28 February 2014

The Ethnics of Antonio Ciongoli

Terra cotta basket weave cardigan - $595 Pine/white with navy deco gingham spread collar shirt - $225 Pine/terra cotta medallion printed open weave silk tie - $150

Inspiration for our Duomo scarves and ties

Brick "Duomo" wool challis scarf - $175

Terra cotta/pine/stone gun check sportcoat - $995

Various ties in the pine/terra cotta stone story, including prints inspired by Medici family shield and Ghiberti's bronze panels for bapistry doors - all $150

Pine donegal "Medici" rolleck sweater inspired by the diamond windowgrates of Michelangelo's Capella Medici in San Lozenzo - $595

Terra cotta casentino wool maremanna jacket - $995

Terra cotta Italian chamois work shirt popover - $250

White/terra cotta/pine bold tattersall twill spread collar shirt - $225

Navy/white/lavender japanese flannel spread collar shirt - $225 & Gray knit toggle vest with suede trim - $595

White/charcoal stripe Japanese cotton tab collar shirt - $225 Fatigue green knit toggle vest with suede trim - $595 & Fatigue green/charcoal shepherd's check belted peacoat - $995

Cashmere blend crewneck with wool "guild shield" embroidery - $650  - The shields  represent the Florentine tailors and shoe makers guild as well as the Medici family coat of arms

Shearling asymmetrical peacoat - $2995 & Brick "Duomo" wool challis scarf - $175

"...he might hear a young grandson being greeted
at the Cosenza train station by packs of jubilant relatives
who would make the boy feel like a McArthur returned, or 
a kind of Latin Lindbergh in a ticker tape parade -
except instead of confetti, the boy would be showered
with wet kisses from endless uncles, aunts, and cousins who
could not understand a word of English.

With an 8mm movie camera, the boy would begin to 
click off scenes of these relatives…Perhaps these films
would later be shown in a kitchen back in Brooklyn
where a bedsheet, serving as a projection screen,
would be tacked up to the flowered wallpaper.

And when the lights would go on in this 
Brooklyn kitchen, tears would be seen in the eyes 
of some older folks." 

The Ethnics of Frank Costello by Gay Talese
Esquire Magazine, Sep. 1961

A few years ago Antonio Ciongoli introduced me to Gay Talese.  A meeting was set up at Gay's home and we talked for a couple hours.  I brought up the excerpt from the Costello cover story in Esquire and while  Talese remembered the story he couldn't remember his unusual but beautiful meandering off subject and loaded with remembrance and nostalgia.  I told Talese how much it moved me and he smiled, his eyes narrowing into slits, and said with some surprise that he should probably revisit the story if only to see it if it was worth republishing.

New York Fashion Week is a cold slog through mostly forgettable designers who are all trying too hard.  Throw in the pushing and shoving by remarkably nasty attendees and it's a scene light years from what I envisioned when I attended my first show in what would be Bryant Park's last.

I've cut back on shows and a lot of shows have cut back on me.  Probably as it should be since I'm not a fashion guy.  But like Talese, I love storia and especially the kind that connects to something completely foreign and unknown.  Only in this way is it possible to continue to misspell people's names.

Antonio Ciongoli of Isaia's Eidos showed me his new line for Fall / Winter 2014.  The show room is still in the understated quiet of Elizabeth Taylor's townhouse on West 56th.  If you're quiet,  you can almost hear the walls talk as Anthony Perkins gets drunk and Richard Burton orgasms.  Antonio has had a lot to do with educating me in Italian apparel.  But I still think, as a whole, the Italians are too studied.

If American sportswear is about being relaxed and casual, then the Italians have taken that and extruded it through endless and needless details: scarves in July, wrist dental floss, double monks and now triple.  Pitti is all you need consider to get my point.  I like the billowing sail of an oxford button down over a man's alligator belt -- Antonio prefers a more fitted silhouette…over an alligator belt.   Seems there's always something to agree on.

I'm not writing for anyone but me so what you see here is what I like.  I love green and don't think anyone uses it enough.  It's everywhere in this collection along with my appreciation for the even rarer color I call, 'dried blood' or what Antonio calls, 'terra cotta." If you cut yourself shaving a lot then this is a no brainer for you.  Even the chamois pop over comes from another place but the roots are so American.  What you do with Eidos is your business…tang it up all you like --  Or, just leave it alone and let it speak for itself.

Update: Following are retailers for Eidos Napoli.  

For spring, it will be available online via Carson street clothiers, CHCM, The Armoury, Haberdash (Chicago) and Lawrence Covell (Denver). All of these stores will also carry in store as well as Charles Speigel (Pittsburgh), Boyd's(Philadelphia), Pockets (Dallas), Sy Devore (LA area), Carriere (LA Area), Steven Giles (Oklahoma city) Scoop (East Hampton and Brentwood), Syd Jerome (Chicago), Mr. Sid (Boston area), J3 (Cleveland area), AK Rikks (Grand Rapids), Butch Blum (Seattle), Shaia's (Homewood, AL), Oak Hall (Memphis) and Got Style (Toronto).

26 February 2014

Short Sleeves - Short Temper: Ralph's Rant

When we're done with dinner… I'm gonna let you fuck my wife."

Ralph knew there was a problem when the prospective client  didn't call back.  Six months of intense work on one of the biggest accounts in town --  Revenue over a million but there was a 10 year relationship with another agency.   Still, Ralph's ego didn't let him say no when he was approached.

The prospect complained of shitty service over a shitty lunch at his favorite restaurant; a place Ralph detested and thought touristy and pretentious. The prospect told Ralph the 'relationship' had been over for a couple years thanks to a change in 'players' -- Both at his company and at the agency.  Ralph looked at the prospect and saw a wounded Gazelle on the Serengeti Plain hobbling along to keep up with the herd.

Ralph's nostrils flared slightly  at the sniff of blood as he shoved a fork of rare dry aged rib eye across his capped teeth.  All the signs were there but then why hadn't the prospect called back?  Ralph called early in the morning and late in the afternoon to avoid the secretary but he only got voice mail.

Late in the afternoon, on the day of the new contract, the prospect called.  Ralph knew in an instant.  The prospect talked and Ralph, in a fog of anger, depression and confusion, heard little but picked up key phrases "…they really came through" "account manager replaced" "lowered fee" "you're proposal was solid" "appreciate everything…" As Ralph held the phone to his ear, he stopped listening and thought only of what he would say.

"I appreciate that, Tim." Ralph said, "A lotta people worked very hard and very long over here but I can tell you've made your decision and I respect that." Ralph heard Tim stumble along a "thanks" and some at-a-boys and still Ralph didn't know what was going to come out of his mouth next but that was sales.  The best never knew what they were going to say. That's why it always sounded so good. So…fresh.  And Ralph knew he was one, if not, the very best.

Ralph saw the light in his mind and followed it, "You know what, Tim. How about you come over for dinner this Friday night?  My wife's a great cook. Graduate of the Kump school.  She's really amazing.  I've got a case of Krug we can crack into…" Ralph heard the prospect's breathing over the phone turn anxious. Like he wanted to hang up but Ralph wasn't going to let him. "And, Tim.  When we're done with dinner… I'm gonna let you fuck my wife."

The prospect's voice is barely a tremble, "I'm not sure…" He pauses a long beat to let Ralph fill it but Ralph isn't biting.  Tim clears his throat, "I, uh. I'm not sure I heard you right." "No, you heard me right, Tim.  After dinner at my house... I'm gonna let you fuck my wife…because Tim, that's exactly what you've done to me."

Ralph grits his teeth, purses his lips and slams the phone down.  A piece of black plastic flies off the phone and across the office.  Ralph watches the bit of phone come to a rest at the feet of a life sized cardboard Batman next to his credenza.  Ralph smiles, clasps his hands behind his head and knows, as sure as Batman is standing in his office, that he has the best job in the world.

25 February 2014

Trad Review of Ralph Lauren's Restaurant

No idea this was still around. Season Four / Episode 402 of Chicago's "Check, Please"

19 February 2014

Hooterville Fashion Week

Me and the Golf Foxtrot with Fred

We were invited to Hooterville Fashion Week (blogging's awesome), n thanks to the millions of miles I travel each year, largely due to this awesome blog of mine, I  copped a first class seat. Greyhound rocks it when it comes to their award's program.

I tried to IG  (that's Instagram, Mom!)  my upgrade but the driver told me they were trying to cut back on paper so no tasty ephemera to photo for posteriority but we got to sit right behind the driver which is so much cooler than sitting next to the toilet which is so not waxed cotton.

Fred "the King" Ziffel- Old dudes know how!

My hero of heroes was sitting n the front row of the killer JC Penny runway show…….of course.  Fred Ziffel, most recently fashion director at True Value Hardware,  is killing it n this tasty jacket, tie and shirt combo.  He's popping the collar as well which, is like, what I'd totally do.

Even though King (I bow to you)  Ziffel is older than dirt, he has amazing juice (He has a Tropicana tattoo on his butt. Don't ask me how I know).  Fred selfishly educates all the younger dudes whom he affectionately calls Twinks.  I had no idea what Twink meant  but Fred promised to 'splain it' if I'd come up up to his room later that night.  Which I did. He is such a lovely man.

William Michaels for AmeriMexicana Work Wear

Sickest dude of dudes, William Michaels curates AmeriMexicana while walking that awesome tight rope of edgy work wear greatness: American Union work wear n illegal Mexican picker denim.  Michael laid out some awesome facts n figures for the line.

Last year saw sales increase of 1200% net.  Profit margins increased some 3000% and 1,349,000 people now follow AmeriMexicana on Twitter.  That's a flossin' increase from 34 followers last year.  Don't believe me?  Check out this killer picking jacket n Juarez orange with velvet toading n extra large bellow's pockets for lettuce or grapes.  How sick is that?

Nicky Brewster models AmeriMexicana Picking Jacket

Sam Drucker showing dudes how to buy Twitter followers

Fellow blogger, Sam Drucker, of 'Now that I Get It - I Don't Want It' came all the way from LA and whacked us all with this crazy 1754 Filson Lumberjack shirt originally owned by, I swear to McNairy,   George Fucking Washington... back when the first dude was a surveyor or some shit like that.

I'm not sure really, but isn't the 17th century awesome?  I'm guessing it survived so long because they didn't have dry cleaners like today --  Back then they had colonist dry cleaners --Try finding a colonist dry cleaner today.

Almost out of room n vocabulary.  Anyway, HFW was awesome and I wanna thank all the flossers --with a special shout to Fred Ziffel, the man with the longest floss.  Gotta run…our college intern Eb's telling the Golf Foxtrot our last bus outta Hooterville is leaving soon n if we don't hurry we're gonna get the seat n to the toilet.

12 February 2014

My Bloody Valentine

My Bloody Valentine Cocktail

In the late '80s,  I worked as an outside insurance adjuster in the DC/ Northern Virginia/ Maryland land of congestion.  Traffic was criminal and I spent 10 hour days in a butt ugly light blue Nissan Sentra --  Not exactly what I had in mind when the boss promised a 'company car.'  With only an AM/FM radio, music choices were mostly country, Christian or Barry White.  I finally found an alternative station out of Annapolis that could just make it to Manassas before it was rolled over by, 'Three Rusty Nails.'

I was a sponge soaking up new sounds and bands out of Annapolis.  The Feelies did a cover of Patti Smith's, 'Dancing Barefoot' that this one dj played over and over but never identified.  I finally recorded it on my company, 'Olympus micro cassette' and played it for a kid at an alternative music store in Alexandria.

My Bloody Valentine, a band MIA in most everyone's vocabulary in Northern Virginia,  had huge play on the Annapolis station.  Again, like the Feelies, they were a unique sound, but they were a tad more more popular and every once in a while I'd hear them while eating crab at the Quarter Deck in Arlington or throwing back beers at the Tune In on the Hill.

I wanted to do a cocktail for Valentine's Day and I really liked the Negroni that uses Prosecco instead of gin.  Along the same lines, I replaced the Prosecco with Blood Orange soda and while it's not a requirement,  a couple shakes of Regan's Orange bitters really rounds this cocktail out.  It's more  refreshing than boozy.  Bitter, but quaffable.  I first used a martini glass but the Golf Foxtrot inherited a dozen or so coupes from her grandmother and while I'm not a big "colored glass" guy, they do pair well with the bloody red.  

2 oz Aperol or Campari
3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth
4 oz Blood Orange Soda
2 shakes Regan Orange Bitters

Add ice and stir until very cold.  Strain into a coupe.  Maybe throw in a Whitman's Sampler for her.  I gave one to a stripper on Valentine's Day in 1977.  I was driving a '68 Dodge Charger and pulled into the parking lot behind behind the Suzy Wong Club when a cop...

09 February 2014

"Gone is the romance that was so divine…"

The second you see it - It hits you.  I was last here for the Ivy exhibit but the space has grown up.  Men and women are in residence having nudged the college kids into storage.  The elegance of this space is simple.  I run into a young man whom I respect immensely and he tells me he thinks it, 'uncompleted.' I tell him it only gives way, as it should,  to the glorious respect of the cloth.   Beautifully cut... for men and women both.  It is damned near... other worldly and I don't think I'll ever forget it.

The Fashion Institute of Technology is not the kind of place you'd suspect has a museum --  Especially in New York City.  It stands at 27th and 7th Avenue looking more like a concrete federal office building than a fashion institute.  The museum entrance is on the south side of 27th, usually blocked off, adding to the federal feel of the place.  Inside, a flight of stairs down, is an exhibit area darker than the inside of a goat.  A quiet calm settled in as the 1930s stood, and sat, in front of me -- Men and women and the clothing they wore and, I like to think, took off each other.

Co-curated by the museum's, Patricia Mears and writer, G. Bruce Boyer, the clothing hails from the 1930s. It was a time of economic and political, 'shit hitting the fan'  but as Boyer has often written, it was, despite the uncertainty,  the golden decade for apparel.  I've always said that today's popularity of menswear has much to do with our own economic hard times.  When you're broke and out of a job,  there's something to be said for getting dressed up.

Bespoke is everywhere in the exhibit.  In that respect, it belongs in a museum's humidity controlled steel locker, wrapped in acid free paper and tucked far from the public's oily fingers.  Sorry, I once worked as a museum technician but as clothes mad as I am, I couldn't help but admire how interesting the women's clothing was... it's so alive.  Silk clings to a breast and falls off a nipple.  Shape forms around a tight waist and bottom while a hip is cocked and a long finger seems to point to my crotch.  Wasn't there a very bad '80s   movie about a mannequin coming to life?

Menswear saw both the Italian and British represented generously by loans from Rubinacci Napoli London House and Savile Row's Davies and Son.  Luca Rubinacci and I stand together admiring a trench coat from his grandfather's company which began in the early '30s.  I point to the gorge of the collar and Luca tells me a story about his father's obsession with collecting vintage London House for a family museum.

Handed down over three generations, his father acquires a Rubinacci white tie jacket made in the '30s and most recently owned by a circus clown who patched it with bandana cloth. Luca tells his father to restore it but his father refuses telling his son, "I don't want what it was --  I want what it became." So do I.

Elegance in an Age of Crisis:  Fashions of the 1930s
Fashion Institute of Technology
Exhibit runs from 7 February 2014 to 19 April 2014

03 February 2014

The Long Lost Playboy Interview

It goes without saying that an interview of me -- on my own blog -- screams of a pretentious ego that I find so annoying on other blogs. Stewart Voegtlin did this interview for Playboy.  They never picked it up.  There were questions about the German Shepard. If Stew had gone to Penthouse,  I might have my own column there.

What moves you to write?

It makes me happy. Damned little does nowadays.

How much of your fiction is fiction and how much it truth?

I’m not sure I’ve ever written any pure fiction. Other than some awful screenplays. Sure, there’s the occasional compression of time or character but it’s rare. I took a Summer writing class at Ragdale outside Chicago, and the instructor called me a gentile Woody Allen.  That was more than 10 years ago  so I think it was about my writing and nothing else.

What’s a good first question to ask you?

What’s my favorite sandwich — A turkey and Emmenthaler Swiss on dark rye with lettuce, Dijon mustard and very ripe tomatoes. A little salt & pepper. Eaten on a beach in late afternoon with a cold beer in a red solo cup.

Why do you think folks have such a hard time differentiating “preppy” and “trad?”

Because they’re hard at work taking care of kids and trying to keep their head above water in this cruddy economy. Who has time anymore for this sort of nonsense? I only do ‘cause I don’t play golf.

Ever get exhausted by it?

Not at all. When I was a park ranger, other rangers complained how little Americans knew of their own history. Well, it was our job to learn and communicate the history of national parks to visitors. I’m sure visitors knew more about accounting practices than I did.

How early on were you aware of the difference?

About 10 minutes out of the womb. I don’t know. There comes a time in a man’s life where you finally understand the whole, less is more, thing. Understatement becomes important once you know loud — any kind of loud — is the worse. That’s not to say you can’t be loud with your friends far from the office. That’s about fun and being ridiculous. And, you’re friends will understand that’s the asshole in you. But in the city, you don’t wanna draw too much attention to yourself. Your fly might be down, or unbuttoned, whatever the case may be.

Did Wallace Stroby (crime fiction writer & college roommate) always wear black?

Always. Still does except for an old shit-brown corduroy sport coat he’s owned for 30 yrs.

He ever make fun of your clothes?

Always. And my music. And my cars. And my books. And my blog. But never my food or wine. He always keeps his mouth shut when he’s eating at my place.

Why did you start “The Trad?” Did you have a preconceived idea of where you were going with the theme?

I wanted to knock off Schumanns’s Sartorialist, but with pics of people in Northeast Florida and New York City. I just lacked the courage to photograph people. Not in NYC but in Florida. Men don’t have much of a wardrobe or a sense of humor in Jacksonville.

Have you stayed true to that notion?

Obviously not, but it all worked out. I just have no idea where it’s going. I never have and that’s why I do it.

Who/what poses the largest threat to “trad” today and why?

With the understanding that ‘trad’ is Japanese for traditional — because the Japanese couldn’t pronounce ‘traditional’ — then trad isn’t going anywhere. It’ll always be around. It has always been around. Just not easy to find.

However, long after work wear and lumber jacks have disappeared from Brooklyn, “Trad” as a fashion “get” via Gant, Hilfiger, Rugby, etc..is probably already over in NYC. Give it one more year to reach and leave Ft Wayne and you’ll be scraping it off the outlet mall floors in another year.

In 2015, Brooks Brothers will celebrate 100 yrs in their 44th St location. In 2018, they’ll celebrate their bicenntineal. I truly hope they have their stuff together by then ‘cause it could make for a helluva party if they do it right.

And do you think Ralph Lauren thinks he/”his” clothes are “trad?”

No. He thinks they’re RL. Anything he’s been inspired by is RL. Which is why he thinks everybody steals from him.

Pink is to green as ______ is to_______?

I’m gonna ignore this one.

The Trad has more to do with authenticity than anything else, IMO. This extends far beyond Brooks and Weejuns and when a bow tie is more than a bow tie. What does authenticity mean to you and why do you consider it important?

For the same reason you don’t go through life wearing ill fitting underwear. Life is too short. I can’t believe 1992 was 20 yrs ago. It went by so fast. And in another 20 yrs, which I’m told will go by even faster, I’ll be 76. Why put up with overpriced (and it always is) soulless crap when there’s honest affordable beauty all around us. You just have to look for it and it ain’t at the mall or in GQ.

How did your dad’s service figure into your army experience and what do you think you took from it?

It was the family business. My grandfather retired a Sergeant Major in the early ’60s and the old man retired a Lt Colonel in 1975. I enlisted in 1976. Problem was, I didn’t wanna kill anyone. I enjoyed being airborne infantry. Jeeps, M16s, jumping outta C 130s - all of that. I just didn’t have what it takes to kill another human being and that makes for a lousy infantryman.

What was more of a pussy-magnet, working at Brooks Brothers or as a Park Ranger?

Neither. Can I say neither?

Do you recall your…

First martini?

Ft Bragg NCO club. Beefeater up with olives. It was 1979 and Brubeck’s Take Five was being piped into the dining room. I had just made buck sergeant and was eating the Friday night club special. A NY strip, salad, baked potato and veg with one cocktail for $6.99.

First blowjob? (on the receiving end, at least)

Whew, I thought you were gonna ask me about the first time I jerked off a dog. (German Shepard, Huntersville, NC 1969)

First kill? (animal, vegetable, mineral)

A bass from my great grandmother’s pond in Lincolnton, NC August - 1964

First bloody steak?

That’s the only way the old man would grill a steak. So, I’m guessing 20 minutes outta the womb.

First public humiliation?

I shit in my pants a lot when I was in first grade. They’d put me outside on the curb and I’d wait for my mother to come pick me up.

First bespoke suit?

40 minutes out of the womb.

First cigarette?

Hand rolled Bugler when I was nine in the crawl space under a house in Chapel Hill, NC. Same age, my father allowed me to smoke cigars. Windsor claro wrappers from the drug store. He’d make me smoke them sitting on a toilet seat with the fan on. He’d watch. I’d get sick.

Ever miss smoking?

Not so much — I do miss watching women smoke in bars. A woman blowing out a thin stream of cigarette smoke followed by the sip of a cocktail. Man, that’s an amazing thing to watch and it’s gonna become as rare as dipping snuff — Which is not so much fun to watch.

What’s on your bedside table?

Howard Zinn’s, A People’s History of the United States and a 1973 Penthouse magazine.

Mandy Pepperidge or “Katy?”

Mrs. Wormer.