Category Archives: 12Essentials

Jacket and Jeans: Finding the right combination to dress up your jeans


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All of us have seen them. I notice them most often at the airport, walking down the street over the noon hour or happy hour, or certainly when out for dinner or a few drinks. Those men who on the one hand annoy me, and on the other, are like a soap opera that I just can’t turn away from. Like peacocks on display, they walk about with shoulders back and chest forward. It seems like their gate is a little bit slower than necessary, as they casually check their reflection in store front windows. I can’t tell if it’s a habit, or if they just don’t care that people like me notice. Likely both are true.

Distinct from “gentleman peacocks” are a much more impressive, and perhaps rare, breed of male style specimens. Those men are harder to notice, mostly because they seem so comfortable in their own skin and in their clothing. They don’t obtrusively stand out, as do their peacock counter parts, but don’t be fooled. The confidence and style they exude has roots deeper than any plumage one might display. It comes from wearing clothing that perfectly reflects who they are and what they do. They don’t let clothes wear them, rather they wear their clothing. Or as Stephen Marche wrote in Esquire, “the most potent style is the style that you don’t know is a style.”

A particularly sublime distinction shows up in the way these men wear one of the great modern looks – a jacket and jeans. One of the reasons I love this look is because it’s not one for the peacocks, because without the dress shirt and tie, cuff links, shiny leather shoes, and slicked hair, there’s less chance for the flourish they crave. Don’t get me wrong, I love some flourish now and again. Emphasis on “now and again.”

How to do this great modern look? Find a pair of great jeans, throw on a jacket that fits you – one that just feels so right, on top of a simple button down oxford, a simple leather belt and a great loafer or oxford. Ready to roll.

But what makes this look roll off some men so wonderfully, and on others, not so much?


“What’s that?” you say. “Is that the entire answer? Certainly it has to be more than that, right?”

Nope. Not really.

Fit is it!

In 2014, jeans that fit means nothing too full in the leg, all the way from the top to the bottom. If you’ve tried pulling off your boot cuts from 2005 recently, you’ll know what I’m talking about. What then looked so stylish now looks so baggy, so….wrong.

Your jacket must also fit. Fabric and details matter too, but fit will make or break the look. Before I continue – “jacket” is really synonymous with sport coat. Why not use the “sport coat” designation then? I love that casual ring to “jacket.” And we’re talking with jeans, so it just works. I say it does anyway.

For a jacket to fit, nothing too full throughout the chest and waist, and yet nothing too tight either. Dare I say I’m a bit tired of the skinny, sausage casing suit and sport coats? Let the peacocks think they still look good in them. As to length, I will suggest the length of the jacket needs to have a modern feel to it – nothing much beyond the fullest part of the seat. Generally, this won’t be too far past the bottom of the jean’s rise. Where’s that? Where the pant inseams run into each other, right below the bottom of the zipper.

You’re a modern man, making your mark on the world. Jeans and a jacket is a look for you to master. Your time is now. People are looking to you, at you and up to you. Don’t waste time looking into reflective surfaces. Wear a pair of great jeans with a well-cut jacket, keep it simple with the shirt, shoe, and belt, and live your life!

Your Ultimate Super Hero: DAD


As a child, I was impressed to no end by the caped crusader – Batman. I was especially enamored with gadgetry and powers of the Bat Cave and the Bat Mobile.

Superman held a similar and even more profound fascination, probably because of his ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound and to run faster than a speeding bullet.    My boyhood attempts to fly down the stairs, with my favorite blanket as my cape, failed miserably and painfully, so the fact that he could fly as high and faster than a jet airplane put him over the top.  In addition to those two, many other fictional super heroes, from Spiderman to R2D2, have filled up comic books and entertainment screens, providing us with a fantastical type of inspiration and first-rate entertainment.


As I got older I became (and still am) even more impressed by the seemingly super human abilities – whether athletic/physical, intellectual, or artistic/creative – of certain real people.   Real people doing amazing things can also be highly entertaining, with the added bonus of inspiration that isn’t so fantastical, but more believable.


As much as we love to see people, real or not, doing amazing things, the people who are the closest to us, who love us without condition, or who have touched our lives in a personal way that saved us from harm or raised us up to a new level of thinking and doing are our true super heroes.  For me, certain teachers and coaches come to mind.  The client who has gone out of his way to help me build my business.  Of course, a variety of emergency service personnel, doctors and nurses, and those you serve in our armed forces (though not necessarily known in a personal way) are on that list as well.  Above all others (more often than not), the people who brought us into this world, our first and most important role models, our parents, are our truest heroes.  Once as a boy and now as a man, my Dad is my ultimate super hero.  You probably feel the same way.


Every year, on Father’s Day, we give particular focus to that man who made it all possible, who has provided so much for us that words alone cannot express our gratitude.   Sure it’s the thought that counts, but a little gift now and then adds to the impact of those thoughts.  If you’re not sure what give Dad this year, anything from this list of truly innovative items is sure to honor and delight your ultimate super hero:

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Super Hero cuff links.   What better gift for your super hero than cuff links that will remind him of a favorite super hero from his childhood?


Power Stays.   Does your shirt collar ever slide under the lapel of your jacket or do the collar points sometimes look like they are ready for takeoff when you’re not wearing a tie?  What if every point and spread collar shirt could be easily turned into a hidden button down collar, giving you maximum control over how it looks and behaves?  That is exactly what you get with magnetic collar stays from wurkin stiffs.


Leather Accessories.   Most men don’t replace or update their wallets and money clips as often as they should.  This is an ideal occasion to give the gift of leather accessories from Bryant Park, all made in the USA of superhero quality for the discriminating, style conscious man.


Business and Travel Cases by TUMI.  Innovation, quality, and reliably solving real problems are all hallmarks of the TUMI brand.  On average, someone who gets one product from TUMI ends up owning at least seven TUMI products.  If he is not already a collector, this is a great time to get Dad started.


Sunglass Cases by Holland & Sherry Bespoke.  Sunglasses are often damaged simply because they aren’t properly protected when not being worn.  H&S Bespoke cases offer elegant, stylish protection.


 Ties and Pocket Squares.   Last but not least, while the idea of giving a tie on Father’s Day is not new, Dad could probably use a new tie or two that look current – the right width, color, and pattern to complement his current jackets and shirts.  A lot of men are now wearing a pocket square to complement their tie or as an accent piece in place of a tie.

Follow the Tom James 12 Essentials Gift Guide and you are sure to be a hero to your ultimate hero.



Your Summer Style Multipliers

S14-CBGN-02-45I was one of the models for The Tom James Company Spring and Summer 2014 fashion show. I don’t always model in fashion shows. The admiration I receive every day when wearing world-class custom tailored clothing from Tom James is usually sufficient. But in this case I had to say yes because my outfit was a pair of linen drawstring shorts and a linen shirt, and I really like to wear linen.

When I first tried them on in my office a few weeks before the show (sometime last December), everyone in the office instinctively said, “Wow, you look COMFORTABLE!”  No kidding!  That’s pretty much what you get from softened linen – the look and feel of extreme comfort.  Wearing that clothing slowed my pace, and made me feel more relaxed. I think it even lowered my blood pressure! I was immediately longing for warmer weather (It was December, remember), a deck chair, and a Corona with lime!


Clothing has the power to set the tone, change the mood and alter how a person feels. In a matter of moments, the right clothing can elevate confidence, make one feel more powerful or more attractive, younger or more mature, energized or relaxed.  In the case of that linen outfit, it was all about comfort and casual chic.  I would wear that clothing at a tropical resort or to a backyard BBQ and be really comfortable, feeling great about how I look.

Dressing well for summer casual occasions doesn’t require a lot of clothing.  You just need a few of the right pieces that you can mix and match with confidence.  Perhaps as fundamental as any item for a classic casual wardrobe is the ubiquitous “polo” shirt.  The name is a bit of misnomer as it was originally designed by Rene Lacoste for championship tennis in 1926.   By the mid-30’s, the short sleeve shirt of pique cotton with a soft, flat collar was rapidly becoming the universal shirt choice for many sporting and leisure pursuits, including the games of polo, golf and, of course, tennis.  In each case, the shirt we now know as a polo shirt replaced a much stiffer, long sleeve, button front shirt, thus providing much greater comfort and ease of movement.  A basic polo shirt wardrobe should include solid colors of: white and navy, and at least one other color of choice.

A selection of shorts and cotton (or linen) pants are also fundamental to a summer casual wardrobe, keeping in mind that most denim is too heavy for true summer weather.  The basic colors are khaki, stone, and navy, but one shouldn’t hesitate to consider other colors such as shades of red, orange and green.

Note:  In general, except perhaps on the golf course (and especially if your name is Ricky Fowler,) choose a neutral tone for either the top or bottom of your outfit.  (Neutral tones = black, gray, navy, tan, brown, white.)

As mentioned above, while polo shirts are perfect for the active pursuits, the more genteel activities of dining out, wine tasting, and socializing require clothing that is more tailored and elegant.  A collection of just a few well-chosen sport shirts, both long sleeve and short sleeve, will take you most anywhere.  Round it out with and a simple blazer of cotton or linen and you’re all set.  (Except for the proper footwear, which we will cover in an upcoming post.)

Now go enjoy your summer in style!

How to give a Graduate a Headstart!

When I graduated from college the sum total of my “professional” wardrobe included two suits – a medium gray herringbone and a dark char-brown (both with a vest), the navy blazer I’d had since high school (Thanks again, Dad and Mom!), one gray slack, three dress shirts, and a handful of ties. The shoes I had aren’t even worth mentioning. All but the blazer had been purchased with money I made working during the summers of my college years. By today’s valuation, I had invested close to a thousand dollars per suit. It was a lot of money at the time, but I thought they were awesome, and I always felt amazing when I put them on.

Q: How did I end up with a brown suit as one of my first two, and didn’t even own a navy suit until years later?
A: I liked it, and nobody suggested that I do any different.

More recently, as a professional clothier, I have had the pleasure of helping several fortunate young men get started with their professional wardrobe. In almost every case the clothing has been a gift from parents, grand parents, a mentor, or everyone’s favorite – the “rich uncle.”  Such a gift is nothing short of a sound investment and a big vote of confidence.  A few key pieces of professional clothing will go a long way to create a great first impression and set a young person on to the path of success.

Chris R. just got a new solid dark gray suit, white shirt, and a great tie as a Christmas gift from is parents. His first chance to wear it will be for no particular reason other than to show off for his older brother. C.P. got his first new suit, a dark blue solid, as a gift from his parents just before his senior year of college in preparation for senior year events and the interviews that will get him the job that will get him off of the family payroll.

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Either a dark blue/navy or dark gray solid suit is the clear choice to begin building the “dress up” portion of your wardrobe, particularly for those who aspire to work in the fields of finance, law, politics, or sales and marketing. The versatility, universal acceptance, and powerful symbolism of either suit is unrivaled. Either one is your one essential suit.

With respect to style, a classic two-button coat and a flat front pant, with our without cuffs, is the way to go. If you’re having a suit made, you may also want to add a matching vest, though I would advise against adding the vest to the look in most interview situations, lest you come across a bit too charming.

Shirt-Blu/Wht Non-Iron        Blue       Ready-Made Clothing    Shirt-Blu/Wht Check           Blue       Ready-Made Clothing

As every main dish needs a side or two to complete the meal, your dark solid suit will need a white shirt for formal and/or conservative occasions and another shirt, maybe a stripe or check of some kind, to mix it up and add flavor.  Be sure to add at least one shirt with French cuffs.  Why? Well, for one, there are just too many fun cufflinks that need to worn.  There is truly something for everyone, including your school if you went to one of more than 100 Division I schools now represented in our NCAA collection.

Your look will be complete with a pair of black dress shoes and coordinating belt of the same color, dark socks that are essentially the same color as your pants, and a selection of ties and pocket squares.

Michael K. just got two outfits from his grandfather for his college graduation.   A dark gray solid suit is the foundation piece, complemented by a blue windowpane sport jacket and navy solid pant to provide a more casual alternative.  Both look great with a light blue solid shirt and sophisticated neat pattern tie.  He also got a green check shirt and coordinating tie that he really likes with the gray suit.  The gray pant from the suit can also be worn with the sport jacket, so there is a lot of natural versatility in everything he picked out.