There has been no shortage of buzz on the internet the past few months about Kent Wang’s spread collar polo shirt. It wouldn’t be a big stretch to call it the official summer shirt of the menswear blogosphere. But Kent Wang has a lot more up his sleeve than just polo shirts, and he was kind enough to speak with us about Kent Wang: the man, Kent Wang: the haberdasher, and even sent us a smattering of Kent Wang products to take a look at.
Often, it’s a dissatisfaction with the status quo that leads us to venture out and fix the problem ourselves. Kent Wang started this way with the humble pocket square. Kent Wang bought some cloth, had some squares cut from it, and because he only wanted one for himself, sold the extras on Style Forum. “It took off from there – I kind of fell into it really.”
Eventually, Kent pulled his products from Style Forum and opened up his own online destination, selling all of his house-label products. “I wanted a place you could get niche products, and niche because they were timeless classics that had fallen out of favor with the big manufacturers.” Double-sided cufflinks came next, and at the beginning Kent Wang was soldering them together himself. Now, if you poke around the Kent Wang website, you’ll find pocket squares, cuff links, ties, shirts, polos, and a few other bits and bobs.
When I called Kent Wang up in Shanghai, our interview did hit a couple of snags. There was the side discussion about the various economic and fashion-related factors that might have led to the demise of the double-sided cufflink, and then there was the mutual excitement over the “crunchiness” of good knit ties. In other words, it was tough to stay focused – and in the best way possible.
Kent Wang is a guy who dresses for himself, not others, and it comes through not just when you speak to him but in his products as well. Textures, details, and finishing touches are the name of the game, and most of the products, to be frank, wouldn’t look the least out of the ordinary if you happened to catch a glimpse of someone wearing them across the room. Again, this is a good thing.
When I asked what he considered to be essentials for any well-turned-out gent, Kent Wang had a three-fold reply. “First, you have to have a pocket square. The white-on-white leaf print I do is underrated, and most guys just end up ordering plain white linen. The leaves can stand in any time a plain is called for and you know there’s that little bit extra in your pocket. Even guys who don’t wear ties very often need a navy grenadine. It’s solid, so it goes with everything, but that texture makes it look rich and interesting. Finally, a pair of cufflinks. Silver knots or mother of pearl are versatile and not flashy. They add some interest but are totally classic.” Kent Wang provided me all three essentials so I could take them for a spin and see if I agree.
The Kent Wang Essentials
Just like Kent Wang said, the white-on-white leaf print is almost invisible on the cotton square. I’ve worn mine as my default white square for the past few weeks and only a handful of very observant people have noticed. The edge was tightly rolled, and the cloth had a pleasant hand. I gave mine a nice iron to see if I could get it really crisp and crease free, and had no problems doing so. That said, I usually just toss it in my pocket and chalk the wrinkles up to some sprezzatura. Overall it’s a great basic, and I can see why Kent Wang loves it so much.
When I first pulled out the Kent Wang tie, I’ll admit to being a bit disappointed. The geometry of the wide blade was less than perfect – it looked as though it had been cut slightly off center, and I thought about sending it right back to Kent Wang for a fresh one. My patience paid off though, and through some miracle of physics (far too complicated for me to even attempt to figure out), the blade has evened out. The Kent Wang grenadine is garza grossa, the larger variant, and the silk is in that sweet spot between shiny and matte. Kent Wang insists on using the garza grossa for the increased textural element, and I must say I agree with him. The length (57 inches / 145cm) was nice, and the tie (made in Italy) was well put together. As a bonus, Kent Wang grenadine ties are really aggressively priced at $75, and also get my endorsement. In addition, you might also be interested in Kent Wang knit ties.
Finally, the Kent Wang cufflinks. Again, I was skeptical. I’m extremely fastidious about my cuffs. Half the time, I wear silk knots because they hold the tightest, and the other half, I wear one of two or three pairs of links that I carefully selected to hold my cuffs at an exactly proper distance. Typically, I find double-sided or bar cufflinks leave your cuffs looking limp and unpolished. But I think I’m a convert.
Kent Wang sent me the sterling and mother of pearl ovals. The sterling silver has a nice heft to it, and while the little chain links felt fragile at first, I quickly realized there was nothing to worry about. The mother of pearl is set cleanly, and best of all the links slide easily though one’s cuffs. “It seems to me like one reason for the popularity of toggle cufflinks is because people are making the design side huge.
[They are] much too large to thread through a cuff. But on the double-sided cufflink that size limitation actually helps you keep things balanced and more aesthetically pleasing,” says Kent Wang. Here here, sir. Nothing worse than fumbling with cufflinks as you’re trying to get out the door. I’ve worn them for a few evenings out and a few days on the town, and must say I stand corrected about double-sided links – these worked like a charm and fit the understatedly-elegant bill to a T.
The Kent Wang Polo
Along with his three essential recommendations, Kent Wang sent me one of his polo shirts. Like I said, Kent Wang polo shirts have become quite the hit this summer, and for good reason. They tick all the boxes – spread collar, mother of pearl buttons, lightweight pique cloth, and a trim, but not tight, fit that you will not find anywhere else. Kent Wang polo shirts run a little small and so you should consider ordering them one size larger than you would usually though. After a year, the polos look rather worn and aged.
There is a three-button placket, which sits nicely with the bottom button done up. The MOP buttons are flat and do not have a shank, while the buttonholes were not cut all the way through and looked a little sloppy. Unlike many polo shirts, Kent Wang ‘s are not longer in the back than in the front. The Kent Wang collar is constructed with a collar band, and the collar itself is two layers. Essentially it’s built like a tailored shirt collar, not a typical polo collar. I haven’t had any of the spread-and-flop issues that I usually have with my ribbed-collar polos, and I do get asked a lot where my shirt is from. Unfortunately, the cotton does not age well. It’s certainly a very rakish alternative to the typical casual shirt, and at $65 it’s less expensive than other established brands, though Uniqlo offers the same style in a poly blend for under $20.
At the end of the day the collar is great, and so are the buttons but considering it ages poorly $65 may not be the best investment.
A Final Note
Kent Wang is definitely a brand to watch. It sounds like a huge cliche, but good basics really are the foundation of any gentleman’s wardrobe.
Finally, Kent Wang himself will tell you that he’s very driven by offering good value and keeping prices accessible. He’s picky about what factories he will use, and what materials go into his products, but will not do something purely to say he does it. It must represent value for money, and so currently, all Kent Wang Polos are made in Asia, Kent Wang ties are handmade in Italy and the Kent Wang cuff links and pocket squares are manufactured in the US. At the end of the day, Kent Wang cufflinks aren’t Cartier and Kent Wang grenadine ties aren’t Fort Belvedere’s, it’s true. But, if you’re looking for something that offers a standard of quality and style far above it’s asking price, you’d be hard pressed to do better than Kent Wang, and you certainly won’t regret it.
You may purchase Kent Wang products online at www.kentwang.com