30 October 2008

A Nod to the Past

Today it was cold enough for heavy flannel slacks. Recently, I bought a nice pair with inverted pleats, which I worried about because of the pleats. Generally speaking, I'm a plain front pants kind of guy. But these pants called to me. I realized that if you want to pull off pleats stylishly, one way is to channel the old days. Think 1930's. As with everything in men's clothing, it's all in the details. Here is my attempt:

For one thing, I wore a slightly wider tie with a woven pattern. I was really digging the whole navy/green/blue/pink combo.

And for shoes and belt, I stuck with a buttery orange shade of brown, and split toes instead of wingtips, with light colored socks. Something about grey flannel and orange leather is very British to me.

Chesterfield topcaot from Andover Shop, $9.99 (swear to God)

Top it all off with a Chesterfield topcoat and a floppy cap in Black Watch Tartan.

Voila! The Ivy League style from before the 3/2, button down collar days. I apologize for the gratuitous amount of photos this post, which include my ugly mug, but I was pretty proud of this outfit, and it kept me warm to boot. If only I had attended Yale in 1928, I might not have had to think so hard about this one as I was getting dressed.

Your feedback on what other contexts I might be able to mask those pleats in would be greatly appreciated, dear readers.

29 October 2008

Another Great Find

Turned up yesterday at an undisclosed thrift, $7.99:

(my apologies for the poor quality of the last photo. The label reads: Hardwick Clothes for Ben's, Amesbury, Mass.)

This jacket has it all: the perfect all-purpose black and grey herringbone, in the perfect super thick Harris tweed,(with the perfect amount of old wear and tear), from a perfectly unheard-of little store in a perfectly obscure town in Massachusetts. And cheap to boot. What's not to love?

28 October 2008

Down to Business

No outfit in the American men's clothing tradition says 'I mean business' better than a navy suit, blue button down and tie with a red ground:

and a tan raincoat for good measure:

Burberry raincoat with zip-out liner, new-with-tags: $9.99

In today's case, 'business' meant attending a job fair in a hotel in the city...and 'job fair' meant a bunch of folding tables in a crappy conference room, which would have been great if I were planning to be a security guard or parking valet, or join the army ( the army is everywhere at these things). The whole endeavour was rather depressing.

I might have known, given that it was hosted by the Boston Herald, the more disreputable of our fine cities two major newspapers. Live and learn.

At least I had an excuse to wear my navy suit, which I kept on for the rest of the day just for the hell of it.

26 October 2008

Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

Our friend and fellow blogger Thom of San Diego has nailed it right on the head:

It's time--past time, really--to unlearn the "newer is better" mentality so many of us have grown up with. If we're going to learn to do more with less (and we will most certainly have to), we're going to need to turn away from brand-new retail shops and toward our garages, local yard sales, and thrift shops. Just like most of the world already knows, there are a whole bunch of very serviceable old bicycles out there (and everything else) just waiting to be used again.

I agree with everything he says. In fact, if you just swap the word 'bicycles' with 'clothes' you basically have the manifesto for this blog.

Read the whole article here.

24 October 2008

My New Hero

is this guy:

photo by Suzanne Todd

I dare you to dispute the reigning position of the Italians for both coolness and national pride. I know of no other people who flaunt their patriotism in such a non-dorky way. Or who have such an innate ability to age gracefully. Of course, these are my people, so I am a bit biased.

But honestly, there is just no messing with aguy like this.

Black and Brown, Grey and Tan

Neutral tones in men's clothing can be the cornerstone of many classic looks, and are often used to balance out some other more colorful element in the outfit. Think grey slacks with a crimson sport coat, or a white tennis shirt with outrageous madras pants. But don't forget that a whole outfit can be made entirely of various neutrals, without being boring or drab.

The trick is texture and fit. Basically this get-up is pretty plain: Brown shoes, tan pants, white shirt, black tie, grey coat. But each element has a little something to give it interest.The jacket is herringbone, with nubby brown leather buttons. The ties pattern is simple, but both the stripes and the anchors are embroidered rather than printed.The pants have a little bit of wrinkle and fray, the shoes are brogued and the socks are striped. In fact, the white shirt, in this particular context, is the only plain element, fulfilling the 'balance' role mentioned previously. I find this sort of idea works best in the colder months, when tweed comes into play, bringing an extra dose of texture to the coat.

Returning readers will note that the jacket, shoes and chinos in this particular combo have made several appearances here. I have a lot of ties, but not all that much of anything else. Let that be a testament to well selected, versatile, time tested classics.

Quiz: Is this tie American or imported? How can you tell?

23 October 2008

Never Too Young to Start

Today the boy and I visited a very nice playground at the corner of Clarendon Street and Commonwealth Avenue. For those of you not familiar with Boston, this is a pretty posh neighborhood.

Spotted on the bulletin board there:

Not only am I glad to know that someone was dressing their boy in wellington boots and tweed sport coats, but also that all but one of the rip tags was gone. I find it especially amusing that the fliers seems to be addressed to the boys themselves, and not the parents.

22 October 2008

Glory Be to the God of Thirft

and many praise and thanks to him for smiling so heavily on me this week. I scored so much good stuff in the past few days I feel like I've done something wrong. Check it out:

Brooks Brothers (made in U.S.A.) 3/2 sack tweed: $4.99
Wool Black Watch tartan slacks: $2.99

Cotton lined lambswool L.L. Bean sweater: $5.99

New-with-tags navy and kelly green lambswool sweater from Polo: $9.99 (admittedly, the zipper is a little modern for my taste, but it's warm and soft and new, so who cares.)

Plus a couple of neckties, the vest sweater from yesterdays post, a grey and white university stripe button down, and a really killer pair of flannel lined L.L.Bean khakis. The whole lot was barely $50.

And now for a sartorial question. Today I wore the blue and green sweater above, with a pink shirt and khakis. It was raining (sort of) so I wore my duck boots.

My question is: is it alright to wear these boots on a merely rainy day simply because I like them, or do they require snow and/or hunting? Penny for your thoughts, readers.

The Pinch

I guess everyone's feeling it, even in the more exclusive neighborhoods.

Good Heavens, how will these poor, destitute souls ever survive?

21 October 2008


People with kids are always going on about how they need a huge car, now that they have the kids. It's as though no car is huge enough. Frankly, I just don't get it. From April until it gets too cold or too wet (or both) a bike (an old one at that) serves as primary transportation for me and the boy.

1973 Raleigh Sports 3 Speed

with original leather saddle

I purchased this bike and it's companion ladies bike last year for $120. In the same amount of time, three tanks of gas cost as much. But I don't do it to be 'green' or self righteous or anything like that. I do it because it's fun and the boy likes it. I know there are those of you who say "That's great if you don't have anything to carry.", but know that on the way home after this picture was taken I added two full bags of groceries to my load with no trouble at all.

Plus, I, unlike many people, am not one to carry a houseload of junk around just to take a 2 year old kid to the park for a couple of hours (that's another post).

And besides, an outfit like this:

...is not only perfect for the Autumn weather which has finally arrived(read, no more sweating in a long sleeved shirt at the end of October), but it goes much better with a British commuter bike than it does with a 2003 Honda Civic, don't you think?

16 October 2008

Ties With Critters

Boatshoes and argyle socks
Silly preppy bags

I'm tired and its time for class....That's about all I can muster today.
p.s. internet access is pretty spotty of late at the homestead, so posting may become infrequent for a while. Don't worry, I haven't left.(I say this like there are hoards of readers out there...a dubious presumption at best.)
p.p.s. tonight would be a good night for some good old come-from-behind Red Sox victory. Fingers crossed, and please, no comments from Tampa Bay fans.

15 October 2008

Smart Casual Pt.2

As I mentioned in a previous post, I rarely am required to wear a jacket and tie, and am always looking for ways to incorporate them without seeming overly fussy or pushy. Jeans will often do the trick on the bottom. But another useful item is the dress shirt that is not a dress shirt. You know the ones: cut the same as your favorite oxfords but in darker or more prominent patterned cloth. Personally, I like a good heavy plaid, especially in the Fall:

Polo plaid shirt, $3.99

Polo bow tie, $15.99 ( a fairly whopping sum for my own blood, as regular readers will note)

Cashmere and wool tweed jacket from 'Judd' of Lawrence, MA, a vintage friend I've had forever.

I suppose that this is technically a sport shirt, but I like the way the dark small plaid, repp stripes and herringbone work together. As with my previous example of pattern mixing, I find it best to keep it simple on the bottom, so as not to spoil a good thing:

Navy chinos, grey socks and the ubiquitous brown longwing gunboats. Those pants are by the Italian company 'Etro', a real high ticket design outfit, very G.Q. Legitimately they sell for more than class and good taste would bear mentioning, but for $4.99 they're a pretty good pair of chinos. I'll enjoy wearing them to work in the garden when they get old, that is if they even last that long.

13 October 2008

Plaid as Hell

The Late Great Duke of Windsor puts us all to shame, as I'm sure we all know. Even his clown suits are better than anything you or I have ever owned.

photo respectfully culled from Sportinglifemag.com

I invite you to drool over the rest of he dukes finery here. What ever happened to golf?

Imagine those pants with a thick red wool sweater, a glass of good Scotch and a full pipe on Christmas Eve as you sit by the tree and gaze at the snow falling outside, the kids snuggled away for the night. Or the jacket as the top of a tux at a particularly outrageous New Year's party. Unstoppable.

More of my own posts (i.e. less creative stealing from other blogs) coming soon.

12 October 2008


Once I heard architecture school jokingly referred to as 'archi-torture' I just finished drawing the sheet pictured below for the fourth time, by hand, lettering and all in an effort to get it just perfect.

It took me 10 hours over the course of 2 nights, and my right hand is completely numb. Who cares what I wore today?

Pounding the Pavement

Being an unemployed full time student/ stay-at-home dad is all well and good, but a couple of extra bucks would be nice. So I decided to clean up and hit the old men's shops around Cambridge for a weekend job. Andover Shop and J.Press

I figured a nice bow tie, oxford and blazer combo would sit well with those guys. Ivy but not too pushy.I did off course throw in the splashy socks for good measure.

They both led me to believe that an extra guy who knows his stuff wouldn't be a bad idea with the holiday season approaching. And there are worse things the hanging around either of these two places on Saturday. Perhaps I could become the Trad blog circuit's undercover investigator, a man on the inside.

Wish me luck.

10 October 2008

Balmy Fall Weather

Today we had the latest in a string of balmy October days. As much as we've all been looking forward to tweed and such, a day like today begged for a bike ride with the boy. So that's what we did.

Dressing for a day like this can be tricky. While it would be foolish to walk around sweating bullets in something too heavy, it would be equally foolish to dress for summer. One has to find a way of splitting the difference.

personally I like to keep a couple of white t'shirts with ringer necks in various colors. I find when you're dressed for comfort without a tie, they add just the right dash of color at the throat.I don't like to iron my khakis. If the cotton is good and sturdy, like this pair, I find that most of the wrinkles fall out after I've had them on for 10 minutes, leaving behind just the right amount of rumple.Of course, as with so many things in men's clothing, its the little details that matter most. These yellow and blue socks are a little too Summer in this context.These grey and white ones, which I changed into, are a bit more October.And it's never too soon to get the kids started. Olive green chinos, navy and white Polo rugby with a blue oxford collar and a Red Sox cap (final score Boston 2 Tampa Bay 0 in game one of ALCS).

Hell, he looked better than I did today.

09 October 2008


With the economy in the tank and all, my nemesis is out of control.

$600 just for the cloth!!!!! What planet are we on?!?!?

Smart Casual

I rarely find myself in a situation where a necktie is a requirement, but that doesn't mean I don't still like wearing them. This means I have to keep a firm grasp of the concept of 'smart casual' that is, being more dressed-up than casual and more casual than dressed up, all at the same time. For me, I find a tie with jeans , and an outerwear jacket rather than a sport coat works pretty good. Comfortable, but stylish. Our fellow blogger Heavy Tweed Jacket recently featured some old pictures from the 1980's, one of which I pretty much stole my look from today.

We can all get carried away talking about suits and jackets and all that, but I think we tend to forget the more everyday version of this classic look we call Trad. For me, the perfect mix of the formal with the comfortable and somewhat sporty is at the heart of the whole thing.And nothing beats the punch of argyle socks that sort of don't match, but they do.

p.s. a commenter recently inquired as to whether I ever found those blue cords with red lobsters that I yearned for in a recent Haiku. I haven't, but it did remind of my almost silly lobster tie.

08 October 2008


Now I'm looking for
A wool Fair Isle sweater vest
Perfect with knit ties

06 October 2008

RIP Filene's Basment

The time has come for this humble bloggers elegy to an American Original: Filene's Basement, America's 1st off-price clothing store. I'm speaking of course about the one and only real Filene's basement, the one that occupied the basement of Wm. Filene's department store at the corner of Washington and Winter streets in Boston's 'Downtown Crossing", the one that opened in 1908.

For any Boston clotheshorse, discovering Filene's basement was a rite of passage. This was especially true for people like my friends and I, who had aspirations at a well dressed and gentlemanly lifestyle but little to no money.

Every weekend, Id take the train to Downtown Crossing. You didn't even have to see the street, because 'the Basement' had an entrance attached directly to the subway station.

Inside, you were greeted with the most hectic, noisy and chaotic excuse for a store you could ever imagine. The place looked like a real dump. But as you made your way through the women's department, which was closest to the door, and began to notice a lot of Gucci, Dior, Vuitton, etc. (the real stuff, mind you) your spirits would perk up.

So you come to the men's section. This place took as much, if not more, perseverance to shop through than a real second-hand thrift store. Just when you were about to give up, you find a Countess Mara tie for $5, or a cashmere sweater for $20, or a pair of Italian shoes for $8. (this last example is fully true. When I was in high school I found a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo brown leather and white canvas spectators for $8) The best part was that all this stuff was new! It was the best of both worlds: the insanely low prices and luck-of-the-draw adventure of thrifting with the bonus of the merchandise being of outlandish quality and prestige.

The place closed up shop a few years ago when Filene's department store, formerly a Boston mainstay , was bought out. From the outside, on the old corner of Washington and Winter, you'd never know the difference:

the Filene's building today
Take a look around back, however, and you're heart hits the floor:

that big hole in the ground used to be Filene's Automatic Markdown Basement

and what you're greeted with in the subway concourse is this depressing sight:

The company that owns the Filene's basement 'chain'(read; a bunch of crappy off-price stores selling sh*tty factory seconds from Chinese sweatshops) says that the Boston flagship will re-open in Spring 2009. Frankly, I have my doubts. But even if they do, it is sure to be a pale imitation of the original. I'm sorry, but as far as I'm concerned, any place called 'Filene's Basement' should have 10 stories of a place called 'Filene's' above it. This poor old (dare I say) institution died the day they locked the doors and tore the building apart.

R.I.P. Filene's Basement. Here in Boston, I'm going to miss hunting through your heaped and disorganized racks in search of a $600 pair of slacks that have somehow been marked down to $16. You were a part of the fabric of this town, Old Girl, and you will be missed.

p.s. I invite anyone who ever experienced this one-of-a-kind place to share the stories of your greatest finds with us.

05 October 2008

Secrets of Thrifting

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I am a devotee of thrift shopping for quality goods. So far I've featured a lot of my best finds. But hats not to say that thrift shopping is as easy as walking into a place, grabbing a nice suit and walking out the door with a smile on your face. In order to shop this way, you have to be willing to strike out 9 times out of 10. (pardon the baseball metaphor, but we're in the 11th inning of game 3 of the ALDS Red Sox/ Angels series).

Thrift stores are often flooded with suit jackets missing their pants. I attribute this to the fact that most guys take off their jacket the minute they reach the office, then carry it to the car and take it home with them, hence wearing out the pants while the jacket stays fresh. Eventually the pants go in the trash and the jacket gets donated(and purchased by some poor fellow who doesn't realize what an egregious affront to all things holy it is to wear a suit jacket as if it were a sport coat.)

For example, this:

vintage Hart Schaffner & Marx 3/2 Price of Wales plaid

and this:

grey flannel 3/2 from the Harvard Coop

Both jackets fit like a glove, neither had pants with them. Completely infuriating!

Which brings me to an insider menswear thrift secret:

If I find the jacket of a good suit without the pants, I take it to the pants rack and look for the match. I struck out today, but it's a trick that's worked in the past. The moral of the story is: don't give up so easily.