The best dress shirts ever?

Let’s talk about dress shirts for a minute. Yeah, I know, it’s the first (and probably last) time I’ve ever discussed fashion on my blog, but this is worth it.

Traditionally, these are cotton button-downs, and while you can get a variety of colors, there’s nothing particularly innovative about them. Some look better than others, but they’re all about the same. For years, I’ve ordered mine from Charles Tyrwhitt in the UK – 100 GBP for four shirts is a pretty sweet deal.

It turns out, however, that there’s a better – if more expensive – option on the table. Coming off the back of a massive fat loss, I needed to order some new clothes. I started looking into the possibilities and was surprised to discover dress shirts made out of technical fibers – shirts that wick away sweat, don’t show stains in the armpits, feel silky smooth on the skin and (surprise, surprise!) even come in my size. Welcome to Mizzen and Main.

The shirts themselves look great – from a meter or two away you’d never notice that they’re not a standard dress shirt. But they have four-way stretch built in so that they’re always comfortable, they’re incredibly wrinkle resistant, and don’t need to be dry cleaned or ironed (I know, you’ve purchased iron-free shirts in the past, but this is the real deal). They are by far the most comfortable dress shirts I have ever worn, and unlike all my other work shirts, they stay good-looking all day long.

Of course, the ultimate criteria is fit. At 192cm (6′ 3″) it’s hard to believe, but I’m actually a size small, or medium at most. Try finding one of those with 37″ sleeves! But M&M has a “tall trim” option in all their sizes that’s absolutely perfect for me.

As an honorable mention, I have to say that what started me down this path was an advertisement for Ministry of Supply shirts (I really want one of their suits!). Unfortunately, they don’t make anything for tall people, and a lot of online reviews commented on the baggy, loose cut of their clothes. Mizzen and Main is their closest competitor (a few others exist if you google them) and had excellent reviews, so I gave them a try. Do the same and you’ll thank me later. I’m paying four times what I would for a Charles Tyrwhitt shirt, but believe me, it’s worth it!

Use the links I’ve posted above to make your purchase and we’ll both receive discounts on our shirts.

Oh, and as a side note, I just received some new undershirts and underwear from Tommy John. I’m not quite as excited about it as I am about the dress shirts, but it’s still pretty good stuff – very comfy, and not badly priced. The undershirts in particular are worth consideration. Again, use the link and I’ll get some points on my account (don’t know if that one gets you a benefit, though).

Back in the gym – lessons learned

Been a while since I had something to write here, but I think fitness is a good topic.

As of Christmas last year (2017), I decided to get fit again. I picked up the running and, not long afterwards, signed up for a personal trainer with my fiancée. We now have dedicated lifting, cardio and nutrition plans which are having amazing results (we’re 10 weeks into the program). At 38, I’m in – by far – the best shape of my adult life. I’ll go into the details of it in a later post, and probably put up a banner ad for the trainer soon; maybe my own success story will motivate others, too.

It’s not like I’ve been avoiding the gym. I’ve probably averaged 80-100km a month running for the last year or so, while lifting maybe 3 times a week, but I wasn’t really going anywhere. People who know me will know I managed to lose an awful lot of weight in 2006 through enforced starvation (couldn’t afford to eat as a university student out here), and again a fair bit in 2016 while doing Freeletics, but I never got into this kind of shape. That’s because I was making some big mistakes, the kind I now see in people around me at the gym.

The first mistake, and not one I can actually observe in the gym, was nutrition. Eat clean, train dirty, right? It’s so easy to justify that Starbucks chai (it’s only 200 calories!) or the big dinner (hey, the carbs in pasta are good for the run tomorrow, and that steak is all protein!). But the fact is, no amount of training is going to overcome a poor diet. I’m now eating 6 times a day, and my average caloric intake has actually gone up, but my weight is lower than it’s ever been in my adult life because I don’t order pizza at night or have all-you-can-eat pancakes and syrup for breakfast. Eating clean works. Side benefit: you feel better, more alert, smarter and overall healthier when you eat right.

The second mistake was a lack of focus. So many people get to the gym, pull out there phones, and start putting their feet into repetitive motion. Maybe they’ll knock out a set and then watch the TV for five minutes, or chat with the guy on the next bench for a while. The gym is not a social hangout. You go there to sweat, to push yourself, not to relax. If you’re not pushing hard, you’re doing something wrong, and you’re wasting your time.

The third and final mistake for today was a lack of form. Like everyone else, I from time to time start concentrating on the amount of weight I’m doing, the number of reps, that sort of thing. I want to see those numbers grow, and I throw myself into it. But sometimes, that focus on moving up means a lack of focus on form. If the motion isn’t perfect, you might as well not do the lift. Poor form not only increases chance of injury – meaning you’ll be out for a long time and greatly slow down your overall progress – but it also means that you’re working muscles other than those you’re targeting. Remember, if you’re trying to squeeze out that last rep on the biceps so they totally collapse and come back bigger and stronger, it doesn’t help if you actually shift some of that load to the delts! I’ve adopted a mantra – when my form fails even slightly on a rep, and I can’t correct it on the next one, I’m done. Move on to the next set. I try not to even let it get to that point.

Anyways, that’s two months of (re-)learning boiled down right there for you. Hope it helps someone out there!

Updated on May 1st 2018 in order to add a link to the below video. I created it expressly so that I – and other helpful people on – can check my form on the big compound lifts. That’s how important good form is – I took the time to record myself in the gym, then study the footage and ask people’s advice. I recommend you do something similar!

Chicago gone Swiss