Friday, July 25, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
To utilize a piece of clothing I’ve never worn before.
Shoes: Black Rockport XCS (seen these before?)
Socks: Standard ankle-cut black socks.
Pants: Black Rocco jeans from Express (also familiar)
Belt: Black belt with rectangular silver buckle from Express.
Undershirt: Heather gray 2004 Premier Driving School T-Shirt (I’ve never ever worn this, it’s too small and, it’s a driving school T-shirt, from four years ago).
Shirt: Dark pink and black striped polo from Old Navy (this is a new piece, so I also haven’t worn it before, but that doesn’t count).
First of all, just getting this wonderful polo from Old Navy is a victory. I went before getting my hair cut on Monday, just to browse. I saw they had new polos in, but wasn’t particularly interested in any of the designs. Then I saw this pink and black one on a poster on the wall. Naturally, I couldn’t find it anywhere in the store. Nearly defeated, I asked a cashier if they still had it. She didn’t know, but asked the manager. Out of nowhere, the manager just pulls one from beneath another register! I couldn’t believe my eyes. What size? Large! Perfect. Oh yeah, it’s on clearance as well! What a score, 60% off on my favorite shirt in the store.
Alrighty, now that I’ve got that out, let’s get back to the goal at hand. Much of the outfit is pretty standard for me (from the waist down in fact). The black jeans from Express are particularly useful to me, since I wear a fair amount of black and black compatible colors. The pink/black striped polo brings a nice amount of color and contrast to the party, with fairly bold, thick striping.
However, how was I supposed to extract value from that random gray tee shirt? There are a few points to consider:
Because I’m wearing a polo, I’m going to be wearing an undershirt regardless, and this one fits the bill (utility wise) as good as any. Especially with the higher buttons on this particular polo, any fancy designs or luxurious fabrics aren’t going to be showcased. All anyone is going to see is a small triangle right below the neckline.
Fortunately, this shirt makes good use of that space. The design is fully below this area, so we don’t end up with partially visible text (this can detract from intentionality due to the in-between-ness of the result). Further, the heather gray provides the outfit’s only region of low value, low saturation color, making a fairly prominent contrast, allowing the bright pinks and strong blacks to have a source of comparison. This makes them all the more brighter and stronger, respectively. Finally, the heather texture gives a nice consistency of fabric texture. A subtle detail, but it certainly can’t hurt.
The punchline to this goal, and my above justification, is that certain garments and uses do not require high-cost, high-fashion purchases. I’m going to detail where not to waste spend your money in an upcoming post.
While you can’t see that my undershirt is too small, I can certainly feel it. I’ve noticed, especially when shirts are too small in the shoulder and chest, that the fabric loses breathability and induces sweating, even when I don’t feel hot. Sweating, of course, is uncomfortable, and if you feel uncomfortable, you’re more likely to look uncomfortable. That’s no fun.
Visually, however, I’m very happy with the outfit. To improve it even further, we could increase the level of contrast. A bright, white undershirt may be a more distinct change, and we could add more small regions of this accent color to create a coherent contrast throughout. Options include prominent white detailing on a belt, white shoelaces or shoe detailing, even modifying the buttons to be white (this can be accomplished easily with paint or even a Sharpie). These modifications would be especially nice because of the individuality they bring to the pieces (you can’t buy this polo shirt with white buttons, for example).
Comments: The photographer said that the outfit "was nice." Thanks.
Credit: The photographer remains anonymous.
Monday, July 21, 2008
To utilize a piece of clothing which no longer fits properly, so that I can continue to extract fashion value from it.
Shoes: Brown Nike Air Series 6D. (I can't currently find them in brown on the Nike website)
Socks: Standard white socks (don’t worry, someday something unusual will crop up here, I promise)
Pants: Dark Blue Rocco Jeans from Express. Moderately prominent yellow-brown stitch detailing which matches the lighter tone on the shoe.
Shirt: Pink Paramore concert t-shirt. This is the piece which does not fit properly. When I saw Paramore on Warped Tour in 2007, this was my favorite design for sale, but they only sold it in women’s sizes. I figured a 2X would be big enough, but I was clearly wrong.
Topcoat: Blue Merona sport blazer. A very casual cotton navy blazer with three buttons.
First, you can see how ill fitting the Paramore shirt is. Notice the bunching in the shoulder area, and the absurd shortness of the sleeve.
Now, the full outfit…
The first step to success here is to hide the fact that the Paramore shirt really doesn’t fit. This is most obvious in the arms and shoulders (to a lesser extent the length of the shirt). We take care of this by covering those areas with a longer-sleeved garment, in this case a casual navy blazer.
Even more, covering these areas doesn’t take away any of the impact of such a bold shirt. The unusual font detailing is largely uncovered, and there was nothing on the sleeves that we’ll now miss. The interior edges of the blazer, left unbuttoned, actually serve to frame the graphic on the shirt.
From a color standpoint, we introduce three distinct blue colors, the darkest navy on the blazer, a lighter blue denim wash, and the brighter turquoise detailing on the shirt. While this does seem to violate a monochromatic principle; to house the darkest colors on the bottom pieces of the outfit, we’re OK because the darkest piece is that with the most weight, the blazer (it is the largest in size, and drapes over the body, indicating weight).
The main contrast comes from the two pinks on the shirt contrasting with the blues. Inside the shirt itself, we have significant hue, saturation, and value contrasts (which is why the shirt appears “loud”), while between the shirt and other garments we remove the stronger saturation contrasts. Corralling the heavy contrasts portions to a single garment is a good way to ensure the outfit doesn’t become too straining on the eye. We retain definite borders, but avoid any unpleasant contrasting.
Finally, we have a contrast in fit. The jeans and Paramore shirt are both tighter than average fits. Consequently, the loose fit of the blazer serves to dampen the tightness of the overall look, allowing us to avoid thoughts that our clothes are simply too small/too tight. This juxtaposition simultaneously accentuates and moderates the relative fits (which in both cases are slightly extreme).
While the outfit does certainly achieve its main goal, it is not without room for improvement.
First of all, I’m wearing a blazer in summer. Now, I’ll be the first to say that there is nothing wrong (fashion-wise) with that, at all. However, its really hot when I’m outside. Inside it’s no problem, but if you’re going to be walking around outside or something, I do not recommend you follow suit. You’ll find it to be quite the sadmaker.
Further, I find that the blazer sleeves are a bit too short, which is especially noticeable while I’m typing. It’s nothing drastic, but an inch more would be great. I frequently run into this problem, given my tall frames.
Finishing off the blazer, I hate the little pills/fuzzes that accumulate on this type of clothing. Academically I’m aware it really can’t be seen, and that it’s quite normal, but it drives me nuts. This is a significant point, as if you’re uncomfortable in your clothing, you’ll look uncomfortable in your clothing, and this can make visual difference (perhaps not in a photograph, but in actual life).
Not related to my clothing at all, but while I was at Starbucks, someone ordered a 7-pump caramel latte. SEVEN pumps. That’s more than a little frightening. Also heard a 5-shot skinny caramel machiatto. I’m pretty sure 5-shot and skinny are mutually exclusive. Apparently not.
A few people also asked if I was hot wearing that jacket. The answer, of course, was yes.
Thanks to Tracy, the person who cut my hair today, for taking the picture!
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
There's no reason to shell out big-bucks for basic solid-color tees (especially whites) that are almost always going to be worn underneath things. If you're going to wear a solid shirt as a standalone, yes, you might want to invest in something with excellent fit. In general, however, you're looking for value, vibrant colors, and comfortable fabric. To this end, cheaper department-type stores are often great (they have the volume to allow for lower prices), and often have sales when new brands of basic tee come along. You'll also be a little more sure of quality and durability.
Beware, non-basics here (design tee shirts) are less reliable in quality, not as good a value, and are much less likely to be uniquely worn. This is, of course, not really a factor for solid color shirts.
Creating Your Own:
If you want uniqueness, the easiest way to guarantee is to create your own design. You can do this by hand at home, but the artistic portion is often easier on the computer. Fortunately, there are a number of websites which allow you to upload designs to be made into shirts (or other garments). Many of these sites give you the option to keep your design private (ensuring yours is the only one), or to make it public (you make money off of it).
Obviously, with all the information, all the stores, and all the designs out on the internet, it's impossible to look through even a small percentage of the available material. Fortunately, you're not alone, and there are a number of websites which either distill the good information and good finds, or provide a community to discuss tee shirts.
Remember, especially with blogs, that you're only getting one person's point of view, and often this view is presented as obvious truth, but with no evidence! Don't be afraid to disagree or do your own research as well!
The Daily Tee
The T-Shirt Blog
Finding uniquely designed shirts often requires a bit more searching than the basics. Especially since people have different tastes, it's also hard to recommend places to look that will please everyone (or a majority, or even a minority!). This website provides a number of good jumping off places, but no real indication of what you'll find:
Other commonly known places which design shirts are (and there are many more out there):
Often, you're looking for a specific message or group to support with your tee shirt. These things are typically easier to find, given the specificity. For example, band tee shirts are usually very easy to find. Most of the time you can get them from the band's own webpage, and failing that, a google search of "xbandx tee shirt" is probably sufficient.
One website with a large number of band shirts is:
A good resource for sports team shirts (besides the websites of the teams themselves) is:
Even things you would assume to be very obscure can be tackled with a simple google search. Some examples:
Romeo and Juliet Shirt
Florida Everglades Shirts
School House Rock Shirt
Legends of the Hidden Temple Shirt
It's usually not that hard to find what a tee shirt, if you know ahead of time what you're looking for. If you're in search of a new wicked design, you may have to search a little longer, but the resources are out there. Unsatisfied with what's already out there? Take a stab at it yourself, people have made it amazingly easy to do nowadays! Enjoy and find your perfect shirt!
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
I love how the core values of Starbucks are like my own personal values, not, like, money or efficiency, or bad stuff like that.Wow. Anyway, here we go. I forgot my camera, so I took the picture(s) myself at home. The corresponding sections are, therefore, removed.
To utilize a piece of clothing in an unexpected or unusual fashion, obviously without creating a negative overall effect.
Shoes: Black Rockport Dunstable (again). I continue to get significant mileage out of these shoes. This may be because I wear a lot of black.
Socks: Black socks, unknown brand.
Pants: Black Rocco jeans from Express. These have a wonderful fit, and are quite comfortable. Some (very slight) red stitch detailing.
Undershirt: Purple basic undershirt from Target, worn as the main shirt.
Shirt: Yellow Izod sport polo, worn as the undershirt.
Clearly we’ve used a piece (two, really) in an unexpected way. I’m wearing a polo shirt as an undershirt, and an undershirt as the outer layer. This is something I described as an option in a previous Breaking the Norm post. Of course, there are details to consider.
First, one of the main ideas behind the concept is to recreate the idea of a polo collar contrasting with a sweater in a summer-friendly way. This is achieved here because of the sharp contrast between purple and yellow (they are complementary colors).
Another facet is recasting the undershirt as a slightly more dressy piece. We’re helped by the collar and sleeve detailing, and the overall dark color of the shirt. This makes the fabric appear to have more weight (which it does), than an undershirt. A thinner or lighter shirt may show too much of the underlying piece or be so thin that it looks like pajamas.
The rest of the outfit is fairly standard, a nice fitting pair of jeans, with matching shoes. Black is a safe choice as a background color, though we could have matched the purple and yellow with olive, brown, or beige trousers as well (changing shoes as necessary). Further, black jeans are generally regarded as more formal, giving more credence to the “dressy undershirt.”
The biggest problem with this outfit is actually one you can’t see. Undershirts are made to be comfortable. Polo shirts are made to be worn over undershirts. The result here is that my polo is a bit itchy, despite being washed just last night. I could wear an additional undershirt underneath the polo (for a total of three layers), but I suspect this would make me look like a puffball. (UPDATE: Confirmation on the puffball.)
Visually, the hardest thing to manage is the different sleeve lengths. The undershirt sleeves are about two inches shorter than the polo shirt sleeves, leading to an awkward differential. Pulling the polo sleeves out completely looks oddly unbalanced, and it’s difficult to keep them reigned in (one must pull in at the shoulders, then pull down, though the sleeves eventually work their way out again). Ideally, the polo sleeves should be shorter than the undershirt sleeves, or no more than half an inch longer (the extra contrast is nice, like a twofer tee shirt).
You can see the bad version of this here:
Monday, July 14, 2008
My point before was that tee shirts are typically only seen fully in the summer, and even then they're sometimes hidden behind other layers. Thus, it perplexes me when people pay inordinate amounts for something that's only going to be used fully 2-3 times per year. Believe me, it happens.
However, tee shirts are necessary to have, and if you're going to have some, they might as well be good. Good, of course, doesn't have to mean expensive. Also remember to extract as much value from the shirt as possible. Here are my guidelines:
- Try to vary the background colors of your tee shirts. When beneath a sweater, button-down, or even a polo, often the entire design of a tee shirt is obscured. You can, however, still extract value by using the background color strategically with color theory.
- Choose unique designs, or use self-design programs. Tee shirts provide an opportunity for very obvious uniqueness. Not everyone is going to notice if you've chosen a unique lapel shape for your newest suit. People tend to notice a shirt with an blue pig bomb on it (what you do with the uniqueness is your responsibility).
- Seek out quality fit. Too often, the departmental screen-printed tee comes in three sizes; minuscule, too big, and way too big. This is a shame, because a well-fitting tee shirt can be physique-flattering. When you're wearing just a single layer, this is a nice benefit.
- Simplicity is your friend. Often tee shirts cause a lot of "noise" in an outfit, by introducing a huge number of colors, patterns, or design ideas into a small space. Tee shirts with more than a few words are awkward to read (thus decreasing their value). Large numbers of colors can decrease coherence and intentionality, making you "that guy who just throws on the first clean tee shirt in his pile." Instead, aim for simple, easily digestible designs, and vibrant, but sparse color patterns.
I'm working on an article detailing how and where to obtain quality tee shirts, or to make your own. It should go up in a day or two, a more practical (rather than theoretical) approach to getting tee shirts of maximum fashion value.
Friday, July 11, 2008
We begin our Outfit Analysis series on this auspicious day, 7.11.8. (I’m not quite sure why I write the date that way, though I think it’s the most efficient (yet still intelligible) way to write it). For an introduction to what the Outfit Analysis series is, click the links in any of the "Outfit Analysis"'s in this paragraph.
To create a casual clean-cut outfit which expresses some edginess.
Although it is difficult, let me try to make these terms a little more rigorous. We’ll consider a clean cut outfit to fall within the general “preppy” paradigm, and consisting of simple, clean pieces. Edginess we’ll think of as strong symbols or colors, which may be indicative of “tough” people and interest groups. I’ll stop here, before I delve into completely ridiculous definition territory.
Shoes: Black Rockport Dunstable. I’m unsure as to their exact origin because they were a Christmas present. They are a low, long, black casual shoe (almost a “boat shoe”) with prominent white stitching.
Socks: Black Ankle Socks. (Not sure of the brand).
Shorts: Pastel yellow cloth shorts from Club Room.
Undershirt: Pink basic undershirt from Target.
Shirt: Black Old Navy polo with gray skull pattern detailing. I was unable to find it in the online store today, so it may no longer be available.
The outfit of consideration:
Here is a close-up of the skull detailing on the polo:
And a clear look at the shoes:
Let’s begin with the first goal; achieving a clean-cut outfit. The cuts/shapes of the garments chosen work well for us here. We have a non-sport shoe, without obvious logos or patterning. The shorts are clean, solid-color and are cut above the knee, as is considered standard. The shirt is a simple polo cut with undershirt beneath. All of thses cuts are common for a “preppy” look during summertime. Use of pastel colors in the shorts and undershirt, against black for the remainder creates distinct, simple color regions, keeping the look uncluttered (and thus, more clean.).
How about the edge? Well, the skulls are the obvious part. Come on, I’ve got fifty skulls on my shirt, I’ve got to be an edgy character. There’s a bit more subtlety to it though. The color black does dominate the outfit, taking up the entire shirt, as well as the shoes. We also leave the polo shirt fully unbuttoned to expose a significant portion of the undershirt. This increases the overall contrast level of the outfit, something which can be difficult when working with weaker (pastel) colors.
It’s not terribly obvious from the photograph, but the shorts are fairly wrinkled. This is intentional, because it’s often overlooked, or deemed unimportant. Certain garments do not require wrinkle-free wearing, such as jeans, undershirts, and sportswear. However, the whole goal of the cloth shorts is to appear clean-cut, and wrinkling obviously detracts from this. This also endangers the intentionality of our construction, making it more likely for someone to think the edge/clean cut combination was chance, rather than thought out fashion.
I also think that the outfit would have worked better with a stronger red undershirt, to increase the edginess, without sacrificing the clean, uninterrupted blocks of color in the outfit.
Finally, and this is nitpicking, a shorter sock (or perhaps no sock at all) may be better here, because of the very slight difference in color between sock and shoe. This does cause a slight decrease in the contrast intensity between skin and footwear.
Comments: Two kids mentioned that my shirt looked "pirate-y," and that this was "sweet."
Credit: I'd like to thank Susan for taking the main outfit photo. The detail photos were done by myself.
In an effort to bring some regularity to this fashion blog, I’m embarking on a series of fashion posts called Outfit Analysis. The basic idea is that multiple times a week, I’ll get dressed in the morning, drive over to a public place, and have a real person (read: not myself) take a picture of the outfit I’m wearing, possibly comment on it, and then include it in the blog. I’ll then provide an analysis of the outfit, outlining the goals it intends to achieve, how well it achieves those goals, and why this is the case. The why, of course, is the most important part, and unfortunately the part I find most often lacking in other fashion writing.
Often, I’ll intentionally make mistakes with the outfits, so that they do not optimally realize their goals. This seems silly, especially since I’m publishing these outfits for the world to see! However, I’ve found that a lot of learning comes out of experiencing something that you think is correct, but then learn to be wrong (I believe the technical term is cognitive dissonance). The mistakes will not always be glaring or obvious; this will hopefully add some depth to all our understanding of fashion.
Let’s outline how this process is going to work.
Goal(s): We’ll begin with the overarching fashion goal which the outfit intends to achieve.
Pieces: Here I’ll list the pieces of the outfit, and purchase information (if I know it)
Pictures: Pictures of the outfit will go here, preceding the discussion.
Victories: We’ll then discuss how the pieces work individually, and together, to achieve the goal.
Failures: Next, we consider what parts of the outfit detract from the overall effect, and why. Some (but certainly not all) of these will be intentional.
Comments: If anyone, including the photographer, makes comments about the outfit, they’ll be recorded here (anonymously if I only overhear them).
Credit: If the photographer wishes to be named, I’ll think him/her here.
As is my standard, this page will also become a linking portal for all things Outfit Analysis.
Outfit Analysis: 7.11.8