 5K and a PM meeting with the CEO, Puma is the closest to cracking the code if, say, it's your lifting and not your cardio day. Their Black Label line, the Alexander McQueen collaboration, and some of the Rudolf Dassler stuff can do double duty, depending on the suit. (Again, we're working on one.)
Q: Is it ever OK to wear off-white sneakers? I recently procured a pair of Pumas online and now that I'm looking at the color I'm seriously questioning my decision. Nothing seems to look quite right with them. --Joe
A: Put. The Dockers. Down.
Joe, say it's so: you got into a pair of the new Sport Fashion Roma Re-Luxe, from Puma Black Label (available at Zappos). Of course khakis are a no-no with this shoe, but denim is a sure thing, and pairing these with white jeans or trousers would look très MB. Give 'em another try.
Q: What's your take on slim fit pants that hug the legs and ankles? Are they only acceptable on 150 pound male models? --Todd
A: We have been consistently anti-skinny since this site launched almost two years ago. But it can work in certain situations, like the ones defined by our accompanying skinny pant flow chart. See if you qualify to wear this look.
Q: In your recent post on spring footwear, you apparently diss square-toed Kenneth Coles. Then I looked at the STKCs on my feet and said, "Damn! I'm not as business casual as I thought I was." Please elaborate on this thought. Can STKCs ever be magnificent? Are the just too casual to be "business casual?" Or too formal? And how square is square? --Marc-Ange
A: Let's get one thing straight, Marc-Ange. We did not "apparently diss" square-toed Kenneth Coles. If square-toed Kenneth Coles are Somali pirates, we're the U.S. Navy. No, they can never be Magnificent or Bastardly or any other adjective/adverb worth a damn. For further information and new footwear purchasing guidance, please consult our Shoe Toe Pointiness Chart.
Q: You have previously mentioned a drink named the Sheboygan. As a fellow Wisconsinite and someone who can properly pronounce the eponymous city's name, I would like to know how you make it. Any cocktails you might recommend for an upcoming summer spent on a sailboat or at the waterfront would also be appreciated. --Brian
A: Though the MB usually enjoys a slightly wet, gin martini, he sometimes finds himself out of gin (poor planning, boy) or at a gathering of friends from the South. Of course, South from our offices in Pulaski, WI might only mean as far as Sheboygan, home of America's best bratwurst. This version of a vodka martini gives tribute to Sheboygan, WI, where they might say that one of these makes a good appetizer, two a meal.
* 4 parts vodka
* 1 part dry vermouth
* dash of orange bitters
* garnish of a cornichon, slice of grilled bratwurst, and pearl onion placed in that order, for top to bottom, on a toothpick
Place garnish into a chilled martini glass. Gently shake (think waltz, not polka) the vodka, vermouth and orange bitters with ice; pour over the garnish.
A couple of keys to ensure this drink is at its best. First, use a high quality, authentic bratwurst from Sheboygan. You can experiment with other sausages, but we do not guarantee success using a substitute: garbage in, garbage out.
It's best to use a warm bratwurst to give the fullest flavor. If it's not fresh off the grill, microwave for 15 seconds to perk it up. Also, make sure you pour the martini over the garnish so you get the drink a little oily, just how the MB likes his ... cocktails.
Finally, for whatever reason, this version of a martini tastes best using potato vodka. We use Chopin. This may be due to our Sheboygan friends being classic "meat and potato" kind of people. Whatever vodka you choose, make sure it's worthy of the MB, and more importantly, the quality bratwurst.
Q: Although I wore Thom Browne long before it was available anywhere but Bergdorf Goodman and kind of liked it primarily for the quality and nerdyness, I have recently come to the conclusion that it is kind of "The Emperor's New Clothes." What do you think? --Mark
A: (Ed. note: This question was sent in January, 2009.)
Either it's the Emperor's New Clothes or the Emperor's Flood Pants. Either way, we've never gotten Thom Browne, and perhaps we'll never get Thom Browne, since rumors of his impending bankruptcy surfaced last month (later denied). Maybe we're dumb (or blind), but we don't see a point of view or story to his work, only a gimmick. One thing we think is a very, very safe bet, Mark: If you've been photographed in a Thom Browne suit you're not gonna want to see that pic in 10 years.
Q: I'm new to the official MB philosophy (though not my own unofficial one), having only recently discovered this site. I could use your insight into a matter I face. I plan to attend the Kentucky Derby this year. What is the best way to dress for this occasion? Can I go the MB Gregory Peck route and wear a seersucker suit or has this look be taken over by too many toolbags in recent years? Also, is the boaters straw hat TTH or just too barber shop quartet? --Jon
A: Jon, welcome aboard. "Classic with a twist" is our general aesthetic philosophy, and in the case of something like a 135 year-old horse race in a slave state, a fair amount of middle-finger-fully-extended irreverence is definitely in order. Go for the seersucker, but make sure it's excessively rumpled, like you weren't sure there was a race that day and had to pull it out of the back of your closet last-minute. Instead of the traditional white bucks, go with the white Chucks. And when you order a mint julep, have the bartender make it a double and hold the mint, sugar, water, and ice.
Regarding the boaters straw hat, wear it only if you're bald or sing a cappella, or both.
(The 135th running of the Kentucky Derby is on Saturday, May 2, 2009.)
Q: What does MB have to say about wearing a suit without a belt? Assuming one has the physique to pull it off, how age- and office-appropriate is it? I'm 49 and in better shape than men half my age. And, I work in a conservative office environment. My intuition tells me 'no way' but I'm looking for one small thing to set me apart from the rest of the suits. Thanks for a useful and witty website. --Dino
A: There is no rule that says you have to wear a belt with a suit, even in a conservative office environment. If your pants are hook-and-bar (top) a belt is wrong; if they're a traditional button closure (bottom) beltless still works great.
To set yourself apart from the rest of the suits, try a different suit. (One of our staffers is developing one that will be ready for fall.)
Q: Spring is nearly upon us and, as a man of comfort and style, I want to enjoy some suede loafers / boat shoes from time to time. However, I'm not sure if they're really "business casual." Please advise. --Davis
We oppose any hard and fast rules on acceptable "business casual" footwear. We wear tennies with a twist and HR has not been in contact. Suede loafers easily qualify in most cases, and although "boat shoes" get you word-associating "Sperry topsiders," check the Neiman Marcus collection of boat shoes for spring. Most of these are sure as hell more "business casual"-appropriate than a co-worker in square-toed Kenneth Coles.
Q: Dear MB-- My husband has taken up bicycling as his new fitness routine/hobby. I am distressed every time I see him ride off in his bicycling gear, covered with more endorsements than a NASCAR vehicle. What do you suggest? --Mrs. M.
A: The good news, Mrs. M, is that whatever logo-clad clown suit your husband is frightening the neighborhood children with, it could probably be worse.
The bad news is that if you're doing it right, you can't help but violate key MB principles when wearing cycling attire -- at least if you plan to break 25mph on occasion. To maximize aerodynamics and minimize chafing, cycling clothes are supposed to be obscenely tight-fitting. To maximize visibility and minimize the chance of decorating some texting soccer mom's hood, they're supposed to be garishly bright.
The really bad news is that tight-fitting, garish, but still relatively tasteful gear is easy to find -- so if your husband's peddling around town looking like a graphic designer's resume, it's because he wants to.
To wean him gently from this bad habit, we recommend this Salvarani replica, in 100% merino wool. While we don't care much for even the tiniest logos, never mind ones that can be seen from 100 yards, any logo that requires a $250,000 sewing machine to make is OK in our book.
From one's waist to one's ankles, only solid black is allowed. For a final touch, treat your husband to a pair of Dromarti Sportivos. Five minutes in these handmade Italian beauties, and he will never feel the urge to wear anything featuring a dye-sublimated logo again.
Q: Spring is here, and I am anxious to leave the miserable winter of 2008-09 behind. But on to more pressing questions. Your cocktail guide for the fall/winter got me through many a winter doldrum. What about spring/summer? Is it just gin & tonic until the leaves change? --Ed
A: For some, the swallows returning to Capistrano mark the inevitable return of spring. As we look out the windows of our Pulaski, WI offices, we're reintroduced to spring by the return our city's only street sweeper, the Elgin #1 (pictured). The MB should take note of this and realize it's time to clean out your cabinet of the brown liquors of winter, save perhaps a bottle of scotch for your seasonally resilient Rob Roy, as you move from brown to clear liquors. We don't endorse the temptation to throw your dead soldiers into the streets to be swept up.
The most efficient and straightforward strategy to begin your journey is through Manhattanization: mixing any appropriate brown liquor, with a shot or so of vermouth (sweet, dry, or a mix of the two to go perfect), and a dash of bitters. It works for bourbon, scotch, rye whisky, or brandy.
Given the urgency, you may need to introduce a more aggressive approach to ensure you get through your stock of brown liquors before it's time for the clear ones. If this "problem" presents itself, you just need to take adjust your recipe while recalling one of the strangest words from your high school science class: meniscus.
Fill a lowball glass with ice, pour the brown liquor you're trying to polish off to just below the top of glass. Remember, the meniscus will make it appear to be slightly higher at the edge of the glass than in the middle. You need to leave just enough room for that splash of vermouth.
If you have any straight rye whisky, we also strongly suggest mixing up a Sazerac to give yourself some variety during this spring cleaning. Here's the simple, MB endorsed recipe:
3 shots Rye Whisky (or to taste)
1 sugar cube
quarter shot of Absinthe
Soak the sugar cube with the bitters and place in the bottom of a highball glass. Mash with the back of a spoon (or muddler, which we hope has not been used to make a Mojito), add the rye whisky and fill the glass with ice. Stir for about 30 seconds and then strain into another lowball glass that has been rinsed with Absinthe and filled about halfway with ice. Garnish with a lemon twist.
By early May, you may be tiring of this duty, so the MB allows himself for one day, and only one day, to enjoy a Margarita. Thanks to the blender (or liquidizer for our UK friends), this perfectly acceptable cocktail has far too often been associated with frothy spills on countertops, enormous glasses, and crappy salsa. So, on Cinco de Mayo, the MB may have a Margarita. And since you're only allowed one per year, you might as well do it up right.
MB Endorsed Margarita
2 parts Tequila (must be 100% agave, blanco is fine)
1 part Cointreau
1 part fresh lime juice
Shake all the ingredients and pour into a martini glass, rimmed very lightly with salt.
If you've paced yourself well, as the weather heats up you should have more than a few occasions to enjoy the drink that marks the pinnacle of summer cocktailing: the gin and tonic. Before reaching the summit, though, consider the MB version of the Southside. We've left out the mint to embrace more of a pure lemon experience, and more importantly, to avoid any confusion with the ubiquitous and clearly not MB-endorsed Mojito. Think of it as lemonade for adults.
MB Bastardized Southside
2 parts gin
1 part fresh lemon juice
1 sugar cube (or half teaspoon simple sugar)
Soda water (if desired)
Place the sugar cube at the bottom of a lowball glass, add the fresh lemon juice, and mash with the back of a spoon. Fill two-thirds with ice and the gin and stir for at least 30 seconds. Add soda water, if desired, and give a quick stir. Garnish with a lemon wedge.
And finally, with the heat of summer the MB turns to the Gin and Tonic. There's no recipe needed for the classic gin and tonic, as the MB should have it well known what his preferred gin/tonic ratio is, perhaps even adjusting it for the weather. But he certainly should not allow any shortcuts to be made with the ingredients. Start with quality gin: Plymouth and Boodles are both MB endorsed.
With the growing availability of premium tonics, there should be no need to rely on hose-fed tonic for the cocktail that’s going to be the highlight of many sunny afternoons. The basic order of tonics is this: Fever Tree, Q Tonic, Fentiman's, Whole Foods 365, dog urine, Schweppes.
Q: What does the MB think of Belgian shoes? They appear to have some kind of cult following on the Upper East Side and Glenn O'Brien is quite a fan. I got conned into buying this pair years ago and have worn them a grand total of two times. My wife thinks they are the girliest shoes ever. And I'm inclined to agree. Does an MB need a little more courage to wear them or just some common sense to give them the heave ho? Thoughts? --K Nelson
A: Mr. Nelson, Sir, you should probably get these into your regular rotation. We typically prefer a much more urban look (there are a bunch of new Pumas today on Bluefly), but wearing a $350 pair of slippers 'round town is the essence of Magnificent Bastard-dom. Exclusive, obscure, and posess a senseless lack of utility. Pair with your most beat-up denim for maximum juxtaposition. And tell your wife to mind her own business.
If you remain unconvinced, we're sure there's a homeless stockbroker on the Upper East Side who needs footwear.
Q: I know you've addressed this issue before with crewnecks, however, what should one do with their shirt collars while wearing v-neck sweaters? I tend to keep them in although I've had people comment on how I should wear them out. --Chevy
A: Chevy, it's going to depend on the cut of the v-neck and the shape of the shirt collar, but this is one of those times when you should submit to your shirt's free will. Don't force artful dishevelment. If the collar is meant to stay in, it will stay in. If it's meant to be out, it will come out. 9 times out of 10, however, daily activities like hailing a cab or hailing a bartender will push your collar out.
First of all, we don't care what Vilebrequin is showing this season (or any other): elastic waistbands are universally unflattering and should be reserved for pre-K MBs in training. Beyond that, swimsuit length is the key determining factor. Using da Vinci's Vitruvian Man as a model, do your best to stay in the green zone. Yellow is OK but not recommended. Red is definitively toolbag.
Q: What shoes are worn on the male model in the site header? Also, do you have any MB suggestions to something similar to those? Something dark or light colored for the spring/summer. --Mark
A: Thanks for noticing. Those shoes are one of our all-time favorites: Puma Sport Fashion Standpunkt by Rudolf Dassler in "warm black." You can wear them with denim or a suit. If you have a small foot, you can get them cheap at Zappos, if you're bigger than 7.5 (and who isn't?) they're still available at Miller Shoes.
Q: I'm trying to find a swimming suit. Do you have any suggestions? --Matt
A: Normally we bag pretty hard on Tommy Bahama ... after all their shirts are #5 on The Toolbag List. But you know what? They are really good at swimming suits, like these hibiscus printed "Hold 'Em" swim trunks. The elastic really grips your waist and is surprisingly slimming.
Q: What is your take on Thomas Pink shirts? Is the modified spread collar narrow enough on the points to keep within magnificence? --Pete
A: Pete, in spite of being British, we're just not down with Thomas Pink shirts. The collars necessitate a Windsor knot and you know how we feel about the Windsor knot. Plus, 100% cotton dress shirts are so LC (Last Century). We've abandoned them entirely in favor of ones with a touch of elastane.
I am looking for the quintessential Dopp kit for my world travels. Is the answer leather or nylon? Love the site. --J. Leisure
A: Mr. Leisure, if you're checking bags you should go with the quintesential Dopp kit: a real Dopp kit (top, $60). It's leather, so it satisfies the organic materials principle, and will easily fit into your steamer trunk, with room to spare for your hat box.
If you're carrying on then space is at a premium, and while it's unfortunately not from a cow's hide, we're really, really liking this "kailua" case (bottom, $45) from Malcolm Fontier. Just enough room for the essentials, and thanks to Richard Reid, you can't put your lotion and shaving cream in there anyhow.
Q: For some reason my house has always had a slight funky smell to it, so I use those electric air fresheners to keep the smell at bay. I was wondering if there is an air freshener that the MB endorses (if he endorses them at all) since most air fresheners have a sickly flowery smell to them. Does an air freshener exist that could be considered a little more bastardly that would be appropriate? --Jack
A: We keep telling you guys: bury your enemies' bodies under someone else's house.
Jack, you're on the wrong track with air fresheners. You're just covering up the smell with Glade's Fruit Explosion when you need to eliminate the smell entirely with an air purifier. Expensive, but worth it, especially if you plan on return visits from members of the fairer (and more olfactory-gifted) sex.
Q: Having compared the sock wear of English and Italian friends I find myself in a quandary. The Englishman tends toward the characteristic, and perhaps dull, understated look reaching to the lower calf with the Italian chaps opting for bright stripes and patterns that reach almost to the knee. It's clear to me that there is a certain boldness and verve to the Italian option but is that joy in keeping with the studied coolness characterized by the MB? What do you suggest? --Mark
A: Astute observation on your part, Mark, though British designer Paul Smith makes some of the boldest socks on the market (inset). Regardless, we lean pretty strongly towards the British approach you note. No surprise there given our severe case of Anglophilia, not to mention the Italian socks-pulled-up-to-the-knees technique is both too serious and too 15th century explorer. However, colorful socks are still perfectly OK. They're a subtle way to add some personality to your wardrobe, and are under wraps until you cross your legs.
What are your thoughts on these Red Wing Classic Lifestyle boots?: I know they are my style (rugged good looks, etc) but want to know if they are MB style for around town or in a relaxed office atmosphere. Thanks in advance. --Mark
A: History, tradition, and pedigree are three nouns we like, and Red Wing has those in spades ... and if you had one and needed to dig a hole, these boots would work great. While not easy, they can be successfully urbanized/office-ized, perhaps with denim and a deconstructed blazer. Warning: go too casual on top and you might end up looking like a lost lumberjack. Tim-berrrrrrr!
Q: A question and a comment. What is the MB stance on snugness of a suit jacket? I recently got a steal on an Armani cashmere/silk sport jacket which is too big around the waist for my slim build. I want to get it altered to fit better but don't know how snug it should be. My comment is that I'd love for you to open up your posts to comment! Sure you'll get some rabble but it can add so much to what you're doing here. Which, by the way, I love! --Seth
A: Seth, head to the tailor. The snugness of the fit should be directly in proportion with one's fit(ness). Slim fellas in more generous cuts can quickly start looking like David Byrne. Bigger guys in snug fits can send crowds scurrying for cover to duck flying buttons. We've provided a handy chart below to demonstrate:
Q: I'm a 52 year old woman, 5' 2", my build is medium (not skinny, not chubby) kind of average. However, for awhile, my butt has been going south and I can't do anything else about it besides lots of lunges. What would you suggest is the best jean to lift up the derriere. --Mireya
A: Mireya, don't you just wish you could put that droopy ass up in a ponytail? No doubt everyone would benefit if you and other women in your situation could have an occasional bad ass day. Whip that thing up there and forget about it! Alas, since slinging ass isn't part of our current reality, you're smart to realize you can build a better butt with the right pair of denim.
Start with MB-endorsed Hudson. Signature back pockets (pictured) give the illusion of that desirable apple roundness. They're cut a bit higher in the waist as well (deliberately showing ass crack is so Last Year). This is also advantageous if you've got anything cookin' in the muffin top department.
Another brand worth investigating is Fidelity. You'll likely catch a few compliments with these; again the secret is those back pockets. Yeah, they're a little spendy, but consider it an investment in your bottom line. All it takes is one pair and Boom!, it's like a bailout for that junk in your trunk.
Q: How good does a scotch have to be before an MB won't put it in a Rob Roy and insists on drinking it neat? --Conrad
A: Conrad, you've asked what seems to be a simple question, but this would send a group of professional bartenders into a quarrel which undoubtedly would need to be settled over a few drinks and possibly some wrestling -- the best way to resolve any disagreement.
As we've mentioned in the past, the toolbags of this world think ordering Dom Perignon during the holidays is a sign of class. They're also probably the type who might order a Courvoisier and Coke. The MB knows how to toe the line (even with a law enforcement officer watching) between ignorant excess and the cocktail version of artful dishevelment.
Some "mixologists" (including Gary Regan), simply think that price should be your guide: if the scotch is north of $100 a bottle or so, you should drink it neat. Fortunately for the MB, you have your own taste and two simple rules as your guide:
1) It's fine to use a scotch up to 12-years old in a Rob Roy 2) Avoid using any scotch that's too peaty (think Laphroaig or Lagavulin)
Of course, if you love the peaty scotches you might be able to find the right blend of sweet or dry vermouth (remember the MB likes his Rob Roy perfect or fully dry, with onion garnish) to make a more-than-acceptable Islay Rob Roy. In this case though, you better have your A-game on, or your date may be calling you "Old Swampy" when you try to get more than just cordial.
Q: On the subject of pocket squares, where does the MB plant it roots? My hunch would be you favor the artfully unruly puff fold, but what is your stand on the Quantum of Solace "angled" straight fold featured in the print ads for said film? --Tune
A: We've covered this before, but we'll happily cover it again. Unless you're Yves Saint Laurent, who's dead, we prefer the one-point or the flat fold. James Bond is clueless about the martini (shaken is just plain wrong), but the flat fold has been in place from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig. That "angling" you're seeing is Bond's version of artful dishevelment. Either that or the result of having to lug around a silenced Heckler & Koch MP5 9mm.
Q: My wife says only girls and toolbags drive convertibles. I know you're not a car site, but you've commented on vehicular accessorization before. Convertibles seem impractical and can be exclusive. Does it depend where you live? We've been polling our friends and only my male friends that drive convertibles seem to disagree with my wife. Please advise. --Nicholas
A: Nicholas, this is most certainly not the first time, but your wife is wrong. Yeah, it's pretty easy to conclude "toolbag" when a moustachioed Guido is cruising chicks in a late-model Mustang with the top down. But what else is a convertible but the unstructured blazer of automobiles? As you suggest, they're impractical -- if you think cars are really just bulky umbrellas. But think of the possibilities. They let Mother Nature style your hair. They give you the opportunity to wear a cool cap. They serve as a rolling stage for your magnificence. Or to put it another way, your wife is going to have a hell of time explaining these guys away as chicks or toolbags:
Top: James Dean demonstrating confidence, artful dishevelment, and profoundly good layering technique in his 1954 356 Porsche Speedster.
Middle: Steve McQueen hopping into his 1956 Jaguar XKSS, with perfect cigarette dangling angle.
Bottom: Anyone can get chauffered in a limo, but it takes an MB to get chauffered in a convertible, like the Pope in this 2007 Mercedes-Benz G 500 Cabriolet.
This not a question so much as a fear and I believe you guys can help. Summer will be here and in parts of the US it will be happening sooner. Men should and will be wearing sandals. The problem is, and you've addressed one problem (the lack of a pedicure) which is bad but the choice of sandal is also important. A thong type as opposed to the crisscross or strap. On some men the crisscross and strap type make men look like Fred Flintstone. Could you come up with some guidelines? --John (from Ireland)
A: Yeah, we take a backseat to no one about the importance of a pedicure. Last June was Pedicure Awareness Month and this June will be no different. It's the MB version of The Golden Rule: don't expose nasty-ass toes to others.
Fred Flintstone lived in the Pre-Footwear Era, which makes his car-driving even more remarkable. Imagine the wickedly painful blisters most men would get powering a stone-wheeled auto with their feet. Anyhow, we don't see that big of a stylistic difference between thong and crisscross/strap, to be honest. They can both work. One type of sandal we do avoid is a strap/crisscross that covers too much toe. This has an unflattering chubbing-up, holy-crap-that-dude-has-an-ingrown-toenail effect. You'll know it when you see it.
Magnetic collar stays? "Super strong magnetic buttons give you the unique ability to adjust your collar's spread on a whim, creating multiple different looks with the same shirt"? Ummm, how about just buying a shirt with a spread that you like and wearing it as it was tailored? --Kevin
A: Who knew this much thought went into collar stays? Whenever we buy a shirt with collar stays they're immediately tossed in the trash, simply because they greatly inhibit the MB Prime Directive: artful dishevelment.
Q: I'm planning on traveling to some rather unsavory places. Is there an MB alternative to money belts? --Jet-Setting Bastard
A: Assuming you're going to be spending some time overseas and not just a weekend in Detroit, the belt's problem is that it doesn't have a place for your passport.
We've previously ripped on the YMYL Holster for being focused on holding an MP3 player instead of, say, a weapon. But in this case it will suit your needs pretty well. Combine with a couple unstructured blazers and a Beretta 418, you're jet-setting safely, and in style.
Q: I bought my boyfriend a 25 year bottle of Glenmorangie for his birthday, but I wasn't sure what else I should include. Would a set of granite scotch rocks fall into the realm of toolbag? Should I stick to the more traditional crystal glasses? (Or is there a better gift to pair with the scotch?) --Natalya
A: Natalya, your hunch on granite scotch rocks is dead on. They're like pet rocks for alcoholic toolbags, though in the case of a $750 bottle of booze, certainly better than using actual ice. Go for a pair of the traditional crystal glasses if you must, though we can think of a better pair to pair with the Glenmorangie.
Q: Disparaging the Wayfarers without suggesting a sufficiently bastardly replacement? Very un-magnificent. I'm in the market for a new pair of shades myself. I can at least spot the toolbag fodder, but nothing has struck my fancy. Help! --Brad
A: We're not totally down on the Wayfarer; just make sure you get a vintage pair. And only wear them around the house.
While we're happy to answer questions about what sunglasses Leonardo DiCaprio is wearing in one of his movies, we've also made no secret of our affection for vintage shades. It's a really easy, affordable way to add personality, uniqueness, and history to your look. You'd think we owned the place as much as we pimp it, but try allynscura for loads of good options. Also make sure to check out klasik.org and Retrospecs.
A: In our view, Lugz are the Crocs of hip-hop. They look exactly like they sound -- clunky, badly proportioned, and possibly reinforced with multiple layers of body armor-grade Kevlar. Unless you have an endorsement deal or people shoot at your feet a lot, avoid.
Q: What is your opinion on Aldo shoes, a recent discovery of mine? I'm a 21 year-old college student, and I rock some less-than-subtle ankle zip boots, and some plaid tennis shoes by them rather often, but a friend says they stand out too much and seems like TTH. Maybe it just doesn't work in Arkansas. --Ron
A: Hey Ron in Arkansas. Thanks for reading. This is the first we've heard from Arkansas. Anyhow, we're not big Aldo fans. Can't speak to the plaid tennis shoes but his boots look like a poor-man's Mark Nason. If you're going to TTH, go full throttle with Nason. Otherwise, our current favorite boot guy is John Varvatos and you can usually find them on eBay at a steep discount.
Q: MB, I am a 20 year old college student and recently was very excited to find a pair of new Puma Contacts at a thrift store and have been wearing them occasionally. I only wear them with plain black skinny jeans, because I don't want to be too elaborate. My girlfriend on the other hand feels that they are too ridiculous and make me stand out in a bad way. Am I wrong? --Jacob
A: Jacob, your girlfriend would've been more accurate to say you stand out in a too Joey Ramone way. This is fine if you're the 6'6" frontman for an up-and-coming college punk rock cover band. Otherwise save this ironic footwear for the hardcourts.
Q: I'm trying to find a stylish, affordable winter leather glove for everyday wear. What would you recommend? --Brian
A: The name practically defines prosaic and their site is a blast from 1996, but we've had great luck with stuff from Leather Gloves Online, especially their rabbit fur lined options. Trust us, once you go rabbit fur lined, you never go back, even to the finest Outer Mongolian goat cashmere. Choose the pique stitched version for a dressier look (top, $79.95), and the handsewn chunky stitch pair (bottom, $86.95) for more casual wear.
A: Sorry, there aren't enough distinguishing characteristics even to make an educated guess. However, if you've got the requisite confidence, we heartily endorse big, chunky, '60s-inspired sunglasses like the ones he's wearing. Also, the video is worth watching:
Q: What do MBs have for a desktop background on their computers? --Don
A: A picture of either a.) their kid(s), b.) their pet(s), c.) their wife, or d.) all of the above.
Just messin' with ya! Don, we're glad to see some understand an MB communicates even with his computer's display settings. Custom or design-y backgrounds are the equivalent of over-accessorization, like simultaneously wearing a necklace, watch, earring, and ring. Focus on things that matter: time invested in choosing a picture of a sunset is better spent finding a killer pair of shoes.
(Top: Choose "None" on Windows. Bottom: Choose "Solid Colors" on Mac, preferably a neutral.)
Q: A male friend of mine has been looking for a weekend/overnight bag for a while with no luck. To quote him exactly, "I need a quality overnight bag/case, for planes and the car, sort of fashionable and available online? Is there something I should be looking at?" Naturally I am concerned for him, since he needs to be as magnificent as possible, but nothing I've found so far seems to suit him. Are you up to the task? --Liz
A: Let's hope he's spending a bit more time in automobiles and trains than planes, because finding affordable, stylish wheeled cabin luggage is a full-time job and should be part of Obama's stimulus package. Based on the size of his wallet, here are some suggestions:
Top:F1 Spacepak Weekend. $62.50 (on sale). Flight 001's house brand is high quality, functional, affordable, and looks cool. Can you tell we're fans? For short jaunts this bag (1/2 price!) will not disappoint.
Q: I've got a question about how high or low pants should go. I'm a fat bastard who has been working on slimming down. Down 2 pants sizes in the last year and half. So my wardrobe is in flux. The issue now though is my two suits (especially the pants) are ridiculously too large to go around my traditional upper limit of above the hips. But they're now ok go around my still somewhat larger gut. (I'm still working on that.) The question comes down to, is it ok to wear the pants around the belly or should I pony up the money to have and have the alterations done? --Moderately Fat Bastard
A: Get your pants tailored for the new you. Wearing them on your gut is like giving up and only wearing sweats and track suits. You're in the process of turning this fat train right around! In other words, a little more Hank Hill (who once lead his high-school's conference in rushing) and a little less Homer Simpson (who once gained 61 pounds to go on fat disability). Please just ignore the look on their faces and their body language and trust us.
Q: My husband seems to be losing his hearing, but since he is the quintessential MB he is dead against a hearing aid. I saw this item in the latest SkyMall airline catalog -- it's a hearing aid camouflaged as a Bluetool, I mean -tooth. The copy claims it will make my darling look more youthful. And if it works, he would be able to hear me better. It's $40. What do you think? --Dru
A: Take it easy there, hon. Do *not* mess with a man's hard-earned ability to tune out his wife, even if it's the result of actual hearing loss. May we suggest a dozen Titleist Pro V1s instead?
Q: Etiquette question: I've been invited to the wedding and bachelor party of a friend from college. I can't make the wedding (another, better friend is getting married a week later. I can only afford one cross country flight.) Is it poor taste to attend just the (local) bachelor party? Also: I've only received a "Save the Date" from the bride. Should I contact them now or wait for the invitation and the RSVP? --Mike
A: Mike, this is a sticky situation, but we've got a solution:
Option A: Telling the truth. Pleading poverty is very un-MB, so don't do it.
Option B: Not attending. You'll have to come up with another Emily Post-sounding excuse not to attend the bachelor party. Which leaves the only logical choice:
Option C: Get disinvited from the wedding. Have a wicked good time at the bachelor party, take a bunch of pictures and post them Facebook. Then "accidentally" unblock them. Oops! It was an honest mistake! Plus it takes care of that wedding "Save the Date" / RSVP situation.
Q: It seems like the Ray-Ban Wayfarers are making a comeback. Are they too iconic to be MB? Or, should you buy them now so that in 5 years when they're really popular you can say "already got them"? --Stephen
A: You needed to buy them 5 years *ago* so that today they could tell everyone, "Already got them, yo." Or just change the subject. Isn't this weather great? While they're still popular, an MB is not following the crowd this late in the game.
Here's the deal: Ray-Ban was bought from Bausch & Lomb by Luxottica in the '90s. They wanted to put their own mark on the brand, throwing away 50 years of American spirit. When tastemakers started wearing vintage Wayfarers in the early/mid 2000s, Luxottica decided to reissue the original style. They prominently placed fucking logos on the front of the frame and on each temple to make sure it was distinguished from copycats. When B&L first issued the Wayfarer, it simply had the "football" shaped shields on the fronts and temples (like our friend Joel, pictured) and an understated "BL" etched into the corner of the lenses. If you must wear a Wayfarer today -- and we don't recommend it -- insist on the original American-made versions.
Q: I will soon be moving to Seattle after having lived all my life in sunny Florida. I am not well equipped for the weather, and was hoping you could recommend appropriate overcoat and footwear options (I cringe at the thought of exposing leather shoes to that much moisture). Would you consider a raincoat too plebian? --Alex
A: Hey Alex, kind of a good-news/bad-news scenario, eh? You just reduced your melanoma risk by 100%, but elevated your risk of SAD by at least that much. For the latter, up here in northern Wisconsin we've discovered heavy doses of alcohol usually does the trick. And it sure beats chemotherapy. Anyhow, we digress...
Footwear: Rubber-soled leather shoes will hold up well. Camper is an affordable all-time MB favorite. Depending on your relocation package, also consider Prada (a bunch of new options now at Saks). Just stay away from suede, or keep a suede brush in your laptop bag at all times. Also consider just strapping on some Swims over your existing footwear, and put all your money towards:
Outerwear: Two words: Mackintosh Coat. Your move has provided you with an opportunity to wear this iconic outerwear a lot. Yeah, they're expensive, but a Mackintosh coat is one of those rare pieces that you can wear for a lifetime because it will never go out of style. Go for the original (left, $813.00), or the slightly updated J. Crew version (right, $800.00).
Most importantly, follow Dan Rather and Humphrey Bogart's lead and be sure to turn up the collar.
Q: I just started dating a truly Magnificent Bastard. But it seems he has everything! With Valentine's Day coming up, I'm at a loss as to what to get him (under $100 since we're new), any suggestions for an outside-the-bedroom present (he's already getting a bedroom present)? --Jackie
A: Jackie, in this situation we have one simple rule to follow: Don't get anything that puts him in the position of overtly having to display or wear it; in other words be forced to answer the question, "Why aren't you wearing ______ tonight?" If he hates it, it can disappear into a closet or drawer and for all you know he uses it every day. This means no clothes or personal furnishings or any display-necessary housewares. So ties, wallets, thumb rings, and placemats are all out.
Poke around at a couple of our favorite four-letter design boutiques, Moss and Good. If you come up empty, visit your favorite antique shop and you're certain to find a one-of-a-kind MB-worthy item he doesn't already own. After a few minutes of Googling we unearthed this elk-horn corkscrew that isn't just an excellent addition to any bar, it distinctly foreshadows the "in the bedroom" present.
Q: Is it ever appropriate or acceptable to wear sunglasses indoors and/or at night? I'm not talking Oakley Blades with crazy-ass reflective lenses, but vintage Neostyles and Dunhills with soft blue and brown gradients. I know the official MB stance on the practice, but I hope against hope that there are exceptions. --Michael
Q: I was recently looking at getting a pair of Fluevogs and was curious; how do they rate on the MB scale? I figure they make the grade, and while some are a little too pointy and others not pointy enough (http://www.magnificentbastard.com/posts/ask-the-mb-shoe-toe-pointiness), I'm guessing these are acceptable based on the rules. What say you, oh swami of pithy style? --Gregory
A: Sure, some Fluevogs might qualify as acceptable based on the MB Toe Pointiness Chart; it's their positioning on the MB Good Style Chart you should be more concerned about. These just don't do it for us. Their look is so overpowering and Austin Powers-y that if you decide to get a pair please follow this advice: make them the featured wardrobe item and combine with an exceedingly ordinary pair of pants and top.
Q: I have a pair of brown pony hair Puma Clydes, but am trying to find them in black. Any suggestions? --Mike
A: First of all, consider yourself lucky to own a pair of these at all. (They're rare ... what's the deal? Is there a pony shortage or something? Grow some more.) Second, you want to know what sucks worse than not finding the shoes you desire? It's when you Google "puma pony hair" + black and our own site has the #1 and #2 search results. As if we're going to be of any help!
Your best bet is to set up Google and eBay alerts. If you insist on the pony and can't wait to find the black, the "Clyde Jungle Pack" is available and on sale for just $90.
Q: I play basketball and my old hightops are tired. Is there such a thing as a basketball shoe that does not reek of toolbag? Growing up, I loved the Air Penny II. Do you approve? Do I need to stop playing the sport altogether? Help! --Matt
A: We have about a dozen well-worn copies of Paul Fussell's brilliant book Class lying around the office. One its greatest contributions: a sport's class is inversely proportional to the size of its ball.*
How's your backhand?
(* Of course not every theory is perfect. If it were, a softball would be about the size of the moon.)
Q: What is your take on thumb rings? I wear one from time-to-time to round out my MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter look. It's a silver ring with a gold skull I bought while in combat over in Iraq. I have read that back in the day, like 1400s back in the day, docs and military types use to wear thumb rings. I catch a lot of shit from friends, but that's as far as it goes when I ask them what would look more gay? "My low-key skull thumb ring or them walking into the ER with a broken jaw?" --Glenn
A: We reckon you're mistaking thumb rings for thumbscrews. We also reckon your friends are more regular readers of this site, just trying to help their boy out. So get medieval on someone else's ass.
Q: OK. I'm a toolbag. Overweight. Over 50. So, before I abandon all hope and kill myself to improve the gene pool, are there stylists / personal shoppers / etc. that could take me by the wallet and do a makeover? How would a toolbag know a good one from a charlatan? I don't expect to become a MB, but life's got to be better than the Big Tall and Ugly shop. --Richard
A: Richard, you may have lost your fitness and good looks, but at least you've still got your sense of humor. And apparently your wallet is still intact, so things are less dire than you think. Do us a favor: start by hitting the treadmill and eating less, and consider hiring a personal trainer. Then browse through all the channels on this site. If you have questions, drop us another line. We'll happily suggest a few wardrobe choices, and who knows? Project Richard may become this site's next feature.
Q: How old does one need to be to wear a blazer in casual settings? I'm thinking of buying a military blazer (single breasted, four buttons, dark grey), but I don't want to be the "17-year old who tries to look 30." --Collarbone
A: Choose the blazer if either: a.) you hang out mainly with older people, or b.) you want to be mistaken for one of the Jonas Brothers. And chicks apparently really dig them.
Otherwise it carries pretty high risk. Wearing one to algebra class can possibly work as Max Fisher but can quickly devolve into Mike Damone.
Now, while I realize that part of being an MB is a healthy contempt for authority, is it really fair to apply the criteria of Magnificent Bastard-dom to the office of the President? I mean, isn't that something of a double standard?
Consider how a Magnificent Bastard would likely win an election:
1. A Magnificent Bastard certainly would be the underdog, running against an establishment incumbent. 2. A Magnificent Bastard would likely campaign however the hell he wanted, surrounding himself with good people, and he certainly wouldn't "prepare" for debates. (This would be Trying Too Hard). 3. A Magnificent Bastard, faced with inevitable defeat, would likely win the election anyhow, using the system itself to take the reins of power. 4. Having taken the presidency, a Magnificent Bastard wouldn't dare be seen sitting behind a desk. Why not schedule several photo ops doing something outdoors, and manly, with a cowboy hat and boots (appropriate in the state of Texas), denim, and sleeves appropriately rolled past the elbows.
Wait, wait, wait. This all seems very familiar. No wonder there's a picture of Dubya tucked in your current banner image. You sly dogs.
Q: I've been browsing through the site and I must say it's spot on ... great reviews with a great sense of humor... I wanted to ask what's the MB stance on Fossil Watches.... Are they over used? Are they too mainstream? Are they worthy of a Magnificent Bastard? --Luis
A: Luis, sucking up will get you nowhere. OK, well, maybe somewhere: we'll answer your question. We're not big fans of Fossil watches for the reasons you suggest, and a couple of others: 1.) most exceed the 40mm size maximum, and 2.) their quality isn't the greatest. On the other hand, the price is right, so if you're young (high school or early college) you could do worse, but once you hit the big 2-0 it's time to upgrade.
Q: Since you mention watches ... any advice on a good-looking digital watch? I can read an analog, but hate having to. --David
A: When the big hand is on the 12 and the little hand is on the 9...
If you insist on digital then why not go nerd ironic with a vintage Casio calculator? Otherwise, we recommend the Timex Ironman, worn by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and President Bill Clinton (bottom), who is at least 50% Magnificent Bastard. It's a watch that says, "Yes, of course I can afford a more expensive timepiece, but I am practical, I am a brother in arms with the common man, and I may even jog on occasion."
Q: Recently in GQ's online series "How to Become a Well Dressed Rebel in 30 Days," Adam Rapoport interviewed Thom Browne and suggested that you forgo the socks with your suit. When they show the pictures of Thom Browne I got a distinct feel that he looked like a 12 year-old that got a suit when he was 7. I guess this can be classified as artful dishevelment but I feel that less dishevelment is better than more Hobbit. Am I completely off the mark? And how should a MB go about the no socks advice? --Ryan
A: We've never understood the fashion world's hard-on for Thom Browne. Thom Browne this. Thom Browne that. Whatever. His approach to pants is a completely unflattering trend, kinda like women's capri pants from a few years ago. (Like the Terminator, they'll be back.) However, Thom Browne's thoughts on no socks with suits is a good one, but do it in an understated (i.e. MB) way. Go sockless with a normal inseam and then surprise folks with a leg cross or a nicely-timed gust of wind. Just be sure to wear a pair of these socks with your shoes.
Q: So thanks to you guys I've taken quite a turn for the bastardly -- started tucking in sport shirts, stopped wearing a thumb ring and bracelet, etc. -- and it's made a huge difference in how I present and feel about myself. So thanks for that.
Anyway, I've got a question regarding watches, specifically how to wear them. I've always taken to wearing them upside-down on my right wrist -- I'm right-handed -- but I'm not sure if comes off as TTH. Where do you guys stand? Or does it even make much of a difference?
Also, how do you guys feel about rubber/nylon straps for watches? I've never been a fan of stainless steel 'cause it scuffs too easily and slides around too much. --Michael
A: Thanks for the kind words and we're glad we've been of assistance. Now tuck in that shirt, son! You're slippin'.
Anyhow, regarding watch placement, right wrist is OK but perhaps reconsider the upside-down part. With your positioning there's wasted motion involved in telling time, and over time could lead to repetitive stress injury.
Regarding bands, you're going to get us to add a corollary to the Principle of Organic Materials. Of course, a dress watch almost always demands a leather band, but for anything sporty we too prefer nylon to steel. The best band we've ever found is the Zulu strap, again from Westcoastime. You will be pleased with that purchase.
Q: What's your take on glasses? I'm nearsighted and I wear contacts most of the time, but occasionally I do like to wear my glasses (for the sake of the "look"). Do you have any recommendations on things like frame (metal/plastic), shape (round, oval, square), color (black, brown, etc...), rimless or rimmed, and size? Or should I just stick to contacts? --4Eyes
A: We strongly endorse eyeglasses. They are a great way to accessorize stylishly, or to achieve "the look" as you say. This "look" may even end up defining you, as they have for many MBs throughout history. As far as material and shape and rims, experiment and see what you like and don't like. We almost always end up with vintage eyewear, which you can find at antique stores or our favorite (and we reckon the best) online dealer for new old stock: allyn scura. Tell Scott (the owner) we sent you.
See if you can identify these MBs before looking at the answers below.
Top Row: Salvador Allende, Arthur Ashe, William S. Burroughs, Michael Caine Middle Row: Elvis Costello, Sammy Davis Jr., James Dean, Johnny Depp Bottom Row: J. William Fulbright, Mahatma Gandhi, Philip Johnson, Le Corbusier
Q: You can't think of any fat guys who are MBs? How about Sydney Greenstreet or Charles Laughton? Auric Goldfinger or the Kingpin?
Magnificent Bastards all. --Marcus
A: Let's just say we have different definitions of Magnificent Bastard-dom. Who's the MB in this picture? (Hint: It's not the guy on the left who cheats at both cards and golf.) Now, if you had said "Fat Elvis" instead of some tubby Brits and a comic book character, you'd have an argument.
UPDATE: Reader Sid chimes in with an MB-endorsed observation:
As to whether or not a fat guy can be an MB, I'm going with "yes, but it's really hard to pull off."
Case in point: Winston Churchill. yeah, he's a Brit, but a certain degree of Anglophilia is well within MB rights (you've said as much yourselves). Snappy dresser, master drinker, always ready with a quip, and pretty much singlehandedly kept Britain's shit together during WW2.
I'll admit, he started off skinny (like Brando) and got increasingly fat and nasty (like Brando) but the height of his MB-dom was obviously during WW2, at which point he was definitely on the tubby side of things.
Corrolary: Orson Welles. Sure, he also got fat and nasty by the endgame, but Welles was an MB's MB.
Q: Howdy: I'm looking at buying a suede jacket. Last night, my wife and I were watching the movie, Music and Lyrics on HBO. Hugh Grant was wearing a really nice brown one. I said I want one similar ... my wife said the collar was too wide. We agreed to let you decide. What say you? --John
A: We're not sure about the age-inappropriate necklace or the quarter-zip mock neck sweater, but the collar on that jacket, while bold, is just fine by us. The only problem: good luck finding it. Since she lost the argument, put your wife on the search.
Q: Can fat guys be MBs? They can't pull off the perfect suit, or show off a sweet non-pleated pant, but I'm sure there have been some badass big MB guys in the past. I'm not talking Michael Moore fat (and unkempt), but maybe a guy that goes to the Big and Tall store a touch more for the "Big" than the "Tall." --Fat Bastard
A: We're pretty sure there exists a fat MB, it's just that we can't really think of one outside of perhaps Santa Claus ... and he still has to put on polyester once a year.
A little additional chub can still work, but not too much. Just look to Marlon Brando for guidance:
Top: Fit Brando the iconic image of cool American masculinity.
Bottom: Fat Brando the iconic image of diabetes, waddling, hanging out at Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch.
Q: I work for a jeweler and would like to buy my brother a watch. He will be retiring from the USMC this coming fall and will need a civilian watch. Are Tag Heuer, Tissot, or Movado MB-approved? If not, brand recommendations? --Jennifer
A: McQueen wore a Tag Heuer, but so does Tiger Woods, and that's a dealbreaker because he's a toolbag. Tissot makes some nice watches and the price is right. Movado is far too civilian-y and fragile-looking for a guy who could probably survive for a week solely on bullets and Marlboros.
We'd suggest going with something sporty and perhaps even military-inspired. He'll always be a Marine. Take a look at Westcoastime for some very affordable options. For a little more money, you could not go wrong with an Omega Seamaster. Works for Bond. If you're interested in becoming All-Time Favorite Sister of All-Time, see what kind of discount you can get on a Panerai.
Q: Would wearing a three-piece suit make the MB a bit too Swiss banker? Is it wrong to sport one in a light gray stripe? --Sampson
A: Not just too Swiss banker. Too Dean Vernon Wormer. And too Greg Marmalard. He was a little shit, just like Neidermeyer. In other words, a 3-piece suit is just too "authority figure" to qualify as an MB wardrobe entry, and MBs are known to have issues with authority. They're more likely to be members of Delta Tau Chi than Omega Theta Pi, if you get our drift.
Q: How does the MB approach color? Not as a seasonal rule, but in general, does the MB embrace color, or shy away? I've been using color mostly in accents and smaller articles of clothing, leaving the main pieces to neutral color palettes. Is this the way to go? --Matt
A: Matt, you've basically got it, except for the part about color in accents and smaller articles of clothing. Just look at how these MBs keep their palette simple and almost completely devoid of color.
Q: I'm thinking it's about time to go shopping, but I haven't got a clue about what to buy. I'd like to look a little bit mature, but since I'm actually not that old (18) I want stuff that's easy to dress down or just make a little more playful. Oh, and I usually look better in things with a waist. Any suggestions? --Eva
A: Eva, you sure about this waist thing? If so, here are three waist-friendly options, depending on you budget. From big to small:
Nanette Lepore - More difficult to dress down, but has the strong '50s vibe it sounds like you dig. A bunch of choices at shopbop.com.
J. Crew - Lots of options to make you look older than 18 here.
Target - No joke. If you're on a typical 18 year-old's budget, Isaac Mizrahi for Target fits the bill. Get it while you still can; he'll be gone soon.
Q: Ever since I began shaving, I've been getting razor bumps in the neck region. I've tried shaving with a five blade electric razor after taking a hot shower, shaving with the direction of the hair, and only shaving once every three days. However none of these methods seem to alleviate the problem. I don't want to do laser hair removal. What do you suggest? --Brock
A: Sorry Brock, we cannot help you. The morning shave leaves our faces as smooth as Barbie's ass.
But we can't just leave you in a bumpy-necked lurch. For assistance we've turned to Michael Gilman, co-founder of men's grooming site Grooming Lounge for some answers:
First, an irritation-free shave is all about preparation. Shaving right after a shower is important, but only half the battle. In addition to shaving a warm beard, he should also prepare the beard using a shave oil and shave cream combination. The oil will help his whiskers stand at attention and the cream will work in tandem with the oil to soften skin and the whiskers. The result is less razor drag and irritation.
Secondly, for guys with sensitive skin, 5 blades is just too much. It's the equivalent of taking three or four extra passes with the razor. For sensitive skin that’s too vigorous. We suggest a triple bladed razor and that's what we use in-house.
Another tip is to really make sure he's shaving with the direction of hair growth and not just "down." For a lot of men, hair grows side to side or diagonally and it's important to follow this path to reduce irritation. Of course, no slicing and only going against the grain for areas that really need it and only doing so once.
Finally, in addition to a soothing, non-alcohol based aftershave, there's a miracle product that really helps guys with chronic razor burn. It's called Barc Bump Down, and God knows how it works, but applying some post-shave really reduces razor burn and bumps. I've used it myself to ward of irritation and its slight sting is well worth it.
Q: My boyfriend loves your site and I enjoy it too so I told my dad to check it out because he takes pride in his appearance and has a sense of humor...well when he looked up what kind of jeans he should wear you told him diapers. Not cool! --Carrie
A: Not just any ol' diapers, Carrie! Depends®! Of course 60 year-olds can wear denim. Just have your pop avoid anything with a design on the back pocket, in a weird wash, or too high or low-rise. For easy and affordable, J. Crew or Banana will work. If he's feeling up to it, have him take a look at our favorite: AG. Finally, get your old man's sense of humor in for a tune-up.
Q: What the hell can I wear with jean shorts?! I just recently donated a bunch of my clothes and noticed I have tons of jean shorts. I can't think up anything that can go with them. Should I have donated them too? Help! --Aaron
A: Florida Gator quarterback and massive toolbag Tim Tebow wears jean shorts. (Looks as though MBs can safely rule out Birkenstocks as well. But you knew that.) If that doesn't answer your question, visit jean short photo site jorts.com and let us know if you find one guy even approximating Magnificent Bastard-dom. Aaron, this is best left to the opposite sex, specifically Daisy Duke or women with DD-quality buns.
Q: I generally agree that they are a terrible curse on humanity but these are quite MB in my opinion. They first caught my eye in a recent ad in GQ. --Matt
A: Egads man. These ain't MB. They look like the result of a company with a history of making soft, cheap, sheepskin boots that decides to make something "badass." If you're wanting that buckle look in the same price range, try something from Frye, the oldest continuously operated shoe company in America (1863).
Q: First, thanks for clarifying the difference between a decent cocktail and a great one. It's changed the way I drink.
But I wanted to know what should be ordered when drinking isn't an option. I don't mean the basics. I'm assuming the coffee is always black, the water is never branded, and the drink, given the choice, is never bottled. What I mean is that time where you want to stay a few extra minutes at the bar, but another would put you over the limit. What do you ask for? --John (from the UK)
A: Generally, what we'd ask for is the check, but it sounds like you're looking for advice on how to keep sipping on something when you might have a good reason to hang around for a few more minutes at the bar.
Did she have a nice pair of cans?
The simple choice is tonic water with a twist. Usually, though, this might mean sucking down something that just recently saw the inside of a hose. We're not cattle! Being from the UK, you should be able to find the best choice in tonic: Fever-Tree. For those in the states, Q Tonic is becoming more widely available. And yes, we strongly suggest demanding one of these premium tonics the next time your bartender mixes up a gin and tonic.
But why go cold turkey? The goal is to keep your blood-alcohol level down, not put your kidneys into shock. Try something tasteful with far less alcohol than the your usual, three-shot Rob Roy. That's where one of our favorites, the Americano, comes in. Order this heavy on the soda and you'll have an enjoyable, not overly boozy option when slowly winding down your evening.
3 parts Campari
3 parts sweet vermouth (Noilly Pratt)
splash of soda water
dash of orange bitters
Give a quick shake, pour over ice in a Collins glass, garnish with an orange peel.
MB "Last Call" Americano
1 part Campari
1 part sweet vermouth (Noilly Pratt)
3 parts soda water
dash of orange bitters
Pour all ingredients over ice, stir briskly, garnish with an orange peel.
Q: Suits: are we still in 2-button, double-vent mode, or is there something new on the horizon? It is time to update the old wardrobe? Can I still wear my old 4 button models or are those too far gone? --Allen
A: The 2-button, double-vent mode is still a great choice. Heck, even an alien like Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) from The Day the Earth Stood Still knows it. (If you look closely you can pick out the double vents.)
Regarding the 4-button versions in your possession, we're going to invoke the well-known Charles Barkley rule and request that they remain in your closet.
Q: OK, when wearing cufflinks, if your shirt has a button placket just north of the cuff, do you use the button or leave it undone? I vote "use the button," but I see some seemingly very MB-esque people forgoing it. Please shed some Magnificent light on the subject. --Tim
A: Button? What button? We don't think we've ever used that button on either a button cuff or single/French cuff shirt. Those people you're seeing are MB-esque for a reason: they're MBs.
Q: My wife just surprised me with a pair of men's Uggs (dark brown short boots) for my birthday. What should I do? I love my wife (she is sitting next to me). --Stephen
A: Remember that wedding vow stuff? "For better or for worse"? Surely there was never any mention about Ugg boots for men, so read on.
These have been outgoing on women for well over a year and are a style trainwreck for men. It's great that you love your wife, Stephen. Sounds like you have a healthy, strong marriage, and even sit closely while emailing. Ask her for the receipt, give her a peck on the cheek, and then make your way to the mall for a return.
Q: My boyfriend recently discovered your site and now it's his dogma. The problem: I was going to get him Crocs for his birthday next month, thinking he would like a comfortable, lazy-day alternative to real shoes like I do, but now he's all against them because of you. So what should I get a newly minted MB-wannabe for his b-day? It doesn't have to be shoes, but it has to be cheap. Like probably any clothing recommendations you would make would be too much for me. --Breda
Clothing or footwear is such a dicey proposition in the first place. In the Crocs price range we recommend the Kiehl's "Ultimate Man" Collection. It's 55 bucks and he'll smell nice, be clean, have soft hands, and kiss-worthy lips. In fact, this gift is more for you than it is him, and those are always the best kind.
Q: Love your site and you are right on with the boot and tucked in pants deal. My question is about where a gin martini fits in your MB seasonal drink chart. Winter is bourbon and scotch season certainly, but an icy martini does have its place too as the weather gets cold and dark in my opinion. Your thoughts? --Bradley
A: Regular readers of our site know that the Rob Roy is the MB's year-round drink of choice, but a gin martini is certainly more than acceptable alternative when you need a break from a seasonal overabundance of the brown liquors.
The MB version of the classic martini has a bastardly nod toward the classic origins of the cocktail (dash of orange bitters) but also a magnificent nod to getting the taste right above all else (appropriate amount of vermouth, because the flavor complexity is required, and a slight shaking, because the dilution with water brings out a better aroma and flavor). The modern obsession with an overly dry martini shows little knowledge of what the cocktail needs to deliver. (Sorry Mr. Churchill.)
Going Bradford (i.e. giving it a shake), is where the MB wants to be, though he appreciates the stance of the purists who advocate only stirring. Also, the Gibson version (with a cocktail onion garnish) isn't frowned upon.
MB Gin Martini
4 parts gin (Plymouth or Boodles)
1 part dry vermouth (Noilly Pratt)
dash of Regans' orange bitters
Give the gin, vermouth, and bitters a quick shake. Serve up with a lemon twist.
Typically a man becomes more MB with age, as he learns from earlier mistakes and takes on the patina of someone who's endured polar fleece and Dockers. An obvious exception to this rule is Kevin Costner, seen in the most recent issue of People sporting a soul patch.
Q: As an aspiring MB in my early 20s, it's troubling my otherwise attractive and eloquent girlfriend almost exclusively sticks to clothing with style that would better suit a tween at a "Twilight" premiere. Any suggestions on how to ween her away from the kiddie clothes and towards a more age-appropriate look without inciting rage? --Sean
A: We love it when an attractive, eloquent, early 20-something women gets mad.
Our guess is she's still shopping in juniors with the other Twi-hards. She needs to shift to contemporary, which unfortunately for you is a bigger budget commitment, but better quality and fewer tacky midriff-baring tops. Try a gift certificate from BCBG, Club Monaco, or French Connection. If her pockets (and yours) are a little deeper just go straight to Theory and be done with it.
Q: My boyfriend keeps asking me what color shoes to wear with various colored shirts. I honestly never have a clue. I know what works for women, but not for men. Is there some sort rule? For instance, what color shoes/belt would you wear with a purple shirt? --Jessica
A: This might be an issue for women because their color palette is enhanced, especially for shoes. How many guys own a pair of pink heels? To answer your question, it really doesn't matter. He can confidently wear that TCU long-sleeve shirt with either black or brown. Just not white New Balance, please. Go Frogs!
Q: i love your site, and have used it as leverage to convince my fiance that certain fashion choices are good (and bad - i talked him out of a pair of oakleys because of you guys!). i just wish there was an equivalent for women that was so straightforward! any suggestions? or do you know equally fashion-forward girls you could convince to start their own site? women need fashion help too! --Stephanie
Q: I ordered a Burberry stretch cashmere sweater that looks a little too tight. It is size medium and I want to wear an MB collared white shirt under. If I pull it down so that it doesn't leave slack then it becomes tight and long. If I go to a size small it would be way too tight and be too close to the waist. If I go large then it might have too much extra slack. I can't win. Is it better to have clothing that is a little too tight or too loose. --Dennis
A: You think we do all those grueling lunges, dead lifts, and bench presses so we can hide the results underneath a baggy Burberry cashmere sweater? No sir. This is pretty simple. If you don't have any unsightly bulges then go with a little too tight vs. too loose.
Additionally, about your size dilemma: You can shape a cashmere sweater (even with a little elastane) to be about whatever size and proportion you want with some careful washing, stretching, blocking, and drying.
Q: I am planning on pooling some X-mas money together to purchase a suit (the purchase would double this MB-in-training's collection). I am looking for something that says I'm ready for the position/adventure. I've asked for gift certificates to Banana Republic from a couple people, so if you had a few suggestions, maybe you could start there. --Matt
A: Matt, for a fella who's just starting out you could do a lot worse than a Banana Republic suit. Just make sure it's a two-button version, and nothing too trendy like the 3 external jacket pockets they're showing on some of their Monogram line.
One other place you should explore before making a decision is yoox.com. They have better, more unique suits than BR for equivalent prices. Even the least expensive Banana pant-jacket combo is going to run you $475. For an additional $100 you could get into this Costume National suit (originally $1000) that would announce very clearly you're ready for the adventure, and set you apart from the competition.
Q: Do you hate the Blackberry Storm like I do? --Deborah
A: Well if you've been here for a while you know our stance on the iPhone, so you can probably guess what we think of an iPhone impersonator from the maker of the ultimate toolbag communication device. The "Storm" feels like a middle-aged dad trying to be "cool" and "hip" like his high school son/daughter, but ends up only embarassing the hell out of everyone.
Overheard at the office:
"Says here 'Upload to flickr.' What the fuck is flickr?"
Q: I have a black mock turtleneck I want to wear under a dark gray /green suit. People says it looks nice but I want to be sure... The other option is a white shirt/no tie... It is for a HS reunion....The black turtleneck is slimming which draws me to it as well. --Jeff
A: Jeff, we sense you're a new MB reader so we'll go easy on you. Are you out of your fucking mind? Ignore the "people" and wear the white shirt for chrissakes. Leave the mock turtlenecks for especially toolbaggy characters from classic Tim Burton fables. Also consider dressing down at least one notch and hopefully two. We're talking high school reunion here, not a job interview.