Monday, 30 July 2012

How to get your luxury bargains? eBay for beginners by The Nordic Fit.

How to build your wardrobe on budget? This is probably one of the most asked questions among young men who are interested on quality clothing, tailoring and style. Most of us, including me, are still students and there might be other things such as real estate to pay off. Personally I would say that buying good clothes for good prices is a thing you must learn and prepare for, as it requires quite a lot of information, planning and time. Depending on your own style preferences and size, the possible places to buy different things varies quite a lot. Furthermore, depending on where you are from things might get easier or more difficult with the main issue being if you're favorite stuff is located in the U.S. or Europe. I will discuss the subject in the following chapters from the perspective of a Finn.

If you live in a place like me where traditional stores to quench a sartorial thirst basically don't exist, your options are either the mail man and the Internet or an airplane. However, even if you lived in some of the places around the world that offer quality items for less than their ridiculous retail prices, the Internet will prove to be your best option. I divide the supply into two categories: web store sales and eBay. Most web stores tend to have their sales up at the same traditional times such as midsummer, but many offer goodies around the year. On the other hand, some price tags can be justified with their quality and can be well worth the investment on their RRP. For example, Equus Leather is a company that is offers bargains every day just at their regular pricing. Overall, shopping in web stores is quite straightforward and mostly depends on whether you can find the best stores for your taste. eBay on the other hand, is a completely different animal, and requires a bit more attention.

So, eBay. To start with you need to retain some of that common sense. Avoiding getting ripped off (although if you do get scammed after my text, that's not on me) is not too complicated. If the seller is someone with 0 or 1 feedback, the price too good to be true and the pictures probably a bit hazy and crappy, the alarm should be ringing. I personally don't buy from people with less than 100-150 or so feedback, but I must agree sometimes you tend to take leaps of faith. My latest L.B.M. 1911 jacket, for example, was bought from an Italian shop with only very little feedback and who spoke no English to speak of, but hey, I got the jacket (that I could not have gotten without going to Italy) and I got it for a good price. So, as you eat the hunger usually grows. As I can't say I haven't taken risks, I certainly wouldn't recommend taking them.

To avoid risks I would start with eBay stores. You can find tons of nice things just from these registered stores which often work like normal businesses. With them I would consider the risk factor to be about the same as buying milk from your local groceries. There are countless of eBay stores and big private sellers that often have more than 2000 (even 30.000 in some cases) feedback, offering probably trustworthy trading partner. Some of my favorites include elitebargainnyc, salsalocust, eyewearhut, sausages234, frieschskys, baleriac1 and retricker1829. You should save all the ones you think might have something for you, and check them at least twice a week, other of these days being Friday. Most bigger and more professional vendors tend to make their new listings on Thursdays, as then the 10 day auctions expire on Sunday evening, the time when most people are at home and by their computers.

Secondly, you should reserve quite a lot of time and patience to actually build your wardrobe with eBay. I would say that 2-4 pairs of shoes, perhaps a few jackets, a suit and maybe ten to fifteen ties is a realistic goal within a year. Expect to lose at least ten items you really wanted and "needed"  with another few where your mobile internet cuts off right when you're supposed to bid. Even if you scour the supply as often as possible, it is only so often that you're going to find items you are really looking for, and when you do, the chances are you aren't the only person trying to win it. You can try using bots programmed to make the winning bid, but for sheer simplicity I would personally go without any bots at first.

Simply make a thorough list of things you are looking for, and then start searching. If you are located in Europe, go through the UK, Germany, France and Italy first. Most vendors in the EU don't mind shipping stuff within the Union, and the costs are quite reasonable. Furthermore, there are no added customs fees or taxes, so buying from these countries is basically like buying from your home country. The available items tend to vary quite a lot by the location, with majority of the supply being local and then foreign items here and there. For example, for English shoes go for the UK (Sausages, salsalocust) and for Italian odd-jackets and suits go for Italy. Simple. And if you don't speak the language, use Google Chrome and the translator and you should be able to make sense of the site navigation and so on.

Now, I would say that there are two ways of keeping track. First, when you search for items, you will start to find sellers that have bigger inventories and more feedback. If you find someone with a lot of different items you fancy, just save them and you will be able to check them easily afterwards. The benefits are that unlike when searching with a certain brand you will also have the possibility of finding other similar items the vendor might add. For example, if you're looking for a L.B.M 1911 unstructured jacket from Italy and you're also checking the sellers' own pages, you might find a completely similar Boglioli jacket that is just as good, if not better. However, if what you're looking for is more specific, like in the way that the only possible pair of black shoes you are looking for are a pair of Crockett & Jones Hallams, then go with the brand or model name.

As an additional tip, a good way to follow up on your saved searches (or the best in my opinion), is the eBay mobile, that always informs you when there has been additions to the results of the search of the given parameters. It also lets you quickly browse only the new additions, a feature missing from the normal web browser eBay, saving your time. A good way is to go through your searches with your phone once a day adding desired pieces into your watch list. Do this when commuting from work eg., and you'll find it a good way to spend the odd boring hour. You'll have more time to see what you added later in the evening. The mobile eBay app is also quicker to change between different countries'.

If you are buying from the United States, you'll find that the selection of especially Italian luxury goods is often better than here in Europe. It is easy to find good deals on such delicacies as Isaia or Zegna's premium product lines, and the American eBay is simply stuffed with Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers.  However, be aware of the weakened euro that has driven up the prices for us quite a lot lately, and also note that the price doesn't include the taxes nor the customs fees that your local officials are going to bill you. Now, you may try asking for the seller to mark down the price (which I personally do not recommend), but this is against eBay regulations (some a bit serious sellers might turn you in) and also illegal, so at least the professional vendors most likely won't do it. If you live in the U.S., you will have enough things to buy in your own eBay for years, so I wouldn't recommend starting the overseas purchasing at first.

So, if you're new to eBay, start with building up and saving your searches and keep checking the eBay stores that carry the kind of clothing you are looking for. Fridays are a good day to do a thorough check as most bigger vendors add their wares on Thursdays. Be patient and don't rely on only eBay to build your entire wardrobe from nothing as it is by far the slowest method. On the other hand, it is also the cheapest if you know what you are looking for and also offers occasional finds that can’t be found anywhere else. Once you start to have the feel for the prices, you know what is cheap and what is not. Then you will also be able to make the decision without much research. A good example of a case like that was when I saw my Alden tassel loafers get caught in my search with a price tag of 39,99 USD – it took me about 2 seconds to hit the “Buy Now” button. To sum up then, the insanely good deals are quite rare, and when seen, need a fast trigger finger. However, if you don’t go searching, you’ll never find any for sure.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Next Up

Next week will include a guide for cleaning suede shoes and some pointers for getting your luxury bargains. And on top of that, the hottest items every man should get for the fall 2012.

Enjoy your weekend and stay tuned.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Knit Ties

Wonder what to wear when your outfit is a bit more casual and relaxed, but you still want something hanging from your neck? Well, wonder no more. What you want is a nice knit tie, preferably plain or with polka dots, but in some cases a striped one goes as well. My own favorite for many occasions.

The interesting and eye catching texture is perfect for odd jacket/chino combinations, more casual suits and some will argue this, but in my opinion with jeans as well. The square end and the tie's structure is also a bit too informal for more formal suits. With them you want to go with a grenadine tie for a more impressive and powerful look.

Knit ties are often quite slim at around 2.0-2.25 inches, but I personally prefer the ones that are between 2.5-2.75 inches. They just tie a more beautiful knot and don't look like stuff from an Armani Exchange (or any cheap fashion brand) catalogue. I personally own just plain ones, the easiest and most versatile of knit ties, with the exception of a bi color knit tie. This one has been knit with two different colors to create a tie that subtly changes color depending on where the viewer is. Pin dots and polka dots work well, but these tend to be a bit hard to find.

Stripes are a more challenging subject. Some think they never work, I think they work sometimes, depending on the overall total and the even more the tie itself. If the stripes hold a strong contrast, then it rarely works. If, however, the colors are close to each other, it can work well. The reason for this is that as the stripes are perpendicular to the tie, they can create a bit obtrusive knot where the stripes are totally vertical.

As for the material, it can be both silk or wool. I prefer silk, but a woolen knit tie is perfect for those casual fall days. Also, a cashmere knit tie is just so soft all you want to do is touch it all day long.

Overall, I recommend everyone to have at least one or two, preferable one for the summer and one for the fall. It's also the perfect tie for the classroom that also brings some nice Ivy League vibes and makes you the coolest guy in class without a doubt. For work I would suggest it as the casual Friday tie in more serious offices, and a good all-arounder in more relaxed ones. They are also relatively cheap even as new, so there shouldn't be any reason not to have many.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Thoughts on Summer Wear

During the summer I like to break some of the more formal rules in menswear and just play with different styles a little bit more. Perhaps that's because of how the sun (still waiting this summer though) affects us Finns who only get it for a few months in a year, who knows, but when the snow melts and the birds start singing it is time to dig out your loafers and linen ties. In this text I'll go through some things that I personally feel are essential to summer looks, and that can liven up an otherwise normal work look without making you look like an out of control dandy at work.

So, first up. Linen, lightweight cotton and linen-cotton blends are made for spring and summer time and are pretty much my favorites as odd-jackets or as suit material during the warmer months. Colors can be anything from white (harder to pull off, off-white easier), light grey, cream, mid-blue to navy. Avoid darker hues of grey, often seen in (formal) suits. If you go with an odd-jacket and chinos, for example, remember to make sure there is enough contrast between the garments. Too often people wear combinations without any contrast between the main parts, which tends not to work.

As for shoes nothing beats loafers, worn with socks or without. They are the superior summer shoe that come in many shapes and forms, tassel loafer being my favorite. Loafers also come in sleeker and more modern forms as well as in more classic ones. See the picture below, and you can see different characters of four quite different styles: Italian, American, English and French. In addition, these pairs obviously also differ in material, but the quintessential style differencies in the shape are easy to spot. At last, the style of the shoe should follow your build and other cloths on you to create a consistent and harmonic look.

Other good and very summery options would be suede chukka boots (bright colors may work as well, and navy is just cool), a pair of casual derbys or a maybe just a more light colored pair of oxfords. However, with a suit all normal shoes still go as well as before, and in some offices the more playful option might not be options at all. Like always, you must take your culture and surroundings into account.

Then the accessories. Even though sometimes not needed at all, they offer you countless ways to alter the way you look, even more so during the summer. Apart from the very obvious fall colors pretty much everything works. Pastel colors are perhaps the most chic option, but I wouldn't draw too many limits for this. Go with nice and slightly rougher textures found especially in linen, but for example cotton or lightweight (cashmere) wool ties also offer a fresh alternative from the silk and other heavier ties you wore the whole winter. Linen pocket squares with contrast borders (say, a fresh sky blue border on a white square) are something that work very well also during the summer. Oh, and for a young man, some leather and bead bracelets are not a bad idea to add a touch of color and playfulness.

Then last, but certainly not the least, the shirt. If you haven't already, then the spring/summer is a good moment to burn all your old fashion shirts with boxy and short collars without any roll. If you never had any Hugo Bosses lying around then all the better. Summer is all about softness, natural lines and amazing textures. My personal favorites are soft and beautifully rolling Italian collars that compliment your tie and more relaxed shoulder the unstructured and less padded summer jackets (should) have. Possible colors for your shirts is not too different from other seasons, but I have seen many succesful efforts where men have used the shirt as the party piece of their combination playing other parts down and using a more flashy high-contrast gingham check shirt or the like. Too much never works however, so make sure your other parts are simple and perhaps leave the tie out.

In the end, summer is when we can loosen up a little bit. Wearing something a tad more relaxed and fitting to the weather helps you tune in and enjoy the weather. The first thing I miss from the Southern United States for sure, is that I was able to do this every day and not just for a few months during the whole year. To me, jumping into a pair of loafers sockless is simply the feeling that makes the summer.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Classic

A navy jacket and khaki chinos is probably the most fail-safe option for the modern man. From a 12-year-old school boy to the executive on his Sunday stroll, it always creates a stylish impression that pleases the eye. However, there are some basics that have to be thought out before hitting the street. This is what I think they are.

The first thing to think about, like always, is how the pieces fit you and your body type. A slim (but not overly slim) cut flatters a sporty to normal body, and is one of the most important things here. A loose and boxy jacket quickly kills all the style from the total. Secondly, I would suggest going for a softer shoulder as it makes the look more natural. Padded shoulders often found in market cloths tend to create a very suit-like impression and making you look stiff and unnecessarily formal, which rarely works with more casual cotton chinos. Thirdly, avoid those 3-button jackets unless the it has been made to roll like a 2 1/2 or 3-roll-2.

When you have the right jacket, you still need the pants to make it work. Pretty much the only and most important thing is how they fit you. A good rule is that they are made slim without making them too slim. You want to have about an inch or two extra circumference around the thigh and then slim it down quite strongly from about one inch above the knee to all the way down. If the leg opening is too wide, it covers your shoes in an ugly way, and also pretty much kills the whole look (I tend to go for about a 4.5-5.5 inch leg opening in chinos, and about 5-6 in suit trousers.). The length should be about what you see in the picture above, the cuff just meets the shoe, but not enough to create too much creasing along the leg.

Black is not an option. However, just about everything brown goes. A pair of tan full brogues, chestnut toe caps, chocolate suede tassel loafers or perhaps espresso-colored penny loafers. Socks can be anything, but I would avoid too bright colors. A simple navy or brown pair is perhaps the best option, and to add some flair you can try navy socks with white polka dots, for example. Loafers can also be worn without socks as seen here, no problem, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise (unless it's your boss). Last, but not least, always keep your shoes polished and healthy - the final touch on any look.

Then the accessories. First, you need a good shirt. Almost everything works, purple here shown is probably the furthest you can go from the normal choices of white and blue. Almost all patterns work well too, and for example a blue stripe or a low-contrast gingham check can liven up the look succesfully providing the tie and pocket square are not too restless in their colors and patterns. As this combination is never super formal, knit ties and other materials such as linen, cotton and wool also work well. For a more casual feel you can also put on a button-down shirt and ditch the tie, as seen here in the third picture.

Overall, if the basics are looked after, this classic can lift you in the crowd pretty much anywhere you go from workplace to a dinner. If everything fits you right, you have the right shoes and accessories there is no fear of being branded a pensioner in their musty club jacket. The only criticism I can give it, is that especially when worn every day it can be seen as a bit boring and in some cases  perhaps slightly uniform-like. This does not however depreciate the style value of this combination by any means, as it is simply one of those that pleases any eye, anywhere.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

The Holy Grail Tie.

Everyone should have at least one so called Holy Grail piece. Mine? Chocolate brown Tom Ford from 2011, with pretty big white polka dots that scale to ovals the narrower the tie gets. I think having that one special piece is important - it makes you feel confident and simply lifts your spirit up on the special day you decide to wear it.

A few weeks back I went to a traditional spot to visit and have a coffee here in Tampere. An old sightseeing tower built in the 1920s on the world's tallest gravel ridge. What a perfect occasion to hang the perfect tie around my neck.

I've also chosen a navy club jacket with silver buttons, khaki slim chinos, cream/chocolate brown silk pocket square and slightly preppy sleek round loafers, but the center piece is the tie.

Another notion here. Small, ugly and without-any-roll Hugo Boss or the sort collars would just look ridiculous here. Go for softer, round collars with long enough collar points, and it will benefit the whole look and lift the beautiful knot (and pimple) of your tie. Now, I could've gone for a white shirt here, but light purple just felt right that day. Purple also works like magic with brown, especially if you mix it with some white or cream.

Penny loafers are always a fail-safe option during summer, and to wear them without socks is no crime. Otherwise brown loafers work well with almost any chinos, jeans and even shorts (risky). Oh, and always remember to keep your shoes clean and polished of course - the requirement for any spot on look.

So. I personally think everyone should have one expecially precious item, a tie, pair of shoes or perhaps a ridiculously expensive pair of cufflinks. It doesn't matter if no one else knows your shoes cost a thousand bucks but you, but you will feel a thousand bucks more special. Something out of the oridinary, something that alone lifts your spirit on a day you really need it or when you just want that extra zing when going out. My wardrobe is built with a budget, but we can all afford one special thing. And this tie is my special thing.

Monochrome Monday.

I usually tend to dress on a rather wide scale from formal to casual. The formality almost always follows the week, Monday being the most formal. However, as the dress code in Finland is quite loose, I usually start sliding down to casual quite fast as the week goes by. This is an example of a Monday, from a few weeks back.

A slim navy suit with notched lapels and a semi roped Italian shoulder for a nice silhuette. This is where most cheap and fashion brand suits fail, as their heavy padding at the shoulders and fused chest pieces they tend to create a boxy and unnatural looks. Right sleeve length assures you look sharp as your cuffs show about a half an inch or even a bit more, as the case is with most of my suits and jackets.

As this combination is a basically just different blues, there are a few things a spice it up. I've chosen a contrast collar double cuff shirt, which is something I think surely works sometimes, as long as you don't go all Gordon Gekko every day. Furthermore, it is basically the only out of the oridinary piece I'm wearing that day keeping the overall look still simple. The slightly dandy way of folding my pocket square adds an another ounce of flair into the combination.


Shoes are Hallam cap toes from Crockett and Jones. The chestnut color is a viable option here, but if I worked in a bank or lived in a city like London, I would probably go with black oxford shoes. Here in Finland brown works well, and the beautiful shine and the deep color alone makes you look a million times sharper than your boss in his boxy and rubbery Eccos.

Accessories is where you finally differentiate and stand out. You don't need to go for a peacock look to be noticed, a simple good fit, quality shoes and well picked accessories. Here I've chosen simple silver knot cufflinks, a white silk pocket square with a navy border and polka dots and to top it off, a navy E. Marinella 7-fold silk tie. One (important) notion here, DO NOT go with an ugly Windsor knot. A well-tied four-in-hand is the only option for a modern gentleman. Furthermore, it can be a bit difficult to tie a beautiful knot onto a cheap market tie, so there is another reason to invest into quality ties. E. Marinellas have the ideal thickness and the sort of softness in the silk for me, and I feel I could never have enough of them.

At the end of the day, and unless you're in an ugly black glue suit from your local market, it all comes down to how you carry your clothes. Good fit and quality materials quarantee you look stunning, and this can all be achieved with a moderate budget if you only do little bit of ground work and embrace the Internet (especially eBay) as your supplier.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Nordic Fit

I've kept a Tumblr for some months now, and it feels like its time to start opening the process that makes me choose the components I do.  I will go through some of the combinations I've had on me recently, explain why I picked what, what I would maybe do differently and also focus on some items I like in particular. If at the end of the day I help burn an ugly tie a week, a pair of Eccos a month and encourage someone to sport a pocket square for their first time, this will be time well spent.

Aesthetics are surely one of the most important things in my life. Things that look good just give me pleasure on a scale that can only be matched with a good steak and a glass of Cabernet, and I'm starting to feel ever more strongly that this is what I was ment for. So, from now on I will be writing down some thoughts on things that I think look good on a modern urban man.