Yoda was Wrong

4 February, 2012

There is a try.

My wife and I were out for dinner last night for her birthday. I found a restaurant in Salt Lake that had a very private atmosphere and would be a nice place to eat without breaking the bank. I love going to a good restaurant and tasting the difference between a real strip loin steak and the crap you get at Chili’s on an average weekend. We eat out less often so we can get more bang for our buck when we do.

We were tucked into a corner table where we had a decent view of all the other people in the restaurant and it was a nice enough place that the majority of people there were relatively dressed up. No suits and ties on the men, but a lot of dress shoes, dark jeans and sweaters.

Two tables down from us we spotted a relatively young couple who looked to be on a first date. They were probably both 21 or 22. The girl looked as dressed as most of the other women in the place – skirt, tights, boots, hair done, etc. (It really is nice to live in a city where there are so many thin, attractive women who take care of themselves.)

Her date, on the other hand, looked like a complete disaster. The kid was scrawny to the point of looking like he was almost sick. He had on a short-sleeve, button-up shirt that was some muted maroon and he had every single button done up without a tie on. Over that he had a brown vest that was too small and showed his shirt billowing out above his pants; generic leather belt and brown, pleated pants that were twice as baggy as they needed to be.

The funny thing about this kid though is that you could tell he was dressing up better than those around him. He wasn’t trying to be as casual as possible while staying within the acceptable bounds as most of the other men looked to be doing, he was making an honest effort to dress up.

My wife and I both instantly liked him. It got us talking about seeing those same efforts in other aspects of life. A huge example for me is when I work with people who don’t speak English. It frustrates me to no end when I sit down with a customer who knows I speak Spanish and makes zero effort to even address me in English. Every minute with them is irritating. But when I have a customer come in who speaks terrible English and insists on speaking English, I will spend two hours with him making every effort I can to make sure we understand each other. My respect for someone who at least makes the effort to try is so much more than for someone who’s too scared or too arrogant not too.

Dressing well is similar to learning a new language, at first you’re going to make a lot of hilarious and embarrassing mistakes. Then the mistakes will even out with your actual knowledge. If you get over the trepidation and really commit to it, eventually your experience and know-how will outweigh your mistakes and finally you won’t make any at all. Knowing that someone is going to respect a failed effort more than no effort at all should make it even easier to start trying to improve on your outward appearance.

What do you think?

27 January, 2012

With both the recession and an ever-growing awareness of the villification of all things masculine, men’s style has started turning back to its roots within the last few years. There’s been a huge increase in both the focus on quality and the aesthetic aspects of things that men wore in more masculine and affluent times.

I’ve talked before about shows like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire having a sartorial effect on what men are starting to wear and what’s being offered (Banana Republic had an entire Mad Men line of clothes for a while); and I personally look forward to a time when a man under 50 can wear a mustache without it looking goofy/ironic/hipster.

So I’ve seen pictures of this guy over the last few months and can’t quite make up my mind about his overall style. Part of me really likes that he’s dressing in such a masculine and traditional way, but so much of it can seem forced or costumey. And looking at the guy, where he’s from and the circles he runs in, I doubt he’s going to be picking bar fights, spitting tobacco or acting the chauvanist anytime soon.

Proper Collar Pop

26 January, 2012

Yes there’s a right way to do it and no it does not involve a polo shirt. Have you ever wondered why shirts even come with collars? They feel restrictive. They’re superfluous fabric. It’s an extra thing to iron. It seems like we’d be better off not having to wear them. The thing about the collar though is that it does exactly what good clothing is supposed to do – draw attention to the features of the person wearing them.

A collar is like the frame of a picture – without one it looks unfinished. Too much and it overpowers the picture by drawing focus to the frame itself. A good collar and a good frame enhance the appearance of what they’re framing without drawing any attention to themselves.

What’s the first thing you see when you look at this guy?


Everything about this is wrong. But the collar is the first thing to jump out at you. It takes a minute to see him.

Contrast that with these two.

Crisp shirts with collars that frame perfectly. Being a movie star helps but you get the point.

Just wearing a button-up shirt won’t do that for you though. Unless you prop up your collar the correct way, it’ll get lost underneath your jacket like this.


Enter the collar stay. These are little pieces of plastic you slide in your collar to keep it from hiding under or popping in front of your jacket lapel when you’re tieless, or from having the tips of your collar roll up when you’re wearing a tie.


You can find little jars like this in almost any clothing store. I found mine at Brooks Brothers but have seen them at places like J Crew and Banana Republic. Mine came with about 15 pairs in three different sizes and cost me less than five bucks. These are what you want to wear any time you have a tie on and do a decent job of keeping your collar sharp when you don’t have a tie, but they’re not quite as good as what you see on the Ocean’s gentlemen.


For that you have to make a bit more of an investment. It’s more than worth it though. In fact, I’m working on a post that includes the top 25 essentials any man should have in his wardrobe and these are one of them.

They’re called Wurkin Stiffs and essentially they’re metal collar stays with a powerful magnet you use to keep them attached where you want on your shirt. The price is a bit daunting. If I remember right, I paid about $25 for mine and got them at Nordstrom Rack but they’ve been worth every penny. It’s the small and subtle things that can really set you apart and these are a great way to step up your style game. And remember to keep that second button undone.




* I have not been offered anything from Wurkin Stiffs to endorse their product. They don’t even know I exist.