30 April 2012

You Do What You Have To Do...

John Mason Brown, 1952

"Remember, you have been spared the unintentional cruelty of that kind of Progressive education which misleads the young into believing that they will be free to do what they want to do, at the moment and in the way they want to do it. The reality of life is quite different. Most people spend most of their days doing what they do not want to do in order to earn the right, at times, to do what they may desire. . .

John Mason Brown, Esquire, 1960

Testing has been the eternal challenge. To live, men have had to live with this challenge through the ages but undaunted by it, even as they have had to live with the knowledge that death is the ultimate challenge of life. . .

John Mason Brown, Obituary, 1969

To say that the world at present stinks is to understate its fragrance. To say that it must stink forever is a lie. . . I trust that you and your contemporaries will earn the right to be known as the unbeatable generation."

John Mason Brown, Graduation Address, Groton School, 1958

27 April 2012

M: The Civilized Book

The most fun I've had with my clothes on.

26 April 2012

White Bucks - Black Robes

Flagler College, St Augustine, FL - 1981

I was a work grant student in the college PR department. Freshman year I photographed the graduation ceremony above. I graduated in 1984 but no one took a picture of me. I always thought it had to do with my white bucks.

Shortly before graduation, a memo was sent to seniors with instructions for what to wear with black robes. For men, it was dark colored pants and dark or black shoes. I wore white trousers and white bucks.

I remember thinking, "What are they gonna do? Take the dashes out of my social security number. Happy graduation. Special dispensation for white buck wearing prior to Memorial Day.

24 April 2012

Barolo Restaurant: The Garden

Late lunch. Food was good. Wine was a '93. Not too crowded. No one seemed in a hurry.

23 April 2012

Ft Bragg's Fashion Elite

Velvet slippers for the quiet professional...

"You know what Delta's gonna do when they see these pictures?"

"We gettin' hazardous pay for this?"

About to deliver some humanitarian assistance...

"All we need are some 8x10 head shots and we move to NYC..."

"Hey, at least you didn't have to empty the shitter like the guy in the yellow coat."

"That's odd. I only get the funny feeling when I climb rope."

"Could you get me a Latte?"

GQ Style Spring Summer 2012 (click image to enlarge)

Designer Adam Kimmel styled a photo shoot with the 3rd Special Forces Group at Ft Bragg. Usually a reader will alert me to a story like this and save me from open-mouthed shock at a public magazine stand. GQ Style-U.K. calls the piece, "The Quiet Professionals." There's some irony for you. I don't think anyone at Ft Bragg will be calling 3rd Group quiet anymore.

Kimmel had 'Marlboro Man' photographer Jim Krantz shoot the spread for the magazine whose, "... challenge was to take fashion clothes and put them in the context of the Green Berets without making it look outlandish." You can see more of the Green Beret photo shoot here at Jim's web site. Jim must love shooting things that'll kill ya.

I don't think it looks outlandish. Silly, yes. I doubt Kimmel knows much about the Green Berets and probably less about the sacrifice a Staff Sergeant makes for $36,000 a year. But in fairness to a clueless hipster fashion designer and British fashion magazine -- the U.S. Army said yes. Which makes me wonder about future military collaborations with magazines.

Playboy's, "Threesome in an Abrams." Field & Stream's, "Fishing with Grenades." And Out Magazine's Norfolk Seamen, "We Don't Drink and We Don't Cuss - Nor-Fuck! Nor-Fuck!" Tax dollars subsidizing fashion photo shoots for British fashion mags. We called that FUBAR when I was in the Army - Great name for a magazine.

20 April 2012

"...a pretty exciting place"

"Sa-a-ay! This looks like a pretty exciting place!"

From, 'The Booze Book' edited by Ralph Schoenstein, 1974

18 April 2012

"Don't do the crime if you can't do the time..."

American Giant has offered up three black T shirts for field review. Two large and one extra large. If you'll comment on how you propose to do your field test and agree to report the results in two weeks -- I'll send you one.

American Giant Black T-Shirt $25

A lot of people in the apparel business will tell you it's impossible to manufacture in the U.S. anymore. Actually, what they're really saying is it's impossible to make a 600% to 1,000% markup manufacturing in the U.S. anymore. Man, that's criminal.

A year and half ago, Avery Lucas designed a canvas trouser for The Trad and I featured it here. Button fly with side tabs, Avery contrasted dressier details with humble canvas fabric. We found a U.S. manufacturer who'd make it for $60. We'd sell it direct for $120. A trouser twice the quality at half the cost. What happened? That's a very long story.

I sat down with American Giant CEO, Bayard Winthrop and in less than five minutes our heads were both going north and south over the issue of insane mark ups. Winthrop's idea is simple. Basic tops made in the U.S. and sold direct. He explained that men are a lot more comfortable ordering apparel on line. Especially if it's well made and well priced. I don't think he's onto something -- I know he is.

Sweatshirts ($60) and t-shirts ($25) are thick-solid and well made. I've seen old, made in USA, Russel sweatshirts going for $100+ in Manhattan's "Vintage" boutiques. Clearly, that's drunken sailor money and some will argue $25 for a t-shirt is too. I'll only say this. I have an affection for black t-shirts.

Dad wore 'em,

I wore 'em,

Sgt Nick Penis wore 'em,

Mayne wore 'em,

and Baretta wore 'em.

I could wear 'em all year long -- But I'll need to know, "where can I go where the cold winds don't blow."

17 April 2012

"Bob Hope's an Asshole"

Death and taxes. I was reminded of the phrase last night when I remembered I hadn't done my father's taxes. Dead for two months, the ephemera of his life -- 80 pounds worth, has been distilled to ten pounds - give or take.

In a folder was a story he wrote for me. These were war stories of celebrities and journalists he met in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967. He barely mentioned them to me and never told any to my friends despite my urging. Here, he finally does:

Bob Hope's popularity was, and still is a myth! Most of us detested him, his silly-assed humor and the female teasers who accompanied him and couldn't be approached. The only way to fill the arena for his (filmed and money-making -- for him when televised) self serving shows was to give the troops the day off. Knowing that fully half the troops would stop at the first bar or whorehouse and go no further. Obviously, I have no regard for Hope and his ilk (Earlier B Hope story posted here).

Anne Margaret visited everywhere and only with one companion. Usually small units. She was charming and a good hugger who willingly posed for photos. Had a cute trick of not wearing panties and when sitting next to a grunt for a photo would raise one leg. These photos must be still be treasured souvenirs.

Most of the entertainers were selfless folks who really cared: Out of sheer boredom, I once went to a USO show in Pleiku. Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and the Sons of the Pioneers. Not at all my kind of entertainment, and I almost didn't go in. But, I was surprised! They were genuinely friendly and informal -- like visiting friends or family. Nothing phony.

Raymond Burr visited the most remote units and just sat around shooting the breeze. He wrote down proper name and family contact of virtually every grunt he ever talked to and called their families (at his expense) when he returned to the U.S.

Billy Casper flew in with his clubs and a giant bag of balls. He'd give lessons and drive balls out into the undergrowth. We wondered if the bad guys thought they were a new kind of cluster bomb.

Martha Raye really was a nurse and when she visited hospitals, she really did jump in and do the dirty bed-pan work. After work, her informal act (while downing a tall glass of straight booze) with groups of SF guys were/still are legendary humor.

Some of the best entertainment was small USO groups of relatively unknown characters. Seldom more than four to six people. Typically a couple of movie/stage hopeful girl singer/dancers taking a gov't-paid break from cattle call auditions and two old vaudeville guys playing instruments and doing their shtick. Ultra-informal and fun.

All of the above (except Hope and similar assholes) usually traveled with no entourage. Many would jump on a helicopter alone or with only one travel companion and just poop around at random.

Ranged from total assholes (e.g., Morley Safer) to sincere people who often became close friends (as with reporter Jim Galloway and the famed Gen Hal Moore). Lou Cioffi (ABC) was our favorite TV guy. Best press photographer was Sam Castan, (Look Magazine- Castan Post here) killed in action at my place. No government stooges monitored us back then. The myth was that all reporters were "Clark Kents and Lois Lanes" -- the typical U.S. citizen know-nothing view, or enemy stooges -- the U.S. authorities view.

I once spent a pleasant afternoon at my Vinh Thanh SF camp with Bill Demarest, then Senior Foreign Editor of Time. I told him just how it was (you can't do that anymore). He was most grateful and asked what favor he could do for me. I casually mentioned my copy of Time always arrived raggedy after everybody along the way read it. Thought no more about it. Surprised me a few weeks later to start receiving Time in a plain brown envelope. This continued for well over a year after my subscription expired and I was back home.

Got a call one day from 1st Air Cav Info Officer wanting to drop two female reporters from Aussie newspaper "Overseas Weekly" (aka Oversexed Weekly) on us. Paper was critical of and in great disfavor with U.S. Gov't though very popular with U. S. troops. 1st Cav Commanding General didn't want them in his camp. My Team got spruced up a bit for female visitors but were dismayed when two middle-aged dumpy gals got off the chopper.

After a couple rounds of beer, dismay turned to hilarity as "girls" told raunchy tales of the REMFs (Rear Echelon Mother Fuckers) -- both military and press corps -- and did really funny imitations of Westmoreland lying to the press. (I think this was the first time I heard the "light at the end of the tunnel" defined as the "light of the oncoming train.")

It was quite funny done in Aussie accent and done profanely -- and it was so true. High point of their visit (for them) was when they went out to use our screened in latrine and VN from all the over the camp came to see what round-eye females look like up close and personal.

Some of the very best reporters were from small town U.S. Their original intent was family features on home town GIs. When the supposedly innocent GIs told them what things were really like, some of the reporters wrote touching stories much like those of Ernie Pyle in WWII. Too bad so few people ever got to see them.

And that's the way it was....

16 April 2012

"If you know her name..."

"...postmodern, punk-inflected, Bach-Stravinsky-Coltrane-influenced string band." The New Yorker

Driving the Jersey Turnpike to NYC yesterday. A station wagon loaded with cheap chicken, cheap steaks, a 30 pack of Natty Lite with enough ass wipe and paper towels to last an eternity but will be history in a couple weeks.

Within range of WHYY, a Prairie Home Companion is live from Manhattan's Town Hall. I pray Mr Keillor does not sing. God ignores me but offers up Punch Brothers doing 'New York City' as recompense.

I'm doing 80 but the band is going faster. Crest the hill and look out at a billboard free stretch of trees turning the same mint green as some asshole's polo shirt in Swifty's. "New York City - Will you give her to me - I'll be yours forever."

13 April 2012

Haspel Fall Winter: Bespoke at Cost

My relationship with Haspel goes back 32 years. Not that we were close, but it was the poplin and seersucker suiting of choice save a short stint at Brooks Brothers and employee discount addiction.

Haspel carved out a narrow but deep niche in cotton suiting for the South. It was cheap, washable and most important, it was comfortable. Southerners attending Princeton brought Haspel to the southern most second most southern Ivy college and it caught on. In a big way.

What didn't catch on was Haspel in Fall & Winter. The romantic association with Summer's cotton, half linings and character filled wrinkles may have helped traditional offerings but a "Stick to your knitting" attitude by customers may have doomed Fall & Winter from the start.

I walked into the 25th floor loft of the Bryant Park Hotel earlier this week and could not believe it was Haspel Fall - Winter. The silhouette is London. You see that first. And it's a London of the '30s. This is Flusser's turf but at a fraction of the price.

Single breasted peak lapels, double breasted chalk stripes, brown window pane, ticket pockets, double vents...They are the details that drive men to bespoke tailors because they're impossible to find off the rack.

Silhouette and details are carried over to tweed and herringbone jackets. What you see in the windows on Savile Row or in Holland & Holland. Haspel avoided the Hipster runoff so popular with Heritage brands. Every day PR firms send out videos of a watch cap wearing guy in a three piece suit chopping logs with a $500 Challis National Axe to a steel guitar soundtrack.

Haspel seems intent on pursuing grown ups. Guys who work in banks, insurance companies and those other holdouts of employment where coat and tie are still expected. Men who are married with kids and don't have $5,000 for a suit or $500 for an axe.

Contrasting fabrics of cotton, corduroy and suede are hidden under sport jacket collars. If you ask me, they should stay hidden but you do what you have to.

Fabrics are thick with character, texture and color. This is warm stuff. I'm not sure how much use it will see in Haspel's hometown of New Orleans.

Now comes the bad news. Made in Indonesia. I'm not sure outta what. Maybe wax paper and toad shit for all I know. But, good news for pricing. Suiting is $595 and $695 ($100 & $125 for vest) while sport coats are $395 and $495 Like I said, you work someplace where a suit is required and your 401K and college funds are hoovering most of your take home pay... This is great value.

If, on the other hand, you chop wood in a three piece cashmere suit with a $500 axe, and have no kids...Well, there are plenty of people here in NYC who will be more than happy to assist you. For Haspel retailers go here.