30 September 2008

Back From the Dry Cleaners

I just got my new(old) Harris Tweed back from the dry cleaners, the garment that christened this blog. Of course, I couldn't wait to wear it. I feel quite certain that this jacket will be my new best friend for the next 5 months or so. For tonight, I decided to go with the 'English Literature teacher who possibly smokes pot' look:

Harris Tweed sport coat: $2.99

J. Press 'Burlington Knot' necktie: $1.99

Blue button-down oxford from 'The Holbrook Company': (can't remember, but $cheap)

On the bottom, my new clean dungarees, grey patterned socks and brown Florsheim 'Longwings'

On an entirely non-clothing related note, my young son and I recently had lunch in a real relic of a diner. The place absolutely warmed my heart. I think the pictures speak for themselves:

29 September 2008

I Like Clean Clothes

I don't know how any one else feels about it, but I think the whole rigmarole people have created over washing/not washing your jeans has gone too far. To wit, this.

I find several things wrong with this whole childish concept.


As I mentioned in a previous post, Dungarees are in fact work pants. You really shouldn't be wearing them unless you plan on wrangling horses, digging ditches or going down a mine. That being said, to treat them as precious bit of high fashion is silly, and to pay fashion price is far worse. Certainly we all own them, wear them and love them, but we're talking about jeans, not a Gucci suit, for cripes sake.


Does anyone remember being a kid and having the same pair of jeans for years? I can remember playing in them, running in the dirt, really beating them up, and they didn't look half as bad as the one's in the link above. Maybe it's because my mother used to wash them, thereby alleviating the abrasive qualities of dirt.

Ask a woman, any woman, how cool she thinks it is when a guy wears pants that haven't been washed in a year. I'll wager you get a different response.

Call me a dork if you will, but I prefer clean clothes.

28 September 2008


Really wish I had
Embroidered corduroy pants
Blue with red lobsters.

26 September 2008

Breaking the Law

Today I bought (gasp!) pleated pants!
Normally, I am so anti-pleated-pants that I could write a book about it. But there's something about this pair. They're a right proper pair of grey flannels. The cloth is very heavy wool, almost like WWII military stuff, but soft. And the cut is superb through the legs. Plus, the pleats are inverted, and very shallow, and that flap on the right side (left in the picture) actually has a little watch pocket under it. $7.99 at an undisclosed thrift shop.
So the question is this (God, I sound like a presidential debater) : Are these pleats an egregious affront to traditional tastes, or will the Distinguished Members of the Board grant me a zoning variance on this one? (God, I sound like an architecture student.)

25 September 2008

When I grow up...

...I want to be like this guy:
photo credit by The Sartorialist
This 'Trad' look that we all get on about is undoubtedly an American thing at its roots, and sometimes one can feel excluded. Sure it was born of the sons of the old money who went to Harvard and so forth, but let's not forget that clothing and attitude are for anyone with the nerve and understanding to pull it off.
As a person of pure Italian descent myself, I give this guy a full fledged "Tutti Bravo!" He reminds me of my father's father, Francesco. I inherited the clothing gene from him.
He probably doesn't speak English, and he's almost certainly a Catholic, but if this guy here isn't TRAD, then I don't know what is.
We can all only hope to be half as striking at that age.
(2 posts in one day? I must be on a roll.)


A lot of people, both men and women, have a difficult time with dungarees. With so many brands to choose from, and so many cuts, washes, fits, etc. it can be awfully difficult to find a good pair. And yet, nobodies wardrobe is complete without them. As I recently mentioned, I was in dire need of everyday pants for Fall so yesterday I bought 2 new pair.

I've owned loads of different brands in my time, and in the end I always come back to Levi's, in a dark wash. The pair pictured on the right are the old fashioned shrink-to-fit 501's, you know, the ones that feel like they're made of wood when first buy them. The pair on the left are 'Regular Fit' 505's, which are basically what the 501's turn into after some washing, but with a zipper instead of a button fly.

It's no use thrifting for dungarees. They are should always be bought new.True, a perfectly worn in pair can be the best thing you own sometimes, but it really doesn't count unless the were and tear is your own.

As for 'fashion' brands, I'm not a fan. Dungarees are work pants. They should wear tough, cost little and be easily replaced when the need arises. Unlike this pair:

These are from Polo,( a brand I actually like) purchased less than a year ago. Here's the scoop. My wife got a credit card at Lord & Taylor. These dungarees, originally priced at $119.95(!?!?!?) were marked down a dozen times to $24.99. Than they were 20% off at the register. Hooray for me, I guess. Here we are 9 months later and look:

A big hole in one knee, getting bigger everyday.and holes at the cuffs...and the crotch is about to go. Granted I did get these pants cheap, but technically they were over $100. And while the same fate eventually awaits the Levi's, it will no doubt take longer, and I can always get some more.

Best of all, I bought them at Sears. Dungarees should come form a store that also sells power tools.(even if you wind up wearing them with wingtips and a sport coat.)

24 September 2008

Pattern Mixing

Pattern mixing is an excellent skill for any man to develop. Taken on their own, many TRADitional items of clothing are a bit staid, but when properly blended they all work to elevate each other. A regimental stripe tie, university stripe shirt and paisley square may all be nice enough separately, but put them all together and you have something else entirely. Add the texture of a hopsack blazer, and you've got a lot of visual interest.

Of course, part of the trick is knowing when to cool it. On the bottom, I chose to keep it simple, with khakis, grey socks and loafers.

However, if you really feel like pushing the whole thing over the edge of the sartorial cliff, throw in an outrageous vintage wool plaid cap.( Which of course I did.) There's nothing like an individual and stylish look built entirely of conservative elements.

On another note, it seems our incestuous little family has become even more perverse. On the new blog Ivy Style, the dozen or so guys who write all these other blogs ( who I believe are also the only dozen or so who read them) are now all contributing to the same blog. Next we should build a tree house behind somebodies mothers house with a sign at the bottom of the ladder that says 'no girls allowed', where we can listen to jazz records and hide all of our skinmags.

p.s. Anyone know what 'regiment' that tie is? Google search turned up nothing, but I am interested to know whose hard fought military service I have decided to appropriate in the name o sheer dandy-ism.

23 September 2008

Emergency Pants

So I guess this is what they call the 'shoulder season' here in Boston. It's that time of year when I wake up in the morning and the house is freezing. So I get dressed into that tweed jacket I've been waiting to wear again. When I leave the house all is perfect, but somehow one hour later that tweed jacket is way too hot. Later that same day, I'm freezing again, and as the sun goes down the tweed jacket hardly helps.

What's even trickier is the fact that all my summer clothes are put away for the season. After all, who wants to wear madras bright colors after Labor Day. But, it's nowhere near cold enough for the winter stuff. Suddnely, I found myself with only one acceptable pair of all purpose pants, some nice heavy khakis. Now, I could be like my grandfather and wear the same pants every day, or I could be like me and get some new pants, which is what I did.

So yesterday, I took some nice new cords to the tailor. She rolled them up to show me the length, which was way too long. I explained to her where I wanted them to fall and she made adjustments. I changed back into my ill-fitting, cheap cotton pants. The ones I always wonder why I keep and then one day all the laundry's dirty and its 75 degrees in september and...

She said " You like these pants?"

I said " No, I hate these pants. I only wear them in case of emergency, or when nothing else is clean, which is an emergency."

She said "O.K. Come back Thursday."

A goofy post, I know, but entirely true. Here's hoping for a drop in temperature.

22 September 2008


I'm pleased to announce that our friend Charlie 'thrifters have too much sh*t' Commenter is none othe than the illustrious Longwing!

Here I am only five days into this rant session and already such distinguished guests.

21 September 2008

Restraint is a Virtue

Charles, a commenter, recently said:
"Thrifters have too much sh*t. You get used to not getting exactly what you want so you tend to buy everything that even comes close."

He's absolutely right. For the longest time, I would by anything that bore the name of an old and venerable label. And if something was old and rare, forget it, I was sunk. It didn't matter if it fit, or I needed it, or anything. I can't tell you how many things I hung onto for years, saying, "I'll take it to the tailor, you'll see." True, your friend the tailor can let out the waist, fix the hem, shorten the sleeves, etc. But if a thing needs extensive work, it will never get done. Still, it's hard to say no, for example, to a vintage Hart,Schaffner & Marx suit for $11.99. So what if its a 42 long and you wear a 38 regular?

The fact is, no matter how cheap a thing is, no matter how much of a bargain, it is in fact a waste of both money and precious closet space to buy things that deep down you know you will probably never wear. I thank our commenter Charles for putting that in my mind. I was very selective on my most recent thrifting excursion because of it. I even put back a Brooks Brothers brown Prince of Wales sport coat for $5.99( after I tried it on 20 times trying to convince myself to buy it.)
Here are some fun label shots of the stuff I passed up today:

A blue flannel blazer with horn buttons. Too small, not enough cloth to let out. Another advantage of thrift is that you can discreetly separate the lining and have a peak inside at the extra material. Don't tell on me.

A white french cuff shirt. Too big in the neck.

A grey two button suit with a white and burgundy pinstripe. A good fit, but the jacket was a little too darted for my taste. Which brings up a good point: once upon a time, I would have bought this suit, and for years gotten fully dressed into it, shirt, tie, everything, before getting changed at the last minute before leaving the house and winding up in a hurry or late to whatever it was that I had to put on a suit for in the first place. Hardly worth $14.99 in the long run....and there's no way the guy on that label drives a van, either.

Navy pinstripe 3/2 sack suit from the Coop (i.e. Harvard Co-Operative Society) back when they were something more than a glorified souvenir store for the parents of the incoming freshman class. Alas, made to fit a man much larger than myself.

Like I've said before, it's all about developing an eye for things, which also means knowing what not to buy, no matter how nice it may be.

p.s. R.I.P. local store brand stuff and funny little unknown labels (Trotters Club!?! New England Gentleman!?!) Some of my best stuff has been from the likes of theses 'No Name' names.

20 September 2008

Whats in a Name?

A good looking, hard wearing, well made dress shirt can make a break a man's outfit. In fact, a really good shirt can even enable one to skimp elsewhere in the outfit undetected. Of course, we all know the names and makes to look for. At the top end, of course, is custom made. Then all the usuals: Turnbull & Asser, J. Press, Troy Shirtmakers Guild, and even Polo. (Before you all jump on that, I'm willing to bet that many of you own or have owned something from Polo that you loved. Its popular to dog old Ralph these days as the godfather of the neo-Trad, but hell, he did get started in 1967, in the old days.) And of course Books Brothers are the undisputed kings when it comes to the button down collar. The list goes on, etc.

But then there are the misfits, like the above photo. I own three shirts form 'the Holbrook Company'. One blue, one pink, one goldenrod, button down oxfords. It doesn't get more classic than that. The cloth is beautiful, with the slightest hint of sheen to it, and it wears like iron. Plus, the collars have a perfect 'roll', very much like a BB shirt. Made in U.S.A. to boot. And, of course, they were priced at a fraction of the cost of the better known brands.

So my question is: Who the Hell is the Holbrook Company? Anybody ever heard of them or owned there stuff? Where can I get more of these great quality shirts?

Please chime in if you know anything about this.

19 September 2008

A Chilly Day in September

Today was the first day that felt like Fall from front to back. My house was freezing this morning, it never got warmer than cool, and now, at night, it is once again freezing. At times like these, let us look to the Pacific Northwest:Pendleton Woolen Mills, made in Oregon. The definitive wool shirt...that is if you can find a real one. These days they are made god-knows-where, but the old ones are built of iron. Sadly, they all say "Warranted to be a Pendleton" on them, but I don't think they should warrant anything to be anything that wasn't made at the old mill. Look closely at the last line of the care instructions. 1962!?! That means that seven or eight years ago, when I found this shirt, it was already 38 years old, and I've worn it hard since I've had it. And it is clearly none the worse for wear:
Personally, I like these as a shirt on top of a shirt. In this case, over a button down collar oxford, with the collar buttons undone. On the bottom, jeans and loafers, two items our friend Sullivan has been obsessed with lately, that form their own unsinkably perfect combination. Finish with bright patterned socks, the preppy period on any sentence.

18 September 2008

No Money, No Problem, part 2

A little more history on the story behind this blog.

Recently, one of my best friends got married. A really swell party, outdoors under a tent on Labor Day weekend, behind the brides parents house, on a verdant and secluded hill in the backwoods of western Massachusetts.

It had been a while since I attended a wedding, and even longer since I got a new suit, so I was dying for a fresh outfit. Believe me, this caused me no little distress.

First I went to Filene's Basement, who was advertising a big men's suit sale...40% off! Mind you, this was not at Boston's true Filene's Basement (the one in the basement of Filene's). Alas, that most venerable of institutions is no longer with us. One day, I will devote an entire long winded post to it. Anyway, the suits were indeed marked down...you could buy a $4000 Italian number for a mere $1000. BARGAIN CITY!

As I searched all the other stores, I ran into my usual problem: anything I liked I couldn't afford, anything I could afford was atrocious. I had all but resigned myself to making due with something from the existing wardrobe (woe is me, I can be such a girl sometimes) when I happened across this little number in ( you guessed it) a thrift store:
The picture doesn't do it justice. Brooks Brothers navy suit with white pinstripes, 3/2 sack jacket, plain-front cuffed trousers. My guess is 80's vintage, when BB was still BB and not just another logo. $14.99

photo courtesy of Joe Keohane

I had it dry cleaned, and the waist let out just a pinch($22, more than the cost of the suit!). Paired with a white cotton shirt with French cuffs ($17.99), blue and white silk Gingham check tie from 'The Country Store of Concord' ( $1.99), vintage Rayban Wayfarer II's ( a gift from the Mrs. a long time ago), a white silk cap from Dobbs New York ($15 on end of season clearance), a Scrimshaw tie bar and cuff link set, made of real whalebone, that I saved up forever to by in high school, a pink pocket square and some white wine, and Voila! the perfect outfit for an afternoon wedding in Summer.

p.s. check out the backdrop. A sculpture garden in the countryside. The scenery that day was truly spectacular.

17 September 2008

Wax Cotton

The Barbour coat is truly one of menswear's all time classics. Completely waterproof and totally rugged, yet perfectly at home atop a shirt and tie. Perhaps the best thing about this waxed-cotton jacket is the fact that it comes with a lifetime service guarantee. They don't care where you got it. If it says Barbour, they'll stick by it. This means that for as long as you own it, Barbour will clean it, inspect it, repair it and retreat it with wax coating, for a fee of course. I bought this coat new-with-tags for $9.99 (reg retail about $375!) in an undisclosed thrift location two years ago. I wear it from September till May. Sure, the yearly once over will cost $47, but its worth it. I will own this coat for the rest of my life, I know it. If the opportunity ever presents itself, buy one without reserve. In fact, I'd venture to say that this really is one item worth saving up for. Mine goes in for service tomorrow.
A Barbour jacket brings up any mans look, any day, provided he lives in a place (like Boston) prone to cold and moisture. I realize I was incredibly lucky in finding mine so cheap, and I'd be lost in the wet season without it. Starting dropping hints for Christmas to your significant other today.

16 September 2008


Shoes can be a tricky subject for a lot of men. We all know that multiple pairs are needed for various outfits and occasions, but it can easily get out of control. A lot of guys I know who have lots of clothes will wind wearing the same shoes practically all the time. Which is no fun if you ask me. The above photo represents most of my shoe collection, after a recent clean-up and polish session. In this group I have the perfect shoe for almost any occasion in which I am likely to find myself.

From left to right, top to bottom:

White suede bucks with red rubber soles, unknown make, $1.99
Dark green suede Chukka boots, Clarkes, (actually made in England!), $7.99
Duck boots, cheap knockoff, $12.99
(these boots kind of stink. they leak a little, but I've been hinting to the Mrs. pretty heavily that a real pair of L.L. Beans would make a hell of a birthday gift..we'll see.)
Black leather plain-toe oxfords, make unknown, $4.99
Sperry topsiders, a gift from my parents on a recent vacation in Maine
Natural canvas Converse Chuck Taylor, $19.99
English brown split-toe Bostonians, $34.99
Florsheim "Beefroll" penny loafers, in a reddish color I call cordovan, $19.99
Brown Florsheim "Longwings" $19.99

Total $122.92

I left out the super heavy rockabilly engineer boots and the super nice Frye riding boots, because I never wear those but I just can't give them up...don't know why. And while I do in fact own a tuxedo, I can live without black formal shoes until the occasion ever presents itself.

As I was thinking over this new blog today, I wondered whether it wasn't a bit gauche to include the price of everything. Certainly it is. But I've decided to feature the prices proudly as an educational tool to those who simply do not believe that it is possible to really dress well for such little money. It's all about developing an eye for things.

15 September 2008

No Money? No Problem!

Welcome to my new blog. This ones about men's clothes, because the web needs more silly blogs about men's clothes, right.

Let me give you some background about what prompted this one. My friends and I all believe a man should present himself well, at all times, and that personal style is of the utmost importance. As such, we all spend a lot of time reading all the others men's blogs out there. Trouble is these blogs generally tend to be written by guys with enough money to buy what they want when they want it, which can be frustrating if you're a regular guy (i.e. not a rich kid). It can be especially infuriating when you've strived all your life to overcome this financial hurtle when choosing the items of a gentlemanly wardrobe. It becomes even more infuriating when you know good stuff from garbage, and are loath to settle for crap. The so called "Trad" blogs are the worst, because these guys ought to know that thriftiness and hand-me-downs are a major aspect of this so-called Tradliness.

Q: "Nice jacket. Where did you get it?"

A: " My grandfather bought it at the J.Press store in Cambridge in 1966."

That's more like it.

Not to be all sour grapes, there are a lot of fun reads out there, guys who know what they're talking about. Check out the Links, which all link to each other. (the community is a tad bit incestuous)

So my intention, not unlike all the others, is to post pictures and musings about clothes. Cheap clothes of excellent quality. Believe me, if you train yourself to look, there's a lot of good stuff out there. And remember, a good dry cleaner and tailor can take a so-so thrift score back to its original well tailored glory for a fraction of the cost of new clothes. Besides, new stuff is pretty shoddy compared to its older ancestors anyway.

So let's begin with my most recent acquisition. It may still be warm outside, but with Labor Day behind us we're all thinking of wool and tweed. When fall hits full swing, few things in a mans closet are more versatile than a hard wearing tweed sport coat, like this one:

Made in U.S.A. of handwoven Harris Tweed, the real stuff. It's hard to tell in the photo's, but the weave is medium brown with bluish grey underneath, which means with brown pants its brown and with grey pants its grey. I plan to wear this coat repeatedly from now until April with every thing from khakis to bluejeans to bow ties and flannels. It doesn't get more versatile than that.

Price= $5.99 less 50%= $2.99! The dry cleaning will cost three times as much.