A Rant Against the “Performance Polo”

HFedhT43Xgi30cxXuHrm1QUoA4a9rQ1Bx0qBUyklM3stIbxV9obcGnbtCqfFAdgyMbC7Fj6lzmw9i63MeWpPsgLet’s face it guys, we want to look good while generally not going to great lengths to do so.  Sometimes we want to look good to impress others, but more importantly we should do it to improve ourselves.  One article of clothing that has made its way into America’s wardrobes that needs to be severely limited is the Performance Polo.

A Bit of History

A few decades ago, Polyester was dead, as dead as disco.  It still worked great in fabric blends and had its niche uses great for hiking, sports shirts and more due to being lightweight and fast drying.  Then, in the late ‘90’s, a company called Under Amour popped up on the scene aggressively pushing Polyester based fabric shirts for sports use.  They worked great, and Under Armour’s rise since, along with major sports apparel companies following suit, meant that polyester based fabrics spilled out all over the apparel market.  With fabric costs similar to cotton and other blends, the cost to make these “performance” apparel lines are similar, but because companies were able to advertise them as new and improved and as  “performance” gear, they were able to initially sell these goods at a higher price than their cotton counterparts.

Polyester Stuff Can Be Great

As an avid athlete and outdoorsman, I have to say it’s nice having a wide selection of performance apparel available nowadays.  You no longer look like a drowned rat from a long sweaty set on the court or an afternoon hike on a Sunday like you did with soaked cotton shirts.  For certain professions, performance polos are a godsend.  Electricians, roofers, plumbers, groundskeepers, and hundreds more professions that are working in hot, humid areas throughout the day can do so much more comfortably and still look composed when they chat with the customer afterwards.

Where We Went Wrong

I woke up one day to notice that about 95% of the polo shirts in my wardrobe were now Performance Polos, most all 100% Polyester.  While I hadn’t purchased most of them and had gotten many as gifts and at various jobs over the years, letting my closet get this way was certainly my doing.  When I’m at restaurants, or at bars, or out shopping, most of the polos I see nowadays are polyester.  How did that happen??  Ok, I know you’re itching for me to get to the point about why the Performance Polo is so bad, so here goes:

  1. They don’t fit well. While this can be an issue with normal cotton polos, I feel like there are many more cuts and styles of performance polos.  Companies try to create new styles every year, resulting in a wide variety of size and fit differences, even among well-known brands.
  2. They run. Within a few months, any polyester polo I get will inevitably become snagged and the thread begins to run.  It’s fairly obvious and stands out and is hard to fix.
  3. They are thin. Have you ever seen a woman wearing a performance polo in public without a bra?  These shirts show everything underneath them, and most people don’t want to see outlines of your nipples and nipple-hair when we’re out and about.  At the very least throw on an undershirt (which basically negates the performance aspect of your polo.)
  4. The collars aren’t flattering. The collars generally flatten out wide, so make sure to find narrow collars.  Cheaper weaves can also curl, and no amount of ironing (good luck with ironing polyester) will make them straight again.
  5. They’re rough. Yes, there are some particularly soft weaves, but the vast majority of polos are rough against your skin, and don’t feel that good. Now don’t get me wrong, I embrace rough when appropriate, but I’d prefer a soft cotton polo most times, say on a 5 hour flight.
  6. They aren’t particularly dressy. Look at virtually any fashion magazine – guys wearing polos in photo shoots aren’t wearing polos from their local golf shop.  They’re wearing properly fitted cotton or mixed polos that don’t blind you when a bright light happens to shine on them.  Most performance polos have logos, sports cuts, and look like a lazy man’s idea of dressing up.

So fellas, if you’re interested in looking good in short-sleeve polos this summer, keep the polyester Performance Polos away unless you’re actually going to be sweating.

Panama Hats


When you think of hats for the spring and summer you probably think of baseball caps and panama hats. Usually associated with a more formal and adult look, the panama hat has been a featured piece of movie fashion in movies like the wide brimmed fedora style worn in Casablanca by Paul Henreid, the narrow brim worn by Anthony Hopkins in Hannibal, or the traditional style worn by Richard Attenborough in Jurassic Park. So how did a hat from a small country in South America become a staple of summer fashion?

To start the story we have to explain the background of the panama hat itself. FIrst thing’s first, the name is a complete and utter misnomer. Panama hats aren’t from Panama at all, they’re from Ecuador. Panama hats were traditionally made from the fibers of toquilla straw, named so after the Spanish word for hat, toque, that are woven together to make a lightweight, waterproof hat. In the 1830s, a Spaniard named Manuel Alfaro moved to Ecuador and soon started a venture in the hat making business. Compared to the traditional cottage industry of Ecuador, Alfaro’s organization of production allowed him to produce these hats at a much faster rate. With his production system in place Alfaro was able to begin to focus on his goal of exporting his hats.The biggest issue with export was that relatively little traffic came to Ecuador, so Alfaro moved his export business to Panama, whose narrow shape that touched both oceans made it a no brainer for trade. Alfaro’s move into export in Panama was timed perfectly as the California gold rush was happening.


In the 1850s the fastest way to get from the East coast of the United States to California was to take a ship around the bottom of South America. This trip fortuitously included a stop at Panama to trade and resupply, where prospective gold diggers found that the qualities that the Ecuadorians appreciated about their hats were fairly universal to anyone that was going to spend a lot of time outside working in the sun. This wouldn’t be the last time that America would help boost the popularity of the Panama hat. During the Spanish-American War in 1898, the US Government bought over 50,000 of the hats for its soldiers. Six years later, when construction of the Panama Canal began the protective and useful qualities of the hat quickly made it popular among the workers on the canal. This popularity soon spread when President Theodore Roosevelt was famously photographed wearing one while watching construction take place.

Even if America hadn’t embraced the Panama hat it probably still would have been associated with the rich and powerful people of the world. In 1855, it appeared at the World Exposition in Paris and immediately became the fashion item for the elite and well to do. Its popularity among the upper class soon caused its price to skyrocket. Edward VII, King of England at the time, even once paid £90 for the “finest Panama available.” If that number doesn’t seem that impressive, in 2015 dollars, or pounds in this case, that’s over £8,726 or $13,718 for a hat. Its association with the elite and well to do led it to be famously worn by a number of world leaders. The popularity among British royalty even affected the look of what a lot of people consider a traditional panama. The black band around the brim was made popular as a sign of respect after the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1901. Everyone from Winston Churchill to Franklin D. Roosevelt to Humphrey Bogart famously wore panama hats.

Although it lost some popularity after World War II, with a focus on traditional hats, in the last 20 years it’s been making a comeback as more and more period movies are made showing off how good it can look. Films like The Great Gatsby and tv shows like Mad Men have brought it back into vogue for a new generation of men.


Now that we’ve covered the history, let’s do a quick run-down on how to pick out a good panama hat. The biggest factor when it comes to choosing a panama is the structure of its weave. Thinner straws and a finer weave will keep more sun and moisture and out as well as just being more aesthetically pleasing. The thinner the straw the more work it takes to create the hat, double the amount of fibers means the time it takes to produce increases by a factor of four. Evenness of the weave is another big factor that often ties right into the structure of the weave. The thinner and finer the weave, the more difficult it is to keep it straight and looking nice. Color is another factor, that can affect the price of the hat, but really just comes down to personal preference. There are two main types of panama hats, the Montecristi and the Cuenca, each named for their respective hometowns. Cuenca hats are typically made a bright white color by bleaching them in peroxide for hours at a time, like our Bigalli Milano, while Montecristi hats bleached using sulfur fumes which gives them more of an ivory color rather than bright white, like our Scala Gambler. Montecristi hats are also made of natural fibers and will darken over time. There’s no real quality difference between the two styles. The last factor is how the hat is shaped and much like color, there are two styles that all come down to taste. Hats are shaped either using a machine press or by hand. There’s no real difference between the two, other than hand shaped hats are much more expensive and considered one of a kind pieces.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love to Wear Color

Spring has officially sprung and we’ve moved from our dark, monochromatic winter wardrobes onto our bright and colorful spring styles. You do have a set of spring clothes, right? You’re not one of those people that alternates through a rotation of black, gray, navy, and the occasional “We’re getting wild at the country club tonight” khaki, are you? If you are, it’s ok. It’s hard to make the leap to start adding some color to your wardrobe and not worry about looking like a highlighter or dressing like a salmon be-shorted pledge.


brightbeltcolorsquareFor our first steps into the world of dressing like someone with flair and panache we’re going to start small. Instead of going wild with color, just use it to accessorize. Using an accessory to bring a small splash of color is a good way to show off your, for lack of a better term, colorful side in a way that won’t overpower the rest of your outfit. If your idea of going wild and crazy is jeans and a button up, try throwing on a colorful belt on. D-ring belts are a time honored summer accessory and come in a number of colors that can be used to accent an outfit. For first timers, we’d recommend light blues and greens to go with most outfits. If you’re looking to show off a little personality at the office, try a nontraditional colored pocket square. It doesn’t take a lot to make an impression.


If you’re trying to gradually make your way into getting some color in your life, try sneaking some in. Layer a bright shirt under a sweater or a blazer. Throwing a dark blazer over a yellow shirt will being a lot of contrast, and a lot of attention, to what is otherwise a very traditional outfit. Once you figure out which colors work well for you, you can start shedding the layers and letting every bask in the knowledge that you’re dressing with confidence now. Studies have actually shown that men who wear bright, bold colors, like pink, are, on average, earn more and are better educated.1





A quick, overall rule for picking what colors to wear is to wear colors that complement your color. When you hear people talk about being winters and autumns they’re talking about their skin tone. Generally speaking, if you have a darker skin tone you can wear brighter colors than those of us with paler skin. So if you dark, olive skin a pink shirt can be a brighter, fuller pink than the more pastel pink that a paler person, like me, should wear. The goal is not to be completely washed out by what you’re wearing. You want your shirt to make people look at you, but you don’t want your shirt to get all of the attention once the eyes are on you.




Once you’ve gotten beyond the stage of just accessories and are ready to wear some bright and bold pieces, remember to only wear one piece at a time. Just like too many cooks in the kitchen ruins the meal, too many pieces of color leaves you looking like a walking Jackson Pollack painting. Find one piece and build around it. This means the rest of your outfit should be mostly neutrals, like khaki or denim. Think of when you see celebrities wearing something like a bright pink shirt. Are they usually rocking that pink polo and a pair of bright green pants? No. Mostly because that makes you look like a hibiscus. It’s the pink shirt and a pair of jeans or khakis. It works in reverse too, those bright green pants work well with a neutral colored shirt, like a white button up and a navy blazer.


Remember earlier when we said try to limit yourself to only one really bold piece of color in an outfit? Well, we kind of lied. Much like when you’re learning math as a kid, there’s more to it. There’s the idea of making an entire outfit match a certain color block. Going back to that pink shirt from before, instead of wearing it over a pair of jeans or khakis, you could make it a light pink shirt and pair it up with a pair of bright red pants. You’re wearing multiple bright pieces, but they look like they go together so it’s not nearly as bad as or hibiscus example. Just like West Virginia, you’re trying to keep it all in the family. Break out the color wheel from art class and look for colors that are in the same third as what you’re trying to wear.


So there you go, a quick and hopefully not too scary guide to learning how to add a little pop to daily wardrobe. Remember that ultimately adding color to an outfit is all about confidence. So if you’re unsure on something, but you like the way it looks, just own it, and hope that you have friends that will tell you if you look like a flower.


1 http://www.hrzone.com/lead/change/news-men-who-wear-pink-shirts-earn-more-and-are-better-qualified

Spring Hat Fashion Guide

What a day today is here in Richmond. The sun is shining, birds are singing, runners are running in our local 10K event, and onlookers are shouting words of encouragement from their porches and balconies. Everywhere shares the official first day of spring, but each place I’ve ever lived has had their own official signs of of spring. For Richmond, it’s probably our aforementioned Monument Avenue 10K, which we’re proud to say is one of the top 25 largest races in the world. In other places it was things like when spring football or, and I swear this is true, when a car finally falls through a frozen lake. Regardless of what signifies its arrival, spring is here and because we want to keep all of our readers looking good, here is our guide to properly wearing a hat with this spring’s fashion.

The hat used to be a ubiquitous piece of fashion. No proper man left home without it and with good reason — hats are just as functional as fashionable. They do a number of things just by simply sitting on top of your head; they keep you protected from the elements, they make you look taller, and they cover up anything you might be lacking on top of your head.

Panama Hats

panama hat styles

The first hat that probably comes to your mind when you think of a spring time or warm weather hat is the panama hat. While the name is a bit confusing (they’re actually originally from Ecuador), wearing a panama hat is as straightforward as can be. With both their light build and typical coloring, they’re able to mesh well with most outfits. You can simply toss one on to go with an outfit of summer colored shirts and shorts for a day at the beach. Or you can choose to go with a more classical look of khakis, light colored button up and a navy blazer to go along with it if you’re looking for more a dress hat situation. Our overall general suggestions for styling an outfit around a panama hat: You want the colors and the weight of your clothes to both be light, slimmer fits match the style of wearing a fashion hat better than loose and baggy, try to match any other accessories to the band, if possible.  Some great Panama hats to pick up are our Bailey Brooks Panama  (available in a few colors) or the iconic Stetson Retro Panama Fedora.

Pork Pie Hats


Back in the 90s when ska was undergoing its 43rd revival and bands like Reel Big Fish and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones were on MTV the humble pork pie hat was also going through a revival as the hat of choice of the neighborhood rude boy. As much I enjoy poking fun at fads that I will willingly admit I was a part, I’m glad to say that the pork pie hat has been making another revival the last few years, sans Aaron Barrett. The pork pie’s versatility in being a fashion piece comes from the combinations that can be had with the hat itself and its normally thick hat band. A straw pork pie like the Bailey Summer Braid Charlie Pork Pie with can be used to bring a splash of attention to a relatively demure outfit. You can also go for a standard black felt pork pie with a dark band if you want to look a bit more serious. Much like the panama, the pork pie pairs well with slim fits, matching accessories, depending on the band, and with boat shoes or other sockless shoes.

Ball Caps


Ball caps have a curious place in the fashion world, and while a worn out old favorite is generally relegated to yard work or travel, ball caps also find themselves on the heads of models walking runways. With very little change style-wise in the roughly 150 years since it was created, the ball cap is timeless. To the shock of hopefully no one reading this, ball caps are inherently casual, but they can still make a statement. With such a wide variety of styles to wear and reasons to wear them, there’s always a ball cap that can be worn(should is a different question). Caps pair well with casual everyday clothes, think jeans, t-shirt, and sneakers or some kind of casual pants and a jacket. Use your best judgement when it comes to the hat. There’s even a certain amount of charm and fashion in a really well worn hat with a reasonable amount of wear and tear on it.

Bucket Hats


Much like the pork pie, the humble bucket hat has been making a comeback the last few years. For as little trouble that you’d think bucket hats would cause, there are people out there that have opinions on bucket hats. Strong opinions. Assuming you’re not fundamentally against them, the big draws of bucket hats are their inherent relaxed look and the variety of patterns and colors they come in. For as relatively standard as other hats look, bucket hats have a ton of prints, patterns, and colors as options. The way we see it, use your hat to make as much noise as possible. There’s no subtle or quiet style to these, so commit to it, find an awesome pattern, and try to make your outfit match it instead of the other way around. Much like ball caps, there’s no black tie bucket hat out there. One big advantage of the bucket hat? One size fits all. There’s no head too big or too small for a bucket hat.


The last hat on the list is no surprise, our namesake the Fedora. No hat has seen its reputation slammed harder in the last decade than the fedora, which is a shame and we’re going to do our part to help make sure that it stops.

We want this.

goodfedoraNot this.



With its distinct shape and variety of styles the fedora provides a lot of versatility in making a style statement. A straw fedora matched up with a tee shirt, slim cut pants, and a lightweight blazer makes for a good casual outfit for summer time outings. The biggest point to remember about the fedora, or other shaped hats, is that they don’t automatically go with every outfit. If the hat has a defined shape to it, like the fedora, pork pie, or panama, you can’t just throw it on and it looks good with every outfit. It doesn’t need a lot of thought, but it does need some. Any sort of shaped hat tends to look better with slimmer cut clothing and matched to the color of the clothes. Ball caps and bucket hats can pretty much go with anything, although try to keep color in mind.  A few good spring fedora suggestions are our Bailey Suntino Toyo Fedora available in a few colors or our Tommy Bahama Wheatbraid Fedora Hat

Warm Weather Hat Recommendations

Spring will officially be sprung on Saturday which means it’s time to break out the shorts and sunglasses. When you’re bringing back your spring style don’t forget about one of the most classic men’s fashion accessories, the hat. If you already haven’t, expand your hat wardrobe this spring beyond just ballcaps and beanies. Here are some of our recommendations for hats for this spring.


The panama hat is a summer classic. Paired up with a linen shirt and shorts or a pair of cropped pants gives off that relaxed summer vibe. Panama hats have a history of being high end casual going back to the likes of Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and more. The panama is built to be breathable, light-weight, and with a brim wide enough to keep the sun out of your eyes. We recommend the Bailey of Hollywood Brooks Panama.


Fedoras have been making a strong comeback in the fashion world in the last few years and spring is no time to put them away, just change them up. With a variety of materials to choose from for lighter, warm weather fedoras your hat can show your ability to take something serious and make it playful. Our recommendation is this Carlos Santana Lotus Straw Fedora.


Maybe you want to throw it back old school and channel your inner LL Cool J and rock a bucket hat. As useful as they are comfortable, bucket are coming back into style in a way that makes those of that remember them coming into style the first time feel capital O Old. The Stitch Hamptons Bucket is our recommendation.


So there it is, three quick suggestions to infuse some new life into your hat game for summer.


The Changing Men’s Fashion Market


Men’s fashion has typically always been seen as the half of fashion that’s there because it has to be. It broke down to suits for work, jeans and shirts for casual wear, and then athletic gear. When you picture a guy in his mid 20s, you probably think of someone in jeans, a hoody, and sneakers. Recently though, the market for menswear is changing along with the tastes of millennials.

The popularity of shows with a focus on good looking male characters like Don Draper from Mad Men or Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother has influenced millennials that are beginning to enter the work force. The sales of men’s clothing has jumped in the last two years by 4.1% compared to 2.1% for women’s over the same time frame and is expected to increase by 8.3% by 2017. This increase in market has even changed the way they sell clothes to men. Retailers have realized that for the most part that men aren’t always looking to make a lot of decisions when it comes to clothes. They’re streamlining the process by picking the best options so that men can pick from a better selection.

The market is primarily driven by younger men inspired by a number of different fashions trends, such as high end casual and the lumbersexual, and are spending substantially more money on fashion than the same young 20s men of a decade ago and earlier. Retailers are expanding their product selections to include everything from beard products and fashion pocket knives to a resurgence in the popularity of fashionable hats.

T Shirt Cannons


It’s March and basketball is on the mind. Now that all the regular season games are done and we’re moving into conference tournaments, let’s take a second and slip into what I’m going to refer to as ‘Murica Monday and talk about the best part of any arena sporting event. I’m of course referring to things being hurled into the crowd using the high point of human ingenuity, the t-shirt cannon.

How did the humble t-shirt cannon come to be though? What visionary maverick had the idea to marry science and t-shirts? The most commonly accepted origin for the t-shirt cannon goes back to the San Antonio Spurs in the 1990s. Tim Derek, who played the Spur’s Coyote mascot at the time, describes the origin of the cannon as the evolution of what he calls the ‘slingshot era’, where mascots would use giant slingshots to shoot things into the crowd. There were some inherent flaws with this though, mostly they couldn’t reach fans in the back. Tim, a man who believed in the principles of fairness and equality, wanted to get stuff to fans in the upper decks.

With that thought in mind, Tim looked at the average potato gun and inspiration struck. Why not use the power of air pressure to create the ultimate fan experience? His original model weighed nearly 90 pounds and was powered by a backpack sized CO2 tank. It was an immediate hit with mascots all across the country. Like any revolutionary invention it quickly evolved into the form we see today. The cast iron gun and wearable CO2 tank soon turned into the handheld model we’re familiar with today and the ammunition changed as well. Now instead of just the traditional t-shirt, we see things like confetti, hot dogs, and burritos being fired into crowds. There are even t-shirt gatling guns these days, with 32 barrels of fabric firing fury to get fans into the game.


Weird Fashion Trends


Let’s be honest, sometimes fashion trends are weird or just plain bad. Anyone old enough to remember the 80s and 90s, that isn’t counting down the days until side ponytails and acid washed jeans come back, can corroborate with us on this one. While it’s easy to take pot shots at relatively recent fashion trends we can go all throughout history to find fashion trends that seem comically bad today.

If we’re going to go back, let’s go waaay back to ancient Egypt. Ancient Egypt has a lot of really good things going for it at the time. The Nile provides a lot of rich soil for plenty of food, they’re building pyramids that are still impressive 3700 years later, and they’re getting really good at drawing all those little birds for letters. One thing they are definitely lacking in a place, where 100 degree days are the norm is deodorant. So what’s an ancient queen to do when it’s hot, but you want to command respect through ability and not smell? Pop a scented cone on top of your head and let the heat melt it to make everything around you smell better, obviously.

Moving a little further forward in history, we have the powdered wig. In the Middle Ages, as was often the case with anything having to do with fashion, anything that proved you weren’t of the working class was the height of at the time fashion. Having pale skin, being “Rubenesque” to reach back to art history, or having long hair were all signs of being wealthy and in power. Working in fields or with one’s hands didn’t leave the option for having long hair that would get in the way. So if long hair is a sign of being wealthy, but you don’t have any, what do you do? You get a wig of course, and naturally you powder it to make it smell good and to deal with the lice of 17th and 18th century Europe.

Sometimes a fashion trend jumps from being a piece of functional fashion to being worn everyday, even if it makes life a little harder. The ultimate example of this is probably the use of Tchangues, or big legs in French, in the 1800s in Landes, France. Shepherds in the marshy, swampy area around Landes would use stilts to navigate the wetlands and keep their sheep in check, while the people in town would simply walk around on five foot tall stilts because they thought it was cool.

Weird Beauty Products

Sometimes we, as a people, come up with something we think is a great idea until we look back on it 20 years later and all have a kind of collective “What were we thinking?” This can happen in a number of different areas. Aquanet hair, Big Dog shirts, PT Cruisers. Everyone goofs every now then and that’s fine as long as we’re willing to go back and admit it and make sure we don’t do it again. One area that probably has the most misses is probably beauty products. When you appeal to people’s vanity you can try to pass off some pretty crazy things without being called out for it.


Nose Harness

Everyone has different things they worry about in regards to how they look. Some of us worry about things like our hair or our nose and in the 1920s if you wanted to turn your schnoz into a dainty little thing the nose harness was there for you. In all of its ineffective glory.


Chin Reducer

In the same vein as the Nose Harness, the Chin Reducer was available to solve all your problems with all of your chins. It’s as simple as “pulling the cords” as this ad shows.


Dimple Machine

Now some people wish they had something they don’t, straight hair vs. curly hair, beauty marks, or dimples. It seems a little unfair to call this thing a machine, but the dimple “machine” promises to give you dimples.


Beautifying Heat Mask

I refuse to believe this thing every started out as a beauty product. I’m pretty sure someone at some factory ordered 40,000 units of the most terrifying thing they could find on Earth and when they realized no one wanted that, they rebranded as beauty masks.


Facial Flex

Do you ever worry about whether or not your face is toned enough? Do you really wish there was a machine at the gym where you could really pound out the facial equivalent to doing crunches? Well congrats, the facial flex is a real thing and finally allows you to work those pesky, hard to isolate cheek muscles.

Modest Fashion


When you think of young people and fashion, do you tend to think of the word modest? Probably not, the image that comes to mind is something like high waisted shorts and tank tops. That image might not be quite right, though. Millennials are becoming increasingly supportive of the idea of modest fashion, where there’s value to be gained in covering up and adding mystery.

With the rise of platforms like Instagram and the ability for anyone to have a blog, typically religious Millennials are influence the fashion industry. Unhappy with their options for what to wear, these religious Millennials traded tips on being creative with what they felt they could wear and also let it be known to the fashion world that they were unhappy with what was out and to step up their game.

Not intending to make their faith the primary point of the conversation, these young women are having a noticeable influence on the fashion industry and more and more lines are recognizing the value of conservative pieces. One of the most well-known of these women is 19 year old Summer Albarcha, who runs the Hipster Hijabs Instagram that simply documents what outfits she has put together with a traditional headscarf. Trying to get away from the idea that religious dress doesn’t have to be plain, boring, or have a lot of buckles these women are showing that there are lots of options out there while also accommodating a modest styles.

1 2 3 16