For Men: Joseph Gordon-Levitt's messenger bag from 500 Days of Summer

Last year I posted about the excellent vintage-style fashion in one of the best romantic comedies of the past year, 500 Days of Summer.  We were especially taken by the "old man chic" worn by Joseph Gordon-Levitt's lovesick character, Tom.  Since we've gotten so much interest from that post, including a ton of questions about JGL's messenger bag in the movie, I thought I'd post a follow-up to let people know where they can buy the bag, or something very similar to it:

I'm close to certain that costume designer Hope Hanafin got Tom's canvas messenger bag from a vintage store, but that doesn't mean stylish men everywhere can't get the same look for a lot less than you'd expect.  Contrary to what people were saying on Yahoo Answers, Tom's bag was NOT from Ben Sherman.  More likely it was one of these vintage styles (I especially love the simple army medic shoulder bag from the Army Navy store - so classic, so practical, and so affordable!):

For Men: Loungin' in comfort and style

When it comes to clothing, guys are pickier than you would think. But what we're looking for is not so much color and style per se, but more about comfort. Now that is a loaded term, so let me name three characteristics of comfortable clothing:

  • Low maintenance
  • High quality fabric that feels good next to the skin
  • A good fit, so you don't look sloppy
People assume that comfort is necessarily at odds with words like "stylish" or "fashionable," but that's not the case. It's possible to achieve both if you watch for fit, consider color, and commit to the "casual" look all the way from head to toe (if you don't go 100% casual, you end up looking messy).

I've been on a "loungin'" vibe lately and finally got around to take some shots around the house.  Great for hanging out on a Sunday afternoon, grooving to some lowkey music as you putter around the house.  Simple, understated, comfortable... it's loungin', baby!

Here are some of the style choices that's got me inspired to get dressed these days:
  • Colors: Muted earth tones (browns, beiges, seaweed-ish greens and greys) so you can mix and match easily.  
  • Hats: They embody 'ease' because you don't have to worry about doing your hair! I'm partial to straw fedoras because they hold their shape and don't get too hot when you wear them.  
  • Solid color long-sleeved tees: They are super comfortable and are so easy to layer (wear them by themselves or under short-sleeved tees, vests etc). Club Monaco has some long-sleeved shirts on sale and they are the most comfortable shirts I've ever owned. Alternative Apparel also has great comfortable and affordable stuff (Nordstrom Rack carries their stuff for cheap!)
  • Soft cardigans: Worn unbuttoned, over V-neck tees
  • Pulled-back beanies: Worn sloppily on the back of your head.  I don't know why this is so comfortable -- it looks kind of ridiculous I'll admit, but you get a pass because it's got this interesting balance of capturing some of the warmth from your head, but exposes your ears to let off some of the heat.  I've seen this in a few magazines so I can't claim credit for it, but it's so comfy!
  • Lightweight Hoodies - Spin-off of the long-sleeve T-shirt, with built-in "man caves."  Zip-up hoodies tend to be bulkier and have a more youthful, skater vibe (which is cool if that's the look you're going for).  
My two favorite looks (above): 
  1. Light grey cardigan (7 For All Mankind), white V-neck (good ol' Hanes), vintage striped scarf, dark grey shorts (River Island), grey sweater cap (H&M)
  2. Brown henley (Alternative), striped vest (Ted Baker), black straw fedora (Groovin), dark grey shorts (River Island - but you can substitute this with jeans, chinos, etc.)
Love it?  Hate it?  Leave a comment (and send in your own pics if you've got 'em!)

For Men: Scarf It Down

With the changing of the season - and Steph's post on her personal fall trend, I've got to throw in my two cents on my personal trend of the moment: scarves!

This often neglected accessory is usually more of a utility item that is saved for particularly cold nights or that ski retreat weekend.  It's usually in some awful crimson wool blend that itches and has reindeer and snowflakes all over - unmistakably the calling card of some crafty relative.

But thanks largely to the bandit/afghan craze in street style in the past few years, scarves are reinstated as a legitimate, fashionable accessory both guys and girls can rock. 

If you need some convincing, I did a little experiment.  I put on a ho-hum pair of Gap jeans and a Hanes white t-shirt and then put on some of my favorite scarves to see how they worked.  The result?  Well, I think that the scarves single-handedly enhanced the look altogether.  Granted, it's a bit of a metro look, but you get the idea right?
So scarves are practical, stylish, and now more than ever, they're at almost every clothing retailer!   I find H&M carries the most economic/trendy options (run between $5-$15) but these will last you about a year before getting a little threadbare.  Club Monaco has consistently amazing scarves, but wait for their end of season sales to score GREAT deals on them (regular retail is $79.50, sale price is usually $19.99 - that's 75% off people!).

If you're comtemplating your first scarf purchase: go to Banana Republic and pick a solid color scarf in a light wool (think of a light wool sweater). I like bright oranges, rich purples, and sporty blues for solid colored scarves.  This adds a fresh pop to any outfit. 

For the more adventurous: try a lightweight, wrinkly scarf in linen or very light cotton (they would be like 24 inches wide if you pulled it out and ironed it, but scrunched together it's actually not that big). You can drape them in a bunch of different ways - play around with it to find which you like the best.  Colors in shades of off-white, beige, brown, and light grey or green are what I gravitate towards these days for these kinds of scarves.

I'm not the biggest fan of the afghan-style scarves, but I think that the afghan print is still "in" for now.  If that's what you're looking for, I'd encourage exploring bolder color combinations (beyond black and white) - I especially like teal+grey and beige+brown color combinations. Diesel has cool on sale now for $30 

As the colder weather comes, thicker fabric scarves in wool/cashmere come in exceptionally handy.  I find that in the bulkier fabrics, colors in the range from l off-white to light grey look super fresh on a cold winter night - so you can look for those as they start stocking up for the winter season.

All in all - I think the scarves are much more than something that white people like - they're an accessory that every guy should own multiple of to take his wardrobe to the next level.

For Men: Of Murse and Men

You don't have to be a woman/gay man/metro to appreciate the utility of a bag to carry your crap.  It's universally agreed that having storage is useful - hence the crazy number of pockets you find lining jackets these days and the prevalance of cargo pockets on pants and shorts everywhere.

But if you're like me, you don't like cargo pants/shorts for several reasons.  Besides the rarely-flattering parachute aesthetic on gusty days, the cargo pocket fails to be good storage because putting anything heavier than a single credit card in the pocket is actually painful (a gentle slap every time you take a step - gets super annoying after about 10 paces).  It defeats the whole purpose of having a giant extra pocket down there!  

I like to have my pant pockets free of clutter, but I'm also paranoid about losing things (so I definitely never use butt pockets).  So that makes my pant pockets overloaded with things that I have to negotiate with every time I want to put my hands in my pocket (not to mention,  it makes me look lumpy).

To remedy this situation, I decided to hunt for a manbag.  Or manpurse.  Or murse.  Whatever label you want to put on it doesn't matter - it's just a pragmatic addition to the male wardrobe, which allows us to schlep all the junk that we have to carry around today (cell phones, keys, ipods, wallets etc.).  Think of it as an updated version of the briefcase (and look for bags that fit that description - unless you are thoroughly brave and want to challenge gender stereotypes) and you can steer clear from any judgement and land yourself a functional AND fashionable way to lug your life around with you.
I've searched for a while - and I think I've found my perfect bag - it's a black leather satchel from Ted Baker while I was in Dublin three weeks ago on sale for $100 euro - which turns out to be approximately $140 USD.  I wanted the bag to be black leather (check), with handles and a strap (check), a versatile look to take to work or wear out casually (check), and be able to fit a laptop + book + light jacket or scarf (check).  With all requirements satisfied - I decided to take the plunge and buy it.

And boy am I glad I did!  I live farther from work + friends now, so commuting is something I do 7 days a week, and my manbag is a catchall that carries around my life.  The presence of the bag has come in incredibly handy because I can stuff everything in there and be on my merry way. And it replaces the hefty, functional but ugly Swiss Army laptop backpack that I was using before.

And the great thing is if you want to give them a try - manbags are everywhere now!  They're in movies (see pics from 500 Days of Summer), and retailers from H&M to Banana Republic to the ritzy Rodeo Drive stores all carry bags in every shape and size and budget.  

So the next time you find yourself with more junk in your trunk (or anywhere else for that matter) than you care to be lugging around - heed these words and get thee a manbag.  You'll walk straighter, forget things less, and add an added depth to any look you are going for - be it casual or formal.
P.S.  Update - I did find my ultimate trench (wearing it in the pics) - a mild splurge on a fitted black burberry trench (thank you Barney's Warehouse Sale at Fort Mason!).  Sale ended sunday 8/9 - so if you didn't get a chance to go - mark your calendar for next year - its pretty freaking awesome.

For Men: The Skinny on Skinny Ties

Ties are normally a constricting item in the male wardrobe, sometimes further limited to formal (read: not fun) events--weddings, fancy brunches, court appearances, what have you. But they are making some headway in casual wear (on a more socially "cool" level than before...thank you Jonas Brothers, Justin Timberlake and Andre 3000).
Specifically, the skinny tie is making quite the comeback, so I'm paying a wearability homage to the trimmed down descendant of the ascot. Done right, the skinny tie adds a mod/nerd/rock-ish twist to any outfit.  Three notes before proceeding:

Number one: Skinny ties do NOT go with everything you'd wear a normal tie with.  Pay particular attention to the collar--a collar that is signficantly wider than the skinny tie makes your neck look disproportinately short and fat (and who really wants that?).  Generally, skinny ties do not work well with spread collars (e.g. a pimp's unbuttoned shirt with the flashy shiny tiger print and chest hair sprouting up top), so don't plan to wear them like this unless you enjoy being publicly labeled as a tool.   Otherwise, your run-of-the-mill dress shirt should do just fine.

Number two: A skinny tie requires a skinny knot. A full windsor just looks silly with a skinny tie.  I'm partial to the "4 in hand knot" - it's slightly asymmetrical, which goes well with a more casual look.  Don't know how to tie this knot?   Check this site out.

Number three: If you wear the skinny tie with a blazer, look at the width of the tie compared to the lapels. They should be approximately the same size, erring on the size of the lapels being slightly wider.  But if the lapels are too wide, it will make your head look like a balloon, with the skinny tie as a little string trailing underneath trying desespearately to keep your head attached to your disproportional outfit.  

With these guidelines in mind, the skinny tie is a lot of fun.  Some things to try: go for a loud shirt and a solid tie (skinny black tie is the classic), or try a subtler shirt paired with a bolder tie pattern.  Subtle Tie + Subtle Shirt = OK, if the colors have good contrast (like a white shirt and black tie or vice versa - monochrome doesn't work well with this look).   Loud Shirt + Loud Tie may result in screams from children running away from you, the Technicolor Monster.  This is not for the faint of heart; mixing patterns/colors is really a matter of personal taste so I can't be too judgmental, but it's pretty easy to mess up this combination so proceed with caution.  When you throw on a collared long sleeve shirt - throw on a skinny tie and see what it does for you.

Club Monaco has some really cool bold stripe skinny ties and your nearest Nordstrom Rack will carry some older (but more affordable and ever-so-stylish!) skinny ties from the likes of Ben Sherman and Paul Smith.  Otherwise, venture out to your nearest vintage clothing shop to score some super cheap ties - you can usually find a skinny black tie for $5.

Anyway, I had some extra time to kill this weekend so I did a mini-shoot featuring me and stuff that I have in my closet that I've mixed and matched with skinny ties.  My favorite look is the brown tie with a light blue gingham shirt and a pair of dark-ish blue jeans. I tried to cover a range of looks, from casual, to going out on the town, to business casual, to a more everyday look.

Note that while skinny ties are the "in" thing now, you can still wear regular-sized ties as well.  It's really just about adding personal flair by throwing on a tie to spice up a look - but in a good, non-TGIFridays sort of way.