Author Archives: Tom James

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

The fundamentals – sportcoats, pants, and shirts – are in place. The remaining pieces – the layering and finishing details – are ripe with opportunity to express your individuality and personal style.

V-neck and Zip-Mock sweaters or vests

A sweater or vest provides both a physical and visual layer, adding warmth to you and your look.

Sweaters for Causal Dress

Put Your Best Foot Forward

Neither too dressy nor too casual, the middle look requires shoes (or ankle boots) that are less formal than what you would wear only with a suit and more formal than what you would wear only with jeans or shorts. Variation is achieved by virtue of design, the texture or finish of the leather, or both. Oil waxed, slightly distressed, suede, and pebble grain are all in “the middle” range. Find out what is the right shoe for you.

Shoes for Causal Dress

(From top to bottom and left to right… MacNeil, McTavish, Malvern, and Lucca; all by Allen Edmonds, followed by two versions of the Air Jayhawker and the Air Stanton Chukka from Cole Haan.)

Note: The McTavish is part of a collection that features waxy, distressed leather that is particularly suited for the elegant casual look, giving off a fresh, young vibe for the modern urban man.


While a tie is not required with this look, if you’re going to wear one, choose a tie made with wool or cashmere in the fabric. The texture of a wool tie will look right at home with the loftier hand of your flannel, cashmere, tweed, and corduroy sport coats. Wool ties have never looked more elegant and bow ties are no longer just for professors, eccentrics, and the assertively contrarian. Pay special attention to solids, checks, plaids, two-tone stripes and dot patterns. Find out how to tie the perfect knot for you.

Ties For Causal WearNote:

Ties follow clothing in width and texture. With a 3” width as the base, the width of your tie should coordinate with the width of your jacket lapel, give or take a 1/4”.

With all of the possibilities for adding depth and warmth to complete the look, keep in mind the ancient but never out-of-date wisdom from da Vinci that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Sartorial regards,


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,

How to Stay Cool This Summer

When the mercury rises, your standards don’t have to fall

What’s the best fabric choice for summer suits?

Easy:  seersucker.  Anyone who has been to New Orleans in the summer can only imagine what it was like before air conditioning.  Seersucker was popularized in “The Big Easy” by businessmen seeking to beat the summer heat and humidity.

Seersucker is perfect for hot weather
because of its natural ability to “wick” moisture away from the skin.  The wavy, crinkled finish of the cloth allows only part of the fabric to actually touch the skin.  This effect promotes greater circulation and evaporation during steamy conditions.
You can buy seersucker today in suits, shirts, trousers, and even shorts.  Suits will look best with buck shoes, and if you want to be a little eclectic, throw in a bow tie.

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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,