29 September 2009

Suit Yourself

The thing about successful thrift shopping is that it involves a lot of restraint. This may seem paradoxical. When the stuff is so cheap, why not just get it all? Because then you wind up with a lot of stuff that simply doesn't suit you lying around the house. The very cheapness of many of these items require a man to be even pickier than he might be in a retail shop. When price ceases to be an obstacle, the danger of buying things because they were simply too cool or unusual to leave behind increases exponentially. For every bargain/steal I take home, the things I leave behind on an average thrifting expedition are staggering.A man still needs to know what suits him and what he can pull off, and choose accordingly.

Today I found this quirky, boiled wool Alpine sweater/jacket thing from Austria, $3.99

The label alone was practically enough to push me toward the cash register. Maybe it would work with jeans....

....on the off chance that I decide to go as Alan Flusser for Halloween. Actually, that's pretty funny. Quick, someone invite me to a party.

28 September 2009

The Jams

You might think I have no time or tolerance for "hippies", you might think I feel no connection at all to the kind of America that existed in the early 1970's. You might think that my marriage to an ambiguous thing called "punk rock" has effectively divorced me from long-haired sentimentality...and you might even be right. But remember, for anyone who really loves music, it is impossible to deny a good thing, the real thing, and so:

How do I begin to talk about a record like this? I'll do my best to keep it short and to-the-point. Neil Young is like some shy, dorky kid from the hills who sees, and remembers everything. It's like he speaks for anyone and everyone who has ever heard his songs. The sound is lush and beautiful. Sparse, if just a tad muddy and dated, but clearly real, honest. The words ring true, in 1972, this morning and forever. The boy took up my drum sticks and banged on the couch, completely zoned out on "Alabama". The girl, just seven months old, danced in her "bouncy chair" to "Heart of Gold". As a musician, I'm enthralled, as an artist, the coarse cardboard cover, with it's simple two color silk screen, is an exercise in perfection, and the music itself is as timeless an ecapsulation of the elusive meaning of "American-ness" as one is likely to find. And i don't mean a cheeseburger, selfish kind of Ameican-ness....I mean a heart felt, deep and true version. Those hippies my be a long haired and sloppy bunch, but they, like the rest of us, really have their moments. As far as I'm concerned, this is country music, as sure as Johnny Cash or Merle Haggard...(or even Bob Dylan?)

Besides, if you've ever wondered why old records sound inherently better than almost all new ones, flip the cover over. It's because they were committed to tape in a barn with equipment that were vintage even in the seventies.
And so:

Really, have you ever seen anything more heartfelt and downright honest in all your born days?

26 September 2009

Breaking the Law (the polo ape)

In the old days, when I was a lean and hungry aspiring rock star, I was quite fond of the dressy up top/jeans on the bottom thing. Then, inexplicably, I made the decision to behave more like a grown-up, and the denim went largely to the back of the closet. But there are times when it really is just the thing:
Vintage ex-letterman sweater, Levi's, Bostonian loafers, no-name silk repp/club tie, and an extra fancy shirt by Ralphie.I realize the whole thing smacks of a hopeless "Polo" affectation, but I'll justify it to myself because only one piece of it is actually Polo.

I wear a button down collar these days almost exclusively, but maybe I should throw in the English style spread a little more often. I know, you ain't supposed to wear a thin knot with a spread collar, but who cares, I dig it. And I finally realized that the cream colored cardigan is best used as sort of a sports jacket.

And cripes, to make matters worse, French cuffs with a sweater? Heaven forbid! I'll be the first to admit the "fashion" aspect of such combinations. But sometimes I like the extra fancy shirt with the contrast collar and French cuffs, and if it weren't for these kind of outfits, I'd never get to use them. The last time I wore this shirt was two years ago with a three piece suit and a solid tie. These days, it's highly unlikely that I'll be able to make an excuse for the three piece any time soon...Hell, even this outfit was excessively overdressed. But wouldn't it be a shame to waste such a nice shirt?

Finish with jeans and black tassels. Until I got these loafers, I was almost exclusively a brown shoe kind of guy. But I think these have broadened my horizons.

(photo: the Sartorialist)

All this just two days after I was ready to bust on this guy for taking the whole Polo look way to seriously, even if he does work for Ralphie. Good thing I held my tongue. But I will say, this whole lace-up dress shoe/no sock/rolled pants thing has got to stop. Loafers, o.k., but lace ups? Nonsense.

p.s. Fine and Dandy Shop has seen fit to profile yours truly. Shucks, I'm blushing.

p.p.s. Say it ain't so, Toad. We'll miss you

p.p.p.s. Who makes a sartorial bust on YSL? I'll admit, I agree with our man's thoughts on considered dishevelment, but seriously, how you gonna dog YSL? Really.

p.p.p.p.s. Mrs. G and I actually saw some guys playing polo last week. A first time for everything.

23 September 2009


I know what I like, and I generally don't screw around with what I don't like. I admire real quality, and rarely am I willing to settle for less. But I'm also an incurable cheapskate, and I'll be damned if I'll pay the accursed "retail" for anything, if I can help it. So, I've learned to compromise.

Two weeks ago, Fall came on hard and it rained quite a bit in New England. I was sorely wishing I had some rain shoes. No, not those silly rubber things that go over the dress shoes, but proper rain shoes. Specifically, the classic L.L. Bean rubber moccasin.

A true American classic, if ever there was one. Imagine, a rubber shoe, styled like a casual dress shoe. The perfect fusion of dress and casual. Worth every bit of $59, retail, made in the U.S.A., guaranteed to last forever, and so forth. Even I was ready to buy new, when all of a sudden:

this pair of Bean gumshoe lace-ups comes my way, for $9.99. Short top, three eyelets, fits like a shoe, not a boot. The day I found them, it was raining like hell, and I changed into the right there in the store, I was so excited.

Is the Bean slip on moc cooler than the lace-up? No question. Do I like the rubber moc better? No question. But, if you're going to be a cheapskate, you've got to learn how to compromise.

The trick is to do it without sacrificing quality, or real style. Because those are two points on which no gentleman should ever compromise.

19 September 2009

Breaking the Law

I've said it before. Menswear is fraught with strange and esoteric rules and regulations. It's worth knowing them , because they can be a good guide. But without a doubt, the best thing about knowing the "rules" is that by knowing them, one can have fun breaking them.

To wit:

We saw a lovely day in Boston, sunny, with temps touching the mid sixties. The leaves are turning orange, and it was one of those days when the air just seemed especially clean and delicious. Having just swapped the Summer gear out of the closet in favor of the tweeds, I'd been itching to bust one out. This number, picked up last Spring, is one nice piece of wool. And my rusty orange pocket square has finally found it's soul-mate.

So I put about a dozen neckties next to it, some good matches and some bad, but none of them were hitting me. I just wasn't "feeling it", as the kids may have been saying last year. And then I had an idea. I don't own an ascot, but what about that earthy colored bandanna (yes, it's a bandanna) that I heisted from Mrs. G a while ago? Perfect! The effect is sort of country club, sort of Basque goat herder going to market to sell his cheese, more than a little bit "fey" (is that how you spell it?)...or maybe just sort of weird. Anyway, I dug it, and the masses responded in a generally favorable manner.

Down below, khakis, brown argyles with the slightest bit of rusty orange, and dirty white bucks. Yep. White bucks after Labor Day, a cardinal sin. But I don't care. This year, I'm on a mission to make dirty white bucks with tweed jackets the new rage. I might be crazy, but I'm quite convinced this look will be all over New York next Fall, by which time I hope to be quite over it.

Happy Autumn everybody!

17 September 2009

The Jams

After yesterday's round of comments, I've decided to lay off pictures involving my middle. Good thing I also recently acquired some really killing Jams, $2.00 apiece.
Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim...the version of "Girl from Ipanema", Jobim sings the first half, with the lovely Astrud Gilberto finishing things off. Incomparable. The rest of the album, though not nearly as well known, is every bit as good. A masterpiece of delicate Brazilian bossa nova jazz. If you ever throw a cocktail party (a real one, with grown-ups in proper clothes drinking liquor in a dimly lit and well decorated room) this is the only record you need.

Quick rule of thumb: Verve released a whole bunch of these records with fancy glossy printed gate-fold covers, featuring modern/beatnik oil paintings on the front, simple modern fonts, and extensive liner notes. I've picked up a lot of them over the years, and so far not a dud in the bunch. Great music artfully packaged, a real thing to own, $0.99 ipod download be damned.
The Amazing Jimmy Smith Trio live at the Village Gate. To be honest, I think Hammond organ in a jazz setting can be a bit dodgy, but ole Jimmy kills it every time. A real upbeat set of tunes, a good one to motivate when the house requires extensive cleaning, which is a situation that a certain three year old boy I know seems bent on making permanent.
And lastly, Sammy Davis Jr. in the late fifties, when he was still wearing an eye patch. What can I say about this dude? He takes things to a level of bad-ass that Frank Sinatra could only read about. Seriously, any guy who can slay an all white crowd full of well dressed drunks in Las Vegas in the days when it may have been acceptable to think of him as merely a "diminutive, one-eyed negro Jew" is, simply, a Bad Ass. I may be a full blooded Italian, but of all the members of the Rat Pack, Sammy was always my favorite. That Peter Lawford guy, on the other hand.....

In closing, enjoy:

p.s. Tell me Astrud's not as cute as a button...I dare you.

16 September 2009

In Between, part 2

It's "Back to School" time, and weather you're in school or not, it's a good time of year to work a subtle dose of something I call "algebra teacher chic" into your sartorial rotation. You know the look: rumpled cotton pants and plaid sport shirts worn with ties. Just be sure to do it artfully, and avoid the chalk dust stain on your shirt sleeve and the government issue glasses.
If you haven't tried it before, wearing a tie with a shirt in rich plaid can be a tricky task. Start simple by pairing it with a solid knit tie, in cotton or wool, in a color that works well with every color in the shirt's plaid.

Keep it simple with plain khaki pants. Olive green and shades of grey work well here too. With Summer at an end, the Sperry Topsider has been replaced by the blucher moc as the shoe of choice on days still warm enough for going sockless. I always considered these shoes to be kind of cool weather boat shoe, anyway.

When you feel as though you might be getting the knack of it, go ahead and zest it up a bit. Try a bold plaid shirt with a patterned tie, and for good measure some bright socks, to remind you of the fact that though the evenings may be on the cool side, the sun is still shining bright and clear. As always, keep the whole thing from getting out of control with larger neutral items. The ubiquitous khakis, the olive of the Barbour jacket, and the tan cap play a crucial supporting role in making sense out of all this.

Pattern mixing ain't easy. Remember, keep the color palette similar, but vary the scale. That's the trick. Here, the plaid is very dense, where the tie has a lot of space between it's stripes. The navy blue ground holds things down, while the stripes echo the minor colors in the plaid. The red socks carry the punch down to the bottom, making for a more cohesive head to toe look.

Such combinations are more than a little bold, but don't be afraid. And expect to fail...a lot. For as often as I've pulled this kind of thing off I've left the house looking a bit foolish. But as with anything, practice makes perfect. The more you attempt it, the better of an eye you'll get for it.

Who knew that the kind of creepy childless guy with the comb-over haircut who tried to convince you that math could be done with letters instead of numbers had so much style?

15 September 2009

London via Kid's Books

I may have a knack for turning up the menswear, but Mrs. G. is the undefeated champion when it comes to turning up books for the kids. It's like they have a magnetic attraction to her. She finds a wealth of books that combine both great stories/information with stunning illustration, in all styles and from all points in time. Needless to say, the Boy and the Girl have an outstanding library. Today, she came home with "This Is London", published in 1959. I chose to feature a few choice images from this one because the imagery is menswear related, and just plain cool to look at.

In my dreamland, this is the way that a man dresses. Formal (even to the point of a top hat!!) for the office, casual for "the country". And by casual I mean an ascot, tweed jacket and flannel pants. I'd like to imagine that England is still full of men like this, but I'm probably romanticizing things a bit.

The caption opposite this picture reads: "Children are not allowed inside a pub. But peek inside and see what's going on. Look, the grown-ups are playing darts."...and drinking beer and smoking pipes and wearing tweed caps and boiled wool riding vests. There may be glasses of booze all over the place, but somehow I have a hard time imagining the police arriving to break up a brawl amongst these chaps over their conflicting loyalties to either the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees.

And this guy is just too quaint, a Chelsea Pensioner. Don't you just want to sit in the courtyard of the soldiers home and let this guy beat you at chess repeatedly while you listen to stories involving Wiemar cabaret girls during "The Great War" and drinking a tipple of Bual Madeira? Pip, pip...cheerio!

In other news...Happy Birthday to Me!

An Affordable Wardrobe is a year old today. I started as a lark with a post about a cheap Harris Tweed jacket. In the process I've made a great many "imaginary friends". The whole experience has been informative, fun and even humbling. The fact that 800-1000 people out there care to read my ramblings on a daily basis never ceases to floor me. I thank each and every one of you, most especially my loyal commenters. Here's looking forward to another year of vain self indulgence.

14 September 2009


I haven't been thrifting much lately, and as such I've learned a lot about the difference between "need" and "desire". But yesterday, a few extra bucks in hand, I found myself back to my old habits, dragging the poor hapless children around to sort through other peoples cast-offs. Scored a bundle, damn it felt good! My acquisitions were so diverse, I've decided to break them up into a few posts.

And so, we have these barely used and very well-cared-for black wing-tip tassel loafers:
Nice and shiny, obviously kept with shoe tress in them,
Bostonians, made in U.S.A., back when Bostonians were some damn good shoes worth having, and keeping. I'm not sure if it was a local thing, but I remember Bostonians being the go-to shoe for business men who couldn't afford Aldens...a nicely made alternative. A quick Google search turned up nothing on the companies history. Don't bother looking them up. All you'll find are ugly, knob-toed atrocities made in sweat shop in China on sale at Zappos.com. Too bad. Still, not a bad pair of shoes for $6.99.

I gave them their first run with jeans today. Now I know as well as anybody that the perfect foil for these shoes is a navy blue suit, but I hardly ever get to wear a navy blue suit, and I really like these shoes. Besides, I rarely wear jeans anymore, having switched mostly to khakis for casual wear, but I always thought jeans looked best with incongruous dress shoes. And it wasn't so long ago that I ran with the cool kids and dressed like this all the time.

So, then, what to do with these?

You may remember, the last time I wore a navy blue suit, I found this pair of Florsheim's shortly after. I'm usually pretty discerning, even for a thrifter. But the truth is, this pair is just too big. A total impulse purchase. (Mrs. G., if you're reading this, forgive me. I'm fully aware of the fact that I own more shoes than is decent for a man. However, a guy needs his vices, and it's been a long time since I quit smoking. Cut me a break, will ya?)

So if any of you guys wears a size 10 1/2 wide, and needs yet another pair of somebody else's shoes, email me. These are in good shape, though they would benefit from a new pair of insoles. They'd look great with your 501s and a Harris Tweed jacket. Maybe we can trade something.

09 September 2009


I used to have a really bad habit of keeping broken things around my house with the purest of intentions to have them repaired someday. I got it from my grandfather. That guy was always taking pieces of wood and broken windows out of the neighborhood trash and piling it up in the garage. When he passed away, it took us months the throw it all out. These days, i try to be more realistic, either passing things up in the first place, or giving them a reasonable amount of time to sit around un-repaired before tossing them. And ever since Mrs. G. and I got hooked on this new show "Hoarders", I've been scared into a state of near minimalism.

But there are those few things I just can't part with. I'll have them fixed someday, I swear...

I used to wear this pair of sixties vintage aviators all the time. They've got the thinnest wire rims, the perfect pale green tint to the lenses, and a killer, more square shape. The lenses are actually glass, which is great, except for that damn crack I put in one of them.

By "Ver Ray Mode U.S.A." Anybody heard of that name before? I picked them up a million years ago for fity cents, but they're so nice, I feel sure that they must have been something worth owning at some point in time...like now, If I ever get around to taking them to an eyeglass shop.

And then there's this 22k gold tie bar that I heisted from my Dad when I was seventeen. I'm not much of a jewelry guy, but this thing is pretty sharp. It's only about two inches wide, so it works well with the kind of ties I generally wear. It used to have a short chain attached to that little ring on the bottom. The chain had a ring on the end that fit around a shirt button. It kept the tie in place, but allowed it to move just a little bit too, so you didn't get that stapled-down look you get with most tie bars. That is until the chain broke off. One of these days....

I know, if you don't use something, it's just junk, no matter how nice it used to be. But I think a special exception needs to be made for these two pieces. Somebody back me up, talk your favorite cheapskate into spending a couple of bucks to fix up some worthy accessories.

05 September 2009


So it's been getting cooler in the house at night, and I love the feeling of sleeping under a comfy blanket. I have this trusty old down filled comforter:
from Woolrich,
but it's seen better days. This is just one of the holes it wears:

But I also have this pile of old shirts, well worn and well loved with frayed collars and cuffs:

My plan is too cut the shirts into squares, then sew them to the old down blanket, hence creating a sort of crazy quilt built of men's shirt-cloth. Cool, right? It's a project I've been thinking about for a while now, but was too scared to try. I think I'm finally ready.

Any advice from you crafty types out there? (Jean Martha, Lisagh, I'm looking at you...)

02 September 2009

In Between

Beautiful warm days, clear brisk evenings...in between Summer and Fall. Dressing for this kind of weather can be fun, since it calls for an "in between" way of thinking. Summer items still prevail, but a guy needs to keep warm in the evening.
Khakis and white shoes, with a sweater. I was also shooting for the secondary "in between" of slouchy and polished with this neck tie and sweatshirt combo. ( what do you call that shirt stripe, ribbon stripe, tape stripe? it's like a university stripe on steroids. I love it.)
This may look like a sweatshirt, but it's really more of a thin cotton sweater. Also "in between". It's from the Gap (gasp!) so I guess it also qualifies as a cheap commodity. It found me by chance. Once, when working behind the deli in a gourmet food and wine shoppe, I managed to drench my shirt in extra virgin olive oil. I can be clumsy that way. Never one to walk around all dirty, I ran next door to the Gap in desperation. This was on sale, so I threw it on. I keep deciding I hate it, and so to the back of the closet it goes. But I never get rid of it, because deep down I know that whenever it resurfaces it has a way of being just the right thing. Paired with a knit tie, it provides the perfect sort of calculated nonchalance, another "in between", that so many of us strive for.

I'm trying to knock the white off of my white bucks, so they can be "in between" too. It's finally beginning to take. Once they're perfectly destroyed on purpose, I plan to wear them well past Labor Day with tweed jackets. You watch...I bet someone in New York will make that a "thing" this Fall.( Maybe Mark Mc Nairy will come out with a pair of" pre-stressed" white bucks for $695, or something.)
Then I can be "in between" feeling glad that at least the kids are taking something of an interest in dressing well these days, and cranked that they're doing it for chumpy reasons. (bitch, moan, grumble....)

01 September 2009

One For The Road

As I write this post it strikes me that a whole Summer has passed on this blog without a single photo involving the classic but enigmatic "Nantucket Reds". It's strange, because I've probably worn these pants at least twice a week for the past three months. They're like khakis, only better, because they're pink.(Nantucket Red, Coral, whatever..they're pink) The only other person I know who wears pink pants more often is my six month old daughter.
Polo blue university stripe oxford, $5.49, J. Press 3/2 sack blazer, $7.49, Lands End "Nantucket Reds", $6.99,
and my new favorite Brooks Brothers fishing themed surcingle belt, $0.99,

and of course, the ubiquitous "Beefroll" pennies.

I know, real Nantucket Reds come from Murray's Toggery Shop.(Located on "the island", as it's known around Boston...that other place is "the vineyard".) I have a pair of those, too. But to be honest, I like these better. For one thing, even though the course canvas sailcloth of actual Murray's Reds may be more hardcore New England go-to-hell than anything, I frankly find them stiff and uncomfortable in a way that is anathema to the very nonchalance they are supposed to embody. Also, since my pair is now, post two children, at least two inches too small, that doesn't help either. This pair is soft as anything. I wash them frequently, mostly because the pink pants wearing baby has a tendency to spit up on me, but also because they get softer, less constructed and more faded every time, and that's the point, isn't it? Sure, they'd reach a state of transcendent perfection over the course of many years in the sun and salt air of the open seas. But when a guy writes a blog about punking a style of dress steeped in old money by scouring the charity shops, you can bet he's not in line to buy a yacht any time soon.

There you have it, my Nantucket Reds, one more time before Labor Day. Good thing I have my red cords to replace them come Fall, because what gentleman's wardrobe would be complete without some kind of crimson leggings?

p.s...mini rant

I'm sure this Mark McNairy cat is a nice enough guy. But why is it that when a fella lives in New York and has all the right friends, he can put out repp ties and oxford button downs in white and blue university stripe, of all things, and have every wanna-be hipster on Earth drool and scream on the internet about it as though he's saved menswear for a new generation? I know, marketing. But he's really just handing us back the stuff he saw at J.Press with a higher price tag and an "updated cut" that's bound to be dated as soon as this whole "Ivy League" trend reaches the inevitable down slope of the bell curve in a year or two. I almost wish Brooks Brothers would hire him and let him bring them back to what we all wish they still were. I bet he could do it.