28 September 2011

All the Details

An urbanized country jacket from the early 1960s, this little number has all the details:
"Urbanized"  because it's sleek and trim, fashioned of a soft lightweight tweed...not thick and heavy and thorn proof, and clearly not for shooting birds in the wet high grass. Killer cool nonetheless.
Hacking pockets (you know, the kind set at an angle)...

...a throat latch, for cold days...
...a flap breast pocket. The button is a fake, and will have to go...
...single button cuff tabs, unusual but I can dig it....

...admittedly, the full Norfolk belt may be a tad much, even for me..

...fortunately, the front and back are separate, attached by buttons at the side, giving the option of wearing only a half belt in back....and a hooked vent for good measure.

The cheesy grey fake leather buttons will have to go. For some reason, in the early '60s, so many great things were adorned with bad buttons. No matter, it's a small fix. I'm thinking dark brown real braided leather, or maybe even wood.

I've got the charcoal flannels and wide wale cords covered. All I need now is a cashmere turtleneck in tan, cream, or dark charcoal. Better keep the attitude in check, though. The line between stylish and unbearably pretentious is razor thin with garments like this, but I'm willing to have a go on the tightrope.

The generous gift of Mrs. G., bought at a thrift shop for less than eight bucks.

Thanks, Hon.

26 September 2011

The Line-Up

No, not that kind. I mean the one for Top Shelf Flea Market IV. I'm pleased to announce that as of today, the roster is set, and it's a good one full of choice vendors. Click here for more details.

25 September 2011

Top Shelf Flea Market IV (a teaser)

We got ties for days......

...paisleys (the next big thing, mark my words. Be ahead of the curve), foulards, and other "neats"
in silk, madder, and challis...

...big fat woolens, perfect for the cold season.
Tres trendy, from before they were trendy...
...grasshoppers, whales, beer, dogs, and other embroidered tomfoolery.

Something for every taste and every occasion, available at TSFMIV. Consider this the first in a series of shameless self promoting posts. If this seems a little crass, my apologies, but, a fellas gotta eat, you know?

p.s. we're currently searching for a record/music vendor to fill the final spot. Interested parties please contact me via email for rates and information.

22 September 2011

The Jams

The Equinox, the official cosmic switch from Summer to Autumn, occurs tommorrow morning. Given the heat and dense humidity here in the Northeast, it seems only fitting we discuss hot jams from the Southern hemisphere.
Segio Mendes and Brasil '66...hot music from a hot place...the progenitors of the very category of music known as Brasilian jazz...hopping out of the wooden speakers by way of the needle, nothing does a cocktail party at home more justice...if only I could host one.

In keeping with the topic of a few posts ago, it takes a heavy dose of style to pull of a tux in a South American rain forest.

Sometimes when this band is mentioned, people snigger and make cracks about the waiting room of the dentist's office, the one with the Naugahyde(tm) couch and the plastic curtains. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Though similar on the merest technical level with all things associated with the general genre, and in spite of being discovered by Herb Alpert, Brasil '66 plays music that is all about a fire in the belly and well dressed grown-ups enjoying themselves like well dressed grown-ups.

If you don't believe me, take it up with Ms. Eartha Kitt...

...I dare you.

p.s. ear-rings
p.p.s pink French cuffs
p.p.p.s Gretsch drum kit
p.p.p.p.s. you don't get to wear a scraggly beard and nerdly hair cut until you come up with a Jam like this.

19 September 2011

Off Season: Unsolicited Advice from a Know-It-All Stranger

Younger men might be generally a bunch of slobs, with a staunch few struggling to do better. But we need to help these guys, not disdain them, for it is their parents, if anyone, to blame for their complete social and sartorial ignorance. Here's a snarky story:
Pictured above is a pair of 1960s vintage real madras jackets, acquired last Saturday. They're dirty as hell, and one needs a button replaced, but honestly, two real madras jackets, in my size, in excellent plaids, in one day? Worth every bit of $14.98. But the jackets are immaterial. How I came by them is the real story.

A young fellow, early twenties, was in the thrift store with his mother, father and kid brother (18?) looking for a blazer. Mom kept trying to get him to buy orphaned suit coats. Dad kept telling him everything that fit was too small, and tried to coax him into two sizes too big. Kid brother just kept giving him a hard time, the only member of this family actually doing his job. At one point, he had on a perfectly serviceable navy blazer with sleeves a hair long, which mother told him would be impossible to alter. My ears were burning, but it was none of my business, and so I stayed out of it. So I turned away.

Then I hear father and brother really laying into him for how silly something looks, while big brother tries to defend his choice of something which clearly appeals to him on a real level. I look up to find the kid in a vintage Indian madras jacket, big plaid in burgundy, navy and gold, that fits him well. As he momentarily escapes the clutches of his parents' useless and misguided advice to find a mirror, I immediately dive on these other two.

The kid comes back and says to his parents something like " I don't care what you say, a cute girl just told me I look good in this jacket so I'm getting it." I smile. Mom and Dad are not happy, and I can hold my tongue no longer.

"You know," I said, " in another kind of store that jacket would sell for quite a lot of money. It's really something special you have there, a real Indian madras jacket. That cloth hasn't existed in a long time, and collector's would go mad over it. That's why I'm getting the other two. Good job."

"Really?" says mom.

"Really." says I.

"See, I knew this jacket was cool." says the kid.

Dad and younger brother are speechless.

Maybe I shouldn't have butted in, and I'm glad I didn't hand out a business card. But c'mon, this kid was feeling it, and he just needed some encouragement. If mom and dad, especially dad, wasn't willing to give it, I'd like to think, in my own demented way, I helped that kid down the road to dressing well.

The kid even said to his shocked parents " Let's keep looking for something more conservative, too. This is a fun jacket." There's hope for the future yet.

p.s. after a period of neglect, there are new items in the Shop, with Fall/Winter items beginning to trikle in. Have a look.

15 September 2011

The Trick to Formalwear

...is to wear it comfortably....casually.

Despite what they say, it shouldn't be a "monkey suit".

13 September 2011

Clean and Simple...and Casual?

It's not often that I write about evening wear, given it's near total lack of relevance to my own life. But in the past few weeks I've been using this photo, recently taken for the AAW Shop, for various purposes, and it's got me thinking.
To begin with, the tuxedo is a vintage one dating from the early 1960s, year round wool with satin faced shawl collar, two button cuffs and single pleated pants. It's by After Six, a name by now so synonymous with cheap rental monkey suits as to make one gag. Funny thing is, this suit reminds me that After Six might not have been so bad in the old days. I sometimes find old Joseph A. Bank stuff from the 60s that throws me for a similar loop. Sooner than we think, we'll likely be saying the same things about Brooks Brothers.

The tie is vintage 1960s Brooks Brothers. I'm not generally one to advocate anything other than a black bow with evening clothes, but I like the look of the tiny white pin dots here. It turns the formality down a half a notch, in a good way. But it's the shirt, a plain white pinpoint with with a spread collar, crisp and clean, but certainly not a formal shirt, that has me thinking.

My mannequin, Bill, always wears a white shirt, because it makes it easy to photograph any type of jacket or suit. His tie changes from time to time, but not his shirt. So when I had a tux to photograph, I was set. I chose this tie over my own black satin evening bow because it was narrow, more in keeping with the cut of the lapels. Though the shirt and tie may not be technically formal, I have to admit I like this look.

It reminds me of a time when evening clothes were worn frequently...in the evening, to dinner, or shows, or just house parties. It reminds of a time when men were comfortable in these clothes. It reminds of a time when these clothes were known as "semi-formal". It brings the tuxedo one step closer to any other suit and tie combination, while still maintaining all the aspects that make it a special outfit. It's black and white, clean and simple, a bit shiny here and there, and quiet counterpoint to showcase the ladies clothes. The shirt may not be pleated or closed with studs, but as long as it has French cuffs I think its fine. Polished, matte finish black oxfords, rather than patent pumps, would finish the job. This may seem like blasphemy, but think of all the photos you've seen of guys in tuxes with plaid pants or tartan jackets. Same idea, but I like this better. Save the tartan stuff strictly for Christmas and Bobby Burns parties.

In a tux like this, not-quite-all-the-way-formal, a guy could actually ride around town in a taxi, hitting bars, shows, restaurants and parties, in comfort and style. Just by softening up the details a bit, a tux actually becomes...wearable? It could be something a guy has and wears with some frequency, rather than some stiff ugly thing worn only to functions he'd rather not attend only to be returned the next morning.

Bring back the barely formal, regularly worn tuxedo. Who's with me?

12 September 2011

Just In Time for Duck Hunting Season

I don't generally care for shopping on the internet from large companies, mostly because they inundate you forever after with useless print catalogs. While it is true that I like old and even anachronistic things, print catalogs these days are an inexcusable waste of glossy printed, hard to recycle paper, little better in that regard than supermarket circulars, encyclopediae and phonebooks. Still, I do like to look at them and I curse the way they have of making one want something one doesn't need...but I guess that's the point.
Two such catalogs arrived today from Orvis. Orvis is a strange company to me. Last year, I ordered a Tyrolean hat from them, which I love, and I always thought of them as a sort of upscale L.L.Bean. But I must admit to being largely disappointed in their catalogs. For lack of a better word, most of the stuff is plain old frumpy, stuff for old white guys. And not cool stuff for old white guys, or even stuff brilliant in its goofiness, but just plain old dorky grandpa stuff...mostly. But the supplemental catalog, entitled "The Hunting Book", restored the imagined reputation they had with me.

Guns, fishing gear, and camping bar sets abound. That's more like it...archaic hunting stuff for old white guys. This I can hang with, maybe even find some expensive thing I don't need to pretend I'm going to buy, or even actually buy when it goes on sale, thus insuring a steady stream of these catalogs for years to come. And then I turned the page to discover Manor Tweed Estate Shooting Gear:

I suppose we all knew this kind of thing still existed in England, but amazingly it's available for sale here in the United States, as in, you can really get this stuff, and presumably wear it to go out someplace and kill a duck.
Cap, coat and sports jacket (as in: jacket worn for sport, like hunting), all rendered in real Scottish tweed.  To be worn with:

Breeks, stockings, flashes, tattersall shirts and neckties with embroidered waterfowl. Combined with the wooden case containing a bottle of Talisker and glasses shown a few pages previous, this get-up beats all stylish hell out of blaze orange, camo, and canned beer, theoretically.

As amazing as it may be that such things are available to us, you can rest assured I won't be purchasing any of it. For one thing, I don't shoot waterfowl, for another, it's extremely expensive, even if possibly worth it. Lastly, I can't help but think that hunting in America, the only thing keeping the other hunters from killing the poor bastard who arrives in this get-up for his sheer pansy-ism would be the Scotch. And after that's gone, a fella better run...fast, like a deer. Not to be harsh, but there's a fine line between liking old stuff and living in the past, and this sort of thing, anywhere but England, may be far on the wrong side of that thin line.

Personally, I'll settle for things that merely hint at this lifestyle:
Such as this pair of silly pants, which may just get me killed for sheer pansy-ism yet, acquired this morning for $5.99, hours before the arrival of the catalogs.

Cotton duck (ha-ha) canvas, printed, not embroidered....
A relic from the Brothers (there have been a lot of those lately). Irresistible.

The ever faithful Mr. Lee is altering and cleaning them as we speak, but I'll have them back just in time for duck hunting season.

07 September 2011


Knitted silk in a yellowy tan, classic blue and white university striped oxford, old brown leather, rigid denim, and olive green waxcloth...a combination that reminds us to welcome the Fall.

Though I find myself less and less of a "jeans guy" with each passing year, I'm still a sucker for a good pair of brown shoes with grey socks and rolled dark denim. The pebble grains are a cinch.

p.s. more on Dungarees and being a grown-up later.

p.p.s. New stuff is available in the Shop.

05 September 2011

Capturing a Rare Bird

In thrift shopping, persistemce is everything. True, it can be a good way of keeping yourself in blue and white shirts, grey slacks and striped ties. But if you're lucky, without really trying, you might wind up bagging a truly rare bird.
My love of the classic university striped shirt is certainly no secret, and I have many, mostly in the standard blue and white. Finding one in the elusive shade of yellow once known as "Goldenrod" is a real treat.
Especially when it's an old one from the Brothers, likely late 1960s/early 1970s judging from this label, the much beloved long pointed, unlined collar,

and the six button front. All the details are right, and this one is actually in astoundingly good shape.

A rare bird indeed. But what I do is not taxidermy, and this one should see plenty of wear with navy blazers and tweed jackets as we head into Fall. $1.99 well spent.

p.s. the same expedition that netted this shirt also catured some other bits of finery. Look for them soon in the Shop, as soon as I resolve some minor technical difficulties on my end.

03 September 2011

Neither Fish Nor Fowl: The Trouble with "Online Custom" Clothing

I waited. I thought about ignoring it, but that's no way to deal with things. Besides, too many of you have been asking, and I need to get it off my chest. I wanted to be diplomatic, since "snark" is something I simply cannot abide, so I waited. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. My "online custom" suit from Modern Tailor has been hanging in a closet in my house for nearly two weeks. I know you've been waiting for the results, the review, the send up, or whatever. Let's work backwards. The conclusion:
Online Custom Tailoring is Neither Fish nor Fowl

There are a lot of companies out there offering something they call online custom tailoring. As you may know, I was recently approached by Modern Tailor, one of these companies, who graciously offered to make me a suit. They were friendly folk and offered a level of customer service that is sadly lacking in so many places selling any number of things these days, and I remain impressed by that. I give them an "A" for effort. You can read about this in further detail here.

Then the suit arrived.

It came by post while I was out, and I got a ticket on my front door about it. The very next day, all a-twitter (that's how the word twitter is actually supposed to be used...oops, I forgot, I don't like snark) with excitement, I visited the post office. I picked up my package, took it home and opened the box. Much to my dismay, my decision about this suit was made the moment I touched it. Cheap fabric, mediocre construction, and styled like something that came from H&M.  Still I wanted to be fair, so I tried it on.

The fit of this thing is nothing short of a disaster. The jacket is too tight, too short, and the button gorge is too high. The pants are almost indescribable: too tight in the seat, a few inches too short, skin tight in the thigh yet too full at the cuff.  It's so bad, in fact, that I refuse to post photos of me wearing it. Clearly, given some of the photos I post here, I have very little problem with public embarrassment, but this goes too far. A cheap looking suit that fits terribly.

I had no expectation that this thing would fit like a real piece of custom tailoring, but I at least hoped it would fit close enough to bring in to my own tailor for a tweak. This suit is cut so badly that it will never fit, and the fabric is so cheap that I can't even be bothered. To be fair, I'll even take it on the chin about the fabric for not ordering swatches. Even if I had, this garment is hopeless.

So-Called online custom is neither fish nor fowl.

This is not custom clothing. Custom clothing is an expensive endeavor involving a personal relationship with an actual tailor. Someone who will measure you properly, discern what it is you want, perhaps talk you out of a dumb idea, and then painstakingly create something for you using the wisdom and skill only time can bring. It's expensive, and it should be, because it is an art form practiced well by a very select few people. This online thing leaves too much to the customer, there's too much room for error. There is no room for discussion and advice, let alone wisdom and skill.

This is not even good off the rack clothing.  With off the rack clothing, you can do quite well if you only pay attention. You can learn to see quality and work with it. You can learn how to have something altered, and you can look great owning nothing but ready made clothes. With online custom, you get a one off piece of possibly questionable quality which may or may not ever fit you. It's a gamble, and I don't like gambling. For $500 dollars the average man could find a very nice suit in a store. For $500 I could find ten suits in a thrift store with money left over for the alterations. True, I may be presenting an extreme opposite example, but you catch my drift. I would be screaming mad if I paid half a grand for this thing.

If you want fish, see a fishmonger.

If you want chicken, it's frequently on sale for $1.99/lbs at the supermarket.

Get it?

Custom tailoring is a wonderful thing, but it cannot be faked. If that's what you want, buck up, pay the money and get it done right. I may be jealous of your ability to afford it, but I won't begrudge anyone good taste.

If custom clothing is well out of reach, buck up, make due with what you have, and remember that style doesn't care about money. It will require extra elbow grease, but any bum can dress well. Penury is not an excuse, remember?

Online tailoring is neither of these things, and it cheapens both. It proletarianizes custom tailoring to the point where it loses meaning, and it falsely elevates cheapness to the point where even that loses meaning.

Dammit, I may be ranting, but I think my point is clear.

I would like to thank Modern Tailor for their gracious gift.

Don't ever order a "custom suit" online.