On Slouch & Stuffiness

Let’s dive into my favorite word to describe my approach to menswear and why I think it’s actively good to avoid being stuffy.

I’ve started to write my essays after recording the podcast (and have done so the past few times), so please, definitely listen to the podcast first! You get a lot more nuance and discussion from Spencer, who provides his own unique take on this subject.

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Like I say in the episode above, I’m not really sure where I got the idea for the podcast’s tagline: “A menswear podcast without the stuffiness”. It’s a catchy phrase that is loosely interpreted, which is perfect for two guys in their mid-twenties to talk about menswear in any way they want. And we aren’t stuffy guys. In fact, we actively (and passively) try to avoid it at all costs.

I think “stuffy” is the perfect term to broadly describe the issues of menswear, whether you’re looking at contemporary styles or vintage ones. Like we said in the previous podcast episode and essay, menswear is a unique beast that thrives on codification. The abundance of codifiers isn’t exactly strict, but going against the grain or intentionally doing something “off” is not always met with applause. It’s just stuffy.

Thanks to my unique background in collecting vintage, I knew that my style choices were always going to be met with criticism. The good thing was that it taught me to be accepting of a variety of other styles. While certain pockets of vintage didn’t like the mid-century ivy leaguer look or how contemporary guys didn’t liek wide legged pants, I found myself in the middle of it, appreciating different facets of both. Everyone looked great to me and if you dressed in either style in front of a layman, they’ll probably just think “suit” and move on. It proved to me that being stuffy about menswear really got you no where. Not socially and cerainly not in the menswear evanglism. Don’t we say that the style is dying after all?

So, I’ve made it my mission to be “without stuffiness” for as long as I can remember. It helps that I don’t come from a traditional menswear enthusiast background; I’m not a lawyer/finance guy who got into this to wear the best clothing my money can buy. I’m into this because of specific aesthetics stemming from my POV. I’m also just a regular guy who plays video games and routinely hangs out with people who don’t give a fuck about menswear. I’m already the weird guy in his mid twenties trying to wear classic menswear on the daily, in LA no less! if I came across as stuffy, not would my friends stop hanging out with me, but people probably wouldn’t take me (or what I have to say about menswear) seriously at all.

Now that I think about it, this was probably what got me “clout” in the beginning. Across all the vintage menswear groups and sites, men would routinely take stiff, “parade rest” fitpics. I don’t think they’re necessarily wrong (in fact a lot of contemporary iGents also take very…robotic photographcs), though it probably comes from the fact that tailoring is rooted in looking “proper”. I could have played into that stereotype early on, but I just couldn’t take myself seriously in those photos. After a short period of attempting to be a try-hard influencer, I just had to relax. And yes, being around other non-menswear people in college was always a humbling experience to keep me in check (though all of them knew I wasn’t a stuffy guy to begin with).

You might think that menswear is inherently stuffy. Like I said, it is rooted in formality levels. That’s why you get such odd critiques from guys who can’t fathom a casual or easy going approach to menswear. I’ve seen comments range from the hatred of white socks with tailoring to the incredulity of wearing a button down collar with a tie, both of which have historical precedent and are absolutely appropriate. It just seems so stuffy and exhausting to only always think about menswear as something that should be beholden for formality rules. Even if you take solace in that, it’s just not the attitude I want when creating my outfits.

I will concede that tailoring is a bit of a science, such knowing what measurements (both on your body and on the garment proper) and cut result in a good fit or drape. However, these micro-decisions are considered before you start wearing it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being particular about fit or house style of a tailor you want to try. However, you shouldn’t be thinking about that once it’s on you. Clothes are meant to be worn and enjoyed; if it’s making you uncomfortable, you shouldn’t be wearing it.

That idea of comfort was always important to me. Obviously I had plenty of comments early in my journey, with friends and randoms asking if I was truly comfortable wearing menswear (both vintage and contemporary). I would always respond that I preferred a straighter fit or a lightly constructed jacket, which was genuinely comfortable. Maybe there’s a deeper layer to not being stuffy. To go in the opposite direction in terms of attitude and demeanor.

This is where I started to discover slouch. The lightblub in my head came when I started seeing pictures of Chad Park and Jake Grantham. Like I stated in the photography essay, these guys just happened to be photographed by their menswear compatriots just living life. By their own nature, they had a slouching posture and always had their hands in fisted in their jacket pockets. It really went away from all convention that not only revolved around a fit pic, but what a guy wearing tailoring should look like. Slouch just seemed like the right word to describe it. Its still a term that can be loosely interpreted, but it’s perfect. The vibe seemed different than simply cheesin’ when rocking your fit; it’s more understated, letting the clothes and unstated attitude speak for itself.

I don’t want to say that I simply copied my demeanor from those two guys, but rather just tried my best to be as comfortable as they were in their clothing. To exude their vibe, if you will. At the forefront, it’s really just knowing that you don’t have to be that prim and proper, Café Society gentleman even if you’re duded out in bespoke tailoring. On a general term, it really just means to live in your clothes. A suit, especially now, is better off not considered as something overly special. You can simply think of a suit as just a regular jacket, shirt, and pant that happens to have lapels and incorporates a tie and pocket square. It might be a radical thought, but hey, removing that “formal” context can go a long way.

Just look at the pictures I’ve included at the bottom of this essay. Most of these guys (aka the people who are not me and Spencer) are wearing clothes made by some of the best artisans in the world. However, they don’t act like Gob and his expensive suits. They’re slouchin around. It could be the dramatic photography and the sad boi face/pose, but they really look so natural in their clothing. They aren’t afraid to fist their jacket pockets as if it was a denim trucker or chore coat. You can see that they don’t have an aversion to wrinkles on their suit/shirt or if their tie flaps around. They look so cool yet totally at ease, without having to wear traditionally casual clothes.

For guys who frequent reddit, these photographs remind me of the fit pics you see on r/streetwear thanks to their attitude. The juxtaposition between this casual, “street” vibe and the clothes that they were wearing was increasingly intriguing to me. It simply showed that you didn’t have to wear casual clothes to appear casual, at least in terms of attitude.

I know that separating classic menswear from its formal roots is a hard sell, especially since most people will not get it, but at least your mindset will allow you to be at ease when wearing it. I know a lot of guys who like the idea of wearing tailoring but because of these connotations, they are unable to fully commit to it. That’s okay! I just hope I’m doing my best to show that tailoring can be slouchy and easy. After all, I’m still heavily inspired by old photographs that show regular guys living life in tailoring. It is possible. I also think that people will definitely notice the vibe if you do it right.

Now apart from how you stand and where your hands are (at most events, my hand are perennially in my pockets if im not taking photographs), I definitely think that there are a few ways to intentionally evoke slouch to make it easier for others to understand. Obviously not everyone agrees with my advice because not everyone has my same POV when it comes to dressing, so YMMV.

Firstly, I tend to prefer pieces that err on the casual side of clothing. I haven’t gone insofar as to fully wear milsurp and workwear (with the occasional sportcoat and loafer) as Spencer or Doug has. My heart will always belong to the full kit: tie, pleated trousers, pinned collars, and low vamp loafers included. However, this means that I don’t like wearing super silky 120s+ wools or starched spread collar shirts. Instead, I opt for fabrics that break in and age well, like flannels for winter and cottons for spring/summer; at this point, all but two suits are made from cotton.

I think that maintream people can see the difference too, even if they didn’t already know that corduroy was a “sporting cloth”. These fabrics l just feel (and become) slouchier than other “formal” fabrics (though to be fair, I’ve seen people rock them too). After all, during a period where guys wore tailoring regularly, fabric was one way to show that they were casual instead of at the office. This is why it, cotton twill, and sometimes flannel are touted as cloth for “non-suit guys who wear suits”. They age and drape well, providing texture and interest that you just don’t get from the typical silky smooth worsted wool you see on typical corporate wear.

I also apply this mindset to shirting. I don’t really believe that poplin/broadcloth can be casual; even if you don’t wear a tie, it just reminds me of a lawyer “off duty”. Oxford cloth is a heavier weight that drapes and breaks in after each wear/wash. I love it not only as the standard OCBD, but as the spearpoint which is my “formal collar” of choice. Of course, I also appreciate denim and chambray for that similar vibe, falling more on the casual side, which actually works in my favorite when I wear it with a tie since it’s unexpected for most. And I also don’t have to tell you about the superior drape of rayon gabardine, which is typically what sportshirts are made from. All of these are intentional choices not simply rooted in vintage style but because they are much less stuffy than traditional business wear (which tends to characterize most of what people assume about classic menswear).

The next component is use of silhouette. Now you guys already know that I prefer a wide fit trouser, but I must reinforce it here because it’s such a tenet of my approach to slouchy menswear. I really don’t think that overly skinny or fitted garments (when overdone) are as slouchy as a wide, roomy look. It just looks comfortable to wear and appears easy and louche. Shoulder treatment is also a factor, and I definitely like a soft, natural shoulder that is slightly extended. Obviously there are sliding scales here, as brands like Anglo-Italian definitely prefers a slimmer leg line and Husbands likes nearly a pagoda shoulder, but they’re still able to affect a slouchy vibe. I’m sure its equal parts the intentional silhouette and their overall attitude.

In general, the three-dimensionality to clothing, emphasized by a roomier fit, just has life to it; it doesn’t feel sterile, corporate, or try hard. This is probably why I gravitate toward wider lapels, since they simultaneously broaden your chest and emphasize shape and roll you get on a quality garment. A full-cut shirt has an “idgaf” nature to it and yet works with most silhouettes if its “snatched” by a high rise trouser and a thin belt.

Hell, even wearing a tie with the back blade peaking out and both ends tucked into the waistband is more slouchy to me than the typical open spread collar bizcaz look. This decorative stripe of cloth, hanging loosely from the neck without any utilize keeper is yet another place to add drape and slouch. This is often met with so much criticism and disdain from a lot of mainstream dressers. They gawk at how unkempt it looks and often say how they’re bewildered by how many well dressed men do it. After all, the idea is that you are not trying to look like a finance/lawyer. Classic menswear can be for fun and slouch is a great way to emphasize that point.

Lastly, I think that slouch can be emphasized by the extra touches you put into an outfit. As we talked about before, the use of headwear is an easy way to achieve that. A knit cap with a suit feels a lot better than perfectly styled hair. A beret is even better, since the excess fabric can be styled to slouch on your head in the way of your choosing. I especially love a well-worn fedora, though it can be a bit harder to pull off. I’d even put other style moves like patch pockets, jungle jackets + tailoring, fun pants, or white socks in this category as well. Hell, even opting for a cable knit over a smooth merino is an easy step anyone can take. Taking menswear off its pedestal with these subversive (and they’re barely subversive when compared to the wider world of men’s fashion) cues help add in the slouch.

Looking back, it seems that many of these slouchy affectations are done simply by ignoring the oft-repeated menswear guidelines you hear from Menswear Youtubers or the infographic obsessed redditors. I think that things like shirt stays or magnetic collar stays are inherently un-slouchy and are stuffy, since it aims to fight against what happens when you naturally wear your clothes normally. Outside of suspenders and the occasional sock garter, people in the past didn’t rely on those gadgets. In fact, some of the best pictures in my inspo albums are quite uncouth if you compare them to a typical GQ shoot or a typical influencer on your explore page.

However, lets not get slouchy and sloppy twisted. Obviously everyone can have a varying idea of what slouchy means to them, but to me, it doesn’t give you pass to be messy. For example, I don’t think that breaks on a trouser are slouchy, especially for tailored looks. To me, slouchy requires drape and clean lines; anything above a shivering break ruins that for me. A cuff, cleanly resting on top of the shoe, plays so well with a wide (or straight) legged trouser. It looks easy, yet carefully considered.

This is simply an extension of my POV, where tailoring is the basis for a lot of my decisions (if you haven’t noticed that already with Casual Ethan). Obviously I think certain breaks look pretty good and slouchy with certain outfits; you can already see that with a few outfits making the rounds on reddit. However, this is mainly due to the fact that a majority of trousers out there aren’t as wide as a I typically like mine. I’ve found that a nice wide opening hemmed to a shivering break will eventually break and catch on shoes by circumstance (walking, posture, etc). The drape on it lends itself to being sloppy in a charming way, which is essentially slouch. I don’t think that simply having excess length on a trouser, particularly one meant to be worn with a jacket and tie) is a good thing.

I don’t think that position is hypocritical, as I stated that these micro-decisions and considerations for silhouette are done before you walk out the door. In a sense, a pair of trousers are commissioned or altered to your specifications so that you are ready to wear them when they’re done. I guess this is all about “visible length”, as a I definitely like a roomy shirt, but if a sleeve is too long, it bothers me. The idea that details are thought out in advance and then worn breezily is a key component to how I define slouch. I guess you could basically call it “studied carelessness” or sprezzatura. I know you’re rolling your eyes right now.

Believe me when I say that I could be slouchy anywhere, even at a black tie event. Even though the entire point is to stick to the uniform, there are plenty of ways to make it your own. In those days, guys wore a variety of jacket styles to set them apart; today we get to add silhouette to the mix. A soft shouldered, wide fit DB tux would be my go-to, emphasized by a beret (optional) and cream socks. These moves with my trademarked messy hair and facial hair would no doubt add to the slouch. And if you amend this hypothetical to say that the host would throw me out if I didn’t adhere to the rules, then I would gladly leave. I don’t think I’d even be invited to such a stuffy place in the first place.

Even so, I think that slouch could apply to any other sub-style you get into. I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable doing full milsurp or workwear as some of my friends do often. Incorporating tailoring doesn’t make it more formal- to me, adding in a wide legged trouser with a jungle jacket or a softly tailored jacket with some rugged denims or chinos shows that I also don’t simply go full force into being casual. By mixing everything freely and wearing it with the same slouchy attitude, it all feels natural and not too try-hard (again, at least in my eyes). I think that the variety of outfits and styles you’ll see below will illustrate that, even if its all basically spades of classic menswear. And yes, even if you don’t take steps to actively “dress down” your look, you can still effect some slouch (as you’ll see in the images below).

Putting both the attitude and intentional tailoring together is really what gives me confidence to actually wear all the clothes you see out in real life, both bold and understated. Obviously with a few situations withstanding, I’m pretty okay with going to a boba hang out after work or chilling at a diner, all while wearing a made-to-measure suit (made of cotton). Even if my clothes seem fancy, I think that my overall demeanor with my hands fisting my pockets will show that I (at the very least) don’t carry myself like some fancy banker. And perhaps they’ll then see the small differences, like the wide fit, the fact that I’m wearing a beret, or the “subversive” use of white socks.

In the end, I think that slouchiness is completely antithesis to stuffiness, approaching something “formal” with a casual frame of mind. This doesn’t mean that you have to be dressed down completely, but applying that “at ease” POV to your tailoring. You also also can’t just look at this as a shortcut to slouch, as trying too hard to be slouchy can be stuffy. With that said, I personally think emphasizing that menswear can be slouchy is the best way to evangelize people into the look, as focusing too hard on the old school formality and its conservative/luxurious roots is becoming less and less relevant, at least in my own life. Thankfully, other people see it too and use it as a way to get more comfortable with tailoring (if they are indeed interested in wearing it).

And even if you’re not into tailoring, it really helps have a good slouchy attitude, since no matter what you wear, you’re probably going to stand out whether you’re in rugged ivy, milsurp. I’ve seen a few people get anxious about rocking it in public (or while hanging with non-fashion friends) and it can show. That’s why it’s important to remember to slouch. To be honest, a lot of streetwear looks can be too much for me, but thanks to their slouch, they seem to work fine! So even if you’re in a chore coat and selvedge jeans or WWII chinos and a workshirt, slouching it up will help you not only pull it off, but feel more comfortable. If you’re a new comer to this, don’t worry: the more you slouch, the more comfortable you’ll get wearing it. It’s a positive feedback loop that others will definitely notice. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to wear whatever you want and it’ll feel like a second skin. Completely natural.

And looking back, I definitely can see how tough this could be for guys in conservative dress environments. Slouch is certainly relative and not many people will get what you’re after- you can only hope that you’re doing your part. After all, the inspirations shown here are creative types (or at least work in the menswear industry) and aren’t people bound to a dress code. But perhaps this essay (and the blog) isn’t really for people who have to wear suits on the daily but more so for people who are creative and want to express it through classic menswear. It’s just unfortunate that classic menswear has these connotations, hence why I’ve been actively trying to break it out of it in my own way. I mean, I don’t really have the classic menswear lifestyle to begin with!

Being slouchy really has been the theme of the blog ever since I got deeper into menswear, especially as I gained the conviction to bring my little idiosyncrasies into a contemporary look. As a result, my outfits have become much less bold and a lot more natural, allowing me to slink into the background but still be noticed for being interesting. I think that’s what these all of these guys do well. Thanks to their style choices and their overall attitude, they definitely fade into the background despite being some of the best dressed people out there. It’s a little bit of a cognitive dissonance, but hey, that’s the beauty of being slouchy in classic menswear.

Just don’t be stuffy. No one wants to be like that.

Also I know that a majority of these inspiration pics are in tailoring, but that’s because I love wearing tailoring much more than being completely casual.

Podcast Outline

  • 0:15 – Intro
  • 4:45 – Stuffiness and Slouch
  • 6:45 – What is Stuffiness?
  • 7:00 – “As we touched on last episode, we didn’t want to be hardcore vintage guys. No starched collars, no morning dress, even shoulder pads and peak lapels seemed stuffy.”
  • 8:25 – “The common misconception about menswear is that it has to be stuffy, not just from a corporate POV but that it’s an inherently restrictive garment.”
  • 9:50 – “People who are concerned with looking ‘as correct as possible’ and ‘following the rules’ are often beginners or those obsessed with one particular look.”
  • 10:55 – “Creating fits is a creative process, and when people try to take the creativity out of it and make it scientific or a checklist, it’s just not as fun.”
  • 22:10 – “If you like suits that’s fine, we’ve worn suits and ties in inappropriate places and we will again. It’s different if you’re standing in a room with your hands at parade rest looking like a Laurence Fellows illustration, that’s when you start to look ridiculous.”
  • 25:35 – “A way to look less stuffy is just by using your pockets, which many people who wear tailoring don’t like to do. I’ve had many customers tell me they never use their jackets pockets. If you treat clothes like a very special garment, rather than a utilitarian piece that has 3 pockets on the inside and out, that’s when you look more stuffy.”
  • 28:50 – “These guys want their clothes to signal things, that they’re put together and confident. I understand to an extent but they always seem to take it to the extreme. But all we’re interested in signaling is that we’re regular guys.”
  • 36:10 – Slouchy
  • 36:40 – “It’s about being comfortable and a little irreverent in attitude, rather than the clothes themselves.”
  • 39:10 – “The way a jacket drapes from a soft shoulder, the trouser leg hanging straight down from a high waist, all with clean lines and no breaks, because breaks are sloppy rather than slouchy.” 
  • 43:20 – “The most important thing about looking comfortable in your clothes is to have a genuine worn-in look. Soft tailoring helps because it already looks broken in rather than structured. And having a utility in the clothing helps make them stand out.”
  • 45:30 – “You can be super dressed up and slouchy, the intentional ease adds a third dimension to the outfit. Just because you’re casual doesn’t mean you’re slouchy and just because you’re dressed up doesn’t make you stuffy.”
  • 47:15  – “An easy way to get the slouch look is to put something on and then forget about it the rest of the day. If a bird shits on you, worry about that. But don’t constantly adjust your waistband or check if your shirt sleeves are poking out of your jacket. If you can throw something on and go through your day, my friend you’ve achieved slouch.”
  • 48:30 – “I got a lot more slouchy when I grew out my hair and beard, not to discriminate but it can be harder to get the look with a college republican haircut and clean shave. Even adding berets and bucket hats…there are a lot of little things you can do to add layers to this look.”
  • 50:00 – “I mean we’re essentially talking about sprezzatura. The idea of doing your homework in advance but when you walk out the door you forget about it.”
  • 50:35 – “The difference comes from how you wear clothes rather than how you purchase clothes.”

Recommended Links

After discussing the topic in length in our patreon discord, we also did a full stream about it! You can hear a lot of different perspectives that are variations (or are slightly contrarian) to the points made in the podcast and the essay above. It’s a very good discussion that can provide a much more holistic version of slouch, especially if your life and context is different than the one I lead.

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Soft shoulders help make a slouchy garment, but it also helps to have messy hair and a beard.
Tailoring should be something you can relax in. Alex Pirounis of Anglo-Italian.
Wide fit is great for slouch.

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It’s all about having Chris’s slouchy attitude in tailoring.
Ethan Newton in a slouchy cabana shirt. The sport shirt lacks a collar band, so the points lay flat!
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Pocket fisting!
Slouchy shoulders and a tucked tie.
Classic tailoring can be slouchy!
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Cotton suiting on Raj.
This is the best picture of all time.
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Rugged outerwear (and white socks) helps make classic tailoring feel a lot more casual.
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Tailoring-adjacent looks also help!
Easy going, even in a bow tie.
Cotton moleskin on Matt Woodruff of J. Mueser.
Mixing again! A denim shirt with a pinstripe suit is a fun juxtaposition that looks easy to wear despite the roots of the suit. The thin belt also adds a louche allure.
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A lot of things at work here: wide fits, a bucket hat, and the mix of tailoring and milsurp.
Nothing beats a casual attitude!
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Fun pants take the stuffiness out of tailoring.
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Prep, but not as stuffy.

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Tied sweaters.

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A jaunty scarf is also a good move.
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Soft shoulders, flannel shirting, and faded selvedge denim.

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Again, a good demeanor helps even black tie look comfortable.
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Corduroy is a good fabric.
A literal slouch.

Arnold Wong, during his Armoury days.

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Pairing workwear and tailoring helps make it slouchy, or at the very least, irreverent.

Wide fits and clean lines have natural slouch.
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A wider leg and a shivering break will catch on the shoes during daily movement, effecting a “break” that is easier on the eyes. It’s not too sloppy or messy.

Tailoring with casual details like bellow pockets are a great way to make it more accessible and wearable more often.
The “loose” tie adds a third dimension to the outfit that I enjoy.

Somtimes the “misuse” of a tie is more slouchy than not wearing one.
Maximum slouch is only really done if it’s not tailoring.
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Full cut shirt.
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Casual alternative suiting on the left, a wider fit suit on the right. Both good.
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Raw hems. It’s inclusion with tailoring adds some slouch.
Wide hems catching on trousers.

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Chris is pocketfisting.
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A very ivy-prep outfit, yet not as stuffy as you think.
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A grey suit, but not stuffy. Slouchy in fact.
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I love the extended-yet-soft shoulders on this Ring Jacket houndstooth jacket.
Sloppy ties.
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Put a casual attitude…
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….with a tailored outfit.
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You should aim to be comfortable in your clothing, so you can wear it anywhere!
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Triple patterns, yet trying to make it look easy.
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Marco is able to pull off “wild” outfits with aplomb.
A stunning pairing of a pinstripe jacket and odd trousers. It looks so easy on Chad.
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Hector wears a beanie with his bespoke black tie rig.
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I prefer berets.
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Can’t beat corduroy for a slouchy tailoring fabric.

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Spencer has worn this to a bar and I think its perfectly fine.
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Bucket hat helps turn a look more interesting and less bizcaz.
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With Doug, an equally slouchy dresser.
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Untitled
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This jacket is almost completely unstructured.
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Messy tie!
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Don’t worry- you can have slouch even with padded shoulders! That just makes attitude much more important.

Thanks for listening and reading along! Don’t forget to support us on Patreon to get some extra content and access to our exclusive Discord. We also stream on Twitch and upload the highlights to Youtube.

The Podcast is produced by MJ and Matthew.

Always a pleasure,

Ethan M. Wong

Big thank you to our top tier Patrons (the SaDCast Fanatics):  Seth Peterson, Austin Malott, Eric Hall, Philip Gregard, Audrey Jessica, and Shane Curry.

20 comments

  1. David McQ · February 7

    You second home run in a row, Ethan. These are brilliant columns that outline a coherent and dare I say humane approach to style. Your evolution in expressing yourself in style and words is impressive.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Being Slouchy in Classic Menswear « Fashion
  3. JJ Katz · February 10

    Av interesting point and validly made, IMO. Perhaps I would have chosen another word, over “slouch” but the point is unmistakable: a little ease of demeanour goes a long way. Indeed, I think for a lot of younger guys (but not only), going the more vintage – second-hand route, with its economic and tear-and-wear implications makes it easier to avoid beign too precious about one’s clothes.

    Like

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  18. Alex Perez · 22 Days Ago

    Great article and site! Been reading through your essays and really vibe with your tone and approach. I’ve been on the periphery of the “menswear” scene for like 12 years now and haven’t ever gotten involved, but I just may start poking my head in some communities after hanging out on your site for a bit, cheers!

    Like

  19. Pingback: Merch x Menswear | a little bit of rest

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