30 October 2009

The Friday Belt: CDP For The Thrifty

Giuseppe over at An Affordable Wardrobe has always offered up some great advice on thrifting. And for a guy who likes to break the 'rules' he always has an opinion about my glasses and my beer. No sweat. The most interesting people are full of contradictions.

And while I like a good Chateaneuf Du Pape (CDP) as much as the next guy - - I find it does not pair well with pork rinds. Better a Puligny Montrachet.

CDP does pair well with steak au poivre and last night my nephew treated me to both at La Veau d'Or. I love an elegant Burgundy. I love a big Bordeaux. But they're best consumed at home where you can afford them. The Golf Foxtrot and I stopped in a favorite wine bar last month and I was shocked to see my favorite Rose going for $55.00 a bottle while it retails for $15. I understand a profit but that ain't right. So, when I'm in a restaurant I go straight to the Rhone.

You cannot get a better value and more bang for your buck than a good Rhone. That bottle up there is really two. A magnum is always fun for a 4 person dinner but it can also be a deal. Usually selling for less than two standard bottles and for me...wine out of a large format bottle just seems to taste better. The Chante Cigale is easily found but that belt is another story.

My first thrift was a tuxedo somewhere on the Main Line outside of Philadelphia. As a poor park ranger with an invitation to a black tie party it seemed like the logical thing to do. I skipped the patent leather slippers and wore black calf tassel loafers - - like almost every other straight guy at the party. I don't know anything about the maker of this belt but for a thrift store find I was happy with it. Giuseppe might have an issue with the price -- as I did -- but I'm desperate for more belts. Not booze, Giuseppe. Just belts.

29 October 2009

Polo Porn

1970's Polo from Bloomingdales:

1980's Polo via Brittons of Columbia, SC

It is said that behind every successful salesperson is someone with a really big shovel. I think they're a bunch of shovels behind Polo but I wanted to look closely at its early history of marketing, advertising and especially photography.

Ralph Lauren's first employee was a clothes loving salesman from Norman Hilton, Anthony Edgeworth. According to Mr. Edgeworth things didn't work out and he was 'politely' fired with this advice from Lauren, "...find what it is in life that's yours. I did. You need to." Edgeworth had a Leica M4 and decided to take classes at the School of Visual Arts while apprenticing for Pete Turner. That was the reality of photography years ago. You could apprentice for the royalty of the art. I apprenticed for a photographer my senior year of high school. He was no Pete Turner. He sure as heck wasn't royalty. He was shooting canned pecans, in B&W, for a Georgia mail order catalog.

So how did he do it? Lauren -- not the guy I apprenticed for...I think he did it with a photographer and stylist. He didn't go with Edgeworth. Not right away. That was to come later. Instead, he hired Bruce Weber. And while I've never understood Weber's bandannas and the whole sailor-soldier thing...I respect his photography. But look at Weber's photography outside a Polo shoot and some thing's missing. And I think that something was Sandy Carlson Tarlow.

The photographer I apprenticed for had two cases of Hassleblad bodies and lenses along with a 8x10 view camera. You couldn't find better equipment anywhere. But he had no idea how to make pecans look good in B&W or in color for that matter. He spread them around a can and I listened to the clunk of the Hasslblad and the pop of the strobe and thought to myself, "...he's in trouble" which is what I think everytime I shoot the Friday belt.

Ms Tarlow may well have been the secret behind it all. Despite more than 30 years having passed -- these images still tell a powerful story. Sure, there's the money, class and inclusion stuff going on -- huge. But these were quality goods. Much of it simple and basic like Shetlands, khakis and oxford button downs. And it was all priced out of this world.

The images above are from Jam Good. A man who knows more about the apparel business and those who work in it than anyone I've ever known. He knows the story behind that Shaker Knit sweater (seamless and made by some guy in a Brooklyn basement), who did the suits in 1977 (Lanham Ltd of Lowell, MA until 1994) and who made the shirts (Ike Behar). Polo eye wear was handmade in France , the Polo blanket was made in Switzerland and Corgi Hosiery made the Shetlands.

I didn't really notice Polo until the late 70's. If I recall, my first love was a pair of khakis. I picked them up and immediately knew they were something special by the heft and finish. Almost like a British sports car. I took a look at the price and couldn't believe it...just like a British sports car. I thought, "Who the hell gets this kinda money for a pair of khakis?" Little did I know. The button down oxfords were next. Perfectly cut and priced for the rich. In college I was lucky and skinny enough to wear a boy's size 20. At $5 or $10 more than a man's Gant I could barely afford them but I had to have them.

The photography did it to me. I was putting myself through college on the GI Bill and I had a Fiat that was keeping me broke. I juggled a college work grant job and two other part time jobs off campus. I was taking out college loans from anyone that would give them to me and still - - I managed to scrape the bucks together for Polo madras trousers, some khakis and a handful of oxfords.

Someone told me a long time ago that people buy two things: Solutions to problems and good feelings. Polo went beyond good feelings. With those carefully styled settings and a talented photographer-- they sold me more than just pants. They sold me Ektachrome visions of an Anglo - American fantasy that I couldn't afford. But toss in the amazing quality and I convinced myself I wasn't a total fool for dropping over $100 bucks on madras pants. I was really buying quality... and slides.

28 October 2009

Bell - Ah - Monte!

Bell-Ah-Monte (in the cool sweater) & The Eiger

Bell-Ah-Monte and ...Hey! How did she get the sweater?

Malaga Station, Spain

Lake Jump

Garden City Beach, SC

San Juan Ferry

Unlike Alice Olive--I've known Bell-Ah-Monte for years. Since high school. I was the first to develop slide film and remember showing him the results in class. He ooh-ed and ah-ed. I had a home dark room and could borrow the old man's Topcon RE Super with a battery of lenses-- my favorite being a 58mm 1.4 lens. That was a hunk of glass. Like always, I was all hat and no horse.

Dave was shooting with some total piece of crap but he knew his camera's limitations. And he had the eye. He had the eye I wanted. Seeing what no one else can and catching it in a split second. He could also do an amazing imitation of a fly with two halves of a tennis ball. He's still shooting and today makes a living at it. I don't know if he can still do the fly imitation.

Back in the late 70's, I came home on leave and Dave showed me his Kodachrome slides of the Swiss town, Kleine Scheidegg and the north face of the Eiger. I remember staring at his shots open mouthed while the only sound came from the soft hum of the projector. I was amazed and jealous at the same time.

A quick note regarding tradition. All of these photographs were shot on film. Expensive and difficult to process. You never knew what you had for days...in my case...years. I still have eight rolls of unprocessed Kodachrome from the early 90's. No anti - shake control on the camera either. That's what a tripod was for. It was damned difficult back then. Some months ago a reader emailed me and said I was, "a reminder of good stuff lost." I was flattered. But, while I don't know about Dave -- I never want to see a roll of film again. A sheet of Panatomic X and an 8X10 view camera is another story.

26 October 2009

Up With An Olive...

That's Alice Olive.

I've been a fan of Alice for a couple of years. I was amazed with her unique images of Chicago... a city I lived in for almost 20 years and had just left when I discovered her blog. I knew Alice's vision was unique because she saw something in what I walked by every day without a thought. She posts once a week. Usually on a Wednesday. Few words. That's it. But was it?

I clicked on her Flicker link and discovered another world. Funny, touching, intimate and shoes. Lots of shoes. It was like sitting with a friend and watching a slide show with their entire family. And not a bad photograph in the hundreds, if not thousands, I've seen.

As I studied Alice's photographs I was always impressed with her range. Portraits, cityscapes, still lifes, apparel, travel, food... not to mention cats. I'm not so crazy about the cat stuff but everything else is a joy. I've learned to jump start her Wednesday posting and check out her new additions on Flicker. It seemed odd at first. Checking out a stranger's photographs. But it wasn't long before I felt I knew her in some way. Connected by her look at the world. I would give my right arm for her eye.

23 October 2009

Friday Belts: If Willis & Geiger Can...You Can Too

I love this commercial. Tasteless? Without a doubt but then so is the beer. I remember Bud Light being introduced when I was in college. I wanna say '82 or '83...I dunno. The goal was to convert Miller Lite drinkers. That kinda boils life down to its essence. Two crappy beers and the people who fight over them. You were a Ford or Chevy man. You were a Miller Lite or Bud Lite guy. You're a, "Dude" or "Awesome" guy.

And while I hate to admit it - - I like it in the can. This is mindless drinking. The lime flavor could easily be replicated with a squeeze of lime but sometimes all you can do is open a can. Especially after you've had seven or eight of these. I prefer a Lemon Lager. I remember the first time I had one was at Twickenham and the Wasps were playing the Saracens. I was new to Rugby and London friends were showing me the ropes and the beer. A lemon lager is simply light beer with Realemon squeezed on top. By Realemon I mean fake lemon. You know...that concentrate in the plastic lemon? It's very refreshing. Very drinkable. "Give it to me with some plastic lemon." I dunno. Not a great advertising line.

You can probably find this belt as easy as finding Bud Lite Lime. While I was looking for the authentic Springfield sling belt - - I kept running into this adjustable belt. I finally gave up the hunt for authentic and ordered the belt from the Willis Geiger catalog some 15 years ago. Here's some advice...whenever you see an adjustable belt...buy it. You may be 30 years old with a waist size to match but trust me on this. If you like beer - - buy adjustable belts.

On Sunday afternoon it's the belt for a pair of wide wale cords, a flannel tartan button down and a pair of suede chukkas. Grab a bag of BBQ pork rinds, pop open a can of BL Lime and you're living large. Turn on the game or, if you're like me, settle into something black and white from the 30's on Turner Classic Movies. Just be sure to keep the pork rind crumb dust off the suede shoes. That can get expensive.

22 October 2009

Joe Raico and Schmatta

Joe Raico from HBO's, Schmatta

Do you still think $300 for a pair of shoes made in the US is too much to spend?

21 October 2009

Garment District Rally

Great Signage

Even Better...

Some jobs are never leaving