Style Q+A: Designing Your Space with Oxford Pennant

It’s an oft-repeated adage here at The Style Guide — small style upgrades really can make a big difference.  Whether that means stepping up your grooming game or upgrading your casual shirt, there are lots of little areas where the end results are self-evident if you focus on the little steps along the way. Be it looking for a better-fitting shirt or refined suede Chelsea boots, it’s all in the details. That’s particularly true when it comes to areas outside the realm of #menswear — namely, upgrading your home goods or upgrading your office. It really is underrated. Working and living in a pleasing environment surrounded by things you enjoy is one of the small pleasures of life — look at the home of ex-J. Crew menswear head Frank Muytjens. And so, it makes sense that we’re talking upgraded home goods (and an upgraded life!) with the subjects of today’s Style Q+A, the fine folks at Oxford Pennant.

It was after a fine, stylish Sunday brunch (and requisite menswear blogging) that I strolled into one of my favorite Brooklyn menswear shops, the crisply designed and handsomely outfitted Modern Anthology. And what did I happen upon but a cabinet and wall adorned with unique pennants? Hard-to-place, at once masculine and modern, yet vintage. Those pennants, folks, were from Oxford Pennant. That leads us nicely into our latest Q+A, as it were. I’ve been mighty pleased with the pennant I picked up that day, which you might recognize from my Instagram. Hanging on my wall, it serves as a daily reminder to work harder, think forward and push myself — and it looks cool, too. Know that in addition to vintage-inspired pennants, the brand also makes handsome championship banners that add color and instant style to any blank wall. It’s certainly very likely that you’ll want more than one piece from the assortment — and that’s a great thing. With the spirit of home upgrades in mind, I caught up with  Oxford Pennant co-founder Dave Horesh to talk why you need a pennant (or championship flag) in your home or office, why it looks great, and what you can do to instantly upgrade your space. Again, folks — the small style upgrades matter, and Oxford Pennant can help you make more than a few.

The Style Guide: What spurred your moment of inspiration to start the brand?
Oxford Pennant: We never set out to start a brand. We’re from Buffalo, which is a city that looks back in time as much as it looks forward. There’s a fixation on the past that’s inescapable here. Brett (my business partner) and I would go to estate sales and pick through huge collections of old pennants from the early 20th century. To us, it always seemed like a piece of Americana that had lost its popularity. One day, we decided to make a batch of “Let’s Go Buffalo” pennants for friends and family. We posted them on Instagram, the photo caught on and people began reaching out to us to have their own pennants made. We filled those orders and folks began posting photos of their custom pennants on Instagram. Then their friends started asking where they could have pennants made, and a company was born.

Sutro Footwear

A close-up of one of the brand’s championship banners.

TSG: A pennant or a flag might not be the first thing a guy thinks of when decorating — what do you think those pieces can add to a space in terms of design?

OP: You know, a flag is something that’s always used as a symbol of pride and identity. Pennants are essentially a small, house-sized flag. I think they’re a pretty clear opportunity for self-expression. We started using the tagline “Celebrate Everything” when it became clear to us that we were making pennants to commemorate the things that bring people joy in their lives. Their hometown, a wedding, a concert or even a feeling. I think pennants are the ultimate souvenir to chronicle and commemorate one’s life.
Oxford Pennant

A daily reminder from Oxford Pennant to “hustle” — get it?

TSG: For the guy who’s just starting out decorating his space — be it a desk or a dorm room or an apartment — what are some tips you’d share?

    • Start with the classics. Estate sales are a great place to find quality items.
    • A space is always a work in progress. You’ll never be done.
    • Get as many plants as you can. Learn how to take care of them.
    • If you care about something, frame it.
    • Put back the Christmas lights, bro.

Greats

 

TSG: You’ve got some great-looking pieces in your assortment — what’s your favorite product from the line?

OP: I’ll always love our “Let’s Go Buffalo” pennant. I’m proud of my city and that item will always be the first chapter of our story. As we reach company milestones (like attending our first trade show or buying our first piece of equipment), I snap a photo with my “Let’s Go Buffalo” pennant. 
TSG: Just for fun (aside from an Oxford Pennant piece), what’s one style essential every guy should own?
OP: A Vespa.
And, well … there you have it, folks. Oxford Pennant does work that’s consistently great, consistently stylish and definitely worth it in terms of your time and dollars. I’d urge you to shop the brand’s line and follow Oxford Pennant on Instagram for plenty of style and décor inspiration.
In the meantime … stay stylish.
-Beau


Reader Giveaway Opportunity: Friday and River

Editor’s note: Read to the end of this post to learn how to win a new set of home goods from Friday and River!

giveaway-photo-edited

A new Friday and River candle could be a handsome addition to your home. Matches via Modern Anthology.

The concept of upgrading your entire lifestyle as you upgrade — and add — to your #menswear wardrobe is one that we take to heart here at The Style Guide. By we, I mean me — but you knew that already. And if you want to complement a stylish wardrobe with stellar home goods, there are certain brands worth knowing — particularly as a new year kicks off. Throughout the past few months, I’ve had the chance to discover and get to know Friday and River, whom you might recognize from a past Style Guide Q+A entry. I also covered the brand’s line of essential home goods for The Manual, and if you haven’t yet acquainted yourself with the ways in which the brand can upgrade your home, office or apartment … you best listen up. Named for the last names of co-founder Joe Freitag (Freitag is German for “Friday) and his wife, Yumi Kawamura (Kawamura means “river” in Japanese), it’s a brand that takes a nuanced approach to home goods for the discerning consumer. This practiced, minimal and versatile approach comes from the design experience of the duo with major brands like Levi’s, plus their time in Tokyo — which is quite the menswear mecca in and of itself. Starting with their natural leather-wrapped candles (as seen at the top of the page) and carrying through to a unique selection of well-crafted leather tote bags and minimal and smart leather card holders, the line encompasses all the small details and nice finishing touches you didn’t know you needed in your life.

For instance — thinking of adding a small plant to your office or apartment? Grab a handsome, minimal leather-wrapped planter; it’s a combination that’s masculine yet smart, perfect for complementing a study or a wooden desk. Are you with me on that? The more you look for style upgrades throughout your life, the easier they are to make — and that pursuit is getting even easier today. Yes, with the latest Style Guide giveaway, we’re giving one lucky winner the chance to win one leather-wrapped planter, one candle and one leather coaster set  of your choice — a pretty darn good value, and a heck of a deal if you ask me! How to win, you ask? Now through midnight Friday night (that’s January 13th), comment below and tell me how you’d use those home goods to upgrade your office, apartment … you name it! Seriously, that’s it. Sound good? Good.

Best of luck out there — thanks for reading!

-Beau

Frank & Oak

Style Suggestion: How to Dress for Football Season

Editor’s note: Click here to check out past #menswear style suggestions.

Sometimes, you can feel it in the air before you actually see it — maybe you bolt out of bed on a Saturday morning thinking it’s game day (just me?), or get your old (or current) school fight song stuck in your head one day. It’s nearly back … football season, folks. The fall and the start of football season has always been one of my favorite times of year — growing up about fifteen minutes from the campus of Michigan State University turned me into a football fanatic at a very young age. That dedication only continued through college; heck, you could hear the roar of the crowd at Spartan Stadium from my college house. So as the calendar rolls toward fall once again, I’m focused on getting back to see my beloved Spartans — and I’m focused a little bit more on upping my #menswear game for the occasion than when I was in school. Now, that goes for you pro football fans, too — but sadly, the Detroit Lions were never anything to write home about. As we always talk about at ye olde Style Guide, there are plenty of ways to get dressed with style upgrades in mind, and that goes for situations that might seem more casual or mundane. Just as with watching the Olympics or heading to a bar crawl, dressing for a football game is definitely there. From your garb up top to your everyday carry, you might be surprised at how many brands are approaching sports-related activities with neat stylistic touches in mind. Of course, the below post is written from a Midwesterner’s perspective — wearing blazers to games doesn’t quite fly (but all the more power to you if that’s how you do it!). If you think I missed anything in the below #menswear rundown, hit me up on Twitter or shoot me an email. In the meantime — Go Green!

The Base Layer: Flint & Tinder Marled Long-Sleeve Henley — $62

Easy to layer, easy to wear on its own and ready for football season or the work week.

Easy to layer, easy to wear on its own and ready for football season or the work week.

First things first — it’s probably not all that cold for any of us at the moment, so this layer might stay in the closet for a while. But should you splurge a little on this Flint & Tinder Henley, know that you’re getting a brand-new offering from a brand that’s refined the art of making excellent basics in America. Oh, and another plus: It’ll keep you just as warm as a long-sleeve athletic base layer, yet you get bonus style point and no logos in sight. Lastly, you can wear this piece on its own under a wool blazer during the work week this fall, and no one will be any the wiser when you re-wear it on Saturday.

The T-Shirt: Tailgate Clothing Team Tee — From $19.99

Cheer on your alma mater in style -- trust me, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in the student section (or that alumni tailgate) with a tee like this.

Cheer on your alma mater in style — trust me, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the student section (or that alumni tailgate) with a tee like this.

Fancy yourself a college football fan (like yours truly), but tired of wearing standard team fare? Add a dash of vintage style to gameday with a tee that might feel a bit familiar. How’s that? If you recognize the mix of classic heritage and American sportswear in the tee you see above (and the brand’s other styles), you’re onto something — Tailgate Clothing was co-founded by none other than lauded menswear designer Todd Snyder. And with a positively huge range of collegiate T-shirts, plus a handful of jerseys and hoodies, I’d bet you can find your team — no sweat. *Insert obligatory ‘Go Green’ chant here*

The Denim: Mott & Bow Norfolk Raw Denim — $79.98

Sharp, simple and easily wearable on a football Saturday.

Sharp, simple and easily wearable on a football Saturday.

Looking for yet another way to differentiate yourself from the pack? Whereas some other folks might reach for baggy, distressed denim — maybe featuring a bootcut — a pair of crisp, clean and simple dark denim is the way to go here. Mott & Bow’s Norfolk Raw Denim was launched late last year as the brand’s first foray into raw denim, and this writer’s pair has broken in very nicely. Contrary to what you might think, this denim isn’t overly heavy, and doesn’t wear too stiff right out of the box. That means they’d be a solid pick to wear now, and keep on wearing if (or when) it gets cold out. Like the above henley, they can also function during your 9-to-5. Not bad at all, yeah?

Buck Mason - Timeless Design. Made in America.
The Boots: SWIMS Barry Chukka in Taupe/Biscuit — $230

Wear these to tailgate, wear these to class, wear these to the office -- there's no wrong way to wear 'em!

Wear these to tailgate, wear these to class, wear these to the office — there’s no wrong way to wear ’em!

If that price catches you by surprise initially, not to worry — the Barry Chukka is nearly a four-season pair of footwear that packs in waterproof protection with a versatile  silhouette. As far as chukka boots go, they’ve got the potential to be worn in the heat of September (thanks to the lightweight crepe sole) and deep into tailgating season this November. Then, you can break them back out in the spring. Think of these stylish chukka boots as a decided upgrade over athletic sneakers — they’re sleeker, cleaner, more versatile and ready for just about anything (including post-victory bar-hopping).

The Socks: American Trench Mil-Spec Sport Socks with Silver — $11.50

A no-brainer if you want versatile socks that are wearable week after week.

A no-brainer if you want versatile socks that are wearable week after week.

Socks aren’t that big of a deal, right? Wrong. If you want a pair that’s high-quality enough to be worn for long periods of time on your feet week after week, you want these socks. And if you’re on the hunt for a pair that’s both affordable and long-lasting? You want these socks. The navy color is simple and straightforward — no zany colors or patterns here, so the socks won’t distract from your T-shirt. Plus, they’re definitely made with more care than a pair of garish team socks, and I’d bet those results will show up on the scoreboard, too (wink, wink).

The Watch: Jack Mason Brand Team Watch — From $95

It's tough to find a watch that merges both your favorite sports team and everyday style potential -- here's one that does.

It’s tough to find a watch that merges both your favorite sports team and everyday style potential — here’s one that does.

Now, if wearing both a team watch and a team T-shirt feels a bit like overkill, you could always reach for a rugged dive watch. But know that the way Jack Mason makes its collegiate watches, these aren’t flimsy or unrefined by any means. Essentially, styles like the Blackout Silicone Strap Watch you see here are just tough watches made for the everyday and spruced up with the logo of your favorite school. When you look at that way, it’s tough not to buy into this unique, well, style upgrade. Even the Striped NATO Strap Watch isn’t too gaudy — heck, the variety of striped NATO straps offered with Jack Mason’s other collegiate watches would work well with other casual timepieces in your rotation.
Frank & Oak
The Belt: J. Crew Suede Belt — $55

The right texture and color to work in other fall style scenarios beyond your tailgate.

The right texture and color to work in other fall style scenarios beyond your tailgate.

If we’re being honest, most folks probably aren’t giving a second thought to what they were to the game besides an athletic jersey, so putting some thought into a good-quality, versatile belt might not mean much at a tailgate. But if you’re on a mission to out-dress that pesky Michigan fan (as we all should be), then a good belt is just the type of thing to spend a little time on. Crucially, this J. Crew suede belt falls in the same color family as the SWIMS chukka boots seen above, and it’s the perfect color and texture to wear with other fall business-casual outfits the rest of the week. It doesn’t exactly match up in terms of color with the watch, but as we’re mixing a rubber watch and a leather belt, matching isn’t of the utmost importance. Now, catching the snap — that’s much more important.

The Hat: Huckberry Explorer’s Cap in Black — $39.98

Another underrated style upgrade -- the grown man's ballcap.

Another underrated style upgrade — the grown man’s ballcap.

Again, a  ballcap is one of those things most of us throw on and don’t think about. And there are certainly ways to support your team and nod toward the ol’ ballgame without throwing on a coach’s headset. A simple, monochrome ballcap with vintage-inspired roots (it’s made by the folks at Ebbets Field Flannels) is a step in the right direction if you can’t part with your old college ballcap. Believe me, this writer loves a good hat as much as the next guy. This one is also the kind of cap you can throw on to run a few errands on a weekend morning — you know, things like picking up a six-pack (or three) before your tailgate.

The Must-Have: Brothers Leather Supply Co. C.W. Growler Bag — $75

The ideal way to haul around your favorite brew.

The ideal way to haul around your favorite brew.

OK, so perhaps a growler bag isn’t a must-have (particularly if you’re not the type to imbibe). But if you enjoy a great craft brew — perhaps from a fine brewery near the Grand Rapids shop of Brothers Leather — then this growler is something you oughta pick up. It’s made from full-grain finished Vachetta tanned leather, which is enough to boggle your fellow tailgate-goer before you even pour them a beer. The 36-inch strap is a functional touch for lugging this thing around — the only thing missing is some stellar craft beer.

Even though it might seem a bit tedious to put that extra bit of effort into your appearance on a weekend day, it definitely pays off. It’s something I still struggle with from time to time, but finding the right pieces can make the experience a heck of a lot better. The search for that perfectly worn vintage tee hopefully is a bit easier now after checking out Tailgate Clothing, and stylish everyday carry pieces like an upgrade team watch and a vintage ballcap are subtle, sporty-yet-stylish ways to prep for the occasion. Crucially, waterproof nubuck chukka boots and slim, dark denim are great building blocks for any outfit. And if you pack well (I.e. Enough beer for your tailgate), you should be set for game day and beyond. To see how this writer takes on the MSU football season in style, head to Instagram. Meanwhile, we’ll see you in the stands!

What’s your take on the above outfit? Would you add or subtract any pieces? Thinking about making any purchases?

The Friday Read: Athleisure, Common Projects Chelsea Boots and the 2016 Olympics

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.  

With so much going on at the (small but well-appointed) Style Guide HQ, it’s becoming tough to keep track of the days. If it’s Friday, that must mean it’s almost time to hit the road again — this Sunday, I’m heading west to Liberty Fairs in Las Vegas, before a day back in New York … and then more travel to my home state of Michigan. But first, Liberty Fairs — it’s a twice-yearly contemporary men’s trade show, and it stopped in the Big Apple about a month ago during New York Fashion Week: Men’s.  It’s another chance for retail buyers, fashion editors and writers and industry pros to get a look at what top menswear brands are slinging for the Spring 2017 season. There’s certainly a lot of hustle and bustle associated with trade shows, but ultimately, they’re about exploring new brands, analyzing key industry trends, and forging strong relationships in the menswear industry — that much I know is true, as I’ve met some great people at large, sometimes overwhelming conferences (take my buddy Jamal of StyleSocietyGuy, for instance).

Buck Mason - Timeless Design. Made in America.

With that in mind, building those relationships is my primary objective, as I’m jetting out there on behalf of Timberland to meet with media and rep the brand as part of my day job. Of course, you can expect a full #menswear blog post coming at the completion of my trip (click through here for more travel style in the meantime).  While my mind’s been fully focused on prepping for the upcoming trip, the Olympics have also captured my attention — maybe yours, too? If you’ve got an Olympics viewing party on the docket this weekend, here’s what you should wear. Or perhaps you just want to check out more of those hilarious Michael Phelps face memes? Go for it. Before you go too far down that rabbit hole, stick around here and check out the week in all things men’s style — everything from stylish boxer briefs to athleisure is up for discussion. To keep up with my travels in real-time, head to Instagram or Twitter — and click through the pieces below to start your weekend in style.

  • Now more than ever, Esquire says you should grab yourself a stylish pair of Chelsea boots — and I tend to agree! In fact, The Style Guide took a look earlier this spring at the best men’s Chelsea boots to buy now.
  • While we’re talking about  Esquire, the publication also reviewed the best boxer briefs for men — if you know me, you know I love me some Mack Weldon boxer briefs, although those didn’t make the aforementioned list.
  • We talk a lot (I mean, a LOT) about style upgrades on this blog, and sandals are one area that’s often overlooked. If that’s a part of your wardrobe you want to look a little better, the footwear purveyors at GREATS have you covered (as always). The brand’s new Amalfi Slide is a luxurious, Italian-made leather slide available in crisp white (Blanco) or black (Nero), including two versions stamped with “BKNY,” a nod to the brand’s #BornInBrooklyn roots. As crazy as it might seem to advocate for leather sandals, designs like these popped up on the runways at Todd Snyder’s New York Fashion Week: Men’s show in July 2016. Crucially, the leather quality and subtle looks mean these might not look that bad at a particularly relaxed barbeque — I’ll let y’all be the judge of that.

Looking for more style content? Look no further.

  • What’s one shirt — not chambray — that you can wear across all four seasons? The essential Oxford shirt. So, here are the 10 best Oxford shirts for men, as rounded up by yours truly at GearMoose this week.
  • Lastly, the balance between looking good at the gym and looking sloppy can be pretty small — and if you want gear that’s versatile outside of slinging weights, it’s even trickier. That’s where athleisure comes into play; the style (or trend) mixes traditional tailored silhouettes with technical fabrics, and I wrote about 5 athleisure lines to know for The Manual.

Follow along with this weekend’s explorations on Instagram, and check back Saturday for another Style Pick of the Week entry.

Buck Mason - Timeless Design. Made in America.

Style Upgrade: The Casual T-Shirt

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

Upgrading the humble T-shirt today. Rust V-neck by Pistol Lake (more on the brand in a bit!). Dark denim by Mott & Bow. Navy Rosen Runners by GREATS Brand. Sunglasses by Randoiph Engineering. Stainless steel dive watch by Invicta.

Upgrading the humble T-shirt today. Rust V-neck by Pistol Lake (more on the brand in a bit!). Dark denim by Mott & Bow. Navy Rosen Runners by GREATS Brand. Sunglasses by Randoiph Engineering. Stainless steel dive watch by Invicta.

It seems we’ve been heralding the start of spring weather here on The Style Guide for a number of weeks (at least if my spring style wish list is any indication), so that means a couple key things. Namely, a solid spring jacket and a stylish spring sweater are going to go far for you in the coming weeks (and on into cooler summer nights). Beyond that, what else is there to know? Quite a bit, actually. For one, plenty of us are going to find ourselves rocking more T-shirts and polos in the coming months than during fall or winter — likely on their own, or else after shedding a jacket or sweateer. For another, there are some definite ways to upgrade that T-shirt from a standard number. Perhaps you know the kind I’m talking about? A bit baggy, maybe a bit dirty, featuring an old logo (think the Abercrombie & Fitch tees of years gone by?). If that’s what you had in mind, know that there are far more wearable, far more stylish casual T-shirt options out there — and not a lot of them break the bank.

A neutral color, a trim fit and a not-too-deep V -- the hallmarks of a good V-neck.

A neutral color, a trim fit and a not-too-deep V — the hallmarks of a good V-neck.

By definition, you could consider a rugged short-sleeve henley part of the T-shirt category. But, we’re talking strictly tees here — things like a slim pocket tee, a heathered crewneck tee, or a reliable V-neck tee. You name a variation on a style within those three iterations, and it’s like that a great designer or brand has taken it upon themselves to perfect it. For you, my fellow T-shirt fan, that’s great news indeed. Take, for example, the surprisingly versatile V-neck tee. Pistol Lake crafts the particular tee you see at the top of the page, and its made-in-America ethos, slim fit and jersey fabric are all great qualities. The “V” itself in the right V-neck doesn’t dip too low (a la American Apparel), yet it still adds some nice visual interest as opposed to a plain crewneck. Mixing in some unexpected color here can be a good thing, too. I Keeping the fit slim is also positive. It’s definitely the most casual option of the bunch, but a good V-neck tee could even be rocked under a lightweight, unlined blazer on a hot (and not-too-dressy) workday. It would be wise to reach for an option that’s a bit more expensive — tees from retailers like H&M are often too flimsy (at least according to this menswear writer).

Just a white T-shirt? Think again. Slub cotton and a modern fit upgrade this Buck Mason number.

Just a white T-shirt? Think again. Slub cotton and a modern fit upgrade this Buck Mason number.

Designers and brands are also crafting variations on the crewneck, and packing in a  ton of simple style points in the process. Take Richer Poorer’s new pocket tees. They feature a workwear-inspired pocket, plus your pick of either a versatile Heather Grey or a just-different-enough Natural color. When you’re rocking a tee on its own (or even under a blazer), subtle changes in fabric and style details go a long way. Buck Mason is also a brand that’s taken on the tall task of upgrading the standard pocket tee — and they’re doing a great job at its. The White Slub Pocket Tee is cut to fit slim and trim, with exceptional-looking fabric. Either pick is a great option that can easily be worn on its own with slim stone chinos, dark denim or tailored sweatshorts. Of course, a heather pocket tee pairs perfectly with a rugged denim jacket, lest we forget.

One retailer, two solid T-shirt upgrades from JackThreads.

One retailer, two solid T-shirt upgrades from JackThreads.

But shelling out for the perfect tee doesn’t have to be expensive — even though some of the picks featured above lean a little pricey. JackThreads, as has seemed to be the case with its two seasonal collections, nails the price-quality equation in terms of knitwear. Namely, pieces like its Daily Vee in Heather Blue run for just $18 (or 2 for $30). Plus, the Daily Pocket Tee (pictured at left), offers the exact same deal and nice styling potential, to boot. If 30 bones strikes you as a lot for a T-shirt compared to a standard 3-pack of tees, know that the investment will pay off — this is a style upgrade we’re talking about, after all. In addition to reaching for deeper colors with some texture, mainstay brands like J. Crew turn out new T-shirt variations season after season. Take its textured pocket T-shirt, for example. Those bold stripes in an appropriately spring-like color make it a perfect tee to rock on its own.

An Affliction T-shirt, this is not. A sublte, stylish and sly effort from Todd Snyder.

An Affliction T-shirt, this is not. A subtle, stylish and sly effort from Todd Snyder.

Perhaps the most common stigma about the simple T-shirt is that, in this case, graphics should be thrown out entirely. While there’s a time and place for a loud graphic tee, this is …. not that time (sorry to disappoint). Luckily, classic (and classy) American menswear designers are turning instead to athletic inspiration to craft graphic tees that are decidedly more stylish than Ed Hardy tees. In particular, Style Guide favorite Todd Snyder is offering a cheeky take on the graphic tee as part of his collaboration with Champion, which mixes urban cool with vintage sportswear. Those are two very good things.

The biggest part about upgrading your T-shirt, however simple, might simply be checking out retailers (whether in-person or via online ordering) and trying on various styles. In particular, it’s worth a look into classic retailers like Old Navy, who can offer a huge (HUGE) range of options at really affordable prices with solid sizing. After all, you want a tee that fits modern (but not overly tight), and you want to pick up essential items that can be mixed in with other spring style classics. So, spending $170 on a T-shirt might not be the most economical or versatile for any of us. But, $30 for 2 stylish tees in versatile colors, for example? Now we’re talkin’. As we’re just into the start of spring, there’s plenty of time left for you to upgrade your T-shirt game. Let me know how your search goes over at The Style Guide’s Facebook page, or swing on through Twitter.

Stay stylish!

-Beau

Style Upgrade: The Slim Crewneck Sweater

Editor’s note: This is the fourth 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.

A close-up look at an upgrade worth making -- the slim crewneck. For more on this Pistol Lake piee, read on.

A close-up look at an upgrade worth making — the slim crewneck. For more on this Pistol Lake piee, read on.

Andddd…. we’re back! With the Style Upgrade series, that is. It’s been some time since an entry in this series ran (see past entries here), but the time is just right to talk at length about sweaters — something I’ve often said to myself daily this winter. While you can use a merino V-neck sweater as part of a high-low outfit combination — like this #OOTD entry — and you can wear the heck out of nice cashmere cardigan, certain styles are definitely trending in the marketplace and on the torsos of well-dressed guys everywhere. The crewneck sweater (or sweatshirt, in its more casual form) certainly isn’t what it once was — and that goes for its more casual iterations and its dressier counterparts. So with a return to form in mind, it’s time to refresh your wardrobe — or perhaps just pick up another sweater.

A piece from a designer perhaps most known for revitalizing crewnecks -- Todd Snyder.

A stellar piece from a designer perhaps most known for revitalizing crewnecks — Todd Snyder.

Most menswear fans probably recognize the crewneck sweatshirt from its sportier beginnings, and the ways in which designers have taken the same idea and slimmed it down. Like the Reigning Champ Crewneck Sweater that was featured as this site’s Style Pick of the Week, there’s a lot that’s been done to a silhouette more commonly associated with Rocky films for years. And as this site has talked about previously, that’s due to a few forward-thinking designers who’ve made the style at once refined and still sport-inspired. If you’re looking to start your search for a crewneck sweatshirt at the top of the (reasonably priced) pyramid, Todd Snyder has exactly what you’re looking for. The designer’s crewneck sweatshirts, while simple at first glance, exemplify the idea of using high-quality fabrics to retool an older style, what with vintage-inspired stitching and added details like that chest pocket. Todd Snyder’s collaboration with Champion  is the stuff of legend (at least for this menswear writer). The pieces are well-crafted, heritage-inspired and timeless — plus, you can wear the heck out of ’em with everything from a chambray shirt and denim to tailored sweats.

Two crewneck choices from JackThreads -- one a dressy cashmere, the other a quilted indigo piece.

Two crewneck choices from JackThreads — one a dressy cashmere, the other a quilted indigo piece.

So that’s certainly one place to start. But some brands are taking this style essential and doing just as great of a job at slimming down the fit and changing up the fabrics. Take JackThreads, for example. The brand’s new menswear vertical is doing everything from a quilted indigo crewneck sweatshirt to its aptly named Daily Sweatshirt, all for excellent prices. And something like the Daily Sweatshirt, which strikes both a sporty yet business-casual vibe, can be paired with pieces you already have in your closet (look to stylist and menswear blogger Preston Konrad for some styling tips in this regard). Lest one forget, JackThreads has also amped up its fabric game — the brand’s cashmere crewneck sweaters are the budget alternative to more expensive alternatives. So that gives you two ways to go in terms of rocking a crewneck. However, the more standout style move might be picking up a casual crewneck and giving it a business-casual spin.

Contrast stitching adds yet another solid detail to this Pistol Lake piece.

Contrast stitching adds yet another solid detail to this Pistol Lake piece.

And as with other style staples that come up time and again on this blog — take henleys, for example — brands that are inspired by sportswear itself have turned their attention to this vintage piece. Style Guide favorites Pistol Lake, out of California, are producing a contrast-stitching crewneck sweatshirt in a versatile navy that’s been a hot seller this winter (the Heather Grey option is seen at the top of the page). Fellow made-in-America brands like Taylor Stitch and Buck Mason are also producing solid crewneck sweatshirts that can stand up to a campfire or a casual day at the office (considering that both can be equally treacherous). Reliable menswear stalwarts like J. Crew are also offering up an even more roughed-up take on the crewneck sweatshirt, turning to garment-dying for a lived-in look. They’re also offering a super-refined cashmere crewneck on the opposite end of the style spectrum.

So there are certainly plenty of options out there to go more casual with your crewneck, or a bit more dressy. On the lux end of things, Shinola has expanded its product offering into crewneck sweaters, drawing on perhaps the most vintage inspiration of all — Muhammad Ali’s signature style — for its “Cassius Clay” Sweatshirt. If you find yourself with quite a bit of cash to spend, know that Mr. Porter stocks crewneck sweaters from the likes of Brunello Cucinnelli — and that’s all the proof you need that the silhouette is mainstream! With such a variety of price points, it can be a bit daunting to pick out just one — even if it is just a crewneck sweater. It’s a style that shouldn’t be overlooked, though. The styling potential is on-point (be it over a blue Oxford or a simple tee), and designers have updated the fits and colors in new and unexpected ways. Toss in solid options for every price point, and you’ve got a style upgrade worth making.

Have you upgraded your crewneck sweater (or sweatshirt) yet? What’s your favorite of the options listed here?
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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 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

Style Upgrade: The Slim Wallet

Editor’s note: This is the first in an ongoing series covering quick and easy upgrades to style dilemmas a guy might face once in a while. Check back for more entries in the series.

Does this look like your wallet? Or someone you know? Friends don't let friends stuff their wallets.

Does this look like your wallet? Or someone you know? Friends don’t let friends stuff their wallets.

What’s the one thing you carry with you, likely everywhere, everyday? A wallet, or some way or system of storing credit cards, cash, etc. But the thing with that is … it can be a lot. Sometimes, George Costanza-esque (although hopefully not!). Getting your wallet and valuables in order is but one step that goes hand in hand with bettering your style – and your lifestyle in general.
Ben Sherman US
Swapping out that wallet, of course, requires an evaluation of the goods you’ve got in your current one. Excess or old gift cards or receipts? Unless you’re overly sentimental, those can probably be tossed. That value rewards card for a store you never visit? Ehh, probably to the trash can. So that leaves you with the essentials. Storing those is the next step – and with clothing getting slimmer all the time, what does one reach for? Even if you find yourself leaning toward straight leg pant cuts, a good answer is the card case.

What your wallet and credit cards situation should probably look like instead. Read on to learn more about both of these options.

What your wallet and credit cards situation should probably look like instead. On the left: Land’s End Landmark Newton Cardholder. On the right: Linjer Leather Goods’ Mocha Cardholder. Read on to learn more about both of these options.

In a way, it’s like a Lean Wardrobe for your wallet – making do with less, but using those items more efficiently. Paired with a sturdy money clip (like this clever option from Owen & Fred) for some cash, it’s a combination that truly does look stylish while also serving a nice function. And luckily, designers and brands big and small are making versions that lean either super luxe or quite rugged. New leather goods startup Issara makes a truly sleek version with two exterior slots for cards and one additional interior slot at a price that’s not quite investment-grade (but not exactly cheap, either).

A money clip like this one from Owen & Fred will help you keep track of cash once you slim down that wallet.

A money clip like this one from Owen & Fred will help you keep track of cash once you slim down that wallet.

Another significant upgrade at an affordable price would be the Land’s End Landmark Newton Cardholder. It’s on sale right now for just under $15, a pretty darn good price when you consider it’ll go with you everywhere, and the middle-of-the-road brown or black options work in equal measures. Linjer Leather Goods also makes a nice and slim card case in brown as seen above. If you can’t quite let go of your traditional wallet but want to lose the excess bulk, the Mocha Leather Billfold from Linjer is sleeker yet not quite as toned down as a card case.

The slim silhouette and eyecatching use of fabric make this piece from The Hill-Side a true splurge.

The slim silhouette and eyecatching use of fabric make this piece from The Hill-Side a true splurge.

Skagen’s Torben Card Case also would get the job done quite nicely, although there’s a small branded logo stamp on one side, which some might not like. If you really feel like selling out when it comes to this style upgrade though, The Hill-Side (one of GQ’s best and brightest) makes what looks to be an amazing navy herringbone tweed wallet featuring burnished edges, Italian cowhide leather – and more importantly, a slimmed-down yet still traditional wallet shape. There’s no way that thing’d get bulked down by receipts … right?

That’s all for the first Style Upgrade in this series – have you made the switch yet? What card case and/or money clip are you carrying around these days? Let me know!

Ernest Alexander