Category Archives: Tom Talks

Finding the Middle…..and Owning It (Part three of a four part series)

In the last two posts, we chose the perfect coat, added the pants…and now we add the shirt for this distinctively “middle” look – between dressy and casual.
Classic Americana fashion is driving current design. Inspiration for patterns and colors is being drawn from the 50’s and 60’s, from Ike to JFK. With a jacket that is relatively solid and neutral in color, shirts are where to mix it up with color, pattern, texture, and even different collar and cuff styles.

Shirts of Oxford Cloth, Broadcloth or Chambray, and Cotton Twill
Solid blue is always a good place to start. Classic stripes and checks should also be high on your list.

Note: In general, if the jacket has a bold pattern, you may wear shirts with a subtle or muted pattern…or vice versa. Keep in mind that the bolder and larger the pattern, the more casual it reads. This is true for any garment, be it a shirt, jacket, or tie. It’s ok and even advisable to combine different textures within the same outfit. More on Mixing Patterns.

With respect to collar options, the styles that work the best without a tie are specific and few:

Medium spread
Button down

The height of the collar and the length of the points should balance with your size and shape, as well as with your choice of clothing. Trimmer fitting clothing and jackets with narrow lapels should be balanced by a shirt with a shorter collar a shorter point length. Of course, the opposite is also true.

As you develop two or more outfits that complete this look (the middle look), you will find natural versatility and ease of mixing and matching pieces from one look to the other. Next: the Finishing Details.

Sartorial regards,

Finding the Middle…..and Owning It (Part one of a four part series)

Mike K. asks: On several recent occasions I have felt either overdressed in a suit and tie or much too….’ordinary’ when dressed in the standard blue blazer with khakis and a golf shirt. A lot of days call for a look that I’m struggling with…. somewhere between the suit and the blazer… that will raise my game a notch or two. Where should I start?

TomTALKS: Like a presidential candidate during a general election, if you want to win in an environment that isn’t “suited up”, find the middle and own it! Sartorially, the middle is a look which is neither completely dressed up or down – an appropriate combination of clothing and accessories, drawing from both ends of the continuum. Consider these smart selections to address your problem and hit the sweet spot of this trend for the fall season!

A Versatile Tailored Sport Coat. Start with the coat! It pulls from the dressier end of the formality continuum and forms the foundation of your look! A well-cut tailored jacket imbues an otherwise casual look with heightened respectability. In most cases, go for a two-button or “soft roll” three-button model. [If you’re going for a more sophisticated look, and you plan to wear a tie (or a knit turtle/mock neck as shown) then by all means consider a DB jacket. In this case, the navy blazer won’t be so ordinary and would be an excellent choice.]

For the Fall season, choose a cloth with a rich appearance and a soft hand such as wool flannel, cashmere, or tweed.

A step more casual would be corduroy or suede.

Our cloths in this category have been carefully designed to create patterns and finishes that are clear and clean, sophisticated textures that may be comfortably worn in most any region during the fall season.

As you choose your cloth for a jacket, keep in mind that on the continuum from Refined to Rustic,

  • Smooth = Refined
  • Textured = Rustic

In other words, the more pronounced the texture, the less formal the look. Details such as patch pockets, elbow patches, and leather buttons are other ways to “relax” the look. Where you plan to wear this kind of look, who you will be interacting with, as well as your personality, will help to determine where along the range of rustic to refined you should focus.

NOTE: If you’re going to invest a little extra on any one piece, the jacket is where to do it!

And a by-they-way, if your blazer is feeling a little too ordinary, perhaps you need to update to a better cloth and/or a more current cut. The navy blazer still is and always will be the single most versatile and functional sport jacket that anyone can possess.

While you may not be running for national office anytime soon (that would be a whole other conversation), own the stylish middle ground and you will gain a new vote of confidence! Stay tuned for the next piece to the puzzle….

Sartorial regards,

‘Old School’ gets an Update

John P. writes: With Fall approaching my daughter says the time to shop is “now,” before the best options are gone. On top of that, she says my suits are ‘old school’ and need an update. I’m not sure what that means, but she probably has a point. Since I’ll be nearly starting from scratch, what should I be looking for?

TomTALKS: You are fortunate to have someone so thoughtful looking out for you. Your daughter is definitely correct that the best time to shop for clothing is before the season changes, especially if you are having anything custom made. No doubt there are some ‘old school’ practices – like the handwritten thank you note – that never lose their charm, but when it comes to your professional appearance, it’s important your dress reflect the fact you are keeping an eye on the trends!


TRADITIONAL SUITING – This Fall’s business suit is updated, yet timeless; fundamentally classic and masculine. Typically, a two-button jacket with three key elements:

  • Shoulders with moderate to sharp definition
  • A slim waist
  • Slim trousers (whether flat front or pleated)

Suiting fabrics that are a good investment would be solid neutral colors (navy and gray in particular), classic herringbones, muted stripes and classic Glen plaids such as the Prince of Wales (pictured below), especially in grey tones, using the accent colors mentioned below.

ON-TREND Suits have narrow lapels (whether notch or peak), as well as a shorter length. The look and feel is trim or closer fitting, though not demandingly tight, with all the areas of fullness cleaned up.

For those who are really “out in front”, double-breasted jackets should be on your list. A popular DB model is a clean, peak lapel, trim model, with just a touch of shoulder, …which buttons on the waist, in a classic British style.

Of course, when having your clothing made we can fit your jacket and pants however you prefer.

You walk a little taller when you sport a more updated look! Clients, co-workers, …even your daughter, will all take note!

Stay tuned for next week’s post when I will address what to wear on days and occasions that don’t require the formality of a business suit.

Sartorial regards,

To Pleat or Not to Pleat…That Is the Question

Paul F. asks: My teenage daughter is on my case about the pleats in my trousers – she tells me I should lose the “puffy” pants and get some flat front trousers. Then my wife piles on by telling me I really should make an effort to look current. Look, I like my pleated pants—they’re comfortable. Plus I’ve got a sizeable investment in suit pants and slacks that are pleated. What should I do to get these women off my back without blowing half my bonus on new clothes?

Tom Talks: To quote the late Yogi Berra, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Trouser pleats, like other elements of men’s fashion, evolve over time. In the 1980’s, all my pants were non-pleated; when double-breasted jackets became popular in the early 1990’s, my pants sported triple pleats; as we moved into the new millennium, my pants shifted to double pleats. The pleated trousers I have in my wardrobe now are made in our “single pleat” model, but my newest suits all have flat front trousers. If current fashion trends became law, you’d be forced to change out all your pants, but this is still a free country, so consider the ramifications of purging all pleats from your closet:

  1. When you remove the pleats from a trouser pattern, you also remove the extra fabric that offers “forgiveness” when your trousers get a little tight, or you find yourself sitting for long periods of time (meetings, flights, etc.) Also, flat front trousers will wrinkle more, hands down. (But whether pleated or not, the higher the quality of the fabric, the less the wrinkles. Better cloth exhibits better “recovery”, resisting wrinkles or shedding them faster.)
  2. If you have larger than average quadriceps (the large muscle in the front of your thigh), or are just blessed with “rugby thighs”, you may find the fit of many flat front trousers to be confining, particularly off-the-shelf varieties. In a custom pattern, we can accommodate your body by increasing the thigh and knee measures to improve the drape and comfort significantly. So yes, it is possible to make a flat front pattern fit an otherwise pleated body. (And we’re good at it.)
  3. Be aware that removing the pleats can put stress on the side seams of a flat front trouser, causing most pocket configurations to pull open. The more “maximus your gluteus”, the worse the effect. We can do a couple of things to minimize this issue in a custom pattern, including lengthening the back rise and relaxing the hip measurement. Let it suffice to say that thirteen measurements always trump one or two for proper pant sizing.
  4. Regarding cuffs, it is perfectly OK to have flat front pants finished with cuffs. The trouser cuff adds a conservative signature to your overall look, and “turn-ups” (as they are called in the UK) can be easily removed with only minor surgery if you change your mind. Many of our clients still prefer cuffs because they improve the drape of the trouser, and cuffed pants hold better than plain hems in a slack hangar. But if you want to be up-to-the-minute in trouser fashion, have your flat front pants finished with plain bottoms.

So if you’re under pressure to add some flat front trousers to your wardrobe, there’s no time like the present. And the women in your life are correct when they say that flat front pants would make you look trimmer.

But if you’re one to hedge your bets, try this: order a custom suit with an extra pair of matching trousers: one with single pleats and cuffs and the other in a flat front model sans cuffs. You can select the suit trouser to fit your audience (flat fronts are high fashion, pleats are more conservative) and your comfort level (wear the pleated trousers for flying commercial). For additional versatility, choose a fabric where the extra pant can double as a nice trouser for your navy or black blazer (e.g., gray tic-weave, hounds-tooth, or glen plaid).

And if you find that flat fronts are for indeed for you, don’t overlook having flat front golf trousers made-to-measure. We have a new collection of lightweight trouser fabrics in a wool/lycra blend that have just enough stretch in the thigh to be comfortable when you squat down to read the line of your putt.

Best Regards,