29 June 2008

The Trad Color Wheel

I have always enjoyed color. When I was 16, I developed my first roll of color slide film and was in awe of the images as I unrolled the film off the development tank reel. Everything had been black and white before. Suddenly, it was a new world. Cibachrome, Ektachrome, Fujichrome...and primary colors were my target.

Those primary colors have stayed with me a long time. The shirt and bow tie pictured here would never be considered Trad by some. Or many. I think it is. Despite the double cuff, elegant collar and British origins of this kit - - It is Trad. Why? Because it has soul. In a world where I can't tell fabric softener commercials from the ones for toilet paper; I revell in color and design and history that speaks to me. The challenge, as any Trad knows, is to do it without paying full freight.

Those enamled cuff links were stolen at an auction in Philadelphia. A city where even the gay men dress poorly. The shirt was stolen at a Turnbull & Asser sale and the bow tie was found at Filenes for $9.99. Kodachrome 25 was always a mother to shoot. But the color was vivid and deep. One good exposure out of 35 bad ones was not only acceptable... it was reason to celebrate. In some odd way, I connect my love of photography and images to the colors I wear. It's shallow. It's vain. But it's the most fun you can have - - with your clothes on.

24 June 2008

The Trad Mocc

I see a lot of things in my mind's eye when I look at these shoes. Crew cuts and black plastic frame glasses. Martin Milner in Route 66. Pegged khakis with white socks and a short sleeve Madras pop-over. Beer cans with two triangular holes on the top. Bermuda shorts with a starched white button down shirt worn untucked. Rangefinders. A 101 Land Camera. Narrow ties.

In 1965, Florsheim introduced the Yuma. A plain vamp moccasin hand sewn in the Chicago factory. I'm pretty sure Trad Dad owned a pair. As mentioned before, he was fond of short sleeve bleeding madras and chinos in the summer. Grey trousers, v-neck sweaters and white or blue button downs in the winter. Not bad for an Army officer where his counterpart dressed in hi -water Sansabelts from the PX. I remember a black pair of Yumas with his deeply cuffed grey trousers.

While I prefer the Yuma in black, it was re-released in 1997 or '98 as a "Royal Imperial" model in authentic cordovan for around $400. Talk about Trad. The manager of the NYC Florsheim at 49th and Madison told me they used a cordovan from a French tannery until it went out of business adding they were one of his biggest sellers. He never understood why the non-cordovan shoes were discontinued. I told him these decisions were usually made by some asshole with an accounting degree. He nodded.

Now...for some good news. I saw the Yuma in the June issue of, "Last." A Japanese magazine one might refer to as Shoe Porn and the lovely Kikuko at Brooks Brothers on Madison translated for me. The Yuma is to be reintroduced this fall. It will no longer be made in Chicago but that's okay. It should be cheap. If only they would do it in a Horween cordovan, the last cordovan tannery in the US. I'd ebay those Lobbs in a heartbeat.

18 June 2008

Trad Herring

I stopped by J Press and was shooting the crap with David Wilder when he mentioned Dutch Herring Week at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central. I grabbed my order from David and made a bee line for Grand Central. And what a lunch it was.

Dutch Herring is offered only one week a year in NYC and it's not bad. The Dutch Gin served iced cold in a cordial glass helps give it that certain flavor I find in Scandinavian foods. Maybe it's connecting with my Norwegian genes but it's a taste I'm crazy about. Fish and Gin. Simple, clean and true. Kinda like licking pine sap in the winter.

You only get two filets of herring so you're gonna need something else. I went with the oysters. Half a dozen large blue points and half a dozen small. I'm comfortable with slurping down normal sized oysters but the large ones are a challenge. In fact, the first one didn't make it and fell onto my plate of ice. It was noticed as well. Never a good thing in an Oyster Bar.

I finished up the plate of oysters and sat for a while. I've always enjoyed the Oyster Bar. The sounds and the ceiling. The tourists and the business men. The old men in their poplin and seersucker suits. It's so New York. Where else in this country do you see a week devoted to Herring?

11 June 2008

More "M" for Jam

When Jam Good tells you to do something...you do it. Jam is a poster on Ask Andy and one of the most amazing resources of men's Traditional clothing I've ever come across. Jam asked that I post some more from "M" The Civilized Man. Jam, I'm sitting in an airport after a triple Americano with my knee bouncing to King Sunny Ade and the above is all I have left from my scans. But this is for you, sir.

I promise more when I get back to my scanner. Above is a nice winter Glenn Plaid from Paul Stuart. This was from an issue in 1985. Isn't it great? Why women allow themselves to be pushed around by designers and fashion speaks to a whole host of issues I'll refrain from... seeing I'm getting on a plane in an hour and there's a nasty Florida thunderstorm raging and I need all the good Karma I can get. Glenn Plaid was in style in 1985, 1935 and certainly today. Maybe even 20 years from now. Who knows. I know this. Jam Good knows more about this fabric, cut, model, photographer, ad agency and suit than I'll ever know. Is the suit Trad? Good Lord, no. With that haircut and all those pleats and darts. No, not Trad. But it's "M" so who cares.

10 June 2008

Trad vs John Lobb Paris

Yes, that's my dirty laundry. The point is to contrast the classic nature of oxford cloth and madras against some pretty wacky shoes from John Lobb. Known as the Foxton, I found these on sale. Tried them on and they fit. I told the salesman, "You know, I can see the quality. The leather is beautiful. But they're so ugly." He knocked off 30%. I passed.

I walked around. He followed me. "You know, I can knock off another 15%." He set the hook. Not that this guy looked like he did a lot of fishing. So, I own these shoes. I've studied them. Researched them (2006 model from Lobb's Prestige line). And I still don't know. Will you help me? Should I ebay these or keep them?

I have two other pair of Lobbs. The cap toe and Monk strap. They're black. They're conservative. I love'em. But these...

09 June 2008

M The Civilized Man

I have to admit...I was obsessed by this magazine. "M" A Civilized Man, was unique. It wasn't GQ. Which in the late 70's and through the 80's was sooo gay. If you picked up a copy of GQ at a newstand, you were telling whoever was standing next to you, you were gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Esquire, save an issue or two or three a year, was just plain boring. Some amazing covers but inside the copy was as dull as the layout. Playboy was a joke. Not even close to what it was in the 60's. Buffed and waxed women who, like the cartoons, looked the same. Probably didn't help that Playboy was in very deep financial trouble.

Penthouse was always way out there. Early in it's life some great articles on food, wine and clothing were put into each issue. I'm thinking late 60s early 70s. Then Bob took off with film production and some fairly "organic" models. Often European. Always earthy. I was a fan. But there was nothing about clothes or cheese or how to make a Martini. Bob was focused, like a laser, on long legged, exotic, medium breasted girls from Paris who could do some amazing things with La Perla. And for that, I am forever grateful.

"M" didn't have naked women but it had everything else I wanted. Great covers with some beautiful graphic design and layouts. Some interesting stories but the clothes were to die for. Classic American for me and European for the straight fan of GQ. I'm not sure why they didn't make it.

08 June 2008

The Offical Filthy Rich Handbook

A good example of "Wally Mail" came today...although no interview with the author. Instead, a Press Kit came with the book. And what a book it is. Just flipping through the Preppy Handbook - like chapters is a kick. Sub-titled, "How The Other 0001% Lives" Christopher Tennant points out that money is not the solution to all of our problems and quotes Dorothy Parker, "If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."

I do have issue with the WASP chart seen above. Pretty pedestrian kit is cited. If I had this kind of money? I'd start with: J Press boxers would be Charvet made from their shirting fabric. Smather's & Branson needlepoint belt should be one your wife made for you while vacationing in Lucca for three months. Stubbs & Wootton needlepoint slippers? They're known in the trade as being overpriced for what they are. I learned something working with the high-net-worth; They ain't cheap but they expect a good value. I suspect Edward Green or George Cleverley would be the appropriate vendor for a slipper. And they're a short walk from Claridges. A good thing.

I had a client with an amazing wine cellar. 8,000 bottles of which it was my job to insure. While we shuffled through the dark cave and he pointed out an 1855 Madeira and 30 bottles of Screaming Eagle, I asked him what was drinking well. He told me he didn't drink. Never had. "Your wife?" I asked. ""Good lord, no." He said. "We're Jewish. Never picked up a taste for it." I thought it might make sense to remind him his insurance broker was a goy who drank anything put in front of him. But I thought better of it and followed him up the stairs taking a loving glance back at show and tell.

All in all, the book looks to be a hoot. And something you can get through in a night or a couple of days if you prefer to read in the smallest room in the house. You'll have to finish this fast for lingering on the untra wealthy gets old very fast.

05 June 2008

The Best Chinos

I recently found these trousers and I gotta tell you...they are something else. As close to the US Army Khaki as I've ever seen. Straight leg with flat front. Close attention to detail with the watch pocket as well as the belt loops. Very accurate to Army issue. Even the buttons...while not perfect come very close. I'll replace them with my old buttons. Cut from a hefty, 9.6 ounce cotton. They're the real deal.

Made by Polo. In China.

I kid you not. They're the best damned khakis I've ever owned. And they'll be perfect when I replace those buttons with the real McCoy. Better than Bills. Better than Bean, Brooks, Press, Duck Head, Land's End...Better than Uncle Sam. They list for $98 but you can find 'em for $39...if you look hard. They're not everywhere but as you run your hand across the countless cheap chinos hanging from a rack be prepared for something that doesn't feel right. That's what you're looking for. Substance. Heft. Quality.

A quick note. They're described on the tag as, "Polo GI Pant" which I have no issue with. No insignia. No problem. However, the description says, "...inspired by WWI military surplus garments." What are you guys smoking over there? The US Army chino came outta WWII. God's in the details. Still, they're damned good.

Southwick Ad from 1985

From M Magazine. I was always taken with Southwick's advertising. If anyone knows who the photographer was please clue me in. Isn't this guy great? Look at that nose. Such a craggy face with the aroma of Guiness and Single Malt wafting from his pores. The Meerschaum pipe just over the knee with that olive wide wale cord looks right at home.

This was an ad for "Terrier Cloth." That looks like an Irish Terrier. Whoever did this ad must have had a great time. It's so evocative and mood setting. It may be hard to tell on the post but that's a Blackwatch Plaid Sport Jacket. For years, I thought it was a Blue Blazer. It's so dark it looks solid. The tie and the shirt and the pocket square? Beautiful pairing. The pocket square is normal, low key and not foppish at all. The cuffs of the shirt lead me to believe it's Brooks Brothers as does that perfect roll. Who knows. I've seen the tie before but can't place it. Maybe Herzfeld. Maybe Polo.

Lastly, the blazer patch. This one has two crossed rifles with any Latin tactfully hidden from the camera. I have a blazer patch from the Canadian Airborne. I went to Jump School in Edmonton and was awarded Canadian Jump Wings as part of a Soldier Exchange program. I've worn it only once. On a Double Breasted Blazer with an ascot. I felt like an asshole. Looked like an asshole. Was an asshole. Never wore the blazer patch again. Maybe when I'm this man's age. I'll tell you one thing. When I do go grey... I'm growing that exact moustache.

18th Century Trad

To hell with the 1950s and 1960s. I'm talking the 1780s, baby.

Valley Forge around 1985. Park Rangers usually have to get up in this stuff called living history on summer weekends. Actually, it was a lot of fun. Having pizza delivered while in encampment. Tooling around on my motorcycle in this Dragoon uniform was always a thrill. Lots of questions: "Isn't that hot?" always topped the list. George McGovern asked me a great question about the interior paint at Washington's Headquarters. We had a nice but brief discussion. Later, I mentioned how impressed I was with Senator McGovern's knowledge of history to the guy on the right in this picture. He said something like, "Yeah, he has a Ph.D in history from Northwestern you moron."

So what's this have to do with Trad?

In the 18th century, common dress for man was great coat, breeches, waistcoat, stockings and a linen blouse. Oh, and a cravat, stockings, hat and shoes. By the early 19th century, younger men were wearing trousers and pissing off the older farts who continued to wear breeches...until they died and the wearing of breeches died with them. From that time, 1820 or so...we have evolved to this amazing but not surprising statistic. According to Brian Williams (who's looking an awful lot like Ed Burns lately), 6% of men today wear a tie to work.

So, can the children of this flip flop & tee shirt generation evolve into a more relaxed attire? Maybe. Or, they could revolt and take us back to some sort of formality. Maybe the kids'll take it back to the 18th Century?

It was a great look on Paul Reverve and the Raiders. And very comfortable. Not hot at all. The linen blouse gets wet as you sweat and since the great coat is wool, it breathes, cooling you off in a very natural way. If I went into air conditioning and took the great coat off, I'd freeze. I think the attire could make economic sense seeing what the cost of energy will be in 50 or so years. Just don't wear boxers with breeches.

Or, if fashion stays on track, our grand kids will be walking to work barefoot in their underwear wearing a fanny pack. I'm betting people will be in much better shape.

01 June 2008