Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Style is more than a look; it's an attitude

If seeing is believing, I'll be sure to ask, "Where do I sign up?" almost every time.

Last summer, on my first visit to A. Taghi, the clothing store on Westheimer across the street from the Galleria Mall in Houston, I met Craig Sager, the TNT reporter known for wearing outfits that stand out in a crowd full of basketball patrons at an NBA arena (or HD screen) near you.

At the time, Mr. Sager was dressed casually, just a regular guy shopping for clothes. I went about my business, browsing the store's suits, ties, leather jackets and shoes. Being an NBA fan myself (see my previous blog entry), I have seen Mr. Sager on television. There are times where I think he pulls off an interesting sartorial presentation; other times ... let's just say, "It looks best on him." That, however, is beside the point.

After that brief exchange of pleasantries with Mr. Sager, I was impressed with his confidence and sincerety. He didn't know me from Adam, yet he shook my hand unconditionally. I figure that kind of confidence carries over into his approach to clothes: Whatever he chooses to wear, he owns the look, regardless of what others like Charles Barkley or Kevin Garnett may think. And if Mr. Sager can do that on TV, more power to him.

Fast forward to a Feb. 15 story in the Houston Chronicle featuring Mr. Sager making one of his regular visits to A. Taghi, this time with the NBA All-Star Weekend fast approaching. And yes, Mr. Sager took an inevitable dose of ribbing in New Orleans, but his head stayed high.

Well, I believe I can emulate the attitude, given my relatively conservative taste in clothing. And it works. A standard blue suit might as well be a tuxedo, with an erect posture and a purposeful stride. Watching a few James Bond flicks can do the trick.

Also, knowing your environment is important. A suit, for example, works well in the boardroom but less so amongst artists, where casual wear reflects a more relaxed mood. Common sense dictates clothing selection at all times.

So if you don't believe in Mr. Sager's style, take heed of the substance: Whatever your look is,
own it.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

You must wear it well if you're Superman

There's something about our comic book superheroes that inspire us to think big, to have over-the-top dreams, to have fun debates about who's the most powerful hero and why.

So I'll start the conversation: It begins with Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic, who won Saturday night's Slam-Dunk Contest during the NBA's All-Star weekend in New Orleans. Howard lived up to having the "S" on his chest, and I dare say, he has vaulted toward the inner circle of those who have played Superman on TV or the big screen: George Reeves, Christopher Reeve, Dean Cain, Tom Welling and Brandon Routh. If there's going to be another Superman mega-production, then it would be difficult to ignore Howard's impressive audition.

Forget audition; Howard was the show Saturday night. While clad in his standard-issue NBA uniform, Howard slammed the ball through with his left hand, windmill style, after having thrown the ball off the back of the backboard. Granted, the degree of difficulty was high enough, but Howard's initial slam provided the necessary buildup to his next feat.

On Howard's next dunk attempt, with the help of Magic teammate Jameer Nelson, Howard donned a Superman cape at midcourt, which got a slight rise from the crowd. That dull roar turned into a resounding ovation as Howard briefly lifted his uniform to show the Superman garb underneath, a tank-top version that caught many by surprise. The timing and showmanship could not have been better scripted.

Now, Howard needed to deliver the goods. The crowd, which included Julius Erving, Kobe Bryant and other past NBA slam-dunk champions in the house, is wanting something big.

Next thing you know, Howard leapt, flew through the air with the greatest of ease, took the pass that came from behind the backboard and over the free-throw lane, cuffed the ball in his right hand, and did not just dunk it, he threw it down into the basket.

The crowd goes wild. My friends and I go wild. The instant replays do not lie. Howard jumped even higher than expected to throw it down! The clip hit YouTube before it was pulled by the NBA. Yes, Superman was in the building, and he can dunk, too.

Howard did set a standard, though, for when to pull out the Superman garb.

First, it helps to look the part. Howard is a muscular center whose physique rivals Karl Malone's. Second, one must do something the average human cannot do, or be relegated to an everyday t-shirt wearer or the Halloween circuit. Howard delivered on his dunks, which were difficult even by NBA standards. Third, Howard demonstrated humility after winning the contest over defending champion Gerald Green. That is a quality befitting of any Superman.

For the rest of us t-shirt wearers, we can only dream. But for one night in New Orleans, seeing Dwight Howard sure was believing.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Peak lapel performance

In the book "Dressing the Man," (HarperCollins, 2002) author Alan Flusser defines what a peaked lapel is:

A lapel cut on an upward slant, coming to a point and leaving only a narrow space between the collar and lapel. Usually found on double-breasted coats, but sometimes in single-breasted coats. This style of tailcoat lapel gives suits or sport jackts a more formal, dressy look.

There's definitely a throwback, classy vibe when seeing peak lapels on single-breasted, one- or two-button jackets. Such jackets, popular in the early 1900s, have not been easy to find on the rack, unless you're in the market for a tuxedo. However, this style is coming back for a rather stylish encore in business wear.

"Peak lapels and double vents are the two most requested items in single-breasted suits and sport coats today," said Benjamin Garibay, a men's clothing specialist at Saks Fifth Avenue in Houston. "Last season, Armani featured a Black two-button solid with both and it sold faster than anything else we carried."

Versace also has gotten into the single-breasted, peak-lapel act with its blue blazer with side vents. The jacket's gabardine pattern gives it a subtle sheen that makes it a versatile piece to go with denim, khakis or wool slacks.

I purchased my first single-breasted, peak-lapel suit a few years back, a tan Sean John model that remains one of my favorites for summer. The look is especially flattering on men who are tall or who have long torsos, where the button that's fastened at the waist produces a sleek "V" shape that accents the chest.

Bottom line: Single-breasted, peak lapel jackets bring out a bit more flair and formality without resorting to a tuxedo.

Friday, February 8, 2008

On sale but doesn't fit ain't worth it

I like bargain hunting as much as the next shopper, especially when it comes to clothes. I follow the brands, the trends, and the seasons in which goods are likely to be marked down.

Well, in Houston, it was a most auspicious occasion to find out about Orvis' big weekend sale Feb. 8-10 at Reliant Center. Up to 70 percent off? I'm in. Let's go. I get there a little after the sale opened at 9am.

The one thing that I was hoping would pop up in this sale is a Barbour wax cotton jacket. Sure enough, there were several on the rack. These retail for about $400; they were on sale for $99. And they were going fast. Other shoppers knew this was a good deal.

Found a Beaufort model that seemed to be in my size, but I couldn't tell from the tag. So I try it on. It fits, but the sleeves came up at least an inch short. But jeez, it's 75 percent off, I calculate roughly.

So I hold on to it as I go through the rest of the items in the large Reliant Center room: Shoes and boots, outerwear, fishing and hunting gear, linens, luggage and more.

I'm still not sure about whether to pull the trigger on purchasing this jacket. All sales are final here, and I don't want to leave the sale with regrets about buying a coat whose sleeves are too short. I ask store personnel, and other shoppers, men and women, how the jacket looks. The resonant answer was the sleeves were short on me.

I knew this as well, so I head back to the rack where I first picked it up. One of the shoppers I had struck up a conversation with while initially trying on the Barbour jackets said to me that if I didn't want it, to let him know so he could take a look at it. I didn't pay him that much mind until I saw him and his wife at the Barbour rack about an hour later.

So I tried it on again. The sleeves were still short on me. Then, I insisted that he try it on. The jacket fit him better, though he expressed reluctance about taking a jacket that I had considered buying and wanted me to take it if I wanted it.

By this time, I was more confident about having $99 still in my pocket than to have spent the money for the sake of an otherwise great deal for a Barbour jacket. Plus, from a utilitarian standpoint, I got more satisfaction out of someone else benefiting from the sale. I told the man to enjoy the jacket and wished him and his wife farewell.

I walked out of Reliant Center empty-handed, but with no regrets. Better luck next year, perhaps.