30 September 2010
I grew up wearing these. Mostly, in the old days, I opted for black high tops, with a brief foray, along with everyone else in the early 90s, into the fluorescent colors. My mother would take us to the nearby outlet store for a new pair. You could get them for $15. What other sneakers would any sensible Mom buy her two boys? As a bonus, they were even in style, so we didn't complain.
I remember when they moved production, and were eventually acquired by (gasp!) Nike. At the time, I was heavily involved in my own Rockabilly infused version of Punk Rock, and I found this news to be quite disheartening. In the Summer I wore these, in the winter, Georgia engineer boots. I actually read about it in Maximum Rock N Roll.( p.s. as a drummer, I always found it downright tacky to have a front head on the bass drum with the drum kit logo on it. So not punk. Always get a white one and paint your bands name on it...c'mon, kids, really) As the years went by, I stopped wearing them for a while, but I eventually returned. One thing I learned from Punk Rock was the importance of principles. One thing I learned from life was how to pick your battles. I buy every damn thing I own second hand, except underwear and natural canvas Chucks. Nobodies perfect. Still, for a grown up who used to listen to Suicidal Tendencies (all I wanted was a Pepsi, but she wouldn't give it to me!), this really is the perfect Summer shoe.
As for comparison, its clear this pair is far superior to my post USA pairs. The design is practically the same, and the production fairly similar. The differences are all in the materials. This pair is made of cotton canvas, as opposed to partially synthetic canvas. The ventilation eyelets on the side actually line up shoe to shoe, and the insole is also cotton canvas....far more forgiving and comfortable to my sweaty sockless foot.
But these shoes present me with a minor dilemma. By now, they're a collectors item, practically a museum piece. I could probably sell them on Ebay tomorrow to some Japanese fanatic for nearly a hundred bucks, but I won't. The hoarder in me feels compelled to preserve them. In truth, I'll likely just wear them for two Summers until they fall apart.
29 September 2010
27 September 2010
I don't wear a three-piece suit when I fly, but I always wear a blazer, a button down shirt, and often a nice hat. It pains me to no end to see some maundering bag of food draped in matted velour sweatpants waiting at the check-in line. The 60s are big again style-wise, yet the idea that you should be presentable when you fly (which was a hard, fast rule forty years ago) remains inconceivable to most people. The wonder and ceremony, like in most other parts of life in America, are all gone. When J*** and I were flying to Argentina in 08, I had my usual uniform--jeans, shoes, button down, grey sportcoat, straw fedora, on. The kid checking IDs at the gate did a double take and said, "You look like a movie star, yo."
People bitch to no end about treated brusquely causally by airport personnel. But if you don't dress in a way that expresses a measure of self-respect, how can you expect people to treat you as anything but cattle? I find I'm almost always treated better when I fly, because my appearance suggests that that's what I expect from people. This is a general rule for life, I think.
Well said, old friend, well said.
25 September 2010
Castle Island. You can read all about the place on the link, but let me just tell you that it's one of the best things about living in Boston. Until the early twentieth century, it was an actual island. The tidal flats of South Boston were eventually filled in, connecting it to mainland and creating Carson Beach in the process, and making one of the best places to simply hang out with children that I've ever seen. On Friday, I decided to put on my orange boat shoes and surprise the boy by picking him up from pre-school and heading straight to Southie, as the yokels call it.
Sullivan's, and spending an hour at the playground, you might be lucky enough to see a gigantic cargo ship leaving the harbor. Even for a grown up, the sheer hugeness of these things is impressive. I asked my kids "Can you believe something so big and heavy can float?" to which the boy answered "I bet it took 100 men to put it in the water". Again, fantastic.
23 September 2010
o-Ject turntable.In the last year that Mrs. G. and I could actually afford to buy nice gifts for each other for Christmas, I was stunned to receive this. That Christmas day, I spent two hours calibrating it, which of course I loved. In order to switch speeds from 33rpm to 45 rpm, you have to remove the platter and switch the drive belt to a larger wheel on the motor. Just my kind of pain-in-the-ass. The first record I played on it was "Ride This Train" by Johnny Cash, a record worthy someday of its own post. I won't lie, when I heard how beautiful my new machine made this old record sound, my eyes welled up. Really, they did. I told you, music has always been very meaningful to me.
22 September 2010
This one is the mildest of the bunch, being at it's simplest only an abbreviation of "traditional". As such, I read it to mean just that, traditional, as in "been around for a while", or "if it ain't broke don't fix it" Really, as a dirty word it's pretty soft-core, I'm just not a fan of needless abbreviation. If we used the full word more often, it's likely that we'd tend to use it correctly more often. Besides, Tin Tin is a good guy, so I'm almost willing to give this one a pass...almost.
This word gets bandied about like mad, especially amongst the workwear/fashion, New York Lumberjack set. Everything's just got to be so damned authentic. Drives me mad. True, your Filson tincloth jacket may authentic, your Woolrich blanket may be authentic, and those jeans you paid $400 for that you never wash may be authentic too, in that they're made in USA by some venerable old brand. But all that stuff thats designer, all those collaborations, all those poor people clothes that are priced only for millionaires? No way. There ain't nothing authentic about designer coal mining clothes, no matter where they come from or what the label says. Unless, of course, you work in an actual coal mine, in which case the other guys are likely to beat you up when they hear how much all that gear cost you.
I've got no beef with actual heritage brands. I do love my Bean Boots. But you never hear that term applied to things that actually have some heritage. That's because real heritage is usually content to be quiet, it speaks for itself and it doesn't need a label to tell you. I find that once that label is applied to something it usually means that its an overpriced copy of a romanticized version of the original thing, which was actually a commodity for average people in the first place. (See Authentic, above)
Let's say you walk into a museum to see an exhibit of artifacts recently un-earthed at a new dig site in Egypt. The archeologist found a lot of stuff, but only the best or most exemplary pieces were chosen for display at the museum. You might say that the collection was well curated, and you'd be right. But a store, or these days online store, is not a place to describe as well curated. Stores have buyers who select the merchandise they would like to sell, and then display it in a way which will hopefully get you to buy it when you see it. They create an atmosphere, one that suggests a certain lifestyle or frame of mind to match their wares. It's not curation, it's business and marketing. Actually, the way they've co-opted the term "well curated " has been a pretty good stroke of marketing too.
Before we get all up in arms, I'm not going to get all racist or anything. White Anglo-Saxon Protestants have as much right to be proud of their race and religion as anybody else, and they should. Many of our greatest leaders have fallen into that category, and their contributions are great. But we're talking about clothing here, not religion. Button down collars, striped ties, sack jackets and khakis do not belong exclusively to this tiny slice of the American pie. True, maybe the style did belong to them once, but that's been over for at least 30 year and probably more. Besides, even in the old days, when the sons of the captains of industry were busy combining these elements in a particular way to forge a "style", the clothes they were buying were coming from stores that were frequently owned by Jews, who had as much, if not much more, to do with the development of this style than their customers did. Jacob Press himself came up with a lot of these ideas in the first place, remember? And let's not forget the important role black jazz musician played in making this something that was actually "cool". My point is, race, religion and socio-economic standing don't have anything to do with a striped tie and a blue blazer, not anymore. It's about time we got over that.
Unless we're talking specifically about the places that are Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth or the University of Pennsylvania, then the term simply does not apply. We should get over that, too. (see above). Besides, college kids tend to favor shorts, flip flops, and pajamas in public, even at the Ivy League schools.
This is the King Hell Dirty Fashion Word of them all. Allow me to apologize in advance if I step on any toes here. There's no two ways about it, I hate it. Maybe it meant something once, but now it only stands for costume. I'm going to go out on a limb and blame Lisa Birnbach. Why not? I never was a fan of The Official Preppy Handbook (or TOPH as people have taken to calling it in our too-fast-for-anything-but-abbreviations times) anyway. When someone says they dress "preppy", it usually means they've gotten pretty good at looking at ads for J. Crew and Polo and aping the look perfectly. It means they're playing dress up, and it's a term that belittles those people out there who actually get it, the one's who know what they're doing, the ones out there who really have style and continue to nail it on a daily basis. Those people tend not to use the word, tend in fact to be reviled by it. Tommy Hilfiger seems to love it. See my point? I will qualify it by saying that it's exponentially more infuriating when applied to mens clothes. For the ladies, it can be cute and even endearing.
I've had the idea for this post in my head for quite a while now, but I never went ahead with it. I know I'm likely to infuriate some people here, but what can you do? If I'm going to let that stop me, I might as well close up shop.Besides, I'll be the first to admit that I'm as guilty in this regard as anyone. True, I do try my best to avoid these terms, but I'm a sucker for the things they define. Hypocrisy? Maybe, but at least I can laugh at myself.
In closing, please enjoy this guys take on a certain other seven words:
Not safe for work, but funny as Hell.
18 September 2010
Khakis derive from the army. Blazers derive from the navy. I guess a uniforms a uniform to the bone. At least this one is optional.
17 September 2010
It's been raining, or threatening to, with a fair amount of regularity lately. I find that the cheap hat finds an unexpected mate in the old Barbour jacket. Naturally, a Barbour is most at home with a tweed cap, but this one has a bit of the air of the old english bucket hat, just enough to tie it to the Barbour. Being khaki makes the hat a cinch against the deep olive green waxed cotton. On a sunny day, it works right into a blazer/khaki/blue shirt combo with ease. Goes pretty good with brown tortoise shell Ray Bans too.
Every now and then, I think I want a proper tweed bucket hat. But unless you're John Updike, it's unlike to look anything other than frumpy. This ones got a bit more shape, which keeps it just fresh enough. Truly, I never thought I'd ever really recommend something from Target, but whaddaya know?, this hat broke the mold.
All of this is, of course, merely my humble opinion.
p.s. comments are officially closed on the "Ink and Bow Ties" post. Talk about a raw nerve....
15 September 2010
Today it was sunny and temperate. Perfect weather for a cotton sweater. I've really been digging this pale yellow number lately (Polo, $3.99). It works well in many guises. Earlier today, I wore it with jeans and a white tennis shirt, no socks and penny loafers, for dropping the boy off at pre-school and taking the girl to the playground. Later, I find it cleans up nicely with grey slacks and a button down collar. Simple and classic. The hat is perhaps a touch of bravado, rendered in periwinkle blue pinwale corduroy, by Sackville & Jones of London, $175 marked down to $8.oo, at the long lost Filene's basement.
I nearly added an ascot or bow tie to this one, but in the end I felt it was best to just keep it simple and let the colors and textures do the talking. I fully realize that these days many people see this outfit as a bit much, maybe even affected. The neckwear would have pushed it straight into costume territory. Funny how thin the line between well dressed and costume can be sometimes.
Be confident and enjoy yourself, but when in doubt, keep it simple.
14 September 2010
So there they are, in their full glory. Paired with a white undershirt and blue jeans, natural counterparts.
So here's the thing: I have a lot of tattoos. I don't hide them on purpose, and I don't flash them
around on purpose either. I have them for myself, and I don't regret them one bit. I've never been in uniformed service, on a ship or otherwise, I've never been to prison, and I've never been a member of a motorcycle gang. I'm just a creative type of person, and I like artistic things. What can I say?
Every year when the weather warms, I get a lot of questions about them. Given the way I dress and carry myself, people are often surprised that I have them. It's confusing to see a bunch of tattoos poking out of the rolled up sleeve of a blue oxford shirt. People don't know what to make of it. I can understand that, I guess. But the fact of the matter is, there's just nothing to make of it.
I have my tattoos because I like them. True, there was a time when only certain admittedly undesirable types, would have them, but those days are long gone. This may be much to the chagrin of an older generation of folks, and I understand that too. But these days, this kind of stuff just doesn't matter anymore. It's not worth getting shocked over it. I'll admit, there are lots of times when it's best to keep them concealed. But if that's the case, chances are that the type of clothing that would reveal them is inappropriate anyway. The post on ASW focused on serving jury duty, and being appalled at all the t-shirts and tattoos. I agree, about the t-shirts, not the tattoos. The last time I served, I wore a blue shirt, striped tie and a blazer, with all those tattoos hiding underneath. I was dressed appropriately for the occasion. That's where the confusion enters it, I think. Many people just don't figure a tattooed fella to know how to dress, or carry himself, or behave in a courteous and professional manner. These days, that's just downright ignorant, sorry, but it is. What they fail to remember is that the heart surgeon who saved Grandpa's life last year is as likely to be tattooed as anyone.
I dress the way I do because I like it. I have my own sense of style, one that is informed by the lessons of my father, my time spent in menswear retail, and a Boston upbringing. Some folks find this infuriating too, because I'm not a WASP, or something. But really, clothes are clothes. Race and religion don't really matter when choosing a shirt and a tie, do they? Nor do tattoos, taste in music, political affiliation, or economic status. Clothing should express one's personality, but it doesn't have to deny the aspects of it that don't necessarily match. My tattoos do not mean that I should spend the rest of my days in a Harley Davidson t-shirt drinking canned beer on the street.
Men's clothing has always been full of rules. These days, they are mostly gone or irrelevant. It kind of a shame, because knowing those rules really helps a man to dress well. Lots of them were foolish, but most of them existed for good reasons. Being married to a set of rules that is carved in stone with no variation or room for interpretation is silly, in clothing and in life. I mostly wear plain front pants, but sometimes pleats are O.K. I prefer an un-darted jacket, but not always. I like white bucks after Labor Day. And I have a lot of tattoos. It's true, I've preached on here before about our current lack of style and decorum in general as a society, and I would love to see a return of the generally well appointed gentleman. But I would never wish to see people sacrifice individuality in the name of being well dressed. That's not style, that's just conformity at it's worst.
I've always believed it was best to embrace all aspects of one's personality, that there's no reason why one person can't have several different ideas. That's how tattoos and a bow tie find there way into the same ensemble. In a time where young girls go out to the liquor store for a six pack in their bed clothes, nothing about what I do should be considered freaky.
Enough ranting. Tomorrow it's back to playing "dress up".
p.s. I have in the past had my moments of rage about A Suitable Wardrobe, but kudos to Will for including my coment in his discussion of tattoos and menswear.
10 September 2010
In the past, there were times when a blazer in dark green was a secondary alternative to the standard navy. I stress the word "secondary". The dark green blazer is not for the faint of heart, and it's a tough nut to crack. I've always wanted one, and I've experimented over the years, but never with complete success. Until today, I think.
Before we continue, a qualifier on color and photography is in order. All colors have variation of tone and temperature within a family. Green can be brown, or blue, or even yellow. One shade can look good on a guy, and the next can make him look like he's got a skin condition. Additionally, it's hard to photograph; additionally I'm no photographer, and my camera is cheap; additionally, every computer makes things look different. So bear with me and trust my descriptions of the photos that follow.
I always figured the green blazer would be nice in the Fall, given that it's an earth-tone. Yesterday, I tried one with a simple blue pinpoint shirt, stripes bow tie and paisley square. The blue shirt keeps things just conservative enough, but the bits of gold in the tie and square give life to a drab color....maybe.
08 September 2010
Flush from the sale of some of my own brand of "well curated vintage Americana", I ran a Google search for "scrimshaw tie clip", or something. I wound up at the Pierce website, a website so quaint in its very 1997-ness that I was immediately reminded of the pleasant experience I had a while back with Arrow Moccasins. They offer a wide range of scrimshaw products, from knives to jewelry, to carved teeth, and even a really killing shaving set. Pieces are made to order. Everything they make can be done on shed antler (i.e. antlers naturally shed by the animal and later gathered in the woods), which is what I opted for, or for a bit more on fossil ivory (i.e. old ivory found in Alaska). You get to pick the design, and they even do custom work. My piece arrived a scant two weeks after placing the order, a mere $28 shipped. Seriously.
06 September 2010
This little sign over a simple metal grate in a brick wall is all there is to announce the place's presence to the world.
Sit and eat beneath this mural of Italy by Vito Ascolillo (whoever that may be, God love 'im). I loved this painting when I was a kid.
For lunch, one panzarotti (on the left), a sort of mashed potato croquette filled with mozzarella, coated with breadcrumbs and fried, one of what they call panini, a crusty roll filled with ham, cappocola and provlone, and an 8 oz. plastic cup filled to the brim with ice cold red wine, probably Carlo Rossi. Both red and white wines are stored in giant lemonade tanks with a spigot on the front on the bottom shelf of the soda fridge. I've worked in the wine business for ten years now and I know a lot about fine wine, which is exactly why I order this stuff. Because when you're eating Sicilian style street foot off of a dented metal tray, the only correct wine is cheap and cold and served in a disposable cup. All this, plus three slices of their famous pizza for the kids and a can of Fanta orange soda: $11.00. Incredible!
If you live in or around Boston and you haven't been here, shame on you. If you visit Boston and you miss the place, shame on you. Should you be feeling touristy, Paul Revere's house is just around the corner, and the Freedom Trail runs right by it.
Should you be lucky enough to visit the place in the company of children, there's a nice little playground up the street, behind the Paul Revere monument, wedged in an alley between the back side of two apartment building, a firehouse and a school. It's a nice enough playground, one of these pre-fab jobbies you see everywhere. Nothing special, but the kids enjoyed it. However...
the real score here are the hop-scotch courts. Besides having a mundane "normal" one, there's also one in Roman numerals...
and another in the Fibonacci Sequence. The four square court, which I couldn't get a good photo of because of the tight corner this little playground is squeezed into, has the Golden Section painted on it. Way to celebrate some good old Italian innovation.
The North End may have changed some since the early eighties, but as far as I'm concerned, it's still the real thing.
p.s. I know I've mentioned this place before, but I think it's special enough to carry two posts.