Friday, January 4, 2013


Chapter 100
When Fred Rogers filmed the last Mr Rogers' Neighborhood on August 31, 2001, it was the end of an era. He had been on the air every week since 1963, an American (and even before that, Canadian) institution, and a cultural icon for a generation. When asked why he was shutting down production, his reasoning was simple: "I've said everything I set out to say."

This is Dress Like A Grownup!'s 100th Chapter. I set out with a goal: the Average Guy, who dressed in jeans and tee-shirts and sneakers every day of his life, should be able to start at Chapter One, and come out the other end with the knowledge, impetus, desire, and ability to be Well-Dressed. I think I have accomplished that goal, and to continue in the same vein would be to add unnecessary content that would either be repetitive, confuse the issue, or dilute the knowledge already set down.

So, starting in 2013, we're going to switch things up a bit, in content, style, and frequency. 

Most notably, you won't see a new installment each and every week. The extended-essay format that Dress Like A Grownup! has evolved into takes a lot of time to produce, what with research, editing, writing, and compositing; and it takes a sizable chunk of the week to get it online -- usually the better part of a day or more, since I don't have a staff, and do all the work myself. 

I could dial back on the length and complexity to keep the installments coming regularly, but to be honest, I don't want to skimp on content -- I'd rather take a little extra time, put the installments out less often, and keep up the quality of the essays.

Since we can put a final bookend on the Average Guy series, this will free us up to delve into some topics of a more advanced and tangential nature. Off the top of my head, we can look forward to a proper series on waistcoats, and a series on all the ways you can re-bash a fedora (that is, change the crease by hand without re-blocking.) I've wanted to do a series on detachable collars for quite a while, and we will surely get around to that; and that may lead into a series on shirtmaking. 

For a while now, I've wanted to do a series on how to make all the cravats in "The Art of Tying The Cravat," in real life -- whalebone stiffeners, starch, and all. Of course, that wouldn't do at all in the old format, since the Average Guy has no reason to know such minutia...but in the new format, we can go a little crazy. (The Cravat series may actually warrant an entirely new blog to house it, since it will undoubtedly be popular with a certain number of historical costumers...we'll see how it goes.)

Most importantly, though, not tying myself to a one-a-week-installment plan will give me more time to do other things. The first thing I shall do is take a few weeks off, because no matter what you do, taking time off is important, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. 

After that, I'm going to go back through the first 100 chapters, to sand some rough edges down in the early posts as regards their tone and style, and to make the entire series more internally consistent.  
(For example, in some of the early posts I referred to a "day cravat" as an "ascot." It was acceptable at the time, for I thought I'd never need to make the distinction -- but now that we've covered the difference, I saw the need to go back and change those posts to reflect the correct term.)

I'm also going to add direct links at the end of the posts to make it easier to navigate between the Chapters and the Series. One of the major drawbacks of a blog format is that it's deucedly difficult to simply read the posts in the proper order, especially if a Google search drops you in the middle of a series, so I'm going to address that.

Spacing out the installments, to maybe 3-4 major essays per year, will give me time to do other stuff. I have at least two more books in my head (not of a sartorial nature) that I'd like to get published, and the less writing I do here, the more writing I can do there, if you know what I mean. I also need to devote more time to Mr Thompson's Ties & Squares, as regards advertising and merchandising; and I have a plan to get my products in some brick-and-mortar stores this year as well. If my schedule comes down to This or That, I can pursue the business end without the pressure of getting the weekly blog installment out as well.

I'll keep a weather eye out on the awards shows, as always, and if something new and egregious happens that warrants a scathing post, I will of course be there...but it seems as if men are repeating the same mistakes of late, and I won't post after every show just to repeat myself endlessly about the low waists, bad fit, mini-jackets, long ties, and cheap tuxes, that I've covered many times before.

So stay tuned and fear not, Faithful Readers; I may not be readily apparent, but the blog is not forgotten -- I'm either working on old posts, or behind the scenes, or researching new essays for the future. And the previous 100 weeks will always be there, for new readers to discover how to Dress Like A Grownup!

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Friday, December 28, 2012

The 2012 Year in Posts

Chapter 99
Dress Like a Grownup!'s second year is now behind us! If our first year was the Year of the Average Guy, which introduced you to the world of the well-dressed; our second is the Year of the Miniseries -- for we delved into multi-part topics that added some meat to your knowledge stew. A new reader who finds us through a websearch will be unceremoniously plopped smack in the middle of an ocean of seeming disjointed data: this easy-to-use cross-linkable summary index can be a sort of compass to navigate these waters and find his way around.

Giovanni Battista Moroni's Der Schneider (The Cutter,) 1570

We'll pick up where 2011's Year at a Glance left off.

We had a full gauntlet of men's formalwear critiques this year. The entertainment industry's offerings ran the gamut, from the decidedly casual Screen Actor's Guild and Billboard Music Awards, to the more formal Golden Globes and Emmys. My coverage of the Oscars was a dual-part affair, also covered at, and we even had time to take a peek at the Kentucky Derby's fashions. 2012 being an election year, we took a look at political fashion as well, from everyday campaign wear, to the black-tie White House Correspondents' Association dinner, and (also our Halloween special!) the white-tie Alfred E. Smith dinner.

We didn't neglect the Average Guy in 2012: there were several essays aimed squarely at the novice just starting out on his sartorial education. The Second Great Secret of Dressing Well was aptly illustrated, (viz., a man tends to dress back to the time when he was most happy,) using real-life examples of celebrities, and the Third Great Secret of Dressing Well (viz., A man cannot break the rules successfully, unless he knows exactly what those rules are,) was observed in the previously-mentioned Kentucky Derby installment. Spring is the ideal time to jump-start changes to your wardrobe, with at least one lightweight coat in your arsenal. We stressed the importance of wardrobe rotation and packing your seasonal items away properly. And we looked at some practical advice on how to match your clothes to the seasons, as well as a close look at the humble sock, and the popular newsboy cap as a proper alternative to a baseball cap. The Average Guy got a taste of some advanced theory with a mathematical look at stylistic balance using the continuum cube.

We completed the Island of Misfit Clothes series that we started in 2011, with re-working a suit jacket that was several sizes too large. After re-shaping the side seams, we narrowed the shoulders, tightened the sleeveheads, set the sleeves in, and put in the lining and finished off the hem. We took a look at fine-tuning the button stance, this time using shanked buttons. And we showed how to make a fine summer-time jacket by way of a quick and simple unlining operation.

There were a great many essays this year with an emphasis on history. We took a look at what Downton Abbey can teach us about dressing well, and used a decoded Mayan apocalypse to introduce a new TT&S Razor Square. The aforementioned political fashion critiques included a comparison to presidential styles of years gone by, as well.

We turned our attention to the history of men's neckwear in a multi-part series; from 1500 to 1800, then from 1800 to 1900. We overviewed men's modern tie choices, then looked at each in turn: long ties, bow ties, ascots, cravats, squares, and scarves.

Our contemplative gaze was directed to the history of tobacco use, to find if an equivalency exists between smokers and being well-dressed. After looking at the timeline from antiquity to 1820, and then from 1820 to the present, we drew our correlations, and concluded that the modern alternative to tobacco would be most useful.

We looked at economies of dressing well, both the economy of time, and the more literal economy of using your purchasing power effectively.

The tale of the Fighting Yank, that was begun last year, was completed this year in two parts: the capture of the criminals, and the raising of the Yank again.

The year ended up with a mechanic's special: a multi-part series that renovated a classic iron -- an essential weapon in the well-dressed man's arsenal. We disassembled, cleaned, repaired, reassembled, and tested an old General Electric to like-new condition.

And of course, we rang out the year with the Razor Square and Bow Tie Men of the Year, our own yearly tradition.

As 2013 rolls on, we will continue to bring you sartorial goodness in one form or another...guaranteed! Stay tuned.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

The TT&S Razor Square Man of the Year

Chapter 98
As the end of the year and Yuletide celebrations draw ever closer, (and the Mayan Apocalypse has come and gone,) it's time for Mr Thompson's Ties & Squares to announce the yearly recipient of its 2nd Annual
2012 Razor Square Man of the Year!

The man who wins this lofty prize must meet three standards -- 1) he must have been in the public eye for the previous year, 2) he must be a consistent wearer of pocket squares, and 3) he must be a benchmark of good taste and judgement that men would do well to emulate.

The TT&S Judges have selected two men as our finalists, each of whom, co-incidentally, inhabit opposite ends of the fashion scale. So without further ado, we shall begin with the runner-up:

Steve Harvey (born January 17, 1957) was the son of a coal miner, born in Welch, West Virginia. (The tiny seat of McDowell County, five miles from Coalwood -- familiar names to anyone who has seen the movie October Sky!) He graduated from Glenville High School in Cleveland, Ohio in 1974, and was an Omega Psi Phi at Kent State and WVU. He has been a boxer, mailman, and insurance salesman, but his worldwide fame has been as a comedian.

A versatile actor with a natural stage presence, he has appeared on the big and small screens, currently hosting the Family Feud game show, and his self-named daytime talk show and morning radio programs. He is also a best-selling author, and lives in Chicago with his wife and four of his children. A philanthropist, Steve and his wife also operate the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation.

Steve is well-known for being a snappy dresser, and an enduring element of his wardrobe are his marvelous variety of pocket squares. Steve is a tall, broad man, standing six-foot-two, and his Balthus-knotted ties, spread collars, broad lapels, and florid squares fit both his size and his personality. His squares are not for the faint of heart: often dual-sided or edged in a contrasting color, they are fashion-forward explosions of exuberance bursting forth from his pocket in a loose, silky pouf. Do not be fooled into thinking his squares are carelessly stuffed -- rest assured these casual artworks are carefully arranged to give exactly the right aesthetic impression.

But Steve has been edged out this year, by a man who nearly made the grade last year -- his squares are a study in exactitude and restraint, less florid than Steve's, but no less remarkable for that. Gentlemen, I present this year's winner:

Bret Baier was born August 4, 1970 in Rumson, New Jersey, and moved to Atlanta, Georgia when he was 10. He attended Marist High School, a small Catholic school in Atlanta, class of '88, and was a Sigma Chi at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, where he double-majored in Political Science and English and graduated in 1992. His first job out of college was at a television station in Beaufort, South Carolina, until 1996 and then in Raleigh, North Carolina until 1998, when he was hired as Fox News' Atlanta bureau chief. After covering the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11, he was made Fox's Pentagon correspondent.
He met his wife Amy on a blind date in Washington, D.C., at a Rolling Stones Concert. They married in October 2004 and now have two sons.

He became the White House correspondent in 2007, and then began substituting for Brit Hume as anchor of Special Report. He took Hume's place as full-time anchor in 2009, and has hosted Special Report since then. Today, most people have seen (or at least heard of) Bret Baier. No wonder; his "tough-but-fair" reputation is well-deserved, and Special Report has been ranked the number one political news program on cable television.

It was this election year that put Baier's pocket squares in front of the world. He anchored Fox's coverage of the 2012 Republican primaries, and moderated five debates among the candidates, including the highest-rated cable news debate in Orlando, Florida. If anyone was paying attention to the election at all, Bret was most likely a part of it.

Bret's tight, neat reporting style, is echoed perfectly in his tight, neat pocket squares. What otherwise would be just another dreary "Reporter Black" suit is brought to life with just a hint of color and design. He is rarely seen without one, and it has not just become his own signature style, but he has influenced his co-respondents to start wearing squares as well. Each square is a small, subtle work of art.

His television folds are perfect vintage, a razor-straight three-eighths inch strip of bright white. His poufs and points are refined, sophisticated and perfectly proportioned. And his color-matching is exquisite, never exactly matching the tie, but with just enough variation in pattern or hue to give the correct visual interest. Often, the news-crawl at the bottom of the screen cuts him off at the chest, so the square isn't always readily apparent, leading to some interesting "spot-the-square" drinking games. In short, his aesthetic is perfectly in keeping with that of the Razor Square style, and this year, that gives him the edge that puts him over the top.

So congratulations, Bret Baier, you are the 
Mr Thompson's Ties & Squares 
2012 Razor Square Man of the Year!

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