Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New blog on chron.com gets buzz

My latest blog on the Houston Chronicle's website, Style Profile on chron.com, debuted on Friday and has received several comments so far. Houston media blogger Mike McGuff, one of my makeover subjects from a previous entry on Style Points, gave a shout-out on Monday.

Thanks for taking time out to post a comment to my blogs. Please keep 'em coming. I look forward to making more interesting entries.

Friday, November 19, 2010

See more on Style on chron.com

I have started blogging on the Houston Chronicle's website, chron.com, about men's style. The new blog is called "Style Profile." The subject already has its share of observers, critics and respondents, but the discussion seems to be catching on.

You'll probably see more of my posts on chron.com, though I will on occastion be posting entries here on Style Points and for other sites.

Let's go!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Face the facts: Gotta shave, fellas

Few things get my attention when it comes to pro athletes doing postgame interviews. Having a five o'clock shadow is pretty commonplace stuff; if the facial growth goes to beard level, no blinking there.

In my best phonetic impersonation of my former Philadelphia Inquirer colleague Stephen A. Smith: "How-evuh ...!"

I don't care how accomplished an athlete you are; please take a little time out to shave before going on camera. Some reporter out there probably will do a sidebar story on unkempt countenances, and ask some ridiculous (but relevant for such a story) question like, "Thank you for speaking to the media. But before you talk about what happened during the game, why is your beard connected to your chest?"

Exhibit A: The normally clean-shaven Tom Brady gave a postgame interview with a noticeable beard after leading the New England Patriots to a 39-26 victory at Pittsburgh on Sunday night. (Catch Monday morning's highlights on SportsCenter if you want to see what I mean.) When the whiskers are visible on his neck, that's unseemly.

I wonder sometimes if Mr. Brady's latest look is an homage to former teammate Randy Moss, a stellar wide receiver who himself plays his position with ever-present facial hair. Now with the Tennessee Titans (who lost to the Miami Dolphins 29-17 on Sunday), Mr. Moss' beard is fuller and coarse.

On Sunday, Mr. Brady, a three-time Super Bowl champion quarterback, took a walk on the wild side, even for him. C'mon, man! It's the NFL, not the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Ironically, during Mr. Brady's postgame interview on Sunday night, there's are Gillette Fusion ProGlide logos in the background. (Cue up the ad campaign right about now.)

It's late in the day, guys. The excessive facial-hair thing is soooooooo '70s.

Shaving the neck area takes about five minutes tops, and your appearance is more orderly for subsequent interviews. Yes, it's a free country, I get that. But really, from a style standpoint, a selective lack of grooming draws a penalty flag in a hurry.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Style Points crosses over to McGuff turf

When I started Style Points in February 2008, I wanted to tell anyone who would listen how men can improve their look without breaking the bank.

The following month, I asked media blogger Mike McGuff, creator of MikeMcGuff.com and who currently is a reporter for KIAH-TV Ch. 39 in Houston, to stand in as a model for my post on how one garment can change your look.

Fast forward to November 2010, and Mr. McGuff asked me to return the favor. I was asked to list on his blog my top 10 style errors.

I'm sure there's a range of fashion not-to-dos out there, but my list is intended as a basis for dialogue. Let's hear it!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Well-fitting shoes are worth paying the price

Some of the most powerful forces that affect humankind are astonishingly the most simple.

If, in the words of William Congreve, "Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast"; and if food is the way to a man's heart, then where might footwear, "if the shoe fits," rank?

It's gotta be up there (the shoes, that is). Growing up, all I wore were sneakers. Converse, Pro-Keds, anything rubber-soled that enabled me to run all day. Problem is, sneakers wear out quickly.

Since entering the workforce in my teenage years, shoes became more of a priority. Shoes are obviously more appropriate than sneakers in professional work environments, and can be resoled. The comfort factor is most important, given that I am on my feet a lot at work.

Purchasing shoes that are visually appealing but do not fit correctly is a waste of money, even when they're on sale, and potentially painful to wear. Having done this more than once, I have only myself to blame.

That got me thinking ... what price would I be willing to pay for a comfortable pair of shoes?

The short answer is the amount that is at least as much as I value comfort ... but hopefully the price is negotiable.

I have worn shoes made in the U.S. (Alden, Allen-Edmonds, Cole-Haan, H.S. Trask), France (Paraboot), England (Gieves & Hawkes, Charles Tyrwhitt, Edward Green), and Italy (Fratelli-Rosetti and Damiano Chiappini). While each shoemaker has different designs and price points, the common denominator is they're all comfortable.

My latest acquisition is a pair of two-tone, handmade Stefano Branchini shoes, which retail for thousands of dollars. Branchini shoes have been worn by the likes of Sir Elton John and outgoing California Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger. Branchini shoes feature side stitching, leather-tipped laces, embossing on bottom of the sole, and metal eyelets. Here's a look at what I mean:

When I tried them on, the Branchinis fit like a glove and carry a bold look. Even on sale (which they were when I got them), the bottom-line price was hefty but within the acceptable range of what I was willing to pay. (No, I'm not telling.) They are a one-of-a-kind purchase; comfortable and elegant.

With proper maintenance, I'm sure to get plenty of mileage out of these shoes, though they're not meant to be worn every day. I certainly will not keep them in a box and allow them to catch dust, either. Branchinis are a great find when they're on sale. The Bologna-based shoemaker's attention to detail is admirable.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Think pink for Breast Cancer Awareness

One of the most interesting and refreshing things that I have noticed, from watching NFL games on television to professional men on the go in Houston (and in my own wardrobe, for that matter) is the emergence of pink in men's outfits.

While pink is more accepted in women's wear, it is gaining momentum in menswear, thanks in part to the month of October being Breast Cancer Awareness month. This is a cool thing, and rather ironic since the color pink usually is regarded as a summer color. In the fall, pink becomes not just symbolic; it is a change of pace.

With dress shirts, pink is another option that joins the whites and light blues that men are used to when suiting up. Dark ties with pink accents are welcome complements.

Although pink has made strides in conservative menswear, there's still a sentiment of resistance to the color, that pink may be too leisurely or "for sissies."

News flash: We're a decade into the 21st century, and pink is increasingly "in." In fact, it never left. Let's review a few of such icons over the years: We have the pink Cadillac; the Pink Panther; and Pinky, one of the baddies who's always chasing Pac-Man.

Pink has long been a "preppy" color that's been available for years at retailers such as Brooks Brothers, J. Crew and Polo Ralph Lauren. In the spring and summer, pink is prevalent in seersucker suits, Oxford shirts and ties. In the fall and winter, a pink shirt provides a nice contrast with a navy blazer or suit.

Pink is still an acquired taste for me, but it's not difficult to work it into my wardrobe. (Yellow is actually tougher for me.) The key is to achieve balance. Too much pink means too casual; with dark suits, incorporating pink in the right places (shirts, ties, pocket squares) will go far.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

T.O. chapeau inspires at least one follower

Cincinnati Bengals receiver Terrell Owens is known for over-the-top antics during his NFL career, but style icon? Who'd a thunk it?

Of course, seeing is believing, and I experienced this firsthand earlier on Thursday afternoon. Peep this: A woman walks into the high-end menswear store where I work, and asks me if the store carries fedoras. I replied that we carry only one model in the store, and it's brown.

She was looking for a black fedora, "like the one my boyfriend saw T.O. wearing on TV."

Oh, really? The same T.O. who has a reality show, and is usually good for a colorful quote during press conferences? I was stunned, but maintained my professional demeanor during the exchange.

I suggested that she try The Hat Store on Richmond and Chimney Rock in Houston. Plenty of fedoras are there, from Borsalino to Stetson. She thanked me for the tip.

Then, I got to thinking afterward ... will Owens' fedora-wearing ways gain a following? At least two of his pro football predecessors, coaches Tom Landry and Hank Stram, wore fedoras. Fedoras remain an elegant option for middle-age men. In Houston, however, I don't see too many hats in general (outside of baseball caps) being worn.

Whether athletes are trendsetters in classic style remains to be seen. Michael Jordan may have brought long shorts into vogue during his playing days in the '80s, but even his appearances in GQ haven't generated a sea change in men's style. Other GQ cover guys such as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are among current NBA stars who have upped the ante on style, but no clear front-runner has emerged.

NFL linebacker Dhani Jones is known for sporting bow ties, the preferred accessory of former NBA player-turned-ESPN basketball analyst Bruce Bowen. Shaquille O'Neal has worn a bow tie in postgame interviews during the NBA playoffs. Still, the "bow tie effect" hasn't caught on in today's men's fashion scene, which is getting less and less formal.

The irony is that fedoras and bow ties are hardly new; these are "old school" pieces of clothing that offer a retro look. In fact, they never left.

I'm not sure whether it's T.O.'s intention to reinvigorate the fedora, but one thing's for sure: Look at any old movie starring Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. or David Niven. If you study these films the way Mr. Owens would on opposing defensive backs, you'd make the All-Sartorial team in record time.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rooster ties bring back memories

I remember acquring my first Rooster tie about seven years ago at a Salvation Army store in Bristol, Conn. I liked the brim of the tie being thin and that it had a good weight to it.

Fast forward to Saturday ... I went into Syms initially looking for Allen-Edmonds shoes but stopped by the ties first. I couldn't believe there were a selection of Rooster ties. These were the current versions featuring timeless stripes, polka dots and animal designs in various colors. I could have collected them all, but settled for two.

The nice thing about Rooster ties is that they are very well made. They are inexpensive. I found mine at $14.99 each. If you don't want to spend a heckuva whole lot of money on ties, Roosters are a worthwhile investment.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Style Points branches out

I was asked by Sabre Magazine publisher Andre Terrell Tucker to contribute a piece to his up-and-coming online magazine. Between sips at Starbucks, we found out that we shared much in common with regard to men's style. Click here for my take on two-button vs. three-button jackets.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Men's jewelry accentuates personal style

Since I began this blog in 2008, my focus has been on menswear and basic accessories such as belts and cuff links. As a man builds his wardrobe and has command of his sartorial choices for various occasions, he also develops his personal sense of flair.

To wit: Do you prefer wearing a necktie, bow tie or no tie? Are cuff links part of your repertoire? Braces or belt?

Just as your selection of accessories depends on the occasion at hand, your selection of jewelry cannot be understated. A well-chosen ring and watch can generate significant Style Points for the wearer.

Yesterday, I walked into a Tiffany & Co. boutique in Houston and took a look at men's rings. I previously had purchased a sterling silver Tiffany Moderne ring and was wearing it as I was browsing at men's rings in the glass case. A woman standing next to me noticed that I was wearing the same ring she was considering for her man, and decided to get it. I was thrilled inside.

I don't have many hard-and-fast rules for wearing rings, other than to wear only one ring per hand. Wearing more than one ring on the same hand reduces the effect and the presentation becomes tacky. (Only Iron Man's arch foe, the Mandarin, can pull it off.) Also, you'll want a quality piece (sterling silver, 14- or 18-karat gold, or platinum depending on what you can afford) to represent your sense of style.

The ring I like most is the signet ring, which is worn on either the ring finger or pinky. It exudes manliness, plain and simple.

If you want more bling, then the watch is just the thing. Again, choose what you can afford, but understand that if your intent is to make a favorable first impression on a job interview or at a party, a good watch is a worthwhile investment. There are a number of quality watchmakers out there, but if you want to go a few notches above Timex, Casio and Seiko on the bling meter, consider Movado, which offers an iconic design at various price points. If you're moving up in the world, shoot for the likes of Cartier and Patek Phillipe. And if you get one of the latter, relish it big time.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's sale time, but don't go broke over it

It's time to fill in a few blanks in the wardrobe or upgrade some existing pieces. Summer sales are about to crescendo to great deals on menswear. Round up the usual suspects: Neiman's, Nordstrom and Saks already are off to sale mode.

Now that it's after Father's Day and heading toward the Fourth of July, look for the discounts to increase. There is a caveat to this strategy: You'll have competition from other shoppers looking for the best deal, too, and the item that you have your eye on may be sold before you're willing to pull the trigger.

For example, Movado's boutiques are going out of business at the end of June. It's discounts on jewelry increased each week during the month, from 50 percent on selected pieces the first week, to 60 percent the next, then to 70 percent this week.

I decided that no matter what was being sold by the store at a certain level of discount, I would decide from what was left at the higher discount. This approach reduces any regret for items that were well out of my price range, even at a sale price, to begin with. The item I wanted was still there, but there were inquiries from others. Fortunately, I put the item on hold at just the right time. I then bought it at 70 percent off.

This leads to a second caveat: Just because an item is on sale doesn't mean you have to buy every such item that you see. Be selective about what it is you're looking for and stick to the plan. Granted, getting more for less is best, but do it affordably.

Finally, when the sale period ends, take a look at the new items coming in for the next season. Yes, the new stuff will be at full price, but some of these items will eventually go on sale during Christmas time. If what you want doesn't go on sale, decide if you're willing to the pay the asking price.

Good luck.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Craig Sager owns the paint in pink

TNT courtside reporter Craig Sager embodies the spirit of spring during Game 3 of the Western Conference finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night in Phoenix.

Those who were watching the game on television may have seen Mr. Sager rockin' a pink windowpane sport jacket and white trousers, a decidedly fresh springtime look. His pink floral tie completed the ensemble. Clearly, Mr. Sager had fun with assembling this outfit.

And for extra credit to those wearing pink, check out fellow TNT broadcaster Charles Barkley, whose pink shirt with blue stripe coordinated nicely with his light blue suit. Sir Charles might want to remove the buttons from the collar points if he doesn't wish to use them, but other than that, this is another spring fashion done simply and smartly.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

How ESPN's NBA guys measure up for style sake

Magic Johnson, Jon Barry, Michael Wilbon and Stuart Scott presented the breakdown after Game 1 of the Western Conference semis between the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz on Sunday.

There are couple of things to know about wardrobe selection that might explain why certain colors that are seen on TV aren't necessarily popular choices in conventional workplace wear.

First, a studio's backdrop is a factor when choosing what to wear. The last thing anyone in front of a camera wants is to blend in with the background.

Second, you might see three-button jackets being worn more often than two-button models because it's a cleaner look on camera when the top two buttons of the jacket are fastened. So don't follow the bandwagon that three-button models are not "in." Such trends are cyclical and should not sway your clothing decisions. What matters is that the look is simple and elegant.

Back to the ESPN crew on Sunday night:

-- Magic Johnson came out of the box strong with a peak-lapel, gray suit with a pinstripe pattern and a solid pink shirt. Mr. Johnson's tie, however, does not anchor the look. It is a red, white and light blue stripe that competes with the pattern of the suit and looks fuzzy altogether. I would suggest a solid charcoal or black tie, which give an understated elegance and does not steal the suit's thunder. Grade: B-

-- Jon Barry's solid tan suit evokes the season that is spring, and his deep red paisley tie is an excellent complement with his tattersall shirt. Well balanced and well coordinated. Grade: A

-- Michael Wilbon's light gray suit contrasts well with his pale yellow shirt. The brown tie with light blue and light brown polka dots looks great on TV, but does not pick up the color of the jacket or shirt. I'm not certain whether the pattern of the jacket is a glen plaid, which usually has light blue lines running vertically and horizontally throughout. It's not easy to see on TV. Grade: B

-- Stuart Scott's light gray suit matches up well with his light gray striped shirt, but the kelly green tie and multicolor pocket square dominate the suit. The knot on the tie is so big that it doesn't come up flush against the top of the collar, and the pocket square doesn't match anything else that he's wearing. Grade: C-

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cavs' LeBron, Mo keep it simple

Cavaliers teammates LeBron James and Mo Williams opted for solid colors -- mainly silver and black -- during their postgame interviews Saturday night after defeating the Boston Celtics 101-93 in the opener of the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Mr. James wore a solid gray shirt with a black vest, while Mr. Williams sported a gray shirt and tie with a black sweater with blue trim around the shoulders. Both men looked very smart, casual and not least, professional in front of the camera.

There's not much else to add. Well done, gentlemen.

Bow tie earns big Style Points for Shaq

Shaquille O'Neal exuded style on Saturday night after the Cleveland Cavaliers' Game 1 victory over the Boston Celtics in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Mr. O'Neal reprised his stylish look from the previous round's postgame interviews and came correct: A solid silver, floral print bow tie (it's put on correctly this time), with a crisp white shirt and a gray pinstripe suit.

That's how it's done. A textbook presentation.

Of course, Mr. O'Neal's attire drew an inevitable ribbing from TNT analyst Charles Barkley, who asked The Big Bow-dacious, "Did you give up pork?"

Mr. Barkley was alluding to the Fruit of Islam led by Minister Louis Farrakhan, who are recognized for wearing bow ties. It's a joke that would fall flat if Messrs. Barkley and O'Neal did not know each other well, but the question drew laughs from TNT colleagues Chris Webber, Kenny Smith and host Ernie Johnson.

Shaq responded with aplomb, and the postgame interview ended a few moments later.

Let's review ... if you're going to wear a bow tie outside of formal occasions, it's important to "own" the look. People might test you or poke fun, but that should only reinforce your conviction in wearing it in the first place. There is a uniqueness about a man who wears a bow tie. If you know how to tie one from scratch, that's a skill that other men may shy away from learning, giving you a sartorial advantage.

I'm still curious to see whether Mr. O'Neal tied that knot by himself ... at any rate, he gets big Style Points.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

NBA postgame snapshot observations

My day starts with ESPN SportsCenter at 6am CT, and in the first half-hour are NBA highlights ... and the requisite postgame commentary from players and coaches.

Some of the players opt for plaid, others don sweaters and vests, with or without ties. The coaches are consistently polished ... and then there's Shaq.

To see the recent postgame interview attire, click here. Among the clips, you might see the following ...

-- Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash sports the secret-agent look with a wide-lapel jacket and tie after defeating the Portland Trail Blazers in six games on Thursday.

-- Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki keeps it simple with a French blue shirt after losing their first-round series to the San Antonio Spurs.

-- I like LeBron James' shawl-collar sweater and knit tie combination after the Cleveland Cavaliers' series-clinching victory over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday. The "LBJ" crest is an especially nice touch."

-- Shaquille O'Neal has a great French-cuff shirt and vest ... but a clip-on tie? Clearly, he jests. But he'd actually look cooler if he was wearing an untied bow tie. It would signify a sort of after-party look, now that the formal event is over.

-- Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard goes with the tan jacket with epaulets, red shirt, black V-neck sweater, black pocket square and plaid tie after Monday's sweep of the Charlott Bobcats. I prefer matching my pocket square with my tie, but Mr. Howard matched his pocket square with his sweater. The tie is too light and does not readily pick up any of the other pieces in his presentation.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bow tie old hat for Bowen, bold move for TV

ESPN analyst and former San Antonio Spurs star Bruce Bowen is one of a few television personalities who wear a bow tie. This is a relatively bold choice in a field where long neckties are the norm for men.

Other notable sightings of bow-tie clad sports figures of late include TNT analyst and former Houston Rocket Kenny Smith and current Rocket Aaron Brooks; and NFL linebacker Dhani Jones sports the look here.

By wearing bow ties, these gentleman have at least took the time to bring some level of "cool" to an accessory that generally is accepted with tuxedoes, but not always in the business world. (Conversely, wearing neckties with formal wear doesn't quite measure up to the majesty of a bow tie.)

In Mr. Bowen's case, he is a consistent contributor to ESPN as an NBA analyst and you'll be seeing more of him as the playoffs progress. If he continues in the bow tie direction, I'd suggest that he either draw the knot tighter (it appears too big on screen and the bow looks less defined) or select a tie that has a narrower width, a la James Bond.

In any event, Mr. Bowen is on the right track. The color of his ties work in concert with his jacket. (When Mr. Brooks wears the red blazer and matching tie, it's clear he is representing the Rockets. All other non-Rockets should not try this at home.) Ironically, Mr. Bowen has acheived a conservative look with a tie that's outside the norm when it's on television.

That said, Mr. Bowen stands out. Whether others follow isn't the point; Mr. Bowen owns his path. Keep it goin', dude.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Must-haves in your wardrobe

It was an honor to work with Arizona-based image consultant Janice Hurley-Trailor on the finer points of fundamentals in a working man's wardrobe. Click here for the highlights.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Working linen into your wardrobe

Linen is among the most comfortable fabrics to wear in the spring and summer time. Be it in the form of jackets, trousers, shirts and even shoes, linen sends a clear message of casual cool.

I have reason to believe that among men who dress conservatively for work, there is a reluctance to embrace linen as part of their wardrobe. For some, linen's inherent property of wrinkling makes men less comfortable about wearing it in public than a non-iron cotton shirt.

Lighten up, fellas. The whole point of wearing linen is to get as far away from work attire as possible. Linen works best when worn outdoors, eating outside at cafes, strolling down boardwalks.

To test the look, I went out to my backyard wearing a linen suit and a cotton/linen blend sleeveless shirt. I live in the Houston area, where it's typically 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the spring.

The linen suit is a brown pinstripe from Polo; the shirt is from Nautica; and the leather-lined, linen shoes are vintage Cole-Haan. I especially like the generous leg room in the trousers, which gives me an "Oxford bag" look. To top it off, the straw hat is from Borsalino.

Finding linen shoes these days is a bit of a challenge; sandals work just as easily if you wish to maintain the leisurely look.

Bottom line: Don't be afraid to experiment with linen. It's meant not to be ironed. It is comfortable in warm climates.

D-Wade chanels his 'inner lumberjack'

Dwyane Wade was feelin' it after scoring 46 points to help the Miami Heat avoid a sweep by the Boston Celtics. I hope the Heat can extend the series some more, because Mr. Wade is putting together some interesting looks after the game.

After talking to his "hot" hand during his scoring spree in Game 4 on Sunday in Miami, Mr. Wade answered questions from the media afterward. He was wearing a red plaid sport shirt and a solid black vest.

In my modest experience in working on television and film sets, one of the things that production people often advise is when appearing in front of cameras, avoid wearing white, red or black clothing. Whenever I see these colors on television, whites appear too bright (use eggshell or off-white instead), red comes across "flat" as a color (substitute deep red or maroon), and black makes an object appear two-dimensional instead of three (use navy).

So in person, Mr. Wade looks fine. On television, while the plaid he was wearing was the right shade of red, it needs to be a little darker to show up stronger on screen. The black vest helped balance the colors of the shirt, and Mr. Wade's presentation was much simpler than his postgame attire from previous playoff games. (See my previous posts.)

Bottom line: The "hardworking lumberjack" look works for me.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Craig Sager keeps you looking

I must admit, Craig Sager has (and does) a great job as sideline reporter on TNT. As skilled as he is in interviewing players and coaches in a tight time frame during games, he will probably be known more for his attire than for his journalistic skills.

That can be a blessing or a curse, depending on the outfit. So far during the 2010 NBA playoffs, I have seen him on TV wearing a salmon-colored jacket and matching flower for one playoff game and an electric-blue jacket, flower tie and pocket square during another playoff game. (The latter is his latest outfit from Saturday's Game 4 between the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers.) One thing is for sure: Whatever information he gets from his interviews, Mr. Sager's clothing lingers in my short-term memory, long enough to wonder what he's going to wear next.

Now, for the sake of disclosure, I met Mr. Sager during the NBA playoffs three years at A. Taghi in Houston, when the Rockets were in the playoffs. He shook my hand and was really gracious while he was shopping for clothes.

So as I watch him working on television, is there a message that his clothing sends to the television audience? Is it loud? Proud? In your face (or maybe in the faces of his interviewees ... ask Kevin Garnett)? Or just minding his own business?

Well, Mr. Sager's style can work for the average Joe who's not on TV for a living, but in certain environments. The bright colors are great outdoors, especially on boardwalks on the beach if the material is cotton or linen. Indoors, casinos are a great place to sport colorful attire.

I must also admit that when I first saw Mr. Sager on television several years ago, I thought to myself, "I'm revising my will. I wouldn't be caught dead in a casket if someone dressed me that way." However, I was looking through a lens of dressing for a conventional workplace.

Through the lens of entertainment, which is a significant element of sports television, Mr. Sager recognizes clothing that gets your attention. Whether you think you can dress any better than he can misses the point. The question is, are you comfortable wearing clothing that you know will get you noticed? Can you pull it off?

Some memorable outfits come to mind, like Eddie Murphy's leather garb in his standup films "Delirious" and "Raw", and Michael Jackson's sequined white glove in his live performance of "Billie Jean."

I'm not sure I can wear clothing like that while walking down a typical street, but I respect the look for what it is. For Mr. Sager's part, I estimate that I could take one of his sportcoats and make it work for me.

Just one, though.

NBA postgame wear: Now you're talkin'

In my previous two posts, I made note of the attire of players during postgame interviews in need of improvement. I would now like to recognize those outfits that look the part of a seasoned pro.

Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony comes through in a big way after a Game 3 loss at Utah on Friday. Mr. Anthony wears a suit and tie, with contrasting-collar shirt and pocket square. The wide stripe of the tie avoids competing with the stripe of the shirt.

Other tie options that would work well with Mr. Anthony's suit include either paisley or polka-dot patterns as a complement to the suit and shirt. As for the pocket square, it should match the color of the tie.

Mr. Anthony's teammate, Chauncey Billups, presents a casual look that's very cool. Notice the V-neck white tee contrasting with a form-fitting black jacket. Mr. Billups looks as if he's in control, very understated.

Utah's Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams display varying degrees of casual. Mr. Boozer goes open collar with his jacket and pocket square, while Mr. Williams goes with a striped cardigan. Both mendo not call attention to their appearances, yet both are clearly comfortable in their clothing.

Keep it up, fellas.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Epaulets emerge during NBA postgame interviews

What is with the epaulets on jackets worn by NBA players during the postgame interviews in the playoffs?

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Mo Williams sported a black crushed velvet jacket Thursday night after his team's Game 3 loss at Chicago. His look is much simpler than that of Dwight Howard, who had too many sartorial elements going on after his Game 2 news conference.

Whether epaulets on sport jackets appear to be the next trend among NBA players remains to be seen. Quite frankly, it's over the top. I'm looking for Prince to show up to demonstrate why the look works for him.

Moving on to other style observations, click here to look at LeBron James during his postgame interview.

Now, Mr. James runs into the same issue as Mr. Howard: Multiple elements not working together. Plaid shirt, solid black vest, tie.

Let's start with the shirt. The pattern is a bold plaid. Lose the tie and the vest, and let the shirt speak for itself.

Or, keep the vest and tie, but a solid-colored shirt works best. White is the safest choice, but it appears too bright when photographed by television cameras. Light gray would be the optimal selection with Mr. James' vest and tie.

In my next blog post, I will focus on the players who look cool by keeping it simple.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Magic's 'Superman' flops in civvies

Somehow, I did not believe the style choices of NBA players would reflect a simple elegance, but an experimental one at best.

Don't get me wrong. So far, Dwyane Wade initially got my attention as a snazzy dresser from one of his commercials. But on Tuesday, with that pewter jacket with red trim, wide lapels and epaulets (epaulets?), Mr. Wade is opening the door to much laughter with such outfits.

The latest aberration in fashion was sighted on Wednesday night, during the postgame media Q/A session with Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard sitting at the podium. Usually, he cuts a striking figure in civvies, based on his photo gallery on his website or a recent appearance on ESPN's PTI. From what I could tell, Mr. Howard was wearing a crushed velvet jacket with a crested pocket and epaulets (!), a bow tie and a yellow cardigan sweater.

Hmmm ... taken individually, I like all the elements, believe it or not. But crushed velvet is usually worn at after-hours lounges or by hosts at house parties; bow ties present a uniqueness about a man who knows how to tie one; a cardigan adds maturity to a man's look.

But on Wednesday, Mr. Howard's execution is sorely lacking. Look, I'll say it now: Unless you're in the military, this epaulets thing does NOT work. You can't throw in all these elements together on one person and hope something sticks. Crested jackets? That's expected wear in prep schools, but it's a pretentious look outside those environments. Wearing this jacket makes an otherwise nice-looking bow tie appear out of place. And the cardigan is too loud in yellow. Gray would have been a better choice.

That's all for now. But Mr. Howard knows better. I expect him to bounce back with super attire in the future.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

When NBA fashion misses the mark

The NBA playoffs are here, and the intensity of play ratchets up several notches during this time. And the non-jersey clothing worn at courtside gets noticed, too.

Usually, coaches and the media are sensibly attired in professional wear. Yet some glaring exceptions emerge from time to time.

Tuesday night was one such occasion. As I was preparing to go to bed after Game 2 of the Lakers-Thunder series on TNT (L.A. leads the series, 2-0, in case you're wondering), I saw some of the postgame highlights from some of the other playoff games. To wit:

  • TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager's salmon-colored sport jacket and tie. Yyyep, that'll get a couple of double-takes, par for the course for Mr. Sager.

  • The Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade sporting a pewter jacket with red trim and epaulets, with a red check shirt. Hmmm ... well, the colors coordinate, but epaulets? You kiddin' me?

  • Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant answering questions from the media while wearing a red check shirt -- with epaulets. What's with the epaulets? Mr. Durant looks like a lumberjack. The NBA's leading scorer can do better than this. He'd be better off wearing a stretch cotton designer T shirt. Keep it simple, man!

    These were only a few notable fashion (miss) statements from the NBA world. And now, back to the games ...
  • Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    The secret to tying a bow tie

    There's a more than a touch of class that comes with knowing how to tie a bow tie. It's like learning how to ride a bike or swim -- once you get it, you don't forget it. Your confidence is established as you look ahead to the next challenge.

    Back to bow ties. You already know how. Put it this way: Do you know how to tie your shoes?

    Don't avoid this question by saying you only wear slip-on loafers or sandals. Be a man and accept the challenge.

    For those in the know when it comes to tying shoes, think about the steps: One end over the other, pull both laces down, form one half of the bow with one lace by holding the loop, bring the other lace over and through the space where the knot will form, creating another loop, and pull down both loops that form the bow.

    Start with one end longer than the other, with the longer end going over the shorter end, then go from there. Visually, click here to understand what I mean. (Think "shoes.")

    With repetition and practice, you'll have tying a bow tie down pat.

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    Best in U.S.-made: Hamilton shirts

    There are myriad dress shirts on the market at various price points. For a 100 percent cotton shirt, the cost can be anywhere from about $10 ready-to-wear to hundreds of dollars for bespoke, depending on fabric and workmanship.

    In previous posts, I have touched on the value of natural fabrics as a criterion for selecting comfortable clothing. I will now cut to the chase: Where possible, go bespoke. Even if you can afford one custom-made shirt, it's worth the investment.

    Reputable high-end retailers such as Brooks Brothers offer made-to-measure programs with swatch books of fabrics and reps ready to take your measurements. Feel their fabrics and you can quickly surmise that price runs proportionate to quality, from solid to better-than-that to even-better-than-that.

    Other U.S.-based shirtmakers include Mel Gambert of Newark, N.J., and Ripley Shirt Co. of Dallas, which offer a variety of options.

    Being based in Houston, I'm admittedly biased and have to go with the home team -- Hamilton Shirts. They've been making shirts since 1883, all on the premises. The folks who took my measurements got it right the first time, and subsequent shirts that I order will have the same specs on file. It's the only bespoke shirt that I wear. At this rate, I'll wear it out quickly. But I know where to go to get more.

    Kelly and David Hamilton, the siblings who represent the current generation of Hamilton shirts, are down-to-earth people who oversee the company. While I'm sure they have a lot on their minds when it comes to running the business, the quality of the shirts made under their watch speaks for itself.

    Make no mistake: A bespoke Hamilton shirt makes for a sound investment if you're someone who favors clothing made in the U.S.A. and can afford a customized fit.

    Saturday, March 20, 2010

    Best in U.S.-made: Oxxford suits

    Over the years, I have worn garments from a number of American designers such as Joseph Abboud, Bill Blass, Brooks Brothers, Hickey Freeman, Tommy Hilfiger and Polo Ralph Lauren. While I have usually found these brands to be reasonable in price, the fit is different among them. For example, an Abboud jacket is cut fuller in the body than a Polo jacket.

    So is the fabric. The above designers likely will use 100 percent wool or 100 percent cotton, but the quality of the material varies (and so does the price).

    That got me thinking about what is more important, the designer's name or how comfortable the clothes will be. The latter is paramount; some designers fit better than others on a given individual. Some fabrics perform better than others.

    So I decided to go to the upper echelon of American menswear, which includes Chicago-based Oxxford, outfitters of U.S. presidents including George W. Bush, and many other notable people. Oxxford, like Brooks Brothers and Polo, offers high-end menswear, which also includes Western wear.

    What makes Oxxford distinctive is the painstaking labor that goes into its garments. Suits are hand-stitched, the trousers feature a continuous waistband, and the jacket includes a "bellows pocket" on the inside, which expands when items are placed in it.

    For more on how Oxxford suits are made, click here.

    About 18 months ago, I toured the Oxxford factory and got to see firsthand how the clothes are made, from the selection of fabrics to the cutting of patterns to the stitching to the finished product. It's an impressive process that takes several weeks, but it's well worth the wait.

    For these reasons, I consider Oxxford to be the best in American-made suits.

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    My Review of Bills Khakis M3 Bullard Field Pants - Flat Front (For Men)

    Originally submitted at Sierra Trading Post

    Closeouts . Bills Khakis claims these M3 Bullard cotton field pants are so robust and well made you may be compelled to put them in your will. Numerous professional washes produce a soft hand and slightly faded look Made with hard work and American ingenuity in Reading, Pennsylvania Model #3...

    Bullish on Bullard Field Pant

    By StylePointer from Houston, TX on 3/16/2010


    5out of 5

    Pros: High Quality, Durable, Comfortable

    Best Uses: Wear To Work, Casual Wear

    Describe Yourself: Classic Dresser

    Whether you wear 'em, kick 'em or shoot 'em, these trousers can take anything. The Bullard Field Pant has a casual, rugged look.
    I usually get Model 1s or Model 2s, but the trimmer-fitting Model 3 fits well for me in a larger size. They're made in the USA, and very much built to last.


    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Best in U.S.-made: Houston Rodeo wear

    Every March, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is known for its cook-off and other local delicacies, rodeo activities, musical guests and its marketplace.

    The exhibit hall at Reliant Park is huge. You can find just about anything in there, especially Western clothing. There are at least three must-sees at the Houston Rodeo exhibit hall, all of whom have custom-made capabilities:

    -- M.L. Leddy's: John Ripps, a former Neiman's employee with at least 30 years of experience in menswear, knows how to put together a stylish Western look at the Fort Worth-based maker of fine apparel, boots and saddles. Oxxford is a major player in his inventory. I tried on an Oxxford silk-cashmere tan blazer that fit like a glove, one of his best jackets. The $3,640 tag represents the high end, not to mention made-to-measure options. For that kind of money, it's considered an investment in the best.

    -- Shorty's Caboy Hattery: Here's a hatter who can make a 100x fur felt hat for under $1,000. Lavonna "Shorty" Kroger ain't so short in stature; if anything, she's long on experience. Shorty's range of hats reflect what customers want and how they want it. Shorty is a regular at the Rodeo, coming to Houston from Oklahoma City.

    -- Old Frontier Clothing Co.: Larry Bitterman makes it his business to outfit Hollywood with his authentic Western styles reminiscent of what you might see in the HBO drama "Deadwood" or the older films that may include John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. Bitterman has an eye for detail and can cut a jacket for you at a reasonable price ($285 and up, depending on availability of fabric) using natural fabrics.

    The Houston Rodeo continues through March 21 at Reliant Park in Houston.

    Thursday, February 25, 2010

    Nordstrom Rack opening a big hit in Houston

    I knew the days were drawing near on the grand opening of the 70th Nordstrom Rack store, the first such store in Houston. Several months earlier, I was initially happy that the outlet store of the Seattle-based retailer would come to Houston. I wouldn't have to travel to the Dallas-Fort Worth area location (in Hurst) that had since closed a few years ago.

    A friend reminded me the previous day that the grand opening was happening on the 25th, and that a drawing for a $2,000 shopping spree would be held before the store opening, and that getting there early would ensure seeing the full selection of items in the store.

    For me, as Mars Blackmon of Spike Lee's Nike ad campaign fame might say: "It's gotta be the shoes." That was my sole mission. I was determined to peruse the shoes.

    So, I set out to beat morning traffic and got on the road at 4:55 a.m., whizzed down Interstate 10 east to the Galleria area in about a half hour, parked the car and waited among three others parked in the lot, staying warm with temperatures below 40 degrees outside.

    The first person who arrived, Tamara Kelly, told store organizers she arrived at 4:30 a.m. At about 6 a.m., she took a seat on a bench near the entrance, where ropes were being set up for the line to form. I got out of my car after reading an article in GQ be next in line, sitting next to her on the bench.

    Tamara stands all of 5-foot-1 with a world of gumption to brave the cold three hours before the store is scheduled to open. I put on my jacket and decide that I'm going to withstand the cold before sunrise, too.

    In anticipating a line of customers willing to wait hours in advance, store organizers rolled out food and beverages courtesy of Jason's Deli, to feed the formation of huddled masses yearning for free shopping spree. Smart move. Not long after Tamara and I sit on the bench and talk "shop," several other women get in line. I give up my seat, get some food and return to my place in line. (No. 2, yo!)

    By 7 a.m., forms are available to fill out for the $2,000 shopping spree. The parking lot begins to fill with more cars, more people emerge to enter the drawing, get food and get in line, all contemplating what they would in gathering as many items as possible for 90 seconds inside the store.

    To be sure, being the first in line has its perks. Tamara got to talk to a radio host from KHMX-FM 96.5 "The Mix," an on-camera interview and a $100 gift card from the president of the Nordstrom Rack chain, not to mention some schwag from the The Mix tent located on the end of the storefront opposite from the customer line.

    On Tamara's initiative, she shared the spotlight with me as "the first guy." Real nice of her. So I got an interview in front of the camera and some schwag (no gift card, though, but that's OK). The thought surely counted. Tamara's mother, niece and other loved ones later joined her at the front of the line.

    At 8:45 a.m., a name was drawn for the $2,000 shopping spree ... it wasn't me. A woman who was in line, after about 75 people, came forward as the chosen one.

    After much fanfare and collective woo-hoos as the woman entered the store and got as many pairs of size 5 1/2 shoes as possible, the moment arrived. At 9 a.m., the doors open to a rousing ovation by staff and customers alike. I follow Tamara inside and make a bee line for men's shoes, located in the back of the store.

    I had at least three minutes alone in the aisles that ranged from size 8 1/2 to 10. I found one pair of Allen-Edmonds that were a narrow width, a black calfskin cap toe, half price (reg. $305). This pair fit very comfortably. So I calmly walk toward checkout, with the store now full of customers and a line of others waiting to come inside, pay for my shoes, and exit.

    I was stunned to see the line extend to the Grand Luxe Cafe, a restaurant that is closest to Westheimer Road, which is about 15 storefronts away from Nordstrom Rack, or several hundred yards from the front doors of the store.

    What an experience. I did not look back as I got in my car and drove to the next errand for the day. But what a first day for Nordstrom Rack in Houston. The support was tremendous. I'll probably check in around the next major sale, which is usually in May/June (Memorial Day and Father's Day).

    As for the store itself, there's no shortage of bargain items. It may be best to let the dust settle after the initial hoopla. Additional discounts usually come about during holidays. So if you missed the first day, don't fret. You at least avoided long lines to get in.

    For those who braved the cold, I hope it was worth it. I'm just glad I got my shoes.

    Sunday, February 21, 2010

    Outlet deal of the year

    I realize it's only the second month of 2010, but I doubt that a deal like this will happen again for a good while to come. Wanna hear it? Here it goes:

    On a recent drive to the factory outlet center in San Marcos, Texas, I go through my usual walk past the storefronts of the entire center. (Takes about two hours. Anyway ...) The last time I went to San Marcos, I found a pair of Edward Green shoes at the Saks outlet for 70 percent off.

    This time, I go the Polo outlet and I see many markdowns in menswear. About 10 minutes into browsing, I see a brown pinstripe, 100 percent linen suit that retailed for $600. I figure the suit was 75 percent off, which would make it $150.

    I get the sales associate to do a price check. He says it's $37.49.

    Are you kiddin' me?

    Another sales associate rings it up at checkout.

    $37.49. $40.58 after tax.

    I couldn't believe it. Though something was wrong with the suit. So we all inspect it. Yep, first quality.

    Gladly paid for it and didn't look back. Didn't buy anything else while at the San Marcos outlets. This deal that I got was too good. About 95 percent off? Whoa. Cool.

    All that's left is to go to the tailor, which will cost more than the suit.

    That's OK. I'll look like a million bucks after the suit is cut to fit me. That's quite a profit.

    I'll take it.

    Monday, February 15, 2010

    Best in U.S.-made: Alden shoes

    In a recent blog entry, I rated Alden shoes No. 4 in my top five American shoemakers, largely on the basis of availability. That does not diminish this shoemaker's commitment to quality, which has been established since 1884.

    Chances are I'll have to order Aldens in a narrower width than what is readily available in select menswear stores. I did happen to pick up a C width (Aberdeen last) at Houston Shoe Hospital on Westheimer & Chimney Rock, the only one in my size.

    Since I'm on my feet a lot while working, I usually gravitate toward rubber-soled shoes over those with leather soles, though leather soles are more breathable. I was in an old-school mood, so I got this pair of Aldens, a calfskin Norwegian blucher that happened to be on sale. Turns out these shoes are quite comfortable during a walk through a mall.

    Before purchasing my shoes, I had considered Alden's All-Weather Walker, which is on a Barrie last. I wasn't totally comfortable with the fit, which had discouraged my interest in this brand.

    Now that I'm "soled" on the Aberdeen last (which is also the same last used for the shell cordovan tassel loafers that Alden makes for Brooks Brothers), my confidence is restored. I have seen other men wear Aldens, admired their durability.

    Now it's my turn.

    Saturday, February 13, 2010

    StylePointer rates English shoemakers

    Shoes made in England have set a high standard in terms of craftsmanship and durability. Put simply, they wear like iron. A visit to Northampton is on my bucket list of things to do in my lifetime.

    I have visited London's Jermyn Street and Savile Row several times over the last few years, and there are so many options from which to choose. A pair of handmade shoes is the ultimate luxury. However, one need not pay 2,000 pounds (about $3,140 as of this entry) to acquire this level of comfort.

    Church's of England shoes are pretty popular in the U.S. I especially like their wingtip spectators. One of my contemporaries, Ryan Chua, who recently started his own bespoke tailoring business while working at the Polo store in the Houston Galleria, is a big Church's fan.

    Charles Tyrwhitt makes models that regularly retail for up to $650, but have been selling for half price for quite a while these days. Tyrwhitt's shoes are made in Northampton and are quality items. My favorite is the Brown Calf Winchester Co-Respondent shoe, a cap-toe spectator shoe that offers a stylish retro look. The classic brogues in black and brown are available, sharing the denominator of being well made.

    Edward Green is another heavy hitter, with bespoke as well as ready-to-wear lines. I recently picked up a pair called the Holborn in Rosewood Country Calf on a 606 last. These shoes retail for nearly $1,200, but I got a good deal on them as they found their way to an outlet store in San Marcos, TX. To possess the elegance of Edward Green shoes that fit like a glove is a lucky thing indeed.

    Crockett & Jones is another esteemed company that has made shoes for Polo Ralph Lauren. I still am searching for the C&J last that fits me best, but without question C&J shoes represent quality.

    On the high (bespoke) end, look into John Lobb, George Cleverly, W.S. Foster & Son. Each shoemaker has a tradition few others can match.

    I hate to do a top five on these shoemakers when I know there are so many English shoemakers. I'll give it a shot, though (debate likely to follow ...):

    1. John Lobb
    2. George Cleverley
    3. W.S. Foster & Son
    4. Edward Green
    5. Crockett & Jones

    Other shoes that deserve mention: New & Lingwood, Grenson, Tricker's, Barker, Sanders.

    Sunday, January 31, 2010

    StylePointer rates American shoemakers

    All right, it's gotta be the shoes! They're usually among the first things that are noticed about a person. When it comes to professional dress for men, a well-made shoe is all-important, for comfort's sake if nothing else.

    Not even the brand name can be more important than comfort. Certain shoe lasts aren't for everyone. I have spent more money on name brands where I should have paid attention to how well the shoe fits. Doc Martens of England, for example, are really durable, but the last is too wide for my foot, which I consider to be a medium (D) width.

    Same with Alden, perhaps the best in U.S.-made cordovan shoes; too wide for me. I usually choose a C width in Aldens.

    Johnston & Murphy? Another great shoe; another wide last. These also last a long time and are a sound investment for those whose feet fit the shoes.

    There are three U.S. shoemakers that work best for me:

    Cole-Haan has lasts that fit like clockwork. The company was bought by Nike in the late 1980s, and has since improved the comfort level of its shoe offerings, though some of its designs are less aesthetically pleasing than its classic predecessors.

    Allen-Edmonds is a staple in consistency, offering rubber as well as leather soles. I recently have found discontinued models (like the Mapleton) that are incredibly comfortable.

    The early H.S. Trask models are unbelievable with respect to its use of bison leather and rubber soles. The Gallatin oxfords are nothing short of stellar. I purchased my first pair in the '90s in Philadelphia, and I still have them.

    If I had to my top five U.S. shoemakers, it would look something like this:

    1. Allen-Edmonds
    2. H.S. Trask
    3. Cole-Haan
    4. Alden
    5. Johnston & Murphy

    In an upcoming Style Points entry, I will give my top five English shoemakers.

    Best in U.S.-made: Bills Khakis

    Straight up: I can't get enough of Bills Khakis.

    And no, I don't get paid to say this: These are clearly the most comfortable trousers on the market. They're based on the old World War II designs that allow for generous leg room and maximum breathability. Click here for the quick history of Bills Khakis (est. 1990).

    What I like about them is not just the wide leg, but the deep pockets and durable fabrics. Bills Khakis are cut from the toughest of cotton and the finest of wool. There are three types of fit: Model 1 (widest leg), Model 2 (less wide, which many specialty menswear stores carry), and Model 3 (slim cut).

    Not least, wherever possible, I try to support businesses whose goods are "made in U.S.A." Bills Khakis are not cheap, but a quality investment that lasts.

    Where to find Bill's Khakis? Just go to the upper-left corner of their Web site, which has a store locater. I've been successful in finding them at esteemed establishments On The Fly of San Francisco, Culwell & Son of Dallas, The Village Clothier of Houston, and O'Connell's of Buffalo, to name a few.

    Bills Khakis are found only at selected menswear stores. If you see them, try 'em ... you'll see what I mean.

    Saturday, January 30, 2010

    Why Style matters

    On a recent flight back to Houston from Dallas, I was seated in the very last row of the plane, next to a man who was impeccably dressed: dark Zegna suit, burgundy Brioni tie, black John Lobb wingtips.

    These items are usually found at Neiman Marcus. I recognized most of his clothing before actually asking him. I knew his pieces were carefully chosen.

    Turns out this man, a radio executive, is a student of Style. He mentioned Canali as his other designer of choice; he outfitted his 22-year-old son in a Canali suit, and his interest in clothing has since taken off.

    Now, I still have my tan Zegna and charcoal Canali suits in my closet. I purchased both in early 2001 at a Barney's warehouse sale in an airplane hangar in Santa Monica, Calif.

    So now, I'm on a plane with a 20-year Army veteran who recognizes the power of clothes. "When people are doing business with me, personal presentation matters."

    I concur. Clothes send a message. If you're disheveled, chances are you're disorganized. If you're well-coordinated, you likely mean business.

    And business this man did mean. He cared enough to put his best look forward.

    When I got home, I went to my closet and checked out my suits and casual wear. I know what messages I want to send in future dealings with the people I meet.

    Thanks, Mr. Executive Guy.

    Thursday, January 21, 2010

    When only the vest will do

    Work environments have become increasingly casual over the years. Comfort is the primary criterion over dressing "to the nines" for the office. But these two goals need not be mutually exclusive. It's a matter of maximizing certain pieces of your presentation.

    During America's colonial era, for example, breeches and wigs were the norm for lawyers and politicians. The suit has since become the standard for professional dress for many sectors of the workplace. Toward the end of the 20th century, improvements in technology have prompted a shift toward less formal clothing. Shirts and ties have given way to polo shirts and designer tees.

    Whether you choose to go formal or informal, the vest is an excellent complement to either style. A vest can be worn indoors and outdoors, whereas a jacket is usually removed while working in an offices. The vest also offers a retro look.

    Not least, the vest usually is not expensive. I've found vests in consignment stores, Urban Outfitters, and Orvis. There are vests that I wear with suit pants or slacks and such, but I prefer cotton over wool.

    Right now, the vests I wear have a more Western feel. The Houston Rodeo is coming up in the next month or two, so I'm gearing up for it.

    Call it a "vested" interest.

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    Purchase of the month: Edward Green shoes

    In my nearly 30 years of observing trends in menswear, I will never stop searching for the best of bargains. Whether I find them during seasonal sales or at outlet stores, there's always the thrill of pursuing quality items for the best price.

    Shoes are my primary interest in getting great deals. The last time I closed in on such a deal was in 2005 at a small shoe store in Newport, RI, which had a 75 percent-off sale on select high-end footwear. Usually, these sale shoes will fit those with really small feet or really large feet. Having an average foot (9 to 10 US depending on the last), I was lucky enough to find a pair of Paraboot shoes that fit like a glove. They retailed at $260 at the time. I corralled them for about $70.

    Fast forward to Sunday, Jan. 17, in San Marcos, TX ... At Off 5th, the outlet store of Saks Fifth Avenue, I came across a pair of Edward Green derby shoes. Founded in 1890, EG is steeped in tradition and is the shoemaker that Ralph Lauren has used for some of its shoe lines.

    I was doubly excited to see that this particular pair of shoes fit really well. They retailed for nearly $1,200 and were now down to $400. I had the salesman hold the shoes for me until I got through the entire shopping center.

    I power-walked through the outlet stores for Neiman Marcus, Zegna, Polo, Brooks Brothers, Cole Haan and many others. After about two miles' worth of walking, I decided these shoes were the only item I would buy today.

    So back to the Off 5th store I returned, with a coupon for 20 percent off, thanks to my AAA membership discount. After tax, I got a pair of Edward Green shoes (orig. $1,195) for less than $350.

    That's about a 70 percent savings. And I'm well aware of the Edward Green reputation for making "the finest shoes in England for the discerning few," according to its Web site. I visited the Jermyn Street store a few years back. The salespeople are more concerned about getting you the shoe that fits rather than just sell you a shoe.

    Back to my purchase ... I probably won't be shopping for anything else any time soon. But if there's a bargain out there, I'm always in the hunt.

    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    Time for a new season, almost

    The "End of Season" sales are in full swing now that the holidays have past and retailers want to get rid of inventory to make room for spring fashions.

    What's curious is that winter has visited places that least expect it, like Houston. Temperatures have gone as low as the 20s lately. No snow on the ground, but it's decidedly cold outside. There's still time to reverse the mistake I made: Get your sweaters back out to wear a little while longer.

    So far, I've concentrated on shoes as my post-holiday sale targets. There are plenty of items on sale, but check your wardrobes first to see what you might want to stock up on and what you have enough of. That'll help focus your spending habits.

    Make the rounds on the following retail stores: Neiman Marcus, Dillards, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy's, J. Crew, Orvis, Brooks Brothers, Polo, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Syms. I like going into these stores in person, but they each have Web sites that make online shopping convenient.

    There are many more online shopping sites, but here are a few of my favorites: J. Peterman, Sierra Trading Post, On The Fly, Charles Tyrwhitt. I'm all ears on any other sites that offer good deals on clothing.

    Ready, set ... go get 'em.