Style Guide Recommends: Custom Suiting

Editor’s note: Style Guide Recommends is a new, ongoing series covering just that — recos on all manner of menswear and lifestyle topics from The Style Guide.

Your new favorite suite just might come from Alan David Custom.

On the go in Brooklyn with an easy-to-wear suit. In fact, your new favorite suite just might come from Alan David Custom

First off, welcome to another Style Guide post — and the first in a new series we’re introducing here on the blog! By we, I mean me — but I digress. Think of this as an extension of our other series, from Online Shopping Picks  to our Style Pick of the Week entries. Now, those are all recommendations in and of themselves, but the Style Guide Recommends series is going to be a bit different. We’re talking concepts or ideas versus products, but we’ll also talk about music, grooming — you name it. So, if there’s a great beer you should try, a place you should visit, some music to which you should listen … it might pop up here. We’ll figure it out as we go, but today’s entry is an exciting one — it’s all about why you should consider going custom for your next suit, and I teamed up with the great folks at Alan David Custom to do just that, and I’ve been exceptionally pleased with my custom suit. If you try a similar approach, I’m sure you’ll feel the same way.

A beautiful suit with nice, refined details. Definitely a new recommendation. Watch by MVMT Watches.

A beautiful suit with nice, refined details. Definitely a new recommendation. Watch by MVMT Watches.

Now, there are all sorts of menswear apps, brands and stores that offer made-to-measure suiting options, but a custom suit is a different ballgame (in fact, my friend Barron at Effortless Gent dives into custom versus made-to-measure suiting quite extensively). And for those of us in NYC and the surrounding areas, Alan David Custom is definitely a great way to go. The brand excels in handmade custom suits finished in the tradition of bespoke tailoring — don’t let that scare you away, though. Alan David Custom is certainly expensive for those of us shopping on a budget, but the difference is in the details (as we say with most style upgrades, ehh?). And the company’s history is exactly what you want when it comes to a great suit. Namely, they’ve been making luxurious tailored wear since 1926 — needless to say, the company’s staff know more about tailoring than any of us ever could (I’d argue). With that being said, the company’s adage is fitting — “The quality of a suit is remembered long after its price is forgotten.” Yes indeed, the difference is in the details. Of course, you can’t forget stylish accessories, like a great leather dress watch or stylish men’s dress shoes but again … start with an excellent suit, and the rest falls into place.

Go with a slim silhouette for versatility and ease of wear -- even when on the move after a long day. Shirt by Twillory. Watch by MVMT Watches. Brown leather wingtips by Johnston & Murphy. Socks by American Trench. Glasses by Frameri.

Go with a slim silhouette for versatility and ease of wear — even when on the move after a long day. Shirt by Twillory. Watch by MVMT Watches. Brown leather wingtips by Johnston & Murphy. Socks by American Trench. Glasses by Frameri.

For starters, Alan David Custom doesn’t use glue in its finishing process, resulting in garments that drape nicely and fit perfectly.  That explains the purchase price of the suits — ranging from $1,195 to $2,495, based on factors ranging from fabrics to cut and styling. Yes, it’s an investment — but again, one that’ll pay off the more you wear it. The measuring process — which is surprisingly quick — dials in a suit jacket and trousers that couldn’t fit any better (and I’d say it’s certainly much more accurate than taking measurements yourself and submitting them online). And the level of detail is exceptional — from your choice of fabric to suit color (I went with a heightened blue), lining color and other small, essential tailored details (side tabs on trousers and the addition of a ticket pocket, for one). The side tabs are a touch I’m particularly pleased with — it adds another level of refinement and creates clean lines without belt loops.
Beckett Simonon

Just one of the ways to wear a beautiful blue custom suit. Shirt by Standard Shirt. Tie by J. Crew Factory. Pocket square by Ties.com. Glasses by Frameri.

Just one of the ways to wear a beautiful blue custom suit. Shirt by Standard Shirt. Tie and pocket square by Ties.com. Glasses by Frameri.

It’s these little details — plus a superb fit — that make it such an easy suit to wear, either with a crisp white shirt and a classic winter-weight tie (as seen above) or a little more casually, yet still tailored (with a classic blue dress shirt from Twillory). Of course, the crisp Conard Wingtip from Johnston & Murphy, plus well-made American Trench socks, are the ideal complements to such a sharp suit. And one could argue that the ability to wear this suit multiple ways (and with great accessories) is why it’s so important to go custom — particularly with an  investment-worthy option from Alan David Custom. Note that they also provide a helpful first-time buyer’s discount, and they can turn suits around in as little as 10 days (seriously quick, yet still high-quality). Crucially, they also offer free lifetime alterations. Yes, free lifetime alterations. Heck, if you’re visiting New York, it’s worth setting up an appointment, truly. In lieu of hitting up Alan David Custom, you can look into other made-to-measure online suiting options (such as Indochino or Black Lapel), but again, if you’ve been very, very good this year and would love a high-quality, luxurious and lifetime suit, Alan David Custom is your best bet.

Thanks for joining us on the first entry in the Style Guide Recommends series — we’ll have much more soon.

Thanks for reading and stay stylish,

-Beau

Huckberry

Style Suggestion: What to Wear to Your Holiday Party

Can you believe the holiday season is upon us? Here at The Style Guide, we absolutely love the holidays — and by we, I mean me. From holiday travel to composing my Holiday Style Wish List, it’s an absolute treat of a time. In addition to looking forward to time spent with loved ones, you should also keep a weather eye out for ways to improve and upgrade your style — especially at this crucial time of year. Yes, it’s a time when you’re dealing with (likely) inclement weather, a bit (or a lot) of travel, gift-giving and plenty more — not to mention a work holiday party that often pops up when you might least expect it (or least look forward to it?). It’s also a time to make sure your style doesn’t stray into overly, err, holiday-esque territory — so, a reindeer sweater is overdoing it just a bit. To get you ready for that inevitable invite in fine fashion, we’ve pulled together one heck of a style suggestion — it’s a bit dressier than your everyday rugged favorites on this here blog, but you’ll be all the better for it. And as you’ll see below, it takes tried-and-true layers — like the classic V-neck sweater — and upgrades them with winter-ready shirting and accessories. Can’t wait to see it? Good. Me neither! Follow along on Instagram and Twitter for more daily style inspiration, and chime in on this suggestion via The Style Guide’s Facebook page.

The Topcoat: JackThreads Tieman Topcoat — $149

Smart, stylish, affordable and easy to wear with a suited holiday look.

Smart, stylish, affordable and easy to wear with a suited holiday look.

Is it any surprise that the great team at JackThreads has absolutely knocked it out of the park with the Tieman Topcoat? It shouldn’t be — the brand’s menswear-focused revamp has been a welcome addition to the digital style scene across the past year, and this handsome, eye-catching double-breasted topcoat is Exhibit A in that regard. It’s no Canada Goose parka in terms of battling extreme conditions, but thrown on over a suit on a crisp winter’s night? You just might have the nicest jacket at the party, fella.

The Suit: Taylor Stitch Telegraph Jacket and Trousers in Grey Wool — $456

https://www.idevaffiliate.com/31555/idevaffiliate.php?id=607&url=11319

A refined suit made with premium materials for under $500? You betcha.

Would you believe that Taylor Stitch makes a heck of a beautiful fall and winter suit in addition to their classic chambray shirts and rugged slim chinos? It’s true, and that’s what makes the Telegraph Suit such a worthy pick-up. The brand took plenty of customer feedback and incorporated it into a suit that manages to merge the modern — a slim fit — with the classic — patch pockets and textured fabric. It’s a classic suit that’ll serve you nicely throughout the rest of the winter season — and it’s the right choice here because of its terrific fit and styling potential. It’s neither too stuffy nor too sloppy, and the Telegraph Suit is certainly a steal for under $500 via Huckberry.

The Sweater: J. Crew Italian Cashmere V-neck Sweater$225

A slightly unexpected color that plays nicely off the blue shirt and grey wool suit.

A slightly unexpected color that plays nicely off the blue shirt and grey wool suit.

There’s no question that J. Crew knows how to do luxurious basics well. Is $225 a lot for a sweater, as we always ask ourselves? Yes, it certainly is — but finding an Italian cashmere sweater for less than that is a bit of a difficult endeavor. The rich Heather Laurel color seen here is a great complement to the grey wool suit and darker blue shirt. Plus, it adds a bit of contrast to the tan plaid tie. Green and blue is a bit of a unique color combination, but it works here — and the sweater will keep you nice and warm underneath your Taylor Stitch suit and topcoat.

The Shirt: Cordings for J. Crew Shirt in Warm Twilight — $128

A dress shirt with some texture and a pleasing winter-ready color.

A dress shirt with some texture and a pleasing winter-ready color.

What better way to complement a classic winter-weight suit than with a sharp blue dress shirt in a textured fabric? J. Crew always seems to do an impressive job with its third-party collaborations, and the Cordings for J. Crew partnership is the latest addition to that roster. Cordings brings its own classic British sensibility to sharp tailoring, and that makes this shirt both traditional and modern. It’s the perfect complement to a deep green sweater — the combination is unique, but works with the darker tones of winter.
Huckberry
The Tie and Pocket Square: Ties.com Tan Plaid Brussels Tie ($25) and Florence Pocket Square ($10)

A plaid tie and a floral pocket square? Give it a try.

A plaid tie and a floral pocket square? Give it a try.

In keeping with the crisp cold-weather vibes of the season, we’re reaching for two pieces here that nod to the holidays without going full-on Santa Claus. The Tan Plaid Brussels Tie is affordably priced in a  nice plaid wool that contrasts with the grey wool suit and blue shirt — it’s a bit of an unexpected color pairing. And the patterned blue pocket square plays nicely off the lighter blue shirt. You’re looking at two patterns that at first might not work together, yet up against a grey wool suit, the combination is a fresh, affordable one. Right?

The Boots: CAT Footwear Sutter Boots in Rust — $210

Just as ready to wear with a winter suit as they are with tough dark denim and a henley.

Just as ready to wear with a winter suit as they are with tough dark denim and a Henley.

Remember seeing the rugged, refined and tough-as-nails CAT Footwear Sutter Boot in this site’s post on the best men’s boots for fall? Of course you do. Although at first this 6-eye, burnished boot might seem too rugged to wear a suit, fear not. The rougher texture of the suit, shirt and tie lend themselves well to a durable, handsome boot. Plus, the higher cut of these boots gives you added traction and grip should the weather turn inclement. If you find yourself in a warmer climate? Ditch the boots for a pair of crisp leather wingtips and perhaps swap out the wool suit for some slim stone chinos and a lightweight navy blazer. Ya dig?

The Socks: American Trench Pima Cotton Houndstooth Socks — $23.98

american-trench-pima-cotton-houndstooth-socks

 American Trench consistently delivers on premium, American-made socks — that goes for  both the brand’s casual varieties and dressier iterations. Take these comfortable Pima Cotton Houndstooth Socks  — the navy pattern plays nicely off the blue shirt and grey wool suit, not to mention the patterned pocket square. They’re an investment for a pair of socks, but they’re one that’s worth it — you can wear sharp, subtly stylish socks like this with all sorts of winter work week outfits.
A classic, affordable dress belt and a go-anywhere watch.

A classic, affordable dress belt and a go-anywhere watch.

Make no mistake, your Style Guide author is as much of a fan of classic dress watches from the likes of Daniel Wellington as you are. But given that we’re going with a more rugged outfit — from the textured shirt and tie to the grey wool suit and boots — a sport-inspired, tough chronograph fits right in. The great thing about the Armogan Spirit of St. Louis Chronograph is the rich contrast between the black dial and brown leather strap — it’s a pairing that works surprisingly well together. Of course, you can never go wrong with an affordably priced J. Crew Factory leather belt fit for both business casual and slightly dressier looks.
So, that’s your Holiday Style Suggestion all sorted out. A slim V-neck sweater adds a bit of visual interest to a rich grey Telegraph Suit from Taylor Stitch, and both the shirt and tie bring seasonally appropriate texture. The thing to keep in mind is that even at an investment-level price, the Telegraph Suit  is more than just a one-trick pony. That is, you can break up the jacket and pair it with Mott & Bow denim and a classic white Oxford (plus, those durable Sutter Boots from CAT Footwear) during the regular work week, too. And the handsome, refined Armogan Spirit of St. Louis Chronograph is an absolute keeper in terms of both durability, style and versatile looks. Oh, and those Pima Cotton Houndstooth Socks? Once you’ve tried socks from American Trench, you might never go back. As always, you can’t go wrong with a refined, versatile JackThreads topcoat, either. Let me know in the comments how you’re dressing for your holiday party — and as always, stay stylish!

#OOTD: Versatile Suiting with AWEARNESS Kenneth Cole

Editor’s note: Thank you to Men’s Wearhouse and the Men’s Health MVP Network for sponsoring today’s post. Thanks for reading!

On the go with a comfortable, slim-fitting and flexible suit jacket. Denim shirt C/O Forever21 Men. Plaid wool tie and patterned pocket square by Ties.com. Waterbury Chrono by Timex x Red Wing Heritage.

On the go with a comfortable, slim-fitting and flexible suit from the AWEARNESS Kenneth Cole line. Denim shirt C/O Forever21 Men. Plaid wool tie and patterned pocket square by Ties.com. Waterbury Chrono by Timex x Red Wing Heritage.

If you follow along with The Style Guide on Instagram or Twitter — or peruse many of this site’s rugged fall style posts, you know that it’s not too often that I suit up. But when I do throw on a shirt, tie and a slim-cut suit, there’s no question that I want that suit to fit, look and feel great. That’s what’s so refreshing about the AWEARNESS Kenneth Cole collection, and that’s why it was a treat to partner with them on this post via the Men’s Health MVP Network. Lest you think we’re throwing out all of those rugged, casual menswear tips and starting from scratch, fear not — there’s plenty more where that came from. But I know that I’ll certainly be more inclined to suit up thanks to the comfort, technology and attention to detail in the new AWEARNESS Kenneth Cole line (sold exclusively at Men’s Wearhouse).

The line features the brand’s AWEAR-TECH technology, part of a larger line featuring the brand’s patented 37.5 technology. It’s a run of tailored clothing — from dress shirts ($89) to full suits, as seen here ($649) — made to remove moisture when it’s hot, and retain warmth when it’s cold. In fact, technology in the suit is made to remove sweat before it even forms. Sound too good to be true? Well, stay with me. It’s performance sports fabric with a tailored touch, perfect for today’s fast-moving menswear world. Yes, the AWEARNESS Kenneth Cole line is definitely made with performance in mind, and that’s what makes it such a great fit for my lifestyle. Between my day job and dashing around town to events in NYC, I value comfort, performance and sharp looks. The AWEARNESS collection nails that balance nicely, as I found out while exploring some of my favorite haunts in Brooklyn, particularly the delicious Fawnker for an essential weekend Bloody Mary. The suit is lightweight, moves easily and is very comfortable — all huge bonuses.

suiting-photo-3-edited

Just the right combination for a Sunday Bloody Mary at Fawnker in Brooklyn. Denim shirt C/O Forever21 Men. Plaid wool tie and patterned pocket square by Ties.com. Colorblocked socks by Richer Poorer. Leather chukka boots by Beckett Simonon. Waterbury Chrono by Timex x Red Wing Heritage. Glasses by Frameri.

The AWEAR-Tech Suit in particular is the type of easy-to-wear, versatile suit that pairs crisply with a denim shirt and a wool tie for essential fall style — I’d recommend you add a dash of timeless appeal with classic leather chukka boots and a rugged leather watch. Of course, there’s more than style and performance woven into the collection. One percent of all everyday gross sales will go toward Hire Heroes USA and Help USA, both organizations that benefit military veterans with a variety of services and help them transition back into the workforce. It’s an admirable cause that blends great style with community engagement — and who doesn’t love that?  You can pick up items from the AWEARNESS Kenneth Cole line exclusively at Men’s Wearhouse — and I’d suggest you do so before your first holiday party or a big business trip, as there’s no other suiting that can keep you cool under pressure … and support a great cause in the process.

Shop the AWEARNESS Kenneth Cole line now. Thanks again for reading!

Reader Giveaway Opportunity: SprezzaBox Subscription

Editor’s note: For more great style content, check out our Spring Style Online Shopping Picks. Thanks to everyone who entered!

All of this gear could be yours -- for months on end -- if you enter the giveaway below!

All of this gear could be yours — for months on end — if you enter the giveaway below!

As guys have grown more and more interested in all things #menswear, we’ve seen an explosion in the rise of digital services geared to help guys (like yourself) become more stylish. Be it the Frank & Oak Elevate program (formerly the Hunt Club), or great blogs like Effortless Gent, resources abound for the guy looking to become more stylish on a daily basis. Subscription-based programs that package up stylish gear and deliver it right to your doorstep are also becoming more and more popular (including lifestyle boxes like Bespoke Post). And the folks at SprezzaBox are innovating in this space, too — particularly when it comes to sharp, stylish accessories for those occasions when you need to suit up.

The name plays off the concept of “sprezzatura,” or the art of a carefully nonchalant approach to style (you’ve probably seen this on display in the streets surrounding Pitti Uomo). So, they’ve got a lot to live up to, namewise. And their stylish assortment certainly does that! Although they also offer an online store with everything from ties to pocket squares, they’ve also got a neat program with options to sign up month-by-month (or yearly), and have all the menswear goodness you could possibly want shipped to wherever you choose (your house, your man-cave, the Bat Den, etc.). It’s a great value for the product, too — finishing touches like a simple pocket square  can definitely up your game if you’re not used to trying those sorts of things out. How it works? Their stylists hand-select a mix of product each month (all of which could feasibly be incorporated into one sharp outfit), and then it ships right on out. They’ve got everything covered, right down to the cufflinks. For those of us who need to throw on a tie or a sharp blazer from time to time, it makes getting dressed quite easy. If you find yourself needing to do that on the regular, then you’ll like what we’re giving away: a FREE (yes, FREE) six-month subscription to SprezzaBox. This would normally run you $28/month, but it’s coming to ya at a low cost of … $0 through this giveaway!

But how to win, you say? Simply click on this link and follow the instructions!

Editor’s note: This contest ends at 12 a.m. on April 14.

Thanks as always for reading, and good luck to those entering!

-Beau


Style Suggestion: What to Wear on Valentine’s Day

Editor’s note: For a bevy of style suggestions covering how to suit or dress down, click here.

So just as we talked about in last week’s Valentine’s Day gift guide post, the big is almost here — and our Style Suggestion series is back! Now, Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, so perhaps that makes things a bit different for you — maybe you’ll be away and traveling for the weekend perhaps? Or staying at home to catch a sharp Sunday dinner? At any rate, it’s a day where you’ll want to look your best for your significant other. Even if you go the less formal route, it’s worth it to still look into some style upgrades — like throwing on a slim pair of denim or even just an crisp pair of leather sneakers. The below Style Suggestion however, like last year’s Valentine’s Day Style Suggestion, goes the more formal route — it’s a classic look (hopefully) with some modern touches. Read on, suit up and let me know how you’re dressing for the day or the weekend!

The Suit: Combatant Gentleman Charcoal Slim Fit Herringbone Suit — $200

A reliably classic color and cold-weather fabric make this suit a winner.

A reliably classic color and cold-weather fabric make this suit a winner.

It seems that in tailored situations here at the ol’ Style Guide, Combatant Gentleman has been the suiting pick of choice, from New Year’s Eve to holiday parties and beyond. And for good reason, too — there’s hardly a better suiting deal out there that brings solid quality, a reliable fit and a plethora of suiting options to chose from. This Charcoal Slim Fit Herringbone Suit is a solid pick in this case, however, because it’s versatile, sharp color that can work in plenty of other situations besides Valentine’s Day — a great budget pick-up. The Italian wool herringbone weave is a seasonally appropriate touch in this cold weather, too (if it’s warm where you are, you could always rock a chino suit). Don’t forget that overcoat, either.

The Shirt: J. Crew Factory Voyager Dress Shirt in End-on-End — $41.50

Another well-priced staple from J. Crew Factory at a great price.

Another well-priced staple from J. Crew Factory at a great price.

Just as with Combatant Gentleman, it’s tough to find a better deal for the quality than J. Crew Factory (although the folks at Combat Gent do a nice job with shirting, too). But if you’ve been looking to check out the Factory line and haven’t gotten to it, here’s your chance. This end-on-end shirt mixes in some subtle texture, a slim fit and a great price. The wrinkle-free aspect is another nice touch that should make it easier for travel, too. And the light blue is going to stand out nicely under the darker charcoal suit — it’s another piece that can work in many other situations outside of this one. On another note, if you should find yourself in need of a great undershirt to keep you cool throughout the night, head to Tommy John.

The Tie: The Tie Bar Midnight Navy Grenafaux Tie — $19

Does this tie look familiar? If you read this blog regularly, it should!

Does this tie look familiar? If you read this blog regularly, it should!

If you happened to catch this blog’s holiday party Style Suggestion, perhaps you recognize this tie. The Tie Bar’s Midnight Navy Grenafaux Tie is quickly becoming a Style Guide favorite — it’s not often you talk about a tie being reliable (trust me), but this number is crisp, visually interesting and a solid contrast to the lighter blue shirt. It being Valentine’s Day and all, it’s never a bad thing to draw some color palette inspiration from James Bond, either. The price is remarkably solid, and you could wear this tie with a crisp white dress shirt in place of the J. Crew Factory end-on-end shirt if you wanted.

The Pocket Square: The Tie Bar Owen Plaid Pocket Square — $10

A unique pattern and color scheme help this pocket square stand out nicely.

A unique pattern and color scheme help this pocket square stand out nicely.

When on the hunt for great accessories in a pinch, it pays off to turn to a trusted retailer time and again — in this case, our friends at The Tie Bar. This Owen Plaid Pocket Square is an excellent bit of contrast to the dark charcoal suit and multiple shades of blue in the top half of this ensemble; the rich burgundy is also a change of pace from more standard pocket squares (although a classic white pocket square could work here, too).

The Shoes: Jack Erwin Adam Wingtip Oxford — $195

Great color, a great price and terrific styling potential from Jack Erwin.

Great color, a great price and terrific styling potential from Jack Erwin.

The Jack Erwin Adam Wingtip Oxford  was first seen back in this blog’s round-up of stylish men’s dress shoes, and they make a return here as yet another example of why it pays to invest in high-quality, versatile footwear. Jack Erwin has made a name for itself in the digital style game thanks to its pricing and quality, and the Blake construction and reinforced stacked heel add even more durability to this particular pair. If you go the more casual route, they’d be equally at home with some dark denim and a navy blazer.

The Belt: J. Crew Factory Reversible Leather Belt in Brown — $22.50

Two belts for the price of one, plus a color that matches nicely with the rest of the outfit.

Two belts for the price of one, plus a color that matches nicely with the rest of the outfit.

Sometimes, it can certainly be the right move to invest in an expensive belt — especially if you’ll wear it a lot. Other times, you need a reliable piece to get you from Point A to Point B in style and at a cost-effective price. That’s where this J. Crew Factory Reversible Leather Belt comes into play. You get two belts for the price of one, plus decent quality and a solid dark brown color that’ll match up sharply with your watch and shoes.

The Watch: MVMT Watches The 40 in Blue/Brown Leather — $120

Simple, refined and easy to wear with a suit.

Simple, refined and easy to wear with a suit.

As you put together stylish ensembles that fit in a variety of situations, it pays to look toward style essentials you might already have — like an eyecatching leather watch. This timepiece from MVMT Watches was reviewed just last week on the blog, and it’s a definite winner. The case diameter hits the sweet spot as far as a dress-casual watch, the quality is on-point for the price and the style potential is excellent (the blue dial will again really pop against the darker colors in this outfit). It can even work with a more casual outfit (again, the dark denim and navy blazer combo suggested above).

The Socks: Tommy John Solid Over-the-Calf Dress Socks — $16

Over-the-calf dress socks -- an underrated style hack that makes a difference.

Over-the-calf dress socks — an underrated style hack that makes a difference.

Dress socks, especially ones in a solid color, tend to get overlooked when lots of companies are incorporating pattern and color into so many pairs. But sometimes, you just want (and need) a simple, comfortable set of socks that’ll stay up and mesh nicely with the rest of your outfit. Tommy John socks solve that age-old problem of a pair sliding down throughout the day, and the dark navy color won’t distract from the neutral charcoal suit and solid shirting. Plus, they’re made of a lux Pima cotton blend with a hint of stretch.

The Extras: Tommy John Cool Cotton Trunk — $29

Style's in the details, right?

Style’s in the details, right?

Need I say more?

So that’s your head-to-toe Valentine’s Day look, incorporating some solid, versatile style, neutral colors and  sharp accessories. Pieces like the above can work in lots of different situations while providing a change of pace from style staples you might already own — and when planning for as big of a day as Valentine’s Day, details like the right tie and pocket square can certainly prove essential (look good, feel good, right?). If you’ve now settled on your outfit but still need a Valentine’s Day gift suggestion, we’ve got you covered there, too. And should you have any last-minute questions, feel free to leave a comment below or send me a tweet.

What ensemble will you be rocking on this Valentine’s Day? What do you think of the above suggestion?

 

Starter Style Review: Club Monaco

Editor’s note: Building great style on a budget can be difficult and expensive. This is the seventh part in an occasional series chronicling great locations to start a wardrobe and buy affordable, good-looking style staples. Past entries have chronicled places like Banana Republic, Target and Express. Check out the full set of six posts in the series here .

When starting out reinventing your personal style, there are certain incremental steps along the way. And even for those of us who’ve worked at our style for a while (doing things like embracing fit, paying attention to small details, and reaching for timeless style essentials), there’s always opportunity to improve and mix things up. One of the easiest ways to do this in a relatively quick manner is turning toward a new brand. While some brands offer tried-and-true basics for almost everyone, the great thing about the world of men’s style is the amount of versatility and limitless variety out there, both from domestic and international brands.

Owned by Polo Ralph Lauren, yet decidedly different.

Owned by Polo Ralph Lauren, yet decidedly different.

In that regard, Club Monaco is a brand that shakes up the traditional #menswear fornula just enough, providing the ideal opportunity to explore new styles and items at decent prices (for the most part). They have a more continental vibe than J. Crew, they have more variety than a basics outpost like Old Navy, and although some styles are zany, they don’t stray into full-on Urban Outfitters territory. They’ve been owned by Polo Ralph Lauren for about 15 years, but the brand seems to occupy its own space, something reflected in its clothing offerings. The brand itself is a hybrid of sorts  — a mix of tailored wear with unique touches, and casual stylings that are just different enough from typical tried-and-true offerings.

Some of the brand's washed casual shirt offerings.

Some of the brand’s washed casual shirt offerings.

The first noticeable thing about any Club Monaco outpost is the variety — spread throughout the store and within each individual section. Think heathered T-shirts next to sneakers, with casual washed blazers just a few steps away. It’s arranged in a pleasing manner that flows naturally, something that could be disastrous if done wrong.

Stripes, small prints and casual washes -- the Club Monaco basics formula.

Stripes, small prints and casual washes — the Club Monaco basics formula.

Club Monaco seems to emphasize  variety in color as well, but again, in a pleasing manner. Its T-shirts, shorts and polos aren’t highlighter-bright and plastered in logos (looking at you, Express). Instead, there’s a nice mix of washed shirts, pocket tees and striped long-sleeve and short-sleeve offerings in neutral colors, none of which would look of place on its own or layered in mostly any season. Again, a basic grey T-shirt suddenly doesn’t look so basic when combined with a heathered wash, for example. The one area where certain casual offerings don’t jump out that prominently would be denim — the jean selection in-store (at least in this particular shop) isn’t extensive when compared to other brands. On the other hand, chinos receive slightly more prominent displays (a good choice considering the continental aura with many of their styles).

Peak lapels help this suit stand out from other, more plain suiting options.

Peak lapels help this suit stand out from other, more plain suiting options.

And the brand’s tailored wear is a strong point, too. The fits and stylings are more conservative than ultra-tight offerings from H&M or another retailer, yet they’re still trim and polished. The requisite variety in the suiting game is there too — heightened blues, glenplaids and checks, mixed in with peak and notch lapels. The suit above is  a nice example of the typical variety taken in  an approach by Club Monaco — changing up the traditional navy suit by adding peak lapels and a ticket pocket to the jacket. The price point is where some might find issue, however. $525 for a cotton suit jacket seems a bit steep when compared to a jacket from J. Crew’s famed Ludlow suit ($358). And while there’s no denying the quality of the Ludlow suit, Club Monaco doesn’t seem to get as much play when it comes to well-dressed guys suiting up.

A deep (and artfully-arranged) array of shoes from menswear favorites.

A deep (and artfully-arranged) array of shoes from menswear favorites.

But, moving through Club Monaco yields some high-quality finds in the shoe department. The brand has partnerships with noted #menswear favorites Wolverine, Grenson, Clarks, and Tretorn. That’s a pretty hefty lineup of heavy-hitters, which brings great variety to the brand’s lineup, especially in-store. The quality of the shoes is just as good as going through the brand directly (take these Tretorn sneakers, for example) And the prices via Club Monaco for some shoes, like a pair of Grenson brogues, are significantly lower than the UK site itself ($380 vs. $450). The brand’s ties are, like the rest of the store, just different enough — neither too silky-smooth or plain, there’s a nice mix of current lightweight summer fabrics, like cotton and chambray, next to toned-down silk offerings (seen below).

A mix of ties in woven knit and summerweight ties, along with traditional silk.

A mix of ties in woven knit and summerweight ties, along with traditional silk.

The standout attribute about Club Monaco is the way in which the brand takes traditional favorites, like a standard T-shirt, and slims down the fit, changes up the wash and injects it with some new life. The same applies to their suits (with features like peak lapels and slight textural differences) and shoes (sneakers with some variety versus traditional low-tops, for example). While their prices are above that of J. Crew in some respects (as high as some of us might go when paying full-price), the return on the investment, particularly when it comes to sharp footwear and quality basics, appears to be worth it.

The Product Review: Alara Italian Indigo Denim Shirt

Alara's Indigo Denim Shirt. Tie by American Eagle. Pants by Black Lapel (Part of custom suit). Shoes by Banana Republic. Watch by Stuhrling.

Alara’s Indigo Denim Shirt. Tie by American Eagle. Pants by Black Lapel (Part of custom suit). Shoes by Banana Republic. Watch by Stuhrling. Photo credit: Liz Todd.

Mixing up high-and-low elements has become a popular calling card for #menswear fanatics in the past few years. Using unconventional, more casual items (like a denim jacket), paired with dressier items (like a shirt and knit tie) is probably the most commonly seen version of this style move. And the return in popularity of the chambray shirt, coupled with the fact that brands like J. Crew have brought them back into vogue as part of the ‘workwear’ revival, only highlights this fact further. The desire to break up more formal elements, like sleeker suit trousers, with unique textures and fabrics (like chambray or denim) is a movement that’s not losing steam, and that’s where a high-quality denim shirt comes into play.

The brand Alara has perfected using high-quality fabrics to craft both sport and dress shirts across the past two-plus decades, first parlaying that experience into producing house-brand shirts for major retailers and designers, and lately using their expertise to craft shirts under the Alara brand name. Based out of a Midtown NYC showroom, I had the opportunity to speak with the brand’s head of e-Commerce, Phil Davies, and the brand’s president and founder, Mehmet Ulu. Getting the chance to see so many well-crafted shirts in person was a real treat, as many are made with ridiculously soft Egyptian cotton. They were also gracious enough to provide me with their Italian Indigo Denim Shirt in Slim Fit, (part of their collection of Sport Shirts) for review.

This shirt pairs easily with dressier fabrics thanks to the cutaway collar.

This shirt pairs easily with dressier fabrics thanks to the cutaway collar.

What works so well about this particular denim shirt (and denim shirts in general) is that perfect mix of high-low styling. A denim shirt is inherently casual, with a more unique texture than the average dress shirt, along with a vastly different color. This shirt, with its lighter wash, is much the same; however, a cutaway collar instantly makes it a bit more formal (for some great examples of how to pull this collar style off, visit the fantastic site Men’s Style Pro). This shirt is a lighter-weight denim that’s equally fit for both warm and cold weather — it’s got a rugged look to it that brings to mind lots of workwear vibes that remain so popular in many menswear circles. And even though it’s a lighter-washed denim, I could see it pairing equally well with a v-neck sweater and a herringbone blazer in the colder months. Although the cutaway collar is more daring than a traditional spread collar or a more conservative point collar, a slimmer tie knot holds up well and doesn’t look too out of place.

Up-close and personal. Glasses by Burberry.

Up-close and personal. Glasses by Burberry.

The shirt is soft and breathable, making it easy to wear in the heat. And it has a relatively slim fit that’s not restraining — the armholes are decently high and the sleeves are pretty trim, both positives for an off-the-rack shirt. However, it’s not quite as slim as a J. Crew slim-fit shirt, for comparison, something that could be a drawback for some. The shirt does, however, live up to its Italian name — it’s got a nice sprezzatura vibe to it, something especially relevant given the inspiring street style seen recently at Pitti Uomo. Another instant positive about this shirt? The price. In talking with Mehmet at Alara and doing some research, similar shirts retail in the three figures. However, Alara sells this specific shirt for $78 — compare that to a lower-quality Express 1MX shirt, which retails for just $18 less at full price, and you realize you’re getting quite the deal for a well-made shirt. Of course, other budget options are out there too, like this more distressed and Western-leaning shirt from H&M.

On a final note, the summer seems like an especially perfect time to wear this shirt; it’s got an easygoing, laidback vibe that practically begs to be worn to a slightly upscale outing or a nice dinner, preferably outdoors somewhere. It could even serve as a layering piece, much like a workshirt, if the temperature dips during a beach weekend. Wear it as often as you like, dress it up, dress it down — this is one denim shirt that’s fit for suiting and swimwear.