How short should mens shorts be

dfJust how short should men’s shorts be? The short answer, apparently, is quite short.

That’s according to the Wall Street Journal, which earlier this year reported that men’s hemlines have risen by roughly 10 inches (or 25cm). To which I say – thank you.

I’ve made no secret of my own ‘sky’s out, thighs out’ approach, but I suspect I may have some way to go in convincing my fellow man to think likewise.

Sacks with pockets

What currently passes for shorts in many men’s wardrobes look like sacks with pockets – more short longs than long shorts. Or culottes, if you want to be really unkind to a mate.

When it comes to their legs, Australian men develop a rather Victorian sense of propriety (and I don’t mean that place south of the border, where shorts are broken out only a handful of times a year).

No, unless it’s for a sport that requires you to wrestle other men on the ground, the rule of thumb seems to be that nothing can stop short of the knee.

Are men’s leg’s really that salacious – or shameworthy – that we need to keep them under wraps, irrespective of personal comfort? Apparently yes, because every summer we see men busting out the same shapeless three-quarter denim pants that look like they were purchased from the toddler section.

False modesty

Maybe the average male feels slightly vulnerable at the thought of having more flesh than necessary on display. Then again, given half the chance and a hint of sunshine, most blokes are ripping off their shirts to reveal what lies beneath – anything from the shredded abs of a CrossFit junkie to the soggy Weetbix physique of your average Joe.

But flash an inch or two of thigh? Escandaloso.

Admittedly, I may myself be motivated by a certain degree of vanity. Thanks to sport, cycling, regular gym visits and good genes, I’ve got half-decent pins. So why not show them off a little? For the most part, though, my argument is about practicality.

Unfettered legs allow for more freedom and comfort, particularly in the heat. And, done with the right shirt and shoes, something like these lightweight linen shorts from Jac+Jack or even these cotton twill shorts by American label J Crew can look perfectly polished and carry over from barbecue lunch to sundown beers at the pub.

Aesthetically flattering

They can also be aesthetically flattering, particularly if you’re at the shorter end of the height spectrum. Cargo shorts, with all their pockets, and three-quarter-length denim numbers can make you look even shorter than you really are.

I’m not saying we should all go and invest in some Daisy Dukes (although, if that’s your bag, go right ahead). I am, however, suggesting a rethink about what’s in your wardrobe and a fresh look at what a pair of crisp, above-the-knee shorts bring to the sartorial table.

So to my fellow men, I say – release your quads. Let your legs live a little.

Seafaring style meets warm winter wear

dgThe beach casts a strong influence over our summer style choices but as the weather takes on a decided chill, should we still cast our eyes seaward for fashion inspiration? Absolutely.

Men’s fashion has long drawn inspiration from the sea, especially at its most uninviting. This is especially the case for German-born designer Umit Benan, who in his most recent collection sent his models (some of whom looked like they’d just stepped off a deep sea trawler) down the catwalk sporting fishing rods, buckets of water and even a pair of waterproof dungarees to create a bit of fisherman chic and catwalk theatre.

While the rugged nature of the seafaring life might seem to have little in common with the cool sophistication of high fashion, a bit of nautical inspiration can result in a masculine look, without an over-reliance on plaid shirts.

Ignoring the maritime clichés of the hankie around the neck, or the skippers’ hat tipped jauntily to one side, here are five items that are not only inherently linked to life at sea, but are genuine style classics.

Duffle coat

The duffle, with its large patch pockets and wooden toggle fastenings, is one of the great gifts from life at sea to the world of fashion.

While initially made for sailors in the Royal Navy around the time of World War I, they became so popular that they were traded amongst members of the UK army and Royal Flying Corp. In WWII they were issued to the UK’s first raiders behind enemy lines, the Long Range Desert Group (later to become the SAS).

Montgomery Outdoor, an original supplier of duffle coats to the British Navy in the 19th century, continues to produce its jackets in the East End of London from Italian fabric.

“The outside plain colour is actually knitted on the same machine at the same time as the tartan inside layer,” says Montgomery Outdoor manager, David Mills. “So it’s actually one layer, one fabric, which means that it is so much more waterproof and strong.”

And now that many duffle coats feature sharper silhouettes and are available in a variety of lengths, a modern edge has been added to this seafaring classic.

Pea coat

Unless you’re actually on a boat in the middle of winter, you might find it hard to justify the addition of a duffle coat to your wardrobe. However, its close relation, the pea coat – which is double-breasted and sits just at the top of the thighs – may better fit the bill.

Mills explains it also originates from the British Navy, just prior to WWII. “Officers would prefer them to the duffle coat, especially when wanting to look smarter at night,” says Mills.

As many men know, few garments ooze the suaveness of a pea coat, while also keeping you as warm as toast on a cold winter’s night.

Aran jumper

Taking its name from the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland, the jumper was originally knitted for the fishermen who sailed out into the merciless Atlantic. There are a large number of different Aran patterns, each representing a different clan. However, they weren’t created to reflect different tastes in style; they often had a much more sombre use.

Due to the fierce nature of the seas the men would fish in, many fell overboard and were washed up on beaches. In such cases, the pattern on the sweater would be pivotal in identifying the body.

English manufacturer Sunspel makes its Aran jumpers from uniquely spun merino wool to make them them distinctly lighter and softer than wools typically associated with Aran knits.

“The Aran is a classic style and can be worn with chinos or jeans for a timeless look,” says Sunspel CEO, Nicholas Brooke.

Submariner’s sweater

Like the duffle coat, the submariner’s sweater was standard issue kit from the UK War Office to Royal Navy personnel in both World Wars. And, as with the Aran, it was also used by sailors to keep out the bitter chill of the North Atlantic.

Today, lighter wools have enabled manufacturers to take the bulk out of the sweater to give it a more modern style. With its rounded collar keeping your neck warm, even on an Arctic sort of day you’ll feel as though you’re still nestling under a doona.

Breton stripe

The Breton stripe is one nautically-inspired style that doesn’t require a plummeting of the mercury to throw on. Originally, the striped shirt formed part of the uniform for sailors in the French Navy in the 19th century and was later adopted by the fishermen of Brittany. Throughout the 20th century the classic stripe was seen on actors, writers and artists alike, cementing its status as an iconic style.

So as the mercury drops over the coming months, think about channeling your inner sea dog for a cool and rugged look. You might not know one end of a boat from the other, but in this gear you’ll be dressed well enough to float a few.

How much should a tshirt cost

xThe white cotton t-shirt conjures some famous images: James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause; Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire; Paul Newman in … a white cotton t-shirt.

The quintessential American garment has been through numerous incarnations on its journey from humble long johns in the 19th century to actors’ get-up of choice in the 1950s – after which it assumed universal status.

Today, with more than $US20 billion ($21.45 billion) a year spent on t-shirts in the US alone, it’s an everyday staple found in most men’s – and women’s – wardrobes.

But while one white tee may look identical to the next, it’s not. The type of plain t-shirt someone buys says a lot about their personality and their social tribe. Rappers and skaters wear them long and baggy. Some men prefer them tight across the pecs and biceps. Surfies sport them as outerwear, often with a simple slogan printed across the front. Professionals wear them as undershirts to stop their work shirts yellowing under the armpits. After all, that’s as they were originally intended.

In 1904, the Cooper Underwear Company ran a magazine ad announcing a new undershirt, sans buttons or pins, for bachelors. The following year, the US Navy specified sailors should wear undershirts under their uniforms. Thousands of men began wearing what was then called a “crew neck cotton pullover”.

Today, hundreds of labels compete for consumer loyalty, offering various cuts and fabrics at a range of prices. Hanes ($US4.99), Cotton On (two for $20), Industrie ($22), Bonds ($24.95), American Apparel ($27) and Rag & Bone ($US80) all do a version of the classic white tee.

In recent years that same white shirt has made it into the realms of the luxury industry. Most brands from Prada ($US280) to Gucci ($US570) sell a version, offering customers the same amount of fabric at a substantially higher price point.

Indeed, research carried out last year by brand consultancy Hitchcock Partners reveals a lot about how consumers perceive brands. The company took black t-shirts, ranging in price, from seven different companies and hid the labels. Participants were asked to try to identify which brand belonged to which t-shirt. The result? They critiqued the design and fabric of the shirts, inadvertently criticising the expensive ones and complimenting the inexpensive, run-of-the-mill ones.

Brand perception beats price

The results led Hitchcock Partners to theorise that all a Prada label and $US280 price tag on a simple tee does is make it appear better than a $US5 black Hanes t-shirt from Target. “The hypothesis was that the only difference between one t-shirt and the next – and the price of that t-shirt – was the brand,” chief strategist Peter Bysshe says.

Bysshe says most people were spot-on when guessing which t-shirt belonged to mid-range labels such as Jill Sander or Versace Collection – which start around $US80 – but the failure to discern between a Prada and a Hanes was far more common.

Brands typically perceived as “cool” to different demographics also brought up interesting results. “If you ask a 20-year-old what Levi’s should charge for a t-shirt, they say $50,” says Bysshe. “If you ask a 50-year-old American man they say $14.99.

“The 20-something or non-American would say $50 because Levi’s is a premium brand in their mind. To the old-fashioned American, Levi’s is a standard pair of jeans.”

Customer loyalty has much to do with brand perception, too. Both Alexander Wang and James Perse are known for producing good-quality white t-shirts in soft fabrics. For a soft tee, you shop at those stores. French brand A.P.C. made its tee cool by having Kanye West produce a white “hip hop” one for $US120. Despite polarising consumers, it promptly sold out. A tee from The Row – the high-end, highly priced label founded by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, costs $US260. Just because. (They sold a bag for $US39,000, after all.)

While the white tee today might be seen as a luxury item, its origin contradicts that message. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as a simple kind of garment; a man’s undershirt, typically short-sleeved and forming the shape of a letter “T” when spread out flat.

It also tells us it was F. Scott Fitzgerald who helped bring the name into being, using it for the first time in his debut novel This Side of Paradise (1920): “Amory, provided with ‘six suits summer underwear … one sweater or T-shirt . . .’ , set out for New England, the land of schools.”

Instinct influences choice

Why, then, are people willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a rudimentary wardrobe item? Bysshe says it comes back to instinct. “It has nothing to do with what you can afford. It has everything to do with what you think you deserve,” he says. And people are swayed by clever marketing.

It’s one reason Erik Schnakenberg and Sasha Koehn launched Buck Mason, a line of no-fuss, affordable, yet stylish basics. Despite what seems to be an overcrowded market, Schnakenberg – who has a background in fashion retail – and Koehn – a former tech and media guy – maintain they couldn’t find a t-shirt they were happy with, so developed their own.

Their classic crew neck is cut from North Carolina cotton, sewn in LA and finished with a hem that’s slightly contoured like a shirt tail to give it a dressier look. They also sell chinos, Oxford shirts and jeans.

“What was missing was a brand that focused on making quality products in America with a timeless aesthetic,” says Koehn of launching the online brand in November last year. Being direct-to-consumer means each t-shirt, which costs $10 to make, can be sold for $24.

“You can make one hell of a t-shirt for $10,” says Schnakenberg, adding that most $10 tees are sold for $70 to $100. “We decided, let’s just cut out the fat and not spend a ton of money on marketing and trying to create this brand that is built on this kind of pseudo-luxury nonsense. And let’s just come up with something that is rock solid. We just want people to know it’s a luxury tee, it’s never going to go on sale, but the price is $24.”

What began with a cult following in LA, New York and San Francisco, started to pick up steam internationally in January. The white tee – crew neck and V-neck – comprises 40 per cent of the company’s volume.

“It’s one of those items that people seem to buy multiples of,” says Schnakenberg. “We’ve had a lot of success with customers coming back and buying over and over again. Or they buy 12 at once. Twelve in a year of the exact same body and the same colour is quite a lot.”

Schnakenberg previously worked with luxury brands selling jeans and knitwear for high prices. “When Sasha and I got together, what we thought about was why is it done this way? Is there a way we can offer a superior product at better value, something impeccably made that can stand the test of time?

High-end transfer

“When we sat down to look at it, it was almost like, what’s the catch? We realised we could make a superior product, sell it for $24 and still make money, and we’re undercutting our competitors. We have customers coming in and they’re not transferring over from American Apparel, they’re transferring over to us from high-end brands.”

Buck Mason t-shirts are aimed at people who can afford to spend $150 on such an item, but who just don’t want to. “For us it’s a sensibility thing; it’s about buying smart,” Schnakenberg says. “There are people who could go out and spend $450,000 on a Lamborghini, but they just don’t think it’s a smart decision. People could spend $80 on a simple tee but they could also spend $24.”

Michael Preysman has a similar story to tell. In 2010, at the age of 25, he left his job as a venture capitalist to start online-only business Everlane. Its philosophy: “If you are buying such basics as t-shirts, belts or tote bags at traditional retailers, you’re probably paying too much.”

The company searches for the best factories in the world – the same ones that produce product for designer labels – and manufactures its products using the same quality leather and fabric, without the huge mark-up. How they make a cotton tee that sells for $US15 is documented on the brand’s website.

While this type of marketing appeals to some consumers, the truth is there are always going to be people who want to – and can – pay top dollar for just about anything. Kanye’s second T-shirt for A.P.C., released in July, costs slightly less than its predecessor. At only $90 a pop, it can even be worn without an undershirt.

What does business casual mean

sdThe workplace may be getting increasingly casual (we’re blaming you and those damn Adidas sandals, Zuckerberg), but that doesn’t mean you should look like every other cubicle-bound drone at the office.

Think of what you went through to get that job, of all that time spent polishing your resume and brushing up on your interview skills. Now do you really want to celebrate your success by looking like a schlub?

Business casual is the way to go, but does anyone actually understand what ‘business casual’ is? Dressing five days a week in ill-fitting shirts, baggy trousers and indistinguishable blazers isn’t it – and it’s definitely not the way to climb the corporate ladder.

The first and most important piece of advice

Please, for the love of all that is holy and tailored, purchase clothing that fits you properly. Nothing ruins an outfit – whatever the dress code and no matter how expensive the clothes are – like wearing something that doesn’t fit. The first secret to looking smart is sizing correctly.

Once you’ve nailed the fit, you can start building out your wardrobe. We recommend beginning with pieces that are easy to mix and match, so you can get the most possible bang for your buck.

After you’ve built a solid closet full of staples, you can start getting more creative, but for now let’s stick to the basics.

The business casual essentials

This is where the mix-and-match approach is really key. If you build your selection of essentials carefully, you’ll be able to achieve maximum levels of versatility with minimum levels of effort (which is crucial in the mornings, when you haven’t had your coffee yet).

Shirts

We’ve already put the kibosh on shapeless shirts, so let’s move straight on to colours. Solids are obviously the easiest to match, so focus at first on standards such as white, light blue and pale pink. Once you’re set on that front, you can move into brighter colours and bolder patterns. Always keep in mind that you should be more business than casual, so only wear a shirt if the collar can stand up without a tie. Stiff is always better than limp, right gents?

Trousers

Trousers are the new black – start investing now. Chinos are the go-to choice for semi-dressy work wear. Stick with classic colours – navy and camel – and opt for a fit that’s slim but not skinny. You also can’t go wrong with a pair of suit trousers, again in a multi-purpose colour such as grey. If jeans are appropriate in your workplace, go for something on the more formal end of the denim spectrum. Your office jeans should also be slim-but-not-skinny and should have a dark wash. No shorts, please.

Shoes

The classics are safest when it comes to your footwear. Loafers, Oxfords, Derbys, brogues and monk straps will all look suitably smart at the office and go with anything you wear on top. Colour-wise, black, brown, oxblood and tan are your best bets. Try some colour in summer, but keep it to shoes and small accessories.

Optional business casual extras

If you really want an outfit that says “I’m headed straight to the top, better start clearing out that corner office ASAP”, you’re ready to throw these optional business casual extras into the mix:

Blazer/jacket

While you’re working hard at the office, your jacket should be hard at work for you. The right one speaks volumes, so choose carefully. Three jackets are all you really need to get by: a navy blazer, a tweed sport coat and a modern corduroy jacket. The corduroy might seem dated on paper, but if you opt for something fitted with contemporary details it won’t look dated in practice. The tweed jacket is an easy-to-wear classic that’s especially great in autumn. And the navy blazer… well, do we really need to tell you why that’s a work wardrobe staple? When it comes to pockets, go patch. It will save you looking too corporate and will help give off a cool Italian vibe

Jumper/cardigan

This is not the time for anything knitted by your insane aunt. Avoid jumpers with crazy patterns, as well as anything too thick to be worn over a shirt and under a jacket. The basics are best – solid colours, a slim fit and a belt line length. If you’re going the cardigan route, wear a tie and always leave the bottom two buttons undone. If you’re the type to wear bolder colours, then the sweater is a great clothing item to give an otherwise boring work wardrobe a little pep.

Accessories

Lastly, when it comes to accessories, we say less is more. Do away with the tie and stick to the idea of “casual”.