30 March 2012

29 March 2012

Billy Reid & the Tallahatchie Bridge

Water Rat lined coat - What do I know

Better you than me -- That's what I know

20 years ago, I was having dinner at Bistro 110 in Chicago with an ex-college roommate who's a screenwriter and film producer. He asked what I thought of his recent film, a sequel to a movie four years earlier. I slathered baked garlic on my bread and told him I wasn't sure why he did it. He looked visibly hurt and said, "I personally made over one million dollars on that film." I replied, "What the fuck do I know."

I look at Billy Reid and feel much the same as I did all those years ago. "What the fuck do I know." Today, as it was then, not so much as a question but as a statement. Reid's press release makes much of how recent travels to London and Europe inspired this collection for F/W 2012. You can take the boy outta the South but it's hard to take the South outta the boy... as they say.

A shoe with everything on it

The expression, 'Less is more' tends to thrive best north of the Mason Dixon Line. Of course, I'm General Izing but then, I'm an Army man. The South has always like the idea of 'everything on it.' Not that I advocate the minimal black trouser/turtleneck dude living with three pieces of Danish furniture in a Mies van der Rohe apartment. There is a middle ground.

It's just not here. The Blue Velvet suit ($2,195) threw me back to Charlotte, NC where drug store developed pictures of velvet clad prom boys in ruffled shirts with sideburns extending from their ear lobe to the corners of their mouths, sat proudly on stereo consoles all over Mecklenburg County. I'll never tell you what to wear, but if this is the look you're after, you can find it at Goodwill for considerably less.

I liked the Tweed suit ($2,295) with peak lapels. Not an entirely smart choice if last Winter is any indication of the global warming to come but damned good looking. Refreshingly center vented with a Daks waistband and the tweed is butter soft.

Camel hair sport coats ($TBD) are everywhere in the South. I'm not sure why I've never owned one. They're great looking with all matter of trouser: grey flannel, tartan, jean, cords...just stay away from khakis.

This one's incredibly well made but has peak lapels and side vents. This is exactly what an insurance agent from Charleston would come up with on Savile Row while visiting London for the first time. I'm guessing he would wear it in June with a Vineyard Vines tie.

The "Big Raincoat" ($795) or Duster, a la J Peterman, is a reminder that some men can pull stuff off that others can't. It's a great look if you're tall. Not so much if you're living in a world of boobs and belt buckles like some men I know (and am).

Billy's belts offer width over the narrow straps and Tiffany buckles so loved by the South (and me). Everybody is doing cheap versions these days: J Crew, Tommy H, Rugby... the usual suspects. The Reid buckle is distressed and that's silly. Made in Italy, it's got some heft and so, while never with a suit, it would show well with a sport coat. Monogram it with something witty like, "DRINK?" and you'll be miles ahead of the LOSER, Andy Spade.

Not very funny are two double breasted suits of such tire screeching anachronism that they belong in a Bobbie Gentry song. There's long been speculation over what Billy Joe and his girlfriend threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge. Whatever it was, I wish Billy Joe was wearing one of these suits when he jumped.

A grey wool DB called the Anderson ($1,695) comes with peak lapels and balanced button holes. As it should. The fabric is reflective of the price and I can live with that. Problems start with a patch breast pocket and end with a center vent. Things start getting weird with a jacket that buttons right to left.

Next is a cashmere grey DB ($3,295) that has peak lapels but the right lapel is missing a button hole. This is common in countries like Germany -- where apparel design is like watching someone hammer nails with a Stradivarius. The patch pocket stays and like the Anderson, throws off the stream lined DB aesthetic that is so London. The center vent remains but at least it buttons left to right.

I'm guessing that these two d-b's are cut for tall skinny guys with no ass. Hard to tell. If so, it's a look that the youth should enjoy. In the mean time, I'm looking for 1970s Soviet magazines that featured suits like these -- almost exclusively worn by mustached civil engineers in Estonia.

My bang-the-table favorite is this Engineer ($?) boot. I was told the leather has been through some sort of wash. It reminds me of my father's elephant skin wallet he bought in Vietnam. There's a crinkle finish that looks like an elephant butt with cracks that give it character. Simple. Soulful. Worn easily by anyone. Only problem is...no one knows how much it is or if it's even being made. The one thing I really like...but then, what the fuck do I know.

Update on the boot: Received following from Billy Reid's p.r. firm, "You can credit the boot as price upon request because it's not being produced. However, if someone was interested in purchasing it, they could contact the New York store at 212-598-9355 to inquire if they have a similar item or if the boot could be made for them.

28 March 2012

What's it all mean, LL Bean?

Women sing while men look lost.
Manly details from the past
ford a soulless river of
smart and cool.
Signature label affixed.
Why would you tell the world?

But a dress makes me laugh.
"Fiesta" stripes in 1966.
Carolina sun on a beach
where ladies smoke cigarettes,
drink canned beer and
shove painted pink toes in the sand.

In 1986, a sail print dress goes to dinner.
Someplace with a deck.
Freshly showered with
a single strand of pearls around her neck.
Freckled crossed legs and sandals peek
out from under a starched white table cloth.

Out of focus like a picture.
I think time has flown by,
but I have no idea
how much speed it'll pick up.

In the back of the room is man.
Agendaless depression.
Nothing takes me anywhere
Ersatz Signature and buttonholes.
Someone in p.r. says,
we'd "all" like to see the collection made in the US.

Who is "all" and
do they care?
Some think they're just clothes.
I think they're more
than just stuff you buy at the store.

27 March 2012

Separated by History: Brian Keith & Nick Wooster

Florsheim by Duckie Brown: For the Man Who Cares

I was thinking how much Nick Wooster reminds me of Brian Keith's, Uncle Bill on Family Affair. Give Nick's hair a part, shave the beard, cover the tattoos and bingo... you couldn't tell 'em apart. And if Jody were rooting around Uncle Nick's closet -- these are the wingtips he would find.

Times certainly change. No telling what Mr French would think.

26 March 2012

"Nobody loves Dick Whitman..."

The morning after the night before

I have a theory about Mad Men. If you don't pay attention to detail, that is innocuous details like lamps, jacket vents, '50s ties with '60s sport jackets, Megan's brilliant orange dress or Ronson versus Zippo, then you're probably not going to like it. Much.

And that's okay. Either it connects or it doesn't. It did with me despite the Chrysler 300 trunk load of crappy commercials every ten minutes. Roger sums up life nicely with the honest realization that, "The only thing worse than not getting what you want is somebody else getting it." Meanwhile, I was thinking how much I wanted a reviewer's episode sans commercials.

Harry Crane's Rule: Men with breasts shouldn't wear synthetic knit shirts unless they wanna look like a Kodachrome box

Yesterday's NY Times Metropolitan section contributed to "MM" details with details of New York's first high rise condo in 1966, the St Tropez, at 340 East 64th Street. A one bedroom started out at $29,241 and a three bedroom topped out at $79,811. That CPI's out at $219,000 and $600,000 respectively. Today, a one BR at the St Tropez lists for $939,000 while the 3 BR goes for $1.8 million.

It shouldn't come as any surprise that some of us are nostalgic. What surprises me, with two or three seasons left, is how nostalgic for Mad Men I am -- before it's even over.

Update: Megan's, 'Zou bisou bisou' popped up just in time for Olive's comment. To find out what it all means click here.

23 March 2012

The Good Men Project

With special thanks to good friend and author, Michael Rowe who confirms a long running suspicion that Canadian people are the very best export save Labatt Blue. Rowe brought me to The Good Men Project -- A place where men write about cheap beer, jobs, fear and love. Although, I haven't seen any hog killing stories yet, it's a place that suits me.

22 March 2012

The Book Deal

Pre-Order available here. Cue the balloons...

A $1.8 Billion Dollar T-Shirt

Johnson & Higgins Partners, 1995 (the diversity is in their ties)

15 years ago this month, the 152 year history of privately held insurance broker, Johnson & Higgins came to an end when the partners--

My T-Shirt after 15 yrs -- holding up better than the merger

--received $1.8 billion dollars for the company I worked for, and all I got was this lousy T-Shirt.

21 March 2012

Why Is Bonobos Being So Nice?

The New Yorker ran a cartoon with a cat pulling a mouse in wagon. The cat has this big smile and behind the mouse is another mouse chasing the wagon and yelling, "Think! Why do you think he's being so nice to you!"

Clearly, Bonobos has everything to gain by being nice to their customers. Whether you buy online or stop by their fitting room...they're gonna put you in a wagon and pull you around. But it's such a welcome change of pace from other retailers who can barely muster up a greeting much less a ride in a wagon. And then there's the idea of a "Guide."

The "Bonobos Guide Program at The Store at Bonobos HQ" works like this. Stop by their showroom at 45 West 25th Street, get fitted, and order anything from khakis to a Made to Measure Dinner Jacket (with choice of lining). Go here for details and an appointment. Amazingly efficient and your order shows up in day or two with pre-printed return label and free return shipping. By the way, there's  a 15% discount for the military here.

If you are a brick and mortar retailer...you may want to pay close attention to Bonobos. I'm as cynical as they come, and was prepared to give these guys grief about the whole "Ninga" cheer leader culture but...it works. Check out the sales link if you're cheap like me. I particularly like the Hanukkah cords and the Nauti tote. I'm working on a Naughty Tote. Details soon.

How to confuse the Goyim: Hanukkah Cords on sale for $75 here

Nauti Beach Tote here. On sale $95

20 March 2012

John's Dunne Blazer

Dr Dillon would be proud -- If he remembered me. That's okay. I'll never forget him or the Norton Anthology of English Lit. I bought mine used and sold it the next semester. And like Dillon promised 28 years ago -- I've lived to regret it. Without Dillon's notes, I never could make sense of John Donne.

The shoulders of this bespoke Morty Sills blazer are roped. The lapel, sans button hole. Double vented with the back slightly longer than the front and a slight flare that jets out below the waist. It doesn't fit that well. Tight in the shoulders and arms but roomy in the waist. Sometimes "fit" is not the point.

The original owner had a fascinating life. Maybe a little will rub off. Maybe bad spirits. You never know. But for a quarter of what a China made blazer at Brooks Brothers will set me back, I have something with a story. The key is to never let anyone know. I know I just did, but ignore me for just this one post.