Austrian style

13 Apr

Austrian flagOne of my friends is from Vienna and works in the Trade division for the Austrian Consulate in Toronto. She organized a trade event to showcase Austrian food and wine and asked me to help out, which I did on Tuesday night. It was a fun, day-long event and a good turn out with many Austrian delegates and business people, plus European and Canadian guests.

Austrians are friendly, polite, and reserved; efficient and no-nonsense. They are a culture of people who enjoy life, tasty cheese, meats, and condiments; beer, radlers, and wine (speaking of, if you’ve never tried Grüner Veltliner, you must!).

Besides all of the delicious Austrian products at the trade event, I was struck with something else: the look of the Austrian men.

Suits

Habsburg Tacht suit

A modern Tacht suit from Austria’s Kleidermanufaktur Habsburg

The Austrian businessmen’s suit cuts are different than what we’re used to seeing in Canada (i.e. Kenneth Barlis’ fall-winter 2017 collection featured at TOM* – Toronto Men’s Fashion Week, includes very short jackets in dazzling colours). Austrian suit jackets are worn much longer and trousers are roomier as well.

Austrian suits are conservative and practical with straighter cuts than other European styles. English or Italian fits can be quite body-consciousness and sculpted to show off the body line, but not so with the more modest Austrians.

Traditional Tracht jackets are worn by men (and sometimes women) in German-speaking countries including Austria.These structured garments are easy to spot: they are typically styled with a stand up collar with or without lapels, with a of row of fancy buttons and buttonholes all the way up to the neck. These jackets often feature contrast material or decorative braid to adorn pockets, collars, and jacket edges.

Traditional Tacht jacket

Details of Tracht clothing have found their way into modern designs. Kleidermanufaktur Habsburg, an Austrian lifestyle clothing brand, features traditional Tracht designs with noble, “imperial roots”, as their website states. The navy suit above, from their 2016 fall-winter collection, reflects the traditional features in this updated version of the Tracht jacket.

Colour and other details

The last time I was at an Austrian trade event, I noticed the suit colour choices and decided to speak with one of the delegates about it.

“I noticed that you’re all in navy suits,” I said. “No one is wearing a brown suit. Why is that?”

“Brown suits are only for managers!” the Austrian businessman insisted.

All of the Austrian men at the trade event wore black lace-up shoes and belts without exception. In North America, we’re used to seeing brown/cordova shoes and belts to mix up a business look, but not for these men.  Theirs is a very quiet, traditional look for business.

There were no adornments outside of a neat, conservative tie worn with their navy suits and white shirts; not a coloured sock nor a pocket square in the room; no French cuffs, no cuff links. Austrian business men wear their hair short and keep their faces clean-shaven.

At the trade event, as I stood pouring samples at the Ottakringer beer table for the day, I realized that Austrians seem to prefer things simple, clean, and light. For Austrian businessmen, their whole look is elegant, neat and uncomplicated – very much like their taste in beer.

Follow the dress code

2 Feb
At a semi-formal event, don't show up in a t-shirt.

At a semi-formal event, don’t show up in a t-shirt.

I was out at a networking event at a hotel in an upscale Toronto neighbourhood last night. The invitation gave a semi-formal dress code, so I put on a dress and a pair of heels and went on my way.

When I got there, what I saw when I surveyed the crowd of entrepreneurs confused me. Though the dress code was quite clear, several men were in very casual dress. It made me wonder if they came straight from their non-semi-formal work place to the semi-formal event, and didn’t, or weren’t able to pay any heed to the event expectations.

One of these casual men  approached me and inquired about my business. Depending on the person, some men will get really excited because they’re talking to the first woman in Canada to specialize in men’s image, others will look downtrodden because they remember what they decided to wear that day, and still others will outright recoil (possibly out of shame or fear of being judged). This particular man was a member of the business team that put the event together, and he took a great interest in my work.

Of course, he asked me how he was doing with his wardrobe. Normally, this costs money, no different than asking for free legal advice, but I indulged him. I stepped back and took in his ordinary shoes, jeans, and a white knit Henley shirt.

“Well,” I said, “you’re in very casual clothes tonight.”

“Yes, is that okay?” he asked.

“Considering that the invitation says “semi-formal”,  you didn’t seem to pay that any mind.”

“So what is your advice?” he asked.

“Dress for the dress code.”

It’s simple, really. When an invitation gives a suggestion of what to wear so that you are appropriate for and comfortable at the event, follow that lead. Otherwise, it creates confusion in people and probably isn’t that good for business because you’ve entered an event on a rule and broken it. We only get one chance to make a first impression.

When a person is under-dressed or looks as though they have not made any attempt to dress for the level that is expected, it can have a negative impact. A casual look at a semi-formal occasion may conjure impressions of laziness, ignorance, disdain, spite, and a devil-may-care attitude – not exactly a respectable image to project at a business event where you’re trying to sell your services.

The best thing to do is dress for the dress code. It exists for a reason, and your appropriate look will be much more appealing to others – especially in a business setting. Even if you’re still in jeans, take a sports jacket to the event – this will immediately elevate your outfit. Another option is to change your footwear to a fancier, more stylish shoe – this can also up your look.

First impressions are hard to shake. Do it right the first time and heed the dress code.

Trends 2017: Pleats

5 Jan types of pleats

Trends. The shepherds of western culture that drive fashion-conscious humans and a sizable chunk of the economy. Trends, which I prefer to call styles, have their own individual origins and exist for different reasons. Some styles are attractive and flatter more people, and some are not and flatter few.

Many men have spoken to me about modern menswear  and wonder why clothes have become so tight. I tell them that like everything else in clothing history, when a trend – ignited by a king’s, actor’s, or musician’s taste, or a style worn in a popular movie or TV show (Mad Men, I’m looking at you) – takes hold, it moves into the extreme before morphing into something else.

types of pleats

Types of pleats used in men’s trousers.

We’re nearing the end of the tight, close-cut suit/trouser style cycle, and waiting for the next change in slow-moving menswear silhouettes. For men who have not been interested in, or are indeed incapable of squeezing themselves into the razor-sharp skinny suits that we’ve seen over the last few years, this is good news. Good news in the shape of pleats. Pleats add space to pant legs that some men will find more comfortable to wear than the current skinny cuts.

Yes, pleats shall return, but not pleats like the pleats of the recent past – i.e. the horrible double-pleated pant style leftover from the 80s that plagued the 90s and early 2000s, that were often made of beige, too-thick, un-drapable cotton twill. You know the ones.

trouser pleat pattern

Trouser leg pattern with two pleats, folded line to line at top.

Depending on the thickness of the fabric, pleats will add bulk to a man’s frame because a pleat is measured by its depth – i.e. a 1″ pleat is really 2″added into the front leg of the trouser (1″ folded over another 1″) and 2″ added to the back leg, which loosens the fit but adds visual weight to the frame. So all of those men who wore and unfortunately, continue to wear puffy, double-pleated, cotton twill Dockers, are only adding false weight to themselves by wearing these excessively clothy things.

Modern pleats in the men’s trousers that I’ve seen, are single pleats in thinner fabrics that take a good press and drape nicely but don’t add bulk. Modern pleats will be more body conscious.

Illustrated here, the Dolce & Grabbana Fall Winter 2017 collection features a whisper of a single pleat in this trim trouser with a roomier thigh, among the chatter of flat-front, close-cut trousers that dominate their collection.

dolce and grabanna pleated mens trouser fw17Now, I’m not saying that pleats are the bomb just yet – there is much to be said about a gent in a neat, flat-front trouser, but flat-fronts tend to be trimmer in cut which may not suit every man’s build. That’s the thing about fashion – most of the time, the designs are cut with a certain body type in mind – often not ours! – but the styles eventually make their way into the mainstream to cater to men of different builds, though menswear travels at a slow pace.

Humans are curiously fickle when it comes to fashion. They strenuously jump on the trend bandwagon, milk it for all it’s worth, then, when the clothing style invariably turns to another shape, people poo-poo what they were so adamant about adopting in the first place, and turn to the next big thing.

One day, pleated trousers will eclipse the once-fresh, skinny cuts that were so warmly welcomed when they made their appearance several years ago, and will influence the cuts of suits and sports jackets. We’re already ankle-deep in the new cycle, so there’s no turning back.

The Trump image in media

10 Nov

I’m not writing to complain or express any emotion toward Donald Trump being elected the next US president, but I do want to point out an observation.

unflattering-trumpPolitical image is fascinating in that as the candidates get into their campaigns, the media takes their sides and plans how they will portray that candidate. In the case of Donald Trump, the media outside of FOX News painted him as a racist, misogynistic, Cheeto-coloured buffoon, and used very unflattering pictures of him in their news.

trump-disabled

After the stunning election upset, his news image changed immediately. The media – even media that was very anti-Trump during the campaign, has decidedly changed their tune and the way he is pictured is remarkably different than how he was depicted less than a week before Tuesday’s election. Apparently they all got the memo.

Photo by the New York TImes

Photo by the New York Times

At least outwardly, respect is now being paid to Trump as president-elect, but he remains the same person who was depicted in a very negative light by some news sources earlier this week.

The only thing that has changed is how the media illustrates his image. Donald Trump hasn’t changed and neither will his spots.

Photo from The Irish Times

Photo from The Irish Times

Photo by Reuters

Photo by Reuters

 

 

 

 

Humpty Dumpty

27 Oct
Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty together again

I’m a men’s image specialist and I liken my image process to the Humpty Dumpty concept in that I take my clients apart, analyze those parts, and put them back together in a more comfortable, attractive, and natural configuration. I love this analogy, but I really thought about this Humpty Dumpty character one day, then started to look into it. It turns out that Humpty Dumpty has much more meaning and history to him than I realized.

Literary History

In a very interesting blog that describes the origin of nursery rhymes, LetterPile cites the Oxford English Dictionary entry for “humpty dumpty”, a 17th century reference to” brandy boiled with ale. In the 1700s, it was also a term used to describe a short, clumsy person. It has also been a nickname attributed to someone who has had too much alcohol (perhaps imbibing the drink of the same name).”

Literature’s first mention of Humpty came in 1797 with Samuel Arnold’s Juvenile Amusements. This original didn’t mention the king’s horses and men but rather, four score and four score more could not make Humpty Dumpty where he was before. The rhyme’s next incarnation in 1842 seems to anticipate a second verse after Humpty hit the ground:

Humpty-Dumpty lay in a beck

With all his sinews around his neck;

Forty doctors and forty wights

Couldn’t put Humpty-Dumpty to rights.

It wasn’t until 1872 with Lewis Carroll’s fantastically drug-addled work, Through the Looking Glass, that the Humpty Dumpty rhyme made its place in children’s literature, but this time, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty in his place again. In Lewis’ version, Humpty Dumpty is an egg with an enormous face, wearing clothes, and having a rude conversation with Alice.

Lewis’ opium (greatly) influenced his writing and his hallucinations painted a creepy picture of Humpty: “If he smiled much more the ends of his mouth might meet behind,” [Alice] thought: “and then I don’t know what would happen to his head! I’m afraid it would come off!”

“What a beautiful belt you’ve got on!” Alice suddenly remarked. “At least,” she corrected herself on second thought, “a beautiful cravat, I should have said – no, a belt, I mean – I beg your pardon!” she asked in dismay, for Humpty Dumpty looked thoroughly offended, and she began to wish she hadn’t chosen that subject. “If only I knew.” she thought to herself, “which was neck and which was waist!”

This made Humpty angry.

“It is a – most – provoking – thing,” he said at last, “when a person doesn’t know a cravat from a belt!”

Well, we can’t really blame Alice for not being able to decide if a band around an egg’s middle is a belt or a cravat, but outside of his wardrobe and literary history, Humpty’s associations go in unexpected directions. In his next incarnation, Humpty is not boozy drink nor a giant smart-ass egg, but a cannon.

Humpty Dumpty at War

humpty-dumpty-cannon

Was Humpty Dumpty 17th-century English cannon?

During the English Civil War (1642 – 1649), the town of Colchester was under control of the Royalists, loyal to King Charles I. The town was fortified with large cannons atop the city walls. Some historians believe that one of these cannons was (for unknown reasons) nicknamed “Humpty Dumpty”.

Colchester was under siege by the Parliamentarians who supported a monarchy-free Parliament. The story goes that on July 14 – 15, 1648, a Parliamentarian cannon blew up the wall that Humpty Dumpty sat on. Humpty, the very large and heavy cannon fell to the ground, but no one – neither horse nor man – could recover the cannon. This may have been the event that turned the civil war to the side of the Parliamentarians who took the city on August 28 and went on to overthrow King Charles I the following year and end the war.

According to Adam Wears in his article, Humpty Dumpty Was A Cannon, Not An Egg, the fall of the cannon became legend after the Royalists were defeated, and “the soldiers’ song became a nursery rhyme that was sung to children to tell them of how their brave fathers and grandfathers had defeated the tyrannical King’s great weapon.”

The Origin of Humpty Dumpty suggests another possibility, this time around Richard III in 1485. Richard either had a horse named Wall, or his men (who abandoned him) represented “the wall”. “Either way, the king fell off his horse and was supposedly hacked to pieces on the field—thus no one could put him together again.”

So between liquor, an egg in pants, a cannon that changed English history, bad balance,  or a disloyal army, Humpty Dumpty has certainly captured our imaginations. As for my clients, I’m happy to say that I always get them back together again, in spectacular, stylish fashion.

 

Testosterone spikes this season

13 Oct

Ah, the autumn! Crisp air, glorious colours,  the delicious harvest, and look out – the peak of your annual testosterone levels.

More than any other season, the fall seems to have the most birthdays, doesn’t it? A September-born friend of mine jokes about being a “Christmas Party Baby”, but it turns out that there is more to it than a slap, tickle, and one too many cups of holiday cheer.

“Testosterone levels and sperm counts are highest in late fall and early winter… the peak times for human births in the Northern Hemisphere is around August or September – 9 months after the high testosterone levels of the preceeding fall.” (Heroes, Rogues, and Lovers: Testosterone and Behavior).

According to Jed Diamond in The Irritable Male Syndrome,  testosterone levels cycle throughout the year: “Studies conducted in the US, France, Australia found that men secrete their highest levels of sex hormones in October and their lowest levels in April.”

The irritable male syndrome is characterized by a “state of hypersensitivity, anxiety, frustration, and anger that occurs in males and is associated with biochemical changes, hormonal fluctuations, stress, and a loss of male identity.”  Diamond claims that there is a seasonal aspect to the irritable male syndrome that makes men “more irritable when days shorten and there is less light. The decline in testosterone between October and April may contribute to this irritability.”

When I read these two books a few years ago, I was left wondering why it’s taken us so long to start examining men like we do women. As I research further, I have found that male hormonal swings may be more powerful and more prevalent than female hormonal fluctuations, and yet women have been pinned as the changeable, screaming, crying, mood-and sometimes axe-swinging slaves to their monthly hormone changes.

Not only does a man’s testosterone level change throughout the year, it is constantly changing all day and every day – when men go to sleep, testosterone is on the rise hour by hour until its peak upon waking in the morning (if you don’t believe me, gentlemen, think about what you wake up with every day). By the afternoon, the hormone levels off, begins its decline, and by late afternoon, testosterone is at its lowest level – when men are said to be at their highest point of irritability.

Did you know?

  • Testosterone rises in men when they win a competition and falls when they lose (this seems to be the case whether the competition is direct or observed);
  • Testosterone tends to decrease talking and socializing – unless sports or sex are present;
  • Men higher in testosterone tend to be dissatisfied in marriage;
  • Men lower in testosterone tend to have more convincing smiles.

We’re only starting to recognize the complexity of men and the role of testosterone is fascinating, to me at least, in the way it motivates male thinking and behaviour; I think it’s important that people understand this and give a guy the benefit of the doubt because believe it or not, there are some things that men cannot necessarily control.

So fellas, before I end this week’s post, I want to tell you that because your testosterone is rising to peak right now and at any moment you could be at your most virile, I want to remind you to keep yourselves protected to prevent any surprises next fall.

Recommended reading: Effects of Testosterone On The Body

Essential Etiquette

29 Sep

The way we behave is a large part of the image that we project. dining etiquetteOur actions have all sorts of repercussions, good and bad, and knowing how to conduct oneself in different situations can definitely work to your benefit.

The point of etiquette is to be considerate of others and make them comfortable by doing the right thing, the polite thing, the things that make people want to be around us. One of those nice things is the ability to work a dining table with grace and mindfulness of our company.

Bad table manners won’t get you another date

Many people have stories about rude dates that displayed behaviour that put them off. A few years ago, I wrote about social and clothing changes since the 1980s and took my influence from Love Connection, a dating show from that era. On the show, several people mentioned manners being important to them but unfortunately, their dates didn’t always politely come through.

For example, Del talked about her date with Donald and explained what it was like to go out to eat with him: “What was embarrassing was at dinner when Donald licked his knife… then he put his lobster shells on the bread tray, then he reached over to my plate and ate my food, so he enjoyed his and mine.”

Surprise! Donald didn’t get a second date.

Speaking of dates, a friend of mine had a date with a woman who was a friend of a friend. From this familiar association, he assumed that she’d be alright. Things may have turned out differently if she hadn’t arrived at their dinner date drunk and then ate from his plate.

I started seeing a fellow several years ago who I liked but because of his ill-mannered ways, I fled and didn’t look back. On our third and final date, we met for breakfast on a Saturday morning. I remember ordering eggs Florentine that came with some sort of potato on the side. He ordered an odd breakfast: salad and fried eggs over easy.

When the food came and we began eating, I had to look away because watching him shovel iceberg lettuce from a fork dripping with egg yolk into his mouth – that he didn’t close while chewing – was a disgusting sight. I was literally put off of my food. I laid my napkin over my plate and what was left of my breakfast.

“Are you going to eat that?” he asked.

“Uh, no,” I replied.

“Mind if I do?”

I should have seen this coming; the second time we saw each other, he came over to cook dinner with me. I keep dried beans, rice, grains, nuts and seeds in jars on a shelf in my kitchen. I had my back turned to him as we chatted and I cooked on the stove. I turned around at the very moment he was about to toss a handful of sunflower seeds he had poured out of one of the jars (without asking) into his mouth.

He didn’t see me again.

Good table manners might

On a first date breakfast with a different fellow, he caught some food in his throat and started coughing. I beckoned the waitress to bring some water for my friend who cleared the block with a sip of water and appreciated my gesture.

I got a second date and I felt classy.

Bad manners can cast a bad light on your person

I had to meet a client in a shopping mall food court one day. Behind my client was a very large man who I couldn’t help but notice as he stuffed mounds of processed food into his greasy mouth, then stuck a fat, oily index finger into his hole to dislodge the food from the inside of his cheeks.

What can I tell you? It was sickening to watch but I found myself unable to tear my eyes away, like I was looking at a car wreck. The state of this man, what he chose to feed himself with and how he administered it made me wonder what he could possibly do for a living. Without meaning to, his bad behaviour made me question his intelligence and his sense of self-worth.

Good manners make us glow

Polite people always leave a good impression; we tend to like people with good manners because they are considerate of us and that makes us feel good; it seems to me that good etiquette breeds trust in other people.

THINK: How do you feel towards the person ahead of you who let the door slam in your face? The woman on the streetcar who offers her seat to an elderly lady?  The man who allowed you in front of him in the grocery store line up because you had fewer items?

Bad table etiquette = employment suicide

I spoke to Catherine Bell, one of Canada’s premier etiquette specialists at Prime Impressions about manners. Catherine says that poor dining skills are the result of either one’s upbringing (where proper dining etiquette was not a priority), or the rejection of what are perceived as empty rules of behaviour that no longer matter. She told the story of a student who blew his chances at post-graduation employment because of his bad manners:

This particular student won an award for his marketing skills at college. At the awards banquet, someone from the marketing company who was giving this young man the award, leaned over to the professor in charge of the class and said that they would not be hiring him. When the mystified professor asked why, the marketing executive said, “It is because he brings his face down to the food, not the food up to his face.”

The job entailed entertaining clients over meals.

*                                                                  *                                                                    *

Exercising good manners is a choice. Some people shrug and scoff at etiquette and say, “that’s just the way I am” or “if you don’t like me, you can (fill in the blank)“. Fair enough. But if you decide to reject the etiquette, think about what you’re doing and what you could be losing out on, not to mention the lasting impression you’re leaving on other people.

The way I see it, if a person decides not to exercise polite manners, that individual is waving off consideration for others which ultimately reflects how other people see that person. It also seems an indication of how that person regards himself, like the man in the food court. It’s about respect for others and for oneself – if we don’t respect ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to?

Remember, we only get one chance to make a first impression and if we blow it the first time, we may not get another go at it.

Your feet in summer

4 Aug

People seem to think that just because it’s hot outside, they have license to dress like a slob and slack off on grooming. Do you see ratty old t-shirts walking around in public? Have you ever had the misfortune of being downwind from someone who has slacked off on bathing? How about people who interpret “summer business casual” being the same thing as “cottage wear”?

Run on us, jump on us, but don’t forget to clean us!

There are guys out there who wear sandals or flip-flops and whether unconsciously or perhaps out of spite, show off their filthy toes. We don’t want to see this and in fact, it’s a bone of contention with me. There is no reason not to have clean feet and this week, lads, we’ll discuss the state of your feet and how to make them not only nicer to look at, but nicer to live with. Allow me to pass on some easy and practical tips on keeping your feet neat, how to wear summer footwear, and how to tend to summer foot ailments.

Don’t be lazy – pay attention to your feet

I had a boyfriend once who never washed his feet. He insisted that the water and soap lather used to clean the top of his body was enough to clean his feet as it ran over them. The concept of cleaning in between his toes with lather was somehow preposterous, so he never did.

I’m not sure that I ever actually saw his feet; they were in beaten up Blundstones or wool socks most of the time, but if I had seen his feet, or the way I imagined his feet would have looked without cleaning between his toes for an extended period of time, I’m not sure that I could have lived with it – women are more sensitive to things like this, I find.

Anyway, the point is, please make an effort while you’re in the shower to bend over and clean the top and bottom of the whole foot, then clean between your toes, otherwise the infamous toe jam begins to collect. Toe jam, the ” grey-brown shit that accumulates between your toes. Primarily composed of dead skin cells, sock fluff and sweat.” (Urban Dictionary).

Dirty feet and the smell of dirty feet is not welcoming to anyone so please take the time to bathe and groom your feet, using the following tips to get you there:

TIP #1: Go to the drugstore and buy a nail brush or a brush with a handle. Soap it up and give your feet a good going over  – the brush, soap, water, and friction, cleans your feet, cleans under your toenails, sloughs off dead skin cells on the surface of your feet, and it feels good!

TIP #2: Regularly trim your toenails with a toenail clipper – they’re wider than fingernail clippers and easier to handle.

TIP #3: Sand, yes, I said sand your heels to file down your callouses. Soak, smooth down the hard skin, and follow with a moisturizer. You could use a pumice stone or find a paddle with an actual piece of sandpaper on it – check the Body Shop or a drugstore or specialty spas for items mentioned here.

TIP #4: A clean foot will not make a filthy flip-flop look better. Scrub both sides of your foam, rubber, or plastic flip-flops  (with your new nail brush if you want to) and get all of the crap out from the treads and surface texture. Do one at a time and compare – which one would you rather be seen in? Which one makes you feel better?

Summer socks 

Nothing looks more uncomfortable than a guy in shorts with mid-length calf socks on, especially if they’re dress socks. Different socks for different reasons, lads: dress socks (i.e dark socks) are for dress wear (i.e. suits), and for summer, should be made of  cotton to keep the foot cool by wicking away perspiration.

Athletic socks (usually white) are worn at the gym or with sporty clothes and convey a youthful, energetic message, but don’t really work with casual looks if you’re not wearing gym shoes, and this includes shorts.

So what kind of sock to wear with shorts and a casual shoe to avoid looking like a dork? Men’s shorty socks, of course, also known as ankle socks or low-rise socks. They really make a tremendously cool difference. Also, because you’ll only see a whisper of them outside of your shoe, it may not matter what colour they are = less to think about/easy.

Blisters

With heat comes sweat. Each of our feet contain 250,000 sweat glands. Any kind of friction on moist skin will case discomfort, wear at the skin, and maybe cause a blister. These are terrible and painful and can get infected if we don’t keep them clean.

TIP #5: To keep your foot drier and reduce friction on the foot, sprinkle baby, talcum, or Gold Bond powder on your foot after the shower to better absorb moisture.

Be aware of your foot in new seasonal footwear and be mindful of pressure and anything rubbing on your foot – this is where blisters and corns are born. There are lots of ways to remedy chafe, pressure, and blisters (before they start) like adhesive bandages, blister pads, and moleskin.

TIP #6:  Moleskin isn’t the skin of an actual mole – it’s the type of soft, thick material that resembles the mole’s skin. Moleskin is used much like an adhesive bandage roll, cut to the size you need and apply over the blister – good info here on this hiking website about how to prevent foot blisters.

Think of your foot as the state of your shoe – polished and well-kept, it reads respect – self and otherwise. I hope that makes your summer a little more comfortable and a little more stylish, fellas. Best wishes!

Sh*t fit

21 Jul

While waiting for a client in Club Monaco last month, I wandered into the women’s clothing section to kill some time. There was a cute little suit jacket on the rack that, upon further inspection, I deemed too large for me.

“Manity sizing” strokes a fella’s ego by “decreasing” his pant size by name only, which may in fact increase the risk of health problems.

I looked at the tag for the size.

0. Zero. Size Zero.

Were it 1960, I would be considered a size 14, but at Club Monaco in 2011, I would fit a negative size – a minus 1 or minus 2.

A minus size, a minus size; a size of no sum or consequence. How can I be a negative size?

This terrifies me in a way because  I see a negative size as a non-size and as a human, I feel erased; fitting a negative clothing size makes me feel like a non-person. What is this new sizing system and what else are they messing with?

This is a post to explain why your clothes don’t fit you.

Erratic sizing

To keep things efficient, manufacturers use “average” sizes of a cross-section of people to create patterns for different sizes (small, medium, large, etc.), classified by their height and weight. The measurements (neck measurement for men, chest, waist, hip measurement for women, etc.) are added together and divided by the number of people measured, giving “average” measurements.

But there are lots of interpretations of average and so few of us are actually average-sized, that this is just one of the factors working against us when we walk into a clothing store:

  • There is no industry standard for sizing – I have size extra small, small, medium, and an extra-large piece from Chinatown in my closet but my measurements remain static, unchanged;
  • Every designer cuts a little or a lot larger or smaller than the next designer, so each line will fit differently (e.g. Tiger of Sweden is a trim cut but Mark’s Work Warehouse has offerings for more robust fellows);
  • Some but not all manufacturers buy into “vanity sizes”, whereby a piece of clothing that may truly fit you is called something smaller (you could have an actual 34″ waist measurement but you might wear a 32″ or 33″ vanity-sized pant);
  • Each style of garment is going to fit differently on each body – e.g. the rise of the pant will give a larger waist size because it sits at a wider point on the hips.

This causes a great deal of confusion for people who have to wade through an ocean of arbitrary sizing that may or may not hold their own weight. Pun intended.

In the age of political correctness where we’re more sensitive to other’s feelings, business owners and manufacturers have to keep in mind that a compliment in the form of a “smaller (vanity) size” can be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Vanity

I’ve been told by women that wearing a “smaller” size makes them feel better about themselves. I understand what it’s like to be heavy and not feel one’s best (I was pushing 150 lbs at age 22 – about 30 lbs more than I weigh now), so I can see why a size 8 would feel better than a size 12.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the vanity sizing practice began in women’s clothing, but it has seeped into menswear, adopting the name “manity sizing”. This rather dishonest sizing system has become totally out of hand, so I looked at some online research to figure out what this silly sizing system is all about. This is what I found:

“Vanity sizing is the practice of using smaller numbered sizes on bigger clothing patterns… to make customers feel better about themselves and become more inclined to buy,” says one blogger who runs a PR and marketing company.  Her opinion has a ring of supply and demand to it.

“It is important for manufacturers to have an idea of what sells because retail sales still have not fully recovered since the recession hit in 2008.”

However, on vanitysizing.com, this suggestion is (rather cuttingly) downplayed. The author of the article has an economics background and suggests that sizing is based on demographics.

“If you sell to lower-income people, your average size is going to be larger than the average size sold to rich people. Boutiques sell pricier clothes that are sized on average, smaller than product in mass merchant stores.”

A very good Esquire style blog describes the confusion with the vanity sizing for men. First, the writer calling the practice

From the Esquire style blog – vanity sizing for men’s pants.

“flattery”, but as we know, flattery can only take you so far. He says he’s got a Russell Crowe build and though he’s enjoyed his manity-sized pants, he’s still perturbed.

“This isn’t the subjective business of mediums, larges and extra-larges — nor is it the murky business of women’s sizes, what with its black-hole size zero. This is science, damnit. Numbers!”

But the numbers don’t add up and because sizing is basically a free-for-all without a standard measurement guide. The illustration below from Esquire shows to what extent we’re being lied to – to the tune of up to 5″.

Erratic sizes

The waist is the most misunderstood part of a man’s body, I think. When I’m taking my client’s measurements, I explain the waist measurement concept/confusion.

I tell them that if I were a doctor and we were doing an annual physical, I would measure his waist just above his hipbone/through the navel. Most people don’t wear their trousers that high anymore (men did in the 40s) and that means that the point at which his waistband sits is not necessarily where we’ve taken the measurement of the waist – different styles of pants with different rise lengths (the distance from the crotch to the top of the waist) will give different waist measurements at different points on the torso.

An article from The Telegraph reports findings of a study they conducted on men’s waist sizes and found that “[o]verall, 28 out of 50 garments checked were found to be larger than on the label.”

“Shoppers quite reasonably expect 32 inches to mean just that,” said Richard Cope, chief trend analyst at Mintel, a London-based market research company. “They are becoming increasingly frustrated to discover their sizes vary from fashion brand to fashion brand and from item to item.”

Confused yet? You should be.

Health problems

If clothing manufacturers began vanity sizing to make larger people feel better about themselves as some people maintain, that’s one thing, but I’m seeing this sizing practice as a dangerous denial and health threat.

Vanity sizing is delusional, offering solace in a lie and erasing any guilt from consuming another baker’s dozen, putting people at greater risk of the health problems associated with obesity.  As the Esquire blog asks, “why should pants make us feel better about badness at health?”

Obesity is an enormous social and economic problem. Pun intended. Men with larger waists face different and more serious health problems than slim guys – a Stats Can study identified type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, some cancers, and gallbladder disease associated with obesity, as well as “psychological problems, functional limitations and disabilities.”

Have a look at these astounding rates from Statistics Canada‘s study of adult obesity in Canada:

In 2004, nearly one-quarter (23.1%) of adult Canadians, 5.5 million people aged 18 or older, were obese. An additional 36.1% (8.6 million) were overweight.

The 2004 obesity figure was up substantially from 1978/79, when Canada’s obesity rate had been 13.8%.

As body mass index (BMI) increases, so does an individual’s likelihood of reporting high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. (Check your own BMI here.)

Canada’s adult obesity rate is significantly lower than that in the United States: 23.1 % compared with 29.7%. The percentage of Canadians who are overweight or obese has risen dramatically in recent years, mirroring a worldwide phenomenon.

I have to wonder if vanity/ manity/ insanity sizing is really making things better by way of our self-esteem, or if it's plunging us deeper into clothing chaos and confusion and denial about our bodies. To my mind, this sizing practice is a psychological experiment that may give extra space for denial; the man with the 41" waist who's wearing a 36" pant from Old Navy may feel a little dietary freedom because he thinks he's got room n0w: Hey, I can fit into a size 36 for the time being, so I've got room for another coupla Krispy Creme KFC Double Downs - bring it on! 

Like a temporary sugar rush before the crash, I think that as a society, we're just asking for trouble lying to people about their sizes. Sometimes I ignore sizes altogether and rely on a tape measure where the numbers are hard and they don't tell me any fibs. The point is to be comfortable in clothing that fits us, regardless of what size the marketing department gives.

Hanging your clothes

23 Jun

If you’ve been with us throughout the laundry series, you understand the environmental mess they call dry cleaning and it’s environmentally friendly alternative, wet cleaning; the self-regulated fragrance industry that adds chemical scents to your laundry products that cause allergic reactions, gendered laundry products (yes, for real), and ecological and economical wash and dry alternatives to cleaning your clothes.

Now that your clothes are clean and fresh, I’d like to offer some tips on clothing storage that will keep your clothes looking good and protect your clothing investments, no matter how much you’ve paid for them.

You might think that a hanger is a hanger, but there are many types of hangers for different types of clothes. Hangers are used for clothing storage but also for clothing support. Like anything else, clothing is subject to gravity; clothing can be heavy, so storing your clothes on hangers substantial enough to support the weight of your garments is key. wooden hanger

1. Shirts: Hang your good shirts on nice hangers – a wider wooden hanger will support the weight of your shirt. Fasten the top button to preserve the shape of the collar. (A covered wire hanger will also do, depending on the weight of your shirt – i.e. t-shirts and other knits. Uncovered wire hangers may leave rust marks on the shoulders of your shirts, so if you’re hanging your shirts to dry – and I hope you are – use a covered wire hanger.)

Wider hangers will take up more room in your closet but allow for air movement so your shirts won’t be crushed = fresher clothing, less ironing (18 wooden hangers for $19.99 at good old Canadian Tire).

suit hanger with pant clips

This wooden suit hanger supports the shoulder and features a pant clip that will keep trousers smooth.

2. This is a suit hanger. The width of the hanger supports and preserves the roundness of the jacket’s hard shoulder and takes the weight of the garment. Lighter summer suits (cotton or seersucker) can take a thinner hanger, but heavier woolen winter suits or linen suits with a bottom weight ask for a substantial hanger like the one at left – note the trouser clip – see #3 below.

A solid wood hanger  could also be used for heavy outdoor coats – this will help to keep the coat in shape.

3.  Trousers should hang straight down, not stored over a hanger – pant hanger this creates a horizontal wrinkle in the trouser leg because the garment is draped over a bar that cannot support the weight of the pant.

To avoid trouser creases, use a pant hanger: turn trousers upside down, hems together, and fold in half at the center leg crease, or match up trouser seams if there is no crease. Clip or sandwich on the hanger, depending on its style.

You went to the trouble of buying your clothing,  so protect and maintain your wardrobe. Take pride in your closet as much as you take pride in your clothes, gents, and do them right with the proper hanger.

PS: It’s summer and In the Key of He will do re-runs of posts past. Enjoy the season!

Hand-washing

9 Jun

washboardProbably the least expensive and most gentle way to clean your clothes is by hand. Hand-washing is the original old school way of cleaning clothes; before washing machines, people washed their clothes on wash boards in a bucket of soapy water, then hung them on a line to dry. To clean a whole family’s clothes must have been a very strenuous and time-consuming job.

Today, we use convenient washing machines to clean our clothes but for some garments, hand-washing is the best way. If you want to clean a fine sweater, for example, if you have delicate clothing that you don’t want to put through the rigors of a wash cycle, or if you need to clean an individual garment instead of washing a whole load, opt for hand-washing. It’s a good way to gently clean your clothes without the risk of damaging your garments with the agitator of the modern machine.

Hand wash laundry symbol

Hand wash laundry symbol

Start with a large bucket. If you don’t have a bucket, you could do the cleaning in your bathtub. Fill with warm, tepid, or cool water and add a liquid laundry soap of your choice (use mild laundry soap for fine things). If you’re cleaning a sweater, let it absorb the water and try not to handle it too much – the trick is to let it soak for a few minutes, then squeeze the suds through the sweater. Rinse by soaking in fresh cool water to release the suds.

Next, lift out the garment and squeeze out the excess water – DO NOT WRING OUT YOUR SWEATERS! Knits are woven on a grid and wringing a sweater will cause the yarns to warp and pull out of shape, perhaps forever!

Once you’ve squeezed out the water, gently shake out your sweater and shape it to lie flat on a large towel. Starting from one end, roll the towel and the sweater away from you and smooth the sweater as you go. Apply gentle pressure to the towel roll; roll all the way up. What you’re doing here is transferring the heavy water from the sweater to the towel. You can leave the roll for an hour or more, then unroll, gently lift out and shake your sweater, then lie flat on a table or other surface to dry.

Almost any piece of clothing can be hand washed: collared shirts, t-shirts, undies, etc. (denim and trousers are best washed in machines then hung to dry). Go through the steps to hand wash a sweater, but swish your non-delicate garments in the bucket to get the soap through the weave of the fabric. Rinse. Men with strong hands will have an easy time squeezing water from their garments, but take care to gently smooth out the wrinkles you’ve created afterward because your clothes will dry this way.

Notes on dryingdenim drying

Drying clothes in an electric dryer not only uses a lot of energy, it slowly but surely eats away at your clothes – check the lint trap if you don’t believe me! The sheets of lint in the lint trap is actually bits of the fibers of your clothes, and it’s a good way to slowly break down your clothes. Better alternatives are to hang wet clothes out on a clothes line if you have access to one, or drape over a drying rack.

To dry shirts, hang them on a wood or plastic hanger – fasten the top button of a collared shirt to retain the shape of the collar, and smooth out the garment (watch that the button placket, cuffs, and sleeves are smooth because they dry in the shape you leave them). Wire hangers are too thin to hold a garment that is heavy with water – the thin wire will cause the wet garment to stretch in the shoulder but a thicker hanger will solve this problem. More on clothing storage and hangers next post.

Taking the time to hand wash clothes is a great way to save on energy and save your clothes from becoming thread bare. If you are environmentally conscious, feel good about your choice to hand wash and even better, seek out a bio-degradable laundry soap to come full circle.