A red baseball cap is the first thing I remember about clothes.
It said “Little Slugger” (Sluggard?), it had elastic on the back, and it was the best. When I lost it in Jo-Ann Fabrics while my mom was shopping for costume patterns, I cried. I probably even untucked my shirt in red-eyed frustration. That, of course, would have been a major infraction in the Putnam household. If we were “going in to town,” my shirt tails better have been secured.
So, this was me as a little kid in the early 1990s: Collared, short-sleeve shirt held hostage by my waistline, navy or khaki slacks, and classic blue Keds.
Pretty standard if you’re homeschooled.
On the farm in the rolling hills of southwest Missouri, it was a different story. I had some autonomy, most of which was exercised on Big Smith overalls, double-layered flannel shirts, and oversized, knee-high mud boots.
THE EARLY YEARS
No, your eyes are not deceiving you. There are two flannel shirts in this picture. Yes, one has cut-off sleeves.
As the youngest of four kids, hand-me-downs dictated the contents of my dresser drawers. We thrifted often—Goodwill on 32nd Street in Joplin was mom’s favorite designer store. “You can find Dockers,” she’d say. “Banana Republic’s there, if you look hard.” Yes, Mom, the cream of the crop.
The number of times overalls appear in these pictures is proportional to the percentage of my wardrobe they occupied in the early years. I wish I could say that I never wore overalls in to town. I wish I could say that I didn’t wear overalls almost every day in sixth and seventh grades. I wish I could lie.
Right around high school, things took a turn for the confusing. As the grudging victim of a dress code, my wardrobe was converted to trousers and collared shirts. I lusted for full-price jeans from the coolest store in Northpark Mall: American Eagle. Every once in a while, we’d splurge.
Proof that I was a master of this picture-pose long before I’d ever even heard of Oak Park High School. Not sure what’s going on here: Cargo pants, polo, camo, misshaped cowboy hat? And I’m pretty sure that’s a “Vote for Pedro” ringer T-shirt underneath. I wish I could confidently say this was a spirit day at school, but it’s not far enough outside the realm of possibility for normal 11th-grade attire. Except the hats, obviously. Those weren’t allowed. And that lunch box was one of the sweetest things ever.
Fairly standard, ill-fitting suit option for a school formal. At least I wasn’t wearing a pastel tuxedo like the other guys.
But mostly, my closet was stocked with the cast-offs from my brother’s school attire from nine years earlier. (Remember what I said about hand-me-downs?) Threadbare Arrow shirts, khakis with a 32-inch waist.
White collar. Blue undershirt. Lookin’ good.
Mom and Dad’s explanation? “You’ll grow into them, son.” Made sense at the time. Buying a size larger was hardwired into my purchasing decisions. But the joke was on me; I stopped growing right around the time I turned 15.
One time, at JBU: Free at last from high school dress codes, my freshman year was mostly characterized by trucker hats, T-shirts, light-wash jeans, flip-flops, and Jack Johnson.
College was the first time I ever wore sweatpants to class. I fell asleep. I began to wonder if what you wear actually does affect your performance. Back in high school, that was the administration’s reason for the seemingly oppressive dress code, but I never believed them. Until I started wearing a tie on exam days.
Then I noticed the way my 40-year-old brother dressed for work. Shirt, tie, pants that weren’t too big. His care with his appearance showed his care for his work and his family of four. I noticed kids whose pants were closer to their knees than their waists. I noticed that a man dresses differently than a boy. And I noticed a difference when I tried it on for size. I was more alert, more put together, more effective. The mental pumps were primed.
When it comes to what you wear, you’re presenting yourself. Sure, it’s an opportunity showcase your individuality. But more importantly, it’s a chance to say “Here I am. Expect this.”
Style? It’s an extension of reputation. You grow into it.
While I was in New York last month, I did some damage.
Single twenty-something guy who is caught up on most of his students loans and was looking to get some transitional pieces for my fall wardrobe. Plus, I had a really great month in sales. So, on Thursday night I decided I was going to pull some strings*, jet set to New York in the morning for the weekend. It was my first time to see the city for the first time. (First time? I know, right)
Let’s just say I walked away with a head-turning prize from Opening Ceremony (post to come soon) and an armful of goods worthy of asking, “Can you ship this?” back to Chicago from rag & bone.
Rag & Bone
was among the brands that caught my eye the most when it came to their inventory, that and the price was nice, considering it was their end of season sale. It also didn’t hurt me either considering all the malnourished gentlemen of New York City missed out on grabbing the leftover smalls, 36 chests and 28 waists. Because this guy did.
Two of my many finds were:
- A midnight (read as: navy) medium rise seersucker trousers.
- A white button down that looks like confetti frosting.
(You can’t really see the color speckled through the top in these photos, blame Seth.)
I feel classy, polished and fresh when I wear the navy and camel combo. Something about it pairing these colors together channels a very relaxed yet refined vibe that adds a pep in my step. A clear and fresh face along with catching the L train just before it departs doesn’t hurt either.
On Jeff: Feather suede jacket (thrifted $15) by Lanvin; confetti white button down (sale $70, reg $200) by rag & bone; navy seersucker trousers (sale $90, reg $300) by rag & bone; Lexington oxfords (sale $50) by Florsheim; leather clutch (yard sale $2) by Coach;
*My cousin is a flight attendant. Cheap flights. Bingo.
Whenever I make a purchase, I think about whether the item is an addition to my wardrobe as a basic (button downs, denim, tees and other layering pieces) or if it’s going to be a specialty piece.
What do I mean by that?
You can buy button down shirts, trousers and denim year round, generally in the same fit, fabric or wash. You can walk into a men’s store at any time and find those pieces. Great, those are your basics in your wardrobe. But each season a brand releases a new jacket or a familiar one but in a different wash or fabric.
Those are your speciality pieces. They are typically higher in price and are trend-driven or not something you’d find everyday. A jacket would be one of those pieces.
Let’s talk jackets. You can never have enough jackets. But seriously.
Most great outfits have three pieces to them. A top, a bottom and a jacket.
Why buy more jackets or blazers? Do my shirt and pants not do the job?
If you look at a majority of our shoots and daily outfits, you’ll likely find a third piece. And that third piece is typically a jacket. A jacket pulls an outfit together with the top or bottom. It cleans it up and finishes it off. Throw a blazer in the back of your car or carry a cardigan in your bag.
And that third piece is usually more expensive because it’s special and thats where the dollars start to add up. However, those dollars were not on this piece.
Nope. About four-Chipotle-burritos’ worth of dolla-dolla-bills-y’all were spent on this jacket.
“The Braydon” Jacket by Comune
It’s a nice, structured-but-soft, slim-fitting jacket with high-cut arm holes, which is tough to find when it comes to getting a jacket off the rack. I sized down and got a small, but the medium fit well also. Quite a deal for a great alternative to a blazer and a different take on a denim jacket, thus making it “special.”
STYLING TIP: Throw this jacket on with a pair of dark wash denim, tailored pair of khakis or do the monochromatic look. My style is generally pretty preppy, but this was too sharp and filed under “specialty” pieces that will instantly pull my look together.
It’s available at:
File this one under: a monochromatic look, too.
On Jeff: Coated black denim jacket (sale $32, Nordstrom) by COMUNE; handmade yellow striped bow tie ($20) by Annaruna; grey pin-stripe straight leg pant ($175) by Nonnie Threads; refurbished white leather topsiders ($30, Nordstorm Rack) by Sperry; cotton grey button-down by J.Crew.
Let’s talk color. But not color blocking or adding a “pop of color” as the kids like to call it; rather, monochromatic colors.
What is a monochromatic look?
An outfit built around one particular color story.
- Navy, dark grey, slate and midnight.
- Khaki, tan, ecru and nude.
- Black, heather grey, charcoal and steel.
For some, it’s fairly effortless to throw on one shade of a color since that what is what is in your entire closet. (Cough, Seth, cough.) All one color. For others, it will be a little more difficult knowing their colorful tendencies of wearing a ton.
But we say: Why not give it a go? Especially with a little on a print or pattern in the same color story.
I rarely have a very good reason to wear a tie. Honestly, events that necessitate ties in my life are few and far between. I mean, outside of the occasional wedding
formal, opportunities to appropriately don neckwear are fairly infrequent. That means that when I wear them, it’s typically for no reason at all. I’m not going to the office, I’m just going to class. If Mizzou
were a little more Ivy, that may be normal. But in a place where T-shirts and sweatpants reign supreme, I figure most people just assume I’m a professor.
Now, switching gears, the comment we tend to get most when it comes to buying from thrift stores or vintage resale shops goes something like this: “I just don’t have the patience to sift through all the inevitable crap to find what I’m actually looking for.” While thrifting often leaves you frustrated and empty handed, I think I’ve come to realize why I genuinely enjoy it to the degree that I do. The prices are obviously the biggest draw, yes, but there are secondary elements to the thrift store experience that make it something that is, while tedious at times, still very worth while. For me, I love that it harkens back to a time when United States manufacturing was still king, before outsourcing apparel construction became the new black. There’s something strangely satisfying about putting on a piece of clothing whose tag reads, “Made in the U.S.A.
” You guys know what I’m talking about, right?
Sorry for going YouTube crazy. Also, we’re a handful of followers short of four digits on Twitter
. Lets do this, team.
On Cameron: Blue oxford (thrifted, $2) made in the U.S.A. by Arrow Brigade, 15.5 neck; striped tie (gift from a lovely woman) by Kincora Irish Tweeds; brass tie bar (thrifted, $2); woven belt (thrifted, $4); chinos (UO, sale $10) by Dockers, size 31; desert boots (Christmas gift ’09) by Clarks, size 10; “Preston” eyeglasses (online, $95) by Warby Parker; rope bracelet (homemade).
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