Getting Under the Right Umbrella

Spring is nearly sprung upon us, and with the changing of the season comes rain. Rain water is not bad for our clothes — after all, we need to wash them on a regular basis — but because our clothes are often made from organic fibers, and these fibers retain moisture, it’s possible for them to develop mold and bacteria if they stay damp too long, giving them a distinct odor. Rain can also harbor pollutants, which impart another odor to our clothes.

The simple solution to these problems is investing in an umbrella. The word umbrella comes to us from the Latin word umbra, which means shade, so umbrella literally translates as “little shade.” The umbrella as we know it today has been with us for at least 2,000 years. The earliest record of a collapsible umbrella is from ancient China and was made for the carriage of Emperor Wang Mang. From then until the 18th century, umbrellas were a mark of nobility or aristocracy.

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Mastering Men’s Neckwear


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Louis XIV

The modern necktie traces its origins to the cravat, which first gained popularity in 17th century France. A group of Croatian mercenaries in the service of France were wearing cravats when they were presented to the French royalty. A young Louis XIV was present and began wearing them. Later that century Charles II (returning from exile in France) brought them to England and the fashion quickly spread.

Our modern neckties evolved during the industrial revolution. The thin profile allowed them to remain tied for longer periods of time and to be easier to tie. Today’s necktie was truly born in 1923, though, when Jesse Langsdorf patented his tie constructed of three pieces. Langsdorf’s major innovations were cutting the fabric diagonally against the grain (along the bias) to allow for more elasticity, and adding a lining and a loose “slip stitch” to help the tie keep its shape after multiple twistings and knottings.

Today, ties retain few of their original functions. It’s speculated that the Chinese and Romans used colored scarves to show allegiance or membership; many schools and military units today use ties for this same purpose. Cravats were at one time used to protect the shirt from stains, but today’s ties are too thin for this purpose. Some speculate that ties are for hiding the buttons and placket of a shirt or for directing an observer’s attention upward or downward. There’s no way to know for sure, but for now the tie is an essential part of most men’s wardrobes.

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Best of the Web: How to Tie a Scarf

After weeks of unseasonably warm weather here in North Carolina, winter is finally here. It’s time to break out the heavy coats, gloves, and scarves. I’m busy working on my first article for the year, but in the meantime, I wanted to share these videos I found from Burberry‘s YouTube channel. Each one is less than 30 seconds long, and while they have a Gap commercial vibe to them, they also show some practical ways to tie our scarves.

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Men’s Bags: When, Where, and Why

Men’s bags have been around for thousands of years but it’s only been in the last 50 years or so that they’ve seen a revival, and it’s becoming fashionable to carry them again. This is largely due to the increasing number of things we tend to carry around. Whether it’s a new cell phone that’s three times the size of our old flip phones or our work laptops, we have more things and need a stylish way to carry them.

Carrying a bag may also send a subtle psychological message. Dr. Benjamin Wild argues in Parisian Gentleman that carrying a bag is an intentional handicap akin to a peacock’s feathers. (These ostentatious feathers are a functional detriment to the peacock but act as a signal that the peacock is of such fine stock that it has biological resources to spare.) In the case of strapless bags, reducing by half our manual utility could be a signal to others that our resources are such that we can afford to temporarily give up the use of one of our hands. The analogy also works when we consider financial resources instead of biological ones since some bags can cost over $1,000.

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Which Watch to Wear

Although wearing a watch can be as simple as throwing on our reliable old Casio, there is a tangle of “rules” regarding watches that dictate when we wear them. Some of these rules are merely relics, and others we would be wise to remember.

One rule we can ignore governs which arm to wear our watch on. Traditionally, watches are worn on our non-dominant hand. Most people are right-handed, so most watches are designed to be worn on the left wrist. This is evident when we look at the “crown” (the knob used to wind the watch and set the time), which is almost always positioned to the right of the face. This is to make it easier to adjust the watch while wearing it. Although left-handed watches are available that position the crown left of the face, they are not the norm.

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Belts: Beginning to Bring an Outfit Together

Besides holding our pants up, belts can be an essential fashion accessory that puts the finishing touch on an outfit. While we don’t have to wear a belt with every outfit, there are times when it is expected, like whenever we have our shirts tucked in.

First and foremost our belts are accessories. Our belts can be flashy or understated, but they shouldn’t be the center piece of our outfits. The belt should serve to accentuate another part of our outfit, personality, or physique. Since the belt divides the two halves of our bodies, a flashy or contrasting belt can serve to psychologically shorten our appearance to others while a neutral belt that blends in will make us appear slightly taller.

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The most basic rule of wearing a belt is to match it with our shoes. That is, the material, texture, and color should all be in accord. If we’re wearing shiny, black leather shoes, our belt should be shiny, black leather as well. There’s a bit more leeway with brown leather shoes since there are so many shades and tints of brown but in general we want to get as close as possible to the same color and texture. If we’re not wearing leather shoes the rules tend to be a bit more relaxed but we still need to exercise some degree of coordination.

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