Category Archives: 12Essentials

The Return of the Blazer

imageThe blazer has returned, which begs the question, “Where did it go?”  The blazer, the navy blazer in particular, has been a wardrobe staple of the well-dressed man for more than a century. True enough, but for nearly a generation it had fallen out of favor to a degree, thought by many to be either a bore or too conformist.

Well, the circle of life keeps spinning, and the blazer has returned as the most essential jacket for pretty much everyone.  All of the cool kids are wearing them again!

Truthfully, the blazer probably hasn’t been “cool” since the early days of the term, when the jackets by that name were mostly made of brightly colored cloth in shades of blue, red, and green.  In fact, the first use of the term “blazer” dates back to the bright scarlet jackets first worn by the members of the Lady Margaret Boat Club of St. John’s College, Cambridge in the late nineteenth century.


Why the return of the blazer?  For one, wearing a tailored jacket is so very modern and is enjoying a renewed importance as a symbol of professionalism and civility.  Beyond that, what makes a blazer cool and is further fueling it’s return to prominence is an openness to more vivid colors.  The blazer is once again (to varying degrees) blazing!

Dating back to the mid-eighteenth century uniforms of British naval officers, navy blue is the traditional color for a blazer, and is always appropriate.  A navy blazer is the most formal of all your key casual wardrobe pieces.  Darker shades of blue represent a high level of authority and seriousness without appearing too severe or menacing.  As Bruce Boyer put it in Elegance, “Today that dark blue jacket, having been a staple for so many years, is internationally civilized, equally at home in the boardroom as on board, and its versatility and classic lines make it the perfect jet-age jacket, even though it was born on the sailing ships of the North Atlantic.”



But a lot of blazers are showing up in shades of blue that are more “heightened,”more….blue.  Blue is the color of confidence, loyalty, and sincerity.  While a full suit in a brighter blue would be over the top for many men, a blazer that is brighter than navy blue is more broadly appropriate and is much easier to pull off, because a blazer is more casual than a suit and is worn with trousers of contrasting color.

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Originally blazers were paired with white or cream colored flannel trousers.  More typically a blazer is worn with pants that are a shade of gray or tan (beige).  For social wear, white, cream, and especially red pants are also making a strong return with the blazer.

The cut and the details of the modern blazer have also been updated.  A modern blazer fits close to the body, but not tight, and a little shorter than a more traditional version.  While a 6-on-2 double breasted style is traditional for a blazer, most blazers today are single breasted, two button models, emphasizing ease of function and a modern minimalism.  Distinguishing details include buttons, button holes and their color (you may want to do one or more of the button holes in a contrasting color), accent stitching, and pockets.

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Traditionally a blazer is made with gold-tone buttons, usually gold over brass, and often with a motif that represents a club, school, or regiment.  I still love my classic hopsack blazer with Holland & Sherry Buttons of 24K gold over brass that say “Carpe Diem.”

But my favorite blazer at present is my bright navy one, styled with a narrower lapel and light brown buffalo horn buttons.  That’s the one that makes people stop, and smile, and say nice things.  I’m wearin’ the blues and feeling anything but blue.

My next blazer (heck yeah, I could easily have another blazer) will have silver buttons.  Silver is the new gold! (I just made that up.)  I may also have it made with patch pockets, which is a more relaxed, casual detail.  The ticket pocket that you see on a couple of the blazers pictured in this post are not traditional, but are another way to detail and personalize your blazer.

The lining you choose for a custom tailored suit, blazer, or other jacket is one other way to personalize it.  Jackets with more expressive linings – contrasting colors and patterns – have grown in popularity during the past decade or so.

How should your blazer be styled?  In a way that defines you.

How do you wear a blazer?  Any way that you feel comfortable.

Know the rules, and make them your own.


Surviving the Elements: How to stay Warm and Dry

Tech jacketIt’s still c-c-c-cold throughout much of the country right now, but most of us just set our clocks forward and it’s time to get ready for Spring. This “time of transition” can make getting dressed for the day tricky because the temperatures can swing thirty or forty degrees as the day progresses, from “dang it’s cold out here” to at least kind of nice and warm, and then back down again before you get home. Add to that the high likelihood of some rainy days in the near future (Californians can only hope) and the question becomes “how do I survive the elements, staying warm and dry, but without getting too warm?”

The trick to staying comfortable when you’re out in the elements in the Spring is a great extra outerwear layer that is light weight, water repellent and wind resistant. But don’t just take my word for it. Who better to ask than a sailor about how to stay warm and dry.

When Bert Pulitzer started his company in 1975 and the original Survivalon® jacket was designed, there was nothing available for sailors and sport fishermen who wanted an authentic and rugged jacket that would perform well in most marine environments. Sailing jackets were mostly found in Army/Navy surplus stores and were made of nylon with zippers that would rust and snaps that would corrode.

In response to that need, SurvivalonSurvivalon® introduced a water repellent, tightly woven high yarn count cotton poplin fabric (say that ten times as fast as you can) that was more comfortable and performed even better than nylon, with zippers and snaps that got better, not worse, over time.  The cotton fabric is not only more comfortable than any synthetic fiber, but it also gets better over time, taking on that special patina that you only get with a natural fiber.  What I’m saying is that you will really like the jacket when it’s new, but you will love it even more as you wear it and make it your own.

There have been several updates to the original jacket. The original draw cords were braided cotton with round wooden stoppers. Today’s versions have military grade nylon elastic cords and nylon stoppers with stainless steel springs, keeping a good cinch when used for wind protection. Like Sperry Topsiders, RayBan Aviators, and a great fitting pair of jeans made from dark, raw denim, a Survivalon® jacket is a “forever” product, a timeless and durable classic. With it’s unlined construction, and modern fit, the Survivalon® jacket is a great mild weather shell and a layering masterpiece, great for travel.  The light weight 2 way pockets carry your car keys, phone, papers, credit card holders, etc.  The Survivalon® jacket  is super functional, versatile, and has that authentic good look. We chose to offer it in navy, a color that goes with anything.

ZR vestAnother layering piece that we really like is a reversible (blue and gray), quilted vest by Zero Restriction (ZR).  ZR and Fairway and Greene represent the benchmark of quality for golf clothing.  Found mostly in the pro shops of the best country clubs and golf resorts around the world, Tom James is proud to offer a few of their best items. Not only for golf, vests such as this one have become standard issue in workplaces that don’t require more formal attire and can easily be worn with a variety of other casual clothing on the weekend. Because it is water repellent and wind resistant, and quilted, it will keep your core nice and warm while allowing for complete freedom of movement when you are playing golf or otherwise active.  The ZR vest will be your favorite go-to layer this Spring, I promise.

For more information and details on how to survive the elements this Spring, check out our 12 Essentials for the month of March.

Socks for Men: The New Black is anything but Black.

black socksWho really thinks that much about socks?  Can’t a guy just have a drawer full of black socks and get on with life?  Black socks go with pretty much everything right? Especially if all of my dress shoes are black?  Well of course you could take that approach.  And I could just eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day.  Don’t get me wrong.  Simple, black socks for men have their place, especially if the occasion is particularly formal or somber.  On a related note, socks that match the color of your pants are technically correct.

blue pattern socksBut, if you ask me, one would do better than just PB&J by eating an interesting, delicious, and well-balanced diet.  A variety of flavors, textures, and visual presentation adds much to the pleasure of eating and dining.  And we all know about the health benefits of leafy greens in the diet.

By the same token, moving beyond just black solid to socks with some color and pattern, that coordinate with your custom suits, jackets, shirts and pants, and which are appropriate to the occasion, venue, or season, can heighten your visual communication.  And truthfully, socks are more like the dressing on the salad or the sauce on the main course.  Minor, not major.  But a small thing that can make a big difference.

red dots on blueFrom The Suit, by Nicholas Antongiavanni, “For nothing more enlivens a man’s appearance at so little a cost than an adventurous yet tasteful pair of socks.” Simple. Succinct. Well said.  But let me break that down.   An enlivened appearance makes a greater impact than a dull appearance.  There are many ways to achieve that, adventurous socks being one of them.   Not having to spend a lot to get that extra impact?  Hard to argue against that.  Adventurous, yet tasteful.  There are two sides to every coin.  Keep it all in balance.  Remaining tasteful is the boundary, and that’s where further discussion is warranted.

A final word.  Take stock of your Socks!


Making room in the Back of the Closet

Have you looked back there lately, in the back of the closet?  Depending on the size of your closet and whether you have clothing packed in like sardines or more like free range chickens, you may not even know what’s “back there.”  Unlike a dish that is simmering or a project that is percolating on the back burner, which will be attended to and put to use in the not too distant future (or all in good time,)  items in the back of your closet are probably long forgotten and never to be worn again.  At least not by you.

Getting dressed each day while surrounded by beautiful works of art. Optional. An organized closet. Mandatory.

Getting dressed each day while surrounded by beautiful works of art. Optional and exceptional. An organized closet. Mandatory.

Go ahead.  Take a look.  You may find hidden treasure or a few things that will remind you of past glories.  You may also find that you can easily part with everything back there and be able to free up some much needed space and breathing room for the clothing you actually wear and for the new things you’d like to add to your wardrobe this year.   Even better, what’s in the back of your closet could be donated and change the life of someone in need.

As long as you’re looking in the back of the closet, you might as well consider the whole thing and begin the new year well organized, knowing what you have and what you need, with everything in it’s proper place, and everything up to date and well-maintained.

Not sure how to go about it?  Here are some Time-tested Tips for evaluating and organizing your wardrobe and closet.  Want some help?  Your Tom James Professional is well trained and happy to assist.  Why not call today to arrange a Closet Concierge appointment.