The Latest: Saturday 22 October 2016

Knit Suit Envy

Men have long envied the drapey comfort that women enjoy with knit suits, and have longed for a way to successfully translate this into our realm. Not a track suit, not Betabrand's self-parodying onesie, but an honest-to-God knit suit that's cut like something we might actually wear in place of the genuine article.

The difficult part is, of course, the trousers. Smart travelers have been hip to knit blazers for years. Nobody is really trying that hard to bring the other half up to speed; results are invariably more like a weird sweatsuit with lapels and vestigial belt loops (see Zara's attempt above).

We may never get good-looking knit suits with trousers that drape rather than sag. Performance fabrics, however, might achieve some of the desired results—woven cottons with high elastane or high-tech polymer content give us increasing amounts of stretch, shape retention and machine washability. Combined with the perpetual promise that This Season Trousers Really Are Getting Looser, we may someday yet bring the cozy without reverting to a crumpled mess by day's end.
17.oct.2016 style
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Uniqlo U Is Coming

Uniqlo's last collaboration with Christophe Lemaire was frankly a bit unremarkable; the pieces diverged from the staple pieces on which they were based only in minor details and the $60 lambswool cardigan that arrived at Unrefinery HQ had severely pilled sleeves after a single wearing. Hopes are a little higher for Lemaire's first Uniqlo U collection, which acknowledges from the outset that its goal is a refinement of the basics and has a slightly higher price point that one would hope reflects a higher quality of materials. A few pieces to look for when the products go online October 14:

1. Cashmere Blend Turtleneck Sweater [$80] — Everyone cringes at the phrase "cashmere blend" as it typically indicates a cashmere content in the single digits. If this bucks that trend then this is a pretty interesting piece. The price is right, the ribbed neck, hem and cuffs are very cool, and nice available colours include a rich ochre and warm ivory.

There's also a rather ordinary looking cashmere (not "blend") turtleneck at $140, which would be a tough sell given that Uniqlo's already great standard cashmere turtlenecks are a reliable $100 every year and typically go on sale early for around $80.

2. Extra Fine Merino Knit Polo [$50] — This is an underrated men's staple for winter, comfortable and easy to layer, but made a little more work-ready than a standard crew or v-neck by virtue of its collar detail. At $50, could be an opportunity to buy in multiple colours.

3. Wool Blend Chesterfield Coat [$180] — Generally a bit of synthetic fibre is more acceptable in outerwear as it offers a bit of water resistance and shape retention. This has nicely cut lapels and the rich olive/brown looks great.
03.oct.2016 style
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Nike divested from Cole Haan four years ago, but you'd never f**king know it.

Somehow it still feels right to blame them for all of this.
26.sep.2016 style
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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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