October 10, 2012

National Post: Bondian black tie

Q. Why does James Bond, no matter who plays him, look so good in a tuxedo?

A. It may be because they are handsome, roguish, sophisticated actors who play one of the most dashing characters in 20th century popular fiction. But besides that, all of them follow a few simple black-tie rules(at National Post).

September 9, 2012

Repost: Two pointers on elbow patches

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?

A: Style Master says - If I had a whip (maybe I do, maybe I don't), I would crack it now. Elbow patches are best when patching a hole in a well-loved garment. If the hole appears on the left, only patch the left. Symmetry is for suckers and the quirk of one-sided patching gives a whiff of old establishment thriftiness.

Admittedly, this year, elbow patches are everywhere (AGAIN in 2012, I wrote this nearly a year ago). So, I concede to the inevitable, the same way Indiana conceded to the feisty Marion Ravenwood.

If you must buy a garment with elbow patches, make sure they COVER the elbows and not the upper arm or forearm. If they don't, someone should conk your crystal skull.

Read more:


(Note: if the patches are misplaced, consider having them moved to cover the elbow.)

September 6, 2012

Aviatrix be still my beating heart

Bomber, aviator, flight jacket - what's the difference...

This fall there will be much talk about the bomber jacket. The term, bomber, will be applied to a lot of short jackets with ribbed waistbands whether they are in fact based on aviator or motorcycle or infantry blouson jacket styles.

Above is a picture of Tuskegee airmen during the Second World War. They were some of the first black fighter pilot's in US history. You can find more about them here.

Of course, I just want to talk about their clothes. They are wearing the classic aviator jacket, the A2, as designated by the US Air Force. It is COLLARED. On the shoulders do sit epaulettes or straps. Notice the pockets. They are flapped PATCH pockets. They are not slash pockets (they often sit at an angle). The ribbing is low enough to cover the belt line. There was also a G-1 jacket. It has a fur-lined collar and it was used by the Navy and Marines. Most people who see this jacket will often call them "bombers."

But when I hear bomber jacket, I think of the gunners who sat exposed to the cold air while flying over Europe in B-17 bomber aircraft (see below).

The real bomber's jacket is the B-3 jacket. Full shearling and makes its wearer as puffy and toasty warm as the Pilsbury Doughboy after a good 20-minutes in the oven. I doubt anyone will be wearing anything like the real bomber jacket this fall or winter. Though I must say the Jil Sander fetish for leather and Thom Browne's masked men with Munster-like proportions this fall have some kinship to the look of the men on the .50 cal machine guns.

So, this fall, when you hear bomber, think aviator. Thin, trim, dashing. With useful pockets. The jacket should inspire fancies of flight, not skiing, not snowboarding, not motorcycling, not General Eisenhower (he wore a short infantry blouson). FLYING. If it gives off that romance, that vibe, despite its non-authentic, non-aviation details, call it an aviator or a flight jacket and wear it like an ace.

July 31, 2012

Style Master: Wear your heart on your sleeve

Q. I like French cuff shirts, but how many pairs of cufflinks should you have and what are some affordable options? I don’t necessarily want to drop several hundred dollars on multiple sets, but get tired of using the same one all the time.
— Sean, Toronto

Today I took a nuts-and-bolts approach to collecting compelling cufflinks in The Vancouver Sun.

July 27, 2012

Re-post of my analysis of the Opening Ceremony fashion at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

(NOTE THIS IS A RE-POST FROM 2008 from my appearance on CBC Radio with host Stephen Quinn)

Fashion Olympics - forget medal counts, who are the best dressed?

Canada has yet to win a medal in Beijing but who cares? A opening ceremony fashion Q & A with JJ Lee...

Q. You've decided to focus on the Opening Ceremonies. What are you looking for when it comes to judging a country's fashion acumen during the parade of nations?

It's not easy to compare what the countries are wearing -- though I think it's patently obvious to anyone when it comes to figuring out who looks good and who looks bad.

The reason why it's hard is because the delegate nations pick clothes for different reasons.

Generally, there were three genres of clothes at the opening.

1. National costume - this is where athletes are forced to wear clothes as if it were multicultural day at their local high school.

2. Athletic wear - this is where countries dress as if they are ready to take the field at any moment.

3. Traditional sportswear - Not to be confused with track suits, this is the prevalent neo-traditional approach that evokes the time when athletes wore blazer, white pants and cricket sweaters when they weren't on the field of battle. One of the most iconic examples of that style of dress is - historically speaking - is Rene Lacoste or Le Crocodile, the French tennis star of the 1920s who later became a fashion giant.

Q. It sounds like you're comparing apples and oranges -- who do you think came off the best in terms of fashion?

I thought I could break things up in categories like weight classes for boxing -- for example "BEST in RED".

Q. Okay, which countries made it into the Best in Red category?

Angola did. They went with a hybrid look of patterned pants with red tops that seemed to straddle athletic wear and national costumes. It was a nice red. The shirts featured an rather delicate detail at the neck line. It was a circular opening below the neckline like a peekaboo that would show cleavage on a woman -- but it was predominantly the men who were wearing it. It's just a blouse but the circle is a nice detail.

Q. What did you think of China, the host nation, in red?

They were unfortunately one of the WORST. They went with red blazers, white pants and yellow shirts for the men. They looked terrible. Wear red or wear yellow but don't wear them together.

The women looked better with yellow blazers, red kerchiefs and white skirts that went BELOW THE KNEE-- but I think they should have deviated from looking exactly like the Chinese flag and picked a yellow that was softer and more forgiving.

I think though there should be a rule where hem lengths should only be determined by body type and not by designer edict. If you have the legs, you should show it. If not, find a length that suits you. Say "no" to totalitarian regimes and uniform hem lengths.

Q. Did anyone look good in red?

My favourite team in red was Serbia.

The men looked lousy but the women wore ruffle v-necked front buttoned blouses.

You have to understand Serbia has tennis star Ana Ivanovic on the team. She just dropped out of competition because of an injury...but she looked absolutely gorgeous in her blouse during the opening ceremonies. She showed showed some clavicle a bit of skin below that.

Q. And isn't that the whole point of the Olympics?

It is. If you look at the classical roots of the Olympics, the display of the body, naked, without adornment, in physical struggle was the whole point.

And despite the National Socialist baggage of the Berlin Olympics, Leni Riefenstahl's film of the Olympics really suggests a modern template for the cult of the body in the Olympics. She had images of athletes in the nude much like Greek statues -- it's kind of corny but it makes a good point. We need to see more skin at the Olympics.

I used to disdain the uniform rules of beach volleyball because they forced women to essentially wear bikinis but I've come around. I think celebrating young athletic bodies is a good thing...I would even suggest eliminating the jersey for men's boxing. Let us see heaving chest muscles. I think that would be a great first step in the right direction.

Q. What marks do you give to Team Canada?

Six point five or a seven out of ten.

My reason, I think track suits are a cop out.

The reason why I don't talk about designers who make hoodies or t-shirts is the reason I don't think Team Canada looks so hot...track suits are boring.

There's none of the flare of let's say, Mexico's ruffle skirts which had a flamenco-mariachi feel to them. That was nice.

But Canada was entirely invested in it's graphic approach.

And it's bad. Some people have complained about the chinoiserie of the uniform -- which is understandable but what is worse is how the pattern of red and white and degrade - which means fading - gold number "eights" on the clothes obliterates the sense the human form.

The more I talk about it the more I dislike it.

Q. Which country did you like?

I think you have to give credit to Ralph Lauren for creating a consistent vision of Gatsybyesque sporting elegance.

And remember, Ralph Lauren did the costume for the film version of The Great Gatsby.

The other film reference was Chariots of Fire - the motif was simple. Blue blazers, white buttons, white pants and newsboy caps -- which are not as nice a the trapper hats Canada did for the Turin Olympics nor are they as nice as the Roots Cap of the Nagano Olympics -- but they do the trick.

A lot of countries went this direction but Ralph Lauren did it the best. Though the look was a bit androgynous on the women. They did fit nicely enough. Unlike the Chinese blazers. Terrible.

Q. Enough stalling....give me your fashion winner...

My flat out my favourite would be....okay, the women of France wore seersucker and red sashes...that was okay

Hungary had skirt-suit combos with a bold poppy pattern which was interesting...

But I have to say I like Poland because the women wore red dresses with a red peek-toe sling backs and the men wore black and white wing tip shoes.

So, the red dresses are nice but they only favoured the fittest of athletes

They didn't wear read but I think Brazil gets the gold. Their women wore dark mini skirts with green jackets and black lapels. They didn't look like flight attendents, and they showed some leg.

Definitely, I award Brazil the GOLD.

Tweeting Olympic fashion today

Let me introduce you to my Olympic-sized alter-ego gold medal snark @chic_fatigue


It, I call it It, will be tweeting about the fashions seen during the Opening Ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics.

June 20, 2012

Actually, captain, my name is Brown, Orlebar Brown

These are Orlebar Brown Setter Swim Shorts,

You may not have heard of London swimwear maker Orlebar Brown but in a few months, with the release of the next James Bond film, Skyfall, you will 1.

June 11, 2012

Father's Day fashions, Wes Anderson-style

"Well it's got to be. I'll order you a red cap and a Speedo."

TODAY, we offer Father’s Day gifts all themed around the films of Wes Anderson.

Anderson is the American film director best known for his comedy, Rushmore, which is about a precocious polymath teenager at a private school who falls in love with his teacher.

Of course there is also Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited. His latest, Moonrise Kingdom, came out this weekensd.

I nearly all his works we will find themes built around unsteady masculinity, boy-men looking for meaning, and often missing or wounded father figures, and these his films we often find items from the world of fashion used to connect the characters.

To wit, I present stylish gift ideas inspired by the stylish films of Wes Anderson:


Who can resist a nice tight Speedo? You can find swim briefs in navy, red, and black at Swimco ($36). Sorry, no Zissou blue.

If Dad is shy, you may also consider square-legged boxer briefs shaped like the ones in the James Bond film, Casino Royale (by TYR, $30 at Swimco). Again, they come in navy and black.

Another option are those little red toques. You can buy red toques online at American Apparel for $16. A good price but they can’t guarantee shipping before Father’s Day.

Locally, on Granville Island, try Make Vancouver.

They offer red ribbed non-pom pom acrylic beanies aka toques, with or without cuffs. The toques are $10 but the best part is they can embroidered them. So you could, theoretically, have an awesome monogram stitched onto the cap for another $10.

To really make it an awesome Father's Day present, get a red toque for the whole family! Just like Team Zissou.


In The Darjeeling Limited, three brothers go searching for their mother in India.

One of the things they fight over is a custom-made belt by Louis Vuitton (of course, we must mention a dozen pieces of LV luggage which also figure prominently, but I digress).

In the film, Owen Wilson (Francis) mentions the belt is worth $6000.

Few of us could afford it but you may be able to get Dad a handmade belt starting at $50 at Hartman Leather on Granville Island.

And better yet, if your dad has an old belt that is ripping or beginning to fall apart, you'll find at Hartman Leather belts without buckles. That way Dad can keep on using a treasured buckle.


Probably, the most Salinger-like stories, the costuming is inevitably preppy. Danny Glover in a bow tie is beautiful thing.

You can find great Carrot and Gibbs ties, handmade with mother of pearl buttons for the knot challenged, at Harry Rosen ($75, in store only).


Madras makes a star turn on Bill Murray. The colourful patchwork cotton is a summer staple and Dad can have it as pants, shorts, shirts, and ties.

My two favourites are JCrew's madras-like long ties and Brooks Brothers madras house coats. Okay the BB blazer is nice too.

May 23, 2012

Father and son

An image from a 19th century fashion journal. I've posted it before.

I actually find it touching.

Why striped shirts for summer

Trying to stay cool, neat, and dressy but not too dressy this summer is the serious question I will be addressing in my next Style Master column for The Vancouver Sun.

While I won't reveal all my tricks or those of the sartorial powers that be (and they are powerful -- for their thoughts, you just have to read my column), I will tell you the virtue of striped shirts: they don't show off wrinkles the way plain fabric shirts do.

Another benefit of the striped shirt (not to broad, okay, one should avoid appearing as an awning or a barbershop pole), it has colour and pattern and holds up well with a plain blazer and NO tie. Better yet, they look lively with the jacket off - which plain shirts do not. Plus you get to roll the sleeves. That's so macho.

But what of checks and micro-checks? Well, on me, they can make me look short and my face heavy. I do like them immensely though.

April 24, 2012

Lighten up: spring ties

Nothing lightens up a look like a clever print or woven tie.

Not the garish ones with hula dancers and giant panda bears, Saint Nick or whatnot...

No, I mean those subtle little "critter" ties where the animal looks like an abstract pattern on the field from far away but up close you can see a fauna pattern.

Above is a bird on a fence rail by Hermes (in store in Canada, $210) - a bit of fun without the buffoonery.

But how do you tell the difference between a poorly made spring tie and one well done: check out my latest advice column at The Vancouver Sun with thoughts from Tom Siddall of Harry Rosen and Tina Tsakanikas of Dion Neckwear.

April 20, 2012

Vancouver fashion finds for under $50 at Nifty Fifty

Jump for joy, a summery outfit on sale at Nifty Fifty by Allison Wonderland

After doing taxes, spring cleaning, the ole nine to five, you deserve a treat.

Nifty Fifty is an annual market of local fashion in Vancouver and the price is just right: $50 or under. This Sunday, 11 AM to 7 PM, April 22, in Vancouver at Heritage Hall, 3102 Main Street. Admission is one sliver of a loonie.

Participating will be some of my favourite fashion people in the city including Allison Smith of Allison Wonderland and Erin Templeton.

Check out the event's Facebook page.

April 18, 2012

A fool for spring foulard neckties

Ferragamo's Baby Tiger pattern for Spring Summer 2012

Light, airy, and full of whimsy, the silk print or foulard tie with tiny geometric shapes or figures is the perfect piece to enliven a suit in the spring.

And dismiss thoughts that a silk print is less worthy than a woven tie. Yes, a woven is hefty and it will bellow luxuriousness especially when paired with a thick, plutocratic knot. But it is heavy like a great overcoat.

The finely printed tie, made by human hand or at least mechanized screen rather than the spew of an inkjet, can inspire singing in the rain, a shuffle and a tap, a game of catch. It can wave in a warm breeze and sway like a budding willow branch.

Choose a simple four-in-hand knot and a young man's pointed or Eton collar, you pick, for a change.

Hermes horses, Ferragamo horsebits, Liberty florals, Drakes muted madders are hardly jokes or novelties but wearing one would certainly be original.

March 30, 2012

Participate in Canada's literary version of the Thunderdome

The CBC Bookies are a winner take all knock voting bread on and off the table death match in various categories including NON-FICTION.

Vote accordingly and clang your shivs against the chain link cage.

March 28, 2012

Seersucker man

My latest piece in the Vancouver Sun is on the pleasures of seersucker (despite the dire headline). Plus I dedicated a site to the pleasures of summer suiting - ie cotton, linen, silk/mohair, and, of course, seersucker.

February 24, 2012

Solving the mysteries of the new Sherlock Holmes coat - Millfords and Invernesses

With the second season of the hit BBC show Sherlock airing on BBC Canada this February (it debuts on PBS this May), it was elementary to expect a fervour for Holmesian fashion.

The iconic fashion item for Sherlock redux is not a deerstalker cap. Instead, it's his chic outerwear.

Yesterday, Katherine Lazaruk, a Vancouver image consultant, mentioned in passing that the Sherlock manteau (above), called the Millford by motorcycle coat makers Belstaff) had sold out. Belstaff had restocked but recently announced they would no longer produce it.

The coat is a double-breasted tweed coat with dramatic sharp-angled lapels and collars. Always popped-up, they frame the detective's face (Benedict Cumberbatch) and impart the right 21st Century edge to the updated Victorian crime-solver.

The long drape does well on Cumberbatch's slender body. It makes him look taller than he actually is. In the trailer for Season 2, his ostensible height becomes a punchline. 

If you have been contemplating finding a coat like the consulting detective's, possibly one cheaper than the Belstaff version, there are specific details to keep an eye out for.

Sherlock's coat is based on the RAF Officer's Greatcoat (below) which is double-breasted and features a back tab. The tab gathers pleats. This creates a bell shaped skirt with fullness at the behind. Make sure this works for your height and body type.

The original RAF coat has epaullettes or shoulder tabs. Sherlock's does not. In his new coat, there is an attempt to straddle the Victorian allure of the original sleuth's era and the sleek modernity of Sherlock's London now.

Note Sherlock's buttons don't rise as high as the RAF one and his pockets are patch pockets without flaps (I stand corrected, it does have flaps, but I do stand by the Millford being more modern than the RAF Officer Greatcoat). Again, these omissions enhances the sleek look of the Belstaff design.

A quick aside: the original Sherlock is remembered for wearing a deerstalker cap and an Inverness cape (right). But this is only one look of many that the original Strand illustrator, Sidney Paget, depicted Holmes in. It is later on, in films, that this becomes his typical outwear costume.
Remember in your search, that the little details should work for you. I've seen lots of blogs and magazines recommending coats to those who love Sherlock's but many have zippers, belts, notches and flaps that the Millford lacks.
So pay attention in your search. The game is afoot.