Archive for ‘For The Boys’

January 23, 2012

It’s Raining Again Boys!

Boy clothes - rainy days

Today it was a rainy, miserable winter day here in California and watching my co-workers come to work got me to thinking – just what do guys wear when it rains?  

Now this probably seems a silly question, especially coming from a woman born and raised in thePacific Northwest, but quite honestly I had never given it much thought or notice.  This probably says more about the camouflaging capabilities of typical raingear rather than a lack of attention on my part.  That and the fact that in the rain I tend to burrow into my coat, obscure my vision with an umbrella, and focus firmly on the ground…primarily to avoid shoe-destroying puddles.  

To answer my own question I took a good look around today from the comfort of my nice warm, dry car.  What did I discover?   Well, while women are fairly straightforward and predictable, men, bless them, pose something of a conundrum when they dress for wet weather.

For women rain gear is a question of both function and fashion.  Most women tend to have two types of raincoats – one sporty/weekend sort of raincoat and then some sort of variation on a trench coat for more dressed up/work day use. If you have a coat fixation like I do… well then you have probably have several variations depending on your mood, outfit, purpose, etc.  It goes without saying that women are very protective of their hair and make-up, so umbrellas or roomy hoods are preferred to avoid embarrassing hat-hair or, worse yet, wet hair and face.

For example, my sporty coat is a traditional yellow guide-style hooded number with nifty wind and waterproof features that make it ideal to wear on the boat – its hardly fashionable but it always keeps me DRY.  My two work day favorites are by Anna Scholz – a ruffle-skirted, steel gray for practical/sensible me, and a bright lumo-yellow ruffle trimmed confection for fun/fashiony me.  I prefer to carry an umbrella over having something else on my head, but I admit that I am notoriously bad about losing them (Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines must have at least a dozen I once owned!)

I discovered that most guys just wear some sort of generic, sporty raincoat available at outfitters like Eddie Bauer, The North Face, and the like.  Casual and practical.  I didn’t see many overcoats or trench coats, but then I work near a university and our own staff is very very casual so that is not unexpected – you would expect to see more of those on the suit-and-tie set.  The oddest thing was that I also didn’t see very many hoods, hats or umbrellas, even though it was pouring down rain.        

It not surprising that for most guys – if they bother at all – the functional aspects of their outerwear is far more important than the sartorial considerations.  What I did find surprising was many guys’ weird mix of practicality and utter disregard.  Some of them clearly don’t give a fig about fashion OR function!  Apparently there is some strange man-think that says it’s not manly to protect one’s self from the rain, at least not actively, or completely.   This sort of logic leads a guy to put on jacket and then run through the rain, hood flapping down their back with a newspaper or something over their heads.  Today I saw a guy running through the rain with his i-Pad over his head!  Now while it may have had a cover on it, let me just say, as someone who spends her days in the engineering side of electronics, this is ill-advised.  Electronics do not like water, not even a little…I just hope this rocket scientist doesn’t work at our company…ya’ know what I mean?

Mystified by this weird thinking I consulted my resident guy, Mr. Commando.  He clarified that yes, some guys genuinely believe that only girly-men need umbrellas or hats.  It is apparently hard to look “cool” carrying an umbrella or wearing a hat.  But I found it hard to believe that having a wet head was cool.  He agreed that there are better options than showing up to work with a wet head.  His personal preference is to use an umbrella.  How logical.  I do so love this man.

So what should the fashion-savvy guy wear in the rain?  Well I think the traditional trench coat is great – who couldn’t stand to look like Humphrey Bogart or Cary Grant?  I would strongly recommend getting a trench in a dark color as opposed to the traditional light tan/beige/khaki.  As great as the lighter color looks, it gets dirty very quickly and goes from looking sharp to shabby almost instantly.  Not ready to be quite so old-school?  I really like the look of this Burberry overcoat – fewer traditional details and a dark shade to give it a little modern edge.  On both of these options it is essential to flip up the collar for the ultimate in classic cool.  

If you are out mucking about and actually *doing* stuff in the rain then by all means get out your sporty jacket, ideally with a functional hood, and put on some Hunters or Wellies while you are at it and totally work that out-doorsy look.  (Women simply dig this look, but most of us won’t admit it to a man.) 

As for head gear – wet heads, soggy newspapers, and soaked i-Pads are soooo not good.  Why not put on an outback hat or a wide-brimmed fedora?  Now THAT is cool and kind of sexy.  Note I said wide brimmed fedora – none of those coy, hipster narrow brimmed ones, thank you very much, we are going for actually functional, “I am not trying” cool here.      

And last but certainly not least – an umbrella.  While the small foldy-uppy ones are great for stashing away, they do tend to be flimsy and they are decidedly NOT good for sharing.  There is nothing worse than being only partially covered by an umbrella – all the water that isn’t coming down on your head is being concentrated and channeled to the rest of you.  Instead, a golf umbrella or similar larger sized umbrella will be much studier and much more roomy.  Guys this is your chance to be chivalrous – carry a nice big brolly with room for two!  After all, chivalry is always in style.

July 24, 2011

Helll-lllooohhh Handsome

I frequently bemoan the fact that, generally speaking, men’s fashion is much less complicated than women’s.  Guys can typically dial in a wardrobe into a few easy buckets – dressed up, office, going out, and bumming – and be set for everything.  However there are a few exceptions that really throw a curve ball.  One of the biggest of these is dressing for summer formal events – most notably weddings. 

Now weddings aren’t too difficult for men to look snazzy for when the weather is cool and a suit is the order of the day, but come July and August and it’s a whole different ball game.  First of all, in much of the country it’s going to be hot and in many places humid too, just for an added bonus.  Secondly, not all weddings are created equally – with themes and destinations the dress code starts moving around bewilderingly.  So while we women get to wear some casual to formal variation of light dresses and sandals, you handsome boys need to decode the invitation and do a little planning.  (insert gasps of horror from nearly every man I know)

Determining the dress code is the first order of the day – the best source is the bride, of course, a second choice would be to consult the groom, asking for not just what to wear but for a sketch of the location and ceremony, because “oh, just whatever” is not going to be sufficient guidance.  After getting the 411 from the groom you may still need to run what you have learned by a fashion or wedding-savvy woman for some translation.  

In all instances, casual to black-tie it is essential to remember this is a very special occasion and deserves to be recognized as such.  Which means everything you wear should be fresh, clean, well pressed or polished.  Don’t put off your outfit preparation until the day of the event – give yourself at least a week to make sure things are back from the cleaners, that garments still fit (I harbor a theory that tuxedos shrink a tad when they aren’t worn much ;)) and that you have all the odd bits in order such as cufflinks, shirt studs, and pocket squares.  If you have new shoes, wear them a few times before the event – leave the painful feet to the women, we are used to it.

Now armed with a better idea of what the dress code is, here is a quick line up from dressy to casual:

Black Tie – here it is very simple, go James Bond, or go home!  I have never seen a man who did not look smashing in a traditional tuxedo.  To stay timeless and traditional keep the details simple.  A single-breasted jacket, with grosgrain-silk-faced peak-lapels, paired with the classic black bow tie matching the lapel facings, a crisp and simple tuxedo shirt, and well polished black shoes is going to look right, every time.  If you want to get more zippy, add some pop to your cufflinks and shirt studs.  

Formal – a suit and tie are a must.  To warm-weatherize select a suit in very light weight tropical wool or go old-school glamour in linen.  For day you can also wear a lighter color – such as a medium grey, tan or even a lighter navy blue.  Ties are a must as are dress shoes in black (for dark colors or grey) or brown (for tans).    

Semi Formal/Dressy Casual – this is always the most confusing; when in doubt stick with a tropical weight suit, or a dark blazer and lighter slacks.   You can adjust the dressed-up quotient up or down with accessories – if you feel too dressed up in your summer suit, go without a tie, but add a pocket square, not dressy enough in your blazer, pick a snappy tie and add your wing tips.      

Very Casual/Beach – you can go casual/beachy ONLY if you are absolutely sure this is the expectation and then make sure what you wear still has a special event vibe.  Don’t just throw on your everyday Tommy Bahama Hawaiian print camp shirt and call it a day.  Instead select a shirt on the dressier side of the casual spectrum, perhaps in a silk or silk blend, ideally in a light to medium color.  Solids with a textural weave are great, prints can be good, but leave the loud colors at home.  Trousers can be in a linen or cotton blend but must have a crisp finish, not too soft or rumpled please.  If you are wearing a looser silhouetted shirt, avoid trousers that are to skinny or close fitting, you will look out of proportion.  

In all cases shirts should be light weight, well fitted, comfortable and breathable.  Don’t select a shirt in a fabric that is too thin, clingy or sheer.  You are going to get hot and perspire and your shirt needs to handle that well.  This is equally important if you are wearing a jacket; don’t “cheat” on the shirt – make sure it has long sleeves, is well pressed and looks well on its own.  After the ceremony if you know you will shed the jacket make sure you are wearing a shirt than can stand up alone. 

Don’t fret too much about getting hot and adjusting after the ceremony, pictures and toasts are over and the dancing begins.  Most men will.  Besides, a guy in a nice dress shirt, unbuttoned at the collar, tie loosened, sleeves rolled up can look quite good – and a tuxedo, shirt collar unbuttoned, bow tie dangling just so – yummy!

July 17, 2011

Happy Anniversary…Sale!

My Anniversary Picks

In my fashion calendar, July is, for the most part, pretty quiet.  Its sits squarely in the middle of no-man’s land between spring and fall, and it doesn’t have Christmas to break up the monotony like December has.  Add to that, it’s hot, really hot.  Heading to an air conditioned mall has some appeal, but when you get there?  Eh.  The spring and summer fashions have been out awhile and are losing their newness and glow, in fact the good stuff is gone and the sale racks are jammed with the detritus – tiny sizes, weird colors and pieces that don’t match.  Back to school is revving up so we are seeing the denim and early fall preview stuff rolling out – tough to get excited about in triple digit weather, but it’s there.   However, there *is* one not-to-be-missed fashion event in July – the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.

What is so special about this sale?  Nordstrom puts a selection of Fall merchandise ON SALE!  New, not yet in the stores goodies that will be on sale for a few weeks and then will go back to their regular retail price.  I have loved this event since I was a teenager and worked there.  Back then I would use my house discount and earnings to snag the coolest penny loafers, Ralph Lauren polos, merino wool Fair Isles weaters and tiered corduroy skirts before any of my friends and long before school started.  Now I look forward to the catalog in the mail, schedule my preview appointments (to avoid the mob scene of the first open shopping day – in this sale you dare not wait or the good stuff is long gone) and keep my fingers crossed for terrific finds. 

Some years have been great, some….not so much.  The financial crisis clearly took the shine and excitement off the past few years’ events.  But this year it seems to be perking up a bit – a little more of that gloss that is peculiar to Nordstrom can be seen.  Always the definitive go-to for good quality basics, this year their tried and true basics and house brands have a few more posh name brand goodies next to them which definitely upped the OOOooohhhh factor this year.  

This year Nordys went big with Burberry; which makes this little Anglophile’s heart skip a beat.  The tweed and leather trimmed jacket above is to-die-for, comes in the tweedy grey or a stunning all black and is a really really good deal.  Additional Burberry goodies sprinkled through the sale include their traditional tan plaid in a wrap, tote and even a cute pair of rain boots.  They even have some terrific Burberry for the boys – suiting that is really stellar, and silk ties in several tonal versions of the Burryberry plaid – LOVE them.  (Mr. Commando is absolutely getting one of these little babies…)  The only disappointment on the Burberry front was that while nearly every other big name beauty brand did some sort of special for the Anniversary Sale, Burberry Beauty – my favorite – did not.  Sigh.     

There really are some amazing deals, this Piazza Sempione dress would be ridiculously expensive simplicity at it’s regular price but is a must have on sale.  And if you are looking for that single perfect designer black dress this may be your lucky day – there were several Lida Baday dresses that are usually in the $1000 range.  Other great deals can be found on the higher end of the I-must-have spectrum from Theory, Nanette Lepore,St. John, andLafayette148, as well as all the usual suspects in designer jeans land.  Other things that are well worth grabbing include great workout gear by The North Face, Nike- both Regular AND Plus (bless them), Zella and Puma. 

The accessories and bags weren’t nearly as exciting.  Beyond the plaid, there are some great tote/satchel bags and some very cool Rebecca Minkoff electronics accessories – clever and fun ways to protect your iPad or Kindle.  There are some good buys to be found in the jewelry section, again basics rule the day.  Shoes and boots, Nordstrom’s first claim to fame, were just okay.  The scene stealers – these leopard bedecked platform pumps from Calvin Klein, which are also available in several patent shades and a very sparkly gunmetal metallic. 

For the men in your life the suiting by Burberry, John Varvatos and the pricey Hickey Freeman are the best looking and the best deals.  Tons of great basics – this is dress shirt heaven – are also really well priced.  And there are some great looking and well priced finds from The North Face and Under Armour. 

The overall palette showed more black, and grey was pretty big – with a clearer, sharper grey than last year’s muddied palette.  This was a boon as the plus department had some great stuff this year and I scored the terrific cape coat above as well as a really chic black jacket in suede with leather insets.  Both are going to get some serious wear this fall and winter.  All in all a very satisfying start to the Fall fashion season.  So don’t miss it, you have until August 1, when all the goodies are either gone, or go back to full price.

PS – My biggest find of all was in their home section where you can get 25% off the Westin Heavenly bed – an amazing mattress featured at all Westin and W Hotels – we are indulging in one and I cannot wait to get it delivered.    

July 7, 2011

The Power of Pink

Peony Pink

You may have noticed in my posts that I am a big fan of the color pink.  Through my fashion adventures I have discovered something interesting about this color though – it’s not like other colors, neutrals, blues, greens, etc…  No, pink is different, it has supporters and detractors, it evokes opinions – where people tend to be indifferent to most colors, when it comes to pink they have definite views.  It’s a color that says something, and it has been given specific connotations. 

And the pink lexicon is endless, there are so many shades to consider, and each says a slightly different thing.  A soft powdery pink is sweet and dainty, sometimes shy, while a bold or neon pink shouts out “look at me!!!”   Bright Barbie Doll and Hello Kitty pinks are fun and youthful, while a shade of rose can be mature, even a trifle dowdy.  You can be chic in shocking pink, or preppy in a primary pink.   And not all pinks are just for the girls – I think guys look very sharp in a pale pink dress shirt with a navy jacket, and some of the bolder corals are great on guys without looking too feminine.  And it doesn’t have to be all-over color, a snazzy print or stripe with a touch of pink tells me a man is dressing with confidence and a bit of wit.  It takes a real man to wear pink with style and preserve his masculinity.   

I am a firm believer in the power of pink.   I personally believe this color has special powers.  First of all, women if you want to feel instantly feminine, it *is* the definitive shade.  Doubt it?  Just put on a bra and panty set in a pretty pink and let me know how it goes (wink).  Beyond that, most pinks are flattering on nearly everyone.  Worn near the face, it casts a healthy glow, even on your palest day.   I use this trick all the time – in fact, my staff and loved ones know, if I am wearing pink I may not be feeling all that fabulous. 

I have also used the pink trick at home – my bathroom is painted a light, warm pink off-setting bright white woodwork, tile and fixtures. My painter thought I was crazy – was I sure?  Did I want this to be a super girly room?  No, not really.  He was baffled until it was done and I turned him to face the mirror with me – he got it immediately.  “Oooohhhhh!!!! I have to recommend this to all my lady clients!” he said.  The room cast a lovely warm light on us.  We looked just a bit less tired, younger somehow.  And that is how I want to see myself first thing in the morning.  No harsh green or bluish light emphasizing my dark circles and tired pallor.  No way!

While I am pretty open minded about all shades, I am a particular fan of a very specific, more sophisticated shade of pink.  It comes by many names, but it is that deep, warm, slightly coral or watermelon pink that is at the center of pink peonies.  That pink! Many designers have featured it this season.  I love this color.  It’s flattering on everyone.  Versatile and cheerful, it’s powerful rather than dainty; it shows confidence and a tiny bit of sex appeal.  A woman wearing this color is confident in her femininity, she revels in it.  But she isn’t being too cute or too demure.  Even some dyed-in-the-wool pink haters (you know who you are) find themselves liking this color, and really liking this color when they put it on! 

For myself, this season I have gotten my favorite pink on with several pieces.  First up – Anna Scholz’s adorable cropped cardigan; LOVE it! I get compliments on this piece every time I wear it.  I also scored one of Nordstrom’s Sejour brand scoop neck tees which is getting heavy rotation as the summer months progress.  And I found a cute lightweight knit scarf in the exact same shade and white stripes – I pair the tee with the scarf, white jeans and a dark denim blazer and look fresh, sharp and pretty all at once. 

Not everyone is ready for a shocking pink dress or shirt.  But there are ways to go gently into it – start by finding a shade you like and is flattering – and if you aren’t ready for a big splash of color, opt for just a touch in a print, or pick a tie or scarf instead of going with a larger outfit element.  Other great options – layering pink under under another top, sweater or jacket in a neutral color.  I love pairing pink up with with brown, tan, navy or dark grey.  And women if you are feeling quite bold and on-trend for this season grab yourself a pink shoe, belt or bag, there are some great choices this season.   So whether you are a girly-girly, a super woman, a girly-man, or just one very confident guy, go get your pink on!

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