The Art of Pattern Mixing

The Art of Pattern Mixing

The good news is to dress well anyone with polite awareness, common sense and some effort can escape fashion scorn.  The bad news, dressing well is to go beyond, and does require much familiarity with sartorial influences.  But not difficult, dressing well is an acquired skill honed with practice.  Foundational,  understanding design elements and their unique relationships to each other; color at least an elementary understanding for most of us, texture a bit esoteric, understanding pattern mixing, a must. Style sophistication is inherently no more appealing with multiple patterns than dress of a simple elegance, but dressing would become rather boring without no pattern introduction.      

So, here we go, first, the history.  As with most enduring styles of today the Prince of Wales introduced America to a casual elegance identified mostly by his affinity for mixing an array of checks, stripes plaids and royal prints.  Having acquired his fashion aplomb as relief from the stiff, formal fastidious dress of royal attire.  And, preferring to spend considerable time with the English aristocracy on their country estates.  The dress of the day reflecting an outdoor lifestyle.  Royal hunting lodges and estates introducing a culture of fabrics, tartans, tweeds, plaids, argyles, and district checks worn by the hosts and guest in an affected but deliberately casual elegance.

First, articles of clothing we will harmonize by the mixing of patterns.  Our canvas begins with our jacket (the trouser, with few exceptions is subordinated to a silent complimentary roll), then the furnishings and accessories we choose to compliment the jacket thereafter.  The most common composition in the mixing of pattern apparel has always been the suit, dress shirt and necktie.  And for the enthusiast a pocket square and socks should not be forgotten in the ensemble.  Today with the necktie reduced in its prominence, the odd jacket, sport shirt composition, with the enthusiast never without the natty  detail of a pocket square, most common.

You may have noted, the trouser seems to be an afterthought. No, only in need of some clarity. The trouser, should it be the patterned mate of a suit jacket, would have a roll in our composition, and the pattern sock applicable to the rules of design to follow.  Similarly, an odd trouser of a pattern design and the pairing of pattern socks.  Or an odd trouser with no pattern paired with a sock in a bolder either color, pattern, or both.  Mindful of all the design rules to follow, most pattern mistakes are made with socks and easily corrupt all your efforts.  Finally, not an absolute, but may I suggest no pattern mixing for the trouser and shirt.     

To simplify the art of pattern mixing let us begin with the most forgiving, other than solids of course, the easiest patterns to understand, mixing two stripes.  Always vary the scale of the patterns…one being noticeably different from the other.  An example, the suit Jacket a wider space, the dress shirt a narrower space, and if you choose a stripe for the necktie, bolder.  Of the three never similar spacing or design.

Next, mixing checks and plaids each requiring a bit more understanding and thought.  While stripes are designs naturally compatible , checks paired together and plaids paired together, well, let us just not risk.  However, checks paired with plaids, a sartorial favorite.  And, a reminder of scale mentioned above, perhaps even more important in this mix.  We should also introduce at this time the importance of color compatibility.  While contrasting color (two different colors together) can be appealing and most interesting, rather than harmony, please know, the possibility of discord as well.  Again, the risk exceeds the reward…a more conservative tonal color choice wins the day when mixing checks and plaids.

Further, exceptions and contradictions are both found when mixing two different patterns (stripes, checks, plaids etc.).  While varying scale differentiates two like patterns, similar scale must be used to harmonize unlike patterns.  Considering our canvas, a bold design paired with an unlike pattern should be paired with a bold design of equal scale.  Also, helpful to the harmony are the colors chosen, preferably reflecting a color continuity.  However, a contradiction, two unlike small patterns paired, are once again in need of varying scale, and the colors chosen also to reflect a color continuity.

Finally, the challenge of mixing three patterns.  Truly a risk reward proposition…successful, and your best dressed in the room.  Essential to your success, is all three patterns must differ.  To harmonize, the scale should be similar for each pattern, complimented with a color continuity.

Enjoy some time in study.  Develop a working knowledge of fashion, practice, it is fun, it is rewarding.  Dress well.

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Never underestimate the power of what you wear

Never underestimate the power of what you wear

Suits, in the beginning thought to originate from the seventeenth century.  A costume nightmare of long coats, waistcoats, cravats, breeches, stockings and of course wigs.  Legend or fact, before re-ascending the throne, King Charles while exiled to European travels was impressed by the various Courts of Europe, particularly the Parisian’s and their dressing splendor.  By decree King Charles is said to have set executive standards of dress.  Thus, assumed either by the decree or influence of the Kings dress, also the British Court’s fashion of the day.

Beau Brummell, a nineteenth century cosmopolitan fellow by nature, rejected the fuss of dressing in favor of a simpler elegance, designing a fitted two-piece ensemble, jacket and trousers of matching fabrics (todays suit).  Absent nobility, yet an original dandy, and somehow a mover and shaker of nineteenth century English court life,  could not help, but  to be noticed by society’s elite.  His appealing style, befriended by the Prince (who would become King George 1V), understood the look as an understated statement of confidence and standing.  A statement in which resonates as well today.

From these prehistory beginnings American colonist certainly aware of the fashion, continued to be influenced by a more evolved European society.  As such the Beau Brummell creation of what was known as a lounge suit, a casual garment for the elite and dressed-up for the working class soon became a symbol of American establishment.  Easy to wear, the suit offered a polished and professional appearance to all.  The suit today, generally consider worn as an expression of more serious intentions and respect for one’s workplace or host.  An elevated level of dress, second only to evening formal (Tuxedo) or State Affairs (Tails). 

However, changes in the form of the suit have been many.  To be sure the fashion industry, has on occasion made mistakes in suit design (we will address this another time), but more often changes in suit design represent the cultural sensibilities of the day: the industrial age, the roaring twenties, the golden age of cinema, the war years, 50’s conformity, the last impactful design changes 80’s materialism, the dressing down plague, and the costumed new millennium…super skinny 60’s rocker style, Thom Browne’s Pee-Wee Herman tribute, Mad Men cloning, the introduction of the elegance of Northern Italy (thank goodness), and the overzealous personal style extending  competition to off the floor.  Changes today, more subtle…the current prevailing trend, like it or not a tighter fitting suit.  That too will likely change.

But rest assured despite the threats from fashion and a continuing dressing down plague, the strength and commanding presence of this iconic fashion endures.  Welcome to the social contract by which we all should understand, not obligated, but unwritten rules for dress that quite simply offer a bit more joy to life.  Never underestimate the power of what you wear.  It pays to dress well.

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Our Thoughts, History of the Navy Blazer

Our Thoughts, History of the Navy Blazer

Debate if you will the origin of one of our most enduring styles, the navy blazer… whether the romantic story of Queen Victory reviewing the crew of the  HMS Blazer; so inspired by the dapper nature of the crew in their dark navy tailored woolen jackets with shiny brass buttons…declared on the spot, henceforth the jacket style be known as a blazer.  Ultimately this standardized dress worn by Officers in the British Royal Navy is credited to have evolved from something of a style competition between crews of the HMS Blazer and Harlequin Navy ships out of frustration by the Captains with the otherwise sloppy dress of their crew.

Or, you may ascribe the origin to the more generally accepted historically accurate account tracing the name to the bright (blazing) red jackets worn by members of the rowing club at St. Johns College, Cambridge, England.  Worn for warmth, but moreover to identify rowers of a team competing in regattas.  Call it fast fashion of the day, the jackets blazing of color so nicknamed “blazers” are soon worn daily as a status symbol of membership and accomplishment.  Some believe the predecessor to the Letterman’s jacket…hence an historical debate.  A Naval origin or sporting, nevertheless, can we agree, both come from water.

Without debate, American style at the turn of the century is heavily influenced by our British allies, the blazer too was no exception.  Most prominently influenced, an American aristocracy, and thus those who aspired to such standing also influenced.  First appearing on American shores during the great depression the blazer was embraced by only those who could, the pre-eminent Brooks Brothers and the unspoken training ground for future American elite, the Ivy League.  The blazer rapidly became “de rigueur” fashion for the privileged of the day and for those outside this elite group, a symbol of perhaps belonging.

So, here we are today…the blazer a renaissance of attire, true classicism surely endures.  We would suggest, preferably a deep rich navy, fabrics for each season or for all seasons, distinctive, purposeful button choices, and always well-tailored.  Wear with a jean should you feel creative, a knit tie, if so influenced by Italian artisans, or a timeless expression, grey flannels, dress shirt and appropriate blazer striped neckwear for more serious intentions.

Again, debate if you will the origin, the pretense, the conformity and move beyond.  Be wise, a blazer always should hang in your wardrobe, ready to ease you gracefully through society’s travels.  If absent, welcome back for one simple reason:  nothing looks better.    

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Let Them Wear Scarves

Let Them Wear Scarves

Scarves have been worn since ancient times. evidence found in writings, images and statues. historians tell us.  Historical research determined (the Sudarium, Latin for sweat cloth) worn around the neck, or tied on the belt served to towel perspiration for hygiene through cleanliness, maintaining health and preventing disease.

Much later historians believed the scarf was utilized as a uniform accessory to identify officers rank.  (Cravats) the precursor to the present-day necktie a more formal design of the scarf and prominent in military uniforms around the world share the same purpose as well as a detail in formal military dress in the US.  It is this very identification purpose which Britain adopted similarly as traditional sporting wear as a show of support to the local athletic team.  And by extension could be argued has led to a billion-dollar sports apparel industry.   

Many more uses have surfaced over the years.  Most notably the use of scarves (also known as mufflers) in cold weather climates.  Generally, a thick yarned knitted scarf made of heavy wool tied around the neck and or wrapped around the face and ears for cover from the cold.

Drier, dustier climates where many airborne contaminants exist, a kerchief or bandana is often worn as protection for the eyes, nose and mouth, as well as a protector from harmful rays of the sun and heat.  

Religion also plays a defining role.  Christian denominations include a scarf known as a stole, part of the Liturgical vestments. And, earlier social customs preferred the wearing of head scarves as a modest symbol as well as determining marital status.  Many Western religions today although varied, as a matter of law, require headscarves for both men and women as part of a religious service, prayer and a prevailing social culture expecting a display of modesty by wearing the headscarf.

It is these customs that overtime, scarves evolved into fashionable accessory as a choice for dress rather than a cultural demand.  And, by the twentieth century have become an essential accessory detail for the well dressed, both men and women.

Scarves are varied in size from just long and wide enough to wrap around the neck, to cover both neck face, ears and head, to small blanket sized for stoles and shawls.  Fabrics are solids and patterns, plain or jacquard knitted and woven by machine or hand, made of the most common fabrics to the most luxurious cottons, linens, silks and wools and generally found in three shapes triangle, square or rectangle.  These fabrics, rather than only a knitted or woven design, are also printed.  Prints, a more expensive process, are most often found in women’s couture silks.

As antiquity speaks to the intent and usefulness of the scarf, could there be any better use than for today’s health challenge?  Rather than leaving the house, uncomfortable with the surgical mask, please donate and opt for a more fashionable choice; grab your favorite scarf.  Whether sartorial choices, uniformed expectations, religious and social symbolism or healthy practices…” let them wear scarves”.   

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Sport coats and suit coats are not the same.

Sport coats and suit coats are not the same.

“An alligator is not a crocodile and a suit coat is not a sport
jacket.” – Steven Giles

Sport coats and suit coats are not the same.

Sport jackets are exactly what they sound like–jackets for sport.
 A less-formal coat, usually styled of
bolder details, patterns and colors, made with a sturdier fabric and looser
fit, it was originally designed as a garment for gentlemen who hunted in the
morning.

The Sport Jacket today while only loosely retaining its heritage,
nevertheless is a less formal statement and does not stand in place of a
suit.  However, today’s jacket may have
elevated its importance as both a refining and distinguishing fashion in an
otherwise dressed down culture.  

Sport coats are meant to be worn with unmatched trousers or, with many
soft constructions, jeans.  Contrast that
with a suit coat, which is a paired jacket with matching pants of the same
materials and cut to be more form-fitting.

“A suit coat should not double as a sport jacket. It’s a stylistic
mistake,” Giles says. “Plenty of pieces can be used in an array of outfits, but
this isn’t one.”

Look for a jacket with heavier wool yarns and room enough to
accommodate a sweater underneath in winter, but not so much as to hang off the
body.  For summer, much lighter weights,
choosing linens, silks, cottons or any of these summer fabrics blended with
tropical wools. As with almost all other garments, Giles says, a good fit,
followed by skilled tailoring, makes all the difference.

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Fit and Tailoring are everything

Fit and Tailoring are everything

“Fine clothing will never cause a measure of discomfort.” – Steven Giles

Fit and Tailoring are everthing

A fine single-malt scotch can linger tantalizingly on the taste buds or it can burn the tongue and turn bitter…not every liquor is right for every palate.

In men’s fashion, the same is true of fit. We are not some homogeneous race of men, identical in shape and size. To try and apply a one size fits associated with a specific fashion, to each of us as if we were is pure folly.

We, each of us, must find the style that fits us. But the journey isn’t over there, either. Fit gets the right liquor in your glass. Tailoring is allowing a bartender to customize that cocktail so it’s right for you.

“Beyond personal taste, there are the fundamentals of fit and tailoring,” says Steven Giles. “You should be able to move easily and without reasonable restrictions. Not only does proper fit and tailoring feel right physically, it’s also the key to appearing comfortable.”

Few looks are more striking than a man in a suit that seems, tip to toe, like it was built just for him. A man like that doesn’t have to work to be noticed.

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Without a tie, wear a pocket square…detail matters

Without a tie, wear a pocket square…detail matters

“Peacockery is only attractive in peacocks. For a gentleman, a hint of color is all he needs.”

Details matter. If you’re not wearing a tie, wear a pocket square.

Part of creating a timeless style is choosing pieces that will endure the changing whims and wandering, fleeting trends of the masses. Those are most often solids rather than patterns and darker tones–navy and gray–instead of lighter.

“There are exceptions, of course, but when you’re buying a suit you want to wear for years to come, the exceptions are often those that fall quickly out of fashion,” Steven Giles says.

Which is not to say that color has no place? Instead, it is in the details where menswear often finds its life.

A complimenting tie and pocket square are a nice touch, but even without the tie, a square can be a place for colors and patterns that add contrast to an ensemble while driving the eye to the quality of the clothes surrounding it.

“Learn to fold a pocket square, nothing to formal or affected but purposeful,” says Giles. “A pocket square lets one stand out in a crowd without a garish outfit screaming for attention. It’s a gentle touch of refinement that will matter to those in the know.”

 

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Quantity follows quality

Quantity follows quality

“By choosing quality first, we can build a wardrobe that covers all occasions without becoming cumbersome.”

Quantity follows quality.

It’s easy to feel the difference between a hand-worked, one of a kind garment and the sort of mass-produced clothes that seem destined to cover every conceivable shape without ever truly fitting.

“Part of what we do is curate a selection of clothes,” says Steven Giles. “With decades of experience comes a keen eye for both luxurious qualities and wear ability of fabric selections the nuances of better made and discernment of style that is both timely and timeless.”

Few of us can afford an entirely new wardrobe each season, but a well-dressed man doesn’t need a closet bursting with clothes he’ll only wear once. Buy slowly, carefully. Every garment that becomes a part of your collection should be something you want to wear for years to come.

“Over time, you will find that the essentials to your personal style stay true,” Giles says. “Investing in a piece that can be worn, washed, cared for and worn again makes sense.”

In a world that often seems utterly disposable, a well-made pair of pants, an impeccably tailored suit and a quality shirt will stay with you like old friends. They fit. They feel right. That’s a relationship worth any cost.

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Seasonal clothing, spring yarns, color in spring, fall in fall, year round in between

Seasonal clothing, spring yarns, color in spring, fall in fall, year round in between

“Great style cannot be ignored. Doors just become a bit easier to open when dressed well.” – Steven Giles

Seasonal clothing, spring yarns, color in spring, fall in fall, year round in between

A well-dressed man has a presence about him. Clothes do not make the man–but they do enhance him. He is allowed to be himself in a way, freed from the burden of physical and social discomforts. It’s easier to be heard when people are listening, and people listen to those giving strong, visual cues of power and influence.

“Clothing is a powerful communication tool,” says Giles. “It doesn’t distract. It’s neither a costume nor peacockish. It carries with it a sense of respect–both given and earned.”

Styling is important, but it really starts with fabrics, he says. The higher quality a fabric, the more enduring it will be. Thread count matters, the touch, the feel, the drape, because at a basic level, great pieces are made of the best fabrics.

As the weather begins to chill, Giles recommends milled flannels and sturdier wools, comfortable and warm holding their shape and most importantly just, look appropriate. Usually, darker colors are used in the fall and winter, though that’s not a rule. When spring and summer return, tropical wools–lighter, more breathable–are the perfect mix of comfort and style.

Whether choosing an existing style or exploring the world of bespoke suits, the quality and the relative seasonal weight of the fabric is integral to the finished product, great style and helping build a wardrobe that will stand the test of time.

 

 

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Dressing well is, in part, developing a personal style.

Dressing well is, in part, developing a personal style.

“A man who chases trends will forever be out of style”- Steven Giles

Dressing well is, in part, developing a personal style

Trends should come to you, not the other way around.

In the world of men’s clothing, there are trends–fleeting bursts of ephemera, coming and going with alarming rapidity–and there is style.

Having a personal style is a facet of knowing yourself as a man,” says Giles. “Fine clothing never goes out of style. It adapts. It endures. It is an expression of who you are at the core radiating outward for others to see.

Personal style is not stagnant. It evolves with time, as do we as individuals.

Inside the walls of Steven Giles Clothing, you are safe to explore the pieces that speak to you and find the clothing that gives you a voice that needs not yell to command attention.

Find your own style and you will have found a measure of yourself.

 

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