I’m lucky enough to work in a place where I get to determine the dress code, and while it’s tempting to insist that everyone wear purple, ribbons in their hair, or tuxedos, the knob is permanently set to whatever. Squeezing into suits and heels is necessary for most client work (none of ours being particularly boho) but around the office? Wear what you feel like. That being said, there are others present, so looking like a total slob is not particularly desirable.
Personally, I have always had a thing for collared shirts and a certain level of rumpled formality, which probably stems from doing time at a private school. Instead of uniform-appropriate tennis shirts and turtlenecks, I always opted for a tie and slightly wrinkly white Ralph Lauren button-downed shirt. There’s something about old-fashioned men’s casual wear I have always liked, and if it wasn’t considered campy and Liza Minelli-ish for women to wear ties, I’d be in one right now.
Finding the perfect cotton collared shirt has been something I’ve been working on for quite some time. This desire was unrequited until about a year ago, when I stumbled upon a store called Steven Alan in New York. The outpost I found is on Elizabeth Street, and very nearly a literal hole in the wall (as well as being right beside a Cuban diner that is endlessly packed, no matter what time of day you walk by). At first it looked like men’s shirts only, stack upon stack of them. But lo, upon further investigation, they offered women’s apparel as well.
The moment I tried on my first shirt, in red gingham (what’s not to love about red gingham? So what if I look like a picnic table, or Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island? It’s cheerful, damn you!) I was hooked. I knew that Steven Alan was making shirts just for me. With button seams that are stitched just so to lay the collar perfectly open at the neck, they at first actually appear to be straight-up Brooks Brothers fare, until you get close. The subversion is in the details, including seams on the outside and pockets on the inside (Note: if you are at all broad-shouldered, these shirts are not for you. They’re very much crafted with skinny geeks in mind). I have since bought four shirts from Mr. Alan and am dangerously close to creating a uniform for myself. But that’s another issue altogether.
So now, what say you of pants? I am a jeans sort of person, and while I was assured a number of years ago that pencil-legged jeans were out, out, OUT, to be replaced by wide-legged pants of all sorts, I note with humour that this trend has taken a little longer than expected to land, with mainstream ads touting the shift only really starting to be plentiful this year. Of course that didn’t stop me from snapping up those wide-legged jeans ages ago. However, my personal preference is for flared-leg (“boot cut”) jeans that are not too low-rise (all that does is show the world your underwear when you’re least expecting it).
I was always a Gap girl, and convinced that anyone who spent more than $80 on denim was a total moron. Until I tried on my first pair of designer jeans at the venerable Henry Lehr, one of Manhattans’ finest dungaree purveyors. That changed everything. I’m now a total designer jean convert (it’s about cut, colour fastness, and, shall we say, “support”), and have again been lucky enough to find a brand that wears like it was made just for me.
Earnest Sewn jeans are made my crazy people that say things like,
Our concept lies in the idea of mixing the Japanese beauty aesthetic of Wabi-Sabi, with denim’s Americana past. In staying true to this we incorporate pride in workmanship and commitment to authenticity.
I pretty much have no idea what that means, but damn, I love your jeans, Earnest Sewn!
This universe of high-end denim features a manufacturing process that’s more like what you might expect from a master craftsperson, not a clothier, and the ES routine includes,
The Sewer who sews the entire garment from start to finish (instead of a factory assembly line) without any guides on the sewing machine (further adding to the hand made feel of the garment), the hand sander who sands down the jean with sand paper (after completing months of charcoal drawing training before he is ready to work on our garment), and the wet process technician, who washes the jean, resin coats it, and oven bakes it.
The three people who have worked on the pants then hand stamp it and sign their names. The Gap, this ain’t, on so many levels.
As usual, this post has more to do with stuff I like to buy than it does with geekiness in general; this is mostly because I am a bad person who forgot to bring my camera to SXSWi and I have a quota to fill.