Tag Archives: Clothes

Taking On The Mantle

The weather here in the Bay Area is not the idyllic Californian sun that many people think it is – in fact it can be downright c-c-cold. There was frost in the hills today, for example. OK, so not ice storms and driving winds, but cold enough to warrant a proper overcoat. So once again I was on the hunt for piece of clothing that no-one seems to sell, my exacting tastes (or “fussiness”) causing me grief yet again.

I have an old raincoat from the UK, which is looking a little tatty these days, and it also doesn’t have a hood. This was very important – I hate using umbrellas. I hate using them, carrying them, remembering them, and struggling with them in the slightest breeze. In addition, I hate the way some people carry golf umbrellas while walking on the sidewalks. They’re not designed for that – they’re too big. They poke people in the eye, and they’re the equivalent of the SUV on the road: a big bullying “I’m dry so screw you” antisocial thug.

So anyway, I needed a coat with a hood. There’s plenty of those around, but I wanted something I could wear over a suit. I could get any number of waterproof hooded jackets from the sports store, but they wouldn’t go over a suit. They’d either be too short, so the suit coat would protrude – very bad – or they’d be inappropriate colors, or have a big logo on them. I can’t understand why men’s raincoats don’t have hoods. I’d love a good Burberry raincoat with a functional hood, but it just seems not to be the way they’re designed. Tradition? Women have it easy – several of my female colleagues have overcoats that I would love a male version of.

I searched around for a possible candidate, but for a long time I had no luck. I was hoping for something with a collar and hood arrangement a little like this:

The Man Who Fell To Earth checks out a light.

The Man Who Fell To Earth checks out a light.

…but that’s more like a duffle coat, with toggles on the front, and made of wool so it wouldn’t be waterproof. Not exactly what I was after.

It looked more and more like I was after a parka of some kind. I have no problem with that at all, after all, another source picture was this:

"Is it me for a moment?"

I like the combination of the suit with the parka. I don’t ride a scooter any more, but I do like that look a lot. Better than Sting in the same movie.

Finally I looked at the Eddie Bauer website, and found the Port Townsend Commuter Trench, which seemed to fit the bill. EB is a bit “elderly”, and certainly very outdoorsy, with fleeces and down jackets. But this particular model checked most of the boxes – at least enough of them. After looking around some more, and not seeing a better choice, I ordered one (they’re not available in the stores). I chose black, because I tend to choose black for most accessories like this. It was also available in grey, but the problem with artificial fabrics in grey is that they just look grey – there’s no heathering or texture to it.

It arrived a few weeks ago and I’m very happy with it. It’s a little on the chunky side, with its zip-out warm lining, but it’s really been good these past few days waiting for the bus. I tried taking the lining out, but then it was just a very thin layer, which didn’t keep me warm and didn’t do much to stop the wind.

The hood works fine. It packs away into the collar, but I tend to leave it out. The collar is a little on the stiff side because of the zip, but I don’t mind that. The combination of that, the artificial fabric, and the dystopian urban dreamscape in which I live, makes me think I look like this:

Mantles and Lids: The Originals by Dave Gibbons

A man can dream can’t he?

A Shirt’s Tail

Cassie and I have this ongoing “discussion” about whether I should tuck my shirts in. Yesterday was Casual Friday, so the issue was on my mind again. Casual Friday is an institution which has been abolished and reinstated a couple of times by my company, as senior management changes, and new brooms like to attempt social engineering and put their feet down/loosen up alternately. Rather like reorganising by discipline or by market – which will it be?

It’s surprising how divisive this issue can be, and how strongly I and other people feel about it. I have some pretty firm views. I don’t want the “dress shirt, tails out, boot-cut jeans and square toe shoes” look – that reminds me too much of what we used to call “townies” in Bedford. That look reminds me of slightly older men going out on “the pull”, and I don’t identify with it or like it. The next level of that is wearing a shirt with french cuffs and cufflinks, untucked with jeans. Not my thing at all – and it surprises me that I have to explain why I find it repellent.

Sadly that image does seem to have sunk in as the cool look in certain circles. In movies and TV shows, you might have two guys – one is “uptight”, whereas the other is “cool”. The cool one has stubble, untucks his shirt, gets the ladeez, and is played by Bradley Cooper.

I did a bit of a search and found that there is a lot of discussion on the menswear and style blogs about it. In the comments I’ve read, some people say tucking in your shirt is a “Euro” affectation. Others say untucking it is a “Euro” affectation. In both these cases, I think there’s more than a touch of the good old American stereotype of the Euro-male as being at best too consicous of clothes, and at worst, a screaming bender. Racist homophobia, in other words, yay!

I wish I could say tucking in was a UK thing, or a Euro thing. But I’ve had this same ongoing discussion with girlfriends in the past in the UK. I remember one formative incident, being encouraged to go out wearing khakis and a dress shirt, untucked. It was at a party in a bar, with a karaoke competition run by a flamboyant (and bitchy) gay guy. I did a song (as did everyone else), and as I was walking off the the stage, the MC said, “Big hand for Matt there! Check him out – he’s one cool customer with his shirt out!”, or something like it. It really stung, not least because we had the shirt-in-or-out argument before we went out. I bloody knew it. Scarred for life.

Some people say that men who don’t tuck their shirts in aren’t paying attention, or they don’t care about their appearance. Many men who leave their shirts untucked say that they consciously do it so they don’t want to appear stuffy or square. But they then go on to project that belief onto everyone else, and it’s sad. Some say that tucking in is an affectation. Others say that untucking is an affectation. The word affectation has a big effect on me. I oscillate wildly between sneerily dismissing things as an affectation, and being guilty of it myself. It’s a personal foible, related to my fierce dislike of judgement, and my thorough enjoyment of judging.

This chap writes 4 reasons not to tuck in, and pretty much raises all the old ghosts about looking square and tightly wound. Let’s take them one at a time (excuse the paraquoting):

  • “Most shirts aren’t cut to flatter when tucked in” – get shirts that fit, and they will flatter.
  • “Never tuck in a t-shirt” – off the point, but I agree.
  • “Never tuck in a jersey” (by which he means a sports team top” – again, off the point, but I agree. I’d never wear a jersey anyway, ‘cos I couldn’t give two shits about sport.
  • “Never tuck in a sweater” – off the point, but I agree.

He rounds up with

It’ll convey a relaxed attitude. An effortless ease. A hipper approach to life.

…to which I’d say, “If your definition of hip is untucking your shirt and hanging around ‘pulling’ in Mick’s Tavern, then call me Peewee Herman.” I’d also take issue with the misnaming of the article. It should be “One Reason I Don’t Like Tucking In My Shirt, And Three Other Items Of Clothing You Shouldn’t Tuck In”.

But it’s the comments that really get me. There’s men and women on both sides of the argument, and some corkers, especially the ones perpetuating the old classic thing of “get with it, Grandad, only nerds tuck in”.

The same website published a rebuttal by another writer, which went some way to correcting the previous one, but said some pretty wrong things along the way – such as “always wear a belt”. He did make some good points about finding shirts that fit you. Obvious, you’d think, except that the previous article had given the fit of “most” shirts as a reason to leave them out. Then Details called untucking “jejune” and “desperate”.

For me, the question of whether a shirt should be tucked or untucked comes down to two things: opinion and rules. Of course, these two things cover pretty much every possible situation, so let’s break it down.

First off, what do we mean by “shirt”? In this case, I’m talking about “casual” shirts. But let’s look at each kind of thing that could be called a shirt and say whether it should be tucked (in my opinion, backed up by many writers on men’s fashion).

T-shirt
Never tuck it in.
Polo shirt (like a t-shirt with a collar and a couple of buttons)
Never tuck it in. Even when the back of it has a longer tail. It should do, because they’re designed for when you’re playing polo. Much like the chukka boot.
Dress shirt
Always tuck it in.Under a suit coat or blazer? Tuck it in, no question.
It’s worth clarifying some terms here. A “button-down” shirt is a shirt with a button-down collar. That’s the official definition anyway, and it’s telling that much of the writing that advises against tucking describes a button-down as a shirt with buttons down the front. It suggests that the dress shirt is now a special kind of shirt, rather than the default. This is a nice piece about the history of the real “button-down”.
(Of course, the other end of that is the insistence on calling shirts “shirting” and suits “suiting”, as if trying to evoke an image of your own tailor, with rolls of fabric in a rack behind him, rolling out some shirting for you and cutting it to size. After that you go to the grocery store and buy some “fooding” – perhaps some “cheesing” and “vegetabling”. To quote Count Arthur Strong, “It’s not cheap, curtainin’!”)
Casual shirt
Depends. If it has long tails, tuck it in. If it has a flat bottom, or a slight curve to the bottom, then leave it out. Shirts are made differently depending on whether they’re designed to be tucked in or not. As stated by Put This On: “…we’re generally in favor of tucking in your shirt. It’s a cleaner, sharper look that is much better suited to layering. If you do wear an untucked shirt, though, it’s important to wear one that’s cut to be left untucked.”

Of course, once again it all comes down to doing what you like, and not caring about what people think. But having my shirt tails hanging out isn’t because I’m worried about what other people think – it’s about what I think, and what kind of person I look like.

You may be observing the level of sartorial baggage I carry. “Loosening up” isn’t going to fix that. I also carry a little baggage of another kind – the kind that, if I wore my shirt untucked, would make me look like a 70’s darts player. Nuff said.

The Pascal’s Wager Of Wearing A Suit

I wear a suit to work most days. I started doing this more since moving to the US. When preparing for my wedding I became much more interested in clothes, and this seems to have coincided with and inspired by the current wave of menswear blogs (and tumblrs and whatevers) focussing on quality, fit and classic style rather than trends and the fashions of the moment.

Judging by the stuff I read, wearing a suit is seen by many as a bit of a statement. “Why are you dressed up, are you in court today?”. “Why are you dressed up? You don’t have to, it’s in the dress code”. I don’t actually get any comments like that, but it does seem to be an issue for many.

Am I making an unconcious Sartorial Pascal’s Wager? By wearing a suit, or otherwise dressing up, and claiming to do it because I want to and because I feel good doing it, am I also submitting to the “dress up to get ahead” doctrine? If you have a choice of “dressing well”/”dressing up” or not, in a culture where opinions vary widely about what it says about  you, why not just dress up, feel good, and get the (unconfirmed and possible entirely anecdotal) benefits to boot?

It’s not like I wear amazing suits – I get them from Macy’s and perhaps Nordstrom when I’m feeling flush. That reminds me, I need a navy one to fill a gap.

Put This On: Why don’t developers dress better?

Put This On: Why don’t developers dress better?:

kellysutton:

“Suits shouldn’t be allowed to this type of meetup. I definitely saw at least 5 people in suits. so lame.”

That comment was left on the Hacker News comment thread about this week’s YCNYC. I went to the meetup on Monday and was one of those wearing a tie, jeans and a blazer,…

The sense I get is that in developer culture the belief is that when someone starts wearing a suit (or jacket, or tie, or non-sneakers), it’s because they’ve given up, sold out, or they’re angling for a management job.

“If you have to dress up to get noticed, your ideas and skills aren’t doing it for you”

A Year Never Worn / Worn-out Movies

Yesterday was a great milestone. A year ago, I was going through my wardrobe, trying to decide if I could get rid of anything. I was running out of space, and there were quite a few items I could either not fit into anymore, or were not really suitable to wear anymore (I’ll leave why not to you imagination).

I’d read an article on Unclutterer or somewhere, describing a trick for deciding about clothes on hangers: you go through and any article of clothing you’re not sure about, you turn the hook around on the rail. A year later, if you haven’t worn that item of clothing, you toss it out or drop it in the charity bag.

Yesterday was the big date – a year after I’d flipped the hooks on a load of stuff, including:

  • Some shirts I don’t like any more, including a cowboy one that was just unflattering.
  • A couple of pairs of trousers which don’t fit due to FABRIC SHRINKAGE ONLY THAT CAN BE THE EXPLANATION.
  • A pair of boot-cut black jeans which I have never worn and I don’t know why I gave Next money for them, or brought them to the US.
  • A couple of short-sleeved dress shirts, which I got rid of just because ew.

I also got rid of some tshirts. For a while, Cassie was getting these free DVD’s from work, which were old sci-fi and horror classic movies packaged with a tshirt of the poster art. I ended up with about 20 of them, which is clearly too many, and made my wardrobe look like Roast Beef’s.

Here are the ones I kept:

The ones I got rid of include…

Not going to miss those. They are real movies, despite the apparent randomly generated nature of their titles. It reminds me of a scene from the wonderful Ed Wood, where Johnny Depp is trying sell his talents to a producer.

“I don’t believe in thinking small, so I’ve got a whole slate of pictures for you. You ready? Okay. The Vampire’s Tomb. The Ghoul Goes West. And…Doctor Acula.”

“Doctor Acula? I don’t get it.”

“Doctor…Racula.”

“Oh, I get it. I don’t like it.”

The Old School Tie

The Put This On tie

The Put This On tie features our signature colors, red and white, in a tasteful design which is suitable for almost any outfit.

via Put This On • The Put This On Club Tie Returns! Our initial run….

Amusingly similar to my Old (Middle) School Tie:

Parkwood School Photo

Your author in 1981

OK, mine had the black in as well. Still pretty cool though. I had this tie for a long time, and wore it to a couple of those amusing “School Disco” things (albeit not the “official” one) but it was very short – almost too short to tie around my head as the evening wore on.