Wednesday, 6 May 2009

What are the Alternatives to a Classic Plain Leather Wallet for Men?

Fashion accessories are a great way to add personality to your clothes, without dominating your whole look. The leather wallet is considered a plain and functional accessory, with little opportunity for customisation. Whilst many men favour a plain wallet for its smart and classic look, there is also strong demand for unique and fashionable wallets. This is certainly the case for the younger gentleman, but also for the man who appreciates individuality and attention to detail. There are many distinct and unique wallets on the market that offer style and versatility. In this article I will look at the different ways wallets can be customised (e.g. leather treatments, colours, lining and embossing), with particular reference to the designer brands that make them.

Most fashion brands manufacture a range of men’s wallets, but I will focus on those that have a particular point of difference whilst remaining commercial. One of the most exciting wallet brands to emerge has been J.Fold, a New York based company established in 2003 that manufactures quality sports wallets. They have quickly developed a strong following amongst the likes of Justin Timberlake and the Arctic Monkeys, and are known for modern and bold designs. Diesel is known as an urban brand, and their men’s wallets reflect this ideal with edgy designs that display maturity. Timberland offers a piece of the rugged outdoors with their fashionable accessories, whilst remaining relevant to the urban consumer. Ted Baker understands that men need versatility with their accessories as well as a unique sense of style, and offer a strong range of wallets. Simon Carter offer s a modern take on classic English design, and have crafted a distinctive and light hearted approach to their leather accessories.

The majority of men’s wallets come in black or brown leather, as they are extremely versatile and present a smart image. There are many interesting alternative colours that range from natural tones to the bright and vibrant. Timberland produce a range of wallets in natural and earthy tones which includes their classic tan colour (known as weathered iron), a light beigey-grey and an earthy brown. It shows off a more laid back and casual image, suitable for casual and business-casual attire. Many designer brands such as Ted Baker incorporate colour into a wallet with a coloured edge that contrasts with the brown or black leather. J.Fold use exciting colour contrasts such as a turquoise trim against brown leather. They are more famous though for their bold use of colour throughout the wallet such as bright reds, racing greens, blues and yellow. Although not for everyone, their colourful wallets are street smart and will receive a lot of attention from admirers.

Many wallets use a textured leather effect for interest, but there are other approaches to livening up the leather surface. For example, a leather glaze produces a shiny effect for a unique character without being too ‘way-out’. Simon Carter uses a glaze combined with a vintage effect on its travel wallet for a light hearted spin, ideal for city professionals who want a bit of individuality. Timberland uses a Nubuck leather for its ‘Sleeker’ wallet range which is softer and lighter than normal leather and has a similar look to suede. This is ideal for a casual and laid back look.

Many designer brands also customise the wallet by creating patterns and shapes with the leather. Most designer wallets have an embossed logo, but others use embossing to create abstract patterns (e.g. the Ted Baker Cutout wallet which has a paisley pattern). The most playful designs come from J.Fold, who developed a technique of punching holes into their wallets, with a lining behind in contrasting colours. The J.Fold Loungemaster has tiny perforated holes punched into the leather surface, whilst the Reverb has small oval shapes that gradually change size. J.Fold also layer pieces of leather on top of the main wallet, as in their Roadster wallet which has two strips of leather to look like racing stripes. Another very modern approach to customise a wallet is screen-printing directly onto the leather. Diesel, known for their urban influences, screen-print anarchic designs for a dramatic look.

A more subtle way of customising a wallet is a contrasting lining, which can be dramatic without dominating the whole wallet. A subtle but effective look is a brown interior on a black wallet or vice versa. J.Fold take this a bit further and uses very colourful interior colours such as lime green and bright orange. Simon Carter, known for their quirky sense of humour, line all their wallets with a colourful comic strip that was developed exclusively for the brand. There are many types of unique and individual wallets that offer subtle and dramatic alternatives to the plain and ordinary.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

What is the Right Pair of Cufflinks for your Personality, and the Occasion?

When putting together a formal outfit there are few options for customisation, but accessories give the man some freedom to express himself. Cufflinks are a great way to add some personality, colour and mood to your formal outfit. There is a vast array of cufflink styles such as; crystal, coloured enamel, mother of pearl, animals and novelty cufflinks. The vast array of designs ensures that you will find the ideal pair of cufflinks to suit your personality, and the occasion. In this article I will explore the different brands and styles of cufflinks, and how to pick the right pair for you and your outfit.

Due to the very large range of designer cufflinks available, it is not easy to pick the right pair for your outfit. Do the cufflinks need to match the tie? Very often you can purchase a tie and cufflink set with matching colours and patterns, which does give a smart and well considered look. Choosing a pair of cufflinks with a colour or pattern that matches the tie, also gives the same effect. More important though is to choose a pair of cufflinks that suit your personality, and the occasion.

If your work demands a conservative dress, then a classic pair of cufflinks will work best. For example solid colours or subtle patterns that match the tie give a smart and professional look. Classic cufflink shapes include; circles, ovals, squares and rectangles (also known as barcode cufflinks or barrels). Cufflinks made out of chrome give a modern and clean look. The chrome egg cufflinks by Simon Carter are an excellent all round cufflink that will suit most looks. It is very important to own one pair of classic cufflinks, to give you wardrobe some flexibility. In addition, classic cufflinks go very well with a highly patterned or detailed shirt.

It is possible to be a bit more daring when choosing cufflinks for a social occasion. For a black tie event a classically cool look is a matching pair of black cufflinks, with a hint of crystal or silver for some sparkle. Simon Carter has a large range of black and crystal cufflinks, such as their bullseye cufflinks which is made from rings of onyx. For special events such as weddings, cufflinks using semi-precious stones such as mother of pearl and sapphires will lift your outfit without being too loud.

If your intention is to stand out from the crowd, then a vividly coloured pair of enamel cufflinks or coloured crystal cufflinks will do the trick. Duchamp London is a premium accessories brand based in London, known for their vividly coloured enamel cufflinks. Their designs are exclusive to Duchamp, using hand enamelling techniques to achieve a very detailed level of design. Their multi coloured harlequin cufflinks will add some much needed ‘jazz’, to a more neutral suit and shirt. Some cufflinks are made from coloured fibre optic glass, which have the added benefit of being able to reflect the light (see Tateossian).

For the gentleman who likes to show off the fun side of his personality, novelty cufflinks are a good option. They do not have to be tacky, as there are some luxurious and elegant novelty cufflinks available. Tateossian are well known for their mechanical cufflinks such as watches, compasses and thermometers (which all work). Their signature cufflink is a globe that can spin around in its solid silver axis. Paul Smith are well known for their ‘naked lady’ enamel cufflinks whilst Simon Carter are renowned for their aspirin cufflinks. There are also a wide range of cufflinks for animal lovers and sports enthusiasts. Tateossian football cufflinks feature a football on one side, and a football boot as the whale tail fitting.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Choosing between the styles of Men’s Underwear; the brief, boxer short and boxer brief

Underwear for men can be cool, a real fashion item. The latest Emporio Armani advertising campaign featuring the iconic David Beckham is evidence of this. Too often though men do not pay enough attention to the underwear they wear. In this article I will compare the different styles; the brief, the boxer short and the boxer brief (or trunk) on the basis of fashion, comfort and health.

The brief, more commonly known as the ‘Y-Front’, is a type of tight and short Y-shaped underwear with elastic around the legs. Boxer shorts (also known as loose boxers or as simply ‘boxers’), are longer in the leg and are made from non stretch fabric that hangs loosely over the body. The term has been in use since 1944, named after the shorts worn by boxers for whom easy leg movement was vital. The boxer brief, or the trunk, is the newest of men’s underwear, although similar to the bottom half of the two-part union suits or thermals worn in the 1910s. The boxer brief uses tight fitting fabric like a brief but is longer in the leg like a boxer short.

In terms of popularity, the balance has shifted over time, but in the millennium it is the boxer brief that wins hands-down. If you look at the major designer underwear brands such as Calvin Klein, Emporio Armani and D&G they have a very limited range of boxer shorts compared to trunks and briefs, and it is the trunk that outsells the brief.

Men’s Underwear is a fashion item, and as such can look cool and flatter the physique. The brief has long been associated with the negative term ‘Y fronts’, and is thus perceived as being unfashionable. The brief works very well on an athletic or muscled physique, but is not flattering for the rest of us. The boxer short is made from loose fabric, and therefore does not show off the physique and in my opinion is the least fashionable of men’s underwear. It was in the mid 1980s that the boxer short was perceived as fashionable due to the ‘Launderette’ Levis commercial which starred English model and musician Nick Kamen who stripped to his blue boxers. The boxer brief is in my opinion the most fashionable because it benefits from a body hugging fit, whilst also featuring the flattering longer leg. The most important aspect of tight fitting underwear is that they are good quality, such as Calvin Klein or Emporio Armani, because if they lose their shape the result is truly awful.

For most men the vital characteristic of underwear is the comfort factor. Briefs provide the most support, which some men find comfortable and is best suited to sport. The downside is that they contain tight elastic around the legs, and for many men can feel too restrictive. Unlike briefs though, the boxer brief does not have tight elastic around the legs. Instead they rely on the elasticity of the fabric to provide enough support, making them more comfortable. Boxer shorts provide the most freedom, which some men find comfortable but others find provide too little support. Although boxer shorts are loose, they are not made from stretchy fabric, which means that they do not allow extreme movements. In addition, boxer shorts have a rather nasty tendency to ride upwards which is most unwelcome.

A more scientific approach is the effect of underwear on male fertility. Some studies suggest that tight underwear negatively affects sperm production because of the increased temperature. On the flip side, a study in the October 1998 Journal of Urology concluded that underwear type is unlikely to have a significant effect on male fertility. So by way of a conclusion, the brief is ideal for sport and toned bodies, the boxer brief provides all round comfort and fashion whilst the boxer short is only for the die hard fans.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Accessories are a Great Way for Men to Add Personality to their Outfits

Accessories for men can greatly improve a man’s outfit and create a positive style statement, but are not always top of the list when building up their wardrobe. In this blog I will discuss the benefits of using men’s accessories such as; ties, cufflinks, belts, socks, bags, wallets, watches, hats, scarves, underwear and gloves.

Accessories are a great way to add style and personality to an outfit without overdoing it. A lot of men’s clothing is quite simple and classic, and so it is not easy to stamp your own personality onto your clothes. Because accessories are quite small e.g. cufflinks, it is possible to choose more dramatic pieces without dominating the whole look. For this reason, there is vast range of accessories available for men for every occasion and personality. Accessories are also a great way to introduce colour into your clothes, without creating a lurid outfit.

Another benefit of using accessories is their versatility, because one accessory can be matched with a whole variety of different outfits. In addition, swapping over an accessory on the same outfit will create a whole new look. For example a basic suit and shirt can be livened up with a jazzy tie and crystal cufflinks, whilst it can be perfect for work with a power tie and classic cufflinks. Accessories are relatively inexpensive, even from the designer brands and therefore are a very useful style tool for men.

Most fashion houses have a large range of men’s accessories to choose from. Popular accessory brands for men include Ted Baker, Paul Smith, Calvin Klein, Diesel, Emporio Armani, Hugo Boss and D&G. Most brands have a core range of accessories they carry from season to season, as well as a range for the current season. In fashion, there are 2 collections a year; Autumn/Winter and Spring Summer. Accessories though are not hugely seasonal, and so will not go out of fashion quickly. An online men’s accessories store, Herbert Jones, offers the full range of accessories from the designer brands.

Belts are available in two types; dress belts and casual belts. Dress belts are thinner, have a less obtrusive buckle and tend to have a shiny leather finish. Casual belts on the other hand are thicker, have a matt finish and can have more creative buckles. It is important to always wear a formal belt on a suit. Ties can add some much needed personality and colour to a suit and shirt. Ties mainly vary in colour and pattern, but also in width. Skinny ties tend to come in and out of fashion, although kipper ties haven’t been in fashion for some time. Cufflinks are a great way to add glamour to your outfit and are available in a wide range of styles from crystals to coloured enamel to novelty cufflinks. Socks are not the most glamorous accessory, but still must be considered. A watch is a great way to add some detail to an outfit, and is usually the only piece of jewellery a man owns. Bags for men have increased in popularity over the past decade, as the messenger bag has become a fashion item.