27 July 2009

Old Lady Soda

"What are you drinking, Daddy?"
"Old Lady soda, you wouldn't like it."

Left over red wine from two days ago, over ice, with seltzer and lime. A habit I picked up from my Nonna (read:grandmother) Elvira. Particularly refreshing on a humid night while watering the tomato garden.

25 July 2009

In Season

Subtitle this post "Perils of Thrifting 2" (see "Perils of Thrifting")

One day it's tweed, the next it's cotton madras, the bleeding kind, from India:

I picked this one up a few days ago. It was a good fit, but the white was looking a little bit yellow and dingy. But's it's cotton and not too structured, so I had a good feeling that a run through the machine with a bit of Oxy-Clean might brighten it up. I was right, but getting it wet brought out the stench of 10,000 cheap cigars smoked over 40 summers on Cape Cod. Now I like a good stogie on an occasional basis as much as any guy but damn, did this thing stink!


So I washed it again, but the offending smell was just unstoppable. So I did some home work and gave it another try. Wouldn't you know, our two old friends in the kitchen cabinet, baking soda:
sodium bicarbonate

and plain old distilled white vinegar:
acetic acid
make quite a handy pair when removing an old stench. I filled the kitchen sink with hot water, poured in a hefty helping of vinegar and a ton of baking soda, stirred with a wooden spoon to disolve the soda, then soaked the jacket in it for 3 1/2 hours. As for bleeding madras, the water turned the color of purple Kool-Aid, and the jacket gained this fantastic faded, almost denim-like quality. I hung it too dry overnight in the shower, then left it hanging outrsdie for 4 hours the next day. Things fresh as a diasy now.

You might think that's an awful lot of pain-in-the-a** trouble to go to for a crummy thrift store jacket, and you'd be right. But this kind of fading, bleeding old fashioned madras is getting hard to come by in the days of colorfast dyes and non-iron shirts, never mind in a three button sack cut. And when you do manage to find one new, they tend to cost a lot more than $7.49.

22 July 2009

Off Season

It's been pretty hot and humid the past few days, and I had been planning a post on the vagaries of grown men wearing short pants, complete with four days worth of outfits to prove my somewhat dubious points on the matter. I'll save that for another day, because yesterday this winter gem walked into my closet: This thing is thick, heavy, and as soft as any tweed you've ever touched.It's browner than it looks in the photos, so come fall it will make a dead perfect match with these pants and this tie, which I've also been holding on to. Add a blue button down and you've got the 1965 college look nailed.

It's got all my favorite details: patch pockets, welted seems, 2 button cuff. The sleeves will need a bit of shortening, but that's standard. At 40+ years old, it's none the worse for wear. I don't want to screw around with it too much, but I'm thinking that some brown suede elbow patches might also be in the cards for this one.from the long gone Brooks Brothers "University Shop" line. $4.99, pink tags half price=$2.49. Deals like that take my breath away.

p.s. "Off the Cuff" recently wrote a great bit on dressing well, even if you're not dressed up. As a guy who likes clothes but rarely gets the chance to wear suits and ties, I think he's spot on. If you haven't read it yet, do it now.

16 July 2009

Salt & Sand

I love the beach. A lot of people in Massachusetts love to complain about Massachusetts, especially its famous winters. But as far as I'm concerned, when the temperatures reach above 80 and the sun is burning bright, having one's choice of seaside locations within the distance of a short car ride is a damn good thing. The fried clams ain't bad either.

Dressing for the beach can be a tricky affair for any man of decency and style. When the order of the day is to be dressed as little as possible, it can be tough to remain stylish. A serious lack of good looking, well cut and affordable bathing suits these days doesn't help. But I think it can be done.I'm not about to be seen in public in either a speedo or knee length board shorts with a floral print. And as sharp as I think a blazer and white pants are together, that' just silly. It's not 1925 anymore. So the trick, as I see it, is to take what one knows about classic menswear and translate it into something simple, carefree and lazy....or at least achieve the appearance that you hardly thought about it, even though, of course, you did.

Beach clothes are all about comfort. That's why I think old and well worn, well loved items work best in this situation.Further proof of the white oxford button down shirt as design perfection. Fresh out of the package and gleaming white, they are undeniable under a navy suit. A million years and washes later, collar warn and tattered, they become the perfect throw on garment for a day of sun and salt air.
I know many of you out there hate flip flops on men as much as I do, but seriously, what are you gonna wear to the beach? Easy on, easy off, no problem slipping a wet sandy foot into them. These days Polo and J. Crew seem to be offering a lot of good looking cheapies in all sorts of grosgrain ribbon. Could be worse, right?
What really takes beach wear to the level of style, in this fellows humble opinion, is a good straw hat. I have this old one from the 60's. Note the rips at the corners, the icing on the cake.
That rust colored paisley band wins a few points, too.

Remember, no matter how relaxed the situation, there's never a good excuse for dressing like a slob, and pretentious overdressing is just as bad. Enjoy your local beach as often as your climate permits, cultivate a mild sunburn if you can and eat some weird things from the sea. It's finally Summer, for real.

Now if only I could find a damn plaid bathing suit. Why are they so hard to come by these days?

13 July 2009

The (not so) White Shoes

Ah yes, the good old white bucks. Seems this Summer they're quite the rage. Here's my pair:

Made in the U.S.A. by Worthmore, which my homework tells me was a second label of Florsheim back in the old days. Sort of like shoes for college kids made by the company that also makes dad's double soled wing-tips.

Not a bad pair of shoes for $1.99. If you don't believe that, the price is still written on the bottom in grease pencil and won't wear off:I love white bucks, but they do present a bit of a dilemma. This pair is pretty clean, and these shoes do look good clean, with seersucker, blazers, white pants and the like. But they also look good beat to all hell. I seem to remember that being particularly stylish when I was in the eighth grade. The dilemma lies in the deciding which way to wear them.

I've had these shoes for a long time, but as much as I do like them, every Summer I wind up wearing them only once or twice. I can't shake the fear of dirtying them irrevocably. But truthfully, occasions requiring clean white shoes present them selves rarely in my life. So today I decided to take the plunge and wear the hell out of mine this year, to the playground , in the back yard, the rain, everywhere, with the most casual of clothes. I'm pretty sure I'll like them better once they're a bit destroyed. Besides, for two bucks, (har, har) what's to lose?

Here they are today with my favorite somewhat-too-frayed khakis, and some bright striped socks:and an un-ironed pink J.Press oxford, button down collar unbuttoned:
A friend put it quite well today. His advice was to wear the damn things to death. Five years from now, when someone gets married outside in the summer, use it as an excuse to by a new pair. Keep them clean for the wedding, then proceed to wear that pair to death.

Sounds like a plan to me.

08 July 2009

House and Home

Remember me? My apologies to those of you who have faithfully checked up on me these last few weeks. I've fallen into the habit of falling asleep on the couch while watching Alfred Hitchcock or reruns of Law & Order...lame... Anyway, while I see nothing wrong with any of us taking a much needed break from time to time, a word of "check back later" might have been in order on my part. Tonight Mrs. G. casually said "I can't believe you've given up on your readers". Ouch. I'll try to get back on the stick, and I thank each of you who have been checking in despite my absence.

Part of the reason for my dropping off the face of the Earth was this: without a job or school to attend, I find myself slipping into a uniform of khakis and tennis shirt, the perfect playground attire. As such I haven't been picking up many thrifty clothes lately. But clothes aren't the only things to be found cheap. Subtilte this post "Orange, part 2" (see "Orange").

The following items were all "scored" in one afternoon.

First, a wonderfully comfortable if slightly formal chair:
In a color listed as "Cameron Gold". The wife and I have a penchant for a selective version of the 1970's when it comes to home furnishings, and as such we have a lot of brown and orange. "Cameron Gold" makes a nice accent color.originally hailing from the long gone Jordan Marsh department store. I have only the vaguest memory of actual department stores, where you could buy furniture, suits, perfume, kitchenwares and appliances under the same roof, all with store brand name. (The madras plaid sport coat in the previous post "Buttons" is also from Jordan Marsh.)

I found this at a big thrift on the highway that I don't get to often. It was raining like hell, and the kids were both especially fussy ( and loud). I went to pay for it, and the fellow at the desk said I needed to go get the tag and bring it up front. As I returned to the chair, a woman and her young daughter were considering it for the girls new college apartment. "Sorry, too late, I'm just buying it." I said. To which mom replied "technically we have posession of it." I said "I've got two fussy young kids with me. If you're gonna be that way about it, you can have the damn chair." The daughter, mortified, melted into the ground. As I walked away, mom stopped me and said "go ahead, take it." Shocking, I thought I lost that one. $15 later and it was mine.

Then we have this mystery cookware:

enamelled cast iron, matching trivet plate. A splurge at $5. I'm still not sure if you're supposed to cook in this thing or if its just a serving piece. No matter, it looks good.

And the leftovers go in this $0.99 (my keyboard doesn't have a 'cent' key...my typewriter has fraction keys) Tupperware container:I remember we had a whole set of this exact stuff when I was a kid.

And after supper, coffee is served in these new but matching cups, $0.99 each:And lastly, this AM transistor radio by Channel Master, $ 3:Perfect for listening to Red Sox games on the front porch or at the beach, which is exactly what I intend to do with it. I'm not one of these types who buys old stuff so I can look at it. If I can't use something, what good is it to me?

When asked to think of home design in the late 1960's and early 1970's, most people think of ugly brown and orange and yellow stuff. It's true that a lot of what passed for taste at that time was downright awful. But there was a lot of stuff that was extremely well built and wonderfully designed. Taken selectively and mixed in with a modern sensibility, I bet a lot of these things look better now than they did then. Succesfull thrifting is really all about seeing new potential in old stuff, rather than settling for junk only because its new.


I found this next to a dumpster behind a university dorm:that's right, its a vendor tricycle...very European. It's dirty and it needs work, but I can fix it up. The box is rotten, but with the help of carpenter friend Pasquale I plan to build it into an Italian sandwich and fruit cart. Not a bad Summer business if I can get it going. And yes, I am crazy.

I know I married the right girl. Mrs. G. loves this thing.