The Engine-Turned Plaque Belt

8Always keeping an eye for the details

One of the most headache-inducing themes that I see from clansmen who are unknowingly part of the Brainless Masses Tribe (a proud native people who make up a sizable population, where common behavior includes cultural propensities for loving guns, eating burgers, and watch adult males in tights and helmets take out human aggression on a “grid iron”, and who are common throughout all regions of the United States of ‘Murica) is the natural predisposition to think that BIGGER IS ALWAYS BETTER. You see examples of this dated mantra everywhere. A monolith chronograph watch that your street smart friend, who likes wearing a flat billed baseball cap with the metallic sticker badge still attached, likes to have on his wrist when heading out to the club and then makes his shoulder joints sore by the end of the night. Your family’s longtime insurance agent who you have only seen in a saggy polo shirt tucked into triple pleated droopy slacks. Your weird uncle who is still stuck in his adolescent golden years with wearing a suit he bought in 1977 that is colored like an Easter egg and has airplane wings for lapels for your cousin’s bar mitzva. And this theme is not always taken in literally either, as it can be applied metaphorically too. Like that suburban MILF who you see tanning at your clubhouse swimming pool from 2pm to 5pm every day before she needs to pick up her daughter from soccer practice, who is probably 36 but looks 44 because of the sun damage; who drives in a monstrous white Escalade that is needed for its trunk space, not for their one child, but for the weekly even she has to pick up a special ordered dinner set for her McMansion’s dining hall. Or your regular brandwhore who has to show off Mr. Lauren’s Pony on his chest that is noticeable a half a mile away.

Evolution of Ralph Lauren PonyGood thing you and I are on a elevated civilized stature than those uneducated savages yapping below. We don’t need to flash signs of wealth to show we have class. Bigger is not always better, with the guiding principle we follow being: Understated Is Better. Because it isn’t about quantity or logos in making sensible sartorial decision, but rather keeping to the heart of if all, where choosing a specific clothing item over another is based on logical reason in placating yourself, as opposed to others. You care not to show off multiple logos or wear a huge time piece to win favor. Since, in our tribe of advanced collective groupthink, we don’t put as much emphasis on such trivialities; caring more for the minimal, the durable, and the versatile.

The audacity of “Bigger is Better” is never more true for men’s accessories than for any other wardrobe topic, with two specifically in mind. I’ve already used the example of a bling bling bling bling 60mm diamond-encrusted wristwatch that would make Chamillionaire proud. What is the other accessory that has fallen victim to continuous physical sizable upgrade?

Belts. For the love of all that is good and peaceful in this increasingly-turbulent world, can we please talk about Belts? I take issue with the insistence of most guys wanting a larger belt width and buckle size, specifically for dressing up. This issue gives me heart palpitations, friends. I cringe every time I see it, which is daily sadly. Meaning your huge ass belts are dangerous to my health as a walking heart-attack-waiting-to-happen.

Your leather belt wasn’t supposed to be 1.5 inches in width and have a metallic buckle large enough to catch radio signals from space. These kinds of belts belongs nowhere in a modern closet. Which is why its a good thing that in recent years, thanks to the Americana movement and the return to common sense, has the offering of wide belts and huge buckles from mall brands and tradly outfitters alike toned down. Yet, even those of us who know the difference between a boat shoe and a proper dress captoe when deciding what to wear to an internship interview, still sidesteps the obvious mistake of adorning an ugly black belt that is as wide as it is plastic-ey and cheap looking, in the belt loops of a pricey Brooks Brothers Milano Fit suit he took extra attention to tailor in precise accordance to CollegeTrad recommendation from yours truly. Little does he know that this one subtle but costly detail can Make or Break his otherwise dapper appearance as much as Sperrys in place of Allen Edmonds Park Avenues would do in equal damage. What good is all of the recommendations I give if a small aspect that has potentially disastrous consequences like this topic at hand spoils the whole outfit in its mishandling?

The Guide endorsed a starter set of belts and attached laws that govern a belt’s proportions. Leather belts that you’d wear for any occasion that gives the slightest of hints to a formal dress code (whether it be that earlier mentioned internship interview, a normal day at the office, or a fun sorority formal on a cruise en route to the Carribean) should always be between 1 to 1 1/8 inches in width. There is little exception I allow in this regard, given the preset factors of the leather dress belt in question, and I’ll even go further in highly recommending belts only 1″ in width. Notice how this practically rules out a noticeable share of belt selection that is currently offered in today’s market for menswear accessories. Even brands that I am generally affable towards often times sell questionable inventory. The LL Bean’s Chino Belt, Allen Edmonds’ Manistee, and the JCrew’s Classic Buckle Belt are at or above the industry longstanding marquee width of 1.25″ that is typical of the product range sold at mall brands and department stores, encouraging the misguided mainstream prep guys and other factions of the brainless masses to do wrong. Count how many times you’ve seen some spiked hair guido dressed in a neon purple dress shirt and a polyester blend pair of black pants, that is a few inches too long and too tight, that he all bought on clearance from mall brand Express. There he is, with an awful 2-in-1 reversible belt and a shiny buckle that can blind infants and elderly people. Yuck. This is not formal at all. It is clownish.

A belt that stands at a subliminal one inch of width confirms your matured duty to strive for the highest levels of refined personal style. The single inch of width and complementary adequate buckle size is large enough to be masculine, but small enough to exude ageless minimalism in the face of trendy discourse. Like I shortly mentioned above, many of the popular retailers are slimming everything down in wake of present fashions, moving away from the 1.25 to 1.5″ wide dress belts that were the standard practice just a decade ago. JCrew has taken note for a few years now by favoring 1 to 1 1/8″ widths, and the likes of Gap and Banana Republic are close behind. This is a wonderful. But even if trends go back to wide ties and plane wings for jacket lapels in another decade, you should always keep belt width at these lowered prescribed specs. For anything dressy, you want your accessories to be undertoned. Only your belts for strictly casual use can be larger in size, although not too ambitious in width either. My widest casual belt is my Orvis Shotgun Shell that I usually wear with denim standing at a contemplative 1 3/8″ width, which is only slightly wider than the regulatory 1.25 inches. Therefore to keep safe, do not go over 1 3/8 inches regardless of casual or formal use. I think 1.5″ is simply too much for any of our purposes.

Luckily, there is one kind of belt that glides smoothly along the sea of excessive bulk and poor quality, and you will never have to give it a second guess as a dependable go-to.

A sterling silver engine-turned plaque that fits a 1″ wide leather belt strap is that intrepid frigate; the one or two belts you will ever need from this point on. The plaque allows a strap to slide through, which is great for longevity as your beer belly grows from your first 21st birthday to your twentieth anniversary of your 21st, in contrast to normal buckles that are subject to hole placement. The art deco period geometric finish of the engine-turned face, consisting of parallel lined etchings running horizontal from end to end and a concentric inner rectangle place in the middle, lends symmetrical elegance to the plaque reminiscent of streamlined steampunk design in virtue of the roaring turn-of-the-century years that arose Captains of Industry. Additionally, having this single parenting plaque allows for owning multiple offspring belt straps in different leathers and colors, which makes this whole accessory one of the most versatile in your closet, as you can conveniently switch out straps with the plaque to adapt to each outfit. And you’ll see the advantage to this when you wear it year after year, since the engine-turned plaque helps keep consistency in varying outfits, thus becoming a signature article that people can attribute you by. Which makes sense why the engine-turned belt is a favorite tradly item of the most elitist of pedigrees; it is a belt that you’d expect a hotshot Wall Street guy to wear, a la in the company of Patrick Bateman and Gordon Gekko, with accompanying french cuffs and braces and all that greenback-oozing jazz. This isn’t by random chance, since the engine-turned design has been a longtime favorite since it allows for elective monogramming of namesake initials (which can also be done with engine-turned tie clips), a WASPy practice in it self that is done by someone who is most comfortable lounging in a leather chair smoking a cigar and wearing nanny reds and a cable knit sweater hanging off his shoulders with sleeves crossed. But don’t let the belt’s aurora of corporate shark-greed diminish its rightful status at the top of the belt hierarchy. A part of the trad man’s Uniform that could be worn seven days a week.

My engine-turned plaque and leather straps in dark brown calfskin on top and black alligator embossed on bottom.

trafalgarbelt1GQ Magazine caught along the engine-turned plaque belt’s return to prominence in the fashion world with its endorsement for JCrew’s offering in a February 2012 issue. I had the original model that was available a few years prior circa 2007, but unfortunately the metal alloy teeth on the backside of the plaque that fed the strap through became malleable over time and gave way. I was forced to throw away the belt. That particular JCrew model also came in pre-distressed leather (not cool for formal use) and had the plaque permanently attached to the strap, meaning you had to choose between a black or brown if you only wanted one – I chose brown for its higher use over black. Thankfully, JCrew had stepped up its game as it became urbanprep and fashion forward in the years since, and now offers an interchangeable strap in non-distressed first quality Made in USA leather at 1″ wide and removable engine-turned plaque. Not bad at a wallet-saving $59 MSRP.

source GQ February 2012We can pay respects to Mad Men once again for reminding us all how undoubtedly classic the menswear fashions of yesterhalfcentury truly were, for Don Draper can be seen in the engine-turned plaque belt, looking badass in 1964 or 2014 as I habitually say. Both belts and watches back then were at a comfortable width before ballooning up in the decades following. The lead costume designer, Janie Bryant, tried to use labels that were readily available back in the television show’s time period for reproduced authentication. For the signature belt we see Mr. Draper wear in almost every episode for his job, she sourced from trad porn store New England leather goods supplier Trafalgar based in Norwalk, CT.

Don Draper Engine Turned Plaque BeltI have the exact engine-turned plaque model and leather straps from Trafalgar that Don wears, although I bought them unbeknownst to me at the time after my JCrew plaque belt broke about three years ago. You’ve seen me list them in my Porn Stash regularly, because just like Don, I too have made my Trafalgar engine-turned and set of accompanying straps my signature accessory. This is because the plaque set, which I currently have in staple colors of dark brown and black shoes, is the one of many types of leather belts that I care to own that actually satisfies most all of my outfits, formal or otherwise. The exception being in my only other current dress belt, a tan LLBean Chino belt, measuring in at just under an inch, that is good for the rest of my stylings that are with tan or light brown shoes (bought from eBay for less than $10 and yet worn more than all of my $35 Leatherman Ltd motif belts combined). The two Trafalgars and the one LLBean is all I need for life’s occasions ranging from the casual to the formal. If I absolutely had to choose two belts to live with for the rest of my life, then I’d easily forgo my multiple motifs, surcingles, ribbons, and other casual leathers in place for the Trafalgar engine-turned plaque set with pairing dark brown and black straps without a moment of hesitation. This should tell you how highly I think of this item as a catch-all for an often overlooked clothing topic that is “mens belts”.

An easy fastening and unfastening of each belt strap end allows you to interchange the plaque.

trafalgarbelt2As with what I presently own, I advise similarly to my readers in initially getting two straps. One strap in dark brown calfskin will be your mainstay dress belt that matches your numerous amounts of shoes in mid to dark brown, and a second in black exotic skin for the rare occasion you need to wear all black. Why have the black in that exotic invocation, you ask? That is by thoughtful arrival via deductive processing. Think about it. Trad&Prep hates black because of how unuseful black is for for most events. You won’t see me in a solid black button down, a lone black pair of trousers, and so on. Only a pair or two of black formal shoes, notably captoes and evening pumps, are necessary black items for the Trad&Prep curriculum. If that is the case, consider the times you’ll wear these black dress shoes – with the friendly reminder of narrowing those times that definitely require a partnering belt that also should obviously be black to match the color of the shoes. Times like those require the powerful statement that innately comes with such a serious shoe and belt pairing. A funeral, the classicist’s foremost instance of appropriate events that encourage blackwear, is NOT one of those power hungry times since you should be respectfully bare in showing off your dandy persona, and therefore won’t need a belt for your black suit to begin with (while we’re on the subject… Follow this subdued approach with all of your other funeral wardrobe choices and accessories. Be conservative with your most moderately tailored suit, which is why if you are keeping encyclopedia notes, your one and only two buttoned black suit should not be sleek as Giorgio Armani would suggest, but instead somberly fitted for the single function this said suit will perform as pallbearer. No tiebar or collarpin either, with only a subdued formal watch with black dress band. This is not the time to be fashionably forward, you should be as boxy boring trad as you can get. I do however encourage a crisp white pocket handerchief folded into a square for the gentleman’s calling to comfort your Lady’s inevitable tears…) In similiar ruling, eveningwear after business hours does not require a belt either. Not out of humble respect necessarily, as it is for funeral decorum, but for eloquent minimalist grace that you should uphold in being a modern gentleman. Braces are the product of choice in these instances if waist support is needed at all, but especially true for tuxedos (making up your only other black suit) where belts are never worn with anyway, never never never ever. So that rules out the black belt for smartly dress evenings. Leaving weekday professional manners left. If black captoes and matching black belt is worn with a grey or navy suit, or even otherwise for a fashionably forward chic approach to dress that touches on tactile sophistication and luxurious demeanor; then these kinds of outfits benefit from supple exotic skin that is representative of a matching lifestyle success that your cultivating appearance alludes to in both of those two creative proceedings. The natural abrasions in exotic skin patterns add affluent richness to the black leather that would otherwise brood away as boring, and since this is the opposite aesthetic you want to give in outfits of opulence, then a black strap in reptile skin is the definitive result. Think: Ralph Lauren’s Purple and Black Labels, where that same kind of cosmopolitan inspiration domineers in these high end runway collections. Not to be worn for funerals or evening, as again you will most likely never wear a belt for these calls for understatement, but instead for power moves in the boardroom and festive evening dinners at the ballroom. Tell ‘em who is boss! One such example of the latter instance being from my Blackwatch article, where I wore my black Allen Edmonds Grayson tassel loafers with my Trafalgar black alligator embossed strap for a holiday evening gala in similiar regards to the way I would adorn a tuxedo, albeit a belt here would make more sense for odd trousers in place of satin-striped pants. For you animal lovers and PETA extremists out there, the exotic skin can be artificial as it is in my case, or otherwise save up for the real lizard and ostrich skins once your career accolades actually warrants them. Aim for three to four straps eventually in differing shades of brown and cordovan, and keep to a lone black as that is all you will ever need.

Your tribesmen of The Brainless Masses will have multiple black belts, from Express and Gap and Target Merona. He wears these 1.25″ belts in disastrous pairings, like with a button down tucked into shorts where a surcingle or motif would’ve been infinitely better. You, the tradly spirit, knows that only one black belt suffices for the rare occasion you need it. So may as well have that black belt in an eye-pleasing exotic skin.

Exotic embossed black leathers for the belt and my Bucherer dress watch to go with black leather shoes. Silver accents in the plaque, watch case, collar pin or tie bar (with minute mentioning of an engine-turned design if you look closely). These matching accents brings an astute outfit together.

trafalgarbelt3The dressy spirit of the engine-turned belt will dress up any casual or semiformal outfit. It is why I like using it often in my casual wearings as much as I do for formal; to add a bit of class when you see me pairing the belt with denim for an evening out for example, as pictured in the title picture. I’ve used the JCrew and Trafalgar engine-turned plaque for over five years now in my youthful adulthood so far, and it has never failed, as arguably my most utilized accessory. Its adaptability is quite amazing. You can’t wear a surcingle or a wide leather casual belt with a suit to your case presentation. But you can wear the plaque, as well as later that evening with raw denim and a soft cotton sportcoat for a celebratory drink.

CollegeTrad Recommends:

When you first start out in your career, you don’t want to overstep your ground level ladder rung by sticking it up to your supervisor with an overly ambitious expensive accessory. Buy a moderately-priced brass or alloy metal plaque and cheap straps for now as a stepping stone, and save up for a higher quality investment set with real sterling silver and authentic exotic skins as you climb up the ladder. Go with a silver plaque first and maybe gold later if you wish. I personally don’t think you should monogram the plaque face for a similiar reason as earlier…but that is your call, Mr. Hotshot.

Trafalgar Rhodium Over Brass Engine-Turned Plaque for 1″ wide belt straps. Made in USA. $55. Brown Glove Leather Strap for $48. Alligator Embossed Leather Strap for $50. These straps are sadly not made in USA, but Trafalgar does offer higher priced leather goods that are made domestically. *Protip: The Trafalgar company webstore rarely has a sale, but I was able to purchase with a 20% off discount around the winter holidays. Keep a look out for it. And there’s always eBay.

JCrew Classic Leather Belt. 1″ wide in black or brown straps. Removable Engine-Turned Plaque. Made in USA. $59.

Ralph Lauren Sterling Silver Engine-Turned Plaque. Fits 1″ wide straps. Made in USA. $195.

Brooks Brothers Sterling Silver Engine-Turned Plaque. Fits 1″ wide straps. Made in USA. $248.

Tiffany&Co Sterling Silver Engine-Turned Plaque. $245. (Assume to be for 1″ width, domestically made)

Paul Stuart Sterling Silver Engine-Turned Plaque. $287. (Assume to be for 1″ width, domestically made)

Ralph Lauren Silver Toned Engine-Turned Plaque and Exotic Alligator Skin. Fits 1″ wide straps. Made in Italy. $1750.

My long term goal is to have a duo set of engine-turned belt plaque and tie bar, both made in sterling silver, from Tiffany’s.This is when I will have reached the executive level. Until then, I’ll happily keep slidin’ on with my Trafalgar as a junior secretary’s assistant intern.

 

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All in the Name: Glossery

As I have stumbled upon developing my own Tolkien-esque epic universe with this blog, which started with a big bang four years ago, and has now  expanded and cooled to a twisted, dangerous, and black hole-filled mess that it is today; I wanted to make things easier for you in reading my postings by offering this codebreaker. I introduced a basic labeling system in my first “All in the Name“article from years ago that lend identification to general clothing topics I speak to on the blog (for you old-timers, if you wanna take a flashback look again, I had updated it recently with improved definition). I went on to introduce in an updated editing of said article my most up-to-date evolved terminology, which I am publishing a more distilled list of below. This is is case some of you need clarification on some things found in diction, so that we are all on the right page in our tradly education. Otherwise, I may probably appear a little too schizophrenic in my latest writings if you didn’t know what these terms meant! Since I have been relying more and more on my CollegeTrad-specific “memes” to paint numerous metaphors that I like to portray to get points across. Some of these memes have been picked up elsewhere that you’ll surely recognize, but most others are my own creation that I use for jovial prose and to poke fun at myself. However, they have matching gravity too, as they are meaningful in showcasing continuous underlying themes that run throughout my manuscripts that are important in shaping the chapters of your own Personal Style. As with the initial part of this series, I will keep these pairing “All in the Name” editorial notes under My Style Advice since it defines the rhetoric used particularly in this section, even though there is no explicit style advice here. Use these posts as a simple reference guide to better understand my writings.

I will update as needed.

CollegeTrad Glossery

Americana: Rising in the post-2008 World Financial Crisis, this is a niche style movement that is one of our newest takes on Classic East Coast style, where the fashion community returned to the tried-and-true as a reply to the excess dandyism. Considered part of fashionably forward Urbanprep, practitioners of Americana love to fetishize Heritage Brands and Made in USA quality, as well as unique collaborative collections and obscure brands that touch on all faucets of lifestyle other than the wardrobe, such as grooming and living. The Americana movement was most popular in circa 2008 to 2012, where Heritage Brands arose, but has since toned down in recent years. Still, Americana is now part of the lexicon and will have a place for the young gentleman. Outfitters include JCrew (as a dual neoprep and urbanprep mall brand). Others include Red Wing Boots, Filson, Woolrich Mills, and raw denim outfitters. See: Urbanprep, Heritage Brands

Beau: Moniker for Barbour Beaufort wax coat. A GMP staple.

Blogosphere: Internet menswear blogs, social media, and communities. Where the most enthusiastic of us partake in both sharing to like-minded people and continuously educating ourselves. (ie Yours Truely) See: Groupthink

Brainless Masses: Those who have little to zero fashion knowledge and style. Or, those who think they are dressing in “authentic” Trad&Prep, but are woefully not and still in need of guidance. We shun these people! Members of the Brainless Masses look to the Ralph Lauren Pony as a badge of honor on their polo shirt. Those of us In the Know prefer the Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece. See: Mainstream Prep

Campus Pervert: CollegeTrad genre for preppy university campuses

Country Gentleman: Euphemism for our romanticism of the simple life. Think of cabin and lakehouse vacation homes, equestrian sport, and hunting game. Idealistic of the English Countryside. Example brands include Orvis, Barbour, LLBean, and include wardrobe items such as Tattersall OCBDs and Bean Boots.

Fashion Forward: Any modern day sartorial design that keeps menswear progressive. Alludes to Neoprep brands that use classic TNSIL for inspiration while keeping their direction continuously updated with contemporary creation. May be seen in the fashion magazines and on the runway. Prime examples are JCrew, Gant by Michael Bastion, Brooks Brothers Black Fleece by Thom Browne, Ralph Lauren Black and Purple Labels, JPress York St. and so on. May also represent Haute Couture and Botique fashion, namely from High Tier Luxury Houses (usually European) such as Gucci, Prada, Brunello Cucinelli, and Tom Ford. Normally with a positive reflection, but may also have a bad connotation; depending on the specific context of my writing for that instance.

Fogey: Moniker for our Anglo Saxon forefathers. We owe pretty everything in our beloved style to the English.

Fratagonia/Fratagucci: Patagonia. This is the top techprep outfitter that has proven itself over the decades and has entered the discerning lexicon of Trad&Prep. Can now be seen as a Neoprep brand because of this. “Frat” refers to the brand’s popularity amongst Frattier than Thou members of the Greek community. “Gucci” makes fun of the brand’s historically high retail prices, as it is the Gucci of techprep companies.

FratDaddy/FratStar/etc: Euphemism for the Fratty Style that is predominantly worn by Greek Members on university campuses, prominently on the East and Southeast American regions. It should be noted that this collegiate style is NOT necessarily “correct” dress, or something to be aspired to for longevity. Fratty Style is the most youthful interpretation of Trad&Prep, and is meant to be built on as the young man move through his budding adulthood. Worn by the younger to mid range demographic of this blog, generally by those in high school to a few years removed from undergraduate college. By your mid-20s or so, you should start transitioning to a more mature stance. Consider FratDaddy style to be the influential feeder into the overall classicism and minimalism that eventually comes with Trad&Prep. As you Fraternity Brothers grow older, you’ll use what you learned during your undergrad Fratstar years as a base to take on a more sophisticated approach that is appropriate for a yuppie working professional.

Frocket: Front Pocket Tee. Stands for “Fraternity + Pocket” in our context, not “Front+Pocket”. See: FratDaddy

GDI: God Damn Independent. Undergraduate students not in a fraternity. In our context, those students who are typically not preppy. See: FratDaddy

Go to Hell (“GTH”): A way of thinking for the most preppiest and WASP-ish of your wardrobe. If a clothing article is boisterously offensive in color, pattern, or motif then it is doing its job correctly. As if to say to gawking passerbys in mocking spirit: Go to Hell, pal! ;-)

God Mode Prep (“GMP”): This is the ideal young gentleman we all aspire to be. He belongs in the Neoprep category, but has transcended even his fellow advanced leveled neoprep peers. The archetype GMP is someone who was groomed from birth with a top tier pedigree of Trad&Prep working knowledge. He had went to the elite prep feeder schools and universities and on to a respected professional career. He knows the most nuanced of Trad&Prep, whether it be our “Mt. Rushmore” of brands (specifically, the Holy Trinity) or  all of the Trad Mannerisms. Unrestricted by any certain set of sartorial rules, he is one of the few with a masterful eye who can innovate a truly great Personal Style. His go-to is The Uniform. He loves to honor thy classics, and yet is also a Renaissance Man of multiple fashionably forward dress codes. He is the direct opposite of your usual ignorant plebe from the Brainless Masses, and is the exact epitome of what CollegeTrad stands for. I had earlier referred GMPs as Harvard Boy. See: In the Know

Go-To & Staple: Highly recommended as the most basic item in your wardrobe. Enamored for its both its versatility and respect from groupthink. This is your fallback when in doubt; the blank canvas for which you can paint upon with advanced clothing tastes. Worn the majority of the time compared to the rest of your supplemental clothing items. See: The Guide

Grandaddy Brooks & Brethren: Euphemism for Brooks Brothers, one of the two brands that are the absolute paramount of all Trad&Prep brands (the other being JPress). No other outfitter in our history has had as much influence for Classic East Coast Style. Referenced the most ubiquitously in this blog as the golden standard for all others to compare to.

Groupthink: Accepted brands, items, mannerisms, etc. amongst those who are In the Know. Anything tried-and-true and championed by the aggregate total opinion of Groupthink is in our style lexicon; taken to be scientific fact. While some of the recommendations I give on the blog could be backed by questionable subjective taste, items and ways of dress taken in by Groupthink are across the board in unanimously approved judgement. Think of it as a general consensus sourced from what I have gathered as “de facto” from industry, clothing online communities, the blogosphere, and my own anecdotal evidence and thoughts. Subject to regional differences. When in doubt, look to Groupthink. See: In the Know

Guide, The: Seen at the header of the blog. I will already have assumed you read my “About Me” and all parts of “The Guide” before partaking in reading the rest of my entries. The condensed starter education, recommended clothing items, and guiding rules & principles from The Guide serve as the backbone of CollegeTrad, for which I build a platform that your advanced sartorial education launches from. I will also assume that you have purchased all of the Guide recommendations (or similiar alternatives for which each item represents), as they are the bare minimum for a successful and timeless wardrobe. You can technically get away with these items as your minimalistic wardrobe for the rest of your life. The Uniform is sourced within that list. Anything I recommend further on the blog is elective to these go-to workhorse staples in your closet. See: The Uniform

Heritage Brand: Most recently arising to prominence with the Americana style movement

Holy Trinity, The: J Press, Barbour, Alden. The top tier Trad&Prep brands that have some of the most prestige in our lexicon. A true GMP has not transcended to the Heavens of Trad unless he has the staple items from The Holy Trinity. See: God Mode Prep

In The Know & [Traddier/Preppier/Frattier] Than Thou: Going hand in hand, these adages represent your and my membership to our beloved style that is the East Coast Classic aesthetic. Those who can be labeled with these complimenting maxims are at the prized God-Tier level of expert clothing knowledge, and certainly close to being GMPs if not already. We also playfully compete with each other by proving our membership amongst those of us “In the Know”, by out-tradding/prepping/fratting each other out. For example, your fraternity brother who wears his beatup Alden LHS loafers as casually in everyday manner as you wear your Sperry Boat Shoes, is winning in this unspoken game we all play against each other, and is thus “Frattier than thou”. Think of it as our own version of a secret society. Our Skull & Bones. Where we try to outdo each other in how we practice our groupthink pool of knowledge. Learn the handshake and guard our secrets well! See: God Mode Prep

Lexicon & Encyclopedia: If CollegeTrad was a university lecture seminar that educates young men of all experience levels on “Trad&Prep 101″, then our Lexicon is the sum of knowledge this blog brings forward to you. Think of the Lexicon as our semester’s lessons of tradly material in a proverbial Encyclopedia of Trad that us students read from.

Liddy: Moniker for the Barbour Liddesdale quit jacket. One of the basic outerwear I recommended in The Guide.

Mall Brand & Department Store Brand: These are the low tier brands that the Mainstream Preppers buy from and are mistakenly seen as “authentically Trad&Prep”. Some brands may have been accepted by Groupthink into our Lexicon of style, but have since fallen out of favor. Instead, they are usually low quality clothes that should be generally avoided, with your individual budgetary restrictions being your last resort judging barometer. Examples include: Gap, Banana Republic, Express, Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, Izod, Aldo, Mens Warehouse, Jos A Bank, and so on. 90% of Ralph Lauren Polo (Blue Label) should be declined. Generally, anything you can find at Macy’s Department Store or is a in-house brand (such as Alfani) is not worth it. One of the only Mall Brands I actively recommend is JCrew.

Moral Compass: The “True North” in moral judgment and recommendation to you the read, by Yours Truly. I try to use my Moral Compass from trivial every day manners like in answering to the best of my ability in a one-on-one personal correspondence, to ethical standards in my balancing of integrity and industry appeal. I strive to relay my unfiltered knowledge to the blog’s audience, however opinionated or raw it may be.

Motif: An emblematic and/or theme to a clothing item. Examples include critter pants and surcingle belts with a patterned ribbon (where for example repeating lacrosse sticks on the belt is the Motif). Popular in GTH use.

Nanny Red: Moniker for Nantucket Red Pants or Shorts. See: Go To Hell

Novelty: Euphemism used for any particular clothing article that is unique and unbranded. For example, a frocket from your fraternity chapter instead of from a generic Southern Tide frocket tee.

OCBD: Oxford Cloth Button Down. Refers to the button downed collar. Invented by Brooks Brothers, considered a prototypical American style staple for menswear. NOT to be worn for formal dress, but instead as a casual-fied dress shirt. An “in-betweener” as a step above the polo shirt, but a step below a spread collared dress shirt. Never to be worn with a suit, but can be for a blazer or sportcoat and neckwear for a semi-casual affair. See: The Uniform, The Guide

Our [beloved] Style: Monkier for Trad&Prep

Pennies: Moniker for a pair of penny loafers. See: The Uniform, The Guide

Personal Style: What I wish to develop in each and every one of my readers. In the post-2008 Global Financial Crisis, we saw in the fashion world pullback the excess in reply to the national sentiment, with a return to basics and the tried-and-true. We now live in the era of Personal Style, where each of us can develop our own interpretation of the classics, and not prescribe to any one dress code. The main objective for College Trad is to give you my personal opinions and critique on Trad&Prep, guided by my Moral Compass. However, I ask that you don’t copy my lookbook (Porn Stash) verbatim, but as inspiration for you to incorporate into your own Personal Style.

Porn [Stash/Pics/Stores]: Euphemisms for my visual content and genres. My Porn Stash are my personal pictures of actual outfits that you may use for your inspiration.

Prep Mecca: Areas in the United States where Trad&Prep is the predominant style. Usually on the East Coast, Southeast, and Deep South regions. May also identify concentrated areas like a particular city or university campus. These are areas where you can feel complete “freedom” in your Preppier than Thou outfit choices and should not be afraid to experiment with your most daring GTH garments. Our style is generally accepted and beloved in these areas by fellow GMP members of In the Know.

Shaggy: Moniker for the JPress Shaggy Dog Shetland crewneck sweater. A GMP staple.

Southern _____ Brand: Euphemism for the recent crop of startup “College Preppy” brands that specifically target the collegiate demographic, notably the Greek Community on the Southeastern and Deep South university campus. Subject to regional differences. Original establishers included Vineyard Vines and Southern Tide, but have since exponentially multiplied from countless new startups. Ubiquitous with Fratty style, and such should be transitioned to more premier brands as you move past your undergraduate years. See: FratDaddy, TFM, Frocket

TFM: Total Frat Movie. Moniker for Fratty style. See: FratDaddy

Trad [& Prep/Frat] Mannerisms: The nuanced practices or specific clothing items that separates the top level God Mode Preps from all the rest, including our fellow Neopreps who are already leagues above the Brainless Masses. Think of them as signifiers of GMPs; their calling cards that lets you know that they are Tradder than Thou, and thus are members of the secretive society that is those who are In the Know.

Trad&Prep: Blanket term for the mens fashion represented on CollegeTrad, based off yours truly’s own interpretation of what he considers “Authentic” and “Practical” traditional and preppy genres. Includes all of the branches on the overall Classic East Coast American tree of style, and how his blend of respective sartorial choices (i.e. Tony’s Personal Style) into one young man’s perspective for a timeless and youthful style, that all of his fellow peers can  follow and learn from.

Tradly/Tradastic/Tradgasm/etc.: Adjective and pronoun euphemisms for Trad&Prep.

Uniform, The: Consists of a long sleeved OCBD, neutral toned chinos, and penny loafers. Chino pants can be switched out with chino shorts for warmer months. Addendums may include a motif belt and/or a crewneck sweater, as well as a classic blue blazer and bowtie for an “Academia Trad” version of The Uniform, in relation to prep academy dress code. It is the foundation to which we build upon and is considered the go-to second skin of a GMP. When in doubt, go with The Uniform, and then alter the outfit as necessary. The Uniform obeys all iterations of the Trad Mannerisms, such as the chinos having no-break and cuffing, and the OCBD with a Banker’s Roll if worn without a jacket. Gold standard of The Uniform is a “Must-Iron” Brooks Brothers Blue OCBD or JPress Blue Flap Pocket OCBD, a motif belt or a slim dress leather belt, Bills Khakis Chinos, and a pair of Alden LHS penny loafers. Socks optional depending on climate. The more lived-in and frayed the outfit, the more comfortable it is as your second skin. See: God Mode Prep

WASP: White Anglo Saxon Protestant. The originators of our Trad&Prep American style. Purveyors with the most respectable legacy and pedigree; they were raised on Trad&Prep while the vast rest of us poor serfs (including yours truly) had to learn it. God Mode Preps are a byproduct of these elitist mutl-generational families. The 1%, as they say. However, not to be literally taken for its common real-world meaning on this blog, since instead I use the term WASP to poke fun at ourselves. Movies and popculture portrays WASPy guys as douchey antagonists who try to squash the antics of the rebellious-against-establishment cool kid protagonist that gets the girl in the end…I like to play on this trope by owning it up! Go to Hell, I say. Because our beloved style is actually accessible to all, and not something you have to buy into even if you didn’t have the pedigree. It’s the 21st Century, and we live in the decade of Personal Style where all rules are broken. Identity trumps all, so you can still be the cool kid with the hot girl at the end of the day, rebellious against society while still wearing your nanny reds and pennies! I also relate WASPs to the loudest of the preppy style that is often attributed to Northeastern prep meccas (i.e. Martha’s Vineyard). Think of porn stores like The Andover Shop, JPress, and Vineyard Vines. See: Go To Hell

Yours Truly: Me, myself, and Tony. Your professor. See: CollegeTrad.com

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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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