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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!

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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.

 

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!

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.

 

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.

And men fake it too!

21 Jan

A mist of goodwill, well-being and lazy relaxation temporarily obscures reality. Both sexes may experience a burst of creative thought as orgasm produces a near lightning storm in the right, creative-thinking side of the brain. Biological duty fulfilled, there normally follows a lengthy period of exhaustion, rest, and – frequently – sleep.

Edited extract from O: The Intimate History of the Orgasm by Jonathan Margolis (I urge you to take a look a the link – fascinating piece).

Men. Faking. Orgasm. Three concepts we don’t usually put together, but looking around online to inspire this week’s post, I came across an interesting study about men doing just that in the Journal of Sex Research, read it, and searched for more information.

The more I read, the more I remembered, and I do believe that I have experienced this before. I’m having memories of a couple of old boyfriends and orgasms past that just didn’t have the depth they should have, as if they felt obligatory and forced. Perhaps there is something to this male faking phenomena.

Charlene L. Muehlenhard and Sheena K. Shippee of the Department of Psychology at the University of Kansas, published the findings of their surveys of college students to discover if, how, and why men pretend orgasm and what faking men and women reveal about their social sexual scripts and the orgasms within these scripts in “Men’s and Women’s Reports of Pretending Orgasm”.

Who’s faking and why?

The participants of the orgasm study were mixed gender mostly Caucasian heterosexual students, average age 19. A thin slice of society but a slice carved at a time when a young man hovers around his sexual peak. Given their age, one would think that the guys in the study would be grappling for orgasms, but it turns out that some of them are only pretending to have them. Of the study’s sexually experienced participants, 67% of the women and a surprising 28% of men pretended to orgasm during intercourse, oral sex, manual stimulation, or phone sex.

Most frequently, the reasons behind the orgasmic charades for both sexes were that they were tired and/or wanted sex to end, orgasms seemed unlikely, they wanted to avoid negative consequences (e.g., hurting their partner’s feelings), or to obtain positive consequences (e.g., pleasing their partner).

Because there are always exceptions to the rule, the study’s findings gained new insights: some men used a make-believe orgasm to cover their premature ejaculation; 37% of all participants reported frequently or always feeling pressure to orgasm. One young man in the study faked because his inexperienced  girlfriend didn’t have the right technique to bring him to a full-on orgasm. Others pretended to come because they were “not in the mood” or that they weren’t attracted to their partner and “Just wanted to get it over with.”

The study showed more men than women having been intoxicated when they pretended to orgasm. One male participant reported, “One night after a couple hours of heavy drinking I was talking to this girl on my floor and apparently I was hitting on her. One thing led to another and I started sobering up during sex so I faked to make her go away…. She is unattractive/annoying [and I] wanted to get her off me… when my senses came about and I took my drunk goggles off.” (Beware the booze, boys.)

The methods men used most often to fake their orgasms were moaning or making other sounds, saying that they were orgasming, moving or thrusting faster or harder, freezing or clenching their muscles, and acting spent or exhausted. (Women used more vocalization and heavier and faster breathing.)

Why she faked

Women are quite different creatures as we know, and the women in the U of Kansas study faked for reasons unique to their gender and to their bodies, which to me, drip with social and emotional connotations:

  • More women than men faked because their partner was unskilled;
  • More women faked out of boredom;
  • More women than men faked to get a positive response – i.e. being perceived as “sexy” and to please their partner/boost his self-confidence;
  • Women used orgasm to avoid conflict or explanation and in an effort to keep their partner from leaving or straying;
  • Women frequently mentioned that they faked because they didn’t want to appear abnormal or inadequate;
  • Women often pretended to orgasm to meet their partner’s expectations.
We’ve got our own set of psycho-social pressures to deal with when it comes to sex, but we’re all under pressure and social expectation if we decide to cater to those pressures that may only exist in our mind (and remember, you always have a choice).

Pressure to perform

Our unquestioned and accepted sexual norm is that men always want sex and because of this, should always be able to perform. The study suggests that the myth of the perpetual sex drive, getting an erection, and having an orgasm can lead men to fake an orgasm if they really can’t or don’t want to orgasm, in an attempt to support the myth, perhaps believing that their partner supports (or perhaps expects) it, and might go through with the unfulfilled sex even though they might be tired or really aren’t into it. (This pressure is not reserved for straight men – gay men will be under the same kind of pressure, perhaps a product of living in a penile-centric society.)

This online article describes social influences that pressure men to feel as though they have to come no matter what.  It describes men feeling “a strong need to perform, and this pressure is based on the influence of porn culture, media, advertising, and magazine articles. Bombarded with pornographic images, commercials touting erection-enhancing drugs like Viagra, and magazine articles about how to keep thrusting until she screams for mercy, men are under a tremendous amount of pressure to come hard, come fast, and give their partners orgasms so intense that plaster falls off the walls.”

Muehlenhard and Shippee nodded their agreement with the observation that ‘‘many men appear to feel that it is a refection on their adequacy if the female partner does not come to orgasm.’’ I expect that this could be a heavy load for men who agree with this way of thinking. I’ve personally experienced men chastising themselves for not fulfilling what I think of as a socially-imposed sexual expectation – I certainly didn’t criticize them.

I see absolutely no reason for anyone to take something like that personally; there are so many outside forces affecting sexual performances – our partners could be tired, under stress, hungry, preoccupied, time-constrained, or any other reason under the sun that you don’t necessarily know about. In other words, guys, there are lots of different reasons that your partner didn’t reach orgasm – it’s not necessarily all about you.

Prescribed sexual script

Many study participants mentioned pretending because they did not know how else to end sex. The patriarchal sexual script that the researchers describe is, she orgasms, he orgasms, then sex is over. Indeed, Roberts, Kippax, Waldby, and Crawford (1995) described an ‘‘‘orgasm for  work’ economy of heterosexuality’’ in which the man’s job is to give the woman an orgasm, and her orgasm proves the quality of his work.” There’s that pesky ego again giving a guy extra pressure to perform work he may not have the proper training for – women are complex and so is their sexuality – we’re not all sure how we work!

Luckily for everyone, the sexual climate is changing and is changing rapidly. No longer are women relying on men for orgasm (real ones this time), women are becoming more and more sexually empowered and expanding their erotic horizons. As a matter of fact, in today’s research, I read about Patty Brisben, an amazing woman who has risen from the depths of misfortune to build a wonderful sex-positive women’s toy/party company called Pure Romance.

She explains in her article, Why You Shouldn’t Fake An Orgasm, that “by faking pleasure, you’re not only neglecting your needs, but you aren’t being honest with your [partner]. Let’s face it, if you’re faking in the bedroom, where else are you faking? Being in a committed relationship is about being open enough to communicate about all aspects, especially the tougher topics that may embarrass you like issues regarding your sexuality.”

I can honestly tell you that I do not believe I’ve ever faked an orgasm. What I like to do instead is be honest with my partner and tell him where I’m at and communicate what I need. I’m not sure why people go to all of the trouble of putting on a performance when they could just as easily come out and say “Sorry, it’s just not going to happen tonight” or “I’m too tired”, then be asleep and dreaming in the arms of Morhpeus faster than you can z-z-z-z-z…