Archive | General Interest RSS feed for this section

Spring image prep!

25 May stack of shirts

stack of shirtsWell, we’ve passed the Victoria Day long weekend here in Canada and that’s usually a sign of some things: new growth, the sweet smell of spring; time to open the cottage for the season, and time to get out your summer clothes.

When it’s time to change our seasonal closets over, we should think about the life of our warm weather clothes and what they’ve been through for the last 6 – 8 months. Essentially, they’ve been neglected, hanging in the dark, weighted down under folds and layers, stuffed into bags, boxes, or suitcases. They need to be refreshed. Here are some easy ways to prep your spring-summer wardrobe and get  you ready to rock spring-summer 2017:

cat in washer1. Organize your drawers. Get rid of the socks with holes, toss the Swiss cheese underwear hanging to the waistband by a thread, and ditch the old, worn, and possibly torn t-shirts. Don’t be afraid to try on last summer’s clothes and give away the stuff that’s not doing it for you anymore–excess only takes up space.

2.Wash your clothes. If possible, hang out in the air to dry. They’ll smell better.

3. Some of your clothes should be given a press. After cleaning, press a clean crease in your cotton or linen trousers; give your shirts some steam.

men's shoes

4. Have a look at your shoes from last summer –what shape are they in? Are they scuffed? Heels worn down? Time to visit the shoe repair shop! Next-to-new shoes will definitely put a spring in your step!

 

 

exfoliating gloves5. If you haven’t done so for a while (if ever), exfoliating is a lovely way to feel like you’ve woken up your skin. Exfoliation is a process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of skin, leaving a soft, fresh layer beneath.

For the gents, I suggest a pair of exfoliating gloves lathered with soap to smooth away rough skin. Get in the shower, put on the textured gloves, wet them, soap up, and wash entire body – toes, elbows, and buns included (go lightly on your gentlemen’s parts); rinse gloves, squeeze out excess water, then hang to dry. It feels great to slather on an oil or a moisturizer on freshly-exfoliated skin – you’ll feel invigorated and refreshed!

men's feet6. Check hands and feet. After a long winter, chances are, your digits are not in great shape. Go for a gent’s manicure and pedicure at a salon or simply get yourself a nail brush and give your feet and fingers a good going-over. Use a moisturizer afterward – you’ll notice a difference.

7. Spring is a great time for a new look and it doesn’t have to mean replacing your entire wardrobe. How about something simple like a new hair style? An updated pair of sunglasses is always a wise investment as well.aviator sunglasses

The excitement of spring-summer 2017 awaits – best to be wardrobe and grooming-ready!

Advertisements

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.

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.

 

PERCs of dry cleaning

12 May

dry cleaningDry cleaning. It’s easy, it’s convenient, and it’s a popular way to save time and get cleaned and pressed clothes. If you dry clean, have you ever thought about dry cleaners and their cleaning process? How about the chemicals they use to clean clothes, or the plastic around each of your individual garments? Dry cleaning may be convenient, but it’s an environmental disaster.

This past February, Ali Eldin, the owner of dry cleaning businesses in Edmonton pleaded guilty ”to offences relating to the improper handling and storage of tetrachloroethylene, commonly known as perchloroethylene, or shortened to PERC – a widely used dry cleaning solvent which poses environmental risks and is toxic to humans. Through periodic inspections over 18 months, it was evident that Eldin’s shops did not use proper safeguards for using PERC, which created hazardous waste and put the dry cleaning staff at risk. (Source.)

PERC

Dry Cleaning Report

From the 2015 Environmental Defense Dry Cleaning Report

According to Canada’s Environmental Defence Dry Cleaning Report, Removing the Stain: Getting Cancer-Causing Chemicals Out of Your Clothes, PERC ”is an organic, colourless, non-flammable liquid widely used for dry cleaning of fabrics. PERC acts as an effective solvent and stain remover for organic materials, making it one of the most popular chemicals used in dry cleaning in North America since the 1950s.”

The Report cites short-term PERC exposure symptoms as dizziness, headaches, nausea, skin, eye, and lung irritation. Long-term exposure has been linked to reproductive health issues, lung and breast cancers, lymphoma, and leukemia. If PERC spills on the ground, it finds its way into our drinking water.

PERC is a terrible choice for getting clothes clean! Yet somehow, the chemical is allowed in Canada – this federal government page on Dry Cleaning Regulations lists PERC ”on the List of Toxic Substances, Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. Exposure commonly happens through contaminated air or water, including groundwater.” Environment Canada developed the following regulations around PERC to reduce its release from dry cleaning facilities:

  1. requiring more efficient dry cleaning machines that recover more PERC from the dry cleaning process;
  2. preventing PERC spills; and
  3. managing the way residues and waste water containing PERC are collected and disposed of.

Unfortunately, Toronto is the only city in Canada that measures and tracks PERC usage and emissions. We require much more protection on the municipal, provincial, and federal levels to protect our health and the environment.

If you’ve been awakened to the perils of dry cleaning, here are some alternatives to dry cleaning and tips to avoid dry cleaning altogether.

Alternatives to PERC

Dry Cleaning Report

From the Environmental Defense Dry Cleaning Report

Wet Cleaning: Instead of having your clothes dry cleaned, ask for wet cleaning, or seek out a specific wet cleaner. There are lots of them popping up – wet cleaning is also known as organic, enviro- or green-cleaning. It is by far the most efficient, non-toxic, non-polluting and least expensive of all PERC alternatives. Wet cleaning uses water and biodegradable detergent in computer-controlled washers and dryers, and specialized finishing equipment for delicates. It also costs less and uses the least amount of energy. Excellent choice!

Carbon Dioxide Cleaning: Another eco-friendly method, low in toxicity but far more expensive than wet cleaning is carbon dioxide cleaning. This method uses non-flammable, non-toxic liquid CO2 as the cleaning agent. According to an assessment by the Toxics Use Reduction Institute of the University of Massachusetts,  “[t]he CO2 used in the process is derived from industrial processes as a by-product; therefore the use of the gas itself in the cleaning process does not actively contribute to global warming.”

Others: Hydrocarbon and silicone cleaning use toxic, polluting, expensive solvents that aren’t really alternatives at all. Environmental Defense says that hydrocarbon cleaning contributes to air pollution, and silicon-based cleaning uses a flammable chemical called siloxane which potentially threatens aquatic ecosystems.

As you can see, the best alternative to toxic, polluting clothes-cleaning is also the least expensive. More wet cleaners, please!

Dry Cleaning Solvents and Textiles

Be aware of what you wear and what you dry clean. According to an article on the Environmental Working Group website, a study by scientists at Georgetown University found that PERC hangs onto different types of textiles. Silk did not appear to retain any of the chemical, but high levels of residual PERC was found on dry-cleaned wool, cotton, and polyester (very common ingredients in your clothes). The study found that further dry cleaning cycles intensified the PERC concentrations in the said textiles.

The study also offered evidence of PERC emitting from wool after it’s dry cleaned. Even if inside of a plastic bag, the PERC concentrations on wool depleted by half in a week. Conclusion? PERC vaporizes from clothing and into your home/car/office – and you breathe it in.

The lesson to take away here is to simply buy clothing that you don’t have to dry clean and can safely wash yourself (suits and sports jackets excepted). Read your washing labels, follow the instructions, Bob’s your uncle.

Plastic Dry Cleaning Bags

Mary Marlowe Leverette is a Laundry Expert. She sees the thin, filmy, plastic bags that protect your newly-cleaned clothes as a long-term hazard for your clothes (not to mention a suffocation hazard if you have children). Ms. Leverette advises to ditch the plastic around your dry cleaned garments.

“Leaving freshly cleaned laundry in the flimsy plastic bag can cause yellowing, staining and weakening of fibers,” she says. “The yellowing and other changes in color is caused by BHT (butylated hydroxyl tolune), an anti-oxidant used in the manufacturing of the plastic bag. When BHT comes in contact with any moisture and impurities in the air it forms a yellow pigment that transfers to the fabric.”

Though technically dry, freshly dry-cleaned clothes are pressed with steam and then bagged – enter the moisture and the pigmentation and kiss goodbye your favourite white shirt.

A piece of advice: if you get your clothes cleaned professionally, take them out of the bag and hang outside to air out when you get them home. Even better: store your clothes in cloth garment bags (unbleached cotton would be best) instead of plastic ones that leach chemicals – the cloth bags breathe and this reduces moisture and the possibility of mold.

If you’re still dry cleaning, try wet cleaning. If you’re not wet cleaning, maybe you should be hand-washing. I’ll fill you in on that next post as the laundry series continues.