Bonobos F/W Suit Collection ’14

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Mr. Jason Bornstein, the online media manager at Bonobos contacted me last week to see if I’d be willing to spread the word on their newest suit and sportcoat collection for the upcoming Fall and Winter 2014 season, set to debut in the coming week. Typically I am hesitant about these kinds of marketing blitz requests, as I had explained in my last editorial posting. I try my hardest to maintain the blog in a rigid format that operates under my single discerning intuition, as compared to a multi-platform with industry news and campaigns from a third party interest. This isn’t to snub companies or anything like that mind you. Having this direction simply allows me to bring forward to you topics that I alone find pertinent for your eyes. If I were to post something about a specific company, then that particular subject is from my own de novo discovery, which I think is best in keeping the blog’s moral compass true north so that I may deliver to you the raw information and critique straight from unbiased critical perception. CollegeTrad is an extension of me and no one else. However, I’ve gotten more and more requests from larger companies like Bonobos and up-and-coming fledgling startups alike, who all want to crowdsource our audience for maximum exposure. No harm in that. Business as usual. But if I were to respond by posting the company’s offering for your consideration, then I at least try to add in my own attached line of analysis, so that you can take away a new skill or tradly understanding, on top of learning about an exciting new product launch and such. This is how I responded to a query request for Vintage Campus USA, where I used the chance to make a callback to TNSIL with a refreshingly appeal to retro-vibe school spirit apparel that Vintage Campus happened to produce. I try to keep an open mind when a professional contact reaches out to me, to see if what is being offered has some distinguishing claim that brings a unique take or alternative to our table. Or at the very least, use it as an excuse to exercise a practicum into our crazy world of Trad&Prep groupthink…

[Left Wing of the Menswear Museum. Hall: Neoprep. Exhibit B(1a) reads: Bonobos, Pan paniscus, circa Personalized Style era of late 2000s to current.]

[You are now reading this in Steve Erwin's voice. The tourguide begins to speak.]

Before I introduce to you the latest Bonobos F/W offering, I’d like to present commentary on the company itself and it’s place in our huge cabinet of Trad&Prep flavors. Where does Bonobos stand against, say, granddaddy Brooks? How should it be compared as a viable candidate against other popular and direct competitors, like JCrew? But before we dive into this impending dark jungle, I will preface with a full disclaimer now: I am not being compensated (monetary or otherwise) by Bonobos for writing this article. I do no represent the company in any manner. I include candid and constructive conversation in the utmost directive of holding the blog’s integrity against any form of filtering, in benefit to you my reader.

Now that the small print is glossed over, back to our tropical safari. I’ll start the tour by focusing on a cardinal prompt for our given narrative. How do neoprep brands like Bonobos standup in my “CollegeTrad Approved” hierarchy of fashion brands? You’re now naturally asking why this is important to address, with my answer being: There are hundreds of companies that all promise to offer the same things. Quality. Good fitting. Cool design. And if you’ve taken an introductory marketing or economics class, you will remember that a highly competitive industry like the menswear segment is extremely fragmented, where brand loyalty and customer perception can make or break a company’s stature. And for clothing geeks like me, this kind of intangible output that each brand creates for itself goes far in shaping my personal shopping habits. I will respect or disrespect a brand by the smallest of partiality. We have already identified the faces of our metaphorical Mt. Rushmore before, with handpicked outfitters that I have likened to the top of their respective games and are often referenced by me in prominence to our preppy interests. These are the usual suspects, such as Brooks Brothers, J Press, Patagonia, and Alden; with each having high-priced stock that is traded with a currency valued by our worthy trust, as shaped by a summation of praising groupthink. Items from these brands are your staples, and you can live the rest of your life with this handful if need be. But let’s be realists too. We are not going to have a closet full of just Brooks shirts, just JPress pants, just Barbour outerwear. We are also not 63 years old and the CEO of a Fortune 500 firm either, where it would make sense if that were the case to have a magazine full of beautiful – and expensive – Alden dress shoes for all of life’s pleasant pursuits. Us young gentlemen don’t always want to dress in the strictest school of tradly thought all the time, even if we could afford it. That CEO spends his afternoons at the Princeton Club smoking cigars with fellow titans of industry. You, on the other hand, are out at the club in East Village, buying a $15 bottleneck and trying to talk to a tall blond third year NYU med student as the DJ loudly plays his remix. And so, we expand our horizons to see what else is out there, and navigating successfully through all of the bees that vie for our honey is why I argue for a requisite ability to be a Renaissance Man as a new adult in the real world, who can switch his mask from the predetermined TNSIL fortification that Brooks and Press finely represent, to that of a forward moving young professional that can manipulate multiple brands and styles to create an always-evolving outward appearance for himself. You’ve been watching Mad Men, yes? If twilight Sterling Cooper was Press and noon Don Draper was Brooks, then morning dew Pete Campbell is Bonobos.

Bonobos has been a strong proposition from the very beginning of its adolescence of only seven years. That is a huge accomplishment in my eyes, since it is true that out of all of the neoprep lifestyle houses out there, it is just a select group of namely JCrew, Lands End, and Bonobos that I have referred as constant recommendations to you. Because unlike the nasty boring mainstream brands like Express, Gap, and Nautica at your local suburban shopping mall, those coveted few earlier mentioned are the kinds of mid-tier, budget friendly companies that I always resort to directing our 28 year old freshly graduated Standford MBA to splurge his last remnants of loan money at, before he heads off to his first year in the corporate world as a Bain&Co Consultant. I’ve always said that you will never go wrong with sticking with what you know, and it applies once again here. Levis 501STF for a no-hassles casual pair of denim. LLBean for Duck Boots and Norwegian Sweaters. JPress for the quintessential blue blazer. And now with the latest crop of neoprep brands that have entered our lexicon in the past two decades, Bonobos has carved out itself as a niche leader for us proprietors, as a go-to supplier of workwear for the newly appointed white collar salary man.

Going even deeper into the thick brush, let me expand on Bonobos’ rightful praise from us by going further into the company’s two other notable threads that have just as equally gained our faith. Both are huge mountains that have cornered the market long before Bonobos started its elevation ascent. There is Lands End, which you have seen me always spoken considerably well of throughout the blog. I liken this proven outfitter as a cheaper version of Granddaddy Brooks; a placeholder for when our aspiring executive for two or three years before he becomes a Manager and can then afford the real good stuff that Brooks is known for, and eventually the best stuff that Oxxford is known for to our newest Partner in an additional five years. But for the mean time in the now and ready, Lands End Hyde Park OCBDs are pretty damn good, and why I consider Lands End as my favorite value-conscious source. How about JCrew? Spoken in the same high regard by my historical penmanship, where their collection of work-ready Bowery and other such updated clothing lines provide a strong reply to our Consultant’s call for a sophisticated yet affordable career wardrobe, almost just as much as his Americana cravings for heritage brand collaborations, with gifts of JCrew x Red Wing Ranger Boots and Wallace & Barnes flannel shirts; the couple happy in marriage for chopping wood on his warrior weekends at the lakehouse.

Or maybe this budding Consultant wants a slightly debonair option for his traveling suitcase? Lands End and JCrew started out more reserved in the early days, more akin to where mommyjeans LLBean is today than striving for a sexier approach spiritually closer to applebottoms Ralph Lauren Purple Label. Lands End even now is slightly too traditional in that following-in-Granddaddy-Brooks kind of way, and JCrew has gone overboard in its fashionably forward inkling to urbanprep, which is a starched contrast to its WASPy, off-to-the-Vineyaarwwd former self just a decade ago. Surely there is an option out there that splits the two? For this All-American young executive wants all pieces of the pie, combining flamboyent preppiness that looks great in the concrete forest as it does at the yacht club. An outfitter that can successfully combine jazzy colors into sleek patterns that aren’t as offensive for the office as Vineyard Vines are. A brand that puts forth a mature statement that doesn’t also take itself too seriously, befitting of a 28 year old corporate climber that exudes calm confidence, moreso than arrogance typically attributed to a typecasted WASP inbreed. It’s okay to be perceived as a yuppie. Not okay to be summarized as a douche. And what if you aggressively target the same demographic you are in, with a streamlined operation that employs millennial-friendly tactics that undermine your brick&mortar competitors? This is what Bonobos started out with, as a “direct to consumer” sales model that relied on eCommerce and hip media hype to sell products. Only now with its stronghold in the online market has Bonobos gone back to the traditional storefront concept, with partnership with Nordstrom, and test sampling into southern markets at Belk that had started earlier this year. Bonobos is the brain child of Stanford MBA grads Andy Dunn and Brian Sparly, and I have been using my exemplary illustration throughout this article of a perfect Bonobos customer found in a young consultant executive, all for some fun jovial teasing. Since afterall, it was Mr. Dunn himself, who after a stint at Bain (where Andy consulted with now-competitor Lands End, where LE’s consumer directed techniques served as a spark for an improved delivery system he eventually innovated for Bonobos), teamed up with Mr. Sparly in business school to establish an apparel company that soon grew up to be a full range supplier of tasteful, modern clothing. Pants, shirts, and suits that compliment the active lifestyle of an upwardly mobile young guys, such as Andy and Brian themselves.

Bonobos clothing has updated tailored fitting, but so does JCrew and Lands End and most everyone else. Suit Supply, another up-and-comer that has made a great splash in the kiddie pool in recent years, is the newest adversary, as are the other rising “Made to Measure” direct-to-buyer startups. Therefore, concentrate more on the painted lifestyle that each brand correlates. What makes Bonobos special is its clean cut charisma that the others do not have. Sure, Crew and End both have GTH colors and are grounded in trad principles at their deepest roots, but they’ve become subdued and muted in their own way as they’ve adapted to our present era of Personalized Style, while Bonobos on the other hand continues to flaunt its kelly green slacks in profound blinding fury. I mean…they featured this summer a pair of limited edition patriotic pants. That is something that fratdaddy clothier Chubbies makes a living off of. But with GoneToHell designs like that, can you picture Lands End or JCrew doing the same? Nope. Yet Bonobos can sell us an outlandish preppy couture one moment, then a sublime business silhouette the next without a skipping a beat. They kind of remind me of an American version of United Colors of Bennington, just more East Coast blue blooded than Neapolitan wine fed.

source Bonobos 2014 summerIf that is the kind of neoprep fortitude that you resonate the most with, then you are the ideal Bonobos candidate. Able to give a strongly gripped handshake to clients Monday thru Friday, then able to hang up his cape and opt for a soft blanket as he kicks back Saturday to Sunday watching marathons of It’s Always Sunny on Netflix. He isn’t afraid to wear his three piece power suits with speckled hints of warmth and flash, to distinguish himself from the other predators in their prairie of dark suits and french cuffed banker stripes that too live in his jungle of towering steel beamed trees.

Ay Cranky! There he is walking in the late summer afternoon in a playful gingham and sapphire blue chinos. Perhaps he is going to the waterhole? Ahh yes, he is, to the cocktail lounge to find a mate. Notice how his skin of exquisite garments fits his healthy, athletic frame like a glove – allowing him to attract his mate more readily. What a nice specimen, this Bonobo he is!”

The takeaway point from this article is not necessarily based on how cool Bonobos is, but based on an extrapolation that can be made with the above critical thinking. Proving evermore that you can groom a skilled eye that picks out the subliminal details and background that surround each and every outfit you put on, and how these variables should react in harmony to the overall outward appearance you are going for in that specific instance. You have countless brands to utilize that all enrich your creativity in the sartorial arts, as long as you know what they each stand for and what duties they can each fulfill. Bonobos is the yuppy toy poodle of the neoprep canine litter, so you should wear their trim cuts and manicured patterns in similiar spirit. A hot date with the NYU medical student you finally were able to get a phone number from. Casual Fridays at a law office, or every day at a software developer. You can adorn one of their fashionably forward two-buttoned sportcoats to the corporate lunch meeting at 12:30pm, then hop a cab to midtown at 6pm to grab an afterhours tonic with your tall blond future oncologist wife. I wouldn’t suggest the same for a boxy, 3/2 roll sack blazer from JPress. That would be for dinner at the steakhouse when you first meet your soon to be in-laws.

Thanks for hanging on with me. Now that I have set the stage, here are the key actors for you to direct. The below is the mini press junket exclusive to publishers that Mr. Bornstein of Bonobos had sent to me.

“Suit up for Fall! We’ve made our signature Italian wool Foundation suit even better this fall with brand new fabrics and updated interior details, including a more ergonomic interior pocket so grabbing that business card is as smooth as your first impression. A finely-tailored wool suit is warm on its own, but you can always add a topcoat into the mix. Our suits come in Standard and Slim fits, and Short, Regular and Tall sizes, so you can find the perfect fit for you.”

 

The Lookbook

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Black shawl tuxedo.

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Midnight Blue peak lapel tuxedo.

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My critique:

The Pros are plentiful. Italian and English wools. Beautiful patterns. Minimal construction, slim lapels, trim tapering and lengths – all that a fashionably forward aesthetic demands. Standard chest sizes with Regular and Long options. Bonobos suits are very nice no doubt, but what I really like from their collection are their tailored tuxedos. I’d recommend them for fun dinner parties with your group of friends, especially around the winter holidays. A stylish way to ring in the New Year. I love the novelty Blackwatch Plaid.

The Cons are subject to personal taste. The jacket length is borderline reasonable for my standards of contemporary occasion, but I’d certainly be self-conscious at an interview or on the job in a conservative field. Needs to be a tad longer (“CYA”…cover you ass) for it to be optimal in all events. Although, I suspect the jackets the models in the promotional and catalog pictures are wearing correlate to a low chest size, maybe a 36 or 38. If you have a broader chest like I do, then the length may be more manageable. Pricepoint is my largest conflict, which you can view on the site for your own scrutiny. Half-canvas I believe. The bleeding purist in me questions the “cost to quality” ratio. Since the product description is inconclusive of final origin of manufacturing, I’ll assume they are imported even if the fabric is from Italy and England (although to be fair this is in the same format that many other companies follow, such as rival JCrew.) And Bonobos does have some select products made domestically, such as their White Oak Mill sourced denim, which is thesame supplier of my favorite jean brand, Raleigh Denim.

All in all, the charming aesthetic that Bonobos has with this season’s collection anchors an elegant portfolio that one expects a resourceful young gentleman to draw from. When combined with the validation of points made in this article, you hopefully have a clearer grasp on the intricate roles that every brand’s inherent personality contributes to our daily wardrobe choices. My one gripe for the above collection is the pricepoint, but this will obviously depend on individual budget allowance.

There is a time for Brooks Brothers. There is a time for Bonobos.

*****

Ay Cranky! There he is walking in the late summer afternoon in a playful gingham and sapphire blue chinos. Perhaps he is going to the waterhole? Ahh yes, he is, to the cocktail lounge to find a mate. Notice how his skin of exquisite garments fits his healthy, athletic frame like a glove – allowing him to attract his mate more readily. What a nice specimen, this Bonobo he is!”

[Tour ends.]

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Tony’s Column: How CT is setup

Since I seem to have more and more to say these days, I’ve decided to add yet another ongoing subset to CollegeTrad’s growing list of editorial features, housed here in the Editorial section. These columns are purely introspective and/or meta-layered in prose, and are not finite in followups as I think of more to say in the future. This column touches on the deeper [read: psychopathic] thoughts that have surfaced from a bottomless pit of tradly intrigue. I am not really writing about a particular topic on clothing per say with these editions. Instead, think of them as mapping out my lines of reasoning behind my own personal clothing choices; all in the effort of developing your practice of our style’s art in commitment to growing your individual sartorial journey.

Or, think of them as random verbose. It was late at night into early morning as I recorded the following thoughts below as my first entry. I was dreary but a sudden burst of inspiration prevented me to sleep. The majority of you should just disregard now and wait until I come back with new outfit porn pics or something.

Okay. Be bored, I don’t care.

It is cool to think that I have somehow grown some notoriety on Google. I guess if you search certain keywords, my porn pics and articles show up? You probably weren’t expecting to see a picture of me posing with my pea coat when you typed double breasted into the search bar on that one fateful, joyless afternoon delight (but hey, if you are still here then I’ll gladly take that trackback!) Of late, I have noticed that the number of inquiries and comments from actual industry contacts commented on the site or privately sent to me have steadily grown. That is pretty awesome. It was never a goal of mine to interact with actual key players in the field since I am only just an outside observer looking in, but I look forward to grooming this new found application by reinforcing CollegeTrad’s open door policy. I will graciously entertain any media or brand inquiry that wants to seek my consultation, with the disclaimer that I am bounded by integrity for unbiased appeal in servitude to my readership. Tony can be reached at via CollegeTrad@Gmail.com

One recent example of query sparked the very subject of this author’s note you are reading now. I had replied the same message I communicate to you, my crazy-for-reading-CT-why-are-you-even-wasting-time-here?! faithful audience; that I appreciated the interest but normally don’t like doing “favors” (as colloquial in humbleness as I can make that) for representation or such on on behalf of a specified brand to the blog’s readers. This is all to upkeep my moral judgement, if you will, so that I may say what I wish without filtered or compromised freedoms. This may result in what could be perceived as harsh critique at times, but that only reinforces the need of dual protection of both sides, as well as my relative anonymity. This is foremost an opinion blog after all, and I realize that some of my thoughts and diction can be misinterpreted as malicious. Indeed, that is not my objective I assure you, and any crude humor is for the context of a youthful male audience (and to keep myself from falling asleep at the keyboard.) Even negative sentiments are meant to be tactful in “tough love” delivery. Still, I’ve actually regretted some passages I have wrote in the past, and know that my so-called advanced style expertise is really only backed by hubris resulting from four years and counting of publishing my own blog. Clothes are just clothes at the end of the day, as should be reminded to us all. The only reason I take it so seriously on this site is for sarcastic guise, with a dichotomy between extraordinarily meticulous detailing on the backdrop of a not-so-serious subject manner. I embrace my over rationalization by poking fun at myself whenever I can, with self-deprecating jokes or related links.

But back to what I was saying. I do try to compromise on my stake however, in responding to a corporate request by taking a look at what is presented to me in a fair review. If I like what I see, and/or it seems like a new topic that has yet to be spread all over your girlfriend’s Pinterest, and I find it pertinent to the interest of my audience then it will be relayed to you with addendum notations of my take. Always with a disclaimer, and if any commission was transacted (which so far has not occurred for any past showcase articles). Otherwise, any brand or specific clothing items I advertise to you are from my, and my alone, approval. This makes up as much as Blue Sky purity on the blog (for you non-Heisenbergs, I just mean much of what you read from my writings…get on my Netflix level yo). And as I may as well keep going with the openness, some links that redirect you to merchandising are from affiliated marketing, of which I receive a tiny percentage from completed sales in order to receive something for the time I spend penning the blog or via personal correspondence. This is disclosed in About Me. Although, what I make from third party affiliation and clickable advertising banners is next to nothing in taking into account my website’s billable hours, trust me.

This may have lead to further observations of how I setup CollegeTrad. For example, unlike other blogs, I rarely post seasonal updates from the industry (even in this editorial section that is meant for this kind of miscellaneous threads). It is a directional stance that I decided on over time. You may recall my early Public Service Announcements during the blog’s pilot season, when at the time I tried to include current retail promotions and other real-time insider information in hopes of starting a multifaceted, one-stop well of preppy and tradly topics. Since then, I have adapted to a more linear purpose, with the corollary being that you the reader have far better resources out there on the web other than from some dude named Tony. If you really wanted the latest updates and hints on upcoming retail sales, then you go to the more popular sites. Dappered is great for this, as is PutThisOn. Additionally there is ACL and Ivy Style. Or StyleForum and the dozens of other clothing community forums, and the hundreds of clickable redirects scattered on our sidebars in the mens fashion blogosphere, if not market print in Big Daddies GQ and Details. They all have the benefit of a dedicated writing staff, or open sourced and equally-as-passionate hobbyists and member contributors. I also can’t give you exclusives such as on-site photoessays that the bigger bloggers such as ACL can do, so I have to retort to what I know and what I can do in my limited confines. Simply put, it is an information and time management problem. I don’t make a living off this blog (*laugh at yourself if you thought I did….or just laugh at me*), hence yours truly can’t keep up with the constant high flux of the newest boutique showcases and Friends+Family special discounts. So…I don’t. Making my life easier and allowing me to dedicate all of my time allowance and administration to jotting down articles or answering your questions. I retracted my ambitious proceedings of a conglomerate preppy feeder in order to concentrate on my initial intents for CollegeTrad: A source for education of preppy and trad style geared to young individuals, regardless of where he is on his own individual sartorial journey. This instruction is from my personal interpretation of the genre as an [extremely] opinionated menswear blogger. By not devoting webpage space to the frivolous, I hone your valued attention to the bread n’ butter of what I really want to say, which is why another one of my missions is to provide content that is satisfying in ample quality- undivided by a barrage of monotonous PSA’s- to make up for irregular lag periods in between. I have a busy life in the real world and enjoy CT as my passion project, but can only be on intermittently, and even less so for outfit lookbook posts (to the chagrin of some of you lol). I also don’t like the idea of being of those guys with in-you-face content on my social media ring either, other than using FaceSpace mainly for article subscription to those who are insane enough to “like” my site, and InstaPound for the occasional look at what I just bought! shots. I repin the pictures I upload here on Needlterest to make it easier for you to save them for creative use. But you don’t see me being a TwitterTwat or constantly updating for a reason. This blog should be your prime destination because my words in these chapters are just as important and should accompany those aforementioned outfit pictures.

I designed the site, however arbitrary or haphazard as it seems, in a strategic layout that speaks to how I try to keep my blog grounded and unique.

  • The Guide gives you the bare elements of a starter wardrobe. I assume that you have already completed those purchases as we move forward to my other, advanced suggestions. You will find that you will be using these staple items the most out of any others, and theoretically you can live a good (and definitely wealthier than me) life with these minimalist items.
  • I try to post my own outfit pictures (that I affectionately call My Porn Stash) and not someone else’s, or even worse, from a generic online catalog. This is to show you that I follow what I preach in daily life as your living model, since I obviously own the things I wear in those pics. You shouldn’t copy my lookbook verbatim, but instead see what you like and incorporate it onto your own wardrobe.
  • The Campus Pervert material serves to show you authentic meccas of Trad&Prep. This blog is directed to a general target readership of late teens to early 30s, so I highlight collegiate trends on real campuses. These are what your peers are wearing now. You won’t see many other fashion blogs talk about TFM, and this helps to identify CollegeTrad’s niche within the menswear blogosphere. Frattydaddy clothing is NOT necessarily “good fashion” as dictated by classical trad or fashion forward standards, and some of the outfits you see in those Campus Pervert pics are not even exemplary, but I talk of these styles based on the validity of campus groupthink and not on the conscious of high tier luxury couture. Fratty style is really a beast of its own, and it has a place on the preppy gauge whether we like it or not, and thus I write about its ideal practice in the same way I teach about traditional apparel, and why certain things are they way they are for the fratter than thou. But you should transition to a more sophisticated, mature sense of direction as you grow into your young professional lifestyle post-undergrad.
  • Porn Stores are places and brands that are not on the radar screen of what I consider “mainstream prep”, and thus are prized novelty labels or anchors of the regional prep mecca scene. I also highlight mom&pops that are locally known. This is to add a homegrown touch to the blog.
  • The Ask Me sections and my email contact is for questions or comments that haven’t been addressed in my writings, or otherwise you need my opinion on. I love hearing from yall so don’t be afraid to reach out to me!
  • Editorial editions such as this new Tony’s Column and Trad Mannerisms are other features of how I try to make this blog special. I don’t simply show you a list of “10 things to buy” that relies on the assumption that you can put those ten things together and look good. That is just unimaginative and repetitive, since the vast many of other blogs and tumblrs out there basically regurgitate groupthink. They don’t teach you the nuances of Trad&Prep, of which there are many, and which distinguish those who are in the know. I give you the WHY & HOW of authentic preppy style.
  • I reference “Rule #10” from my Ten Style Commandments that I speak of from The Guide. If one half of my blog is to teach you the WHY&HOW in order for you to dress smartly for yourself, then the other half is to show that our style does not have to be expensive. Quite the opposite actually. Trad&Prep champions the thrifty. Many of you are on college budgets, so I see clothing as investments that you can purchase cheaply and yet survive off of its longevity.

Therefore, if you are here to read for the umpteenth time about how “a pair of Allen Edmonds Park Avenues should be your only black dress shoe”, or that a “tailor can make a cheap suit look like a million bucks”, or you should “shop at Brooks Brothers for a classy style” and that is just that- then this is not your blog. If you want a running scroll of hourly updated PSA’s and other ultimately forgettable bits of info that brush on Trad&Prep but still leaves you not really knowing how to dress tradly and preppy in true manner- then this is not your blog. How I setup the blog distills into the main objective of teaching you how to think for yourself in your independent clothing style. The kind of stuff that can’t be taught by unscripted photos of people walking on New York City streets, groupthink reposts you’ve seen in nine out of ten blogs, or distracting promotions. I am here to serve as your encyclopedia of Trad&Prep for readily reference, in accordance to a hybrid of classic and modern schools, for both the young man and the upwardly mobile professional. All of the outfit pics, Ask Me replies, articles, and more should paint you a picture of my thought process. This is the core that I think many other menswear sites lack, and that I want to fulfill.

If I lecture to you right, then you will not need any one lowly website (even this one) and eventually my dedicated corresponded from Ask Me as your single fishing hole for preppy game. As the common proverb goes…I teach you how to fish. And what to fish. And what not to eat. You know what I am saying. The rest of the blogsphere breathes wind into your sails on everything else, so eventually you will have multiple casting rods by the time you reach GodModePrep glory.

CT is your compass. All the other guys make up your fleet in tradly pursuit.

Forrest Gump

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Trad Mannerisms: To Cuff or Not to Cuff?

Duke Of Windsor“Men are from Moors, women are from Paris.”

We owe an awesome deal of our heritage to those fogey old farts across the puddle. Afterall, the United Kingdom damn near wrote the entire textbook that we have been studiously absorbing our tradly and preppy lessons from, right here in the confines of Haberdashery Hall Rm 103, as a Michael Caine lookalike adorning horn-rimmed glasses and academic robe professes to our class the theory of “Advanced Techniques in Windsor Tie Knotting”. England’s lasting effects are really too much for me to individually list, but the following is a rough sampling to help illuminate their vast far reaches into American East Coast Traditional Style.

Well, for starters we pay ode to their military. Their soldiers gave us chino pants, the chukka boot (ie desert boots), the trench coat, and the NATO strap. English high society and university passed on the spirit that will eventually embody TNSIL / The Ivy League Look, through adaption of deep rooted traditions imbedded in the corridors of Oxford and Cambridge that were then relayed unto Harvard and Yale, by way of proud personal affiliation shown through emblem, badge, repp tie, and other official colors of regalia and motif. Anglo Country Gentlemen gave us their tartans, tattersalls, and waxed outdoor coats. Londoners gave us their wingtips, brogues, and chelseas. There is the spread collar. Argyles. Fair Isle. Spread collars. Dainite soles. British Racing Green Range Rovers. G9 Harringtons. Paisley, seersucker, and madras from the days of the Colonial Empire. A glass of scotch beside a cozy fire and accompanying aroma of cigar smoke seeped well into cracked leather chairs. Bond. James Bond. Pennyworth. Alfred Pennyworth.

But as the history of menswear proves, one good ol’ chap in particular has been incredibly influential in our way of life. He is the patriarch – the original Kennedy, McQueen, and Dean. That is, the Prince of Wales, who later ascended to King Edward the VIII only to abdicate, and eventually be known as Duke of Windsor. He isn’t the greatest ruler of the British Empire, and in fact was one of the shortest with a reign of only less than a year (you may recognize the name, as he was portrayed by Guy Pierce, opposite Colin Firth in the movie The King’s Speech.) But without The Great Architect of Trad, we would not have much of what we take for granted today. If Prep traces back to Trad, and Trad traces back to our Anglo-Saxxon brethren; then all of this common lineage can be traced to a single source that confides in the Duke of Windsor. Much like his defiance of the thrown, he went against proper stuffy decorum with the kind of vitality that Uncle Sam could be proud of. He pioneered brown cordovan dress shoes with navy suits, going against the day’s all black standard. He lend his blessed touch on morning coats and innovated now-modern practices like the formality of white waistcoat with black dinner jacket, which gave birth to the tuxedo. And there is obviously the Prince of Wales Check (also known as Glen Plaid) that we see pervasively year after year in elite fashion housing F/W collections of suits and outerwear. Even his popularization of the double-breasted reefer jacket that the Duke used for nautical adventures holds a dear origin story of interest to us, as the reefer jacket (precursor to the Pea Coat) eventually became what we now know as a double-breasted suit jacket; and even more importantly, lead to the classic Blue Blazer we all set prominently for easy access in front of our other suit and sportcoat hangings. The Duke broke through the costume mold of the era with a nouveau approach of blending sporty youthfulness with a gentleman’s casual grace for use in the day to day. The way the Duke of Windsor went about a sensible rendition of honorable, but relaxed demeanor is his single greatest contribution to menswear. It should be no wonder why he passed on the responsibilities of the thrown to his stuttering younger brother in favor of running off with an American socialite into the sunset. He had that intrepid Manifest Destiny attitude that his fellow gentlemates lacked, and his American kinship encouraged. Causing much sensationalism in the tabloids (as if Master Prince Harry today was caught fancying that ghastly Paris Hilton woman, don’t you know), this example of the Duke’s maverick endeavors, in clothing choices and lifestyle alike, seems befitting of his overall demeanor for timeless, practical elegance synonymous with the present and a century ago. He was a style icon emulated by many in his time and in ours, and we remain forever indebted to the Great Architect.

If  “8th Edward” was emulated by all, then he would have found his own style icon in just a few steps up the House of Windsor family tree. His grandfather, King Edward the VII, shares similiar notoriety in our trad timeline. Uncle Ed may not have had as much impact on the Anglo American wardrobe as his grandson, but he did leave us with plenty of distinguished impressions. He never fastened the bottom button of a waistcoat (since his belly fat needed to be released), which began our tradition of keeping the bottom suit jacket or blazer button aloft as well. He also gave us the windsor knot, and the spread collar that was created specifically for the fullness of the windsor. However, there is one golden mannerism that is often overlooked as only a subliminal point of reference, and yet strongly signifies your and my tradly membership.

The Pant Cuff

Minor in decree if we look at the overarching fashion order, and yet a resolute practice for us who are tradlier than thou. Cuffs serve many duties. The first and most obvious is its functionality; as you can imagine, the dreary and wet climate in the UK was of continual annoyance to the gentleblokes born in the Victorian Age. Which is why sometime in the 1890s, the  “7th Edward” came up with the brilliant idea of turning up the hem of his trousers before stomping through the mud. And so, like all historic memoirs of Trad & Prep, this simple act of rolling the bottom hem to avoid the perils of gross cobblestoned streets was born not out of some artificial significance with its only value as an artistic feature, but solely for pure utilitarian function. The King did not want to get his pants dirty. But even so, the Cuff soon became an aesthetic detail copied by the upper crest, who were then copied by the commoners. As it was attributed to the King who first modeled it, the Cuff spread as a sign of high brow sentiment through England and on to our American shores. Tailors and clothing outfitters took notice and started to offer stitching to permanently place the hem’s turn-up (as why the technical term for a pant cuff in tailorspeak is PTU, for “Permanent Turn-Up.”)

The legacy that 7th Edward’s trousers initiated still lives on through current standard of practice. Christian talks of the Cuff’s prominence in preppy circles. The OPH talked about it too, and if you search the AAAC you’ll find many potentially boring discussions about the intricacies of pant cuffs. Who would’ve guessed, huh? For some of you, your eyes have been newly opened to a previously overlooked concept. The Cuff in all of its mundane glory. You aren’t alone. Back in high school I used to think that cuffs were dorky like most everyone else. But this is when I also wore cargo pants too (my enlightenment came shortly after thankfully). Flash forward a few years and I’ve gained a mountain of novel information, including treasures that have eluded mass appeal until the very recent, as even the Cuff somehow becoming cool in these past two or three years as consequence of the blossomed preppy revival.

When To Cuff?

Not all pants are meant to be cuffed for our contemporary aspirations, to the chagrin of extremists who are older than 8th Edward’s skeleton. Don’t mind those guys, they cuff all of their extra relaxed pleated sh*t indiscriminately. No, you must interpret for yourself a sleeker protocol of when to cuff or when to leave the hem alone. My own personal customs are similar to how I arrived at my rules for other related trad mannerisms I’ve talked about before. For example, the type of pants of a given pair will hold the biggest clue on my judgement. I will then consider additionally the color or design, and the body and general purpose of the pants in-question. So like how I prefer the shortest shorts in my closet to be your preppy staple khaki chino shorts, I follow this avenue of reasoning for cuffs too. My strongest preference for cuffed hems are for my chino pants in khaki and other neutral earth tones of browns, greys, and olives.  These are the archetype range of pants that fit the “always cuffed” category. Especially true for the khaki chinos or brown toned variations I spoke of, as a pair of khakis are as classic as you can get. They are the quintessential preppy pants. Bestowed to us by allied squadrons all those years ago, and now live on in squadrons of fraternal orders and superstore middle-managers across the nation. Khakis are referred to as part of “The Uniform” that is makes up the most basic trad platform to build upon. Hence, you can identify a fellow God Mode Prep companion if you see him wearing khaki colored chinos with no-break and with cuffs. This is easy to spot, although still very rare because the majority of guys tend to think cuffs are old fashioned (which makes sense), and these members of the brainless masses are allegedly the same types who think predistressed chinos from Gap are perfectly acceptable as truly preppy. Disgusting. Go back to the hole you crawled out of, and take with you your North Face Denali and Tommy Hilfiger polo, ya lowly peasant! Even some of your closest frat brahs will not be aware of the Cuff either. This particular mannerism is the most subtle of the bunch, in a backdrop of an already-minute scope of behavioral traits that became prized trad lexicon over years of trial that include no-breaks and short inseams. So again, if you see a GMP in your midst, who has mastered the aggregate of our related trad mannerisms going for him, then give him the ultra secret GMP handshake. Always the left hand. And if he has the matching Alden LHS loafers and JPress Pocket OCBD, then don’t forget the whispered code that one shall never speak indelicately of unto others who are not in the know, signifying your preppy approval for thou.

You guys know what I am talking about right?

Cuff your khaki chinos. Check. Next? I like cuffing corduroys, dress trousers, and suit pants as long as they are in your versatile solid patterns and colors. This is because the Cuff has another duty: an unintended but joyous benefit of adding extra weight to the bottom opening. Very useful for your no-breaks, where the cuff’s padded fabric works in partnership to a shorter hem, helping to weigh down your bottom openings as you run across Madison Ave to catch a fleeting unoccupied taxi. Lighter wools and cottons will profit the most from the cuff’s assisted anchoring. Cords are a heavier cotton, so they may not need it as much, and so I’ll break my own rule of wanting to cuff corduroys quite regularly. Only these Brooks Brothers Clark Fit Corduroys in dark olive are cuffed, while most of my chinos are cuffed like the Bills Khakis M3s below.

Always Cuffed: chinos, especially khaki or other neutral solid tones. I buy inseams a couple of inches longer just to accommodate my tailor so there is enough ample fabric for her to cut from. Cuffing is an easy job that should cost under $10 per job.

1Always Cuffed: all of my dress and suit slacks, including this light grey flannel pair from JPress. The Brooks pants in midnavy sharkskin makes up one half of my most fashion forward suit to date, featuring a cosmopolitan custom tapered fit. Even if cuffs are inherently injunction to a traditional pant fit pairing, I still prefer the turned-up hems for slimmer dress trousers. Not limited to just worsted and flannel wools either, as I’d want to cuff my houndstooths, checks, and tweeds. The key is that these patterns are all relatively monotone where a Cuff won’t disappear. 2

What comes next is where it gets more complicated. Novelty pants in GoToHell colors, motifs, and patterns are to be left uncuffed for the most part. This is so that the eye is not overwhelmed by visual complexity; the cuff breaks up the solid empty space of your plain chinos and wool trousers, but you don’t want to add unnecessary distraction to pants that are already loud enough in pattern and/or hue. Less is more. This notion is most apparent for the dark navy Brooks Brothers Milano Fit Cords on the bottom left of the following picture. A cuff diverts the eye away from the snowflake critter motif. Same is true with the Ralph Lauren Blackwatch. The Brooks Clark Fit Seersuckers communicates to a passersby the humidity of summer, so you don’t want cuffs to simulate added weight to freed seersuckers, which can additionally shorten the visual penance from the vertical lines that fully compliments build and height if just left alone. The nanny red Lands End are your typical GTH chinos where likewise you’d want to counter the vibrant red with minimal contour. However, I can see the proposal for cuffs if you are so inclined, as in this case of solid colored chinos having the least rigidity for the cuffed rule. Complicating I know, but you were warned earlier! But what is not in a grey area is all pants labeled for eveningwear. They are strictly uncuffed. No exceptions. Namely for tuxedo pants, as seen by the top left Brooks pair to a one-button peak lapel set (These belong to my older brother who has the discretionary income to pay for such frivolous-but-damnit-all-too-necessary things. I do not currently own a tuxedo of my own…yet, always yet…) Any formal separate, and especially those with a satin stripe on the side, relies heavily on the aforementioned ideal of minimal contour. Tuxedos exude sophistication. You want absent cuffs so people may fair upon you with interrupted visual streamlined complexion. The Style Guy agrees wholeheartedly. I’ve touched on this before too, where I explained in this featured posting that I purported my Ralph Lauren duo of blackwatch variant pants for use of mainly as a festive alternative to tuxedo pants, in instances of holiday dinner parties and galas, and thus adding further reasoning to fastened hems in such formal cases.

Always Uncuffed: novelty and motif pants, eveningwear3

Denim often follows its own set of rules. Jeans also tend to be one of those clothing items that are extremely predisposed to whatever is “of popular fad” at that moment. In the 1970s we had bell-bottoms, acid jeans in the 1980s, in the ’90s those grungy baggy carpenter jeans, and in the early ’00s an overfill of Ashton Kutcher’s sandblasted rags. Thankfully, from what I have seen in recent years, where a combo of Americana and what I like to call “Personalized Style” (which in summary is the championing of finding oneself own sartorial identity for the modern 21st century, where there is a mixing of old, new, and made-on-the-go rules…exactly how I try to keep this blog in proportion to) has made its present mark, we have seen an escalation of denim going from the casual to the dressy. “Raw” denim was once a cipher spoken by the purest of Hypebeast enthusiasts six years ago, while these nowadays it is not unusual to see a horde of men salivate over fresh cuts of raw, unadulterated jeans at your nearest Nordstrom department store. Amazing how a niche obsession that lived in Streetwear culture (normally the embodiment of all that is anti-trad) has carved a robust case as an important variable for a youthful man’s preppy wardrobe as well. And we should take note from our fashionably forward urbananite friends by investing in a pair of our own dark untreated slim raw denim, the kind that becomes a second skin and protects you through thick and thin over the next two decades. Your young buck grandpa rolled up his 501s when his mama bought him a new pair in 1947 (the year model that is highest prized these days and is copied by leading denim house Sugar Cane, among others) when he played baseball with his sixth grade buddies in a nearby empty lot that had since turned into a Starbucks. To break in the jean’s cardboard newness, he slid dirt and weathered summer showers, when by high school it was a trophy of grass stains and blistered knee holes. Gramps’ pair of jeans came unhemmed in those days, so the original style was to turn up the cuff, creating an exaggerated Cuff that was out of necessity to not accidentally trip over himself. Why have dear mother hem these jeans if you’ll just grow up taller anyhow…your dad worked hard for those five dollars he earned at the coal mill. Don’t you know the value of a penny? He can’t buy a new pair each season, Boy!

Badass Nick Wooster doing whatever the f*ck he wants. Showcasing how jeans used to be worn.

STREETFSNAcceptable current practice stemming from Hypebeast groupthink is less accentuated than above, where you may roll the hem twice or three times over in a concise packing. It must be said that this is not in the same reasoning as the chino’s trad mannerism, but more to provide an eying cue of contrast. You get to show off to your fellow hipster friends every detail of your meticulously disheveled outfit, such as your raw denim’s inner stitching, while your cuffs sit unceremoniously on top of your 6″ Red Wing Beckmans as you patiently wait for the next evening concert and sip on a can of PBR at Wonderland Austin. Give your tradly light blue OCBDs a well deserved rest and opt for a Woolrich buffalo flannel in place. Say you are copying a photoshoot you saw in JCrew’s autumn catalog. Or Dean dat motha’ up with a plain white tee, box of Marlboros against your bicep, and some poindexter wayfarer frames.

Cuffing denim would have labeled you a huge nerd back when we had class periods for homeroom and recess, but is perfectly warranted for your one or two pairs of expensive jeans as you’ve grown into a young adult paying tribute to your forefathers. I like to roll “twiceover” with dark raw jean pair, like my Raleigh Denim in Nash Fit seen on the left in the picture a little further down of the page. “Onceover” for my lighter Raleigh Alexander Fit in the middle, positioned beside the rightmost Levis 501STFs (which were my starter pair of nice jeans, and my official CollegeTrad Recommendation for those on a budget.) Oh and one more plug for Raleigh Denim: their jeans profit from cuffing since it adds an additional visual stimulus to Raleigh’s signature white stripe that pays homage to White Oak Cone Mill, where the North Carolina-made denim sources it’s North Carolina-grown cotton. Observed in the wild by those in the know, flagship models carry trademark white internal stitching seen on rolled cuffs, and external white stitching on the 5th key pocket and backloop that hint at the cotton’s namesake source.

The twiceover cuff can be cleanly pressed and have some width to it, like it would for a regular onceover chino cuff, or rolled haphazardly in a finer pencil width. I do both.

source raleighdenim.comOh, and it goes without saying, but DO NOT get your jeans with PTUs. Roll up manually. Never have the cuffs stitched permanently like with chinos and dress slacks. You’ll be a huge nerd fo’ realz if you do. Jeans are my longest inseamed of all of my pants in my wardrobe. Length hemmed or purchased at 32″, and for reference, I have my tradly chino and dress pants cuffed at 29 to 30″ depending on rise. This is so I can have the option of a slight break with twiceover cuffs with my denim as previously explained, or with a full break sans cuffs if felt like it. Afterall, the trend in a few years may go back to bunched up cotton around the ankles (what I deem affectionately as Lil Wayne Status)

Notsrs. Never doing that ever ever never.

Sometimes Cuffed: twiceover with dark raw denim, onceover in pencil width for my lighter denim. *** I’ll leave the choice to cuff your denim up to personal preference. It is the cool vintage flashback thing to do right now, but it does not have to be followed.***5

I break my own rules, remember? Like wearing my Adidas Sambas sneakers instead of hard-soled loafers to a house party. Or *gasp* flip flops to pick up my monthly fill of schizophrenia meds at the pharmacy (makes my precious grimace as I type out these failures of single tracked conscious….wait what did he say?) I keep a pair or two of khaki chinos uncuffed just to have it, as these Lands End tailored fit noniron chinos seen below are. I will leave it to your individual matter of taste once again, but try to obey the no-break trad mannerism, which these LE uncuffed chinos still do. I also keep uncuffed jeans that are primarily reserved for the everyday, like outdoor labor or beer runs, pictured by my 505s, and suggest the same to you. You’re not really going for trad mannered fashion here. Jeans that are straighter in body and are not as slim, yet have cuffs, just seem anachronistic to me. Your Sugar Cane 1947s foot the cuff’s bill. Your Kmart grandpa jeans, in extra comfort fitting with elastic waist, rightfully do not. The mission is to emulate your gramps when he was a strapping wee lil’ lad; not when he was catching the early morning buffet line at Golden Corral at sunrise this morning.

Always Uncuffed: odd pairs, relaxed casual denim4

Other Cuffing Considerations

Ms. Birnbach, editor of the OPH, recommended a pant cuff measuring 1.25 inches in width. Personally, I go up to 1.5 inches on some of my cuffed slacks, while others of tradly groupthink prefer to go up to, or dangerously flirt with 2 inches. Don’t bother to go there. Typically these are AAAC guys who saw the moon landing live ;)

From a strictly aesthetic account, slim denim work in harmony with the no-break, because as mentioned it has the added functional cause of providing an anchor that weighs the shorter hem down to decrease the chance of pants riding up in an undesirable and geeky “high water” look. If you are to cuff though, then make sure your hem is not any lower than a slight-break, or you’ll risk yourself a terrible appearance where a cuff just adds to an eyeful of nastiness that comes with a baggier full-break and subsequent baggy ankles. Your daddy called, he wants his work slacks your borrowed for pay time back, and it’s time for your nap time he says. But on the flip side, do not go shorter than a no-break either, or cuff them super high like your hipster friends or diehard Bruno Mars fans enjoy doing…is it called a negative-break? If you are esteemed to the likeness of Steve Urkel by your peers, and not in an IQ bragging kind of way, then you have gone full retard, pal. Our preppy saddle bucks still have not yet completely shed its ingrained geekiness, much less the audacity that comes out of high waters (I still don’t understand how it got so popular on the pages of GQ and Details. But Mr. Browne undoubtedly shares the blame.)

Do not be this.

urkel source imdbChinos and trousers are often pleated for you Southern Preps, and the cuff again is preferable here for  reflecting a balanced unison. Flat front pants have more leeway and can go either way naturally. So this is where I’ll abide to my [much substantiated] justifications in the essay above for when to cuff or not. Review: Chinos in khaki and other neutral tones? Always. Wool trousers in subdued pattern? Always. Embroidered chinos with turkey critters? Never. Patchwork madras? Never. Houndstooth dress slacks? Always. Your $385 Simon Millers? Sometimes. The rare light tan chinos you keep in the back of your closet for rainy days? Sometimes. Tuxedo pants? Dare you to answer Sometimes and see what happens.

One last consideration. You may have picked up the protip before of always regarding your physical stats in the decision to cuff vs. not. Someone who is shorter and/or stouter may want to avoid cuffing, because it can amplify as opposed to complimenting your proportional lines. Some experts also prefer you to never cuff your fuller cut pants in similiar deduction, with trimmer pants looking best with cuffs. While you should always take these great examples of sartorial self-assessment seriously, I nevertheless still campaign in the name of all things tradly to have at least most of your mainstay khakis and chinos to abide by this “off the cuff” trad mannerism.

As you may have guessed, The Great Architect of Trad is the dashing gentlechap in the title photo. No-break. Cuffed.

 

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