Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Style Points meets Houston radio station

I finished a segment in the studios of KCOH Radio 1430 AM in Houston, talking with host Ralph Cooper about the wide world of shoes, from sneakers to bespoke. We also managed to talk sports with the Rockets' acquisition of Ron Artest from the Sacramento Kings, which reunited him with coach Rick Adelman.

Also, look out for my piece on custom tailoring in The Men's Book, a spinoff of Houston Modern Luxury magazine, which is expected to debut at Houston area newsstands in October.

KCOH Radio 1430 AM, established in 1953, is Texas' oldest urban radio station, serving the Houston area.

The Men's Book is regarded as the style guide for influential men in urban, metropolitan cities throughout the U.S. Modern Luxury Media is the award-winning publisher of regional lifestyle magazines, which includes Houston, Dallas, New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Round up the fashionable suspects

For me, the only thing more gratifying than writing about men's fashion is to wear the goods and establishing a signature style. To do that, I look at a number of clothing books and classic films.

And, of course, the Internet.

There are a number of men's style sites that I enjoy visiting, starting with the Wall Street Journal's Fashion & Style page, which appears in its weekend newspaper editions. For pictures that say a thousand (or more) words, The Sartorialist has no shortage of them.

The rest of my top 10:

Feel free to comment about any other notable men's fashion and style sites.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Polo principle

Gotta hand it to Ralph Lauren. He surely knows how to project old-school class in clothing for polo, a sport that might -- just might -- be seen in the wee hours of late night on ESPN. And for those sports that are on TV like tennis and golf, Lauren's right there with heavyweights like Nike.

The denominator for these sports, TV or no, is that they have a history of being associated with the upper classes of society. Having the equipment to play polo, for example (a horse and mallet, for starters), is expensive to begin with. For golf, the tools include a set of clubs, balls and tees.

And Lauren recognizes that whether you play these sports or not, the status associated with the clothing worn by those who play the sports is part of the allure: the fitted polo shirt, the mercerized cotton golf shirt, the gear for players and umpires at Wimbledon.

But it doesn't stop there. Polo's line includes apparel for rugby, a sport of the masses in United Kingdom, but a club sport in the United States. The Ralph Lauren Rugby line is dedicated to the rugby shirt.

Seems that if you're going to look the part, the idea of playing appears cool, too. Who wouldn't want to ride on a polo team with Prince Charles or volley with Roger Federer or play 18 holes with Tiger Woods?

Or, for those who are feeling rugged, how about getting dirty on the pitch of the Rubgy World Cup?

Perhaps it isn't the clothes that make the Polo man, but the attitude that fuels the clothes.

What's your game?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Post-Fourth of July bargain pop quiz

Didn't think there would be a test of your bargain-hunting skills, did you?

In my March 28 entry on factory outlet shopping, I noted a few fundamentals before going on the bargain hunt:
  • Assess what you already have in your wardrobe.

Did you, for example, like summer whites so much that you purchased enough shirts, pants, socks and even shoes to outfit a Wimbledon tournament field?

Fortunately, white goes with anything, and is appropriate in every occasion save funerals. The key is in getting the goods on sale. The more of one color that you have, the less inclined you should be to pay more for subsequent purchases involving the same color.

  • Did you establish a budget in place before shopping?

After July 4, sale items get progressively better. But bargain hunting 'til you're broke defeats the purpose of shopping. It is not necessary to chase after every sale item. Rather, with the set amount of money you're willing to spend, you can relish your haul knowing what the regular price of the goods are without going overboard. Prioritizing your purchases within a budget is paramount.

  • How good a deal did you manage to find?

Here are some of what I saw from recent visits to outlet stores in the Houston area (before sales tax):

J. Crew: Cotton twill blue striped trousers, reg. $49.50 -- $17.50

Brooks Brothers: Black & white spectator shoes by Peal & Co., reg. $428 -- $112.50

Polo Ralph Lauren: Purple Label white peak lapel cotton blazer, reg. $599.99 -- $127.50

Cole Haan: Cotton blend dress socks, reg. $22.50 -- $3.98

If you have a calculator handy, the minimum discount is 65 percent off, all the above items are first quality, and they make me look like a million. I'm ready for the Kentucky Derby with a tall glass of lemonade in hand.

And if you happen not to make it to the factory outlets, check online with Shop It To Me, which brings lower prices on designer wear to you.

Now it's your turn.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Wearing U.S. flag colors without looking corny

America recently celebrated its 232nd birthday on July 4, a holiday in which, for the most part, is pretty calm during the day but anticipation builds for fireworks to the tune of "Stars and Stripes Forever."

Anyone who has gone to a local fireworks show will likely see proud Americans wearing some combination of red, white and blue, which is extremely easy to coordinate.

But, as ESPN's straight-shooting NBA analyst Stephen A. Smith might say, "How-EV-uh ...!"

To wear a flag shirt, with stars on a blue background on one side and complementary red-and-white stripes on the other, sends the message of a rightfully proud American with the style sense of a bull in a china shop. You're better off just wearing the flag around your shoulders (just don't let the edges hit the ground).

On the other end of the spectrum, the "less is more" approach, such as a lapel pin of the American flag on a navy blazer with white slacks, definitely does the trick.

And when it's less on the wallet, there's more bang for the buck. To wit: My latest Polo purchases at Macy's included a red-and-white striped rugby shirt and navy blue cotton casual trousers. After sales tax, the ensemble cost less than $25.

Here's how it happened: During a one-day sale at Macy's on Saturday, an additional 50 percent off was tacked on to existing markdowns. I was indeed pleased that I could wear the colors of the flag at the price I paid.

If you wish to wear a jacket in your Old Glory-style presentation, a basic outfit starts with a blue blazer, white trousers, and a choice of red, white or blue shirts, or a patterned shirt that combines these colors. And don't forget the lapel pin.

A couple of don'ts include:
  • wearing a solid red blazer and/or red trousers. Too loud. (solid white and navy blue do work.)
  • star-patterned pants are just as loud. (star-patterned ties, however, are a nice touch.)

As always, common sense is the rule. The number of outfits you can generate with red, white and blue is vast.

Good luck.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Don't get tangled in the madras patch

Almost every summer, retailers such as Brooks Brothers, the Gap, J. Crew and Polo Ralph Lauren, to name a few, roll out the madras plaid patch hats, jackets, shirts, shorts, trousers and other colorful accessories.

If you're looking for the best deal online for these items, check out Shop It To Me, which presents many options at competitive prices.

As a rather frequent visitor of shopping malls and factory outlets in the Houston area, I have observed that those who wear madras patch garments are in the vast minority relative to those, say, who wear jeans.

Perhaps I'm looking in the wrong places. You might catch madras plaid wearers on the boardwalk or along the beaches, or maybe the golf course ... but even in those environments, such garments have long been under the radar of mainstream menswear.

The reasons are rather obvious ... wearing a madras plaid jacket, for example, evokes images of hobos who might not smell nice. The clothing conveys a not-so-subtle message that, as John McEnroe might say, "You can-not be serious!" Madras patch pants prompt memories of "Caddyshack" with Rodney Dangerfield as the most likely to pull the look off. (Keep in mind, he's the comedian whose shtick hinged on getting no respect.)

And therein lies the clue to wearing madras patchwear: The fabric brings out the gregariousness of the wearer. In other words, even the sharpest of dressers have to have a sense of humor. The goal is to have those who are looking at you smile with you, not laughing at you.

So here are some do's and don'ts on wearing madras patch clothing:

Do not:

  • even think about wearing a madras jacket or shirt AND trousers or shorts. Sandman Simms would have to shoo you off the Apollo stage after your five minutes of infamy.

  • wear another patterned garment. Doesn't matter if it's a tight stripe or a broad windowpane; they will compete for attention.

  • wear a color that strays too far from the color scheme of the plaid patterns. For instance, if the plaid is light blue and white, other shades of blue and gray will work better than yellow, orange, brown, etc.

  • Do:

  • wear a solid color that complements the color scheme of the plaid. Black, navy, and white are safe bets. Be careful with red, which risks making your visuals too loud.

  • walk with your head up, shoulders back. Madras plaid patchwear is inherently loud, so wear it proud. Even if you hear others snicker, that's their problem. However, if you show fear to others, you give tacit permission for others to embarrass (and for dogs to bite) you.

  • I don't expect madras plaid to catch on as a trend, which leaves a wide-open opportunity for any person with a confident sense of style to dare to be different.