31 July 2008
Tool from Main Line: So, tell me. What's your father's business?
Me: Killing people.
TFML: Oh, you're from South Philadelphia? Funny, you don't look Italian.
I might as well have been. Still, most people didn't seem to care. There were Jews and blacks and gays at these parties. Very diverse. I remember a beautiful Iranian woman who owned a gallery. Stunning. I almost stated Farsi lessons.
What was important was your attire. My Italian friend, who was a Mummer, would have problems at an ECU party. Sammy had that South Philly, closed vent suit with a tone on tone shirt and grey leather shoes thing going on. Sammy always wore a crucifix and explained to me he wasn't that religious...he just didn't want to be mistaken for being Jewish.
If you were not the part - -you had to at least look it. Forget the guy in the boater and pay attention to my tie. Notice the stripes run from the left shoulder down towards the right. On an American tie they run from the right shoulder to the left. A detail but a very important one.
I remember it was hot. No a/c in the middle of August. Misery. But the girls were always decked out . These girls look like they don't know what to do with their hands. You know why? They're not holding a drink and a cigarette. That was how I remember them at parties. With The Talking Heads booming over a stereo.
I was big on cigars then, what with The Black Cat on Spruce and Holt's on Chestnut, you'd be an idiot not to imbibe in the leaf. Cigars attracted these girls like a magnet. They always wanted a puff...or two between drags on their Kent. Funny. I never saw anyone smoke Kents before Philadelphia or after.
27 July 2008
Only Juniors and Seniors were allowed to wear white flannel trousers.
Above- Adverts in the back. That's an amazing image for Jacob Reeds. How did Paul Stuart ever find it? I wonder if they paid for it?
23 July 2008
J Crew did a catalog in the late 80's. Bunch of 20-ish kids and some greying older folks at a beach house. A striking brunette girl who was fairly large framed. The other women were much smaller and blond. Four maybe five guys. Pick up truck. Wire Fox Terrier. The catalog ran with the same group of models for about two years. Looking at the pictures, I would make up stories about who was sleeping with you. Couldn't help it. The large brunette, I was pretty sure, slept with everybody. Wish I knew what happened to her.
Anyway, I like to buy yearbooks in used book stores for pretty much the same reason. I can put together a screenplay for one year depending on how well the yearbook was done. This is Bryn Mawr in 1959. You can pretty much be assured a couple of these girls went to work in the ad business in New York. And some wound up in the Village doing the Bohemian thing and partying with Lenny Bruce backstage.
I love looking at these pictures. A yearbook is a screenplay. A story of these people at a certain time. All of it coming together. Not bad for sixty cents. The graduating class are 70 - - 71 now. I'd give anything to meet them. I feel like I already know them.
21 July 2008
Enlisted men have always been treated like mushrooms - - kept in the dark and fed lots of shit - - Generation Kill captures the life of the enlisted man with accuracy and humor. The first episode had a Sergeant Major chewing out a noncom over the length of his moustache while in the background a fellow Marine does the John Cleese - Faulty Tower goosestep. The beauty of that moment is so real and authentic...it made me proud I was enlisted.
We also see the incompetence of officers with a very different game plan from the troops. As Trad Dad told me, "You always know the mission comes first but that doesn't mean you waste men like they were office supplies." Not to mention the waste of civilian lives. A constant theme through each episode.
I was lucky enough to see all seven episodes. Yes, it's confusing. But I can't help but think the producers want you to see it from the embedded reporter's point of view. Chaos. If you really fall for this series the way I did rush out and buy the book, Generation Kill. It'll help you understand the strategy as well as why they bought all those Depends.
What can you say about HBO. While the networks force feed us pablum like The Unit and Army Wives - -it took some real balls for HBO to put this out there. I have no doubt they will loose a lot of money because this country is not ready for Generation Kill. As one Grunt in a voice over put it, "Back home all they care about is who's in People Magazine or can they get a triple latte at Starbucks. Nobody gives a shit about us. Nobody cares." Amen to that. Although, the price of gas seems to be waking up some of us.
For more on the series check out Wally's blog at http://wallacestrobycom.blogspot.com/2008/07/generation-kill.html
19 July 2008
Following up on the Southern Trad post...I am a big fan of the needlepoint belt. I see it a lot in the south and have noticed it more and more in New York City. But there is a difference.
When I was in college, a small liberal arts college somewhere in the south, my southern girlfriend made a belt for me. It was pink and green needlepoint with my initials. She glued some sort of fabric as a backing and took it to a cobbler to add the bridle and buckle. I was so happy.
Flash forward some years and my new wife finds this belt stuck in the back of my closet. It's back there because I'm no longer a 30" waist but can't bear to part with it. I mean, it's hand made! By someone I knew. Very well I might add. "What's this?" The wife asks. I don't know why she asks because I can tell she already knows. So, out with it. "It's a belt that was made for me by my girlfriend when I was in college." She turns the belt over and squints at the glued backing. "Not a very good job is it?"
I'll spare the you the rest. You should know what happened to the belt. It was thrown away. I still have a thing for needlepoint belts. You can buy them easily enough and considering the work and hours that go into them - - $150 and up are a small price to pay. The picture on the top is a J. McLaughlin signal flag belt I own. I purchased it at their store in NYC on Madison between 92nd & 93rd. The middle picture is J Mac as well.
A word of advice. If you're in the neighborhood please stop by The Blue Tree on Madison just a block south between 91st and 92nd. Great stuff including the hard to find Santa Maria shaving cream and even better stuff is the owner, Phoebe Cates. You may even get to meet her...like I did. One of the most beautiful women ever. Well, in all honesty we didn't exactly meet. She gave me directions to McLaughlins but hoo-boy... Kevin Kline is one lucky mother fuuu...
McLaughlin sells their belts for $195 and that ain't cheap (unless you throw in a sighting of Phoebe to go along with it). But there's great quality here. The bridle and buckle are thick and solid. Check out the border of the top belt with the nautical line stitching. Great details. The bottom picture is a Smather's and Branson needlepoint. Both J Mac and S&B go to Vietnam for the needle pointing. But the J Mac excels over S&B's cheap and thin bridle. I'm not a fan of their buckle either. I think S&B runs around $165 if you're interested.
But the true Trad needlepoint is the one made for you with a pattern made for you. That's what I've been seeing in NYC. Bespoke needlepoint and is it beautiful in it's originality. The houses you've lived in. The boats you've owned. A time line of your life. Your marriages and divorces. I mean the ideas are endless. Profanity in signal flags is something I've been toying with.
18 July 2008
Take the fellow in that Stewart Tartan cotton sport coat. I think that's a Stewart tartan but who cares...what a great sport coat. Don't see those anymore. He's from Northern Virgina and went to Washington & Lee. Everything is subtle. A white oxford button down with a beautiful collar roll and a cream linen tie. Nothing loud but it communicates. Confidence. Tradition. Taste. Elegance. He' a charming guy as well.
Now for the young lady. Georgia born and bred. Louder than Virginia and much bolder with colors. She doesn't hunt but I bet her Daddy does. Whether she lives below or above the gnat line, her first exposure to any diversity was when she went to that all girls college outside of Philadelphia. Boys from Villanova made fun of how she turned "hot dog" into four syllables - "Haw-yat Daw-yag." The 'add a beads' date this but everything else could be easily purchased in any Atlanta 'burb today.
In addition to their Trad region, these two bring a great deal of themselves to their apparel. I know both of them love classic clothing but their own sense of style makes them who they are - -not their zip code.
14 July 2008
11 July 2008
Check out that Fair Isle sweater on Donna. Smashing. I'm sure those are pewter buttons as well. I was told this was taken in May somewhere in MA. It looks miserable and so does the grass but that's not the point. What I find so Trad about this picture (besides the clothes) are the Trad haircuts and the Trad posture. I haven't seen either amongst today's children. I also like the faded patina of the photograph. Most likely developed through a drug store that had wood floors, a lunch counter and Bugler rolling tobacco behind the cash register.
I've always been envious of people who lived in one place for more than a year. You have life long friends (Donna's still friends with the two girls), your mail doesn't get lost, you know your way around town and you pick up a style. I changed entire wardrobes with every move. Colorado Springs was Vasque rock climbing boots, jeans, and a John Denver-ish western snap button shirt. Hampton, VA was shorts, topsiders and a Hang Ten shirt. Back then I was all over the board...I guess I still am.
10 July 2008
To each his own...right?
The book is interesting and has lots of stories of Joe getting screwed by people in the retail business. Apparently he's still getting screwed and you can read about it simply by "googling" Joe's name. I don't care if you make clothes outta burlap - -you don't deserve some of the crap Joe has gone through. Having said that, Joe thinks brass blazer buttons are an anachronism. He insists the blue blazer have horn buttons - -preferably in a darker color. WTF is that all about? I love brass blazer buttons. How dare Joe say...wait a minute... Putty shirts and dirt ties. Oynx swivel cuff links. Closed vent suits. Nordstroms! Fashion consultant to Bill O'Reilly?!Makes prefect sense to me.
I have no beef about blazers without brass buttons. I think Mother of Pearl buttons top out a summer blazer. While reading Joe's book I was aware of how forceful he was with his opinions regarding style. And most of it, I thought, was dead wrong, certainly for a Nordic, fair, blue eyed lad such as myself. But Joe was insistent through the book that all men should dress like him. Okay, he has a lot of clothes to sell. I understand that. Still, I thank God every day that there are men out there wearing duck billed Kenneth Cole shoes, tone on tone shirts, ties with abstract patterns that are dead ringers for the female reproductive system (I've seen them) and Joseph Abboud Blazers. They have their story to tell... and I have mine.
09 July 2008
05 July 2008
Louis Armstrong and his band kitted out in matching blazers with Mother of Pearl buttons. Anita O'Day in her marvelous hat and white gloves. Thelonious Monk and his bamboo sunglasses. In the audience there's the beautiful girl in the red sweater chewing gum. Ascots. Bermuda shorts. Straw hats. Capri pants. And young couples having some real fun. I felt like crying.
I was so taken with how 1958 was captured that I Netflixed two films from the era. "The Best of Everything" and "The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit." For those fans of "Mad Men" who are waiting for the new season...rent these films if you haven't already. For fans of Mr Stern...you must buy the DVD of "Jazz on a Summer's Day" and watch it over and over again for this is a Trad home run.
04 July 2008
01 July 2008
Vodka Ronnie or Vodka as he was known, was one of my favorite nicknames for one of my favorite people. A few years ago at a conference somewhere in the states...an old friend of Vodka Ronnie's from the UK (Mutley) was doing the "Grip & Grin" at a cocktail reception when he saw Vodka Ronnie across the room. Mutley had not seen Vodka in donkey years and, thanks to a drink or two, the usually shy and reserved Mutley shouted, "VODKA!" just as a waitress walked in front of him. She gave Mutley a nasty look as did the rest of the room who assumed Mutley was just another drunk Brit placing a drinks order.
Years ago Vodka and I had business in Phoenix. Checking into the Phoenix Biltmore Hotel, the desk clerk asked Vodka if he wanted a smoking room. A keen observation on her part since Vodka was standing there holding and smoking a Silk Cut. Vodka rolled his eyes and said, "Is the room smoking or is it still on fire?" The desk clerk froze as Vodka continued, "I mean, I don't mind a little smoke coming from the walls but if there's a lot of smoke..." Vodka stopped, realizing this wasn't going anywhere with his intended victim, and placed his credit card on the counter. She took the plastic and asked Vodka if he wanted a key for his minibar. "That," replied Vodka, "is the stupidest question I've ever been asked." He took a long drag off his Silk Cut and blew out a stream of smoke just over her head. "Of course, I want the key to the minibar."
The best part of being an Army Brat is not being from anywhere. Since I'm not from anywhere, I'm not connected to anything and consequently I'm open to a lot. Clothes, food, cars, people, countries... While Tintin and Snowy may be the US version of Johnny Quest and Bandit, he means more to me than just a comic character. He represents an openness to all things, places and people. The joy of travel and the desire to learn about what I don't know. By the way, Sting likes this sweater as well.