31 May 2010
1960s vintage, right down to the grease stains. Once again, the generous gift of Mrs. G., well back in the pre-Mrs. G. days.
What could be more patriotic (for an American savage such as yours truly) that a shirt covered in steak and onions rendered in good old red-white-and-blue?
Here's hoping your holiday was filled with warm weather and cheeseburgers.
29 May 2010
Boston has reached the point of nearly hot weather. I say nearly because lately we've been perfect. Warm and sunny enough to make everyone all happy, enough to sweat a bit, but not so uncomfortable as to make a blazer a self inflicted torture.
I don't have a sailboat, or a beach house. I likely never will. However, I'm more than willing to use the fact that I was born in raised in Boston, a coastal city with both a sea-faring and Ivy League tradition, as a license to push the nautical/gth aesthetic to the hilt come Summer.
Rip me all you want about my baseball cap. Until this year, I too was staunchly anti ball cap and sports jacket. But I dig this cap, it's pretty sharp, and as such I've changed my mind. Style and rigid inflexibility rarely play well together.
So, who wants to invite me on to the yacht for gin and tonic? One at a time, please.
27 May 2010
People often say that menswear doesn't change all that much. There's truth to that, but it isn't entirely so. The well educated (ne, obsessed) in these matters can always date a piece of menswear with reasonable accuracy. A healthy knowledge of the history of these things can be a helpful guide to dressing well. When scouring other peoples cast off garments in thrift shops, it becomes a downright necessity. The trick lies is knowing the history of a piece of clothing, taking something personally from that, and using the garment and your knowledge in a way that is personal and unique, so as to to avoid anachronistic costume dressing.Today's example is this tan poplin suit from Brooks Brothers, a historic icon in many ways. Brooks Brothers led the way in the late 1950s and early 1960s in the development of lightweight summer suiting fabrics for men. In 1958, the Du Pont company famously approached Brooks with their new "Dacron Polyester", and Brooks Brothers introduced it, blended with cotton, in suits and shirts. I know, we all hate polyester. But this old suit is different. I remember selling poplin suits at Simon's, in tan, olive and navy. We called them 'paper suits', because they wore like a brown shopping bag. But this old number is soft and comfortable. You can tell Du Pont was making a real effort back then to assure people that plastic was a reasonable thing to wear. Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of the old synthetics, but I do like this suit. Besides, it cost $1.00. (Yes, it did.)
Wash and Wear... a decidedly 1958 selling point. However, this doesn't have to be strictly a costume piece.
Taken together with a blue striped contrast collar Brooks Brothers shirt (1980s vintage,$4.99), a black cotton knit tie (new, $5.00), a white silk driving cap by Stetson( bought new a few years ago, $12), and an orange square, you know, for punch, the whole thing has a whiff of the 1920s about it. Hows that for a conglomeration of historical influences?
Below, we keep the whole look in the modern world with dark jeans and ever-just-so-tatters brown loafers.
Knowing something about men's styles of the 20s, 50s, 60s and today all contributed to the outfit I wore today. As I've said innumerable times, successful thrift shopping is a perseverance game. Wearing these clothes successfully requires an ability to both collect and arrange seemingly disparate items, while still imparting your own personality onto the result. A pain in the *ss? Yeah, maybe, but I think it's worth it.
Then again, I am a little weird.
23 May 2010
Arrow Moccasin Company has been in business in the same place in Hudson, Massachusetts since 1965. Founded by Ron Ouellette, and now run by his son Paul, Arrow is about as real a product as a person can reasonably get in America these days. Just shy of three weeks ago, I ordered a pair. But rather than have them shipped, I asked Paul if I could come pick them up, maybe chat and take a few pictures of the operation. He graciously granted me access, and offered a tour and a some friendly conversation.
all pretty old by the look of them.
The retail shop is right next to the work shop, separated only by a door. The heady smell of fresh leather hangs heavy in the air. New pairs of Arrow's signature styles hang from hooks by their laces against a wall, while leather vests hang form the ceiling.
As for myself, I chose the Two Eye Moc. It's the perfect hybrid between a 'boat shoe' and a 'blucher moc'. It's better than either of those because it's 100% hand made in Massachusetts, using only leather and thread.
I picked up a can of mink oil while I was there, and Paul gave me a scrap of sheep skin to clean them with. Keeping them soft and oiling them occasionally should help them last for many years.
As a side note, the Town of Hudson is a sleepy little place just off I-495 filled with 19th century architectural gems, like the town hall seen here, and a number of excellent Victorian houses. If that's your bag, drive up and grab your shoes in person. About 45 minutes from Boston, and well worth the trip,
20 May 2010
There's little doubt in my ind that Sammy was the gem of the Rat Pack. Forgive me, Frankie and Dino, but Sammy was the Jam. What could be better? How about if he was backed by the Buddy Rich band of 1966? C'mon, seriously...
As if that weren't enough, how about we record it live in Vegas? Musically, this record is great, high rollin' Vegas swing at its best. But more than that, it's a stunning snapshot of a much-mythologized moment in American history. Guys like Michael Buble may think they can still do this sort of thing now, but they can't. Why? Because they ain't Sammy, Buddy ain't playing the drums, and 1966 was a long time ago. That may be a vague and somewhat lame explanation, but I just don't know how else to put it, dig?
A while back, I was in this sort of far-out, avant garde art band. We wore nice clothes, and played the best vintage gear. Our songs were written with a real love and knowledge of the best of what had come before us. But it was our mission to get loud and 'savage your face', as we used to say. We also liked to pull weird p.r. stunts. One of our favorites was the 'secret show'. We would invite a select group to our tiny, stinky, but oh-so-hip practice space, usually late night after some other cool public happening, and rip it up. People would practically be on top of us, smoking and drinking. It was great, and I count those among the best performances of my musical life.
Seems Sammy had the same idea. From the liner notes:
Can you imagine, a band like this at the Sands lounge, the small, intimate room, starting at 2:30 in the morning? Las Vegas just ain't what she used to be. That after hours crowd was no doubt full of evening gowns and tuxedos, the room stinky of regular Scotch, no fancy mamby pamby single malts, just J&B, or even Ballantine's Finest, and smoke, no fancy mamby pamby cigars, just Lucky Strikes, Camels ( the knid with no filters), and L&Ms (for the ladies). Apparently, they even had the same idea about 'savaging faces' that we had. Again from the liner notes:
I leave you with this. At least ten years later and clad in polyester, but seriously, these two are an unstoppable force together:
p.s. what ever happened to showmanship?
16 May 2010
Dig that shirt! You know me and my shirt/aberrations...can't help myself. I'm picturing this one under a black velvet jacket with grosgrain facing on the lapels.
Oh well, it's too big for me anyway. Therefore, look for it at Top Shelf Flea Market II in the Autumn. That is, unless Tin Tin admits that his similar shirt is too small for him and agrees to a trade. Maybe then I'll just throw the damn party myself.
13 May 2010
Here is a old 3/2 sack blazer from J.Press in classic navy blue hopsack. I bought it for $7.49, but I've owned it so long and worn it so much that it's worth can no longer be calculated in dollars. A shirt (perhaps something of an aberration according to many of you) that I had made, the courteous gift of Deo Veritas. Say what you will, but I'm really digging the contrast button down, more and more every time I wear it. For some reason, I can't see it working with anything other that a blue and white pattern on the shirt. ADG has a similar shirt in blue with white stripes, and even Tin Tin told in person that it's "not that bad". From him, I call that a compliment. Seal the deal with a no name silk ascot picked up last week for $1.99 at an undisclosed thrift.
That is indeed a hard crease in my khakis. It's an issue I've been know to waffle on. Until recently, I was staunchly in the "don't even iron your khakis" camp. Then I had this pair and one other shortened by Mr. Lee, and he handed them back to me dry-cleaner sharp, crispy like, and I thought maybe I like this, kinda dress, looks good with a blazer. Khakis are military in origin after all, and do lend themselves to a nice crease. Now I compromise. I have two pair that I crease, and three pair that I wear straight out of the wash. But I digress. Originally from J.Crew, I of course purchased this pair second hand for a ghastly $4.99.
Back to the treads. Take a look at the toe. Instead of the standard moccasin toe stitching, we have this single row of brogue-ing. A small touch, but damned distinctive. I think that, plus the light, casual color give these loafers a certain 1930s vibe. Not bad for $7.99
The moral of the story? Good stuff goes with good stuff. All you have to do is know good stuff when you see it.
11 May 2010
Here are a pair of my Wranglers, fresh from the wash. The color has gone from grayish/navy/ indigo denim to a brighter shade of blue, on its way to the impossibly perfect light blue. Things of note: baggy knees tend to back off with washing,and, lately I've been digging the short tight skinhead style cuff...don't know why, but right now I like it...
While out with the children in the above outfit, I stopped by the wine shop where I work from some adult beverages. While I was paying, I was approached by a sort of Euro looking fellow... groomed beard, highly tailored sports jacket, fancy jeans, etc. He asked " are those Wranglers you're wearing"...kind of surprised-like.
"Sure they are", says I..."Can I take your picture", says he, "my wife is a jeans designer. People pay $300 for her jeans. I can't believe it. I keep telling her that guys still wear Levi's and Wrangler. Now I have proof."
Says I "what's you wife's brand. Maybe I've heard of them,"
Says he"True Religion, ever heard of 'em?"
Yikes! For real...
10 May 2010
Back around Christmas time, frequent commenter "Young Fogey" and I worked a trans-continental trade of epic proportions, resulting in my ownership of a head-to-toe suit in Black Watch flannel. The Fogey has an eye for the Tartan, it turns out, even if it may be a bit wild for his own taste. So today, this box shows up at my house:
Inside, I find this stunner. Plaid this big, and so much of it, may not be for a lot of guys, but I absolutely love this thing, brass buttons and all. It actually reminds me a little bit of the jacket I'm wearing in my profile photo, all those years ago. Good thing the Fogey lives where it's generally too warm for these things, and he's smaller than me, and he's not down with that much plaid.
Open patch pockets, excellent pattern matching,
Side vents, again excellent pattern matching, and a very British bit of waist suppression,
Grazie Mille, Fogey. I really owe you one. My eyes are wide open for odd vests that are to short for me.
08 May 2010
See, they look pretty good all clean. And for $20, the price is unbeatable. The site I bought them from, Shepler's, is a real pain about sending out way too many emails, but apparently these jeans, the 13MWZ Cowboy Jean, are constantly on sale for that price.
So, I wear cheap, clean jeans, that last pretty well, and that's as it should be. My mind is still boggled by the cult of expensive pants going unwashed for a year or more.
05 May 2010
Shorts are a tough thing. Generally, I disdain them and the sloppy attitude they embody too often these days. But when the weather is warm, I wear them. Hypocritical? Well, maybe a little. I actually have quite a few pair, these newest acquired only yesterday:$29.50 at the L.L. Bean retail store. Bought new? you ask...damn straight. After Top Shelf, I was feeling a tad bit flush in the wallet. Forgive me.
Now I know I'm usually a staunch proponent of knowing the rules if only to ignore them , but when it comes to shorts, all sorts of self imposed rules apply:
1) no t-shirts (actually, with the exception of the beach or the garden, this rule applies almost all of the time)
2) no socks (ever)
3) shorts should be just that:short. Just above the knee. Anything longer results in a mongrel garment that is neither pants nor shorts, but both, sort of. A truncated, ill-conceived bastard child of the garment industry. And those mid-calf capri things you sometimes see guys wearing?...don't get me started.
4) no pleats (no explanation necessary, I hope)
5) a collar on your shirt goes a long way to making a finished, gentlemanly look with shorts.
Today, I paired these with an old "Purist" oxford by Sero (r.i.p.)...un-iorned, of course, so as to maintain that casual edge:side note: here's a little trick with the un-ironed oxford look. Throw the shirt into the dryer alone for a few minutes. It'll knock the wrinkles out just enough, while maintaining a slouchy vibe.
The end result looks like so. Boat shoes, of course, and a brown leather belt, because it really ain't Summer, so the ribbon stripes will have to wait.
Many hours later, with a pinch of chill in the air, a linen/silk/cotton sweater is far from out of place.
Wearing shorts need not mean that you're all sloppy and un-tucked. It is in fact possible to be put-together and dressed like an adult even in short pants. Ladies, tell your men...mothers, tell your sons. Comfort and style need not live on opposite poles.