Raj is Always Killin’ It

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It’s time for a blast from the past and bring Raj back to the blog.  It’s been a while!

Listen to our podcast interview with Raj here! 

If you’ve been a long time reader of the blog, you might remember my friend Raj.  He used to be in almost every blog post (much like how Spencer is now) but he’s been missing from it for a quite a while.   We didn’t have a falling out or anything, it’s just how life tends to work when you graduate college. Luckily we’ve stayed in touch.

We were always going to interview him for our podcast and the stars aligned; he was able to make the trip up from our university to spend and evening with Spencer and me.  As we prepped for the interview by looking at old 2015 blog posts, we noticed one thing:  Raj has had a great, consistent style.  So after recording, I decided to dedicate this article to him and show you guys a little bit of how his style has remained classic and contemporary.  I’ll even throw in a few anecdotes.

I didn’t have many menswear friends when I started out.  I was literally the only guy who “dressed up” in college, opting for checked shirts, slim chinos, and derbies (whether or not the combo was good is a topic for another time.  I didn’t actually wear my 1930s-1940s stuff to class; I had a regular style that was a mix of Ben Wyatt and your typical instagram #fuckyeahmenswear .  But even though it was still largely contemporary that wasn’t too out there, I still got mentions of “classy” and “dapper” on a daily basis.  You guys can probably tell that I was pretty alone in this niche hobby, as I attended a tiny Christian university in the outskirts of the greater Los Angeles County.

All of that changed when I met Raj.  I had heard rumors that there was an well dressed, bearded Indian that also had a penchant for button ups and sportcoats.  Intrigued and in desperate need of another guy to hang out with and talk menswear, I knew that I had to meet him.  After an introduction by a mutual friend, we really hit it off and began hanging out frequently.

I actually still remember the first time we did more than sit together in the cafeteria.  Raj needed a ride to the local tailor to fix up his performance uniform (a cheap tuxedo for the wind ensemble) and I had the car.  It became my first ever trip to a tailor! I stood in awe as Raj told Mr. Tran exactly what he wanted: shorter jacket sleeves, a tapered jacket/trouser, and no-break pants.  Raj is probably responsible with how picky I am over fit and how much money I unload at the alterationist.

Obviously, I got to know Raj a lot better as we hung out more and more.  He’s originally from Maryland, which explains his slightly preppy roots.  Like me, he also went to a Christian Academy, so we weren’t strangers to polo shirts and khakis, though as an avid golfer, he actually enjoyed them (while it took me a long time to get into them).  Because he’s a small, skinny guy, he was constantly at the tailor; buying the smallest sizes and tapering them further to fit him well.

Raj and I during a trip to our local Nordstrom.

Raj wasn’t really into vintage clothing other than a few ties and accessories and instead focused on classic clothing.   He always had semi spread or button down collar shirts, a handful of sportcoats (grey and navy), and khaki/navy/grey chinos for everyday.  Even though he admired some of the “crazy stuff” I was into (belt backs, tweeds, spearpoints, collar bars), he knew that he wouldn’t wear it himself.  He wanted to be classic without being too dandy or boring, which lead to a very consistent, well defined style.

While I was going back and forth over how things should fit (I was currently in my skinny-suit phase), Rajesh had his measurements down.  He knew that he wanted a 6.75″ leg opening, no break, and the ability to wear his trousers with or without a belt.  Compare this to me, who had no idea; I cuffed everything (including dress pants) to be the right length.   I really have to thank him for introducing me to the world of true tailoring.

I always admired his consistency.  Even though indulged occasionally on certain tiems, he never felt the need to be a hoarder like me.   As you can see from the pictures, he’s worn a lot of the same jackets, shirts, and trousers; he’s even owned some of them for years.   At this point, I think the only thing he “collects” are ties, which isn’t that bad since most menswear guys have a lot of ties. Honestly, I wish I was at this phase earlier, since my wardrobe has changed considerably.  I don’t even own any of the clothes from this article anymore!

This dedication to keeping his garments until they fall apart also influences his purchases.  He tends to only buy quality stuff, often saving up for the big ticket items since he wants to make sure that they last.  I remember walking into Johnston Murphy with him during one of our random South Coast Plaza (local luxury mall) trips.  He found black monkstraps that he’s been wanting for a long time and dropped $100+ on it (they were on sale).   I was aghast since I couldn’t fathom spending that much on a single item.  He did the same on Oliver People’s sunglasses and a few other items.

Obviously buying second hand and scoring a deal is a big theme on this blog, but being friends with Raj taught me that it’s a great idea to save up and buy something new every once in a while, especially when it’s a good quality brand.  I mean, that’s why I bought Loake’s!  We’ve also moved toward more intentional purchases, which is one reason why you don’t see random ebay or thrifting purchases anymore.   Raj has a pretty solid core wardrobe and he’s fine with that. IMG_0903

In terms of styling, you can tell that he’s a mix of prep and trad (check out our preppy guide from 2015, with is god-fuck awful).   When he’s not going to meetings (Raj is very involved with campus organizations), he usually opts for a polo shirt, trousers, and loafers. It’s a fairly simple look that is touted by every menswear vlogger on Youtube, but you’ll notice that Raj is slightly different.  The polos are baggier, and the trousers have a higher rise and fuller cut. In plain terms, it’s much more “dad” but it looks good on him.  Raj wasn’t trying to overcompensate for his stature and ultimately led for a consistent and classic American look.

At the time, I was way too turned off by polos to even consider it, but perhaps it was Raj’s style that made it grow on me. I mean I’m a huge proponent of the sartorial polo shirt, especially when it’s knit. 

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While I like to have a variety of different casual styles (ranging from workwear and SLP to 90s throwbacks), Raj just has a pretty comfy look almost akin to what you’d see on Male Fashion Advice.  It’s not too dressy but it still incorporates a lot of what he already has: he swaps poplin shirts for flannel, goes untucked, and wears his oversized cardigan.

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One of Raj’s most beloved items was his quilted vest.  I mean you really can’t be East Coast without it.   I distinctly remember him buying it from J. Crew Factory and being completely enamored wth it.  He wore it all the time!  He didn’t do wear it over a suit like #menswear did, but he used it as a great casual layering piece, when a full jacket wasn’t needed.

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I even bought one.

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Raj has a pretty simple sartorial style.  Unlike me, he isn’t after a particular aesthetic like 1930’s or ivy; he just wants to look nice and classic.  For one example, he prefers to invest in trousers and jackets rather than full suits (of which he only has two); as guy who doesn’t live the corporate life, he has no need for a full suit.  In terms of shirting, He definitely has a small preference for checks, but he’s been known to wear stripes as well.  Raj usually opts for solid ties, since they are the most versatile.  On occasion he does wear foulards or stripes, but solid knits are his go-to.

One differentiating factor between his and my style is that he does opt for accessories.  n addition to printed pocket squares, he usually dons a quirky tie bar, fun (but not too fun) socks, a watch, and a golfing bracelet.  I know that bracelets are pretty big in the Youtube Menswear community, but instead of buying a bunch of different ones, Raj just wears the same thing.  Hell, he even said that he has a few outfit combinations that he reuses depending on the context of his day.   If you look at our short lived campus search series, you can see that Raj is consistently the best dressed guy on campus, while I’m trying way too hard to be “cool”.

You guys should really go into the archive on the bottom of the website and look at posts from 2015.   It’s a gold mine.

Those tartan trousers are his lone “dandy” item.

Worn to our schools annual fashion show in 2014.

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Raj also has a tendency to kill it with his outerwear.  It probably makes sense due to the fact that the East Coat has a lot more “weather’ than SoCal.  The picture above is from our Yosemite Trip and is one of the best looks ever on the blog.  It’s not suitable for hiking in the slightest, but it’s really great, especially considering how much we love our military jackets now.

I’m a great example of why you shouldn’t overly taper your trousers.

You guys know that I never really read fashion blogs until very recently; most of the outfit ideas I got were from my friends! And Raj certainly was a great source of inspiration and direction, despite never being a true mentor.  Even though he had some classic style, he wasn’t afraid to try out some “new” things, especially in regards to casual style.  The best part was that he was able to pull it off confidently without looking too much like an instagram fashionista.

One of the notable things I got from him is a love of loafers.  Raj loved wearing his tassels and boat shoes, and I was entranced by how they worked with no break trousers.  Interestingly, my only exposure to loafers was them being worn sockless.  He was no stranger to wearing his sans-hoisery, but he told me that he liked wearing them with socks in order to make them a bit more formal.  Fast forward to now, where I never go sockless.

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As you continue to look at these pictures, just keep in mind that they span the years of 2014-2018.  While my photography style might give you an indication of the year, you’ll definitely notice that Rajesh’s style really hasn’t changed all too much! He’s certainly a style inspiration that Spencer and I consistently look at.

If we took a shot every time we looked at an old article and said “Raj is killin’ it”, we’d be getting our stomach pumped.

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I just want to jump in and talk about this outfit. Firstly this is one of Raj’s only suits, a blue cotton one obtained from the Suit Supply outlet sale.  Also note that he’s doing some stuff that has come to define Ethan style today: fisted pockets and a the sprezza-tie. There’s that confidence I was talking about earlier; he really makes menswear look effortless.

The tie has an interesting story.  Our alma matter has an annual fashion show where students can design clothing and the show’s proceeds (and auctioned items) are given to charity.  Since most of the designs were for women, we wanted to do something to bring awareness to menswear (especially since our “campus searches” were awful).   Raj told me that he had learned how to make a tie out of fabric, so I sourced some thrifted Hawaiian shirts to turn into neckwear.  We each kept a few from the event and Raj still wears his proudly.

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From this 2016 article.  Raj looks so fucking good.

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Dinner Time

Seeing Raj to record the podcast was the first time I had seen him since I was still working on my MBA (about a year ago).  That meant we had a lot to catch up on!  Funnily enough, it was also the first time he was able to meet Spencer and have a proper conversation.   After recording the podcast episode, we went to a diner for some “late night” (10:30PM, sue me) food.

You can bet your ass that I took every opportunity to take some F.E Castleberry style photos.

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Raj went with a pretty normal combo, consisting of all solids. You guys know that I’m a fan of navy jackets and brown trousers (as evident in this blog post), but Raj went with the opposite! The brown linen-wool-silk herringbone jacket was also bought by the SuSu Outlet, and is the perfect summer piece to wear.  It goes well with his custom navy trousers (bought during a family trip to India) and crisp white shirt.  I’m not sure if it was intentional, but he decided to wear the same tie he donned during our fashion show, which features a flyfishing motif.

I really like that the tie is the stand out piece of his outfit and that he tucked it in.

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Since the pictures were pretty Drake’s, I went with something that was pretty Drake’s-esque.  With my new hopsack sportcoat (more on that later), I wore my favorite blue stripe spearpoint and a thrifted paisley madder tie.  This tie was actually one of the first ties I ever thrifted and it got a lot of wear before I eventually introduced 1930s-1940s into my contemporary wardrobe. Retroactively, it looks just like something from the Drake’s anniversary collection.

Finishing off the Drake’s attire, I wore my 501CTs (that are too big for me now) and my painful Loake’s with purple socks.

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Conclusion

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Before reddit, instagram, or even this blog, there was Raj.   Obviously I had other friends in college, but it was the first time I had ever had a friend to talk menswearwith! We would go to the mall and look at Banana Republic and J. Crew. We would shyly peruse Ralph Lauren and Canali, sweating as we tried on $2k jackets and shoes.  And we would even buy the same Esquire and GQ magazines and discuss what we would buy if we were ever that rich. But above all that, we became real friends.  We talked about our careers, girls, food, and even Star Wars (I walked him through the six movies)!

I have a lot to thank Raj for.  He showed me how to look natural in clothing, that loafers are cool shoes that you can wear with or without socks, and (most importantly) that you should always go to the tailor to get your clothing fixed.  A lot of who I am today came from Raj.

I hope that you guys also learned a lot of lessons from Raj after reading/looking at this blog post.  Even as I was compiling the images for this article, I was surprised with the sheer consistency of Raj’s outfits. Unlike me who can’t make up his mind about trousers, everything seems to be pretty much the same.  He always likes a straight/slim look that is comfortable.  In terms of styling, he doesn’t stray far from his solid colors, with a few stripes and checks thrown in for measure.  He even doesn’t mind wearing his beat-up cap with tailoring or rocking a military jacket with his chinos.  It looks so effortless and clean without being too try hard (which is what I was labeled with quite frequently). It probably helps that he is always confident in his choices, without a need to keep hoarding menswear.    It’s a level that I wish I had achieved a long time ago.

While there are definitely some nuances between 2014 and now (if you can even notice them), there’s one thing that I think we can agree on: Raj is always killin’ it.  

Listen to our interview with Raj on our podcast!

Always a pleasure,

Ethan W.

@ethamwong 

Street x Sprezza 

 

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