Unrefinery

The Latest: Sunday 25 September 2016

TOM FORD Paradigm Shift

The fashion industry has long-established rhythms. A designer presents a runway show several months ahead of the season for which it was designed; buyers look it over; half a year later some of the clothes presented make their way into the stores. For A/W 2016 Tom Ford broke from tradition, and taking a cue from the tech world, rolled out the collection on his website via a well-done video stream and made all shown items immediately available for order. Offering RTW apparel direct-to-consumer is also new for Ford, whose online offerings for men were previously limited to shoes, accessories and just recently shirts.

Granted, this might only be really good news to those who can drop $1,300 on a sweater, but it's an interesting acknowledgment of how consumer expectations impact even industries and brands who don't live and die on high volumes or impulse buyers.
12.sep.2016 meta style
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Embracing the Lounge Lizard

Ben Cobb, editor of Another Man, first came onto our radar back in July when Vogue's Liana Satenstein documented her drenching sploosh over all things sleazy and unwashed in the world of men. While Cobb's wholesale adoption of 1970s apparel crosses over into being a costume, and while nobody can in good conscience endorse the man's grooming and hygiene regimen (if you want to call it that), it's worth recognizing that this era inspired many of the enduring elements of style that Unrefinery and others laud to this day: Namely that lapels can never be too broad, skinny low-rise pants are for children, and it's never possible to show too much chest hair. To this one might add that there's merit in synthetic blend fabrics and that wearing a vivid red peacock print signals to the world that you aren't a man with which to be trifled.

In other news, Tom Ford's AW 2016 collection is rolling out this week. Total coincidence.
06.sep.2016 culture design style
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SPRZ NY and art print t-shirts

Art print t-shirts—particularly those of widely recognizable works—are in general pretty difficult to pull off with any sort of style. This also applies to much of the Uniqlo / MoMA "SPRZ NY" collaboration, but there are some gems to be found in the Basquiat and Mondrian t-shirts which read as patterns or (in the case of most of the Basquiat shirts) rough-edged textures. The key is to wear the shirt under something casual, such as a cotton canvas or leather jacket, so that just a strip of the shirt is revealed. That's all the visual interest you need from something this bright or visually noisy. A little goes a long way.
30.aug.2016 style
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A quick guide to loafer socks

It's been 5 years since Unrefinery talked about loafer socks, and frankly the only thing that's new is the shifting of priorities that comes with age. No longer giving a f*ck about possible shoe damage. A lot more interested in being comfortable.

You still want to wear as much sock as you can, based on your chosen loafer style, without any bit being visible around the edges of your ankle. More sock equals better absorbency, and less sock decreases the chance of everything staying put. Banana Republic's cheap loafer socks, usually found on sale for under $6/pair, are still the thickest and highest available while still being useful. At the opposite end of the scale are Falke's invisible socks, which barely hook over your toes and rise halfway up your heel with a little rubber gripper to hold them more or less in place. Normally found at around $15/pair, which seems like a lot for a few inches of cotton and elastic but frankly is as no-show as you're going to get. Residing at a decent middle ground, Saks Fifth Avenue's house brand is available at middle weight and middle rise. Also around $15.

If these things fit right the colour shouldn't matter, but you never know when there might be a slippage incident. Try to have pairs that generally match the predominant shades of your summer shoes.
15.aug.2016 style
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Best dressed at the Rio opening ceremony

The Unrefinery criteria for a great Olympic opening ceremony uniform would be, in no particular order,
  • Predominant, but not exclusive, use of national colour(s).
  • Expression of national identity.
  • Avoidance of excessive, vulgar branding (we're looking at you, Ralph).
  • Real-world wearability.
  • Highly compatible male and female variants.
This year's winners:
  1. Uruguay. Yes, even with the white sneakers, as a concession to practicality. The white trousers, pale blue linen jackets and gold accessories mirror their flag in a non-literal way while at the same time looking like resortwear. As if they were on a holiday in Rio, say, or something.
  2. Peru. Simple and unmistakeably Perivian. Scarf printed with flag motif worn one way for gents, another for women. Awesome hats.
  3. Bermuda. Obviously they're going to wear Bermuda shorts at every opening ceremony, and they look great doing it. OWN that sh*t.
  4. Botswana. It's not easy wearing sky blue and black but they pulled it off.
  5. Tunisia. If your colour is a vivid red you don't need to wear it head to toe. You have to appreciate small touches that won't necessarily read on TV—each scarf and tie bears a small national crest, and each jacket contains a single red-stitched buttonhole. Nice.

  6. 08.aug.2016 culture style
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Joseph Abboud Spring 2017

This line from the press release pretty well summarizes what makes Joseph Abboud's spring 2017 collection cool: "With a palette of ivory, chocolate, white, sand, flax, and tobacco, Abboud's clothes are simultaneously tailored and informal..." Translation: extremely narrow colour palette of whites and light neutrals, rendered in soft tailoring. You have our collective attention, Joe.

In truth it reads a lot more like resortwear than spring—generally loose, light garments of linen and silk that would be much more at home on Moroccan tile floors and shaded cafés with ocean views. As is typical in fashion the majority is hard to picture wearing but all of it is pretty damn cool. A few particularly interesting bits from the clothes and styling:
  • Knit and loosely woven suits. Women have gotten away with this sort of thing for years. It's very hard for men to pull off. Neat.
  • Waistcoat/vest and scarf in place of shirt. Waistcoats are generally pretty awful. Making them deconstructed and casual in this manner upends their stodgy connotation entirely.
  • Fuller trousers. We've been told for nine straight years that this trend was a thing. In the context of poolside lounging it totally works.
  • Epic soft safari jackets and short trench coats. Look at them. LOOK.
  • Luxe cargo trousers. When you're traveling, you have to put stuff in your pockets. It's a whole lot better for your silhouette if that bulk is added at your lats than on top of your groin.

01.aug.2016 style
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Strategies for Wrinkle Resistance

If you live long enough, eventually you will have learned a series of different names for what is essentially the same thing. Just as polyester was rebranded as "microfiber" in hopes we'd all forget about its origins as a sort of non-breathing, wearable saran wrap, they probably gave up on the term "permanent press" in order that we might not recall its formaldehyde-treated first incarnation. Wrinkle-resistant, non-iron, stainproof, etc. fabrics are all essentially similar—cotton is soaked in a solution of tiny particles that are then bonded with heat to the material's fibers. This is highly effective and highly durable, and grants many of us the otherwise unattainable goal of wearing cotton khakis to work or for travel and not looking like crap by the end of the day. But like anything it has its pros and cons, and there are alternatives in the search for everyday trousers that don't need to be dry cleaned.

Wrinkle-resistant cotton garments are available at even the lowest price points. For everyday work wear, the best value for performance is found in Brooks Brothers Advantage Chinos and Lands' End No Iron Chinos. The advantages to the material are cost and ubiquity. The downsides are that the treatment is almost impossible to find in made-to-measure clothes and that altering off-the-rack trousers typically leaves a small but noticeable scar.

Heavier cottons are inherently wrinkle-resistant, or at the very least, produce broad creases that are aesthetically pleasing (think denim). Cotton canvas is one such material. 11oz canvas is great in cooler months. Less fun in the dead of summer.

Small amounts of elastane or lycra work in a different way than chemical and heat treatment by allowing garments to stretch and deform a bit while returning to their original shapes. AG is big on putting a little stretch into their casual trousers and it does wonders. Also effective in corduroy to prevent sagging knees after sitting. As a downside, such materials will not hold a crease no matter how much heat and pressure you blast them with. Limits somewhat their workplace potential.

Washable wool blends promise the look of wool with the easy care of cotton. Unrefinery had some test bespoke trousers made up in Luxire's "Wool Rich" material, which is 70% Super 120s wool and 30% polyester. They look great and they survived the wash completely unscathed. Apparently they can also be tumbled dry. Still kinda hesitant to try that.


25.jul.2016 design tech
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Fiat 124 Spider

After 30-some years Fiat is bringing a roadster back to the U.S. market, and it's lovely. You can tell that there's a Miata platform underneath the 124's Italian skin, but it doesn't look like a Miata in any but the most superficial ways—it has a more aggressive hood, a longer total length, handsome squared-off corners and a Ferrari-esque gentle curve to its decklid. It even looks not terrible with the top up, and in the $25,000-ish segment "not terrible" is where the bar is set for such things.

Mechanically the formula is true to the simple, fun Italian roadsters of yore: a small but punchy engine (in this case a 1.4-litre turbo making 160 horse), rear-wheel drive and none of that high-performance dual-clutch gearbox business.

If there's a bone to pick here from a design standpoint it lies in the colour availability—you've got blacks, red, greys and whites, and the top and entry lines are only available with a grim black interior. the best colour option by far, a metallic mica blue with saddle leather, can only be had in a limited "Prima Edizione" run with a $35,000 price tag. An impractical investment, for sure, but for a delightfully impractical set of wheels.
05.jul.2016 design tech
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Excessive collar roll is excessive.

Before the Internet it took years for fashion trends to pass "borderline", clear "pushing it" and reach "self-parodying". Over nearly a decade spanning the 60s and '70s, pant leg openings grew incrementally wider on an annual basis until they finally exceeded the circumference of the wearer's waist and someone finally burst out laughing to ruin the whole thing. In the self-congratulatory echo chamber that is #menswear, however, "dub-munks" with a single buckle closed spread faster than aerial spraying could contain them and "necktie boners" were fluffed and deflated within a single season.

The point here is that there aren't a lot of reasons to own a button-down collar in the first place, and "collar roll" is a silly thing for grown men to congratulate one another about. And once the space under your button-down collar becomes sufficiently expansive to shelter a family of four, it might be time to go unplug your router for a while.
27.jun.2016 meta style
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Double-Breasted Sighting at Suitsupply

DB suit options have been scarce at Suitsupply for the past year, which is unfortunate because they deserve a lot of credit for mainstreaming a trimmer silhouette for the genre that mixes and matches elements normally associated with less bankerly styles—patch pockets, soft shoulders, and kissing buttons for instance. This month the options expanded considerably with the welcome reapperance of their Madison VBC Suit [$499] in staple navy and medium grey. And most importantly, the addition of the Soho [$639] to their Design Your Own Suit offerings. Granted, it's nowhere close to a proper custom or made-to-measure program. You're stuck with the default sizes, and the only thing you can choose is the shell fabric—you can't even pick your own lining or buttons. But regardless, it does instantly make Soho double-breasted suits available in 54 different materials and that's nothing but good news.
20.jun.2016 style
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