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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!

Fall 2015: Time for a footwear check

29 Oct

Alright lads, no matter where you are in Canada, you may be experiencing a spray of El Nino/Hurricane Patricia thatAldo cleaner beat the west coast of Mexico this week. The Weather Network says that half of Canada is affected by the storm as of Wednesday, with high winds and heavy rain.

If you have to go out in this stormy weather, you may have dragged out last year’s boots and coats perhaps to find that you forgot what state you left them in when winter turned to spring. I went into the boot closet yesterday to revisit my footwear and resurrect my winter shoes and boots. Some were in a sorrier state than others and some I had to do a little mending surgery on them, some were ready to move on. To keep your feet dry and hopefully warm, it’s a good idea to take some time and inspect your winter footwear and look for cracks and holes in leather and rubber boots and shoes.

The best thing to do is of course, take your damaged footwear to a shoe repair shop and have someone else do the work, but it can be very satisfying to do the work yourself. I had to mend a pair of dress boots that have been so frequently worn that my foot tore through the side of one of the boots. I had an idea of what to do but verified it by looking on YouTube. Have a look at this short video that shows how to mend tears in leather and adjust accordingly for your footwear:

Another good video shows how to replace lining in your shoes (but I recommend that you keep the sound off).

Depending on the material your footwear is made of, you might try a leather cleaner and then follow up with a moisturizer which will make your footwear more supple and prevent cracks (note that cleaning products are sometimes called “sandal cleaners” but are made for shoes and boots). Aldo does a cleaner-moisturizer in one if you’d rather not do it twice.

The next thing to do is polish and protect your footwear. Kiwi is a trustworthy polish line that will help cover the scuffs on your boots and shoes. Apart from shoe care products, Kiwi offers some good tips on keeping shoes in good condition.

Since we’re in the wet season now, the next step is to protect your footwear to repel the moisture that can cause damage. The Tana All Protector is a good one. Treat your footwear with a spray every 8 – 10 wears, their website says.

It’s amazing what a good once-over on your seasonal footwear can do for your footwear, your image, and even your self-confidence – some people believe that self-esteem is reflected in the way one keeps one’s shoes, so keep this in mind.

Further reading:

Declare war on salt

A little gift for the winter blahs

The sloshed galosh

Damn dirty glasses and how to keep them clean

16 Apr

dirty eye glassesOne day I was driving with a friend who wore his fancy new Coach sunglasses. I didn’t notice the greasy fingerprint on the lower third of the right lens until he turned his head towards me. I thought to myself, it doesn’t matter how expensive your sunglasses are; dirty lenses cancel out any effort to try to look cool.

I remember as a kid, I always wanted to wear eye glasses but never needed to; now that I need them, I find I have mixed feelings towards them. I got my very first pair of eye glasses less than a year ago because I need them to read and see fine detail, so I appreciate them because they help me see. At the same time, because I only need glasses to read, I find myself taking them off and on a lot during the day and this makes them dirty, and therefore something of a pain in the ass.

I checked in with some friends who regularly wear glasses to see how they fare with keeping their glasses clean. Turns out that all of them complain about dirty glasses. From their comments, I’ve learned that I’m not alone – my friends say that their glasses get dirty depending on what they’re doing: some say that bad weather makes eye glasses dirty, housework makes them dirty, gardening makes them dirty, and cooking makes them dirty; others say perspiration and wearing moisturizer makes them dirty. Some people say that the types of coatings (i.e. anti-glare) we choose for our lenses attracts dirt and oil, others say that lenses made of plastic are more prone to smudges than glass lenses. I’ve also heard that plastic frames sit closer to the face and will get greasier from skin oils than metal frames which sit further away from the face.

Whatever the case, eyeglasses get dirty, and when you can’t see through them, you’re somewhat handicapped AND they look awful.

What can we do?

In a Wall Street Journal article, Teri Geist, chairwoman for the American Optometric Association, says, “The best way to clean your glasses is to run them under warm water and put a tiny drop of dish washing detergent on the tip of your fingers to create a lather on the lens. Then rinse with warm water, and dry with a clean, soft cotton cloth.” I tried this last night and it seems to work, but a word of caution: I’ve witnessed a friend with fancy new eye glasses with all of the coating options wash his glasses with soap and water, and over time, the coatings began to peel away, leaving cloudy and irreparable lenses.

Dr. Geist warns that “Lenses typically have some form of protective coating and should never come into contact with ammonia, bleach, vinegar or window cleaner. Those chemicals can break down the coating or just strip them”. This is where spray lens cleaners come in. I understand that there are different types for different coatings, so use the correct spray for your specific lens coatings. For a DIY option, instructables.com suggests a simple 60% isopropyl alcohol/40% water solution used in a spray bottle instead of commercial lens cleaners. Try one of these methods instead of breathing on your lenses and wiping with your shirt tails, paper towels, or Kleenex, which can scratch your lenses because the fibers are not necessarily smooth and can leave debris behind.

Microfiber cleaning cloths

Much of what I’ve read raves about microfiber cleaning cloths that keep glasses smudge-free. Microfiber fabric is a very fine synthetic textile that is so dense, it won’t leave streaks. Good ones will last for years. But the cheap ones will wreak havoc on your specs and undoubtedly drive you mad.

Did I ever tell you the story of my microfiber dish rag? It worked wonderfully at first, then I started to notice that no matter how much soap I used in the sink, the dishes had an oily film on them. I couldn’t figure out why until I examined my dish cleaning tools and noticed that the microfiber cloth also felt greasy, and I decided that the cheap synthetic was decomposing and returning to its former state: oil.

I have microfiber lens cloths that seem to do the same thing. Microfiber is made of petrochemicals and not biodegradable. The David Suzuki Foundation sees pros and cons to this textile. These cloths lift dirt and grease from surfaces but “are made from a non-renewable resource and do not biodegrade. And only those made from polypropylene are recyclable,” the site says. One good thing about microfiber cloths is that they eliminate the need for wasteful paper towels and napkins, etc., and can be washed in the machine in cool water (avoid fabric softener which will leave a film on your lenses), and I recommend to air dry them instead of putting them in the dryer. Watch this how-to short video by an optometrist for more information.

Pieces of cotton can work just as well though there may be more dust due to loose cotton fibers in the fabric, which would not be present in microfiber. I just experimented with a thin silk scarf and it worked wonderfully! No streaks and no debris left behind.

TIP: Through your cleaning cloth, lightly use your fingernail to get into the edges of your lenses between the frame – dust seems to collect in these crevices.

Wearing cool eye glasses or sun glasses can instantly update your look, but with style comes a cost. I completely understand that keeping one’s glasses clean is a nagging daily job and there is no permanent solution, so it is a cross we with bad eyesight must bear.

As an image consultant, I can say that from an objective viewpoint, dirty glasses don’t say good things about us, but now that I wear glasses and I know how quickly they dirty,  I completely empathize and understand the misguided criticism of dirty eye glasses because they’re nearly impossible to keep clean! It seems that I could continuously clean my glasses all day and they’d still get smudged, but I make the effort because looking good is one thing, but being able to see is priceless.

Paisley: full of possibilities

10 Jul

red paisley

Take a moment to look at this picture. Do you notice the incredible detail? The harmonized colours? The pleasant but erratic pattern? You’re looking at paisley, one of the most gorgeous decorative patterns humans have ever devised.

Paisley is an incredible pattern to work with because it is so full of possibilities: paisley can be done in any scale, it may be multi-coloured or monochrome, simple or intricate, and the pattern may be regular and repeating or varied, irregular, and seemingly random. This wonderful, natural design has deep, rich roots that date back to ancient Mesopotamia, the land between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers (modern-day Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and Syria), where it found its way into building decoration, carpets, fabrics, and the decorative arts of the Babylonians, Assyrians, and Sumerians.

This nature-inspired pattern, originally known as botteh or boteh in its native Persian, means “bush, shrub, a thicket, bramble, [or] herb. Some would even take it to mean a palm leaf, cluster of leaves…and flower bud,” according to the Heritage Institute discussing Zoroastrianism, the ancient Persian religion and philosophy.

The boteh pattern is a much-loved, time-tested pattern that eventually made its way into India where it really dug in its heels. For hundreds of years, beautiful cashmere wool shawls decorated with the boteh pattern were popular, and during the 1700s, boteh shawls cast a spell on European women who fell in love with the soft, warm, patterned fabric. During the colonial period, British men returning home from India brought the shawls as gifts for their women, and the demand for these exotic shawls grew in Europe. Seeing an opportunity, the British East India Company began to export the enormously popular and expensive shawls to Europe during the later 18th century.

As the shawls became more fashionable, the demand for them grew, but the high cost kept many away until European hand weavers began to copy the boteh patterned shawls and produced items at a fraction of the cost of the real thing. In 1805, the weaving mill in Paisley, Scotland became the boteh weaving centre of Europe, and the name Paisley became synonymous with the pattern. As weaving technology evolved in the UK, the original 2-colour paisley shawls turned into 5-colour patterns, though this still paled in comparison to the Indian versions that boasted up to 15 colours.

What is paisley?

The paisley pattern can range from very simple to extremely ornate, sometimes positioned loosely among leaves, or flowers, other times simple in regular and repeating patterns. The common denominator is the tell-tale curved teardrop shapes. It is the shape of the paisleys that I find particularly interesting because no one really knows what it’s supposed to represent, though there are many options and theories.

Paisleys could signify halved fresh figs, mangoes, gourds, licks of flame, or Cypress trees (sacred to the Zoroastrians); kidneys, tadpoles, tear drops, pears, or sperm if you’re Freudian.  (During research, I came across a Jehovah Witness message board that discussed paisley as a representation of sperm and therefore considered “taboo”). In any case, paisley seems to have originated as a fertility symbol and becomes more fantastic as it evolves.

Modernized examples of this racy design seen below by Paul Frederick show the incredible variance in paisley patterns, from bold and multi-coloured paisley to quiet tone-on-tone, and from elaborate designs to simple shapes (photos used with permission):

Blue paisley Paul Frederick tie

Tone-on-tone paisley Paul Frederick tie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Frederick paisley tie

Paul Fredrick blue paisley tie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paisley in menswear

While the paisley motif was woven into fabrics most often worn by women, western men were left out of experiencing this gorgeous pattern until the 1920s-1930s, when paisley was printed on silk and used in men’s ties.

“In response to changing fashion,” says Francois Chaille in  The Book of Ties, “Paisley is constantly being up-dated: hundreds of new paisley motifs make their appearance on ties every year. The motif provides rich opportunities for coloristic nuance and formal invention.”

Of course we in the west remember paisley worn extensively in the 1960s and revived in the 80s, but paisley has never really gone away. In fact, you may find a paisley tie in your collection, or maybe a paisley bandana or neckerchief (Cary Grant liked to wear these under his collars). If you’re lucky, you may have a Ralph Lauren paisley pocket silk for your breast pocket.  Stylish introverts could opt for a pair of low-key paisley socks, and daring darlings may rock paisley Ted Baker shirts or a cool sports jacket with a chic paisley lining.

Paisley isn’t just for clothing. The high-end Italian design house, Etro, likes to incorporate paisley into its collections, and offers paisley luggage, day books, wallets, and manbags in their iconic paisley “comprised of red, turquoise, yellow, olive green and ivory adapted and evolved to become the signature pattern for the brand: an instantly recognisable style which became inevitably synonymous with the luxury world of Etro,” their website says.

If wearing paisley is luxurious, it is also refined. New York image consultant, John Molloy, said paisley ties signify good breeding and education. Alan Flusser, author of Dressing the Man says, “Of all the loud neckties, [Molloy] deemed paisley as the only permissible one because it was the “fun tie” of the upper middle classes.”

I implore you to pull out your whimsical paisley and wear it with confidence; it is so beautiful and varied in pattern, colour, and scale, that everyone will be able to find the right paisley print for them. It is a pattern that speaks of human history, elegance, and refinement; it is a delightful and permanently stylish pattern, and an excellent investment for any gentleman’s image.

 

Ethical man = sexy man!

20 Mar

By this point, we’re all well aware that we have to manage manufactured goods by recycling, reusing, and repurposing, because the earth won’t get healthier if we continue to create new stuff out of raw materials and toss them into a landfill when we’re done.

The movement to creatively and stylishly reuse existing materials and objects is in full swing and I’ve seen some super cool ways to reuse stuff: got an old ladder? Mount it on a wall to make a book shelf! Make lamps and other cool stuff out of cassette tapes, and for die-hard sports fans in possession of old soccer or basketballs, make a hat! (Check out this blog: 25 Interesting DIY ideas to reuse old things.)

As an image consultant, I like to offer eco-friendly alternatives to my clients and for this post, I’ve found some super stylish accessory pieces for the eco-conscious gent.

Men’s environmentally conscious accessories

Mod wallet by Couch

Couch Mod arrow wallet available at Nice Shoes.ca. Image used with permission.

One of the cooler Canadian eco-conscious and cruelty-free businesses is Nice Shoes, which sells much more than nice shoes. Nice Shoes sells an obvious array of footwear plus great bags, belts, and wallets at their Vancouver shop and online store.

Shown here is the Couch Mod wallet. Couch makes cruelty-free vinyl wallets out of material leftover from their guitar straps (see below). Wallets have lots of room to hold 12 plastic cards and a bill fold for cash.

Repurposed vinyl pieces are strong, durable, easy-to-clean, and vegan/cruelty-free, and I recommend them if you want an inexpensive, ethical long-term investment: I’ve had a vegan bag for several years and it hardly looks worn.

Nice Shoes carries different men’s, women’s, and unisex lines. Below is a fine brown satchel by Matt and Nat, a great overnight bag for the discerning eco-conscious man:

Jack satchel

“Jack” by Matt and Nat, available at niceshoes.ca. Image used with permission.

Vintage car-conscious

Can you think of anything cooler than using the vinyl interior of an early 1970s Volkswagen Beetle to make a guitar strap? Neither can I. Couch, out of Signal Hill, California, does guitar and camera straps from vintage vinyl and repurposed seat belts along with other cool gear.

Couch vintage Volkswagon guitar strap

Couch vintage Volkswagen upholstery guitar strap. Image used with permission.

Being a vegan myself, I like what Couch stands for:

…when it came to making guitar straps, we were not into purchasing the actual hides of leather and then stamping the tabs out of asymmetric sides of beef before sewing them on our straps. The buying and selling of animal skin carcasses was a little too weird for us, thanks.

Couch also makes excellent, hard-wearing, gear for men like wallets, belts, and shaving bags. The toiletry bag below is made of vinyl upholstery originally intended to cover the interior of late 60s/early 70s Pontiac GTOs. This houndstooth model has a metal zipper and is lined with waxed canvas to keep your stuff dry when you splash around the sink.

GTO shaving bag

The houndstooth upholstery of the Pontiac GTO makes for a cool shaving bag. Image used with permission.

In the end, gents, you’re responsible for your actions and the products you use. Like men who volunteer, support animal rights, walk a mile in heels as a gesture to end violence against women, or get involved with anti-bullying campaigns, impassioned, eco-minded men are attractive and in demand. More than that, guys who use repurposed goods out of an eco-conscience are not just good for the future of our planet, dang! they’re downright sexy!

A little gift for the winter blahs

6 Mar

dirty boots

This winter has been horrendous. Gawd, when will it end? Many of us have reached our winter breaking point: it’s friggin’ cold and I’m at my palest; I’ve been wearing the same clothes for months, salt has eaten my footwear alive, and I just want it to be over!

Take a breath and decide to give yourself a gift and clean your winter boots. An odd gift, I know, but you’ve been neglecting them for weeks and the winter has been so cold for so long that you didn’t even notice that their lower third are white with salt. Have a good look at your boots, pick them up, and bring them into the bathroom.

Clean one boot at a time using the instructions below so you can compare the grimy boot to the clean one. I promise that this will give you a feeling of proud accomplishment that will lift your winter spirits:

You’ll need:

  • about 15-20 minutes
  • dirty, salt-stained winter boots
  • damp rag
  • drying rag
  • spent toothbrush
  • cup of warm water
  • shoe polish, leather conditioner, protective spray

Then:

1. Clean your boots:

toothbrush

Toothbrushes are fantastic cleaning tools

For smooth leathers, use a damp rag to wipe off the surface of your boots. You may have to rinse the rag a couple of times before you’re done depending on the filth level your boot finds themselves in.

Elbow grease may be necessary–this is where the toothbrush comes in handy. Short nylon bristles can get into places a cloth can’t, so start scrubbing with your toothbrush and get the dirt and grime out of boot seams, shoelace grommets, the boot tread, and the texture of the sole. Dip the toothbrush in the cup of warm water periodically.

If and only if your boot is waterproof, you can rinse the salt-stained sole under a warm tap, then rub dirt and salt off with a rag and/or a toothbrush. Dry.

2. Clean your laces: 

Do you tie your boots with dirty laces hardened by salt? Fix the problem by unlacing the dirty strings, then submerge them in warm water working the stains away with your fingers. Add a little soap if you like. Push the water out down the length of the lace, then hang to dry (over the shower curtain) or press water out with a towel. Re-lace when dry.

3. Lubricate your zipper:

As you know, fellas, lubrication is important to anything mechanical–and this includes zippers! If your boot has a zipper and that zipper is salt-dried and sticking, it’s time to clean and lubricate the mechanism. If you’ve had the misfortune of having to replace a boot zipper, you’ll know how much it costs, and this will save you some hard-earned dough.

I looked around and found zipper lubricating info on the web. One site suggested using Vaseline or soap (I tried this but it didn’t work well… uh, was the soap supposed to be wet?), but ended up choosing almond oil for the job. I squeezed a few drops onto a Q-Tip and lightly swept it up and down both sides of the zipper, then moved the lube around by zipping and unzipping the boot several times – worked like a charm! Cooking oils like olive oil may work here too, but not sure if any specific types of oil would react to the plastic zipper teeth, so use at your discretion.

4. Polish and protect:

Your boots are now looking a whole lot better than they did 10 minutes ago. To make your leather boots look better for longer, apply a leather conditioner to keep the material supple, allow to dry, then you can go ahead and use polish to cover the scuffs and bring back the colour. Always spray with a protective spray to ward off the next round of winter filth.

5. Shoe repair:

I can’t stress enough how important shoe maintenance is. You’ve invested in your footwear, so take care of it. You can have your boots re-heeled and re-soled; cleaned, stretched, and waterproofed, so you don’t have to throw this winter’s boots away, just get them fixed. Easier on the earth and more money in your account.

Well done! Wearing clean footwear feels civilized and it will give you a lift, no matter what the temperature. Just remember, only a few more weeks of winter 2014 to go, then spring arrives–hooray!

Liberace!

20 Jun

My grandmother loved Liberace. liberace1

He was on TV a lot when I was a kid in the 70s, and every time he was on a variety show,  she would sit glued to the set.

She loved his sparkling costumes, the jewelry, the furs, and of course, his ivory-tinkling (he was an extremely talented pianist).  I don’t remember her talking about him so I never got to find out what it was about this rouged and sequined piano player that drew her attention so much.

But when I was in high school, I had a grand-daughterly deja vu with a flamboyant musician myself, so I understood where she was coming from.

I immediately fell in love when I heard Culture Club’s Time (Clock of the Heart) on the radio in 1981, and for the next few years, I had Boy George’s face plastered all over my bedroom walls. There was something about him that I was hopelessly drawn to – his individuality, his creativity, and the courage to be himself. But surely, I was attracted to him, he was a man after all… but something was amiss.

My love of Boy George confused me, just like my grandmother’s attraction to Liberace – we both had rigid gender roles stuffed down our throats, and any behaviour that strayed from what was “normal” for men and for women was suspect – illegal, in fact, during my grandmother’s era – but these were entertainers and they were allowed to be a little “eccentric”.

Though publicly closeted, Liberace was the first gay man to have his own TV show, he starred in movies, he was raking in $50,000 a week at the Riviera in Las Vegas, and he sold millions and millions of records. Women adored him.

He wore outrageous costumes for a man a the time – hell, even for a woman at the time – and I wonder if his female fan following had to do with a mutual love of glitz and girlish glamour.

Liberace red cape

The American Fashion Foundation called him the best-dressed man in show business back in the day,  and apparently, our  Mr. Showmanship  modeled himself after 19th century Bavarian King Ludwig II,  a suspected gay man and patron of Wagner. To me, Liberace was more like a fabulous, flamboyant papal drag queen complete with dainty gold slippers and flowing robes.

Liberace’s tremendous wealth enabled him to surround himself in homes decorated in Rococo style, high-end cars, and custom-made pianos. He wore the most elaborate, heavily sequined, plumed, and embroidered costumes, encrusted with diamond buttons and pounds of Swarovski rhinestones. Even his shoes were custom-made to match his outfits.

Detail of a Liberace costume – hand-sewn sequins and beading

He was a costume designer’s dream and commissioned a new wardrobe every year. In a 1982 interview, Michael Travis, Liberace’s costume designer during the late 70s and early 80s,  said of Liberace, “There’s nothing he will not do. He’s very flexible.”

The article describes Liberace’s most expensive outfit ever – a $300,000, 137-pound shimmering fox fur with a 16-foot train worn over a bejeweled tuxedo valued at $50,000.

“Every time he plays to a new audience he wants to see what he can shock them with,” Travis said.

And shock he did, much to the delight of his femme-heavy fan base.

Cape inspired by Botticelli’s Birth of Venus?

People don’t realize how Liberace inspired many entertainers of our modern era. I can see how he may have inspired Prince who liked to wear ruffled shirts under sequined satin suits and heeled boots. Rob Lowe, who plays Dr. Jack  Startz,  Liberace’s plastic surgeon, in the 2013 HBO special, Behind the Candelabra, says of Liberace,  “He invented bling. Like the rappers of today wouldn’t be wearing or doing anything of what they’re doing without Liberace first.”

He was a true original and fantastically talented man who sadly denied his sexuality to his grave. It is through him that my grandmother’s gaydar found its glow, and I am pleased to have inherited it.

Happy Pride 2013!

Liberace links:

This short TIME video will make you smile.

Interview with Behind the Candelabra costume designer, Ellen Mirojnick.

Take a virtual tour of the (now closed) Liberace museum in Las Vegas. 

Learn about the sets, props, and costumes from the 2013 HBO special, Behind the Candelabra, in this video.

Instantly cool with a spring scarf

14 Mar

Scarves are the unsung heroes of any man’s wardrobe. They punch up the colour and flavour of any outfit and make a guy instantly stylish.

Scarves are traditionally worn in the winter to keep our necks warm, but consider a lightweight scarf in the spring for a little added warmth and a lot of style in the early days of the season.

Gentlemen, no matter how much you spend, know that you’re going to make an impact in a spring scarf.

I find that menswear in general can be harsh in colour, casting a dark light on a man’s face, and giving him a hardened look. Spring colours are much more flattering, softening a man’s features and making him look more approachable. While scouting locally owned menswear shops in Toronto for this post, I’m happy to see that this season’s colour choices in scarves are soft and powdery.

Pal Zileri linen scarf

I looked at a gorgeous, tone-on-tone striped sea green linen scarf at high-end men’s store, Via Cavour at 87 Avenue Road. Their amazingly soft, handmade, Pal Zileri 100% linen scarves come in unusual colours, and are priced from $350 to $750.

When the temperatures get warmer, linen scarves are the go-to accessory because linen is one of the lightest and coolest clothing materials – air constantly moves through linen’s weave, keeping the wearer physically and visually cool. (Read more about linen.)

Marc de Rose at Via Cavour says, “Scarves are one of the best pieces to update an outfit.”

He describes his scarves as “funky” that dress up a traditional suit. He likes to loop his scarves loosely around his neck with the ends draping over his chest, giving him a youthful, comfortable look. Draping the scarf over a suit this way “frames” the collar (and tie) beneath.

  • Style tip: Scarves are meant to look “thrown on” but they are nothing but – you’ll want to spend some time arranging the fabric

I visited philip in Hazelton Lanes, a spin-off of Nanni Couture, to look at gentleman’s cotton and silk blend scarves.

Philip no scarf

Philip in a suit

Philip scarf

Philip becomes instantly cool in a spring scarf!

Owner, Philip Zappacosta, says, “A scarf is a great investment for men to coordinate with his wardrobe, and tie everything  together.”

He showed me a large, versatile, slightly crisp, colourful, square-shaped Corneliani scarf (below), made in Italy ($295), and explained how many other colours and pieces could be worn with it.

Scarves at the philip store go well with soft-shouldered sports jackets and other more casual pieces like loose-knit spring sweaters. They can be worn wrapped around the neck to create volume around the face, and longer types can be worn European style, folded in half lengthwise and draped around the neck with the ends pulled through the loop at the front.

Here, we wrapped the fabric around Philip’s neck. Notice how the added bulk seems to bring in his shoulders and torso – a trick of optical illusion, good for larger men who want to appear smaller.

  • Style tip – Look for balance in your clothing and avoid mixing warm winter weights with lighter spring weights

Queen Street West favourite, Grreat Stuff, offers reasonable price points for men on smaller budgets who like to add some pizzazz to their wardrobe. Grreat Stuff is a grreat store for menswear oddities and interesting wardrobe pieces.

They carry long, double-sided silk English scarves in traditional patterns grreat stuff twith a natural silk fringe for $95, striped 100% gauzy cotton GEOX scarves for $60, and cotton Matinique gingham scarves in a dense weave with a dry hand for $45.

Co-owners, Frances and Adam Yalonetsky, recommend wearing cotton or silk scarves loosely with a cotton blazer or lightweight outerwear.

Adam suggests that in the cool of the early spring, fold your scarf in half lengthwise, wrap European style, then tighten the loop to bring the scarf closer in at the neck. This will give more bulk to the scarf and keep the warm air close to the throat.

Adding a scarf will get you noticed and for style-savvy men, there is scarcely a better accessory.

Having the idea to wear a stylish scarf that ties your clothes together makes you awesome. Actually doing it for real triples your awesomeness.

 

Uniform Series: Kevlar, the life-saving textile

23 Aug

During this uniform series, we’ve focused on firefighter and police uniforms. This final post of the series focuses on an amazingly strong and lightweight textile used in both uniforms, Kevlar.

In the mid-60s, Stephanie Kwolek, a chemist working for DuPont, invented Kevlar, opening the doors for polymer chemistry. Kevlar is an extremely strong, flexible, and tremendously flame, heat, and cut-resistant textile with a high tensile strength – five times stronger than steel, and 20 times stronger than steel when underwater. Kevlar’s superior strength lies in its hydrogen bonds that strengthen the monomer (a molecule that chemically binds to other molecules), making it into a strong polymer chain.

Kevlar is used not only in emergency services clothing and equipment, but has uses in industrial, workplace, and military safety, and is present in automotive and sports equipment, rope, and fiber optics. Many people rely on the strength of Kevlar to confidently and effectively do their jobs.

Firefighting and Kevlar

In high temperature situations, Kevlar can withstand temperatures up to 300°C and still retain its strength properties, so it is an ideal material for firefighting uniforms and equipment. Kevlar is virtually indestructible and with the exception of a few powerful acids, solvents are ineffective at damaging Kevlar. Kevlar is slightly susceptible to ultraviolet light.

Toronto firefighters wear heat and flame-resistant Kevlar bunker coats and pants, and carry oxygen tanks wrapped in Kevlar.

Toronto firefighter boots are made of heavy, thick, and waterproof rubber, insulated with felt and heat-resistant Kevlar. Bunker coats and pants of the firefighting uniform are made of Kevlar and Nomex (another DuPont flame-resistant textile) with a water barrier to keep out water and chemicals. The fabric of the outer uniforms are breathable, allowing metabolic heat to escape and reducing heat stress in the body.

“DuPont™ NOMEX® and DuPont™ KEVLAR® brand fibers will not melt, drip, or support combustion, providing a stable barrier that helps minimize burn injuries. The flame resistant properties of NOMEX® and KEVLAR® are permanent; they cannot be washed out or removed in any way. Durable DuPont™ Teflon® HT water-repellent treatments prevent water from compromising valuable air layers that provide the bulk of the garments’ thermal insulation.” (Source.)

Kevlar also in a firefighter’s SCBA, self-contained breathing apparatus. The aluminum oxygen tank is wrapped in Kevlar and strapped to the back, protecting the firefighter from the combustible gas from exploding during fire calls.

For more information about DuPont’s firefighting protective gear, please see this page of their site.

Policing and Kevlar

A thick Kevlar plate rests inside of police bullet-proof vests.

Kevlar’s lightweight ballistic and stab-resistant textile technology is used in police gear and military body armor; it is the bullet-stopping material that makes up bullet-proof vests. When I toured 51 Division in Toronto, I had a look inside of the vest to inspect the Kevlar plate within the vest. It was spongy and firm, and felt like dense foam.

The DuPont site explains Kevlar as “bullet-resistant tactical vests work by “catching” a bullet in a multilayer web of woven fabrics… Whether it’s engaging a fast-moving projectile or helping to stop the blunted bullet, body armor made with Kevlar® fiber helps offer law enforcement officers superior protection in multiple situations.”

Kevlar is such an amazing produce that many police officers owe their lives to this DuPont textile. Their website features videos of survivor stories from police officers who owe their lives to their bullet-proof Kevlar vests.

Kevlar is a major component of emergency services uniforms in Toronto and throughout the world. Kevlar marries science and clothing to form the world’s most cutting-edge protective textile, so people in dangerous jobs can feel safe and confident in their work.

Dabbing like a gent

12 Jul

A client recently asked me what he should do when sweat runs into his eyes on a hot and humid summer day.

“Good question,” I said, “there is no reason that a gentleman shouldn’t do as a gentlewoman would on a hot day – use a hankie.”

I pulled out my embroidered scarlet vintage hankie and showed him what I do with it when I find beads of sweat rolling down my face: dab. Simply dab.

Using an absorbent linen or cotton handkerchief to take up the sweat is a much nicer alternative to wiping one’s forehead with a sleeve or the back of your hand. Using a hankie is politer and much more stylish.

In Style & The Man, Alan Flusser, a permanent member on the international best-dressed list, writes of the pocket handkerchief:  “Immediate availability has always been a requirement for any handkerchief; the user must have ready access to it if he is to head off that unexpected sneeze before it becomes a source of embarrassment, mop up the spilled champagne before it flows into the lap of a guest, or perform other social niceties.”

As Mr. Flusser reminds us, the practical handkerchief must not be confused with the dress handkerchief that graces the breast pocket of a jacket. This workable handkerchief, also known as a pocket handkerchief, is meant to be stored in your back trouser pocket, as Flusser says, but if this is not possible, I’m sure no one would mind if you kept your hankie in an outside jacket pocket or if the fit allows, the front trouser pocket.

In the old days, a proper gent would always carry a hankie for nose-blowing or mopping the brow on a hot day. I remember my grandfather always had a linen hankie in is pocket and kept a drawer full of handkerchiefs because he bought them in packets of three. These are still readily available in men’s furnishings departments. For you groovier types, seek out vintage stores for cool, old-fashioned hankies or search for them online.

Random hankie tips:

  • Men’s hankies tend to be plainer with straight or rolled hems; women’s hankies are more colourful and often have lace or edging on hems;
  • For denim or sporty days, carry a colourful bandana, but go with a plainer, quieter hankie at the office – either way, hankies are a great way to express yourself;
  • At the end of the day, toss your hankie in the wash or rinse under the tap, otherwise you’ll have a soggy wad to deal with.

For more handkerchief info, see the Hanky panky post, and for more info about combating perspiration, check No need to sweat it.

Guess the era!

5 Apr

This week, we’re going to test your spacial-temporal abilities and see if you can visualize the gentleman’s coat from the pattern pieces below and match it to one of the coats below:

Your choices:

A. A two-piece fitted doublet with lower tabs worn with “bag breeches” from 1630, Flanders.

B. Men’s frock coat with deep back pleats from the 1830s.

C.  The Justaucorps, a French coat from the early 18th century.

If you chose C, you’re correct! The Justaucorps, an excessively pleated, stiffened, and decorated coat of French origin,  worn during the late 17th and early 18th century period when aristocratic men were at their fanciest and most extravagant. This period for well-to-do men was completely over-the-top, putting women’s costume to shame in Europe.

This coat was collarless and heavily trimmed in  ribbon, braid, and embroidery, and covered with dozens buttons connecting the back skirts, a line in front to fasten the coat, and useless buttons adorned the pocket flaps. The enormous cuffs, running the length the wrist to the elbow, into place on the “pagoda” sleeve.

This heavily-adorned, deeply-pleated coat topped a long, stiffened, skirted sleeveless waistcoat – the first three-piece suit! Shirts made of linen or silk had showy lace cuffs, worn with a loosely knotted 7 -8′ long neck cloth (forerunner of the tie).  Sometimes a sash tied around the waist. Breeches and hose  covered the trunk and on the gent’s feet were heeled shoes or boots with red soles and heels. Men wore long, curly wigs and carried tricorne hats (with three points) under their arms because the tall, curly wigs prevented the hat from sitting firmly on the head.

Men carried ribboned walking sticks and took to wearing fur muffs to keep their hands warm in cold weather, often with little pockets inside to carry their snuff boxes. Colours of the period were bright – yellow, green, and red, getting away from the dark, dull colours of the Commonwealth era.

Both men and women painted their faces with powdered lead and/or arsenic to make their skin white, and applied rouge and lipstick – sometimes a false beauty spot was applied to the face for ornamentation and in some cases, to cover facial scars from ailments like small pox. Whitening the skin signified the class of the wearer – the aristocracy didn’t work / didn’t outside where his skin would have become darkened by the sun’s rays. However, a pristine, lily-white face didn’t come without a price.

Although this era was known as the Age of Enlightenment, most fashionable men and women poisoned themselves with red and white lead make-up and powder.  The make-up they used caused the eyes to swell and become inflamed, attacked the enamel on the teeth and changed the texture of the skin causing it to blacken, it was also not uncommon to suffer baldness… It was known that heavy use of lead could cause death. (Source.)

The simple two-button suit that modern men wear is an extremely boiled-down version of the grossly elaborate 300-year old suit that required assistance to put on. Attendants dressed the gentry in coats and waistcoats made of heavy satin, silk, and velvets which I imagine must have weighed a ton and no doubt affected the joints of the wearer.

In the modern era, we might have our wardrobe problems, though they’re miniscule compared to the lengths that men of the early 18th century went to in showing themselves and their wealth off. The excessiveness of this period is a shining example of the human ego knowing no bounds.

Note – Immediately following this post, In the Key of He is scaling back posts to release every two weeks.