26 February 2010

Anglophila...(once again)

...this time with the full benefit of British made goods. I acquired a sports jacket today, and I suspect it may well be the nicest and most well made thing I've discovered in a thrift shop to date:
This three button, darted jacket is made of cloth of exceptional quality, a full heavy weight meant most likely for outdoor use. If that cloth ain't the epitome of British style, I don't know what is.

Four button working cuffs. I'm more or less a two button cuff kind of guy, but that sure is some nice work. Again, check that fabric up close...so nice.
Shallow side vents,

There's even this little button under the right lapel, for closing it at the neck, further evidence that this piece was once likely at home in damp weather hunting for ducks, or some other leisurely pass-time involving rifles, dogs and the English countryside. Note the finishing on the collar, real old school tailoring. Not surprising given where it originated.

Davies and Son, a top tier London tailor shop. There pedigree is undeniable, having outfitted Admiral Lord Nelson, King George V, and the Duke of Windsor, among others. Follow that link and read their history. And how about that date, 15 June 1960? Incredible. This is the real thing here. I almost feel unworthy of it. All that nice stuff I have from Andover Shop, Brooks Brothers, even my Barbour jacket was made in a factory. This is on another level entirely.

Now for the funny part:

I spotted this jacket on Wednesday. Because of it $10.99 price tag, I took a pass. Everyone knows that the first, if only, rule of thrift shopping is 'get it while you can'. If you walk out that door and come back even 1/2 hour later, your big score will be gone. This morning, I awoke determined to rush back after breakfast in the hopes that this jacket might still be there. Fortunately, it was.

How spoiled have I become that $10.99 was more than I was willing to spend for such a thing? Seriously, what the Hell is wrong with me?But I suppose that's the best kind of spoiled: spoiled on cheapness. Is there a word for that? (be nice)

This thing is going to kill with some cavalry twill pants.

25 February 2010

More Thoughts of Spring

Actually, perhaps that title is misleading. It's been raining for two days solid here, which I suppose is the harbinger of Spring. I'm just a little confused, since this weather used to occur in mid-March. I guess I better get used to the fact that Winter as we knew it when I was a boy is getting shorter and shorter. But I digress...

With such sloppy wet weather all around, I look forward to bright sunshine and the clothes that go with it. For example, just back from the tailor come these gabardine trews: The perfect shade of tan, smooth to the touch,
With inverse pleats and side tabs, sans-belt loops. Now might be the time for a side note on pleated pants:

I used to only wear pleated pants, no exceptions. In those days, I was smitten with a 1940s aesthetic, and it worked for me. Then, for a time, pleats were strictly forbidden. I had become obsessed with classic American (read: 1960s college campus) style clothing. Then one day I became old enough to realize that it as silly to marry oneself to some kind of book of rules for clothing as it is to insist that only the French know how to make wine. These days, I favor flat front, narrow leg about 95% of the time. But there ain't nothing wrong with some sharp British style inverse pleats. ( I still maintain, however , that conventional outward-facing pleats make most men look like they have a diaper on under there).

Ralphie Purple Label...the expensive stuff...

made in Italy. $4.99 for the pants plus $15 to have old Mr. Lee let them out a bit and give them a proper pressing.
Someday, if I ever have money, I'll pair them with these white wing tips from Crocket and Jones...or if I'm lucky, they'll turn up for a couple of bucks at a thrift somewhere...wait and see.

These might just be the items to save the green double breasted blazer from it's formidable totalitarian connotations (read the comments...thanks a lot, Tin Tin).

22 February 2010

Wait & See

Sometimes you hear your name being called, and you don't want to answer, because you know better. But you can't help it. Sometimes, you just gotta take a chance:

Case in point, a double breasted blazer in pale chartreuse hopsack. Made by Anderson Little, who used to be the big time around here, almost certainly in the late 1970's. I can't really explain it, but I'll try.

Forget for a moment the weird color of this thing, and look only at the fit. Un-darted, but with a nicely suppressed waist line. The sleeves fit just so, as does the over all body of the jacket. The material, despite it's hue, is really a top notch hopsack, and the lapels are just right, too: wide enough to suit the double breasted silhouette, but not so wide as to be garish.

The buttons are awful. No question. But it's in the simple changing of the buttons that I feel I can make something of this jacket. It's like the black blazer all over again, only worse, because this thing is so green it makes green want to cry. Bear with me.

Picture it with white bone buttons. Instead of a 6x2 button stance with a three button cuff, it's a 4x2 stance with a two button cuff. Now picture it with crisp khakis, almost military crisp, a white shirt and an ascot, by a swimming pool, while I clutch a drink fashioned of rum and limes. Or maybe with white duck pants and a pale yellow bow tie. I don't know why, but I think I can make this work...or maybe I've had a lapse of judgement.

Check back in June...wait and see.

p.s. I most certainly did not wear it today with that shirt and tie. What sort of a savage do you take me for? I was only modelling it with the clothes I did wear today. I need to buy a tailor's mannequin.

20 February 2010


...without the benefit of any clothing that actually came from England:
A tan spread collar shirt by Polo, $1.00, a woolen houndstooth bow tie, the generous gift of Miss Ellie Laveer, a Scottish (okay, I guess that's technically British) lambswool v-neck from the House of Tweed, $5.99, and a bullet proof tweed jacket from the Andover Shop, $6.99 (by the way, not only does this jacket retail for $875, but the Andover Shop actually had it on display in the window only 3 weeks ago...super score!)
With brown suede brogues from Cole Haan, $5.49, argyle socks from the Gap, $5.00, and some 'cinnamon' colored cords from Lands End. At $45 these were kind of pricey, but I was in the mood and I love this color. I will admit, however, that there is something inherently wrong with paying more for Lands End cords than I did for that jacket, but so be it.

Topped off with my newly arrived dark olive corduroy driving cap from the Village Hat Shop. I bought this hat especially for this jacket. You see, I wear British style diving caps almost exclusively. I just didn't have one that went with this jacket. The jacket was languishing in the closet. That's just wrong...so I bought this hat.

Village Hat Shop is pretty cool, if you like caps. They carry a wide range, and most are less than $20. This jobby cost me $14.95. No, it's not made in the U.S.A. by superior old word craftsmen...but, No, it also doesn't cost $300. The quality is perfectly fine, the price is right and it shipped quickly. Sometimes, you gotta pick your battles.

18 February 2010

Thoughts of Spring

With the sun shining bright, and some unseasonable warmth, a fellows thoughts can't help but turn to Spring...especially when that same fellow bought a pair of Kelly green cords two days ago:
I actually enjoy the Winter, and I find it a bit tiresome listening to everyone complain about it, especially considering that Winter as we knew it in my childhood no longer exists. Today was a nice day for February, about 40 degrees in the mid-afternoon, and sunny as ever. One can't help but feel happy on such a day.

I can't tell you how many people I saw today in flip flops and shorts. I don't know when it became acceptable to wear such things in February, anyway, regardless of the weather. Drives me mad. It's second only to people who go out in public wearing pyjamas. However, I see nothing wrong with a nod to the nice weather and a hint of things to come. I saw a few guys opting for lined Macs instead of overcoats. I saw some khaki and tweed combos. I wore green pants and yellow socks.

Despite popular opinion, there are modes of dress that sit between the overcoat and the bathing suit, and those can be the most fun of all.

17 February 2010

Handmade Bow Ties

By now, I suspect many of you have heard of Ellie Laveer Stager.Toad and Conor are both big fans. If you haven't, you need to. She runs an online cottage industry making handmade bow ties, scarves, and other men's accessories. Recently, she offered me a pair of bow ties for free to review here at An Affordable Wardrobe. I am overwhelmed by her generosity. Thank you, Ellie.
Being still Winter, I went with two woolen options: the "Woolyman", in a brown and tan houndstooth with bits of orange, and a solid tie in soft grey wool flannel.

But the package also contained two extra, for Summer: one in cotton serrsucker and a second in patch madras.

The quality of these ties is easily as good as any brand name tie I've ever owned. The fabrics are top shelf, and the construction is beautiful. I was wondering before they arrived how she would tackle the problem of adjustability, which is necessary for a bow tie. Each one has a piece in the back fitted with an adjustable strap:
It does take a bit of finagling to get the fit just right, because these ties are not marked with neck size numbers the way conventional bow ties are. But that's only a small inconvenience.
Ellie sells her ties for $23.00, an incredible deal for a handmade piece of quality neckwear. When I think of buying a bow tie, the only places that come to mind that have a wide selection readily available are Brooks Brothers and J.Press, where one is likely to spend at least twice as much, and frequently much more, for a similar product. Sure, I like a good Brooks or Press bow, but there is a lot to be said for receiving a package in the mail with a hand written note from the kind woman who actually stitched these together.

She also offers the service of converting your favorite old, worn neckties into bow ties. I've got plenty of neck ties that are fraying at the point, and I plan on letting Ellie have at them very soon.

An Affordable Wardrobe wholeheartedly endorses Ellie Laveer Stager in all her endeavors. Look for an interview here with Ellie sometime soon.


they look pretty good in action, too.

15 February 2010

Size Matters

Sizes are a funny thing when it comes to clothing. This is especially true when dealing with second hand items which may have been produced at various points in time. True, fit is the most important element of a man's style, and as such one must know his sizes: chest, waist, neck and so forth. But often these numbers are best used only as a loose guide. It frequently happens that I find something that isn't really "my size" but fits anyway. When that happens, I go with fit and ignore the numbers. Because in actuality those numbers are often somewhat arbitrary. For example:
Today I was fortunate to come across this 3/2 un-darted jacket with patch and flap pockets.
Real camel hair, softest thing you ever saw,

Made by H.Freeman & Son. Quick research tells me that these guys are still in business and make some top notch stuff. Unfortunately, no word on "The English Shop" of Princeton. So what's the problem?

Most of my jackets are a size 40 or 42. I'm 5'10", and the rules would tell you that I wear a "regular"length...but I don't. I always opt for a size "short". Why? I can't really explain it, but short size jackets just suit me better. Regulars make my legs look stumpy. Only this jacket is marked size 44 regular. How can this be, when I still fit into my size 40 J.Press blazer? Sure, I could get all prideful and refuse to admit it, but then I'd only be missing out on this lovely jacket. The truth of the matter is the jacket looks good on me, and the number is pretty much meaningless.

Than there's this Tartan flannel vest:
A pretty snappy number, complete with braided leather buttons,

from some place called Doherty in Worcester. Those of you who are from these parts may find it incredible to imagine that there once was a time when men in Worcester might have donned this thing.
This one is size 42 long. As I said, I rarely where a size regular. I have never worn a size long. But this thing fits. Why? It's a funny thing with vests, especially old ones, that they are always cut very short, and unless I hike my pants up to my armpits, there's a gap between vest and pants, very unbecoming. That's why I nevr buy them. I even had to get rid of a few choice ones for that very reason. But the extra length on this one means it meets the top of my pants just so at the spot where I wear them comfortably. Who knew?

All this loose regard for size gets even murkier in the thrift shops. Many of these places are not so organized as to have the items sized. Even when they are, it mostly doesn't matter. I find suits separated by S M L designations, sometimes finding things that fit me in each category. Pants may be separated by waist size, but I currently own pants ranging in size from 33 to 36.My shirts are half size 15, the rest 15 1/2. The point is, to navigate these waters successfully, you've got to look through everything in the store, and more importantly learn to ignore the numbers, which mean nothing, and pay attention to the fit, which means everything.

Once you get the hang of this, you'll even be able to size things up "by eye" as it were. When all else fails, try something on and be honest about it's fit, then check the size later. Don't try to pretend you haven't gained ten pounds in the last few years, and don't forget that every guy, no matter what style he may choose to adopt, looks better in clothes that fit. Above all else, find a good tailor and stick with him like a brother.

Size does matter, numbers don't.

12 February 2010

Gone Shootin'...

...not really. I mostly find the very existence of guns to be quite abhorrent. However, I must admit a taste for the clothing that has evolved from the various forms of proficiency with firearms. Were it not for the military, we'd be bereft of such basics as khakis and navy blazers. Were it not for sport shooting, we'd have no Barbour, and a lot of the classic details of tweed as we know it might not exist either. Nor would cavalry twill:

Today I found my very first pair. Super heavy weight, absolutely bullet proof. Can't wait to run 'em out on the streets with a flannel blazer, or that thick tweed from Andover's.

From the (once?) venerable Brothers. I know, that damned cursive label is pretty well a sign of Brooks Brothers on the down slope of the hill, but these pants are pretty solid. Made in Canada...could be worse, right? Besides, they were only $6.99.

They should go quite well with this vintage 1960's three inch repp tie,

from the Andover Shop, complete with original $5.00 price tag. Fifty years later, similar neck wear is selling at the very same shop for about 16 times as much.

And speaking of the Andover Shop, you can by a Scottish patch tweed scarf not unlike the one I fashioned myself, for a mere $275...but check out that carry on bag...un-heard-of! Now that's the kind of thing I'd be likely in my twisted sense of priorities to actually spend serious scratch on.

And speaking of Scottish tweed, see the glory that is the Harris Tweed Shop. As I sit and write this, I'm trying to convince myself that I really need a made to measure tweed shooting suit. Oh, cripes, I think I'm rambling...


The Top Shelf Flea (as it shall be known until a more clever name presents itself, any ideas?) is still open to prospective participants. Tell your friends, and plan on the second Sunday in May.

09 February 2010


Sometimes, I like to play it by the book, dressing with an allegiance to an arcane code of rules. Other times, I like to put things together however I damn well please. But even still, I occasionally stumble across an item of clothing that presents me with a downright conundrum. Such an item is this old classic, the "Tennis Sweater" :
A cream colored, cable knit number, accented by a classic pair of stripes, one burgundy and one navy, at the collar, cuffs and waistband.
From long-gone Boston shop Kennedy's. This sweater, is warm and soft to the touch, but it confuses me.

I wore it just the other day. With jeans, penny loafers and a blue oxford, I thought I looked casual but smart. But all day something kept bothering me: isn't tennis a warm weather sport? Of course. So...shouldn't tennis attire be worn in the Spring? Even if you're not playing tennis? But wait a minute, this thing is thick, like any winter sweater in my closet.

But if it's warm enough for tennis, who needs a wool sweater, let alone a really thick one?

This is one of those circular arguments that could make your head spin if you let it. But who wants to get their head spinning over something as ridiculous as the outdated vagaries of menswear?

I think I'll just go ahead and wear it when I like. Truthfully, 99% of people today won't give a damn about the fact that this thing is designed for a seasonal sport...especially when that seasonal sport is played in big crazy sneakers, headbands, and nylon shorts. As for the 1% who does think of such things...that's me, and I don't care.

As great as I think this thing would look with light grey flannels and white bucks, I think I'll stay away from that combo...unless I find myself in California in 1927. or something.

06 February 2010

Small Changes: The Black Blazer Re-Fitted

It really is amazing what the smallest change can do.

About a week ago, I debuted this vintage black flannel blazer. I like this jacket. It fits well, the cloth is beautiful. But those damned silver buttons were just too tacky, even for me. Something had to be done. A trip to the sewing store an a couple of bucks was all it took:

Silver buttons are a drag. Really, I can't think of any instance where they would look right on menswear. Brass, sure, but silver? Blech! They really limited the use of this jacket too, prohibiting a lot of otherwise sound color combos, like these tan cords.

The silver buttons gave this coat an air of pretension, like it was trying to be fancy, but never heard of understatement. The brown horn (okay, plastic, but still...) but give it just the right slouchy casual air, which is only appropriate for a flannel jacket with patch pockets.

Before, it only went with black shoes, which only added to the pretension in a way. Now, brown suede brogues are more than appropriate...which is good, since I'm mostly a brown shoe kind of guy. I picked up the tan cords a while ago. They're made of the softest mid-wale brushed corduroy you ever saw. I got these, and another pair in olive, for $4.99 each. From the Ecut Clothing Company, apparently an Iranian manufacturer. Guess that makes me an enemy of the state or something. No matter. They were about a mile too long when I got them, but today I hemmed them to my perfect 29 1/2 inch inseam, no sweat.

Little changes go a long way, no?

An Announcement and An Invitation:

As you all probably know, I spend a lot of time culling the dregs of the thrift stores for these treasures I present to you here. For a while now, I've been collecting things not only for myself. Why? Because this May, if all goes well, I plan to host a bi-annual (does that mean twice a year?) cleaned up flea market. It will be a gathering of quality re-sale merchants in the greater Boston area, as well as many independent dealers, including yours truly. While you won't find things for the shamefully low prices I often pay, you will find clothes (both men's and women's), housewares, books and even furniture that has been thoughtful chosen, mended if need be, cleaned and presented, by people who really know their stuff.

So far a number of really cool Boston area stores have agreed to participate, including Frida Bee, Boutique Fabulous, Poor Little Rich Girl, Abodeon, Artifaktori, Sunshine Lucy's, Lorem Ipsum Books, Raspberry Beret, and the crown jewel of them all, Bobby from Boston. This promises to be a lot of fun.

If you live in the greater Boston area, are an obsessive hoarder of anything cool, and would be interested in having a table at this event,or know someone who might, contact me at anaffordablewardrobe@yahoo.com. Sure, this may all seem a little shameless, so expect to hear about this very once in a while. A separate website for the event should (hopefully) be coming soon.

By the way, did I mention there will likely be a bar at this thing?


this is not in any way meant to be a jab at the Pop Up Flea hosted by Michael Williams of ACL. We got into something of a sh*tstorm following my post on that event, and I don't intend to let that happen again. As such, for the first time in Affordable Wardrobe history, I will not be posting all comments. Derogatory comments from complete anonymous strangers referring to this event or Mr. Williams' will not be considered for publication. Let's keep things upbeat, kids.

02 February 2010

Symptoms of Fatherhood

My Dad wears baseball hats all the time...with sports jackets, with overcoats, you name it. He's got a giant collection of them, and likes to match them with his outfits. Never a look I was into myself, but somehow he always manages to pull it off. ADG has been known to do the same.

I tend to favor a British style driving cap almost exclusively. I've got a whole mess of those. And yet today, for some reason I found myself trotting out the baseball-cap-and-overcoat combo.

I thought it looked pretty cool with some red cords, a cashmere coat and my new favorite patch tweed scarf. Call me crazy if you will. Somehow, for an afternoon of running around with the children, this just felt right. Maybe it's a "dad" thing.
(although, even as casual as this outfit is, I'm still 'dressed up' compared to 99% of the dad's you see out with their kids...ADG, of course, excluded.)
Down below: go-to-hell pants with go-to-hell socks, because why-the-hell not?

I do think it was partly prompted by the recent acquisition of this 1930's style Red Sox cap, just like the one Ted Williams wore. I'm lucky to live in Boston, were an affinity for Baseball reaches well beyond the knuckle-headed masses deep into intellectual, wealthy and even stylish circles. Let's see if Terry Francona get a consistent group of nine guys out there this year, and maybe Papi could remember how to hit a home run...I digress.

Now, I'm not about to join the ranks of the eternally baseball-capped, but I think even this look can have it's moments.

01 February 2010

Black and Blue All Over

I worked in a men's shop in the nineties. Mostly our stuff was pretty good, but there were exceptions. Chief among these was the abhorrent black blazer. Just like our navy blazers, brass buttons and all, only black. Especially awful was the 6x1 double breasted version...unforgivable. I hated them then, and my mind could not be changed, until...

I came across an exquisitely made, early 1960s vintage three button blazer, in black flannel. I could feel an old hatred welling up inside me, but this jacket surpassed all that. It confounded me, because as much as I felt I ought to hate it, I actually had to have it. Call it fate.

What really sold me was the open patch breast pocket. It's a detail I find absolutely irresistible in a casual jacket

The buttons are silver, which is probably kind of cheesy. I might swap them out for braided leather, maybe, I don't know. In any case, I think this jacket worked pretty well against an outfit comprised almost entirely of blue, in this case dark jeans and a university striped oxford.

It's a conundrum, really, this black blazer. Two days ago, I tried it out with grey flannels and a white shirt with pink stripes. But it was all wrong, reminded me why I once found the black blazer repugnant. That day, I immediately swapped it for my classic navy blazer, and all was right with the world. The today I tried it with jeans and it was just the thing, which is funny, because jeans and sports jackets often work quite well together, but if you ask me, nothing looks worse than a navy blazer and jeans. I don't know, too dorky or something.

And speaking of dark blue jeans...

I like my jeans dark, stiff and old fashioned of cut. I do not like to wear jeans for a year or more without washing them in order to preserve them, because that's just filthy. Enter Woolite Extra Dark Care. I ran the Wranglers though the wash, alone, turned inside out, in cold water, with Woolite, then hung them to dry. The results: jeans that are both dark and clean. Go figure.

p.s. watch for this enigma of a jacket with tan slacks and a cream cable knit sweater. That might be just the ticket, too. We'll see.