29 December 2010

Snow Pants

With all this snow on the ground and the temperatures running cold, there's nothing like a good pair of flannel lined khakis to keep a fellow warm, dry and stylish.
The toughest thing with khakis is often finding a good shade. This pair is on the darker side, close to what is sometimes referred to as "British Tan" or "Antique Khaki". As much as I may be turne off by that kind of pseudo-historical marketing, this is my favorite shade of khaki nonetheless.

Better still, this pair is lined a gun club check flannel so nice, I almost want to wear them inside out. The pants are 100% cotton, and the flannel is 80% cotton/ 20% wool. Very warm, yet very soft, lightweight and comfortable.

Even better, they're made by Viyella, that classic Scottish manufacturer of perfect cotton/wool flannel, usually in some kind of plaid. Before finding this pair ($4.99), I thought of Viyella mainly as a maker of shirts, occasionally a necktie. Viyella lined pants are a bonus. But it's not all a bed of roses...
Made in Mauritius? Kind of takes the wind out of the sails a pinch. I want my Viyella to be Scottish all the way, or at least made in USA of Sottish Viyella fabric. But what can you do? Sometimes, you gotta look the other way. For one thing, the nine year old in Mauritius who made these pants for 1 1/2 cents did a damn good job. For another, I bought these in a thrift store, removed from the globalized ugliness of their provenance,  where my money was going to charity rather than in a department store for 350% markup, or whatever they get. And furthermore, they are now officially recycled, saved from the trash. You gotta take the good with the bad, I guess.

Anyway, the next time you have to move three feet of snow by hand from in front of your house, do it in flannel lined khakis. Technical clothes belong on little kids and ski slopes, and even that's questionable.

p.s. Shop Update:
I know you all probably got a sweater for Christmas, but there are plenty more just now available in the knitwear section in the shop. With the holidays safely in the rear view, it's time to spoil yourself. As always, my prices are low enough that you don't even have to feel guilty. Check it out.

27 December 2010


I knew there was a good reason to save that crummy old hat. People who complain about a blizzard should go out and build a snowman.

p.s. Seems our man Heavy Tweed Jacket is back on the scene, and has been for a month. Guess I missed that memo, but good to have him back. He's a good read.

p.p.s. more cheap clothing related nonsense coming soon...promise.

25 December 2010


I love wrapping presents and drinking single malt Scotch on Christmass Eve. It's a good tradition, one I gave myself. In the old days, it was a $60 bottle (Talisker 10 year old and Lagavulin 16 year old being favorites in the colder months) and a bunch of stuff for (the not yet) Mrs. G.
These days, it's a mountain of toys and the best stuff in nips I could find. And life couldn't be better, because Christmas is a kid's holiday anyway.

Here's hoping yours was as good as mine. Cheers!

23 December 2010

Versatility and Value: The Duffel Coat

I have a lot of coats, as with all items of clothing, well more than necessity or decency should allow. The current favorite is this classic tan duffel coat:
A true classic, warm as anything, windproof and cozy.

"Made in England for Brooks Brothers", likely a Gloverall. Dig the chain loop.

Lined in striped blanket...a major bonus.

When it gets really cold and really windy, few things protect as well as a coat like this. Down filled nylon high tech ski clothes do the job too, I guess, but I'm not a fan of clothing that can be legitimately described as "technical".  Sure, this big piece of wool smells a bit like an old dog when it's wet, but it keeps me dry, and I could loose an elephant in the pockets, they're that big.

A duffel coat is also one of the most versatile cold weather options out there. On casual days, in a sweater and jeans, it solves the problem of being a long coat for casual wear, where a three button overcoat would be too dressy. Alternately, it works just as well over a jacket and tie when outdoor commuting in the city is in order.

I bought this one for $12.99 in a thrift store on the hottest day of last August, but Gloverall still makes them exactly the same for  265 GBP (approx. $410), a worthy investment I must say, given that mine is likely thirty years old and still going strong. Added points for the fact that Gloverall will sell you a full set of replacement toggles and leather strips for 7 GBP (approx. $11).

Best of all,
My favorite scarf seems to have found its soul mate.

22 December 2010

Like Son, Like Father

It is with no small amount of pride that I tell you that The Boy has himself some real personal style, and he loves his sports jacket:
Navy hopsack blazer with two button cuffs and patch pockets by Nordstrom, $4.99, holiday plaid shirt by Ralph Lauren, $1.99, old navy jeans and duck boots. Finished with a monogrammed Christmas pin, and an elf hat, both made with love by Mama. The entire outfit was of his own choosing, for the last day of pre-school before Christmas break. One sharp dude.

Many hours later, as I dress for work myself, I am reminded of what a great look The Boy has put together, and I find myself inspired:

Old flannel blazer, with my new turtleneck sweater, Lands' End cords in "cinnamon", and Bean Boots. The combination of rubber shoes and a blazer ought to be considered a classic, at least in Massachusetts in December.
That's one thick turtleneck, via What Price Glory?. I bit, couldn't really help it. A pinch scratchy, but I like it. Sure is warm, anyhow.

Cotton socks in "mango" seal the deal.

21 December 2010

First of the Season: Snow Day

An old, super heavy Irish fisherman's sweater. No tags, hopefully knitted by someone's grandmother. Gift of Mrs. G., thrift store find.
A Pandleton wool shirt, made in USA, $5.49. I do love these old Pendleton shirts, but they can be a bit scratchy. Best worn with a long sleeve t-shirt.

Wrangler 13MWZ dungarees, frequently washed. $20 on sale from Shepler's.

Original Maine Hunting Shoes, not Bean Boots, $12.99 at a thrift store.
Finished with a down vest from Lands' End, $12.99 on sale in the Spring, ragg wool and leather gloves, gift of Mrs. G. purchased new if you can believe it, and a corduroy cap with pheasants on it, cheap at the Barbour outlet.

If you didn't know better, you might think I lived in Brooklyn and worked in Manhattan, at a graphic design firm or maybe in fashion marketing, in an office in a converted loft with twenty foot ceilings and state of the art computers, though the cleanliness of my denim would be a dead giveway.

But I prefer this type of clothing for a snowy adventure with the children in a place that looks like this. I love the Winter, and the kids and I welcome it's arrival.

p.s. imagine if the woods were filled with lumberjacks and hunters in navy blue suits and black cap toe oxfords, cutting down trees and gutting animals.

20 December 2010

The Jams

I've really been digging lately on "East Broadway Rundown", by Sonny Rollins. I meant to do an installment of "The Jams" just on this, but instead this post will be a treatise on jazz in general, and why it ain't got nothing to do with edumacation and sophistimacations.
So, this record kills, by which I mean after you here it, you die. All angular and pointy, but groovy nonetheless. The fact that Impulse released it on thick vinyl in a gate fold cover  bearing an oil painting rendered in heavy impasto is an aesthetic plus. It's not for the faint of heart, and shouldn't be listened to in the daylight, unless you really mean it.

There seems to be this unfortunate misconception that jazz is some complicated thing that belongs exclusively to the educated (and rich, often white) folks. But it ain't not at all. It can be soft to the touch, delicate, moody, or in this case, all balls,piss and vinegar, full o' guts....you know, kinda the same as when punk rock is just right.

Because this guy takes a break in 1959 to spend 2 years playing on the Williamsburg bridge, you know, just so he can "feel it" some more:
(Sonny Rollins,in a trilby, turtleneck and tweed jacket with side vents),

and then gets together with this guy, who does his best to push his drum kit as far into the floor as possible:

(Elvin Jones, in a one button sack suit with no breast pocket).

and this dude, so cool we shouldn't even look at him, because we can't see him anyway:

(Jimmy Garrison, seriously)

I love this kind of music. It's all about fire and guts, loose creation happening in the moment, really something quite incredible. It's got nothing to do with erudite tastes and educated white men, because it exists purely in the mind and soul of the understanding human.


Sonny Rollins:

Jimmy Garrison:

Elvin Jones:

Jazz is a fire in your belly. If you get that, great. Don't let people tell you that it's confusing and aloof. Those people are missing the point. Those people will never get it.

Jazz is the Jams.

p.s.this dude shows up on there too.
(Lee Morgan, in a killing oversized houndstooth check)

17 December 2010

Lost In Translation (or "Heritage", reprise)

Seems like every time I touch on the issue of the "Heritage" or "Workwear" trend/concept, the nerve I invariably touch is always a raw one, to say nothing of the inflamed nerve I tend aggravate whenever I receive any form of compensation for the years of hard work I've put into this blog in the form of gratis goods. Anyway, my point is:

An oatmeal colored ragg wool crewneck sweater is something that carries some real heritage,

especially when it's an old one made in USA by L.L.Bean. This is an old example of something real, made domestically by a brand that brought these kind of things to prominence in the first place, a hard wearing garment, made by common folk for common folk, i.e. heritage.
The kind of thing that's most at home with a plaid shirt, blue jeans, and blucher mocs, for good measure. Comfortable, simple, classic, and thoroughly American.  The sweater is cut full enough for comfort, but not like a set of drapes...slim enough to be "cool" but not so slim that anyone older than 23 looks like a fool in it.

I love heritage. If you don't believe me, remember that I've spent the better part of the last three years writing a blog based on a lifetime habit of accumulating old things, to say nothing of my unquenchable thirst for the old and well made things that were once so common. I also think it's great that there's a wave of young people out there with a new found interest in well made old stuff, and its heritage. Any sensible company would seize this opportunity to make this stuff available to a public eager to buy it. Great.

So if "heritage" is going to be used as a marketing tool to get double price for a special set of goods, then make them doubly valuable by giving us real heritage. There is no heritage in things once you restyle them and make them cheaply out of cheaper fabrics while still maintaining a price premium that they never really had in the first place.

Never mind that I bought this sweater in a thrift shop for $2.00. Never mind whether the stuff in these new "Heritage" lines is good or not, or worth the money. A lot of it is nice stuff, a lot of it is junk, but it's new stuff, targeted at a specific demographic and marketed in a specific way. All well and good, or not, depending on how you see it, but it certainly isn't heritage in the true sense.

My grandmother made some of the most memorable food I have ever eaten. She lived to cook and feed people. Her food was honest and old, learned from generations before her, something that lived in her soul. Heritage barely describes it. If I were to take her way of cooking, and make it low fat, gluten free, with turkey breast substituted for red meat for "today's more health conscious lifestyle", that heritage loses something in the translation. True, I may be making something good, but I'm no longer dealing in heritage, not really.

It's largely an argument of semantics, but a valid one.

p.s. fresh goods available in the shop: flannel pants, sweaters, plaid jackets and a vintage USA made North Face parka. Check it out.

15 December 2010

Wine Find : 2000 Bordeaux

You may know me as a well dressed cheapskate internet sensation, but in real life I've spent the last ten years in the wine business. Last night, I stumbled across a good bit of luck in a local shop, and I thought I'd share. You see a successful cheapskate knows how to find a deal in all aspects of his underhanded quest for "la bon vie".
2000 Chateau La Croix-Gandineau, Fronsac. I had never heard of this wine until yesterday, but what a treat. This Merlot based wine from Fronsac, just West of St. Emilion, had a heady, earthy scent, very French, which led to flavors of plummy dark fruits, earth and cedar/spice, with just a pinch of a vegetal edge in the background, likely from a bit of Cabernet Franc or Malbec in the blend. It took a bit of time to open up, being a bit rough edged at first, but it developed quickly into something quite yummy. Spot on with a simple meal of grilled pork chops in mustard and herbs, butternut squash, and roasted brussel sprouts, and a hell of a bargain at $14.99 a bottle in Massachusetts.

Knowing how to pick a wine is a skill that can only come from practice, but it's worth developing. In this case, I know that 2000  was an exceptional vintage in Bordeaux, from the bottom up. Like they say, "a rising tide lifts all ships". I haven't seen one on a store shelf in a long time, least of all for such a great price, but apparently there's some still around the Bay State, maybe New York too. If you see one you can afford, do yourself a favor and grab it while you can. If not, look for 2005, another great year more easily available with plenty of stunners in the $12-$20 range. And don't be afraid to try a wine from a obscure chateau you never heard of. At best it will be a memorable experience, at least it will be infinitely more interesting and exciting than that bottle of Penfold's Shiraz or Ravenswood Zinfandel for the same money. Besides, wines like that will be there the next time you come by, but this one may likely be gone forever.

Drink adventurously. Don't let wine be boring.

14 December 2010

"Heritage" vs. Heritage

About a month ago, Lands' end gave me a $100 gift card to spend on stuff from their new "heritage" line, Canvas 1963. Now, I'm always a bit conflicted when it comes to handling these freebie offers. On the one hand, the line between integrity and whoredom is very thin and easy to trip over. On the other, I generally like Lands' End as a good source for cheap basics, like tennis shirts and puffy down vests. Besides, I can always find a sweater I like with them, so this time I bit.
As luck would have it, they offer a pretty good silk knit tie for $39.50. I've been searching unsuccessfully for solid black silk knit tie for as long as I can remember, and this one is just about right. Knitted in Italy, though assembled God-knows-where, 2 3/4 inches wide. Truthfully, only a hairsbreadth different than what J.Press is offering for $59.62, on sale from $79.50, so I guess that makes this a bargain. Since I usually don't pay more than $3.00 for my neck wear, I have to remind myself how things are in real life, so I give this tie a thumbs up. Oddly enough, this tie is listed on the separate page for Canvas 1963, but it actually comes from regular Lands' End.

And yes, my button down collar was worn disdainfully unbuttoned that day. We'll save that discussion about contrived nonchalance for a separate post on another day,
Along with the topic of black accessories and brown leather being worn together in the same rig.
So what of the other sixty bucks? They have this cotton shawl collared cardigan available in charcoal grey, with a six button front. Recently, GQ ran an editors picks section on Canvas 1963, in which they had this to say about said sweater:

"Yes you're man enough to wear a cardigan, especially a thick, chunky shawl collar version.
Wear it with a plaid shirt and a skinny tie-no one will mistake you for Gramps."

Yikes, who writes that kind of copy? Seriously, the Lands' End people were pushing this whole GQ business as a selling point with me, but that kind of drivel just turns me off. Man enough to wear a cardigan? What the hell does that even mean?  I remember when I was in high school and my Dad subscribed to GQ. Back then they had Glenn O'Brien answering questions, Alan Richman as the food critic. Richard Merkin and Tom Wolfe turned up with fair regularity in the columns. These days...save that for its own post too, I guess. But I digress.

Here's how the sweater looks on the athletic young fellow who was paid to wear it:
and on your humble author:

I might be mistaken for "Gramps" yet. It's a pretty good sweater, basic and useful. Mostly I've been wearing it with plaid shirts and jeans under a duffel coat, a dashing look for trips to the post office or supermarket. Worth sixty bucks? Not really, when you can get a cotton "Drifter" crewneck from regular Lands' End for half the money. Which gets at my whole problem with all of this so-called heritage business.

The cheap crewneck sweater is actually the heritage of Lands' End. They've offered it for years, it's always been cheap, and you can still get it, and it's the same as it ever was. This sweater is not only twice as expensive, but carries an invented heritage.  Similarly, they sell Chinese made duck boots for $70, when proper ones made in Maine from L.L.Bean can be had for $84. L.L.Bean is doing it's own invented heritage thing with L.L.Bean Signature, instead of just selling Maine Hunting Shoes,tote bags, camping and fishing gear, lined khakis and bow ties...you know, their actual heritage. Old brands with real heritage designing fake heritage for people who don't understand heritage or authenticity in the least is an infuriating sign of the times. but again, I digress.

I sat on this post for a month, because I didn't want to come out all piss and vinegar over a freebie. I had just about decided to keep my mouth shut on this one. And really I like Lands' End, mostly. Every Spring I stock up on tennis shirts from them, and sometimes you can score a good pair of wide wale go-to-hell cords or something. If you've got a good eye, they offer a lot of basics that blend right in with your good stuff.

What changed my mind was a hand written note I received a week after my order arrived. In the puffy writing of a "nice young girl", I was thanked most graciously for my loyalty as a customer. That stuff counts, with me anyway.

Truthfully, I can't recommend Canvas 1963, or any other fake heritage line. I'm tired of having clothes cut too narrow, a romanticized version of the past being rammed down my throat and into my ever expanding waist as some kind of "authenticity". I can recommend the real Lands' End, where the real heritage is. Pants that fit, good cheap sweaters, and friendly customer service. It's just weird to me that companies these days can be schizophrenic enough to be the real thing, as well as their own crummy knock off.

Know the difference, and choose wisely.

09 December 2010

First of the Season: Tartan Flannel Pants

Well, not really.I trotted these trews out a couple weeks ago, but it was a complete mis-fire, not fit for public consumption. Today, they were right.
A perfect example of old playing well with new: Brooks Brothers "Golden Fleece" blazer, $6.99; white oxford by J.Crew, $0.99; yellow cotton crew neck sweater by Polo, $4.99; Tartan flannels by Murray's Toggery Shop, $9.99.
My old favorite blazer was getting just a pinch tight, I admit it. Good thing I happened on this Brooks number, an upgrade. I'm a sucker for full patch pockets. A note on the shirt: it's something J. Crew calls the "vintage oxford". It's a master piece of disproportion. The collar points are too short, the collar itself too big, the sleeves are too long, and too narrow, the placket is too narrow, the pocket is too small, the yoke is too big. Avoid this shirt at all costs...unless you find one for a buck, in which case it works fine under a crew neck sweater when all you really need is a collar peeking out at the top.

Nay socks and brown tassels seal the deal. I know, I wear these shoes a lot, but they're my current favorites.

The trick to wearing plaid pants is to behave as though it is completely normal to be dressed this way, which of course it isn't. Don't be shy, you'll be surprised at the amount of honest compliments you get if you just play it cool, 90% of them from females, which ain't a bad thing.

p.s. loads of hot goods just posted in the shop. I know it's Christmas time and you ain't supposed to be buying stuff for yourself right now, but check it out. Maybe you could start dropping hints.

08 December 2010

Warmth and Style

It's cold up here in New England, and while many of those around me are busy bemoaning this fact, I embrace it. It's time for tweed and flannel, and by extension, more large plaids. What's not to love?

 I recently acquired this lovely piece of thick plaid cloth, in the from of a very heavy sports jacket. I wish I had a sofa made of that cloth. 3/2 roll, soft shoulders, no darts, just how I (usually) like 'em.
 But this jacket is something of an English/American hybrid, taking it's cues from both traditions. Hacking pockets and a ticket pocket, touches from across the pond. I here it gets cold and wet there this time of year too.
It's even got side vents.  All in all, a nice, slightly unusual, collection of details.
 From none other than J.Press, with the elusive rust orange label. $3.49 (plus maybe $20 at the tailors). Dating these things can be tricky, especially with a brand like Press, where so much never changes. In many cases, having San Francisco on the label is a good clue.
 Fortunately, this one is also dated. Gotta love these old type written labels. I'm going to go ahead and imagine that our Dr. Davidson had a lot of teak wood furniture, plenty of Scotch and a hi-fi in his study at home.

It will be a few weeks till I get to trot this one out. Apparently, our Dr. Davidson was a bit more rotund than your humble author, so Mr. Lee will have to take this one in a bit. Not too much though, I need to leave enough room to fit over this:

About a month ago, I began to think that a turtleneck sweater might be something I could pull off. Right about the same time, the internet became all atwitter with them. Between his post on the McKenzie Break and another about a plaid jacket, Tin Tin pushed me over the edge. But turtlenecks are a tricky beast. Get the wrong one, and you're well into cheesy/sleazy territory. After looking all around for that I liked, I found this place called What Price Glory, a company that makes reproductions of (mostly) British military gear. Poke around their site. Besides this sweater, they've got some nice looking dessert boots, jodhpurs, and some crazy Black Watch stuff. That's a repro RAF/Royal Navy Submarine sweater, in thick, just slightly off white wool. Perfect.Now, I'm usually loathe to part with full price for anything, but I think $68 for this sweater is plenty fair, especially if it lasts. More on that later. Besides, I just bought a vintage J.Press jacket for less than five bucks. I should be allowed to buy new every once in a while, right?

These two items together, plus charcoal flannels and brown longwings are going to kill. That sweater is going to look mighty fine under a double breasted charcoal chalk stripe suit, or at a Christmas party with tartan pants and a blue blazer. 

We'll see how this all pans out, but I'm thinking it's a crime that I've gone this long without a white turtleneck sweater in the mix. Really, it should be a Winter staple.

So next time you think of complaining about the cold, remember turtlenecks, flannel and tweed. And the next time you here someone else complain about the cold, cut 'em some slack. They probably just don't know how to dress as well as you do.

06 December 2010


"Some things are timeless...
(photo: Babicka Vodka [I know,Martinis are made with gin])
...the sleek taste of a dry Martini...
(photo: Cafe Zupas)
...the smell of a freshly baked loaf of bread...

(1748 portrait by Hausmann)
...the chipper sounds of a keyboard sonata by Bach...

(photo: J.Press)
...and the sophisticated look of a Harris tweed sports jacket from J. Press"

So begins the radio ad that J.Press has currently been running.

Every morning, I listen to WHRB, the Harvard radio station. They play jazz until 1:00 p.m. The good stuff, the real stuff. Not just a bunch of Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk ( not that there's anything wrong with that) but some real obscure burners only a jazz nerd would love. Keeps me happy without having to mess with the record player when I've got stuff to do. Around 11:00 a.m., the J.Press ad comes on. A soft spoken man goes on to explain that clothing from Press is American made, gives a laundry list of things like Shetland wool sweaters and 'butter soft" cashmere overcoats that are available at this place which "for over 100 years has epitomized the Ivy League look." He reminds us that the goods are durable and classic, and closes by saying that "a wardrobe from J.Press speaks volumes about who you are, quietly and with confidence."

Recently, Mrs. G. remarked on the fact that everything these days is sold with a wacky ad, or a naked girl, or some kind of bad dirty joke. She reminded me of a time when ads like this came on, when we were kids, with a guy softly proclaiming the quality of the goods offered, often using sturdiness and longevity as selling points.

It's been a long time since I felt so much like part of a target demographic, and was actually glad of it.

Now, if only I could afford to shop there.

03 December 2010

Worth Every Penny: T.W.Food

Maybe not the greatest name for a tiny little French inspired fine restaurant, but well worth spending a couple of hours there.
Nestled in a hidden corner of north Cambridge in a first floor shop front beneath some apartments, you'll find this unassuming place. The decor inside is simple, faintly modernist, classy but unassuming, kind of like the best clothing. White table cloths, comfortable grey leather chairs, Walter Gropius style silvered light bulbs and good jazz played at an unobtrusive volume. Score points for atmosphere.

Nine small tables, and a waitstaff that absolutely will not hurry you. Once in your seat,you can expect to be treated to a leisurely 2-3 hours of comfort. Score points for service,and a knowledgeable waitstaff who knows how to leave you alone.

And then the food. All the ingredients are fresh and locally sourced, and the menu changes frequently. House made charcuterie is a particular feature here. While there isn't a dud t be seen on the well assembled menu, the real snap is the grand tasting menu. $65 gets you six courses, $39 adds six wine pairings. If you're gonna buy $100 worth of dinner, that's how you do it.

Tonight's menu featured:
-Beet soup with creme fraiche/ Alsatian Gewurztraminer
-Rhode Island fluke, dredged in flour and lightly fried over orange infused potatoes with a beet and Banyuls syrup/ Tourraine Sauvignon Blanc
-Charcuterie course of pork rillettes, chicken liver mousse and jamon persille/ Grenache-Syrah blend from Southern France (actually this wine, Mas du Guiot, is one of my current favorite good cheap bottles down at the shop)
-Scottish Woodpigeon Gateau, with foie gras in puff pastry (sort of an over the top gourmet mini chicken pot pie) with Autumn vegetables/ Portuguese Tempranillo-Touriga Nacional blend
-French Camembert, Twig Farm cow/goat milk blend hard cheese from Vermont with apple slices and toast/sweet Normandy sparkling cider ( a nice, unexpected  touch)
-Dark chocolate custard with candied hazelnuts, sea salt and olive oil/ tawny Port (a good dessert, but perhaps a pinch overdone with the olive oil)

Tell me that, plus the company of your wife and a break from the shouting wee ones, is not worth a hundred bucks? Happy Birthday to Me.

Sartorially speaking, I kept it classy but comfortable with a grey herringbone tweed jacket, blue university striped shirt, and a new black silk knit tie (courtesy of Lands' End, post coming soon). Down below, charcoal flannels, and since the jacket has brown leather buttons, a brown belt and brown suede shoes. The perfect foil to the modernist/comfy vibe of T.W. Food.

Check the place out on a special night, but be sure and reserve a table.T.W.Food is worth every penny.