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Problem Solving with Complex Systems Science

After moving away from Valparaiso at the beginning of 2017, I dropped my membership and participation in the Saturday Evening Club, which is a 100+-year-old men's only organization composed of mostly retired CEOs, professors and other professionals in the community. Each month, one member is the...

Op-Ed: A Gentleman’s Guide to Dressing for the AFF Gala 2021

Op-Ed: A Gentleman’s Guide to Dressing for the AFF Gala 2021

Reposted from America's Future, Oct 11, 2021 So you’re headed to the AFF Gala next week and have nothing to wear. Well, consider yourself lucky because for men, the outfit of choice for such an event has remained unchanged for well over 100 years. By selecting something classical, you could play...

Guest Editorial: Rethinking Retail

Robert OrdwayReposted from MR Magazine, Oct 19, 2020 Independent menswear stores get it: the days of “stack it high and watch it fly” are long gone, and generating foot traffic, amidst a pandemic nonetheless, is changing the landscape for all. Between government shutdowns, mask mandates, and...

Problem Solving with Complex Systems Science

After moving away from Valparaiso at the beginning of 2017, I dropped my membership and participation in the Saturday Evening Club, which is a 100+-year-old men’s only organization composed of mostly retired CEOs, professors and other professionals in the community. Each month, one member is the designated host and presents a paper on the topic of his interest, his co-host provides the dinner and the guests each take turns responding to the paper. At the end, the author has one opportunity to respond to all the comments before the evening concludes. Given my interest in interdisciplinary studies and vigorous reading in Complex Systems Science (CSS), I used this opportunity to share where my five years of research has led me and hopefully inspired them to do more investigating themselves when it comes to how we approach problems confronting the human race. 

Op-Ed: A Gentleman’s Guide to Dressing for the AFF Gala 2021

Op-Ed: A Gentleman’s Guide to Dressing for the AFF Gala 2021

Reposted from America’s Future, Oct 11, 2021

So you’re headed to the AFF Gala next week and have nothing to wear. Well, consider yourself lucky because for men, the outfit of choice for such an event has remained unchanged for well over 100 years.

By selecting something classical, you could play it safe and dress like your great-grandfather. Classical attire includes a one-button black tuxedo and the all too standard black bow tie and cummerbund. Don’t forget the studs and cufflinks. But this is the 21st century, and we’re all about maximizing liberty and individualism, which is why the dress code for the AFF Gala is “creative black tie.” Yes, it sounds like an oxymoron, but the Daily Kos also called the millennial generation “libertarian socialists” so maybe it’s fitting.

However, there is a difference between dressing well and dressing up. For a social evening like this–you know, one of the best parties of the year–dressing just one step above the rest will get you noticed and leave the right impression.

Below, I breakdown the different parts of your ensemble for the evening in three levels: classical, modern, and dandy. This guidance is merely a framework for basic formal wear, while also allowing one to “peacock” with options to help you stand out in a crowd. Proceed at your own risk.

At the end I also give a quick rundown on garment fit, because a $100 suit that fits well will always look better than a $1000 suit that doesn’t.

Jackets
Classical: Black one-button jacket with satin notched lapels
Modern: Black or colored jacket with satin peaked or shawl lapels
Dandy: Colored jacket with exquisite pattern or a fabric like suede
No-Fly Zone: Tan and khaki jackets of any kind. The Kentucky Derby has passed, and we don’t want to revisit President Barack Obama in the briefing room circa 2014. British tail jackets are acceptable…if you’re British.

Trousers (I think they call them slacks or dress pants today)
Classical: Black, relaxed fit, pleated with satin stripe down the side
Modern: Black or colored, slim fit, flat front, without the satin stripe, and tapered ankle opening
Dandy: Any color contrasting the jacket or patterned pants
No-Fly Zone: Leather. Leather is best left for 90s raves and Mick Jagger.

Shirts
Classical: White, wing collar, with pleats
Modern: Forward point or spread collar with no pleats
Dandy: Colored or patterned shirt with spread collar
No-Fly Zone: Black shirts of any kind. Leave your heart of darkness for metal concerts.

Neckwear
Classical: Black silk bow tie (preferably not pre-tied)
Modern: Tuxedo ties and patterned bow ties
Dandy: Ascots/cravats
No-Fly Zone: White ties or no neckwear

Shoes
Classical: Black, shiny, round toe Oxford
Modern: Slim Italian/Spanish pointed toe black Oxford or Spectator shoe
Dandy: Colored velvet slipper
No-Fly Zone: Sneakers. Chuck Taylors are for basketball, and Vans are for skateboarding.

Socks
Classical: Black (made of silk)
Modern: Color-matched to vest, bowtie, or other accent piece
Dandy: Colored, patterned socks or no socks
No-Fly Zone: White socks are for the gym and 1980s NBA players. Actually, no–they belong in the garbage.

Belts
If you are wearing a belt, you are not wearing a tuxedo.

Braces
Unless your pants constantly fall down, there is no need for braces (which button on the inside of your pants). Suspenders clip onto the outside of your pants and are best left for connecting to your jeans back home on the ranch.

Underwear
You’re on your own here. My recommendation? Wear some. The same goes for undershirts.

 

Accessories
Classical: White pocket square, basic studs, and cufflinks
Modern: Patterned pocket square
Dandy: Pocket watch tucked into a vest or boutonniere/lapel flower
No-Fly Zone: Canes (unless you are a pimp), top hats (unless you are Abraham Lincoln), and necklaces (unless you are a rapper). Hint: you are none of the above.

Garment Fit
One hundred years ago, men were pretty much all the same size and fit. That’s why in 1901, Brooks Brothers came out with the No. 1 Sack Suit, the nation’s first ready-made garment for the (traveling) man that was too busy to get fitted for a custom suit. Today, men come in all shapes and sizes. The retail and rental industry is having the same problem as a politician: trying to be all things to all people. From no butts and beer bellies to the CrossFit hourglass shape, it can be hard to find clothes that fit well in your day-to-day wardrobe, much less for important events. Most of us don’t have the money for a custom tuxedo and will likely be renting. While no garment will fit perfectly, there are some aspects that will completely change the way you look and feel, which will make all the difference.

Starting at the top, make sure you have plenty of neck room (1-2 fingers) in the shirt collar or you’ll be miserable all evening. Second, ensure both the dress shirt and the jacket aren’t eating” your hands. Both the shirt and jacket sleeves should come down to the break in the wrist and should not touch any part of the palm. Ideally, you shouldn’t be swimming in the body of the jacket, but depending on proportions, this may be hard to control.

If you’re renting pants, get the smallest adjustable size possible. Pants that adjust from 32-42 in the waist will end up looking like Humpty Dumpty pants on a trim man. Make sure your pants have a half or a full break on top of your shoes. While I don’t encourage short pants that look like PeeWee Herman, that’s better than having puddling” pants that are several inches too long.

A final rule of thumb for all your clothing: vertical lines in the garment means that it is too loose, and horizontal lines mean it’s too tight. Judge accordingly.

Alright superstar, I’ve done all I can, and now it’s up to you to make it happen.


Robert Ordway is the owner of Capitol Hill Clothiers, a local, Washington, DC, custom clothing brand.

Guest Editorial: Rethinking Retail

Robert Ordway

Reposted from MR Magazine, Oct 19, 2020

Independent menswear stores get it: the days of “stack it high and watch it fly” are long gone, and generating foot traffic, amidst a pandemic nonetheless, is changing the landscape for all. Between government shutdowns, mask mandates, and social distancing, e-commerce brands have come out ahead in 2020 as evidenced by Amazon’s exponential growth. Retailers should rethink aspects of their business model by borrowing from both online direct-to-consumer brands and custom clothiers.

As we know, selling luxury goods requires trust, which is built over time and done in person. It has been shown across industries that referrals are still the greatest way to build your book. The key is figuring out how to create a pipeline that ultimately leads to that (post-COVID) handshake. As someone who has been involved in civic life for over a decade, I’ve learned that a donor list is the most important asset to a political or non-profit organization. In the case of retailers, it’s your client list. Building it requires aggressive prospecting via two methods: social media and direct-prospecting.

While social media has helped direct-to-consumer brands get off the ground, it is now a saturated market. Despite not having a store lease, these companies are now forced to redirect their increased margins toward expensive ad and retargeting campaigns. While their strategy is to sell a product online, yours is to build a relationship. This can be done by sending ‘rented’ traffic from social media to a landing page where an offer is proposed (such as a free e-book or discount) in exchange for their email. Now you have ‘owned’ traffic, and access to their inbox at a much lower cost. But use it wisely or face the wrath of the ‘unsubscribe’ button.

While big businesses throw out generic emails with little value, independent stores have the ability to micro-target. Birthday cards, anniversaries, and other personal messages should be the baseline of one’s marketing. Free content is king when it comes to building trust over the internet; better a soft sell story than a hard-sell ad. Since retailers have little free time, hiring a contractor to write blogs or produce videos builds credibility and enhances your Google ‘authority’ on the web. It’s important to note that Millennials are now close to 40 and regardless of income level, we all do our research online before stepping into a store.

A friend of mine has recently turned the jewelry industry on its head in Chicago. He’s selling high-end diamonds from Google reviews, driven by ‘thank you’ emails sent after a sale. Unlike his older competitors, who spend big dollars on billboards and then wait for foot traffic, he offers a concierge delivery service in the city and has established himself as the ‘preferred jeweler’ in many high-rise buildings downtown. With quarterly events, he now has the residential management companies pumping his brand to all their tenants, at no cost to him.

Humans are like electrons and choose the path-of-least-resistance. In a world of convenience, if they aren’t buying from e-commerce, they want you to visit them at their home or office. This requires retailers to think of themselves as image consultants. Success in this model (in my opinion) is best represented by Q Clothier/Rye 51 based in Dallas. Their sales force receives a generous commission compared to industry standards but they are required to go out and beat the street. This is where young people often struggle.

Circling back to social media, friending your clients on LinkedIn and Facebook is a great way to prospect existing clients for referrals. One method custom clothiers use is sending out a personalized gift certificate for, let’s say, a free custom shirt to five of their friends (pre-qualified prospects). Those opportunities give you a foot in the door to prove why you’re the best person to be dressing them from that day forward. Ultimately, a house visit with spousal approval can lead to a full ‘wardrobe audit’ and a client for life.

For years I’ve seen retailers and custom clothiers operate in silos when there’s a real synergy in sharing marketing tactics and client-building strategies. As we look toward the holiday season and a new year, remember that “past performance is not indicative of future results” so let’s plan to evolve as nature intended.

Robert Ordway is the owner of Capitol Hill Clothiers. He is the former owner and founder of Rusted Oak, a menswear store in Indiana.

Once in-person work resumes, will we see a new dc dress code?

Once in-person work resumes, will we see a new dc dress code?

Reposted from Campaigns & Elections, Jan 27, 2021

When work life returns to the office, many political professionals will have a hard decision to make. Don their pre-pandemic wardrobe, which many of us are reevaluating for a myriad of reasons, keep the dress shirt-sweatpants combos they’ve sported on Zoom during work from home (WFH), or chart a new course?

Whether you’re a consultant, staffer or a future candidate, one thing is certain: it’s not as simple as it sounds. Even designers are having trouble weighing how much WFH to incorporate into their fall 2021 collections. That’s partly because we don’t know where society will be at with the pandemic in the coming months, and the rules between work and play attire continue to blur.

When the pandemic does end, I expect those connected directly to Capitol Hill to go back into full-on suit-and-tie mode. Given the changing nature of WFH, various professions around the Beltway may change permanently and, in turn, their wardrobe expectations as well. One thing is for sure though, those who dress well, stand out, and get remembered.

In recent years, the suit and other formal clothing has taken a back seat as companies focused on being hip and more egalitarian to attract millennials. While political correctness says it doesn’t matter what we wear or that we shouldn’t judge external appearances, the evidence over the past few thousand years says otherwise. Your clothes speak without you saying anything at all — this is particularly true in DC.

One reason why we fret over what we wear is that our clothes can mentally set the stage for the day ahead. There’s immense power in the placebo effect: When you feel well because of how you look, you can do well. Now, one should seek to be prepared for various situations that may arise throughout the day. This brings me to note the importance of building a transitional wardrobe. Such a closet includes individual pieces that fit into more than just one category — say from streetwear to casual, casual to cocktail or cocktail to formal. This allows one to prepare themselves for various events throughout the day and pivot to the needs of the hour.

The first benefit to owning transitional pieces is that they allow us to own less clothing and save money because functional pieces mix and match easily. Some brands, particularly, trend-setting high fashion companies, prefer to sell complete outfits. They maintain margins by only putting one item of the ensemble on sale at a time. Outfits also limit you to wearing this “one thing” throughout the day.

The seasons of fall and winter make it easier to buy transitional pieces as colder weather leads to layering with knits and wool. Let’s also not forget all of the post-holiday sales. For people in year-round warm climates, laying is still possible through recent innovation in the textile manufacturing industry which created thinner, more breathable man-made materials.

The sweater is a great unisex item with many variations such as the cardigan, v-neck, crew-neck, vest and shawl-collar just to name a few. All add an element of formality over a collared shirt. Instead of a traditional navy blazer like the one Brooks Brothers has sold for over 100 years, select one with a hopsack weave pattern in a dark blue.

It will serve as the ultimate piece to have on standby. Its unisex works with all body shapes, sizes, and skin color. Best of all, this blue will match nearly everything in your closet. It’s generally made with an unconstructed shoulder which makes it more comfortable than a suit jacket, will layer easier and can be dressed up in a moment’s notice with a tie or ascot.

Nobody knows for sure when the pandemic will end or if people will ever be pulled back into the office with their rotation of suits, blouses, slacks, and the like. Regardless, this is a great time to experiment with clothing you might not have previously considered and get feedback from family and friends. The retail industry has been hit hard this year so the sales are hot right now. But remember: some sale items are unreturnable, so weigh your wardrobe investment accordingly so you don’t get a buyer’s remorse hangover.

Robert Ordway is a Congressional Staffer and a certified clothier of the Custom Tailors and Designers Association (CTDA).

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