31 July 2010

The Peacock & The Purist

The other day, I got pretty zesty with a three pattern mix. I was into it, so were some of you, others weren't. That's fine. Today, I played the Purist:
Blue oxford button down, navy blazer, and a burgundy and navy repp tie. Really, what could be more low key and classic. Someone even told me I had Republican written all over me today. That's a bit severe...no Republican I know where's a gingham square cut from an old shirt.
Simple and pure from head to toe...'stone' kahkis and penny loafers...no socks of course.

Quite literally, "The Purist", by Sero, for Judd, of Swampscott. Homework turned up nothing about Judd, but in the old days I had this cashmere blend sports jacket in micro herringbone tweed from them... wore that one to death, I did.

Aggressive pattern mixing can be tricky, but it's fun when you get the knack. Still, it's a trick best used with reserve. Keep it in your back pocket, and play the purist in between takes. Bold pattern mixing all the time makes you "that guy", just like wearing bow ties too often can make you "that guy". "That guy" likes to turn things up to 11, but "that guy" can be a cartoon. In order to achieve the level of sartorial aplomb that "that guy" achieves when he's at his best, keep the knob at a maximum of 7...most of the time...which is still about five notches higher than most guys these days, anyway.

28 July 2010

Cocktails by the Pool

Tin Tin recently did an interesting post about the upcoming re-issue of the infamous "Take Ivy". The book has by now been discussed ad nauseam, and though I too have been sucker punched and pre-ordered a copy, I won't talk about it here. But Tin Tin's last bit did get me thinking. He said:

Take Ivy holds a mirror to the reader. Some see it as a nostalgic look at a period long gone. Others see privilege. A lot of people see inspiration. Not only in clothing others but clothing themselves. I see someone from the outside looking in.

It was that last sentence about being "on the outside" that got my wheels turning, and rather than post my take in the comments section over at The Trad, I thought I'd get all long winded about it here.

I was ten years old in 1986. Back then I saw a lot of guys, mostly of Italian descent, dressed not unlike I dressed today. You know the look: button down shirt, crisp from the cleaners, with khakis, crisp from the cleaners, and loafers with bare ankles. Plain and simple. Pretty much the classic East Coast casual uniform (tangent: back then, such an outfit was still considered casual, by no means appropriate for funerals or weddings or even a day at the office). Us swarthy types put a slight Italian twist on it.

Two buttons open at the neck, sleeves rolled back. You'd see Weejuns and Sperry Topsiders often enough, on the kids, but mostly the loafers were Italian horsebits. I've eschewed the jewelry. Those guys always had gold chains, bracelets, pinky rings, the works...and they always did that thing with the sleeves where they'd roll them in instead of out. Little touches, but the clothes were largely the same as the Harvard guys.
My Dad's cousin Bob lives in this killer 1960s split level ranch in the 'burbs complete with a kidney shaped pool. He was always having barbecues back then. The kids would spend all day in the pool, surrounded by guys dressed like this, accompanied by ladies with smart hair-dos wearing tailored knee length skirts, heels and lightweight cardigans. Nearly everyone's last name ended in a vowel.

As the author of a blog that largely focuses on a particular type of menswear, it's no surprise that I frequently read a lot of related material. The internet has given everybody a strong opinion and a really loud voice to use in proclaiming it. Mostly the stuff I read is fun, but there's this creeping undercurrent of guys out there who still believe that if your family didn't come over on the Mayflower, descend from upright Saxon stock and send the boys to Harvard for the last three hundred or so years, then you're some kind of degenerate heathen who has some nerve wearing khakis and tweed and button down collars. To be frank, it's more than a little racist to claim that race and religion entitle one to any particular mode of dress. Because that's all this really is, a mode of dress. If a store is going to offer these things for sale, then the only thing that entitles anybody to wear them is the money to buy it.

Miles Davis bought clothes at The Andover Shop. Many of the little shops that sold this stuff were Jewish owned and operated. Where I come from, Italian dudes have been wearing a variation of this stuff forever. I can remember my Mom buying me Sero oxfords at Bradlee's as part of my Catholic school uniform when I was a boy. I certainly don't feel I'm on the outside looking in, and I really don't believe these togs have all that much to do with privilege, not anymore. Despite what some people may think, it's been an awful long time since any of this stuff was the exclusive province of the yacht club gang. Granted, I did grow up in Boston where the influence of the Ivy League set has always enjoyed a broad appeal, but still, its only clothes fellas.

Besides, you don't hear me whining about the way they stole Gucci loafers, Loro Piana sweaters and Ferraris from my people, do you.

26 July 2010

Pattern Mixing (Summer Edition)

Though I have written about this topic before, it's been a while since I offered the subject of pattern mixing up for debate. Most guys don't have much trouble with two patterns, such as a striped shirt and foulard tie, but three patterns is tricky. What follows may even kind of sort of qualify as four...or at least three and a half.

I realize I wore this jacket only just the other day, but it's season is brief and I'm trying to get some mileage out of it. The tie is vintage 1980s Brooks Brothers, a $ 2.99 acquisition from just yesterday. An old Sero oxford, J.Crew khakis and a cap from The Village Hat Shop complete the ensemble.

I actually had no intention of wearing a jacket today, but this tie was practically demanding it. Of course, my first inclination was to keep it simple and reach for the trusty navy blazer. As I stood in the closet, it occurred to me that this was going to look an awful lot like a school uniform, and a fake one at that. Given that I was already pushing the possible bounds of integrity by wearing an imitation regiment tie (or maybe it's from an actual regiment, who knows? Either way I've never been in any regiment, so the point is moot), that would have been too much. Instinctively it struck me that this madras might work. It shares all the major elements of the overall color palette, with just the right difference in scale, the shirts stripes being fine, the jackets plaid being medium and the tie being bold. The inconsistencies between the two tones of burgundy, and the gold accent stripes on the tie give the whole thing just the right amount of maybe-it-really-doesn't-match-but-I'm-beyond -caring bit of insouciance, carefully considered of course...or maybe, it just doesn't match. I don't know. What I do know is that I felt comfortable in this, which goes along way toward putting this kind of crap over on people. That, and acting as though there is absolutely nothing absurd about dressing this way by choice in the year 2010.

At the bottom, some no name USA made tassel loafers, nice leather. I suspect they might be old Bass Weejuns, just because they have that vibe about them. In any case, for $3.49, who cares?

Anyway, pattern mixing is kind of like playing music. It takes practice and time, until after a while you can just sort of feel it. But you also have to be careful not to bust it out too aggressively all of the time. After all, imagine if every song you heard had a drum solo...

24 July 2010

Il Aperitivo Perfetto per l'Estate

Only just the other day I realized that the Summer was sliding by and I had yet to stock the house with Campari. I love that stuff, with a bit of soda and a slice of orange. I find it refreshing on a hot day, especially while cooking. Mrs. G. can't stand the stuff, which only means that I get the whole bottle to myself. Trouble is, these days Campari is pushing $30 a bottle, and I am, as you all know, a cheapskate.

Enter Luxardo Bitter. A mere $15 a bottle. I had been eyeing this stuff for a while. Luxardo is an old Italian company that produces a wide range of cordials and liqueurs. They're best known for their Maraschino liqueur and real Maraschino cherries, both of which will elevate your next Manhattan to a new level, if you can find them. All the other classics are in the line up as well: limoncello, sambuca, and even fernet. So I figured they must know what they're doing.

If there's any difference between the taste of Luxardo Bitter and Campari, it's pretty slight. In fact, I think I might even like this better. Price aside, this stuff is a littler lighter, more delicate in texture than Campari. Served over ice with Polar lime seltzer and a couple of Clementine wedges, it really hit the spot. It also makes a fine Negroni, a drink you'd better watch out for, since it also contains gin and does not include any non-alcoholic ingredients. Tough stuff.

The only other people I've ever known who dig this stuff are my mother and my grandmother. So if you're an old Italian lady, or just nuts like one the way I am, track this stuff down and give it a try, preferably while grilling a Bistecca alla Fiorentina, or something.

Bitter and Soda:
in a tumbler with ice, mix
1/3 Luxardo Bitter with
2/3 club soda
garnish with orange slice
(lime seltzer and Clementines make
a particularly nice touch)


in a tumbler with ice, mix
1/3 gin
1/3 sweet vermouth
1/3 Luxardo Bitter
garnish with orange slice
(steer clear of anybody else if you foolishly decide
to have two or three of these.
This poison is strong, boy.)

Bonus: Manhattan

in a tumbler with ice, mix
Old Overholt rye whiskey
splash of sweet vermouth
splash of Luxardro Maraschino liqueur
garnish with a real Maraschino cherry
(to hell with martini glasses and Bourbon,
a real Manhattan is made with rye and lives
on the rocks in a tumbler. Trust me, it's better this way.)

21 July 2010


I really do dig my vintage Palm Beach madras jacket. It's got this killer muted color scheme, which steers it clear of go-to-hell waters. Even though I do tend to be fond of such things, I appreciate a garment that is big and plaid and yet understated all at once.
This jacket is set off nicely by the simplest things, like khakis and a white tennis shirt. Never one to leave well enough alone, I punctuated it with a madras d-ring belt. Two plaids together are tough, especially when they're both madras, but this combo was almost like a secret.

I've known a lot of guys who just can't be bothered with pocket squares, but if I'm wearing a jacket, I won't leave the house without one. It's a small touch, but it really elevates the look of an entire outfit, especially in the absence of a tie.

This particular one is actually just a piece of blue oxford salvaged from a well worn Brooks Brothers shirt. I'm really digging this idea of pocket squares cut from shirt cloth for Summer. Anyone cashes in on the idea, I'll sue you.
And with that, we steer the conversation away from three big fat pieces of tweed back to the thick humid air of late July.

19 July 2010

Off Season: A Family of Orphans

It's the middle of July, and as I sit on the front porch with the laptop drinking canned beer, it's pretty damned humid, even at a quarter past twelve. Here in Boston, it's something of a local sport to complain about the weather, which infuriates me, so I won't. Allow me only to apologize in advance for discussing tweed at such a time. But the following has been in my house three weeks already, and weren't no way I could sit on this till November...

A three piece tweed suit. This is something I've wanted for a long time, but since it's not the 1940s and we have reasonable heating most places, and I definitely do not lead the sort of life that asks for any kind of suit, let alone a three piece, let alone one in a "country" style, I had all but given up on the idea. Then this beauty turns up in a 40 short, for $7.49, all three pieces.

One Hell of a piece of cloth, thick and warm, but with a soft hand. The perfect shade of brown/grey for tweed, with an over plaid in orange, blue and green that my cheap camera doesn't do justice. In short, this suit goes wit every color shirt, tie or shoe you can throw at it.

Yikes, Paul Stuart? Ooh, la la. I don't mean to label drop, but these guys currently offer a cotton seersucker jacket for over $1200. Not a bad deal for under ten bucks.

The styling of the vest is perhaps a bit odd, what with the groupings of two buttons, but I think I can make it work.

Side tabs and brace buttons on the pants, sans belt loops. C'mon, we've got some pretty hot detailing going on here.

I imagine this suit will be a real killer on a cold day with a thick white oxford button down and wool knit tie, topped by a tan cashmere coat. If I only I had a train to catch...in England...pulled by a steam engine...

But this suit is almost less of a suit and more a Family of Orphans. You see, I run across so many parts of suits that simply cannot exist without their counterparts. But this suit will likely serve me better as three separate garments. The pants will be stunning with a big fat cable knit sweater and a Barbour jacket, Bean boots on my feet. The vest I'm seeing with wide wale cords and a heavy cardigan. The jacket will go with khakis, jeans, grey flannels and who knows what else.

Don't worry , I'm not about to go wishing it was cold outside, because my current uniform of brightly hued pants and white tennis shirts has been treating me just fine. But it nice to have something to look forward to.

18 July 2010

Pink & Green

Green silk knit tie from The Andover Shop; Pink awning stripe shirt from Brooks Brothers, a real classic from the hey-day, made in USA, sporting that ethereal and inimitable collar roll. Less than ten bucks total.

I'm too tired to write any content for you, but I did like this photo.

17 July 2010

Sans Chaussettes (on wearing another man's shoes)

Before we begin, allow me a moment of "Classic Affordable Wardrobe", a tiny bit of gloating if you will. A new pair of tassels, penny loafer style, came my way for a mere $3.49. (Actually, they were $5.99 but I had a coupon for 30% off). I really dig this style of shoe, with the welted seam moccasin toe, like a penny, with tassels, but not a kiltie. Men's clothing dorks will understand that sentence...the rest of you better get googlin'. The last time I saw this particular type of loafer may have been in the fifth or sixth grade, when they were purchased as part of my Catholic school uniform...and you thought this stuff was only for Protestants...
But I digress. As the title of this post suggests, what follows is a little how-to on buying, and wearing, another man's shoes:

I frequently get asked about used shoes. A lot of people are a little creeped out at the thought of wearing second hand clothes, exponentially more at the thought of second hand shoes. I can dig that. Feet are gross, therefore, so are shoes. And heaven help me for wearing used shoes without socks! But I do it all the time. Here's how.

I preach abject pickiness as an attribute of the successful thrift shopper. The same goes double for shoes. Whenever I buy used shoes, I look only for pairs that have barely been worn. Thrift stores are brimming with beat-to-sh*t nasty old shoes. I look at two things: the soles and the inside. Shoes with soles that are barely scuffed are best, especially when you can tell that some guys wife made him wear these to a wedding once and that was it. The same is true of the inside. If you're going sockless, as I frequently do, a fresh pair of Dr. Scholl's inserts helps. Besides making your bare foot more comfortable all day long, they keep your bare foot from making direct contact with the inside of an old shoe. Besides, I'm just not that paranoid, anyway.
I suppose there are disinfectants out there or something, but I just by clean, well kept shoes, then I clean them and keep them well.

But, shouldn't a guy take good care of his shoes anyway?

15 July 2010


Reading this blog of mine, one might get the impression that it's all peaches and cream out there in the disorganized and random world of thrift shops.True, the deals are great when you find them, but there is also disappointment, even a certain sadness in it at times. As far as menswear goes, nowhere is this more apparent than in the ubiquitous presence of orphans...the unwanted top halves of once beautiful suits.
The other day I found this jacket. A natural shouldered, undarted, two button cuffed, 3/2 beauty, in a tropical wool with a 3/4 lining, size 40 short, fit me like a glove, for $6.99...
Man, was this a nice piece of cloth. From a few paces off, it read as an icy shade of bluish grey, but closer inspection revealed a beautifully woven glen check, with hints of red.

From the storied and hallowed Chipp...not only that, but a "Golden Chipp". Never one to give up easily on these things, I was sure the pants were somewhere in the store, priced separately. You'd be amazed how often suits get separated in these kinds of shops. So I took the jacket and headed to the pants department hunting for a mate but to no avail.

I know some of you might be thinking that there must be some of way of using this fine piece as a serviceable sports jacket of some kind. Sometimes this is the case. The top half of a tweed suit may only need new buttons to become a sports jacket, maybe a navy jacket gets some brass, but not this one. I considered how it might look with white pants, or charcoal. I considered changing the buttons. Dammit, I thought of everything. But in the end I knew that I'd likely never wear this jacket, because it would always just be half a suit, an orphan.

I know sometimes it may seem like I have a magical and endless stream of fabulous dirt cheap goods flowing through my house, but remember that this blog is as well edited as my wardrobe. In reality, successful thrift shopping has got more to do with a discerning eye and the ability to edit than almost anything else. When you're dealing with stuff this cheap, you have to be especially picky.
After all, no matter how good your intentions may be, you simply can't give a home to every orphan you find.

14 July 2010

House and Home: The Dining Set (reprise)

Mrs. G and I like to think of ourselves as the crafty and somewhat eclectic type when it comes to home decor. As such, we wind up taking on a number of little design projects around the house, using re purposed second hand stuff. With a little elbow grease and some stuff from the hardware store, you can pull some real style out of what many people think of as junk. As with any thrifty endeavour, patience and perseverance are major factors to success. The following project began as an idea last Fall, and though it had its debut here last November, it only recently came to full fruition. About a month ago we were at the Todd Farm flea market. The weather forecasted rain, so there weren't many vendors outside. As we wandered into the barn, Mrs. G. spotted this table on the left just inside the door at the first booth. An old kitchen table, circa 1930s, missing its chairs. On the wall in the barn was a message hanging by a thumbtack written on lined paper torn from a notebook saying to call Barbara if you want any of this stuff. So I called Barbara, whose husband answered, saying 'he's at Todd Farm, see, I told you we shoulda gone there.' Anyway, I managed to haggle them down from $125 to $100. And with that, we came one piece of furniture closer to having an Ikea-free house.

This thing is serious, some real heavy weight solid wood with a printed metal top. I had to borrow tools from the man in charge of the barn to disassemble it and squeeze it into the car. Check the built-in silverware drawer.

Some of you may remember the chairs project a while back. This table ties those chairs and the room in which they sit together perfectly. The table is heavy and wooden, belonging completely to the era of the house. Yet, it's printed black and white graphic top make it a cinch with painted black chairs upholstered in black and white houndstooth. And speaking of those chairs...one of them broke, and one of them just wasn't doing it for me. No matter, two more $5 chars came along to pick up the slack:

This chair, with the curved shape of it's back rest, echos the curved back of the chair across from it nicely...

just as this chair, with its square shape echos its partner as well. In its first iteration (ahem, architecture school) the project came off pretty good, but in the end, it really gelled.

Now would be a good time to stress my opinion on the connection between style, eclecticism and open minded-ness.

It's no good wearing a costume or playing a part. Sure, you can know all the details of one thing or another, and deal them out with ease. But style comes from the combination of influences in a manner that is both comfortable and personal. Some days I might wear an outfit comprised of items from the 60s, 70s, 80s and present all at once, finished with a few touches that just don't seem to belong. In much the same way, my house is 100 years old, decorated with furniture and artwork from the 40s through the present in a mish-mash that is expressive first and foremost of the people who live there. My apologies for any unintended pretension, but this blog is, after all, a one man operation, and bound to the (more than) occasional narcicism.

Anyway, I guess my point is this: don't marry yourself to some narrow idea of 'cool' or 'style' or however you want to call it. Instead, trust your instincts, and take all the things that you know are cool and put them together. Therein lies the essence of true personal style. And at the risk of sounding melodramatic, a certain kind of satisfying freedom.

In closing, dig the post-depression design on this piece...

The beauty of old school mass production, right?

12 July 2010

An Affordable Wardrobe in Person: Wrap Up

The Menswear Shopping Party at Raspberry Beret is a wrap. A good time was had by all (I think). Many thanks to those of you who turned out for the event...especially those of you who bought my wares. When I started this blog more than three years ago, it was all for laughs, basically. I had no clue where it would take me. It's nice to sell some stuff, but it's most gratifying is meeting some of my readers face to face. The people I meet through this and the thoughts we share are far and away the best part of life in the "blogosphere". (yuck...did I just say that?)

Of course, my deepest gratitude is reserved for Rachael for not only hosting me in her fine shop, but suggesting the idea in the first place. Thanks.

p.s. turns out the "Brookslinen" jacket in periwinkle blue works best with charcoal grey tropical worsted slacks.

10 July 2010

An Affordable Wardrobe in Person: a preview

As I get all my things in order for tomorrow's Menswear Shopping Party at Raspberry Beret, I thought a little teaser might be just the thing:
Summer may be well under way, but it's never too late to pick up a few choice warm weather items to sharpen things up a bit. Plenty of lightweight sports jackets in hopsack, khaki, poplin and plaid to coose from...
... a handful of classically styled dress shirts...

lots of trousers, from khakis and reds, to tropical woll dress slacks, and of course, a little bit of the old "go-to-hell' jobbies. Check out those brown and white gingham checks. Some guy whose smaller than me is so lucky that they don't fit me...

...just like at Top Shelf, I've got a fresh haul of classic neckwear, with a couple of novelties for the more adventurous among you...
Alden, Florsheim and Sperry are just a few of your choices in footwear.

Please pardon this little bit of self promotion, but like they say, if you don't ask you don't get. Stop by with your best gal to shop and chat about clothes. How often can you both do that in the same place, anyway? Afterwards, you can treat yourself to some lunch at Changsho or the Chez Henri. And come early, before the Mimosas run out.
An Affordable Wardrobe
at Raspberry Beret
Sunday 11 July, noon til 3p.m.
1704 Mass. Ave. Cambridge

08 July 2010

Sans Chaussettes (and the relativity of "go to hell")

I have a lot of socks. More than a guy needs, for sure. I just can't bear to wear them in warm weather. Now that I think of it, I probably haven't worn socks since May. Who needs 'em? It can be pushing 90 degrees and I'll wear long pants, a tie and a jacket if I feel like it, but socks just don't cut it. Many of you have mentioned this in the comments of some previous posts, so I thought a little dissertation on "going sockless" might be in order.

(photo credit: M magazine, by way of Tin Tin)

The photo spread above is from the mid 1980s, the original hey day of socklessness. Here, it's pictured as a mark of nobility of sorts (click to enlarge and read the caption, it's worth a good chuckle). Now, I'm in no way trying to belie the humbleness of my blood line, but I do like a bare ankle in the Summertime. There are, however, a few guidelines I adhere to regarding the sort of shoes suitable for this little affectation: loafers, canvas sneakers and moccasins.
brown suede bit loafers. Not Gucci, but Italian anyway.The Italian bit loafer is a little abberation that has nudged its way into the canon of classic American menswear( note the fellow above in the aviator sunglasses)> Best worn with a bare foot.

The brown penny loafer, also a classic with a bare foot, works well with shorts. That is, if you're the sort of guy who wears shoes with a hard leather sole with shorts. I'm not. Save this one for khakis, seersucker, and Nantucket red. Loafers like these split the difference well...dressy enough for a tie, perfectly at home on a bare foot.

I love me some Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars. For me, natural canvas is a cinch, maybe navy blue or true white, but I'll admit that black or red high tops have earned their spot on the list as well. Low cut Chucks not only look well without socks, but kinda don't make sense with them. After all, the shoe itself is cotton.

Navy blue boat style sneakers such as these Sperry's also demand socklessness. Again, the shoe itself is cotton, and nothing but casual.

and then we have my hippie shoes, my Arrow moccasins. The admittedly "nature boy" vibe of these shoes absolutely prohibits socks.

and of course, the classic Sperry Topsider, in dark brown with a white rubber sole. If ever a shoe wanted socks less, I haven't found it. The unchallenged classic with shorts, khakis, jeans, blazers, you name it...just not socks.

Not wearing socks should be an easy breezy affair...but it can run amock:

I don't want to get all bitchy and trash this kid. After all, he does look better than 90% of men on the street, and he's clearly taken an effort to dress well ( even if that effort mostly consisted of doing the Ralph Lauren dance...as a slow dance...). I'm willing to cut the kid plenty slack. But this recent trend of hard soled lace up dress shoes sockless? I'll forgive the tie and shorts combo, I'll forgive the looking-at-my-watch-staring-the-other-way-affected-New York-pose...but the brogues without socks thing has got to come to an end.

On the other hand, as a swarthy Italian Catholic, I'm gonna go ahead and give Jewish Ralph and this handsome young black fellow a million combined points for furthering the cause of wearing these kinds of things for their own sake. The more curmudgeonly types on the webs may be loath to admit that anyone of the unwashed savages(such as myself) has any right to wear this stuff, but, like the pants and the bare ankles said...go to Hell?
p.s my apologies for the fact that the last few posts have included only reposted photos or those culled from the internet. Photo uploading and editing difficulties on my end should be resolved soon.

05 July 2010

Peacock Precedent

In the legal profession, establishing precedent is essential in making a viable argument. So too, I suppose, in matters sartorial.

The late great Richard Merkin was undeniably a stylish gent. Love him or hate him, you gotta give the guy credit for individuality and sheer panache, albeit with a decidedly 1930s bent. Note the collar of his shirt. White, in contrast to the stripes of the rest of the shirt. Rounded points, so it's a club collar, right? No way the points are too long! Outrageous!

At least that's kind of the response I got to my own so-called club collars, on my own round of made to measure shirts. Sure, they are a bit flamboyant, the mark of a peacock, really. But you already knew I was a peacock, right? I mean, really, what kind of guy posts pictures of his own clothes online as an example of style anyway? Bravado, plain and simple, and I'm guilty as charged.

I even wear mine pinned, a la Merkin. Don't get me wrong, I'm not even trying to put myself in the same ballpark with him, never mind league. But, I did have some shirts made that caused a minor ruckus, that were not unlike his. Just sayin'...
Too bad Merkin never had a blog....now that would have been something, no?

04 July 2010

Happy Independence Day

The barbecuer, wearing "the Barbecuer". Narragansett tall boys, $5.69/ 6 pack.
Khaki shorts, bare feet in the kiddie pool...best footwear there is.

Plenty of hot dogs, and assorted sodium filled delights.
Here's hoping you all had a good one.