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A Matter Of Opinion: Cocktails

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

I’m starting a new, repeating post that I am calling “A Matter of Opinion”.  It will include things that I think add to a man’s overall style and class, but are by no means required to achieve them.

I think that every man should have at least a basic bar knowledge.  What I mean by this is that men of style and class should know how to make a few of the great cocktails, even if they prefer beer or wine.  If a man has a small liquor cabinet at home then it should be stocked with the ingredients needed for these cocktails.  If you don’t drink them or at all then you liquor cabinet will stay stocked for a very long time and if you ever need to make anything for a guest, you will be well prepared.

Equipment: Corkscrew; Bottle opener; 1/1.5 oz. Jigger; Ice bucket with tongs and/or scoop; Cocktail shaker; Long spoon; Toothpicks, skewers, stirrers, etc.; Muddler; Assorted glassware (rock glasses, highballs, cocktail, etc.)

Ingredients: Gin, Vodka, Bourbon, Rye, Brandy, Scotch, Dry vermouth, Sweet vermouth,  Triple Sec, Angostura bitters, Orange bitters,  Lemons and limes, Simple syrup.

I’ll start with my favorite cocktail.

Manhattan:manhattan

1-2 dashes Angostura bitters

2 measures rye whisey

1/2 measure sweet vermouth

ice

Put ice in shaker, add a 1-2 dashes of Angostura bitters, pour vermouth and whiskey in stir and strain into preferably chilled glass.  You can garnish with a cocktail cherry but it tends to add a sweet cherry hint that I like to skip.  Can also be drunk on the rocks.  Pour into cocktail or rocks glass

Martini:martini

3 measures of gin

1/4 measure dry vermouth or to taste

ice

Put ice in shaker.  Pour in gin and vermouth and stir.  Strain into preferably chilled cocktail or rocks glass and garnish with an olive.  For vodka martinis just substitute the gin with vodka.  I like to garnish a vodka martini with a twist of lemon.

Sidecar:

2 measures brandy

1 measure triple sec

1 measure lemon juice

ice

Put ice in shaker.  Pour in brandy triple sec and lemon juice.  Shake energetically until frost forms on the outside of shaker.  Pour into rocks glass.  Garnish with a twist of lemon or orange peel.

Mint Julep:

3-4 fresh mint leaves

1/2 oz. simple syrup or two sugar cubes

3 measures of bourbon

crushed ice

Put syrup, or sugar, and mint in highball glass and mash well with muddler.  Add crushed ice to fill glass and add bourbon.  Stir well and garnish with mint sprig.  This drink is best on a hot summer day.

Scotch:

scotch

ice (optional)

Add ice to rocks glass (optional),  add scotch. Enjoy.

There are more drinks you can make with these ingredients and other ingredients you can get that will help expand your drink library but I think these will give anyone a good start.  For a pretty good list of other cocktails try this Link.

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Mixing patterns in your suit, shirt and tie.

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Wearing patterns in your suit, shirt and tie is a great way to add a little character to your look. When mixing patterns some care needs to be taken when choosing what patterns to wear together. As a general rule you should avoid wearing the same pattern on all items, for example a striped shirt, tie, suit.  An exception to this rule is when all the stripes are different. Notice in the picture below the differences between the stripes in the three items. allstripes

I prefer the tie to have the boldest stripes, as in the picture, to help it stand out against everything else.

If you choose to wear both a patterned shirt and tie, such as stripped shirt and a patterned tie, these should be worn with an understated suit.  With so much going on between the shirt and tie a boldly patterned suit could create a look that is too busy.  Remember, the bolder the shirt and tie combination, the plainer the suit should be.  If you want to pair a checked shirt with a stripped suit it is said that the width of the check should be about equal to the width of the stripes of the suit.  In this situation I would suggest a solid or subdued tie to avoid there being to much going on.

Brown and blue

If you have a suit with a pattern such as a tweed, check or bird’s eye I suggest pairing it with a more plain tie and/or shirt because of all the texture the suit or jacket provide.  Below-top is a classic combination perfect for the country or the weekend.  Below-bottom is a bird’s eye suit that uses a solid tie to tone down the patterns of the look while still demonstrating bold contrast through color.  The bolder the check or pattern on the suit the plainer the shirt and/or tie should be under it.  Tweedgrey birdseye

The material of the tie itself also can contribute an interesting touch.  A wool or knitted tie can do what a pattern does by adding texture, even when the color is a solid or very plain.  The most formal ties are silk though.knitted tie

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Style doesn’t have to mean Expensive

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Like I have said before, a lot of what creates good style is attention to detail and the small things such as ties, cuff links, pocket squares, accessories, etc.  These are items that, when new, can be very expensive relative their size and the number you might need to fill a collection.  If you are looking to build a collection and don’t want to spend a lot of money on some things that will be worn once in a while then start your search on eBay.  I like to keep an eye out for interesting items that can be purchased for a steal.  Most of the time the items are used but this shouldn’t be a problem with pieces like cuff links.  Whenever using eBay be sure to follow their advice for safely navigating and making purchases.

Other websites that can be useful for finding items for relatively good prices are Overstock.com and Bluefly.com.  These can be good but I prefer eBay because of the fact that you can find great vintage items rather than newer items.

Happy Hunting

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Invest in your shoes

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Shoes are one of the items of a man’s wardrobe that should not be skimped on.  More than almost any other item, they should be seen as an investment that will last (with proper care) years and years.  Aside from their potential longevity shoes have to power to make a good wardrobe a great one, but this said they alone cannot save a poor one.

Shoes vary in their level of formality.  The most formal are black oxfords.churchsoxfrd A good rule of thumb on dress shoes is the more perforations and the more ornate the seams the less formal.  Somewhere on the less formal end of the spectrum are brogues, also known as wingtips.  churchswngtipOriginally country shoes brogues have evolved into a versatile shoe that that is especially nice in brown and, depending on the color, can be paired with everything from pin stripe to tweed.

Both of these shoes are also closed laced shoes.  Closed lacing refers to how the leather that comes together via the laces is attached to the shoe.

The leather on top of a closed laced shoe is sewn underneath the other leather (these shoes are both closed laced).

The third picture is of a pair of open laced black brogues by the English shoemaker Church’s.  On open laced shoes (also known as bluchers or derby shoes) the leather that is manipulated by the laces is sewn on top of the other leather creating a raised section on the sides and top.  I prefer closed laced shoes because they are more formal, they have a sleeker look and I am not distracted by the raised edge of the leather.  Depending on the material, open laced shoes can bridge the gap to being worn with jeans or khakis. clsdlacewngtip In the end, whether you choose open or closed laced, be sure to invest in a few different kinds of shoes because it will not only add  more excitement and versatility to your wardrobe but a fine leather shoe needs one to two days to “relax” between wearings.

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Links…. Cuff Links

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

So much of men’s style is about attention to the details and finding a way to bring it all together.  Cuff links are one of those details.  Cuff links are most commonly worn with shirts that have double cuffs, also known as french cuffs, where the cuff is folded back over the sleeve.  Less commonly they are worn on dress shirts with combination cuffs, (cuffs that are not folded over but have a button hole on each side for links as well as a button on one side).

Shirts with double cuffs are slightly more dressy than shirts with button cuffs.  For this reason you generally wouldn’t wear a shirt with double cuffs without a tie or in very casual dress.  The cuff link  you choose to wear can also reflect how formal the occasion is.  For the most formal I formal linkwould recommend solid gold or silver links. To add a little color to your evening wear or to be slightly less formal you can wear cuff links that include enamel that can come every color you can imagine.  Finally fabric knot links would be the most casual.  The colors in the enamel and fabric links allow you to tie them into other parts of your ensemble, such as tie or pocket square.  Cuff links can also be whimsical and express the wearers hobbies, interests or sense of humor.

Any man who enjoys wearing double cuffed shirts should own a healthy collection of links.  I define a healthy collection as at least two metal sets per double cuffed shirt.  This collection should include both gold and silver so that the metal of belt buckle, watch, ring, and links can be similar.  Because links can be fairly expensive I strongly suggest looking to places like ebay to find some great deals.

silk linksKnotted fabric cuff links are much more affordable than the gold or silver varieties allowing for a much larger collection.  They come in solids and multi-colors and are often sold as impulse buys at the front of fine clothing stores.  Their affordability allows you to have links for countless color combinations.

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Over the feet and Under the shoes

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

Socks are the part of a man’s wardrobe that generally goes overlooked.  Most men simply follow the general rules of road and stay quite conservative  (those rules being: white socks for athletic attire and sneakers,  dark socks for dress attire or leather shoes and the socks should be the same color as the pants in a darker shade).

When it comes to what you wear with your leather dress shoes you have the opportunity to break from humdrum of plain dark socks and show some personality.  argyleFor the less adventurous, in more casual situations, this can be done with a simple argyle in rather subdued colors.  Generally the brighter the color of the sock and the more it clashes the more adventurous the individual must be.

For more formal situations solid colors are more acceptable.  If you are wearing a dark navy or black suit with black shoes colored socks can break up the two.  Or they can be used simply to add personality toblue socks your ensemble.

Whether you choose a patterned sock, such as an argyle, or a solid, coordinate a color in the sock with a color above the waist.

Your socks are something that are not normally seen unless sitting making them a great way to start being more adventurous and showing your sense of style.

One definite rule for socks is that they need to be the right length.  They should be tall enough so that bare skin is never exposed if you sit or cross your legs.

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A gentleman’s accessories

Friday, August 14th, 2009

A great suit might really help to make a look but style does not rely on clothes alone.  It is subtle details such as accessories that help to refine the look and make it timeless.  These accessories are not just meant to look nice but they need to function and serve the purpose for which they are intended.

Wallet: Wallets come in many shapes and sizes but I feel that, as in most applications, simplicity is best.  I don’t like sitting on a folded piece of leather or having a lump on my backside.  To avoid this I started using a front pocket wallet.  They are thinner and have room only for the essentials (cards, cash).accessory wallet thinaccessory wallet open

This wallet is a great example of a good balance of form and function.  It’s made by Bosca who also make other luxury leather goods.

Watch:  A watch is as much a piece of jewelery as it is a functional necessity.  The criteria an individuals use when choosing the right watch for them should include their personal requirements and expectations.  Does the watch need to be waterproof, have lots of features, or only the basic simplicity of time and maybe date.  You should also go and try on watches with different sized watch faces to find the size that works best for you.

For the best of sport watches that can go from work to play while representing the epitome of class look to Breitling and TAG Heuer.  These watches are waterproof and are available with either leather or metal link bracelets.

    TAG Heuer's Monaco as worn by Steve McQueen in 1969s "Le Mans"

TAG Heuer's Monaco as worn by Steve McQueen in 1969s "Le Mans"

For a more traditional, simple elegance,  look to brands such as Patek Phillippe or Breguet.  These watches delight in the concept of less is more.  Relying more on clean lines and a well thought out layout to make an impression than an abundance of features. Patek Philippe's Ref. 3939 These watches while very nice tend to exist outside the average price range for the American man.  It is possible to find less expensive brand that have similar style cues and satisfy similar needs but for less money.  If you are lucky enough to be able to say that these watches are within your range then I would recommend the best.

The Pen: Every man should always have a pen somewhere on them at all times.  In more casual settings this may just call for a nice ballpoint for jotting down the occasional note or number but for the office or when a suit is involved I recommend a fountain pen.  Nothing can be more formal or more personal that a handwritten note written with a fountain pen.  For top-of-the-line, look to DunhillMont Blanc, or Waterman.  But from a design point of view one of the most beautiful pens is the discontinued Parker 51.

Parker 51:  Simple and elegant

Parker 51: Simple and elegant

Flask and Pocket knife:  More optional, but just as necessary in my opinion, are the hip flask and pocket knife.  Both  tend to show their real worth when you need them and don’t have them.

A flask can be a beautiful accessory that says a lot about its owner.  I recommend a vintage sterling silver flask.  They can be found on various auction websites and antique stores but if you are lucky enough to have one that has been passed down from father to son, fill it with your favorite tipple and carry it proudly.  Many a train ride home from work has been made more enjoyable thanks to a few sips of a favorite drink.

A small pocket knife has many uses from opening letters or boxes to cutting fruit.  Like the flask the most most desirable pocket knives are those that have been passed down and carry a history with them but don’t feel bad if you must buy one.  They can be extremely cheap while still looking very nice.  If you choose to carry a small pocket knife take care when traveling and make sure to keep it in checked luggage.

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Style and Trends

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

There are certain style guidelines that men follow in the way they dress.  This foundation has changed very little in the past 100 years.  Things like a suit, tie, leather dress shoes, cuts in suits, patterns, etc. There has been some fluctuation to these guidelines over the years that tend to follow trends in fashion (platform dress shoes, and giant lapels on suits in the 70’s) but the core guide remains the same.

What I suggest is to get away from the influence of these extreme trends and stick to a style that is much closer to center and therefore timeless.  Your personality will still be able to shine through by taking advantage of certain parts of your ensemble ( tie, pocket square, socks, materials, patterns, etc.)  but by holding true to this classic guide or framework you will be taken seriously and always look good (even if your looking at a picture twenty years from now).

So make the commitment, invest in your wardrobe and yourself for the long haul, not the season.

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