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.

Cashmere and the Comfort Zone

imageI like the comfort zone. It’s not what I value the most in life, but given the option, I prefer to be comfortable. The comfort zone, of course, is that range of temperature which is neither too hot nor too cold. For most people that range is somewhere between 68 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

OK, so when you first read those words – comfort zone – you may have been thinking about something other than your physical comfort and the weather. According to Peter McWilliams, the comfort zone is also “our arena of thoughts and actions within which we feel comfortable–all the things we’ve done (or thought) often enough to feel comfortable doing (or thinking) again. Anything we haven’t done (or thought) often enough to feel comfortable doing lies outside the parameters of the comfort zone. When we do (or think) these things (basically, anything new) we feel uncomfortable.” In this respect, we all know that getting out of our comfort zone is the only way to grow, improve, and achieve our dreams.

But getting back to that other comfort zone…..Short of being in the comfort zone I would rather be a little bit too warm rather than cold, which is good, because it is usually easier to get back into the comfort zone when it’s cold, rather than too warm, because you can simply add layers of clothing or clothing that is more thermal until you have reached that point of comfort. Wow, that sentence has a lot of layers. To summarize, adding layers has a higher limit than reducing layers of clothing….if you know what I mean.

As mentioned in a previous post to this blog, my favorite fiber or fabric to layer with is cashmere.  If you’ve worn much cashmere, you probably feel the same way.   Cashmere comes from the fleece of goats living in the high uplands of Central Asia, including China, Mongolia and other countries.  The luxurious fibers are gently gathered from the goats by carefully hand-combing their fleece.  Cashmere is one of the most valued and exquisite animal hairs because of its incredible softness.  Cashmere can be knit – as for sweaters and scarves, or it can be woven – as for tailored clothing, from luxury suits to sport jackets and outerwear.

While it comes with a luxury price tag, quality cashmere more than pays for itself because it is pure pleasure to wear and is actually very practical.  When properly cared for, quality cashmere will provide you with warmth, comfort, and elegance for many years and can be worn from early Fall through late Spring in most climates.


In addition to cashmere, wool flannel, a great tweed, Camel’s hair or Alpaca, and corduroy are also great choices to add a layer of stylish warmth.  A custom car coat made from wool flannel or a Fall/Winter sport jacketing cloth is sure to add to your personal style and be easy to wear over everything from a smart casual look to your favorite suit.

All that being said, if you have yet to try cashmere, may I suggest that you get out of that other comfort zone – do something different – and get into the zone of real comfort this Fall and Winter by wearing some clothing made with cashmere.

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.


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.


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.