31 December 2009

Happy New Year!

We've all got our traditions...
A few years ago, I established a big plate of sushi, a bottle of proper small label, grower produced Champagne, and a quiet evening at home involving heavy use of the sofa and television as my New Year's tradition...ah, the simple pleasures.

To all my readers, many thanks for your support and comments. Here's wishing each of you the best in 2010.

30 December 2009

Sale Alert!

Building the affordable wardrobe isn't, and shouldn't be, entirely about scouring thrift stores for fantastic treasures at unheard-of prices. An eye for a good sale is just as useful a skill to cultivate. Right now, Lands End has some cracking good deals, especially in men's shirts. Today, I nabbed a pair:

this cotton broadcloth point collar shirt is on sale for $9.99, down from its usual $34.50. Also available in some other pretty good patterns. Who can't use another hard-wearing blue oxford? This number, in non-non-iron, heavy weight broadcloth, is only $19.50, down from $29.50.

Plus, you can get free shipping by using the promo code 'value' and the pin # 3234 if you order by 31 December. I know it's short notice, but I only just found the catalog in the mail today...and no, I'm not a paid shill for Lands End. I just think they've got some bargains going right now that you, dear readers, ought to be aware of.

L.L.Bean has a navy blue wax cotton down jacket on sale for $34.95 in their print catalog, but I'll be damned if I can find it on the website. Much as I dig it, I'm going to pass, being currently in no real need of more down or waxed cotton, but some of you might be interested, so here's a scan of the print catalog page:

there...in the middle of the bottom row...see it?...$34.95 marked down from $119...oh, cripes, I may just buy it yet....

28 December 2009

La Colazione

My Dad is as much of a food junkie as I am. For Christmas, he gave a package of goodies from our local Italian grocer. Included was a jar of Sicilian anchovies, in olive oil, with hot red pepper:
Damn, were these things spicy! But awfully delicious, to. I ate them in a simple manner, atop a bed of baby spinach, dressed only in some of the oil from the jar, alongside a piece of leftover lasagne and a tall glass of old lady soda.
Consumed mid-day, wearing the Kiton brown moleskin pants from yesterdays post.

What more could a third-hand Italian kid want?

27 December 2009

Treasure Trove

Every now and again, the fates reward the persistence of the unstoppable thirft shopper with a full blown treasure trove. The following is practically a photographic essay of the truffles to be sniffed out in these so-called "junk shops".

Remain seated, stay calm, and prepare to witness the work of a master (you know, not to blow my own horn or anything):

Pink and white check button down shirt by Ben Silver,
Navy and wite gingham shirt, vintage 1960's,
rendered in real Viyella,
soft-as-anything grey plain front grey flannel trousers (note the brown horn buttons...a nice touch)
by Paul Stuart,
heavy weight velvety moleskin trousers in a shade of chocolate brown that my camera will not do justice,
by Kiton for Barneys New York,

some kind of no-name cotton blend twill trousers in a pale blue. The color may perhaps be a bit dated, but I think these will look swell with pennies and no socks, a white tennis shirt and navy blazer,
besides, they came with this zesty little belt. Note the faint hint of matching pastel blue in the weave...and real tan leather, too. Remember when casual slacks always came with a matching cloth belt?
Let's take a breather. There, feel better? Good, because I ain't finished yet.

1980s vintage two button tweed sack jacket with patch pockets,
cut from one hell of a piece of hard wearing wool,

from some brothers I heard of once or twice,

Navy wool suit with white stripes, 3/2 sack (in need of pressing) with three button cuffs,
1970s vintage, judging by the top pockets on the trousers, Cricketeer, an old line produced by Joseph and Feiss, for Kennedy's, and old Boston men's shop my grandfather frequented.
a genuine "Raeford Luxury Worsted". What's not to love?

Lastly, a British influenced grey flannel suit with faint windowpane plaid,

complete with ticket pocket, side tab trousers, no belt loops (only brace buttons), and forward pleats,

and even side vents. A bit out of character for me, perhaps, but much to nice to pass on.
by Country Britches for G. Fox & Co. of Connecticut. That purple lining ain't half bad neither.

Total cost of the entire haul: $30.

Yeah, you heard me. ..told you I was the master.

25 December 2009

Merry Christmas

One last time with the funny pants and the red socks. Here's hoping yours was as good as mine.


24 December 2009

Gay Apparel...

...perfect for an evenings work at the loacl wine shop.
The jacket from my Black Watch suit makes a hell of a sports jacket. Combined with a bright red v-neck, white oxford, and a Viyella tie in (gasp!) another tartan, finished with (gasp!) a patterned pocket square. Too much you say? Pushing it, you say? Of course...that's what I do sometimes. But forgive me if this outfit isn't the most Christmas-tastic rig since the red and white Santa suit.
I nailed the whole thing down with a thick pair of flannels by Polo, grey socks and Florsheim logwings.
Happy Christmas Eve!

23 December 2009

My Tailor

I went to the tailor today, to pick up some dry cleaning. They were kind enough to allow me to ask a few questions and snap a few shots shots of the shop (Mr. Lee was a bit leery of having his photo on the Internet...understandable). So, without further ado, a quick profile of the tailor I am lucky to have as mine:
The shop is called "Chris Fine Tailoring", but for the past 15 years it has been owned and operated by the kindly Mr. and Mrs. Lee. Originally from South Korea, the Lee's purchased this shop shortly after arriving in America. Prior to that, Mr. Lee had more than 40 years experience making custom suits and menswear in Korea. You've all seen his work here on the blog...I always knew he was good. Quick, reasonably priced, and perfectly finished, the work done here is the real thing.
The shop is tiny, and always hot from the steam of the pressing machines. Both walls of this narrow space are lined with clothes...the left in progress and the right finished goods. Note the Styrofoam drop ceiling, old tile floor, and old steam pressing machinery. Now that's what a tailor shop ought to look like, if you ask me.

The counter top is strewn with the detritus of the trade...chalk, safety pins, curved rulers, an iron, scissors...you name it. Perfect!

The dressing room is a little wood panelled booth with a curtain across the front, right in the middle of the shop. Again, perfect!
The window is adorned charmingly with a a pair of dusty mannequins in out-moded dress.
If you live in the general area of Boston, this is where you need to bring your alterations. The work done here has been perfect every time. I have never once had to ask for something to be re-done. And this guy has shortened jackets, tapered pants, and repaired metal zippers for me. He's an old master, the practitioner of a dying art.

Mrs. Lee does most of the talking. She writes your slip on a carbon copy pad, you take the pink copy. But you don't need to keep it, because she remembers you and what you came to pick up every time. That kind of customer service is also a dying art.

So, in a few days when Christmas is in the rear view mirror, take that item of clothing that fits wrong to the Lee's. If you find a suit made of beautiful wool at the thrift, but it needs some work, take it to the Lee's. Hell, if you just need a sweater dry-cleaned, take it to the Lee's. They really know their trade.

Chris Fine Tailoring
1169 Broadway
Somerville, MA, 02144

22 December 2009

Festive Neckwear

To start, a little background:

I used to profess a disdain for the holiday season. This was, I think, the result of a combination of relative poverty and a lifetime of retail work...then I had children, and I began to see the fun in Christmas again. Sure, it's still an extravaganza of consumerism and capitalism, and sure, the religion of it has been lost a long time ago. But, it is fun to make your loved ones happy with special gifts, especially if some of your loved ones happen to be small children.

Then last year, I bought the infamous red cords, in the end of season sale from Lands End...and so began my love affair with festive attire (or 'gay apparel', as the song says). Now, I realize that excessive plaid and bright red sweaters may not be for everyone (or possibly even for me), but there are ways to be subtle(ish) in your display of holiday cheer. Enter the tasteful festive necktie:

Maybe you work in an office, or a bank, or some such place. A navy tie with green, red, and white repp stripes is a good way to add a dash of the season to a grey suit in a conservative way. If you're feeling especially bold, try a navy square with red pin dots, or a white one in silk with green at the edges.
Or maybe your workplace is more laid back, or even downright casual. A tartan necktie, with a hefty dose of red in the plaid, works well with tweed jackets, navy blazers, or even jeans.

Stick to rougher fabrics, such as wool or viyella for these.

Or maybe, like me, your job requires no dress code, and you stopped caring long ago what others might say about you, sure in your own bad-ass-ery. In which case you could try an irreverent dark green silk tie, embroidered with lobsters in bright red,
from some long gone place like "The Country Store of Concord".

Whatever you do, avoid candy canes, reindeer, Christmas tree or Santa motifs, as if they were the plague...

...and if you even own a musical necktie, don't talk to me.

19 December 2009

Holiday Entertaining at Home

Last night, Mrs. G. and I hosted a few friends for a small Christmas get-together. As we were eating, it occurred to me that this was the first gathering we've hosted for people other than family since the arrival of the children. It helps that we now have friends who also have rambunctious three year old boys.I tell you, I spent two days cleaning the house in anticipation: polishing floors, vacuuming furniture and so forth. It took those three little punks about thirty seconds to undo all my work...which is exactly as it should be.

Anyway, on to the superficial trivialities upon which this blog is based.

The Togs:
A festive pair of trousers and a Brooks Brothers navy blue merino wool cardigan, worn with a white oxford, black tassel loafers and bright yellow socks. My apologies for not having my usual "action shot" of the clothes, but it was a long night.

The Spread:

Mixed Greek olives and roasted salted almonds,

Roncal, an aged sheep's milk cheese from Basque country. Fromager d'Affinois Brebis, a French soft ripened cheese, like Brie, but made from sheep's milk, sweet as butter. Fig paste from New Zealand. Chicken liver pate with black truffles and white wine. French petite toasts.

Baby spinach salad, in a homemade dressing of Dijon mustard, olive oil and red wine vinegar, with Bosc pear, dried cranberries, red onion and slivered blanched almonds.
Mini London broil sandwiches, with Gorgonzola and homemade parsley and onion relish, on fresh baguette.

Not pictured: Roasted chicken legs with Herbes de Provence. Potatoes and carrots, roasted, plain and simple, with olive oil, kosher salt and black pepper.

Washed down with plenty, and I do mean plenty, of wine. We had plenty of Chateau Coupe Roses Minervois, a medium bodied and slightly floral red blend from the south of France. An extremely approachable and versatile wine, not too dear at $12.99 a bottle. Also on the board were a racy little baby Tuscan, and a bottle of Chinon that didn't get opened...I'm saving that one for tomorrow. Word on the street is we're getting snowed in tonight.

Finished off with spiced hot cider and rum.

Damn, we should do this more often.

16 December 2009

The Perfect Suit?

Recently our man Enzo, writer of the blog "13th & Wolf" wrote of "finding your style sweet spot". Yesterday, at a nearby thrift shop, I may have found mine, for all of $14.99:

3 season wool 2 button sack suit, with 2 button cuffs, in charcoal with a soft chalk stripe.

3/4 lined jacket, plain front pants with a 1 3/4 inch cuff.

Best of all, it's an old store brand number. I'm all about the Brooks Brothers and J. Press, but I really love to find something from one of the innumerable old small-time men's shops that used to dot this country of ours. Anybody know anything about the Limited Edition line from a place called Learbury?

That Learbury label has a decidedly 1960's look to it, but the label from the Amalgamated Clothing Textile Workers Union (ACTWU) puts this one likely in the late 80's/ early 90's. Is it really true that as recently as twenty years ago we were producing high quality domestically produced tailored clothing for independent shops geared toward the everyday, non-millionaire office worker? Cripes, what happened?

This suit is great. It's got all the elements of an East coast "Trad" fit that I love (undarted front, flat front pants and 2 button cuffs), without looking like a 1962 costume (2 button front, not 3/2, no hooked vent, no lapped seams). The best of both worlds. I can wear this, confident in my own sense of style, without looking like an anachronistic fop. This suit is really gonna be something with a white Brooks Brothers button down oxford, a simple burgundy tie with white pin-dots, black tassel loafers, and a tan cashmere overcoat.

If only I had a corner office on the 50th floor, a bottle of good Scotch in the bottom drawer of my desk, a sexy but demure secretary, a box of illicit Cuban cigars hidden in the garage, and some wealthy international clients that wanted me to "show 'em a good time while we're in town", I'd be all set.