Archives: Summer

Your guide to the summer sport coat

stay cool in a suit

The warm weather has arrived. So much so, that I am writing this article as I lounge at the pool. It would be nice if every office had a pool, and along with it, the flexibility to jump in whenever you wanted to cool off. But if that’s not the case, there is something else you can do – you can keep your cool by dressing smarter with a summer sport coat.

You see, in the fall and winter you can get away with just about anything. Want to layer a heavy cotton dress shirt with a vest and wool suit? Sure, go for it! That conference room is probably set at 65 degrees so you’ll be just fine. But in the summer you have to shed some layers. That means no vests, fewer neck ties, and unbuttoned cuffs. And while I plan to go on and on in a subsequent post on easy ways to stay cool, there is one item that I want to focus on this week: The summer sport coat.

I can’t think of any other item of clothing that can have more of an impact on helping you stay cool than swapping out your heavy suit jacket for a lighter alternative.

And as you may guess, there is so much more than just the fabric that makes a summer jacket a seasonal favorite.

That being said, I bought myself a new summer jacket this year. I think you’re going to like it.

I wanted something versatile and comfortable. A summer sport coat that I could wear not only throughout the summer, but also in the fall. And one that would be appropriate for the daytime hours, but also double as a cocktail jacket.

So, please allow me to take you through my thought process on how I selected my summer-weight jacket.

Step 1 – Summer sport coat fabric selection

First and foremost, you need to select a fabric that will breath.

For summer, you are going to want either linen, cotton, or some wool blend. Otherwise, you will invariably end up with a heavier coat. That won’t necessarily be a bad thing, because it will still be a great pick for the fall, you’ll just be sweating bullets for all the wrong reasons and find yourself waiting for the cooler weather to return.

Briefly, here’s what you need to know about summer jacket fabrics:

Cotton: A cotton jacket, or a cotton suit for that matter, is a great pick for summer. As you are probably well aware, cotton breathes like a pro and is easy to clean. It will be a little thicker than a linen or wool blend (maybe), but it’s a solid pick.

Linen: I know what you’re thinking – “But linen wrinkles!” Yes, it does wrinkle, get over it. It won’t be that bad. After all, you can always steam it real quick before you put it on and you’ll look and feel like a million bucks because linen breathes better than any other fabric, in my opinion. You will definitely stay well ventilated in a linen summer sport coat so it should come as no surprise that it’s a summer staple for most men.

Blends: Some fabrics will be a blend of linen and wool. This will cut down on the wrinkle factor and give the jacket a more “suit-like” look. This will make your jacket a little more versatile for say, evening events or cooler weather.

By the way, here’s a handy Daily BE episode that compares the look and feel of two seemingly very similar fabrics:

Ryan’s pick: I chose something in a blue so that I could wear it with virtually anything. Regarding fabric, I went with a linen/wool blend. I got the versatility of a wool blend and the great textured look of a linen jacket. This was a good pick for me because I wanted a jacket that I could wear into the cooler months. Yes, it may be a little warmer in the summer than a pure linen would have been, but I had a plan for that…

Step 2 – Construction

Something that not everyone knows is that suits have varying levels of construction. And by that I don’t mean quality (although indeed they do!), but that the canvas and lining can vary in their coverage of the jacket fabric.

Regarding summer sport coat jackets, you’re going to want to go with something that is “unconstructed.” What this means is that the canvas that usually covers much of a suit is now gone; you’re going to stay a lot cooler, after all, it’s one less layer that you’re wearing.

However, this doesn’t mean that the shoulder is completely unpadded. There will still be padding there, but it will be noticeably thinner than what you may be used to wearing. Again, this reduction in material will help to keep you cool.

Which brings us to the lining.

With most unconstructed jackets, the lining goes away entirely. However, here at BE, we use what’s called a “1/8 lining” or “butterfly” lining. This means that the lining is only around the upper back and around the arm hole because we want our jackets to still have a little protection from sweat, and also for aesthetic reasons. The resulting shape resembles a butterfly, hence the name.

Ryan’s pick: Unconstructed and with a butterfly lining (matched to the suit fabric, of course). I wanted to eliminate as much fabric as possible so that I would be comfortable sitting on a coffee shop patio in 80 degrees.

summer sport coat lining and construction

Step 3 – Style

Here’s the key thing to remember about the style of any summer jacket – it’s going to be inherently casual. For instance, with a fabric like linen or cotton, that means silk ties are out because the fabrics will clash in texture. Consequently, you’re going to want to carefully choose your style details. You’ll need to be mindful that the jacket is somewhat casual by default, but also realize that you can bend the rules a little.

Notched lapel versus peaked lapel

If you need a refresher on the differences between notched lapels and peaked lapels, take a look at one of my older articles on the topic, here. In summation of that article, notched lapels were versatile and commonplace, whereas peaked lapels were reserved for formal and/or bold occasions.

So what should you choose for your summer sport coat? Well, a notched lapel is the obvious choice. It’s going to be casual and versatile. But what about peaked lapels? Is that to say that you can never wear a peaked lapel in a summer coat? No, of course not. But you just need to be mindful that it’s going to look a little flashier and be more challenging to pull off.

Ryan’s pick: Notched lapel. A peaked lapel was just too formal for me. If I had a cocktail perpetually in my hand, OK, peaked lapel it is. But for the occasions that I saw myself wearing this jacket in, a notched lapel just made much more sense.

2 buttons versus 1

Similar to the lapel choice you need to make, the number of buttons on your jacket will reflect its level of formality.

1 button: A single button jacket is more or less a cocktail jacket. It’s cool and sophisticated in all the right ways. And because of this, it’s also less versatile. Many of my meetings are at coffee shops and folks’ places of business and so I think a single button jacket may look a little out of place. However, my next sport coat will definitely be a single button (and peaked lapels!).

2 button: Your more versatile pick.

Ryan’s pick: 2 button for its versatility. And remember, never button the bottom button!

Vents

I suppose there is some truth behind having better ventilation with 2 side vents versus 1 center vent. But I usually err on the Italian side, and so I opted for the single center vent on this summer sport coat. Just go with what feels comfortable to you.

How many cuff buttons?

Admittedly, this is a minor thought for some people. But for those of you that really want to take advantage of the power of bespoke, I encourage you to give some thought to how many buttons you have on your cuff. Four is standard, whereas anything less shows that you put some thought into your clothes.

Ryan’s pick: 2 buttons on the cuff. I wanted it to be clear that this was a sophisticated summer jacket. As if to say, “I’m all dressed up, but don’t take me too seriously.”

Step 4 – Details

Now is the time to have some fun. Summer sport coats mean that you can have a little more fun with the details than you would with a more conservative business suit.

Button hole accents

You’ll notice that I opted for a light blue accent on both the lapel button hole and the cuff button holes.

Regarding the cuff button holes, I was originally kicking around the idea of making each buttonhole a different color. If memory serves, I was going to go with one blue and the other white. But after thinking about it more, I couldn’t help but think that the multiple colors would end up being distracting, so I settled on just the blue.

And on the topic of button hole accents in general – when building a jacket, be sure that the jacket can stand alone without any of the colorful accents. In other words, a great looking jacket should look awesome without anything else and it should look even better with the accents. It’s sometimes easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you “need a pop of color,” and then you end up with something that is downright distracting.

Also, bear in mind that colored accents should always refer to your wardrobe. What this means with the subject sport coat, is that I choose a light blue color to refer to the fabric itself, and also knowing that I was likely going to wear a blue pocket square with this jacket more than any other color. Therefore, the accent stitching helps to integrate the whole look.

Besom pockets

I chose besom pockets for their nice clean look on this particular summer sport coat. Even though this jacket is meant to be a casual summer coat, the besom pockets give it a sophisticated touch. I think it’s in great contrast to the textured linen/wool fabric. They are also slanted because angled jacket pockets are one of the tell-tale signs of bespoke menswear.

It’s worth noting that with these besom pockets, you’ll be wise to not use them. The reason being is that since they are of the besom design, if you start packing them with your car keys and your phone, they will eventually “open up” and then they won’t lay nice and flat like you want them to. So keep them stitched up and they will look great.

And remember, you have tons of pockets on the inside of your jacket. With the obvious exception of your chest pocket (hello, pocket squares!), your inside pockets are where you should be storing your things.

summer sport coat

Wrap up

So, that covers the basics on how to choose a summer sport coat. As you can see, there are some smart things you can do to ensure that your coat becomes your seasonal favorite. Just so long as you stick with a breathable fabric and you request the unconstructed option, you’ll stay nice and cool.

One note on how you wear these jackets. Because it’s summertime and it’s hot outside, don’t forget that you wear your clothes, not the other way around. For instance, it’s perfectly acceptable these days to scrunch up your jacket sleeves for a short time (not all day long, fellas). And when the thermometer climbs into the red, loosen up the buttons on your cuff to promote ventilation.

I hope this article helps to shed some light on how you can create your own seasonal jacket. And if you’re still wearing the same suit year round and sweating your way through the summer, then hopefully now you are enlightened.

By Ryan Wagner

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Featured Company: HIM Clothing

I recently stumbled across a very cool tie maker in the Denver area called HIM Clothing.

The company is run by two entreprenueral guys – Hugh and Chris. And they have been making some big waves recently. After they attracted the attention of 5280 Magazine, I knew I had to contact them and take a close look at their products.

A few weeks back I sat down with Hugh Hartigan. He was smartly dressed and brought with him a nice looking briefcase filled with a colorful assortment of ties and bow ties.

Now, there are a handful of people making ties in Colorado today. So I’m no stranger to vintage and cotton neck wear. When Hugh passed me one of his ties, the first thing I did was flip it over and look at the construction. It immediately became clear that this guy knew how to make ties.

Suffice it to say, I knew that we had to feature HIM Clothing on the BE blog. Their quality and passion mirrors our own.

I followed up with Hugh and had him answer some questions for me…

[Ryan] HIM Clothing offers hand made neck ware and accessories for men, can you give us a little background on how your business started and what made you want to learn how to sew ties and bow ties?

[Hugh] My best friend, Chris, and I have always been artists at heart. We have known each other since kindergarten and we used to run a drawing club in elementary school. We went to different high schools, but we kept at it. I pursued painting and drawing and Chris started to get into music and ceramics.

We both graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2012 where we each received a degree in Psychology and I also received a degree in Studio Arts. Right out of college I decided to attend law school, but shortly after I started my mom lost her job and financially the schooling did not seem feasible. After getting a bartending job to help my mom out, I started looking into the fashion industry. I thought about studying it, but a friend told me that most schools were geared towards womens’ fashion and I knew I wanted to do something for men. One day I just tore apart an old Christmas tie and reconstructed it from the ground up. My mom taught me how to sew on the only machine we had available, which was a 1950 Singer Featherweight 221 (we still use the same machine for everything we make).

I made a few prototype ties for my friends’ birthdays to get a feel for the craft. After designing a logo and spreading it around social media I had more and more people asking if I had a tie company. A couple of months later I brought Chris on board, taught him how to sew, and the rest is history.

HIM Clothing - Noir Tie

Regarding quality, what is it that men should be looking for when they shop for neck ties? What’s a mark of high-quality construction?

Chris and I are constantly striving to improve our wares, so high quality is something we are consistently trying to achieve with every new product. We had actually studied under a self-made tailor who wrote the literal handbook on making ties. There are two crucial things to look for in a high-quality neck tie:

The first is the slip stitch. This is the largest undertaking of our ties and is the most crucial step because it is what holds the entire tie together. The slip stitch is a thread that runs the entire length of the tie, holding the fabric together, but also allowing it to slide up and down the thread. If this is done improperly, the tie may bunch up awkwardly when tying. Most commercial ties machine stitch the length of the tie and simply turn the tie inside out. This saves a lot of time, but drastically reduces quality, causing the fabric to have unnatural twists and turns along its body and affecting the overall drape of the tie.

HIM Clothing - Slip Stitch

The easiest way to tell if your neck tie has a slip stitch is to delicately pull the tie apart in the back where the fold is. Here you should see little bits of thread peeking out, which indicates a slip stitch. Some commercial ties have even developed a machine that does the slip stitch, however, there’s one more way to tell if it is hand made.

On either the blade (front end) or tail (back end) of the tie, you can pull open the fabric and check for a small piece of dangling thread. True handmade ties leave about half an inch to an inch of excess thread at each end of the tie, which gives just a little extra length for the tie to slide along when tying it. This bit of thread should have a small ball knot to keep the thread from coming undone, as well as about an inch or two of excess thread past the knot. This excess thread became a calling card for old tailors to show that their slip stitch was truly hand sewn.

HIM Clothing - Slip Stich and Bar Tack

The second thing to look for is the bar tack. This is a small horizontal thread that can be seen on both the blade and the tail. This keeps the ends of the tie closed and helps to maintain its overall shape. Most commercial ties will simply use a thick piece of string as their bar tack; a handmade tie, on the other hand, should have a more ornate and intricate woven bar tack. This is done by wrapping thread around a primary stitch to strengthen the bar tack, adding to those little extra details we love in our ties. Chris and I have been amazed at how complicated bar tacks can get and we are constantly trying to invent more intricate weaving patterns.

About how long does it take to manufacture a neck tie? Bow tie?

Chris and I have done what we call a ‘speed run’ to see how fast we can construct a tie from start to finish with each of us working on it. There are five essential steps to making a tie: cutting, stitching, forming, sewing, and what we call ‘details’. With each of us ready at a different station as the tie was made, the fastest we have made a tie from start to finish was about an hour and a half. Working on our own, it probably takes closer to two hours. When we first started it took closer to three, so we have made a lot of progress. A proper hand sewn slip stitch alone takes about thirty minutes.

HIM Clothing - Taches Bleus Bow Tie

Bow ties, fortunately, are not as daunting of a task to undertake. From start to finish, the fastest I have finished a bow tie is just under forty five minutes. This includes cutting, stitching, flipping, forming, and ‘details’.

With the warm weather approaching, do you have any style advice for men that still want to dress sharp, but may shy away from wearing a tie in the summer months?

Personally, I am a huge fan of bow ties in the summer as well. They are less intrusive and less cumbersome than a tie. They lend themselves to more sessions of spontaneous activity like a pick-up game of basketball or a bike ride. More often than not, to keep your tie from flopping around, you either have to tuck it into your shirt or take it off.  No such issue with bow ties, just strap it on and get outside.

My best advice for ties is to do something light. As is often the case with suiting in summer months, you want something that breaths easy like cotton or linen. You have to remember that this thing is going to be strapped to your neck, so you’re going to want some air circulation. Personally, I recommend our Essential line of ties. Each of them is constructed from locally bought cotton fabrics, which gives them a little more weightlessness. The color palette is also something I am fonder of for summer, with more muted pastel colors and minimalistic patterns.

What’s the future of HIM Clothing look like?

Chris and I have big plans for the distant future, including custom products of all kinds from shirts to boots to belts to shoe laces. However, for more current projects, we are sticking to what we do best: accessories. Chris and I have been studying different creative methods over the past few months, including wood working, metal working, and textile weaves. We are hoping to work with some other Colorado crafts people to create some exciting new products, including tie bars, cufflinks, lapel flowers, and wallets.

We are also planning on doing a line of ties with hand drawn and painted patterns from local Denver artists. In return for contributing their designs, we want to give 20% of the proceeds back to the artists to help them continue to practice their craft. Being artists ourselves, we understand how hard it can be to find success in the art world, so we want to try and provide an opportunity for those ‘starving artists’.

HIM Clothing - Points Chameaus Tie

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Contact Hugh and Chris by visiting their website, himclothing.com. And stay in the loop with their current events by liking them on Facebook.

Are you familiar with the brand? Let us know in the comments below!

Ryan Wagner

5 spring style tips for men

2015-spring-fashion

Winter storm warnings and 72 degree days – both within the same 72 hours. Such an unlikely juxtaposition can mean only one thing: Springtime in Denver.

The warming weather provides us men the opportunity to shed a few layers and remind those around us that we are completely capable of dressing ourselves.

But don’t reach for your shorts just yet. There will still be cool days ahead before the mercury rises for good. In this blog post, I want to suggest 5 spring style tips for men, easy ways for you to look your best this season.

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Two things you need to know for Spring 2015:

Firstly, a trend that is emerging is that there is going to be a lot of blue. Even building entire looks around different shades of blue.

Secondly, menswear is getting a little more manly this season. Now, I should be clear that a nicely tailored fit isn’t going anywhere, but I think we are going to begin seeing a bit of a rebound from the skinny menswear trend. All of those skinny ties and suspenders and belts are beginning to grow in width just a little. Belts are widening too.

The Takeaway: Come out of hibernation this winter with a renewed interest in your style. Shed some layers, rock those blues, and accessorize like John Wayne was looking over your shoulder.

Shirts

Choose a dress shirt with a collar strong enough to stand up all on its own and a fabric with some real character. Check, houndstooth, chevron; whatever it may be. You probably have enough conservative shirts at home, so make this the year you try something a little more interesting.

interesting-blue-shirt

Pants

Selvage jeans aren’t going anywhere, but consider adding another style to your lineup. Find something in a breathable cotton, like a chino. Or go full tilt and get some nice linen pants. And in case you were wondering, it’s completely OK to not wear jeans to the office this spring!

Belts

Good news fellas, that big belt you like wearing? Well, it’s finally in style! Western-style belts are back, so opt for a large buckle and something a little less shiny than you may ordinarily wear.

Shoes

This is the year that you need to start sporting some quality wingtips. And unless your feet are exceptionally moisture prone, skip the socks on the warmer days. Our stylish European cousins are on to something – going sockless is a great look.

Odds and ends

Get yourself a robust leather wallet, if you’re due for an upgrade (you probably are).

And start taking a fresh look at cotton neck ties and pocket squares. Warm weather gives us an opportunity to leave the wool suit at home and instead reach for a cotton or linen jacket. Consequently, the fabric of your tie must match.

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I’ll continue to write some posts on 2015 spring style as the weather warms.

Do you have a specific topic you want me to tackle? Let me know in the comments below.

Dress sharp guys.

By Ryan Wagner

“Your performance at work has nothing to do with the way that you dress. So why not dress like a million bucks?”

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Your poolside fashion checklist

summer-style

Well, we made it to summer everyone! Wash Park is packed to the brim, the 14ers are drying off and you just received your invite to a pool party. Time to pull out the faded polo shirt and ball cap, right?

No! Please, no!

The BE crew is here to help with your poolside fashion. Here’s your 2014 guide to the summer pool party.

1. Button down shirt

In the land of T-shirts, bro-tanks and the prolific Hawaiian print (we are a long ways from Hawaii, fellas), wearing a casual button down shirt will set you apart. Suddenly, you are the sophisticated gentlemen among boys.

A long sleeve shirt is great. Wear it untucked and then you can roll the sleeves up and unbutton the top button when the mercury rises. Linen reigns supreme for summer, but don’t discount cotton and cotton blends. Still afraid you’ll overheat? Then go with a short sleeve button up. Regardless which route you choose, be sure your shirt tails have been shortened. Otherwise, it’ll simply look as though you forgot to tuck in your shirt in the first place!

And yes, a few wrinkles in your shirt are OK for the pool.

pool-party

2. Shorts (that fit!)

When the sun beats down with vengeance and you’re trying to maintain a conversation it’s important you keep your cool. And for maximum breathabillity you need to bust out the shorts. But if you’re wearing a decent shirt, you can’t just pull out the cargo shorts you had in college.

Keep this in mind: Stick with a closer fit to the thighs and shorts that end just above the knee. Any lower and not only will you appear shorter, but it may seem as though you’re swimming in your clothes instead of the pool.

3. Decent shoes

It’s been said that the way a man treats his shoes is how he treats himself. Yes, hanging out at the pool is casual. But let’s not ruin your look with sandals you’ve had for 5 years. You know exactly what I’m talking about. And yes, you should go and throw them out right now (I’ll wait).

Whether you opt for flip flops, boat shoes or something more formal, just be sure they aren’t scuffed or faded. And leave the socks in your drawer.

4. Sunglasses

How can you have an intelligent conversation with the opposite sex while squinting into the sun? Unless you’re Clint Eastwood, you can’t. Normally, it’s a wise move to remove your sunglasses while engaging in conversation, but at the pool, you get a pass. It’s bright out and the reflection off the water isn’t making things any easier. That being said, pick a good pair that you like and forget the fads. Sunglasses are perhaps the least complicated wearable plastic to manufacture and yet somehow the most expensive. Here’s an interesting article on the subject.

sunglasses

What missing?

While we may not be able to teach you the fine art of conversation or instill in you a detailed knowledge of summer cocktails, we do hope that you’ll at least be well dressed. And that’s half the battle, isn’t it?

Did I miss something? What’s your go-to poolside outfit?

By Ryan Wagner