Style Upgrade: Dark Denim

A quick and easy style upgrade that only involves knowing your pant size. Dark denim pictured from Mott & Bow. Olive leather slip-ons by GREATS Brand. Organic cotton pocket T-shirt  by United By Blue. Glasses by Warby Parker. Stainless steel dive watch by Invicta.

A quick and easy style upgrade that only involves knowing your pant size. Dark denim pictured from Mott & Bow. Olive leather slip-ons by GREATS Brand. Organic cotton pocket T-shirt by United By Blue. Glasses by Warby Parker. Stainless steel dive watch by Invicta.

Editor’s note: If you read this blog regularly, you might recall this post was supposed to cover Taylor Stitch chinos. However, they’re sold out for right now. Oops! So we move onto the next topic on The Style Guide. This is the second 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.

When I first started writing about men’s style for this site about two years ago, one of the first topics I covered was the idea of Style Essentials — basics that can help any guy look good in nearly any situation. That’s a topic that’s still near and dear to my heart, and it’s certainly still relevant when plotting out ways to look one’s best. While I’m still learning a lot about the ever-evolving world of men’s style, I thought it about high time to revisit this topic — from a slightly wiser, slightly older perspective (perhaps?). And there might not be a better style upgrade to make than switching out your pants — maybe from something a bit baggier or faded to something cleaner, trimmer and darker. We’re talking, of course, about the indispensable pair of dark denim you should hopefully have in your closet, folks.

My friend Barron Cuadro of Effortless Gent showing off one way to style dark denim.

My friend Barron Cuadro of Effortless Gent showing off one way to style dark denim.

No matter what stage you might be at in  your style evolution, something as crisp as dark denim can act as a style catalyst or a rejuvenator from which to build all kinds of outfits. That goes for weekend wear — like with white sneakers and a slub T-shirt, and makes its way to office wear during the week — alongside a crisp blazer and a chambray shirt, for instance. My friend from Barron of Effortless Gent nails this concept perfectly. It’s one of the  only things you can do to change up your wardrobe that just involves knowing your pant size (and maybe what brand you might prefer to wear).

Every discussion about upgrading the denim in your closet should probably start with the originator of the classic blue jean — Levi’s. Although its styles have undergone some changes through the years, there are few style upgrades that can’t be met with a classic like the Levi’s 513 jean — the slim-straight fit flatters lots of body types, while the dark, crisp color looks better year-round than other overly distressed jeans. On a looser but still fitted front, the Levi’s 514 jean is available for under $40 — a heck of a price.

J. Crew's take on the classic blue jean features a tailored fit and crisp color.

J. Crew’s take on the classic blue jean features a tailored fit and crisp color.

Keep in mind that the brand also does tapered fits like the 511 jean, too. Modern-day #menswear mainstay J. Crew has plenty to say about denim upgrades too, and its 484 jean in a deep “Resin Crinkle Wash” fits the bill perfectly. And although it’s been a very hot seller, the 770 jean in that same wash would provide the roomier (yet still somewhat tailored) fit that athletic guys might prefer. Ponying up a pretty penny could also nab you a pair of The Blue Jean from Bonobos, featuring fits ranging from Bootcut (preferably avoided, however!) to Tailored (a trim fit similar to a Levi’s 511). The Slim Crosby Jean from Mott & Bow would also be a particularly agreeable purchase (check out more on the brand here), as would something in a slimmer fit — like the Mosco seen below (Editor’s note: Get 15% your first purchase with the brand using this link).

Dark denim with a hint of stretch, like the Mosco Skinny fit from Mott & Bow, also works well for  this style upgrade. Spring Plaid Shirt by Gustin. Brown leather watch by Stuhrling. Glasses by Warby Parker.

Dark denim with a hint of stretch, like the Mosco Skinny fit from Mott & Bow, also works well for this style upgrade. Spring Plaid Shirt by Gustin. Brown leather watch by Stuhrling. Glasses by Warby Parker.

And to expand the pool of options even further, even Old Navy is now peddling dark denim — this time, for under $30 on sale. While those might not last as long as a hefty pair from iconic denim purveyor Gustin, they’d certainly get the job done. But if you feel like going all out on this particular style upgrade and won’t have anything less than the best, brands like 3Sixteen have developed a cult-ish following for the quality of their denim (and the resulting jean fades).
Ernest Alexander
Whichever option you might decide to go with — whether it’s time for a denim restock or the first purchase — reaching for something with a clean navy color and a trimmer fit won’t lead you astray. Dark denim is the type of pant that works virtually anywhere — unless, of course, it’s presentation time in the boardroom or time to suit up for the red carpet. Other than that though — reach for a great pair or two and see how you style them.

Have you made this Style Upgrade yet? What’s your go-to pair of dark denim?
Ben Sherman US

The Friday Read: Memorial Day, Summer Polos and Dark Denim

So how’s your week been? It’s another week that’s gone by fast here at The Style Guide HQ (need to think up a better name for this place, I think?). With Memorial Day on the way, here’s wishing everyone safe travels, whether you’re trekking across the country or just up the road. Wondering what to wear? Look here. Wondering what to pack? Got you covered there as well. Wondering what to read? As you hit the road, look no further than right here in this very post for some prime reading material. Without further ado…

That’s it for this week’s reading roundup — hungry for more style writing?

The Watchery

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The Friday Read: Google Fashion Trends, Sweatpants vs. Denim and Craft Beer

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.

So we’re back at it again with another Friday Read. It’s slowly inching closer to May (already!?) and with that comes some fun seasonal events, like the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo, for starters (if you need a great mint julep recipe for this weekend’s Derby, start here). Doing any traveling or hitting the town this weekend? Take advantage of your downtime in between and start the weekend off right with the latest and greatest pulled together by yours truly from across the Web.

  • ThinkWithGoogle, a division of Google Data, put its number-crunchers to the test and delivered a seasonal 2015 spring fashion trend report — the first in the company’s recent foray into the world of fashion. Some of the content is focused on women’s fashion, but there’s also some sections tailored (as it were) to men’s style and the rise of jogger pants specifically.
  • The excellent digital style crew over at Esquire offers up a piece on the pros-and-cons of sweatpants versus jeans — and makes the argument that a well-fitting pair of sweats could indeed replace your favorite dark denim.
  • GQ reports that Maxwell Osborne and Dao-yi Chao of high-fashion oriented, minimalist design darlings Public School are taking the reigns as creative directors at DKNY — a rather fitting move, as black-and-white has been a favorite brand color pairing for decades.
  • Long Read of the Week: This piece technically ran last week, but if you enjoy a great brew (or even if you’re just into a bit of an economics study as you sip on something else this weekend), Thrillist explores the growing potential for a craft beer pricing war.

Still need something else to read?

  • Another entry in my Buyer’s Guide series for VOUCH Mag ran this past week, tacklling the ever-versatile four-season chino.
  • My  buddy Barron over at Effortless Gent breaks down the qualities and design details of a well-made, timeless suit.

The Product Review: Bonobos Travel Jeans

Editor’s note: In the interest of full disclosure, the author interned with Bonobos this past summer. This review is completely impartial and in no way influenced or sponsored by Bonobos. 

Reviewing a much-loved pair of jeans from a much-loved company.

Reviewing a much-loved pair of jeans from a much-loved company.

This time of year, it’s easy to get into a style rut. We’re long into a chilly winter — and most of us are probably jealous of those in warmer climates! The novelty of wearing thicker winter fabrics could very well be getting old, and even reaching for dark denim might not provide enough style inspiration on most days. Fear not, though; plenty of options are out there for changing up how you start your outfit — namely, with your pants. If you’ve had any experience with Bonobos, you know the drill. Renowned for the fit of their chinos and increasingly known for their relatively recent expansion into tailored wear and  other stylish items, Bonobos’ Travel Jeans have generated lots of buzz, too.  

As renowned for their presentation and customer service as the fit of their pants.

As renowned for their presentation and customer service as the fit of their pants.

In fact, they’re about as tough to beat for a pair of versatile jeans as any on the market. And that versatility starts with the huge array of color options they offer — absolutely essential to shaking up a winter wardrobe with some different shades. In particular, their Allegheny Oak Travel Jeans provide great cold-weather color and an outstanding fit. Offered in four different fits (Slim Tailored, Slim Straight, Straight Leg and Boot Cut), the full spectrum offers something for just about everyone. And the colors are completely on-point as far as fall and winter dressing — from a rich burgundy to a slate green color to a nice faded tan (or “sand” color), several options should go well with other shades like charcoal or deep navy this time of year.

The Allegheny Oak shade would pair up perfectly with other fall & winter shades.

The Allegheny Oak shade would pair up perfectly with other fall & winter colors.

These travel jeans live up to their reputation, as well. The fabric has a nice thickness to it, yet retains more than a hint of stretch — the folks at Bonobos had easy transport in mind, clearly. This specific pair comes in the Slim Tailored cut — after trying a Slim Straight cut in the same size (and in the more summer-appropriate Bering Blue) last year, there was slightly too much room in the waist and thigh for my liking, thus leading to the Slim Tailored option. The fit is exceptionally similar to their Slim Tailored Washed Chinos.

A closer look at the detailed label now sewn into newer Travel Jeans.

A closer look at the detailed label now sewn into newer Travel Jeans.

And this iteration of the Travel Jean is superior in other ways, too. There’s a detailed label sewn into the back pocket, along with white stripes on the interior of the brown pockets. The fit is, of course, more tailored than the Slim Straight option, making it easy to wear and move around in. As far as versatility goes, these strike the ideal balance between being too dressed-up and too dressed-down. The five-pocket construction, while not incredibly formal, would work in business casual settings with a well-tailored blazer in multiple shades — from light gray to a heightened blue. Because these jeans are a lighter brown, they would even coordinate well with darker brown leather — like these sneakers or virtually any of the options discussed here.  These jeans are also made for wearing with a shawl or color-blocked cardigan and, say, a navy henley casually. Last but not least (and perhaps more importantly for those of us on a budget), most of Bonobos’ Travel Jeans are going for $78 on-sale (knocked down to under $50 with a 40% off code). That’s a terrific price for a pair of pants that are more versatile than a standard pair of dark denim — well worth it given Bonobos’ quality.

Own any Bonobos Travel Jeans? Or their Chinos? Thoughts? Leave it all below and thanks for reading! 

 

 

2014 Men’s Style Christmas Wish List

If you’re a  newly burgeoning or seasoned style enthusiast, there are lots of enviable, investment-worthy items out there that you’d presumably like to have in your wardrobe (I know I’ve got my share!). Unfortunately, cost is simply prohibitive for some of these items  — but the holidays (and the end of the year) are a great time to set new aspirational style goals and yes, dream of what Santa might be putting under the tree this year. If you’ve got your gift giving all taken care of, great! Onto your style wish list. If not, get on it! (This guide from earlier this week could help). It seems like there are new pieces that pop up on the personal wish list every day, but these are the highlights this season.

#1. Allen Edmonds Bleecker Street Captoe Boot, $345 (On Sale)

As sharp a pair of dress/casual boots on the market.

As sharp a pair of dress/casual boots on the market.

A pair of Allen Edmonds shoes made last year’s Christmas Wish List, and these boots are certainly worthy of that same distinction. Available in several eye-catching shades from the venerable American retailer, (including the classic Bourbon Calf shown above) this pair of boots would look as great with a suit as they would with dark denim and a striped henley. They’re certainly sleek, but the captoe breaks them up visually, making them a little more casual. And the ankle boot style is perfect for fall and winter, although at this price, they’d be a tremendous pair of year-round shoes.

#2. Shinola Runwell 41mm Leather Watch, $550

A classic in the making.

A classic in the making.

Shinola has exploded across the past roughly two years in terms of hype and media attention, with increased production and an even greater brick-and-mortar presence planned for 2015. The company’s ethos speaks for itself: sturdy, American-made products that combine great style with an authentic vibe (although there’s more to that ‘authentic vibe’ than meets the eye). While plenty of different colorways and strap combos are available (including a lovely burgundy-dial timepiece), the cream face and dark brown leather strap of the watch above caught my eye particularly. The dial isn’t absurdly dressy of course, but the watch has a certain refined air that could allow one to pull it off with a winter-weight suit and dress boots.

#3. Scotch and Soda Ralston Slim-Fit Jeans, $149

A slim, dark pair of jeans as worn by James Bond (off the screen, that is).

A slim, dark pair of jeans as worn by James Bond (off the screen, that is).

When most people think of high-quality denim, Scotch and Soda might not be that high on the list — after all, there are other brands making excellent denim on the cheap. However, this pair of Scotch & Soda jeans has something special going for them – they’re the same style and wash frequently worn by Daniel Craig; on top of that, they’re a solid, clean dark wash with a slim cut. Criticize Craig as James Bond, sure, but you can’t deny his excellent style on and off the screen. Additionally, yours truly once had the great fortune of owning a pair of the Ralstons — an untimely rip after years of hard wear ended that great run though, and these ended up back on the wish list as a result. Maybe one day…
#4. The Hill-side Cotton Herringbone Tweed Tailored Jacket, $396
A rugged jacket that's ready for winter.

A rugged jacket that’s ready for winter.

Brooklyn-based The Hill-side has a great thing going right now — a partnership with J. Crew is an excellent reflection of their current momentum. And the aesthetic — clean, well-made basics in unique fabrics and styles — is working very well for them. The above blazer captures that vibe perfectly. It looks to have a tailored cut and the ability to wear it casually with dark denim or some seasonally-appropriate burgundy cords. The patch pockets dress it down slightly, as does the marled herringbone tweed texture. On a budget-friendly note, Uniqlo makes a cheaper, similar-looking alternative here, although sizes are very slim at the moment.
#5. Todd Snyder x Champion Baseball Jacket Sweater, $295
A vintage-looking, sport-inspired shawl cardigan for when it gets cold.

A vintage-looking, sport-inspired shawl cardigan for when it gets cold.

Todd Snyder’s brand continues to rise quickly through the menswear world. He’s already taken home a slew of accolades in recent years, and he’s hit the sweet spot as far as designers who perfect a tailored, casual-rugged vibe. His collaborations with Champion always seem to be a major hit, and one would hope the high prices are a reflection of the inherent quality — thankfully, other pieces in the collaboration aren’t as expensive (when on-sale, at least). This baseball “jacket-sweater” looks thick and warm, and it also gives off a rugged, stylish vibe thanks to the sport-inspired trim and cuffs. The shawl collar is another masculine touch, too. Thus, it makes this wish list.
What’s on your style Christmas wish list? Any thoughts on this list? Leave them below!

Online Shopping Picks: Uniqlo

A well-known online retailer with an expanding brick-and-mortar presence.

A well-known online retailer with an expanding brick-and-mortar presence.

Editor’s note: Normally, brand or site round-ups haven’t been covered here on the site. However, sometimes seasonally appropriate or standout items just jump off the page. These choices don’t reflect sales picks at the moment, but simply offer a snapshot of great products from a (hopefully) affordable brand.

Uniqlo is one brand that’s gained a lot of traction in the fashion and style world over the past few years. Through the heavily-touted launch of their e-commerce website in 2012 to a quickly expanding presence in terms of physical retailers, they’re building something unique — starting from a base customer who likes colorful, basic activewear and catching the attention of more fashion-conscious consumers, too. The best part is the way they do it — by stocking affordable staple items and catering to crowds who also love it when they turn the equation on its head (with the recent relaunch of their much-loved +J Collection featuring Jil Sander). Check out the below picks for some fresh ways to incorporate the brand’s modern, fresh feel into your wardrobe.

#1. +J Wool Flannel Chesterfield Coat  — $229.90

A razor-sharp topcoat with unique detailing.

A razor-sharp topcoat with unique detailing.

For the first pick in this rundown, we’ll stick with a sharp piece from the brand’s +J relaunch. While sizing isn’t available across the board in this option, this piece changes up the typical topcoat silhouette with those peak lapels and a slim fit. It’s also a deep, neutral color that would pair well with all manner of pants and shoes. Beware of that slim fit though — it looks to be pretty trim. (For more details, check out this Dappered review). On the cheaper side, there’s also Uniqlo’s Wool Cashmere Chesterfield Coat — however, sizing for that piece is even more limited. Does anyone have any experience with this particular model?

#2. Denim Shirt — $14.90 (On Sale)

A fall essential that differs from other denim shirts.

A fall essential that differs from other denim shirts.

An earlier piece covering online shopping picks from J. Crew Factory also recommended picking up a denim shirt — but this piece differs from that option in some key ways (hey, what’s wrong with having lots of blue in your closet?). For one, the lack of buttons on the collar dresses up this piece ever so slightly. From personal experience, a denim shirt is almost an essential fall layering piece — the deep, dark blue shirt provides the same versatility up top as a dark pair of jeans does. A denim shirt looks crisp and polished under a tan herringbone or charcoal blazer, and pairs with just as many different types of sweaters as a white OCBD. The same holds true for darker shades of pants, as well. From personal experience, this shirt fits nice and trim, and while the collar is thin, it stands up just fine to knit ties. Keep in mind that this piece can be had for an exceptionally low price at the moment, too.

#3. Extra Fine Merino V-Neck Cardigan — $49.90

A neutral (yet not totally-plain) option that pairs well with lots of fall colors.

A neutral (yet not totally-plain) option that pairs well with lots of fall colors.

Cardigans are definitely continuing to have a moment across men’s style, from chunkier, throwback inspirations to thinner, crisper variations like this one. As sizing options continue to go quickly, it’s definitely worth jumping on while it’s still around. While chunkier cardigans convey rugged style, a trimmer cut in a good go-between fabric like merino looks more work-ready and appropriate with chinos, a knit tie and say, a denim dress shirt like the one above. Of course, this piece could definitely still be layered over a henley or long-sleeve shirt with ease. And given the price, it’s a comparable deal to more expensive options, too.

#4. Slim-Straight Selvedge Jeans — $39.90 (On Sale)

Selvedge denim at a nearly unbeatable price.

Selvedge denim at a nearly unbeatable price.

Some might argue that it’s not worth buying selvedge at such a low price, but there’s no better time to buy a pair of jeans like this, especially when more expensive variations can run well into triple digits. Another upside to these jeans is that it provides a great incentive to dip into the world of selvedge denim — if it’s a great fit, it could be worth researching more. This particular pair includes classic selvedge detailing at the cuffs, and a slim-straight fit that (from personal experience with Uniqlo jeans) is trim and tailored without being too tight. That navy color is going to look great with just about any pair of shoes this fall and winter, from casual leather sneakers to sturdier boots, while a selvedge cuff perfectly complements the chillier weather we’re starting to see across much of the country.

#5. Jacquard Socks

A rustic pattern (for your feet) that brings to mind heavy Nordic influences.

A rustic pattern (for your feet) that brings to mind heavy Nordic influences.

While socks aren’t by any means the most eye-catching purchase from any website, they could easily become an eye-catching part of an ensemble — and that’s why reaching for a pair with some pattern is always a solid choice. At their current price, they’re positively a steal for one pair alone — even moreso  given that you can snag some of Uniqlo’s sock options for $12.90 for three pairs. A jacquard-inspired print calls out the Fair Isle patterns typically seen on sweaters this time of year – why not bring a similar flair to your feet? And if you pick up a pair of heavy boots for trekking through the snow (or stomping your way through a rock concert), you’ll need something else to combat the cold.

That’s all for this edition of Online Shopping Picks. Do you have any favorite picks from Uniqlo? Any personal experience with the brand? Leave it all below!

Shopping on a Budget: An Updated Men’s Style Starter Kit, Part 1

The process of building great style on a budget is incredibly tricky and only getting trickier, as it seems retail prices are on the up-and-up everywhere (especially at mainstay stores like J. Crew). Budget style has been a frequent focus of this blog (check out the Starter Style series for more on that), but there’s always room for improvements and updates. Last year, I covered how to build a start-up wardrobe for under $250; think of this series as a revamp to that, with a slightly wider selection and some new categories. This first part will tackle the basics you need on your legs — chinos, jeans and shoes, namely. Next week, we’ll tackle casual knits (tees and henleys), casual and dress shirts and sweaters, and then wrap up with accessories. Without further ado, dive in below to check out how you can start to update your wardrobe for as little green as possible. 

The Shoes: Versatile Brown Chukka Boots

The ever-versatile brown chukka boot.

The ever-versatile brown chukka boot.

Starting from the ground up, if you had to go with, let’s say, just one pair of shoes to start, it’s hard to go wrong with a versatile chukka boot (this model’s out of stock right now, but a similar option can be found here for only about $5 more). With just the right amount of sleek styling and in with a build that’s adaptable to both business casual situations and more casual-rugged outfits, this particular chukka pays homage to the more laidback Clarks desert boot while looking more polished. It just looks more natural to wear this with jeans off-duty than a regular, low-cut dress shoe, as well. And in a rich brown, this shoe works across all seasons and can even stand up to harsher fall and winter weather. When considering adding in a pair of casual sneakers on a serious budget, look for a lightweight, neutral plimsoll, like these from Urban Outfitters. Lastly, if you do happen to need plain old dress shoes, this pair from JC Penney should get the job done in a pinch.

TOTAL: About $125

The Jeans: Levi’s Dark Denim 

A timeless original.

A timeless original.

When it comes to buying jeans, it’s really tough to beat a classic original like Levi’s. For about $50 right now through the Levi’s website, you can pick up a pair of great-fitting, dark denim — a wardrobe staple that can be almost worn anytime, anywhere. In both business-casual settings and in any casual situation, a dark, slim pair — like the Levi’s 513 — won’t steer you wrong. At such a low price, it’s much more cost-effective to pick up a few pairs than paying more for one expensive denim. Durability isn’t sacrificed to an extreme degree, either. On a personal note, a pair of Levi’s 508’s (now the 522 model) have held up for well over two years with heavy wear — and that’s just one example of their durability.

TOTAL: $50

The ‘Other’ Pants: Slim Tan Chinos 

In a versatile, all-season shade of tan.

In a versatile, all-season shade of tan.

Unfortunately, dark denim does need to be put aside for more formal business and office settings, and it’s also nice to have different pairs of versatile pants for other situations, too. That’s where a pair (or multiple pairs) of slim chinos can fill in. They look more office-ready than dark denim on some occasions while still staying budget-friendly. Most importantly, don’t make the mistake of thinking the chino can’t be worn casually, either — check out great ways to style them over here at Effortless Gent, as written by yours truly. Uniqlo’s offering a tan chino right now for an outstandingly low price — know that sizes and colors are limited now, but keep an eye on their site for more of these.

TOTAL: About $30 

So, starting with just the basic styles here and building off of those, you’re looking at about $200 in total (keep in mind that last year’s style breakdown set the overall budget at $250). However, that’s spending on three pieces that can work practically anywhere, and do so for a long time. And, when dropping more on certain items, it’s wise to know when to cut back in other areas. Look for more next week, when we’ll tackle a full range of shirting options for the stylish guy on a budget.

Any suggestions for alternatives to these styles? Favorite budget picks for jeans, chinos or shoes?