Personal Style

    Reader Questions: Fashion-Forward Sweaters, Velvet Blazers and Beating Up on Your Clothes

    15th January 2013

    Style Girlfriend Reader Mailbag

    It’s been beautiful in New York the past few days. I went for a few solid runs (keeping my resolution so far!) and even considered going tights-less today…but thought better of it when considering that by the time I get home later, the temperature will have dipped back down to “Oh right, it’s still January” levels.

    The warmish weather has me in a sort of, preliminary Spring Cleaning mode: I want to clean out my closet and my inbox. In the former category, I got rid of a skirt from the Gap that I’ve always told myself I’d figure out how to make it “one of these days” but never had, so just stopped trying. In the latter, I answered a sh*t ton of reader questions that were glaring at me every time I opened up my email.

    Here’s what Style Girlfriend readers have been asking about lately:

    Keegan says:

    Dear Style Girlfriend,

    No I’m still not the “first kiss” Keegan you were excited about previously, but hopefully my question will make up for it. Anyways, I’ve been looking into buying my first shaving brush and it seems there are so few men’s style websites that cover this topic. I was wondering what you would think would be a perfect match for a college newbie – on a college budget – considering there is so much to think about (brushes, creams, brush stands, shaving cups, etc..).

    Thanks and keep up the amazing work!

    Poor first-kiss Keegan, he’s really getting buried by my other non-first kiss Keegan readers :)

    Of the grooming brands I’ve learned about through Style Girlfriend, I’ve been really digging Portland General Store.

    Their “Liberty Brush” is $50, which is definitely an investment for a college guy, but one worth making. You can scrimp on the other stuff for now – shaving cream, etc, but you want a brush that feels good on your face and goes the distance.

    Will asks:

    I need a scarf to wear with my black wool overcoat. My suits are grey, charcoal, and dark blue. A knit cap to keep the ears warm would be nice, too.  Suggestions?

    Can I ask two questions? (Well…three now.) I’m a 6’1″, 40 y/o bald guy (picture Anthony Edwards). Cabbie Hat or no?

    Let’s work in order here:

    1. In my opinion, guys cannot go wrong with a red scarf. It’s bold yet classic, and matches pretty much every neutral you put against it (though maybe that’s my bias as a Wisconsinite..). Banana Republic has a couple nice ones:

    {Red merino wool, $23 (on sale)}

    {Plaited wool scarf, $40}


    2. For the knit hat, I think a gray is always a solid choice for guys. Headwear should be a bit more “blend into the background” of an outfit. Which is why….

    3. I’d advise against the cabbie hat

    Enrique asks:

    Hi Megan,

    For the holiday season I got a great merlot, velvet, peak lapel, single button dinner jacket/blazer.  Now that the Christmas and New Year’s parties are over, what’s the best way to keep this jacket working for me?  Is it versatile enough for work and play, or is this a formal attire only piece?

    I can completely understand your desire to bust out that jacket before next New Year’s Eve; it sounds beautiful! You can definitely dress a velvet blazer down with jeans or even khakis; I found some great examples over on “The Well Dressed Man”:

    The most important factor is to wear your jacket with confidence, but not arrogance. Repeat after me: Do not peacock. Women will appreciate that you’re trying something a little different with your look, but if you act like you think you’re the best-dressed dude in the room, that will be a turnoff. It’s a fine line to care about how you look but not care too much; just make sure you’ve got that balance right before you start sporting your new coat!

    Sean says:

    Hi Megan!

    I was curious as to your thoughts on novelty knots on neckties such as the trinity knot. Are they only for casual outings or can they be taken into formal settings?

    When it comes to your neckwear, women only notice a guy’s knot when it’s out of proportion to his frame. If you go with a huge “sports commentator knot” (as I like to call them) we’ll think you’re trying a little too hard. If it’s just something that’s a little fancy or different, but still a normal size, I say go for it. Maybe it’ll even spark a conversation – all those summers spent making thousands of friendship bracelets won’t be for nought.

    Chris opines:

    I came across your blog recently and it helped me to rethink how to dress myself as my 20′s are quickly coming to a close. Do you have any suggestions to add a little edge to your style suggestions?  A shawl sweater is a good way to get beat up on the metro or look like the old guy in the crowd. So I guess at this point I’m looking for an appropriate compromise between preppy and street wear.

    Hmm, I really don’t think anyone should do a spit-take when they see a shawl collar… But if this kind of sweater feels too fashion-forward, what about mixing patterns and textures? A striped tie with a plaid shirt, for instance, feels really stylish and current right now, but is still pretty conservative. Or a wool sweater layered over an oxford button-down. I think any attempt at making your outfits a little more visually interesting means you’re on the right track (and will definitely attract the eye of ladies like me!)

    John enthuses:

    Hey Megan,

    I came across your blog yesterday via Quarterly Co. via Tim Ferriss’ Blog. I’m an immediate fan!  I can’t wait for your next post.

    In the meantime, I need your help.  I’m a young professional (31 years old… okay, moderately young), I love style, but I have to confess, I’m super rough on clothes.  Every sweater I purchase lasts 3 or 4 times before it either stretches or looks dated.  Do you have any recommendations on good looking clothes that will last for someone who doesn’t take great care of their clothing?

    John, first of all – 31 is still young!

    Apart from that, and I would just say, make sure you’re investing more in the clothes you treat the worst. Like shoes, suits, coats, etc. I love Target, for instance, but would never buy jeans from them. Know what really needs to last, and invest in those items. So: undershirts, go for the cheap-o Hanes, but for a dress shirt, go Gant Rugger, Brooks Brothers, etc.

    The other thing I would say, and this is perhaps not so hygenic-sounding – don’t clean your clothes as often. Suiting only needs to be dry cleaned once a season, and jeans can go many (many) wearings without being washed. If you don’t put your wardrobe through the spin cycle as often, they should last a bit longer.

    Got a question for me? Leave it here, or email me at megan (at) stylegirlfriend (dot) com!

    • brianmo95

      First! Since I’m 33 years young I figured it was okay to bring that back. :)

    • average joe

      I have to agree with Megan on everything she wrote in this post!

      • Style Girlfriend

        Darn right! (just kidding, but thank you!)

    • Fred

      I like Taylor of Old Bond Street for shaving supplies. They’re located in London but their international shipping is quite reasonable. You can also find their brushes and creams on eBay. Try not to scrimp too much on the shaving cream – some stuff out there can really dry out your skin.

      • Style Girlfriend

        depends on what your skin is like I suppose, and which step you want to drop the big bucks into:)

        For instance, I’m lucky, I can use drugstore brand face wash (right now I’m on J&J Clean and Clear) but I always shell out for really great face lotion.

        • Brett2142

          When you say really great are we talking something name brand like Aveeno or something that isn’t carried in the chain drug stores?

    • average joe

      Shaving gear – I use “The Art of Shaving” I use the whole product line, brush, stand, soap, etc. It’s expensive so I didn’t buy it all at once, but started with the best brush I could buy (badger) and then asked for the other parts to the set as birthday and holiday gifts and built my set up that way. I’ve used their products now for the last 8 years.

      Velvet Jacket/ Peacocking – Megan’s right about this. Don’t act like you think your the best dressed man in the room. Even if you already have a wife/ girlfriend, they won’t like it if you act like that. It’s ok to be the best dressed man in the room, but it’s not ok to act like you think your the best dressed man in the room.

      Hard on Clothes – John, I’ve gotta ask, “What are you doing to your sweaters that is stretching them out?”

      • Chris Rogers

        I have a hard time with sweaters as well and it isn’t so much the body of the sweater it’s just the sleeves or more accurately the cuffs. I tend to push the sleeves up because I think I subconsciously don’t like things on my forearms. Sweater sleeves also just annoy me when I’m working on a computer at work. Pushing the sleeves up ends up stretching out the cuffs which just looks bad and feels awkward. Is there an easy way to bring the sleeves back to their normal un-stretched size?

        • Baxter

          I’m told wetting down the sleeve cuffs and then blow-drying them can help out in this department. Give it a shot and let me know how it works!

          • Chris Rogers

            I’ll have to give that a try, thanks for the suggestion

            • Nate

              I wouldn’t do this if they’re wool sweaters…it’ll cause the fibers to shrink. You can get wool wet or hot, but not both at the same time. I usually throw my wool sweaters in the dryer on medium heat for about 5 minutes if they’re looking a little baggy/wrinkly. Works like a charm.

          • Zachary

            You can wet them down if you have time to let them dry. Or throw the sweater in the dryer. Heat and water together do bad things to wool.
            My thinking with sweaters is this: hand wash them (it’s very simple), and lay them out flat to dry. And do this rarely. Twice a season will probably do it. I always wear a couple layers under a sweater, so I don’t feel like they get particularly dirty. Also, I think wearing a long sleeve button down underneath will keep from noticing the sleeves on your wrist too much. Washing machines are very harsh on clothes. The only thing I subject to that is cotton and synthetics.

        • average joe

          I’m not sure on that one, nor have I ever had to deal with the stretched out cuffs thing either…sorry I can be of more help.

    • Jim

      I think Chris’s question is an important one for guys who are single, live in the city, and already have a basic understanding of dressing well. You want to look good, but not too put-together. It’s a delicate balance and it’s tough to get right.

      I have a shawl-collar sweater, and I’ll wear it over a white v-neck T with nicely faded jeans and scuffed-up boots or Jack Purcells. I’ll wear an army field jacket over preppy staples like rugbys, oxfords or Shetland wool sweaters — you could also try a denim trucker jacket or even a leather motorcycle jacket. Sometimes varying your grooming can help, too: I feel more comfortable throwing on a tweed blazer if I have a couple days of stubble going and my hair’s a little messy.

      A couple bloggers that nail the preppy/streetwear balance are Chris Benjamin (Dapper Demeanor) and the guys from Street Etiquette.

    • LV

      RE: Shaving brush:

      - A good one will last forever, as someone else said. I’ve had mine for a good 7-8 years. Get a real badger hair brush.

      - You don’t need a stand or fancy stuff. You can just set it on its back like the image in the article.

      - In fact, you don’t need special shaving cream for it either. Just your typical lathering shaving gel/cream will be fine.

      - If you don’t use lathering shaving cream/gel, you don’t need the
      brush. The brush gives a far, far, far superior lather than just using
      fingers, but if you’re using an oil or other non-lathering lubricant,
      the brush is superfluous.

      - Make sure you keep it clean after use. Rinse it out, fan the hairs under running water, give it another fan or two or gentle shake to help dry, then set on its butt. Don’t squeeze or pull; it’s just hair, it doesn’t absorb like a cloth. For someone in college who has a tub of things to carry to the shared bath, it can sit in the bottom just fine as long as you keep it hair side up when not in use.

      - For use, just get some shaving cream in one hand, mix it up with the brush in the other, and then brush onto face; just like painting!

      A good badger hair shaving brush is always an excellent gift for a guy who doesn’t have one. Useful, lasts forever, and makes a guy feel refined for using one.

    • TJ

      When I first got into de wet shaving I used a cheapo boar brush from CVS. It worked ok for a while, especially considering that I was in college and on a budget. I also wanted to see if it was something that I liked before investing in a nice badger brush. I recently got a nice badger brush for Christmas and I definitely notice the difference. Wouldn’t go back to a boar brush for anything. Maxton men has a badger brush on their website that I think is only 30. Once you decide this way of shaving I’d recommend getting some good blades. I used cheap blades from CVS for a while then I bought some feather blades on amazon and I won’t go back to the CVS ones.
      Megan, I definitely agree on the red scarf. I have a red 2009 Alabama championship scarf that I wear all the time and it pops nice against my darker suits and outfits. Roll Tide! ( I told you on a post earlier last year that we’d make it to the championship again this year. I was right!).

    • HelloNurse

      Weird, I’d never considered peacocking to be a function of how you wear something as much as what you were wearing. I suggest an SG philosophy article to expand on that.

      For more info on shaving check out the Badger & Blade community, they’ll tell you everything you ever wanted to know, and so much you didn’t.

      • average joe

        refer to street style from pitti uomo for the ultimate peacocks

        • Style Girlfriend

          Yep, pretty much

      • Enrique Ollero

        I agree. While arrogance has never been a trait well worn by anyone, I often think of what is being worn when I think of peacocking. Of course I’ve also found that wearing anything a little fashion forward with any degree of confidence in a city like Pittsburgh is almost automatically peacocking.

        • HelloNurse

          Good call, yet another dimension to the peacocking debate: environment. What is peacocking in the midwest may fly completely under the radar in LA or NY, and (I assume) a “going to the corner store” outfit from Milan might be a thunderously blinding display of plumage here.

          • Style Girlfriend

            So true, the “going to the corner store” outfit in Milan on most guys costs more than my entire wardrobe :)

    • Ryan

      Good advice re washing clothes in a manner that helps preserve. To add to that, I only wash on delicate cycle and dry in the shade.

    • adventurer627

      A few shaving forums to dig a little deeper into the wet shaving experience:

      Bager & Blade
      Shave My Face
      Straight Razor Place

      If you are thinking about face lathering versus using a mug or shave bowl I’d recommend a face lathering brush such as the Simpson Duke or Duke2. A face lathering brush will work great with soaps or creams but a brush used to lather in a mug or bowl won’t necessarily work or work as well for face lathering

      I’m also hard on sweaters (the pullover kind) as they last about 2 years with me either cashmere or merino. I always get a hole in the middle of the back of my sweaters when trying to take them off. Is there a proper way to take off a pullover sweater so that I don’t get a hole in the middle of my back?

    • Style Girlfriend

      I totally get it. It’s nice to have a routine that makes you slow down and appreciate the use of a fine tool, even a razor! I think that’s why people like to knit, or wood carve, or ride a really nice bike, etc etc etc. Putting something really well-made to use feels pretty great.

    • Brett2142

      I just bought a Merkur on MyHabit a few days ago! It should arrive soon so I can begin cutting my face with it. Hopefully I’ll learn quickly…

    • SB_Wpg

      Re: Shaving brush

      If you haven’t ordered yet, you may want to check out Just ordered myself a silvertip badger brush for less than 30$ (!!!) after reading great things about Larry and his products.

    • average joe

      exactly SG, this is exactly why i do this

    • average joe

      I also like to shave at night so I can bring some bourbon or scotch to the routine.

    • LV

      I concur; I actually like to shave at night as well. I can take my time, I usually do it in the shower anyway these days (for something new, really), and I can sport the day-old look for an extra day.

    • Dave

      You’ll be a pro in no time! I highly recommend going with the grain though, especially on your neck. Once you get the hang of the exact spot where the stubble starts growing in the opposite direction, you’ll avoid most nicks and irritation.

      Finally remembered the brand of brush I have: