#Occupybergdorfs: “If that diamond ring is brass/Daddy’s gonna buy you a childhood of neglect and shame.”

Welcome to #occupybergdorfs, a weekly ruination of the absolute worst that the world of fashion has to offer. Each week, we’ll bring you a new eyesore, and break down exactly what makes this particular outfit “WTF”-worthy. A partnership between Change Machine (Jen Blair) and Super Roller Disco Monkey Hullabaloo (John Jarzemsky), #occupybergdorfs is dedicated to giving you that extra dose of schadenfreude you so desperately need to get you through the week.

Without further ado, may we present…

Moncler Enfant Fragon

Price: $775.00 @ Moncler

Who would wear this?

Jen: Jay-Z’s kids; other kids at Jay-Z’s kids’ elite TriBeCa preschool, whose parents feel compelled to keep up; Mini-Me, whilst hatching a cunning plan in the Swiss Alps.

Best time to wear this?

John: Any time that your toddler isn’t liable to piss, poop, vomit, or spill something all over the $700 jacket you bought them for some unfathomable reason, so never. Or maybe that’s kind of the point, like the guys who buy Air Jordans just to piss in them (note: actually a thing).

Worst time to wear this?

Jen: While your toddler is doing any of the things that toddlers do: playing, drooling, eating messy food, touching other germ-carrying children or handling animals, dirt, and filth on the street.

Who (if anybody) can pull this off?

John: I personally think it would look best whilst worn by an adult performance artist, but that’s just me.

Is it fashionable?

Jen: Opinions on Moncler coats are mixed; I have some friends who shun them as a staple of the douchebag trust fund set, but in places like New York and Chicago a puffer coat is an admitted wintertime necessity and I admit I would very much like to obtain a full-sized one for myself.  I cop to the fact that I had a big fat rabbit fur coat as a five-year-old in the 80’s, which I wore everywhere; if I were a five-year-old today, I would adore this.

Is it fairly priced?

John: It might seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the other stuff we’ve featured here, but spending $700 on somebody who can’t even spell seems like a waste of money. That’s why I never took my high school girlfriend out to dinner, HEY-O!

What do you wear with this?

Jen: Round out the look with a matching Moncler knit chin-strap skullcap, and the quiet confidence that comes with a lifetime of knowing your parents will buy your way into the Ivy League.

What would be a better use for the cash?

John: Given that we’re talking about shopping for goddamn babies, do what any reasonable person does and dress them in hand-me-downs and diapers (or whatever stuff you’ve been gifted at the showers you’ve probably been obnoxiously planning on Facebook ever since you missed your period). You can buy an economy pack of 162 on Amazon for around $50 with shipping, so that’s about 2,268 diapers, which I assume will keep your child’s butt clean for a month or so.

A Look at the Polo

Eroll Flynn, doing what Errol Flynn does (photo: thehairpin.com)

Following up on the “Study in Casual” a few posts back, I thought I might make a few item-specific articles with the goal of shedding some light on the history and evolution on some of my favorite pieces. This week: a look at the Polo.

The Polo shirt is one of the most versatile options available in a man’s casual wardrobe, and the diversity of its adherents reflects the usefulness of the garment. Polos are beloved by preps, rappers, dads, golfers, and more. They offer a touch of class to an outfit that might be a little too dressed-down with a t-shirt while sacrificing almost none of the comfort. Most of all, as is true of most enduring styles, a good Polo features a clean and stripped-down design that makes a strong statement without using strong language. A Polo is at once classic and timeless: it’s easy to look bad in a Polo, but it’s even easier to look damn good in one too.

Polos are also known as golf shirts or tennis shirts (the three can be used interchangeably, but one term or the other usually brings about small but specific differences), and the shirt we know and love today was first designed by French tennis player René Lacoste in an effort to escape the pitfalls of the then-standard “tennis whites”: long-sleeve, button-up shirts, flannel trousers, and ties. In 1926, Lacoste debuted the first tennis shirt, which addressed several problems with the more formal attire of his forbears and would become the hallmark of classic Polo design for years to come.

First and foremost, the loose, jersey-knit cotton breathed well and held up better under athletic performance. Secondly, the soft collar could be rolled up to protect the neck from the sun, a move that would be imitated by frat guys years later, no doubt in direct homage to the creator of the shirt they loved so very much. Third, the short, cuffed sleeves were a big improvement over the long sleeves that players often rolled up during competition, and that had a tendency to unroll and become cumbersome. Lastly, the tail of the shirt, longer than the front allowed for easy tucking and helped keep the shirt in place.

Prior to this design, English Polo players wore long-sleeve, oxford-cloth knit shirts with button-down collars, but after Lacoste began mass-marketing his tennis shirts in the early 30s, the sportsmen were eager to pick up the more practical and comfortable garment for use in their own sport. The term “polo shirt” or “polo” caught on, and soon even tennis players would refer to the garment as such. Lacoste’s mass-marketed version of the Polo, debuting in the 1930s with his own brand, Chemise Lacoste, featured a crocodile emblem on the left breast, an embrace of the nickname bestowed upon him by the American media. The emblem remains one of the more recognizable icons of fashion, and is sometimes credited as the first visible branding of a garment.

René Lacoste (right) in the original Lacoste Tennis Shirt (photo: PenningtonandBailes.com)

Branding and marketing can get you very far in the world of high fashion, as proven by Ralph Lauren Polo shirts (my personal favorite), which were not manufactured until the early 1970s when the designer debuted his new line of preppy, Ivy League-inspired clothing, appropriately dubbed “Polo”. This helped to further establish the catchall moniker of “Polo” for similar shirts, and gave Lauren’s garment a leg up in terms of brand recognition (see Kleenex, Band-Aid, etc). Despite the somewhat ersatz nature of the WASPiness perpetuated by the brand, Ralph Lauren Polo shirts became and remain wildly popular, and in terms of the collective consciousness, probably remain the gold standard for what we now refer to as a Polo shirt.

Thus ends the “A Brief History of the Polo Shirt” segment of this post. Let’s move on to more practical, non-athletic applications. As mentioned before, the Polo is an incredibly versatile garment, mainly because it hits a sweet spot between sporty, casual, and slightly dressed-up. If you work in an office that utilizes a “business casual” dress code, you probably see more Polos on any given Friday than Ralph Lauren has in his own closet. The softness and breathability of the fabric make for an extremely comfortable wear, while the collar and two or three-button placket (depending on designer) lend the Polo just a touch of dressed-up sharpness. It’s the mid-point between a t-shirt and a button-down, and can replace either in a pinch.

Polos also tend to cut a rather attractive silhouette due to the somewhat stretchy nature of the fabric. In “A Study in Casual”, I talked a little about the best fits following the natural lines of the body, and a well-fitted Polo will achieve this with no tailoring better than any other shirt. Since a Polo looks just as good (if not better) untucked, go for as close of a fit as you can manage. If you’re a tall guy like me, this can be somewhat tricky when trying to strike the correct balance between “long enough” and “fitted enough”, but experiment with a few different brands to find what works best for you.

Of the many, many, many Polo options available, the Ralph Lauren slim-fit mesh Polo has to be my all-time favorite. It’s soft as a baby’s butt, won’t make you sweat, and has a deeply flattering and athletic cut (plus you get that iconic Polo player logo). The downside: branding is everything, and a brand as popular as Ralph Lauren is going to be priced accordingly. RL Polos go for $85-$100 at retail, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Fortunately, as a popular item, they’re frequently on sale, and they’re extremely durable. As something that will last you for several years after purchase, it’s a decent investment.

Uniqlo has a much cheaper and still smart-looking alternative, for around $15 a pop. These are a tad less comfortable than the more expensive options (the fabric tends to be a little rougher and less breezy), but on the plus side, you won’t have to worry about being out $90 if you spill shrimp cocktail on it.

Now the big questions…what to wear with a Polo? As discussed, the options are pretty endless, so let’s take a look at some stuff to avoid. You’ve probably noticed that a lot of chain businesses have implemented Polos as part of their uniform, so avoid the tucked-in Polo and khakis look unless you want to look like a Best Buy or TGI Friday’s employee. It’s not uncommon to see a Polo paired with a jacket or blazer, but I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to dress up enough to wear a jacket you should probably put on a shirt that buttons all the way down. Jeans, especially slim-fit, dark-wash jeans are almost always a solid bet, and a Polo goes well with shorts for a summery look. A lot of supposedly style-conscious people will tell you not to tuck in a Polo, but I think a tuck with a pair of well-fitted shorts, a nice belt, and some clean sneakers will make you look your grandpa (in the best way).

Don’t be this guy (photo: flickr.com)

The Polo gets something of a bad rap these days, mainly because it’s associated with snooty rich assholes and/or frat guys (and with good reason), but like craft cocktails and artisanal cheese, just because a douchebag is a fan doesn’t mean you should throw out the product entirely. Remember, a Polo is a good part of a wardrobe, which means you should have options other than 14 different Big Pony shirts in assorted colors for casual wear. Also, don’t wear your collar up if you’re not playing tennis, ever. Ditto layered Polos. Just…stop.

#OCCUPYBERGDORFS: “If it’s money you want, I can tell you I have plenty.”

Welcome to #occupybergdorfs, a weekly ruination of the absolute worst that the world of fashion has to offer. Each week, we’ll bring you a new eyesore, and break down exactly what makes this particular outfit “WTF”-worthy. A partnership betweenChange Machine (Jen Blair) and Super Roller Disco Monkey Hullabaloo (John Jarzemsky), #occupybergdorfs is dedicated to giving you that extra dose of schadenfreude you so desperately need to get you through the week.

Without further ado, may we present…

Givenchy Basketball Wool Sweatshirt & Wide Leg Trousers with Basketball Taping
$4,465.00 @ Bergdorf Goodman

Who would wear this?

John: An anonymous extra from Taken, or some other Luc Besson-produced film in which vaguely sinister Eurotrash thugs are dispatched with ruthless efficiency by Liam Neeson.

Best time to wear this?

Jen:  A brisk morning jog on The Grid.

Worst time to wear this?

John: When actually playing basketball, or when trying to flee from Liam Neeson on a dirt bike whilst emptying an uzi over your shoulder.

Who (if anybody) can pull this off?

Jen:  A young Jonny Lee Miller; an order of basketball-playing space monks in The Fifth Element 2 – The Sixth Element; wealthy transhumanist libertarians living in isolated self-sustaining eco luxury house-pods in the Pacific Northwest.

Is it fashionable?

John:  They’re going for some sort of streetwear vibe, which is definitely getting more popular, especially in NYC, but the bagginess seems like a throwback to the 90s.

Is it fairly priced?

Jen: Compared to other geek-chic luxuries (like a trip to the space station), the outfit is a relative steal.

What do you wear with this?

John: A giant foam-rubber basketball head to entice wild basketballs into mating with you.

What would be a better use for the cash?

Jen: The individual responsible for this travesty was clearly utilizing a mere 10% of his brain when he sat down to conceptualize the design; why not celebrate that idea and treat yourself and 222 of your closest friends to the latest Luc Besson cinematic train wreck at your local multiplex.  Or, if you prefer quality over quantity, four MacBook Airs.

A Study in Casual

When speaking of the most basic levels of competence, an oft-invoked benchmark involves one’s ability to dress one’s self. An example: “I’m not sure if I would trust Ernie with that new account…he knows how to dress himself, but this might be a little above his pay grade.” When viewed literally, the adage makes perfect sense. What, after all, could be more simple than covering one’s naked flesh before heading out the door? What is one of the first things we learn to do independent of our mothers and fathers, alongside using the toilet and brushing our teeth?

When considered in full, the words are misleading. Dressing one’s self, in the most bare-bones sense of the phrase, may come easy, but dressing one’s self well remains a bit more elusive. Nowhere is this truer than in the realm of casual men’s dress.

Frank Sinatra–an indisputable Original King of Cool, whether on stage in a suit or relaxing at home.

A common mistake, and one that I made myself until very recently, is to assume that dressing “casually” is synonymous with dressing sloppy. While the rules of style relax and loosen further down the chain of formality, to assume that casual dress works in spite of thoughtlessness is an egregious, though all too prevalent error. Visit any college town or urban center where tourists congregate, and you can see the proof in all its gaudy glory: branded, ill-fitting t-shirts and crocs as far as the eye can see.

In the world of style, as in most other spheres, men have it fairly easy. The uniform basics of men’s dress allow for a much more minimalist and pared-down closet, and men’s pieces tend to last longer and sell for less. However, the hard and fast rules and variable conformity of tailored style often leaves some men in the dark when the time comes to hang up the monkey-suit and step out a little more. It’s like a teenager who has been wearing a uniform to school his entire adolescence suddenly being told that he can wear whatever he wants; the results will always be interesting, but usually the apparent evaporation of rules and authority will lead to some very suspect decisions.

This is the root of the problem: many of the rules for more formal dress still apply to casual wear, and dressing down has some of its own unique rules as well. As mentioned earlier, you can play faster and looser the more casual you get, but throwing caution to the wind means you’ll end up looking effortlessly sloppy, or worse, like a study in failure. To reiterate, nobody is asking you to put a ton of thought into what you’re going to wear while you mow the lawn or head to the gym, but you might want to look like you give a shit if you’re headed to a first date or meeting some folks for a day-drink.

FIT

As with dressier occasions, fit rules the day. If your clothes don’t fit properly they’ll make you look dumpy and sloppy, and give your body a blobby, amorphous shape. The reason so many guys run into trouble with casual fit is that not many people bother to tailor casual clothes. This attitude is understandable: a dress shirt or a suit jacket seems like something appropriate for a visit to a tailor, and something that you’re just going to wear out with buddies doesn’t. Part of it may be a fear of appearing too try-hard, but most of the time, it takes effort to appear effortless. In my personal opinion, a fit that is as close as possible to the natural contours of your body without being constricting is optimal. A lot of guys who are bigger or smaller than average will mistakenly think that loose or baggy clothing will improve the perception of their physique, but clothing that doesn’t follow the natural lines of your body makes for an ugly and shapeless silhouette, which usually does little else besides highlight your worst attributes. Be proud of what you have going on, and dress accordingly rather than trying to hide it.

COHESION

While there’s certainly more room for experimentation and improvisation in a casual outfit, generally speaking, it’s best to have a uniform aesthetic. This doesn’t mean that you need to go full on brand-whore and stock your closet full of nothing but Polo and Brooks Brothers, but it does mean that you run the risk of having your sartorial message garbled when you mix and match disparate items too much. This can get very subjective, but use your best judgment. Big chunky work boots will look a little out of place with pastel-colored shorts, for example. Same goes for a t-shirt with gray flannel trousers.

COMFORT

Above all, you should be comfortable. This will be aided by wearing clothes that fit, but comfort is as much about your state of mind as it is about whether or not anything is pulling or bunching. If you’re on edge because you feel like that Supreme hat looks stupid on you, go without. If you just can’t get into the drop-crotch pants fad (this seems to have mostly died out, thankfully) then leave it on the cutting room floor.

Remember, nothing I or anybody else says should be taken as gospel truth, but in my humble opinion, timeless classics always age well, and it’s hard to screw up something that’s beautiful in its simplicity.

You don’t have to be as cool as James Dean to look this good in a t-shirt.

#OccupyBergdorfs: Barbarella’s Mortgage

Welcome to #occupybergdorfs, a weekly ruination of the absolute worst that the world of fashion has to offer. Each week, we’ll bring you a new eyesore, and break down exactly what makes this particular outfit “WTF”-worthy. A partnership between Change Machine (Jen Blair) and Super Roller Disco Monkey Hullabaloo (John Jarzemsky), #occupybergdorfs is dedicated to giving you that extra dose of schadenfreude you so desperately need to get you through the week.

Without further ado, may we present…

Marc Jacobs Wave 3/4 Sleeve Tunic & Flared-Leg Pants

$13,400.00 @ Bergdorf Goodman

Who would wear this?

Jen: London trust-fund socialites. Wannabe London trust-fund socialites. David Bowie.

Best time to wear this?

John: If you were going to a space-themed costume party hosted by snooty rich assholes who would judge you if your outfit didn’t cost almost as much as the down payment on a house.

Worst time to wear this?

Jen: Casual lunches, daytime errand-running, meeting the future in-laws, unless your future in-law is David Bowie.

Who, if anybody, can pull this off?

John:  Someone like Stevie Nicks or Cher, or maybe the ghost of Liberace.

Is it fashionable?

Jen: For better or worse, printed pants are definitely having a moment.

Is it fairly priced?

John:  …No. Women’s clothing, from my understanding, is usually heinously overpriced, especially when compared to men’s, but $13k for one outfit made of something other than baby-skin and diamonds should be cause for outrage.

What do you wear with this?

JenStatement platforms and a ray gun.

What would be a better use for the cash?

John:  Well, $13k would pay the rent on a pretty decent room in Brooklyn for a year or so, but you could also spoil yourself with a slightly used mid-size sedan, or approximately 26,000 tacos from Jack in the Box.