Tag Archives: 12 essentials

The best fitting Sweater you will ever wear!

imageWhen I was a college student, a girlfriend of mine, who would later become my fiance, and then not (just think of all the handmade clothing I could be wearing…other than my Oxxford suits of course), knitted me a sweater. Not before or since then has someone made me a sweater. It was a substantial piece of clothing, made from heavy wool yarns with a zipper in the front (which made it a Cardigan.) Designed for genuinely cold weather – a sweater you might wear instead of a winter coat – it got limited use. My mother has the sweater now, which is appropriate since she and my former have remained lifelong friends.

The first “sweaters” were heavy, dark blue pullovers worn before and after athletic contests in the 1890’s in the USA.  Knitwear for the upper body had been around long before that, but not by that name.  Some form of a sweater- type garment can be traced back at least as far as the 15th Century around the English Channel islands of Guernsey and Jersey.  More recently, in the 19th century, the wives of Irish fisherman and sailors began to knit some of the early pullover, cable knit sweaters, aka Fisherman’s sweaters.  The heavy wool yarns they were knit from helped keep the fisherman warm, even when wet, thanks to the dual nature of wool fibers: a hydrophobic exterior (water repellant) and a hygroscopic interior (able to absorb about one third of its own weight in water.)  Later sweater innovations – the Cardigan and the Raglan – are credited to the functional desires of British admiralty.

My favorite sweater this winter has been a dark gray, button-up cardigan, with a mock neck and patch pockets. The sweater is wool, but it has a soft cotton lining so it’s comfortable over either long or short sleeved shirts. It’s my version of a Mr. Rogers sweater, my near constant companion when at home this winter. The fact that a cardigan doesn’t have to be put on and taken off over-my-head is a plus. Not to mention that Sinatra and Hogan both enjoyed the casual elegance of a cardigan from time to time when an extra layer was required.

imageI also enjoy the look and functional ease of a simple zip-mock sweater. A medium gray cashmere version has been my most versatile layer for several years running. I take it everywhere I go this time of year. Relatively fine and lightweight, it is easy to pack and provides just enough warmth when the weather is crisp, but not bitterly cold. The ability to wear it zipped down or up adds to its appeal and comfort.

imageThe V-neck sweaters in my closet also get a lot of play.  I have a purple high-V-neck that works well with several of my Fall/Winter sport jackets.  V-neck sweaters are designed to be worn with a collared shirt, whether that be the turn down collar of a cut-and-sewn dress or sport shirt, or the softer knit collar of a polo shirt. The high-V can be worn with a tie, but they work especially well as a layering piece over a dress or sport shirt and under your favorite sport coats.

Crew neck and Turtleneck (aka Roll neck) are the two other most common pullover styles.  Turtleneck wearing is on the upswing, whether in beefier knits like the ones Hemingway favored, or the finer versions that the Beatnicks, Beatles, and James Coburn as Derek Flint popularized.

A final style to mention is the polo collar sweater.  You would hard pressed to find a more comfortable piece of clothing for the upper body than either a long or short sleeved sweater, knit from either our 85/15 cashmere/silk blend or our 100% Pima cotton.  The polo collar lends itself well as a stand alone piece to be worn as a shirt.   Truth be told, a sweater or, more accurately, a knit shirt, made in any of our available styles with either the cashmere/silk blend or the Pima cotton are light and cool enough to wear all Spring and even Summer in most climates.  The breatheability and performance of both fabrics are sensational.

imageI have found that the sweaters I enjoy the most are those that fit great both in the body and the sleeve length. I’m a relatively standard size, but for a lot of people there is always some compromise with fit: Either the sleeves fit well, but the body of the sweater is too long or too short; or it fits the shoulders but has way too much or not enough room at the waist. For those who struggle with any sort of sweater fit issues, Tom James has an awesome solution for your dilemma: the Custom Sweater.

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The measurements for your custom shirts are the basis for your custom sweater, so the process is very easy. In addition, your preferred front and back body length are measured so that you get precisely the length you need and prefer for your torso.

Not unlike custom clothing and shirts, fit is not the only advantage to having a sweater custom made.  You also get to pick from four different fabrics: 100% cashmere, merino wool, cashmere/silk blend, or Pima cotton.  The cashmere knit is 12 gauge, and all of the others are 16  gauge – the perfect weight and structure for layering.  Ten great colors are offered in each fabric. Even better, you can choose from among seven style options for men and six style options for women.  As this part of our business continues to grow, more options will be made available.

For now though, what better way to add a few simple, elegant, and versatile layering pieces than to have them made to your preferences.  Sure, they cost more than off-the-shelf, but they are the kind of garments that will become like a best friend.  Hard to put a price on that.

Shelter from the Storm: Warm and Dry in Luxury Outerwear

imageWe may never know with certainty what Dylan was singing about in “Shelter from the Storm.” He probably wasn’t singing about luxury outerwear, but one thing is for sure: We all experience times when our first thought is to get some shelter, protection or relief, whether from the weather or from one of life’s difficulties.

With respect to cold or wet weather the goal is simple: warm and dry.  You could just go inside, build a fire in the fireplace, pour yourself a beverage that warms your insides, and snuggle up with someone you love.  But alas, there are places to go and work to be done, some of which requires being outside in the weather – bitterly cold winter weather.

When you are out there, you will need a layer of protection that is appropriate to wear over whatever else you are wearing.  Last year at this time we published a simple guide to choosing outerwear to help you decide what you need depending on how you dress for business and your lifestyle.  And for a full range of options to choose from, our 12Essentials line up for this month has you covered.

imageOf particular note this season – new to our line up of outerwear – is an updated version of the ridiculously handsome classic: The pea coat or P-coat.   The U.S. Navy issue pea coat is black.  The one we offer is too.  Whether originating with pilots or sailors, the style can be worn with a flannel pant, khakis, cords, or any five-pocket pant like jeans.  Wear it to the game, to the office, on a date, or on Thanksgiving Day.

If you haven’t done so recently, let this be the year that you invest in a range of outwear and accessories like scarves and gloves that will allow you to be comfortable and looking like the success that you are, no matter what storms you may be facing.

Take your style Up a notch with Robert Graham

imageNormal, Status-quo, timid and safe are not words used to describe the clothing and accessories from Robert Graham or the people who wear them.  People who wear clothing and accessories from Robert Graham see themselves as a-cut-above, not a-cut-out.

There are something like 7 billion people in the world today.  It’s easier to get lost in a sea of sameness than it is to stand apart from the crowd.  I recently started working with a guy who is the “middle” of three brothers.  Part of his interest in custom suits, custom jackets, and custom shirts is a much larger selection of cloth and the opportunity to make them more personal…not so much the same as what his brothers are wearing.  In effect, what he said to me was that he loves his brothers, but that they don’t need to show up at meetings and events looking too much like the three musketeers.

Part of the genius of the Robert Graham brand is that it offers a range of expression – the option to turn the volume up just a little, or to crank it up so that the neighbors at the end of the block can hear it too.  You can take just a step away from the ordinary, or you can stand on a platform….so to speak.

The vehicles employed to create space and distance are color and pattern, and the artful combination of the two, along with embellishment, whimsy, fun, and a full dose of eccentricity.  Some of their pieces exhibit a burst of color while many items differentiate with subtle, but colorful detail.  In case you didn’t catch it, the RG brand is not just about being a-cut-above or standing out.  It’s also about having fun, risk taking, and living life to the fullest with no holding back.

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New this season from Robert Graham (RG) is denim.  In keeping with everything else they do, the RG denim is of great quality and styled to fit the lower body like their shirts fit the upper body.  Embellishments on the RG jeans are mostly on the inside.  We also like their cotton chinos, which provide embellishment with a single contrasting belt loop and button hole.

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A great new piece this season from RG is their un-constructed, melange knit, cotton blazer.  Something super comfortable and cool to throw on when you want/need another layer for comfort or a more tailored look.  Done in a medium shade of gray, you can wear this blazer with just about anything.

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Last but not least is a new piece of outerwear.  Similar in length to a blazer, this jacket is made from a nylon tech fabric and is loaded with functionality.  The moss color exterior is easy to wear and versatile and the rust interior provides that distinguishing difference.

For more details on ways to take your style up a notch or two this season, visit 12 Essentials.

 

Travel with fewer wrinkles in Clothes that move with You – Wrinkle Free Clothing

What’s all the fuss about a few wrinkles and the still growing demand for wrinkle free clothing?

imageClarence Day Jr., author of the 1935 work Life With Father wrote, “Age should not have its face lifted, but it should rather teach the world to admire wrinkles as the etchings of experience and the firm line of character.”   I suspect that at least among the male portion of the population, Mr. Day’s thought meets with little resistance, even with all of the advances in skincare during the eighty years since he wrote that. Case in point: several years ago my wife got me into the habit of daily moisturizing.  While still full of “character,” I’m likely showing a few less wrinkles on my face than I otherwise would have at this point.

Note:  My dermatologist got me wearing sunscreen every day as well, for a different albeit related reason.

A wrinkle or two on one’s face is one thing, but wrinkled clothing is another subject all together.  The great southern gentleman, R. Faucheux, quipped “A little wrinkle can be distinguishing…but not in your clothes,” a thought that gives voice to the sentiments of many people for whom wrinkle-free and non-iron clothing has become quite popular, especially with regard to shirts and pants for dress and business wear.

For several decades now textile producers have been working on ways to combat wrinkles in clothing.  From a myriad of synthetic fibers, varying blends, and a mix of chemical treatments, in every case one has had to sacrifice some level of comfort to gain a more wrinkle-free appearance.   Over time those trade offs have continued to shrink, but some still exist.  Clothing with a high performance factor that is now meeting with the greatest appeal are those made from fabrics with “flex” – fabrics that move with you.

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A couple of months ago we wrote about Mizzen+Main, a new brand that is bringing to dress shirts a set of benefits that were previously only available in modern athletic or active wear.  Made with fabrics that have four-way stretch, are moisture-wicking, and can air dry in just a few minutes and be ready to wear, Mizzen+Main shirts offer amazing comfort and are easy to own.

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In the world of custom shirts, Tom James is now offering a group of “performance shirts” that have quickly developed a loyal following.

  • dry&fly is a collection of seventeen easy iron and wrinkle free cotton fabrics.  The high tech finish makes caring for these shirts easy.  Just a light touch up with a warm iron at the collar, cuffs, and front pocket is all you need to look your best.  This collection also offers a high degree of moisture absorption and crease resistance.
  • Natural Stretch Twill is a collection of six all cotton fabrics that are specially woven to provide added stretch, allowing for greater comfort even with a slimmer fit.
  • Tech Stretch is a collection of thirteen fabrics that are 98% cotton and 2% Spandex.  This collection features five colors of mini bengal stripes and gingham checks.  Again, even with a super trim fit, shirts from these fabrics will move with you and be super comfortable all day long.

Along the same line as the Tom James Tech Stretch shirts, we have also introduced “Flex by Tom James”, a collection of fabrics for custom suits, custom blazers, and custom pants with a bit of added stretch, including light weight plain weave cloths made from 98% Super 100’s wool and 2% lycra, and a series of fine twill cloths woven from 98% Super 140’s wool and 2% lycra.  While wrinkle resistance isn’t necessarily the primary feature of these cloths, compared to 100% wool fabrics of the same weave and weight, these cloths offer improved wrinkle resistance and shape retention, as well as additional comfort, especially when the clothing is made with a modern trim fit.

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What do you call a cross between a blazer and a sweater? A bleater? A Swazer?  Well, whatever you call it, it’s a pretty sweet item to add to your wardrobe for all of the reasons that we’ve been discussing.  Wrinkle resistant? Check.  It’s tailored from a knit, not woven, fabric.  Flexible and comfortable, even with a trim fit?  Check and check.   Our Knit Blazer features:

  • a 100% wool knit cloth
  • Patch pockets (perfect for a jacket that is so flexible and comfortable)
  • Sew thru Blazer Buttons
  • a Butterfly Lining (to keep it as light and flexible as possible)
  • a Tailored fit (closer to the body, but with the natural flex of a knit garment)

Whatever your perspective on wrinkles and clothing, I would argue for some balance between being overly neat on the one hand or looking like you just got up from sleeping under your desk on the other.  A wrinkle or two in your clothing may indicate that you’ve been doing something with your day other than just neatly sitting in a chair, back straight, feet on the floor.  To put a finer point on it, Paul Fussell wrote in his 1983 book, Class, “the wearing of clothes either excessively new or excessively neat and clean also suggests that your social circumstances are not entirely secure.”

Well, I for one really like new clothes, though I often like them even better once I’ve worn them a few times and they are either “broken in” or have married their shape to mine.  As for the other point, may I suggest that you find a comfortable balance between showing that you care, but not looking like you’re trying too hard. No muss, no fuss!