Friday, June 29, 2012

Reactions to Health Care Reform

From time to time, I’m not going to write about style. I might put you on the game to some real stuff. I can do what I want, it's my blog. So......

People love talking politics. And after yesterday’s Supreme Court decision on health care reform, I (as I’m sure many of you), had dozens of friends who were now suddenly experts on the subject. Well guess what? I majored in political science, which means somewhere a group of naive people thought I knew enough about politics to earn a degree in it. Here’s what I have to say:
The New
This health care reform act has a lot to it, and the finer implications it will have on the insurance industry, medical industry, and economy at large can only truly be known over time. Things change, people adapt. I don’t really care what you think will happen, because I generally don’t care what people have to say about politics. C’est la vie. 
One thing I like though, because of it’s dramatic personal touch, is that the law mandates that health plans cover a list of essential health benefits. “Essential health benefits must include items and services within at least the following 10 categories:
1. Ambulatory patient services
2. Emergency services
3. Hospitalization
4. Maternity and newborn care
5. Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment
6. Prescription drugs
7. Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
8. Laboratory services
9. Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, and
10. Pediatric services, including oral and vision care”- source
Another thing I like? “Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies will no longer be allowed to set limits on the dollar amount of health benefits that they will cover in a single year or over the course of a person’s lifetime. This means that you won’t run out of coverage if you develop a health problem that is costly to treat.”- source
Now I’m a pretty healthy guy. I eat healthy food, I exercise regularly, I don’t smoke, and I don’t drink………...soda. In fact, I’m so healthy, I haven’t been to the doctor in years. I’m that healthy.
The Old
Years ago though, I had a pretty serious accident (not the incontinent kind). Subsequently I needed some reconstructive surgery. Not, “Hey my nose has a weird bump I’d like removed,” or, “I’d prefer if my ears didn’t stick out so much. It was more like that scene from “American X.” You know, the one where the black guy gets his face curb-stomped to a pulp by Ed Norton and you can’t really watch the whole thing or else you’ll puke. Yeah, it was like that
So you can imagine my dismay, no, my fucking incredulous disbelief, when my then-current insurance provider claimed that replacing my teeth was an “elective surgery.” Let me make sure that sinks in. Replacing every single tooth was “elective.” Like I was supposed to gum down applesauce for the rest of my life. 
Not to mention, I was now “forced” to come up with a lot of money so I could “elect” to “chew” food and “talk” normally. 
Oh, and then the company, faced with some actual medical bills, decided to drop me. I had the same feeling you get when you watch this douchebag jump in a life-raft at the end of “Titanic.” 

The change
First, the ban on limiting dollar amounts means that, should you or I get in some serious shit, the insurance provider can’t cut you off. This affects a lot of people faced with life-threatening illnesses or costly medical treatments. It’s not fun to receive a letter saying, “Sorry, you stayed in the hospital too long, so we’re not paying,” if you genuinely needed to be there. A ride in an ambulance alone can cost around $5,000, so medical bills can and do quickly add up to amounts that can cripple a family financially. 
Second, although dental care is still considered a “nonessential” health benefit for most adults, as a law student I can tell you that mandating coverage of certain services goes a long way into helping an argument for why the provider should pay. Before, it seemed like insurance companies ruled with an iron fist, dictated by whims of fancy. What was an “emergency?” What is “essential?” Whatever’s cheap. Now there is a list of required coverage, and it’s easier to argue that replacing 32 teeth is a rehabilitative or habilitative service that has to be covered, rather than an “elective” surgery that isn’t strictly necessary. (In fact, you could also argue that replacing teeth is a preventative service that would cut down on health care costs in the long run for the provider, but that’s the lawyer in me talking). 
The End
Am I bitter? No, not really. Well maybe a little. But it really pisses me off when ignorant people claim “Obamacare” is ruining the best healthcare system in the world. Um, no, it’s fucking not. Health care in this country was like kind of the Titanic (again with the movies). If you could afford first-class, it was pretty good. If you couldn’t though, or if you ever had real problems, you were pretty much fucked when shit hit the fan. Because when the time came for my insurance company to come in and, you know, actually help pay for the cost of some medical care, they basically flipped me off. Frankly I would have preferred a post card that said, “Enjoy your apple sauce bitch!” because at least that would have been slightly amusing.
That’s my rant. Keep it real pimpin’,

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Penny Loafers for Summer

Boy I am in a shit mood today. First, I’ve had writer’s block like a motherfucker, and I want to apologize for that. One of my goals is to entertain, and while some of my recent posts have hopefully offered some useful advice, they were a bit dry. 
Second, my Internet is going so slow lately, I can’t seem to get anything done. I don’t know if it’s the porn, pirated movies, my computer’s old age (pushing 4 years, which in computer years might as well be 400), but I can’t browse the web for more than two hours before the thing slows to a halt. It’s so frustrating I feel like my dick is going to fall off. 
Anyway, on to some style advice. Summer is a time to go sockless, and in fact, some style gurus say socks shouldn’t be worn with shorts at all. I kind of like that no-bullshit mantra, so I’ve been sticking to it. I’ve also heard that flip-flops should only be worn near a body of water, and I like that too, because people who wear flip-flops with jeans look like they went to college in the 90s and never grew up. People like that need to get punched in the groin.
Going sockless might seem like a tough transition for a whole season, but it’s really not that hard. First, just don’t wear socks. That shit’s easy and will save you from having to buy new ones. If going completely bareback isn’t practical though, check out my post on no-show socks. They allow you to still wear socks without sacrificing the look. 

Available at J.Crew, but can be found at most retailers
Another great shoe to have during the summer (besides canvas plimsolls) is a leather slip-on. I’m thinking penny loafer here, because they’re so simple. It really is just a leather slip-on; no tassels, no frilly crap. You can wear them from the office to the streets, no problemo. 

Sperry Authentic Original Penny Loafer- $55

For my money (and I don’t have much), I like the options over at Sperry Topsider. They have two versions, a dressier (read, more expensive one), and then a cheaper one for around $55. For a guy my age, I like the $55 option. It’s more casual looking, so it’s great for bars, barbeques, and whatever other summer shenanigans you’ll get into, but since they’re relatively cheap, you shouldn’t fret too much if they get a little beat up. Plus, they’re dressy enough to wear to a business-casual office setting (Granted, it’d have to be a pretty laid-back office). 

Gold Cup Dress Casual Penny Loafer- usually $150, but on sale for $90

If you’re office is more uptight, or you're tossin around $100s like Rick Ross in a strip club, spring for the dressier version, or check out some other high-end selections here. I’ve preached about the values about splurging for high-quality products before, but in this case, the Sperry loafer is nice enough to wear out and about without being so costly that you’ll be worrying over what kind of shit you’re stepping in. 
PS- some light water will take car of most bar stains if you tackle them the day after. Don’t soak the things though, they are leather, after all. 
PSS- Sperry did not pay me to write this article. But if they’d like to send me some free shoes or other cool shit, I’m totally DTF.
Thanks for reading

Monday, June 25, 2012

Traveling Light- Versatility

Back in this post I preached about the virtues of versatility, so now I wanted to put that into practice. In this shoot with The Bizi Bee, I took a very basic set of clothes and threw them together to show how versatile pieces can give you a range of options without the need for a huge closet.
In this case, the idea was to “pack” light. Maybe you’ve got a business trip to Chicago. Maybe you’ve got a weekend of strippers and cocaine in Las Vegas. Who am I to judge? But if you're packing the right things, you can fill a carry-on with a wardrobe that'll last a week.

Start with a suit. A suit is a traveler's best friend, because it give you three options. First, obviously, you can wear the suit, should the need for full-fledged formality arise.

A white oxford cloth button-down is also a great thing to have, because it's comfortable and it goes anywhere. Once you find one you like, buy two or three. That way, you'll always have at least one clean one in your rotation.

Start with the suit, ditch the tie and belt, throw on a different shirt, and you'll have yourself something more casual to work with. This gingham shirt is sort of a pale blue, so it's not too far off from white. That makes it versatile (since you can pair it with damn near anything you could with a white shirt) and thus a great companion to a white shirt (for your suitcase or closet).

A white cotton pocket square is cheap (mine was $8), it’ll fit in with pretty much any shirt/tie combo, and it’s an instant style upgrade that’ll set you apart from the rest of the schleps in suits.

Of course, you can also lose the jacket and just wear the pants. No need to look this creepy.

Everything you see in this post was able to fit in this weekender bag. I had three shirts (white, gingham, and blue plaid), two pairs of shoes (one dress and one more casual), a pair of jeans, a tie, and the suit. I also had two pocket squares, because I’m the affected style type who would pack two pocket squares.

Wear jeans with the shirt and tie, throw on the jacket as a separate, and now you've got a classy look for a night of dinner, drinks, and whatever else the kids do these days. As a side note, the denim of these jeans is very lightweight, so they're comfortable enough to wear in the summer. Fabric is an important aspect you should consider when deciding on what to bring on a trip (or buy in a store).

I haven’t updated my cooties vaccine in years, so needless to say I was VERY uncomfortable during this shoot. Wasn’t lying though when I said girls fawn over me. Not sure if it’s the rugged good looks or the devil-may-care attitude.

Cotton suit by Calibrate, shirts all by J.Crew, jeans by Banana Republic, shoes by Cole Haan and Sperry Top-Sider, tie by Calvin Klein, watch by Marc Jacobs (with NATO strap, seen here), glasses by Warby Parker (feat. here), weekender bag by Polo Ralph Lauren.

Thanks for reading, and be on the lookout for upcoming posts featuring the cotton suit,

Friday, June 22, 2012

How to wash Chuck Taylors

I’ve already mentioned the great benefits of a white canvas plimsoll for spring/summer here. Quick recap: they’re cheap, casual, look good, and best of all, they can be beat to hell, then thrown in the wash to look like new.

All white shoes will inevitably scuff, although I once had a friend who religiously walked backwards in a pair of Air Force Ones to prevent them from getting dirty. He was an idiot though. With simple shoes like these Chuck Taylors, made from canvas and rubber, you can quickly and easily wash them. 
There’s several ways to clean shoes like these. The first, and most time consuming, would be to diligently attack stains with a mix of water, detergent, and a toothbrush. If you really care for you shoes, this is probably your best bet, as you’ll avoid getting them completely soaked, and you can focus your own level of attention to detail on particular spots. Just mix a small amount of laundry detergent and water, then get to scrubbing. 

OR, if you’re a bit more lazy pressed for time, you can toss them in the washing machine with a mild detergent. I recommend taking out the shoe laces, but you can still wash them in the same cycle. I’m using a “warm” setting, because I’m worried about how truly hot water may affect the rubber soles.

Now that they’re clean, they’re still wet. DON’T put them in the dryer, because this can damage the shoe. Allow them to air dry at a normal temperature (so avoid things like blow dryers or rotisserie spits). You want these things to be really dry when you put them on, so allow for at least 10 hours, but obviously you can gauge for yourself. 
Finally, if you’re looking to really clean the rubber outsoles, grab a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. These things are awesome to have around the house, so you should get some anyway (seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if they could scrub off skin cancer). Use them on the outsoles though and you’ll be good to go. 
Important: Bleach might seem like an obvious choice for getting your shoes sparkly white, but AVOID this. Bleach weakens the integrity of the canvas. It can be used as a last resort for really stubborn stains, but also keep in mind that a little dirt never hurt anyone, and can add a bit of character to an otherwise blank canvas (pun intended). 
Thanks for reading,

Pictures from here, here, and here

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Balancing Fabrics/Close Ups of Men in Suits

After two posts discussing the virtues of balance as a style term, by now I hope you’re getting the gist of it. You know, mixing the highs and lows of a style aspect. If you still can't nail it, just buy a Snuggie and never leave the house, 'cause buddy chances are you've got bigger problems than I can help you with. 

We’ve already discussed formality and pattern, so now we’ll move to fabricFabric is basically the type of cloth you're wearing. There are many kinds of fabrics to choose from, each offering a different look and feel. Oddly enough though, these many variants are (supposedly) comprised of five fabric types- cotton, linen, silk, wool, and worsted.

Cotton and linen are fabrics. Knit is a type of weave. Picture from Bloomberg

Silk- apparently what Santa's pajamas are made of



Generally your fabric choice is influenced by the climate. Heavier fabrics fare better in the winter to keep you warm, while lighter, more breathable fabrics are optimal for the summer. Clearly.

Nevertheless, you can add some visual interest to your outfit by playing with various fabrics. The balancing idea here is to play something smooth (like a silk tie) against something textured (like a tweed vest or flannel suit). If you're not up for getting too technical, just go with your instinct of the piece's feel. This really isn't that complicated.

Fabric is an easier style aspect to play around with because of its subtlety. Most people wear cotton shirts, wool suits, and silk ties, so the masses have set the bar pretty low. Play around with some stuff, and don't be afraid to branch out and experiment with different fabrics next time you're in a store. Check out these looks below (I've tried to make them big so you can notice the difference in fabrics between the shirt, tie, suit, and pocket square):




Source- plus the pocket square and shirt tie together nicely in the light and dark blues

Source- this is a more standard ensemble

Source- this outfit is heavy on textured fabrics

This list gives simple definitions for the many types of fabrics and cloths that are out there. Your best chance at fully understanding different types of fabrics is to get out there and play around with them. This rule does not apply to women.

Thanks for reading, and hope the pictures serve as good inspiration,


Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Sales Fever

Sales can be great. It’s a good feeling to finally find something you’ve been wanting, but at a price that’s lower than normal. What else could you want, right?
As a style novice building my wardrobe, I was always compelled by a rush to dress better. I wanted to throw away everything in my closet and start with the new knowledge I had. I latched onto any sale I could find, thinking I could quickly, and cheaply, rebuild my wardrobe from scratch.
Problem is, that’s an impractical and expensive approach to upgrading your wardrobe. Realize this process takes time. It’s evolution people. So when you do see a sale, no matter how attractive the prices may be, our how compelling the markdown, consider this checklist before you buy.
Realize all sales have the ultimate goal of making money. For some sales, like at the end of a season, a company is looking to offload what’s left of overstocked items. They’re willing to take a slight hit in the profit department in order to make way for new product. What does this mean? Sales are about the company, not you, and they’ll do whatever they can to attract you to them. Huge markdowns and large %s off attract a buyer who thinks he’s getting a steal. Companies know this and use it to their advantage.
- To help battle “savings fever,” keep an eye on what you’re actually going to be paying, rather than the markdown you think you’re getting. Balance the price you’ll actually pay vs. what the piece is actually worth, in terms of quality and personal necessity. 

Flash sale sites like Gilt can seem attractive, but remember what you're actually paying, not what you're saving

Use sales to YOUR advantage. I do this by keeping a list of items I currently want. They’re not pieces I absolutely need or am dying for, but just things that’d be a nice addition if I can find something quality at a good price. Right now, my list is pretty short (chukka boots and a crew-neck sweater of some sort. Maybe a Rolex, but hey, I’m a dreamer). I use this list as my guide to sales. I look only for these items and make sure not to stray to far from the list. If I can find a nice shirt or trouser at an affordable price while I’m there, great. But I’m not pressured to buy it. It’s one thing to stumble upon a great buy. It’s another to get lost in the world of “deals,” snatching up as much as you can buy because it’s on sale.

Their versatility makes chukkas a good buy. From Clarks ($120 though)

Realize the timing of sales. In need of a good wool peacoat? If you can make it until late winter or early spring, when companies start having winter sales and you can grab one on the cheap, you’ll be in good shape next year. Many sales are at the back-end of a season. Like I said, companies are looking to get rid of what’s left on the shelves so they can start stocking new product. Keep this in mind if you’re looking for something specific.

Consider return-ability. Most sales are final, meaning you can’t return it (because they sure as hell don’t want it back), so generally you have to be 110% confident in your purchase. BUT, and this is a big but, sometimes you can work around the system. I have sometimes (not often, mind you), had the luck of being able to buy something online, only to find it unsatisfactory and return it in-store. Sometimes the employees are more-laid back, more open to persuasion, or maybe even less competent about the fact that you bought it as a final sale. I’m not suggesting this as a fail-safe method, but do your research, call the company, and see what your options are, just in case. (Although, if you’re wavering that much and it is final sale, it may be better to play it safe and pass). 

Gosh honey, everything is just so darn cheap!

Always consider, Do I really need this? A good rule of thumb I follow is this: Do I absolutely want this? Do I have to have it right here, right now? If these answers are firmly positive, then it’s okay to pull the trigger, because you’ll ultimately be confident in the purchase. However, if you find yourself wavering at any point, if you have any second-thoughts or nagging doubts, forget it and walk away. There will be other sales. I promise. 
Thanks for reading, and good luck shopping,

Friday, June 15, 2012

Balancing Patterns

Last week I (hopefully) defined balance as a style term. It’s about taking the highs and lows of a style aspect and combining them to create an effective look that works right down the middle. Also last week, I couched the definition in terms of formality, like how you can “dress down the middle” by wearing a blazer with jeans. This week, I’ll attempt the same explanation, but in terms of pattern
Pattern, as I define it, is the repeated decorative design on a piece of clothing. You can have stripes, gingham, plaid, tye-dye (though hopefully not), or nothing at all. Walk into any menswear store and you’ll see dozens of products in varying patterns. 

gingham- a checked pattern, typically with white and a bold color. From J.Crew

plaid- a checkered, tartan pattern. From Gant Rugger

stripes- long, narrow bands of the same width. From Brooks Brothers

and of course, your plain colors. From Lands' End

Mixing and matching patterns is really a game played at the office. Casual outfits rarely encounter pattern problems, because typically the pants, be they jeans, shorts, chinos, or whatever, are found in a plain color. Finding the right shirt/tie combo however, is more likely to cause problems. 

…..except that it really won’t, as long as you strive to achieve balance of some sort. Check out these shirt/tie combos from a J.Crew ad. Notice how a patterned shirt is paired with a plain or solid tie, while a plain shirt is paired with a patterned tie. Mix subtle and bold patterns to strike a balance.  Not too hard, right? 

You can even mix and match the same patterns, as long as they're in different, corresponding sizes. The stripes on the shirt should be much smaller than those on the tie (although I'm not particularly fond of this look, that's not to say it can't be done). 

via Bloomberg Businessweek

As style novices, this should be enough to build some basic ideas around, so we'll stick with this for now. Once you get this down, you can start experimenting more by mixing patterns. For example, one of my favorite shirt/tie combos is a very soft, pink gingham shirt paired with a dark, evergreen plaid tie. 

Not the best picture, but you get the idea. Elements of pink in the tie help tie the two things together

Thanks for reading, and look out next week for more,

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Father's Day Gift Ideas

For most guys, their father is the person who shaped them into the man they are today. This Sunday is Father’s Day, and it gives us all a chance to give back to the big guy in our lives.
Now, you can go the traditional route and spring for something cool (tech wise), useful (something for the grill perhaps?), or funny (a pair of comically adorned boxers). But if you’re into menswear, or your dad dresses anything like mine does, you’re going to want to help him up his own style game. He taught you how to fish/catch a ball/chug beers. Why not make sure he’s looking fly at the office?
Side-note on my dad: I’m pretty sure my dad bought his work wardrobe sometime around ’86, and none of it has been replaced or updated. He’s got some sweaters that’d make Bill Cosby jealous, so I consider this a time to update his wardrobe, for his sake and mine.

Warby Parker has sunglasses for $95 (polarized, of course).

Park & Bond has a selection of ties, ranging from $98-150

Chester Mox has quality leather goods, like this $60 Horween wallet. Plus free personalization until June 14

More cool guy ties from Stalward Ltd. $64-72

J.Crew has 40% off mens shirts and ties. There's casual, sport shirts, and dress shirts to be had for as little as $30

Toss out his Sketchers Shape-Ups and upgrade to some real workout shoes here

Get rid of the baggy dad-shorts and get him some that actually fit through the leg and thigh

Try products from Jack Black that look and smell great, instead of Aqua Velva

Or, just get him this book, so he can learn like you did. From the best.

Hope this helps, and thanks for reading,