Fashionistos to Men: 'Tuck it In'

Spring is just around the corner, and that means a new line of fashion in stores. Michael Macko, men's fashion director for Saks Fifth Avenue is joined by Adam Rapoport, style editor for GQ Magazine, to discuss the latest men's styles, including what not to wear.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. With spring around the corner, we want to know what's hot in spring fashion, the next big thing. And just to mix it up a little, we'd like to start with the guys, because ladies, you know, we always hog the fashion spotlight.

So we'll go to the gentlemen first and talk about the ladies next week. To help us get our spring fashion sense blooming, we're joined by fashion experts Michael Macko, the men's fashion director for Saks Fifth Avenue, and Adam Rapoport, style editor for GQ Magazine. Thank you both for joining us.

Mr. MICHAEL MACKO (Men's Fashion Director, Saks Fifth Avenue): Thank you, Michel. Thanks for having us.

Mr. ADAM RAPOPORT (Style Editor, GQ Magazine): Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: So guys, you're feeling a little crusty. The winter's dragging on. You're ready for a change. Michael, is there one key item you're really going to want to have this spring to jumpstart your wardrobe?

Mr. MACKO: There's a few things you're going to want to have. At Saks Fifth Avenue, we have a thing called Wanted, where it's - we've selected the five items that guys are going to want to have. You're going to want a light-grey suit. You're going to want a shirt with a contrast collar and cuffs. You are going to want to have…

MARTIN: Hold on, I'm writing this down.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RAPOPORT: By that, he means like a light-blue shirt with like the white collar.

Mr. MACKO: Or even - there's stripes with - you know, we've seen pink collars and blue collars, or Dolce & Gabbana, black collars and white shirts.

Mr. RAPOPORT: I stand corrected.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MACKO: There's a few items. But we're seeing guys get dressed up again. You know, definitely the suit, you know, the suit's important for, you know, for spring. And there's others. Like guys always need, you know, shorts.

MARTIN: Well, let's take it one by one. So Adam, why don't you jump in?

Mr. RAPOPORT: Okay.

MARTIN: Why light grey?

Mr. RAPOPORT: Why light grey?

MARTIN: Yeah.

Mr. RAPOPORT: I think you can - I think part of it is, perhaps, you know, kind of, that "Mad Men" effect, if you will, Michael. If you look at that kind of early-'60s, James Bond, "Dr. No" light-grey suit, white shirt, black tie, you're never going to look better. Any guy, you wear that, you walk in a room, you'll be the best-dressed guy in the room.

Mr. MACKO: Absolutely, absolutely. You know, guys want fashion with a lowercase F. You know, guys don't want a capital. Guys don't want to be Fashion.

Mr. RAPOPORT: Yeah, I think a lot of guys, Michael, are - if I may, Michael -are more interested in style than necessarily fashion. I mean, there's those guys out there who do follow the trends of the runway and what's hot and whatnot, but I think most guys just want to look good.

Mr. MACKO: Yeah.

Mr. RAPOPORT: And I think in the summertime and spring, I think one thing you're not going to see are socks, which Michael actually is not even wearing right now, and it's about 49 degrees out here in New York.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MACKO: I'm pushing the season.

MARTIN: He's already there.

Mr. RAPOPORT: Yeah, he's already there, but I think you've been seeing that on the runways, and now you see it a lot everywhere. The guys, whether they're wearing jeans kind of rolled up a little bit with kind of dress shoes but no socks, or shorts with maybe even like…

MARTIN: Well, let's stay down there with the feet, since Michael's down there with no socks. What are on those feet? Are there any particular shoes we're going to want to look for this spring?

Mr. RAPOPORT: He's got some fancy shoes on.

Mr. MACKO: I have some fancy crocodile shoes on today. I got dressed up for radio.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RAPOPORT: I had to tell him there are no cameras here. So it's not (unintelligible).

MARTIN: What about - are there any particular styles, like heavy-sole boat shoe, anything in particular that's going to be spicy?

Mr. RAPOPORT: I think you see a couple different looks. This suit maker, Thom Browne in New York, has been very influential, wearing very kind of slim suits with short pant legs. And he'll wear like, you know, wingtips but no socks. You'll see guys wearing, you know, just loafers, or you mentioned boat shoes, which are very back in style.

Mr. MACKO: Definitely back. The Sperry Topsider is absolutely back.

Mr. RAPOPORT: And all of these kind of fashionable labels are making versions of the Sperry Topsider. So you wear kind of your slim-cut jeans or khakis rolled up with no sock. You basically want to show a little ankle, and for whatever reason, that's just kind of a cool look that probably, you know, the Italian guys have been doing for a while.

Mr. MACKO: Yeah.

Mr. RAPOPORT: Because Italian guys always look good, and they always beat us to the punch.

Mr. MACKO: But if you're going to show your ankle…

MARTIN: Well, speaking - oh, go ahead.

Mr. MACKO: There's one thing. If you're going to show your ankles, your ankles should be tan. They need to be tan, and I happen to have been in Florida last week, so I do have tan ankles.

MARTIN: Yeah, that's not a problem for some of us. Some of us have the permanent tan.

Mr. MACKO: One other tip, Michel…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RAPOPORT: Yeah, if you're a pasty white guy like Michael, you need the -yeah, you need a tan.

Mr. MACKO: On those ankles.

Mr. RAPOPORT: But you can wear those little - what do you want to call them, like little loafer socks or Peds…

Mr. MACKO: Oh, the Peds, yeah.

Mr. RAPOPORT: Which are those kind of like little socks that kind of hide below the ankle, you know what I mean, Michel?

MARTIN: I know what you mean. I'm just trying to figure out how many men in my life know about Peds.

Mr. RAPOPORT: Exactly. The ladies know.

MARTIN: What men do I know are going to wear Peds?

Mr. MACKO: But, yeah, your feet do perspire a lot, and it's really bad for your shoes.

MARTIN: Okay, moving up from the feet, I heard you say Italy and Europe. Anything interesting going on with trousers? I hear that, you know, Americans still kind of like the flat front, is that right? Or what about pleats? Anything going on?

Mr. MACKO: It's actually the opposite. You know, there's this constant battle between flat-front versus pleats. And, you know, one of the most common misconceptions most guys do make is that they equate more fabric equals more comfort, which is, you know, actually not true. You can actually be very comfortable in flat-front pants, and they are absolutely more flattering on almost all men.

Mr. RAPOPORT: This is Adam, and I had a friend, a Wall Street guy, who for years resisted buying flat-front pants, and his wife finally got him to buy a suit with flat-front pants a few weeks ago. And he said, dude, I've got to be honest. I look 10 pounds lighter. And it's not that the pants are tighter, they're just flatter. We're not saying you should go buy pants that are tight on you. Buy the correct size, but you don't need those balloon-y pleats out front.

Mr. MACKO: Yeah, nobody needs extra fabric around the waist. No one.

MARTIN: Well, yes, this is something that we ladies do know. Yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Having reclaimed my waist from pregnancy, I am not eager to cover it up again.

Mr. MACKO: Congratulations.

MARTIN: Thank you.

Mr. RAPOPORT: Yeah, every guy should try wearing flat-front pants. It will take 10 pounds off.

MARTIN: Okay. Talk to me again about color. I know we said we'd talk about the ladies next week, but I know that with women, they're pushing out a lot of bright colors, like the bright green, the bright yellow. What about for the guys? If you're going to go out and get a couple of nice polos, any particular colors you think or interesting, or do men just not buy that way?

Mr. MACKO: No, you know, color you can have fun with. You know, guys don't respond in the same way that women do to, you know, to color. I mean, you know, guys love - you know, there's a reason guys love navy and grey and black, you know, but - yeah. And a polo shirt is a perfect example, or a tie, where you can - you know, if you're going to invest in color, you don't want to invest too heavily.

You know, you don't want to buy a yellow suit, but you can buy a yellow polo shirt or a yellow tie or, you know, a yellow dress shirt. I think color should be used sparingly in men's wardrobes.

Mr. RAPOPORT: And I think you can balance that color. Like if - you know, if you look at a typical gingham shirt, you know, the little checked shirts that kind of look like picnic tablecloths that are very summery, you can buy one in kind of lime green or pink, and if you wear that with, like, a navy blazer or a grey suit, it kind of balances out the color.

It's not so full-on. And I think guys - you know, if you're going to have one colorful piece in your wardrobe, balance it with a very kind of solid grey, navy, black sort of piece. And I think that's an easy way to approach color, and I also think pattern, whether it's gingham, or in the summertime you see guys wearing madras shorts, which are those very kind of - how do you describe madras?

Mr. MACKO: You know, classic plaid, you know…

Mr. RAPOPORT: Patched together, very Kennedy, you know Hyannis Port, sort of.

Mr. MACKO: (unintelligible) Ralph Lauren.

Mr. RAPOPORT: Yeah, and you see a lot of that in the summertime that you don't see so much in the wintertime.

And I think Michel, if I may, I think one big thing which we've been seeing a lot of the last year, which Michael himself dresses very well in, is this very kind of classic American look, where you're seeing the boat shoes and you're seeing the Oxford-cloth shirt and you're seeing kind of khakis, but they're done kind of slimmer, a little bit cooler, a little bit younger, more fashion-y than stodgy, if you will.

Mr. MACKO: It's actually like so classic that it's cool again, and it all depends on who, you know, who the designers are and the cut. You know, and the cut is so important, too, and tailoring. That's another, just, you know, hint for guys. You know, whatever you buy, you should definitely have a tailor that you work with to make sure that everything fits you appropriately.

MARTIN: What about denim? Is there anything interesting going on in denim? That's been such a big deal for - again, I hate to be so sexist, but with women the last couple years, denim, denim, denim.

Mr. MACKO: As Adam pointed out before, yeah, there's - you know, it's the shorter denim, and you know, 7 For All Mankind is, you know, one of the leading denim companies, has made a jean called the Crop and Roll. And what it is, it's just a shorter inseam, and they created it because most denim comes with like a 34, 36-inch inseam, which is great if you have that, but a lot of guys don't have that long inseam and have to get their jeans shortened or tailored.

So they've created this - it's called The Flood. It's a 32-inch inseam, and then you roll that up, and it's the Crop and Roll, and you show a little bit of that ankle that we're talking about before, and that looks very cool and modern, especially with boat shoes or, you know, classic wingtip heavy loafer.

MARTIN: Okay.

Mr. RAPOPORT: Yeah, and I think with jeans, it's - the big thing with jeans also is, you know, to age or not to age. And I think a lot of the jeans you've seen in the last year or two were that very kind of dark, unwashed, stiff denim. That was a very different look than what we saw in the '80s and '90s, where everything was machine-faded and washed and distressed and buffed.

Mr. MACKO: Yeah.

Mr. RAPOPORT: And it's about kind of aging it yourself and buying the new pair, and the creases kind of fit the creases in your legs, and over the course of a year or two, you get the nice little holes and creases and worn patches, and it's like your own custom pair of jeans instead of someone customizing them for you.

MARTIN: Okay, so I'm a little confused there. Are you saying that people should go for what looks freshest to you this season, is the darker wash, and you start out with a darker wash, and you just kind of let it do its thing?

Mr. RAPOPORT: Yes, it depends. I mean, that's personally what I like, and it's a lot out there, and you make it your pair of jeans that belongs to you and no one else but you.

Mr. MACKO: And I think, Michel, Adam's point - you know, every guy should have those. And you should have several pairs of jeans, you know, that are going through those different cycles. So you should have that old, great, comfortable pair that you wear maybe on the weekends just to lounge around with her when you come home from work. They're the ones you put on.

You should have - if you're going to wear jeans out on a date, or if you have casual Friday, if your workplace allows that, the denim should definitely be dark and clean, not holes and not frayed bottoms, and, you know, that just -that should be left for Saturday.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RAPOPORT: One other thing, Michel, don't forget about white jeans, which are a great summer look.

Mr. MACKO: White jeans, especially at the beach with your boat shoes, or you can dress it up with like a sports coat or a cotton, navy blazer.

Mr. RAPOPORT: Navy blazer. Every guy looks so chic in white jeans and a navy blazer. Every guy. You can't go wrong.

Mr. MACKO: Simple, straight legs. Don't go for those boot - no more boot cuts, Michel. Get rid of your boot cuts. Simple, straight-leg white jeans, and you know, you wear that with something as simple as a navy polo shirt, you can't go wrong.

MARTIN: I think that hearts are - I think there are some hearts pounding all over, you know, the country now hearing this, get rid of those boot-cut jeans, because I think a lot of guys think they look pretty hot in those.

Mr. MACKO: Again - because they think there's more fabric, that equals more comfortable. It doesn't. It doesn't.

Mr. RAPOPORT: Yeah, we've been banging that drum for a while now. If you have Dane Cook's phone number, give him a call right now and let him know he needs to lose the boot-cuts, all right?

MARTIN: Okay. If you're just joining us, we're talking about men's fashion for spring with Michael Macko from Saks Fifth Avenue and Adam Rapoport from GQ Magazine.

I have to ask about the cost of jeans. Is there really a big difference between the $60 jean, the $200 jean, the - heaven-forbid - $600 jean.

Mr. MACKO: This is Michael. There's two things that drive the cost of - makes denim expensive. And we at Saks Fifth Avenue, we sell a lot of expensive denim. It's the fabric. It's if you have a Japanese fabric or an Italian fabric, that's what costs. And then as Adam pointed out before, there's a lot of machine - hand and machine work that goes into distressing and making actually something that's new look old, that you've had it for a long time. And the older and more distressed it is, the more expensive it gets.

Mr. RAPOPORT: The ones - because you buy good distressed and bad distressed, and the jeans, the companies that do it really well, it actually looks like it's a pair of jeans that's been around for 20 years, whether it's Ralph Lauren or whoever.

And then there are those kind of cheaper companies that have those kind of spider lines on the legs that just look fake. It's kind of embarrassing.

Mr. MACKO: So bad.

Mr. RAPOPORT: I was out - if I may, Michel - I am a guy who I argue very much for investing in a good pair of jeans. Because if you find that one pair of jeans that fits you well - and I think that's the most important thing, that you're comfortable in, that fits you well - you get so much wear out of those jeans now because you can wear them to work with a suit jacket. You can wear them on the weekends with a polo shirt, with a T-shirt.

You know, I have a pair of A.P.C. jeans, which is a French company, which probably cost a couple hundred bucks, maybe. But, you know, I wear them four days, three days, three to four days a week, and I've been wearing them for two years that much. And that's a big return on your money.

Mr. MACKO: I would even, you know, say that's just a good rule of thumb for, you know, for all - you know, guys, you know, if they bought less but better, they'd be so much better off. If you bought great classic, great navy blazer, white jeans, boat shoes, great, you know, gingham, striped shirts - all the things that we're talking about - great knit ties, all in very classic colors, you will always look chic. You're, you know, you're set. It all works, you know, it all works together.

MARTIN: Okay.

Mr. RAPOPORT: As long as it fits you well. If you buy a $2,000 suit that isn't tailored well, you might as well have thrown your money away.

MARTIN: Okay.

Mr. MACKO: Absolutely.

MARTIN: We only have a couple minutes left, so I'm going to put each of you on the spot. So let's see, who's going to go first? Adam, what have you bought this year that's worth splurging on? Have you bought anything this year that you maybe should've passed up?

Mr. RAPOPORT: You know, weirdly enough, we keep on talking about boat shoes, but I actually bought a pair recently from this company called Rogues Gallery up in Maine. And I am as unpreppy as you get, and I always - when I was a kid growing up in the '80s, I hated the whole preppy look, blah, blah, blah. They came out with a pair that's black leather with black rubber soles.

MARTIN: Stop it. Black leather boat shoes.

Mr. RAPOPORT: So it's kind of like a punk-rock boat shoe. Yeah, and I saw them, and I was just like I have to have those. I can't believe I'm buying boat shoes. But I put them on, they look great, and they're a very cool company. And, you know, and they're not crazy expensive, but they're - I never thought I'd buy boat shoes, and I never thought I'd pay that much for a pair of boat shoes.

MARTIN: Is there anything that - and I know you're in the business of, you know, displaying fashion in the pages and so forth…

Mr. RAPOPORT: Yes.

MARTIN: But is there anything that you could maybe kind of skip, more guys could kind of skip?

Mr. RAPOPORT: God, without pissing off any of our advertisers?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Yeah, there is that.

Mr. RAPOPORT: I don't know if I wanted to say that on NPR. Excuse us.

MARTIN: We're trying to keep it real.

Mr. RAPOPORT: Yeah, you know, I - I mean, there are some things - I'm not a big watch guy, for instance. You see these giant, oversized watches that cost you thousands and thousands of dollars. Michael's wearing one himself right now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RAPOPORT: You know, I'll get there at one point. But listen, I pick up my Treo or my cell phone. I know what time it is, you know? So yeah, I'm not a watch guy. Maybe I will be one of these days.

MARTIN: Okay. Michael, what about you? What's worth splurging on this year, and what maybe could you skip? And, really, what have you bought?

Mr. MACKO: Absolutely shoes, absolutely shoes. And again, you know, I think if you have more ties, you know, spending, you know, a lot of money - you know, crocodile Gucci loafers do cost. But if you wear them a lot, you'll get your investment out of them. And if you enjoy wearing them and people compliment you on them, as Adam did to me today, it's - I think it's worth it.

Shoes are definitely something that - and shoes are something that men should realize women notice on them, also.

Mr. RAPOPORT: Absolutely, and you can't fake well-made shoes. Well-made shoes cost a lot for a reason, that they are well made. They take a lot of effort and manpower and quality ingredients. And if you buy well-made shoes, whether they're loafers or wingtips and you put shoe trees in them, you put taps on the heels and toes, they'll last you for a long, long time. It's a great investment and worth the money.

MARTIN: Okay, Michael, anything that maybe we could skip?

Mr. MACKO: Skip - as we were talking about before, boot-cut jeans, square-toed shoes. You know, square-toed is definitely on its way out. You know, we're going for a much more elongated last - a narrow last on shoes.

Mr. RAPOPORT: Last being the shape of the shoes.

Mr. MACKO: Yes.

Mr. RAPOPORT: But those square-toed rubber shoes that most of the guys wear with their suits, and their suits look nice, and you look down at their shoes, and you're like dude, what are you wearing like the rubbery square toes? That's a platypus show form. Come on, let's evolve up.

MARTIN: I'm looking in the booth, and one of my producers is just - his head is in his hands thinking he's going to have to throw out half his closet.

Mr. MACKO: If he has a goatee, tell him to shave it, too.

MARTIN: Oh, snap.

Mr. MACKO: He can come to Saks Fifth Avenue. We'll work with him. The other thing is more of a styling trick, but tuck your shirts in.

Mr. RAPOPORT: Yes.

Mr. MACKO: No one is untucking anymore. Everything should be tucked in, and it would be nice to throw a belt on, too.

MARTIN: I'm also looking in the booth, and the engineer is going if I tuck my shirt in, I wouldn't be dressed.

Mr. MACKO: The notion of wearing an untucked like striped dress shirt making you look younger, it doesn't make you look younger. It just makes you look like you're wearing a tunic, and you're walking around with, like, you know, a bathrobe on.

Mr. RAPOPORT: Tuck it in. Be a man.

MARTIN: Hear that men? Tuck it in.

Mr. MACKO: It's also put a belt on. Be a gentleman.

MARTIN: Okay, snap. Saks Fifth Avenue men's fashion director Michael Macko, and Adam Rapoport, the style editor at GQ Magazine. They were both kind enough to join us from our bureau in New York. Gentlemen, thank you both so much for speaking with us.

Mr. MACKO: Thank you.

Mr. RAPOPORT: Thanks, Michel.

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