The Happiest Place on Earth: The DMV!

…Okay, maybe not.  Not the friendliest, either.  Maybe all these factors (plus the 1.5 megapixel camera) add to the bad experience, and, let’s face it, the hideous picture.

So we decided to come to your rescue.  Ladies have an easier way to do this, as they can enhance the bad light and poor pixel count with makeup, but don’t think because you are a macho man, you have to look extra bad on the infamous shot.  We will give you some pointers that will definitely enhance this “amazing” experience.  And you know what?  If you feel like doing makeup, so what?  After all, aren’t we supposed to all be metrosexual now, anyway?

First, absolutely first: the night before your visit, get a good night’s sleep.  You don’t want to look like a truck ran you over.  And leave the hangover for the weekend.

Pictured: a bad night’s sleep.

Before that good night’s sleep, make sure you had arranged for a haircut.  This is crucial for a decent pic!  Neat and tidy hair only!  Also, remember, this is not the best of times to try a new hairdo, as it usually takes a couple of days to adjust to it.

Not like this.

Wash your face with an oil control wash.  Exfoliating won’t hurt either, you will most definitely look your best without that extra layer of dead skin on!

Moisturize your lips.  Dry lips tend to look chalky, and a touch of lip balm can help them stay visible in a photo.

Bring eye drops, either for allergies or for contacts purposes.  You don’t want red, bloodshot eyes in your photo.

Groom your eyebrows.  No, really!  Comb them, make sure they’re nice and in place.  Even trim them if you have to.  We are sure the last look you are aiming for is Jim’s dad…

Look lean.  Give yourself a more trim appearance by angling your shoulders away from the camera very slightly.  Also, bringing your chin up and craning your neck out a tiny bit will prevent the dreaded double chin.  It may feel odd, but it will look fantastic in the picture.

Don’t distract.  Give some forethought to your outfit.  Pick one that you love!  Remember, when you look good, you feel good, and that feeling of awesomeness can be perceived in the picture.  When picking your outfit, follow these guidelines.  Avoid busy patterns.  Solid colors work best, but avoid white, as it tends to not photograph well.  Often, the background for the photos is a light color, and not only will your clothing blend in if you are fair-skinned, you will also look like you are very pale and sickly.  On the other side of the coin, you should not wear black for your photo, either, again, because it will make lighter skin look pale.

Button front shirts look nice, as do V-necks and plain tees.  And no, although your Captain America T-shirt might be your most favorite piece of clothing, this is not the time to wear it.  It is also not the time to look swanky, but rather put together, respectable, like the good citizen that you are!

A very important tip: be nice to the person helping you at the DMV.  Imagine how great it feels to have someone saying something nice and kind after a day full of complaints and bad attitudes.  We have yet to meet the person that will be rude to you after you pay them a compliment.  Plus, it will make you feel good, too!

And last, but absolutely not least: smile!  Who the heck said you can’t smile?

Added Bonus points: A+++ (don’t worry, it’s not makeup) Per-fékt Skin Perfection Gel.  Why do we love it?  Translucent and colorless (it comes in a tinted version that can match your skin tone, too), it instantly improves skin tone, reduces redness and helps minimize the appearance of enlarged pores and fine lines.

MIB

“From now on, you’ll dress only in attire specially sanctioned by MIB Special Services.  You’ll conform to the identity we give you, eat where we tell you, live where we tell you. You will have no identifying marks of any kind. You will not stand out in any way. Your entire image is carefully crafted to leave no lasting memory whatsoever with anyone you encounter. You’re a rumor, recognizable only as deja vu and dismissed just as quickly. You don’t exist; you were never even born. Anonymity is your name. Silence your native tongue. You are no longer part of ‘the system’. We’re above the system. Over it. Beyond it. We’re ‘them’. We’re ‘they’. We are the Men in Black.”

And, occasionally, the Men in… What the heck is J wearing here, anyway?

Fitted, sleek, under the opulence of black. So elegant and mysterious…did we say très chic? Well, très chic. We don’t quite understand, how were these suits supposed to fall under “unmemorable”?

Even the near-geriatric Agent D looks badass in one!

You can get the Men in Black look in real life, sans all the troubles, like getting your identity taken away or having to fight giant, gooey alien bugs… How are you supposed to pay for all the dry cleaning it would take to get the slime off of those suits, huh?

Zed must have one heck of a cleaning bill…

Make the look work even at the office by making sure the fit is superb, like *custom*, you know? From jacket to pants, perfectly tailor. Your shoes (Brushed Black Calfskin Richelieu Fratelli Rosetti in soft black, says us) are polished right before you wear them, not even yesterday’s polish will work. There’s nothing worst than an impeccable suit with dirty shoes, plus, you are not fighting like in the movie, therefore they must be clean! And last but not least, a crisp white shirt. Snow white, to be precise, it has such an amazing contrast on that jet black suit. That’s how you make it memorable!

Or, you could do what Agent J here does, and just go bonkers with the look (while staying inside MIB regulations, of course)!

Bonus points for great black sunglasses.

Like these Prada Rectangular Wrap Sunglasses, a snazzy alternative to the MIB-standard Ray Ban 2030 Predator.

Ladies out there, you can go for the look, too! Just like the men, fit is crucial; actually, beyond crucial.

Especially when you need to make everyone pay attention. Alien-monitoring secret agents won’t get any respect in baggy suits!

Remember, ladies, If you finally decide to give that cardigan and unflattering skirt a one way trip to another galaxy, go for Agent L’s look, and make sure your suit fits like a glove, literally!

Oh, Linda Fiorentino. You made the ’90s better.

And with all the hype of getting the MIB look, we are sure no one, absolutely no one, wants to see aliens strolling down the street…  Unless they are all dolled up in Victoria’s Secret lingerie a là Serleena. We are sure we will all agree in making that exception.

Just mind the tentacles.

We can also make an exception if they’re as adorable as Frank the Pug…

Yes, even dogs (alien dogs?) can be fashionable.

Go ahead, have fun and catch on to the trend. We hope the new MIB film makes it spread all over the city like a disease, just like it did in the summer of ’97. We won’t mind looking at clones of exquisitely fitted Men In Black suits!

He DOES make that look good.

Shoes: From Ugly to Outstanding

The earliest shoe designs started as more of a simple affair, often mere “foot bags” of leather to protect the feet from rocks, debris and cold.  By today, it has evolved so much, both in style and in production, and remains a very important part of any culture, even literature.  Our dear Cinderella can testify how a shoe can most definitely change one’s life.

The oldest known leather shoe, about 5,500 years old, found in Armenia. And its great (x1,000,000) grandson, Fratelli Rosseti two-tone wing tips, available today.

Shoes have had many uses, from more utilitarian reasons like keeping the feet warm, to insuring faithfulness (yes, you read it right).  For example, the Chinese custom of binding women’s feet to keep them small is many centuries old.  Originally, the practice owed little to aesthetics.  Bound feet were thought to insure faithfulness, since with such deformed feet the wife would supposedly find it difficult to travel very far on her own.  The Venetians did something similar, as well.

Most definitely, shoes, above all other reasons throughout time, secure one a very cool spot in the  highest ranks of society.  And don’t even think our society, with as many choices of shoe types, is oh so cool and clever.  Not one of the footwear styles you see today are less than 400 years old.

It may have started with just humans wearing animal skins or furs wrapped around their feet stuffed with straw.  From the sandal, the oldest crafted shoe covering known to us, to today’s marvels of engineering, the shoe is an example of evolution in progress, as we always find new materials.

Over one hundred operations go into the construction of a shoe.  Even with the help of machinery, and, not to mention, the long process of converting putrescible animal rawhide and skin into the beautiful leather we like.  Here is a video we much appreciate about the craftsmanship of one of our favorite accessories.  And below that are some interesting notes about shoes throughout history.

-Until around 1800, shoes were made without differentiation for the left or right foot.  Nice and comfortable!

-Tanned leather has been a favored material for footwear since the Arabs introduced fine leatherwork in Spain in the Eighth Century.  The leather making trade of the Spanish Arabs was centered around the city of Cordova, to which we owe the origin of the cordovan, a soft, fine-grained leather shoe.

Not to be confused with the Chrysler Cordoba, filled with “rich, Corinthian Leather.”

-Beginning in the Twelfth Century, the sabot, a shoe cut roughly from a single piece of wood, was the predominant footwear of the European peasant, becoming so pervasive for the next several hundred years, that it managed to inspire a new word: “sabotage.”  Fifteenth Century Dutch workers flung their sabot into the wooden gears of textile looms to break them, fearing their livelihoods were threatened by the machines.

Believe it or not, this was a plot point in Star Trek VI. The one with Vulcan Samantha.

-Pointed shoes originated in France, reportedly the invention of a Count of Anjou who wished to hide his deformed hooves.

-King Henry VIII initiated the vogue for wide-tied shoes in England, presumably to hide his gout-swollen feet.

You know, the Henry that created an entire new branch of Christianity so he could get a divorce? …Then beheaded the woman he remarried? …Then his third wife died in childbirth? …Then he divorced the fourth wife? …And beheaded the fifth? And died before anything bad happened to number six? That guy.

-The custom among men wearing high-heeled shoes at the court of Louis XIV grew out of the King’s desire to mask his diminutive stature.

REAL little men don’t hide their smallness, they make it look GOOD.

-Back in 1324, King Edward II decreed that there should be a standard measure for shoes.  He obviously had trouble in shoe shops finding the correct fit!  He came up with a simple method.  On the basis that a baby’s foot must be the smallest size, this would be the starting point, and equal to size 0.  He determined that an inch was equal to three barley corns.  The corns had to be round, and dry, and taken from the middle of the plant.  Each size then went up 3 barley corns each until it reached 13.  Instead of continuing upwards, he decided to go back to the start, and so 13 plus 3 barley corns equaled 1 again (confused yet?)!

Pictured: the famous barley corn baby measuring tool.

-Today, units for shoe sizes vary widely around the world.  European sizes are measured in Paris Points, which are worth two-thirds of a centimeter.  The UK and American units are approximately one-quarter of an inch, starting at 8¼ inches.  Shoes size is often measured using a Brannock Device, which can determine both the width and length of the foot, making it the most accurate measurement.

Bet you never knew that’s what this thing was called.

-Due to the appearance of new man-made materials, shoes have become increasingly less biodegradable.  Currently, mass-produced shoes generally require 1,000 years to degrade, and/or may not degrade at all.

-Even adult feet can change size due to muscles and tendons altering, getting either smaller or larger.  It is a good idea to have your feet measured every 5 to 10 years.

Failure to check feet regularly may result in Shaqification.

The Wide World of Fabric

The wearing of clothing is unique to the human species, and is a feature of nearly every society on the planet. Exactly when the practice started has been lost to the mists of time, but much evidence suggests that it may have begun as far back as 100,000 to 500,000 years ago. What appear to be sewing needles have been found and dated to around 40,000 years ago. The earliest examples of these needles originate from the Solutrean culture, which existed in what is now France from 19,000 BC to 15,000 BC. Meanwhile, the earliest dyed flax fibers have been found in a prehistoric cave in what is today the Republic of Georgia, and date back to 36,000 BC. Anthropologists have conjectured that animal skins and vegetation were first used as coverings as a method of protection from cold or heat or the elements, especially as humans settled areas in climates alien to them. Another possibility is that the coverings may have been first used for other purposes, such as belief in magic, as a ornamental decoration, as part of cult rituals, or for additional prestige, and then was later found to be practical on its own accord.

For these reasons and much more, clothing and textiles have been important throughout human history and reflect the materials available to a civilization as well as the technologies that it has mastered.

Now, we are not going to provide a whole walkthrough on the history of fabrics! We all know textiles are as ancient as time. Instead, what we want to provide is a better understanding of what we have available in today’s market. And today, thanks to technology, we have evolved so much from the prehistoric methods that the diameter of the fiber (which will contribute to a finer yarn, and therefore provide a more luxurious comfort and pleasure for the wearer) is less than of the human hair!

How does this work? The fineness of a fiber is measured in micrometers (microns). 1 micron=one millionth of a meter. The average diameter of a high quality fiber is 12-24 microns for wool fabrics. The human hair is about 100 microns in diameter. Hmm, hello Super 230s!

But beware the quality of the cloth, or what we refer to as “Super 100s” up to “230s” does not necessarily mean that finer is better. You could have a good 15-micron wool or a bad 15-micron wool. Fineness is just one of the quality components. Length, strength, color and crimp are the others. With the first two particularly so. Length is critical: the longer the fiber the stronger the yarn that can be spun from it. Strength is also essential because the yarn must be twisted tightly to achieve a fine weave.

That said, here is a look at what our most used suit and casual wear fabrics are:

Wool

Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals and is the most widely used textile in the world. Often refered to as “the plywood” of fabric, you can make almost anything out of it. Because of the structure of its fibers, wool has a unique insulating quality and excellent elasticity (meaning that even if wrinkled and stretched, the fabric will recover its original shape). Its fibers’ thin outer membrane is paradoxically water-resistant while also being very absorbent. This means it absorbs moisture away from the body while preventing outside moisture from penetrating. Pure genius!

Wool Gabardine

A tightly woven fabric that is ribbed diagonally on one side and smooth on the other, with a slight sheen.

Wool Crepe

This is a “broken” twill, which means that its yarns are highly twisted to provide a slightly irregular texture.

Wool Silk

Lightweight and semi-sheer. This fabric is softer than wool, but warmer than silk. One of your summer suits’ best friends.

Cotton

Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The fiber is most often spun into yarn or thread, and used to make a soft, breathable textile. The use of cotton for fabric is known to date to ancient times; fragments of cotton fabric have been found and dated to 5000 BC.

A brushed cotton suit provides a polished look for a hot day, just make sure, if worn separately, both parts of your cotton suit are washed together to keep color on both pieces to fade at the same rate.

Linen

Linen is a textile made from the fibers of the flax plant. Linen is labor-intensive to manufacture, but when it is made into garments, it is valued for its exceptional coolness and freshness in hot weather. Linen textiles appear to be some of the oldest in the world, dating back to 8000 BC.

Linen is a bast fiber. Flax fibers vary in length from about 25 to 150 cm (18 to 55 in), and average 12-16 microns in diameter. There are two varieties: shorter tow fibers used for coarser fabrics, and longer line fibers used for finer fabrics. Flax fibers can usually be identified by their “nodes,” which add to the flexibility and texture of the fabric.

Linen fabric feels cool to the touch. It is smooth, making the finished fabric lint-free, and gets softer the more it is washed. However, constant creasing in the same place in sharp folds will tend to break the linen threads. This wear can show up in collars, hems, and any area that is iron creased during laundering. Linen has poor elasticity, and does not spring back readily, explaining why it wrinkles so easily.

Seersucker

Seersucker is a thin, puckered, all-cotton fabric, commonly striped or checkered, used to make clothing for spring and summer wear. The word came into English from the Hindustani languages (Urdu and Hindi), and originates from the Persian words “shir o shekar,” meaning “milk and sugar,” probably from the resemblance of its smooth and rough stripes to the smooth texture of milk and the bumpy texture of sugar. Seersucker is woven in such a way that some threads bunch together, giving the fabric a wrinkled appearance in places. This feature causes the fabric to be mostly held away from the skin when worn, facilitating heat dissipation and air circulation. It also means that pressing is not necessary (play blissful music here)!

Bamboo

Because the fibers of bamboo are very short (less than 3mm long), they are impossible to transform into yarn in a natural process. The usual process by which textiles labeled as being made of bamboo are produced uses only the rayon that is being made out of the fibers with heavy employment of chemicals. To accomplish this, the fibers are broken down with chemicals and extruded through mechanical spinnerets. Retailers have sold both end products as “bamboo fabric” to cash in on bamboo’s current ecofriendly cachet. Be aware of the chemicals involved in this process if you are really going for the “green” effect, though.

Silk Bamboo

Created by spinning the pulp of new bamboo canes into threads, which are then blended with pure silk and woven into a luxurious fabric. It has the softness of cashmere, and is even more breathable than cotton. Perfect for luxurious sleepwear and casual apparel.

Dress to Impress at the Derby

Oh, Mr.  Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr…  Your 1872 trip to England introduced us to a fantastic sport that is as fashionable as it is grand.  The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports, as they refer to it these days, as if you ever dreamed it to one day be this big.  Sir, thank you!

Everything is grand on this famous first Saturday of May.  The hats.  The tickets (if you haven’t inherited a Derby box from grandpa, it can be a very expensive pleasure, with tickets ranging from $655 at the Grand Stand Section to $11,592 at the Clubhouse Box near the finish line).  The Thoroughbred industry is a large agribusiness, generating around $34 billion in revenue annually in the U.S.  Even the prominent blanket of red roses is grand (all 554 of them).

An event of this magnitude comes with a fantastic and celebrated dress code.  You know we love this type of gathering.  So read on, this is your guide for Kentucky Derby Fashion and Southern style that is traditional, which means pretty preppy!

The Derby is one of the few times that gentlemen can dress up and stand out more than the ladies.  Classic styles of seersucker and linen are nothing to miss, but this year, men have the chance to really turn some heads thanks to the fantastic color pants trend that is the staple of this spring season.  Pair them with a gorgeous plaid jacket and gorgeous accessories and it should land you in the winners circle!

Here is what you must have…

Seersucker suit

White Crisp Shirt, off the press, preferably.

Some of our favorite white shirtings, priced upon request.

Tie/Bow tie.  Remember, this is one of the very few times you will be actually encouraged to wear something festive, so go for it.  Just keep it on the preppy side, not the crazy side.  And if you really want to get into the spirit, go for a needlepoint belt.

Shoes. Wing-tipped two-tones are a must.  We really love these Fratelli Rosetti ones!

Fratelli Rosetti two-tone leather in brown and white creates a classic Oxford style shoe for a sleek country club look, accentuated by a brogued wingtip design at the toe.

Now that you are all suited up, you can enjoy the “alpha” of horse races in the U.S.  The excitement of this event is palpable, believe us.  We can’t quite decide if we want to grab a mint julep with “El Padrino” before joining “My Adonis” for burgoo dinner first, or to make the most “Optimizer” time management move ever, so that we have time to meet the “Gemologist” and discuss that big sparkle before we are “Done Talking.”  “I’ll Grab Another” Mint Julep, party all night and celebrate the unofficial beginning of the ever so preppy Seersucker season!  Confused?  You won’t be after a day at the races!

FYI…

“Interestingly, most publications focus on the hats that women are wearing to multi-million dollar horse races, but there is an exception.  This year, at the Dubai World Cup, their Style Stakes contests included a category for ‘Best Dressed Man’.”

Music to our ears, my fellow sartorialist, we are taking over the world, again!  To that, another mint julep!  Cheers!