Plaid: it’s as old as the hills. But today’s best applications of ages-old tartan patterns take that traditional country club madras and your grandfather’s Sansabelts and throw a handful of future at them. Urban bravehearts hoping to steer clear of geezerville should aim for flat fronts and slim, even slightly cropped legs. And it goes without saying (but we will just in case): pair solid tops with checks, please.
While we’re still teetering in the fog between fall and winter, a sturdy sportcoat can do double-duty as your 9-to-5 workhorse, as well as your top layer to and from the office—just flip the collar up and throw on a scarf and/or knit cap when you leave the building. Here are a few editor’s picks that will see you through ’til parka season:
1. Thrill of the Hunt. Peak lapels and a coat-like, full-button front set this sportcoat apart from the pack, while a timeless windowpane plaid grounds it firmly in menswear tradition. Shop:Rag & Bone ‘St. Regis’ Sportcoat
2. Mid-Century Modern. If you read your GQs, you’re well-acquainted with the rise of “geezer style.” Here’s a nubby plaid your dad’s dad might have worn—in a trim fit that’s ready for 2014. Shop:Vince Wool-Blend Blazer
3. Mixed Media. A literal remix of tailoring traditions, this patchwork of pinstripes and plaids is more than the sum of its parts. Wearing it is easy—just pair with simple solids. Shop: Junya Watanabe Patchwork Blazer
Style Profiles. In honor of our twice-a-year Men’s Shop Catalog dropping this month, we decided to profile 6 real men of style and substance. Here, cool-under-pressure chef Shaun McCrain.
Every man should know his way around the kitchen: how to take over the tongs at a friend’s barbecue, pull off your grandma’s family-secret marinara, whip up a chivalrous morning-after omelette…you know—the basics.
Professional chefs like Shaun McCrain, on the other hand, can turn the simple act of eating food into a mind-altering experience. Visit McCrain’s Seattle restaurant, Book Bindery, and although the humble maestro insists his MO is simplicity, the five-way flavor combinations in his modern twists on comfort food are enough to induce a quadruple take—and general feelings of astonished well-being.
We spoke to chef McCrain about paying dues in Paris and New York, design principles as applied to plating, and real-life kitchen tips that every man can use.
FARM TO TABLE. “I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. We lived on a small farm, raised our own meat, had a lot of vegetables. I was always around food without realizing it. My dad doesn’t cook. He was like, ‘I’ll just let Shaun do it, and if he messes up, we have more we can go pick.'”
TRIAL & ERROR. “Book smarts help you understand what you’re doing. Street smarts get your hands and body moving in the right direction. It’s hard to be able to physically do what you’ve read. You’ve gotta burn some things before you figure out how to cook them right.”
AMERICAN IN PARIS. “I sent my résumé to what I thought were the top 20 restaurants in Paris and got four responses. Three of them being, ‘Sorry, we don’t have room,’ and one being, ‘Sure, show up, work for free.’ That was my foot in the door.”
LIVE AND LEARN. “I left Seattle thinking I knew everything. I was 19 or 20 years old. I went to a bigger city, a nicer restaurant, and realized how much I didn’t know. It was very humbling…but I decided that if I really want to progress and learn, that I need to constantly be humbled—so I can learn from the best.”
FIRST IMPRESSIONS. “Plating and presentation are important, because they’re the first thing a person sees. I like to do bright colors, clean lines, something that’s very appealing to the eye. And then, when you do take that first bite—it should taste even better than it looks.”
CONTRAST AND COMPLEMENT. “I think items should complement each other. It’s a lot about textures, so if you have one thing that’s soft, then I want something else that’s gonna bring some crunch…a little burst of pickled onion, or a crispy crouton.”
WHY I LOVE MY JOB. “The craziness of it. Every day is different. You don’t know if the truck carrying your lamb up from Oregon broke down, and you’re scrambling to find a replacement, or your dishwasher breaks, or you have a high-profile guest coming in who you know likes to eat certain things. So it sparks that fuel, that drive of always keeping busy, always trying to stay on top. It’s easy to fall behind in the kitchen unless you have that ‘stay on top of it’ kind of attitude.”
THE BEST THING I EVER ATE. “It was at a Japanese restaurant in New York, called Masa. Simple sushi rice, rolled in shaved Italian white truffle, with just a pinch of fresh-grated yuzu and a little salt. Just simplicity at its best, but the ingredients were prepared perfectly.”
MY MORNING ROUTINE. “A cup of coffee…and maybe a Pop-Tart. Strawberry. Frosted. I spend all day walking around tasting things; it kind of curbs your appetite. [The staff and I] don’t sit down and eat a family meal until about 4:00. So in the morning, I just need to put something in me, whether it’s sugar or coffee or whatnot.”
WHAT TO PACK FOR LUNCH. “When I think of lunch, I always think of sandwiches. They don’t need to be boring. Go to the store, and buy some great charcuterie and good bread. Most of the time, those items are sold in portions that are more than one sandwich worth, so you’ll have enough for a couple days—or a very large sandwich.”
THE SECRET TO A GOOD SANDWICH. “The bread. The crust…whether it’s more of a rustic style with pieces of grain, or if it’s just a nice, crisp baguette that kind of snaps in your mouth when you eat it.”
HOW TO IMPRESS A DINNER DATE. “First, find out what they like. Nowadays, there are so many dietary restrictions, food allergies. Subtly figure out. Ask questions. Have an idea, rather than going in like, ‘Hey, I like steak, so I’m gonna cook steak’—and then finding out she’s pescatarian. That’s a date that’s not gonna end well.”
AND IF YOU BLOW IT… “Part of learning and growing with someone is making those mistakes. It could be the best meal they’ve ever had, or it could be terrible—but the whole experience of going through the process of doing something for someone is what it should be about.”
— — —
Next time you’re in Seattle, be sure to sample Shaun’s work at Book Bindery.
(We recommend the steak. And the duck.
And definitely the Stumptown-coffee semifreddo.)
Here at Nordstrom, we may prefer to celebrate one holiday at a time—but when it is time to celebrate, we go all out. So, with Thanksgiving officially behind us, we popped over to our flagship store in Downtown Seattle to see how they decked the halls (or aisles, as it were). A couple indications that it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas:
Walls full of festive sketches by our perennial favorite illustrator, Ruben Toledo.
Trees all aglow.
Ornaments the size of a small child (or large elf).
Mannequins prepping for a black-tie holiday soirée.
An interactive snowflake-catching experience.
Santa posted up in the corner window display, awaiting your kid’s wish list. (Or yours.)
Despite the festive decorations, we couldn’t help getting distracted by all the sumptuous winter wares festooning the mannequins in the Men’s Shop. Here’s the best of what we saw at the store—and links to help you get these looks online.
Our new lineup of GQ Selects goes live today. First up, a festive blazer gets new legs outside the holiday party circuit. In fact, as GQ Creative Director Jim Moore suggests below, you can even throw it on over your most casual staples, for a day spent shopping for gifts or an eggnog-soaked night on the town.
Gant Rugger Tartan Plaid Blazer. “As Frank Ocean proves in our December issue, a sportcoat is essential to every guy’s wardrobe, young or old. This one from Gant Rugger reimagines the stodgy tartan plaid with a tailored blazer that looks stellar over a hoodie (as shown on Ocean), or just about any combo in your closet that isn’t a shirt and tie.” —Jim Moore, GQ Creative Director (shop this item)
(shop the trends: proud plaid | red)
Band of Outsiders Slim-Fit Classic Chinos. “Scott Sternberg’s genius is to take familiar items of American sportswear and reissue them in fresh ways. These chinos nod to the garment’s military and prep ancestry while offering a distinctly modern cut.” —Jim Moore, GQ Creative Director (shop this item)
The true beauty of a plaid shirt: It looks as good on the weekend as it does with a tie Monday morning. Here are some insights from Jim Moore at GQ on one of our favorite American designer’s impeccable shirt—plus our own suggestions to dress it up for the office:
Todd Snyder Plaid Sport Shirt. “Plaid shirts have been everywhere for the past few years, but there is a new batch out there amping up traditional patterns in a fresh way. Todd Snyder’s classic button-down offers a basic plaid, but renders it in an eye-catching white and navy with sky-blue and red accents. It’s a seven-day-a-week shirt that would pop under a charcoal gray suit, or with a pair of cords and a cardigan to watch the big game.” —Jim Moore, GQ Creative Director (shop this item)