Style and Tech for Men

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The Steampunk Look

The steampunk movement has been bursting from its corseted seams and spilling out over the pop culture scene in a big way over the past few years, expanding to include an aesthetic that influences movies, graphic novels, music and more. While steampunk has gained recognition through exposure on episodes of the hit television shows “Castle” and “NCIS: Los Angeles,” the movement’s biggest influence can be seen in the fashion industry.

It’s clear that steampunk style is rapidly outgrowing its niche status, but the subculture remains misunderstood by many and is considered an oddity or a costume by most. In celebration of All Hallows Eve, here is some enlightenment.

In the Beginning
While steampunk’s roots stretch back to the classic sci-fi tales of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells from the turn of the 19th century, the term “steampunk” wasn’t coined until 1987. Author K.W. Jeter first used it to describe an emerging literary genre (i.e., fantasy tales set in an era where steam power is still widely used -- usually Victorian era in Great Britain). Works of steampunk often feature futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architecture and art. Jeter initially meant it as a riff on the more modern term “cyberpunk.” Regardless, the moniker stuck and has since expanded to include an aesthetic that influences movies, graphic novels, music and more.

How to Wear It
With Halloween ahead, it’s the perfect chance to channel your inner Sherlock Holmes and create a unique steampunk guise. And it’s a cool look you can keep on rocking long after everyone else has put away their costumes.

Want to try out this fashion trend in which people reimagine modern capabilities with 19th century machines? Simply follow the advice of the famously flamboyant Victorian Oscar Wilde: “One should either be a work of art or wear a work of art.” And while there are no set guidelines for steampunk fashion, your look should synthesize modern styles influenced by the Victorian era.

Steampunk aficionados advise to “start period and then add.” Begin by pulling out that 19th century American garment staple that’s still hanging in almost every closet: a sturdy pair of trousers fashioned by a guy named Levi Strauss. Or don a suit with a vest, a long wool coat and spats. You can also sport military-inspired garments.

Accent your look with a mix of technological and period accessories: timepieces, parasols, goggles and ray guns. Modern accessories, like cell phones and MP3 players, can also be used in steampunk outfits. But to properly juxtapose 21st century technology and 19th century accoutrement, the devices should be modified to look like they were made in the Victorian era. How? Apply a little antiquing paint, available at most craft stores, to give the product that aged looked. Then, place it in a vest pocket as though it were, say, an antique pocket watch.

For Inspiration
If you need some ideas to handcraft your garments and accessories, or want to purchase ready-made faux 19th century designer fashion, check out the websites

Airship Ambassador

Historical Emporium


Photo by Johnny Briggs on Unsplash

Eco-conscious Wardrobe Basics

Going green is big business these days. Environmentally conscious consumers have plenty of choices when it comes to what goes in their grocery carts, what’s parked in their driveways, and what product they use on their bodies. But when it comes to the gear that resides in their closets, eco-friendly pickings are slim at best. And most of them are still designed for the Petrulli oil-using, Birkenstock-wearing crowd.

But that’s about to change.

A growing number of fashion-forward companies have begun to explore ethical sourcing: The use of sustainable materials and new technologies is now making eco-fashion more accessible and stylistically appealing to the average guy.

So forget about all the clothes you have or the clothes you want: These are the essential items that every man must own to live a comfortable, well-dressed life -- and all of them are made in a manner that is safe for the environment.

White Dress Shirt
If you only own one shirt, make it crisp and white. A white button-down or spread collar will go with almost anything and can be worn in almost any situation.

When it comes to eco-approved shirts and other apparel, certified organic cotton is the fabric of choice. Non-organically grown cotton is chemically dependent and, thus, harmful to both the immediate environment and the farmers who harvest it. Organic cotton is grown without synthetic fertilizers and herbicides, and thus doesn’t destroy the land it’s grown on and isn’t harmful to handle.

Boll Organic, started by twin brothers Kent and Kevin Russell after they couldn’t find quality, organic cotton dress-shirts, offers one of the best options for the very reasonable price of $35.

Polo Shirt
Next to jeans, the polo shirt is one of the most popular items in a man’s wardrobe for good reason: It looks great in any casual situation and is easy to care for. Outdoor clothing specialist Patagonia has a long track record for producing earth-friendly fashion, offering up a wide selection of polo shirt styles and colors made from organic cotton, ranging in price from $50 to $70.

Like jeans, khakis are a staple of the American wardrobe. Casual, yet dressy, Nau’s People’s Chinos, $135, have a stylish slim fit and are made from 100 percent organically grown cotton.

Products can be good for the environment in a number of ways. In the case of Roy Denim, the product is eco-friendly because one guy (that would be Roy) makes each and every pair himself. Roy cuts every pattern, sews every stitch, forms each belt loop and even creates the branded leather tags one letter at a time. No huge factory, no trucks or planes crossing the globe carrying loads of mass-produced denim -- just a man and a bunch of recycled machines. When it comes to a company with a tiny carbon footprint, Roy is hard to beat -- even though his jeans ring in at a hefty $275 a pair.

Blazer or Sport Coat
Versatile and classic, a quality blazer or sport coat can be worn in any situation. You can dress it up with a pair of wool pants and a dress shirt for special occasions, or down with jeans and a T-shirt for a leisurely night on the town.

One of the most sustainable, versatile and eco-friendly materials around, hemp also seems to be the fabric of choice among eco-conscious suit makers. It has long been used for fine clothing (actor Woody Harrelson even had Burberry create a custom hemp tuxedo for the 2010 Academy Awards), it looks like linen and it is incredibly durable. Plus, it’s used to make everything from super-luxe, high-fashion houndstooth sport coats from Brunello Cucinelli, on sale for $1,599.99 on, to inexpensive blazers (under $160) from Rawganique.

Dress Shoes
Most men don’t give their shoes much thought. Big mistake, boys. Shoes finish the fashion statement. Go for a basic, classically styled model; it’s more versatile (i.e., it can be dressed up or down).

U.K.-based Vegetarian Shoes creates classic styles using a breathable synthetic microfiber material often found in yachting upholstery. Our favorite is the sleek antique brogue style, about $113, which has a modern profile that works equally well with a three-piece suit or a pair of jeans.

Casual footwear doesn’t have to shine like dress shoes, but it should still be neat, clean and presentable. So leave those funky-smelling, ratty-looking running or workout sneakers on the porch when you go out on the town, especially since eco-friendly kicks are one of the easiest green fashion items to find.

One of the coolest pairs is the retro-inspired Tauas, about $151 from Veja. The name comes from the region in Brazil where the organic cotton used to make the shoes is sustainably grown; the shoes also feature a sole made from wild rubber.

The New Deejay’s Guide to Gear

A party (impromptu gathering of friends, cousin’s shotgun wedding, dinner party gone awry, whatever) isn’t a party without good tunes. That means someone has to step up behind the ones and twos and deejay the hell out of the thing. And today, that’s easier than ever before.

Back in the day, deejays had to lug around crates of bulky, heavy equipment and hundreds of records. For those born after 1980, records are those bulky vinyl discs played on turntables. They might sound better than CDs or MP3s, but they are not very portable. Now music is all digitized. (ITunes killed the audiophile, baby -- for better or worse.) And while analog still has its place for sure, it’s rarely in the deejay booth.

To get a handle on what a modern turntablist needs to get started, we rang up hip-hop legend Kay Gee, deejay of Naughty By Nature. In the two decades since NBN debuted -- and won the first Grammy ever for Best Rap Album in 1992 -- the deejay’s lot has been completely revolutionized. And poignantly, KG confirmed the point, having just come off a month-long globetrotting tour to promote the upcoming release of Naughty’s 20th anniversary album, Anthem, Inc.

“Nothing against analog, because that’s where it started, but digital is it,” says KG. “You gotta embrace technology. I used to have to carry my crates of vinyl, turntables, mixer and all on the road. Now I just carry my laptop.”

So what do you need to become an aspiring deejay? KG walks us through his setup and provides advice on what newbies should look for:

Get a Pair of Cans
The most important tool a deejay has -- besides musical taste -- is his or her ears, and so quality headphones (aka “cans”), are a must. KG recommends Sony’s classic MDR7506 studio monitors ($130): “There are other headphones out there, but I love these. They fold up and are durable and strong.” Which is a good point: Headphones get beat up easily. So whatever you opt for, make sure they are well-built. Comfort is also a major consideration. If you are going to wear headphones for hours on end, make sure they sit over and outside your ears; the larger the cup size, the better. Similarly, a soft fabric will minimize the pressure on your ears and head.

Lay out for a Laptop
No surprise, but the laptop is the key ingredient in any music setup today. You’ll use it to rip and store your tunes and create sounds, beats, songs and playlists. When you’re performing, it’s the brain behind all the equipment in a deejay booth. KG uses a 15-inch MacBook Pro (starting at $1,800). They’re extremely durable, they’re relatively lightweight (at 5.6 pounds) and thin (less than 1 inch), they pack a 500 GB drive for a good amount of storage, and they have a solid seven-hour battery life.

As we all know, when laptops aren’t being dropped, they’re being swiped, so you’ll also want to carry a backup of your hard drive. But only rely on the laptop’s internal storage for performances. “I like to have all my music inside my computer because the fewer hookups you have, the fewer problems you can run,” explains the deejay.

Connect It All Together
Let us dispel any thoughts you have of just slapping together a playlist and plugging your laptop into speakers. That’s not deejaying; that’s babysitting. We’re talking deejaying here.

Software: While you might have the benefit of instant access to your entire music collection through your laptop, the simplicity of the old analog days -- using a mixer to switch between two turntables -- is gone. In order to mix between songs, beat match and scratch, or perform any other deejay tricks, you’ll need DVS (Digital Vinyl System) software -- click here for more info.

There are a bunch of programs you could try, but the standard among pros is Serato Scratch Live.  “It’s become the digital crate,” says KG. “And hey, it’s free!”

Turntables: KG recommends the Numark TTX ($400 each), a midrange direct-drive unit with pitch control, replaceable S or straight tone-arm, a BPM meter and a host of other deejay-centric features. (The TTXUSB has a built-in USB port so you can go completely digital directly to your laptop.)

Control Vinyl: Control Vinyl is a record with a time code engraved in it (instead of a song) to use with a pair of turntables. The idea is that when you play the record, it sends a signal to your laptop that syncs the turntable with whatever song you’ve selected. Manipulate the record faster or slower, or scratch, and your laptop does that to whatever song is selected.

Interface Box: In order to make all this work together, a DVS-compatible interface, mixer or USB controller is a must. While KG opts for the pro-level Rane TTM 57SL, it costs about $2,000 and frankly is more than a newbie can handle. So opt for a stripped-down interface box instead, like the Rane SL2 ($499). Plug your turntables or CD players in to the box and the computer, and you’re up and running, controlling music on your laptop using your turntables.

Mixer/Fader: Finally, you’ll also want a mixer/fader to switch between tunes and adjust the EQs. We like the Numark M1USB Scratch Mixer ($99), which is simple enough for a beginner, but solid enough for a pro.

Now all that’s left is a few hundred hours of practice -- and an audience willing to listen.

Class up Your Image With Investments in Art

Even if your biggest foray into this mysterious world of the rich and famous has been lining your studio apartment with “Dogs Playing Poker,” fear not: Once you grasp the basics, you can upgrade your artistic sensibilities -- without breaking the bank.

“Novice collectors should start by visiting museums, reputable auction houses and art galleries and simply getting a feel for what you like,” says Elaine Erickson, a veteran art dealer and the owner of the Elaine Erickson Gallery in Milwaukee, Wis. “You may have heard of names like Andy Warhol, for instance. Do some research on his background, become familiar with his style, and find out what his work was all about and what it’s selling for today.” To further develop your art appreciation, check out sites such as Cow Art and More (seriously).

Afford Originals
You don’t need to be Bill Gates to buy original artwork. According to Erickson, one of the more reasonably priced items to collect are original prints -- lithographs, etchings, etc. -- created by an artist’s own hand in limited editions. “I think that if people are going to buy artwork, it’s imperative that they buy original. But there are an awful lot of fakes out there, and you want to avoid things like giclees (i.e., expensive reproductions of artwork made on professional ink-jet printers). It’s important to do your homework about what it is that you’re buying, what it’s really worth and who it is you’re doing business with.”

Determine Value
The true value of any piece of art isn’t necessarily reflected in its price. Erickson warns that if you go into a gallery and find an expensive painting or a sculpture that you just can’t live without, make certain you research it before you write any checks.

“Investigate both the artist and the gallery selling the work,” she says. “If the gallery carries the artist’s work exclusively, ask the owner what their work has sold for in the past. There is also plenty of information available in books and on the Internet that list artists, their work and what it has sold for at auction.” Appraisal sites, like, can be your best buddy when you want to make sure you’re not ponying up too much payola for your purchase.

Collect the Art You like
Unless you plan on stacking your new piece in a storage locker, you’d better be able to stare at it for years to come. So even though you might be collecting pieces of artwork in the hope they’ll increase in value, you never know when that time will come. So invest in something you can enjoy. “People should always buy art that they like”, says Erickson. “They should never let someone else tell them what to buy. They have to live with it, they have to pay for it and they have to hang it in their homes.”

Cashing In
If you are buying artwork as an investment, stay abreast of the market by closely following the careers and progress of the artists you’re interested in and whose work you’ve purchased. “You should have your artwork appraised periodically for insurance purposes,” concludes Erickson. “The appraiser will give you an accurate idea of the market value; if and when you’re ready to sell, a good auction house will probably get you the best price.” Sites like are a good resource for identifying and contacting accredited appraisers to give you a professional assessment.