31 May 2009

Mad For Plaid

So why not wear eight kinds at once? Sun blazing, 80 degrees and humid, Memorial Day safely in the rear view mirror, and out come the "crazy pants": patch madras, in a bold, primary color palette, the ultimate in "go to hell" style.

Paired with one of my recently acquired Land's End tennis shirts, and sockless boat shoes (of course).

I bought these pants a few years ago, and they were quite the splurge. I was desperate to have a a pair, but as you may well imagine, these don't exactly turn up as often as, say, grey slacks at the thrift stores. Mrs. G, tired of hearing me harp on the subject, instructed me to break all my own self imposed rules and buy a pair (gasp!) new. "Spoil yourself," she said, "you never buy anything new."

That was all the permission I needed. I went straight to Brooks Brothers on Berkeley Street, ready to buy, but the ones they had available were a bit frumpy for a dashing young man such as yours truly. Too baggy, too pastel, too old. I found this pair down the street at the Polo store. The cut is significantly trimmer, which I like, and the colors are bright, bold and simple. Green, Red, Navy, Yellow. It was June and they only had one pair left, in my size. $110...shocking! I do find it amusing that on the rare occasion I can be convinced to buy new, I go and buy something silly and completely impractical. But they do make me happy, so who cares.

Upon arriving home, Mrs. G said something like "You paid how much for those silly looking things?"

I wear them a lot, mostly with tennis shirts in navy, white or yellow, though I will occasionally put them with a tie and a blazer. A ribbon belt is de riguer:p.s. this was yesterdays post, but I fell asleep on the couch watching reruns of Law & Order and didn't wake up until nearly 2 a.m. Such is the fast paced lifestyle of a stay at home dad on a Saturday night.

29 May 2009

New Old Stuff

As much as I love good old Brooks Brothers, at heart I'm more of a J.Press man. If I had money and actually bought clothes new, I'd likely shop there. For one thing, they still look like what they are and always have been, a standard bearer of American menswear, unlike Brooks Brothers, who now seem to be merely a label with little connection to its history, other than from a marketing point of view. Or maybe it's because Press is a New England thing and Brooks is a New York thing, so it's a bit like the difference between the Red Sox and the Yankees...who knows?
I'm thinking of this because two real scores, J.Press by way of the thrift, joined the Affordable Wardrobe today:First, this pair of khaki wool pants, sturdy but soft to the touch, with just the slightest red undertone in the fabric, $4.99

My educated guess says 1970's vintage, judging by the fact that the label lists only New York, Cambridge and New Haven, not San Francisco. But what does it matter? They could be brand new or 50 years old. With J. Press, consistency is the name of the game.

As evidenced also in this lovely necktie:Paisley print on ancient madder, $2.99I'm guessing this is even older, possibly 1960's. It's cut rather narrow, and note again the three city label.

I find a real satisfaction in acquiring clothes that are older than I am and owning them for many years...especially at a savings of 99.6% (that's right, do the math, $7.98 vs. 187.50). Builds character, or something. Plus, every time those hippie college kids on the sidewalk with the clipboards campaigning for the environment look me over as a stuffed shirt, I get to be all smug to myself and think "Green? Recycling? You think you invented it?"

It is however, a little weird to occupy a social position smack between those kids and the old money who discarded this stuff in the first place.

28 May 2009

Keep It Simple (reprise)

Recently I extolled the virtues of the perfect simplicity of a white oxford and blue jeans, one of the most classic and inherently American combinations in existence. Our boy Conor even picked up the thread. Here's another variation, built mostly around my recently acquired (fake Baracuta) Harrington jacket:

I know it may be a little silly, but I really dig the striping on the collar of this jacket. It may not be totally classic, but it does add a bit of flair that sets it apart, without being over the top. While I'm not usually a fan of the popped collar, I feel that this jacket practically requires it. Little things like that work best when used sparingly.As is usually the case in menswear, the smallest details can play a crucial role. This outfit is all casual, no doubt about it, but adding a narrow, dressy Coach belt can be a nice touch that elevates and polishes things just enough, and because it as dreary and drizzly and even a little chilly, Sebago camp mocs are the perfect shoe. Boat shoes would work on a sunny day, or even penny loafers and light socks, with a rolled cuff on the jeans.
I'll say it again: when in doubt keep it simple.

p.s. I'm a bit at a loss as to what other pants to wear with this jacket. It seems so made for jeans, that anything else is weak in comparison. Suggestions?

25 May 2009

Pink, part 2

Not only it is Memorial Day weekend, but I also had the pleasure of attending a friends wedding yesterday afternoon, by the seaside. All the right ingredients for this years debut of the pink pants:

I picked these up the Polo outlet for about $15 the same day I found the green pants. I guess the ghost of Lily Pulitzer was on my side that day, or something.

All morning long, I went back and forth in my mind about what to wear with them; a bow tie?, a striped shirt? Then I realized that when a man wears pink pants, his best bet is to keep the rest of the items really simple. Otherwise, it's too easy to fall into "preppy costume" territory.

So I stuck with a white shirt and navy blazer, and a summery navy and white tie in mini gingham check. For a bit of extra dash, a white square with pink and navy flowers.My favorite thing about these pants is that they're made of oxford broadcloth, almost like a shirt. Very comfortable, and a bit unusual.

The whole thing was finished off sockless, with penny loafers (of course).The tie has some interesting bits about it too. As usual, I found it for a dollar or two at a thrift store somewhere. The brand name is "Paddle" (which is funny, because it's not a rowing paddle so much as a frat house hazing paddle), and it hails from some long gone local Massachusetts store called the Country Store of Concord.The dirty little secret is: it's not silk (gasp!). That's often a deal breaker for me, but this tie is just too sharp too let such a small detail deter me from wearing it. Besides, when I dribbled a little bit of beer on it, it wiped right off with only a paper napkin.The wedding was a lot of fun. A beautiful ceremony outside in a beautiful place, followed by barbecue, beer, and live music provided by a group of my good friends. Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. H, we wish you all the best.

23 May 2009

Spring (jacket) Fever

Recently, I found myself in need of a good lightweight jacket for Spring. Something workable and smart, but comfortable and easy to deal with...in other words, not a sports coat. Though I may be a staunch devotee of the old second-hand store, I'm not above the occasional new purchase, provided it's on sale of course. Recently, I turned this up on the L.L.Bean website:

Pull over windbreaker, light weight, folds into it's own pocket, a nice handy thing to keep in the car, $19.99. Not bad, but when worn with a baseball cap it does tend to send a rather "third base coach" vibe.

Then a few days later this:Pullover windbreaker, a bit heavier, in the sort of yellow that only exists on the New England coast, $7 at the thrift,
possibly 1990's L.L. Bean. I seem to remember that label with the mountain scene on all those monogrammed backpacks everybody had back when I was in high school. I wore it today with khakis and navy blue sneakers...if only I had the damn sailboat to go with it.

Then today, this:I'd recently been wanting a jacket like this. I was lusting after a proper Baracuta G9 'Harrington', but at $265, that's a bit far out of reach, and more than a pinch unreasonable even if I had that kind of scratch. This one, for $5.99, will more than suffice as a substitute.From Gant, back when they were cool the first time around. True, it doesn't have the cool plaid lining of a proper Barcuta, but I do think that stripe around the collar is rather sharp. This one needs some Levi's 501's, tan dessert boots, a convertible and one of those weird skinny cigars that were so popular in the 1970's.

With my part time job at an end, and my full time status at home with the kids back in effect, I look to be spending a lot of time at playgrounds and parks, not the dressiest places in the world. These ought to help me stay casual and comfortable without resorting to the "what do you want, I'm watching the kids" style of sweatpants and baseball jerseys seen on too many dads today. (snark, snark, snark...)

20 May 2009

78 Degrees and Rising

And out come the kelly green "go to hell" pants:

$14 at the Polo outlet in Maine a couple of years ago. Paired with their natural counterparts, navy blue and white, canvas of course.The cut of these pants is basically that of a nice, fairly trim pair if plain front cotton chinos. It just goes to show the power of color. Throw on a slouchy casual outfit (chinos, un-ironed oxford, sneakers), but use color to elevate it to something a little more dressy, without sacrificing any comfort. Got to love them warm sunny days.

We're looking at 94 degrees tomorrow. I may have to resort to (gasp!) shorts. They'll be perfect for an afternoon of waiting in line at ye olde unemployment office.

19 May 2009

Be Back Soon....

....I promise.

Two small kids and finals will keep a fellow real busy. Time for some much neede rest. As such, I must limit my internet activities in the wee hours for a while. Don't worry, if I turn up any cheap gems you, dear readers, will be the first to know.

14 May 2009

Perils of Thrifting

I know I'm prone to prattle on about the wonders of the charity store, and a wise pauper's ability to drape himself in the clothing of a prince. But second hand shopping is not all peaches and cream. It has it's downfalls.

Just the other day, I discovered this fun Brooks Brothers sport shirt. A real old one, with the six button front and the long tails, like our man Heavy Tweed Jacket has been known to yearn for, all mine for a mere $1.99:
"Won't this look great with khakis, a blazer, no socks and topsiders?" I think to myself, and into the wash it goes. But upon ironing it the next day I discover this unsightly gash:
The poor old thing just couldn't take any more washing. The cotton is too tired to withstand warm water and detergent.

Oh well, at least it'll look sharp as hell for garden work.

in other news: today on the Harvard campus, I saw a kid wearing a t-shirt in crimson and white, with George W. Bush's picture on it, that read simply "Blame Yale". Awesome.

12 May 2009

An Unlikely Pair

Showers threatened this morning. Not wanting to carry an umbrella, the Barbour found it's way out of the closet. However, not wanting to give up on Springtime, it met with rolled khakis...truly an unlikely pair:

I generally tend to think of my Barbour as a cold weather item, even though it's really not that heavy. Maybe it's because, in the absence of a hunting parka, I tend to wear it all winter paired with a down vest and sweater. The rolled chinos, especially in the pale color known as 'stone', and the sockless feet in loafers are pure Spring/Summer. But still...matched up with a repp tie, university striped oxford and surcingle belt with ducks on it, I'm pretty sure it worked.I guess this all brings up a good point about instinct.

Sartorial instinct is tough for men. Whether it's suits or shorts and t-shirts, men are generally coaxed into one uniform or another. There are rules, this goes with that, it's easy. But not much fun. Developing an instinct and learning to trust it is far more enjoyable.

This morning as I pondered what to wear, I immediately thought of the Barbour jacket, but having 'retired' it for the season, I tried repeatedly to talk myself out of it. When it came time to finally leave the house, of course I reached right for it, because I knew the moment I thought of it I would. I'd sooner have changed the rest of my clothes in favor of the jacket than vice versa.

Turns out it never did rain. We had a bright sunny day, 65 degrees. Fortunately, Barbour jackets also form a good unlikely pair with Ray-Ban Wayfarers.

p.s. Some of you have mentioned that you find a few of my recent posts to be a pinch self-indulgent, that I've veered of course down the slippery slope of vanity. True, this blog is supposed to be about cheap thrifty clothes. But I can't go out and accumulate 2 dollar shirts and 10 dollar suits every day. Sometimes, I have to just wear the stuff.

Besides, what's a blog anyway if not at least a little bit vain? I'm sure Jesus will grant me a pass on this one.

08 May 2009

The Switch

Into storage goes the tweed and flannel...out of the basement come the "go-to-hell" pants, (and shorts). It's possible, considering my status as an unemployed non-member of the blue blooded establishment, that I own altogether too many pair:
but, "go-to-hell"...isn't that the point.

07 May 2009


Big muscles, tattoos, time spent in prison, or the military, or both, athletic prowess, skill with firearms, the ability to fight another man, drinking large quantities of whiskey in a competitive manner and bravery in the face of death...all qualities that our society views as "tough" in a man...
but walking around in a pink hat all day? Now that takes some real stones (pardon the French).

06 May 2009

The Fashion Consultant

I read somehwere once that it's good to let kids choose things. It gives them a sense of independence. Sounds good to me. So in the morning when I get dressed, I like to get my son involved in picking out my clothes sometimes.

I'll put together an outfit and find two ties that match, then let him choose one for me. He gets so excited. It's a fun little thing to do before rushing out of the house for work. Plus, it gets my son used to the idea that grown men dress differently than toddlers, and that it can be fun to pick out nice looking clothes.

In all these menswear blogs I read, people bemoan the fact that a whole generation of men is running around with no idea how to dress like grown-ups. Maybe by doing things like this, we can help a new generation of men to outgrow the "eternal teenager syndrome".

p.s. he chose the new red tie with whale weathervanes on it, by Brooks Brothers. He has a knack for knowing which one I really want to wear on a given day.

05 May 2009

Flannel for May

They say be careful what you wish for. It's true. Today I had the opportunity to wear my newly acquired tartan jacket, which is good. This came at the cost of a raw, wet, windy and cold day, which is somewhat less than good this time of year.

On the bright side, plaid jackets are cool. If you're ever in the mood to go out fishing for compliments, try a nicely cut tartan sports coat. All day long, strangers on the street felt compelled to tell me how dapper I looked. An older lady in an elevator even went into a mild rapture over how nice it was to see a well dressed man for once. Even the hippies shilling for Greenpeace out on the sidewalk complimented me on it's green color.

Cripes, I blushed all day.

04 May 2009

The Non-Compulsory Suit

I like to wear suits, but I rarely ever have to. Still, I wear them from time to time anyway. There was a time when I would save them only for special occasions, but I figure if I'm going to load the closets with them then I might as well use them. The good thing is, because they're non-compulsory for me I have total freedom to wear them with "incorrect" accoutrement.

Take for example this navy pinstripe Brooks Brothers sack paired with a knitted tie:
Navy pinstripes= business formal. Knit ties= dress casual. Do I care? Not a bit. As I've said before, a willful disregard for the rules can mean the difference between style and blind conformity.

So too these grey socks and brown shoes with navy pinstripes:So wrong it's right. A man is "supposed" to wear black shoes and navy socks with a navy suit. The hell with that. The grey socks pick up the grey knit tie, further making it "work".

As for the small details, a man's jewelry should be discreet. It certainly shouldn't be a safety pin:Yes, a real safety pin, not a tie tack made to look like one. Straight out of the sewing box, through the tie and into the placket of the shirt. Call it a nod to my youthful escapades in punk rock, call it sprezzatura, call it whatever you want. Why would I do such a thing? Because I can.

Guys are always complaining that suits are restrictive and uncomfortable, and many people believe the suit to be the ultimate symbol of an oppressive establishment. That's only true if you believe it. Wearing a suit, especially if you don't have to, can allow a man to set his personality free. Sure, you can set yourself apart from the crowd with funny haircuts and tattoos...I've done that before. But in a world full of grown-ups walking the streets in children's clothes and pyjamas, out-dressing every guy in the room gets 'em every time.

Some of us guys in suits still listen to X and Bad Brains ...on vinyl.

p.s. I stole the safety pin idea from an Italian guy named Beppe. The man's a real bad- a*s.

01 May 2009

Off Season

The bespoke clothing set have often been heard to bemoan the fact that must often buy their clothing off season. One such fellow called this phenomenon "Planning Until It Hurts". We thrifty types sometimes face the same problem.

When you shop second hand, you are at the mercy of whatever people have recently chosen to part with. There's no seasonality to what might be in a store on a given day. It's important to keep an open mind. Be willing to buy summer clothes in December, or a winter sports coat in April:
Today's find: a heavy flannel jacket in Black Watch tartan, 3/2, un-darted with brass buttons,from "Johnny Appleseed's" of Massachusetts: $4.99. Appleseed's is now a women's clothing retailer catering to the 55 plus crowd, mostly online. By the look of this jacket, they not only sold menswear about 40 years ago, but they were some secret local haven of full bore, high quality American traditional. This jacket would give Brooks or Press a run for their money.

Mrs. G. thought this jacket was a bit much. I told her to watch out I don't wear it together with the matching slacks or boiled wool vest, purchased on separate occasions...to which she replied that she was above embarrassment...to which I replied that this was obvious, since she's been with me so long.

Maybe if we get a chilly day soon I can pull this off once before it goes into storage with the winter stuff until the end of the year. Probably not.I'm a sucker for the Black Watch plaid.

Patience is a virtue.