Tight-fitting clothes vs. classic, comfortable tailoring

Here’s my take on the subject of men’s clothes. I realize I’m going against current trends with this view, but thanks to my recent experience with severe back pain, I’ve gained additional insights into the effects that clothes have on our posture, our bodies and ultimately our health. I know and I have seen first-hand how some clothes can provoke back pain and others can relieve it, and that’s what I talk about in this video. I hope it helps you!

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Men’s Summer Wear Suggestions

Hot summer weather is here (it’s been here for a month or so) and that means it’s nearly impossible to wear a suit during the day. Here are some suggestions I’ve put together for acceptable summer clothes that will keep you cool and presentable. I’ve also included a few pieces of advice such as how to deal with sweat (bring an extra article of clothing to change if needed), the appropriate length for summer shorts and finally, whether or not it’s acceptable to roll up the sleeves of your shirt.

I hope you find it helpful!

How to pair shoes with pants

While it’s good to have variety in your outfits and to sometimes break the rules when it comes to choosing what you wear, it’s also important to know how things go together. As Picasso used to say, you need to know the rules before you can break them.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer you this video I put together recently, where I give advice on matching your shoes with your pants. In it, I’ll show you how to pair certain shoes with certain pants, what goes together with what and what you should avoid doing.

Enjoy! And here’s that same post on my Facebook page, which I encourage you to like in order to see much, much more content published several times a day.

Classic Solo Handmade Shoes

Late last year, I ordered a pair of handmade shoes from Stefan Burdea, a shoemaker from Bucharest, Romania. I’d like to show them to you now. They’re the Classic Solo model, a beautiful and understated pair of shoes made from a single piece of leather.

Some of you may already know that it’s fairly difficult to make these shoes, as it requires much greater skill from the shoemaker to get it right from a single piece of leather than it is to make them from multiple pieces, which can be fitted much more easily around the boot tree.

I’d like to show these shoes to you now via a video I made (part of my Elegant Gentleman series). I’m happy with them, especially since they meet a very important criteria for me: they’re comfortable to wear for long periods of time. That’s the most important criteria for me when choosing shoes. They have to fit me very well. All other aspects: design, finish, materials, are secondary. Sure, I first pick up a pair of shoes based on how they look, but if they don’t fit me well, I’ll put them right back down on the shelf and move on.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a pair of handmade shoes made for you, but you should if you get the chance. They’re much more comfortable than machine-made shoes. And because they’re handmade, there’s usually more attention to detail and a higher level of workmanship, as you’ll see from the photos. It’s rewarding to wear shoes that you know were made just for you. Try it sometime!

Bespoke vs. Store-bought Suits

In this video, which is part of The Elegant Gentleman series, I talk about the following topics:

  1. The importance of a proper fit (also known as a cut) for your clothes, which only a good tailor can do. It matters because it not only makes you look good, but it allows for fluctuations in body weight and/or mass. A great suit will hide these changes in your body to a certain point, beyond which it will either start to show them or you’ll start feeling uncomfortable in the clothes, signaling that alterations or a new suit are in order. A poorly cut suit will generally not accommodate fluctuations in body weight, showing them right away, in unflattering ways. This ties into my second point, which is…
  2. The differences between bespoke (custom-made) suits and store-bought suits, one of those differences being a proper fit (discussed above). Bespoke suits fit better, naturally, since they’re made for your body from the start. Store-bought suits will feel like they’re off-the-rack 95% of the time and in my case, 100% of the time. Because my body is of an athletic build, whenever I go to the store to try on a suit, either the coat or the pants won’t fit me and in either case, any alterations that would have to be made are so significant that the suit would no longer look good.
  3. The importance of finding good materials cannot be overstated, since they are the stuff from which suits are made. They cannot be an afterthought. I suggest you go to fabric warehouses in your area (it may take some effort to find them) and pick out materials that you like. Educate yourself on the fibers used in the materials, then on the texture, the colors, the patterns and then you’ll be properly equipped to shop for fabrics. (Or you can find an honest and knowledgeable salesman who’s willing to explain that to you.)
  4. The price of a good suit isn’t set in stone and will vary widely, first based on where you live (larger, more famous cities bring up the price) and second based on what your tailor decides to charge. For example, where I live, in a small town in Southern Transilvania, I can get a good bespoke three-piece suit for about $175 – 250, and that includes the price of the fabrics, buttons and zippers, too. I hear that prices back in the US are somewhere in the area of $750 – 1,500 and there again they’ll vary based on the city and tailor shop.
  5. The one important characteristic that will make a suit much more expensive and rightfully so is whether it is sewn or glued together. You probably cringe when you hear “glued together” but it isn’t as bad as all that. This is also referred to as canvassed vs. fused. Suits have been glued together for decades. Basically, the outer and middle layers of the suit are pressed together with a hot iron and a special coating on the middle layer makes it stick to the outer layer. The lining is usually canvassed (or floating) on all suits. This allows the tailor to shape the suit much easier once it’s been cut, rather than sew it all together to give it its shape, which is laborious, requiring much more skill and time and therefore rendering the suit more expensive. There are actually three levels of quality: there is a fully floating canvassed jacket, a half canvassed jacket (where only the lapels and upper construction around the chest is fused) and a fully fused jacket. My suits are half canvassed, simply because my tailor doesn’t know and isn’t interested in working on fully floating canvassed jackets.

I hope this proves helpful to you! Enjoy!

Cold weather clothing

I thought I’d do something a little bit different for this topic and publish photos of some of my cold weather clothes. I want to give you some ideas of what to look for in materials and what you can combine in terms of color and texture.

Warm weather may be on the way but now is the time to pick the fabrics out of which you’d like to make your next cold season’s clothes. Chances are it’ll be discounted because they’re making way for the thinner fabrics of summer and besides, you want to take your time and really look around. You should look for the best quality cloth at the best price for your budget. You should only buy fabrics that you’d love to wear. There’s no reason to invest in fabric that you’re not sure about, only to invest even more money and effort afterward in order to make it into a suit and then, as you stand in front of the mirror, come to the realization that you don’t really like it.

Buy only what you fall in love with, find a great tailor, make it into a suit that you’ll love, and that way you’ll ensure that you’ve got an outfit you can wear for years to come, one that will make you feel good every time you put it on.

All of my cold weather outfits feature thick wool fabrics, just like these. I love to look for interesting colors and textures. Underneath, I love to wear thick cotton shirts, sometimes with a white cotton t-shirt underneath the shirt, for extra warmth. And I like to wear a tie, not necessarily to make the outfit more formal, and this is a little secret… I do it because it keeps me warmer. The tie causes the shirt collar to close up tightly around my neck, keeping the warmth generated by my body inside the shirt. And the tie acts as a sort of scarf, wrapped around the base of my neck and draped down my chest. It really works, it keeps me warmer in winter. Try it for yourselves and you’ll see what I mean.

A brief history of clothes

17th-century-clothes

“Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.” ― Virginia Woolf, Orlando

Clothing may have been around for hundreds of thousands of years, with some scientists proposing that it may have been in use even more than 650,000 years ago, though most agree that the first fabric uses occurred about 100,000 years ago.

These theories are based on studies of the human body louse, which according to genetic studies, diverged from its ancestor, the head louse, about 107,000 years ago. I hope you weren’t eating your lunch when you read that…

Flax fibers seem to have been the first used for textiles and fabrics, around 8,000 BC, with cotton following around 5,000 – 4,000 BC and wool around 3,000 BC. Starting around 6,000 BC, other fibers such as rush, reed, palm and papyrus were used together with flax (linen) to make ropes and other textiles. Silk also saw its introduction as a fabric around 4,000 BC, in China. Bark and hemp fibers were discovered to have been used in Japan around 5,500 BC.

The Silk Route, which began in 114 BC during the Han Dynasty, is credited in large part with the development of the great civilizations of China, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, the Indian subcontinent and Rome, and thus helped to lay the foundations for the modern world. You wouldn’t normally think cloth can have such an incredible impact, but it did.

Dress in classical antiquity favored wide, unsewn lengths of fabric, pinned and draped to the body in various ways. When I look at depictions of clothing from the civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome, there are common traits: it was made to suit the weather, covering more of the body where it was colder and less of the body where it was warmer, becoming more ornate for the aristocratic classes or for those where certain articles of clothing were symbolic of power, such as those in certain government or religious functions. The fabrics commonly used for these clothes were linen, wool and cotton. The Egyptians used flax (linen) almost exclusively, while the Greeks favored linen and wool and the Romans used mostly wool, though they also used other fibers, such as hemp, linen and small amounts of silk or cotton (which were imported and more expensive). For more info on clothing in the ancient world, you may consult this page.

Clothing in antiquity

We owe the development of richly dyed, woven, patterned and embroidered fabrics to Byzantium and early medieval Europe. During the high middle ages, the development and dyeing of wool was developed more and more, and we began to see a clear differentiation between wool as outerwear and linen as innerwear. We all know that wool cannot be washed and dried without shrinking, which makes it unsuitable for garments that are washed often, like innerwear. That’s where linen works very well, as it also breathes quite easily. Cotton and silk were still being imported and therefore reserved for ornamentation, not as the main materials.

Byzantine clothes

We have the Crusades to thank for the diversification of textiles in Europe and soon afterward, for the emergence of fashion, which historians agree occurred in the mid 14th century. You wouldn’t normally think of the Crusades as a tool for the development of fashion, but there it is, war has a way of opening up new trade routes and new ways of life. I think of these unexpected developments as turdflowers springing up from… well, you know what…

From that time onward, clothes began to change in Europe at a pace unheard of in other places in the world, where styles remained the same for centuries while the Europeans began changing them every year. This is also the period when straight seams and draped garments began to be replaced with what were the beginnings of tailoring, such as curved seams, lacing and buttons.

Medieval clothing

We began to see national variations in clothing during the 15th century. This is also when silk and velvet began to be used more prominently. During the 17th century, we find the origins of the three-piece suit — as the coat, waistcoat and breeches (pants, trousers) began to be made of the same cloth. The fellow in this illustration is not wearing a new-fangled three-piece suit, he prefers the foppish look.

18th century fashion

In the 18th century, fabric production began to be mechanized, but clothing was still being made by hand, as the complicated machines that cut and sew suits and dresses nowadays didn’t exist yet. In the 19th century, sewing machines were invented. We saw the introduction of synthetic fibers during the 20th century, and from the start of the 20th century going forward, we have seen the gradual decline of bespoke tailoring in favor of mass-produced clothes, most of them from synthetic fibers.

suit-factory

Good things have also occurred during this last century. As a result of mechanization and automation, fabrics have become much more affordable and there’s an incredible variety now, as manufacturers constantly experiment with threads, textures, colors and treatments. Clothes have also become much more affordable, and even though they’re made by machines, advancements in computer modeling and the collective data on human measurements gathered over the centuries make it much more likely for you to find an off-the-rack outfit that fits your body nicely now, rather than a few decades ago.

An off-the-rack suit

One of the goals of my project, “The Elegant Gentleman“, is to show the benefits of natural fibers and of custom-made clothes to those who are willing to listen. Natural fibers are simply better for the body and are renewable, as the sheep will grow wool every year and the cotton and flax will spring up as long as they’re well-tended, while clothes made to your measurements, to your body, will always fit, wear and look better than something you pick off the rack at the store. These two things are immutable.

For more information on the history of clothing, I invite you to check out these pages:

Make sure to also read my article on the various types of fibers that go into the making of textiles, fabrics and cloth.