Category Archives: Tom Talks

One dimension, Two dimensions, Three Dimensions…Five?


You may not exhibit five dimensions, but you certainly aren’t one dimensional either

Physicists talk about there being at least five dimensions. Jim McGuinn, guitarist for the rock band The Byrds, even wrote a song about it called “5D (Fifth Dimension).” In a 1966 interview he stated, “It’s sort of weird but…what I’m talking about is the whole universe, the fifth dimension, which is height, width, depth, time and something else. But there definitely are more dimensions than five.”

Most of us are fairly satisfied to live in a three dimensional world. Movies and television programming in 3D is still a fascination that most of the world has yet to experience. The point is, considering the obvious reality of 3D and at least a theoretical reality of 5D and beyond, none of us would be content to live in a world of 1D. To put it in sartorial terms, there are times when a suit is overdressed and times when jeans and T-shirt are exactly right. And there are times when something in between would be the most appropriate. Even the one among us who seems lacking in personality is a complex creature with multiple dimensions and in need of a wardrobe that can support each one of them.

In case you’re thinking that you’ve stumbled onto the wrong blog, this is TomTalks and you have not entered the twilight zone. All of this is to say that we at Tom James completely understand you are not one dimensional in your life, or with your wardrobe, and that we are well-prepared this season to assist you with every dimension – from business, to formal, and, of particular note, a broad range of casual.

During the next few weeks we will be opening up the world of your favorite brands (or soon to be) that provide casual clothing with the quality and fit you have been asking for and deserve to be wearing.

Your “5D” sartorial conscience,

Channeling Churchill

With the Olympic Games in London, financial turmoil all over the globe, near daily reports of severe unrest and brutal atrocities in various corners of the world, and a bitterly contentious presidential campaign in full swing here in the USA, I am wondering what Winston Churchill would have to say about all of it if he were alive today and I could get him to sit with me for a few moments, perhaps with a pint of Newcastle Brown or Deuchars IPA.

Short of that fantasy becoming a reality, or my reading a biography of the great man to cipher out his wisdom, I thought the most expeditious way to begin a journey into the mind of Sir Winston would be to wear his favorite tie pattern, and to wear it in a bow as he did. Churchill regularly wore a bow tie and his tie pattern of choice was the iconic (because of him) navy blue with white dots: always distinguished, with the right balance of punch and formality.

Long associated with intellectualism, a bow tie is like wearable punctuation. A signature look for some (like Churchill), wearing a bow tie is a way to mix up your business look, or to show some whimsy in a dressy casual or social situation. According to Warren St. John, as published in the NY Times,

“To its devotees the bow tie suggests iconoclasm of an Old World sort, a fusty adherence to a contrarian point of view. The bow tie hints at intellectualism, real or feigned, and sometimes suggests technical acumen, perhaps because it is so hard to tie. Bow ties are worn by magicians, country doctors, lawyers and professors and by people hoping to look like the above. But perhaps most of all, wearing a bow tie is a way of broadcasting an aggressive lack of concern for what other people think.”

Tim C. from Milwaukee, an avid bow tie wearer, says:

“The truth is when you wear a bow tie you’re making a statement. But in all instances, it’s a great statement. People assume if someone has the courage to wear a bow tie then they must be smart (let’s be honest, the nerd connotation is there, you’d seldom assume someone wearing a bow tie has a low IQ) and, because they’re wearing the bow tie, they are confident with who they are. In business, being “cool” all the time isn’t effective. Being smart and confident? Who doesn’t want that?”

Bow tie wearing is clearly gaining momentum. Aaron H., who works in San Francisco for a Gaming software company, told us that his firm has instituted a policy called “Dress up Friday.” A bow tie is now part of his look on those days. A menswear publication, MRketplace, reported last winter that “Bow Tie Friday” is catching on at a NYC financial firm that has recently reverted to a “full business attire” dress policy.

What’s the biggest hurdle for most men to even consider wearing a bow tie? Until you’ve actually done it a few times, learning to tie a bow tie can rank with the world’s most frustrating activities. I would further reason that the degree of difficulty is also why it is so satisfying when you finally do it, and at least part of its character and “cool” factor. It’s true that one could buy a bow tie that is “pre-tied”, but that kind of shortcut makes the bow look too perfect. If you’re going to make the statement of wearing a bow tie, do it well. Learn to tie your own.

Watch Tom James clothier Tim Cornell reach Bow Tie nirvana.

Want to wear a bow tie like Sir Winston’s? The navy dot pattern (style16956-400) is available through your Tom James Clothier as a bow tie, a regular tie, or even as a pocket square.

Channeling Churchill and feeling better already,


When you mean to say “I ain’t playin’,” (aka “I mean business”) that’s a time to wear…Pinstripes


In an early scene (sometime in 1963) of the film Catch Me if You Can (released in 2002 and based on a true story), when Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Leo DiCaprio) was sixteen years old, he and his father, Frank Sr. (Christopher Walken) were standing in front of Chase Manhattan Bank when Sr. asked Jr., “You know why the Yankees always win, Frank?” Jr. replied, “Because they have Mickey Mantle?” To which Sr. said, “No, it’s because the other team’s players can’t stop staring at those damn pinstripes.” Truth be told, the Chicago Cubs’ uniforms have had pinstripes since 1907 and they are recognized as the first Major League Baseball team to incorporate pinstripes into a baseball uniform. Since then, several other teams in baseball and other sports have included pinstripes in their uniforms. Could there be a reason?

Pinstripes (and chalk stripes) have long possessed an aura, a kind of power, which commands attention, respect, and deference. Pinstripes take names and leave no prisoners. Mr. Abagnale could just as well have said, “Those impressive pinstripes” or “those awe-inspiring pinstripes.” Pinstripes also make the wearer look taller and cause the eye to move up and down, drawing one’s attention to the heavens (or at least up toward your face, which is where you want it go.)

So inherently a part of the Wall Street and traditional banking cultures, a pinstripe suit, one that is navy blue in particular, naturally causes one to think about investments. Investing in stocks and bonds can be a good thing. Some people like to invest in real estate or precious metals. But, among a long list of investment options, the one that we all have the most control over and the one most likely to pay recurring dividends is an investment in one’s self: from education to image, both of which are a life-long endeavor, in need of regular updates.

Of course, it’s not only what’s on the outside that one should pay attention to. In the long run, the quality of character and interior substance of the person and his suit are what sustain success. We will talk more about that in weeks to come as we open up the world of quality and excellence that is Oxxford. For now, I invite you to learn about The Anatomy of a Tom James Suit (note: within “How it Works,” go to “Tailoring” to see video.)

While pin and chalk striped cloths are available in a multitude of weights and finishes, a mid-weight flannel version is the hands-down choice for cooler climes and for those who just plain want that extra dash of “cool.” Similar to cashmere, the finish will make the one who takes you by the arm want to hold on that little bit extra. (Bummer.) If you really want to make an impression, add a vest, like the double-breasted number that is part of the featured look at the top of the page. Stop it already. You’re killing me!

To borrow a line from a popular advertising character: The occasion may not always call for a commanding presence, but when it does, wearing a well-proportioned pinstripe, with just the right amount of verve and swerve, will lift you to a place of maximum confidence and self-assurance.

This time I mean business,

Glen Plaid: A Sartorial Change Up

The national pastime’s All-Star break was two weeks ago, and the teams that are still in contention for the playoffs are looking to shore up their lineups for the home stretch run. One more power hitter or an extra arm in the bullpen could make the difference. Most baseball aficionados would tell you that come playoff time it will all come down to pitching. Great hitting brings out the crowd, but great pitching wins championships. Whether or not that is altogether true, it is likely that the pitchers who have more in their repertoire than just a 95 mph fastball or mesmerizing curve ball will get more outs in the clutch. What you really need to win more of the close ones and the big game is a well-disguised change up.

A change up is an illusion: a pitch that looks like a fastball as it leaves the pitcher’s hand, but is actually moving much slower. If the batter was looking for a fastball he will be fooled and swing early. Sartorially speaking, if a navy pinstripe or charcoal solid suit is a fastball, then the reliable change up is, surely, a black & white glen plaid. While the desired effect is not to fool, the intent is to lighten the mood, soften one’s appearance or to appear more relaxed and approachable.

For the man who is usually seen in darker colors and/or simpler patterns, the look is unexpected and refreshingly different. Eric P. from the San Francisco bay area says, “The thing I like the most about my black and white plaid suit is the fact that every time I wear it I get nice comments. I also like how many different combinations I can wear with it.” While a glen plaid suit has been an essential part of a well dressed man’s wardrobe for several decades, such was not always the case. The “change ups” inclusion in the list of essential suits required a shake up.

The shakeup that occurred in the 90’s when casual clothing found its way into the boardrooms of big business was not the first or only time that the rules of propriety and style have been turned on their head. Prior to the 1920’s, the line between urban and country (rural) clothing was clear and solid. It may not have been double yellow, but certainly wasn’t dotted. A glen plaid suit would have been reserved for wearing outside of the city and never in the evening. It required none other than Edward, the Duke of Windsor, to blur the distinction.

The Duke was said to prefer a style he called “dress soft.” With that came a fondness for the soft hand of flannel cloth, suede shoes, and the pattern historically known as the Glenurquhart plaid. The Glen Urquhart plaid (also called the Glen plaid, or ‘Prince of Wales check’, as popularized by Edward, when he was Prince of Wales) was originally a woollen, Scottish tartan cloth with a woven twill design of small and large checks creating a box-like effect.

The name is taken from the valley of Glenurquhart in Inverness-shire, Scotland where the fabric is thought to have first been used in the 19th century by the New Zealand-born countess of Seafield to outfit her gamekeepers. However, the term “Glen plaid” did not appear in usage before 1926. It was thought that the name took hold because the pattern resembled an aerial view of the glens of the Scottish landscape.

Over time, the pattern became a popular suiting, since it can look dressy, depending on the scale and intensity of the pattern. As a general rule, when the scale of any pattern moves from small to large, the garment becomes more casual. It is also good to remember that if the plaid is bold enough to use as an odd jacket, then it shouldn’t be tailored as a suit. Likewise, if it is subdued or fine enough to worn as a suit, it is generally too muted for an odd jacket. This is, once again, a good time to lean on your faithful clothier!

What’s your favorite “change up” look?

Sartorial Solutions,