Reinvigorating your Wardrobe – Ideas from Combatgent.

I really loved this article.  Concise and well written, it was a great reminder to look through the collection of clothing and decide what really deserves to stay and what should be sent on its way.

Combatgent is one of my favorite finds of the last year.  I love the approach that they are taking to the idea of clothing, though it is worth remembering that much of what they offer is best suited for those who can comfortably wear the “modern” fit.  Don’t be surprised to see them mentioned again in the future.

Fashion vs. Style

Through this blog, I’ve presented some information about creating an individual style. I’ve spent most of that time suggesting that individual style is an outgrowth of things other than the fashion industry. Today, I want to take a few minutes to emphasize the role that the fashion industry can play in assisting that process.

All of us have seen “that guy.” You know, the one wearing a suit that was fashionable ten years ago, or the one wearing a tie that is so wide that it looks like it was pulled out of an attic rather than off a clothing rack, even at a second hand store. And to be fair, these men may be men of substance, men of principle and thoughtfully selected values, and I suggest that this is admirable, far more admirable than any amount of fashion awareness that they may have developed. However, we are wise to consider the power of correlation.

We all have seen this, the tendency of individuals to assume that because a certain type of characteristics are observed, another group of characteristics may be inferred. Using our example, we may be inclined to believe that if an individual manifests a sense of fashion in their personal style they are also a individual of principle and character. The reality is that character and fashion awareness are developed independently of each other, but they are not mutually exclusive, either.

Being a student of human nature, you who are working to be both a man of substance and style, you are wise to develop both aspects.

So how do you become aware of fashion? And how do you make it work for you instead of against you?

First, understand that fashion can be described in many ways, and three of these are high fashion, business fashion and sportswear. High fashion is often what we think of when we think of the fashion industry. High fashion pushes the boundaries of color and fabric, cut and accessorization. Extremes are the watchword for high fashion, and changes are made often just for the sake of making them.

Most of us won’t spend much of our time in the arena of high fashion.

However, by watching what appears in high fashion from time to time, we may be able to predict some trends in business fashion. High fashion is to clothing what the racing programs are to automobiles; it’s where things are figured out. How wide can the lapel be before it overwhelms the jacket? What about the peaks? Or the stripes? Or the contrasts of blocks of fabric? All of these things are tried out in the high fashion world in the same way that brakes, transmissions and engine technology is tried out on the race track before it is integrated into your car. Keeping your eyes on the world of High Fashion prepares us for what will show up in the board room, what I call business fashion.

Business fashion is what we are more likely to see in movies and on television. Actors depicting lawyers, bankers, wall street investors and the like are probably going to be spending at least part of the presentation in what is traditionally known as a power suit. Dark colors, white shirts, ties with a little red in them and leather shoes so shiny that they look ready for a tuxedo rather than just getting ready for lunch. These are the staples of business fashion and they are amazingly prevalent in popular entertainment. Business fashion is also what advertisers are most likely to use to sell upscale items to upscale clients. By that I mean that the models involved will likely be wearing business fashion when trying to sell accessories to those with disposable income. Think of advertisements for high end goods, like watches, leather goods, luxury cars and the like, and frequently they will be presented along with someone dressed in business fashion. By watching this arena, a gentleman can get a sense of the items that need to be making their way both into and out of his wardrobe.

Finally we make our way to the world of sportswear. In merchandising terms, these are the everyday clothes that are worn when you want something a little more dressy than a pair of jeans and a work shirt. Don’t be mislead, denim jeans are prevalent in most sportswear lines, but they aren’t the only thing in them. There are also twill slacks in a variety of colors, and sometimes even some patterns in the palette. Long and short sleeve shirts abound, from polos to rugbies, and they all have their place. Knowing when to wear which is a matter of practice and practicality.

Watch the changes in each of these segments of the fashion world and, over time, you will develop a sense of which pieces harmonize with your interests and your lifestyle. Interested in making the right impression all the time? High fashion may become a hobby. Feel like you never want to be the worst dressed anywhere you happen to be? Business fashion can make this easy. Comfortable with who you are, regardless of what you are doing or who is doing it with you? Find some sportswear basics and mix and match to your hearts content. Knowing when to wear each type of piece? Now that is one part science, one part art, and developed over time. Together, we will explore that tricky subject as time goes on.

The Foundations of Style


Clothes make the man.  All of us have heard this once or twice throughout our lives, and while none of us wants to admit its truthfulness, many of us spend significant amounts of disposable income on the off chance that it just might work in our favor.  Think of the times when, as a young man, you spent more than your parents or friends thought was wise, on that special jacket or cool pair of jeans.  Or maybe you saved for a while to buy a nice suit or an expensive pair of shoes, secretly hoping that someone would notice and applaud the suave sophisticaion of your choice.


Well, gentlemen, that is what the entire fashion industry is banking on.


The fashion industry and the designers that fuel it are constantly inventing new interpretations on existing pieces, adding details, adjusting lengths of hems and sleeves, adding more fabric here and taking some out from there, all in the interest of getting you to buy a new this or that.


But just because they make something new doesn’t mean we need to buy it.


And, believe it or not, the corollary to that is also true: just because something isn’t worn out yet doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t think about replacing it.


Over the next few posts, I am going to be addressing the elements of individual style.  There are only three of them, as I see it, though I am sure that designers may say that there are more.  Additionally, I think that they are fairly simple to understand and apply, contrary to what many of the more trendy magazines may want to suggest.


With just a little information and a little thought, there is no reason that every gentleman now reading this short little post can’t create for himself a reliable wardrobe of basics and accent pieces, accessories and well worn reliables that stand the test of time and give an individual style that is at once recognizable and comfortable.


I’m going to introduce the first of the factors, and we will save the other two for an upcoming post.  The first element that helps you in creating your own individual style is your body type.


There are websites and programs galore to give you insight into what your basic body type is, but most of us men know what our body type is without thinking much about it.  It breaks down into three basic types, all of which are basic geometric forms:  inverted triangle, rectangle, and diamond.  None of them is necessarily better than another, and all of them have clothing that is built to flatter each style.  It is also worth mentioning that each body type can be changed over time.  A man who is unhappy being a diamond (think baseball diamond) may work very hard to change to being a rectangle or even an inverted triangle, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t develop a style that stays with him throughout the change.  In fact, part of this post is to talk about elements of style that can stay with a man throughout all the changes that the body will go through during a lifetime.


Back to creating the style, by knowing your body type, you can make some choices that flater that type.  (By the way, skinny jeans don’t flatter anyone’s type.  If you aspire to be a man of style and substance,   NEVER wear skinny jeans)  If you are a rectangle or a diamond, wearing tight fitting shirts is not a great idea, while if you are an inverted triangle you may be better off investing in sport coats and slacks rather than suits.  It’s all about what flatters your body type, and generally you will know it the moment you try it on.


One word of advice when assessing body type in the conversation of style; it is only one piece of the puzzle.  When put with the other pieces, style becomes easier to select and maintain over time. Additionally, it is important to remember that there are designers who take into account every body type when they create their clothes.  If you find that one label doesn’t work so well when looking at suits, find one who does.  Don’t assume that your body type rlegates you to a type of clothing that doesn’t appeal to you.


Well, that’s enough for today.  Next post we will address the other two facets of slecting an individual style.

A Gentleman’s Wardrobe: Tier 4

So we are at the last of the posts dealing with the building of a wardrobe.   In past posts we had addressed suits, blazers and sportcoats and the relative strengths of each.  Today we the most casual element of the gentleman’s wardrobe, the dress shirt.

Many men today think that the dress shirt is no longer needed except when being worn with a suit or blazer, even suggesting that those can be paired with a Polo shirt or crew neck shirt or light sweater and this is sufficient.  While I agree that such looks can be fun and attractive when executed properly, I still believe that the level of class and elegance demonstrated by a properly cared for and stylishly worn dress shirt is worth the effort and investment.

Dress shirts come in two basic types, solids and patterns, and then can be broken down even further.  The solids can be defined by color, weave and stitching accents while the patterns can be broken into stripes, checks, window-panes. . . you get the idea.  And that is before we even approach the idea of collars (point, button down, spread, narrow, nehru, and on it goes).  The point, then, of the dress shirt is to know what it can do and how to make it do what you want as effortlessly as possible.  Accomplishing that requires 1 tool and 1 piece of awareness.

The tool is an iron.  Despite what celebrities may look like when the paparazzi catch them off guard, an un-ironed dress shirt is an indication that the wearer is not paying attention to details, let alone to the message that his haphazard choices send about him without even trying.  If you want to be taken seriously more quickly, especially by people who are meeting you for the first time, consider the time it takes to iron a dress shirt as time well spent.

The awareness is of the way the shirt looks on you and how comfortable you are wearing it.  For instance, I like plaids in flannel shirts, but not in dress shirts.  I feel uncomfortable when I wear them, and as a result, I avoid the plaid dress shirt even when my friends and the fashion world say they are an indispensable piece of the season’s wardrobe.  If I can wear it with confidence, I won’t add it into the mix.  By the same token, I love a good sturdy cotton twill.  I don’t care if they look dated and somewhat stodgy, I feel much more confident in the piece, so it makes the grade even when some around me would go for anything but.

Remember that these tips are all about putting in place the pieces that allow you to move within professional environments comfortably and confidently.

Hopefully this has given you some things to think about.  Do you have questions about the various tiers?  Leave them below, and I will answer them ASAP.  Til then, live magnificently!


A Gentleman’s Wardrobe: Tier 2

In the last posts, we discussed the idea of breaking a gentleman’s wardrobe into tiers, levels that give structure and understanding to the times and places that certain pieces should be worn and, conversely, when they should not be worn.  We also began discussing the first tier, which consists of suits and ties, the traditional domain of the business executive and banker.  Today, we will explore tier 2.

Tier 2 is all about the blazer, and if you already have two suits in your wardrobe, it is definitely time for a blazer.  A blazer splits the difference between the formality of tier 1 and the more casual clothing of tier 3 and 4, making it the ideal piece if you aren’t sure of a dress code for a gathering.  Put it with a tie, and you will fit in nicely with the suit set while not offending those that have gone with a business casual option.  The blazer is cut much like a suit coat, but is generally crafted from more durable weaves and from solid colors.  Blue is the most traditional, followed by black and gray, but blazers come in almost any color you can imagine.  One of the most famous of all blazers is the Green Jacket given to the winner of the Master’s PGA tournament, held at Augusta National Golf Course each year.

Blazers come to us via the UK, where they were first worn by boating and rowing clubs.  Modern blazers often have gold colored or brass buttons which hearken to the naval wear of the past.  Blazers can be both single or double breasted and can have either peak or notch lapels.  Blazers often have patch pockets at both the left chest and on the skirts at the waist, as opposed to suits which have besom pockets.  Occasionally the chest pocket will have an embroidered patch based on a coat of arms or logo prepared in a coat or arms presentation as a decoration.  Over the years, blazers have become synonymous with private schools, particularly prep schools, and as such carry with them the air of sophistication and money while being also less formal than a suit.

Because the blazer is a stand alone piece, matching trousers to it can be an uncomfortable task for someone not familiar with the process.  Typically, blazers should be matched with trousers of a different color than the blazer itself, with tan, olive and gray being common choices.  Once these two pieces have been identified, a shirt and tie can be selected.  In keeping with the tradition of the blazer, nautical themed ties and regimental striped ties are often chosen to complete the outfit, but any tie that compliments the look can be used.

Blazers can, and often are, used as part of a uniform, sometimes being paired with white slacks to emphasize its nautical heritage.


Wardrobe Planning

What’s in your professional wardrobe?

What do I mean by that?  I mean what are the pieces that are currently in your wardrobe that would allow you to slip seamlessly into a business meeting where millions of dollars were on the line?

Do you have pieces that would accomplish the task?

Do you know what pieces you should have?

When I was working in men’s clothing full time, this was a question I would often ask of my customers.  New graduates seldom had anything, and sadly, some gentlemen well along in their careers were not much better off.

But the question, and the answer, are critical.  What’s in your professional wardrobe?

Some gentlemen that I talk to protest, and tell me that they don’t need such things in their wardrobes.  “I’m just an average guy, I wear polo shirts and khaki’s to work, and that’s on the good days.  Why do I need to think about a professional wardrobe?”  The answer I give invariably is, “Because when you need to think about one, it’s too late.  It controls you, and you will spend more and get less.  Thinking about it when you don’t need it is how you maximize quality for every dollar spent.”

So what’s in your wardrobe?

Over the next few posts, we will talk about different pieces, and the combinations that make or break the wardrobe.  But in this post, I want to stress that we won’t be talking about spending a lot of money, and we won’t be talking about doing it all at once.  We will be taking the approach of finding a piece at a time, prioritizing based on the pieces that you currently own, and adding carefully to that group.

For my readers who are familiar with the business world, this makes sense.  For my readers who don’t, think of it this way: you wouldn’t dream of tackling an activity without the right gear, right?  Think of your wardrobe in exactly the same way.  You are putting together the gear that you will need to be successful in very focused and particular projects.

And if it we do it right, it will be fun.

So, here is some homework.  Look at your wardrobe.  Break it down in terms of suits, blazers, sportcoats, slacks, dress shirts in solids and patterns and colors, ties in colors and varieties and, believe it or not, even socks.  See what you would have available if you were called to the ring the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange, or to sit with investment bankers to discuss a multi-million dollar deal, or invited to the White House to present an idea to the president’s cabinet.

I know, a little far fetched, right?

But you never know.

Next week, we start talking about what you found, and what you need to find.

Travel with style

When I was young, travel was amazing and intriguing.  I watched movies and TV shows about people and families who visited interesting and amazing places and I was fascinated.  One of the things that stood out the most was that they always seemed so well put together, and it seemed so effortless.

As I got older, I realized more and more that the effortlessness portrayed was the result of good script writing, and the selection of destinations had much to do with attracting an audience, but the idea of traveling being something remarkable and dignified has never left.

Fast forward to the most recent business trip I took.  The vast majority of travelers looked more like they were going to the corner for milk and eggs than anything else.  Travel has become mundane, completely lacking in style, and I think that’s a shame.  So, with Thanksgiving coming and travel a given, I invite you to join me and make traveling with style your SOP.  Consider the following:

1. Travel comfortable, not casual. Jeans ans hoodies are fine for hanging out.  They may even be part of your selected wardrobe upon arrival, but five some.thought to slacks and a sweater for the actual journey.  Slacks can be more comfortable and less binding when sitting for long periods of time, and a quarter zip sweater over a polo or dress shirt is far more elegant and classy then the hooded alternative.

2.  Upgrade the carryon bag.  I’m not saying that a duffle bag isn’t extremely functional.  I’m saying that it is a little too functional, especially from the standpoint of.advertising.  Carrying a bag that has been designed to be a billboard for the company you bought it from is good for them, but does little for YOUR personal brand.  Consider finding something that reflects how you see yourself through fabrics or styling.  Also, recognize that a well packed rolling case can hold nearly as much as a comparable duffel bag while giving the air of sophistication and class, not sweat and gym class.

3.  Dress for your destination.  Checking the forecast for the destination and preparing to shed or don layers upon arrival is good.common sense.  But rather than burying or cramming the jacket, plan its placement so that movement through the airport is smooth and effortless.

With these thoughts in mind, enjoy your holiday travel.