The Babe Said it Best

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“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” – Babe Ruth

While the Babe’s advice on teamwork is certainly relevant on the field, it’s not limited to the ballpark. Consider the gentleman’s wardrobe: a closet full of classics is just a closet full of clothes, but learning how to have them work together is the key to building a valuable wardrobe.

While we’re all enamored with All-Star players, we often forget about the consistent players. It’s the players who get on base that win games.  The wardrobe is no different.  Having a big hitting suit in a bolder color or pattern will certainly be a distinguishable look, but it’s not one that can get up to bat often.  The fact that is memorable means it won’t be getting much field time between big games.

Having your well-rounded players that work well together will build your franchise.  While there is nothing overtly exciting about a navy, black, or charcoal suit, they’re the ones that get you through the week.  Assemble a team of basics, and then begin scouting for more remarkable talent.

Lastly, be sure to know your position well.  If you’re uncomfortable in pinstripes, you’re unlikely to wear them often. Understanding your own style is the first step in understanding your wardrobe.  Try a few different styles to figure out where you’re most comfortable, and build upon that.  Before you know it, you’ll be one of the greats.

Sonny BalaniThe Babe Said it Best
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The Devil’s in the Details

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Cary Grant’s jacket sleeves were short. Fred Astaire wore his tie as a belt. Jimmy Stewart preferred peak lapels, hacking pockets, and side vents. Although they differed greatly in showmanship, there is a common thread between their personalities: they dressed in the details. Surely their style wasn’t happenstance. So how can today’s man deliberately find his own details?

Consider the traditional navy suit with grey pinstripe.  By coordinating the color of the pinstripe to the button hole stitching and button thread, it takes an ordinary suit to extraordinary.  The same level of detail can also be applied to shirts and slacks as well, in the event a more subtle approach is necessary.

For style that’s just below the surface, look to the inside of your custom suit or sport coat. Jacket linings can be plain, modest, or overtly ostentatious.  Matching their color to a complimentary one within the fabric is one approach. Or continuously using the same lining throughout your collection is another. This detail remains your secret until you choose to expose it.

For the majority, showmanship is not an attribute appreciated in daily dress. Finding subtle details to take ownership of is the first step to personal style; executing those details is the next.

Which begs the question: Where will you find your “Devil in details?”

Sonny BalaniThe Devil’s in the Details
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Black Tie Optional

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Clark Gable, the 1950’s comedian and actor, once posed a question to his audience, “Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?” While he probably wasn’t referring to the modern day black-tie optional event, it seems fitting.

Conventional standards for such an event would suggest either a tuxedo or a simple black suit. However, to make the proper decision, it is necessary to understand the differences between the two styles.

One of the defining characteristics of a tuxedo is that of satin detailing. The jacket lapels, pocket trim, and the out seam of the slacks are always trimmed in satin. Another nuance is that the waistband of the slacks should never be exposed, hence the need for a vest of cummerbund. The details are subtle, yet noticeably sophisticated.

And sophistication is what one ought to strive for at such events. Justifying the need for a tuxedo is simply recognizing the need for a timeless piece of tailored clothing for life’s special occasions. With a seemingly ambiguous dress code for formal events, one certainly doesn’t want to feel like that pair of brown shoes.

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Dressing well from the ground up

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While we certainly agree with Mark Twain when he said “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society,” we believe he may have ignored an important detail: footwear. Like suits, shoes are an investment. Learning how to care for them properly is essential to hosting an exemplary wardrobe.

Caring for shoes ought to be top of mind this time of year. However, it’s not just the snow, rain and slush that cause damage. The majority of the blame can be attributed to the salt used on paved surfaces to melt the ice. While the elements will moisten the shoe, the salt will dry out and crack the leather. Not only is this unsightly, but the salt (evident by white stains near the sole) will considerably shorten the lifespan of your shoes.

The first line of defense for your shoes is to wear a pair of galoshes, also known as shoe rubbers. While this is certainly the least flattering of appearances, it is without question the most preventative of methods. Dependent on your needs, there are a variety of options available.

Yet, we may not always have the foresight, nor the forecast, to predict the weather. If you happen to accidentally find yourself tromping through the slush, you’ll want to try to mitigate the damage.

To do so, simply concoct a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water. Dampen a cloth with the mixture and gently wipe the leather; the vinegar will help pull the salt to the surface and the cloth will wipe it away. Keep a small spray bottle at home and in the office to remedy situations when they occur. When time permits, polish the shoes according to your normal regiment. And as always, be sure to use cedar shoe trees to help pull the moisture out of the shoe.

Wearing a scuffed and salty shoe is like wearing a wrinkled shirt: It compromises your appearance and your professionalism. So when getting dressed, remember the effort starts from the ground up.

And for purveyors of fine footwear, remember that Balani Custom Clothiers carries shoes from Allen Edmonds. Special order any style through us free of charge –

Sonny BalaniDressing well from the ground up
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Who is the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit?

While not all of us can carry the same swagger as Gregory Peck, we can certainly dress like it. In the hallmark 1956 film adaptation of Sloan Wilson’s “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit,” the namesake article of clothing was meant to symbolize the homogenized nature of the business culture. In the 1950’s, everyone owned the gray flannel suit. In 2009, few own it. Which begs the question: who is today’s man in the gray flannel suit?

Much like tweeds and glen plaids, flannels are best left to those with a true appreciation for fine clothing. Functional both in shape and wear, flannel is often reserved for the unpleasantries of fall and winter. However, unlike its older 1950’s predecessor, today’s fabric mills are processing flannels in lighter weights that are perfectly suitable for the climate-controlled office.

All warmth aside, flannels have another surprising advantage in the fall and winter: lighter color. It is typically assumed that only dark colors such as navy, charcoal and blacks are seasonally acceptable. With flannel, that is not the case. The milled, knotty and knobby fabric carries a warmer aesthetic and rich texture that substitutes the need for dark color. While we all look forward to the more bashful colors of spring, flannel lends an opportunity to break away from the dark doldrums early.

While it may not be a beginners fabric, flannel is an excellent consideration for anyone looking to round out their wardrobe essentials.* Once your basics are covered, flannels offset the texture of your everyday suits while offering a break from the monotony of winter. So to answer the question we began with: the man in the gray flannel suit could be you.

*If you’re not sure what wardrobe essentials are right for you, just ask. We’d love to chat with you.

Sonny BalaniWho is the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit?
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The Need for Tweed

tweedGentlemen don’t wear the same suits year round. After they build their basics, they branch out into more pragmatic pieces for the seasons. Tropical wools, linens, and the like for spring and summer. And more pertinent to this time of year, think of flannels, cashmeres, and tweeds. Heavier weight fabrics aren’t only functional, insofar as they keep you warm, but they also offer a sophisticated aesthetic and story. Consider Tweed.

Originally known as tweel, the Scottish word for twill, it morphed into the more common Tweed over time. Various urban legends suggest why: from a simple misspelling on an order form, to its birthplace near the Tweed River in Scotland. Whatever the case, tweed has been a staple in the gentleman’s wardrobe for decades.

Tweed is a coarse wool in a loose twill weave, making it an exceptionally durable and warm fabric. Originally made for sportsmen, one can stick a nail through it without damaging the integrity of the fabric (feel free to ask us for a demonstration!).

Capable of lasting for decades (literally), you’ll often find sport coats with leather patches in areas that encounter the most wear, especially the elbows. But it’s just not for jackets anymore. Fine purveyors of tweeds, such as Holland & Sherry of Scotland, have been blending finer tweeds with a hand suitable for even a pair of pants. So go ahead and give tweed a try, even if it’s one leg at a time.

Sonny BalaniThe Need for Tweed
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Wool & Cashmere

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Fall is here. Winter is approaching. We know it’s time to start thinking about how to keep warm. Short of bourbon or those nifty hand warmers, we tend to rely on bundling up our bulky coat to get us to work warm. We all know wool keeps us warm, but do you know why?

Start off by thinking of a sheep. What comes to mind? Fluffy. Curly. These are precisely the characteristics that make wool warm. An individual wool fiber, when inspected closely, exhibits crimps which result in the fiber curling. These crimped fibers, when spun into yarn, are bulkier than they would be than if they were simply straight. There is much dead air between the crimped fibers when made into yarn, and it is the air that provides the insulation.

Cashmere on the other hand, is a much finer fabric. And yes it’s more expensive, but there is a reason behind it. The best cashmere comes from remote locations with inclement weather, thus it has better insulating properties than other fibers. The other advantage is that even though it’s warmer, the fabric weighs less. So if you’re sick of the bulk, consider cashmere for your next topcoat.

Sonny BalaniWool & Cashmere
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Swimming with Sharks

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sharkskin brad pittNo, this isn’t a discovery channel special. I’m talking about the dapper professional who wants to step outside of his generic wardrobe. Solid and pinstriped suits? We all have them. So dive in and try something new for fall: The Sharkskin suit.

Technically speaking, a Sharkskin is a worsted wool (meaning that the yarn is tightly twisted, making it more durable) in a twill or basket weave (probably the weave of your solid suit) woven with two different colored threads. But really, what is a Sharkskin?

Think of a solid suit in your closet. Now, think of that same fabric with intrigue. That intrigue I’m referring to is the two-tone effect, the trademark of a Sharkskin. By weaving together the two different yarns, the resulting appearance is a dangerously handsome fabric that has serious depth.

Keep it subtle by finding a fabric with less contrast between the threads. If you want the perfect fall suit, albeit slightly more casual: think chocolate brown with a lighter brown. Perhaps you want to be that stand-out professional: think dark navy with a light blue. Or maybe you’re the gentleman wanting that classic Sharkskin: don’t think…but know it’s a great white with black that creates the quintessential grey suit.

Sonny BalaniSwimming with Sharks
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