Tag Archives: socks

All-purpose clothing maintenance

19 May

This week, I’d like to give you fellas some very simple and very do-able image-enhancing tips on keeping your basics nice and neat to give you a polished look.  Ready? Here we go!

Basics for ties 

Ties are cut on the bias of silk, meaning that they are cut on the diagonal instead of the straight of the grain, like most garments are. This method of cutting gives an elasticity to the fabric, useful in the tying of the ties but making the tie different in maintenance than other garments. When ties wrinkle, they’re not meant to be ironed. Instead, the bias-cut of the fabric allows the weight of the weave to lie differently and because  of this, wrinkles are easily smoothed by rolling them instead of hanging them up. Try storing them rolled on a flat surface like in a drawer.

Are you the kind of guy that isn’t comfortable tying ties and you leave your ties knotted for the next wear? I have some sympathy for you knot-challenged fellas but remember that a proper gent will knot a fresh tie each day, so try to learn how to do at least one basic knot (i.e. the four-in-hand). Once you have this mastered, you can move onto the Half Windsor and if you want to get really fancy, try the Full Windsor. Tie knots may seem intimidating at first, but with practice, will become habit. Google “tie knots” and find the right illustration or video for you to follow – there are lots to choose from.

Keep your shirts in shape

When hanging your shirts up on hangers, button the top button to keep the collar band in shape.

I’m always telling my clients that they can extend the life of their shirts if they keep the collar in shape. To do this, simply button up the top button on the shirt, found on what is called the collar band. Sandwiched in between the back and front fabric of the collar and the collar band is the fusing/interfacing which gives shape and body to the collar pieces. Doing up the top button will keep your collars stiff, round, and in good shape.

Dry clean only trousers

If you’re a fan of wool pants, you’ll notice the “dry clean only” symbol on the washing tag. I know that especially for you bachelors, dry cleaning is a godsend, but do be aware that the dry cleaning process is hard on humans and the environment as it uses highly flammable chemical solvents to get your clothes clean. Dry cleaning can also get expensive.

Dry clean symbol

An alternative to dry cleaning is wet cleaning or environmental cleaning which many dry cleaners offer, easier on the earth but a method that will still cost you – check some good dry cleaning alternatives link here.

I’ve got a couple of tricks for you to help you stretch from cleaning to cleaning:

  • Hang your trousers outside to air them out and freshen them up;
  • If your trousers are already creased, run a not-too-hot steam iron over them to crisp the crease and don’t be afraid to press the hem or cuffs, and steam out the thigh and knee creases created from sitting in the trousers. A good shot of steam should help the fabric recover its shape some.

Washers and dryers: sock’s natural enemy 

Losing a sock during the laundering process is frustrating. I’ve observed enough sock behaviour over time to understand that socks may actually reappear if you have patience: 

  • Check around the washing machine – sometimes they fall out as we stuff clothes into the washer;
  • Look for them in the pockets of your fitted sheets;
  • If you used the dryer, check inside of clothes – static might be holding your sock in something else;
  • If it’s an athletic sock you’re missing, look in your gym bag.

If you lost a sock and you’ve done the above suggestions and it’s been a few loads since you lost the original, chances are it’s gone, in which case, the one left over should be tossed – i.e. leaving the lone sock around is a temptation to wear it with another lone sock when you run out of laundry. Try to avoid this – it won’t do you any favours. For more sock info, please read Sock schlock.

Polish your shoes 

One of the easiest ways to sharpen your visual image is to keep your shoes polished – a shiny shoe will make better the outfit you threw together because you woke up late for work, and a dirty, worn shoe will betray the outfit that you so carefully put together.

The simplest solution to keeping your shoes clean and polished is to keep polish, brushes, sponges, and protective sprays next to the space where you store your shoes. This way, all you have to do is reach for what you need and get the job done right then and there!

To keep it simple and to get a fast and easy shine, I suggest the KIWI Express Shine Sponge – buy two and keep one at home near your dress shoes, and in your desk at the office. Check out the info here.

How to dress for the winter

9 Dec

Beautiful frost on a window in Regina. Photo by Yvonne Nargang.

With their current economy in such a terrible state, hundreds of young Irish people are leaving their homeland every week to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

I made the acquaintance of such a fellow this weekend; this young Irishman had arrived in Toronto just the day before and I was quite sure he didn’t really know what he was walking into, it being Canada in December and all, so I took it upon myself to educate my new friend on what it is to live in Canada during the winter.

I consider myself an expert in cold weather dressing because  I spent more than half of my life in one of the coldest inhabited places on earth: Saskatchewan.

In Saskatchewan (sas-kat-CHEW-un, or if you’re cheeky like my SK friend Mike, you’ll call it “so-scratch-me-one”), the winters are so bitterly cold that people have to plug their cars in overnight so that the battery works in the morning. Under the right conditions, skin can freeze in seconds and ice forms in your nostrils. It’s the kind of dry cold that stings. But no matter what the weather, nothing stops in Saskatchewan; on the prairies, people suck it up, pack on the layers, and continue with their routine.

It’s really no wonder that Socialism was born in Saskatchewan, the place where people rely on a strong community for survival in a horrendously harsh climate. A good example is highway driving: if your car breaks down on the roads in the winter and you don’t have the necessary provisions to get you through, you could very easily freeze to death. People always stop to help because they know how that if they don’t, people in the cars could die of exposure or hypothermia. (See winter driving information from the Government of Canada here.)

The coldest temperature I can remember was a December evening when I had to go to the university to write a final exam.  Before dressing to go to school, I called Environment Canada to find out what the weather was like.

This is what they told me:

I was stunned. I had never had to fathom -75 before and I was in awe… I had to go outside. I had to go outside, wait for a bus, ride to the university, write the test, get back on the bus, and walk home again… how could I possibly dress for weather like this?

In as many layers of clothing that I could fit under my coat and still close it, I pulled on several layers of socks and managed to force my fat feet into my boots, then put on a hat and wrapped a scarf or two around my neck and face, leaving only a thin opening to see through.

I waddled to the bus stop like the Michelin Man and saw a crowd of similarly-dressed Pilsbury dough people milling around the stop. We all went to school and wrote our tests, went outside again got back on the bus, then returned home – and we lived to tell about it.

*     *     *     *     *

I learned a lot from my time in Saskatchewan and I want to share my winter dressing survival tactics with you to make your winter a little warmer:


HEAD. We lose body heat through our heads, and our hair can only retain so much heat, even less in the wind.  People, especially bald or short-haired people, should wear a hat to keep their heads insulated. A warm hat spells instant relief in icy winds.

Protect the tips of your ears – ears are mainly thin bits of skin-covered cartilage and quite prone to frostbite.  Keep them covered with your hat, earmuffs, or ear flaps.

TIP: NEVER GO OUTSIDE WITH WET HAIR – wet hair in cold weather can lower your core body temperature while your system works harder to keep you warm, thus compromising your immune system and making you more susceptible to viruses – a lose-lose situation.

NECK. If there is a collar on your coat, flip it up for added protection from cold air and secure in place by doing up the top button of your coat.

I see a lot of men drape scarves around the back of their necks and cross them over in the front. This is fine if you only want to keep the back of your neck warm, but to warm your throat and make the most of the length of your scarf, try this:

  1. Start wrapping from the front of the neck and cross the scarf ends around the back.
  2. Bring the ends to the front again and adjust the scarf to a comfortable length around your neck – this can be pulled over your face if need be.
  3. Stuff each crossed scarf end into the neck of your sweater or shirt – if you’re wearing a button up, open a couple of buttons and spread the scarf across your chest, then button up again.


KIDNEYS. Keeping your kidneys warm will help you retain body heat. Dressing in layers is good for keeping your kidneys, not to mention your vital organs, warm.

Try the following technique for proper layering and maximum warmth:

  1. Start with an undershirt of some kind (t-shirt or sleeveless vest) for the first layer.
  2. Tuck this shirt into your underwear or long johns if you’re wearing them – this keeps the fabric of the shirt close to the body via the elastic waistband of your undies, giving a feeling of warmth and security because the wind can’t blow up your t-shirt this way.
  3. Add 1, 2, 3, or more thin layers over this – fewer if you’re a larger man who easily over heats and more if you’re smaller and tend to feel the chill (you can take the top layers off once you’re inside).
  4. Top off with a warm winter coat of your choice.

Textile options for your t-shirts and long underwear:

  • Cotton works well for warmth and wicking perspiration away – available in plain knit weave or warmer waffle weave (raised and recessed squares on the surface of the fabric)
  • Silk is thin and fantastically warm
  • Lightweight wool is also a favourite for long underwear, but wear with caution – wool is VERY warm and might be too much for some of you

HANDS. As you can see from the picture, there isn’t much to the human hand. Like ears, the tips of our fingers can be frostbitten too, so take care of them.

Experiment with different types of gloves for different temperatures to see what suits you: knitted wool or acrylic, fleece, leather, or synthetic, and if it gets really cold or you work outside, try high-tech 3M Thinsulate gloves.

The skin of our hands really gets beaten up during the winter. If you can, use heavier moisturizer on your hands before you leave in the morning (I use Burt’s Bees Hand Repair Cream) and don’t be afraid to work some into your hands and cuticles before you go to bed.

Remember lads, taking care of your skin is just as important as eating a sensible diet – your skin is the largest organ of your body!


FEET. There is no nastier feeling than cold, especially wet, feet. I’ve experienced the uncontrollable shivering of the first stage of hypothermia because there was a surprise hole in my boot one night that let in cold water and unfortunately, I spent the next couple of hours in a place with a cold concrete floor (don’t try this at home).

Investing in a good winter boot is a smart move – a good lined, waterproof boot even better.

TIP: When purchasing new winter footwear, make sure there is a little room in the boot for extra socks – take an extra pair with you when you go boot shopping.

Speaking of socks, layering socks on your feet is also a good idea. I like to put on a thin wool or cotton sock first, then follow with a thicker wool sock. Bamboo socks are a nice soft option too. For me, the more snug the sock fit, the warmer my feet, so experiment and find what works for you.

Best wishes for a cozy and more comfortable winter!

Sock schlock

25 Nov

There are many lessons to be learned in this week’s post, fellas, and our first is that just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

I’m talking about your socks. Even if you can’t see your socks under your trousers, we can. What you must realize is that when you move, walk, and sit, your trousers move up an down your leg and show your ankle, calf, and sock.  This means that if you chose to wear ratty, holed, and/or mismatched socks, your damning secret could be exposed at any moment.

Allow me to illustrate with the following personal examples:

1. At a recent business event, I noticed a man who had obviously put some thought into that day’s outfit and succeeded in dressing in articles of the same colour group (this is known as monochromatic). Unfortunately, the worn, pilled, formerly white tube socks under his khakis completely did him in.

2.  From about 20′ away, I walked toward a business man sitting on a bench. With his knees bent and trousers drawn up,  I could see the neon green bands at the top of his black sock from the angle of my approach.

3.  I once watched a man dressed in a suit step off of the curb and walk into the street. As his back foot lifted, I watched his bare heel pull up from his shoe, exposing the 3″ gaping hole in his white tube sock.

Though you may think of socks as a necessary but unimportant detail, I’ll tell you, a bad sock has the power to destroy your image and your credibility.

If you choose an ill-paired, worn, or dirty sock, you may as well walk around with your fly open.

Now I hope that it doesn’t sound like I’m scolding you guys because I’m not. In fact, I empathize with you. I remember my father’s sock drawer that held scores of nylon dress socks, threadbare at the heels and holes in the toes, and white sport socks with missing heels. Somehow I followed suit as a teenager, wearing cheap black tube socks that I rapidly wore the heels out of and continued to wear. I understood why he wouldn’t let my mum throw them away, seeing that there was nothing really wrong with the sock – it was still cushy and covered most of the foot, and it would be a waste to throw it out.

I’m all for practicality and I see the “logic” here, but now as an adult, I understand the flaw in this mode of thinking. Yes, there are still good parts to the sock, but once a hole develops, the thing is tainted, unpure, it no longer serves the purpose, and casts a shadow on your image. Not only this, but wearing a holey sock doesn’t feel very good either, so I would think that would compromise a man’s confidence level.

If you purchase cheap socks like I used to, they’ll look like rags after a few washes and they wear faster. If you can, make a point of investing a little in your socks, so instead of buying 3 for $10, buy 1 for $10. Chances are, the $10 pair will outlast the $3.33 pair, you’ll look more respectable, feel more comfortable, and you’ve cut down your landfill contribution.

Sock as a palette

“I love cool socks even more than cool ties,” my friend Jim says, “they’re one of the few safe ways a guy can set himself apart.”

Jim is absolutely right. Socks can indeed be the site of your self expression, but know when and where your black and white ska-influenced checkerboard socks and the navy pair with small, subtle squares will be appreciated – normally, thin, dark, quiet socks belong in daytime business wear, while thicker socks in brighter colours and bolder patterns are for casual and after 5 pm @ the rock show,  the house party, the bar and night club scenarios, etc., unless you’re a visual artist or musician, in which case you have a special license to wear pretty much wear what you like.

Random sock facts and tips

–> Say it with me: socks to match your trouser. And: socks to match the weight and fabric type of the pant.

–> Socks with coloured bands around the top and stretchy white tube socks are athletic socks, NOT DRESS SOCKS – avoid wearing them with dress clothes (please).

–> If you’re in business clothes and not wearing an “executive length” (over the calf) sock, when you sit, your trouser leg will rise and everyone will see your hairy leg. Men’s legs, hairy or not, are generally not considered appropriate in business.

–> Shoes are meant to be worn with socks – socks absorb the moisture from the foot which keeps the inside of your shoe from being destroyed by the bacterial rot that a bare sweaty foot brings. Natural fibers like wool and cotton absorb and wick the moisture away from the body best.

–> My friend David would like you all to know that keeping your toenails trimmed and your heels sanded can extend the life of your socks, and adding ammonia or vinegar to the wash can de-stink and freshen your socks and the rest of your laundry!


Next time you reach into your sock drawer, ask yourselves, how seriously will I be taken if anyone sees the state of these socks?