Category Archives: Tom Talks

Tuxedo Essentials

Mastering the finer points of formal wear

A Brief History

Contrary to common belief, colorful tuxedos were not an invention of the 1970’s and 1980’s.  In fact, brightly colored formal wear was the rule in the courts of England until the early 1800’s when a certain Beau Brummell appeared at a formal
function in black and white.  While Mr. Brummell caused quite a stir, he also began a fashion trend that has yet
to die.
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Stain Removal Guide

1. TAKE QUICK ACTION – The sooner a stain is treated the better. Time can “set” stains. Almost any stain can be removed if action is taken quickly enough, however almost any stain will become permanent if left untreated too long. Ideally, all stains should be treated within the first 24 hours.

2. BLOT & SCRAPE – Whenever possible, immediately after the stain occurs, blot up any excess liquid with a paper towel or clean white cloth. Scrape solids from the fabric if the stain is dry.  Try to remove as much excess as possible before further stain treatment.

3. DO NOT APPLY HEAT – Do not apply heat of any kind to stained fabric. Heat can “set” stains. Before ironing, pressing, or drying a garment in a dryer, check to make sure that the fabric is completely free of stains. If you don’t know the origin of a stain, don’t use hot water.  Hot water can set protein stains such as blood, egg, and milk stains.

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Choosing the Right Shoes

Put your Best Foot Forward

Steve R. writes: While I like my shoes and have several pair, I am sometimes unsure what style to wear with certain types of clothing and what color will look the best. Can you give me some general advice on what goes with what?

TomTalks: Shoes can make or break an outfit. Shoes are the foundation. Second only to your overall look (and perhaps grooming), the shoes you wear get the most attention and can significantly impact the first impression that others form. Developing a good shoe wardrobe and knowing how to wear each style and color will go a long way toward defining your style.


The Starting Five

As every sports team is comprised of first string players and those who back them up, your shoe wardrobe should have a minimum of a starting five in the rotation (not including your tennis or other athletic shoes, sandals, etc.) What styles best constitute your starting five will depend on the typical formality or your day-to-day dress and your personal style. The five above, all from Allen Edmonds, include Park Avenue, Delray, Hillsborough, Wilbert, & Route 100.

To keep it simple, one pair should be clearly formal and dressy, a shoe to wear with a dark suit. Another pair should be obviously casual – to wear with jeans or khakis, but never with a dress pant. The other three should be somewhere in the middle.

What you add to your rotation beyond the starting five should provide more options and depth to complement how you dress most often. If you are among the more sartorial crowd who still wear a suit most days, then you will want at least two or three more pair of formal dress shoes. Whatever the case, the goal is to develop enough rotation and variety that no matter what you choose to wear, your footwear is a perfect complement.

Above is another group of five with a stronger emphasis toward the casual, including Fifth Avenue, Norwich, Big Sur, Katmai, & Sanibel.

Color Coordination

You may have noticed that Brown shoes of varying shades have moved their way to a more prominent place in footwear fashion during the recent decade or so. Very simply, brown goes with everything (except perhaps black.) Dark brown is an ideal complement to a navy suit while a medium brown – walnut, bourbon, chili, etc. – works especially well with medium blue, shades of gray, and all earth tones.


A staple color in the 80’s, Burgundy (Bordeaux) is another way to augment your color options. Many experts would argue that shoes in this color range are the most versatile. The burgundy penny loafer (Walden) and the classic dress slip on (Presidio and Randolph) are the most essential styles.

Following the principles outlined above should help you to develop a shoe rotation that will allow you to put your best foot forward with any look and any occasion.

Stylish from head to toe (or at least at the feet),

tom@tomjames.com

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.

Ties

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,

Tom JamesTom@tomjames.com