The Latest: Tuesday 13 October 2015

Uniqlo and Lemaire pre-emptive picks | Buy

It isn't remotely fair that Uniqlo's deepest foray into the tweeds, windowpanes, cordoroys and design cues beloved by menswear enthusiasts came in the form of their women's-only Ines de la Fressange collection. But while it's no substitute, the Uniqlo and Lemaire collaboration that drops this Friday does offer a few interesting pieces in the knit and outerwear departments. It's admittedly lame to recommend buying stuff without actually handling it first, but the Ines collection's best pieces sold out in no time and there's no reason to expect the same won't happen here. So let's all roll the dice together. Top picks from left to right:
  • "Wool Blended" Shawl Collar Jacket [$130] — Without asking what it's blended with or how much wool is actually present, this piece has so many interesting elements going for it—the shawl collar, the flannel-looking texture, the olive colour and that single big breast pocket that looks like something you'd see on a workwear coat.
  • Lambswool Shawl Collar Sweater [$50] — Shawl pullovers are hard to get right but this one is thankfully devoid of the vestigal button and has an interesting wide hem and cuffs detail. Nice colours, too.
  • Lambswool Hooded Cardigan [$60] — About as refined as the form could be made, with a button-up front and no drawstrings or pouch pockets. Uniqlo's lambswool is generally very good for the price.

28.sep.2015 style
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Sony Wena: Analog watch, digital band

The Wall Street Journal reported last week on a really interesting approach Sony is taking to the smartwatch. Instead of trying to replace the face with a digital touchscreen, which watch enthusiasts will probably never embrace, their idea is to pack the watch's smart functionality into the band and in particular the clasp. Wireless payments are handled thus by passing your wrist over the merchant's receiver, the usual activity log data is transmitted to your phone, and a 7-colour LED strip with vibration alerts you to your chosen types of notifications.

There are naturally a lot of less-than-perfect aspects of the execution of this, starting with the idea of a multibillion-dollar company crowdfunding product development and not insignificantly making it incompatible with the brand's own telephones. But the idea has a ton of merit and you could envision a path to turning this into a winning product:
  1. Offer it just as a watch band in standard sizes that will work with your existing timepiece. The Seiko-designed watch Sony has incorporated comes in two perfectly presentable variants, but this goes next level when you can get a stainless strap to attach to your Omega or IWC.
  2. Expand the LED notification display from a light into a small touchscreen display strip—maybe not the size of the whole clasp, but big enough to show a caller's name, email subject, first line of text message, and accept 2-3 touch zones and a couple of swipe actions.
  3. Make it Android compatible so it works with Sony Xperia phones. Obviously. C'mon.
Then we're in.
14.sep.2015 design tech
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Suitsupply F/W 2015: It's... it's fine..

Maybe it's just that the greatness of previous Suitsupply collections set the bar at a height that's difficult to consistently clear, but the first thing that jumps out about the Fall Collection is what isn't there: After all the work the brand put into reinventing the double-breasted form, turning what was a box containing a banker into a modern, masculine silhouette, they seem to have essentially abandoned it. The new season includes one (1) DB sport coat. And four DB suits, but two look a lot like holdovers from last year and one is an outrageously unwearable tartan tuxedo.

On the other hand, if you like plaid, there's no shortage of options ranging from subtle to loud. Which brings us to the evolution of the brand's "Washington" cut. The latter began life as a Tom Ford... let's say homage... with peak lapels, a drop of 8, and even 5 buttons on the cuff. As Ford himself has inched towards narrower lapels it's possible that SS's take is now becoming more like what we'd consider the classic TF style than TF itself, with the Washington blue check jacket losing the vestigial third front button and adding some curvature (what tailors call "belly") to the lapels.

Suitsupply's knitwear may not be what the brand is known for but every year they offer a couple of well-priced pieces that have a certain elegance in their absence of extraneous details. This time around highlights include a simple cable crewneck in a beautiful ochre colour, a burgundy 100% cashmere hoodie and a plum shawl cardigan that are both mercifully free of midsection-padding pockets, each under $200. Nice.
07.sep.2015 style
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Reiss A/W 2015 Lookbook

A new book from Reiss is always welcomed as an opportunity to see what's going on in The World Of No Colours, and the Autumn/Winter 2015 edition doesn't disappoint with a palette heavily focused on the range from oatmeal to concrete to dove grey. Within that spectrum however apparently resides the potential for some real drama, as evidenced by the stars of the show—two overcoats, one double-breasted in light grey with sweeping peak lapels and one black/grey shadow plaid with a shawl collar. Other highlights are bomber and moto jackets in navy and (wait for it) stone, a midnight blue belted cardigan, and what appears to inadvertently be a black/red/ecru reference to the throwback Ottawa Senators sweater. Go Sens!
24.aug.2015 style
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A stream of consciousness while contemplating a purchase of sand-coloured suede loafers

Well those are hella nice. Probably wear 'em all summer with everything.

Santoni. $600. Jeez.

(three months later)

Don't these things ever go on sale?

Must be something similar for half that price.

No, screw that, every time I'd look at them I'd be all "dammit, I really wanted the Santonis".

God dammmit.

(28-page search of Yoox sale section)

"Leonardo Principi". $94.

Kinda ordinary but the same idea, I guess.

Who the f*ck is Leonardo Principi?

Probably not a good sign that they feel the need to clarify "100% real leather".

That asymmetrical "penny notch" was better.

And the heel stitching.

On the other hand, f*ck it, there's kids in the world who don't even HAVE shoes.

Good enough.

17.aug.2015 style
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Cheap clothes option: uniform and workwear

If you subscribe to the idea that sometimes it's OK to pick up cheap but durable beater clothes for weekends at home and hardware store runs, consider the clothing lines that many brands make specifically to be sold as workplace or school uniforms. Often considerably cheaper than essentially similar mainline items, the uniform variants typically have some polyester for toughness (and of course for cost reduction) and can have more flattering fits than the similarly B-grade products they no doubt produce to meet the price points of the world's Wal-Marts and Kohl's. More importantly they're logo-free, saving you a few risky minutes with a seam ripper. Just make sure you don't pick up anything as painfully recognizable as a short-sleeved knit in Best Buy Royal Blue. Shown: IZOD Uniform long-sleeve pique polo [$15].
10.aug.2015 style
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Can headphones be stylish?

The idea of headphones as fashion accessories sure looks like an ugly trend, exacerbated by the coupling of Apple Inc. and Beats By Dre to form a sort of vortex of disposable, cheap-looking suck. But as a practical matter, to the frequent user of public transit good closed-back headphones can be a necessary tool in protecting one's sanity—and like it or not they will be prominently placed in and around your head for extended periods of time in public places. They're a part of how you present yourself, for better or worse.

The key here is to choose the sorts of materials (premium) and colours (neutral) that follow the same aesthetics and quality indicators you'd choose for other accessories, wearable or otherwise. Shown: Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 in Ivory: brown leather, brushed stainless, and heavy plastic bits that feel more like ceramic.
03.aug.2015 design style tech
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Tom Ford Spring/Summer 2016

Tom Ford may have spent the last 15 years living in Italy, and his work exhibits no shortage of Europen influences (to say nothing of the materials and manufacturing), but he clearly doesn't want us to forget he's American—and a Texan. As with every Ford collection his S/S 2016 book contains plenty of immaculately tailored suits and formalwear, but the most noteworthy and intriguing pieces this time around allude to American rock'n'roll and western silhouettes, updating classic leather jacket styles with shorter forms, luxurious suedes and at times sophisticated colours like deep rusty reds and neutral taupes and creams. At times reminiscent of the work of fellow American designer John Varvatos.
21.jul.2015 style
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L.L.Bean Signature West Branch Tote | Buy

Unrefinery is on the record as endorsing L.L.Bean's leather Town and Field Tote for its tremendous value, simple design and durability, but it's conceivable that one might want a larger and lighter bag with a shoulder strap. Enter the Signature West Branch Tote [$159], just back in stock. Large enough to serve as a weekend bag, and 1/2" of scrunching away from carry-on size, the tan-and-brown bag is comprised of a tough canvas-like polyester with leather trim.

It's worth mentioning that this bag has previously also appeared in a handsome navy-and-brown variant—shown lower right—and may yet again. On the other hand, it's not worth mentioning that they also make it in a camouflage print (presumably if you want nobody to find your hidden stash of Axe body spray or something).
13.jul.2015 design style
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Simons for America

Canadian brand Simons, long an essential stop when visiting Montréal, now ships to the US with a $10 flat fee. The main interest to American buyers will be the LE 31 house brand, offering solid affordable basics that reside somewhere between Zara and Uniqlo in both quality and fashion-forwardness (that's totally a word). Highlights include their knitwear staples — their lightweight $20 cotton/modal long-sleeve polo sweaters have a nice trim fit and have held up well after a couple of seaons — and their straight-fit stretch cotton trousers for $40. As with all cheap clothes, check the composition before ordering and skip anything with acrylic in it.
08.jul.2015 style
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