Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Journey Continues

November 27, 2006 marked the first appearance of A Suitable Wardrobe, arguably the first classic menswear weblog. Over the next few years, ASW became the most read publication of its kind, recognized by major media in the USA and the UK as one of the best blogs in the world.

As we went along, readers told me they needed a way to purchase the accessories that I wrote about without having to travel overseas. So, after several years, A Suitable Wardrobe became a store as well as a blog, a store that has expanded based on customer requests and my own passion for helping like minded men to attain the almost unobtainable. ASW fills a unique niche, and customers continually tell me how important we are to their wardrobes.

Now, A Suitable Wardrobe has further evolved. The blog and the store have become one. New content appears on the store, where you can more easily bring its subject matter into your closets. It will be joined soon by most of the content that has appeared here. And once we've migrated everything to the store, the blog itself will no longer be accessible.

It's been a fun journey thus far and I thank you for your support over the years. I hope that you will find that the new, improved, and unified version of A Suitable Wardrobe suits your needs more than ever before. Visit us at www.asuitablewardrobe.com.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Will Boehlke

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Indulge Yourself

Ah, silk. It hangs beautifully and feels wonderful on the skin, which is why it is used for the finest underwear. Or, in this case, for silk dressing gowns.

What, you may ask is a dressing gown? It is a long robe worn over pajamas or shirt and trousers for breakfast and lounging around at home generally. It is also (along with the oversized v-neck cashmere sweater and the oxford cloth shirt) one of the three things a man should have in his closet in case someone special unexpectedly stays overnight (the height of self indulgence would be to own a second gown for that purpose so he can wear his while his partner wears the other). Executed in fine necktie silk, the feel of a dressing gown will put a smile on the sleepiest face.

Dressing gowns have been worn by stylish men for hundreds of years, and though most of us no longer dress in the company of various staff and acquaintances there is no reason to deprive ourselves of the feel of silk. After all, as W. Somerset Maugham observed in The Outstation, the most important time to maintain standards is when we are alone.

Pair a dressing gown with a pair of our leather or suede house shoes and indulge yourself.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Just Add Color

Blah day? Add some casual color. Last week a Kelim patterned silk scarf and lightweight cashmere polo shirt brightened an otherwise sullen afternoon.
Words by Will Boehlke

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Aspirational Dressing

“Clearly, people want things that make their lives the way they wish they were.”

I’ll wager that most of you know exactly where that line comes from. A slender, well-printed volume, filled with winsome illustrations of empty clothes that invited you to imagine yourself in them, perhaps even living out the little Hemingwayward fantasies of provenance cooked up by its copywriters. Today, when the internet has made it easy to find everything and difficult to discover anything, the J. Peterman catalog is perhaps even beneath the contempt that made it such a laughingstock on Seinfeld, but I remember a time when its monthly arrival was cause for a pause (and not solely because it tended to be perused in the bathroom).

Sartorialism wasn’t anyone’s birthright in my small midwestern hometown, particularly in the style-allergic 90s. Excesses of greed and shoulder padding over the previous decade had tempered the already waning enthusiasm for classic clothing, which in any case was now largely neutered by Business Casual or cast off entirely for more grungy alternatives -- both of which misbegotten enterprises aimed to strip clothes of pretense, romance, pomp & circumstance.

What a shame. Clothes are inherently, gloriously transformational. They have always been a means -- particularly for those without many means -- to punch above one’s weight, to jump tracks to a different life. This is of course why they’ve been so closely regulated throughout history, subject to review by ecclesiastic authorities for decency, sumptuary laws for impudence, fashion editors for taste -- all efforts to restrict the potentially dangerous power of clothes, to reserve it for elites, be they medieval royalty, industrial aristocracy, Oxbridge/Ivy undergraduates, or simply the cool kids at school.

Dress, in this sense, is analogous to that other richly nuanced and closely monitored mode of daily expression: speech. Late nineteenth-century advances in manufacturing and education made fine clothes and fine accents attainable for a much wider swath of the population, and a highly-wrought precision in both became more or less universally aspired to as indices of good upbringing, if not necessarily of good breeding. We have a tendency today to patronize such efforts as quaintly gauche, or worse: the slavish imitation of one’s supposed betters, predicated on an unhealthy disregard for one’s own humbler origins. They are, however, nothing less than embodiments of Culture as originally conceived by Matthew Arnold: the cultivation of thought, habit, and art -- usually through great, even proud, effort -- toward evermore perfect ideals.

Culture so defined sought improvement, encouraged aspiration, validated dreams. Little surprise that two existentially devastating world wars pretty much knocked the stuffing out of it. Not for nothing do we tend to see the popular apogee of both eloquence and elegance in the interwar decades, when radio and cinema came into their own, carrying high diction and high style to the masses. It was a fleeting era of Hepburn and Murrow’s delightful mid-Atlantic accents, of midnight blue tuxedos tailored for trade banquets in Milwaukee and Boise, ultimately all swept away as artifacts of artifice by a disillusioned new countercultural ethos claiming to worship Authenticity, whatever that may mean.

Our is not an elegant world. It is perhaps more liberated, more inclusive, more convenient, more comfortably distracted, but we have lost much of the romance that once made it so beautiful and pleasurable. The clothes we choose to wear might not have much effect on our larger reality, but they can dramatically affect our experience of it -- a stalwart first and last line of aesthetic defense. Good ol’ J. Peterman understood this before most, and if the marketing of his merchandise is easy to mock, the sentiment behind it is familiar to anyone who loves clothes not because of how they fit our world today, but how they can defy it.

Words by Andrew Yamato and illustration by J. Peterman

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Let It Rain

The rains have begun here, which reminds that tailored men need three things to stay dry: an umbrella, a raincoat and, when flooded streets make them necessary, overshoes.

Moving past need to should, a proper hat also comes into play. There are two times when in this man's opinion a hat is very practical, those being to prevent sunburn on the top of a head with thinning hair and to keep off a rain that doesn't quite call for opening the umbrella (granted, baseball caps are equally functional but no-one reading this should be wearing one of those with his pinstripes).

Admittedly, a hat exclusively for light rain is not going to get a lot of wear and so one is plenty (unless like the author you cannot stand to wear the same thing several times in a row). A fedora like that on the man on the left is the most useful, and if you do need another I like a homburg rather than the bowler on the right. After all, to paraphrase Hardy Amies, the bowler should only be worn by an Englishmen.

Have a hat and then let it rain.

Words by Will Boehlke