31 December 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! All the best in 2009, dear readers.

30 December 2008

New Shoes (not really) and a Little Rant

I just had my penny loafers resoled. They are the shoes I wear most, and had started to develop holes in the bottom. Now, I know its like some kind of Preppy tradition to fix your loafers with duct tape or something, but I didn't go to Yale in 1966 and I'm not one to take things quite that far. Besides, these days something as straightforward and old fashioned as visiting the local cobbler is almost a pleasure unto itself, and in the end you wind up with anew pair of shoes that are really comfortable because they're actually your favorite old shoes. A win-win situation, if you ask me.

The replacement half soles were made in Italy. They're almost nicer than the shoes themselves.I like to keep my shoes polished, but there's no substitute for a professional cobblers shine. Like new, only better, because they're not.I brought these to a little shop near my house marked only with a small sign thatread "Shoes Repaired". Inside, I find a talkative older man, Armenian I think. He's proud of his craft, and won't hesitate to explain to you the importance of proper shoe care or a good cobbler. At great length. The chemical smell of shoe polish mixed with the smell of leather is enough to make you pass out in this tiny place. It was great. I almost wished I had more shoes to fix just so I could have an excuse to visit this place more often. This kind of thing restores my faith in humanity.

Which is good, as my faith in humanity needed a bit of restoration today. This week, the help checks from old Uncle Sam dried up and I had to go to the unemployment office to file for an extension. When I got there, I had to navigate past a bunch of drunks right outside the front door on the verge of a fist fight, through a metal detector and into a room full of men who reeked of cigarettes and booze, swearing loudly into their cellphones. Now I know that unemployment is something I pay taxes for and that there's no shame in a hard working family man collecting it in hard times(at least that's what everyone keeps telling me), but it can be hard to rise above it when you're met with a scene like that, instead of a long line of men in suits:

Not to romanticize the past too much, I'm sure plenty of these guys also reeked of booze, despite prohibition.

On the bright side, the staff at the unemployment office were excessively nice to me, despite their reputation. It was busy in there today, and I think I may have been the only person they spoke to who showered, shaved , put on a tie and was polite with them, and they repaid me in kind. My hats off to them for dealing with surly characters all day long. Having worked in liquor stores for years, I know how that can be.

But I digress. Back to the shoes. $20 Florsheim penny loafers+ 2 years of hard wear+ $38 repair + more years of hard wearing= a pretty sound footwear investment. If you don't have a cobbler in your town, move to one that does. For the man who wishes to build an affordable wardrobe, good repair is paramount, and in this regard the cobbler is second only to the tailor in importance. If you're lucky enough to find a good one as I have, stick with him and don't p*ss him off.


Competition sure is stiff out there these days!

29 December 2008

The Perils of Thrifting

Naphthalene ( C10H8)

Recently I posted about my new red sweater and its faint scent of mothballs.

When I took the sweater off that day, I found my shirt, tie and undershirt, as well as the inside of my jacket, all reeked faintly of mothballs. Then I put the shirt in the laundry, and all the laundry smelled of it. Then I washed the sweater alone in cold water on the gentle cycle and laid it out to dry. Wetting the sweater only intensified the stench, and the next day the whole house reeked of Naphthalene (apparently that's the chemical that stinks so much). Fortunately it was unseasonably warm and we were able to open a few windows and air the place out. I put the sweater in a plastic bag and left it on the back porch until I could take it to the dry cleaners.

I live in the apartment where my grandparents lived when I was growing up. I can remember the closet smelling like this all the time. I'm all for bringing back certain elements of a bygone era, but this I can do without. How did the old folks stand the smell? Must have been masked by all that cigarette smoke, I guess.

27 December 2008

The Jams

Warning: If you have no interest in Jazz music, skip ahead to the second part of today's post.
Every year my parents give me money at Christmas with the instructions that it be spent on "something nice for yourself." I used to politely protest on the grounds of my adulthood, but the older and broker I get, the less I complain. I just thankfully accept it. Today I spent a portion of it record shopping.

This is a real treat for me. When I was in high school, a handful of friends and I used to spend every Sunday afternoon record shopping. We'd ride the subway to Central Square and work our way down Mass. Ave. to Harvard Square. Back then there were maybe a dozen record shops along this route, and the excursion lasted all day. The only hard part was deciding which records not to get, and guessing which ones might last until next week if you hid them creatively in the store.

Sadly, all but a few of those shops have surrendered to the beast that is the Internet, and I have neither the time nor money to devote to it. That's why its the first thing I think of whenever there's gift money laying around.

Today's haul was pretty good. No real rare original press type stuff, but many hours of jazz freakout:
This is a four sided compilation of a bunch of tracks Sonny Rollins did when he was with the Jazz Messengers back in the late fifties, despite the fact that they chose a photo of him from the seventies sporting a taxi driver-esque mohawk with a suit and tie.Charlie Mingus. Classic pre-freakout freakout.Art Blakey made a hell of a lot of recordings. The first side of this disc contains his "Drum Suite", which feature both Blakey and Jo Jones simultaneous on full drum sets, accompanied by piano, bass, congas, bongos and tympani. Remember, I played the drums for a lot of years so a work like this makes me want to cry.Check out this photo from the back sleeve. That sure is a lot of sparkly old drums in that little room. Note also the two suspended microphones picking it all up. They really knew how to catch a natural sound back then. Every time I went in to record something, I always wondered why we needed all those damn mics.Four sides of Rahsaan Roland Kirk in the early seventies, including such classics as "Voluntary Slavery" and "Say a Little Prayer". Waaaaaay out there!And after all of that sweaty, far out noise, its always good to retire to a leather chair in the den with a glass of good whiskey and relax with the mellow sounds of the Jerry Mulligan quartet. Now all I need is the whiskey, leather chair and den.

Ain't nothing like jazz on vinyl.


Quality and versatility are two of the most important things a man should consider when choosing his clothes. There's no reason that an outfit can't be equally appropriate for either duck hunting in the Scottish countryside (which I didn't do today) or scouring record stores in Harvard Square on a dreary afternoon (which I did do today).

I do love this red sweater, but I have a confession to make. It smells of moth balls, and as a result so did I by the time I came home. The funny thing is that having spent the entire afternoon scouring dusty second hand record shops, I didn't notice it until I returned home. My shirt, undershirt and possibly even my chest hair all smelled of it. Gross. I better go take a shower.

Dry cleaning is needed post haste.

26 December 2008

Boxing Day

My apologies for not posting yesterday, but I was too involved with enjoying my family on Christmas to indulge in the petty vanity that is a 'style blog', or whatever you want to call this. I did indeed wear the by now famous red corduroy trousers, but I just couldn't be bothered to photograph them. We had a wonderful time, ate too much, and spoiled the boy rotten. A right proper holiday, by all accounts.

I saw fit to spend Boxing Day acquiring more stuff. Fortunately for me I'm picky, so despite the fact that even the thrift shops were having outrageous sales, I came away with only some choice items:

Who doesn't need a bright red v-neck pullover?I've never heard of Braemar International, but the wool this thing is made from is some of the softest I've felt.

A 1960s vintage 3/2 natural shouldered sport coat with 2 button cuffs. The fabric is what really got me on this one, and this photo just doesn't do it justice. At first glance, it's grey with an olive green cast, but a closer look reveals a soft box weave tweed with grey, green, navy, brown and black threads. Gorgeous.

from the Rogers Peet Company.complete with the elusive hook vent.And a couple of nice shirts.

Admittedly, aside from the jacket, there's a fair amount of sweatshop labor represented here. But until we tank out far enough to start producing our own stuff again with an eye toward hard-wearing, affordable quality, I think it would be wasteful not to give these things a second life.

Not a bad haul for $12.98 total.

p.s. thanks everybody for your kind words of encouragement following the 'Finding an Excuse' post of a few days ago. I needed that.

24 December 2008

That's More Like It

Yesterday I dressed a little bit crazy (hell, we all have our moments). Today I trotted out the thick white cardigan again. This time I think I got it right:Vintage cream wool cardigan, brown cords, gingham button down shirt, Bean boots, no tie, no shave, running a million errands on Christmas Eve.
That's more like it.
If only Mrs. Giuseppe would let me smoke a pipe, the outfit would be complete.

23 December 2008

Finding An Excuse

It is unfortunate that a man needs to search for an excuse to dress well these days. I do what I can to look well everyday when I leave the house, but staying at home with the children and playing housewife makes it difficult. Add a Boston winter to the mix and I'm pretty much relegated to a uniform of jeans, down vest, Barbour and Bean Boots.

Today I had to travel into the city and deliver the final bits of my semester work to school. This outfit here was my attempt at marrying the messy city sidewalks with a natty sort of Boston-by-way-of-Britain look:

What we have here is a lot of things at once: dark plaid shirt and repp tie, in the style of our man Ralph Lauren; an odd pair of narrow cut grey flannels with western pockets that I keep thinking about giving away, but don't know who to give them to; the varsity sweater from a recent post in its freshly cleaned state with new buttons; Bean boots. All this was accessorized with the Barbour and a Black Watch cap.

It all seemed to make sense while I was wearing it, but upon seeing the photos I'm not too sure. What do you all think, kindly readers?

But back to the idea of finding an excuse. Today I used the fact that I had to go "into town" as an excuse to wear a tie. In reality, this outfit was worn in my car for 2 hours, on the street and in the building for 1/2 hour, back in the car for another hour. Upon returning home I immediately changed clothes and set about the housework I had neglected all morning.

As I face a month without my trips "into town" as an excuse, i come upon this dilemma: I enjoy writing this blog and hearing from you all, dear friends. But I fear that house cleaning and trips to the supermarket are a poor excuse for trotting out the proper haberdashery, even or a foppish sort like yours truly. Sure, I'll wear red pants on Christmas day and all that, but then what? This could leave me a bit shy of subject matter.

Also, I've got an awful lot of dress clothes for a guy with no job. As I try (unsuccessfully, so far) to enter the design profession, I find that wearing a 3/2 sack suit with a button down oxford and striped tie may actually be a detriment to me. In a field where youth, innovation and a familiarity with technology are prized, who wants to hire a weirdo in his thirties who dresses like their grandfather and doesn't really like (read: "hates") computers? I keep losing out to unshaved faces and untucked shirts. How can this be?

What is a fellow to do?

21 December 2008

A Big Silly Hat

Mother Nature has seen fit to provide us with two feet of snow over the course of two days here in Boston. This meant not only three long and arduous shoveling sessions for me, but also the debut of the Big Silly Hat:

Of course its funny looking, but its warm and it keeps my head dry. The side flaps are made of real sheep skin, toasty. An old piece of lumberjackery from Woolrich.

You'll never hear me complain about the snow. I love it! Sure its heavy and driving in it stinks, but you have to admit, it is beautiful.

And, not to be too mushy, the smile on the boys face as I took him around the block in his spaceman suit is pretty priceless, no?

Every year after the first big snow, all the local channels devote their entire broadcast to people complaining about the snow. Usually its people who, like me, have lived here all of their lives and seem surprised by the fact that it snowed a lot in Boston in late December, as though its never happened before. I feel like this may have intensified since the Red Sox broke the curse, leaving the local townies bereft of one of their favorite points of complaint, and they may be trying to compensate for that.

Not me. I say keep it coming until March, like when I was a kid, and we'll see the Sox next October.

p.s. A few days ago I made a big stink over removing A Suitable Wardrobe's link to this blog. While I still stand my feelings on the matter of the "Dress Set", I now realize in looking back that my way of stating it may have been a bit childish and, dare I say, snarky. For that, I apologize. I don't want this blog to become an argument forum, and I wish to avoid politics here at all costs. Sartorial trivialities are a much more wholesome internet diversion, after all.

20 December 2008

Still More Shoes

How does one celebrate the first coming of the big piles of wet, deep snow in a Boston winter? With a new pair of suede shoes, of course.

I'll admit it, I have a lot more shoes than decency would allow one man to own. But for $5.49, how could I resist.

Cole Haan, made in U.S.A., with vibram soles, probably from the early nineties, not unlike my recently acquired three tone saddle shoes. These shoes are as comfortable as slippers. Now all I have to do is put them away for six months until the streets are free of slush and I can wear them outside of the house. Until then, it's Bean Boots all the way.


Greetings readers.

What with the semester finally over, I decide over the last few days that going to sleep at a reasonable hour was preferable to silly blog posting in the wee smalls of the morning. Plus, my camera needs a new memory card.

Anyway, feeling relaxed and refreshed, here's a little update.

Filson Tin Cloth
Our friend and commenter Pitboss12 informed me a while back that he had purchased a Filson tincloth coat from Ebay which never quite fit him. He sent the coat to me in hopes that it would find I good home, which it has. The thing feels like its made of steel, and smells a bit like the forest. I may have to find an excuse to chop some wood just to do it justice.

Thanks Pitboss. Random acts of kindness like this restore my faith in humanity.

My final presentation was a ripping success. The reviewers, both professional architects, said they really wish the place could be built. I've been thinking of firing up another blog devoted to architecture, so I may feature a complete rundown of the project there. Living in Boston, there are plenty of stunning buildings to talk about. Anyone have any good ideas for a name?

Gay Apparel
I went to a Christmas show that my old band was playing on Thursday night after the presentation. I wore Black Watch slacks with a Brooks Brothers oxford and bow tie, a thick white cardigan (I changed the buttons for braided leather ones) and suede shoes. Holiday-tastic!

It was great to see old friends and be out drinking beer at night time like a normal person. I had almost forgotten what that was like.

A Little Rant/Announcement
As of today, I am removing the link to A Suitable Wardrobe.

My friends and I would read this blog everyday and become infuriated, because people like to seek out that which infuriates them, I guess. In joking, my friend Dave once said "You should write a blog called 'An Affordable Wardrobe' just to show people how it really is." And so here we are.

I never wanted this blog to become a b*tch fest, so after this we'll here no more about it. I think it's childish to post complaints abut other people online all day long. However, this drove me off a cliff. With the country in the state it's in right now, it is downright disgusting to be talking about a useless set of cuff links for $5200. To me and my family that nearly a year's (!!!) worth of food. For others, that 1/4 of a years pay. I don't want to sound like a socialist or anything, but I think its about time that the more fortunate start doing their part to fix this mess we're in. Many of us have lost our jobs. You can do without that tacky 'dress set'. I'm sure it will look great at a dinner party at the 'club', as you sip a $50 ounce of booze and smoke a $30 cigar and laugh with the captains of industry about the plight of the unwashed savages.

Calling that blog a "suitable" wardrobe also implies that anything less would be unsuitable, which is also disgusting. Shame on you. I won't support you anymore.

Enough said. Let us never speak of it again.

Fluffy White Stuff
There's a ton of snow on the ground outside. I'm going to go get a new memory card so I can take some pictures.

Hopefully I'll be back to bragging about my thrift store finds tomorrow. In the meantime, I think I'll cook a batch of baked beans in the crock pot and build a snow man with the boy.

16 December 2008

Save The Environment

We can all do our part. It is, after all, the littlest things that can make the biggest difference. But it's not just the physical environment that needs our swift and immediate attention, folks. The current state of the social environment in America ( and the world at large) is also in great peril.

"I'm only one person. What can I do to help."

Here's a short list:

1) Practice the "Thank You Wave"
If you're driving, or waiting to cross the street, and another driver politely stops to let you pass, give a little 'Thank You" wave as you pass. Or at least acknowledge this small kindness on the part of a stranger in some way.

2) Let Others Go First
When boarding the subway or bus, let others go first, particularly the elderly and those with small children. Also, do not engage in actively stealing seats from these people.

3) Don't Smoke Around Children
If you can't find the will power to quit altogether, at least have the decency to refrain from smoking in the presence of children.

4) Don't Wear Bedclothes in Public
Pajamas belong in the house, except when putting out the garbage or retrieving the newspaper. Wearing them in public marks you as a person who has reached a disgusting level of laziness.

5) Take Your Hat Off When Eating
In a quick lunch situation, keeping your coat on may be perfectly acceptable, but removal of the hat is a must. As I always tell my son when we go out for lunch 'Nice guys don't wear hats at the table'.

6) Get Your Damn Phone Off of Your Face For One F**kin Minute Already
Stop screaming into your stupid toy phone. Step back and realize that there are living , breathing people all around you. Pay some attention to them, show them some common courtesy, and don't be afraid to be alone with your own thoughts occasionally.

7) Pay Cash For Small Purchases
This is a treat for both the cashier, and the people in line behind you at the local convenience store.

8) Please, Thank You, Excuse Me, and occasionally, I'm Sorry
Magic words. Use them with great frequency.

9) S.O.S. : Save Our Swears
If you use swear words all the time, they stop being swear words. We need these words for extreme situations, when a room-silencing 'F-bomb' is called for. Leave them alone unless the situation really calls for it.

10) Have Fun
Following these simple rules does not make you a stiff. In fact it makes you and everyone near you feel and act better. Find enjoyment in not conducting yourself like a t.v. savage.

While you're at it, ride a bike, recycle, mend things, prepare food from scratch, tuck your shirt in and call your mother. You'll be glad you did. I promise.

15 December 2008

Your Fathers Architecture

It does still exist. Kind of. In design school anyway. I don't mean in a stylistic sense, I mean in the sense of spending countless hours on hand rendered drawings, driving your self mad with calculations, and having all of your right shirt sleeves black with lead and stained with permanent ink. Here is what twenty hours and three nights of putting pen to paper will get you:

and it's accompanying mess:

My apologies to those of you who look here for pictures and anecdotes involving my cheap clothes, but the markers in the photo contain xylene based ink, which is now illegal. Staying up too late and playing with those things can make a man lose interest in bow ties and flannels, at least temporarily. Tune in at the end of the week for more sartorial trivialities.

p.s. we all think of architecture today as a computers game, which of course it is. But a great teacher I had last semester once said "If you ask a designer for a pen and he doesn't pull a dozen different kinds out of his pockets, he's not a designer. Don't trust him."

13 December 2008


Apparently it still exists. Who knew?

Recently I asked if any of you knew where a fellow could acquire tan and brown saddle shoes with red rubber soles. I had been having a hard time locating a pair. That is until yesterday, when these beauties showed up at my door:

Dark green and tan Cole Haan saddles, with an unusual third color in the back piece. Slightly banged up( as they should be), a pefect fit, comfortable as anything, and bearing the magic words: made in U.S.A.

Sent to me free of charge, by our man in Missouri, Toad, whose foot is bigger than mine. What a guy!

Thanks, Toad. I really owe you one.

12 December 2008

Thrifty, Cheap, or Just Plain Sensible?

You tell me.

No doubt about it, times are tough, and conceivably getting tougher. So I ask you, as the cheapskate I admittedly am:

Three weeks worth of food for myself, my wife and the boy, or a couple of these and a pair of these.

Which is the better use of $300?

(if these are just the stocking stuffers, whats in the big boxes under the tree? yikes!)

11 December 2008


Once upon a time, when people were generally dressed in a respectable manner, high school athletes and cheerleaders earned a sturdy, heavyweight wool sweater, often a cardigan, for their efforts, such as these:
The Lanza 'N' by Roper and Lanza knitting mills of Boston, Mass.

'71' by Parrish of Park Ridge, Illinois, an official 'Sand Knit'

Not one wear another man's school colors, I immediately removed the 'N' from the cardigan, and found a pocket underneath.This thing weighs a ton. After it gets a fresh dry cleaning, I think I'll change the buttons for some brown leather ones, and use it like a sports jacket. '71' is too cool to mess with and will remain as is. In your face, Rugby Ralph Lauren! $150 my foot!

And what to wear to the spring semi-formal? We all know nothing impresses the young ladies quite like cotton madras:

What's that? Spilled your drink? No need to worry, the Palm Beach 'Zephyr Weight' is machine washable:
Fast forward to July: this jacket with khakis, a navy blue tennis shirt, no socks and top-siders. Superb! (add a captains hat and I'll have the Thurston Howell vibe nailed). Alas, this one will also require a new set of buttons, maybe brown horn. Anything but these monstrosities:

All this, plus a sweater and a fleece blanket for the boy, a 1960's vintage glass and gilt serving dish for the wife, and an unworn Brooks Brothers U.S.A. made white oxford button down for just shy of 30 clams. Not a bad haul.

p.s. Who can even imagine a teenager dressed like this? How far we've fallen (world's smallest violin)

The Jams

If you haven't heard "Let's Spend the Night Together" by way of black vinyl, sharp needle and wooden speaker lately, I feel sorry for you.

And talk about great graphic design! This album cover manages to be sophisticated and hippie at the same time.
And for all you preppy, button down and striped tie types out there who think that a devoted fanship of the Stones is the province of hippies, burnouts and meatheads, please let me remind that these guys used to be the most bad ass button down collar kids in town:

This picture should be titled "Sack Suits and Switchblades", or something like that.

10 December 2008

No Starch, on Hangers

There's been a bit of talk of late about the proper manner in which to wear an Oxford Cloth Button Down Collared Shirt. ( I am not a fan of the text-message driven fad of excessive abbreviation, so I refuse to use the term OCBD. Yes, I am a fuddy-duddy.)It seems many of you feel they should be professionally laundered, starched and pressed, then allowed to wrinkle. If you wear them regularly in a business setting I'll grant you that. But what makes Oxford Cloth so wonderful is its hard wearing versatility. Get an old fashioned, nice thick one and you can on occasion get away with no ironing at all, for the perfectly natural, oh-so-comfortable, soft rumpled look:

This is an old J.Press (I know, you all knew it by the flapped pocket) pink Oxford. The older this shirt gets, the better it looks and the less I iron it.

As for professional laundering and starching, I personally find it a pinch antithetical to the Oxford Cloth Button Down's inherent relaxed and casual appeal. I wash them and iron them myself, and they remain soft as a baby's a**. Save the heavy starch for spread collars and French cuffs.

p.s. this one has a third button at the back of the collar. Anyone know the origin or point of this superfluous third button?

09 December 2008

Massachusetts in the Early Winter

Menotomy Rocks Park in Arlington, Massachusetts.
Clean, crisp air. Temperatures in the mid 30's.
The Frozen Pond

The mixture of bare trees and evergreens

Bean Boots in "the wild"

The boy in a red toggle coat with a plaid lining. I'm jealous of that coat.

1 Million Daddy points for me.

Since this blog was intended to be about my cheap clothes, let me mention the $29.50 down vest from Lands End, the perfect under layer to the trusty Barbour jacket.

I wear my Barbour jacket pretty much everyday this time of year. Inside it has a row of snaps that accept a winter lining. When I went to purchase the lining to go with this coat, I discovered that Barbour had switched to a zip out lining years ago, and that the snap version was no longer available. This cheap down vest is light weight and comfortable. It fits well beneath the coat and keeps me warm, besides providing me with a pair of extra deep pockets, big enough to hold a pair of gloves or a digital camera. It gets the "Affordable Wardrobe New Clothes Seal of Approval".

But I digress. The weather, the trees and my boy were a perfectly wonderful combination today. Unemployment definitely has its moments.