30 November 2011

The Perfect Casual Tie

A tie, despite what the world in general may think today, is not always a dressy thing. A knit tie and button down collar is a great way to look put together and casual at the same time. I recently acquired what I think may be perfect casual knit tie:
Navy blue, the stripes end before the knot, a nice touch. While my shirt is pressed, I opted for no starch in the interest of softness. A tweed jacket, khakis and tassel loafers finish the job.
Vintage 1960s wool and mohair "Heathernit" by Rooster. Rooster was the maker of choice for square end knit ties in their day, a great brand to look for at the thrift shops. $1.99.
p.s. the Shop is brimming with new goods, including shoes, tweed jackets, flannel trousers, leather, suede, and a ton of ties. Check out the new "Most recent items" feature in the side bar for a quick look.

28 November 2011

The Jams

So many people have this misconception that jazz music is some kind of exclusive club reserved only for snobs and highfalutin intellectuals. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jazz can be, and often is, a downright freak out (if a minimally controlled and structured one).

People who over think things like jazz and other forms of art are like people who always want to know "what are you so dressed up for?", or worse "who died?" every time they see a man in a tie: they just don't get it.

27 November 2011

Patience is a Virtue

Three years ago, in the earlier days of this blog, I felt compelled to post every day. When I had nothing to write about, I'd put up a silly haiku (remember those?) like this.

Just last week I found these:
$4.99 at an undisclosed thrift shop. No brand name, but quality construction, likely from Berle or Hertling or some such respectable manufacturer who does work for all the fine men's shops we swoon over.

Patience is a virtue. Please have some patience when I finally don these silly things...and you know that I will.

p.s. new stuff in the Shop.

25 November 2011

Letter to the Editor (Hope Yet for the Future)

Writing this blog is largely a labor of love, but can be a richly rewarding experience. This is especially true  when I find that I have in some way managed to have a positive influence on a young person. Cal it my fatherly instinct talking, but few things are as meaningful as teaching someone something they found to be important. Reader Brandon, a 21 year old college student in the South, recently wrote me a downright humbling email. It is with his permission that I present an excerpted version of it here. We curmudgeons do like to grouse about the current state of things, but there may be hope for the future yet. For that I am thankful.

Brandon writes:

This past summer, I had a sartorial awakening. It started when I got a summer job that required me to "dress up." I was required to wear slacks, a button down shirt, and a tie every weekday this summer…. At first I dreaded it due to the extreme heat here in Louisiana, but after the first couple of weeks, I grew to love it. People were always complimenting me and I always got pleasant looks from attractive ladies when I ran errands after work. On top of that, I just felt more professional and I took more pride in everything I did. I liked the intoxicating effect it had on me.

From middle school through the first couple of years of college, I was into the punk/ska scene and skateboarded. I was a regular at the skate park and the local punk venue. Thus, my usual attire consisted of old skate or band shirts, Dickie's pants, tight jeans with holes and patches, skate shoes, and the other usual adornments of such a scene. I loved it.

During college, my mindset had changed. I had grown up and matured past my punk ideals. Though I had changed on the inside, my clothing failed to reflect that. So I decided that I no longer wanted to be looked at as a childish, rebellious punk, but rather as a professional young adult. I decided that when I returned to college for my senior year, I would dress like a stylish adult. I would not wear another tshirt, but rather always wear button up shirts or polos to class and social functions.

I quickly realized that I didn't have enough money to expand my wardrobe much. College doesn't leave much extra money for you. I knew that the best thing to do would be to save up for quality pieces rather than getting the disposable junk I had worn so much of my life. I started saving but was torn when I couldn't buy the things I wanted to wear. Then, one fateful day about a month ago, I came across your blog. I was overjoyed at the various clothing items you bought for so little at thrift shops… Using the knowledge I gained from your blog, I have already started shopping at thrift shops and have had some success. I don't usually see the labels you tend to see (unfortunately, there aren't many fine clothing shops where I live and thus, not much fine discarded clothing), but I have learned to look for other things such as the feel of the material, the quality of the construction, where it was made, and pattern matching. Honestly, pattern matching is something I had never even thought of before, but once you had pointed it out to me, it is something I could never overlook again.

Just so you know, my progress so far is amazing. Apparently, it's pretty easy to impress people on a college campus. I am always turning heads. And though I figure probably half of those are to poke fun at the kid wearing a collared shirt and penny loafers, the other half more than make up for it. Besides, if there is one thing that the punk culture taught me, it's to do what you want. It's actually kind of funny that dressing well is almost an act of rebellion today. Anyway, all of my friends love my new sartorial change and whole-heartedly support it. It has even got some of them considering dressing better… I started out wearing a button down shirt with chinos and nicer shoes. I then moved on to adding a tie and cardigan in the cooler weather. And now, I am proud to say that I am planning to buy my first bow tie. A year ago, I would have never thought such a thing was possible.

Though my self-confidence is certainly not based upon the clothes I wear, I feel more confident with how I present myself now. I think that is one thing that people miss when they dress so slovenly all of the time. As silly as it sounds, I feel more comfortable with speaking up in class and sharing my ideas. Even if I am wrong, at least I look damn good being wrong. I have never been one to be quiet or shy so that isn't really the difference; it just seems like people listen more attentively and take me more seriously now that I'm the guy in the tie and not the guy in the band shirt.

Thank you Brandon. For someone barely out of his teen years, you have stricken an early and decisive blow against the dread Eternal Teenager Syndrome. 

23 November 2011

First of the Season (Old Favorites)

I love a big fat pair of light grey flannel pants, and I revel in the first days cold enough to warrant them:
I am constantly compelled to pair these burly pants with bright yellow socks (see here, here, and here, here too...and those are just the instances comitted to the internet). Big fat wool to keep us warm, bright yellow to remind us that the sun doesn't stop shining in the cold, even if it does set much sooner.

Happy Autmn, everybody...finally!

24 November: Correction, "Autumn".

21 November 2011

A Wedding In the North Country

My absence here in the last few days can be explained by my presence over the weekend at yet another old friends wedding on the coast of Maine. Ever since Mrs. G. and I opened the old marriage and children door eight years back it seems all the old boys are stepping through, one by one. Coastal Maine in November may seem like an unusual choice for an outdoor ceremony, but the weather was beautiful, if a little brisk, and the newlyweds couldn't have been happier. Of course, my only photos were of things superficial. I leave the important stuff to the paid photographer.
I, for one, embraced the chill, as it gave me a chance to indulge in some flannel and tweed. Stripes on stripes may not be for everyone, but it can be done. In this case the white club collar (Brooks Brothers, $5.49), white square, and solid navy wool tie ($1.00, Zareh of Boston) keep it all in check. Dressy, without being too stiff.

Grey socks and shiny black vintage 1960s Italian made shoes ($7.99) finish the job. Pay no attention to the cheesy hotel carpet.
A Chesterfield coat (Andover Shop, $9.99) and a black fedora ($9.99, not shown, see here) ward off the chill.
But that's just me, let's talk for a minute about a friend of mine:
Our man Mr. H. is a skinny fellow. He owns this suit, in soft grey flannel. Three pieces, hacking pockets, ticket pocket, flap breast pocket, and the most perfect 3/2 roll I've ever seen. Jealousy abounds here, since I'm the one who found this sartorial masterpiece a few years back at Keezer's for a scant $75. But alas, I'm not skinny, and Mr.H. is, so I put him wise to it. Score one for the good guys, I guess.

Made by the remarkable Rizzo tailor shop of Harvard Square in 1979. A real knockout punch.

When a guy shares a hotel room with other guys in "the band" ( wife and kids at home for the weekend), this is the sort of thing happens. Good times.

In case you're wondering, that's what an R&B rhythm section looks like. A 1964 Slingerland drum kit and an Ampeg Portaflex tube amp. Guaranteed to keep the folks dancing. Thankfully, I'm pretty sure our playing lived up to the equipment we use...at least I hope so.

A truly beautiful wedding cake, decorated with understated taste in simple fresh flowers was home made by the groom's sister-in-law, also a good friend. Three separate layers, but I had a piece from the bottom, chocolate with a perfectly balanced whiff of hot chili peppers. Another knockout punch.

Topped by a vintage  figurine which originally adorned the groom's grandparent's cake in 1950. Both still living and both in attendance. It must be something to see your wedding figurine on your grandson's wedding cake. Yet again, knockout punch.

If every wedding were this much fun, I'd hope for one every other weekend. Congratulations and best wishes for a bright future, to the new Mr. and Mrs. G******.

16 November 2011

Read The Right Label ; Read The Label Right

Brand names and labels are such a tricky beast, especialy when it comes to second hand shopping. Some are a guarantee of quality, others a guarantee of brand marketing. Most fall somewhere between the two. A label can be a household name and represent nothing but crap, or a label can be something you've never heard of and represent real quality.Sometimes a label can be a real surprise, if you learn to look at it after you look over the garment and judge it on its own merit. For example:

Here's a really nice tweed jacket. It has soft shoulders, high cut notch lapels and a two button darted front with just the right amount of waist supression. A good combination of English and traditional American detailing makes this piece both comfortable and sharp. And check that check: pattern matching from body to sleeve is pretty tight.
A perfect shade of gray tinted tan, with a large but faint windowpane plaid in brown and rust. ..
...with real braided leather buttons...
...and rendered in Scottish woven camel hair cloth, soft and luxurious to the touch.
Read the Right Label: Maybe you're not from the Boston area, or if you are maybe you're to young to remember, or don't remember, Kaps mens clothing stores. They were the real thing, since 1885. In the old days, when I worked at Simon's, Kaps stores, and the Kapelson family who owned them, were referred to with the due respect and mild jealousy befitting a worthy rival. Good stuff, always priced fairly but at it's worth, which was never cheap. Kaps was sort of a "poor man's Andover Shop", if such a phrase could possibly make even a shred of sense.

So far, nothing should be surprising about this jacket. Its well made, it comes from a sadly long gone local Massachusetts mens shop, and it's styled just how I like it. But there is a surpirse;
Read the Label Right: Chaps is like some kind of fourth rate label from Ralph Lauren for the malls and off price stores, right? Crappy junk meant only to create revenue through brand name licensing, right? I thought Kohl's owend it, right?

Maybe so, but not always, not like this. In the pre-over-seas-labor days, much of Ralph's stuff was high quality union made goods from the USA, and the Chaps brand was no exception.  In the days before brand names were just a commodity to license and sell, Chaps was turning out the goods. I may not specifically remember Chaps as a brand in such a light, but I do remember Kaps as a store in such a light, and I know they never sold junk. Buying this jacket used in not so much wearing yet aniother piece of Ralph's clothes as it is hiniring the Kapelsons.

Reading this blog, you may think that I just trip over $1000 suits for a buck every time I walk out the door, but believe me, it takes a lot of patience and study to pull this off.

p.s. the above jacket, along with many other new items, is up in the Shop. A shameless plug, perhaps, but a plug nonetheless.

14 November 2011

Country Is Where You Find It, Part II

Mrs. G and I had the all too rare chance to hit the honey spots together today. She generally couldn't care less about the unfathomable minutia of menswear, but she has a dead eye for the good stuff in spite of this. She saved me the trouble of rifling through the outerwear today by scavenging this prime piece:
Forgive the dreadful and misleading yellow incandescent lighting of these photos. I've learned to take my photos early in the day in natural light, but I couldn't wait until tomorrow to prattle on about this one. A vintage 1960s mid-thigh length raglan sleeved balmacaan coat in a gorgeous, and very British, tweed.

Olive green/brown/white large district check with rust/navy overcheck. Beautifully woven and soft as anything...

Incredibly precise pattern matching. You can hardly even see the pockets...

...or the sleeve tabs.

An old, and highly sought after, piece from the now sadly bygone Invertere. 20% cotton in the fabric, must explain the super softness.
For the sadly bygone Rogers Peet Company. Rogers Peet had stunning clothes of a higher level of quality than many of the more commonly pined for traditional American stores, not unlike the holy church of Andover Shop. I'm always surprised they aren't mentioned more often in the nerdly world of online menswear fetishism.


12 November 2011

Country is Where You Find It

I love dressing for the Fall, and I for one am glad to have a break in our unseasonably warm weather so I can enjoy the textures, fabrics and colors of the season without sweating. Perhaps my favortie thing about Fall dress is the influence of "country", as in British countryside, not Buck Owens (though I dig that too). And while it's true I live in "town" and usually walk on pavement, I indulge heavily in country treatments. True, the particularly nit-picky and pretentious among you will decry the impropriety of this. But in a time when grown men dress like toddlers, I hardly think it wise to make such minute criticisms.
This tan corduroy vest ($3.99, no brand, likely orpahned from a 3 piece suit) has been waiting in the wings since its acquisition in mid Summer. Bill wore it to TSFMIV. I wore it today. It plays well with a wool challis tie, rough blue oxford, and favorite tweed jacket (with throat latch for good measure).

I'll be on the lookout for more vests. I love to wear them, especially in rich textured fabrics like this. Lately, I find myself more and more attracted to forward pleated pants, and I find this to be especially true wiht a vest. The extra fold just ties it all togethr in my opinion, and adds another light nod (along with the printed wool challis) to the inherent British-ness of what's going on here.

My old favorite Florsheim wing tip brogues ($19.99) have been supplanted lately by current favorite tassel loafers, but they were a snap today. Perforated shoes have their origins in the country, while tassel loafers derive from fishing, so the choice was made for me. Cuffed hems, another country convention, are de riguer.

All of this clothing comes down to us from the tradition  of carrying a rifle in England to shoot at birds. I will almost certainly never shoot a rifle, at birds or anything else, and certainly not in England. I will likely never spend the weekend in any place known as a "manor". I prefer coffee to tea, even in the afternoon, like a savage. It's no matter. Besides being tied to these activities, these sartorial details are also tied to the weather and time of year, which is now. If it's sunny but brisk and the leaves are golden and falling, embrace the details of Fall.

Country is where you find it.

11 November 2011

Reader Questions : On Ageing Gracefully

I may be blowing wind here, but I like to think that my little corner of the internet fills a gap. I began this blog years ago at the suggestion of some good friends who were pleased with the blossoming menswear style blog boom, but disappointed that nothing at the time addressed stylish men of meager means.  In time, I've come to realize through emails and meeting people that I also tend to appeal to younger men in need of basic and unpretentious help (yikes, that was probably pretentious) as well as older men looking to keep things fresh without dressing like kids.

Reader Mark writes:

You said in your post "I'm not 22 years old and rail thin". That brings up a question:

What are good looks for heavier guys in their late 40s-early 50s? I don't want to appear to "try" to be dressing too young, yet I'm not really antique in age either!

A good question, to be sure. Hope I'm up to the task. What follows may not be so much direct advice on "looks" as it is on knowing your history, knowing whats going on, knowing what suits you, keeping it classic and simple, and combining all that...I hope.

As our example of how to look good, age appropriate, and young at heart all at once, we'll use the extreme example of style icon Fred Astaire.  Plenty has been written about this man's level of style in his prime in the '30s, '40s and '50s, but very little mentions how well he carried himself into old age. Finding good pictures of Astaire in his youth is easy, but finding photos of the man in later life was surprisingly difficult. I suppose that speaks to the good old American youth obsession (the opposition to which this blog was founded, see profile). 

In the photo above, a 75 year old Astaire gives his relatively staid jacket and tie ensemble just the right pinch of insouciance in his choice of aviator sunglasses, a favorite of youth today. The lesson here is opt for items which will always be classic and also "cool", in this case the glasses. Military men wear them, bikers wear them, rock stars wear them, hipsters wear them, even a confident 75 year old wears them. In each case they are "cool". In the old guys case, they are a sign that he is cool, and has been for some time. And yet, they don't diminish the classic-ness of his overall look, and they are anything but inappropriate.

This photo, like the one above, is a still from 1974s The Towering Inferno. Sure, it's dated. The tie is huge, the lapels are too. But that's the point. Being older doesn't necessarily mean you have to avoid trends like the plague, you just have to play them carefully. Astaire's tux is very 1974, yet because it is also relatively classic, he manages to be of the moment without looking like he's dressing like a kid. Despite the wideness of the elements, there are no ruffles on the shirt front, not frilly cuffs, no extra velvet, and no silly colors. Similarly today an older man may opt to lean towards the currently trendy leaner cuts while keeping his  fabrics and patterns classic.
In this bad photo from the bad 1981 movie Ghost Story, an 82 year old Astaire wears his coat collar flipped youthfully up with a schoolboy scarf knotted in a particularly youthful way. Growing older doesn't mean you need to turn into a stiff, or even a dork. It just means that all the things you learned and saw, all the goofy stuff and good stuff you wore, all your sartorial mistakes and triumphs should begin to cook down to a refined essence that is uniquely yours and exists outside the realm of age and time. Am I getting too philosophical here? Certainly.  

The point I guess is to stick with classic pieces in classic cuts and always insist on quality. At the same time, keep an eye on trends and choose selectively those aspects which will keep you looking fresh without looking like a mid-life crisis. And never wear anything that doesn't fit well. Young skinny 22 year olds can wear all the short pants and too tight jackets they want. They'll still look foolish, but we'll collectively chalk that up to youth and gullibility and hope they grow out of it. Older (and heavier) men do not enjoy such leniency.
Of course, it helps to have been this cool in your youth:
In writing this little blip, I realize that in this one short question we have a loaded sartorial topic on our hands, one that deserves frequent revisiting. I've only just poked at it with a stick. So lets have this be a discussion. I'd like to see this topic grow alongside a discussion of learning the basics for younger men. As much as I enjoy handing down the law from high on my soap box, I enjoy learning from others as well.

Thank you Mark for opening this can of worms. I hope we catch some big fish.

10 November 2011

Another Go 'Round

These "online custom" companies sure do seem to want my opinion on the matter these days. Recently, Tailor4Less offered me a trial shirt. I ordered it last night.
In a cotton plaid they call "Texas". In perfect keeping with my rube tendancies in the world of "custom" shirts, I ordered this otherwise innocuous plaid with a high spread collar and Fench cuffs. With a simple tie, silk knot cuff links, light grey flannels and a blue blazer, this could be my Christmas party go-to. That is, if it comes off well.

I've had both good and bad experiences with online tailoring. Let's see how these guys stack up. They promise delivery in two weeks, so results should be in soon.

09 November 2011

Dangerously Close to the Edge

It's no secret I like to push the edges of what is correct and appropriate in the broader realm of "classic" menswear. That's because I enjoy clothing, I have fun wearing it, and I'm not actually ever required to dress better than jeans and a t-shirt. I've been known to don an outfit that many find to be far too much, and frequently at that. I admit this freely. Yet sometimes, I come to the proverbial edge of the sartorial cliff and actually manage to stop myself from jumping. To wit:
Rugby has a "make your own cardigan" page on their website, and this is the number I nearly bit on in the last few days. Rugby is a brand I generally steer clear of, not so much because of any outright disdain, though I'll admit to mild disdain. No, it's more because I'm not 22 years old and rail thin, and I take myself a little more seriously than proper carriage of the brand would require. And Lord knows, few things are as unforgivably affected as Ye Olde Skull & Bones these days. Still, the idea of this sweater still appeals to me, forgive me. I see it with dark jeans, oxford shirt and brown pebble grain shoes. Or bright colored cords, bow tie and toggle coat, with a tweed cap. But, alas, I'm not 22, and this may in fact be too "young" for me.

If only it were wool instead of cotton...if only it had wooden buttons...if only it didn't have leather elbow patches....if only it weren't Made in Sweatshop...if only it weren't $148...if only I didn't know better...

See? I am capable of the occasional bout of self control after all...until the thing goes on sale, probably.

08 November 2011

Glen Check Ties

A nice alternative for Autumn, in silk, wool, or a blend. Don't forget the glen check tie.
Posted by Picasa
This one in tan,burgundy and hunter green silk is a US made number by Polo, ($1.00). Acquired years ago, I don't wear it enough. Quiet enough to be dressy, but rich enough to knock the office vibe off of this old charcoal striped suit. Plays well with a cashmere coat for a trip to an off Broadway theatre.

p.s. please forgive the gratuitous linking to my own stuff. Shameful, I know. But I'm experiencing camera difficulty and I already had this picture saved.

p.p.s. new items in the Shop, including suits, coats, and lots of shoes. Stop by and browse.

07 November 2011


Last Friday, I was a participant in a discussion on the meanings, past and present, of so called "preppy fashion" following a performance of A.R. Gurney's play Children. I can be seen below pontificating on the matter, speaking with my hands as any self respecting Italian would. 

photo credit: a friend in the audience
I'd like to thank the TACT theatre group for inviting me to be a part of this. I had a great time, and met some wonderful people. As for the play, I say two thumbs up. A single scene on the terrace of a Cape Cod island beach house sets the tone for this sad yet darkly humorous tale of the unravelling of an old WASP family in the early 1970s. The cast of four played it to the hilt, making us feel both contempt and compassion for each of them, and in the end, everything works out for the best, but not in the way one might expect. Go see it if you can.

In other pontifications:
Sadly, the comments in my last post became a soapbox for racist vitriol by a number of anonymous commenters.  I don't intend to ignore this. As much as I'd like to keep this clothing blog from becoming a political showdown, some things can't be ignored. Unfortunately, I will be forced to rethink the openness of my comments policy. This is not some Massachusetts Liberal Political Correctness game. I simply will not tolerate this kind of behavior on my blog any more than I would in my own house.

03 November 2011

How To Wear a Hat

Like you mean it...
 photo credit: not sure, but I heisted it from "Where Is The Cool"

The kid in the middle gets a pass for wearing a double breasted suit. Otherwise, a "rakish tilt" is always a nice touch, and these kids have been taught well. Imagine how difficult it would be to find five grown men you know and line them up for a photo and have it look this killer. And that's just the word for it, killer. These kids are strong and confident, and I can tell not just by what they're wearing but how they're wearing it.

p.s. I'm off to New York tomorrow. More shallow drivel Sunday or Monday. Your humble "pedant" needs a few days off to "get over" himself. (see comments to the last post...the one about socks with ducks on them)

02 November 2011

Cheap Commodities

Life sometimes lands you in such undesirable places as Target. The place may be a monument to all the reasons why the rest of the world feels the way they do about Americans, but they do have some pretty good socks now and then.
This pair features a duck in flight and a purple toe. Packaged with a second pair in black and grey mini herringbone weave, $5.00. Not bad. Should be all the rage between a pair of dark denim jeans and L.L.Bean rubber mocs (used to call those "duck shoes" in the old days).