28 December 2013

Past, Present, Future

" The world is full of people whose notion of a satisfactory future is, in fact, a return to the idealised past."
Robertson Davies, "A Voice in the Attic", 1960

A friend of mine sent me this quote earlier this morning, with the note that it reminded him of the things I often say when talking about life in the second hand business and/or mighty internet. This is exactly how I feel whenever the #menswear blogosphere starts to whining about how Brooks Brothers, manners, style, etc. aren't precisely the same as they were in the past, frequently even before they lived.

Bonus points for the fact that the man is a titan of style. Seriously, do an image search.

27 December 2013

Rules of Thrifting : Cosmetic Surgery

There are a lot of tricks to thrift shopping well, and though I may have a tendency to repeat myself here from time to time, it's simply because these things can't be overstated. One of them is that it is essential to develop an eye for potential, to know what can and can't be repaired or altered, and to see past a bit of additional time and trouble that may be involved to see a final outcome down the road. It's not that different from understanding that a new suit is best worn altered and not straight off the hanger the day you buy it. Following is an extreme case in point.
On a recent trip to the thrift shop, I found an excellent old Chesterfield coat, very heavyweight, the kind of cloth you don't see too often anymore. It was, of course, shoved into a rack brimming with mostly crappy parkas and ugly, dated overcoats from the late 80s and early 90s. Single breasted with peaked lapels, and clearly quite old from a distance, it was of such better quality than the things surrounding it that it was practically glowing. 
Velvet piping at the cuffs and breast pocket, a detail I haven't encountered often. Clearly this is old, and likely worn over morning clothes (striped trousers, cutaway coat, top hat, etc.) by it's original owner. Fits me like a glove, so it looks like I'll be keeping this one, though I will more likely wear it over a grey or navy suit, on a very cold day. True, I do already have an excellent lighter weight Chesterfield, but how could I pass this up? What do you take me for, a sensible normal person?
Produced in a tailor shop in Boston, a long gone place I've never heard of until now. Internet homework turns up nothing about this shop, though it will point you to plenty of great footage of jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, also not a bad thing.
Made in 1935 no less. Now we've got something that has value as an antique as well as just a fine piece of clothing. 
$10, as-is. If a thrift shop is marking goods "as-is" look them over carefully. Chances are there's something majorly wrong. This is charity after all, not ebay. "As-is" means different things in different settings. So what's wrong with this coat?

One button has been badly replaced, but I actually found the missing original button in one of the pockets. No, that ain;t it.
The velvet collar is completely destroyed. Not just worn, fully wrecked. Things like this are a deal breaker for most people, which really is too bad. I'll go to a fabric store and get a piece of good velvet, take it to my tailor, and have him replace the whole collar. Purely cosmetic surgery. Even after I pay him, I'll have a stunning garment for less than $50. What new coat can you get for that? Besides, I'll have rescued an antique thing from the garbage dump, and effectively restored it for many years continued use, an act I find rewarding in itself. The way this coat is made, it's likely I'll wear it through it's 100th Winter, and that's kind of priceless.

Look for part two of this post in a couple of weeks when it comes home from the hospital.

p.s. If you're looking for a Chesterfield coat and are a 38 regular, I have another excellent one made by H. Huntsman and Sons of Savile Row.currently listed on ebay. Auction ends Friday 3 January.

24 December 2013

Get Festive

I must apologize for the sparseness of posts here lately. In looking the blog over, I realize that this is only the fifth post this month. While I have been more than busy working to make extra money in order that it may be spent immediately on the children, little time has been left to tend to the internet side of life. My usual December parade of obnoxious tartan outfits has been happening at Facebook this year instead of the blog, and can be seen here, under the heading "Get Festive". I thought it would be good to share the last in that series of thoughts here.
While I do appreciate tartan trousers and bright red socks, I've never had much of a taste for overtly Christmas specific clothing. Singing ties and adults running about in drugstore Santa hats are the kind of thing that makes it hard for me to enjoy this season, which can be hard enough for a veteran retailer like me. Christmas themed ties fall just short of this. But there are of course exceptions, and even a hardened scrooge can be softened up sometimes. The tie above, which I will wear today, is just such an exception. We can infer that it is a holiday tie by it's green ground, but it's theme takes a closer look to figure out. No Santa, no snowmen, no Christmas trees, no candy canes.
Pipers piping; drummers drumming; lords a-leaping; ladies dancing...
maids a-milking; swans a-singing; geese a-laying; golden rings...
calling birds; French hens; turtle doves; and of course, a partridge in a pear tree. This one is juts clever enough to get the better of me, and should be just silly enough against a quiet background of blue shirt, navy blazer and grey flannel trousers.
A well made tie from Ben Silver, worth every penny of the $3.99 that the thrift shop charged me for it. Hapy Holidays everyone, more news to come next week.

p.s. from the shameless self promotion department: AAW gift certificates make a great last minute gift. Order today and have a printable PDF in your email in time for tomorrow.

18 December 2013

Free Stuff: Accessories from Gentleman's Gazette

Firstly, my apologies for the long gaps between posts, and also for returning with a review of free goods. Ye Olde Holiday Tyme doth keep a man of my ilk, that being he of two jobs (both retail) and two wee children, more than awfully busy. But alas, I do digress.

Readers of this blog may well be familiar with the internet presence of Gentleman's Gazette, a men's style blog authored by Sven Raphael Schneider. He has recently parlayed his blog notoriety into an online shop selling fine men's accessories; neckties, pocket squares, et cetera. I was recently asked to review a few of his products, as well as the shopping experience at the web site.
First up is this two tone knitted silk tie. Available in a variety of colors, I chose brown/orange to complement a tweed jacket that has an orange line in the overcheck. The tie is well constructed and soft, with a nice delicate sheen to it. I also dig the contrasting end weave of the front and back blades. 

Let me here admit the difficulty I face in writing an article such as this. As an inveterate thrift shopper and therefore cheapskate, I have amassed over the years a wide selection of excellent ties for little more than $2.99 apiece or so. This tie sells for $85. I am certainly not in the habit of spending anything like that for neck wear, but it helps to remember that as things go, a tie of this quality usually sells for more than this. In that regard, it has merit. Also, it's a really nice tie and I like it.
Next, a linen square with a hand rolled edge and trim stripe in green. The linen is high quality and the construction very good, and I will likely get a lot of use from this piece. Again, not in my usual price range, but at $35, well in line with the current scene. ( or so I'm told. I generally get pocket squares in a bin full of ladies scarves in a thrift shop for a dollar or two)
Lastly, a yellow silk "carnation". Gentleman's Gazette offers a number of these silk lapel flowers in all types. At $30 a pop, this is the one item I'd most likely splurge on. From a step or two back it looks real enough, it's crazy dandy, and it doesn't get killed under an overcoat like a real flower would. I may not be one to wear a lapel flower often, but I suppose that if it were a daily habit, having a few good silk numbers like these would be a huge advantage.

As I said before, these things are expensive and given that this is mostly a blog about High Cheap, reviewing items like these while keeping in the spirit of the blog can be difficult. But it helps to remember that I couldn't thrift shop so well if I didn't know what the good stuff was. This is some of the good stuff, at a fair version of good stuff price. 

As for the shopping experience, the website work pretty seamlessly and the items arrived in less than a week. I give Sven points for running a tight operation and offering a fun selection that is clearly of consistent high quality.

12 December 2013

A Matter of Proportion

So many people complain about the cold weather, but I'm not one. I'd been looking forward to wearing the Polo coat I'd acquired in trade for months. Mid-calf length and dramatic, I like the look of it over a suit as well as thrown on casually with jeans and Shetland sweater.Trouble was, the sleeves were just a whiff to short, maybe half an inch. The coat was fine in its casual setting, but whenever I wore it with tailored clothing, my jacket sleeves would stick out just barely past the coat sleeves. Only a little, but just enough to be wrong. A little shirt cuff beyond a jacket sleeve is one thing, but a coat sleeve should cover all the layers beneath it.

So I took the coat to my man in Cambridge to have the situation remedied. My tailor explained to me that the heavy rolled back cuff was actually a completely separate piece from the rest of the sleeve, and that the way to lengthen them would be to remove the cuffs completely, then re-attach them a half inch lower on the sleeves. 

He explained: "The cuffs, pocket flaps, and belt are all the same width. If I just drop the hem and re-stitch it, everything will be wrong. Most people will sense it, but most of them won't know why. It will take a little longer, but it's the right thing to do." It did take a little longer (and even more than one try), but he charged me the same as a simple sleeve job on a sports jacket. The coat now fits perfectly, proportions solidly in tact.

What's that I'm always saying about finding a good tailor?

06 December 2013

Rules of Thrifting : Size Matters

A good fit is truly the most important factor in dressing well. That's why it can be so important, especially in thrift shops, to ignore numbers and tag sizing most of the time.

Pictured above are three similar cable knit sweaters from Brooks Brothers, 1 "S", 1 "M", and 1 "L". Common sense would have you believe that there is these sweaters would fit three different men of different builds. But you'd be wrong. Despite the complete difference in sizing, these three sweaters are roughly the same size. Each one fits me (42 reg/36 waist) reasonably well, with only the "L" being slightly fuller all around.

S,M,L, or "alpha sizing" as it's known, is at best ambiguous. Numeric sizing is perhaps less so, being based on an actual measurement, but even that can be unreliable given the increased proliferation of "vanity sizing" (you know, but jeans that measure 37 inches with a tape measure but say 34 on the tag). The only real way to get clothes that fit is to try things on. It either fits or it doesn't. In thrift shops, this can be more difficult as dressing rooms can frequently be either gross or non-existent. For the die hard, I recommend taking measurements of a pair of pants and a jacket that fit you well, and bringing a tape measure along on your hunting trips. And don't let vanity get in your way. Why leave behind a stunning British tweed simply because the tag says 44 and you insist you only wear 42?

Size matters...the actual size, not the one written on the tag.

p.s. new stuff in the Shop, including the three sweaters pictured in this post.

03 December 2013

Dress Up/Down

...or, Turtlenecks, part 2

It can be hard enough to wear a jacket and tie these days, without appearing to be needlessly over dressed. Even the most laid back version of such an outfit, rendered in the softest tweeds, corduroy, and flannel, can be to formal for 98% of normal life. Wearing a suit in these circumstances can be damn near impossible. Enter once again the recently acquired turtle neck sweaters ($4.99), this time in tan.

The suit in the photo is a vintage 1960s flannel striped one from Brooks Brothers. Indeed, the very quintessence of business clothing, meant for the kind of business I will likely never conduct. But its heavy and warm and actually quite comfortable. If you closely enough, the stripes are not quite white, and I've found that of I play to that, it is possible to wear this suit in a Sunday semi-formal kind of way. 
On the feet, a pair of recently acquired monk strap shoes in brown suede ($9.99 less 50%= $4.99) continue the laid back feel. Cozy on a cold day, topped with a polo coat, big scarf and tweed cap, I'd almost call the look rakish, if almost anyone other than me were wearing it.

The combination of suit and turtleneck isn't for every situation, but then again a suit itself is lately appropriate for less and less situations everyday. I wore mine to work on a casual Sunday, but it works for a dinner in a good but comfortable restaurant, and can be quite dashing at a Christmas party if you're not a tartan pants kind of guy.

30 November 2013

New in the AAW Shop: Gift Certificates

(spoiler alert: shameless self promotion)

Just in time for the Holidays, An Affordable Wardrobe is offering gift certificates, redeemable in both the online store and in person at the Shop. Available through the web shop in $25, $50, and $100 increments, or in any amount  in person.

27 November 2013


What's that I'm always saying about dressing well as a sign of respect for others? Good job, kids. A true bunch of gentlemen in the making. I guess there's hope for us yet.

22 November 2013

An Elusive Basic

I've managed to gather quite a collection of clothing over the years through thrift shopping and bargain hunting, and am happy top have arrived at a point where I feel that my wardrobe is well stocked with qaulity items that should last me for years. I think it's safe to say that I have most bases covered as far as having appropriate clothing for any occasion: navy and dark grey suits for somber, serious times; tweed, corduroy, and flannel for semi formal day wear; bright colors and light fabrics for jaunty Summer moments; and denim, sweaters, tennis shirts, etc. for the business of living 90% of normal life in the modern world. But one thing that has always eluded my grasp has been a good turtleneck or two, for that nebulous style sweet spot that exists between a tweed jacket and tie and outright full casual. That is, until recently.

The reason I had yet to find a good turtleneck wasn't really scarcity. There are in fact plenty to be had out there in thrift shops. The problem was more specific than that. Turtlenecks come in a variety of fabrics and styles, and they aren't all flattering on all men. Finding a type that works hasn't been easy. The most prolific are the cotton jersey knit types, available in every color imaginable. While there is something to be said for the rugged New England look of a soft cotton t-neck under a plaid cahmois or Viyella shirt,especially while shovelling snow or chopping wood,  it's not a look I can pull off. Worn alone under a jacket, I find this type to look too much like underwear.

Then there are the full blast sweater types. Big and thick and at best made of wool, these can look great with jeans, cords or flannels and a Barbour jacket or even casual overcoat, (like so) but they tend to be too thick to wear under a sports jacket. And good luck finding one that isn't thickly ribbed (I hate ribbed sweaters (unreasonable bias: ed.)). 

I find, the best and most useful expression of the turtle neck to be something of a hybrid of the two styles. The one pictured above, recently found at a thrift shop for $ 5.49, illustrates the point perfectly. Knitted of soft lambswool, it's technically a sweater, but a very thin one. It fit's close enough to keep me warm, but doesn't wear hot indoors. One of the problems in wearing a t-neck can be that they tend to make you look half dressed worn alone, so I prefer to wear one when I can leave my jacket on throughout the day. The neck fits close and high, and is ribbed finely to allow for movement. I was lucky enough to find the same one in camel tan at the same shop for the same price. Other good color choices would be hunter green and cream, not white, the kind of colors that go with a good tweed. (makes me wish I had kept this. Sigh)
It's nothing particularly special, only from J. Crew, but it's soft and fits well. In fact, this is the sort of thing I'd even consider picking up new in an end of season sale if I found it. 

I think a sweater like this provides a nice change of pace, and offers a good way to wear tailored clothing without being "overdressed", which can be a good thing for guys like me who hardly ever find themselves in situations that actually require tailored clothing. Oddly enough, I received more compliments, and the inquiries as to "why are you so dressed up?" were higher than they are when I wear a tie. Many people immediately equated it with British-ness. I'll take it.

p.s. photos of Steve McQueen in "Bullitt" noticeably absent. I think we've all seen enough of him for a good, long while, don't you?

20 November 2013

Secrets of Thrifting : Better Isn't Always Best

I recently acquired two shaggy Shetland sweaters, on separate occasions, in the same thrift store, for the same price. This is something of a score, as I find good sweaters are among the hardest things to come by in these places. A good sweater is like an old friend, and I think many people hold on to them until they reach the end of their usefulness, eventually becoming too moth eaten or perhaps accidentally shrunken in the wash. If those two things don't kill a good sweater, then the hangers that most thrift shops display them on will almost certainly throw them out of shape. But now and again, they do turn up.
The navy blue one is the real thing, and iconic J. Press "Shaggy Dog", highly coveted by preppy/trad/ivy/whatever enthusiasts everywhere. I've wanted one for ages, but never owned one, as even on sale the price of these things is prohibitively expensive. Last I checked, $139 was a sale price direct from J. Press, and even on the internet folks are getting upwards of $100 at auction.

The second is something of a knockoff from the defunct (and soon to be collectible?) Ralph Lauren "Rugby" line. Made in China, but just as shaggy, and rendered in a classic shade of burgundy. This one had silly elbow patches on it, but it was nothing that ten minutes with the seam ripper couldn't cure.

Of course, anyone's initial inclination would be to assume that the J.Press is the superior sweater, but it may not necessarily be so in this case. Note that both are size "large", an arbitrary designation at best. The Rugby sweater fits me perfectly, with a hem that falls right at the belt line and just enough room to move without being so bulky as to fit under a tweed jacket. The Press sweater is enormous, with a hen that falls almost two inches longer and so much bulk under the arms as to be tight under my Barbour. I've worn each of them, and I hate to say that I feel frumpy in the Press sweater, and the Rugby has fast become a new favorite.

Thrift stores have a way of leveling the playing field. In truth, the provenance of these two garments clearly means the press sweater is "better". But in some cases, by the time a thing has been purchased, used and donated to charity, it's original provenance becomes less meaningful. A great item will always be a great item, but a lesser item becomes not so bad when it's no longer on display in some awful macro-store, at some inflated price. For the same price in a thrift store, the difference in quality of these two sweaters becomes almost negligible, but at full retail it would be hard to justify choosing the lesser item. I've said it so many times, but it bears repeating to mention that brand allegiance can be a stumbling block in the thrift store, causing you to choose a less than flattering garment because the name is better. I'm not suggesting the you should settle for less, but rather that there's a degree of relativity that needs to be taken into account in a thrift store. It's worth remembering that no matter where you purchase your clothes or how much you spend on them, fit is always the most important consideration.

 In the end, I won't be keeping the J. Press sweater, instead getting to a larger man who will look better in it. I'll keep the Rugby, happy to have given my money to charity to get it. Better isn't always best the second time around.

14 November 2013

Rugged Enough

As you may know, I am a Massachusetts native, born and bred. I love it here, for any number of reasons. Obviously, given that this blog deals mainly with my love (obsession) for traditional menswear and my proclivity to buy it as cheaply as possible, the Bay State has a lot of thrift stores and an inordinately high proliferation of old Brooks Brothers, J. Press and the attendant British goods. Also, I happen to hold the increasingly unpopular opinion that Winter is fun, and we still have it here. Cold may cause some minor discomfort, but we all know that the clothes are so much better this time of year. Of course, the very best reasons to live here, the important ones, have nothing to do with clothes.

The greater Boston is unique in that one can enjoy the full experience of life in the city and all the culture that offers, and still be at the sea or in the woods anytime in less than half an hour. When you need a rugged fix, it's just around the corner. The view above was taken in the Middlesex Fells Reservation, ten minutes by car from my house. Last week, the kids had an extra day off from school, and we spent a perfect New England afternoon there, chilly, but with the sun high and bright.
We hiked up to Wright's Tower, which offers a spectacular view of Boston. The trail is just tough enough for little kids to feel like real woodsmen, and easy enough for Daddy to deal with comfortably. In other parts of the reservation are a collection of ponds to explore.
We packed a picnic lunch, the standard fare for the kids: peanut butter sandwiches, apples, CheezIts, and juice boxes. For Daddy, Jamon Serrano, Piave, Taleggio,  an apple and some (ahem) "grape juice".
I may rail about the rise of the "Urban Lumberjack", but at least I have a somewhat appropriate place for my Bean Boots, Levi's, and Opinel pocket knife. Here we see them all together, "in the wild". (this photo looks like it belongs over at 10engines)
After lunch, we tried some of the more hidden trails. The kids collected leaves, sticks, and rocks...the usual stuff. I'm not much of an outdoors type, but this place is too beautiful. I can come get my camping fix, and still go home to cook a nice meal and sleep in a bed. Perfect. 
And now that the kids are old enough to trust with the camera, I actually get to be in some of the pictures.

Middlesex Fells may not be the deep deep woods, and if you're a real outdoors adventure type you might find it boring. But it does offer a great and welcome escape for a city dweller, even if only for an afternoon. It's just rugged enough.

p.s. new stuff in the Shop, including the first batch of a consignment for none other than Newton Street Vintage. Click the AAWx NSV tab to view the collection.

09 November 2013

Reader Questions : Time and Place

The Scottish Hebrides. photo:internet

Reader Jakob writes:

My name is Jakob, I am a 22-year old student from Slovenia. At the moment I am studying abroad, in Edinburgh.

Seeing that I am in Scotland my first thought, in regard to this was that I should find some good tweed. And indeed, I have found them, at a much lower price that a new garment would cost me. But then I have found your blog  and suddenly I was asking myself this question: Why are the shops here so much more expensive than what you're writing about? Is it a cultural thing or am I looking in all the wrong places? Just to give you some reference - a tweed jacket (in Harris Tweed or of similar quality) would cost one 30-40GBP. A shirt would be 6-15GBP (depending on the brand). The Scots seem much more quality and brand-conscious than what you seem to be experiencing in the States... Any idea why?

That's an interesting question, and it speaks to the fact that, simply put, no two thrift shops are the same. Each one will have a different assembly of hodge-podge items for sale, and location plays a big role in what you're likely to find there. For example, it shouldn't be surprising in the least that a Scottish thrift shop would have more tweed than a similar store elsewhere, any more than good cheese is more easily had in Paris. 

Many thrift shops these days have caught on to the fact that they can selectively up-charge their better items when they find them, but in a thrift store anything is only worth what someone will pay. What winds up happening is the items that hold value with the customers will be singled out. In Scotland, I imagine, a good tweed is something still generally appreciated by most people. 

Is it a cultural thing? Maybe. America has led the charge to a pyjamas-all-day-every-day lifestyle for generations, and we tend to dress more sloppy and casual than any other nation. Dressing in tailored clothing is largely a choice these days for those who care. As such, things like tweed jackets have less value on a broad level. Conversely, a commemorative World Series Red Sox jacket will get a high ticket. It's all about time and place.

He also writes:

there is a very old debate society here, at the university, and they meet in black tie. I am very interested in joining, and I'm asking you for some advice - how can I make black tie a bit more interesting? I mean, I know it's a fixed set of rules, and I don't mean to go there in a red tuxedo. I'm just wondering if you have any idea what some little touches can be, that could make it just that bit more interesting, so I don't turn up there dressed exactly the same every single time...

My best advice here is not to mess around too much. Simplicity is the essence of why black tie looks so good. You might look for a velvet jacket to swap out for the standard, or simply get a bow tie in your schools stripe or tartan, or a set in grey glen check, to wear instead of black. For a festive occasion, red socks could work, but even that might be pushing it, especially at an old club in the habit of wearing black tie. It can be a fun look to wear a tartan jacket or trousers with black tie, but I'd a void doing it in Scotland. You don't want to be the guy who's trying to hard to stand out.  And no, don't show up in a red tuxedo.

05 November 2013

Darn It

Thrift shopping often means finding great old stuff only to discover that the reason someone got rid of it is because it's damaged in some way. Combine that with the damage the wool moths can do to your old clothes in your old closet in  an old house, and you frequently wind up dealing with little imperfections like the one pictured above. 

I found this knockout tartan jacket back in March, and it's been waiting patiently in the storage closet since then. I don't remember whether this little hole was there when I bought it, but it doesn't really matter. As I drag it out of the closet and think about how great it will the two, maybe three times, I wear it this Winter, I need to decide how to deal with that pesky little hole. 1/8 inch may not be much, but it's enough.

Lots of times, with holes this small, of it's only one or two, I just live with it. Densely patterned jackets like this one or natty tweeds tend to hide a little hole well enough. If it were elsewhere in the jacket, I might not even care. But this one's right up front.

Of course, the best option here would be reweaving, where an expert would take thread from a hidden spot on the coat to actually reweave the missing part. It's very difficult work, magical even, that can only be performed by an expert specialist. It's also extremely expensive. As great as this coat is, I don;t think I can justify the expense. So, instead, I'll just darn the hole. A trip to the local sewing machine store for a spool f bright red thread, a sharp, thin, needle, and we're set.

A few careful passes with the needle, not pulling the stitches too tight, and the hole is much improved. Not perfect by any stretch, but definitely better and less noticeable from only a few feet back. I often talk here about a lack of money not being a hindrance to having the good stuff, but sometimes you do have to make the best of what you've got.

Besides, in writing this, I realize that it might not be such a bad idea to have my tailor attach a black velvet collar to it, and find and excuse to wear it with a tux, brass buttons and all. Now that would be something.

p.s. my apologies for the sparse posting lately. Technical difficulties should hopefully be remedied tomorrow.

31 October 2013

Happy Hallowe'en

I vant to suck your blood......
Vintage 1949 midnight blue 4x1 double breasted tuxedo with silk shawl collar and forward pleated trousers, tailored by Hickey-Freeman for F.R.Tripler of New York, $24.99, thrift shop; pleated Brooks Brothers formal shirt, $4.99, thrift shop; black (gasp) tassel loafers by W.S.Foster and Sons, made in England,  $9.99

BOO! Seriously, though, in these days, when the hell else am I going to get to wear something this awesome. Happy Halowe'en.

29 October 2013

The Jams : Prodigal Sons (equipment edition)

I got this KLH Model Twenty-Four record player and FM radio at a thrift store (of course) a long time ago. For years, I had it set up in the basement of my house where I ran the AAW online store. Now it sees active duty in the AAW physical shop.

The vintage 1960s toothbrush actually came with it. You all know that I'm a vinyl snob/nerd, and I have a particular soft spot for old KLH, the Cambridge Massachusetts company that went on to become Cambridge Soundworks. This is a good unit, perfect for a small room. Trouble is, I never had the speaker. I've been using an old pair of plastic speakers that originally were part of a folding portable record player. Not the best, but they do they have the matching inputs and they get the job done. 

Then the other day, these turned up at the very same thrift shop that the record player came from in the first place. Heavy wood and heavy tweed.

The actual speakers that belong with the stereo. What are the chances? 

Thrift shopping can be aggravating in a way that "normal" shopping is not, but it also offers the fun of moments like these, the thrill of chance and the element of surprise.   There's nothing like a family reunion when the prodigal son decides to return.

25 October 2013

Brushing Off My Tails (alternate edition)

In the first weeks of having my Shop open, the going was pretty slow. One fine Saturday as I sat alone in the place, I decided to go downstairs and get some fresh air. After about ten minutes, I went back up to find Jade Sylvan, a friendly young lady (young fellow? I'm as open minded as anyone in Massachusetts, but I admit the terminology still confuses me sometimes. Beg patience) from the yoga studio down the hall, in my shop dressed in a vintage 1920s tail suit I had at the time. I have a weakness for old formal wear, but as a businessman I realize I should avoid it. It's so hard to sell, given that we live in a time where "dressed up" means little more than tucking in your shirt and wearing your "good jeans." This particular suit had been with me a long time. It's hard enough finding a guy who fits a size 36 short, never mind one who will ever attend a party in full evening dress. Imagine my pleasant surprise then when this affable drag king and I crossed paths. Not only did the suit fit her perfectly, but she just happened to have a release party for her new book, Kissing Oscar Wilde, coming up, the perfect occasion to be an to be a drag king in an antique suit.

Of course, dressing in drag is nothing new for bold women with strong personalities. Dietrich and Baker showed us the way back in the old days, when suits like this were new, and actually worn with some regularity, mostly by men of course. It may not be as shocking to us now as it was then, and that's a good thing. It means we're collectively getting over it. But it's still just as cool.
Marlene Dietrich in men's full evening dress, 1930s
Josephine Baker in men's full evening dress, 1920s

Jade may not be as famous (yet) as these two, but she certainly deserves to be ranked in their company. I am pleasantly surprised, and honored, that nearly one hundred years after the trail was blazed and this suit was first tailored, something I provided wound up being a part of it too.