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Accessories

The Neckerchief: A Champion of Summer

Kamau Hosten

Despite the inclination to don fewer layers in the summer some, such as the neckerchief, are proven to combat the oppressive heat. Like much of traditional menswear, this isn't a new accessory or approach, just one that's stylish and makes sense. That should satisfy both the dandy and the pragmatist. 

Jacket: Suit Supply, Shirt and trousers: Brioni, Neckerchief: vintage from my mother's scarf drawer, Pocket eyeglass holder: Caruso, Rose lapel pin: By Elias

Jacket: Suit Supply, Shirt and trousers: Brioni, Neckerchief: vintage from my mother's scarf drawer, Pocket eyeglass holder: Caruso, Rose lapel pin: By Elias

This one, in green with a faint white windowpane was an old scarf of my mother's. The green gives the white shirt a necessary lift as well as compliments the high blue of the blazer.

A small scarf or triangle piece of fabric loosely tied around the neck serves to absorb sweat as well as protect the neck from the sun's rays. That's the practical end. The less pragmatic point is that it looks pretty damn good. The open shirt gets tiring, yet a tie is too much of a commitment during heat waves. Enter the neckerchief. It adds the visual interest where a tie would go, with a less formal feel, but still dressed.

Imagery of the legendary Cary Grant in To Catch A Thief, has been used over and again to emphasize this stylish choice. So, in a momentary dearth of creativity, here's the photo again.

The colors are complimentary, enough for you and a retired cat burglar. The idea is pretty simple though. The scarf may be wrapped, knotted or just kind of arranged around the neck. There are no bonus points for intricate knots, just a sense of relaxed confidence.

I know, I know, despite it's practicality, this may be a more daring choice for some men. I still encourage it. As with any sartorial step, make it once and see how it goes.

 

Panama Hats, A Summer Staple

Kamau Hosten

Though the pattern of weather sees spring transition to summer, it seems New York has gone from winter to summer, then back to mild winter. There was precious little time to appreciate those ideal, 70-degree days of April before temperatures peeked in the upper 80s just this week.

With that, I, like many of my clothing-enthusiast e-friends, have begun reaching for the time-tested, warm weather arsenal of gear. None top off the unlined linen and seersucker-champions of the summer-better than the Panama hat. To continue the pursuit that is menswear, I just needed to find one. Enter Flamekeepers Hat Club.

Flamekeepers Hat Club owner Marc Williamson displays a navy Panama Hat.

Flamekeepers Hat Club owner Marc Williamson displays a navy Panama Hat.

The Harlem shop, previously covered on this website, has grown in both stock and notoriety as it approaches its first anniversary at the end of the summer. I chatted with owner Marc Williamson, who’d just completed a weekend displaying his goods at a menswear-geared Pop Up Flea shop, held bi-annually in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York. Having now spoken with him several times, before I uttered a word, he knew I was in to ready myself for summer. And to the Panama hat section I darted, picking up a few. As I tried on the lot, spending far too much time in the mirror, Marc discussed the process of the Panama hat.

Panama hat by Flamekeepers Hat Club; frames by SEE Eyewear, jacket by Club Monaco, polo shirt by Uniqlo

Panama hat by Flamekeepers Hat Club; frames by SEE Eyewear, jacket by Club Monaco, polo shirt by Uniqlo

“It’s really a scientific process,” explained Williamson, about the production of the hats. Made from the toquilla palm, which is native to coastal areas of Ecuador, the weaving process can take anywhere from days to months, depending of a number of factors, according to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The open weave makes it a popular choice for the warm weather, as it allows the wearers head to breathe.

Despite the name, the hats are very much Ecuadorian in origin. Two widely accepted foundations for the name come from the hats being first shipped through Panama, then Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th U.S. president, being photographed in one during the construction of the Panama Canal. The name stuck.

Jacket by Suit Supply, shirt by Kamakura Shirts, trousers by Brioni

Jacket by Suit Supply, shirt by Kamakura Shirts, trousers by Brioni

The hat itself, often light in color, pairs well with seasonally suitable garments in lighter fabrics. Despite a sometimes lapse in formality during the warmer months, the Panama hat adds that touch, dresses one up a bit.

Darker options are often very elegant, and tow the line well between the seasons. For the follow up feature, I will explore the benefits of that route.

 

Photos by Bevin Elias

The 'Non Functional' Scarf

Kamau Hosten

Though the seasonal weather is rarely predictable, staying armed for it is the surest way to combat the conditions. Following winter is a mid-season of sorts. It’s not quite spring, but it’s no longer frigid. Whereas heavy overcoats have long been put at the back of a closet, linen jackets are not yet the norm.

Transitional dressing has been covered before, no doubt. Lightweight spring jackets, perhaps layering, are both fixes to this in-between season. With that, my best weapon during this period has been a series of thin scarves: silk, silk/wool or silk/cashmere blend.

Silk/wool scarf from J.Crew, Jacket and shirt from Barney's NY, pocket square from Kent Wang, frames from SEE Eyewear, lapel pin from by Elias

Silk/wool scarf from J.Crew, Jacket and shirt from Barney's NY, pocket square from Kent Wang, frames from SEE Eyewear, lapel pin from by Elias

Worn with a sport coat, they provide just enough warmth for the brisk mornings, and coverage from the whipping winds. To be clear, these aren't winter scarves. I'd be a fool to opt for one of these during a sub 20 degree day. A good friend of mine refers to them as the 'non-functional' scarves; since they provide little substantial warmth. To my point, they're ideal for these more mild days.

Silk/wool scarf 'Around the World' scarf by Monsieur Fox, jacket from Hardy Amies, Shirt from Kamakura Shirts, frame from Tom Ford, trousers from Brioni, lapel pin from By Elias

Silk/wool scarf 'Around the World' scarf by Monsieur Fox, jacket from Hardy Amies, Shirt from Kamakura Shirts, frame from Tom Ford, trousers from Brioni, lapel pin from By Elias

Silk and wool/silk blends work well due to the relative fineness of both. They're both soft in addition to being a stylish element to an otherwise muted ensemble. I look for a strong contrast when pairing mine with sport coats. Since every other component is toned down, the scarf is given greater emphasis; standing in for a tie or a pocket square.

Vintage scarf (taken from my grandmother), Jacket from Angel Bespoke

Vintage scarf (taken from my grandmother), Jacket from Angel Bespoke

New York certainly takes her time, tip toeing into Spring but these additions make it a bit more doable. Soon enough, though, it'll be linen season.

All photos by Bevin Elias

The One Off Piece

Kamau Hosten

Personal style has everything to do with what you, the individual, seeks to project through your clothing. It has little (nothing, hopefully) to do with what's 'on trend', what fashion magazines dictate, what a blogger's epiphanies of the moment may be, and damn sure not what the guy with 100,000 Instagram followers has on. Rather, it's reflection on your own experiences, travels, and received knowledge. That's why it is even more crucial to put a personal stamp that defies the arbitrary mandates of #menswear, many of which I've blabbed on about here.

One of my favorites pieces is a green paisley scarf that belonged to my grandmother. There's no fabricated tale about her handing me the scarf over in ritualistic fashion. Rather, I found it in a drawer and just kinda took it. It is a splendid combination, resplendent in deep, huntery green, royal blue and a muted yellow than teeters on gold. I took it, believing one day I'd be ready (have the balls) to wear it proudly.

Jacket by Hardy Amies, shirt by Kamakura, tie and trousers by Brioni, 'Land of the Hummingbirds' pin by By Elias, umbrella by Kent Wang, O'Hare tote by Want Les Essentiels de la Vie

Jacket by Hardy Amies, shirt by Kamakura, tie and trousers by Brioni, 'Land of the Hummingbirds' pin by By Elias, umbrella by Kent Wang, O'Hare tote by Want Les Essentiels de la Vie

That day came rather unassumingly. I pulled it out of a drawer and tied it around my neck and strutted out of my apartment. And, as any self-absorbed twenty-something, I predicted a rainfall of stares, mockery and false benevolence reminiscent of the emperor's walk about town in his new suit. None of the imagined reactions occurred, of course. I've been wearing it ever since.

I don't know the back story about it. I never saw her wear it. But it was a hers, and that's personal enough. Of course it helps that it is simply a beautiful scarf. One that doesn't necessarily go with what I'm wearing, but that's the essence of personal style. A sort of middle finger to the rather arcane guidelines many men fuss too much over.

 

Photos by Bevin Elias