26 February 2013

Parking Lot Wine Tasting

Croatian Zinfadel

The Echo X-Ray (EX)  installed an 88 bottle wine fridge in our kitchen for my 43rd birthday. It's not everyday a man gets a built in kitchen appliance for his birthday.  I think it had something to do with the Victoria's Secret negligee I gave her on her birthday.

It looked empty and pathetic with less than 40 bottles and so I was going broke trying to keep it full when a buddy told me about Costco's wine deals -- most under ten bucks.  I bought a couple mixed cases only to return a few weeks later and find  the cheap stuff I liked was, according to the articulate young salesman, "Du-huuude, long gone."

I don't like being called, 'Dude' or, Du-huuuude... I don't like people who call other people, 'Dude.' Especially when it's shouted and turned into two syllables, 'DU-HUDE!'  Most annoying because it almost always prefaces the greeting.  Me, I'm more a, 'Man' kinda guy. 'Man' almost always comes at the end of a sentence.  'Good seeing you.  Don't be a stranger, man.'  And it's never turned into two syllables.  How can it be?   'Man' is uttered softly, almost like a Canadian, 'Eh.'

You with me, man?

I went back to Cotsco, this time with a corkscrew and a glass,  and bought another mixed case from the Dude.  I carried the wine out to my car, put the case on the passenger seat, got behind the wheel and started my tasting. Using the parking lot as a giant spit bucket, I went through the case in less than half an hour,  strolled back in the Cotsco and ordered a couple cases of what made my parking lot tasting.  The Dude looked at me oddly...probably my purple teeth. 

25 February 2013

Brooks Brothers: Don't Bogart the Red Fleece

Red Fleece Fall 2013 - Twenty Somethings (age or waist)


Scissor to fly proximity


1975

Colorado Springs


Mercer & Sons, 2010


Go Army (far left)

Jay Kos, 2008


Red Fleece sounds like a $6 Algerian Cabernet I picked up at Costco but it's actually  Brooks Brothers new line for the younger customer. The one I'm too old to write for.  Most of it speaks to the, Leave-it-to-Beaver cuffed jean, Red Wing, Jethro-Bodine gingham dude that inhabits New York City right now. I suspect we'll be seeing red sheep monogrammed watch caps any season. 

This is a line, unlike "Own Make," that is all about tweak. And I understand young men not wanting to dress like their fathers. Rather, they want to dress like their grandfathers, smoke Marlboro Lights, hand out engraved, "Fuck Off" business cards and call themselves photographers while pictures on their Tumblers were shot by some dead guy 40 years ago. But...

There's a segment of the 2013 Fall/Winter line that takes me back to high school in Colorado where there was a Wonder Bread infatuation with the mountains, John Denver shirts (Fuck Yeah John Denver Tumbler)  and Vasque rock climbing boots --  Mine were 85% Valrhona dark chocolate with bright red laces.

Throw on a Eddie Bauer down vest or better, an REI parka shell and you were ready for a drive through Garden of the Gods at lunch in a Camaro with a nickel bag and a six of Schlitz Tall Boys while a Craig 8-Track cranked out Pink Floyd's, The Dark Side of the Moon.

A couple years ago, I was invited to view the Ralph Lauren rig rooms at 650 Madison. One had the REI / Colorado aesthetic complete with waffle stompers, down vests, parka shells, crampons -- There was even an old SVEA stove. You gotta love their attention to detail.

In all honesty, I looked at Waffle Stomper Red Fleece with a great deal of nostalgia and didn't ask where it was made or where the goods were from.  I marveled at the needlecords and how something, not only of a time, but of a place like Colorado,  had been brought back... to a show room in Brooks Brothers. Sadly, Red Fleece is not for a 38" waist and 30" inseam but that's okay.  Crank up Pink Floyd, roll up the car windows and it's 1975 again -- When no seemed to bogart or roll up their jeans.

21 February 2013

Brooks Brothers Global Citizen

Brooks Brothers Catalog, Spring, 1990 


During the bad old days of Marks & Spencer ownership (1988-2001), Brooks Brothers went through a number of bizarre...lets call them 'schemes.' A word with darker connotations in the US than in the UK.  The '90s seemed especially dark and it was hard to tell the difference between the windows of a Banana Republic Store and Brooks Brothers.  Thankfully, that has changed. 








A Roger Sterling moment with London Club tie

Back in the early '90s, I was hanging my clothes somewhere on the North Shore of Chicago and would frequent a popular Chinese restaurant in Highland Park on Sunday nights. It had the highest concentration of Coogi sweaters I have ever seen.  "Not Hot!" was the loud instruction of so many diners that I asked for everything, "Very Hot!"  Much to my own detriment a couple hours later.

Brooks Brothers calls their "Golbal Citizen" collection, "Urbane and cosmopolitan." I call it, "Not hot." The company release goes on,  "It is the blending of seemingly opposite ideas of luxury-technolgy, dressy-casual and modern-classic that sum up the philosophy behind this season's offerings."  Well, I guess that beats my summing it up with a Chinese restaurant.





Miles Davis, "Sketches of Spain."  Slim Keith in Madrid.  Marcona almonds and ice cold Manzanilla Sherry.  Seven and watching a bullfight with my father on a Mexican station in El Paso.  I want every woman I know to buy this.




A TV anchorman suit and tie. Without prejudice -- without character.  Matt Lauer comes to mind in ice cold Zegna.  Thin and neat.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  The Trench saves it with wide lapels and a look of old Hollywood.  Not '40s Noir but '30s Thin Man.  Elegant and full of motion even if it's not moving. 





Ice cold but warm in a 20 room apartment on Park.  Tiny and anemic, she never serves red wine to her guests.  Only white and champagne.  The TV in the oak paneled den is going on 20 years and the bookshelves are filled with yellowing jackets faded from sun and the 1970s.  Her nail polish is white...when she wears it. Her favorite book is a collection of  celebrity dog food recipes.



He wanted a Chesterfield but his wife told him he couldn't have one until he could afford a house with two bathrooms.  He bought one anyway and hung it on the back of his office door for a year before she found out.  Perfect with evening wear. Sternly confident in a navy or grey suit. Make do classic in jeans, suede paddock boots and a white button down on a business Sunday brunch in London.  



Replace the suede paddock boot above with a pebble finish chukka and generate contrast while tweaking the anal retentive 30 year old IT know it all from Schaumberg who tells you to wear only black shoes with a Chesterfield.  You proudly call it 'pebble' while the youth refer to it as football leather.  Or worse, 'awesome football leather.' Equally at home in the First Presbyterian Church on Michigan Ave or under a bible revival tent somewhere in Kentucky where your host is speaking in tongues.




Women always know what hat will look best on them. I don't know how.  It's Godlike.



Pretentious B&W that can be salvaged by inclusion on a NYC gallery web site.




After party at the Four Seasons bar in Chicago.  She likes Beefeater martinis and tells you she always wanted to do it in a coat room.  The simple slit of her dress hides behind her bracelet.  No designer names.  No expensive watches. She's got a good head on her. 



"Camel with fur trim," I tell the coat check girl.  Walking towards the lake past the Drake, she stops at an antique store window and points to an 18th century silver creamer, "No one buys silver anymore. I wonder why?" You smile and say, "Things change. Is that Revere?" 

20 February 2013

Brooks Brothers Italy - What's Not True?



Pasta fagioli in Northern Italy is so thick a spoon can stand in it.  In Southern Italy, it's much more soupy. Along the same lines, Italian menswear can mean the closed vent, glossy, grey double breasted, grey shoed fella, you see standing outside Boyds in Philadelphia. Or, it can mean the side vented, navy flannel, Anglo look that Italians do better than the English.  Regardless of your preferred aesthetic, you can always count on texture taking a higher profile than anything English or American




Only the French make as big a deal about cloth and it's critical participation in communicating "oomph" --  If that's a word.  The British suit of armor, a 6/4 db in dark grey or navy wool, depends on cut and balance with the occasional  flash of a bright Bemberg lining. It's a soldiery look that can be as tight as their umbrellas.

The French and Italians use texture as if to say, "Come touch me."  It's all about contrast through nubby jackets, smooth flannel trousers and cashmere scarves. Masses of layers: sweaters, shirts, chest hair and even wrists decorated with rows of multi-colored beads or, in France, Noir Desire tattoos.



I'm shown a rack of Italian looking apparel and am told it's a new line called, "Italy." And why not, I think.  It makes all the sense in the world.  Huge retailer that BB is, what with pipelines to vendors in Italy, it's a no brainer.  Then I see the 'Made in Thailand' tag and I remember my favorite line from the 1965 film, Mickey One, where Warren Beatty asks, "What's not true?" 

I just assume if a line is called, 'Italy' it's made in Italy.  I look to see if it's all made in Thailand but nothing else on the rack is tagged.  To be fair, it happens a lot during Fashion Week. Sometimes vendors are changed, styles dropped, goods replaced... Nothing is written in stone.  Which makes, "What's not true?" much more difficult than it sounds -- Especially when you're talking to Mickey Two.



Check back here tomorrow for what Brooks Brother's is calling their Global Citizen line, 

"Urbane and cosmopolitan, the global citizen  feels perfectly at home wherever he goes. It is the blending of seemingly opposite ideas..." 

I call it, "First Class Coach" and I mean that in a good way.  

19 February 2013

Brooks Brothers "Own Make"


Brooks Brothers Fall Winter Catalog  1984


Employee handbook describing "Own Make" in 1986 
























After the FIT Ivy exhibition, I had a chance to meet Claudio Del Vecchio at a cocktail reception thrown by the show's curator, Patricia Mears.  Del Vecchio narrowed his eyes in mock seriousness, leaned over me and whispered in a deep bass, "So whaz'a wrong with Italian department stores?"  My first thought was, "Sonuvabitch, he  read my post." I stammered and said, "There's nothing wrong with Italian department stores -- So long as they're not at 346 Madison Avenue." 

He could have been an asshole but wasn't.  Surprisingly, Del Vecchio was a complete gentleman, and having worked with a lot of the high-net-worth, that's most unusual. We had a very nice talk and I learned he loses money on my favorite gotta-iron oxford button down made in Garland, NC.  "Own Make" was a term used by Brooks Brothers to distinguish apparel made in its own work rooms.  Shirts in Garland.  Ties, once on the eighth floor of 346, but now in Long Island City (Queens), and tailored clothing in Brooklyn. 

Brooks is bringing the label back with shirts and ties still being made in NC and NYC but with suits, sport coats and trousers being made by Southwick in Massachusetts.  It's good looking and it looks to be extraordinarily well made -- With guts and soul and a cut big enough for the over-40 crowd who requires their jacket to cover their rear.  In short, no gimmicks or tricks.  Straightforward, reserved, quiet.  I pray it's priced with the same respect and thought that went into the making of it but there's no pricing at this time. 

The Italian department store?  That's for tomorrow.

17 February 2013

Boss Tweeds

B&W houndstooth with red over-plaid

Black & red shepherd check

Now these are Black & Red jackets every UGA football fan should have in his closet.  Finding black and red apparel in natural fiber is no easy task.  I remember Florida - Georgia games in the '80s being awash in flammable black and red polyester contrasted against Hog Town's bright blue and orange cotton.  

Fashion Week in NYC was and remains Tartan-ed up like a Robbie Burn's dinner in Glasgow.  Tartan's "fookin'" everywhere. I'm backed up on Fashion Week pieces so you'll see lots more plaid on this blog in the coming week.  Designers tend take the classic goods, raise them to idolatry levels, then regicide the royal cloth about the time it lands in Ft Wayne. 

I think tweed will replace tartan but not your typical somber Harris.  Color is too damned important. If nothing else has been proven in the last five years of menswear hoo-ha it is this; dudes like color.  What we used to call 'loud.' But these are sport coats and are not to be worn in an office unless you sell radio advertising in Cincinnati.  These jackets go with dark grey or black flannel trousers and will speak Shakespeare folios of your unmitigated taste. Just make sure the pattern matching is up to snuff and you stay out of Alachua County.

14 February 2013

A Man and a Woman's Movie










Didn't plan anything for tonight?  You do know it's Valentine's Day? Looking for last minute ideas?  I've been served up a mountain of dross from hacks pitching everything from edible dark chocolate panties to  red suede Valentine Uggs.  Along the way I secured this not at all surprising nugget: 10% of the under 25 crowd would interrupt sex with their partner to check a text message.




I grew up with this 1966 soundtrack playing in the house so despite the, "...whaba-dhabba-dhap"  chorus that might seem so dated to you... the music still grabs me by the gonads and my heart.  I understand it does the same for some women. "Twitchy" is an expression I seem to remember. A Man and a Woman is available to rent and buy on iTunes. I can't find the original soundtrack but I'll keep looking and report back if found.

The film, which I first saw in 1972 at the Flick movie theater in Colorado Springs, has a little bit of everything.  Car crashes, stunt men, Samba, French countryside, cigarettes and Anouk Aimée.  It and she would leave a helluva impression -- Mostly, the importance of  understatement and restraint despite my short attention span.   Everything is about mood and the mood is a love story told very slowly and with death everywhere. Even in bed. It takes its time.  Just like you should take yours tonight.  Especially if this is your first viewing. 

Order this on your iPad, grab a bottle of something with bubbles, order in some Chinese dumplings and see what happens.  By the way, you might want to surprise her with a shearling coat.  A shearling coat and this movie could set you up for the rest of the year... but only if you put the phone away. 

13 February 2013

Black Fleece: Fall / Winter 2013


















At least they invited me back.  Which is more than I can say for some folks.  Despite my criticism of Thom Browne, Black Fleece continues to improve each season.  Strong classic looks and color, some reminding me of Regency period dress (1820) while evening wear has a late 19th century echo of lace and somber mourning. I mean that in a good sense.

I hear industry types belly ache about "great cut but lousy fabric."  Not here.  Amazing goods and I'm dying to know where they were sourced.  Lots of  blended cashmere for women and done, judging by the feel, at significant cost.  Which brings up price, which hasn't been released, but that's the drill during Fashion Week. 

There were rumors about BB terminating Black Fleece two or three years ago.  This was during the rampant Zoot Suit period Browne went through.  Last year there was a noticeable retreat from the craziness.  Whatever could be put together to spell the end of the world -- could stand as a single respectable piece -- like a jacket, trouser or tie.  I just wish they'd gone with a shawl lapel on that dinner jacket.