Men’s Style Jargon 101

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Two guys who really like style could carry on a conversation that would sound like code to the average person.  Welted Monks?  Were they assaulted??  Even if you’ve been on board with the entire dressing “well” thing for awhile, some terms can slip through the cognitive cracks.  And asking what means what can often result in snooty responses from snobs.  Additions are more than welcome in the comments section.

Cordovan – Horse butt.  Really.  It’s almost a euphemism because many feel much more comfortable wearing hamburgers on their feet instead of Barbaro.  Incredibly expensive because it’s incredibly durable yet smooth and has good give to it.  It’s also rare and difficult to produce.  Some pronnounce it “cord-uh-vin” while others pronounce it “cor-dough-van”

Oxford Shoe -  A dress shoe with closed lacing where the eyelet flaps do not sit unrestrained on top of the shoe.  Shoes with open lacing are called either derbys or bluchers.

Brogue - A type of cap-toe or wingtip shoe with perforated details and pinked (saw-tooth) edges.  These shoes often consist of many layers of leather stacked on top of each other.  Originally created as a more sturdy shoe for men walking through bogs and wet fields in the country, with the extra leather offering protection and the perforations providing drainage.  Thus, many still considered brogues’s to lean more casual on the men’s dress shoe scale.  Note that not all brogues are wingtips (see below.)

Goodyear Welt - A type of stitched welt that is popular thanks to its durable nature and the ability to resole the shoe again and again.  Almost all inexpensive shoes have a bonded (glued) construction.  With a stitched welt, the upper is stitched to the outsole.  When the sole wears out, the stitches are undone and a new one can be put on.  The Goodyear Welt is one of a few ways to stitch the outsole to the upper of a shoe.

Button Down - A type of collared shirt with buttons that keep the collar’s points in place.

Button Up - A type of shirt that closes in the front with buttons (as opposed to snaps, a zipper, twist ties, or maybe it doesn’t close in the front and it’s just a pull-over.)  Some take exception to the usage of “button down” to describe a “button up” shirt that doesn’t have buttons for the collar.

OCBD - Abbreviation for: Oxford Cloth Button Down.

Box Pleat - A way of gathering fabric on the back of a shirt to make it move easier with the wearer as well as slim down its appearance.  Located at the center of the upper back

Side Pleats - Another way of gathering fabric on the back of a shirt.  Instead of only an inch or two apart, each pleat sits over the shoulder blade instead of running down the spine.

A box pleat and locker loop on the back of a Merona OCBD

Unstructured - Usually in reference to a jacket or blazer that has no shoulder pads and as little lining as possible.  Great for guys who already have strong shoulders and don’t need any padding.

Canvassed - A type of suit jacket construction that places a floating chest piece (traditionally horse hair) between the outer and inner layers of suiting fabric.  More expensive to create, but eventually the chest piece conforms to the wearers torso and the jacket takes on a fit like a pair of broken in shoes.  These jackets are also much more durable than cheaper, non-canvassed jackets.

High Armholes -  When the circumference of the armholes on a jacket is decreased to allow greater movement of the wearer’s shoulder.  The seam under the arm sits closer to the arm pit of the wearer instead of farther down on the torso of the jacket.  This prevents the entire body of the jacket from moving greatly when the wearer moves his arms.  Not desireable on outerwear intended to be worn over  suit jackets and blazers, since the small arm opening will often bunch up on the shoulder pad of jacket underneath.

Fused - The cheaper non-canvassed jackets.  The outer fabric and inner fabric are glued together.  Almost all suits under $350 are fused.  Plenty of men can get by with a great looking fused suit jacket, as long as he treats it gently and avoids having it drycleaned unless absolutely neccessary.  The heat from the dry cleaning process can eventually break down the fusing.  Once that happens, it can melt and redistribute between the layers of fabric, eventually pooling and drying into goofy looking wrinkles.

3/2 Roll -  A three button lapel design on some suit jackets, blazers, and sportcoats, where the topmost button is never used, but instead rolls to the side elongating the lapel and giving the jacket a 2-button like stance.

On a 3/2 roll, the top button hole is visible, while the top button is now “under” the rolled lapel.

Surgeon’s Cuffs - AKA functioning sleeve buttons on a jacket.  Originally allowed military surgeons to roll up their sleeves and get bloody without having to remove their jacket.  Later became a sign of a well-made jacket, and the detail has since been adopted by more affordable retailers.  Problem is, it makes the sleeves a pain to alter if not totally impossible.

Worsted - A type of wool fabric that’s woven from two colors of thread.  The threads alternate on the fabric, giving it the appearance of greater depth.  White + Black can often make grey, but worsted fabrics will often use two different shades (light grey + charcoal) to tone down the appearance.  UPDATE:  As MagM points out, “worsted” most accurately describes worsted-spun yarn, which has been combed so all of the fibers are running neatly in the same direction.  Worsted yarn doesn’t have to make up a two-toned sharskin fabric as described above, but it seems that more are starting to refer to it this way.  Thanks to him in the comments for the additional info.

Chambray - Similar to worsted in that there are different colors of thread that end up making one overall color of fabric when viewed at a distance.  Looks a little like denim, but usually much, much lighter weight.

Selvedge/Selvage - Almost always in reference to denim and how the fabric on these jeans comes to a neat, clean, “self edge”.  Usually showcased by a white & red edge that some show off via cuffs.

 Left: Non-selvedge on a pair of 501s. Right: Selvedge is easy to spot  (right photo credit)

Plenty of us took a good long while to pick up on all these terms.  Did you get it all right away?  Still confused by some of the never-ending supply of style jargon?  Leave it all in the comments section.

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