Q: I just found your site and I am pretty thrilled someone is finally calling out the rules. I am a big guy so I tend to pay attention as much as I can to look good. I have just accepted a new position as a director at a cool museum. One of the largest and most prominent. My co-workers dress well and I need a primer for what to buy as far as basics. I want to dash the old frumpy look of a security director and add the young flavor and style to compliment my new administration. —Phill
A: Congratulations on your new gig! Follow our advice, and you'll be on the path to a wardrobe that may even have your colleagues in Acquisitions & Accessioning looking to preserve for the edification and delight for future generations.
Since you said nothing about a budget for this endeavor, we suspect that's not a major concern or constraint for you. But since you're starting from scratch, and don't have a firmly established idea of what you'll like best or what works for you, we're going to steer you toward options that represent good values.
Our point: When you're starting out, you want the freedom to experiment, without worrying about potential sunk costs and buyer's remorse. Or to put it another way, when you start golfing, you shouldn't buy Pro V1s until you've reached the point where you are no longer sending multiple drives into the woods and water every round. Develop your swing, then step up to $6 golf balls.
Okay, that's enough context. Without further ado, here's the MB Sartorial System — Young Museum Director Version (Fall/Winter). See below for assembly instructions.
SUIT  charcoal grey
When you and the mayor cut the ribbon for that new Impressionist wing, you're going to want to wear a suit. As you may have read, we're big fans of two-button charcoal grey ones. And you're in luck because Century 21 (our new favorite site, right up there with YOOX) has this Ralph Lauren version, likely in your size and with functional buttonholes, for just $220. (15 bucks off with code JOINUS31 for purchases over $150.)
BLAZERS  1 velvet, 1 corduroy, 1 plaid
We've found this to be a winning combination of F/W textures to accompany the shirts and pants you'll see in a minute. Our go-to YOOX brand for value, 8, wants just $109 for their camel velvet version. (Choose one size up.) For the others, just make sure they meet our blazer requirements.
SWEATERS  1 v-neck, 1 cardigan (both merino)
For under one of those blazers or alone on Casual Friday, you're going to need a couple of sweaters. A brand we recently discovered — and love — that provides perhaps even stronger value that 8 is +U Plusultra. Yes, its name sounds like a condom brand created by a marketing AI optimized for redundancy. But their cardigans (again, likely in your size) are now just $46.
SHIRTS  1 white, 1 blue, 1 gingham, 1 plaid (all point collar)
Getting this right is key for a fully functional system. The white and blue shirts cannot have button-down collars, because you may use them with a tie (the gingham and plaid are fine with buttons). These days point collars are an endangered species, but hang in there and don't settle for a spread or cutaway that both fattens your face and will be at resale shops shortly. Century 21 has this Steven Alan plaid for a ridiculous $25 as a starting point.
PANTS  2 brushed/moleskin, 1 corduroy (all 5-pocket)
It doesn't take a very stable genius to recognize that regular trousers on a big guy can send you into Trump territory fast. But that's not the only reason to go the 5-pocket route. 5-pocket pants are also more comfortable and modern, and can easily be dressed up for your new role. While Bonobos' version is more expensive than most of what we're recommending here, its straightforward style and overall utility make it a very safe investment.
We're normally not ones to toot our own horn, but we have created a belt that is not only a work of art, but will work with every system combination herein, including the suit. It's the 300-Year Belt (either in Classic or High Plains Noir), with a sterling silver buckle handmade by Arizona-based artist Mary Daugherty. (Free Secret Agent Belt with purchase.)
OK, so maybe we are ones to toot our own horn. Both The Cosina Veloce and The Kakutani bring unique textures and a rakishness to the system on dress-up days. (Wear with both the white and blue shirts.)
SHOES  1 shiny, 1 matte (both sneakerized)
Perhaps the easiest way to dump frumpy security director is via footwear. We've rhapsodized often about shoe sneakerization, and for both pair recommend splurging on something in the Common Projects vein, like these Common Projects dark brown will work with everything but the suit.
So, not counting the suit separates or the ties, this system provides 60 different permutations of pants, shirts, and blazers/sweaters. Throw out the handful that don't jibe (like the corduroy pants and corduroy blazer) and you still have enough variety to keep you going until spring, when we can do this all over again. Thanks for the question. It was fun.
It was love at first sight with this white Geox windbreaker, which to our eye looked like a low-key Steve McQueen Le Mans reference, except with 100% less asbestos.
But the starting price of $266 seemed rich, even if it's Italian and comes with Geox's patented "Respira" tech that claims to combine rain and wind resistance with breathability.
Using our price-tracker app — which we are sure hoping to get to beta by the end of the year — we watched with pleasure as the price dropped to $158, $77, and even $66 before recovering to $77, where we purchased a few. Lots still available in all four sizes. Highly recommended for spring 2018 and beyond.
NB: This item runs about 1.5 sizes small. If you are in between, go up two full sizes.
Q: You've been a big fan of "8" brand clothing over at Yoox, and I agree it's great bang for ze buck. But what do you know about their shoes? Kind of digging these sneakers. Might be hard to pass on for $100. —Joe
A: While we don't have as much experience with 8 shoes as 8 clothes, yes they seem equivalent in terms of bang for the buck. Two years ago we recommended these 8 Denim Sneakers as an MB Deal of the Week and we'd recommend them all over again if they were still in stock.
As for those joggers, they're now marked down to $89 and you better grab them before we do.
Part of the reason we haven't been posting much this year — besides chronic laziness, combined with chronic drunkenness — is that we've been working on a price-tracking application we think you're going to really like. You simply post something that interests you, whether it be on Amazon, eBay, YOOX, or thousands of other sites, and when it goes on sale we send you an alert with the new price.
We've been in alpha for a while here at the office, and here are a few things we finally pulled the trigger on, with their price history. Yes, we're really digging sportswear that may make some wonder whether we play sports for money.
Q: If the Walmart/Bonobos marriage gets consummated, can you recommend a Bonobos alternative? I refuse to give money to the evil empire. —Dave
A: Unfortunately, whether this particular marriage gets consummated or not, you are now faced with a grave question: Do you keep hooking up with a brand that (a) has seriously considered the possibility that Walmart would be a good home for it? And even worse is (b), in the eyes of Walmart, a highly desirable acquisition target?
Think of your dilemma as a variant on the old Groucho Marx koan: I don't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.
While we're fans of Bonobos' moleskin jeans, it's otherwise not a brand that holds any special allegiance in our hearts. Mostly, it has always struck us as an attempt to leverage dot-com venture capital into, say, a slightly more colorful James Perse for the masses. In other words, Walmart's attempted acquisition of it seems like a logical and ultimately inevitable endpoint.
Thus, we say why wait until the marriage is officially consummated to start looking elsewhere to fulfill your clothing needs?
Just the fact that the deal has reached due diligence is a strong signal that we're at Peak Bonobos. In another month or so, they may come out with their own version of the RompHim!
Lucky for you, good alternatives abound. Here's a couple Italian brands we've recently discovered on YOOX that we highly recommend:
We own a bunch of Myths pants and shorts are they're both terrific. Fair warning: You may have to skip leg day every once in awhile in order to get them all the way on. Innovative combinations of fabrics and pocket lining material, and a senselessly-over-engineered-yet-charming 3-button closure system (even on the shorts). Mostly best for 18 holes or a casual workplace. True to size. Myths 2017 S/S collection.
Without a doubt our current favorite trouser maker. Generally dressier and more expensive than Myths — and slightly more forgiving — these are pants you wear to the office with a woven, and so comfortable you keep on while transitioning your top to a knit at home. The only knock on these is a discreet, riveted gothic-font "D" on the rear right pocket (we've tried removing without success). They're modesty-sized; go up one and maybe two inches on the waist. Dondup 2017 S/S collection
Q: I love your site and have been a reader for a while, but I don't think you have explicitly commented on this:
I know you like jacket lapel widths to be 3 1/8" or greater, but what is too wide (for 2017)? I recently purchased a great Lab. Pal Zileri jacket from YOOX and the lapels are pushing 3.5" inches. I wear a size 40 jacket, so the lapels end about half way between my collar and my shoulder. —Ben
A: As you suggest, our ideal lapel width is 3⅛ inches. If a jacket has lapels that are thinner than that, we're unforgiving: It must be released back to the wild. But if lapels come in a little wider than our ideal, we're more accommodating. The reason? Tom Ford expressed the principle that guides our thinking:
"There is something a bit meager and uptight about a skinny tie and jacket...I think that accentuating the natural V of a man's body makes men look more masculine, less boyish, and in general more powerful."
So exactly how much wider should you consider going?
That depends on how long you'd like to keep wearing the jacket in question. For us, 3⅛" is the golden mean that looks great in perpetuity. As our chart below shows, any deviation from that value, however small, decreases a garment's potential lifespan and puts its wearer at increased risk of future embarrassment and even shame.
At 3.5 inches, your jacket will continue to look good at least through 2025, and should not look violently out of fashion for far longer — provided, of course, Trump aide Stephen Miller does not stage a coup.
Q: I bought some trousers a few years ago when I was just starting to dress myself like a grown-up. They're wearing out now, and I was wondering what brands you recommend for wool slacks in the $150–$200/pair range. It seems like all I can find while I'm searching are recommendations for budget brands for poor college newly-grads. — Bryson
A: Bryson, we suspect J. Crew is in the process of sending you a catalog a week for the next 20 years, because you sound like exactly the sort of customer they hope to corral. And truth be told, while we have railed against the Ludlowization of the Millennial suit market, we really have no objection to below-the-waist Ludlowization. The pants are fine once you eliminate the crease and there are a number of iterations in your price range.
A: We could answer this very quickly, but this is important, so indulge us for a bit.
David Naman makes some of the highest style/price-ratio clothes in the world. But your assessment — "a little too thin" — is right on the nose. They are what we call "Keira Knightly thin." Which is to say, not alarmingly emaciated supermodel thin, but still a little narrow for our taste. We are longtime advocates of ties that are at least 3" wide, and lapels that echo them. For us, any blazer with a lapel narrower than 3" is catch-and-release.
More importantly, if you ever have a second thought about a sartorial purchase, follow a key MB principle and always return it, no matter what the price or savings. Keeping an item you're not thrilled with leads to regret, and regret — sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but always inevitably — leads to a search for a red clothing dumpster that is not so overflowing with Dockers and Crocs that it can accommodate your cast-offs too. We cannot stress this enough: You can ultimately learn to adapt to the quirks, anomalies, and even deficiencies in other human beings, but your clothes and your shoes must be perfect. No compromises. When you compromise, you're stealing from yourself.
So are you going to return that blazer? Of course you are.
Made in the same factory in the Marche region of Italy as MB favorite Hydrogen 1, they share the same minimalist style, high-quality construction, and comfort. Originally $183. Available in sizes 8-13. Fits true to size. Highly recommended.
On September 9, at 45° N, the wearing window for an unlined madras blazer is barely open wide enough for a mosquito to pass through. But if you are in lower latitudes, the southern hemisphere, or just want to prep for spring 2016, we recommend this Henry Cotton's slim fit version.
Because it is madras, yes, it is partially linen. But cotton retains a controlling 55% stake. Functional buttonholes. Proper ball-sack length. Perfectly proportioned lapels. Originally $309, marked down to $67, and with the 20% discount code FRIENDS this statement piece is just 53 bucks. (Order up a size, and if you're on the fence, two. Discount code valid through 9/13.)
We'd suggest giving one of thesetwo Hardy Aimes blue blazers a try. They're the requisite wool and slim-fit, have lapels with a BMI in the normal range, and being from Savile Row, fulfill our Principle of Anglophilia. And the best part? Until 11:59 EDT April 6 they're each about 80 bucks.
At Yoox, you will find loads of stylish, Italian-made suits for as cheap as a couple hundred bucks. And here's the best part: the site's vast selection and 100-country reach means that your guy will be the only man within his zip code — or maybe even his time zone — wearing whatever suit you choose.
This is in stark contrast to what we perceive as the Ludlowization of the young, upwardly mobile professional suit market — named after J.Crew's increasingly ubiquitous invasive species. The popularity of the Ludlow eludes us. Why spend $700 on a made-in-China suit with prop buttons and anemic lapels when you can buy Prada, Piombo, or Martin Margiela for less? Pick up one of these, and you'll have more than enough left over to add a tie from our store to your shopping list.
Q: Look, we agree on a lot, and disagree on a few things. But one post a week? Stop slacking. You're making us other MBs feel alone in a world of huge watches, True Religion and Robert Graham. It's fuckin' scary and it's nice to hear another voice of sanity out there. —Chris
A: We spent all last week breaking down game film, and since the fiasco on Sunday we're slowly emerging from a prescription drug and MB cocktail-induced shopping binge that triggered cardmember security calls from U.S. Bank, Chase, Citigroup, and even our local credit union.
The primary object of our expensive coping mechanism was the incredibly good deals at The Corner (aka the high-end YOOX), which we highly recommend you check out before everything is gone. Our bounty:
Q: Now that we're in sweater weather, what are the rules for wearing a sweater with a suit or sportcoat? —Dave
A: We only have one rule when it comes to sweaters under blazers: don't look like Gene Siskel or Roger Ebert (top).
Instead, go for something fine-gauge in crewneck as demonstrated by Robert Redford, or our personal preference, the turtleneck as shown by Steve McQueen most famously in Bullitt (bottom).
While we're pretty sure McQueen could handle wool against his skin, we suggest opting for cashmere. If you have the bread, Malo is the obvious, best choice. If you don't, take a look at 8, available at YOOX. We've obsess over cashmere sweaters and have discovered 8 is the best value going, and this version is on sale for just $135. Fits slightly small.
Q: Do you know of any retailers (online or otherwise) that stock the TST sneaker collection? Apart from YOOX (which only offers selected items of previous collections) and tstshoes.com (which seems to be a Spanish-based site not directly affiliated with the company) I have a hard time finding any retailer that sells those shoes.
It's nice that you recommend them but I can't seem to find them anywhere (except for small sale stock)
Editor's note: This is one of many emails regarding finding TST shoes. Good luck.
A: Jeff, finding TST shoes can be as hard as finding a stripper with real breasts, which is definitely part of the appeal that goes beyond their artfully disheveled styling. We used to see them at Fred Segal in Santa Monica, but frankly YOOX has been our supplier of late. No, they're not going to be the latest versions but YOOX has lots of options at discounted prices.
If you're looking for the 2011 F/W collection — which is terrific, BTW — we've discovered that part of it is going to be available later this week at LA retailer Qio which specializes in clothing, footwear, and accessories from Japan. They've ordered the 2039F (top), the 813L (middle), and the 3039L (bottom). They won't be available on the Qio web site so email or call Masako at 310-979-3555 to get into a pair. (They run small so add a size.)
Late last summer we crowned TST our all-time favorite sneakers, and the intervening 9 months have done nothing to curb our enthusiasm for these hand-sketched, hand-finished shoes by designer Seishi Tanaka (pictured). We now own two pairs of the sneakers, two pairs of the boots, and are putting our Chucks on injured reserve.
These are the best Japanese export since the Walkman.
We just got a great big shipment from YOOX and love love love this Love Moschino corduroy blazer. Slim fit, short length, longer-than-normal sleeves, two buttons, and wide lapels -- you can see which direction the Italians are headed with lapel width -- this is one of our favorite purchases of 2010. It's on sale for $195 (normally $315) and has one internal pocket just wide enough to hold an 8 oz. flask. It even comes in blaze orange for those warmer deer hunting days. (Currently free shipping at YOOX, so try it out on their dime.)
We agree, anytime you can get a Trussardi 1911 bag for $255, then get it. Meanwhile, we picked up a Number Five (very underrated/unknown Italian brand) blazer for $69 and a Jil Sander jacket for $145. NB: Buy wisely; there are no returns.
A: Alain, what we have here is the apparel equivalent of the Leno/O'Brien late night war. A blazer is designed to be outerwear. A hoodie is designed to be outerwear. But if they're both owned by the same torso, they can't each be outerwear at the same time. In this case, we say fire them both.
2.) Sneakers that you plan to wear with shorts are one item where we give more leeway than we usually do to bright colors, patterns, and logos. Don't go crazy though. If Turtle from Entourage would wear it, you've probably gone too far.
3.) Sticking with white or gray is your best bet for picking a shoe that can work with a wide variety of shorts. (Important note: If you're a size 12 or over, do not go with an all-white shoe unless you're trying to pick up work as a clown at children's birthday parties.)
4.) If you're dying to incorporate red velour into your wardrobe, a pair of sneakers is the only place to do it.
The T56s offer timeless style. Our great-great-great-great-great-grandkids will be wearing these in 2210. In 2010, they're the shoes we reach for when we know the evening's going to involve some furious table tennis action.
"Leave your socks at home," the Superga website enthuses, because the interior of the 2750 feature finished inseams. We like that touch but we're not going to go that far. For all summer sneaker-wearing we recommend the Banana Republic no-show socks.
Williot is a Spanish brand that made its debut in the U.S. market last summer. If you want to look sporty but not athletic -- i.e., you aren't planning to do anything more strenuous than mixing cocktails by the pool -- these are a great choice.
Why are we recommending these Chuck clones and not the real thing? Thanks to the hidden Air Nike technology hidden in the heel, they're one of the few Chuck-style shoes that you can play basketball in and not sentence your feet to a lifetime of Bill Walton-like pain. When your day involves anything more strenuous than a J. Crew photo shoot, wear these.
Designer Seishi Tanaka hand-draws the sketches for the TST line and it shows. This model leans toward the more athletic end of the athleisure shoe spectrum -- we think we could actually play some touch football in it -- but it has an organic quality not found in the hyper-engineered footwear of, say, Nike or Reebok.
If you want to add a Gallic touch to your Fourth of July barbecue, try these sneakers from Jean Paul Gaultier's shoe line, Pataugas. (You can pick up last year's slightly different model at yoox.com for only $89.)
The fall-winter sale at YOOX has started. We don't know of any other place on the internet where there are 12,000 items from the world's best designers, on sale at up to 70% off. (If you do, let us know.)
Q: Hi, really love the site and the advice. Unfortunately lots of things you advise or link to is for US only (e.g. J.Crew). Can you advise a good shopping website for a MB living in Europe? --Francesco
A: Francisco, thanks for placing your trust in us -- we are always happy to do our part to promote U.S. cultural imperialism, even if it's by way of clothes designed by Frenchmen and manufactured by the Chinese. Yoox.com ships anywhere.
I know you guys are fans of Yoox. I just thought you'd like to know they are having a great sale rignt now, and I was able to find a coupon (green@yoox) for an extra 5% off. Got these Prada loafers for $185! Thanks for making me aware of the site. --Matthew
You're welcome. That sale is pretty damn good (though everything is final sale). All hail the recession!
Q: My boyfriend is convinced that there is nothing wrong with wearing black leather shoes, a black belt, and a navy suit at the same time. I don't care how stodgy and corporate your job is...this is just unacceptable. Please, help me nip this in its mis-matched bud before its too late. —gabrielle
A: Hmmmm. Your boyfriend is actually doing it by the book, Gabrielle. You could eliminate the need for a belt by buying pants with a tabbed, hook-and-bar closure, but the black shoes with navy suit is about as "right" as it gets.
Our guess is your frustration lies in the style of your dude's dress-up duds, not the color. Rockports and double pleats can make any guy look like total ass. If he was wearing this navy Helmut Lang suit and these black Costume National shoes, we reckon you wouldn't be asking any questions of the MB; you'd be dating one.
Pour 2 fingers into an empty tumbler, 3 if you're not alone.