See you at the crossroads…

I suppose it’s a small tragedy in the grand scheme of things, but my friends over at Business Chicken just had a visit from the chicken aspect of the Grim Reaper when Shy Chicken passed away suddenly. It’s definitely unhealthy to dwell on the passing of a pet too much, but I also think it’s a bit callous to breeze over the loss of a pet (and to Jason and Betsy the chicken’s definitely fell in the pet category). Maybe I’m too sentimental, but I think we need to pour a little liquor out at these small losses because they prepare us in a way for the larger losses that come to us.

Not that your losing your mom is on the same scale as losing a pet, but the loss is very similar in feel, just different in size. It seems these days that people grieve the loss of people or things that they had no part of, like the loss of the Twin Towers, or the the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Perhaps fully realizing the loss of the smaller things would give these events and actual losses in our lives some perspective.

Anyway, since this post is about Shy chicken – she was a good chicken. I didn’t know her very well, but she always stood out when I was chicken-sitting. She was relentless trying to escape and she is perhaps the first chicken to ever peck me. Didn’t hurt at all, but hilarious all the same. Some people say chckens are stupid, but there is a pleasing gentleness to them and their rhythms that makes their more annoying mannerisms tolerable. In fact, if chickens were cleaner, they’d be a whole lot more fun since they are pleasant to tease and taunt. They have blatant desires that make them easy to please as they seek to satisfy their hunger, curiosity, or liberty, whichever happens to consume them at the moment.

We’ll pour some liquor out for you. Hopefully you’re up in that great chicken coop in the sky eating all the popcorn you desire.

goodbye shy.


So close – so far away

My good friend Tina moved to Italy to study fashion for a year, and we had dinner before she left. It was really nice as expected, and also as expected, before we parted she mentioned that she’d stay in touch.

To which I replied, “Aw hell, you know your just saying that. I plan on hearing from you, at MOST, twice. And it’s going to be like, ‘Hey, how you doing? Italy is awesome, I miss you guys.’ and I’ll reply with some nonsense. And the other one would be when I commented on one of her photos or something.” Well, she’s dangerously close to proving me wrong (although one of her messages is a brand survey so I don’t know if that counts…. 🙂 ), so I thought I’d stalk checkout her and look at her Tumblr:

Everything is Simple

It’s surprisingly poignant, with some wonderful images of the lesser seen sides of Italy.

Makes me want to visit.

Tales from the Poultry Side – all business chicken, all the time.

Since I get to post material by talking about my fashion adventures with my friend Jason, it’s only fair that I pimp his blog here:
Business Chicken

This has got to be one of the best damn blogs about chickens ever. Seriously, it’s hilarious. And if you’re lucky, I might even blog about it when I get to babysit the chickens.


In 2011, a crack tester was sent to fashion prison by a military court for a crime he didn’t commit. This man promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Seattle underground. Today, still wanted by the government, he survives as a soldier of fashion. If you have a fashion problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find him, maybe you can hire… The fAshion-Team.

Well, ok, just me. Smile

My friend Jason back in 2011 had a problem. Actually, he had 3 problems and those problems were his busted ass corduroy pants, some god awful shorts, and another pair of pants that were awful, but not memorably so. Like most intractable problems, these pants had a way a reappearing again and again. Despite Betsy’s efforts to convince him that, like an old lion past it’s prime, that they were ready to be taken down by younger, healthier pants, they’d always hang around. Brief interludes of pantlessness were pleasant, but temporary, and she always secretly hoped that he would never get back into them. Finally, in the spring of 2011 she had a breakthrough and Jason acceded to her wish for him to go on a “man-shopping date” to serve as shopping expedition to, “test the waters” so to speak, in regards to him accepting my advice. You see, Jason was pretty resistant to much of her requests, which to him sounded vague. Which she admitted was totally true, but despite her limited knowledge of men’s clothing, she had arrived at the unshakable notion that something was wrong, even if she was baffled how to fix it. And my clothes commentary sounded suspiciously like “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” type of chatter.

Still though, with a promise of fun man food and beer at the end of the shopping trip, and Jason not minding my company too much when I wasn’t discussing clothes, he accepted the idea of the initial shopping trip. We canvassed downtown Seattle, hitting up various stores and outlets, trying on clothes and just seeing what he’d be ok with. The list could be counted on 1 hand, and in despair I spent almost the entire afternoon coaxing and cajoling to get him to try on a pair of jeans, which aside from some shirts, was the main prize of the evening. Despite his misgivings, I flat out ordered him to buy the pants with assurances that the fabric would soften and shape to his form as he work them.

When we got home with the jeans, Betsy promptly told him that he looked “damn sexy” when he tried them on. In the biz, this is called “positive reinforcement”.

Great success!

Even though we’d only purchased a single pair of pants, the seed of better fashion sense was planted and my position as fashion czar was assured.  Over the summer the seed grew into an unstoppable crop of hate for his current clothes. Hence:


So no asteroids appear in the post, but for entertainment purposes, you can think of the people in the following roles:

  • Betsy = Billy Bob Thornton: Critical to the mission, but is doomed not to be able to participate. Knows there is a problem but doesn’t have specific tactical knowledge to destroy antagonist.
  • Me = “Roughnecks”, or if you want to be more specific, Ben Affleck: Performs the dirty work. Has specific knowledge to defeat the primary antagonist. Sort of cuddly, but sort of irritating in a “know-it-all” kind of way. Likes “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by John Denver.
  • Jason = Liv Tyler: Needs saving. Has inexplicable relationship with Ben Affleck, and love/hate relationship with Bruce Willis. Has a thing for cute animals.
  • Pants = Bruce Willis: Annoying. Been around for too long. Critical to and dies for the story (in this case the blog post).

Heretofore, Jason, in an effort to reduce his contact with sales people mostly interested in selling him something, tended to purchase clothes in bulk. Call it the “Costco” shopping approach. He’d get several identical items except for color, and wear them…what’s the phrase? Oh right, he wore them right into the fucking ground. And that’s putting it politely. Among other issues, one problem with buying all your clothes at the same time is that they wear out at the same time. Pantsageddon was a perfect storm of desire for nice things and all his pants falling apart. See below for a sample of what his pants were like. And he was wearing them everyday like this!

Corduroy pants 1Corduroy Pants 2Corduroy pants 3

Since it was summer time when this happened, Jason also expressed a desire to pickup some shorts. Preferably a pair that didn’t have an elastic waistband…and cargo pockets…

Shorts with elastic and cargo pockets 1Shorts with elastic and cargo pockets 2

Before heading out, Jason and I met and established some ground rules and goals of the shopping trip:

  1. Pants first and foremost was the goal
  2. We wanted some variety in the pants. He’d accept khaki’s if they were actually twill and not colored khaki.
  3. We’d not worry too much about price, but we didn’t need crazy expensive pants, we wanted pants that would move the boundaries of his comfort zone slightly, but were still wearable everyday.
  4. He liked solids, but subtle patterns were ok.

So with these rules, I decided we should go to Macy’s. Why Macy’s? Some of you might be thinking they are pricey. Some of you might be thinking they are cheap. What you should be thinking is that we needed to try on a whole bunch of clothes, in a whole bunch of styles, and do it without spending a whole bunch of money or waste a whole bunch of hours going from store to store. During our first time shopping, we had tried out a variety of stores including Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack, Banana Republic, Express, and Macy’s. And at the time it was a giant time sink wandering from store to store. But it was ok, because we were trying to figure out what stores Jason had an affinity for. More so now than before, a part of the purpose of the excursion was to expand his sartorial horizons – and Macy’s already has plenty of things capable of pushing his boundaries. Knowing this, I decided it was more important for him to try out different kinds of pants rather than focusing on a particular brands (Express style vs Banana et cetera) kind of pants. And while I love Nordstrom, it’s pretty pricey for bedrock fashion closet stuff, and The Rack is just too hit or miss depending on size, availability, and location. Knowing our destination, we plotted our course to Macy’s.

We tried on a bunch of pants – it’s more exciting to try on clothes than to hear about it, but it was a rather hilarious picture of me pacing around the changing area waiting for Jason to come out and do his catwalk. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure all the salespeople thought we were gay. Doh!

The first clothes that Jason settled on were some chino’s in solid colors. Not too far of a move away from his old corduroy’s, but definitely a change, and much cooler for the summer. These were also pretty much the same color palette as the corduroy’s as well. This was the “safe” choice that he’d be happy with no matter what. One of the things that is nice about Macy’s is that they have an ungodly large section devoted to Dockers chinos. You’ll want to steer yourself away from the pleated pant section, and in general the D3 and D2 sections have this fabric that tends to have this shiny sheen to them that screams “I sell cell-phones for a living”, but if you poke around, they also usually have the more trendy pants prominently displayed near the aisle so look for those displays. I don’t think they had the Dockers Alpha Line at the time, but they did have their soft khaki line which is thankfully matte and comes in plenty of nice colors. I’ve tried to steer my clothes collection away from too many cotton twill pant pieces, but I admit these pants make me doubt my resolve sometimes. Jason picked out an olive pair (left) and a cargo pant (right) in a dark gray.

Dockers khaki oliveDockers cargo pants

As mentioned before, these are the safe choice pants and these pants are really important because they act like a safety blanket. After buying these pants, Jason has goten what he wants, so it’s easier to get him to try things out subsequent items that are out of his comfort zone. This is an important point because, ultimately, we want him to be happy with his pants AND we want him to feel comfortable with the process of selecting clothes.

Since we’d gotten the safety pants out of the way, I started changing gears and selected some pants safely in his color palette, but somewhat out of his fabric zone – streaked gray five-packet pants.

“What about these five-pocket pants?” I asked.

“What’s a five-pocket pant?” he replied.

“They are like jeans, but not. And you can wear them anywhere you’d wear the khaki’s we already picked.”

“Ummmmm….alright. I guess. You are the fashion expert.”

“Damn right I am. Now get your ass into the changing room.”

Textured five pocket pants 2

He emerged a changed man. I liked these pants on him because they match his build a little better. You’ll see it later when he tries on the shorts, but Jason is a little bow-legged and he needs a good ratio between the waist and pant leg size to maximize his leg profile. He doesn’t really have big thighs to fill out the pant leg on pants that have a looser cut, but if it’s too slim, it accentuates his natural slimness. He really dug these pants, and afterwards we were able to try out something really far from his normal pant choices: glen-plaid cotton pants!

glen-plaid pants 1glen-plaid pants 2

He actually liked the pants SO much that he changed into a fancier shirt to show off when we were taking pictures. These pants are really great for Jason. They expand his color palette out of the dark shades that he’s been wearing for years. They are light and summery for the warm weather. The glen-plaid pattern is very light so they aren’t plain and wash out against his fairer complexion. And most importantly he loves the pants! These are the pants that launch a thousand outfits so to speak – once he fell in love with the pants it was so much easier to get him to see the quality in a piece of clothing.

Okay, so we’re not quite done yet. We made a quick pit stop over at J. Crew to find some shorts. I can’t remember 100%, but I seemed to remember finding the short selection at Macy’s somewhat lacking. Too many cargo pockets, not enough colors, too long. Basically Tommy Bahama hell. I won’t digress much more, but I feel like Tommy Bahama might be the worst thing they sell at Nordstrom. They’re certainly the worst shirts they sell by FAR.


We picked up a nice pair of light blue shorts. No elastic, no cargo pockets. Just the right length down the thigh. JFK-esque. Check ‘em out yourself:

J crew shorts 1

I could’ve standed for them to be a smidgen higher up the thigh, but other than that they were fine. Past knee length shorts and really short shorts require specific body types to look good. They also require specific situations to look good. These kind of shorts will flatter many body types, and are a great all-around short type to buy.

Making the Grade

We took everything home and Betsy promptly sat down for her fashion show. Her approval meant everything, and she was pleased with the booty. Both meanings. No longer buried in a quagmire of worn out corduroy, Jason’s ass was freed from bondage. A happy ending for everyone at all ends.

Okay, okay, I’m done with the puns.

So what did we learn here? We learned that no one had to sacrifice themselves to make the giant pile of worn-out pants destroy your wardrobe. You just need some patience and the ability to understand people. Not everyone is going to wear $200 jeans around everyday. But everyone likes to look good, and given sufficient motivation, and the proper affirmation, everyone can find reasonable clothes that flatters them. I think it was a great success all around and Jason continues to work on his wardrobe. He was really happen with the pants. I got a free meal and a chance to mock Jason as he pranced around in clothes for me. I also got some great material for a blog post. And of course, Betsy got a sexy man-husband to keep on her arm.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Dueling Clothes: J. Crew Mayfair Wool-Cashmere Topcoat vs Express Wool Topcoat

I’d been looking for a topcoat for a while, but finding a good topcoat is hard. Some of you might be asking, what the hell is a topcoat? And how is that different from a regular coat?

As always, Wikipedia to the rescue! A Topcoat, or overcoat is a coat meant to be worn over your suit, or to more formal occasions. The main difference between an overcoat and a topcoat is the material, but pretty much the usage is interchangeable for the most part…in fact, I’d say the topcoat usage is more widespread in retail. Exhibit A: J. Crew:


The sad fact is that a lot of topcoats out there just plain suck. The main issue with most of them is that they are just plain ugly. The biggest sin is that they are just incredibly big, followed up by the insanely long “80’s stock broker” look that just looks bad. Nordstrom, I love you, but you had a lot of both of these:


Oh yeah, one more thing, many of these coats are just crazy expensive. Check out the Dolce and Gabbana for a cool $560 – after 50% off! Fortunately, J. Crew offers the Mayfair topcoat that has a really modern cut, good make (wool/cashmere mix), nice style (single breasted with proper collars, and a reasonable starting price ($375). Post-Christmas these coats went on sale and I managed to snag mine for $246 after tax and free shipping. Happily, Express also had a crazy sale and they had their wool topcoat on sale for…$79.99. I’d been lusting after the J. Crew Mayfair for many a week, but the price on the Express coat was so good that I had to compare the 2. What follows is a sartorial death match with only 1 winner and the other returning to the store, sad and broken.

The Contenders

J. Crew Mayfair Wool-Cashmere Topcoat

J. Crew is both an online behemoth and a series of brick and mortar stores. This in itself is not uncommon as most clothing retailers have both web and physical outlets. What is weird is that J. Crew the online store operates almost wholly separate from the physical locations. That means that the online store will have both stock AND sales that may not exist or be honored at the physical location. This makes it particularly difficult to shop for men’s items because ONLY the Seattle J. Crew location has what they call a “Men’s Shop”. This means they carry suits and topcoats in addition to the normal assortment of garments. The Bellevue location is just a travesty with respect to selection for men and the less said here the better. The upshot of all this is that it’s better to order from J. Crew online than it is to buy in person. With that all said, let’s see how J. Crew sent the coat to me:

Jcrew topcoat box shot 1Jcrew topcoat box shot 2

This type of packaging is pretty standard for J. Crew, as I got the same kind of packaging when I ordered my J. Crew Ludlow fine-stripe cotton suit (review forthcoming!). Let’s open it up and take a look inside:

Jcrew topcoat unboxing 1Jcrew topcoat unboxing 2

Nothing too special here, notice the J. Crew logo on the bag, and also note the nice job they did folding the coat to prevent any creases.

Express Topcoat

The coat was purchased in-store, so there are no unboxing photos. As a sidenote, Express actually carries 2 different versions of its topcoat: regular and fitted. The in-store version will almost always be the regular version and you can verify this by checking the materials. The regular version is partially polyester whereas the fitted version is 100% wool. I didn’t get a chance to try out the fitted version, but if unless you are particularly slim, the regular version is already pretty tight.

Round 1– Construction, Materials, and Interior Details

In round 1, we’ll go over the construction, materials and interior details of the coat. A good topcoat is a lot like a suit jacket, so many of the same things that make a good jacket also denote quality in a top coat.

Interior Lining

The interior lining of the J. Crew coat is satiny, but is all black. The Express jacket has a black satiny lining for the body, but surprisingly, they manage to have a striped contrasting lining in the arms. Take a look! The Express is on the left and the J. Crew is on the right:

Express coat details 1Jcrew coat details 5

If you click on the J. Crew though, you can see that the stitching is especially fine. I unfortunately don’t have a picture of the Express stitching, and while it was more than adequate, the J. Crew coat impressed me here. I would take the better stitching over the contrasting sleeve lining, but it is a nice touch, and makes this kind of a wash between the two coats.


One thing that really surprised me about the Express coat was the prevalence of pick-stitching on the pockets as well as the lapel. This is a REALLY nice detail that I would not have anticipated on a cheaper coat. This is a clear mark above the J. Crew which does not feature any pick stitching.

Express coat details 2Express coat details 3

You might have to click on the pictures, but to the pick stitching is clearly visible on the jacket. The only thing that might be mentioned in J. Crew’s defense is that the material of their coat is heavier and the coat seems to function more as an overcoat, rather than the Express which feels lighter and seems more intended as a jacket replacement. Nonetheless, it would have been excellent to include the pick stitching if possible and I applaud Express for including it here.

Interior Pocket

Since these are meant to be dressier coats, the exterior pockets won’t be used generally, so the interior pockets are very important. Both coats don’t disappoint, with the J. Crew going above and beyond with a hidden third pocket on the exterior of the left hand pocket.


Express coat details 5Express coat details 6

I did like that there was a flap for both pockets to seal it, but I’m not a huge fan of the pen pocket. I think they put it there because they don’t expect the wearer to have another jacket underneath (see below for further notes regarding this), but it’s sort of an extra unneeded detail that doesn’t appeal to me.

J. Crew

Jcrew coat details 1Jcrew coat details 2

The first picture isn’t a great picture of the pocket, but you can see the closing flap. When I originally took the pictures, this article wasn’t intended to be a duel, so I was showing off the extra buttons included with the coat. Ditto for picture number 2, I was showing off the very nice size and materials label, but you can see the third pocket in the shadows there. There is NOT a flap the close the 2nd and 3rd pockets, but that doesn’t really bother me too much as there is at least 1 pocket with a way to fasten it shut. My preference here is for the J. Crew configuration as it gives you more space.

Lapel Tailoring and Materials

In cold weather, these types of coats need a scarf to cover the upper chest, and it’s not uncommon to “flip up” the collar to help hold in the scarf and ward off the cold. This means the tailoring done on the collar will be exposed, as well as helping to maintain the lapels’ shape when switching back and forth between the two configurations. Take a look at how each collar was done (again Express on the left, J. Crew on the right):

Express coat details 4Jcrew coat details 4

The color is a wash here, because although I like the contrasting material on the J. Crew, I doubt that they change that color to match the coat color, so if the coat I had purchased was grey instead of black, it would also match like on the Express. However, what one can see is that the J. Crew stitching is MUCH higher quality here. The stitches are smaller and there is no excess fabric crudely folded over like on the Express coat. I also felt a difference when wearing the coat, as the J. Crew lapel folded up and down much more smoothly and when I turned my head and my chin encountered the collar, the collar moved more smoothly out of the way on the J. Crew.

Material wise, if you went just by the numbers, the J. Crew wins hands down. It’s 95% wool and 5% cashmere and it’s soft as hell. But frankly, for something only 80% wool, the Express topcoat was pretty damned soft. And at 1/3 the price, it’s kind of shocking how good a job Express did there. Would I expect the J. Crew to hold up longer and retain it’s softness, sure. But at $80.00, the Express could be replaced several times over. I’m giving the win to the J. Crew because at the end of the day, it is softer, but it damn well SHOULD be softer.

Round 1 winner: J. Crew barely edges out the Express

Round 2: Fit

So even though Round 2 is only concerned with fit, don’t let that fool you: this is the make or break round. All that other stuff is nice, but if it doesn’t fit it’s going back to the store. That said, let’s take a baseline comparison with both coats (unbuttoned) front and back. As usual, the Express is on the left and the J. Crew is on the right:


Express coat unbuttoned front 1Jcrew coat unbuttoned front 1


Express coat behind 1Jcrew coat behind 1

So a few things to note right off the bat. From the front, both coats look about equal in fit, but the Express is clearly quite a bit longer. It’s not the camera playing tricks on you as I’m standing at around the same distance. Also, if you look at the behind pictures, the J. Crew coat is actually slimmer. You can tell because the light from the front of the house can be seen in the gap between my body and my arm whereas on the Express coat it’s completely obscured. Both have a center vent of about the same size in the back and while it’s tough to tell in these pictures, the J. Crew has a ticket pocket AND a chest pocket while the Express does not. Not that you’d ever stick anything in the chest pocket, but the ticket pocket is a classy and handy touch. At this point, the J. Crew is the clear winner to me based on length and general look. It’s looks dressier and it’s shorter so it definitely looks trimmer to my eye. Let’s take a look at the coats with the front buttoned:

Express coat buttoned front 1Jcrew coat buttoned front 1

The Express coat continues to look a bit bulkier here. The J. Crew coat in most of the pictures has the collar flipped up, so it’s hard to compare, but the large lapel of the Express contributes to the boxy look. Let’s take a look at me with my arms held up to see how these coats fit when stretched in the worst possible scenario:

Express coat buttoned front  2Jcrew coat buttoned front 2

Notice both are pretty slim in the body, but look at the shoulders. This is pretty telling; the Express coat is heavily structured in the shoulders compared to the J. Crew. I believe this to contribute significantly to the boxy look. In these pictures, the collar was flipped up the  on the Express but it wasn’t too comfortable (part of the reason why it’s folded down in most of the other pictures). Another small detail to note is that the J. Crew buttons are hidden. Take a closer look at the button flaps that cover them:

Jcrew coat details 3

No real improvement in function, and it’s really up to you what you prefer visually. I think the Express coat looks better with the buttons showing, but that’s also probably because it doesn’t have a chest pocket, or a ticket pocket to break up the front visually.

Ok, last 2 pictures with me trying my best to look cool:

Express coat unbuttoned front 2Jcrew coat unbuttoned front 2

Frankly, I think the J. Crew looks better here with the shorter length. It also happens to lay better because the material is softer and doesn’t lay as stiffly as the wool of the Express. Not shown here, but the thing that really clinched the fit for me is that fact that the J. Crew coat fits well with a suit jacket. It’s obvious that was a design consideration for them and it shows. The Express coat is a fine coat by itself, but for me it is impossible to wear it and a suit jacket unless I switched to a Large (which I did in-store). The large version of the coat is MUCH larger and looks terrible on me. It could be me, but I’m not especially muscular or large (5’ 10” and 181 lbs.) so I have to chalk this up to how they made the coat.

Round 2: J. Crew wins hands down


Winner: J. Crew Mayfair Wool-Cashmere coat by unanimous decision!

So the J. Crew wins a clean victory. It’s definitely the better coat, but at double the price normally ($375 vs. $250) and 3 times (!!!!) the price during heavy discounting ($246 vs. $79.99 + tax) it had better be! If price is an issue, it’s hard to go wrong with the Express. I chose the J. Crew because it was really important to me that the coat truly function as a topcoat and be able to be worn over a suit jacket. Plus I had the extra bucks to spend on the coat. But for those who are less demanding in quality, or less prone to wearing a jacket, or whose budgets cannot accommodate the expenditure, the Express coat would make a fine addition to the closet. For the money and style though, in my searches I don’t think any coat can compare to the J. Crew.

2010 in review

Thanks to everyone who looked at the blog and especially anybody who read it and liked it. Hope to keep growing the blog in 2011!

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,900 times in 2010. That’s about 5 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 13 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 53 posts. There were 120 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 8mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was December 17th with 71 views. The most popular post that day was Catfish and Mandala book Review.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for catfish and mandala summary, catfish and mandala, catfish and mandala analysis,, and catfish and mandala review.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Catfish and Mandala book Review January 2008


Why your Microsoft Wireless Laser Mouse 8000 won’t charge i.e. Microsoft cuts corners on hardware….again March 2009


Update on Microsoft Wireless Laser Mouse 7000/8000 not charging issue i.e. the flashing red light May 2009


Setting up a Magento Commerce site with custom template using GoDaddy hosting November 2010


Designing and implementing a Simpletron using C# May 2009

Tailoring Tales: Getting your shirt taken in

Every guy has these shirts – shirts that are just too damn big. They look alright on the hanger, but when you put them on, they look more like a night gown than a shirt. So when you walk around with them untucked you look like a 12-year old kid who was let out of the house by an exasperated parent. It’s even worse when you tuck it in, because there is so much fabric that your midsection looks like an accordion. Shortly after jamming all the fabric into your pants, you raise your arm and immediately do a strong flying squirrel imitation – only to discover that when you lower your arm the fabric you stuffed into your pants is now forming a curious “poof” around your waist, usually found only on middle aged women and freshly baked muffins. So for all you guys, this post is for you.

I bought a bunch of English Laundry dress shirts from Nordstrom Rack last winter when they were on sale for about a third of the normal price (Super quick review: Very, very, very baroque and busy, but the shirts are pretty nice. Shoulder is a tad big, and arms a tad long, but overall I like.). I had picked up one of their super fancy shirts out before, and wanted to try out their dress shirts because I how the detailing spices up my button ups. Unfortunately, like most dress shirts nowadays that are not “slim fit”, the shirts were just ridiculously large around the waist. I tried tucking them in, but it was just no hope and after wearing them out a few times they sat forlorn and lost in my closet. Fortunately for me, I found an excellent tailor in the intervening time who is now my regular clothes alteration guy as well as my friend. Robert over at European Tailors located right in downtown Bellevue will just as easily fix your pants as well as your shirts and I delivered a clutch (four to be exact) of shirts to him to slim down: 3 English Laundry shirts and 1 vintage Brooks Brothers shirt.

Bringing Sexy (and Slim) Back

I kept 1 shirt unaltered so I could show you guys the comparison between the unaltered shirt and the slimmed down shirt. Below are two shots showing the overall width of the shirt while laying down. This a good approximation of your waist circumference.

Unaltered = ~23 inches Altered = ~19 inches
Unaltered shirt  width Altered shirt width

This means that at least four inches around the waist was taken off! What Robert did was measure my waist and add five inches as his approximate target when reducing the shirt waist. That gives enough give around the waist not to be skin tight. But how much of a difference does that make in the shirt? Now check out some shots showing the original shirt on me, with my pulling on it to show how much slack is present. The first is me with my hands up. Note the shirt is much wider than my hips. Looking sexy…NOT 🙂

Unaltered shirt arms up

Now check out me pulling on the front and back. Note how I look pregnant and vaguely Quasimodo like respectively:

Unaltered shirt pulling on front

Unaltered shirt pulling on back

That is some serious extra fabric. Now let’s check out the shirt after it’s been taken in:

Altered shirt arms up

Yeah Boooooooooyyyeeee! Note the trim silhouette. and my torso actually looking v-shaped…which if you’re a guy is a Good Thing ™.

Altered shirt pulling on front

Oh yes, the delivery went fine! A healthy baby girl.

Altered shirt pulling on back

Now I just look like I’m scratching my back.

How’d He Do that?

Most shirts have these things called pleats. Yes, that’s right, just like the ones on your pants. And they have the same purpose: to make the overall circumference of a piece of clothe larger in one area, while hiding the fabric in a smaller diameter in another. On pants the pleats mean your waist is small and your ass and thighs are big (well, that’s the idea. Most guys are just big everywhere and the pleats look horrible). On shirts, the pleats mean your shoulders and upper back are small, but your torso and waist are bigger. You can have 3 variations of pleats: 2 in the center back, 2 on the edge of the upper back, or you can pleats folded in the middle-lower back. Pleats in the middle of the back are also called darts. I’m not going to get into a deep discussion regarding this, but purely from a tailoring perspective, the order that I listed the pleats in is the order in difficulty to make, with the center back pleats being the most work. So that’s right, darts are the cheapest to make. Now right now, all you guys with expensive shirts, go take a look at your clothes. Take a minute to weep at the corners that were cut in the manufacturing. Go on, I’ll still be here. I already did my crying.

So what a crappy tailor could do is cut darts into the shirt and call it a day. Probably charge you more for the favor. But a real tailor will take out the fabric from the sides of the shirt, leaving the fabric in the middle of the shirt untouched. Don’t get what I’m talking about? Here is a picture of the seam under the unaltered shirt:

Unaltered shirt seam

Note the fully complete English Laundry logo. This is important because now you’ll be looking at the altered shirt seam:

Altered shirt seam

Now look at the logo. Notice how part of the word Laundry was cut off. Some of you might be crying foul here, but look: I don’t give a shit about logos and neither should you. If it’s someplace really noticeable having it be fucked up is a problem, but this is on the side of the shirt under your arm. Get over it. So moving on, this is where the fabric to slim down the shirt was taken out. There is no logo on the other side of the shirt, but an equal amount of fabric was removed there to obtain the slim effect.

What Shirts Should I Do This On?

Do this on shirts that are 1) worth salvaging and 2) worth the expense. For point 1), this means a few things:

  • Is the shirt not made out of shit material?
  • Do the arm holes ride high and fit snugly to your arm?
  • Does the shoulder line rest directly on your shoulder line/sag just past?

If the answer is yes to those things, then ask yourself one more question: How much is the shirt worth? Because taking in your shirt your shirt is going to cost at least $15. Joe’s cost is close to mine per shirt. If you’re having your tailor take in the $10 Kohl’s shirt you got with super big arm holes that hang down to your stomach, you’re wasting your money.

Now go forth and stop looking like the Goddamn Batman.