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:
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:
And now you’re good to go:
Photos of P. Sears Schoonmaker by Adam Quirk.