So I know all my vegan girl friends are always finding truly special vegan fashion scores around Seattle – great shoes, cotton scarves, synthetic coats, vintage blouses, etc – but my guy friends rarely get any fashion attention or advice they deserve.
But here is the thing, and this is no lie, I can not overstate this enough: men look good in suits.
There is something kind of special about a very scruffy, casual guy who can scrub under his nails, don a two piece, and come off as the most debonair gent at the party. Dating a vegan bloke for the last 15 years has given me some experience in hunting down vegan dress ware for men, but there is always something new around the corner.
So gentleman, here are seven steps for transforming from Zach Galifianakis to Zach Galina-fabulous. (What? KC came up with that). My first piece of advice is not to wait until you have an invitation. Build your dapper outfit before you need it so you aren’t rushed and don’t settle for something ill fitting or shabby.
Step one: subscribe to The Discerning Brute. Joshua Katcher’s brilliant blog discusses “fashion, food, and etiquette for the ethically hansom man”. Seriously, this guy has good taste and lots of connections. You can also follow Joshua on twitter.
Step two: get at least one good suit. Finding a vegan suit in Seattle may be easier that you expect, depending on your budget.
The real trick, if you aren’t a tailor yourself, is to reserve enough of your hard earned dough for some tailoring. You all know that men are different shapes and sizes, and it is a rare moment that every part of a suit will fit you well, from the back, to the shoulders, to the sleeve length, to the rise, to the hem. This is going to be especially true if you go the 2nd hand or vintage route. Not only will you need to make sure it fits you well, but suit styles do change over you time. It won’t serve you well to be in large bell bottoms or baggy bright colored pants in 2010. You’ll want to have the shape modernized if you truly love the fabric and fit. Here are three suggestions:
- Redlight: Both Seattle locations always have a few vintage men’s suits. When you go this route, be prepared to take multiple trips before you find a suit that fits you well and is not made of wool. You probably won’t find one the first few visits. Likely vegan materials are going to be polyester from the 70s and cotton from the 80s. We found a sweet tan polyester suit and a great corduroy blazer.
- Macy’s: The only brand we found there that is not wool, luckily makes pretty decent suits: IZOD (photo below). They come in flat black, charcoal gray, black thin pinstripe, gray thick pinstripe, flat navy, and navy pinstripe, and light gray (more of a summer suit). Only the black pinstripe and the light gray come in the “slim fit” which is way hot if you can pull it off.
- Kuhlmans: I love Kuhlmans, or as my friend once called it “Cool Guy”, but it is a place to venture only if you are ready to invest in a suite that will last you 10-20 years. This is a store to have something custom made, just for your body. Most of the fabric they have in the store is wool, tho’ they do carry some linen, they will also order any fabric or you can bring your own. Also they have some vegan shirts (Fred Perry) and hats on the shelves and are having sale this month (January), 20-70% everything.
Step three: find a fitted shirt. This is the easiest thing to do because 95% of shirts are cotton or cotton-polyester blend. Just make sure to get one that is fitted and does not make a big blouse over your belt. Have at least one white or cream for really fancy times, but you can wear any very well fitting, not worn or tattered shirt under a suit and you will look good. Doesn’t have to be a traditional button down. I promise.
Step four: buy a few nice ties. This is where the fun begins. While you are Redlight, see if they have any vintage cotton ties on hand, but make sure they are in good shape (cotton ties can get washed and misshapen and end up at vintage stores even when they won’t help you look dapper). JC Penny’s carries a brand, Towncraft, and all of these ties are a polyester blend (photos below). Some ties made by Alfani at Macy’s are also a polyester blend, but you’ll have to read every label. Make sure you get at least one solid and one pattern. Not too wide or too shiny. And for you rich vegan gent: Modern Amusement makes one of the hottest cotton ties, but it is a little pricey at $70 and must be ordered online (and also, let’s be friends). J Crew also sells a cotton glen-plaid tie that is pricey, but very nice. I heard that Daiso at Westlake Center also has some inexpensive non-silk ties, but I can’t vouch for the style.
And you don’t have to stop at the vegan tie. If you can pull off a bolo and look handsome instead of clownish, do it for God’s sake!
Step five: score a dress belt. This used to be the most impossible thing to find outside of the interweb, but thankfully Sidecar in the U-district carries many vegan men’s belts, including styles meant for dress pants. If you want more variety, you will have to take your search online, I recommend Held Vegan Belts , Vegetarian Belts, Alternative Outfitters, or No Sweat Belts Whatever you do, don’t go without.
Step six: the shoe. Finding the best vegan shoes to wear with a suit can be a bit of a challenge in these parts. Seattle doesn’t have many stores the carry vegan mens dress shoes – especially any brands that aren’t made in China. Stylish, not corny, men’s dress shoes section is the one area that Seattle will fail you, but don’t fret! You don’t have to wear dress shoes, and when the occasion does call for it, just be prepared by buying some online ahead of time. Here are some suggestions:
- The tennis shoe: this fashion show stopper isn’t just for Jerry Seinfeld. You too can look hella dope (heh) and rock some tennis shoes with your suit. Just make sure they are very clean, in good shape, and don’t mock the occasion you are celebrating. MacBeth, Automie, Eco-Adidas, and Vans can be good choices. If you aren’t sure, ask your date. He or she will let you know.
- The boot: truly smokin’ for winter and fall, a brown steam-punk style, or Mod Squad boot will bring some vintage class to your outfit. This is one boot that you want to make sure is broken in and worn well, which is easy to do because it will look fine with your every day jeans, or what ever you wear. Get a pair and make them your default. Novacas makes some amazing vegan boots and you can get them at Moo Shoes and beyond. My favorite are the the Leo Boots.
- Traditional Dress: you can’t go wrong with black or brown and the style will need to fit your personal taste – the shapes change about every 3 years (with the times, as they say), so find something that you like and make good use of it. If you do find yourself in a bind, Payless ShoeSource always has at least one men’s dress style that isn’t leather – they are just rarely a recent design. Their Dexter or Statestreet brands will be your best bet.
OK, well that is the long of it. I hope all you vegan men out there find something handsome to wear, a very swank event to wear it to, and of course, an equally fine dressed date to accompany you. If not the latter, surely you will find someone at the soiree thanks to your good character and “ethically handsome” approach to fashion.