26 June 2009


Like I always say, menswear is all about the smallest of details. Take for example buttons. The right or wrong buttons can make or break a good looking jacket. Keep this in mind when thrift shopping. In the past, I've said that it's a good skill to look at menswear as raw material, and to know what difference a good tailor can make. Sometimes, a couple of bucks and a new set of buttons are all that is needed to turn trash into treasure.

Readers may remember this jacket. A madras sport coat purchased in freezing cold weather. one of my famous off season purchases, in storage until recently:This jacket is made of thin, lightweight cotton, and I love the uncharacteristically muted color scheme. Those floral brass buttons, on the other hand are ghastly. They give the jacket an extremely dated 1960's look, and not in a good way.For four bucks, these light brown horn buttons go a long way to freshening this coat up. Just like that, it's young and modern.

Then we have the pesky green suit. It fits well, and it was only $7.99. I have to admit, its a real pain to wear. It's difficult to match with things, and it has kind of a frumpy vibe, no matter how hard I try to alleviate this. Since I've bought it , I only wore it once.And there is also this killing tartan flannel. I love this jacket. It needs to be taken in a bit, but it's winter clothes, so it can wait for now:Back to the suit. Thrift stores are full of "orphans", suit jackets separated from their pants. As much as I hate this, I do have to break the rules every now and then. So the incongruous brass buttons from the tartan jacket get traded to the jacket of the green suit, producing a blazer that is infinitely more stylish and workable than the suit ever was or will be, plus a pair of pants to boot.Some of you may consider this a minor blasphemy, and you may be right. But some of you also considered the green suit to be a minor blasphemy in the first place, and that may also have been right. As I see it, I now have clothes I like, rather than a suit I felt compelled to buy because it was vintage and cheap and I couldn't help it. One of the glories of thrift shopping is that when stuff is so cheap, you can play around with it more freely, without the fear of accidentally ruining something expensive.

The tartan jacket is currently awaiting a set of braided brown leather buttons. A far better choice, in this fellows humble opinion.

In closing let me say that I switched all these buttons myself the other night while watching t.v. with one eye. Every man should know how to properly sew a button. No excuses. Its right up there with shining shoes and lighting a charcoal grill.

15 June 2009


A guy can't wear striped ties all the time. Sometimes, you gotta stretch out and get a little weird. And so we have the patch paisley:

Sure , it's more than a little strange. It's even quite possible that it's downright ugly. But I have a feeling about this one, just like I did about the plaid pants...or maybe I'm just losing my grip. Who knows.Robert Talbott "Best of Class"...very fancy.From Italy, no less...even fancier. Antbody know anything about "the Men's Shop at Broadmoor"? $2.99

I didn't find this tie so much as it found me.

I like to take the kids to Castle Island. It's one of my favorite places in Boston and we visit frequently in the Summer. Last week, I took them there on a bleary, damp, windy day. I was at a loss for what to do for the afternoon and I figured it might be fun for the boy to see what the beach looks like when it isn't packed with people in bathing suits eating hot dogs. It was cold and desolate, but we had a picnic in the car and then watched the ships and planes coming and going, and the boy was fascinated by the sight of an active and foamy sea.

Afterwards, I visited a nearby thrift shop that we don't get to that often. I wasn't there five minutes before the girl began to fuss for her milk, and the boy, ever the sympathetic brother, began to wail and nash his teeth in response. On my way out, as I passed the tie and belt rack, this little number caught my eye. Barely lloking, I grabbed it, payed, and rushed to the car to feed the girl. It wasn't until I got home that I even realized it was Robert Talbott.

Someday, I think I'll just wander into one of these places blindfolded and see waht turms up.

08 June 2009

Mad For Plaid, part 2 (Christmas in June)

As I've said before, successful thrift shopping often involves ignoring the season, and buying what you find when you find it. True, it can be frustrating to have to wait many months to trot out that stunning new find, but it's worth it.

As I've also previously noted, I have a foolish and perhaps even dangerous predilection for plaid trousers.

And so:

Heavy wool flannel, soft as cashmere, $3.99. ( Go ahead, who will be the first to say "sometimes you get what you pay for, buddy."?) I simply couldn't resist. They went straight into the winter storage box, but come September, after the tailors shortens and tapers the legs, they'll really be something. Anybody know anything about Spotwood? My search came up cold.

Mrs. G. looked more than a little worried. My father said "You get it from your grandfather, he always wore crazy stuff like that." But the cloth was so damn nice.

Trust me, with the right blazer or a white cable knit sweater, I know I can pull these off. I've got six months to figure it out. I think I may be forced to host a cocktail party in December, complete with egg nog, mulled wine, and port wine cheese ball.

I admit I have a problem....

p.s. as for my recent absence: not only to I tend an infant and a toddler, but I have also deemed it fit that this should be the year I finally read Ulysses by James Joyce. My friend, and sometime commenter here, Pasquale, a fellow product of Jesuit high school and Irish half-breed who attended college in Dublin, has tried to get me to read it every June for the past 14 years or so. This time I swear I'll do it. 'Tis a bit time consuming, though...

03 June 2009

Pink, part 3

At long last, the all too elusive pink university stripe oxford. I've wanted one forever, but they just aren't that easy to come by these days.

$3.99, cast aside by some local gentry.

02 June 2009

Zuppa Salsiccia

With my days being spent largely at home or in the playground, wearing clothes special enough to yammer about on the internet isn't always a reasonable task. True, I do try to present myself well on a daily basis, but these days that only requires a shirt with buttons. So instead, today we have a delicious recipe that I made up myself (sort of): Italian Sausage Soup, with cannelini beans and spinach.

This one calls for a simple list of ingredients, many canned or frozen. I used to hate that kind of stuff, until I worked in a "gourmet" kitchen and learned the benefits of careful cheating.
One package of sweet Italian sausages, two small onions, one can of diced tomatoes, two cans of cannelini beans (white kidney beans), one package of frozen spinach, one can of chicken broth.

Star by cutting the sausages into four pieces each, then brown the pieces in a large pot in some olive oil:Meanwhile, cut the onions, leaving them in fairly long strips. When the meat is nearly brown on all sides, add the onions, with some course salt and fresh ground pepper, and cook until the onions wilt:add the beans, along with the liquid from the cans:then the tomatoes, and the juice from the can:along with the chicken broth, and some water if needed to thin it to the desired consistency. Put the lid on, bring to a boil, then drop to a simmer for about an hour. Add the frozen spinach, and cook for ten minutes more:Good soup is all about layering ingredients in the proper order, then simmering. I find it also helps to let the whole thing settle, allowing the flavors to mingle. Soup is often better the next day, but you can achieve this by preparing the soup at lunchtime, before eating it for dinner.

Serve hot, topped with fresh grated sharp cheese, such as Parmiggiano or Pecorino Romano, with buttered crusty bread and a juice glass full of inexpensive red Italian wine.That's my kind of comfort food.