31 August 2011

Late Summer

Many people lament the end of Summer, but I'm not one of them. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't enjoy ice cold rum drinks and trips to the beach as much as the next guy. In fact, such things rate among my favorites. But here in Boston, the locals tend to make a professional sport of complaining about the weather, regardless of what that weather may be....regardless also of the fact that said weather is both normal and expected in a given time of year. These same yahoos say things like "hot enough for ya?" in July and "snowin' enough for ya'?" in January. After our collective one night stand with Irene, I just don't want to hear it...and I had a tree collapse in my yard, remember?
 Anyway, another reason I won't complain about the gradual end of Summer is vanity. I enjoy dressing, and it gets better in the Fall. One by one, old friends return to the fold. I have four identical blue university striped shirts, easily my favorites. I wear this pattern a lot, that's why I have four. But they're oxford, and more than a bit too heavy for Summer. Today marked the first reappearance.  Paired with a no-name cotton knit tie, the spoils of thrift shopping in Maine, and a collar pin from the Andover Shop worn as tie pin, the look has one foot in Summer and one in Fall, a perfect bridge.
The same goes for brown tassel loafers and crisp khakis, my current favorite combination. Cotton socks in pale yellow pay a fitting homage to the fact that it is still August, as we cling to the last vestiges of the warm season.

Completed with a navy blazer and white pocket square, two of the few items which lie completely outside the intricacies of seasonal dressing, always appropriate.

28 August 2011

How To Survive a Hurricane

When Mother Nature comes to town all a-rantin' and a-ravin', and you're couped up inside all day with the windows shut tight, a little comfort food really hits the spot.
In times like these, I take solace in 1950s style old lady food, like some tuna melts with American cheese on white bread, grilled up on an old Mirro cast aluminum griddle that was a wedding present in 1948 to my father's aunt. A simple pleasure, but a real one, it helped us to forget, if only for a moment...

that an entire tree, and a big old one at that, was completely uprooted and fell into the back yard.

I wonder:

1) what does one wear to deal with such a mess?
2) can I find it for a buck at a thrift store?


26 August 2011


 Your humble author, August 2011
from "Clothes and the Man" by Alan Flusser, 1985

Dammit, I knew that outfit looked familiar, like I'd seen it somewhere before. Because I had.
You know all that stuff you hear about menswear and timelessness and how little things change and how the good stuff never really goes away? It's true.

Sometimes it's good to be impressionable, as long as you listen to the right people.

25 August 2011

The Fade

As we roll into late August and the inevitable Fall looms large, my wardrobe slowly experiences the end of Summer fade. True, the temps may still be hot and the humidity high, but it's time for brightly colored slacks in kelly green, Nantucket red, and all manner of patchwork to silently retire, along with the attendant bare ankles.
Crisp khakis, brown tassels and grey socks make a simple but striking combination. Paired with anything in navy or white above the waist, they provide a comfortable form of transition, a perfect bridge between Summer and Fall. They'll keep going with grey tweed all the way into November.

p.s. I got the suit. It's not all good. More soon when I collect my thoughts and find a way to put it tactfully.

p.p.s. New stuff in the shop. Last chance for seersucker.

24 August 2011

Mark Your Calendar

An Affordable Wardrobe
the Fourth Semi-Annual

Top Shelf Flea Market
Sunday, 23 October 2011
Noon till 5p.m.
George Dilboy V.F.W. Post 529
371 Summer Street, Somerville, MA, 02144

stay tuned here and on our TSFM sister blog for more info
and plenty of shameless self promotion

22 August 2011

So Far, So Good

A few weeks back, I was contacted by Modern Tailor, one of the by now ubiquitous companies offering an online version of made-to-measure clothing at a fraction of what that used to cost. They offered to make me a suit, and asked that I review both the goods and the online order process here. I graciously accepted, and the suit is currently in transit. As for the order process and level of customer service, I have to say, so far, so good.

The website offers a large number of fabric choices, though many of them are variations of charcoal and navy. While it's true that the difficulty in choosing fabrics online lies in the fact that you can't actually see and touch them, and digital representations are not always what they seem, Modern Tailor does offer the option of sending a swatch book comprised of forty fabrics of your choosing for $25. That's not bad, given that if the first suit goes well you now have 39 other fabrics to choose from for your next go-around. In my case, I chose a mid-weight charcoal grey. Seems I may finally be outgrowing my rube tendency to order crazy stuff for it's own sake with online custom.

As with any online outfit like this, the measurements are your responsibility. This means that you the customer are being allowed to f*ck things up royally if you don't pay attention. Modern Tailor offers two options, each with a comprehensive guide. You can take body measurements, which I don't recommend unless you know someone who can take these accurately for you. Don't trust your wife/girlfriend. If you use this option, at least have a tailor put the tape to you.  Alternatively,  they have a guide for taking measurements from your own clothing. This is the option I chose. Using my best fitting trousers and best fitting blazer, I filled in the nearly two dozen measurements. I followed the guide, which is quite explicit, and tweaked a few things here and there using my own judgement. For example, I knocked 1/2 inch off the shoulder measurement of the blazer, given that the shoulders fit a hair large. But that's a trick best used sparingly. If you're not going to be honest about your measurements, why have something made in the first place? This is no place for empty pride.

I opted for flat front pants with cuffs, a single breasted two button coat with side vents and four button surgeon cuffs. I did ask for a few slightly eccentric details; open pockets, and brown buttons with brown stitching on the button holes. About a week later, I received an email from the production staff making sure this was correct, as black buttons are far more conventional on a grey suit, and containing photos of both the black and brown buttons available. After I explained that this was not meant to be a business suit and that I wanted it to have a slightly more casual air, to be worn with brown shoes, they replied that they understood and would proceed. A few days later I received a photo of one of the pockets, partially completed, to be sure this was what I wanted. I must say I was impressed with the individual attention I received, and the questions they asked made me feel that the people asking them knew what they were doing. True, they may have been giving me the royal treatment in hopes of a good review, but I can only hope that this level of attention is the same for all customers.

About two weeks later I was sent an email containing 18 photos of the completed suit (see above), with a measuring tape laid across it to ensure that details and measurements were correct before for shipping. I replied that all looked well, but asked whether they couldn't add a third button in my beloved 3/2 style. I received a prompt reply from the head of production saying that it could be done, but in his opinion it would spoil the overall look of the suit.  Appreciating his honesty, I decided to trust his judgement and said to send the suit along.

The whole process from order to shipment took a pinch more than a month, and I'll likely have it later this week. Here's hoping the garment itself justifies my enthusiasm so far.

This whole online made to measure thing isn't real custom tailoring, not even close. There's no personal involvement with the person actually making the garment, and the fit and details can honestly only be tweaked so much from a pre-existing pattern. But it does have some advantages and perks, especially for an average guy with a bit of taste who really need some good, basic suits in his closet. The suit I bought, had I paid for it, would have cost $535 shipped. I got to add a few personal touches, and if all goes well, it will fit just how I like it. Just think of the piece of crap that same money would have bought at a place like H&M or Men's Wearhouse, never mind the headache and general icky feeling I'd get shopping there. Of course, the real decision will be made when the suit arrives, but I'm hopeful.

So far, so good.

20 August 2011

Back in Town

After a wonderful week spent on the coast in Maine, Mrs. G, the Boy, the Girl and I are back in town. Never one to miss an opportunity, I did of course visit a couple of the local thrift shops. Cheapskatery, you see, never takes a vacation.
Not surprisingly, every other piece of clothing I handled originated from L.L.Bean. A lot of it was nondescript new stuff made overseas, but I did find dome choice old pieces. Old Leon Leonwood still has quite a presence "Downeast".

Nothing like a good vacation to refresh the mind. Still, it's good to be home. Regularly scheduled yammering will resume on Monday. My take from the honey holes will be up for sale soon, as well.

12 August 2011

Travel Kit

Take one large Lands' End tote bag. The obnoxious kind, with the pretentious monogram...
 ...fill with...
 Two pair shorts, in distinctly a distinctly New England feel (left: L.L.Bean, right: vintage '80s USA made Polo)
 Two pair swim trunks (the cheap kind, discussed ad nauseam here)
 Five tennis shirts; three white, two navy
 Two long sleeve shirts, the comfortable, old, soft kind. The kind that not only don't require ironing, but actually look better without it. Coastal New England can get cool and breezy, even in August, and shirts like these function well as a light jacket worn untucked over the tennis shirts. Tucked in, you become almost presentable in a pinch, should you decide to dine at that particularly snooty fried clam joint one night.
 Two pair long pants: one as "Go to Hell" as it gets (1960s vintage real madras), one simple khakis, dull as it gets (very old L.L.Bean...so soft)
 One pair boat shoes, one pair tattered old Converse, retro-fitted with rawhide laces.
 One striped ribbon belt, one old leather belt.
 One cotton sweater in neutral cream. As I said, it can get chilly, especially at night
 One goofy high tech waterproof pullover windbreaker thing, the kind that folds up into its own pocket. Nothing looks sillier in the rain than total unpreparedness. A good thing to keep in the car.
 In case of total emergency, one pair low top Bean Boots, one (and only one) pair of socks. These will hopefully spend the entire trip in the trunk, but you never know when the wife and kids will feel the itch to spend the day doing something woodsy. Proper footwear, or something like it, is essential.
 One cotton ball cap. If you don't know what that number 9 stands for, just keep it to yourself, or risk severe recrimination. (Yikes, this almost looks like a Summer collection fashion spread. Can you imagine how expensive this would all be if someone like Mark McNairy had his name sewn inside all this stuff? Frightening. I'm scaring myself.)

All of these clothes go with all of these clothes, which is a good trick to know when traveling. Any combination will do, and none of it requires much care. There's not a thing in the bunch that can't have the wrinkles knocked out of it with a couple of good shakes and a few minutes of wear. All of these clothes also go with:
Noticeably absent: blazer or ties. This is, after all, a casual, beach-centric family vacation. Despite what some of you may think, I'm not a total stiff.

Also noticeably absent: t-shirts. By now I'm sure you all know how I feel about grown men in t-shirts.

That'll do for the next few days. I'll check in next week with some tales from the North country.

11 August 2011

AAW on Vacation

An Affordable Wardrobe will be on vacation next week. This doesn't neccesarily mean no posts, but it does mean no self imposed obligations. I have put up a bunch of new items in the Shop to tide you over. Be advised that all orders placed between now and August 22nd will not ship until August 25th.

08 August 2011

Well Curated Authentic Heritage Americana

For me, the long winded phrase that titles this post has little to do with expensive work wear boutiques in Manhattan. It has everything to do with spending a Summer day at a place like Salem Willows. Along with my other favorite spot, Castle Island, the Willows is as good a reason as any to be on the Massachusetts coast in Summer. Honest, unpretentious, well worn and relatively cheap. Six hours go by in a snap at places like these, and we're lucky to still have a few left.
At a glance, Salem Willows would appear to be little more than a relatively trashy arcade, a one-sided strip of rickety old buildings brimming with the things that we once considered mindless diversions, a relic from a time before we all carried an expensive mindless diversion around in our pocket to use between the time we spent seated in front of another expensive mindless diversion at home. I love it.

Willows Casino is a noisy place full of flashing lights. Inside, no end of quaint coin operated machines will dispense tickets to the lucky winner who may then cash them in for all manner of junk at the desk. The prizes aren't even worth taking, but it is fun to play the silly machines. If you're really old school, and you like your Heritage Americana really Well Curated, they have skee ball.

Personally, I prefer the arcade next door. It's chock full of video games, with plenty of old 1980s stand up units (Galaga or Pac Man, anyone?) But the best part is the random collection of very old, and fully operational, arcade machines.
This pair of Mutoscopes have got to be about 100 years old. For a penny, small children will still stand in front of them on a stool and watch a minute and a half of footage so archaic as to leave them slack jawed.
For a dime, the Musical Monkeys will play a distinctly 1940s style Hawaiian tune.
and your kids, the same ones who know better how to operate a laptop than you, will still delight in this. What kid doesn't love monkeys doing human things?
All that walking around will tire the older folks. Good thing they have this doctor recommended contraption. Simply insert a quarter, grab the handles...
and step on the foot plate while the mechanism rattles you so badly that you'll break a knee and throw your back out. Excellent.
Can't say much for the Rotary Merchandiser. I just thought this one was funny. Could be a case of English by way of Japan getting lost in translation...or not.
Ever wondered what kind of lover you are? A Flat Tire?  Violent? An Iceberg? Or just plain Lovable?
Drop in a dime and place your right hand here, that's all it takes. No significant other could possibly refute the science. And the woodwork and paint job on this thing are stunning. Well Curated Authentic Heritage Americana...with Patina on the side!

The public telephone may be long gone, but I bet that sign stays up till they tear down the building.
There's plenty of sustenance to be had. If hot dogs,  French fries, chicken fingers or pizza aren't your thing, don't worry. You can also get fried clams, lobster roll, or cheeseburgers. I'd stay away from the Chinese, though. I have high standards, you see.
It's not all brain melting fun, though. There also happens to be a lovely and sizable park, with winding paths and tree shaded benches in abundance. 

I bet it's fun to see a band play under this Well Curated Authentic Heritage band stand, but it's fun enough just to appreciate it for the mini monument of white washed cast concrete mid-century architecture that it is.

It's on little Beverly Harbor, full of sail boats...so East Coast preppy, right?
There's even a beach.

If you're young, this place is a great, relatively cheap date. Especially if you bring a couple sticks of grass and a bottle concealed in a brown paper bag.

If you've got kids, this place is paradise.

If you're old, they have ice cream and park benches.

In any case, it's well worth a half hour car ride from the Boston area. Remember, the most Well Curated Authentic Heritage Americana is found where nobody knows what the hell you're talking about when you utter such a silly phrase in the first place.

05 August 2011

For The Last Time?

There's nothing like the comfort and feel of a well loved, well worn article of clothing. Good stuff only gets better with age, but nothing lasts forever, and one day we have to admit that this may be the last time we get to keep company with an old friend.
This shirt is, for me, one such old friend. White oxford broadcloth with wide pink Bengal stripes. An oldie, with a six button, not seven button front.
This label, plus the six button front, plus the pocket, lead me after some homework to date this shirt about 1965. The fit is the kind of fit so many of us wish was still common on production shirts, and age has rendered the fabric as soft as a Teddy bear.
Sure, the collar is plenty frayed...
and forty years of washing has shredded the edges of the old fashioned extra long shirt tails. This old bird won't last much longer....
but that won't stop from continuing to wear it, because the collar has the elusive and inimitable roll of a real vintage unlined Brooks Brothers "polo" collar. Perfect.

The blessing of vintage and thrift store shopping is that it allows a guy like me to actually own and experience the bygone things I'm just to young to have experienced first hand. The curse lies in the knowledge that when your favorite things do finally go the way of the wind, replacing them is unlikely at best.

Any day could be this shirts last, but I intend to give the life it was intended for and wear it till the end.

Consider the fact that this shirt was new, and very much in fashion, when this film was shot.

Now that's $1.99 well spent.

p.s. there's a heap of new ties in the Shop, along with some dead stock Lee jeans, real skinny like, in case you wanna dress like Mick. If you've outgrown that sort of thing and have kids now, there's a few things for them as well. Check it.

03 August 2011

Real Men (and boys) Wear Pink

An easy and comfortable Summer outfit, perfect for a day of scouring some far-flung thrift shops:
Un-ironed Brooks Brothers pink oxford, sleeves rolled, collar un-buttoned, with plaid Bermuda shorts and an old brown leather belt. Just something to throw on, but still it maintains a modicum of style and presentation.

The Boy, when it was his turn to get dressed, absolutely insisted on his own unironed pink oxford, worn sleeves rolled, collar un-buttoned, with an old brown leather belt and camo cargo shorts. The combination of camouflage and pink oxford is killingly stylish on a young boy, but leave it alone if you're out of high school. The more my son develops his own sense of style as a loose derivative of my own, the more I realise how much youth, and maybe even childishness, is the lynch-pin of the Polo/RL empire.

True, a father and son dressed in matching pink shirts may be "cute" to the point of "sickening", but when your son insists on dressing just like you for a day spent at the thrift store, it's hard to say no. Besides, with the current state of our collective standard of dress, I wil never refuse my Boy the right to wear a proper shirt by his own choice.

Incidentally, the days excursion netted quite a haul. Look for it in the shop over the next few days.

02 August 2011

Gratitude, Heartbreak, and Paying It Forward

Gratitude: A few weeks back, our man in the middle, Mr. Midwester, shared this knockout piece with the world at large:
I quite rudely suggested that in some convoluted way the coat was rightfully mine, and much to my surprise, he agreed. A scant few days later, it was on my doorstep. Thank you, Mr. M. 

Immediately, I knew this was gonna make one hell of a kit with white pants, a navy tennis shirt, and of course, blaze orange boat shoes. Alas, after a few hours of trying in vain to ignore the truth, heartbreak finally took hold.

Heartbreak: the damn thing is just too long for me. Even expensive alterations won't help. Damn.

Paying It Forward: The coat is now in the hands of good friend Yankee Whiskey Papa. Besides being a WASP from coastal New England who knows a thing or two about actually sailing boats and the attendant fashions of such sport, he's taller than me. He also has a way of wearing such ridiculous clothing as though it were normal, and succeeding.

I suppose, in the long run, the cosmos is happy with the outcome.