Artist Spotlight: Bruno Mars

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You can’t turn on the radio these days without hearing the familiar bass drop and plucky guitar of “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars. While the song was released late in 2014, it’s upbeat, summery-feel, that sounds like it came straight from the playbook of Prince or Stevie Wonder. However, even the ubiquity of “Uptown Funk” doesn’t surpass the thing Bruno Mars has become even more known for in pop-culture: his ever present fedora.
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Artists and music icons usually have an easier time getting away with certain fashion styles, accessories, and headwear – they’re sort of expected to do and wear things outside of the norm. However, Mars effortlessly styles his hats with an array of dressed up and dressed down looks that are achievable by anyone, but it all comes down to having the right hat. Mars seems to prefer traditional fedora shapes in either a front-pinch or center dent crown, with a rather wide brim. Here are a few styles Mars has sported and some options that will get you uptown funk-ing in no time.

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For this brown, fur-felt hat Mars is seen sporting here, we like the Stetson Eagle for it’s simple style, mid-length brim, and ability to wear the brim flat, or upturned.

bruno_1This hat is another front-pinch, teardrop shaped style that sports a bound, rather than raw edge around the brim. The stingy brims on hat such as the Kangol Litefelt Player are generally worn turned up around the head.

 

bruno_4Another staple of Mars growing hat collection is this black, wool-felt hat with plain lines and a center pinch on the front. We like the Dobbs Fur Felt Dayton for its wide-brim and simple, raw-edge brim.

 

 

The Best and Worst Uniforms at the MLB All Star Game

There’s good news and bad news today, guys. The bad news: Today is Black Wednesday, the day without sports. No live televised sports will be on today. The good news: There’s literally nothing else on so we’re forced to talk about the MLB All Star game today. And then again to a lesser extent in October when the American League gets homefield advantage in the world series. Maybe that’s not actually good news. Let’s try this again, at least the MLB made the home run derby interesting this year.

With all 30 teams represented in the game it gives us a good chance to compare and contrast every uniform in the league at once. Because I’m doing this arbitrarily and I’m drunk on lack of editorial oversight, I’m going to do the five best and five worst.

The Best:

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St. Louis Cardinals – I loathe having to put these first. I spent a lot of time in Missouri growing up and got suckered into being a fan of the only team that hasn’t won anything since I’ve been alive, the Blues, but I’ve had to watch the Cardinals reel off championship after championship. These really are solid looking uniforms though. The logo design has held up for decades and managed to avoid going through any of the “extreme” influences that brought us Turn Ahead the Clock Night.
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Yankees – Not the first time to wear the pinstripe in their uniforms, the Cubs beat them to it in 1907, the Yankees were first to make it iconic. Their pinstripe uniform has been unchanged for nearly 80 years at this point and for good reason. When something works don’t mess with it. Which is exactly what George Steinbrenner told the league when the proposed Turn Ahead the Clock Night was pitched to the Yankees.

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Dodgers – When the only major change to your uniform in the last 57 years is the name of the city that you play in, you’ve probably done something right. There’s a common theme with all of the best uniforms in baseball, and sports in general, is that they have a timeless quality to them. The plain home whites with that Dodgers script is a uniform you can mentally place in any era of baseball.

Blue-Jays
Blue Jays – The only Canadian team in the MLB, the Blue Jays make it known that they’re a little different. The Blue Jay logo may have gone through some changes throughout the years, but it still sits on the chest, just under that iconic blue and white lettering. They may be playing on a field made out of old tires, but at least they look good while they do it.

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Orioles – This is probably a combination of personal bias and legitimately good uniform-ery(which is definitely a real word). The best use of colors that we don’t see that often in baseball, or in professional sports more generally, when you see an Orioles uniform you know exactly who it is. The return of the smiling bird logo and the Maryland flag patch on the shoulders means the only thing missing to make the Orioles more identifiable with Baltimore and Maryland would be to add the Natural Bohemian Natty Boh character.

The Worst:

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Marlins: If I could put them twice I would. The Marlins are bad at baseball, both on the field and off. The worst part about these uniforms is that the individual pieces aren’t that bad. They just don’t come together as one cohesive uniform though. It is less than the sum of its parts.

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Indians: On the one hand, good for the Indians to start moving away from Chief Wahoo. As a fan of the Washington Football Professionals, I understand the struggle of keeping team identity and also moving away from the unintended aspects of that identity. But a big block letter C? Really? And none of the different uniforms have any continuity between them.


Brewers: The Brewers are slowly starting to work their way back into good graces, by returning to the ball and glove MB logo from back in the day. But for now they still have six(!) official uniforms of varying degrees of non-descriptiveness. That word mark tries and falls short of being iconic, instead just coming up bland.


Diamondbacks: Like most teams in founded in the 90s, the Diamondbacks originally had teal in their color scheme. Somewhere in the 90s there was a graphic design firm that was actually owned by Big Teal, pumping out these logos left and right for newly founded teams. Later on they switched to having red as their primary color and immediately just became another uniform in baseball. And D-backs? Are you trying to get people to make fun of you?

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Yup, that’s about the right look to have.

Padres: I feel like I’m just kicking them while they’re already down here, but these are just bad. Remember OK Soda back in the 90s? It’s whole gimmick was that it was plain and nondescript and it’s logo was just the letters OK in block letters. The Padres uniforms are the OK Soda of MLB uniforms. When you see them you recognize them(because they say San Diego across the chest), but you probably couldn’t recall them from memory. When the best uniform you have in team history is brown, you’ve made a mistake somewhere.

 

 

 

History of MLB Baseball Caps

nats2015Once again this year for the Fourth of July the MLB is putting out special editions of hats and uniforms adorned with the American Flag, or the Maple Leaf if you’re the Blue Jays for Canada Day. Ball caps are a piece of American tradition at this point. After more than 150 years(!) of changing with the game today’s ball cap has a shape to stay on your head when you’re running after a pop fly, a longer brim on the front to keep the sun out of your eyes while you’re trying to track that ball, and, it’s most modern innovation, is made of fabrics to wick away sweat and moisture. But how did we get from the original ball cap with the pointed brim to where we are now?
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The first baseball cap that we would actually call a baseball cap was worn by the Brooklyn Excelsiors in 1860. Before the Excelsiors team would either wear wide brimmed straw hats, like one of our Scala Laichow Boaters, or skip the hats all together. If you think of baseball as a summer time sport like we do, just imagine those first caps made of wool and how awful that would be in July or August. For the first 40 years most innovations to the ball cap were solely on a player by player basis. One of the more amusing ones to think about is the customized cap of Jesse Burkett. In 1895, the outfielder, modified the brim of his cap to be made with a see-through green plastic to still block out the sun while still giving him the full range of vision. Sadly, Burkett’s poker dealer visor never caught on in the league. As machinery got more advanced and affordable to work with league wide innovations started to appear. The first league wide innovation was the addition of team logo’s to caps by the Detroit Tigers in 1901. Soon Spalding, the baseball manufacturer, introduced a stitched together visor which then led to having a two, count ’em two, colored bill. The industrial revolution may have made modern life possible, but clearly the advances it brought the baseball cap were more important.

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Our first thought of an old time-y baseball hall is probably the pill box hat that’s been in countless baseball movies and more famously Conan O’Brien Plays Old Fashioned baseball. It originally hit the league in 1905 and was met with a fairly universal ‘Meh’. Until the Philadelphia Athletics decided it was their good luck charm as they went on an unprecedented winning streak. Between 1909 and 1914 the Athletics won four pennants and three World Series. The style is considered so synonymous with winning that when the National League celebrated their centennial they wore the hats as a call back and continued to do so until 1979.

 
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It wasn’t until 1954 when New Era began to produce a new design called the 59Fifty, where the modern day ball cap would appear. The 59Fifty was distinguished by high front crowns and and extra stiff bills, compared to the softer, more form fitting hats from before. Over the next 50 years, the major changes would come through changes in materials and the assembly process.  In the 70s, teams began to use nylon, for its ability to wick away sweat, compared to traditional wool. More changes came in the switch from cloth to leather sweatbands before being switched out for newer high tech fabrics. The biggest change was the variety of hats available. In the 80s and 90s ball caps started to become more than just team accessories. The Montreal Expos were before my baseball paying attention time and I could still talk about seeing those three color hats as a kid. Around that same time Spike Lee was the first to get custom hats made from New Era, a red New York Yankees hat. Soon after team hats in variant colors would begin appearing in stores bearing the New Era logo on the side. Now you can go to any mall and see all sorts of team hats in variations and colors. With this increase in variety ball caps aren’t just for days at the park or out in the sun. They’re a year round fashion item, and we mean year round, just check out this Woolrich Wool Winter Ball Cap.

Worst Hats in NBA History

The confetti has dropped, the trophy has been hoisted, and the commemerative 2015 World Champions hats are flying off the racks. This year’s Warrior’s hats look pretty good. We could focus on the highlights of the series and the thrill of competition, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with hats and ultimately the Wizards didn’t win, so let’s look at some of the worst hats worn in the history of the NBA instead.

Yes, there’s a lot of Carmello Anthony in this list. Sorry, Knicks fans.

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This hat never had a chance in life. Putting it on national television was just unfair. The combination of all the different colors isn’t good, the patterns don’t go together, and it’s just bad all together.

 

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LeBron does a lot of things really well. You don’t get to be a multiple time MVP by being bad at basketball and usually those skills carry over to dressing off the court too. But just like you can’t win every game, not every outfit can be a winner. This hat by itself isn’t bad, it’s just a victim of the company it keeps. Wearing it wrong doesn’t help either. Hey LeBron, we’ve got some tips for that.

 

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For as good of a player as Carlos Boozer is, he’s been around for some impressive lows. The worst season in Lakers history, the trials and tribulations of a Derrick Rose dependent Chicago Bulls, this hat. Now it’d be one thing if this picture was taken the year Carlos was drafted, 2002. Exit Wounds had just come out and DMX was a culture mainstay. But no this was taken just two years ago, as shown by the fact Joakim Noah has his hair under control.

 

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There was just something about 2011/12 that brought a renaissance to the NBA. Was it the shortened season due to the partial lockout, the confidence from the emerging Kevin Durant, or maybe it was LeBron finally getting a championship? Nope, none of the above. It was clearly the nerd fashion movement that swept through the NBA and no one embodied it more than Russell Westbrook. Just look at that outfit.

 

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Sorry to pile it on you Carmello, but seriously what was the thought process here? You just couldn’t get Justin Timberlake’s hat from his denim prom suit? There’s no way to save this one.

 

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Bonus: This picture of Joakim Noah from the 2007 draft. Take it in ladies and gentlemen. That is what 6’11’ of bad hattery looks like right there.

 

 

Jurassic Park Hats

With Jurassic World roaring out to a record box-office weekend, we thought we’d take a look back at some great Jurassic Park hats that have popped up over the years.

1. Dr. Alan Grant (played by Sam Neill).  Dr. Grant is a paleontologist who enjoys hunting for dinosaur bones before being hunted himself.  He sports a variety of hats throughout the series, mostly wider-brimmed fedoras.  Starting off in Jurassic Park, Dr. Grant is shown wearing a custom-made straw fedora, or panama fedora, with most likely a horsehair hat band with tassles.

Dr. Alan Grant's Hat

Dr. Alan Grant’s Straw Hat in Jurassic Park

While we cannot find an exact copy, we do have two hats that are similar, the Stetson Retro Panama Straw Fedora and the Scala Grade 3 Panama C-Crown Hat.

In Jurassic Park III, Dr. Grant opts for an olive green fur felt fedora with a black ribbon hat band.

Dr. Grant's Felt Fedora in Jurassic Park III

Dr. Grant’s Felt Fedora in Jurassic Park III

The hat is custom-made and looks to be crushable for travel, but we do have a few similar hats, the Christys’ of London Fur Felt Foldaway Fedora in Burma Green and the Stetson Runabout Travel Fur Felt Fedora in Sage Green.

2. John Hammond (played by Richard Attenborough).  Attenborough can be seen in many hats throughout his storied acting career, but as John Hammond he first appears in a stylish wide-straw hat with a wide white hat band and a telescope crown (no pinches).

John Hammond's Panama Hat

John Hammond’s Straw Hat

We were able to find one hat fairly close in style to this custom hat, the Dobbs Florentine Milan Braid Bishop Pork Pie.

3. Robert Muldoon (played by Bob Peck).  Muldoon is the park’s game warden in Jurassic Park, and seems to be one of the few employees who realizes the serious danger everyone in the park could be in at a moment’s notice.  Muldoon meets a memorable fate, but is normally seen wearing an outback hat throughout the movie with one side snapped up.

Robert Muldoon's Outback Aussie Hat

Robert Muldoon’s Outback Aussie Hat

We have found an almost identical hat in our Henschel Cotton Twill Aussie.

4. Others.  There are quite a few other great hats in the movies throughout the years, especially in the original Jurassic Park:

Dr. Ellie Sattler's Cotton Bucket Hat

Dr. Ellie Sattler’s Cotton Bucket Hat

Donald Genarro, "The Blood Sucking Lawyer" wearing a classic Panama Fedora

Donald Genarro, “The Blood Sucking Lawyer” wearing a classic Panama Fedora

Dennis Nedry's contact Dodgson wearing a great raffia fedora trying to "blend in"

Dennis Nedry’s contact Dodgson wearing a great raffia fedora trying to “blend in”

Choosing A Pocket Knife

The New York Times just ran a piece on how pocket knives are becoming fashion accessories for men in all walks of life. It’s following the trend of other pieces of traditionally ‘manly’ fashion, like beards and flannel, making their way into the city dwellers wardrobe. As someone that grew up on an actual farm and has carried a pocket knife around for the last eighteen-ish years, both back on the farm and in the city, I feel like this is a good opportunity to give out some advice how to pick a good pocket knife. For the purposes of this, I’m going to ignore things like multi-tools and pen knives.

 

And here’s my big, covering my butt liability warning, rules and laws about pocket knives vary from state to state and even city to city. Always check these before you start walking around with what might be considered a deadly/hidden weapon in your jurisdiction.

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Now that I’ve covered my butt, the first thing you need to think about is why you want to carry a pocket knife. If you want one just as an accessory, that’s fine. At this point it’s really to up you what you want to buy. Just understand that it’s a knife, it’ll be sharp and it isn’t a toy. The gold standard in good looking knives right now is anything out of Chris Reeve’s Sebenza Collection, where each knife is customizable with handle material and even designs on the blade.

If you’re looking for a little more utility out of your accessories, here’s my breakdown on what to look for.

 

 

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Credit to KnifeDepot.com

Blade shape is an important factor in the practical aspect of any pocket knife. Realistically there are only three blade shapes you’ll see unless you go actively looking for them. These are clip point, drop point, and tanto point. As you can see in the pictures, the clip point curves up at the end while the top comes down to create a point. Clip point knives tend to be really good all arounders, since they have a sharp tip, a flat cutting edge, and a serrated section they can penetrate, cut, and saw. The drop point is a really simple type of blade construction where the edge simply sweeps up until it meets the top of the blade. The thicker point means that these are stronger when it comes to penetrating so you don’t have to worry about breaking the tip quite so much and because it’s just one long edge they tend to cut better than clip point knives. The last one is the tanto point and these knives are really only good for penetrating since the shape shortens the effective blade length and it has serration. Honestly, I’m not sure why these ever got popular, but just pass on them. My personal preference is the clip point, but that’s probably because I’ve had the same knife for over a decade now and change is scary.

 

As a quick side note here, there’s a lot of back and forth between serrations and plain edges when it comes to the actual blade. I’ve always found it useful to have the serrations, since they’re good for cutting through soft, odd shaped things like rope or the occasional tomato, and having the option there if I need it. There are definite downsides to a serrated edge though, when they get dull they’re kind of a pain to get sharpened. This really comes down to what kind of cutting you think you’ll be doing. If you’re just trying to get through plastic on a new pair of headphones go for a plain edge, if you might be cutting some nonstandard stuff go for serration if you want it.

 

Once you’ve figured out what kind of blade style will work best for you there are some mechanical issues you’re going to want to sort out. You want to know how does it open and how does it stay open(if you like have all 10 fingers, this one’s a biggie). Traditionally pocket knives open on a swivel where a stud on the blade is pushed out using your thumb. This is how you get that one handed, flick of the wrist opening to work. Just make sure the stud is on the correct side of the blade for your individual handedness. Some knives have spring assisted opening mechanisms, where once you open the knife from the initial position a spring finishes opening it. These are almost never actually needed and usually just add something to break. Once you have your knife open it can either lock open or not. Saying that the knife locks open just means that once you start cutting the blade can’t fold back and cut off anything that it isn’t supposed to. The majority of folding pocket knives lock open, pen knives or swiss army knives are the type that tend not to lock open. Every manufacturer claims that their space age, laser powered locking mechanism is the best, but they all should do the same thing so get a feel for it in a store or read reviews. When you have the knife open, try to move the blade side to side. If it has a lot of movement, you want to avoid that knife because it isn’t built solidly and it creates extra areas where wear and breakage can occur.

 

What your knife is made out of is also a big point of consideration. When it comes to the actual blade of the knife there’s a sweet spot for the steel used. Too soft and it won’t hold an edge and it’ll easily knick, too hard and it’ll be brittle and difficult to resharpen. Some manufacturers have gone through periods of corporate reshuffling and changing standards, so do some research online to see what people are saying before you buy. It’s not just the blade you need to worry about, a perfect knife that you can’t keep in your hands is pretty useless, so check to see what the handle is made out of too. A smooth handle made out of bone or polished wood looks really nice, but is hard to handle so look for something with a textured material instead.

 

Hopefully you can take all of this advice and become the urban woodsman you were born to be. And hopefully still have all ten fingers at the end of the day.

Summer Wedding Style Guide

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Wedding season is officially upon us. Save the dates are pouring in through our mailboxes and all of our friends are ‘considerate’ enough to pick a date they know we can make. So it’s time to start planning for all sorts of weddings; weddings in churches, weddings at summer camps, weddings in breweries(FYI best one so far), and more. With so many creative friends we can’t get away with just the traditional black suit or tuxedo. Well you can, but have fun in a wool tux during a Virginia summer.

So let’s breakdown how to dress for any wedding this summer.

Rule number one: Follow any rules that might be on the invitation. If the invitation has something like a color guide and you don’t follow it, congratulations, you may have ruined the wedding and there is absolutely no winning that argument. If the bride wants you to dress in purple and yellow, just do it, because that hill is not worth dying on and no matter what you look like a jerk.

churchweddingNumber one obvious rule out of the way, let’s talk about traditional church weddings. Since everything here is probably pretty standard you can go with the old stand bys. Black, navy, or grey suits are king here along with either white or pale blue shirts. Nothing particularly innovative or crazy here, but that’s kind of the point. Where you really get to show off your style is with your shoes and accessories. Your shoes should be a good looking leather shoe with actual laces, no slip ons or brogues here. Your tie and pocket square are where you get to go crazy and by crazy we mean you get to have a subtle understated pattern on your tie. Nobody said traditional was especially fun.

 

countryweddingLet’s slowly start working our way outside to the somewhat outdoor wedding. We’re talking about if the couple decides to get married in someone’s backyard or at some sort of resort, not trekking down to the lake. For an outdoor wedding you do get to show a little bit more of your own style. You can start adding some color to your suit, maybe even a pattern if you’re feeling so bold. A dark suit with an subtle plaid pattern is a solid call here. If you choose to wear a patterned shirt or suit, consider passing on the pocket square. Your suit material gets to change too. Since you’re outside no one wants a wedding guest to get heat stroke, linen and cotton are fair game. When it comes to weddnig style, the closer you get to nature, the closer you get to casual. A nice looking shoe in a neutral color is a good choice here and since things are little more relaxed in country, slip ons are perfectly fine.

 

beachweddingHow about when we’re actually in the great outdoors for that lakeside wedding we joked about earlier? How casual exactly varies by the individual wedding, but as long as you look somewhat nice you’re probably golden. I hate to say anything goes for this, but pretty much anything goes. A casual linen suit puts you at the more formal end of the spectrum, while an unlined coat and a pair of cords is perfectly acceptable. When it comes to accessories, consider getting rid of them entirely or finally actually get to crazy with them. Pick a pocket square with a strong pattern that matches the rest of your outfit, try coordinating your sunglasses with with your tie, etc. You’ve got tons of options here on this one. What about shoes for when you’re in the great outdoors? Depending on the wedding you can throw on a nice, keyword here being nice, hat. Something like a panama hat, this Rocky Mountain Windsor for example, with a matching brim or a casual fedora like this Bailey of Hollywood Straw Fedora for a little more upscale look. The only way to screw this up is by dressing too nicely. A pair of casual shoes or even sandals will be fine here, especially if you’re that beach or lake shore we mentioned earlier where the shoes might come off completely. Just don’t show up in the same shoes you’d wear to the church wedding we discussed.

So there it is, our quick guide for how to dress for all these summer weddings.

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.
    shirt-run
  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

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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.

Théodore-Roosevelt-Panama1

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.

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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.


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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

 

 

 


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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.

 

 

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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.


colorblocking

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

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