29 November 2010
Which looks better out of focus
Last week I met Brohammas for breakfast in Philadelphia. Nice guy. Never had a drop of alcohol. Good thing we met for breakfast. Anyway, he asked if he could interview me and after two cups of coffee I was off like a rocket. You can read the interview and see his art here.I thought a picture might help with the story (told here) of the ascot and blazer patch. I've tried to recreate what I wore that night here. I want to be very clear about the rule I broke that night. Whenever you wear an ascot it's best to tone everything else down. A lot.
That night I did just the opposite with a double breasted blazer and blazer patch. A pair of velvet slippers would have pushed this affectation way off the reservation. I told my young interviewer, "If you can't forget you're wearing it - you probably shouldn't."
26 November 2010
A $15 bottle of brandy - A $30Bridle belt - A Souleiado button down. - And Michael Parks. What's it all have in common? You're gonna be goin' down a lonesome highway.
I was 12 when 'Then Came Bronson' came into my family living room. The opening had Parks pulling up to a red light on his Harley, looking like a hipster yanked off Greenpoint Avenue. A connection? Maybe
Some poor 9-5 stiff in a station wagon and a hipster hat (A connection? Maybe.) looks up at Parks and asks, "Taking a trip?" Parks mumbles, "Yeah." "Where to?" the stiff asks. Parks tells him, "Oh, I dunno. Where ever I end up I guess." The stiff looks in the direction of Parks crotch and sighs, "Man, I wish I was you."
Alright, I made up the part about the crotch but it was a great opening to a TV show that was wildly original but as odd as it was uneven. Still, I loved the show despite my mother's observation, "He's a bum! It's a TV show about a bum."
But men are born risk takers and women are born adverse to risk. It's a simple fact of life and it's the reason life insurance was invented. The only solution man has to, "I wanna sky dive, honey." is $5 million worth of term.
That belt and shirt are of French origin. I've touched on Souleiado before. I suppose it's an acquired taste yet the origins are hundreds of years old. The shirt pattern is a hand blocked print from the 18th century. That buckle would look a helluva lot better if it were cut in half but there's something very French about it. An "up yours" quality I have always loved about the French. Even when I'm on the receiving end of it.
I can flash the same "up yours" attitude when I'm in a NYC wine store and ask where the brandy is. "Sir, we don't have any brandy but the cognac is over...Sir? Sir...? Where did he go?" I don't like mixing $80 Hine cognac for a Side Car. Same goes with a splash of brandy in black coffee with melted dark chocolate stirred in. Blansac is French and it's brandy and it's cheap.
I think Parks would dig it. He'd scratch his watch cap while he toes a rock with his boot. Looking up he mumbles, "Yeah, a Side Car sounds nice. Where d'ja get that shirt?"
25 November 2010
24 November 2010
You don't have to walk 'em
You're gonna like your crossed legs...
I guarantee it
It's hard to criticize socks when so much of the sartorial world has driven off the Kenneth Cole cliff. Still, nothing can take a Savile Row suit and a pair Lobbs down to the gutter quicker than cheap socks. Likewise, nothing kicks up your khakis and Weejuns more than a luxury sock in an understated design. They say women notice men's shoes. I think they're looking at our socks.
Today Corgi makes socks in South Wales on hundred year old machines managed by a brother and sister who are the great, great, grandchildren of the the 1892 founder, Rhys Jones. They carry a Prince of Wales warrant and even offer a pair designed by the prince's son, William. They also make an argyle hose for the Scottish Highland Regiments. Each pair is made by hand and takes eight hours.
While royalty and Highland Regiments seem to always get all the good stuff -- Corgi offers up their custom services to you. Socks in cashmere with your initials (Dwight Eisenhower had a pair) can be ordered a pair at a time for a reasonable $100 while full bespoke of your own design require a minimum order of 5 dozen -- I'll help you work out a deal. I'm guessing you could have a lot of fun with these options. I have a pair of cashmere in the works with FTA for initials. Gonna wear them at my next army reunion at Ft Bragg. They'll be a hit.
I've been field testing the two pair you see in the photos. While I think they look great - - they feel even better. I cannot wear Gold Toe socks. The machine made toe (Corgi are made by hand) grabs my toes like a vice grip and all day long it drives me outta my mind. Cheap boxers do the same thing. To me. Not my toes.
Besides, life is just too damned short to wear ill fitting socks (or boxers). The old warning, 'Luxuries can quickly become necessities...' is true but Corgi is about putting your foot down and treating yourself to the very best. For a limited time Corgi is offering a 25% discount on their new fine gauge socks on orders over $50. Just type in, 'corgibytrad' when you place your order on line and don't forget to knock 17.5% off the price for VAT. That makes for a total of 42.5% off or what we called years ago, 'dollar / pound parity, yeah.' Go here for the details and start crossing your legs more.
Update: A reader commented the discount code didn't work. My fault. The special offer extends to the fine gauge socks only. Also, the initial sock is not on the web site yet. I'll check if you can order off the menu.
23 November 2010
22 November 2010
Chapel Hill 1966
"Great" is in grateful. "Titled" is in, "entitled." Contrast in all things. A chunky wool tweed against end on end shirting and a silk tie. A potato knish for breakfast and later lunch at the Four Seasons. Then there's contrast in words: Grateful and entitled.
We're coming up on the day we're all supposed to be thankful. I didn't want to spend that day with my family in 1966. Dad was in Vietnam and a friend of mine invited me to spend Thanksgiving with his family. He had a lot to be thankful for. His father owned a number of Esso stations and they were rich.
Their ranch house was the length of a football field with a pond in the front and a go kart track around it. The go-kart had a blue and white surrey top and a white vinyl bench seat. And as things go with boys -- his stuff was my mine and my stuff was his.
We tore around the pond lap after lap stopping only once to refill with gas. I assumed it was free. Speaking of words, I just noticed how beautiful the word 'go kart' is. Anyway, the day had the faintest hint of chill and absolutely no humidity. Not an everyday occurrence in the humid swamp that was Chapel Hill most days.
Outside was better than inside.
A formal dining room with one window seemed dark as death and brown as a coffin. Brown was in the turkey, the iced tea, the Queen Anne dining set and death was in the grandmother who sat at the head of the table. No one talked except the grandmother and I never wanted to hear her speak again.
After dinner everyone wandered into the living room where the color TV was turned on with a remote the size of a Montecristo No. 4 box. I don't remember what they watched. I only remember it was time to go. Later in life this would be, "a bad scene." The go kart wasn't worth it.
I walked into my tiny house where neighbors and their children were crammed into every corner. It was loud. Bright with light. Color slides of French gardens from a neighbors recent holiday flashed on a bare white wall and wine bottles littered our Scandinavian dinner table.
I still see it and I still remember knowing it meant something beyond the contrast. I wanted to be in the light and not the dark. I still do and for that I'm grateful.
19 November 2010
That watch has been more trouble. I banged it everywhere including the side of a C130 over Sicily DZ and the Devil's Playground in Spring Lake. Senior noncoms, not to mention officers, did not take kindly to a PFC wearing a Rolex...even if it was a lowly Submariner.
Today, every three to five years, it'll start running fast, then slow and then finally stops resulting in a $600 repair bill and a two to three month wait.
Sharing my enthusiasm of Ultravox! in 1977 with an Army barracks was something of a problem. Stereo wars were endless what with competing blasts of the Commodores, Boston and Thin Lizzy. Still, the Sub and Ultravox have stood the test of time. Better than Seiko and Boston. I just wish the Devil's Playground was still in business.
18 November 2010
17 November 2010
"Building a personal style, creatively understanding oneself, seeking out those whose work and vision coincides - this is not something that can be accomplished overnight, or by giving in to the ever-changing whim of the moment. It is the work of a lifetime. And it is only possible when a sense of self is present: knowing every facet of oneself, trusting one's "eye" and heart, and being fearless."
I wish I had said that. Instead, the above was a comment on Cathy Horyn's blog by Visone or, as I discovered through Twitter, a Ms. Susan Crawford from somewhere in the Hudson Valley. I tried Twitter several months ago and was underwhelmed by the president of Zappos describing his hotel room in Dallas or where ever. But I'm going to try again, if for no other reason, than to listen carefully to Ms. Crawford.
16 November 2010
(click on image to enlarge)
In 1947, James Agate, noted drama critic of the London Sunday Times gave a dinner at the Savoy for Lexington, KY born NYC drama critic, John Mason Brown. Agate asked Brown, "Tell me, why do you Americans, delightful individually, taken collectively add up to a bunch of twerps?" Brown swung back, "All right, Agate, why with you Britishers is the converse the case?"
I listened as the man seated next to me at dinner scold a woman who did not recognise his Eton tie. While the Golf Foxtrot rolled her eyes - I thought it was brilliant. Growing up a wandering army brat I've always been an outsider. Whether it was Hampton, VA or London, I've never felt I belonged. Anywhere. What the Foxtrot thought affected - I thought highly entertaining.
Yesterday I commented to Alice Olive that my use of "pussy" denoted a scarf. But I had no business using that word as I'm as far from Winchester College as I am from the moon. I did want Alice to know that my reference had authenticity. I just had no business using it. I feel the same about clothing. I saw a Royal Navy Submariner parka for sale at Grahame Fowler's shop. Close to pulling out the plastic I had a change of mind. I had no business wearing it.
Charlie Davidson told me, "Are we going to wear it or is it going to wear us." Good advice but that doesn't mean we can't look. At the clothes or the words.
15 November 2010
I've never been much of a DIY kinda guy. But the idea of strolling shopping malls just plain depresses me. So this year I went to the source. First stop, Arthur Provencher's Wind Ridge Farm in Henniker, NH for the goods. Llama wool of the highest quality. Light, warm and obviously US sourced. The wool is sheared, combed and carded and spun all in the US of A. For a sweater I'll need two pounds. That's $98. I saved on shipping by picking up my order at the farm.
I don't knit but I'm a big fan of finding and paying people who do. Check out a local knitting supply store and ask who can do a decent sweater. Look at existing patterns or create your own. I'm working on a fuzzy blue and white argyle with rampant Llamas for the Golf Foxtrot. Cost. $200. That's $298 all in. I got to meet the Llamas, design the sweater and stay outta the mall.
12 November 2010
Published by Tailor and Cutter. Written by Sydney Barney. Highly recommended by Charlie Davidson. Long before Flusser's, Clothes and the Man. Damned near impossible to find. Arrived in today's mail. Opened to page 78. Fourth paragraph down.
Bow Ties.- When the collar size is 14/14 1/2, 15/15 1/2, 16/16 1/2, 17/17 1/2, - the bow length is 31, 32, 33, 34 respectively. If you prefer a loosely tied bow add one size, and likewise if you want a tight bow deduct one size.
I have written before (Bow Ties & Erections) that selecting your neck size on an adjustable bow gives you a tie far too wide for your face. While I'm between a 16 and a 16 1/2, my bows are hooked at 14 to 14 1/2.
I measured a few and wouldn't you know. Most of them are 33" long. Exactly the length suggested above. Stay tuned for my book report next week. If the dog doesn't eat it.
11 November 2010
10 November 2010
09 November 2010
I think mixing patterns is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. The Brits do it better than anyone and I stole a lot over the years from Lionel Hardcastle in, As Time Goes By. Lionel had a thing for Tattersall check shirts and beautiful tweed and herringbone jackets. A solid wool tie calmed down the patterns considerably.
Wool ties have the texture you need but, for me, they lack character and depth. That is, they just sit there like they've had too much single malt. I've written about Pierrepont Hicks before. Kat and Mac are a married couple who put out a line of ties and bows that, while out of the box, also stay true to tradition. I've said before their ties are hip enough for Crosby Street but there's nothing dad or granddad wouldn't enjoy around their necks.
This tie, the Conrad, has that same out of box thinking. Inspired by the camel hair sport coat, the tie is solid but the texture is rich. I'd say, stone cold sober. Made in NYC, the tie literally springs off the collar. It dimples easily and looks warm on a Tattersall check. Perfect for the Winter antique's show or dinner some Fall night at the Gramarcy Tavern. Just stay away from pasta.
This is not cheaply made. To echo the camel hair sport coat lining -- the narrow blade of the tie is silk along with the self loop which is sewn into the center seam. It's also self tipped. $140 is a small price to pay for unique soul and a whole lot more interesting than Hermes or Ferragamo.
For a perfect dimple, fold the narrow end of the tie away from you and at the point you cross the larger blade over. Keep the narrow end folded until you pull the tie down through the knot. Works everytime. Go to Trad Approved for details and how to order. The tie. Not the dimple.
08 November 2010
"My philosophy is: As the face gets worse -- The clothes have to get better." Steve Martin
Two years ago Jeremy Dean from Urban Outfitters was introduced to Mark McNairy from J. Press. What comes to mind is the, "You got your peanut butter on my chocolate." "You got your chocolate on my peanut butter" Reese's Cup commercials. I love Reese's Cups but I'm not so sure about this collaboration.
McNairy and Dean hit on this idea of Urban Outfitters putting out a budget J. Press line with all the right details but at a lower price point. No different from Brooks Brothers and Brooksgate of the '80s or RL's Rugby of today. Cheap clothes for kids without a lot of money but hitting 12 on the style meter via not so subtle design tweaks. Already, I'm too old for this.
But they're not making it for me. Hell, they're not making it for themselves. The pant has one of the lowest rises I've ever seen. The fly looks like it's 3" long. If you're a gal looking for a khaki this just might be your ticket. Same with the wool Black Watch and grey flannel.
I can't imagine anyone with an appendage south of the belly button getting into these pants. It's a great price but you sacrifice comfort for the goods. The hand is rough and not unlike the winter wool trousers I was issued in the army. I wore those once in four years.
The blazer has the right details. Working buttons on the sleeve, a patch pocket and the required narrow lapel. But again, the wool comes up short. Pea coat-like and a lint magnet but it may be hard for a 19 year old to walk away from $148. Or, the parent who's looking to spend as little as possible on a blazer with the kid who'll never walk into Brooks or Jos. Bank.
There's a definite target audience here but the shirts may turn everyone off. Details galore. Flap pocket, three button collar, university stripe but all wonky. The collar is too short like the Rugby button down of a year ago. It looks flat and soulless. There's a cheapness here but I've been spoiled by David Mercer -- so again -- I am not anywhere near this area of operation. You can buy two of these for every one Mercer. And what 19 year old can walk away from that? If you're over 30 -- consider the Mercer.
Onward Kashiyama designed the collection for Urban Outfitters citing influence from the movie, Animal House (I see it) and the TV series, Happy Days (I don't). Onward insisted the collection be made by Urban Outfitter's vendors in China. That's interesting. It makes me wonder if this isn't a trial balloon of a Rugby / Brooksgate line for J. Press. It's not a bad idea if the quality with Urban stumbles.
There are scarves ($38), the required narrow ties ($34) as well as a couple Shaggy Dogs ($78) I didn't see. What I did see and liked was the Black Watch golf jacket($118) -- and I hate golf. It's perfect except for a cheesy lining with bizarre J. Press smiley faces. Jeremy was quick to point out that was a Onward design. Still, it's a great looking jacket perfect for Fall and even Winter if you live down south. It's traditional, hasn't been screwed with and while the design is understated -- the Black Watch speaks to its Trad origins. The kids should hate it.
For me, "less is more" is an ideal I strive for. In writing, cooking, clothes, cocktails, just about anything in life except for a pay check. I might even apply it to my diet someday. For under $500, you can kit yourself out pretty well with this line. Blazer, couple shirts and trousers, ties, belts, etc.
For the same $500, you'll get a blazer at J. Press. On sale. I don't see J. Press going the way of Pierre Cardin. What concerns me are the issues of the quality. When I buy the golf jacket and it falls apart in less than a year... I won't blame J. Press. That's not to say others won't.
Look for it at select Urban Outfitters in early December - -If you're young and good looking.