With baseball’s best taking a break this week to play the Midsummer Classic, now’s as good a time as ever to take a look back at the first half of the year. Unlike the All-Star game, no retailer can get home field advantage in next year’s Store Wars Competition via this list. And yes, MLB is still using that goofy rule. Like some of the ball-playing all stars, these are the best of the best… so the cost might be a touch higher than average.
Best Sportcoat: J. Crew’s Italian Cotton Unlined Blazer
So stinkin’ simple. You’d think other retailers would be able to find a way to make something similar. Sold out now, but this thing is/was completely unlined (except the sleeves), came in a nice true-blue instead of the standard navy, and was just a bit heavier than shirt weight… so not heavy at all. Button stance was perfect, and even though it’s a Ludlow, the tail wasn’t too short (lookin’ at you UNIQLO.) The fact that it was made in exact chest sizes (38, 40, 42, etc…) instead of the usual Small, Medium, & Large was also a real big plus. Also receiving votes: The Joseph Abboud Ultra-Light, and Stafford’s Cold Weather Camel Hair
Remember these? Sure, they’re still carrying a couple (read: 2) options in their $399 “blue” line, but man… when they launched this new price point there was 9 different suits to pick from. All at just under four hundred bucks. Seemingly same quality as their $469-$499 suits as well, just a bit cheaper thanks to the bulk fabric purchasing strategy. Please bring em’ back Suitsupply. Or hell, what about reopening that there online outlet? Eh? Remember that from 2013?
Best Dress Shirt: Ledbury’s White or Light Blue Twills ($75 when you’ve got a deal)
Seems like Ledbury has ramped up the use of their codes & promos both on their own site, as well as through flash sale sites like Rue La La. A voucher will usually cost you $75 (for $150 in credit), but you get a lot of shirt for that $75. Terrific fabrics, a lowered second button, great collars, and a decently slim fit. Also receiving votes: the John W. Nordstrom Slim Fit Dress Shirt (currently on sale), and ratio/clothing’s line of dress shirts.
Best Casual Shirt: UNIQLO’s Button Down Polo – $14.90 or OCBD – $29.90
It’s hard to beat the combination of fit, functionality, and price when it comes to UNIQLO’s offerings in the button down shirt market. Whether it’s their long sleeved OCBD or the short sleeves on their button down collar dry-fabric polo, they’re winners at full price, let alone the super-cheap prices they drop to during sales.
Best Pants: Bonobos Oxleys – $58.50 – $98
As pointed out in the comments on previous posts, it sure seems like Bonobos stiffened up (hey, easy now) the fabric this year. They’re still perfect for summer and far from rigid, but they’re not as buttery soft as last year’s run. Maybe some complained about how last year they were a little too casual? Anyway, still fantastic pants. Best to keep an eye on the sale section, wait for an extra 20% or 25% off code (like the one they’re running now: SPF25 ), and you should be able to get them for under $60. Now if Target could just make their oxford cloth shorts in pant form, we’d have a cheap option.
Best Shoes: DSW Aston Grey Single Monk Strap – $89.95
If you’re even slightly open to the idea of monk straps, then these are worth a shot. The suede, solid feel, and great toe shape make these things a versatile winner. No, really… dressed up or dressed down, in warm weather or once it cools off. Also receiving votes: The Allen Edmonds for Brooks Brothers 5th Ave. & Strands 2nds that were going for $169 back in May… but those went real quick. Also, the Stafford Logan. Wish it was an oxford though.
Best Wallet/Card Case: Mitchell Leather Co. Money Clip Wallet
Yes, this is the second mention in as many days, but it’s a game-changer. More info over here.
No, it’s not a leather dress belt, so it’s use is limited, but it’s extremely useful in the warmer months when leather belts take a back seat. Twenty bucks. Ships free. Made in the USA.
Long gone, but the C Ward “nearly new” sales offer serious discounts on watches that are all but brand new. For example, the above stunner was $295 (a lot for a quartz) and dropped to $200 with the nearly-new sale. Yes, still a lot for a quartz, but the styling is dead on perfect for many. Plus, the chronograph comes in handy from time to time. Also receiving votes: The 80 hr power reserve Tissot Carson, Orient’s Explorer Automatic.
Shoebank.com! YES. The old system was to email AE customer service whenever one of these outlet sales came up, and you got a text-only database sent back to you in your selected size. Now they’ve got a whole browseable website devoted to their 2nds quality inventory. Makes it a ton easier. Also recieving votes: The Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale for Men.
Best Sunglasses: American Optical Original Pilot Black Frame – $50ish
Completely classic shape, made in three sizes (52, 55, and 57mm), and the all black frames knocks the shine down to a minimum. Less rock-star/playboy/brah/bro chrome.
Best Briefcase: Saddleback Thin Brief (shown, 3 years in)
No, it’s hardly a new arrival/”breakout” star of 2014… but it’s one of the few items that many of us are chasing, and once we acquire it, we probably won’t have to buy anything else to fill it’s place (whether by need, or desire) ever again. See the 3 year (of 99) review over here.
Best Piece of Luggage: Beckel Canvas War Bag – $72.00
Bigger than most and by far one of the most affordable. Made in Oregon. Not a lot of frills, but still a handsome bag. Made in four different colors. Leather reinforcements at stress points. Know that if you want the shoulder strap, you need to shell out an extra $10.
Best Use of Iambic Pentameter in a Long Term Test Update: Stafford Camlin
Best Goal Watch: Hamilton Jazzmaster Maestro Automatic Chronograph
Not affordable. But, set big goal, work towards big goal, achieve big goal and… reward thyself. Set another big goal, and repeat if desired. Not the easiest to find online. Save-worthy, but save-necessary at four digits. Pretty big at around 44 – 45 mm, so know that it’s not gonna look right on those with smaller sized wrists. Runs on the Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph movement that’s dependable and plenty snappy. Sapphire crystal and exhibition case-back.
*Seriously. I’m never getting that hour and a half of my life back.