Fashion Without Fear

The Clothing Doctor Speaks to Men: Fashion Without Fear
If you’re like most men, shopping for clothes ranks somewhere near “having a root canal” on your list of favorite activities. Chances are, you’re just too busy during the week, and your weekends are devoted to attending your kid’s soccer games, playing golf, or lounging in front of the TV. Perhaps you have the nagging feeling that there’s something, well, unmanly  about having an interest in fabrics and fashion. Or maybe, just maybe, you have no fashion sense and are intimidated by the whole subject.

Now there’s good news for shopaphobics! Garment guru Steve Boorstein—also known as “The Clothing Doctor” – has written a new book called The Ultimate Guide to Shopping & Caring for Clothing: Everything You Need to Know . . . From Blue Jeans to Ball Gowns (Boutique Books, LLC, September 2002, ISBN: 09717669-0-8, $19.95). Don’t worry, you can skip over the “ball gown” part—there’s plenty of good, solid, plain-English info on how to shop for quality men’s clothing and keep it looking like new. For instance:

  • tomJames.comA hint about designer three-button jackets. Most designers, from casual to formal, are making three-button jackets that are intended to be worn as a three-button and naturally roll to a three-button without the help of the drycleaner. When you try on a style like this, you will know immediately, because the lapel is cut perfectly to suit the roll. This designer version of the three-button jacket, different from the “classic” three-button by Brooks Brothers, is very fashionable. These jackets are available in a wide variety of colors, fabrics, and textures.
  • Get your suit slacks half lined. Having suit slacks half lined (lined just to the thigh area) will prolong their life. If the suit slacks are not lined, have a half lining added at the time of purchase. Lined slacks are more comfortable to wear, and the lining minimizes thinning of fabric as a result of friction. High quality casual slacks made of gabardine and other fine wools are often already half-lined by the manufacturer. They are sleek, cool and comfortable.
  • TomJames.comAvoid “problem ties.” Selecting a necktie is a personal decision. You should buy the fabric that best suits your taste, but stay away from known problems like these:
    • Light colors with dark or vibrant prints can limit stain removal and may bleed from water and spills.
    • Dark lining behind light colors, solid or printed, may bleed through during stain removal. Try to buy ties with light linings or at least with the same color as the shell.
    • Salt-and-pepper designs (black & white threads) that appear as gray have a history of bleeding from water, spills and stain removal.
    • Check tips to make sure they are even. Hold the tie at different angles to check for snags and deluster. Lay the tie flat on the counter to check for ripples. If it is not absolutely flat, it will only get worse with use. Satin ties deluster and snag most easily.
  • Indulge in a few custom-made shirts. If you are tall, short, robust, or thin—or in any way “hard to fit” – custom shirts are just what The Clothing Doctor ordered. This means you design your own shirt; you select the fabric, the style of the collar and cuffs, and the sewn or fused construction. The only remaining detail is making the shirt fit your body.
    • Because you may be required to order six at a
      time, ask for a prototype first.
    • TomJames.comDo not be timid about your wishes. This investment of your time and money may produce many great shirts in the future. This is the time to speak up.
    • Ask if collars are preshrunk before the shirt is constructed. Many custom-made shirt collars have progressive shrinkage, so you may want to order the collar a half inch larger to account for that problem.
    • Remember that the more unique the buttons, the more mismatched buttons you will have down the road. Ask the shirtmaker for a bag of extra buttons.
    • Many off-the-shelf shirts can be replicated for you by a custom shirtmaker. If you like the fit of one of your shirts, have it replicated in your choice of fabric and style.

To starch or not to starch? The real story:

  • Starch is usually added in the washing machine. In this process, the whole shirt is starched, not just the collar, cuffs, and placket. (These parts are designed with a double-thick material or an interlining, which makes them feel considerably stiffer than the body of the shirt.)
  • If you still complain about the collar and cuffs being too stiff while the rest of the shirt feels “soft,” seriously consider changing shirt brands. Remember, sewn collars and cuffs will be softer than fused ones.
  • Starched shirts can be uncomfortable in warmer weather. On the plus side, starched shirts hold their body and shape longer than shirts without starch.
  • Medium to heavy starch can cause cotton fabric to turn brittle and can shorten the life of the shirt. You may see some premature tearing at stress areas such as the elbows and across the back. Oxford cloth shirts are particularly sensitive to prolonged exposure to heavy starch.
  • TomJames.comWhen buying a tux, think realistically about the future. If you are a man whose weight has not varied more than five pounds in many years, congratulations. But if you do have a history of sliding up—and perhaps down—the scale, consider the following:
    • Each time you alter a jacket or slacks, you create new sewing machine holes. Though they can be “steamed out, they cannot always be totally hidden. Buy your tux in a size that you can live with for years, according to your own history of weight gain or loss.
    • Although a tuxedo is a formal item and serves to show a certain sophistication and sense of style, you can have it altered to be fitted “casually,” but professionally.
    • When you buy your tuxedo, be sure to find a style that will stand the test of time. Avoid trendiness and lean toward “conservative.” Steer away from unusual lapels. You might consider taking your partner with you for feedback.

“Dressing well is all about confidence, which we all know is intricately linked with success,” asserts Boorstein. “When men know a few basic rules, they can look sharp and stylish without having to stress about it or spend inordinate amounts of time wandering in the men’s department. That’s why I wrote this book. Who knows? Read up on the rules before your shopping trip, and you might actually find yourself having fun.”

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