Raw Denim

Since becoming more actively interested in male fashion a few years ago, it seems like I’ve gone through product phases.  One of the first things I did was to replace all of my pants – most of which were slim, but bootcut, with slim straight or tapered fits.  From 2011 until March of this year, I really only wore one pair of jeans – my UB101s (which have faded nicely, by the way).  Then I replaced t-shirts, then button up dress shirts, then button-down shirts.

Of course I replaced shoes and have been adding onto that collection throughout most of the past few years, and this is probably the only area I haven’t really slowed down in.  But lately, I’ve been back into the raw denim thing.  I picked up a pair of Pure Blue Japan xx-005‘s in March, and I have been really taken by the detail and texture.

PBJ Patch

It’s a 14 oz denim (UB101’s are 14.5), which is mid-weight, and features PBJ’s famous slubby denim (this is responsible for the texture).  Unfortunately, PBJ doesn’t really have any skinny fits, but they do have some pretty slim straight and tapered fits, so I picked up the former for a bit of a change (UB101s are slim with a slight taper).

All of the research that went into the purchase of my PBJ’s has made me aware of other styles and kinds of denim that I was only vaguely familiar with before, and now I’m pretty interested in picking up a lightweight, 10 oz pair of Momotaro jeans for the summer.  I mostly wear shorts on weekends when it’s hot, but some days I don’t, and I wear jeans to work most of the time.  As with shoes, some people suggest a jean rotation, so I may do that.  I don’t think this is as necessary as it is with shoes since jeans don’t really need to dry out as much, but I can appreciate the idea of a rotation nonetheless.  My UB101s are still great for casual wear, but they’re a little too faded to wear to work anymore.

If anyone that reads this is interested in raw denim, I would love to talk to you about it if you have questions.

Customer Service: Uniqlo, D-

I was really excited when Uniqlo finally opened their online store and arrived fully in the 21st century with eCommerce.  I’m not a chronic shopper of theirs, but since they opened in October of 2012, I’ve placed four orders, two of which were around $60 and two of which were around $120.  I mention this only to drive home the fact that I’ve done about $350 worth of business with them, making purchases regularly every few months.

In these orders, I’ve gotten some pretty good stuff.  Their clothes aren’t of the highest quality, but their designs, fits, and sizes are exactly what I like.  It is very hard for me to find 1) clothes that fit 2) that aren’t ugly for 3) a reasonable price.  It’s usually a “pick 2 of the 3” situation.  For this, I am thankful.

However, I’ve also had a couple of negative experiences before my previous order.  The product descriptions and pictures on their site are very lacking.  I’m not sure how they’re taking pictures, but I’ve never received an item from them that matched the color on their site.  (Note that I have looked at their site on many displays, tablets, and phones.  Their colors are off; it is not my computer).  Luckily most of the time, it’s close enough that I don’t care.  But in one order, I really wanted this nice pastel yellow Henley.

Henley

The color was labeled merely as “yellow,” and it looked perfect in the picture.  Yet when I got the item in, the color was actually neon.  How annoying is that?  They could’ve at least labeled the color appropriately.  Does that look neon yellow to you?

In another order, I got two pair of “blue” color jeans.  Why do I put “blue” in quotes?  Hopefully this will explain it:

Uniqlo colors

 

 

How can both of those be called blue?  Hovering over the color palette clearly showed both of these as being “blue.”  Well, I decided to test it out because those particular jeans were on sale for $9.90.  Can’t really hurt at that price.  The first pair is much greener in person than they look on the site.  They’re a dark turquoise or teal – certainly not blue.  The second pair is essentially gray.  It’s not gray, but to anyone walking by, they’re gray.  If you look really closely under the right light, you can see how they’re a very light – almost white – shade of blue.  But to call them blue is simply deceptive.  I’d have accepted “washed out blue” or “stormy sky blue” or a plethora of other bullshit color names that are more accurate, but “blue” alone is not one of them.

 

But I didn’t make a big deal about these color issues.  Uniqlo’s return policy is kind of crappy ($7 return shipping fee, or choose your own parcel service and pay the fee yourself), even though exchanges are supposedly free (I’ve yet to make an exchange).  I didn’t bother with trying to exchange any of those items because I knew I was gambling on the pants in the first place, and the Henley was on sale and at the time, I didn’t feel like dealing with it and decided to wear it to sleep in, since who the hell wants a neon yellow Henley?

But my last order with Uniqlo was for another pair of slim color jeans in their “wine” color.  I knew exactly what to expect in this order, because I already have straight fit color jeans, and I already have some of their wine chinos.  There was certainly no way they could surprise me on this order.  The color jeans are sort of lightweight, but they look enough like denim and feel enough like to denim.  Their wine color looks more purple online, and more red in real life.  But this is fine, that’s what I wanted, and also what I was expecting.

So what did I get?  Chinos with casual pockets and a casual fly.  I couldn’t believe it.  The material is literally identical to the many pairs of Uniqlo chinos I have.  There’s nothing rugged about them.  They’re not even close to looking like denim.  In fact, if my chinos hadn’t been washed a few times, I guarantee you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between them in this side by side picture of the fabric:

Uniqlo "jeans"

I was immediately annoyed at the misrepresentation of these pants on their site, because – yet again – I’ve wasted money on a product from Uniqlo that their site poorly describes and poorly pictures.  There was not enough detail on the product page to be able to tell in either the description or the picture that these are not really jeans.

This time, I emailed Uniqlo for a refund, and I skipped past the bullcrap.  I told them straight up that this product is not advertised properly on their site and asked for my money back and the return shipping fee to be waived.  I emailed with three different reps, two of which talked to their supervisors, and I was denied getting the return shipping fee waived each time.  The responses grew more and more annoying.  The reps constantly apologized for the inconvenience, repeated themselves, and sounded more and more robotic.  I offered up the picture above comparing their chinos to the “jeans,” and still got robotic answers.  The entire dialogue from their customer service department sounded very insincere, as if they were told “be disgustingly nice, but don’t ever try to make a situation right.”

Knowing that phone calls usually get more done, I called them.  I shouldn’t have been surprised; really, I shouldn’t have been, but I got the same exact bullshit on the phone.  I asked to speak to a supervisor, and holy shit, he was even worse.  This is a situation that had a clear resolution: waive the return shipping fee, give me my money back, and in the long term, improve your website so that customers know what they’re buying.

rarely, if ever, go off on people over the phone, especially not over $7.  I’ve worked at help desks, I’ve done and do customer service, I know exactly what it feels like so I try not to give customer service people a hard time.  But holy shit.  This supervisor was the biggest robot of them all.  He argued with me that the pants are actually jeans.  He passive-aggressively “apologized” that the pants didn’t live up to my expectations (excuse me for ordering jeans and expecting to receive – I dunno – a pair of jeans?).  Is it really that hard to say, “We’re sorry about the misunderstanding.  We’ll waive the return fee to make this right.”?  I was nice-neutral in tone throughout the entire conservation, though I grew slowly agitated until the end, when I threw his crappy passive-aggressive tone back at him and said, “Thanks for the poor customer service,” and hung up.

Let me put this situation into perspective.  You walk into a restaurant and look at the menu.  You want a steak, so you turn to the steaks section.  “Sirloin steak, 100% beef.”  Perfect, that’s what you want.  There’s a small picture there, and you think “perfect!”  So you order the sirloin steak.  In this restaurant, you pay for your food before you get it, so you pay.  The waiter comes out 10 minutes later with a hamburger patty.  You look confused and say, “this isn’t what I ordered.  I ordered the sirloin steak.”  The waiter says, “Sir, this is a sirloin steak.  It’s just been ground up.  This is 100% ground sirloin.”  You point at the picture on the menu and say, “The picture looks like a steak,” and the waiter apologizes very insincerely, points to the low-resolution, undetailed picture and says, “That’s ground sirloin formed into the shape of a steak.”  You get annoyed and ask that you be brought a real, unground sirloin steak.  The waiter says they don’t have any of those, but he’d be happy to exchange your current sirloin burger patty for another one.  You say no, and demand a refund.  The waiter says, “Sorry sir, it costs $7 to send food back to the kitchen.  This policy is clearly labeled on the menu.”

This is a very long-winded post about a very annoying customer service situation that should’ve never happened.  Uniqlo’s customer service is extremely poor, and whereas a good company would try to make such a situation right for a tried and true customer, they decided to give me the middle finger, but with a nice little smiley face drawn on it.  I won’t refuse to buy products from Uniqlo in the future, but I will only buy them if I can see the actual product first.  Otherwise, I don’t want to be lied to and then stuck with the return shipping bill.

I filed a dispute with my credit card company over this on the grounds of a “misrepresented product or service.”  I doubt I’ll win the dispute, but at this point, I’m more annoyed with their shitty service than I am with the product I got or the small financial impact.

Shoes

I think a good “useless superpower” for me would be the ability to zap someone’s shoes with my finger and replace them with something that isn’t offensively ugly. Those hybrid sneaker/dress shoes by all of these mall brands are seriously awful, and I’m not sure how they gained popularity, but their lack of simplicity is absolutely horrid.

You don’t really have to eschew all sartorial sensibility to dress comfortably or cheap. Sure, a good pair of leather dress shoes aren’t cheap, but Vans authentics are $45. Converse Jack Purcells are $60. You can even get a pair of PF Flyers on 6pm.com for like $20 if you wait for one of their sales, which happen like once or twice a week.

Admittedly, on the cheaper side of dress shoes, quality options are limited, but for the price of your Steve Madden sneaker/dress shoe hybrid or those fake leather “dress shoes” with the ugly two inch thick rubber sole, you can get an infinitely better-looking dress shoe.

I don’t think people realize how negatively a pair of shoes can impact an entire outfit.

Why are nerds so bad at dressing well?

Note:  I am a huge nerd, for any random person reading this.

My last post got me thinking about this: why are (most) nerds so bad at dressing well?  Is clothing just something that isn’t important to them?  Is there something more to it?

Upon coming to understand fashion by reading advice that was mostly from nerds for nerds, I quickly realized a lot about the nerd mindset.  I think a lot of nerds don’t like being told to conform.  They’re always the ones that thrived on being different.  So when a random neckbeard stumbles into r/malefashionadvice and they find out they can’t wear graphic tees, they turn around and walk right back out.

The thing about fashion is that there are rules and guidelines, and they exist for a reason.  If you want to dress well, you can’t get butthurt over not being able to wear your Think Geek shirts anymore.  Fashion advice is simply that – fashion advice.  If you want to dress well, then don’t seek out excuses to continue wearing your bad clothing; seek out ways to express yourself through clothing that isn’t offensive to anyone with a sense of fashion.

I think nerds also over-express their preferences for utility.  Cargo shorts/pants are terrible, but they have a lot of pockets, and I guess that’s why they’re a staple of nerd culture.  I don’t know why this is the case, as one could just as easily wear a messenger bag and much less offensive clothing.

When I started slightly caring about this kind of stuff in 2006, I also remember the feeling of being somewhat uncomfortable in what I was wearing.  Like I was out of my element.  And that was still when I wore terrible bootleg jeans and random surf/skate tees.  That quickly changed though, and looking back on what I’d previously worn, I couldn’t believe it.  When I see pictures of those baggy jeans and those shoes with the giant toebox I just want to go back in time and shake some sense into myself.  Big things are not flattering on any body type, especially not skinny ones.

The switchover from that style to my current style about this time last year was a lot easier.  The stuff I wear right now feels very right, and it felt like that from the beginning.  It’s all about learning to get out of your comfort zone and rock the shit out of your clothes, even if you have 0% confidence in your body.

This is one I don’t understand since nerds are typically not athletic – stop wearing athletic shoes to do non-athletic things!  Basketball shoes are for playing basketball!  Running shoes are for running!  They look terrible.  It would be fine if they didn’t, but they do.  They have a place and a purpose, and it is not for going to the mall or to work or to class.  Shoes are one of the most important parts of an outfit, so wear decent ones, and don’t cover them with baggy jeans.

Also, stop wearing fedoras.  I don’t know what it is with nerds and fedoras, but every nerd seems to think they can throw on a fedora and be instant classy.  This just isn’t the case.  There are only certain people that can pull off certain hats with certain clothes.  When you put on a fedora with your graphic tee and your dad-jeans, you are just accentuating the fact that you have absolutely no idea how to clothe yourself.

A PSA about Leather

Here are some fun facts about leather:

  • If you want your leather item to last you for literally your entire life, buy full grain leather.
  • Of the grades of leather, the most common are bonded leather (which is garbage – just bits and pieces of scraps glued together to resemble leather) and genuine leather because they’re the cheapest.  From worst to best, the grades are bonded leather, genuine leather, top grain leather, and full grain leather.  These sometimes go by different names, but these are the most commonly used that I’ve seen.
  • Genuine leather is a grade of leather.  When you see the label “Genuine Leather” stamped on something, that does not mean it is real leather, as opposed to vinyl or some other faux leather – it means the grade of leather that item is made out of is genuine leather.
I have gone on this tirade about leather to educate anyone reading this, as the people over at Belts.com gave me hell over this belt, of which I ordered both a black and a brown one.  The belt is clearly labeled as full grain leather, yet when they came in, they were just as clearly stamped “Genuine Leather” on the back.

I called to report this error, and they argued with me that I was wrong, telling me that full grain leather just indicates the grain pattern and that the belts are really full grain leather.  I explained to the guy exactly what I explained above, and he argued that I was wrong, but that I was welcome to send the belts back and have their returns department inspect them and they would reimburse me for shipping if they found an error.

So, I sent them back, hoping that whoever inspected the belts would actually know a thing or two about leather.  Today, I finally got a call from them, arguing the same false, misleading crap about the genuine leather stamp just meaning it’s real leather, not that it’s a grade of leather.  Eventually, I got the guy to talk to his manager, and they refunded me everything, including all of my shipping, but he was adamant the entire time that I was wrong, even after I told him to visit Saddleback Leather’s website, the Wikipedia page for leather, and to just generally research the topic.  If you Google “genuine leather,” the second result is a page that clearly states:

“The fact is the genuine leather label is purposely ambiguous, and meant to mislead the consumer. The label actually tells the consumer what it is not, and should actually send off a buyer beware signal. It is most certainly not full-grain, top-grain or belting leather.”

You’d think a website that sells belts would know this.

So yeah, for anyone that wants a belt, wallet, bag, etc that will last you for your entire life, make sure you buy full grain leather from a reputable dealer, and check to make sure you get what you paid for.