The Mailbag Lightning Round – March 2013

<div class='at-above-post addthis_default_style addthis_toolbox at-wordpress-hide' data-title='The Mailbag Lightning Round – March 2013' data-url=''></div><div class='at-above-post-recommended addthis_default_style addthis_toolbox at-wordpress-hide'></div>From tuxedos to sweatpants.  That's called range baby.<div class='at-below-post addthis_default_style addthis_toolbox at-wordpress-hide' data-title='The Mailbag Lightning Round – March 2013' data-url=''></div><div class='at-below-post-recommended addthis_default_style addthis_toolbox at-wordpress-hide'></div>

Some questions are better answered publicly since others might be asking the same thing, or, one of you has the perfect answer.  If you’ve got a style tip, question, or anything else you’d like to pass along, you can send those in here. If you’d rather your question not be featured in a future mailbag, just go ahead and say so in your email.  Feel free to hit the comments with other options for answers to this most recent batch of questions.  Top Photo Credit:  Tracy O.

Q:  Best Casual Cotton Blazer?
Left: Target Kensington = Rumple. Right: J. Crew Chino = Best.

Left: Target Kensington = Rumple. Right: J. Crew Chino = Best.

Do you have any advice on cheap blazers under $100? I’ve been reading on Uniqlo, JCP, the Target Kensington, and I’m at a loss for which one is ‘better’ for casual wear. – David

There seems to be a glut of cotton casual blazers out there right now.  Picking one is going to depend on how you define “casual.”  Less lining/shoulder pads & more wrinkles = more casual.  So some options:

  1. Really Casual: Try the Kensington or the JCP if you can get your hands on one.  Plenty of rumple, and they’re casual enough they look great with sneakers.
  2. Semi-Casual: The J. Crew Factory Thompson suit jackets in chino or pique.  Those occupy the rare sweet spot between casual and dressed up.  You can wear those just about however you want.  Wait for a 30% off code.  It’ll still be $100+ though. Review on the Pique coming next week.  It’s impressive.


Q:  Portfolio / Padfolios for the office?
Huge potential for $42.

Huge potential for $42.

I’m coming up short in my search for a quality business portfolio. All the options I’ve found either look cheap, or are excessively expensive. Do have any suggestions as to where I might find such an item? So far the closest I’ve found to what I’m looking for are offerings from Saddleback and Jack Georges. – Jeff

The explosion of tablets hasn’t quite killed off the paper notepad, but it’s wounded it for sure.  And Jeff’s right, there’s just not a lot of un-Office-Depot looking padfolios out there.  Yet etsy isn’t a bad place to try and find something for cheap.  Like this or this.  And then there’s the Four641 Cold War Map Case for $42.  11×14 closed with extra pockets and pen slots when open.


Q:  Sweatpants that actually look decent?
Yes these are sweatpants.  Yes they are $128.

Yes these are sweatpants. Yes they are $128.

Can you do a post on good, inexpensive sweatpants that don’t have a crotch that hang down to the knees, an ass that literally won’t quit, elastic at the ankles or Hammer-pants-like legs? And I’m not condoning wearing them outside of the home or gym, but even in those two scenarios where function is more necessary than form, I’d still like something that looks good.  Target’s got a Mossimo pair for $20, can you think of anything else? – Josh

Well, there’s these.  Sweatpants remind me of being sick with strep throat as a kid, and being more or less grounded to my room all day  (“if you’re too sick for school you’re too sick to run around!!!“)  So I gotta throw it to you guys in the comments on this one.  For working out, I’m always in shorts.  If it’s an outdoor workout in freezing cold, I’ve recently switched to running tights under my usual shorts.  Kept me plenty warm on single digit early AM runs this past winter.


Q:  Being stuck with a rental tux…
A Men's Wearhouse option:  Super 130s "Black by Vera Wang"

A Men’s Wearhouse option: Super 130s “Black by Vera Wang”

I am going to be standing up in my buddy’s wedding later this summer.  He has informed the groomsmen that Mens Wearhouse has been contracted as the official wardrobe provider for this affair, and buying my own just isn’t in the cards.  I also know that this day is all about the couple so I’m diving in with the rental.  All that being said, is there any way to improve the odds that I won’t look like I am wearing a cheap sack of poorly cleaned fabric?  Are there any tips for when I get fitted?  Try and size down?  If I go with my own shoes, would AE Fifth Avenues be appropriate?  At the end of the day, this a pretty small concern, but I would imagine that most guys would find themselves in this situation at one point or the other. – Greg

Greg’s pretty much nailed it.  Know your measurements heading in, and stick to your guns on them.  Try a size down. If it looks better, feels great, and the salesperson says it looks too tight, politely tell them it’s not.  Many years ago I walked in to get fitted for an out of state wedding,  got my measurements taken, and months later I was handed a 40L, traditional fit tux jacket.  I’m 5’10” / 165.  At the time I didn’t know my measurements and didn’t even ask what they were going to put me in.  The jacket was huge.  Now, Mens Wearhouse has started to carry some trimmer fitting stuff. So if there’s an option for one of those brands, try to land one of those.  Fifth Ave’s should be just fine with a good shine before the ceremony, unless the rest of the guys are renting (eesh) patent.  Oh, and smiling never hurts.


Q: Cold weather casuals that aren’t clunky boots?
The Land Rover of footwear.

The Land Rover of footwear.

It seems most of my casual shoes (desert boot, boat shoe, driving shoe, sneakers) are more summer/fall/spring oriented  although in Canada our falls and springs can be much closer to the winter than the summer in terms of weather. I could use some other options/suggestions… – Harrison

They’re boots, but this is where the jcp Camlin boot does real nicely.  With a synthetic sole and decent leather, I wore mine all winter with wool socks when there was less than an inch or two of snow on the ground (sometimes more).  Sure they got wet, but they weren’t destroyed.  Otherwise,  try something from the Allen Edmonds rough collection, especially the Kiowa or Big Sur, which both come with a lug sole (and now an extra $35 off).  Cheaper alternative would be the Sebago Brattle Oxford.


Q: Still a fan of stubble… tips for scruff?

Looks complicated.  It’s not.

You’ve done a few pieces over the years about stubble and maintenance… but the last relevant one I can find is from 2010. With the boon of clean-shaven articles, I wanted to see if you’d be willing to pass along any tips for those of us who prefer stubble or a shorter beard. Any tips for good trimmers, and maybe some pointers, would be much appreciated. – Ryan

  • This works well for me (but costs $50)
  • The longer you keep your scruff, the greater chance for an uneven look (6-7 mm is my sweet spot)
  • Do the bulk of your beard trimming in the shower before you turn the water on.  Keeps the sink cleaner.
  • Finish up in front of the mirror.  Look for strays and trim your lip.
  • Every three or four days, start with the guard set way too long.  Click down until you’re just barely catching the long ends of the fast growers.  Click down once more and trim all over to even it out.
  • Hit your neck with the guard set at 2mm, so instead of a sharp clean shaven line, it blends visually.
  • Keep cheeks in check.  Make a clean line with a razor & cream  1/4″ above your beard line every so often.
  • Watch below your nostrils.  Often the guard won’t let you get underneath there, so you have to be real careful and even those patches out without the guard off.
  • Once a week, get real up close to the mirror and tip your head at odd angles so the light catches the strays.  You might discover some 1/4″ black thing shooting out from the tip of your nose.  Tweaser time.


Q: Where can I get the plaid suit in this DSW commercial?

With the wealth of information that you have, and the acute eye for knowing certain designers/their typical cuts and materials, where the hell is this plaid suit from???  It’s the plaid one at the beginning of the new DSW commercial, where they also showcase their brown wingtips, which i must say are amazing for the price point.
– Cesar

Take some mescaline*, chase it with mezcal, and EVERY suit will look like that.  Kidding.  Bit of a minimalist here, so just know that the kidding comes from the jealousy that you can pull such things off.  Anyway, the model is the Banana Republic Mad Men guy.  And one of the J. Crew models is in there too (in the grey suit).  For the suit, it almost looks like a warm weather version of the Tartan Newbury from the now defunct Ralph Lauren Rugby brand.  Maybe something Black Fleece, Paul Smith, or Thom Browne would make?  Fellas? Any ideas?  Shoes appear to be the Aston Grey Mercer. Is tha… is that a purple poodle?

*That’s a joke.  Don’t do drugs.  And drink mezcal at your own risk for the love of all things good and pure.
Got a question or a style tip?  Send them in here.  Additional answers to the above questions can go in the comments.