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Clothing

Interview With Kamakura Shirts

Kamau Hosten

A few months back, Kamakura Shirts asked me to participate in an interview describing their shirts. Having established a good relationship with the team at the Madison Avenue store, I happily obliged.

 

In this video, the process and history of the company is articulated by the CEO Yoshio Sadasue. About a dozen shirts in, I can safely recommend them. There's not a shirt company that compares within that sub-$100 price point.

Take a look.

Summer Suit with Angel Bespoke

Kamau Hosten

Though the maxim for combating the draining summer heat is to wear less, the clothing-minded man will take no part in this suggestion. Although this is his down season, he has duly brought out his panama hat, string loafers, popovers and unlined jackets while cashmere rests comfortably in his spare closet.

Seersucker, solaro, linen and fresco are all king fabrics of warm-weather due to their breathability. Another, one I’ve just had made, a wool-mohair blend, has proved to be just as effective.

Needing something simple and versatile for the summer, I visited Angel Bespoke, opearted by Angel Ramos, who I’ve come to call a good friend over the years. Ramos’ house style, has a few immediate characteristics that appealed to me: soft shoulder, broad lapels, and nipped waist.

Wool/Mohair Suit by Angel Bespoke, Linen Shirt by Gitman Vintage, String loafers by Meermin, gold rose lapel pin By Elias, frames from SEE Eyewear

Wool/Mohair Suit by Angel Bespoke, Linen Shirt by Gitman Vintage, String loafers by Meermin, gold rose lapel pin By Elias, frames from SEE Eyewear

I went with a 3-roll-2, which is when the top button is essentially a design feature, rather than a useful fastening point. It makes a suit a little less corporate and softens up the image of the wearer.  We discussed lapel width, and I opted for a 4-inch with a higher notch. When the middle button is fastened it lends a dramatic appeal to the V created. Additionally, the relatively closed quarters (below the middle button) coupled with the slightly suppressed waist create a clean silhouette. 

Smaller, but more noticeable details like the Milanese buttonhole and operational sleeve buttons aren’t necessarily useful, but are touches that add a more artisan feel to this suit. The barchetta pocket, which is essentially a curved breast pocket, has a uniquely dashing appeal, especially when compared to its rectangular sibling.

The higher rise allows the trousers to fall more naturally. The inclusion of buttons for braces will ensure the cuff shivers just so over the shoes versus a lower rise, which will inevitably slide down a bit. What's more, the larger waistband is cleaner, giving the suit a uninterrupted look. Low rise waistbands tend to buckle under the pressure of movement throughout the day. What's more, when the jacket is button, a trousers with a proper rise leaves the suit looking finished. Lower rise trousers run the risk of leaving an unflattering bit a shirt showing when the jacket is fastened. 

To complete this summery look, I opted for a decidedly casual button down linen shirt and green neckerchief. The colors pair together nicely and are balanced by a simple white handkerchief.

 

All photos by Bevin Elias

 

The Gun Club Check

Kamau Hosten

With respect to the navy jacket and its versatile appeal, it does become rather a dull reach-for. For the odd jacket aficionado, a windowpane option, a houndstooth and the gun club check are all suitable alternatives to the always-tasteful navy.

Coat by Isaia, shirt by Kamakura Shirts, Tie by Josiah France, pocket square by Kent Wang lapel pin by By Elias,

Coat by Isaia, shirt by Kamakura Shirts, Tie by Josiah France, pocket square by Kent Wang lapel pin by By Elias,

However, when the large check teeters on ‘too much’ and a micro check doesn’t provide enough, the gun club offers that crucial balance. What’s more, the (typically) brownish tones lend a decidedly casual nature to the coat. The pattern registers as a near-solid from a distance, but on closer view the eyes get a bit of visual interest. The blue overcheck in the coat and that of the jacket are in harmony, and the seasonally appropriate tie is the finishing touch.

The check, according to author and menswear historian Alan Flusser, was a Scottish pattern, The Coigach, adopted by an American gun club in the late 19th century. The name became synonymous with the club. It's popularity as an off jacket continues, with the name firm.

Trousers by Brioni, monk straps by Howard Yount

Trousers by Brioni, monk straps by Howard Yount

Because of the neutrality of the tones, it’s easy to pair with equally neutral colors that pick up the coats base colors; the blue oxford here. The texture plays especially well with trousers in flannel and suede monk straps. Mid-grey and blue-ish grey trousers offer the nicest compliment to the pattern on top. That contrast is pleasing, as brown trousers may come off a bit too stark.

Reader Question: Coat on a Budget

Kamau Hosten

Question from a reader:

Kamau, 

I need to get a nice winter coat to wear everyday with my suits. I'd love a nice cashmere, but I know they're over my budget. What do you suggest under $500?

Damien W.

Much like choosing a sport coat or a suit, navy and grey are the best options for overcoats. During the three-part series on coats, I touched on the paletot, the single breasted and the trench. For the go-to coat, I would recommend the double breasted paletot, especially for use with sport coats and trousers or suits. However, since we're in December, the availability is limited in a decent price range, so the single breasted overcoat is the best option.

Either navy or grey will work will a multitude of suit options. That said, if your business wear is more formal (dark suits versus sport coats), then a charcoal topcoat will provide the best harmony, pairing well with suits and even formal-wear. The single breasted coat, provided it's a heavier fabric, should take you through the winter with adequate layers under.

Now for a few choices under $500. Suit Supply and J.Crew have some good options in that price range. Scouring ebay is risky, especially as temperatures are quickly dropping. Risky, but still worth a try. Local consignments may carry used, but more luxurious, options at a substantial discount.  For the safest route, try some of these below companies.

 Suit Supply coat ($469) is understated and practical. It's cut a bit shorter than a more traditional overcoat. The trade off is cold legs for a more trim silhouette. A similar option is available in grey.

J.Crew offers a similar topcoat ($495) with a more formal peak lapel. Items typically go on sale regularly and thus, the price quoted does not take that into account.

Bonobos offers a 100% wool topcoat for a just under the budget at $498. It's a simple three button, single breasted style that's innocuous and versatile at the same time.

Ultimately, for the man looking for that one versatile topcoat, the single breast is best, since it works with tailored clothing as well as sportswear.

 

 

The Winter Coat Guide: The Paletot

Kamau Hosten

As a newcomer to cool weather, I was ill-prepared. While I didn't quite freeze my ass off (a little bit of it is still there), the lonely topcoat I moved to New York with was less than adequate. Through enormous research, I narrowed down a few basic pieces of outerwear that should serve any newcomer well for a solid season. This is the first feature in the series on coats.

For myself, I've obtained a much heavier double breasted overcoat in the paletot style. The features being 6x2 buttoning points, with the top two not meant to be fastened, a center vent, peak lapels and a clean, beltless back. The beauty is in the simplicity. The coat has slight waist suppression, but still looks clean when worn over a sports jacket. Additionally, the styling works best with tailored clothing.

Hat by Selentino, coat and scarf by Brioni, trousers by Gant

Hat by Selentino, coat and scarf by Brioni, trousers by Gant

It is said to be 'invented' by 19th century dandies, namely the French count, Alfred D'Orsay. Nick Foulkes, author of Last of the Dandies, recorded that the count, who was caught in a rainstorm, purchased the heavy coat off of the back of a sailor. The vainglorious man-about-town saw a utilitarian appeal to the almost ankle length coat.

Address and age.

Address and age.

 

However outrageous his life may have been, the count was on to something regarding the warmth of this style of coat. Last season, I tried a slim, single breasted chesterfield topcoat. Not only was I unconvinced of my apparent hipness, I was left with bitterly cold knees.

The added layer of fabric and additional length of a double breasted coat are both practical and stylish. This coat proved to be sufficient on a recent blustery Sunday in NYC. With the bottom button fastened, the wind was blocked a bit more than the single breasted counterpart.

Rather than yank the left side of my coat taught over the right, as I did last winter, and futilely flip flimsy lapels up, the breadth of the lapels and the additional layer take the reins against cold. This solution will allow my gloved hands to slide nicely back into the pockets, one more layer away from the wind.

Photos by Bevin Elias

 

 

The Winter Coat Guide: The Single Breasted Topcoat

Kamau Hosten

Following a heavy, double breasted coat, a single breasted top coat is an excellent second option for the milder days of winter. This coat won't look as inherently dressy as a double breasted, opening the wearer's options to sportswear, rather than solely  formal clothing. Though the previous post was spent bemoaning the single breasted coat, it does have its place.

Coat and suit by Brioni, shirt by Piatelli, tie by Isaia, hat by Selentino, eyeglass frames by Tom Ford

Coat and suit by Brioni, shirt by Piatelli, tie by Isaia, hat by Selentino, eyeglass frames by Tom Ford

This style is versatile. The understated charcoal and herringbone pattern make it best at home over suits and sport jackets alike. The peak lapel is a touch that is always dressier than its notched brethren; it's just dashing enough. Still, it's less dressy than its velvet collared chesterfield cousin. The lapel rolls to the middle button, much like a three button jacket. The middle buttoning point provides a the sought after'V' which frames a suit jacket and tie nicely.

Wool pocket square by J.Crew

Wool pocket square by J.Crew

Among the advantages of the single breasted is the quiet simplicity. However, some men have allowed themselves to become hidden in lifeless, ill-fitting coats, the majority of them in black. Incorporating a texture or pattern like herringbone or tweed, in a shade that isn't black, may add enough personality for those willing to tip toe outside the box of conformity.

Bonus points for dressing the breast pocket.

Photos by Bevin Elias

The Perfectly Autumnal Pairing, Brown and Blue

Kamau Hosten

With cool weather making its official return, the opportunities for men who enjoy dressing are limitless. Layers upon layers of textures and richer hues than ones afforded to us during summer months are now a necessary armor against the elements. As a backdrop to the plums and eggplants, rusts and burnt oranges that no doubt line the closet of the well dressed, deep browns and greyish blues provide a quiet balance.

Brown Fedora by Selentino, Harris Tweed jacket by Bloomingdale's, Cashmere trousers by Brioni, Chukkas by Barney's, Umbrella by Kent Wang

Brown Fedora by Selentino, Harris Tweed jacket by Bloomingdale's, Cashmere trousers by Brioni, Chukkas by Barney's, Umbrella by Kent Wang

As we wade slowly into the not yet frozen pool of autumnal shades, I'm reminded how often nature unwittingly dictates our selections. The previously mentioned neutrals of brown and blue and grey play off the sky and its less sunny tendencies during the next several months. Additionally, browns, deep reds, and oranges are reminiscent of the bare trees and their newly fallen leaves, which will hopefully be raked by children more enthusiastic than I was.

Shirt by AM Bespoke, Pocket square by Ikire Jones

Shirt by AM Bespoke, Pocket square by Ikire Jones

These shades, specifically, play well off of each other with many shades of fall. Together, though muted, there lies a quiet elegance in the slightly less formal appeal of it.

Menswear Basics

Kamau Hosten

While clothing enthusiasts explore the most exclusive tweeds and bespoke monk straps in exotic skins, the man less versed in clothing is left wondering what is truly essential when it comes to dressing well. While we should strive to evolve in our dress and, more importantly, ourselves, there are some basic pieces that men can build on.

Suits

When it comes to wardrobes, a suit is the cornerstone of a man’s closet. The importance of a navy suit to the closet was covered here recently. When considering suiting options, a mid-grey and a charcoal pin-stripe are two strong options for a closet. The mid-grey is nearly as versatile as the navy; it can be dressed up, with fiercely polished black shoes or done casual, sans tie.

The charcoal pin-stripe can serve as a deal-making suit.  While this may not be as appropriate for an evening out, it’s welcome in a professional setting and connotes authority.

Sport coats

A navy blazer is the first step in building a wardrobe. Following that, a plaid, gun club check sport coat or houndstooth are the next options that lends themselves to a variety of combinations.

While casual Friday has been replaced with casual Monday through Friday, the guy who cares gives a middle finger to baggy, pleated chino and well-worn deck shoes masses in favor of thought-out ensembles everyday.

Shirts

In the spirit of oversimplification, one day shirt everyday of the week (7). Two white shirts, one light blue, one blue/white stripe, one pale pink, one oxford cloth in a casual hue and one check. Again, that’s merely the basic.

Neckwear

For me, the navy grenadine is the undisputed champion of neckwear. I’ve not encountered a sport coat or suit this tie wouldn’t work with. The black knit, brown polka-dot and grey cashmere are equally valuable additions. Add at (tasteful) whim.

Trousers

Grey and navy are the most versatile options for most men to reach for. Either pant would work well with a multitude of blazers and sport coats.  While one could break up a solid grey or navy suit to use as separates in a pinch, the textures of dressier fabrics used for suits can look out of place when broken up.

Casual pants

Two pair of dark jeans, two pair of chinos (light and dark)

Shoes

Past features here have included the essential black cap toe for business, suede lace up for textured trousers and suits, double monk trap for the jaunty side of you, and the suede chukka, tassel loafer and the adult sneaker.

This is merely about building a wardrobe. It may be overwhelming to attempt this in one sitting. Department stores tend to more fashion-focused, and thus one may be tempted by displays with up-to-the moment trends. Visiting a men’s shop or haberdashery, or having a clothier visit you is a more beneficial option. The latter, allows for the one-on-one consultation without the disruption of a store setting.

Three Piece Season

Kamau Hosten

Should the mercury in the thermometers (which I'm certain few homes still have) continue its annual descent, we're left with little choice in the battle against the cold. We, collectively, traverse the bone-chilling cold streets, swathed in natural fibers, stopping for occasional respite at obscenely over-priced, mediocre chain coffee shops. The enjoyment from this presumed misery for the dressers; the men who appreciate clothing to a near maniacal degree, is the beginning of the season of layers. Chief among these is the three piece suit.

I'm not suggesting that the elegance of a coordinating jacket, trousers and waistcoat are solely limited to autumn and winter, rather there's more of a need, a utilitarian purpose for them during these months.

Three piece glen check suit, silver handled walking stick, white linen handkerchief all by Brioni, white shirt by T.M. Lewin, pin dot tie by Polo Ralph Lauren, white gold Abielle bee pin by By Elias

Three piece glen check suit, silver handled walking stick, white linen handkerchief all by Brioni, white shirt by T.M. Lewin, pin dot tie by Polo Ralph Lauren, white gold Abielle bee pin by By Elias

 

There's a proper formality to the three piece. When the jacket is casually tossed off -or, ideally hung- the wearer still appears better dressed than his billowy shirt counterparts. More than practicality, it looks damned good. However, for the pragmatists, the additional layer, fixed closely to the body is another, more tasteful option to trap in heat during cooler months.

Consider, for the bulk phobic, a three piece in a heavy, say 18 ounce tweed, paired with gloves and a scarf may keep the wearer just as warm as an overcoat, but without the added garment.

Gold collar bar and lapel pin by By Elias, silk pocket square by Hermes, vintage mother-of-pearl cufflinks

Gold collar bar and lapel pin by By Elias, silk pocket square by Hermes, vintage mother-of-pearl cufflinks

 

This combination yields infinitely more tasteful results than the ridiculously unstylish, high-low trend of the puffer or fleece vest with suit I've seen on the streets of midtown Manhattan. My own predilection is to employ muted suiting fabrics, as I favor a reserved appearance. The furnishings are equally-and harmoniously-underplayed as well. All of this allows the cut of the suit to take the center stage in a way not jarring to the eyes. Details like the crocodile oxford and the gold By Elias pin are small touches that bring visual interest to an ensemble heavy in navy.

Three piece suit by A.M. Bespoke, shirt by Brioni, tie by Ike Behar, shoes by Brioni, socks by Bresciani, gold Fleur de lis by By Elias

Three piece suit by A.M. Bespoke, shirt by Brioni, tie by Ike Behar, shoes by Brioni, socks by Bresciani, gold Fleur de lis by By Elias

The season for adding layers is now. Rather than tip toe into the fall, enter pridefully with the elegance of a three piece suit, or the addition of one. Will a three piece make you look a little more dressed, a bit more put together? Certainly. That's the point.

Photos by Bevin Elias

The Right Collar

Kamau Hosten

I recall a few years back putting on a turtleneck, a black cashmere number from Brooks Brothers. I'd gotten it from my mother for Christmas the previous year. This time, though, something didn't seem right. I felt hidden. 

Such is the case with many of us who gleefully strut around wearing pieces that aren't right for our bodies. This is especially true with the dress shirt collar. A minor adjustment can yield more suitable results. It's merely knowing the shape of your face and which is the best collar to select. Personally, I'm still working out the kinks. I have recognized that my face will never elongate itself into a more modelesqe visage.

Take for instance the nominee for Secretary of State, Sen. John Kerry, a lifelong target of "Why the long face?" jokes. His point collar Turnbull & Asser dress shirts complement his longer face by continuing the flow.

 

Other men of power and influence, but of fuller cheek and rounded chin have opted for collar with a bit more spread, staying consistent with the width of the face. Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, utilizes the spread collar for his more oval-shaped face.

 

 Lino Ielluzi, owner of Al Bazaar, a haberdashery in Milan, and an internet god, has a quite full face. His cutaway collars have become part of his signature look, along with the 6x2 double breasted suits and coats and burnished monk strap shoes. Again, the width is in-keeping with that of his face.

The right fit requires us to forgo trends. Slim collars, lapels, and ties, on a fat face make the wearer look even more bloated. Creating a signature look that's entirely yours will outlast the trends.

This is yet another avenue where it's worth the extra money to go custom. All the details, including the important collar can be selected for the best fit.

The Winter Coat Guide: The Trench

Kamau Hosten

Before the end of November the gleaming lights and trimmings of 5th Avenue shops will attempt to conjure up a warm, rather cozy, if slightly manufactured, concept of holiday spirit. Truthfully, The Rockefeller Center Tree, with its own televised special complete with magnificent lights and pageantry is an annual tradition marking a true beginning to the Christmas season for many.  On the more cynical, though realistic, end of the holiday spectrum is the perpetual need for various coats to brave the the bitter elements. For the cool and rainy days ahead, the trench coat, especially the lined variety, should act as a first mate of sorts as we trudge our way through wintery slush.

With the cold weather staples like the paletot and the single breasted topcoat hopefully on the checklist, another equally important addition is said trench coat. The most widely accepted story regarding its name is that it was favored by British officers during the first World War; of which battle took place in trenches. Tan gabardine or cotton, popularized by Burberry and Aquascutum, is the most traditional, and historic choice, it's also the most ubiquitous. For the purists, nothing but khaki will do. Less popular but, just as appropriate is navy.

Unbranded coat (consignment shop), jacket by Isaia, shirt and foulard by Brioni, trousers by Gant, hat by Selentino

Unbranded coat (consignment shop), jacket by Isaia, shirt and foulard by Brioni, trousers by Gant, hat by Selentino

A cashmere overcoat and a newspaper held over one's head is no real match for the weather.  The basic construction of the coat itself; double breasted with storm flaps and wrist belts, all designed so water beads off the coat and doesn't get in, is a garment that came into fashion based on its utility. That, coupled with a removable lining can serve as a topcoat for the cool rainy days. When layer adequately, it may provide sufficient warmth for frigid temperatures as well. It's not the ideal choice but, it will work in a pinch.

Now, many design houses and fast fashion retailers have reworked the classic into a myriad of colors and lengths. Yet still, coats, especially those intended to protect the wearer from rain, make the most sense at knee length, despite what the trends may be.

A fourth option is the alternative coat. This green coat is wool, with a quilted lining. It is more substantial than a traditional trench coat but, with all of the militaristic inspiration and styling of one.

Coat by Brioni, Shirt by Kamakura, tie by Park en Madison Su misura, hat by Selentino

Coat by Brioni, Shirt by Kamakura, tie by Park en Madison Su misura, hat by Selentino

The color separates the wearer from the herd of black and off black. While it's not suited for the blistery days, it's ideal for odd jackets and trousers on calm, but cool days. This coat will be just as home with chinos and jeans, versus the decidedly dressier double breasted paletot.

Utility and style play well together in a trench coat. The military inspired construction is practical; keeping the wearer warm and dry. The styling, typically a distant second with a garment designed for military use, has become a popular piece since the second World War. Immortalized on screen by the Humphrey Bogart's character in Casablanca, it's become that rare piece with equal parts style and function.

All photos by Bevin Elias

Rollneck Season

Kamau Hosten

While quite short of groundbreaking, the equal parts style and function tandem of the rollneck sweater makes it one of fall's most welcome choices in a man's closet.

Jacket by Hardy Amies, rollneck by Brioni, trousers by Benneton, loafers by Alden

Jacket by Hardy Amies, rollneck by Brioni, trousers by Benneton, loafers by Alden

The rollneck, or turtleneck, sweater has maintained its standing over the decades for most men. That is, it's a wonderful fall and winter asset for the man with a longer, thin neck. It serves as a shield against the wind in place of a scarf on mild days, and one more layer (under a scarf) on cooler days. Additionally, for the man with a longer neck, it can deemphasize this. Whereas a crewneck or v-neck sweater opens up, further elongating the face a neck, helpful for the man with a shorter neck and more, um, solid face and head.

It's best paired with odd jackets and trousers. Certainly a tweed jacket and a rollneck conjure up images of a college professor, which isn't a bad look to have. The style is less formal than its v-neck cousin, due to the lack of available space for a shirt and tie. Which means, it doesn't lend itself well to use with worsted suits but, certainly more fabrics with more substantial texture.

In cashmere, a blend or merino wool, the thinner the sweater, the dressier it is. Just as with a shirt and necktie, keep in mind harmony, since the focus will be on the sweater. Unless you're going for a militant look, the dark on dark is less flattering than Dead Presidents makes it seem. Plus, if you opt for merino wool, robbery will be less necessary to afford one.

This is high season for the rollneck. Participate.

Photos by Bevin Elias