Knit-Picky: The Streamlined Style of P. Sears Schoonmaker

Phil Sears Schoonmaker wears a black knit tie 98 percent of the time. This one preference serves as a symbol for his entire approach to dressing.

Thirty-seven-year-old Schoonmaker, a New York-based business process consultant, is a living embodiment of the idea that less is more, of restrained taste and bold simplicity. With his superb balancing of the hip and traditional, he’s a testament to the timeless appeal of the Ivy League Look.

In addition to knit ties, Schoonmaker digs suits with narrow lapels, old and puckered oxford shirts, engine-turned belt buckles, canvas sneakers, selvedge denim, and vintage Timex watches. (J. Crew, who’ve been using real people in their catalogs lately, should grab this guy as their next top model.)

Ivy-Style recently spoke with Schoonmaker about his perfectly simple and simply perfect style.

IS: Describe your business attire. What kinds of suits, shirts, ties and shoes do you wear?

PSS: My style is guided by simplicity. I wear suits and sportcoats cut in the traditional Ivy League manner and prefer fabrics that are more casual in nature. I seek out vintage Chipp and Brooks Brothers exclusively, and purchase my custom-made items from Paul Winston. His passion, creativity and attention to detail are a rare find.

My shirts are cut slim with a button-down or tab collar and a flap pocket. I purchase all my shirts from Mr. Tom Davis and the made-to-measure program at the Madison Avenue Brooks Brothers. Mr. Davis has been with Brooks Brothers for more than 40 years. He is a consummate gentleman and one of the best dressed men I have ever met.

I wear a black silk knit tie 98 percent of the time. When I’m not wearing a black silk knit, I wear one of my vintage unlined Brooks Brothers rep ties. My preferred shoe is Alden’s longwing model in either color eight shell cordovan or brown suede. I also wear Alden’s unlined suede chukkas, especially for travel.

IS: A black silk knit 98% of the time? Why such loyalty?

PSS: There is something about a black knit tie that means business. The black silk knit tie is the anchor of my entire wardrobe.

IS: Yet worn with brown shoes.

PSS: Brown shoes gain character as they age. Brown shoes fade, scuff and develop a patina in a way black shoes cannot. I think brown and black go together quite nicely.

IS: How many black knit ties do you own?

PSS: I have seven black silk knits, all from J. Press. They recently widened them, though, so I will have to find a new supplier. I also have two black cashmere knits from Ralph Lauren.

IS: How did you develop your mid-century sense of style?

PSS: I am drawn to mid-century style because it appeals to my sense of order and minimalism. The idea that an object can be appreciated purely for its function, rather than its ornamentation, speaks to me. The clothes of the era reflected this ideal of the broader mid-century design movement. Jack Lemmon’s character CC Baxter in the 1960 film “The Apartment” is a primary influence of mine, as is Robert Redford’s character Joseph Turner in the 1975 film “Three Days of the Condor.” The subjects in Julius Shulman’s photographs of “The Case Study Project” have also influenced my style.

IS: What do you like to wear for casual attire?

PSS: My casual attire follows the same philosophy as my business clothes. I wear Sugar Cane 1947 edition jeans with the bottoms turned up, usually with Tretorn or Jack Purcell canvas sneakers, no socks. All my t-shirts are heather grey.

In cold weather I wear flannel pants, oxford cloth dress shirts, Shetland wool sweaters and tweed coats. As my work clothes age and become too tattered for business settings, they are retired to my weekend wardrobe.

IS: How many suits and sportcoats do you have?

PSS: I own eight suits and eight sportcoats.

Want Phil’s look for yourself? Here’s how to get it:

For business, start with a simple dark suit with narrow lapels, such as this Fitzgerald model by Brooks Brothers:

Add a flap-pocket oxford and black silk knit tie from J. Press:

 Next, model 975 longwings from Alden:

To keep his pants up, Phil wears an engine-turned buckle from Tiffany:Paired with an alligator belt from Ralph Lauren:

For casual attire, Phil likes polo shirts and oxford button-downs worn with the 1947 model selvedge jeans from Sugar Cane:

Canvas plimsoles from Tretorn:

And an olive military surplus web belt:

For timepieces, Phil likes vintage Hamilton and Timex watches, always on an olive band, like this one from J. Crew:

And now you’re good to go:

Photos of P. Sears Schoonmaker by Adam Quirk.

50 Comments on "Knit-Picky: The Streamlined Style of P. Sears Schoonmaker"

  1. Pink & Green | July 6, 2010 at 9:56 am |

    Simply wow. Amazing in simplicity, style and function. Nice to see authenticity instead of pretension.

    J. Crew, I’m looking at you.

  2. Andrew So | July 6, 2010 at 10:23 pm |

    Ah, a man after my own heart! I revel in a simplistic wardrobe; it allows clothes to take a backseat to the more important matters in life. However, I respect the lifestyle and dress of any man who abides by a strict set of rules.

  3. Charles Day | July 7, 2010 at 5:21 am |

    I hope you’ll post more wardrobe profiles of stylish people from outside the fashion world

  4. Nice profile, I admire his style. Reminds me of a certain “Tom Rath”.

  5. Excellent profile. I’ll enjoy more of these in the future.

  6. “Tom Rath” is exactly who I thought of. It’s almost uncanny. Same guy?

  7. Nicely done. I also would enjoy reading more posts like this.

  8. How about that sweater? Is it vintage? Crew neck or V? Any good quality modern examples?

  9. Michael E | July 7, 2010 at 6:07 pm |

    Who is Tom Rath?

  10. Christian | July 7, 2010 at 7:45 pm |

    An escapee from Devil’s Island.

  11. James Brown | July 8, 2010 at 7:19 am |

    Next style icon profile: Mr. Thomas Davis of Brooks Brothers MTM.

  12. Christian | July 8, 2010 at 7:28 am |

    Good idea, James.

  13. NaturalShoulder | July 8, 2010 at 12:41 pm |

    Great profile. Much to admire in the philosophy and execution.

  14. You gotta admire Mr. Schoonmaker for his clean ethos. At the same time, he’s really close to the border of boring and unimaginative. Why so? He states that:

    “I am drawn to mid-century style because it appeals to my sense of order and minimalism. The idea that an object can be appreciated purely for its function, rather than its ornamentation, speaks to me.”

    But, he’s also quite particular about turning up the cuff of his jeans. How pray tell is that congruent with his supposed ethos? I’m confused.

  15. Wisco, I think your comments prove that Mr. Schoonmaker has accomplished exactly what he’s set to do. Style is in the details. Bravo, Mr. Schoonmaker.

    I too would be very interested in a profile Mr. Tom Davis.

  16. this was kind of off-putting. Mr P Sears seems to take himself wayyyyyy too seriously. “a living embodiment of the idea that less is more, of restrained taste and bold simplicity?”

    i’m just saying. i love this classic american menswear, but sometimes it gets awfully pretentious. to my mind one of the virtues of american style is NOT taking oneself way too seriously.

  17. Christian | July 9, 2010 at 7:15 am |

    Re: “a living embodiment of the idea that less is more, of restrained taste and bold simplicity?”

    That’s not Mr. Schoonmaker taking himself too seriously, that’s me taking him too seriously.

  18. HRH The Duke of Windsor | July 9, 2010 at 2:46 pm |

    Great profile Christian, nicely done!

  19. Jordan Winer | July 10, 2010 at 10:12 am |

    Great images, great less is more achieved..I was gonna self nominate meself for a profile… I pause..
    jordan w

  20. Christian,

    I like the shirt in the first photo as it has a nice and soft roll. Do you happen to know if it a Mr. Tom Davis or a Brooks Brothers made-to-measure?

    Thank you,

  21. Christian | July 12, 2010 at 2:24 pm |

    Please rephrase the question.

  22. Sorry, is the shirt that Mr. Sears is wearing in the first photograph a Tom Davis or Brooks Brothers design?
    Thanks again.


  23. Christian | July 12, 2010 at 4:26 pm |

    Perhaps Mr. Schoonmaker can answer.

  24. And how may I get in touch with Mr. Schoonmaker? I thought perhaps you conducted the interview.

  25. Christian | July 13, 2010 at 3:38 pm |

    Perhaps he can answer you here. Phil?

  26. Thanks for the question. I specifically request that the collars and cuffs on all my Brooks Brothers have no interlining whatsoever. The shirt in the first photo is white oxford cloth, with the Brooks Brothers “polo” collar, with points measuring 3 3/8″ in length.

  27. J.M. Pinsky | July 14, 2010 at 5:49 pm |

    Mr. Schoonmaker,

    Could you provide some more examples of your casual attire?

    Excellent profile… I adore the structure and simplicity of your style.

  28. Thank you very much, gentlemen.

  29. Fascinating, and well-written.

    A minimalist wardrobe has its appeal (my wife would love it if I had fewer than a dozen ties). And indeed, as Bill wrote, “Style is in the details”; Mr. Schoonmaker, through the strict application of his rules, has a unique style that works for him.

    I think he looks great, and his clothing adheres to the English ideal of well-dressed: someone who makes you think “he looks good,” but 15 minutes after you part, you can’t remember what he was wearing.

    Even so, to echo some of the comments, I believe that some (many?) men would find this particular look boring for themselves if worn every day. Personally, I love dressing for the season, and that’s something that you can’t do with his approach. However, I also think that most men can get at least some inspiration from Mr. Schoonmaker. Try what he does, adapting it to yourself.

    P.S.: While black and brown don’t work together, black and burgundy–the color of those longwings–can be a nice combination.

    P.P.S.: I’m gettting really, really sick of that model with the bushy eyebrows. Why is he so ubiquitous?

  30. Would the Shetland sweater that Mr. Schoonmaker is wearing in the photograph happen to be a J. Press Shaggy Dog?

  31. Mr Schoonmaker should have a blog. I would love to see more photos of his style!

  32. @David C:

    You would? What, pray tell, do you imagine those photos would contain? We’ve seen his everything — unless your imagination needs a photo of a heather gray t-shirt with Mr. Schoonmaker inside of it.

  33. THOM SCHOONMAKER | November 23, 2013 at 3:54 pm |


  34. I can smell the Mung through my monitor!

  35. The only change I’d make is from the Alden Longwing to the Alden Plain Toe Blucher Oxford…still in shell cordovan Color 8, though. Or, maybe, Edward Green’s Algonquin. Other than that, spot-on, mate!

  36. F. Framboise | July 2, 2017 at 7:15 am |

    Now I have even more motivation to reduce the number of ties in my wardrobe.

  37. Why do several-year-old posts appear in my feed as being new?

  38. For my generation black ties are worn at formal functions and funerals. I shall continue to increase the size of my multi-hued tie collection whenever a perfect tie materializes.

  39. @ Don archived posts are revisited when they relate to recent posts or discussions on the FB page such as black knit ties and brown shoes. I’m pretty sure this has been a feature since the site’s redesign one or two years ago.

  40. @Don

    DCG explained it perfectly. The site is nine years old with some 1,600 posts, most of which have some evergreen value. I have us “revisit” them by resposting to the top of the website when the subject matter is relevant to recent discussions here on in the Facebook group.

    Originally I would put an italicized note that the post had previoiusly appeared at the top at an earlier date, but I started to think this was more awkward than it was worth, and that astute viewers would see the date on earlier comments and surmise that the story had been at the top once before. Please let me know if you have other suggestions.


  41. Willard Straight | July 2, 2017 at 1:52 pm |


    If members of your generation wear knit black silk ties at funerals, that is very odd indeed.

  42. I wasn’t an active reader in ’10 so I appreciate the reposts. Black tie, regardless of knit, is still black tie to me, and wearing it all the time strips my styles joie de vivre. Everything else is spot on especially the Tretorns. I wear mine every weekend. I also like Redfords style in “Barefoot in the Park.”

  43. P3 Tortoise | July 3, 2017 at 8:28 am |

    One can always rotate with a navy silk knit tie for the sake of variety.

  44. From Brooks Brother’s site re M-t-M Shirt Program: “(Tom Davis has) he’s been serving for his nearly 48 years at Brooks Brothers. It was the late 1960s and post Vietnam when Davis, fresh out of the army, applied for a position as a stockroom clerk… “

    And: it was his client Gianni Agnelli who would seal his fate as a sartorial star of made to measure shirts. “Mr. Agnelli loved clothing, and he was like a kid in a candy shop when I took him for a tour around the store,” Davis fondly recalls of the chairman of Fiat who wore only Brooks Brothers button-down shirts. “He wore three colors: white, beige, blue. Not stripe, never another color.”

  45. Mitchell S. | July 3, 2017 at 9:20 am |

    It’s just wrong, just wrong.

    First, one never wears a black tie with brown shoes. Black shoes are a must.

    Second, a tab collar shirt should never be in Oxford cloth. Oxford cloth is not formal enough for a tab collar.

  46. I recently heard that Tom Davis retired. Many at 346 were offered retirement packages. Now would be the time to finally interview him, but I’ve no idea how to find him!

  47. Carmelo Pugliatti | July 3, 2017 at 11:26 am |

    I like very much.
    A European (Italian) version could be three (or two) buttons single breasted with sober patterns,in gray,blue,,blue-gray and very dark brown.

    White or pale blue shirts,solid or with very thin and fade strips (great white with fade gray strips),and dark navy grenadine or knitted ties (7cm).

    A sort of Sean Connery 007 meet Marcello Mastroianni in the early 60s.

    Obviously slender,but very far to the skimpy/short ugly fashion fade of today.

  48. EVAN EVERHART | April 6, 2018 at 1:01 pm |

    @ Mitchell S.

    Best not to say necessarily never, or to write rules in stone based upon your own preferences and predilections.

    I frequently wear a black silk knit tie with my usual rotation of browns and grays worn with various shades of brown/tan shoes, and have even worn on one occasion; cocoa brown suede Allen Edmonds longwings with a black BB sack, and on another occasion, mahogany brown semi brogued cap toes with the same sack, and an ox blood alligator belt. My tie was a dark brown grenadine….My shirt was a pin-point oxford tab collar shirt.

    Speaking of which, I think that if the oxford cloth were not too beefy, it might work for a tab collared shirt, especially in the traditional BB cut. It could also be that Mr. Schoonmaker simply mis-spoke, or rather was imprecise in his response and he actually meant that his tab collar shirts were made up in Pinpoint Oxford, as opposed to perhaps regular oxford. Who knows, who cares. Why worry? As long as he’s dressed as a man should be (he is), and his clothes fit (they do), and they’re not garish or vulgar (they’re certainly not), why sweat the little details? I hate darted suits, but I’d rather see all of the other men in the city mostly wearing well cut and fitted darted suits and sport coats, than traipsing about in the ill fitting work wear, and athletic wear, and essentially underwear that they currently wear – or shudder the ill fitting ill cut women’s suits currently available on the proverbial main street stores. Just saying. Not trying to blast you; I just want to present a different perspective and illustrate the point of that perspective and its validity as a position.

  49. Simple elegance.
    Well tailored!

    Phil nails the concept of modern trad and personal style – awesome choices.

    I wish we could see how his style has evolved since this article was first published.

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