Combatant Gentleman: A CollegeTrad Exclusive Review

 Editor’s Note: Keeping to my moral compass in benefit of you the reader, I have only recently started entertaining third-party offerings or sponsorships. My “closed door policy” to Industry was originally to ensure that my writings remain pure in personal opinion for my – and my alone – interpretation of what I consider to be authentic Trad and Preppy style; giving my raw translation for your own discernment, so you can pick up whichever themes I live by in my personal style into yours. However, it would be a disservice to you just as well to nail the door shut completely, in refusing a potentially favorable Industry update. I have now corrected my course a bit to now allow myself to cipher between the various campaign requests (…not that I receive a ton or anything)… with an open mind; only accepting to write a featured post if something new can be brought to the table. Usually to jumpstart a particular nuanced topic of conversation, as I had with Vintage Campus USA and Bobobos. However in this case, the following below is the first of its kind in CollegeTrad’s five year history: An exclusive review of samples sent directly from the company. I include open disclaimers when needed, starting with this one, to not betray your trust. So without further adieu…

 

source combatgent.comIntroduction

Perhaps nothing perplexes a young gentleman more than buying his first suit. Fortunately for you the reader, you had stumbled upon this blog where I can at least point you to the right direction. Or at the very least, you had the foresight and care to do an inkling of preliminary research online, or perhaps at your Barnes&Noble flipping through mens lifestyle magazines like Esquire and GQ as you kill time sipping on a Tall Cappuccino at the in-house Starbucks cafe. To go along with the other thousands of articles, slideshows, video clips, blog posts, and forum posts you had found in your Google query – I have also written about formalwear plenty of times in my articles and Ask Me replies. There is already The Guide that lays the foundation, and then this extended primer on fitting a suit. So you are probably tired of the proverbial “beaten dead horse” by now.

But what of the rest of our fallen brethren? The majority of the population, whose uninitiated members make up the brainless mainstream masses, as like to colloquially call out Average Joe Brothers…where is their Savior? You see them growling about, with their head down in despair, lumbering behind his Mommy or Girlfriend at a mall department store, making him adorn a Black 3 Button Pinstriped Suit that is clearly two sizes too big. For his cousin’s morning wedding no less in July, where the black itchy wool swallows up the sunny gentility. That black suit will surely look smart for such a fun occasion, according to his Mom’s or Lady Friend’s so-called-expert-intuition-on-the-other-sex’s-way-of-dress. Indeed…these victims need someone to look up to…A Savior that can rescue their poor souls from the clutches of an Evil Tyrant Loved One, who declares her menswear savvy by forcing her emasculated victim to fasten all 3 buttons on the suit jacket. Oh, the humanity! Well, lucky for our plenty of Average Joe friends, there is a new sheriff in town. A crime fighter who guards the Gotham evening skyline, helping these clueless young gentlemen to escape from the intimidating grasps of the fashion police, or worse, his misguided omniscient Girlfriend/Dominatrix.

There in the night! Our Hero’s own calling sign, shining as a beacon of hope into the dreary night filled with countless bad guys: Department store collections showcasing ill-fitting suitwear from “name brand” Calvin Klein and Nautica. Polyester blends. Mall brands Express and Banana Republic and their overpriced rags.

…A Combatant-of-sorts, that does the job for you, for double the quality and half the expense…

source twitter.comcombatgentAlright. So I could not resist a corny buildup, seeing that black & white logo above got me reminiscent of Batman (we want another one damnit, give us what we need Nolan and Bale!) and just ran with it. But as it turns out, this audacious newcomer actually does have something to offer us; not just simply looking pretty on the pages of a fashion magazine/comic book. Something intrinsic. Thoughtful and Tangible. And its quite good. Certainly so for the Average Joe who knows nothing about mens style…but YES, even for us God Mode Preps and our impeccably high tastes that scoffs at the 99%er suiting options at Macys and JosABank.

*****

Fashion-Product-Photography for Combat GentlemenBackground

Last Autumn, I received a pleasant greeting from a Mr. Hafez Adel, a marketing strategist for Combatant Gentleman, who inquired if I may be interested in sampling their product in return for a blog review. At the time, I had never heard of this venture, and so naturally I was part skeptical and part curious. Mr. Adel went on with his sales pitch, saying how their aim was to provide suits in quality finishing and perfect fitting. They do this through an eCommerce Model that passes the savings directly to you – cutting out the middle man, the brick&mortar, and even your tailor – with exceptional product.

Which is not an entirely new concept mind you. It has already been proven before as a very profitable model by the original innovators, like Neo-prep outfitter Bonobos and the Neo-politan outfitter SuitSupply. Also adapted by established MTM online suitmakers such as ThickasThieves and Indochino. Therefore, what does CombGent have to offer that differentiates themselves from the pack? Well, I will let the company speak for itself. Here below are the highlights from Mr. Adel’s email to me, with my taking the liberty of bolding the noteworthy for your ease:

“…We offer 100% wool (Super 140s) half-canvassed suits for $160, in both modern and slim fits. Our dress shirts start at $25, and our ties start at $16. The reason we can offer quality clothes at these prices is because of our vertical integration – from our 80 year-old wool mill in Italy, to our cotton fields in India, to our factories in the US and abroad, we control the product every step along the way and cut out the middlemen (and their unnecessary markups). We even own our own sheep! We’ve been featured in Men’s Journal, Forbes, and CNN Money, among other outlets…”

Did you nod approvingly at the eye-grabbing details the same way I did? if not, then you may lack the surrounding context. I will add perspective of how potentially awesome CombGent’s value proposition truly is over their competitors: Consider than one of their main online rivals, Indochino, sells their lowest priced Essential Line Suits at $449, and that it is only made of Super 120s wool woven in China. While the Combatant’s starting pricepoint is cheaper by almost three hundred bucks and comes in a better quality wool that is sourced in Italy! Plus, they even own their own sheep…actually have no idea if the others do either…but c’mon, that is a cool sound byte!

My first brownie points awarded, my intrigue captured. But still need to be impressed by more cool company facts?

Interesting Tidbit #1) CEO & Co-Founder Mr. Vishaal Melwani is a third generation tailor coming from a family lineage of Versace boutique owners.

Interesting Tidbit #2) “We want to be the bad-ass version of Men’s Wearhouse…” as he eloquently said. Men’s Wearhouse is the antithesis to anything fashionable who push out crap to the mainstream public. So it is nice to know that Mr. Melwani is a fellow MW hater! A good sign that he aspires above the mainstream masses just like us! You want someone In the know running a fashion house in-considering.

Interesting Tidbit #3) Return rate at CombGent’s is only 4% for suiting, which is shockingly low thanks to their own proprietary algorithm (called the Fit Tech) that predicts sizing to a pinpoint 98th percentile. I doubt Indochino can compete with those kinds of retainment stats. Reading from the many disgruntled users on this SF megathread led to my own personal decision to cross Indochino’s MTM service out when I was in the suit market myself a few years back. My research led me think that all of those returned product forced the Indochino executive decision to introduce the Traveling Tailor to help mitigate the customer in his physical process of finding a true size. All the while, Boy Genius Crusader over here smugly developed his own complex algorithm that promises a great fitting – the first time – from the comforts of his Combatant Cave.

Background Reasoning: Price to Quality

Before going on, some of you who know me all too well are, at this moment, calling foul on my review. “I thought Tony only recommends buying from the Best of the Best? Those so-called ‘authentic heritage outfitters’ that source their suits in prized homelands like the United States or Europe. Especially given the fact this is for suitwear?”…Yup. Correct. You caught me. In strict following my own commanding 10 Rules with unquestioned discipline, one may negate CombGent by default. A Combatant Gentlemen suit is ultimately imported from a production point in China and ultimately going against my hardcore biases. My go-to fallback for suitwear is the Brooks Brothers 1818 Collection that is made right here in the USA. And truth be told, I still abide by this original intent; that declares your first few suits being of a CollegeTrad Approved label like Brooks or HSM or Hickey. However, you should also recall that my principles are mere suggestion, assisting your judgement in keeping True North while exploring the whacky world of Trad&Prep. My hardened curricula derives from a blend of sartorial theory. Which in reality, empirical findings will always take precedent. The real world can never be perfect, and so theory can never be neither with too many input variables.

Plenty of my readers simply cannot afford a Brooks Brothers Fitzgerald suit, despite my protips of treasure hunting on eBay or stockpiling discounted gift cards or whathaveyou. Even at its cheapest pricepoint of ~$500 during the annual post-Xmas sale at Brooks (when the 1818 line is at its lowest) many of you still cannot sacrifice a semester’s worth of textbooks for your very first staple suit. You will realistically wear that 2 Button Fitzgerald Navy maybe, what, twice a year? It is a better decision to spend that $500 of student debt elsewhere. Yet, you still need that aforementioned first staple suit for the rare event you actually need it – which happens to be your cousin’s upcoming wedding in three weeks. And the Xmas sale at Brooks Brothers is half a year away! Many of you who are in high school, college, or just starting out in your career will need budget friendly options as alternatives to pricey Granddaddy Brooks. In my blog’s mission statement, I leave myself an exit door for this very purpose…that even I don’t follow my own rules all the time. Bipartisanship is required. I fondly push for cheap Lands End chinos that are made in China just as I do for my Bills Khakis made Stateside. And the same argument applies here folks! Aim for the premium custom tailored Golden Fleece suit whenever your wallet allows down the road, and obey your common sense now with a safe cheap option that does the job in the mean time.

Which leads to another justification: CombGent provides us an extremely affordable suit that is fashionably forward for the upward mobile. This fact, on top of the earlier mentioned pros of using raw textile from quality sources such as Italy that removes the often-pricey step of requiring major surgery at your favorite tailor (don’t worry, she will have your dozens of other clothes to alter and keep her busy!), and then stacked with the notion that most all other budget outfitters heavily rely on imported goods too; gives us our biggest corollary yet: That if your suit is Made in China, then why go with the likes of J Crew’s Ludlow suiting that is more expensive? Or Express? Banana Republic? Bonobos? If your small budget can only afford a starter suit that holds you off through college, internships, first few years on the job (again, at least until you can buy that $7000 bespoke Brioni suit when you become V.P. of Daddy’s Firm), then why not go with the Least Common Denominator? CombGent has set a new high bar….or low in this case….for our wallets. They cut out the big competitors in providing all of the awesome brownie point extras, with the $160-entry-level making up the biggest brownie of them all, that more than makes up for the CombGent’s Chinese birth. So what, if it was assembled in China when all the other guys have their factories set up there too? After all, we should accept that the third world labor is what allows for the incredible Price to Quality Ratio that outperforms a significant amount of the competition to begin with, giving us one of the best values on the market today. The Combatant’s resultant Value Proposition is easily amongst the best I’ve seen from any outfitter, pound for pound. Thank you Capitalism (?)

If Hickey, Press, HSM, and the rest of the heritage labels make up our Promised Land, then CombGent gives us a steadfast life boat to float us to that fabled island where GMPs run amok. A quick and easy solution for the Now. While JCrew, Indochino, and other popular mall brands – that we would have initially looked to – are starting to reveal the leaking holes in their moldy hulls.

Here is one last reason that plays on our necessity to have a balanced, versatile wardrobe that is made up of trad, preppy, and fashionably forward elements: We know that CombGent is not inherently reminiscent of the Classic East Coast Style that this blog so heavily gets its inspiration from. Yet, that is perfectly fine with you and I, because we take a Slim Cut Modern Suit for what it is. Not a tradly Ben Silver 3/2 Sack Roll Blue Blazer with Gold Buttons that fits conservatively boxy, worn only to fraternity meetings and happy hour at the country club . Instead, a CombGent suit sits poised in our horse stables as our sophisticated stead. A $160 Charcoal Two Button that is just quiet enough to wear to your first professional job interview on Monday morning with a Big 4 Recruiter, paired beautifully with a solid Kent Wang blue Grenadine Tie and Allen Edmonds Park Avenue Captoes; and then vogue enough to wear to an uptown lounge in some renovated basement of a tobacco warehouse on the following Friday night, sans tie, top two shirt buttons unfastened, and bare ankled Cordovan Alden Tassle Loafers in relaxed triumphant celebration, treating your closest buddies with a round of spirits in honor of learning that you just nabbed that job. (Jakes on you! Have fun working those 70+hour weeks and becoming a depressed accountant/office drone!)

Customer Service

Mr. Adel, and one of CombGent’s Personal Stylists Ms. Nikki Hablani, walked me through the steps of ordering a suit. I was asked to fill out a Fit Profile, seen below, which provides them the coordinates for which to map out a good custom fitting, as decided by the earlier mentioned Fit Tech algorithm.

(Note: I am unsure if the Fit Profile is still utilized for the current customer process. It appears Fit Tech, seen on the website as you choose your sizing, has replaced the profile)

fitprofileIf our continued correspondence over these past few months has been any representation of their approach to individualized customer service, then I eagerly award CombGent more delicious brownie points. Both Hafez and Nikki have been top notch professionals in their sincere assistance. For example, where then was an unforseen logistical lag period in the manufacturing stage that delayed my samples, Hafez had personally saw to it that the delivery of my package was in an orderly and apologetic manner. Nikki was able to answer my rather detailed inquiries, at one point being the liaison between me and their Graphics Dept. (which I will get into soon). Good to know that there are professionals running the scene of their brainchild!

Sizing

As many of you already know, OffTheRack sizing often leads to clothes that never feel absolutely perfect on your body. My own measurements are particularly annoying because I enjoy the occasional gym session, and have developed body stats that test the very extremes of clothing sizing. I have a 10 Inch Drop, meaning my chest and waist circumference is ten inches apart. And with the normal practice of Suiting paired in Jacket+Pants combos cut from the same cloth (which is to decrease the chance of imperfection), buying a suit with the industry standard 6 Inch Drop makes it harder on my wallet since I require the costly supplementary step of having my tailor expertly, but severely, alter a 42/36W slacks to a 32 in a risky surgery known as Re-Cutting. That procedure is way more expensive than a simple Take-In…It seems the major downside to maintaining an athletic prose is the exuberant detriment to one’s wardrobe!…Hence, it is utterly fantastic to see CombGent offering Separate Suiting. And their suit catalog comes in Slim and Modern (i.e Regular) Fits, giving us even more ample freedom to select according to body type. Likewise, their shirts are stocked in Slim, Modern or Regular, and Athletic Cuts. These extra incentives allow for all types of customers to choose their fancy. 3 more brownie points to the House of Gryffindor…err CombGent!

My unique body proportions led me to ask Nikki for the specific numbers. Below, straight from their Graphics Department, is the raw data:

Slim Fit Jacket ChartClassic Fit Jacket ChartSlim Fit Shirt ChartClassic Fit Shirt ChartNotice that their vanity sizing for button downs start at 15.75/34 for a Regular Small. Conversely, a Slim Large is 15.5/34 which is unusual because many of the other retailers carry that size in a Medium. Peculiar.

Mr. Adel allowed me to pick a suit, shirt, knit (i.e. sweater), and a tie. [Disclaimer: These samples were given complimentary in return for my online review. I informed Mr. Adel that I would be objective in my critique, which he happily honored.] Ended up going with the staple choice of the Slim Fit Charcoal Suit (MSRP $160), Pink & White Windowpane Semi Spread Collar Shirt ($40), Black Cardigan ($35), and an Inversed Stripe Tie ($14; my trim no longer offered).

It’s the small things that end up mattering the most! I like the fact that their suit slacks come in 36″ unhemmed, despite the imposed super ease of Separate Suiting. This encourages you to get the pants altered to your exact individual leg size (basically hand holding the uneducated guys of the mainstream masses into submission, so they may finally be introduced to their neighborhood tailoring shop!) But what I really love is that Combatant is extremely candid about their products. You will see the “Produced in Southern China -Shenzhen” and “Poly/Rayon Blend Lining” specs alongside the “100% Italian Wool” selling point on their website catalog. The other guys will try to smother these dark details on their garments with the Imported tagline, while CombGent wants to be refreshingly honest. Because they know that their customer base is starting to care about that kind of stuff and will ask those kinds of questions. And that being upfront with honesty, they know we will forgive the minor-in-the-grand-scheme trivia of the China made aspect, especially with making it up to us in cash savings. CombGent is not aspiring to be the next Tom Ford or Oxxford or Brioni. They know who they are, and they wear that identity proudly: An outfitter of stylish products at an affordable price. They may not be the first one to do this, but they are certainly more deserving of our attention now than most of their predecessors. Will I totally switch allegiance from my favorite mall retailer JCrew to CombGent? No of course not. I still love my JC Cotton Cashmere V Neck sweaters. But for a righteous path to painless suit shopping? I have been persuaded to the Combatant. The Ludlow Shop can keep their high markups!

Another detail that I love. CombGent’s tag replaces “China” with “PRC”. People’s Republic of China. Absolutely genius. Honesty without the blatancy. Maybe the random guy who happens to glance at your CombGent button down shirt’s inner tag while you two love birds are in the gym locker room will know what the PRC stands for. Maybe he won’t.

“Proudly Made in PRC”. Not China. PRC.

CGPRC*****

Fit Pics: Before Tailoring

Very basic but organized packaging. (Please disregard the box condition. I blame the shipping service)

box1You get a simple unbranded plastic suit bag and wooden hanger. These modest supplies are to be expected – CombGent wants to give you a nice suit at the sub $300 range, so there will be some obvious shortcuts. No complaints from me. You wear the suit, not the bag.

box2

Charcoal Suit in Slim Fit. 2 button, notch lapel, double vent, slanted flap pockets. The suit pictures below was taken before any alteration.

I can honestly say that this was the best fitting OTR jacket that I have ever tried on. I was completely bewildered from how great it felt coming straight from the producer and not having visited my tailor yet. As previously explained, my extreme 10″ Drop always forces me to buy a jacket that fits my chest correctly, but makes the rest of my torso swim in the extra fabric. This was not the case here. The jacket shoulders and its minimal padding did not protrude past my own. The armholes were not too low, allowing for a “glove”-like feel. The sleeves ended exactly at the point above my wrists, allowing a sliver of dress shirt cuff to show. Just these few defining characteristics alone made me super impressed. There was still some work to be done for the jacket and pants to be perfect for my tastes, but it was pretty light tailoring relatively speaking. It was also the first time in my history of suits and sportjackets of not having to take up the sleeve length and take in the shouldering. You cannot imagine how excited I was about that.

For visual reference, I am 6’1 and currently weigh a lean 170lbs. I wear a 15.5/34 shirt, 42R jacket, and 32 pants waist.

1The chest felt exactly true-to-size and did not give any slack. This shows when my jacket is stretched at the slightest.

2 4 I am very pleased with the jacket silhouette. I had to keep reminding myself that it came straight from the box and not the tailor shop!

Guantanamo Prisoner Pose.

36Unbuttoned side view.9The Slim Fit shoulders are a hugging 18.5″ while many other 42R jackets come in at 19″.7 8 I did not take shots with my whole bottom half because the pant hemming was still unfinished. Waist felt true-to-size. 10The Details. I am happy to report that the horrifying “Made in China” is not stamped anywhere visible. More brownie points awarded! They had the foresight to know we do not like see those disgusting words, especially on the prominent hanger tab (I hate brands that do that!)

jacket tag 3 The only merchandising I saw on the suit. No price tag to cut off since you did not buy this at a Brick&Mortar.tagThe buttons are somewhat left to be desired. Not demanding Mother of Pearl or anything, but the buttons are a give away of the suit’s humble upbringing. However, only 0.01% of people would notice this, and foreseeably 0% of that group would care. The suit is handsome otherwise, and the fitting is what makes this $160 suit look like it cost $1600.buttonThe contemporary labeling can go two ways. I like the nouveau spirit of it for one, proudly showing off a new company that champions e-commerce retailing. On the other hand, I would have opted to not show the website (anyone curious enough will google the name anyway, with the homepage coming up as the first result). I feel like it cheapens the image. jacket tag “Not for the uninitiated….but for the uneducated”. Here again though, I think this extra label on the right inner breast is not needed. A trademark mentioning of the 80yo Italian Mill used to make the suit and/or a “140s 100% Italian Wool” tag would have been better.

Chevron-like vertical pattern on the inner lining.jacket tag2Double vented tail. Those sewn finishings are the lone details, unlike the higher end suits that typically have shoulders and jacket buttons unfinished. Again that is perfectly okay with me. Just hope the “uninitiated” remember to cut those threads…..too many times I have seen such unspeakable evil.tailBoth pockets on the back of the pants have button closures. I favor this over other formal slacks having only a single.back pocket Tab closure. Medium rise for comfort. I like the minimal tag here. Rise is a fashionably forward 9.75″ for a 32 inch waist.waist tag

Fit Pics: After Tailoring, Final Product

My tailor only had to taper the jacket sides and the pants slightly for the very slim silhouette I wanted. Hemmed to No-Break. I chose to not do our default tradly Pant Cuff to emphasize the fashion forward minimalism. For me, my CombGent suit is NOT intended to be the preppiest option in my wardrobe. I save my staple Brooks Brothers for interviews, and this Combatant mostly for going out to fun and informal venues without a need for a stuffy tie, belt, or even socks.CGposttailor1 CGposttailor2

CGposttailor3Jesus Pose.CGposttailor7CGposttailor4 Unbuttoned side view.CGposttailor5Double Vented Tail actually long enough to “CYA”, unlike other modern offerings that are too short.

CGposttailor6

 

Fit Pics: After Tailoring, Sample Kit Ensemble

CombGent suit, shirt, knit tie, and cardigan thrown together. Worn with Merlot colored Allen Edmonds Grayson Tassel Loafers to compliment the red accents. Think Friday Business Casual for a young Analyst.

CGposttailor8 CGposttailor9Worn with Black Cardigan Knit. Size Medium and very slimming. Tie removed, cardigan thrown on, and top two shirt buttons unfastened for the Friday evening date with a long-legged date.CGposttailor11 CGposttailor12 CGposttailor13The Pink & White Windownpane Spread Collar Dress Shirt is a size Regular Small in accordance to the odd novelty sizing and my measurements. The Regular Cut is decent and similiar to most all OTR shirts I own. Construction seems paper-thin which is unfortunate for the $40 MSRP. The 34 sleeve length ended up shrinking post-washed, as expected, but perhaps a little too short in comparison to my other OTR shirts.CGposttailor10Comb Gent logo on the bottom of shirt placket.CGshirtlogoWhats Next: Eveningwear

I have berated the point by now. Combatant Gentleman’s suitwear is not grandstanding like the rest of ‘em! They really do give us the best suit at the lowest pricepoint. The “$160 that looks like $1,600″-kind of suit. Cheap, but only in regards to retail, and yet just as formidable as…if not more than…the pricier JCrew, Bonobos, SuitSupply, Indochino, and all the other neoprep fashionably forward labels.

Something was still missing though. An *almost* perfect menswear outfitter. Their knits, shirts, ties, and accessories prove a valid point that supports the Comb Gent flagship catalog of suiting, so what gives? When I did my initial research a few months ago, I thought it strange that CombGent had not offered formal eveningwear. It was the missing elephant in the room. Tuxedos were quite noticeably gone from their lineup and I was very close to putting that wasted opportunity against when I noticed just a few weeks prior to this very publishing that their tuxedo collection made its debut in the upcoming Spring/Summer 2015 collection. This is great news! This helps to answer a larger need for affordable tuxedos, given that there are less choices out there than even budget suitwear. Young men such as you and me are now acclimating to the Red Carpets of the Social World. We find ourselves actually looking forward to dressing up in our best formal gear; whether it be for counting down for New Years, dropping your stacks of George Washingtons at a Carnival cruise with your law school buddies, or bidding on a pair of courtside game tickets in a fancy fundraiser. Endpoint being, you wanna impress those golden head of blond locks across the dance floor, with her hazel eyes hiding mysteriously behind an ostrich feathered mask, and you in a pitch black laser-guided cut tuxedo; whisking the sweet princess away from the masquerade ball when the clock strikes twelve. Or simply look like a balla’ in your friend’s Instagram feed. Sure, you’ll want a Tom Ford or Brioni tuxedo eventually, but you don’t need Daniel Craig’s tuxedo brands of choice just to feel like you are a sexy and sophisticated British agent. If there was ever a need for the quick n’ easy fix, the tuxedo is the one to fill up that void the fastest. Maybe you are a Best Man in a wedding only a few weeks from now. Renting is out of the question. And you do not want the same lump of coal that you wore for your high school prom. Although, you also don’t want to allocate too much of the year’s shrinking clothing allowance to an outfit that you will wear, at best, twice or thrice a year.

As predicted, Comb Gent proves as a worthy challenger on the dressiest side of the spectrum too, giving us one of the best Quality to Price Ratios for the lower budget market. Their bigger mainstream peers suffer too much from the markup. Ludlow Tuxedo Jacket *alone* costs more than double the Combatant Jacket+Pants kit. While SuitSupply’s tux is much lower in cost than JCrew….and has those fugly airplane wings for lapels. Banana Republic premium label Monogram is not only expensive (Jacket alone is $274 right now. On Sale from $475. Pants sold separately.) but someone in their design department made the egregious forced effort to update the handsome minimalist look of a dinner jacket by adding a ticket pocket and double venting (FYI a tuxedo jacket traditionally has no vents or at most a single). Dinner jackets are not meant for your business client meetings! The version from Express comes with a jacket that suffers from stitched lapels that screams UNCLASSY. Oh and yeah of course it is $$$ just like all of the above. H&M appears to be the only big mainstream retailer that offers a suit under three hundred bills (H&M cheapest tux is actually lower than CombGent’s $200 pricepoint to be fair) but even at a total of ~$110 MSRP for dinner jacket and slacks, I fail to see H&M’s justification for the savings with…is it a fad gone wrong?…stitched accents! And cheap imported synthetic fiber. Lastly, the growing BlackTux.com rents their slim cut suits for around the $100. I’ve actually had a chance to try their product for a wedding party I was a part of and it was not too bad. But for the money, why not spend a few Twenties more for something you can keep?

CombGent gives us Italian wool and satin lapels with a proper, modern width that is not too choking nor too Dumbo Ear-ey. Just as well, the shawl option is perfectly wide enough to give that relaxing vibe that is not too casual either. I like the various colors, that with the lower price almost begs you to grab a tuxedo in two or three unique tones. Black for the Opera Primiere, Charcoal Shawl for a champagne party, and the all-the-rage Midnight Blue for kissing your new girlfriend Lady Hazels Eyes at an exclusive Hollywood shindig you got invited to because she knows Beyonce’s personal assistant.

There are some downsides that The Combatant could work on. A tuxedo, no matter how fashionably forward it is in cut,should always obey the rules of yore. This is not to suppress the creative juices (because we must recall that CombGent is urbanprep in distinction and not a heritage label like Ben Silver that appeals to our conservative tradly needs) but to remind the creators and customers alike that you shall not mess with perfection. The tuxedo is a gentleman’s blank slate. We let our female companions be the eye catching arm candy that gives detail to the void. Thus as follows. Always a peak lapel (or shawl). Always single vent or none at all. Always one button. Always two jacket pockets. Always a satin strip running down the slacks. Always a slight break with no cuffs. Less is More is rarely so true as it is for mens eveningwear, which is precisely why our best sartorial saints continue to look timeless – Connery, Grant, Dean. We can now even go more minmalist these days by shedding the studs, the “cumbersome cummerbund”, and the frilled placket shirts.

My humble plea for Combatant Gentlemen: Remove the extra ticket pocket. Remove the second jacket button. Go with the peak, not the notched. Those design elements are the signatures of a timeless dinner jacket. Mind you, my knowledge sources from the best of the best, as one of my favorite sartorial mentors Glenn O’Brien of GQ reiterates “no notch lapels” too. Peaked lapels are the only extravagance to the otherwise somber tuxedo, and using the notched destroys any pomp displayed with replacing the novelty with boredom. I want to feel special that night, in my polished shoes and Dinner Jacket satin regalia; and instead not feel like I just took a taxi from a court hearing I was summoned to, wearing an all-too-common 2 buttoned notched suit jacket that pretends to be worthy for real deal evening etiquette!

The satin-esque finishin on the lapel and chest pocket, along with the jackets with satin finishes on the non-flap pockets, are divine. Definitely keep those options, especially the availability of the slanted double non-flap pockets which helps to further cut down on any material excess with absent flap over the pocketing. And I have no doubt that the quality and fitting are on par with your flagship suiting that I am obviously so fond of. Same approval for the flat front satin-running slacks,

The two major plotholes I talked of above are the only hesitations that prevent me from buying a Comb Gent tuxedo in this present state. I will ask my readers to make up your own mind on these proceedings, since my hangups may not be as sinful as I depict. There are tons of makers who do not know any better either. Our infallible Grandaddy Brooks has been my mating partner in a love/hate relationship for the longest time, as for example they too sell a notched lapel Fitzgerald when they should know better. Yet, the 99.99% of those dudes who are not a tyrant clothing dictator, like yours truely, will barely have enough attention to see that second button – much less know to never fasten it so that both buttons are closed, nor know how to tie a bowtie, nor know that the long satin tie is not an alternative for said bowtie. Never ever ever never. Anyway, I think current Combatant Tuxedo can can be improved upon to reach those final few points to make it perfect, but it is your trigger to pull. $200 is a good deal nevertheless.

*****

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The takeway cliffnotes.

Pros

Super 140s Italian sourced Wool, Staples starting at $160 (and lowest seasonal suiting at $140), Separate Suiting, Various Fittings, Attention to detail like “PRC” and hidden labeling, Unhemmed slacks, and Amazing OTR fitting that reduces need for extra alteration.

Cons

Made in China, Tuxedowear is promising but not yet perfect, Rest of clothing collection besides suiting is so-so for the money. Vanity sizing that can be confusing.

Verdict: Combatant Gentlemen is now my favorite supplier of budget conscious suiting.I suspect they will see me as a repeat customer. The Price to Quality is unmatched by their competitors. Use CombGent for your starter suit(s) if you cannot afford the higher quality range just yet, especially if you are a student or young professional. Or if you are like me and want a cheap and fashionably cut option as your 4th,5th,6th+ on top of your tradly, higher quality, primary suitwear. The rest of the CombGent collection of shirts, knits, and ties are on par with other brands and can be skipped over. Keep a close eye on their tuxedos for future improvements.

 

P.S. Here is another CG review for your consideration by Dappered.com

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Wardrobe Maintenance

source tomford.comTony’s Personal [edit: dream] Closet

I had a few inquires about my own clothing collection, specifically how I take care of my garments. As such – for when the masquerade ball bids adieu and yours truly departs to his solemn dark cave; the cape hung, the walking stick mounted, and the mask shed to reveal a beastly hideousness kept self-imposingly away from the scorn of thy princess’ innocence, for she shall never know the pained lengths to which I keep my dark desires anguished away fromstop – stop – actually that’s too melodramatic of a metaphorical opener. Even for me yeh? I think I just referred to you the reader as my princess? Okay, let’s skip my usual elaborate imagery and tantamount loquaciousness (< see did it again!) and get to the point. Provided below for your consideration are my thoughts on maintaining your wardrobe, based on how I personally keep my clothes. You’ve invested all of this money and energy into a wonderful collection of fabrics, patterns, and tailorings – no shame in keeping it tidy to ward off the moth balls, extending the wardrobe for decades to come.

Before I go further, how exactly is this a relevant topic to Trad&Prep anyhow? Well in our strictest definition for my ongoing Style Advice editorial series, it’s not necessarily a pure mannerism – “trad” or stylishly otherwise – that the Brothers of Tau Pi (Trad&Prep) religiously follow in secret ritual that only those in the know abide by. But taking care of one’s wardrobe likewise reveals the same kind of detail-oriented mentality in daily practice that all the other mannerisms and tidbits of my advice just as likewise birth from. Because just like how we put extra attention to fitting, with our tailor on speed dial and Xmas card recipient list, we put in just as much effort in making our clothing last. How we approach maintenance still tracks by the same distance that keeps our parenting sense of style apart from the mainstream masses. Because before you were enlightened and started paying attention to how you look, were you not one of those kids who just threw his clothes off on his bedroom floor after school for mommy to pickup later? Or when your jacket was forced into the closet, was it not lucky to just find itself mantled on a cheap wire hanger, if it were hung up at all as opposed to on the floor of your disoriented closet where it normally rested; perhaps sitting on a pile of the love-torn Romeo & Juliets of sneakers and dress shoes that all jived together in a dizzying unintentional sex party of swingers? The Brothers of Tau Pi expects more from its Pledges, and before you ascend to the highest ranks of knighthood and are able to sit with our Grand Regent – Sir God Mode Prep himself – at the round table, then you have to dive in the nitty gritty of what it takes to have the responsibility of hardened shiny armor bestowed upon you. It takes upkeep like anything else, and in our modern chivalrous times, you’ll soon see that the careful polishing/ironing of your closet/horsestable will go a long way in keeping your suit/destrier ready for the next day/battle.

Storage

Seasonal

I divide my whole collection of garments in accordance with how the brands do it: by catalog seasons of S/S and F/W. Clothes that are clearly meant for one season and not the other (i.e. Nanny Red lightweight chinos for the warmer months) are put away in a few large luggage cases or units and put into storage until the following year. Hence, I do bi-annual changeovers usually around the transition months of May and October; letting climate dictate when it is time to have lighter or heavier fabrics readily available. Or another good practice is to correspond with Daylight Savings Time.

These changeovers serves 3 purposes. The first is to have ample space for my respective seasonal wardrobes in my always-getting-smaller closet space. The second is to direct my ADD-ridden attention to rightful outfits that pair well with that season’s mood and climate, which lessens the potential to make faux pas mistakes out of spur (i.e. having the sudden urge to wear my cotton-linen cocaine white slacks in the middle of January). Thirdly is the unintended opportunity to critique your fluid collection by removing what you no longer wear, or in my case, justifying why I still need a backup ghastly Fun Shirt that I have the occasion to wear about once-in-a-never.

Seasonal storage does not apply to items that I can wear throughout the year. For instance, articles that can go into The Uniform like my standard weight chinos and OCBDs will stay in my closet all year. In fact, I have 15 or so button down shirts and 6-10+ pants that are always prominently featured, taking up the majority of hanging space in my closet. This allows for these primary staple pieces to be worn at a moment’s notice if need be without significant or no ironing, since they should have no creases from folding, making up my first line of defense that allows me to quickly armor up and gallop out the iron gates.

When my current season’s garments are ready for action sitting in my bedroom closet, I like to help preserve the wardrobe with a few ceder wood blocks and moth ball repellent packets lying around in there. The blocks help prevent moisture/odor and the packets keep those pesky little demons away. I also throw a packet into each storage luggage just to be safe.

10024035CedarBlocks_600

13816363Button Down Shirts

Of the 15 or so easily reachable hanging shirts in my closet: 3 whites including a single spread collar dress shirt, 2 blues, 1 red university stripe, 2 blue university stripe, 2 tattersalls, and a variety of checks, tattersalls, and minipatterns. This illustrates the precedence evolved from the starter shirt set as seen in The Guide. The rest of my button down shirts (OCBD or dress) that are not worn as often are either folded neatly in my hamper drawers, or kept in storage as previously mentioned until needed.

It would be nice to have ceder wood hangers if you can afford the luxury for your shirts, pants, etc. sitting the closet, but otherwise as long as your hangers do not damage the shape of your clothing (i.e. the cheap metal ones from dry cleaners that you must always throw away when you get home) then you should be okay.

57100gPremiumCedarHanger_600Pants & Shorts

Again, my go-to pants are hanging in my closet or in storage; typically 3 khaki variations, 2+ odd slacks of wool, corduroy, etc, and most all of my dress slacks. For the rest, such as fun pants like my GTH colored chinos and summer fabrics like seersucker or oxford, I too keep folded and placed in my bedroom hamper with the exception being all of my denim located on the closet shelf that affixes the hanging bar. During S/S my shorts are also folded and squeezed on my top shelf next to my denim, while in the F/W this hole is switched out for my four Fratagonia Snap T Fleece Pullovers and Retro X Vest that I love to throw on for quick errands during the colder months (although I usually keep one of the lighter vintage pullovers out during the summer too just to have for brisk mornings.)

Sweaters & Outerwear

Speaking of my pullovers, since sweaters tend to be inherently thick, I like to keep them individually wrapped in those free gift boxes that you can acquire during Xmas shopping (or niftily recycle extras as reused gift packaging.) This is particularly true for my nicer sweaters that I want to give extra focus to. Protip: Always check “Yes this is a gift item” on online orders if it is offered for free!  My boxes have been stocked over the years from mostly Brooks, Press, and Crew since I am such a brand whore. And yes. I keep branded boxes and sweaters in twin sets. Since it would be shear utter madness to have my Brooks Brothers Saxxon Wool Cable Knit Cardigan in a JPress box, and my JPress Shaggy in a Brooks Box. I mean, really….C’mon. C’mon guys. Let us not be like our barbarian brainless foe, my Grace!

Thankfully there is such a thing as a coat closet near the front entrance of your apartment/castle, so I keep my staple jackets there year round. I reuse old plastic coverings from the dry cleaners to cover each individually when not in use.

Suits & Delicates

Unless you are pimpdaddy Barney Waitforit Stinson and have a suit to wear for each day of the calendar year, I will assume that you don’t have 365 handsome suits hanging in a walk-in closet the size of my childhood home, where a personal Alfred dresses you as the rightful Earl of Downtown Friggin’ Abbey that you are. And if you are, then I will assume your closet looks like the Tom Ford dressing room as shown in the title photo, and that you have the corporate bank account to fund such pleasurable purSuits. For the rest of us drafted conclave of serfs and townsfolk, we have to defend the kingdom with our 2 or 3 staple suits – of armor – until we can rise the feudal ladder to the top ourselves. Until then, we have to keep our few precious suits mended from past blows and continuously polished in upkeep for the next surprise internship interview/pillaging.

I always have my suits kept in their suit bags. No brainer . But say that you bought your slightly used Navy 2 buttoned Fitzgerald from eBay for a budget saving $200 (Nice job! Shout out to Rule#10!) instead of from Granddaddy himself. Protip: walk in to your local Brooks Brothers store, or whichever the outfitter in-question is, and request a suit bag. Smile and be charming when you say to the cute sales representative gal at the front desk, “Hello ma’am, I bought a suit recently from the website and they must have forgotten to give me the complimentary suit bag. May I have one from here if possible? Also, my name is….what is your number…call you soon……..will you marry me?” In that order, preferably over a few years of dating. Protip: Say you had three purchases. And this actually has happened to me before, from that very staple 2 Button Navy Fitz I bought on BrooksBrothers.com all those years ago, and they really did forget the complimentary suit bag. Maybe that eases any racing worries just a bit.

For my nicer pants and dress slacks, I do something similiar to my outerwear where I hang them those free plastic coverings that you get from your tailor or dry cleaner. I never pack them up for storage due to the delicate wool fabrics that you would want to preserve away from harsh fold lines.

Shoes

Shoe Trees…..Of course this is the big one. You know of them. You should already be using them. And in my humble but expert opinion, you can even get away with a single set of cedar wood shoe trees if just starting out, because you only require one to reshape a pair after a day’s walking. But the big lesson here: Use ceder wood shoe trees! Let those trees sit in them for a night. Then the next day, take them out and put them in your next well-worn pair. Rinse. Repeat. The natural cedar helps the leather breath and reduce odor, while the mold restructures the shoe that has warped and expanded from wear. Related Protip: Give that particular shoe at least a day of rest as well (I mean…you do have more than one pair of penny loafers…right…) so it fully recovers. Both strategies will give your shoe collection ensured longevity. And I like keeping my dress shoes in their respective brand whore shoe boxes, unless just directly worn which I’ll let them breath in the open for a day with the trees in them.

I currently own three from Nordstrom that I picked up on sale for about $10 each during their annual big summer sale. Although another great cheap source is Jos. A. Bank (which is one of the very few times you will actually see me recommending this otherwise super-nasty terrible excuse of a “mens outfitter”). They often run their trees at less than ten bucks when on sale and often throw in free shipping. It’s such a grand deal that much of the online fashion community/blogosphere has become obsessed with the next JAB shoe tree offering so you can find abundant PSA’s. Typically come out to $8.50 w/free shipping per.

Could watch this guy for hours…wait, it’s 7pm already?! (There used to be a HD version of this clip but can’t seem to find it, shame)

The other popular shoe topic: Shining. Some of you more Type-A Haberdasher Extremists love to obsess with keeping their shoes shined. Makes sense if you are a corporate man or in the military, but as many of you readers are younger and still in college, I will break the almighty rule here and say that you can have your dress shoes shined Prorenata. Have the Park Avenues spit-shined before the frat formal or the big internship interview, and then have it done again a year from now. Maybe you can get away with it 3-5 times a year if excessively worn. This is because I am assuming you are not wearing your nicer pairs on a daily basis. Plus, there is also that other yet-to-be-published trad mannerism that adds to the GoToHell mentality championing that “Yeah my pennies are scruffed and worn-in to pieces. So what? F*ck off dude. I was born in these loafers. ” attitude that praises the old and the frayed articles that have seen some days. Remember that the original WASPs of the mid century we used look fondly to as model tradsters used to put duct tape on their old Weejuns to keep them falling apart. This was seen as a badge of honor, whereas now it would be seen as a badge of hobo. This is why I resorted my first pair of pennies ever, those Cole Haan Pinch, acting now as my sh*tkicker loafers that I can wear barefoot and trudged through the mud and gravel without a second thought.

Confessional: Yours truely is actually not that well-versed in shoe shining. But I don’t yet as of this point in my life require weekly shines. I do however like using a horsehair brush to remove dirt and particles before and after wear. Maybe when I’ve become a Fortune 500 CEO, or ya’ know, just as close in my career – as Purple Label suits worn daily to the top floor office does need it spiffy wingtips! I have mine shined when I visit my cobbler…

If your tailor is on speed dial, then your shoe cobbler is at least in your list of contacts. Go ahead and look at your smartphone. See, right there, listed as “Cobbler, Shoe”.  Mine is an old grandpa who has been in the same mom&pop location for three decades. Maybe even just once a year I visit him with one of my hard soled shoes ready for its tune-up, with each pair lasting about 3 years for me, again depending on amount of wear. My guy also throws in free shoe shining too. Or you can send it in to the original shoemaker if you are more anal. Both Allen Edmonds and Alden for example each have cobbling and touch-up services provided at a higher premium. I plan on going this route with my most formal of dress shoes, such as my Park Avenues and my eventual GMP-level Alden Leisure Hand Sewn (LHS) loafers in colors #8 and whiskey….soon.

Think of the elements. Grain leather is great for hiding scruffs, and a Dainite rubber sole – the famous British contribution to shoe history – is awesome for gripping slippery surfaces (precisely why my second pair of staple boots is a light brown grain leather Chukka from British shoemaker Herring). Suede is nice for your summer saddle bucks and autumn desert boots, but are allergic to rain.

Polos, Tees, Underwear, etc.

Folded and kept in my bedroom hamper. Separated by polos, tees, undergarments, and miscellany. Iron if must. Keeps your girlfriend’s nakie pics and spare condoms hidden under. Not else much to say.

Neckties

I use this ceder tree hanger that I got on discount from my local Allen Edmonds location. But a ceder hanger is just a nice extra, as long as you hang your ties and don’t let them get thrown together in a pile. Hanging will prevent creases. Also, you NEVER want to send your ties to your regular dry cleaner since the service can make your silk ties loose its “springy-iness”. There are special services you can mail in your ties such as this one. But this will obviously be a rare thing to do, so in the mean time try not to spill spaghetti sauce on them. (Fun fact: this is also a reason why some physicians no longer wear ties since they are fomites, or objects that harbor bacteria, since ties are rarely if ever washed!)

allenedmonds_cedar-products_tie-hanger_lAccessories

I have a stacker that I got from The Container Store that sits on top of my bedroom hamper. This stores my watches, sunglasses, cufflinks, tiebars/pins, wallet, and any other small miscellaneous item. Just a good organizer to have to get into the habit of using so that the next time you’re all “Where the flying f*ck are my keys?” you know the first place to look.

10064361gWellingtonStackerBrn_x

Basic Washing Rules

Washing your clothes is a whole ‘nother ball game. So barring any special circumstances, here are my basic instructions:

Dry Clean your delicates like dress slacks, suits, sportcoats, blazers, outerwear, and the very delicate. This should be obvious, but what may not be is the fact that dry cleaning can also SHORTEN the lifespan of your clothing. So being mindful of individual circumstances regarding to amount of wear, I only have my formal apparel dry cleaned once every 4-5 outings for suits and slacks and 10-15+ for my outerwear.

Cold Wash your colored non-delicate natural fabrics like cottons, linens, etc. I like using Tide Alternative Bleach which helps keep colors bright. Usually can pick up these badboys at Costco or Target but you can find it at all major chains. I just throw in my non-white colored clothing all together because the Tide Detergent does a good job of non-bleeding. Then I use generic Softener Liquid and/or Dryer Sheets (usually Costco Kirkland brand).

15071680Warm Wash your synthetics like fleece, polyester, etc. This is for your techprep stuff. Do NOT use Softener because it can ruin the effectiveness of the synthetics. And you can cold wash too, but many of my synthetics are activity wear that I use for the gym or running so I warm wash to help kill the bacteria. But do NOT hot wash since it may be detrimental to your synthetics.

Warm or Hot Wash your whites, separate from your colors. NEVER use chlorinated bleach since they will make your whites into that nasty yellow color over time. That is why I like using the Tide Alternative Bleach as seen above.

Cold Wash your semi-delicate natural fabrics like wool, cashmere, etc. TUMBLE LOW or HANDWASH settings only. Wool tends to shrink under warm water and heavy tumble, which you may already know from trial and error (RIP Shetland Fair Isle Sweater passed down from my Gramps….you will be missed!) I use Woolite Dark since most of my items are dark colored.

I also use this process for my expensive raw denim – which is a subject that can be an entirely new article on! But for now, the basics are to TURN INSIDE OUT and then cold wash/tumble low as before. I also use the Woolite Dark for this. Aim for washing raw denim 1-3 times a year if you intend on being a hypebeast denim expert enthusiast like the rest of us.

13296095Machine Drying can be for your non-delicate natural fabrics like cotton. Although, I prefer to hang dry my shirts and pants for half a day, just to assist in removing excess moisture (which in turn saves on the energy bill too). Protip: if you want to hang your clothing all the way dry, then you can use a wet cloth thrown into the pile which gives up some moisture for the dry tumble. This allows for a short 5min low heat, energy-saving tumble that is more to give the non-crease effect as opposed to drying. But always make sure to remove your garments right after drying no matter to ward off those creases! Protip: hang your chinos and slacks “sideways” which gives it an artificial loose front crease when they cool down. **I will explain why in a bit.

Hang Dry your synthetics. They are not meant to be exposed to heat.

Lay Flat Dry your semi-delicate natural fibers.Especially true for your upperwear like wool and cashmere sweaters. Laying flat allows to retain the shape while hanging tends to mess up the shouldering and neck. I like to lay them on my bed in the daylight sun. Then when totally dry, you can either iron them or machine dry on tumble low using that protip I explained earlier of a damp cloth thrown in. This will help remove any excess creasing.

Removing Stains can be used with my favorite tool, Shout Stain Remover Brush. I pretreat about ten minutes before wash. And I am sure there are other affective agents and brands out there, but I like using this one in particular because of the top brush you can use to scrub in the gel so it seeps in deeper to fight against the stain. The mechanical action of scrubbing really seems to help remove or at least lessen the really bad food, wine, and marker stains. Or use an old toothbrush. Do NOT brush your teeth with it after. Sicko.

13750473Ironing

Many of your button downs and pants that have been hanging in your closet may not need too much ironing, but it’s still nice to look presentable if the occasion calls for it. And admittingly, I will press my polos and even my tees if they have too many creases from sitting in the hamper for too long (or execute that earlier Protip with the wet cloth; does the trick just as easily with less work).

My major piece of ironing advice is to press flat-front pants with a front crease, as this not only gives you a cleancut look but it also makes it easier to walk since it keeps your flat front pants from having that Saturday Night Fever-flared bottoms-aesthetic to it. ** If you hung your chinos and slacks they way I described earlier right after machine drying, then it will be easy to press that already-set artificial loose front crease in.

Other than being weary of which iron setting to use for each fabric in-question, there is no specific guide I can further give. Takes practice on developing perfect ironing form. Used to take me more than 10min to get a cleanly pressed shirt, but now it takes me less than 5 if I am not in a hurry. And I prefer to press my clothes instead of the dry cleaners anyhow. Not a fan of starch which can also decrease the life expectancy of your wardrobe.

I use the Panasonic NI-E650TR. That retractable plug was a blessing sent down to us from the fashion gods! But any cheap ol’ iron will do. Don’t need a fancy one or anything. Prior to this Panasonic that I’ve only had for less than a year, I used a cheap Black&Decker that I got from Wal Mart my freshman year. Still works too.

NI-E650TR_400_1

That should take care of it. Your House of Knightly Refinement should be in working order, since you now know how to maintain Battle Ready Preparedness. The Brothers of Tau Pi will be pleased of the progress you’ve made in your apprenticeship. Now forgive me, as I must bid adieu and depart ways and head back to my underground lair and perve out on my princess…

 

**Edit 1/24/15:

I was finally able to catch today one of those famous One Day flash sales at Jos A Bank. Items were 66% or more off. Shoes Cedar Trees were down to $8.50 from the regular $25, an awesome deal as described earlier. These trees are especially well known around the menswear community as a quality made in USA product…one of the few things JAB does right…so it’s quite a bargain when you can catch them below $9! There were other great deals for clothing care, like their (Pack of 2) Standard Cedar Hangers down to $5.10 from the original $15 and Contoured Cedar Hanger for $8.16 from $24. Could always use an extra Lint Roller for $1.70 and Leather Shoe Conditioner for $2.38. I’m already set with my previously mentioned Allen Edmonds tie rack, but JAB’s made in USA Cedar Accessory Mate came to $9.52 from $28, perfect for your ties and belts. These will go great for freshening up shirts and pants, especially if I plan for a second or third wearing. And I will use the suit hanger for my precious outerwear/suits that go long periods of time between cleaning, like my Barbour Beaufort and Brooks Brothers Trench. Depending on the Sale, orders may qualify for free shipping for a certain minimum, or if you are lucky then none at all. Today’s Sale was with free shipping for a total order of $50. I ended up closer to $75 since I packed a few more Trees and Hangers, since with those deals it would be smart to take advantage of stocking up! May seem a little much for clothing maintenance, but these items are a strong investment for our wardrobe. Keep on a lookout for more flash and seasonal Sales from JAB.

Screenshots, in case you need proof of these killer savings ;)

JABcedertree

JABhanger1

 

 

JABhanger2

JABsalecart

 

 

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Tony’s Column: Ralph v. The Brethren

 Ralph Lauren innovated the concept of fashionable lifestyle branding. This video is a perfect example of the idealistic imagery Ralph is selling (and we find ourselves enthusiastically buying!)

One of our readers had recently emailed me with a personal essay of his own opinionated narrative. It is simply too good to not share with you all, so I assigned his much appreciated message as an excuse to not only give my direct reply, but to post my own dwelling into the very topic he had brought up; going evermore deeper into the rabbit hole as I attach my resultant exploration of this subject.

The Given Prompt: How does Ralph Lauren compare to Brooks Brothers? The latter decisively being Trad&Prep’s “GrandDaddy” as our most esteemed outfitter? I now leave the Senate Floor to the Gentleman from Ralph Island [edited for publish]:

Lets Talk Ralph Lauren

“Dear Tony,

We both know the greatness of Granddaddy Brooks. However, I’m starting to believe that maybe Ralph is up there. Growing up, I watched my father wear Ralph Lauren polos, sportshirts, and dress shirts. He had a black leather Ralph Lauren wallet, which I now proudly use. Now he opts for his brown leather Ralph wallet that his old college roommate bought him. 

In the past year, I’ve spent more time studying Ralph’s clothes in stores. I had the pleasure of purchasing a beautiful gingham OCBD from a Ralph Lauren store in the Abu Dhabi International Airport during a layover. Now, we both know Ralph Lauren and his pony is very mainstream. The majority of people that I speak to about his clothes only buy them to sport a little pony on their chest. That is obviously a big turn off for someone like me that knows better. Instead, I go off to Brooks Brothers, or marveling at J. Press while in D.C. 

Now as much the brainless masses go to Ralph Lauren just because they believe the pony makes them look cool, they’re also benefiting from their ignorance. Regardless of the stupidity of Ralph’s customers, his clothes are indeed of superior quality. The polo’s that my father has passed down to me are still in excellent quality. It is so easy to look at PRL with disgust because of the mainstream crowd, but the reason why he also does well is not just his branding, but also the quality of the clothes really do speak volumes. To be honest, my decade old Ralph Lauren polo’s are doing better than my year-old Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece polos, which is very odd. Another thing I’ve noticed that Ralph does really well is the cut of his clothes. The fitting , to be frank, is more modern. That OCBD I bought in Abu Dhabi fits better and tucks in better in my chinos than my OCBDs from Brooks Brothers here. Maybe the mainstream crowd does know what it is doing with Ralph Lauren? Of course, I naturally aspire to be wearing Purple Label one day…

Sincerely, P.K.”

Foreword(I)

Thank you Mr. PK for humoring me with your correspondence and for using my blog memes to tell your position. For those with a confused and/or horrified look on his face, please refer to this glossary. And to my psychiatrist.

Foreword (II)

Master PK and I both assuredly agree with your rolling eyes. Why does it matter to decipher the relationship between Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers? Afterall, the following consequential forum between our two parties (The Honorable PK and Tony) involves an increased level of intuition that the  brainless masses will likewise have increased disdain for. And not that they are wrong either, since this exercise is purely out of trivial pursuit. Because lets stay grounded and be meta on our outlook…we are diving into the dichotomy of two fashion houses and their individual merits, as judged by some mystical barometer of unofficial final conclusiveness…I mean, how #firstworldproblems can we get?!

Preface

Tony would like to acknowledge Supreme Commander PK for his voluntary inquest and this proceeding forum.

Introduction

His Excellency PK purports to establish Ralph Lauren in the same grace as an already-chiseled face on our Mt. Rushmore of Greatest Trad&Prep brands. Similar to the formulating origins of the Holy Trinity, this superior mountain range of select fashion houses is known for their respective major contributions and influences to our style lexicon, and live prominently on in our wardrobes just as they had for generations before us. They are the revered tailors that you can trust your entire lifetime’s wardrobe to if need be, and Brooks Brothers is easily the utmost peak of these highly regarded few. Tony seeks to comment on Sir PK’s thought process in this reply, as well as put forth corollaries from his own narrative trajectory.

Bodied Response

Dear PK Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the Tradly Empire,

I too have had similiar fondness for Mr. Lauren in my childhood memories with growing up in my patriarchal Generations of Style. My older brother and I are the lineage torchbearers of late, carrying our namesake’s Pride of the Sartorial Arts on our chests. And oh my, what is this marked impression on our said marked chests, that overlays my family’s eternal symbol of gentlemanly guile? Yes. Of course. A champion polo player on his galloping steed and swinging his mallet towards eternal victory. Multicolored signature logo embroided on a frayed, worn-in, classic white oxford cloth button down shirt.

I just described my single most favorite clothing item out of all of the apparel in my bountiful closet. These days, it hibernates in my shirt drawer for the rare cherished moment, but more than a decade ago that shirt used to be my one and only white button down. Period. As in for all occasions ranging from casual to formal. That would be unimaginable to me now! Since right at this moment I now have more than half a dozen white duplicates hanging in my closet, from a rumpled JPressFlap Pocket OCBD to a pressed Brooks Brothers Dress Shirt with French Cuffs and preset holes for a tie pin. Yet, that original white classic Ralph Lauren oxford remains as my most cherished. Maybe it’s because it is one of my oldest items still thriving in an always-maturing wardrobe. Maybe it’s because of its authentically frayed collar and worn softness. Maybe it’s because it was originally my father’s, and hence in true tradly spirit, passed down to his youngest son out of need for a quick fix for 4th grade class photos. Then: super baggy and stiff. Present: perfectly boxy and soft from two decades of wear.

If you closely, you can spot the natural fraying of the tag, collar, and cuff. Solid Oxford Sport Shirt circa early 1990′s.

1 2 3That’s the thing about Ralph Lauren. While true that I would never put RL wholesomely with the creme of the crop Mt. Rushmore brands that make up the right-most end of a metaphorical balance beam, where traditional TNSIL weighs in at its heaviest; we shall not deny its own far reaching impact on the modern American East Coast Aesthetic. It just isn’t on Mt. Rushmore simply because Ralph came in a tad too late to be considered a real heritage brand. ie) Your grandpa wore Hamilton OCBDs when he was a freshman at Ohio State in 1967, when Ralph was only a mere tie collection in that year of its birth. Mr. Lauren would not catch Gramps’ eyes as a fledgling newcomer until probably the mid-1970s at its very earliest of its fledgling popularity, especially since the Pony really found its groove as it stampeded into the original prep era of the ’80s. The Pony gave us the initial reason to be self-conscious of logos, as a serious contender to that other big competitor in Lacoste’s Crocodile. Then Ralph innovated his multimedia platform through the years by emphasizing the WASP lifestyle, which effectively brought high class tastes to the availability of the mainstream masses. This new approach to lifestyle marketing is what Ralph Lauren is best known for, with the flagship Polo Blue Label becoming one of the most prominent brands that built its reputation on projecting dreamlike imagery. Making the once-unattainable preppy look, perpetrated by the WASP elitists who shopped at the likes of Brooks and Press, and now accessible to the rest of us commonfolk who did not live within a twenty mile radius of Hyannis Port. In fact, the classically interpreted “Polo Shirt” as the mainstream masses know it today may as well be in the same reference to a Ralph Lauren Polo Shirt, by way of brand generification over the past three decades that Ralph climbed the unclimbable Mt. Rushmore and graffitied its Pony Logo all over his Granddaddy’s monolithic face.

Again, it is this aforementioned timeline why I can never technically label Ralph as an American Heritage Brand. Which means RL will never be considered to be in the same grouping of tradliest outfitters in terms of outright birthright. Grandaddy Brooks obviously rules them all with an 1818 establishment and its multitude of clothing inventions that are taken for granted today (including the OCBD – the Original Polo Shirt as we already know it to be). Yuppy twin peak, that is also a choice favorite of GMPs, set up his shop in 1903 with Jacobi Press’ founding across Yale University. And so on. Hamilton Shirts in 1883. The Alden Shoe Company in 1884. Gant in 1949. You see where I am getting at; I guess we can call Ralph Lauren one of the oldest neoprep brands with its 1967 arrival, if we applied the very neoprep definition loosely in this light.

But going with that same logic, Mr. Lauren is easily the greatest of the neoprep brands, no? We can start off with the origin story already mentioned earlier, and shadow RL Polo’s rise to fame in the original prep era that helped it eventually become synonymous with the classic American WASPy lifestyle – whether in truth or not – that is how it is perceived by the mainstream majority. He certainly outlasted Tommy Hilfiger and other rivals, in that epic High Stakes Race for the champion breed of lifestyle branding over two decades ago. We all remember Leo’s portrayal of New Rich Jordan Belfort and his money-making scheme set in the early 1990s? I like to think the movie costume below was decided upon with educated precision, since the Pony was still somewhat exclusive in those pre-mensfashionblogosphere days. Justifiably equipped for a nonchalant scene of a yuppie on his big yacht. Unlike now, when that same Pony can be found sitting under a dust cover in the clearance bin at a Ross Discount Store.

Toast to a time when the Pony was once praised.

source wolfofwallstreetI pay credit to Mr. Lauren moreso for his ingenuity than for what questionable items of his I can buy at Macys. His lifestyle branding and vertical implementation is unparalleled in stature compared to all the other fashion houses, much less Granddaddy Brooks in particular. Polo Blue Label is Ralph’s ambassador, serving as a homing beacon that introduces new customers into a world of an idealistic preppy livelihood. Then once he has you hooked on his version of a WASP Heaven, he has you riding on Blue Label’s saddle to his latter end luxury diversification. Mr. Lauren’s brilliant portfolio is why we now have the pleasure of wearing (or in my case “waiting desperately for the day I can wear”) luxurious apparel from the RL Black and Purple Label variety in a fashion-forward sentiment I can actually agree with. These campaigns have marketed lifestyles that are less Blue’s Harvard Row Team and more Black’s New York City Sophisticated and Purple’s Excelsior Class, and lead to why I have a strict allegiance to Mr. Lauren even if I continuously rebut 90% of Blue Label’s collection in my recommendations. I see it for what it is: Ralph Lauren is a fashion-forward brand through and through, and the very best American mainstream brand in my discerning opinion at that. We cannot deny the success he has built upon feeding a fantastical illustration of our beloved Trad&Prep affliction (and other Americana visions like with Western and Native American themes). There is a reason he is chosen to represent the USA Olympic Team. So Blue Label may have gone too downhill for our advanced groupthink in the name of appeasing an authentic form of Trad&Prep, but credit should be payed when it is due.

Ralph Lauren’s Olympic uniforms are often misunderstood by the brainless masses. “Too preppy, too old looking, too ugly!” But we shall not place blame too easily, since not everyone knows the nuanced impact that Ralph has as the definitive American Designer. “Why the preppy old world look?” the indoctrinated exclaim. Because that is what we Americans do best. This uniform of blazer and chinos is our nation’s export to the global fashion scene when a semi-formal kit is needed. Italians have their dandy soft fit suits, the Germans have their skinny dark muted suits, and the Americans have gold buttoned double breasted blazers in a structured but formed fit. Beret, white chinos, and club collars in ode to sporting regalia of days of yore.

Team-USA-Olympic-uniforms--Ralph-LaurenThis all condenses to a blanketing conclusion that reflect my sum of feelings about Ralph. If I want an updated outfit from the newest runway collections, I look to Mr. Lauren as the credible source for American fashion-forward design. He is the guy that competes against other vogue designers like Gucci, Prada, and Valentino. Not Brooks Brothers. Not JPress. Not Hamilton. He is our nation’s champion facing the whole of European secularism. So in terms of where Ralph fits in the grand lexicon, if the Mt. Rushmore of heritage brands are on the farthest traditional right in our distinguishing spectrum, then Blue Label is placed somewhere at the focal point that is not to trad for mainstream appeal, and Black and Purple come in at the farthest creative left that make up the “looking ahead” runway fashion front.

As Royal P.K. mentions, we can look to Ralph for ushering in the newest sartorial aesthetics in contrast to our olde-world TNSIL persona. Mr. Lauren gives us the updated personalized fits and quality sourced from all majestic corners of the world in support of his massive reign over the luxury apparel segment. Although I won’t go as so far to necessarily agree that my own Blue Label articles are any more superior to my Brooks paraphernalia (though I’d easily stand by a USA-made Brooks OCBD.) And almost by sweet irony, we now find heritage brands being the one playing catchup. Whereas Ralph Lauren was the aspiring newcomer who mass produced his own copy of the providence lifestyle that Brooks and other tradder than thou tailors sold to the Olde Money New England Brahmins, we now find Ralph leading the contemporary front and Mt. Rushmore crumbling behind. Out with the old. In with the new. The Noveua Rich of today seem to be exponentially growing in number, especially from the international front, and they want the newest designs to satisfy their thirst for haute fashion. Which Ralph had positioned himself to garner long ago. I am willing to bet RL’s womens collection easily outsells Brooks, just as Purple Label probably easily chosen over Brooks Golden Fleece in any affluent market outside of stuffy Washington D.C. (arguably the St. Alamo of the #1 Repp). We find JPress and Grandaddy Brooks only recently introducing their own lines of fashionably forward and youth-oriented diversification to keep up with changing customer demands: York Street ,Thom Browne’s Black Fleece, and Flatiron & Red Fleece….(Though it is important to note that RL Rugby, which would have been York St. and Red Fleece’s direct competitor for the youthful and fashionably preppy market, was the first to establish in 2004 but had since liquidated in 2012 due to a directional strategy by Ralph Lauren to concentrate its resources away from a small niche to the more profitable international market for luxury goods. Only time will tell if Press and Brooks’ entry into the questionable niche market that Rugby left will prove to be profitable)…Other heritage brands have followed en suite, such as Gant collaborating with Michael Bastion at the helm of its newest relaunch into the luxury segment a few years back. All the while, Ralph having already made his name in cornering both the mainstream and the fashionably elitist crowds for quite some time now. Simply no other outfitter can match his monopoly on today’s version of the American East Coast Aesthetic.

Ralph likes to make a grand statement in his marketing campaigns that match the grand depictions he sells his clothes by. Welcome to the World of Ralph Lauren. Bold print captioning a snapshot that offers a glimpse of the exemplary American lifestyle. Here, a seaside polo match. Vintage Mercedes to match a sporty vibe of long tie with shorts. Too contrived for the real world? Yes. But you are not copying this handsome dude’s outfit per say, but instead you are dressing to his WASPy decorum. Ralph is conveying more than just a need to buy his clothing. He asks you to commit to this ultra romanticized vision in fortifying spirit.

source art8amby.files.wordpress.comYou can spot entire folds of RL print ads in high brow publications like The New York Times and Vogue, whereas Brooks and the other heritage brands had rarely done so in the modern era until perhaps very recently.  source httptheefface.blogspot.comWomen fashionistas resonate with the slender contours that often seem to explode right off his print ads. Notice the common themes here: Attractive feminine models in juxtaposition of powerful prose. Again, Brooks loses out to Ralph in approaching high end womenswear.

urlNacho Figueras as the face of Black Label.

soure httpfashionindustryarchive.com

Epilogue

Where does that leave me at the end of this thought process? I’ll let my wardrobe speak for itself: My current Polo Blue Label pieces are typically my second tier players that support the staples. Meaning if you had all of the basics I recommended in my Starter Guide, then you can now explore other alternatives such as from that of Blue Label.

Conclusion #1

Ralph Lauren, especially Polo Blue Label, is one of our primary solvents for all staples in your closet. This is in addendum to the special brands that I recommend for specified and original items as your go-to’s (i.e from The Guide and Ask Me sections).

For instance, if Bill’s Khakis are your go-to chinos, then Ralph’s Khakis can certainly be your backup for when your M3′s are worn out and sitting in the laundry hamper. However, if you could choose a single pair of Nanny Red Chinos, then you would opt for Murray’s Toggery Shop as the authentic proprietor of red pants. Only your second pair can be from RL. Do you see what I am getting at? Let Blue Label fill in the cracks of your wardrobe.

Classic Fit Preppy Chino

Source Polo.com1

Conclusion #2

Ralph is a fashionably-forward brand at its core, meaning it is one of our regular mainstay sources for unique and “fun” seasonal items.

My “fun” shorts in summer casual patterns, like gingham and plaid, are most all Blue Label that I was able to stockpile over the years from department store clearance sales.

Straight Linen Gingham Shorts (**Hurry, reduced to $24 from $89 as of this posting!**)

source Polo.com2Conclusion #3

Polo Blue Label may be a common denominator for the mainstream masses, but the upsides are its easy availability and subjectivity to great discounts. Just know which items to incorporate (ex. basic chinos) and which to avoid (ex. articles with oversized Pony logos, as well as generally the infamous Polo Shirt due to its extreme ubiquity among the brainless masses).

Blue Label is essentially a mall brand. Polo is regularly seen across the country in department stores and outlets, unlike many of the heritage brands that only have a few boutique locations in select focus markets (ex. JPress found only in New Haven, NYC, Boston, and DC). This is a good thing in that you can easily drive to your closest shopping center to acquire basic apparel with the added advantage of a good chance of a clearance sale. Many major department stores offer the best reductions when the timing is right, as for example with Macys and Belk often honoring stackable coupons. This makes Ralph Lauren one of the very few labels that I actually do appreciate as a mall brand (unlike Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, and other such causes of my contempt). The majority of my Polo collection were purchased at great discount in continual ode to Rule #10 from The Guide.

Conclusion #4

One of the main blog themes is: Go with the brand that innovated first. I look to Mr. Lauren for the pack leader of runway looks that have an American influence. He is the epitome of sartorial artistry for high fashion meeting Trad&Prep influence.

His global empire speaks for itself. Yeah, I do ask that you stay away from your tenth Pony Polo shirt and opt for a Golden Fleece instead, but that’s because I want you to strive for an enlightening that separates you from the brainless masses. Still, we cannot overlook the Pony’s world wide effect either in Ralph being our one true Trad&Prep Ambassador for today. Because of him, we have an international prep in Abu Dhabi who look just as regal as his Massachusetts penpal at Philips Academy. Perhaps you are reading this very article within European or Asian borders in growing interests of the American preppy and traditional look (if that is the case, welcome to the blog!) I am betting that you had placed RL as one of your top brands to shop from, because really and truly, that brand is one of the few that you actually know of. Proving Ralph’s international popularity over the heritage brands.

Polo Blue Label is where Trad met Prep met Mass Marketing. Others have come and gone riding on that lifestyle pony (*cough* Tommy *cough*), yet Polo remains THE preppy outfitter to plebs and kings alike. Mind you, this is the exact reason why I want to transition you away from all-to-common Blue Label Polo shirts and humongous Pony logos that take up half of a shirt, because those exact plebs and kings usually makeup the mainstream masses that I always enjoy ridiculing. But nonetheless we can still look to Ralph Lauren as a proven one-stop supply. Just try to keep with authentic clean cut pieces by staying away from the contrived (i.e. Tyler Shorts look good on the campus of Furman University. False Athletic Patches on a predistressed Rugby Shirt – do not.) As alluded to earlier, I typically like 10% of Blue Label offerings in their simplicity and/or uniqueness. These are the items that have absent or unnoticeable logos, are not sandblasted or predistressed, and do not have fake rugby patches. The rest that do can be left on the discount rack.

Climbing up from Blue Label to the next rung on Ralph’s ladder of vertical integration: I like Black Label for an urban, upwardly mobile type who just oozes sexy manliness. He is the kind of guy who sips brandy as he reads WSJ and relaxes on his Eames Lounge in his New York Upper West Side penthouse on 55 West 81st Street. There is a reason why esteemed polo player Nacho Figueras is the face of Black Label, since his chiseled looks and graceful aura exemplifies Black so well. If Patrick Bateman were, well real first of all, and lived in our 2014′s “sophisticated personal style” timeline and not in 1986′s “full-metal-WASP” era, then he would be wearing Black. And for the record, I place Black miles above the Grandaddy Brooks standard line in regard to this modern approach, with maybe the Black Fleece akin in exclusive nature.

The 1818 Fitzgerald is my recommended go-to for your starter suit. But when you eventually climb the corporate ladder and have enough disposable income to branch out, then Black Label is one of my top places to look for an even higher bar than where the 1818 line is set. Black exudes confidence with the Label’s typically sharp lines in an aggressively tapered silhouette and slightly broad shoulders. You won’t see the usual GTH colors here like you normally would with Polo Blue. Instead, Black Label stays true to its name with a dark palate of sleek suits. You are not going for the WASP look, but instead the Cosmopolitan Man who commands his destiny. Perfect for when you broker a multimillion dollar acquisition deal as your firm’s rising star hotshot.

On my to-buy-whenever-I-reach-well-into-the-six-figures list is the Anthony Suit. Much like how Brooks Brothers has the Fitzgerald and JCrew has the Ludlow, the Anthony is Black Label’s slim fit stronghold.

source Polo.com3Purple Label, on the other gold ring-clad feeding hand, is strictly for the top brass executive who loves the very best that Earth has to give, such as exotic leathers and supple fabrics (okay, the Seven Natural Wonders too). This refined older gentleman drives his Rolls to the Hamptons getaway estate on the weekends when he isn’t jetsetting to his pied-à-terre in Hong Kong. Maybe slightly above Golden Fleece, which is extremely luxurious as The Bretheren’s Cadillac label as it is; only because I put Purple in the most sublime order of menswear tailors. Purple Label sits comfortably next to the likes of Brioni, Cuccinelli, Kiton, Oxxford, and any one of the Savile Row Masters.

That Youtube clip in the title of this article sums up how I feel about these two Labels: Pure Elegance.

$4500 for a white dinner jacket I can wear maybe once every two years? I’ll buy five.

Source Polo.com4

PostScript

Look to the World of Ralph Lauren for the in-betweeners. For the “so ridiculously reduced in price that you would be insane to NOT buy a third pair of kelly green pants”. For the Cosmopolitan. For the Sublime. While Brooks Brothers is the top billed actor who headlines the stage, Polo Blue Label is your supporting cast whom the star owes his brilliant performance to. Black Label is the handsome fella’ sitting front row wearing a peak lapeled tuxedo and holding the soft hand of a Victoria Secret Angel. Purple Label is the benefactor that owns the whole damn theater.

Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire – See more at: http://www.debretts.com/forms-address/titles/knight#sthash.PmNy330B.dpuf

 

 The Uniform. My cherished RL Sport OCBD paired with RL Classic Fit Flat Front Shorts (tapered and hemmed to 7″).IMG_0573

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