What’s Missing in #menswear?

Friday, 10 November 2017

There is a distinct lack of interesting takes in the world of #menswear (defined in terms of people who care about what men wear). There are two general camps: people who tell you what to wear, and people who tell you how to dress. They are both interested in “elevating” the level of how men dress, but the “tell you what to wear” folks don’t tell you why, and the “tell you how to dress” folks expect you to already know why.

I think there’s a general ignorance of design principles here that would be of greater benefit to men trying to dress well than just being shown what to wear or told how to dress, which, to be frank, are both patronizing. To abuse a cliché, what we have in menswear is giving a man a specific fish and telling him how to cook it instead of teaching him to catch whatever he wants and prepare it in a variety of ways.

There’s also, quite clearly, a capitalist incentive for most of these sites — they make money by telling you about sales, picking the items they think you should buy, and getting you to come back to the site using the most powerful 4 letter word: SALE.

There was a time when I was dressed by the internet. I made a lot of mistakes developing an aesthetic, and I’m sure I’ll make more as it changes. In general I’d like to see more discussions of personal aesthetics and how a person developed it. Different nuances of taste, rather than style or fashion. Not everyone wants to be a hypebeast, peacock, or basic. If you pay too much attention to how people say you should dress, you run a serious risk of looking like you’re in costume when you go out.

Where I Get My Information

  • Dappered — This is a good site for finding deals on basic stuff. They never get out of “standard white suburban guy who works in finance” zone. I pretty much only keep an eye out here for plain stuff that I need for work, as they do a good job with sale round-​ups.
  • Permanent Style — Simon Crompton does an amazing job charting the world of luxury bespoke menswear. I can’t afford a damn bit of it, but I’ve learned a lot about cloth & fit from reading this blog. The next time I need to buy a suit, I’ll do a much better job from what I’ve learned here.
  • Put This On — This site is probably closest to what I’m looking for in terms of helping you define an aesthetic. They do a great job finding good second-​hand pieces and helping you search on a budget. They’re way too LA-​centric though, and also want everyone’s to always wear a sport coat/​blazer, cuff links, and pocket squares.
  • Well Spent — Daily recommendations on well-​crafted, not inexpensive clothes. Very occasionally they’ll pull something in a little off the wall, but typically they pick stuff that’ll appeal to the widest variety of guys, or are offered by their sponsors. I visit here to learn about new brands.
  • Unionmade Goods — This is a store. Their clothes are always unique & I religiously follow their lookbooks, as they get quite creative. I’ve made more than one mistake trying to make one of their looks work for me, though.
  • GRAILED — eBay for quality menswear. Once you know what brands you like, you will find interesting stuff here, usually at a deep discount.
  • eBay — The OG. Even with custom, very refined searches, it’s still like finding a needle in a haystack.

What’s in an Aesthetic

I haven’t talked about this much. But I do think there are some general principles to follow if you want to develop your own taste after navigating past the people yelling about style and/​or fashion.

  • Know the basics. — Learn what clothes are best for your body type. Learn about what clothes are expected in certain situations. Think about what your social life is like and don’t buy clothes for situations that are infrequent to you.
  • Learn about color. — You can’t go wrong with neutral tones, but you should figure out which actual colors are good for you, and stick with those.
  • Looks matter. — I argue with my kid about this all the time. Your appearance gives clear social cues to those around you. If you look like trash, people are going to have assumptions about that. If you are way overdressed, people are going to have assumptions about that. Do you care about this? If not, then why are you reading this?
  • Spend wisely. — Don’t buy stuff that’s on sale just because it is on sale. Shell out for a something that’s exactly what you want, or wait to find that item second-​hand elsewhere. I waited 4 years to find a $200 shirt I wanted (but didn’t need) on eBay for $20. I waited 2 years to find the a 2 person kayak on Craigslist for $200. I spent a year looking for the right priced antique oak kitchen table, and ended up getting one for $30 from a neighbor a few blocks away. Nothing slows your development of taste than consistently making decisions based on whim.
  • Feel confident & comfortable. — Most important rule. If you are picking out/​trying on clothes and you have any level of uncertainty, don’t get it. You should wear stuff you want to wear, that makes you feel great.
  • Bend the rules hard. — Once you feel confident, you will feel okay bending the hell out of the rules. Gonna wear black and brown at the same time? Whatever. You can make it work.
  • There is no God. — Everybody claims authority on how to dress. Don’t buy it. Only you know what works for you.

Those bullets are the areas I’d like to hear more about, from people who have developed their own unique taste & design for their lives. How do the materials in a person’s life reflect how they understand themselves? This profile of André 3000 is a pretty good example, even if his style won’t work for 99% of the population.

My son & I deliberately dressed like hypebeasts for Brite Winter Festival in February 2017

Artificial” “Intelligence”

Sunday, 22 October 2017

I use my “AI” personal assistants intermittently, mostly because they aren’t very good assistants; yet. For these things to actually get useful, they need to be able to do more than build lists, order things, send reminders, and provide wayfinding.

Use Case: Adding a stop to my wayfinding

  • Existing Functionality: I ask: “Dunkin Donuts along my route”. I’m told “Finding Dunkin Donuts along your route along your route.” and presented with a list of x number of locations that I have to scroll through, determine which is the best option, and add to the wayfinding while I’m driving. 
  • Better Functionality: I ask “Dunkin Donuts along my route.” and the assistant chooses from the options available and automatically adds the one with least impact on my travel time to the wayfinding.
  • Best Functionality: I say “Order my usual from the nearest Dunkin Donuts on my route” and the assistant: finds that location, places an on-​the-​go order using information it already has, and schedules the pick-​up based on travel time to that location.

Use Case: Reminders

  • Existing Functionality: I say: “Remind me to get up at 1am on Sunday for the Orionid meteor shower”. I get a notification at 1am on Sunday. I sleep through it.
  • Better Functionality: I say: “Remind me to get up at 1am on Sunday for the Orionid meteor shower”. An alarm is set instead of a push notification, because the assistant knows I’m usually asleep at this time.
  • Best Functionality: I say: “Find me the best place and time to watch the Orionid meteor shower on Sunday.” The assistant knows my location, checks the Dark Sky database for nearby locations with lower light pollution, calculates travel time to that location for best viewing, and sets an alarm to wake me up so I can get there on time.

Other stuff that would be cool:

  • Pay my gas, electric, internet, and phone bills on Friday.” This finds the bills, and schedules payment with my bank.
  • Send $50 worth of flowers to my mom the Saturday before every Mother’s Day” Bonus points if it knows what kind of flowers to send.
  • Add ‘The History of Philosophy’ podcast to my morning drive Spotify playlist”
  • Schedule 3 days of weight training and 3 days of cardio, and adapt the schedule based on missed workouts.” This isn’t just putting something on the calendar, but is actively providing the workout details as well.
  • I want Italian for dinner twice this week.” This would find a recipe or two based on how much time it knows I have to prepare dinner, and automatically add the ingredients to my list. Bonus points if it can analyze past meal plans & predict what ingredients I already have on hand.

These AI assistants are way less capable than my child of understanding & interpreting conversational speech and using context & initiative to provide a quality return. If you don’t ask the question using the exact phrasing they know, you’re wasting their time. Assistants waste my time if I have to learn their language in order to get half-​functional results from them.

They may get smart one day, but the walled-​garden paradigm is going to make it a pain in the ass. My AI of choice should work with all of my other applications of choice, but I have a feeling it will be less by choice & more by necessity in the long run. I can’t see Google’s AI integrating with Apple to download something in iTunes. Or Alexa allowing you to order something from an Amazon competitor.

Lifetime Learning

Thursday, 10 November 2016

The boy and I went to a Frontiers of Astronomy lecture at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History tonight to learn about gravitational waves from Dr. Kelly Holley-​Bockelmann. Here’s a similar version of her talk:

For a quick run-​down about the importance of gravitational waves: Top 5 Targets of a Gravity Wave Observatory.

I’d forgotten how much I missed hanging around a campus and going to random lectures and learning new things straight from the experts. That was one of the highlight of attending a university. Plus the snacks after!

It was my son’s idea to attend, and even though it was way past his bedtime, he learned a bunch, and even asked the astrophysicist an intelligent question about the “pressure” of gravitational waves that she was able to explain to a 3rd grader. It was definitely a more intelligent question than the one about time travel. I’m super proud of him for having the gumption to ask a question when he was the youngest in a room with hundreds of people in it.

After the lecture we went up to the observatory and got to take a gander at the moon. It was a first for both of us, and amazing! Then we had the aforementioned snacks, headed home, and he passed out in the car. I need to start looping myself in to the local lecture circuit. There are too many colleges around for me to continue ignoring the opportunities they provide.

I might even be able to haul along my son, since he seems to be into the science-​related ones at least. I guess that runs in the family too.

Fashion

Sunday, 6 March 2016

I’ve spent the last couple of years taking a greater interest in dressing well — which has morphed into a greater interest in style — which has morphed into a greater interest in fashion — which is something I’ve never understood. Though, finally, I’m beginning to. I think.

There have been scattered moments in my life where I had a well-​defined personal style, my curated EDM-​hippy vibe in high school (neon-​printed rayon shirts that glowed under blacklight and vintage pants), proto-​Zuckerbergian basic neutral normcore for post-​collegiate office work (khakis, grey t-​shirts, blue button-​downs), to my current urban yuppie professor dad steez (ubiquitous corduroy jacket, flat-​brimmed hat, worn-​in selvedge, high tops).

If I had to assign three major qualities to clothes they would be material utility (what’s it used for?), quality (how well is it made?), and communication (what does it mean to wear it?). Traditionally, I barely cared about any of these — although utility would be the closest, which is the status quo for most folks (men especially). I would buy the cheapest clothes that would serve the greatest number of purposes and cared nothing about fit, provenance, appearance or style. So the world of high fashion seemed completely ludicrous to me. I never consciously considered that clothing could be art.

I am a person who appreciates the well-​crafted. I eventually grew tired of buying cheap clothes that don’t fit my proportions and disintegrated after a wash or two. I’ve sought well-​crafted, American-​made clothing for the last 2 years, and through the research in and appreciation of that craft, I’ve been able to look to the next step to see fashion as art. The utility might be non-​existent — but there’s no utility to visual art, music, or creative writing either. I’m talking material utility, not social utility.

So now I pay attention to my own dress, to the dress of others’, and to some extent what’s abuzz in fashion because I took the time to learn the language & what I say by the way I dress. A lot of it still seems like nonsense to me, but I’m willing to attribute that to my ignorance. Here’s to further learning.

Historical Footnotes

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

I posit that the event horizon of “historically important” as a quality of information is the point at which the dataset disappears from living memory. The magnitude of certain events ensures that they will be recorded for posterity, but even then, the reasons behind that recording fade as the people who experienced it die. I might be using the wrong terms here. Maybe it’s not history I’m talking about, but anthropology. History is “these are the things that happened”; anthropology is “these are the ways people acted.”

Living as I do, in a society where many people are arguably obsessed with recording and archiving every detail of their lives, I wonder what methods future historians/​anthropologists will use to sift wheat from chaff — especially when, as this post is evidence for, so much of what is shared and saved is chaff.

That’s long-​term historicity. If history is still being recorded 5,000 years from now, this whole epoch will likely be reduced to a one-​liner: “An age of technological growth so rapid it’s effects threatened to destroy civilization.”

Specific to this is the rise of the automated autobiography. People have been posting things online so long now that there are services to show us and let us share what we were doing to the day, 1, 3, 5, or 10 years ago. Is there a broader desire to consume these mini-​histories, or do they just exist to serve our need to feel more important than we are? It doesn’t have to be either/​or. My bet is that it’s an admixture of onanism, exhibitionism, and voyeurism.

Signal to noise depends on your ears.

Trash is treasure.

Ray Rice is just a symptom

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

I’m not normally one to beat upon a string of ideological adjectives when making a point, but lately it seems necessary.

Racist patriarchal capitalist society trains us to think that the limit of knowledge is obtaining maximum money — the most admirable goal; and then does all it can to prevent minority groups from achieving it. Racist patriarchal capitalist society trains us to think that we are not people, but human resources; (celebrities are not even human — they exist only as a brand, a product) and then does all it can to make minority groups appear generic & cheap. Racist patriarchal capitalist society trains us to think that objects sold in the material world will satisfy our desires, and, failing that, objects provided in the virtual world will do the same; and markets to everyone so they will become more racist, more patriarchal, and more capitalistic. Racist patriarchal capitalist society trains us to think that its paradigm is the only paradigm.

Ray Rice is a victim of racist patriarchal capitalist society. It has made Ray think he is a product shaped and rewarded for his strength and skill at violence. It has not rewarded him for empathy, compassion, or wisdom. It has supported this training by covering up his violent behavior outside of the game he was paid to play. Ray Rice is a tone-​deaf, unrepentant abuser — but he didn’t have to be.

Janay Rice is a victim of racist patriarchal capitalist society. Orders of magnitude more a victim than Ray. It has made Janay think that she should silently accept and ignore being abused by her husband. It has not rewarded her for autonomy, assertiveness, or wisdom. It has supported this training by blaming women for everything that happens to them: rape, violence, stolen cell phone photos. Janay Rice is blind to her oppression, but she didn’t have to be.

I am not assigning all blame for the behaviors of Janay & Ray Rice to racist patriarchal capitalist society. Despite what they have been trained to think, they remain capable of healthy choices and healthy behaviors. The tectonic weight of racist patriarchal capitalist society has just made it much harder to be a healthy person and much easier to behave like a racist, patriarchal capitalist. That’s why it’s so easier for police to shoot & kill than do actual police work. That’s why some men think they can hit people & some women think that being hit is okay.

We are animals first. We respond to what is in front of us. We are outraged at Ray Rice, the NFL, Janay Rice, the police of Ferguson, MO. We react to stimuli as we have been trained to do. We are sapient second, and rarely. Though each individual is and should be called upon to be less racist, patriarchal or capitalistic — playing whack-​a-​mole each time we see an egregious example of our racist patriarchal capitalist society does little to effect change. Change requires action. Effective change requires knowing where to act, and how. We can go on identifying the symptoms, or we can try to end the disease.

Best of 2013

Saturday, 21 December 2013

BestOf2013

Here are some of my favorite songs that I listened to this year. Click the image to download a ZIP file or get it here.