Here at Unrefinery we write about style and design for gents, and occasionally we try not to be dicks about it.

February 19, 2018  ·  culture  ·  design  ·  style

Black Panther and Afrofuturism

So as we were saying, Afrofuturism as pan-disciplinary art movement has hovered just outside the mainstream of western culture at least as far back as the profoundly alien Sun Ra brought back a new kind of jazz from outer space. A few years ago the Studio Museum in Harlem's Shadows Took Shape exhibition writ large the breadth and depth of the asthetic by presenting over 60 works of futuristic art celebrating the African diaspora across multiple media.

Nonetheless it doesn't get more mainstream than a big-budget Marvel superhero movie so it's impossible to overstate the significance of Black Panther as a cultural milestone. To be African is to acknowledge change and conflict while daring to envision a peaceful, vibrant future.

For considerably more and better researched cultural context, check out Mashable's article on Afrofuturism. And don't miss Elle Magazine's interview with Black Panther costume designer Ruth Carter on crafting the unique style of Wakanda.
Your favourite African accessories brand is proud to introduce our first-ever Women's Collection. Like our men's pieces, the women's jewelry is made from materials sourced from across the continent, from earthy Ghana wax print bangles to luxurious Egyptian lapis lazuli. There's also new wristwear for men this season, including wristbeads and Liberian coin cufflinks.

As always, we've got you covered for your holiday shopping. Use promo code cheers17 for 20% all of the above through December 15, 2017.

What a difference a year makes. The last time Unrefinery looked at loafer socks the cheap ones were relatively crude and the good ones were $15 a pair. Nowadays the options are plentiful and inexpensive. Three options for your consideration:

Timberland Men's Boat Shoe Liner No Show [$5/pair] — The best reviewed here, with the lowest rise, medium weight and comfortable construction. Timberland. Go figure. Buy these if you only buy one kind.

Thirty48 No Show Loafer Socks [$3.50/pair] — A tough, durable-feeling knit with a silicon grip pad to hold them in place. Best variety of colours. But also the highest rise, and thus wearable with the fewest loafer styles.

Fruit of the Loom Men's Extreme No Show [$1/pair] — You don't expect a lot for a dollar but these have a mid-height rise and were particularly comfortable due to their breathable mesh construction. At this rather disposable price, durability would be a bonus, so worth having a pack on standby.

Posted shortly after the announcement of a new smartphone device. Complete coincidence.
July 31, 2017  ·  style

Boglioli A/W 2017

If there's a formula for a successful and memorable seasonal menswear collection, it would go something like this:

  1. Solid, contemporary variants on beloved classics,
  2. Thematic introduction of an unexpected element, and
  3. At least one or two things that push the envelope, demonstrating a willingness to take creative risks.

Item 1 is always a given for the immaculately finished Boglioli. This time around item 2 is an expansion of greens and teals into the autumnal palette. While bottle green corduroy trousers have always been a classic fall staple, here the greens are expanded into related hues, in other materials and on other garments. The most jewel-like tones are incorporated into jacket and outerwear patterns, to beautiful effect.

Pursuant to item 3, the collection culminates with what appears to be a brown wool flannel tuxedo. No guts = no glory, right?

So Suitsupply has unleashed Suistudio, which aims to bring their winning value proposition formula to the women's market. The results are mixed. The suits generally look as great as you'd suspect, but they for some unknown reason they're all pant-suits—not a pencil skirt in sight. Head-scratching gestures to androgyny aside, this makes a shred of sense when you look at their skirt line: one is unremarkable, one is actually shorts, and the other three are godawful.

Faith in the brand based on prior accomplishments will warrant a return visit once they get it together.
June 15, 2017  ·  design

Briefcase Sale at Floto

A current flash sale at Floto finds a wide range of their Italian-made leather and canvas goods greatly reduced in price. The briefcase, messenger and field page is full of solid discounts, with the Venezia Slim (long a Team Unrefinery favourite) discounted from its already competitive $230 to below $150. Light weight and simple of design, its dimensions of 17"x12"x4" are suitable for both daily office use and thrifty day trips. Collect them all. OK, maybe not the red and blue variants. But totally the others.

As is expected with Floto, the provided shoulder strap is about as wide and comfortable as the wire on a cheese cutter. So if you plan to sling it, budget in another $63 for their Grande Strap.

Summer offers unique opportunities for the wearing of sweaters. Heat is only one parameter in the equation, along with activity level, prevailing wind, humidity, and the possibility of day-into-night dressing on holiday. A few types of sweater are particularly suited for the warm season:

Polo sweaters, whose ribbed cuffs and hem present a sleek counterpart to generally looser summerwear—most notably when rendered in a nicer cotton with a bit of sheen.

T-shirt sweaters, preferably in interesting slubby textures, with airy open knits and boat necks to combat solar gain.

Long-sleeved linen sweaters, the kind you pull on poolside or push up to your elbows, accepting that they'll be stretched out and worn by fall. Fast-fashion brands like Zara and H&M are great for this sort of thing.

Two years ago Aliotsy of This Fits brought to our attention Hilfiger's Italian-made navy blazer. Tom's aim of creating an affordable take on the ultimate menswear staple worked, but not in the way he probably envisioned, as it was quickly discounted from $395 to $240 to $158 before slipping beneath the waves for good. While clearly targeted at traditionalists, its classic details such as gold buttons and three-button closure may have sunk it with the brand's target market.

Lands' End is now giving it a go with their Italian Wool blazer, of merino woven in a different part of Biella but probably made in China. This one seems to have a better shot, with half-canvas construction, two quiet brown buttons, and something resembling pick stitching on the lapels. At $289 it looks like an uncommon value, one that gets better given LE's habit of doing 30% and 40% off sales on a weekly basis. Here's hoping it works out.
March 23, 2017  ·  meta  ·  style

When Brands Are Obsoleted

Sometimes previously-useful brands are rendered obsolete. It could be attributable to external market forces, to their own inability to adapt, or more commonly both in varying degrees. Looking through the Unrefinery archives one can observe the frequency in which certain names appear gradually decreasing and ultimately halting entirely. A couple of examples:

Banana Republic

What they were good for: Affordable, trim-fitting basics like merino sweaters and casual shirts.

What happened: Uniqlo, mostly, who did everything BR did well with higher quality, a lower price point, and in 12 colours. The Banana seems to be in the same downward death spiral as parent company The Gap, with 40% discounts even on new arrivals a not-uncommon occurrence.

John Varvatos

What they were good for: Tasteful (usually) twists on classic forms, mod wear, and indestructible leather goods.

What happened: This one hurts, because JV himself is an extremely cool guy and everyone at Unrefinery is a fan. The big problem here is that the brand's aesthetic has grown too narrow. A typical piece on the website is modeled by a slender reed of a man with long hair and cultured stubble... and his style and occupation make him one of maybe a few thousand people who are going to wear what is essentially offbeat rock'n'roll stagewear in their daily lives (and if then, maybe only at the club). Varvatos' pieces are typically well-made with beautiful materials but because of their narrow appeal and the equally narrow acceptable age for wearing them they don't make good investments. The kids will probably view these styles as wearable for a year or two and thus will hit Zara for disposable alternatives.

Hugo Boss

What they were good for: Sophisticated sportswear, refined outerwear and affordable suits of reasonable quality.

What happened: This wound was largely self-inflicted, as Bauhaus-inspired knitwear with fine details and textures gave way to gaudy prints and logo-branded polos. Their suiting, mass-produced and burdened with fused jacket construction, veered into trendy tiny lapels and actually bumped up to the $900-$1,000 range just as Suitsupply came along with fully canvased offerings for hundreds less—and with a much more timeless and sophisticated aesthetic. Their coats are still OK, but unless there's a sale on, you can probably get one made to measure elsewhere and spend less in the process.