29 March 2013

Whiffs of Spring (and a giveaway)

Celery soda is weird and even kind of gross. It smells like celery, but it's sweet. Almost like ginger ale, except it's celery. While I'm sure there are those out there who like this stuff on its own, or at least claim to, I'm not one of them. However, I have recently discovered that combined in a tall glass of ice with an old fashioned light gin, such as Bombay or Beefeater, a big squeeze of lemon, and maybe a dash of ginger liqueur, it makes a damn good Spring/Summer cocktail, the kind of thing you drink poolside in Lily Pulitzer pants or a pink sports coat. Only thing I can't settle on is a name.
I'll give you guys until Midnight Easter Sunday to come up with a name for it. Leave your suggestions in the comments. Best answer will receive this vintage India madras "Victorian Bow" tie by J. Press from my own private collection.

1 April 2012 : The contest is now closed to new entries. Thanks to all who contributed. I'll review the entries along with the two fellows who originally sampled the drink with me, and a winner will be announced by mid-week. 

5 April 2012: We have a winner! Honorable mentions go to Jon for "Gin Ray" and Unknown for "Garden Party", but in the end the prize goes to AEV for "Cellmate", though I'm going to amend the spelling to "Cel-Mate". Congratulations, AEV. Email me and we'll send you the tie right away.

26 March 2013

Another Man's Clothes

People often ask me "doesn't it bother you to wear another man's clothes?", or coarser still "how can you wear a dead guy's things?" The answers are respectively "No", and "with great pleasure".
A while back, I acquired a truly beautiful navy blazer through a trade, and it quickly become a staple and a favorite. Originally found by good friend Zach, it was hand made in New York of very fine cashmere for a man who just so happened to be built exactly like me, with perhaps slightly longer arms. Mere weeks later, the above jacket surfaced. It's the same coat, down to every detail, only this time rendered in a large scale glen check with blue accents, also cashmere. The fit you see here is "as is".Incredible.Once again, found by Zach and acquired through trade.

Ticket pocket and two button cuffs, with side vents...
with not black, but smoke blue buttons to bring out the blue accents in the check. This thing is for real.
Once again, by Virgil Carducci of Fifth Avenue. The name remains a mystery.

So,I guess when such a thing happens, one can only assume that some fellow has died and his things are now being cast away by family members. It's very likely. I can fully understand why many people would find this to be a bit creepy, I get it. But I choose to believe that the kind of man who commissions such garments to be made would be happier to see them in use than be quarantined simply because the original purchaser has passed on. What good can come of that, really? Whoever he was, both he and Virgil put a lot of soul into these jackets, and I'm happy to keep them alive. There really is no need to be morbid about it, is there?
Frankly, I'll be thrilled if his suits start turning up  soon.I bet (hope) they have forward pleats.

p.s. Spring goods trickling in to the Shop. Silk jackets have begun to post today.

22 March 2013

The Bright Side

After writing on some recent whiffs of Spring, we of course had a snow storm of school-cancelling proportions. Everyone complained, as they're wont to do, but not me. I found a bright side in it. I had recently hauled the three ties you see above at a thrift store. The striped one is a blend of 80% cashmere/20% silk, possibly the most luxurious tie I've ever owned. The paisley is 100% wool. Both are by Paul Stuart. The print on the right is 76% wool/24% silk, by Luciano Barbera. All three were made in Italy, and didn't cost $20 together.

So the bright side lies not in the fact that I found these ties, but in the lingering cold weather giving me a chance to wear them once or twice before stashing them until next Winter.

Remember, when thrifting, one rule trumps all others: the time to buy a vintage item is when you find a vintage item. Ignore seasons and get what you can when you can.

p.s. RE: Recent Spam via anaffordablewardrobe@yahoo.com
Yesterday, my email was hacked and began generating spam to all of my contacts and customers. I apologize for any inconvenience, and have been working to remedy the situation. A new email has been created as a base of operations for An Affordable Wardrobe, and anyone wishing to contact me can now reach me at anaffordablewardrobe@gmail.com. I thank you all for your patience in this matter.

The bright side here is that I finally got that gmail account I should have created years ago.

18 March 2013

Whiffs of Spring

Last week, it go warm enough to forgo an overcoat in favor of a heavy sports jacket with a sweater, scarf and gloves in the bag for later. So I wore this:
It's an outfit I like well enough, comprised of good components. And while it did suit the weather just fine, it didn't feel quite right. So much brown,
and the combination of olive cords and rust socks....too Autumn. While the the fabrics and weights are perfectly right for the weather in which I wore them, nothing about it took hold of the sunshine or looked forward to warmer days to come.
Even the Tyrolean hat is feeling, how do say, "over".

Two days later, the same weather gets another shot, only this time the impending onset of Spring begins to make itself felt, if only a little:
A heavy jacket and sweater combo still keep me warm, only this time it's a navy blazer, and the sweater is off white silk. Brighter colors in the shirt and tie are a bit more cheery.
Wide wale cords and loafers are still in effect, but there's a mile of difference between kelly green and olive green. Still cautiously warm, still carrying a scarf and gloves in case, but this time looking forward rather than back.
Even though it still gets cold enough for the heavy Brooks Brothers Gloverall duffle coat, I can't help but swap the tweed caps for a baseball cap on a casual, knock-around day.
And though it may be snowing outside as I write this, I did go so far as to enjoy the first new pink wine of the season.

Whiffs of Spring.

p.s. tons of great new neckties in the Shop.

15 March 2013

The Trouble With Menswear Blogs...

"If you're going to have a personal style blog, have some f***ing personal style"

Mitchell J. Goldstein nails it with his piece "An Unstructured Rant on the Current State of #menswear" A good laugh, worth a read, but I warn you, no pictures.

12 March 2013

Back to Basics

Recently, I unearthed what was once an old favorite sweater. It had been languishing in the closet since getting stained last Winter. Nothing a trip to the dry cleaners, and overcoming laziness about it, couldn't fix. It's the simplest piece of clothing, but having it back these last few weeks reminds of the importance of getting back to basics.
You see, it's nothing exciting, just a tan v-neck sweater. But it goes well with any shirt I own, and makes me feel more "dressed" than I would wearing only a shirt and pants. It's a handy piece for this time of year, as we transition out of Winter.
Lucky for me, it happens to be a particularly nice one, a thrift store find had for only $5.99 from the House of Tweed, made in Scotland of New Lambswool. Looking back through old posts to find this photo, it seems I wore this sweater quite a lot in the last few years.
Worn with simple grey flannel slacks, practically any shirt, and tassel loafers, it is the perfect thing when casual but not sloppy is the order of the day. This saw me through a surprise few hours at work on my day off today. Last Sunday, with a navy striped shirt and penny loafers, I hosted my daughters fourth birthday party in it. With jeans, it makes me feel just a little more "grown up".
Red socks punch things up a bit. Argyles would have been jam as well.

I suppose I took this item for granted before, and I didn't think I missed it when it was gone. However, having it back only two weeks, I've worn it a half dozen times. Fortunately, such a thing can be had by almost any guy anywhere. You can get a good one at a good store, you can get a good one at a thrift store, you can get a reasonable one at a place like J. Crew, or even the Gap, or you can get a placeholder at Walmart. In any case, any man wishing to dress in a classic way with neat, basic pieces should have something like this. Few things work as well as getting back to basics.

p.s. new stuff in the Shop.

06 March 2013

Preppies, Hippies, and Bikers

Turns out, there was a store on old Route 1 in Massachusetts that managed to successfully cater to all three seemingly divergent groups. This tartan blazer, found recently at a thrift shop for $5.99, led me down a path to find this out:

 A real knockout, though I should probably wait until next holiday season to wear it. Nicely woven wool in very vibrant colors with brass buttons. I've become pretty good by now at dating old clothes, but this one is tough. My inclination is to sat 1960s, but the two button darted front makes me think its later than that. No matter, it's a great jacket whenever it may have been made.
Ah! Austin Hill. That's quaint. Internet homework turned up nothing on this brand, but it was made in USA, another indicator of it's likely age, sadly.
Here's the funny part. The Deerskin Trading Post no longer exists. I think it closed some time in the 90s. My wife and I both have memories of it being the sort of place that sold biker fashions. This sort of thing was quite popular in Eastern Massachusetts back in the 80s and 90s, especially North of Boston, where this place was. Think leather vests and engineer boots for men, and really awful high waisted, acid wash jeans for women. Certainly not things like a tartan blazer.
When I asked my parents about it, they had a memory more of a place that sold native American stuff to hippies back in the late 60s and early 70s, things like popover shirts with rawhide lacing at the neck, knee high moccasin boots, and lots of fringe, turquoise and silver. Certainly not tartan blazers.

Poking around a bit led me to find this old mail order catalog from the early 1960s, over at the Hagley digital archive. Careful when you click that link, it will consume half your day. Here we see a version of Deerskin Trading Post that reminds me a little more of old school L.L. Bean.
This was a place that sold fine driving gloves for ladies,
as well as some pretty current looking hand-sewn moccasins. Call this old school New England, I guess.
Something for the kids...
something for the house chef...
and something to do with your sons Cub Scout troop when it's your turn to host.

Suddenly it doesn't seem so incongruous that this place once sold a tartan blazer for Dad. Nor does it seem so incongruous that it would evolve to appeal to hippies and later, bikers. Too bad they couldn't have stuck it out a little longer. They might have made a killing in the days of the combined preppy revival, rise of the urban lumberjack, and heritage Americana obsession, all of it in Massachusetts no less. Can't you just see this on A Continuous Lean? At the very least, it would probably have been a pretty cool place to shop.

p.s. new stuff in the Shop.

02 March 2013

All In The Details

Wearing clothes is fun for me. That could explain my penchant for a lot of things that would be too much for many people. Bright colors and crazy patchwork are the height of fun dressing, but it only works if you know how to ground yourself in understatement from time to time. I am in no way advocating boring dress, because "understated" and "drab" don't necessarily have to be the same thing.
Few outfits could be more classic than a navy blazer, grey trousers and burgundy tie, as seen here. What keep this extremely simple combination from drabness lies all in the details.
The importance of a good navy blazer in a man's wardrobe can't be understated (correction: overstated-ed.). I wear mine with some frequency, and as such have three: two single breasted, one lightweight and one Winter weight, and a double breasted.This one is an upgrade for me, replacing my old flannel one.Hand made in a Madison Avenue tailor shop once upon a time, the construction is beautiful. Internet homework turned up nothing on Virgil Carducci. Anybody know anything about him?

Like the suit that was mentioned in the last post, this jacket has a great combination of mostly European details, but it works great with my existing largely American based wardrobe. Notable is the shoulder, which is roped in a very Italian style, but has a natural slope.

Patch and flap pockets are more American, but a ticket pocket is a nice unexpected touch.

Hand finished button holes and edge stitching. This thing is the real deal. Side vents, of course.

The fabric is incredibly soft to the hand, likely at least partly cashmere. It's thick and warm, but breaths well. Closer inspection reveals a herringbone weave, it's navy shade being achieved through a weave of royal blue and black threads, giving it a richer navy shade when seen under artificial light. I traded a new-with-tags Gloverall duffel coat for this, and I couldn't be happier with the results of the bargain.
A striped shirt by Polo ($5.99) adds a bit of punch. The undone button down collar is, admittedly, a hopeless affectation, but don't forget that I'm a guy who wears jacket and tie by choice only, so who cares? I wouldn't try this in an office job, but then again I don't have one. A burgundy grenadine tie by Brooks Brothers was $1.99 well spent.
The trousers are Andover Shop mid grey flannels, with side tabs and forward pleats, worn without braces.
With all these European details, these classic American penny loafers and yellow socks are suddenly incongruous, but why not?

So much about dressing well for men lies in the details, but it's even truer when keeping things relatively quiet. Finding little ways to set off a relatively conservative ensemble can be a challenge, but it's also a lot of fun. Just remember to do this stuff for yourself, and not to impress others, because you'll probably be the only person who notices or cares.