I have written about my love of quality second-hand, skepticism of fast fashion, and enjoyment in regularly purging my closet. These are all still shaping my ever-evolving wardrobe. Of course, when possible, quality first-hand shopping can be great fun and massively satisfying too.
However, amid all the choices we have today for apparel and accessories shopping, from very high to very low, and with the aging process and bodies that change through the ups and downs of life, not to mention climate change and extreme weather, it is inevitable that we purchase things we don’t wear, that fall apart, that get ruined by natural or manmade conditions, or are lost, stolen, etc.
If you haven’t seen the documentary Minimalism on Netflix, watch it! Follow two happy guys who tout the bliss of living very simply, without anything extra or unnecessary. Like Marie Kondo’s tidying up, it’s a goal to work toward.
On the other hand, looking back and looking through my current wardrobe, I can identify some items and brands that have shown great longevity and consistency of quality, fit, and overall wearability that cannot be said for many other brands I’ve tried.
T-shirts: James Perse
In Florida we live in t-shirts. Elsewhere perhaps they are secondary to button-downs, but for several years I have enjoyed wearing James Perse simple v-neck tees. With some variation, the standard is 100% combed cotton for softness, cut for athletic bodies but not too tight or too baggy either. I wear a size 1 (small). Best of all, they’re not exorbitantly expensive ($60 apiece full price), but often go on sale at Nordstrom, MR PORTER, etc. AND, they come in a million neutral tones like black, white, gray, charcoal, navy, and are made in the U-S-A!
Trousers: Care Label
Before Milan, I rarely wore proper trousers other than denim. I found that most Italian men wore tighter, more tapered denim than I had at the time, so shortly after arriving, I went in search of denim and was directed to Care Label, a new line created by Italia Independent, which primarily makes eyewear.
I ended up finding trousers at Care Label that I have come to love. The two pair I have are navy and olive cotton, brushed for a slight sheen but supremely comfortable and slightly stretchy to fit my lower half. For those with a tidy waist but a very present butt, these fit wonderfully.
By now I have worn them in a million outfits, and will be sad when they wear out enough that they don’t look polished, because Care Label doesn’t sell online and isn’t present in any of my favorite stores.
Casual cold-weather shoes: Car Shoe chukka boots
I bought these on sale from Neiman Marcus several years back, and they are elegant in their simplicity. Technically, they are driving chukka boots, because they are soled with rubber nubs à la Tod’s. Car Shoe is a similar brand to Tod’s, also made in Italy, but with a different history and now owned by the Prada Group. It’s the connoisseur’s driving shoe.
These particular shoes are made of thick brown suede, have two lace eyelets, and are lined in smooth tan leather. They are great to walk in, ultra comfortable, and also pair well with a variety of colors and styles, but only with long pant legs.
Fragrances: Tom Ford Private Blend
I surely haven’t tried them all, but within the realm of niche eau de parfum distributed selectively, TF makes some of the best.
When I first discovered Bond No. 9 through a friend (early 2013), I was enthralled, but after sampling some at the now defunct Saks Fifth Avenue in Tampa, I realized none of the ones I first was drawn to were for me.
A mile or so up the street I went to Neiman Marcus in search of something better, and found Tom Ford’s Private Blend of fragrances, which supplement his existing, lower-priced lines, in a differently shaped glass bottle. I first fell for Oud Wood, then for Santal Blush, and finally most recently, Patchouli Absolu. I also like Neroli Portofino, Tuscan Leather, and want to try some of the newest releases.
The Private Blends are now more ubiquitous, despite their hefty prices (starting at $220), and within the line, there are about twenty scents. Overkill? Yes. Quality? Yes.
The thing I appreciate about most of the Private Blends are that they all speak to the Tom Ford brand, the ‘lifestyle’ so to speak, and they make you feel sexy in a way that I think is intended.
I anticipate plenty of argument on this one. Nevertheless, I have found each of my Prada bags, from nylon messenger to backpack now to leather shopper tote, to be tasteful, durable, and surprisingly luxurious, without being showy. I’m fond of carriers of any sort, and over the years have had bags made by Louis Vuitton, Jack Spade, Marni, Jil Sander, Burberry, Yves Saint Laurent, and more accessible brands like Land’s End and Adidas, but have purged them all over the past few years except now for three from Prada.
For the record, I am however not a fan of saffiano leather, common for Prada, which is hard, shiny, and cross-hatched somewhat unnaturally. It just looks cheap and feels like plastic.
SPF face moisturizer: Aēsop
I have loved the Aēsop brand for some time. The herbal-medicinal, simplistic packaging. The architectural stores. Is it endearing that the brand is Australian? Yes.
Sadly, the products I tried and used in Italy from the company (Fabulous face wash, Blue Chamomile facial masque) didn’t do my any good, so I stopped using them.
After arrival in Florida, though, I knew I needed a good moisturizer with SPF for daily use and have been on-and-off searching for a good one for years. Aēsop had the answer (at Oxford Exchange no less!) in the form of Sage & Zinc Facial Hydrating Cream with 15 SPF. It absorbs rapidly, smells fantastic, and goes virtually unnoticed throughout the day. I am super satisfied with it and happy to be protecting my now nearly 30-years-old face!
I also bought the Avail Lip Balm and immediately lost it. So, note to self, don’t spend $19 on a chapstick.
No-show loafer socks: Falke
For a long time I wore sneakers and loafers without socks, and let me tell you, it was stinky. My feet stunk, my shoes stunk. Then, I took a chance on these German no-show socks which changed my damn life. I wrote about them a couple years ago. Same holds today.
In fact, other than some wear at the toe because I don’t trim my toenails enough, they have held up well.
Pricey, but a worthy investment if you wear a lot of styles that require a bare ankle.
Comfortable boots: Bottega Veneta
Looking back, I spent so much money in Italy shopping for and acquiring things I didn’t need or end up wearing much. It’s sad, but I know myself better now and that what I like doesn’t always equate with what I will grab to wear without hesitation.
These boots were one of the better decisions. I had picked them for my wishlist earlier in the season and then when I found them after Christmas on sale, I knew they had to come home with me. They’re made of pebbled leather similar to the grain of Chanel caviar leather, which is durable and doesn’t scratch easily. The style is polished but rugged, and the crepe sole, while slippery on wet surfaces, is supremely comfortable for long days of walking.
As an urbanite over the last year, I learned that hard leather soles cause rapid fatigue in the foot muscles and tend to rub more harshly on toes and bones of the foot than rubber soles. While beautiful, they’re often not practical over a longer period of standing or walking, much like tall stilettos aren’t for pounding the pavement.
I have since sold many of my hard leather (albeit gorgeous) lace-ups, boots, and loafers, and have replaced them with foot-preserving standbys like my Car Shoe driver chukka boots.
Global e-commerce fashion search tool: Shopstyle
I never know how much other people take a precision approach to online shopping, but I can get into a maniacal mood when I’m faced with sales and limited stock and price comparisons. Or, simple confusion over where to find a product or who is making the best pair of shorts.
For all of these instances, I consult Shopstyle, which is like a search engine for clothing and accessories. You can search by category, like Men > Shorts, and then filter by price or newness, or find every piece of James Perse that is on sale by searching his brand name and then filtering out everything that isn’t on sale.
It’s a great tool, if not for every shopping quest, but for gathering information and keeping an eye on your favorite pieces or designers. Mostly only applicable to the US market, however.
Card wallet: Bottega Veneta
Wallets fall under a similar place in my heart to bags. I’ve always loved them as an item so intimate to our identities (literally, it holds our I.D.) and something that is totally practical. Years ago I had ones from Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Tod’s, even the defunct Rugby (by Ralph Lauren), but the best have been my bi-fold card wallets from Bottega Veneta.
While the card case (non folding) with a few simple slots is cheaper ($250 vs. $360), I have always found the bi-fold to be preferable for some reason, even though I don’t need the extra room. I bought a black one in Bottega’s signature lamb intrecciato woven leather in 2013 and kept it in pristine condition until last year when I replaced it with the same model in a newer, brighter tone.
I recently sold that one on Grailed for $100, which isn’t a bad return on a wallet that cost $200 on sale, new.
My friend Stephen liked my wallet so much that he bought himself one in Venice over the summer in Bottega’s standard dark brown, aptly named Espresso.
Eyeglasses: Anne et Valentin
If I am investing in eyewear, it better be high quality and stylish enough to last a while. For something you need so fundamentally to function, why wear something that shouts a brand name or will fall apart after a few years? Glasses cost at least $250, why not spend a bit more for something of much better fabrication?
Enter: French brand Anne et Valentin and its local retail distributor, The Optic Shop (in Tampa, anyway). The brand makes truly thoughtful, unexpected frame designs out of quality acetate and metals, and some people in my network wear them. Me, my brother, my friend Susan. And we get so many compliments!
I have had my pair for nearly four years, and they are still in top condition.
Alternatively, I suggest any brand that produces in France or Japan, both of which are at the pinnacle of fine eyewear craft.
Lingerie: Agent Provocateur…?
A friend excitedly messaged me about her first luxury lingerie experience, with Agent Provocateur‘s deep discount sale, and I asked her to discuss her thoughts and feelings since she said something to the effect of “it’s like two angels holding up your boobs!”
Consider this the Remarqed bible of style brands. It will surely evolve, but for the moment, these are some solid trial-and-error lessons that I am happy to pass onto you about my most satisfying experiences with brands and products.