31 October 2012

Reader Questions : Shoe Shines

Reader Jonathan writes:

I am a novice when it comes to proper shoe care. I recently attended an outdoor wedding which required a hike down a gravel road. Needless to say, my shoes are now a dusty mess. I would like to begin taking care of my shoes properly, which means learning how to polish them. I am not sure where to begin to find the right supplies. What are the essential elements for a starter shoe care kit? The Hanger Project would have me believe that $195 is what I need to get started. I am not about to spend that much on shoe care. What can you recommend?

Thank you, Jonathan. The best questions are often the simplest ones. The short answer here is that anything for sale on The Hanger Project is all well and good for men who are extravagant enough to spend as much on small items as many people spend on rent or feeding a family, but any sensible person, regardless of income, can and should be able to have the same things at a fraction of the cost. We've discussed this here before on the topic of wooden hangers. As always, my advice is that your money, however limited, is better spent on the clothing itself than on the periphery care items that come in tow.

Vitriol aside, I applaud your conviction that good shoes are something worthy of proper care. The very fact that you even want to know how to polish shoes puts you ahead of so many these days. But allow me to say that my vitriol is far from misplaced. Simply put, all the shoe care items any normal man, even a clotheshorse, is likely to need can be readily had at your nearby Rite-Aid, CVS, Duane Read, Walgreen's or supermarket. Should you be lucky enough to still live in a town where a cobbler plies his trade, so much the better. If you do, ask him what he thinks of paying $195 for shoe polish, rags, and brushes. He'll either laugh outright  or get in touch with Mr. Allison himself for a quick tutorial on how to spot a sucker.

The first step in basic shoe care is cleaning excess dirt off the leather. There are many expensive cloths and salves that accomplish this, but I prefer an old t-shirt cut in squares, wetted in the sink with warm water and wrung out. Cost: $0.00. For really grimy shoes, try an old toothbrush.

Next, apply polish with a dauber. Mine are Kiwi, one for black polish and one for brown, purchased ages ago for less than $5.00 each. Then, rub of excess polish while working it into the leather. Again, old t-shirts work just fine.

Now comes the buffing. You'll need a proper wide, soft bristled brush for this. Mine not only came from CVS for about $6.00, but has lasted 15 years. As for the polish itself, Meltonian, an SC Johnson company, makes a fine cream polish that sells for about $3.50, while Kiwi is my go to choice for wax, about $5.00.

Sure, there are fancier products, but as I said before, your money is better spent on the shoes than the polish. I've been polishing shoes my whole life with the products I mentioned, and I find the results to be great, so long as you know how to shine the shoes. For more on that, the internet has no end of instructional videos. I reiterate: this stuff is widely available in nearly every pharmacy, hotel, airport, corner store, supermarket and cobbler shop in the country. If rich men feel the need to further aggrandize themselves by spending more on shoe polish than most of us do on food, so be it. It's gratifying to know that they are just as gullible, and often more so, than us regular folk.

Hope that helps.

30 October 2012

Cabin Fever

When the hurricane comes to town and you get shut in for the day, it can be hard to fight the old cabin fever. True, its only one day, but one day locked up can drive us modern city types crazy. You can either feed the disease by staring out the back door wondering if the rotten old tree in the neighbors yard is going to fall on your house (which it didn't, thankfully),
...or you can take the opportunity to cook something for six hours or more, just for the Hell of it. For me, this means channeling the ghost of my Nonna and cooking up some serious old school tomato sauce. Since I certainly wasn't dressing for anything yesterday, and since its a been a while since we geeked out about food here, I thought it was time.
The whole thing begins at 11 am with some very thick cut, country style pork ribs. For other recipes, meat like this is way too fatty, but trust me, after an entire day in the pot that fat is going to melt away into the sort of robust, earthy flavor so satisfying during such bad weather. It's a flavor that cannot be imitated in any health conscious or low fat way, but since we rarely slow down enough to eat this way, who cares?

After a liberal seasoning of salt and pepper is applied, the ribs are browned in a heavy pot over high heat in olive oil. This shouldn't take more than a few minutes per side.
After the meat has browned, throw in a chopped white onion and five or six cloves of mashed garlic, along with a liberal dose of red wine. Let the meat cook in the wine for a bit, turning once.
I firmly believe that it is a wasteful sin to put good wine in the sauce pot, but I don't abide the use of junk in any situation. Salvalai Valpolicella is a dry if simple Northern Italian red that can be had for $8.99 where I live. Cheap enough for the sauce but drinkable enough for a pizza. The bottle I grabbed was missing its front label. Call it taking one for the team.
Next in is the tomatoes. In truth, any brand of canned tomatoes will do, but if you can get them I prefer Pomi chopped tomatoes in the paper carton. They are a bit more expensive than some brands, but still only $1.99 a carton. Imported from Italy, they are brighter with a fresher taste and no other ingredients than tomatoes and they're juice. I find the chopped kind to have just the right consistency, cooking down beautifully into a chunky sauce.
For this sauce I used two cartons. After pouring in the tomatoes, loosen the meat from the bottom of the pan. This insures that it won't stick to the pan, and allows the sauce to flow under and around it. Up to this point, the whole process takes about twenty minutes. Like all great Italian cooking, the beauty lies in its sheer direct simplicity. All that's left to do is put the lid on slightly ajar, turn the flame to the lowest setting, and wait until dinner time. Occasionally move the meat around a bit, and enjoy the smell that will soon fill the entire house as you look contentedly from your favorite chair at the howling storm outside.
Cooking wine is one thing, but drinking wine is another. A meal like this is a celebration really of the fact that for once we can all slow down, even if our relaxed pace was forced on us by Mother Nature. As such, despite my consummate cheapskate-ism, I decided that something special was in order. Fabiano Amorone della Valpolicella Classico 2007 is a big, gutsy wine. Tight as a fist when its first open, I decanted this bottle at Noon and left it aside until dinner. At $50 a bottle, it sure isn't cheap, but you get what you pay for. Besides, you know I didn't actually pay that much for it.  Working in the wine trade has its advantages.

Come 6:00 pm, I boiled a pot of water to cook up some pasta to serve with it. The meat was so tender it fell from the bone, and a fork was all that was needed. This kind of food takes me back to my childhood, when the house was constantly filled with the comforting smells of slow food such as this. Back then my Nonna did the cooking, but she did it in the same kitchen, and for me that's something special. 

Since this is ostensibly a clothing blog, I suppose I should mention that I spent the day in an old pair of olive green cords and a worn plaid shirt, both by Brooks Brothers, with a pair of Toms on my feet, because dammit, they are comfortable. I showered, but I didn't shave.

I have to admit, I enjoyed the hurricane. In fact, I could use a day like that more often, so long as a tree doesn't fall on the house.

26 October 2012

Tweed Twice

A brown and tan herringbone tweed jacket in soft. luxurious wool, natural shoulders, two button darted front, braided leather buttons, half lined, and a tie in brown tweed with red, yellow, and orange flecks, square end, vintage 1960s Rooster for Yale Co-op. The leftovers of the Top Shelf Flea. (No one bought these??? C'mon fellas, get on the stick.) Seen with a brushed twill shirt with spread collar in rust, hunter green, and black tattersall check on cream ground by Ralphie ($4.99), collar pin worn as tie pin from the Andover Shop, and an ecru pocket square I've had since Simon's.

Below, 8 wale cords in "cinnamon" and brown cotton socks with olive and rust checks, both by Lands' End in some crazy end of season feeding frenzy,  Brown suede split toe Allen Edmonds "Bradley", had for a song.

You can't beat Autumn for richness of texture and color. Dress for the season. It's more fun that way.

25 October 2012

AAW x Boston Globe

photo: Dina Rudick, Boston Globe staff

The Boston Globe was kind enough to run a full page in the Thursday Style magazine on the goings-on around here of your truly. I'm humbled. Special thanks to Andrew Doerfler for the recognition.

23 October 2012

Another One in the Bag

Top Shelf Flea Market 6 is officially in the bag, and I am truly grateful for the terrific response we had from customers and vendors alike. While it's true that it is a giant undertaking on my part to pull this off, I can't do any of it without the hard work of each and every vendor and the support of readers and community members. Thank you everybody, and here's looking forward to  a great Top Shelf 7.

p.s. I was pretty busy all day, and barely had time to snap a photo. If anyone has better shots to share, please email me at anaffordablewardrobe@yahoo.com and I'll be happy to share them here.

p.p.s. the Shop is back up and running, with many new items continuing to go up for sale in the next few days. Stop by and stay tuned.

20 October 2012

Top Shelf Flea Market 6 Today!

Sunday 21 October 2012
George Dilboy VFW Post 529
Noon till 5pm

As usual, an excellent collection from a great group of vendors.
If you live in the Boston area, drop by. We'd love to see you.

19 October 2012

Pick Up The Thread

Q: What do...
a 1980s dead stock Brooks Brothers point collar candy striped shirt....

...complete with matching 1980s vintage price tag from the good old real Filene's Basement, the one that was actually in the basement beneath Filene's department store in Boston,....

a 1930s vintage Borsalino brown fedora from a hat shop in Milan,...
a range of 8 wale corduroy trousers in excellent Fall colors (the pink pair is from Chipp),...
an unworn pair of black bluchers by Paraboot,....
an old canvas work shirt with snaps and a corduroy collar made in USA by L.L. Bean,....

an unusual chamois cloth "fun shirt" made in USA by Orvis of Manchester, Vermont,....

and, of course, ties all day,

have in common?

A: they're all available at the Affordable Wardrobe booth at the sixth semi-annual Top Shelf Flea Market, Sunday, 21 October, Noon till 5 pm, at the George Dilboy VFW, 371 Summer Street, Somerville, MA

c'mon, you knew I was gonna do a plug eventually, right? See (some of) you Sunday.

17 October 2012

Top Shelf Teaser : The Red Velvet Shoe

I'm not one to wear clothes from a school I didn't attend, but I have to admit that this vintage track jacket from our friend and Top Shelf Flea Market vendor Michelle of The Red Velvet Shoe is pretty damn cool.
This vintage 1940s silk robe ain't half bad either:
Michelle has one of the best selections of vintage clothing for women and children I've seen. I know this is a men's clothing blog, but I'm assuming many of you have wives and girlfriends who might be more inclined to accompany you to the Flea if they don't have to spend the afternoon listening to you geek out about 3/2 sack jackets and pebble grain longwings. More photos over at The Top Shelf Flea blog.

14 October 2012

The Man From Brooks Brothers

Brooks Brothers isn't what it used to be. There was a time when you could tell a guy was wearing Brooks Brothers from half a block down the street. A certain combination of subtle but distinct details in cut, styling and fit was a clear signal. These days, its hard to know what that means, or meant, especially for younger guys who never saw it first hand. But when you see it all together, it still makes sense.
The high buttoning 3/2 roll...the undarted front...the natural barely padded shoulders. Combined with flat front, slightly high waisted pants with a conservative cut through the legs and cuffed hems. Behold the now iconic #1 sack suit. Acquired in trade some months ago from Newton Street Vintage, I've been waiting for a nice chilly day to wear it. On the feet, double soled shell cordovan longwings by Allen Edmonds. What else?
Given this suits late 1950s/early 1960s provenance, a narrow repp striped bow tie of similar vintage seemed the perfect choice. A soft rolling unlined button collar was also a given. Now usually I'm not one to go full blast vintage, preferring instead to mix older pieces with well made modern things, but in this case the combination picked itself.

All of it vintage,all of it made in USA, all of it Brooks Brothers. It's hard to argue with that.

p.s. there are some photos of what to expect from Eddigan's, a furniture consignment shop and Top Shelf rookie, over at the TSFM blog. Check it out.

13 October 2012

10 October 2012

Endless Tweed

Herringbone, houndstooth, glen check and tattersall. I've been stockpiling the heavy goods all Summer. Coming soon to Top Shelf Flea Market 6.

08 October 2012

Country Is Where You Find It

Seems I always find myself writing something about what used to be known as country clothing right about now. After all, the weather has just turned crisp and being a clothes nerd, my attention immediately turns to corduroy, tweed and flannel.
I may be a city kid, but I do ocassionally find myself in places that look like this, especially on Monday holidays when the kids have the day off.
Parlee Farms in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts, just shy of the New Hampshire border, may not be the most rustic farm in the world, but it's a great place to take your kids to pick apples, feed the goats and generally run around with millions of other city kids whose parents have taken them out for some fun in the fresh air of New England. And they have hot apple cider doughnuts and pumpkin muffins. No such thing as too many of those.

This being ostensibly a shallow clothing blog, let me profer that 8 wale cords, an oxford shirt, and down filled nylon vest are perfect attire for catching a three year old girl in flight at the hay maze. A vintage cap in Donegal tweed and honey brown pebble grain bluchers finsih the job. You didn't think I was going to suggest a tweed suit with plus fours, did you.? I'm not, despite what many may think, that crazy. I do like to look like a grown-up, but I don't want to be a stiff, though I am fully aware that as the only man there in shoes (not sneakers) with his shirt tucked in, I'm the modern definiton of just that. So be it.

Dressing for Fall is all about utilizing the colors of the season. Rust, gold and brown blend in seamlessly with a setting of dirt paths, turning trees, and a newly acquired giant pumpkin which now graces the entrance to our city dwelling.

I may never go on a duck hunt in the English countryside, but it's no matter. Country is where you find it.

04 October 2012

Check Twice

Wool houndstooth bow tie, generous gift of Mrs. Ellie La Veer Stager, cream colored, spread collar shirt with tattersall check in black, hunter green and rust in soft cotton flannel by Ralphie ($3.99), lambswool sweater vest, made in England for Brooks Brothers, $4.49.  On top, a Barbour jacket and brown tweed cap with embroidered pheasants; rainy, dreary Autumn day.

All that's missing are some Irish setters, a long flask of single malt, and a couple hundred acres of damp British countryside.

p.s. new ties in the Shop. Go see.

02 October 2012

Save The Date! TSFM6 is Coming!

Sunday, 21st October 2012, Noon till 5 PM
George Dilboy VFW Post 529, 371 Summer Street
Davis Square, Somerville, MA 02144

Please "like" Top Shelf Flea Market on Facebook. It helps us get the word out.

01 October 2012

The Classicist

It's no good dressing up in costume, following some set of rules by rote when choosing one's clothes in the morning. Still, it doesn't hurt now and then to stick to the letter of the (Ivy,Trad,Preppy, whatever) law, as it were.
Beautiful weather Saturday, crisp, cool and sunny, saw the first of the season's tweed. This lightweight number in brown micro-herringbone is a perfect transition, very much tweed but not too heavy. Vintage 1960s, soft shoulders, two button cuffs, undarted front with a perfect 3/2 roll.

From The Coop of Harvard Square. It's possible, if not likely, that this was once a suit. But I think it holds up nicely on its own. I can't remember exactly what I paid for it, but I'm sure it was less than $10.

What better to wear with it than a repp striped tie and an oxford cloth button down shirt with blue pencil stripes? I'd been in need of some new shirts recently, and just last week I came across four in my size for $3.99 each at a thrift shop, old ones from Lands' End, two white, one with blue and yellow check, and this one. Once upon a time, Lands' End made must-iron shirts with unlined collars that had a roll to rival the best of the, I wish they still made these.

The tie is an old Brooks Brothers Irish twill in a wool and silk blend, picked up over the Summer for $1.99. I've been waiting on this tie for a while, and I have a feeling it will quickly become a regular in my rotation.
Military issue khakis, starched and pressed, the real deal, courtesy of Zach at Newton Street Vintage, yellow socks acquired in the Infamous Trip to the Outlets, and brown penny loafers. What else? The loafers are made in USA by Dexter. They may not be Bass Weejuns, but the styling and quality are identical. Not bad for $6.99.

This Italian silk pocket square may not be for everyone, but I think it gives the whole just enough flair to keep it out of full 1960s campus costume territory.

When in doubt, stick to the classics. There's a good reason why this stuff  continues to stick around...at least for now.