30 January 2012

Sometimes You Feel Like A (...), Sometimes You (...)

Sometimes, you get dressed like you're going to play tennis with Rene Lacoste in 1925:
Brooks Brothers club collar shirt, made in USA of Italian fabric, $5.49
Vintage wool tennis sweater from Kennedy's of Boston, $6.99
Emblematic club tie, $0.99
Vintage jacket, half of a suit by the Andover Shop, half of $5.99 (price for the whole suit)

And sometimes, you slouch down in your favorite soft chair at 9:30 in the morning for a cup of coffee and some Captain Beefheart on vinyl while a nearly three year old girl you know gets into the weird music in a way and to a depth that only children can...

photo: Internet
Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, "Clear Spot", recently purchased on vinyl at a flea market, $8.00
Not his weirdest work, but by no means "normal".

I, for one, see no reason why the enjoyment of two such divergent  things need be mutually exclusive.

In the world of men's blogs, one constantly runs across dogmatic close mindedness from people concerned more with an arbitrary set of antiquated rules involving how a man should dress than they are with wearing clothes well simply because they enjoy it. It's like a microcosm of life. Voluntary self pigeon-holing leads only to bitterness and resentment, and causes one to waste a lot of time needling other people who couldn't care less about what are really inconsequential minutiae. By embracing all aspects of the person you are, even the ones that don't necessarily "match" with one another, you find a balance and real individuality that will never come with rote adherence to any given dogma, no matter which one.

Just sayin.

photo: Internet

p.s. new stuff in the Shop. Perfect get-ups for listening to some psychedelic freak jams...at least I think they are.

27 January 2012

(A Belated) Robbie Burns Night

Robert Burns, Scotland's favorite poet and bon vivant, was born on 25 January 1759,and has had his birthday celebrated with "Burns Suppers" the world over for over a century. Being an Italian American, I have little reason to know this, and even less to attend such an event. Still, this past 25 January I was honored to be a guest at a wonderful Burns Supper hosted by good friend Yankee Whisky Papa's own club.

So then, how do I come to find myself at such an event? Well...
You may remember that I have this outrageous head to toe tartan flannel get-up. Dear Yankee-Whisky insisted that I attend on the mere merit of this suit, and I happily obliged. Apparently, this suit is not fit to be seen by mortals, as it is nearly impossible to photograph in any way that communicates just how bold it is. And though I wondered at whether it might be a bit gauche for a non-Scotsman to appear on Burns night in both long trousers and Black Watch, the official tartan of the Scottish regiment of the British army, my fears were soon quelled by the actual Scots I know. Turns out nobody really cares, outside of the nerdy world of men's clothing blogs, that is.
Given that this was an evening affair, I tried to keep things elegant with a crisp white shirt, white square, and navy wool tie...
I've never been huge on French cuffs, but I have recently decided that it might be the jewelry that puts me off. Silk knots, in this case green and white, are the way to go.

A recently acquires well made, if no name, pair of shiny black closed throat brogues finishes the look...

...while a Chesterfield coat keeps me warm outside. If the pocket square wasn't obnoxious enough, than the matching cashmere Black Watch scarf  certainly was. Yikes, its practically punk rock dress up. Forgive me.
In the foyer stood a collection of old putters and a silver bowl filled with golf balls. We all proceeded to "golf" in the Caledonian tradition inside the building. Start in the dining room by the fireplace, under the tables, out to the hall, into the elevator, up the elevator, down the hall, down a flight of stairs...you get the idea. They were serving plenty of single malt that night, but we managed not to do too much damage.

The serving of supper was announced by the bag pipes. A traditional haggis was served, and all the traditional poetry read. A newcomer to haggis, I found it gamey and "funky", even a bit stinky if you will. But being an old pro in the wine trade, I've developed quite a taste for the various "funks" of the old world. I cleaned my plate. The evening concluded with the singing of Auld Lang Syne (Burns' best know hit) accompanied by handbells. Wonderful.

Pictured left to right: James of the great 10engines, in full regalia, you humble author, my new hero R, yankee-whisky-papa, and fellow club member. Call this one "The Lads"...plus one Italian.

Bag pipes once again signalled an end to the festivities. Our faithful piper and new hero R, in black tie with a jacket in Lindsay tartan made on Savile Row in 1972, provide us with the shot of the evening.

Happy birthday, Mr. Burns.

26 January 2012

Custom Suit Blitz

Being the clothes horse that I am, I've managed to compile an indecent collection over the years. I've gathered everything from the most basic of basics to the downright outlandish. And yet, the one garment which continues to elude me is the perfect charcoal grey suit. I thought I'd have this situation remedied when I ordered one online last Fall, but that endeavour ended badly. Round two sees Imparali Custom Tailors of New York throwing their hat in the ring. They have graciously offered to make a suit for me, and so I visited them in blitzkrieg fashion Tuesday.

7:50 a.m. saw me dashing through South Station, wishing I was getting on a train instead of racing to catch the 8:00 bus, but for $26 round trip, you learn to put up with some minor discomfort.By 12:30, Tin Tin and I were prowling around Brooks Brothers and Paul Stuart, killing time before my appointment later in the afternoon. A very British lunch of fish and chips with a pint of Old Speckled Hen (a real treat if you can find it on draft and nitrogenated) and we were off to the tailor.

608 5th avenue greets one with a stunning Art Deco interior.I'm already feeling better about this than my last attempt at custom.
An unassuming sign beside an unassuming door at the end of an unassuming hallway.

Inside, we're greeted by Matt Harpalani, the affable young fellow in charge. Matt comes to tailoring in the foot steps of his father, also a tailor. His full story can be read here. He knows his stuff, and approaches it in a conversational and friendly manner that puts the customer quickly at ease. No stuffiness here, and that's good. I like nice things, but I have no time for stuffy people.
Matt begins by showing me some completed goods awaiting pick up so I can see up close the level of quality we're dealing with. This double breasted glen check with open patch pockets was a particular knock-out...

...while this purple velvet number piped in gold shows that he'll go to any lengths to meet any request.
Swatch books with fabrics from mills in England and Italy are piled atop a large table. After much deliberation, I settled on a dark grey super 120s Italian worsted. As I waited for Matt to finish up with his previous customer, I notice some very encouraging things around this small room.
Bemeberg linings available in every imaginable color....
...a book of formal wear swatches from Holland and Sherry, which included tartans, velvet, and striped fabrics for morning dress....
...and on the dressing form, a beautifully executed 3/2 roll. I'm getting excited. Now for the measurements...

photo: the Trad
I get a full and thorough once over with the tape. Certain of the numbers, such as the one being taken here, may have been disturbingly large, but hopefully the resulting garment will de-emphasize that.
photo: the Trad
And I never knew how things like slope of the shoulder and arch of the back were accounted for, but now I do. With the help of wonderfully archaic devices like this. Right up my alley.

We discussed every detail, and my own personal style preferences. Fortunately, I managed to avoid the over blown silly detail trap that rubes like me tend to indulge with custom made things. The suit will be a three piece. The jacket will have a natural shoulder, 3/2 front, 3 inch lapels, no darts, but some shaping through the sides. The trousers will have buckle side tabs, brace buttons, no belt loops, and forward pleats. The vest is a standard five button single breasted. Can't wait.

Imparali is a full service operation, offering custom shirts and cashmere topcoats, and specializing in outfitting wedding parties.The suit I ordered in the fabric I chose would have cost around $900 or so. The clothes are made in a factory in China, but the factory has been owned by Matt's family since 1967. That's something right there. It will be ready in about five weeks. Of course we have to wait for the suit to arrive before we make the final call, but so far so good. Finished goods can be picked up at Imparali, or shipped to you. I'm planning a trip back to pick mine up. Alterations are free for life, so if tweaks are needed Matt will do them there. If I manage to get those disturbingly large measurements down a bit, he'll fix that too.

By midnight the same day, I was home in bed. Brutal, but hopefully worth it. Look for the conclusion sometime in late February or early March.

23 January 2012

Worth Every Penny : Cedar Shoe Trees

The funny thing about thrift shopping is that one often spends many times as much money on the maintenance of an item than the item itself. Given that things are not a clean slate when they are first acquired, it takes close attention to detail and knowledge of proper care to do this well. A suit may be had for $15, then require up to an additional $100 in alterations and dry cleaning. In the long run, still a bargain, and a ripping one at that, but taking the long view is imperative. Shoes tend to need even more attention. They need to be cleaned, and polished regularly. For real long view maintenance, cedar shoe trees are worth every penny.
photo: the internet
Many of my own shoe trees were also purchased at thrift shops, but they are worth buying new. They can be madly expensive, but they don't have to be. Best price I found online was $15.99 at Sierra Trading Post, plus $5.95 shipping. Not bad. But I recently discovered some fine ones not unlike those pictured above at Target for $9.99. At that price, I'd have bought a half dozen pair, but they only had one left. Best keep my eyes peeled next time I'm forced into such a place. Woodlore has a lot to choose from, in a variety of types, starting at $19.95. I might try them next.
Besides helping shoes keep their shape, the cedar helps keep them fresh by absorbing odors. Don't bother with the plastic kind. If you're going to wear good shoes, then they should be worth caring for. Trees in every pair and regular polish are a law writ in stone. As with all things here, penury is not an excuse. Just because I may have bought most of these shoes for $20 or less is no reason not to invest in their care. If anything, the opposite is true, and extra steps should be taken. After all, it's not so easy to replace a lucky find if it gets broken, is it?

Cedar shoe tress are worth every penny.

20 January 2012

Dungarees: An Update

In taking a look back to prepare for this post, I realize that it's been roughly a year since I did a dungarees update, and roughly two years since the purchase of said denim. Perhaps this should become a January tradition.

Back when I bought the jeans featured here, I had written a rant or two against the then (and still) prevalent hipster practice of buying gourmet denim, wearing it every day, with everything, and never washing it. The internet is rife with blogs and websites dedicated solely to nerdly discussions of how not to clean your pants, but I'm not having it. I like clean pants. So here's a brief rundown of what happens to them after two years of regular occasional wear, and regular washing:
photo: not mine, heisted from the internet.

In digging back two years into this blog, I'm actually embarrassed at the photos I saw fit to print here. This photo shows much more clearly what my Wrangler 13MWZ Original Cowboy Cut jeans looked like when I bought them. Rigid as wood, very dark in that distinctive grey tinted navy we call indigo. Straight legs, rivets and all, I wore them "raw" for a few weeks. There are few things as uncomfortable as new raw jeans, but there is a special (perceived) self satisfaction that comes with putting up with uncomfortably hard to wear pants. I've gotten over that since, but I still have the jeans.
One year in, they looked like this.I'll admit, at this point they had reached a kind of too bright blueberry hue, but I stuck with them. For one, they were beginning to be soft and comfortable in a way that only well worn jeans that belong to only you can. For another, I knew they'd eventually reach that excellent shade of light blue that can only be achieved with wearing and washing your own jeans. That, and I'm cheap, and new jeans are the last thing I care to worry about.

Today, two years and likely one hundred washed later, they're only getting better. The color is nearing what I consider to be the perfect fade. There's cool looking wear patterns on the knees. They're stiff when they're freshly cleaned, but given a minute or two, they conform to my shape and become perfectly comfortable in that way that only your own old jeans can. Unlike they're unwashed counterparts, they feel fresh and clean, instead of grimy and shiny with filth.  Honestly, I've heard it so many times and read it so many times and even believed it a long time ago myself, but I just don't see the appeal in not washing your pants. Authenticity be damned, as I remember it, this what jeans always looked like when I was a kid, and any 19th century coal miner would have been glad at the chance to have some clean pants. Not washing your jeans in the interest of well curated heritage Americana is so much hipster revisionist thinking.

I will admit that I take care to wash them separately, turned inside out, in cold water, and I never dry them. But I do wash them, once a week or so as needed.

The older I get, I find that my take on how to wear jeans has changed over the years and begun to settle into a new norm.I read recently that part of being well dressed means being dressed for the occasion. I spend the earlier part of most days dropping off/picking up kids at school, grocery shopping, and hunting in filthy thrift shops, so I actually wear dungarees frequently. Gone are the days of pairing them with punk t-shirts and Adidas sneakers. Gone too are the days of wearing them with jacket and tie, though occasionally they do wind up combined with a tweed sports coat. These days a soft old oxford and a crew neck sweater do the trick. Bean boots, Bean mocs, penny loafers, pebble grain oxfords, and every now and then brown suede split toes are all good, adult choices for footwear. I even manage to take it up notch from time to time, go for the Continental look:
It's possible that a silk ascot will always be a pretentious and silly thing on an American, but worn just peeking out of a cotton crew neck, and worn with jeans, it may just be almost acceptable...almost.
A Donegal tweed cap ($1.99, thrift store), cashmere scarf in Black Watch tartan ($3.99, thrift store), brown leather wool lined gloves ($2.00, thrift store) and Barbour "Liddesdale" quilted jacket ($7.99, thrift store), and classic vintage Ray-Ban Wayfarers (generous gift) are all perfectly casual enough to wear with jeans, but finished and grown-up enough to make you feel like, you know, a grown up, or something.

I predict that washed and faded look will be coming back soon, along with pleated pants and properly fitted jackets. Not that I care much for fashion, but they've been feeding us tight/short/skinny/don't-wash-your-jeans for too long now. Time for an about face so they can force people to abandon everything and buy a bunch of new stuff.

Worn, old, comfortable, clean jeans are a real classic, and classics never die.

17 January 2012

Stylish Films: Welt am Draht

I'm by no means a movie buff, but I do enjoy them as much as the next guy. Not one for Hollywood, or the folks who populate it, I tend to prefer highly stylized movies that are as fun too look at as the story is good. Clearly, this proclivity leads me to numerous foreign films, and lots of old ones. I'm especially enamored of 1970s futuristic dystopia flicks, and I may just have found the penultimate one. A long time fan of A Clockwork Orange and Brasil, I have to say that World on a Wire (Welt am Draht) by prolific German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder takes the prize.
Originally aired in two parts on German television in 1973, this three hour masterpiece is a real trip. But I'm not going to discuss the plot here, that's what Wikipedia is for (see here). Instead, I'd rather discuss style and decor, and make once again my argument that we not discount the entire decade that was the 70s out of hand as an aesthetic wasteland. 

Truth be told, the look of this movie is my decor ideal. The buildings have a brutalist vibe, all white concrete and glass cubes. The cars outside are big and luxurious, with lots of corners. Inside, the decor is that rare and difficult to reproduce early 70s post-modern eclectic blend of things like stark white rooms containing a mixture of glass and chrome furniture, ornate antiques, brightly colored plastics, oriental rugs, classical busts, abstract paintings....and maybe a German motorcycle helmet attached to wires suspended over a Le Corbusier lounge chair that allows one to connect with the simulated computer world. So much cooler than my Toshiba laptop. And let's not forget the big heavy analog technology all over the place. Sub-titles (and everything else) in Helvetica are de riguer. The people you see in magazines like Dwell think they get it, but it's just not the same.
See what I mean? In all the office scenes, this character is always shot in reflection in this weird silver globe, rubber tree plant behind here, electric typewriter before her.
And that's what the cafe looks like. One of those light fixtures is cool enough, but a couple dozen of them covering the entire ceiling? Unstoppable.

Clothing-wise, we get a lot of men in business suits. As one might expect, the ties and lapels are really wide, and we get some awful black shirt/white tie combinations, but generally speaking there's a real 1930s vibe running through it, as seen here in main character Fred Stiller's hat and chalk striped double breasted suit. At other points in the film, he wears a grey tweed suit with a half belt and pleated back. Not all bad, if a bit exaggerated. Remember, the 1970s were the last period when a man in an office dressed this way was not eccentric or unusual. The details may not be to our liking, but the but the overall concept of dressing well as a matter of course hadn't yet died.

Frequent scenes feature characters in evening wear. Not for trips to the opera or anything like that, just restaurants and dinner parties. Tom Ford, by the way, can thank our Herr Lowitsch for not only the strikingly masculine tailoring of his clothes, but also his haircut. And hipster girls all over Brooklyn don't even know what they owe to Mascha Rabben.

Even this guy, evil-security-director Edelkern, looks sharp, and surprisingly timely, in his navy three piece suit paired with awning striped shirt and solid grenadine tie.

Clearly, this dude is the bad guy, Herbert Siskins. If his haircut doesn't give him away, surely the brown shirt does. However, his office is one of the most knockout scenes in the whole movie. It's spacious and bright, filled with white furniture and lots of glass, punctuated by large plants and huge colorful paintings. At one point, he calls a press conference there. As they are speaking, the camera pans across a long buffet of "snacks" for the reporters, a long table laden with gourmet European food, including a number of pheasants, and an ocean of Champagne and fine Riesling (it is Germany, after all).

I love this movie. If you've got three hours to kill, watch it. Hulu Plus has a good version with subtitles. Looks like I've found a new (anti) hero in this Fassbinder cat.

Update: here's a link to an interesting short film on "the making of...", also worth a look.

p.s. Speaking of why stuff from the 70s may actually be, dare I say it, cool, I've finally gotten around to adding Barima to the blog-roll. That kid gets it for sure, go see.

p.p.s.new stuff in the Shop.

14 January 2012

Divine Providence

It takes dedication and an iron will to hunt down the good stuff in the junk like I do. With practice comes skill, and the more you do it, the better I you develop an eye for things. As my friend Bobby from Boston has been heard to say, after a while, the clothes have a way of finding you. Such was the case with my latest acquisition:
A hefty but soft tweed jacket in black/white/grey district check with a blue over-check, from the late great Rogers Peet Co. I spotted this number nearly a week ago while out on the hunt. The thrift shop wanted $19.99 for it. Apparently, someone there has gotten a little wise to the game...probably learned it fro AAW, dammit. Being the spoiled cheapskate I am, this was too rich for my blood, so I passed. Within an hour of leaving the place,I was
kicking myself for leaving it behind, but alas, you can't win 'em all.

Yesterday, I returned. I found a lot of other stuff. As was getting ready to leave, I spotted a corner of district check tweed poking out from a bundle of cheap acrylic ski hats. Lo and behold, it was the elusive jacket, only half price for having a white tag that day. The signals this time were too clear to ignore, so I snapped it up. Call it divine providence, the jacket found me. I left it, and it found me again,  it was meant to be mine. Seen here with a vintage Brooks Brothers white oxford, iconic "rolling" unlined collar and all ( $5.49), an English regimental tie from the Andover Shop ($1.00), and a silk square heisted from my dad when I was in high school, it's a cinch for the kind of bracing cold we've been missing in these part these last few months.
Below, some heavy weight light grey flannels by Polo ($7.99) finally see their debut for the season. Finish with my new favorite cordovan longwings ($7.00) and some yellow socks ( perhaps a bit much, but that's what I do, no?)
A reader recently pointed out the lack of the old full body shot of late. So, with the addition of a tan cashmere coat, cashmere scarf in very muted Black Watch tartan, brown leather gloves and a Tyrolean hat, the overall effect was thus:
Not bad for approximately $100 total, outerwear included. Come to think of it, I passed on that coat at first, too.  Lesson learned, twice: the time to buy a beautiful old thing is when you find a beautiful old thing.

p.s. the Tyrolean hat has undergone a bit of reshaping:
achieved at home with steam from a tea kettle. After having knocked some of the "Pinocchio" off of it, its become a Winter favorite.

13 January 2012

Reading Material

My apologies to any ladies present for this one. Truth be told, men tend to keep reading material in the, ahem, restroom. Abhorrent? Perhaps, but a "guy thing" nonetheless. Recently, this particular triumvirate has convened in my own home:
"Class" by Paul Fussell, 1983; "The Prince" by Niccolo Machiavelli, 16th century,
each less than a dollar at thrift shops.
"The Tao of Wu" by the RZA, a Christmas gift from Kid Brother

A now classic tome on the American class structure, and a humorous one at that, especially from an East Coast point of view....an ancient text from Rennaissance Italy, written by an aristocrat, on how to be one....and a philosophical work by a modern rap artist who draws on Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Bhuddism, comic books and kung fu movies with unbridled equanimity. I've read all three, and all three now have been filed for quick reference and cross checking. For good measure, they sit atop a Phaidon book of ugly British post cards, mainly pictures of motels, highways and rest stops, called simply "Bad Post Cards".

If that doesn't explain in condensed and distilled form the sort of thing that goes on around this blog, I don't know what will.

the necktie selection at the Shop has been amply replenished. There are also a number of non-clothing items available, some suitable for children, others not. Go see.

11 January 2012

The Abominable Plaid Dress Shirt

Given the unsettling lack of any kind of snow throughout November, December, and now January, I guess we need to find something other than a big wild snow man abominable this year. How about a plaid "dress shirt", made all the more abominable by the un-buttoned button down collar...somebody, please smack some sense into me. I am fully prepared to use my Italian-ness, and the fact that G. Bruce Boyer does it all the time lately, as a full cop out.
Brooks Brothers USA made poplin shirt in "Dress Gordon" tartan: $8.99
Cricketeer tweed jacket, made in USA : $6.99
Mohair/wool blend knit tie, very wide, very '70s, by Rooster: $1.99
Silk pocket square: I've forgotten
Skirt pin as tie bar
Below: charcoal flannels with forward pleats, cordovan wingtips, and bottle green socks.

I may sometimes complain about not having the kind of life that requires a man to dress well, but really it can be a blessing in disguise. What kind of job that required a jacket and tie would allow me to get away with these kind of sartorial shenanigans? Dressing well by requirement is one thing. Dressing well through a combination of a sense of manhood, occasion, dash, respect and sheer enjoyment is far more fun. All the more so if the less creative and brave among us find it "abominable".

10 January 2012

Worth Every Penny

Always nice to follow a rare "cheap commodities" with a rare "worth every penny" post, even rarer in that this one is about food and wine, I subject woefully neglected here for too long.
Last Friday, I stumbled across some Chateau Beaumont Haut-Medoc 2000 at the shop, a pleasant surprise that had slipped my attention....probably because it retails for $37.99, and I tend to shop the sub-$15 selections on my budget. Wine geeks will remember that 2000 was a vintage of historical proportions in Bordeaux, with wines being good from the plonk to the first growths and everywhere between. I've written (i.e. geeked out about) this before, more than once. They all sold fast, and I haven't seen one in a long time. So when this turned up, I decided some minor splurging was in order.
A wine like this with some age on it wants some time to breathe, so I decanted it at lunch time for consumption with dinner. The "decanter" is actually a cheap commodity, a $5 glass carafe from the hardware store of all places, which I've had for years. The corkscrew is a waiter-style one, double hinged, had for $10 or less at any good bottle shop. A paper towel held on loosely with an elastic allows the wine to breathe while keeping stuff from getting in it, a trick of particular importance in the Summer, as fruit flies tend to be drunks.

The wine was everything I hoped it would be. Rusty in color with that good old French stink, the best bad smell in the world. I once heard it described as "blueberry cow sh*t" by a man far more expert than I, and I still use that term myself. Full bodied and dry, with all it's astringency rubbed off by age, leaving a texture that is nothing short of velvet. A heady, rare wine, the kind you drink slowly, because you'll be a little sad when it's all gone.

Good wine deserves good food, and vice verse. But I'm not one to detract from one or the other by overcomplicating things. A simple but high quality cut of steak, seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked in a cast iron skillet until rare and juicy, with baby spinach dressed in a Dijon mustard vinaigrette and roasted yam with onions.

2000 Bordeaux, or good wine in general, is worth every penny.

07 January 2012

Cheap Commodities; or, and Speaking of Shoes

A guy should have a shoehorn. Besides making it easier to get your shoes on, it also keeps your shoes from getting wrecked at the back. Short ones are fine, but I like the long ones that allow you to sit practically upright while using them.
I recently went to the cobbler retrieve a pair of shoes that he'd finished working on, and picked up this shoe horn, made in Japan of plastic, for $4.00.  Or,

...you could shell out $105 for this one, carved of actual oxhorn, with a leather strap. A nicer, fancier, dare I say it, more "artisinal" thing? Sure, I suppose. Does that really make a difference here? Most assuredly not. From the description of the expensive one:

Shoehorns allow the foot to slide into a leather shoe without crushing the back of the shoe, and a longer horn lets a man sit upright during the process.

Yep. So does my four dollar plastic one.

Put the money toward the shoes themselves. The shoe horn is a cheap commodity.

05 January 2012

Rules of Thrifting: Go With Your Gut

Thrift shopping is addictive, but it's also a skill. As with so many things, skill is gained through vigilant practice, and eventually one develops a set of "gut feelings" about a place or time that can help guide them. Some thrift trips will require tedious hours spent rifling through the swill to turn up a lone gem, others will throw themselves at you. This morning, my gut told me to stop by a particular store for a quickie, and it paid off in spades, and not a moment too soon.
These are my old Florsheim Royal Imperial longwing brogues. I love these shoes. I've worn them a lot, polished them a lot, and even had them repaired, a lot. They were a regular favorite a year or so ago, before they were supplanted by a pair of tassel loafers that look like shoes but wear like slippers. Lately, I've been wearing them sparingly, as they are unfortunately on their last legs.

The leather has started to wear through...

...on both shoes. A hole in the sole or a worn heel are an easy repair, but a tear in the leather itself is the kiss of death, unless you happen to be a stylish British royal, which I most certainly am not.

I had all but resolved to go on out and purchase a (gasp!) new pair. I was ready to throw a heavy stack of dollars at Alden or Allen Edmonds, really, I was. But being the consummate cheapskate I am, I just couldn't part with the dough. The very idea seemed reprehensible. So I went to Ebay. I don't do Ebay, because I have no patience for bidding, but I figured I could find something in good shape with a reasonable "Buy it Now" price. I found a nice pair of Allen Edmonds "Mac Neil" wingtips in calf for $65, and I almost bit. At the last minute, I realized that it was 2 a.m., and I had been drinking rich oak-aged beer ( more on that later), and I was feeling more than a bit impulsive and perhaps I should wait. So I went to bed instead.

This morning, after dropping the boy at school, I ran some errands. After a trip to the supermarket, I had the feeling I should stop by a local thrift shop I pass on the way. The place is disorganized, chaotic and filthy, and I don't often do too well there. But I felt compelled to pop in, you know, just for a minute. The shoe racks are right by the front door, and within 30 seconds of my arrival, I spotted these:
A pair of Allen Edmonds "Mac Neil" longwings..in shell cordovan! I'm sure of it, no tiny creases, only soft, supple leather with the tell-tale "waves". Never one to push my luck, I decided to leave at once. The trunk was full of groceries, and Mrs. G was sending "where are you" text messages. Best to high tail it home. There was no price on the shoes, but I already knew that whatever they would charge would be a mere fraction of what they are worth. The kind lady at the counter looked them over, frowned a bit, and said with trepidation, as if expecting an argument "seven dollars?" I gladly agreed. She said "these are not so good." I said "I buy them here then pay my repair guy $50 for new heels." "That's expensive." she says. "Not as expensive as new shoes" I say. "No, I guess not." she says.

Later that same afternoon, after a cleaning and a shine, they're looking well and right at home with some argyle socks and flannel trousers.

I almost forgot...

While waiting in line to pay, I stood by a big plastic bin full of silky things. I poked through it and found two ties, and one more at the last minute dangling from a rack of ugly sweaters while she rung me up:
Block printed pink paisley by Liberty of London...
Italian made navy and tan stripes by Dunhill...

and a navy/red/white weave from H. Herzfeld of New York. $1.99 each.

I was in the store for a total of five minutes, maybe. I knew it was worth stopping there this morning.

Go with your gut.

p.s. the Shop is busting with new goods, including items from Cording's, Brooks Brothers, and USA made vintage L.L.Bean. Stop by.