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Coordinating patterned shirts & bow ties

It might be easier to coordinate a patterned bow tie with a shirt in a solid colour (or the other way round) but for an equally elegant and more playful look, the combination of a patterned shirt with a patterned  bow tie is an option to consider. Of course, it will only work so long as the combination doesn’t result in a psychedelic concoction. Here’s how to avoid just that.

Contrast

Key to coordinating two patterned pieces successfully is to keep them distinguishable and for this, you’ll need to aim for contrast between the two.

First, consider the shirt and bow tie’s background colours. Whilst these needn’t be completely different, they should differ in intensity, with one being considerably lighter/darker than the other.

white shirt + bow tie

 

 

Second, for best results, opt for different patterns  altogether, with one being denser or more elaborate than the other. Similar patterns, even if one is denser than the other will simply cancel each other out, when what you want is to have one of the two pieces (typically the bow tie) as the centrepiece, with the other complementing it.

Coherence

Although your shirt and bow tie should be distinguishable from each other, for one to complement the other,  there should be a link that ties in the two with each other, just as the two together should tie in with the rest of the outfit.

purple shirt + bow tie.JPG

The best way to achieve this is to opt for a bow tie in a background colour that is identical or very similar to one of the colours in the shirt’s pattern – ideally that which stands out the most. Alternatively, you could also introduce another colour into the scheme while keeping one of the bow tie’s pattern’s colours similar to the shirt’s background colour.

blue shirt + bow tie.JPG

If your shirt only contains two different colours – that of the pattern and the background colour – and especially if these are neutral colours, you could also consider a bow tie in a completely different colour scheme, as long as it contrasts and pairs well with the shirt.

Final word

Mixing two different patterns needn’t result in a chaotic look. Just keep the shirt and bow tie distinguishable yet complementary.

 

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Wearing the shirt collar inside or outside a pullover

In the absence of clear style rules and with only our own (sometimes unreliable) judgement as guidance, we tend to leave the outcome as to how we dress, to pure chance. Whether to wear the shirt collar inside a pullover or out, is one of those style dilemmas that crops up again every autumn.

Surely, some might say that if there’s no rule, it’s because both options are fine. Yet, whilst it might generally be so, sometimes, one option is better than the other. To us, it’s a matter of how casual one’s intended look is meant to be, as well as the effect on visual proportion, in particular in relation to one’s face shape.

untucked

Leaving the shirt collar outside the pullover is the more casual of the two options and works best when the collar is small to medium in size. With higher or more pointed collars, it becomes much easier to end up with a look that’s reminiscent of the ’70s.

Depending on how much the collar contrasts in colour with the pullover, when exposed (and obviously worn unbuttoned), it becomes a focal point, adding visual width to that part of the body. This makes it a better option for men with narrower faces, as the ‘added width’ balances the face’s length, especially when the pullover is a V-neck. A collar worn outside can also make a man, whose shoulders are proportionately smaller to his belly or hips, appear more balanced.

tucked

On the other hand, for a more streamlined and elegant look, opt for the collar worn inside the pullover. However, it’s an option that tends to work best for slimmer men, those with wider faces (on whom a V-neck sweater looks more flattering), as well as those who want to appear taller.

In addition, when the shirt collar is in a colour that’s different to the pullover’s, or patterned, that touch of contrast gives an outfit more texture and depth, rendering it visually more interesting.

Final word

Hopefully, these tips will make it easier to decide which way to wear the shirt collar, next time you’re throwing on a pullover. Of course, the end result depends a lot on the pullover’s collar-type too, as well as its fit but looking out for visual proportion can help make the end result more attractive.

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How to wear spotted patterns

Patterns are one of very few means available to men to create unique outfits, without edging on the eccentric. At the moment, the spotted pattern (or polka dot pattern) is one of the trendiest patterns in menswear but admittedly, is not always the safest of options. Here, we look at how to add the pattern to an outfit, depending on the look one’s after, considering the pattern’s colour and size in particular.

When you think of polka dots, ‘cute’, ‘vintage’, and ‘fun’ is probably what comes to mind and the pattern certainly adds a playful tone to an outfit. It’s ideal for when you’re after a look that’s not corporate or too serious. In addition, being a less common choice, at least when compared to other patterns such as stripes and plaid, the spotted pattern offers an opportunity to render an outfit even more unique.

True, not any type of outfit. You wouldn’t wear a spotted shirt or tie for a job interview at a bank or a law firm, or even most professional events (unless related to the creative industry). However, other than such events, it’s a pattern that lends itself well to both casual and smart casual outfits. The end result will depend a lot on how prominently the pattern features in the outfit. The more prominent the spotted pattern, the bolder the outfit will look, which will in turn determine how appropriate or not it is for the event it is worn to.

Probably the first thing to consider about a pattern is its motif’s size. The larger the spots, the bigger the impact, meaning the more playful (nearly comical) the end result. To tone down the impact of the pattern, opt for a top layer in a solid colour. That way, you’ll conceal much of the area covered by the pattern. Wearing another patterned item but in a different pattern will also de-emphasise the effect of the spotted pattern but caution as to avoid a clash between patterns is recommended. Alternatively, just opt for a very subtle pattern that consists of very small spots. This is a more versatile and often elegant option.

On the other hand, if you want a bolder and more adventurous look, go for a larger motif, and for a statement-look, leave as much of the pattern as possible exposed, mainly by wearing it as a top layer, such as a sport coat or a shirt worn without a jacket. Even trousers will work but ideally these will be in smaller spots since unfortunately for polka dot lovers, clowns love their fancy spotted trousers.

In addition to the size of the spots and layering, the pattern’s colour-scheme will also affect how much the pattern will stand out from the rest of the outfit. Generally, the more colourful and brighter the palette, the less formal a garment will look whilst those in a darker background colour and with a minimalist colour-scheme, will look dressier. Of course how casual or dressy the outfit will end up looking will depend a lot on what you coordinate the piece in a spotted pattern with. However, since you should aim to keep your patterned piece as the focal point, it will inevitably influence the end result.

As much as patterns are great to add a dash of one’s unique style to an outfit, without proper coordination, it’s easy to get it wrong and end up with a look that is too characteristic of the unflattering associations made with that pattern. Often, it’s safer and visually more attractive to opt for smaller patterns when worn as a top layer. Bigger patterns should ideally be worn as an inner layer and with pieces in a solid colour. Often, less is better.

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Washing clothes without ruining them

Laundry mishaps are a nuisance and sometimes, an expensive one too. Following the care instructions on labels is how such disasters are prevented, provided one knows what those funny symbols mean.

Deciphering the care label

Truth be told, clothes do require some good TLC. The more they get, the better they look and feel. In addition to caring for them while worn, retaining their original quality is also a matter of proper maintenance. Always wash your clothes inside out and fasten any zips. The table below provides a summary of the main washing instructions frequently found on the labels on the inside of a shirt, sweater, etc.

wash care symbols

There’s also the GINETEX guide to textile care labels (the textile care label bible), available here.

Preserving your clothes’ colours

In addition to following the care instructions on the label, colour absorbers and whiteners help preserve clothes’ original colours. Colour absorbers are ideal for use when washing different colours in the same cycle. These are sheets which, as the name suggests, absorb colour spills, preventing them from being absorbed by the other garments washed in the same cycle.

Whiteners are for use when washing whites, which after frequent washing tend to turn into a sad shade of grey. Whiteners restore a garment’s original white, keeping it looking new.

There are also washing detergents that contain specific colouring for dark colours. These function like whiteners but instead, serve to preserve a garment’s dark colour, preventing it from fading after washing.

Preserving the fabrics’ texture

On the other hand, fabric softeners do more damage to clothes than good. First of all, which respectable man wants to smell of lavender or purple blossom? Secondly, due to the amount of toxins present, these can really damage your clothes and your health. They should certainly not be used when washing towels, sportswear, and flame-retarding clothes, such as kidswear. Finally, unless your clothes are really dirty, there’s no need to use high heat. Keeping the heat low not only saves on your energy bill but also better preserves the texture of the fabrics.

Final word

Ultimately, part of what makes the clothes we buy a good investment is their durability. Preserving their original quality for as long as possible will save you the expense of having to keep replacing items frequently, instead, spending money on diversifying your wardrobe.

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Surviving Monday mornings

It’s early morning and you’re woken up by the dreadful alarm tune signalling the start of another crazy, busy week. The weekend went by too quickly and you’re wondering how you’re going to make it till Friday.

Monday mornings are never easy but particularly tough when the weekend wasn’t as relaxing as it should have been. How will it be possible, during the next five days, to find the time to regain your energy? Like finding a clean desk on Monday morning, starting the week feeling re-energised and relaxed is the best way of helping yourself keep focused and handle the challenges – some big, some trivial – that are part of everyday life.

With so much on the to-do-list, self-maintenance is typically the last thing we make time for and yet, it’s so crucial for keeping a positive attitude. Finding time for your own well-being should be a priority. 

Ideally, plan your Sunday in a way that allows you some time to yourself, with catching up on lost sleep being a priority. In addition, help your skin recover its healthy look by giving it some TLC. Radiant skin is associated with health and youth but most importantly, looking good helps us feel more confident.

Give your mind a break by avoiding, at least on Sunday evening, work-related conversations and thoughts. Focus on relaxing instead. That way you’ll enjoy the weekend till the very end and will also help you sleep better, as will a light and healthy meal. 

Finally, in order to avoid the stress and panic of trying to get to work on time, try to get as organised in advance as possible (e.g. ironing your work-outfit, packing your bag, etc.) leaving only the essential tasks for the morning. With less to do in the morning, you might even afford a few more minutes of sleep. 

Have a great week!

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Three things to consider when buying a waistcoat

It’s been a while now since waistcoats made their way back into the good books of men’s fashion. In fact, you might already own a few. Or, you might like the look and be considering trying it out. If you’re thinking of getting a new waistcoat, here are three things you should consider above all else.

Length 

Traditionally, the waistcoat is intended to be worn long enough at the front to cover the waist thus, resulting in a continuous vertical line stretching from the ankle, all the way to the face. This not only draws the eye to the face but also has a visually slimming effect, especially when the waistcoat’s colour is identical or even close to the trousers’. 

A waistcoat that reaches above the trousers’ waistline will obviously leave that part of the shirt where it’s tucked in the trousers exposed. Depending on the intensity of the contrast between the colours of the shirt, waistcoat, and trousers, the focus is very likely to shift from the face to the waist – and result in a visually wider waist too. 

If the waistcoat happens to be too short, it’s best to combine it with a shirt in a very similar colour. If it’s long enough to reach considerably below the waist, it’s probably a size too big. 

Fit

Like suit-jackets and sport coats/blazers, finding a waistcoat that fits perfectly can be challenging. The perfect waistcoat isn’t merely one that’s wide enough for the front buttons to be fastened. A waistcoat should fit close to the body without being tight.

One sign of a waistcoat that’s too big for your size are gaping armholes. If that’s the case, you should either go for a smaller size or have the waistcoat taken in. On the other hand, if the front doesn’t lie flat along the chest but ‘pops’, then the size is too small.

Colour

How easily a waistcoat can be combined with other pieces depends a lot on its colour/s. Waistcoats are ideal for wearing as an extra layer to keep warm, especially when wearing a sport coat/blazer, which offers little warmth at the front. When worn this way, a waistcoat could also add texture and/or contrast to an outfit, depending on the look you’re after. However, a waistcoat can also be worn as a substitute to a jacket, such as in the warmer months, without minimising on elegance.

One in solid navy, charcoal, brown, or black will match most pieces in your wardrobe and will lend itself easily to a casual outfit, as much as a dressier one. These are the colours to start off with before going for more unusual colours and fancier designs, that might be more interesting that one in a neutral colour but will nonetheless, limit your options and are typically best worn as the focal piece of an outfit. 

Final word 

Now that you’ve got the length and fit right, as well as a colour that works well with the other pieces in your wardrobe, did you also know that there’s one cardinal rule to follow when wearing a waistcoat? Yes, there is one. Essentially, it concerns the last button, which just as in the case of a suit-jacket/blazer/sport coat, should never be worn fastened. Doing so will cause the waistcoat to balloon when you’re seated – and the sight of puffed fabric is never a flattering one.

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Five summer pieces to get rid of

The first drops of autumn rain have fallen, the roads are clogged again, and my Facebook wall is overflowing with posts bemoaning the abrupt end of what seemed to me, like a year-long summer. Now that it’s time to put away the shorts and T-Shirts to make space for the trousers and cardigans, here are five summer pieces you should definitely be saying ‘adieu’ to. 

Sleeveless tops

The blistering heat is the best excuse for exposing as much flesh as possible and boy do we see a lot of it in summer. Whether it’s to lay bare one’s biceps for all to admire, or merely out of compliance with the pigeon racing club’s dress code, sleeveless tops were definitely last summer’s most popular piece among younger men, regardless of how toned or not they are, or hairy or smooth. Although no type can be considered elegant, some are more modest than others, in that at least, they cover the nipple.  

Short-sleeved office shirts

A favourite among male civil servants (need one say more?) the short-sleeved office shirt is one of the most unflattering pieces a man could wear. First, short-sleeved shirts are intended to look more casual than the long-sleeved version. Wearing one to the office and often, with a tie, results in a clash of styles that gives a look that is neither casual nor smart but simply sloppy. Second, short sleeves should never reach below mid-biceps, for any lower, gives the impression of an over-sized garment.

Cargo shorts

When going on an expedition, those side-pockets sure come in handy but how much stuff does one need for a walk along the promenade? Because of the bulk at the bottom created by the side-pockets, cargo shorts make one’s legs look thinner than they actually are. So as to keep the lower and upper halves of the body looking proportionate, shorts should more or less follow the legs’ natural width.  

Three quarter length trousers

The popularity of three quarter length trousers faded nearly as quickly as they were put on the market. Nonetheless, a few pairs sill linger, worn by those who never throw anything away unless it’s really unusable. These trousers not only look incomplete but also make the legs look shorter – much shorter. 

Synthetic sandals

Why ruin an outfit with cheap-looking, synthetic footwear? Yes, these are very comfortable sandals, which is why they are so popular in northern Europe, where pragmatism reigns supreme but comfortable as they are, style-wise they leave much to be desired. If you don’t want closed shoes, opt for a pair of soft leather sandals instead – and don’t forget to get a pedicure regularly. 

Final word

Those are the five major causes of summer style eye-soars or five reasons to be glad summer is over. Are there any other pieces you think should be added to the list?

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Five ways to easily upgrade your look

Deep down, we all want to look our best. Whilst to some, looking impeccably dressed seems to require little effort, many just don’t know where to start. No matter how hard they try, nothing seems to work, till in the end they just give up on looking good altogether. Truth be told, an aptitude for style and an eye for detail do make dressing well a lot easier but one doesn’t have to be a style guru to look good. Here are five ways of quickly upgrading your look that are easy to follow.

Clean up your wardrobe regularly 

Taking stock of the contents of your wardrobe will help you keep track of which pieces are still usable and which need to be replaced. How many of the shirts, trousers, etc. you own fit you well, are still in a good condition, or still fashionable? Knowing how many and which pieces you can actually still wear makes it easier to keep one’s wardrobe updated with the latest styles and more importantly, the right size.

Neutral colours make combining colours easier

Combining colours successfully is many a men’s Achilles’ heel, which is why focusing on neutral and classical colours is a safe option. Navy, grey, and brown trousers, white and blue shirts, and a camel or navy jacket are pieces which can all be combined together to give multiple possibilities. They also serve as a good basis on which to gradually extend your wardrobe’s palette.

Keep your outfit’s style coherent

Although mixing pieces from different and contrasting styles is on trend, such as wearing athletic shoes with a formal suit, mixing and matching requires confidence and an eye for style. Rather than risk an outfit that looks mismatched, stick to the same style throughout. When putting together an ensemble, combine pieces that are similarly casual or formal – it keeps the look together.

Give shoes as much importance as the rest of your outfit

In addition to being clean and elegant, your shoes should always tie in with your trousers, be it in terms of colour, style, and shape. That is the only way shoes will complete an outfit and keep your silhouette looking balanced. Take a look in the mirror and check how your shoes make your feet look, compared to your legs. Are the trousers too wide for those pointed shoes? Are the shoes too bulky for your slim-fitting trousers? Do the mismatching colours make your legs look shorter?

Stick to a grooming routine

Looking clean and fresh not only makes you feel good about yourself but also more approachable to others. When life gets hectic, it’s usually personal maintenance that gets knocked down to the bottom of the list of priorities. Maintaining a fixed routine makes it easier to find time for a haircut, a nose wax, or even a facial.

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How to dress for the Maltese summer

Another hot and sticky day. You take a cold shower to freshen up, only the water is never cold enough. As soon as you dry yourself, you start sweating again. Your clothes cling to every inch of your body. By the time you’re ready to leave, you already need another shower but why bother? It’s another Maltese summer – and for those of us not on holidays, it can be cruel!

Unfortunately, there is little one can do about the heat or the lack of shade but we can dress in a way that makes the heat a little less unbearable. Here’s how. 

Stick to light and breathable fabrics

Cotton and linen are the ideal fabrics for summer. Of course not all cotton garments are suitable for the hellish temperatures we experience in Malta. Go for a lightweight and soft cotton. The downside is that both lightweight cotton and linen wrinkle a lot, which can make a suit look less elegant. A lightweight viscose blend is an alternative worth considering. 

Avoid tight-fitting clothing

For maximum comfort, summer clothing should be loose enough to allow air to circulate thus, creating a cooling effect. Tight fitting clothes trap heat and quickly absorb sweat making them unsuitable for summer.

Keep layers to a minimum

Layers will only add more heat, meaning the less, the better. True, sometimes a blazer or suit jacket may be required, which is why opting for fabrics appropriate for the season is really important – it makes the added layer a bit more endurable. 

Stick to white and dark colours 

If you’re the type to sweat profusely, you’ll know how embarrassing sweat patches can be and how visible they are on pastel and bright colours. On the contrary, on white and dark colours they tend to be less striking because of the lower contrast. However, isn’t summer the season for colour? Patterns are also good at concealing sweat patches – as long as the background colour is white or dark – whilst also adding colour to your wardrobe.

Wear a hat

Keep your scalp protected from the sun’s rays with a hat. The advantage of a hat over a cap is that it also protects the ears, where skin cancer can also develop. A comfortable hat should not fit too tightly nor trap heat.

Keep clean

When it’s hot and sticky, it takes a bit more effort to keep smelling fresh. Frequent showers, wet wipes, and deodorant will help you keep feeling clean and smelling nice.

Final word 

Adapting your clothing to the season will help keep you feeling a little less uncomfortable. However, at the end of the day, in such temperatures, it’ll always be hot. Be practical and where possible, take the necessary precautions to avoid the heat, such as not going out in the afternoon and of course, drinking plenty of cold water.

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Five ways of reducing clothing’s impact on the environment

The impact of the clothing industry on the environment is massive and not in a good way. In fact, it’s one of the most polluting industries. Sustaining the creativity, beauty, and glamour typically associated with the industry are huge amounts of water, pesticides, chemicals, and fossil fuels. Globalisation and consumerism have further exacerbated the ecological impact resulting from the production process and transport of clothing. 

To give an example, a simple cotton T-shirt requires some 2000 litres of water and a huge amount of pesticides just for the cotton it is made from to be produced. Add to that the hazardous chemicals required to dye the fabric, that can end up (untreated) in rivers and/or the sea, as well as the amount of fossil fuels needed to transport fabrics and clothing from different points around the globe – and that’s not all. Washing and disposal of clothing further contributes, in no minor way, to the degradation of the environment.

What can we do about it? Like all other industries, the clothing industry is driven by demand, at times a demand it creates itself but nonetheless, consumers, together, have the power to turn the industry into a more environmentally sustainable one. Here are a few ways how we can contribute.

Quality over quantity

Fast fashion is all about disposable clothing. Poor quality and mass-production make it possible to sell clothes very cheaply promoting a culture whereby clothes, being easily replaceable, are worn once or twice and then thrown away. As more clothes need to be produced and disposed of, more resources are required causing ever more pollution. Although not buying any clothes is as unrealistic an option as not using your car, buying less pieces but which are more durable (and inevitably costlier) will help reduce the pressure on the environment both as a result of a lower production and less clothes to be disposed of.

Natural rather than synthetic fabrics

All fabrics pose environmental challenges in their production. The most widely available fabric, cotton, even if organic, uses a disproportionately huge amount of water for its yield – the second after corn. However, despite the pressure on water resources and the pesticides used to increase production, unlike synthetic fabrics, such as polyester and nylon which are made from plastics, natural fabrics are biodegradable causing less damage when disposed of. Opting for organic fabrics will also help in reducing the amount of pesticides used.

Clothes that are made closer to home

The ease with which fabric and clothing can be transported from one part of the world to the other for the next process to take place is one of the major contributors to pollution. Cotton from Mali can be transported to Indonesia, where it is dyed, then onto the Philippines where the actual garment is sewn together, then to a location in Europe for distribution to the actual retail location. By opting for clothes that are actually produced closer to home, we can help in cutting on the distances that the clothing travels, at least from the point of production to distribution.

Wash clothes less frequently

That’s a tough one, especially with summer approaching. However, considering the toxic chemicals found in the detergents we use, the energy used in running the washing machine, ironing, and the amount of fine fabric threads that end up in the sea, every cycle is damaging on the environment. So is dry cleaning. Using lower temperatures and eco-friendly detergents will help reduce the environmental impact of your washing, as well as help preserve the clothes’ original quality. However, even more effective is not washing clothes if they can afford to be worn another time or just hanging them by the shower. Steam is a great cleaning agent.

 

Don’t just throw away clothes you no longer want to wear. Depending on their condition, they could be donated to charity. The SPCA will also be happy to receive old towels and bed linen. Use old T-Shirts as pyjamas or dusters. The disposal of clothes has a huge impact on the environment and should therefore, be minimised as much as possible.