The Latest: Friday 27 March 2015

Men's Style Magazines: An Industry Compromised

Here's the thing about last month's infamous Esquire/Michael Kors incident: For all their faults, one thing you can't say about the likes of Esquire is that their editorial staff lacks some fundamental understanding of men's style. They know that nobody should buy $300 Michael Kors pleated khakis. The decision to feature them can therefore only be an economic one.

And there's the problem with the business model of men's style magazines in general. The need to remain cozy with deep-pocketed advertisers means not only making the sorts of dubious recommendations that throw the credibility of the entire publication into question, but it also means missing out on some of the most important things happening in the industry. There is no one thing more exciting in the world of menswear right now than the rise of affordable online bespoke clothing, offering men the opportunity to have completely custom, original, perfectly fit garments made from whatever materials you or they can source. At no point in history have we had such options open to us. But as full-page advertisements in international magazines are beyond the budget of the likes of Luxire, Hemrajani Bros, etc., we'll rarely hear about them in their pages. Instead we'll get Kenneth Cole's square-toed loafers and Louis Vuitton's logo-covered vulgarities. And $300 Michael Kors pleated khakis.

Without being privy to the inner budgetary workings of men's magazines, of course it's possible only to speculate on a solution. But looking through the pages of Esquire and GQ it's clear that in each case the loss of a few advertisers from among a broad and varied current base wouldn't sink the enterprise. Maybe the answer is to accept lower revenue as a tradeoff for editorial independence and the credibility that it would bring. A trade-off that might not seem too appealing now, but if an increasingly savvy readership realizes that the best options for dressing well never make it into the magazine, perhaps the resulting impact on circulation will make its necessity clear.

23.mar.2015 culture meta style
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Curved TV screens and the legacy of Dave's Grandfather

Unrefinery's technology expert is a man named Dave, whose childhood enthusiasm was clearly kindled by his grandfather. "Someday," he'd tell Dave, "we'll have TVs so flat you can hang them on the wall like a picture."

Dave's Grandfather died back in the 1980s, so alas he never saw flat screen television come to dominate the market, but maybe he'd be glad that he isn't around to see his vision sullied by the Solution Without A Problem that is the curved screen TV. After all the effort we spent drilling holes in walls, installing the most low-profile mounts we could find and even tucking these things into recesses in order to make them protrude as little as possible, now they want us to buy TVs that jut out on both sides. Dave's Grandfather didn't die for this sh*t.

If you go to the store now you'll see curved sound bars to go with your new curved TV. Sure, by all means, let's just f*cking start over.
19.mar.2015 tech
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Good stuff at Uniqlo for Spring 2015 | Buy

Uniqlo is a big ship that changes course slowly, so most of their Spring stuff is an evolution of stuff we saw last year. A few noteworthy pieces:

Long Sleeved Striped T-Shirt [$20]. Every year Unrefinery presents some options for the summer staple that is the short-sleeved navy striped T, but Uniqlo's new long-sleeved option is a nice development for spring through fall. Heavy and soft, almost a sweater gauge. They run small and they're almost sure to shrink so size up.

Linen V-Neck Sweater [$40]. Uniqlo expands its linen offerings every year, and while the dinky-collared shirts and linen cardigans seem a bit pointless the idea of a lightweight linen sweater to be worn without layers in warm weather is an appealing upgrade from a t-shirt or sweatshirt. The blue and navy colours are the most appealing as the slubby texture adds some nice visual interest. Fit is true to size.

Stretch Mesh Belts [$20]. The idea here is that if you have infrequently-worn shoes in a slightly offbeat colour like navy or burgundy or ivory, you can pick up a comfortable and complementary belt for minimal outlay. Some of them are reversible. Handy.
16.mar.2015 style
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The fops go marching two by two... | Fail

The most over-the-top Pitti Uomo attendees almost always seem to appear in pairs. Other than that old saying that starts with "if you live with someone long enough", there has to be a reason for this that we just don't know. Someone throw us a frickin' bone.
02.mar.2015 culture style
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R.I.P. Esquire Magazine's dubious credibility, 1933-2015 | Fail

It was a long, slow decline, but the end finally came in the March 2015 issue with their endorsement of $295 double-pleated Michael Kors chinos. Other than the word "chinos" there's not a single part of that phrase that isn't beyond redemption.

Hoping they got the message when we turned down a free subscription renewal.
23.feb.2015 culture style
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The Post-Trend Universe

Cathy Horyn's piece in The New York Times' T Magazine (just bear with us here) makes the case that the changing role of fashion media and the availability of customization, among other factors, have brought us to a point where trends in style now exist in parallel rather than sequentially. And while the article is specifically about women's fashion it is surely even more accurate in menswear, where many of us operate outside of fashion with an aesthetic that is much less about being on-trend than merely avoiding the extremely dated (cyclical, brief and abortive flirtations with pleats and flared legs notwithstanding).

If we're learning to value the unique, custom piece and a look that flatters the individual season after season over the shiny new thing that everyone else has, maybe there's hope for us all.

Photos: Aiden Shaw wearing all kinds of different sh*t.
16.feb.2015 style
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Suitsupply Spring 2015 | Buy

Suitsupply, one of the few brands whose consistent quality and trial-friendly return policy might prompt one to consider pre-ordering anything, has made their Spring 2015 collection available for advance purchase. A few picks:

Hudson Fit suits and sport coats [$400-$600] — A fit seemingly designed for budget sartorialists who appreciate the details, featuring broad lapels, patch pockets, and a really nice hand-stitched shoulder. Being that these are all casual elements it's a bit strange that they'd make a 3-piece suit in this cut, but at $600 the brown check is so great that it's a value even if you never wear the waistcoat. Which you hopefully won't. Maybe separately under a shawl cardigan or something.

Blue Bomber Jacket [$400] — The fabric is what makes it special, an Italian wool/linen/silk blend whose texture is both tactile and visible with alternating navy and royal threads in a soft weave. Rendering classic casual pieces in unexpectedly luxurious materials never really gets old.

Light grey wool trousers [$189] — A staple for spring/summer; you should also have a similar colour in flannel for the cooler months. Easily the backbone of any warm-weather dressy or business fit, but equally at home with a white polo shirt and brown loafers.
09.feb.2015 style
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J. Hilburn Custom Shirts

A representative of J. Hilburn recently approached us with an offer of a discounted first purchase, and without asking if she gives that up to ALL the guys, the need for an everyday French blue shirt and the opportunity to acquire one made to fit for under $100 seemed a reasonable alignment of interests. The brand operates a little differently from most online makers in that they require you to be fitted in person before ordering. This isn't too much of a hassle as it takes just a couple of minutes and a search of their online directory showed dozens of "personal stylists" within a 10-mile range. The ten measurements are pretty straightforward and so are the options; one chooses from a standard set of collar styles, cuff configurations, placket, pocket(s), etc.

And then you get to thumb through the swatches. There are over 200 fabrics available and they cover all of the basics for both casual and dressy shirts, including chambrays, ginghams, tonal whites, staple solids and stripes. Cotton only, though; it'd be nice to see some linens in the future. We went with a plain weave from Albini; other highly-regarded mills represented include the likes of Monti and Thomas Mason. The $109-$139 price range is about what you'd expect from online shirtmakers for this fabric tier.

The shirt arrived in a little over two weeks and they nailed the fit. Fabric is predictably nice and the presentation makes a strong impression—the shirt comes in a heavy luxurious-looking box, and the buyer's initials are embroidered on the inside back of the collar band. Downsides? The buttons are not shanked—at all—and the strength of their attachment does not inspire confidence. The underarm stitching seems a little hasty as it pulls and puckers a little even when not worn. As mentioned, it'd be nice to have linen or cotton/linen options for the summer. And while you can choose from several collar styles, you can provide only minimal customization of them. We've been spoiled by other custom clothiers who let you specify your own measurements for neckband height, point length, collar spread, etc., and while this seems a minor point, your collar's ideal dimensions are determined by the proportions of your face and your jacket. So it's not quite the full custom experience, but it's in-person and accurate. For normal humans who (unlike us) don't obsess about making a unique little masterpiece out of every custom shirt, the speed and convenience of the J. Hilburn experience might be worth checking out.
02.feb.2015 style
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Unrefinery 101: You need a seam ripper | Buy

Visible clothing logos are a plague, and the cure is a seam ripper. Well, in some cases, anyway. Unless you want to join the servants and slaves of history in wearing another man's crest, one of these handy little gadgets and a few minutes' work can emancipate you from some degree of conspicuous consumerism. There are exceptions, of course. Anything tightly embroidered is probably not coming off without destroying the garment in the process. And anything covered with logos should of course not have been bought in the first place.

Besides freeing you from being an unpaid walking billboard, a seam ripper simplifies minor alterations such as removing extraneous chest pockets. Naturally a little more care is required for anything large and prominently positioned. Generally knits and textured fabrics will leave minimal scars, and a laundry cycle with sufficient agitation will probably close up whatever holes remain. When in doubt take the item to your local tailor for an informed opinion on whether the item will survive the operation.
26.jan.2015 mail style
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Thursday Boot Company | Buy

Founded in 2014, New York-based Thursday Boot Company is mixing up the bootmaking formula with classic styles that bridge casual and dressy, with a prominently stitched sole on clean-lined cap, plain and moc toes. For the initial collection they're keeping it simple with three styles, two lasts and a handful of finishes. All the boots have glove leather lining, Goodyear-welted construction and are made in Mexico. Currently available styles go for a very competitive $200.
19.jan.2015 style
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