Cross-country: Heading West for a weekend in L.A.

Polka dots popping out. Taking my favorite Saturdays Surf NYC shirt and my trusty Navali Stowaway Weekender Bag. Luggage tag by Frank & Oak.
Polka dots popping out. Taking my favorite Saturdays Surf NYC shirt and my trusty Navali Stowaway Weekender Bag. Luggage tag by Owen & Fred.

Editor’s note: For more travel style dispatches, head here.

Out of the major American (and international) cities I’ve visited, I have perhaps the fondest memories of Los Angeles — and I only spent about twelve hours there. The last time I was in the L.A. area was, without question, one of the best weekends of my life — a trip West as part of a graduation gift to watch my beloved Michigan State Spartans take down Stanford in a legendary Rose Bowl game. I slept on a hotel room floor, edited stories from my phone as part of my work at The State News (MSU’s student newspaper) and basked in the glow of a historic school moment. Spending the next day driving around L.A. with my newspaper colleagues was particularly momentous after such a great win. But I quickly realized the city had more to offer — and when one of my best high school & college friends headed West earlier this year, I knew I had to make it back. So that’s where this weekend is set to take me — and as always, I resolved to travel in style despite the promise of pretty sweltering Los Angeles weather. (Let’s call this trip #StyleGuideLosAngeles, shall we?)

Three options for hot weather, pictured top to bottom -- lightweight JACHS NY grey chinos, flexible Mott & Bow dark denim and lightweight linen shorts from Frank & Oak.
Three options for hot weather, pictured top to bottom — lightweight JACHS NY grey chinos, flexible Mott & Bow dark denim and lightweight linen shorts from Frank & Oak.

I’m bringing along a good mix of product to combat the heat, starting with some linen shorts from Frank & Oak (as pictured above and detailed in this April post). I’m also bringing along a pair of Banana Republic khaki shorts and my Pistol Lake French Terry Sweatshorts, a seasonally-appropriate pickup from a brand that just happens to be based in L.A. They should pair nicely with one of my Pistol Lake V-neck tees. And that get-up should in turn go well with my ever-reliable GREATS Brand Rosen sneakers, a pair I’ve come to rely on in all sorts of situations. They’re exceptionally comfortable and work to dress down a blazer and T-shirt (a combination I’ll likely be wearing on the plane, as I’m heading to the airport after a half-day at work — #WheelsUp!). And should those sneakers need some time out of the rotation, I’m sure my GREATS Brand Wilson sneakers in White will definitely get the job done with multiple pant options.

Travel essentials for a cross-country trip. Russel Baseball Jacket by Grayers. Navy sneakers by GREATS Brand. Socks by American Trench. Leather chukka boots by Timberland. Leather watch by Daniel Wellington. Dive watch by Invicta. Vintage ballcap by Goorin Brothers. Dopp kit by Baxter of California.
Travel essentials for a cross-country trip. Russel Baseball Jacket by Grayers. Navy sneakers by GREATS Brand. Socks by American Trench. Leather chukka boots by Timberland. Leather watch by Daniel Wellington. Dive watch by Invicta. Vintage ballcap by Goorin Brothers. Dopp kit by Baxter of California.

On that front, I’m anticipating the weather to be quite hot — so my Mott & Bow dark denim should pair well with my Rust V-neck from Pistol Lake (check out that shirt here) and my navy GREATS sneakers. However, I’m ready to sub in my JACHS NY grey chinos, which are about the same weight as a Bonobos Washed Chino, should the situation call for it. I think the dark denim in particular will also team up nicely with two shirting options I’m bringing — my polka-dot Saturdays Surf NYC Esquina Oxford (from the Spring 2014 line), and my Michael Bastian x Uniqlo polo, featuring a nice royal blue color and a thin striped collar The polo in particular (seen more closely here) has a nice bit of stretch and a breathable fabric, key in the heat. My Mott & Bow denim should also do well in that regard. In case the weather does turn cooler, I’m bringing my trusty Russel Baseball Jacket from Grayers (as seen above), which should provide a crisp, versatile outerwear option. On my head, I’ll be throwing on my Goorin Brothers vintage ballcap — a favorite from a brand that really does know how to make great hats. To round out my apparel, some standout socks from American Trench (as discussed in this week’s Style Q&A) will definitely prove breathable and comfortable. Of course, no trip would be complete with a great timepiece — I’m expecting my stainless steel Invicta Pro Diver 8926 and my Classic Bristol Leather Watch from Daniel Wellington to work interchangeably with footwear I’m bringing (particularly my well-worn brown leather Coulter Chukkas — courtesy of my day job repping Timberland).

Grooming gear fit for the road ahead. Featuring Beard Oil & Pure Pomade from Doc Elliott, Shampoo from Baxter of Californina and the Wahl Grooming Stainless Steel Trimmer.
Grooming gear fit for the road ahead. Featuring Beard Oil & Pure Pomade from Doc Elliott, Shampoo from Baxter of Californina and the Wahl Grooming Stainless Steel Trimmer.

To round out my luggage and grooming situation, I’m hauling everything in, as ever, my Navali Stowaway Weeekender Bag and my hard-wearing Satchel & Page Slim Mailbag, both of which have provided formidable and tough options for carrying luggage across the globe. And as toiletries are just as key when traveling as at home, I’m rounding up some essentials to bring with me (in travel sizes, of course). My haul will include the Travel Essentials Kit from grooming giant Baxter of California, as well as some Pure Pomade from Doc Elliott and my Wahl Grooming Stainless Steel Trimmer. I’ll be lugging it all in the Baxter Quilted Dopp Kit, which should make things easy to access throughout the trip. While I’m looking forward to sampling the finest food & drink *namely beer, can’t forget about the beer* that L.A. has to offer, I’m also hoping to meet with a brand I admire and whom I’ve interacted with a bit in the past — the fine folks at Apolis. After seeing a press preview of a neat industrial design project they’re working on, plus profiling  them for VOUCH Mag and GearHungry, it’s a definitely a cool opportunity.
Florsheim
As always, look for the regularly scheduled Friday Read post before I jet-set, along with a new Style Pick of the Week. Follow me during the trip via Instagram and Twitter, if that catches your fancy! And look for more from out West next week.

And do let me know — what’s on your must-see list in L.A.? Best restaurants or spots to check out? Drop me a line via Twitter or give me a shout in the comments!

Ben Sherman US

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Shop Now: The Hill-Side’s GQ for GAP Collection Hits Stores

A shirt-and-pant offering from The Hill-Side's collaboration with GAP, finished off with one of the brand's signature hats.
A shirt-and-pant offering from The Hill-Side’s collaboration with GAP, finished off with one of the brand’s signature hats.

After months of waiting, a building buzz and several tantalizing first looks at the collection, it’s here: the official release date of the GQ for GAP Best New Menswear Designers in America collections. And there’s one brand in particular that’s continually caught my eye, and apparently delivered on a stellar capsule collection effort — The Hill-Side. If you peruse the pages of this blog with regularity, you’ll recall that the brand produces product that runs the gamut as far as menswear essentials go, including standout ties (as featured here), slim blazersgarment-dyed T-shirts and nice denim. And it’s all made with stellar fabrics and an eye for design (as featured here in this brand profile).

An unexpected approach to a fall jacket from the brand, complete with a nice crewneck.
This reversible quilted bomber is but one piece that the brand’s updated for the collaboration.

So the brand’s capsule collection with GAP certainly doesn’t disappoint. Note that some items from David Hart as part of his own GAP collection certainly look stunning, but collaboration pieces from NSF and Stampd, while innovative, fall a little bit outside what we (or rather, I) cover at the ole’ TSG headquarters. A little background if you’re not familiar with the #BNMDA program first, though — menswear stalwart GQ selects and then works with the top up-and-coming brands in the industry, partnering with them to provide mentorship, advice, exposure and a platform for their work, culminating in a capsule collection run in partnership with GAP. Past selections have included now-iconic American brands like Saturdays Surf NYC and Todd Snyder, so The Hill-Side’s selection can only (hopefully) be a sign of good things to come.

A blazer that builds off The Hill-Side's blend of workwear style and classic Americana.
A blazer that builds off The Hill-Side’s blend of workwear style and classic Americana.

And if the brand continues to take pages out of its current playbook, as it looks to have done for this collaboration, things can only build from here. The collaboration features some beautiful-looking pieces, including a patch-pocket herringbone blazer that plays off the brand’s typical fusion of workwear style and modern silhouettes (note the throat tab on the left lapel). At $150, it’s more affordable than a regular blazer from the brand, too. That jacket is complemented by a pair of gray/black herringbone trousers that would look great with a pair of brown wingtip boots (or even navy sneakers and a crewneck sweater) this fall. The offering also includes a nice cotton plaid shirt in a rich indigo color that features a mini-plaid pocket. It would definitely pair well with the blazer from that same collaboration, along with some dark denim.

The Hill-Side's full collection, along with some standout complementary pieces.
The Hill-Side’s full collection, along with some standout complementary pieces.

Lest anyone forget that the brand does more than just excellent blazers & trousers, they’ve also produced some great small goods, including a special run of their navy herringbone card case, along with a blanket stripe wallet. At about $45, each is certainly pricey but definitely brings an added cool factor to your card case situation. That same blanket stripe pattern finds its way onto a pair of wool slip-on sneakers that would actually pair seamlessly with the collection’s herringbone trousers for a unique high-low combo. And in keeping with its use of excellent fabrics, an olive green cotton tote and camo zip pouch both offer pretty unexpected colors on the accessories front — although both pieces are somewhat spendy as far as smaller items go. Both patterns play off the quilted bomber seen above — which is reversible and features both a deep olive color and an eyecatching camo pattern on the other side.

An olive cotton tote bag breathes some life into your everyday carry.
An olive cotton tote bag breathes some life into your everyday carry.

In keeping with updated takes on items that it’s already nailed to a ‘T’, The Hill-Side has also done up one of its classic wool fedoras for the capsule collection. The same goes for its ties, which have drawn the brand critical acclaim — a selvedge chambray number looks pretty promising for pairing with white Oxfords, while an inky blue floral print tie is a somewhat unexpected pattern from a brand that specializes in plaids, stripes and solids.

A snapshot of each designer involved in this year's GQ for GAP capsule collection effort. Left to right: Folks from The Hill-Side, David Hart, NSF and Stampd.
A snapshot of each designer involved in this year’s GQ for GAP capsule collection effort. Left to right: Folks from The Hill-Side, David Hart, NSF and Stampd.

The brand has clearly broadened its vision for what a mass-market collaboration can be, using some unexpected patterns and styles (like that reversible quilted bomber), while keeping with traditional Hill-Side staples. The terrific thing about the GQ for GAP collaboration is that shoppers can find something to fit every taste. Maybe David Hart’s retro tailoring is more your style (and those windowpane wool pants do look great). Or perhaps you find yourself drawn to vintage, lived-in pieces from NSF or affordable takes on streetwear and athleisure looks, like those from Stampd. At any rate (and especially if you’re a fan of modern updates to classic styles), the 2015 #BNMDA lineup has something for everybody — doubly so if you dig The Hill-Side.

What’s your take on this year’s capsule collections? What do you think of The Hill-Side’s offering in particular?

Ernest Alexander

Ben Sherman US

Style Q+A: American Trench

Editor’s note: To check out other Style Q&A pieces, head here. 

Just a snapshot of some of the eyecatching styles produced by American Trench. Photo courtesy of the brand.
Just a snapshot of some of the eyecatching styles produced by American Trench. Photo courtesy of the brand.

You can’t help but admire brands that delve into a product niche and ideology, and really live out that commitment. Jacob Hurwitz and David Neill have done that and then some as they’ve built American Trench, a brand with whom you may be familiar if you’ve read any of my work on VOUCH Mag — or if you’ve seen their socks in GQ. The duo developed the brand with the simple idea that manufacturing high-quality goods can be done right here in America, and they’ve stuck to it with the help of a Kickstarter launch in late 2012. I had the great fortune to check out a set of excellent American Trench socks for a review on GearHungry (and you can expect to see more of them around these parts, too). The socks are eyecatching, comfortable and quite well-made — everything you could want on your feet. And in corresponding with Jacob, he and David have a tremendous focus on doing right by the people they work with — something to be applauded and recognized. The brand makes a pretty killer trench coat, to boot. I caught up with Jacob for a few questions recently, and the interview is (I think) absolutely worth a read if you’re into supporting brands who take care of their own — and make a pretty nice product, to say the least!

The Style Guide: Tell me more about the inception of American Trench and the ‘A-ha!’ moment that spurred it on?
American Trench: I took a trip to London with my wife in the summer of 2009 and bought a trench coat there, because when in London, one must buy a rain coat, even in the summer.  After getting home and reading day after day about continuing layoffs and job losses, my friend David and I were talking about US manufacturing.  We wanted to make something. The idea came up…who makes trench coats in the USA?  The answer – no one.  So we set out to do it.  We had no experience in apparel, so it took 2.5 years, but we make something special.
TSG: American manufacturing is at the core of your business — expand a bit on your philosophy behind that commitment to domestic manufacturing, and are there other brands you admire doing similar things?
AT: American manufacturing is why started the company, plain and simple.  All of our products are either knit or cut and sewn in the USA.  We try to use domestic source materials when possible and appropriate, but each item has been manufactured at a factory in the United States.  Our philosophy can be summed up pretty succinctly: make the best you can make and do the best you can for the people around you. When we read about Brunello Cucinelli’s desire to make all of his products in Italy, which is well documented, it doesn’t sound nationalist. He makes it very clear that this is how he can best help the people around him.  The best part about buying USA made?  It’s totally in alignment with the core principles of our country – freedom and liberty.   Buying USA made is not mandatory nor does it require belonging to a specific race, class, group, or political party.  In the land of liberty, the greatest freedom we all have, what we choose to buy, can actually can create change!  So there it is — vote with your wallet.
The brand's relatively understated styles add a nice touch of color to any outfit. Photo courtesy of American Trench.
The brand’s relatively understated styles add a nice touch of color to any outfit. Photo courtesy of American Trench.
TSG: American Trench has a pretty particular product focus between knitwear, socks and your outerwear — how did that come about?

AT: We decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign to bring our trench coat to market and realized that we wanted to have a way for people to support us on Kickstarter even if they didn’t have $700+ to drop on a rain coat.  So we decided to offer USA=made socks, because who can’t afford a pair of good socks?  After Kickstarter, we started to get wholesale interest in the sock side of the business.  People were looking for made-in-the-USA (product) and accessories, and we had both.  We also found some awesome sock mills — one in Reading, PA and another in North Carolina.  Interest in the rain coat never died down, so we become dual-focused on accessories and outerwear.

TSG: What was the biggest challenge (or series of challenges) you encountered in your journey to source fabric, materials and production partners for your trench coat?
AT: There have been challenges at each step, although that’s true for any business.  Making the trench was a beast, we choose to make a super complicated product to start, with 70-plus pattern pieces.  It took two tries to find the right factory, and not without a lot of screw-ups and fixes.  Pattern making is not easy, nor is production.  It’s a complicated business. Knitwear is not walk in the park either, samples and production sometimes don’t end up being the same.

Florsheim

TSG: What’s one style mistake you see too many guys make?  
AT: Scale and proportion.  If you going to wear slim jeans or trousers, the rest of the outfit should be slim.  Then all items will be in proportion.  You can’t wear your favorite decade old blazer with your new trim pants and vice-versa, the scale of each garment is totally out of sync.  Likewise, sometimes a little looser look can be really refreshing, but make sure the rest of your outfit matches the same scale.
The other thing I would say is that less is more.  Don’t cram too many colors, patterns, and styles into one outfit.  For example —  if you wear your double-monk shoes, keep the suit solid and the socks toned down; double-monk shoes are a big statement.  Instagram style is its own universe, and should be taken treated as half-fantasy, half-reality.  Less is more!
If you have square-toe dress shoes in your closet from ten years ago, thank them for their service and put them in the trash.
TSG: What’s one style-related item every guy should own?
AT: Tough one.  But regardless of the item, quality over quantity.  I think a good pair of versatile shoes is a must.  I’m talking about something that can be dressed up or down, with a suit or denim.  Great shoes make a good suit look great and turn your socks into a star.  The Longwing 975 and PTB 990 styles by Alden are classic.  They ain’t cheap, but you can wear them with anything.  I really love the Rancourt cap toe as well.
That’s all from Jacob this go-round. If you’d like to support the brand more, check out their Web site or catch them on Twitter.

Style Pick of the Week: KOMONO Winston Herringbone Watch

Editor’s note: Expect these posts weekly detailing one standout item coveted by yours truly. Sometimes, these fit within budgetary restrictions and other times, they’re expensive splurges worth saving for. For more Wish List items from Beau, head here, and to see other Style Picks, head here.

Tons of fall texture in an unlikely place -- your wrist. The Winston Herringbone from KOMONO.
Tons of fall texture in an unlikely place — your wrist. The Winston Herringbone from KOMONO.

The theme of my wardrobe has centered, in recent weeks, around trying to will fall here — that is, wearing thicker boots, sturdier denim and wishing for a cool chill in the air. That’s why it’s (nearly) entirely appropriate to extend this focus to other, more unexpected pieces of clothing — like the watch you wear on you wrist. It’s a place that more brands are viewing as a complementary style piece — whether it’s a patterned NATO strap or something with a more fall or winter-centric tilt, like the KOMONO Winston Herringbone Watch. It’s simple yet eyecatching in a modern, minimalist way (even the offkilter logo doesn’t jump too much), and KOMONO is absolutely worth a look. They’re a quickly growing brand that offers a bevy of watch styles — nearly 250 — plus hundreds of sunglass styles, too. And they do so at prices that are quite manageable — more than a Timex (although the new Waterbury collection gets up in their price), yet far below Omega territory (this watch goes for just under $90). That’s all the better, because while some KOMONO options — like the Royale Silver — are more versatile, something like the Winston Herringbone is more unique, and thus less wearable across the board.

Some interesting detailing at the end of the strap adds a bit of flash to a sharp timepiece.
A closer look at the texture and off-kilter logo on a super-crisp dial.

But if you’ve built out a nice watch collection — maybe with a few styles from this post — it could be time (tick, tock) to look for something a bit different. And thanks to the cold weather-friendly texture on this strap, now is a great …. time to try out this move. It does, of course, have that black dial, so wearing it frequently in business casual situations with some brown chukka boots or brown dress shoes might look off. But on the weekends with a chunky cardigan, some trusty jeans and a beat-up pair of captoe boots, it should look just fine. The same goes for more neutral situations — like when paired up with suede chukka boots and a V-neck sweater on a casual work day. The black herringbone pattern even ensures that it could, in theory, work up against a tan wool blazer. It’s clean and minimal enough where it won’t look out of place in casual or appropriately matched dressier situations. And it’s affordable enough for you to take the plunge and still have a bit left over to celebrate Oktoberfest.

Would you rock a fabric watch? How about this particular style?
Ernest Alexander
Ben Sherman US

The Friday Read: Abercrombie & Fitch, Lana Del Rey and Stylish Splurges

Editor’s note: Expect these posts once a week on Fridays — consider this a jumpstart on reading for your weekend downtime. Expect a mix of style and non-style content. For more entries, click here.

This Friday caps off what’s truly been a whirlwind week — and we’re not close to being done yet! I’ve gotten to do some admittedly very cool things during my day job (for which I’m exceptionally grateful!), and this week has been chock full of them. On Wednesday, I helped put together a brand styling suite for Timberland — myself and my wonderful colleagues hosted some style luminaries who I’m fortunate enough to call friends. Namely, Jamal Jackson of StyleSocietyGuy, Jeff Carvalho of Selectism and Mac Joseph of Daily Mister (among others!) were on-hand to  be styled in the latest Timberland wares by celebrity stylist Samantha McMillen; they also appeared on-stage modeling those outfits during our Thursday night media preview featuring music by British rocker & brand ambassador Jamie N Commons (excuse the shameless promotion!). And tonight, we get to do it all again! In fact, if you find yourself in New York City and fancy a great time with free beer and free food, RSVP to our formal launch event here. But enough PR mumbo-jumbo, right? Check out the best of the rest of the #menswear world here below. Cheers!

  • Complex shares details on how the once-proud folks at Abercrombie & Fitch plan to make a comeback in the style world — and with ex-Club Monaco man Aaron Levine on-board, this should be mighty interesting.
  • SPIN listened to Lana Del Rey this month — for the first time — and wrote an insightful (and opinionated) analysis of the lovely singer’s work.
  • Dappered’s monthly Reach post chronicles some worthy style splurges for September — including a Bonobos topcoat that looks incredible.
  • Long Read of the Week: Narratively delivered this story a while ago, but it’ll open your eyes to one seriously sustainably-focused way of living in the Yukon.

Are you all caught up with The Style Guide this week? Maybe not?

Ernest Alexander

Florsheim

Online Shopping Picks: Best Men’s Blazers for Fall and Winter

Editor’s note: For a plethora of Online Shopping Picks delving into accessories, footwear and knitwear, head right this way.

Ready to take on fall in this "old" photo circa 2014. Blazer & chambray shirt by J. Crew. Slim jeans by Scotch & Soda. Shawl cardigan by GAP. Knit tie by Frank & Oak. Brown wingtip boots by JC Penney. Photo credit: Khoa Nguyen.
Ready to take on fall in this “old” photo circa 2014. Tan herringbone blazer & chambray shirt by J. Crew. Pocket square by Banana Republic. Slim jeans by Scotch & Soda. Shawl cardigan by GAP. Knit tie by Frank & Oak. Brown wingtip boots by JC Penney. Stainless steel dive watch by Invicta. Glasses by Burberry. Photo credit: Khoa Nguyen.
As is often the case in the world of men’s style, it seems that sometimes the seasons change too quickly — on the writing front, that is. Last week, we tackled excellent henleys to transition into fall weather in earnest (for most of us, at least), and now your humble author will gladly take a stab at the best cold-weather blazers out there on the market — because those things have been on shelves far too long now for you not to buy one, right? Keep in mind that a great lighter weight blazer (one from this list) could definitely transition into the slight chill of fall when layered appropriately. Heck, I even have an unconstructed blazer I’ve worn in the Michigan winter, layered up with a V-neck sweater (of course). But let’s say you want something thicker to stand up to chilly weather — a la the trusty J. Crew blazer (sadly, long gone from shelves) at the top of the page. That’s what this edition of Online Shopping Picks will cover — but you’ll have to foot the rest of the bill for a new jacket. [Editor’s note: Some might take issue with the definition of a blazer here — these styles are sometimes called sportcoats — but we’ll stick with blazer terminology for now. To clear up any confusion, head here].

#1. Uniqlo Wool Blended Comfort Jacket — $99.90

As previously seen on this site's Fall Style Wish List, Uniqlo delivers on another great fall & winter blazer.
As previously seen on this site’s Fall Style Wish List, Uniqlo delivers on another great fall & winter blazer.
Does this jacket look familiar at all? Of course it does (at least if you caught it at the top of my Fall Style Wish List). Some might have issues with Uniqlo’s fit, as the tail of its jackets and its sleeves generally run a little shorter and slimmer than most, but the brand does make an outstanding jacket (is it a blazer? a sportcoat) for the price. These jackets certainly lean casual given the lack of construction, but in a deeper, saturated shade like the Grey Plaid on the far left or even the Dark Green option as seen on the site, it’s a jacket that could absolutely be paired with dress trousers and some sharp black shoes for the office.

#2. J. Crew Factory Thompson Elbow-patch Sportcoat in Tweed — $168

A four-season shade of navy merged with suede elbow patches for fall and winter.
A four-season shade of navy merged with suede elbow patches for fall and winter.
Rustic, slightly throwback-focused details like suede elbow patches have been making a comeback in clothing items for the past couple years now, and designers aren’t pulling the plug on this added touch just yet. In the case of this blazer, it works quite well, calling to mind old hunting jackets. And this piece has some other things going for it, too — namely, you get J. Crew-like quality at a lower price than some similar models at the big brother retailer. The slightly flashier touch of those elbow patches is grounded by a nice shade of navy, which should work well over dark denim or grey wool trousers. The patches make it more casual and thus a little less versatile — thus dropping it to spot no. 2 here. Still, it’s a jacket that could see a lot of use in the coming months.  If you’ve got some bulk to you and want a jacket that ditches the elbow patches, the mainline brand is making a blazer in a similar shade in its roomier, more athletic Crosby fit.

#3. Apolis Indigo Wool Blazer — $388

The ideal balance of tradition and modern style, done up in an on-trend color and luxurious fabric.
The ideal balance of tradition and modern style, done up in an on-trend color and luxurious fabric.
Whoa, now. Almost $400 for a blazer? In spot #3? Yes, yes indeed — and here’s why. The argument can definitely be made here for investing in quality pieces that provide a long-term benefit; a terrific wool blazer, sure to be warm, well-made and endlessly versatile, can serve you well for seasons and years to come. And the way Apolis makes ’em, you know you’re getting a quality product. Not everyone has the kind of, er, capital to invest in such a piece, but this option has all the makings of a classic jacket if you do take the plunge. The double vents and deep indigo color make it the closest to a traditional blazer of any of the bunch seen here, yet it leans modern thanks to the slim fit. Wear it with some broken-in denim,  wear it with black corduroy pants for some edge — heck, wear it over a T-shirt.

#4. GAP Herringbone Blazer — $89.95

A nice color combo and casual patch pockets make this one blazer to take business-casual ... or just casual.
A nice color combo and casual patch pockets make this one blazer to take business-casual … or just casual.
Now, that’s more like it. We turn to a reliable standby at an affordable price for option #4. It’s somewhat concerning that the fit looks a bit … off in these photos, so this might be a good pick to try on in store. The price is not so expensive that it’d be too much of a pain to tailor. But note that the sleeves feature functioning cuffs, which can be an absolute mess to get tailored. However, the fabric blend, cool grey color and patch pockets make this an ideal blazer to throw on over, say, a white Oxford, red V-neck and dark jeans in a business casual setting — if the fit is on-point. Since the patch pockets do push it into casual territory, you could even mix it up and toss it over a long-sleeve henley. A word to the wise — keep your eyes open for the launch of The Hill-side’s capsule collection for GAP very soon; there’s likely to be a great blazer or two in there (Editor’s note: Check out the full rundown via GQ as of 9/23). 

#5. Everlane Luxe Sweater Blazer — $165

Part blazer, part sweater and all casual style in one high-quality Everlane piece.
Part blazer, part sweater and all casual style in one high-quality Everlane piece.
Is this a sweater? A blazer? A swacket? Whatever you call it, the Luxe Sweater Blazer definitely walks the line between casual and crisp style — exactly the type of versatility a nice blazer (or swacket) should provide in the colder months. It should almost wear like the Uniqlo wool blend jacket seen at the top of the page — easygoing enough over a crewneck sweatshirt (for both warmth and casual style), and high-quality enough to pair with a chambray dress shirt. From personal experience with Everlane, its products fit slim, and jackets like these often feature a nice hint of stretch — key when you still need mobility underneath a topcoat. This is one blazer in particular that would pair especially well with high-low combos — think slim chinos  plus vintage-inspired runners.

The competition across the board as this post was assembled was pretty cutthroat (or as cutthroat as writing about blazers can be). Brands like Bonobos, with its Italian Knit Blazer, are giving more established brethren like J. Crew a run for their money in the looks (and price) department. As was previously alluded to, The Hill-side is also quickly establishing itself as a player in the splurge blazer game — this Selvedge Mini-Houndstooth Tailored Jacket in Indigo has a great workwear vibe to it, not to mention a high price. Stick to affordable (or at the very least, classic) and versatile options when picking up a great blazer or two this season though, and you’ll reap those rewards as soon as the leaves start to turn.
Ben Sherman US
What’s your go-to fall and winter blazer? Are you planning on refreshing your closet with any of the picks here?

Ernest Alexander

Style Upgrade: Sharp Sneakers

Editor’s note: This is the third in an ongoing series covering quick and easy upgrades to dilemmas a guy might face once in a while. For more entries in the series, click here.

There's still a good amount of time for short sleeves -- and a great pair of sneakers. Short-sleeve shirt by H&M. Slim chinos by Frank & Oak. Navy suede sneakers by GREATS Brand.
There’s still a good amount of time for short sleeves — and a great pair of sneakers. Short-sleeve shirt by H&M. Slim chinos by Frank & Oak. Navy suede sneakers by GREATS Brand.

Before you double-check your calendar, we’re definitely diving into sneakers right now on The Style Guide — even as it gets closer to October and boot season. Lest you think that means it’s time to shelve your sneakers, it’s far from it — there are plenty of ways sneakers can be styled sharply (particularly if they’re crafted from nice leather or sturdy canvas — like the pairs you’ll read about below). It seems so many brands are making sneakers now, it’s tough to keep track — from venerable institutions like Rancourt & Co. to newer, digital-focused upstarts like Gustin (more on both of those brands in a bit). That’s precisely why sneakers are such a great style upgrade. When premium brands make sneakers fit for wearing with everything from chinos to dark denim, it’s worth taking notice. My friend Madhav of Wardrobe Domination covered great men’s sneakers in detail earlier this year, so if you’ve need some shopping suggestions, that post is also worth a look.

Switching out your sneakers doesn't have to mean reaching for something flashy -- a classic pair of white captoes (like the GREATS Wilson) can do the trick. Short-sleeve buttondown by Saturdays Surf NYC. Lightwash jeans by J. Crew. Glasses by Warby Parker.
Switching out your sneakers doesn’t have to mean reaching for something flashy — a classic pair of white captoes (like the GREATS Wilson) can do the trick. Short-sleeve buttondown by Saturdays Surf NYC. Lightwash jeans by J. Crew. Glasses by Warby Parker.

Switching out some tired running sneakers is just one step on the path to better style, and it requires small changes, bit by bit. It doesn’t have to require a lot of money, though. And maybe you’re just looking for a different pair of kicks. That’s why it never hurts to reach for a fail-safe classic in a low-key color if you’re switching out your kicks — that fail-safe classic is, in this case, a revamped style. Yes, the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star II  release was much-hyped earlier this summer, and with good reason — it’s a functional update to a style that looks right with all kinds of casual (and even business-casual outfits). Other newer brands are also taking on the captoe sneaker silhouette and competing admirably — GREATS and its Wilson sneaker certainly come to mind. And as the weather ramps up for most of us, a trusty leather high-top sneaker can provide nearly as much durability (in some climates) as a leather boot — take, for instance, the Royale High from GREATS as detailed in this site’s recent Fall Style Wish List post.

Two different takes on a sneaker, both sold by J. Crew.
Two different takes on a sneaker, both sold by J. Crew.

Among other high-top sneaker offerings, the Canvas SK8-Hi from Vans is a classic style that many seem to love — that side stripe sets things off just visually enough, too. With so many sneaker options out there, sometimes it’s nice just to have everything in one spot — take J. Crew, for example. The much-maligned retailer really does offer a ridiculous amount of sneaker options , from the decidedly sportier Nike Killshot (still a worthy upgrade from running shoes) to high-top suede sneakers with minimal details crafted in Africa (as seen above). The pair on the right would look particularly killer with some dark denim and a charcoal blazer. And that’s the beauty of a great pair of sneakers — they can be worn just as you would a fine pair of stylish dress shoes if you nail the fit and proportion of the rest of the outfit.

A look at a low-top sneaker that Gustin produced earlier this year. Many of the brand's current high-top options are funding quickly.
A look at a low-top sneaker that Gustin produced earlier this year. Many of the brand’s current high-top options are funding quickly.

If you still find yourself in the market for a more basic, beater-type pair (say, if you happen to live in a warmer-weather area), the SeaVees Army Issue Low should offer what you’re looking for. On that note, places like Urban Outfitters sell standard-yet-sharp styles like low-cut, gum-sole Vans for under $60. But, if you’re in need of a truly durable and higher-cut sneaker, Gustin is definitely worth a look — the brand is pre-funding opportunities for pairs of its Italian-made sneakers (like these stellar Blue Gum Sole High Top Sneakers), although the majority of those styles won’t ship until next year (bummer!). But if it’s a quicker purchasing turnaround you’re in the market for, keep an eye on Frank & Oak and the brand’s monthly collections — its most recent September offering included a full lineup of excellent-looking leather sneakers.
Ernest Alexander
Not to be outdone by classic brands, even luxury companies are getting in on the sneaker game — it’s safe to say the Tom Ford Orford Sneaker is just one of any number of options outside the typical Style Guide budget. Of course, no mention of sneakers in this day and age is complete without paying homage (or at least linking to?) the style that begat a thousand copycats — the Common Projects Achilles Low.  It’s expensive, it’s minimal and it’s one pair that really deserves exceptional care.

Upgrading or switching out your sneakers doesn’t have to be ludicrously expensive or painful though — the key is finding a style that fits your lifestyle, ideally one that can be dressed up or down (that’s where sharp leather sneakers from brands like GREATS or Frank & Oak come in). And sneakers can complement other style upgrades, too — there are few places where slim denim and a nice pair of sneakers can’t go.

What’s your go-to pair of sneakers? And how would you style an upgraded pair of nice kicks? Let me know!

Want more style musings throughout the day (who doesn’t??). Follow me on Twitter @BoKnowsClothes.

Florsheim

Style Pick of the Week: Standard Shirt Spread Collar Dress Shirt

Editor’s note: Expect these posts weekly detailing one standout item coveted by yours truly. Sometimes, these fit within budgetary restrictions and other times, they’re expensive splurges worth saving for. For more Wish List items from Beau, head here, and to see other Style Picks, head here.

Rocking the Standard Spread Collar Shirt at a lovely Michigan wedding. Silver knit tie by Banana Republic. Tie bar by The Tie Bar. Navy suit and floral pocket square by J. Crew. Tan suede Chelsea boots by ASOS. Stainless steel dive watch by Invicta. Glasses by Warby Parker.
Rocking the Standard Spread Collar Shirt at a lovely Michigan wedding. Silver knit tie by Banana Republic. Tie bar by The Tie Bar. Navy suit and floral pocket square by J. Crew. Tan suede Chelsea boots by ASOS. Stainless steel dive watch by Invicta. Glasses by Warby Parker.

Whereas last week’s Style Pick post covered the very well-made (and very expensive) Boiled Wool Sweatpant from Apolis, this week’s Style Pick takes things in a more classic — and dressier — direction. As you head toward wedding season (or even just return to throwing on more suits now that summer’s winding down), hardworking basics are going to be your best friend. That’s especially true of the classic (and more and more underrated) white dress shirt. The team at Standard Shirt passed along one of its, well, standard shirts for review, and I had the chance to test-drive it during a Michigan wedding. The quality is to be applauded, and it presents a great argument for wearing a crisp white dress shirt more often. The company aims to make the best dress shirt in your closet, and its focus on doing that is exceptionally tight — they offer just two shirt styles, both in crisp white. Founded by three friends in New York City, the company’s singular focus is reflected in its partnership with an expert textile industry insider in Seoul, Korea and the shirts definitely represent that focus. One features a cutaway collar, while the other features a standard (that word keeps coming up) spread collar. And for only $59, this shirt can give those other, pricier options in your closet a run for their money.

Two collar styles in a basic -- yet essential white dress shirt.
Two collar styles in a basic — yet essential white dress shirt.

In addition to that noticeable and welcome price differential, a few other key things jump out about the Spread Collar option from Standard Shirt. It’s got a wider collar than many other dress shirts on the market right now that I’ve encountered — I was a bit hesitant to try this style out at first, but it’s a positive. It complemented my tailored yet not overly trim suit (plus the slightly more traditional break on my suit pants). The wider collar also helped the collar of the shirt hold its shape better even with a tie, and it created a pretty pleasing visual effect — no slim collars a la One Direction here. And it’s part of a swing back to more classic tailoring in the broader menswear world — trim cuts, but not severely skinny, seem to be coming back; just look at the type of dress shirts that James Bond will wear in SPECTRE. There’s still something to be said for keeping everything in proportion — that means your lapels should be the same width as your tie, which should be the same width as your shirt collar. That means this shirt in particular gives wider lapels and a thicker tie knot some more strength and visual heft — a definite positive when rocking some strong tailoring. This is the type of shirt that would do well with V-neck sweaters and even on its own under a suit. At $59, picking up one or two could leave you set for white shirts for a while — and if you should find you like it so much that you want more from them? Well, you can pick up any style you want — as long as it’s white! You won’t regret it.

How often do you wear a classic white dress shirt? Any experience with Standard Shirt?

Ernest Alexander

Florsheim

The Friday Read: SPECTRE, Esquire Legends and Timberland

Editor’s note: Expect these posts once a week on Fridays — consider this a jumpstart on reading for your weekend downtime. Expect a mix of style and non-style content. For more entries, click here.

As we get a bit closer toward the true start of fall here on The Style Guide, it seems to feel less and less like fall itself — at least in Manhattan and Brooklyn, temperature-wise. Is anybody else experiencing this same problem? I’m quite ready for sweater and jacket weather after a long (yet enjoyable) summer 0f T-shirts and blazers. On a personal front, it’s been quite busy during my day job planning an exceptionally exciting Fall 2015 campaign launch for Timberland — if you find yourself in NYC next Friday and fancy enjoying some free beer and whiskey, plus a concert, RSVP to the event here. In the meantime, you can expect your regularly scheduled programming. And of course — the weekly Friday Read as detailed below. Enjoy!

  • Popular fan site James Bond Lifestyle (yes, that’s a thing), shares all the details you’d ever need to know regarding the incredible Crockett & Jones footwear in SPECTRE — and man, are those shoes stunning.
  • In the event you’re a fan of a different color of boot on your feet, the always on-point crew at Dappered shows you how to pair brown dress shoes and grey pants.
  • And did you catch this yet? To celebrate its 1,000th issue (whoa!), Esquire revealed its list of legendary men (and 1 woman), whom the publication is calling Esquire Legends – it’s very, very neat stuff across a spectrum of personalities.
  • Long Read of the Week: This piece is absolutely more style-oriented than other articles that have held down this spot in the past, but it’s no less worth a read; it’s part history lesson, part style exploration examining an incredible timepiece via the folks at Gear Patrol.

Still feel the need  to read some more menswear content this weekend?

  • Familiarize yourself with the absurdly beautiful and incredibly well-crafted American Highway Collection (featuring gear from four great American brands) via my latest VOUCH Mag story.
  • Put a few new items in your shopping cart for fall — domestically focused American Trench crafts all its socks (and outerwear) from excellent materials, as I also learned this week for my newest GearHungry post — definitely a brand worth supporting.

Lastly, thanks again to each of you for reading this site, and for participating in initiatives like this past week’s Reader Giveaway — it’s very much appreciated!

Stay stylish,

-Beau