Styles for Men Changing in 2009

The last few years have not brought about a great deal of change in men’s styles but all that changes this year – at least for some.   I wonder how much of the style change is linked to the change in the White House.  George W. Bush always wore a traditional suit – pleated trousers, cuffed with fuller legs, jacket with a bit wider shoulders and shoulder pads, wider lapels and a lower button stance.   Now, Barak Obama, who is tall and very trim, looks great in his fashion forward suits.

So what ‘s different about this year’s suit?  First of all, the silhouette is slimmer.  The shoulders are a bit softer and narrower, less constructed.  Armholes are higher and chests more sculpted, allowing a greater range of motion.   Lapels are narrower with a slightly higher button stance.   The new, more fitted jacket, features slightly shorter sleeves.  This shorter sleeve requires a shorter shirt-sleeve as well.  The shirt should extend ¼ “ to 3/8” beyond the sleeve with the new length being right at the wrist with the jacket just shorter.    Trousers are closer fitting with flat front, slimmer legs and slightly shorter length.   The new, shorter pants can be worn with cuffs of  1 ¾” to 2” or worn without cuffs.  The pant should just “kiss” the top of the shoe having only a hint of a break.

Ties are also narrower – no wider than 3 ½” and may even be slightly narrower than that.   Shirts also have softer shoulders, shorter sleeves and are more closely fitted to the body.    In keeping with the shorter trousers, shoes are being shown with a narrower look and a higher vamp.  There should be no sock visible between the shoe and pant.  Belts need to match the shoe, not necessarily an exact match but in the neighborhood.  A brown shoe requires a brown belt and suede shoes need a suede belt.  As you might imagine, the new wallet is slim so that it will not create a bulge in the slim trousers.   Topping the look off is a pocket square that blends with the tie but does not match it.

When studying this new fashion look, I wonder how many men have builds that can carry the new, trim look.  It seems to me that well over half the population of the United States still need the fuller cut and pleated trousers.  A pleated pant is very forgiving to large legs.    Personally, I prefer slim, flat front trousers without a cuff.    A cuff is needed to give “grounding” to pleated pants but is not needed for a slim, flat front pant.  Also, on a shorter pant, cuffs will make the leg look shorter.  This new slim look will exaggerate any hint of a tummy, and a large tummy trying to squeeze into that slim cut would be laughable.  And how is a man with a wide foot going to fit into slimmer-cut shoes?

In conclusion, I find the new, slim look very appealing.  In reality, it should be left for the very trim man who can carry off the look beautifully.   But, don’t look for the traditional cut pant and jacket to disappear.    Millions of men need to stick to traditional!

Which Frames Work for Me?

My husband has been sorting through stacks of old pictures and I was horrified when I saw the glasses I wore fifteen to twenty years ago!   What were we thinking with styles so large they covered the entire top half of our faces?!   Fortunately, I no longer need to wear prescription glasses but whether one wears prescription or not, sunglasses are always a fashion accessory so a look at which style flatters which face is appropriate.

Eyeglasses are a pricy investment so taking time to choose a style that flatters the face is important.   Many people treat prescription glasses as fashion accessories and have a collection to match different moods or occasions.

If your face is balanced – oval or hexagonal, you have a wide range of style options.  An oval face should have some roundedness to the glasses, especially if your brows are arched and your face has softness while a hexagonal face will look wonderful in strong angles, especially if the brow and mouth are dominantly straight lines.

Oblong, round, teardrop or heart shaped faces will need some curves, especially if one has rounded features.  Glasses for the oblong face should have be deep vertically and be slightly wider than the face.  This will make the face appear shorter.    A round face will look good in frames that are rounded but shallow in depth (sort of a horizontal oval) and should be just shy of the full width of the face.  This will give more length to the face while supporting the roundedness of features and face.  The teardrop face is fuller at the jaw line than the temple so glasses should give the illusion of width at the temple.  Frames with a strong horizontal line and detail at the temple will add width, helping balance the face.  In the same fashion, a heart shaped face should avoid wearing eyewear that adds width to the temple.  Frames should be slightly smaller than the face, of a uniform color and design details toward the bottom of the frame.

Rectangle, square, triangle and diamond shaped faces are all angular so the eyeglass frames should reflect those angles.  We are assuming that each of these faces is also dominated by straight lines.  The frames should have straight lines, sharp angles and geometric shapes.  One would use the logic of the previously listed face shapes except using angles instead of curves.  The rectangular face should shorten the face with more depth in the glasses like the oblong but use geometric frames rather than curved, the square face would choose glasses similar to the round face but select a rectangular look.  In the same way, a triangular face will be most complimented by following the advise for a teardrop face but choosing geometric shapes and the diamond will use the guidelines for a heart shaped face but choosing styles with geometric angles.

Frames in brushed metal can be very attractive for both men and women who have gray or dark brown hair.  You can have fun with tortoise-shell or even colored frames such as red or navy.   If you choose a definite color, be sure it will work with your clothing.  Red frames and an orange shirt could be a disaster!  Frameless glasses with non-glare glass and subtle wire temples are a great option if you want them to disappear.  If you wear bifocals, choose ones that are blended.

Vertically Challenged


If you have a male friend or relative who falls under 5’ 8”, this is for you.

I read an article recently offering some great suggestions for the shorter man.   Even though one third of men in the United States fall under the height of 5’ 8”, we don’t see stores targeting that market.  There are numerous big and tall men shops so why don’t we see specialty shops for shorter men?  The answer in part, may be the assumption that regular clothes can be altered to fit a smaller frame.  That is easier said than done.  The proportions of regular clothing do not adapt to a smaller frame so that the tailored garment still looks out of scale.  Quite often the collar is too broad, the elbow falls too low, not to mention the scale of pockets is too large,   armholes are huge and the rear of the trousers droop.   Smaller men look even smaller if their garment appears baggy.

If you are wondering why appearance is so important for short men, take note of this statistic.  Height for a man portrays power and will earn about $600 more per year per inch in height, provided that his qualifications are equal.   Height is also an important factor in attracting a mate.  This leaves the shorter man at a definite disadvantage.

Jimmy Au has a specialty store in Beverly Hills catering to the man under 5’ 8”.  He, standing at 5’ 2”, has a selection of clothing from jeans to tuxedos.  If a man is 5’ 7”, he must go the store’s tall section.  The scale of all the garments is adjusted just enough to fit the shorter man – smaller scaled pockets, slightly narrower collars and sleeves and higher crotches.   He even offers smaller socks and shoes.

Mr. Au’s customers include a “Who’s Who” list of professions that cater to smaller statured men among which are jockeys, astronauts, and jet pilots.  His celebrity clients remain nameless but he sent a large assortment of outfits to the Grammys.

Interestingly, research has found that a man who had an early growth spurt but ended up being short will be perceived as taller than he actually is.  Conversely, a man who got his growth late will often be perceived as being shorter than he is.   Apparently, the self-perception of being tall or short appears early and carries over into adulthood.

The article told of one man from Boston, 5’ 5” tall, who discovered Mr. Au’s shop and purchased a suit, several jackets and slacks as well as casual wear.  He has subsequently placed other large orders.   He stated, “I get compliments from people who say, ‘something is different about you.’”

Taking all of this information into consideration, I would like to suggest several strategies for the shorter man.  First, if it is not in the cards for him to go shopping in Beverly Hills, he should consider having his suits and slacks custom made, making sure the tailor scales the pattern for proper fit and proportion.  Secondly, choose styles that fit closer to the body unless you are a stout build.  Suits should be one color and might even have a small, subtle, vertical stripe.   Lastly, slacks should have a trim fit without a pleat if you have a trim build.  Do not add cuffs as that breaks the vertical line.

When someone starts getting compliments like Mr. Au’s client from Boston, he will undoubtedly carry himself with more confidence and appear taller.


Designer’s Paradigm Shift


A look at fashion week in New York, featuring the fall 2009 collections, gives us all hope for more reasonable priced clothing.  The event has just wrapped up with a lot less fanfare than in the past.   Fewer celebrities were sited, a number of designers scaled back on their shows and the clothes were generally more wearable.  No really big trends emerged as designers tried to show clothing that stores would order without fear of buyers rejecting the extreme and frivolous.

Vera Wang, originally known for her bridal gowns, has taken the message from buyers to heart.  She appeared on the scene nearly 20 years ago and has since expanded to include two other lines, Vera Wang Lavendar, which has been compared to big Italian names like Prada and Marni, and Simply Vera – Vera Wang clothing line sold at Kohl’s stores.  This season, however, Ms. Wang not only scaled back her New York show but also has a collection of clothing retailing for less than half of previous collections.  Her traditional palette of mostly black now includes colors with styles fitting closer to the body.     The goal:  to appeal to a wider range of buyers.

Another trend from the runways is metallic lame clothes that shimmer.  Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani are two designers who included shimmer in their collection.  We generally think of shiny dressing for evening but the trend is bridging into daytime with shimmery jackets and sequined cardigans.

Interestingly, shimmery clothing date back at least to the 17th century.  Having the metal fabric catch the sunlight or candlelight tends to lift the spirits.   These shiny fabrics were used extensively during the 1920s and 1930s when our country was in the great depression.  I’m sure the resurgence of this look is due to the present economic climate.  One boutique owner summed it up this way:  you can have shimmer and shine without appearing ostentatious by wearing lots of jewelry.

These trends will not be so evident in the spring collections because of the long lead-time required in the garment industry.  However, in the fall we will certainly be the winners when designers no longer have the luxury of presenting far-out clothing boasting incredibly high price tags.  Not only will the average customer have better odds of finding a great designer item that they can afford and wear but also this trend should trickle down to moderate priced clothing, which are the mainstay of most of our closets.   My only concern is that the quality of garments may suffer.   Manufacturers are sending their garments to countries with cheaper labor costs and will be using less expensive fabrics.  Before purchasing, be sure to check out the fabric content and look at the construction of each garment.