November 29, 2011

Menswear questions of the Month: Plaids or tartans, velvet or velour

From Banana Republic, you can say, "Kiss me, I'm Scottish," with Men's Plaid Tie, $74

All answered in my latest Style Master column for The Vancouver Sun.

Q: I'm excited about the popularity of plaid in shirts and ties this season. But I have a neurotic fear that I will insult the Scottish. What are good rules of thumb for using plaids, or is it "tartans"?

Read more:

Q: What are quick and simple ways of dressing for evening parties this season and where does velvet comes in? How does a man do velvet (or is it velour) well?

Read more:

Q. Elbow patches are kind of hot in a "professor that might secretly be Indiana Jones" sort of way - but they also look kind of contrived - especially on a brand new jacket. Does the elbow patch have a place on a new jacket or does it belong only in a vintage piece?

Read more:

October 23, 2011

For CBC's Definitely Not the Opera I wore a Brooks Brothers bow tie

DNTO is CBC's story telling show.

Very cool. I was invited to recount a tale of Hidden Talents before an audience in a live to tape performance.

For the performance, I bought a blue bow tie with red Churchill dots from Brooks Brothers in Vancouver.

Yes, I like to shop.

October 4, 2011

Patches are popular

Finidng fancy in fraying threads

Last night I attended the book launch of my good friend, Robyn Levy. Her book, Most of Me, is a great read. A funny, brave, honest look into living life with a sense of humour, a husband, a daughter, a dog and two diseases.

Robyn read her passages beautifully and I was honoured to be there. Congratulations, Robyn.

Now, for the special occasion I wore my favourite bow tie. It is paisley. It is English but not Liberty. It has seen many years of knotting and unknotting. Nevertheless, it is handsome.

Only after I had walked out the door, as I passed a storefront window, I noticed the paisley and blue butterfly fraying. I could see the lining through the tear in the silk.

Many men would give up on a tie that has frayed. No matter how well turned out, a man will disdain the garment in question.

Even the world's most famous dandy, the first dandy, Beau Brummell, was pitied in later life for becoming tattered in his dress. His biographer, William Jessop, described Brummell's clothes during his destitute years in France:
...Not only were his clothes shabby and out of repair, but he was dirty. His tailor told me that, towards the close of his career, he had sometimes observed him in the street with his coat in holes under the arms, and his trowsers torn.
Personally, I am a big advocate of the well-worn garment.

In preppy (which is the general dressing style I am most attracted), well-worn garments are embraced as wards against the parvenu  and nouveau riche. It is the style of this old thing.

To the prep, a bit of fraying says I have been here forever and more than that I have no plans on leaving....this is a good place.

The worn oxford shirt collar, the stringy chino hem, the rewoven sweater, a few spots on the khakis are no problem at all.

Of course, I am exactly the things the true Ivy League prep wishes not to be: new, from somewhere else, perhaps too grasping, definitely on the make, simply too obvious.

But when I wear my frays, I too am saying, "I plan on being here forever and more than that I have no plans on leaving....this is a good place."

September 24, 2011

RAIN, WIND OR SHINE: Live Event - Sunday morning JJ Lee reads from his debut book, The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit

Word on the Street Vancouver
11:30 AM, Sunday September 25, 2011 at Library Square and CBC Plaza

"JJ Lee
Event Info: Authors Tent at 11:30
JJ Lee is the menswear columnist for the Vancouver Sun and broadcasts a weekly fashion column for CBC Radio in Vancouver. For years, journalist and amateur tailor JJ Lee tried to ignore the navy suit that hung at the back of his closet—his late father’s last suit. JJ Lee will read from The Measure of a Man and conduct an interactive session."

September 10, 2011

A doggerel to the Elbow-Patched Tweed

This tweed coat is not a blazer, 
it's a sport coat but nomenclature shouldn't faze yer.
A sporty coat is supposed to snap,
This one has a vent that gaps.
Somebody's bottom is looking fat.
A good looking tweed ain't supposed to do that.

For my actual thoughts on elbow patches. I don't like them. Here's why.

September 7, 2011

Elbow patches - for the ersatz legion of faux heavy tweed users - ps I love this video

I receive many queries on the advisability of elbow patches on new Harris tweed jackets.

I am not against patching up old tweed jackets to mend a hole on a sleeve.

I think patching clothes demonstrates love of a particular garment and is a charming sartorial practice. It hints at sage frugality and the muted nature of Old Money, which, by the way, hardly exists anymore because now it is New Money that everyone imitates.

A repaired tweed sports coat has dignity.

However, buying a new tweed coat with patches already affixed strikes me as painfully presumptuous on several levels.

1. Those who would deem to buy a pre-patcher are most often the type of person who would rarely don the jacket in question frequently enough to wear any hole into the elbow

2. If one did indeed wish to fake the impression of heavy use, the ridiculous symmetry of  having TWO elbow patches, one on each arm, reflects a lack of understanding. A well lived-in jacket will always experience asymmetrical distress. If you smoke a pipe, perhaps the right side pocket will have burn marks on it. If you like to ponder like the thinker atop logs, stone fences, and lean against concrete walls whilst texting with your right hand, well then, it's the left that will be worn out. Just not both

3. Have you ever noticed elbow patches make your arms look shorter? The patch is an aesthetic sacrifice applied to a jacket far too loved to be thrown out. The wearer doesn't want elbow patches, he needs them.

Buy the tweed coat. Earn the patches, just like in the Scots, I means, the Scouts.

September 6, 2011

Full to the brim this fall

This season smallish, modest trilbies and fedoras will suffer an inferiority complex as wider hats will be donned by men, especially those who have a flare for the dramatic.

Dsquared²'s menswear collection featured on the runway deep covering brimmed chapeaux with bowlish crowns. reports they are Borsalinos. Which makes them the official supplier of the trend as Junya Watanabe also featured bigger brimmed fare by Borsalino in the form of bowlers (also called derby or coke - and, yes, they can have big brims) and Homburgs (Germanic upturned brims).

In both runway shows, the hats seem peaky. That is they are slightly misshapen as if by rain and snow, lending the hats a recession-era ruggedness. If not, they should be.

Some have called the whole trend towards bolder head cover the "Amish hat trend," but more often than not, they will be in fact be flamenco/Cordobes, gaucho hats, or any number of larger hats.

While shorter men, may need to be careful how generous a brim they dare to wear (it can hide your face from taller men and women), overall most men could do with an increase in size.

The recent love of teeny-brimmed porkpies and trilbies have lead to extremes in minuteness, verging on the male version of fascinators, the hat Catherine of Cambridge has popularized.

The hat that might best cap off the mood for headgear of greater substance would be unblocked or open crown hats with deep, unshaped bowls (the top image is the unblocked Nostalgia hat by Stetson).

Specialized hat sellers, in Vancouver one would do well with Edie Hats, are able to shape crowns to best suit your face, though one should pick the brim size carefully. While they can be snapped down or up by staff, making the brim smaller is not possible.

This blogger plans to leave his unblocked hat as is and let the elements and habit determine the topper's eventual shape.

August 24, 2011

Event announcement: Calgary's Wordfest

Wednesday, October 12 - I’ll be reading from The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit at Calgary’s Wordfest.

Taking place at noon, it is a free hour-long event in the lovely confines of the boutique Hotel le Germain in Calgary.

Details here.

Thursday, October 13 - In addition, I will be appearing in a panel with Lynn Coady and Emma Ruby-Sachs on social publishing:

…The artists will discuss the blurring of authorship in an interactive environment where the reader and fan can offer feedback, ask questions, and have conversations that may influence content creation.
They can also compare this to the solitary act of writing that has traditionally been how writers create.
I am very excited to be discussing this evolving phenomena with Coady and Ruby-Sachs.
My focus is how my friends and family via facebook, tumblr, and twitter activities are becoming fodder for my work as a fashion journalist and memoirist.

Details here.

August 21, 2011

At the home sewing machine, May 2011. Copyright 2011 Melissa Stephens.

August 15, 2011

On Damian Van Zyll de Jong of Native Shoes

Today's column:

Discussing Damian Van Zyll de Jong
one of the founders of Native Shoes

with CBC Radio One host Stephen Quinn

Damian Van Zyll de Jong: founder of Native Shoes


You've probably heard of Crocs, those foamy garden clogs. But have you heard of Native?

They're the Vancouver-designed shoes that have taken the world of fashion by storm.

Coming up, I have the low-down on the man behind Native Shoes, Damian Van Zyll de Jong (not the Damian in the vid), when I join host Stephen Quinn for another Fashion Monday on CBC Radio One's On The Coast at 3:49 PM, 88.1 FM.

Also listen live online with the CBC Radio pop-up.

Here's a great video of how the shoes are PRESSED/FORGED as opposed to cut, stitched and glued in traditional shoe making.

Factory Video from Native Shoes on Vimeo.

July 28, 2011

Double-breasted suits

From J. Press, this classic blazer version is somewhat boxy
but shows the typical way of fastening with the bottom pair open.
Sometimes referred to as a six on four because of the arrangement of buttons.

Double-breasted suits, that swaggering style of suit jacket most associated with bankers and gangsters, is on the comeback. But the old Dee-Bee isn’t a look for everyone.

Today, we breakdown the trend.

Q. What makes a double-breasted a double-breasted?

All buttoned coats overlap, so technically that isn’t the decisive characteristic of a double-breasted coat. What makes a DB a DB is the arrangement of buttons. When a coat is fastened by two buttons that are on the same HORIZONTAL plane, one can say it is a double-breasted blazer or suit jacket. I'm not sure why that is important to me but it is.

Q. Double-breasted jackets do have associations with gangsters and bankers. What’s behind that particular reputation?

Double-breasted suits do indeed have a reputation for ostentation.

The origin of the DB is military and riding coats. In you will find this type of front on riding jackets of the 18th century. But the double- breasted coat of our time most closely resembles the Reefer coat of the Royal Navy which originated in the 19th century.

One of the most famous contemporary wearers of this style is Prince Charles. The young Prince Charles, when he married Diana, used to wear a double breasted with eight buttons. The buttons were brass and gilded golden.

In the buttons is where we find the reputation for ostentation. They are indeed flashy.

Another reason for the reputation is double-breasted require more fabric. They tend to be more expensive to make and often require custom fitting and are rarely seen off-the-rack.

The form of jacket has always had association with the wealthy and those who wish to emulate old money like gangsters like Al Capone.

Q. What are the rules on buttons? Does one have to button them all?

May I say it is not an easy one to answer.

If you look at the coming images of men in double-breasted jackets for fall winter 2011 and next spring summer 2012, and they are everywhere, you will see men wearing their coats open.

Before, regular men like us emulate this style, take note: the coats on the runway are exceeding short and the coats overlaps are short as well. Even unbuttoned, the coats do not have extra fabric flapping about.

Most coats, unbuttoned, will look bad. The most famous offender in the unbuttoned double-breasted hall of shame has to be David Letterman.

For years, Letterman on his talk show wore his double-breasted suits unbuttoned. He wore  full-cut versions with lots of overlap. The unbuttoned the lapels would flap about like
shutters on a house in a windstorm.

These last few years, Letterman has given up on the look and reverted back to single-breasted suits. But he is a fine example of the tragedy of wearing a DB fully open. It can ruin the line of the suit. Button up.

Q. Okay, there are many buttons on a double breasted. Which ones
are meant to be fastened?

To understand this, we have to think of the buttons in pairs.

On the most typical double breasted suits. We would have a six on four arrangement.

What this means is you have two buttons on the top which are vestigial buttons. They don’t close anything.

Then you have a middle pair of buttons around waist height. And those you should always fasten. I means always! Even when seated.

Then on the six on four, you will have a bottom set of buttons.

Europeans and the English will leave these buttons open. However, if you look at Prince Charles and his son, Prince William, they both always wear all their buttons fastened.

So it is a matter of taste. Unbuttoning the bottom set always makes the suit more casual. I  personally think lower button should be fastened to keep the hem neater. When unopened, the sharp corner of the bottom tend to droop. Perhaps, I'm too fastidious.

Q. Double breasteds are thought of as more fancy, more formal than a single-breasted suit. How does one dress down and make the DB more casual?

I spoke with the general manager of Dunn’s Tailors today. Jordan Smith told me one has to first avoid power suit fabrics like blue pinstripes.

Personally, I think shorter jackets, more informal fabrics with patterns or texture help.

Jordan says look for a shiny grey this fall. It says "party" according to Jordan.

I also think blue silk and wool hopsack can be fun in warmer weather.

You have to be daring to wear a double breasted. It is according to Jordan a fashion forward fringe trend.

You’ll see more pictures of DBs on the runway than on the street. To keep the DB modern one as to make sure it is well-fitted with high arm holes and good suppression which means the coat is trim against the body.

DB's are hard to find off the rack but do check places like Harry Rosen. They had it for summer 2011 and will have them in the fall as well. Expect going the made-to-measure route.

Fewer buttons and smaller overlaps, less length do well to ease the formality.

Q. Who suits the double-breasted suit?

I think it is always a mistake to wear the double-breasted suit as a corrective for weight or height issues.

One shouldn’t wear a DB because they are short or they wish to look thinner.

I’m not saying the short and portly should avoid the DB. But it shouldn’t be the main motive.

I think if you’re going to wear a DB you have to like buttons. You need to feel comfortable wearing the coat buttoned at all times.

My next suit will be a DB because I like to wear bow-ties. Double breasteds show less shirt. and they do a nice job of filling up the space usually filled by a long neck tie.

Also one has to be comfortable standing out in a double-breasted. The DB is really a state of mind. And I think trying to look more snazzy or flashy or classy in a DB is a poor motive.

I'd prefer one who wears it because he find his chest cold and dislikes vests. That'd be a good motive.

June 24, 2011

I don't care about Harry Potter, except for his corduroy bomber, barn, Harrington, what the hell is that jacket?

It's not a Barbour jacket because that would be too posh for English cockney kids. Not a trucker. Not enough seams.

With classic bomber jackets, I see shearling and welt pockets. Or pilot jackets with no shearling and patch pockets mid-torso for navigation maps and cigarettes.

Need more detail?

Sorry, didn't mean to cut off his wand. It was especially made, presumably, by UK costumiers, Angels.

I would describe it as a zip-front ranch jacket.

Belstaff, the motorcyle jacket company, refers to this kind of cut as a blouson.

Quiksilver (below) has something close but the collar is different. It also comes in gunmetal grey.

June 14, 2011

#CANUCKS: Showing your colours without dressing like a member of the fourth line

Everyone wants to show their support for the Canucks. Even if it means wearing a hockey sweater over ones work clothes.

However, it isn't the best look. It is loyal but not flattering.

The only people who don't look dumpy in a hockey sweater are hockey players.

Here's how I handled wearing team colours for Game 6.

Church's bench-made Oxford lace ups. My particular colour is no longer available. And the company has changed ownership over the years.

Joe Fresh white denim:

"Getting Canadian men into a pair of white pants can be very difficult...but at the height of summer, if you can figure it out, it can change their mindset for summer. Whatever you put on top, you're full-on into summer." -Joe Mimran of Joe Fresh
Self-tailored (tight), Tommy Hilfiger, purple button Oxford button-down shirt with large-scaled collar points with lots of roll (this means the collar buttons give the collar loft). I admit my favourite shirt. It seems it's the only one I am photographed in the most.

Vintage shrunken blazer (literally, I washed it, threw it in the dryer, and then repaired it).

Vintage green and blue striped tie.

Green silk pocket square.

Of course, we lost. So all these items will NO LONGER be worn again on game days.

For more on alternatives to dressing for big games.

June 1, 2011

Stanley Cup Final beards!!!

Well, I confess I had to shave once these last five weeks because of a promo photo shoot.

But my current state of furtive hirsuteness are officially my official Stanley Cup Final whiskers. Not impressive.

But if you've grown yours and don't know what else to do with it ... advice!

Q. Fostering facial hair for, dare we say, a bit of care and style know-how. To aid in this hirsute endeavour, we have JJ Lee, our man of style. First of all, before getting into specifics I noticed you’re developing your own plantation there...what would you call it?

I should tell all, I’m not an expert Beard grower. I’ve never had thick facial hair. However, with my deep journalistic skills I’ve been able to figure out the type of beard I am growing, however thinly.

I have hair on the chin. I have a small bit under my lower lip. I have a moustache that’s not too patchy BUT my problem is none of those parts connect. It’s kind of like the lost overland connection between Asia and Alaska. You can see where they could connect but they don’t.

If they did, I would technically have a Van Dyke or sometimes it’s called an Imperial and it is a chin beard plus a moustache.

Need to identify your beard? Visit my Round 1 post.

Q. What do you think about the beards on the Sedin twins?

They both have a moustache, soul patch, beard, and they have also grown hair along the cheekline which connects the beard to the sideburns. They’re sometimes called the short box beard.

What I really like about their beards is they are letting them grow out.

Sometimes I think it’s Daniel, he over-grooms the beard so it looks like a pencil line (early in the playoffs).

That look has been called the Ben Rothleisberger, after the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, for his notoriously over-trimmed beard.

Glen O’Brien, GQ's Style Guy, wrote against the Rothleisberger beard because it requires shaving the  neck  which “makes guys look like they have double chins, even if they don’t. “ He says the look is”self-conscious and a bit vain.”

Luckily for the Sedins, they’re letting their beards get a bit more full. So, yay to a deep run!

Q. So, overly groomed is not good. What would be the best advice for playoff beard grower?

I spoke with Farzad Salehi. He runs Farzad’s Barbershop in Yaletown at Homer and Davie. He is one of the few men who will give a straight razor shave.

Farzad’s advice is just let it grow. He says, “Don’t do anything fancy with it. If you you have to work in the office, trim under the chin.”

So it won’t catch on the tie and shirt but more importantly, trimming will give you a professional looked but avoid making your neck look like it’s been waxed. Don't shave who sections off. It’s just odd.

Just avoid looking overly shaggy.

If you have to trim, make it look like George Clooney instead of George Michael with his permanent five o’clock shadow. If you google the word sleaze-beard you get a picture of George Michael, so you might want to avoid that look.

Q. One of the things people have about growing out a beard is in-grown hairs. What advice do you have for them?

Farzad says massaging the skin in the growth area always helps. Part of combating in-grown hairs is you have to wash the hair properly.

Farzad says use shampoo for the beard. And then use cream for the skin because the skin can get dry down there.

Obviously, never pick at it. Farzad says you can try pre-shaving oil. It can help short hairs stand up and grow out.

And remember to treat the beard part like your hair. Keep the soup out of it. Somebody is going to have to kiss your face during the next two months.

Q. What can a person do about overall itchiness?

I spoke to Graham Bingham, he runs a shaving store called Momentum Grooming at Burrard and Davie.

Obviously, in-grown is the number cause of itchiness.

If it’s persistent. You can try to exfoliate using In Grown Hair Treatments. They cost $26.50.

They’ll last for two playoff seasons. They have acids in them that will help exfoliate and free the hair plus it will reduce swelling and redness.

Now, if the person complaining is not the beard grower, but the beard kisser, consider using beard creams.

They can soften a beard. They smell good. Graham sells one called Bluebeards Beard Saver, it has a hint of lime and goes for  $24 (they may not have it in stock any longer but they will recommend another).

There’s also beard shampoo, if you don’t like the taste of soap in your mouth and they’d make a good present for the Playoff Beard grower in your life as well.

Q. What would a real NHL player say about it all?

Glad you asked. Dave Tomlinson, fellow Montrealer - his dad was an Alouette, played with the Leafs and is the colour-commentator for Canucks Radio at Team 1040.

Dave says:
"I used to either grow a playoff beard or I would shave it into some pseudo-intimidating fu-man chu creation. Anyway, those days are long gone for me...but a real playoff beard should just be let go to grow wild and wooly.
Problem is, they get itchy to the shaving after each round is permissible:) 
Pretty much anything goes in terms of shaving creation...but if one does try and pull off a reverse better hope you win the game/series(or you might end up looking like a goofy guy who just lost a hockey game)."

May 30, 2011

Review: Filson Zipper Tote

My Filson Zipper Tote, I can't do without it.

It carries my cameras, my manuscripts, my sketch pad.

It always garners kind compliments and envious side glances.

I bought mine at The Block in Vancouver two years ago

It's the only bag I use, even if it's ten days in London. Okay, I travel light.

It's not a murse. When it's new it will look like a giant canvas box. With use it will adapt to how you use it. My tote has a patina.

One of my sons says he wants it when I die (this is a common conversation). I don't mind. I teach them to appreciate things that last longer than a lifetime.

Single best purchase I ever made.

May 26, 2011

Menswear question of the day: "Wedding reception etiquette--is unbuttoning jackets at dinner okay?"



Still, no.

If we were to take Prince William as an example, and after their royal to-do, who could deny the awe-inspiring elegance of the day (Pippa, call me), unbuttoning your coat is not consider correct etiquette.

In the case of Will and Kate, for the evening the newly-wed prince wore a double-breasted jacket for the evening to do, which one never leaves open as David Letterman eventually learned after years of complaint from men's fashion magazines.

What is correct for the double-breasted is correct for the single-breasted dinner jacket. Tuxedos look GOOD buttoned up. Why settle for less.

My rule is always this: if the jacket is too hot, get a lighter jacket.

Now, it's going to happen. When the cameras were gone and Camilla and Charles had left the young ones to rage on at Buckingham Palace, I'll assume they got down and dirty because, heck they're royals, what do you expect?

And I'm sure a few garments fell by the wayside but it is not considered a polite act. So context is everything.

If you are dirty dancing and working over a bridesmaid bodice with your teeth, by all means unbutton. I never do (unbutton that is, though undo bodices is one of my favourite past times). Standing, seated or dancing, I keep coats buttoned. But then I sometimes sleep with my socks on.

One thing to consider is what kind of jacket are you wearing? If it is one of those awful four-button jobs with framed stripes and notched lapels and accompanied by a white long neck tie, go ahead, unbutton, you look like total shite any way.

May 20, 2011

True colours: alternate, styling gear for the next Canucks home game

Love the Canucks. But I can't bring myself to wear gear as if I were a member of the team, ready to jump over the boards.

But it'd be great to show team colours at the arena.

Above is how fans used to dress to an NHL game. Below is how I'd do it: a royal blue sports blazer, a Band of Outsiders wide stripe tie in Canucks colours, and seersucker pants from J.Press. Put on camel brown lace-ups and the look is complete.

May 16, 2011

Spring things, c'mon sunshine!

Today, on Fashion Monday, we look at garments that chase the BLAHS away. That's right, clothes that puts sunshine in your heart if not in the sky. That's coming up when I hit the CBC for another Fashion Monday!

Spoke with Allison Smith of Allison Wonderland about clothes that perks her up, because face it, the weather has been atrocious. Check out her choice spring items as it appeared on Urban Rush. A show on which I once dropped my drawers.

And that's today's topic on Fashion Monday, by that I mean spring things. So tune into On The Coast (CBC Radio One in Vancouver) at 3:49 PM today!

What clothes do you wear to chase the blahs away!

Listen live on the CBC audio player, 3:49 PM Pacific!

Urban turbans, print mashing, harem pants (last gasp?) - this spring's oddities

Urban Turbans, Print Mashing, Low-crotched pants. Here are style pointers from the curious and daring mind of do-it-yourself fashion blogger, Niki Blasina of A Haute Mess. How to master this spring's more curious trends!

Niki Blasina of A Haute Mess mashing clashing prints.

Of course, it would be great to talk about hot weather spring and summer fashion trends, if only the weather would warm up.

Luckily, there a few looks this season that are not temperature dependent. They are challenging trends.

Specifically:Urban Turbans, Print Mashing, and Low-Crotched pants for women. Exactly how are they supposed to work?

Host Stephen Quinn and I spoke about it last week on CBC Radio's On the Coast.

Urban turbans?

Okay. Yes. The fashion trend for head scarves however are not related to the killing of Osama bin Laden. The urban turban, or the hair band, or the head scarf has more to do with Rosie the Riveter, economic recovery and BeyoncĂ©, the American pop star, even the royal wedding, than any Al-Qaida leader.

That’s good news. What is an urban turban?

Obviously, it’s a head accessory for women. They came out last year, but without much of a splash. They showed up again on runways for this spring’s collections and they’ve made a showing even for fall 2011.

As the name implies, they are fabric wraps that go around the head. Visually, they range in look from
Carmen Miranda

Carmen Miranda – the lovely and outlandish Brazilian film star of the 1940s and 1950s (If you ever see a woman or a cartoon with a pile of fruit on her head, you have Carmen Miranda to thank for that popular image) – to the more utilitarian style of head scarves worn by Rosie the Riveter.

They’ve showed up in videos by music performers such as BeyoncĂ©, Lady Gaga and Pink in the past. And it seems they’ve jumped into the mainstream.

How does one wear an urban turban?

For advice, I turned to the really great and fun Vancouver fashion blogger, Niki Blasina. She posts on a blog called,

Niki calles the urban turban an “edgy, chic” alternative over the spent straw fedora of the last few years.

When we talked this morning about it, it really matches with garments evoking the 70s bohemian revival that’s suppose to be big this season. But it can also be worn with a basic outfit, like jeans and a t-shirt.

It’s always a dramatic look. If you decide to sport one be prepared for comments.

The way to wear it is to think of it as a replacement for the summer toque or, better yet, as Niki told me, the slouchy beret knit hat that has been kicking around.

Niki says, you can find them in stores. She mentioned: Fine Finds in Yaletown has them. The brand is called Head Mistress from Toronto.

But on Niki’s blog,, she will show you how to make one if you want to save a few pennies. Niki just says go for the urban turban and have fun with it. It’s a great way to take care of a crazy hair day.

Before we move on to the other spring trends, what behind that head scarf trend?

I think it’s recession and recovery related. When a woman controls her hair through hats, which are big again, or head scarves, it suggests the control of the unruly.

Traditionally, like in images of Rosie the Riveter, the headscarf keeps hair out of the way when a woman is working. So its functional. The more women work, the more they control their hair. Albeit, the urban turban is a casual fashion, not a workplace one.

And as men’s fashion trends have become more severe and masculine, I think this trend relates to the idea of an assertive woman even though the head scarf is often thought of as a playful accessory.

Another trend I mentioned was “Print Mashing:” what’s is print mashing?

I call it Print Mashing. Most people call it PATTERN MIXING. But the way Niki does it is closer to Mashing.

She breaks all the rules when it comes to mixing polka dots with plaid.

I always say on this show, to choose patterns of different scale and Niki says beginners should follow that rule.

But in practice Niki loves to crash patterns into each other and actually, she personally is pushes matching scales to the edge. Every pattern is nearly the same size.

They clash.

But she can’t help herself, It’s one of her favourite things to do. And she says, bring clashing patterns together, one can surprise oneself.

How does one print mash well?

Niki says, it works best if both patterns share a colour. She has an example on her blog of wearing a bright floral blue top and a navy skirt with polka dot.

She calls it a Flinstone-esque mixing of patterns.

But how she pulls it together is to use strong, bold accessories of simple block colour to anchor the two clashing patterns.

In the case of the micro print floral top and polka dot skirt, she used bold blue baubled necklace to anchor down both patterns and it works.

What does Niki have to say about low-crotch pants – and by that I assume she means harem pants? Are they still on trend from last year?

They are. Women in droopy pants will last one more season.

Niki says your harem pants have a present but will have no future. This is the final summer of harem pants.

Niki says wear it shamelessly. And be prepared for comments. Last week she wore them out on the town and women complimented her and men kept on asking her if she had lost a bet.

So, harem pants, drop crotches, what have you are having their last 15 minutes in the sun.

But, I should mention, an easy to do, emerging trend, to look out for is loafers for women.

I’m not talking about oxford lace-ups anymore.

The emerging trend are simple slip-ons. Niki calls them Hugh Hefner shoes. They are simple like slippers not quite elaborate as penny loafers. But simple,traditionally stitched loafers with a plain, pointed toe and small stitches, like Bally loafers from the 70s are the next big thing. So bye-bye to Harem Pants, and look out for Playboy mansion shoes this summer.

Niki Blasina

May 15, 2011

Interesting Vancouver: My talk about why men wear suits

JJ Lee @Interesting Vancouver 2010 from Interesting Vancouver on Vimeo.

A great event last year. I loosely adapted it from my manuscript with changes of all sorts to suit (pardon the pun) the occasion.

Memoir-izing, copy edits, a blog memoir about writing a memoir - aka the Very Meta Post

Last night at 2:30 AM, I finally sent the copy edit they sent to me back to my publisher, McClelland and Stewart.

I think I was supposed to read through and approve stuff. But as I read it, I made a FEW changes.

One of the great difficulties about writing this memoir (which is an embarrassing thing because it's like getting a greatest hits album when you think you're actually putting out relevant music still - it has a pre-emptive retrospective feel and makes you want to protest, "Not dead, yet!"), is synthesising the present, the past and the use of the present tense and the past tense.

I know, it's confusing, and that's why I felt it was very important to contract the sense of time in the book.

There was a past past and a present present. And some memories felt like they happened just yesterday rather than years or decades ago.

So like an good tailor trying to get panels of wool to fit together when they don't, I pounded, steamed, invisible pin-tucked and set-in the parts to make a near seamless whole. I opted for narrative elegance over chronological exactitude.

Any how, more thoughts on all this later.

I'll be blogging about the memoir process at So subscribe or whatever one does to find out more about this strange and difficult, vexing, near mind-bending process.

I'm working on a little post about exactly how the book came about and for budding writers you may find it interesting as I really thought I would never write one myself. So check the other site out.

Also, the cover is finally up at McClelland & Stewart.

The Measure of a Man
The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit

by JJ Lee

published by McClelland & Stewart

Add to Cart Available September 20, 2011

May 10, 2011

The Copy Edit of book! It's been a long road and the end is just round the corner

So sloth: on to do list is having to beef up a chapter (writing is scant, notational in this part - obvious result of crushing deadlines), write a denoument regarding time at Modernize, copy edit and approve book design.

Cold hard realities: need to get it done.

March 30, 2011

Understanding why super hero costumes can only exist in comic books

Thankless job of the week. Trying to pull off a Wonder Woman costume for a television show.

How unwonderful.

Why it won't work... read Michael Chabon's unitard theory in the New Yorker.

March 29, 2011

Nice to be appreciated

A short and sweet post about Fashionator 1000 and his campaign to improve the fashion sense of Canada's federal leaders on Jen Gerson's blog.

March 19, 2011

Andy Warhol’s Salvatore Ferragamo shoes.
They are described as Brogues…they are in fact plain-toe Bal-type Oxfords. Am I wrong here?
Brogues usually refer to shoes with punches in it. An Oxford will have v-shaped lace opening or closed lacing. I like the shabby chic of Warhol’s.

Andy Warhol’s Salvatore Ferragamo shoes.

They are described as Brogues…they are in fact plain-toe Bal-type Oxfords. Am I wrong here?

Brogues usually refer to shoes with punches in it. An Oxford will have v-shaped lace opening or closed lacing. I like the shabby chic of Warhol’s.

Need I say, I LOVE them.

March 15, 2011

Buying vintage prom or grad dresses

I spoke with Carly Lenarduzzi of Mintage Vintage in Vancouver about a few tips on how to buy a classic prom dress that's a blast from the past.

I shared them with Stephen Quinn of CBC's On The Coast in Vancouver.

She's online on Etsy and has a store in Vancouver:
1714 commercial drive, vancouver, bc

March 14, 2011

How to buy a vintage grad dress

Today, I will be talking about how to buy a vintage grad (vintage prom) dress.

What details to look out for and how to buy online.

My advice comes from the lovely Carly Lenarduzzi at Mintage in Vancouver (also on She has an expert eye and know what makes a great vintage find.

Tune in today by live stream at 3:50 PM PACIFIC, on CBC Radio One in Vancouver, 88.1 FM or AM 690, for tips on going the oldie but goody route.

March 7, 2011

I, Cinder-Fella's Fairy Godfather of fashion


I had an amazing weekend being a Fairy Godfather.

Yes, I had a magic wand. Made of chocolate. I received as my reward for helping three senior high school grads pick out their graduation suits as part of the Cinderella Project.

My Cinder-fellas, that’s what they’re called, are students who have overcome lots of adversity and, to tell the truth, have survived heart-breaking life experiences to finish their studies and stand forth as graduates.

The Cinderella Projects rewards them by providing suits, ties, shirts, shoes and more for free so they can be decked out to perfection for Grad Night (in the US, it’s Prom Night).

Thirty teen boys and 130 girls went through the experience. The young women, of course, received beautiful dresses.

Later today, I’ll be talking about my experience this weekend on CBC Radio One in Vancouver at 3:49 PM Pacific.

Listen live with a pop-up player here.

If you can’t wait to hear what the Cinderella Project experience is like, check out my radio piece from last year. It’s the story of my experience last year as an opinionated style reporter who couldn’t stay out of the fray. Just click the player.

I also have to mention. Big ups for Dion Neckwear. They provided 100 ties and pocket squares to the Cinderella Project on short notice (one week). They sell ties at Harry Rosen, Holt Renfrew and the West End shops of The Bay.

The ties were amazing!